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The Case of Marilyn Musgrave and the Dog Feces:

My latest media column for the Rocky Mountain News looks at coverage of the "activist" who put dog feces in the office mail slot of Rep. Marilyn Musgrave. Plus, News columnist Paul Campos misreads InstaPundit, Diane Carman falls for General Motors trolley car hoax, and The Nation wrongly charges the Colorado Rockies baseball team with racism.

Technology enabling: For folks who would like a RSS feed of my website, here's the URL: http://www.davekopel.org/feed.xml. I'm brand new to RSS, so suggestions for improvement are welcome. For a more retro technology, here's the link to the PDA-enabled version of my home page: http://www.davekopel.org/PDA.htm.

Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Who cares about Harriet Miers?

Instapundit dared Congress to prove their manliness by standing up against torture; when they did, Bush declared that he would disregard it anyway. What was Reynolds' position? I can't find it via Google or his site. From his parsing of the term, I'd say that it's fair to call him "objectively pro-torture," regardless of his statements to the contrary.
6.19.2006 11:27pm
therut:
Some people think torture could be the moral thing to do if it could prevent a greater evil. Even some very liberal professors think this way. Might the Catholic Churches doctrine of Just War elaborate on this. War is moral if it prevents a worse or greater evil. So I do not think the USA needs to say torture is never to be done. I think the policy was as usual knee jerk and if put in the right circumstances one would be a fool to follow the policy.
6.20.2006 12:01am
Average Joe (mail):
Cecil Adams also did a nice debunking of the General Motors - Los Angeles streetcar myth, which can be found here. I remember living the Los Angeles area in the late 1980's and hearing many intelligent and well-educated (or at least highly-credentialed) people discuss this myth as if it were fact. It has an amazing durability, like the myth of Catherine the Great and the horse. A more complete study of the history, spread, and enduring appeal of this urban legend would make for an interesting and perhaps enlightening aricle.
6.20.2006 12:04am
Freder Frederson (mail):
So I do not think the USA needs to say torture is never to be done.

Actually it is against U.S. and international law under any circumstances, and also unconstitutional and immoral. So it is not a question of whether the USA "needs" to say torture is never to be done, it is required by law and the Constitution to say so. End of story.

If the president or anyone in his administration approved of torture of anyone and he knew about it or found about it after the fact and covered it up, he should be impeached.
6.20.2006 12:28am
Freder Frederson (mail):
War is moral if it prevents a worse or greater evil.

Preventative wars are not moral or legal, only preemptive and defensive wars and wars to stop ongoing genocide.
6.20.2006 12:30am
HLSbertarian (mail):
therut said: "War is moral if it prevents a worse or greater evil."

Freder replied: "Preventative wars are not moral or legal, only preemptive and defensive wars and wars to stop ongoing genocide."

So, basically, wars that prevent certain great evils are morally and legally OK, but preventative wars are not? Umm...
6.20.2006 12:43am
Nobody Special:

Actually it is against U.S. and international law under any circumstances, and also unconstitutional and immoral.


Where in the Constitution is torture of enemies for information discussed? The Eighth Amendment discusses punishments, which are different.

And part of the whole President vs. Congress beef was whether Congress had the constitutional authority to ban the Executive branch from ordering torture, so saying "it's illegal" doesn't get you very far on its own.
6.20.2006 12:43am
Justin (mail):
Though if a whole TENS of posts amongst the thousands Reynolds writes may be critical of the Bush administration, he and Hewitt, like it or not, have the blogosphere's label of unabashed, no-matter-the-facts Bush supporter. Whether it is fair or not, your criticism both misses the mark (since it is that attitude that was being referenced by Campos) and is not any objective rebuttal regardless.
6.20.2006 12:54am
therut:
Just because a law is written does not make it moral or otherwise. Nor is a law written in stone. Some may need to be broken for the good of mankind. Anything decided and written by humans definately can have severe flaws some deadly. Laws are like the Constitution they are not a suicide pact.
6.20.2006 3:01am
The Divagator (mail) (www):
David, interesting column. I knew as soon as I read earlier this month the USA Today cover story on the Rockies finding religion that someone would take a shot at them.

Of course, since the article appeared, the Rocks are something like 8-11...maybe management should look for guys that can hit and pitch, too.
6.20.2006 3:55am
davod (mail):
The issue is not whether torture is illegal. The issue is what is torture.
6.20.2006 8:40am
davod (mail):
How did a blog on Democrats and dog S... end up with comments regarding torture. I can understand biological, or germ, warfare but torture?
6.20.2006 8:45am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Therut: My reading of the Constitution actually does make it a potential suicide pact. And that's a good thing...

The American voters have the right to change the Constitution in any manner they can gather a sufficient majority to do so. They can amend Congress out of existence (not likely, but still there). They can amend it to make keeping pets illegal. They can repeal one amendment and make a new one authorizing a "president for life".

We sincerely hope that the electorate doesn't get that stupid, but as at least one amendment has shown, they can get pretty stupid. That makes it all the more important to have congressional representatives and executive branch officials shy away from demogogery.
6.20.2006 11:09am
Freder Frederson (mail):
And part of the whole President vs. Congress beef was whether Congress had the constitutional authority to ban the Executive branch from ordering torture, so saying "it's illegal" doesn't get you very far on its own.

Actually, the president is bound by the International Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Degrading, or Inhuman Treatment or Punishment which his predecessor signed and Congress ratified. It is the law of the land and the president is bound by it. It would be a novel argument to say that the executive is not bound by a treaty that was negotiated by the executive branch itself. And note that the treat bans much creates a much higher bar than simply not torturing people.
6.20.2006 11:33am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Freder

But where specifically has our military, except for unsanctioned outliers, violated that treaty?
6.20.2006 12:27pm
byomtov (mail):
except for unsanctioned outliers,

Unsanctioned? Are you kidding? The things these "outliers" were doing were approved at the highest levels.
6.20.2006 12:36pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
But where specifically has our military, except for unsanctioned outliers, violated that treaty?

Good question, if only we knew the answer. It seems generally accepted that we have used waterboarding as a technique, which is almost universally accepted as torture, and even if the President doesn't think it raises to the level of "torture" it is certainly cruel and inhuman.

And then there is this. Now the general in charge of this investigation may think keeping detainees in a filing cabinet for up to two days does not constitute torture, but I sure as hell do. And note that the unit in question kept some detainees in 4' X 4' X 20" "rooms" for up to seven days. Was anyone punished for this? No, just told not to do it again.
6.20.2006 12:40pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Actually, the president is bound by the International Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Degrading, or Inhuman Treatment or Punishment which his predecessor signed and Congress ratified.


Except that when signing and ratifying the treaty, the United States made enough declarations and reservations to permit its current actions.
6.20.2006 12:45pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Except that when signing and ratifying the treaty, the United States made enough declarations and reservations to permit its current actions.

No it didn't. All the ratification did was limit the definition of torture and cruel and inhuman punishment to comport with the constitutional definition of cruel and unusual punishment. Some legal "scholars" now claim that means that only people protected by the constitution are protected by the treaty. That is absolute nonsense.
6.20.2006 12:57pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Except that when signing and ratifying the treaty, the United States made enough declarations and reservations to permit its current actions.

Try a little exercise. Find yourself a four foot by four foot by twenty inch box, have someone lock you in it with no light and feed you only bread and water for two days, letting you out only once every twelve hours or so for a bathroom break. Then come back to me and tell me if you think that is something the United States should be doing (and this is to people the president has stated over and over are covered by the Geneva Conventions).
6.20.2006 1:02pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Freder. There are a number of unpleasant things being done to people. See Basic Training. Or SERE. Or fraternity hazing.

The point is that normal people know the difference between those and having a four-foot spike pounded up your ass after you've been made to watch your children raped to death.

If it weren't for people like you hauling naked twister and panty-heading in to punch up the numbers, you might have some credibility when the real thing shows up.
6.20.2006 1:31pm
Truth Seeker:
Try a little exercise. Find yourself a four foot by four foot by twenty inch box, have someone lock you in it with no light and feed you only bread and water for two days, letting you out only once every twelve hours or so for a bathroom break. Then come back to me and tell me if you think that is something the United States should be doing...

If they are part of a plan to detonate a nuclear weapon in New York City, then let's make the box 3 feet, skip the bathroom breaks and hammer nails in it until they tell us who else is part of the plot and where the device in hidden.

As they say, the constitution and laws are not part of a suicide pact. It would be immoral not to use torture on one person to save the millions.
6.20.2006 1:31pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
If they are part of a plan to detonate a nuclear weapon in New York City, then let's make the box 3 feet, skip the bathroom breaks and hammer nails in it until they tell us who else is part of the plot and where the device in hidden.

Ahh, the famous ticking timebomb strawman. When it actually happens we can talk. I don't see where that has happened at anytime in the last four and a half years or the government has ever claimed such a thing to justify its actions.

If it weren't for people like you hauling naked twister and panty-heading in to punch up the numbers, you might have some credibility when the real thing shows up.

I'm confused, are you saying my current example is not "the real thing"? As for your examples, Basic training never reaches those extremes, SERE is specifically designed to teach soldiers to resist torture and illegal interrogation methods, so to claim that soldiers are subjected to such methods under strictly controlled conditions proves my point. As for fraternity hazing--it's illegal and people have been prosecuted for it.
6.20.2006 1:42pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I know, Freder. I know. The point is not that people haven't been prosecuted, or that you don't like something, or that SERE isn't harsh. It's that people know it isn't torture and claiming things like that...or possibly less severe...are torture ruins the credibility you used to have with people who know what it really is.

Remember the boy who cried wolf. As I''ve said before in other places, that story has lasted three thousand years for a reason.
6.20.2006 2:11pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Back to the original article -

David, neither you nor I should be the least bit surprised at esp. the Denver Post here. More and more it is editorializing on its news pages, doing it arguably more than the NYT. Rosen yesterday (I think) on his talk show mentioned the slice and dice "news" article by Susan Greene there about Beauprez, and how it was only not egregious in light of a previous news article of this type by Greene about Allard. And Vincent Carroll a week ago in a News article titled: "On Point: Post hones hatchet" suggested though that neither was quite at the level of the Post's "Gold Standard" hatchet job against Considine in 1992. (Note that David has most likely read all of these articles, as his articles seem to tag-team Carroll's in the News commentary section).

As for Paul Campos, a year or two ago, I wrote a letter to the editor at the Post about him and his often far-left rants (which I don't think was published). I suggested that both CU and the Post should be embarassed by Campos and his rants. Of course, that was before Ward Churchill, and I think that we can see from that affair that Campos is probably fairly moderate by CU standards.


[DK: This comment merits the coveted green border, because it actually has something to do with the original post. It's interesting how the comments got distracted by a ridiculous comment claiming, in essence, that InstaPundit was objectively "pro-torture." The torture discussion has been adequate, I would say, although it misses the nuance that a lot what is under discussion is, arguably, "degrading" or "inhuman" treatment (e.g., isolation in a small space), which is legally distinct from torture, although such treatment is still covered by various national and international laws.


As for Bruce's substantive comments, I agree with his criticisms about the Post's hit jobs on various politicians. However, I usually try to avoid topics that Vince Carroll has written about, which is one reason I've never written about the front-page political biographies in the Post. When Vince and I overlap, it's usually because I write my column on Tuesday or Wednesday (it's due Wed. night, for Sat. publication), and Vince writes about a similar topic in one of his columns later in the week.]
6.20.2006 2:17pm
therut:
Let us do a academic study for the next week. Let us see if any of the so called human rights groups, peoople from the left(name any you like), the UN groupies etc come out and condem and agree to prosecute the war crimes of the people who tortured and murdered our 2 military men in a way obviously against their beloved conventions and international law. Do not hold your breath waiting. Someone will say see it is our fault and we deserved this. I wrote the last sentence so many of you will not have to do so.
6.20.2006 2:25pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
It's that people know it isn't torture and claiming things like that...or possibly less severe...are torture ruins the credibility you used to have with people who know what it really is.

What "people" and what "it" are you referring to. Currently, the President constantly says "we don't torture", but of course he hasn't told us what he considers torture and what he doesn't (although I suspect he defines "torture" as Alberto Gonzales did in the supposedly repudiated torture memo). And of course simply not torturing detainees is not good enough. The law holds him to a higher standard. So even if what he says is true (and I for one think he is lying about that, I think he has authorized torture even under his very loose definition of torture), and we don't torture, the president is still breaking the law since we certainly use techniques that rise to the level of cruel and inhuman.
6.20.2006 2:33pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Let us see if any of the so called human rights groups, peoople from the left(name any you like), the UN groupies etc come out and condem and agree to prosecute the war crimes of the people who tortured and murdered our 2 military men in a way obviously against their beloved conventions and international law.

You know, I really don't know what kind of monster you think I am. Do you really think that I am anything but shocked and horrified by the kidnapping, apparent torture, and ultimate murder of two of our soldiers? Why on earth, when I have consistently argued forcefully and consistently that we should respect human rights be pleased when two young Americans spend their last hours in pain and terror?

My wife is in the Army and it is her career. Her father spent 24 years in the Marine Corps including two tours in Vietnam. She is currently on her second tour in Kuwait, where mercifully she is relatively safe. Do not mistake my displeasure with the policies of this administration for a hatred of the military. The military has been abused by this administration and its high standards of conduct have been comprimised by a civilian leadership who know and care little about duty and honor.
6.20.2006 2:43pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Hey, anyway, according to Richard, unless they had a four-foot spike pounded up their ass after watching their children raped to death, which seems pretty unlikely, the soldiers weren't really "tortured". So I don't know what you're getting all bent out of shape about.
6.20.2006 2:51pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Freder. Why have you been pushing the GC? We are to take your word for your motivation?

I don't think so.
6.20.2006 4:16pm
Houston Lawyer:
I long ago determined that if a politico is in trouble and his party affiliation is not mentioned in the first paragraph, he is a Democrat. This saves me the trouble of reading all the way to the end of the article to verify this fact. When republicans are in trouble, their party affiliation is usually part of the headline.

This goes along with the rule that women won't prosecute democrat office holders for sex offenses.
6.20.2006 5:04pm
Colin (mail):
"This saves me the trouble of reading all the way to the end of the article to verify this fact."

Skipping the facts probably does save a lot of time.
6.20.2006 5:33pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):

although I suspect he defines "torture" as Alberto Gonzales did in the supposedly repudiated torture memo


The memo to which you refer was written by John Yoo, now a Professor at Boalt Hall (UC Berkeley), and a former clerk for Clarence Thomas (why doesn't that fact surprise me?). When a grown-up in the DOJ read it (Comey), and the memo was leaked to the media, the DOJ pulled it.

Perhaps you are thinking of Gonzales' memo, written to GW Bush when Gonzales was the White Housel Counsel, in which he calls some of the protections afforded by the Geneva Convention "quaint" and suggests that the GC doesn't apply in this "war on terror"?
6.20.2006 7:49pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
As for the General Motors "trolley car hoax," I have seen Roger Rabbit and know the truth, sir.
6.20.2006 7:50pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Freder. Why have you been pushing the GC? We are to take your word for your motivation?

Why are you so eager to define torture to be only the most heinous acts?
6.20.2006 9:53pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Freder. Because that's the definition.

You are not stupid. You know that there is no, zero, possibility of any interest on the part of our enemies in being nice to our guys based on our adhering to a document which, in their eyes, only proves our weakness and effeteness.

Since you are not stupid, your insistence that we should adhere to the GC must have some other reason. Since you pretend it's what it cannot be, then you must be unwilling for us to know your reason.
6.21.2006 12:00am
Freder Frederson (mail):
Freder. Because that's the definition.

I would really like to know your definition of torture. It seems extreme. And where do you get your definition of torture? Here is the definition from the Convention

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.


All it requires is the infliction of severe pain or suffering, either mental or physical. Your examples are extreme forms of torture and way beyond the threshold of what constitutes torture.

As for the Geneva Conventions. It is not my private opinion that the Conventions are applicable to detainees in Iraq. The president has stated it repeatedly. And he is correct. When we first went in we were fighting a country that was a signatory and unless they committed repeated and serious breaches of the accords we were bound by them. Even if that had occurred, once we officially became an occupying power we were bound by the Geneva Conventions no matter how blatantly Saddam's government may have violated them. Now that Iraq is once again a sovereign nation, our soldiers, in the absence of any kind of formal status of forces agreement with Iraq, are once again bound by Geneva and the UCMJ (which is in many respects stricter) as the minimal standards of conduct.

So I don't know where you get off saying that the GC somehow do not apply in Iraq. Even the president has consistently and repeatedly said they do.
6.21.2006 12:40pm
big dirigible (mail) (www):
There really should be a check box as part of every blog comment - "check here if you have actually read and understood the Geneva Conventions [even the boring ones], and the Hague Conventions while you're at it" - and if the box isn't checked, and the writer mentions Geneva or the Hague, the post should be spontaneously erased. It would save the world a boatload of time.

Ditto for anyone who rants about "torture" without defining it. What is it, exactly? You need that before you can fairly put your outrage dial at "11". Do you adhere to the customary definition (derived from practical and actual historical usage, much like, say, the "three mile limit", which was based on the historical range of shore-based artillery)? Or does refusal to fund a detainee's 401K count as torture? (I suspect the Times believes that). Alleged Koran abuse? Is that torture if the detainee witnesses it? The concept of torture has been debased to meaninglessness, much like feminist definitions of "rape". A vague concept of "torture" is merely another tool with which to bash Bush, and hence of little real interest.
6.22.2006 3:06pm
Mike Lorrey (mail) (www):
I believe I can document the origins of the "General Motors trolleycar hoax". At one time, General Motors owned the bus maker now known as MCI, whose primary customer is Greyhound. Vermont Transit, a private bus company covering Vermont and much of the rest of New England, was also a customer. Their original headquarters was in Burlington, VT, which at one time had a very nice trolley car system as well. However, at one time, they succeeded in shutting down the trolley car system due to poor management, and the President of Vermont Transit (now a subsidiary of Greyhound) has a photograph of the last Burlington trolley car being burned to celebrate the purchase of a bunch of new GM/MCI made buses....
6.22.2006 4:58pm