Wednesday, September 27, 2006


One of the people I keep tabs on at Live Journal has been on a tear about torture. From reading his journal, I've seen that he has very strong feelings about torture – indeed, he hates it. I've also seen that he seems to lose his ability to read for content when he gets worked up about a topic.

Another problem I've noticed is that he has a very simplistic (he calls it simple) definition of what constitutes torture:

Here is my definition. You will (because you have already) disagree.

It's very simple.

Any physical or mental coercion.

Full stop. Any.

So the cold room, out of bounds.

The standing up for hours, out of bounds.

Feeding him food against his religion, out of bounds

Slapping him around,just a little, out of bounds

Telling him his family will never know where he is, out of bounds.

Not feeding him as the troops of the detaining power, out of bounds.

It is just that simple.

And it has the advantage of being both morally right, and working.

There are serious problems with this definition, which I won't go in to right now.

But it seems he's made the following logical argument:

• Torture is not nice.


• Anything not nice is torture.

Jonah Goldberg has a different take. Among other things, context matters.

When confronted with the assertion that the Soviet Union and the United States were moral equivalents, William F. Buckley responded that if one man pushes an old lady into an oncoming bus and another man pushes an old lady out of the way of a bus, we should not denounce them both as men who push old ladies around.
[Andrew] Sullivan complains that calling torture “aggressive interrogation techniques” doesn’t make torture any better. Fair enough. But calling aggressive interrogation techniques “torture” when they’re not doesn’t make such techniques any worse.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Islamic tolerance

Is Islam compatible with democracy? Not the way the Islamo-fascists practice it. But does that make it so for all of Islam?

Judging history bereft of historical context often leads to error. Regrettably, Christian historians have portrayed Turkish history only from a modern perspective most of the time. Judging Christians of the Inquisition era out of historical context, one would conclude Christianity is incompatible with science. Yet, the Christian Reformation that gave us the scientific explosion we enjoy today.

The assertion that Islam is incompatible with democracy is similarly flawed. The Wahabbi version of Islam practiced by the Taliban in Afghanistan is incompatible with democracy, as Christianity of the Inquisition was incompatible with science. Islamists of Osama bin Laden's world yearn for the glory of Islam under Ottoman rule without knowing how it came about when it did and why it collapsed.

News with blinders

Skeptical news writers seem their lose their skepticism when certain topics arise. For example, they seem to have taken on faith statements that the Bush administration's response to Katrina was worse than, for example, the Clinton administration's response to similar disasters.

Let's look at Hurricane Floyd. It hit the coast on Sept. 16, 1999, and New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida were very hard hit. At the time it was the worst storm to hit the U.S. in a quarter century. Legend has it that Mr. Witt, under the guidance of Mr. Clinton, handled the storm and the floods that followed with great skill and success. I mean, did you hear any stories to the contrary during the Katrina coverage?

But as reported on Sept. 7, 2005, there is plenty of evidence that the media could have presented to show that Katrina was not the first major hurricane that presented major response problems for FEMA.

Three weeks after Floyd had passed, Mr. Witt appeared as a guest on the now-defunct CNN show, "Both Sides Now" hosted by Jesse Jackson. Mr. Jackson said, "It seemed there was preparation for Hurricane Floyd, but then came Flood Floyd. Bridges are overwhelmed, levees are overwhelmed, whole towns under water... it's an awesome scene of tragedy. So there's a great misery index in North Carolina."

Now keep in mind that this is nearly a month after the storm. Thecelebrated FEMA chief said, "We're starting to move the camper trailers in. It's been so wet it's been difficult to get things in there, but now it's going to be moving very quickly."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Evolution reference

This illo is from Dr. Douglas Theobald's 29 Evidences for Evolution. At one end of the series is a chimpanzee skull, at the other end is modern H. sapiens. The challenge for creationists and ID/IOTs: find the dividing line between human "kind" and ape "kind".

Interestingly enough, creationists can't agree where the dividing line is.