Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cruising the Web

For all those up in arms about how horrific the enhanced interrogation techniques were, Andrew McCarthy proposes an intriguing thought experiment.
If you were to take the “torture” report seriously (I don’t — it’s a political document), you would have to say Barack Obama inhabits a very strange moral universe.

Here is a thought experiment I have been using for many years as we’ve debated this topic. It goes to what Obama says about the intolerably brutal nature of waterboarding, the most coercive of the enhanced techniques that were used.

If you were to take everyone in America who is serving a minor jail sentence of, say, 6 to 18 months, and you were to ask them whether they’d rather serve the rest of their time or be waterboarded in the manner practiced by the CIA post 9/11 (i.e., not in the manner practiced by the Japanese in World War II), how many would choose waterboarding? I am guessing, conservatively, that over 95 percent would choose waterboarding.

Now, if you take the same group of inmates and ask them whether they’d prefer to serve the remainder of their time or be subjected to Obama’s drone program (where we kill rather than capture terrorists, therefore get no intelligence from the people in the best position to provide actionable intelligence, and kill bystanders — including some children — in addition to the target), how many would choose the drone program? I am guessing that it would be . . . zero.

Max Boot provides the statistics.
By one estimate: “the United States has now conducted 500 targeted killings (approximately 98 percent of them with drones), which have killed an estimated 3,674 people, including 473 civilians. Fifty of these were authorized by President George W. Bush, 450 and counting by President Obama.”

Note that there was no judicial review before any of these attacks, nor should there have been. They were purely executive decisions made by President Obama and they resulted, by this estimate, in the deaths of some 473 civilians.

Is that OK but the use of coercive interrogation techniques is not? That’s a good question for a college class on the ethics of war. At the very least it’s not an easy question to answer, and it’s one that those who are outraged by the CIA’s interrogation program should grapple with.

Speaking of logical fallacies in President Obama's positions, one Spanish-language reporter, Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, sure stumped Obama with a single question.
Ramos: But if you, as you’re saying, you always had the legal authority to stop deportations, then why did you deport two million people? For six years you did it. You destroyed many families. They called you the “deporter-in-chief.”

Obama: Listen … Jorge .. we’re not … listen Jorge … you called me “deporter-in-chief.”

Ramos: It was Janet Murgia of La Raza. … You could have stopped deportations. That’s the whole idea.

Obama: That is not true.
Obama campaigned in 2012 bragging about all the deportations his administration has made. Now he says that his administration has the power to decide not to enforce laws requiring deportation of illegal immigrants. Well, if he has always had that power, why didn't he use it earlier? The answer of course is that Obama was being purely political. He and the Democrats deliberately chose not to bring up immigration when he had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate his first two years. And he didn't take executive action to halt deportations until after the 2014 elections because the Democrats were afraid such an announcement would hurt them in the election. Ed Morrissey gives his own translation of Obama's answer: "I’m not the Deporter in Chief because I only just discovered my awesome powers, or something." That captures the incoherence in Obama's position.
He’s not claiming that Congress gave him any authority to suspend deportations of illegal immigrants. He’s arguing the exact opposite — that Congressional inaction on bad law forced him to take unilateral action not just to stop deportations but also to issue work permits that violate statutory requirements for residency. The issue isn’t that Obama’s authority changed, but that it hasn’t changed, and he’s tired of waiting for Congress to act. In fact, Obama spent the first ninety seconds of this clip arguing that the power has been his all along, but that he waited to use it.

That makes Ramos’ point all the more valid. If the deportations were wrong, why did Obama not just continue them but (arguably) increase them? Why did Obama wait until after three elections on his watch to act? Obama can’t have it both ways. Either he’s acting outside his authority now but doing so because he thinks he can get away with it politically after the last election he has to withstand, or Obama has had the authority all along but let 2 million people get unjustly deported because he was too pusillanimous to act. Ramos wants to know which it is, and the only response Obama has is to scold Ramos for favoring “easy solutions” … which is exactly how Obama sold his action to the American people.

Louis Freeh, former FBI director, excoriates the Senate Democrats' report on enhanced interrogations.
Facts matter, including the fact that the Senate committee’s Democratic majority failed to interview the three CIA directors and three deputy directors, or any other CIA employee for that matter, who had briefed them about the program and carried it out.

Such a glaring investigative lapse cannot be fairly explained by the Democratic majority’s defense that it could make such crucial findings solely on the “paper record,” without interviewing the critical players. Nor does the committee’s other explanation for avoiding interviews make sense: The Democratic senators say they didn’t want to interfere with the Justice Department’s criminal inquiry into the RDI program, but that investigation ended in 2012 and found no basis for prosecutions. And no wonder: These public servants at the CIA had dutifully carried out mandates from the president and Congress.

CIA leaders and briefers who regularly updated this program to the Senate Intelligence Committee leadership took what investigators call “copious, contemporaneous notes.” Without a doubt, the Senate Intelligence Committee and congressional staffers at these multiple briefings also took a lot of their own notes. Will the committee now declassify and release all such notes so that Americans will know exactly what the senators were told and the practices they approved?

Roger Clegg has a giggle in which we all can share in the historical ignorance evidenced by some on the left. He notes that the head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights testified yesterday about enfranchisement of felons by saying,
In one form or another, laws that disenfranchise individuals with felony convictions have existed in the United States since its founding. In fact, 29 states had such laws on the books at the time of the ratification of the Constitution.
I don't know where those extra 16 states came from at the "time of the ratification of the Constitution." Clegg notes that this error comes from a written report that has been circulated and even submitted to the United Nations.

Former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey took to the pages of USA Today to criticize his fellow Democrats for their partisan report on the CIA handling of enemy combatants.
When Congress created the intelligence committees in the 1970's, the purpose was for people's representatives to stand above the fray and render balanced judgments about this most sensitive aspect of national security. This committee departed from that high road and slipped into the same partisan mode that marks most of what happens on Capitol Hill these days.
He contrasts the actions of the Democrats today with other Intelligence Committee investigations he was involved in when he was in the Senate and finds this present report sadly lacking.
The worse consequence of a partisan report can be seen in this disturbing fact: It contains no recommendations. This is perhaps the most significant missed opportunity, because no one would claim the program was perfect or without its problems. But equally, no one with real experience would claim it was the completely ineffective and superfluous effort this report alleges.

Our intelligence personnel – who are once again on the front lines fighting the Islamic State – need recommended guidance from their board of governors: The U.S. Congress. Remarkably this report contains none. I hope – for the sake of our security and our values – Congress will follow the leadership of Senator McCain and give them this guidance.

A new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates how phony all the claims about a gender pay gap are.
Mark J. Perry explains how almost all the pay gap between men and women can be explained away by age, hours worked, and marital status. If you hear anyone argue that the gap is due to discrimination, you know that someone is lying to you.

Gabriel Maior presents "A Layman's Guide to the States Immigration Lawuit against DHS.

Jim Geraghty is not impressed with Jon Gruber's refusal to tell the House Committee yesterday how much taxpayer money he'd been paid by the Obama administration for his consulting work on health care.
When a guy won’t tell you how much he’s being paid by state agencies, it’s because the number is really embarrassing to somebody.

We're in a truly topsy-turvy rule when a college president has to apologize for sending out a campus-wide email saying "All lives matter." Apparently, that is not the desired formulation these days.

James Taranto comments,
Another way of putting it is that it is about an appeal to racial identity, not to universal standards of justice. And while the emphasis on “black lives” is both understandable and unobjectionable, the antipathy toward McCartney for her more inclusive phrasing is troubling, dare we say illiberal. Of course black lives matter, but is that not because they are human lives?

Betsy Woodruff reports in Slate about several conservative news web sites that most liberal readers of Slate have never heard of. Of course, she doesn't need to report on similar sites on the left, because her readers already know about them.