Moronic Academics

Now this is some real propaganda:

Researchers led by Nick Wilson of Otago University, New Zealand, trawled through a US State Department database of deaths caused by international terrorism, and compared this with an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development database on road crash deaths among 29 OECD countries.

The authors acknowledge the widespread emotional, political and economic impacts of terrorism, but they also point out the enormous difference in scale between the two death tolls.

“Policymakers need to be aware of this when allocating resources to preventing these two avoidable causes of mortality,” they say.

Yet another ‘all deaths are equal’ study. Hey, Dr. Nick- instead of studying tolls, why not study death rates? In my research, people die at the rate of 100%, on a much greater scale even than automobile accidents. Policymakers need to be aware of that, so they can allocate more resources for you to have more funding, right?

Where do I sign up for “work” like this? I’ve got an unpublished manuscript that rips Hollywood a new one because not all movies are equally good and that producers really need to be aware of this when allocating resources.

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  • Filed in: War on Terror at 8:52 pm on Wednesday, November 30, 2005 TrackBack Speak Up

    The Torture Debate

    Glenn Greenwald writes eloquently against torture:

    The fact that we are even having a real torture debate now — not over whether we do it, but whether our doing it is justifiable — is rather significant in itself. Even the existence of the terms “pro-torture” and “anti-torture” position is by itself striking. The taboo against torture is gone, irreversibly, and one can now proudly and in (sort of) good company declare oneself to be pro-torture and attack those who are “anti-torture” as being weak and irrational.

    As nice as it sounds to have a ‘taboo against torture’, there never has been such a thing in the United States. We have committed numerous war atrocities since the Revolution.

    In this War on Terror, we face an enemy completely without taboos. They behead children in Indonesia, fly planes into civilian skyscrapers, and hold a school full of Russian children hostage.

    Don’t let international laws and niceties confuse you. War itself is unlawful and immoral.

    The United States takes unprecedented steps to minimize harm to non-combatants, as it should. Are mistakes made? Are innocent people tortured? Yes. Does a misfired bullet mean the rifle is a poor weapon for war? No.

    John Cole’s take:

    Furthermore, I do not like the idea of having foreign governments and despotic regimes to similarly be allowed to torture, because it will be, in many cases, our guys they are now LEGALLY torturing. And spare me the ‘they are going to abuse and our torture our guys anyway, if they want to.’ Again, no shit.

    That is why we rightly view them as EVIL, and why we are fighting them in the first place.

    Sorry, but ‘foreign governments and despotic regimes to be allowed to torture’- they already do that. Did you miss the experience of our POWs early in the 2003 war, John? How about the 1991 Gulf War? Saddam tortured and got away with it, even though it was illegal! Amazing.

    Our moral outrage does not protect our soldiers when in enemy hands. Furthermore, in fighting non-state actors such as Al-Qaeda, who care nothing for international conventions, we cannot expect our military members to be treated according to the Geneva convention, even though we give such treatment to any enemy combatant taken in uniform. Again, as we should.

    As to the “They’re EVIL, we’re GOOD” argument, it’s unlikely that torture of combatants is the only moral disagreement we have with a regime with which we are at war.

    It seems one motive behind the “no torture, ever, ever, ever” crowd is a desire to prove some kind of moral superiority. How is it morally better to spare a terrorist a few hours of agony at the expense of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of innocent lives?

    I abhor war and torture. But there are worse things- tyranny, genocide, and repression. The jihadis seek to do all these things to those who don’t believe as they do. Look at Darfur.

    Torture should be like abortion- safe (for the torturee), legal (strictly defined and monitored), and rare.

    The idea that “torture doesn’t work” is manifestly untrue. If it did not work at all, then one
    would have to believe that every nation that ever used it was sadistic- easy enough with the Nazis, and WWII Japanese, but harder with the Brits, French, and US.

    Ace deconstructs some other common objections to torture:

    No, a terrorist is not going to give you the straight dope, the same as no criminal will. At least not at first. But just as police do, a military or CIA interrogator can guide an interrogatee towards a more plausible story– something approaching the truth — by confrontation with proof of their lies, plus knitting together the stray details they allow to slip out into a coherent narrative.

    If they say that a certain address is a safe house, and yet it turns out to be a simple house inhabited by an elderly couple, you come back with the photos from the stake-out and prove to him you know he’s lied. And then you ask the question again.

    A criminal or terrorist doesn’t have to tell you the truth to provide valuable intelligence. You can often divine the truth from his half-truths and even his outright lies.

    Given proper oversight, torture can be an effective means of prosecuting the war on terror. It should not be over-relied upon, and should almost never be the first tool in the interrogator’s toolbox.

    Our armed forces’ first obligation in the war is to win it, and to the extent that can be done “legally” and in a way that is beyond reproach, we should absolutely do that first.

    To the degree those efforts are unsuccessful, the situation may require more drastic measures. These measures should be imposed in a structured, dispassionate way manner designed to get the information with the least pain inflicted possible.

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  • Filed in: War on Terror at 10:46 am on Wednesday, November 30, 2005 TrackBack Speak Up

    CIA Treason

    This Accuracy in Media article, found via Bill Quick is damning:

    Hoagland wrote that “The hidden management of the criminal justice process and the news media practiced by spooks in Wilson-Rove-Libbygate is nothing short of brilliant. So you were right to fear the agency.”

    Think about that statement to the President—”you were right to fear the agency.”

    Here we have a columnist for a major paper saying that the CIA has been acting independently of the elected President of the U.S., and that Bush had reason to fear it. He said the CIA had engaged in “hidden management of the criminal justice system and the news media.” In effect, he is saying that the CIA is pulling the strings behind the scenes, and that reporters following the Wilson/Plame storyline are CIA puppets. He went on to say that the CIA also “triggered the investigation” into the CIA leak about Valerie Wilson by itself leaking. That is, the CIA leaked to the press the fact that it had requested an investigation.

    And people still wonder why the CIA is increasingly outsourced?

    Disband the CIA. It’s an oxymoron that failed throughout the Cold War and is utterly incapable of operating in today’s reality. Except against the President of the United States, apparently.

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  • Filed in: Politics, War on Terror at 8:44 am on Wednesday, November 30, 2005 TrackBack 1 Comment | view comment »

    Early Morning Amblings

    Barry has been on a roll lately. This post, about methods of propaganda, is excellent- check out all of the resources- you’ll learn a lot. Probably the most striking thing is that when humans argue, they typically use a few of the techniques unconsciously.

    AJ beats a dead horse named Cindy and thinks Mark Warner is a dead man walking- politically, that is:

    Warner did not want to be the one who allowed death sentence number 1000, some artificial number the media pulled out of the air tracing back to mythically magical year of 1976 - oh yeah, the Year of Jimmy!
    The victim and his family were not considered in this decision. There was no proof of remorse or innocence. But Warner wants votes so he played God with our legal system.

    I don’t know enough about the case to be sure, but it seems to me when the leading eyewitness is only 80% sure, and a court clerk destroys relevant evidence (although the importance of the evidence is in doubt), if it were me in the Governor’s Mansion, I’d probably do the same. Instead of dying, Robin Lovitt is now in prison for life. Virginia has no parole. To me, 80% surety isn’t enough to kill a man, especially given that evidence could come forward at any time to exonerate him.

    Mark at Decision ‘08 likes Mark Warner for his recent statements supporting the Iraq war.

    I’d say between the death penalty decision and the Iraq war support, Warner has probably managed to piss off just about everybody on both sides. Looks like a brilliant third way approach, and Americans love that soft, touchy-feely stuff as long as the candidate has some fortitude where it counts.

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  • Filed in: Politics, War on Terror at 12:25 am on Wednesday, November 30, 2005 TrackBack Speak Up

    Hostage Video

    As always, the Jawa Report is the place to go for Iraq hostage info- identities and links to the Al-Jazeera video- go, already.

    According to Rusty, it looks like the four Christian Peacemakers have been captured by the same terrorist group that executed Enzo Baldoni.

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  • Filed in: War on Terror at 5:17 pm on Tuesday, November 29, 2005 TrackBack Speak Up

    Perception Management

    Great umbrage is spreading throughout the leftosphere about a Rolling Stone article describing how the Bush administration prepared the nation for war.

    I suppose America’s enemies are the only ones that get to use information warfare?

    Interesting stuff:

    Rendon is one of the most influential of the private contractors in Washington who are increasingly taking over jobs long reserved for highly trained CIA employees. In recent years, spies-for-hire have begun to replace regional desk officers, who control clandestine operations around the world; watch officers at the agency’s twenty-four-hour crisis center; analysts, who sift through reams of intelligence data; and even counterintelligence officers in the field, who oversee meetings between agents and their recruited spies. According to one senior administration official involved in intelligence-budget decisions, half of the CIA’s work is now performed by private contractors — people completely unaccountable to Congress. Another senior budget official acknowledges privately that lawmakers have no idea how many rent-a-spies the CIA currently employs — or how much unchecked power they enjoy.

    Why is it that half the CIA budget goes to contractors? Are the agents themselves that untrustworthy? The article discusses Rendon’s DC connections, including Scooter Libby (in a six-degrees of separation sense), and is well worth the read, though it’s hard to say how much of the article is trustworthy information.

    But that’s probably the point. The Stone piece also recognizes the Iraq war as an information war, something the rightosphere has been saying for years:

    The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn’t true didn’t mean it couldn’t be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation — part espionage, part PR campaign — that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon.

    [Quoting Rendell] “I am a politician, a person who uses communication to meet public-policy or corporate-policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior and a perception manager.”

    Although his work is highly secret, Rendon insists he deals only in “timely, truthful and accurate information.” His job, he says, is to counter false perceptions that the news media perpetuate because they consider it “more important to be first than to be right.” In modern warfare, he believes, the outcome depends largely on the public’s perception of the war — whether it is winnable, whether it is worth the cost. “We are being haunted and stalked by the difference between perception and reality,” he says. “Because the lines are divergent, this difference between perception and reality is one of the greatest strategic communications challenges of war.”

    Read the whole thing. I love this kind of behind-the-story article, true or not.

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  • Filed in: Politics at 3:59 pm on Tuesday, November 29, 2005 TrackBack 1 Comment | view comment »

    Another Iraq Hostage

    Via The Jawa Report, a German archaeologist has been kidnapped. Susanne Osthoff, who has spent years excavating Iraqi archaeology, was taken Friday, the day before the four “aid worker” peace activists were kidnapped.

    More on Osthoff at the Dread Pundit Bluto.

    Given that the influx of foreign fighters and war-fighting equipment may be trickling to a halt, more home-grown tactics of hostage taking seem to be returning to the forefront.

    Are we returning to 2004? If so, what does it mean? Have we reached a turning point, where the insurgency is again limited to desperate tactics unlikely to achieve their goals?


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  • Filed in: Misc at 12:00 pm on Tuesday, November 29, 2005 TrackBack Speak Up

    The Duke Steps Down

    Republican Congressman admits taking bribes:

    After months of insisting he had done nothing wrong, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham tearfully acknowledged taking $2.4 million in bribes, saying: “The truth is I broke the law.”

    The eight-term Republican and former Vietnam fighting ace pleaded guilty to graft Monday and resigned, admitting he took money mostly from defense contractors in exchange for government business and other favors.

    “In my life, I have had great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame,” a tearful Cunningham said after the plea. “I can’t undo what I have done but I can atone.”

    But Cunningham, who could get up to 10 years in prison at sentencing Feb. 27 on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud, and tax evasion, may not be the only person ensnared in the case. Prosecutors have indicated they have more than him in mind.

    In the plea, Cunningham, 63, acknowledged working with four co- conspirators to take bribes from defense contractors and others. Prosecutors said the bribes were paid in a variety of forms, including checks totaling more than $1 million, cash, antiques, rugs, furniture, yacht club fees and vacations.

    Prosecutors said he used his influential position as a member of a House Appropriations subcommittee to secure defense contracts worth tens of millions of dollars for those who bribed him.

    Cunningham, a former Navy pilot, was known on Capitol Hill for his interest in defense issues and occasional outbursts. He gave patriotic speeches on the House floor, including one in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

    It is good of Duke Cunningham to resign and save everyone some trouble, but the damage he did was far greater than any contribution- in the military or since- that he’s made. Also, as I noted before, the man clearly had a misplaced sense of priorities.

    I guess we don’t need to ask the men and women who stood on top of the World Trade Center if you’re a treasonous crook, Duke. Buh-bye.

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  • Filed in: Politics at 10:41 am on Tuesday, November 29, 2005 TrackBack Speak Up

    Devolving Ecosystem?

    Despite this disclaimer about not being alarmed, I am ticked about the messed up Ecosystem. The recent changes have not changed my numerical rank that much (usually in the low 2000s, which is fine with me), but the title, as any gamer can tell you, is everything. If there are too many Playful Primates or Large Mammals, the answer is to introduce additional titles in that general range.

    “Flappy Bird” after months of Marauding Marsupial? Where’s the fun in that?

    The blogosphere has exploded in the past three years.

    Rather than evolving itself, it looks like TTLB Ecosystem is falling victim to the same elitism virus that infected OSM/PJM.

    In fact, by changing the rules to achieve particular outcomes, the Ecosystem is basically switching to Intelligent Design. Everyone can now relax, Instapundit is in his blogheaven, and all is right with the ’sphere. Don Surber need vex you no longer, he’s been put in his place.

    Update: Barry’s not stressing it:

    And if you check out who’s linking to me at any given time, they are, by and large, good, well-written sites that are written, edited and maintained by people I respect. (11,322 may not be the Top of the Pops, but that’s out of a claimed 22 million blogs indexed - meaning that we’re in the 99.5% + percentile.)

    True enough, but the Ecosystem is a subset of the blogosphere and as such is a kind of game- you get more links, you move up in title. With roughly the same score I had when the Ecosystem shuffle began, I’ve now dropped three or four titles. Wah, wah, right?

    It’s just not a very entertaining game. I’ve given thought to evolving myself out of the Ecosystem, but that wouldn’t be very Darwinian of me, would it?

    Don’t forget: Lunch at Basil’s!

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    Holiday Cheer

    Let’s hope this exchange repeats itself nationwide:

    I plan to attend a Holiday sale at one of these stores. I wonder if the exchange might go something like this…

    Can I help you sir?
    Yes, thanks, alot of people here huh?
    Yes, well it IS the holidays, and we’re having our Holiday Sale.
    Yes, I see, I need some colored dye.
    Colored dye?
    Yes, for eggs.
    Dye to color eggs?
    Yeah, you guys are having a holiday sale, right?

    Read it all!

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