Friday, December 22, 2006

US Allocates $0.5Trillion for Cancer Research

We're approaching one half of a Trillion dollars in war expenditures between Iraq and Afghanistan.

What have we gotten for our money?

- No Bin Laden (Wasn't he the start of this whole exercise?)
- Saddam Houssein, who arguably was the *last* person we should have caught, given how a now-failed Iraq has opened the door wide open to a Iran hedgemony of the entire region. W is no doubt soon to be elected Iran's MVP.

What could we have accomplished if we'd invested One Half of a Trillion dollars in cancer research?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Luckovich: Bush War Slogan Memorial

Mike Luckovich has a great summary of Bush's war campaign:


Shock & Awe
Mission Accomplished
Bring 'Em On!
Making' Good Progress
As the Iraqis Stand Up, We'll Stand Down
Fight 'Em There, Not Here
We Must Not Waver
A Free and Democratic Iraq
Stay the Course
Central Front In the War On Terror
We'll Succeed Unless We Quit
We're Winning
Complete the Mission
New Way Forward

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Glories of Unregulated Markets

The next time some nutcase starts blathering on about how Capitalism should be unfettered and unregulated, ask them how much spam is currently sitting in their inbox.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Democratic Control of Senate Teeters by Johnson

Sen. Johnon just fainted on the hill. Might be a stroke. His Republican governor will surely replace him with a Republican nominee should he be unable to fullfill his duties, thus throwing the Senate back to Republicans.


Hmm... wonder if Polonium is involved?

From TPM:
An update on Sen. Johnson's (D-SD) condition form the Argus-Leader, the major South Dakota paper.

Here's WaPo's update.

A number of you have written in to note, correctly, that control of the senate hinges on Sen. Johnson's ability to serve in the 110th Congress. Were he unable to do so, South Dakota's Republican governor would appoint a Republican and control would go to the Republicans -- a 50 - 50 tie with the tie break from Cheney. That's all we're going to say about that point until we get some definitive word on Johnson's condition.

If we hear more on the senator's condition, we'll bring it to you.

Late Update: The only available information that sheds any light on Johnson's condition is contained in these three grafs from MSNBC ...

Johnson became disoriented during a call with reporters at midday, stuttering in response to a question. He appeared to recover, asking if there were any additional questions before ending the call.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Krugman: Outsourcer in Cheif

Outsourcer in Chief, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times:
According to U.S. News & World Report, President Bush has told aides that he won’t respond in detail to the Iraq Study Group’s report because he doesn’t want to “outsource” the role of commander in chief.

That’s pretty ironic. You see, outsourcing of the government’s responsibilities — not to panels of supposed wise men, but to private companies with the right connections — has been one of the hallmarks of his administration. And privatization through outsourcing is one reason the administration has failed on so many fronts.

For example, ... Saturday’s New York Times describes how the Coast Guard has run a $17 billion modernization program: “Instead of managing the project itself, the Coast Guard hired Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman ... to plan, supervise and deliver the new vessels...” The result? Expensive ships that aren’t seaworthy. ...

In Afghanistan, the job of training a new police force was outsourced to DynCorp International ... under very loose supervision: ... auditors couldn’t even find a copy of DynCorp’s contract... And $1.1 billion later, Afghanistan still doesn’t have an effective police training program.

In July 2004, Government Executive magazine published an article titled “Outsourcing Iraq,” documenting how the U.S. occupation authorities had transferred responsibility for reconstruction to private contractors, with hardly any oversight. ... We all know how that turned out.

On the home front, the Bush administration outsourced many responsibilities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. For example, the job of evacuating people from disaster areas was given to a trucking logistics firm, Landstar Express America. When Hurricane Katrina struck, Landstar didn’t even know where to get buses. ...

It’s now clear that there’s a fundamental error in the antigovernment ideology embraced by today’s conservative movement. Conservatives look at the virtues of market competition and leap to the conclusion that private ownership, in itself, is some kind of magic elixir. But there’s no reason to assume that a private company hired to perform a public service will do better than people employed directly by the government.

In fact, the private company will almost surely do a worse job if its political connections insulate it from accountability — which has, of course, consistently been the case under Mr. Bush. ...

Underlying this lack of accountability are the real motives for turning government functions over to private companies, which have little to do with efficiency. To say the obvious: when you see a story about failed outsourcing, you can be sure that the company in question is ... run by people with strong G.O.P. connections...

The failure of privatization under the Bush administration offers a target-rich environment to newly empowered Congressional Democrats — and I say, let the subpoenas fly. Bear in mind that we’re not talking just about wasted money: contracting failures in Iraq helped us lose one war, similar failures in Afghanistan may help us lose another, and FEMA’s failures helped us lose a great American city.

And maybe, just maybe, the abject failure of this administration’s efforts to outsource essential functions to the private sector will diminish the antigovernment prejudice created by decades of right-wing propaganda.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How Could Anyone Have Predicted This?

Apparently only 49.9% of the American voting public saw this one coming:


"Mr. Bush, Reality on line 3..."


AP

Panel: Bush's Iraq policies have failed

By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY and DAVID ESPO, Associated Press Writers1 hour, 9 minutes ago

President Bush's war policies have failed in almost every regard, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group concluded Wednesday, and it warned of dwindling chances to change course before crisis turns to chaos with dire implications for terrorism, war in the Middle East and higher oil prices around the world.

Nearly four years, $400 billion and more than 2,900 U.S. deaths into a deeply unpopular war, violence is bad and getting worse, there is no guarantee of success and the consequences of failure are great, the high-level panel of five Republicans and five Democrats said in a bleak accounting of U.S. and Iraqi shortcomings.

It said the United States should find ways to pull back most of its combat forces by early 2008 and focus U.S. troops on training and supporting Iraqi units. The U.S. should also begin a "diplomatic offensive" by the end of the month and engage adversaries Iran and Syria in an effort to quell sectarian violence and shore up the fragile Iraqi government, the report said.

It followed by a day the sobering appraisal of Robert Gates, who was confirmed Wednesday as Bush's new Pentagon chief, that the United States is not winning in Iraq.

"Despite a massive effort, stability in Iraq remains elusive and the situation is deteriorating," the independent report said. "The ability of the United States to shape outcomes is diminishing. Time is running out."

The group's recommendations do not endorse either the current White House strategy of staying put in Iraq or calls from Bush's political opponents for a quick pullout or a firm timetable for withdrawal.

"The report is an acknowledgment that there will be no military solution in Iraq. It will require a political solution arrived at through sustained Iraqi and region-wide diplomacy and engagement," said Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record), R-Neb.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats said the ball is in Bush's court.

"If the president is serious about the need for change in Iraq, he will find Democrats ready to work with him in a bipartisan fashion to find a way to end the war as quickly as possible," Pelosi said.

The Iraq panel's leaders said they tried to avoid politically charged language such as "victory," on the one hand or "civil war" on the other, but the words they chose were still powerful. The report says the current strategy is not working and lays out example after example where it has come up short.

As if to underscore that the conflict is hurtling out of control, the military reported that 10 American troops were killed Wednesday, adding to the toll of U.S. forces who have died since the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in early 2003. The United States has about 140,000 troops in the country.

"We do not recommend a stay-the-course solution," said James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Bush family adviser who co-chaired the commission. "In our opinion, that approach is no longer viable."

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., the other co-chairman, said the commission agreed with Bush's goal of an Iraq able to govern, protect and sustain itself but that the administration needed new approaches.

"No course of action in Iraq is guaranteed to stop a slide toward chaos," Hamilton said. "Yet, in our view, not all options have been exhausted."

The report has been widely seen as an opportunity for Bush to pivot from policies blamed in large part for Republican losses in midterm elections last month. Bush praised the group's work, but gave no hint of his next move. He said he would give the findings a hard look and urged Congress to do the same.

"This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq," Bush said after an early morning briefing from the group of five Republican and five Democratic former government officials and advisers. "It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion."

Bush met later with members of Congress from both political parties and said he wanted to cooperate to "send a message to the American people that the struggle for freedom, the struggle for our security is not the purview of one party over the other."

The commission also briefed members of the Iraqi government by teleconference, and one official there agreed that Iraqis must take responsibility for their own security. "Absolute dependence on foreign troops is not possible," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh.

Among its 79 recommendations, the group said the United States should reduce political, military or economic support for Iraq if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress. The report said Iraqi leaders have failed to deliver better security or political compromises that would reduce violence, and it implied that a four-month joint U.S.-Iraqi military campaign to reduce violence in Baghdad is hopeless.

"Because none of the operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi military forces are fundamentally changing the conditions encouraging the sectarian violence, U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end," the report said.

That was a withering evaluation of a central tenet of the Bush military strategy in Iraq. In Baghdad and elsewhere, U.S. forces are supposed to help Iraqi units "clear, hold and build," shorthand for routing insurgents or other fighters from problem areas, securing those areas from further violence and setting a positive future course.

On the highly emotional issue of troop withdrawals, the commission warned against either a precipitous pullback or an open-ended commitment to a large deployment.

"Military priorities must change," the report said, toward a goal of training, equipping and advising Iraqi forces.

The report said Bush should put aside misgivings and engage Syria, Iran and the leaders of insurgent forces in negotiations on Iraq's future, to begin by year's end. It urged him to revive efforts at a broader Middle East peace.

The report laid out consequences from bad to worse, including the threat of wider war in the Middle East and reduced oil production that would hurt the global economy.

In a slap at the Pentagon, the commission said there is significant underreporting of the actual level of violence in Iraq. It also faulted the U.S. intelligence effort, saying the government "still does not understand very well either the insurgency in Iraq or the role of the militias."

The commission recommended the number of U.S. troops embedded to train Iraqis should increase dramatically, from 3,000 to 4,000 currently to 10,000 to 20,000. Commission member William Perry, defense secretary in the Clinton administration, said those could be drawn from combat brigades already in Iraq.

The report noted that Iraq costs run about $8 billion a month and that the bills will keep coming. "Caring for veterans and replacing lost equipment will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars," the commission said. "Estimates run as high as $2 trillion for the final cost of the U.S. involvement in Iraq."

___

On the Net:

The Iraq Study Group report is available at:

http://wid.ap.org/documents/iraq/2006isg_report.pdf

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Post-9/11 Thinking...

is turning out to be 1991 thinking. Or 1962 thinking. Or is it indeed thinking at all?

One further irony Robert J. Elisberg fails to mention: W's major in college was History. He's doomed himself to being persecuted by history. But this time he wont be able to escape the persecution by leaving college.


Robert J. ElisbergTue Nov 21, 1:16 PM ET

For five years, ever since, oh, 9/12/2001, the President and his minions have lambasted Democrats - indeed anyone who didn't agree with him - for having "Pre-9/11 Thinking."

And now, after burying the nation in a disastrous war of epic proportions with no way out, we finally see the result of the vaunted Republican "Post-9/11 Thinking" on how to resolve the quagmire:

Republicans await the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group - headed by James Baker. Former Chief of Staff to Ronald Reagan.

Republicans have brought back from Purgatory a new Senate Minority Whip - Trent Lott. Former disgraced Majority Leader during Clinton Administration.

Republicans have nominated as new Secretary of Defense - Robert Gates. Former CIA director under George HW Bush. That's the first George Bush.

And throughout this entire debacle, the White House has been advised by - Henry Kissinger. Former Secretary of State to Richard Nixon. Who oversaw the ending of the earlier war debacle of Vietnam. Back for the sequel.

Also being asked to help to figure a way out of Iraq are, of course - Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Former Secretaries of Defense to that first George Bush and Gerald Ford.

And while waiting for the Iraq Study Group recommendations, it's worth noting that this bipartisan committee includes Lawrence Eagleburger (former Secretary of State to George HW Bush, 41), and Edwin Meese (former Attorney General to Ronald Reagan).

None of this is to suggest that Republicans should be dealing only with people whose sole experience in public life starts five years ago. It's merely to observe that the holier-than-thou puffery against "Pre-9/11 Thinking" is but one more boondoggle the Republican Administration has been foisting on the American public with problematic results.

None of this is to suggest, either, that any of these hoped-for saviors will, in fact, help the Republicans out of this quicksand they created. After all, for many of these experts their expertise for problem-solving lies more on the side of building Rubik's Cubes rather than figuring out how to get the colors lined up properly.

Maybe they will finally come up with a solution. It's the fondest wish of a nation. It's just that you know you're in an uphill battle when those in charge not only didn't learn the lessons of Vietnam, but are trying to finally win it, 35 years later.

Henry Kissinger has been advising the President! No wonder Mr. Bush thinks the lesson of Vietnam is "We'll succeed unless we quit."

For all those willing to dismiss Mr. Bush's National Guard exploits as the mere transgressions of youth, this is what comes of spending your college years getting drunk, having your father get you a plush deferment, presumably going AWOL and then claiming you're a War President.

Skipping class, having substance abuse problems and acting irresponsibly are indeed transgressions of youth. And if you're going to end up managing a Burger King, or even running Harken Oil, that's okay. But to have to cram on basic History 101 before leading a nation into war just doesn't cut it.

Given that Mr. Bush went to especially-great lengths to avoid Vietnam, you'd think he'd understand first-hand the really big lesson of not getting involved in the war in the first place.

The truth is that when George Bush tosses off such advice as "the world that we live in today is one where they want things to happen immediately" - you wish more that it wasn't only Vietnam he'd learned the lessons of, but Iraq, as well. Because no one who had the slightest grasp of Iraq - which has had warring between the Sunnis and Shiites for at least 600 years - would ever have though this was a place where things would happen "immediately." Where the mission would be accomplished within a week of shocking and awing anyone. Where we would be met with flowers and candy simply by wandering down Main Street after deposing their leader.

Then again, anyone who supposes that the only thinking worth considering is that which came after September 11, 2001, is someone who would never been expected to understand the lessons of history, let alone care about them.

And now, for all the Republican belittlement of "Pre-9/11 Thinking," the people who are struggling to help the President are those from the very heart of the pre-9/11 world. Ah, the ironies of life.

Stay the Course. "We'll succeed unless we quit." And so, we now know this grand Post-9/11 Thinking is nothing more than Henry Kissinger still trying to win Vietnam.

In the end, when it comes to the lessons of history, the most famous lesson of all is from George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Welcome back from Vietnam, Mr. President. We wish.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On Losing to Bin Laden

Who would have thought that the best way to lose the fight against a bunch of radical fundamentalist, women's rights reducing, gay-killing, religion-as-government extremists would be to attack them with a bunch of fundamentalist, women's reproductive-rights eliminating, gay-marriage denying, religion-in-politics religions zealots?

Who knew?

Whether to Send More Troops to Iraq

The constantly-asked question is, "Should we send more troops to Iraq?"

A less-often asked question is, "Is there any Way that more troops could solve the problems of Iraq?"

The unasked question is, "Could our current leadership see that Way and if so, could they follow it?"

All signs point to "No."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Only If We Quit

Bush recently said that we can lose in Iraq only if we quit. Then how do we win?
Not at this rate:

The New York Times

November 19, 2006
A Captain’s Journey From Hope to Just Getting Her Unit Home
By KIRK SEMPLE

BAGHDAD, Nov. 18 — Capt. Stephanie A. Bagley and the military police company she commands arrived in Iraq in December 2005 brimming with optimism about taking on one of the most urgent tasks in Iraq: building a new police force.

Now, as the 21st Military Police Company approaches the end of a deployment marked by small victories and enormous disappointments, Captain Bagley is focused on a more modest goal.

“I just want to get everyone home,” she said. In the past several weeks, Captain Bagley, 30, barred her troops from foot patrols in the most violent neighborhoods and eliminated all nonessential travel. “I’m just not willing to lose another soldier,” she said.

The local police force in her region, as in much of Iraq, remains undertrained, poorly equipped and unable to stand up to the rigors of this conflict. It offers little resistance to the relentless Sunni Arab-led insurgency and has at least partly come under the sway of wily Shiite militias. Casualties are high, morale is low and many police officers do not show up for work.

Captain Bagley, a West Point graduate and the daughter and granddaughter of military policemen, said she has come to realize just how little she and her unit knew when they arrived, and just how much was stacked against their success.

The company’s challenges crystallized in a moment late last month during a routine assignment. Some of her soldiers had gone to the Baya Local Police Station, one of 18 local stations in the troubled southern outskirts of Baghdad where her unit has worked this year. They were picking up a contingent of Iraqi policemen for a daily patrol of Dora, an especially violent neighborhood here in the capital.

On these patrols, the Americans, swaddled in Kevlar from head to hips, travel in Humvees and other armored vehicles. The Iraqis, wearing only bulletproof vests, ride in soft-skinned pickup trucks and S.U.V.’s, the only vehicles they have.

The Iraqi policemen begged the Americans not to make them go out. They peeled off their clothes to reveal shrapnel scars from past attacks. They tugged the armored plates from their Kevlar vests and told the Americans they were faulty. They said they had no fuel for their vehicles. They disappeared on indefinite errands elsewhere in the compound. They said they would not patrol if it meant passing a trash pile, a common hiding place for bombs.

The Iraqis eventually gave up and climbed into two S.U.V.’s with shattered windshields and missing side windows, and the joint patrol moved out. One Iraqi officer draped his Kevlar vest from the window of his car door for lateral protection. During a lunch break, the officers tried to sneak away in their cars.

Later in the day, back at her command center on a military base in southern Baghdad, Captain Bagley said the pleading and excuses were common. But she did not blame the Iraqis. They are soft targets for the insurgency, and scores of officers have been wounded or killed in her area during the past year. The police stations’ motor pools are so crowded with ravaged vehicles that they could be taken for salvage yards.

“I’d never want to go out in an Iraqi police truck,” the captain said. “But we still have to convince them. We’ve been given a job to train them.” But she also points out that her orders were to help train and equip a local force to deal with common crime, like theft and murder, not teach infantry skills to wage a counterinsurgency campaign.

Captain Bagley has spent most of her days this year shuttling from station to station, checking on her soldiers and meeting with the Iraqi commanders to discuss their problems over potent, sugary tea. Fresh-faced and fit, her long hair knotted under her helmet and a pistol strapped to her thigh, she has moved through this loud and overwhelmingly male world with a calm, understated authority that the Iraqi commanders have come to depend on.

The government’s sclerotic supply chain — clogged by bureaucracy, corruption and lack of money — has failed to provide the stations with the necessary tools of policing, from office supplies to weapons, uniforms and police cruisers. “Even something as simple as a pen, they have to get it for us,” said Maj. Muhammad Hassan Aboud, the commander of the Belat Al Shuwayda station in southern Baghdad, pointing to Captain Bagley. “If we lose them, we’re pretty much going nowhere.”

The captain said, “We’re holding their hands so much now.” If the Americans were not involved, she said, some senior commanders would not have the fortitude to confront the militias. “A lot of times I’m just the motivator,” she said. “I’m motivated because I’m going home soon. But what motivates them?”

Days earlier, she recalled, a death squad had killed the family of another of her station commanders. “Yet,” she continued, a tinge of exasperation in her voice, “you’re given the mission to motivate these guys to protect Iraqi citizens.”

At the beginning of her deployment, she hoped that by the end of the year the police would be able to respond to calls from any neighborhood without American help. But after the bombing of an important Shiite shrine in February incited a surge in sectarian violence, she decided that goal was unrealistic.

She decided to focus on developing the top officers, particularly the station commanders. “We realized that if we didn’t have a strong leader, the station won’t work,” she said.

But the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police force, has frequently changed commanders, often citing reasons of incompetence or death threats, sometimes offering no explanation at all. The Rashid station has had eight chiefs since it opened in late April. Absentee rates there have soared as high as 75 percent, though the rate had dropped to 25 percent by late last month, in large part because the latest chief was docking the pay of absent officers.

Over the course of the year, as sectarianism spread in the police force, Captain Bagley saw Shiite policemen balk at orders from Sunni shift commanders and Shiite station chiefs clash with their Sunni deputies.

She has also had to confront the creep of militia influence, as militia loyalists within the force used their leverage to avoid punishment or intimidate senior leadership. She intervened after a deputy station commander told her that his commander was being pressured by the militia of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr to free several captured militiamen. The men remained in jail.

The job of inspiring her Iraqi and American charges alike has become increasingly difficult as the violence has escalated in Baghdad in recent months.

As part of the American military’s push to wrest control of the capital’s streets from insurgents and militias, she was ordered to move some of her soldiers out of the police stations and into the streets of Dora to conduct daily patrols. Following an effort by American and Iraqi troops to seal off and clear that neighborhood, violence there has risen sharply, and attacks on her joint patrols have become frequent.

On Oct. 2, her soldiers were accompanying Iraqi police officers on a patrol through the Dora marketplace when a sniper shot and killed Sgt. Joseph Walter Perry, a 23-year-old turret gunner from San Diego. He was one of at least eight American soldiers killed in Iraq that day. Numerous soldiers from Captain Bagley’s company had been wounded over the year; in April, a bomb destroyed a Humvee and tore off the driver’s left leg. But Sergeant Perry’s death was the company’s first here and it devastated Captain Bagley.

“People from other units will say, ‘You’ve only lost one?’ ” she said, her face tensing in indignation. “Only? We haven’t had it so bad as others, but I can’t minimize Perry’s death.” She paused. “I’m the one who sends them into the market.”

After the death, Captain Bagley started counting the days to the end of the tour and her company’s return to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. She found herself lying awake at night, thinking about how to keep her company alive amid a worsening war. She started micromanaging her soldiers’ movements. She tried to relax in the evenings by hanging out with her lieutenants or reading paperbacks that she describes as “trashy.” But the relief was always fleeting. “I’m in no-sleep mode,” she said.

As the death toll among American troops has risen in Baghdad, and the security plan has faltered, Captain Bagley’s soldiers say they have tried to resist the urge to question the larger American enterprise here, whether it was right or wrong to come to Iraq in the first place, whether and when American troops should leave. They are here to do a job, they say, and are duty-bound to complete it.

But Captain Bagley has asked herself those questions “all the time,” she said. She ponders whether it has all been worth her soldier’s leg or her soldier’s life. She wonders what the American command will do to turn things around.

Loyalty to the armed services is in her blood. Her father served in Vietnam, her grandfather in World War II. She grew up on military bases in the United States and Germany. Her sister is an Army nurse. She has served three other deployments since 1999, and, partly as a result, has two divorces behind her.

Her phone calls with her father sometimes touch on the faltering course of the war. “He asks, ‘Why the heck doesn’t it calm down?’ ” she said. She is at a loss to explain why.

Her discouragement is plain, but she keeps her deepest thoughts private, in part because she wants to protect her soldiers from doubt at this most critical time in their lives. She knows that their job is difficult enough without the suggestion that their sacrifices may have been in vain. “You can’t pass it along to your soldiers,” she said. “You can’t question it. It would lead to the destruction of the company. You got to keep it together.”

The company has done everything it could to help rebuild Iraq, she said, but now they want to go home. “It’s been a very frustrating year,” she said. “We all want to get out of here.”

The Function of Commisions

Michael Kinsley give some very useful insight into the Baker (and all other) Commisions. Interesting reading:

Michael Kinsley at Slate

Ordinarily, a commission like this has two possible purposes: action or inaction. Sometimes a problem is referred to a prestigious commission so that the commission can recommend what everybody knows must be done but nobody who must run for election has the nerve to propose. The commission can ram this policy down the politicians' allegedly unwilling throats. If it is bipartisan—and what fun is a commission that isn't bipartisan?—the commission also protects both parties against a stab in the back by the other.

...
On the other hand, sometimes a problem is referred to a commission simply to get it off the table. Action is widely perceived as necessary, and the creation of a commission can be made to look like action.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Support for the Windows As Monopoly Argument

Faultline at The Register provides an interesting observation on Microsoft's monopoly of PC operating systems.

That idea is nothing new of course, but Samsung's SPH-P9000 device - running Windows but looking very little like a traditional PC-oriented PDA - highlights the key issue: will the PC's mobile successor be a Windows device in a new form factor, or an entirely new beast owing a greater debt to the cellphone?

For Microsoft, the answer is critical, since Windows is still not a natural fit for a mobile platform that has no PC heritage. Its future success lies not in religiously promoting the PC/PDA model of device - especially in consumer markets, where expectations of user interfaces and functionality are changing rapidly and are not dictated by Wintel - but in making Windows as adaptable as possible to devices of all descriptions, rather than tying itself to PC-style functionality or the Intel roadmap.


Microsoft argues that its OS runs on 95% of the worlds PCs because Microsoft provides superior product, service and "innovation".

Others argue that their 95% market dominance its due more to monopoly (or "heritage") than "innovation".

Faultline poses an interesting question: "If MS is so good, why hasn't it been able to translate its Windows success into a successful OS for mobile devices?"

Surely mobile devices present a completely different physical interface (small screen, limited keyboard/processor, etc.) than does the PC. The market also has not standardized on any one (or many, for that matter) interface(s). Arguably though, there was no standard interface (no interface at all, actually) for the PC before Microsoft was contracted by IBM to create one.

So far MS has concentrated less on creating a good mobile OS and more on shoehorning its current desktop OSs into mobile devices. An effort that has so far failed.

In any case, Microsoft is failing to "recreate the miracle" of Windows on the mobile platform. That seems to support the argument that Microsoft's OS success was due less to good design and execution than it was luck. Either that, or their design and execution isn't what it used to be.

Business: The Problem with Making the Numbers

Jeff Matthews is Not Making This Up

Jeff nails a business concept that I've always had problems with, but could never put my finger on describing: Management by Numbers.


I’ve walked stores with Bernie Marcus, and it’s an experience.

If you don’t know who Bernie Marcus is, he’s one of the two geniuses (the other being Arthur Blank) who invented The Home Depot.

Bernie was a whirlwind: loud, brash, and eager to help any potential customer who walked in the door, even if it meant turning his back on whatever number of Wall Street's Finest were getting the store tour at that moment.

Just to help the guy find what he was looking for.

Bernie seemed to know every sales associate who ever walked the floor—and for good reason, because he'd hired them and trained them. And it was within the sales associates that he'd also imparted his passion for helping the customer so well that it made his company what it became: a place where people who don’t necessarily know how to use a hammer could come in and get help and advice so that they could actually install a door or fix a faucet or add a deck—meanwhile spending oodles of dollars in the process.

Not for nothing the motto was “You Can Do It, We Can Help.”

Now, it is ancient history to point out that the Home Depot under Bernie and Art developed growing pains, and that the founders stepped aside for a new breed of operations-based management under ex-GE big Bob Nardelli.

And it is old news that today's customers may have less free time and be less inclined to do it themselves, and are, therefore, more apt to want somebody to do-it-for-me, requiring an updating to the original Home Depot motto.

And in any event it may soon be ancient history to talk about the Home Depot as a public company, what with rumors sweeping Wall Street that Sears Holding’s Eddie Lampert has been looking at adding Home Depot to his real-estate rich retailing empire, plus all the private equity money desperate to buy anything with cash flow, which Home Depot has in spades.

But it is, nonetheless, worth keeping up with how Home Depot has been doing under the Nardelli regime, and if this week’s earnings call proves anything, it proves that Nardelli is masterful at spinning his story to Wall Street’s Finest.

He begins right away, in his opening remarks:

Thanks, Diane. In August, we predicted that the third quarter was going to be soft, and it was actually more challenging than we anticipated. We felt the impact of the U.S. retail home improvement market slowing significantly.

Note how Nardelli manages to paint himself and his company as both prescient (“we predicted”) and a victim (“we felt the impact…”). This is masterful spin-doctoring: it’s as if nothing bad happening at Home Depot is the fault of management.

But that’s not the whopper.

The whopper comes in the very next sentence:

However, during the quarter, we did stay on strategy by accelerating our investment in our core retail business and growing our supply businesses.

Right now I’ll bet there’s a would-be customer—I’m one myself, so I know how this works—trying to figure out which size floodlight to buy for his stupid kitchen ceiling lights, who is walking around the cement floor of a huge cavernous Home Depot looking for anybody wearing an orange apron with a “You Can Do It, We Can Help” button that isn't already being trailed through the store by four or five desperate fellow potential-customers with hollow eyes looking like those émigrés in “Casablanca” following around somebody who has their visa papers.

And I seriously doubt that would-be customer is thinking,

“Well, I may not be able to find somebody in an orange apron who can help me figure out which size floodlight to buy for my stupid kitchen ceiling because apparently this is a store run by self-service checkout robots, but at least they’re staying on strategy.”

Yet even Nardelli could not spin away the fact that staying “on strategy” didn’t prevent Home Depot from earning less money this year than last:

In the third quarter, consolidated sales were $23 billion. That is up 11% from last year, and our diluted earnings per share were $0.73. That is up 1%, while consolidated net income earnings were $1.5 billion, down 3%.

Now, it is a fact that Bob Nardelli runs a company called The Home Depot.

And it is a fact that the home-building industry has, of late, smacked head-first into a brick wall after several years of increasingly testosterone-charged home-building CEOs telling doubters on Wall Street that, like the Internet skeptics of the late 1990s, “you just don’t get it” when it came to understanding why the Housing Bubble wasn’t a Bubble.

And it is a fact that recent results at vendors such as Masco (faucets and kitchen cabinets) and Mohawk (carpets and tiles) demonstrate the difficulty facing anybody selling anything that goes into one of those D.H. Horton or Toll Brothers or Ryland spec homes now sitting empty out in the scorching Las Vegas desert (sales brochure slogan: “It’s the desert so why would you need a yard?”).

So the fact that numbers at The Home Depot are a bit light is not reason alone to pick nits with the sort of spin-doctoring conference call you’d expect from a guy who very nearly made it to the top of one of America’s most ferociously management-by-numbers companies, GE.

(True story: I was at the Greek diner one morning recently when two GE-ers, who clearly worked together several job assignments ago but hadn’t seen each other in some time, began talking, and I am not making this up:

“So how are things?”
“Good. We made our numbers.”
“Good! You made your numbers?”
“Yep, we made our numbers—how about you?”
“Oh, yeah. We made our numbers.”

It wasn't until then that they got into family, kids and other apparently less important stuff. That is the DNA of the guy in charge of Home Depot.)

And while Home Depot had outgrown its systems and needed serious work behind the scenes to support what Bernie Marcus and Art Blank had created from not much more than a passion for their customer, it is not necessarily the kind of culture that’s going to keep the customers happy.

So it should be no surprise that, unless all the former Home Depot store managers I run into are making up stories about reduced money for staffing labor at stores—what they call “earn hours”—as well as a Sears-like bureaucracy taking over the Atlanta headquarters (which, as far as Marcus and Blank were concerned, took its orders from the stores, not vice-versa), there’s no arguing the Home Depot has changed, for the worse, from a customer-driven operation to a numbers-driven operation.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask anybody who used to shop there. Anybody. I’ll bet we come up with more horror stores than Dell (see “Dell Screws Up a Good Thing” from this site).

Nevertheless, the numbers-agile crew now in charge at Home Depot didn’t get to where they are by not having whatever data could support the upbeat “message” handy in their PowerPoint presentation, and Nardelli did indeed offer up customer satisfaction numbers that seem completely at odds with every anecdote I’ve heard recently:

I want to thank our associates for their hard work and focus on taking care of our customers. Every week, we hear from 250,000 customers through our voice of customer survey. We have seen significant improvements in our survey results. Key customer service attributes, including customer engagement, waiting to check out, find and buy, likelihood to recommend, and associate availability were up over last year and showed sequential improvement this quarter. Overall satisfaction with our company, as measured by scores of 9s and 10s, is up over 2004 and 2005 levels.

Lest anyone think this “voice of customer” might be something he is hearing inside his own head, Nardelli delved into these numbers later in the Q&A with just enough color to make you wonder about how much they reflect reality, or not:

Mark, I think two points, just to be real clear. What we talked about is that overall customer satisfaction, or voice of customer, as we call it, is up across the entire network of stores, and that is the 250,000 customer shopping experiences, that they go online and call and score us on associate availability, ability to find and buy, et cetera. We have seen a sequential improvement month over month in the third quarter for sure, and we would expect the same thing to continue in the fourth quarter. In other words, the customers that are scoring us 9s and 10s.

I may be wrong, but customer surveys—especially online customer surveys—might not be the best way to find the customer who went into a store, couldn’t find anybody to help who wasn't already under siege from four or five other desperate individuals, picked up the wrong-sized floodlights for his stupid kitchen ceiling, spent ten minutes in line because there weren’t enough live human beings at the registers…and then vowed never to come back again.

Still, Nardelli appears to have great faith in management-by-numbers.

Business: The Problem with Making the Numbers

Jeff Matthews is Not Making This Up

Jeff nails a business concept that I've always had problems with, but could never put my finger on describing: Management by Numbers.


I’ve walked stores with Bernie Marcus, and it’s an experience.

If you don’t know who Bernie Marcus is, he’s one of the two geniuses (the other being Arthur Blank) who invented The Home Depot.

Bernie was a whirlwind: loud, brash, and eager to help any potential customer who walked in the door, even if it meant turning his back on whatever number of Wall Street's Finest were getting the store tour at that moment.

Just to help the guy find what he was looking for.

Bernie seemed to know every sales associate who ever walked the floor—and for good reason, because he'd hired them and trained them. And it was within the sales associates that he'd also imparted his passion for helping the customer so well that it made his company what it became: a place where people who don’t necessarily know how to use a hammer could come in and get help and advice so that they could actually install a door or fix a faucet or add a deck—meanwhile spending oodles of dollars in the process.

Not for nothing the motto was “You Can Do It, We Can Help.”

Now, it is ancient history to point out that the Home Depot under Bernie and Art developed growing pains, and that the founders stepped aside for a new breed of operations-based management under ex-GE big Bob Nardelli.

And it is old news that today's customers may have less free time and be less inclined to do it themselves, and are, therefore, more apt to want somebody to do-it-for-me, requiring an updating to the original Home Depot motto.

And in any event it may soon be ancient history to talk about the Home Depot as a public company, what with rumors sweeping Wall Street that Sears Holding’s Eddie Lampert has been looking at adding Home Depot to his real-estate rich retailing empire, plus all the private equity money desperate to buy anything with cash flow, which Home Depot has in spades.

But it is, nonetheless, worth keeping up with how Home Depot has been doing under the Nardelli regime, and if this week’s earnings call proves anything, it proves that Nardelli is masterful at spinning his story to Wall Street’s Finest.

He begins right away, in his opening remarks:

Thanks, Diane. In August, we predicted that the third quarter was going to be soft, and it was actually more challenging than we anticipated. We felt the impact of the U.S. retail home improvement market slowing significantly.

Note how Nardelli manages to paint himself and his company as both prescient (“we predicted”) and a victim (“we felt the impact…”). This is masterful spin-doctoring: it’s as if nothing bad happening at Home Depot is the fault of management.

But that’s not the whopper.

The whopper comes in the very next sentence:

However, during the quarter, we did stay on strategy by accelerating our investment in our core retail business and growing our supply businesses.

Right now I’ll bet there’s a would-be customer—I’m one myself, so I know how this works—trying to figure out which size floodlight to buy for his stupid kitchen ceiling lights, who is walking around the cement floor of a huge cavernous Home Depot looking for anybody wearing an orange apron with a “You Can Do It, We Can Help” button that isn't already being trailed through the store by four or five desperate fellow potential-customers with hollow eyes looking like those émigrés in “Casablanca” following around somebody who has their visa papers.

And I seriously doubt that would-be customer is thinking,

“Well, I may not be able to find somebody in an orange apron who can help me figure out which size floodlight to buy for my stupid kitchen ceiling because apparently this is a store run by self-service checkout robots, but at least they’re staying on strategy.”

Yet even Nardelli could not spin away the fact that staying “on strategy” didn’t prevent Home Depot from earning less money this year than last:

In the third quarter, consolidated sales were $23 billion. That is up 11% from last year, and our diluted earnings per share were $0.73. That is up 1%, while consolidated net income earnings were $1.5 billion, down 3%.

Now, it is a fact that Bob Nardelli runs a company called The Home Depot.

And it is a fact that the home-building industry has, of late, smacked head-first into a brick wall after several years of increasingly testosterone-charged home-building CEOs telling doubters on Wall Street that, like the Internet skeptics of the late 1990s, “you just don’t get it” when it came to understanding why the Housing Bubble wasn’t a Bubble.

And it is a fact that recent results at vendors such as Masco (faucets and kitchen cabinets) and Mohawk (carpets and tiles) demonstrate the difficulty facing anybody selling anything that goes into one of those D.H. Horton or Toll Brothers or Ryland spec homes now sitting empty out in the scorching Las Vegas desert (sales brochure slogan: “It’s the desert so why would you need a yard?”).

So the fact that numbers at The Home Depot are a bit light is not reason alone to pick nits with the sort of spin-doctoring conference call you’d expect from a guy who very nearly made it to the top of one of America’s most ferociously management-by-numbers companies, GE.

(True story: I was at the Greek diner one morning recently when two GE-ers, who clearly worked together several job assignments ago but hadn’t seen each other in some time, began talking, and I am not making this up:

“So how are things?”
“Good. We made our numbers.”
“Good! You made your numbers?”
“Yep, we made our numbers—how about you?”
“Oh, yeah. We made our numbers.”

It wasn't until then that they got into family, kids and other apparently less important stuff. That is the DNA of the guy in charge of Home Depot.)

And while Home Depot had outgrown its systems and needed serious work behind the scenes to support what Bernie Marcus and Art Blank had created from not much more than a passion for their customer, it is not necessarily the kind of culture that’s going to keep the customers happy.

So it should be no surprise that, unless all the former Home Depot store managers I run into are making up stories about reduced money for staffing labor at stores—what they call “earn hours”—as well as a Sears-like bureaucracy taking over the Atlanta headquarters (which, as far as Marcus and Blank were concerned, took its orders from the stores, not vice-versa), there’s no arguing the Home Depot has changed, for the worse, from a customer-driven operation to a numbers-driven operation.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask anybody who used to shop there. Anybody. I’ll bet we come up with more horror stores than Dell (see “Dell Screws Up a Good Thing” from this site).

Nevertheless, the numbers-agile crew now in charge at Home Depot didn’t get to where they are by not having whatever data could support the upbeat “message” handy in their PowerPoint presentation, and Nardelli did indeed offer up customer satisfaction numbers that seem completely at odds with every anecdote I’ve heard recently:

I want to thank our associates for their hard work and focus on taking care of our customers. Every week, we hear from 250,000 customers through our voice of customer survey. We have seen significant improvements in our survey results. Key customer service attributes, including customer engagement, waiting to check out, find and buy, likelihood to recommend, and associate availability were up over last year and showed sequential improvement this quarter. Overall satisfaction with our company, as measured by scores of 9s and 10s, is up over 2004 and 2005 levels.

Lest anyone think this “voice of customer” might be something he is hearing inside his own head, Nardelli delved into these numbers later in the Q&A with just enough color to make you wonder about how much they reflect reality, or not:

Mark, I think two points, just to be real clear. What we talked about is that overall customer satisfaction, or voice of customer, as we call it, is up across the entire network of stores, and that is the 250,000 customer shopping experiences, that they go online and call and score us on associate availability, ability to find and buy, et cetera. We have seen a sequential improvement month over month in the third quarter for sure, and we would expect the same thing to continue in the fourth quarter. In other words, the customers that are scoring us 9s and 10s.

I may be wrong, but customer surveys—especially online customer surveys—might not be the best way to find the customer who went into a store, couldn’t find anybody to help who wasn't already under siege from four or five other desperate individuals, picked up the wrong-sized floodlights for his stupid kitchen ceiling, spent ten minutes in line because there weren’t enough live human beings at the registers…and then vowed never to come back again.

Still, Nardelli appears to have great faith in management-by-numbers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Calling All Iraq War Supporters

Hurry up!

With the nation voting against the Iraq War in midterm elections, your time to suport the Iraq War is coming to a close.

All you dead-enders that just know in your hearts that the Iraq War is The Right Thing to Do, you're running out of time to prove yourselves right.

So get off your war-mongering duffs and if you haven't already served in the US military (many thanks if you have) slide on down to the recruiter's office and put your ass where your opinions are.

You've so far been willing to put everyone else's lives and prosperity on the line for your delusions, now's the time to put yours on the line. Lord knows the services are not gonna reject you just because you're over 40.

No one wants to hear you belly-ache that it "would have worked if". Now's the time to get your "ifs" over there and show us how its done.

Otherwise, shut up and admit to what many of us have known all along: The Iraq War was the worst. possible. idea. ever.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Prognosticators of the '32 crash: In Slow Motion

Collin Seymour

Midterm 2006: Best Line of the Night

Steven Cobert of the Cobert Report, upon realizing that all wasn't lost for the Republicans after a smashing defeat in the House elections:

"Hey, that's right... the Democrats have only been in office 4 minutes and they've already got us in an unwinnable war!"

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kerry Flubbed A Joke

Apparently John Kerry flubbed a joke that was (allegedly) intended to make Bush look bad (not hard to do) but instead -- according to every Republican supporter -- came off sounding like a slight to "the troops".

Republicans have been falling over themselves demanding that Kerry appologize.

Not only is this from the party that condemns "PC" at every turn, but it yet another tired re-hash of the "let's accuse our adversaries of our own faults".

Yes, Kerry is at best "not a good speaker", but any Bush supported poking fun at someone else with public-speaking impediments is laughable.

There's a mid-term election in less than a week, and it's necessary to take attention off the bad news stemming from everywhere and focus on the one piece of good news: a member of the other party flubbed a joke.

Film at eleven.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Kevin Tillman: Somehow

Kevin Tillman at TruthDig

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bush's Comma Grows

...into a semicolon. When will it finally morph into an exclamation point for the American people?

Billmon

Republican Crony Synopsis

The Smirking Chimp has a great synopsis on the (as of this posting) list of Republicans that have been disgraced/indicted/convicted/etc/all of the above.

He also posts an intresting "5 Step" guide to Republican scandal response:

1. "I have not been informed of any investigation or that I am a target."

2. "I am cooperating fully, but this whole thing is a political ploy by the Democrats."

3. "I'm SHOCKED by the mistakes made by my subordinates."

4. "I'm deeply sorry for letting down my friends and family. I now recognize that I am an alcoholic. I will be entering rehab immediately, so I have no time for questions."

5. "Can I serve my time at Eglin Federal Penitentiary (aka Club Fed)?"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Never Again

Armenia 1915-18
Ukraine 1932-38
Nanking 1937-38
The Haulocaust 1938-45
Cambodia 1975-79
Bosnia 1992-95
Rwanda 1994
Darfur 2003-

Via Ed Stein

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Frist Now Member of "Blame America Party"

From Yahoo:


MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, under fire from critics for his handling of
Iraq, on Tuesday vigorously defended the U.S. war on terrorism and ruled out negotiation with Muslim extremists.

"They're attacking the ability of a people to be free," Rumsfeld said. "You can acquiesce and let them win, or you can decide that you're not going to acquiesce and not let them win."

"You're not going to have a negotiation with them to be not extreme because that's what they are, is extreme," he told reporters after a meeting of defense ministers in Nicaragua's capital, Managua.

Rumsfeld rejected suggestions that disagreement about the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan and international criticism of the United States should change Washington's defense policies or lead to the abandonment of operations in the two countries.

The wars have become campaign issues ahead of the November 7 election to determine control of the U.S. Congress. A Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan and unrelenting violence in Iraq have led to calls for Rumsfeld's resignation and a timetable for withdrawing American troops.

"Now you can debate exactly how it should be done, or whether it should be done," Rumsfeld said. "But the fundamental issue is what's facing free people everywhere in the world. And simply because someone doesn't like that, in my view, is not a reason to pretend, to stick your head in the sand and pretend that that's not the case."

Rumsfeld has stepped up his warnings against a "blame America" mentality and drawn comparisons to World War Two to make the point that the United States' current enemy cannot be appeased.

Frist: Negotiate w/Taliban

So Frist says that we can't defeat the Taliban militarily and must negotiate to pull (presumably the "non-terrorist") Taliban into the local government.

Statement 1

Wow. Nuance from this administration? Is Frist turning into a Democrat? Or is he just an unloyal, snot-nosed liberal non-patriot? What's the difference these days?

Strange that the W-Admistration still insists that we continue to fight (forever?) a country that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda yet suggests that we negotiate with the Taliban, which actually *did* (still does?) support Al Qaeda. Stunning.

Having discussed the situation with commanders on the ground, I believe that we cannot stabilize Afghanistan purely through military means. Our counter-insurgency strategy must win hearts and minds and persuade moderate Islamists potentially sympathetic to the Taliban to accept the legitimacy of the Afghan national government and democratic political processes.


Statement 2

Wow! again! Further suggestions of negotiating with an enemy. "Winning the hearts and minds" and pulling them into local government has worked so well in Iraq... we just must try that in Afghanistan.

Do go on...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Foley-ing: When "Hypocrit" Just Isn't Strong Enough

There's got to be a word for this. "Hypocrit" just isn't quite strong enough.

"Hypocrit" is when someone bitches about bad drivers just before executing a triple-lane change and cutting off two other drivers.

No, I'm thinking we need something bigger. Say, for instance when a gay-bashing reverend turns out to be gay himself. When an infamous anti-Semite turns out to be 100% Jewish. Or when the co-chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus winds up being prosecuted under laws he helped write because he tried to twiddle 16 year-old boys. Don't forget that he also criticized Clinton openly for sexual piccadillos:

"It's vile. It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction." -- Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach, September 12, 1998, referring to Bill Clinton in the St. Petersburg Times.


But yur honor - he looked 17!

Does 'hypocrisy' cover the Republican leadership that knew about his issue for almost a year without doing anything to protect the young page?

Say what you will about Monicagate, but at least Monica was

- legal
- the opposite sex


Another thing: Since when did alcohol rehab begin addressing the desire for gay sex with minors? Who knew that homosexuality was really just a by-product of a drinking problem? Or as TTS points out, anti-Semitism as well. Compared to his other problems, perhaps Foley considers pedophilia just a minor issue! Badda-bing!

I must give Foley credit for one thing: he didn't fight the allegations, like many politicians would have. He did have the good grace to quickly admit to wrongdoing and resign. This is at least a modest show of integrity when many other congressmen (Delay, et.al.) fight to the last.
[ Update (3 Oct 06): I may have to backtrack on this one. Foley's now blaming his problem on (unspecified religion) sexual abuse.]

More examples (of the congressional pedophilia, not the bad humor) here and here.

If you're like me and could use some (more bad) humor regarding this situation, try Simply Left Behind.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Osama is Clinton's Fault

So now neocons are blaming W's failures to capture Bin Laden on Clinton.

Remind me... this isn't the "Blame Game" W dodged during Katrina, was it?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Torture's Long Shadow

Washington Post

Torture's Long Shadow

By Vladimir Bukovsky

Sunday, December 18, 2005; Page B01

CAMBRIDGE, England

One nasty morning Comrade Stalin discovered that his favorite pipe was missing. Naturally, he called in his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, and instructed him to find the pipe. A few hours later, Stalin found it in his desk and called off the search. "But, Comrade Stalin," stammered Beria, "five suspects have already confessed to stealing it."

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This joke, whispered among those who trusted each other when I was a kid in Moscow in the 1950s, is perhaps the best contribution I can make to the current argument in Washington about legislation banning torture and inhumane treatment of suspected terrorists captured abroad. Now that President Bush has made a public show of endorsing Sen. John McCain's amendment, it would seem that the debate is ending. But that the debate occurred at all, and that prominent figures are willing to entertain the idea, is perplexing and alarming to me. I have seen what happens to a society that becomes enamored of such methods in its quest for greater security; it takes more than words and political compromise to beat back the impulse.

This is a new debate for Americans, but there is no need for you to reinvent the wheel. Most nations can provide you with volumes on the subject. Indeed, with the exception of the Black Death, torture is the oldest scourge on our planet (hence there are so many conventions against it). Every Russian czar after Peter the Great solemnly abolished torture upon being enthroned, and every time his successor had to abolish it all over again. These czars were hardly bleeding-heart liberals, but long experience in the use of these "interrogation" practices in Russia had taught them that once condoned, torture will destroy their security apparatus. They understood that torture is the professional disease of any investigative machinery.

Apart from sheer frustration and other adrenaline-related emotions, investigators and detectives in hot pursuit have enormous temptation to use force to break the will of their prey because they believe that, metaphorically speaking, they have a "ticking bomb" case on their hands. But, much as a good hunter trains his hounds to bring the game to him rather than eating it, a good ruler has to restrain his henchmen from devouring the prey lest he be left empty-handed. Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin's notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes. And once the NKVD went into high gear, not even Stalin could stop it at will. He finally succeeded only by turning the fury of the NKVD against itself; he ordered his chief NKVD henchman, Nikolai Yezhov (Beria's predecessor), to be arrested together with his closest aides.

So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish? Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling? Why would anyone try to "improve intelligence-gathering capability" by destroying what was left of it? Frustration? Ineptitude? Ignorance? Or, has their friendship with a certain former KGB lieutenant colonel, V. Putin, rubbed off on the American leaders? I have no answer to these questions, but I do know that if Vice President Cheney is right and that some "cruel, inhumane or degrading" (CID) treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already.

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

Now it appears that sleep deprivation is "only" CID and used on Guantanamo Bay captives. Well, congratulations, comrades! It was exactly this method that the NKVD used to produce those spectacular confessions in Stalin's "show trials" of the 1930s. The henchmen called it "conveyer," when a prisoner was interrogated nonstop for a week or 10 days without a wink of sleep. At the end, the victim would sign any confession without even understanding what he had signed.

I know from my own experience that interrogation is an intensely personal confrontation, a duel of wills. It is not about revealing some secrets or making confessions, it is about self-respect and human dignity. If I break, I will not be able to look into a mirror. But if I don't, my interrogator will suffer equally. Just try to control your emotions in the heat of that battle. This is precisely why torture occurs even when it is explicitly forbidden. Now, who is going to guarantee that even the most exact definition of CID is observed under such circumstances?

But if we cannot guarantee this, then how can you force your officers and your young people in the CIA to commit acts that will scar them forever? For scarred they will be, take my word for it.

In 1971, while in Lefortovo prison in Moscow (the central KGB interrogation jail), I went on a hunger strike demanding a defense lawyer of my choice (the KGB wanted its trusted lawyer to be assigned instead). The moment was most inconvenient for my captors because my case was due in court, and they had no time to spare. So, to break me down, they started force-feeding me in a very unusual manner -- through my nostrils. About a dozen guards led me from my cell to the medical unit. There they straitjacketed me, tied me to a bed, and sat on my legs so that I would not jerk. The others held my shoulders and my head while a doctor was pushing the feeding tube into my nostril.

The feeding pipe was thick, thicker than my nostril, and would not go in. Blood came gushing out of my nose and tears down my cheeks, but they kept pushing until the cartilages cracked. I guess I would have screamed if I could, but I could not with the pipe in my throat. I could breathe neither in nor out at first; I wheezed like a drowning man -- my lungs felt ready to burst. The doctor also seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept shoving the pipe farther and farther down. Only when it reached my stomach could I resume breathing, carefully. Then she poured some slop through a funnel into the pipe that would choke me if it came back up. They held me down for another half-hour so that the liquid was absorbed by my stomach and could not be vomited back, and then began to pull the pipe out bit by bit. . . . Grrrr. There had just been time for everything to start healing during the night when they came back in the morning and did it all over again, for 10 days, when the guards could stand it no longer. As it happened, it was a Sunday and no bosses were around. They surrounded the doctor: "Hey, listen, let him drink it straight from the bowl, let him sip it. It'll be quicker for you, too, you silly old fool." The doctor was in tears: "Do you think I want to go to jail because of you lot? No, I can't do that. . . . " And so they stood over my body, cursing each other, with bloody bubbles coming out of my nose. On the 12th day, the authorities surrendered; they had run out of time. I had gotten my lawyer, but neither the doctor nor those guards could ever look me in the eye again.

Today, when the White House lawyers seem preoccupied with contriving a way to stem the flow of possible lawsuits from former detainees, I strongly recommend that they think about another flood of suits, from the men and women in your armed services or the CIA agents who have been or will be engaged in CID practices. Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers.

If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes CID, has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering. No country needs to invent how to "legalize" torture; the problem is rather how to stop it from happening. If it isn't stopped, torture will destroy your nation's important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East. And if you cynically outsource torture to contractors and foreign agents, how can you possibly be surprised if an 18-year-old in the Middle East casts a jaundiced eye toward your reform efforts there?

Finally, think what effect your attitude has on the rest of the world, particularly in the countries where torture is still common, such as Russia, and where its citizens are still trying to combat it. Mr. Putin will be the first to say: "You see, even your vaunted American democracy cannot defend itself without resorting to torture. . . . "

Off we go, back to the caves.

Vladimir Bukovsky, who spent nearly 12 years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for nonviolent human rights activities, is the author of several books, including "To Build a Castle" and "Judgment in Moscow." Now 63, he has lived primarily in Cambridge, England, since 1976.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Who Would Jesus Torture?

Hat tip: Sullivan

TVC Chairman Rev. Louis P. Sheldon

America´s New War Is With Faceless Enemy Who Attacks Unarmed and Innocent
President Seeks To Clarify Vagaries of 1950 Language

September 18, 2006 - Washington, DC -- The Traditional Values Coalition asked members of Congress to support President Bush's reform of prisoner treatment policies because "this is a war unlike any other we have fought -- the enemy is faceless and deliberately attacks the innocent."

TVC Chairman Rev. Louis P. Sheldon said American military and intelligence experts are hampered by a vague "outrages upon personal dignity" statement in Article Three of the Geneva Convention of 1950.

"We need to clarify this policy for treating detainees," said Rev. Sheldon. "As it stands right now, the military and intelligence experts interrogating these terrorists are in much greater danger than the terrorists. Civil suits against our military personnel are tying their hands as they try to get vital information which will save the lives of our young military people and the innocent."

"Our rules for interrogation need to catch-up with this awful new form of war that is being fought against all of us and the free world. The post -World War II standards do not apply to this new war.

"We must redefine how our lawful society treats those who have nothing but contempt for the law and rely on terrorizing the innocent to accomplish their objectives. The lines must be redrawn and then we must pursue these criminals as quickly and as aggressively as the law permits.

"And since this debate is, at its very core, about preserving the traditional value of prosecuting injustice and protecting the innocent, TVC will score this vote in both the House and the Senate. We encourage all of our supporters and affiliated churches to contact their elected representatives and let them know we support President Bush's efforts to update our methods of interrogating terrorist detainees in order to provide greater protection for our troops and the innocent."

Secret Prisons

If the process we use to interrogate "terrorists" is so moral, upstanding, right and necessary, why do we require secret prisons in which to carry them out?

If these acts have the full support of the American people and are indeed necessary, why aren't these acts carried out in the light of day?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

We Must Take the High Road

One thing I think we as a nation need to get over is the "horror" we experience with seeing civilians blown up by "terrorists".

If I were to be attacked by someone in a tank, I'm not going to run headlong into them and start beating it with a sledgehammer. It'd be useless. What I would do instead is hide until the occupants either left or got tired and exited for a smoke. Then attack.

My point is that in war you don't attack your opponent's strengths. You attack their weaknesses.

To win a war, you must take away your opposition's *will* to fight.

No nation or group has the power to take on the US directly. Almost by definition, any organization that wishes to oppose the US militarily will be forced to use guerilla methods if any degree of success is to be had.

Attacking civilians is a method for taking away the enemy's *will* to fight. I don't condone the behavior, but that's the way it is.

I suggest we get away from the politically-induced hystrionics of "Terrorism" and come together to figure out a way to contain or eliminate this enemy. Getting outraged over some action or another only saps our own will to fight. Better to ignore it and attack the enemy to the best of our abilities. To jump up and down in indignant outrage is about as useful as the British's outrage that our revolutionary fighters refused to line up in rows and "fight" in the open fields.

To get back to the subject at hand, I doubt that torture will affect the enemy at all. It will, however, completely destroy both our own integrity and any support we have left with any remaining allies.

To win, we have to show the world that we offer a better alternative.
Take away their will to fight our way of life.

We have to show the world that our Democracy has the strength to weather these affronts. Not to slide back into barbarism the second we lose a couple of buildings. We can't give away the constitution because a couple of planes hit our country.

We must show them that our way is better.

If *I* had the choice between blowing myself up and being tortured for years in some hole, I know which one I'd chose.

The Importance of Good Torture

Before we dismiss torture out of hand, we should examine how torture has been used in the past and how it may once again be an Agent of Good that quickly leads us to Truth.

From the great 19th century scribe Charles Mackay. (Comments in brackets '[]' are my own)

[ Background of the Terror ]

Europe, for a period of two centuries and a half, brooded upon the idea, not only that parted spirits walked the earth to meddle in the affairs of men, but that men had power to summon evil spirits to their aid to work woe upon their fellows. An epidemic terror seized upon the nations; no man thought himself secure, either in his person or possessions, from the machinations of the devil and his agents.

Every calamity that befell him, he attributed to a witch. If a storm arose and blew down his barn, it was witchcraft; if his cattle died of a murrain-if disease fastened upon his limbs, or death entered suddenly, and snatched a beloved face from his hearth—they were not visitations of Providence, but the works of some neighbouring hag, whose wretchedness or insanity caused the ignorant to raise their finger, and point at her as a witch. The word was upon everybody's tongue—France, ItaLy, Germany, England, Scotland, and the far North, successively ran mad upon this subject, and for a long series of years, furnished their tribunals with so many trials for witchcraft that other crimes were seldom or never spoken of.

Thousands upon thousands of unhappy persons fell victims to this cruel and absurd delusion. In many cities of Germany, as will be shown more fully in its due place hereafter, the average number of executions for this pretended crime, was six hundred annually, or two every day, if we leave out the Sundays, when, it is to be supposed, that even this madness refrained from its work.


A misunderstanding of the famous text of the Mosaic law, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," no doubt led many conscientious men astray, whose superstition, warm enough before, wanted but a little corroboration to blaze out with desolating fury. ... From the best authorities, it appears that the Hebrew word, which has been rendered, venefica, and witch, means a poisoner and divineress—a dabbler in spells, or fortune-teller. The modern witch was a very different character, and joined to her pretended power of foretelling future events that of working evil upon the life, limbs, and possessions of mankind.
...

[The State Declares War]
The early annals of France abound with stories of supposed sorcery, but it was not until the time of Charlemagne that the crime acquired any great importance. "This monarch," says M. Jules Garinet, 88* "had several times given orders that all necromancers, astrologers, and witches should be driven from his states; but as the number of criminals augmented daily, he found it necessary at last to resort to severer measures. In consequence, he published several edicts, which may be found at length in the Capitulaire de Baluse.

By these, every sort of magic, enchantment, and witchcraft was forbidden; and the punishment of death decreed against those who in any way evoked the devil˜compounded love-philters˜afflicted either man or woman with barrenness˜troubled the atmosphere˜excited tempests˜destroyed the fruits of the earth˜dried up the milk of cows, or tormented their fellow-creatures with sores and diseases. All persons found guilty of exercising these execrable arts, were to be executed immediately upon conviction, that the earth might be rid of the burthen and curse of their presence; and those even who consulted them might also be punished with death.

[ Early Successes ]
After this time, prosecutions for witchcraft are continually mentioned, especially by the French historians. It was a crime imputed with so much ease, and repelled with so much difficulty, that the powerful, whenever they wanted to ruin the weak, and could fix no other imputation upon them, had only to accuse them of witchcraft to ensure their destruction. Instances, in which this crime was made the pretext for the most violent persecution, both of individuals and of communities, whose real offences were purely political or religious, must be familiar to every reader.

The extermination of the Stedinger, in 1244; of the Templars, from 1317 to 1323; the execution of Joan of Arc, in 1439; and the unhappy scenes of Arras, in 1469; are the most prominent. The first of these is perhaps the least known, but is not among the least remarkable. The following account, from Dr. Kortum's interesting history90* of the republican confederacies of the Middle Ages, will show the horrible convenience of imputations of witchcraft, when royal or priestly wolves wanted a pretext for a quarrel with the sheep.
...

[ The Crimes]
Just as absurd and effectual was the charge brought against the Templars in 1307, when they had rendered themselves obnoxious to the potentates and prelacy of Christendom. Their wealth, their power, their pride, and their insolence had raised up enemies on every side; and every sort of accusation was made against them, but failed to work their overthrow, until the terrible cry of witchcraft was let loose upon them. This effected its object, and the Templars were extirpated.

They were accused of having sold their souls to the devil, and of celebrating all the infernal mysteries of the witches' Sabbath. It was pretended that, when they admitted a novice into their order, they forced him to renounce his salvation and curse Jesus Christ; that they then made him submit to many unholy and disgusting ceremonies, and forced him to kiss the Superior on the cheek, the navel, and the breech; and spit three times upon a crucifix. That all the members were forbidden to have connexion with women, but might give themselves up without restraint to every species of unmentionable debauchery. ...

[ Torture Reveals their True Allegiance]
Philip IV, who, to exercise his own implacable hatred, invented, in all probability, the greater part of these charges, issued orders for the immediate arrest of all the Templars in his dominions. The pope afterwards took up the cause with almost as much fervour as the King of France; and in every part of Europe, the Templars were thrown into prison and their goods and estates confiscated. Hundreds of them, when put to the rack, confessed even the most preposterous of the charges against them, and by so doing, increased the popular clamour and the hopes of their enemies. It is true that, when removed from the rack, they denied all they had previously confessed; but this circumstance only increased the outcry, and was numbered as an additional crime against them. They were considered in a worse light than before, and condemned forthwith to the flames, as relapsed heretics. Fifty-nine of these unfortunate victims were all burned together by a slow fire in a field in the suburbs of Paris, protesting to the very last moment of their lives, their innocence of the crimes imputed to them, and refusing to accept of pardon upon condition of acknowledging themselves guilty. Similar scenes were enacted in the provinces; and for four years, hardly a month passed without witnessing the execution of one or more of these unhappy men.

...

As the fear of witchcraft increased, the Catholic clergy strove to fix the imputation of it upon those religious sects, the pioneers of the Reformation, who began about this time to be formidable to the Church of Rome. If a charge of heresy could not ensure their destruction, that of sorcery and witchcraft never failed. In the year 1459, a devoted congregation of the Waldenses, at Arras, who used to repair at night to worship God in their own manner in solitary places, fell victims to an accusation of sorcery.

...

[ The Rack Reveals All ]
The rack, that convenient instrument for making the accused confess anything, was of course put in requisition. Monstrelet, in his Chronicle, says that they were tortured until some of them admitted the truth of the whole accusations, and said besides, that they had seen and recognized, in their nocturnal assemblies, many persons of rank; many prelates, seigneurs, governors of bailliages, and mayors of cities, being such names as the examiners had themselves suggested to the victims. Several who had been thus informed against, were thrown into prison, and so horribly tortured, that reason fled, and, in their ravings of pain, they also confessed their midnight meetings with the devil, and the oaths they had taken to serve him.

Upon these confessions judgment was pronounced: the poor old women, as usual in such cases, were hanged and burned in the market-place; the more wealthy delinquents were allowed to escape, upon payment of large sums. It was soon after universally recognized that these trials had been conducted in the most odious manner, and that the judges had motives of private vengeance against many of the more influential persons who had been implicated. The Parliament of Paris afterwards declared the sentence illegal, and the judges iniquitous; but its arrêt was too late to be of service even to those who had paid the fine, or to punish the authorities who had misconducted themselves; for it was not delivered until thirty-two years after the executions had taken place.

...

[ The Outsourcing of Interrogation ]
It was now that the Witch Mania, properly so called, may be said to have fairly commenced. Immediately a class of men sprang up in Europe, who made it the sole business of their lives to discover and burn the witches. Sprenger, in Germany, was the most celebrated of these national scourges. In his notorious work, the Malleus Maleficarum, he laid down a regular form of trial, and appointed a course of examination by which the inquisitors in other countries might best discover the guilty.

...

Straightway the inquisitors set to work; Cumarius, in Italy, burned forty-one poor women in one province alone, and Sprenger, in Germany, burned a number which can never be ascertained correctly, but which, it is agreed on all hands, amounted to more than five hundred in a year. The great resemblance between the confessions of the unhappy victims was regarded as a new proof of the existence of the crime. But this is not astonishing.

The same questions from the Malleus Maleficarum, were put to them all, and torture never failed to educe the answer required by the inquisitor. Numbers of people whose imaginations were filled with these horrors, went further in the way of confession than even their tormenters anticipated, in the hope that they would thereby be saved from the rack, and put out of their misery at once. Some confessed that they had had children by the devil; but no one, who had ever been a mother, gave utterance to such a frantic imagining, even in the extremity of her anguish. The childless only confessed it, and were burned instanter as unworthy to live.


[ Renewal of the Zeal ]
For fear the zeal of the enemies of Satan should cool, successive Popes appointed new commissions. One was appointed by Alexander VI, in 1494; another by Leo X, in 1521, and a third by Adrian VI, in 1522. They were all armed with the same powers to hunt out and destroy, and executed their fearful functions but too rigidly. In Geneva alone five hundred persons were burned in the years 1515 and 1516, under the title of Protestant witches. It would appear that their chief crime was heresy, and their witchcraft merely an aggravation. Bartolomeo de Spina has a list still more fearful. He informs us that, in the year 1524, no less than a thousand persons suffered death for witchcraft in the district of Como, and that for several years afterwards the average number of victims exceeded a hundred annually. One inquisitor, Remigius, took great credit to himself for having, during fifteen years, convicted and burned nine hundred.

...

Gilles Garnier was put to the rack, after fifty witnesses had deposed against him: he confessed everything that was laid to his charge. He was, thereupon, brought back into the presence of his judges, when Dr. Camus, in the name of the Parliament of Dole, pronounced the following sentence:—

"Seeing that Gilles Garnier has, by the testimony of credible witnesses, and by his own spontaneous confession, been proved guilty of the abominable crimes of lycanthropy and witchcraft, this court condemns him, the said Gilles, to be this day taken in a cart from this spot to the place of execution, accompanied by the executioner (maître executeur de la haute justice), where he, by the said executioner, shall be tied to a stake and burned alive, and that his ashes be then scattered to the winds. The Court further condemns him, the said Gilles, to the costs of this prosecution."
...

The ninth Parliament of Queen Mary passed an act in 1563, which decreed the punishment of death against witches and consulters with witches, and immediately the whole bulk of the people were smitten with an epidemic fear of the devil and his mortal agents. Persons in the highest ranks of life shared and encouraged the delusion of the vulgar. Many were themselves accused of witchcraft; and noble ladies were shown to have dabbled in mystic arts, and proved to the world that, if they were not witches, it was not for want of the will.

...

[ It is not Easy to Locate the Guilty ]
Gellie Duncan, the prime witch in these proceedings, ...neither old nor ugly (as witches usually were), but young and good-looking, her neighbours, from some suspicious parts of her behaviour, had long considered her a witch. She had, it appears, some pretensions to the healing art. ... In order to discover the truth, he put her to the torture; but she obstinately refused to confess that she had dealings with the devil. It was the popular belief that no witch would confess as long as the mark which Satan had put upon her remained undiscovered upon her body. Somebody present reminded the torturing Bailie of this fact, and on examination, the devil's mark was found upon the throat of poor Gellie.

She was put to the torture again, and her fortitude giving way under the extremity of her anguish, she confessed that she was indeed a witch—that she had sold her soul to the devil, and effected all her cures by his aid. This was something new in the witch creed, according to which, the devil delighted more in laying diseases on, than in taking them off; but Gellie Duncan fared no better on that account. The torture was still applied, until she had named all her accomplices, among whom were one Cunningham, a reputed wizard, known by the name of Dr. Fian, a grave and matron-like witch, named Agnes Sampson, Euphemia Macalzean, the daughter of Lord Cliftonhall, already mentioned, and nearly forty other persons, some of whom were the wives of respectable individuals in the city of Edinburgh.

...

[ Steps that Must be Taken ]
Dr. Fian, or rather Cunningham, a petty schoolmaster at Tranent, was put to the torture among the rest. He was a man who had led an infamous life, was a compounder of and dealer in poisons, and a pretender to magic. Though not guilty of the preposterous crimes laid to his charge, there is no doubt that he was a sorcerer in will, though not in deed, and that he deserved all the misery he endured. When put on the rack, he would confess nothing, and held out so long unmoved, that the severe torture of the boots was resolved upon. He endured this till exhausted nature could bear no longer, when Insensibility kindly stepped in to his aid. When it was seen that he was utterly powerless, and that his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth, he was released. Restoratives were administered; and during the first faint gleam of returning consciousness, he was prevailed upon to sign, ere he well knew what he was about, a full confession, in strict accordance with those of Gellie Duncan and Agnes Sampson.

He was then remanded to his prison, from which, after two days, he managed, somehow or other, to escape. He was soon recaptured, and brought before the Court of Justiciary, James himself being present. Fian now denied all the circumstances of the written confession which he had signed; whereupon the King, enraged at his "stubborn wilfulness," ordered him once more to the torture. His finger nails were riven out with pincers, and long needles thrust up to the eye into the quick; but still he did not wince. He was then consigned again to the boots, in which, to quote a pamphlet published at the time,94* he continued "so long, and abode so many blows in them, that his legs were crushed and beaten together as small as might be, and the bones and flesh so bruised, that the blood and marrow spouted forth in great abundance, whereby they were made unserviceable for ever."

...

[ The Thoroughness of Evidence ]
So strong was the popular feeling, that no one once accused of witchcraft was acquitted; at least, acquittals did not average one in a hundred trials. Witch-finding, or witch-pricking became a trade, and a set of mercenary vagabonds roamed about the country, provided with long pins to run into the flesh of supposed criminals.

It was no unusual thing then, nor is it now, that in aged persons there should be some spot on the body totally devoid of feeling. It was the object of the witchpricker to discover this spot, and the unhappy wight who did not bleed when pricked upon it, was doomed to the death. If not immediately cast into prison, her life was rendered miserable by the persecution of her neighbours.

It is recorded of many poor women, that the annoyances they endured in this way were so excessive, that they preferred death. Sir George Mackenzie, the Lord Advocate, at the time when witch-trials were so frequent, and himself a devout believer in the crime, relates, in his "Criminal Law," first published in 1688, some remarkable instances of it. He says, "I went, when I was a justice-depute, to examine some women who had confessed judicially: and one of them, who was a silly creature, told me, under secrecy, that she had not confessed because she was guilty, but being a poor creature who wrought for her meat, and being defamed for a witch, she knew she should starve; for no person thereafter would either give her meat or lodging, and that all men would beat her and set dogs at her; and that, therefore, she desired to be out of the world; whereupon she wept most bitterly, and upon her knees called God to witness to what she said."

...

[ The Emergence of Heroes ]
Among the ill weeds which flourished amid the long dissensions of the civil war, Matthew Hopkins, the witch-finder, stands eminent in his sphere. This vulgar fellow resided, in the year 1644, at the town of Manningtree, in Essex, and made himself very conspicuous in discovering the devil's marks upon several unhappy witches. The credit he gained by his skill in this instance seems to have inspired him to renewed exertions. In the course of a very short time, whenever a witch was spoken of in Essex, Matthew Hopkins was sure to be present, aiding the judges with his knowledge of "such cattle," as he called them.

[ Waterboarding Comes of Age ]
As his reputation increased, he assumed the title of "Witchfinder General," and travelled through the counties of Norfolk, Essex, Huntingdon, and Sussex, for the sole purpose of finding out witches. In one year he brought sixty poor creatures to the stake. The test he commonly adopted was that of swimming, so highly recommended by King James in his Demonologie. The hands and feet of the suspected persons were tied together crosswise, the thumb of the right hand to the toe of the left foot, and vice versa. They were then wrapped up in a large sheet or blanket, and laid upon their backs in a pond or river. If they sank, their friends and relatives had the poor consolation of knowing they were innocent, but there was an end of them: if they floated, which, when laid carefully on the water was generally the case, there was also an end of them; for they were deemed guilty of witchcraft, and burned accordingly.