The Old Rich White Curmudgeon Agrees, It’s Torture

Believe Me, It’s Torture: Politics & Power:

The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer. I still feel ashamed when I think about it. Also, in case it’s of interest, I have since woken up trying to push the bedcovers off my face, and if I do anything that makes me short of breath I find myself clawing at the air with a horrible sensation of smothering and claustrophobia. No doubt this will pass. As if detecting my misery and shame, one of my interrogators comfortingly said, “Any time is a long time when you’re breathing water.” I could have hugged him for saying so, and just then I was hit with a ghastly sense of the sadomasochistic dimension that underlies the relationship between the torturer and the tortured. I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.

Master of the Bbvious (and with 20/100 hindsight) Chris Hitchens has officially weighed in on the waterboarding/torture thing.

This paragraph points out the fundamental can get anyone to confess to anything with the right pressure.

The other bad points get covered here.  This is from an expert in the technique, or at least training men to resist it.

1. Waterboarding is a deliberate torture technique and has been prosecuted as such by our judicial arm when perpetrated by others.

2. If we allow it and justify it, we cannot complain if it is employed in the future by other regimes on captive U.S. citizens. It is a method of putting American prisoners in harm’s way.

3. It may be a means of extracting information, but it is also a means of extracting junk information. (Mr. Nance told me that he had heard of someone’s being compelled to confess that he was a hermaphrodite. I later had an awful twinge while wondering if I myself could have been “dunked” this far.) To put it briefly, even the C.I.A. sources for the Washington Post story on waterboarding conceded that the information they got out of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was “not all of it reliable.” Just put a pencil line under that last phrase, or commit it to memory.

4. It opens a door that cannot be closed. Once you have posed the notorious “ticking bomb” question, and once you assume that you are in the right, what will you not do? Waterboarding not getting results fast enough? The terrorist’s clock still ticking? Well, then, bring on the thumbscrews and the pincers and the electrodes and the rack.

And that’s it.

Waterboarding is torture.  Torture is wrong. Bush and Cheney should be impeached.  Why is this so difficult to make happen?

Last Chance…Squandered?

The Associated Press: NASA warming scientist: ‘This is the last chance’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Exactly 20 years after warning America about global warming, a top NASA scientist said the situation has gotten so bad that the world’s only hope is drastic action.

James Hansen told Congress on Monday that the world has long passed the “dangerous level” for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and needs to get back to 1988 levels. He said Earth’s atmosphere can only stay this loaded with man-made carbon dioxide for a couple more decades without changes such as mass extinction, ecosystem collapse and dramatic sea level rises.

“We’re toast if we don’t get on a very different path,” Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences who is sometimes called the godfather of global warming science, told The Associated Press. “This is the last chance.”

So we’ve pretty much already passed over the GW tipping point. The hope now is to try and moderate some of the effects. This has been a major push at the G8 summit in Hokaido.

Unfortunately that’s not going to happen with the present leadership. And not just the U.S. leadership, the whole G8 has problems.

The leaders of the world’s richest countries have squandered yet another opportunity to lead the global community when it comes to climate change. The G8 Summit in Japan has issued a classically vague and nonbinding statement endorsing the idea of halving carbon emissions by 2050, a goal well below the emissions cuts proposed by leaders of many of the G8 nations.

The declaration on the environment and climate change gives a lot of lip service to various “low-carbon technologies” but offers little in terms of new policy to help facilitate development and deployment.

More baffling is the way in which the statement names certain technologies and omits others. Nuclear and biofuels receive strong commendations, while wind and solar fail to get a single mention. Meanwhile clean coal technologies, including carbon capture and sequestration, are given a whole paragraph, in which there resides one of the most clearly worded assertions: “We strongly support the launching of 20 large-scale CCS demonstration projects globally by 2010, taking into account various national circumstances, with a view to beginning broad deployment of CCS by 2020.”

[full post]

The other part of the backsliding is highlighted in this NYT article.

RUSUTSU, Japan — Pledging to “move toward a low-carbon society,” leaders of the world’s richest nations vowed Tuesday to work with emerging powers to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, but did not specify whether the starting point would be current levels or 1990 levels, and refused to set a short-term target for reducing the gases that scientists agree are warming the planet.

So they can’t even decide what the baseline is, much less make any realistic, trackable goal.

The G8 is also hampered here, as China and India, the two main U.S. competitors for “Polluter of the Planet” are not represented and the U.S. won’t sign a deal without them. And they won’t sign one without the the U.S.

So we have a nice stalemate, and the water slowly gets hotter.

The frog sits, waiting for flies.

Help Me Post Faster

SOS: the signal that has saved thousands turns 100 – Times Online

“Send SOS,” one of the Titanic’s radio operators supposedly said to another after the famous ship struck that infamous iceberg. “It’s the new call and besides this may be your last chance to send it.”

That “new call” is 100 years old [last week], and people around the world who owe their lives to that piece of Morse code may reflect this morning on its importance.

In the past century, “SOS” has become a firm part of popular culture used in everything from DIY programme titles to Abba hits. But it began life in a far more serious setting after being adopted by the international community on July 1, 1908, as the globally recognised distress signal for ships at sea.

I’m pretty sure S.0.S. marked a significant point in the Industrial Age.  Much as GPS has done for us now.

Sign of the Times

The Joys of the Early 21st Century

The Joys of the Early 21st Century

That’s for the upper end of the spectrum.  The lower end looks more like this

Poor people in the United States are increasingly at risk from tropical diseases such as dengue fever and Chagas disease, says a new report.

Researchers blame climate change and increasing poverty for the increased spread of these infectious illnesses.

The study warns that while these diseases are not always fatal, they are severely debilitating.

Jamming in 1000 A.D.

Marginal Revolution: Time travel back to 1000 A.D.: Survival tips

Londenio, a loyal MR reader, asks:

I wanted to ask for survival tips in case I am unexpectedly transported to a random location in Europe (say for instance current France/Benelux/Germany) in the year 1000 AD (plus or minus 200 years). I assume that such transportation would leave me with what I am wearing, what I know, and nothing else. Any advice would help.

I hope you have an expensive gold wedding band but otherwise start off by keeping your mouth shut. Find someone who will take care of you for a few days or weeks and then look for employment in the local church. Your marginal product is quite low, even once you have learned the local language. You might think that knowing economics, or perhaps quantum mechanics, will do you some good but in reality people won’t even think your jokes are funny. Even if you can prove Euler’s Theorem from memory no one will understand your notation. I hope you have a strong back and an up to date smallpox vaccination.

Readers, do you have any other tips? Is there any way that Londenio can leverage his knowledge of modernity (he is, by the way, a marketing professor) into socially valuable outputs? Would prattling on about sanitation and communicable diseases do him any good?

This post is from a good while back. There is some fun reading at that link above and in this Kottke thread.

And if you are really up for it, here’s a free MP3, 1000 A.D. on the same topic. It’s from Hillel(?) over at Sugerfix (who, BTW, has one of the best “about” pages I’ve read in a while *).

Personally, I think I would need to bring out a whole lot of pirate and a lot less robot to live happily in ye olde Dark Ages.

Continue reading

testing the new iPhone interface.

I have to say, this is quite an improvement over the old one.

It looks to be about as simple as possible, which I like a great deal.


NOTE: This is a reference to this wordpress update.

Yes, I did find a bug in it.

Do you see it?

spoiler: I posted a comment about it in the thread.


One of the best things about being a robot is that I think like one. And one of the benefits of that trait, at least in the modern world, is that I can tell when another robot is lying.

Which is to say, when a robot of being logically invalid.

Which is how robots lie. Otherwise they are incapable of it.


Note the “categories” attached to the post you are currently reading…

Then note the “tags” attached to the post you are reading (or lack thereof), which was originally posted via my iphone and later updated through my firefox.

Note the interface…

That’s a bug. Fellas.

But it still works great.

Iraq PM Wants Obama to Be President (i.e. wants a Timetable and Soverignity)

Iraq says may agree to timetable for U.S. withdrawal – Yahoo! News

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the prospect on Monday of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of negotiations over a new security agreement with Washington.

It was the first time the U.S.-backed Shi’ite-led government has floated the idea of a timetable for the removal of American forces from Iraq. The Bush administration has always opposed such a move, saying it would give militant groups an advantage.

The security deal under negotiation will replace a U.N. mandate for the presence of U.S. troops that expires on December 31.

“Today, we are looking at the necessity of terminating the foreign presence on Iraqi lands and restoring full sovereignty,” Maliki told Arab ambassadors in blunt remarks during an official visit to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

I think that pretty much ends discussion on the topic.

The simple fact of the matter is that the Iraqi people are ready for us to go.  The majority of the American people are ready for us to go.  The VAST MAJORITY OF THE WORLD wants us to go.

Obama wants us to go.  McCain doesn’t.

Why are we even still having this discussion?

Ahh, yes…

“One of the two basic topics is either to have a memorandum of understanding for the departure of forces or a memorandum of understanding to set a timetable for the presence of the forces, so that we know (their presence) will end in a specific time.”

Maliki was responding to questions from the ambassadors about the security negotiations with the United States. The exchange was shown on Iraqiya state television.

U.S. officials in Baghdad had no immediate comment. Last month Maliki caught Washington off guard when he said talks on the security deal were at a “dead end” after he complained Iraq’s sovereignty was being infringed by U.S. demands.

Oil and Terror.  That’s why some want to stay.  We don’t yet have the agreements in place that were the major impetus for starting this whole debacle.  And we don’t have carte blanche to go in and abduct or kill anyone we want.  Those are the three main sticking points, extra-legal right to the Iraqi people (that we think are bad), ownership of Iraqi oil (which we think is good), and immunity from Iraqi courts (which we would rather avoid, since our mercenaries have done lots of bad things).

All of these can be resolved by an Obama presidency or exacerbated by a McCain one.  Vote accordingly.


UPDATE: One of the sticking points has been resolved, generally…

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s foreign minister said Tuesday that the United States had agreed to lift immunity for foreign security contractors operating in Iraq, making them subject to prosecution under Iraqi law, according to Iraqi politicians.

In a briefing for lawmakers on the status of a complex security agreement being negotiated with the United States, the foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said Iraq had insisted on ending the immunity for private security companies, according to three Iraqi politicians who were present. American troops are operating under a United Nations mandate that expires in December.

The private security companies, like Blackwater Worldwide, have reputations of using excessive force in protecting diplomatic and other foreign clients, and currently enjoy immunity from Iraqi law. That immunity became a political issue last fall, after a Blackwater shooting in Baghdad in September left 17 Iraqis dead, according to Iraqi investigators.