Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 17, 2008
BLOG: Quick Links 2/17/08

*Pedro: kicking it clean.

*Barack Obama as the Mirror of Erised.

*Debra Burlingame on Bill Clinton's Puerto Rican terrorist pardons.

*Good roundup of what's expected from various shows with the writers' strike over.

*The morality of waterboarding. This probably deserves a longer post but I agree 100% with the point that you have to consider the morally correct thing first and let the law follow.

*The most badass U.S. presidents in history. Hilarious.

*Stephen Green on why Hillary's South Carolina strategy was actually the opposite of Rudy's mistake.

*A fitting assessment of Harry Reid.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Blog 2006-14 • | History • | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (30) | TrackBack (0)

I liked the badass Presidents, but if JFK made it for boning why not Slick Willie? He as at least in the same zip code in that regard.

Posted by: maddirishman at February 17, 2008 11:55 AM

I can save you the time of a longer post. Waterboarding is torture. Torture is immoral. Got it?

Posted by: Magrooder at February 17, 2008 8:54 PM

Because you said so, right? That seems to be the usual logic.

Posted by: The Crank at February 17, 2008 9:00 PM

No. Because every immoral regime in modern history from the Nazis through Pol Pot have used torture indiscriminately, as the Bush War Criminals have.

And even if one could somehow make a, pardon the expression, tortured case that waterboarding is moral, you can't answer the fact that a person being tortured will say anything to make it stop. Here's the point, so you don't miss it, it doesn't have to be true.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 17, 2008 9:09 PM

Plain and simple, torture works. Ask McCain, he broke under torture and under those circumstances I understand his being against it. That doesn't change the facts works. Morality has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: maddirishman at February 17, 2008 11:42 PM

Ahem. I hate to break up the drooling and panting "Torture Iz Fun Party," but there's a serious logical leap in Jeff Goldstein's argument:

It is without doubt that this is the kidnapper (evidence plus confession)

1st of all, what the hell does that even mean? Is he saying that the kidnapper just happened to offer up this particular piece of evidence, Scooby-Doo style, but then clamped up as to specific whereabouts? Or does he mean that that little tidbit was the result of . . . torture?

Either way, this is the sort of hopped-up, strawmannish hypothetical that proves zip. Goldstein (and the salivating torture fans who read him) was gonna arrive at his conclusion no matter what.

I do, however, agree with Goldstein on one thing -- the words of his conclusion. You do have to think of morality before legality. And that's why waterboarding and all other forms of torture are wrong.

Posted by: Mike at February 18, 2008 8:05 AM

Oh. But the 5 Most Badass Presidents post was great.

Posted by: Mike at February 18, 2008 8:08 AM

Magrooder provides the best example of why we can't have an intelligent discussion about waterboarding in this country. Nearly all of the anti-waterboarding crowd is anti-Bush, and it's that opposition to the President that fuels the opposition to the practice. The typical argument has been laid out above: "war criminals use torture, President Bush is a war criminal, the Bush administration employs waterboarding, therefor waterboarding is torture." The only way to discuss this intelligently is to take personality out of it, which won't happen.

Posted by: Cannon at February 18, 2008 10:28 AM

Exactly, McCain did break under torture and told the Vietnamese a whole pack of crap he didn't mean. Unless, of course, you are supporting a presidential candidate that has indeed denounced his country and is, in fact, a war criminal. Boy his is going to be tough to elect. Why do you hate your country so much?

Posted by: jim at February 18, 2008 10:44 AM

But that's why McCain is the only public figure I know who has spoken out against waterboarding and is credible: he (1) has experienced waterboarding, something few of us have ever done; (2) is clearly not speaking out of an opposition to the War on Terror or this President; and (3) is making a rational argument. His position is not irrefutable, but because it comes from a rational starting point, it allows for intelligent discourse.

Posted by: Cannon at February 18, 2008 11:08 AM

OK, cannon, let's leave Bush out of this. Let's assume also that waterboarding is not torture, but merely an "enhanced interrogation technique," whatever that means.

The purpose of the interrogation is to obtain truthful and reliable information. I am not, and assume you are not, an expert in interrogating POWs or "high value prisoners." [By the way, what is the problem with using plain English? In my experience, when people resort to these types of terms, they are trying to hide something. But, whatever.]

The issue, then, is how do you obtain truthful and reliable information. Most research I have seen (and, again, I don't claim to be an expert here) shows that information obtained when using "enhanced interrogation techniques" is usually neither truthful nor reliable. On what basis do you think information obtained that way is truthful and reliable?

Next, the military bans waterboarding. The government wants the intelligence agencies to be able to use it. Why the dichotomy? Isn't there a concern in the military that American POWs will be waterboarde because our government sanctions it as an acceptable technique? Granted that even if we were to ban these techniques there is no guarantee that the techniques won't be used against Americans. But, we will have abandoned all moral arguments against it.

The ball is in your court. No personalities, just questions.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 18, 2008 11:59 AM


The above is on your terms. Now, let's try on my terms.

Why is the Bush Administration so worried about honest investigation into the actions it took against prisoners? It really is not credible to say, "we don't want our enemies to know what we will do." Do we really expect our enemies -- the "evildoers" -- to practice waterboarding so that they will know what we do and then be prepared against. A simpleton like Bush might buy that, but it defies reason.

The civilized world has long had a consensus that these types of activities are torture and that they are not to be used. All I want is an honest accounting of what has been done in our name. I happen to believe that these people have committed war crimes, but so long as there is a fair process of review, I'll live with the outcome.

I suspect you are afraid of the outcome of a fair process.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 18, 2008 12:06 PM

A few quick points, and then I'm excusing myself for precisely the same reason I didn't have time to rehash all the arguments I've made in several prior posts on this topic.

1. The post is by Darleen, not Goldstein.

2. Calling members of a non-state-actor international terrorist group "POWs" is some serious question-begging at best. Sorry, you are not allowed to redefine the longstanding meaning of words to win the debate for you.

3. Uncertainty is a powerful weapon. Heck yes, we want to preclude public disclosure of our methods.

4. I leave to professional interrogators the issue of effectiveness of particular methods in getting accurate information from particular detainees. I don't doubt that these guys sometimes lie when coerced or tortured. Find me an interrogation method they don't frequently lie in response to. I accept that other interrogation methods will, more often than not, be more effective with regard to the majority of detainees. What I don't buy is the easy-way-out assumption of so many on the left that if they disapprove of something it must be ineffective in 100% of cases. Sometimes in life, there are tradeoffs.

5. McCain was tortured. I don't believe he was "waterboarded". I could be wrong, but please provide a cite.

Posted by: The Crank at February 18, 2008 1:42 PM

The simple fact is that if we take away all of our ability to extract information from the detainees there won't be any need to take prisoners anymore. And since it is legal according the the Laws of Warfare to execute combatants that are caught without uniforms, I assume that's what will happen. Of course, this probably the best strategy since we don't have to waste time and energy on stupid arguments about terrorists rights....

Posted by: Tom at February 18, 2008 4:47 PM

Yeah, the "Kill Everyone" Doctrine. Simple. Easy. Certainly won't provoke anyone. Guilt-schmilt. Arab=Guilty so it's easy to employ. Do you work for this Administration's "Think" Tank?

Posted by: jim at February 18, 2008 5:19 PM

I have no issue at all with a real Al-Qaeda upper-up be absolutely brutalized in questioning. The issue for me is that torture gets used on small fish. Or completely innocent fish.

The army has always impressed me as a very practical organization. If they've banned waterboarding, then it must not be a worthwhile pursuit.

As for McCain, here is a thought; what possible information could he have had in years 2-5 of his capture. Well, none. So his being tortured was just to torture him.

Posted by: Zufall at February 18, 2008 6:57 PM

Point 2 -- POWs. I was just using shorthand, trying to stay content neutral in my choice of words. also, I used enemy combatants and I could have used "terrorists" instead.

Point 3 -- uncertainty is a weapon. True, but irrelevant to a position that bars certain methods because they are torture. Anything else is acceptable and in the realm of anything else, there is plenty of uncertainty.

Point 4 -- people lie in response to every method of interrogation. True, but when you sacrifice your honor by torturing, you just make yourself as low as the terrorists.

Point 5 -- I didn't think McCain was waterboarded either; it didn't seem sinificant enough of a point to respond to.

Speaking from the left, I agree that there are some trade-offs. I don't want to see my country sullied any furhter by the particular trade offs those on the right advocate. Lastly, it has nothing to do with "terrorists rights," my greater concerns are what happens to our soldiers when they are captured. and the preservation of our liberty.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 18, 2008 10:49 PM

"This probably deserves a longer post but I agree 100% with the point that you have to consider the morally correct thing first and let the law follow."

Hmmm.. So, let's take it more national. You have a drug dealer, who has been pushing tainted pot to kids. It kills them, though one survives and he won't give up his supplier, no matter what else you tell him or threaten him with. Morally, you have to torture him, right? To prevent the deaths of those who will end up dying later.

Let the Bill of Rights flutter in the wind. After all, this is morality! And no, stepping out and narrowing it down outside of nationals is not enough. Picking and choosing the laws that should be enforced based on arbitrary morality. Let's take them all on.

Posted by: Dave at February 19, 2008 6:19 AM

First of all, we know that torture works because CTU has a torture specialist. If it didn't work why would they have a specialist?

My father heard a different popular culture reference to Sen. Obama on Rush last week: not the mirror of Esired, but Chauncey Gardner. Pretty much for the same reason.

Posted by: soccer dad at February 19, 2008 9:34 AM

Well the Pentagon spends $500 on hammers so does that mean that the expense is worth it? The tautology that "torture works because why else would we torture if it didnt" can apply to a lot of things; the federal government spends money because it works, their our invasions around the world because they work, people bet their life savings on roulette wheel because it works. Oops wait, there's a fly in the ointment here, people do stupid and evil s**t all the time regardless of whether some goal is fulfilled. Duh.

Posted by: frank at February 19, 2008 12:14 PM

Jim, if you capture a fighter in the act (carrying a weapon or spotted firing it) that isn't wearing a uniform (which pretty much encompass all the insurgents in Iraq) it is legal to kill them according to the Laws of Warfare. Plus isn't "Kill Them All" the definition of warfare?

Posted by: Tom at February 19, 2008 12:55 PM

Thanks for clarifying Tom. Thanks. Hope you run for President some day.

Posted by: jim at February 19, 2008 1:47 PM

Tom, Soccer Dad,

Just to be sure you recognize the difference, "24" is just a TV show and Jack Bauer is not a real person.

As for the insinuation that Obama is all hat and no cattle, listening to the wing nut echo chamber of Limbaugh, et al, is not going to provide information related in any way to the real world. Any number of sources, from the Obama website, the MSM and the blogosphere would tell you that there is plenty of substance to the man. It is fair to disagree with his substnace as too liberal, wrong-headed, etc. but it defies reality to suggest there is none.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 19, 2008 3:14 PM

I listen to both the "wing-nut echo chamber". But I also listen to man's speeches as well. So, I go straight to the source, and I hear no substance. I hear words that John Mellencamp would be happy to put into one of his syrupy anthems.

Sure, the man has substance, but he is not running for President on that substance. Because he knows that if he did, a majority of Americans would reject that substance. So, instead he runs on rhetoric. He runs on empty, unfillable promises. He runs on crap like a pledge to fix America's soul and bringing heaven to earth. And what is sad is that there are enough shallow, emotional Americans out there who will support him based on those promises.

Posted by: Alex at February 19, 2008 4:04 PM

Coming in late on this, but: to anyone who thinks waterboarding is going to make it worse for our guys, my question is - how? They're getting beheaded, for Chrissakes. Like the guy on "Life of Brian" who's about to get stoned for saying Jehovah, and says it over & over while dancing a jig. Doesn't matter.

Posted by: tsmonk at February 19, 2008 5:14 PM

Someone running for President on unfulfillable promises?! Why, why that's the GWB plan! He did it so well Rove must have copyrighted it. Magrooder, why do you hate your country so much?

Posted by: jim at February 19, 2008 5:25 PM


I don't hate our country. "Love it or leave it" died -- appropriately -- in the 60s. What I hate is what morons like Bush and ruthless unprincipled idealogues like Cheney and Rumsfeld have benn doing to it.

To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, you'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of conservatives.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 19, 2008 9:29 PM


I'm on your side. Joking. That's the neo-con line for anyone who, well, thinks.

Posted by: jim at February 20, 2008 11:59 AM

Once again, Bush IS NOT RUNNING in 2008. When will all you liberals realize that? And whatever promises he supposedly hasn't kept might have something to do with the fact that the focus of his Presidency was unknown at the time he ran. And whatever promises he suppoedly hasn't keep are nothing like the promises Obama is making, establishing a heaven on earth or a pledge to fix America's broken soul.

Posted by: Alex at February 20, 2008 1:32 PM

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