Wednesday, April 29, 2009


How long do you have to practice to do this?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A depressing timeline

I'll stop with this for a few days. But this what I've put together from the recently released "Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainess in U.S. Custody" report put out by the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

Sep. 11, 2001 - you know

Dec. 2001 - Dept of Defense general counsel's office solicits information on "exploitation" of detainees from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) - a unit whose mission was to train Americans how to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Conventions.  JPRA trains personnel to withstand torture based on the techniques used by Communist China to "elicit false confessions during the Korean war", including stress positions, nudity, disrupting sleep, treatment like animals, loud music, extreme temperatures.  This training also "included waterboarding".

Feb. 7, 2002 - Bush signs a memo stating that the 3rd Geneva Convention did not apply to al Qeada or the Taliban.

Mar 28, 2002 - Abu Zabayah (a high-ranking Al Qaeda member) is captured

Spring, 2002 - "Members of the Presidents Cabinet and other senior officials attended meetings in the White House where specific interrogation techniques were discussed." This includes Condoleezza Rica, George Tenet, and Donald Rumsfeld.

July, 2002 - the JPRA provides the department of Defense with documents including lists of physical and psychological pressures used in their training, and a memo from a psychologist assessing the long-term effects of the training.  The deputy counsel of the department of defense confirms that they obtained this information so that they could "reverse engineer"  the torture techniques that we were training our troops to resist

August 1, 2002 - Justice department issues the two memos used to justify the legality of waterboarding and other torture techniques. They were issued after consultation with Alberto Gonzales (White House Counsel) and David Addington (Counsel to the Vice President).

August, 2002 - Abu Zubayah is waterboarded 83 times in a month.

Sept. 11, 2002 - Ramzi Binalshibh (the "20th hijacker" of 9/11) is captured

Oct. 2, 2002 - Jonathan Freedman, chief counsel for the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, attends a metting of Gitmo staff. Mr. Freedman says in the meeting, regarding the legality of the torture techniques - "It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you're doing it wrong."

Late 2002 - early 2003 - U.S. Army psychiatrist Major Charles Burney testifies that during this time period interrogators were under pressure to provide evidence of a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.  "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link...there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

Oct 11, 2002 - Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey, commander at Gitmo, requests authority to use "aggresive interrogation techniques" including waterboarding, hooding, deprivation of light and sound, and stress positions (which, you'll remember, we had copied from Communist China to train our troops to resist).

Nov, 2002 - a series of memos are produced by different elements in the military raising concerns that they were being asked to violate the law and torture detainees.

Dec 2, 2002 - Donald Rumsfeld signs onto a recommendation by department of defense chief counsel Jim Haynes that Gitmo interrogators be allowed to torture. Haynes' recommendation indicates that he had discussed the issue with Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith - deputy and under secretaries for Defense. The legal basis for Hayne's recommendation is based on what military lawyers considered "legally insufficient" legal analysis. Rumself signs the recommendation - including a comment in the margins "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" in regards to 'stress positions'.

Dec 30, 2002 - Two Navy instructors from the JRPA arrive in Gitmo and conduct a session explaining the torture techniques to personnel there. They explain to the personnel that these techniques were developed by the Communist Chinese dictatorship to elicit false confessions.

Jan 15, 2003 - In response to a memo by Navy general counsel Alberto Mora that questioned the legality of the interrogation, and suggesting that it was torture, Rumsfeld rescinds authority for the the interrogation techniques he signed on Dec. 2nd, 2002. Rumsfeld establishes a working group to review the techniques.

March 1st, 2003 - Khalid Shiek-Mohammed, the planner of the 9/11 attackes, is captured.   During this month - he is waterboarded 183 times. That is not quite 6 times a day.  Note that this torture begins immediately upon capture - not after a period in which we tried normal interrogation techniques first. We *started* with the torture.

Mar 14, 2003 - The working group Rumsfeld set up on Jan 15th rejects the opinions of senior military officers and counsels in favor of a legal opinion from Justice Department's John Yoo.  Yoo states that criminal laws do not apply to military interrogations and that the Dept. of Justice could not prosecute the interrogators, in his opinion.

March 20th, 2003 - Citing the existence of weapons of mass destruction (since shown to be false) and a tie between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein (elicited as false confessions from detainees being tortured) President Bush orders the invasion of Iraq. To date, approximately 4,500 Americans have lost their lives. The estimated Iraqi death toll from invasion and inter-sect warfare since the invasion is close to 1,000,000.

August , 2003 - an email from staff headquarters of the Joint Task Force in Iraq (responsible for prisoners and intelligence) requests that subordinate units provide a "wish list" of interrogation techniques, and stated "the gloves are coming off" and "we want these detainees broken".  Also in August, a team from Gitmo arrives in Iraq to train the Joint Task Force interrogators on the new techniques.

Sep 14, 2003 - Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez approves the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, and the use of dogs in interrogations.

Late 2003 - Interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq torture detainees.  The commander of Abu Ghraib at the time, Janis Karpinsky, estimates that "90% of the detainees were innocent".

Early 2004 - 60 Minutes and the New Yorker publish the pictures from Abu Ghraib and several of the staff are court martialled.

We. Tortured. People.  Repeat that with me. We. Tortured. People.

This did not make us safer - it led to an ill-fated invasion of a country that, while despotic, posed no clear and present danger to the U.S..


A Republican hack utters truth by accident....

"Last week, they released these memos outlining torture techniques. That was clearly a political decision and ignored the advice of their Director of National Intelligence and their CIA director," Boehner said at a press conference in the Capitol.

That would be John Boehner, the Republican House Minority Leader.  Even this guy isn't able to maintain the farce that we "did not torture".

Not just corrupt, but incompetent

So now that we have clear evidence that the U.S. tortured prisoners, the whole "we have to save the U.S. from another 9/11" premise of the torture is shown to be a complete sham.  From an editorial by an FBI agent who actually was part of the interrogation team at Gitmo before he refused to torture prisoners and left.  There was no legal justification to torture, and not even a valid "ends justifies the means" justification. It was cowardly and wrong.

"One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.
We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.
There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. "

Job Losses

This is interesting - in that whole watching-a-car-accident-in-slow-motion is interesting.  Take a look at Michigan - and watch the decline in jobs even before the recession comes.

Cool Pictures

These are from a satellite near Saturn. You can see disruptions in the rings as moons pass by and distort the gravity.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

News Alert

Dead dolphin found near Bon Jovi's house

Is he a suspect?

For Sale

Girl. 2005. Fixer-upper. Pink tutu incl. Syrup fueled. $500 OBO. Call 555-1212, ask for Dad.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Call it what you want, it's torture

The Administration released several memos written by the Bush Justice department to assess the legality of torturing prisoners. You can go here and get links to the full PDFs.  The didn't redact much, mainly the names of individuals involved in the torture itself.  Just to be clear, these memos were written for the head of the CIA. The idea torture happened without knowledge of the higher-ups is patently false.

"In this phase, you would like to employ ten techniques that you believe will dislocate his expectations regarding the treatment he believes he will receive and encourage him to disclose the crucial information mentioned above. These ten techniques are: (1) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap, (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) insects placed in a confinement box, and (10) the waterboard."  [By the way, it turns out that Abu Zubayah, didn't actually have any useful information]

"Finally, you would like to use a technique called 'the waterboard'. In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until covers both the nose and mouth. ....This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of 'suffocation and incipient panic', i.e. the perception of drowning.....After this period, the cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three or four full breaths....The procedure may then be repeated."

"Section 2340A [of the U.S. code] defines torture as: 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 of physical control."

"The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view inflict 'severe pain or suffering'."  

Just for some context - this is one of the pictures in a Cambodian museum that commemorates the torture done to citizens under the Khmer Rouge.  

From Scott (2007) - A History of Torture through the Ages, water-boarding was called the 'Spanish Water Torture' during the Inquisition, when it was used to illicit conversions or confessions of heresy.   From Delarue (1964) - The Gestapo: A History of Horror, the German secret police used to use water-boarding to extract (mainly false) confessions.

Good company to be in: Khmer Rough, Inquisition, Nazis.   A proud moment for America.

A Vow

I vow to never, ever, bother reading George Will again. For a long time he seemed like a quasi-reasonable commentator.  Then he writes this screed regarding the cultural evils of .........jeans.  I'm shocked that he did not refer to them as "dungarees" to truly illustrate his desire to climb back into the white-washed womb of 1954.

Will says: "But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves."

Let's ignore the fact that making inferences from appearances is intellectually lazy.  The sartorial code of what constitutes maturity and respect *changes* over time along with, oh, everything else. (George Will's bow-tie, I'm sure, is supposed to indicate his maturity and worthiness of respect. Mostly, of course, it screams "I'm an arrogant douchebag", but let's let that slide for the moment).  In the 40's, the uniform of the mature male was a three-piece suit and a hat. In the mid 1800's the uniform was a black suit and top hat. In 1700 the most respected and powerful man in Europe, Louis XIV, looked like this:

So why doesn't George Will write an article about the cultural evils of top hats, bowler hats, and black suits?  I mean, obviously, the most appropriate mature and respectful uniform for a male involves a) panty-hose, b) chunky heels, c) an Austin Powers cravatte, and d) a bedspread draped over your shoulders.

George Will despairs over jeans because the world is not identical to the world he grew up in.  And he, like all of us, have a hard time dealing with that kind of dissonance.  The difference is that most of us realize that its our problem, not a problem with the rest of the world.  And it certainly is not an indication of cultural decay.  George, shit changes. Cinch up the bow tie and get over it.


Don't worry, there is no way that the government could possibly abuse the power to tap phones or read e-mails. I mean, they're only looking for terrorists, right?

The NSA had the authority to tap communications between Americans and foreign countries, except that it turns out its easy to get confused and end up tapping communications between Americans.  Something that, I'm pretty sure, is supposed to be illegal.

Your Patriot Act at work! Just trust the authorities, they have your best interests at heart.  Really.  Speak freely. Except about things we find objectionable.

Good for this kid..

An 18-year old in South Carolina filed a suit with the state Supreme Court to have them decide who has authority over the stimulus money that the S.C. governor is threatening to turn down.  80% of the stimulus money S.C. receives would have to be spent on education.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Inquiring Christians want to know.... tattoo or not to tattoo?  Honestly, this has been driving me nuts for years.  What would Jesus say about a some bicep-circling barbed wire?  Hmmmmmm........

F*$& Disneyland

We're going to "Holy Land Experience" in Florida.  Check out here for a map of this Christ-astic theme park. Do the kids want to visit "Calvary's Garden Tomb" to see a recreation of where Jesus was buried?  Or maybe they would like the "Dead Sea Qumram Caves".

But you really cannot miss the re-enactment of the crucifixion.  "Look kids, Jesus is being beaten by the Romans and bleeding from the head! Let's join in!"

And by the way, I shit you negative, they really do re-enact the crucifixion.  See color photographs on this page.


By the way, claiming that the Obama administration is "socialist" is stupid.  It is evidence only that you do not know what the word socialism means.

Socialism refers to a system in which the government owns the means of production. In other words, the government owns capital employed in production (factories and office buildings).  There are still property rights for individual property (homes, cars, etc..).

[Communism, by the way, refers to a system in which the government owns *everything*. There are no property rights because there is no such thing as individual property.]

It's unclear what about the Obama administration is supposed to be "socialist".  I suppose that if they have to nationalize banks, that would constitute a socialist situation.

However, it seems like people are confusing higher tax rates on relatively high-income individuals with socialism.  There is nothing about the tax rate that has meaning in socialism.  You can have a low-tax socialist country or a high-tax socialist country.

Regulation is not equal to socialism.  We've been a capitalist country for a long time, and always had regulation of some kind or the other.  Government spending is not equal to socialism.  We've been a capitalist country for a long time, and always had some government spending of some kind or the other.

If you want to argue for less regulation and less government spending - fine.  But don't be an idiot and call the opposite "socialism".


We're talking about government spending in class this week.  One thing that is interesting to do is....actually look at the government budget.  You can download it from the White House website.

One thing that people rail at a lot is earmarks. John McCain is on fire with this recently.  Remember the "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska?  Earmark.  So just how insidious are these possibly frivolous items?  Several watchdog groups put the total amount of earmarks at nearly $18 billion dollars.  That's a lot of money that is allegedly wasted (not every earmark is by definition a stupid use of money).

But relative to the entire government budget, earmarks are essentially a rounding error.  Total spending in the Obama administration 2009 budget is just under $4.0 trillion dollars.  So earmarks make up under one-half of one percent of the entire budget.  In comparison, defense spending is $666 billion, social security is $662 billion, and Medicare is $425 billion.  If you really want to address the size of government spending, you have to address these areas.  (Also an interesting comparison - all the other agencies of the government: Housing, Agriculture, Interior, Veterans, the FDA, the SEC, etc. etc... add up to a total of $613 billion).

Also, you have to realize that earmarks do not *add* money to the budget, they allocate money in the budget. If you removed all earmarks, the government spending would not fall - it would just leave $18 billion to the discretion of the agencies to spend.  If you want spending to fall, you have to actually, you know, cut spending.

Because you all love college hockey

Why is it that nearly every year the championship game in college hockey comes down to the last minute of play, or overtime.  This year, BU scored *twice* in the last minute to tie the game at 3 with Miami (OH), and then won it on a weird deflection in overtime.

I guess that I've paid less intense attention recently, but here are games that were either one-goal differences in regulation, or went to OT.

2009: BU over Miami 4-3 (OT)
2006: Wisc over BC 2-1
2004: Denver over Maine 1-0
2002: Minn. over Maine 4-3 (OT)
2001: BC over N. Dak 3-2 (OT)
1999: Maine over UNH 3-2 (OT)
1998: Mich over BC 3-2 (OT)
1996: Mich over Col College 3-2 (OT)
1993: Maine over LSSU 5-4
1991: N. Mich over BU 8-7 (3 OT)  - for my money, the best hockey game I've every watched

Maybe next year Michigan can avoid losing to the #4 seed.  f$*#&$)$*#*#&*&

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Did I miss something?

It's becoming more and more apparent to me that the theory of multiple universes must be true.  That could be the only explanation for the following commentary:

"There is a rising tide of pink fascism in this country, and it comes as a result of the election of Barack Hussein Obama. Obama has signaled that during his reign it will be acceptable to impose gay marriage on the people of the United States. He's being very cleverly used as a tool of the gay puppet masters. He is personally masculine, has a beautiful family and was used by the gay mafia to convince real American families that they should support him.
And now that Obama the Trojan horse has been taken inside the gates, so to speak, the contagion from within his administration is spreading throughout the country. One state at a time seems to be falling. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, California is teetering on the brink. Will Texas be next? Will Obama say that in order to make up for the oppression caused by slavery that the Deep South will now have to accept gay marriage under duress? Is this a sexual reconstruction of the entire country? Don't ask, because Obama won't tell"  

From Michael Savage here.  

Honestly, what kind of fantasy world do you have to live in to believe in a) a gigantic gay conspiracy, b) that has the resources and influence to fix the election of a U.S. President, c) gay marriage = fascism, d) gay marriage = reparations for slavery.  I mean, if I substituted the words "alien" for "gay", wouldn't this be some weird X-files episode?  If Michael Savage was spouting off about alien marriage and slavery, wouldn't we think hard about upping his meds or putting him in an institution for the disturbed? 

Can someone explain to me what scares them so much about gay people?  

I, for one, welcome our new gay overlords. I'm pretty sure that the new gay imperium will be able to provide free government hair treatments and cut-price tickets to Broadway shows. Huzzah!

Note to self..

Always.  No, wait.  Never, ever, piss off Roger Ebert.

Squeaky the Chicago Mouse?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Twenty five years too late....

And where was this during the Christmas shopping season of 1984?  Hello?

Yes, that is a Tauntaun sleeping bag.  Note the detail - the outline of intestines on the interior is what makes this priceless.  Do you think that when you get in you have to say, "And I thought they smelled bad....on the outside"?

Shiny, happy Midwesterners

This site has some really cool maps of personality traits.  I have no idea how well-thought out the measures are, or how they got this kind of data.  But, it's kind of fun to see the patterns.  Nice, agreeable people (i.e. mind-numbingly dull helpful types) all over the middle of the country.  Neurotic, open-minded types (i.e. interesting wack-jobs) on the coasts.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Saturday also was Kirstin's first triathlon.  You can check out here to see the official standings (scroll down to the women 35-39 category - you'll find her).  She kicked some ass.  And considering she did this with a dumpy old mountain bike, it's really impressive.

There is already rumblings of another tri in the works.  You may all be called upon to contribute to the fancy bike fund if this is going to become habitual.

It all seems like a lot of work to get a free t-shirt, but it was really cool to watch Kir finish this after 6 months of training.

How do you score this one?

Saturday afternoon we were outside and Madeline all of the sudden figured out how to pump on a swing. The technique is still a little sloppy, but the concept has taken hold.  Freedom beckons.

On the other hand, Kirstin managed to find about 5-6 white hairs on my head.

It's unclear whether Saturday was a net gain or loss.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Brilliant or Evil

Not sure what to think about this.  It's fantastically morbid.  The site offers "Free Funerals from Laptops Direct" and they will help offset the cost of burying your loved one in return for some marketing considerations.

This would be creepy by itself, but you have to check out the price list.  It's almost inexplicable.