Monday, March 31, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Atrocity

It's a case of the incredible shrinking massacre.

After first reducing the charges against him, the government has dropped all charges against Marine Lance Corporal Tatum:


Not a single word of apology yet from Time which first floated the lie that the marines had engaged in a deliberate massacre in Haditha nor from Congressman Murtha who accused the Marine company involved with "cold blooded murder."

But this is another major instance where the blogosphere had the story right and the major media with all their resources, propagated a lie and kept it in circulation long after it was apparent the story of the Haditha "Massacre" was a bit of enemy propaganda.

Questions for Obama

Peter Wehner offers 22 questions reporters might do well to ask Barack Obama at his next press conference.

1. In early March you said your church was not "particularly controversial." Later in the month, after video clips of Jeremiah Wright had been repeatedly played on television, you admitted that you had heard Wright make statements in church that qualified him as a "fierce critic" of U.S. domestic and foreign policy and that "could be considered controversial." You also said you "strongly disagree[d]" with some of Wright's political views. Can you tell us what you specifically heard Wright say that you considered fiercely critical of U.S. policy, controversial, and with which you strongly disagreed?

2. During the approximately 20 years you attended Trinity United Church of Christ, did you hear Wright make comments or read things published in the "Pastor's Page" of the church bulletin that could be fairly deemed to be anti-American, anti-Semitic, and/or a "profoundly distorted view of this country" (to quote from your speech on race)?

3. When did you first become aware of the fact that in 1984 Reverend Wright traveled to Libya with Louis Farrakhan to visit Muammar Qadhafi? Similarly, when did you become aware of Wright's role in giving Farrakhan a lifetime-achievement award and that Wright referred to the Nation of Islam leader as a man of "integrity and honesty?" Did those things trouble you when you learned of them?

4. Did you ever, even once, have a conversation with Reverend Wright in which you expressed your concern about his rhetoric and worldview? If not, do you now wish you had? What ought to have triggered that conversation with Wright?

5. In the speech on race you delivered a couple of weeks ago, you said you could "no more disown [Wright] than I can disown the black community." Does that mean you believe Wright is synonymous with the embodiment of the black community, that they are one in the same? Is it your view that to disown any person who is black means you would therefore disown the black community? If so, does that mean you would be unable to "disown" someone like Louis Farrakhan? Are there any grounds on which you would disown Wright? If so, wouldn't that (by your own logic) mean that you would disown the whole of the black community?

6. On ABC's The View you said "had the Reverend [Wright] not retired and had he not acknowledged what he had said had deeply offended people and [was] inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church." Had you done so, how would that be different from "disowning" Wright?

7. Can you cite a single public statement in which Reverend Wright acknowledges that what he said deeply offended people, and was both inappropriate and a mischaracterization of what you believe is the greatness of this country? To what evidence of Wright's public contrition can you point?

8. When you/those on your campaign cancelled Reverend Wright's delivery of the invocation when you formally announced your run for the presidency in February 2007, what were the grounds for the cancellation? What did you know about Wright then that moved you to cancel his appearance? 9. With which elements, if any, of black liberation theology -- as represented by Reverend Wright and Trinity United Church of Christ -- do you strongly disagree? Do you think any of the core tenets of black liberation theology are racist? Are they consistent with, or fundamentally at odds with, your expressed desire to end racial divisions in this country? 10. Is there anything Reverend Wright has said in your presence that you fear will be made public and that your campaign is working to keep from coming out?

11. You have complained that America has been presented with an incomplete picture of Reverend Wright. Would you therefore urge Wright and Trinity United to make public all the sermons of Wright, as well as things he has written in the church bulletin and elsewhere, so we can see the full body of his work? And will you let us know, to the best of your ability, the dates you attended church services during the last 20 years?

12. Since the Wright story broke there seems to have been a concerted effort to keep Reverend Wright from speaking to the press or in public. If he is the man you says he is -- if the soundbites we have all seen are anomalous and the portrait of him is a caricature -- then why not encourage him to do interviews in order to set the record straight?

13. Do you think it was surprising or out of character for Reverend Wright to reprint an oped by a leading Hamas figure, Mousa Abu Mazook, in the "Pastor's Page" of Trinity United's church bulletin?

14. Do you consider Reverend Wright, within context and based on his public comments, to be anti-Semitic? What more would he need to say to cross that threshold?

15. Do you consider Reverend Wright, within context and based on his public comments, to be anti-American? What more would he need to say to cross that threshold?

16. Do you consider Reverend Wright, within context and based on his public comments, to be racist? What more would he need to say to cross that threshold?

17. Whom do you consider to be a more admirable and impressive figure and whose public words do you more closely associate yourself with: Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr. or Justice Clarence Thomas?

18. If the GOP candidate for president had a close, intimate relationship of almost two decades with a pastor whose church provided shelter to homeless people, provided day care and marriage counseling but who was himself a white supremacist, asked God to damn rather than bless America, said that the United States got what was coming to it on 9/11, advocated conspiracy theories about genocidal policies being promoted by the American government, said that Israel is a "dirty word," believed it was a terrorist state and promoted the views of Hamas leaders, would that trouble you? And would you accept the word of the GOP candidate if he insisted that he was not sitting in the pews when those things were said and therefore claimed he ought not be tarnished by the association?

19. Have you ever heard things contemporaneously said by Reverend Wright that you considered as offensive, or more offensive, than what Don Imus said about the Rutgers women's basketball team (something you considered to be a firing offense at the time)?

20. In looking back on this whole matter, do you think you have made any significant errors in judgment regarding your relationship with Reverend Wright? To what degree are you responsible for this controversy? And have you been completely forthcoming in telling Americans about what you heard from Wright and when you heard it?

21. When Reverend Wright told the New York Times last year that if you got past the primaries he thought you might have well have to publicly distance yourself from him -- and your reaction was that you agreed -- what did both of you know at the time?

22. Will you answer the questions posed above? If so, when? And if not, why?

And I'd like to add:

12-A. Would Reverend Wright be willing to spend an hour or two on public broadcast media clarifying his message for the nation? (What sort of pastor would turn down a chance to broadcast his message to a national audience?)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A quick step to life

Clayton Cramer offers some thoughts on the early history of life. He marvels at the short time that elapsed between the time the earth became habitable and the time it became inhabited.

As the article points out, at 3.5 billion years ago, there was life on Earth. So we're talking about as little as 300 million years and a maximum of 500 million years from the end of temperatures that would have sterilized the planet, to fossils. That's amazingly quick for a blind, random, and necessarily slow process. .... Those who insist that Intelligent Design is based on religious faith need to start asking why they are so confident that their model doesn't required a bit of faith to hold onto with data like this!

Let's see. Given: life was impossible on the planet at time T. Life was present and "far evolved" less than half a billion years after it became possible.

Stipulation: this is too short a time for natural processes to produce life.

Conclusion: life did not arise by natural processes.

Since no one has ever produced any evidence of non natural processes at work, I guess we don't exist.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Riot Act

You've heard of reading someone the riot act?

Here it is...

Our sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God save the King.

The actual Act is somewhat longer, and spells out penalties for not complying, among other things.

Winner take all?

Matt Lewis does some thinking about how delegates have been apportioned.

As we've witnessed this year, Democrats employ a Byzantine system of delegate apportionment in order to achieve electoral "fairness" (a candidate who wins a lot of votes, yet loses the state should get something out if it, right?).

The fact that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are currently engaged in political hand-to-hand combat which has featured name calling, including allegations of some of the primary players being a, "Monster," "Judas," and even (gasp!) "McCarthy," illustrates the fact that the Democrats' electoral system has hurt – not helped – their chances.

Republicans, by contrast, use a simpler -- daresay "ruthless" -- winner-take-all system which has allowed John McCain to capture the nomination without enduring the kind of protracted battle the Democrats have had to face. (Of course, some could argue that the Republican rules allowed a candidate who was nobody's favorite to rise from the dead with a 3rd place in Iowa and seal up the whole thing in 30 days.)

And though the Republican system for picking a nominee may not seem as "fair," it actually works. And in the long-run, it is actually less painful -- and fairer to the participants -- than the Democrats' system.

What is more, the Republican model may actually prepare candidates for the future challenges they will face. (After all, if you're going to believe in social engineering, why not encourage the behavior that will lead to victory?)

The bottom line is that it is axiomatic that what gets measured gets accomplished. As such, if one goal of primary elections is to help a party select the best-prepared candidate to win a General Election, then the selection rules ought to reward characteristics and behaviors that are likely to lead to victory in the General Election. But as Gov. Rendell's comments imply, the qualities the Democratic Party is doing just the opposite.

This reminds me an excellent book I read a while back called Moneyball. A major premise of the book is that we should measure -- and reward -- the things that ultimate lead us to achieve our goals.

One of the features of the electoral college is that wins and losses tend to be decisive -- far more than the popular vote margins are. The way the EC is structured, we prevent the kind of problem in the national election that the Democrats are seeing in their nomination process.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let it warm, let it warm, let it warm

Pielke's analysis, published last month in the journal Natural Hazards Review, is part of a controversial movement that argues global warming over the rest of this century will play a much smaller role in unleashing planetary havoc than most scientists think.

His research has led him to believe that it is cheaper and more effective to adapt to global warming than to fight it.

Instead of spending trillions of dollars to stabilize carbon dioxide levels across the planet -- an enormously complex and expensive proposition -- the world could work on reducing hunger, storm damage and disease now, thereby neutralizing some of the most feared future problems of global warming.

Hans von Storch, director of the Institute of Coastal Research in Germany, said that the world's problems were already so big that the added burdens caused by rising temperatures would be relatively small. It would be like going 160 kilometers per hour on the autobahn when "going 150 . . . is already dangerous," he said.

Consider a United Nations estimate that global warming would increase the number of people at risk of hunger from 777 million in 2020 to 885 million by 2080, a 14% rise, if current development patterns continue.

That increase could be counteracted by spending on better irrigation systems, drought-resistant crops and more-efficient food transport systems, said Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in England.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Security Experts Think

A while back, I was pointing out to someone that scientists learn to think in a manner the rest of us view as upside-down and backwards.  Among other things, scientists aren't trained to try to prove their theories true, but rather to prove them false.  And the power of a scientific theory comes not from the number of things it can account for, but from the number of things it rules out.

Non-scientists don't understand this mindset.

Here, Bruce Schneier looks at the mindset of a security professional.

Uncle Milton Industries has been selling ant farms to children since 1956. Some years ago, I remember opening one up with a friend. There were no actual ants included in the box. Instead, there was a card that you filled in with your address, and the company would mail you some ants. My friend expressed surprise that you could get ants sent to you in the mail.

I replied: "What's really interesting is that these people will send a tube of live ants to anyone you tell them to."

Security requires a particular mindset. Security professionals -- at least the good ones -- see the world differently. They can't walk into a store without noticing how they might shoplift. They can't use a computer without wondering about the security vulnerabilities. They can't vote without trying to figure out how to vote twice. They just can't help it.

SmartWater is a liquid with a unique identifier linked to a particular owner. "The idea is for me to paint this stuff on my valuables as proof of ownership," I wrote when I first learned about the idea. "I think a better idea would be for me to paint it on your valuables, and then call the police."

It's not that security experts are untrustworthy or that they intend to implement any of the security flaws they find. It's that most people are far more interested in getting any given system to work properly than in breaking it, so they don't see the ways it can be broken.

"Expelled" star expelled

Here is a link-rich post describing a major PR coup on the part of the producers of the film "Expelled".  Unfortunately, it turns out to be a major coup for the other side.

As you have undoubtedly heard, a group of evolutionary biologists and evolutionary biology supporters attended a showing of the movie Expelled, in the Twin Cities, last night. This group included the very famous Richard Dawkins and the only slightly less famous PZ Myers. PZ and Richard, in fact, were together in line, along with PZ's spouse, a daughter, and a future son in law. Other evolution supporters and at least one local evolutionary-type blogger were also in line.

While waiting in line and minding their own business, PZ was spotted by the Expelled! production staff, and EXPELLED from the theater!!!! Richard Dawkins and the others were not picked up by this anti-truth security dragnet, and were able to attend the show.

Since the premise of the film is that academics are being suppressed, oppressed, repressed, and depressed for failing to toe the party line on evolution, it is ironic, to say the least, that the producers would, in turn, expel a known critic of their position.  Even more ironic when this critic is featured in the film and prominently listed in the credits.

Here is Myers' account, from his own blog:

I went to attend a screening of the creationist propaganda movie, Expelled, a few minutes ago. Well, I tried -- but I was Expelled! It was kind of weird -- I was standing in line, hadn't even gotten to the point where I had to sign in and show ID, and a policeman pulled me out of line and told me I could not go in. I asked why, of course, and he said that a producer of the film had specifically instructed him that I was not to be allowed to attend. The officer also told me that if I tried to go in, I would be arrested. I assured him that I wasn't going to cause any trouble.

I went back to my family and talked with them for a while, and then the officer came back with a theater manager, and I was told that not only wasn't I allowed in, but I had to leave the premises immediately. Like right that instant.

I complied.

I'm still laughing though. You don't know how hilarious this is. Not only is it the extreme hypocrisy of being expelled from their Expelled movie, but there's another layer of amusement. Deep, belly laugh funny. Yeah, I'd be rolling around on the floor right now, if I weren't so dang dignified.

You see -- well, have you ever heard of a sabot? It's a kind of sleeve or lightweight carrier used to surround a piece of munition fired from a gun. It isn't the actually load intended to strike the target, but may even be discarded as it leaves the barrel.

I'm a kind of sabot right now.

They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn't notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn't recognize him. My guest was ...

Richard Dawkins.

Interestingly enough, although Myers was thrown out of the screening, he had invited a guest who was not expelled.

This guest was Richard Dawkins, and he offers his comments on the episode.,2394,Lying-for-Jesus,Richard-Dawkins

The blogs are ringing with ridicule. Mark Mathis, duplicitous producer of the much hyped film Expelled, shot himself in the foot so spectacularly that the phrase might have been invented for him. Goals don't come more own than this. How is it possible that a man who makes his living from partisan propaganda could hand so stunning a propaganda coup to his opponents? Hand it to them on a plate, so ignominiously and so UNNECESSARILY.

Now, to the Good Friday Fiasco itself, Mathis' extraordinary and costly lapse of judgment. Just think about it. His entire film is devoted to the notion that American scientists are being hounded and expelled from their jobs because of opinions that they hold. The film works hard at pressing (no, belabouring with a sledgehammer) all the favourite hot buttons of free speech, freedom of thought, the right of dissent, the right to be heard, the right to discuss issues rather than suppress argument. These are the topics that the film sets out to raise, with particular reference to evolution and 'intelligent design' (wittily described by someone as creationism in a cheap tuxedo). In the course of this film, Mathis tricked a number of scientists, including PZ Myers and me, into taking prominent parts in the film, and both of us are handsomely thanked in the closing credits.

Seemingly oblivious to the irony, Mathis instructed some uniformed goon to evict Myers while he was standing in line with his family to enter the theatre, and threaten him with arrest if he didn't immediately leave the premises. Did it not occur to Mathis -- what would occur any normally polite and reasonable person -- that Myers, having played a leading role in the film, might have been welcomed as an honoured guest to watch it? Or, more cynically, did he not know that PZ is one of the country's most popular bloggers, with a notoriously caustic wit, perfectly placed to set the whole internet roaring with delighted and mocking laughter? I long ago realised that Mathis was deceitful. I didn't know he was a bungling incompetent.

And it seems the film was pretty bad, too.

Friday, March 21, 2008

How to get charges dropped...

...the hard way!

Assault Suspect Dies, No One Tells Attorneys


The suspect's public defender and officials from the Mesa County district attorney's office were in court Wednesday for a hearing to determine if Ridenour was fit to stand trial, unaware he was dead.

I guess in that case, the answer was "no".

Previously, we read:

A 91-year-old man accused of threatening to rape a nurse at his nursing home missed a court appearance because his doctor said he couldn't be moved because of a blood clot in his leg.


At an Oct. 24 court hearing, Ridenour appeared to be sleeping at the defense table in his wheelchair. The presiding judge said she thought he was "playing games with the court" and ordered him to be transferred to a hospital for the psychiatric evaluation.

Maybe this is just another game on his part? If so, I guess he won.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tired blood

The common practice of storing blood for more than two weeks could be proving fatal for thousands of heart surgery patients, according to a major study.

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio have found that patients who receive blood that is more than 14 days old are nearly two-thirds more likely to die than those who get newer blood.


A total of 2,872 patients received blood that had been stored for 14 days or less, and 3,130 patients received blood that was more than 14 days old.

The mean storage age was 11 days for the newer blood and 20 days for the older blood.

In-hospital mortality was significantly higher among those who received older blood: 2.8% compared to 1.7%.

The researchers also found that death rates a year on were nearly half as high again in the patients who had received older blood, compared to those who received newer blood. 11% of the patients who had received older blood had died a year later, compared to 7.4% of those who received newer blood. Both sets of patients received the same volume of blood.

The difference in hospital is 1.1% of all patients – not that much, but not insignificant either. A year later, the difference is 4.6% of all patients.  Nothing to sneeze at.

Really, this shouldn't be all that surprising.

Blood is not just one particular age.  Blood cells in the body are constantly being destroyed as they wear out, and constantly being replenished by new ones. Any batch of blood drawn from a donor is going to have some fraction of blood cells that are due for replacement, and that number will only increase as the blood ages.  It's like taking a bunch of people off a street corner in a big city.  Some fraction of those people will be retirement age.  If you hold the sample for ten years and don't allow reproduction, a larger fraction will be retirement age.

As usual, medicine involves weighing risks and benefits. A transfusion is always going to carry some risk.  If you need one right now, you need one.  If not, there are lots of good reasons not to get one.

And of course, if you're eligible to donate, please do so.

At least once a year, perhaps in honor of your birthday.

Model minorities -- how asians became white

A very interesting thing happened in a poverty-stricken part of the country. Asians immigrating from Vietnam worked hard and became prosperous. Blacks in the same area remained in poverty.

The difference?

The asians were hungry. The blacks were owed.

Oil from organic waste

This is not the group I've been hearing about, but if they can do what they say they can do, it might be worth a look.

After three years of clandestine development, a Georgia company is now going public with a simple, natural way to convert anything that grows out of the Earth into oil.

J.C. Bell, an agricultural researcher and CEO of Bell Bio-Energy, Inc., says he's isolated and modified specific bacteria that will, on a very large scale, naturally change plant material – including the leftovers from food – into to fuel cars and trucks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hitchens on Iraq

Anyone with even a glancing acquaintance with Iraq would have to know that a heavy U.S. involvement in the affairs of that country began no later than 1968, with the role played by the CIA in the coup that ultimately brought Saddam Hussein's wing of the Baath Party to power. Not much more than a decade later, we come across persuasive evidence that the United States at the very least acquiesced in the Iraqi invasion of Iran, a decision that helped inflict moral and material damage of an order to dwarf anything that has occurred in either country recently. In between, we might note minor episodes such as Henry Kissinger's faux support to Kurdish revolutionaries, encouraging them to believe in American support and then abandoning and betraying them in the most brutal and cynical fashion.

If you can bear to keep watching this flickering newsreel, it will take you all the way up to the moment when Saddam Hussein, too, switches sides and courts Washington, being most in favor in our nation's capital at the precise moment when he is engaged in a campaign of extermination in the northern provinces and retaining this same favor until the very moment when he decides to "engulf" his small Kuwaiti neighbor. In every decision taken subsequent to that, from the decision to recover Kuwait and the decision to leave Saddam in power to the decisions to impose international sanctions on Iraq and the decision to pass the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, stating that long-term coexistence with Saddam's regime was neither possible nor desirable, there was a really quite high level of public participation in our foreign policy. We were never, if we are honest with ourselves, "lied into war." We became steadily more aware that the option was continued collusion with Saddam Hussein or a decision to have done with him. The president's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, laying out the considered case that it was time to face the Iraqi tyrant, too, with this choice, was easily the best speech of his two-term tenure and by far the most misunderstood.

That speech is widely and wrongly believed to have focused on only two aspects of the problem, namely the refusal of Saddam's regime to come into compliance on the resolutions concerning weapons of mass destruction and the involvement of the Baathists with a whole nexus of nihilist and Islamist terror groups. Baghdad's outrageous flouting of the resolutions on compliance (if not necessarily the maintenance of blatant, as opposed to latent, WMD capacity) remains a huge and easily demonstrable breach of international law. The role of Baathist Iraq in forwarding and aiding the merchants of suicide terror actually proves to be deeper and worse, on the latest professional estimate, than most people had ever believed or than the Bush administration had ever suggested.

This is all overshadowed by the unarguable hash that was made of the intervention itself. But I would nonetheless maintain that this incompetence doesn't condemn the enterprise wholesale. A much-wanted war criminal was put on public trial. The Kurdish and Shiite majority was rescued from the ever-present threat of a renewed genocide. A huge, hideous military and party apparatus, directed at internal repression and external aggression was (perhaps overhastily) dismantled. The largest wetlands in the region, habitat of the historic Marsh Arabs, have been largely recuperated. Huge fresh oilfields have been found, including in formerly oil free Sunni provinces, and some important initial investment in them made. Elections have been held, and the outline of a federal system has been proposed as the only alternative to a) a sectarian despotism and b) a sectarian partition and fragmentation. Not unimportantly, a battlefield defeat has been inflicted on al-Qaida and its surrogates, who (not without some Baathist collaboration) had hoped to constitute the successor regime in a failed state and an imploded society. Further afield, a perfectly defensible case can be made that the Syrian Baathists would not have evacuated Lebanon, nor would the Qaddafi gang have turned over Libya's (much higher than anticipated) stock of WMD if not for the ripple effect of the removal of the region's keystone dictatorship.

None of these positive developments took place without a good deal of bungling and cruelty and unintended consequences of their own. I don't know of a satisfactory way of evaluating one against the other any more than I quite know how to balance the disgrace of Abu Ghraib, say, against the digging up of Saddam's immense network of mass graves. There is, however, one position that nobody can honestly hold but that many people try their best to hold. And that is what I call the Bishop Berkeley theory of Iraq, whereby if a country collapses and succumbs to trauma, and it's not our immediate fault or direct responsibility, then it doesn't count, and we are not involved. Nonetheless, the very thing that most repels people when they contemplate Iraq, which is the chaos and misery and fragmentation (and the deliberate intensification and augmentation of all this by the jihadists), invites the inescapable question: What would post-Saddam Iraq have looked like without a coalition presence?

McCain and Torture

Nat Hentoff takes his shots at McCain for being insufficiently opposed to torture.

At the White House on March 5, Republican presidential nominee John McCain, glowing with George W. Bush's endorsement of him, said that "on the fundamentals and the principles of our Republican Party and most of the specifics of our shared conservative philosophy, President Bush and I are in agreement." Not mentioned over their lunch of hot dogs was their affinity for certain practices of torture in the war against terrorists, a continued reversal of McCain's convictions.

Back on Dec. 15, 2005, McCain, during a televised meeting with the president, was able to proclaim -- after Bush had yielded to McCain's demand to support legislation against torture -- "We can move forward and make sure that the whole world knows that, as the president has stated many times, that we do not practice cruel, inhuman treatment or torture."


Said Petraeus: "What sets us apart from the enemy in this fight ... is how we behave. ... Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. ... In fact, our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published (in 2006) shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees."

Why did McCain vote against a single standard proved effective by the Army Field Manual -- especially since he used to say about torture: "It's not who they (the enemy) are. It's who we are."

McCain's watery explanation of his vote: "We always supported allowing the CIA to use extra measures. ... What we need is not to tie the CIA to the Army Field Manual." McCain continued to say his vote against the single standard is "consistent" with his former convictions. He doesn't say how it is.

I do have a couple of questions.

Petreas says that the methods laid out in the Army Field Manual "work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees."

There was a case in Germany where a kidnapper had buried his victim, an 11-year-old boy.  The deputy police chief overseeing the case believed the boy had been buried alive, possibly thinking of cases where a kidnap victim had been stored in a coffin or other underground container with a limited air supply.  He ordered his officers to threaten the kidnapper with torture.  A few minutes after the threat was made, the kidnapper led investigators to where the boy was buried.  Unfortunately, this was not an "underground storage" situation; if the boy was not already dead when buried, he suffocated soon thereafter.

However, had the boy been alive, which the Deputy Chief had reason to believe was the case, I'd like to know if Army Field Manual techniques could have obtained the boy's location in as short a time as the threat of torture did.

In other words, if time is of the essence (interrogators seem to have an instictive visceral reaction to "ticking time-bomb scenario", even though this is as close as we get to one without explosives), are the Army Field Manual techniques really quicker and more effective than waterboarding or even convincing threats have proved to be?

Are they even a fraction as quick and effective?

If you need information out of a detainee within fifteen minutes to save some number of lives, is there a number of lives that would, in your opinion, justify waterboarding?

For more on this topic, and more background: click here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"I'll be watching you"

Automatic surveillance has gotten cheap and powerful enough that the police can keep an eye on everyone, 24 hours a day.

We have arrived at a unique moment in the history of surveillance. The price of both megapixels and gigabytes has plummeted, making it possible to collect a previously unimaginable quantity and quality of data. Advances in processing power and software, meanwhile, are beginning to allow computers to surmount the greatest limitation of traditional surveillance—the ability of eyeballs to effectively observe the activity on dozens of video screens simultaneously. Computers can't do all the work by themselves, but they can expand the capabilities of humans exponentially.

Liberty Island, name notwithstanding, is one of the most heavily surveilled places in America. Dozens of cameras record hundreds of hours of video daily, a volume that strains the monitoring capability of guards. The National Park Service has enlisted extra help, and as Emma and I strolled around, we weren't just being watched by people. We were being watched by machines.

Liberty Island's video cameras all feed into a computer system. The park doesn't disclose details, but fully equipped, the system is capable of running software that analyzes the imagery and automatically alerts human overseers to any suspicious events. The software can spot when somebody abandons a bag or backpack. It has the ability to discern between ferryboats, which are allowed to approach the island, and private vessels, which are not. And it can count bodies, detecting if somebody is trying to stay on the island after closing, or assessing when people are grouped too tightly together, which might indicate a fight or gang activity. "A camera with artificial intelligence can be there 24/7, doesn't need a bathroom break, doesn't need a lunch break and doesn't go on vacation," says Ian Ehrenberg, former vice president of Nice Systems, the program's developer.

And it's not just the police who'll be watching. It's everyone.

...I cruised the aisles of the neighborhood grocery store, a Pathmark, tossing items into my cart like a normal shopper would—Frosted Mini-Wheats, Pledge Wipes, a bag of carrots. Then I put them on the belt at checkout. My secret was on the lower level of the cart: a 12-pack of beer, concealed and undetectable. Or so I thought. Midway through checkout the cashier addressed me, no malice in her voice, but no doubt either. "Do you want to ring up that beer?"


(I know of a local pizzeria that warns customers with a posted sign: "Stop stealing the spice shakers! We know who you are, we have 24-hour surveillance!")

And by "everyone", I mean everyone

...As this month's cover story notes, the recent boom in video monitoring—by both the state and businesses—means we're all being watched. It's like something out of George Orwell's 1984. Except that, unlike Orwell's protagonist Winston Smith, we can watch back—and plenty of people are doing just that. Which makes a difference.


Ever since the Rodney King case, police have known that video images—whether recorded by citizens or by the authorities themselves—can provoke controversy. With video technology spreading so rapidly, such images are coming to light more often. In October 2007, an elite unit of the Chicago Police Department was disbanded after video emerged of its members shaking down barroom customers. A policeman in Puerto Rico is under FBI investigation because video—uploaded to YouTube—apparently shows him executing an unarmed man. And a Baltimore woman recently won a $180,000 false arrest and imprisonment lawsuit based on police videotape evidence that confirmed a different but similarly dressed woman was the one buying drugs.

Supporters of widespread surveillance often argue, "If you're obeying the law, you have nothing to fear." Why shouldn't the same go for police officers?

Why, indeed?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Can anyone make Wright right?

Okay, Show Us the Context That Makes Wright Look Not So Bad


What are you going to tell me about him that refutes the "God d*** America" line? What "full measure" am I going to see that makes me say, "oh, well, now I'm okay with his called for our nation to be damned by God.

Similarly, Obama seems to have felt it necessary to mention that Wright was a Marine in every interview. Great. That doesn't change the fact that he just called for God's wrath upon our own country. How many Americans will say, 'well, one balances out the other?'

It's like the line that Wright's comments are being taken out of context. Show me the context that makes that line okay, or the context that justifies the charge that the U.S. government created the AIDS virus.

How many people were calling for us to take Mel Gibson's antisemitic rant "in its full context"?

Brain surgery the hard way

A leading brain surgeon used a £30 DIY drill to carry out a successful operation on a fully conscious patient.

Henry Marsh used a Bosch PSR960 cordless drill because he did not have his normal equipment on him.

The do-it-yourself 9.6 volt drill cost one thousand times less the price of his preferred tool - a £30,000 compressed air medical drill.

But Mr Marsh had to use the Bosch because he was on a trip to Ukraine in Eastern Europe to help people let down by a vastly inadequate health system.

Halfway through the operation to remove the tumour from Marian Dolishny's head, the power ran out.

Thankfully the neurosurgeon, who normally practises at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south, London, was able the complete the operation and save a life.

Soon to be a new TV Series: "This Old Brain".

Saddam and Terror

"Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda's stated goals and objectives." According to the Pentagon study, Egyptian Islamic Jihad was one of many jihadist groups that Iraq's former dictator funded, trained, equipped, and armed.

An abstract that describes the study reads, in part:

Because Saddam's security organizations and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some way, a 'de facto' link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam's use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime."

Among the study's other notable findings:

In 1993, as Osama bin Laden's fighters battled Americans in Somalia, Saddam Hussein personally ordered the formation of an Iraqi terrorist group to join the battle there.

For more than two decades, the Iraqi regime trained non-Iraqi jihadists in training camps throughout Iraq.

According to a 1993 internal Iraqi intelligence memo, the regime was supporting a secret Islamic Palestinian organization dedicated to "armed jihad against the Americans and Western interests."

In the 1990s, Iraq's military intelligence directorate trained and equipped "Sudanese fighters."

In 1998, the Iraqi regime offered "financial and moral support" to a new group of jihadists in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

In 2002, the year before the war began, the Iraqi regime hosted in Iraq a series of 13 conferences for non-Iraqi jihadist groups.

That same year, a branch of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) issued hundreds of Iraqi passports for known terrorists.

As I said, this ought to be big news. And, in a way, it was. A headline in the New York Times, a cursory item in the Washington Post, and stories on NPR and ABC News reported that the study showed no links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

How can a study offering an unprecedented look into the closed regime of a brutal dictator, with over 1,600 pages of "strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism," in the words of its authors, receive a wave-of-the-hand dismissal from America's most prestigious news outlets? All it took was a leak to a gullible reporter, one misleading line in the study's executive summary, a boneheaded Pentagon press office, an incompetent White House, and widespread journalistic negligence.

On Monday, March 10, 2008, Warren P. Strobel, a reporter from the McClatchy News Service first reported that the new Pentagon study was coming. "An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network." McClatchy is a newspaper chain that serves many of America's largest cities. The national security reporters in its Washington bureau have earned a reputation as reliable outlets for anti-Bush administration spin on intelligence. Strobel quoted a "U.S. official familiar with the report" who told him that the search of Iraqi documents yielded no evidence of a "direct operational link" between Iraq and al Qaeda. Strobel used the rest of the article to attempt to demonstrate that this undermined the Bush administration's prewar claims with regard to Iraq and terrorism.

Did Enron Prosecutors withhold exculpatory evidence?

Article at the end of the link.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Interrogation techniques

The other night I attended an electrifying debate by Intelligence Squared U.S. about U.S. interrogation techniques in the war on terror....

Many of the interrogation techniques employed by the CIA and now barred by the Army field manual do not amount to what most Americans would call torture. While it's easy to understand why waterboarding is controversial, I cannot say the same about depriving detainees of sleep, being disrespectful to them in a good cop/bad cop context, and subjecting them to loud music (unless it is Hanson's "MMMBop"). These are all practices currently barred by the Army Field Manual, but which the CIA is permitted to employ against high-value terrorist detainees....

The speaker who struck me as most loopy was John Hutson, a former Judge Advocate General of the Navy, who refused to draw any nuance about the different interrogation techniques used by the CIA. He called everything torture, and even proclaimed "This is not an existential war" and that "Killing us isn't their goal."

McConnell on Waterboarding

DIRECTOR McCONNELL: Let's take it from the beginning. Has waterboarding ever been used by a professional organization whose mission is to extract information? The answer is yes. You might ask what are the circumstances? Three times. Situations where there's been interrogation over a period of time. It was unsuccessful. Water boarding was used and then information started to flow.

Just to put it in context, probably upwards of a quarter to a third of all the information generated in this period of time came from these three individuals. It's saved lives.

I would be willing to say it's saved lives for some of the people who know, of people who are known to people in this room. So you've got to ask yourself the question, is it worth it?

Of course, there are those who will say "torture doesn't work", and therefore the Director of National Intelligence is either stupid or lying.

The Wright Stuff

Dr. Jeremiah Wright Jr. has been saying things like "God damn America" for a couple of decades to a congregation that has grown to the thousands, and his sermons only go out via webcast, podcast, telecast, broadcast, cable cast. And for the technologically challenged, audio cassettes and books. I mean, just how deep should we expect our intrepid media mavens to dig? It's hard to find that haystack in the needle, ain't it?

[Editor's note: American Thinker has been covering Pastor Wright's radicalism for a year now.]

If John McCain were a member of Fred Phelps' "church", everyone would be calling on him to denounce Phelps' "God Hates Fags" message. And indeed, I'm not sure if any level of denunciation short of going up to Phelps with a shotgun and blowing him away would be considered sufficient.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Early steps to life

Infrared spectrography has turned up evidence of some busy organic chemistry taking place in the dust cloud around a young star. These reactions include the creation of amino acids and other building blocks of life.

Vast amounts of water and simple organic molecules that are precursors of the building blocks of life have been found in the dust and rubble swirling around a young star similar to our own sun.

The "spectral fingerprints" seen by the space telescope in the cradle of planet formation suggest abundant water and simple organic molecules are present in the inner disk of dust and gas surrounding the very young star which is thought to be similar to our early sun, a common kind scattered throughout our galaxy.

The new observations reveal the chemical precursors of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, up to three times the distance from the Sun to our own Earth. Astronomers believe that this may offer a unique glimpse of the emergence of life in our own solar system, including the possible seeds of early life.

The question of how the first life forms arose on Earth has not been easy to answer. With this information, it may be that some of the vital chemicals actually formed in space and were carried to the Earth's surface by comets and meteorites. Although a dust cloud is pretty thin, the volume they're talking about here is huge. I wouldn't be surprised if the total mass of amino acids in the cloud being examined outweighs the Earth.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Radioactive Water Filters

It turns out there's a problem with one system used to remove radon from water.

Because the filters have been removing low-level radioactive radium from the city's water for more than 16 years, they have become slightly radioactive.

"When we went to remove them, we learned they were considered low-level radioactive waste and it would have cost $100,000 for disposal," he said.

Radon has a half-life of 3.823 days. That means that after a month, only 0.4% of the original radon would be left. Each succeeding month would reduce whatever radon is in the system by another factor of 230. So why have these filters managed to accumulate radioactivity for 16 years?

Radon is part of a decay series. Uranium decays to thorium, which decays to protactinium, and so on. Radon is seven steps down from uranium, and after radon decays to polonium, there are another eight steps before the series ends with lead-206, a stable isotope.

One of the steps is lead-210, which has a half-life of 21 years. While it's decaying away slowly, more radioactivity is being added as more radon is captured and starts the decay process in the filter. To be sure, eventually the levels would reach a break-even point, but that would be after several decades. (After 63 years, you're up to 95% of the final level; after 84 years, you're up to 98%.)

Lead-210 is a mixed beta and gamma emitter, so you need to spend at least a little effort shielding the radiation. And the level of the radiation is not the level that's found in the water, but rather the level found in however many millions of gallons pass through the filter over a decade. If you have a picocurie of radon per liter of water, and you process one million gallons per day, you wind up with some 15 or 20 millicuries of lead-210 trapped in that filter. That's quite a lot of radioactive material.

Apparently, it's going to cost $100,000 to dispose of the filters in a low-level waste dump.

Update: The article said "radium" and I was thinking "radon", because it's a consideration in local water sources. The half-life of radium is 1620 years, so it will pile up in filters for quite a while -- up to whatever quantity the filter will hold.

Why block same-sex marriage?

Daffyd at Big Lizards has some thoughts on "the era of gender-neutral marriage".

It boils down to two questions:

Doesn't the "equal protection" clause of the state constitution require the legalization of same-sex marriage (SSM) as a state constitutional right?

Even if there is no "right" to SSM, isn't it a good idea to expand marriage to be more inclusive?

On a nutshell, he answer in each case is No -- it doesn't and it isn't. The rest of this post explains why.

Proponents of SSM say equal protection is violated for a homosexual, because he cannot marry the person that he wants to marry. But of course, a heterosexual also cannot marry the person he wants to marry if one of them is already married, they're too closely related, or one of them is too young. Throughout human history, marriage has always been strictly limited to certain types of unions; it has never, in thousands of years of human history, been an unrestricted right.

Gender is just one of the restrictions; if the others don't violate equal protection, then neither does the gender restriction. And if it does violate equal protection... then what's the legal rationale for banning polygamy?

Cat got your tongue? "But my four wives and I really love each other!"

Here's what's so bad, wise guy...

The law of unintended consequences applies in full force here. For example, the easier we make it for any group of two or more people to be legally considered "married," the less special is the marital relationship; as it becomes less special, it attracts fewer people. Fewer marriages means fewer children, hence a waning, dying culture (cf. Northern Europe).

Fewer marriages mean more kids growing up in fatherless homes. Looking at America's black population, we see an extraordinary rate of out of wedlock births (69.3% of all births, compared to 31.7% of white babies - Table 14) and fatherless households (60%, compared to 22% for white children). If we compare that disparity to the disparity in violent-crime offender rates between blacks and whites (blacks were nearly three times times as likely, 2.8:1, to commit violent crime in 2005 as whites; Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 2000 Census), we see a strong correlation between out of wedlock birth and fatherlessness on the one hand and the commission of violent crime on the other. This is hardly surprising; a strong and law-abiding male role model teaches boys how to resolve problems peacefully.

That correlation should tell us that the very last thing we should be doing is discouraging heterosexuals of any race from getting married: Raising kids in an intact, married family makes them much less likely to become either violent criminals or the victims of violent criminals. But diminishing the "sacred specialness" of marriage by opening it up to any and all groups of people who declare "love" for each other does exactly that: If marriage means nothing, then why get married?

And there's lots more.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Practical Torture

To obtain an accurate picture of the level of atrocities committed by this band of thugs, it is first necessary to review what the American military rightly calls the "atrocity sites." I saw pictures of the bodies of victims found in these houses showing burned feet, open wounds, cut limbs, dislocated shoulders and joints which were the grisly results of hanging and beating and other horrific methods of torture.

I have researched and spoken with several American military officers concerning these torture houses. Here is a brief description of these houses which were discovered:

• Baquoba, June 2007: Discovery of the first torture house. Victims had drill holes in their bodies and deep gouges caused by blow torches; an Al Qaeda flag was in the torture house; many of the torture wounds were in the bottom of the feet of the victims. Torture equipment included: Drills, blow torches, chains hanging from the walls and ceiling, blood trails, saws, drills, knives, weapons, masks, and handcuffs. An execution site outside of building where Iraqi victims were lined up and shot.

• Khan Bani Saad, August 2007: Discovery of rooms filled with torture tools and murdered Iraqi victims.

• Arab Jibour, near Dora, south of Baghdad, August 2007: Blood splattered on the walls. Piles of corpses found outside the house.

• Tarmiyya, September 2007: Nine prisoners were freed; many victims had been chained in place.

• Muqdadiyah, December 2007: Beds wired for electrical shock with electricity still on. Masks, whips, bloody knives, and chains hanging from ceiling on the site. Twenty-six bodies found buried on site: most had hands tied and were shot in the head. Locals said Al Qaeda was intimidating the area with threats of torture and execution.

Al Qaeda didn't come up with all of this on their own -- they had the help of a very gifted teacher named Saddam Hussein.

One professional interrogator I know has had a history of throwing hysterical fits over the American use of torture in the war on terror. When this sort of torture is pointed out to him, he demands to know if it is proposed that we should "keep up with the Joneses". For my part, I reply that articles like this are proof that we have a long way to go before we're even in the same neighborhood with the Joneses. But this doesn't fit his agenda, so he ignores it.

Not So Smart

Hugh, at Jihad Watch, takes aim at the moral idiocy uttered by Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Malcolm Smart disgusts. Nowhere in his nauseating display of moral idiocy does he recognize, or even hint at recognizing, that the Israelis left Gaza entirely. They uprooted whole villages, though Gaza, like the "West Bank," is an area that according to the League of Nations' Mandate for Palestine was to be part of the territory set aside for a Jewish state. And it is less than 1/1,00th of the vast areas that the Arabs inherited.

And in those areas where the Arabs rule, in those lands that we too easily call "the Arab world" (it's a phrase from ARAMCO propaganda of the 1940s and 1950s), in the nearly two dozen lands they now rule, every non-Arab (see the blacks of the Sudan, see the Kurds of Iraq, see the Berbers of North Africa) and non-Muslim (see the Copts of Egypt, see the Maronites of Lebanon, see the Assyrians and Chaldeans of Iraq) group must constantly fight for its continued existence. Every such group is forced to endure the steady pressure of Islam and of "Uruba" or Arabness, in a never-ending attempt to make these non-Arabs or non-Muslims forget their own history, through cultural and linguistic imperialism, or -- as with the black Africans in the Sudan, both the non-Muslims of the south, and the non-Arab Muslims of Darfur -- to simply be wiped out, or at least sufficiently reduced in numbers, so that the Arabs can inherit the land, and, what's more, the oil known to be in the south, and suspected to be in Darfur. In 1900 the population of the Sudan was almost entirely black African, with only a small Arab sliver in the north. That has changed.

Malcolm Smart, in his false equivalences, lets one side kick the beam. He knows that Israel wants only to stop the rockets from raining down on Sderot, and now on Ashkelon. He knows, he must know, what the Western allies did when rockets rained down on London. He must know how any country, and one not as tiny or as permanently under siege as Israel, would react if, from territory adjacent, people who wolfishly howled with glee at the prospect of destroying neighbors simply shot rocket after rocket into cities. And these rockets are not aimed at military targets and sometimes, inadvertently, misfire. They are not aimed at all. They are simply shot into cities. What would the French, the British, the Italians, the Americans, the Canadians do in such a situation?

Malcom Smart is another person in whose eyes the Jews and Israel can do no right, and the Arabs and jihadists can do no wrong. Maybe he's hoping the jihadists will kill him last?

Israel and Palestine

One thing that fascinates me in the whole Palestine/Israel or Arab/Israel "problem" is how many, especially those who are avowedly and even stridently "liberal" side against Israel, and with groups that would probably kill them, and certainly kill most of thier friends, if they had their way.

Today, there's a post over at Cheat Seeking Missiles titled, "Yes, I do take Israel's side". In part, he writes:

Yesterday, I took a swipe at the language being used to describe the current flare-up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the course of the comments, "ryan a" challenged me for saying I thought the Palestinians were in the wrong.

He's right. I do believe that.

And I think I'm justified.

No, I don't think that it's black and white, that the Palestinians are wholly in the wrong and the Israelis complete innocents. But I think that the scales are seriously tipped that way.


So yes, I blame them. I hold them accountable for their actions, as I would any other group of people.

They are, despite what their apologists would have you believe, fundamentally human. And they are evincing purely human traits at their worst. And that has been their choice.

So yeah, ryan a, the Israeli-Palestinian situation is not black and white. It's gray, with neither side being purely right or wrong.

But it's a damned dark shade of gray on the Palestinian side, and a pretty light shade on the Israeli side. And I not only do not apologize for believing and pointing that out, i am proud of it.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

American universities and the rape of "rape"

Some years ago, an acquaintance of mine commented on a poster he saw on the wall at a nearby college. The poster said, "MEN RAPE".

Someone had written in, "WOMEN OVERGENERALIZE".

More to the point, when the word "rape" is defined down to where it means anything less than genuinely forced sexual contact, it cheapens the word. If "rape" can mean anything, it winds up meaning nothing.

The other day, Heather Mac Donald wrote a piece in the L.A. Times called "What Campus Rape Crisis?"

Among other things, she noted that the claimed incidence of rape – between 20% and 25% of all women – is much higher than the observed rates of all felonies combined anywhere else in the country. Indeed, it's high enough that if it were real, women would be staying away from college in droves.

The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in the U.S., was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants -- a rate of 2.4%.

Laer at Cheat Seeking Missiles notes an article "rebutting" Mac Donald's piece. One item cited is a couple of studies...

Having vented, Clark-Flory does actually rebut Mac Donald, but she does it by quoting another study instead of addressing the perceptive demographic challenge raised by Mac Donald.

Let's dispense with the "science" behind this argument first. It all goes back to a 1980's study commissioned by Ms Magazine (red flags, anyone?), in which the author, Mary Koss, didn't use the word "rape" in her survey designed to identify the rate of rapes on campus.

That may seem odd, but she had her reasons. Her question didn't use "rape" because she thought sensitive females would not answer such a direct question honestly. Instead, she asked,

"Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn't want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?"

Not surprisingly, she got HUGE results -- the same 20 to 25 percent figure the colleges want us to believe. Mac Donald says, and I believe, that many women who answered "yes" simply had on "beer goggles" at a bar and put out, then regretted it.

But here's the problem: Neither question addressed the man's intent, the woman's actions against the man, or any of the circumstances of the act. Rape is -- or has been up until now -- described legally by a particular set of circumstances that feminists are now trying to redefine. Just as anti-war factions are trying to redefine "torture" in order to create a cause where where wasn't one before, the feminists want to broaden the meaning of rape so more women become victims, thus increasing the relevance of their cause.

Laer then moves on to discuss drug-facilitated rape, where GHB or some other "date-rape drug" is slipped into a woman's drink.

Victims like Annette have trouble convincing police and prosecutors they've been raped. They have no memory of what happened and there's frequently no physical evidence because memories of what happened to them start to become real well after the crime. And, most damaging to the victims, law enforcement officials too readily dismiss these victims as bar sluts, not rape victims. That's particularly damaging to them because they were drugged, and were not drunk and promiscuous prior to being drugged.

To the extent that creating a false crisis out of campus and bar rapes will help the thousands of Annettes who are struggling to be heard, and who are psychologically damaged because society is calling them bar sluts instead of rape victims, more power to the false statistics.

But the studies cited by Clark-Flory do just the opposite. They group true date-rape victims with the girls who just got drunk and got laid. That minimizes the crime, and worse, it minimizes the perpetrator. One perp is a premeditating criminal who uses dangerous drugs just as effectively as other rapists use weapons and threats of violence; the other is some guy who just happened to be at a bar when a drunk girl said, "Lesh do it."

The other danger of the Clark-Flory approach is that it places justice in the hands of collegiate bureaucrats. As you can imagine, the colleges have set up protocols for dealing with the crisis created by foolishly broadening the definition of rape. Girls can ask committees of muddle-headed academics to rule on the fate of boys whose crime may have been no more than to say "Sure" to the girl's "Lesh do it."

Come to think of it, it may be tempting to skew the data to gin up more support for your cause. There are examples covering such things as rape, harassment, homelessness, hunger, and any number of topics where someone has an axe to grind. The thing is, if you fiddle with statistics and definitions to make whatever problem you want people to notice look more prevalent, are you doing yourself any good in the long run?