Torture’s shadow or a torture shadow-puppet?

The Washington Post Outlook section today featured a headline article from Vladimir Bukovsky, a resident of Cambridge, England and a man who spent 12 years in Soviet Prison. Like John McCain, he knows what torture is, having experienced it firsthand.

I am left bewildered, then, at his article that appears to confirm a belief that the United States condones of – approves of, even – torture in the interrogation of prisoners in the war on terror. The article, titled “Torture’s Long Shadow“, accepts as a proven conclusion that the US is OK with torture in the face of virtually every government agency saying we are not. The issue isn’t whether the US condones of torture, it’s what the US considers torture vs. what Mr. Bukovsky considers torture. Again, given his familiarity with real torture I’m amazed that he would consider the treatment given to the detainees at Gitmo and elsewhere to be tortuous.

Oh, and a personal note right up front. Mr. Burkovsky might consider it a clever literary device to refer to his readers as “comrade” but it’s obvious he’s trying to place anyone reading his stuff who might feel differently than he into the same category as the Soviet NKVD guards he writes of. Not a method noted for its success in persuading people. For the record, I reject the label and Mr. Burkovsky may direct it to his mirror if he likes.

The article tries on several occasions to equate treatment below that granted to lawful citizens of free democracies as torture. That’s the whole problem with this debate, and he summed it up nicely in this paragraph:

:::::::: As someone who has been on the receiving end of the “treatment” under discussion, let me tell you that trying to make a distinction between torture and CID techniques is ridiculous. Long gone are the days when a torturer needed the nasty-looking tools displayed in the Tower of London. A simple prison bed is deadly if you remove the mattress and force a prisoner to sleep on the iron frame night after night after night. Or how about the “Chekist’s handshake” so widely practiced under Stalin — a firm squeeze of the victim’s palm with a simple pencil inserted between his fingers? Very convenient, very simple. And how would you define leaving 2,000 inmates of a labor camp without dental service for months on end? Is it CID not to treat an excruciatingly painful toothache, or is it torture? ::::::::

So, the part of the world who uses a bed to sleep on at night is “torturing” the significant part of the world’s population that sleeps on the floor every night for their entire lives? I’ve slept on the ground under the stars personally. Was I tortured? Hardly. When my wife and I moved out here near DC *cough* years ago we slept on a hardwood floor for 3 nights running. Not the most pleasant experience but not torture, either.

And, excuse me, dental care? The reports of the Taliban and Saudi fighters captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan indicate that the dental care we provided for them was the first such any of them had received in their entire lives. And now withholding that is somehow torture? I’d wager a guess that most people on the planet have no access to what we’d refer to as dental care at all. That’s not torture, that’s called “life”. To hold that up as an example of torture cheapens the term and insults those who have endured the real thing. People like, well, Mr. Burkovsky.

Of course, the United States has not withheld such care. Not that the article would leave you with that impression. Nor have they forced tubes up the noses of the captives, as Mr. Burkovsky describes, causing serious damage in the procedure. As for the sleep deprivation he speaks of, comparing what might have been done at Gitmo to the 10-days-with-no-sleep-at-all procedure used by Stalin’s soldiers in the 1930’s is ludicrous. It’d be laughable if the effect of such an accusation weren’t so serious.

What it boils down to is this: While Mr. Burkovsky feels that any amount of “cruel, inhumane, or degrading (CID)” treatment is torture, there’s a lot of us who simply disagree with his scope. It’s the “D” part that causes me trouble. Cruel or inhuman treatment isn’t condoned here and I stand side by side with Mr. Burkovsky on this. There’s no room for electric shocks to the genitals or beating the soles of a person’s feet with iron bars. To say nothing, of course, of feeding a person through an industrial shredder with his children looking on. But tossing the flag of an enemy over a man’s shoulders or handling a book in a manner that man might not appreciate, or allowing a woman to be seen in attire he might not approve of isn’t torture. The insistence that it is by those Mr. Burkovsky appears to sympathize with is what’s causing the breakdown in this debate. Articles like his where America is accused of approving torture in the face of strong denials and where the “D” part of CID seems to get the most outrage don’t help.

There’s a difference between immigration and illegal entry

Once again I’m treated to a headline at a news outlet that purports to be objective that shows a fine disdain for the facts and a clear bias. The Washington Post (yeah, yeah, I know) has an article headlined, “Analysts: Crackdown Won’t Halt Immigration” with dire predictions that the recently passed immigration reform legislation won’t do anything.

First, and primarily: the bill is not intended to halt immigration. The bill does nothing to the current levels of immigration or the process by which immigrants may legally enter this country. And that’s my pet peeve about this whole debate: the open-borders bunch are talking about illegal aliens busting our borders, evading our customs officials, and generally breaking our laws from the word go and calling that immigration. They place these criminals – and that’s what they are from the moment they decide to break our laws about illegal entry – on the same level and in the same category as law-abiding foreign nationals who get in line and follow the rules. That’s grossly unfair to the people who adhere to the law and it’s an insult to every single one of them. These enablers should be ashamed of themselves, assuming they actually have any such capacity to begin with.

The argument, as always, is that illegals are a critical component of our economy and that they “do jobs Americans won’t do.” Bullshit. They do jobs Americans won’t do at 16 hours a day for $1.50 an hour with no benefits. They do jobs Americans won’t do while the employer evades income and business taxes and social security payments because they don’t declare the worker. They do jobs Americans won’t do in the conditions the employer allows because adhering to safety standards might cut a profit margin from 20 to 18%.

I, personally, know Americans who clean houses and do janitorial work with no problem whatsoever. I know, personally, Americans who put in 60-70 hours a week loading trucks or washing trailers or walking a security beat or tarring roofs, pumping gas, laying asphalt – commercially, not for governments – and doing landscaping. You name the job that “Americans won’t do”, folks, and I’ll bet you we can find one who does that very job in less than a day.

Well, yes, but if the employers have to pay what Americans want then many of them will go out of business or pass higher costs to the consumers. The horror!

I’d imagine there’s all kinds of businesses who could cut their costs, stay in business, and offer cheaper prices if they’d just break the law to do so. All that pesky environmental regulation costs a lot of money to comply with. Think of the savings if we’d just break a few of those laws. And those product-safety laws? Man, if General Motors could just skip compliance with a few dozen of those they could keep those 30,000 employees humming along. Think that would help the economy?

Yes, it is the same thing. The employers who offer jobs to illegals are breaking the law to pay less money and therefore 1) stay in business and 2) keep their profits. Part of that recently passed legislation deals specifically with cracking down on such employers. Another part raises the level of the crime of illegal entry to a felony. That, in turn, permits local law enforcement to get serious about illegals when they’re caught. The concept of “catch and release” has been the reality long enough and it needs to be changed. This legislation does that.

Until the open-borders people and others who don’t support securing our borders get it right that there’s a difference between immigration (which is legal) and illegal entry (which is not) this debate isn’t going to go anywhere. If they’re serious about wanting to change things, then they need to be honest about the problem first.

Colin Powell: “deeply disappointed” in intel community

Mark in Mexico has a great post on a BBC interview with Colin Powell. The money shot?

:::::::: While admitting that he had been bypassed on occasion by some of the White House hawks and that some discussions with Donald Rumsfeld “were not pleasant”, Powell came nowhere close to the position taken by his former chief-of-staff Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. Wilkerson essentially accused the White House hawks, Cheney and Rumsfeld of running a “cabal” to wrest control of foreign policy away from the State Department.

Powell’s position seems to be that everybody, from Bush and himself on down, got bad information from the CIA and then acted upon it. As far as our continued presence in Iraq, Powell was 100% supportive of the Bush administration:

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As they say, read it all for it is good.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

House approves immigration reform bill, Mexico angered

The House passed legislation on immigration reform this week that tightens border control and makes it harder for undocumented workers to get jobs here in the US. Michelle Malkin is, as usual, on top of this story. She quotes this story on the legislation in describing what was passed:

:::::::: The vote was 239-182, with opposition coming from Democrats and some Republicans upset by the exclusion of the guest worker issue and other Republicans wanting tougher border control measures…

… The House bill would beef up border security with the help of local law enforcement and military technology, impose tougher penalties for smuggling and re-entry, and end the “catch and release” policy for illegal non-Mexicans. It makes drunken driving convictions a deportable offense.

The bill makes unlawful presence in the United States, currently a civil offense, a felony. An amendment to reduce the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor was defeated, with many Democrats voting against the proposal in protest over subjecting people who have overstayed their visas to any criminal charges.

The House also voted 273-148 to end the diversity visa lottery program that’s open to countries that send few immigrations to the United States. Opponents said it was susceptible to fraud and could be a way for terrorists to enter the country.

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Mexico is upset over the law. They and other open-borders supporters keep coming back to the accusation of “criminalizing migration” and the like. No one is talking about criminalizing immigration. We’re talking about requiring people who want to come here to do so in accordance with our laws. That means you don’t sneak past border guards. You don’t cut open a fence in the dead of night and run through. You don’t give false information to Customs when you come in. You register, as the law requires, and you obey our laws. Plain. Simple. Do that and you’ll be fine.

Don’t do that and you’re an illegal, period. Illegals have no right to expect a job here, to expect to stay here and to hell with playing by the rules. As for Mexico, they sure don’t apply the same kind of friendly, “oh, sure you can come on in and stay here even if you don’t come legally” attitude with their southern border. Seems a bit hypocritical to suggest we ought to.

Also approved this week was the completion of a security fence in southern California completing a security cordon there and closing down some well-known border crossings. Mexico, again, became outraged. I would like to ask how a fence in the middle of the desert would adversely affect a Mexican national who walks up to our Customs and Immigration stations at the legal border crossings to enter the US? Such a person wouldn’t even know the fence was there, let alone be affected by it. The only people that fence poses a problem to are the ones trying to enter the country illegally. And those people aren’t owed an explanation, let alone a vote in whether the fence goes up or not.

As I keep saying, I have no issue with legal immigration. I work with lots of legal immigrants myself and they’re fine people. I’m proud to stand with them and I encourage those who seek to become citizens. One guy I know thinks he’ll be up for naturalization by mid-2006 and he gets the biggest grin on his face when he says that. It’s been a long road for him and his family but they followed the law. That’s what immigration is, not jumping the border or smuggling people across in the back of a truck. If Mexico is serious about wanting to be part of a bilateral solution, then make damn sure their citizens don’t try to sneak under the fence.

UCLA PolySci Prof finds media bias very real

A study done by Tim Groseclose of the political science department at UCLA has found that the media has an objectively observable leftward bias. Reported by UCLA’s own newsroom, the professor has co-authored a paper on the subject that has been accepted by the Quarterly Journal of Economics and is to be published there in an upcoming edition.

:::::::: While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper’s news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

“I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican,” said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study’s lead author. “But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are.”

“Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left,” said co-author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

::::::::

This comes as no surprise to those of us who have been paying attention to the media’s language and their inclusiveness/exclusiveness of certain topics. This study has the benefit of being objective and using a methodology that is already in use to determine the political leanings of politicians.

:::::::: Groseclose and Milyo based their research on a standard gauge of a lawmaker’s support for liberal causes. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) tracks the percentage of times that each lawmaker votes on the liberal side of an issue. Based on these votes, the ADA assigns a numerical score to each lawmaker, where “100” is the most liberal and “0” is the most conservative. After adjustments to compensate for disproportionate representation that the Senate gives to low-population states and the lack of representation for the District of Columbia, the average ADA score in Congress (50.1) was assumed to represent the political position of the average U.S. voter.

Groseclose and Milyo then directed 21 research assistants — most of them college students — to scour U.S. media coverage of the past 10 years. They tallied the number of times each media outlet referred to think tanks and policy groups, such as the left-leaning NAACP or the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

Next, they did the same exercise with speeches of U.S. lawmakers. If a media outlet displayed a citation pattern similar to that of a lawmaker, then Groseclose and Milyo’s method assigned both a similar ADA score.

::::::::

The result of using this kind of method is obvious. If the result is dismissed as meaningless then the results of the ADA’s other numerical indicators must be equally meaningless. If the ADA’s numbers are to be considered objective, then this study’s results are also objective.

One of the first questions out of my mouth on studies like this is to ask who paid for the study. Professors Groseclose and Milyo must have seen me coming:

:::::::: The researchers took numerous steps to safeguard against bias — or the appearance of same — in the work, which took close to three years to complete. They went to great lengths to ensure that as many research assistants supported Democratic candidate Al Gore in the 2000 election as supported President George Bush. They also sought no outside funding, a rarity in scholarly research.

“No matter the results, we feared our findings would’ve been suspect if we’d received support from any group that could be perceived as right- or left-leaning, so we consciously decided to fund this project only with our own salaries and research funds that our own universities provided,” Groseclose said.

::::::::

Good call, Prof, and an ironclad answer. It’s hard to accuse UCLA professors of having a right-wing bias in the first place and that’s especially true when they accepted no money from either political groups or media. The paper itself (PDF format) is a fascinating read with tables at the end showing the various scores of the media outlets mentioned, etc. The math in the methodology section will stretch anyone not familiar with statistics and the like but it the analysis is a breeze to read and there are lots of highlit examples in the text.

One note I’d like to make about an item that was given prominent play in the report: Is the Drudge Report really left-leaning? I can hear the scoffs already from both sides of the ‘sphere but it’s really an obvious finding if you don’t lose sight of what the Drudge report actually is. It is not, as has been mentioned before, a blog. It’s an aggregation of news items that either slip through the media cracks or don’t get the air time they might otherwise. Because of this fact – that Drudge is essentially highlighting news reported by “regular” news agencies – it stands to reason that it’s going to show up left-leaning when any analysis is done. If the stories being aggregated there are left-leaning, then the aggregator is going to come up left leaning. No real surprise.

Anyway, good work from this UCLA-led team. And congrats for getting published.