Monthly Archives: November 2004

The Anonymous Lawyer Shouldn’t Write A Book

There are two levels to this one. First, there's the fun marketing angle. You can read about why Evan Schaeffer, author of Notes from the (Legal) Underground thinks that the Anonymous Lawyer should be encouraged to write a book — and that a bunch of bloggers who link to him should help (as if I had any such influence!) . It's an interesting way to try to find someone a publisher.

But let's get to the merits. Should the increasingly cranky Anonymous Lawyer write a book? I don't think so. I think he should get more sleep.

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Posted in Blogs | 1 Comment

Red Cross Accuses US of Torture at Guantanamo

Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo

The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to the United States government that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion “tantamount to torture” on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay …

The report of the June visit said investigators had found a system devised to break the will of the prisoners at Guantánamo, who now number about 550, and make them wholly dependent on their interrogators through “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions.” Investigators said that the methods used were increasingly “more refined and repressive” than learned about on previous visits.

“The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture,” the report said. It said that in addition to the exposure to loud and persistent noise and music and to prolonged cold, detainees were subjected to “some beatings.” The report did not say how many of the detainees were subjected to such treatment.

“Some beatings” and psychological torture. Proud of your government?

For the record, the Pentagon denies everything—despite having been told by the White House in the torture memos that anything which wasn't intended to leave permanent damage was probably OK. And despite testimony by guards admitting that they engaged in at least mild torture (“harsh and coercive treatment”) for 14-hour sessions.

When some administration memorandums about coercive treatment or torture were disclosed, the White House said they were only advisory.

Last month, military guards, intelligence agents and others described in interviews with The Times a range of procedures that they said were highly abusive occurring over a long period, as well as rewards for prisoners who cooperated with interrogators. The people who worked at Camp Delta, the main prison facility, said that one regular procedure was making uncooperative prisoners strip to their underwear, having them sit in a chair while shackled hand and foot to a bolt in the floor, and forcing them to endure strobe lights and loud rock and rap music played through two close loudspeakers, while the air-conditioning was turned up to maximum levels.

Oh, and by the way, all those implausible accusations of weird sexual abuse…they might be true too:

Some accounts of techniques at Guantánamo have been easy to dismiss because they seemed so implausible. The most striking of the accusations, which have come mainly from a group of detainees released to their native Britain, has been that the military used prostitutes who made coarse comments and come-ons to taunt some prisoners who are Muslims.

But the Red Cross report hints strongly at an explanation of some of those accusations by stating that there were frequent complaints by prisoners in 2003 that some of the female interrogators baited their subjects with sexual overtures.

Posted in Guantanamo | 3 Comments

Canadian Jokes Anyone?

While I was in the UK last month, my friend Adrian challenged me to come up with a Canadian joke. I failed. He apparently collects them for some unfathomable reason, perhaps because they are rare. If any readers have some to contribute, I'm sure he'd be grateful.

Meanwhile, here's a sample from Adrian's collection:

Q: How do you get 20 teenage Canadian boys to get out of a swimming pool?

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Posted in Completely Different | 12 Comments

New Rumors Swirl Around Ohio Vote Count

I have no idea what to make of this.

Allegedly, a down-ticket Democrat polled 257,000 more votes than Kerry in Ohio. If true — and the web site offers some county-by-county vote figures — that's very odd, as barring the most unusual circumstances the top of the ticket polls well ahead of candidates with very limited advertising budgets. (spotted via Cosmic Iguana)

Bush is currently believed to have carried Ohio by circa 130,000 votes, although exit polls showed a narrow Kerry win. Were Kerry to have won Ohio he would have won the electoral collage although not, on current counts, the popular vote.

The Ohio vote count has had its oddities, notably the apparently false claim that the count in Warren County had to be held behind closed doors without the usual observers due to an FBI terror warning that … didn't exist. It would be enough to make you suspect some hanky-panky were we not all in the grips of … of what exactly?

Posted in Politics: US: 2004 Election | 8 Comments

Will the Revolution Be Subsidized?

The BBC calls it Rise of the anoraks (“anoraks” being English slang for people who wear uncool windbreakers and study science or math). Demos, probably the UK's most interesting think tank, calls it The Pro-Am Revolution: How enthusiasts are changing our economy and society.

Demos says that the people it calls “Pro-Ams”—meaning “amateurs who pursue a hobby to a professional standard” including serious amateur astronomers and open source coders—should receive government funding to “promote community cohesion”.

It's nice to see the bottom-up revolution being noticed. Whether it needs subsidizing, though, and how one would do so without distorting it (and without enormous waste), seem like fairly hard questions. But I haven't yet read the full report.

Posted in Readings, UK | 2 Comments

George Bush’s Best Appointment?

Admittedly, the competition is not exactly tough, but based on Kudos where deserved, I suspect that Tony Hall, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Agencies, is GWB's best appointee.

Posted in Politics: International | Leave a comment

More Anti-Spam Measures

As an experiment, I will be closing down comments on all posts that haven't had any comments for a few weeks. The idea is to shrink the target for comment spammers — I had hundreds of comment spams over the weekend despite MT-Blacklist and I'm getting more than a little fed up swatting it all.

Posted in Discourse.net | 2 Comments