Sunday, June 26, 2005

Friday, June 24, 2005

A little more on Sanchez

I wrote about the torture memo signed by Lt. General Sanchez a while back. Since then I've brought it up in discussions a few times (fruitlessly). Now Think Progress has a good summary of what's wrong with Sanchez, which is primarily of interest because he's being considered for a promotion.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

To war or not to war.

Garou left a long and interesting comment on my "Bush decided..." post.
"Fixed around" is not the same thing as "fixed". In other words, the Bush administration was going through the intelligence data as you might a buffet table. A little bit of nuclear proliferation, a dab of WMD, perhaps a dollop of ties to al Quaida. Now, there were dissenting opinions as to these intelligence data (a casserole of total disarmament, a salad of no terror ties, etc) - but intelligence is a messy game. There are rarely hard and fast absolutes - and so it is fairly normal (as I understand it) to go with what is more likely.
If they'd gone with what was most likely, that's one thing. If they went instead with what most supported their already-made decision, that's something else. Cherry picking the truth to support a position isn't much better than just fabricating it.
In this case, we knew that he possessed WMDs at one point (since we sold them), and pretty much every country spent the 1990's telling each other how bad Saddam was, and how much evil he was wanting to do. So, Occam's Razor (and human nature) would indicate that intelligence which indicated this is more probable than intelligence which indicated otherwise.
I'll concede that they really did think that Saddam had the dreaded WMDs. You could even say they had good reason to think that (though I don't think they did). It's beside my point.

See here. In October 2002, the National Intelligence Estimate (by the CIA and others) said that Iraq had nothing to do with al-Qaida, hadn't sponsored past terrorist attacks on America, and probably wouldn't in the future.

Two weeks later, Bush is telling us this:
This is a man that we know has had connections with al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army.
As I pasted that, I just noticed the "in my judgment" in there. In light of the report, it looks as though he's saying, "my advisors say one thing, but in my judgment something else is true."

I digress. That lie was beside my point too.
Anyway, while it might seem a tad suprising that the decision was in place, it shouldn't be. It was almost a given that the UN wouldn't do anything more forceful than pass another resolution - which Saddam was likely to ignore as well.
It would have been a lot less surprising also if the President hadn't told us exactly the opposite over and over. If he thinks we're going to war, but he's going to try some other stuff first, there's nothing wrong with that. What bothers me is that he'll think that but say to us instead, "You said we're headed to war in Iraq—I don't know why you say that. I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq. I'm the person who gets to decide, not you. I hope this can be done peacefully."

Reading over all those "not going to war" quotes again, it looks more and more like President Bush had decided "try some stuff first, but then go to war" and just didn't want to get caught saying it. There's a lot of "hope we don't" and "our actions are really up to them" and "gosh, we don't want to" without ever addressing what he actually thought would happen. That seems misleading to me.

Why did we invade Iraq?

This is a good question, which I swiped for another post. I'm not proud.

There's a possible answer that I've heard float around for a long time, but I don't hear it talked about much. I can't quite tell if it's a crackpot conspiracy theory or a complex truth ill-suited to the sound bites required to get it into the public consciousness.

Someone who used to work at the Pentagon says that the reason for the Iraq war was that the U.N. would have let Iraq sell oil for euros, not dollars. The fact that all the oil producing nations in the world sell their oil only for American dollars is very important to America's economy.

Once sanctions on Iraq were lifted (and The Duelfer report said that Saddam was close to getting that), Iraq would sell oil for something other than dollars and threaten the dollar's place in the world economy. Perhaps that was what the Bush administration considered the real imminent threat.

As I said, I'm not sure I believe it, but I don't believe a lot of the other reasons given either.

Thanks to Pacific Views for the link to Soldier for the Truth.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bush decided, then lied about it.

The Downing Street memo reveals a few things. The part everyone is focusing on is this:
Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
Some have said that this can't mean what it looks like. Was intelligence altered to fit a conclusion already reached? They point out that the Senate Intelligence Committee report says "The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities." On the other hand, this says:
Republicans noted in the report's conclusion that no intelligence analysts had said they were pressured. But Democrats objected, saying there was ample evidence that top Bush administration officials had intimidated analysts to twist their judgments about whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

In the end, the committee decided to put off consideration of the Bush administration's use of intelligence, all but guaranteeing the issue a prominent role in the campaign.
So it looks to me like an open question.

To be honest, I don't think that the administration necessarily tried to fabricate intelligence. I think, rather, they wanted a particular conclusion and weren't afraid to say so. I could hear someone saying, "There must be a connection between Iraq and terrorists. Can't someone find the evidence for me?" They wouldn't have to say "please go make something up" for some underling to get that message.

Then there's this: Actual British People Not Confused About What "Fixed" Means. I think that pretty well decides it, but I'm sure there will still be disagreement.

There's another problem here, however, and it seems to be ignored a lot by Bush's defenders. The memo says that a war with Iraq was a foregone conclusion. They'd already decided that's what would happen. Regardless of that, President Bush kept telling Americans that he hadn't made up his mind. That's the real lie revealed by the Downing Street memo, but all I hear the right talk about is the case for weapons of mass destruction. When did President Bush decide to attack Iraq, and why?


A year ago, I wrote "It's still rockin' XOR to me.", which I thought was a clever title for a post until it became popular. That post was about a program which used XOR to create files with ambiguous copyright properties. The gist of my post was mainly that "this is nothing new." Then I linked to very similar ideas that had floated in years before. Besides my "nothing new" assertion, I characterized an earlier debate which concluded, basically, "this won't work."

That post has been seen many times, largely because Copyfight linked to it.

Recently, proponents of yet another technical system for ambiguating copyrights came across it and posted a comment. I replied that they should read Matthew Skala's much better articles on the subject: "What Colour are your bits?" and "Colour, social beings, and undecidability." I think he really puts his finger on the misunderstandings at work here, and he completely convinced me that making a point about copyright with encoding hocus pocus is a dead end.

Still, I don't want to be closed minded, so I read their paper anyway. I find that the system they're talking about is pretty close to a system I linked to from five years ago, but with more automation.

Instead of focusing on the contents of files, the OFF System folks focus on ownership. They've basically shown that there's no sane way to assert ownership of blocks in their system, so there must be something wrong with the idea of ownership.

Here's an example of the thinking:
The separation of possession from violation is counter intuitive to many people. It is often attacked as follows: If block Z is copyrighted by Brittney, and you without permission possess a block B and a block C such that they XOR together to reproduce block Z, then you possess an encoding of block Z and have violated Brittney's copyright.

This logic is easily shown false by the following scenario:

[details omitted]

In the above case Morgan can legitimately hold blocks B, C, D, and E in order to reproduce blocks X and Y. Holding these blocks in no way implies that Morgan has ever reproduced Z, intends to reproduce Z, or knows he can reproduce Z.
I want to focus on that last statement.

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that intent and knowledge are important. Courts have ways of determining what was intended and what was known, and passing judgments based on those things. That's not to say they can do this perfectly, but in some sense, that's their job. I think a court would agree that Morgan hasn't done anything wrong (but I'm still not a lawyer).

If you have a computer throwing randomly generated data around willy-nilly with no criminal intent, that's fine. If your system, however, is some sleight-of-hand, obviously designed to confuse a judge, I doubt the law will look favorably on that.

In short, the law doesn't care about encodings. If your system is used to produce something perceived as identical to a copyrighted work (without permission), that's illegal. Of course, the folks who made the system have heard this before.
That is why, the team took the time to actually put together content and burn it to CD. According to traditional understanding, there must exist things that are on the "Shock CD" and things that are not on the Shock CD.
This is still the wrong focus. Copyright isn't concerned so much with possession as it is with reproduction. If you look at the rights copyright grants, "possession" isn't among them. They're all to do with production, distribution, display, and performance. What the designers of the OFF System have done is create a system that reproduces something without "having" it anywhere, but the fact that there's no possession of copyrighted works is irrelevant as long as they're produced.

Deniability is not the same as legality, and it's especially not the same as innocence. Reproducing copyrighted works without permission is illegal, and the "no copyrighted works up my sleeve" bit doesn't change that.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Next to last throe.

Garou had some wise words for my recent "last throes" post:
In Iraq, the primary targets remain US troops. But, we are seeing increasingly indesciminate attacks on the civilian population - not just among members of the new government (officials, police, etc), but among random civilians. As more of those occur, the civilians are going to be less inclined to support the insurgency.
With that in mind, I spent a few minutes at Iraq Body Count (IBC), and I learned that, indeed, civilian deaths are going up. However:
  1. The site doesn't distinguish "civilians not cooperating with Americans killed by insurgents" from any other group.
  2. Reported incidents have been going up pretty constantly since May 2003.
  3. Reported deaths are not at record highs.
Basically, I don't see a lot of difference between now and March 2004 or August 2003, but it is possible there's a difference. I graphed some data I found at IBC, and you're welcome to see for yourself. The trend in incidents is obvious, but the trend in deaths is less obvious, and again, it doesn't distinguish between deaths that turn Iraqis against Americans vs. deaths that turn Iraqis against the insurgents.

Finally, while this search for truth is interesting (and notably fruitless), my mind keeps wandering back to what the metaphorical White House is saying: "we think the resistance is about to end, but we can't tell you why." Maybe they're right, but the statement does not instill confidence.

Friday, June 17, 2005

I got your "last throes" right here.

The Cunning Realist points out an exchange between White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and ABC's Terry Moran. Long story short, Moran asks seven times about Vice President Cheney's claim that the Iraq insurgency is in its "last throes", and never gets a straight answer. Here are the questions he asked:
  1. Scott, is the insurgency in Iraq in its 'last throes'?
  2. But the insurgency is in its last throes?
  3. But they're killing more Americans, they're killing more Iraqis. That's the last throes?
  4. Right. What is the evidence that the insurgency is in its last throes?
  5. What's the evidence on the ground that it's being extinguished?
  6. Well, I'm just wondering what the metric is for measuring the defeat of the insurgency.
  7. Yes. Is there any idea how long a 'last throe' lasts for?
These would be legitimate and answerable questions if the insurgency were in its last throes. Even if they were wrong but sincere, there'd be some reason they could give for thinking what they do. That the White House has no legitimate answers convinces me that the insurgency is not in its last throes, and they know it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Lyrics wiki killed by copyright.

Remember when I wrote that LyricsWiki was cool, but I was afraid it would be crushed like others before? Well, here's the notice on its front page:
We are sorry, the lyrics wiki has haulted due to the possibility that lyrics posted to the wiki violate copyrights. Please send any comments to [email address].
Man, I hate it when I'm right.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Power Line vs. Krugman

I'm a little confused.

Krugman says that government policies have favored the wealthy at the expense of working families. To support this, he points out that incomes for the very wealthy (the famed "top 1%" and "top .1%") have risen a lot faster (doubled and tripled, respectively) than the incomes of median families (22%) since 1973.

Power Line's response is that families are more fragmented. There are more single parents than there were back then, and of course they make less than they did. That sounds reasonable. Factor out those folks and just focus on "married-couple families", and you see that their income rose 33% (described as "hefty").

I take it that a 33% increase is supposed to look pretty good compared to 100% ("double").

And then there's this line from Krugman: "much of that gain was the result of wives' entering the paid labor force or working longer hours, not rising wages." (But there's dispute about that too.)

Hinderaker goes on to say that Krugman's figures for the top 1% can't be verified, and he assumes they're "a bogus partisan calculation." He may be right, but he certainly doesn't prove it. He says also that since those numbers must be from a different source than the first numbers, it's not a fair comparison. I'm not sure how that can be true unless the different sources are measuring "income" differently, but this is another area that's pretty well restricted to speculation.

Now, the confusion. What has Power Line shown except that they can't actually refute what Krugman says, but they assume it's wrong?

Some topics just can't make a joke.

I hesitate to discuss this topic, but I'm hoping that if I make my point with an example other than the one everyone is talking about, I'll be able to make my point without losing a limb.

About a decade ago, there was a movie that was, by all accounts, very violent. Some said it glorified violence. Many were nauseated by how violent it was. They were, shall we say, unhappy with the (violent) movie.

The director, however, said that the whole point of the movie was to ridicule the glorification of violence. It was a satire. The violence in the movie was meant to be over the top to an extent that people would then see "ordinary" movie violence as also odious. "Hey," he said, "I'm on your side."

So here's the problem: ridiculing something by showing it in the extreme. To a lot of people, violence in movies (and on the evening news) has already gone too far. You can't convince them that it's gone too far, only that you've gone even further.

That was ten years ago. Today, there's an ad for a TV show that depicts a couple of women in a pie fight. I'll say right now that I don't know that this situation is analogous to the movie. I don't know that it was meant to make fun of shows that depict pie fighting women as a source of entertainment. Nevertheless, that was my initial reaction to it: it's a dumb joke, ridiculing demeaning shows by showing an extreme example.

Others have looked at it not as satire on sexist entertainment but as sexist entertainment. I consider this a difference of perspective. I don't think the ad has an intrinsic meaning, only interpretations. We could ask the people who made it what their intent was, but that won't make anyone's reaction to it any less valid.

I'm trying hard not to enter the debate about whether the ad was offensive or what I think of the resulting discussion. That way lies madness; it's fraught with peril.

All I want to point out is that this has happened before, and will probably happen again. Even if the intent is good (which I don't know that it was, in the case of the ad), there are certain things that I think can't be satirized in a way that won't certainly be popularly misconstrued.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Nine out of ten ex spirits agree.

I wish it to be known that, among other lesser stressors in the great disturbance in The Force that we call life, I have discovered that it ain't easy bein' cheesy.

Also, I've heard that pimpin' ain't easy, but I can neither confirm nor deny that allegation.

It's not that easy being green, either, I have learned. Let it not be said that I do not share my education with my gentle readers.

If my morning sick wife were here, she'd tell you furthermore, that, all other things being equal, it's not easy...being queasy.

Don't hurt me, please.

Jackson got off.

I've also heard Jackson "beat it." The verdict isn't so much a matter of justice or injustice as it is a cue for the direction the Jackson jokes are to take next. Me, I knew it was just a rumor.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Baby on board.

My wife is pregnant with our second child. The due date is December 20. We've known about the conception for a while, but I've held off on a public notice until I had a due date since that's the first question everyone asks.

The next question is usually some form of "boy or girl?" Our answer is typically "healthy." Our daughter is usually very definite about which she wants, but it can change from day to day.

We've more or less settled on naming a girl Ava, but I don't think that's set in stone.

Anyway, in another two months we do the ultrasound that will tell us the sex of the baby, and we're going to look, just like we did last time. If it's a girl, we haul out the bagged newborn clothes and launder them. If it's a boy, we remove the pink ones first.

Our daughter knows, and tells anyone who will listen, "my mommy has a baby in her tummy." I like the idea of having her witness the birth herself, but with two reservations: (1) it might be well outside her waking hours, and (2) there will be an unending stream of "what's happening?" and "why?" and so on, so I'd spend my time either answering her or paying attention to the birth, but not both.

During the first pregnancy, my wife was so nauseated that she could hardly eat and lost weight while most women are gaining. The nausea hasn't been as bad this time around, but she's still losing weight.

I'm looking forward to another newborn, another baby. We've said for a while that our daughter should have a sibling. I need to start getting in shape for all the lifting. One thing that took me by surprise four years ago was how very physical the new job was.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Released terrorists lie to us.

I've seen the "trained to lie" line float around quite a bit since I wrote about it a while back. As I said before, whether terrorists are trained to do that is open to some interpretation, but leave that aside for a moment.

Some of the allegations of mistreatment come from detainees we've released. It seems obvious that the "trained to lie" bit doesn't apply to them because it means either:
  1. We released a trained terrorist.
  2. We released someone who wasn't trained to lie.
Alert readers might think released prisoners have some other reason to lie. That's true, but it's hardly the same as deliberate training.

Long story short, it's been a little over a week, and I'm already really tired of this particular argument.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


It's shocking the number of cleaning projects that I consider solved the same way: take it out back and hose it off. I just applied this solution to the rabbit cage, and it was just what the doctor ordered. I've almost taken the hamster cage out there a few times, but I usually settle for the vacuum cleaner. Dog steps in his own poop? Take him out back and hose him off! Folding chairs, lawn furniture, small animals, and many many more, all clean, fresh, and hosed.

Fahrenhype 9/11

I know it's old news, but I just watched Fahrenhype 9/11. For those who don't know, it's a response to Fahrenheit 9/11, the anti-Bush documentary by Michael Moore.

I was impressed with how similar it was to the movie it criticized. There were places in it that I thought not merely "that's a bad argument" but "they're leaving out something important here." (For instance, there was a brief discussion of the history of Osama bin Laden which included him moving to Afghanistan but did not mention that the United States trained him there to fight the Russians.) I wish I had time to track down all the claims made in it, but I just wanted to highlight a few things.

The movies aren't exactly mirror images, though. While Fahrenheit 9/11 was largely an attack on George Bush, Fahrenhype 9/11 is mostly an attack on Michael Moore and very little a defense of Bush.

They say the gap between President Bush receiving word of the second tower being hit and actually getting up from his photo op to do something was five minutes rather than seven. I'm not sure that's a big enough difference to spend time on it. In any case, the movie also presented the false dilemma of either finishing the photo op or jumping up and dashing from the room, causing more panic. (The fallacy implies that remaining for the photo op was the right choice.) I don't think it would have been terrible if the President had interrupted, told the kids he had some Presidentially important business to take care of, said some diplomatic goodbye, and left. I don't think anyone would look at that and say he was sowing panic, and I can't imagine anyone looking at that and saying he was not doing his duty. (So, Coulter, if you're reading, there's a liberal telling you what the President should have done.)

The movie pointed out that Moore worked for Nader in his failed campaign and suggested he might be bitter. I can't tell if that's a straw man or ad hominem, but it was a claim I hadn't heard before (and admittedly more interesting than the more usual "Michael Moore is fat!").

In general a lot of the things the movie talked about were things detailed on a web page I'd already read, so it didn't surprise me. Other things I listened to skeptically (much as I did Moore's film). A lot of the film consisted of various appeals to emotion in an effort to cement some opinions.

I hadn't heard about the misrepresentation of the President's remarks at a Catholic fund raiser, but it doesn't surprise me. It reminds me of Hillary Clinton being taken out of context.

I hadn't heard about Saddam's threats to attack the United States, but I'm not sure that what the movie talked about I'd really call threats from Iraq. Newspapers controlled by Saddam would print things saying the US should be attacked, for instance.

There was a lot of fear mongering. The movie emphasized threats. It emphasized "we're at war" and "these people want to kill us." In defense of the USA PATRIOT Act, it talked about a plot to demolish the Brooklyn Bridge (another story I hadn't heard). It also listed other terrorist attacks on the United States that took place outside the borders.

I think fear has a lot to do with why people supported the President (and why people didn't support the President), but I was still surprised at the amount of fear mongering.

There was some "blame Clinton for not doing anything" and maybe some "Clinton did the same thing." I think the implication is that if you criticize Bush for something that you didn't criticize Clinton for, you're at least biased or at most a hypocrite. How that makes Bush any better, I'm not quite sure.

One thing that struck me was in an interview, someone was asked "if you knew there were no WMDs, would you still want to go to war?" The answer was "yes" (naturally), but he went on to explain that it was very reasonable to think that Iraq was a threat—even though Iraq not being a threat was a premise of the question.

I thought it was interesting that Zell Miller's copperhead anecdote segued into the fly paper analogy. (In the anecdote, Miller kills an obvious threat without consulting anyone, implying that Iraq's threat was as obvious as a venomous snake two feet away.)

All in all, I'm glad I watched it, but it had a surprising effect. After seeing "the other side" do basically the same kinds of things Moore did, I don't feel quite the same condemnation toward Moore himself. Before, I liked Moore's conclusion (Bush bad, m'kay) but disliked how he showed it (look, look, Taliban in the same state as Governor Bush). He could have made good arguments, but instead he opened himself up to attack. Having seen the right's righteous response, I'm starting to think everyone "does propaganda," and it's just part of politics.

Practice makes perfect.

You know why I can zip, button, and buckle my pants one handed? It's from answering my cell phone in the bathroom at work...and still holding it to my ear when I'm done.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Apple to use Intel chips.

Apple is going to support x86 chips with Mac OS X. I kind of like that idea, but I get a real "sky is falling" slippery slope vibe from it.
  1. Users whine, "why doesn't my ISA NE2K compatible that I bought at a garage sale work?"
  2. Apple has to learn to put up with badly designed hardware.
  3. The OS starts to look bad because there's nothing you can do with bad hardware but suck on it.
  4. A few kitties down the road and Apple is making software that is held in about the same esteem as Windows.
Five years from now we can review this post in attempt to measure my psychic abilities. I'd tell you now what the results will be, but I don't want to spoil the surprise.

The "marriage is already open to all" argument.

From Homosexual "Marriage" and Civilization:
So it is a flat lie to say that homosexuals are deprived of any civil right pertaining to marriage. To get those civil rights, all homosexuals have to do is find someone of the opposite sex willing to join them in marriage.

In order to claim that they are deprived, you have to change the meaning of "marriage" to include a relationship that it has never included before this generation, anywhere on earth.
A lot of the gay marriage debate, I think, shows shades of the interracial marriage debate that came before it. This argument could have been made at that time like so:
Blacks are not deprived of any civil rights pertaining to marriage because they can still marry other black people.
The civil right we're talking about is the right for people to marry someone who wants to marry them, regardless of who that is.

The author claims this requires that we redefine marriage. Perhaps that's the case. As I said before, I think churches are well within their rights to do that, if they so choose. If holy matrimony is based on the Bible and Jesus says gay marriage is good, who are we to argue? I'm sure some churches also got into hot water allowing both blacks and whites in the same sanctuary at one time.

Some would say that allowing people to marry who they want would require that we justify also bans on "polygamy, bestiality, incest and perhaps even pedophilia." Minors and pets are not considered legally able to give consent to marriage, so I don't expect marriages to them to be legal any more than they are already. Polygamy and incest have their own arguments against them, and they have not been legalized in other nations that allow gays to marry. I don't see any reason to believe America will be different in this regard.

Traditional marriage is exactly that: traditional. Traditions don't always wear well over time. Interracial marriage went against tradition, but the sky did not fall. I know that doesn't mean the sky can't fall this time, but I do think it's reason to believe it won't.

My adult daughter.

I frequently think of my daughter being much older than she is. When she plays dress-up with fake butterfly wings and a wand, I think ahead to a teenager who will obsess over a prom dress. When she was a baby, I had a dream of her as a grown woman with short blonde hair and a babyish face.

I went to wake her from a nap, and she stubbornly refused to rouse. I leaned in close and whispered to her to wake up, a hand rubbing her back as my mom rubbed mine many many times. She frowned, clenched her eyes tight, whined without a word, and rolled over to face the wall. Then she pulled her covers completely over her head.

I looked at her toddler bed with no toddler to be seen, just a pink Hello Kitty blanket over a lump of crabbiness. I imagined this same interaction playing out hundreds of times over the next 15 years. She'll double her weight and not quite double her height, but she'll be the same daughter.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A good saying is hard to find.

Here's a saying you'll never hear: A good dog is hard to find. The reason you'll never hear it is because dogs are virtuous. People, not so much. On the other hand, "dog bites man" is not considered news. I think I'm confused.

Friday, June 03, 2005

I did not die.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
That was on the programs at my mom's funeral. I just happened to run across it on the net, and it still brings tears.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

So you want to be a terrorist?

In a recent discussion, someone said that terrorists have a training manual which states that they should claim to be tortured any time they've been captured. This sounds like a good tactic for them, but I'd never heard this idea before, and I went looking.

I suspect that most of those repeating this idea now heard it from this post at Power Line.
The military also claims to have gained valuable information from Gitmo detainees about how al Qaeda's leadership functions -- how it communicates and moves money, for example. It has also learned the details of how al Qaeda trains its fighters. One key element of the training is to complain, if captured, about "torture."
The article it links to does not say that we've learned about this training from captured people but from captured documents. I quote:
In a raid on an al Qaeda cell in Manchester, British authorities seized al Qaeda's most extensive manual for how to wage war.
Folks may also have heard about the manual from a Press Briefing by Scott McClellan. Quoth the White House, "We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports. We know that's one of their tactics that they use."

Still seeking more detail for this story, I eventually found the Al Qaeda Training Manual at the United States Department of Justice. In a rare fit of conspiracy-minded paranoia, I thought to myself that I probably wouldn't want to download the PDF files they present if I weren't using Tor to make myself anonymous. After all, getting the terrorist handbook can only mean guilt.

But I digress.

Here's another quote from the Washington Times article:
A directive lists one mission as "spreading rumors and writing statements that instigate people against the enemy."

If captured, the manual states, "At the beginning of the trial ... the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge. Complain of mistreatment while in prison."
The article puts these things together, but in the actual manual, they're far apart. The bit about spreading rumors is in the first lesson, which I don't see mentioning torture anywhere else (though I confess I haven't read it all). The part about the trial is in lesson 18 at the end of the manual. By my reading, it doesn't say anywhere that they should lie about being tortured, but it does say to complain about it without mentioning whether it's true.

What have I learned?
  1. The Al Qaeda Training Manual does say to claim to be tortured regardless of whether it's happened.
  2. As this has been relayed, it's been distorted.
  3. It may explain claims of (for instance) Koran abuse, but (duh) pictures of tortured prisoners aren't fake.
  4. I feel a paradox coming on.
I can't resist bringing up one more possibility. The manual on the DOJ site is a translation. It's possible that it's completely fake. The manual is there just to give credence to the "torture victims are liars" line and perhaps other things the administration will want to claim later.

It's sad that I consider that possibility as more than a fun conspiracy theory. My own government has blown its credibility so badly that I find it hard to tell whether they're telling the truth when compared to possible criminals.

UPDATE: A couple of Obsidian Wings readers who read more of the manual than I did think it sounds more like the authors assumed their "brothers" would be mistreated in captivity and gave instructions to make sure people knew about it. Since the manual isn't whole, it's hard to tell. That they assume mistreatment was my initial reading also, but I could see how someone could read it another way.

Orson Scott Card on gay marriage.

My sister commented on this to ask:
So, according to OSC, marriage is defined as a relationship that can directly produce children?
I reread Card's article and tried to distill his points from it. I got this list:
  • Judiciary is redefining "marriage," and that's not its job.
  • It's a slippery slope leading to "anyone who upholds the fundamental meaning that marriage has always had [...] is [considered] mentally ill."
  • There will be devastating unintended effects.
  • Homosexuals have the right to marry (the opposite sex).
  • Parents model roles for children. Kids need them for confidence.
  • Lives of children without one parent are "deformed." They're "lost" children.
  • The prevalence of divorce in society makes children fearful.
  • Stable marriages make society stable too.
  • Stable marriages make civilized children who perpetuate civilization.
  • Homosexual marriage isn't marriage because it doesn't create/raise children in a way beneficial to civilization.
  • More kids will choose to be homosexuals. OSC states explicitly that homosexuality is not something people are born with.
  • As culture becomes hostile to parents, parents will stop supporting the culture, and it will die.
To nutshell this as much as possible, he seems to be saying:
  1. Homosexual marriage leads to...
  2. Kids who can't marry/parent leads to...
  3. Divorce leads to...
  4. Social/civil decay leads to...
  5. Chaos and madness.
If you think that's hyperbole, here's a quote:
So either civilized people will succeed in establishing a government that protects the family; or civilized people will withdraw their allegiance from the government that won't protect it; or the politically correct barbarians will have complete victory over the family -- and, lacking the strong family structure on which civilization depends, our civilization will collapse or fade away.
I think it's possible that gay marriage will have unintended consequences, though I highly doubt they will be as dire as the fall of civilization. There are things Card says that I agree with, but a lot that I don't. I think that the article, once I tried to understand it, has more of a point than I thought. What I mean is, I finally get a sense of why some people think that gay marriage will lead to the ruin of America, even if I disagree. I'll save the details of that for future posts.

Ultimately, what really irritates me about the article is the disrespect it has for its opposition. Here's a sample:
Parents in a stable marriage are much better than schools at civilizing children. You have to be a fanatical ideologue not to recognize this as an obvious truth -- in other words, you have to dumb down or radically twist the definition of "civilizing children" in order to claim that parents are not, on the whole, better at it.
(Emphasis added.)

I think I would have understood Card's points a lot better if I weren't recoiling from the vitriol every few paragraphs.

So, Lee, to answer your question, yes, I think his definition of marriage is one that's tied directly to children, but it's not so much a matter of bearing children as it's a matter of raising children. He thinks that homosexual couples cannot raise children as well as heterosexual couples, so they're not really marriages.