Archive for November, 2008

WaPo bombshell on torture

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

This person served fourteen years in the Air Force, so he has plenty of experience. He used a pseudonym in this piece for obvious reasons, but the piece is one of the best I’ve seen in months. I’ll post a sample, but it really is important to read the entire thing.

I refused to participate in such practices, and a month later, I extended that prohibition to the team of interrogators I was assigned to lead. I taught the members of my unit a new methodology — one based on building rapport with suspects, showing cultural understanding and using good old-fashioned brainpower to tease out information. I personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and I supervised more than 1,000. The methods my team used are not classified (they’re listed in the unclassified Field Manual), but the way we used them was, I like to think, unique. We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work (something that the Field Manual permits, under the concept of “ruses and trickery”). It worked. Our efforts started a chain of successes that ultimately led to Zarqawi.[...]

We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, “I thought you would torture me, and when you didn’t, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That’s why I decided to cooperate.”

Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there’s the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

Washington Post

This has been quite apparent for some time, but yet puts yet another dagger in the argument from those who claim we have to torture anybody we find for any reason to keep us safe due to some imaginary ticking time-bomb scenario. 

The same people claiming we have to torture prisoners are the same ones that claimed we were never torturing in the first place. They’re also the same ones that claim they “support the troops,” yet rail against the very thought of providing better body armor, expanding veterans’ medical care or giving them higher pay. 

And of course, torture is a violation of United States and international law. 

(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—     

  • (1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
  • (2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
United States Code (via Cornell Law School)
Look at that carefully. It does not matter if the offender is outside of the United States. It does not matter if the person being tortured isn’t an American. None of that matters. The laws regarding torture, as defined in the Geneva Convention, are applicable to anybody in the United States or serving the United States. Therefore, if you advocate torture or tolerate the practice of torture, you are supporting getting Americans killed by having them receive the death penalty. How can that be considered American by anyone other than the most sadistic person?
Quite frankly, it’s all bullshit. I’ll make this very clear. If you support torture or tolerate it, you are endorsing a practice that warrants the death penalty for anyone who takes part. If I believed in the death penalty, I’d say that anybody who falls in this category should be executed, no exceptions. They should have no right to vote. They shouldn’t even have the right to speak. And they certainly do not have any support for the military.

Invalid Sources

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

So many times I remember when somebody would post a source that’d be difficult, if not impossible to argue against (NASA, GAO, CBO, etc), yet some idiot posts some fringe source and claims the issue is a toss-up because two sources disagree. Well, I’m going to try to collect a list of sources that are, in most cases, not going to be considered valid in debate simply because of their status as a fringe source or their history of being spectacularly wrong many times over.

American Enterprise Institute
Ann Coulter
David Limbaugh
FOX News (or anybody affiliated with it)
Free Republic
Heritage Foundation
Hot Air/Michelle Malkin
James Dobson/Focus on the Family
James Inhofe
Jonah Goldberg
Judicial Watch
Little Green Footballs
Media Research Center
National Review
News Corp (or anyone affiliated with it)
Pat Dollard
Pat Robertson
Project for New American Century
Redstate
Republican congressional spokespersons(Pence, Cantor, Bachmann, Boehner, King)
Rush Limbaugh
Townhall
Thomas Sowell
Wall Street Journal Opinion page
Washington Times
Weekly Standard
World Net Daily
Zell Miller

If only..

Friday, November 28th, 2008

If only it would be legal to strip people of the right to vote based on lack of common sense…

August 11, 2008

“As I wrote last December, “[t]he pundits can talk until they are blue in the face about Obama’s charisma and eloquence and cross-racial appeal. The fact of the matter is that Obama has no chance of being elected president in 2008.” I am more convinced of this conclusion than ever.”

October 25, 2008

“Who are these pro-McCain Democratic voters? They overwhelmingly tend to be former Hillary supporters. Perhaps the most well-known of these voters are the “PUMAs” - which stands for Party Unity My Ass. These are Hillary supporters who are adamantly opposed to Obama. Let’s not forget that during the Democratic primaries - real elections, not polls - Hillary crushed Obama among white working-class and middle-class voters in such key states as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. If a meaningful number of these voters end up voting for McCain, as I predict they will, then Obama’s smooth road to the White House is going to run smack into a brick wall.”

Both were written by the same idiot at the American Thinker. But since it’s the American Thinker, it doesn’t deserve the time it would take me to link to it.

So yes, Steve Warshawsky, if I was running the country, your voting rights would be gone due to your level of incompetence. Does that make me a fascist?

Along the lines of the A-T not being a legitimate source, this is what troubles me about the media more than anything else. They take an argument in which there’s clearly a right answer and wrong answer, yet they frame the news in a “he said, and he disagrees.” It shouldn’t work like that. If one side is obviously lying and spreading falsehoods, they should be called on it. I don’t want a media that’s “fair and balanced.” I want a media that’s objective and searches for the truth.

Thanksgiving/Sports

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Just didn’t want to pass the chance to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Now for a sports update.

1. The Pacers are still awful. It pains me to watch them.
2. The Colts are doing much better. My original Colts/Redskins Super Bowl matchup may still be alive.
3. Notre Dame’s doing about as well as I expected them to be doing this year. Next year, they’ll be competitive.

It seems Natalie Portman doesn’t understand celibacy. I’ve already thought of such, but go ahead and say how you’d be willing to keep her from understanding.

Kathleen Parker vs. James Dobson

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Kathleen Parker

Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.

Here’s the deal, ‘pubbies: Howard Dean was right.

It isn’t that culture doesn’t matter. It does. But preaching to the choir produces no converts. And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party — and conservatism with it — eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one’s heart where it belongs.

James Dobson

So, Kathleen Parker has determined that getting rid of social conservatives and shelving the values they fight for is the solution to what ails the Republican Party (“Giving Up on God,” Nov. 19). Isn’t that a little like Benedict Arnold handing George Washington a battle plan to win the Revolution? 

Whatever she once was, Ms. Parker is certainly not a conservative anymore, having apparently realized it’s a lot easier to be popular among your journalistic peers when your keyboard tilts to the left.

I’ve known this for quite a long time, but James Dobson’s a moron — again.

Parker’s column didn’t argue that Dobson and the religious right should be silenced, but rather, that the Republican Party would be wise to stop listening to them. By becoming the party of the religious right, Parker argued, the GOP has alienated “other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.”

Of course, Kathleen Parker’s exactly right. The religious fundamentalists are the most sanctimonius demographic I’ve ever seen, and despite commands to the contrary from the God they claim to represent and serve, they pass judgment on every single person that isn’t exactly like them and are willing to discriminate against anybody they choose simply because of blind bigorty that has no place in American society.

Now, Kathleen Parker’s hardly my favorite writer. She is, after all a conservative, but I admire her in some regard simply because her writing atleast makes sense, even though I often disagree with her. Alongside Andrew Sullivan, Reihan Salam, Ross Douthat and Peggy Noonan, Kathleen Parker’s thoughts atleast merit discussion.

Dobson, on the other hand, is still little more than a fundamentalist con-man, in much the same mold of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who does much more harm to the cause of Christianity then he does to help it.

Obama’s Policy Agenda

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

There’s been quite a bit of speculation about whether Barack Obama is going to use his administration to govern from the center, center-left, hard-left, etc. I’ve wondered about this sort of thing myself, but I saw Nate Silver’s list over at FiveThirtyEight, and was quite impressed.

So here’s the link. Check it out.

FiveThirtyEight

Classy, classy Saxby

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

In 2002, the Georgia Senate race consisted of incumbent Senator Max Cleland (D) vs. Saxby Chambliss (R). Max Cleland was a decorated veteran from the Vietnam era who had received three limb amputations due to a grenade explosion. Saxby Chambliss was a man who received six deferments from service in the same war Cleland almost gave his life in.

So in this race, how does Saxby Chambliss campaign against a true American hero? He creates a campaign ad that ties Cleland to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and openly questions Cleland’s patriotism. Think about that. The person who nearly gave his life in a war is getting called unpatriotic by someone who was so eager to not serve that he received six deferments. Unfortunately, Chambliss wins, proving that Georgia voters are easily duped by identity politics.

Six years later, Chambliss is in a tough re-election campaign against Democrat Jim Martin. After the reprehensible campaign that he wages six years prior, one would think Chambliss wouldn’t stoop that low again this time.

Well, that assumption would be wrong. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Freedom’s Watch, a right-wing hack’s self-proclaimed version of MoveOn.org have each cut an ad attacking Martin as being a softie on crime. Of course, the thing is, Martin has a daughter named Becky who happened to be kidnapped when she was 8 years old. Thankfully, she returned safely, but it just goes to show how low some are willing to go.

Stay classy, Saxby…

The Conservative Response to the Disaster…

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

… tax cuts.. again…

“If we’re really serious about creating jobs, what we ought to do is, we ought to eliminate the capital gains tax for the next two years on any equities that are purchased,” he said. He argued that cutting the corporate income tax would help boost employment.

John Boehner

The theory that a short-run government spending stimulus will jump-start the economy is based on old-fashioned, largely static Keynesian theories. These approaches do not adequately account for the complex dynamics of a modern international economy, or for expectations of the future that are now built into decisions in virtually every market.

John Taylor

now would be a really bad time to make union organizing easier, because it would hurt business confidence in a recession.

Rich Lowry, National Review

None of this actually makes any sense in the least.

Look, I’m not opposed to cutting taxes when we can afford to do so. But we haven’t been able to do so for quite a while. The last three Republican administrations have given us over 3/4 of the $11.3 trillion+ national debt we have, and we can’t afford to cut our revenues (truth be told, we simply can’t afford Republican administrations, but that’s beside the point… I think…)

But these guys are just laughable and pathetic. They’re the same ones who, two days after 9/11, rammed through a capital gains tax cut. In their minds, when times are good, we should cut taxes to help the economy. When times are bad, we should cut taxes to help the economy. Enough already!

Orientation/the Myth of $70/hour UAW wages.

Monday, November 24th, 2008

So we’re up and running.I have a feeling this week will bring a lot of writing opportunities, but just to hit the ground running I’ll start by copy/pasting something I wrote this past weekend.

I’ve been hearing a lot about how the possible collapse of Ford, GM and Chrysler are the fault of the UAW recently, what with their $70 hourly wages. Senator John Kyl of Arizona recently peddled this argument on FOX News. The problem, however, is that it’s patently false. 

Let’s start with the fact that it’s not $70 per hour in wages. According to Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automative Research — who was my primary source for the figures you are about to read — average wages for workers at Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors were just $28 per hour as of 2007. That works out to a little less than $60,000 a year in gross income — hardly outrageous, particularly when you consider the physical demands of automobile assembly work and the skills most workers must acquire over the course of their careers.

[...]

[T]hen what’s the source of that $70 hourly figure? It didn’t come out of thin air. Analysts came up with it by including the cost of all employer-provided benefits — namely, health insurance and pensions — and then dividing by the number of workers. The result, they found, was that benefits for Big Three cost about $42 per hour, per employee. Add that to the wages — again, $24 per hour — and you get the $70 figure. Voila.

Except … notice something weird about this calculation? It’s not as if each active worker is getting health benefits and pensions worth $42 per hour. That would come to nearly twice his or her wages. (Talk about gold-plated coverage!) Instead, each active worker is getting benefits equal only to a fraction of that — probably around $10 per hour, according to estimates from the International Motor Vehicle Program. The number only gets to $70 an hour if you include the cost of benefits for retirees — in other words, the cost of benefits for other people.

The New Republic

This has much less to do with unions (despite the crazy union-busters’ wildest dreams) and much more to do with an awful business model. For years and years, Detroit railed spent millions of dollars paying lobbyists to whine to Congress and get them to oppose higher fuel mileage standards. At the same time they completely ignored the writing on the wall and refused to build vehicles with better gas mileage and better technology (Toyota and Honda were smart and did this, and now they’re in a much better position than anyone in Detroit). Instead of playing with the possibilities of 45-50 mpg, they were building huge, gas-guzzling SUVs and Hummers that would tear them apart once an inevitable gas crunch hits the industry.

Now Detroit finally is starting to think about flex-fuels and hybrids, but the Asians are ahead of them again, as they’re playing with technology allowing transportation on pure electricity. So even if we do bail out Detroit, as is currently being discussed, they’ll be in trouble soon enough because nobody is going to want to buy their awful product that is a) out of date b) lower quality and c) from a failing company.

Bottom line: Detroit is in trouble because of business malpractice and awful management. It has very little, if anything, to do with the UAW or any other union as organizations like Redstate, FOX, Townhall and the National Review assert over and over again.

If we’re going to bailout Detroit (and unfortunately, we will) we should make sure that a) a certain amount is required to go to fuel efficiency technology and b) Detroit is required to pay back a portion of this loan. And if this was a just world, the Detroit executives would be out of job, but I’m much too cynical to believe this will happen.


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