Posted by Rojas @ 10:20 am on May 28th 2014

The Zone of Death

There’s a fifty square mile area of Yellowstone National Park in which law may not apply.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:58 am on May 26th 2014

The plight of the teenage “gentleman”

A repost from that other blog I write. Trigger warning for excessive self-revelation and use of the phrase “check your privilege”.

Posted by Rojas @ 4:08 pm on May 23rd 2014

Why object to minor regulations and trivial laws?

Because for people living in poverty, no law is trivial.

Posted by Brad @ 4:51 pm on May 19th 2014

CIA Says “Okay, No More Fake Vaccination Programs”

After a number of deans of schools of public health continue to raise alarm that after the CIA’s coordinated fake vaccination program in Pakistan, Pakistani’s who might have reason to fear the West (warlords in far flung areas) have, quite rationally, banned or otherwise harassed vaccination programs and the medical professionals trying to organize and execute them. Oh, and suddenly polio is resurgent there.

For what it’s worth. Although I suspect it’s not based on any internalization of the dangers of perfidy but rather just based on the fact that they don’t really have any going right now. So more a “yeah yeah, whatever, we’ll not do that for now”.

This is one of my hobby horses I know, but to reiterate again, the reason we have rules of war isn’t because we’re sissypants or because we’re following quaint and antiquated “civilized” rules in a world that no longer does, akin to the British lining up in fields to fight the Revolutionary War. Things like prohibitions on torture, on false flag operations, on mass and indiscriminate police state surveillance, on assassinating other heads of state, on indefinite detention or indiscriminate killing of non-battlefield “combatants”, and basically all those things you find prohibited in the Geneva Conventions and Army Field Manual, aren’t based on quint “gentlemen” agreements. They are rather based on centuries of hard won wisdom on unintended consequences and how, even if certain things may expedite short term military objectives, they do so at the expense of the long term goals of what Western Civilization is presumably trying to achieve with military action in the first place – peace, stability, health, freedom, etc.

Posted by Brad @ 5:49 pm on May 12th 2014

Quote of the Day

“When I give talks about interrogations and torture, people always ask me why I have a problem with it. I understand – I was all for torture right after 9/11. I would have tortured the hijackers myself if they were still alive, and if I had been able to find them. I wasn’t thinking very rationally. Then I started learning about terrorism and I met the people who had been tortured, and I realized how wrong I was – and naïve. Believing in torture means you aren’t looking at the facts on the ground – you are just believing in some kind of fantasy about how to fix the world.”

– Tara McKelvey, author of Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.

Yup. There are of course two levels on which to have the torture debate. The first is the moral one – and it’s here that pro-torture advocates love to try and paint opponents as naive or living in fantasy-land.

So, just switch to the reality of torture – its use, its efficacy, its results. And it’s on that ground that I have, time and time again, found torture apologists to basically have the world boiled down to some weirdo macho movie with not only no understanding of actual on-the-ground realities but really no interest in them. It’s just an episode of 24. It’s funny, when I engage with die-hard torture apologists – the “hell yeah water board all of them” folks – they like to talk like they’re the ones who see the world for what it really is and are willing to make the tough calls. But pull back the curtain even a tiny bit, and their dedication to torture looks more like the attachment of a Justin Beiber fan. In other words, they are dedicated to and titillated by a certain vision of the world they have no experience with but love and cling to in an almost fanboy-ish way. I am struck by it almost every time.

Oh, and if you think I mean just casual observers in that, click through the hyperlinks. I mean senior military commanders and policy makers just as surely.

Posted by Brad @ 2:32 pm on May 1st 2014

Vote Fraud as Justification for Voter ID Laws

A Wisconsin judge weighs the evidence, and essentially finds that the perceived problem that voter ID solves are meant to solve is basically pure fiction. In eight years of Wisconsin elections, only one case of “voter impersonation” was found – a man who voted with his recently deceased wife’s absentee ballot. Meanwhile, the measures the “solution” to that problem would put in place would impact 300,000 Wisconsinites – or about 10% of the voting population. This is roughly comparable, in both respects, to the nation at large, by the way, where something like 30 million legal voters lack proper identification, while less than a dozen cases of actual voter impersonation have ever been found in the recent history of American democracy.

Like the “ticking time bomb” thing justifying torture, this appears to be a case of a fictional but very persistent myth embedded in the public consciousness (dead people voting in Chicago! illegal immigrants being bussed into polling stations! Democratic operatives casting dozens of ballots!) creating very real policies with immediate practical implications that undermine the ultimate supposed goal (making terrorism less likely, ensuring the integrity of elections).