Ok then

Shorter Derb: Gay marriage must remain illegal because Americans are dumb.

(4) If you have a cognitively-challenged underclass, as every large nation has, you need some anchoring institutions for them to aspire to; and those institutions should have some continuity and stability. Heterosexual marriage is a key such institution. In a society in which nobody had an IQ below 120, homosexual marriage might be plausible. In the actual societies we have, other considerations kick in. |Secular Right|

Adding: I'd like to know how you get from 'a cognitively-challenged underclass' to laissez-faire capitalism.

Speaking of teh gay marriage: Probably you've already heard about that new poll showing that support for gay marriage has risen dramatically over the last few years. Yglesias suggests that what's going on here is that public opinion is taking its cues from far-sighted politicians who, in deference to demographic realities, have been taking a more pro-equality stance. I disagree, and I'll stand by what I wrote back when Gavin Newsome took matters into his own hands:
Polls consistently show that Americans strongly oppose gay marriage but that there is growing support for civil unions. I'm not sure that I believe those numbers. I think a lot of the civil union supporters see civil unions as a way to advance gay rights without poking the religious right in the eye.

But, as Josh Marshall observed a few days ago, establishing civil unions for gays amounts to official endorsement of the idea that their unions are inferior to heterosexual relationships. It grants rights while taking dignity.

That's a realization he came to because he was confronted with the spectacle of the San Francisco weddings. For the first time he saw married gays and it forced him to rethink his position. Chalk up one vote less for civil unions.

The raw materials are there.

Americans don't believe in discrimination. Opposition to gay marriage can't withstand acquaintance with the real marriages of real gays. |source|

The vandals took the handles

The Republican Party reminds me of a perverse version of Students for a Democratic Society circa 1969: a once influential and powerful organization falling apart over issues of ideology with each era of leadership demanding increasing radical ideological purity and purging those who do not follow the party line with proper rigor. That one was a group of radical students and the other has been the dominant political party in the United States for the last 30 years makes the comparison seem ridiculous, which reinforces just how insane the Republicans have actually become. |Alterdestiny|


The ponies

The post draw is done and the odds are set for the Derby. The favorite is I Want Revenge at 3-1, probably on the strength of the Wood Memorial. In that race, I Want Revenge had an absolutely horrific start but wormed his way through the field (I imagine Ulysses Everett McGill as the jockey muttering, "We're in a tight spot!") for the win.

Also strong is Pioneerof the Nile at 4-1. At the Santa Anita Pioneerof the Nile outclassed a strong field. It will be interesting to see what the horse can do when facing an even bigger challenge.

The best value is probably Friesan Fire at 5-1. People who know a lot more about the ponies than I do (doesn't take much, but still) had been talking about this horse early in the season, but he seems to have been forgotten a little bit since he didn't run in any of the premier tune-ups.

Something similar could be said about Dunkirk, though at least that horse ran in the Florida Derby. It says here that if Dunkirk wins then it'll set up an interesting Florida Derby rematch with Quality Road in either the Belmont or the Preakness, depending on when Quality Road makes it back from the cracked hoof.

For a longshot, I'd go with Chocolate Candy at 15-1. He has a good starting position and was the only horse to mount any kind of challenge to Pioneerof the Nile in the Santa Anita. Papa Clem will probably get some love too, but I don't think that horse has even a ghost of a chance.

Also, each worker gets half an acre of swampland and a broken can opener

In the devastating slump that has forced two of Detroit’s automakers to the brink of bankruptcy, the United Automobile Workers union stands to become one of the industry’s few winners.

According to restructuring plans proposed this week, the union will have more than half the stock in Chrysler and a third of General Motors, meaning it will have tremendous influence, with the government, in determining the future of the companies. |NY Times|


Small town America


Mysophobia watch: Swine Flu edition

It probably doesn't rise to the level of a clinical phobia, but my phobia of mysos has been kicked up a notch by swine flu plus fatherhood. And all of a sudden I find myself dwelling on this:

I mean, everybody's reaching in there to pull out a stir-stick. And there is no way to grab one without getting one's grubby fingers all over the others. And if there's a convention for doing this--like grab on the left, stir with the right--I'm not aware of it.

Party of genius watch

Responding to Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-ME) NY Times Op-Ed calling for a more inclusive Republican party, Veronique de Rugy writes:
But while she wants the Republican party to be accepting of her positions on the other issues, she seems to forget that often she doesn’t even pass the “litmus test” of core economic issues. She, like Specter, voted for the stimulus bill package. |The Fever Swamp|

How many trumpets was that?

I agree with the entire first paragraph of an editorial at the fever swamp, and can find very little to disagree with in the rest. I don't know that this has ever happened before.
Arlen Specter belongs to a type familiar to Congress: the time-serving hack devoid of any principle save arrogance. He has spent three decades in the Senate but is associated with no great cause, no prescient warning, no landmark legislation. Yet he imagines that the Senate needs his wisdom and judgment for a sixth term. He joined the Republican party out of expediency in the 1960s, and leaves it out of expediency this week. |The Fever Swamp|

Adding: While I think that the folks over at the fever swamp are completely right about Specter's defection, it's odd that conservatives are somehow able to see the truth about the shallowness of Specter's principles while remaining so blind to so much else. As insincere as Specter may be, he's not the only person who is reluctant to be identified as a Republican. That's the real problem, that Republicanism as it is currently practiced is desperately unpopular. That Specter is an opportunist using that situation to his own personal advantage is true, but that truth doesn't render the underlying problem non-existant.

So how do the geniuses at the fever swamp plan to deal with Republican unpopularity? Well, now that obstructionism is less viable, their idea is to be louder and more negative:
We can safely assume that the Republicans’ task, already difficult, just got harder. They will have less room to play an inside game of parliamentary maneuvers, and will therefore need even more to appeal to the public at large. They will, that is, have to work to make bad ideas unpopular ideas as well. Which is what their principal task was already. |The Fever Swamp|

Ok, then. Alternately they could look for common ground as a way of giving wayward Republicans suspicious of radical change a reason to come back to the party. But whatevs. It's their party, and they can die if they want to.

Krugman gets the last word:
...we have a party that seems to be in a death spiral: the smaller it gets, the more it’s dominated by the hard right, which makes it even smaller. In the long run, this is not good for American democracy– we really do need two major parties in competition. But I’ll settle for getting that back after we get universal health care and cap-and-trade. |Krugman|



Conservatives and liberals find The Colbert Report equally funny. They also agree that the humor is satirical, and that the character of Colbert is insincere. Conservatives think the real Colbert is a conservative and that they are in on the joke.

Update: The source.

Still thinking Specter

Specter says that the Republican party had changed. Fair enough. But the guy is 79 years old and has been in the Senate since 1980. Why not just retire?

I know, I know. Power. He says its for the people of Pennsylvania. Well, I just hope my state has a senior Senator when the immortality treatments come along.

Chew on this. Specter is the ranking member on the judiciary committee. Suppose he doesn't get that chairmanship. What does he get? Anything? Nothing??

Discussion of the defection's impact on the filibuster seems to be missing the point a little bit. Specter made it clear that he's still not obligated to vote for cloture. So the difference isn't that there can't be a filibuster.

The difference is that now a filibuster requires that Republicans talk to Democrats.

The Republicans are clearly the losers here, but that doesn't mean that the Democrats are the winners. The main winners, I think, are the self-styled moderates. Now the McCain-Lieberman gang of n are the defacto holders of the filibuster card.

Just saying.

Looking to 2010, the latest scuttlebutt is that Tom Ridge is nosing around and thinking about jumping into the race. Ridge is a moderate pro-choice Republican like Specter, but he was a popular enough governor and he's got some blood on his knuckles from his time at DHS. Given the presence of blood and the lack of baggage, you'd have to like his chances in the Republican primary. And then it's Ridge versus Specter in the general and a likely pick-up for the Democrats becomes a toss-up or worse. Wouldn't that just beat all?

All and still, as things stand it's a lost seat and the wingnuts don't seem too upset about it. They seem to prefer ideological purity, thinking that voters need to be assured that Republicans hew to a narrow ideological line.

Not an unreasonable view, if you don't mind being in the minority.

And maybe they don't.

It has occurred to me, while reading those awful torture memos, that in the Republican worldview control of the Executive Branch looms a lot larger than a Senate seat hear or there. And who's to say that being on the outs in Congress isn't going to give the next Republican candidate for President a leg up? It says here that Palin, at least, will be running against Washington.

Yeah, yeah, I should be a good Democrat and be happy. It's just that I don't much like Specter, never have, and never plan to.

Boom goes the dynamite

Specter switching parties.

Why? What changed? The obvious narrative is that Specter lost support of the death cult and was likely to lose to a primary challenger. On that story, this is all about holding on to the seat. And, based on what he said, the obvious story is true:
I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania's economy.

I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election.|Specter|

And with regard to the issues we care about in these here parts:
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords' switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change. |Specter|

Arlen Specter switches parties! But...

... as much as this seems tactically great right now for the Dems, I am skeptical about the actual end results. Let's just say that in no way will Specter be one of the better sort of Democratic Senator.

Also, for the laboristas, he has this to say:

[M]y position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change...

Wingnuts, declaring their Obama hatred to be utterly incoherent and implacable, seek understanding from normal Americans, President

Adding: Yes, I know that's not how McWhorter meant it.


I know I yelled "fire", but you have to understand that the theater was crowded at the time

Item: The bloggers at the fever swamp were watching Fox News Sunday too. Richard Nadler decorated his post responding to Levin with the title Is the Constitution a suicide pact? Actually, that's not a fair summary. Nadler ignored everything Levin said, responding instead to Chris Wallace's questions, which Nadler took to be devastating and, apparently, unanswerable.

Item: Won't somebody please think of the interrogators?

Adding: I especially like the way that the Supporting-the-troops banner is literally (look at the picture!) a halo for the stab in the back doctrine. These Republicans, they take their symbols seriously, I tell ya.

The torture program, business as usual for Republicans

Little remarked in coverage of the torture scandal is the fact that running massive, and massively illegal secret programs of dubious merit and clear immorality is a hallmark of Republican governance. The torture program is an echo of Iran/Contra, an echo of all those dirty little wars south of the border, an echo of Nixon's FBI.

Developing: Avian flu panic mutates

Seriously though: If you're feeling under the weather drink lots of liquids, call a doctor, and STAY HOME.

Bonus breaking content: President Obama does not have the Swine Flu.


Day two

KC: So far they've picked up a pass rushing DT and a tall, fluid CB with character issues. Throw in Tyson Jackson at DE (not to mention last year's numer one Glenn Dorsey) and the defensive line is looking pretty good. I itch for offensive linemen, but I came of age in the Schottenheimer era. The team needs a linebacker. Are there any tight ends available?

Detroit: The fans aren't happy. They didn't like Stafford, and they had their hearts set on a linebacker that the team passed on twice, so DeAndre Levy will face an uphill battle with them. Then again, I've heard fans seriously suggest that Detroit should have passed on the number one pick, just passed four or five times, until the decision about who to pick was easy enough not to screw up. So there's not a lot of confidence in management.

Cleveland: Wheeling and dealing! Is the team geographically close enough for me to root for?

That's my Senator!

Bonus Content: Bill Kristol calls for a public debate on torture with Dick Cheney up front and center. I'd say "Bring it on!", but Kristol already did and this is not a cheerocracy.

Sunday worship

Item: Hand of God for sale. Key quote: "The purpose is to spread the story of God and eBay is just a vehicle." -- Paul Grayheck, who says this formation resulted from a Lenten rockfall in his backyard:

The terms of the sale look to be the same that Aaron set for the bush before selling it to Moses:
However, the winning bidder on eBay should not start clearing out his backyard. Grayhek is not planning to part with the formation.

The buyer will "basically be buying the rights, complete and exclusive rights" to the rock, including literary and movie rights, according to Grayhek.

Item: The Rev. Edgar Vann, Jr. raises an important theological point. How can we trust the promises of God? Steps are advised. In an earlier, unrecorded segment, Vann confronted the epistemic question of discerning the voice of God from the other voices echoing in our heads.

Item: Hear a joyful noise.


The master argument for investigation

When people talk about "criminalizing policy differences", there's a crucial, question-begging assumption, namely: that no one actually broke the law. If that's right, and if we know that it is, then of course investigating previous administrations for law-breaking is just a "vendetta". But whether or not laws were broken is precisely the point at issue.

If laws were broken, then the fact that they were broken as the result of "a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places" is no excuse -- if anything, it makes investigation and prosecution all the more important. And it also means that the people who favor prosecution are not the ones who "criminalize politics".

That honor goes to the people who broke the laws while holding public office. If we care about the rule of law, and about the idea that ours is a country of laws, not of men, then we should investigate those who break the laws, especially when they hold high office. The Presidency is a public trust, not a license for criminality. |ObWi|

Emphasis mine.

A representative argument from Bradbury

If you believe this was offered in good faith, I've got a bridge to sell you. It's taken from Section II.B of Bradbury's 30 May 2005 memo.
As a condition to its advice and consent to the ratification of the CAT, the Senate required a reservation that provides that the United States is
bound by the obligation under Article 16 to prevent "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," only insofar as the term "cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" means the cruel unusual and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Consitution of the United States.

Conceivably, one might read the text of the reservation as limiting only the substantive (as opposed to the territorial) each of the United States obligations under Article 16. That would not be an unreasonable reading of the text. Under this view, the reservation replaced only the phrase "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" and left untouched the phrase "in any territory under its jurisdiction," which defines the geographic scope of the Article. The text of the reservation, however, is susceptible to another reasonable reading--one suggesting that the Senate intended to ensure that the United States would, with respect to Article 16, undertake no obligations not already imposed by the Constitution itself. Under this reading, the reference to the treatment or punishment prohibited by the constitutional provisions does not distinguish between the substantive scope of the constitutional prohibitions and their geographic scope. As we discuss below, this second reading is strongly supported by the Senate's ratification history of the CAT.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly suggested in various contexts that the Constitution does not apply to aliens outside the United States. See, e.g., United States v. Belmont, 301 U.S. 324, 332 (1937)("[O]ur Constitution, laws, and policies have no extraterritorial operation, unless in respect to our own citizens."; United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304, 318 (1936) ("Neither the Constitution nor the laws passed in pursuance of it have any force in foreign territory unless in respect of our own citizens...."; see also United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259,271 (1990) (noting that cases relied upon by an alien asserting constitutional rights "establish only that aliens receive constitutional protections when they have come within the territory of the United States and developed substantial connections with this country"). Federal courts of appeals, in turn, have held that "[t]he Constitution does not extend it guarantees to nonresident aliens living outside the United States," Vancouver Women's Health Collective Soc'y v. A.H. Robbins Co. 820 F 2d 1359, 1363 (4th Cir. 1987); that "non-resident aliens...plainly cannot appeal to the protection of the Constitution or laws of the United States," Pauling v. McElroy, 278 F.2d 252,254 n.3 (D.C. Cir. 1960) (per curiam); and that a "foreign entity without property or presence in this country has no constitutional rights, under the due process clause or otherwise," 32 County Sovereignty Comm. v. Dep't of State, 292 F.3d 797, 799 (D.C> Cir. 2002) (quoting People's Mojahedin Org. of Iran v. Dept of State, 182 F.3d 17, 22 (D.C. Cir. 1999)).
The reservation required by the Senate as a condition of its advice and consent to the ratification of the CAT thus tends to confirm the territorially limited reach of U.S. obligations under Article 16. Indeed, there is a strong argument that, by limited the United States obligations under Article 16 to those that certain provisions of the Constitution already impose, the Senate's reservation limits the territorial reach of Article 16 even more sharply than Article 16 standing alone. Under this view, Article 16 would impose no obligations with respect to aliens outside the United States. And because the CIA has informed us that these techniques are not authorized for use against the United States persons, or within the United States, they would not, under this view, violate Article 16.


1. Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture prohibits signatories from engaging in "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

2. When ratifying the CAT, the Senate attached a legally binding reservation specifying that "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" as referenced in the treaty meant just those cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatments which would be prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, or Fourteenth amendments.

3. While one could, conceivably, take this reservation to apply to the question of what kinds of treatments amount to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", it is more reasonable to interpret the reservation as limiting the scope of the CAT so that the US did not, by signing the CAT, undertake any obligations which were not already narrowly specified by the Fifth, Eighth, or Fourteenth amendments.

4. Constitutional protections, including those of the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth amendments, apply only to U.S. citizens and (some) resident aliens; aliens outside of U.S. territory do not have constitutional protections.

5. In signing the CAT, the United States did not undertake any obligations not to engage in "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of aliens so long as such treatment or punishment takes place outside of U.S. territory.

Excerpts from Letter VI (declassified August 19, 1662)

"One of the methods," resumed the monk, "in which we reconcile these apparent contradictions, is by the interpretation of some phrase or other. Thus, Pope Gregory XIV. decided that assassins are not worthy to enjoy the benefit of sanctuary in churches, and ought to be dragged out of them; and yet our four-and-twenty elders affirm that 'The penalty of this bull is not incurred by all those that kill in treachery.' This may appear to you a contradiction; but we get over this by interpreting the word assassin as follows: 'Are assassins unworthy of sanctuary in churches? Yes, by the bull of Gregory XIV. they are. But by the word assassins we understand those that have received money to murder one; and accordingly, such as kill without taking any reward for the deed, but merely to oblige their friends, do not come under tho category of assassins.

"I see very well how that follows from the doctrine of Vasquez," said I. "But how would you answer this objection, that, in working out one's salvation, it would be as safe, according to Vasquez, to give no alms, provided one can muster as much ambition as to have no superfluity; as it is safe, according to the Gospel, to have no ambition at all, in order to have some superfluity for the purpose of alms-giving?"

"Why" returned he, "the answer would be, that both of these ways are safe, according to the Gospel; the one according to the Gospel in its more literal and obvious sense, and the other according to the same Gospel as interpreted by Vasquez. There you see the utility of interpretations. When the terms are so clear, however," he continued, " as not to admit of an interpretation, we have recourse to the observation of favourable circumstances. A single example will illustrate this: The popes have denounced excommunication on monks who lay aside their canonicals; our casuists, notwithstanding, put it as a question, 'On what occasions may a monk lay aside his religious habit without incurring excommunication?' They mention a number of cases in which they may, and among others the following: 'If he has laid it aside for an infamous purpose, such as to pick pockets or to go incognito into haunts of profligacy, meaning shortly after to resume it.' It is evident the bulls have no reference to cases of that description."

"And how does he reconcile that?" said I.

"By the most subtle of all the modern methods, and by the nicest possible application of probabilism," replied the monk. "You may recollect you were told the other day, that the affirmative and negative of most opinions have each, according to our doctors, some probability—enough, at least, to be followed with a safe conscience. Not that the pro and con are both true in the same sense—that is impossible—but only they are both probable, and therefore safe, as a matter of course. On this principle our worthy friend Diana remarks: 'To the decision of these three popes, which is contrary to my opinion, I answer, that they spoke in this way by adhering to the affirmative side—which, in fact, even in my judgment, is probable; but it does not follow from this that the negative may not have its probability too.' And in the same treatise, speaking of another subject on which he again differs from a pope, he says: 'The pope, I grant, has said it as the head of the Church; but his decision does not extend beyond the sphere of the probability of his own opinion.' Now, you perceive that this is not doing any harm to the opinions of the popes; such a thing would never be tolerated at Rome, where Diana is in high repute. For he does not say that what the popes have decided is not probable; but leaving their opinion within the sphere of probability, he merely says that the contrary is also probable."

"That is very respectful," said I.

"The difficulty lies in discovering probability in the converse of opinions manifestly good; this is an achievement which none but great men can attempt. Father Bauny excels in this department. It is really delightful to see that learned casuist examining, with characteristic ingenuity and subtilty, the negative and affirmative of the same question, and proving both of them to be right! Thus in the matter of priests, he says in one place: 'No law can be made to oblige the curates to say mass every day; for such a law would unquestionably expose them to the danger of saying it sometimes in mortal sin.' And yet in another part of the same treatise, he says, 'that priests who have received money for saying mass every day ought to say it every day, and that they cannot excuse themselves on the ground that they are not always in a fit state for the service; because it is in their power at all times to do penance, and if they neglect this they have themselves to blame for it, and not the person who makes them say mass.' And to relieve their minds from all scruples on the subject, he thus resolves the question: 'May a priest say mass on the same day in which he has committed a mortal sin of the worst kind, in the way of confessing himself beforehand?' Villabolos says he may not, because of his impurity; but Sancius says he may, without any sin; and I hold his opinion to be safe, and one which may be followed in practice."

"True," he replied; " but this shows you do not know another capital maxim of our fathers, 'that the laws of the Church lose their authority when they have gone into desuetude'... We know the present exigencies of the Church much better than the ancients could do. Were we to be so strict in excluding priests from the altar, you can understand there would not be such a great number of masses. Now, a multitude of masses brings such a revenue of glory to God and of good to souls, that I may venture to say, with Father Cellot, that there would not be too many priests, 'though not only all men and women, were that possible, but even inanimate bodies, and even brute beasts—bruta animalia—were transformed into priests to celebrate mass.'"

--Blaise Pascal, Provencial Letter #6. April 10, 1656.

Draft matters

Lions: I'm not sold on Stafford, but I don't see anybody offering to move up and I think you have to take a quarterback at that position. The real story for the Lions will be their next two picks at 20 and 33. Local fans are hoping for Maualuga out of USC to drop, and if he's there maybe you have to take him. I think the Lions would do better to focus on the offensive side of the ball, particularly the offensive line. The Lions don't have enough good players and never will have enough until they learn to bear down and fix the team one unit at a time.

Kansas City: Man, do I want them to trade down! You've got to think that somebody will want to move up to get Sanchez, and would be willing to give KC some picks. Assuming that Smith goes second, and KC keeps its pick, and KC picks a defensive player named Aaron, I'd rather see Maybin than Curry. Just as with the Lions, KC doesn't have very many players. Adding another top pick on the D-line would put them on the road to a dominant unit up front.

Freeman: Bust, bust, bust. I can't believe he's projected in the first round.

Gonzalez: I don't really see how KC didn't get jobbed on the trade. Unless, that is,they trade down a bit, steal Crabtree, and leverage that 2010 second round pick into something in the top 40 picks this year. Then I'd be impressed. I'd also like to see KC get younger in a deal that involves Larry Johnson, Chris Wells, and a pony.

How to celebrate Bastille Day

On July 14, 2004, in unclassified written testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, an Associate Deputy Attorney General explained the Department of Justice’s understanding of the substantive constitutional standards embodied in the Senate reservation to Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture. The official’s written testimony stated that under Supreme Court precedent, the substantive due process component of the Fifth Amendment protects against treatment that “shocks the conscience.” In addition, his testimony stated that under Supreme Court precedent, the Eighth Amendment protection against Cruel and Unusual Punishment has no application to the treatment of detainees where there has been no formal adjudication of guilt.

My emphasis.


Pelosi's answer to the charge that she knew about torture

Below is a partial transcript of a press conference Pelosi gave a few days ago.

While there are some unverifiable factual claims here -- claims about the precise content of the briefing, for example -- it seems to me that Pelosi mounts a pretty strong defense to the charges. The story she tells is of a Congress trying to find ways to exercise oversight over an Administration that was committed to finding ways to evade oversight.

That's the world I remember living in.

Here's the text:
Q: "It does pretty specifically talk about the fact that Abu Zubaydah, they started using these tactics, including water boarding in 2002 and continued doing it in 2003 and 2004."

Pelosi: "I was not briefed on that."

Q: "And in the fall, 2002, after the use of interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah, CIA records indicate that the CIA briefed the chairman and vice chairman of the Committee on Intelligence."

Pelosi: "They didn't tell us that. They may have briefed us on something, but they did not brief us to that effect. They can say whatever they want, but the fact is they did not brief us in that regard.

"Now, people hear things and say, 'I would have concluded that they would have done that because the CIA, their business is deception.' And if Mr. Goss read something into it from his experience in the CIA, or what he learned later when he became Chair -- head of the CIA, that is something quite different than my experience, which is as a member of Congress I expect when somebody tells me something, they are telling me the truth."

Q: "Does this call into question the value of the briefing then, if they are not telling you fully?"

Pelosi: "I have questioned the values of the briefings over and over and over again. We only know what they choose to tell us and the manner and time in which they tell us. And that is why when people are talking about -- whether they are talking about torture, or whether they are talking about wiretapping, or whatever you are talking about -- we really have to have a change now in how Congress can do its oversight, because we expect and demand the truth.

"And that's why I, when I became speaker, established this joint committee between the Appropriations Committee and the Intelligence Committee, because the fact is they really were not fully briefing the Intelligence Committee. And they have to answer to the Appropriations Committee because that's where their funding comes from.

"It is a long story, it's an evolution. It used to be the Intelligence Committee -- you couldn't appropriate unless the Intelligence Committee authorized. It was almost effectively an appropriation. Over time the intelligence in the Bush years became part of supplementals so there was absolutely no sharing of information. They would just stick the request in the supplementals. We said, 'OK, if they are going right to Appropriations, we will have members of the Intelligence Committee serve in this hybrid committee, part Intelligence, part Appropriations.'

"But as we go forward, it is not just about torture. It's about how we collect intelligence to protect the American people. And that is a very serious responsibility of Congress to do the proper oversight and to work with the administration, whatever the party, in a very nonpolitical way to get this done."

Q: "At the time when you did receive these legal opinions, as you put them, did you raise any objections, legal, moral or otherwise?"

Pelosi: "That's not the point, Mike. The point is they come in to inform you of what they are doing. What my point was, are they doing this? No, they're not doing it. And then to leave there to see what recourse we had, which was none."

Q: "But certainly you had the right and even responsibility to."

Pelosi: "You would have to -- you would have -- same thing with wiretapping. This is what they're doing. That's all they do. They don't come in to consult. They come in to notify. They come in to notify. And you can't -- you can't change what they are doing unless you can act as a committee or as a class. You can't change what they are doing." |Source|

Adding: This WaPo article from December 2007, which is excellent and to be read, seems to be the primary source from which the Pelosi-was-complicit-in-torture charge draws most of its facts.


Loose torture ends: Pelosi and the criminalization of policy differences

Since it's torture week here at the blog of record, I thought it might be worth taking a few minutes to address a couple of wingnut talking points that have been making the rounds, but which haven't made their way into our exhaustive coverage.

Let's start with the claim that Democratic leaders in Congress -- and specifically Nancy Pelosi -- knew about the torture program and signed off on it. On one account, perhaps true and perhaps rumor, Pelosi even asked why we weren't using harsher techniques on men like Abu Zubaydah.

It's very difficult to know what precisely happened here. To read the wingnut blogs, Pelosi knew plenty at every step of the way and signed off without objection. That conclusion, however, seems to be based on a combination of cherry picked public statements by Pelosi and hearsay by the likes of Cheney. Perhaps more importantly, anything Pelosi knew about the torture program she would have known on the basis of briefings conducted by the Bush/Cheney executive branch. For my part, I'm not willing to assume that the information provided at those briefings was either true or complete.

But suppose we assume that the wingnut narrative is completely correct. Where does that leave us? It doesn't, I would say, leave us with the conclusion that the Democratic leadership in Congress bears the same kind of blame as those who designed, justified, oversaw, or ordered the creation of the torture program. A failure of oversight by Congress is not in the same league. Not even close.

All that said, if the wingnut narrative is correct, I'm more that willing to throw Pelosi under the bus. If she did, in fact, sign off without objection to the torture program while having a working knowledge of its operation, then she ought not to be in any kind of leadership position in the American government. And I say this as someone who has been impressed with her work throughout her tenure as Speaker.

Which brings me to the second wingnut talking point that I wanted to address. This is the one that says that any attempt to bring the architects of the Bush Administration torture program to justice would amount to the criminalization of policy difference. There is, to be sure, a coherent argument to be made on this general point. That argument would go roughly like this:

1. Laws do not interpret themselves, so each presidential administration must necessarily interpret the law and decide what practical constraints it places on action.

2. Separate administrations may disagree about the correct interpretation of law; in point of fact, a single administration may change its view over time even though there has been no change of law or facts.

3. Because administrations may disagree about the correct interpretation of law, any given administration may also sometimes interpret the law to allow policies which another administration might judge to be illegal.

4. To maintain that such policy differences could result in illegal acts would place in legal jeopardy officials who have done nothing other than what they must to fulfill the duties and obligations of their position.

5. Government officials ought not to be placed in legal jeopardy for fulfilling the duties and obligations of their position.

6. Thus, we ought not to maintain that policy differences resulting from competing interpretations of law could result in illegal acts.

Indeed, we wouldn't want something like an honest disagreement over whether CO2 falls within the scope of the EPA's enabling legislation to lead to criminal prosecutions. But what goes without saying in the argument, and ought to be able to go without saying in general, is that when presidential administrations interpret the law they have a duty to do their very best to interpret the law correctly. The crux of the complaint against the Bush Administration is that they manufactured specious legal justifications rather than interpreting the law in good faith. If that complaint is true, then the argument above would fail to go through. This is because officials who offer (or demand) specious justifications for clearly untenable interpretations of the law have not, in fact, "done nothing other than what they must to fulfill the duties and obligations of their position." On the contrary, they have knowingly and willfully subverted the law.

That's not a policy difference. That's a crime.

Adding: It's probably also worth noting that most of the actual arguments given for the criminalization-of-policy-differences claim are considerably less cogent than the one I've laid out above. Consider the following, posted earlier today at the fever swamp:
Whatever one's position on the propriety of the enhanced interrogation methods, there's no evidence that the use of the methods resulted in the death of a single American. On the contrary, several credible sources maintain that the methods kept Americans from being killed. Nonetheless, some partisans assert that those who crafted the enhanced interrogation policy should be imprisoned.

Contrast that with the position of those same partisans regarding the governmental officials who crafted the famous pre- 9/11 "Wall" — i.e., the Clinton-era policy that separated criminal investigations from intelligence operations, thereby impeding counter-terrorism investigations.

Among other things, the Wall prevented counter-terrorism investigators from accessing the computer of Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th hijacker, days before 9/11. At the time one FBI investigator said, "Someday someone will die — and, wall or not — the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain problems."

The Wall went beyond what was legally necessary and indisputably rendered Americans more vulnerable to terrorist attacks (whether removal of the Wall would've prevented 9/11 can only be a matter of speculation). The Wall was kept in place by government officials who were on notice that terrorists planned to kill Americans. It was kept in place even after terrorists had succeeded — pre 9/11 — in killing Americans. Maintenance of the policy was reckless and inexcusable — some might even argue that it was criminal. |Peter Kirsanow|

Kirsanow has packed the nonsense so tightly here that he's risked the formation of a bullshit singularity. To pick out just one problem with the argument on offer, he's equivocating between standard and metaphorical uses of the word 'criminal'. The Bush administration knowingly and willfully subverted the law. The Clinton administration, in Kirsanow's own words, "went beyond what was legally necessary." These are different things, even if you work yourself up into a lather and declare that it's criminal to go beyond what is legally necessary.


Please, let's go there (another post about torture)

As Kevin Drum points out, the real hypocrisy here is coming from the right, not from the left. But if Joe doesn't agree, and would like to start a national conversation about this, I'm game. I, for one, would love to hear someone on the right explain to me precisely why the Starr investigation was justified but an investigation of the process by which the Bush Administration put in place their torture program would be completely out of bounds.

This post not about torture

I got nothing.

How to get yourself off the torture train

"I don't give a rat's ass if it worked. We are America. We don't fucking torture." -- Shep Smith, FoxNews Anchor

The quote is from a webcast, but still. HuffPo has the video, as well as video of an on-air segment which is pretty remarkable in its own right.

A few days ago, Neil Sinhababu wrote:
It used to be that we were worried about Fox News defeating us in elections, or beating the drums for another Bush Administration war. Winning by big margins is nice, because we don't have to worry about those particular horrors for at least a little while. But now we have to worry about how Fox and the rest of the right-wing noise machine are going to continually sustain a substantial minority of crazy people, preventing the formation of an anti-torture consensus, an anti-war-of-aggression consensus, and anti-warrantless-spying consensus. Even if there's majority support for these views, anybody scrapping for power within the Republican Party will find reason to oppose them, just to get a majority of Republicans. |Donkeylicious|

It now seems possible, with regard to this issue at least, that Shep Smith is the canary in the coal mine, and that those on the right who seek to justify torture aren't going to be able to keep their arguments animated. Truth will out, as they say, and most people -- even those who have poor taste in politicians -- are liable to be shocked and disgusted when confronted with the truth about the Bush Administration's torture program. That fact, rather than the bullshit we've been hearing, is why the the program was shrouded in secrecy.


How to use torture

But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document. |McClatchey|


How to defend torture

Step One: Cite secret memos which are in direct conflict with the abundance of publicly available evidence showing that torture doesn't work.

Step Two: Shout.

Our unsustainable budget deficit

Obviously, what we ought to do slash the living shit out of defense spending. Reduce it by 90% and we'll be roughly on par with our most likely antagonists.

Please note: This post occasioned by hearing yet another thoughtful moderate wonder whether we can afford universal healthcare. Meanwhile, the woman who cleans the building where my office is located needs surgery on her foot (it's a repetitive stress injury brought on by her other, full time job), has to pay for it out of her own pocket, and won't be paid for the time off. Why is killing more important? Why can't we ask whether we can afford to spend more than the rest of the world combined on defense? What the fuck is wrong with this country?


Obligatory 4/20 joke

He put's the "highest" back in the "highest form of patriotic."


The news, it is confusing me

Last week I linked to a NY Times story which suggested, in part, that the NSA had considered attempting a warrantless wiretap on a sitting member of Congress. Today, the big news is that Jane Harman (D-CA), was wiretapped by the NSA (without a warrant, I infer from the coverage), and that the CIA signed off on referring the case to the FISA court in order to get a warrant for further surveillance, but the investigation was squashed by Gonzales because he (apparently) saw Harman as an ally in the fight to defend warrantless wiretapping.

Here's what has me confused. Are we talking about two separate instances of wiretapping a member of Congress, or are these just different accounts of the same incident? People seem to be talking as if the events are separate, but I'm not so sure on what basis that judgment is being made. Anybody out there understand the craziness?


But we don't torture

"Detainees subject to sleep deprivation who are also subject to nudity as a separate interrogation technique will at times be nude and wearing a diaper," it said, noting that the diaper is "for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee; it is not used for the purpose of humiliating the detainee and it is not considered to be an interrogation technique."

"The detainee's skin condition is monitored, and diapers are changed as needed so that the detainee does not remain in a soiled diaper," the memo said. |CNN|


Bo bo bo clack clack clack clack clack

On a more serious note

And in one previously undisclosed episode, the N.S.A. tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant, according to a U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter.

The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact as part of a congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations to gather more intelligence, the official said.

The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some officials in the intelligence community about the idea of using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress. |NY Times|

Warrentless wiretapping aside, what was the NSA doing investigating a congressman's contacts?

Adding: I guess the defense of this episode must go, "They weren't investigating a congressman at all! They were investigating an extremist with possible terrorist ties, and it just happened that the congressman had contact with that person, and so very naturally they wanted to listen in on some of his conversations. But they didn't, is the point!"

Well, Ok, but not everyone is a congressman and now you've got me imagining a bunch of NSA officers relaxing with a beer and playing six degrees of Osama Bin Laden.

America in revolt, a report from the front lines of the tea party revolution

The wretched scene above, the smoking devastated corpse of the state, is what used to be Ann Arbor, Michigan. The hulking ruin behind the rioters was the federal building, which also housed the post office. Oh, what we have lost!

Putting the bullet back in the "Brain Research Bulletin"

From the NZH:
Personality types are linked with structural differences in the brain - which could explain why one child grows up to be impulsive and outgoing while another becomes diligent and introspective.

If the findings are confirmed by other scientists, they suggest that children are not only born with a given personality type, but they develop anatomically different brains as a result of being that sort of person. It raises the prospect of being able to test a young child's future personality by viewing the anatomy of their brain with a hospital scanner.

"If you are looking at volume, you are quantifying the tissue that is there. What we found was not just speculative. There is quite a bit of difference between people with different personality traits," said Professor Venneri.
The study is to be published in the journal Brain Research Bulletin.

Of course, within the constraints of their hard-coded personalities, people clearly exercise free will.

Blog-o non grata

(2)DET vs. (7) CLB Despite having seen them choke up a 3-goal lead live, my main impression of the Red Wings is just the obvious one: that they're scary, scary good. Lidstrom -- who I think might be the best defenseman of my hockey-watching lifetime, including Bourque -- has barely lost a step, he's well backed-up, and the forwards remain superb. Hossa was a terrific signing. I generally don't like to pick teams in their first playoff run. And yet -- partly to send a message that I don't think the Wings will get out of the strong conference again -- I'm going to pick the upset. Hithcock's superb defensive coaching will, I think, mitigate the first-year jitters effect, and the general profile of the team seems similar to the ones that have pulled similar upsets (especially the Ducks). I also think Mason is the real deal, which brings us to the one thing about the Red Wings' slight playoff underachievement Michael didn't mention: Holland has, for reasons I can't fathom, repeatedly taken his Bentley of a team and outfitted it with Lada goaltending. The rest of the team is so good that he's gotten away with it more than he should, but I don't think they can win with by far the first goaltending in the playoffs again. It may not catch up to them in Round 1, but it will. BLUE JACKETS IN 7. |Scott Lemieux|

There are some truths which must not be spoken.

Next week is Ninja versus Spartan

Adding: Yes, yes, orientalism, essentializing, and all that. I'm just saying.

Double Plus Addendum: YouTubeWard, Tylerjomamma -- who appears to share my refined tastes -- writes:
dam that was a gud fite better than last weeks i thot the viking was gna win wel my record is 1-1 i got the apache indian fite i won that one but this one was tough i had to give it the the viking,sux that he lost


Saves again, but with charts

My name upon the altar

That there is the ceiling of the lobby of the Guardian Building in downtown Detroit. The building is known as the "Cathedral of Finance" and the lobby is supposed to be cathedral-like, except honoring some kind of made up Aztec-y non-denominational art deco finance god. Leasing is now quite affordable.

In addition to the remarkable decor, the lobby features clean restrooms and the excellent Rowland Cafe, which I don't own and have never patronized. The cafe is named after Wirt C. Rowland, no relation, who also had a hand in designing Hill Auditorium here in Ann Arbor.

Holy crap!

Jordan Barab, who ran the workplace safety blog Confined Space -- is the acting head of OSHA! More here, here, and here.

Two facts and two possibilities

Fact the first: In recent years, the U.S. economy has grown at slower than historical rates, even in boom times.

Fact the second: In recent years, much of the growth in the U.S. economy has come from the financial sector.

Possibility the first: The slow rates of growth were caused by financialization, and the U.S. can return to real growth by reining in the financial sector.

Possibility the second: The growth of the last several decades was a mirage produced by financialization; in reality, the modern U.S. economy is only capable of a very modest rate of year over year growth.


Not as useful a reference work as one might hope

Signs, Omens, and Superstitions By Astra Cielo (1918)

Read it. Or don't.

Inequality, in charts


For my part, what leaps out is how clearly the new trend overlaps with Republican rule. That's what I call taking advantage of a crisis.


... is how many posts we've had on The Bellman since moving to Blogspot. That seems like a lot.

DR pointed out that we've just passed the 5-year anniversary of the creation of this humble blog of record. That seems like a lot of years of continuous, political-themed blogging.

In other news, I finally fixed our original domain, so if you want to you can point your browsers to


.... and get right back here. For now.


Saves and other statistics

Nicholas Beaudrot is exactly right:
...managers have adjusted their in-game strategy to maximize their closer's save opportunities rather than maximize their team's chances of winning. Yesterday Frank Francisco and Jonathan Broxton were brought in to protect three run leads in the ninth inning. This is good for my fantasy team, but not for their respective teams; you actually do the more to help your team's chance of winning by bringing in your best reliever when you're one run behind—to minimize the chance of your opponent getting a bigger lead—than you do by having the relief ace close out a game when three runs ahead. |Donkeylicious|

Time was, they called the closer "the fireman" and the closers job was to shut down a rally and bring the game home. You can really see the change in the way elite closers have been used if you look at outs per game in relief and runners inherited.

Below is a chart to which I've added those categories, plus GDP, which is a batting-against stat for grounded into double-play. To get a historical comparison, I compared Bruce Sutter and Dan Quisenberry, the elite closers of a previous generation, to the top save-earners from each league from 2004-08.

Closers past and present
Player GR SV Out/GR IR GDP
Sutter -77 62 31 5.2 50 5
Sutter - 78 64 27 4.6 58 3
Sutter - 79 62 37 4.9 55 5
Quisenberry -80 75 33 5.1 89 18
Sutter 80 60 28 5.1 38 12
Quisenberry -82 72 35 5.7 36 17
Sutter - 82 70 36 4.4 54 12
Quisenberry -83 69 45 6 40 19
Sutter - 83 60 21 4.5 43 8
Quisenberry - 84 72 44 5.4 35 12
Sutter -84 71 45 5.2 48 18
Quisenberry - 85 84 37 4.6 71 15
Benitez - 04 64 47 3.3 23 3
Isringhausen -04 74 47 3.1 23 1
Rivera - 05 74 53 3.2 17 11
Cordero -05 74 47 3 21 3
Rodriguez - 05 66 45 3.1 14 1
Wickman - 06 64 45 2.9 4 11
Hoffman - 06 65 46 2.9 1 5
Rodriguez - 06 69 47 3.2 20 4
Valverde 07 65 47 3 7 5
Borowski - 07 69 45 2.9 8 1
Rodriguez - 08 76 62 2.7 18 5
Valverde - 08 74 44 2.9 16 0



Traditional norwegian street art


I think this one would make a cool poster. Re: Blame it on the rain, it looks like a B-24 Liberator to me, and I choose to believe that the story is true.

Friday awesomeness

I don’t want to trivialize the difficult complexities of the Tibetan diaspora by saying things like “this guy is cooler than we’ll ever be!” But - just this once, forgive me - this guy is cooler than we’ll ever be. I mean, look at him. He will hack your system, friends. With his mind.

via colihouse



The eyes of Texas ARE upon you; or, Doubleplusyee-haw!

So, that's my car, and if you look closely, my shadowy profile a'drivin' it. What am I doing? If you go here, plug in the correct information (see below), and pass the anti-spam word verification, you can see for yourself.

Actually, I was coming back from teaching in Hays County, and ran into a big traffic jam on I-35. So I stopped for a bowl of chicken lemongrass vermicelli. After, I ran into the same jam, so, frustrated, jammed my way up the access road. It's all on the video.

citation#: AUR0005592
plate #: 933LCD
city code: AUSTIN

I was in the wrong, sure. But this camera business still makes me feel uncomfortable.



Just saying.

Adding: I've heard a lot of talk that the World Baseball Classic should be moved to a different time of year because the Major League players aren't in shape, risk injury, and so forth. I can't say that I see much merit in that precise argument, but I would agree that spring training is not real baseball and that when you play the World Baseball Classic during spring training you thereby relegate it to the category of not real baseball.

I'm only waiting for my check to clear

Five percent of Americans wait and six percent of Canadians and Britons are priced out. The numbers mirror each other. The question, in other words, is not whether you ration care, but how you ration it. It also casts our smug attitude towards care access in a new light. If someone can't afford care, we record their waiting time as zero. You don't wait for what you can't have. But a more accurate accounting would record that wait as infinite, or it would record when the patient eventually ends up in the emergency room because the original ailment went untreated.

Research like this raises a simple question: Would you rather wait four months for an elective surgery or be unable to get it altogether? That -- and not whether we ration care -- is the choice between the Canadian and American models. Meanwhile, Germany, Japan, France, England, and other don't have a problem with care affordability, the uninsured, or waiting lines. We've managed to center the debate around two bad options and then trick ourselves into think we've got the better end of the deal. It's no way to conduct a debate. | Ezra K. |


The ponies

What, you were watching basketball?

Note: Now not featuring Blogger's non-functional video upload function.


The crucial connection between the budget and freedom

Adding: Here's another video for when you've got more time.

Noting: Now with video!

Science FTW

This has promise:
The solution looks, smells and tastes like water, but carries an ion imbalance that makes short work of bacteria, viruses and even hard-to-kill spores.

Developed by Oculus Innovative Sciences in Petaluma, the super-oxygenated water is claimed to be as effective a disinfectant as chlorine bleach, but is harmless to people, animals and plants. If accidentally ingested by a child, the likely impact is a bad case of clean teeth.

Oculus said the solution, called Microcyn, may prove effective in the fight against superbugs, crossover viruses like bird flu and Ebola, and bioterrorism threats such as anthrax.
| Wired: "Super Water Kills Bugs Dead" |

Really hard to say how much of the news about Microcyn was authored by the Oculus marketing department, but I'll keep an eye out.

Of course Curt Schilling isn't a Hall of Fame pitcher

First, just so you don't think the HOF campaign sprang from my own fevered brow, here's Bob Ryan, who has a TV gig and everything:

Now, here's how Schilling looks compared to his contemporaries:
  • Greg Maddux, 355-227, 3.16 ERA, 4 Cy Youngs, 18 Gold Gloves, 11-14 postseason, won WS, appeared in 3 WS
  • Roger Clemens, 354-184, 3.12 ERA, 7 Cy Youngs, 12-8 postseason, Won 2 WS, appeared in 6 WS
  • Tom Glavine, 305-203, 3.54 ERA, 2 Cy Youngs, 14-16 postseason, won WS, appeared in 5 WS
  • Randy Johnson, 295-160, 3.26 ERA, 5 Cy Youngs, 7-9 postseason, won WS
  • Mike Mussina, 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 2 WS appearances
  • Jamie Moyer, 246-185, 4.19 ERA, 3-3 postseason, won WS
  • Kenny Rogers, 219-156, 4.27 ERA, 3-3 postseason, won WS, appeared 2 WS
  • Curt Schilling, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, Won 3 WS, appeared in 4 WS
  • Andy Pettite, 215-127, 3.89 ERA, 14-9 postseason, won 4 WS, appeared in 7 WS
  • Pedro Martinez, 214-99, 2.91 ERA, 3 Cy Youngs, 6-2 postseason, WS


Rise of botnet; or, January 1, 2000?

The choice of April Fool’s Day by the program’s authors, who are unknown, has led to speculation that the program might be a hoax. But a variety of computer security executives and law enforcement officials have pointed out that the program, which has spread to at least 12 million computers, could inflict genuine harm. Consensus among security specialists on Tuesday was that it was likely to take several days before the program’s intent could be determined.

A group of computer security specialists has tried to make it impossible for Conficker’s authors to download instructions to infected computers. While they were doing so, the authors began distributing the C version of the program. It was intended to begin contacting 50,000 Internet domains on Wednesday.

In response, the researchers have created a system that will allow them to trap all of the attempted botnet communications. That has involved a global effort, including monitoring the domains of 110 countries.

A spokeswoman for the Conficker Cabal, a security working group organized by Microsoft and other computer security companies, said on Tuesday that the group had no new information to report about the activity of the malicious program. |NY Times|
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