Talking about ‘Clean Team’ interrogated 9/11 suspects – Washington Post- msnbc.com

 

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‘Clean Team’ interrogated 9/11 suspects – Washington Post- msnbc.com

Good to see that the FBI is using more appropriate interrogation techniques, maybe they can teach the terrorists that work for the U.S. what is appropriate human behaviour.

It’s interesting that one of these tortured guys is now alleged to have been "the" mastermind behind 9/11.  Haven’t we heard that claim about 6 or 7 times before about other people that the U.S. captured or killed?  Torture a guy enough and he’ll confess to being the President of the United States if you want him to.  The process is inherently corrupt not just in terms of ethics but also in terms of the quality of the information that is likely to come up. 

One of the most common causes for wrongful convictions is police breaking down a suspect even without torture with inappropriate pressure, especially when the case is run through the suspect.  Here’s an example from p77 of Practical Aspects of Interview and Interrogation by Zulawski and Wicklander, relating to a false confession of involvement in a murder:

"Shelton:  Did she tell you to tie her hands behind her back?

Vasquez: Ah, if she did, I did.

Carrig: Whatcha use?

Vasquez: The ropes?

Carrig: No, not the ropes. Whatcha use?

Vasquez: Only my belt.

Carrig: No, not your belt…Remember…Cutting the Venetian blind cords?

Vasquez: Ah, it’s the same as rope.

Shelton: Okay, now tell us how it went, David-tell us how you did it.

Vasquez: She told me to grab the knife, and,and, stab her, that’s all.

Carrig: (raising his voice) David, no, David.

Vasquez: If it did happen, and I did it, and my fingerprents were on it…

Carrig: (slamming his hand on the table and yelling) You hung her!

Vasquez: What?

Carrig: (shouting) You hung her!

Vasquez: Okay, so I hung her. "

Obviously the suspect Vasquez didn’t have a clue what they were talking about and even when trying to confess to get rid of the pressure, he got every single material fact wrong unless it was led through him.  Even without torture, an interrogation carried on in this manner is worthless.  If it should be admissible for anything, it would be proof of innocence.

Now in the terrorist torture case, there are two main reasons why the further information gained through the Zulawski Wicklander technique or similar route can still be tainted. 

The first is that, as one of the persons interviewed about this case said, you can’t untorture somebody.  Even if the torturer is replaced by someone bringing milk and cookies, the suspect has to wonder if he doesn’t cooperate if the goons are going to come back again.  After you’ve tortured a suspect your credibility may be somewhat shot. 

The second problem is that, as with Vasquez above, a suspect has to know something that only the wrongdoer would know and come up with it on his own for you to really hit gold.   If the case was already run through the torture suspects, they may be only regurgitating what they have already been told to say. 

This puts any clean interrogator on the horns of a dilemma.   If you start fresh and do not even use the prior interrogation as a starting point, the best way to approach the "fruit of the poison tree" defence, then you will not know if the suspect has given you any new information that was not fed to the suspect previously.  

Suggested cure: the clean interrogator must be insulated so that he is unaware of any contaminated evidence.  Once he has heard it or read it he cannot disabuse himself of it.  The objective of the clean interrogation should be to get at least one incriminating fact that only a guilty party would know, that was not disclosed by the prior improper investigation, which would have to be determined by comparing them later.  The prior improper interrogation would then only be admissible for the strict purpose of showing that fact or those facts had not been run through the suspect prior.  To do that properly of course, one would have to have complete records of prior investigations.  The irony is that if this works, then the non-violent interrogation was more successful.

The very conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia recently in a lecture suggested that there may be very limited circumstances in which torture may be appropriate, such as where there is a real and imminent threat to public safety on a large scale. 

I can see that, but there has to be a tension, some kind of a poison pill, that will ensure that this is only done in those cases where it is absolutely certain that it must be done.   One way to do it might be to categorically preclude prosecution of any offences related to the torture.  If you know that a suspect will definitely walk if you torture him, that’s a big disincentive.  Another would be mandatory prosecution of such tortures as an offence and force personnel doing this to rely on a pardon to avoid life imprisonment- which can of course be done with existing laws.   If you don’t have faith that a politician can defend such a pardon in front on his constituents, then maybe your case isn’t strong enough to be doing that. 

 

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Obama wins in Maine – Decision ’08- msnbc.com

Obama wins in Maine – Decision ’08- msnbc.com

It’s said that Romney dropping out makes it probable that McCain will be the nominee. I see that as actually making it less likely. Now instead of Romney and Huckabee splitting the vote and McCain coming up the middle, Huckabee will probably win most of the remaining states by 20%. I hope that holds true. Of course I like Ron Paul better than any other candidate in either party, but he has little appeal to the Republican party core. Properly he should be an independent or in another party- one of the perils of such a two party system, that certain options that the public ought to have will never be available.

Policy-wise of course I would probably be somewhat closer to McCain than to Huckabee, but for a person to be bipartisan can mean a lot of different things. Huckabee may be the more traditional Republican, but McCain is more the Washington insider and he strikes me as too much of an opportunist. There are a number of things that I wouldn’t agree with Huckabee on but he strikes me as a straight shooter. Trust is more important than agreement.

I was thinking about Huckabee’s position on constitutional amendments, and after thought, while I don’t agree with it I like it. The constitution has been interpreted to give people certain rights that he disagrees with. The traditional approach of so-called conservatives is to try to stack the Supreme Court with judges that are expected to ignore legal principles in key cases and hope that they will not strike down laws that are new versions of what has already been found to be unconstitutional. Some brag about wanting to pervert the course of justice in this way- I call them "so-called conservatives" because their approach is anything but conservative, actually a form of anarchism deliberately subverting the course of justice.

The correct and appropriately disingenuous (or disingenious, as I like to say) solution if one wants to change the constitution is to change the constitution. There is a procedure in place for doing so. Whatever your cause, if you subvert this process, deal cards from the bottom of the deck so to speak, it isn’t God you work for, it’s somebody else. Would your God want you to cheat or to breach your oath of office? If you cannot reconcile your private religion to your public duty, then you should do as the Jehovah’s Witnesses do and stay out of politics.

On the other hand, using the constitutional amendment process to change the constitution is the appropriate process, including for constitutional amendments that I don’t agree with. It has more checks and balances than any other process, for good reason, and sometimes even good amendments take many years to complete the rigorous process of being completed. Many states have to accept any amendment. That makes it improbable that any amendments will pass without overwhelming public support.

I don’t know exacly what to say about the prospect of McCain winning other than that I have a very bad feeling about that prospect. Huckabee wouldn’t be the best but at least I think we can trust him. If he could bring himself to have Ron Paul as a running mate that would give me even more comfort.

McCain will probably be a lame duck by convention if Huckabee will hang on because losing his way to the nomination isn’t going to make him look very strong. If McCain doesn’t have enough on the first ballot, Huckabee will win.

It is looking like Obama will be the Democrat nominee. Clinton cannot match him for oratory. He may be a little low on experience but he is bright. Reagan got elected as a gifted orator even though he had the brainpower of a flea and was losing even that to Alzheimer’s. True Reagan had more experience, but considering how badly he mismanaged California that should have counted against him. Obama will be part of a team and he wouldn’t be running the place alone. 80% of leadership is knowing not to micromanage people under you that know what they’re doing and lack of experience may lead to greater deference to the skills of the team around him. Whether it works or not, we have to see. One man never has run a country.

A recommendation that I would make is recruit the best, even Republicans. I’d feel a lot safer with Ron Paul in particular doing something in that Whitehouse. I think that every good leader should have at least one person around that will tell him that he is full of shit to his face, and usually be right when he does it. Such people are gold. The other kind, that will do it behind your back and usually be wrong, are a dime a dozen.

Too often a one sided diet of like-minded thinkers and yes-men leads to groupthink, in which the whole is less than the sum of the parts. Always, always, always have at least one contrarian around as a safety check to make sure that you don’t do something stupid.

Why the interest in Ron Paul? Because he is right about many things, especially the most important ones such as the constitution. Don’t forget that Libertarianism and Liberalism have the same roots both linguistically and politically. One of the unfortunate effects of Marxism is that the political left began using some of the oppressive tactics previously only associated with the political right, which has resulted in a political splintering.

Politics has more than one axis. One axis might be the traditional one of left-right. Another is the level of control, from libertarian to totalitarian. This leads to confusion. When the right wing tries to control what people say and think, it seems to me that they are acting like a bunch of commies. Much of the right wing are closer to Stalinists than they would like to admit. In my view, the libertarian to totalitarian axis is more important than the left-right axis. At the extreme ends of libertarianism and totalitarianism, there really isn’t any room for a distinction between right and left.

I am probably a more extreme libertarian than Ron Paul. Not only governments can oppress people and deal with them unjustly. This can be done by industries, unions, religions, and any other group of people. I see government as a necessary evil, that may be necessary, but never stops being an evil and that must not be forgotten. The primary function of government should be protecting individuals from the arbitrary oppressions of others.

There are some that call themselves libertarians who are not. Allowing corporations to do whatever they want is not really a form of libertarianism, it is a form of either corporate anarchism or corporate totalitarianism depending on how it is done. Libertarianism that is really anarchism is the most common deviation- one sided libertarianism where one group or individual gets to do whatever they want, including wronging others. But that is egoism turned into a political position.

True libertarianism I see as being not being about rights. For every right there is a corresponding obligation. When the focus is on one’s own rights rather than the rights of others, it is too easy for there to be subtle shift to egoism because the focus is on oneself rather than on one’s duty. It can be easy to forget that these rights and these obligations are symmetrical.

The test is disagreement. For instance, with Mr. Huckabee’s proposal about a constitutional amendment. My initial reaction was extreme distaste. But if a man feels that he has a duty to do a thing, and we have not satisfied him that he is wrong in this and his honor demands it, and he follows all correct procedure without trying to take any improper advantage, then even if one disagrees with him, one must admit that what he has done is right and proper. His right to propose a constitutional amendment is the same as anybody else’s right to bring a constitutional amendment, not just ones that we agree with. If what he wants is incorrect, there are checks and balances and the amendments can be opposed. If his amendments fail, then he has done his duty. There is a risk to individual rights with such a procedure. But we must have faith that the rule of law will tend to create greater and greater protection over time, even if there are some setbacks. When we lose faith in the rule of law, as have the anarchists in the Bush administration, the threat to individual liberty is far greater.

We must also beware of how we react to provocative incidents. Look at the results of the Iraq war. If we’d offered to have several thousand Americans killed, destroy our economy and go 2 trillion dollars further into debt in return for Bin Laden sparing the two towers I’m sure he would have taken us up on it. Who’s winning again?

Talking about Actually, a long, healthy life costs more – Health care- msnbc.com

 

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Actually, a long, healthy life costs more – Health care- msnbc.com

A brief comment, followed by lengthy digressions.

I like this story.  It illustrates the importance of empiricism.  Conventional wisdom of course is that obesity and smoking should cause health care to cost more.  It is quite amusing that the costs are the reverse of what is expected.   Too often people that are alleging to be scientific become "authorities" on the strength of bald opinions by some people with glasses and lab coats and it is too often accepted without research, without question, in a fundamentally religious way, even if there is no actual science behind it. 

Of course the study is limited to actual health care costs and has to be taken in that light.  That is, other costs associated with smoking and obesity such as lost productivity, sick days taken and the like are not considered, and those are just the costs that can be measured in a meaningful way.   Other costs related to lost quality of life are there too.   Anything that affects health is likely to have far reaching effects into all areas of life. 

If this is where modern health care is going, it is a reductio ad absurdum.   An expected $417,000 total health care cost for a healthy person (at least in Holland)?  That’s insane.   That’s got to be, what, 1/4 to 1/3 of a person’s lifetime productivity devoted mostly to a vain struggle to stave off the inevitable towards the end?   If decency requires trying to prevent death in every case (which will inevitably fail eventually in every case), why not devote the entire productivity of society to that? 

That needs to be brought down to a much more reasonable ratio and dealt with on the basis of cost-benefit.   I would suggest coming up with a target figure for an average per person over their life and then making choices in order of priority.   I think an average $50,000 per person over the course of a lifetime should be more than adequate for reasonable treatment. 

Most important is the chance of a good outcome. 

The right wing is right about one thing to do with health care- it costs too much.   The solution is to stop doing things that should not be done in the first place and there will be more than enough money to ensure universal health care.  We could probably have universal health care at 20% of the cost of non-universal health care by setting priorities. 

Although a socialist, I am in favor of a two-tiered health care system. Actually, I am in part in favor of that precisely because I am a socialist.  If the rich make their arrangements in private but have no public contribution to private arrangements, that frees up money for others.  And,  if the rich choose to waste their own money on procedures that are likely to be futile or low cost/benefit, I see know reason either why they should be stopped or why futile treatments should be extended to the poor as well.

The best place to start cutting? Drugs.

I wonder how much of that cost is related to drugs.  The cost of drugs, especially if prescribed over long periods, is likely an enormous component of this lifetime cost. Drugs that have mild short term benefits and dangerous long term effects are too often approved and then prescribed by doctors in what is often an uncritical manner.  This echos how in times past opium and cocaine were thought to be beneficial by people who liked to think of themselves as learned.  

My present favorite for attack is Effexor, an antidepressant that is an unmitigated disaster yet which has not yet been banned.  It triples suicide rates, not just in children like it says on the box, but in every age group.  There are large numbers of horror stories around it.  I have studied the FDA materials on it, and even assuming that they aren’t cooked in the drug’s favor (as some theorize), the methodology is in some respects clearly wrong.  For instance, a group of people that had been on it for a year were split into two groups, one that was kept on the drug and one that wasn’t. 

Now, if you medicated a group of people with alcohol for one year and split them in the same way, the ones taken off it would be in withdrawal (which in the case of alcohol, sometimes never stops), and those that were allowed to continue to drink might well feel better than those that didn’t while they had the substance.   What would be missing?  A control group that had never been on the regimen in the first place. 

In my view, good science requires as much as possible all three of anecdotal evidence, statistical evidence and analysis of how things work.  The less you have in any of these three areas the more likely that something critical will be missed or such evidence as there is will be misunderstood.   Statistics give correlations, but a bare correlation doesn’t tell you whether the correlation is a cause and effect correlation or an effect-effect correlation, or pure coincidence. 

Suppose for a minute that we did not know that selenium helps prevent cancer and that areas that have high selenium content in the soil generally have lower cancer rates.   Suppose that there were an area of extremely high selenium content, the lowest cancer rates in the world, and it so happened that the local population had a custom of eating 2-3 bagels each per day.  Some moron would probably start a fad diet on the premise that bagels prevent cancer.  Actually their cancer rates would be even lower if they didn’t have bagels, but the statistic misleads.

The gathering of anecdotal evidence is important because results can be seen first hand.  Because it tends to be more involved, gathering anecdotal evidence on the same scale as statistical evidence is usually impractical.  The risk is that without statistical evidence or supporting analysis, anecdotal evidence may be misleading due to low sample size and possible anomalies in the sample that do not hold true for a general population. 

That being said, it again in my view is indispensible.  My favorite example of this was the testing of the age old myth that testosterone causes violence.  A purely statistical study was once done in which the testosterone of prison inmates was measured and found to be twice the level of that of the general population.  This first erroneous study helped to perpetuate the myth of testosterone leading to violence. 

A second study was then done in which inmates were actually injected with testosterone.  The observation was that it had a calming effect.  Others were injected with estrogen, and they became much more agitated.  The violence hormone, at least in men, appears to be estrogen rather than testosterone.   I love that.  I think that it should be taught in schools.  A peril of the testosterone myth is that it encourages that view that a man who doesn’t control himself is acting more manly.  Tell boys that if they act up it means their female hormones are too high and it won’t seem nearly as macho. 

The third element, knowing the mechanism by which something works, is of equal importance.   Whether you have high quality, low sample evidence with anecdotal evidence or low quality, high sample evidence with statistics, if you don’t know how something works there is a higher chance that you are simply wrong.  A key here related to medical drugs is the body’s negative feedback systems.  The body generally works to keep your system stable and in balance.  If anything shifts that balance, the body generally takes action to restore the balance.   If the stressor on the system remains long enough, the body gets used to that level of balancing and the body now needs the stressor to stay in balance. 

So almost all downers, while having the short term effect of relaxing a person, have the long term effect of making a person’s body even more hyper and nervous without the downer.  Many or most stimulants have a similar effect in that if you get used to using them you will be sluggish if you stop.   Because of the body’s negative feedback this holds true in most cases.  That is why the old style homeopathy works- if you want to reduce stress, take small quantities of something that causes stress over a long period and your stress levels go down.  If you want more energy, takes small quantities of something that makes you relax over a long period and your energy levels will tend to go up.  The short term effect is in most cases the opposite of the effect of long term use. 

I say "old style homeopathy" because there is a new fangled, new age version that does not use the term correctly, in some cases actually using heteropathy.

Heteropathy is dangerous, by which I mean the opposite of homeopathy.  If someone is too agitated, you give him something to calm him down, which works in the short term but over the long term will increase the imbalance and make the person more agitated unless they continue to take the substance, in which case the person will tend to oscillate with the presence of the substance and become unstable even if they continue to use.   Eventually they need the drug just to be how they were before ever taking it, and then you have addiction or dependency.  Addiction and dependency are great for drug companies, not so great for the victims or for the health care system that will take the double hit of paying for addiction and paying for all of the health consequences of the addiction. 

Effexor is a heteropathy drug.  The anecdotal evidence that I have come across for this and similar substances, but especially for Effexor, is horrific.  The victim is almost always worse off with the drug than without it.  People that had a case of the blues before start spinning wildly out of control.   Fortunately in most cases that I’ve seen where a person stops using it they seem to return fairly quickly to normalacy, of course in most of those cases it was short term use discontinued for obvious reasons. 

Worse, the drug company that makes it has encouraged both doctors and prospective patients to use the drug inappropriately, and to the FDA’s credit, at least the manufacturer has been cited for this.  But I would like to see more than that.  When a company puts a drug like Effexor or Vioxx on the market, knowing that it will destroy lives and lead to many unnecessary deaths, especially with the aggravating circumstance that flippant use of the drug is encouraged, I think that those involved should be tried for first degree murder.

I expect that within 50 years most such substances will be banned in the same manner as cocaine and heroin.   The sooner we do it, the sooner we can start saving lives and money.

I would add, in another significant digression, that the very first time that I ever had any respect for Tom Cruise was when he took a public stand against these sorts of drugs, and apparently this was related to his religion of Scientology.   It was the first thing from Scientology that I ever saw that impressed me.  Now that the conman that created that religion is deceased, it may well develop into a proper religion including among other religions, promoting the social conscience.  

People can believe that the moon is made of green cheese for all I care, if they make the world a better place then their beliefs may be harmless inaccuracies.   I was disappointed that nobody jumped on the bandwagon.   Too often religions focus on arcane distinctions between each other and ideas about things such as the age of the earth, which while interesting does not have a great deal of immediate importance.  When religions do take stands, it is often on issues that are most divisive and most likely to make them unpopular.  If they could on the other hand come together to defeat great evils that they cannot destroy individually, much could be done with this world.  I think that this would be more in line with both the spirit and intention of Jesus, Mohammed, Moses all of the various other saints and saviours.   Bicker over minutae like pharisees and you may hold power for a time but you will cease to be relevant and will eventually go the way of the pharisees.   Become relevant and envision greatness and converts always come.     For any organization, religious or otherwise, taking no risks and no stands is often the riskiest course of action, leading to loss of relevance and a slow death.

Say something that needs to be said.  Do something that needs to be done.  Do it with a real life, empirical understanding of the relations between actions and consequences rather than dogma.  Allow for some degree of relativism, as in my opinion all of Jesus, Mohammed and Moses did.  Jesus is an authority for this- he says that divorce was allowed by Moses due to the hardness of the hearts of the people.  Mohammed while agreeing with Jesus on some things, allows for polygamy and makes other allowances for the culture that he is in, while attempting to move society to a more humanitarian approach.  I would also point out that while the followers of each are usually collectivist in orientation, none of these were even remotely collectivist.  Respect for individuals and their rights was paramount, and each one took a position that was hardly deferential to authority or the other groups around them.  If they had been collectivist in orientation they would have deferred to others, changed nothing, and be dead to history.

The clearest example of the importance of some cultural relativism, and best guide for interpretation of the others, I think is the secular figure Abe Lincoln.  If he had tried to move blacks to full equality within a single generation, he would have generated resistance that was too great and failed.   So, he did what he could.  Now, if he had been a religious figure, his standpoint would be taken as what should be the law for all time, that blacks should be free but not given full equality.  But I do not think that was his purpose- I suspect that if he knew that due to his actions, one day a black man would be running for president, he would be proud.  One should neither ignore the culture that one is in nor resign oneself to its defects.  The culture that one would change is a set of facts that must be tactically assessed.

I would like to see some of the great evils of the world such as drug manufacturers and the military-industrial complex, dogpiled on.  I see the world as being mostly a series of what are in essence overlapping religions, not just in the traditional sense, but as well people with what are religious commitments to science, to industry, to political viewpoints, to drug manufacturing, to health care, to military, and when any of these areas turn inwards and serve themselves rather than a broader social purpose, they turn into a voracious beast. 

Lots of things need to be done in this world, especially in connection with environmental reform, economic and financial reform and health reform, and most people recognize this but although as a species we have more resources to deal with problems than we ever did historically, our will to do what needs to be done is at a historic low. 

Simple questions don’t seem to get asked much.   Obvious questions that go to the heart of a matter like, does it make any sense to spend an average $400,000 per person over a lifetime for health care, don’t seem to be asked much.  Politicians would rather debate the question of whether some or all people should get that preposterous level of coverage.   The cost/benefit of given treatments doesn’t get many headlines either.   The typical politicians and bureaucrats of this world are very good at coming up with hopelessly convoluted schemes and systems that usually don’t work very well, but they usually don’t ask simple questions that need to be asked.  Being appropriately disingenuous, or disingenius as I like to say, can be a strength rather than a weakness.  The more ingenious and complicated a system is, the less likely it is to work. Think of this as an Ockham’s Razor for real life.