Three Interrogation Experts: Torture Doesn’t Work

Last night, in an interview with ABC News, Donald Trump made the claim that torture works and that the US should use it in some way, ostensibly in a war with Daesh.source

 

There are a number of things wrong with what he was saying.  For one, he didn’t even seem to be aware that the controversy about torture has to do with it’s efficacy as an interrogation technique.  He seemed to be talking about it being used as some kind of method of revenge against jihadists for whatever acts they commit.  His muddled understanding of the differences between acts of terror, acts of war and intelligence gathering through interrogation are disconcerting and seem to indicate that he is perhaps  operating  on information one of his advisors obtained in  a comic book.

 

One doesn’t have to look too far to find seasoned and successful interrogation experts who make the case for other methods of interrogation, specifically rapport based interrogation.    Do  a search for, and read some interviews with, Matthew Alexander, Col. Steven Kleinman or Frazier R. Thompson.

 

The common thread that runs through what these guys say is that, aside from the moral implications of using it, torture is simply less effective than other methods.  It is slower and yields worse results.

 

Here are a few things they have said on the matter:

MA: First, the evidence that is now coming out is pretty clear that torture and abuse slowed down the hunt for bin Laden. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad lied to his interrogators about the courier’s name and tried to mislead them about his whereabouts. They didn’t need to torture him so that they could recognize this lie. That actually only made it more difficult to discern if he was lying. Instead, there are many law enforcement methods based on deception that can be used to test the same information.source

 

FT:  “Just when you have to fight a certain legal battle, you’re going to call a lawyer, when you have a significant arrest for law enforcement you have to make, you’re going to call that SWAT team in — that’s what I equate the HIG interrogators as. We’re those specialized experts that aren’t distracted by those normal day-to-day demands on your time, that other case agents have to worry about it,” he said. “And we can practice and hone those skills of actually talking to someone else, getting that individual to open up, understanding their behavioral traits, what makes them tick, understanding what motivates them.”source

 

Here is a 5 minute long interview with Colonel Steven Kleinman on the matter

Here are a bunch of links by Kleinman

 

Matthew Alexander has also written a book about his work as an interrogator that further makes his case.  It is readily available through just about any book seller.

 

Bloodlust and desire for revenge must not cause the US as a nation to make dumb decisions.  People, both the man on the street and in elected office, seem to forget that what makes the US ostensibly great is the constitution and laws we follow.  Along with the laws we all follow, there have always been rules of engagement for soldiers on the battlefield and rules that the CIA and others are supposed to follow when doing their job. These rules, including prohibitions against torture, are not intended to hamstring their efforts, but are there to keep them from doing counterproductive work as well as keep them safe.

 

Seriously, Some Sympathy For Trump Voters

I have seen a lot of comments on articles in various places on the web showing little sympathy, and in some cases outright hostility, toward Trump voters who will lose health care for themselves or family.  I know that only a fool wouldn’t have seen this coming and I can understand the “I told you so” gut reaction, but it is ultimately the wrong approach.  It hurts us all when these folks lose their health care, no matter who they voted for.

I have health care through my job, which is in sort of a grey area between blue and white collar. We pay a percentage of the premiums.

If Trump and the GOP in congress make good on their intention to get rid of the ACA and, ahem, replace it with block grants to the states, I can guarantee my premiums and yours will go up. The market will be thrown into chaos and people without coverage will be back to using the ER as their doctors office. Also, people will die because of this.

States like CA, NY and other strong economies may do ok. It is sadly ironic that the people screwed the hardest by this are those in the reddest and poorest states.

Universal, single payer, all-in coverage with the ability for the govt to negotiate costs for services and drugs is the only stable long term solution.

Ridiculing the folks who backed the wrong horse doesn’t get us anywhere closer to having a stable and fair health care system.  Ultimately, the working class folks who voted for Trump have the same needs and concerns as the people who voted for Clinton.  If the poor and middle class ever figured this out and a few politicians attempted to serve those needs, there would be trouble on both sides of the aisle in congress.

Pat Toomey, Make Believe Catholic

First off, I don’t really care what religion a politician professes to observe.  In fact, I find it odd that we should know at all.  What should be important is their grasp of the facts and their positions on the issues.  I do take exception, however, when politicians make public claims about the importance of their faith and then cherry pick which aspects of that faith they will apply to policy.  You want to claim religious grounds for being anti-choice?  You had better also pay attention to the teachings of your faith on matters related to health care and welfare.

All politicians in the US, on both sides of the aisles, do this.  However, the GOP currently holds the bulk of the power right now, so I am going to pick one of them, Pat Toomey, one of the senators from Pennsylvania.

 

What has Pat Toomey publicly said about his faith?  Here is one quote:

“I was born and raised Catholic. I am a practicing Catholic. We are active members of our church. Our kids attend Catholic school, so my faith is a part of who I am. What I have learned through faith helps inform my judgment on many, many issues. It’s hard to quantify, but my faith is an important source of informing my judgment.”source

 

One issue Toomey has been especially vocal about is sanctuary cities.  His rhetoric on this matter is vehemently anti-refugee and borders on hysterical.

from his own web site:

The reality is that our law enforcement officers on the ground know the facts. They know that sanctuary cities pose a serious public safety risk. They know that the people of Pennsylvania, especially our children, deserve better. They know that it is past time to end dangerous sanctuary city policies. As your senator, I will continue leading the charge to do so, and to keep our children and our communities safe from dangerous sanctuary city policies.

 

He’s basically plying the same old Willie Horton crime card.   FWIW, Toomey also posts frequent tributes to police officers who get killed on the job (which is not bad in and of itself) but pretty much has nothing to say when police anywhere kill an unarmed person ( seems like a strange omission if he cares about everyone).

 

What do prominent leaders in the Roman Catholic church have to say about the refugee issue?

Joseph Tobin, recently elevated to Cardinal by the Pope, says the following, and more in an article on the Catholic Philly website:

“Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons — made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution.”source

Pope Francis himself has said the following:

“the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.”source

“The sad experience of these brothers and sisters recalls that of baby Jesus, who at the time of his birth could not find a place to stay when he was born in Bethlehem,” the pope said during a brief address in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. “He was then taken to Egypt to escape threats from Herod.”source

 

What about health care?   It’s a little harder to find a quote where he actually makes a 100% concrete stand on this, but his staff who answer the phones in his Philadelphia office confirm that he is willing to repeal the ACA without a replacement.

Some words from the Pope on the matter:

“Health is not a consumer good but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege,” source

 

It would appear that, for Senator Toomey,  his faith is little more than a flag of convenience.  As far as I can tell, what he really worships is money, as do most politicians who identify as Christian.

 

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

Buyer’s Remorse

At the bottom of this post is an article a friend shared on Facebook.  The person who wrote this is, I have a feeling, typical of the modern, somewhat educated, but not terribly savvy electorate.

Whatever one thinks of Clinton, I don’t know how one could recognize Trump as anything but a con man.  Have people never seen The Music Man or Marge vs The Monorail?  HIs blustery style charmed the pants off of America, but even the most half-hearted vetting will reveal examples of him contradicting hjimself or saying things that are provably false.

She also said that she would have gladly voted for either Rubio or Sanders.  Really?  The author claims to be a political junky, but doesn’t seem to know much about policy.  They are worlds apart.

Also, I sympathize with her health care plight, but in what reality does she think that a GOP congress or Trump cares about her problems?  It wouldn’t take too much digging around to find out that about the only long term solution to health care costs and keeping everyone covered is single-payer, all-in.  Now, Trump has recently stated he has a plan that will provide “health care for all.”   I wonder if the author believes this.

Lastly, she says she will do all she can to get the word out and make things better.  She mentions mostly social media forms of doing this  but makes no mention of calling her senators and reps in congress.  No mention is made of paying attention to state and local government.

The fact that she got it together enough to write this makes it even more worrisome.  There are a lot of dumber folks out there who can’t put two and two together and probably don’t realize they have been had.

http://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/1/18/14300952/donald-trump-vote-regret

Some Perspective On Race From A White Former Marine

No, I am not the Marine in question.   That would be my father in law, who passed away in 2015.  The folded up flag from his casket sits in our dining room along with his picture.

He was born in 1933.  He pretty much lived in the same town his entire life.  He worked at a steel mill, luckily one that lasted longer than many in the area and was able to retire securely.  He put both of his daughters through college.  When my wife and I bought our first house(cheaper than some cars, btw), she had enough money on hand to pay for half.  He personally loaned me the rest of the money.  He also tirelessly helped anytime I had a project to do around the house that I couldn’t handle entirely by myself.  I learned how to do my own plumbing from watching him work.  I owe him a lot.

When he was seventeen years old, he enlisted in the Marines to fight in the Korean War, with permission from his mother.

He must have returned quite a bit different than he left, having been to war and having seen something of the world.  I don’t know all the particulars, but he spent a little time in Europe on the way back from Korea.  He was also stationed for a bit somewhere in the southern US, I think Virginia, but I may be mistaken.

He knew African-Americans in the service and was friendly with them.  It really bothered him when they tried to go out to bars when not on duty and he found that black folks were not allowed in the same bars as white folks.  This especially galled him because he knew that they, like himself, had joined the Marines and fought for their country, risking their lives.

This is something that stayed with him his entire life.  He told my wife the stories about trying to go to the bars with black soldiers many times.  He also often told her,  “If I was a black guy, I think i’d kill every white guy I saw.”  I don’t know what he would have thought of a Trump presidency, but I know he voted for Obama, twice.

So, when I hear that Obama divided the country racially, I have to shake my head.  There has been a racial divide in the US as long as the country has existed.  Many good people have fought and even died for racial equality and justice.  They protested and marched peacefully, even as they were beaten and killed.  Just remember that white folks have held the vast majority of power in government at state, federal and local levels for all of that time, 241 years, at the time of writing.

 

 

A Few Reasons Trump Will Not Make America Great Again

One of the central rallying cries of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was the slogan, “make America great again.”

While some of this statement’s meaning is undeniably a dog whistle, harkening back to a whiter and less secular America, it is also intended as a promise that jobs, ostensibly good paying ones with benefits, will be plentiful.

There are a few reasons, some looking to the past and at least one looking to the future, that Trump, the GOP ( and Democrats, for that matter) will not be able to keep this promise in any meaningful way.

When speaking publicly about this, Trump frequently mentions manufacturing, steel production and coal mining.  These industries loom large in the memory of Americans who have grown up in the post WWII era.  Writing this from Pittsburgh, formerly a steel hub and surrounded by coal country, one can still see the fingerprints of a bygone era.  A few years ago, I was working with someone who had recently moved to Pittsburgh from another state.  He was struck by the fact that a lot of middle aged males had mustaches that were stylistically more at home in the 1970s than the early 2000s (though Brooklyn and Portland changed that) and wanted to know why.  I was initially dumbfounded, but it seems the reason may have something to do with he fact that the mid 1970s in Pgh was the last part of what many here see as a golden age, before the decline of steel manufacturing and when the local NFL team was in it’s prime.

The target era of greatness envisioned by Trump voters likely varies due to each individuals age and experience, but I suspect that for most it would be no later than the 1970s or perhaps the early 1980s, the dawn of Reagan  and, ironically, the beginning of the end.

While Reagan was elected in a huge landslide over the unpopular Carter, his presidency began to usher in the changes that would, for the most part, do away with the jobs that Trump voters are counting on as well as the erosion of the middle class.

Under Reagan, regular income taxes on high income individuals and well as capital gains taxes were cut drastically.  The upper bracket tax rates have been manipulated since then, but are still lower than at any time since the 1930s.   In 1986, rates on lower income individuals were raised and rates again fell for taxpayers in the top brackets.  This essay is not intended to be a full analysis of Reaganomics, but one can easily research this to find out more for yourself.

On top of the tax burden shifting to lower and middle income payers, other forces worked to chip away at the high paying, secure jobs that voters are hoping for.  Perhaps the biggest irony when considering that Trump and the GOP are selling a vision of an ideal past is that these golden era steel/coal/manufacturing jobs were union jobs.  While Democrats in the modern Clinton-esque mold bear their share of the blame, Republicans, especially from Reagan onward, have been openly hostile to unions.  How does the working class Trump voter think those good jobs of the past got to be so good?  Do they think it was out of the kindness of CEOs and other management?  Those jobs were good because people were willing to fight for their rights and strike when they had to.  To an extent, the fact that modern first world workers have benefits like health care and vacation are traceable to efforts by unions, which have been in decline since the Reagan era.

When Trump and the GOP promise to bring back these good jobs from pre-1980s era, but are promising even a more hostile-to-the-working-class tax policy(look it up, more cuts to top bracket, higher taxes on low income single parents) and haven’t changed their hostility to unions, they are lying or mistaken.  If this kind of tax policy is such a great idea, why didn’t it work in Kansas?

Aside from economic policies hostile to workers, other factors contributed to the decline of steel and other manufacturing jobs.  Perhaps the single greatest factor has been the rise of automation.  Not only did the US steel industry decline from the mid 1970s through the 1990s, but so did the steel industry worldwide, due to more efficient factories.  More automation meant that fewer employees were needed to make the same amount of steel.  The same is true in any industry, from building cars to making toasters.

Automation is not going away and it is the elephant in the room that not enough people are talking about.  What will politicians, Republican or Democrat, do for workers when self driving trucks appear, or robots start stocking the shelves at Wal Mart?

Providing people with better access to a good education without incurring crippling debt will help, but the effects may be so drastic and rapid that we can’t educate our way out of it.

On top of making promises they can’t keep, Trump and the GOP also, whether explicitly or with dog whistles, throw blame at minorities (racial/religious/sexual preference) and want their supporters to do the same.  What a lot of the white working class who voted for Trump may not realize is that the enemy is not the other folks at the bottom.  The working class in cities and the rural working class have the same concerns.  What benefits a black worker also benefits a white one.  What benefits a millionaire does not necessarily benefit someone making $30k a year.

On top of all this, Americans have developed an insatiable appetite for imported goods.  While many of these goods are useful and necessary, much worthless junk is purchased.  Have you been inside a Five Below lately?  People have always bought knick knacks (see collectors of chalk sculpture carnival prizes) but one need only to watch the checkout lanes at any big box store to see constant flow of disposable goods.

It seems to me that the acceptance of the  transition from durability to disposability in the marketplace can’t help but accelerate the race to the bottom.