The Airpower Revolution - After "Enduring Freedom" (do we really have to endure it?), it became apparent that there is a revolution going on in military affairs. Precision guided munitions are changing the way war can be fought. The change has been coming on for a while, even since Vietnam. But the inflection point, as always, is economic. What's the economics of bombs and smart bombs?

In WWII, it took thousands of bombs to destroy a known, fixed target. The measure used by the USA for bomb accuracy is called circular error probability, or CEP. CEP for a bomb distribution is defined to be: half of all bombs dropped fall within a distance to the target equal to the CEP. In WWII, CEP for an (unguided) bomb was more than half a mile. That is to say, that half of all bombs dropped trying to hit a point would fall inside a circle of a mile diameter, centered on the target. The other half would be dropped outside the circle; these numbers clearly represent human targetting error, along with target error caused by imperfect prediction of the bomb trajectory.

In WWII, 9000 bombs would be dropped to kill an average hard point target. Iron bombs are cheap, on the order of $3000 apiece. Still, the price of a 9000 bomb raid would be $27M; not cheap. And we must add to that the cost of the aviation gas and maintenance of the 1000 bombers it takes to carry the bombs.

And that's just the cost to the attacker. The defender would not, of course, just lose the targetted building. Collateral damage would be tremendous. In WWII this was viewed as a feature. Today we regard it as a problem because killing innocents is widely regarded as unpleasant. Some of us even think of it as manslaughter.

In Vietnam, CEP for iron bombs dropped considerably, to something like 400 feet. That's an order of magnitude, but it would still mean on the order of 100 bombs would be necessary to kill a target. That's still $300000 plus the cost of many sorties.

CEP for iron bombs has gradually decreased since Vietnam, but not much. However guided munitions were invented and refined. These munitions were accurate, but costly. For instance, cruise missiles have a CEP of perhaps 10 meters; so they are practically speaking one bomb one kill. Targetting them correctly is the problem, not killing given a proper target coordinate. But they cost on the order of $400000 a pop. So while they are better than iron bombs from the point of view of collateral damage, they are no more cost effective.

The revolution is a matter of price and performance:
It is called JDAM, the not-so-catchy acronym for Joint Direct Attack Munition, which stunned NATO generals with its accuracy during last spring's Operation Allied Force in Kosovo. "It's incredible," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Leroy Barnidge Jr., who oversaw the use of 650 JDAMs on Serbia.

Critics of Pentagon weapon programs, which routinely cost twice as much and perform half as well as defense contractors promise, also said they were impressed. A $14,000 JDAM kit has transformed vintage, Vietnam War-era bombs into such lethal and reliable weapons that by next year, the kit will be carried by every Air Force, Navy and Marine fighter-bomber.

One such skeptic, John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists, sees JDAM as a last-minute addition to the 20th Century's pantheon to human destruction.

"It's right up there with the machine gun and the atomic bomb," Pike said of the $4 billion program.

It takes 10 minutes to add JDAM technology to the tail section of the one-ton, Vietnam-era MK48. "It's easy to handle," said Air Force Master Sgt. William Mansey, 35, of Panama City, Fla. "You only need to tighten 12 set screws." Mansey directed the arming and loading of 18 JDAMS onto each B-2 bomber that flew roundtrip missions from Missouri to Serb targets. Only two of the 650 JDAM launches failed; they were traced to faulty wiring in the plane, not the bomb, Mansey said.

The success of JDAM is tied to the new Air Force Global Positioning System. The network of 24 satellites beamed locations so precise that they permitted B-2 Spirit bomber pilots uncommon accuracy in all weather and at night.

The JDAM bombs were released up to 15 miles from their targets, and as they fell, the satellite signals were captured by a tiny radio receiver which in turn updated a small inertial navigation system. An electric motor then moved fins on the tail assembly so the JDAM bomb moves up or down, left or right until it hones in on the precise pre-programed longitude and latitude. The system resulted in an unprecedented number of "shacks"-direct hits-program directors said.

"It will go miles in any direction," said Barnidge, of JDAM's maneuverability.
The CEP of JDAM is on the order of 10 meters, or 30m if its GPS isn't working. All this, for roughly $20000 (the $14k mentioned above is the cost to the manufacturer as far as I can tell; the taxpayer is paying more like $18000, and the iron bomb being converted is $3-4k).

This is revolutionary price/performance. To get a kill with JDAM, only a single bomb, or two will be dropped. A raid that even ten years ago would have cost the attacker $300K costs 30K - 10% of the price. And the collateral damage is acceptable even to our modern sensibilities.

With such accuracy, it is possible and desirable to use smaller warheads. JDAM is currently used on 1000 and 2000 pound bombs; attachments for 500 pound bombs are being developed. The logical conclusion of this may already have been reached; check out this press release: U.S. and coalition forces patrol the Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones over Iraq they have had to contend with Iraqis parking mobile surface-to-air missile systems in close proximity to civilian sites. The solution? [Major General David Deptula, commander of Operation Northern Watch from 1998 to 1999, said,] "I began using inert weapons -- cement bombs," Deptula said.

"I can't use a 500-pound, high-explosive bomb against a missile launcher if it's parked within X-thousand feet of any civilian facility. But if I've got good enough precision, and I can hit it with 500 pounds of concrete, that does the trick. So we began doing that," Deptula said.
This is just amazing. Precision bombing with no collateral damage.

Warfare must change with capabilities like this. Without air cover, no identifiable target of any substantial value can expect to survive. There was a limit, in WWII and Vietnam, to the amount of things we could effectively destroy with bombs. That limit is now practically gone.

UPDATE - here's another news story about concrete bombs. Excerpt:
These are basically blocks of concrete shaped as bombs and painted blue to identify them as non-explosive if they are discovered still intact after the war.
Is Bush Smart? - I get a surprising number of search hits directed to this blog by people who are obviously curious as to whether George W. Bush is "dumb" or not. As I mentioned below, the indications are that the President is not at all dumb. The fact is that his SAT score - 1206 (566 verbal, 640 math) - is quite good. The SAT is, more or less, an IQ test (at least for native English speakers). A quick net search indicates that Bush's score puts him in about the 97% percentile of intelligence. The corresponding IQ is 129.

Of course, there are caveats. First, it is always possible that Bush either got lucky, prepped well, or even cheated somehow, raising his SAT score above what his true IQ would predict. The SAT is not a remarkably good IQ-qua-IQ test. IQ is remarkable stable over almost any mental test; but you still gain info by more testing. Still, if we imagine that Bush prepped for the test and boosted his score 100 points (quite possible), then his IQ is "only" 124. This would put him in about the 95th percentile. Either way, his intelligence is superior. It's just a matter of degrees. (And of course it is possible that retaking the test, he'd score higher!)

Second, measured IQ only captures part of what it takes for success. It happens to be the best measure out there - easily beating other things like parent's socioeconomic status (just to name one). But IQ still "only" predicts with a .2-.4 correlation with various social outcomes. This is, if you understand social science, quite a powerful predictor. But it still leaves most of the correlates of success in things other than IQ. In Bush's case, it is apparent that he was poorly motivated during much of his life. Motivation is not measured by IQ tests. On the other hand he certainly seems to have found motivation, especially after 9/11. Motivation in a president is not always a good thing.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that how we think about a person's intelligence is relative: it relates to the role we expect of him or her. We are used to very intelligent presidents; and in particular we are used to presidents that read super smoothly off teleprompters. Clinton, for instance, has a very high IQ (I don't know what it is, but probably 140+). Clinton is also incredibly glib. By comparison, Bush looks pretty rough and folksy. The same guy, if he was your auto mechanic, you'd probably think was pretty sharp.

Similarly, how we evaluate others also has to do with our own intelligence. Intellectual types - the sort of people that would be searching google to find out about Dubya's IQ - are a nonrandom sample; your IQ is probably at least 110. So Bush may seem dumb to you, more than he does to most ordinary Americans. Remember: half of your fellow citizens have a double digit IQ. That's well worth remembering when thinking about "democracy" and its results. If you are upset about how "dumb" Bush is because you think that only highly superior IQ types should be running things, then you really need to look into public choice theory.
The History of War for Democracy Joe Sobran amused me with this column:
Americans wanted no part of [WWI], until Woodrow Wilson decided that although war was bad, a “war to end all war” and “to make the world safe for democracy” would be okay. So the United States got a piece of the action and Germany was defeated. Wilson went to Europe to seal the victory and ensure democracy and self-determination for all nations, some of which had to be invented for the purpose. So the map of Europe was redrawn. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

But out of the rubble crawled new leaders like Hitler and Lenin, and the Versailles settlement didn’t hold. The new Europe soon became something nobody had imagined, and another world war, even worse than the first, was the result.

It started when Hitler’s Germany and Lenin’s Russia, now owned by Joe Stalin, invaded Poland. Right-thinking people declared war on Germany, but not on Russia, and when the shooting finally stopped, they awarded Poland to Stalin. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Franklin Roosevelt, Wilson’s disciple, thought the United States and Russia could jointly ensure a just and lasting peace. That peace lasted a few minutes. The United States faced a greater danger from a nuclear-armed Russia than it had ever faced from Germany (or Japan). ...

Today, partly as a result of the 1991 Gulf War, we are in another situation nobody could imagine a few years ago. As usual, our rulers think another war will produce the desired results, such as democracy all over the place.

Wherever they get this idea, it is not, shall we say, from an inductive study of history.
I've made the point a few times recently: good intentions are meaningless by comparison to good action. We can be as earnest as we possibly can be about the good of the Iraqi people, the evil of Saddam, the need for democracy in Iraq, or whatever. But wishing don't make it so. Some problems simply are not soluble; some outcomes are not possible. And most relevant, some outcomes are not possible via force.

Societies evolve peacefully in ways which they simply don't, during or via war. One of those peaceful evolution results is, sometimes, liberty. War never leads to more liberty. At best, it can leave liberty pretty much unchanged (as in one revolution I can think of), but that is the exception. Certainly, "democracy" is not worth fighting for; liberty is, but war cannot create it. That's a conundrum for the national greatness types, to the extent they really understand liberty. I don't think they do. They think that democracy is liberty. But they will have a devil of a time even installing democracy in Iraq.

Democracy can, I think, be installed in ethnically homogeneous countries; that is to say, nations. It does not work, and will not be installable, in Iraq.
We Need a War - Any Will Do Jim Henley makes a point I quite agree with. After the demise of the Soviet Union the Right has cast about almost comically in their search for a new villian. Someone - anyone - to fill the role of despised enemy, which would justify the military-industrial complex, and which would provide a focus for a national mission:
The same group of wonks and journalists that argued us into the current war were agitating for a new cold war with China before Zacarias Moussaoui ever enrolled in flight school. They wanted to turn a single snafu over a surveillance plane into a casus frigid belli in the spring of 2001.
Now they have their mission. The military budget is safe for the foreseeable future. And the ideological mission has crystalized: American world hegemony. It's suitably large to fully consume however much effort (read: taxes) our masters manage to mulct from us.

UPDATE - Gene Healy has this masterful demonic definition: "National Greatness Conservatism: n. The vicarious thrill certain right-wing pundits get from watching better men risk their lives."
If I Can't See It, It Doesn't Exist - this is sad: a "human shield" recants. I was a naive fool to be a human shield for Saddam. What's sad is not that the person recanted. It's his means of determining truth. Here's a well-educated rich Westerner, with unparalleled access to information of all kinds.
I am a 23-year-old Jewish-American photographer living in Islington, north London. I had travelled in the Middle East before: as a student, I went to the Palestinian West Bank during the intifada. I also went to Afghanistan as a photographer for Newsweek.
Yet he has to actually experience a police state to hear for himself that it is bad to its subjects.
I was shocked when I first met a pro-war Iraqi in Baghdad - a taxi driver taking me back to my hotel late at night. I explained that I was American and said, as we shields always did, "Bush bad, war bad, Iraq good". He looked at me with an expression of incredulity.

As he realised I was serious, he slowed down and started to speak in broken English about the evils of Saddam's regime. Until then I had only heard the President spoken of with respect, but now this guy was telling me how all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family.

It scared the hell out of me. First I was thinking that maybe it was the secret police trying to trick me but later I got the impression that he wanted me to help him escape. I felt so bad. I told him: "Listen, I am just a schmuck from the United States, I am not with the UN, I'm not with the CIA - I just can't help you."

Of course I had read reports that Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein, but this was the real thing. Someone had explained it to me face to face.
So. Is this the state of education today, that people have literally no idea what to think about the world except their own particular experience? I hope not.

I opposed the war too, but I have no illusions that Iraq is a nice regime. The war will undoubtedly benefit most Iraqis, at least in the short run and probably the long run. That's not exactly saying much, starting as they do so close to zero.
Easy Fact Checking - I have argued before that hyperlinks are creating a paradigm change in public argumentation: they make fact checking easy. Here's an example. I'm reading an item at CalPundit, where Kevin Drum suggests that Bush is stupid:
DOESN'T THIS BAR SEEM LIKE IT'S SET KINDA LOW?....Atrios points to an article that says that when George Bush applied to the Texas National Guard in 1968 he scored only 25% on the pilot aptitude test, "the lowest acceptable grade."

You only have to score 25% on an aptitude test to get trained as a jet pilot? That's about the equivalent of a combined 700 on the SAT, barely enough to get a football player admitted to a local JC. This is kinda scary considering that — theoretically anyway — these guys might be flying planes in actual combat.
Scary? Let's read the article that was linked. First off, it does not appear that the pilot aptitude test is an IQ test, because Bush has a superior IQ, and in fact, he scored well on a separate component of the overall test that was probably an IQ test:
Four months before enlisting, Bush reported at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts to take the Air Force Officers Qualification Test. While scoring 25 percent for pilot aptitude – "about as low as you could get and be accepted," according to Martin – and 50 percent for navigator aptitude in his initial testing, he scored 95 percent on questions designed to reflect "officer quality," compared with a current-day average of 88 percent.
So, it's not that young Bush was stupid - he wasn't - it was that he didn't do well in whatever "pilot aptitude" was tested. Eyesight? Reflexes? I recall taking a (written) military aptitude test as a teen; it was full of sections of stuff I knew nothing about, like mechanics of engines and radios, presumably there to test for military specialties. But those sections were knowledge tests, not IQ tests. If you don't know something, you can learn it - especially given general intelligence. (The test I took also had the inevitable IQ-test parts, and I am sure I did fine on those.)

It is possible that the pilot aptitude section of Bush's test was an IQ test, and not a knowledge test. But that is unlikely, reading the article. It is also not consistent with his (known) SAT scores, which indicate high intelligence. The "officer quality" score does look like an IQ test.

Second, further down in the article is evidence that Bush turned out to be, in fact, a decent pilot:
In late November, Bush was sent to Moody Air Force Base outside Valdosta, Ga., for year-long undergraduate flight school. Bush impressed fellow trainees with the way he learned to handle a plane... In December 1969, George W. returned to Houston to hone his skills and eventually fly solo on the all-weather F-102, firing its weapons and conducting intercept missions against supersonic targets. He learned with a verve that impressed his superiors, becoming the the first hometown graduate of the 147th's newly established Combat Crew Training School.
So, the Post article does not exactly support Drum's reading. This was easy to determine; in fact so easy that I actually did so. And that is the paradigm shift I am talking about. Even 10 years ago on usenet, I would probably not have, i.e., gone to a paper edition of the Post in order to check up on an asserted meaning for a posted story.

Concealed Carry in Colorado - Some good news: right to carry becomes law in Colorado. War is depressing; one can only hope that liberty will continue to advance outside of the areas where we are losing ground.
More Torture - Arthur Silber has a good blog post where he lays out the practical, and libertarian case against torture.
Please remember the lessons of history, and read or reread the story of the rise of Nazism, or of the "excuses" utilized immediately prior to one of the Soviet (or Communist Chinese) purges. Governments have always used the excuse of an "emergency" to significantly broaden their powers, and to claim the right to use "extraordinary" means. And those means are always justified by an appeal to "public safety," or an appeal to "saving the lives of our citizens," or something similar. It was precisely this kind of mentality that led to adoption of the first Patriot Act, which many of the lawmakers voting for it did not even bother to read, either in whole or in part. And we are still discovering the new government powers granted in that act -- and the same pattern will make another appearance in the wake of another domestic attack, you may be certain, and that may bring us Patriot Act II, containing a whole new host of government powers of which very few people will even be aware.

This is precisely how the road to a totalitarian government is followed; it has always been thus, and it always will be.
Also, extensive Hannah Arendt quotes discussing the use of torture by the Nazis.
Aborting Unpersons - Here's some information on so-called "partial birth" abortions found at Alas, a Blog. Scroll down from the linked entry for a second that is also good. Both posts steal liberally from an article by one John Swomley in the March 1988 Humanist. The linked one gives a list of women who chose late-term abortions, with their reasons and some information on later fertility.
COREEN COSTELLO from Agoura, California. In April 1995, seven months pregnant with her third child, Coreen and her husband Jim found out that a lethal neuromuscular disease had left their much-wanted daughter unable to survive. Its body had stiffened and was frozen, wedged in a transverse position. In addition, amniotic fluid had puddled and built up to dangerous levels in Coreen's uterus. Devout Christians and opposed to abortion, the Costellos agonized for over two weeks about their decision and baptized the fetus in utero. Finally, Coreen's increasing health problems forced them to accept the advice of numerous medical experts that the intact dilation and extraction (D&X) was, indeed, the best option for Coreen's own health, and the abortion was performed. Later, in June 1996, Coreen gave birth to a healthy son.
If the abortions written about are typical, then most late term abortions are performed because the fetus is not viable, which is in itself a danger to the health of the mother. This point is made by Swomley in the second entry:
There are still other questions, such as why not let the woman wait until the thirty-sixth week and go into labor? Fetuses with severe defects have a high chance of dying in utero well before labor begins and therefore create a serious threat to the mother. When a fetus dies, its tissues begin to break down and enter the mother's bloodstream. This can cause clotting problems, making it more difficult for her to stop bleeding. This may then require a surgical delivery or an emergency hysterectomy.
I am pro-choice on self-ownership grounds, regardless of whether or not a fetus is a rights-possessing "person". But I can understand the pro-life position, especially for late-term fetuses - at some point a person does become sacred. I think that is an impossible matter to scientifically determine, but we can at least parameterize it. It's about the mind, which is based on the brain. A human without a brain cannot be a person. A human without a sufficiently well-connected brain cannot be a person. Any abortion ban which ignores those facts is, to me, unacceptable, and I think it should unacceptable as well to any thoughtful person excepting those who believe that every human has a soul including humans lacking a brain. The current bill is an example of such ignorance.
Machinery of Friedman - I was, I think, born an individualist. From there is a short hop to libertarianism - one needs only an economics course, or brains - but from there it is a much longer hop to anarchism. That hop, for me, was midwifed by participation in alt.politics.libertarian, and by David D. Friedman, via his book. He has had a website up for a while, with lots of good anarchist and libertarian stuff on it. Now I find via the Agitator that Dr. Friedman has started a blog.
Federalism and Partial Birth Abortion - at instapundit, a letter to Glenn wonders why the major media are not discussing whether Congress has Article I power to enact the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003. It's a good question; at least for intellectuals. The answer is, as Glenn says:
abortion-ban opponents - who generally favor expansive government power in other areas, I think - aren't big on commerce-power limits, while anti-abortion types, who include many self-described federalists, don't want to discuss the issue in this context.
Which is true enough. Nonetheless, federalism is something I wish liberals would take seriously. Glenn links to an article he wrote with Dave Kopel which discusses the possible applicability of United States v. Lopez to the partial birth abortion law that was around in 1997. They concluded then that there were good reasons to think that the Supreme Court may well strike down a partial birth abortion law on Article 1 grounds - no power is delegated to the Congress to regulate abortion. Which is, in fact, true as nails.

It used to be that states were the, um, States. Pretty much all the power was there. The federal government was originally one of very limited, delegated powers, by design. There was a bill of rights, but it applied only to the federal government, not the states. The states could, for instance, establish a church (many did).

Over time, power has been accreted into the center from the periphery. This has been a boon to liberals in many ways; for instance, only the federal government had the fiat power to stop slavery. (If you read the 13th amendment, you can see the grant of power in words: "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.") And over time the Constitution has been "incorporated" against the several states - meaning, that the Bill of Rights and other limiting amendments apply to state government as well as the federal government. So it would no longer be possible these days to establish a church in any state.

Especially in the wake of the incorporation doctrine, I think there is an opening for liberals to reconsider their attachment to centralism. Rights - the limits on government - are centralized, and will remain that way. But illiberal regulation is also, currently, centralized, courtesy of the New Deal. Of course the regulatory state is what a lot of liberals actually want; these should part company with real liberals and just call themselves socialists. But when I talk about state's rights, I very frequently get this response: what about the federal destruction of segregation? Don't we need centralized rights-enforcement?

Well, I don't think we do - rights enforcement starts with individuals and certain is OK if delegated up, but that's not necessary. Nonetheless, there are cases (as in desegregation) where central power is helpful. In that particular case, the central power helped to create the problem it was solving - but don't mind that. If you take the know-nothing view that race history started with Brown v Board of Education, then centralism "worked".

Still, even if we accept that rights should (or will) be centrally enforced, that still doesn't mean we should do everything via a central government. In particular most of the regulatory colossus is not about rights-enforcement; it's about the commerce clause read absurdly large. If we returned to original intent on the commerce clause, then a lot of laws (and whole agencies) would fall. But it still would not be as wrenching a social change as was desegregation. Reynolds and Kopel talk about that in their paper:
Undoing sixty years of wrongly decided cases (and a few from prior years) regarding the interstate commerce power is just as legitimate as the Court's earlier undoing of many decades' worth of wrongly decided equal protection cases. It is true that there has been substantial reliance, especially by the Congress, on the mistaken Commerce Clause cases. But the Court has already stated that "no one acquires a vested or protected right in violation of the Constitution by long use."[FN67]

The federal government's over-involvement in non-federal affairs is far less solidified than was the encrustation of Jim Crow which had been permitted by the erroneous Fourteenth Amendment cases.[FN68] Many thousands of school buildings and other facilities had been built, in reliance on long-established Supreme Court precedent, with separate "white" and "colored" sections. Segregation at school and in many other areas was deeply ingrained in the South, and many other parts of the United States. When the Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, [FN69] destabilized its equal protection jurisprudence, the consequences were immense. A furious white backlash drove Southern white moderates out of politics; fanning the hottest levels of white anger became the surest path to political success in the South.[FN70] Affection for racial segregation (having been sanctioned by, among other things, decades of federal judicial tolerance for it) was deeply embedded in the characters of tens of millions of Americans. For years and years after Brown, state and local governments proudly announced their intention to use every possible means to defy the Court's decision.

Within a few years of Brown, presidents were finding it necessary to federalize the National Guard, and even call out regular Army troops, in order to enforce the Court's decision against the wishes of large, violent, angry mobs.[FN71] For all the dislocation, even a decade after Brown, three quarters of Southern districts were still segregated.[FN72] It took decades of effort for the entire federal court system finally to enforce Brown and its progeny; federal judges faced death threats, and other citizens died in the effort to make Brown the real law of the land. Yet today, even the minority of Constitutional scholars who believe that Brown was wrongly decided do not argue that the Court's mistake was in destabilizing existing precedent.

Contrast the dislocation in Brown with a hypothetical Supreme Court decision which made Justice Thomas's concurrence the law; the power "(t)o regulate Commerce . . . among the several States" would be interpreted to cover only what the Constitution literally says: the power to regulate commerce (buying and selling things) across state lines.
Yes. Of course, the main argument for restricting the commerce clause is that reading as meaning "the congress can pass any law it wants" is just plain stupid. Reading it that way makes it plain that the government is no longer bound by the Constitution, and the oaths that its agents swear are either meaningless to them, or held in contempt. That's not the way it was supposed to be.
It Usually Begins with the Drug War - There's a lot of good stuff over at Unqualified Offerings today, so go read it. Among other things I found a reference to this post by Jonathan Edelstein, where he traces the use of torture to the War on (some) Drugs. No surprise there, but well worth reading.
There is a subgenre of Federal case law, beginning in the 1970s, involving the claims of alleged drug traffickers who were tortured by Latin American police, often with American law enforcement agents in the room.

One of the first such cases was that of Francisco Toscanino, an Italian citizen living in Uruguay who was wanted by American authorities on drug charges. On January 6, 1973, Toscanino was lured out of his home by means of a telephone call, ambushed in a Montevideo alley, brought to the Brazilian border in the trunk of a car and turned over to Brazilian authorities [and tortured ... full description elided]...

Similar treatment was meted out to Rafael Lira, who was tortured by Chilean police in 1974 after being arrested on the request of the United States; Raul Perez Degollado, shocked with cattle prods by Mexican authorities in the presence of DEA agents; and Juan Ramon Matta-Ballesteros, who was arrested in Honduras in the mid-1980s and "beaten and burned with a stun gun at the direction of the United States Marshals." In the Degollado case, DEA agents actually admitted to being in the room while the Mexican police began to torture their captive...
Edelstein sees close parallels between the war on the drug trade and the war on terrorism; I think they are different, but certainly close in certain respects. Namely, as I said before: the fact that the US is resorting to torture is, in both cases, a warning that we have screwed up elsewhere.

Where they are different is that the screwup in the case of drugs is direct, and obvious. The drug war itself is both stupid and wrong. Drug taking hurts nobody but possibly the taker; it should be legal. Drug selling (and buying) hurts nobody and should be legal. All victimless "crimes" cannot easily be policed since there is nobody complaining excepting third parties. So to get information on the "crime" you end up destroying privacy, and you end up torturing.

Terrorism is different than the drug business: any act which would count as terrorism is a real crime, with real victims. It should not be legal. What is similar, though, is the fact that the US is doing things it should not be. In the case of Al Qaeda, we are (a) warring against Iraqi civilians, unrepentantly killing some thousands of them (mostly kids) each year with our "sanctions". ("It's worth it!") That's wrong. We are (b) supporting many oppressive regimes that Al Qaeda hates (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan). We should stop that. And we are (c) oppressing our taxpayers to pay for a bloated military, which is naturally finding a mission for itself, in places that include places Al Qaeda doesn't like.

In the case of terrorism, the screwup is not fighting terrorism as such. It is doing bad things which are leading militant Islamicists to target us. We should stop doing these things, not because of what the terrorists think, but because the things themselves are wrong.

We should know better, and should have known better. But obviously we don't; and so the terrorists have attacked us, and so the state security apparatus counters them (generally good), including the use of torture (bad). That's a wakeup call to good people in the US. Or, it should be. Americans are quite capable of compartmentalizing; we already oppress foreigners and nobody cares. Somehow I doubt foreign torture is going to change many minds; still, the warning is there, and as in the case of Mr. Edelstein it can change the minds of those willing to see.

The Nation vs. The National Review - which is has the crazier story this month? Andrew Northrup analyzes. Funny.
Revealed Preference - Taxes are involuntary. But how many of those advocating higher taxes really mean it? In the Boston Herald, evidence. It seems that Massachusetts has an opt-in program encouraging taxpayers to pay a higher rate:
Here's the latest update on how many concerned Massachusetts residents are opting to pay their income taxes at the optional, higher 5.85 percent rate rather than at the standard 5.3 percent rate.

According to the Department of Revenue, of 855,786 filers thus far this year, 345 have generously chosen to pay at the higher rate, although those opting for the higher charges pay practically no taxes anyway.

The gesture by the 345 good liberals has raised $34,668, which means they each had an average annual income of approximately $20,000.

Surely there must be some mistake - the state's newspapers have printed far in excess of 345 letters from concerned citizens demanding higher taxes, and that doesn't even include all the deeply concerned editorial writers who have weighed in in favor of confiscatory tax rates.

To put it another way, thus far 0.0004 percent of Massachusetts' taxpayers have endorsed the mantra of higher taxes - with their own wallets.
Let me summarize that: .0004% of taxpayers actually believe in higher taxes. This is no surprise to me, and should be no surprise to any but the most starry-eyed and foolish socialist. Nonetheless, it's worth repeating: taxation is involuntary wealth appropriation. Y'all liberals, every time you don't voluntarily pay more (and the state will always accept more) are revealing what you really think. You can talk all you want about being willing to raise taxes, but what you really mean is you want other people to be forced to pay more, to be spent on things you like.
Torture is Always Wrong - Strange that I should have to say that. Strange times. A bit of debate between Radley Balko and Jim Henley about torture. (Scroll down in both places for more posts.) I'm with Jim, as usual:
Why shouldn't we have people like Khaled Sheik Mohammad tortured, even though they are mass-murdering scum? There are various prudential reasons, which I went into last year. Twice. [There are links there I have not bothered to copy; go to the original and click 'em.] But there's a more important reason.

Because we're the fucking United States of America!
Hear, hear. We're the good guys. The ones whose system works better than the others, because our forefathers were smart enough insist on the idea of rights. "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted."

Arguments over torture are a recurring feature in blogdom, I suppose because of the simple appeal of the "ticking bomb" scenario. I've blogged about it before when the topic came up on Eugene Volokh's blog. Among other things I said then, I want to reiterate this:
here's a new question: why torture at all? Why now? The answer is, of course, "terrorism". But why can't we just live in peace? The answer lies in part with the terrorists - they don't like our culture for reasons we won't control... But it lies in part with us - we are trying to run the world, including most particularly helping despots rule Islam.

The logic of repression is gradualist. You oppress a little; a reaction happens; you oppress a little more. You send in troops, force a boycott, get more police, build more prisons. People are hurt by it; the oppression is obvious and fringe lunatics take up arms. That's when you end up talking about torture. It's yet another control oriented fix for deeper social problems, all originating in the actions of the state. The solution is not more and more harshness, but to stop the state from doing what it should not have been doing in the first place.
The "gun control precedes genocide" meme has recently been around the net. I make an analogy between that meme and torture. Torture is the canary in the coal mine. When your society starts seriously talking about torture, it means you've fucked up and become repressive. The answer is not torture. It's to stop doing whatever you are doing, such that you are creating criminals that you want to torture.
Rejected - ah, the miracle of liberty. Americans think up the most unexpected things. Case in point: a phone number you can give someone to call, which rejects him (or her) for you:
A beleaguered woman can now give a number - not her home number - to an importuning swain. When he calls, a message announces, "The person who gave you this number does not want to talk to you or see you again. The deflated suitor can also dial through a recorded menu of "rejection specialists" offering further belittling barbs.
Small sociological point: lists copycat rejection lines - numbers in other cities. Of those, no city has more than two, except LA with 10. !
Regulation Blue - In the Spectator, Rod Liddle wonders
how much we are paying for petty regulations and public incompetence:
Someone from my five-year-old son’s school rang me on my mobile phone to tell me that he’d had a very nasty accident. She was sketchy about the details, but said that Tyler was quite badly hurt and needed to be taken to both a casualty department and a dentist. ... at casualty the doctors were mystified. ‘There’s nothing wrong with him,’ they said, ‘nothing at all.’ In fact, there was no sign of any injury whatsoever.

What had happened was this: a child had let a door bang shut in his face. It must have hurt the kid, for a bit.

Later that evening, someone from the school rang again. ‘We’re undertaking a full review of our policy with regard to doors,’ she assured us. ‘Doors,’ the woman added, ‘are an accident waiting to happen.’
The nanny-state in action.
"Appeasement" Contrarian - Lee Harris, Reconsidering Appeasement:
Appeasement in the sense of paying money and tribute to those who threaten our collective security is a policy that has been prudently adopted by any number of different societies in the past. ...

Secondly, appeasement makes sense when there is a good chance that the evil to be appeased may collapse of its own accord, either through a lack of internal stability or through its own inherently aggressive nature.

In the case of Hitler, there was the very real hope that he would aim his aggression at Stalin's Russia, with the result that the two evil systems would end by weakening and even perhaps destroying each other. In which case, why do anything to divert his attention from the East?

Furthermore, there was also the hope that Hitler might be toppled as a result of Party bickering, or through a military coup, or by the bullet of an assassin. The Weimar Republic, after all, had been in constant turmoil - perhaps Hitler was only a passing phase of political stability against a backdrop of anarchy.

And leave us with the third and final rational basis for appeasement, and that is military weakness - or, more precisely, a fear that any threat made to deter aggression will be in vain, in which case it is deemed far better to appease and hope for the best, than to bluff and be certain of the worst.
Yes. It is funny to see the religious way in which warmongers interpret history: appeasement always wrong and stupid. War always right. This is simplistic. Of course, understanding that history is complex (and even more complex when it is current events, not yet history), does not make one a peacenik. Case in point: Harris:
I offer these reflections not to justify those who are asking us to appease Saddam Hussein, but to condemn them. Had Chamberlain possessed the might of the U.S., and the collective will of its people, Hitler would have been obliterated long before Munich. To make excuses for tolerating an evil on the order of Saddam Hussein when you possess the military might to crush him is not appeasement, but blind folly.
What collective will is that? The 17% of Americans who know how many Iraqi citizens were among the 9/11 hijackers?

And what appeasement? "Appease" Saddam? What has he demanded? The Rhineland? Czechoslovakia?

I suppose the warmongers would say, that failing to comply with UN resolutions (even though they rightfully disdain the UN), is Bad, and if we let it go, it's "appeasement". OK - if so, then why don't the reasons for "appeasement" just discussed apply? Harris focuses on weakness - it's a good idea to appease if any attempt not to has no will/firepower behind it, and the bluff will be called. From this he seems to conclude that if you do have the will/power, then you should not appease. No. All you can conclude is that you have the option not to.

Now look at the other options. Number one is that appeasement should be a policy option since it has been used successfully in the past. OK. This doesn't help much in determining when to apply it.

Reason two, though, is helpful: it is quite likely that the Iraq "threat" (such as it is) will self-destruct. Saddam is getting old, and he has insured that his regime will die with him. He needs only to be contained for another 10-20 years, and poof. No Saddam.

Really, though, the argument is silly. There is no question of "appeasement" of Saddam. The only grounds for the war that stand up are as a charity mission to liberate the Iraqi people.
Realignment - At lewrockwell, Jeffrey Tucker speculates about why conservatives are warmongers:
We've all encountered this in our private lives, people with whom we have agreed with on a huge range of economic and cultural issues are just downright wrong on the war.

They don't trust the government to run the economy, our families, or our schools, but think it is just great for the US to amass the largest military machine owned by any government in the history of the world, for the US and its allies to be the sole nuclear monopolists, for the US to slaughter people in a foreign country who have never done anything to us and spend twice that country’s GDP in doing so.
Actually I don't know any ideological conservatives in real life. At least none that I know of. I do know of many on the net, of course. So it's an interesting question.

Tucker surveys a number of explanations for the switch, but he does not really hit on what I think is correct. His explanations are: neoconservative influence, loyalty to the GOP, TV, talk radio, lack of ideology, and nationalism. Each of these, I think, does have some explanatory power, but along with Tucker none seems to be fully sufficient. (Read the piece.)

My thoughts on the matter: in the long run, in politics, there are only two stable ideologies: liberty (private property) and socialism (public property). However, in everyday politics people often box off political domains and take one ideology in some, and the other ideology in others. To the extent that two domains intersect, either ideologically or practically, this may or may not be easy to do. But regardless, people do it all the time.

For example, Americans have boxed off old people from normal society, and decreed that socialism is the proper way to deal with them. Socialized income, medicine, etc. To some extent this conflicts with liberty for others - if the government has the power to tax for social security, it obviously has the power to tax for just about anything. Socialized medicine tends to creep. But largely speaking, old people and their needs can be walled off.

Back to conservatives: in the cold war, foreign policy was an example of a socialist enterprise walled off from the rest of American society. Everyone agreed on a strong defense. Thus, strong taxation came to be accepted by most people - liberals love it anyway for the hope of pulling down the rich; conservatives originally opposed it, but came to grudgingly accept it. But now, massive taxation is now old. Being what they are, conservatives are conserving it.

When the cold war ended, foreign policy as a ideological/political domain became untethered. Spending levels were way too high for the drastically lowered threat. Change was possible. We might have gone back to a more isolationist, lower taxation situation. But there was also the opposite pull: more intervention, higher taxation, invade-the-world. Libertarians know which way to go; our ideology tells us. Conservatives know nothing ideologically; only that whatever is old is probably better than what is new. They have an older history of low spending; true. But they also have a recent history of high spending. So in theory they might have gone either way. But note that taking on new missions for the military can be done right up to the point where spending is about where it was in the cold war. This is the course of minimal change. That has to be the most appealing for a conservative. Over time, this is exactly what has happened. It started right with the first Iraq war.

It was quite clear, in the 90s, that the military industrial complex was thrashing about like a wounded hydra, looking for a raison d'etre. During the 90's, the "solution" was not found, although we did get involved in the Balkans, Columbia, and other places. Some stuck, some didn't. But none really challenged our massive military. Spending was actually getting cut! Oh no! Well, glory be, 9/11. Suddenly Americans actually felt like military spending. And suddenly it is springtime for conservatives: they have found a mission that explains their desire to not change military spending. (And also, I think, all the explanations Tucker considers do come into effect as well.)

Foreign policy, in other words, has hardly realigned at all. For conservatives, the Enemy was the Soviet Union; the Enemy became untethered there for a while, drifted around, and has now settled on "terra": the Muslim world as a whole. Unfortunately, this is having the effect of realigning conservatives on domestic policy: to fight a war on terra we have to cut back on civil liberties. Exactly how much liberty to give up: that's the hot new issue for conservatives. This is, naturally, distressing to any libertarian.

Libertarians argue that we don't need to have an Enemy at all, and thus, don't need to give up any liberty for security. This is directly contrary to the conservative experience of the last 50 years.
At Objectionable Content, Jim has a funny observation on the Turks not rolling over for the bribe:
Despite US offers of anywhere from $15 to $30 billion in grants and aid, polls show that more than 85 percent of Turks oppose a war against Iraq.

Why is it that support for war among the Turkish people is less than 15 percent while among their politicians it is nearly 50 percent? Perhaps because neither group has any illusions about exactly where the US bribe money would go.
Or just democracy at work.