Monday, May 31, 2004

Robert Reich's Reason : A Terse Review Books: Reason : Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America
I've just finished Robert Reich's book "Reason". With a title like that (Coulter's "Treason" without the "T") I couldn't resist the impulse buy.

It's a quick and fun read. The bottom line is that Reich is trying to resurrect (recreate?) both the American Liberal (meaning something close to what The Economist means by Liberal -- the 19th century enlightened rationalist) and the Democratic Party as the party of Liberalism.

His key points are:

1. Evangelicals and right wing white conservatives have a fairly severe hang-up about anything to do with human sexuality coupled with a less public fear of "immigrant invasion" as well.

2. Neocons shares some of the same sexual hang-ups, so they were able to forge a solid alliance with the evangelicals. They express outrage about many things, but the outrage outrage is readily reducible to sex and taxes.

3. Neocons are still reacting to the 1960s, where they missed out on the orgies. The "Left" of the 60s has disappeared, but the Neocons keep trying to resurrect the Hippie corpse.

4. The Right's language of outrage can be smoothly and properly applied to the excesses of Wall Street, the scamming of the naive investor (pension and mutual funds), and the epidemic corruption of American politics.

5. The Evangelical/Neocons are now harvesting the fruits of a 20 year program to advance their agenda at every level of government and social organizations, with funding from amoral, shortsighted, egomaniac billionaires with sexual hang-ups.

6. The Evangelical-Neocons justify their actions by recreating Spencer's Social Darwinism -- last popular in the 19th century Gilded Age. By their "Values" Wealth is the best measure of Virtue (either God's Virtue or the Market's Virtue -- depending personal preference). Thus a wealthy man is by definition virtuous and to be applauded, and a poor man is by definition sinful and ought to be ignored (or euthanized). The means by which one acquires wealth, whether by birth, industry, talent, luck or theft is irrelevant. (Credit to my wife, Dr. E.L., for noting the irony of Evangelical Social Darwinism.)

7. The Democratic Party is in awful shape; fractious and demoralized. Democrats come together briefly for Presidential elections then fall apart. The Unions have no future. The Party must be reinvented.

8. Traditional (respectable) conservatives (John McCain, Gerald Ford, even GB I, etc) are in even worse shape than the Democratic party.

9. There's no "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" -- but there might as well be. The action of individuals advancing their own interests without regard to ethics or a sustainable future, combined with the Puritanical obsessions of the social conservatives and the consolidation of the media around right wing owners, has produced the functional equivalent of the "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy".

10. The US will always be a two party system -- barring radical change to the constitution. Change must occur within the structure of the two parties.

11. Globalization, on balance, is a very good thing for the world and for American security and prosperity. Protectionism would be a disaster, and, in any event, what globalization did not displace technology would.

11. The middle class of the late 20th century is disappearing. Symbolic analysts (aka knowledge workers) are becoming the only true middle class. Manufacturing is disappearing in the US, and manufacturing workers are being forced into the service economy. Service economy wages are stagnant due to increasing competition, and overall non-symbolic-analyst workers are moving into the lower class (near-poverty or poverty wages. This group lives on the edge of disaster.

12. Progressive taxation is just -- "equal pain" rather than "equal proportion".

13. The best way to deal with the stresses of globalization and especially with the stresses induced by technological transformation, is training and education -- not redistribution of income.

14. Early education and training is the answer to most social problems, with the right training and education almost everyone can have a good future in an American with a strong moral core and honest government. (Implicit in much of Reich's writing is an assumption that environment is the main determinant of human behavior, and altering environment is the key to improving people's behavior and improving social justice.)

What do I agree with?

Items number 1-12 with a major caveat on item #10 (globalization). I think Reich underestimates the "threat" of outsourcing to his vaunted symbolic-analysts. In contrast to manufacturing, this group is threatened much more by outsourcing than by the direct effects of technological transformation.

What do I disagree with?

Items 13 and 14; specifically the unstated but implicit thesis that a human is almost entirely the product of his environment.

Ironically Reich is indeed the product of his environment here -- when he went through college it was utterly forbidden to raise the possibility that human capacities and behaviors were constrained by genetics, biology, or anything but the post-natal environment. Reich is persisting in the 19th century belief that humans are fundamentally malleable -- at least when young.

Most of the research of the past 10-20 years points to a more complex picture. Temperament appears to be almost entirely genetically determined, but temperament can be altered by medications -- a form of environmental influence. Character, arguably of greater import than temperament, can be influenced by the post-natal environment.

Genetics and intrauterine environment appear to set "upper levels" for most human potentials, but on the other hand few people really push the limits of their potential. Training cannot restore lost sight, but training can allow a blind person to read. An Aspergergian is unlikely to be the life of the party, but Apsergians may train to "fake" many social interactions.

And yet ... all the work and cross-training in the world would never have made me a concert pianist or an NFL linebacker. (Of course with the "right" course of drugs perhaps the latter might have been attainable ...)

The making of a person is complex, and technologies are shifting the nature-nurture borders, but the evidence is strong that humans are not endlessly malleable. This is an increasing problem, because 21st century America rewards a fairly narrow range of workers. In the new-world, many of the old-middle class may not have a happy home -- no matter how hard they retrain. In a fundamental way, many Americans may be "disabled" for the modern workplace.

Reich should not be so quick to write-off redistributive solutions. We will need some creative thinking to produce a healthy American when the true "disability" rate starts to top 30%.

Otherwise -- a great book. Highly recommended.

Sad days at the NYT

The New York Times > Week in Review > The Public Editor: Weapons of Mass Destruction? Or Mass Distraction?
Readers were never told that Chalabi's niece was hired in January 2003 to work in The Times's Kuwait bureau. She remained there until May of that year.

I've read Raines fascinating but self-serving essay on the Times (The Atlantic). The coverage of Iraq adds a new angle. Personally I've been frustrated by the awful job the Times has done with Al Gore, with the Bush election, and with the Bush regime since then. Krugman, DeLong and others have pointed to a desire within the Times to cultivate relations with the ruling party.

It's a fairly consistent picture of a troubled newspaper.

Abuse of civilians by occupying forces -- same old, same old

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Military: Army Is Investigating Reports of Assaults and Thefts by G.I.'s Against Iraqi Civilians
WASHINGTON, May 30 — The Army is investigating at least two dozen cases in which American soldiers are accused of assaulting civilian Iraqis or stealing their money, jewelry and other property during raids, patrols and house-to-house searches, senior Defense Department officials said Sunday.

In some instances, investigators say, soldiers were reported to have stolen cash from Iraqis they stopped at roadside checkpoints, apparently under the pretext of confiscating money from suspected insurgents or their financial backers.

The Army's Criminal Investigation Command is also examining at least six cases in which soldiers on missions reportedly kicked, punched or beat civilian Iraqis, or fired their weapons near the Iraqis to scare or intimidate them.

Those statistics and broad descriptions are included in an internal summary prepared earlier this month by the investigation command at the request of senior Army officials who are struggling to understand the scope of mistreatment and potential crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq beyond the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and other Army-run detention sites.

... The Army has acknowledged it is investigating 37 deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan involving prisoners in American custody. Other confidential Army documents have chronicled a widespread pattern of abuse involving prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan that implicates more military units than previously known.

I read of this last year, during a time when Iraqi's were blogging pretty actively. It sounded like theft of liquor, household goods, money, etc was pretty common. Sometimes there was internal conflict; some officers and soldiers forced others to return stolen goods.

I suspect by historical standards our forces aren't doing badly, but the standards of occupying forces are pretty low. If we'd had enough forces in place, with appropriate force protection, rest, supply and troop rotation, I think we'd have done a lot better.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

On the erosion of privacy in the Reign of George the Feckless

Department of Justice brief, Opposition to Northwestern's Motion to Quash Subpoena, Nat'l Abortion Fed'n v. Ashcroft, No. 04 C 0055 (N.D. III)
There is no federal common law physician-patient privilege… In light of modern medical practice and third party payors, individuals no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential.'

I wrote about this in May of 1996, about 8 years ago today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

If you know enough, it's not that hard to build a nuclear bomb -- less the fissile material

Report Urges Tighter Nuclear Controls (
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. wondered aloud one day in 2002 whether someone could build an atomic weapon from parts available on the open market. His audience, the leaders of the government's nuclear laboratories, said it could be done.

Then do it, the Delaware Democrat, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, instructed the scientists in a confidential session. A few months later, they returned to the soundproof Senate meeting room with a workable nuclear weapon, missing only the fissile material.

'It was bigger than a breadbox and smaller than a dump truck, but they were able to get it in,' Biden said in a recent speech. The scientists 'explained how -- literally off the shelf, without doing anything illegal -- they actually constructed this device.'

The relative ease with which U.S. scientists built an explosive nuclear weapon illustrates the need to secure plutonium and highly enriched uranium scattered in armories and research sites around the world, a pair of Harvard University researchers argue in a new study that contends the Bush administration is not doing enough.

A SUV bomb that levels a city. This isn't all that new. I recall reading in the NYT a year or two ago that even smaller weapons were no longer extraordinarily difficult to construct, though for smaller weapons I gather the parts are not so easily obtained.

Technology marches on. Today it takes experts a bit of time. Five years from now it takes lesser experts less time. Ten years from now it's a high school project. How well can we do locking up all fissile material?

Then one day a fusion bomb becomes relatively easy to build.

Bush is fighting yesterday's wars with yesterday's methods.

A hero for Iraq?

U.N. Closes In on Choice To Lead Iraq (
Shahristani, who has a doctorate in nuclear chemistry from the University of Toronto, served as chief scientific adviser to Iraq's atomic energy commission until 1979, when Hussein became president. When he refused to shift from nuclear energy to nuclear weaponry, he was jailed. For most of a decade, he was in Abu Ghraib prison, much of it in solitary confinement. He escaped in 1991 and fled with his wife and three children to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and, eventually, Iran, where he worked with Iraqi refugees. He later moved to Britain, where he was a visiting university professor.

But unlike other exiles, Shahristani was not active in opposition parties, choosing instead to focus on humanitarian aid projects. He does, however, have a critical connection: He is close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's most powerful Shiite cleric, whose support is essential for the viability of an interim government.

Shahristani, who has described himself as an adviser to Sistani, said he has met with the ayatollah several times since the fall of Hussein's government. Shahristani said Sistani has played a 'very, very constructive' role in Iraq over the past year. Iraqi officials familiar with Brahimi's mission said Shahristani's lack of political affiliation could be an asset, allowing him to serve as a bridge between various factions.

Shahristani crossed into Iraq two days before Hussein fell to deliver aid to the city of Karbala. Since then, he has divided his time between Karbala and the southern port of Basra, working on humanitarian projects in both places.

If this guy is for real, maybe he could run for President in the US when he's finished his stint in Iraq.

If he does take the job from hell, Bush should transfer his secret service detail to Shahristani and make do with second stringers.

Is it only from Hell that heroes come?

Monday, May 24, 2004

Rumsfeld and the Chalabi raid

Mark A. R. Kleiman: Chalabi quiz answer
... The most embarassing element of the Chalabi raid is that Secretary Rumsfeld denied any advance knowledge of it, apparently truthfully. As Thomas and Hosenball tell the story in Newsweek, the rage in the uniformed ranks against the DoD top civilian leadership is so profound that the commanders on the ground in Baghdad didn't bother to buck the decision up the line before going along with Paul Bremer's decision to conduct the raid.

If you didn't pick the correct answer, consider finding a handbook of military science and looking in the index under 'Command, chain of.' If the possibility that the uniformed folks have decided to disregard the wishes of the SecDef doesn't send chills down your spine, then try a political science textbook under 'Military, civilian control of.'

Zip-Linq cable for CLIE TJ-27 sync and USB charging

Google Search
I bought the cable (two of 'em) from PC Connection. They charge my TJ-27 quite nicely.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Slaying the digital messen ger... | Rumsfeld bans camera phones (May 23, 2004)
MOBILE phones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported today.

Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the US Defence Department believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.

'Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq,' it said, adding that a 'total ban throughout the US military' is in the works.

When the story first broke I predicted that a ban on digital cameras would be the major outcome.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Bush and bicycles - Bush falls on bike ride - May 22, 2004
The picture of Bush post-bike fall, boarding his plane, is the only one I've seen that doesn't make my teeth itch. He actually looks like a human being.

He was on a 17 mile back country ride. One suspects this is not his first outing on a bike, but this is the first anyone's heard of it. Bike riding is "fey" and suspect in Texan culture, and in southern culture in general. I doubt that many Bush voters have been on a bicycle as an adult.

So this is actually interesting. Interesting because Bush turns out to have a minor dark secret, and interesting that his campaign decided to go public now. It wasn't staged, but I suspect Rove is on the lookout for anything that "humanizes" a (legitimately) demonized figure. Bush's base is so solid it won't hurt to expose more some predilections that the Bush base might consider peculiar or worrisome.

Iran wins the Nobel Prize of Spycraft

New York City - World News
... Chalabi had long been the favorite of the Pentagon's civilian leadership. Intelligence sources say Chalabi himself has passed on sensitive U.S. intelligence to the Iranians.

Patrick Lang, former director of the intelligence agency's Middle East branch, said he had been told by colleagues in the intelligence community that Chalabi's U.S.-funded program to provide information about weapons of mass destruction and insurgents was effectively an Iranian intelligence operation. 'They [the Iranians] knew exactly what we were up to,' he said.

He described it [Iran's black op] as 'one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence operations in history.'

'I'm a spook. I appreciate good work. This was good work,' he said.

An intelligence agency spokesman would not discuss questions about his agency's internal conclusions about the alleged Iranian operation. But he said some of its information had been helpful to the U.S. 'Some of the information was great, especially as it pertained to arresting high value targets and on force protection issues,' he said. 'And some of the information wasn't so great.

...n 1995, for instance, Khidhir Hamza, who had once worked in Iraq's nuclear program and whose claims that Iraq had continued a massive bomb program in the 1990s are now largely discredited, gave UN nuclear inspectors what appeared to be explosive documents about Iraq's program. Hamza, who fled Iraq in 1994, teamed up with Chalabi after his escape.

The documents, which referred to results of experiments on enriched uranium in the bomb's core, were almost flawless, according to Andrew Cockburn's recent account of the event in the political newsletter CounterPunch.

But the inspectors were troubled by one minor matter: Some of the techinical descriptions used terms that would only be used by an Iranian. They determined that the original copy had been written in Farsi by an Iranian scientist and then translated into Arabic.

And the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded the documents were fraudulent.'

I'm sure Iran provided great Intel on the individuals they needed to eliminate. Old, old civilizations are very good at the great game, and Persia is among the very oldest. Americans, it appears, are naifs.

Next we'll realize that Syria also excels at spycraft.

Eventually someone will chase down France's involvement. Did they try to warn the US that Iran was playing us for a fool? I suspect they might have, and that they were ignored. Same goes for the AEA -- I bet they were concerned about what Chalabi was up to.

Does Rumsfeld ever wonder where he went wrong? Nyah.

Chalabi -- you can't buy allies like this ...

CBS News | Ahmad Chalabi's Fall From Grace | May 21, 2004 20:25:02
Senior U.S. officials have told 60 Minutes Correspondent Lesley Stahl that they have evidence Chalabi has been passing highly classified U.S. intelligence to Iran. The evidence shows that Chalabi personally gave Iranian intelligence officers information so sensitive that if revealed it could, quote, 'get Americans killed.' The evidence is said to be 'rock solid.'

On Friday, Stahl reported that senior intelligence officials stress the information Ahmad Chalibi is alleged to have passed on to Iran is of such a seriously sensitive nature, the result of full disclosure could be highly damaging to U.S. security. The information involves secrets that were held by only a handful of very senior U.S. officials, says Stahl.

Meanwhile, Stahl reports that 'grave concerns' about the true nature of Chalabi's relationship with Iran started after the U.S. obtained 'undeniable intelligence' that Chalabi met with a senior Iranian intelligence, a 'nefarious figure from the dark side of the regime - an individual with a direct hand in covert operations directed against the United States.'

I bet CBS doesn't get any questions at the next Bush news conference.

Presumably Chalabi blew the cover on US spies in Iran.

So what's with 60 Minutes? Are these guys planning to go into new careers?

Opera and Theater post-Iraq

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: May 16, 2004 - May 22, 2004 Archives
Who could miss the duet between Chalabi and Ali Khamenei in which the dark secret is revealed or Richard Perle's haunting, despairing aria at the beginning of the final act, in which this hawk of hawks, friend of Israel, swordsman against terror, and deacon in the high church of moral clarity confronts the shattering truth that he's played the cat's paw for what the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to this just-released article from Newsday, has determined was (horribile dictu!) actually a front for Iranian intelligence.

Satire from the Onion, plays about Abu Ghraib, opera on Chalabi. Bush is doing far more for the arts than the "liberal" NEA ever could.

Chalabi entered MIT at age 16 and has a PhD in math. He's also drawn to intrigue, manipulation and power. He out-IQs Cheney, Bush et al by at least 30 points. What an extraordinary character. Kudos to Iran for a double hitter -- removing their great enemy in Iraq and helping the US shoot itself in the foot, knee and abdomen.

Friday, May 21, 2004

In an internet world, it's easy to get sloppy with information

Body Glove Technology Accessories

I had to track down the manufacturer's site to learn that body glove cell phone covers come with a belt clip. The generic description, provided by the manufacturer, omits that key informaton.

Implantable RFIDs for nightclub VIPs

Boing Boing: Implantable RFIDs for nightclub VIPs
Club kids who want VIP status at the popular Baja Beach Club in Barcelona can now get implanted with a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag. For 25 euro, customers can have an Applied Digital Solutions VeriChip, the size of a grain of rice, injected into his or her upper arm. Makes it easier to run a tab.

I wonder if this is true, but it will happen for real sooner or later. Kids, with their odd aesthetics, will go first.

I used to defend privacy, but it was a losing fight. Now I'm a charter member of the 'Transparent Society'. Next will come my chip. Although maybe I'm too old ... : U.N. Officials Bribed by Saddam? : U.N. Officials Bribed by Saddam?
The inquiries into the United Nations Oil-for-Food program result from the release in January of a list of 270 individuals, companies and institutions that allegedly received lucrative oil contracts from Saddam Hussein's former regime in return for political support.

The list was published by an Iraqi independent newspaper which claimed the document was discovered in the files of the former Iraqi Oil Ministry in Baghdad.

Oil vouchers were allegedly given either as gifts or as payment for goods imported into Iraq in violation of the U.N. sanctions.

The following are the names of some of those listed as receiving Iraqi oil contracts (amounts are in millions of barrels of oil) ...

The article makes a plausible case for severe wrongdoing by senior UN officials, but it also lists those who received contracts from a range of nations.

It's an interesting list, especially the French, Russian, and Indonesian members.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

What do a Pekingese and Husky have in common? They're both close to wolves.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Pooch breeds identified by genes: "The Sharpei, Pekingese, Shih Tzu and Siberian Husky all showed the closest genetic relationship to the wolf ancestor of dogs."
A Pekingese???

macosxhints - How to avoid the new 'Help' URL handler vulnerability

macosxhints - How to avoid the new 'Help' URL handler vulnerability
A comprehensive discussion.

DeLong's daily torture report

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal (2004): Today's Torture Report"
All I can do, other than campaign against Bush, is to keep reading the stories and point to them. Now the questions being raised:

1. What happened to the Iraqi scientists that were captured and never released? It seems likely they were tortured. Do some fear the stories living men would tell?

2. The torture of "high value targets" descibed in the Denver Post goes well beyond the descriptions in the Atlantic of last year. It sounds as though the results were sometimes fatal.

Campone. Rumsfeld. Cheney. Bush.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A bit further down the road ...

The Onion | U.S. To Fight Terror With Terror
WASHINGTON, DC—In a response to recent acts of extreme violence against Americans in Iraq and mounting criticism of U.S. military policy at home, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced the government's new strategy of fighting terror with terror Monday.

"Look, in order to catch a rat, you gotta think like one," Rumsfeld said in a grainy and degraded videotape message filmed at an unknown location and released to CNN Monday. "We've been pussy-footing around the war on terrorism for years. All that time, the answer was right in front of us: In order to wipe out terror around the globe, once and for all, we've gotta beat them at their own game."

"We tried playing fair," Rumsfeld continued. "But how can you play by the rules when your opponent doesn't even know the rules? You don't bring a knife to a gunfight. That's just the way it is, folks. It's a dog-eat-dog world."

On the seven-minute tape, Rumsfeld is joined by counter-terrorist leaders Vice-President Dick Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft, each seated on folding chairs in front of an American flag. Ashcroft described some tactics the government currently uses—pre-dawn assaults on civilian targets and subjecting potential stateside traitors to psychological intimidation—as a "small step in the right direction."

"I can't really say what we have planned for the future," Rumsfeld said. "As terrorists, fear and uncertainty will be our best weapons. Let me just say that the gloves are off. It is inevitable that indiscriminate attacks will be carried out, and innocents will lose their lives, but the end will justify the means...

At least our current regime supports satirists.

The creator as a careless child ... or a malfunctioning copy machine ..

The Big Lab Experiment - Was our universe created by design? By Jim Holt (Slate)

Jim Holt writes the "Egghead" column for Slate. He also writes for The New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine.

Was our universe created? That is, was it brought into being by an entity with a mind? ...

... To get a better understanding of this matter, I thought it might be wise to consult the man who has done more than anyone else to explain how our universe got going. His name is Andrei Linde, and he is a physicist at Stanford University. ...

... Among the many curious implications of Linde's theory, one stands out for our present purposes: It doesn't take all that much to create a universe. Resources on a cosmic scale are not required...

"When I invented chaotic inflation theory, I found that the only thing you needed to get a universe like ours started is a hundred-thousandth of a gram of matter," Linde told me in his Russian-accented English when I reached him by phone at Stanford. "That's enough to create a small chunk of vacuum that blows up into the billions and billions of galaxies we see around us. It looks like cheating, but that's how the inflation theory works—all the matter in the universe gets created from the negative energy of the gravitational field. So, what's to stop us from creating a universe in a lab? We would be like gods!"

... then Linde thought of another channel of communication between creator and creation—the only one possible, as far as he could tell. The creator, by manipulating the cosmic seed in the right way, has the power to ordain certain physical parameters of the universe he ushers into being. So says the theory. He can determine, for example, what the numerical ratio of the electron's mass to the proton's will be. Such ratios, called constants of nature, look like arbitrary numbers to us: There is no obvious reason they should take one value rather than another. (Why, for instance, is the strength of gravity in our universe determined by a number with the digits 6673?) But the creator, by fixing certain values for these dozens of constants, could write a subtle message into the very structure of the universe. And, as Linde hastened to point out, such a message would be legible only to physicists.

"You might take this all as a joke," he said, "but perhaps it is not entirely absurd. It may be the explanation for why the world we live in is so weird. On the evidence, our universe was created not by a divine being, but by a physicist hacker."

These ideas have been brewing in various circles for at least 10 years, and I'm sure there are historical antecedents. I think this is in the "blind watchmaker" category, as in Votaire and Spinoza and others but definitely not Einstein. See also an oddly related recent post of mine.

This is the first time, however, I've come across the idea that such a creator might embed messages in the fundamental constants. Perhaps if one peered long enough into the cosmic background radiation the message might emerge. Psychoactive agents and temporally reversed vinyl could be helpful.

Holt (the author) and Linde (the physicist) are writing with ironic humor. I wager, however, that they are quite serious. Our universe used to seem superficially complex, but potentially internally sensible and aesthetically pleasing. Those were the glory days of Einstein. Now it is hard to deny that the universe looks profoundly absurd and weird.

Linde is demanding too much of the likely creator, however. If in one generation a hacker physicist can create a universe, then a few short generations later it will be, perhaps literally, child's play. If it can be done at all, it will be done be entities noble and decadent, grave and frivolous, by entities who might spend a lifetime contemplating a single creation, or by entities who might spew out half-baked concoctions by whim or worse.

As to who our creator most likely resembles, we need only ask -- which sort of entity would create more universes? The grave, serious and responsible, or the absent minded and frivolous child? Or perhaps, a defective machine spewing out trillions of copies of a single template.

Whichever is the most prolific, that is our most likely creator.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

United Press International: Army, CIA want torture truths exposed

United Press International: Army, CIA want torture truths exposed
... Over the past weekend and into this week, devastating new allegations have emerged putting Stephen Cambone, the first Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, firmly in the crosshairs and bringing a new wave of allegations cascading down on the head of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when he scarcely had time to catch his breath from the previous ones.

Even worse for Rumsfeld and his coterie of neo-conservative true believers who have run the Pentagon for the past 3½ years, three major institutions in the Washington power structure have decided that after almost a full presidential term of being treated with contempt and abuse by them, it's payback time.

Those three institutions are: The United States Army, the Central Intelligence Agency and the old, relatively moderate but highly experienced Republican leadership in the United States Senate.

None of those groups is chopped liver: Taken together they comprise a devastating Grand Slam.

Dishonor may not mean much to Bush and Rumsfeld, but it means a lot to the US army.

Kaplan: the scandal has legs

Locked in Abu Ghraib - The prison scandal keeps getting worse for the Bush administration. By Fred Kaplan
... Third, Seymour Hersh seems to be on his hottest roll as an investigative reporter in 30 years, and the editors of every major U.S. daily newspaper aren't going to stand for it. "We're having our lunch handed to us by a weekly magazine!" one can imagine them shouting in their morning meetings. Scoops and counterscoops will be the order of the day.

All of these hound-hunts will be fueled by the extraordinary levels of internecine feuding that have marked this administration for years. Until recently, Rumsfeld, with White House assistance, has quelled dissenters, but the already-rattling lid is almost certain to blow off soon. As has been noted, Secretary of State Colin Powell, tiring of his good-soldier routine, is attacking his adversaries in the White House and Pentagon with eyebrow-raising openness. Hersh's story states that Rumsfeld's secret operation stemmed from his "longstanding desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the CIA." Hersh's sources—many of them identified as intelligence officials—seem to be spilling, in part, to wrest back control. Uniformed military officers, who have long disliked Rumsfeld and his E-Ring crew for a lot of reasons, are also speaking out. Hersh and Newsweek both report that senior officers from the Judge Advocate General's Corps went berserk when they found out about Rumsfeld's secret operation, to the point of taking their concerns to the New York Bar Association's committee on international human rights.

The knives are out all over Washington—lots of knives, unsheathed and sharpened in many different backroom parlors, for many motives and many throats. In short, this story is not going away.

Lewinski taught us a scandal with sex had legs. This is a porn, torture, spy, lie, and snuff scandal.

Clinton gave us an extramarital affair.

Bush gave us this.

I think historians will have to award the prize to GWB.

Monday, May 17, 2004

IQ and Presidential Preference - an extraordinary correlation

UPDATE 5/24/04: The Economist was taken in by this hoax, and so was I. Ok, so I did start to wonder how the heck anyone would try to measure IQ at a state level. I assumed they were extrapolating based on SAT scores.

The Economist did put up some proxy measures for IQ, these showed no correlation with voting patterns.

My apologies to Mississipppi. | The electoral week
The Economist reprints a chart from "IQ and the Wealth of Nations". Of the 10 "smartest" states, 9 voted for Gore (NH, tied w/ Maryland for #7, voted for Bush). The average IQ of these states is 103 to 113. (Connecticut is the "smartest".)

Of the 10 least gifted states, 10/10 voted for Bush. Mississippi came in last with an average IQ of 85.

That's one hell of a correlaton. It suggests that the "swing states" have an average IQ of about 100.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Conflict Map: Nobel eMuseum

Conflict Map

This is staggering. What a terrible view of humanity. North America & Australia/NZ are almost uniquely quiet.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Hersh: Copper Green -- the special access program that went sour at Al Ghraib

The New Yorker
The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

... Cambone then made another crucial decision, the former intelligence official told me: not only would he bring the SAP’s rules into the prisons; he would bring some of the Army military-intelligence officers working inside the Iraqi prisons under the SAP’sauspices. “So here are fundamentally good soldiers— military-intelligence guys—being told that no rules apply,” the former official, who has extensive knowledge of the special-access programs, added. “And, as far as they’re concerned, this is a covert operation, and it’s to be kept within Defense Department channels.”

The military-police prison guards, the former official said, included “recycled hillbillies from Cumberland, Maryland.” He was referring to members of the 372nd Military Police Company. Seven members of the company are now facing charges for their role in the abuse at Abu Ghraib. “How are these guys from Cumberland going to know anything? The Army Reserve doesn’t know what it’s doing.”

... The only difficulty, the former official added, is that, “as soon as you enlarge the secret program beyond the oversight capability of experienced people, you lose control. We’ve never had a case where a special-access program went sour—and this goes back to the Cold War.”

Hersh's contacts are presumably among those who are embittered. Hersh points the finger directly at Rumsfeld, and indirectly at Bush. Hersh also connects Rumsfeld & Cambone to William "Islam is Satan" Boykin.

There are many puzzling aspects of this case that have not yet been reported. There's a lot of work to do for any journalists who still care for the truth.

PS. The New Yorker's web pages have a curious behavior. When one copies and pastes text, letters are missing. I've not seen this anywhere else -- I wonder if it's done to discourage blogging. Using OS X print preview one can copy and paste without losing any letters.

DeLong: The Reign of George the Feckless

Doesn't Anybody Read Max Weber Anymore?: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal
Things that were known in the reign of Anne the Protestant should not be forgotten in the reign of George the Feckless.

The reign of George the Feckless. I like that.

The Soviets had Pravda, the GOP has it all Books | The mighty windbags
The mighty windbags
Thirty years ago, conservatives embarked on a plan to subvert journalism and skew America to the right. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
By David Brock

Salon excerpts sections from David Brock's book. He's the "journalist who came in from the Right". My own reading is identical. What annoys me is how the New York Times and The Economist bought into this propaganda. Gore was savaged by the Right, but it was the craven incompetence of mainstream, respected, journalists that won the day for Bush. Whether through laziness, greed, incompetence, or corruption, journalists who knew better stayed quiet. I don't blame Limbaugh for spreading lies, I blame Safire and the NYT Editorial page for not exposing the lies.

I confess wondered about Hilary's "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy". I thought she was making excuses. I'm sorry Hillary, you were right.

The billionaires of the extreme right have seized control of American dialog. We need the billionaires of the rational middle to step down from Olympus and balance the rabid right.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Kaplan too is done with Bush

The Buck Stops … Where? - Stop blaming your henchmen, Mr. President. By Fred Kaplan
In the two years since the Pentagon's first attack plan, Zarqawi has been linked not just to Berg's execution but, according to NBC, 700 other killings in Iraq. If Bush had carried out that attack back in June 2002, the killings might not have happened. More: The case for war (as the White House feared) might not have seemed so compelling. Indeed, the war itself might not have happened.

Another one turns against Bush.

The other heroes: those who refuse orders to do evil, those who intervene

The New York Times > International > Psychology: Pressure to Go Along With Abuse Is Strong, but Some Soldiers Find Strength to Refuse
Pressure to Go Along With Abuse Is Strong, but Some Soldiers Find Strength to Refuse
Published: May 14, 2004
The images of prisoner abuse still trickling out of Iraq show a side of human behavior that psychologists have sought to understand for decades. But the murky reports of a handful of soldiers who refused to take part bring to light a behavior psychologists find even more puzzling: disobedience.

Buried in his report earlier this year on Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba praised the actions of three men who tried to stop the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees. They are nowhere to be seen in the portraits of brutality that have touched off outrage around the world.

Although details of their actions are sketchy, it is known that one soldier, Lt. David O. Sutton, put an end to one incident and alerted his commanders. William J. Kimbro, a Navy dog handler, 'refused to participate in improper interrogations despite significant pressure' from military intelligence, according to the report. And Specialist Joseph M. Darby gave military police the evidence that sounded the alarm...

...The power to resist coercion reflects what psychologists call internal locus of control, or the ability to determine one's own destiny. People at the other end of the scale, with external locus of control, are more heavily influenced by authority figures. They prefer to put their fate in the hands of others.

"If they fail a test, it's the teacher's fault; if they do poorly at a job, it's the boss's fault," said Dr. Thomas Ollendick, a professor of psychology at Virginia Tech. "They put the blame for everything outside of themselves. They are high in conformity because they believe someone else in charge."

The average person, research shows, falls somewhere in the middle of the scale. People who voluntarily enlist in the military, knowing they will take orders, Dr. Ollendick suggested, may be more likely to conform. "These are people who are being told what to do," he said. "The ones who are conforming from the outset feel they can't change the system they're in. Those who blow the whistle can go above the situation and survive. They can basically endure whatever negative consequences might come from their actions."

Six years ago three heroes of the My Lai massacre were finally honored. Perhaps 30 years from now these three will be honored. They are true heroes.

Friedman: Finally gives up on Bush altogether

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Dancing Alone
My mistake was thinking that the Bush team believed it, too. I thought the administration would have to do the right things in Iraq — from prewar planning and putting in enough troops to dismissing the secretary of defense for incompetence — because surely this was the most important thing for the president and the country. But I was wrong. There is something even more important to the Bush crowd than getting Iraq right, and that's getting re-elected and staying loyal to the conservative base to do so.

Next the Economist will admit it made a terrible mistake. They've been coming close to an apology ...

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Medal winners

While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalitions tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.

He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advanced directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.

When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.

Two football fields. I can't imagine what this guy is like in person. There are more awards described in the same posting.

National electronic Library for Health - United Kindgom

National electronic Library for Health
This looks potentially interesting. I don't think we have anything quite like it in the US.

BBC NEWS | Americas | CIA interrogations 'too brutal' -- The Joy of Torture

BBC NEWS | Americas | CIA interrogations 'too brutal'
Current CIA officers are said to be worried that public outrage at the treatment of detainees in Iraq might lead to a closer examination of their treatment of al-Qaeda prisoners.

'Some people involved in this have been concerned for quite a while that eventually there would be a new president, or the mood in the country would change, and they would be held accountable,' one was quoted as saying.

'Now that's happening faster than anybody expected.'

The whereabouts of high-level al-Qaeda detainees is a closely guarded secret, and human rights groups have been denied access to the prisoners.

Officials say some have been send abroad.

'There was a debate after 9/11 about how to make people disappear,' a former intelligence official told the paper.

The government was advised that if the CIA was considering procedures which violated the Geneva Convention or US laws prohibiting torture and degrading treatment, it would not be held responsible if it could be argued that the detainees were in the custody of another country.

Maybe Sadaam could get a job with the new improved CIA. Maybe this is why Tenet can't be fired, he has dangerous "goods" on Bush. Rumsfeld's job security might come from the same place.

How very charming. Maybe we can be a bit more humble about our moral superiority now? Does anyone still ever say "it can't happen hear" when they read of the rise of the Nazi party? Imagine what we'll do when terrorists devastate a major city.

Servicing and refurbishing defective complex consumer devices: is it cost-effective any longer?

Macintouch: Apple Technical Support Issues
I too have experienced a replacement device that was "non-functional out of box" -- aka DOA. In my case I returned a working 9 month old iPod with a one hour maximal battery life and received a refurbished device with a dead firewire port. Apple's somewhat dysfunctional AppleCare service didn't help.

Of course I'm mad at Apple. There are too many stories of this problem for it to be pure coincidence. I think this is the same story as the refurbished laptops Apple sells on its web site, which Macintouch has noted are often trouble prone.

I suspect Apple has contracted out device service and refurbishment, and that there are significant economic penalties for doing too good a job servicing devices. The combination of outsourcing, then providing perverse incentives without honorable oversight, has caused worse problems than defective replacement iPods.

Apple, however, while no saint, is probably not the worst service department in the world. I've heard similar tales about Canon digital cameras. I wonder if modern consumer electronic devices are becoming too complex to service cost-effectively. They are difficult to fully evaluate, so even if a primary defect is fixed a secondary defect may be missed. They are too complex to easily disassemble, so repair may induce new problems. Hardware is increasingly coming to resemble software; it's well known that fixing a software bug is a risky and complex business.

Maybe we need to move to more of a classic "insurance" system to deal with expensive high tech devices that die quickly.

A better system might guarantee replacement of a defective device with a brand new device for about 3 months. After that one would receive a credit for the depreciated value of the device that could be applied to purchase of a brand new device. The rate of depreciation might depend on how much one pays for insurance. There might be business opportunities here for an insurance company that's ready to take this on.

Science fiction idea: we all get stupider because ...

"The Cookie Monster" by Vernor Vinge is an online short story that's up for a Hugo award. I had to read it, thought it kept me up late. Vinge is one of the smartest and deepest thinkers I know of.

There's an insider aside in the story. One of his characters recites a list of some of the most interesting "simulation" science fiction -- stories that explore the absurd and ridiculous idea that entities just like us would be living in a simulation (the Matrix popularized this theme.) Typically these simulations have odd properties that give them away -- such as a universe that's empty except for single sentient species.

That led me to think of a variant theme. In this theme the protagonists is reviewing data indicating not only a rising incidence of autism, but also increasingly stupid political leaders that are being consistently reelected -- irregardless of performance. She (of course) plots the data against population and notices a disturbing trend -- average world IQ is becoming inversely correlated to population. It's as though aggregate global sentience were limited by the processing capacity of a single incomprehensibly powerful computer, and population growth had run up against the limits of the machine. She begins to discover domains where contrained processing capability is causing the simulation to break down. Either population will crash or the simulation will end. Which will it be? As she begins to communicate her fears she disappears from the (short) story.

Science fiction is harmless fun, even though it's prone to silliness.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The corporation as psychopath | Face value
Unlike much of the soggy thinking peddled by too many anti-globalisers, “The Corporation” is a surprisingly rational and coherent attack on capitalism's most important institution...

My Canopy Economics post connects with this. Corporations do behave like entities with their own self interestes. So do bureaucracies and other bounded collections of interacting humans. Understanding the relationships & interactions between these "meta-entities" is key to understanding Canopy Economics. (Shades of psychohistory! :-).

The Economist article is actually pretty weak in a fashion that's increasingly common in that once formidable publication. After conceding that the thesis of "corporation as psychopath" is surprisingly persuasive, the article concludes with a sniffy dismissal of the idea because "state bureaucracies are worse". The two statements are, of course, not mutually exclusive -- but the editor couldn't allow the article to conclude -- "corporations are psychopathic, but we don't know of a better alternative". Alas, the Economist is now what it once was.

Update 10/2/2010: The Economist review is now inaccessible, but it's reprinted here and I've copied it below. The 2004 book is still available on Amazon.
To the anti-globalisers, the corporation is a devilish instrument of environmental destruction, class oppression and imperial conquest. But is it also pathologically insane? That is the provocative conclusion of an award-winning documentary film, called "The Corporation", coming soon to a cinema near you. People on both sides of the globalisation debate should pay attention. Unlike much of the soggy thinking peddled by too many anti-globalisers, "The Corporation" is a surprisingly rational and coherent attack on capitalism's most important institution.
It begins with a potted history of the company's legal form in America, noting the key 19th-century legal innovation that led to treating companies as persons under law. By bestowing on them the rights and protections that people enjoy, this legal innovation gave the company the freedom to flourish. So if the corporation is a person, ask the film's three Canadian co-creators, Mark Achbar, Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott, what sort of person is it?
The answer, elicited over two-and-a-half hours of interviews with left-wing intellectuals, right-wing captains of industry, economists, psychologists and philosophers, is that the corporation is a psychopath. Like all psychopaths, the firm is singularly self-interested: its purpose is to create wealth for its shareholders. And, like all psychopaths, the firm is irresponsible, because it puts others at risk to satisfy its profit-maximising goal, harming employees and customers, and damaging the environment. The corporation manipulates everything. It is grandiose, always insisting that it is the best, or number one. It has no empathy, refuses to accept responsibility for its actions and feels no remorse. It relates to others only superficially, via make-believe versions of itself manufactured by public-relations consultants and marketing men. In short, if the metaphor of the firm as person is a valid one, then the corporation is clinically insane.
There is a tendency among anti-globalisers to demonise captains of industry. But according to "The Corporation", the problem with companies does not lie with the people who run them. Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, a former boss of Shell, comes across in the film as a sympathetic and human character. At one point, he and his wife greet protesters camped on the front lawn of their English cottage with offers of a cup of tea and apologies for the lack of soya milk for the vegans among them. The film gives Sam Gibara, boss of Goodyear, time to air his opinions, which are given a reasonably neutral edit. Ray Anderson, boss of Interface (which claims, with psychopathic grandiosity, to be the world's largest commercial carpetmaker) is given the hero treatment. Having experienced an "epiphany" about the destructive and unsustainable nature of modern capitalism, Mr Anderson has donned the preacher's cloth to spread the religion of environmental sustainability among his peers.
The main message of the film is that, through their psychopathic pursuit of profit, firms make good people do bad things. Lucy Hughes of Initiative Media, an advertising consultancy, is shown musing about the ethics of designing marketing strategies that exploit the tendency of children to nag parents to buy things, before comforting herself with the thought that she is merely performing her proper role in society. Mark Barry, a "competitive intelligence professional", disguises himself as a headhunter to extract information for his corporate clients from rivals, while telling the camera that he would never behave so deceitfully in his private life. Human values and morality survive the onslaught of corporate pathology only via a carefully cultivated schizophrenia: the tobacco boss goes home, hugs his kids and feels a little less bad about spreading cancer. Company executives and foot soldiers alike will identify instantly with this analysis, because it is accurate. But it is also incomplete.
The greater insanity
Although the moviemakers claim ownership of the company-as-psychopath idea, it predates them by a century, and rightfully belongs, in its full form, to Max Weber, the German sociologist. For Weber, the key form of social organisation defining the modern age was bureaucracy. Bureaucracies have flourished because their efficient and rational division and application of labour is powerful. But a cost attends this power. As cogs in a larger, purposeful machine, people become alienated from the traditional morals that guide human relationships as they pursue the goal of the collective organisation. There is, in Weber's famous phrase, a "parcelling-out of the soul".
For Weber, the greater potential tyranny lay not with the economic bureaucracies of capitalism, but the state bureaucracies of socialism. The psychopathic national socialism of Nazi Germany, communism of Stalinist Soviet rule and fascism of imperial Japan (whose oppressive bureaucratic machinery has survived well into the modern era) surely bear Weber out. Infinitely more powerful than firms and far less accountable for its actions, the modern state has the capacity to behave even in evolved western democracies as a more dangerous psychopath than any corporation can ever hope to become: witness the environmental destruction wreaked by Japan's construction ministry.
The makers of "The Corporation" counter that the state was not the subject of their film. Fair point. But they have done more than produce a thought-provoking account of the firm. Their film also invites its audience to weigh up the benefits of privatisation versus public ownership. It dwells on the familiar problem of the corporate corruption of politics and regulatory agencies that weakens public oversight of privately owned firms charged with delivering public goods. But that is only half the story. The film has nothing to say about the immense damage that can also flow from state ownership. Instead, there is a misty-eyed alignment of the state with the public interest. Run that one past the people of, say, North Korea.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Washington Post digs deep into the CIA and military prisoner facilities.

Secret World of U.S. Interrogation (
All told, more than 9,000 people are held by U.S. authorities overseas, according to Pentagon figures and estimates by intelligence experts, the vast majority under military control. The detainees have no conventional legal rights: no access to a lawyer; no chance for an impartial hearing; and, at least in the case of prisoners held in cellblock 1A at Abu Ghraib, no apparent guarantee of humane treatment accorded prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions or civilians in U.S. jails.

Although some of those held by the military in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo have had visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross, some of the CIA's detainees have, in effect, disappeared, according to interviews with former and current national security officials and to the Army's report of abuses at Abu Ghraib.

The CIA's "ghost detainees," as they were called by members of the 800th MP Brigade, were routinely held by the soldier-guards at Abu Ghraib "without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention," the report says. These phantom captives were "moved around within the facility to hide them" from Red Cross teams, a tactic that was "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law."

CIA employees are under investigation by the Justice Department and the CIA inspector general's office in connection with the death of three captives in the past six months, two who died while under interrogation in Iraq, and a third who was being questioned by a CIA contract interrogator in Afghanistan. A CIA spokesman said the hiding of detainees was inappropriate. He declined to comment further.

I still expect that most of this will be tragically forgotten, but the Washington Post is doing a great job of journalism. They may be compensating for neglecting to cover the early story.

The connection between these practices, and abuses that are common in American jails, has not yet been fully drawn.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Hersh's 2nd article on Al Ghraib

The New Yorker: Fact Seymour Hersh May 17th

Moving up the ladder ...

Al Ghraib: There are heroes still ...

Soldiers' warnings ignore
 By Todd Richissin, Baltimore Sun Foreign Staff

May 9, 2004

WIESBADEN, Germany - The two military intelligence soldiers, assigned interrogation duties at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, were young, relatively new to the Army and had only one day of training on how to pry information from high-value prisoners.

But almost immediately on their arrival in Iraq, say the two members of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, they recognized that what was happening around them was wrong, morally and legally.

They said in interviews Friday and yesterday that the abuses were not caused by a handful of rogue soldiers poorly supervised and lacking morals but resulted from failures that went beyond the low-ranking military police charged with abuse.

The beatings, the two soldiers said, were meted out with the full knowledge of intelligence interrogators, who let military police know which prisoners were cooperating with them and which were not.

"I was told, 'Don't worry about it - they probably deserved it,'" one of the soldiers said in an interview, referring to complaints he made while trying to persuade the Army to investigate. "I was appalled."

The two soldiers are the first from a military intelligence unit known to speak publicly about what happened at Abu Ghraib, and they are the first from such a unit to contend publicly that some interrogators were complicit in the abuses. The soldiers stressed that not all interrogators were involved.

The soldiers were interviewed together Friday in person and then separately yesterday by telephone. They said they had alerted superiors at Abu Ghraib and the Army's Criminal Investigations Division by November or early December of prisoners being beaten, stripped naked and paraded in front of other inmates.

Parts of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade were in Iraq from the start of the war, handling such duties as signal interceptions and identifying targets to be bombed. Only after the war did some members of the brigade end up as interrogators at Abu Ghraib.

What the soldiers spoke of, they know first-hand. They were inside the cramped wooden booths at the prison while Iraqis were interrogated, and they lived at the prison last fall and winter, when the worst abuses are thought to have occurred.

Their description of the prison and of the circumstances that helped it get that way indicate that troops stationed at Abu Ghraib were severely undertrained and were pressed into highly sensitive duties for which they had never prepared. Contributing to the problems at the prison, in their view, was the lack of soldiers to keep order and manage prisoners.

"We would see prisoners who had been sitting for months without being interrogated," one of the soldiers said. "We just didn't have anybody who could get to them, to get them out of there."

"There was like a big disconnect at every level," said the other. "Guys were given jobs they had never done, contractors [working as interrogators] are in there acting like they're in the movies. The whole operation was like a chicken with its head cut off."

The soldiers spoke on the condition that they not be identified because of concern that their military careers would be ruined, and because their unit was given a written directive not to speak to the press.

The Department of the Army at the Pentagon referred requests for comment on the military intelligence unit to Central Command in Baghdad. A person who answered the telephone there said nobody was available to comment.

"Everybody knew what was going on, but when we complained, we were ignored," said one of the soldiers. "We knew some [military police] were getting some blame, but what we were complaining about went way beyond them."

"We weren't at the other holding areas, so I don't want to say for sure the same thing was going on at them," said the other soldier, both of whom are in their 20s. "But it was going on there. The guys doing the interrogating, the MPs, they were all the same guys, going one place to the other. We were the standard on how to treat the prisoners."

The two soldiers hold the relatively low rank of specialist, which is more a reflection of their time in the Army - less than three years.

Though they entered Iraq with no training in interrogation, they were assigned to extract information from prisoners considered of high intelligence value - ranking Baath Party members and suspected insurgents, for example - and report on their findings.

They had access to prisoner files, they said, and interviewed several Iraqis who claimed they had been beaten by military police after being told by intelligence interrogators that they would be punished for their lack of cooperation.

"There would be the handoff from MI [Military Intelligence] to the MPs, and the word would be, 'Here you go, here's one who's not cooperating,'" one of the soldiers said. "Then - What do you know? - that prisoner ends up beaten or paraded around naked."...

"I have an obligation to the Army, and I have an obligation to follow my orders," one of the soldiers said. "I also have an obligation to be a decent person and do what's right and to do what I can to get the truth out."

The soldiers interviewed estimate that about 3,000 Iraqis were held by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison, the most notorious of Saddam Hussein's torture facilities.

In the days after the fall of Baghdad, the prison was accessible to anybody, and former prisoners of the deposed regime visited their old cells, walked through the execution chamber where two nooses still dangled above open trapdoors.

Then the Army took over the facility, in part because soldiers had nowhere else to detain hundreds of looters being arrested on the streets.

The Iraqi prisoners were divided into two main categories: common criminals and "MI Hold," military shorthand for those designated as potential sources of intelligence information.

The MI Hold section, where it is believed many of the naked and abused Iraqis were photographed, was subdivided into two camps, Camp Vigilant and Isolation.

Procedure dictated that prisoners in MI Hold had to be interrogated at least three times before being released, though the soldiers interviewed for this article said they quickly determined that at least 25 percent of those locked in this section had done nothing wrong and even fewer were of any intelligence value.

For months, though, prisoners languished, contributing to unrest at Abu Ghraib, which led to riots and the killing of several Iraqis by the Army.

"Some of these guys didn't even have paperwork or files for me to read before I could get them in the [interrogation] booth," one of the soldiers said. "I'm sorry if it sounds mean, but I wasn't there to do humanitarian work, so I wasn't going to take someone in just so I could get him released. There were other prisoners we thought had information that would help us save lives, so they were our priority. Those were the guys we took in the booth."

About 800 Iraqis were in the section the two soldiers were assigned to. To interview all of those prisoners, only about 20 two-person teams of interrogators - called "Tiger Teams" - were available, and they had access to even fewer interpreters.

Interrogations typically lasted three hours, often more, which led to the backup of prisoners.

"We were working 12-hour days, sometimes more, six days a week - and then catching up on the seventh day," one of the soldiers said. "It's not like we weren't working. We just didn't have enough guys."

As described by the soldiers, military intelligence was under enormous pressure to get "actionable intelligence" during this time. The soldiers were working from two lists of tactics to get Iraqis to talk.

The "A" list included directly asking for information as well as relatively mild interrogation techniques, such as becoming angry with the prisoner or threatening to withhold meals - but not actually doing so. The interrogators were free to use these techniques at their will.

The "B" list included harsher techniques, such as sleep deprivation and withholding meals.

These techniques were considered acceptable, but because they were also considered close to the line of abuse, the interrogators could not use them without permission from their commanding officer, Col. Thomas Pappas, or his designate.

Around November, with casualties among U.S. troops rising, Saddam Hussein still in hiding and solid intelligence becoming more urgent, Pappas issued an order that broadened acceptable interrogation methods.

"I think he was referring to any techniques on the A and B lists," the soldier said. "But there was kind of the third list, the unofficial list. Guys called that the 'made-up list.'"

'Wild, wild west'

The made-up list spawned a couple of other terms, the soldiers said: "going cowboy" and "wild, wild west."

"I don't know where they got this from, but the MPs would say it all the time," one of the soldiers said. "MI would drop off a guy who wasn't talking, and the MP would say, 'So looks like I'll be going cowboy on him' or 'Looks like he needs some wild, wild west.'"

The terms meant beatings, they said, and the military intelligence interrogators and private contractors did nothing to discourage them.

They do not believe, the soldiers said, that Pappas realized the extent of the abuses. A Pentagon source last week said that Pappas had received a severe letter of reprimand, which will most likely end his career. The letter was a result of an investigation by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba.

Pappas did not return several phone messages and an e-mail seeking comment.

The soldiers said they had nothing against the colonel and, in fact, that they feel sorry for him. Pappas, they said, was rarely seen in the prison; however, through orders by the American ground command, headed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, he was assigned responsibility for Abu Ghraib.

"We never saw him," one of the soldiers said. "He ate, worked and slept in one room. So it's like nobody's in charge, but these guys didn't need someone in charge to tell them not to do the things they were doing."

Many of the military intelligence interrogators were paired with private contractors from CACI International and with linguists from Titan Inc. The soldiers said most of those employees seemed to operate with autonomy, seemingly answerable to nobody in the command.

"They would say it right out, that 'we don't answer to you,'" one of the soldiers said. The Taguba report recommended that two of the contractors employed by CACI be dismissed.

Yet another investigation by the Army, at least the fourth involving the abuses at Abu Ghraib, is now under way. It is being conducted by Maj. Gen George Fay, who is in Iraq interviewing some of those involved.

He is expected in Wiesbaden within the next couple of weeks.

"Here's my point," one of the soldiers said. "All this that's going on? All these pictures all over the place, the whole world hating even more the United States? If two specialists could see how serious it was, how come nobody else could?"

These men are my heroes. Their peers are a select breed -- far more selective than the Delta Force. They will not receive honors or decorations in earth, save in the memory of historians. Throughout history there have been men and women, perhaps 1 in a thousand, who choose honor in the face of great pressure.

They speak up, while others remain silent. There were "bad apples" at Al Ghraib, but there was a lot of rot around them. Rot that extends to the very top.

Lurching towards wisdom: neurodiversity and the morality of abnormality

The New York Times > Week in Review > Neurodiversity Forever: The Disability Movement Turns to Brains

Although the text of this article is reasonably respectful, there's scornfulness in the titles, subtitles, and surrounding text. That's not surprising. This logic leads to some directions that will be challenging for most of humanity.
The Disability Movement Turns to Brains

No sooner was Peter Alan Harper, 53, given the diagnosis of attention deficit disorder last year than some of his family members began rolling their eyes.

To him, the diagnosis explained the sense of disorganization that caused him to lose track of projects and kept him from completing even minor personal chores like reading his mail. But to others, said Mr. Harper, a retired journalist in Manhattan, it seems like one more excuse for his inability to "take care of business."...

But in a new kind of disabilities movement, many of those who deviate from the shrinking subset of neurologically "normal" want tolerance, not just of their diagnoses, but of their behavioral quirks. They say brain differences, like body differences, should be embraced, and argue for an acceptance of "neurodiversity."

And as psychiatrists and neurologists uncover an ever-wider variety of brain wiring, the norm, many agree, may increasingly be deviance.

... Science is beginning to clear up such questions, said Dr. Antonio Damasio, a neurologist at the University of Iowa Medical Center, by identifying distinct brain patterns and connecting them to behavior. But, he added, only society can decide whether to accommodate the differences.

"What all of our efforts in neuroscience are demonstrating is that you have many peculiar ways of arranging a human brain and there are all sorts of varieties of creative, successful human beings," Dr. Damasio said. "For a while it is going to be a rather relentless process as there are more and more discoveries of people that have something that could be called a defect and yet have immense talents in one way or another."

For example, when adults with A.D.D. look at the word "yellow" written in blue and are asked what the color is and then what the word is, they use an entirely different part of the brain than a normal adult. And when people with Asperger's look at faces, they use a part of the brain typically engaged when looking at objects.

... For patients, being given a name and a biological basis for their difficulties represents a shift from a "moral diagnosis" that centers on shame, to a medical one, said Dr. Ratey, who is the author of "Shadow Syndromes," which argues that virtually all people have brain differences they need to be aware of to help guide them through life...

In the 1970s, if not earlier, psychiatrists, noting how common "neuroses" were, introduced the idea that perhaps "normal" was a statistical concept (which it is) rather than a categorization. Now we're studying neurophysiology and rediscovering the same idea.

It will take some time for this meme to propagate. Once upon a time Leprosy was a "moral diagnosis" -- the physical expression of depravity. In a just universe only the evil could be so accursed; the alternative was the acceptance of the universe as fundamentally "unjust" -- not a palatable prospect. In the 20th century we struggled to reframe schizophrenia as a disorder rather than a sin. In the 21st century will we one day see sociopaths and pedophiles as disabled?

Physicians, especially internists, who've grown up with the idea of critical diagnostic categories, will have a hard time getting their heads around a continuum of traits with variable degrees of adaptive advantage. This article falls into a similar trap by using the language of "disability". In truth disability is only meaningful in relation to environment. A blind person is disabled in the light, but may be more than able in darkness (relative to most sighted persons). A bit of autism may be a competitive advantage for an electrical engineer. Many writers are easily distracted, flitting from idea to idea. Schizophrenia is probably maladaptive in any conceivable environment, but I suspect the related genes are adaptive in some settings (Shamans and Saints?).

Some readers will intuitively recognize a slippery slope. The more we connect genetics and physiology to behavior, the more we struggle to redefine the closely related concepts of "free will" and "responsibility", and the more we would question our approaches to child rearing, "justice", and punishment. There are already some of us who think "responsibility", like "race", is a social rather than fundamental construction.

Alternatively, if one believes in souls, such research bounds or constrains that which is explained outside the soul; it narrows the range of unique "soulhood".

On the other hand, wisdom is perhaps the art of knowing oneself truly, and then applying one's strengths, friends, family and community to balancing internal weaknesses with internal and external strengths. Those of us who are prone to distraction learn to "work the plan" and "plan the day", we keep task lists and review tactics and strategies. Those who focus relentlessly keep few lists, but ought to set aside time to force exploration of new domains -- less they grow stale and dull.

Lastly, I have long felt that the human brain is a rather feeble construct; a patchwork of hacks and artifacts that barely sustains a shoddy sort of consciousness. If we begin to tweak the hacks, to refactor the cruftiest code, we may produce a qualitatively different entity.

Now this may make Rove worry ...

Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy (
'I lost my brother in Vietnam,' added Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. 'I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in.'

Karl Rove isn't worried about the Iraqi POW scandal; he can tell from monitoring right wing radio and listening to the sweet sounds of fundagelical silence (fundamentalists always excel at hypocrisy) that Bush's reelection is on track. They won't even have to dump Rumsfeld before term 2.

On the other hand, murmurings from the military are worrisome. If Kerry could leverage that theme he'd be attacking "the base".

Saturday, May 08, 2004

The Nine Ways of Being an Accessory to Another’s Sin.

Words Fail: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal

This comes from DeLong, but Google tells me it's part of quite old Catholic doctrine.
The Nine Ways of Being an Accessory to Another’s Sin.

1. By counsel.
2. By command.
3. By consent.
4. By provocation.
5. By praise or flattery.
6. By concealment.
7. By partaking.
8. By silence.
9. By defense of the ill done.

See also my post on the two "specialists" who spoke to the Baltimore Sun. They have chosen honor.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Bush - the analysis

The Misunderestimated Man - How Bush chose stupidity. By Jacob Weisberg at Slate
As the president says, we misunderestimate him. He was not born stupid. He chose stupidity. Bush may look like a well-meaning dolt. On consideration, he's something far more dangerous: a dedicated fool.

But he's the people's fool. Bush reminds me somewhat of Andrew Jackson in his psychology and temperament.

Send a "Care Package" to any soldier

Any Soldier ... AnySoldier.US ... www.AnySoldier.US ... Care Packages

I've read some good reviews of this effort.

The rats are a jumpin'

The Washington Monthly
BROKEN PROCESS OR OFFICIAL POLICY?....Apparently everyone's been trying to warn Bush and Rumsfeld about possible abuse of prisoners in Iraq for months now. And not just the usual bleeding hearts:

* David Kay: "I was there and I kept saying the interrogation process is broken. The prison process is broken. And no one wanted to deal with it. It was too, too distasteful. This is a known problem, and the military refuses to deal with it."

* Paul Bremer: "Bremer repeatedly raised the issue of prison conditions as early as last fall — both in one-on-one meetings with Rumsfeld and other administration leaders, and in group meetings with the president's inner circle on national security. Officials described Bremer as 'kicking and screaming' about the need to release thousands of uncharged prisoners and improve conditions for those who remained."

* Colin Powell: "According to eye witnesses to debate at the highest levels of the Administration...whenever Powell or [Richard] Armitage sought to question prisoner treatment issues, they were forced to endure what our source characterizes as 'around the table, coarse, vulgar, frat-boy bully remarks about what these tough guys would do if THEY ever got their hands on prisoners....'"

Well, maybe these folks really did try to get everyone to pay attention to this issue or maybe they're just covering their own asses after the fact. Who knows?

Lovely round-up! Guess who gets the Donkey's tail? Rumsfeld. Not that he doesn't deserve it.

None of this would have happened absent photos and videos, and the photos wouldn't have become so widely distributed absent digital cameras. Digital images are easy to replicate and distribute; it was the wide distribution of the visuals that made exposure inevitable. Rumsfeld, Myers et al knew roughly what was happening across the system, though Al Ghraib sounds like it was extreme even by their standards. They figured they could keep it quiet -- until the photos appeared. Look for solders to be forbidden to carry digital cameras.

Shades of Rodney King. Humans are so irrational - most of us respond to images in a completely different way than we respond to words and concepts.

A very different take on US reaction to the Abu Ghraib affair

The Daily Telegraph | Good ol' girl who enjoyed cruelty
In Fort Ashby, in the isolated Appalachian mountains 260km west of Washington, the poor, barely-educated and almost all-white population talk openly about an active Ku Klux Klan presence.

There is little understanding of the issues in Iraq and less of why photographs showing soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company, mostly from around Fort Ashby, abusing prisoners has caused a furore....

Like many, England signed up to make money and see the world. After her tour of duty, she planned to settle down and marry her first love, Charles Graner.

Down a dirt track at the edge of town, in the trailer where England grew up, her mother Terrie dismissed the allegations against her daughter as unfair.

"They were just doing stupid kid things, pranks. And what the Iraqis do to our men and women are just? The rules of the Geneva Convention, do they apply to everybody or just us?" she asked.

Graner is the alleged ring leader. The article mentions also widespread alchohol abuse among the guards. This is so different from the NYT coverage of Appalachian reaction one wonders which journalist went there and which covered the story by phone.

As the initial shock wears off look for the apologist response to fit into one of these categories:

1. It was no worse than college hazing. Bunch of whimps. It's a tough world ...
2. It's a tough world ... you gotta play tough.
3. Just following orders ...

I'm mostly curious about how this plays with the evangelical wing of the Republican party. It will be their response that determines whether Rumsfeld goes or stays. I'm betting they decide to look the other way. Hypocrisy is a well developed art among fundamentalists of all stripes.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Graner -- the solder from hell

The New York Times > National > The Prison Guards: Abuse Charges Bring Anguish in Unit's Home
May 5 — Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr. is a guard at one of Pennsylvania's most heavily secured death row prisons, accused by his former wife of violent behavior....

... Six soldiers from the 372nd, a reserve unit out of Cumberland, are expected to face courts-martial, including Specialist Graner and Sergeant Frederick.

... An internal Army report made public this week described Specialist Graner, 35, as supervising some of the abusive behavior. He also appears in several photographs, including one in which he stands with arms folded over a pile of naked Iraqi men.

Specialist Graner, who wears a Marine Corps eagle tattoo on his right arm, served in the corps from April 1988 until May 1996, when he left with the rank of corporal, according to military records. He went to work immediately at the State Correctional Institution Greene, in southwestern Pennsylvania, where he has held an entry-level corrections officer position ever since.

Two years after he arrived at Greene, the prison was at the center of an abuse scandal. Prison officials declined to say whether Specialist Graner had been disciplined in that case, citing privacy laws.

Inmates and advocates for prisoner rights asserted in 1998 that guards at the prison routinely beat and humiliated prisoners, including through a sadistic game of Simon Says in which guards struck prisoners who failed to comply with barked instructions.

After an investigation, the warden was transferred, two lieutenants were fired and about two dozen guards were reprimanded, demoted or suspended.

Specialist Graner was involved in a bitter divorce. In court papers, his wife, Staci, accused him of beating her, threatening her with guns, stalking her after they separated in 1997 and breaking into her home. Since 1997, local judges have issued at least three orders of protection against him, records show.

At least one of the Iraqi victims knew him as "Joiner".

It is early in the investigation and the trials, but it is very likely that Graner was the wrong man to guard prisoners anywhere. A full investigation will focus on how he was accepted into the National Guard and why he wasn't stopped sooner.

As I'd noted earlier, any idiot could write a play about this -- but that won't be the end of it. This thing has legs. Americans are perfectly capable of forgetting tragedies of all sorts (anyone recall that Afghan wedding bombing?), and of overlooking crimes and atrocities, but this business has sex, degradation, violence, passion and pornography. Americans can't possibly give that up. The affair will be mined by Hollywood, playrights, magazines and the entertainment industry for years to come. Everyone involved will become a celebrity of one sort or another, including any Iraqi victims willing to appear on Oprah.

I guess that's better than ignoring the affair. No wonder Bush is furious with Rumsfeld. Bush probably won't fire Rumsfeld (Bush is too ornery to do that now), but he'll retire him come November.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The WSJ: an ethics problem of a different order

The Washington Monthly

Read the article, it's a great story. USA Today and the NYT have been wracked by journalism scandals. WSJ hasn't been. Maybe that's because what's scandalous at the NYT and USA Today is just normal behavior at the WSJ.

NYT interviews a key witness in the Abu Ghraib case

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Iraqi Recounts Hours of Abuse by U.S. Troops
Mr. Abd, 34, is at the center of an explosive scandal over American mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, but he remained calm in a detailed, two-hour account of his time at the fearsome Abu Ghraib prison. He claimed that he was never interrogated, and never charged with a crime. Officials at the prison said Tuesday that they could not comment on his case.

In November, when the abuse took place, few Shiite Muslims like Mr. Abd were carrying out attacks against United States forces. Nearly all the attacks were attributed to forces loyal to Saddam Hussein, mostly Sunni Muslims, and fighters from other Muslim countries.

'The truth is we were not terrorists,' he said. 'We were not insurgents. We were just ordinary people. And American intelligence knew this.'

Mr. Abd spoke with no particular anger at the American occupation, though he has seen it closer than most Iraqis. In six months in prisons run by American soldiers, in fact, he said most of them had treated him well and with respect.

'Most of the time, they wouldn't even say, `Shut up,' ' he said.

That changed in November — he does not know the exact date — when punishment for a prisoner fight at Abu Ghraib degenerated into torture. That night, he said, he and six other inmates were beaten, stripped naked (a particularly deep humiliation in the Arab world), forced to pile on top of one another, to straddle one another's backs naked, to simulate oral sex. American guards wrote words like 'rapist' on their skin with Magic Marker, he said...

...He was arrested in June at a military checkpoint, when he tried to leave the taxi he was riding in. He was taken to a detention center at the Baghdad airport, he said, and then transferred to a big military prison in Um Qasr, near the Kuwaiti border. He said he had stayed for three months and four days.

The treatment in Um Qasr, he said, "was very good," adding: "There was no problem. The American guards were nice and good people."

After the three months, he said, he was transferred to Abu Ghraib, a sprawling prison complex 20 miles west of Baghdad, where Mr. Hussein incarcerated and executed thousands of his opponents.

But after the prison fight, the victim pointed out Mr. Abd and six others to American guards, and at that moment, his time in prison turned.

Mr. Abd said he and the other men had been handcuffed and taken inside the prison to a cellblock called "the hard site," reserved for the most dangerous prisoners. There he saw, for the first time, an American soldier called "Joiner or something." (Mr. Abd does not speak English. The man he pointed out in the picture as Joiner has been identified in other reports as Specialist Charles A. Granier, of the 372nd Military Police Company.)

"In my pocket, I had three cigarettes," Mr. Abd said. "Joiner said to me, `Put them in your mouth and smoke all of them. If one falls out of your mouth, I will crush you with my boot.' "

The command came through the translator, an Egyptian known by the prisoners as Abu Hamid. In an area in front of the cells, he said, were "Joiner," the translator and two other male soldiers, one bald and one with reddish hair and complexion. He said there were two women: the one whose name he did not know, and the one with the camera, whom he knew as Miss Maya...

...About 10 days after it started, the nightly abuse ended, for no explained reason. "Joiner" just stopped coming to the cell block, and about a month later, Mr. Abd and two others among the seven were transferred to a civilian Iraqi prison in Baghdad.

Two weeks or so after that, an American military investigator came to visit him. He showed Mr. Abd the pictures and said he needed him to make a statement against the military police who had mistreated him. Mr. Abd trusted him.

"He said, `Don't be afraid. Tell us what happened. We are on your side,' " Mr. Abd remembered. " `Tell us everything they have done.' "

Mr. Abd was released in mid-April. Looking back, the only explanation he can imagine for the mistreatment is that "Joiner" had been drinking.

"Americans did not mistreat me in general," he said. "But these people must be tried."...

...About 10 days after it started, the nightly abuse ended, for no explained reason. "Joiner" just stopped coming to the cell block, and about a month later, Mr. Abd and two others among the seven were transferred to a civilian Iraqi prison in Baghdad.

Two weeks or so after that, an American military investigator came to visit him. He showed Mr. Abd the pictures and said he needed him to make a statement against the military police who had mistreated him. Mr. Abd trusted him.

"He said, `Don't be afraid. Tell us what happened. We are on your side,' " Mr. Abd remembered. " `Tell us everything they have done.' "

Mr. Abd was released in mid-April. Looking back, the only explanation he can imagine for the mistreatment is that "Joiner" had been drinking.

"Americans did not mistreat me in general," he said. "But these people must be tried."About 10 days after it started, the nightly abuse ended, for no explained reason. "Joiner" just stopped coming to the cell block, and about a month later, Mr. Abd and two others among the seven were transferred to a civilian Iraqi prison in Baghdad.

Two weeks or so after that, an American military investigator came to visit him. He showed Mr. Abd the pictures and said he needed him to make a statement against the military police who had mistreated him. Mr. Abd trusted him.

"He said, `Don't be afraid. Tell us what happened. We are on your side,' " Mr. Abd remembered. " `Tell us everything they have done.' "

Mr. Abd was released in mid-April. Looking back, the only explanation he can imagine for the mistreatment is that "Joiner" had been drinking.

"Americans did not mistreat me in general," he said. "But these people must be tried."

...On Tuesday, he said, he would travel, finally, with his family back to his home in Nasiriya, though he said he could not stay. He said he would be too ashamed. He wants the American government to pay compensation. He said he felt he needed to move out of Iraq, and despite it all, he said he would not refuse an offer to move to America.

His narrative rings true -- particularly the relatively benign course prior to the November episode. I wonder about drug abuse in the US guards. This sounds less like a planned procedure inspired by military intelligence and more like a Fellini movie. Were he to end up in a US court, a jury could make him a (justly) wealthy man.