- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

Devilish ways

Here’s an irony worth savoring. The key sources for much of the September 11 commission’s assertion that al Qaeda had no links with Saddam Hussein before September 11 are Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. They are also the source for the notion that Osama bin Laden was much more closely involved in the planning of the mass murder than previously thought.

But can we trust the testimony of these two terrorists? I ask this because their testimony was the result of what the New York Times delicately calls “highly coercive interrogation methods.” The Times goes on: “Senior officials have said Mr. Mohammed was ‘waterboarded,’ a technique in which his head was pushed under water and he was made to believe that he might drown. Another detainee had a noose placed around his neck.”

This highlights the problem with the United States now using torture to interrogate suspects. It’s not so much that it is against U.S. law that requires humane treatment of all prisoners, regardless of their status as illegal non-combatants. It’s that the data you get under such circumstances is always highly suspect. Ironically, some of those most willing to countenance torture are the ones most upset by the testimony torture produced. Too bad. You play with the devil, you get what you deserve.

What is sexy

Legal blogger Eugene Volokh ruminated last week on what makes someone sexy. He quoted a female friend of his remarking on how women make much more of an effort to be attractive than men do:

“I think it’s particularly true that most men can learn to be sexy, since women are more forgiving about looks, which are less changeable … Maybe it’s easier for women to cultivate appeal, since we’re sort of more raised with the idea of adapting ourselves, rather than just ‘being,’ but men can do it. But most men don’t really want to be sexy; they want sexy to be them. I don’t mean to man-bash, men are one of my favorite genders, but it’s such a waste of resources. Like you, I know tons of great women. They’re (list of all the good adjectives), and people want to be around them. And I know a fair number of (good adjectives) single men, but [it’s generally] also clear why they’re single. They don’t listen, and won’t; they won’t get a real job; they’re boring but don’t want to acknowledge it or do anything about it. Hey, if that shirt was ‘in’ when they were in high school, no need to see if any ads/mannequins/humans under 60 wear it today.”

Much of this is true — but only for straight men. And that reveals the real source of male slovenliness: women. If women weren’t so forgiving of slobbiness, if they weren’t prepared to look for the diamond buried in the rough of a man’s beer belly, men might have to shape up a little.

Quote of the week

“The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment.’” — President George W. Bush, June 27, 2003.

Sontag award nominee

“[Bush] is not another Hitler. Yet there is a certain parallelism. They have in common a demagogic appeal to the worst side of a country’s heritage in a crisis. Bush is doubtless sincere in his vision of what is best for America. So too was Hitler. The crew around the president — Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Karl Rove, the ‘neo-cons’ like Paul Wolfowitz — are not as crazy perhaps as Himmler and Goering and Goebbels. Yet like them, they are practitioners of the Big Lie — weapons of mass destruction, Iraq democracy, only a few ‘bad apples’.” — Andrew Greeley, Chicago Sun-Times.

These bones

You’ve got to love Provincetown, where I’m now sequestered from the D.C. summer. While contractors were trying to build a new driveway last week, they came upon some human remains. According to the Provincetown Banner:

“Two human femur bones found by sewer excavators in Provincetown last Wednesday ignited rumors that made their way to Shop Therapy owner Ronny Hazel while he was in New York. The juiciest details placed Hazel at the center of the skeletal discovery, where it was said teen-agers from the 1970s had unearthed a body and delivered a skull to him for drugs or money and then buried the remains nearby. This week Hazel joked about receiving at least 50 phone calls about the rumor, with as many variations, some involving a Mafia burial ground. Hazel said he has sold Tibetan monk heads, imported from Nepal, for at least 20 years. He also acknowledged having a shop in the neighborhood where the bones were discovered. After thinking about it a bit on Tuesday, though, Hazel said any connection to last week’s discovery was ‘highly unlikely.’ ”

But not impossible.

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