Thursday, August 28, 2008

Here's another response to a question Norm raised about dissent, a great example of how some idiots in this country want to shut down debate with attacks of anti-patriotism. What's really sad, though, is that few people have the guts to ask the simple question "what the F@#* are you talking about?". Huzzah Chris!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Space Age

I bring to you, reader of PaddyWop, a question and ensuing response from a speech given by General Hayden, Director of CIA at the the Council on Foreign Relations in New York last fall. This gets directly to the controversy over interrogation, in my opinion General Hayden makes a very good point both here and earlier, in the main body of his speech, which can be found here:

QUESTIONER: I'm Mike Posner from Human Rights First. General Hayden, you spoke at the beginning of your remarks about the distinction between law and rules and then space. And I want to focus n the rules relating to interrogations.

Last year about this time, the president spoke, and he asked Congress for authority for the agency to be involved in what he called enhanced interrogation techniques. This is things like stress positions, use of dogs, hypothermia, mock drowning, waterboarding. The Congress said no to that, led by Senators McCain, Graham and Warner. The military's also said no to that, and all of the senior military lawyers have been very clear that those techniques violate Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, in public testimony before Congress.

And yet a month -- six weeks ago, the administration passed an executive order seemingly allowing again the CIA to engage in these enhanced techniques.

From my perspective, it seems to me like this is more than asking for space; what you're really trying to do is change the rules. The question is, why do you need these enhanced techniques? Why shouldn't every U.S. agency operate by a single standard compliant with Common Article 3?

HAYDEN: First let me make comment on your listing of techniques and just frankly add that it's a pretty good example of taking something to the darkest corner of the room and not reflective of what my agency does.

Now let's talk about the history, last October. With the Hamdan decision, the Supreme Court extended the protection of Common Article 3 to the unlawful combatants of al Qaeda. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm frankly surprised by that aspect of the decision, in that Common Article 3 refers to conflicts not of an international character. And this one does certainly seem to be conflict of an international character.

Our problem was not that we wanted the Congress to approve any techniques. Our problem was, we didn't know what Common Article 3 meant in the context of American law. When the Senate ratified a variety of other portions of the Geneva Convention, the legislative history or specific statements of the Senate clarified the meaning of the international treaty in terms of American law. For example, the Convention Against Torture is carefully hooked in the legislative history to the prohibition in domestic law against cruel and inhuman punishment articulated by the 5th, 8th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

The Congress had made no clarifying language with regard to Common Article 3. And any, I think, fair reading of Common Article 3 would point out that it would be very hard for me to direct an officer of the agency to do things with the vagaries of the language in Common Article 3. So I wasn't looking for a carve out; I was looking for a definition.

One of the outs that was offered to the agency was that we in the -- it turns out to be the Military Commissions Act. We in the Military Commissions Act will criminalize certain kinds of activities. And as long as your officers don't do these activities, they won't be prosecuted. And therefore you'll be safe from -- well, you'll be safe from prosecution.

The agency as a whole and myself in particular rejected that solution. Because what it -- what it would put me in the position of doing would be to turn to an agency officer and say, I would like you to do this with regard to this detainee, okay; I have no idea whether or not it violates the Geneva Convention, because I don't know what it means, but I'm pretty sure you'll never go to court for it, so would you go do that for me? And that's about the worst locker room speech I can imagine giving to an agency employee.

So we insisted on clarity for Common Article 3. The Congress decided that they would not offer that clarity but they then would instead reinforce the already existent presidential right to define the meaning for treaties for the United States. And so there's actual language in the Military Commissions Act that has the president doing that, and it requires him to publish his executive order in the Federal Register, which is what he did.

It's clear that what it is we do as agency is different from what is contained in the Army Field Manual. I don't know of anyone who has looked at the Army Field Manual who could make the claim that what's contained in there exhausts the universe of lawful interrogation techniques consistent with the Geneva Convention. The Army Field Manual was crafted to allow America's Army to train large numbers of young men and women to debrief and interrogate, for tactical purposes, transient prisoners on a fast-moving battlefield.

CIA handles a very small number of senior al Qaeda leaders. The average age of our interrogators is 43. The amount of training for this specific activity is 240 hours. So the reason we're not covered by the Army Field Manual is that we're not in the DOD. We weren't consulted about the Army Field Manual, and no one ever claimed that the Army Field Manual exhausted all the lawful tools that America could have to protect itself.

FRIEDMAN: Thank you.

C [above] explaining the subtleties of race and nuclear war...prompting Kathleen [below] to seek escape in another pint of Beamish

I have to admit that I would certainly miss such evenings were I to move to Alaska. The productivity of my Saturday, however, was somewhat compromised. Norm, did you make it home before 6am?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Since I can't rant on Norm tonight

Norm at Nite---The candidates at the Saddleback Church

Norm at Nite will open the phones to you tonight at 11:00PM to talk about the John McCain and Barak Obama appeareance at the Saddleback Church and their conversations with Rick Warren. What role should religion be playing in the presidential election or any election for that matter. Call in and let Norm and the audience know what you think. Bear with the show tonite as it will be coming to you from a new location. Norm will not have IM capability tonite. Here is link to a blog in The New Republic that gives some background on the issue.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Apparently Nobody Studies the Peloponnesian War Anymore

This administration never ceases to amaze with its astounding stupidity. To force (and yes we did force it on them) an anti-ballistic missile system upon Poland just days after Russia bared its teeth, and its frustration, in Georgia displays such a complete lack of understanding of both Russia and the basics of international diplomacy; well, no surprise there I guess considering Bush's track record. Shit, and Rice was even a professor of Soviet Studies! One just gapes. I'd send em all copies of Thucydides if I was convinced they even knew how to read. Jesus, let us get through the next 5 months without Bush dragging us down even further. I think the world would be much better off if W just spent the time on his 'ranch' playing cowboy.

And what was that bullshit by McCain that we're 'all Georgians now'? I doubt 5% of Americans could even find Georgia on a map let alone give a shit what happens to it. And if Bush had gotten his way last year and Georgia had been added to the NATO Alliance, we would now be treaty obliged to fight the Russians. Oh wait, that's right, the United States doesn't abide by international treaties. Phweh

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika by Alfons Heck

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
A non-fictional 'coming-of-age' story that puts Holden Caufield's self-absorbed whiney ass to shame. At age 16, Heck became commander of 6000 of the Third Reich's last defenders, many of them just boys of 13 and 14, of the Westwall along the Rhine. Heck provides insight into the importance of the Hitler Youth in establishing and defending the Nazi regime: "A Hitler Youth uniform was as dangerous as an SS, especially if one was a leader or officer." Heck relates rather poignantly a discussion he has in Februrary of 1945 which elicits a Luftwaffen major to exclaim "Christ, what have we done to our children?" And many in the post-war world looked upon the youth of Germany as misguided children (the minimal attention paid to Pope Benedict's past comes to mind), but Heck points out that "we misguided children had been far more ruthless than our elders." Read this if you want to understand the fanaticism of youth and why modern madrassas present such a threat to the stability of the Islamic world. And read this if you happen to know Germans who survived the war and wish to understand them better. In describing his increasingly militant attitude while Germany suffered annihilation in the last year of the war, Heck also incidentally provokes some soul-searching over the efficacy of the Anglo-American 'strategic' bombing campaign, and, by association, the effectiveness of any bombing campaign (American, Islamic, or otherwise) in destroying the will of youth schooled in violence and hate.

I give Heck some credit for at least trying to come to terms with his Nazi past and acknowledging the sins of the regime and of every German associated with it. There are pearls of wisdom here for anyone who mindlessly adopts mottos (pro patria!) or blindly accepts the policies of their leaders out of some twisted notion that it would be unpatriotic not to support the president (especially "'n a time of war'). "We, a civilized human people, had allowed ourselves to become indifferent to brutality committed by our own government on our own citizens. And yet, I never once during the Hitler years thought of myself as anything but a decent, honorable young German, blessed with a glorious future." A final word to all of those out there who, like myself, teach: While not attempting to exonerate himself, Heck does particularly damn the educators of Germany: "not only had they allowed themselves to be deceived, but they had delivered us, their children, into the cruel power of a new God."

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[Something to consider when assessing the impact of someone like the so-called reverend Wright my friend.]

Friday, August 08, 2008


There has been a great deal of upheaval over Rev. Wright's statements about the 911 attacks being a reaction to American actions and policies in the Muslim world. A recent article in the Columbia Review of Journalism may put his statements in a different light. The article also made me re-think my whole view of dissent.
Go read Dissent Deficit and then call into Norm at Nite on Tuesday Night at 11pm and give me your view. The article will be the focus of the show.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire by Morris Berman

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Cultural and social historian Morris Berman exposes what many of us who still read have known all along, i.e. that the life of the mind in a mindless America has been drowned by a huge consumeristic fantasy. Arnold Toynbee observed that it is precisely in the declining phase of a civilization that it beats the drums of self-congratulation most fiercely. Similarly Berman points out that the dominant public voice in reaction to the destruction of our culture and civility is one of insistent celebration, which is exactly why there is no hope in avoiding the immanent collapse. In this globalized distopia, Berman argues that the repeal of the Bretton-Woods Agreement in 1971 set the stage for the current predatory economy, eroded real democracy, and destabilized the American empire both at home at abroad. The fact that this book was written prior to the scandals - legal, political, and economic - of the second Bush administration shows just how prescient, and frightening (to me at least), Berman's take on modern American 'life' is. "We are knee-deep in Orwellian waters, my friends," concludes Berman. "I don't think the future bodes well for our much transformed experiment in democracy."

Quite interestingly, Berman, convinced that the US is already in serious decline, posits that the EU, and not China, may be the next world hegemon in a generation. "Micky Mouse and Coka Cola will continue to have their allure...but in the end, the sheer sensibility of the European approach, its savvy internationalism, and perhaps more solid currency are going to look a lot better than American arrogance and violence.... [and] Europe may come closest to offering its citizens the best lifestyle currently available on the planet."

This is not an anti-Bush rant (though Berman gets his digs in), as 'W' is more symptom than cause, but rather a piece of personal catharsis by a modern Cicero who knows the end approacheth but will be damned to go under without pointing a finger at our own collective stupidity. And lest we forget the Roman pattern, by the time Caligula came along the rot had already taken hold.

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