Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Wall Street Journal on torture

This seems like a conversation which is passed due:
As for al Qaeda, let us describe the most coercive interrogation technique that was ever actually authorized. It's called "water-boarding," and it involves strapping a detainee down, wrapping his face in a wet towel and dripping water on it to produce the sensation of drowning.

Is that "torture"? It is pushing the boundary of tolerable behavior, but we are told it is also used to train U.S. pilots in case they are shot down and captured. More to the critics' apparent point, is it immoral, or unjustified, in the cause of preventing another mass casualty attack on U.S. soil? By all means let's have a debate; Mr. Gonzales should challenge a few Democrats to categorically renounce it and tell us what techniques they would tolerate instead.

Click here: OpinionJournal - Featured Article

What have we and our allies been doing? I do get tired of the sound bite poseurs.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Handy tip for the culinarily inclined

After adding rice to boiling water, do not forget to reduce the heat.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Belmont Club on Blogoshere news

Wretchard at Belmont Club has a brief post on how the blogosphere is starting to effect both news commentary and more recently news gathering:

The blogosphere is a specific manifestation -- and by no means the only one -- of the networks made possible by the Internet which can be imperfectly compared to the emerging nervous system of a growing organism. Once the software and infrastructure to self-publish was in place, it was natural that analytical cells, or groups of cells would take inputs from other parts of the system and process them. The result was 'instant punditry', which was nothing more than the public exchange of analysis on any subject -- politics, culture and war just happened to be the three most popular. It enabled lawyers to offer opinions on law; military men on things military; scientists on things scientific. And suddenly the journalistic opinion editors found themselves at an increasing disadvantage. While individual bloggers might not have the journalistic experience of the newspaper professionals, they had the inestimable edge of being experts, sometimes the absolute authorities in their respective fields. This is exactly what happened in Memogate. People who had designed Adobe fonts and written desktop publishing programs knew the memos were computer generated and were not going to be overawed by Dan Rather's experts asserting the contrary. They were the real experts and to make an impact they did not have to be correct across a large range of issues. They only had to be right in the one thing they knew best and from that vantage could hammer a mainstream pundit into the dust. Rather's defeat at the hands of Buckhead was not accidental. It was inevitable.

...The advent of cheap consumer digital cameras capable of recording sound coupled to the proliferation of internet connections meant that ... the Internet was developing a sensory apparatus to match. To the 'instant pundit' was added the 'instant reporter' -- the man already on the spot, often possessed of local knowledge and language skills. These came suddenly of age with the December 2004 tsunami story. Survivors...'filed stories' which were ...launched into the global information pool. In retrospect, the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine forshadowed the events of the tsunami coverage. Individuals with mobile computing and communications devices provided a substantial shadow coverage of the unfolding events there. Like the tsunami instant reporters, the insta-journalists in the Ukraine had the additional advantage of being largely unknown to each other. This meant that unlike the wire services, which are often single-sourced, the insta-reports could be cross-checked.

Click here: Belmont Club

The effects can be as wide spread or narrow as the issue. I am on a list serve for a group many members of which are readying for a conference on what is a now very storm tossed Kaua'i, Hawaii. At 4:23 PM today a member at UCLA sent out a copy of a Hawaii newspaper story about damage to a major Kaua'i hotel and surrounding areas, and at 8:06 another at U of Hawaii had responded that the hotel ppl were meeting at was on the other side of the island; she had spoken to the manager, and all was well there. Not a blog, but local knowledge and the Internet. Story, fact checking, and reporting. It won't replace the mainstream media, but it will be interesting to see how the MSM and the blogoshere continue to interact.

The Hunley

Two newspaper articles, one on stuff the archies found upon opening up the Confederate sub "Hunley" and another on figuring out how to keep it all from falling apart. Footprints inside the shoes? That's pretty neat. Well, unless it was your shoe, of course.

Well, mebbe a couple links. Still trying to figure this out, and have made at least one step forward but possibly two steps back. Sigh. I shoulda been born forty years later so I could have had this all mastered in nursery school.

Lemme see if either of these work. Anyway, thanks to Archaeology magazine(Click here: Archaeology Magazine ) for the leads. If you work at a certain museum the computer system of which sits back and sneers haughtily if you clik on links instead of copying and pasting, per'aps it's time to beat yer IS people about the head and loins whilst whining plaintively.

Anyway: Artifacts: Click here: AP Wire 01/02/2005 Fragile artifacts challenge Hunley restoration team or do that paste thing And for what was found Click here: Sunken mystery: South Florida Sun-Sentinel or get out the paste again.,0,2014645.story?coll=sfla-newsnation-front I hope it tastes better than the white goo I used in Miss Van Dee Zandee's class at Dunwood while waiting for Mr. Kruschev to blow off the Big One over the school.

Will early Jackalopes soon bring big bucks at...

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Won't get this with yer Brownie Starmite

Al Arabiya vs Al Jazeera

Today's New York Times Magazine covers the efforts by the new director of Al Arabiya TV in Saudi Arabia to reposition the station as a moderate alternative to Al Jazeera.
To Al-Rashed, the challenge he faces is much bigger than simply revamping a television channel. His goal is to foster a new kind of dialogue among Arabs, to carve out space for moderate and liberal ideas to enter the conversation, and in the process to do nothing less than save the Arab world from itself. ''People become radicals because extremism is celebrated on TV,'' he told me. ''If you broadcast an extremist message at a mosque, it reaches 50 people. But do you know how many people can be sold by a message on TV?''
...Al Arabiya employees in Iraq have been killed by insurgents. In late October, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb outside the Al Arabiya Baghdad, killing five....A group called the Jihadist Martyrs Brigades took credit for the attack. In its dispatches, members had criticized Al Arabiya for giving the new Iraqi government overly favorable coverage. They called Al Arabiya a ''terrorist channel'' and suggested that its name, which means ''the Arab,'' should be changed to ''the Hebrew.''

Since Al Jazeera publicizes calls for the destruction of the Saud family it isn't too surprising that there is some interest in an alternative outlet, but a news and commentary source with a non-Al Jazeera viewpoint seems like a positive thing- even though the world might well be a better place when the Sauds are all living in Switzerland. In fact, when all the arab governments are living in Switzerland.

''If in Libya or Egypt I push someone to tell a story that will get him in conflict with the authorities,'' Khatib explained, ''I can't tell them, 'We need it.' Because it goes without saying that this subject is dangerous. This applies to most of the issues that matter -- all the things related to corruption and political conflicts.'' Al-Rashed told me that Al Arabiya can't report freely on the Saudi government because it is Saudi-owned, and the channel is unable to cover Algeria at all right now. Al Arabiya's correspondent has been prohibited from reporting for the last eight months by the government of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the recently elected president: during the election, the reporter had predicted that Bouteflika's rival would win.
Click here: The New York Times > Magazine > The War Inside the Arab Newsroom

No lawyers, no trials, no release, ever. Torture.

Is this really a power we want to give our government? According to an article in today's Washington Post:
Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.

The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts.
...The CIA has been scurrying since Sept. 11, 2001, to find secure locations abroad where it could detain and interrogate captives without risk of discovery, and without having to give them access to legal proceedings.

One approach used by the CIA has been to transfer captives it picks up abroad to third countries willing to hold them indefinitely and without public proceedings. The transfers, called "renditions," depend on arrangements between the United States and other countries...
"Renditions are the most effective way to hold people," said Rohan Gunaratna, author of "Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror." "The threat of sending someone to one of these countries is very important. In Europe, the custodial interrogations have yielded almost nothing" because they do not use the threat of sending detainees to a country where they are likely to be tortured.

We are OK imprisoning "suspects" for life, without any announcement that we even have them, without counsel, without trial. We are OK because our government doesn't torture prisoners. It just turns them over to people who do. That seems to be the theory. This sounds like we are taking a page from the Soviet Union, which used to be considered the Bad Guys.

People who commit torture belong in prison. American officials who knowingly turn over prisoners to torturers belong in prison. But then, I've long thought that most of the Federal politicians belong in prison, so I guess this isn't anything new. Click here: Long-Term Plan Sought For Terror Suspects ( or

Update: Some (seven, so far as I know- at least that seems to be a widely reported number) of the prisoners released from Guantanamo have in fact returned to the field and been either captured again or killed. There is a dilemna here for American, and other, policy makers, but I decline to believe that seven recidivists justifies turning prisoners over to foreign governments for torture, even if under international law they, as "unlawful combatants", have very few legal rights. If we are going to have our allies pull out the electric cattle prods- or perhaps more accurately, slip them in- we should stop any pretense to being moral leaders of the world and simply say we are doing this because we think we need to. Of course, that leaves us without any moral arguments against the Saddam Husseins of the world.