Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mark Kleiman Explains It All For You


Remember when we used to be the good guys? Ah, those were the days.

Remember when principle mattered to the Republican party? Nah, me neither...but I've read about those long-ago days...

I voted for John Warner last time because I promised myself I'd vote for him after he derailed Ollie North's run for the Senate. North would be our senator now if Warner hadn't opposed him.

Think about that shit for a second.


I want someone to promise me that if I ever vote Republican again, you will beat the crap out of me.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

So, nobody has principles unless they're your principles? Sounds intolerant to me.

They waterboarded the saintly Sheikh Mohammed for a grand total of two minutes and uncovered a plot to take out a major piece of Los Angeles real estate. Well, I live in Los Angeles and so does my family.

Waterboarding saves lives. I'm entirely OK with this principle.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom writes:
> So, nobody has principles unless they're your principles? Sounds intolerant to me.

Winston never claimed to be a relativist; on the contrary. He is '[holding] some truths to be self evident.' One of those truths, of course, is Jesus' golden rule -- do unto others &c.

As for waterboarding saving lives. Assume it's true, and some Jack Bauer somewhere 'did what he had to.' In such case, he should be presumed guilty, as Bauer would be in real life. The onus is on him to show that torture was truly worth it; as has been pointed out elsewhere, there are several legal recourses in such case:

Jury nullification
Refusal to prosecute (no kidding!)
Presidential pardon

I will assume for the sake of argument that waterboarding Sheik Mohommed really did save a lot of LA real estate*. It is the exception that proves the rule, as it happens so rarely. In such case, it's a truly unique case, and can be considered as one case.

But there are 100s (or 1000s) of cases where such treatment is not necessary, or is actively counterproductive. The new law will codify this treatment, so that every low-level CIA idiot may assume he's legally protected when he decides to abuse a prisoner. It is a corrosive recipe--leading to degradation of the abuser, the abused, and society as a whole. It also makes it likelier that the CIA attracts sadistic bozos than the really smart, ethical investigators it most needs.

The best exposition I've seen of this by far is by a Soviet dissident who suffered such treatment himself.

Digby and Hilzoy (Obsidian Wings) make these points far better than I ever could

- mac

2:01 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

mac's on a roll, and I couldn't have come close to saying it better myself.

I've made it clear that I think that torture is permissible--in fact, mandatory--in "ticking time-bomb"-type cases. It's routine torture as a policy that--wimpy liberal that I am--I'm against.

One minor correction:
I think that the Golden Rule is an o.k. approximation, but actually philosophically indefensible. I'm a categorical imperative man myself...

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, people: don't make that promise to beat up WS lightly. Sure, you may think that the chances of his ever voting Republican again are vanishingly small. But who knows what candidate of promise may one day fly a Republican flag of convenience? And then you'd be screwed, cuz tha 'raptor's got some mad Hapkido skillz.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll do it.

BTW, if you can create a ticking time bomb scenario wherein torture is appropriate without being ridiculous, you should do so. You will be the first.

Even if you can concoct such a situation, torture should be illiegal. That idea that "I should be able to do it in these circumstances...make it legal" as opposed to "I did it because I had with me as you will" is simply a study is wussidom. People do what they have to do whether it is legal or not. People do all kinds of evil shit when they know it is technically legal.

Seriously, I am rather disappointed that the idea of torture could (as I read you) be sanctioned proactively instead of retroactively. That is some rather messed up thinking in my honest opinion.

Other than that, good to see you posting, and of course my rather crude and inflammatory disagreements don't diminish the fact that I respect your opinions. Just sometimes they make me really mad.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, do remember that I'm largely full of shit, ergo it's reasonable to be mad at many of my posts. I say that in all seriousness.

But this raises an issue I've been meaning to talk about for a long time, so I will soon, FWIW.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Update on the torture issue. Again, the big trouble with the McCain-Bush terrorism bill is that it seems to codify the kind of thing that's been going on in Gitmo. It's pretty clear that
(1) Many of them were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
(2) Many of the rest were just spear-carriers, with essentially zero operational knowledge, and likely not overly commited ideologically either.
(3) The maltreatment of prisoners in these categories has backfired in a huge way.

By supporting the current bill, Tom is buying into Cheney's 1% doctrine: that false negatives are so bad, we can afford 99 (or apparently more) false positives for each one.

But this is no way to run a government. I'm an environmentalist, but if we applied the 99% doctrine to environmental causes, we'd all have to stop driving cars and using electricity tomorrow, because of the 1% chance that the icecaps will melt in 100 years or less.

The guys like Sheik Mohammed were well known to be bad guys in advance: they are known public figures in Al Qaeda; there was way more than a 1% chance that they were bad guys; more like a 1% chance that they are not. But the law as written applies to the other 99 shmucks as well, "just in case." The old fashioned term for this is not prudence, but cowardice.


And no, I don't live in Los Angeles, but I can see the Seattle Space Needle from my window, about 1/3 mile away.

2:58 PM  

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