Has entertainment value.
"Perhaps I should not say 'terrorists' so rashly. But you can see how tempting it is."
Has entertainment value.
"Perhaps I should not say 'terrorists' so rashly. But you can see how tempting it is."
My Dear Wormwood,
Your suggestion that I "sign up" for something called "Twitter" is noted, and rejected. I gather from your rapturous description of the thing that "tweeting" is one of the ephemera through which the humans chatter with one another using their internet. Having been promoted from the front lines to a policy-making position some centuries ago, I no longer have interest in corresponding with the vermin through physical means. On the occasions when I do desire the society of humans there is no shortage of them here in Hell, where one can communicate with them in terms rather more frank than is possible on Earth.
In your enthusiasm for the nuts and bolts of the humans' technology, you seem to miss the opportunities it offers. For example, you boast that your patient, in discussing the most recent controversy occupying the humans' fleeting attention, rebuked another of the beasts in terms profane and sacrilegious, as though this was some great sin. While it is always pleasing to Our Father Below when the man utters a sacrilege, we long ago degraded their speech, particularly in America, to a level barely more articulate than the hoots and grunts of the apes from which they claim to descend.
The great sin, which your patient failed as thoroughly as you to appreciate, was that he entered the discussion in the first place. Think of it, Wormwood, at the moment your patient "clicked the upvote button" in the expectation that his demand would grant the girl a long life, he arrogated to himself that power which belongs solely to the Enemy. In his pride, the fool presumes that he is as qualified to decide the best use of the lung as a transplant surgeon, when in fact he has no medical training and his sense of ethics is limited to parroting platitudes he was taught by older parrots in his half-forgotten school days.
This misplaced pride is particularly common among the American humans. Make no mistake: The idea on which their republic was founded, that all men are born equal in the Enemy's sight, is a noxious and pestilential notion which, if the humans properly understood and followed it, would be the ruin of many of our plans. We want every man to think of himself as better or worse than his brother. If a man thinks himself his brother's superior (whether he actually is or not is of little concern to us), we can foster the pleasing sins of pride, wrath, tyranny, and at the best of times the mass murders and genocides which brought so many to Our Father's House in the last century. If he knows himself to be his brother's inferior, we may reap a crop of envy, resentment, false humility, deceit, despair, and suicide.
But as to equality, under the guidance of the Low Command we have largely nullified the meaning of the word, as the Enemy understands it. Rather than the (self-evident) truth that before the Enemy all men are fallen, and so low in His sight as to deserve none of the gifts He has given them through grace alone, in modern parlance equality is understood to mean that each man is actually the equal of his fellow. Thus the fool thinks it virtuous to blather in the company of the wise man, and the ignorant feel it an injustice when rebuked by their betters for empty-headed prattle. This trend has only accelerated since humans created the internet.
And so we come to the events of yesterday, when a herd of cattle, your patient among them, lowed so loudly at being shown a picture of a young girl denied an organ transplant that it now appears the girl will receive the cast-off lung, whether or not she was of suitable age to receive the organ, and in disregard of longstanding rules on which others of the vermin based their expectations. You can be sure that not a one of the brutes considered that in "giving" life to the object of his fancy, he was just as surely taking it from another. In the Roman colosseum, the plebs knew full well that their roars condemned Christians to death. In the modern arena, the plebs dupe themselves that their roaring is righteous.
Thanks to seeds planted long ago by the Lowerarchy, we can expect more such harvests in the future. As the number of the humans increases, their competition for finite resources will grow keener. We have taught mankind to believe that such resources should be allocated arbitrarily, to she who is most popular or to he who cries most loudly of his need, rather than according to rules, laws, or anything approaching such rationality as their little minds can muster. The so-called leaders of their societies, whom we have well in hand, will be only too happy to appease the mob.
Finally, I concur with your facile observation that it benefits our cause for the girl get her lung (the death of a child, while pleasing to the senses, does us no good since we probably cannot get her soul), but the disposition of a piece of dead tissue is of no importance in the long run. What matters is we are fast approaching the day when, by showing the humans a picture of a wounded puppy or a homeless kitten, we can provoke in them such squalls of outrage that they will abandon their laws, their morals, and their reason.
Your affectionate uncle,
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is in federal prison. He's scheduled to remain there until September. He's held under the name "Nakoula Basseley Nakoula," not as "Sam Bacile" (the name he used make the anti-Islamic film "the Innocence of Muslims,") nor under the name "Mark Bassely Youssef" (which he now claims is his current correct name, notwithstanding that he pleaded guilty to a federal crime under the Nakoula name).
Why is he in prison? It depends on who's talking.
To hear some people talk, he's in prison because he made an anti-Islamic movie, because the Obama Administration is eager to cover up the root causes of the Benghazi catastrophe, and because the Obama Administration wants to appease censorious Islamists. Some people merely imply this with headlines: "The guy who made “Innocence of Muslims” is still in jail, and we still don’t know who attacked Benghazi" Some people, like National Review's Rich Lowry, come right out and say it, asserting that Nakoula would not have been arrested and charged with a supervised release revocation but for his speech:
He is not going to win any good citizenship awards and violated the terms of his probation by using an alias (something Nakoula admits).
A violation of probation, though, usually produces a court summons and doesn’t typically lead to more jail time unless it involves an offense that would be worth prosecuting in its own right under federal standards. Not for Nakoula.
This wasn’t a case of nailing Al Capone on tax evasion. As Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute points out, Al Capone’s underlying offense was racketeering and gangland killings. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula’s underlying offense wasn’t an underlying offense. He exercised his First Amendment rights.
These people all have something in common. They've never prosecuted a supervised release revocation in federal court. They've never defended someone accused of violating supervised release in federal court. They've never worked as a federal probation officer or filed a petition to revoke a sueprvisee's release. They've never worked as a federal judge and approved or denied such a petition, or presided over such a hearing. They've never seen a supervised release revocation hearing. Moreover, I'd wager a substantial amount of money that before they opined about the proceedings against Nakoula they didn't talk to anyone who had ever done any of these things, or anyone reasonably well informed about how they are done.
I've observed, and participated in, federal supervised release revocation proceedings since 1995. In writing about Nakoula I've drawn not only on that experience but on the actual documents from his case and on the law. My premise has been this: anyone on supervised release for a federal fraud conviction and owing more than $700,000 in restitution would face supervised release revocation if the Probation Office discovered that they were using aliases, engaging in unreported financial transactions, and using computers in those transactions, all in violation of their terms of release. Most federal judges would issue arrest warrants, not summonses, and most federal judges would order jail time to such a person if they found he had obtained and used a false driver's license and concealed transactions from the Probation Officer. Rich Lowry's claim that "[a] violation of probation, though, usually produces a court summons and doesn’t typically lead to more jail time unless it involves an offense that would be worth prosecuting in its own right under federal standards" is quite frankly pulled straight out of his ass. Supervisees are routinely arrested rather than summoned, particularly when there are indications they might be a flight risk — like using a false identity. Supervisees are routinely returned to prison for offenses that would never be prosecuted federally as separate crimes.
Is Nakoula in federal prison because he made the "Innocence of Muslims" video? Superficially, perhaps, in the sense that his behavior may have escaped detection if he hadn't become famous. It's even possible that someone in the Obama Administration tipped off — or pressured — the Probation Office about his conduct. (If that's what happened, there ought to be a Congressional investigation.) But Nakoula's conduct is the sort that would absolutely be pursued if detected by his Probation Office and would routinely result in a revocation of supervised release and a return to federal prison. People saying otherwise don't know what they are talking about or don't care, or both.
I support a vigorous Congressional inquiry into the attack at Benghazi. The most charitable interpretations of the inquiry to date raise grave concerns about the honesty and decency of Obama Administration officials. I support asking hard questions about whether anyone in the administration contacted the U.S. Probation Office in Los Angeles about Nakoula. But this inquiry doesn't require, and shouldn't encourage, lying about the law. We should absolutely fight, to our last breath, pressure to yield to unprincipled "hate speech" and "anti-blasphemy" norms of other countries. But the cause of freedom of expression is not advanced by cynical and dishonest partisan bullshit.
Edited to add:
Mr. Baldwin, you're completely awesome. But my days of taking you serious politically are certainly coming to a middle.
A common and tedious refrain amongst some modern conservatives is "these days you're not allowed to criticize X," where X is gays or African-Americans or whatever group the conservatives believe to be unreasonably elevated in modern society this week. By "not allowed to criticize," they don't mean that they'll be arrested or sued or deported; they mean they might be subjected to rough criticism, which as well all know is tyrannical.1
On some occasions these conservatives may have a point: bad behavior should be criticized whatever the hue or orientation of a bad actor. Other times, they're wrong, and their logic absurd.
Take the strange case of Niall Ferguson.
Niall Ferguson is an historian and Harvard professor. If you teach at Harvard or study there, you'll find that you can coast a great distance on the Harvard name with little effort. Ferguson is determined to reject such complacency and make his own mark as an asshole entirely on his own merits. Asked about economist John Maynard Keynes, Ferguson had this explanation for why Keynes was insufficiently future-focused:
Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes’ famous philosophy of self-interest versus the economic philosophy of Edmund Burke, who believed there was a social contract among the living, as well as the dead. Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of "poetry" rather than procreated.
. . .
Ferguson, who is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, and author of The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, says it’s only logical that Keynes would take this selfish worldview because he was an "effete" member of society.
Ferguson later apologized abjectly. We can all say very stupid things sometimes. It's entirely possible his comments were a poorly-thought-out seat-of-the-pants response to a question, not a reflection of a genuine hostility to people based on sexual orientation. Perhaps he's not a irredeemable oaf like, say, Dean Chambers, who suggested that Nate Silver's electoral number-crunching ought not be trusted because he's "a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice."2
Whatever Ferguson is, and whatever he really meant, his apology and the criticism that preceded it has enraged some on the right, who have used it as an example of how you are just not allowed to criticize gays without, you know, people saying mean things about you, which is hurtful. Some have gone further to say that Keynes should be roundly damned because he was a racist and anti-Semite and supported eugenics. Take, as a sample, Robert Stacy McCain:
A friend on Twitter informs me that John Maynard Keynes was an anti-Semite who was also head of the British Eugenics Society, which under ordinary liberal custom would be enough to render someone historically radioactive. However it seems the new rule is that being gay — or, as was apparently the case with Keynes, being nominally bisexual — is sufficient to silence all criticism.
Niall Ferguson says, in effect, “John Maynard Keynes was a bad economist who was wrong about everything and also, he was gay, which might be relevant to the problem.” OUTRAGE!
Well, here you go: Jeffrey Dahmer was a serial killer and a cannibal, and also, he was gay, which might be relevant to the problem.
What's amazing is that McCain and people advancing the "Keynes was an awful person" argument don't seem to grasp that this makes Ferguson look worse, not better.
Assume, for the sake of argument, that Keynes was indeed a racist and an awful anti-Semite and an advocate of eugenics, the practice of compelled selective breeding to weed out "undesirables." Niall Ferguson was asked to offer a criticism of Keynes and his view of responsibility towards the future. Ferguson didn't say "Keynes' anti-Semitism, the rot at the root of many disordered economic theories, characterized his failed thinking about peoples and nations." Ferguson didn't say "Keynes was an advocate of eugenics, a sign that he saw people as instruments rather than as individuals whose autonomy is its own good end." No, instead, Ferguson went with the "he was a childless effete who read poetry rather than screwing his wife." That line of argument is not, in fact, a flattering defense of Niall Ferguson. Similarly, when someone who is black or gay is an utter cad, and your critique of them centers on their identity as black or gay, it's ridiculous to complain when people don't focus on your target being a cad.
Since McCain brought up serial killers, I'll now explain the title: what would you think of someone who, asked what they thought of John Wayne Gacy, said "I hate his clown paintings?"
Period One: Advanced Placement English. Discussion continues on Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Students will consider the moral ramifications of Adolf Eichmann's defense that he participated in genocide on orders from higher authority. The instructor is expected to question students on the distinction between lawful action and moral action, with emphasis on agency and personal responsibility. The lesson should lead into issues raised by the following reading assignments, Joseph Heller's Catch-22, and Franz Kafka's The Trial.
Period Two: American History. The study of the life of George Washington continues. Having concluded examination of Washington's policies as President, students will discuss the popular history and lore surrounding our nation's founding father. Parson Weems' story of the cherry tree, in which Washington honestly admitted to wrongdoing, will be discussed. Questions students should consider include: Was Washington's father right to forgive his son for cutting the cherry tree in light of the son's forthright admission? Is Washington to be admired for his integrity and honesty, or to be condemned as a tree killer? And how did this episode affect Washington's future development as a general and statesman?
Period Three: Advanced Placement Mathematics. Symbolic logic is introduced. Through word problems, students will reduce complex concepts to mathematical formulae, with allowance for variables and contingencies. Sample problem:
North Carolina General Statute 14-269.2 makes it a Class I Felony to knowingly possess a weapon on school property. However, the charge shall be reduced to a Misdemeanor when the weapon is unloaded, is in a vehicle, and is kept locked. Cole mistakenly brings an unloaded shotgun to school after a weekend of sport shooting, in a vehicle which is locked. When Cole discovers his mistake, he confesses and asks for permission to return the shotgun to his home. Explain, in logical terms, why it is appropriate to charge Cole with a crime at all, and why it is appropriate to charge Cole with a Class I Felony, rather than a Misdemeanor?
Period Four: Film Criticism Elective. This week's material is Spike Lee's controversial 1989 film, Do The Right Thing. Parental consent is required to view the assignment. Matters to be explored include Lee's use of contemporary hip hop music as a leitmotif, Lee's cinematography as an exemplar of the early "New York independent" school of film editing, and the moral implications of the death of Radio Raheem and the burning of Sal's Pizzeria. Students should discuss how these tragedies could have been avoided, had the characters embraced the spirit of neighborhood and compromise that formerly characterized relations between the people who inhabit this city block.
Lunch Break: This week's cafeteria offerings: Monday, Salisbury Steak. Tuesday, Stuffed Cabbage. Wednesday, Ham Loaf. Thursday (in honor of National Sweet Potato Week), Yam Surprise. Friday, Salisbury Steak.
Period Five: Physical Education. Dodge Ball.
Period Six: Student Assembly and Study Hall. This week's assembly will feature an address from Principal Kirk Denning, on the topic, "With Actions Come Consequences." Principal Denning will also discuss our school's longstanding "zero tolerance" policy toward drugs, as applied to cough syrup.
Period Seven: Earth Science. Students will study metals, and their uses in technology and industry. The instructor will discuss the characteristics of iron as an exemplar metal, explaining its properties as the most rigid, unbending, inelastic, unyielding, obdurate, stern, unchanging, obstinate, stubborn, unswayable, hard, inflexible, and stupid of metals.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts has just filed two criminal complaints arising from the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. One complaint is against two men, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov. The other complaint is against one man, Robel Phillipos.
Documents are already available on PACER.
The current docket (the record of court actions in the case, with links to documents) is here in the case against Kadybayev and Tazhayakov. The complaint cover sheet against them is here. The affidavit in support of the complaint against them — which has an FBI agent's statement of the evidence supplying probable cause — is here.
The docket in the case against Pillipos is here. The complaint against him is here. The affidavit — which appears at a brief glance to be the same one from the case against the other two men – is here.
The first complaint charges Kadybayev and Tazhayakov with a conspiracy to violate federal law in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 371 — the generic federal conspiracy statute. The object of the conspiracy — the federal law the defendants are alleged to have conspired to violate — is destruction of evidence in a federal investigation in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 1519.
The second complaint charges Phillipos with making a false statement to the government in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 1001.
Read the affidavit yourself. Very briefly, the affidavit alleges that Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov saw emptied-out fireworks in accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's room, concluded that he was one of the Boston Marathon bombers, and decided to dispose of the container of hollowed-out fireworks, apparently to protect Tsarnaev. Phillipos, the FBI alleges, gave multiple statements and initially lied about what he knew of actions by Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov.
A few points:
1. They may or may not have their first appearance today, May 1st. here's what I wrote about how a first appearance works and what happens next.
2. Why did they charge Phillipos separately? It's too early to say. They may be cutting him out from the other two to testify against them, they may be avoiding "misjoinder" (putting together different charges and defendants that don't belong together) even though it's premature to worry about that before the indictment, or there may be some other strategic reason.
3. Remember how I said earlier today that you should shut up rather than talk to the feds, because you'll just wind up (1) confessing, (2) making a stupid false statement that will make you look guilty, or (3) make a stupid false statement that will get you charged with making a stupid false statement? Yeah. This is what I was talking about.
4. The same magistrate judge signed off on the complaints. I'm going to have to come up with more conspiracy theories.
"I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality," Broussard said. "I think it's a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.
"If you're openly living in unrepentant sin … that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ," he added.
Yeah, Jason Collins is really bringing down the high moral tone of the NBA.
Chris Broussard is a dinosaur snarling at the oncoming asteroid. Even opposition to gay marriage is doomed in the long term, let alone dwindling opposition to gays and lesbians living openly. If they are angered by people like Jason Collins, Broussard and his ilk are destined for lives of increasingly marginalized bitterness and resentment.
But that's not enough for some who think Chris Broussard's views should be suppressed by force of law. For instance, over at Pacific Standard, Nicholas Jackson uses Chris Broussard as an opportunity to call for censorship and be thoroughly wrong about free speech and the First Amendment. It's typical for people to react to obnoxious speech by waving their arms and proclaiming vaguely there oughta be a law; that's banal. Jackson distinguishes himself by asserting authority and then promoting disinformation about the law, all in the service of an argument that the law should prohibit Broussard's speech.
What authority, you might ask? Authority as a journalist:
It’s the blanket free speech argument. (And I know that argument well. As a wildly conservative—this is back in the jingo days before I came out, when I was using the near-lethal combination of pen and temper to shield my own personal insecurities—high school student, I wrote a number of columns for the student newspaper and regional publications in the Chicago area on this subject.) But the blanket free speech argument is a weak one. Any journalist knows that. After a basic media ethics class (the easy way) or a handful of frightening emails from a subject (the hard way), you’ll know a thing or two about libel and slander.
Jackson relies upon his journalist's experience to tell us that the Supreme Court has many restrictions on free speech, and has been cutting back on the First Amendment.
There’s also, of course, obscenity, child pornography, incitement, false or misleading advertising (all commercial speech is subject to limited protection), and speech owned by others (this is where trademarks and copyright issues come into play). Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has tightened the definition of free speech over and over again.
Therefore, Jackson suggests, the "fighting words" doctrine should just be expanded a bit to prohibit words like Broussards'.
Jackson's just flat-out wrong.
First, Jackson's censorious fantasies aside, the Supreme Court has been expanding free speech rights for a half-century, not "tightening" them. With very few context-specific exceptions — like speech at schools — the Supreme Court has used every opportunity to reject the argument that the First Amendment permits suppression of speech because it's "offensive." In doing so, the Court has relentlessly rejected attempts to expand — or even apply — the "fighting words" doctrine. The Court said it wasn't fighting words to wear a jacket with the words "Fuck the Draft." The Court Court held Jerry Falwell couldn't recover for the humiliation of a Hustler ad parody suggesting he lost his virginity to his mother in an outhouse, "fighting words" doctrine or not. The Court overturned flag burning laws, rejecting the argument that flag-burning constitutes "fighting words." The Court found a broad hate speech law to be unconstitutional, noting that the "fighting words" doctrine could not be applied selectively to disfavored speech. And, as Jackson concedes, the Supreme Court rejected — by an 8 to 1 margin — the argument that Fred Phelps' douchebaggery constitutes "fighting words" just because it causes emotional pain.
Nor has the Court been willing to carve out new exceptions to the First Amendment. The Court refused to create a new First Amendment exception for lies about military credentials. It refused to create a new exception for depictions of animal abuse.
In short, the "fighting words" doctrine is dying. It's quite rare to see it used to justify censorship. What Nicholas Jackson is asking for is not the minor tweak to current doctrine that he suggests, but a wholesale reversal of fifty years of free speech precedent. Why does he think we should do that?
Now, as a 25-year-old, I appreciate those restrictions [on speech], because, frankly, I don’t want to listen to your bullshit.
Oh, Nicholas. Believe me when I understand that I get that right now. But it's not enough. My right to free speech depends on the free speech of people like Broussard. If you think that that's just a rhetorical flourish, let me remind you of Nicholas' own words:
After a couple of years in which we’ve seen dozens of studies—LGBT youth who are bullied are far more likely to consider and commit suicide; acceptance from family and friends minimizes risk—and a similar number of deaths, Broussard’s words, and the arguments by otherwise reasonable people that they should be protected by free speech, are no longer acceptable. They’re fighting words. [emphasis added]
Yes: not talking out of your ass when you discuss the First Amendment is now hate speech, according to Jackson.
Broussard's team is losing, or has lost. Their traditional argument — that homosexuality is evil, and dirty, and icky, and morally objectionable to decent people — is no longer palatable to most people, let alone convincing. Therefore their strategy has shifted. More and more, the public argument against gay marriage is not that it's morally wrong, but that expanding gay rights will necessarily lead to fewer rights for everyone else. We're told that recognizing the equal rights of gays and lesbians will lead to suppression of freedom of speech and religion.
I don't think that's a winning argument long-term. But people like Nicholas Jackson do their best to make it seem plausible.
Nicholas Jackson is a useful idiot for the anti-gay right.
multiple print/radio/visual/digital sources 4/13 malreported ricin postal attack rectify
references perpetrator malidentified malreported rectify
malreporting "Paul Kevin Curtis" remove all references nonperson
replace correctreport "Everett Dutschke" alwaystrue rewrite
goodreport emphasize "martial arts instructor" eliminate malreport nonemphasize "Elvis impersonator"
federal law enforcement goodquote newreport emphasize words "discover" "investigation" "uncover" "reveal" "determine" "analysis" "dogged" "intensive"
doubleplusungood malreport avoid words "blunder" "mistaken" "innocent" "frame" "incorrect" "incompetent" "polyestered over-armed fuckwits" "put the 'special' in 'special agent'" "indifferent thugs"
media subsidiaries/partners emphasize goodquote "exclusive" "determined" "discovered" "revealed" "explain" "report to you"
doubleplusungood malreport avoid words "gullible" "credulous" "vapid" "coke-snorting upjumped typists" "amoral bootlicking sternographers" "jaded badgehumpers"
rectify correctreport "Everett Dutschke" has always been perpetrator "Paul Kevin Curtis" nonperson has never been perpetrator
The White House now has a Tumblr page.
And yet the President has not updated his MySpace profile since April 2011. America has gone two years and twenty-three days without a MySpace update.
What does the President know, and with which sleazy Los Angeles hair metal bands has he shared it?
On April 16, like me, you were probably paying attention to the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, waiting breathlessly for intrepid journalists at CNN, the New York Post, and Reddit to implicate a series of innocent people in a manner suggesting the involvement of a doctor with a flashlight. If your attention wandered from that, you may have become preoccupied by a tremendous explosion in Texas, one not preceded by the traditional local incantation "hey, hold my beer." Then you probably looked back at Boston for a two-day chase involving stolen SUVs and grenades and gunfights and boats. It was a very American week in the media.
I know I was paying attention to all of that. Oh, and the kids were being the kids, and I was busy at work, and I was irritable.
Maybe that's why I didn't notice the release of a detailed report explaining how America has tortured people since 9/11.
Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.
This finding, offered without reservation, is not based on any impressionistic approach to the issue. No member of the Task Force made this decision because the techniques “seemed like torture to me,” or “I would regard that as torture.” Instead, this conclusion is grounded in a thorough and detailed examination of what constitutes torture in many contexts, notably historical and legal. The Task Force examined court cases in which torture was deemed to have occurred both inside and outside the country and, tellingly, in instances in which the United States has leveled the charge of torture against other governments. The United States may not declare a nation guilty of engaging in torture and then exempt itself from being so labeled for similar if not identical conduct. The extensive research that led to the conclusion that the United States engaged in torture is contained in a detailed legal memorandum attached to this report. It should be noted that the conclusion that torture was used means it occurred in many instances and across a wide range of theaters. This judgment is not restricted to or dependent on the three cases in which detainees of the CIA were subjected to waterboarding, which had been approved at the highest levels.
But, of course, it was necessary, right?
There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable. There are, nonetheless, strong assertions by some former senior government officials that the use of those techniques did, in fact, yield valuable intelligence that resulted in operational and strategic successes. But those officials say that the evidence of such success may not be disclosed for reasons of national security.
The report is lengthy and detailed. I'm still reading it. A report condemning the government is no more worthy of automatic belief than a statement supporting the government. My evaluation of the report would be aided by critical reviews, both pro and con, both in the "mainstream media" and amongst bloggers. I'm not holding my breath for it. Consider how little it's been reported during this tumultuous week. I could try to be outraged or smug about that, but the truth is that it is entirely possible that I will be distracted by other, simpler, funnier things.
This is how most of us have decided we are willing to live.
First, just in case it's not utterly obvious, I'm glad that the two murderous cowards who attacked civilians in Boston recently are off the streets. One dead and one in custody is a great outcome.
That said, a large percent of the reaction in Boston has been security theater. "Four victims brutally killed" goes by other names in other cities.
In Detroit, for example, they call it "Tuesday".
…and Detroit does not shut down every time there are a few murders.
"But Clark," I hear you say, "this is different. This was a terrorist attack."
Washington DC, during ongoing sniper terrorist attacks in 2002 that killed twice as many people, was not shut down.
Kileen Texas, after the Fort Hood terrorist attack in 2009 that killed three times as many people, was not shut down.
London, after the bombing terrorist attack in 2005 that killed more than ten times as many people, was not shut down.
"But Clark," I hear you asking, "what about the lives saved?"
There is no evidence that any lives were saved by the Boston shutdown.
"Yeah, but you can't know for sure!"
True. I can't. But in London, Washington, LA after the El Al shootings, and so on and so on and so on, there were not lockdowns, and there were no further fatalities. It's not perfect proof, but it's suggestive.
"Then why the hell do you care, Clark?"
First, the unprecendented shutdown of a major American city may have increased safety some small bit, but it was not without a cost: keeping somewhere between 2 and 5 million people from work, shopping, and school destroyed a nearly unimaginable amount of value. If we call it just three million people, and we peg the cost at a mere $15 per person per hour, the destroyed value runs to a significant fraction of a billion dollars.
"Yeah, maybe…but in this day and age where the federal government is borrowing an extra $3.85 billion per day, a couple of hundred million doesn't sound like much. After all, if we're borrowing money that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back to fund Cowboy Poetry Festival and military golf courses, then what's another $200 or $400 million to keep people safe?"
I've got multiple answers:
First, just because you're already two hundred pounds overweight doesn't mean that another bowl of ice cream won't hurt you. It will.
Second, the cost isn't just measured in dollars – it's measured in the degree to which it trains a population to freak out over minor risk and to trust blindly in authorities.
Third, keeping citizens off the street meant that 99% of the eyes and brains that might solve a crime were being wasted. Eric S Raymond famously said that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow". It was thousands of citizen photographs that helped break this case, and it was a citizen who found the second bomber. Yes, that's right – it wasn't until the stupid lock-down was ended that a citizen found the second murderer:
The boat’s owners, a couple, spent Friday hunkered down under the stay-at-home order. When it was lifted early in the evening, they ventured outside for some fresh air and the man noticed the tarp on his boat blowing in the wind, according to their his son, Robert Duffy.
The cords securing it had been cut and there was blood near the straps.
We had thousands of police going door-to-door, searching houses…and yet not one of them saw the evidence that a citizen did just minutes after the lock-down ended.
"But Clark," you protest, "you may not trust the government to decide what's risky and what's not, but I do. If it saves even one life, then shutting down a major city is the right move. That's obvious!"
But the Boston police didn't shut down an entire city. They shut down an entire city except for the donut shops.
Law enforcement asked Dunkin' Donuts to keep restaurants open in locked-down communities to provide… food to police… including in Watertown, the focus of the search for the bombing suspect.
The government and police were willing to shut down parts of the economy like the universities, software, biotech, and manufacturing…but when asked to do an actual risk to reward calculation where a small part of the costs landed on their own shoulders, they had no problem weighing one versus the other and then telling the donut servers "yeah, come to work – no one's going to get shot."
And they were right.
Rarely has a legislator expressed what he thinks of the public with such eloquence and and brevity as Republican Tommy Tucker, Chairman of the North Carolina Senate's State and Local Government Committee.
Challenged by a reporter to record a voice vote on a bill that would allow city and county governments to post public notices, traditionally published in newspapers, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard' solely on government websites, so that the Committee's members would have to own up to their votes, how did Tucker respond?
Blogging is by its nature self-promotion, so you may be thinking that I ought not be throwing the first stone at someone who is very impressed with himself. I can only say this in my defense: I'm not promoting myself with your tax dollars.
In this I am different than Tennessee state Representative John Lundberg.
Lundberg has introduced a resolution in the Tennessee legislature bragging on himself and his business, a PR outfit called The Corporate Image. It's nauseating.
WHEREAS, this General Assembly finds it appropriate to pause in its deliberations to acknowledge and applaud the owners and employees of The Corporate Image for their dedication to furthering the public relations industry in the State of Tennessee and throughout the region, the nation, and the world; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED EIGHTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that we hereby honor and commend the owners and employees of The Corporate Image upon their celebration of the company’s 20th Anniversary, and extend to them
our best wishes for every future success.
Rep. Jon Lundberg views his position as an elected representative the way a 13-year-old boy views a tube sock. But I come not to bury Lundberg, but to praise him: he's just more honest about it than other legislators.
Via Radley Balko.
After a crime like yesterday's Boston bombings, it can be worthwhile to reflect on how we've reacted to similar tragedies. Consider the case of Richard Jewell.
A terrorist detonated a bomb at Atlanta's Olympic Park, during the 1996 Olympic games. That terrorist was Eric Robert Rudolph, who pled guilty to the crime along with a number of abortion clinic bombings. Mr. Rudolph is presently a guest at the ADMAX hotel in Florence Colorado.
For nine years, Richard Jewell labored under suspicion that he'd been the bomber. In fact, Richard Jewell was a jewel of a man, a private security guard who spotted the bomb, informed the police of its existence, and escorted park visitors off the site until the bomb exploded. Jewell was a hero.
Such an unlikely hero, it occurred to the FBI, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, that he must have planted the bomb. After all, private security guards are losers. Mall cops. And Jewell, for all his common sense and bravery in a crisis, was an odd man. A little weird, a law-enforcement wannabe who'd just happened to be in the right place at the right time, then went on tv talking as though he was an actual cop. And he was fat.
Obviously that weirdo Jewell had planted the bomb so he could take credit for discovering it.
Or so it seemed, for some reason, to the FBI, which leaked Jewell as the primary suspect, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which took the leak, a perfect story after all, and used it to make Jewell's life Hell on Earth.
And to All Of Us, who behaved like beasts toward Jewell, because after all CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the FBI had fingered him as the bomber.
Jewell died 11 years after the bombing, exonerated and a little richer thanks to several settlements against media outlets like CNN, but still a broken man. In its obituary, the New York Times, which had also reported on the allegations against Jewell, eulogized him as the hero of the Atlanta attack.
Which did Richard Jewell no good whatsoever.
Eric Robert Rudolph has never apologized to Jewell. Nor, for that matter, have the people of Georgia who spat on him. All Of Us.
If the FBI, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and All Of Us, could get the Atlanta bombing so tragically wrong in 1996, they, and we, can do it today. In the days to come, it would behoove All Of Us to take what the FBI, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and their ilk, have to say about suspects and motives with a grain of salt.
Lest we find outselves owing someone a Richard Jewell-sized apology.
Perhaps the best apology we, All Of Us, can give to Richard Jewell is to be a little more skeptical of what we're told by the FBI, and CNN, and NBC, and the New York Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and their ilk.
It will do Richard Jewell no good whatsoever, but it will make All Of Us better citizens.
American social and political culture has shifted rather abruptly towards support for same-sex marriage. Many opponents of same-sex marriage have shifted their rhetoric with it. They have changed focus from increasingly unpersuasive primary arguments (such as appeals to religious norms) to arguments that same sex marriage will have unintended consequences threatening the rights of others. They argue that legalizing same-sex marriage will have the effect of oppressing people who wish to exercise First Amendment rights to dissent from it, whether by speech or association.
Here's the problem: in doing so, some opponents of same sex marriage ("SSM" from here on out, because I am lazy) are promoting ignorance and confusion about basic rights by conflating government action, private action, suppression, and response speech. Ignorance — and I know I am going out on a limb here — is bad.