Way To Go, Joel

Joel Surnow, the right-wing activist who created the torture fetish show 24, building a neat little wall around his conscience:

In a more sober tone, [Surnow] said, “We’ve had all of these torture experts come by recently, and they say, ‘You don’t realize how many people are affected by this. Be careful.’ They say torture doesn’t work. But I don’t believe that. I don’t think it’s honest to say that if someone you love was being held, and you had five minutes to save them, you wouldn’t do it. Tell me, what would you do? If someone had one of my children, or my wife, I would hope I’d do it. There is nothing—nothing—I wouldn’t do.” He went on, “Young interrogators don’t need our show. What the human mind can imagine is so much greater than what we show on TV. No one needs us to tell them what to do. It’s not like somebody goes, ‘Oh, look what they’re doing, I’ll do that.’ Is it?”

Yes, it is like that.

By August, Dunlavey was clear that the rule book FM 34-52 was too restricting for someone like al-Qahtani, who was trained to resist interrogation. In his memo of October 11 2002 he set out the key facts as he saw them. The usefulness of the existing techniques had been exhausted. Some detainees had more information. He requested that aggressive new techniques be approved.

Dunlavey told me that at the end of September a group of the most senior Washington lawyers visited Guantánamo, including David Addington, the vice president’s lawyer, Gonzales and Haynes. “They brought ideas with them which had been given from sources in DC.” When the new techniques were more or less finalised, Dunlavey needed them to be approved by Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver, his staff judge advocate in Guantánamo. “We had talked and talked, brainstormed, then we drew up a list,” he said. The list was passed on to Diane Beaver.”

[…] Beaver told me she arrived in Guantánamo in June 2002. In September that year there was a series of brainstorming meetings, some of which were led by Beaver, to gather possible new interrogation techniques. Ideas came from all over the place, she said. Discussion was wide-ranging. Beaver mentioned one source that I didn’t immediately follow up with her: “24 – Jack Bauer.”

It was only when I got home that I realised she was referring to the main character in Fox’s hugely popular TV series, 24. Bauer is a fictitious member of the Counter Terrorism Unit in LA who helped to prevent many terror attacks on the US; for him, torture and even killing are justifiable means to achieve the desired result. Just about every episode had a torture scene in which aggressive techniques of interrogations were used to obtain information.

Jack Bauer had many friends at Guantánamo Bay, Beaver said, “he gave people lots of ideas.” She believed the series contributed to an environment in which those at Guantánamo were encouraged to see themselves as being on the frontline – and to go further than they otherwise might.

The new article provides a nice holistic picture of torture in America. The guys at the top – Dick Cheney, David Addington and his clan of neoconservative insiders – clearly wanted torture so badly that you wonder if they wrote those memos with their pants on. Jack Bauer was hardly needed with those guys*. However, the peope at the other end of US power don’t have such black souls. The privates and NCOs with more ordinary American values, guys who would soon be called on by their superior officers to do morally repulsive things, would need some extra motivation**. To get over their resistance to abusing helpless prisoners Jack Bauer, maybe the first mass media “good guy” who tortured on a regular basis, clearly made a major difference.

Think that Surnow will lose any sleep over the mess that he made? Sure, I bet. All of those guys we tortured to death must have been guilty of something.


(*) Ok, fine, Antonin Scalia. Aren’t these guys supposed to base their thinking on, you know, non-fictional precedent?
(**) Some veterans of the American prison system at abu Ghraib clearly had it in them from the start, but they’re a small minority of the total.

School Safety

By way of introduction, Wayne Dolcefino is Houston’s scoop investigative journalist, sort of our city’s version of Carl Monday. He does also expose city corruption frequently, something for which I think he does deserve credit.

In this particular expose, he confronts the founder of Parkway Christian School, which boasts “a program based on Christian character, morals, values and integrity” on its website. Lavern Jordan is outside a La Quinta hotel, rendezvousing with the mother of a girl who wants to enroll her daughter in the academy.

Jordan: “For the uh, enrollment fee and stuff like that, maybe you and I can do something, you think?”

Mother: “Yeah, what, I mean what, what, you gonna wipe out all the fees?”

Jordan: “All the enrollment fees.”

Mother: “All the enrollment fees?”

Jordan: “Three hundred dollars.”

Mother: “So you gonna wipe everything if me and you get together?”

Jordan: “The enrollment fee, yeah.”

Mother: “Ok.”

Jordan: “If you and I get together.”

Mother: “What you mean? I mean, what?

Jordan: “Excuse me and I don’t mean to be so blunt but I am talking about f—— you.”

Mother: “You talking about what?”

Jordan: “F—— you.”

Explain to me again why we need private school vouchers to escape the cesspools our centers of public education have become?

And the school responds:

The school’s office is closed on Fridays, but a public statement regarding the KTRK story was posted on the school’s site that challenges Dolcefino’s “story” for taking bits out of context and not offering Jordan’s wife an interview.

“Mr. Jordan’s apology for his inappropriate language and his asking for forgiveness, along with his refusal to take part in any further actions with this woman was not aired,” according to the statement, which also distanced the school from LeVern Jordan. “He is no longer affiliated in any way with Parkway Christian School.”

“The Parkway Christian School staff wants to remind you that we are all sinners saved by Grace, and we have forgiven Mr. Jordan for his wrong action,” the statement said.

Not Helpful

Look, if your goal is to promote “discourse” about abortion, this is just not helpful:

Art major Aliza Shvarts ’08 wants to make a statement.

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts’ project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock — saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.

But Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for “shock value.”

“I hope it inspires some sort of discourse,” Shvarts said. “Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it’s not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone.”

I really, really hope this is a fraud for so many different reasons. If not, I propose a death match between her and Randall Terry. Regardless the outcome, society comes out a winner.

*** Update ***

Yep, a fake. Enjoy your 15 minutes.

Welcome To the Party, SUCKAS

I give you the straight talk. It is my job.

The other half of the dynamic duo extends a warm welcome to all the new voters Obama has brought to the party:

Older voters gravitate to Hillary Clinton because they’re too wise to be fooled by Barack Obama’s rhetoric, former president Bill Clinton told Pennsylvania voters today.

Clinton’s comments, to a packed high school gym about an hour north of Philadelphia, were one part presidential politics and one part legacy protection. His beef was with Obama’s contention that many of the problems facing the country today were simmering long before President Bush took office seven-plus years ago.

“I think there is a big reason there’s an age difference in a lot of these polls,” he said. “Because once you’ve reached a certain age, you won’t sit there and listen to somebody tell you there’s really no difference between what happened in the Bush years and the Clinton years; that there’s not much difference in how small-town Pennsylvania fared when I was president, and in this decade.”

One thing you can say about the Clintons- they sure know how to lose with their dignity intact.

It’s The Delegates, Stupid

And while Clinton is creating and validating Republican lines of attack against Obama, it is important to remember how pointless her kneecapping is:

But we look ahead to next week’s vote in Pennsylvania a bit differently: How many delegates might each candidate win in Pennsylvania, which is the most populous of the states and territories that have yet to vote?

That answer will be mainly determined not by the sum of the votes Clinton and Obama win in Pennsylvania, but rather by the state’s parts. Pennsylvania will send 187 Democratic delegates to the party’s national convention in Denver this August, and most of them — 103 to be exact — will be allocated according to the votes the candidates receive in each of the state’s 19 congressional districts.

And a CQ Politics analysis of the political circumstances in Pennsylvania’s congressional districts, detailed below, projects an edge to Clinton — but by just 53 district-level delegates to 50 for Obama under the Democratic Party’s proportional distribution rules.

These numbers suggest that Clinton, even with a victory in Pennsylvania, would make only a small incremental gain against Obama’s overall lead in the delegate race.

Even if she blows him out (and I expect her to win by 6-12 pts), she won’t make up any real ground in the delegate race, which, as we all know (except, apparently, at Clinton HQ), is what matters. All she has is the hope that the super-delegates will give it to her, and the only way that is going to happen is if she absolutely destroys his chances at electability. And she has to do just that, because if the supers give Clinton the nomination under any circumstance other than one in which Obama is completely ruined, expect large swaths of Democrats to bail in the general. Forget the AA vote.

That is her gambit. That is her only hope. She won’t win North Carolina, Indiana will be so close as to give marginal gains, and all she has is this last hope that she can knee-cap him and get it from the supers. Of course, she most likely won’t succeed, and instead we will have a crippled Obama limping into the general against a united Republican party armed with a half year of Clinton video clips calling Obama elitist and out of touch and unelectable and stating she takes him at his word that he is not a stealth muslim. By the end of the week I fully expect her to be asking whether or not he is a Marxist.

What a clusterfuck.