Monday, February 22, 2016

Week of February 15-21 Donald Trump

For claiming that torture works and that if he were President he’d reinstitute waterboarding and worse. Which gives me a chance to use this picture of the American Mussolini.
In an event at a retirement community in South Carolina, Trump made the following statement when asked if he would approve of waterboarding:

I said I'll approve it immediately, but I'll make it also much worse. They said what do you mean. I said they're chopping off our heads in the Middle East. They want to kill us. They want to kill us. They want to kill our country. They want to knock out our cities. And don't tell me it doesn't work. Torture works, okay folks?...Believe me, it works….
Waterboarding is your minor form. Some people say it's not actually torture. Let's assume it is. But they asked me the question. What do you think of waterboarding? Absolutely fine. But we should go much stronger than waterboarding. That's the way I feel.
Speaking to ABC News Anchor George Stephanopoulos about the subject earlier in February Trump said the following:

I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding. And believe me, it will be effective. If we need information, George, you have our enemy cutting heads off of Christians and plenty of others, by the hundreds, by the thousands.
Stephanopoulos then said, "So we're going to chop off heads," to which Trump replied:

We're going to do things beyond waterboarding perhaps, if that happens to come.
So here’s the thing. I did some Googling and, as I expected, I discovered that not only does torture generally not work but so-called “enhanced interrogation” is generally less effective than “unenhanced” interrogation. And it not only doesn’t genrally work but it has been known that it doesn’t work for a very long time.

Fact: Between 1500 and 1750 French prosecutors tried to torture confessions out of 785 individuals. effectiveness varied by location but in Paris the rate of getting a prisoner to say anything was about 3% – it ranged up to 14% in Toulouse.(1)

Fact: A World War II era Japanese manual “described torture as the clumsiest possible method of gathering intelligence.” The Japanese did use torture but for generally intimidation rather than information.(1)

Fact: Torture produces unreliable results. It’s not that people with information lie while being tortured, it’s that people who don’t have information will lie and “reveal” information to make the torture stop. “The torture of the informed may generate no more lies than normal interrogation, but the torture of the ignorant and innocent overwhelms investigators with misleading information. In these cases, nothing is indeed preferable to anything.” In intelligence gathering information, whether gained through normal interrogation or through “enhanced” interrogation has to be verifed, which is generally a time consuming process.(1)

Fact: Most of the people trying to get information through torture can’t recognise when they’ve actually succeeded in breaking someone. In part this is because people generally can tell whether someone is telling the truth about 50% of the time. That includes trained interrogators like police. But, “most torturers are nowhere near as well trained for interrogation as police are. Torturers are usually chosen because they've endured hardship and pain, fought with courage, kept secrets, held the right beliefs and earned a reputation as trustworthy and loyal. They often rely on folklore about what lying behavior looks like – shifty eyes, sweaty palms and so on. And, not surprisingly, they make a lot of mistakes.” (1)

Fact: Torture may work in cases where the suspect is believed to hold a piece of clear verifiable information that can be checked quickly and easily. If the interrogator can make it clear that the sooner the information is revealed the sooner the torture will stop then it may provide results. The problem is that such cases are few and far between. There may not be time to doe the checks necessary to validate the information especially when the suspect’s comrades become aware that their network has been compromised. (2)

Fact: Many of the “successes” in thwarting terrorist plots that the CIA listed as coming from “enhanced interrogation” were in fact the result of conventional intelligence work. Specifically:
  • The locating and killing of Osama bin Laden
  • Thwarting of dirty bomb and the capture of Jose Padilla
  • Thwarting the Karachi plots
  • Thwarting of the “Second Wave Plot” and the discovery of the Al Gurabaa Group
  • Identification and capture of Iyman Faris
  • Thwarting of Heathrow and Canary Wharf Plots
  • Cature of Ramzi bin al-Shibh
  • Capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (3)
I’ve gleaned this information from the following articles:
(1) 5 Myths About Torture and Truth
(2) Does the use of torture ever work?
(3) Does Torture Wok? The C.I.A.’s Claims And What The Committed Found

So no, Mr. Trump, except in a few very specific cases, torture not only does not work as well as conventional techniques but can in fact inundate you with false data that will occupy time and resources that might produce better results using if devoted to more conventional means of intelligence gathering.

Runners up:
Manny Pacquiao boxer, member of congress in the Philippines and candidate for Senator in the Phillippines. Pacquiao is an opponent of same sex marriage, which is currently a major issue in the Phillippines and expressed his disapproval with the usual biblical verses and by saying that homosexuals are worse than animals saying, “It’s just common sense. “Have you seen any animal having male-to-male or female-to-female relations?” Well as a matter of fact there’s a Wikipedia article on the subject (did you know that 8-10% of male sheep are exclusively homosexual. Makes you wonder about buying that Ram truck really says!)

Tesco, the British supermarket chain for discontinuing the sale of curved – i.e. crescent shaped – croissants at their stores. Grounds given by Tesco for the decision was that “After demand for crescent shaped croissants started falling, we spoke to our customers and nearly 75% of them told us that they preferred straight ones. At the heart of the move away from curved croissants is the spreadability factor. The majority of shoppers find it easier to spread jam, or their preferred filling, on a straighter shape with a single sweeping motion. With the crescent shaped croissants, it’s more fiddly and most people can take up to three attempts to achieve perfect coverage, which increases the potential for accidents involving sticky fingers and tables.” Croissant is of course the French word for “crescent.”

Marco Rubio’s campaign staff for releasing an ad revisiting the “Morning in America” theme made famous by Ronald Reagan. One problem. the new “Morning in America” ad uses stock footage of  Vancouver British Columbia, CANADA. In fact the tugboat seen in the ad is flying a Canadian Flag!

The TV show Jeopardy for barring Canadians from taking last month’s annual online test for potential contestants. They claim that new Canadian privacy laws (presumably the Canadian Anti-Spam Law) prevents them from accepting Canadian applications even though Canadian legal experts say that it does nothing of the kind. Personally I think that the producers are just tired of Canadians showing the deficiencies of the American educational system  by winning all the time.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Week of February 8-14: Sharon Osbourne



For a diatribe directed against Terese Giudice that included a comment about rape, Sharon Osbourne, one of the hosts of the CBS afternoon talk show The Talk is this week’s First Up Against The Wall Come The Revolution.

This one is going to take a bit of set-up before getting to why Osbourne deserves this but it is needed.

Teresa Giudice was in the news this week. For some people her name is instantly recognizable. For the rest of us, she is reality TV star, one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Giudice is married to construction builder and restaurant owner Joe Giudice. In July 2013 the Giudices were charged with with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications, and bankruptcy fraud. In March 2014 the Giudices entered into a plea agreement with the US Government that would see them pleading guilty to 41 counts of bank, mail, wire, and bankruptcy fraud, which allegedly saw them net over $5 million over a 10-year period. Part of the agreement was that they would serve their sentences separately so that one parent would be with their four children. Teresa served her sentence of fifteen months first, entering Danbury Federal Corrections Institution (a minimum security prison) at the beginning of January 2015. She was released in December 2015 after 11 months and served a further six weeks of house arrest which ended February 5, 2016.

Giudice apparently used her period of house arrest to write a book about her experience in prison (I won’t mention the name for a variety of reasons which I might go into later in this post). Naturally Guidice complained about conditions in the prison as well as some of the surprises. Among the latter were “parties” that the inmates threw for special events like aninmate being released. She also discusses “spa” services which basically meant inmates doing hair and make-up for each other and giving massages. But it was her complaints about conditions in the prison, as well as the fact that she had written a book about her time there that seemed to ignite Sharon Osbourne’s ire. Among other things Giudice complained that “there was mold in the bathrooms. There was not running water constantly. The showers were freezing cold.”

Those statements got this response from Sharon Osbourne:

Does she realize how many people in this country live with mold and live with not very hot water in their homes, because you see love they pay their taxes, they don’t defraud the government. So you see this is what happens to good hard working people in this country who want to live a decent life. But for you, defrauding and somewhat of a two-bit con woman, you actually revolt me. And the thing is, it's just so stereotypical that somebody who's a two-bit celebrity goes into prison for whatever reason, comes out. They sell a story. Everybody wants to hear their story. Were you raped, love? God, I hope she wasn't. At least she would have gotten some enjoyment out of it.

Social media rapidly got involved and attacked Sharon Osbourne for the rape comment. She very quickly apologised. Sort of. But not to Teresa Giudice. In fact as Perez Hilton pointed out, “she mostly just said she didn't mean to offend any of her viewers and actually stood by her original statement regarding Teresa being raped — while forgetting her name in the process.”

We've had a lot of people that have been on our social media online saying I shouldn't made the comment about rape and the thing that in the context that it was used, really, people who know me know that I would never mean harm by saying that to people who have been in that situation. It was a throwaway remark and that's the way it should be taken. As a throwaway remark, not meant to hurt anybody. So I apologize if I have offended or hurt anybody other than that woman that we were talking about.

So here’s the thing. I certainly don’t want to defend Teresa Giudice, or promote her book, which is why one reason I’m not mentioning the name. She committed a crime, she served her time and was released for prison. And guess what; people who get released from prison tend to complain about conditions in prison. Martha Stewart wrote about her time in prison. So did Piper Kerman who’s book Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Woman’s Prison was the source material for the Netflix TV series Orange Is The New Black. (Coincidentally, Kerman who was convicted of money laundering and drug trafficking did her 13 month sentence at FCI Danbury, the same prison that Giudice was sent to.)

But apparently Sharon Osbourne doesn’t get this. She seems to think that Giudice deserved to be housed in these sorts of conditions because she’s “somewhat of a two-bit con woman.” Osbourne’s question, “Does she realize how many people in this country live with mold and live with not very hot water in their homes…” is probably unintentionally funny since I doubt that Sharon Osbourne knows the answer to that question either. The bit about Giudice being a “two-bit celebrity” is particularly ironic given that Giudice became known because of a reality series. So did Sharon Osbourne, at least to people outside of the music industry. If it wasn’t for the reality series The Osbournes, no one would pay attention to what Sharon said and she wouldn’t have the bully pulpit of a national TV talk show to say it on.

As for Teresa Giudice and her book I think the last word shouldn’t go to Sharon Osbourne but to an article at In it the writer Nico Lang points out “…it’s extremely alarming that women like Teresa Giudice get to profit off their kuh-ray-zee experiences, while the inmates they serve with don’t get book deals or hit television shows based off their time behind bars. A majority of these women (60 percent) will end up back in prison: Millions of ex-cons are unable to get a job because of felony convictions, while others struggle to adjust to life on the outside. For poor women of color across the country, prison isn’t a wacky anecdote. It’s an inescapable reality.”

Runners up:

Kanye West for his reference to Taylor Swift in his new song “Famous”. In it he raps “I feel like myself and Taylor might still have sex. I made that b*tch famous.”  And here I thought it was her talent that made her famous.

Port-of-Spain Trinidad Mayor Raymond Tim Kee for his reaction to the murder of a Japanese woman during Trinidad’s Carnival. Kee is reported to have said as part of a larger statement that, “The woman has the responsibility to ensure that they are not abused.” The woman, Asami Nagakiya was a frequent visitor to Trinidad and played as a member of a 120 person steel drum band that was participating in a competition during Carnival.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Week of February 1-7: Chris Bryant

 For suggesting that singing the song Delilah be banned at Interntational Rugby games featuring the Welsh team, Welsh Labout MP Chris Bryant is this week’s First Up Against The Wall Come The Revolution.

Chris Bryant is the Labour MP for Rhondda in Wales, and Shadow Leader of the House of Commons (which means that he works with the Government Leader of the House of Commons to organize the busniess of the House of Commons and to criticize the Government’s management of the House.

In the past week Mr. Bryant has made a statement calling for the banning of the singing of the classic Tom Jones song Delilah during Rugby Union matches, and in particular international matches such as those for the Six Nations Cup. Mr. Bryant describes the sang as being about “killing a prostitute” and encourages domestic violence against women. In his statement against the song, he says:

It is a simple fact that when there are big international rugby matches on, and sometimes football matches as well, the number of domestic violence incidents rises dramatically.
I know that some people will say, 'Oh, here we go, he's a terrible spoilsport,' but the truth is that that song is about the murder of a prostitute.
It goes right to the heart of the issues we are discussing. There are thousands of other songs we could sing.
I have sung 'Delilah' as well - everybody loves doing the 'She stood there laughing' moment- but if we are really going to take this issue seriously in Wales, we have to change how we do things.
Bryant isn’t the first Welsh politician to ask for the song to be banned. In late 2014, Welsh folksinger and former Plaid Cymru (the Welsh Nationalist Party) president Daffyd Iwan said this about the song:

It is a song about murder and it does tend to trivialise the idea of murdering a woman and it's a pity these words now have been elevated to the status of a secondary national anthem. I think we should rummage around for another song instead of Delilah.
The song originally recorded by Tom Jones in 1968 was written by Barry Mason (words) and Les Reed (music). It won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. Jones has said about the song that “This woman is unfaithful to him and [the narrator] just loses it ... It’s something that happens in life. I love to hear it being sung at Welsh games. It makes me very proud to be Welsh that they’re using one of my songs ... I don’t think the singers are really thinking about it ... If it’s going to be taken literally, I think it takes the fun out of it.”
According to the Wikipedia page on the song, “Welsh rugby fans have sung Delilah as an unofficial anthem since at least as early as the 1970s, so much so that it was referred to in the lyrics of one of the verses of Max Boyce's Hymns and Arias: "We sang 'Cwm Rhondda' and 'Delilah', damn they sounded both the same". Tom Jones performed it before Wales's historic rugby victory over England at Wembley Stadium in 1999. The Welsh Rugby Union now plays the song in Millennium Stadium before matches; the words to the song are shown on the big screens and the crowd sings along.
If we are to take what Mr Bryant is saying at face value – that Welsh Rugby fans singing this song somehow encourages violence against women by Rugby fans (otherwise why ban the song) – then we are dealing with a false syllogism; a case of post hoc ergo proctor hoc. The logic seems to be that (1) violence against women “rises dramatically after big international Rugby matches in Wales; (2) Delilah is sung during big international Rugby matches; therefore (3) Delilah being sung at big International Rugby matches causes increased violence against women, and (4) banning the singing of Delilah will lead to a reduction of violence towards women.
This theory has plenty of holes in it. You could just as easily say that (1) violence against women “rises dramatically after big international Rugby matches in Wales,  (2) therefore big International Rugby matches cause increased violence against women, and (3) banning them will lead to a reduction of violence towards women. Or you could say that (1) violence against women “rises dramatically after big international Rugby matches in Wales; (2) Rugby fans as a group tend to consume copious amounts of alcohol; therefore (3) banning the sale of alcohol to Rugby fans will lead to a reduction of violence towards women.
In my view, Bryant is taking the easy route with this by advocating a specific simple “solution” in a specific locality for a complicated problem that extends beyond the borders of Wales. I would not be surprised to learn that domestic violence increases dramatically following each year’s Super Bowl, or indeed after each week’s NFL games. Big problem that doesn’t have as simple a solution as others would hope.

Runners up for this week include:
Canadian Conservative MP Jason Kenney for heckling Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan
Utah State Senator Todd Weiler who introduced legislation in the State Senate to declare Pornography “a public health crisis”
And Donald Trump on general principle (Okay, after losing the Iowa Caucuses he accused the Ted Cruz campaign of stealing the vote and calling for the results to be nullified)

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Welcome to my new blog, First Against The Wall Come The Revolution! The premise is deadly simple. Each week I will post the picture of someone - celebrity, politician, business leader, person famous for being famous, or organization - who I think should be first against the wall come the revolution if I were running the revolution. Simple right?!

So there are depressingly few rules.

  • Rule One: No terrorists, spree killers or the Westboro Baptist Church. Let's face it we all want terrorists dead they're the ones who are trying to have a real revolution. Spree killers are pretty much all assholes too but with less political motivation. As for the Westboro Baptist Church, if I had to post their picture every time they annoyed me I'd never take their picture down, and it would get awfully repetitive for anyone who might read this.
  • Rule Two: No Poofters. And anyone who doesn't get that this is a reference to a very old Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch and gets offended because I'm attacking/defaming or otherwise being mean to gay people or some other group, well send me your pictures because you could be next week's candidate.
  • Rule Three: No seriously, don't send me your pictures. You might offer suggestions for next week's candidate however. Put them in the comment section. They will be considered but the final decision is always mine and my definition of who should go up against the wall will probably be quite different from yours.
  • Rule Four: A minimum of repeats. I'd like to make it no repeats, but hey, we're living in a world where Donald J. Trump is running for President of the United Freaking States, so no guarantees.
  • Rule Five: I reserve unto myself for perpetuity or whenever I get tired of doing this the right to post outside of my supposed weekly timeline if something too rich to be put off until the next week. I also reserve unto myself the right to on occasion post the image of someone who I so thoroughly agree with that I would let them lead the revolution (but they will be rare, and Bernie Sanders will not be one of them). Finally I reserve unto myself the right to post people who haven't been particularly egregious in a particular week but qualify for their cumulative efforts. You know, like Donald Trump from the time he tore down the architecturally significant Bonwit-Teller store, "destroying valuable Art Deco bas-relief sculptures on its facade, promised to the Metropolitan Museum of Art," to build the Trump Tower. In fact let's just say that I reserve unto myself the right to, on ocassion, break each of the previous four rules.
  • Rule Six: There is no Rule 6. (Monty Python reference again. Same sketch as a matter of fact.)
  • Rule Seven: I have absolutely no intention of leading a revolution in case you were wondering. I'm too old and too comfortable with my life.