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Bloggingheads
12-13-2007, 10:12 AM
Robert Wright writes:

Welcome to the first post-redesign diavlog. To comment on this diavlog, you’ll have to register for our new forum (vBulletin). Commenters who want to keep their usernames from the old forum (and we encourage that!), can do so by following these instructions (http://www.brainwaveweb.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1535).

If you want to kvetch about the redesign--or even say something nice about it--we've started a thread (http://www.brainwaveweb.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1541) in vBulletin for that. We'll be reading the comments with an eye to improving the site where feasible. Thanks for enduring this transition. We hope you think it's worth it.

abaris
12-13-2007, 02:04 PM
First!

If the link in your password reset e-mail doesn't work, replace "bloggingheads.tv" in the URL with "brainwaveweb.com".

Greetings from Slovenia! ;)

piscivorous
12-13-2007, 02:13 PM
Thanks for this it allowed me to finally get Logged in. I'm mow 30 minutes into the diavlog and have spent more time in trying to get logged in instead of listening to the diavlog.

Epicurus
12-13-2007, 02:54 PM
Love the new site design guys. Thanks for putting up this diavlog, I was looking for something to give me the excuse to avoid doing my dissertation.

This stuff is better than TV. Well maybe not better than Heroes but its pretty good lol.

BTW I am a Scottish viewer. I live in Glasgow.

testostyrannical
12-13-2007, 03:10 PM
If a person or organization is willing to torture someone else to prevent a hypothetical catastrophe like a nuclear attack or whatever, that person shouldn't shirk at the possibility that he will be imprisoned because of it. Presumably, if the Jack Bauer scenario actually emerged, that could be used to exculpate our supposed torturer (but I saved Manhattan!). And I think it puts the risks in the right place: if you are going to perform horrific and inhumane acts, you had better have a damn good reason for it. If the person getting tortured is innocent or otherwise lacking the information that was supposed to be in his possession, then, well, welcome to the judicial system. It shouldn't just be those we misjudge who suffer for our ethical and operational mistakes.

testostyrannical
12-13-2007, 03:16 PM
Oh yes, and hurrah for the redesign and all that. Although it seems to have consigned a huge chunk of forum to the dust bin of history. Which is where it was going anyway, but this is much faster. Yes yes, I know it can still be visited and all that.

Wolfgangus
12-13-2007, 03:24 PM
I can't seem to change my password from the random digit one sent to me. It keeps saying my two new passwords don't match, even if I paste the same thing into both.

Also, a lot of the links seem broken.

For example, in the STICKY post by Brenda about accessing old phorum messages, which I would like to do, the link goes to the PHORUM website, not anything to do with Bloggingheads.tv. I don't know where those older phorums are.

The links sent in the email for resetting your password do not work; you need to do as Bob suggests and cut-and-paste the http://brainwaveweb.com/ before the part that starts 'forum/...'.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 03:26 PM
Congratulations on the unveiling, Bob. (Just posting this to see how the new forum software works, actually. (But I am sincere in congratulating you.))

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 03:28 PM
Wolf:

There is a DNS transition going on right now, from brainwaveweb.com back to bloggingheads.tv. That could explain the broken links, and maybe even the resetting password problem. I'd say try again in an hour or two, and good luck.

Wolfgangus
12-13-2007, 03:30 PM
Were you able to reset your password? Or access the old diavlog forums?

Wolfgangus
12-13-2007, 03:32 PM
And BTW, is the heirarchical tree view of the format dead now? I notice my reply to you is not indented. Are we going to be limited to this crappy LISTING format, now? That would suck.

Oops. Never mind, I found the display mode options in the upper right.

Surcam
12-13-2007, 03:38 PM
Wow, I'm very much impressed with the redesign. It looks great and you managed to keep the ugly green I love so much. Kudos to all involved with it and I look forward to what's to come!

Brenda
12-13-2007, 03:39 PM
We're still working on getting the old threads and posts transferred from Phorum to vBulletin.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 03:52 PM
Wolf:

Were you able to reset your password? Or access the old diavlog forums?

I was able to reset my password. I used the brainwaveweb.com URL instead of the bloggingheads.tv URL supplied in the email.

I can see the old Phorum forums, but they seem sluggish right now and won't let me post a new comment.

piscivorous
12-13-2007, 03:54 PM
Bob is correct that Apple in general is considered to be more user friendly. Then he waxes on about how hard it was to do a site design. Given the differences in development requirements. Apple dictates what hardware their software will work on while Microsoft operating systems are designed to hopefully work on an a vast array of different hardware. This allows Apple to dictate a larger share of it's development resources to be applied to the user interface and so I would hope that Apple would do a better job of it.

But the dictatorial policy of what hardware you had to purchase has historically meant that Apple computers were considerably more expensive to purchase than a generic Windows boxes. Would the existence of bh.tv be a reality if Microsoft had had a similar dictatorial policy and Windows boxes been as pricey. PCs are everywhere thanks to Microsoft not Apple with their elitist attitude of you buy what we say or nothing!

thprop
12-13-2007, 03:55 PM
Mickey seems to think so. (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7408?in=00:58:50&out=01:00:30)

rigger
12-13-2007, 03:56 PM
The new space is lovely--not too much white, but enough to make my old eyes happy. The green highlights are fresh, and the little orange accents here and there work well. White lettering on the gray, hmm, yea, its ok. Some of the light gray lettering gets lost. Big assets include pictures with the diavlog entry--makes it easier to skip those few bloggers I dislike (very few--the line up is always lively). The less-visited items like shopping exiled to the bottom is a good idea, although any marketing staff members may be chewing the carpet. Keep up the good work!

threep
12-13-2007, 03:57 PM
I think there's too much white... the "boxes" need a light grey background.

abaris
12-13-2007, 04:05 PM
Does your browser display DHTML menus behind the flash video the same as mine does?

I use Firefox on Ubuntu Linux.

Wolfgangus
12-13-2007, 04:07 PM
Oh, GREAT, is this thing going to automatically log us out every 30 minutes?

God how I hate crippled software. Do we really need to be this secure? Who chose the default options on this damn forum? They SUCK.

Plus it looks like we are going to live in Greenwich Mean Time, now.

AND it looks like we no longer have the "new" tag on post titles, so we can't scan for replies or new content. That's a loss.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 04:10 PM
Wolf:

Did you check the box that says "remember me" when you logged in?

I did, and when I closed the browser and then came back, I did not need to log in again. I can't say anything about the time-out feature, but I suspect the two are related.

piscivorous
12-13-2007, 04:12 PM
Has anyone figured out what icon is used to mark comment that you have already read. I often come and go and appreciated the fact that I could come back to the form and distinguish read comments form unread. Or will we now have to remember which ones we are interested in following without having to reread the whole thread. As senility sets in I see this is a definite drawback.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 04:16 PM
pisc:

I just posted a similar gripe in the thread for comments on the redesign. I hope this issue gets addressed, since once a given thread has more than a few messages, it's going to be really hard to pick out the unread (new) ones.

thprop
12-13-2007, 04:19 PM
Two suggestions -
This thread is for actual comments on the diavlog. Comments about and problems with the redesign should be made in Bloggingheads Community (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=1541#) User comments (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=1) General comments on Bloggingheads.tv (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=3) The Bloggingheads Redesign

Second - change your settings. Go to the User CP (Control Panel) and pick things like your times zone, appearance, etc.

User CP (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/usercp.php#) Bloggingheads Community (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/index.php) User Control Panel (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/usercp.php)

piscivorous
12-13-2007, 04:28 PM
don't really feel like switching between the forums so I will continue to post things I notice here. But thanks for the suggestion nanny

Wonderment
12-13-2007, 04:29 PM
I automatically hate everything new on the grounds that old shit is always better than new shit. Grumble, grumble. I miss everything I once loved. I feel disoriented. I'm getting dizzy.

I know, let's call the forum a Crusade against Islamic Fascism and go bomb some foreigners. Then we can kick out all the Mexicans or people whose log-in names start with letters other than W. That will make me feel better.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 04:31 PM
Wonderment:

Then we can kick out all the ... people whose log-in names start with letters other than W.

I'm pretty sure Wolfgangus shares your sentiments.

Wonderment
12-13-2007, 04:34 PM
Since I figure a lot of people will be checking in here today, I will throw in a gratuitous plug for BloggingHead Rosa Brook's piece in my local rag the LA Times. A gem, reprinted below:

http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/12/13/5802/

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 04:42 PM
Wonderment:

Always good to hear from Rosa. Thanks for the link.

Brenda
12-13-2007, 04:45 PM
Oh, GREAT, is this thing going to automatically log us out every 30 minutes?

Not "us," Wolfgangus. Just you.

thprop
12-13-2007, 04:47 PM
Not "us," Wolfgangus. Just you.
Brenda - you have to post more. I see a real vicious streak that just needs a place to express it.

Wolfgangus
12-13-2007, 05:21 PM
PREcisely. Except for Bloggin' Noggin', he can stay. Brendan, you can stay if you change your name to Wbrendan.

threep
12-13-2007, 05:22 PM
He turned Bob's long spiel into comedy gold. It's the subtle touches.

Wolfgangus
12-13-2007, 05:25 PM
Thank you, it is good to feel special. Now run along and fix that "NEW" problem on the thread view. Consider it your top priority (along with all your other top priorities, like making the treeview LARGER).

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 05:27 PM
Wolf:

Brendan, you can stay if you change your name to Wbrendan.

Actually, that was the original spelling of my name. Unfortunately, the W was silent, and people kept forgetting it, so I eventually just dropped it.

kj
12-13-2007, 05:37 PM
Edwards as Huckabee but only in a good way. This is response to both Mickey and Bob agreeing they don't like Edwards which fits in perfectly with how i see the Dem race. Obama is the media candidate. Clinton is the political establishments candidate. And Edwards is the peoples candidate (like Huckabee and Bob and Mickey are not people, they are gods). That's part of the reason Edwards polls so much better. He's simply more likable to the general population for various reasons, some probably good and some probably bad.

For me, I like Edwards the best as he is the most progressive combined with a good electability argument (somewhat mitigated by the fact that he is accepting public financing). He seems to suffer from an authenticity problem. But I've decided to totally dismiss these instinctual assessments political junkies and journalists seem to make every 4 years because the track record has been so bad. Edwards strikes these people as inauthentic just like Gore struck people as a fibber and Bush struck people as a compromiser. The track record is fairly bad on these sorts of assessment. I would not be surprised if the most "authentic" candidates in this race, namely Obama and Huckabee, end up being the most inauthentic. It's clear that people are very bad at figuring this out so I'm dismissing it. I prefer to focus on policy when I make my choices.

But with that said and knowing that too few people make choices based on policy, I may end up switching to Obama because being the media's candidate and being able to raise money may be the better combination to win next November and I like Obama a lot. Perhaps because he strikes me as authentic.

kj
12-13-2007, 05:40 PM
Doesn't happen on firefox in Vista.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 05:50 PM
kj:

That's an interesting defense of Edwards.

I myself find him unlikeable. He seems like a phony to me -- not in Romney's league by any stretch, but still pretty bad. As far as I can tell, his policy proposals seem fine, but hardly distinguishable from Clinton's or Obama's. He also strikes me as inexperienced and not much of a leader. All visceral, and probably mostly irrational, but there it is.

I used to be more like you are now in rejecting the likeability factor. But now I've swung the other way, and decided that the new meme about "who do you want in your living room for the next four years?" has merit. For this reason, and a lot of other intangibles, I therefore choose Obama.

kj
12-13-2007, 06:09 PM
The tapes argument was ludicrous. The best solution would have been not to torture in the first place in regards to the images adding to the inflammation of the Arab world. And if you don't punish the people who tortured and ordered the torture, it will happen again. This is Crime and Punishment 101, no? And my second point is that it is beyond ludicrous to argue, as Mickey does, that these tapes will be the evidence young Arab men need to be convinced that the U.S. tortures. Come on! They know we torture because we do and we suck at secrecy (thankfully). If we didn't torture, then we can work to disavow any misinformation that may exist but since we do torture and did torture, nothing really matters except one thing: Punish the people who tortured.

I also think that Bob should quit wasting time talking about the ticking time bomb law. the ticking time bomb scenario is even more ludicrous than the Tapes causing Arabs to think we torture. You'd have to be a truly stupid CIA agent to rely on torture to get real information. Torture will get you crap information. How can that not be obvious to everyone? I'm continually confused by people who think torture does anything but get you confessions. It's worthless and stupid to go along with its immorality. Is there any evidence, anywhere, that torture gets useful information. I spent some time looking once and couldn't find it.

kj
12-13-2007, 06:19 PM
Oh no, I'm all in on the likability thing. Rock star status is the most important thing and I think Edwards is rock star capable, but since this virus has entered the media that Edwards is "phony" like you say, it is seriously denting his Rock Star ability. And of course that virus will replicate and soon the "people" will get that feeling and it will stick to Edwards in the general. So that's why I'm starting to move toward Obama because the media likes him too much to create a negative viral label (or repeat one the GOPs, like with Kerry.)

But my point is this is all self-fulfilling because of the creation of these unsubstantiated viruses that turn out to be wrong. The problem is we never learn. And you, damnit, repeating the idea that Edwards is phony just adds evidence to my theory. But I suppose this is human nature. Personally, it strikes me as nearly impossible that a man who lost his teenage son and has a wife with only few years to live could be "Phony". Personal tragedy tends to make us more authentic, not less but again, this is unknowable.

Anyuser
12-13-2007, 06:21 PM
Listen to Bob's paean the the NIE as a category of information. Now apply every word of it to the NIE issued in '02 concluding Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Mickey's conspiracy theories are just plain nuts. The Bush administration has never had anywhere near such subtlety.

ohcomeon
12-13-2007, 06:23 PM
I'm on! That was a lot of work.

TwinSwords
12-13-2007, 06:25 PM
I'm going to move this to the "general comments (http://www.brainwaveweb.com/forum/showthread.php?p=66384#post66384)" thread.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 06:32 PM
kj:

The "personal story" of candidates doesn't impress me. I particularly don't care about whatever tragedy might have occurred. Bad shit happens in everybody's life.

I say Edwards strikes me as phony not because of what the media says about him, but based upon my reaction to watching him give speeches and interviews and participate in debates. Since 2004, mind you.

uncle ebeneezer
12-13-2007, 06:43 PM
Wow, SOOOO much WHITE!!! I feel like I'm at a Klan meeting in a snowstorm in Colorado Springs.

Looks pretty cool on the whole, but I'm slow to adjust. Congrats on finally getting it done though. And welcome back, KJ.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
12-13-2007, 06:45 PM
kj,

You are right on about the tapes discussion. Mr. Kaus's comments were utterly bizarre and deserving of an outburst from Mr. Wright, but apparently he felt unable to even disagree with Mr. Kaus becuase in the past he's made such a big deal of the realist considerations of the effects of images in the Arab/Muslim street.

It is morally outrageous to say that one's own government should seek to destroy the evidence of its criminal and immoral behavior because if people knew what the government did, they would hate it.

As kj points out, the solution is not to engage in such behavior in the first place. If one believes that the government should be accountable at all to anybody, then of course transparency has to be the answer, as Mr. Wright alludes to but won't defend aggressively here.

Also, Mr. Kaus admits here the bogusness and danger of the ticking time bomb nonsense...yet he continues to play that card himself...bizarre. The ticking time bomb case doesn't happen in real life, and if one accepts it as a principle, it will be applied in many many cases which are obviously not ticking time bomb...but the government will convince themselves that they are...one can already see this in what the U.S. has done since 9/11 and it was a conclusion reached by the Israeli Supreme Court after Israel's experiment with legalized torture.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 06:48 PM
I agree with kj and Abu Noor's thoughts about the tapes. I'll add one point: imagination is often worse than visualization. I think that applies in this case -- the fact that the tapes were destroyed makes people wonder just how bad they were.

piscivorous
12-13-2007, 06:49 PM
While Mickey's conspiracy theory has a lot of holes he may he dancing around the issue. As Bob states it would be almost impossible to exert control over the various factions, that contribute to producing the NIE, making it impossible to dictate a certain or desired outcome and that the any new evidence or information would eventually get leaked so it can't be denied or buried. Mickey is correct in that you can influence the way that information is made use of and presented by influencing who the authors of the NIE are. The Washington post has an interesting look at who these three primary authors are and their relationships with the Administration. Strange that these particular authors all come from a State Department background and not an intelligence background and have been rather candid about their views of the administration Middle East policies. http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071207/NATION/112070099/1001

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
12-13-2007, 06:54 PM
I'm surprised at the lack of Edwards love from you Brendan...as I am surprised in general at Edwards' seeming inability to gain traction in the Democratic primary.

Edwards is definitely talking the most progressive of the big 3 and as to whether he is "phony," to me phony is just another word for politician. I guess you're just looking for someone who's good at being phony, or for someone who can fake sincerity better.

TwinSwords
12-13-2007, 06:54 PM
Plus it looks like we are going to live in Greenwich Mean Time, now.
You can set your time zone on this page:

http://www.brainwaveweb.com/forum/profile.php?do=editoptions

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
12-13-2007, 07:07 PM
Brendan,

This is an interesting point. You are right that the assumption in the minds of Muslims (and everyone else) right now has got to be that the torture on the tapes was blatant and extreme, and what we are conjuring in our minds is probably worse than what actually happened.

These considerations are on an intellectual level, however. For example I know that there are Muslims being held in secret prisons all over the world by the U.S. and believe they are being tortured in many. I also know that there are Muslims being tortured throughout the Muslim world, many of whom are Islamists who oppose the tyrannical U.S. backed governments in those countries.

Yet, these are just things I know or believe intellectually. There is something about seeing pictures of the inmates at Guantanamo or pictures from Abu Ghraib, etc. that just makes it harder to ignore what's going on or convince yourself that you can't do anything about it. It is undeniable that pictures go a long way to creating an emotional need to DO something, and if there is no productive way to channel that, it can lead to all kinds of reactions or just a deep deep anger and shame at one's own powerlessness.

I am not defending this reality intellectually, but I think it is true.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 07:12 PM
Abu Noor:

I'm surprised at the lack of Edwards love from you Brendan ...Well, what can I say? There's no accounting for visceral reactions. I must also say that Obama really strikes me as different from most politicians. I am cynical enough to entertain the possibility that he's just far better at faking sincerity than the rest of the bunch, but in my gut, I don't feel that way.

"Edwards is definitely talking the most progressive of the big 3 ..."

That may well be. I won't hate it if he becomes president, as opposed to any Republican, on the basis of stated policies.

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 07:20 PM
Abu Noor:

I think you're probably right about the power of the images, especially if one considers the likelihood that they would be shown non-stop on TV in the Arab world.

Still, I am mortified that my government is in the business of destroying evidence of their crimes. I cannot wait for this administration to be out of office.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
12-13-2007, 07:29 PM
Brendan,

As to Obama, I think the political system makes you say things or take positions that you don't really believe in, but it's probably true that you can be, and perhaps this is true of Obama, sincere in the sense that you really believe saying those things or taking those positions or talking that way is the way that one participates in the system and you really believe you can help people through the system and therefore you've convinced yourself to really believe in what you are doing. And I guess, if you do believe in participating in the system, as almost everyone does, that's the intelligent way to do it. In my heart, I still have self destructive and self defeating respect for radicals, idealogues and people in general who say things they believe in even though they know it makes them unelectable just because they know those things are true and important. As much as I may like Obama's personality and find his politics obviously light years ahead of Bush, it just sticks in my craw that he doesn't say anything that would make him unelectable. This either means he either has views which are completely mainstream in the political system which makes him both uninteresting and to some extent not intellectually searching or he is hiding those views and both are kinds of phoniness.

Although most of the same "criticisms" would apply to Edwards or any mainstream politician, I just sometime do get the perception listening to Edwards in this campaign that out of the big 3 he's certainly the one willing to stake out the radical position.

So, I guess what I'm saying is I don't trust or respect any politician that could win an election. Probably a pretty stupid way to think...

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 07:35 PM
Abu Noor:

So, I guess what I'm saying is I don't trust or respect any politician that could win an election. Probably a pretty stupid way to think...

LOL. No, I don't think it's that stupid. It's sounds like it's straight out of the book of Groucho Marx.

I know what you mean about politicians that have a chance of winning being averse to saying much of anything that could alienate people. Blame it on our system, especially the eagerness of opponents to use attack ads and the 24-hour news cycle that's willing to beat any triviality to death.

Given these realities, the only thing I can do is hope for the best on the policy promises, and trust in my gut for the rest.

uncle ebeneezer
12-13-2007, 07:53 PM
So is Mickey's contention that: printing rumors that probably aren't true, is actually serving the principle of truth because it speeds along the process of us finding out that the un-truth is actually not true? Wow, Mickey. You are a true champion of truth and thus the National Enquirer (and Fox News) are leading your glorious way. Retarded.

Castaa
12-13-2007, 08:09 PM
I like the redesign.

I also like the overall design of the old site.

Simon Willard
12-13-2007, 08:33 PM
My first post on the new system. Will these bells and whistles detract from the content?
My first smiley: :)
I agree with you about Edwards, Brendan. Actually, I think he's worse than Romney.
My first font change.
OK, what was I saying? OMG, are we teenagers yet?

bjkeefe
12-13-2007, 08:36 PM
Simon:

My biggest dread about this new forum software is the smilies.

I forget your political leanings, but I'm amazed anyone doesn't perceive Romney as the biggest phony ever.

testostyrannical
12-13-2007, 08:38 PM
Alright. That's cool. I'm glad to see there's a post post editing function. I find myself, from time to time, really wishing I could edit something stupid that I said after posting.

jmcnulty
12-13-2007, 08:41 PM
The surprise is that Hillary is in full meltdown mode. Bill Clinton has had to intervene in her campaign, and in fact may be running it. The polls, always a lagging indicator, put Hillary second in Iowa and first in Hew Hampshire. I suspect that she will finish THIRD in Iowa and no better than second in New Hampshire.

The problem is that Obama has avoided duking out issues with her. As a result, she has become shriller and shriller. The direct intervention of Bill will only remind voters that they "like" Bill and don't "like" her. I suspect that as she becomes more desperate, she will become even more unattractive to voters.

I have heard from Hillary's campaign that Obama had a schoolyard fight when he was in kindergarten, and he may have been the aggressor. Obviously, we cannot take the risk on someone with aggressive tendencies in the Oral Office.

The Clintons are capable of anything, and I suspect that they will soon pull out all the stops. As usual, she is using a cutout -- someone who can be chacterized as an "over-zealous campaign aide" -- who can be fired to keep her separated from the "politics of personal destriction," at which the Clintons have always been expert.

Huckabee is trying a similar tactic, bringing up Mormonism hoping that the press will run with it, printing stories asking "Well, what do Mormons REALLY believe?", hoping that he has tossed a depth charge on the Romney campaign, the effects of which he can later piously regret ("It is regrettable that in America some people still make religious beliefs a test for public office.").

Regarding the tapes, it has seemed to me from the beginning that the CIA would destroy them to put additional blame on the Bush administration. This insures that the critics assume that the tapes were incriminating of some terrible crime, and destroying them mades it impossible to defend the practices. It is only indicative of the way in which it is becoming the conventional wisdom to believe, like John Edwards, that the War on Terror is just a bumper sticker for the Bush Reich. This will continue until an American city disappears in a nuclear flash.

Now revolutionary Iran will almost certainly get the capability to build nukes. What is to keep them from slipping one to Hezbollah or Hamas? All they have to tell our "intelligence" agencies is that the nuke was stolen or taken by "hostile elements" against the wishes of the Mullahs. Or better still, tell our "intelligence" agencies that unless we do thus and so (abandon Israel, for example), they will set off 10 nukes hidden in American cities. Who on the left would believe thiis could happen? If the government discloses it, the Left will just argue that the Bush Reich is just trying to create a reason for war.

Steven Andrew Miller
12-13-2007, 09:00 PM
Torture will get you crap information. How can that not be obvious to everyone? I'm continually confused by people who think torture does anything but get you confessions. It's worthless and stupid to go along with its immorality. Is there any evidence, anywhere, that torture gets useful information. I spent some time looking once and couldn't find it.

Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who was head of the team that interrogated Abu Zubaydah, told Brian Ross of ABC News just three days ago that waterfboarding does work.

http://www.abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=3978231


A leader of the CIA team that captured the first major al Qaeda figure, Abu Zubaydah, says subjecting him to waterboarding was torture but necessary.

In the first public comment by any CIA officer involved in handling high-value al Qaeda targets, John Kiriakou, now retired, said the technique broke Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds

"The next day, he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate," said Kiriakou in an interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC News' "World News With Charles Gibson" and "Nightline."

"From that day on, he answered every question," Kiriakou said. "The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks."

I guess you might want to spend more time looking.

jmcnulty
12-13-2007, 09:18 PM
There are two quetions here. Utility and morality. The fact is that torture does "work," in the sense of getting information. Ask John McCain if he broke under "torture." But there are some things that we just will not do ("cruel and unusual punishments"). I do not favor doing anything that will inflict serious physical damage, such as beatings or pulling out fingernails. Is sleep deprivation "torture"? Amnestry International and the Geneva Convention say it is. On that basis, Janet Reno and Bill Clinton inflicted "torture" on the women and children of the Branch Davidians. If we will not engage in "torture," including "waterboarding," does that mean that we cannot engage in any "coercive" tactics? If someone is in prison and knows he will stay here indifinitely unless he talks, is that not a form of "torture" ("coercive" interrogation, making the detainee do something he does not want to do)? "Waterboarding," which seldom lasts a minute, would seem preferable to hours of sleep deprivation or indefinite imprisonment, deprived of family or communication with loved ones. This moral preening on the Left on this issue -- when FDR locked up innocent Japanese and hanged German saboteurs who had done no harm -- is distasteful and unrealistic in view of enemies who would not hesitate in cutting any captive's throat (on television!)..

ohcomeon
12-13-2007, 10:19 PM
So, how does one use one of those stupid emoticons?

kj
12-13-2007, 10:54 PM
Okay, time for one of my stupid condescending theories. I think the phoniness charge is mostly transference on your part. Something about Edwards mannerisms bothers you and you compute it as phoniness when it's really just incompatibility with the way he speaks and acts. This happens all the time with people and I know I've read some linguist somewhere who laid this out, perhaps Deborah Tannen. Edwards politician mode is better suited to attract cultural hicks like me. And here's Yglesias with some timely evidence supporting my cause: http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/12/small_samples_for_edwards.php

CNN's Mary Snow reported after the debate: "Twenty-three registered Democrats came in here undecided. We asked them who they felt performed the best in this debate and they concluded they felt that John Edwards performed the best, with Senator Clinton right behind him. Now of course, this is unscientific, but also the other question posed to them. If the election were held today, who would you vote for? And in that question, John Edwards came in first, Senator Barack Obama second, and Senator Clinton came in third." The Fox News focus group felt the same way. That's not how I felt watching the debate. For me, the best cure for developing pro-Edwards leanings (http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/12/the_case_for_john_edwards.php) is always to actually watch him in action: I find his persona self-righteous and a bit annoying, but the evidence has consistently been that most people don't feel that way, and this afternoon's focus groups are no exception.

The high-minded just don't like Johnny, but us cultural and intellectual heathens think he's dandy. And there's way more of us then you and that's why he performs the best in those polled head to head contests.

kj
12-13-2007, 10:56 PM
Well said Abu Noor. Better said than I.

kj
12-13-2007, 11:00 PM
The images point is a good one, but I don't see why the tapes couldn't have been kept and simply not released to the media. Just because they exist doesn't mean they have to be seen by the entire world. For all my self-righteousness, I'm not above making up some security argument that the tapes needed to be protected and not disbursed. Is this really so hard? Defending the destruction of the tapes is really ridiculous.

thprop
12-13-2007, 11:04 PM
So, how does one use one of those stupid emoticons?
Like this - just pick the emoticon from below and it appears next to the message title above.

DenvilleSteve
12-13-2007, 11:05 PM
Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who was head of the team that interrogated Abu Zubaydah, told Brian Ross of ABC News just three days ago that waterfboarding does work.

http://www.abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=3978231



I guess you might want to spend more time looking.

well said and thanks for the link.

Of course torture works. Otherwise, why would the interrogators use it?

kj
12-13-2007, 11:13 PM
I guess it depends who you trust. Kiriakou is a fool as far as I can tell. From Wikipedia here's a summary of what Suskind found and wrote in his book "The One Percent Doctrine": In June 2006, Simon & Schuster (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_%26_Schuster) published a book titled The One Percent Doctrine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_One_Percent_Doctrine) authored by Ron Suskind (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Suskind). In the book, Suskind writes that sources in the intelligence community revealed to him that Abu Zubaydah knew nothing about the operations of al-Qaeda, but rather was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics such as travel for wives and children. Suskind notes that Zubaydah turned out to be mentally ill, keeping a diary "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. The book also quotes Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, telling a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality." According to Suskind, this judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," yet two weeks later Bush gave a speech and labeled Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." Suskind also writes about how the CIA abused Zubaydah to get him to talk.

Of course, some would dispute what Suskind wrote but that comports with what makes sense to me as does this collection that Tom Ricks put together here (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/AR2007101201885.html)

I would hardly offer up what Kiriakoa said as any kind of proof that torture works. If you had tortured someone, you'd probably want to believe it wasn't a complete waste either.

Baltimoron
12-13-2007, 11:18 PM
Congratulations on the web re-design!

But, seriously, you managed to keep the "green"?!???

kj
12-13-2007, 11:18 PM
ASk McCain if he broke under torture?! I thought everyone knew the story. he didn't. The only real information he claims to have offered up was his name, rank, serial number, and birthdate (oh, and a signed confession, big suprise!) I'll stop moral preening when you come up with a shred of evidence that torture gets you anything but confessions. I'd say the burden lies on the pro-torture side on this one.

kj
12-13-2007, 11:23 PM
Of course torture works. Otherwise, why would the interrogators use it?

Holy shit! This is my favorite Denville Steve post yet! I rarely laugh out loud but I did on this one. This just confirms my suspicions that you are the greatest satirical character in online discussion board history. Bravo!

DenvilleSteve
12-13-2007, 11:28 PM
Abu Noor:

I think you're probably right about the power of the images, especially if one considers the likelihood that they would be shown non-stop on TV in the Arab world.

Still, I am mortified that my government is in the business of destroying evidence of their crimes. I cannot wait for this administration to be out of office.

Pamela Hess on CSPAN said the tapes were made to protect the interrogators from charges they went too far. I trust the tapes were viewed by higher ups and served that purpose. It is good they were destroyed.

instead of being mortified by the US government, you could just leave the country. Only in the United States do you have self reliant, God believing, decent people who want limited government, who dont believe in interfering in the lives of others.

The remainder of the world is populated by people who believe the state, not the individual is supreme. It is only fair that democrats move away instead of sticking around and denying Americans the way of life they can only find in their country.

-Steve

kj
12-13-2007, 11:31 PM
Now revolutionary Iran will almost certainly get the capability to build nukes. What is to keep them from slipping one to Hezbollah or Hamas? All they have to tell our "intelligence" agencies is that the nuke was stolen or taken by "hostile elements" against the wishes of the Mullahs. Or better still, tell our "intelligence" agencies that unless we do thus and so (abandon Israel, for example), they will set off 10 nukes hidden in American cities. Who on the left would believe thiis could happen? If the government discloses it, the Left will just argue that the Bush Reich is just trying to create a reason for war.

Can you get any more paranoid? 10 nukes hidden in American cities. Iran is about 100 years away from that capability. The U.S. probably isn't capable of hiding a single nuke in Iran but you think Iran can hide 10 nukes in the U.S. when they can't even enrich weapons grade uranium. The problem with your paranoia is that it is always way in this fanciful future. You simply don't know what Iran is going to do so stop pissing your pants worrying about what they might be capable of in a few decades. Iran is as rational an actor as any other nation. If conservatives could figure that out, we could have a rational debate on how to deal with Iran, but until then, I picture you guys cowering under your bed, peeing your pants, and wondering if its safe to go to the mall tomorrow. Do yourself a favor, rent Dr. Strangelove and try to figure out what Kubrick was doing with that film.

Steven Andrew Miller
12-13-2007, 11:32 PM
I guess it depends who you trust. Kiriakou is a fool as far as I can tell. From Wikipedia here's a summary of what Suskind found and wrote in his book "The One Percent Doctrine": In June 2006, Simon & Schuster (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_%26_Schuster) published a book titled The One Percent Doctrine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_One_Percent_Doctrine) authored by Ron Suskind (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Suskind). In the book, Suskind writes that sources in the intelligence community revealed to him that Abu Zubaydah knew nothing about the operations of al-Qaeda, but rather was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics such as travel for wives and children. Suskind notes that Zubaydah turned out to be mentally ill, keeping a diary "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. The book also quotes Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, telling a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality." According to Suskind, this judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," yet two weeks later Bush gave a speech and labeled Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." Suskind also writes about how the CIA abused Zubaydah to get him to talk.

Of course, some would dispute what Suskind wrote but that comports with what makes sense to me as does this collection that Tom Ricks put together here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/AR2007101201885.html

I would hardly offer up what Kiriakoa said as any kind of proof that torture works.


So you are asking me to pick between an author who wasn't there, and the agent who was there? I think I'll pick the guy who is willing to stake his personal reputation over an author and his anonymous sources.

If you had tortured someone, you'd probably want to believe it wasn't a complete waste either.

Kiriakoa didn't waterboard anyone. He was just a witness to it. In fact, if your read or watch the interview, he says that, while he admits it works, he is opposed to it, and that is part of the reason he left the CIA.

Don't make assumptions.

kj
12-13-2007, 11:33 PM
Damn you good Denville. Like I've always said, the best satirist around. Spot on.

kj
12-13-2007, 11:35 PM
Your choice I guess, but I'd urge you to think about it a bit more. And ask yourself if you've ever seen any actual evidence that torture works.

DenvilleSteve
12-13-2007, 11:43 PM
On the NIE/Iran discussion Mickey makes little sense. The NIE report was worded to be favorable to Iran and the US will turn a blind eye to whatever nuke program Iran chooses to pursue. In return Iran will stop sponsoring attacks on US troops in Iraq.

Maybe Ayatollah Sistani has a say in the matter of Persian meddling in Iraq. Or the Iraqi government, more and more intrenched and flush with 2 million plus barrels of oil production a day.

Bob cant counter Mickey's nonsense because he cant bring himself to concede that Iran halted its nuke program after pressure from regional players who had a strong card to play. With the removal of Saddam and the concern Iraq would acquire nukes, the Iranians had no way to justify to the Saudis and Turks that it needed nukes.

-Steve

TwinSwords
12-14-2007, 01:04 AM
Like this - just pick the emoticon from below and it appears next to the message title above.
You can also embed smiley's in the message, like this: :)

And this: :D

And....: ;)

You can use these by typing the keyboard characters for those emoticons (colon followed by a right-bracket, a capital D, or a semi-colon).

Most installations of vBulletin have a little window adjacent to the message window where you can select from a list of Smileys.

For example, this is how the message window looks on the Michigan State University forum. It is pretty much identical to the one we are using, except it has a list of "Smilies" available for insertion in your message:



For some reason, the Smilies pane has been suppressed on this forum. (I could swear it was there earlier today; did they remove it after the first complaint or two?)

JIM3CH
12-14-2007, 05:00 AM
However it arose, the NIE at least puts a damper on those paranoid elements in the administration who suspect the Iranians are contaminating our precious bodily fluids.

We must remember, however, that Iran remains one of two nuclear know-how countries (Brazil is the other, DPRK is a special case) who do not allow the IAEA sufficient access to check for parallel programs. It is not paranoia to keep the pressure on Iran to provide that access.

bjkeefe
12-14-2007, 06:57 AM
ohc:

So, how does one use one of those stupid emoticons?

Advisedly, and very rarely, it is to be hoped. ;^)

In all honesty, I always thought the ASCII ones were clever, and the substitution of graphical icons indicative of a point-and-drool culture. But then, I still prefer a command-line interface. And that you kids stay the hell off my lawn.

But if you insist: For details, click on the "smilies" link in the small box labeled "Posting Rules" in the lower left corner of the screen.

thprop
12-14-2007, 10:35 AM
Baby steps first - not sure how many people know about embedding keyboard characters. For those who want to make use of all the installed features, go to FAQ (in the top bar) and proceed from there. Smileys are under Reading and Posting Messages.

In this installation of vBulletin, the Smileys show up at the bottom - only if you have selected the right message editor interface. Enhanced works for sure, basic does not - not sure about standard.

To switch your "Message Editor Interface", go to User CP, select Edit Options, and go to the bottom of the page Miscellaneous Options. You can switch between Editor Interfaces there.

Bloggin' Noggin
12-14-2007, 10:35 AM
Count me as another one of those people suffering from false consciousness who finds Edwards offputtingly fake. Seems like maybe I should find Hillary equally fake, but her technocratic wonky persona is something she can carry off better than Edwards carries off his persona.
Obama is the best at performing himself -- and that, along with his eloquence, is a huge part of why I like him best.

kj
12-14-2007, 11:04 AM
Damn, even you Bloggin Noggin. I guess I should give up on him as these are sure signs that the media will destroy him as they did Gore in 2000. I'm always amazed at how much the Presidential election is like running for Prom Queen.

DenvilleSteve
12-14-2007, 11:05 AM
Count me as another one of those people suffering from false consciousness who finds Edwards offputtingly fake. Seems like maybe I should find Hillary equally fake, but her technocratic wonky persona is something she can carry off better than Edwards carries off his persona.
Obama is the best at performing himself -- and that, along with his eloquence, is a huge part of why I like him best.

the problem I see for democrat voters is, the more of a true believer the candidate is, the more that candidate will be a psycho and probably kind of stupid. Whereas the more Edwards like they are, where they are clearly crafting their positions to what the voters want to hear, the more intelligent and realistic they might be.

This is because democrat ideology makes no sense. Democrats in Congress ( John Conyers, chairman of judiciary ) are currently pushing for foreclosed homeowners to be protected from losing their mortgaged homes when they file bankruptcy. Which is a change that would make mortgages more expensive for everyone.

If the democrat candidate is a true believer, like Kucinich, they will believe people should get relieved from their mortgage when they go bankrupt. The more intelligent candidate will realize that is nuts and look to deceive the democrat voters into thinking they support this position.

-Steve

kj
12-14-2007, 11:07 AM
Agreed. And that's exactly the rhetoric that should be employed to make the point that pressure should be exerted. Talking about 10 hidden nukes is counter productive to say the least. Although I will state quite openly that we can not allow a mind-shaft gap!

garbagecowboy
12-14-2007, 11:37 AM
The new redesign is fine.

The new comments board sucks.

Glad to see you in a good mood for a change, though.

Tim_G
12-14-2007, 11:49 AM
That's all. :)

Bloggin' Noggin
12-14-2007, 01:11 PM
But I really don't think it's the media portrayal of him -- it's how he comes across when he speaks. I don't give a damn about the price of his haircuts -- seems to me he should spend a lot on looking good, even for the sake of the campaign. He just personally comes across as kind of smarmy and fake to me, quite apart from anything the media say about him.
I don't see one's sense of trust in a candidate as quite so irrelevant as your prom king remark suggests. Policy positions are certainly relevant, but they aren't everything and the differences don't seem huge on the Dem side -- how far you feel you can trust the candidate seems relevant to whether you vote for him.
You could be right that such judgments are pretty unreliable, but without further evidence that my sense is wrong in this case, I guess it's not unreasonable to go with that sense -- which, again, is pretty directly based on how he comes across when he speaks, not on media spin about haircuts or whatever.

DenvilleSteve
12-14-2007, 01:46 PM
But I really don't think it's the media portrayal of him -- it's how he comes across when he speaks. I don't give a damn about the price of his haircuts -- seems to me he should spend a lot on looking good, even for the sake of the campaign. He just personally comes across as kind of smarmy and fake to me, quite apart from anything the media say about him.


I think what is most important to any voter is the confidence the candidate will implement policies in office that square with their campaign positions. Edwards wants power, prestige and wealth. The democrat voters want those they elect to take from the rich and striving and give to the poor and slacking. Hillary might turn out to be too much of a patriot and centrist to totally sock it to the productive. Obama, too inexperienced. Edwards could be perfect for the job. He knows what he wants, and he has the ability to implement the policies the democrat voters want.

uncle ebeneezer
12-14-2007, 02:02 PM
Glad to see that the disorientation of the new site didn't hinder your ability to whine :-(

Ok that's the first/last time I will use an emoticon.

What don't you like about the new comment board? My only beef would be that there needs to be less white to make it a little easier on the eyes.

So let's talk baseball. What did you think of the mitchell report list? What (if anything) do you think will change? What's the story on the Santana trade? Though I know none of it is THAT important, I'd love to see BH do an episode on the Mitchell report. Don't know who they would get to do it though.

bjkeefe
12-14-2007, 02:21 PM
uncle eb:

I'd nominate King Kaufman of Salon for one of the diavloggers on. (cf: http://www.salon.com/sports/col/kaufman/2007/12/13/thursday/index.html the Mitchell report)

I am very interested in what's going to happen as a result, but the cynical side of me would bet: Not much. There'll be some photo ops, and god help us, maybe even more Congressional hearings, but in the end, the best we can hope for is better testing in the future.

jmcnulty
12-14-2007, 02:42 PM
Kj's comment said:

Can you get any more paranoid? 10 nukes hidden in American cities. Iran is about 100 years away from that capability. The U.S. probably isn't capable of hiding a single nuke in Iran but you think Iran can hide 10 nukes in the U.S. when they can't even enrich weapons grade uranium. The problem with your paranoia is that it is always way in this fanciful future. You simply don't know what Iran is going to do so stop pissing your pants worrying about what they might be capable of in a few decades. Iran is as rational an actor as any other nation. If conservatives could figure that out, we could have a rational debate on how to deal with Iran, but until then, I picture you guys cowering under your bed, peeing your pants, and wondering if its safe to go to the mall tomorrow. Do yourself a favor, rent Dr. Strangelove and try to figure out what Kubrick was doing with that film.

Why is Iran 100 years away from that capability? Where did they get their nuclear help? A. Q. Kahn's nuclear Pakistani Islamic supermarket? Could Pakistan, or Islamic insurgents who take over Pakistan, do it?

Osama bin Laden has obtained a fatwa from religious authorities allowing him to kill up to 10 million American civilians. Why? Is he in the habit of meaningless bluster? Is the current lull in terrorism plots a reflection of our ability to stop them or his ability, as shown on September 11, to be patient until a really damaging blow can be struck?

If you have read Bin Laden or his number 2, the real "brains" behind the operation, Ayman Al Zawahiri, you know that they are acting under religious impulses, so no "compromise" or political deal is possible. They are willing to be patient because they believe that Allah will eventually give them the victory, so planes and tanks of the "inflidel" armies mean nothing. Nobody is hiding under the bed or peeing in his pants. All that I am trying to do is put myself in their shoes.

September 11, in which enemies stuck at downtown New York City, something the Nazis never came close to accomplishing, was, like Pearl Harbor, a tactical victory, but a strategic defeat. All he did was to momentarily, as it turned out, awaken us to the danger, when he would have been better off in biding his time until a REALLY BIG plot could be hatched. This plot should be strategic and effect our ability and willingness to resist future plots. At what point do we decide to leave Israel to its fate, pick up our marbles in Iraq (on the basis that the government has become Islamic, not democratic and pluralistic, and unfair to women) and Afghanistan (where all we have done is make the country a bigger drug producer) and retreat into a sullen isolation? Ron Paul, call your office.

Would we defend South Korea when their are voices who say that South Korea is rich enought to defend itself without American lives being spent?

I do not mean to argue the particulars of any given case. I am only saying that the trend -- especially among Democrats -- is to retreat aound the world and concentrate on the loss of jobs to foreigners and universal health care. In short, the way to "fix" our military is to never use it unless Islamic hordes invade North Dakota. We will sit by and watch Europe go Islamic (or, more immediately, neutral), and be surrounded by a Chavista Latin America (which wants to destroy us unless it can cross the border and get a job) and a multicultural Canada. Do we expect a graying Japan to defend us? What about China? Maybe Russia will come to our aid.?

If someone fears a cliff up ahead, it is not paranoid to point this out to the driver, even if he does not want to hear it at that moment. Come back in 30 years and see what our position is in the world.

We would never try to "hide" nukes in Iran. First of all, it is not our style (why hide nukes when you have stealth bombers to drop them?), and secondly, we apparently do not even have a living intelligence agent inside Iran. How could we expect to "hide" nukes when we can't even get an intelligence source operating on the ground? Besides, if we did this, the news of the bombs' locations would be leaked to The New York Times.

They are enriching unanium and have a "cascade" of 3,000 centrifuges (and are planning more), even though this is unnecessary for electricity generation. With the new centrifuges, it is estimated that they can produce a bomb within months. The smart thing would be to have the bomb, but deny it pubicly, although we would know that they have it (they could let us tap a phone line, as in the NIE), but be unable to convince others except Israel. That way they could give one to Hezbollah and then deny any involvement when the bomb goes off. Hezbollah has already threatened suicide bombings within the United States. Why shouldn't they be nuclear?

By the way, I like "Dr. Strangelove," but I recognize that it was meant not as a serious foreign policy guide, but merely a manic comedy on the impossibility of "winning" a nuclear war. I love it when the teutonic "Dr. Strrangelove" keeps saying "Mien Fuhrer" when he means "Mr. President." Stanley Kubrick, as you know, is quite dead (which you will believe if you sat through "Eyes Wide Shut").

Has Bin Laden been told? Does he know that a nuclear war cannot be won ? Maybe we should try to get a DVD of "Dr. Strangelove" to him in his cave.

jmcnulty
12-14-2007, 02:59 PM
Regarding McCain, ask him whether he "broke." The point, which he will acknowledge, is that everyone, sooner or later, "broke." The point was to come back the next time and make them "break" you again and to try to give them only meaningless information. They were trying to force him to make propaganda, and he DID sign a "confession." After a while, your knowledge about military matters would be outdated anyway. But the point is that everyone "broke." Remember, this was physical torture. I am not advocating that. By the time he was tortured, the North Vietnamese were not trying to force military information out of him. A good example was the POW who signed a "confession," but injured himself before he could be paraded before foreign media, because the North Vietnamese did not want to exhibit an obviously bleeding man, Read Solzhenitsyn on the difference between being tortured by the Gestapo and the Russian NKVD. I would agree with you that torture is not trustworthy in finding out information, because a tortured man will say anything to make the pain stop. Torture, however, is often used not to get information, but to FORCE a person to do something that he would not otherwise do. In that sense, torture works. Not that I favor it, since I think it is corrosive of the demoncratic order.

garbagecowboy
12-14-2007, 05:35 PM
BS needs to do the Ellsbury/Lowrie/Masterson package.

The haggling seems to be the 4th player. I'm hoping it's Bowden. If this is greek to you check out http://www.soxprospects.com.

I have heard that the Mets are trying to offer 5 to 6 prospects which in theory sounds good (since the Twins aren't going to be competing in 2008, or at least shouldn't be attempting to against the Indians as currently constituted and the post-Cabrera trade Tigers) but the Mets first of all traded their most interesting piece (Milledge) for peanuts (which was very distressing to me as a Mets fan) and the rest of the pieces that they would offer (Fernando Martinez, Carlos Gomez, Pelfrey, Humber) are not particularly high ceiling prospects with the exception of Martinez. Frankly I think the Mets are only "in it" because not being in it would be a PR disaster. I don't think Bill Smith is dumb enough to make a trade with the Mets for the crap they're offering. That is.... unless they cave on Reyes, in which case the Twins should jump on that.

However all the signs from the Mets camp have been that Reyes is totally off limits. However after the Delmon Young trade the Twins priorities need to be finding infielders who can hit. I don't mind Adam Everett as their SS for the next few years in principle but if the 2B is a platoon of Casilla/Harris and the 3B is Punto then the Twins will have a historically bad hitting infield.

With the holes they currently have (CF, 3B, SS, 2B) the Red Sox trade seems to be intriguing. If they could get Bowden thrown in as the 4th player in the trade then they would have a high projecting hitting 3B/2B in Lowrie (whose horrible hands would be tolerable if Everett is the everyday SS) a stud CF who will be locked up for 5-6 years (Ellsbury, even if his agent is now Boras) a stud reliever who could be plugged in immediately and would allow the Twins to deal Nathan for another infielder or OF (Neshek becomes the closer and Masterson becomes the set-up man) and a high-projecting starter thrown into the mix of their solid but non-star-studded pitching prospect core (Bowden).

This trade makes so much sense for both teams and I think that Theo realizes that giving up value for value makes sense (to whit: the Hanley Ramirez for Beckett and Lowell trade). If they can close this deal then the Twins would be set up to be a threat when they start playing in their new stadium in 2010 and the Red Sox would be poised to win 120 games with a rotation of Santana, Beckett, Dice-K, Buchholz, Schilling with Wakefield and Lester as long-relief/spot-starters with a dominant bullpen.

If the Twins can't get Bowden I still want them to make this deal (Ryan Kalish as the 4th player would also set them up for when Cuddyer declines/leaves) because every other trade that appears plausible sucks. Especially now that Ned Coletti has said that he doesn't intend to trade Matt Kemp (which I don't really understand since they now have 4 outfielders and their best move if they dont' trade Kemp would be to sit Juan Pierre despite owing him nearly $40 million).

uncle ebeneezer
12-14-2007, 08:08 PM
I hear your words, and they make sense. But in my heart (as a Sox fan) I have a tough time letting go of Ellsbury. If ever a dude lived up to the billing by being clutch when he was called up, Ellsbury is the guy. His ability to step into the biggest stage in the game and not only "hang" with the big boys, but actually LEAD them with clutch hitting and speed and aggressive play, is that intangiable quality that can't be taught and you only find once in a blue moon. The pitching scenario you mention is a Sox fan's wet dream (almost as great as having Clemens and Pettite nabbed for roids) but still I believe in loyalty and chemistry and am weary of letting a young talented and spirited guy like Ellsbury go. Unfortunately I feel the same about Lester too.

Exeus99
12-14-2007, 08:24 PM
The return of Wright's wagging moose: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7408?in=01:04:42&out=01:05:15. This time it's to insult Kaus' moose by comparison, but isn't the rule that if you have to brag your moose probably isn't that impressive? In any event I fully support the euphimistic use of "moose," as in "I'll be right back, I gotta go shake the moose."

bjkeefe
12-14-2007, 08:36 PM
Exeus:

And we might add:

o Gotta go see a man about a moose
o Gotta go water my moose
o Shake your moose more than twice, you're ...

Oh, never mind.

Exeus99
12-14-2007, 08:43 PM
You have it exactly. Also, Mr. Wright says he "noticed something about [Mickey's] moose." I don't spend too much time in locker rooms anymore, but I'm pretty sure you're still not supposed to look--the rules haven't changed that much, have they? Maybe Wright's just a little too comfortable with his moose loose, and should be told "Hey pal, keep it in the forest!"

Exeus99
12-14-2007, 08:46 PM
And another one: "Baby, I'm not overly gregarious, I've just got a loose moose."

Exeus99
12-14-2007, 08:50 PM
Be careful for what you wish: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7408?in=25&out=32 ... and granted: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7408?in=00:58:50&out=59:20

bjkeefe
12-14-2007, 08:58 PM
Exeus:

LOL! Very nicely done.

You've got my vote for dingalink(s) of the week. Maybe we need a separate category when one dingalink is the set-up for another.

jmcnulty
12-14-2007, 10:04 PM
Kj commented:

"Iran is as rational an actor as any other nation."

That's right. They would never do anything crazy like, say, invading a foreign embassy, which has been recognized by international law as inviolate, sovreign foreign territory for 300 years. They also wouldn't widen the streets of Tehran to accommodate the return of the "12th Imam." Or rebuild and modernize the well from which he is supposed to return. Or call for another nation's destruction before the United Nations, of which that other nation is a fellow-member. Why, exactly, do you assume that the normal rules of deterrance would apply witrh a regime that is explicitly Islamist and apocalyptic? Did you know that the founder of the regime, the Ayatollah Khomeini, said that patriotism was a form of paganism and that he would gladly see half the Iranian nation destroyed if Islam triumphed?

garbagecowboy
12-15-2007, 02:45 AM
Do you miss Hanley Ramirez? I think that winning a World Series would ease that blow.

Similarly, if Theo pulled the trigger on Ellsbury+ for Santana he would be setting up the Sox for a period of prolonged dominance in the AL. They would be the favorite to win the AL pennant and the World Series for the next 5 years.

Ellsbury is a great player and I want him on the Twins, but he is not going to put up a .509 SLG for the rest of his career. Yes, he had a great post-season, but I think that his value in the minds of Sox fans is overinflated because of that.

It is pretty well known that Ellsbury and Lester are both on the block as the center-pieces of a deal, and I think Bill Smith is making the right choice in leaning towards Ellsbury as the right centerpiece.

It really makes so much sense for both teams I'm actually kind of surprised that the deal hasn't happened yet, but I anticipate it will happen within the next month. I think that Theo and Bill Smith are proving their worth by doing this deal the right way: deliberately, with all due care.

Ellsbury is a great player and I think he will be a well above average OBP and OPS player for some time to come, plus he's a great base runner and a great fielder. But the Red Sox have a fine solution in the field in CF (Crisp) who will probably regress towards his mean and have a better season at the plate next year. Also the Sox can afford to have a defensive specialist in CF and as much of a sparkplug as Ellsbury is in the leadoff spot, the Sox also have the luxury of having a different young sparkplug who I'd say is more valuable than Ellsbury in Pedroia (just b/c of the position he pays) who they can plug into that spot.

The Sox also have the luxury of having a ton of cash and a great farm system; they will not be crippled by an Ellsbury/Lowrie/Masterson/(Bowden or Kalish) deal. In fact just the opposite; they woud be trading from one of their many strengths to assemble the greatest rotation since the early Smoltz/Glavine/Maddux years in Atlanta. And they would have that with a dominant lineup full of guys who can rake.

I would not be broken hearted to see Santana stay a Twin (assuming someone takes the jaws of life to Pohlad's pursestrings and they can resign him) but I think that really this is just like the Young/Garza trade; two teams who have very different needs match up very well in terms of what they can give each other; the Twins don't really need a prolific ace in the short or even medium term, but they do need a cache of young stud position prospects. The Red Sox don't really... need anything, but if they can get Santana they would be able to make the Yankees their plaything in the AL East and if it came to it in the ALCS for the foreseeable future.

I hope that Bill Smith and Theo are just being patient and not trying to force something and just dotting their i's and crossing their t's, but you have to admit that while it will be sad to see a guy who came out of nowhere to be such a sparkplug in a championship run go, that both the Twins and the Red Sox plans for where they're going with their teams will be enhanced when and if they get a deal done that centers around Ellsbury.

I don't like the Crisp/Lester deal simply because I don't see Lester as a dominant #1, and if we're not getting Hughes or Buchholz, I'd much rather see the Twins fill their holes in their lineup for years to come than to get a starter. Yes, Lester would plug-in to the Twins rotation next year as probably the #2 or #3 starter (or even the #1 if Liriano is not really better) but I don't think a 26 year old above average starter is what the Twins really need to get in return for Santana.

At any rate, I think the Ellsbury centered deal is going to happen (and I certainly hope it does) and I think that when and if it does both teams will be winners, which is why Theo and Bill Smith are such good GMs.

dougfretty
12-15-2007, 03:47 PM
Mickey's argument--that not destroying the CIA tapes would have inflamed the Muslim world--assumes that the tapes automatically would have leaked. False assumption! Our government is perfectly capable of ensconcing sensitive files. The evidence against Gitmo detainees, for example, will probably never see the light of day--even if they are eventually presented at a tribunal. Mickey invokes Abu Graib for his argument, but in truth the Army possesses actual video of the Abu Graib abuses, which the public will in all likelihood never see. So Bob's argument--that the CIA tapes should have been preserved out of respect for rule of law--works because the CIA is capable of keeping the tapes on hand to use at tribunal, while hiding them from public view. The tapes seem to have passed through so few hands that preventing a leak was quite feasible.

M. Simon
12-15-2007, 08:09 PM
Your audio - bouncing stereo - is terrible.

You need to bleed a little of the right into the left and vice versa.

About 10 to 20 db down should do it.

garbagecowboy
12-15-2007, 09:05 PM
I would argue that people are clearly not understanding how to use the threaded view of the new forum (impossible in the old forum, or at least if you didn't understand it you would reply to the top post, not to some random 4th level nested response) since two consecutive unrelated posts were "replies" to my speculation about the Johan Santana trade.

DaveW
12-16-2007, 07:51 AM
Um...

Did I just watch about a half hour of a liberal democrat arguing that it is impossible for Bush to manipulate a NIE?

Yes, Mickey's ideas about a deal with Iran are nuts. Also true is that Bob cannot hold both that 1) Bush lied about and manipulated intelligence on WMD in Iraq, and 2) that it would be impossible for Bush to manipulate this NIE.

You can argue one or the other, but not both.

TwinSwords
12-16-2007, 05:07 PM
I would argue that people are clearly not understanding how to use the threaded view of the new forum (impossible in the old forum, or at least if you didn't understand it you would reply to the top post, not to some random 4th level nested response) since two consecutive unrelated posts were "replies" to my speculation about the Johan Santana trade.
It's not that threading is "not understood." It's that it is "not being used" by most people.

The problem is that some people are using the threaded view while others are using the linear view. Each group will cause problems for the other.

Users of the linear view will just click any "reply" button in the thread to activate the Reply window. If you're using the linear view, you won't even notice where your post is showing up in the threaded view, because in the linear view, all new replies appear at the end.

I can't imagine the agony you are creating for yourself by scanning that threaded window, trying to pick out the new comments. What a headache. And it's a headache that a certain sub-population is going to INSIST on using. Because it's "better." So much better, in fact, that they are miserable using it. Hilarious.

Since most people will probably use the linear view, it's a safe bet that this is yet another frustration you will have by insisting on using the more difficult threaded view.

garbagecowboy
12-16-2007, 10:06 PM
It's not that threading is "not understood." It's that it is "not being used" by most people.

The problem is that some people are using the threaded view while others are using the linear view. Each group will cause problems for the other.

Users of the linear view will just click any "reply" button in the thread to activate the Reply window. If you're using the linear view, you won't even notice where your post is showing up in the threaded view, because in the linear view, all new replies appear at the end.

I can't imagine the agony you are creating for yourself by scanning that threaded window, trying to pick out the new comments. What a headache. And it's a headache that a certain sub-population is going to INSIST on using. Because it's "better." So much better, in fact, that they are miserable using it. Hilarious.

Since most people will probably use the linear view, it's a safe bet that this is yet another frustration you will have by insisting on using the more difficult threaded view.

The threading of the old forum and that is available by choice in the new forum serves an important purpose: the diavlogs by their very nature typically cover several different topics. People go off on tangents, discuss different elements of the diavlog, and do so in an organized fashion.

For the more popular diavlogs, there will be literally more than a dozen different "conversations" going on involving a couple or more commentors, and hundreds of responses. That this kind of conversation can be maintained without threading is impossible. The comments will degenerate into what you see in places where it would be totally unthreaded, like LGF, where you can type "Hey ____" to respond to a specific post, but multiple ongoing conversations on multiple topics are impossible.

If wanting users to be able to have multiple, intricate conversations that go beyond the depth of simply posting a single general comment and then maybe catching a reply to it, that can develop over multiple days in a way that is impossible without the threaded view is being insistent on using a "more difficult" mode, then so be it.

But if the majority of people are going to be using the non-threaded view and just reply to the unrelated post at the bottom then the quality of the comments section will be much worse than it was with the old software, to no apparent purpose.

Apparently I am not the only person using the threaded view; it looks like the old-time commenters are using either the threaded view or the hybrid view. You're right that there will be two groups of commenters, one using the threaded view and one not; why this is a good thing I don't understand.

Why you apparently have some personal animosity towards me and take pleasure in the fact that I dislike what I see as serious flaws that I have specifically articulated in the new forum software I have no clue. Some guy you don't know thinks the new forum software is bad! He's miserable! Hilarious!

Good for you though, chief. Cool stuff.

M. Simon
12-17-2007, 10:57 AM
How about this scenario.

Bush reaches agreement with Iran.

Asks Iran to provide some help by having Generals talk on a known compromised communications channel. The CIA picks it up and reports it. Bush then says the evidence is credible.

A good book to read about how this sort of thing was done in WW2 is "Bodyguard of Lies" by AC Brown.

garbagecowboy
12-17-2007, 11:03 AM
This is like a "Who's on First" bit that stopped being funny a long time ago for those of us using threaded mode.

bjkeefe
12-17-2007, 01:07 PM
GC:

I think part of the problem is that if you click the "post a comment" link from the video page, your comment gets attached as a reply to most recently posted comment, no matter how deeply in the tree it might reside.

I've written to BH.tv support about this, and asked them to make clicking that link cause the new comment to be attached as a reply to the thread's opening comment, under the thinking that most people who click the link from the video page want to comment on the diavlog, and not respond to the last comment. Haven't heard back from them yet.

garbagecowboy
12-17-2007, 01:13 PM
GC:

I think part of the problem is that if you click the "post a comment" link from the video page, your comment gets attached as a reply to most recently posted comment, no matter how deeply in the tree it might reside.

I've written to BH.tv support about this, and asked them to make clicking that link cause the new comment to be attached as a reply to the thread's opening comment, under the thinking that most people who click the link from the video page want to comment on the diavlog, and not respond to the last comment. Haven't heard back from them yet.

Yes, this clearly needs to be fixed. I will keep my eyes peeled to see if this gets fixed. Let us know if you get a reply.

bjkeefe
12-17-2007, 01:40 PM
GC:

Just heard back from Support. Brenda agrees with my claim that this is a problem, and says they are looking into it, to change things as I asked.

A shout-out to Support for their rapid response to email, especially considering we're not paying anything for using this site.

kj
12-17-2007, 02:14 PM
Two things.

Your understanding of Strangelove seems fairly pedestrian to me. The film, on one level, was about the self-fulfilling nature of making your enemy out to be scarier than they are. We have a plot where the U.S., because of its paranoia over a sneak attack, develops Plan R which allows a single general to launch a nuclear attack. This happens while a paranoid Soviet Union develops a doomsday device because they are paranoid of a U.S. sneak attack. I could go on but I'll keep it basic. Perhaps you see the parallels.

And as for the 100 years point, you said something about Iran planting 10 secret nuclear bombs in U.S. city. That is impossible for us, let alone Iran. A basic understanding of nuclear weapon technology tells you this. Even if Iran develops a nuclear weapon within 10 years and becomes sudden partners with bin Laden (both have an order of probability of about 1%), they still would be no threat to the U.S. because their weapons would be crude. And if you ignore all this, you'd have to also ignore that the Iranian regime would have to be suicidal of which the order of probability approaches .000001%.

Of course Conservatives aren't all this dumb so I'm pretty sure most of you support this fear-mongering because you see a political advantage in it. Good for you.

kj
12-17-2007, 02:16 PM
Agreed. But that's why I don't see any point to torture. What good is it to force our prisoners to do something? Torture is not worth a few propaganda victories. You confuse me as I thought you were defending our use of torture. Perhaps I misread you.

kj
12-17-2007, 02:30 PM
But I really don't think it's the media portrayal of him -- it's how he comes across when he speaks. I don't give a damn about the price of his haircuts -- seems to me he should spend a lot on looking good, even for the sake of the campaign. He just personally comes across as kind of smarmy and fake to me, quite apart from anything the media say about him.
I don't see one's sense of trust in a candidate as quite so irrelevant as your prom king remark suggests. Policy positions are certainly relevant, but they aren't everything and the differences don't seem huge on the Dem side -- how far you feel you can trust the candidate seems relevant to whether you vote for him.
You could be right that such judgments are pretty unreliable, but without further evidence that my sense is wrong in this case, I guess it's not unreasonable to go with that sense -- which, again, is pretty directly based on how he comes across when he speaks, not on media spin about haircuts or whatever.

I don't trust my sense of trust with politicians. I think it is created for us by media narratives even if we are aware of them and attempt to censor them out. But I can't deny that that sense is very important to winning an election. I trust Edwards the most as he seems the most sincere to me, so maybe I'm actually trusting that sense and creating an elaborate argument against trusting one's sense of trust in order to convince you to abandon your own sense of trust and go with mine. Got that? If you do, you probably don't trust me now.

kj
12-17-2007, 02:43 PM
I'm with you GarbageCowboy. I'm a threader (or a Jet). Been a threader since I could type and will always be a threader. The Linears (the Sharks) are disorganized loons and should head back to the part of the internet they came from. But perhaps there is a Maria out there among the Linears who has the hope required for us to live together peacefully. Something's Coming, I can feel it.

I just hope you don't have to get shot at the end to make this work GarbageCowboy. But I might be willing to pay that price for a functioning forum.

kj
12-17-2007, 02:57 PM
Kj commented:

"Iran is as rational an actor as any other nation."

That's right. They would never do anything crazy like, say, invading a foreign embassy, which has been recognized by international law as inviolate, sovreign foreign territory for 300 years. They also wouldn't widen the streets of Tehran to accommodate the return of the "12th Imam." Or rebuild and modernize the well from which he is supposed to return. Or call for another nation's destruction before the United Nations, of which that other nation is a fellow-member. Why, exactly, do you assume that the normal rules of deterrance would apply witrh a regime that is explicitly Islamist and apocalyptic? Did you know that the founder of the regime, the Ayatollah Khomeini, said that patriotism was a form of paganism and that he would gladly see half the Iranian nation destroyed if Islam triumphed?

First off, I could find your responses if you would reply to my posts instead of burying them. I assume the normal rules of deterrence apply because there is no evidence that they don't. The burden of proof is clearly on your side since beyond populist rhetoric and religious pandering there is absolutely no evidence that the ruling sect of Iran is suicidal.

And how would Islam triumph by launching a crude nuclear weapon at someone in the region? I'm sorry but the whole argument is ridiculous. This is exactly the mentality that got us into a war with Iraq that has been a disaster. How can so many not learn a very simple lesson?

basman
12-19-2007, 11:31 PM
I’m for the sake of getting to the root of these arguments going to stipulate that waterboarding is a form of torture and then proceed to defend it nonetheless and then press again my argument about reflecting that use in law and being explicit about it subject to pragmatic necessity.

To set the framework for these arguments I want to revisit the nature and scope of the threat the developed world faces from radical Islam when its terror is conjoined with technology. Its terrorism is growing on a population of 1 1/3 billion Muslims with a growing access to nuclear/radiological weapons, biological weapons and chemical weapons. Clearly a criminal justice model for dealing with this danger is inadequate. That model assumes the existence of crime and seeks not to eliminate it but to control it. Its goal is try to reduce America’s about 30,000 murders a year by some amount. But that cannot be the approach to terrorism. Here the focus must be on prevention. Deterrence is irrelevant to suicidal fanatics and there as no end to their numbers. The failure of prevention may yield unthinkable civil harm, far exceeding in magnitude 9/11 which itself generated such enormous repercussions. And another point: a further attack would deal civil liberties a terrible blow. Civil libertarians to promote their agenda need to downplay the threat; but the relative incursion into them now in the interest in prevention paradoxically may be the best means of ensuring them.

A captured terrorist, by definition an unlawful combatant, is an outlaw. He does not wear a uniform; he hides amongst civilians; and he targets innocents deliberately. The postwar Geneva Conventions were not just written to protect detainees; they were also written to deter the barbaric treatment of civilians so apparent during the first half of the twentieth century. The promise of the Conventions was that combatants who treated non-combatants well would be treated according to a code of dignity if captured and reciprocally would be denied the protection of that code if they broke the laws of war or abused civilians. And these two things minimize what terrorists do. But terrorists are not ipso facto treated in kind because civilized people do not descend to the level of their enemies. They are treated humanely out of the moral principles that inform such civilization and when inhumane treatment occurs, it is marked with disgrace.

But then we come to the terrorist with information. In the true case of the ticking time bomb—a nuclear bomb about to blow up Sheboygan—is there really any issue here? The problem is that this rarified case does not exhaust the category of the terrorist with information. A lesser version of it, more common, is smaller scale terrorism—car bombs, small local targets—a café, a hospital, a nursery school. These smaller scale instances take the ticking time bomb out of the supposed one in a hundred million range and make it a real live practical problem. In these instances, while not as dramatic the destruction of Sheboygan, is there any real issue of using coercive information to try to save lives?

So, rather than wrapping myself into a pretzel to argue that coercive interrogation isn’t torture, I want to say that the principle that emerges is that torture is permissible, or, putting it mildly differently, torture is not always impermissible. And if that is so—if we have the principle—then aren’t we left to argue about the details and the application—not whether but under what circumstances.

And we come to a further sub set of the terrorist with information: a high level captive drenched with information but we have no specific pending terrorist action which we suspect—the best example is of course Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”). Just to review the bidding, he was the architect of 9/11 and was a/the top al Qaeda planner. I cannot imagine coercively interrogating him, torturing him—to put it plainly—to extract information from, which is what waterboarding him accomplished.

. In 1999 israel's Supreme Court struck down secret guidelines which allowed for torture. But after the second intifada broke out with wave of horrifying suicide bombings the Shin Bet turned to physical coercion as a standard practice having widespread approval a of the Israeli public and its political class whne seen in the light of being a last resort in preventing terrorist attacks. (It is to be noted that McCain’s position “torture never” cites Israel as not using torture.)

To move down the scale from KSM, what if the terrorist prisoner’s information is less imminent, or less direct: he can give us information about others who themselves know more, and so on. Isn’t it plausible to argue for—given the marriage of terrorism and proliferating technology and the potential for nation shattering destruction—for some proportionate coercion tailored to meet the particular exigencies? Such decisions are not easily made and are not unproblematic because we are talking about torture after all. But leaders must protect their citizens and take these decisions to extract information which may prevent the slaughter of innocents.

I say that if we are going to torture we need rules governing its exercise grounded in the principle that the only reason for torture is the extraction of life saving information and not for punishment or vengeance. If we need these rules, then torture must not happen outside the law. Subject to pragmatic necessity, there are two choices here: a systematic framework within which those expert can try to resolve the infinite number of questions presenting themselves rooted in a comprehensive balancing of inevitably competing interests and values; or a below the radar unaccountable dealing out of terror which vitiates the very values informing the meaning of America. Monitoring, limiting, tailoring what’s done, will be the best means of controlling it and its spread to other civic institutions. Judicializing the process is the best means of mimimizing its instances.

basman
12-19-2007, 11:33 PM
I’m for the sake of getting to the root of these arguments going to stipulate that waterboarding is a form of torture and then proceed to defend it nonetheless and then press again my argument about reflecting that use in law and being explicit about it subject to pragmatic necessity.

To set the framework for these arguments I want to revisit the nature and scope of the threat the developed world faces from radical Islam when its terror is conjoined with technology. Its terrorism is growing on a population of 1 1/3 billion Muslims with a growing access to nuclear/radiological weapons, biological weapons and chemical weapons. Clearly a criminal justice model for dealing with this danger is inadequate. That model assumes the existence of crime and seeks not to eliminate it but to control it. Its goal is try to reduce America’s about 30,000 murders a year by some amount. But that cannot be the approach to terrorism. Here the focus must be on prevention. Deterrence is irrelevant to suicidal fanatics and there as no end to their numbers. The failure of prevention may yield unthinkable civil harm, far exceeding in magnitude 9/11 which itself generated such enormous repercussions. And another point: a further attack would deal civil liberties a terrible blow. Civil libertarians to promote their agenda need to downplay the threat; but the relative incursion into them now in the interest in prevention paradoxically may be the best means of ensuring them.

A captured terrorist, by definition an unlawful combatant, is an outlaw. He does not wear a uniform; he hides amongst civilians; and he targets innocents deliberately. The postwar Geneva Conventions were not just written to protect detainees; they were also written to deter the barbaric treatment of civilians so apparent during the first half of the twentieth century. The promise of the Conventions was that combatants who treated non-combatants well would be treated according to a code of dignity if captured and reciprocally would be denied the protection of that code if they broke the laws of war or abused civilians. And these two things minimize what terrorists do. But terrorists are not ipso facto treated in kind because civilized people do not descend to the level of their enemies. They are treated humanely out of the moral principles that inform such civilization and when inhumane treatment occurs, it is marked with disgrace.

But then we come to the terrorist with information. In the true case of the ticking time bomb—a nuclear bomb about to blow up Sheboygan—is there really any issue here? The problem is that this rarified case does not exhaust the category of the terrorist with information. A lesser version of it, more common, is smaller scale terrorism—car bombs, small local targets—a café, a hospital, a nursery school. These smaller scale instances take the ticking time bomb out of the supposed one in a hundred million range and make it a real live practical problem. In these instances, while not as dramatic the destruction of Sheboygan, is there any real issue of using coercive information to try to save lives?

So, rather than wrapping myself into a pretzel to argue that coercive interrogation isn’t torture, I want to sat that the principle that emerges is that torture is permissible, or, putting it mildly differently, torture is not always impermissible. And if that is so—if we have the principle—then aren’t we left to argue about the details and the application—not whether but under what circumstances.

And we come to a further sub set of the terrorist with information: a high level captive drenched with information but we have no specific pending terrorist action which we suspect—the best example is of course Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”). Just to review the bidding, he was the architect of 9/11 and was a/the top al Qaeda planner. I cannot imagine coercively interrogating him, torturing him—to put it plainly—to extract information from, which is what waterboarding him accomplished.

In 1999 Israel's Supreme Court struck down secret guidelines which allowed for torture. But after the second intifada broke out with wave of horrifying suicide bombings the Shin Bet turned to physical coercion as a standard practice having widespread approval a of the Israeli public and its political class whne seen in the light of being a last resort in preventing terrorist attacks. (It is to be noted that McCain’s position “torture never” cites Israel as not using torture.)

To move down the scale from KSM, what if the terrorist prisoner’s information is less imminent, or less direct: he can give us information about others who themselves know more, and so on. Isn’t it plausible to argue for—given the marriage of terrorism and proliferating technology and the potential for nation shattering destruction—for some proportionate coercion tailored to meet the particular exigencies? Such decisions are not easily made and are not unproblematic because we are talking about torture after all. But leaders must protect their citizens and take these decisions to extract information which may prevent the slaughter of innocents.

I say that if we are going to torture we need rules governing its exercise grounded in the principle that the only reason for torture is the extraction of life saving information and not for punishment or vengeance. If we need these rules, then torture must not happen outside the law. Dubject to pragmatic necessity, there are two choices here: a systematic framework within which those expert can try to resolve the infinite number of questions presenting themselves rooted in a comprehensive balancing of inevitably competing interests and values; or a below the radar unaccountable dealing out of terror which vitiates the very values informing the meaning of America. Monitoring, limiting, tailoring what’s done, will be the best means of controlling it and its spread to other civic institutions. Judicializing the process is the best means of mimimizing its instances.

bjkeefe
12-20-2007, 12:14 AM
basman:

Congratulations. You've written your own torture memo. Bucking for Alberto's old job? ;^)

Actually, I do have to say that I thought your essay was quite thoughtful. Thanks for the effort, even if I remain opposed to the idea.

This is a good point:

The postwar Geneva Conventions were not just written to protect detainees; they were also written to deter the barbaric treatment of civilians so apparent during the first half of the twentieth century. The promise of the Conventions was that combatants who treated non-combatants well would be treated according to a code of dignity if captured and reciprocally would be denied the protection of that code if they broke the laws of war or abused civilians.

I'm not sure I buy it completely, and I suspect a human-rights lawyer could dispute it more precisely, but it is something for me to keep in mind.

Nonetheless, as I say, I don't think torture should be made legal. I think it has a dubious record of achieving useful intelligence compared to other methods. I think it puts our own soldiers and intelligence operatives at increased risk. Much more importantly, it debases the United States. We used to be the good guys, and I want to get back to that place.

I think the ticking time bomb scenario is a red herring for two reasons. First, real life is not 24 -- these situations just don't come up all that often. Second, if one does come up, the reality is that any interrogator who gets positive results is not going to suffer unduly for his or her actions. This acknowledgment of an implied wink and a nod policy borders on hypocrisy, I grant, but I think it's better than trying to define when torture is legally permissible, because allowing something sometimes means that "sometimes" invariably becomes much more frequent. Bob Wright made a good point in a recent diavlog when he argued that anyone contemplating torture should have to bear in mind the risk of criminal prosecution. If this is the case, I think we'd cut down on the mindless sadism characteristic of prison guards worldwide, while still having an implicit out for the few times an interrogator can show that torture served some purpose.

I would even admit that circumstances can play a mitigating role. To put this in real-world terms, I'm not looking to go crazy on those who did torture suspects shortly after 9/11. I'd like to see a comprehensive investigation, and I'm sure plenty of people deserve to be held to some account, but I can understand the panic the US government was under for the first few weeks after that day, and I'd accept this as a consideration when determining punishment.

I don't agree with your premise that terrorists have increased access to WMDs. Therefore, I don't agree with your premise that terrorism is fundamentally different from any other criminal activity. Therefore, I do not view terrorist actions as an existential threat. Sure, they're heinous, but so is any other act of murder. It's not a perfect world, so we can't hope to reduce either to zero. But we can keep matters at a tolerable level with existing law enforcement procedures. Meantime, we can look at everything else we could be doing to cut down on the motivations of, and support for, terrorists.

Wolfgangus
12-20-2007, 01:25 AM
Basman: You seem to forget that the torture you are speaking of happens to suspects that have not been convicted of the crimes you think they are committing. It is obvious they have not been convicted, since the crime is in the future.

So essentially you advocate not just discarding the rule of law that people are innocent until proven guilty, but you advocate torturing the innocent just in case they might tell us something about somebody else that is not yet guilty of a crime.

This is neither reasonable nor desirable; regardless of why you are doing it, torture is painful and dangerous to the victim; and the victims are tried, judged and convicted by tribunal or even individuals without benefit of the doubt, benefit of counsel, trial by jury or even trial by judge. If you think I take that too far, I refer you to the current crop of detainees of the Bush administration, including American citizens, all held without charges and without trial.

I don't care what information you think they have with no proof whatsoever, or how many lives you think it is going to save with no proof whatsoever, or whether you think that torturing a presumed-innocent person may lead to something actionable at some time in the future. All the pre-emptive arguments you make could as easily apply to pre-emptively imprisoning some jilted lover in a rage, guilty of nothing but spouting off but JUST IN CASE let's start jailing everybody that ever says anything in anger.

Unlike BJ, I don't find your essay "thoughtful". I find it thoughtless, just rehashing well worn scare tactics and taking as givens an inerrant knowledge of future guilt, an inerrant knowledge of the contents of somebody else's mind, and an absolute certainty that there is a terrorist act in the works that can be stopped in one and only one way, by getting the presumed-guilty party to spill what you are certain (without any proof) he is privy to.

You may not be familiar with the term laying pipe in screenwriting; it refers to comments and scenes that are only there to set up or justify some sort of payoff later; like a joke in a sitcom or some reaction by a character, e.g. mentioning something about Tom's previous allergic reaction to a bee sting on pages 3 and 13 so the emergency on page 60 doesn't seem to come out of the blue. In the series 24, they are always careful to lay some pipe for the characters Jack Bauer will torture later, to show the audience that indeed the torture victim is a murderous bad guy that deserves what he gets. And then even though Bauer may be unduly certain, as the audience we know his magically acquired certainty is justifiable. Real life isn't like that, we don't have those magical computers (which, BTW, can do some things a thousand times faster than a supercomputer, and other things a thousand times slower than a PC) and supernatural certainty. And without it, your entire argument falls apart, because then you are torturing people that may be innocent and may know nothing at all useful. If that is what America has come to, we have been scared into becoming just another dictatorship with no rights, no liberty, and everything we do granted at the whim of King Bush.

bjkeefe
12-20-2007, 01:30 AM
Wolf:

I wish I'd said all that. Brilliant, and I stand chastised.

basman
12-21-2007, 02:16 AM
I’m for the sake of getting to the root of these arguments going to stipulate that waterboarding is a form of torture and then proceed to defend it nonetheless and then press again my argument about reflecting that use in law and being explicit about it subject to pragmatic necessity.

To set the framework for these arguments I want to revisit the nature and scope of the threat the developed world faces from radical Islam when its terror is conjoined with technology. Its terrorism is growing on a population of 1 1/3 billion Muslims with a growing access to nuclear/radiological weapons, biological weapons and chemical weapons. Clearly a criminal justice model for dealing with this danger is inadequate. That model assumes the existence of crime and seeks not to eliminate it but to control it. Its goal is try to reduce America’s about 30,000 murders a year by some amount. But that cannot be the approach to terrorism. Here the focus must be on prevention. Deterrence is irrelevant to suicidal fanatics and there as no end to their numbers. The failure of prevention may yield unthinkable civil harm, far exceeding in magnitude 9/11 which itself generated such enormous repercussions. And another point: a further attack would deal civil liberties a terrible blow. Civil libertarians to promote their agenda need to downplay the threat; but the relative incursion into them now in the interest in prevention paradoxically may be the best means of ensuring them.

A captured terrorist, by definition an unlawful combatant, is an outlaw. He does not wear a uniform; he hides amongst civilians; and he targets innocents deliberately. The postwar Geneva Conventions were not just written to protect detainees; they were also written to deter the barbaric treatment of civilians so apparent during the first half of the twentieth century. The promise of the Conventions was that combatants who treated non-combatants well would be treated according to a code of dignity if captured and reciprocally would be denied the protection of that code if they broke the laws of war or abused civilians. And these two things minimize what terrorists do. But terrorists are not ipso facto treated in kind because civilized people do not descend to the level of their enemies. They are treated humanely out of the moral principles that inform such civilization and when inhumane treatment occurs, it is marked with disgrace.

But then we come to the terrorist with information. In the true case of the ticking time bomb—a nuclear bomb about to blow up Sheboygan—is there really any issue here? The problem is that this rarified case does not exhaust the category of the terrorist with information. A lesser version of it, more common, is smaller scale terrorism—car bombs, small local targets—a café, a hospital, a nursery school. These smaller scale instances take the ticking time bomb out of the supposed one in a hundred million range and make it a real live practical problem. In these instances, while not as dramatic the destruction of Sheboygan, is there any real issue of using coercive information to try to save lives?

So, rather than wrapping myself into a pretzel to argue that coercive interrogation isn’t torture, I want to sat that the principle that emerges is that torture is permissible, or, putting it mildly differently, torture is not always impermissible. And if that is so—if we have the principle—then aren’t we left to argue about the details and the application—not whether but under what circumstances.

And we come to a further sub set of the terrorist with information: a high level captive drenched with information but we have no specific pending terrorist action which we suspect—the best example is of course Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (“KSM”). Just to review the bidding, he was the architect of 9/11 and was a/the top al Qaeda planner. I cannot imagine coercively interrogating him, torturing him—to put it plainly—to extract information from, which is what waterboarding him accomplished.

In 1999 Israel's Supreme Court struck down secret guidelines which allowed for torture. But after the second intifada broke out with wave of horrifying suicide bombings the Shin Bet turned to physical coercion as a standard practice having widespread approval a of the Israeli public and its political class whne seen in the light of being a last resort in preventing terrorist attacks. (It is to be noted that McCain’s position “torture never” cites Israel as not using torture.)

To move down the scale from KSM, what if the terrorist prisoner’s information is less imminent, or less direct: he can give us information about others who themselves know more, and so on. Isn’t it plausible to argue for—given the marriage of terrorism and proliferating technology and the potential for nation shattering destruction—for some proportionate coercion tailored to meet the particular exigencies? Such decisions are not easily made and are not unproblematic because we are talking about torture after all. But leaders must protect their citizens and take these decisions to extract information which may prevent the slaughter of innocents.

I say that if we are going to torture we need rules governing its exercise grounded in the principle that the only reason for torture is the extraction of life saving information and not for punishment or vengeance. If we need these rules, then torture must not happen outside the law. Dubject to pragmatic necessity, there are two choices here: a systematic framework within which those expert can try to resolve the infinite number of questions presenting themselves rooted in a comprehensive balancing of inevitably competing interests and values; or a below the radar unaccountable dealing out of terror which vitiates the very values informing the meaning of America. Monitoring, limiting, tailoring what’s done, will be the best means of controlling it and its spread to other civic institutions. Judicializing the process is the best means of mimimizing its instances.

Wolfgangus
12-21-2007, 07:44 AM
Basman: What the hell, are you just going to keep posting the exact same thing until somebody agrees with you? What is this, an excerpt from your book?

If you don't know how to use the threaded view, learn. Your post is already there, responses exist, there is no need to repost.

ndk
12-21-2007, 09:44 AM
Maybe it's Mirman!

bjkeefe
12-21-2007, 09:53 AM
ndk:

Maybe it's Mirman!

LOL!

basman
12-22-2007, 05:26 PM
Sorry for the repetitions.

I am just barely getting the hang of this and I'll be the first to admit I'm one of the slower fellas. I will respond to your comments when I have a bit more time.

basman
12-22-2007, 06:19 PM
Wolfgangus


1. I’m arguing, Wolfgangus, that a criminal law model is inapposite to the war on terror. The model, I’m arguing for, following the lines of reasoning on this of Richard Posner, lies somewhere between a criminal law model and a war model. Now you can argue against my utilization of that paradigm, but you get confused and are illogical when you make arguments which begin from the premise of a criminal law model, and those arguments are obviously not telling against my analysis for that very reason and are therefore against a straw man. I trust that you now understand that.


2. You are also confusing another dynamic aspect of the analysis. That dynamic is the trade off of competing values, as is inherent in all constitutional issues. The trade off here is between liberty and security. How much liberty will we sacrifice for security; how much security will we trade off for our liberty? That you would ask, to be kind I’ll say rhetorically, why can’t we, on my analysis, jail pre-emptively angry jilted lovers, suggests to me that you are not engaging these issues meaningfully. In Canada and in the U.S., on a criminal law model, policy and judicial decisions have been taken after weighing competing values not to admit evidence derived by the police breaching certain protections. Something is sacrificed in this—the criminal gets off on a so called technicality—but the policy concern over an overzealous and powerful constabulary against a relatively weak individual trumps what is sacrificed. But, I suggest, once you weigh the dangers inherent in the marriage between nihilistic jihad and technology and the children of that marriage—say dirty bombs with all the destruction they can wreak, not to mention more epiphenomenal offspring such as the bombing of hospitals and elementary schools and subways—different considerations come to the fore that make your rhetorical example sound, I’m sorry to say, quite jejuene.

3. I’m not going to repeat my arguments, but the ticking time bomb, however rarified, is a template for the kinds of lesser situations that suggest themselves. And I’m with Dershowitz and I guess Kaus in wanting the tailored judicially monitored use of coercive questioning to be explicit policy rather than winked and nodded at.

4. There are respectable arguments of course to be made against my position, but you have not enumerated any of them that I can see. You’d want to contend with the concrete facts of saved lives from the information and plans foiled from KSM and others, for example. I suppose I’ll survive regardless of whether or not you find my arguments thoughtful. People who take decidedly opposed views to me have told me they found them thoughtful. I have the feeling you tend to get ad hominem when you confront arguments you disagree with strongly. But, whatever.

basman
12-22-2007, 08:44 PM
Brendan:

I’m sorry I overlooked your thoughtful arguments in my dumb, repeated posting of my “torture memo” and then in noting and responding to Wolfgangus’s post. At least your comments are responsive to what I wrote.

The question of whether terrorists have increased access to wmds is to be answered empirically. If what they possess does not constitute a grave peril to the developed world, and therefore do not compel the use of forced interrogation, no one would more satisfied than I. Plus, I am not in the know: I cannot say with any expertise or solid information what the concrete facts are about what terrorists have at hand.

You are correct that my argument starts from this premise and falters if the underlying claim cannot be made out. On this point, as I noted to Wolfgangus, I have been influenced by the thinking and writing and public speakinh of Richard Posner, an appellate judge and prominent public intellectual, as well as Alan Dershowitz and a few others.

But let me ask you to consider this as a little thought experiment: what if the underlying empirical claim has substance? Let us stipulate that it does. Would that change your thinking?

Here is for me at least another problem in this discussion. I cannot talk empirically about waterboarding’s efficacy. I have read accounts of that efficacy as well as assertions of its inutility. But let me expand some on the thought experiment. Let us stipulate as to waterboarding's relative efficacy. Assuming that, is your argument affected?

”First, real life is not 24 -- these situations just don't come up all that often”

I don’t think life is 24 either, but “all that often” is not that comforting, considering what it coming up once can do. I agree with you that it is rarified and I am making a more extreme argument as I indicated to Wolfgangus: that is the use of coercive methods in lesser terrorist situations.

So I need you to assume the means in the terrorists to do great dirty bomb type damage, short of laying waste to a fraction of your country and I need you to assume extractive efficacy. If these assumptions compel in you different conclusions or conclusions similar to mine, then I’m willing intellectually to defer the outcome of argument until the empirical claims can reasonably be answered.

As I argued back to Wolfgangus, I do not believe in a wink and a nod. But, in answer to one of your points, on my proposal of judicializing coercion, the problem of mindless sadism does not arise. The torture administrator needs judical sanction which in Dershowitz’s writings would only be allowed after the most exhaustive weighing and balancing of the interests and circumstances involved, with the onus most heavily weighed against the state.

Concerns about “torture creep” and America’s reputation in the world are well taken. My answer to them lies in the dangers America—as a metonym for the developed world—faces and in the assumption that coercion works. And again, I am of course willing to stand or fall by what the facts tell us.

bjkeefe
12-22-2007, 09:50 PM
basman:

I’m sorry I overlooked your thoughtful arguments in my dumb, repeated posting of my “torture memo” and then in noting and responding to Wolfgangus’s post.

No prob. Here you are now. Thanks for coming back to the conversation.

But let me ask you to consider this as a little thought experiment: what if the underlying empirical claim [that terrorists have access to WMDs] has substance? Let us stipulate that it does. Would that change your thinking?

A big part of me wants to say we have a fair amount of empirical evidence already: They have yet to set off anything besides conventional explosives, and it strains credulity to think that they would not at least have attempted to use whatever they had, including some kind of dirty bomb. For all the talk about the supposed patience of jihadists, it's my impression that they're pretty eager to try out new toys.

Secondly, even the threat of a dirty bomb is not something I'm willing to trade a lot of liberty or moral position away for. I don't think there is a clear understanding of the effects of one of these devices. Lots of people like to talk about, say, New York City being rendered uninhabitable for years, but I've also seen predictions that such effects are wildly exaggerated. Which kind of leads me to my third point.

Third, I don't know how I'd trust your proposed empirical claim. Certainly, the track record of the current administration would make me very skeptical of any claims it made. I'm hard-pressed to think of any politicians, from either side of the aisle, who I feel much better about.

For these reasons, I don't know that your thought experiment is that meaningful. It's really just a restatement of the ticking bomb scenario, when you come right down to it. Our government is not going to give me full access to the intelligence, so I'm never going to be able to make a reasoned decision about it. Therefore, I'm going to stick with my original position: I believe torture should be illegal. If some unlikely scenario rears its head, I'm sure that the interrogators will not hesitate to do what they think is necessary, and I have no doubt that stopping a real and serious threat will mean that the interrogators will not suffer for their decision.

Let us stipulate as to waterboarding's relative efficacy. Assuming that, is your argument affected?

This is another hypothetical that I'm reluctant to answer, because I have so much trouble with its premise. I believe there already is a fair amount of evidence that torture, including waterboarding, is not especially effective -- other techniques are believed by many trained interrogators to work better. Just because one gets the occasional useful nugget by reprehensible means, it doesn't prove that the same information couldn't have been gotten another way.

I also think it's well-established that torture yields a lot of false information. The real thought experiment, then, is to ask not just about one imagined situation, but whether we'd be more efficient in getting good information over time from a program of one form of interrogation over another. Again, as I said, it is my impression that torture is not particularly effective, especially when evaluated in this manner. Even leaving aside the moral considerations, the additional time to verify all the resulting false claims is a real cost to the overall security effort. And once you accept the idea that it makes more sense to think about the policy over time, you also have to factor in how a policy of legalized torture aggravates the overall problem -- if the US is (rightly) perceived as an evil entity because it tortures people, some or most of whom are innocent, all we're going to do is encourage more people to behave like terrorists. Or at least, sympathize with them. Or at the very least, be completely disinclined to help us out with other anti-terrorist activities, such as the most important one: getting reports about troublemakers long before they get to the point of launching an attack.

As I argued back to Wolfgangus, I do not believe in a wink and a nod. But, in answer to one of your points, on my proposal of judicializing coercion, the problem of mindless sadism does not arise. The torture administrator needs judical sanction which in Dershowitz’s writings would only be allowed after the most exhaustive weighing and balancing of the interests and circumstances involved, with the onus most heavily weighed against the state.

I remember reading some of Dershowitz's arguments about this when he first started making them. I will admit, for a while, he had me semi-convinced that it would be better to be above-board, so that we could have clear guidelines. But I no longer buy the idea, for at least two reasons.

The first I've already mentioned: Once you make something legal sometimes, it's almost impossible to keep "sometimes" from increasing in frequency.

The second is this: If you want there to be some kind of review process before torture is used in a specific case, on a specific person, this pretty much undercuts the ticking bomb premises. If we need to have answers so quickly that we're willing to go medieval, then we probably don't have time to be tracking down some judge and getting our paperwork in order. If, on the other hand, we do have the time, then we probably have enough time to use legal methods of interrogation.

Concerns about “torture creep” and America’s reputation in the world are well taken. My answer to them lies in the dangers America—as a metonym for the developed world—faces and in the assumption that coercion works. And again, I am of course willing to stand or fall by what the facts tell us.

Thanks for being reasonable about this. I'm sorry I cannot offer you, in return, any movement away from my original position. I remain convinced that torture should not be legalized, and that the best way to acknowledge the possible need for its occasional use is to admit the realities of leniency that will come into play if the torturer saved the day.

basman
12-23-2007, 12:16 AM
Brendan:

“A big part of me wants to say we have a fair amount of empirical evidence already: They have yet to set off anything besides conventional explosives, and it strains credulity to think that they would not at least have attempted to use whatever they had, including some kind of dirty bomb. For all the talk about the supposed patience of jihadists, it's my impression that they're pretty eager to try out new toys.”

I’m out of my depth here but Posner speaks alarmingly about the almost daily technological advances that are being made and the dangers they pose. Respectfully, I don’t think you can so easily duck the hypothetical, especially when one bad instance stands to make 9/11 look like a minor occurrence. I can't force you of course to accede to my assumption for the sake of the argument: but why don’t you.

”Secondly, even the threat of a dirty bomb is not something I'm willing to trade a lot of liberty or moral position away for. I don't think there is a clear understanding of the effects of one of these devices. Lots of people like to talk about, say, New York City being rendered uninhabitable for years, but I've also seen predictions that such effects are wildly exaggerated.”


But again, we could look into the dangers of a dirty bomb, research it I suppose. But why bother for these purposes? I’m not trying to use debaters' tricks and I have no ego invested in winning an argument. I’m just looking for analytical clarity to help guide the evolution of my own thinking. It is unhelpful—without doing research which I have not the time to do—to argue the empirics. But, I repeatedly contend, that the assumptions I have asked you temporarily to grant —at the risk of beating a dead horse (not you, the horse only)—clarify the reasoning.

”Third, I don't know how I'd trust your proposed empirical claim.”

Where there is a will there is a way. But seriously for the purposes I am interested in there is no logical reason to need to trust it.

”For these reasons, I don't know that your thought experiment is that meaningful. It's really just a restatement of the ticking bomb scenario… “

I don’t think so, but what about countries which have experienced even lower grade and repeated instances of terror. What do you think Britain did with the IRA—(Brendan O’Keefe, I am asking the right guy); and where is the evidence of the coarsening of England, its terror creep and its faltering reputation in the world? I could mention here Israel, but I won’t, because then the circus would be in danger of being swallowed by the side show.

I won’t rehash what I have just said, given your reluctance on what I asked you to assume as to water boarding.

”The real thought experiment, then, is to ask not just about one imagined situation, but whether we'd be more efficient in getting good information over time from a program of one form of interrogation over another.”

This proposition, I think respectfully, self-evidently collapses on itself. Why would anyone resort to harsh means when more sanguine means are efficacious?

“you also have to factor in how a policy of legalized torture aggravates the overall problem -- if the US is (rightly) perceived as an evil entity because it tortures people, some or most of whom are innocent, all we're going to do is encourage more people to behave like terrorists.”

These comments are problematic and perhaps circular, or I may be the only one going in circles. If torture is used with public approbation in extraordinary situations in a relatively transparent way, subject to pragmatic necessity, for pure reasons of self defense, on what basis do you say your country would “(rightly)” be “perceived as an evil entity”? Maybe it would be respected for circumspectly but relatively openly attending to its most vital interests.

And on what basis do you say that would encourage “more people to behave like terrorists” or be “disinclined to help” ? I don’t necessarily buy any of that. And as far as pure optics go, the U.S.’s cardinal responsibility is to the security of its people, regardless of optics.

I’m not going to rehash any of the wink and nod stuff.

But I’ll try to conclude on a respectful but attempted challenging note. My speculation is that your reluctance to stipulate as to my assumptions, simply for the sake of argument, is that you understand that their being granted moves you intellectually to a position that you cannot abide. You might find yourself in principled agreement with someone who favours torture in the ways I have argued for.

If that were the case, and then should the empirics fall my way, you might as a matter of intellectual integrity—which btw I think you have in spades—be forced to agree wholly with the use of torture. And to the extent that my factual assumptions have a crack at validity, they may be—against your revulsion at the prospect—beckoning to you with a wink and a nod to come out some from your present position.

Just guessing out loud.


C’est ca.

bjkeefe
12-23-2007, 02:12 AM
basman:

I’m out of my depth here but Posner speaks alarmingly ...

This is an example of the problem I have with the idea that we can be empirical about either of the issues under consideration: terrorists' weapons capabilities and torture. The problem is, with both of these, that it's really hard to get solid information. There are a million articles out there on the Web, some of which have some sourcing and/or access to data, but I don't really trust anything I've seen. Pretty much everything I've read on either of these issues starts from a predetermined agenda, and it's easy to believe that the writer has cherry-picked evidence to support an argument. I'm saying this for articles that agree with my stances as well as those that disagree.

So, as you say:

It is unhelpful—without doing research which I have not the time to do—to argue the empirics.

This is also why I'm reluctant to grant you the stipulations you ask; e.g., "suppose we find out terrorists have The Bomb" or "suppose we find out torture works." I'm sorry, but I just don't enjoy debating something which starts from a premise that I don't know for sure about, but suspect strongly has little to do with reality. It's like asking me, "Suppose there is a God. How would that change your thinking?" Until someone can show me some good evidence, it just makes me impatient to have to answer these questions. It's asking me to argue a position I don't believe in. If I wanted to do that, I would have gone to law school.

Besides, it's not like we can't change our tactics pretty quickly if either of your premises does turn out to have some substance.

... what about countries which have experienced even lower grade and repeated instances of terror. What do you think Britain did with the IRA—(Brendan O’Keefe, I am asking the right guy); and where is the evidence of the coarsening of England, its terror creep and its faltering reputation in the world? I could mention here Israel, but I won’t, because then the circus would be in danger of being swallowed by the side show.

There is no O' in my name. Don't make me give you a lecture on Irish feudal naming conventions. ;^)

I don't know much about the details of The Troubles, but my impression is that (1) some people have a lot of hatred for England due to their handling of the situation, and (2) most people who aren't Irish don't. I am also of the opinion that England behaved rather well within its own borders -- I was there a couple of times when IRA attacks were still happening, and I had two observations: the people were a lot less bunny-like than are way too many Americans, and the police and other officials were a lot less overbearing than are ours.

I'm not sure what your point is by introducing this example, though. It's not like the IRA ever threatened to do the kinds of things people seem to believe the Islamic terrorists want to do.

This proposition, I think respectfully, self-evidently collapses on itself. Why would anyone resort to harsh means when more sanguine means are efficacious?

I don't understand what you mean here. I said we should consider whether torture works better than not torturing over time, and you say this proposition collapses, but then seem to make my point: why, indeed, torture if it doesn't do the job?

These comments are problematic and perhaps circular, or I may be the only one going in circles. If torture is used with public approbation in extraordinary situations in a relatively transparent way, subject to pragmatic necessity, for pure reasons of self defense, on what basis do you say your country would “(rightly)” be “perceived as an evil entity”?

Because if torture was legal, we wouldn't just use it as you suppose. It would become common, or at least the perception would be that it had become common, so other people of the world would look at us the way we used to look at countries we used to call backward. And I say "rightly" because I think torture is wrong, and so if we make it legal, we deserve to be castigated for it.

And on what basis do you say that would encourage “more people to behave like terrorists” or be “disinclined to help” ? I don’t necessarily buy any of that. And as far as pure optics go, the U.S.’s cardinal responsibility is to the security of its people, regardless of optics.

Sorry you don't buy it, but it's pretty easy to see that worldwide perceptions of the US have been negatively influenced by (among other things) our use of torture. Think about the powerful symbolism of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Read some international newspapers. Search for some survey results. Ask yourself why we have so much trouble getting human intelligence in the Middle East.

I agree that the US government's first responsibility is to the security of its own people, but you misunderstand me if you think I'm arguing that we should adopt policies that make us less secure. I am arguing that we should use different tactics because I believe that they will enhance our national security, in addition to being the morally correct things to do.

basman
12-23-2007, 12:26 PM
Brendan:

It has been fun going back and forth with you some.

I think you have a lot of good energy and you argue in a civil and substantive way even though we disagree.

And we'll have to agree to disagree for now.

I'm gonna' lose sleep over the inadvertant O, but at this time of year, like Portia, I'll commend to you the virtues of mercy.

Have a good holiday, and I'll see you some time round the cyber bend.

Itzik

Wolfgangus
12-23-2007, 12:27 PM
Basman says: My speculation is that your reluctance to stipulate as to my assumptions, simply for the sake of argument, is that you understand that their being granted moves you intellectually to a position that you cannot abide.

Not true, the reluctance can be to simply avoid foolish argument on invalid premise. For example, let me suggest that the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is real, and further that in every case you talk about, the FSM will extend a noodly appendage and make sure that means are provided to foil any terrorist plot without resorting to torture. Let us stipulate this as a condition! In fact, I can offer some proof this is the case, specifically with 9/11, since more recent reports from the 9/11 commission and others indicate the FSM provided at least half a dozen strong ways to foil that plot, which were unfortunately not pursued by a Bush administration distracted by irrelevant treaties with a dead Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, as a stipulation I have no need to justify the scenario; the FSM is effective by stipulation. So shouldn't this radically change your view? Under this stipulation torture is NEVER necessary, there are always alternatives to foiling the plot in question by good investigative and police work and vigilant data collection and diligent analysis by entirely legal means.

bjkeefe
12-23-2007, 12:28 PM
basman:

Likewise to all that.

Wolfgangus
12-23-2007, 01:27 PM
a criminal law model is inapposite to the war on terror. [snip] you get confused and are illogical when you make arguments which begin from the premise of a criminal law model

The criminal law model is exactly appropriate, criminals kill innocent people by breaking the law just as terrorists do. If you want to apply a war model, it is based on the criminal model as well, and until recently prohibited torture as well, and required trials for war criminals.

those arguments are obviously not telling against my analysis for that very reason and are therefore against a straw man.

No they are not against a straw man, they are precisely the reason we should not allow torture. First, it is ineffective, and second, we are necessarily torturing people we only suspect are involved, and by "we" I mean our government agents. Third, any legalization of torture under narrow circumstances will excuse torture under broad circumstances; there will be fraud and abuse to make any situation look like the narrow situation. I have worked in several government agencies, particularly the military, for the last 30 years, and precisely this sort of reframing goes on constantly. (Hmm, can't use that money to build a weapon? We will have to call it research, I guess; nothing changes but the program title.)

How much liberty will we sacrifice for security; how much security will we trade off for our liberty?

According to you, all of the liberty in return for very little security. My example is not childish, it is the obvious extension of your proposed policy. You want to torture mere suspects in plots, without any proof of complicity in the plot in question. If that is our standard of liberty, we have none. And in a land without liberty, anybody suspected of any crime can be tortured until they confess, after which we can righteously send them off to the prison they deserve.


the ticking time bomb, however rarified, is a template for the kinds of lesser situations that suggest themselves.

No it isn't. Even if you get somebody to agree on the ticking time bomb (and I don't) an extreme situation is not a justification for a less extreme situation. This is the equivalent of saying that I have the right to defend myself with deadly force against a physical assault, thus I should have the right to defend myself with deadly force against verbal insult. That example is purposely ridiculous to point out WHY the ticking time bomb is NOT a template for "the kinds of lesser situations that suggest themselves". Verbal insult is the "lesser situation" of physical assault, and different, less extreme rules apply, and should apply.

There are respectable arguments of course to be made against my position, but you have not enumerated any of them that I can see.


On the contrary, you just do not care to see, or perhaps you just cannot muster an argument against them so you choose to dismiss my arguments as "not respectable". You are not the arbiter of respectable argument; especially as wrong as you are on this topic.

You’d want to contend with the concrete facts of saved lives from the information and plans foiled from KSM and others, for example.

I don't need to contend with any such thing that does not exist. First, you cannot prove any "concrete" facts about saved lives, all you have is the contention of liars that also have no proof, and vague assurances of the Bush administration, which has admitted in print to lying to the public on such manners. Also, even if a plot gets foiled by torture, you cannot prove that there was no other way to get the information necessary to foil it. Your claim that this is so is just empty assertion, not "concrete fact".


People who take decidedly opposed views to me have told me they found them [his views] thoughtful.

Perhaps they knew that was what you wanted to hear, and they finally just lied, hoping it would stop the pain of conversing with you. That's just a hypothesis I'm throwing out there.

I have the feeling you tend to get ad hominem when you confront arguments you disagree with strongly.

The source of the flawed arguments is your flawed thinking, and whatever leads to the flawed thinking is fair game. You can take that as ad hominem attacks; I prefer to think of it as exploring the glaring bugs in a system that produces senseless output.

bjkeefe
12-23-2007, 02:04 PM
basman:

At the risk of appearing to pile on, I want to emphasize a point that Wolf touched upon. You are far from the only one guilty of what I'm going to complain about, but something about reading the exchange between you and Wolf brought me to criticality. Pun intended.

It is a cop-out to overuse terms like "straw man" and "ad hominem." All too often, people invoke these labels as though they're some kind of magic words: the trump cards that cannot be defeated. Worse, the terms are applied to far too broad a range of rebuttals. This tendency has become a mark of intellectual laziness.

If you feel that someone has misrepresented a point you made, perhaps that person misunderstood you. Try rephrasing your original thought instead of resorting to "straw man!"

If you feel that someone has adopted an insulting tone, consider the possibility that your own comments came off as offensive. Try to see past the harsh words rather than reaching for "ad hominem!"

I'd like to propose a corollary to Godwin's Law concerning these two terms. They have become clichés and their overuse adds nothing but noise to the debate.

To repeat, I'm not singling you out. I'm just using your recent exchange with Wolf as an example.

End of complaint.

basman
12-23-2007, 03:34 PM
Brendan and wolfgangus

ok some more;



The problem, I suggest, with your arguments against the refusal to accept my assumptions for the sake of argument is that my asumptions are not analogous to an FSM, which is of course an absurd example, that is to say of course, meant by you to be absurd as a way of showing the foolishness of the way I have tried to argue.

My assumptions on the other hand are argubale. It is arguable that forced interrogation works and it is arguable that terrorists with wmds and wmd like weapons can not improbably wreak terrible havoc. Those posibilities are arguble the way an FSM is not. So I think on that basis that your FSM argument against my challenge to you to accept my assumptions falls flat.

To the extent that my asumptions are beyond any reasonable possibility of being the case, then to that extent I think your argument by way of the FSM example has validity. So we are back to the same empiricial conundrum, and I again challenge either of you to argue against my position granting my assumptions.

On the other hand if the case can be made that non coercive means are as effective or more effective then coercive means then I must give up my position. I can readily concede my position here in principle, not knowing whether what you say is empirically so, and I have not the slightest hesitation in so doing.

On the criminal law model point, I don't understand what you are arguing. And there is, I think, a logical problem with your argument. Under the criminal law in both our countries, the police can do no more than ask questions, which anyone apprehended can refuse to answer. So, on a criminal law model, you cannot not even use benign interrogation after a refusal to answer. A criminal lawyer can get his or her client out on bail. Material witnesses can only be held for hours a day or two, or whatever. There is a complete constitutional right to silence. Do you want to hamper the state--even granting the non use of coercion-- with all these safeguards in terror situations. I would have thought not. And if not, then you are giving up the crimnal law model even as you argue for it and against coercion.

And I think your argument that criminals break the law just as terrorists do continues a problem I found in your original argument and what I thought was the underwhelming example of a jilted lover. Criminals typically pose discrete one off dangers: a rape, a murder, a robbery and so on, as terrible as these things are. But acts of terror transcend those instances. They are meant in themselves to inflict as much massive physical damage as possible and are meant as a war like tactic to intimidate and psychologically colonize an entire population. The sacrifice of libery for the sake of security increases as the scales of the danger to security increase. You need not reject that analysis to argue against torture. If you agree that the strict protections offered by the criminal law--albeit short of torturing--ought not have extended to trying to stop the war-like act of a Timothy Mcveigh (sp?), then tyou have acceded to that analysis to some extent and have left behind, I'd argue, the pre-emptive attempt to curtail a jilted lover as an argument against me.

I understand the argument that what I am saying about lesser acts of terror is logically equivalent to me saying that I should be able able to use force to protect against myself against verbal assaults. Here is the difference as I see it: verbal assaults--almost an oxymoron--unlike sticks and stone "will never hurt me" or so the law as a matter of policy wise assumes; it assumes a proportionality between the danger and the self-defense and therefore sets reasonable force limits to physical self defense. But the lesser acts of terrorism--and, as I see it, this is the most controversial part of my argument--are sticks and stone exponentially mulitplied by themselves. To what lengths can the state go to foil infrastructual attacks that threaten the lives of innocent people. Israel is an example of a country that judicially outlawed coercion by decision of its High Court, but then virtually every slice of the country--court, citizens, police, politicians, tactily allowed Shin Bet (sp?) to begin using it again after a hail of lesser terrorists acts.

Finally as a bit of sidebar, while I won't stop using the word ad hominem if I think something is ad hominem, and while I won't stop using the term straw man if I think it fits, I think it is it is not unfair to read my first reply to Wolfgangus as snotty and somewhat condescending and for that I apologise. No one here is a genius; we all try to do the best we can; and as long as the argument proceeds in good faith, I see no reason to get personal or insulting.

If either of you care to answer my further arguments, I welcome it and will try to keep to a civil tone. if not then again to you both, good holidays.

Itzik Basman

basman
12-23-2007, 03:44 PM
One quick correction:

"I understand the argument that what I am saying about lesser..."

should read:

"I don't understand the argument that what I am saying about lesser..."

bjkeefe
12-23-2007, 05:02 PM
basman:

My assumptions on the other hand are argubale.

But that doesn't mean I want to engage in that argument. I decline your "challenge" to grant you all the assumptions you want. Sorry.

All the rest of the stuff you said that was directed at me seems like ground we've already been over, so I'm not going to rebut, since I can't think of anything new to add.

Happy Holidays to you, too.

basman
12-23-2007, 06:23 PM
Decline accepted, with, I trust, the distinction between my assumptions and a flying spaghetti machine, or whatever it was, duly noted.

bjkeefe
12-23-2007, 07:48 PM
basman:

Decline accepted, with, I trust, the distinction between my assumptions and a flying spaghetti machine, or whatever it was, duly noted.

It was you who brought up the FSM. My counterexample involved God.

basman
12-23-2007, 09:48 PM
"It was you who brought up the FSM. My counterexample involved God."

No. Wolfgangus brought up the FSM. But God is an equally inapposite counter-example, from my perspective. I am an atheist and therefore, for me, God is not an arguable propostion whereas my assumptions are facts on the ground arguable. In fact, for me, God is about as likely as an FSM.

bjkeefe
12-23-2007, 09:59 PM
basman:

My bad.

basman
12-23-2007, 11:09 PM
It's all good.

Wolfgangus
12-25-2007, 12:48 PM
My assumptions on the other hand are argubale [sic]. It is arguable that forced interrogation works and it is arguable that terrorists with wmds and wmd like weapons can not improbably wreak terrible havoc. Those posibilities are arguble the way an FSM is not. So I think on that basis that your FSM argument against my challenge to you to accept my assumptions falls flat.

The fact that they are arguable means they can be argued against, and that fact means that if I am convinced in my own mind that you are wrong, I have little reason to concede ground in the argument by wasting time on what I consider a dead wrong premise. The premise is equivalent to what I consider an FSM argument: I don't think it can or will ever happen. I actually believe the FSM argument, sans FSM: There is always another way, there is no ticking time bomb situation in which the fate of thousands depends upon knowledge in one man's head that can be obtained only through torture. Real plots do not unfold that way; no terrorist is an island.

To the extent that my asumptions are beyond any reasonable possibility of being the case, then to that extent I think your argument by way of the FSM example has validity.


Thus, in my mind, the FSM example is completely valid. The FSM is not necessary to magically create the alternative routes of investigation, they are created naturally. As was the case with the FBI and CIA in the 9/11 case, they had half a dozen chances to foil the plot, and political sniping and bickering between agencies prevented it. I don't want to say incompetence killed 3000 people on 9/11; it was definitely terrorists that did the killing. But competence had not just one coincidental opportunity but numerous opportunities produced by solid intelligence work in the ranks that could have prevented the tragedy, save for idiotic administrators more concerned with appearances and protecting their careers than with doing their job of protecting the country.

Under the criminal law in both our countries, the police can do no more than ask questions, which anyone apprehended can refuse to answer. So, on a criminal law model, you cannot not even use benign interrogation after a refusal to answer.

In the US, this is not true. A grand jury can grant immunity or limited immunity to prosecution, and then jail people that refuse to testify for contempt of court for months or years. To bypass the fifth amendment, the grand jury can stipulate that any self-incriminating testimony before them cannot subsequently be used in a trial, and this holds. But refusing to testify nullifies immunity; so the person can be held in jail in contempt until they testify, or until evidence surfaces they can be convicted.

Do you want to hamper the state--even granting the non use of coercion-- with all these safeguards in terror situations. I would have thought not.

Then you thought wrong, I specifically DO wish to hamper the state in precisely this way, because I believe from my life experience (at 50) that the state is often corrupt and should have as little discretion in the way it wields power as possible.

And I think your argument that criminals break the law just as terrorists do continues a problem I found in your original argument and what I thought was the underwhelming example of a jilted lover. Criminals typically pose discrete one off dangers: a rape, a murder, a robbery and so on

The jilted lover was purposely underwhelming; to illustrate the ridiculous stance you have adopted. By your logic the jilted lover shouting empty threats of "You'll be sorry" should be jailed, just in case.

Organized crime is prosecuted under criminal law, and career criminals do not pose discrete one-off dangers. And I am not just talking about drug crimes; there are career criminals in every one of your categories with dozens of crimes under their belt: Those that kidnap children and illegal immigrants to run sex farms (there are an estimated 50,000 under-age sex slaves in the USA alone), those that murder for profit, those that plot one robbery after another for a living.


If you agree that the strict protections offered by the criminal law--albeit short of torturing--ought not have extended to trying to stop the war-like act of a Timothy Mcveigh

I do not so agree! You choose a particularly bad example, McVeigh was found, convicted and jailed using entirely conventional law enforcement tactics, which proves they work, even with the safeguards in place! No torture was necessary.

I understand the argument that what I am saying about lesser acts of terror is logically equivalent to me saying that I should be able able to use force to protect against myself against verbal assaults.

Yes it is, so why do you keep trying to defend it?

To what lengths can the state go to foil infrastructual attacks that threaten the lives of innocent people.

Not to the extent of torturing people, guilty or not, but especially not to the extent of torturing people that have not been convicted of any crime or conspiracy.

If you need a reason to hold them and continue to interrogate them, convict them of something. If agents are so certain that a suspect is guilty of a conspiracy, let them present their overwhelming evidence for that to a jury, or a panel of elected judges with former high security clearances (who understand they themselves can be convicted of treason for leaking highly classified information), and convict them of a conspiracy crime. I believe such judges are widely available; one attorney I use frequently is a former Marine officer that had a crypto-clearance, and he has considered becoming a judge. Then interrogate them as captives all you want, without torturing them. If you don't have enough evidence to charge the suspect with a crime or convince a panel of judges they are guilty of a crime, you certainly have insufficient justification for waterboarding them.

Wolfgangus
12-25-2007, 12:55 PM
The "Flying Spaghetti Monster", not invented by me, is a common parody of Christian faith, used by many atheists in America. It is a joke. Perhaps it is not a very well known joke outside of America; but most atheists here recognize the religion of "Flying Spaghetti Monster" which is purposely designed to mimic, in a funny way, many of the ridiculous arguments which Christians put forth as their "reasons" for believing in God.

Church Of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (aka Pastafarianism) (http://www.venganza.org/)

Sorry for making an obscure reference; I thought it was common knowledge.

basman
12-28-2007, 02:28 AM
I think you have the “arguable” point wrong. If the efficacy of forced interrogation is arguable, it is true it can be argued against, but it can also be argued for. If you are going to close your mind to the real possibility that it works—“a dead wrong premise”—that "dead wrong premise" is at odds with any number of accounts have of it working.

I cannot, truth to tell, evaluate these accounts, because I am a layman in these matters. But I am open-minded to the possibility of efficacy, and am willing to follow the reasoning that suggests itself to me, on either premise. You seem to me, respectfully, not to want even to contemplate the implications of the possibility that it works. And I still don’t know why not, save, perhaps, that you find those implications so abhorrent to the way you see the world and your values that you dismiss the possibility of efficacy out of hand for those reasons.

If you can point me to something written and authoritative and accessible that demolishes the case for efficacy, I’d be interested to consider it. But until I can see that case so made, I continue to be baffled by your refusal to be open- minded on what seems factually controversial--the way God or an FSM is not. It would be interesting to see the case against forced interrogation, even granting that it works. That is a case that, I think, is arguable.

“There is always another way, there is no ticking time bomb situation in which the fate of thousands depends upon knowledge in one man's head that can be obtained only through torture. Real plots do not unfold that way; no terrorist is an island.”

(I don’t know how to get quotes into little boxes.)

Here is what I understand and I repeat: that in the case of KSM (and a few others too), until he was waterboarded (and others too) there was no other way to get the invaluable information he--and others--eventually yielded. So I read you as being absolutely sure of yourself to say that just as forced interrogation can never work, so too there are always benign ways to extract hidden information. The accounts I have read say that you are arguably incorrect in both instances

I will grant you that bureaucratic snafus obstructed preventing 9/11. I don’t in fact know whether that is true, but I’ll stipulate that it is. So what? Your point is, I suggest, logically distinct from the issue we are considering.

I’ll grant you the particulars you cite about U.S. prosecutorial power to by pass the protection of self incrimination and you make good points about grants of immunity, which I overlooked. But the worst consequence is jail time, which while for normal people is a horrible indignity, does not sound to me like much of an inducement to a terrorist or conspirator, who has timely information and is willing to die for his or her cause, to spill some beans.

I’m quite surprised you keep up what you admit is the underwhelming example of the jilted lover. And I am perplexed to understand how my logic leads me inexorably to jail him or her. On a criminal justice model, we do not employ preventative justice. Typically, we act after the crime has been committed and if we’re lucky while the crime is being committed but before it reaches its climax.

In the trade off between liberty and security--sacrificing some liberty in the interest of security--the balancing of competing interests and competing values, as I have said, overwhelmingly weighs in favour of leaving the jilted lover alone, unless his or her threats or conduct in themselves are criminal. There is nothing in my argument that suggests otherwise. Either you are not understanding me; or I am not being sufficiently clear; or I am simply not undrstanding you.

Fair point that a lot of crime is more than one off: and surveillance and detection increase in dealing with organized and more threatening crime, as does the definition of crime insofar as I understand your country’s RICO statute, which expands broadly the notions of conspiracy and racketeering. But that, I think, makes my point. Increased surveillance and detection, which press aganst constitutional rights, increase in scope as the dangers presented to society increase. And when the dangers to safety and security rquire exceeding the limits imposed by the criminal law model in the interest in liberty and freedom from state action, it would in my view be foolish to cling to them.

In that regard, you have misread my example of Timothy McVeigh: my example did not go to him being found and convicted: it went to trying to PREVENT what he his little gang of thugs did.

Is it your position that if something coercive could have been done to prevent the Oklahoma bombing, which in Israel, at times—in admittedly somewhat lesser instances—a pizzeria, a kindergarten, a convalescent hospital, what have you—it ought not to have been done?

Is it your position if Mcveighism or other modes of terrosim become a more potent likelihood in your country, that coercion, if it works, should not be utilized under strict conditions?

As I say, in the age of the car-and suicide-bomber, of dirty bombs, of daily advances in the technical means of wreaking havoc, terrorists may be captured who have just set a car bomb to go off or sent a suicide bomber out to a coffee shop, or be in the relative midst of any number of different terrorist actions, with precious little time to find out where, how and when. These, to my mind, dispose of your universal requirement for exercises in due process that can take weeks, months or longer if extractive interrogation is efficacious.

bjkeefe
12-28-2007, 08:06 AM
basman:

(I don’t know how to get quotes into little boxes.)

Select (highlight) the text you want to box and click the thing that looks like a cartoon speech balloon.

There are other ways. Ask if you want more details.

Wolfgangus
12-28-2007, 10:37 AM
Is it your position that if something coercive could have been done to prevent the Oklahoma bombing, which in Israel, at times—in admittedly somewhat lesser instances—a pizzeria, a kindergarten, a convalescent hospital, what have you—it ought not to have been done?

Yes that is my position, and I know it drives you crazy. But that is because you are always reasoning backward in time, from an event that is certain to occur (the McVeigh bombing) to what could have been done to prevent it (which, BTW, was nothing, there was no threat before that bomb).

So of course, in your reversed logic, every extreme action taken produces a positive result; the prevention of a terrorist act and lives saved. So of course, you cannot fathom why anybody would be against such a reliable system as torture. Even if every torture does not yield the necessary information, in your reversed logic, tracking from a known terrorist event back in time, all torture is justified, whether it produced usable information or not, by the fact that a terrorist event occurred.

But my logic is not reversed and therefore cannot rely on a known terrorist event, like yours does. My logic assumes that 95% of the time the agents (CIA, FBI, police, homeland security, whatever) have insufficient information and will be torturing people that do not know anything, that are innocent of committing or planning any crime, to find out about a plot that does not exist and will not come to pass. And I think 95% is generous; but even if it is 90% of the time, the 10% payoff is not worth it. It is not worth it to me to torture ten people when nine of them are innocent, so I can gather usable information from one of them. That is not a free country, to me. Freedom from oppression by the government is paramount, and this policy would make citizens live in fear of their government; it would suppress free speech, free commerce, freedom of dissent and freedom of study. It would make the servants of society, the military and law enforcement officers, the masters of society. It would be corrupted without end, you cannot tell me that, if law enforcement can round up innocent citizens, torture them and then release them without consequence, that a few of the law enforcement officers won't abuse that power to punish people they think are guilty of other crimes. I am not naive enough to believe in the shining virtue of all those that take the oath to serve faithfully; If there is actually a legal out for them they will take it and abuse it. Water always finds its level, as they say, and the morals of many are fluid enough to sink to whatever level restrains them.

Is it your position if Mcveighism or other modes of terrosim become a more potent likelihood in your country, that coercion, if it works, should not be utilized under strict conditions?

Yes it is. There is a big difference between increasing surveillance, making it more difficult to obtain unlimited quantities of explosives, etc. That is not physically torturing somebody. If you want to make the use of explosives something that can only be done under the supervision of the police, I am not opposed. If you want to track the purchase of anything that can remotely be used as a massive explosive; I am not opposed to that either. To me, freedom is not about anonymity. It is about speech, being able to criticize the government, take them to court, and expose corruption without consequence. Ultimately, freedom is about having the government a servant of the citizenry, not the masters of the citizenry. Making torture legal based on suspicions makes the government the master. Suspending habeas corpus makes the government the master, being able to sieze and hold citizens indefinitely because the president claims, without proof, they are "enemy combatants" makes the government the master of the people. We are not subjects of the crown. We are not their property, to do with as they please. But that is the path that legalized torture leads to; and we are already on it. Sometimes, people must die for freedom. That may include me. So be it; if a refusal to torture preserves American freedom but permits a terrorist attack that kills thousands or millions of us, so be it. Maybe that is what it takes to wake up the god damned government to securing the borders and shipping ports and airlines, to regulating the use of explosives regardless of economic impact, and doing their job of keeping us safe. The truth is, 95% of shipping containers into the USA are not inspected by anybody, ever. They are the size of a tractor trailer; they can hold food, water and weapons of almost any size. Our beaches are not secured by the coast guard either, neither is the Canadian or Mexican borders. If terrorists want to get in, they could do so. Don't forget they have hundreds of millions of dollars to expend on anything they need, from fake IDs and passports to credit cards and backgrounds. The simple fact is, they aren't trying! The threat is simply not as big as it is made out to be, and although the threat might be real, it is not worth shredding the constitution and reversing the roles of government and people. As Lincoln said, it is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. But if we allow torture on suspicion and give in to the fear of terrorism, it will be a government of the people, by the military and for the elite. Every freedom we take for granted will be stripped away, until we live in fear. McCarthy turned communism into the bugaboo of yesteryear and used it to gain power and ruin American lives for doing nothing but exercising a right to free speech. Bush and Cheney are doing the same with terrorists to the same effect, using the threat of imminent nuclear holocaust to make you pee your pants in fear and say "whatever it takes". I don't believe them. Soviet Russia was a real threat, terrorists are a real threat, but they aren't as big a threat as they are puffed up to be. Neither is worth sacrificing every civil right and constitutional right we have. If they kill people, they do. It may include me or my loved ones, but the chances are far greater of them dying in a car accident, and we don't spend billions to prevent that. I refuse to give in to the hysteria you defend. Torture, never. If as a result my city is wiped off the map, let it be a cautionary tale to the populace to wake up, take back its government and make it do some real work for a change, to stop the posturing and talk-fest, give up the damn pork and start doing the job they are hired to do. We need to fire some people and hire competent legislators. We've been scared long enough into spending our fortunes on accomplishing nothing. Enough is enough.

bjkeefe
12-28-2007, 11:09 AM
Wolf:

Another fine essay. I really liked your points about the fallacy of reasoning backward from events that already happened, the high false positives problem that legal torture would engender, and the idea that freedom is worth dying for, in the sense that some deaths from terrorist bombs are worth the price of living in a non-police state.

One nitpick: I do have to say I found this line a little ironic, given arguments you've made elsewhere in favor of posting comments under a pseudonym:

To me, freedom is not about anonymity.

Wolfgangus
12-28-2007, 12:03 PM
Well, perhaps I overstated the case. It is not primarily about anonymity; although anonymity of speech is worthwhile. When I wrote it I was thinking more about the "freedom" to buy the ingredients of high-explosives anonymously; I don't really see that as a constitutionally guaranteed right. Or if some legal scholar thinks it is, I don't see that as a necessary right for people to be free.

Anonymous speech, I dunno. I like it, it allows me to say things I could not say publicly without consequence. But then, my speech is not truly anonymous; Bob Wright can provide the information necessary to trace my identity. So I guess what I value is conditional anonymity. I haven't thought it through completely, but I think I don't mind public speech being traceable if some independent judge, panel or jury must be convinced that discovering the identity of a speaker is a legal necessity. Nothing I say could ever clear that hurdle (assuming the judge is an honest broker).

basman
12-28-2007, 04:26 PM
Your position is not driving me crazy. I enjoy the exchange and I am thinking as hard as I can about your arguments, trying to accede to them when I think they are correct, reflecting on flaws in my own arguments, and restating them trying to take into account what you have said.

I have difficulty understanding the charge of reasoning backward. Bad things happen. We try to learn from the experience of them. We revisit them and ask what could have been done and we devise procedures out of experience to try act preventatively.

In this regard, you may be arguing in a closed circle. You start from the premise that forced interrogation can never be effective and you reason in every instance to your conclusion, which is simply a restatement of your premise. And you leave out the part that asks you to assume effectiveness—which I submit is factually controversial—and which could compel different conclusions. (I also think that Brendan’s point about false positives confuses the categories of the argument, or, more modestly, the argument as I conceive it. False positives go to the viability or utility of coercion. I am not evaluating utility but am assuming it for the sake of argument.)

On my logic, as I see it, not every extreme action taken produces a positive result. I would not—don’t feel the need to—hypothesize that to make my argument. I assume effectiveness, which does not rest on perfection, and argue for an extremely narrow range of case where the stakes are such that coercion can plausibly be argued for. I imagine the judicializing of that argument such that the interests and values are clearly defined and the analysis is subject to the greatest reasonable judicial scrutiny and the strongest presumption against coercion. I still await you—as I have asked you —pointing me to the definitive case that demolishes effectiveness. Until, you can provide that, I submit, you are not fully confronting what I am arguing.

The argument you make that resonates with me is the danger of torture creep and its impact on civilized life. And it is not sufficient, I don’t think, for me to say I assume that that will not happen, or to assert, as I in good faith could, that with enough monitoring and judicial oversight, we can have confidence that the danger of torture creep will be worth the benefits in saving life and limb. In that regard, I would look to the experience of the two democracies that to my knowledge employ or employed coercion against terrorism: Britain in combating the IRA and Israel to this date. And while I do not want to get into an endless discussion about Israel—and won’t—from my vantage point both countries have kept their democratic natures and civil rights and liberties in relative tact.

“Torture, never. If as a result my city is wiped off the map, let it be a cautionary tale to the populace to wake up, take back its government and make it do some real work for a change, to stop the posturing and talk-fest, give up the damn pork and start doing the job they are hired to do. We need to fire some people and hire competent legislators. We've been scared long enough into spending our fortunes on accomplishing nothing. Enough is enough.”

If this is truly your position—if Chicago or New York or Detroit or wherever have to go, so be it—it is clear to me that we are doomed to disagree, and that you tend to incline to the view that your Constitution is somewhat of a suicide pact. I cannot imagine a greater example of an argument that is self-refuting. And I mean nothing personal against you in that comment.

basman
12-28-2007, 04:32 PM
I had trouble finding the thing that looks liek a cartoon bubble.

bjkeefe
12-28-2007, 04:54 PM
basman:

I had trouble finding the thing that looks liek a cartoon bubble.

http://img172.imageshack.us/img172/1543/vbulleditorqc3.png

__________________________________________________ _______________________________

Where that arrow is pointing is what I meant. I should have said "cartoon speech bubble." Sorry.

You might also notice, from looking at the text in the screen capture image, that you can type in the delimiters and around the text that you want to appear in the box. That's the effect of clicking the indicated quote button: and are placed around whatever text is currently highlighted.

If you still have problems, maybe we should resolve the rest of it offline. You can send me a PM or an email by visiting my profile page -- just click on the bjkeefe hyperlink at the top of this message window. Or here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/member.php?u=586).

bjkeefe
12-28-2007, 05:06 PM
Wolf:

I was mostly just teasing you, but for the record: I accept your distinction between posting under a pseudonym and buying explosives anonymously.

basman
12-28-2007, 05:39 PM
QUOTE]Where that arrow is pointing is what I meant. I should have said "cartoon speech bubble." Sorry.[/[/QUOTE]

I'm giving it a shot said the chief Luddite. But thanks and for your patience too.

Wolfgangus
12-28-2007, 06:33 PM
And you leave out the part that asks you to assume effectiveness

I do, because I don't think effectiveness has anything to do with rights; I am not a utilitarian (which I regard as the philosophical position that the end justifies the means).

In sociology, we learn that one very effective means of controlling the borders, controlling drug problems, minmizing crime and teenage pregnancy and dissent is strong, ruthless, military dictatorship. Take away people's freedom and have them do their jobs under penalty of death really works, just look at North Korea under Kim Jong Il. Do you think they worry about terrorists? No, because they are constantly crapping their pants in fear of being accused of sedition or disloyalty which can end their sorry ass life tomorrow.

I don't address effectiveness because I don't care if torture is effective. I don't think it is, but even if it were 100% effective and always extracted whatever information was there to be extracted, my argument would not change. It is simply wrong, and changes relationship between citizens and their government so drastically that in my opinion, it destroys freedom and makes slaves of us all. I simply do not care if torture is effective, to me that is an irrelevant point. The point is whether we want to live under a government that is free to torture us at whim, without trial, without charges, without reason. As far as I can tell, your answer is "yes", you consistently claim the ticking bomb scenario leaves no time for such polite niceties as presuming innocence until guilt is proven. The bomb is ticking and we must find out now! I say first that I don't believe this situation will arise, and second, if it does arise, let the goddam bomb explode, it isn't worth any number of potential lives lost to cross that line into effective dictatorship. Like Patrick Henry, I say give me liberty or give me death. I am just not so afraid of dying that I would choose to surrender all of my rights and live my life in constant fear and slavery. We will all die someday, and spending the days between now and then cowed and fearful seems like such a hopeless misery, I would rather take my chances with the terrorist's nuclear weapon, and live a fraction of the days in relative freedom and happiness. We lost 400,000 people in WW II, and tens of millions were lost world wide. Sometimes there is a price that must be paid for freedom, and perhaps that price is a greater risk of the ticking time bomb going off. So be it; the losses of WW II saved us from one kind of dictatorship. Now we have to save ourselves from another kind of dictatorship, this time a cancer from within, and fear is the instrument being used to pave the way for this cancer to spread.

bjkeefe
12-28-2007, 07:06 PM
basman:

You're welcome. Looks like you almost got it. Try playing around a little more, and make use of the "Preview" button. If you're as anal as I am, I mean.

garbagecowboy
12-28-2007, 08:09 PM
Wolf, I think that you are a little bit absolutist (you know, adult, black and white, what have you) in your views on torture.

What if torture was not made legal, but was being employed on a limited basis not on U.S. citizens but on people picked up in, say, Waziristan or the border region of Afghanistan in some sort of very suspicious scenario (for instance, in a pick-up truck full of AK-47s and IEDs). Would looking the other way by never prosecuting the CIA agents who waterboard this hypothetical person really be living life as a slave where the fundamental role of the U.S. government has changed from being of the people, by the people and for the people to something draconian and fascistic? What if the pickup truck had spent fuel rods, radioactive enough to be used in a dirty bomb, and was intercepted in Balochistan, headed for Karachi and a container ship bound for the U.S.

Do you really think that no such scenario could ever present itself to U.S. intelligence personnel serving overseas? Are you really so committed to "no torture, ever" that when the guy doesn't answer our questions about where he got the radioactive material or where it was headed for, you just throw him in prison and keep asking him, or try to use some sort of legal proceedings against him?

I thought the most interesting part of basman's response to you was your view of the U.S. Constitution as a suicide pact.

Sure, patriots have given their lives in defense of liberty. Ordinary men and women have answered the call of duty to defend democracy and in so doing have given their lives. But surely the mass mobilization of young men into the U.S. in during WWII from citizens to soldiers is slightly different than American civilians who are simply killed in a terrorist attack. The father of a girl I went to high school with died on 9/11, as did about a half dozen other residents of the town where I'm from. I'm not sure that they, or their families, or most American citizens would see the parallels or think that in some future terrorist attack that the deaths of their loved ones fulfilled dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. They might just see it as an absolute waste of meaningful, valuable lives cut short because the government failed to do what was necessary to stop the religious zealots who fantasize about such nihilistic and brutal attacks. And I simply don't know how you can have the knowledge to be 100% sure that harsh interrogation of terrorist suspects is not part of such a comprehensive effort to prevent another such disaster.

I believe there is a gray area between legalizing and normalizing torture of American citizens and accepting it as a "dark art" that we entrust to, say, CIA agents engaged in counter-terrorism operations abroad. Again, I think basman had an interesting comment about Israel and the UK as having used such techniques in counter-terrorist struggles in the past and not having the fundamental democratic and accountable nature of their governments forever perish. And arguably, given the havoc that Al Qaeda wreaked in the U.S. on 9/11, that they are wreaking across the Middle East today, and the havoc they would wreak upon the U.S. in the future given the opportunity, I believe you may view this as too black and white.

Wolfgangus
12-28-2007, 08:49 PM
I thought the most interesting part of basman's response to you was your view of the U.S. Constitution as a suicide pact.

I believe one of the founding father's first said that. But that is wrong, the Constitution is indeed a suicide pact; we are sworn (or at least, I have been in the past) to protect it with our lives; even if that means committing certain suicide.

Do you really think that no such scenario could ever present itself to U.S. intelligence personnel serving overseas? Are you really so committed to "no torture, ever" that when the guy doesn't answer our questions about where he got the radioactive material or where it was headed for, you just throw him in prison and keep asking him, or try to use some sort of legal proceedings against him?

I think I am, it seems unlikely that interrogation is going to produce useful information. Are terrorists so stupid as to not consider they will be caught? Given the leaders probably have average human intelligence, would they send such an expendable driver on his way with his head containing knowledge of how to disrupt the entire terrorist organization? Certainly under your proposed circumstances he has committed a crime, and can be retained indefinitely, but I see no point in torturing him for information he undoubtedly does not possess. We can examine the truck and the contents forensically and determine his point of origin, which is all he is going to be able to tell us anyway. My guess is he was brought to the truck and told where to drive it, that is all he knows. As the interviews with intercepted suicide bombers in Israel demonstrate pretty convincingly, they are dumb ass kids told as little as possible, filled with dreams of Paradise and pride at being "The Hand of Allah". Terrorist leaders aren't stupid about controlling the flow of information.

So yes, I am committed, in the real world torture causes more harm and ill-will than any good it delivers. And as the Bush administration has already demonstrated, what they feel is appropriate for non-citizens is perfectly okay when an actual citizen presents themselves. It is a slippery slope, and I think Cheney would thoroughly enjoy sledding down it.

As for citizens not recognizing their sacrifices as being in the cause of liberty; I am sure the citizens of bombed-out London did not want to recognize that either. I do not deny we are in a war with fundamental Islamists. We were lucky in WW II to lose almost entirely soldiers and no (or few) civilians, but that is no guarantee in war. The British citizens lost in the bombings of London were also lost in the service of liberty; certainly Churchill could have surrendered and stopped the bombing in any given week. To the extent future terrorists attack us for not surrendering to their demands, any future losses we suffer are also in the service of liberty. It is unfortunate your friends were involved in 9/11. I think that is an accident of lapsed attention on the part of the Bush administration that should never have occurred. In that respect, it is like a fatal car accident caused by a lapse of attention on the part of a driver. But you should maintain perspective on the loss; 3000 people were lost, and we lose that many every week on the roads.

basman
12-28-2007, 10:28 PM
Wolfgangus:

I think you left me behind with your view that if a big city gets incinerated so be it, which you reiterate in your last post in saying "well, we all have to die sometime."

Now you say that even if arguendo coercion is 100% effective, you don't care.

Let us agree to profoundly disagree. I see no percentage in restating any further what I have already argued.

garbagecowboy
12-28-2007, 10:34 PM
I think the comparison to WWII Britain is a bit fallacious for a number of reasons.

First of all, in Britain during the Blitz they assumed all sorts of war-time emergency curtailments of freedoms. While the exact curtailments of freedoms (blackouts, curfews, children and husbands and wives being separated so that the children could leave the cities and the men could be drafted) would not be useful for stopping terrorism in the U.S., you must admit that the people who died in the Blitz died in a very different context from those who died on 9/11.

This is not to minimize the horrors of what the Nazis did, but the Brits knew they were engaged in an existential struggle, and accepted all sorts of curtailments of their freedoms, not just the fact that lots of civilians would die.

Furthermore, the Brits retaliated in kind by firebombing German cities. The intentional killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians seems much, much worse than a few hundred suspected terrorists being waterboarded.

This is not meant as a direct historical analogy, but rather to point to the fact that trying to draw any sort of direct historical analogy between WWII Britain and the post-Cold War U.S. is a bit absurd and involves so many differences that taking an expectation placed on the people in the former and projecting it onto the latter rings a bit hollow. Sure, thousands of people in London and Conventry and elsewhere died in the Blitz, but they did so in the context of a total war in which millions of people died, and where the moral problem of torturing an enemy spy for information in the war effort would not even be blinked at. Even in America a mobilization and sacrifice unlike any other time in modern history occurred, and America was, as you said, spared the worst fate of having to completely put the country on a wartime footing and accept thousands of civilian as well as military casualties.

At any rate, we should be thankful that our generation is not involved in such an existential struggle, where a powerful modern nation state is using weapons of mass destruction to routinely attack our cities. But of course, Britain in this situation did massively, temporarily, sacrifice its citizens civil liberties, and engaged in behavior antithetical to a liberal democracy (the intentional killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians). In our lesser struggle any civilian casualties will be due either to the organizational and operational genius of the terrorists, the incompetence or lack of imagination of our government, or some combination of the two.

In an open-ended struggle like this, it would be facile to argue that civil liberties sacrificed would be temporary. But on the other hand it is facile to argue that the civilians who died during the Blitz did so merely as a matter of course; rather, they are a grave and dire exception from history to the course of modern history: civilians in peacetime are not usually expected to put their lives in danger for the ideals of their nation.

Wolfgangus
12-29-2007, 02:34 AM
You make half my arguments for me; thank you very much.

Either we are in a war for our existence and way of life or we are not. If we are not, there is no excuse for curtailing our civil rights, such as the right to habeas corpus, trial by jury, etc. Certainly no reason to accept "emergency torture".

If we ARE in a war for our existence, people should know it, and should not blithely be going about their shopping. There should be a draft so we can win this war, instead of stretching the volunteer military (which is in dire need of volunteers) beyond the breaking point; soldier suicides are up 500% in the last three years, and some "weekend warriors" have been on active duty for three years straight and bankrupted by something they did not realize they were signing up for.

And other than your assertion about the willingness of the Brits to torture, I am pretty certain they had ratified the Geneva Conventions, in particular articles 3.1a and 3.1.c which prohibit torture and outrages upon personal dignity, respectively. I read no evidence that Britain violated the Geneva Convention, much less made it legal to do so, and if they did not have to resort to that measure when being bombed within an inch of their life, I certainly see no reason for the USA to do it now, having lost approximately 0.001% of its population to terrorist attack; which is less than it normally loses in a day due to entirely natural causes.

Were we in something like Israel's position of having a terrorist attack a day killing hundreds of people per day, and I thought we had exhausted all other means of stopping the bloodshed, maybe I could be persuaded. But I doubt it, I would like some proof that it would work. Why is the assumption that torture will work to produce anything? It seems like an obvious waste of time to me, the entire rationale of terrorist cells is that they don't know anyone or anything outside their cell. Just like Mohamed Atta and friends, once you know one guy in the cell standard police procedure turns up the rest; Atta was living in the same apartment with some of them and openly transferring money to the accounts of others. Atta's contact overseas was a known terrorist as well, and we couldn't touch him in Afghanistan anyway. Torturing Atta would have gained us nothing the FBI didn't already know, had they followed up the alerts about foreign nationals taking up crop-dusting and taken him and other foreign national flight trainees into custody, and eventually expelled them from the country.

To be clear, I am not arguing for some right to privacy of criminals; I have no problem with hypnosis, hypnotic gasses, truth serums or what have you. If it is safe enough for anaesthesia, go for it. I think it should be used on regular criminals; I believe in the fifth amendment that grants a right against self-incrimination, but once convicted I don't buy any right to withhold pertinent information. If there is a chemical way to get the truth without causing pain, suffering or distress (and I think there are several such options) then I think we should use it. (The distress of having ratted out criminal comrades doesn't bother me; even if it is suicidal distress.) After conviction. Before conviction, I think we have a right to not answer government questions for any reason we want; and being compelled to answer them, whether by torture or chemical, makes us slaves of the government. We cannot yield that much power to the government. Our own government has become a terrorist organization, terrorizing its own citizens with constant threats that never come true in order to coerce us into compliance through fear. It is wrong, it is anti-american, and the longer it continues the more our liberty is eroded, until we have none.

Wolfgangus
12-29-2007, 06:46 PM
Now you say that even if arguendo coercion is 100% effective, you don't care.

Yes, and since your entire argument is based upon torture being effective, you are lost. Which proves my point: You make no distinction or place no value on the liberties lost by committing torture, you think any lives saved is worth any number of liberties lost. As far as I can tell, in your mind there is no tradeoff whatsoever. But I think you put too disproportionate a value on the lives lost to 9/11. It was only 3000 lives! We lose that many in a day due to natural causes, and that many in a week due to car accidents, most of which are just as tragic as any loss of 9/11. We have fifty 9/11's on the roads every year, and accept them as part of the cost of our life style, the freedom to own and operate vehicles, even crappy vehicles, and the cost of the freedom from extremely onerous safety precautions that would cost us inordinate time and money (like driving everywhere at 25 miles per hour). The right to drive at 65 comes at the price of tens of thousands of lives of men, women and children cut short, not to mention the additional tens of thousands of people every year suffering permanently disabling injuries, lost limbs, paralysis and more.

The same philosophy applies to terrorism, it is no different for being purposely caused by bad guys. To enable the torture you demand we must immediately surrender our rights of habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and the right to a trial by jury. We can be presumed guilty and we give up the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. This is a dictatorship and eventually, I believe, it will lead to the suppression of free speech and the right to dissent, it will lead to loyalty oaths, McCarthyism, and patriotism laws.

Those 3000 lives were important, but not that important. Okay, we slipped up and lost track of the bad guys and they hit us. The lesson to be learned is not that we are too free a nation and need to throw out the Bill of Rights and the Constituion and clamp down on civil liberties; that is a complete non sequiter, it does not follow. The lesson to be learned is we need to keep an eye on the bad guys, stop the squabbling that continues between the CIA and FBI and NSA and whoever else, increase our intelligence budget, seal the borders, and start employing some technology to keep close tabs on foreigners that visit the country for any reason. THEY certainly don't have any right to privacy; they waive it when they choose to visit and I don't care how they feel about it. When we allow workers into our home somebody is with them at every moment. I don't give them free run of the house to do as they please. It seems rather odd to me that we allow people to enter on student visas without ever enrolling in any school, or ever checking if they are doing what they claim to be doing, or ever checking where they are getting their money from or what they are doing with it.

In any case, saving lives from terrorist attack is not the be-all and end-all of all actions. You think I am radical for saying I am willing to lose a city full of people. I think you are even more radical than I, for essentially insisting that any policy that saves a life is worth the price paid in lost liberty for 300 million people. But of course you won't apply that logic to driving; you are accustomed to that tradeoff.

bjkeefe
12-29-2007, 08:35 PM
Wolf:

It was only 3000 lives! We lose that many in a day due to natural causes, and that many in a week due to car accidents ...

That's the second time you've said that. My nitpicking nature compels me to request that you replace "week" with "month." [1 (http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx)]

It doesn't take anything away from your point, so you might as well be accurate. You could also point out that cigarettes kill 3000 people every three days.

garbagecowboy
12-30-2007, 02:34 AM
And other than your assertion about the willingness of the Brits to torture, I am pretty certain they had ratified the Geneva Conventions, in particular articles 3.1a and 3.1.c which prohibit torture and outrages upon personal dignity, respectively. I read no evidence that Britain violated the Geneva Convention, much less made it legal to do so, and if they did not have to resort to that measure when being bombed within an inch of their life, I certainly see no reason for the USA to do it now

But certainly the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians is worse than waterboarding three foreign terrorist suspects, right? Like, much, much, much worse, even?

Forget international law, let's talk about what's right and what's wrong. Even if what Britain did during WWII with regard to killing German civilians was legal according to the laws of war (and as far as I know the London Blitz was not specifically tried as one of the war crimes at Nuremberg) it was certainly very bad.

I'm not sure where I come down with regard to the existential struggle. We are obviously not in the same kind of existential struggle as the Brits were, where the very existence of their nation as a sovereign state that had not been conquered by foreigners was in doubt. But then again, if Islamic terror attacks on the U.S. mainland were to become sufficiently common or sufficiently deadly or sufficiently horrible (e.g. if they made a big city radioactive or if they killed lots of people with horrible diseases) it is certainly possible that the U.S. as we knew it, even during the Cold War, would cease to be.

I suppose your side of the argument is that if we even look the other way as the CIA waterboards a single terrorist suspect that that existential struggle has been lost. My retort would be that I don't have the information to make the call as to whether or not what the CIA does with regards to extracting information from terrorist suspects is effective in preventing attacks, but that I do not think that the fact that the U.S. is known to have waterboarded several terrorist suspects (including a known terrorist mastermind like KSM) distresses me particularly much. Particularly in light of what I see as a distinct possibility of the changes that will happen in our daily life if more spectacular and devastating terrorist attacks are successful.

I wouldn't want to give in to fear of terrorist attacks... but say that 5 times in a year several hundred New Yorkers were killed by poison gas attacks on the subway system. That would sure as hell affect my quality of life, my civil liberties, and my desire to remain a Manhattanite. I expect the government to do everything it can not just to bring to justice people who would commit such acts after they happen but to stop them from happening in the first place.

bjkeefe
12-30-2007, 02:56 AM
GC:

Forget international law, let's talk about what's right and what's wrong.

We've had a president with that attitude for a few years now. Doesn't seem to be working out so well.

Wolfgangus
12-30-2007, 03:34 PM
I was speaking from six-year-old memory which is obviously flawed; I defer to your superior research. 3000 per month in car accidents. Interesting that the trend is very slightly downward per 100K population, over the last 12 years. I suspect that is attributable to technology (airbags, anti-lock brakes, crumple zones, better crash cage design, SUV sizing, etc). Not so much legislation; as I said, I think we accept these losses as part of the cost of doing business, and don't get very exercised about them (unless they hit close to home).

bjkeefe
12-30-2007, 04:42 PM
Wolf:

I agree with you about the downward trend likely being due to better engineering and features, although I could be swayed by an argument that says tougher DUI laws have helped, too. I think the latter are draconian, especially for first offenders, but it's hard to get morally outraged about people's right to drive drunk.

Even though I, alone, am better when I am.

Wolfgangus
12-30-2007, 05:04 PM
But certainly the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians is worse than waterboarding three foreign terrorist suspects, right? Like, much, much, much worse, even?

Well now you are doing what basman was doing; losing track of the undertow. On the surface your equation sounds obvious, 3 for 300,000 or whatever. But the implications cause damage to 300 [/i]million[/i]. Using your own words, we have three suspects, and the implication is that without convicting them of anything it should be legal to secretly torture them for information we cannot be certain they possess. The further implication is that waterboarding them is the only way to obtain the information, which I reject on the grounds that they are suspects.

The only way this equation can possibly work is if you change the "suspects" to "convicts" beyond a reasonable doubt, and have also determined beyond reasonable doubt that they have the information you need, and you have also exhausted all alternative methods of extracting the information (such as chemically), and a panel of judges is convinced torture is the only hope of preventing certain fatalities. I doubt such a situation will ever present itself. But I still would not make it legal even then. Were I a soldier again, I might make the choice to put my fate in the hands of a jury and go ahead with the torture anyway. My frame of mind back then included a willingness to sacrifice my life to save others. Were I on such a soldier's sentencing jury, I suspect I would be lenient. But I would not make it legal because I think that goes too far.

if Islamic terror attacks on the U.S. mainland were to become sufficiently common or sufficiently deadly or sufficiently horrible [...] the U.S. as we knew it, even during the Cold War, would cease to be.

Agreed. In fact the US as we knew it has ceased to be, people just don't want to admit it. They don't want to admit it because the consequences (both emotional and financial) are devastating. We are not safe. We will never be as safe as we were before OPEC butt-fucked us in the 70's. We lost our place in the world then. Terrorism works as a political tool (or at least causes massive political changes in its victim countries), and the fact that such immoral, reprehensible crimes are effective is awful.

Despite a great deal of political fire and smoke, as a country we have still not responded sensibly to 9/11. After six years (not that long in the life of a country) we are still in a panic, with our political leadership still trying to preserve the comfortable hedonistic ways of the Clinton years; divvying up the tax pie to fund pet projects. Years when the government could get away with marginal competence and the populace did not expect too much from them. Our borders are as porous as ever, we can't track foreigners, we can't keep track of ingredients for explosives, we can't respond to emergencies worth a damn, and on and on. We have only begun to shine a spotlight on their failings. Our focus has changed. I think we are demanding more of the government, and will demand more of them as time goes on. We will start to demand competence, and competence is the alternative to torture. Your response, and Basman's, are panic responses in the face of breath-taking incompetency on the part of an unprepared government. If you stop and recognize them as such, I think you will see the error of granting a government that has gotten us into this situation even more power to misuse.

I do not think that the fact that the U.S. is known to have waterboarded several terrorist suspects [...] distresses me particularly much.

Would knowing that the CIA could pick up your father for no reason and waterboard him, potentially killing him, distress you at all? I don't even know the man and it would distress me. Suspects are not criminals, they are convicted of nothing.

Particularly in light of what I see as a distinct possibility of the changes that will happen in our daily life if more spectacular and devastating terrorist attacks are successful.

Every such attack is an indictment of the government. I don't want anybody to die either, but such attacks should be prevented properly, not by "any means necessary". What we need is competent security, investigation, and enforcement. One of our few fluent Arabic translators is under threat of deportment, right now, because he failed to report that he had an annulled marriage in his home country when applying for citizenship here. This sort of idiotic incompetence is what remains to be corrected. The government has to get its act together, and that is going to mean less money for pork and more money for real workers. We don't need the panicky torture model, we need the competent police officer model. Maybe we need a wall, like Israel. I don't know, but the answer is not letting the government continue to party like it is 1999.

...say that 5 times in a year several hundred New Yorkers were killed by poison gas attacks on the subway system. That would sure as hell affect my quality of life, my civil liberties, and my desire to remain a Manhattanite. I expect the government to do everything it can not just to bring to justice people who would commit such acts after they happen but to stop them from happening in the first place.

No question. The question is what does "everything it can" consist of? If that includes torture, we disagree. I think there is a ton of crap they can do short of torture that would prevent such attacks. Close the damn borders, for one. The Mexican border, for example, is 2000 miles long. Not only is that pretty easy to build a wall across, we can post a guard every half-mile (4000 guards) in eight hour shifts to watch it (12,000 guards). (Typically on flat land I think the horizon is 2-3 miles away, so they can see several buddies). That sounds like a lot, but it isn't: At about $40K per year, the MP's would be paid around $500 million, a small price to pay for human-backed security. Do the same thing on the Canadian border, and nationally speaking, a billion is not much money for a solution that obviously works. (I am all for legal immigration. But there should be no way for an illegal alien to just walk into the country and start working; it is a hole in security that must be patched).

There are a lot of ways to control security while still protecting our civil liberties. We don't have to sacrifice liberty to stay protected. What must be sacrificed is complacency. Since the end of WW II, government has been having a party on the taxpayer dollar. They have been frivolous and self-indulgent, and Congress and the Senate and the Whitehouse are filled with old-guard cronyism. WW II bought us about 2-3 generations of relative invulnerability with a booming economy. The first crack in that shield was the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 (in response to the re-supply of Israel that prevented them from losing the Yom Kippur war).

In those 2-3 generations, they have forgotten how to mount effective responses to threats and emergencies. They want to talk and inspire, but they no longer have muscle to take action. Closing the borders (and beaches) and inspecting shipping containers is not that expensive, and is not rocket science. Everything we need to do we can do with more boots on the ground here at home, for a tiny percentage of the current national budget, and for reasons incomprehensible to me, we are not. Instead we are playing with color-coded panic alerts and keystone-cops style emergency relief that accomplishes less than nothing. We don't need laws permitting torture. We need vigilant governmental security throughout the nation that makes this a moot point. That would be a different America, but different in a good way. It would be an America that understands its true position in the world. It would be an America that felt safe because it IS safe. It would be an America that knows it has real enemies, and that the time and money spent on the visible security around them is a necessary expense in protecting this bastion of individual liberty, because liberty just doesn't come free.

garbagecowboy
12-30-2007, 09:26 PM
I totally agree about the Mexican border, and the Canadian border for that matter. Even without regard to illegal immigrants, having thousands of miles of borderland that are virtually unguarded to the extent that poor Central American migrants can breach it is unacceptable. No offense to the coyotes and their human cargo, but if they are able to consistently smuggle people and drugs through the southwestern deserts, then Al Qaeda I'm sure would have no problem.

Every such attack is an indictment of the government. I don't want anybody to die either, but such attacks should be prevented properly, not by "any means necessary".

"Any means necessary" would seem to justify virtually anything up to and including, say, firebombing of cities where we think terrorists are residing. You will get no argument from me that "any means necessary" is what is acceptable. But I think we disagree on what "properly" means, and I doubt that it can be resolved through argumentation. I don't think it means indiscriminate torture, or frequent torture, or legalized torture, particularly not of U.S. citizens. But waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? That seems to me like a reasonable, acceptable action for our government to take. As far as I can tell, the use of these interrogation tactics seem like they have been limited to a small number of people, who are high value targets.

I'm with you on the fact that there seem to be some things that the government could do that they're not doing (although I'm not sure that inspecting every container that comes into this country in even a cursory way is logistically possible, and if so it certainly would not be cheap, even in a relative way, I don't think) but I just don't see what we know about how the CIA has been using its "dark arts" as very high on my list causes for concern, relative to the other things there are to worry about, both in life in general and with regard to the government and Islamic terrorism.

TwinSwords
12-31-2007, 03:55 AM
As far as I can tell, the use of these interrogation tactics seem like they have been limited to a small number of people, who are high value targets.
When you say, "as far as I can tell," I believe what you mean is "what the Bush administration and its agents have told me." Because the only "evidence" that torture has been limited is the testimony of Bush agents to that effect, right? There is no other evidence for that assertion.

"As far as I can tell" does sound better, as it is unclear how you can tell. Your assertion, though, is less convincing when people realize what you really are saying is, "The Bush Administration tells me the torture is rare, and I believe them."

Leaving aside the most obvious question ("why on earth would you believe anything claimed by this White House?"), I think there is ample evidence that the torture and other criminal abuse of innocent people (and some guilty ones) has been widespread.

To start with, it appears to have been widespread at US prisons in Iraq at least through the Abu Ghraib disaster. This probably includes thousands of victims of torture and criminal abuse. I think it is safe to assume that close to 100% of the detainees at GITMO have been tortured. Afghanistan has been the site of some of the most horrific abuses, including murder after long, agonizing periods of horrific scenes of torture. And who knows how many hundreds or thousands have been tortured in the CIAs global system of secret prisons.

How many people have actually been victims of American human rights abuses and other criminal activity is unknowable, especially with the CIA destroying evidence in violation of US law. But it takes a fairly credulous frame of mind to accept Bush's claim it has been rare.

TwinSwords
12-31-2007, 04:00 AM
Leaving aside the most obvious question ("why on earth would you believe anything claimed by this White House?")

But really, GC, why would you believe anything this gang of criminals says? I mean, think about it: We wouldn't even know about the torture if it was up to Bush and his corrupt minions. They've done everything they can to conceal the extent of their crimes.

They realize better than anyone that they are guilty of war crimes that carry harsh penalties under American law. You certainly wouldn't trust criminal defendants fearing for their lives to be honest and forthright about the extent of their war crimes, would you? They have been caught breaking the law and destroying evidence. The last thing they are going to do is admit anything which hasn't already been disclosed against their best efforts to conceal it.

To put it very directly: The only source for your claim that the war crimes have been rare is the criminals who committed the crimes.

Is that a position you're comfortable holding?

Wolfgangus
12-31-2007, 08:36 AM
These are good points, as well. Where do you stand on the question of torture? Is the Geneva Convention simply wrong-headed? Is there any way to define circumstances in which torture should be legal, or should it be forever illegal?

garbagecowboy
01-01-2008, 03:06 PM
OK, so I had a long reply to both of you guys typed out (in the textbox, stupidly) and my computer crashed due to overheating (because i had had it in my lap for like 3 hours, stupidly) so I will give you the highlights of what I was writing.

The gist of it was that the Bush Administration's official statements coming out of Dana Perino's sexy, sexy mouth are not our only source of information about what the CIA and military do with regard to torture and harsh interrogation. If so, we would never have heard of Abu Ghraib, the "secret" prisons in Eastern Europe, or seen pictures of the Gitmo detainees with their heads down. You may have noticed that this administration leaks like a sieve. There are official secrets, but how much remains truly secret is clearly less than the amount that is admitted. There are other sources of information. I read Sy Hersh, I see the news, and with the available information I simply don't think that the scale of the problem is that large. Admittedly, I don't enough information to know if there are things going on that I would find abhorrent, but with the inability demonstrated by this Administration to keep secrets, and with what we know from various sources (not the official account), I still prioritize worrying about torture in the war on terror very low on the list of things I worry about. I contend that you can believe this without believing what Bush says.

The second was to Wolfgangus. It involved both linking to and quoting the text of the relevant Geneva Convention. Again, the gist: of the 4 Geneva Conventions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Conventions), the 1 that seems relevant here is this one (the third one) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Geneva_Convention). The convention seems to absolutely not apply to terrorists. Even to nations that are signatories to the conventions, the fact that the terrorists represent no nation or organized militia, wear no insignia, and whose methods of waging war are antithetical to the law of war, means (I believe) that they are not legally protected by the Geneva Convention. Nor morally do I find any reason that they should be afforded these conventions. It is not just a question of what they will do to our soldiers (answer: behead them... not sure that's in the Geneva Convention) but rather what the purpose of the Geneva Convention is. I don't think it is an inviolable moral code that if violated in dealing with a terrorist detainee taken off a foreign battlefield constitutes a grave violation of human rights that is unconscionable for the U.S. to contemplate. Rather, I see it as a quaint set of rules meant for the oxymoronic purpose of civilizing war (note that they were originally drafted about a century ago, with no possible anticipation of this type of conflict). In a nation-versus-nation conflict, it makes sense to follow the rules of the Convention; soldiers are not explicitly ideological. A Nazi soldier is not equivalent to Hitler; as (often conscripted) representatives of a political entity, soldiers in a conventional war should be protected from the most inhumane treatment (again, this is all well and good, despite the irony that being killed in battle is not exactly humane).

With all that said, the applicability both legal and moral of the Third Geneva Convention to what we should do with members of terrorist organizations picked up on foreign battlefields to me seems virtually nil. I believe that every single rationale for why you would abide the convention fails when you compare a soldier from a foreign country to a terrorist: the solider wears a uniform, acts like a soldier (e.g. tries to kill enemy soldiers and not civilians) and presumably will follow the rules of war, he operates as a functionary for a known entity whose ideology he does not necessarily represent, if our soldiers were in a converse situation we would not want the opposing nation state to mistreat the soldier. The terrorist does none of these things, and therefore giving him the protection of the Geneva Convention seems both needless and insulting to the dignity and professionalism of our fighting men and women in the moral equivalence it draws between an "insurgent" blowing up a truckbomb full of nails at a checkpoint to kill as many humans (military or not) as possible and our own fighting men and women.

TwinSwords
01-01-2008, 03:30 PM
OK, so I had a long reply to both of you guys typed out (in the textbox, stupidly) and my computer crashed
Ugh! Don'tcha hate that? That has happened to me more than once. And I find it is usually impossible to rewrite as well the 2nd time as it was the 1st...

TwinSwords
01-01-2008, 03:38 PM
These are good points, as well. Where do you stand on the question of torture? Is the Geneva Convention simply wrong-headed? Is there any way to define circumstances in which torture should be legal, or should it be forever illegal?
Hi Wolfgangus,
I'm firmly in the American values camp -- opposed to torture and in favor of human rights. I am firmly opposed to the Cuba/Soviet Union/Saudi Arabia/China/Lybia/Iran/North Korea model favored by Republicans. To be honest, that camp makes me sick to my stomach -- the damage they have done to the good name of this country. I'd like to see war crimes trials, not necessarily for the practitioners in the CIA or military, but the folks in the White House who ordered these crimes.

Is there ever any conceivable scenario where torture would be permissible? I suppose. If we're willing to grant the slim possibility of a genuine "ticking time bomb" scenario in which torture could save a city, and there was no other way to achieve that result, some abusive methods might be justifiable. But really, as I think we both know, those scenarios are a fiction cooked up by the morally depraved to justify modeling their behavior after the Nazis.

bjkeefe
01-01-2008, 04:02 PM
GC:

My sympathies, too. That has happened often enough to me that I'm now in the habit of cutting and pasting a post that's getting long to an external editor, finishing it there, and then cutting and pasting it back into the text box on this site.

The other thing is, I find it hard to write a long post in a small box -- too much scrolling is involved when reviewing previous paragraphs. Could be I have a defect in my short-term memory, but once something gets to be more than a two or three paragraphs, I like being able to see where I was coming from.

I'll resist the temptation to point out that if you ever made yourself fight up the learning curve, you'd be so in love with Emacs that it'd become second nature to do all your writing there.

Hope your overheated computer cooled down okay. Not to mention your ... um ... lap.

DisturbingClown
01-01-2008, 06:14 PM
A cautionary tale (http://www.littlewhitedog.com/article4082.html)

Wolfgangus
01-01-2008, 07:01 PM
Okay, perhaps the Geneva Convention does not apply. But certainly part of your argument concerning conscripts applies to terrorists as well; the suicide bombers caught and interviewed, as well as the potential suicide bombers interviewed by intrepid reporters in Palestine, seem like clueless children-minds to me with zero understanding of what they are doing or why; none of them could articulate (in their native language via translator) anything about the political context in which they were playing a part (or were aspiring to play a part). All they knew was that Jews were thieves and the enemy and the oppressor and Allah called them to go blow them up. Now I know Atta, at least, was a college educated city planner and presumably had a firmer grasp on the political milieu, but I'm not so sure about the others involved in 9/11.

In any case, I am less concerned with the terrorist's welfare than with what torturing another human says about us, and how far into fear we have descended that literally anything goes. Let your imagination take flight! Take a shrimp fork to his eyeball, maybe that will make him talk. Maybe we can start removing his skin in foot long, quarter-inch strips. Maybe the torture should be televised, so other terrorists get the idea we mean business. Martyrdom isn't instantaneous, Sahib, we're going to cut off your dick, saute it in pig fat and force feed it to you.

Where does it stop? Just because they have no stopping point doesn't mean we have no stopping point, and for me the line is drawn at physical pain.

garbagecowboy
01-01-2008, 10:09 PM
Where does it stop? Just because they have no stopping point doesn't mean we have no stopping point, and for me the line is drawn at physical pain.

So mental anguish is fair game? Should interrogators be allowed to make terrorists stay awake for days? What about totally disorienting them, such as by taking away any reference to time? Feeding them horribly disturbing disinformation, such as making them believe that their families have been kidnapped and tortured to death, their wives raped, etc., is this permissible?

For me, I think that there is a whole spectrum of tortures, both mental and physical. From what I have heard about what U.S. interrogators are doing, it doesn't come anywhere near the myriad creative horrors you came up with, and I don't see how permitting stress positions or waterboarding leads inevitably to bamboo strips under the fingernails.

You might say there's a slippery slope; but of course there's a slippery slope. It's inevitable. You can argue that torture simply cannot work all you want or that ticking time bombs don't exist; I posit that there are indeed terrorists planning terrorist plots, that they have knowledge of them that law enforcement doesn't have, and that their preference would be not to share that information with the U.S. government. So the question is clearly how far are you willing to go to get the information. If you ask and they say no, what do you do? If they are willing to die for their cause, then what is the point of threatening them with the things that normally coerce criminals such as the indefinite loss of their freedoms? There is of course the option of doing nothing, and trying to get the information by other means. There is also the option of doing some things that are unsavory (but fall well short of skinning them alive) to try to extract the information. I think that waterboarding falls into this category; unsavory but not morally impermissible. This will be my last word on the matter because I think it's pretty clear where we disagree and I feel I have made my feelings on the matter clear. I respect your opinion, I just disagree with it.

garbagecowboy
01-01-2008, 10:12 PM
Ruh roh.

Hopefully that is not long-term fertility damage. A short-term decrease in sperm production would not be a problem, however, this would in fact be an advantage, from my perspective, as I ain't trying to make none of my shorties my baby's mommas, to use the parlance of our times.

garbagecowboy
01-01-2008, 10:25 PM
Well, I may take your more general advice and start writing the longer responses in a text editor (probably jEdit) instead of in the textbox that is vulnerable to computer/browser crash.

Also something is wrong with my computer... I don't have a desk, so it's either on my lap or on a leather ottoman (or now it's on a wood tray since it's had these problems with overheating), and it had no problems crashing from over-heating for about 6 months in that set-up. Nowadays, if I don't store it on something cool (like the aforementioned wood tray) or take care to kind of put it on my knees so that the CPU and hard drive are not actually resting directly on my legs, it will over-heat and crash in about an hour. I'm not sure if it's actually getting hotter or if it is just more sensitive to heat, but at any rate, I have no idea how to fix the problem.

I might just get a new laptop (as this one is reaching relative obsolescence (purchased mid 2005) and it also has some other serious problems (the LAN port doesn't work so I have to either plug in my cable modem via USB or use a wireless set-up) and it's past its warranty. My parents might be willing to hook me up with one since I didn't ask for anything more expensive than a bottle of Woodford Reserve for Xmas.

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 01:18 AM
Well, I may take your more general advice and start writing the longer responses in a text editor (probably jEdit) instead of in the textbox that is vulnerable to computer/browser crash.

Also something is wrong with my computer... I don't have a desk, so it's either on my lap or on a leather ottoman (or now it's on a wood tray since it's had these problems with overheating), and it had no problems crashing from over-heating for about 6 months in that set-up. Nowadays, if I don't store it on something cool (like the aforementioned wood tray) or take care to kind of put it on my knees so that the CPU and hard drive are not actually resting directly on my legs, it will over-heat and crash in about an hour. I'm not sure if it's actually getting hotter or if it is just more sensitive to heat, but at any rate, I have no idea how to fix the problem.

I might just get a new laptop (as this one is reaching relative obsolescence (purchased mid 2005) and it also has some other serious problems (the LAN port doesn't work so I have to either plug in my cable modem via USB or use a wireless set-up) and it's past its warranty. My parents might be willing to hook me up with one since I didn't ask for anything more expensive than a bottle of Woodford Reserve for Xmas.
How can you tell it's overheating? Does it give you some kind of error that mentions high temps? It seems like a weird problem.

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 01:19 AM
Ruh roh.

Hopefully that is not long-term fertility damage. A short-term decrease in sperm production would not be a problem, however, this would in fact be an advantage, from my perspective, as I ain't trying to make none of my shorties my baby's mommas, to use the parlance of our times.
LOL. I love how you swing from "make none of my shorties my baby's mommas" to "the parlance of our times."

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 01:47 AM
The gist of it was that the Bush Administration's official statements coming out of Dana Perino's sexy, sexy mouth are not our only source of information about what the CIA and military do with regard to torture and harsh interrogation. If so, we would never have heard of Abu Ghraib, the "secret" prisons in Eastern Europe, or seen pictures of the Gitmo detainees with their heads down.
Well, yes, that was exactly my point: You can't trust them to tell you what's going on. The proof is that the only things that we know about are things they actively concealed and in fact threatened people for revealing.



You may have noticed that this administration leaks like a sieve.
Not at all. Just the opposite. I know it is patronizing to fault you for your age, but if you had lived through previous administrations, you'd realize that this administration is at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to controlling information and the discipline of the people working in the executive branch. There have been very few leaks.


Admittedly, I don't enough information to know if there are things going on that I would find abhorrent, but with the inability demonstrated by this Administration to keep secrets, and with what we know from various sources (not the official account), I still prioritize worrying about torture in the war on terror very low on the list of things I worry about. I contend that you can believe this without believing what Bush says.
"Believe" is a great word for it. "Faith" and "belief" are closely paired terms. I prefer "evidence" and "knowledge," to those, but you gotta work with what you have.



The convention seems to absolutely not apply to terrorists.
I appreciate your fine legal analysis. I am not a lawyer, and I avoid trying to do legal work as a result. And as fine as your legal analysis sounds to me, I would point out that it is not shared by any except the most extreme legal scholars, and most of them are on the Bush Administration payroll or otherwise professional concerned with bolstering the claims of the Bush Administration.

More important that the consensus of legal scholarship, the Supreme Court itself has ruled the Geneva Conventions apply to the detainees at GITMO. So even if your legal analysis is correct, it does not matter: Bush is still obligated to obey the law.*


*Assuming you believe in the rule of law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_law) and republicanism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republicanism).




Rather, I see it as a quaint set of rules meant for the oxymoronic purpose of civilizing war
There is nothing oxymoronic about it. Surely you acknowledge the difference between a Soviet gulag or a Nazi concentration camp and an American military prison operated according to international human rights standards before the Bush/Cheney dystopia began. By calling this oxymoronic, you're suggesting that it is logically impossible to find a difference between these very different conditions of incarceration.




(note that they were originally drafted about a century ago, with no possible anticipation of this type of conflict).
What about this conflict was impossible to anticipate in 1899?

garbagecowboy
01-02-2008, 02:04 AM
I guess I don't know for sure it's over-heating... but when it crashes it does so instantly without any kind of error message. It just shuts off, instantly, and whenever I feel it when that happens it's really, really hot.

And then also whenever I intentionally keep it cool by not putting it right on my lap or putting it on the tray it doesn't crash. And then also a few times when it first started happening and it would crash I'd turn it back on, wouldn't do anything to let it cool, and it would crash again, within minutes. From these facts I am deducing it has to do with it overheating, but it could be something else, I don't know for sure.

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 02:16 AM
I guess I don't know for sure it's over-heating... but when it crashes it does so instantly without any kind of error message. It just shuts off, instantly, and whenever I feel it when that happens it's really, really hot.

And then also whenever I intentionally keep it cool by not putting it right on my lap or putting it on the tray it doesn't crash. And then also a few times when it first started happening and it would crash I'd turn it back on, wouldn't do anything to let it cool, and it would crash again, within minutes. From these facts I am deducing it has to do with it overheating, but it could be something else, I don't know for sure.

Weird. I have no idea what it could be. But a hardware geek would probably be able to tell exactly what it is based on your description. Maybe you should post it to a hardware forum somewhere and see what people think.

I am by no means a hardware expect, but on the computers I'm familiar with, if the computer overheats it will beep a certain sound or sequence of sounds to indicate the nature of the problem.

Just curious what brand/model?

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 02:24 AM
GC,
Here's Tom's Hardware Guide, which is a great site for PC stuff, and they have a massive (massive massive) forum. I'm sure someone could tell you what's wrong:

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/

Wolfgangus
01-02-2008, 10:33 AM
Okay, my last post also:

You can argue that torture simply cannot work all you want

Due to this conversation, I have discovered I don't need to make that argument, because I learned what truly bothers me is what legalized torture, especially of people not convicted of any crime, would mean about US, even if it did gain valuable information. It destroys our freedom.

But I will concede that to some extent, even prison is a torture of a sort; especially if there is a significant chance of being raped, as exists in our prisons. So some things like stress positions or loud music or a 1000 calorie per day diet of gruel or sleep deprivation would not distress me too much. As I said before, hypnotics or truth serums would not distress me either.

My biggest beef in all of this is that no matter what the government is allowed to do to prisoners, I don't want them to be able to unilaterally do it to anybody, anywhere in the world, unless that person is convicted of a crime by the American court system and the treatment has been approved by the American court system. If that means the ticking time bomb explodes I don't care; that is the cost of checks and balances. It is the cost of being free, because without the checks and balances the Commander in Chief becomes the King and the country becomes a strong monarchy; or more simply, a dictatorship.

The concept I find abhorrent is one man (or woman) being tortured just because one of our amy officers somewhere find them suspicious. Such a system is so ripe for abuse I cannot see legalizing it. Every system that can be abused will be abused. Not by everybody, but there is the bottom 1% of the population with no moral qualms whose every decision to act is a result of a cost/benefit analysis. Many of these are shrewd enough to stay out of legal trouble, and I believe such people are over-represented in the power elite of all large organizations, including corporations, the military and the government. Legalizing torture drastically changes the equation for such people and permits rampant abuse where it would never have occurred before, and in this sense I think legalizing torture generates far more negatives than any positives that might come of it.

garbagecowboy
01-02-2008, 10:41 AM
Thanks, Twin, I'll take a look at that forum. It's an HP laptop.

garbagecowboy
01-02-2008, 11:31 AM
There is nothing oxymoronic about it. Surely you acknowledge the difference between a Soviet gulag or a Nazi concentration camp and an American military prison operated according to international human rights standards before the Bush/Cheney dystopia began. By calling this oxymoronic, you're suggesting that it is logically impossible to find a difference between these very different conditions of incarceration.


By saying that civilizing war is oxymoronic all I meant to imply was what Sherman said of war that "it is all hell." The notions of 19th century reformers who thought that gentlemanly rules about POWs should apply did make some difference to prisoners of who happened to be held by countries who were not collapsing under the strain of war and had some moral restraints to begin with: for American POWs in Japanese hands it didn't help very much; for Soviets in Germand hands and vice versa it didn't help much either. Sure, there was a difference between being a helpless German schmuck in a Soviet gulag and an American prisoner of war camp; but neither group of men were engaged in a civilized activity when they were captured. Even more true when the combatants are not soldiers, who are not "playing by the rules" trying to kill other soldiers, but rather terrorists who are trying to assassinate individuals or blow up civilians, or whatever.

This was not really a comment on the fact that treatment of POWs and captured terrorists (and I maintain that there is a difference, morally at least, regardless of what the Supreme Court says) can be as shitty as we please, it is simply that war is going to be a test of our morals by its very nature; all war is hell.

What about this conflict was impossible to anticipate in 1899?

The fact that we would be facing a threat to civilians that was not based at all on nation states? Sure, WWI was started by terrorist attack, but surely the authors of the Geneva Convention did not anticipate even the horrors of WWII such as the gas chambers, even though there was nothing technically impossible about such a thing in 1899.

Beyond the facile of saying that no-one in 1899 would know what an airplane was, so they couldn't have predicted 9/11, I would say that I sincerely doubt that even though terrorism was possible in 1899 I doubt that any of the authors of the Geneva Convention would have planned on "Mohammadist" terrorists being the main military target of the most powerful country on earth. You must admit that seeing the world's most potent security threats to be non-state actors is quite a paradigm shift from a mind of an individual who had not even experienced World War I yet, right?

And this is of course a vital point, at least if you think that what the men who wrote the document intended counts, because I am sure that they were not thinking of men who not only did not wear a uniform, but who literally did not represent a nation at all, when writing out their rules of war.

I am not a legal scholar, so I can't say why the Supreme Court ruled that the Gitmo detainees were due Geneva Convention protections. Perhaps fighting as part of the Taliban they qualified as an organized militia; while the Taliban clearly used and sponsored terrorism, perhaps its militants were close enough to regular soldiers to be offered that protection. I'll look up the rationale later, when I have some time.

You may believe in a "living Geneva Convention" that applies in ways that its authors never intended. I'm sure that's fine; taken to its logical extreme I doubt that the men who wrote the original Geneva Convention would have any quarrel about torturing "Mohammadists" whose movement had blown up 3 buildings in the U.S. and killed thousands of people.

Anyways I'll stop talking out of my ass; I am many things; a scholar, a gentleman, a scientist, a man of the people, a visionary, a revolutionary, etc. an international lawyer I am not.

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 11:36 AM
I am many things; a scholar, a gentleman, a scientist, a man of the people, a visionary, a revolutionary, etc.

Good answer! :D

One question for you: Where did you get the name "garbagecowboy"?

garbagecowboy
01-02-2008, 04:20 PM
Funny you should ask that.....

(excerpt from a now dead link)

I signed up early enough on bh.tv that I could have had "Adam" as my handle. But no, I picked "garbagecowboy." It has led to, well, the people who run the site taking me frankly... less than seriously.

So I thought for the record I'd explain the story of how I became "garbagecowboy." I was on an hour long drive so I was listening to some NPR show. They had a very interesting story about European "garbage cowboys" who, in order to make a quick profit, illegally take hazardous wastes from first world countries (for instance, Chromium containing refuse from industrial manufacturing in Europe) and instead of responsibly disposing of the waste in accordance with regulations, they take it to a third world country and dispose of it illegally, often at great harm to the local environment. On the story I heard, it talked about these Garbage Cowboys taking this chromium containing garbage flying to some West African country... I believe it was the Ivory Coast... and just dumping the crap into like a sewer, eventually contaminating their well, and making all of the local people very, very sick.

I thought this was (while a reprehensible practice) a good handle for an online forum; taking garbage I've heard elsewhere, re-posting it and making the current inhabitants sick. If I had known that I would end up making like 1200 posts there and get mentioned in the actual videos and come to be a much bigger fan of the site, I might have picked a handle that makes me seem... you know, like less of an idiot.

Yours,

Garbagecowb--

bjkeefe
01-02-2008, 04:27 PM
I've enjoyed following your discussion about torture. I'd like to ask a favor, maybe for future reference: When you find your back and forth has continued to the point where vBulletin starts displaying that annoying "more post below current depth," how about one of you moving the thread by starting a new top branch, as I did here? That is, continue the conversation by posting your reply to the opening comment, with enough quoting to make clear what you did.

And please don't suggest that I switch to linear view. I've already explained how hard it is to follow a discussion through that lens.

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 04:57 PM
LOL, that's an interesting story. Thanks for the link.

garbagecowboy
01-02-2008, 05:23 PM
I would like to think that I have said my piece with re: torture. But your point about the invisible posts once you have hit "more replies below this depth" is well taken. I will keep that in mind for the future. Perhaps one of Bh.tv's dedicated and underpaid staff can come up with a work-around that prevents that the threading from going to that invisible mode. I mean, the threading is already displayed in an internal frame or whatever that has an un-and-down scrollbar; is having that frame have a horizontal scroll-bar so horrible?

bjkeefe
01-02-2008, 05:58 PM
GC:

Perhaps one of Bh.tv's dedicated and underpaid staff can come up with a work-around that prevents that the threading from going to that invisible mode. I mean, the threading is already displayed in an internal frame or whatever that has an un-and-down scrollbar; is having that frame have a horizontal scroll-bar so horrible?

Especially since the horizontal scroll bar is already displaying as it is, at least for me. Seems like there should be a tweakable parameter in there somewhere, like MAX_DEPTH or something. If I were designing this software, I'd make any a value of 0 mean "never compress the thread, no matter how far it extends." I can't believe there's any built-in limit to how far something can scroll sideways. I once saw a web page that billed itself as the world's widest -- it had something like a diagram of the solar system with the Earth as one pixel, represented in proper scale. Pretty funny, and it certainly illustrated the point about no practical upper limit for horizontal scrolling.

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 06:32 PM
I've enjoyed following your discussion about torture. I'd like to ask a favor, maybe for future reference: When you find your back and forth has continued to the point where vBulletin starts displaying that annoying "more post below current depth," how about one of you moving the thread by starting a new top branch, as I did here? That is, continue the conversation by posting your reply to the opening comment, with enough quoting to make clear what you did.

And please don't suggest that I switch to linear view. I've already explained how hard it is to follow a discussion through that lens.

That's a very good idea.

Oh, and Brendan, SWITCH TO THE LINEAR VIEW!

LOL! Just kidding. :D

I've been using the threaded mode myself.

But back to the point: Good idea moving the thread up to the root when it gets that long. The whole window is now blown all out of proportion.

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 06:38 PM
Perhaps one of Bh.tv's dedicated and underpaid staff can come up with a work-around that prevents that the threading from going to that invisible mode. I mean, the threading is already displayed in an internal frame or whatever that has an un-and-down scrollbar; is having that frame have a horizontal scroll-bar so horrible?

If possible, it would also be nice if they could se a maximum width for the frame that contains the thread. Because right now it apears to be about 1200 pixels wide, which is wider than most users' screens (the most common resolution is 1024x768). having the horizontal scrollbar inside the frame isn't so terrible, but it really sucks when the entire window blows out to > your current screen resolution.

bjkeefe
01-02-2008, 06:40 PM
Twin:

I haven't noticed that problem, even on a dinky laptop. My screens are all set at 1024x768. What are you running?

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 07:06 PM
Twin:

I haven't noticed that problem, even on a dinky laptop. My screens are all set at 1024x768. What are you running?

My resolution is 1280x1024, so I haven't had the problem. I suppose it's possible vBulletin detects the users' screen resolution and sizes the thread frame accordingly. Or maybe the difference is due to the browser I'm running. (IE7). What browser are you using?

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 07:11 PM
Oh, this is interesting. In Firefox, the frame containing the threads is resizable -- it gets bigger or smaller as your window grows or shrinks. This doesn't work in IE. You probably know this already since you're probably a Firefox user.

I hate Firefox, but in a number of respects it does seem to render pages better than IE.

Wolfgangus
01-02-2008, 08:01 PM
I'd also point out that when you DO click on the "more posts" link, it blows it out and makes the screen wider anyway, so you have to scroll over it.

ALSO, there is a bug in the implementation, if you are counting on the color change to indicate whether posts have been read or not, the "more posts" link is always green, even if you HAVE read all the posts subsumed by it. God I hate careless programmers.

bjkeefe
01-02-2008, 08:07 PM
Wolf:

Well put. I have noticed those additional annoyances, too, which is mostly why I posted my busybody comment in the first place. Which, it must be admitted, would have a good time to have offered my observations.

TwinSwords
01-02-2008, 08:40 PM
ALSO, there is a bug in the implementation, if you are counting on the color change to indicate whether posts have been read or not, the "more posts" link is always green, even if you HAVE read all the posts subsumed by it. God I hate careless programmers.

I don't have that problem in either Firefox or IE. What browser are you using?

bjkeefe
01-02-2008, 10:17 PM
I'd add to Wolf's complaint that clicking on the "more posts" link makes all of the underlying posts get marked as read. I use Firefox, if you want to know.

Wolfgangus
01-03-2008, 01:35 AM
I use the latest edition of IE on my laptop, under Windows, and a pretty recent edition of Firefox (installed about six months ago, I think?) on my work machine, under Linux.