The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Torture Culture

Ok, here’s the deal: Torture does not work to get information. Period. You do not torture people to get information, you torture people to send information, or rather, to send a message. What is that message?

(Originally from Dec 16, 2010, but it seems worth re-upping for a new generation of readers – Ian.)

We Torture People

That’s all the message is.

The US is a torture culture. The majority of Americans accept torture; they think it’s okay. This extends right through the society. Sure, it is in its rawest form in places like SuperMax security prisons (23 hour a day isolation is torture), Bagram and Guantanmo, but it extends down.  Glenn Greenwald recently wrote a piece on how Bradley (at the time, now Chelsea) Manning is being kept in constant isolation, refused sheets or a pillow, not even allowed to exercise:

Just by itself, the type of prolonged solitary confinement to which Manning has been subjected for many months is widely viewed around the world as highly injurious, inhumane, punitive, and arguably even a form of torture. 

In his widely praised March, 2009 New Yorker article — entitled “Is Long-Term Solitary Confinement Torture?” — the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande assembled expert opinion and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that, as he put it, “all human beings experience isolation as torture.” By itself, prolonged solitary confinement routinely destroys a person’s mind and drives them into insanity. A March, 2010 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law explains that “solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.”

Then there is this:

Ariz. Rep. Michele Reagan, R-District 8, is better known for fighting for new laws, but now, she is speaking about her fight against a lawsuit. Reagan is being sued by her mortgage company after she questioned who owned held the note on her home.

“It’s really scary,” she said, “I think that this really needs to be brought to light that this is happening to people in Arizona.” Reagan had wanted to find out she and her husband, David Gulino, could refinance their south Scottsdale home.

“In doing research, I began to wonder if the lender even owned the note to my home,” she said. “So I sent them a letter and asked them and asked them several things. I want to know who owns my property. Am I paying the right person?”

Soon after, Colonial Savings filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Reagan and her husband. The company says the couple is trying “to rescind their home loan,” or back out on the loan.

“We’re not interested in walking,” Reagan said. “We’re not interested in saying we’re not going to pay. We just need a little help with the interest rate. I’m current on my loan. Never missed a payment. We’ve never been late. We were sued for asking too many questions,” said Reagan.

Suing someone who has done nothing wrong, putting them through all that, isn’t about stopping them from defaulting, it’s about sending a message: “This is what we do to people who dare to challenge us in even the smallest way.” Win or lose, the banks have sent a message, and they can easily afford harassing lawsuits, while ordinary people can’t.

Torture is just an extension of bullying, and the message of the bully is always, “I can do this, and no one will stop me.”

The porno-scanners and the gropes (which definitely include touching your genitals, btw, I have been “padded down”) are also along these lines. They won’t stop a determined terrorist, but they do send a message: We can do this and no one will stop us. And if you fly on a private jet (i.e. you’re rich or important), hey you don’t get groped or scanned.

Likewise, PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard shutting down Wikileaks donations was about sending a message. “It doesn’t matter if what you’ve done is against the law or not, we will shut you out of the modern economy, and no one will stop us.”

In the modern world, you’re either a someone or a no one. If you’re reading this, odds are that you’re a no one. And if you’re a no one, you’d better do what you’re told and you’d better not resist, or they will punish you whether it’s just or not, whether it’s legal or not, whether it’s “torture” or not.

This will only stop when the price for doing it is too high, personally, for the someones.


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  1. Morocco Bama

    Gadzooks, another excellent analysis. You’re really resonating with me, and yes, I am a NO ONE and proud of it. Blessed are the NO ONES, for they shall…….hmmmm, shall what? I got it, they shall inherit scorn, indifference, ridicule, loneliness, despair and their reward for enduring all of this, when the SOMEONES are raptured from this rock, will be an unemployable, gene-altering toxic wasteland.

    They call those TORTurous corporate lawsuits, SLAPPs, and they are diabolical, but what do we expect from such a diabolical system besides this?

    You know, if you look at the entirety of the ascent of Western Civilization, you can’t help but grok what this nut job recites in Shutter Island.

    God’s gift…His violence…God loves violence…Why else would there be so much of it? It’s in us. It comes out of us. It is what we do more naturally than we breathe. We wage war. We burn sacrifices. We pillage and tear at the flesh of our brothers. We fill great fields with our stinking dead. And why? To show Him that we’ve learned from His example…God gives us earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes. He gives us mountains that spew fire onto our heads. Oceans that swallow ships. He gives us nature, and nature is a smiling killer. He gives us disease so that in our death we believe He gave us orifices only so that we could feel our life bleed out of them. He gave us lust and fury and greed and our filthy hearts. So that we could wage violence in His honor. There is no moral order as pure as this storm we’ve just seen. There is no moral order at all. There is only this – can my violence conquer yours?

    By the way, I’m a strong agnostic, so this is not an endorsement for the existence of God…it’s just some intellectual food for thought, is all.

  2. alyosha

    This really helps me put the whole notion of torture and groping/pat-downs into the context of bullying. It’s not about getting information, it’s about sending it. Things make a lot more sense now. Thanks.

  3. b.

    I give Digby a lot of shit about the relentless and redundant re-hashing of Republican deconstruction – increasingly awkward after 2006, unjustifiable after Jan 20, 2009 – but the same persistence of hers is applied to a worthy cause in chronicling the US affinity to Tasers.

    Torture and authoritarianism go together like iron glove and iron fist.

    Greenwald is exactly right on the US obsessions with “HyperSuperMAXMore” torture-prisons. The permissiveness and not-really-unspoken encouragement to break the laws and strictures of custody to abuse inmates existed before Abu Ghraib, it was just exported. In an nation proud to enjoy pervasive Saturday Night show and Hollywood jokes about equally pervasive prison rape, it is pretty obvious that the sickness is neither recent nor an abberation.

    Torture R’ US.

  4. b.

    “It’s not about getting information, it’s about sending it.”

    It is about manufacturing “information” as well – the ultimate “He said, She said”. Torture produces incrimination, which is then stovepiped through a corrupt prosecutorial and judiciary system to manufacture pretext, consent, and results. Greenwald makes this point in his follow-up – why torture Manning? To manufacture a pretext that serves as cover to increasingly embarrassing UK and Swedish “authorities” to serve the US in its openly lawless efforts to suppress effective opposition.

    It would be interesting to see what role torture-induced statements played in the lead-up to the Iraq war, and to what extent 2002 and 2003 torture was motivated by the desire to manufacture a “smoking confession” after the fact.

    Finally, as the Kadr case shows, the US is not above manufacturing ex post facto “laws” for kangoroo courts to convert manufactured confessions into “legal” judgements. I am sure that Congress would be more than willing to provide other not-quite-“Just”-In-Time legislation to service any Manning “admissions” into “evidence” against Assange.

    If you compare the standards for “conspiracy” applied in this context to the “high standards” set to prove fraud in corporate world – e.g. the financial industry – it becomes pretty clear that the role of institutionalized torture in the US is not only to deter some from distributing information; torture is crucial in manufacturing “facts” for the media to help in “creating the new reality” that we are all supposed to live in.

  5. Shoto

    Hey Michele Reagan: Welcome to the Party.

    Feel free to go here:

    And everyone else is encouraged to pay a visit, too.

  6. Morocco Bama

    In the spirit of Ian’s post, one day we will click the link to access his blog, and we will get this. Those are some impressive badges. I fart in their general direction. So to, should you.

  7. jo6pac

    Yep, as we have been saying for awhile, Welcome to the New Amerika.

    Everything is on schedule, please move along.

  8. Of course, this is all academic and historical, since nobody serious would discuss violence in an open forum. Moreover, everybody knows that the first person to advocate violence is always a cop.

    Just saying.

  9. someofparts

    It gets better.

    key paragraph from piece linked above –

    “–In fact, the Treasury Secretary approved $7.6 billion in outlays to help states prevent foreclosures and modify mortgages, too. However, “…the rules dictate that funding cannot be used for legal aid, dramatically blunting the impact of the program.” ”

    On an unrelated topic – I’ve been sharing Ian’s advice about getting out of the U.S. with some of the 20-somethings at my side job. I snapped out of my selfishness long enough to realize that someone young who will have children some day REALLY needs to leave even more than a geezer like me does. Good news is that they are listening.

    Just wanted to let Ian know that the truth-talking you keep doing is helping people – probably more people than you will ever hear from.

  10. Morocco Bama

    I considered getting out of Dodge, until I realized that it’s all Dodge now, one way, or another. I think Martha sums it up nicely.

  11. Ian Welsh

    Of course, I would never advocate violence, unless it was against defenseless Iraqis or Afghanis, for having terrorists in their wedding or funeral parties, of course. In that case, it’s ok, kill as many kids as you like, they’re terrorist sympathizers, after all.

  12. anon2525

    Ok, here’s the deal. Torture does not work to get information. Period. You do not torture people to get information, you torture people to send information, or rather, to send a message.

    I think that this gives them too much credit. They are not sending a message — they’re not that thoughtful. They’re pissed off and they’re punishing him.

    When I read Greenwald’s article the other day, I was thinking, “Torturing him? What for? Even if you think it works, what does he know? He’s not an agent from the Soviet Union or a captured officer from an enemy army. He doesn’t have some ‘ticking time bomb’ (the favorite right-wing fantasy). He doesn’t know anything. He’s not dangerous in any way. And why isn’t he being put on trial? You’ve had him for seven months.” Under the circumstances, what they are doing verges on being sadism.

  13. anon2525

    I would never advocate violence, unless it was against defenseless Iraqis or Afghanis, for having terrorists in their wedding or funeral parties, of course. In that case, it’s ok, kill as many kids as you like, they’re terrorist sympathizers, after all.

    Don’t forget Yemenis or young Afghani boys.

  14. As you surely must see, Ian, your answer is less than fully responsive.

  15. anon2525

    We were sued for asking too many questions,” said Reagan.

    Suing someone who has done nothing wrong, putting them through all that, isn’t about stopping them from defaulting, it’s about sending a message: “this is what we do to people who dare to challenge us in even the smallest way.”

    No, I think that the bank is suing the Reagans because the bank doesn’t have a good, non-self-incriminating answer. Because the Reagans are in Obama’s socioeconomic class, they can get some attention (oops!) but the bank doesn’t want this publicized. They would prefer the “rocket docket,” where they screw homeowners quickly and without any questions.

  16. anon2525

    The porno-scanners and the gropes (which definitely include touching your genitals, btw, I have been “padded down”) are also along these lines. They won’t stop a determined terrorist, but they do send a message: we can do this and no one will stop us.

    And all that it took was one failed “shoe” “bomber” and one failed “underwear” “bomber” — talk about your asymmetrical warfare… What did that cost them? $100? And the cost to the u.s. economy? Billions of dollars in equipment, personnel expenses, and lost time of travelers. For as long as routine air travel exists.

  17. Morocco Bama

    Welcome to the New Amerika……same as the Old Amerika, but now with new packaging and a regiment of steroids.

    Just a few reminders of that glorious past.

    This one is telling since it was perpetrated by two later esteemed WWII Generals, Eisenhower and MacArthur. In fact, MacArthur refused Hoovers’ orders to discontinue the campaign, and instead burned the Bonus Army camp to the ground. Nice touch.

    I could go on and on, the list of injustices and atrocities are seemingly endless, but it does go to show, the game plan is still the same, even though it’s got a new bob and a new weave.

  18. Morocco Bama

    As we speak, a new definition for violence is being crafted to include any thought, or verbal/written articulation that, no matter how subtle and nuanced, casts doubt on the glorious system in which we operate. Violators will be punished with extreme prejudice.

  19. Anon 525 –

    It seems clear that Bradley Manning is being punished for daring to challenge the PTB. That’s the message they’re sending. They’re not torturing him for information, they’re just showing what happens to people who screw with the oligarchy/patriarchy. The next person who thinks about facilitating leaks will think about Manning in prison under horrible circumstances. It’s an effective bullying tactic.

    Also, a lot of the “war on terror” is not just about attacking civil liberties, but about money. The people behind the full-body scanners are making a fortune – one of whom, not so coincidentally, is Michael Chertoff. Meanwhile, real security measures, such as scanning the containers that come into our ports, or using scanners that can “sniff” explosive residue, are not being discussed. Obviously there are no Obama/Bush cronies pushing these machines, or they’d be in every port and airport, respectively.

    The “war on terror” has also given an excuse for the continuation of the military-industrial complex, again shoveling trillions of dollars into its maw.

    It really is an amazing thing, this culture of fear, which allows the government to perpetrate torture and violence everywhere without much questioning by its citizens. No wonder after 9/11, Bush said he “hit the trifecta.”

  20. anon2525

    Likewise, Paypal, Visa, and Mastercard shutting down Wikileaks donations was about sending a message. “It doesn’t matter if what you’ve done is against the law or not, we will shut you out of the modern economy, and no one will stop us.”

    Unlike your other examples, I agree that attempting to prosecute WL’s Assange is certainly about the u.s. gov’t.’s sending a message.

    It’s not clear that the gov’t. will be able to send it, however. In order to put him on trial (and get a conviction), they’ll not only have to prosecute him for a non-crime, but they also will have to selectively prosecute him. None of the media outlets that published the documents before WL is being mentioned as the object of prosecution. What happens when they put Assange on trial and he is acquitted? It is better for them that he remains a (political) target, but not one that they catch. (This is also the reason I don’t expect DADT to be rescinded. The right-wing doesn’t want to lose that wedge issue.)

    And these are people who are not particularly competent at actual legal reasoning. There’s a reason that most of the people who were held at Guantanamo were at long last released and why few of the remaining prisoners have been put on trial — the state has no case against them. The prisoners are political prisoners as surely as those imprisoned by the former Soviet Union.

  21. anon2525

    It seems clear that Bradley Manning is being punished for daring to challenge the PTB. That’s the message they’re sending.

    It’s not clear to me. Besides Greenwald, where is there any mention or description of what is being done to Manning? If the gov’t. is “sending a message,” they’re doing a really bad job of it because nobody is being told the message. The gov’t.’s message will be told when the prosecution makes its recommendation for sentencing, or when the judge(s) announces the sentence. “Life imprisonment without parole,” or some thing like that.

  22. John

    I believe the US government wants to get Assange and put him in prison. Who needs a stinkin’ trial? Why would they need that to send a message?
    I think they simply want to get him and keep him in protective custody until the GWOT is won which with eternal war in the east will be forever or until he dies behind bars.
    The king does have a dungeon and he want to use it.

  23. Tom Hickey

    Nothing new to see here. In order to exploit “the labor factor,” political elites alternately appease the masses with some co-optation and intimidate them with punishment. It is simple stimulus response theory that is characteristic of behaviorism — bread and circuses” as positive reinforcement and pain infliction as negative reinforcement.

    Political liberalism was supposed to tone this down, but never to replace it. Trotsky got it right. Until the workers take charge of their lives by taking charge, they will be at the mercy of the ruling elite because liberal bourgeoisie are never going to to more than talk about liberal ideals.

    Liberal democracy the way it is configured is a co-optation device that encourages workers to think that they are in charge through the ballot box while it manipulates them with propaganda and actively discourages significant dissent through intimidation. The Freedom of Information Act has provided ample evidence that the authorities closely monitor dissent. There is also good reason to think that they act against those deemed dangerous, both to remove the perceived threat and to send a message, as Daniel Ellsberg has explained about his own case and others, and John Dean set forth in his book on the authoritarianism.

    It’s totalitarianism lite.

  24. Anon 525 –

    It’s not clear to me. Besides Greenwald, where is there any mention or description of what is being done to Manning? If the gov’t. is “sending a message,” they’re doing a really bad job of it because nobody is being told the message.

    I hear what you’re saying, but the fact that they put him in prison is a message, no? Prison is not known for being a place where people are treated well.

    In this case, the message is not torture, but power.

  25. anon2525

    The “war on terror” has also given an excuse for the continuation of the military-industrial complex, again shoveling trillions of dollars into its maw.

    Business As Usual since the end of WWII, when the MICC* was originally set up — Private profits at Public expense.

    *When Eisenhower was planning on giving his farewell address, he was going to call the military-industrial complex the military-industrial-congressional complex in order to point out congress’s role in keeping the money flowing to congressional districts for jobs from gov’t. contracts. His brother, Milton, is said to have talked him out of the ‘congressional’ part to make it more politically palatable. link

  26. Morocco Bama

    Exactly, Tom, but Trotsky was a traitor to that cause, as was Lenin. Chomsky puts it in perspective here.

    I’d like to see this kind of revolution take hold. It’s a dream, I know, but it’s all I have…my dreams.

  27. anon2525

    In this case, the message is not torture, but power.

    Sounds like we’re in agreement (but in disagreement with Ian Welsh’s point), that Manning is not being tortured to send a message. As far as arresting and imprisoning him to send a message, um, yeah, the “message” is that it is illegal to break the law (leak classified gov’t. documents).

    Ian Welsh’s post does not mention (overlooks?) the quite substantial message that is being sent to people in the gov’t.:

    It is OK to commit crimes such as killing innocent civilians or aiding in the prostitution of young boys and then hiding that through the use of document classification — we will not investigate and you will not be prosecuted for these crimes, even if the documents become known to the public.

  28. editor_u

    @Morocco Bama (first comment after Ian’s article)

    “Blessed are the NO ONES, for they shall…….hmmmm, shall what? I got it, they shall inherit scorn, indifference, ridicule, loneliness, despair and their reward for enduring all of this, when the SOMEONES are raptured from this rock, will be an unemployable, gene-altering toxic wasteland.”

    Yes, they shall inherit all those things, but from whom? I’d say most of that scorn, etc., will come from other no ones, who are convinced either that they are someones, or are just this side of becoming someones whose ascendance to that level is being thwarted by the no ones making the fuss. [deep breath, now] Or who know that they are no ones, but they have not yet been disturbed in their misery, so shut up. You know, “you’re ruining it for everyone.”

    That’s my experience in union organizing, anyway.

  29. anon2525

    There is also good reason to think that they act against those deemed dangerous, both to remove the perceived threat and to send a message, as Daniel Ellsberg has explained about his own case and others

    In a well-functioning judicial system both Ellsberg and Manning should be arrested and put on trial. There are laws against leaking classified documents. But in a well-functioning citizenry, the juries in those trials should find both leakers innocent by reason of civic whistle-blowing. Both men have made public crimes and gov’t. lying that would otherwise have remained hidden. The citizenry, in which the legitimate power of gov’t. resides, needs to send a message to those in government.

  30. S Brennan

    Ian I agree with you linking the behaviors,

    I’m sure some clever writer will say this has been going on since the American Revolution and then pull up some example to support that contention. What’s different here is the vast scale of these actions that are meant to terrorize and suborn the WHOLE population. For somebody born after 1979, who never lived under the freedoms [however limited some clever writer will say] of the FDR policy years it may be difficult to see how radically different the US looks today*. During the Red Scare days Gary Cooper felt confident enough to tell congress were to stick it…and Gary Cooper was no liberal.

    The fact that Bush & Obama fully support the formation of a proto-fascist state is not nearly as shocking as the vast numbers of people who support either tyrant. Loyal Obama/Bush supporters seem willing to support tyranny so long as it’s “their man” doing it. The fact so many of my friends support Obama as he shreds of even the pretense of democracy I find deeply troubling. I wonder if this is how it felt in Germany during the thirties during the run-up to the insanity that was WWII?

    *As a child, I watched almost new, 360 mph, propeller driven aircraft, sent to South America to be replaced by 575 mph jet driven aircraft. As an adolescent, I watched men land on the moon…comparing that to the personal gadgets of today seem trite, but I know friends who will argue 3G vs 4G is just as important of a development. Those software folks may be right on some technical level, but it does not feel that way to me. I just can not see some personal gadget’s improved GUI, or killer app in the same light as touring the moons of Jupiter, or landing on Mars and sampling the soil. Not only have nostalgia for the political order under FDR policies and their collective achievements, but I feel revulsion for the replacement policies offered by people who would describe themselves a s liberal Obama supporters.

  31. Spot on, Ian, and I have to agree also with many of the commenters here. I would add only one element, besides the aforementioned power and determination to wield that power for its own sake, and that is sadism. Torture is also about letting sadists run free, with the imprimatur of state authority to bolster them. All these elements of intimidation are on a continuum (as I’ve been saying for ages at the Cogblog, much to the chagrin of several of my fellow Cogbloggers). The Patriot Act loosed the hounds, the over-hyped “war on terror” keeps expanding their territory.

  32. Morocco Bama

    FDR stopped dead in its tracks everything leftist activists had fought for up to that point. With his containment policies, he halted the natural outcome of all those years of struggle. That outcome was precisely what Tim speaks of above. And yes, it is possible to hold this view and hold the Fascists in greater disdain.

  33. anon2525

    But in a well-functioning citizenry, the juries in those trials should find both leakers innocent by reason of civic whistle-blowing. Both men have made public crimes and gov’t. lying that would otherwise have remained hidden.

    Earlier, I could not understand what it was that the torture of Manning could possibly extract from him. Now, there is a report that some people hope to show a conspiracy between Manning and Assange (h/t David Dayen at FDL):

    Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.

    “trying to find out” equals “put into restricted solitary confinement until Manning ‘confesses’ to the ‘conspiracy’,” apparently.

    This shows where the laws on whistle-blowing need to be changed. Not only should the whistle-blowers not be charged (or charged and found innocent, if the prosecutors won’t listen), but also the people who classify the documented crimes should be charged with conspiracy to cover up the crimes.

  34. anon2525

    Off-topic, but in light of this week’s announcement, time magazine cannot be belittled enough:

    TIME Announces New Version Of Magazine Aimed At Adults

    This has been around for months, but some may have missed it.

  35. Z

    Little correction of social injustices has ever been accomplished … especially in this country … without violence. And that’s the truth … and you don’t have to advocate it to recognize it. And I’ll also make the point that people who supposedly are “fighting” for positive change against the repressive plutocratic forces that be shouldn’t reflexively look down their noses at those who take violent shots back at these scumbag plutocrats that cowardly hide behind the system that they created while posturing as innocent bystanders as they wage war on the middle class and poor in this country by systematically culling our ranks so that they can buy their 3rd yacht and 5th vacation home. The folks that actually fight back have a fuck of a lot more courage than the plutocrats and a lot of these fucking morons who supposedly are “fighting” for change but spout such nonsensical bullshit such as “if you use violence to fight back against those that are violent to you, you become them”. No, you advocate immorality when you allow innocent people to be harmed for immoral means.

    The unfortunate fact of the matter is … due to their system … there is damn near no other way to effectively make the plutocrats pay a price other than violence. They own the court system, the government, the wealth, and they don’t give a fuck about strikes becoz they’re not dependent upon our work anymore. Even in Europe, the huge strikes didn’t prevent the plutocrats from administering austerity measures on them thru their governmental puppets … and now we’ll find out if a few busted heads will. Becoz until they feel physically endangered, the sociopaths will keep immorally impoverishing people so that they can HAVE MORE. Their greed is insatiable, their “morality” malleable and, despite their impressive table manners and politeness, these are not decent people coz if they were they would have shown some empathy by now. There is no other way to stop them but to exact a price from them … and, unfortunately, there is little alternative but violence to extract that price. That’s just the way it is … and they’ve made it that way.


  36. Bernard

    still, this is a fascist state, that is not news. the use of torture is but one part of the devices used to display the power they have corrupted. none of this would have been allowed if the people hadn’t been so expertly divided and manipulated. and willing. Bread and circuses.

    now that we have torture, predators like Bybee, Cheney , Yoo and the neocon sadists are free to abuse those they choose. i still don’t understand how people can think torture somehow has any good in it, at all.

    the meek shall inherit the earth, after what?

  37. Morocco Bama

    This is an interesting review on the failure of Socialism to take root and flourish in the U.S. It indicts FDR, and rightfully so.

    Had America’s socialist movement not been crushed between 1917 and 1920, what might have happened when the Depression galvanized the working class in the 1930s? We’ll never know. But Lipset and Marks are content to analyze the 1930s by stressing, correctly, the brilliant emasculation of the left by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Seducing labor leaders–including many of the more militant leaders of the brand-new Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)–and scrambling to co-opt socialists by propounding left-sounding programs, FDR prevented organized labor from linking up with the Socialist and Communist parties in the early 1930s. By 1936 the Socialist Party was all but dead, and the Communist Party was one of Roosevelt’s loudest supporters. (The authors quote CIO President John L. Lewis complaining that FDR was “carefully selecting my key lieutenants and appointing them to honorary posts… . He has his lackeys fawning upon and wining and dining many of my people. At proper intervals he has unveiled to them the glory of admission to the White House and permitted them to bask in his presence.”) Roosevelt, they write, used “conscious efforts to undercut left-wing radicals, to preserve capitalism.”

  38. Andre

    I was thinking of some ‘no ones’ in my lifetime, and these names come to mind: Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, all of whom have been pretty dame effective. There’s this to begin with: violence is theirs (the powers that be) to use, and we shouldn’t stoop to that level, but aside from the strength of non-violence, there’s much more to your insights when they’re place inside the crucible of non-violence……..

    How to bring a capitalist system to its knees rests, IMO, with consumerism, the blood of capitalism. Stop buying! On as massive a scale as possible. That might start with cutting off Comcast, one of the bigger devils, something I did eight years ago. The beast is multi-headed and it’s many things we would have to do without, but of course, most people do not want that kind of discomfort. And successful anti-consumerism effectively implemented will put a lot of people out of work. That does not mean I’m going to rush out to Walmart tomorrow. but it’s something to think about.,

  39. Celsius 233

    I watched “V for Vendetta” again last evening. The movie was made in 2006 and very much addresses today and this conversation by bringing Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 into the 21st century. 401 years have passed: Remember, remember the 5th of November…

  40. guest

    “Morocco Bama PERMALINK
    December 16, 2010
    I considered getting out of Dodge, until I realized that it’s all Dodge now, one way, or another. I think Martha sums it up nicely.”

    Seriously. One place I would have thought would be a good safe haven might have been Sweden. Then they start doing the bidding of some bad actors with the whole trumped up condom crap. I read about a suicide bomber in Sweden and I learn that they have ditched their neutrality too. For what? To join the EU? Turns out the conspiracy theorists were right that the EU was about killing sovereignty and democracy and enslaving everyone to the men in grey suits.

  41. i feel compelled to remind folks, and i’m sure most here know it; but the “torture culture” has been in full effect in this country. for decades. ask any young brown or black man in an urban neighborhood. ask any DFH pot dealer busted for moving a couple of ounces. “no one” cared that institutionalized rape, beatings, and torture have been part of our prisons for all the long length of the history of the War on (some) Drugs, and then some. because most of the people locked up and tortured in them were poor, not-white, and/or hippies.

    all this attention to the fact that our government and leadership enjoys and relishes torture and sadism is the result of well-to-do white progressives suddenly realizing that they too are now targets. witness all the excitement that Assange has been “house arrested” and is spending his in-house arrest time on a fabulous resort estate, while the poor, enlisted guy who made Assange famous rots, for months on end, in solitary in a military prison in quantico, with no relief in sight. if our government and military had restrained itself, and only added foreigners and american muslims to this list of people being sadistically and needless tortured without purpose, i’m sure very few “important” and “serious” writers would’ve noticed. (ian is not in that group and has noticed for a long time, let me boilerplate that now)

    the entire MIC of this country is headed by a bunch of sadists. theocratic, uneducated, willfully apocalyptic torturers who made Abu G and wedding bombings and Gitmo not only possible, but standard. and as was always predictable, the money is running out and now those techniques are beginning to be applied to comfortable, domestic white liberals in the american middle class. oh well, this is where “identity” politics always failed. now is when the privileged identities who believed if they just compromised enough on some issues (but not their own, gosh no!), and were civil enough with torturers at Village cocktail parties, finally realize that they can be tossed in the camps just like everybody else.

    the nazis killed a bunch of german aryan liberals. the romans slaughtered plenty of roman citizens on the ‘wrong’ side of various civil wars. the chinese had a nice time eliminating “good” chinese citizens in the wake of that nation’s post colonial upheavals. this country? not special or different. hell, look to Mexico, right now. it’s not just “illegals” and “drug runners” getting cut down, as that experiment in democracy fails and gangsters take over that nation. it’s happening here, as well.

  42. Morocco Bama

    Great points, chicago dyke.

  43. anon2525

    all this attention to the fact that our government and leadership enjoys and relishes torture and sadism is the result of well-to-do white progressives suddenly realizing that they too are now targets. witness all the excitement that Assange has been “house arrested” and is spending his in-house arrest time on a fabulous resort estate, while the poor, enlisted guy who made Assange famous rots, for months on end, in solitary in a military prison in quantico, with no relief in sight.

    Excerpt of Assange’s (brief) public statement when he was released on bail:

    During my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of a Victorian prison, I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement, also on remand, in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me. Those people also need your attention and support.

  44. Morocco Bama

    And your point is, anon2525? Your quoting Assange about his concern for other’s held against their will doesn’t undermine chicago dyke’s points, in the least. She’s talking about all the faceless people this system seeks to degrade and humiliate on a daily basis. The no ones. Faceless and nobody. That describes me, but without the physical bars….yet. You can’t undo this system with the very epitome of this system…..CELEBRITY. Only the faceless nobodies can achieve it without the use of the trappings of CELEBRITY.

  45. anon2525

    And your point is, anon2525? Your quoting Assange about his concern for other’s held against their will doesn’t undermine chicago dyke’s points, in the least.

    That he is not self-obsessed, which appears to be the point that CD is making — that people are only concerned about people like themselves. “Speak for yourself and stop trying to tell me what I think,” is my reply. So, yes, it does undermine CD’s point. You have made a mistake in your reasoning and reading. If you find that CD’s point applies to you, then that is your self-determination.

  46. Morocco Bama

    I take CD’s point to be not about Assange himself, but about those who are making him a cause célèbre. It’s those very persons that are fashioning whoever Assange is into the image of their choosing and convenience.. It’s hero worship. Woe the country, or people, that needeth a hero.

  47. V. Arnold

    Seven years and one day ago; it’s worse now.

  48. tony

    Here is an answer to that sodahead rant:

    You can leave at any time. If existence were a fraction as bad as you claim, you would have left already, and the fact that you have not, that you hold onto existence of yourself and others so dearly shows that you do value it. Value it higher than anything and everything else, and your rant is nothing but a tantrum of a spoilt go gain the attention of a father whose existence you don’t really even believe in.

    There are people who have believed, really believed, what you claim to believe. Yet you do not follow them, or even praise them. No, the mass murderers who believed existence was so horrible is should be eliminated are people you probably despise.

    Your actual beliefs can be seen in your actions, and they have nothing to do with your words.

  49. Willy

    Tony, fixing yourself works great, until you’re overpowered.

  50. Peter

    The challenge from this old post is to show Ian that torture does work. A couple of sessions on the water-board should be enough to convince him to name his fellow travelers and answer any other questions truthfully that his interrogators might ask. Anything beyond breaking someones resistance with torture is another story involving punishment and fear and doesn’t produce useful intelligence.

  51. Hugh

    Some context for this post. It was written about the time Obama was signaling that he wanted to look forward, i.e. not prosecute Bush era torturers. This was in keeping with his earlier reneging on a promise to hold telecoms responsible for their part in illegal surveillance for six years after 9/11.

    America had solid property law since the 1600s before there was an America. Almost every mortgage since about 2000 would fail any serious legal scrutiny. Post the bursting of the property bubble in August 2007, mortgage originating companies went bankrupt destroying or losing their paperwork, including deeds. Mortgages were traded multiple times between banks using a private electronic system called MERS which was set up to avoid fees to Property Registry Offices but which had not legal standing. This was important because these mortgages were bundled together into trusts. These trusts had time limits on their formation and once these deadlines passed they could not be modified, i.e. the mortgages inside could not be updated if they were defective (and almost all of them were). A mortgage comes basically in two parts: a deed and a promissory note. Iterations of CDO were written on the mortgages in these trusts. The CDO represented a scission or splitting of the deed from the promissory note. This created an unprecedented legal situation where investors had no legal standing with regard to the deed. Indeed they had only a splintered interest in the promissory note. At the same time, the holders of the deed had no legal standing with regard to the promissory note. The amount of ignoring black letter law during this period of foreclosure mania was simply astounding. What it showed was that the rich and corporations had one legal standard which was marked by impunity. And the rest of us had a legal standard out of Dickens.

    Re the lambert/Ian exchange, I agree with z. The profound and pervasive violence that our ruling class of the rich and elites does to us is never called violence, and is almost always depicted as agentless: markets, natural law, etc., while any opposition to them is described as evil, unnatural and violent. Again this brings up the reality that revolutions are a response to violence and are principally violent because those in power will do almost anything to stay in power and keep their wealth and privileges.

  52. Willy

    I think the degree to which Ian would fold under water would be dependent on the degree to which he believed the interrogators were evil, and his own cause just. Some people are psychologically, pretty strong that way.

    I’m still trying to shake the unpleasant idea that most modern conservatives are actually intrinsically authoritarian. Not by rationalized tribal belief, but their own personal psychology. An old adage is that most people are sheep who want to be controlled, but only in ways acceptable to them. It’s strange to see so many freedom loving types wanting have “wrong” thinking/behaving controlled with statist violence. Maybe they’re just being open to anything that works, including the soft stuff. But it sends a pretty messed up message.

    Why do you have to torture anybody if man’s natural desire is for “freedom”, and that’s what your side has more of? Does freedom, like Maoism or Stalinism, have to be beaten into the disbeliever as well?

  53. StewartM


    The challenge from this old post is to show Ian that torture does work. A couple of sessions on the water-board should be enough to convince him to name his fellow travelers and answer any other questions truthfully that his interrogators might ask.

    Yeah, just like torture broke all the resistance of all those accused of witchcraft in the 16th century to reveal the names all the demons that they had been copulating with.

  54. Peter


    You’re right we need to be careful with a witch-hunt going on right now. It wouldn’t be wise to allow the Grand Inquisitioner Mueller to interrogate KT McFarland in secret.

    The more mundane use of torture is and always has been effective.

  55. Willy

    Except that observing pathologies like Trump obviously has may be where myths of demonic possession originally came from.

    I wonder how George Will’s doing these days.

  56. Name Withheld

    “Ok, here’s the deal: Torture does not work to get information. Period. …”

    Without going into unpleasant detail let’s just say that statement is wildly inaccurate, uniformed, and utterly naive.

    It works extremely well depending on what the information one is seeking is, and the expertise in the knowledge of how to proceed in obtaining it possessed by the interrogator. This is just a flat fact.

    Does it always work? Of course not.

    Is it used for other purposes than gathering information? Yes. Most of the time in fact.

    There is no need to discuss whether it is moral or ethical of course.

    Thousands of years of human history prove the first sentence is just wishful thinking. Sorry about that. We are not all that admirable of a species, but we are what we are and we do what we do.

  57. A1

    Agree with Name Withheld above. Ian you are propagating utter nonsense and you loose your credibility with propaganda like this.

  58. Peter


    You take a somewhat complicated subject, home mortages, and turn it into incomprehensible Marxist rant. States have their own property laws and rules and in some the homebuyer keeps the deed and in most others a trustee holds the deed but the homeowner keeps title to the property. In Colorado a state trustee holds the deed while in others a title company holds the deed. All of these are seperate from the banks or mortgage lenders.

    The hysteria and bottom feeding that came from the robosigning scandal had little if anything to do with the homeowner/buyer because they were already in default on their loan. Their note had been called and the only way to reclaim their forclosing property was to produce a certified check for the total amount due on the loan.

    The Chain of Title wasn’t really in question here because it is a history of the property title and what was questioned about the forclosure paperwork was the identity of leinholders, the people who were getting payments from the homeowner. This was required protection for the leinholders so they could recover proceeds from the sale of the forclosed property.

    The banks or the title companies kept the responsibility to recover the deed/title to the forclosed property and sell the property to pay the leinholders wherever they may be. I haven’t heard of any problems with paying the leinholders once there was time to identify them.

    The forclosure activists, media and bottom feeders stirred up enough hysteria that some forclosure was stopped or delayed. Then they started selling the rubes snake-oil telling them they could expect refinancing or government bailout because of their activism. The boldest lie told was that because of this supposed broken chain of title and fraud the homeowners could get title to the property free of charge or lein. The Marxists also tried to convince the ignorant masses that the banks were getting rich forclosing these properties which is still believed by some rubes.

  59. Willy

    While reading through fake opinions with no links to any peer-reviewed empirical research may be considered torture, the opinions remain about as reliable as waterboarding for veracity.

    Maybe if it’s repeated 180 times it’ll work.

  60. bruce wilder

    I think it remarkable that intelligent people have a hard time working out an analysis that explains why torture “does not work” as a method to find out information.

    I suppose we all have some experience of childhood bullying and being made to cry, “uncle!” Does it somehow escape your attention that “uncle” contains no information? And, it is accompanied by no indications of its truth-value?

    I expect we reason that to avoid pain and abuse, we would disclose any truth. But, why do we suppose a torturer would value or recognize truth? Or, in fear and extreme distress, we ourselves would be especially articulate and discerning in the expression of truth? Would truth set us free?

    Seriously, what about the relationship of tortured and tortured suggests a setting conducive to the communication of accurate detail? Do you imagine that the torturer magically recognizes the truth when it is uttered and relents? That would be some “expertise in the knowledge of how to proceed”, wouldn’t it? To simply recognize the truth when uttered by the desperate.

    “Everyone lies”. It is true, you know. It is endemic to human communication. Everyone lies, and everyone is a fool. Every conversation is a power struggle and we use lies to manage relationships. Would anyone be less motivated to lie to a torturer and jailer?

    It is not easy to say something, even something simple and impersonal, and be sure of being understood. Try giving directions. Would it help to be able to torture the guy from tech support? I know it would be satisfying in a way, but would he finally tell the truth? Would you finally understand what he is trying to say?

    It is worrying that so many people imagine that “cooperation” by unrestrained domination “works” for the dominant and that is all that matters. Or, that true facts are so obvious and unsubtle that their meaning is never ambiguous. No teacher has ever had to coach a student; no informant has ever struggled to make context understood.

    I get that one could use torture to train the tortured into clumsy, behavioral obedience. Do you then imagine extracting such a performance sets the stage for the exchange of juicy gossip? An exchange of intimacies? Because nothing sharpens the discerning empathy of the interrogator like infliction of pain and humiliation.

    The one logical necessity of finding out is that you do not already know. If you already know the answer you want to hear and you can make your prisoner understand that the Right answer will be recognised, torture seems like an expedient method. In all the cases where you genuinely want to learn something you do not already know, it would seem to me to be ill fit to such a purpose.

  61. StewartM


    The more mundane use of torture is and always has been effective.

    No it hasn’t. Torture only gets you to get the person being tortured to say what you want them to say. It does NOT get you the truth, and never it did. Torture only has gotten its reputation for effectiveness because those in power love hearing what they already believed true confirmed, just like those investigating witchcraft wanted to hear confessions of copulation with demons. People who recanted their testimony “freely made under torture” were sent back for….more torture until they recanted their recantation.

    Once more, you resist simple facts.

  62. Charlie

    “The folks that actually fight back have a fuck of a lot more courage than the plutocrats and a lot of these fucking morons who supposedly are “fighting” for change but spout such nonsensical bullshit such as “if you use violence to fight back against those that are violent to you, you become them”. No, you advocate immorality when you allow innocent people to be harmed for immoral means.”

    Z, I agree with this totally. Thank goodness someone said it.

  63. Peter


    I and everyone else reading your comment now know what torturing an idea means along with the suffering and pain from reading your tortured prose.

    Please stop it’s unbearable and I will do anything you demand to make it stop.

    FYI, the torturer doesn’t need to value or recognise truth because it can be verified with investigation and the victim praised or punished depending on the outcome. In the old days a quick death was a reward for collaboration and a slow painful death was punishment for resistance.

  64. For argument’s sake ONLY, I accept the following as an unassailable fact:
    “Torture is the most effective tool available to obtain the most complete, the most accurate and the most detailed information a witness/source can, or will, ever provide.”
    Also, “torture is the best information gathering method ever known.”
    Period. [FULL STOP]

    That said, Torture is evil, self-defeating and morally untenable. There is no reason, no circumstance, no State, no cause and no person for whom it is ever excusable.

    Under no circumstance is torture condonable. State sponsored torture is a form of pure evil, as are the people who either defend torture or who employ euphemisms to diminish or hide it on behalf of their State.

    There is no excuse for torturing, nor is there a defense for torturers in civil society – ever. For that matter there no practical justification for torture, in an amoral militaristic society, when viewed in its overriding, but narrow, prism of its own enlightened self interest.

    Whether torture generates information is an academic exercise (not to mention the empirical facts demonstrating its overall worthlessness as an intelligence tool).
    Regardless, the nature of information gleaned from torture is immaterial to the decision whether to torture. We have already arrived at “No” before we need to sully the debate with whether we need to look for reason to get to “Yes” or any other ancillary distractions such as “does this yield something of value?”

  65. realitychecker

    Gee, Mommy, look! It’s a perfect storm of virtue-signaling. 🙂

    I love that everyone can visualize what their perfect world would be like.

    Everybody here would torture if they saw n other way to save their own child. Stop bullshitting yourselves.

    It’s an ugly world, and you live in it.

  66. Willy

    Is now a good time to share stories about the times we had to go torture somebody to save our own child?

    I’ll go first. See, I had this really crappy pediatrician. Couldn’t cure a goddamn thing. So one day the kid gets really sick. All I gotta do is go get Luca Brasi to make the doc an offer he can’t refuse. Then badda bing!

    Whose next?

  67. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Mr. Welsh keeps such nice company these days. 😛

  68. Hugh

    I agree with Caoimhin. I am always amazed at Ian’s toleration of the trolls that infest his blog as witnessed by the evil lying moronic torture apologists we see here.

    The embrace of torture is a lot like the old Vietnam War saying about needing to destroy a village in order to save it. When you cease to stand for anything and descend to the level of your enemy, you become your enemy. So to save “American” values we destroy them. And in doing so, we become what we say we hate. But tell that to a troll. Trolls never let anything so mundane as reality get in the way of their idiocy, or their malevolence.

    Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith were supremely stupid, evil men who reveled in their ignorance. I know sounds like Trump. They were a pack of murderous clowns, a bunch of pseudo-tough guys who thought that embracing torture would make them look tough. Professional interrogators, you know, people who had actually gotten information from terrorists tried to tell them at the time that torture only got people to tell you what you wanted them to say, not what you wanted to know, but they were brushed aside. Much like the trolls here, they knew nothing and could not be told anything. So they lied us into a multi-trillion dollar war in Iraq that killed a lot people and resulted in expanded Iranian influence in the region and the rise of ISIS. Way to go, guys. The gloves came off, America’s moral authority went into the crapper, and all they did was shoot the country in the foot.

    I agree with Ian that torture was about sending a message. But the message sent was not the message received. Torture showed that the US could be provoked into actions which left it weaker and the terrorists stronger. And it showed that American principles were hollow because we abandoned them so easily.

  69. realitychecker

    Willy, you are the most relentless fool imaginable. It’s endlessly amusing to see you continue to embarrass yourself by your inability to comprehend anything I say.

  70. Willy

    rc, you are the most relentless fool imaginable. It’s endlessly amusing to see you continue to embarrass yourself by your inability to comprehend anything I say.

  71. realitychecker

    Class clowns should at least be able to display some wit on occasion.

  72. realitychecker

    I’m very sorry for you, Willy, that you have never had anything in your life that you would consider important enough to torture another human over. Wife, child, mother, nothing?

    OR, maybe you are just not able to be honest with yourself.

    Virtue signaling is the latest iteration of fapping, I guess.

  73. Willy

    rc, the world is made ugly by the majority’s inability to understand, then control, the influences of minority sociopathy. Shouldn’t sociopathy be the target?

  74. realitychecker

    Hmmm. What’s your plan for controlling the world’s sociopaths, then?

    I don’t think you have one.

  75. Willy

    By first, educating them? Honestly, I don’t have that answer.

    I am a former conservative from a conservative family who worked in a notoriously conservative business for a company packed with conservatives. I was physically made to compete and succeed. But because I couldn’t play the corporate game with all the corrupt unspoken rules, I lost. And painfully so (was slandered as a whistleblower, then workplace mobbed, if you need details. And no less than five others, very different from myself in personality and style, got theirs too. The one thing we all had in common – integrity).

    I eventually came to learn, that hard way, that very few of my conservative cohorts actually believed what they were so loudly marching in step for. In hindsight, they all seemed to need some kind of corrupt authority to get behind, or more accurately, hide behind. Apparently, mediocrity knows well its place in a Darwinian social order, and will adapt itself well to cheating. If they cannot outthink or outwork their competition, cheating is the only avenue they have left for them to get ahead, for themselves and their families.

    Sure, I could’ve “tortured” the leadership, tried to cut the head off that snake, so to speak. But as long as that culture was so totally fucked up, the “whacked” leader would have likely been replaced by somebody else just like them, another corrupt power player.

    I’m here because I see the parallels between that world and the whole world as described here. And yes, I understand many of the ways that “liberal” or “progressive” cultures can themselves, become corrupt. I don’t have answers for that.

    How does an experienced rational thinker (you?) combat a corrupt culture?

    I have to go work now. Be back later.

  76. NR


    Since you’re so fond of hypotheticals, let’s examine a hypothetical scenario. The life of someone you care deeply about is at stake. The clock is ticking and you have the bad guy in custody. He can tell you where your loved one is but he isn’t talking. You decide you are morally justified and you torture him.

    Except it turns out that the bad guy wasn’t actually a bad guy at all, but merely some poor innocent with the same name and general description. He told you this of course, over and over, while you were torturing him, but you thought that he was lying so you tortured him some more.

    What should happen to you?

  77. realitychecker


    You say:

    “By first, educating them? Honestly, I don’t have that answer.”


    “And yes, I understand many of the ways that “liberal” or “progressive” cultures can themselves, become corrupt. I don’t have answers for that.”

    So, clearly, you haven’t thought very deeply about any of this society-fixing stuff.

    Could it be possible that you are too accustomed to aligning yourself with people who unrealistically virtue-bleat about how they would NEVER do anything violent (or even insensitive) to a bad guy?

    Could it be that we are more animalistic as a species than you choose to believe?

    Could it be that punishment might be the essential ingredient for controlling really bad guys?

    Could it be that maybe you should spend less energy mocking those who ask you to address these very basic issues with a little honesty, a little realism, before posturing as some kind of lazy savant, and more energy trying to refine your plans for the future of mankind in a way that reflects a deeper understanding than is revealed by your quotes above?

    You are a waste of time for me, Willy, because you are intellectually lazy and more interested in being the class clown than in actually advancing your very limited understanding of the world.

    Socrates himself couldn’t bring you along with your attitude. I gave up on you a long time ago.

  78. realitychecker

    @ NR

    I expect to be held responsible for my decisions and actions.

    How about you?

    Wanna go tell your kid, or your wife, that if torturing a bad guy was the only way to save them, you would just say, “Sorry, I’m too moral. But I’ll miss y’all. Sure will.”

    Try it, and report back on the experience.

  79. NR


    But what, specifically, should happen to you in that case? Should you be punished? If so, how, and how much?

    And since saving your loved ones is the most important thing to you and justifies anything in your eyes, here’s another hypothetical. The life of someone you care deeply about is at stake. The clock is ticking and you have the bad guy in custody. He can tell you where your loved one is but he isn’t talking. This time he’s really a bad guy. He’s been trained to resist all forms of torture, but you also have his son in custody, an eight year-old boy who he loves dearly. You’ve made plenty of threats, but he doesn’t believe you’ll follow through on them and still isn’t talking.

    Do you torture the boy, and if so, how much?

  80. realitychecker

    @ NR

    Get back to me after you tell your wife and kid how little you value them.

    It’s so easy to claim moral purity for yourself.

    Much harder to actually live it.

  81. NR


    You ducked the question. Both questions, actually. What should happen to you for torturing the innocent man? And in the second situation, do you torture the boy, and if so, how much?

  82. StewartM


    FYI, the torturer doesn’t need to value or recognise truth because it can be verified with investigation and the victim praised or punished depending on the outcome.

    This is the fallacious thinking that you keep running into. If you already know ‘the truth’, then why do you need to torture?

    What you and anyone else defending torture is doing is to abandon Enlightenment ideals of jurisprudence and inquiry, that you discover truth via means that really do distinguish truth from falsehood. This not just a matter with law; Galileo was shown the instruments to torture to recant Copernicus.

  83. Name Withheld

    Caoimhin Laochdha PERMALINK
    December 18, 2017

    Given a point.

    But this part

    “…Whether torture generates information is an academic exercise (not to mention the empirical facts demonstrating its overall worthlessness as an intelligence tool)…”

    is incorrect. As someone said above this is all an academic discussion. And those emotionally invested in some way can marshal some way of arriving at the conclusion they desire. As who ever made that statement was doing.

    It is not being a troll to point out an obvious error. Like I said there is no discussion to have on the moral and ethical validity. There is none. But this does not mean it does not work.

    Again. Without going into ugly details I can state from ‘direct’ knowledge that it does work given the caveats I mentioned above.

    And it can certainly be used in all the other ways mentioned. I certainly am not advocating it in any of its forms or for any of its uses. But reality is what it is. And it is not going away.

  84. Willy

    …more energy trying to refine your plans for the future of mankind in a way that reflects a deeper understanding than is revealed by your quotes above?
    In hindsight, I should’ve spent more time encouraging Bernie supporters. Maybe one of them would have wound up being as charismatically tough-talking as Trump, except without all the personality disorder.

    you are intellectually lazy
    Not as lazy as I am busy. So I intentionally speak for the too-busy concerned common citizen, who IMO, make up the majority of all voters. And I do also try to persuade as many as possible out here in meatspace that their vote is counting for less and less every election, regardless of their beliefs.

    You are a waste of time for me, Willy…
    Indeed. Yet you’ve been compulsively responding to me long after declaring me dead to you. What’s up with that?

  85. Willy

    Name Withheld,

    Since you’re claiming to be our resident torture expert, I have a question.

    Commander rc here has suggested that we should resort to torturing kleptocrats so that they will then stop being kleptocrats, especially for the children. What do you think the odds of success would be?

  86. Peter


    You are warped if you believe anyone here has defended torture because they know that it can be effective for limited and timely interrogation. I don’t know who you are virtue signaling but it is pathetic.

  87. realitychecker

    There’s a lot of pathetic on the thread right now.

    NR thinks he has the right to assign me unlimited homework assignments based on every half-assed hypothetical he can think of, none of which address the issue here.

    Willy thinks he can impress in much the same way as the feces-flinging monkeys one sees at zoos.

    Smells real bad to be around these mental midgets.

    StewM–you are smarter than what your last comment would suggest. One can use the confessed info to find corroborating evidence. Duh.

    But the real question was about the morality of hurting someone to try and avoid a greater evil. A question most here are afraid to confront in an honest way, because they insist on pretending that in the real world, every life is precious.

    Gimme a fucking break already. We probably have similar visions of what a perfect world would/should look like, but y’all seem to be deluded into thinking that we are already living in one.

    Reality check. Stat.

  88. Tom W Harris

    Thread summary: Nana nana na na!

  89. Willy

    rc, you’ve topped us all.

    You voted for Trump!

  90. Willy

    I wish rc would inspire us with some real life accounts about how he himself punished evil, and won. Be an added bonus if it was against tough odds. Or if his life’s been as dull as it seems, I’d go with him telling somebody else’s story as his own as long as there was some actual life wisdom involved.

    Be nice if he left out the chastising, namecalling, condescension, cursing, the courtesy “LOL”s and smiley faces meant to let us know he’s just told a joke… and all that weirdo stuff. But I won’t be choosy. I just need a story for bedtime.

  91. Peter


    No matter how unlikely the child kidnap scenario you used may be it is possible. More important than that small possibility is that you would take personal responsibility for your actions and suffer the consequences.

    Government sanctioned torture is another story especially what happened after 9/11 when the torturers and their enablers became sadistic.

    Trump’s statement about torture was mistranslated and warped by the MSM. I heard him say he wanted protection for the interrogators who were ordered to torture someone in a ticking time-bomb scenario and only under this scenario. It is also extremely unlikely to happen but is possible.

  92. NR


    Your refusal to answer the questions posed to you has been duly noted.

    And here we have proof that your position does not possess the moral superiority that you claim it does, because if it did, answering the questions raised here would pose no problem whatsoever.

    The fact that you have no answers for them tells us all we need to know about your position.

  93. realitychecker

    All the real torturing in the world takes place in the countries where you morons want to have unlimited immigration from. Also, the subjugation of women is worst in those same regions.

    Yet you claim to support the women. Never mind who cuts their clitoris’ off to keep them from being unfaithful. Never mind who does all the honor killings, who you also support. You see what has happened to Europe, also California, but you insist on remaining blind to it.

    You also claim anyone is a bigot who worries about allowing unlimited immigration from those countries. But that is where all the real savagery between humans is happening, and it is part of those cultures. Oh, and btw, a lot of that currently is because of what Saints Obama and Hillary did in Libya.

    But these contradictions are comfortable for you to live with. Year after year, decade after decade, while the corporatocracy steals the future from all of us, right in front of your eyes.

    If you can’t see the contradictions you live with, that is both tragic and hilarious to me, in equal parts. Why would anyone ever give a damn what thoughts come out of such obviously defective minds?

    For you guys, it is only and all about falsely posturing a supposedly superior moral position. Nobody with a brain is fooled by you any longer.

    And Trump deserves all the credit for that, regardless of what else he might do that favors people like him.

    People like you are breaking yourselves upon the rocks of your mindless ‘Resistance.’ Best result from that is watching all your Dem donors being taken down by sex accusations.

    I love your distress. 🙂 LOLOLOLOL

  94. realitychecker

    @ Peter

    I think you realize I crafted a scenario not for likelihood of occurrence, but rather to starkly present the essential issue of whether one would torture to prevent a greater evil, explicitly choosing saving a loved one from a horrible fate as the most basic personal value to focus on the individual’s choice-making.

    I do not defend wholesale torture as a matter of policy, very special cases only, but I do absolutely believe it happens whenever an existential-type threat is thought to be present by those with the responsibility to protect us. (Our ethics are so damn situational.)

    Lefties today are OK with so many horrible things, when done by their (perceived) friends. Still, they claim the superior moral position lol.

    But we are amateurs compared to the Islamic, African, and Latino practices. And the stupid tribal lefties want to make us more Islamic, more Latino, more African. It’s like they are unable to see their own contradictions.

    Being troubled by your own contradictions is the essence of reality-checking.

  95. Willy


    Did rc just try to neatly categorize all of us together into one single category he’s carefully prepared for us, after telling us not too long ago that our views were so disparate we’d never agree?

    I’d always suspected rc as a dissembler. Now, it’s pretty obvious. And a stupid one at that. It’s always the simple minded who project their flaws onto disparately-minded groups, out of frustrated desperation.

    From now on rc, it’s feces for you.

  96. realitychecker

    Willy, your pathological obsession with me has been embarrassingly clear for months.

    Continue flinging feces if you must, but please, please, pretty please stop holding your penis while you do so.

    Other than that, have a nice day. 🙂

  97. Willy

    Was that a joke? The little face is not smiling.

  98. Willy

    I do frequently, intentionally stir the pot, even playing devils advocate. But I am just after truth.

    I’m not so far gone yet as to ‘know’ that I am the source of all truth, burro fucker.

  99. NR


    “I’d always suspected rc as a dissembler. Now, it’s pretty obvious. And a stupid one at that. It’s always the simple minded who project their flaws onto disparately-minded groups, out pposed frustrated desperation.”

    That pretty much sums him up. He claims to have the morally superior position, and enjoys looking down on the rest of us from his supposed moral high ground, and yet he can’t answer simple moral questions posed to him about his allegedly superior position.

    It’s sad. As I’ve said before, he is a poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

  100. realitychecker

    @ NR

    You must have impaired cognition. Your side is the one claiming the superior moral position, most recently for ousting Franken and Conyers, a transparent short-term political tactic.

    You are the only one here that is more pathetic than Willy.

  101. NR


    And here you are trying to deflect and distract once again. The subject here is torture, and yes, you have claimed to have a morally superior position on that. You have claimed in this very post that your willingness to torture makes you morally superior to people who oppose torture. And yet you cannot answer simple moral questions posed to you about your allegedly morally superior position.

    You love to talk down to others, but the reality is that your position is so weak that it can’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s sad.

  102. DMC

    Since we’re entertaining hypotheticals, what else would you do to save your spouse and children? Would you machine gun a dozen people in a ditch? Would you rape children? Would you agree to be a suicide bomber? Evil always justifies itself in terms of being “tough” and “strong” and “realistic”. But there’s an entirely different way to look at it. In declining to do evil even under dire provocation one demonstrates that one is one’s own master, whereas it is he who would be compelled by by the external that is truly weak. “All we had to do was threaten his family and he folded like lawn furniture”.

  103. realitychecker

    @ DMC

    Great virtue signal!

    Let’s see you live it.

    You wouldn’t.

    It’s the hypocrisy I object to.

  104. realitychecker

    @ NR

    SHOW IT!

  105. realitychecker

    @ NR

    I think Hugh had the best response to you, from Dec 4:

    “I get you are a Democratic apologist and so reality compromised. But unless you are getting paid by them or are very rich, your interests and theirs do not align, and all you are doing is cheering on those who are screwing you over. Republican voters, of course, face the same reality disconnect, but as you engage in the same senseless tribalism, it destroys your credibility arguing that your tribalism is somehow better, and smarter, than theirs.”

    Let’s see, who has better judgment and insight, NR or Hugh?

    Everybody can vote on this.

  106. NR


    Your continued avoidance of the questions posed to you speaks volumes about the weakness of your closely held position on torture and your own moral character.

    And now you’re even resorting to “Let’s you and him fight’ tactics.


  107. realitychecker

    @ NR

    I think it would be interesting to see what others think of you.

    Probably as little as I do.

    BTW, your ‘questions’ miss the point I was making. Completely. Which you would know if you could read carefully. BTW, where’s that quote I challenged you to show? You’re just full of crap, a classic Dem-slave. That’s why I waste no time responding to you and your convoluted hypotheticals. They mix up the moral issue, they don’t clarify it in any way. Others will see that, I’m confident.

    Have you done the experiment with your wife and/or kids yet? What are you waiting for?

  108. NR


    This is you earlier in these comments:

    “I’m very sorry for you, Willy, that you have never had anything in your life that you would consider important enough to torture another human over. Wife, child, mother, nothing?”

    Oh, but you’re not claiming moral superiority over anyone, oh no.

    “That’s why I waste no time responding to you and your convoluted hypotheticals.”

    You’re funny. The real reason you haven’t answered the questions is because you can’t answer them, and everyone here can see that.

    Like I said: sad.

  109. realitychecker

    @ NR

    That’s the quote???????

    Thanks for revealing the true quality of your mental functioning. Each can judge for himself.

  110. NR


    Yes, that’s the quote. You know, the one where you claimed that you care more about the people in your life than the person you were talking to, i.e. that you are morally superior to him.

    Each can judge for themselves, indeed.

  111. realitychecker

    Thanks for the entertainment, clown.

  112. DMC

    “Our evil is the lesser evil, therefore it’s ok”
    Only applies when it’s one’s own ox being gored.

    Seriously man, you used to make arguments. What happened? Changes in the meds? Just spent too much time hanging out under the bridge, waiting for the the 3 Billy Goats Gruff? Lately, it’s been straw men carrying red herrings in ad hominem sauce(extra picante!). You pose an extreme hypothetical, and when posters try and engage with it, your best response is “Well, I’d like to see you do it!” That’s a weak response from a 10 year old. What IS the point of this hypothetical, that anyone can be coerced into anything with sufficient provocation? Go watch “The Usual Suspects”, in which there is character named Kayser Soze who has a very different answer to your little hypothetical. It’s also a good film.

  113. NR

    And the fact that that’s your response proves once again the value your positions hold, i.e. none.

  114. NR

    That last comment was addressed to realitychecker, btw.

  115. realitychecker

    @ DMC

    My argument is that it’s easy to claim moral purity and virtue for oneself if one has never been tested.

    But folks like to pretend that they would definitely pass the test if they ever were tested.

    Then they like to use that claim to pose as great paragons of virtue.

    I say folks who do that are lacking in self-awareness, at best, or are total hypocrites, at worst.

    I stand by that argument.

    It’s not my fault that all these morons are mucking up the discussion with their loony inferences and outrageously off-the-mark paraphrasings.

    Note that none will say, “I would let my child die rather than torture somebody who could help me save him.”

    That’s all you need to see, really.

  116. Willy

    rc once told me that as a blog newbie, I couldn’t compare to his “fifteen years experience”. Yet in all that time, after all that fiery preaching, he has attained exactly one disciple.

    The haplessly confused Peter.

    And Peter is a troll! It doesn’t get more pathetic than that.

    rc may need to consider taking his game up a few notches.

  117. Tom W Harris

    Get a room, guys. The stench in here is torture .

  118. Willy

    Are you saying you wouldn’t torture a feces flinger to save your child from the stench?

  119. Tom W Harris

    No need to torture the sumbitch. Just gutshoot him.

  120. realitychecker

    For the record, Peter and I disagree on more than we agree on. But I recognize that he has a decent mind, much better than most of the blatherers who love to attack him here.

    I am taking the liberty of reproducing my comment from the next post, the Opiate post, because there seems to be a crying need for it to put a plug in the flow of projections and slanders continually coming from my devoted attackers here. I fully expect those deranged attackers to simply brand it all as lies. I can’t help that.

    realitychecker permalink
    December 21, 2017

    Some pretend to want to understand my motivations, my ideology, probably my sexual practices as well (especially Willy, who I swear must be sexually obsessed with me, given his history and admissions here lol).

    Meanwhile, they are happy to fill their knowledge vacuum with any slanderous shit they can think up and blindly attribute to me. It’s farcical, and I admit I enjoy making sport of their stupidity when they dare to start up with me personally rather than honestly addressing our very real problems.

    But I am here for one simple reason–to expose faulty reasoning. Period. Because that is necessary in order to create a space for better thinking. And who can doubt that we need better thinking at this point?

    I’m not trying to tell anyone what to think, only not to cling to things that are demonstrably false. Because that is a good start, and because I am not grandiose enough to think I can fix it all, all by myself. Duh. I have great faith in the human mind when it has accurate data to work with. But not when it bases its belief systems on bad data or faulty premises

    All my studies and knowledge, both considerable, as well as my extraordinarily high IQ, tell me that you can’t build ANYTHING worthwhile upon a foundation of falsity. That is my most fundamental belief.

    So simple. Yet the morons who delight in provoking and slandering me simply cannot get the value of not basing their positions and belief systems on demonstrably false premises.

    That’s it folks. And that explains everything anyone has ever seen me do, here or in my years at Firedoglake.

    And yes, I get fed up with the constant flow of bullshit attacks that get directed at anyone who questions anything the Dem-slave crowd wants to push on us, and I will not suffer fools gladly; no, I’d rather humiliate them. and show how foolish one would be to buy into any of their delusional, authoritarian nonsense.

    And that is so easy to do, their mental defects are so obvious. I feel no obligation to tell mental defectives that they are actually genius thought leaders. And that upsets the pc, victims-only crowd. Too fucking bad for them. Grow up, the world is not child-proofed for you, nor are there any safe spaces in it.

    The meek will not inherit the earth. The clear thinkers will.

    Interestingly, we are all here at a blog that distinguishes itself by being willing to challenge Dem orthodoxy. So, who is it who is really out of place here, who are the real trolls?

    Strange days indeed.

    For any who care, that is the lowdown on me. Happy holidays to all.

  121. DMC

    Yeah, but the discussion was about torture as government policy, not whether anyone would torture anyone with sufficient provocation. So this started with a red herring and went from there. The cult of expedience is nearly as deadly as the cult of money, and expedience is what torture is all about. We don’t want to wait around and do proper interrogation, so we just start shocking the guy.
    Maybe you should ask some Argentinians or Chileans how they feel about torture as government policy. Accuse them of being hypocrites until they tell you about being on the receiving end of torture. Hell, ask John McCain his opinion. I’m sure he’d be delighted to give you an earful.

  122. Peter


    I don’t think anyone in the US is using torture for interrogation today or are planning to use it in the future, it’s illegal.

    What started this weird thread was the strange false statement that torture doesn’t work. Torture is evil so it can’t work seems to be some type of virture signaling taking the high moral ground. The act of admiting that torture may work in certain limited circumstances seems heretical to some people caught in the cul-de-sac of their limited vision.

    This is also a type of denial that fed the fantasies offered by some commenters here as they tried to defend the, torture doesn’t work, position.

  123. Willy

    I sometimes wonder what rc-coyote thinks about Republicans. Then I come to my senses.

  124. realitychecker

    @ DMC

    I said above that I do not support torture as a matter of government policy. That leaves only special cases where it might be considered.

    Having said that, there are numerous different framings one might pursue within the general topic of torture, and one could write articles on each if one had the energy (NR thought he had the right to DEMAND that I write such articles on a group of such different framings lol), but I thought it most important to focus on the individuals who had to decide whether to actually do the deed. Because there is a huge dishonesty lurking right at the foundation of the debate, namely, the pretense that the moral purists here would not torture to save their own child. It is a stark hypothetical designed to clearly make a very basic point.

    Do you not find it of interest that not a single purportedly pure and absolute torture opponent has come out and said, ” I would let my child die rather than torture the guy who could let me save my child”?

    What’s up with that?

  125. realitychecker

    Willy, you just can’t quit me.

    Take your hand off your penis!

  126. Sandy

    Wow, sooo many personal attacks on this forum. Why? This started out as a discussion about torture. State sponsored torture. We’re supposed to learn from each other, not attack each other. Who needs the unelected government power structure separating us, when we’re doing it for them?

  127. realitychecker

    No commenter here has even dared risk his/her supposed/alleged ‘moral purity’ by openly and unequivocally declaring, “I would choose to let my own child die rather than torture a bad guy who could save it, if that issue was squarely presented to me.” (If anyone did declare that, I would ask when they were going to tell their child lol.)

    Absent that, I submit that nobody here is really showing any willingness to grapple with the issue at the most basic level, which is, in fact, the only level where we as individuals could ever conceivably have direct control over the outcome.

    Why try to build a moral position on such a conflicted base?

    Maybe we should just get real about that conflict, instead, before we move on to gasbag and virtue-signal the topic to death?

    We do this kind of moral leap-frog thing on so many issues. It leads to contradictions. Contradictions mean that we are, at least in part, lying to ourselves and/or others.

    Think about if for a moment.

  128. Willy

    Anybody here would probably try to fight off an obvious, solitary attacker of their child.

    A few would begin to hesitate if it was multiple attackers. More would hesitate if the multiple attackers came with overwhelming force. Some might argue that it would be prudent to preserve themselves if the child’s demise was inevitable against impossible odds, so they might live to find justice another way, when the odds were more in their favor.

    Torturing to possibly prevent another child’s possible death, without credible statistics demonstrating all the pros and cons under all the various possible conditions, is highly debatable.

  129. Hvd

    Willy raises an interesting point. And following on that I would add that I would hope that I would not torture in RCs hypothetical but if I failed to live up to my own moral standards in that situation i would hope that I would be judged somewhat less harshly for my weakness. I would certainly judge others less harshly in that situation. My son and wife already know and understand. They know that I would never hesitate to risk my own self for their protection.

  130. realitychecker

    You guys are dodging, copping out on the hard part of the issue. Why keep adding different facts that change the overall picture, and complicate it?

    Willy is completely in his own hypo, not mine. (Quel surprise lol.)

    Hvd wants to focus on punishing the torturer, without exploring whether he is really any different from anyone else. If he is no different, why punish him at all?

    What is the problem with addressing the basic hypo which focuses directly on the individual’s moral choice? (BECAUSE—Is it ‘moral’ to argue for a government policy that is the opposite of what we ALL would actually do as individuals?)

    Cowardice of the intellectual sort, which does carry its own moral implications, I would submit.

    That’s a serious inquiry to hvd and to any others who are able to do nuance.

    What’s the problem?

  131. Willy

    “I would choose to let my own child die rather than torture a bad guy who could save it, if that issue was squarely presented to me.”

    Nobody here would choose to let their own child die. Everybody here would torture the bad guy who could save it. But only if the situation was so clear and obvious with enough corroborating witnesses that no sane lawyer would try to put their credibility at risk by mucking up the issue.

  132. Hvd

    Rc you are so obtuse and I’m beginning to think intentionally so which is incredibly boring. If I tortured under the circumstances you propose of course I should be punished but I would hope the system should provide some lenity under those circumstances particularly where willies most improbable circumstances apply.

  133. realitychecker

    OK, you guys are unwilling or unable to deal with the very basic issue I present.

    That’s the problem.

    And too many of us have gotten used to making the very same mistake you guys are making, i.e., putting the moral cart before the moral horse, to reach a feel-good conclusion without doing the underlying work.

    The underlying work would make clear the limitations of your feel-good solution, so you won’t go there.

    Got it.

    And, of course, it must mean that I am the obtuse one . . .that is really pathetic.

  134. Willy

    Why do you praise Ian in ways so egregiously kissbutt it borders on the pathetic, then chastise us for pretty much paraphrasing him? Is it so he lets you stay?

    Most people stayed on topic: Torture does not work to get information. Somehow you’ve morphed it into torturing bad guys to get the information before they kill innocent children. What bad guys? What information? What children? What are the real world conditions involving these bad guys, information, and children?

    The last sentence in the post:
    This will only stop when the price for doing it is too high, personally, for the someones.

    Does this mean (to you) that when the bad guys are torturing the someones too much, that we need to torture them back? Or should we preemptively torture them first before the price gets too high? Should we be admiring the style of the teacher from that Pink Floyd album? Should we have listened to Timothy Leary back in the day, like you appear to have?

    I don’t think people want a JD from Funhouse U.

  135. realitychecker

    Gee, Willy, if only you could devote a few IQ points to thinking.

    Ian is great, maybe the very best around, but not God, so we will disagree on some points. You are incoherent, as is your wont. I kiss his ass so he’ll let me stay, so why am I disagreeing with his take on this topic? That’s what puzzles you. Check your fucking premises, lazy brain. You got one wrong.

    I don’t accept anyone else as having the right to substitute his thought process for my own. I know how to test arguments, so I do it. I’m very good at it, but you have no clue.

    Would an original thought kill you?

  136. Hvd

    So help me oh wise one in telling me a poor ignorant fool how it is I miss your brilliant point? I know that I am not blessed with your extreme intelligence but I will try ever so hard to keep up with you if you could bring your brilliance to bear on explaining to me how I miss the moral dilemma you pose, how I resolve it for myself and how I believe it reflects out to the broader issue that Ian addresses because I, ignorant fool that I am do not understand.

  137. realitychecker

    @ Hvd

    Don’t pretend ignorance when you are showing you are perfectly capable of providing the real thing. 🙂

    If you can’t understand that there is some kind of problem to explore when one urges for a govt policy that differs from what any reasonable person would do, if you, as a fucking lawyer can’t get that dimension of the topic, then you really are a moron.

    I’ve had the job of critiquing the work of many lawyers when I worked for a high level appeals court, so finding idiocy in the thoughts of a lawyer never surprises me anymore.

    Covering up your limitations with clumsy sarcasm doesn’t make you look any better, counselor.

  138. Hvd

    First I am not an attorney although my words have been cited by many courts as authority. Second the law is rarely if ever written to criminalize the rather remotely exceptional case that you posit. What you have posited comes far closer to a defense than it does a crime. That is why I suggested that it might be a cause for lenity when one has committed the morally abhorrent crime of torture. You as a lawyer should be familiar with these rather basic concepts pertaining to the criminal law. What you posit is akin to self defense as a defense to murder.

    Please stop calling people names and please try to show some respect to people attempting to think through difficult matters.

  139. realitychecker

    @ Hvd

    Respect is a two way street; re-read your prior comment lol. I am a straight-up reciprocity guy. No surprises. Don’t play personal, and then clutch your pearls, OK?

    To the point: This is a moral question I am trying to explore, not a legal one. Although not a perfect correlation, the moral should always underlie and be consonant with the legal, would you not agree?

    The smartest judge I ever worked for told me, “Never make the quantum leap,” meaning make sure your underlying fact/premise firmly supports the one you are trying to build on top of it, because weak foundations are where the vulnerabilities of the argument show up and prove fatal.

    I think most are making the quantum leap when it comes to honestly grappling with the underlying moral question I posed very carefully and precisely in my hypothetical.

    Can you deal with that?

  140. Hvd

    I’m sorry but the moral question you posed was an exception not the rule and as such could provide a defense and should not be the basis of a rule whether a moral rule or a rule of law. People who commit moral and or legal crimes frequently believe they are justified but those justifications must always be weighed against their culpability. As an example I committed the crime of name calling by sarcasm but I thought I was justified because I believed you treated me with undeserved disrespect. As penance I promise not to do so the next time you call me an idiot. I hope you take the last as just the ironical joke it was intended to be.

  141. realitychecker

    Btw, the procedural-substantive dimension was always a key criterion in doing a conflict of laws analysis.

    I was trying to introduce a powerful new tool, i.e. interest analysis, for use in any complex analytical challenge, to folks who never went to law school, not trying to deliver a lecture on current law in any particular jurisdiction.

    I hope you appreciate the distinction.

    I value the knowledge-sharing function of places like this. It’s interesting to see how much resentment that brings out lol.

  142. realitychecker

    @ Hvd

    We are on totally different frequencies, I’m afraid. I’ve made my point clearly enough, I think.

    I have no desire to joust with or disrespect you. I learned young to always hit a bully back. Reciprocity rules in the real world.

    These are serious topics to me, I have studied them deeply over a long period of time. I’d much rather have a high-level discussion than a low-level one.

    Maybe you could contort yourself enough to see it from my POV for a moment? It might take you to more interesting places than I am willing to laboriously type out in great detail.

    Anyway, let’s not fight.

  143. Hvd

    As to your last comment I believe that weighing culpabiliy against justification represents exactly the sort of interest analysis that is involved in the choice of law decision. Here it weighing the interest of society in preventing the morally repugnant act of torture with little or no justification against the interest of an individual who genuinely believes that the life of his child is in jeopardy and that torture can save his child’s life . In the criminal law we normally ask if this mans belief is what a reasonable person would believe ( here with respect to the torture part) under the circumstances. Unfortunately I am in agreement with Ian and don’t really think that it is reasonable to believe that torture will bring about the desired result but certainly understand a person who is willing to hold onto such a thin reed in such traumatic circumstances. I’m not willing to extend that thin reed to people not facing so explicitly dire an immediate threat. Which brings us to the cusp of broader questions with respect to the imminence of the threat that terror in the name of Islam poses to the west but will not go there because I don’t want to sidetrack this discussion. I will note however that within the context of this discussion those who engage in such morally and legally criminal acts as murdering civilians believe they are justified because of the existential threat they believe the west poses to their families.

  144. Hvd

    We crossed paths here and I was addressing your prior entry. In my previous one. As to your last I refer you back to my previous ones which I believe were an attempt to seriously address your POV. If this is not the case then I truly cannot fathom your POV.

  145. realitychecker

    @ Hvd

    With respect, posing precise hypotheticals in order to precisely present an issue has been an accepted practice in Western civilization at least since Socrates. It’s how we train lawyers now.

    My hypo removes all the uncertainties and ambiguities you address, which complicate the basic underlying issue and takes us away from the purely moral focus I am trying to maintain.

    You must understand that morality underlies the criminal law. I got an A in a course called Morality and the Law, with a highly decorated professor. So I’m not a newbie to these discussions.

    It is strange to see people urging their govt to do the exact opposite of what each would do in their own lives in the analogous situation. Maybe we need to think more about all of this stuff, is my point.

    Why am I getting attacked for that, one might wonder. 🙂

  146. Hvd

    I for one am not attacking you but I am disagreeing with the efficacy of your argument. Both moral and legal ambiguity are the essence of the matter. Removing that ambiguity does not really help us when the reasoning behind the removal is circular. It is simply wrong to argue that the existence of a particular justification or defense obviates the crime. Murder is both illegal and morally wrong. Neither is changed if you murder in self defense. However we let you off the punishment hook if you can make out the defense – if it can be shown that there is a rational justification for your act. The act however is still murder. We don’t throw that baby out with the bath water – we simply live with the explicit ambiguity. The terrorist knows that it is morally and legally wrong to kill civilians but believes it is justified. It is up to us to accept or reject the justification. This does not nor should it be intended to obviate the crime.

  147. realitychecker

    @ Hvd

    I am sincerely trying to engage with you on this, but I am seeing basic assumptions that are so different, we may be condemned to stay in disagreement.

    But I will try one more time.

    When you say, “murder in self-defense,” we are immediately at odds, because that is not “murder.” And it is not immoral to self-preserve against a deadly threat. You are revealing a major disconnect between us right at the beginning.

    I don’t know where you got that idea (certainly not from a defense attorney lol), but that does not even meet the legal definition of “murder.”

    More to the point, you are already concluding the act to be immoral at the point when you move to the consideration of punishment. Without immorality, you have no fundamental basis to want to punish, or any justification for doing so..

    I want to explore the morality or immorality of the initial act, you are starting from the point where we have all already AGREED that it is immoral.

    I think there is an intriguing discussion to be had about that initial act–i.e., how can we deem it to be so immoral as to call it “evil” if the govt does it in special circumstances, when it is only the same moral calculation as we all would make, and choose to act on, in analogous circumstances?

    Don’t you detect even a whiff of hypocrisy embedded somewhere in that? Shouldn’t we want to better ourselves by honestly addressing it?

    Sure, torture scenarios like I pose are rare, but they do happen, and the moral issue is validly examined, IMO. Because we build a lot of other reasoning on our concepts of morality. And, frankly, that sloppy process, as practiced, is just the tip of the iceberg. We are fucked up in so many areas now, for very similar reasons, IMO.

  148. realitychecker

    Also, note that there is ZERO punishment for an actual self-defense killing, not just an amelioration of punishment. So, your assumption that the parent in my hypo MUST be punished somehow, only holds if we decide it was immoral to hurt the bad guy and save the child. I say that there is a real debate to be had on that, and the silence in response to my challenge to assert that the child should die is deafening evidence of the difficulty of the debate.

  149. Hvd

    You are right that we disagree on fundamental concepts but I can assure you that under the MPC adopted by many if not most states justifications (defenses) only provide as the very name makes clear, justification for the commission does not negative the offense only the punishment and ultimately our disapprobation. After all “thou shalt not murder” remains the injunction to which we mortals may but in this case I was justified. I see no hypocrisy in this. Just a warning that you better be damned sure before you pull the trigger.

    Further to that it is well understood that the torture of even insects and other small creature by children is an early sign of likely psychosis. That is because it is obvious even to a child that causing unnecessary suffering to any sentient creature is wrong, immoral. Might it be justifiable under certain circumstances – maybe but you better be damned sure both that you’ve got the guy who has the information, that your child is really in danger and that torture will save your child’s life. You probably could morally get away with the first two out of these three but the point of Ian’s post and a point that most of us agree on is that there is little or no proof that the third is even possible and if it is possible whether it would be necessary to get the desired result. The fact is that the proofs that do exist seem to point in the opposite direction putting the reasonable person formulation in doubt. Thus a civilian might get away with a real though unreasonable belief defense which would not be available to a professional or government official both of whom are charged with knowing better. What about the terrorist who, in his culture has a reasonable belief in the necessity of his action.

    Finally I have to add two very important words to this discussion – due process: which is hard enough to achieve under even the very best of circumstances.

  150. realitychecker

    @ Hvd

    We must live on different planets lol. You are not getting anything I said to you. Not anything. Seriously, I’m baffled.

    E.g., my hypo had no uncertainties in it, as I have pointed out repeatedly, yet you persist in supplying and relying upon multiple uncertainties in your arguments. Nobody poses a moral question that way. KISS-you know what that means?

    It’s OK. At least we were mutually respectful in our disagreement lol. Much better that way. I mean that.

    I would be interested to know if anybody here understands or has other thoughts about the concepts that you and I are differing on.

  151. realitychecker

    FYI, this is the legal definition of “murder.” (Scroll to the bottom, I suck at copy/paste lol.)
    FYI, self-defense equals justification.
    FYI, if it’s justified , it is not a crime, nor a moral offense. No liability, no punishment.



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    The unlawful killing of another human being without justification or excuse.

  152. MojaveWolf

    I would be interested to know if anybody here understands or has other thoughts about the concepts that you and I are differing on.

    I agree w/y’all that as far as morality is concerned, you seem to be working off such a different set of opening assumptions (or from such different paradigms) that having a meaningful discussion may be pointless. (also, we’ve gone somewhat far afield from state sanctioned torture, where I think we all agree w/Ian on the “this is a bad idea” part & the “it is currently used as a form of bullying and terrorism” part? — even if we don’t all agree that it never ever works?)

    From a legal perspective on self defense/defense of others tho, yeah, RC is right. “Not guilty” means “not guilty”, not “guilty but we understand where you were coming from so we’re not gonna punish you” (which is something that happens, via suspended sentences or sentences of “time served” or to probation or what have you,” it’s like the difference between “exculpatory”and “mitigating. ”

    From the CA Criminal Jury Instructions:

    Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-
    Self-defense is a defense to . The defendant is not guilty of (that/those crime[s]) if (he/she)
    used force against the other person in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense
    of another). The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of
    another) if:
    1. The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone
    else/ [or] ) was in
    imminent danger of suffering bodily injury [or was in imminent
    danger of being touched unlawfully];
    2. The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of
    force was necessary to defend against that danger;
    3. The defendant used no more force than was reasonably
    necessary to defend against that danger.
    Belief in future harm is not sufficient, no matter how great or how
    likely the harm is believed to be. The defendant must have believed
    there was (imminent danger of bodily injury to (himself/herself/ [or]
    someone else)/[or] an imminent danger that (he/she/[or] someone else)
    would be touched unlawfully). Defendant’s belief must have been
    reasonable and (he/she) must have acted because of that belief. The
    defendant is only entitled to use that amount of force that a reasonable
    person would believe is necessary in the same situation. If the defendant
    used more force than was reasonable, the defendant did not act in
    lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another).
    When deciding whether the defendant’s beliefs were reasonable,
    consider all the circumstances as they were known to and appeared to
    the defendant and consider what a reasonable person in a similar
    situation with similar knowledge would have believed. If the defendant’s
    beliefs were reasonable, the danger does not need to have actually
    [The slightest touching can be unlawful if it is done in a rude or angry
    way. Making contact with another person, including through his or her
    clothing, is enough. The touching does not have to cause pain or injury
    of any kind.]
    [The defendant’s belief that (he/she/ [or] someone else) was threatened”

  153. MojaveWolf

    Re: RC’s question: “Why are we asking the gov’t to behave differently than the way we would in our private life?”

    1. You don’t torture prisoners as a state entity, aside from moral grounds, due to the purely pragmatic reason that there is an expectation of reciprocity–i.e. “you don’t torture our guys if you catch them, we won’t torture yours if we catch them.”

    2. The government rarely, if ever, is going to have the exact sort of incentive RC was hypothesizing.

    3. To the extent it might, everyone raise your hands if you trust most governments to reliably, or even more than half the time, make the right call on this sort of thing, that is, when torturing might be both justifiable and useful . ::waits:: I am assuming no one is so stupid to have just raised your hand. If you don’t trust most, or the opposition party, given that you can’t count on people you do trust being in power all the time, you shouldn’t ever want to give any of them that power. I think our own government (and many others are actually worse, some much worse historically, though some are better and many are better now) has proven that giving them or allowing them to take this power is a bad idea.

    4. For those rare situations where it is deemed to be a good idea, that’s why you have off the books operations. Or, you can have people decide to sacrifice (or at least risk) their own career/future-outside-of-jail because they think it is worth it. If SEVERE punishment is near-certain for the guilty parties, then you could maybe more likely trust them to make the right call (AND if you can trust higher ups not to order someone to do it under threat of worse or lying to them that they would keep them out of trouble, tho most likely what you will always run risk of is people trying to do it and get away with it; to prevent this, I understand the desire to spread the idea that it can never ever work. I also understand the pushback, as this can lead to things like the idea in some modern theories of politics, law or what have you that “the narrative is more important than the facts” so that people think it’s perfectly okay to select the narrative that they think will best lead to the ultimate outcome they want, regardless of whether this narrative accords w/facts. Again, as w/torture, their may be times where this is justifiable but as a matter of policy, never ever (and in the case of torture, assuming you believe it can/does sometimes work to extract information, you have the two goods pushing against each other, as to whether to acknowledge this, since you don’t want people actually doing it and you don’t want to lie and you don’t trust your fellow humans who would be in the position to make these decisions, for the most part)(there are also all sorts of other arguments against torture, but I’m not about to reread this entire thread to see if anyone has made them; I’m pretty sure they’ve been made here somewhere in the past).

    Waaaaay off topic, from previous comment, the whole idea of “self defense against future harm, no matter how likely, is never an excuse for “x”” as stated in the code above is truly problematic imo (tho again, I understand where it comes from, as making this definitionally acceptable would certainly result in some people just making up shit and then whacking someone and claiming innocence via fear of future harm; but as it is, you’re forcing people to choose between death and lying about circumstances after the fact (or weird legal contortions like various syndromes that basically already act as a workaround to this) and would be the topic for an interesting discussion, though I suspect the discussion would again result in people with wildly differing worldviews talking past each other.

    I just woke up and now need to go back to sleep; hopefully all this makes sense.

  154. Hvd

    Im away on holiday and so do not have the resources or the will to follow up on the close legal argument re: murder at the moment however I think it is partially beside the point. I assume that you would agree that torture without justification is both morally and legally wrong? If so then the use of torture depends on the justification. You pose a unique and very particular justification. I respond to you in a detailed way as to if and when that justification might excuse the wrong because your suggestion that the hypothetical had no uncertainties is simply wrong or, if all of the variables have a definite answer is not illuminating as to other situations that do not have such clear answers. And this is the crux of the matter. Without due process (and all too often with “due process”) my experience tells me that in real life the answers to the questions I posed are not as clear as the hypothetical you posed. Further to that it is not at all hypocritical to say that some justifications to a moral or legal wrong are acceptable while others are not.

    I think your fallacy lies in arguing that the existence of a narrowly and rarely achievable justification somehow renders hypocritical a refusal to accept other justifications that do not have the certainty or reasonableness that your posited hypothetical has. Again the point of Ian’s post was that the weight of the evidence is that notwithstanding the answers to the first two questions I posed the answer to the third in real life is at best equivocal and in fact is far more likely than not to be negative.

    Finally as my invitation to you to consider the terrorist who believes himself justified in killing civilians because he can answer my three questions in the affirmative makes clear, it is appropriate for others to judge that action. Whether they or the terrorist is the hypocrite depends on the facts which as you know always belong to the victor.

  155. Hvd

    Except I have to point out to both rc and mw that the defense is only offered when there is an assumption that the state has proved all of the elements of the offense.

    Regardless, as mw’ s recitation of the jury charge shows there must be some degree of certainty as to threat and some degree of impossibility for resolution short of killing force before the self defense justification applies. The same should surely hold true with regard to torture. There also should be some certainty that the guy you’ve got has the actual information and won’t lie to you as peter’s story about Japanese torture of an American in the Russia thread illustrates.

  156. realitychecker

    @ MW and Hvd

    Responding to both, because your arguments overlap to great extent, and also because I am also busy today with other things. (Which is not to say this is not an important discussion.)

    First, MW, I know you are going thru tough stuff now, and it appears you say you did not read all the preceding comments, so let me, for clarity’s sake, just say that I have said at least twice on this thread that I do not and would not approve any kind of regular govt policy to torture; I’ve done all that is humanly possible to make clear that I am only dealing with the special cases where my certainty criteria are reasonably met. So, that obviates a lot of what you typed, and , in fairness, so also many points made by Hvd and others who just won’t accept the careful definitions of the hypo that I have offered just so we would not have all these what-about-if additions, subtractions, and alterations of the fact pattern to be debated. If we depart the hypo, we get a very unfocused discussion.

    I really don’t know why this is so difficult: Logical arguments have been conducted for many centuries in the way I am trying to do it here. The hypo sets the facts which serve as a launching point to frame and focus the dialogue on the specific moral issue to be examined.

    Here, all the comments are talking about things that do not apply to my hypo AT ALL.

    I know it is uncomfortable to deal with the base issue directly, but the various avoidance tactics and obfuscations being so strenuously and blindly offered are, to me, evidence that we really do need to explore this territory in a fresh and honest way. From the ground up.

    As to the relevance of my hypo, it is meant to be as analogous as possible to the situation the govt faces when the same criteria are met. The govt has the same responsibility to preserve life as the parent does re the child. There are some deviations between the two situations, but not enough to negate the basic similarity. Would anyone argue that they would not torture to save a million innocents? Ten million? We can discuss these hypos as theoretical facts, that is how complex and difficult issues always get debated. Start at the bottom, though, with the individual in my hypo, then expand from there if you want. As of now, nobody wants to deal with the difficult stuff that is in plain sight right there at the bottom.

    I am trying to get to a big underlying truth that is not being noted by most, namely that there is a lot of moral purity posturing, which is cheap and easy and feels good and virtue-signals to all our friends, but the reality is none would live up to that purity in reality. So, to me, we really need to talk more about this stuff.

    Eventually, the conversation would require a definition of what we mean by morality. Right now,
    we don’t have one that accords with reality. I would query, can we properly label something as immoral, or even “evil,” as some have done, if each and every one of us would have done the same immoral or evil thing? And, are we moral to pretend that it’s not OK for the govt to do that evil thing, unless they lie about it and conceal it?

    To me, these are absurdities that deserve to be explored, and our belief systems re-calibrated accordingly. I don’t know exactly where we end up, but I want honest discussion to lead us there.

    To Hvd specifically, you are simply misunderstanding the meaning of courtroom procedures. The state goes first, and yes they must make a prima facie show of guilt. But then the defendant gets his first opportunity to offer his affirmative defense.


    You are acting like the defendant should offer this defense BEEORE he is charged and presented with the evidence against him. That is absurd on its face, more so when you speak of your devotion to due process. Think about it.

    Courts like orderly procedure , that’s all.

    The prosecution gets to raise the suggestion of guilt, but the affirmative defense of self-defense NEGATES that, and restores the defendant to innocent status.

    This reflects a fundamental misunderstanding on your part of how courts actually work.

    (I have made this area something of a specialty since 1985, and did my legal internship with Barry Scheck (OJ trial, Innocence Project). I don’t speak on self-defense lightly, but I see that most progressives do, and often, and with much misplaced certainty.)

  157. realitychecker

    @ Hvd

    You know, I have long thought you were a lawyer. Maybe just because I’ve seen you weigh in on many things where you appeared to have a professional level of understanding. But this conversation has mad.e it clear you are not familiar with how the legal community works and thinks.

    I note you have said your work was cited in legal contexts, so now I am wondering what is the flavor of your expertise area or areas? Not to ad hominem you (like I get automatically ad hominem’d if I reveal my legal background lol), but just to understand better what your training looked like and where you are coming from. Because we have truly had a lot more difficulty communicating here than one would have expected. I know you are intelligent, so I seek an understanding/explanation of why.

  158. Hvd

    I publish legal analysis and am responsible for the content of our books and online service. In that role I have written a significant portion of our content. I am very very familiar with procedure. I was not commenting on procedure. I was commenting instead on the shape of the law with respect to charges and defenses. There is no need for an affirmative defense if the elements of the crime have not been proved and it is a fundamental truism of the law that a defense is not meant to negative elements of the crime but provides instead a justification for the act when all of the elements have been proved. Of course that is why insanity is different in that it negatives the men’s tea element of a crime.

    All that aside I believe your hypothetical oversimplifies to the point that it becomes useless inasmuch as the circumstance you posit with all of its certainties rarely if ever exists particularly for state actors. Second I don’t know how you get from the point where a person with perfect knowledge that justifies action which otherwise would be considered immoral (you do believe that unjustified torture is immoral don’t you) somehow raises moral questions about an unjustified act that is understood to be immoral. Once you acknowledge less than perfect knowledge on the part of the actor you are caught up in all of the complications that judging justifications entails.

  159. realitychecker

    @ Hvd

    I think the main problem here is you have insisted all along on seeing the issue through what you think is a legal framework, or what you think is pragmatic, real-world POV, while I have openly insisted on treating it strictly as a moral issue. The legal and the moral intertwine in various ways, and that gets confusing. Which is why I tried to keep the focus on the moral. Once you have a rational moral stance you are ready to go on and actually make laws based on that morality, NOT the other way around. I think the moral issue is where the real intellectual action is. That’s why I am doing this.

    You also insist on keeping the fact situation complex, which also makes it impossible to focus on the complex and subtle issue I am trying to set up for discussion.

    So, you been putting a lot of effort into not addressing the issue I posed.

    You are also incorrect on your legal view of the self-defense issue. Interesting that you want to start your analysis with the point after the prosecutor has presented unrebutted evidence. But I prefer to start in the right place, where the defendant has the presumption of innocence.


    Completely different, and more correct. Would you say the prosecutor cannot erase the presumption of innocence with his own presentation? Absurd!! I hope you can see it. Same thing happens when the defendant enters his affirmative defense to negate the prosecutors presentation. AND, the prosecutor did not PROVE anything with his presentation, not in the court’s eyes. He has only showed enough to get into court. Period. You act like the ,game is over, when it is just beginning. You’re plain wrong on this.

    AND, some affirmative defenses are partial, and some are absolute. Self-defense is an absolute one everywhere that I know about. If it holds up, you are as pure as the driven snow, morally as well as legally.

    Maybe some time we can debate the hypo I actually posed–I tried to illuminate comments above why I think that is the gateway to a very necessary series of discussions. I’m not trying to waste anybody’s time here.

  160. Willy

    “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself” may stretching a bit, but the point should be clear. Experienced attorneys may be needed to do most of the debating, but at the end of the day, it’ll be the average citizen who must come to understand and accept their conclusions (unless the goal is to replace the PTB with lawyers).

    making this definitionally acceptable would certainly result in some people just making up shit and then whacking someone and claiming innocence via fear of future harm

    Of course, the PTB ‘representing’ the rest of the USA have never done this sort of thing. The way things are today, even if the ABA unified to proclaim in one voice that the way our current government operates is unconstitutional, do you really believe that all of the PTB, and all of the six year olds, would automatically agree with the lawyers?

  161. realitychecker

    All this quasi-legal bullshit is completely irrelevant to the moral issue presented by my hypo. And which I am trying to explore in an honest and intelligent way.

    Pay attention now.

    Legal is about what is, moral is about what ought to be.

    Even Willy’s six year ought to be able to understand that distinction, and that it requires a very different conversation to debate and analyze the moral than is required to blindly parrot the (supposed} legal.

    How confusing-I thought folks here were all about what ought to be . . .

  162. Mojave Wolf

    @RC – With respect to your hypothetical, I don’t think many people are arguing with you. If someone kidnapped someone I loved or was involved in it and I thought they could give me information to save that person and they weren’t doing it and I believed a sufficient amount of unpleasantness could remedy that situation, it’s time to bring on the pain if need be (and I’m pretty sure most people offering an opinion have gone on record saying the same thing)(which somewhat surprised to me given the general political tilt of the commentariat here). And no I don’t think that would make me or anyone else doing it a bad person.

    I think you were more less assuming that answer so you’re real question was then why are we having issues with the government doing it. If she even right now all of my directions to the government doing it are pretty much practical. They’re also pretty much insurmountable from my point of view.

    Also, I don’t think it is possible in this instance to separate the Practical from the moral in the way that you seem to be trying because the Practical effects of doing certain actions are part of what makes them moral or immoral in some cases unless maybe you’re very Kantian.

    Torture is in and of itself a bad thing. So is lying. I don’t think anyone is going to ever describe line has a virtuous activity and actually mean it. But there are times where lying is the virtuous thing to do. (See traditional Stormtroopers at the door asking if you know where so and so is hiding example).

    And while I never watched the TV show 24, I believe it frequently brought up the same point you are because I remember all the online outrage and arguments about it. And yes if you has a government agent think that you can torture information out of somebody that will save a whole bunch of people who are good people from dying, and there is no other option that presents itself, sure you should go ahead.

    But the reason you were getting so much push back here is that is not how it is actually used in the real world for the most part. And when people in the real world do think they are or say they are using it for this purpose generally it’s obvious that they are either lying or very confused. (And I think some people genuinely believe it is never the best way or a useful way to extract information, in a real world situation).

    Soooooo, what is it you’re trying to get at, exactly? If it is that sometimes the preferred ends it do justify the in a vacum intrinsically bad means–while I doubt you will get unanimous agreement here–I actually would agree with that in both a moral and a practical framework. The problem is figuring out when.

  163. Mojave Wolf

    @Willy — ITA. Our government and many other other governments already do this exact sort of thing. And lots of people cheer them for it. Then they condemn other people for doing something similar and the same people cheer them. Who gets cheered for doing this and who gets condemned to seems to depend largely on the basis of rah rah go team rather than any thoughtful analysis.

    And nor was I meaning to suggest the lawyers had any sorts of a special Insight or wisdom. I am the last person to say that credentials equal necessarily equals ability or wisdom.

    I know I’m the one who pulled out the legal quote but that was in reference to a specific point someone was making; wasn’t trying to be all confusing with jargon or anything.

  164. Willy

    Legal is about what is, moral is about what ought to be.

    It seems that we get to squabble over what’s moral, while the winners write the laws.

    (again, see the South Dakota Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act for a clear example, where voters decided what was moral and those in power nixed it proclaiming the voters didn’t know what they were doing)

    Is there a torture hypo for changing The Way Things Work today?

  165. realitychecker

    @ MW (and others as applicable)

    You had a couple of typos that create some ambiguity, so I will respond only generally.

    Your obviously nuanced approach, couple with your obvious and reliable good faith, are a huge advance over the response of most others here, or on the Internet generally.

    I’ve been doing this political dialogue thingy long enough that I know most if not all of the possible rhetorical devices that get used to distract, derail, and/or obfuscate any discussion point. Many others know them as well. They have all been deployed on this thread in the service of allowing people to avoid the very uncomfortable hypo that I deliberately designed without any uncertainties to force us to confront this very uncomfortable issue at its base.

    So, let me say to you and all other participants, with respect and affection but also with dumbfounded exasperation, what the hell is going on here, that this supposedly evolved group cannot directly engage a philosophical point properly set up in a hypothetical?

    Do you realize you are all arguing with Socrates, not with realitychecker? Socrates used this technique with the youth in the streets. Law schools use this technique now. This is the way fine moral points get debated, folks. If you don’t like philosophy, just say so. But this is the way it always gets done by serious people.

    Psychologically, one cannot witness this abject terror to engage a hypo without feeling that we all know there is much work that needs to be done on the issue that makes us so uncomfortable.

    I have attempted to explain my purpose above. Once again, I am trying in good faith to open up what should be a very wide-ranging re-examination of a lot of our basic beliefs and assumptions, ya know, the ones that have delivered us into this unacceptable place. We all agree that it is unacceptable. The contradictions and dishonesties we have all been living with are the reason we got here. Think about it for a second.

    My technique when things have obviously gone wrong is to start over, at the most basic level, and build up a new or improved belief system based on better accuracy of data and thought process. Anybody with a functioning brain ought to be able to participate in that process. It’s based on common sense, not some esoteric skillset.

    My hypo takes us to that basic level. It opens up and demonstrates our willingness to live with dishonesty and obvious contradictions as a topic. Which can then immediately be seen as a widespread problem in our culture. And that insight can then be applied to many other relevant topic areas. It’s a process.

    But you don’t start on the ninth floor. You start at the foundational level. So you know that what you build on top of the foundation will not all collapse when the foundation is found to be flawed.

    This hypo demonstrates that the foundation most rely on in the torture conversation is flawed.

    The spectacle of all these supposedly intelligent, supposedly intellectually curious, supposedly good faith debaters refusing so adamantly to look to the moral foundation of the torture discussions strikes me as being so incongruous that I CONCEDE IT MIGHT WEAR ME OUT BY DRAINING MY ENERGY, but it will never remove the need for us to re-examine our basic belief systems.

    We did not get here by accident. We won’t get out of here without a lot more honesty in our discussions and our self-appraisals.

    Maybe next year . . . (sigh)

  166. Hvd


    At least mw and I have tried desperately to engage your hypothetical but to be honest I can’t see where it leads. Seriously could you at least give us some sort of idea what would be a response that would not meet with disdain on your part.

  167. realitychecker

    @ Hvd

    First, please re-read my last comment–I have laid out the big picture conversations I am trying to lead up to. They are many, and they are varied, and they are critical. But they have to be led up to.

    I am trying to get people to do something very difficult, to re-examine some basic beliefs in their personal belief systems. I appreciate that you are trying in good faith to ‘get it,’ and MW can always be relied on to do so, and I am honestly perplexed at the difficulty you guys and others are having. We should at least be able to understand each other, even if we vigorously disagree with the positions taken.

    This should not be about individual profiles, but sometimes background info helps to inform a careful opinion, which is why I share a bit and asked the same of you. I appreciate what you shared, but I still feel something ‘strange’ (to me, as a former litigation-oriented guy) in the flavor of your legal phrasings and formulations, so knowing you are not a lawyer, I’m wondering what the nature of your degree(s) might be, because we all get trained with a certain flavoring depending on what study path we are on. I’m thinking you may be more trained as a writer than as a strictly legal professional analyst. Not trying to pry, just to understand.

    To your query–I constructed my hypo to remove all the uncertainties that would complicate a real situation in most cases, to allow focus on the precise moral issue, not the practical aspects. That’s just philosophy, mental exercise, if you will. Nothing to fear or resist in being asked to think afresh about a hypothetical fact pattern.

    I absolutely expect that every parent would torture to save their child. I absolutely expected few to be willing to say so. We have seen those same parents would apparently be comfortable
    condemning a govt that would do the same thing, only on a much bigger scale (i.e., many more innocents at risk in e.g. a dirty bomb scenario).

    (Some think lying about the govt torture would make it OK. On a moral basis. That can’t be right, as a moral matter. So our general devotion to lying gets drawn into the conversation. Do you see?)

    To me, that opens up a glaring contradiction. From a strictly moral perspective. And that contradiction finds its echo in almost every area of our system as presently observed and experienced.

    Yes, I’m trying to get us to start a wide-ranging conversation, about what happens at the foundational level of our belief systems.

    My endgame? People need to stop thinking in binary, stop thinking in extremes only. It feels good, but it is always problematic. The hard work is in trying to find the correct place on every issue somewhere in between the extremes, by examining options other than the obvious binary ones.

    Perhaps I’m too ambitious. This thread show very clearly how much work is involved to even get the most basic points established. It’s exhausting, and very time-consuming.

    I would submit that, in view of the difficulty of communicating on these complex issues, that we should all be willing, in good faith, to try a little harder to understand what is attempting to be shared.

    Those of us who are here for the intellectual stimulation, at least.

  168. Willy

    rc, you are simply far too intelligent for everybody else here. Personally, I would’ve dumbed down the concept of ternary thinking for all the silly little people who continuously stumble into this place, so they could at least have had a chance at understanding:

    Once upon a time Goldilocks found that one porridge was too cold, another was too hot, but the third was just right. She ate all of the porridge that was just right. Sadly, the bears had put poison in that one, which they were immune to, and she died. Then they ate her.

    The End.

    IMO, rc may be complicating the issue by suggesting that since people who look like Goldilocks may be carrying dirty bombs, and that he knows that bears are usually the most qualified to ‘smell’ this, that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Also IMHO, if I was Ian I would’ve added links to credible stats showing that torture is less effective than other methods. His thesis that accepting government torture could also lead to a cultural acceptance of all other bullying, would’ve fallen out more naturally from that.

  169. realitychecker

    Willy, you just can’t quit me.

    Take your hand off your damn penis! 🙂

  170. Willy

    I’m over here at Peter’s place enjoying his company. And goddamnit, both of us been waiting for somebody to persuade us if torture works or not so we can proceed.

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