torture = political corruption

This excerpt shows why torture is not used for gaining truth. Torture’s use is for political manipulation. We can expect that where we find torture and advocates for torture, we find political corruption.

From the BBC interview with Col Lawrence Wilkerson, November 29, 2005.

BBC: “Did Colin Powell feel that he had correct information about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction when he outlined the case against Saddam?”

Wilkerson: “He certainly did and so did I. I was intimately involved in that process and to this point I have more or less defended the administration.

I have basically been supportive of the administration’s point that it was simply fooled – that the intelligence community, including the UK, Germany, France, Jordan – other countries that confirmed what we had in our intelligence package, yet we were all just fooled.

Lately, I’m growing increasingly concerned because two things have just happened here that really make me wonder.

And the one is the questioning of Sheikh al-Libby where his confessions were obtained through interrogation techniques other than those authorised by Geneva.

It led Colin Powell to say at the UN on 5 February 2003 that there were some pretty substantive contacts between al-Qaeda and Baghdad. And we now know that al-Libby’s forced confession has been recanted and we know – we’re pretty sure that it was invalid.

But more important than that, we know that there was a defence intelligence agency dissent on that testimony even before Colin Powell made his presentation. We never heard about that.

Follow that up with Curveball, and the fact that the Germans now say they told our CIA well before Colin Powell gave his presentation that Curveball – the source to the biological mobile laboratories – was lying and was not a trustworthy source. And then you begin to speculate, you begin to wonder was this intelligence spun; was it politicised; was it cherry-picked; did in fact the American people get fooled – I am beginning to have my concerns.”


cheney is a war criminal

Excerpted from BBC News. “Cheney accused on prisoner abuse.”

While Colin Powell urged the US President to follow Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture, neocons Cheney and Rumsfeld “essentially wanted to do away with all restrictions”.

Mr Bush agreed to a compromise, that “Geneva would in fact govern all but al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda look-alike detainees”.

“What I’m saying is that, under the vice-president’s protection, the secretary of defence [Donald Rumsfeld] moved out to do what they wanted in the first place, even though the president had made a decision that was clearly a compromise,” Col Wilkerson said.

He said that he laid the blame on the issue of prisoner abuse and post-war planning for Iraq “pretty fairly and squarely” at Mr Cheney’s feet.

“I look at the relationship between Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld as being one that produced these two failures in particular, and I see that the president is not holding either of them accountable… so I have to lay some blame at his feet too,” he went on.

Asked by the BBC’s Today if Mr Cheney could be accused of war crimes, he said: “It’s an interesting question.”

“Certainly it is a domestic crime to advocate terror,” he added.

“And I would suspect, for whatever it’s worth, it’s an international crime as well.”

finding God

In kleptocratic, corruption-capital Nigeria, oil state governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is suspected of siphoning millions of dollars in cash and buying an oil refinery in Ecuador along with several houses in London, California and South Africa.

Mr. Alamieyeseigha (pronounced al-uh-mess-EE-ya) was arrested in London on Sept. 15 and charged by British authorities with three counts of money laundering. He was released on bail but was forced to surrender his passport.

His next court date was scheduled for Dec. 8, but on Nov. 20 he mysteriously materialized in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state, telling a crowd of supporters who assembled outside the governor’s mansion here on Nov. 22: “I cannot tell you how I was brought here. It is a mystery. All the glory goes to God.”

Asked for further clarification, his spokesman, a former environmental activist and human rights lawyer named Oronto Douglas, repeated the governor’s assertion.

“He told me God brought him home,” Mr. Douglas said, sounding a little dazed. Asked if he believed the governor’s story, Mr. Douglas said, “As a Christian I believe in miracles.”

God manifested Himself when Mr. Alamieyeseigha fled money-laundering charges in Britain by donning a dress and a wig to match forged travel documents.

From Polgreen, Lydia. 2005. “As Nigeria tries to fight graft, a new sordid tale.” New York Times, November 29.

at long last

Excerpted from
Michelle Pauli.
“Stiff competition for Bad Sex award.” The Guardian. Monday November 28, 2005.

“Perhaps it isn’t too late for John Updike to bag a Bad Sex award,” wrote Adam Mars-Jones in his Observer review of Villages at the beginning of the year. The longlist for this year’s Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award, announced last Friday, confirms that Mars-Jones’s prediction was on the money.

Updike is in the running for what the organisers call Britain’s “most dreaded literary prize”, with an extract from Villages in which an adulterous character appraises his lover’s vagina: “[it] did not feel like Phyllis’s. Smoother, somehow simpler, its wetness less thick, less of a sauce, more of a glaze”.

But, excruciating as his entry is, Updike is up against some stiff competition. Among the 11 contenders for the prize this year are some of the biggest names in literature, including Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Paul Theroux. Of the three, Theroux’s offering, from Blinding Light, is arguably the most deserving of the prize, with its description of a character’s orgasm as

“…not juice at all but a demon eel thrashing in his loins and swimming swiftly up his cock, one whole creature of live slime fighting the stiffness as it rose and bulged at the tip and darted into her mouth.”

Theroux does, at least, manage to insert some punctuation into his description. Giles Coren, however, is in the running for an extract which comprises a 138-word long sentence followed by a two-word followup (“Like Zorro”, in case you were wondering) and which contains the alarming image of an excited male member “leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath”.

There is much unintentional humour in the extracts on offer, most particularly in Guillaume Lecasble’s description of a lobster’s seduction technique (“his feelers were just able to reach the satin of the panties”) and Marlon Brando’s almost incomprehensible sex scene from his posthumously-released novel Fan Tan.

Now in its 13th year, the prize, which only targets literary fiction, aims “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.” The winner, who will be announced on December 1 at the In & Out Club in London, is awarded a semi-abstract statue representing sex in the 1950s and a bottle of champagne, if he or she turns up.

Last year’s winner, Tom Wolfe, was one of the very few recipients to fail to attend; he later criticised the judges for failing to recognise the irony contained in the winning passage from I Am Charlotte Simmons.

Related articles
28.11.2005: Read the longlisted passages for the Bad Sex in Fiction award

Science methodically deploys a null hypothesis, is probablistic

Under the title “Kansas redefines science”, the New York Times has published an obfuscating, horribly written article today. It’s nice that they give employment to communications professionals who have heard of Bruno Latour in the way that a good cocktail party guest has heard of Dorothy Parker.
Since even the NY Times literati seem to be hopelessly lost in the theological model of causal explanation, let’s spell out what distinguishes a scientific claim from a theological claim from a postmodern claim.

While both scientific method and theological explanation are collective endeavors, where truth claims are adjudicated by disciplined, socialized collectivities, there are significant logical differences between the scientific method and theological methods of causal investigation.

Science is distinguished by a) the methodical testing of the null hypothesis (there is no relationship) and b) its findings are probablistic, so acknowledge the existence of relationships beyond our knowledge.

  • Tests a theory, in the form of an alternative hypothesis, whether H1: A is caused by B, where both A and B are social or natural phenomena. That is, they must be observable with either human senses or with built tools that are designed to augment those senses. The scientific method always contains, as the main hypothesis, the null hypothesis, H0: A is not caused by B.
  • Causation is provisionally confirmed by time order, correlation. The null hypothesis is rejected.
  • No causal relationship indicated by analysis of data?: We fail to reject the null hypothesis, H0. That is, we fail to reject the hypothesis that there is no relationship between A and B. The logical conclusion: If not B, then not B. Propose next step: Eg. test whether A is caused by C, where both A and C are observable social or natural phenomena, and where the relationship between A and C is suggested by theory.
(Variant: Dialectical historical materialism allows for and investigates the possibility of interactive causation over time between A & B, and non-linear emergent effects of their interaction under specified conditions.)

Drawbacks: 1) Continuous testing process until causation probably indicated.
2) The probability that the tested relationship is representative of the universe of such relationships is usually mathematically indeterminate. So politics, theory continue to be required to argue the existence of a relationship. 3) In a high-inequality social configuration, anti-scientific political claims can be made that technocratic deployment of scientific method is sufficient without politics, re-examination of theoretical assumptions.
Strengths: 1) No skip in logic. Logical rigor is secured in the scientific method by testing the null hypothesis. 2) Lack of human omniscience is addressed in scientific method with probability, repetition.

Theological explanation:
  • Main hypothesis is HG: A is caused by G, where G is the unobservable supernatural.
  • No causal relationship indicated between A and G?: HG fully confirmed, by faith.
  • Can (allow for) test as to whether alternative hypothesis H1: A is caused by B, where A and B are social or natural phenomena. There is no null hypothesis. Main hypothesis, HG: A is caused by G, where G is the unobservable supernatural.
  • No causal relationship indicated between A and B?: HG fully confirmed. If not B, then G, where G is the unobservable supernatural.
Drawbacks: 1) Human lack of omniscience is ignored as a problem for adjudicating contending truth claims. Megalomaniacal skip in logic. 2)  Dogma, doesn’t acknowledge the persistent necessity of theoretical competition, politics. 3) Anti-natural  and anti-social causes bias.
Strengths: 1) Biased toward assuming that social and natural phenomena are caused by the supernatural, supernatural will is knowable by human elites. 2) In a highly inegalitarian society, allows non-elites to use megalomaniacal quasi-logic corresponding to authoritarian elite causal logic (“Invisible Hand causes B because I say so, and I possess/am in the service of wealth/power/omniscience.”) 3) Efficiently strips decision making and determination of truth claims down to unmediated social power.

Nice Postmodernism:
  • The choice of the particular observed social or natural relationship tested (A and B) is directed by the political-economic commitments of the social power funding the testing.
  • Therefore, other possible social and natural relationships are not adequately tested, and it should never be claimed that the confident but provisional confirmation of causal relationships obviates other, inadequately-tested, potentially-observable relationships. 
  • Underscores that scientific causation can only be provisionally confirmed, never fully confirmed by faith, due to the fundamental role of observation in science. This emphasis was made by postmodernists because this important aspect of science, provisional confirmation, can be omitted when scientific findings are discussed in a political or economic social context where the application of findings is paramount. This omission can be used tyrannically. 
  • Unlike theology and neoliberal postmodernism (which abandons ontology and science), Nice postmodernism  is not opposed to the unique and valuable utility of scientific rules and practice to potential democratic practice. 
Drawback: Offensive to social power in its Nice Postmodernist variant. Anti-Enlightenment, dogma-adjunct in its neoliberal postmodernist variant.
Strength: Nice Postmodernism can clarify particular problems scientific method faces, with reference to social context of science.

Human Rights Watch: On Torture in Iraq

At the following web address, the New York Review of Books has a modified excerpt from Human Rights Watch’s report on torture in Iraq, “Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.” Issued on September 25, 2005, the full report is available at /reports/2005/us0905.

“On their day off people would show up all the time. Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent.[1] In a way it was sport. The cooks were all US soldiers. One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy’s leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat. He was the fucking cook. He shouldn’t be in with no PUCs.”

—82nd Airborne sergeant,describing events at FOB Mercury, Iraq

“If I as an officer think we’re not even following the Geneva Conventions, there’s something wrong. If officers witness all these things happening, and don’t take action, there’s something wrong. If another West Pointer tells me he thinks, ‘Well, hitting somebody might be okay,’ there’s something wrong.”

—82nd Airborne officer, describing confusion in Iraq
concerning allowable interrogation techniques