Who am I?
Christian. Skeptic. Ponderer. Sold on Western Civilization. Background in engineering and software. Rational, but not rationalist.
Informs my values.
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Look closer. Think harder. Choose the sound argument over the clever one.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tomorrow's Perspective Today
James Taranto brings the perspective in "Science has Spoken, Now Shut Up".
"There was a tendency toward alarmism, and that fit perhaps a certain fundraising agenda..."
Friday, November 16, 2007
Around the Brunch Table
Time with loved ones often turns into political debate. Really more like friction, generating more heat than light. With the written word you can take your time, think things through, develop your thoughts uninterrupted, state them clearly and concisely, and scrutinize things to your own satisfaction.
So let's replace heat with light over our brunch table discussion.
Waterboarding. It's very harsh treatment. I wouldn't want it done to me. (That's true of a lot of things.) I think it should be reserved for the toughest cases (and it seems to be). Torture or coercive interrogation? I say the latter. (For one thing, there seems to be no real risk of drowning.)
You seem to think it's obviously torture, but I didn't hear you articulate a definition. Give me one to scrutinize. Here's some of what I might ask:
- Is incarceration torture?
- What about yelling at someone? Doesn't that give the perception that you're about to do them harm?
- What about subjecting someone, in egregious violation of their cherished beliefs, to be treated as a subordinate by an unveiled woman?
Real torture is illegal, and should be. We shouldn't do it for that reason alone.
I do have a lot of sympathy for people trying to stop terrorist attacks. Like police, there are limits to what they can do. But I think stopping terrorist attacks really is a valuable cause. Would you say you share that sympathy (even a little)?
Does it work? Here's ABC News' Brian Ross talking about coercive interrogation yielding valuable information. You seemed unaware of this. I need to see how you come to terms with this, as you seemed to dogmatically assert the opposite. (Of course we need to properly vet everything we receive.)
Will our enemies respect us? Will they treat our soldiers differently? Not a chance. Do you have evidence to the contrary? But that doesn't mean we torture.
How can Christians support it? The same way I support the concept of prison. I'm glad to expound, but maybe you should develop your question a bit more.
Organ failure. It took me a while to find the "organ failure" document. Here it is (PDF, 50 pages). You're right: page 1 does say, "Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."
It wasn't written by Gonzales, but to him by Jay S. Bybee (an Assistant Attorney General). So it's not the Whitehouse's assertion, but a response to the Whitehouse seeking legal opinion.
The authors are seeking interpretation for a phrase in the torture law, aka 18 USC 2340: "severe physical  pain." We see at the top of page 6 that they're looking at other US law for that meaning, which seems reasonable. (Where else should they look?). That's where the offending phrase originates.
It's a very aggressive stance, but best I can tell (including waterboarding) they haven't gone that far. (And isn't liver failure painless?)
The end of the document (p 47ff) lists cases in which US courts have concluded torture occurred. Very interesting, as it brings some much-needed perspective.
To answer my own question, I think the existing torture law provides as good a definition as any, and any definition is subjective.
Know that I consider carefully everything you say. Let me know if I've skipped something you think is important.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
CBS' "Curve Ball" Segment Smells Fishy
CBS' 60 Minutes looks into the CIA's Curve Ball source.
In the process, they throw this astonishing falsehood into the mix (emphasis mine):
More than a hundred summaries of his debriefings were sent to the CIA, which then became a pillar - along with the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium for nuclear weapons - for the U.S. decision to bomb and then invade Iraq. The CIA-director George Tenet gave Alwan’s information to Secretary of State Colin Powell to use at the U.N. in his speech justifying military action against Iraq.
"Now-disproved?" Do they have a careful rebuttal of London's Financial Times report:
The Financial Times revealed last week that a key part of the UK's intelligence on the uranium came from a European intelligence service that undertook a three-year surveillance of an alleged clandestine uranium-smuggling operation of which Iraq was a part.
Or are they just pushing another meme?
Further, under the CBS news video link it reads:
See exclusive video of the Iraqi defector known as "Curve Ball," whose tall tale of mobile biological weapons drove the U.S. argument for invading Iraq.
Does CBS news mention this part of the CIA's report (emphasis mine):
The majority of our information on Iraq's mobile program was obtained from a chemical engineer that managed one of the plants. Three other sources, however, corroborated information related to the mobile BW project.
* The second source was a civil engineer who reported on the existence of at least one truck-transportable facility in December 2000 at the Karbala ammunition depot.
* The third source reported in 2002 that Iraq had manufactured mobile systems for the production of single-cell protein on trailers and railcars but admitted that they could be used for BW agent production.
* The fourth source, a defector from the Iraq Intelligence Service, reported that Baghdad manufactured mobile facilities that we assess could be used for the research of BW agents, vice production.
Hat-tip: The Sundries Shack
P.S.: FWIW, the two sources named in the CBS segment, Tyler Drumheller and Margaret Henoch, seem to have donated money only to Democrats. [OpenSecrets.org links broken, but you can reproduce the search yourself.]