Friday, August 28, 2009

What Bible translation are you using? Because it doesn't read like mine does

TPM brings us Pastor [sic] Steven Anderson (no relation), of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona:
Chris Broughton, the man who brought an assault rifle and a handgun to the Obama event in Arizona last week, attended a fiery anti-Obama sermon the day before the event, in which Pastor Steven Anderson said he was going to "pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell", Anderson confirmed to TPMmuckraker today. * * *

"I don't obey Barack Obama. And I'd like Barack Obama to melt like a snail tonight," Anderson said in the sermon.

The sermon, which was titled "Why I Hate Barack Obama" and also contained virulent anti-gay themes, continued:

... you're going to tell me that I'm supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide, who wants to see young children and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth abortion and all these different things -- you're gonna tell me I'm supposed to pray for God to give him a good lunch tomorrow while he's in Phoenix, Arizona?

Nope. I'm not gonna pray for his good. I'm going to pray that he dies and goes to hell.
* * *

"No where in the sermon did I advocate vigilantism," Anderson said today, reached at the church. "It's a spiritual battle."

He continued: "I'd rather have him die of natural causes anyway, that way he's not some martyr. I'm praying for him to die just so he gets what he deserves."
Obama Derangement Syndrome, anyone?

The Secret Service has been by to chat with Mr. Anderson, who doubtless will be discussing that particular bit of socialist oppression on some Fox News show in a day or two.

Then the bear got onto his Harley and drove away

WWTDD brings us this photo of a bear climbing out of a skateboard park ... on a ladder.Nothing about the whereabouts of the two skateboarders who went missing at that park the previous night.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Because standing 24/7, chained, in a diaper, isn't "degrading"

Daphne Eviatar notices that, apparently, Steven Bradbury's July 2007 memo on "enhanced interrogation techniques" is still good law at OLC:
It’s surprising how little the analysis in this memo changed from the past memos, notwithstanding the passage of the [Detainee Treatment Act] and the Supreme Court’s decision in Hamdan,” said American Civil Liberties Union national security project lawyer Alex Abdo.

The July 2007 opinion, for example, analyzed whether prolonged sleep deprivation for up to 96 straight hours (or 180 hours in a 30-day period) while a prisoner is forced to stand, shackled, in diapers, and eventually in his own urine and feces violates the Detainee Treatment Act and Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.

The Justice Department lawyers concluded that it does not violate either law, even if the sleep deprivation is combined with restriction to a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet (half the recommended daily human intake) of liquid formula, and with “corrective techniques” such as the “facial hold,” “facial slap,” and “abdominal slap”.

The rules are not violated because the CIA has determined that such techniques are “safe”, concludes the memo, meaning they cause no “serious,” permanent or long-lasting injury.
So "degrading" treatment isn't degrading if it's "safe"?
The lawyers are confident of that conclusion because “the CIA adapted each of the techniques from those used in the United States military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (“SERE”) training,” which is “designed to familiarize U.S. troops with interrogation techniques they might experience in enemy custody and to train these troops to resist such techniques.”

Although the lawyers recognize “that a detainee in CIA custody will be in a very different situation from U.S. military personnel who experienced SERE training, the CIA nonetheless found it important that no significant or lasting medical or psychological harm had resulted from the use of these techniques on U.S. military personnel over many years in SERE training.”

That’s the same reasoning the OLC used to justify waterboarding and other techniques in its Aug. 1, 2002 memo.

The Aug. 31, 2006 Office of Legal Counsel memo goes on to say that the techniques don’t “shock the conscience” – the same standard the lawyers used in 2005 to say the CIA’s interrogation techniques didn’t violate the international Convention Against Torture.

In effect, in the Justice Department’s view, despite the new law and Supreme Court interpretation, nothing had changed.
Is all this continuing under Obama? Who knows?

Voice mail victims of the world, unite!

A White Bear wonders why we tolerate insanely long voicemail messages:
An infuriatingly calm female voice slowly intones things I can fucking take for granted, given that I am a sentient being who apparently has placed a phone call, probably more than once in my life.
The answer, I guess, is that we need the party we're calling more than they need us. The electric utility, for instance. We're calling either to report an outage, or to pay the bill at the last minute to prevent an outage. Either way, we need our freakin' electricity ON, and we are not going to hang up because Prozac Jane takes four minutes to explain the menu options to us.

Utilitarianism in action

I got in trouble over at EOTAW for bringing up Mary Jo Kopechne in response to Ted Kennedy's (unfortunate, premature) death. Apparently it was gauche to interrupt the canonization of Teddy as the Greatest American Senator Ever.

No one, however, quite came out and said, "what's one dead chick versus the good that Kennedy later accomplished?"

Joyce Carol Oates has now filled that indecency gap:
Yet if one weighs the life of a single young woman against the accomplishments of the man President Obama has called the greatest Democratic senator in history, what is one to think?
What, indeed?

I've found the next Tarantino movie

Haven't made it to Inglourious Basterds yet, but I already have the subject matter of the next flick doped out (h/t The Plank):
LIBYAN leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's glamorous bodyguards stole the show when he arrived in Rome this week.

The dictator, who calls himself a pioneer of 'Islamic socialism', doesn't let his female security detail hide their charms under a burqa.

The all female bodyguards, along with their khaki uniforms and red berets, wear lipstick, jewellery, and even high heels - but are trained in armed combat.

All 40 guards are virgins, and he insists they remain so.
What's not to like?

... Damn. Second commenter at The Plank: "This seems like something Tarantino would dream up. Virgin chop socky smash in defense of a a mysterious belief system (Islamic Socialism)!"

... Based on the photo above, I'm thinking the head of state protected by the Deadly Virgin Squad is an easy role for Bruce Willis.

You can't make this party up

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins told a recent gathering in northeast Kansas that the Republican Party is looking for a "great white hope" to help stop the political agenda of the Democratic party and President Barack Obama.

Videotape shows Jenkins, a Republican, making the comment at an Aug. 19 forum.
-- Associated Press, Aug. 26, 2009.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The bookshelf

What have I been reading? Forgetting to update this at least monthly means I've forgotten some stuff.

Jenkins, Asquith. Typically good Jenkins for political coverage, while failing, as with his Gladstone book, to give a strong sense of the personality. It's never terribly clear for instance what Margot meant to him, or what was going on inside him to make him so passionate for Venetia Stanley. This was not a fault of Jenkins's excellent Churchill bio, possibly because Churchill's personality was so powerful, or just that I already had a sense of what Churchill was like.

Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms. My favorite novel, in high school; now, I admire his descriptions more than I used to, but the characterization is poor. Catherine seems too much of a fantasy girl (perhaps what commended it to me in high school), and her death's foreshadowing is heavy as a pile of bricks. Picked it up in a British paperback whose advert pages notified me that, in Britain, The Sun Also Rises was published as Fiesta. Good heavenly lord.

Langguth, Patriots. I liked his Vietnam book, and thus far the focus on individuals is working well in this book on the American Revolution -- there's a lot more on the leadup to the rebellion than I'd seen before. Though Langguth is surely the first person to be inspired to write about our revolution by the example of the Vietnamese war against France and America.

Kershaw, Fateful Choices. Not sure why I've been rereading this actually. A good study, distinguishing absolutely gratuitous blunders (Mussolini's invasion of Greece) from hard but arguably compelled choices (Hitler's war on Russia).

Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man. Finally got around to finishing this. Quite readable, and anyone who can make me want to pick up more Hegel is doing something well. His thesis, once one actually reads the book, is not terribly radical. How much, though, can any era see the next era coming?

(... Have picked back up Hegel's Philosophy of Right which I shamefully abandoned months ago in the midst of Hegel's introduction. I think I'm going to spot him his dialectic and just take him for whatever the hell he says about stuff, without worrying how he got there.)

MacCarthy, Byron: Life and Legend. The "one to read" is deplorably out of print in this country, but with Amazon all things are possible. Hadn't realized quite how gay Byron was, but then, not many had prior to MacCarthy's book -- she does force the interpretation here and there, but the evidence overall seems indisputable.

Anderson, Three Hearts and Three Lions. A minor classic of the fantasy genre; I'd never read any Anderson, oddly enough, but found this in a bookshop in Laurel, Miss. Emphasis on "minor" -- the world-building is dubious, the prose is mediocre. But it's fun seeing how much Gary Gygax grabbed from this book for D&D, and the part where the elfin duke recites a legend about Brigadier Gerard just about made the book worthwhile by itself.

Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000. Tyler Cowen talked this up, and while Cowen is too idiosyncratic to be always reliable (bought a dreadful Shostakovich violin concerto at his behest once), I'm dark enough on the Dark Ages that this seemed worth a buy -- even if he really does omit the Battle of Tours. I note that the Penguin History of Europe volumes have gotten longer since the appallingly short Europe in the High Middle Ages, which is a good thing.

Speaking of war crimes

We heard the news the other day of William Calley's belated public apology for his mass murder at My Lai, but Sullyblog links to a fellow who saw Calley at the Kiwanis Club:
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai, “ William Calley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus today. His voice started to break when he added, “I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.” * * *

I asked him for his reaction to the notion that a soldier does not have to obey an unlawful order. In fact, to obey an unlawful order is to be unlawful yourself. He said, “I believe that is true. If you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a 2nd Lieutenant getting orders from my commander and I followed them - foolishly, I guess.” He said that was no excuse, just what happened.
William Calley, Jr:Some of his victims:Note the baby near the center, and the one in the purple shirt in the foreground.

Did convicting John Yoo just get a little easier?

Possibly, judging by two tidbits from Monday's torture-doc dump.

Emptywheel notes that the docs point to "a CIA document on the 'Legal Principles' on torture that included legal justifications that had not been in any of the August 1, 2002 OLC memos authorizing torture." The IG report describes it:
OGC continued to consult with DoJ as the CTC Interrogation Program and the use of EITs expanded beyond the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. This resulted in the production of an undated and unsigned document entitled, "Legal Principles Applicable to CIA Detention and Interrogation of Captured Al-Qa'ida Personnel." According to OGC, this analysis was fully coordinated with and drafted in substantial part by OLC. In addition to reaffirming the previous conclusions regarding the torture statute, the analysis concludes that the federal War Crimes statute, 18 U.S.C. 2441, does not apply to Al-Qa'ida "Because members of that-group are not entitled to prisoner of war status. The analysis adds that "the [Torture] Convention permits the use of [cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment] in exigent circumstances, such as a national emergency or war."
One version of this document is here; another, here (via, again, Emptywheel).

Tidbit # 1: OLC's involvement in the document, contrary to OGC's representation, seems to have been confined to the kibbitzing of one John Yoo. Jack Goldsmith wrote the IG to dissent from that portion of the report, and said quite bluntly:
OLC also believes that the status of the bullet points was made clear at a meeting on June 17, 2003 soon after the Deputy Assistant Attorney General with whom OGC had consulted on the bullet points had departed from the Department of Justice.
So Yoo was not, here, acting formally on behalf of OLC. Rather, he was acting as part of the "torture team" -- the inner circle doing its best to make torture happen.

That becomes even more clear from Tidbit # 2 (Smintheus, via 1st Emptywheel link above). The bolded portion in that quote from the Legal Principles, above? Total moonshine:
The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment says no such thing. The OLC/OGC lawyers evidently were insinuating that the Convention drew a very major distinction between the prohibitions against torture on the one hand, and against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment on the other. Article 2 of the Convention states explicitly that there are no circumstances that may be used to justify torture:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

It is true that the Convention does not repeat the Article 2 statement when it later discusses "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment". However that discussion (in Article 16) is extremely brief and to the point: that governments should prevent 'cruel etc. treatment' as they do torture and should give its victims the same legal recourse as victims of torture. There is no implication whatsoever in the Convention that "exigent circumstances" permit the use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Indeed, the US wrote the following to the UN Committee against Torture ten years ago regarding its implementation of the Convention (Report of the United States to the UN Committee against Torture, October 15, 1999, UN Doc. CAT/C/28/Add.5, February 9, 2000, para. 6):

No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture. US law contains no provision permitting otherwise prohibited acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be employed on grounds of exigent circumstances (for example, during a "state of public emergency") or on orders from a superior officer or public authority, and the protective mechanisms of an independent judiciary are not subject to suspension.

So, when do the torture memos written by John Yoo and friends rise beyond the level of bad lawyering and into the much shadier territory of deliberate falsification for the purpose of facilitating, enabling, or encouraging torture? Because at that point I'd think even the timid Eric Holder's Justice Department would be forced to prosecute them.
From his mouth to God's ears, my friends.

... Andrew Sullivan, apparently paying a visit to his own blog, reminds us what Yoo's legal work resulted in:
Here's what the "CIA pros" did to prisoners (the non-CIA pros improvised the president's directive to torture and abuse prisoners in very similar ways): stress positions, nudity, hooding, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, long time standing, beatings, hypothermia, and walling. They key thing, according to the CIA, is to enhance "the potential dread a high-value detainee might have of US custody". Notice the shift from the standards of the past. In the past, the US was known for being a country whose soldiers would never mistreat prisoners; now, the US wants the world to know that US custody is something to be dreaded. * * *

John McCain will remember these techniques and variants of them from his time in the Hanoi Hilton. If this is not torture, then torture does not exist. And if this is America, and there is no accountability for these war crimes, then core American values have ceased to exist as well.
But please, let's look forward.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The CIA's Inspector General report

It's out, in very heavily redacted form. For instance, the entirety of the "recommendations" are redacted. Not sure how much we can glean from this, though Emptywheel et al. will doubtless sift for any gems.

Skimming, it's interesting to note another confirmation of Ron Suskind's reporting.

Suskind wrote in The One Percent Doctrine:
According to several former CIA officials, interrogators told KSM his children would be hurt if he didn't cooperate.
OIG report, p. 43:
An experienced Agency interrogator reported that the interrogators threatened Khalid Shaykh Muhammad. According to this interrogator, the interrogators said to Khalid Shaykh Muhammad that if anything else happens in the United States, "We're going to kill your children."
As Suskind went on to note:
The traditional models of debriefing, used by both FBI and CIA, involved the building of a relationship, no matter how long and arduous a process. It's the need for some human contact, some basic comfort, rather than simply the bottomless human fear, which ultimately triumphs. The captive's previous life starts to fade and is slowly replaced by one constructed, often ingeniously, by his captors. This method, which the FBI still recommends, was cancelled out by what they [CIA] did to KSM. That's the gamble. Once you do something as horrific as threaten someone's children, and it doesn't work -- there's nowhere else to go.
KSM's children were 7 and 9 at the time, wrote Suskind.

... Blowing cigar smoke in al-Nashiri's face was done, said the interrogators, "to mask the stench in the room" (p. 43). What stench? Was al-Nashiri left in his own wastes? Note also that smoke was used "to make them ill to the point where they would start to 'purge'" (p. 72).

Monday, August 24, 2009

The End of History and the Last Fan

For most of post-historical Europe, the World Cup has replaced military competition as the chief outlet for nationalist strivings to be number one. As Kojève once said, his goal was to re-establish the Roman Empire, but this time as a multinational soccer team.
-- Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, at 319.

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Mt. Shasta News, via Kleiman:
Republican Congressman Wally Herger held a health care town hall meeting Aug. 18 at Simpson University in Redding, where a partisan crowd of over 2,000 people loudly cheered Herger’s position that a public option was “unacceptable.” * * *

One speaker said he could trace his ancestors back to the Mayflower and said “they did not arrive holding their hands out for help.”

I am a proud right wing terrorist,” he declared to cheers.

Herger praised the man’s attitude.

“Amen, God bless you,” Herger said with a broad smile. “There is a great American.”
Leaving aside the obvious, did our Mayflower descendant ever read about Thanksgiving?

Friday, August 21, 2009

In which we judge a book by its cover

Over at Bookslut, Nina McLaughlin writes about an early Edna O'Brien novel, August Is a Wicked Month, which I am determined to find and read, because of (1) the excellent title, (2) McLaughlin's description of the book, which makes me wonder why I've not read any O'Brien, and (3) the cover, which appears to be a photograph of the author:That is just the most compelling portrait photo I've seen in a long time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Why would the New Yorker waste my time telling me what David Denby thinks about the new Quentin Tarantino flick?

Next up: Rush Limbaugh reviews The Audacity of Hope.

... Okay, I could rail on Denby all day, but here's one example only:
In “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” Tarantino, in apparent homage to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns (Ennio Morricone, Leone’s composer, is on the soundtrack), photographs the Bride’s progress across the West in wide-open spaces. Yet, at the crucial moment, he doesn’t hold to the demanding aesthetics of open space; he stages the violence in Budd’s narrow trailer, where it’s impossible to see anything clearly and he has to fake the violence in order to do it at all. The Bride, having escaped her coffin, takes on Elle, and the two tall, skinny blond actresses go at each other with knee, toe, and claw. The female savagery is exciting, in a garishly meaningless way, but the actual violence resembles two flies buzzing around in a bottle. All you see in this boxed-in space is motion, not the acts themselves.
The trailer fight is a *hoot*. Tarantino has a lot of fun with the cramped trailer -- too narrow to draw a samurai sword, flimsy walls you can smash right through, etc. Denby is too much concerned with whether the scene looks like his own mental ideal of a fight scene to appreciate it on its own terms.

(And Elle Driver "for no good reason, humiliates Budd and kills him"? Is "getting a Hattori Hanzo sword for free, thus saving a million dollars" not a good reason, in Denby's book? Has Denby missed the clear personal antagonism between Elle and Budd, which -- given that Elle is a murderous, vicious sort to start with -- is plenty of justification for humiliating him? Does Denby actually *watch* the movie, or just have someone take notes for him?)

Polygamy, astrology or cannibalism -- or torture, it turns out

Over at the Volokh blog, Bernstein and Somin are hatin' on Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and having the good taste to do so via Mencken's takedown, which deserves to be more widely read. One does not have to read farther than the second paragraph to find a gem like this:
In three Espionage Act cases, including the Debs case, one finds a clear statement of the doctrine that, in war time, the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment cease to have any substance, and may be set aside by any jury that has been sufficiently alarmed by a district attorney itching for higher office.
Less satirically:
The weak spot in his reasoning, if I may presume to suggest such a thing, was his tacit assumption that the voice of the legislature was the voice of the people. There is, in fact, no reason for confusing the people and the legislature: the two, in these later years, are quite distinct. The legislature, like the executive, has ceased, save indirectly, to be even the creature of the people: it is the creature, in the main, of pressure groups, and most of them, it must be manifest, are of dubious wisdom and even more dubious honesty. Laws are no longer [sic] made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle -- a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism.
That "no longer" seems a touch optimistic, but otherwise Mencken appears quite correct.

... Uh-oh. Volokh blogger Orin Kerr strikes back with "Justice Holmes Rocks." Given that I am usually much more likely to agree with Prof. Kerr than with Profs. Bernstein and Somin, this gives me pause. OTOH, Mencken's authority is difficult to deny.

Perhaps we can appreciate Holmes aesthetically if not legally?

"They serve Jim Beam on airplanes. Tastes like piss."

Gotta agree with Jason Zengerle -- this Twitter blog of "Shit My [73-year-old] Dad Says" vindicates the medium. Assuming that Iranian quasi-revolution thing didn't already.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Look out kid, it's something you did

James Joyner has what must be my favorite blog post of the month:
Bob Dylan was on the pavement, thinking about the government. And they arrested him.
Perhaps this will pan out to a beer at the White House.

What if Khalid Sheikh Muhammad were a golden retriever?

Jonathan Zasloff asks:
Why does Michael Vick have to go through a series of mea culpas and tearful apologies (not to mention a prison sentence) for torturing dogs, and Dick Cheney does not even face an investigation for torturing people?
You could probably get a short book out of the answer -- our social attitudes to pets, politics, terrorism, sports, etc.

Oh noes I iz a GROWNUP

Last night was Parents Night at my 8th grader's school, so Mrs. TBA and I went to meet all the teachers, listen to how very, very serious the Catholic Church is about quelling sexual abuse, etc.

At the end (nine o'clock!), I needed to go back up to the office to work on a Medicare reimbursement appellate brief. And suddenly it hit me -- probably the fact that I'd had a hearing that morning, and was consequently dressed up like a lawyer for once, didn't help -- that I needed to go back up to the office to work on a Medicare reimbursement appellate brief.

Which sounded to myself like a character in a short story -- the boring husband/father whose absence from the rest of the story needs to be quickly addressed.

Can't really describe the feeling any better than that, but it was quite odd. I suspect that moments like that become more common after 40.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Of course, given the state of lit crit, that might not surprise anyone

Edge of the American West reports that Yale University Press is "publishing a book about the controversy surrounding the in/famous Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad," but without reprinting any of the cartoons in the book.

Be on the lookout for TBA's new book from Yale U P, my 300-page study of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, without however any quotations from the subject text.

(Yes, I posted that as a comment at EOTAW and then liked it well enough to post here. Do I plagiarize myself? Very well then I plagiarize myself.)

... I'd pulled up "Song of Myself" to recall the wording, and was struck by these famous lines (all the lines of "Song of Myself" are famous lines):
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
That is like a four-line precis of "Sunday Morning," and indeed of half of Wallace Stevens.

No snorkels for the waterboarding, alas

The NYT has another look at the CIA's torture regime, this time from the angle of its secret prisons. This quote says it all:
The cells were constructed with special features to prevent injury to the prisoners during interrogations: nonslip floors and flexible, plywood-covered walls to soften the impact of being slammed into the wall.
As opposed to preventing injury by not slamming prisoners into walls in the first place. That's special CIA thinking there, boys.

Also interesting is that his role in setting up the prisons seems to be what raised Dusty Foggo to his brief eminence at CIA, before his fraud conviction. Hope his jailers in Kentucky aren't slamming him into any cinderblock walls.

Oh, btw, the (current set of) Geneva Conventions are 60 years old today. Congratulations to the countries that observe them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mercenaries of torture

The great thing about torture American-style is its entrepreneurial spirit, as highlighted by today's NYT article on "Interrogation, Inc." (still no T-word) and the "architects" of our torture program, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen:
They had never carried out a real interrogation, only mock sessions in the military training they had overseen. They had no relevant scholarship; their Ph.D. dissertations were on high blood pressure and family therapy. They had no language skills and no expertise on Al Qaeda.

But they had psychology credentials and an intimate knowledge of a brutal treatment regimen used decades ago by Chinese Communists. For an administration eager to get tough on those who had killed 3,000 Americans, that was enough.
That pegs it: "eager to get tough."

The article provides a good intro to how Mitchell and Jessen, with no qualifications other than reenactment of Communist torture methods, wangled their way into guiding the CIA interrogation program. I'll leave it to Emptywheel et al. to figure out which, if any, pieces are new. But it's evident that torture pays in America:
The Zubaydah case gave reason to question the Mitchell-Jessen plan: the prisoner had given up his most valuable information without coercion.

But top C.I.A. officials made no changes, and the methods would be used on at least 27 more prisoners, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times.

The business plans of Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen, meanwhile, were working out beautifully. They were paid $1,000 to $2,000 a day apiece, one official said. They had permanent desks in the Counterterrorist Center, and could now claim genuine experience in interrogating high-level Qaeda operatives.

Dr. Mitchell could keep working outside the C.I.A. as well. At the Ritz-Carlton in Maui in October 2003, he was featured at a high-priced seminar for corporations on how to behave if kidnapped. He created new companies, called Wizard Shop, later renamed Mind Science, and What If. His first company, Knowledge Works, was certified by the American Psychological Association in 2004 as a sponsor of continuing professional education. (A.P.A. dropped the certification last year.)

In 2005, the psychologists formed Mitchell Jessen and Associates, with offices in Spokane and Virginia and five additional shareholders, four of them from the military’s SERE program. By 2007, the company employed about 60 people, some with impressive résumés, including Deuce Martinez, a lead C.I.A. interrogator of Mr. Mohammed; Roger L. Aldrich, a legendary military survival trainer; and Karen Gardner, a senior training official at the F.B.I. Academy.

The company’s C.I.A. contracts are classified, but their total was well into the millions of dollars. In 2007 in a suburb of Tampa, Fla., Dr. Mitchell built a house with a swimming pool, now valued at $800,000.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A messy en banc split

In December 2008, a Fifth Circuit panel (King, Stewart, Prado) affirmed a district court's judgment, entered upon a jury verdict, finding that Harry Connick's D.A. office had been "deliberately indifferent to the need to train, monitor, and supervise its attorneys on Brady principles" (= disclosure to criminal defendants of potentially exculpatory evidence), and socking the defendants with a $15M verdict. (This on a Section 1983 suit by a guy sentenced to death for murder with the help of an armed robbery conviction obtained via Brady violation; after 18 years in prison, the guy got the robbery conviction tossed, was retried for murder, and acquitted.) The panel however found that "the district court erroneously included non-liable defendants in the judgment" and dismissed them.

The panel decision was appealed to the court en banc and accordingly vacated pending the en banc decision. Yesterday, the decision came down:
By reason of an equally divided en banc court, the decision of the district court is AFFIRMED. The panel opinion was vacated by the grant of rehearing en banc.
So, what about those "erroneously included non-liable defendants," who presumably are now on the hook for their share of $15M? Ouch. That ain't cool. You'd think the en banc court could at least agree to reverse the district court in part.

The brief per curiam decision was enlivened by some bitter judges. Clement wrote an opinion on why the district court should be reversed, attracting Jones, Jolly, Smith, Garza, and Owen. The panel judges, plus Wiener and Elrod, wrote to criticize Clement's opinion. Jones wrote alone to say why the district court was really, really wrong. And Jolly wrote an odd little opinion:
Ordinarily, when an en banc case results in a tie vote, we affirm the district court judgment without opinion. That is the way I would prefer it today. However, notwithstanding that there is no majority opinion, and that no opinion today will bind any court or future party in this circuit, each side has now written for publication, and judges are joining one or the other of the respective opinions. I join Judge Clement’s opinion because, as between the two, it shows the intellectual fortitude of meeting head-on, in a specific workmanlike manner, the truly difficult legal issues presented by this case.
The bitchiness of this seemingly suave opinion is not immediately obvious. But then one counts judges. Six judges wrote/joined Clement; five judges wrote/joined Prado. Dennis recused. That leaves Davis, Barksdale, Benavides, and Haynes as judges who evidently voted, but who didn't join any opinion. In other words: if you'd really prefer not to speak, Judge Jolly, why not just keep your mouth shut -- instead of slamming Prado et al. for lacking "intellectual fortitude" and lack of "workmanlike manner"? One suspects that Barksdale and Southwick voted the same way Jolly did, but had the dignity not to sign onto any opinion. Jolly had the same option.

... How Appealing noted the en banc decision here, and linked to this Times-Pic story, neither noting the awkward position of the un-dismissed (?) defendants. Dropped Mr. Bashman a line, as it seems the sort of quirk he delights in noting.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Lawrence Summers, now a senior official in the Obama administration, began a paper on financial markets thus: “THERE ARE IDIOTS. Look around.”
-- Paul Krugman, reviewing Justin Fox, The Myth of the Rational Market.

... Krugman does some looking around himself, apropos of Obama's health-care proposals, and finds two choice examples:

If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid, and health care done by the government.
People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.
Which of those quotations is more idiotic? I think it would take a scientific study to answer that question.

C'est moi!

... Though I don't usually remember my dreams. Which probably makes me even less interesting.

(Legible size here. Blogger and I are disagreeing today.)

Friday, August 07, 2009

But his birth certificate said he was born in Syria!

Archaeologists say they have unearthed a country villa believed to be the birthplace of Vespasian, the emperor who built the Colosseum.

Lead archaelogist Filippo Coarelli said Friday the 2,000-year-old ruins of the luxurious residence were found about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northeast of Rome.

There are no clear inscriptions on the 5.4-square-mile (14-square-kilometer) complex, but its location and decorations suggest it is from the right period and the emperor was born in the area.
-- Associated Press, Aug. 7, 2009.

... Suetonius told us, "Vespasian was born in a little village in the Sabine land just beyond Reate, known as Falacrina."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ignore dissenting opinions at your peril!

Today our state supreme court issued yet another opinion on the vexatious issue of arbitration clauses and when they are too laden with unconscionable clauses to be severable. The op is a good one -- whoever drafted some of those provisions provided some very bad advice -- but I found this part a little odd:
The drafters of arbitration clauses, who truly seek the benefits of arbitration, including reduction of dispute costs, would be wise to heed the prior pronouncements of this Court, such as:

Neither is it wise to allow companies to draft arbitration clauses with
unconscionable provisions and then let them try them out in the marketplace,
secure in the knowledge that the courts will at worst sever the offending
[provisions] after plaintiffs have been forced “to jump through hoops in order
to invalidate those agreements.”
Now, don't get me wrong -- I agree with the sentiment, and am happy to see this particular opinion quoted.

It's just that the citation reads like this:
Sanderson Farms, 848 So. 2d at 852 (Cobb, J., dissenting; Smith, P.J., and Carlson, J., joining) (dissent would have held the arbitration agreement unconscionable; plurality did not address unconscionability, as it held that Sanderson Farms had waived its right to compel arbitration) (quoting Cooper v. MRM Inv. Co., 199 F. Supp. 2d 771 (M.D. Tenn. 2002), rev’d in part, vacated in part on other issues, 367 F.3d 493 (6th Cir. 2004)).
Um, is a dissenting opinion a "prior pronouncement of this Court"? Is anyone to be reproached for failing to adhere to the teachings of a dissent?

Granted, that dissent *shoulda* been the opinion of the Court, so I'm glad to see it getting some love from a majority today. But it's a rather odd way to mention it. The rather unusual parenthetical in the citation suggests that Randolph, or his law clerk, knew they were pushing things a bit, too.

... The Gatlin dissent includes a lovely quotation from Gibbon:
My conscience is shocked by a plaintiff’s being billed $11,000 or more, simply to obtain a hearing (exclusive of attorney fees). A country in which legal redress was available only at such costs would deserve the criticism that Edward Gibbon directed at the Roman Empire’s system of justice:

The expense of the pursuit sometimes exceeded the value of the prize, and the fairest rights were abandoned by the poverty or prudence of the claimants. Such costly justice might tend to abate the spirit of litigation, but the unequal pressure serves only to increase the influence of the rich, and to aggravate the misery of the poor. By these dilatory and expensive proceedings, the wealthy pleader obtains a more certain advantage than he could hope from the accidental corruption of his judge.

2 Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 1480 (J.B. Bury ed., Modern Library 1995) (1788) (emphasis added).
Dickie Scruggs should've attended to that last part.

"Solitary Crow On Fence Post Portending Doom, Analysts Warn"

"At this point, all we can say for sure is that the sudden appearance of this grim avian prophet spells disaster for our nation's banks, its roads, its schools, its health care system, its energy resources--for our entire American way of life," Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters while examining video footage of the crow. "Would you just look at the way it's sitting there, with those glassy, black eyes and that creepy beak. Christ. Something bad is going to happen, I just know it."

"Those … those eyes," Whitman added.

-- The Onion, Aug. 5, 2009.

Our post-belief society?

Yglesias forwards a quotation from Slavoj Žižek, whom I am no more inclined to read than he; but Matt is correct that this is a charming and interesting comparison:
Kung Fu Panda, the 2008 cartoon hit, provides the basic co-ordinates for understanding the ideological situation I have been describing. The fat panda dreams of becoming a kung fu warrior. He is chosen by blind chance (beneath which lurks the hand of destiny, of course), to be the hero to save his city, and succeeds. But the film’s pseudo-Oriental spiritualism is constantly undermined by a cynical humour. The surprise is that this continuous making-fun-of-itself makes it no less spiritual: the film ultimately takes the butt of its endless jokes seriously. A well-known anecdote about Niels Bohr illustrates the same idea. Surprised at seeing a horseshoe above the door of Bohr’s country house, a visiting scientist said he didn’t believe that horseshoes kept evil spirits out of the house, to which Bohr answered: ‘Neither do I; I have it there because I was told that it works just as well if one doesn’t believe in it.’ This is how ideology functions today: nobody takes democracy or justice seriously, we are all aware that they are corrupt, but we practise them anyway because we assume they work even if we don’t believe in them. Berlusconi is our own Kung Fu Panda. As the Marx Brothers might have put it, ‘this man may look like a corrupt idiot and act like a corrupt idiot, but don’t let that deceive you – he is a corrupt idiot.’
One can dignify this as an even more sceptical version of Vaihinger's "philosophy of as-if," or else note the resemblance to the Emperor's new clothes.

"I could murder half a village between sundown and sunset"

Responding to Michelle Cottle's question as to why suicidal men are prone to murder a few bystanders as well, which women do relatively rarely (and then it's much more likely to be their kids), one commenter provides a candid and I think a correct answer:
Since the day serious quantities of testosterone started coursing through my body in adolescence, through its gradual decline in late middle age, I had regular dreams (a little MSG for dinner to make me sleep lightly, and I could murder half a village between sundown and sunset) and day-time fantasies that involved violence, mayhem, and personal physical triumph over various adversaries. Now, in my actions, I'm a pretty nonviolent guy. I don't carry a weapon; never hit anyone in anger, and have a strong tendency to prefer negotiation and compromise over winner-take-all confrontation.

But, the seeds are there, and it takes a lot of socialization to sublimate them. I don't claim this to be a universal male phenomenon, but from what I know of my male friends, it's pretty close. Yet I've never talked to a woman who gets the faintest glimmer of recognition about this, unless it's related to a direct and immediate threat to her young children (in which case, many would swing a bat at an assailant's head without a second thought, as nearly as I can tell).

And, for what it's worth, this pretty much describes the state of the world for the domestic farm animals (although not dogs or cats), and most wild animals (but not all), I've encountered.

So - for 30+ years I carried this around in me. Thoroughly contained, but never absent. I'm not in the least surprised that enough stress or other mental illness breaks those barriers down in a few men, and that some of them, just go off at random once that happens.
Not the kind of thing anyone's likely to bring up without internet anonymity, but yes, being a guy is like that sometimes. We're kinda nuts.

(This argument has the neat trick advantage that, if a male reader says, "but I'm not like that at all," TBA can slowly shake its head and respond, "well, luckily for you, your testosterone levels must be relatively low ....")

Evoked an irrational hatred and fear in the present author, 1783

The index entry for Maurice in Lloyd George's War Memoirs is a remarkable example of importing invective into a section of a book which is normally neutral:
Maurice, Sir Frederick ... comfortably placed as any politician, 1675; subservient and unbalanced, 1685; ... his astonishing arithmetical calculations, 1763-4; the instrument by which the Government was to be thrown out, 1778; ... his astounding volte face of 22/4/18, 1780-1 ... intrigues against the Government, his mind being apparently unhinged, 1784; false allegations against Lloyd George and Bonar Law published by, 1784-6; the tool of astuter men, 1786 ... his double-dealing denounced by Lloyd George, 1787-8 ... his grave breach of discipline condoned by Asquith, 1791; dismissed, 1791.
-- Roy Jenkins, Asquith, p. 472 n.

... Major-General Maurice had written to the newspapers to challenge Lloyd George's assertion that Haig had more troops available to resist the 1918 German offensive than had been available a year previously. Lloyd George took this as the initiation of a conspiracy by Asquith and others to topple his government, perhaps being inspired by his own awareness of having himself been a conspirator to topple Asquith's government.

The index entry lacks the subtle malice of Charles Kinbote's index entry for Mrs. John Shade: "passim."

The rational justice of carpet bombing?

John Gray, reviewing Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice, wants to discuss conflicting demands of justice, and lights upon the example of carpet bombing. His rhetoric is fascinatingly weak:
On any reasonable view, Allied saturation bombing of German cities in the Second World War inflicted severe injustice on civilian populations. A Nazi victory, on the other hand, would have spelt the complete death of justice in Europe. Leaving to one side the case that Allied bombing made that dreadful outcome less likely - despite clever-silly arguments to the contrary, I believe it may have helped - there is here an intractable moral dilemma.
If Gray really wants to cast contempt ("clever-silly") on contrary arguments, and really thinks that the carpet bombing made German victory less likely, then is it really enough to say that he "believes" it "may have helped"?

In the rest of the paragraph, we get from "maybe helping" or "making Nazi victory less likely" to a rather stronger conclusion:
However one describes this dilemma - as a quasi-utilitarian trade-off between injustices of differing degrees of severity, or a tragic choice in which the injustices involved were of such different kinds as to be incomparable - one thing is clear: a readiness on the part of the Allies to sanction grave injustice was a precondition of any kind of justice surviving in Europe, and perhaps the world.
That's just fantasy. Carpet bombing *may* have shortened the war and saved some Allied lives, though I do not think that it did; but only a theorist deeply ignorant of the war would think it arguable that the killing of thousands of civilians was "a precondition of any kind of justice surviving in Europe, and perhaps the world."

Carpet bombing was not a precondition for winning the war. It wasn't even close. The grim fact is that the Russian drive from the east, and the Allied invasion from the west, could have been carried out without carpet bombing a single city. Hitler's war was lost when he invaded Russia; there was never, after that, any realistic prospect of the Nazis ruling Europe, much less "the world." Hell, given the injustice of the Soviet system, and the fear it inspired in the Cold War, Gray could argue more plausibly that the alliance with Stalin was an example of competing principles of justice.

(That's not to say that civilian casualties were avoidable -- they never are. The Normandy invasion was preceded by bombing of the French transportation system that killed hundreds of French civilians. But that's genuine collateral damage, not the deliberate targeting of civilians for its own sake as in carpet bombing.)

If that's the best example Gray can muster, then the powers of reason are looking pretty good.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Dunnica, Dunnica, Dunnica!

It's like "salsa" -- you just gotta love saying "Dunnica" over and over.

Dunnica is of course the first name of our outgoing U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Mississippi, about whom Scott Horton wrote yesterday:
A number of U.S. attorneys were scheduled to be axed, but survived when the White House intervened. How did these U.S. attorneys keep their jobs?

One of these “Lazarus candidates” was the U.S. attorney in Jackson, Mississippi, Dunnica Ott Lampton. The tangled tale in the Justice Department’s internal report sheds some light on why he was retained, but it also raises some questions.

* * *

On January 1, 2006, Sampson re-drafted the termination list, still including Lampton’s name, and circulated it to Monica Goodling [27, 28]. Goodling insisted that Lampton be retained “based upon his performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina” [27]. Sampson says he did as Goodling asked, striking Lampton’s name off the list, and forwarded it to Miers at the White House on January 9, 2006.

But when questioned by investigators, Sampson acknowledged that performance criteria were not “the decisive factor in the removal process.” The key consideration was whether local Republican officials were satisfied with the U.S. attorney’s performance [330].
Indeed they were, as Horton goes on to discuss. The "Katrina excuse" is the most frivolous example of that genre I've seen yet.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


On one occasion Miss Tennant was foolish enough to suggest to [Arthur Balfour] that he was sufficiently self-contained that he would not greatly mind if all his close women friends -- Lady Elcho, Lady Desborough, one or two others, and herself -- were all to die. "I think I should mind if you all died on the same day," he replied after a pause for reflection.
-- Roy Jenkins, Asquith, p. 79 n.

... "Miss Tennant" is of course Margot Tennant, here soon to become Margot Asquith. Jenkins advises us that Margot had also "told Lord Randolph Churchill that he had 'resigned more out of temper than conviction,' and was repaid with an invitation to meet and sit next the Prince of Wales at a supper party, which she attended wearing what most of the women present thought was her nightgown."

Mother's little helper

The New Yorker looks at Laura Ingalls Wilder and her unacknowledged co-writer, her daughter Rose Lane. Fascinating stuff.

Rose's spiritual progression is a striking one:
Charles Ingalls’s granddaughter had inherited his wanderlust, and her career had given her a chance to indulge it. Much of her reporting had been filed from exotic places. She had lived among bohemians in Paris and Greenwich Village, Soviet peasants and revolutionaries, intellectuals in Weimar Berlin, survivors of the massacres in Armenia, Albanian rebels, and camel-drivers on the road to Baghdad. * * *

The transformation of a barefoot Cinderella from the Ozarks into a stylish cosmopolite who acquired several languages, enjoyed smoking and fornication, and dined at La Rotonde when she wasn’t motoring around Europe in her Model T is, like the Little House books themselves, an American saga. Rose’s published writing was sensationalist, if not trashy, but her letters and her conversation were prized for their acerbic sophistication by a diverse circle of friends which included Dorothy Thompson, a leading journalist of the day; Floyd Dell, the editor, with Max Eastman, of The Masses; Ahmet Zogu, who became King Zog of Albania; and Herbert Hoover, despite the fact that he had apparently tried to suppress an embarrassing hagiography that Rose and a collaborator had cobbled together in 1920. (He hadn’t yet entered electoral politics, but he was widely admired for his postwar relief work in Europe.) Hoover was not unique among Rose’s subjects in deploring her fabrications. Charlie Chaplin was so incensed by them that he threatened legal action, as did Jack London’s widow. Henry Ford repudiated a portrait of himself that he couldn’t recognize. Laura, who publicly (and disingenuously) insisted that her stories were pure autobiography, also sometimes balked at the liberties that her daughter took with factual detail. Fidelity to a subject, or to history, was of less importance to Rose, as she implied in a placating letter to Chaplin, than a “corking” tale. But perhaps she didn’t understand the principle at stake: she had reinvented herself just as brashly. * * *

In 1936, the Saturday Evening Post published Lane’s own “Credo,” an impassioned essay that was widely admired by conservatives. Her vision was of a quasi-anarchic democracy, with minimal taxes, limited government, and no entitlements, regulated only by the principle of personal responsibility. Its citizens would be equal in their absolute freedom to flourish or to fail.

Everything that Lane wrote after “Credo”--fiction or polemics--was an expression of that vision. She may have been the first to invoke the term “libertarian” (it dates to the eighteenth century) to describe the agenda of a nascent anti-statist movement of which she has been called, with Isabel Paterson and Ayn Rand, “a founding mother.” To the degree that she is still remembered for her own achievements, it is mainly by a few libertarian ultras for whom her tract of 1943, “The Discovery of Freedom: Man’s Struggle Against Authority,” is a foundational work of political theory. (It was written “in a white heat,” she said.)

The struggle against authority defined Rose’s life. She railed against a mother who had infantilized her (even though she returned the favor), and at a President who, she believed, was infantilizing a free republic. (“I hoped that Roosevelt would be killed in 1933,” she wrote to her agent, George Bye, who also represented Eleanor Roosevelt.) She fought a valiant losing battle for the psychic freedom necessary to write something authentic, yet she was beholden to her parents for her greatest literary successes. In 1938, Rose serialized “Free Land,” a novel set on the Dakota plains, whose central character was modelled on Almanzo. It reached the best-seller list, and a reviewer in the Times recommended it to the Pulitzer Prize committee. But, once Rose had exhausted her family history, her creative life was finished. Her last attempt at fiction, in 1939, “The Forgotten Man,” is the story of a working-class hero whose ingenuity has been thwarted by the New Deal. When it was rejected by an editor as artless propaganda, Rose, according to Holtz, argued that she “could not write it otherwise.” [So that's where Amity Shlaes got her title. --TBA]

By then, Lane had moved East. In 1938, at fifty-one, she bought three suburban acres near Danbury, Connecticut, and a clapboard farmhouse--her first real home. (Remodelling, she told a friend, was “my vice.”) As she aged, her inner and outer worlds both contracted. She abandoned her journal and, with it, Holtz concludes, her introspection. Old friends were alienated by her increasingly kooky and embattled militance. (One of them described her as “floating between sanity and a bedlam of hates.”) The F.B.I. took notice of her “subversive” actions to protest Social Security, and she made headlines by denouncing the agency’s “Gestapo” tactics.
Quite a sequel to the "Little House" books.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


What is this unidiomatic "August 02" on which date I appear to be posting? Is Blogger written in COBOL, or is that just supposed to look cooler than "August 2"?

Jones County: the past not even past, again

When I saw a new book had come out on the so-called Free State of Jones, I thought, "hey, wasn't there just a new book on that?"

There was. And thereby hangs a tale.

Pashtun problem

Yglesias links to a good AP article on the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and NW Province, who bear an understandable grudge that the Brits divided Afghanistan from India in such a manner as to split them between two states, and who express that grudge by support for the Taliban, which has always been a kind of de facto Pashtun Independence Front.

The comment thread at Matt's is notable for the sheer lack of political realism, or "dumbassery" for short, of those who think it's bad form to suggest that the Taliban enjoys nationalist support. Y.t. intervenes with ill grace here, noting one reason why the problem is an intractable one:
The Pashtun problem lacks a good solution, which is one reason why Afghanistan/NW Province is going to be a problem area for the foreseeable future. The non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan presumably would not be thrilled to annex the Pashtun part of Pakistan and give the Pashtuns an absolute majority in Afghanistan. The Pashtuns are not going to rest until they’ve got their own little nation-state. It’s the kind of nationalist clusterfuck that makes one reflect cynically on how ethnic cleansing in 1945 (the forced migration of the Germans westward) turned out pretty well, once you forget about those millions of civilians who died on the road.
("I often quote myself," said Shaw; "it lends spice to my conversation.")

Also, tho Steve Sailer is not on my list of admirable people, he does post a couple of good quotes from one of Churchill's early books, including this gem:
Into this happy world the nineteenth century brought two new facts: the breech-loading rifle and the British Government.

The first was an enormous luxury and blessing; the second, an unmitigated nuisance. The convenience of the breech-loading, and still more of the magazine rifle, was nowhere more appreciated than in the Indian highlands. A weapon which would kill with accuracy at fifteen hundred yards opened a whole new vista of delights to every family or clan which could acquire it. One could actually remain in one’s own house and fire at one’s neighbour nearly a mile away. One could lie in wait on some high crag, and at hitherto unheard-of ranges hit a horseman far below. Even villages could fire at each other without the trouble of going far from home. Fabulous prices were therefore offered for these glorious products of science. Rifle-thieves scoured all India to reinforce the efforts of the honest smuggler. A steady flow of the coveted weapons spread its genial influence throughout the frontier, and the respect which the Pathan tribesmen entertained for Christian civilisation was vastly enhanced. The action of the British Government on the other hand was entirely unsatisfactory. The great organising, advancing, absorbing power to the southward seemed to be little better than a monstrous spoil-sport. If the Pathans made forays into the plains, not only were they driven back (which after all was no more than fair), but a whole series of interferences took place, followed at intervals by expeditions which toiled laboriously through the valleys, scolding the tribesmen and exacting fines for any damage which they had done. No one would have minded these expeditions if they had simply come, had a fight and then gone away again. In many cases this was their practice under what was called the “butcher and bolt policy” to which the Government of India long adhered. But towards the end of the nineteenth century these intruders began to make roads through many of the valleys, and in particular the great road to Chitral. They sought to ensure the safety of these roads by threats, by forts and by subsidies. There was no objection to the last method so far as it went. But the tendency to road-making was regarded by the Pathans with profound distaste. All along the road people were expected to keep quiet, not to shoot one another, and, above all not to shoot at travellers along the road. It was too much to ask, and a whole series of quarrels took their origin from this source.
Essay topic: how does Churchill's easy British condescension make him able to respect the values of the Pashtuns?

A good idea, undone

Someone put Vladimir Putin at the bottom of the world's deepest lake.

But then they brought him back up.