Jun. 17th, 2009 03:45 pm
pecunium: (Reflective)
The time of my sojourn to the bay is fast approaching, and I still need to figure out where I’m staying, and when/where such meetings of a social nature will take place.


I arrive into SFO on Thursday, 25 June, in the mid afternoon. I have a red-eye out on Monday, 29 June, also from SFO.

The panel discussion on Friday of the conference (Torture is a Moral Issue) is on Friday, June 26, 7:30 p.m. First Presbyterian Church, 1140 Cowper St., Palo Alto

Saturday starts at 0900, runs to 1700.

Those are my present commitments. I don’t know if anything is planned for the panelists on Friday, after the event. I don’t know what call time is for the green room. I do expect a small amount of “getting to know each other” with at least a couple of the panelists, so Friday night is probably not on.

But Saturday evening is probably negotiable, and I have all day Sunday/Monday.

Anyone who cares to listen to my radio performance on Monday last can hear it KZSU (there are two versions, one just my segment, and one the entire portion about the conference. Choose your poison).

(comment at Better than salt money
pecunium: (Reflective)
There will be a two-day seminar: Torture is Moral Issue at the end of June.

I'll be participating. Feel free to spread the word.

The organisers are trying to line up recording. If that happens, I will let people know how to get a copy.

If you have an excuse, the costs are reasonable (esp. since this is not a group with a huge budget).
pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
Lindsey Graham gets it right for once:

Now. I don't know what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it. And I really don't think she's a criminal if she was told about waterboarding and did nothing. But I think it is important to understand that members of Congress, allegedly, were briefed by ... about these interrogation techniques. And again, it goes back to the idea of what was the Administration trying to do. If you're trying to commit a crime, it seems to me that would be the last thing you'd want to do. If you had in your mind and your heart that you're going to disregard the law, and you're going to come up with interrogation techniques that you know to be illegal, you would not go around telling people on the other side of the aisle about it.

He knocked that one out of the park.

Because the record shows that's exactly what they did. They didn't tell the other side of the aisle what was going on. After the fact they told them they had these spiffy new tricks (only they were old tricks, tricks we already knew don't work)which they had approved; but weren't using yet. When it looked as if they were going to be called on the carpet they had a bunch of meetings with Republicans, but not with Democrats.

Why not? If it was all on the up-and-up what was the reason to not tell the other party.

Could be it wasn't on the up-and-up.

To add to that we have Newt trying to double down, with his comment: "I think she has lied to the House, and I think that the House has an absolute obligation to open an inquiry, and I hope there will be a resolution to investigate her. And I think this is a big deal. I don’t think the Speaker of the House can lie to the country on national security matters.

I think he's right... lying to the nation on matters of national security does deserve investigations. We can start right at the top, with Bush, Cheney, Powell (and his present pleasant posture, as regards the president doesn't wash the stain of his briefing to the UN, nor his staying in office until after Bush was re-elected), Rice, Addison, and Bybee (who is, IMO, impeachable right now; for contempt of the Senate. He wants to sit on the bench, he sure as hell has to be obedient to the rule of law. He subpoenas someone, I figure that person has the right to say no. Bybee has shown he thinks such things are refusable requests).

If those investigations lead to Democrats. If Pelosi, or Reid, or Harman, or Fienstein, were complicit, prosecute them too.

The Right will say (is saying) this is partisan. Nonsense. Investigating alleged crimes isn't partisan. That's what investigations are for, finding out what went on, to see if crimes were committed; if charges need to be pressed. Some of the crimes aren't just alleged, they are admitted.

Cheney says he had people waterboarded. He used the memos Bybee helped write (and signed off on) to set up tortures. He admits it. Says he's do it again, and that it's a terrible thing we've stopped doing it.

Well those tortures led to people dying. There are, "a few bad apples," in prison right now because they did the things those memos authorised.

Graham, and Newt, spake wiser than they knew.

We ought listen to them.
pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
Today they finally said this was torture.

For most of that time, he was kept in a dark, damp cell with no bed and no opening except a slot in the door through which a bowl of food could be pushed. Much of the time he was handcuffed. Hour after hour, a high-frequency whistle pierced the air.

No weasel words, no scare quotes. A simple declaration of fact.

No slaps, no waterboard, no hypothermia, just isolation, deprivation and persistent noise; while in a stressed position. What, one wonders, can so mild a torture regime (no one even pretended they were going to hurt him, or kill him; much less actually inflicted pain, "equal to amputation or organ failure.") produce?

"“I was grilled day and night, over and over, week in and week out, and in the end, to get [him] and his gang off my back, I confessed to both charges. The charges, of course, were ridiculous. I never participated in germ warfare and neither did anyone else.

Whoa... it got a false confession. But how?

I will regret what I did in that cell the rest of my life,” [he] continued. “But let me say this: it was not really me... who signed that paper. It was a mentality reduced to putty.”

A mentality reduced to putty.

From a bit of dark and damp. Some time in handcuffs, with a whistling noise. That broke him? What a wuss.

He wasn't a wuss of course he was a victim of torture.


Damn straight. So what made the the New York Times willing to call a spade a spade? The reason the New York Times is willing to call it torture, not, "techniques some decry as torture", is it was done to an American. Capt. Harold Fischer, USAF. It was done by the Chinese. It was, in fact, the very model for the system we put in place in Guantanamo, and which managed to get to Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib (which I think happened because people who had been at Gitmo ended up working in both those places; they'd been taught to do something, and they did what they'd been taught. That's what I mean when I say there were systemic problems).

The Right Wing Wurlitzer is going to be running at full-speed, explaining that this is different. The Chinese weren't looking for the truth, the Americans weren't, "bad guys" trying to overthrow the Chinese; they were soldiers, merely doing their duty, America is different.

Nonsense. These are also the people who say, "Rules are rules, and actions have consequences." The party of Three Strikes, and Mandatory Sentencing. "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time" (and yes, I know those ideas have percolated out to the greater society, but that's where they started; it's where they are the strongest model of how to run the nation).

On this topic I agree. Torture is torture, no matter who does it. Those who do it, need to be called to account. There need to be investigations. Not blue-ribbon commissions, criminal investigations. No agenda, find the facts and let the chips fall where they may.

The Right is doing a lot of tu quoque nonsense too. Trying to say Pelosi, and Murtha, and the rest of the Democratic leadership knew; and that means we can't prosecute. Others have said we knew and that we didn't rise up, as a mass, in outrage, means we accept it, and therefore it's ok, no one needs to investigate (and certainly no one needs to go to Prison; a real one, not the sort of minimum security ones that people like Irve Libby would have ended up in if his boss's boss hadn't given him a don't even go to jail card).

Bullshit. This is a big deal. To quote a previous scandal, it's not the torture (though, were it just the torture, that would be enough). It's about making the president somehow above the law. It's about having an adminsitration which flouted the laws, and when caught says, "Yes, we did it, so what?"

If Pelosi, Murtha, etc., were briefed in detail. If they were given information enough to know it was torture, and they signed off on it, try them too. For conspiracy, if nothing else.

I suspect they are in the clear. Those were classified briefings. The CIA got to pick and choose what they said, and the people who got them were forbidden to talk about what they were told (on pain of prison... and who doubts the Bush Administration would have gone after them? Just look at Thomas Tamm). I suspect the CIA shaded things, and made it look as though they were being harsh, but not crossing the lines.

I also suspect they don't have as solid a grounding in how interrogation works, or what defines torture, as they need to actually know if something crosses those lines.

Should they have done something. Yes. They should have done what they are paid to do, be a counterweight to the presidency. Exercise the oversight which was more than just their job, more even than their responsibility. It was their duty.

But this is a time for looking forward, so lets look forward; to a time when we can say we fucked up, and we fixed it.

Because we tortured, and we admitted it, and the world knows it.
pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
I just left a comment (awaiting moderation) at Pewsitter (a Catholic bloggy thing: sort of a Groupnews/HuffPo sort of deal, for the more conservative members of the US Church).

The author is praising the protest of Former Ambassador Glendon. She is refusing a Medal from Notre Dame University, because it offends her Catholic soul to see someone who isn't as opposed to abortion as she would like him to be to be graced with the chance to speak; as well as an honorary degree.

He made his point most forcefully: Catholics are no longer going to tolerate secular interpretations of our most sacred Catholic principles. Either you are Catholic in your beliefs, or you are not. There can be no middle ground.

So I asked if the author was as condematory about Boston College not rescinding the honorary degree they gave Condoleeza Rice, and the one Notre Dame gave to Michael Mukasey, as both of them support activities the Church is against.

CCC 2297: Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law. In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

(props to the Church, she admits to previous error; which leaves the door open to the possibility the present teachings on Birth Control and Abortion are also products of their age, and not of ineluctable Truth)

We shall see if it gets released.
pecunium: (camo at halloween)
Quite apart from my personal reactions to the memos, there is the question of how well the system of interrogation they describe works.

The first two memos pretty much cover all we need to go over (after the first forty pages they become redundant, as they elaborate the various excuses, rationalisations, and "justifications" behind the answers they came up with. You can find them all here. You can find some legal commentary here at Law of War.org). The short answer to the questions the 'utilitarian', who wants to justify the use of torture, needs to ask: 1: does it get good information, 2: does it make the US, and her residents, safer, and 3: Does it further the overall agenda of the US in the "War on Terror"? is no, it does not.

So let's look at them, and see why.

Right at the front, in the second graf we see the largest part of the problem. "In light of the information you believe Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an "increased pressure phase."

The information they believed him to have. From the get-go that’s a red flag. One doesn’t interrogate to get confirmation. One interrogates to find out what the subject knows. The only confirmation one is ever looking for is not what one “believes” the source to know, but rather corroboration of things other sources have said.

Even that’s problematic. Going “fishing” for specific facts runs the risk of leading the source to the answers the interrogator is looking for. It’s a form of training, and leads to confirmation bias. (when one gets to the end of the memos, one finds that half of the reports the CIA filed in 2004 came as a result of just “a few” subjects. When just a few sources are the basis for more than 3,000 intelligence reports; in a single year, something is wrong).

The training starts when they begin to remove his, “expectations of treatment.” They lay out 10 techniques, designed in concert with the “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) training psychologist” they were working with. SERE isn’t meant to be a blueprint of “how-to”; it’s meant to show the students that torture can be used to break anyone. Even those who know they can actually get out. SERE is a form of the Milgram Experiment, writ small, and with more safeguards.

The ten things they outline are: ”(l) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap (insult slap), (5) cramped confinement, (6)wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) insects placed in a confinement box, and (10) the waterboard. You have informed us that the use of these techniques would be on an as-needed basis and that not all of these techniques will necessarily be used. The interrogation team would use these techniques in some combination to convince Zubaydah that the only way he can influence his surrounding environment is through cooperation. You have, however, informed us that you expect these techniques to be used in some sort of escalating fashion, culminating with the waterboard, though not necessarily ending with this technique.”

"Not necessarily ending with that technique." Nice to know that they aren’t planning things out so carefully. After they waterboard him, they might go to “the stand-up”. Every one of those techniques can be torture. Some of them are torture on their face (The Stand-up, Waterboarding, Cramped Confinement). The others might not be torture, but in this context (convincing him that his present “circumstances” are changed), they probably are.

The one which is most problematic and the one which most people in this line of work keep in the “gray area” is sleep deprivation.

Lack of sleep makes for odd reactions. It reduces willpower. I’ve been sleep deprived, and done some strange things. I’ve had hypnogogic events. My personal feeling is that sleep-dep is less than useful.

If I were brought a source who’d not slept, I’d not refuse to question him. In that state he’d be less likely to recall any training he had against interrogation. The second thing I’d do is get him a meal, and a bed. Then I’d do my best to get enough sleep to be alert when I talked to him the next morning.

That’s not what they had planned.

Sleep deprivation may be used. You have indicated that your purpose in using this technique is to reduce the individual's ability to think on his feet and, through the discomfort associated with lack of-sleep, to motivate him to cooperate. The effect of such sleep deprivation will generally remit after one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep. You have informed us that your research has revealed that, in rare instances, some individuals who are already predisposed to psychological problems may experience abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation. Even in those cases, however, reactions abate after the individual is permitted to sleep. Moreover, personnel with medical training are available to and will intervene in the unlikely event of an abnormal reaction_ You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than eleven days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours, from which no mental or physical harm resulted.

They didn’t plan to keep him awake for more than 11 days at a time. 11 days. I’ve never gone more than about 60 hours without sleep. That led to some of those “waking dream” states I mentioned. I wasn’t being forced to do it. It’s just the way the training went. If I’d been lower in the chain of command, I’d have gotten a couple of hours of sleep in that time. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

The other time I recall such events was in the middle of Basic Training. I’d been averaging about four hours of sleep a night, for about three weeks. Then I had a run of nights where events conspired to cut that to no more than three hours (or a couple of two-hour stretches). Next thing I knew I was reading about how to defend myself against chemical attack, while
dreaming about something else at the same time. Deuced strange, and I’d
rather not do it again, thanks. Eleven days at a time. Which implies they might let him sleep a few days, to allow “the effect of such sleep deprivation to remit”, and then do it again.

Which is stupid. One of the things sleep-dep does is blur the lines between real and unreal. When one is having hypnogogic events, one is in a dream state. Who among us hasn't awakened from a dream while slightly out of phase with the world? The rules are different in dreams. I don't want a source to be the victim of that sort of thing because he will believe things which aren't true. Which will come back to bite me in the ass, because when I repeat them to him they will become true; in his mind. After that, good luck sorting the fantasy from the real; you will have screwed yourself over.

There is then a bunch of blather about how many people went through SERE training without ill-effects. This is irrelevant. The people taking SERE know it will end. They went to the course voluntarily. That’s not the case for a prisoner. He doesn’t know when it will end. He doesn’t know the people holding him won’t decide to just kill him.

Then comes the “definition” of torture. First they divorce the mental from the physical. Then they say that the acts they are being asked about aren’t the same as beatings with clubs or weapons, and don’t inflict, “severe” pain, and therefore they aren’t, ipso facto torture.

When they move on to the question of mental, they rationalise that, “pain and suffering,” are linked, so the suffering the waterboard causes isn’t torture, because it doesn’t involve pain (because no one is beating on the prisoner), and even that’s not a problem, because the pain and suffering have to be, “severe” to rise to the level of torture.

Even when all of these methods are considered combined in an overall course of conduct, they still would not inflict severe physical pain or suffering. As discussed above, a number of these acts result in no physical pain, others produce only physical discomfort. You have indicated that these acts will not be used with substantial repetition, so that there is no possibility that severe physical pain could arise from such repetition. Accordingly, we conclude that these acts neither separately nor as part of a course of conduct would inflict severe physical pain or suffering within the meaning of the statute.

Got that. Neither separately, nor as a course of conduct.

What about that bugbear, “mental pain and suffering” (after all, I’d think being convinced one was being drowned, would count. The idea that my captors were trying to kill me slowly, I think I’d call that "suffering.”

Certainly, in light of what 18 U.S.C. § 2340(2) says:

(I) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application of mind-altering substances Or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the
personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that any of the preceding acts will be done to another person. See 18 U.S.C. § 2340(2)

They say it’s not a problem: the question is whether any of these acts, separately or as a course of conduct, constitutes a threat of severe physical pain or suffering, a procedure designed to disrupt profoundly the senses, or a threat of imminent death. As we previously explained, whether an action constitutes a threat must be assessed from the standpoint of a reasonable person in the subject's position.

Me... I’d say a reasonable person being held prisoner, abused, repeatedly half-drowned, forced to stay awake, bounced off walls (which were designed to make it seem worse than it is: which is part of the plan), part of a system meant to convince the prisoner that his circumstances are not what they were, that, “the gloves are off,” might conclude that the threat of severe physical pain, or imminent death, was a real possibility.

Waterboarding is something they say does just that. But (you knew there was a but), because he doesn’t actually die, and the effects are transitory; and they aren’t, painful, they don’t count, because “profound mental harm” is, so they say, a predicate requirement of the act.

What it boils down to is them saying, unless you do ALL the things listed in 18 U.S.C. § 2340(2) (A)-{D);at the same time, then it isn’t torture.

That gets us through the first memo (about 20 pages).

Memo number 2

Right at the start we see amother problem. To avoid becoming a subject for the “enhanced” techniques the prisoner has to "provide information on actionable threats and location information on High-Value Targets at large-not lower-level information, for interrogators to continue with [this]
neutral approach”

Right there is an institutional disaster. The only way to avoid being tortured is to give up information. If one doesn’t have the information, than one is doomed to be abused. The most willing “detainee” will not be believed, unless he has information about high value targets. This is defined as a “very high” standard.

What it actually is, is no standard. Everyone is presumed to be knowledgeable, and the only way to avoid being tortured to get at that knowledge is to have it to give up.

Honest ignorance will get you tortured. Devotion to the truth of one's ignorance will only "prove" that one is a die-hard fanatic. And "die-hard fanatics" need to be abused, so they will "give up" the information we knew they had. Catch-22.

The report just released about Zabudayah shows where that leads. Millions of dollars, and thousands (if not tens of thousands) of wasted man hours chasing false leads.

To get the prisoner to cooperate the neutral techniques are abandoned, and a “baseline state of dependence” is established: by stripping them naked, depriving them of sleep (while shackled) and manipulating their diet. This isn’t torture, no, it’s meant to "demonstrat[e] to the [detainee] that he has no control over basic human needs" and helping to make him "perceive and value his personal welfare, comfort, and immediate needs more than the information he is protecting

Heaven help the detainee who has no information to protect.

Why? Because the methods being used will teach him to lie. He will, in fact, have to lie. His comfort is dependent on his “cooperation": The insult slap is used "periodically throughout the interrogation process when the interrogator needs to immediately correct the detainee or provide a consequence to a detainee's response or non-response... Another corrective technique, the abdominal slap, "is similar to the insult slap in application and desired result" and "provides the variation necessary to keep a high level of unpredictability in the interrogation process... a third corrective technique, the facial hold, "is used sparingly throughout interrogation. It is not painful; but "demonstrates the interrogator's control over the detainee... Finally, the attention grasp "may be used several times in the same interrogation"

In short, when one says something the interrogator doesn’t like, one gets smacked.

The only way to not get smacked is to tell the interrogator what he, or she, wants to hear.

If there is any doubt that this is what was (is?) going on: The interrogators remove the hood and explain that the detainee can improve his situation by cooperating and may say that the interrogators "will do what it takes to get important information." As soon as the detainee does anything inconsistent with the interrogators' instructions, the interrogators use an insult slap or abdominal slap. They employ walling if it becomes clear that the detainee is not cooperating in the interrogation. This sequence "may continue for several more iterations as the interrogators continue to measure the [detainee's] resistance posture and apply a negative consequence to [his] resistance efforts." The interrogators and security officers then put the detainee into position for standing sleep deprivation, begin dietary manipulation through a liquid diet, and keep the detainee nude (except for a diaper). The first interrogation session, which could have lasted from 30 minutes to several hours, would then be at an end.

The next session starts with a slap, and the process repeats itself, until the interrogators hear what they want to hear. This can go on for 30 days. If the subject continues to resist, it can be continued, until he breaks.

Which is no way to collect information.

The final grace note is the “detention conditions”

The CIA maintains certain “detention conditions" at all of its detention facilities. (These conditions "are not interrogation techniques,” and you have not asked us to assess their lawfulness under the statute.) The detainee is subjected to white noise, not to exceed 79 decibels, and to constant light during portions of the interrogation process."

They do admit there are some gray areas, in which the pattern of behavior might combine to make otherwise legal methods torturous:

Finally we emphasize that these are issues about which reasonable persons may disagree. Our task has been made more difficult by the imprecision of the statute and the relative absence of judicial guidance, but we have applied our best reading of the law to the specific facts that you have provided.

Absence of judicial guidance means that the courts haven’t decided what tortures are legal, and which are beyond the pale, which has made their task “more difficult,” but never fear, they applied their best reading of the law to it, and decided that, so long as there were doctors present, none of the things they are talking are likely to rise to the level of torture.

What they did (as is plain in one of the footnotes) is decide that “torture” wasn’t really defined, and there was no way to interpret it which was useful so they could chop it up and make it legal. This, of course, flies in the face of the intent. Torture was broadly defined so that people couldn’t game the rules and say, “We didn’t chop his fingers off, we just scored his flesh with shallow cuts.”

Their best reading of the law.

Jesus wept.
pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
I am not sure that reading Whiskey and Water by Elizabeth Bear was the best thing to be doing last night, when I got done with reading, and writing, about the memos the Obama adminstration released yesterday. Strange dreams.

But I read them, all 80 pages of 'em.

I was beginning to wonder at myself. It wasn’t until I was deep into the third memo (which is a detailing of the various “techniques” being used, and the rationalisations for them being legal, that I really started to be disgusted. It was the detailing of how sleep deprivation was to be enforced which got me. I can’t imagine doing that to someone. I just can’t.

Part of that is years of being intimate with torture. There is no way to be a good interrogator and not look into torture. To be a good interrogator one has to be curious, and torture is the uncle we don’t like to talk about, because he’s a little off.

It’s not that I’ve not walked right up to that line. In some example exercises I came right up to it. And I stopped the event. The subject was willing, and I wasn’t going to do anything which caused permanent physical, or mental, harm, but if I’d done it, I’d have been on the other side of the lines I’d drawn. It was tempting, seductively so. If I’d done it, he’d have talked. He was getting ready to cry. I hadn’t touched him. I hadn’t even fixed him to the chair (which probably made it worse, he could move, but he couldn’t get away). I had absolute power over him (insofar as the LT would have let me go, which; it turns out, was further than I was willing to let me go).

Torture has a long history, some of it is as object lesson (Henry VIII didn’t arrange for people to suffer in their dying because it was useful in collecting information. There was the one whom he promised he wouldn’t cut down to draw and quarter until after he was dead, then he put him in a cage, and hanged it from a post; letting him die over the course of days; true to his word, but still a terrible vengeance), some of it was because “higher principles” were at stake (the Inquisition was saving souls; the cost of bodies was a small price to pay).

Some of it was really subtle. The Inquisition has become infamous for its tortures (many of which were recounted in Protestant pamphlets... no ax to grind there). There are a couple of parallels to the present. Only the truly resistant, who the inquisitor was certain were hiding something, were to be tortured (compare this to the third memo which says, "Far from being constitutionally arbitrary the interrogation techniques at issue here are employed by the CIA only as reasonably deemed necessary to protect against grave threats to United States interests, a determination that is made at CIA headquarters, with input from the on scene interrogation team, pursuant to careful screening procedures that ensure the techniques will be used as little as possible on as few detainees as possible. Since they also claimed these techniques are only used on a detainee who, until time of capture, we have reason to believe: (1) is a senior member of al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda associated terrorist group (Jemaah Islamiyyah, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, al Zarqawi Group, etc,); (2) has knowledge of imminent terrorist threats against the USA, its military forces, its citizens and organizations, or its allies; or that has had direct involvement in planning and preparing terrorist actions against the USA or its allies, or assisting the al-Qaeda leadership in planning and preparing such terrorist actions; and (3) if released, constitutes a clear 'and continuing threat to the USA or its allies." i.e. to say they only use these things when they have enough knowledge to know this is a “ticking bomb” situation)

The first torture was showing the instruments. Letting the subject ponder the pains they were to face the next day. That was considered torture. It was, legally, counted as torture. None of this pretending that only things which leave permanent mental scars or are excrutiatingly painful, or which have as their primary intent the causing of pain. Nope. Making someone think about being twisted, burned, half-drowned, all counted at torture. In that the Inquisition was more honest, and fair, than we pretend to be today.

And a confession gained by way of torture wasn’t admissible in the Canon Courts. It had to be repeated in front of the judge. Given that recanting was grounds for more torture it’s interesting how many people did recant. That’s why the church was reluctant to use it.

All of this is known to me. I’ve read of all sorts of tortures. Some of what finally got to me was the clinical nature of the reports. It was banal. It was no different, in the tone, than reading a memo on the best way to arrange for an easement to allow someone to get from the highway to the beach. It was the evil of small minds. They were asked a question (can we find a theory which makes it legal to call this, “not-torture”) and they answered it, and ignored the greater questions (should we find a theory which makes it legal to call it, “not-torture).

The saving grace in this mess is the military lawyers, pretty much, refused to go along. They protested the torture, and when they faced “evidence” collected from torture, they refused to use it.

This shit can’t be allowed to stand. We have to haul it out into the light. In the second memo they admit that not less than 25 prisoners were subjected to those techniques. Sleep dep, “dousing” (where water, as cold as 41°F is sprayed on a naked prisoner, in a room as cold as 64°F), slaps, grabs, being bounced off walls, confinement in small containers, “stress positions” and all the rest, are done for 1-3 hours at time, 2-3 times a day (well, apart from the sleep dep, that could be done for 180 hours; just over a week, in the finally approved forms), and the topper, waterboarding, could be done for up to twelve minutes of total drowning time.

We admit we did it. We know it happened. We know people did those things. We know other people sanctioned them.

And we know they are wrong. The actions of those who did the approving are those of people who know they were wrong. Classifying something Top Secret/NOFORN is not the sort of thing which ends up on legal theories, as a general rule.

I, as someone who did that job for 16 years, who taught it for 14, I want to see prosecutions. I want trials. I hope for convictions. I say this certain that I know people who were involved in interrogations which used these techniques.

I say this knowing that I like some of the people who may have used some of these techniques. I don’t think all of them evil. I think some of them young and misguided. I think the people who drafted these memos are evil. I think the people who asked for these memos are evil. I think they deserve a lot more grief than I think they are going to get.

In a perfect world, they would go to prison, and the folks at the bottom would get a serious evaluation, and sentences reflective of both the limited scope of action they had; the poor guidance should be mitigating (they were told it was legal, and in keeping with the Geneva Conventions). A ton of community service, and a sealed record (or an expungement) is in order for some.

Others... those who did things which led to death... lock ‘em up.

We need to do this. For ourselves, and for those who were wronged. We have a lot of innocent people who were called, “the worst of the worst,” and treated in ways we wouldn’t treat animals. They aren’t going to be so willing to forgive and forget. We have to make amends.
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[livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll was talking about Michael Ignatieff (vis-a-vis this NYTM article).

Ignatieff, among other blather, says that we're going to have to accept torturing people. It's a trifle more dressed up, but it's the "ticking bomb" nonsense, clothed in delicate terms of, "Stress," and "disorienting" and the like.

So it occurs to me, as he says none of this is torture, and Alberto Gonzales, and the like, all say we don't use torture, we just use "means of, mild, physical coercion," that I (yes I, the rabid anti-torture hippie-interrogator) can see a way to make it something I won't condemn out of hand.

Those at the top. Those who have to approve the legislation (as well as the hacking authority, so some upper level, Colonels and suchlike will be included) have to test the approved methods.

If waterboarding isn't torture, then let them show it. We'll waterboard them. Someone who has no reason to go easy on them will get to subject them to every method they want to approve. If they say 1 hour of stress-position A is acceptable (say hanging from the bars in handcuffs, stripped naked and doused with cold water) then they get one hour and 15 minutes (to show that we are stopping well short of the point of you know, "actual" torture). The times in question can be kept classified, but some oversight committee will get to see that it's actually done.

Each approved method has to be renewed every year, and prior to renewal it has to be re-administered to all those who would be in position to authorise it.

After all, it isn't as if this was torture.

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So, not to put to fine a point on it, the McCain Amendment is as worthless as I said it was.

The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks. Further, in light of the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2001 in Alexander v. Sandoval, and noting that the text and structure of Title X do not create a private right of action to enforce Title X, the executive branch shall construe Title X not to create a private right of action. Finally, given the decision of the Congress reflected in subsections 1005(e) and 1005(h) that the amendments made to section 2241 of title 28, United States Code, shall apply to past, present, and future actions, including applications for writs of habeas corpus, described in that section, and noting that section 1005 does not confer any constitutional right upon an alien detained abroad as an enemy combatant, the executive branch shall construe section 1005 to preclude the Federal courts from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over any existing or future action, including applications for writs of habeas corpus, described in section 1005.

That's what the president said in his signing statement on the bill.

He reserves the right to make it up as he goes along, and Congress, the Courts, the Constitution, and We; the People, can go piss up a rope.

He, after all, will be doing it for our own good, and that trumps all.

Further, if I am reading the decision referred to correctly, there is, per the Administration no way for anyone to enjoin; nor petition for redress, since the restriction is; as interpreted, placed only so long as the Executive deems it expedient (Alexander v Sandoval is a piece of Scalia's less clear writing, explaining why a petitioner has no right to make the intial case. Hinging on layers of meaning one [who is only as versed in the law as I am, an amateur who reads it for pleasure] might say it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but I suspect it's a trifle less opaque, but just a trifle). It will be for the courts to decide whether any appeal of violations of this law are allowed to be heard, but from my reading of that statment the White House position is, "We won't torture anyone unless we have to, at which point it will be legal, because the President says so, and if you have any problem with that, you can pound sand, because we also decided these people aren't entitled to any civil rights (I guess they aren't as inalienable as all that). So it's going to be an uphill battle.

(p.s. Hilzoy has more, at Obsidian Wings Comments there can be interesting, but the signal to noise ratio is often high)

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I just took a look at the text of the McCain Amendment Bush agreed to, and the rhetoric coming out of the White House.

McCain, and the press, have been played; the White House got everything it wanted, and more.

The important text is, "it shall be a defense that such officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces or other agent did not know that the practices were unlawful and a person of ordinary sense and understanding would not know the practices were unlawful."

Now, that's a small thing, for those in the Army. The regulations, presently in place, make it a crime. But the other text makes, even that, negotiable, because § (a) IN GENERAL.--No person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense or under detention in a Department of Defense facility shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.

So all they need to do to make torture legal (sort of, we're still signatories to a couple of pesky treaties which make torture illegal) is add a chapter to FM 34-52. They can even classify it, so no one not in the Army can point to any sanctioned torture. Which would make, "I was only following orders," an absolute defense in an American court, be it civil or military.

And if we doubt that, there's what Hadley said about the amendment, ""The discussion has been less of the text of the McCain amendment as it was originally submitted, and more discussion about the protections for the men and women, both in uniform and civilians, who are engaged in activities involving detainees and interrogations."

So the concern isn't what we do to prisoners, but rather how we protect the people who might be abusing them.

But the services are likely to resist such a change, because it puts people service members at more risk (we won't even go into what I think of such a relaxing, given that as an interrogator I could expect some special forms of payback, no matter what I may personally have done), but, under the Yoo/Gonzales doctrine of the inherent powers of the presidency (see the whole "we don't need no stinkin' warrants to wiretap and read the e-mails of citizens we think might be in touch with terrorists) to set aside such laws as he sees fit, and do whatever he wants in the prosecution of a war (because once Congress authorises force [no need to even go so far as to get a declaration of war] the Prez, can do anything he thinks useful in pursuit of that aim, and the only thing congress can do is cut the funding. The best part is that he doesn't have to tell them what it is, nor from whence the funds come. They wrote him a , mostly-blank, check, and he gets to keep as many sets of books as he likes. It's all for our own good).

Under this principle, "If the president orders in, in time of "war", it's not illegal, then "a reasonable person" could construe the command to torture someone as a lawful order.

This is better than the CIA getting a bye, no everyone gets a bye. Jury nullification as a tenet of the law, and the "ticking bomb" as an article of faith. I can see the summation now:

"Yes, he did a terrible thing (and our hearts go out to Mr. Doe, and his family, it was an honest mistake) but he's not a monster, look at his record. He's an honorable man [yea, they are all honorable men], and had good reason to believe Mr. Doe had knowledge of a plot which was going to kill hundreds, perhaps even thousands. What sort of callous creature would he have been, unfeeling; and unthinking, to not take every available means to try to save those people? His superiors told him the information was crucial, and that he was the only person who could stop it. All he had to do was do what needed to be done to get the information from Mr. Doe"

At which point the college bull-session becomes an article of law. "If you knew killing someone would save the lives of millions, would you do it?" I can see the heated debate in the jury room. Take twelve people, who's only knowledge of interrogation is what they got from 24, Kelly's Heroes, NYPD Blue, and movies with Arnold and Harrison Ford, and I can't guarantee, but I'd be willing to lay a year's salary; at odds, that the best you can hope for as a prosecutor is a hung jury.

"If he has the knowledge would you refuse to torture him, and let all those people die?" is going to be the topic in deliberations. They aren't going to be haggling about the fine points of law, or the mechanics of actually getting useful information. No, it's going to be about babies in coffins and mere hours to save them, no matter what the cost.

There's a story about Sparta. The King of Persia was bearing down on them, and his emmisary has come to negotiate a surrender. He tells the Kings of Sparta, "If His Majesty takes the city by storm His soldiers will rape your women, defile your daughters and kill your sons. Your city willl be torn asunder; not one brick will left atop another and the burnt desolation of it will be the last you see of it as you are led away to slavery."

And the Kings of Sparta looked back at him.


There's a lot of power in that word.


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Lots of folks are getting gooey because Bush has accepted the McCain amendment prohibiting torture.

This was, by me at least, expected. Bush has been fond of talking tough, dragging out the "V" word, but the record shows that when someone calls his hand on that one, he always folds.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad McCain found some small piece of the spine he used to have, the one he seems to have given up after the 2000 Primary season.

He'll never get my vote. There was a time when my vote for him might have been in play, but the events of the campaign in 2004 made it a pretty slim hope (the Dems would have to have run Nader, or perhaps Lieberman to make McCain look acceptable).

After he voted for Bertie "It ain't torture if they don't die, and the pres can authorise that anyhow" Gonzales though, forget it.

It's Bertie, by the way, which makes me think this whole amendment issue is great theater, but all in all has no real effect.

Recent events (the NYT article on spying by the NSA, spying on American citizens, without a warrant, for more than a year [because it wasn't new when the Times found out about it, and they admit to sitting on it for a year. Where has the spirit which ran the Pentagon Papers gone? I don't see any affliction of the comfortable {well, not since they swallowed the Whitewater, Vince Foster, Travelgate nonsense, but since that was afflicting "a liberal," or at least a Democrat no one seems to think it was bad, but holding Bush's feet to the fire, that's not on. Sorry, back to business) imply the administration doesn't think the law applies to it.

They are still playing as if the rhetoric of war (even though none has been declared. This is, perhaps a technicality, but bear with me, it's an important one) means all restraints are off. They think Bush is Consul and Tribune, that he has the, "inherent power" to set aside the law if he thinks it interferes with national security.

So what makes us think they will obey this one? Just because Cheney asked for the CIA to be allowed to do it? That doesn't make me think they'll refrain from having anyone they can find to squeeze the pliers from breaking peoples fingers.

These are the same people who still think Ollie North is a hero. They let him run for office in their party. He lost, but they gave him their seal of approval. Why?

Because he broke the law, to fulfill the wishes of the president.

So, we now have a US law, which confirms a ratified treaty. It's already illegal to torture POWs. The law which prohibits it is one step below the constitution. If they thought that didn't matter, why in the world should anyone think they will decide to obey the demands of Congress?

It's pleasant theater, but it won't change a damned thing.

The only thing that will is an honest election, and that turning them out of office.

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Digby (who reminds me of someone I know by that name, but I am sure it isn't him... it's very strange. I want to meet him just so the disconnect of hearing his words in someone else's voice will go away) has a piece up (Burning Witches about torture, and why we need to keep railing against it.

Why it must remain completely beyond the pale of what we will accept.

Do I think the US has used, winked at, conived and suborned torture? Of course I do. Do I think it recent, and only of such recent ilk as the present flap has brought to light? Of course not.

We supported death sqauds in El Salvador. We knew they existed, and the Reagan administration broke laws (a lot of them, from the Boland Amendment to letting cocaine come in the side door while we were slipping illegal arms out the back) to keep the people who had them in funds so they could keep up the killing.

Digby points out one of the crucial things about torture, it isn't really about getting information, not when it becomes an instrument of policy.

One might assume that there is no one on the planet who thinks that torturing innocent people is right. Certainly, it's going to be hard to find intelligent educated people who believe that it is a moral good to do so. But not impossible. As it turns out there is a moral argument for torturing innocent people:

From Orrin Judd:
You might want to go back and brush up on your history, witchcraft was quite popular, even within the Church, for an awfully long time. In fact, it's back today in the form of Wicca. In its denial of the basis of Western Civilization it is so transgressive that it deserved to be and was persecuted. People who deny there were witches because they don't like how the religious treated them are akin to the Left denying there were Communists because they don't like that Americans reviled them. Jews too were justifiably, though unnecessarily, persecuted for their beliefs and inability to conform to social norms. The great injustice was the persecution of the conversos in Spain, who were sincere converts to Christianity.

I think he understands something I failed to understand about this argument. This isn't about terrorism. It isn't about national security. It isn't about the rule of law or enlightenment values. It's about conforming to social norms. That puts the whole thing in perspective, doesn't it? What I call "innocent" isn't innocent at all. Just being a practicing Muslim makes one guilty.

It's nice to know that we shouldn't be persecuting those who have converted to Christianity (or properly protestantised Islam, which translates into an embrace of Western Civilization.) The good news is that "protestantising" (forcing Western conformity on) the billion Muslims out there will be a cakewalk:

You can have a number of voices so long as everyone has just one hymnal. That's the essence of the protestantism that the End of History requires. It'll be easy enough to Reform Islam, just as we did Catholicism, Judaism, and the rest.
Posted by: oj at November 25, 2005 10:56 AM

And here I thought the whole "End of History" thing had been laughed out of town by the events of 9/11. Apparently History has only been postponed. Protestantism is still on the march, "reforming" witches and Muslims alike. And if it takes a little waterboarding or burning at the stake to get the job done, so be it. These people have to understand that we're going to end History one bloody non-conformist bastard at a time if we have to.

It's all of a piece. Hussien used torture to make people conform, to suppress dissent. Stalin did the same. Say something out of line to the wrong person, and "poof" you disappeared. Hitler, well he could be kinder. Von Stauffenberg was slowly killed, as an example. Rommel, implicated in the same plot was allowed to kill himself, which would spare his family the same, inevitable, fate, if he was publicly accused, and then; of course, convicted.

What could Rommel do? Even if he was innocent, his fate was sealed. Suicide, and his family lives, insist on his innoncence, and they get killed.

Torture works; if a state where fear of the denouncement is the place you want to live.

To quote A.E. Houseman, slightly out of context,

He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.

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It matters.

It probably matters more than any other right we have.

It goes back to the very beginnings of the ideas the grand experiment the U.S. of A sprang from.

No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in anyway destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers

To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.

Those passages are from the Magna Carta, all the way back in 1215 (emphasis added).

Senator Graham says we have to deny the right of these prisoners, to demand justification for their being held, because they are, "clogging" the courts with their pleas for justice. How many... a few hundred. If the courts are so busy that a couple of hundred petitions bring them to a ginding halt, then we're so fucked it isn't funny.

Where, one wonders will this theft of rights end? Who will next be on the list of those who can be locked up without release, or charge, or reason? When will the gov't decide there are citizens who aren't to be allowed to walk the streets, not for what they have done, but for what they have been accused?

Am I waxing hyperbolic? A tad, but not so much as I wish it were the case.

This is primal. It is worse than torture. It's about freedom, liberty and the rule of law.

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

Winston Churchill

"He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself."

Thomas Paine

It's true. If you doubt this, then look to Padilla. He was held for months before we were told about it. From a comment I heard on the news, it was only to "wag the dog" that we were told. His lawyers weren't allowed to speak with him. Ponder that. He was held, for months, without charges. Kept in a navy brig, in solitary, and not allowed to speak to his lawyers.

He's a citizen.

We didn't treat Göering, and the rest of the Nazi powerful who didn't kill themselves before capture this way. We had the courage of our faith in being right. We tried them in the light, making certain the world could see how fairly they were treated. Some, were hanged (Göering cheated the noose, with suicide by poison) some were imprisioned. Some were, to the shock of many, acquitted.

Stalin wondered at the idea. His plan was to shoot them all. Cheaper than a trial, and not the least risk of them being acquitted.

The law won.

Some say we can't afford to let these people go, because they might want to attack us. So what? Which essential liberties are we going to forsake next in our search for some mythic security? The Nazis did far more harm than bin Laden and his ilk will ever manage; are we to say then that such minor injuries (in comparison to the hundreds of millions who died because of the Nazis) as the few thousands we might lose to some attack in the future is worth our principles?

I sure as hell hope not.

Worse (from that spurious line of defense) such things make us less safe.

To go to a war story, we arrested a guy in April of 2003, in the plain sight of his family. They watched him go to a checkpoint to ask a question. They then saw him, and his companions hauled away.

When they went to the Army (or perhaps the CPA) to find out why, they were told we hadn't done it. They were given a list of maybes (maybe it was Ba'athists, maybe it was some Sunni with a grudge, perhaps it was some rival Shi'a group [the guy was a big name in the south of Baghdad) but it most certainly wasn't the U.S. Army.

Only it was.

We talked to him (he was very polite, and seemed to understand that shit happens and it wasn't personal) and we took him home.

Now, let's say we hadn't. Let's say his family never saw him again (we'll ignore his congregation/adherents). Think they might have nursed a grudge? I do. Heck, I'm certain of it. As certain as I am that Abu Ghraib made more insurgents and terrorists (worldwide) than it saved lives. I will wager the high-handed treatment of prisoners will, over time, kill more Americans, here; in the States, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan, than any lives saved by the information those prisoners might reveal.

And that's only the pragmatic part.

Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Micah 6:6-8

Do justice, love mercy; is that too much to ask?

We have innocents in GitMo. We admit it.

Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later.

Detainees Deserve Court Trials Washington Post

Adel has been in prison for four years. Not only is he innocent, we rewarded the men who condemned him. This sort of thing used to exist in Russia, in the France of the Terror, it was called denouncing. I suppose we are better than Revolutionary France, we; after all, aren't sending the denounced to Madame Guillotine, but rather keeping them in cells, depriving them of human contact, isolating them from family, religion and the world.

Even after we acquit them.

Justice delayed is worse than justice denied, because to delay it is to keep something which ought to be done from being done; when you know it should be done: "Well, yeah, we could make it so the Pinto won't blow up when it gets rear ended, but that would cost money, and we'll probably pay out less in lawsuits than it would cost to prevent the problem."

This must be fought.

If not now, when?
If not me, who?

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Catching up

Nov. 9th, 2005 09:17 pm
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This weekend was drill. In it's way drill is one of those things which never change, and are never the same. Sadly I am moving up in the world, which means more paperwork. As a middle manager I have to do annual reviews of some of the NCOs junior to me. In the active side of the house this isn't too hard. I'd get to see them every day. Once a year we'd sit down and go over expectations and how to achieve them. Once a quarter we'd review them, and see how much progress was, or wasn't, being made. Once a year I'd write it all up.

Some of it would reflect on me. If my expectations were out of line the senior rater can talk to me, and the reviewer can backstop him.

On the Reserve Component it's a little different. We only see each other once a month (and in my unit I don't have the advantage of a two-week Annual Training to try and squeeze some observational time in, because we do our ATs one at a time).

Last week I got told I had two to do. One of them on someone who has been away for ten months, and I've been away for the two he wasn't. Great. When I got to drill it turned out I had to do one more, and that one on someone whose in his fifties, and used to outrank me. Fun.

That wasn't the high point of the weekend. I suppose the high point might have been the fellow who stopped me to ask a metaphorical question about coercive interrogation (no he didn't know I was an interrogator, he just saw PFC Jones and I in uniform; on a coffee run. One of the perks of rank is being able to draft help. I didn't want to drive, and needed two more hands to carry things, so I grabbed the nearest private. I had practical motives as well, since I needed to teach him how to run a guidon, so there was a justification for choosing him, but the power is there. Ah, what abuses I could practice!).

He probably got more than he bargained for, what with illustrations running from Vietnam, to Louis XIV and all sorts of points in between. Had we not been in uniform, and such a situation come up, it might have been a shorter catechism on my part, but I wanted him to have this in his mind the next time the subject came up.

Or perhaps it was the Army Physical Fitness Test I took Sunday morning.

I hate PT tests. Even when I don't have questions about passing the damned thing, it hurts. Two minutes each of push-ups and sit-ups, followed by a two-mile run. All of these done to muscle failure. One (at least this one) hurts for three to four days after.

To make it more fun, I've not been in training. Seriously, between my general dislike of exercise for the sake of exercise, and the Reiter's, I've done damn all. Used to be I had a notable fraction of an acre I was gardening. I walked the dogs a couple of miles, at least every couple of days. I rode the horses more. No longer.

The closest I come to real exercise is baking bread.

To pass I needed to do 38 push-ups. I had to do the same for sit-ups, but so what. Push ups are my bête noire. If I can pass them the rest is a done deal. Given my slight frame, long arms and lack of upper body mass, push-ups kill me. The most I've ever done was 44, and that was when I was in the best shape of my life. A regular workout 4 times a week, followed by 3-8 miles of running.

I more than half expected to fail.

Push-ups: 44
Sit-ups: 61
Run: 14:23

The only thing I can credit for the push-ups is the baking. I've been kneading a lot of bread, and when I had Maia checking my kokyu (because I was trying to incorporate one of the most important aspects of my aikido into some of my regular routine) I noticed my lats are more developed than I tend to think them.

Before I cut this off, and get to the food porn, some quizzy-goodness.

You scored 17 in Malice and 27 in Chaos!
You are the Kitsune, or "Fox demon," the ultimate doer of mischief. Kitsune belong to a class of demons known as "Henge," or animal shape-shifters, along with the Tanuki, or badger-demon. They are uncanny creatures who are notorious as much for their malevolence as for their wild and unpredictable behavior; a fox demon may help a human, only to betray him in deepest consequence at a later date. Kitsune are known to frequently possess women or pose as humans, causing chaos and catastrophe where ever they go. They are mischievous creatures who take great pleasure in playing terrible tricks on unsuspecting mortals; however, this behavior indicates that they are more perversely playful and apathetic to human suffering than genuinely evil and desirous of harm.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 44% on Malice

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 57% on Chaos
Link: The Japanese Demon Profile Test written by Maharbal on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

It seems appropriate, mostly.

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I am not sure what to make of Eugene Volokh's "retraction." because he hasn't retracted the position, merely said he finds it impractical.

I do know that I disagree with Digby and Mark Kleiman, because they are treating Eugene's change of position on the usefulness of torture as punishment as a reversal of his core statement, which is support of torture, as public punishment ( Something he agrees with Which is about the public, and participatory, execution of a very unpleasant person).

He has not repudiated such punishments as meritorious, merely said they would so tie up the courts that nothing could be done, "Even if enough people vote to authorize these punishments constitutionally and legislatively (which I've conceded all along is highly unlikely), there would be such broad, deep, and fervent opposition to them -- much broader, deeper, and more fervent than the opposition to the death penalty -- that attempts to impose the punishments would logjam the criminal justice system and the political system.

And this would be true even when the punishments are sought only for the most heinous of murderers. It's not just that you couldn't find 12 people to convict; it's that the process of trying to find these people, and then execute the judgment they render, will impose huge costs on the legal system (for a few examples, see Mark's post). Whatever one's abstract judgments about the proper severity of punishments, this is a punishment that will not fit with our legal and political culture."

None of that, changes this, "I particularly like the involvement of the victims' relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he'd killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him. Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.

I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way."

The only saving grace there is he supposes the larger culture will be opposed to it, on such a scale that, even were it to pass it would break the system. He doesn't seem to address Kleiman's point that the excusal of those who won't pass a capital sentence from capital cases, means the pool of jurors tilts toward conviction in capital cases (though, to be fair, I haven't seen any studies on this, and so it is only a gut-level agreement that makes me nod my head when I read it) and that such a limitation would make the sentence of public torture more likely, in those cases where it was sought. That, should it come to pass, could make a positive feedback loop, where more people were put to trials with torture as the possible sentence, because those would be, not only more likely to lead to conviction, but of a public nature, which makes it easier for a DA to be, "tough on crime." But I am digressing.

But his holding the core belief still bothers me. Not just because I like him, as a person, but because I fully expect him to be granted a seat on the federal bench, if he should ever really want one. Which means wondering how he will define cruel and unusual. Do I think him capable of taking his personal beliefs out of the equation when rendering a decision, yeah; mostly. None of us is so perfect as to be able to do that completely, but the best of us can come fairly close, most of the time.

And he knows how things are done. He clerked for Justice O'Connor. One might try to read things into how he would handle looking for precedent to defend a position from the one's she has written (and the more so if one looks at her decisions from the period of time (ca. '93-94, if I recall correctly) he was one of her clerks.

I am mindful of Micah 7-8, "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
" and I wonder how one can reconcile that with the idea of torture.

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It's a sad day when learns one of one's friends, even a distant one with whom one is pretty much out of touch, turns out to be out of touch in a way one finds, at best disturbing; at worst, reprehensible.

Eugene Volokh thinks torture, as a norm in judicial punishment isn't wrong. Worse, he seems to think it laudatory.

I've not been reading the Volokh Conspiracy much lately because I have been a coward. I dislike the amount of time I have spent in the past year or so defending what I do for a living, while trying to correct those who either see it as evil, or needing torture to work best. Eugene's various comments on the matter (that torture, per se, isn't necessarily to be shunned... the Ticking Bomb defense, writ large) made me unwilling to wade in much where so many others, with wider followings than mine, were doing yeoman's work.

But this, gives me the willies.

If you look at the bottom you will see links to more of his general philosophy on the matter, but in brief I think it can be summed up like this. "Make criminals suffer, not so much to discourage others, but because vengeance is good for society."

His summation of his views is this, One can certainly reach a different judgment than I do: Even if one thinks there's some moral benefit to executing the Eichmanns or even the serial rapist-killers, one might say that the benefit is small enough that it's exceeded by the risk of error, and the very serious moral cost of that error. As I mentioned at the outset, I am keenly aware that I may be wrong on this general question, and the matter that causes me the most trouble is precisely this one. Yet my tentative current sense is that for a small number of extraordinarily monstrous crimes, the need for retribution is so strong — and the risk of error can be made so low — that not just death but deliberately painful death is the proper punishment.

The part I have the most disagreement with is this one, from higher up the piece,

"5. Humanity: Likewise, I think, with Mark's argument that deliberate infliction of pain, even on monsters, "makes the person who engages in it a little bit more of a beast, and a little bit less of a human being, than he would otherwise be." First, we should recognize that this is a metaphor; I may be mistaken, but my sense is that most literal beasts (i.e., animals) don't actually try to inflict pain as punishment for wrongs. Literally speaking, this desire is quite characteristic of human beings (though perhaps some other higher primates might be included; I'm not sure). This doesn't make Mark's argument wrong, but only shows that we need to look behind the metaphor.

So what's behind the metaphor? It could be a judgment that it's beastly, less-than-human, and thus morally improper to succumb to our visceral emotional impulses. But I don't think that's what Mark literally means. Love, empathy, the desire to pick a mate, the desire to have children, and other worthy emotions are also visceral emotional impulses; while we should certainly indulge in them with rational caution and care, there's nothing wrong in following emotions, and it's sometimes bad to resist them.

I take it, then, Mark's point is that it's beastly, less-than-human, and improper to indulge this particular emotion. But that too, I think, assumes the conclusion. When someone rapes and murders twenty children, why is it a "beastly" impulse as opposed to a worthy one to try to exact a harsh retribution? Mark acknowledges that retribution in general is a proper goal of punishment — but his argument doesn't, I think, explain why this particular sort of retribution is not. (To be fair, he does say "in my eyes, at least" — here we may be returning to a point I mentioned in my original post, which is that a lot in this debate rests on people's visceral moral intuitions.)

My response to this is that I have met people who have crossed the line, and been torturers, most of those in the pursuit of what they deemed to be higher moral aims (that is to say they were not indulging personal desires, not wallowing in some deviant urge, whereby they got a specific pleasure from inflicting pain on those who were not able to avoid it) and they are now damaged, mentally, and morally. They no longer see people as people. They see some as being not-quite people (I don't know how better to put it) and therefore not to be treated with the same respect, humanity; if you will, that everyone else gets.

The problem is, that as time goes on, they seem to have put more and more of the world into the category of, "not quite human."

This is not a new thing. A huge amount of the shift in human relations, the benefit of nations, even of empire, is to increase the number of people who counted as people. The Clans of the Highlands used to exterminate each other, root and branch, because those not in one's own family weren't quite as human. The scale shifted too, after all, those who weren't speakers of some form of Gaelic were less human still.

Read the Icelandic sagas; we see people casually settling scores by killing people's slaves. Person A (a family member) had given grave offense, so that night person B whacked person A's favorite slave in the side of the neck with an axe. It made him feel better, proved a point to his father (person A), but wasn't all that nice to the slave. More interesting, one must presume Person B knew the slave, had known him for years, but didn't think his life was as important as making the point.

Where am I going with this? I don't want to live in a place where hanging someone with piano wire, from a meathook, is seen as not enough punishment (and Eugene makes exactly that argument).

Call me sentimental, but if we are to have a death penalty, I want it to be more parallel to putting down a rabid dog; distasteful, but a sad necessity; and done without passion, than to having heritics hung, drawn and quartered.

Appealing to the base in human nature seems to me a poor thing, and I don't see that vengeance has had a calming influence on the countries which put it's practice into graphic; even public methods of punishing malefactors.

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They did it.

Gonzales is our new AG.

I ought to be angry, hopping mad, foaming at the mouth with rage and fuming vitriol.

What I am is tired. Sad. Disappointed.

Not in the Democratic Senators. More of them stood up and voted for what was right than I had any reason to expect (esp. after they rolled over and let Rice be appointed Sec.of State. Yes, the Republicans can get anyone Bush wants, if they vote a party line, but they ought to have made them do it. It doesn't mean much that she was the nominee to get the most opposition since 1825, if that totaled a whopping 13 people).

The Republicans did what I have come to expect, accepted what the leaders of their party told them, without reservation, and without thought.

I am however, disappointed in one sentator in specific. John McCain.

He lost almmost all the respect I had for him when he stumped for Bush. I know why he did it, and it was craven. He was afraid Bush would win. He was really afraid Bush would win, even if he stumped for Kerry. I can accept that. I don't like it, it undecuts his man of principle image, but I can understand it.

But he did more than stand aside. Forget that I think McCain on the Kerry trail would have put a couple of nails into the Bush Coffin, I might be wrong, McCain went and campaigned for Bush. He went on national television and lied about Bush, said he was a good man, a good president and the hope of the nation.

Ok, he lost my respect. I'm sure he cares.

But he voted for Gonzales. He voted for a man who thinks Bush gets to pick and choose the laws which apply. He voted for a man who signed a memo saying 1: torture is what causes death, organ failure or pain equivalent to that, and 2: who said we could protect our troops by having an Executive Order, or other memo which detailed what they could do so they could defend themselves becuuse they were just following orders.

For McCain that ought to have been enough. He'd have been able to win the public opinion battle too. He went to Viet-nam a few years ago, and when the tour guide tried to say no one was tortured at the Hanoi Hilton McCain was able to say, "Yes they were. I was there."

But you know what... he's lost that high ground. He has just, with one little word, said torture is justified, or at least acceptable.

So, for John McCain... I shake the dust from my shoes as I walk away from his door.

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I thought the folks in charge were clueless when I was in Iraq (don't get me started on how V Corps managed EPWs during the shooting war), but as I look at what is being bruited about in the national fora, I ponder the shortest sentence in the Bible, "Jesus wept."

I'm a soldier. I don't talk about what that means much, mostly because it is a needful job, but dirty.

In a nutshell what I do is kill people.

To quote Shakespeare, "I could be bounded up in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."

But I manage to avoid those bad dreams (as to most of the rest of my fellows) because I am bounded by more than that nutshell (rules are not the enemy... they are tools).

I have things like the Geneva Conventions and I have accepted a wealth of tradition, some of which must go back to the very first armies... one of those traditions is that non-combatants are spared (in the early days non-combatant was a bit more vague a concept, but those who were such got off more lightly than those who weren't, but I digress).

Which is why when I see things like this http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/04/opinion/04BROO.html my bile rises and I want to scream (this, is that scream).

"Try to put yourself in the mind of the killer, or of the guy with the plastic bag. You are part of Saddam's vast apparatus of rape squads, torture teams and mass-grave fillers. Every time you walk down the street, people tremble in fear. Everything else in society is arbitrary, but you are absolute. When you kill, your craving for power and significance is sated. You are infused with the joy of domination....

What will happen to the national mood when the news programs start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause. They will be tempted to have us retreat into the paradise of our own innocence.

Somehow, over the next six months, until the Iraqis are capable of their own defense, the Bush administration is going to have to remind us again and again that Iraq is the Battle of Midway in the war on terror, the crucial turning point where either we will crush the terrorists' spirit or they will crush ours.

The president will have to remind us that we live in a fallen world, that we have to take morally hazardous action if we are to defeat the killers who confront us. It is our responsibility to not walk away. It is our responsibility to recognize the dark realities of human nature, while still preserving our idealistic faith in a better Middle East."

November 4, 2003

So, to eradicate the last holdouts of the evil aspects of Hussein's Iraq we have to (for just a little while) replace them with our boys, doing similar work.

After all this is not going to be done with the niceties of Stateside Police Procedures, "...the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause."

It sounds like the guy in the bank saying, "Don't make me shoot these people, if you do the blood is on your hands."

But it won't be, it will be on the hands of the troops who are convinced to commit them. It may not get to My Lai as policy, but how will we decide the practical aspects of the brutality? I don't think we'll resort to summary decapitation, but we've already engaged in hostage taking (a COL left a note that a man's family was being held, pending his turning himself in... a violation of the Geneva Conventions).

Will it stop there? I doubt it. Israel did away with the rational of, "the ticking bomb" when dealing with Palestinians because they all became people who could be justifiably, "coerced."

And the Israeli Army says that such tactics are bad policy, they cause the troubles they are used to cure (Valium does that, one of the listed side effects is anxiety, but I digress).

What dreams will we foist on those who become not merely bound in that nutshell, but trapped?



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May 2016

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