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Apology for torture misses the point

Letter to the editor, Washington Post:

Richard Cohen claims that "No one can possibly believe that America is now safer because of the new restrictions on enhanced interrogation." But Cohen, -- like other apologists for torture -- fails to realize that every abuse of a detainee acts to recruit more people to extremist groups. Those who beat and waterboarded prisoners, and those who ordered the torture, might as well have been drawing paychecks from Al Qaeda.

When we do evil, we only help the cause of those who would label America "the great Satan". Ending abuse is one of the best tools we have to stop terrorist ideology from spreading, and thus to make America safer.

on 9/11 conspiracy theories

The topic on 9/11 conspiracy theories came up in a Facebook thread today. Here are my posts from a discussion thread from Slashdot on this from last year, with a lot of links debunking conspiracy theory arguments. Quoted material is from other Slashdot posters (except as otherwise attributed), see the link for context.

Making multi minute phone calls from 30k ft with 2001 phone tech and no onboard plane phones (I already know its not possible, but would love to see them try)

You know that's not possible? So you tried it, eh? Please, post the details of your experiment.

Getting a 767 sim and attempt to fly the same path as pentagon plane

Why would you try it with a sim for a plane of a different model than the one that hit the Pentagon? Flight 77 (with a former co-worker of mine and his whole family on board) was a 757.

Of course, why let facts get in the way of a good batshit conspiracy theory?

Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | my blog
You cannot wash away blood with blood

why there was NO remainder of anything a passenger plane crash leaves in a crash site, and there were NO bodies, passenger belongings, pieces of bodies, ANYTHING but fairly intact TWO bodies in the scene.

Are you saying there were no bodies, or were you saying there were two?

Allyn E. Kilsheimer, CEO of KCE Structural Engineers (a company involved in providing emergency engineering and post-collapse assistance) said "I held parts of uniforms from crew members in my hands, including body parts."

Of course, once you reach the level of batshitness you've achieved, you can simply ignore his testimony by saying "they got to him too!"

And I'm sure you simply don't accept the claim that the remains of 184 people were identified; surely "they" got to all 102 DNA analysts, sample processors, logistics staff, and administrative personnel at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory. It's a DOD facility, after all.

Are you saying there was no debris from the plane? That's simply incorrect; hell, you can even see photos of a bunch of it at this batshit conspiracy site. And photos of the plane debris inside the building (where, in answer to your question about the lawn, most of it ended up, in agreement with conservation of momentum) can be seen at this somewhat less batshit crazy site. And some more photos here. And more photos, with amazingly detailed analysis, here

But I'm sure "they" got to the owners of all of those sites.

insane Christian cult than includes members of Congress. Be afraid.

In this Bill Maher interview, Jeff Sharlet discusses "The Family", a cult that perverts Christianity into a "might makes right" philosophy, and whose members consider themselves the new "chosen ones" -- and include many conservative members of Congress. I especially like their comparison of themselves to the Mafia, and the quote about how "morality is for the little people".

heathcare reform FUD-master Betsy McCaughey on The Daily Show

Jon Stewart talks with Betsy McCaughey, source of much of the FUD around healthcare reform:

Don't miss the even wackier second part:

Is health care a right? The question is irrelevant, but yes, it is.

Is health care a right? In his recent odious Wall Street Journal editorial, John Mackey argues that "A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That’s because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America."

(Markey is co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc., and his Thatcher-quoting article promoting a "you're own your own, buddy" version of health care has spawned a boycott movement.)

Now, if Mr. Mackey had actually read the Constitution, he would have seen Amendment IX: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." I.e., the fact that a right is not enumerated, can not be used to argue that it does not exist.

There is, for example, no right to privacy mentioned in the Constitution. That does not mean that one does not exist.

And something may not be a "right", and yet might be expected as a basic government service. In cases like Warren v. District of Columbia and Castle Rock v. Gonzales, the courts have found that there is no right to a police response -- yet we expect tax-funded, government-provided cops to show up if we dial 911. There is no "right to food", but a government that does not deal with hunger and famine is going to at minimum have a lot of crime, and quite possibly political unrest -- hungry people are ready-made followers for radicals, and so we have food stamps and agricultural policy.

it's not just health care that makes Republican politicians insane

Warning: this may make you feel ill. In fact, it ought to.

From The American Chronicle, back in May when the House was debating legislation to expand the 1969 federal hate-crime law. The proposed "Matthew Shepard Act" would expand the law to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Now, there are some legitimate concerns about some hate-crime laws, "thought crime" and all that; I haven't read the details of this bill and don't know if I'd support all of it's provisions. But that's irrelevant to this:

While Matthew's mother, Judy Shepard looked on from above in the House gallery, [Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)], who managed the floor for those opposed to the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, spoke saying, "The hate crimes bill that's called the Matthew Shepard Bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that the young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay. The bill was named for him … but it's really a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."

Matthew Shepard, of course, was a young man who was tortured and murdered by two homophobic lunatics, and whose death brought national attention to gay-bashing and to hate crimes in general. The "it was a robbery gone bad" defense that the defense attempted at one point, was contradicted by the thug's own testimony. That someone can claim that this is some sort of a hoax, and not be instantly run out of town on a rail, is the most stomach-churning thing I've read this week -- and I've been reading a lot of politics this week, my friends.

I am not surprised that this insane bitch's position on health care reform is that "There are no Americans who don’t have healthcare", and that she's one of the GOP politicos spreading the "death panel" Big Lie.

Johann Hari: Republicans, religion and the triumph of unreason

Johann Hari, writing in The Independent (UK), on how the insanity of the contemporary GOP looks from the other side of the pond:

Something strange has happened in America in the nine months since Barack Obama was elected. It has best been summarised by the comedian Bill Maher: "The Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved to a mental hospital."


Since Obama's rise, the US right has been skipping frantically from one fantasy to another, like a person in the throes of a mental breakdown. It started when they claimed he was a secret Muslim, and – at the same time – that he was a member of a black nationalist church that hated white people. Then, once these arguments were rejected and Obama won, they began to argue that he was born in Kenya and secretly smuggled into the United States as a baby, and the Hawaiian authorities conspired to fake his US birth certificate. So he is ineligible to rule and the office of President should pass to... the Republican runner-up, John McCain.

These aren't fringe phenomena: a Research 200 poll found that a majority of Republicans and Southerners say Obama wasn't born in the US, or aren't sure. A steady steam of Republican congressmen have been jabbering that Obama has "questions to answer". No amount of hard evidence – here's his birth certificate, here's a picture of his mother heavily pregnant in Hawaii, here's the announcement of his birth in the local Hawaiian paper – can pierce this conviction.


You have to admire the audacity of the right. Here's what's actually happening. The US is the only major industrialised country that does not provide regular healthcare to all its citizens. Instead, they are required to provide for themselves – and 50 million people can't afford the insurance. As a result, 18,000 US citizens die every year needlessly, because they can't access the care they require. That's equivalent to six 9/11s, every year, year on year.

Joe Klein: The GOP Has Become a Party of Nihilists

Joe Klien, in Time:

...How can you maintain the illusion of journalistic impartiality when one of the political parties has jumped the shark?

I'm not going to try. I've written countless "Democrats in Disarray" stories over the years and been critical of the left on numerous issues in the past....

Ridge admits to politicing in Homeland Security

Back in 2004, when the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert level during the campaign season, czar Tom Ridge claimed, "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security."

But, surprising no one who's been paying attention, it now comes out that the whole thing was intensely political: Ridge was pushed by Rumsfeld and Ashcroft to raise the security alert on the eve of the 2004 Presidential elections.

(Just in case fanning the flames of homophobia, and election fraud in Ohio --including a nonexistent terrorist threat made up by GOP election officials to keep reporters from monitoring the ballot coun -- weren't enough to ensure a Bush "victory", I suppose.)

Ridge refused, and resigned -- after the election. Rather then speak out when it could have made a difference, this cowardly sack of partisanship kept silent for five years.

I used to be disgusted. Now I'm just kind of numb.

government out of Medicare; "I've been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No."

I missed this lovely bit of dialog between Glenn Beck and Craig T. Nelson back in May, but it just came up on The Daily Show.

It's just so perfectly illustrative of the same sort of mindset that has 39% of Americans agreeing that the government should "stay out of Medicare".

For readers outside the U.S., or for fatally ignorant Americans, I should note that Medicare is a government program to provide medical care to senior citizens and the disabled. I'm guessing there's a large overlap between these folks, and the astounding 24% of Americans who think that Obama wasn't born in the U.S. -- including 6% who think he was born in Hawaii but that Hawaii is not a state. (I'd also bet that almost every one of these folks is in the 50% of Americans who think that a woman should be legally required to take her husband's last name after marriage. Remember folks, when you're dealing with a bell curve like intelligence, half the people are going to be below average...)

Anyway, in this gem Nelson says he's not going to pay taxes anymore because the government is cutting funding for important things like education and fire fighters. And he goes on to say, "What happened to society? I go into business, I don't make it, I go bankrupt. I've been on food stamps and welfare, did anybody help me out? No. No." (Again, for readers outside the U.S., or for fatally ignorant Americans, welfare and food stamps are tax-funded government programs that help people like Craig T. Nelson out when they fall on hard times.)


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