Tuesday, May 31, 2011


This recently crossed my desk on Facebook: WHEN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE WAS A CHRISTIAN RITE

It makes the case that the Christian (Catholic, at the time) Church once supported same-sex marriages.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (512 - 518 CE) explained that, "we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life". This is not a case of simple "adelphopoiia." In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as "erastai,” or "lovers". In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.


At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, "taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together" according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Prof. Boswell's academic study is so well researched and documented that it poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in fact, nothing of the sort.

A quick run through Google turned up a couple of other pieces, one from First Things:

Ancient in origin, same-sex unions blessed in the Church occur quietly to this day. So says John Boswell, Professor of Medieval History at Yale University and the author of this new and lavishly publicized book. It may surprise readers of this journal to learn that he is probably right- depending on what the ceremony means.

This is a subject about which I have the good fortune to speak not merely as a scholar or an observer, but as a participant. Nine years ago I was joined in devout sisterhood to another woman, apparently in just such a ceremony as Boswell claims to elucidate in his book. The ceremony took place during a journey to some of the Syrian Christian communities of Turkey and the Middle East, and the other member of this same-sex union was my colleague Professor Susan Ashbrook Harvey of Brown University.


The blessing of the Syrian Orthodox Church was a precious instance of our participation in the life of an ancient and noble Christian tradition. Although neither of us took the trouble to investigate the subject, each privately assumed that the ritual of that summer was some Christian descendant of an adoption ceremony used by the early church to solemnify a state-that of friendship-which comes highly recommended in the Christian tradition ("Henceforth I call you not servants . . . but I have called you friends." [John15:15]).

If this were all that Professor Boswell were claiming to have "discovered," neither I nor anyone else would be likely to dispute his findings. It seems reasonable to assume that ceremonies like the one Susan Ashbrook Harvey and I went through continue to take place in those eastern churches that preserve the rite of adoption (adelphopoiesis) for friends. In fact, scholars of the liturgy have known for years of these rituals.

But any such modest claim is not what Boswell has in mind. He claims that the "brother/sister-making" rituals found in manuscripts and certain published works are ancient ceremonies whose cryptic (or, in current argot, "encoded") purpose has been to give ecclesiastical blessing to homosexual or lesbian relationships, thus making them actual nuptial ceremonies. This startling claim is certainly far from the reality of the ceremony in which we participated nine years ago. Is it perhaps just as far from the real meaning of such ceremonies in the distant past? According to his publisher, Boswell "irrefutably demonstrates that same-sex relationships have been sanctioned and even idealized in Western societies for over two thousand years." He has also "restored" a rite that could be used in contemporary homosexual marriages, should they become legal.


All in all, then, this book does not begin to accomplish what it set out to do. (The reviews, after the early burst of hopeful publicity, have been notably skeptical-even from sources one would expect to be favorable.) Indeed, the author's painfully strained effort to recruit Christian history in support of the homosexual cause that he favors is not only a failure, but an embarrassing one.

Thomas Peters at Catholic Vote Action begins with an unflattering comparison:

Just as Dan Brown capitalized on ignorance and prejudice to sell copies of his bestselling The Da Vinci Code novel, some historians have tried to sell gay marriage by claiming that the early Christian martyrs Sergius and Bacchus are an example of Church-sponsored same-sex marriage.


...gay-marriage proponents who bring up the argument about Saints Sergius and Bacchus, like Dan Brown, are either totally deluding themselves about history because they can’t handle reality, or intentionally deceiving others about history because they stand to gain from twisting it.

The claim that Saints Sergius and Bacchus represent an example of Church-sponsored same-sex marriage was first put forward in 1994 by John Boswell in his book Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. Boswell’s claims have been completely debunked by David Woods, Robin Young, and Brent Shaw (to name the first three authors I found during a simple internet search).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

As the family goes, so goes the economy

As the family goes, so goes the economy
Consider a few examples:

* Married couple families generate the most income -- twice that of divorced households and four times that of separated households, according to one study.

* Intact, married families have the greatest net worth -- not just because they have two adults but because they have a longer-term outlook, are more thrifty and increase the earning ability of the head-of-household. Cohabiters have the lowest net worth growth of all family structures.

* Children in married, two-parent families enjoy more economic well-being than those in any other family structure, and are more likely to rise through the socio-economic ranks. A non-intact family background increases by over 50 per cent a boy’s odds of ending up in the lowest rank.
PDF of report

When Did Sherrod Know?

At Patterico's Pontifications, Lee Stranahan looks at the time line for when Shirley Sherrod learned about the famous "racist" tape.

You know the story – Shirley Sherrod, the USDA and the White House were all blindsided on Monday, July 19th 2010 when Andrew Breitbart released two excerpts of a speech Sherrod had given to the NAACP months before. That same day, the USDA ordered her to resign at the behest of the White House. The USDA later regretted this rash decision, apologized to Mrs. Sherrod and offered her a new job at UDA.

That’s the basic story you’ve heard every time about what happened to Mrs. Sherrod, right? Video is released 7/19/10 and the USDA / White House make a snap decision to fire her.

But that’s not what happened.

Here’s what really happened. Shirley Sherrod knew about the video excerpt on Thursday, July 14th – five days before Breitbart published it on BigGovernment. She immediately let the USDA know about the video. And she also thought she knew where to get the entire video, five days before the clips went public.

That’s what Shirley Sherrod told an audience in August, 2010. The speech was posted by the NAACP but has only gotten a total of 46 views in eight months.

Obama in catfish mode?

The difference between a lawyer and a catfish? One is a bottom-feeding scavenger, and the other is a fish. Bookworm sees similarities between Obama's techniques and those of bottom-feeding lawyers she's had to deal with.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, all of the above sounds familiar with you. This is because Obama, during his short tenure as a practicing attorney, was obviously a bottom feeder. His approach to speeches is to make short, declarative sentences that seamlessly blend false facts and misrepresented authority.

In attacking the Ryan budget, he consistently ignores details, and simply proclaims that it will starve old people and confine to insane asylums physically and mentally disabled children. He contends that bridges will collapse, even though he knows that the specific bridge to which he refers fell, not because of budget cuts and poor infrastructure maintenance, but because of a significant design flaw. In speech after speech, Obama calls on the bottom feeder’s arsenal, throwing around falsehoods with scattershot abandon.

Just as this is a problem for lawyers, this is a problem for Obama’s political opponents. As the honest lawyer knows, it takes three pages of truth to combat one paragraph of lies.

Worse, just as the dishonest plaintiffs in Bay Area courts are aided by activist judges, Obama is aided by a compliant press that has no interest in challenging his falsehoods. To the contrary, our 90%-liberal media is happy to broadcast those lies far and wide.

The meaning of "torture"

Jay Tea at Wizbang looks at what the word "torture" actually means, and what people would like to claim it means.

Here, let me explain my theory, in relation to the topic of torture.

For a long, long time, the rule was simple. "Don't torture people." It was clear, it was concise, and it was understood. People didn't commit torture -- and if they did, they were punished for it.

And then the lawyers got involved. They insisted on a precise definition of "torture." The old rule of thumb -- "would you consider it torture if it was done to you?" wasn't good enough. They wanted it spelled out in precise detail just what constituted torture -- and, by implication, what did not. They insisted on specific criteria and conditions would trigger punishment. And this is what they came up with:
(1) "torture" means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(2) "severe mental pain or suffering" means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from--

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

(C) the threat of imminent death; or

(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

(3) "United States" means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.
And that's when things started going pear-shaped.

Two Cheers for Enhanced Interrogation

From The Weekly Standard:

Those who actually know what information was gathered from the use of enhanced interrogation techniques by CIA officers are now feeling vindicated. After years of being widely criticized for the program, information that these CIA interrogators learned from their use of enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorists finally led to the demise of al Qaeda founder and chief Osama bin Laden.


Former CIA director Michael Hayden, someone who clearly knows what information was learned by the CIA interrogators, talked with North Dakota radio host Scott Hennen about this yesterday:
"[W]e've got a little information on the couriers from some of the people that the CIA had detained and questioned at our so-called 'black sites,'" Hayden told Hennen on the air. "So let's start with that information and begin to build out from there. That started about four years ago, Scott. And, frankly, there is a straight line between the work that began there and the raid that took place Sunday afternoon our time."

Hennen replied by asking: "Does this end once and for all in your view the debate over whether we ought to do enhanced interrogation techniques, whether we ought to have black sites, whether we ought to have Gitmo? Should that debate end here?"

"Well, I have a view, but I also know honest men can differ," Hayden said. "There's one thing that can end: A lot of people claimed you didn't get any valuable intelligence out of these people or through these techniques, that's not true. We did. And this is proof of it. And so if you want to object to this now, the sentence you have to form isn't, 'it didn't work and I don't want you to do it.' The sentence you have to form is, 'although it did work, I don't want you to do it.' That's an honorable position, Scott. But it also requires some courage to say that."

"No question that how we were led to Osama bin Laden was through enhanced interrogation techniques?" Hennen asked, seeking confirmation of what Hayden was suggesting.

"Well, what I'm at liberty to say is, what we got, the original lead information—and frankly it was incomplete identity information on the couriers—began with information from CIA detainees at the black sites," Hayden said. "And let me just leave it at that."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Panetta letter McCain referenced

From National Review Online

In the op-ed, Sen. McCain indicated that, according to information he’d gotten from CIA Director Leon Panetta, al-Kuwaiti’s name had first come to the CIA’s attention “from a detainee in another country.” I assumed the Senator was referring to Ghul. Ghul, after all, had clearly provided critical intel about al-Kuwaiti. Marc Thiessen, however, reported Monday (also in the Post) that another unidentified detainee held in an unidentified country had mentioned al-Kuwaiti in 2002. That mention was insignificant — the CIA only found it in the files (in a dated liaison report from another country’s intelligence service) because information from detainees subjected to harsh interrogation tactics had caused them to scrub their files for any intelligence about al-Kuwaiti. Moreover, the fleeting mention of al-Kuwaiti did not tell them anything they did not already know by that point. That is, I gave Sen. McCain the benefit of the doubt that he’d at least been referring to a source of some importance (Ghul) — that he’d not attributed significance to a source who was unimportant.

It is now clear that Sen. McCain was, in fact, speaking about the unimportant source. I can confirm that because we now know the source mentioned the name in 2002. Ghul was not even captured until 2004.

How do I know this? After my post from yesterday, I got an email from a member of Sen. McCain’s staff, who told me she “wanted to point out some hard facts” that had been “provided to the Senator in a letter from the CIA from Director Panetta.” The staffer, however, was not looking to provide me those facts directly. Rather, the Senator’s office is touting a post on Monday from the Washington Post’s leftwing blogger Greg Sargent. Mr. Sargent’s post, which I had not seen, contains a lengthy excerpt from Director Panetta’s letter — although Sargent does not explain who gave him the letter (it “was sent my way by a source,” says he).

When I read the published portions of the letter, and compared them to Sen. McCain’s essay, I was taken aback by the information McCain elected not to include in his essay. Here are the Panetta letter passages excerpted by Sargent:
Nearly 10 years of intensive intelligence work led the CIA to conclude that Bin Ladin was likely hiding at the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. there was no one “essential and indispensible” key piece of information that led us to this conclusion. Rather, the intelligence picture was developed via painstaking collection and analysis. Multiple streams of intelligence — including from detainees, but also from multiple other sources — led CIA analysts to conclude that Bin Ladin was at this compound. Some of the detainees who provided useful information about the facilitator/courier’s role had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. Whether those techniques were the “only timely and effective way” to obtain such information is a matter of debate and cannot be established definitively. What is definitive is that that information was only a part of multiple streams of intelligence that led us to Bin Ladin.

Let me further point out that we first learned about the facilitator/courier’s nom de guerre from a detainee not in CIA custody in 2002. It is also important to note that some detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques attempted to provide false or misleading information about the facilitator/courier. These attempts to falsify the facilitator/courier’s role were alerting.

In the end, no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts. This information was discovered through other intelligence means.

McCain's speech on torture

John McCain calls any rough treatment "torture", and speaks against it. His words are supposed to be gold because he was tortured. Are they?

Marc Thiessen:

Sen. John McCain dismissed the role of CIA interrogations in the operation that got Osama bin Laden, declaring that “The first mention of the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti [bin laden’s courier], as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country. The United States did not conduct this detainee’s interrogation, nor did we render him to that country for the purpose of interrogation.”

His statement was carefully worded, technically correct and completely misleading.

I interviewed several former senior intelligence officials after McCain’s speech. Every one of them told me that they first learned about al-Kuwaiti from CIA detainees, not from a detainee in another country. I was told that McCain was referring to an old foreign liaison report that included a passing reference to al-Kuwaiti, but that CIA officials did not become aware of this report until many years later, after CIA detainees had alerted them to al-Kuwaiti’s importance. They only found it because they had ordered a “deep dive” on him — scouring all their databases for everything they could find about the bin Laden courier — based on intelligence from detainees.

Many officials did not remember the report at all — a sign of how little importance it held. Those that did said the agency would never have come across the old report had they not already been looking for al-Kuwaiti, and it told them nothing useful that they did not already know. So while the report may technically have been the “first mention” of al-Kuwaiti, the CIA did not “learn” about bin Laden’s courier from this report — it learned about him from the questioning of high-value terrorists, many of whom underwent enhanced interrogation.

As one former CIA official with direct knowledge told me, “Detainees provided the information regarding the courier network and Ahmed in particular that started this whole thing. None of it came from another detainee from another location.”

McCain’s speech, and his Post op-ed piece, were replete with technically correct but misleading assertions such as this. For another example, McCain declared in his speech: “None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.” Of course, since only three of the roughly 100 CIA detainees underwent waterboarding, McCain’s statement conveniently glossed over about 97 percent of those questioned by the CIA.

Note that McCain did not claim that none of the detainees who underwent enhanced interrogation techniques gave us “key leads” on the courier — because he knows this would be false. Moreover, after being waterboarded, Khalid Sheik Mohammed did confirm al-Kuwaiti’s kunya (or nom de guerre), which is the name the courier actually used. And the fact that both KSM and his successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi, attempted to protect al-Kuwaiti was the red flag that alerted CIA officials to his importance.

McCain said in his speech that the “best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to Osama bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means, not through any ‘enhanced interrogation technique.’ ” Note again, the careful wording: McCain did not say that this detainee did not undergo enhanced interrogation (he did) – only that he did not provide the information “through” enhanced interrogation. This is deceptive. McCain was briefed in detail more than once on enhanced interrogation, so he knows full well that enhanced techniques were not used to gain intelligence from detainees — they were used to compel their cooperation.

While applying enhanced techniques, interrogators would ask detainees questions to which the interrogators already knew the answers, so they could judge when the detainees had made the decision to begin cooperating. Once they did so, the techniques stopped and the detainees moved into noncoercive debriefing.

McCain knows that Hassan Ghul — the detainee who provided “the best intelligence” on al-Kuwaiti — resisted during his initial questioning, was put through enhanced techniques and subsequently became cooperative. When Ghul began cooperating, the enhanced techniques stopped and he moved into debriefing, where he provided vital information about al-Kuwaiti. The fact that Ghul provided this information “through standard, noncoercive means” simply shows that he provided it after the enhanced process was complete.

In fact, two-thirds of detainees underwent no enhanced techniques at all. This is because during their initial “neutral assessment,” the alternative was made clear to them. The story of one senior al-Qaeda terrorist, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, illustrates the point. When Abd al-Hadi was brought to a CIA black site, agency officials told him, “We’re the CIA.” He replied, “I’ve heard of you guys. I’ll tell you anything you need to know.” And he did. Detainees like Abd al-Hadi cooperated without enhanced techniques because they feared enhanced techniques.

Here’s the big question McCain needs to answer: If his claims are true, and enhanced interrogation really did not play an important role in producing “the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden,” why isn’t CIA Director Leon Panetta making these same claims? After all, who has a bigger interest in discounting the role of enhanced interrogation than the Obama administration? If administration officials could make this argument, they would be shouting it from the rooftops. They are not doing so, because they know the truth: Enhanced interrogation worked.

Human Evolution and Why It Matters: A Conversation with Leakey and Johanson

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Trivial Pursuits

Relative trivia, pursued for the purpose of tripping up Conservative candidates.

Trivial Pursuits

"I love trivia. I live for trivia. In fact, in my mind there's an inverse relationship between the importance of a fact and likelihood I will remember it. I revel in useless, pointless, utterly worthless factoids.

But sometimes trivia isn't trivial. It can be a distraction. It can take your focus off what matters.

And it can even be used as a weapon.

In the upcoming presidential election, there are a lot of important issues to discuss. The economy. Foreign policy. ObamaCare. The debt.

And there are a lot of so-called 'issues' that are, for lack of a better term, 'bullshit.' Trivial, irrelevant matters whose sole purpose is to trip up candidates -- almost exclusively Republican ones.

For example, evolution vs. creationism. It's an utterly abstract argument; it has no application to daily matters. Further, it's almost never a federal matter; it's almost exclusively argued at the state and local levels. But it's used as a weapon against conservatives; to answer it, one either comes across as a religious nut and anti-science bigot, or willing to go to war with the deeply devout. So that's why I was glad to see Chris Christie, when confronted with this idiocy run amok, simply say in essence 'MYOB.'

For another, the Confederacy. This year marks 150 years since that war started, and it's been over for 146. The Confederacy was bad, and it lost. End of story. ....

Sudden Jihad Syndrome on AA Flight 1561

What Happened on AA Flight 1561: "

What Happened on AA Flight 1561
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2011

If you listen to the passengers and crew who flew on American Airlines Flight 1561 last weekend, there’s no doubt about what happened on their harrowing trip: A Yemeni man shrieking “Allahu akbar!” at the top of his lungs more than 30 times rushed the cockpit door twice intending to take down the plane and kill everyone on board.

The clammy, sweaty lone male passenger exhibited classic symptoms of what Middle East scholar and author Daniel Pipes has dubbed “Sudden Jihad Syndrome” — a seemingly random outbreak of threatening behavior or violence by a hysterical Muslim adherent who had not previously exhibited signs of Islamic radicalization. It took at least four men to tackle and restrain Rageh Ahmed Mohammed al-Murisi. “There was no question in everybody’s mind that he was going to do something,” passenger Angelina Marty told the San Francisco Chronicle.

And no, that “something” did not mean enlisting his fellow flyers in a midair flash mob performance of the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Not everyone was so grounded in reality. Bleeding-heart sympathizers seriously speculated that al-Murisi had simply mistaken clearly marked lavatory doors for the clearly marked cockpit door (because, you know, it’s normal to shout “God is great” repeatedly just before relieving yourself as your plane is about to land). Some federal authorities and media whitewashers proclaimed that al-Murisi’s motives were “unknown.”

If only al-Murisi had been screaming phrases from the Constitution. The Selective Motive Determination Machine — the same one that rushed to pin the Tucson massacre on the Tea Party, the GOP and Fox News without a shred of evidence — would have kicked in to full gear.

On Wednesday, a San Francisco judge denied al-Murisi bail. Unburdened by the paralyzing prissiness of political correctness, federal prosecutors noted that “Allahu akbar” was the same refrain invoked by the 9/11 hijackers over Shanksville, Pa., and by the would-be Christmas Day bomber over Detroit. Not to mention Fort Hood jihadist Nidal Hasan, the Frankfurt, Germany, jihadist who killed two U.S. airmen on a bus in March, the young Portland, Ore., Christmas tree lighting bomb plotter, every last suicide bomber across Europe, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East, and every last evil al-Qaida beheader broadcast on video over the past decade.

So how, despite a massive transportation and homeland security apparatus, did al-Murisi get into this country and get on a plane? He had no keys, no luggage, $47 cash, two curious posted checks totaling $13,000, and a trove of expired and current state IDs from New York and California — where relatives said he had not notified them that he was coming. He is young, male, brought no family with him, had no job or other discernible income, and hails from the terror-coddling nation of Yemen. Yes, the same Yemen that is Osama bin Laden’s ancestral home, harbors al-Qaida operatives who are burning the “torch of jihad,” and is deemed a “special interest country” whose citizens warrant increased scrutiny by DHS when they cross the border illegally.

As I reported last month, a federal watchdog revealed that TSA’s counterterrorism specialists failed to detect 16 separate jihad operatives who moved through target airports “on at least 23 different occasions.” Neutered by Islamophobia-phobia and an “overtime over security” mentality, our State Department consular offices’ and airline security bureaucracy’s stance toward the al-Murisis slipping through their snaking lines is:

Nothing to see here; move along.

At least the heroes of Flight 1561 who refused to sit silent learned the proper 9/11 lesson. “I swore to myself that I would never be a victim” after the 2001 attacks, passenger Larry Wright, one of the men who brought al-Murisi down, told reporters earlier this week. The only effective homeland security begins and ends with a culture of self-defense. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no “see no jihad, hear no jihad, speak no jihad” delusionists on airplanes with Allahu akbar-chanting flyers beating down doors.


Related video:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Punting On Torture

JustOneMinute: Punting On Torture

Including, from the comments:

Either torture absolutely, positively, undeniably doesn't work. Or it might.

Ignoring for the moment the issue that if a dem is president there is more latitude, the question of what to do if torture does work arises.

What costs are you willing to accept (actually, impose on other people) to forego torture?

The best way to avoid that question is to insist torture doesn't work. To insist and insist and insist that it doesn't work. Then comes the OBL op and the question is reopened.

Most inconvenient.

Critics of Bush don't realize how his hard-line stance toward terror helped keep US safe

Critics of Bush don't realize how his hard-line stance toward terror helped keep US safe - NYPOST.com

Years ago, when my young son and I visited a dude ranch in Montana, a local rancher told us he butchered his cows for meat. My son, Scott, who was only 7, was horrified. "You kill your own cows and eat them?" he asked with urban disgust.

The rancher answered with country logic, saying something like, "Well, how is that different from you eating cows that other people butcher?"
Numerous reports, including one from former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, that waterboarding started the daisy chain that led to the courier that led to Osama bin Laden's hideout, qualify as a distinctly inconvenient fact for hard-line liberals. They call waterboarding and other harsh techniques immoral and denounce supporters as apologists for torture.

And then they and their families ride the subway or an airplane or walk the street, believing they are safe. By and large, they are safe, thanks to the dedicated patriots whose heroic work does not allow for the snobbery that passes for moral superiority. The reality of war, warriors will tell you, leaves little margin for nuance.

Being forced to hear the hard facts about interrogation was only part of the misery bin Laden's demise caused the Michael Moore set. The communication and surveillance technology that made possible the raid into Pakistan for the kill mission -- capture was not the goal -- vindicated the black arts of the CIA and Pentagon intelligence, two favorite targets of the professional left.

Geert Wilders’ speech in Tennessee deserves the widest possible distribution *UPDATED*

Geert Wilders’ speech in Tennessee deserves the widest possible distribution *UPDATED*: "
Everyone should read this speech. Everyone. While the media swooned about Obama’s Cairo speech (in which he lauded veiling women and ignored thousands of years of Jewish ties to Israel), and Obama’s race speech (in which he insulted white people), and Obama’s recent immigration speech (in which he demonized people who fear the risks to American security and economic well-being from an open border), this speech is the really important one. It goes to fundamental issues of freedom.  So, send this to your friends, whether you post it at your blog, facebook it, tweet it, email it, snail mail it, or read it aloud to them over the phone.

Speech by Geert Wilders, Cornerstone Church, Nashville, 12 May 2011

Dear friends from Tennessee. I am very happy to be in your midst today. I am happy and proud to be in this impressive church.

My friends, I am here to speak words of truth and freedom.

Do you know why America is in a better state than Europe? Because you enjoy more freedom than Europeans.
And do you know why Americans enjoy more freedom than Europeans? Because you are still allowed to tell the truth.

In Europe and Canada people are dragged to court for telling the truth about islam.

I, too, have been dragged to court. I am an elected member of the house of representatives in the Netherlands. I am currently standing in court like a common criminal for saying that islam is a dangerous totalitarian ideology rather than a religion.

The court case is still pending, but I risk a jail sentence of 16 months.

Last week, my friend Lars Hedegaard, a journalist from Denmark, was fined because in a private conservation, which was recorded without his knowing, he had criticised the way women are treated in islamic societies.

Recently, another friend, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a human rights activist from Austria, was fined because she had criticised islam’s founder Muhammad. She had said that Muhammad was a pedophile because he had married a 6-year old girl and raped her when she was 9.

Unfortunately, there are many similar cases.

I am especially happy to be in your midst because here I can say what I want to say without having to fear that I will be dragged to court upon leaving this church.

My dear American friends, you cannot imagine how we envy your First Amendment. The day when America follows the example of Europe and Canada and introduces so-called “hate speech crimes” which is only used to punish people who are critical of islam, that day America will have lost its freedom.

My friends, let us hope that this never happens.

Last week, we celebrated Liberation Day in the Netherlands. We celebrated the liberation from the Nazi occupation in 1945. Many American soldiers, including many young Tennesseans, played a decisive role in the liberation of the Netherlands from nazi tyranny. We are immensely grateful for that. Young Americans gave their lives so that the Dutch might be free. I assure you: The Dutch people will never forget this.
Unfortunately, however, the Europe which your fathers and grandfathers fought and died for is not the Europe we are living in today.

I travel the world to tell people what Europe has become. I wish I could take you all on a visit to my country and show you what Europe has become. It has changed beyond recognition as a result of mass immigration. And not just any mass immigration, but mass immigration driven by the dangerous force of islam.

My friends, I am sorry. I am here today with an unpleasant message. I am here with a warning. I am here with a battle cry: “Wake up, Christians of Tennessee. Islam is at your gate.” Do not make the mistake which Europe made. Do not allow islam to gain a foothold here.

Islam is dangerous. Islam wants to establish a state on earth, ruled by islamic sharia law. Islam aims for the submission, whether by persuasion, intimidation or violence, of all non-Muslims, including Christians.
The results can be seen in Europe.

Islam is an ideology of conquest. It uses two methods to achieve this goal: the first method is the sword. Do you know what figures on the flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country where Christian churches are banned and Christians are not even allowed to wear a tiny crucifix? There is a huge sword on that flag, just below the Islamic creed. The message is clear. Without the sword islam would not have been able to spread its creed.

The second method is immigration. Islam’s founder Muhammad himself taught his followers how to conquer through immigration when they moved from Mecca to Medina. This phenomenon of conquest through immigration is called al-Hijra. My learned friend Sam Solomon has written a perfect book about it.

I had a copy of Sam’s book sent to all the members of the Dutch Parliament. But most of them are worse than Saint-Thomas in the Bible. Thomas did not believe what he had not seen. Most politicians refuse to believe the things they see before their very eyes.

In Europe we have been experiencing al-Hijra for over 30 years now. Many of our cities have changed beyond recognition. “In each one of our cities” wrote the well-known Italian author Oriana Fallaci shortly before her death in 2006, “there is a second city, a state within the state, a government within the government. A Muslim city, a city ruled by the Koran.” – end of quote.

How did the Europeans get into this situation? It is partly our own fault because we have foolishly adopted the concept of cultural relativism, which manifests itself in the ideology of multiculturalism.

Cultural relativism advocates that all cultures are equal. However, cultures wither away and die if people no longer believe that its values are better than those of another culture.

Islam is spreading like wildfire wherever people lack the guts to say that their values are better than the Islamic values.

Islam is spreading like wildfire because the Koran explicitly tells Muslims that they are “the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind” and that non-Muslims are “the worst of creatures.”

Islam is spreading like wildfire everywhere in the West where political, academic, cultural and media elites lack the guts to proudly proclaim, as I believe we all should proclaim:

Our Judeo-Christian Western culture is far better and far superior to the islamic culture. We must be proud to say so!

Multiculturalism is a disaster. Almost everyone acknowledges this today, but few dare say why. Let me tell you why: Multiculturalism made us tolerate the intolerant, and now intolerance is annihilating tolerance.
We should, in the name of tolerance, claim the right not to tolerate the intolerant. Let us no longer be afraid and politically correct, let us be brave and bold. Let us tell the truth about islam.

Before I continue I want to make clear that I do not have a problem with people. I always make a distinction between the people and the ideology, between Muslims and islam.

Indeed, I have no problems with Muslims, but I do have a problem with the totalitarian Islamic ideology of hate and violence. The fact that there are many so-called moderate Muslims, does not imply that there exists a moderate islam. A moderate islam doen not exist and will never exist.

And because there is no such thing as a moderate islam, the islamization of our free Western societies is an enormous danger.

Only two weeks ago, the British press revealed how the so-called “London Taliban” is threatening to kill women who do not wear veils in the London borough of Tower Hamlets.

In some neighbourhoods Islamic regulations are already being enforced, also on non-Muslims. Women’s rights are being trampled. We are confronted with headscarves and burqa’s, polygamy, female genital mutilation, honor-killings where men murder their wives, daughters or sisters because they do not behave in accordance with Islamic rules.

Polls show that the influence of those Muslims who live according to islam’s aggressive requirements is growing, especially among young people.

Among 15-year-old German Muslims, 40 percent consider islam more important than democracy.
Among Muslim university students in Britain, 40 percent support sharia. One in three of those students considers it legitimate to kill in the name of islam.

Christians are asked to follow the example of Jesus. Muslims are ordered to follow the example of Muhammad. That is why islam is dangerous. While Christianity preaches love, islam preached hatred and practizes violence. Hatred and violence for everyone who is not a Muslim.

Muhammad personally participated in the ethnic cleansing of Medina, where half the population once was Jewish. Muhammad helped to chop off their heads. On his deathbed, he ordered his followers to cleanse Arabia of all Jews and Christians.

To this very day, Christian symbols are prohibited in Saudi-Arabia. If you wear a cross in Saudi Arabia, they sent you to jail.

And now, Europe is beginning to look like Arabia.

Just today, a poll revealed that in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, half the islamic youths are anti-semitic. It is dangerous for Jews to walk the streets in Brussels.
If you wear a cross or a kippah in certain urban areas in Europe today, you risk being beaten up. In the capital of my own country, Amsterdam, a tram driver was forced to remove his crucifix from sight, while his Muslim colleagues are allowed to wear the veil.

In June 2008, the Christian church authorities in the Danish town of Arhus decided to pay so-called “protection money” to islamic so-called “security guards” who assure that church goers are not harassed by islamic youths.

On March 31st, 2010, Muslims entered the Roman Catholic cathedral of Cordoba, Spain, and attacked the guards with knives. They claimed the cathedral was theirs.

Last month, the bishops of Sweden sent out a letter to priests advising them to avoid converting asylum seekers from islamic countries to Christianity, because the converts would risk losing their lives.
In the Netherlands, the city authorities in Amsterdam register polygamous marriages. The authorities in Rotterdam serve only halal meals in municipal cafeterias. Theaters provide separate seats for women who are not allowed to sit next to men. Municipal swimming pools have separate swimming hours for men and women, Muslim lawyers do not have to stand when the judges enter court rooms.

Meanwhile Jews are no longer safe on our streets. In Amsterdam, the city of Anne Frank, Jews are again being harassed in the streets. Even political leaders acknowledged that life has become unsafe for Jews in Holland. Do you know what they said? They advised Jews to emigrate. Jews are already running for Israel. But I say: Jews must not leave, violent Muslims must leave!

What is needed, my friends, is a spirit of resistance.

I repeat: What we need is a spirit of resistance.

Why? Because resistance to evil is our moral duty. This resistance begins with expressing our solidarity to Christians, Jews, indeed, to all people worldwide, who are the victims of islam. There are millions of them.

We can see what islam has in store for us if we watch the fate of the Christians in the islamic world, such as the Copts in Egypt, the Maronites in Lebanon, the Assyrians in Iraq, and Christians elsewhere.
Almost every day, churches are arsoned and Christians are assassinated in islamic countries.
In a report on the persecution of Christians in the world, Archbishop Twal of Jerusalem, wrote recently– I quote: “In the Middle East to be Christian means accepting that you must make a great sacrifice. All too often and in many places, Christians suffer various threats. On some occasions, their homes and churches are burnt, and people are killed. How many atrocities must we endure before somebody somewhere comes to our aid?” – end of quote.

Indeed, how many atrocities before we come to their aid?

Rivers of tears are flowing from the Middle East, where there is only one safe haven for Christians. You know where that is. The only place in the Middle East where Christians are safe is Israel.

That is why Israel deserves our support. Israel is a safe haven for everyone, whatever their belief and opinions. Israel is a beacon of light in a region of total darkness. Israel is fighting our fight.
The jihad against Israel is a jihad against all of us. If Israel falls, we, too, will feel the consequences. If Jerusalem falls, Athens, Rome, Amsterdam and Nashville will fall. Therefore, we all are Israel. We should always support Israel!

Today, we are confronted with political unrest in the Arab countries. The Arab peoples long for freedom. However, the ideology and culture of islam is so deeply entrenched in these countries that real freedom is simply impossible as long as islam remains dominant.

A recent poll in post-revolution Egypt found that 85 percent of Egyptians are convinced that islam’s influence on politics is good, 82 percent believe that adulterers should be stoned, 84 percent want the death penalty for apostates. The press refers to the events in the Arab world today as the Arab spring. I call it the Arab winter.

Islam and freedom, islam and democracy are not compatible.

The death of Osama bin Laden last week was a victory for the free world, but we will be confronted with Islamic terrorism as long as islam exists, because islam’s founder Muhammad himself was a terrorist, worse than Bin Laden.

And here is another truth: The rise of islam means the rise of sharia law in our judicial systems. In Europe we already have sharia wills, sharia schools, sharia banks. Britain even has sharia courts.
In my own country, the Netherlands, sharia is being applied by the courts in cases relating to divorce, child custody, inheritance, and property ownership. Women are always the victims of this because sharia discriminates women.

This is a disgrace. This is not the way we should treat women.

My friends, I told you that we have just remembered Liberation Day to commemorate the young Americans and all the heroes who offered their lives to free the Netherlands from nazi tyranny. It would be an insult to them if we Europeans would give up that precious freedom for another totalitarian ideology called Islam.
That is the goal for which my party and I work day after day. And we are having success.

In the Netherlands, we are successfully starting to roll back islam. The current Dutch government is a minority government which can only survive with the backing of my party, the Party for Freedom.
We have 24 seats of the 150 seats in parliament and we support the government, in return for measures to prohibit certain aspects of sharia law.

We have achieved that the Netherlands will soon ban the burka and the niqaab.

We will also restrict immigration from non-Western countries by up to 50% in the next four years. We are not going to allow islam to steal our country from us. It was the land of our fathers, it is our land now, our values are based on Christianity, Judaism and Humanism and we will pass this on to our children with all the freedoms that the previous generations have fought for.

Let those who want to rob us from our freedoms, stay in their own countries. We do not need them. If you want to wear a burqa, stay in Saudi-Arabia. If you want four wives, stay in Iran. If you want to live in a country where the islamic ideology is dominant, stay in Pakistan, if you don’t want to assimilate in our society, stay in Somalia. But don’t come over here.

We are also going to strip criminals who have a double nationality – for instance Dutch and Moroccan, and who repeatedly commit serious crimes, of their Dutch nationality. We will send them packing, back to their homeland.

My friends, what the Party for Freedom has achieved, shows that it can be done. We can fight the islamization of our societies.

Dear friends, here is my warning. Make no mistake: Islam is also coming for America. In fact, it is already here. America is facing a stealth jihad, the islamic attempt to introduce sharia law bit by bit. Last March, a judge in Tampa, Florida, ruled that a lawsuit against a mosque and involving the control of 2.4 million dollars, should proceed under Islamic law.

My friends, be aware that this is only the beginning. This is also how it started in Europe. If things continue like this, you will soon have the same problems as we are currently facing.
Leaders who talk about immigration without mentioning islam are blind. They ignore the most important problem Europe and America are facing. I have a message for them: it’s islam stupid!

My friends, fortunately, not all politicians are irresponsible. Here, in Tennessee, brave politicians want to pass legislation which gives the state the power to declare organisations as terrorist groups and allowing material supporters of terrorism to be prosecuted. I applaud them for that. They are true heroes.
Yesterday and today, I met some of those brave legislators. They told me that Tennessee in particular is a target of islam. Help them win their battle.

They need your support.

While Tennessee is in the frontline, similar legislative initiatives are also being taken in the states of Oklahoma, Wyoming, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Missouri, Arizona, Indiana. It is encouraging to see that so many politicians are willing to resist islam.

This gives us hope and courage. I am not a pessimist. We can still turn the tide – even in Europe – if we act today.

There are five things which we must do.

First, we must defend freedom of speech.

Freedom is the source of human creativity and development. People and nations wither away without the freedom to question what is presented to them as the truth.
Without freedom of speech we risk becoming slaves. Frederick Douglass, the 19th century black American politician, the son of a slave, said – I quote – “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

I have already told you about my court case. This legal charade will not, however, prevent me from saying the truth. Never. I will speak out, even if they drag me before 500 courts and threaten to jail me for a thousand years.

The fact that we are being treated as criminals for telling the truth must not deter us. We are doomed if we remain silent or let ourselves be silenced. Let us not forget, this is our first and most important obligation: defend the right to speak the truth.

Second, we must end cultural relativism and political correctness. We must repeat it over and over again, especially to our children: Our Western culture based on Christianity and Judaism is superior to the islamic culture. Our laws are superior to sharia. Our judeo-christian values are better than islam’s totalitarian rules.

And because they are superior and better, we must defend them. We must fight for our own identity, or else we will lose it. We need to be warriors for the good, because the good is worth fighting for. Neutrality in the face of evil is evil.

Third, we must stop the islamization of our countries. More islam means less freedom. There is enough islam in the West already. We must stop immigration from non-Western countries, which are mostly islamic countries. We must expel criminal immigrants. We must forbid the construction of new hate palaces called mosques.

We must also close down all islamic schools because educating children in a spirit of hate is one of the worst things imaginable. We must introduce anti-sharia legislation everywhere in the free world. Enough is enough.

Fourth, we must take pride in our nations again. We must cherish and preserve the culture and identity of our country. Preserving our own culture and identity is the best antidote against islamization.
And fifth, last but certainly not least, we must elect wise and courageous leaders who are brave enough to address the problems which are facing us, including the threat of islam.

Politicians who have the courage to speak the truth about islam.

Politicians who dare to denounce the devastating results of the multicultural society.

Politicians who – without political correctness – say: enough is enough.

You and I, Americans and Europeans, we belong to a common Western culture. We share the ideas and ideals of our common Judeo-Christian heritage. In order to pass this heritage on to our children and grandchildren, we must stand together, side by side, in our struggle against Islamic barbarism.

That, my friends, is why I am here. I am here to forge an alliance. Our international freedom alliance. We must stand together for the Judeo-Christian West.

We will not allow islam to overrun Israel and Europe, the cradle of the judeo-Christian civilization.

My friends, we will stand together.

We will stand firm.

We will not submit. Never. Not in Israel, not in Europe, not in America. Nowhere.

We will survive.

We will stop islam.

We will defend our freedoms.

We will remain free.

Thank you.

UPDATE:  In the first comment to this post, Charles Martel made an excellent point in response to Wilders suggestion that America shut down Islamic schools and mosques:  we have a First Amendment.  The problem is that Islam wears two hats.  One is a religious hat, which falls under the First Amendment; the other is a social/political hat, which doesn’t.  Making the distinction, though, is a problem.  What do you do about a school or mosque that offers both prayers and jihad?

Anyway, a useful complement to the above speech is the video that the audience watched before hearing Wilders speak.  It reminds us that, when it comes to religion and the First Amendment, Islam is sui generis.  I’m not proposing a solution by the way; just identifying a problem:
Click here to view the embedded video.

An Index to Willis’s Writings

via Watts Up With That? by Willis Eschenbach on 5/15/11

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach. In an effort to make some sense out of my posts and to enable me to refer to them and remember where they are located and what they are about, I put together a list by category, along with a short description of each one.
Continue reading →

Categories are:

John McCain: Forward to the Past!

John McCain: Forward to the Past!: "

Sen. John S. McCain (R-AZ, 96%) has painted himself into a deep hole over waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation methods. He has staked everything, everything, on two dubious claims:

  1. That waterboarding and the other so-called 'harsh' interrogation techniques (used through 2006 by the CIA against terrorists and other unlawful combatants) is 'torture,' defined by McCain as the equivalent of what his captors visited upon him in the 'Hanoi Hilton.'
  2. That such 'torture' cannot conceivably yield valid information, not even in theory.

How so? Because any form of interrogation harsher than politely asking the detainee to spill the beans necessarily, in every instance, elicits false and misleading disinformation (which apparently cannot even be fact checked, for some unfathomable reason).

Alas, in the war against radical Islamism, McCain has become obsessed with proving these two preposterous propositions, to the point that such proof trumps even victory itself. He believes such measures are never necessary, and that their use sears the very souls of the interrogators and of the nation itself. He also appears to maintain a childlike belief that there is always another way to gain the same intelligence; if only we ask detainees sincerely, compassionately, and charmingly enough, even top al-Qaeda leaders will see the light.

Case in point, McCain's bizarre argument with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others who had intimate knowledge of what information was extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi under waterboarding and other somewhat harsh (but hardly torturous) questioning. Though he wasn't there, John McCain has a vision of what happened (and didn't happen):

Waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques were not a factor in tracking down Osama bin Laden, a leading Republican senator insisted Thursday.

Sen. John McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, also rejected the argument that any form of torture is critical to U.S. success in the fight against terrorism.

In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, the Arizona Republican said former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others who back those tactics were wrong to claim that waterboarding al-Qaida's No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, provided information that led to bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

Impassioned! But extreme passion typically comes at the price of reason.

AP makes a feeble attempt to cast McCain as 'in the loop' anent those interrogations, enough to know for dead certain that they were completely unproductive, fraudulent, and useless; writer Donna Cassata tepidly serves up the fact that Sen. McCain is currently (since 2009) the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, a qualification she concludes gives McCain an 'unrivaled record on the issue.'

But he was neither chairman nor ranking member when the interrogations took place; the Republican who was both is John Warner, now retired, who has not seconded McCain's pronunciamentos. No matter, the point is irrelevant anyway, as it's extremely unlikely that anybody in Congress, including Warner, was fully informed about the nature and extent of intelligence gleaned from those interrogations -- under the principle that 535 can keep a secret if 534 are bound and gagged.

How did McCain become such an authority, particularly on the left, on the morality and effectiveness of enhanced interrogation? Those now prattling about his 'unrivaled record on the issue' utterly villified him during the 2008 campaign; what has since transmogrified him into the senator with absolute moral authority to speak on the issue of interrogations?

The cover story is that John McCain's Communist captors tortured him, so he has a unique understanding of such things. (The real story is that anybody casting calumnies on George W. Bush and other Republicans automatically has absolute moral authority.) But McCain's captors inflicted real, not simulated, torture upon him, for years during and after the Vietnam War. It's hardly comparable, but that's the truncheon they'll use to bash everyone who engaged in or supported the interrogations.

Yet McCain's personal connection is precisely what makes him a uniquely unreliable witness. It's clear that he was so physically traumatized and emotionally devastated by his ordeal that he cannot possibly come to any rational, unbiased conclusion about waterboarding or any other harsh interrogation technique; he's hag-ridden by nightmarish memories and chronic medical problems. You may as well ask a Pearl Harbor survivor what he thinks about the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during WWII.

I happen to like John McCain, and of course I have tremedous respect and admiration for what he went through and how he recovered (mostly) from it. But he has become, for perfectly understandable reasons, phobic on the subject of interrogations.

Phobias do not make a good basis for rational inquiry. An arachnophobe is terrified of a Brazilian wandering spider or a Chilean recluse, two of the most deadly arachnids; but he's equally terrified of a harmless daddy longlegs.

On policy, I very much like McCain's position on spending and taxes; I mostly like his position on immigration (though I still want to know exactly how he proposes to reform the legal immigration system); and he was of course the first major Republican to begin calling for a counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. On the other hand, his role in the 'Gang of 14' constituted an appalling attack on constitutionalism and judicial restraint; his other phobia about campaign fund raising led directly to an attack on freedom of speech; and his penchant for poking his finger in the GOP's eye at every opportunity may well have contributed not only to the election of Barack H. Obama in 2008 but even the Democrats' recapture of Congress in 2006.

I had no difficulty voting for McCain in the 2008 general election against Senator B.O., and I would have had just as little difficulty voting for him against Hillary 'Fist Lady' Clinton. But on the subject of interrogating unlawful combatants for intelligence purposes, McCain is so blind, so deadly blind, that I believe he should simply recuse himself from that entire subject. He does his country far more harm than good on that issue.

John McCain has become a man behind his time. It happens to most folks, if they live long enough; but people who have been, in their lives, powerful mover-shakers and very important personae cling to relevancy as feverishly as they cling to life itself. In practice, this usually takes the form of railing against all that has changed in the world since their own opinions and understandings hardened into concrete, umpty-ump years ago.

McCain understood very, very well the world of the Cold War and Vietnam, of mechanical and electronic marvels, of an economy rooted in Alvin Toffler's second wave of industrial civilization. But there his personal 'theory of everything' froze; and the lightspeed changes since then -- insurgency/counterinsurgency warfare, the microprocessor and biogenetic-engineering revolutions, and an economy increasingly based upon information and microcurrents rather than plugboards and manufactories -- confuse, enrage, elude, and frighten him.

He is a great politician -- for 1985. Alas, it's always 1985 for John Sidney McCain III.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

W. Kurt Hauser: There's No Escaping Hauser's Law - WSJ.com

W. Kurt Hauser: There's No Escaping Hauser's Law - WSJ.com

Over the past six decades, tax revenues as a percentage of GDP have averaged just under 19% regardless of the top marginal personal income tax rate. The top marginal rate has been as high as 92% (1952-53) and as low as 28% (1988-90). This observation was first reported in an op-ed I wrote for this newspaper in March 1993. A wit later dubbed this "Hauser's Law."

Over this period there have been more than 30 major changes in the tax code including personal income tax rates, corporate tax rates, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, investment tax credits, depreciation schedules, Social Security taxes, and the number of tax brackets among others. Yet during this period, federal government tax collections as a share of GDP have moved within a narrow band of just under 19% of GDP.

Why? Higher taxes discourage the "animal spirits" of entrepreneurship. When tax rates are raised, taxpayers are encouraged to shift, hide and underreport income. Taxpayers divert their effort from pro-growth productive investments to seeking tax shelters, tax havens and tax exempt investments. This behavior tends to dampen economic growth and job creation. Lower taxes increase the incentives to work, produce, save and invest, thereby encouraging capital formation and jobs. Taxpayers have less incentive to shelter and shift income.

On average, GDP has grown at a faster pace in the several quarters after taxes are lowered than the several quarters before the tax reductions. In the six quarters prior to the May 2003 Bush tax cuts, GDP grew at an average annual quarterly rate of 1.8%. In the six quarters following the tax cuts, GDP grew at an average annual quarterly rate of 3.8%. Yet taxes as a share of GDP have remained within a relatively narrow range as a percent of GDP in the entire post-World War II period.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mukasey responds to McCain’s op-ed

Marc Thiessen is becoming the go-to guy on enhanced interrogation. Here's his piece in the Post Partisan blog at the Washington Post: Mukasey responds to McCain’s op-ed

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey has issued a statement responding to Sen. John McCain’s op-ed in today’s Post, in which McCain effectively calls Mukasey a liar. Here is his statement:
Senator McCain described as “false” my statement that Khalid Sheik Mohammed broke under harsh interrogation that included waterboarding, and disclosed a torrent of information that included the nickname of Osama bin Laden’s courier. He strongly implied in the remainder of his column in the Washington Post that this harsh interrogation was not only useless but also illegal. He is simply incorrect on all three counts.

KSM disclosed the nickname — al Kuwaiti — along with a wealth of other information, some of which was used to stop terror plots then in progress. He did so after refusing to answer questions and, when asked if further plots were afoot, said that his interrogators would eventually find out. Another detainee, captured in Iraq, disclosed that al Kuwaiti was a trusted operative of KSM’s successor, abu Faraj al-Libbi. When al-Libbi went so far as to deny even knowing the man, his importance became obvious.

Both former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Michael McConnell have acknowledged repeatedly that up to 2006, many of the valuable leads pursued by the intelligence community came from the three prisoners who were subjected to harsh techniques that included waterboarding in order to secure their cooperation.

So far as the waterboarding technique used by CIA operators, as outlined in the memoranda released by the Department of Justice, it was entirely legal at the time, which is to say before the passage of later statutes in 2005 and 2006, by which time it was no longer in use and under which it has not been evaluated.

In other words, the harsh interrogation techniques were both effective and lawful.

Tactical intimidation

MercatorNet offers comments on the use of Tactical intimidation

I find little reason to hail the "courage" of someone who defends the consensus view of the whole history of human civilization--that marriage is a bedrock social institution that unites a man and a woman in order to make a family--as rational and well intended. But one of the kind notes came from a friend who was about to leave for Cuba to help beleaguered Christians there, persons of whom the word "courage" can be used without embarrassment. So what was going on?

It was simple: my correspondents were academics, writing from within the establishment of American higher education, where it can be very uncomfortable to speak out against the idea of same-sex marriage. Are people's jobs on the line if they dissent? This is harder to say with certainty, and the circumstances will not be the same everywhere. The deadly combination of unchallenged liberal presumptions and casual intimidation of dissenters is probably at its worst in the most prestigious universities, which set the tone for the rest of the country, on this issue as on many others.
The day after King & Spalding was reported to be taking the DOMA case, the HRC launched a high-pressure campaign to force the firm to reverse its decision. This was too much even for the liberal editors of the Los Angeles Times, who oppose DOMA but recognize a principle when they see one. Ditto the editors of the Washington Post, who chastised HRC after the success of its campaign of intimidation.

But intimidation--"mau-mauing the flak-catchers," Tom Wolfe memorably called it--is now the default tactic of same-sex marriage advocates.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Enhanced Interrogation: Part of “Mosaic” used to track down OBL

Enhanced Interrogation: Part of “Mosaic” used to track down OBL: "
In a good piece on the liberal delusion about the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), Jennifer Rubin gets at the nub of the issue.
She does so by taking issue with the contention Juan Williams made on FoxNews that we could have gotten the information needed to track down Osama bin Laden “in other ways”:
Williams is simply being untruthful when he says EITs didn’t contribute to bin Laden’s death and that we could have gotten the information by other means. The latter is unknowable (although certainly unlikely), and the former is factually incorrect.
Pretty much sums it up.  Read the whole thing.
Even Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledges the information needed to track down Osama came from ”mosaic of sources.”   A number of the “tiles” used to complete that mosaic came from EITs.  Thus, by using the word, “mosaic,” even the man busy prosecuting those who used EITs on a handful of high-value incarcerated terrorists acknowledges that such techniques helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden.

Obama owes thanks, and an apology, to CIA interrogators

Obama owes thanks, and an apology, to CIA interrogators - The Washington Post

On his second day in office, Obama shut down the CIA’s high-value interrogation program. His Justice Department then reopened criminal investigations into the conduct of CIA interrogators — inquiries that had been closed years before by career prosecutors who concluded that there were no crimes to prosecute. In a speech at the National Archives, Obamaeviscerated the men and women of the CIA, accusing them of “torture” and declaring that their work “did not advance our war and counterterrorism efforts — they undermined them.”
Now, it turns out that the very CIA interrogators whose lives Obama turned upside down played a critical role in what the president rightly calls “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.”
It is time for a public apology.
U.S officials have acknowledged that the key piece of intelligence that led the CIA to bin Laden — information on the al-Qaeda leader’s principal courier — came from detainees in CIA custody. According to a senior administration official, “detainees in the post-9/11 period flagged for us individuals who may have been providing direct support to bin Laden and his deputy, [Ayman al-] Zawahiri, after their escape from Afghanistan. One courier in particular had our constant attention. Detainees gave us . . . his nickname and identified him as . . . a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.” The nickname was Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. KSM was taken into CIA custody in 2003 and refused to talk. Only after undergoing enhanced interrogation techniques did he confirm knowing al-Kuwaiti.
The following year, another senior al-Qaeda operative named Hassan Ghul was captured. U.S. officials say he told the CIA that al-Kuwaiti was close to KSM’s successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi — a revelation officials described as the “linchpin.” In May 2005, al-Libi was finally taken into CIA custody. After being subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, he provided credible information on al-Qaeda’s courier networks, how they chose and employed couriers, and specific individuals. But he became evasive when asked about al-Kuwaiti. Some have suggested this shows his interrogation did not work. Quite the opposite, this was a red flag that led the agency to recognize al-Kuwaiti’s importance and focus its attention on identifying and hunting him down. It took years to actually find al-Kuwaiti and follow him to bin Laden’s compound. But without the information the CIA elicited from these high-value terrorists, the agency would not have known to look for him in the first place.
Already, critics are desperately trying to play down the CIA interrogation program’s role in the bin Laden operation. Many are pointing to anAssociated Press report that KSM “did not discuss al-Kuwaiti while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He acknowledged knowing him many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.”
This statement demonstrates ignorance of how CIA interrogations worked. Interrogators would never have asked about the names of couriers during waterboarding. As I explain in my book, “Courting Disaster,” enhanced techniques were not used to gain intelligence; they were used to elicit cooperation. According to former CIA director Mike Hayden, as enhanced techniques were applied, CIA interrogators would ask detainees questions to which the interrogators already know the answers — allowing them to judge whether the detainees had reached a level of compliance. “They are designed to create a state of cooperation, not to get specific truthful answers to a specific question,” Hayden said.
Once interrogators determined a terrorist had become cooperative, the techniques stopped and traditional, non-coercive methods of questioning were used. Moreover, the use of enhanced techniques wasn’t needed for two-thirds of the detainees in CIA custody . Just the experience of being brought into CIA custody — the “capture shock,” arrival at a sterile location, the isolation, the fact that they did not know where they were and that no one else knew they were there — was enough to persuade most of them to cooperate.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

If It Weren't For Double Standards, They'd Have No Standards At All (Wizbang)

Jay Tea amplifies the comments of another contributor to the Wizbang blog: If It Weren't For Double Standards, They'd Have No Standards At All (Wizbang)
It's becoming clearer as times go on that there was virtually no chance that Bin Laden would have been taken alive. Even if he'd been found stark naked, lying on his stomach, with his hands outstretched or folded behind his neck, he could have been lying on a grenade and still posed a threat. So he was coming back at room temperature.


Now, it must be stated that I have no problems with these policies. It seems that Rick doesn't, either. Nor do a lot of conservatives. There's a saying in Texas -- allegedly a defense against murder charges -- that "some people just need killing." And we recognize that.

We have no problem with that. But a lot of Obama's base does.

Or, at least, they did before Obama became the guy ordering the hits.

Some are still consistent. For example, Noam Chomsky is appalled that we didn't treat Bin Laden as a "suspect" and send in cops to arrest him. Glenn Greenwald (or, perhaps, it was Thomas Ellers or Rick Ellensburg -- they all look alike to me) isn't too thrilled about it, either.
Indeed. Or, after a fashion. I was curious to see how one of the most vocal critics of "torture" and the Bush Administration would react to Obama's kill order.
He didn't approve.
What I don't think it was is "justice". It was revenge. Which is, in it's way fine. A lot of people feel better now. Ok.

But justice, justice would be him in chains, in court, the evidence for his deeds laid out, and a chance for him to rebut them made available.
But rather striking was what was missing. When the Bush administration violated his notions of justice and propriety, he loudly decried Bush and all his allies as war criminals. For Obama, we get:
That's the sort of thing which makes me wonder if he deserves to be president, because it's the sort of thing I complained about his predecessor doing, and it's no different when Obama does it than when Bush did it, or some tinpot dictator does it somewhere else.
No "wondering" about Bush.
Now, if Obama's supporters have really "seen the light" and are on board with the policies that we on the right have been supporting all along, then fine. Welcome aboard. But an acknowledgement in this sea change would be nice. Otherwise, it just looks like they're more concerned with supporting Obama than maintaining any kind of consistency or principles.

Again, no problem with that. But a touch of honesty would be nice.

So, my challenge to the left (yes, Chico, I'm talking to you specifically, but many others as well) is this: are you OK with Obama ordering the deaths of terrorists without benefit of trial, without even an attempt to arrest them or take them alive? And would you have been just as OK with it had it been done under George W. Bush?

Team Obama's Odd Ineptness

Steve Sailer looks at the very odd ways the Obama Administration has chosen to be inept. Team Obama's Odd Ineptness
The Administration of George W. Bush made us used to a federal government that messed up frequently in the real world, but showed impressive marketing skills and message discipline in the world of spin. This past week has shown us, strangely, an Obama Administration succeeding very nicely in the real world, but then delivering a long series of disabling shots to its own collective foot.
While the military execution was pretty damn good -- kill bin Laden, spare most of the women and all of the children, grab records, evade the Pakistani Air Force -- it's pretty clear that the politicians didn't think through what their responsibilities would be afterwards.

A reader writes:
McCain painted Obama as a celebrity, happy to hear applause. He did little in his first 2 years to change that opinion. 

Ideally, Obama would have said little about bin Laden, leaving us with the impression he gives orders like this all day long. That would make him look really powerful. That would earn back a lot of the voters he had in 2008, but lost in the interim.

Instead his aides said too much about the raid, much of which they are revising. He's waffling on providing a picture of a dead Osama, leading some 9/11 families to demand a photo. In contrast to the strong confident president we saw Sunday night, we are learning he kept his generals waiting. 

The contrast between Obama, and the victorious Seal Team is striking. We know a lot about what Obama did, but we may never learn about the Seal Team members until too it's late. 

The American people gave him a great chance to reinvent himself, and what did he do? He reinstalled the fake greek columns.


Here's the famous picture released by the White House:

Now look at it again.

What a terrible picture. The President looks insignificant, hunched-over, not in control, like the least important person in the photo. The military man is sitting in what should be the President's chair: the big one with the high back. Which chair would President Reagan have sat in?

And that's the one photo the White House picked out of however many the White House's full time professional photographer took.

Obama's body language looks pretty depressed. The word 'power' repeatedly comes up in Dreams from My Father, but Obama's experience of exercising power has been mostly at the cancelling-somebody's-grant level. This is what real President-level power looks like: killing people. And the Obama in this picture looks like he's just realizing what that means. (When it was over, he made his usual speech about how 'I' did this and 'I' ordered that.)

The commenter continues:
Now I'm trying to decide how much each of the following factors explain Obama's team total incompetence: 

1) They are inherently dumb as dirt (relative for such a high profile operation) and promoted way beyond their abilities 

2) They have the clever sillies - basically intelligent but made stupid by anti-reality PC dogma and their lack of natural curiosity to explore obvious inconsistence of PC

3) They've grown incredibly lazy and arrogant knowing the Pravda MSM will parrot their obvious lies and errors without question or comment, enough to brainwash 51% of the electorate. 

4) They have little to no experience dealing with the real - have never had to make an arguement, sell an idea or meet minimum standards of logic/facts outside the echo chamber of likeminded ideologues.  

5) They are rank amatuers in all this business. One sign of their novice ignorance - they are sending out many conflicting and illogical stories trying to be all things to all people never thinking that this would cause a problem.
Good questions.

I would lean toward #3. How many tough questions has Obama been asked over the years? His campaign staff didn't even ask him any tough questions about Rev. Wright. Through sheer luck (I presume), Rev. Wright happened to be out of the country on a cruise when this long-looming scandal finally surfaced, so the Rev. wasn't around to respond to Obama's gassy Philadelphia race speech.

What Obama didn't realize was just how interesting Navy SEALs shooting bin Laden would be, and how, therefore, the press, for once, wouldn't be able to stop itself asking questions. Americans have been well trained over the decades to not be interested in Rev. Wright-type stuff, to accept whatever explanation Obama stayed up all night to dream up. But we can't help being really, really interested in this kind of action movie stuff.

So, Obama's instinct was that this event would be like most of the others in his life: he and his people would get to talk all they want, but nobody else would ask any tough questions about everything they said.
But he's no Bush fan either:
Still, the most obvious comparison is to Bush, who was completely clueless, apparently, that OBL was living in Greater Islamabad from 2003 onward. By that standard Obama looks awfully good.

Ace of Spades HQ

Ace of Spaces offers his thoughts in Break In Hunt for Bin Ladin May Have Been Provided By Not Only Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, But by Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Performed On An Al Qaeda Operative Captured in Iraq

1. 2003: Enhanced Interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad Results in the Nom De Guerre of bin Ladin's Courier.

Enhanced interrogation techniques did not, however, produce the real name of the courier -- at least not this earlier; it seems to have happened later.

This is giving the pansy liberals and McCain "We're better than this" types the pretext to deny the usefulness of such techniques:
“They waterboarded KSM (Khaled Sheikh Mohammed) 183 times and he still didn’t give the guy up,” said one former U.S. counterterrorism official who asked not to be identified. “Come on. And you want to tell me that enhanced interrogation techniques worked?"
Yes, because he did give the guy up: he gave you the nom de guerre.

Further, I can think of a rather obvious possibility as to why he didn't give the real name up: He never knew it. Bin Ladin told him the codename; why would KSM need to know more than that?

Indeed. You know, in the NeoPagan movement, we see people adopting "craft names", "just like they did during the Burning Times". There's one big difference though: During the burning times, craft names were code names, and the only name by which they knew each other. If a fellow covener is taken by Inquisitors, there would be no paperwork in the name of "Pixie Moondrip". In the modern neopagan culture, the craft name is taken for a number of reasons, none of which are to conceal one's identity.

So who's what coven do these people belong to, I wonder?

2. 2004: Enhanced Interrogation of al-Qahtani Confirms the Nom De Geure of bin Ladin's Courier.

3. 2006 (?): Enhanced Interrogation of an Al Qaeda Captured in Iraq, Ghul, Produces the Real Name of the Courier.

4. 2006-2009: NSA Begins Furiously Intercepting Any And All Communications Made By Anyone "al-Kuwaiti" Has Ever Known.

5. Late 2010 (?): al-Kuwaiti Places a Very Ill-Advised Phone Call.

...he called one of his associates that we were already wiretapping, and then we figured out about where he was, and then we started following him, and he led us to Abbottabad.

6. 2011: Surveying Abbottabad, We Grow Confident We've Found Bin Ladin's Hideout.

7. April 29-May 1 2011: Obama's Team Tells Him They Have High Confidence Bin Ladin (or at Least His Most Trusted Courier) is In the Compound, and Obama Agrees, and Orders the Raid; On May 1 It's Executed By SEAL Team 6.

8. May 2011: Begin a Disinformation Campaign To Convince the Public That 2003-2008 Never Happened.
But one Democratic communications hand sent advice to a slew of other Democratic operatives in the wake of the announcement hammering on the need to make sure Obama comes out on top.

“In your day jobs, do not let Republicans turn this into continuing the Bush legacy. This has to be about Obama’s decisive leadership,” the guidance said. “He is the one who oversaw bringing bin Laden to justice, much like how Bush failed to do so at Tora Bora and then claimed Osama wasn’t a priority.”

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Leon Panetta: Okay, I Admit it. Waterboarding Gave Us Some of the Information That Led to the Killing of bin Laden (Video Added)

Aaron Worthing comments on tough interrogation techniques. Patterico's Pontifications » Leon Panetta: Okay, I Admit it. Waterboarding Gave Us Some of the Information That Led to the Killing of bin Laden (Video Added)

So, um, can we stop claiming that waterboarding doesn’t work?

I mean let’s back up a little. Just about everyone opposes hard-core torture, like ripping out fingernails and electroshock (except maybe in a ticking bomb scenario). And only a few loons want us to limit our interrogation to name, rank and serial number. The question is when does interrogation become torture, and one thing you can say for certain is that waterboarding is close to the line. It might be barely over it, or barely under it, but it’s clearly a close call. So I completely respect anyone who says it is torture even if I disagree.

But the most ridiculous claim is that it supposedly doesn’t work. Now of course pressuring anyone in any way to get a mere confession is of dubious value. Torturing a guy to say “I did it,” is unreliable. But if they are telling the truth, they can tell you things that are objectively verifiable. Consider, for instance, this classic scene from Dirty Harry...

The context of the clip is this. The psychopath had buried a girl alive and claimed he would give the location of the girl (giving them the chance to save her) if they paid a ransom. They paid, with Eastwood delivering it, but the man refused to give the location, and so the torture in that scene followed. So it was a “ticking bomb” scenario. Also, alluded to and not shown, they find the girl where the psycho said, but she was already dead. If memory serves she never had a chance of being saved in time. [And this sort of case isn't restricted to fiction. – KL]

Now if that hypothetical went to trial, the confession would be excluded from evidence (and in theory the body might be, too). Why? Not because it was unreliable. Even in isolation the mere fact he knew where the girl was buried was highly incriminating. But instead all of it, including the fact he knew where the body was, would be excluded on the theory that even then torture is not justified, and thus they wanted to remove an important incentive to police to engage in such conduct.

So let’s please stop the childish claim that waterboarding—hell, even torture—cannot be effective. And let’s instead have the adult conversation about whether we as a people believe it is morally justified and if so, when.