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Dave Irvine is right – The CIA’s Torture Program Was Not Worth It

By way of full disclosure, Dave Irvine is my cousin.

Yesterday, the Trib published an op-ed by David R. Irvine about the Senate’s Torture Report. In the op-ed, Irvine concludes:

. . . because torture failed to produce significant intelligence, why would we ever consider abandoning the interrogation practices that have proved effective over and over? This exhaustive search of the classified record shows that torture is unreliable, and that whatever we got from it was not worth the damage it has caused to our standing in the community of nations. Our use of torture isolates us from allies and puts the nation at greater risk of harm.

This argument is not new, it’s not novel but it is entirely accurate. The Bush administration bent over backwards to find ways to make torture legal, the CIA engaged in a systematic campaign of dishonesty about torture. It wasn’t worth it.


The Torture Report is Every Bit as Bad as Feared – and then some

Frankly, I can’t decide what’s worse – the deliberate embrace of torture or the accompanying incompentence (they have no idea how they spent some of the money, they lost prisoners, they had no idea how many prisoners they had).

I’ve been trying to absorb the report itself. Here are the 20 key findings of the Senate committee:

#1: The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of
acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.

#2: The CIA’s justification for the use of its enhanced interrogation techniques rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness.

#3: The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.

#4: The conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were harsher than the CIA had represented to policymakers and others.

#5: The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.

#6: The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.

#7: The CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.

#8: The CIA’s operation and management of the program complicated, and in some cases impeded, the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies.

#9; The CIA impeded oversight by the CIA’s Office of Inspector General.

#10: The CIA coordinated the release of classified information to the media, including inaccurate information concerning the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

#11: The CIA was unprepared as it began operating its Detention and Interrogation Program more than six months after being granted detention authorities.

#12: The CIA’s management and operation of its Detention and Interrogation Program
was deeply flawed throughout the program’s duration, particularly so in 2002 and early

#13: Two contract psychologists devised the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and
played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management of the CIA’s
Detention and Interrogation Program. By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced
operations related to the program.

#14: CIA detainees were subjected to coercive interrogation techniques that had not been
approved by the Department of Justice or had not been authorized by CIA Headquarters.

#15: The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of
individuals it detained, and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for
detention. The CIA’s claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its
enhanced Interrogation techniques were inaccurate.

#16: The CIA failed to adequately evaluate the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation

#17: The CIA rarely reprimanded or held personnel accountable for serious and
significant violations, inappropriate activities, and systemic and individual management

#18: The CIA marginalized and ignored numerous internal critiques, criticisms, and
objections concerning the operation and management of the CIA’s Detention and
Interrogation Program.

#19; The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program was inherently unsustainable and
had effectively ended by 2006 due to unauthorized press disclosures, reduced cooperation
from other nations, and legal and oversight concerns.

#20; The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States’
standing in the world, and resulted in other significant monetary and non-monetary costs.

Abuse of power, lying, systematic dishonesty, corruption and failure.


Report: Police Killings Rank Second In Utah Homicides

Hunt police shooting protest

The Salt Lake Tribune:

Through October, 45 people had been killed by law enforcement officers in Utah since 2010, accounting for 15 percent of all homicides during that period.

A Salt Lake Tribune review of nearly 300 homicides, using media reports, state crime statistics, medical-examiner records and court records, shows that use of force by police is the second-most common circumstance under which Utahns kill each other, surpassed only by intimate partner violence.

Is this a problem? Until recently, I believed that the rules governing the use of deadly force in self-defense were the same for law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens. The media attention that has been focused on the issue of police shootings of unarmed suspects has revealed that, in practice, wearing a badge allows far more latitude. Police officers hardly ever face criminal charges for using their guns.

There has been very little effort to systematically track shootings by police. Fatal Encounters and the Deadspin Police-Shooting Database are two efforts to remedy the lack of data.

More info:
Police Shot Darrien Hunt 6 Times In The Back (October 29)
Equal Justice Under the Law – NOT (August 14)
Why Cops In Britain And New Zealand Don’t Carry Guns


Erick Erickson to Tea-GOP: ‘Shut. It. Down.’

Via Media Matters.

Faux News Channel political analyst Erick Erickson, an influential voice among Tea Party Republicans, is calling on the new GOP Congress to push for a government shutdown. In a November 18 post to his website headlined “Shut. It. Down.”, Erickson says that the 2013 shutdown provides an excellent model for Republicans to follow now that they control both houses of Congress.

He thinks that President Obama will get the blame for another Tea-GOP government shutdown.

Block Obama. Let him show himself again to be the petulant man-child Americans have started recognizing. And this time, when he shuts down the government, keep it shut till you have your way and then hold public hearings to show how Obama selectively shut things down to hurt the voters intentionally.

Bring. It. On.

Erickson To GOP: Shut Government Down — There Are No Consequences!

“[T]he voters did not elect the GOP to do any part of their own agenda,” he wrote. “The GOP did absolutely nothing but run on ‘we are not Obama.’ If that is the image they rebuilt, then they need to not be Obama and need to not fund Obama’s agenda.”

Heritage vetoes Republican ‘rescission’ plan

Republican leaders on the Hill may be looking for a way out of the hole they dug for themselves, but finding a solution that the right considers acceptable will probably be even more difficult than it was the last time the GOP shut down the federal government.


Are Our Public Lands Up For Grabs Now?

High in the Morning - Maynard Dixon

Tea-GOP Congresswoman-elect Mia Love regarding our public lands: “I support returning ownership back to the state of Utah.” The premise of this statement (not to mention the grammar) is completely wrong, because the public lands in Utah have always been in federal ownership since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The State of Utah did not exist until 1896, nearly a half-century later.

State-level land grab attempts such as the Transfer of Public Lands Act (the 2012 Utah law that demands the federal government hand over public lands to the state by December 31, 2014) violate both the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution. However, the U.S. Congress has the ultimate power over all federal lands. The Property Clause in Article 4 of the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States…”

Now that the Tea-GOP controls both houses of Congress, will Mia Love get her wish?

Claire Moser on Think Progress:

For the Republican Party, the growing internal debate over whether America’s public lands should be seized and sold represents a choice between the conservation values of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt and the power of a special interest-driven agenda. Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar observed in August that the RNC’s endorsement of land grabs would “cause Teddy Roosevelt to turn over in his grave.”

With the debate escalating over whether public lands should be seized or sold, candidates who dodged the issue but won on Tuesday will likely soon have to say whether they are with the party of Teddy Roosevelt or Cliven Bundy.

President Obama has the power (delegated by Congress to the chief executive in the Antiquities Act of 1906) to proclaim national monuments on public lands. He has already done so 13 times to protect more than 260 million acres of land and water, which is more than any other President. And he says he is “not finished” with national monuments.

There is a proposal for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument in Utah. The Tea-GOP has it coming. Will President Obama bring it?

More info:
The Sagebrush Gang Rides Again? (February 2012)

Is possible San Rafael Swell state park another Utah land grab?


Election Turnout Sucked

Mid-terms have lower turnout than Presidential year elections. Nevertheless, turnout for 2014 was the lowest it’s been in decades – approximately 37% of eligible voters actually voted. By the time all the absentee ballots arrive, that figure may rise to 38%. The last time participation was this low was in 1942 (when people, it can be argued, had other things on their minds).


WaPo/ABC Poll: 1 Percent Say U.S. Economy is ‘Excellent’

Washington Post-ABC News poll Oct. 23-26, 2014
The 1% says economy is excellent
Mr. Burns

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The Conservative World of Propaganda and Disinformation

On a recent out of town trip, I wandered into the hotel fitness center. While a group of (mostly) older people were exercising, they were engrossed in Fox News blaring from the TV. Engrossed.

I don’t remember the specific stories so much as the waves of fear emanating from the TV screen. Ebola, immigrants, Islam, Obama . . . it was a mishmash of things viewers should fear, interspersed with attacks on all things not Fox approved.

Fox resonates with American conservatives. But it does more than that. It shapes the conservative discourse and worldview, painting a picture of a world overwhelmed by hostility. In this world, gay people are coming for your kids, Muslims have infiltrated the US from Mexico and have implemented Sharia law in Michigan, public schools are brainwashing your kids and America has all but been destroyed and only the plucky bravery of the viewer (and approved politicians) can save any and all of us from going to hell in a handbasket. Fox shapes and broadcasts right wing memes with uncanny consistency. Read the rest of this entry »


Constantine: Reviewing the Pilot

I told myself I wasn’t going to spend too much time on TV reviews. Apparently, in addition to having almost no life, I am an addict of entertainment involving the supernatural.

NBC’s Constantine is treading some very familiar territory – there are demons, angels, supernatural spells and curses and a protagonist haunted by his past. It is closer to Angel than Buffy, but it has obvious similarities to both (as well as Supernatural). In terms of special effects, it’s a step up from Supernatural. Stylistically, the pilot at least is visually darker than any of the above. It takes place in a morally ambiguous world that could prove interesting.

The pilot started with a bang – our main character has checked himself into an asylum, received ECT and then is seen in group. He follows cockroaches into a large chapel where a fellow patient is writing on the wall in what looks like blood. He casts the demon out of her, reads the message and checks himself out of the asylum and sets off to save Liv (more on her in a moment). Along the way, we met Chas and Manny (a mysterious cabby and angel respectively) who help John Constantine. Constantine sets out to locate and save Liv. What follows is a fairly standard for the genre episode that wastes little time on exposition, but provides some well done visuals, including a shot of the entire Atlanta metro area plunging into darkness as the power is cut.

Actor Matt Ryan does a good job as John Constantine, both witty banter-wise and obviously haunted by the past. The supporting cast don’t really have enough screen time to flesh out their characters, save Liv. And herein lies the pilot episode’s biggest problem. Throughout the episode, she’s being set up as the obvious and key character – the outsider who will guide us through Constantine’s world. She asks the key questions (“What’s this image carved into my door?”, “Who are you and how do you know these things?”), she is given a gift that will help our main character in his quest to save his soul. And at the last minute, she’s written off.

We’re told Liv departs Atlanta for California, our hero will place a spell to protect her and that’s that. But it made the entire pilot feel pointless – everything in the episode told us to care about Liv – and then she was sent packing, unceremoniously. It’s frustrating.

The episode ends with a shot of a mysterious woman drawing a picture of Constantine; the camera pans back and we see she is surrounded by similar drawings, including a striking portrait of Constantine on a window. It’s enough of a teaser to bring me back next week.

I haven’t read the source material (the comic book Hellblazer which ran for 300 issues) and I’ve only seen parts of the film starring Keanu Reeves. That said, it’s obvious the basic ingredients for a successful series are in place. The question is whether or not the creative team can get the story telling right before getting bogged down into ongoing story arcs and mythology. As an aside, the complex, mythology episodes of X-Files were often my least favorite. Other series that develop an ongoing mythology tend to grow sufficiently complex that after a few seasons they become difficult for new viewers to jump into (without binge watching multiple seasons before doing so). Conversely, ongoing mythology is rarely rewarding or interesting enough to justify our time (Alias is a perfect example of a series that could not sustain its ongoing mystery and that, in the end, could not deliver an interesting enough resolution). The trick is to keep the larger story line smart enough to keep viewers interested without being forced to define it so that is disappoints.

Constantine, like other series in the genre will need to spend some time fleshing out its main characters and refining its story telling – getting a better balance between the witty, the somber, and the exposition. It will require some work to keep the visual style. That said, I’m intrigued to see what comes next.

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Mythical Religious Persecution Narrative and a New Jim Crow

Earlier this week, a story spread like wildfire about two pastors threatened with jail time and massive fines for not performing gay weddings. Attorneys from the right wing ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the pastors. The story was breathless, controversial and inaccurate.

The pastors in question run a for profit business that as recently as two weeks ago was very clear that they offered both religious and civil ceremonies. They run a marriage mill, performing something like 1400 weddings per year. Oh, and the big error? The city of Coeur d’Alene had not threatened them with fines or jail time, there have been no complaints filed against them. The couple in question asked the city attorney what would happen if they failed to comply with the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance and refused to marry a same-sex couple; the city attorney spelled out the possible legal consequences. End of story. Not really. I’ll let Jeremy Hooper explain:

When I first learned about the story of Idaho’s Hitching Post, which was suddenly the far-right’s latest marriage “victim” for supposedly being threatened by the city of Coeur d’Alene for not marrying a same-sex couple, I thought the whole thing was too coincidental to be true. I didn’t focus on it in my last post on the subject since I had the much more newsworthy discovery that the business had changed its website so that they could seem much more faith-driven than they had been operating in the past. But a part of me was wondering how the same business that went to the press back in May with its preemptive marriage fears, well before Idaho had marriage equality, could now be in the spotlight in such a major way. it just seemed too perfectly orchestrated.

To wit (Gridley is the city attorney):

“Their lawsuit was something of a surprise because we have had cordial conversations with them in the past and they have never disclosed that they have recently become a religious corporation,” Gridley wrote.

Gridley wrote that the city will not prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies or other exempt organizations or anyone else as a result of their lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion.

In addition to exempting those groups, Gridley wrote that the anti-discrimination ordinance states that it “shall be construed and applied in a manner consistent with First Amendment jurisprudence regarding the freedom of speech and exercise of religion.”

When contacted by The Press for comment, Don Knapp said the Hitching Post is not operating as a not-for-profit religious corporation. He also said he does not know ADF Attorney David Cortman.

Let’s be clear – almost everything you’ve heard about the case is wrong. No complaint has been filed against The Hitching Post. If they are a legitimate religious organization, they are exempt from the city’s ordinance. (It’s worth noting that they have been an ordinary, for profit business up to this point and have a history of performing both religious and civil ceremonies; they have not been, up to this point, a church or religious organization.)

The facts haven’t stopped hosts of religious people sanctimoniously declaring that “no one should be forced to do something that violates their conscience” and “no one should be forced to participate in a same sex wedding.” Utah legislators have obviously seen the story and are alreayd discussing a bill that would allow people to declare they have a religious objection and exempt themselves from participating in same-sex weddings (if history is any guide, the bill will pass, but will be so overly broad it will fail constitutional muster and be struck down, leading to all sorts of public hysterics over activists judges and repeated sharing of bathetic overhyped tales of bakers and florists and photographers and poor picked on pastors). It’s clear that a great many religious persons oppose same-sex marriage, and believe their opposition is entirely based on theological reasons and fear that at some point, some legal change will force them to “accept” same-sex marriage.

I don’t want to minimize the difficulty marriage equality presents for many religious persons. People do not lightly give up tradition or traditional teachings about sexuality and relationships.

Until very recently, most people casually accepted the idea that something was “wrong” with gay and lesbian persons. The idea that sexual minority persons are not inherently sick, immoral or incapable of forming long-lasting, stable relationships is relatively new in our society. The idea of same-sex marriage is also relatively new (although the Boston Marriage is a fascinating bit of history). Many socially and religiously conservative persons continue to embrace the belief that gay persons can become straight through therapy and prayer, that being gay is a choice and a bad one.

For some persons, the idea of a same sex couple marrying seems absurd at best. These individuals define marriage as a man and a woman and exclude anything else (one suspects Utah State Rep. Kraig Powell is such a person). It’s not uncommon in discussions to hear someone declare that marriage is between a man and a woman and anything is fake and the law can’t make “real” what isn’t real. The “love the sinner hate the sin” motto employed by religious persons reveals more than most people think – for many religious persons, gay people are less than straight people and same-sex couples are less than heterosexual couples.

With the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the various cases coming to them, the number of states in which same sex marriage is legal increased dramatically in one week (at JoeMyGod, Joe observed that there had been 9 separate marriage equality maps in the week of October 6).

Religious conservatives have very visibly and vocally expressed their dismay. We’ve heard all the usual buzzwords about out of control judges, judicial activism, and the usual predictions of coming tyranny. Religious conservatives are asking “What next?” with a combination of weariness and trepidation.

There is a challenge for religious conservatives. They’re being asked to acknowledge and live with the reality that same sex marriage is legal and to recognize that means some changes on how they conduct their business. I am certain there will be some lawsuits when religious business owners try to refuse family insurance coverage to same-sex spouses. We will, no doubt, hear paeans to the free market and dreamy invocations that gays can just go elsewhere for jobs and services. Thus far, the courts have not be amenable to such arguments. From a legal standpoint, a marriage is a marriage. Treating married couples differently will not be acceptable.

Religious conservatives are also going to have to face activism within their churches. Although legally there’s no reason to fear that churches will be forced to recognize same-sex marriage, gay persons can be incredibly effective activists. Churches will feel pressure to perform marriages for same-sex couples.

The Hobby Lobby case was probably the most high profile but it is one of many in which the religious right is trying to carve out a separate public and legal sphere for itself in which the devout serve solely the devout and can refuse to serve the sinful masses – a modern Jim Crow – using religious freedom as the rationale. I get this – I’ve read Martha Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity: Disgust Shame and the Law – it’s about fear of moral contagion. Although it’s emotional appeal is undeniable, I think it will ultimately fail of its own weight.

This afternoon, I read that The Hitching Post has re-incorporated itself as a religious corporation. The ACLU and the city of Coeur d’Alene agree that in keeping with their newly filed corporate status, The Hitching Post is a “religious corporation” and exempt from the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. IOW, the whole brouhaha has basically evaporated.

The public spaces from which religious conservatives can exclude gay people are going to become increasingly constrained. The option of declaring one’s self a religious corporation isn’t going to be available to a great many religious conservatives. If, however, claims of religious freedom and religious conscience become publicly linked with discrimination – against women, gays and lesbians, “immoral people” – then very quickly the mythical “war on Christianity” will become a very real public disgust for anyone claiming to be Christian and for Christianity itself.


Two more – Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Idaho and Nevada Marriage Bans

Read the ruling here.

I may be mis-remembering but I think this ruling has the clearest smack down of the reproduction argument I’ve seen in any of these rulings:

Additionally, as plaintiffs argue persuasively, Idaho and Nevada’s laws are
grossly over- and under-inclusive with respect to procreative capacity. Both states
give marriage licenses to many opposite-sex couples who cannot or will not
reproduce—as Justice Scalia put it, in dissent, “the sterile and the elderly are
allowed to marry,” Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 604–05—but not to same-sex couples
who already have children or are in the process of having or adopting them.14

A few of Idaho and Nevada’s other laws, if altered, would directly increase
the number of children raised by their married biological parents. We mention
them to illustrate, by contrast, just how tenuous any potential connection between a
ban on same-sex marriage and defendants’ asserted aims is. For that reason alone,
laws so poorly tailored as those before us cannot survive heightened scrutiny.
If defendants really wished to ensure that as many children as possible had
married parents, they would do well to rescind the right to no-fault divorce, or to
divorce altogether. Neither has done so. Such reforms might face constitutional
difficulties of their own, but they would at least further the states’ asserted interest
in solidifying marriage. Likewise, if Idaho and Nevada want to increase the
percentage of children being raised by their two biological parents, they might do
better to ban assisted reproduction using donor sperm or eggs, gestational
surrogacy, and adoption, by both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, as well as by singe people.

My favorite part of this discussion is the footnote:

14Defendants acknowledge this, but argue that it would be unconstitutionally
intrusive to determine procreative capacity or intent for opposite-sex couples, and
that the states must therefore paint with a broad brush to ensure that any couple
that could possibly procreate can marry. However, Idaho and Nevada grant the
right to marry even to those whose inability to procreate is obvious, such as the

Page after page, the ruling smacks down the various arguments offered to defend marriage bans. Almost everyone of Utah’s much touted arguments gets smacked around pretty persuasively.

The ruling is fun to read and is worth your time.

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Well that was less dramatic than expected

I’m not sure there’s much to say that hasn’t already been said. The Supreme Court’s decision this morning not to review the various marriage equality cases is both surprising and unsurprising. Surprising in that the Court had an opportunity to settle the issue once and for all and unsurprising in that there’s no current reason for the Court to rule. Thus far the lower courts are in agreement.

Indiana started issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples almost immediately. Virginia will apparently start issuing marriage licenses later today. The 10th Circuit has lifted the stay for Oklahoma, meaning OK will soon start issues licenses.

Marriage licenses will be issued to same-sex starting this morning in Utah. Colorado’s AG has already said:

“We have consistently maintained that we will abide by the Supreme Court’s determination on the constitutionality of marriage laws. By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit ruling in place. We expect the 10th Circuit will issue a final order governing Colorado very shortly. Once the formalities are resolved, clerks across the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples.

We will file motions to expedite the lifting of the stays in the federal and state courts and will advise the clerks when to issue licenses.”

The broad outline remains the same – equality in some states, not in others. It’s just marriage equality exists in more states now than it did yesterday.


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