Reader Ken Schultz asks, "Please tell me you�re going to run a thread on this?"
The this in question is a WashPost story:
ACLU Was Forced to Revise Release on Patriot Act Suit
Justice Dept. Cited Secrecy Rules
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2004; Page A27
When a federal judge ruled two weeks ago that the American Civil Liberties Union could finally reveal the existence of a lawsuit challenging the USA Patriot Act, the group issued a news release.
But the next day, according to new documents released yesterday, the ACLU was forced to remove two paragraphs from the release posted on its Web site, after the Justice Department complained that the group had violated court secrecy rules.
One paragraph described the type of information that FBI agents could request under the law, while another merely listed the briefing schedule in the case, according to court documents and the original news release.
Whole thing here.
Occam's razor usually is a good guide when conspiracies are rumored to be afoot. What then to make of the news that Zacarias Moussaoui had Nick Berg's email password and that the FBI questioned Berg about that fact?
The official explanation is coincidence.
That is just a tough sell even though I have no particular theory to offer in its place. All I know is that the official account of the Iraqi police holding Berg in Mosul more or less independently of American control never made any sense and now appears to be utterly false.
Oh for the days when all we had to worry about were interns, thongs, and blowjobs.
Did the Justice Department lie to the Supreme Court about the use of torture? Eric Muller considers the evidence.
This week the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the threat that cinematic depictions of smoking pose to the nation's youth. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and other senators want Hollywood to make fewer movies that depict smoking and to put an R rating on those that do. The Motion Picture Association of America's Jack Valenti rejected both suggestions, saying directors should be free to include smoking in their films when they think it's appropriate and that taking smoking into account in rating movies would open the door to criteria based on all sorts of agendas: Does the film include characters who overeat, litter, fail to recycle, speed, talk back to their parents?
The hearing highlighted a study supposedly showing that watching movies in which people smoke makes kids more likely to pick up the habit. “The data indicated that half the adolescents who initiated smoking in this study did so because of viewing smoking in movies,” the lead author testified. “These results confirm prior research by providing strong evidence that viewing smoking in movies promotes smoking initiation among adolescents.” As I noted when the study came out, this is a highly questionable reading of the results. An alternative interpretation is that the sort of kids who watch a lot of R-rated movies (which are more likely to feature smoking) are more inclined to smoke than the sort of kids who mainly watch PG or PG-13 movies.
It sounds like the highlight of the hearing was when anti-smoking activist Stanton Glantz asked, "When are we going to treat smoking as seriously as we treat the word fuck?" Ensign scolded Glantz for violating the Senate's decorum, and Glantz apologized but added that he said the word "deliberately." And he'll say it again if he has to, so Hollywood had better watch out.
[Thanks to Linda Stewart for the link.]
Spc. Jeremy Sivits, the first solider charged in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, has copped a plea, according to this report.
One of the military police officers charged in the abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison has offered to plead guilty and provided investigators with a detailed account of how guards humiliated and beat detainees.
Spec. Jeremy Sivits, one of the seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company facing charges in the case, told investigators in a sworn statement that other prison guards forced detainees to strip, masturbate and pile on top of one another.
Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick forced two detainees to punch each other, Sivits told investigators, according to a transcript.
In another instance, he said, Spec. Charles Graner put a sandbag over a detainee's head and "punched the detainee with a closed fist so hard in the temple that the detainee was knocked unconscious."
From this account, it's not clear what charges Sivits has pleaded guilty to. Nor is it clear that, as Pfc. Lynndie England has done in a couple of interviews, implicated higher-ranking soliders for giving orders to abuse the prisoners.
Jacob Sullum predicts America will run out of fingers before it plugs all the campaign finance reform "loopholes"
What does it say about America when even Russia has a more enlightened drug policy? As of Wednesday, the country's notoriously tough-on-drugs government has eliminated criminal penalties for possessing small quantities of illegal intoxicants. "Under the old law," the Drug War Chronicle reports, "possession of even a single marijuana cigarette could garner a three-year prison sentence." Now possessing up to 10 times the "average single dose" of an illegal drug will be treated as an "administrative infraction," punishable by a fine. According to the Drug War Chronicle, the amounts for that category are as follows:
heroin: 1 gram
cocaine: 1.5 grams
marijuana: 20 grams (dried)
hashish: 5 grams
ecstasy: 0.5 gram
methamphetamine: 0.5 gram
mescaline: 0.5 gram
LSD: 0.003 gram
psilocybin: 0.005 gram
People with between 10 and 50 doses will be subject to larger fines and community service, but not jail time--as long as they're not caught selling the drug. Meanwhile, penalties for drug sales were raised, perpetuating the widespread but puzzling practice of treating people who actually use drugs less harshly than the people who merely help them do so. Still, eliminating the possibility of jail time for users of all these drugs is a big deal, going further than any U.S. state (even those that have "decriminalized" marijuana possession).
Lawrence Weschler, one of America's foremost chroniclers of the unique and peculiar, notes in an LA Times op-ed piece (reg. req.) yesterday that Bush's campaign Web page's section on "compassion" features mostly photographs of the Prez with Americans of the black persuasion. As Weschler's amusing invective puts it:
First one up: short-sleeved Bush, holding a black kid in his arms, a bleacher full of black kids behind him, and he's merrily waving to the crowd. Click "next." And it's Bush at a Waco Habitat for Humanity building site, his arm draped around a black woman, his other hand tapping the shoulder of another of the black construction volunteers. Next: Bush waving to the Urban League. Next: Bush working a crowd, a black � or maybe, in this case, South Indian � kid prominently featured in the foreground, gazing on in amazement. Bush in an African thatch-roofed schoolroom.
And now, there he is again, reading to a different roomful of black schoolchildren. It's amazing � photo after photo, 19 in all, and almost every single one of them giving further testimony to the astonishing capaciousness of the guy's Compassion, by which we are given to understand: He just has no trouble at all touching black people! Hammering with them, bagging groceries, tottering alongside them on weirdly high stools.
It's like Ben Hur among the lepers � the guy doesn't hesitate, he just goes and does it! Why, the Compassion page even includes a photo of him standing next to his own secretary of State, Colin Powell!
Abu Ghraib brings the pranksters out of the woodwork:
The Boston Globe was reeling yesterday after graphic photos of alleged sexual abuse of Iraqi women by U.S. soldiers turned out to be staged shots from a hardcore porn Web site.
For the rest of the story -- including the alleged involvement of the Nation of Islam (?!) -- go here. The article's exultant tone (the headline begins "Globe caught with pants down") is explained by the fact that it's in the Boston Herald.
The Globe didn't actually "run" the photos in the ordinary sense: It ran a picture of speakers at a news conference holding up the photos. Whether you could make out what was going on in the images apparently depended on whether you were looking at the early edition.
"It is beginning to change," says Emad Abbas Qassem, a lieutenant in the Facility Protection Service (FPS), at his post outside a central Baghdad education ministry office. "It's not only the people, but my wife, my family and brothers tell me: 'Go to work and do your duty.' They used to be so afraid."
Indeed, the number of targeted attacks and casualties against security forceshas dropped in recent weeks, relative to previous months. At least 350 Iraqi police were killed in the first year of occupation; that rate dropped dramatically to roughly a dozen killed during April. Lieutenant Qassem estimates a 50 percent drop in the past month alone. "Because we were trained by the Americans, [Iraqis] dealt with us like we were Americans," he says.
Leaving aside all questions of the propriety of the war/occupation, this sort of article represents a striking contrast to the typical media narrative coming out of Iraq, which is buttressed not simply by horrific episodes such as Nick Berg's execution but also the sabotaging of oil pipelines, and the like.
Quite frankly, from a distance--and with a general lack of knowledge of what post-war occupations are like--I find it extremely difficult to evaluate conflicting news reports. It's easy (and not invalid) for pro-war and anti-war observers to argue from ideology, but it remains hard to get a good grip on what the situation is actually like, or any sense of context or historical perspective.
Lee Harris has an interesting piece about the "The War of Images" over at Tech Central Station. A snippet:
The enemy's compelling images show what we are fighting against in Iraq; but there are no equally compelling images that show us what we are fighting for -- an "image gap" that is already causing many well wishers of the administration to question a policy in which we are endlessly willing to help a people who refuses to offer us even a single image of themselves caught in the act of displaying friendliness toward us -- a people who, on the contrary, take every photo opportunity given to them to show how much and how deeply they hate us; and who, when not given such an opportunity by us, are quite able to make one for themselves.
I'm not sure I agree with Harris' full analysis, but he raises a number of interesting points, and one thing is clear (whether you're for or against the war): The Bush administration has done a real botch job of the occupation of Iraq, and not simply because of conditions on the ground there.
It has failed to (literally) represent the occupation or justify its cause in ways that are convincing to most Americans. It may be that that simply can't be done. That, as Harris suggests, given the costs involved (in lives and money), the vast majority of Americans will not sign on to the mission of democratizing, liberalizing, etc., Iraq and/or the Middle East and/or the Central Asian Islamic world. Or, same thing, that whatever initial willingness to bear those burdens is wearing out fast as the costs become apparent.
The AP is reporting from Lebanon that both Hezbollah and Hamas have been moved to condemn the butchering of Nicholas Berg by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. According to the wire's lede, "the language they used Thursday was unusually tough."
True, both organizations use terms like "grisly" and "brutal." Still, Hezbollah added that, "By its suspicious actions and links, this group belongs to the Pentagon school � the school of killings, occupation, crime, torture and immoral practices as exposed by the big scandal in the occupation prisons." As for Hamas, its man in Beirut, Osama Hamdan, told AP that "U.S. President George Bush and [Berg's] killers are equally responsible."
Then there's the "militant" group Islamic Jihad. According to AP reporter Hussein Dakroub, Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Imad Rifai "said he couldn't be sure Berg was dead."
Rifai explained that "I didn't see the man's body."
Some selected responses to the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse story.
The message is perfectly consistent with what Americans can see almost any day of the week on MTV, HBO, or until recently, Howard Stern.
The Americans sexually humiliated Iraqi prisoners, forcing them to masturbate, to wear women's underwear, and to commit (or feign committing) unnatural acts, and captured it on film. If they had done this stateside in different circumstances, they might be very rich and perhaps even up for an Adult Video Award.
Left-wing critics of the Iraq war are no doubt delighted to finally see evidence of the atrocities they falsely accused a previous generation of soldiers of committing.
But nothing going on in Iraq is quite as alarming as the panic of our political class about it.
Obviously, very real abuses occurred at Abu Ghraib, but news operations don't show pictures of rape victims, never mind actual rapes, even when they're sure they're real and the consequences for doing so are comparatively meager. [�]
CBS's scoop has gotten someone killed [�]
1. The Abu Ghraib "scandal": Good. Kick one for me. But bad discipline in the military (taking the pictures, I mean). Let's have a couple of courts martial for appearance's sake. Maximum sentence: 30 days CB.
2. The US press blowing up the Abu Ghraib business: Fury at these lefty jounalists doing down America. They just want to re-live the glory days of Vietnam, when they brought down a president they hated. (PS: They hated him because he was an anticommunist, while they themselves tought [sic]communism was just fine.)
If you think you can fight a war against a ferocious and unappeasable enemy without your interrogators kicking prisoners, you are dreaming.
No wonder Goldberg wishes the photos had never been released.
Matt Welch talks to the FEC Chairman about today's vote.
Charles Paul Freund considers the contest over the Abu Ghreib and Nick Berg images.
Cathy Young reconsiders Solzhenitsyn.
One of the most famous victims of pseudoscientific hubris is David Reimer, best known as the subject of the book As Nature Made Him. Last week he committed suicide at age 38.
Here's the Associated Press' summary of the story that made him famous:
After a botched circumcision operation when he was a toddler, David Reimer became the subject of a study that became known as the John/Joan case in the 60's and 70's. His mother said she was still angry with the Baltimore doctor who persuaded her and her husband, Ron, to give female hormones to their son and raise him as a daughter.
As he grew up as Brenda in Winnipeg, he faced cruelty from the other children. "They wouldn't let him use the boys' washroom or the girls'," Ms. Reimer recalled. "He had to go in the back alley."
His sexual reassignment was then widely reported as a success and proof that children are not by nature feminine or masculine but through nurture are socialized to become girls or boys. David's identical twin brother, Brian, offered researchers a matched control subject.
But when, as a teenager, he discovered the truth about his past, he resumed his male identity, eventually marrying and becoming a stepfather to three children.
The villain in this story is John Money -- the "Baltimore doctor" in the AP account -- who not only conceived the treatments but persuaded Reimer's parents to have their son completely castrated and raised as a girl. Money's ideas on gender identity put him in the left wing of sexology, and for much of his career his admirers saw him as a bold pioneer fighting religious reactionaries. The Reimer case cast him in a different light: Suddenly he seemed much more repressive than the conservatives; and suddenly his critics were emerging not just from the right but from the community of open intersexuals whose bodies don't fit easily into either of the ordinary gender categories. Turns out they don't like to be mistreated by social engineers any more than they like to be mistreated by the party of rigid sex roles.
I of course don't know what went through Reimer's mind when he decided to end his life. He had just lost his job, his marriage had split up, and his brother had died not long before, depressing events all. But surely the "therapeutic" abuse he had suffered was a factor in his death. It figured heavily, after all, in almost everything else that happened in his life.
Let's see, 535 times $250, should get free shipping, even a volume discount. Seems like money well spent if it brings us rational copyright laws.
That Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) did not really "get" the issues involved in digital copyright until he bought an iPod shouldn't be that surprising. Staff and interested lobbyists write most complex legislation and members merely sign off on the results. What is surprising is that Doolittle and his allies recognize that their fair use rights as consumers have no place in the world envisioned by movie and recording industry lobbyists.
This time it's Sonia, wife of the assassinated Rajiv, who has just registered a stunning victory in India's national elections.
If you need reminding that America is not quite so bad as other countries, look no further than this story about a New York Times reporter being kicked out of Brazil for criticizing President Luiz In�cio Lula da Silva.
The article, written by Larry Rohter, the Rio de Janeiro bureau chief, and published on Sunday, reported publicly expressed concerns about Mr. da Silva's drinking habits. It said, "Some of his countrymen have begun wondering if their president's predilection for strong drink is affecting his performance in office."
The Brazilian president, making the classic mistake of confusing his person with his office, called the article "a malicious assault on the institution of the presidency."
In the U.S., thank goodness, we base our expulsion of reporters on random enforcement of nonsensical old immigration regulations, not content. The latest such case happened last week at LAX, when British journalist Elena Lappin, who has traveled to the States often without ever being hassled (her husband is American, and she lived here from 1989-93), was stopped, searched, cuffed, driven to a downtown Los Angeles detention center, and sent back home, all for the sin of admitting she was a journalist (as opposed to a tourist, in which case she would have been let right on through). From Lappin's account:
from the moment the decision to deport me was made, I was treated like a dangerous criminal without any basic rights. I was groped and searched. I was fingerprinted; mug shots were taken. Then, with my hands handcuffed behind my back � a particularly painful and demeaning method � I was taken through the airport to a van. Walking handcuffed among free LAX passengers was an indescribably strange experience; more than anything, it brought home the Kafkaesque fact that I was now a prisoner.
Later, I was to spend the night in a "detention tank" behind a thick glass wall, without a chair or bed. It contained only two steel benches, about 15 inches wide, a steel toilet and sink (all in full view of anyone passing by and of the camera observing all), a glaring neon light and a Big Brother-controlled television playing a shopping (!) channel all night. I found it hard to breathe in this human fish tank, yet knocking on the glass, repeatedly, brought no help. When a security officer finally walked by and I shouted through the door that I felt unwell, he wasn't interested.
Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, explained Lappin's handcuffing thusly:
"It's for their safety, for the safety of our officers and the safety of any other individuals who might be in the vehicle."
Too true. Because if history has taught us anything, it's that terrorists stupid enough to pose as easily verifiable journalists instead of just waltzing in on a tourist visa are a particularly grave threat to our safety�. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick has a good column on all of this, including some surprising personal testimony on the unique challenges of entering this country repeatedly as a non-citizen.
The BBC reports that Salam Pax's The Baghdad Blog, the book that consists largely of his famous blog entries, will be produced as a film by Intermedia. The chairman of the company's film division says that Salam is "like a Nick Hornby in the middle of a war."
Here is a fascinating--and very long--article on the rise of real-world economic institutions surrounding virtual game worlds, including currency traders, brokers and arbitragers in virtual goods, low-wage sweatshops, and, of course, academic economists to study them all.
[Link via Arts and Letters Daily]
Perennial failed California Republican candidate Bruce Herschensohn pens a vile column urging the U.S. to "pull out all the stops" in the War on Terrorism in order to achieve "total victory," lest we want to "march to re-education camps, � become boat people" or "become a Western mirror of Cambodia's genocide." (What shaky faith in American democracy our Bruce has.) He doesn't mention torture by name, but that's the clear subtext here. Snippet:
It may seem to be a radical idea, but why not use every means possible � without politically correct detours � to win the war against terrorism?
Our victory in World War II was not achieved by trying to win the hearts and minds of Germans and Japanese. We did not dominate the newsreels with pictures of those things a few American troops did to captured enemies. We did not call for an end to domestic profiling. We did not demonstrate against our military involvement. There was not the outrageous political complaint that "I support the troops but oppose the war."
Instead of all that, we bombed our enemies to submission with all the power and weaponry we had available.
To answer Herschensohn's opening question in the good faith it doesn't deserve: Terrorism, unlike Japan and Germany, is not a country. Its soldiers can be and are recruited from the West, as well as crappy Islamic countries, and you can damn well be sure that if the U.S. follows Herschensohn's excitable instructions by embracing torture and the deliberate bombing of civilians not just in Iraq but in "Syria and Lebanon and Iran and Yemen and the West Bank and Gaza," then there will no end to the supply of willing suicide bombers obsessed with Uncle Sam. In the meantime, we will have become monsters.
Like that famous Stanford torture experiment, some of the pro-war commentariat's reaction to Abu Ghraib has been a shocking reminder that there are many who walk among us that truly believe that the ends justify the means, that opposing American torture is "politically correct" (if ever there were a time to bury that dead phrase, I vote now), and that there is no practical downside to expanding and exerting American power willy-nilly in the world. Ironically, the many who are urging us to "keep things in perspective" and "stay the course in Iraq," are, by their supporting arguments and disgusting rationalizations, making an increasingly convincing case to do precisely the opposite.
Survey data released today indicate that the share of New Yorkers who smoke fell from 21.6 percent in 2002 to 19.3 percent in 2003. The drop followed a dramatic increase in the combination of city, state, and federal cigarette taxes, which more than doubled, from $1.53 to $3.39 a pack, in 2002.
Given the increasingly hostile environment created by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to make New York smoke-free, it's possible that some of this decline reflects smokers' greater reluctance to admit that they're still puffing away. But it looks like about one out of 10 smokers not only decided that $7.50 or $8 a pack was too much to pay but did not want to take the trouble of buying cigarettes online, outside the city, or from smugglers. (The New York Times reports that bootlegged cigarettes can be purchased on street corners for about $5 a pack, and the fact that taxed cigarette sales have fallen by 40 percent, or nearly four times the measured decline in smokers, suggests that many people are taking advantage of such alternatives.) In other words, about 100,000 New Yorkers who were undeterred by the prospect of lung cancer, heart disease, or emphysema decided to give up smoking because the habit had become too expensive or inconvenient.
"It is not at all surprising," an anti-smoking activist told the Times. "This is what we said all along would happen if you sharply raised the cost of smoking." But they've also said all along that government intervention is justified because nicotine addiction prevents people from freely choosing whether to smoke. Whatever you think of using financial penalties to encourage healthier habits, the fact that smokers respond to them demonstrates the error of equating addiction with slavery. The problem is not that smokers cannot choose; it's that other people don't like their choices.
Whether he personally murdered Nick Berg or was the hideous act's mastermind, Abu Musab Zarqawi has long been a known quantity--and a target of U.S. action.
This March article on MSNBC that details various blown opportunities to capture Zarqawi makes for particularly devastating reading in light of Berg's monstrous execution:
Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.
But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself � but never pulled the trigger.
The article's main source--former National Security Council member Roger Cressey--is controversial, but there seems no doubt that the US had, and missed, many opportunities to capture or kill Zarqawi.
Yesterday's Wall Street Journal includes an interesting article on the evolution of online dating.
"I was instructed by persons in higher rank to `stand there, hold this leash, look at the camera,' and they took picture for PsyOps (psychological operations)," she told the station.
This comes on the heels of Senate testimony by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib accusations for the military. While scathing in his indictment of the military chain of command, Taguba did not find evidence of the abuse being ordered. According to the WashPost:
"We did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers to conduct what they did. I believe that they did it on their own volition," said Taguba, who was deputy commander for military support operations in the Persian Gulf region when he led the investigation.
Which isn't to say that England is necessarily lying--it could well be that she was ordered "by persons of higher rank" among the group charged with the abuse. That also doesn't necessarily excuse her or, as Taguba made clear in his testimony, the higher reaches of military brass.
Iraqi-born Miami University political scientist Adeed Dawisha--an acute observer of the Iraq situation (and a supporter of the aims of the war/occupation)--has told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the Abu Ghraib situation is "disastrous" for the U.S. position in the Arab world. However, he contends that
Dawisha, who is studying the historical roots of democracy in pre-Saddam Iraq, said there is a way to mitigate the damage.
"Complete transparency,'' Dawisha said. "We must deal with this in a transparent way, for all to see."
"We can't talk to the Arab world about democracy and do it in abstract terms,'' the political science professor said. "We must show them.''
The decision to try Spc. Jeremy Sivits for his alleged role in the prisoner abuse in a court martial that will be open to media coverage is a good step, Dawisha said.
Well, sort of. WOXY (97.7 FM in the greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio areas), one of the very best "independent" rock stations in the country--and purportedly the most-listened-to commerical station on the Web--is changing owners tomorrow. WOXY, which went on the air in its current alt-rock format in 1983, gained a measure of national renown when Dustin Hoffman's character in Rainman kept repeating its slogan: "97X--Bam!--The future of rock and roll!"
The new owners, First Broadcasting, pledges to maintain the station as is, and has hired many of the existing staff to run the joint.
The sellers, Doug and Linda Balogh, had hoped to shift their operation to a Web-only stream, but weren't able to find investors to pay the bills. So the site will likely go dark after tomorrow.
UPDATE:From the last employee:
> Hey there - ran across your blog, and just wanted to correct one small
> "The new owners, First Broadcasting, pledges to maintain the station as
> is, and has hired many of the existing staff to run the joint."
> Actually, First hired only 1 person from WOXY ... me. The rest of the
> staff is being supplied by First.
> Just so you knew. and thanks for the plug.
This headline kinda says it all: Cablevision is Adding 3,200 Consumer VoIP Lines per Week in New York .
If voice over IP telephony is really growing that fast, then the old phone network's days are truly numbered.
Iraq's soccer team is going to the Olympics. A 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia coupled with Kuwait's scoreless tie with Oman gave Iraq the much-coveted spot.
The Iraqis might be one of the few teams who feel safer in Athens than at home.
Carson B. Wagner, an advertising professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has studied the effects of colorful anti-drug ads on viewers using not just explicit self-reporting of attitudes but a technique known as response latency measurement of strength of association:
�Rather than directly asking research participants to express their attitudes about drugs, response latency SOA measures allow researchers to gauge people�s attitudes without their direct knowledge, thereby yielding a more accurate measure of the research participant�s attitudes that better predicts behavioral decision-making under various conditions.�
Essentially, response latency measurement involves recording the time it takes a research participant to categorize a positive or negative adjective after being primed with a certain concept�in this instance, illicit drugs. The more quickly the subject categorizes negative adjectives such as �bad� or �horrible,� as opposed to positive adjectives such as �good� or �wonderful,� the stronger and more negative their association with the idea of illicit drugs.
Wagner measured drug attitudes after viewing some Partnership for a Drug-Free America ads using both standard methods and response latency tests:
The results showed that people who self-reported their attitudes after viewing the anti-drug ads expressed strong anti-drug sentiments, as opposed to the weaker anti-drug sentiments measured in the response latency tests after viewing the same anti-drug ads. These findings suggested that, compared to response latency measures, self-report measures exaggerated the effectiveness of anti-drug ads...... �Based on these findings, the self-report surveys may have produced inflated claims of the ads� effects,� he concludes.
One of Wagner's counterintuitive conclusions from this is that for maximal effectiveness, government drug propagandists should try to make their ads less attention-grabbing and to situate them during programs that people are less interested in. (They could also just stop the propaganda war, but Professor Wagner doesn't mention that.)
[Link via Ben Woosley of Libertarian Longhorns]
Amy Sturgis takes a fresh look at Andrew Jackson.
Oh, those wacky FBI tipsters:
It was the lead item on the government's daily threat matrix one day last April. Don Emilio Fulci, described by an FBI tipster as a reclusive but evil millionaire, had formed a terrorist group that was planning chemical attacks against London and Washington, D.C. That day even FBI director Robert Mueller was briefed on the Fulci matter. But as the day went on without incident, a White House staffer had a brainstorm: He Googled Fulci. His findings: Fulci is the crime boss in the popular video game Headhunter.
New at Reason: Loretta Lynn gets Jesse Walker slamdancing.
New at Reason: Cathy Young reacts to the Abu Ghreib scandal.
George Will continues his wandering off the reservation, in a column about Abu Ghraib:
That pornography is, almost inevitably, part of what empire looks like. It does not always look like that, and does not only look like that. But empire is always about domination. Domination for self-defense, perhaps. Domination for the good of the dominated, arguably. But domination.
And some people will be corrupted by dominating. That is why the leaders of empires must be watchful. Very watchful.
As reported by the Associated Press:
Congressional sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they have been told the administration plans to choose three sanctions. One would bar Syrian planes from flying over or landing in the United States. Another would prohibit new investments by U.S. oil companies in Syria. It was not clear whether other U.S. business operations in Syria would also be prohibited. Bilateral trade with Syria is about $300 million a year.
One source said the third penalty would be a ban on U.S. exports to Syria, other than food and medicine.
And we all know what happens when sanctions don't work.
During today's Senate hearing on the Iraqi prisoner abuse, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) outrageously said he's more "outraged at the outrage" over the abuses of the prisoners than he is at the abuse itself. He also says he's outraged that "humanitarian do-gooders" are now prowling around Abu Ghraib looking for wrongdoing.
[Update: Here's a report on Inhofe's statement]
Meanwhile: Should the public see the remaining images of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners?
Here's what three senators say:
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he would like to see the new images of prisoner abuse made public.
"The way the other photos came out was a P.R. disaster and was beyond just a P.R. disaster," Graham said in an interview. "It had a detrimental effect on the war on the terror. Let's not repeat the same mistake twice."
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), another member of the committee, said he also favored a full public disclosure of the photos. "I don't think you gain anything by holding anything back, because it's going to come out sooner or later."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said, "I think we [senators] ought to see them. I can't tell you whether the public should see them. I think the public has enough of a sample to know what went on."
Abu Musab Zarqawi, the monster who apparently sawed through Nick Berg's neck, was targeted on three separate occasions for U.S. military strikes since June 2002, according to NBC News. And three separate times the attack was called off.
Zarqawi, a Jordanian who lived in the Kurd-controlled area of northern Iraq, has a nasty track record:
Mr. Zarqawi is suspected in the killing of Laurence Foley, an official of the United States Agency for International Development, in Amman, Jordan in October 2002.
American officials have blamed Mr. Zarqawi for the March 2 bombings in Baghdad and Karbala in which at least 181 people died. Though they said they had no hard evidence, the officials said he might also have been behind the coordinated suicide bombings in Basra last month in which at least 74 people, including many schoolchildren, were killed.
This quote from the killing video, possibly from Zarqawi, speaks volumes:
"Does Al Qaeda need any more excuses?"
Clearly, it does not.
The Second Amendment Foundation notes that Chicago Alderman Arenda Troutman has arranged for a 24-hour police guard at her home, which was burglarized twice in the last three months. Regarding whether she deserves such special treatment in a city where her fellow citizens not only do not get their own personal cops but are not even allowed to own guns for self-protection, she told the Chicago Sun-Times: "Deserve it? Damn right. I should receive the protection I am receiving. I am an elected official."
As the SAF notes, it's elected officials like Troutman who are responsible for disarming the city's residents, leaving them vulnerable to burglars and other criminals. "In a gun-free gulag like Chicago," says SAF founder Alan Gottlieb, "everyone should have around-the-clock personal police protection."
The Nation has posted a passel of pieces by Jonathan Schell, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and other lesser lefty luminaries that argue for US withdrawal from Iraq. Whole thing here.
The symposium is titled "How to Get Out of Iraq" so, needless to say, there isn't much variation on the theme. One interesting tension arises, however. Former CIA station chief Ray Close argues "There has to be regime change in Washington. It's the only way to solve the Iraq problem," while Jonathan Schell notes that Kerry is pledged to stay in Iraq.
As someone who was against the war and who feels the occupation has been going awfully (though not necessarily as catastrophically as many believe), I've got to say that none of these pieces provides a particularly strong case for "how to get out of Iraq" in a way that's either politically plausible or likely to make anything better there.
The closest anyone comes is, god help us all, sovietologist Stephen F. Cohen, who writes, "The only near-term and honorable way out is by linking a firm US commitment to a phased military withdrawal to an Iraqi popular election for a representative national assembly that would itself, not the occupation authorities or its appointees, choose an interim government, adopt a constitution for the country and then schedule elections for the new permanent institutions of government." Which is not all that different from what's likely to happen anyway.
A Georgia judge has ordered a drug offender to buy a coffin and display it in his home as a reminder of the fate that awaits him if he continues using cocaine. "Some people may think this is silly," the judge conceded. But some no doubt think it's a brilliant idea, especially if this behavior modification technique can be extended to smoking, drinking, overeating, and other potentially deadly habits.
[Thanks to Allen St. Pierre for the link.]
The US has announced it will turn over Saddam Hussein to an Iraqi war crimes tribunal before June 30.
Salem Chalabi said 100 officials of the former regime, like Tariq Aziz and "Chemical" Ali Hasan Majid, would also be returned ahead of any tribunals.
"They will be transferred to us before the transfer of power," he told reporters in Kuwait....
Mr Chalabi, who is in Kuwait to collect evidence against the detainees, said trials would begin early next year.
"We will put 100 people... including Saddam Hussein, on trial," he said.
"The punishments against those criminals will include executions," Mr Chalabi added, in remarks quoted by Reuters.
Whole thing here.
Now here's a Kerry campaign placard I could imagine having on my lawn.
That's the grim headline of a new story out of Iraq. U.S. citizen Nick Berg, who went missing in Iraq on April 9.
A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site showed the beheading of an American civilian in Iraq (news - web sites), and said the execution was carried out by an al-Qaida affiliated group to avenge the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.
The video bore the title "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shown slaughtering an American." It was unclear whether al-Zarqawi � an associated of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) � was shown in the video, or was claiming responsibility for ordering the execution.
Al-Zarqawi also is said to have ties to terrorist groups ranging from Ansar al Islam in Iraq to Egyptian Islamic Jihad. He's believed to be behind many attacks in Iraq, including numerous high-profile operations.
Whole thing here. Apart from all other considerations, it seems to me that this sort of atrocity is far more likely to extend US involvement rather than speed up its end. If the Abu Ghraib abuses have made many Americans--including war supporters--question the U.S. mission there, this sort of thing, like the Daniel Pearl murder, makes Americans want to slug things out more.
Reuters reports that "Hundreds of Iraqis marched in Najaf Tuesday calling on militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to withdraw his fighters from the Shi'ite holy city." The news service called it "the biggest and most public display yet of mounting local exasperation" with Sadr. There was a smaller anti-Sadr demonstration in Najaf on Monday; a bigger march is planned for Friday.
WASHINGTON -- Air travelers are waiting longer and longer at security checkpoints in numerous airports, and airlines and congressional leaders are warning of possible gridlock this summer as air travel reaches record highs in some cities.
Concerns are mounting as the Transportation Security Administration, created after the Sept. 11 attacks to protect airports, has struggled to hire security screeners and left some airports understaffed.
Last year, the TSA cut 14,000 screener positions to reduce its screener work force to 45,000, a level mandated by Congress and now criticized by aviation and airport officials as inadequate. The number dropped to about 44,000 this year as screeners left and were not immediately replaced.
At the same time, the agency increased its non-screening personnel by about 600 employees, adding to its staff of 5,600 administrators, attorneys and analysts, according to personnel records.
Whole thing here.
Not brand-new, but this L.A. Weekly feature on the founders and functioning of Erowid, the Web's most popular information site on exotic mind-altering drugs, is worth a look. Reporter Erik Davis doesn't really press site founders and operators Earth (the guy) and Fire (the girl) on this point, at least not in print, but while Earth early in the article points out that "Basically we act as if there isn't any prohibition...We are trying to publish this information as if the world were already making rational choices around this complicated area," he later scoffs at the notion of complete psychedelic liberty: "No Controls? That seems crazed to me. I like government controls in a lot of ways. I think stop signs at four-way intersections are fantastic."
Now, one shouldn't take everything publically stated by people in as delicate a field as spreading information on illegal substances at face value. By using the "stop sign" example--a sensible convention that would doubtless arise in a stateless world of private roads and certainly doesn't require a monopoly of legal force to function--maybe he is slyly noting that, in a world where everyone has ready access to the kind of information Erowid supplies, people could make their own rational, informed decisions that would protect them from potentially dangerous substances and negate many of the excuses for government drug controls.
Or maybe not. Maybe he just thinks people do need laws to stop them from eating what they might want to eat, and that no useful social conventions like stop signs would ever arise without a centralized state. The article does point out that Earth and Fire have been invited guests at a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) conference, at which a NIDA rep apparently poo-poohed the notion of closer cooperation between the two groups because it would damage Erowid's credibility.
William F. Buckley says Rummy staying on might be a "strategic mistake." William Safire says "Democratic politicians" are out to make Rummy a scapegoat and declares that, "Nor does it make strategic sense to remove a war leader in the vain hope of appeasing critics of the war." So there's that.
What I do not get is how every leader in the Pentagon is utterly blameless in the matter. Isn't shock and maul a logical progression from shock and awe? Isn't every Iraqi just one near-miss JDAM or glow-stick away from punking out and being America's bitch? This is a contest of wills isn't it? The strategic goal of the invasion and occupation was to demonstrate the will to invade and occupy, after which all the bad guys would think twice about trying to flip Uncle Sam.
I think Dubya should glow-stick Saddam at high noon on the Fourth of July. By God, that'll show 'em.
This is almost too ridiculous to believe, but according to Time:
It's not exactly every day that the Pentagon warns military personnel to stay away from Fox News. But that's exactly what some hopeful soul at the Department of Defense instructed, in a memo intended to forbid Pentagon staff reading a copy of the Taguba report detailing abuse of detainees at prisons in Iraq that had been posted at the Fox News web site.
Yup. Because the now ubiquitously available memo is classified, this e-mail warns employees: "If you have accessed this document on the Internet, CALL POLICY IT SECURITY IMMEDIATELY!" Which means DOD employees may be the last Americans not to have read the report. Someone, please tell me this is a gag that slipped by the Time editors...
Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell wants to legalize marijuana sales. "Taxes levied on marijuana sales could add to the resources for treatment," he said at a meeting of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. "Remember, the B.C. marijuana trade is estimated at $6 billion [US$4.4 billion] annually--larger than construction or forestry."
Of course, that's the value of the crop at black market prices. Imagine how much forestry would be worth if trees were illegal.
New at Reason: Peter Bagge salutes the people who do Jesus right.
Seymour Hersh has another report on the torture scandal. I won't try to summarize it.
Andrew Sullivan has a long meditation on what Abu Ghraib (and the state of affairs in Iraq more generally) means for war supporters. He still comes out as a supporter of the war, "but only just." An admirably frank appraisal from a prominent hawk.
A phony chart has been circulating in the left wing of the blogosphere, claiming to show that states that voted for Gore have higher average IQs than states that voted for Bush. No word yet on whether there's a chart that shows which voters think they're smarter.
I notice that in the campaign ads Bush has been running—notably the ones that are negative on Kerry—the "I approve this message" message required by McCain-Feingold is tacked on at the beginning of the spot rather than the end, as seems to be more conventional. And it's a little surprising that it is a departure from convention, because it strikes me as the clearly correct place to put it from the candidate's perspective. A good negative ad should be structured to avoid backlash: Putting the approval message at the head gets the identification with the sponsor campaign out of the way, so the viewer is left with the negative message, rather than taking it in and then being reminded who paid for it. This may sound like overreading, but these things are too meticulously produced to assume that even something as trivial-seeming as the placement of the ID message is decided arbitrarily. I'll be interested to see if the Dems begin to mirror this structure.
Francis Fukuyama reviews Bruce Caldwell's recent book on F.A. Hayek for the Wilson Quarterly, emphasizing Hayek's hostility, not merely to state economic planning, but to empirical social science in general. It's nice (if a little rich) to see the man who once confidently declared the "end of history" acknowledging the unpredictability of emergent orders. But the critique actually seems too strongly put. It's doubtless true that we can't expect to "fully model" a system, like the market or a human culture, whose "higher functions cannot possibly be inferred from its physical substratum." But the impossibility of a "full" model in that sense, while probably a good reason to be wary of attempts at intervention, scarcely seems to make the case against positive social science per se. After all, complex physical sciences like organic chemistry don't proceed by straight deduction from the laws of particle physics. And increasingly sophisticated econometric and statistical tools make it possible to control for more and more confounding factors. That doesn't mean we can plan economies, but we're not confined to ignorance either. Which is a good thing, because many of the most potent arguments for free societies rest on the very measurable benefits they produce.
Excerpts from a newspaper's blistering editorial on the Abu Ghraib scandal:
Around the halls of the Pentagon, a term of caustic derision has emerged for the enlisted soldiers at the heart of the furor over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal: the six morons who lost the war.
Indeed, the damage done to the U.S. military and the nation as a whole by the horrifying photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at the notorious prison is incalculable.
But the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons....
How tragically ironic that the American military, which was welcomed to Baghdad by the euphoric Iraqi people a year ago as a liberating force that ended 30 years of tyranny, would today stand guilty of dehumanizing torture in the same Abu Ghraib prison used by Saddam Hussein�s henchmen....
This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential -- even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.
The newspaper? The Army Times.
The abuse of these prisoners is not the only damaging error that has been made and it forms part of a culture of extra-legal behaviour that has been set at the highest level. Responsibility for what has occurred needs to be taken�and to be seen to be taken�at the highest level too. It is plain what that means. The secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, should resign. And if he won't resign, Mr Bush should fire him.
A book-length treatment of up-is-down, less-is-more, and savings-is-theft might be mildly diverting at first, but I'm pretty sure I know how it ends.
Word circulated around the blogosphere a while back that Web lender E-Loan has been offering customers the choice of having their paperwork processed in the U.S., or overseas in two fewer days. After three months, 9 of 10 chose to "export America." Can we get a pol with the cojones to inveigh agianst greedy consumers? (Via Marginal Revolution.)
A family court judge in New York tells a couple with four kids under five years old already in foster care that they can't have any more. (The only punishment if they do would be a potential contempt of court charge.)
"I just don't see how we can turn our backs on this... We have lost so much time already. I just really can't bear to lose any more."
She's right. Read some of Reason's material on the topic here.
Speaking of whether Donald Rumsfeld's days in the Bush administration are (or should be) numbered, a "news analysis" in The New York Times explains that "three critical forces will probably determine whether the defense secretary keeps his job: the White House, Republican lawmakers and Mr. Rumsfeld himself." Of these, "The White House is the most important." Still, "Perhaps the single greatest factor in whether Mr. Rumsfeld remains in his job is Mr. Rumsfeld himself." Then again, those Republican lawmakers are pretty important too. I think I prefer my news unanalyzed.
From Saturday's New York Times:
Physical and sexual abuse of prisoners, similar to what has been uncovered in Iraq, takes place in American prisons with little public knowledge or concern, according to corrections officials, inmates and human rights advocates.
I know, I know: You've been hearing this since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. But the Times story moves past the broad comparisons and into the nauseating details.
I hate to bigfoot Matt Welch's news-nannies-gnashing-teeth beat, but this coverage (via Drudge) of a speech called "The Wolf in Reporter's Clothing: The Rise of Pseudo-Journalism in America" by L.A. Times editor John S. Carroll is too good to pass up. Speaking to a crowd of hopefuls at the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication, Carroll reported that the Times has taken the "high road," while other organizations have ended up "in the gutter." A sample:
"All over the country there are offices that look like newsrooms and there are people in those offices that look for all the world just like journalists, but they are not practicing journalism," he said. "They regard the audience with a cold cynicism. They are practicing something I call a pseudo-journalism, and they view their audience as something to be manipulated."
In a scathing critique of Fox News and some talk show hosts, such as Bill O'Reilly, Carroll said they were a "different breed of journalists" who misled their audience while claiming to inform them. He said they did not fit into the long legacy of journalists who got their facts right and respected and cared for their audiences.
Carroll cited a study released last year that showed Americans had three main misconceptions about Iraq: That weapons of mass destruction had been found, a connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq had been demonstrated and that the world approved of U.S intervention in Iraq. He said 80 percent of people who primarily got their news from Fox believed at least one of the misconceptions. He said the figure was more than 57 percentage points higher than people who get their news from public news broadcasting.
Leaving aside the selection of these myths believed by Fox watchers rather than, say, the belief in toxin-related cancer and birth defects at Love Canal that is held by New York Times readers, there's a legitimate question of whether the last one even qualifies as a "misconception." I think it's pretty clear that the vast majority of the populations in most relevant countries opposed the invasion of Iraq. But at the level of statecraft, which is what this question really tracks, is it possible to say whether the "world" approved or disapproved? Is the issue here that Fox fans are wrong or that Carroll doesn't like what they think?
"Don't be lured by the money or the big name of the employer," Carroll concludes, hinting at why he decided to hitch his fortunes to an obscure regional publication that has never been tempted away from the straight and narrow path.
Full story, with swooning reviews by audience suckups, here.
New at Reason: Jeff Taylor says pre-digital government isn't worth the paper it's printed on.
Adam Michnik, the Polish Solidarity hero-turned journalist, and one of my favorite humans alive, gives a typically provocative and wide-ranging interview dated from Jan. 15 with Dissent magazine, about Gulf War II (which he supported), the Transatlantic divide (which he worries about) anti-war intellectuals (who he mocks), and Bush's religious tendencies (which frighten him). You'll probably both agree with him and disagree with him, strongly. (Link via Norman Geras.)
Last week Nutraceutical Corp. filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Food and Drug Administration's ban on ephedra products. Among other things, the complaint notes that the FDA continues to allow the sale of ephedra tea, which is treated as a food. In a press release, the company's attorney, Jonathan Emord, says:
Nutraceutical and Solaray [its subsidiary] have marketed whole-herb ephedra as a dietary supplement since at least 1988. This is the same ingredient found in ephedra tea that remains on the market, even today. Nutraceutical and Solaray's product contains 10 mg or less of naturally occurring ephedrine alkaloids per daily serving, while ephedra tea can have as much as 30 mg of ephedrine alkaloids per cup. We think the disparate treatment of dietary supplements and food is clearly arbitrary and capricious.
In his book Why Is America So Fat?, health food store owner Ben Kennedy highlights another inconsistency: Several over-the-counter remedies, including Primatene Tablets, Bronkaid, and Quelidrine Syrup, contain ephedrine, while many others contain pseudoephedrine, a similar stimulant also found in ephedra. He argues that the FDA's decision to focus on nutritional supplements marketed for weight loss reflects the political clout of the big pharmaceutical companies. It also reflects the FDA's judgment that weight loss is not an important enough application to justify the (admittedly small) risk posed by ephedra--a judgment that Emord argues the agency does not have legal authority to impose on consumers. And it presents an opportunity, should the ban be overturned in court, to demand more regulatory authority over nutritional supplements.
Here's a happy story: A quarter of the world is overweight, according to the International Obesity Task Force, which sounds like a 21st-century version of SMERSH or, worse still, something out of a Matt Helm movie (shouldn't Victor Buono be the head of the IOTF?).
The main culprit in intercontinental corpulence is--damn them all to hell--"cheap, plentiful food. Even in poor nations, the relative cost of eating is declining."
And what about Mexico, a con queso test case for the new fatness? "[Forty] percent of its 105 million people live in poverty. Yet two-thirds of men and women there are overweight or obese."
Let's not mince words: There's something worth celebrating about a world in which even poor people have so much to eat that they can become fat.
So how does this good news get translated into newspaperese?:
So says Col. Paul Hughes, the former U.S. director of strategic planning in Baghdad, in this Washington Post article about military dissatisfaction with Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and the war leadership. Surprisingly sharp criticism, on and off the record. Excerpt:
Some officers say the place to begin restructuring U.S. policy is by ousting Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, whom they see as responsible for a series of strategic and tactical blunders over the past year. Several of those interviewed said a profound anger is building within the Army at Rumsfeld and those around him.
A senior general at the Pentagon said he believes the United States is already on the road to defeat. "It is doubtful we can go on much longer like this," he said. "The American people may not stand for it -- and they should not."
Why so anonymous? Here's one explanation:
Also, some say they believe that Rumsfeld and other top civilians punish public dissent. Senior officers frequently cite what they believe was the vindictive treatment of then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki after he said early in 2003 that the administration was underestimating the number of U.S. troops that would be required to occupy postwar Iraq.
And at the end of the story, there's this little exchange:
A Special Forces officer aimed higher, saying that, "Rumsfeld needs to go, as does Wolfowitz."
Asked about such antagonism, Wolfowitz said, "I wish they'd have the -- whatever it takes -- to come tell me to my face."
At some point in the last 15 years -- this may be something we can blame on Clinton -- a chunk of the chattering classes concluded that apologies are more important than justice. We may see some fallout from that when the Abu Ghraib torturers go on trial: As Gail Gibson points out in the Baltimore Sun, Bush and Rumsfeld's comments on the scandal "may have jeopardized a basic protection of military law -- the idea that commanding officers should not prejudge cases where they ultimately could determine a soldier's fate."
Amid rising public outcry, Bush apologized yesterday for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, saying, "The wrongdoers will be brought to justice." Rumsfeld, who is expected to testify before Congress today, has called the soldiers' actions "un-American."
The comments were all but demanded to calm what has become a foreign policy nightmare for the Bush administration. But they present a potential problem in the military court system, where the president, as commander in chief, and the defense secretary could end up reviewing the charges against six reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company based in Cresaptown, Md., as well as any possible convictions in the case.
"Can they get a fair trial? Yes. Will they? Not unless there is some significant damage control," said Donald G. Rehkopf Jr., a civilian military lawyer from Rochester, N.Y. "If [U.S. leaders] are prejudging the case, that causes real problems."
In what just may be the most moronic piece yet to come out of Iraq war, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker implicates the Farrelly Brothers--makers of There's Something About Mary and the greatest Amish/bowling movie of all time, Kingpin--in the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. Snippets:
The images from Abu Ghraib, now irreversibly tattooed on the Arab brain, were every frat-house cliche magnified. The human pyramid, males mooning, masturbation, bags over heads. What we saw, at least in part, was "The Farrelly Brothers Do Baghdad."
How else to explain the giddy photographs of young soldiers mugging for cameras and giving the thumbs-up sign beside humiliated prisoners, naked and masturbating? Another Farrelly movie, "Dumb and Dumber," comes to mind...
The Farrelly Brothers -- kings of the gross-out comedy film genre characterized by scatological humor and raunchy sex jokes -- are convenient touchstones in the larger discussion about the debasing of American culture. In their side-splitter for the developmentally arrested, "There�s Something About Mary," the male star gets his genitals stuck in a zipper. Later when he pleasures himself, he misplaces his "issue," which subsequently becomes hair gel for "Mary."...
Such is what has passed for culture for many of the kids now populating our military. My point: There�s not much difference between what those soldiers enacted in Abu Ghraib for digital cameras and 15 seconds of instafame back home and what America�s increasingly debased culture embraces as good harmless fun....
To the [American soldiers in the pictures], it seems, Abu Ghraib was just another photo op, an after-hours party sans grown-ups to inhibit their jaunty trip through a Heronymous Bosch garden of perverse delights. Farrelly, farrelly, farrelly, farrelly, life is but a dream.
We can�t blame America�s culture entirely, but as we�re trying to change the hearts and minds of others, we might take a closer look at our own. You can�t steep a teabag in sewerage and expect it to taste like Earl Gray.
It may have taken almost 150 years, but we've now finally moved on from the "I was only following orders" defense pioneered by the commandant of the notorious Andersonville prison camp during the Civil War and cited by war criminals ever since. We can all look forward to the military tribunal of Lyndie England, the Madame Defarge of the U.S. military, in which she and her codefendants plead overexposure to Me, Myself, & Irene.
It seemed only fair, in light of my accusation in the previous post, to do a Google search (based on the following sentence from the initial January communiqu� announcing a military inquiry: �An investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility�) and see if any media outlets then bothered checking into the allegations of mistreatment.
Didn�t find much original press or TV material using those terms (you will discover an AFP wire report on the news item from Pakistan�s Daily Times), but here are some excerpts from a February 6 piece by Ben Ehrenreich of L.A. Weekly:
Though they have received minimal attention in the U.S. press, allegations of mistreatment of detainees have been surfacing persistently for at least the last six months. The allegations range from generalized neglect � unsanitary conditions and exposure to the elements � to beatings, electric shock and other forms of torture.
It was not until early this month, though, that the U.S. military�s Central Command released a brief and tersely worded statement announcing, �An investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility.�
The announcement, so vague as to be enigmatic, came after several days of Defense Department denials in response to repeated inquiries by the L.A. Weekly about allegations of the torture and mistreatment of Iraqi detainees. Just two days earlier, a Defense spokesperson said, in regard to the over 13,000 Iraqis currently in coalition custody, �No rights have been violated to my knowledge.�
�We told everyone in the world� last January about the inquiry into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Senate and House committees yesterday. The Los Angeles Times says, �not quite.�
The Times is no doubt right that the information on the inquiry was anemic and that the statement: �An investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility�, was evasive. Rummy is at best guilty of startling carelessness in the Abu Ghraib affair (and even that is pretty unlikely); but 100 news organizations had the information about an internal investigation, and apparently none (or almost none) bothered to follow up on the revelation.
The Pentagon has behaved badly in the scandal (and no matter what George W. Bush says, neither Rumsfeld nor Paul Wolfowitz are out of the woods, by a long shot; wait till the real shocking stuff comes out), but the mainstream media outlets, too, have some pretty searing spotlights to shine�on themselves.