Sunday, February 24, 2008

Roy Edroso Is Shrill!

He writes, apropos of slut-shaming crunchy-cons: >alicublog: BIG-TIME NEGOTIATORS, FALSE HEALERS AND WOMAN-HATERS. A bride wants her wedding dress to reveal the tattoo on her back, and does not feel the need to appear virginal on her wedding day. So Rod Dreher calls her a slut. >It takes hours, and a visit from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to make Dreher retract the slur, though he still accuses the bride of "cheap morals" and "bad manners," and calls her behavior "slutty." Big difference. >Dreher frequently reminds us that Christians don't riot, as some Muslims do, when they perceive their values to be mocked. But he never recalls that for many, many centuries, Christians backed by the power of states harassed, exiled, and burned men and women who didn't conform to their prejudices in comportment or anything else. >When we mock Dreher here, we are not always thinking solely of the little fellow in Dallas who shakes his impotent fist at our times and manners. Often we also have in mind the loathsome traditions he wants to bring back to the civilized world, even praising the "order," "unity," and "purpose" of barbarous Islamic societies as a means of attracting us to a Western version with Jesus on top. Imagine a country where men like Dreher have the power to order a stoning. >It took us nearly two millenia and oceans of blood to reduce these savages to a noisome rump. We can spare a little attention to remember why we did it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Helicopter Spin

Why do I even bother to go to the NRO website? This article on the "truth about airborne dollar-drops and Federal Reserve policy" by Thomas Nugent is pretty confused:

Who’s Flying This Helicopter Anyway?, by Thomas E. Nugent, NRO Online: Wall Street pundits are quick to criticize the Federal Reserve for being either too “tight” or too “easy.” These terms refer to a Fed system that attempts to increase or decrease the money supply — by manipulating the federal funds interest rate — in order to influence the economy and inflation.

It's actually the other way around - the monetary base is manipulated to attain the target federal funds rate. But maybe that's being picky. Moving on:

In terms of the economy, the Fed believes it can sway the growth of consumer purchasing power — due to borrowing — in order to spend. Lower interest rates are thought to encourage both borrowing and credit expansion.

Not quite. Lower interest rates increase quantity of loans demanded, but credit expansion? Lower interest rates don't encourage more supply.

Next, the helicopter:

Now that the Fed has cut the target funds rate from 5.25 to 3 percent ... the critics are out in force. ... They ... say current Fed policy is inflationary, and to make their point they dust-off a decades-old analogy: Rather than merely tinkering with his various policy levers, they say the Fed chairman is out flying his helicopter, dumping bales of dollars on the economy.

Those who say that are using the wrong terminology unless they are referring to purchases of, say, mortgage backed securities at greater than market value. But that's not what they mean - they are referring to ordinary open market operations. That's not helicopter money.

Skipping forward, this next part mixes up consumption and saving, or something, but it is mixed up:

For every dollar borrowed in a lower-interest-rate environment, one dollar is saved. Thus, while lower interest rates may help borrowers spend, they reduce the spending of savers. Only to the extent that the propensity of these two groups to spend is different are interest rates expected to change demand.

How does lowering the interest rate reduce the spending of savers? If anything, lower interest rates discourage saving and promote consumption. In addition, unlike the claim in the paragraph, when a bank loans a dollar of someone's saving it doesn't reduce their consumption. And the part about the differing propensities to consume is referring to what happens when you take a tax dollar from someone with a relatively low propensity to consume and give it back to someone with a higher propensity. But that's not what's going on when interest rates are lowered so it doesn't apply here. This makes no sense at all.

Anyway, moving on:

All this is not to say that a dollar-dropping helicopter doesn’t exist. In certainly does, and standing at the ready are its pilot and co-pilot: the president and Congress.

When the U.S. gets in trouble, the government writes the checks. And when those checks are circulated the proverbial helicopter goes airborne and opens its dollar-dumping doors. Sometimes this is a good thing. Our pilot and co-pilot are to be commended for the several hundred billion they have thus far dropped on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the $50 billion they marked for a targeted drop on the Gulf Coast regions devastated by Katrina and Rita.

There is, of course, the swing from a $200 billion surplus under Bill Clinton to a $500 billion deficit under George W. Bush. Either the government helicopter has been extra busy in recent years or Bush traded in for a bigger one.

Sorry, but that's just wrong and misleading terminology. Deficit spending is not a helicopter drop.

He makes the same mistake here (a money financed tax cut is just like helicopter money, but the statement about a larger deficit in the next paragraph reveals that he isn't thinking about this case): 

You may agree or disagree with the purpose of much of the Bush administration spending, and that’s fine. One pending helicopter dollar-drop that has drawn my rebuke is the Keynesian demand-side tax-rebate plan agreed upon by the president and Congress. It is designed to put “money in people’s pockets,” and that it will. But it will also produce larger deficits for no good reason.

Interestingly, when he is advocating a supply-side policy, the “mistake” is avoided:

If you really want to stimulate greater economic activity, the supply-side is the best way to go: Lower tax rates across the board. Bush and Congress got this right in 2003. They blew it in 2008.

By the definition he uses above, lowering taxes is a helicopter drop, but for the tax cuts he likes the helicopter only flies over wealthy neighborhoods. That explains why he suddenly drops the incorrect helicopter drop label in describing the policy. The incorrect label is only used when he wants to try to undermine policies at odds with his political ideology.

The article ends with:

While your rebate checks are being written, however, at least you now have the answer to the ubiquitous helicopter mystery: Fiscal policy is the “culprit,” and the Fed is just along for the ride.

The only people being taken for a ride or those who believe this nonsense.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kevin Drum is Shrill

It's Bill Keller of the New York Times, who has no business being a journalist anymore.

Kevin writes:

The Washington Monthly: THE TIMES SPEAKS....Really, this is unbelievable. Here is New York Times executive editor Bill Keller in an online Q&A declaring himself surprised by both the volume and the lopsidedness of the reaction to Wednesday's John McCain non-affair story:

And, frankly, I was a little surprised by how few readers saw what was, to us, the larger point of the story. Perhaps here, at the outset of this conversation, is a good point to state as clearly as possible our purpose in publishing. [Blah blah blah] The point of this "Long Run" installment was that, according to people who know him well, this man who prizes his honor above all things and who appreciates the importance of appearances also has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation. The story cites several examples, and quotes friends and admirers talking of this apparent contradiction in his character. That is why some members of his staff were so alarmed by the appearance of his relationship with Ms. Iseman. And that, it seemed (and still seems) to us, was something our readers would want to know about a man who aspires to be president.

The "larger point." Right. This is just embarrassing. Everybody with a pulse knows that no one is criticizing the Times for reporting that McCain was doing the bidding of a lobbyist and campaign contributor. Rather, this story has gotten saturation coverage because the Times has been careful to refer to Vicki Iseman as a "female lobbyist" on practically every occasion it can %u2014 including the introduction to the very Q&A Keller is taking part in. Times reader aren't children. We all know what this means, and we all know perfectly well that the Times piece loudly insinuated some kind of inappropriate romantic involvement between McCain and Iseman. So far, though, the Q&A has addressed only the peripheral subjects of what "Long Run" pieces are like, what the Times' policy on anonymous sources is, and the Chinese wall between the newsroom and the editorial page staff. Riveting stuff.

And the elephant in the room? Missing in action so far. Do you think they'll ever get to it?

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No, National Review Is Not Better than It Used to Be

For some reason, John Holbo does not deploy his Filmerian patriarchal powers to prohibit his wife Belle Waring from reading National Review. I hope she has not done permanent damage to her mighty Krell-like brain:

John & Belle Have A Blog: Nasty: Sometimes I read old articles from the National Review and I think, where did that spirit of frank, open racism go? Why must John Derbyshire be restrained by political correctness when he "wraps his silk dressing gown tightly about his withered frame and totters onto the balcony to address the Negro Question"? But along comes sweet, sweet Lisa "Clinton really was running drugs through Mena AK" Schffrin....

Barack Obama is the new man, of course. His mixed race is a symbol of that. Just like Tiger Woods — as we have read, endlessly. What's to wonder about? But maybe it's not so simple.... [A]ll of my mixed race, black/white classmates... were always the offspring of a white mother... and usually a highly educated black father... [met in] the Communist Youth League. Or maybe a different arm of the CPUSA. But, for a white woman to marry a black man in 1958, or 60, there was almost inevitably a connection to explicit Communist politics....

[T]he Kincaid article... makes a very convincing case that Obama's family... had close relations with a known black Communist... Frank Marshall Davis — appears to have been Barack's own mentor, and even a father figure.....

Political correctness was invented precisely to prevent the mainstream liberal media from persuing the questions which might arise.... It was, of course, an explicit tactic of the Communist party to stir up discontent among American blacks.... To their credit, of course, most black Americans didn't buy the commie line — and showed more faith in the possibilities of democratic change than in radical politics, and the results on display in Moscow. Time for some investigative journalism about the Obama family's background, now that his chances of being president have increased so much.

The truly beautiful thing about this is that it incoherently wavers between two poles of repulsive slander: is it Communist Negroes having sex with our white women? Or are Communist Jewesses subverting black Americans who, patriotic though modestly ill-treated, would have been able to resist had the party not offered them the tempting fruits of miscegenation? Whatever it is I imagine it's music to WFB's ears. His trembling hand hoists a generous 7:30am brandy and milk to you, Lisa!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Eric Boehlert: Poetic justice: Limbaugh tries to tear GOP apart

Media Matters - Poetic justice: Limbaugh tries to tear GOP apart: Rush Limbaugh, the marauding Frankenstein's monster of the Republican Party, is on the loose again, causing all kinds of political damage with his signature off-balance swings. But as has become his custom recently, the pain from Limbaugh's rampage is being felt by his creators -- his enablers -- inside the GOP.

Limbaugh and the rest of his get-John McCain brain trust -- Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin, and campus instigator Ann Coulter -- have been tripping over themselves to get in front of a microphone (preferably a television one) to denounce the Republican Party's presumptive nominee and to suggest that perhaps conservatives should even vote Democratic come November.

After years of watching Limbaugh and his various band of midnight riders within the Republican Noise Machine launch countless, hateful crusades against liberals and Democrats, it's extraordinarily satisfying to watch the Republican Party leadership discover what it feels like when Limbaugh sets his venomous, factually challenged sights on their own front-runner.

For progressives, the sprawling GOP brawl is what blogger TRex would call a schadenfreude sundae. What could be more enjoyable than watching McCain get bogged down in the far-right swamp? Answer: Watching a handful of right-wing pundits come to the belated conclusion that Limbaugh is a dunce. Or, as one Weekly Standard blogger put it last week, the Limbaugh-led response to McCain was "unhinged -- and at times spectacularly disgraceful." And Dinesh D'Souza concluded, that, yes, Limbaugh is an "egomaniac" who "has grown accustomed to conservative bigwigs worshiping at the Shrine of Rush." (Truth is, Limbaugh's not that well liked among Republicans.)

Really? Limbaugh is spreading misinformation? He's wallowing in demagoguery while bordering on megalomania? He and his pals appear to be far more interested in the number of media mentions they rack up than they do in advancing the conservative movement? Ah, what a tangled web the GOP weaves. Wonder how McCain and the Republican Party minions enjoy following behind Limbaugh's broadcast each weekday with a bucket and shovel, cleaning up the mess spread all over the floor. Enjoy!

But this is what Republicans created. They wanted Limbaugh to be an attack dog and to chew up and spit out his/the party's opponents. They wanted him to label Democrats as traitors ("What's good for Al Qaeda is good for the Democratic Party in this country today"), to label them abhorrent and mentally deranged. They wanted Limbaugh to ignore any semblance of decency when demonizing the other side. Indeed, there has been virtually no offensive line that Limbaugh has crossed that Republicans have not dutifully justified or explained away.

Even last year when Limbaugh denigrated members of the U.S. armed forces, calling military men and women who criticized the war in Iraq and advocated withdrawal "phony soldiers," what did the GOP do? It rushed to Limbaugh's defense.

The pats on the back came from presidential contender Fred Thompson and Senate Republican Conference chairman Jon Kyl (AZ), and House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH) as well as his No. 2, Roy Blunt (MO), along with fellow Reps. Mike Pence (IN), Scott Garrett (NJ). Mean Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN) supported legislation that commended Limbaugh following his "phony soldiers" crack. Rep. Eric Cantor (VA) even unveiled a Stand With Rush e-petition, urging "conservatives around the country" to fight for Limbaugh.

Oh, and let's not forget Mitt Romney's reaction to the "phony soldiers" controversy, which was priceless. (Romney was the candidate Limbaugh championed as the one true conservative in this year's Republican race.) Romney flip-flopped! Here he is momentarily chastising Limbaugh's comments. And here Romney is, just days later, as he "rushes to the defense of Rush Limbaugh." (And Republicans used to claim that candidate Al Gore had no moral compass?)

Meanwhile, it really was rather sad to watch former Sen. Bob Dole last week write a letter to Limbaugh trying to reason with the talk-show host about whether candidate McCain was sufficiently conservative. Or when McCain himself suggested that the talk show hosts simply "calm down." Or when Bud McFarlane, former national security adviser to President Reagan, took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal over the weekend to urge Rush and his angry pack to "be rational."

Rational? Where have these Republicans been for the last decade? The Noise Machine doesn't do rational. Was Limbaugh being "rational" when he toasted photos of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib as "good old American pornography"? Was Malkin being rational last year when she attempted to Swift Boat a traumatically injured 12-year-old boy? Was Coulter being rational ... well, ever?

Sorry, GOP grown-ups. If there's one thing the Republican Noise Machine is allergic to, it's reason. And decency, and respect, and rational behavior.

And besides, why is it left to retired Republican graybeards like Dole and McFarlane to try to broker peace with the Limbaugh crowd? McCain, the party's presumptive nominee, is being savaged by a corral of radio talk-show hosts every day, and yet the silence among Republican elected officials has been deafening. Why? Because they're too afraid to stick up for their own candidate, too afraid Limbaugh and his wannabes will try burn somebody else at the stake.

I don't think progressives could have choreographed a better media meltdown if we tried.

Fact is, every time Limbaugh causes a controversy these days, the Democratic Party's political fortunes rise just a little bit -- like when he's treating McCain like a bum, or degrading phony soldiers, or mocking actor Michael J. Fox for allegedly faking the symptoms of his crippling Parkinson's disease while appearing in a Democratic-sponsored campaign ad.

What's so spectacular for the home team is that Limbaugh's crusade to demolish McCain stems from the radical right's fervent desire to cleanse the Republican Party of those who are deemed to be insufficiently pure in their conservative beliefs. And it's not just the candidates. Limbaugh has been clear that his deep disdain for McCain is driven by the fact that he might attract voters in the fall -- the wrong voters -- who do not adhere to the radical right's litmus test of right and wrong.

What Limbaugh and company are doing with their diatribes is launching political correctness into the stratosphere, and in the process herding voters toward the Democratic camp.

The best part? The whole crusade has been a colossal flop. On the eve of the Super Tuesday primary, lots of cogs in the Republican Noise Machine demanded that their readers and listeners embrace Mitt Romney.

Instead, McCain and Mike Huckabee -- the other GOP candidate deemed totally unworthy by the mighty Limbaugh -- pretty much ran the table and shoved the anointed one, Romney, right out of the race. I'd suggest the stunning failure to move the needle even an inch among self-identified Republican voters represented a nice punctuation point on the Republican Noise Machine's collapse, which, naturally, has closely mirrored President Bush's downward spiral. (The same post-Bush tremors are being felt at Fox News; read about their ratings woes here.)

Why did the get-McCain gambit fail so miserably? Maybe Republican voters saw through the transparent attacks. After all, Limbaugh himself wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal during the 2004 presidential campaign in which he commended McCain for being among the "unabashed and unashamed advocates of conservative principles and policies" in his speech at the Republican convention.

And if Limbaugh's uncontrollable disdain for McCain is based on that candidate's allegedly leftward drift on the issues, then why didn't Limbaugh try to run Rudy Giuliani out of the race? (Not that Rudy needed any help.) Giuliani's history of supporting abortion rights, embryonic stem-cell research, and gay rights makes McCain look like Ronald Reagan's long-lost brother.

And I'm sorry, but Romney as the conservative true believer? Baystaters must have spit up their Summer Shack clam chowder when they heard that line. In a manic attempt to veer right for his White House run, Romney flip-flopped on a buffet of supposedly core Republican issues, such as immigration reform, abortion, gun control, tax cuts, and gay rights. (Go here to watch Romney perform one of the purest flip-flops ever captured on tape.)

More likely, Limbaugh is just wildly out of touch with the Republican Party. During President Bush's radical pro-war tenure, the right-wing talkers and bloggers convinced themselves they represented the mainstream -- the majority -- of the GOP. But they don't. They represent the radical CPAC wing of the GOP. And it's a shrinking minority.

I just hope the McCain Crazies keep it up. Their unhinged efforts perfectly capture the state of today's conservative movement. For instance, at one point when Limbaugh was ranting against the Arizona senator on his radio show, a caller asked whether he thought McCain would pick Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as his running mate. Limbaugh sniffed that "Lindsey Graham is certainly close enough to [McCain] to die of anal poisoning."

A Limbaugh pal told the New York Daily News that the host was simply "using a time-honored synonym for 'brown-nosing.' " But as the paper reported, "[I]f you Google the term, the only people who seem to be using it are proprietors of porn sites. "

And then there was Laura Ingraham, the oxymoronic thinking person's right-wing radio host, who became so unnerved at the prospect of a McCain nomination that she suggested that some despondent conservatives would turn themselves into "suicide voters" and cast a ballot for a Democrat in November rather than vote for McCain. (Charles Hurt, the D.C. bureau chief for the New York Post, made the same unhinged analogy.)

Suicide voters and anal poisonings, all in the name of destroying the Republican nominee from within. Hey, GOP, that's quite a Noise Machine you've constructed. Now good luck trying to dismantle it.

Marty Lederman: Lowering the Bar: Well, At Least We're Not as Barbaric as the Spanish Inquisition

Balkinization: Lowering the Bar: Well, At Least We're Not as Barbaric as the Spanish Inquisition

Has it really come to this?

In my previous post I did not adequately convey just how chilling Steve Bradbury's testimony was today. It began early on: Rep. Nadler asked Bradbury how OLC could possibly have concluded that waterboarding is not torture -- After all, isn't the whole point of the technique to induce severe physical pain and/or suffering so as to compel recalcitrant detainees to talk? Doesn't its reported effectiveness -- most victims cannot withstand more than 30 seconds of it -- speak for itself? Of course it's designed to inflict severe physical suffering. And if it does so, as Bradbury concedes, it's prohibited torture, no matter what the justification might be.

Bradbury did not respond directly to Nadler's question (although later he tipped his hand as to why he has concluded that the CIA waterboarding is not torture -- see below). Instead, Bradbury tried to reassure Nadler, and later Representative Franks, that the CIA's waterboarding was not as bad as press reports would have it -- that our variant of the technique is materially distinct from the sort of water torture used by (i) the Spanish Inquisition; (ii) U.S. forces in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th Century; and (iii) the Japanese in World War II. In those earlier historical examples, there was a "forced consumption of a mass amount of water," and occasionally the interrogators would stand or jump on the stomach of the victim, sometimes leading to "blood coming of the victim's mouth." Which apparently crosses the line. Thankfully, we do not do such terrible things.

Some of you will recognize that the technique Bradbury is disclaiming is the one often called the "water cure." The CIA doesn't use that. Instead, the agency apparently is using the less dangerous version of "waterboarding" -- the sort popularized by the French in Algeria, and by the Khmer Rouge. This technique involves placing a cloth or plastic wrap over or in the person's mouth, and pouring or dripping water onto the person's head. The CIA technique is likely a variant of what Darius Rajali, in his encyclopedic and indispensable new book, calls "Dutch choking" (see pages 281-283) -- either that or, in the cellophane variation, perhaps the "dry submarine" (see 284-285). A couple of years ago, Rejali summarized the various water tortures in an e-mail:

[T]he "water cure" admits of several variants:

(a) pumping: filling a stomach with water causes the organs to distend, a sensation compared often with having your organs set on fire from the inside. This was the Tormenta de Toca favored by the Inquisition and featured on your website photo. The French in Algeria called in the tube or tuyau after the hose they forced into the mouth to fill the organs.

(b) choking - as in sticking a head in a barrel. It is a form of near asphyxiation but it also produces the same burning sensation through all the water a prisoner involuntarily ingests. This is the example illustrated in the Battle of Algiers movie, a technique called the sauccisson or the submarine in Latin America. Prisoners describe their chests swelling to the size of barrels at which point a guard would stomp on the stomach forcing the water to move in the opposite direction.

(c) choking - as in attaching a person to a board and dipping the board into water. This was my understanding of what waterboarding was from the initial reports. The use of a board was stylistically most closely associated with the work of a Nazi political interrogator by the name of Ludwig Ramdor who worked at Ravensbruck camp. Ramdor was tried before the British Military Court Martial at Hamburg (May 1946 to March 1947) on charges for subjecting women to this torture, subjecting another woman to drugs for interrogation, and subjecting a third to starvation and high pressure showers. He was found guilty and executed by the Allies in 1947.

(d) choking - as in forcing someone to lie down, tying them down, then putting a cloth over the mouth, and then choking the prisoner by soaking the cloth. This also forces ingestion of water. It was invented by the Dutch in the East Indies in the 16th century, as a form of torture for English traders. More recently it was common in the American south, especially in police stations, in the 1920s, as documented in the famous Wickersham Report of the American Bar Association (The Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement, 1931), compiling instances of police torture throughout the United States.

CIA officers who have subjected themselves to the CIA version of the technique -- probably (c) or (d), if Bradbury is to believed -- reportedly have lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. Yet no severe physical pain or suffering?! How can that be?

Bradbury later confirmed (see the video at 36:20-37:00) what I've often speculated here: OLC's view is that a technique is not torture if, "subject to strict safeguards, limitations and conditions, [it] does not involve sever physical pain or severe physical suffering -- and severe physical suffering, we said on our December 2004 Opinion, has to take account of both the intensity of the discomfort or distress involved, and the duration, and something can be quite distressing or comfortable, even frightening, [but] if it doesn't involve severe physical pain, and it doesn't last very long, it may not constitute severe physical suffering. That would be the analysis."

Let's be very clear: This so-called "analysis" is at the very core of the OLC justification for waterboarding, and possibly several other components of the CIA program, as well. And it is flatly, 100% wrong, and indefensible, for reasons I have discussed at length. The fact that Judge Mukasey continues to abide by it is a scandal. And the fact that Congress has not said a word about this legal linchpin of the OLC/CIA regime is even worse.

Waterboarding, even the CIA version, entails excruciating and intense physical suffering. That's why they use it. The account by "Scylla", set out below, describes the effects quite well. His conclusion?: "I'll put it this way. If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I'd take the fingers, no question. It's horrible, terrible, inhuman torture. I can hardly imagine worse. I'd prefer permanent damage and disability to experiencing it again. I'd give up anything, say anything, do anything."

And yet OLC concludes that this unimaginable physical suffering is not "severe." Why? Because it is so effective at inflicting intense, unparalleled suffering that it does not last very long.

To say that this is not severe physical suffering -- is not torture -- is absurd. And to invoke the defense that what the Spanish Inquisition did was worse, that we use a more benign, non-torture form of waterboarding -- after all, we don't stomp on the victim's chest! -- is obscene. And yet here we have a United States official invoking that justification today, in sworn testimony to Congress, without betraying the slightest hint of self-awareness of how grotesque it is . . . and no one so much as blinked, so inured are we to this discourse by now.

Scylla's description of self-inflicted waterboarding that sounds as if it might be similar to that approved as lawful for use by the CIA:

[T]hose of you who know me will know that I am both enamored of my own toughness and prone to hyperbole. The former, I feel that I am justifiably proud of. The latter may be a truth in many cases, but this is the simple fact:

It took me ten minutes to recover my senses once I tried this. I was shuddering in a corner, convinced I narrowly escaped killing myself.

Here's what happened:

The water fills the hole in the saran wrap so that there is either water or vaccum in your mouth. The water pours into your sinuses and throat. You struggle to expel water periodically by building enough pressure in your lungs. With the saran wrap though each time I expelled water, I was able to draw in less air. Finally the lungs can no longer expel water and you begin to draw it up into your respiratory tract.

It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying.

I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You [b]know[b] you are dead and it's too late. Involuntary and total panic.

There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It would be like telling you not to blink while I stuck a hot needle in your eye.

At the time my lungs emptied and I began to draw water, I would have sold my children to escape. There was no choice, or chance, and willpower was not involved.

I never felt anything like it, and this was self-inflicted with a watering can, where I was in total control and never in any danger.

And I understood.

Waterboarding gets you to the point where you draw water up your respiratory tract triggering the drowning reflex. Once that happens, it's all over. No question.

Some may go easy without a rag, some may need a rag, some may need saran wrap.

Once you are there it's all over.

I didn't allow anybody else to try it on me. Inconceivable. I know I only got the barest taste of what it's about since I was in control, and not restrained and controlling the flow of water.

But there's no chance. No chance at all.

So, is it torture?

I'll put it this way. If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I'd take the fingers, no question.

It's horrible, terrible, inhuman torture. I can hardly imagine worse. I'd prefer permanent damage and disability to experiencing it again. I'd give up anything, say anything, do anything.

The Spanish Inquisition knew this. It was one of their favorite methods.

It's torture. No question. Terrible terrible torture. To experience it and understand it and then do it to another human being is to leave the realm of sanity and humanity forever. No question in my mind.

David Weman Is Shrill!

He says that Jonathan Rauch is a horrible human being:

Jonathan Rauch is a horrible human being | afoe | A Fistful of Euros | European Opinion: I'll do a rare US-centric post, because this kind of stunned me. Rauch argues that republicans will call a democratic withdrawal from Iraq a stab in the back, and to avoid that Democrats should stretch out withdrawal over several years.

Why that would stop the wingnuts from shouting treason he doesn't bother to explain, but more importantly: The lives or Iraqis or US troops goes unmentioned. The US national interest goes unmentioned. Just avoid contentiousness at all cost. Oh, and if there is any contentiousness it'll be the dirty hippies fault.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Matthew Yglesias Is Shrill!

It's the idiocy of Mark Penn:

Penn's Bad Spin (Media): Mark Penn's latest memo:

Change Begins March 4th. Hillary leads in the three largest, delegate rich states remaining: Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These three states have 492 delegates - 64 percent of the remaining delegates Hillary Clinton needs to win the nomination.

Chris Orr notes that this only works "If Clinton wins all three states by margins of 100-0." Penn doesn't seem to really understand spin. The point of spin is to make the person on whose behalf the spinning is happening look better, not worse. There's no point in just saying any old thing. What's more, it's not really surprising that he's bad at spin -- he's a pollster. Spinning is a distinct skill-set. But for some reason he seems to be doing an awful lot of it, and not very well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wingnut Hax of the Gamma Quadrant!


Lisa Shiffrin: The Corner on National Review Online: the great political edifice of my era — Reaganism — begat no heirs. Ronald Reagan was sui generis.... [I]n that somewhat removed way of his, while he inspired hundreds of millions around the world, he did not groom any real heirs at home.... [T]he first generation of Reagan revolutionaries, who rose in the House and Senate in the 1980s and early 90s, have pretty much all flamed out.... Ronald Reagan's legacy remains great in a post-Cold War world. But here at home the ideals that he himself never really got to institute — genuinely smaller government that is less involved in our lives, the abolition of certain federal departments, truly low taxes, a reversion to more conservative social norms of family structure — that particular shining city on a hill recedes from vision...

Reagan "never really got to institute" his ideals because they checkmated each other. He was (a) a social conservative who (b) believed in live-and-let-live and letting gay people alone. He was (c) a tax cutter who (d) believed in balancing the budget and (e) having government help everybody (d) except the welfare queens. He believed in (f) confronting the Soviet Union while (g) trusting Gorbachev.

Reagan's only three legacies are:

  • upward redistribution from middle class to rich

  • slow economic growth for a decade as the Reagan deficits sapped national saving, and

  • a brave push toward breaking open and ending the Cold War, as George Shultz, Nancy Reagan, and her astrologer outmaneuvered the wingnut neoconservative Republican machine.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Felix Salmon Is Really Shrill

It's the Ben Stein watch:

Ben Stein Watch: February 10, 2008 - Finance Blog - Felix Salmon - Market Movers - One of the more subtly irritating things about Ben Stein's NYT column is the fact that he seems so cavalier and ungrateful about the fact that he has such an influential pulpit from which to broadcast his biweekly blather. The amount of time and effort he put into this week's column, for instance, was probably less than he expends on trimming his nose hair on a monthly basis. It's an incoherent mess which any self-respecting NYT editor would immediately reject out of hand if it came from anybody else.... This week, Stein's thesis, insofar as he has one, is so obscured by his inarticulacy that it's quite difficult to actually object to anything in the column.

Certainly, the standard Stein touchstones are there: Bob Dylan, "this great nation", "fiduciary entities", derivatives which are "subject to manipulation", "the climate of fear the news media have whipped up", "Anyone? Anyone?".

And there are some easy-to-spot falsehoods and silly exaggerations, too. For one thing, the whole column leans upon the fragile conceit that subprime mortgage lending is usury - which it clearly isn't. Single-digit interest rates can be high, but they can't be usurious. Stein talks about the high yields on bonds backed by subprime mortgages, when in fact the boom was fuelled by the low yields on those bonds.... Note the litany of losers: investment banks are "suffering badly", buy-side institutions are "hurt", but it's shareholders who are "hurt drastically" and who have been "severely limited" in their ability to sue those banks.

Now I thought that the big problem in the US (and world) economy is the credit crunch - the fact that liquidity in debt markets has dried up, with nastly implications for economic growth. But Stein looks at everything from the point of view of a stock-market investor: what's going on in credit markets really doesn't matter unless and until it starts dragging down equities. When the credit markets were in turmoil but the stock markets were doing fine, Stein was perfectly happy. Now that the stock markets have followed the credit markets down, he's mad, and he wants someone, anyone - regulators, judges, he doesn't mind - to ride to his rescue...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

If George Bush Will Be Long-Rememebered, Will the Shrillness Ever End?

George Bush continues his quest to drive every single human being on the planet to shrillness. Since it looks like he will be sending new entrants to Shrillblog for a long, long time, and given the large fraction of people he has already driven over the edge, he may have a chance of reaching his cherished goal:

Interview with Author Philip Roth, Spiegel: …
SPIEGEL: What will remain of the current president, George W. Bush? Could he be forgotten once he leaves office?

Roth: He was too horrendous to be forgotten. There will be an awful lot written about this. And there's a lot to be written about the war. There's a lot to be written about what he did with Reaganism, since he went much further than Reagan. So he won't be forgotten. Someone has said he's the worst American president we've ever had. I think that's true.


Roth: Well, the biggest thing would be the war, the deceptions surrounding the entrance into the war. The absolute cynicism that surrounds the deception. The cost of the war, the Treasury and the lives of the Americans. It's hideous. There is nothing quite like it. The next thing would be the attitude towards global warming, which is a global crisis, and they were utterly indifferent, if not hostile, to any attempt to address it. And so on and so on and so on and so on. So he's done a lot of harm.

SPIEGEL: Since your book is set in that week during the 2004 elections, can you explain why Americans voted for Bush once again?

Roth: I suspect it was the business of being in a war and not wanting to change, and political stupidity. Why does anybody elect anybody? I thought highly of John Kerry when he began, but he couldn't stand up against Bush. The Democrats aren't brutes, which is too bad, because the Republicans are brutes. Brutes win.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Susan Faludi Is Shrill

In the New York Observer:

Hillary and the Feminine Gaze, Up Close and Personal | The New York Observer: THIRTY WAYS OF LOOKING AT HILLARY: REFLECTIONS BY WOMEN WRITERS. Edited by Susan Morrison: Let's imagine this book's concept%u201430 well-known women writers talk about how they "feel" about Hillary Clinton%u2014applied to 30 male writers and a male presidential candidate. Adjusting for gender, the essay titles would now read: "Barack's Underpants," "Elect Brother Frigidaire," "Mephistopheles for President," "The Road to Codpiece-Gate," and so on. Inside, we would find ruminations on the male candidate's doggy looks and flabby pectorals; musings on such "revealing" traits as the candidate's lack of interest in backyard grilling, industrial arts and pets; and mocking remarks about his lack of popularity with the cool boys on the playground (i.e., the writers and their "friends"). We would hear a great deal of speculation about whether the candidate was really manly or just "faking it." We would hear a great deal about how the candidate made them feel about themselves as men and whether they could see their manhood reflected in the politician's testosterone displays.... And we would hear virtually nothing about the candidate's stand on political issues.

Susan Morrison, the editor of Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary (who's also the articles editor of The New Yorker, and former editor in chief of this newspaper), defends the absence of political analysis in the book thusly: "There's plenty of Hillary Studies literature out there that parses the candidate's stands on policy issues, her Senate votes, and her track record as first lady. This book isn't aiming at that kind of op-ed territory. Rather, it's an attempt to look at the ways in which women think about Hillary (and why they think so much about Hillary), how they make their judgments about her, which buttons she pushes in them and why."

Actually, the op-ed territory is awash with exactly the same sort of trivializing dissection. Hillary Studies pundits are obsessed with the candidate's hairdos, outfits, cookie-baking comments, supposedly "cold" personality and even, most recently, her failure to apply "The Rules" style of dating in her politics. The ratio of trenchant political commentary to personal pot-shotting on the subject of Hillary Clinton in the larger media realm is precisely echoed in the pages of this book, which seems intended to reprise the op-ed fixations, not to bury them. The result is a good deal of convenient psychologizing, self-absorbed meanderings and unearned snipes%u2014and a handful of efforts to take a respectable step back from how-do-I-personally-feel-about-Hillary thumb-suckery.

MANY OF THE writers in Thirty Ways are busy reviewing their own lives and taking their own temperatures, some with notable self-regard. Others are preoccupied with such pressing questions as, is Hillary a dog or cat person? Does she like olive burgers or Boca burgers? If she did have a hobby, what would it be?...

Jonathan Schwarz on the U.N. Deception: What Exactly Colin Powell Knew Five Years Ago, and What He Told the World

Jonathan Schwarz is shrill:

MotherJones Blog: The U.N. Deception: What Exactly Colin Powell Knew Five Years Ago, and What He Told the World: Colin Powell presented the case against Iraq to the UN Security Council five years ago today, on February 5, 2003.

As much criticism as Powell has received for this%u2014he calls it "painful" and something that will "always be a part of my record"%u2014it hasn't been close to what's justified. Powell was far more than just horribly mistaken: the evidence is conclusive that he fabricated evidence and ignored repeated warnings that what he was saying was false.

Unfortunately, Congress has never investigated Powell's use of the intelligence he was given. Even so, what's already in the public record is extremely damning. So while the corporate media has never taken a close look at this record, anyone can go through Powell's presentation line by line to examine the chasm between what he knew, and what he told the world. As you see below, there's quite a lot to say about it.

Matthew Yglesias Is Shrill!

He looks at the Washington mainline press corps, and throws up:

Matthew Yglesias: Washington Post: "Shocked, Shocked By Mukasey on Torture": This Washington Post editorial on Michael Mukasey's "tortured testimony" would sit a whole lot better with me if the Post had taken the same line back during Mukasey's confirmation hearings. After all, all this was perfectly clear back then -- asked directly whether he would condemn torture as torture, he declined to do so. So why are we surprised when, as AG, he refuses to do it?

There's some kind of weird sense in which to maintain your respectable Village ID card you need to both resolutely oppose torture and oppose all the political steps that might actually put a stop to it. Instead, you're supposed to have childlike faith that Bush and his henchmen are going to stop it themselves because, after all, they're sweet and wonderful people. Or something.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Kung Fu Monkey Is Hypershrill!

Kung Fu Monkey: Lunch Discussions #145: The Crazification Factor:

John: ... I mean, what will it take? That last speech literally made no sense. It was crazy drunken bar talk! Islamic radicals are like COMMUNISM?! (gets speech on laptop) If we don't fight terrorists in Iraq they'll build a fundamentalist terrorist state stretching from Spain to Indonesia? What the fuck? Even assuming Spain, which last time I checked is 95% Roman Catholic, goes down, you gotta assume France, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, all eight hundred million Hindus in India, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore would be somewhat of an obstacle.

Tyrone: To be fair, you're going west-to-east. Maybe he meant a fundamentalist terrorist state stretching from Spain to Indonesia going east-to-west. Going that way, there's only the U.S. The President could be warning us that if we don't prevail in Iraq, the United States will become a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist state.

John: ... a little oblique, isn't it?

Tyrone: The man is nothing if not subtle.

John: (calling up map on laptop) You know, I guess if you start in Spain, swing hard south through northern Africa, you got Algeria, Libya there, Egypt, cross the Red Sea and you're in the Middle East ...

Tyrone: From there, if you spot him the Indian Ocean and India, you're in Indonesia.

John: I am not spotting him eight hundred million Hindus. I call shenanigans.

Tyrone: And again, I must point out Bush said "the militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, allowing them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region." That's what the militants believe. They may just be delusional. He says that himself: "Some might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. Well, they are fanatical and extreme -- and they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed."

John: But he's citing that desire as a basis for our strategy. You can't cite your enemy's delusional hopes as a basis for a rational strategy. Goals don't exist in a vacuum, they're linked to capability. David Koresh was utterly committed to being Jesus Christ. See how far that got him.

Either Bush is making strategy based on a delusional goal of his opponent, which is idiotic; or he's saying he believes his opponent has the capability of achieving this delusional goal, which is idiotic. Neither bodes well for the republic.

Tyrone: Reading here, the speech boiled down to two points --

John: Who cares? The Spain-to-Indonesia thing should automatically invalidate the whole speech. I don't care how good your investment advisor is, he can spend three hours reviewing mutual funds, as soon as he says "And of course, we can put your money into the Easter Bunny's Egg Upgrades", he is out of --

Tyrone: -- two points. First, Iraq is the keystone in the struggle between the West and Islamic Fundamentalism.

John: Which, if we accept the Administration's own argument, means that invading and destabilizing Iraq with insufficent post-war planning (and all that entails), not enough personnel, and shitty equipment for that personnel was the biggest screw-up in the War on Terror.

Tyrone: He's the President: if he says it, it must be true. Second, Bush says we have made a lot of progress in stopping al-Queda plots. Look: "Overall, the United States and our partners have disrupted at least ten serious al Qaeda terrorist plots since September the 11th, including three al Qaeda plots to attack inside the United States. We've stopped at least five more al-Qaeda efforts to case targets in the United States, or infiltrate operatives into our country."

John: What are they counting for those wins? Are they counting guys like Padilla?* This is all very gooey, like how we've killed like, nine of Osama Bin Laden's #3 guys.

Tyrone: Being #3 in Al-queda is like being a "creative vice president" at a Hollywood studio. There are dozens of them ... and they are expendable. Listen, don't do this, you're just getting worked up. Have another mozzarella stick.

John: Hey, Bush is now at 37% approval. I feel much less like Kevin McCarthy screaming in traffic. But I wonder what his base is --

Tyrone: 27%.

John: ... you said that immmediately, and with some authority.

Tyrone: Obama vs. Alan Keyes. Keyes was from out of state, so you can eliminate any established political base; both candidates were black, so you can factor out racism; and Keyes was plainly, obviously, completely crazy. Batshit crazy. Head-trauma crazy. But 27% of the population of Illinois voted for him. They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever ahead of rational judgement. Hell, even like 5% of Democrats voted for him. That's crazy behaviour. I think you have to assume a 27% Crazification Factor in any population.

John: Objectively crazy or crazy vis-a-vis my own inertial reference frame for rational behaviour? I mean, are you creating the Theory of Special Crazification or General Crazification?

Tyrone: Hadn't thought about it. Let's split the difference. Half just have worldviews which lead them to disagree with what you consider rationality even though they arrive at their positions through rational means, and the other half are the core of the Crazification -- either genuinely crazy; or so woefully misinformed about how the world works, the bases for their decision making is so flawed they may as well be crazy.

John: You realize this leads to there being over 30 million crazy people in the US?

Tyrone: Does that seem wrong?

John: ... a bit low, actually.

Tyrone: (shrugs) Probably right, then. Speaking of Obama, I need to get t-shirts printed up to sell.

John: I can do that on the web. What do they say?

Tyrone: Don't You Dare Kill Obama

John: How about Don't You Dare Kill Obama (... and we know you're thinking about it)

Tyrone: Niiiiice.

John: Or You Kill Obama and WE WILL BURN SHIT DOWN

Tyrone: Even better. Nobody wants their shit burned down.

John: Glad to help.

Tyrone: I'm having you taken off the list for when the revolution comes.

John: ... there's really a list --

Tyrone: Oh yeah. Hell yeah.