Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eavesdropping, Surveillance and Looking Back

==From the Privacy Front==

Starting our potpourri of sci-tech-soc news: Kinect is watching you! People choose to post personal information on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. However, game platforms like Microsoft's Kinect, continuously observe your nonverbal behavior, capturing every move you make. Subtle facial movements and gestures may seem harmless to share with others, but the way you move is frequently even more revealing than what you say. Researchers have used the Kinect to gather data to diagnose symptoms of ADHD; advertising companies may acquire such data to fine tune commercials.

Look back to watch those who are watching you! Collusion is an experimental add-on for Firefox that allows you to see any third parties that are tracking your movements across the Web. In real time, it visualizes the data as a spider-web of interactions between companies and other trackers. Mozilla is developing Collusion, with support form The Ford Foundation, to enable users to not only see who is tracking them across the Web, but also to turn that tracking off when they choose. You will be able to opt out of sharing your personal data with a global database.

We seem to be - very gradually - winning the most crucial civil liberties issue of our time.  “An Illinois court declared the state's controversial eavesdropping law unconstitutional--opening the recording of encounters with police.” This case is especially important because Illinois politicians made it a matter of explicitly aggressive anti citizen law. “Illinois' eavesdropping statute, one of the strictest in the nation, makes it a felony to record any conversation without the consent of all parties. It carries stiffer sentences — of up to 15 years in prison — if a police officer or court official is recorded without his or her knowledge”  Now, one can understand their reasoning.  Given that nearly all of the last 5 or so Illinois governors have gone to prison and most Illinois pols are deathly afraid of wiretaps, having citizens free to catch corruption terrifies them.  But they need to understand.  This will not stand.   

==Disputation Is Central==

I’ve long promoted the notion of “disputation arenas” or ritualized combat for ideas, as one major way the Web could finally pay off in vital, grand scale ways, doing for that realm what markets do for products and services and science does for truth. In fact, for a rather intense look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition for Society's Benefit."   Also available on Kindle.

This was a core concept in my “Eon Proposal” for several dozen ways to improve our problem-solving skills in times of crisis. Now it appears that Google is taking a step toward bringing disputation to life, with its Hangout Series:  “Versus…will give you the chance to question people who are close to the decisions being made on topical issues, on both sides of the debate. Real-time voting on the channel will also let the speakers know how their arguments are resonating with viewers."

The first debate will focus on the topic of the War on Drugs and will feature the opinions of a wide variety of celebrities, politicians and tycoons...  

==Hackers and Cyberpunks==

Even back in the 1990s, while writing The Transparent Society, I opined that most of today’s romantic “cypherpunks” or hackers - who proclaim themselves to be righteous, brave and sophisticated anarchists or revolutionaries against Big Brother - generally show astonishing naivete and ignorance over even the basics that underground movements understood, going back to anti-Nazi or anti-Soviet resistance, or the cat-and-mouse games versus Czarist secret police, or other legendary struggles going back to Sumer and Babylon. Of the twenty or so fundamental techniques used by oppressive regimes to staunch rebel movements, only three or four are thwarted at all by secret coding and other crypto techniques. Most of the hackers I’ve met seem to be completely unaware of the others, or the relevance of actual history... or else appear to be blithely reliant upon the fact that they don’t live under Big Brother at all. The fact that they can rely on news media, lawyers, and civilized law to protect their persons and families.

That is not to say we might’n’t someday need to resist a genuine Big Brother regime!  History shows that the odds are always against enlightenment, freedom-based societies. To some extent, the romantic Suspicion of Authority (SoA) expressed by cypher-hackers... and libertarians and liberal anti-corporatists... is deeply based and justified.  We are now experiencing an attempted oligarchic putsch like nothing seen since the 1890s. Indeed, I do not mind supremely skilled young geniuses honing useful cyber arts, prowling and poking a bit and becoming capable at skulking through the mazes of power... even if those methods are still less-than-crucial in a society that remains mostly lawful and accountable. Because it might cease to be so! We may need such skillful Neuromancer-types someday. And so, I am not offended by non-harmful “fooling around” with backdoors and cracking and such. Activities that really should be tolerated to some extent. (Indeed, they are! If no money or harm-doing was involved, those who are caught often thereupon face... job offers. (Shudder.))

But here’s the ultimate irony. Those who are best at this craft aren’t preening in public, nor pulling indignant-posturing stunts, attracting the attention of law-enforcement. Want recent evidence? See the latest example, as one of the most “legendary” of the latest round of extroverted hackers was caught fairly easily, then spent months ratting out his comrades.  These aren’t the adults in their movement.  The grownups are keeping low profiles, acting as citizens... while honing their craft quietly, against the day we all might desperately turn to them.

Moreover, just like us, they actually hope such a day will never come.

==Science Snippets==


Earthshine reveals how to analyze exoplanets. 

The biggest obstacle to studying distant planets? Separating their weak light from the blinding photon-torrents pouring out of their nearby suns. A possible method has been suggested to  - "capitalize on a notable difference between light that is reflected off a planet and light that is emitted by a star: the former is often polarized, whereas the latter is not. To demonstrate the enhanced amounts of information embedded in polarized light, Michael Sterzik, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory in Santiago, Chile, looked for biosignatures in Earthshine — the sunlight that’s been reflected off of Earth to the dark portion of the Moon’s face and then back to our planet. “The state of polarization contains a lot of information that hasn’t been used very often,” Sterzik says. Once the planetary component is thus separated, it can be analyzed for spectral components like water, methane, or even chlorophyll.

Hm... actually, this sounds like reason to call up my old UCSD physics Masters Thesis.  While my doctorate provided the modern explanation for comets (covered in a dusty, insulating layer), the earlier work was an advance in the theoretical treatment of polarized light passing through inhomogeneous, unevenly absorbing media... in other words, planetary atmospheres.  

Under certain special circumstances, quantum systems can remain coherent over much greater timescales and distances than conventional quantum thinking expects. Moreover, it appears that that life exploits this process in a way that explains the recent observations from quantum biologists.

Quantum biology you ask? Whassat? The two most famous examples are in bird navigation, where the quantum zeno effect seems to help determine the direction of the Earth's magnetic field, and in photosynthesis, where the way energy passes across giant protein matrices seems to depend on long-lasting quantum coherence.

And now something nifty: a DIY gadget shines different colors of light on a surface depending on its temperature, helping to show where more insulation is needed in a room.  Just the beginning of citizen empowerment through sensortech!

==And Finally== 

Chuckle at this scientifically modified  pastiche of the Last Supper.

54 comments:

john newman said...

We may be winning some court cases, but the political will to enforce those rulings is entirely absent at present. On the other, the push back has begun in the roots, in everyday life. And in keeping with Gibson's dictum that "the future has arrived, it's just poorly distributed", lessons of past oppression are being disseminated digitally. Here's a recent example I stumbled on:

http://www.correntewire.com/provocateur_tactics_and_the_subversion_of_occupy#more

And with regard to hacking, reality is being hacked too. While, of course it began in the Bay area, equally obviously, it is being reported by Al Jazeera rather than any of our national rags:

http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/rise-maker-movement-0022086

The future is changing beneath our feet and our institutions are resisting it as if their lives depend on it: they don't, but they'll have to change or change will wash them away. It is the resistance to change that is fatal for institutions.

rewinn said...

Thanks for the Collusion link. I've installed the add-on and it is *fascinating* (as is the Filter Bubble Ted talk that it links to).

"...biosignatures in Earthshine..."
People worried about being detected by Elder Races should consider sending masking signals. If it's too late to stop the wavefront revealing our existence should we send out a signal indicating that we've blown ourselves out of existence?

"...The grownups are keeping low profiles..."

Perhaps there's some sort of evolutionary process going on, sacrificing the clumsily daring in favor of the more subtle.
I would imagine (...having no actual knowledge...) that law enforcement may look upon this as a problem comparable to fighting infections with antibiotics; if you don't get all the bugs, the remainder get stronger.

Hans said...

regarding:

"...The grownups are keeping low profiles..."

Thomas Friedman made the same observation about the Middle East in his book "From Beirut to Jerusalem". He was talking about Palestinians, of course, but still, the comparison is... interesting.

I'd also make the same observation about your provided links to the future: The future isn't going to come from someplace where we are looking. Sighs.

Hans

PS Captchas suck.

Stefan Jones said...

John's observation:

"The future is changing beneath our feet and our institutions are resisting it as if their lives depend on it: they don't, but they'll have to change or change will wash them away. It is the resistance to change that is fatal for institutions."

Was presaged nearly fifty years ago by wacky, pedantic old Marshall McLuhan:

"But all the conservatism in the world does not afford even a token resistance to the ecological sweep of the new electric media. On a moving highway the vehicle that backs up is accelerating in relation to the highway situation. Such would seem to be the ironical status of the cultural reactionary. When the trend is one way his resistance insures a greater speed of change. Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it."

Understanding Media, chapter 20.

RandyB said...

Tony,

(Continuing from previous thread)

"Upon closer examination, Keystone XL and Northern Gateway Pipeline are hardly the jobs juggernaut their proponents portray them to be."

Not that I'm taking this group's word for it, but it may well be true.

These are calculations that must be made. It's not so much the number of jobs but the amount of resources.

RandyB said...

Paul,

"So "Roughed up" isn't "Harsh" and anyway "Harsh" isn't "Severe". And the CIA has a special technique of "roughing up" prisoners which feels "severe", but by the CIA's lawyers' definition isn't."

It's called "walling," and uses a flexible wall that makes a loud noise when they're slammed into it so that it feels worse than it is. They have special procedures to make sure the terrorist isn't hurt. I thought it was just part of the CIA SOP, but it's listed there as an interrogation technique.


"To me, these games with definitions, and methods that make people feel like they are being severely injured or drowned but do so by manipulation of perception rather than causing the actual physical injury or death, just prove that the perpetrators are not only doing something wrong, they (and you) know it."

Of course they're doing plenty that's wrong. They're dropping bombs on terrorists who quite often operate near civilians who are then at great risk. It is expected that pilots or soldiers or weapons will err, and more innocents could be killed. And sometimes they know in advance that innocents near a target will undoubtedly be killed, and a calculation must be made that the target is sufficiently important that those losses may be acceptable.

"Walling" is much less wrong than any of that.


"But I think we deserve a little quid pro... I've asked you several times if you think a "single slap to the face" would make you betray your family and friends to your bitterest enemy? If not, then it's not what is being done to prisoners."

I'm sorry. I thought it was clear from my answer that it's more complicated than that. By itself, the slap in the face doesn't get anyone to betray their country, or in this case, their cause. But it does get some of them to think that the interrogators are serious, and that they will be compelled to get into a conversation that the interrogator can adapt from. As I said before, the enhanced interrogation is only to get them to converse.

I was caught off guard by your thinking that, just because one slap wouldn't get me to betray my country, that it wouldn't work on anybody else either. But there's stuff that happens to set the mood before the slap. For one terrorist, just knowing that the interrogator was from the CIA was reportedly enough to get him to talk.

Then there's Abu Jandal, a diabetic who opened up when he was given sugar-free cookies. Some of those who say torture never works hold him up as an example of how kindness can work. (Of course, spending a year in a Yemeni prison probably softened him up a bit.)

A slap in the face can sometimes be about as helful as a sugar-free cookie.

RandyB said...

Paul,

"...it then adds article 16 to add other "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", and the says that all parts of the convention still apply even if you substitute other terms for torture, precisely to prevent states creating arbitrary definitions that they can pretend they aren't violating."

That seems to be adding other harsh techniques to the treaty, but it's not extending the actual definition of torture.


There are two more things here.

Allow me to get the "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever" out of the way. If this was a case of exceptional circumstances requiring real torture then I'd agree with you.

Even if I did think we needed real torture then I'd be saying that we should respect the law while going through the steps of getting out of the treaty. Most treaties I've seen (probably all, although I'm no expert) include procedures for this. For UNCAT the steps are listed in Article 31.

As for UNCAT's Article 16, it's irrelevant. When the U.S. Senate ratified UNCAT, they added the reservation that it doesn't go beyond U.S. law. In other words, the U.S. is not bound by "cruel and degrading." A lot of treaties include reservations -- for good reason.

It's one thing for someone to say they'd much rather we risk another major terrorist attack than ever torture someone. It's quite another to say they'd risk a major terrorist attack (or even a relatively minor one in Kandahar that only kills a few Afghan children) rather than put women's underwear on a terrorist's head.

RandyB said...

John,

Well, thanks for speaking up.

As for "torture," the U.K. used a similar program for Northern Ireland. The European Convention on Human Rights later ruled it was illegal there, but it wasn't torture.

But you basically said you oppose any harsh treatment, even if it could possibly save innocent lives, which is what I wanted somebody here to say.

RandyB said...

David,

I could easily live with the scenario you're asking for if the rest of the civilized world would follow suit. But the civilized world is split. We are currently the Good Guys right now, and there comes a point where America's critics need to account for what they've supported.

Whatever we do, they will slander our reputation anyway.

The U.N. special rapporteur is saying that the Obama administration is using "torture" on Bradley Manning. They never whined that way when soldiers pending trial for killing innocent civilians had similar conditions.

Where were these people when Gilad Shalit was kidnapped? Amnesty filed boilerplate press releases and then went back to whining about Guantanamo.

Our drones fire 20 lbs. ordnance and the critics are acting as though President Obama is using the Dresden playbook. (There are a few times when I might be very proud of this president.)

It's been 10 1/2 years since 9/11, and they can't even get their friends to ask the terrorists not to use children as human shields.


"The point is that the James Bond type stuff was always kept to a minimum necessary by the need to stay secret, to maintain that hypocritical fig leaf while we stayed - overall - the Good Guys and moved forward."

Believe it or not, even the CIA requires legal review for their operations.

There are probably quite a few soldiers who've been killed or grieviously wounded because CIA lawyers rejected an operation to thwart IED makers.


"Bush & co instead made it national policy. And for what? Were we under existential threat? Bullshit Our parents endured worse damage than 9/11 EVERY MONTH during WWII sometimes in a week or even a day. For THAT we had to go waving our arms, screeching and sending several trillion dollars and the blood of our kids spilling into Asian sands?"

We could easily have played this very differently.

Saddam Hussein was defeated in a few weeks. Remember the "Mission Accomplished" sign? We could have spent a few months intensively searching Iraq for WMDs and then played the rest like President Obama did with Libya: defeating the regime and then letting the locals fight it out for themselves. If a jihadist government forms, we could whack 'em again down the road.

That model could have worked even better with Afghanistan. As was recently discussed, President Bush had even campaigned that he opposed nation-building.

But we wanted to be the "Good Guys."

BTW: I agree with Rewinn on one thing: Thanks for the Collusion link.

Tony Fisk said...

These are calculations that must be made. It's not so much the number of jobs but the amount of resources.

That's the excuse of the Keystone pushers. Is it yours, RandyB? (I note you didn't bother commenting on the probable environmental fallout)

RandyB said...

Tony,

The local environmental risks are part of the calculations. Otherwise, I'd say it's mostly between the landowners and developers to decide.

David Brin said...

I wish RandyB would look hard at my final posting under the previous comments section. It is one thing to claim you are on the side of pragmatists, having to save the country while heckled by starry-eyed idealists...

... it is quite another when the idealists turn out to be practical and the so-called "practical" Bushites did abso-freaking -lutely every single thing wrong and harmed us top to bottom...

...while enraging the intelligence and military officers who used to do such things judiciously, sparingly, only when needed and out of sight.

Tony Fisk said...

'Local environmental risk is part of the calculations'

Part of the hand-waving, more like.

Environmental risk is seldom local, especially where the potential for contaminating aquifers is concerned. Read Brain's account of what happened to several Indian villages in the region he was working.

From what I hear, the landowners are well aware of the 'calculations', to the dismay of the 'developers'.

Hypnos said...

Randy, you aren't the Good Guys. There are no Good Guys in international politics. There are only national interests. America failed quite spectacularly at pursuing its own interests in Iraq and Afghanistan, if those are defined as the interests of the American nation at large, and succeeded beyond the wildest expectations, if those are defined as being the interests of America's ruling class of well connected business-politicians and oligarchs. That was the plan all along, and being the "Good Guys" administering democracy was just the justification which apparently the American public is still gullible enough to swallow. No wonder the oligarchs are shafting you guys so much - Americans must be the most docile and submissive people on Earth!

Everything else is propaganda and hot air. And the rest of the world will keep criticising you as long as you hold the top spot, mostly out of imperial competition (albeit some people might honestly find your pretence of moral righteousness particularly jarring in light of your actions of the past half century). I must say I quite prefer China's pure business approach to international relations.

It's fun how you keep equating tenous connections between human rights organisations and "terrorist" sympathisers with full blown support for torture and children shields. Amnesty might not have dedicated as much firepower to the cause of Gilead Shalit as it did to other causes (while still condemning it), but that's because Israel's human rights violantions are orders of magnitude larger than those committed by its adversaries, and Israel is the aggressor here. Hamas and others are fighting back against overwhelming strength with whatever means at their disposal - and as you have advocated more than once in this discussion wars are not won with niceties and respect for the rules (although America would love for resistance fighters to just don a uniform, stand out in the open and get slaughtered like the Iraqis in '91).

Also, these organisations generally exist to give voice to those who have no power and little representation. Israel can speak for itself. In fact, it holds the leash of the world's most powerful nation.

Not that I like NGOs either. They are just a soft form of colonialism, and the underlying ethos and rethoric is the same: white man knows best. They were missionaries under the colonial regimes and they are secular now, but it's still the same drivers and they still don't work, while denying any actual agency to the (brown) people they claim to represent. The economic and energy crisis and China's ascendancy seems to be pushing us back towards realpolitik though, which would be a great development.

Tim H. said...

RandyB, our host has set out some interesting things to discuss, I'm sure the ongoing monetization of society and the battle between the degraded heirs of American conservatism and the tattered remnants of the progressive movement will come around again.

Hypnos said...

To get away from politics a bit, I'd like to take up the nature vs nurture debate.

I don't see such a contradiction between considering homosexuality biological and other behaviours cultural. The sex drive is a basic instict, probably located in the oldest and more "animal" parts of the brain. It makes sense for it to be quite impervious to external conditioning.

All human societies have homosexuality, but social roles vary immensely. Even the definition of family, which one might expect to be connected to natural elements such as blood relation, shows substantial variation between societies.

Behaviours such as gender roles, on the other hand, are a function of complex societies which only emerged in recent times and which reside in parts of the brain that undergo massive changes during the developmental stage of human growth. To say that women are less good at maths because of something biological when math itself is a purely cultural construct sounds to me quite ridicolous, especially when you have a cause that already explains 90% of the effect - discrimination.

Up until the '90s the lack of women in music was ascribed to biological determinism. Then blind auditions were introduced and lo and behold, the number of women in music skyrocketed.


Historically, sociobiology has always been used to justify oppression and discrimination, and this tendency is still well alive - witness the success of that hideous pile of drivel, "The Bell Curve AKA n***ers are stupid". A strong skepticism to any claim of biological determination for human behaviour seems to me the most sensible and scientific approach.

Paul451 said...

RandyB,
"As for UNCAT's Article 16, it's irrelevant. When the U.S. Senate ratified UNCAT, they added the reservation that it doesn't go beyond U.S. law. In other words, the U.S. is not bound by "cruel and degrading." "

Then they haven't properly ratified the treaty. Nor obeyed articles two and four. However, US criminal law would ban "enhanced interrogation" (at the very least as assault and battery) if anyone uses such techniques domestically. The US uses the legal fiction that Gitmo (and other offshore military detention centres) aren't under their jurisdiction.

"Then there's Abu Jandal, a diabetic who opened up when he was given sugar-free cookies. Some of those who say torture never works hold him up as an example of how kindness can work."

Firstly, no he didn't "open up when he was given sugar-free cookies", at least according to his interrogator, who, secondly, is one of "those who say torture never works".

"(Of course, spending a year in a Yemeni prison probably softened him up a bit.)"

Ho ho ho, such glee.

"It's called "walling," and uses a flexible wall that makes a loud noise when they're slammed into it so that it feels worse than it is."

The police invented something similar involving phonebooks. Interestingly, whenever caught and charged with assault, the fact that they developed methods that didn't cause visible injury is not considered a mitigating circumstance, but rather demonstrates their premeditated intent to break the law.

You still don't get this. If you have to invent a special technique to trick someone into thinking they are being tortured, you know what you are doing is torture. If you have to get your lawyers to create the narrowest, more legalistic definition of torture, in order to find a way around law and treaty, you know what you are doing is torture. It doesn't matter what made up phrases you hide it behind.

(And I did noticed you skip the "20 or 30 times consecutively".)

Paul451 said...

David,
Say the word if you want us to drop this topic. Your house, your rules.

RandyB,
From the article you linked to:
"does not cause severe pain" "is not intended to cause severe pain" (and a dozen variations of this)

...and each time they forget to add "or suffering, whether physical or mental" which is in the strict narrow definition of torture in the Convention. And "other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" which is in the broader definition.

"for someone to say they'd much rather we risk another major terrorist attack than ever torture someone." "But you basically said you oppose any harsh treatment, even if it could possibly save innocent lives, which is what I wanted somebody here to say." [...etc]

About 17,000 people are murdered in the US each year, about 200,000 were raped. And about 3 million reports of child abuse are made each year. If preventing a "major terrorist attack" every decade or so justifies torture, then does than mean we can use torture to gather evidence against accused murderers, rapists and child abusers? Or their colleagues, drivers and body-guards. Not torture? How about water-boarding? Or "walling" 20-30 times per session, or 180 hours of continuous sleep deprivation, or thermal shock "water-dousing", or "wall standing" and other stress positions, or "cramped confinement", or ritual humiliation (such as forced public nudity), or dietary manipulation... or... or all of the above?

If not, what makes terrorism so special?

Paul451 said...

RandyB,
So now, in spite of your repetition of "a single slap in the face, or playing music that annoys them", it isn't "a single slap" that breaks people...

but then you do exactly the same thing...

"rather than put women's underwear on a terrorist's head."

...to again trivialise the treatment of these prisoners.

More generally, you go out of your way to pretend that the official CIA guidelines are the only thing being done, even when you are dismissing things that go beyond those guidelines. Abu Ghraib isn't Gitmo therefore doesn't count. (*) Prisoners die or are severely injured, oh that must have happened before they arrives, or guards were using unofficial (police) techniques, moral is don't mess with police ho ho ho. You are aware of the public examples of torture by US personnel and CIA contractors, and yet somehow those public examples prove to you that even the public examples somehow didn't happen, or don't count.

Likewise, you try to trivialise interrogation methods by mentioning that such methods are used as part of special forces training (and I can see why you say it, the article you quoted hammers that idea) even though studies of bastardisation shows that officially sanctioned bastardisation actually increases the likelihood of those so bastardised committing such acts against others. While the Stanford Prison experiment shows how easy it is for a culture of abuse to develop, and the Milgram experiments show how easy it is for the perception of authority to override the restraints of even quite moral people. You've merely reinforced the certainty that abuses continue to occur, above and beyond the officially sanctioned acts.

(* Thing I always find interesting about Abu Ghraib is that almost nothing in the pictures, which so outraged the world and forced the facility's closure, was very far outside the official CIA guidelines. Particularly the signature image of the black hooded prisoner in a stress position. None of the stress positions, the humiliation, the nudity, the dogs, etc, were violations, they were standard techniques of "enhanced interrogation". The only "crime" in the photos was acting unprofessionally, and bringing the service into disrepute. The stuff that got people charged was the overt physical and sexual assault, not the stuff in the images. Without that, but with the same public outrage over the photos, I wonder what the officials would have done.)

It's also interesting to see you use examples of interrogation by people, like Ali Soufan (Abu Jandal's interrogator), who have explicitly spoken out against "enhanced interrogation", to justify your defence of it.

Tony Fisk said...

All human societies have homosexuality,

I believe it's fair to say that all phyla in the animal kingdom have homosexuality!

John said...

RandyB said:
"...even if it could possibly save innocent lives..."

By this logic:
You advocate torture;
innocent lives are ended by torture (well over 100 at our hands by a conservative count of autopsies performed);
*you* should be tortured, since changing your mind might, possibly, someday, save innocent lives.

At least one US torture victim was completely innocent of any "wrongdoing"; some torture victims died as a result of their treatment in our custody. How many innocents are you in favor of killing to possibly save innocent lives? How many lives must be (possibly) saved to make it an acceptable ratio? Can you put a number on it?

rewinn said...

I should like to offer a conservative argument against prisoner abuse (...torture or such less abuse as you will...)

1. Our Constitution establishes a Federal Government of limited power. Now matter hows it huffs and puffs, it simply cannot do things that our Constitution forbids.

2. It is good that we have #1, because experience shows us that unlimited government power gets abused.

3. Patriots of courage will die to protect our Constitution, or risk grave harm to ourselves to defend the Constitution.

4. The 8th Amendment forbids cruelty to prisoners, for the reasons outlined in #1 and #2.

5. Even if prisoner abuse made America safer, patriots of courage will fight it because of reason #3.

---

Now, as others have written, the solid evidence is that prisoner abuse does not make America safer, and almost any amount of more such evidence could be produced. However, it is difficult for most people of the conservative mindset to change their gut beliefs based on the production of contrary evidence.

However, will conservatives may change their beliefs if they are found to be in conflict with a more deeply-held value: courage, and fidelity to our Constitution?

---

P.S. HAPPY PI DAY!

David Brin said...

Hypnos, do you honestly see no contradiction? Seriously? We are zero-nature in all things except 100% nature compelled in homosexuality, and your response is a couple of sentences of rationalization? Without even a twinge or a wince?

So "sex" is 100% compulsory while "gender" is 100% socialized? Really? Really?

And there's not the slightest possibility that you hold this view for reasons that are political/socialized and based on winning arguments about policy?

May I remind you that a whole lot of things that the left demands to be viewed as "all-nurture" or "all consciously decided" include things that are sexual and have far more compelling darwinism behind them than homosexuality. Coerced copulation is seen all across the animal kingdom, because males gain reproductive advantage thereby. In many species also infanticide. We have decided we don't like that shit and I totally agree!

But will we do a better job of eliminating them if we rant "there's nothing in our genes!" Or else by admitting we have some inherited obsolete patterns that need to be understood much better, in order to better repress or divert them? And understanding won't come from dogmatic puritanism.

Likewise, I think the 100% stance on homosexuality has been useful, politically and socially, and it is preferable over the right's troglodytic insanity on the issue. Still, there is strong reason that it has badly damaged thousands of people who were thus denied a range of options.

"A strong skepticism to any claim of biological determination for human behaviour seems to me the most sensible and scientific approach."

Yes, I am fine with that, but the left turns that skepticism into a religion-like purism that is almost identical to similar mania on the right. (Though much less harmfull, at present.) It is dogmatism, whoever does it.

RandyB said...

David,

"... it is quite another when the idealists turn out to be practical and the so-called "practical" Bushites did abso-freaking -lutely every single thing wrong and harmed us top to bottom...

...while enraging the intelligence and military officers who used to do such things judiciously, sparingly, only when needed and out of sight."



I did read that posting. The reply may have been too brief. I was hoping to close this up.

I don't know what percentage of military officers felt that way, but even if it's a majority, I doubt it's that big of one.

You're probably right about the CIA but they've been like that for a long time.

And let's not forget that the CIA director during that period was a Democrat appointed by President Clinton.

RandyB said...

Tony,

When I said "local" I meant that and the individual state governments.

I'd agree with you a lot more if it was just Keystone.

Do we need oil? Yes. Do we need to protect the environment? Yes. Is it possible to get oil and protect the environment? The BP drilling disaster shows that there are limits. Compromises need to be made on both sides. It's a lot easier to say "no" once in a while if they say "yes" more often.

It's like building a city without garbage dumps and sewer systems.

RandyB said...

Paul,

"Then they haven't properly ratified the treaty. Nor obeyed articles two and four."

Then a lot of countries haven't.

BTW: If you look further in that link, you'll see other countries, including ours, can object to reservations made by other countries. This isn't all that different from presidential signing statements (another thing President Obama campaigned against, but then adopted).


"(And I did noticed you skip the "20 or 30 times consecutively".)"

I didn't see the point of getting further into the weeds. You haven't acknowledged that one time could be legal. In fact, you're still calling everything "torture" even though I gave the European court ruling saying there are differences.


"...and each time they forget to add "or suffering, whether physical or mental" which is in the strict narrow definition of torture in the Convention. And "other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" which is in the broader definition."

I'm sure the lawyers examined the suffering aspect. That's probably why the guidelines have limits.


"If preventing a "major terrorist attack" every decade or so justifies torture, then does than mean we can use torture to gather evidence against accused murderers, rapists and child abusers?"

By "torture," I assume you mean harsh interrogation since courts have recognized a difference.

Aside from the fact that the Bill of Rights covers people within the U.S., and that we're fighting an organization rather than individuals, we do have a government here. There's a functioning legal system. The police are able to access crime scenes and investigate crimes.


"If not, what makes terrorism so special?"

One glaring difference is the rule of law. Finding loopholes in the law (particularly when those loopholes were put there for a reason) is different than ignoring the law.

Also, we're talking about unlawful combatants that don't wear uniforms, and don't respect the laws of war. If you give them the same rights and privileges as genuine POWs then you've thrown away the incentive to change.

Ask them to wear uniforms, separate civilians from combatants, and show that they want to be lawful combatants. The full Geneva Conventions could be applied, and there would be fewer worries about innocents being detained. Best of all, once they're lawful combatants, they have the full rights and privileges as POWs. They could then only be asked name, rank, and serial number.

You need to talk with Hypnos about that. If people stopped condoning these groups then perhaps they'd see the incentive to start changing their ways.

RandyB said...

Paul,

"More generally, you go out of your way to pretend that the official CIA guidelines are the only thing being done, even when you are dismissing things that go beyond those guidelines. Abu Ghraib isn't Gitmo therefore doesn't count...."

I'm defending the legal stuff that actually happened.

If you're still calling everything "torture" after I mentioned the European court decision, it's a bit silly for me to try putting the Stanford Prison experiment into context.


"Likewise, you try to trivialise interrogation methods by mentioning that such methods are used as part of special forces training (and I can see why you say it, the article you quoted hammers that idea) even though studies of bastardisation shows that officially sanctioned bastardisation actually increases the likelihood of those so bastardised committing such acts against others."

I didn't bring up special forces training. If I had, I'd have said it helps to make my case that the treatment isn't torture. Assuming you meant SERE, the connection is overblown.


"The only "crime" in the photos was acting unprofessionally, and bringing the service into disrepute. The stuff that got people charged was the overt physical and sexual assault, not the stuff in the images."

It's more than acting unprofessionally. The Army works with different laws than the CIA, and these were different types of prisoners.

If these were minor acts of misbehavior, the soldier who turned in the pictures probably wouldn't have bothered.


"Without that, but with the same public outrage over the photos, I wonder what the officials would have done.)"

You really need to rethink Abu Ghraib. Most people don't know what actually happened there.

Here's the timeline:

The events in the photos happened in Autumn 2003, mostly on the same day. A soldier wanted to report something awry, but she made the mistake of reporting it to one of the sergeants involved, and nothing happened.

Then in January 2004, another soldier got access to the PC with the pictures, put them onto a CD, and gave them to Army investigators.

Within days, the general in charge stepped down while the Army assigned another general to investigate the incidents. The guards in the pictures were charged in February. Within another month or two, the general's report was done, and the Army decided to assign another general to a wider investigation of the entire camp.

Here's the key to the timeline: As this was going on, the Army issued press releases when investigations started, and soldiers were charged. All that happened before the world ever saw those pictures. Public outrage had nothing to do with those Army investigations. (Perhaps this is a good time to remember David's words about the officer corps.)

The soldiers who were charged claimed that they were ordered to do this to soften them up for interrogation -- despite the fact that those in the pictures of "stress positions" you mention were not there for interrogation. They were regular criminals who'd been moved to that section of the prison after rioting, and no one cared what they knew about the insurgents. The guards (who literally were the night shift) did all that just to pass the time.

One irony is that the pictures probably wouldn't have been leaked to the press if the Army had dropped the charges against the guards.


"It's also interesting to see you use examples of interrogation by people, like Ali Soufan (Abu Jandal's interrogator), who have explicitly spoken out against "enhanced interrogation", to justify your defence of it."

Well, it was a good example.

Soufan has his critics. He says enhanced interrogation didn't lead to intelligence, even though the interrogators were able to talk with the terrorists afterward.

RandyB said...

Sorry about the length of that last one everybody.

Most people misunderstand the Abu Ghraib timeline, and I got carried away.

Hypnos said...

David,

no, I don't think we have a sufficient level of knowledge to ascribe 100% of the effect to any single cause, so my view is certainly more nuanced than that. Also, it is based on a limited understanding of the biological and cultural elements, so I'd be willing to reconsider my position based upon evidence from experts.

I'm not able to put exact percentages on it, so I'd say that sex is majority biological, minority cultural, and social roles, including gender, are the opposite.

Rape and infanticide are interesting cases. I understand rape as a power play rather than a sexual drive, so I would put it more in the social sphere. But I see the inconsistency here, and there's probably a lot of biology in it as well. Infanticide is in my opinion an effective form of population control which is certainly natural. I remember reading an article arguing that infanticide by mothers was in fact much more widespread, even in modern societies, than previously thought, and it is connected to a basic instinct of a mother increasing the chances of her other children to survive by eliminating the excess one(s) who she would not be able to feed. I don't see a problem with considering infanticide a natural process (barring psychopathic cases which are more related to mental illnesses).

I'd also put pedophilia in the natural category. Our society has decided that an adult having sex with a 13 years old is an horrible crime, but that is actually the age of fertility, so it is perfectly natural. Now modern society has de-sexualized that age, so the experience becomes traumatic, but that does not make it any less natural. Going below the age of fertility probably falls in the category of mental illnesses (and for the record, I don't know how much is natural and how much is nurture in mental illnesses - I'll cop out with a 50-50).

To conclude, I also recognize a major role of nurture in primarily nature behaviours as well. I think the Kinsey scale is perhaps the best description of homosexuality, a range rather than a binary state. We're all a bit homosexual, some just more than others, and creating fixed binary roles is detrimental (a bisexual friend tells me she was the subject of discrimination from homosexuals calling her "undecided").

And yes, dogmatism is wrong in any field, time and debate. I try to refrain from it to the best of my capabilities, and always endorse or refute theories based on my knowledge of the facts, rather than beliefs (which is why I hate the classical survey question "do you believe in evolution" - wrong question! It should be "do you accept evolution as the current best explanation for...").

guthrie said...

It is of course worth noting that much of what the UK government did in Northern, Ireland in the 70's was wrong and innefective, and I'm pretty sure we can count the five techniques linked to by RandyB as one set of wrong actions.

Which aught to at least set people wondering why such emphasis on nastiness was made for no real reason at all, in the last decade of the war on terror.

rewinn said...

@RandyB wrote:
"...
I don't know what percentage of military officers felt that way, but even if it's a majority, I doubt it's that big of one.
..."


You're right on one thing - you don't know what you're talking about.

I speak with officers frequently, and based on my experience you're wrong on the facts. And you're insulting our entire Officer Corps.

A while back, I suggested you look up Charlie Swift's record. Did you?

"I didn't bring up special forces training. If I had, I'd have said it helps to make my case that the treatment isn't torture. Assuming you meant SERE, the connection is overblown."

LOLWUT?

SERE training includes voluntary submission to torture, such as waterboarding. That doesn't mean it's not torture; to the contrary: it's evidence that waterboarding *is* torture.

rewinn said...

@RandyB wrote:

"...the Bill of Rights covers people within the U.S...."

No. Absolutely not.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of our American Constitution.

Our Constitution is grant of limited power to the Federal Government. The Bill of Rights puts limits on what the government can do. Not "MAY" do but "CAN" do.

Anything the Government does in violation of the Constitution is by definition unConstitutional. Whether the Government does it to citizens or to Russians on the Moon doesn't matter to the Constitutionality of the act.

Often people are confused by this because our Supreme Court sometimes limits access to our courts, using terms such as "political question" or "standing" or "case and controversy" and so forth. What this means is that sometimes the Government acts unconstitutionally but the court system will not take the matter up. To the extent that our Supreme Court passively permits our Government to violate the Constitution so long as the victims are outside the United States, it fails to do its duty.

In particular, the 8th Amendment does not limit its application; it applies to all Government actions, everywhere. Not one word in the Constitution limits the 8th Amendment to persons on our territory.

Conservatives such as Goldwater and Eisenhower would understand this; heck even Ron Paul understands this.

Tony Fisk said...

Next time you want to just get away from it all, watch this video of ... Monkeez i-in Spa-a-ce! (really!)

rewinn said...

On an entirely different subject ... perhaps relatable to the EON Project mentioned in OP ... the Center for Computer Aided Legal Instruction (CALI) is doing a 9-week Massively Open Online Class (MOOC) entitled "Topics in Digital Law Practice" with a subversively useful structure:
a series of expert webcasts, including Q+A for the realtime participants, each of which comes with publicly viewable wiki'd homework assignments.

Does this sounds unexceptional? the technology required is available to any smart middleschooler today. But the homework element makes it just plain better than just about any other continuing ed class I've taken. Who wants to craft the best solution to the homework problem? Why I do of course ... and so do enough other participants to make it fun.

And if the homework assignments are well-chosen to result in a useful compendium of knowledge ...

For example, Class #5 was about free legal research online, during which a major issue raised was the efficient sifting through the overly large mound of potentially useful sources of law. The homework assignment is to
(A) locate the most authoritative sources of law (statutory & case law) for one state and (B) add that to a Primary Legal Research Sources by State page. This is quite a useful compendium for CALI ... and the results are free for all comers!

There isn't any scoring; each student who produces satisfactory homework is rewarded with a badges plus the pleasure of creation and the bragging rights for a Job Well Done.

This model could be used in a number of fields.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

"I speak with officers frequently, and based on my experience you're wrong on the facts. And you're insulting our entire Officer Corps."

That's only an insult if you're right, which you don't have a very good record on.

I haven't personally spoken with officers in years, but I've conversed online often enough. Those I've met online don't feel the way you describe. There are also some officers' blogs I frequent, but they may be a different group than you see.

I was already well aware of Charlie Swift. He's probably very popular with lawyers but he isn't popular with the military.


"SERE training includes voluntary submission to torture, such as waterboarding."

Training to resist torture doesn't necessarily require torture. But even if it did, if you've seen the restrictions I linked earlier, they were put in by lawyers to ensure it doesn't legally become torture. But, as you noted, SERE is voluntary. They could legally exceed those limits if they wanted to. (But they probably don't.)


"Our Constitution is grant of limited power to the Federal Government. The Bill of Rights puts limits on what the government can do. Not "MAY" do but "CAN" do."

Yes, but that's what it can and can't do to us.

Non-citizens outside the U.S. do not get the same rights:
"Aliens in the U.S. have essentially the same rights as citizens for many purposes because of the 5th and 14th Amendments' language, but aliens do not have constitutional rights against the U.S. government outside its territory."

If it were otherwise, they might not have bothered moving the detainees to GTMO.

David Brin said...

RandyB I can tell you from my frequent conferences back east that the officer corps went anti Bush in ever higher percentages the higher you went, in rank. The generals and admirals despised him to a degree that one told me was "unp[recedented in the last century." The threatened work action or mass resignation that forced Bush to fire Rumsfeld was extremely serious business.

Let me make it plain. W was actively loathed and despised by the generals and admirals. You have it from me only anecdotally, but that is one helluva lot better based than "but even if it's a majority, I doubt it's that big of one."

The near total destruction of the US Army reserves is just the top of dozens of reasons and it is to the everlasting shame of the supposedly "pro military" conservative movement that it doesn't give a crap.

===
Hypnos: "I understand rape as a power play rather than a sexual drive, so I would put it more in the social sphere."

Yes that is dogma on the left and nature is very inconvenient there, since when it occurs in the wild babies result who add to the perpetrator's "score" in repro-success. So the burden of proof is on those making that claim. I don't actually disagree that much. Most human rapists are sickies and power DOES play a big role. But the 99% who don't rape will tell you that it's not a simple matter of being completely pure inside, without faint echoes of distant, unsavory impulses throbbing down obsolete neurons.

Re homosexuality, I also am willing to go along with the left-dogma because it does more good in the world than its opposite. But I know there are "borderline" guys who have felt PC compelled to swing 100% gay, when they might have done instead the opposite.

Yes, it's hard on them either way. But I know many who have said they'd have gone for wife, kids family if they felt it possible, if not for the truism that says it is not possible.

Why proclaim that it's not? Why not let them try? The all-or-nothing proclamation is... in its own way... somewhat evil.

RandyB said...

David,

I'll have to take your word on generals and admirals. When I was in the Navy, my contact with admirals was almost entirely limited to bringing them coffee when they went flying with us (I was a P-3 aircrewman).

For the military as a whole, President Obama is polling worse than the average American.

But this guy would seem to disagree with you:
"Officers tend to be not only more partisan, but also more Republican, with GOP affinity strongest among the highest ranks. While I [Dempsey] was unable to fully parse the reason for this, the evidence strongly suggests the pattern is generational. Today’s senior officers entered the Army during the late 1970s and 1980s, a time when the Republican Party had a strong advantage on issues of national defense and the Democratic Party was seen as antiwar if not anti-military. By contrast, junior officers who joined the Army after 2001 are almost as likely to be Democrats as they are Republicans, foreshadowing a possible shift in officer attitudes...."

That said, that guy probably didn't interview flag officers. I know that generals and admirals are a completely different group. Of the officers I knew, the only one who I'd later learned had gone on to become an admiral was probably as non-partisan as one could get.

duncan cairncross said...

I am interested in your observations about senior officers,
(Admirals, Generals)
I have not encountered such creatures myself!
In the world of private business I have encountered Vice Presidents and other senior executives.
In my experience engineers, senior engineers, middle managers and the like tend to be very "Task Focused"
Senior Executives and Vice Presidents tend to be very "Me" centered.
I am glad that that pattern does not extend to the military

Lefties and sexual assumptions

As a fairly left wing lefty I was convinced that most of the difference between the sexes was "social upbringing"
Then I had a family!
On the basis of a far from significant sample I now believe that a large amount of the differences are biological
Boys and Girls think differently! - from an incredibly early age

rewinn said...

@Randyb wrote:

"That's only an insult if you're right, which you don't have a very good record on."

And with that, @RandyB has gone over the line from disagreeing, to being disagreeable. Thank you!

As to the facts, was responding to the following:

@David Brin wrote:
"
...while enraging the intelligence and military officers who used to do such things judiciously, sparingly, only when needed and out of sight."


To which @RandyB replied

"...I don't know what percentage of military officers felt that way, but even if it's a majority, I doubt it's that big of one."

... which I reasonably interpreted to be an assertion that that a large proportion (although perhaps not a majority) of our military officers are not enraged by prisoner abuse.

No reasonable person could conclude that such a statement is not an insult against our Officer Corps. Even if it were true, it is still insulting.
And it's not true, as anyone with current knowledge of our military should know.
Our military has the normal range of human behaviors and types, and there are individual members who are sadists (...I could name a few ...) or who systematically violate the UCMJ.

But the Officer Corps tries to weed these out (...not always successfully; few human endeavours are always successful)
They may also be bloggers who advocate that. Not for nothing is it called "The Net Of A Million Lies".

"I was already well aware of Charlie Swift. He's probably very popular with lawyers but he isn't popular with the military."

Since you don't have contact with the military, and I do, your comments on Swift and SERE are understandably wrong on the facts.

This part ...

"Training to resist torture doesn't necessarily require torture. But even if it did, if you've seen the restrictions I linked earlier, they were put in by lawyers to ensure it doesn't legally become torture.
But, as you noted, SERE is voluntary. They could legally exceed those limits if they wanted to. (But they probably don't.)"


... is pure non sequitur and admitted ignorance of the facts. In the future, try not to make an argument founded on saying you don't know something, k?

Your argument about the 8th Amendment is also pretty radical: you're saying our Constitution doesn't limit government power, it merely grants rights to citizens. That simply wrong and not very conservative.

LarryHart said...

RandyB:

But this guy would seem to disagree with you:
"Officers tend to be not only more partisan, but also more Republican, with GOP affinity strongest among the highest ranks.
..."


I think Dr Brin's point was that not that they leaned Democrat, but that even staunch Republican generals were horrified by the things that George W Bush (in particular) did to the armed forces.

LarryHart said...

duncan cairncross:

As a fairly left wing lefty I was convinced that most of the difference between the sexes was "social upbringing"
Then I had a family!


I also found that having an actual live nuclear family of my own has put the lie to many presumptions of both left and right.

In other forums, I have been lectured to about how having a wife and daugter will force me to be a screming lefty feminist "hand puppet", and how being responsible for an actual wife and child will force me to lean conservative. That these "truisms" contradict themselves is mildly amusing. That they are asserted confidently by people who have no intention of marrying and procreating themselves is more so.

LarryHart said...

Paul Krugman, channeling me:

If this is right (and I think it is), austerity-loving pundits and policy makers really are like medieval doctors who believed in treating illness by bleeding their patients, making the patients even sicker, leading to more bleeding.


Amen, brother!

Jumper said...

One sphere of effects on human consciousness - "nature or nurture" - is what happens in utero. Hormonal anomalies, or normalities, can affect things.

That's separate from both DNA and culture.

sociotard said...

If you're dumb enough to download it . . .

Hacktivist group Anonymous releases their own Linux-based operating system

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

Re the US military Officer Corps, there are several trends to note.

1) The Officer Corps - when you get above the rank of Major - constitutes one of the best-educated clades in modern American life. At colonel (naval captain) and above, the average is the equivalent of several masters degrees or a doctorate. This puts the generals and admirals just behind university professors and medical doctors.

And we all ought to be very very glad that such men and women - who control nuclear weapons - have intellects and knowledge to match the gravity of their obligations.



2) My conversations with flag officers have been ongoing and enlightening, though admittedly a mere sampling and anecdotal. With that admission, let me assert that many of the senior officers I've met informally and discreetly made evident that they consider George W. Bush to have been the worst U.S. president - by far - in living memory. They are deeply aware of the grievous harm that Bush - and his entire party - have done to the nation, our prestige, influence, economy, science... and especially to the armed services. (Just what Bush did to the US Army Reserves, alone, was in my opinion grounds for treason.)



3) They were jubilant when Donald Rumsfeld gave way to the non-partisan "adult" Gates and some hint strongly that the senior officer corps had exerted substantial "suasion" to pry Bush's hands off the military, two years before the 2008 elections. Given the insanity going on, I consider that to have been an act of heroism, possibly saving the United States of America.



4) Given that a lot of recruitment into the military comes from southern or "red" America, it is not surprising that the GOP has a voter registration advantage there. But this has been declining rapidly, especially among junior officers. The decline among senior officers has been (as with scientists) a plummet. With the possible exception of the Air Force.



To be clear (a) this has been a departure from the GOP, not a scurry to the democrats. (b) much of this is (again) anecdotal. But learning about this privately is one of the major factors that drove me from mild partisanship in the early 2000s to concluding that Culture War had become Civil War.

David Brin said...

RandyB you continue to avert your gaze from the core issues by raising side minutia, which is a major modern "ostrich" technique.

Let me reiterate.

Anyone demanding that the US federal government be empowered with new powers to secretly seize human beings and abuse them, contravening both international treaties and the Constitution, out of some kind of "urgent necessity" bears a burden of proof:

1) that we face an existential crisis requiring such "pragmatism" to overcome "idealistic" rules of universal rights.

2) that the measures like rendition, secret-endless detention and torture truly are "pragmatic" and deliver benefits vastly outweighing the costs.

3) that those costs won't include devastation to our international reputation, the boosting of enemy recruitment, and getting the federal government used to Big Brother type behaviors.

4) that such pragmatic exceptions to our ideals weren't already being handled, discreetly, carefully and effectively by the skilled "James Bond types," allowing us to get occasional glimpses into dark places without damaging our overall pride in being - at the wide-open and general level - the 'good guys."

5) that such a dive into rationalizing excuses for cowboy bullying and "24" tactics is not, in itself, profoundly impractical. Or that the "idealists" aren't - indeed - the practical adults in the room.

Guys like you bear a steep burden of absolute proof of each and every one of these, before we let you off the hook on the hypocrisy and proclaiming that to disdain federal power... except expanding it where it is by far the MOST DANGEROUS!

In fact, every single one of these points was not only never proved... they have all been actively DISproved.

So stop quibbling over slaps across the face and whether bad music is "torture." It's all just rationalization and diving into minutia to evade the core points. Your side has justified the tearing down of barriers that protected us all. PROVE all five of those assertions!

Prove them or stop trying to rationalize the indefensible and proclaiming the benefits of insanity.

David Brin said...

4b) that in fact the CIA has not been HARMED in its ability to do these things rarely, covertly, by all the attention that has been brought to this matter by the outrageous over-use of such tactics.

RandyB said...

Larry,

"I think Dr Brin's point was that not that they leaned Democrat, but that even staunch Republican generals were horrified by the things that George W Bush (in particular) did to the armed forces."

Fair enough. But I thought David was talking more about interrogation.

From what I've read, most of the generals and admirals who've criticized the Bush administration were concerned primarily about not sufficiently expanding the military while fighting two wars. There's no doubt that we were overstretched.

But that is different, and do take the point.



Rewinn,

"... is pure non sequitur and admitted ignorance of the facts. In the future, try not to make an argument founded on saying you don't know something, k?"

I've been through SERE myself, and, naturally, I have friends who've been through SERE, too. People who've read Jane Mayer's work in the New Yorker learned some interesting stuff, but it's a distorted view.



David,

It's good to have a list.

I'll make this my homework assignment.

David Brin said...

BTW, it's not just overstretching the military. It was the utter betrayal of the US Army reserves, calling up nearly all of those men and women from their jobs and lives and immediately treating them as front line troops on and on and on, in a non-emergency war of choice.

And so much more. Rumsfeld bullying everybody and meddling in a million details he knew nothing about. If a democrat did that you'd scream bloody murder, but Clinton & Obama did the opposite, treating their advisors with respect.

outsourcing to privatized companies who then bully the soldiers WHILE IN THE FIELD. Claiming to justify Blackwater and Haliburton by citing "savings" only later to learn they cost ten times as much, all of it going to Bushite pals.

Relentless hatred of intellect. Ridicule or scholarship or any sense of history. Plus a deep and boiling spite toward science. All important traits of today's Officer Corps.

I'm just getting started. Oh, Bush & co. gave the flag officers lots of reasons. Above all, a terror that these bozos actually were in charge of nuclear weapons.

And don't you dare imagine that today's GOP is any better, just because none of the top guys are called Rumsefeld, Cheney or Bush.

David Brin said...

onward

rewinn said...

@RandyB wrote:

"...People who've read Jane Mayer's work in the New Yorker learned some interesting stuff, but it's a distorted view."

That might be relevant ... how?

Oh, nevermind.

Onward!

Paul Simon said...

The illinoiscorruption.net has issued an informational video and a press release, to help the media and the general public in the upcoming oral argument at the Illinois Supreme Court hearing in Annabel Melongo’s eavesdropping case. The hearing is scheduled for January 14th, 2014, at the 18th floor of the Michael A. Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago at 9.30 am.

Video: http://www.illinoiscorruption.net/common/video-pressrelease.html
Press Release: http://www.illinoiscorruption.net/common/pressrelease.html

Please support this cause. The Illinois Eavesdropping law at its very core creates a two-class legal system wherein the conversations of the powerful and well-connected are protected to the detriment of the less powerful. The upcoming oral argument presents a unique opportunity for the common citizen to re-establish that legal balance that will unequivocally establish a right to record public officials in their public duties.

Therefore, please contribute to this all-important hearing by either attending it, writing about it, spreading the word or just forwarding the below video and press release to anybody who might be of any help.