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.

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