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November 15, 2007


(Dear Secret Service: this post is very much NOT a threat or endorsement of violence against Dick Cheney--not even in hypotheticals or in parallel universes involving time travel and/or Dick Cheney having a psychic, unethical, murderous, yet well-meaning cardiologist.)

HYPOTHETICAL: that the right-wing supporters and enablers of GWB would engage in honest discussion with those who oppose GWB's actions and policies.

Nah, not worth even thinking about. Never happen.

Awesome job Katherine.

another great post.

y'all are really rocking this torture issue.

What do you mean (b) is a hypothetical?

More seriously, great work, Katherine.

devil's advocate:

The urgency of the original hypothetical, as well as the immediacy with which anyone who lived through 9/11 can relate to the fervent, panicky desire to prevent another one, are not matched here in the opposition to the suggestion that torture may be morally justified in certain circumstance.

It's human nature to deflect moral nuance when something as threatening as the horror of mass murder is accessed in their consciousness. What Patterico keeps coming back to (and we're not effectively countering, IMHO) is a visceral rejection of the clinical rationales of those who argue torture is always wrong. There's a separate, illogical, but still powerful reasoning process in play there.

What my side (the side opposed to torture) isn't that good at, but perhaps needs in order to help the Patterico's get it, viscerally, is an equally compelling consequence narrative.

I think K's done a good job of presenting the real world consequences of latitude where torture is concerned, but it's still too easy to weigh the two (mass murder in an instant vs. systemic graying of moral boundaries that can/might work themselves out over time) and side with those who feel the means justify the ends.

I suspect nothing short of the kind of epiphany Camus' father had while witnessing an actual execution by guillotine will drive home for most of Patterico's ilk why they're wrong.

The problem is, they already have strong images from 9/11 and elsewhere to counter any inherent empathy they might otherwise have for someone being tortured, and Patterico can tap into those.

What am I getting at? That perhaps Americans should be forced to watch waterboarding being conducted? No. That's obscene. Besides, we have films and such delving into that of late, and it's still not a parallel to the hours of footage we've consumed of the towers collapsing and such. But perhaps a simple meme that asks anyone who'll publicly support waterboarding to agree to undergo it first before they bother the rest of us with why they feel it's justifiable.

Indeed, hearing folks defend it is approaching being nearly as painful as knowing the US is doing it.

Eddie: It's impossible for us to make the case against equally compelling because they don't consider the victims--even the innocent ones--as human as Americans. They don't think their lives are worth what our lives are worth. So the mere possibility that torture is necessary to prevent an attack & save American lives (however unlikely, however unsupported by reliable evidence that this has actually happened), outweighs the real & proven suffering of actual real life torture victims (even when the victims were tortured to death, were innoccent, where torture only produced false confessions, etc. etc. etc.).

They can imagine themselves & people like them being killed in a terrorist attack; they can't imagine our government disappearing & torturing people like them. It doesn't seem real, or matter very much, when it's only done to foreigners.

So how do we make it real? We can write posts & reports & articles discuss actual cases of torture in exhausting detail--reading the details about it is what did it for me--but most defenders of torture's existence aren't willing to read those or acknowledge their existence. How many right wing blogs have claimed that "no one died at Abu Ghraib" in spite of the many photographs of the corpse of a prisoner who died from "Palestinian Hanging"? They won't deal with the facts, they just deny it without even reading the report & then pretend it never existed.

We can make movies about it, but those movies will be as fictional as 24, and they don't have to watch such "liberal propaganda".

It seems more real if you actually see a recording of a victim describing his experiences. But again, they don't have to watch such things. It would seem more real if you had to watch a video of an actual torture session--but those aren't exactly publicly available, & if they were, I wouldn't count on everyone reacting like Camus's father did. It's much more real if you actually speak to a victim in person (look at Congress's inability to look Arar in the eye & tell him that his rendition was justified--and that was just testimony via video link), but why would they choose to do that?

Some people can be convinced by such things, and I don't know of a better approach--I'm convinced a very large majority can be convinced, eventually. But some people really don't care very much if it's something that happens to accused terrorists and foreigners, and there's just nothing to be done about it except to try to outnumber them. I mean, look: even opponents of these policies are not reacting against them as strongly as they would if it were happening to "people like us." Myself included.

It doesn't seem real, or matter very much, when it's only done to foreigners.

I think it's easy (it is for me) to dismiss such folks as unreachable. Racist and unreachable. I'm reminded, however, of the simple "trick" pulled by the lawyer in "A Time to Kill." He knew the racist jury wouldn't empathize with the torture of the young black girl, so he described her torture within the context of how they'd see it, with their defense mechanisms up and them safely behind the wall of their own "otherness." Once he got them to do that, safely, and only when he had carefully led them to a place where they themselves could let their better human nature peer over that wall, did he then drop the wall and let them discover for themselves how they'd feel if the victim was them.

Where am I going with this? I'm not sure. I guess I have to believe that Patterico is only refusing to peer over that wall. Not that he's inhuman.

"A Time to Kill" is probably a bad example, now that I think about it, though. It's essentially the story of a lawyer who gets a jury to agree a murder was justified, and it's probably just as easy for Patterico to use it to justify his support of torture as it is for anyone to use it to help folks identify with the victims of torture. Besides, the victim in that story was entirely innocent. What Patterico relies on in his hypothetical is the notion his victim isn't.

In the end, though, Patterico's not making an argument for making a distinction between innocent and non-innocent torture subjects. He's making an argument for torture. If he would look over that wall, see himself on the receiving end, however, perhaps he'd get it.

Sure, lots of people can be reached & it's worth the effort; I think a majority. Him in particular? Maybe; I think it's very unlikely, given the fake, sanitized description of waterboarding he uses.

Wonderful work, Katherine. Thank you.

i dunno... it's gonna take a hell of a lot of convincing to 'reach' most of the pro-torture folks.

go browse any wingnut comment section and count the number of people who are apparently seriously convinced that we're one Democratic president away from sharia and burkas, and that gun-totin, GOP-votin patriots like themselves are our only defense against the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate.

What my side (the side opposed to torture) ... perhaps needs in order to help the Patterico's get it, viscerally, is an equally compelling consequence narrative.

Ibn al-Libi.

"Iraq is training Al Qaeda in the use of poisons and chemical weapons".

Thanks -

Boy, Katherine’s hypothetical sounds a lot like defensive measures in Spain (1500s), Yugoslavia, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Iran, Chechnya, Turkey, Romania (1400s), Afghanistan, Nigeria, Sudan, and, increasingly the Philippines and Thailand.

The ethical option is containment.


Cleek: i dunno... it's gonna take a hell of a lot of convincing to 'reach' most of the pro-torture folks.

Not sure that’s true. It didn’t take that much to convince me. Unfortunately, Katherine and Hilzoy are not nationally syndicated…

I could make up a hypothetical where a suicide bombing prevented more evil than it inflicted & saved more people than it killed; would that show that opponents of terrorism just don't understand the moral complexity of it all?

Well, this is just heresy plain and simple.

At some point does it need to be pointed out that Patterico's entire post and follow ups was no different than the troll comments we see here from time to time?

And should probably deserve the same non response?

The fact that he is in a position of power is more of a problem for the people of California.

Actually, I had an easier time reading him when I thought he was hanging out in his Grandma's basement. These days, it's just more of the same scary.

I think it's worth writing about these subjects, & in my experience people are a lot more likely to respond if it's a response to some provocation from a right wing blogger than if it's just "yet ANOTHER depressing torture & detention post from katherine".

not watching the 'debate', but did Hillary really just say (quoting Kevin Drum's paraphrase):

    National security is "absolutely" more important than human rights. [No hesitation]


out of the frying pan into ... the other frying pan ?

I thought this quite interesting:

[...] All of the leading Democratic presidential candidates have made it clear that if the Republican nominee is not Mr. McCain, they will make torture a subject of any general election campaign.
I wasn't aware of this declaration of clarity, but it certainly would be nice if it were true.

One of the best things I've read on torture is the 1999 decision of the Israeli Supreme Court rejecting rules which would have broadly justified practices that amount to torture. The Israeli Court expressly rejected the "ticking bomb" scenario as a justification of general rules authorizing torture, reasoning that it was exceedingly rare and would open the door to torture under less extreme circumstances (exactly what has happened with our policy, witness Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib).

The conclusion the court came to was that torture was illegal, that rules excusing it in advance were illegal and that those who engage in it should be prosecuted subject to legitimate defenses such as necessity and self-defense. Not a total ban, but it bars torture except when the "24" scenario is for real. Those considering torture know they better be right that they are preventing such cataclysmic disaster, because if not they may be in jail for a long time. The ticking bomb scenario is an isolated individual defense and not an excuse for a blanket rule redefining and permitting torture. The court addressed and described several abusive practices in graphic detail, making clear its disapproval of government efforts to paper over the abusive nature of the practices with antiseptic semantics.

The justices on the Court began by observing that they citizens in a society under terrorist assault, and ended by contesting argument that their decision meant fighting terrorists "with one arm behind our backs", instead reasoning that rendering torture illegal gave Israeli society "the upper hand."

This seems to me to be a sensible approach, but I don't see it discussed much in our debate. I'd welcome input from those familiar with the decision as to 1) whether it's right and 2) whether it provides us with guidance about what to do. Feel free to let me know if you think I've described it incorrectly.

i think the ring of power analogy works almost perfectly in this context. tolkien definitely tapped into something there.

my only criticism is that you could have deployed a lot more snark. set it up with "well, since krauthammer and pals all like hypotheticals, here's one for 'em." and then close with something appropriately snarky - "oh wait, this wasn't a hypothetical."

snark isn't necessarily indifference. dig deep and there's usually some fairly strong idealism lurking at the core.

"my only criticism is that you could have deployed a lot more snark."

There are times that snark works well, but in this case I think it would only distract. Less is more.

Needless to say, this isn't something where one of us is provably correct.

Concerning the suicide bomb hypothetical.
There were attempts on the life of Adolf Hitler by that method but they failed because Hitler obviously had something like a sixth sense and changed his schedule on short notice. There is still a debate on whether assassinating Hitler would have been legally/morally/historically justified.

This treatment of the idea that torture is possible in extreme circumstances seems extremely unfair to me. It sounds as if you think the people saying this are mere act-utilitarians of the most unsophisticated sort, and that's simply not true. The idea isn't that something is ok merely because the consequences will turn out to be a net positive as a result. Your counterexamples are pretty standard ones against that kind of utilitarianism, and I agree that such a view is morally intolerable.

But the view you need to be targeting is actually a version of deontology. The idea is that Kant's absolutism is wrong. There are cases where the moral importance of a certain consequence can be so extreme that a prima facie duty can be removed, i.e. something that is almost always a moral constraint against a certain normally very bad action can in very extreme cases become morally ok or perhaps even morally required. So infecting someone innocent who volunteers with a disease in order to work on an antidote that will save the entire human race might be ok, even though you may well cause an innocent person's death. Torturing someone you have very strong evidence is guilty of great evil in order to prevent a very serious disaster would be worth it. But there's no suggestion here that mere consequences are the only factor. That's just a complete straw man.

Hartmut: Minor quibble - the July 20 plot failed mostly because it was not a suicide bombing.

Stauffenberg left the briefcase and there is a lot of speculation on exactly how Hitler survived (possibly someone moved it etc.). In any case the war was winding down at that point and even if it had been successful it was far far too late.

Earlier attempts that may have done some good (bomb on his plane in 43) also failed because no one was willing to suicide to be sure it went off.

cleek: yes, she did - Thatcher anyone?

Posts like this are the reason I read blogs.

In any case the war was winding down at that point and even if it had been successful it was far far too late.

I agree that it was late, but even at that stage a successful assassination attempt would very probably have saved everybody a lot of grief, since "winding down" is not really the correct assessment. Just imagine: no Battle of the Bulge, no Battle of Budapest, no Battle of Berlin, no firebombing of Dresden and other cities (bomber command's peak was in March 1945), a lot more concentration camp inmates saved.

novakant: Fair enough. You’re right of course.

My larger point is that I don’t believe that the attempts on H are valid in considering the suicide bomb hypothetical. They were unsuccessful because no one was actually willing to suicide. That suggests to me that the plotters were also interested in being around to be part of the new power structure. They were willing to risk death as they obviously knew what would (and did) happen to them if they got caught but they weren’t willing to suicide. Stauffenberg could have just as easily concealed a pistol in that briefcase and put a bullet in Hitler’s head, or stayed and insured that the bomb remained in an optimal location. Even though being fully aware of all the horrors at that point he wasn’t willing to suicide to stop them.

Jeremy Pierce--I don't get your argument. All the consequences I'm describing are quite extreme & two (the deaths of thousands of Americans & hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians in an unjust war; and the doom of Middle Earth) are pretty clearly MORE extreme in consequentialist terms than not stopping a plot to crash planes into buildings.

My feeling is that ok, so you have the "ticking-time-bomb" scenario.

Are you willing to sacrifice yourself to save a whole bunch of other people or not? If you would be willing to throw yourself on the bomb in order to save people, why are you so unwilling to a) torture someone, and then b) take the punishment that society mets out to those who torture? (this is assuming that "torture works", which no one has proven to me either.)

What these people want to do is torture and get away scott-free with it. They don't want to pay the price, so they're trying to put together some legal justification to cover their asses.

If you believe that torture is "necessary", at least you should have the guts to take the punishment for having done it.

This is a brilliant idea. With a little more narrative impact (not snark, but more emotional, story-like writing, and especially the "surprise" ending that it's all real stuff), this would be an e-mail that people would forward around. And when doubters checked snopes, they'd find that it was well supported.

I agree with you, Katherine, that it's impossible to make the narrative as compelling as an emergency scenario. But I don't think it needs to be, because I don't think anybody reachable really likes the idea of torture -- which means that you only have to slip past their outer mental defenses to deliver the message effectively. The whole "you're going to die" narrative that's been pushed on us since 2001 is going to have to be countered in a broader way (probably with a "here's why they want you thinking about death" counter-narrative, a la Drew Westen).

Great stuff, Katherine.

I think TZS has made a critical point, and one that often gets overlooked in the discussions. There's something fundamentally immoral (and not "serious) in taking the position that inflicting torture on a suspect is somehow "necessary" and justified because of the alleged need to save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives, but that you (the torturer) personally are not willing to run the risk that you might be punished for your actions. Surely if the lives of those hundreds or thousands of supposed victims make it "necessary" for the suspect to be tortured, they also make it equally necessary, if not more so, for the torturer to expose himself to the risk of punishment?
And if you (the torturer) are not willing to run that risk, then I don't want to hear about your supposed moral imperative.

I just found (via Sullivan) what appears to be the next step in the evolution of this issue for those unable to check their own cowardice long enough to understand why they reduce themselves to the moral equivalent of the terrorists by supporting torture (sorry if this has been discussed here already). An editorial like this was truly inconceivable in my youth:

Hoorah for waterboarding

It makes one wonder how long it will take someone like Murdoch to realize that the moral imperative to spread our way of life to other parts of the world that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq now includes the asserition that torturing people is something to cheer about. If that's the case, though, what does that do to the case against Hussein. It wasn't his WMD that Bush cited as justification for his execution. It was his "tyrannical rule" and "brutal regime."

Oh, I'm sure I know what Murdoch would argue in response: We only torture the bad guys. Hussein was torturing innocents. Our torture isn't a sign of tyrannical rule and a brutal regime. Our torture is a sign of the superiority of the American way of life. And we have a moral obligation to spread that way of life. Those who abide by the Geneva Convention and abhor torture need to be forced to change their unAmerican ways.

Why in the world would any moonbat consider murder of any human being wrong? They and their supporters have been responsible for over 45 MILLION abortions in this country alone in the past 30 years, so why would advocating murder be wrong to them. They are killers in myriad ways of this country and what was the grand experiment on the planet earth. That its own people caused the failure of the great democracy is irony itself.
When you cannot see anything but one view, no matter where you are standing it makes you blind. So, what else is new for you guys since the l960's?

I know that that last comment violates the posting rules (& there will be probably more where that came from) but it also completely proves my point. So while I completely defer to the hive mind whether to delete "I don't know, but I do know you're a baby killer!!!" & similar posts, I'd appreciate people not responding to it otherwise.

How does it prove your point, though? I'm a bit lost there.

Edward_: I think SueTroll makes the point that a single, vivid, repeatable image ("baby killers!") has a more powerful grip on people than a rational argument.

TZS, I posted this in the comment thread of Sebastian's original post, and I think you're getting at what I was saying in a much more verbose way:

I posted something like this in the comments to Malcolm Nance's essay:

"Please consider the possibility that the President was weighing national security against the legal and moral implications and that - just maybe - he did not begin from all of the same assumptions that you begin with."

If that was the case, then not only did he disregard the oath he took upon assuming office:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

but he also failed in his constitutional duty to see that the laws be faithfully executed (such as the Convention against Torture).

Also, what many are losing sight of is the difference between personal moral agency and the function of employees of the government - namely to uphold and defend the principles upon which our nation was founded. Those employees all take a similar oath to that of the president, which is an oath to uphold the consititution. They owe no similar moral duty to my family that I do.

So while the question of what I would do if confronted with some kind of one-in-a-million situation that for example Mr. Evans refers to, where I could save my family by committing torture, I can't honestly say what I would do in that situation. Perhaps, not being of right mind, I would commit what is undeniably a wrong in the hopes of saving my family. But if I did it would be because I believed that I owed such a moral obligation to my family.

But even in that case, I would also have no reason to expect legal immunity or even leniency. Seeking legal protection strips the entire exercise of any moral profundity the hypothetical is designed to proclaim. Either you think your moral justification trumps the law or you don't. Having official and legal approval doesn't make your action a morally trenchant decision, it makes it following orders.

There is no evidence of a similar moral duty owed to citizens by employees of our government. They may believe it is so; but that does not make it so. They are acting in their capacity as our employees. If we wish to empower them with that ability, we should undo all of the laws on the books forbidding such behavior and withdraw from all treaties that do so as well. I would submit that that would represent a rejection of what it has to this day meant to be an American.

People may attempt to graft that moral obligation to MY family onto our servants in government, but that merely represents an attempt to win by visceral reaction, rather than logic. Yes, I may HOPE that some random interrogator would save my family by torturing a suspect, yet I have no legitimate reason for expecting it. In this respect the analogy to WW II Germany is apt: a German interrogator may have been able to morally justify torturing a captive in an effort to save his family (say by gaining information about a planned bombing raid in Dresden), but he should not expect to escape legal liability at Nuremberg.

As far as the practical results of torture, I would say that the use of torture could result in increase peril to our troops in battle because opposing combatants who thought they might be tortured would be more apt to fight to the death rather than surrender. There was a good reason why the understood rule among German soldiers in WW II was to run west not east if they found themselves behind enemy lines or separated from their unit.

Finally, also from a practical point of view, I would ask that people examine the case of Ahmed Ressam, the captured millenium bombing plotter:


A sample:

"Ressam confided to his lawyers that he had found the trial surprisingly fair. The judge had treated him respectfully. THE EXPERIENCE WAS NOT AT ALL WHAT HE EXPECTED OF THE COUNTRY HE HAD BEEN TAUGHT TO HATE.

Ressam also told Oliver he was unsure of the morality of his plan to massacre innocent holiday travelers. He said he needed to study the Quran to see if he had misunderstood passages.

So when Justice Department lawyers offered a deal to reduce his sentence, Ressam was ready to listen. (my emphasis) The terms were simple: His minimum sentence would be cut in half, to 27 years. In return, he had to testify against an associate, Mokhtar Haouari, and others. He had to reveal all he knew about al-Qaida — plots, training, tactics.

Ahmed Ressam became a terrorist turncoat.

On May 10, 2001, FBI Agent Fred Humphries questioned Ressam, the first of dozens of interviews. The information was invaluable — and terrifying. He explained how he was recruited in Montreal and funneled into the bin Laden camps. He talked in detail about training with Taliban-supplied weapons. He informed on Abu Zubaydah, Abu Doha and other top al-Qaida operatives. He provided the names of jihad fighters he had met in the camps. He revealed that he had contemplated blowing up an FBI office and the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C....

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Ressam's solitude has been broken by a stream of visitors, often FBI agents such as Fred Humphries, but also investigators from Germany, Italy and elsewhere.

With federal public defender Jo Ann Oliver at his side, he is told names and shown photographs of suspected terrorists and asked if he knows them.

On several occasions, Ressam has been flown to New York City for similar questioning. There, he is held in a detention center just blocks from Ground Zero.

Ressam did not recognize any of the 19 suicide hijackers from Sept. 11. But he was able to identify student pilot Zacarias Moussaoui of Minneapolis, now in U.S. custody, as a trainee from Osama bin Laden's Khalden camp.

Ressam informed on Abu Doha, a London-based Algerian who was the brains and money behind Ressam's Los Angeles airport plot. He identified Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who ran the Khalden camp, and Abu Sulieman, who taught bomb-making at the Darunta camp.

Most importantly, Ressam named the previously little-known Abu Zubaydah as a top aide to bin Laden. That helped smash the notion that Zubaydah, also now in U.S. custody, was little more than a travel agent for terrorist wannabes making their way to the al-Qaida camps.

Ressam is expected to testify at the trials of these and other suspected terrorists.

So it is that Ahmed Ressam — the boy who loved to fish in the Mediterranean, the teenager who loved to dance at discothèques, the young man who tried and failed to get into college, who connected with fanatical Muslims in Montreal, who learned to kill in bin Laden's camps, who plotted to massacre American citizens — has become one of the U.S. government's most valuable weapons in the war against terror...

Ressam's information was given to anti-terrorism field agents around the world _ in one case, helping to prevent the mishandling and potential detonation of the shoe bomb that Richard Reid attempted to blow up aboard an American Airlines flight in 2001"

So while I completely defer to the hive mind whether to delete "I don't know, but I do know you're a baby killer!!!" & similar posts, I'd appreciate people not responding to it otherwise.

Baby killer is a shortcut epithet, much in the same way as is "pro-torture". Not pleasant when you are on the receiving end, but you have to remember that it is a superficial label.

"I posted something like this in the comments to Malcolm Nance's essay"

Whoa, whoa, buddy: cutting and pasting long long coments that were just posted yesterday is, ah, not kind to animals and small children and regular readers. That's what links were invented for.

Like your previous comment so much that you figure everyone needs to read it twice? Link to it.

I propose a compromise to the ticking-time-bomb scenario, though it is a bit tongue-in-cheek:

Create the legal framework and protocol wherein only the President and the highest ranking member of the opposite political party can authorize "enhanced interrogation" in the event of a ticking bomb scenario.

Upon doing so and assuming a successful outcome both the President and the aforementioned official must serve no less than 6 months in federal prison. The legal framework must not allow any possibility of a pardon whatsoever.

If the interrogation did not lead to a successful result, the President and the corresponding official must serve 2 years in prison and the torture victim is to receive some significant monetary compensation and an official public apology from the United States government.

If any attempts are made to cover-up the Presidential order or if any person(s) in the government or military has been found to engage in enhanced interrogation techniques without Presidential approval then all such persons involved shall serve no less than 20 years in prison. Period. No Pardons allowed regardless of outcome or how many lives were saved.

Surely, any President would gladly serve his time in prison in order to save thousands of lives, right? But the decision to call for the order in the first place would be very soberly weighed.

My hive vote would be to let it stand, because it is beautiful.

"Why in the world would any moonbat consider murder of any human being wrong?"

Implicit admission that the poster can't make sense of (i.e., cannot see) the other side of the argument.

"When you cannot see anything but one view, no matter where you are standing it makes you blind."

Therefore, the poster is blind


Sorry, didn't know how to link directly to a comment.

"Sorry, didn't know how to link directly to a comment."

The permalink is under the date/time.

Here is a handy guide to HTML tags.

You can use "find" to go to "link something."

Here's how you link (you can copy this and paste it as necessary, if you can't remember):

Put words as necessary between > <

Put the actual URL to link to where it says "URL."

You're done. It doesn't matter if you capitalize or not.

Whoops, a line fell out:

Here is a handy guide to HTML tags.

You can use "find" to go to "link something."

Here's how you link (you can copy this and paste it as necessary, if you can't remember):

Put words as necessary between > <

Put the actual URL to link to where it says "URL."

You're done. It doesn't matter if you capitalize or not.


It was there in preview.

[your text here]

(sorry, had to try it)

Fricking Typepad.


It keeps showing one thing in preview, and disappearing it all when posting.

Test: <

It seems to translate < and > to the actual characters when you post.

Hit preview twice and you'll see it.

"It seems to translate < and > to the actual characters when you post."

What? That's what it's supposed to do, when the proper HTML code for those characters is there. See "special characters" here.

The problem is that it's disappearing most of the code now, for some reason; it's never done this before, including as of yesterday.

I'm not having trouble reproducing < and > alone.

Okay, sorry. One more try:

[I promise to stop littering on the blog]

Thx Gary, I suck at that. Although apparently it IS pretty tricky. ;)

Gary - You saw the greater than and less than characters. What I typed was ampersand lt semicolon, etc. (actually I typed ampersand amp semicolon lt semicolon, thinking it would only translate once - I was apparently wrong about that). One could probably get it to work (multiple literal tags?), but I'm already feeling guilty about littering, so I'll leave off.

Maimonedes, linking is not tricky. What's tricky apparently is getting the HTML to display without being interpreted when explaining how to link. So as long as you're not explaining you shouldn't have a problem.


"What's tricky apparently is getting the HTML to display without being interpreted when explaining how to link."

No, that's not tricky in the slightest. It's simply a matter of writing HTML.

Until an hour ago. At the moment, Typepad is doing something weird. But otherwise writing simple HTML characters is as simple as writing simple HTML characters.

For the time being, just use the form here under "Link Something."

"Although apparently it IS pretty tricky. ;)"

No, linking isn't "tricky" in the faintest, slightest, way. No one has had a problem linking here, ever.







< A HREF = "URL" > < /A >


For some reason, today, Typepad isn't allowing special characters to be put together. It'll reproduce them only when separated by a space, today.

That's inexplicable to me, but there's the problem, which didn't exist yesterday.


Succeed: < A HREF="URL" > < /A >

I happen to think that my take on the original hypothetical is better. That's because it hits the wingnuts where they live, in fantasy land. It ups the ante of the original hypothetical and lays bare what is really going on, torture. I can tell it goads them because I get accused of "pretzel logic". That's always a good sign.

In the original hypothetical let’s assume that we waterboard and it doesn’t work. We know without a doubt that he has the information and we know getting it from him will save thousands of American lives. Since waterboarding is not working you must try something else. Would you pull finger nails? Use cattle prods? There are microwave devices that cause extreme pain and give the sensation that your skin is on fire. It isn’t really and they cause no real permanent damage. Would you use these methods? If not why not?

Frankly, I am skeptical of this entire conversation. It seems to me to be a waste of time and is merely annoying the pigs.

Patterico's 'response' is here.

To me it suggests that while addressing pro-torture ideas is unfortunately necessary, engaging Patterico would seem to be fairly useless.

Reading the comment threads over there on this topic is quite informative, though, and generally, I think, supports Edward_'s (Nov. 15 @ 2:30) point.

Hmm, Patterico's answers 2 and 5 seem to be close to the correct one, but for some reason he views them as invalid.

maybe I could add:

given that it could save hundreds of thousands from death, if there is a 1% chance that Cheney's cardiologist is right, does he have a responsibility to treat that as a certainty?

Only if there's at least a 99% chance of him being right about having a 1% chance of being right.

My problem with his hypothetical is that if two or three minutes of waterboarding succeed in getting KSM to sing, that would seem to imply one of two things. Either 1) he wasn't holding on to the information very tightly, in which case it's likely information that could have been acquired through less abusive methods (or even misinformation); or 2) two to three minutes of waterboarding is a deeply horrifying experience of the sort once quaintly called torture, and any arguments which apply to waterboarding would apply as well to wiring up KSM's testicles to an extension cord. Patterico wants to argue that a little torure isn't so bad without actually admitting that waterboarding is torture. But how could it be effective in such a short time if it isn't?

Your mistake Katherine (and one I've made many times) is that you think it is actually possible to have a discussion at all. Patterico is a well known and particularly ugly troll on feminist blogs. It's unrealistic to expect anything like a civil conversation with him.

In fact, this whole thing has been one giant "Let's see if we can get some liberal heads to explode". He even says so in earlier posts though not in the same words.

For wingnut trolls you have to remember that everything revolves around us. That is just troll psychology 101. The whole point is simply to goad others into a flame war. There is no other point and any argument, no matter how bizarre is acceptable if it does that. Or to put it crudely, the whole point is to shit in the punch bowl of the hated "elites". There is nothing beyond that that matters to them.

c) Yes

As described and stipulated, since you offer no possible alternative routes to freedom or possibilities such as Eastern Europe had under Communism, I do not condemn my entire world to permanent slavery for the sake of my personal qualms & preferences.

Orwell on Gandhi

"The [brain] scans showed that both sexes experienced increased brain activity in the fronto-singular and anterior cingulate cortices – areas that the associated with the direct experience of pain – when watching other players receive a jolt of electricity. Researchers have previously shown that so-called mirror neurons will sometimes fire in empathy with another person's experience.

Both men and women also experienced slightly less activity in these areas when cheaters were given a shock, which suggests the feeling of empathy was dependent on social behaviour.

But tellingly, activity dropped much more in men when watching cheaters being buzzed. In addition, several other regions of male participants' brains "lit up" instead – areas linked to the experience of reward known as the ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens and orbito-frontal cortex.

The results suggest that men not only feel less empathy for cheaters but experience pleasure when they are punished."

"The [brain] scans showed that"

Um, this article didn't actually link to itself. The concept is very Ouroboros, but you're quoting a link that isn't there and that couldn't be there, while making obscure where the source of the article should be found. Since none of that is in the least necessary, it's probably a bad idea.

It does raise the question though doesn't it? "What do we do about the sociopaths among us?" What do we do about those, like Patterico and his ilk, who feel no empathy for other human beings? Because unless we do something they will lead us all into the abattoir.

Noen, this has been worrying me a lot in recent years. Having something like a quarter of the voting public proving themselves unwilling or unable to make the most basic moral and practical distinctions is scary. Cleansing the legacy of movement conservatism and restoring competent sanity to society and government will be a [i]massive[/i] task, on the scale of de-Nazification or the post-Soviet restructuring of Warsaw Pact nations. I understand why this isn't a popular topic among those who are busily collaborating now, but the diffuse nature of public resistance to it all makes it hard to see any good outcomes. We could be heading toward being the world's richest ex-Yugoslavia rather than West Germany or Czech Republic. But no matter how difficult the task may be, it has to begin with acknowledging truths including that a lot of our neighbors have deliberately turned themselves into amoral drones or been seduced into it and refused opportunities to escape.

A big part of the problem is language, just as our predecessors in attempting to recover civil life from tyranny have often noted. If you didn't know the facts of the matter, much of what must be truly said of the Bush/Cheney administration and the movement that brought it to power would sound as crazy as anti-liberal and anti-Democratic language back to Nixon and HUAC actually was. Um, I mean to say, in simpler sentences...Republicans have been saying insane things about Democrats, liberals, and the left since the 1940s. Crazy in charging conspiracies to overthrow law and order, multi-generational plots to undo constructive developments in society, mad schemes to make all of government the hapless tools of pet schemes, on and on. It turns out that all of this actually is true of movement conservatism, but distinguishing crazy from sane requires looking at something outside the exchange of rhetoric. Also, some of us would really like to have better language to talk about it all with so that we don't seem to just be swiping or reversing our enemies' style. Still, a good starting place seems to be going ahead and saying that it is actually both evil and irresponsible to the point of derangement to support the combination of sadism, anger, fear, paranoia, and outright incompetence that is the conservative movement. Its leaders are bad men and women. Its followers are at best fools. What we can do about their power, I don't yet know, unless the revolution's coming sooner than I think.

Propagating democratic values -- of which "don't torture" is very much one -- is always an ongoing project.

First,some of my best friends are Liberal Arts majors.There are my bona fides.
I'm going to rebut it on several quick points.
Primum non nocere.
(I'm a bit of an anchronism in that I took Latin in hs.But I think you can figure it out.
Secundum.Roger Zelazny (Amber Chronicles et al)wrote a story,"Spell my name with an 'S'"The gist was a Polish American physicist consults a numerologist who advises changing his last name's spelling.This eaarns him an academic position and averts nuclear war ,as a side effect.The tiny changes being leverages into gigantic results is OK in spec fic,but doesn't work in life.Too many variables.I don't whether VP Cheney being dead would have averted the Iraq invasion."I am but the slave of the Ring,not the Lamp."To use an analogy.
I'm really don't give a rusty fuck about waterboarding.I'm trying to understand if there is a disagreement on all toruring underany circumstances by American government agents.I don't get a sense of clarity above .
Is Edward(above at 8:24 )being serious?

To OCSteve:
Stauffenberg could not use a gun because he had lost one hand and some fingers on the other. Also it was planned to blow up not just Hitler but also several other important characters. The hit was postponed several times because e.g. Goering or Goebbels were not present (in the end they dared not to wait any longer).
I was not referring to that case anyway. There was at least one (earlier) case where an officer wearing a suicide vest planned to embrace Hitler while he visited a show of uniforms and blow himself and Hitler up. But Hitler changed schedule (as on several other occasions) and the would-be assassin had to hurry to get his vest defused without anybody noticing.
I read that the plane job failed because the fuses froze in the Russian cold but I don't know whether that is conjecture.

Corwin, "Spell My Name with an S" is by Asimov (who, after all, was always having to say that). But perhaps you're commenting from a parallel universe in which Zelazny wrote such a story and Edward commented at 8:24.

Well, perhaps time and the gods have marched on at this point, but I am reading a biography of Khrushchev and this morning I ran across the following passage. It is from mid-June 1953, after Stalin had died and Beria was briefly ruling. Beria instituted numerous reforms just because he was so drenched in blood, as Taubman puts it, and needed to make it look as much as possible that the horrible things he'd done were at Stalin's command. Beria, of course, as head of Stalin's secret police, knew a thing or two about interrogation. Here Beria is lambasting the Hungarian Communist Mátyás Rákosi: "A person who's beaten will make the kind of confession that interrogating agents want, will admit that he is an English or American spy or whatever we want. But we will never learn the truth this way. This way innocent people may be sentenced."

Baby killer is a shortcut epithet, much in the same way as is "pro-torture". Not pleasant when you are on the receiving end, but you have to remember that it is a superficial label.

Not really, no. "Pro-torture" may not be their desired epithet, but the pro-torture crowd will be among the first to tell you that they are, in fact, in favor of methods that were until just recently considered torture -- and which, if they were practiced upon Americans, would be denounced as such.

Yes, "pro-torture" has the merit of being precise and true. The position rests on the basic idea that some things are too important to subject to the system of restraints, oversights and punishment developed over time. Some advocates seem to be genuine sadists and dominants for whom useful information really doesn't matter at all as long as they get to make others scream and fear. More seem to have gotten swallowed up in ill-founded fears and can't find their way out of the labyrinth back into daylight. Can't or at least won't, not if it would require them to do something base like admit error. That running note of hating to admit ever being wrong seems a very strong one to me. But it all comes back in practice to justifying torture.

Nitpick on the third hypothetical (and I can't believe Gary Farber missed this one):

England = Airstrip One
Oceania = British Empire + USA

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