Monday, April 27, 2009

FBI Interrogator: Torture doesn't work -- duh.

Op-Ed Contributor - My Tortured Decision -
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.

The idea of torture is wrong on so many levels it shouldn't even be an issue. Even if it did "work", it is still immoral and diametrically opposed to what America is supposed to stand for.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The spurned lover...

I can't improve on Bill Maher's words, so I won't try...

The GOP: divorced from reality - Los Angeles Times
Look, I get it, "real America." After an eight-year run of controlling the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, this latest election has you feeling like a rejected husband. You've come home to find your things out on the front lawn -- or at least more things than you usually keep out on the front lawn. You're not ready to let go, but the country you love is moving on. And now you want to call it a whore and key its car.

That's what you are, the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him -- obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will.

But it's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy.

The healthy thing to do is to just get past it and learn to cherish the memories. You'll always have New Orleans and Abu Ghraib.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The values on the Right

We're told that the right represents the "moral majority" ... that they stand for traditional American values. Yea right: like that perennial favorite "value" of the right -- "the end justifies the means". It seems to be a recurring theme (think Nixon, Reagan).

I find myself dumb-founded at the reasoning used by the Republicans who say "enhanced interrogations kept us safe". Why do people consider such an argument even relevant let alone true?

I thought ethics and values spoke to what you do when no one is looking. If an enemy is willing to do heinous things to our citizens our response is a true test of those values. If you abandon the rule of law and our principles when its convenient, well -- were they really values? If our creeds and laws are only there for show -- well, we're worse than those who openly profess their violent goals.

Besides, even if we "only" used techniques like water-boarding and sleep deprivation, who wouldn't say what the interrogator wanted to hear? Especially after 183 sessions on the water board...

And even if torture did "keep us safe" -- well, what else can it help with? Maybe water boarding suspected murderers will coax them to admit their crimes. Maybe sleep deprivation will help someone remember the names of accomplices -- or at least of people he doesn't like. The possibilities are endless. All we need is another tough-on-crime republican in office.

We need a full investigation. I hope the justice department follows the trail wherever it leads... and I think it'll lead to the very top.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The dumb interviewing the evil... or Fox News

Ignorance was on display again today... Hannity interviewed Cheney. What could be better entertainment -- except that Fox News viewers actually believed it was a NEWS show...

More like bread and circuses...

Most (intelligent) people should have realized it was the witless interviewing the evil as soon as Sean Hannity accused Chavez of being a "dictator" ... News flash Sean: Hugo Chavez was elected ... thrice.

But facts like that can't get in the way of a good liberal bashing session. The fact that Obama shook his hand obviously means that our leader is ready to sell out our interests.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that President Obama’s handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez “was not helpful” and could lead “foes” of the U.S. to “think they're dealing with a weak president.”
Really? The VP is instrumental in authorizing torture of "enemy combatants" -- but that's not a hit on the US' image & influence with allies and enemies alike... But a handshake at a conference is detriment to those relationships?

I just can't imagine the bizzaro-world these people live in.

Maybe a little history: Nixon gave Premier Leonid Brezhnev a Cadillac during a visit in 1972. Was he an appeaser? Was Nixon undermining our relationship with the USSR by appearing weak to the leader of the "evil empire"?

Of course, Brezhnev WAS a dictator ... a man who blatantly threatened the US with nuclear annihilation.

And then there was Mao... More weakness! Those damn diplomats...

Reagan - the god of the republican party, sold weapons to Iran ... but somehow he's remembered as the "tough" leader.

Lets not forget that Dick Cheney was an advocate for our "ally in the war on terror" -- the Pakistani's and their dictator Musharraf... Yea right, allies. The Pakistani intelligence service has and still IS more closely allied with the Islamists in the western frontier than the West -- or even the Pakistani government.

I don't know if the current hyperbole is a result of the dumbing-down of the US population -- or if it's purely the result of the read meat Fox News and their cohorts spew into the willing ears of the faux-patriots who put flag-waving and belligerent chants above a basic understanding of the rule of law.

(ah - that run-on felt good.)

Maybe its a LOT of both...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tax hysteria...

Tax Revolts: Some Succeed, Most Don’t - Room for Debate Blog -
Starting with the election of Ronald Reagan, conservatives have led an effort to vilify the income tax — which is reflected in the polls. However, what is often forgotten is that Reagan raised taxes twice (in 1982 and in 1986 on corporations). The modern Republican tax protest movement really only took off after George Bush Sr. broke his “no new taxes” pledge in 1991 and lost his re-election bid in 1992 (for unrelated reasons). Subsequently it became hard for Republicans to raise taxes even in the face of two unexpected wars and a huge budget deficit.

Most people forget that income taxes were about 10 points higher than today during most of his administration ... and that Reagan actually RAISED taxes -- twice.

Maybe the news outlets who claims to "report and let you decide" ... is really doing more news stimulation and creation than reporting...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Income gap...

Income Gaps Hit Record Levels In 2006, New Data Show — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
New data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that in 2006, the top 1 percent of households had a larger share of the nation’s after-tax income, and the middle and bottom fifths of households had smaller shares, than in any year since 1979, the first year the CBO data cover. As a result, the gaps in after-tax incomes between households in the top 1 percent and those in the middle and bottom fifths were the widest on record.

Monday, April 06, 2009

About time...

Gates: Scrap F-22 Jet, President's New Helicopter : NPR
Secretary Robert Gates on Monday recommended halting production of the F-22 fighter jet and scrapping a new helicopter for the president as he outlined deep cuts to many of the military's biggest weapons programs.

Gates said his $534 billion budget proposal represents a "fundamental overhaul" in defense acquisition and reflects a shift in priorities from fighting conventional wars to the newer threats U.S. forces face from insurgents in places such as Afghanistan.
This country spends far to much on sophisticated weapon systems...

The men behind the madness...

A Rich Education for Summers (After Harvard) -
Lawrence H. Summers plays down his stint in the hedge fund business as a mere part-time job — but the financial and intellectual rewards that he gained there would make even most full-time workers envious.

The status quo -- Summers, Rubin, Geithner and the rest are the financial 'geniuses' responsible for creating this mess... and now they are supposed to get us out of it?

These people drink their own Kool-aid ... They beleive these "financial markets" simply need to be recapitalized. The real solution? Most of them don't even need to exist.

Sure, we need capital markets to raise money to BUILD THINGS... to invest in research... to fund entrepeneurs who actually increase our standard of living by making 'stuff' ...

But most of these markets exist for their own sake: to enrich other bankers and investors who's sole function is life is pushing piles of money around -- like some sick game of musical chairs where (win or lose) you take your cut.

Finance is a necessary evil. But these people beleive their own propaganda. Read DeSantis' letter of resignation...It oozes with the kind of self-righteous nonsense that only a person WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVES pushing piles of money around in circles EARNS HIM $760+ MILLION per year.

Until society and its people realize this is criminal insanity things won't get better...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Faith's fallacy

It is in fact because scientists are constantly trying to falsify their own claims that we can have a reasonable degree of confidence in the ones that we have not yet managed to falsify. (Ask any responsible scientist what it would take to make her give up her beliefs about any part of the world, and she will be able to tell you. Ask a typical religious believer what it would take to convince him that, say, Jesus was not the son of God, and you will succeed at most in irritating him—you will almost certainly get no answer at all.)

Faith, then, has a highly unfortunate double consequence: It increases one's confidence in one's beliefs, while simultaneously decreasing one's grounds for confidence. Pace Micklethwait and Wooldridge, what faith provides is not in fact certainty, but rather the feeling of certainty.