- Letters of Note: On bureaucratese and gobbledygook
This is a delightful memo sent by Civil Aeronautics Board chairman Alfred E. Kahn to the organization's top staff in 1977, begging them to please stop writing in "bureaucratese," and to instead use "straightforward, quasi-conversational, humane prose." He provides some specific examples that still apply nicely today.
- Wikipedia: List of Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of possessing Casio watches
Just what it says on the tin. (I think I have a Casio in a drawer somewhere. Don't tell the feds.)
- Ezra Grant: Jon Kyl Deletes His Lie From Congressional Record
Here's an insufficiently known fact: the congressional record reflects what legislators wish they'd said, not what they actually said. So if somebody says something stupid—like Sen. Kyl claiming that "abortion [is] well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does" (it's actually 3%)—then they can just have that remark edited out. Once audio transcription improves a bit more, I'm looking forward to somebody (Carl Malamud, I suspect) creating the unofficial—yet more official—congressional record.
- New York Times: A Satisfied Customer, but 50 Times Over?
Lucas Fayne is a very, very satisfied customer. On over fifty businesses’ websites, he praises the quality of their work. In fifty different cities. For fifty different home improvement projects. For fifty different homes. What's the story here?
You’ll remember the name Abu Zubaida. That’s the guy President Bush bragged about capturing back in 2002, describing him as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” Zubaida denied it, saying that he had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. So we held him at a CIA black operations site and tortured him in order to get him to give up the location of Osama bin Laden. We waterboarded him 83 times and brought him to the edge of death on four occasions. And now it turns out—oops!—that he’s not “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” He’s just some dude, a Pakastani guy with nothing to do with al-Qaeda, just a fixer for radical Muslim tourists. Where is he now? Guantanamo. The man has broken no laws, committed no act of war, and there has never been any evidence against him…and yet we’ve held him for seven years, with no apparent plan to release him.
What ever happened to that “shining city on a hill”?
A 21-year-old was just released from Guantanamo after being arrested at the age of fourteen for allegedly associating with al-Qaeda at the age of eleven. There was zero evidence of any such thing, hence his release. So we wrongly imprisoned a child for seven years, raised him in a prison, and set him free in Chad where his well-justified hatred for the United States can take form. Good job, War on Terror™!
Prisoners released from Guantanamo have a recidivism rate five times lower than American prisoners. That’s based on comparing the Defense Department’s 14% rate with the DOJ’s general recidivism stats. Those 14% are merely suspected of planning crimes, so I’ve compared them to the 67.5% of released American prisoners who are arrested. So either these suspected terrorists are better human beings than the average U.S. prisoner or they’re five times more likely to be innocent.
Bob McDonnell says he opposes transferring Guantanamo Bay prisoners into any Virginia facilities. For the record, I’d be perfectly happy to have them in Virginia. Hell, I’d be happy to have them right here in Albemarle County, in any place that’s appropriate for a prison facility of that size.
McDonnell describes these guys as “some of the most dangerous men in the world,” but I call bullshit. Though some small fraction of these guys might be dangerous in the abstract—you probably wouldn’t want them on the loose around a bunch of allies with access to weapons—most of that subset is surely significantly less dangerous than some of the violent felons in our most secure facilities. We’re holding a bunch of these guys because it’s not safe for them to send them home, but no other country wants them. Others are pussycats who despise the U.S. and would love to see it violently overthrown. If I’ve got a choice between living near a prison that houses guys who rip off old ladies faces and wear them like ski masks and some dude being held because this other guy who once knew his old roommate says that he once worked as a driver for a guy who knew Osama bin Laden, I know which one I’ll pick.
For a guy who says he supports creating jobs in Virginia, McDonnell sure isn’t doing much for the employment of prison guards or construction workers.
The U.S. military learned its torture techniques by imitating Chinese communist methods from the Korean War. And how did they learn about these methods? From a 1957 U.S. military study of how so many American POWs came to make false confessions. They even reused the original chart of techniques, changing only the title, “Communist Coercive Methods for Eliciting Individual Compliance.”