Friday, May 29, 2009

Now That's Inhanced Interrogation

When it comes to "interrogation techniques" here's an enhancement that I can support. The suspected terrorist, Abu Jandal, was Osama bin Laden's bodyguard, and one very tough customer. So how do you make him talk?:

Abu Jandal had been in a Yemeni prison for nearly a year when Ali Soufan of the FBI and Robert McFadden of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrived to interrogate him in the week after 9/11. Although there was already evidence that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, American authorities needed conclusive proof, not least to satisfy skeptics like Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whose support was essential for any action against the terrorist organization. U.S. intelligence agencies also needed a better understanding of al-Qaeda's structure and leadership. Abu Jandal was the perfect source: the Yemeni who grew up in Saudi Arabia had been bin Laden's chief bodyguard, trusted not only to protect him but also to put a bullet in his head rather than let him be captured.

Abu Jandal's guards were so intimidated by him, they wore masks to hide their identities and begged visitors not to refer to them by name in his presence. He had no intention of cooperating with the Americans; at their first meetings, he refused even to look at them and ranted about the evils of the West. Far from confirming al-Qaeda's involvement in 9/11, he insisted the attacks had been orchestrated by Israel's Mossad. While Abu Jandal was venting his spleen, Soufan noticed that he didn't touch any of the cookies that had been served with tea: "He was a diabetic and couldn't eat anything with sugar in it." At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, a gesture that took the edge off Abu Jandal's angry demeanor. "We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him," Soufan recalls. "So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures."

It took more questioning, and some interrogators' sleight of hand, before the Yemeni gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda — including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers — but the cookies were the turning point. "After that, he could no longer think of us as evil Americans," Soufan says. "Now he was thinking of us as human beings."

Yup, sugar-free cookies. Humane treatment and cookies can break even the toughest terrorist. Not waterboarding, or any of the other 'Jack Bauer' crap. Because even terrorists like cookies.

(Added on Sunday: Now in - time magazine. Maybe I can get a pro gig someday.)

Age Check

Here's one that may make some of us feel a little old: if JFK were still alive, today would be his 92nd birthday. If you're old enough to remember JFK, you remember him as a youthful, good-looking, energetic President who was tragically cut down in his prime. It's hard to imagine him as a 92 year old.

America's Leading Boobie Blog

I'm claiming that title.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We're #9!

Somehow Kiplinger's "best cities" ranking concluded that my little town, No. 9: Flagstaff, Arizona, (out of 361) is a great place to live. I'd love to agree with them, but their reasoning will sound somewhat strange to us locals:

we assembled candidates for our 2009 Best Cities list, which focuses on places that have stable employment plus the talent to create new, well-paying positions. A robust job market makes these cities safe havens during the recession and will give them a head start toward growth when the recovery takes off.

Um, guys...our local job market sucks. I hope you're right about a "robust job market" "when the recovery takes off", but as of today Flagstaff lives up to our city slogan "poverty with a view". Wages are low, jobs are few, and housing costs are high. Certainly the region boasts some of the most beautiful countryside in the nation, and Flagstaff is a very warm friendly town. I love it here. But to make it in Flagstaff you have to be willing to scale down your expectations. Sure, there are a few people prospering, but the vast majority of this town is barely scraping by.

So maybe we should be honored to be ranked so high, but I'm not sure that Kiplinger's was looking at the same city.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm Sold on Sotomayor

So Obama has nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court; all I can say is: great choice! As President Obama pointed out, Ms. Sotomayor's credentials include one of the most important decisions of my lifetime: she saved Baseball:

WASHINGTON — Federal judges are rarely famous or widely celebrated. Yet during a brief period in 1995, Judge Sonia Sotomayor became revered, at least in those cities with major league baseball teams.

She ended a long baseball strike that year, briskly ruling against the owners in favor of the players.

The owners were trying to subvert the labor system, she said, and the strike had “placed the entire concept of collective bargaining on trial.”

After play resumed, The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that by saving the season, Judge Sotomayor joined forever the ranks of Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams. The Chicago Sun-Times said she “delivered a wicked fastball” to baseball owners and emerged as one of the most inspiring figures in the history of the sport.

We all know that the right wing is going to do everything they can to trash her (or any other Obama nominee), as they've already told us:

This month, as it appeared increasingly likely that Sotomayor would be Obama's nominee, the judge has been the target of a whisper campaign, and many leading far-right activists -- including Limbaugh and Fox News personalities -- started the offensive against her weeks ago.

For what it's worth, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said earlier this month that Sotomayor would face stiff GOP opposition if she were nominated for the high court. Since that would be true of any Obama nominee, it hardly matters.

So whenever a winger starts attacking, we should immediately ask them "Why do you hate Baseball?"; and by extension America. Ask them if they also oppose 'Mom and Apple Pie'. Maybe I'll start a new PAC: "Baseball fans for Sotomayor". Who's with me?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

The day we remember our fallen service members and begin the summer barbeque season. It's good that we take some time to honor those who've served to guard our freedoms, but I wish that we would also take some time to prevent adding to their ranks. There are wars that are just and necessary, but all too many have been fought for less than noble causes.
I never served in the military (being in the post-Vietnam years), and my family has a long history of missing wars, either serving during peacetime or not being eligible to serve (gramps had TB, and wasn't allowed to join WW11). The last of my ancestors to be injured in combat was in the war of 1812, and he survived another 42 years. So I don't have any strong family connection to our brave warrior class.
But I've known many veterans, and I've seen their pain. Our memorial should include a pledge to stop adding to their numbers needlessly. The sadly unnecessary war in Iraq has added over 4,000 new graves to be memorialized, with more to come before we find our way out. We can best honor them by preventing needless wars in the future.