And now, another installment of TORTURE IN THE NEWS!

See, you go and post something sarcastic about how torture isn't always so bad, and along comes Jonah Goldberg to moot your whole point.

Consider killing. In every society in the world, murder is punished more harshly than non-lethal torture. If I waterboard you, or lock you in my basement with Duran Duran blasting at you 24/7, even if I beat you for hours with a rubber hose, my punishment will be less severe than if I murder you, simply because it is worse to take a life deliberately than to cause pain, even sadistically.

Well, no. As Jonah himself will point out below, we make all sorts of exceptions for killing, because we tend to believe that sometimes it must be done; whereas we never believe torture is necessary. We allow and even encourage killing during wartime; we never encourage torture of our enemies. The police killing a criminal is a tragic but sometimes unavoidable event, while the police torturing a criminal is a scandal; many people believe we should be allowed to kill prisoners, but hardly anyone believes we should be allowed to torture them. We allow for the possibility of accidental killing; there is no such thing as accidental torture. Even within the framework of murder, torture is an exacerbating factor: a woman who shoots her philandering husband will rightly be punished, but a man who tortures a woman to death is far worse. Goldberg is engaging in sophistry at its worst, pretending he doesn't know how universal an evil torture is -- even worse than killing -- in order to defend the indefensible. (Also pretty repulsive is his citing mild-sounding tortures like waterboarding -- or even comical ones like being forced to listen to Duran Duran -- to lessen the gravity of the debate. Note that he doesn't cite actual tortures used against Iraqi detainees, like being wrapped in a carpet and beaten nearly to death, or having a light stick crammed up your ass, or being raped, or having your genitals electrically shocked by car batteries.)

Would you rather take some lumps in a dungeon for a month, or take a dirt nap forever?

Well, gosh! When you put it that way, I guess torture is fine!

Yet, according to the torture prohibitionists, there must be a complete ban on anything that even looks like torture, regardless of context, even though we'd never dream of a blanket ban on killing.

Hmm. Could that be, maybe, because TORTURE IS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THING THAN KILLING? Could it be because there's an element of moral evil in torture so indefensible that no one thinks it can be done with any moral justification whatsoever? I mean, for Christ's sake, if you pose in a Goldberg's Choice way -- "Would you rather get slobbered on for five minutes, or take a dirt nap forever?" -- then clearly, killing is far worse than rape. But you don't hear anyone going around saying that we should make exceptions for rape, or that the complete ban on rape is stifling and doesn't allow for legitimate exceptions. Because there aren't any! Good grief.

Anyway, next Jonah admits that there are reasons to kill, but not to torture -- not because there are no good reasons to torture, but because we just haven't given enough thought to finding them:

One reason for this disconnect is that we've thought a lot about killing and barely at all about torture. Almost no one opposes killing in all circumstances; wars sometimes need to be fought, the hopelessly suffering may require relief, we reserve the right to self-defense. Indeed, the law recognizes a host of nuances when it comes to homicide, and the place where everybody draws an unambiguous line on killing is at something we call "murder." But there is no equivalent word for murder when it comes to torture. It's always evil.

Clearly, we just haven't tried hard enough to find reasons to support torture! Really, when you think about it, people oppose torture because it has a bad name. If it was called 'puppy-flowerism', everyone would love it! We just need to work hard to come up with situations where sticking a flashlight up a guy's rectum and smearing shit on his face and bashing his fingers with gun butts is acceptable, and then call it 'proactive pre-terrogation', and all of the sudden it will be morally justifiable.

Yet that's not our universal reaction. In movies and on TV, good men force evil men to give up information via methods no nicer than what the CIA is allegedly employing. If torture is a categorical evil, shouldn't we boo Jack Bauer on Fox's "24"?

Well, there you go, folks. There's Jonah's hole card. There's his big reveal. There's his "AHA, GOTCHA!" moment by which he proves that torture is okay: because some people think a fictional character on a TV action show is neat. This would be a jackass argument even if you ignored the fact that lots of people do boo Jack Bauer.

There's a reason we keep hearing about the ticking time bomb scenario in the torture debate: Is abuse justified in getting a prisoner to reveal the location of a bomb that would kill many when detonated?

Actually, the reason we keep hearing about it is because people like Jonah Goldberg constantly dredge it up in order to have a tiny thread on which to hang their repulsive pro-torture agenda. We certainly don't keep hearing about it because it keeps actually taking place.

We understand that in such a situation, Americans would expect to be protected. That's why human-rights activists have tried to declare this scenario a red herring.

Another reason is that IT NEVER FUCKING HAPPENS.

I tell you, man: there's a lot of shit I can't believe I'm hearing these days. There's a lot of things going on that I honestly can't believe is taking place, that it just doesn't seem possible is allowed to happen with little to no public outcry. It's stunning to me that health care in the world's wealthiest country gets more and more inacessible instead of less and less; it's absolutely shocking that a major American city was basically allowed to vanish while the government sat on its hands. And I continue to be obsessed by the total lack of public outcry over the massive looting, fraud, misappropriation and corruption in Iraq by American corporations and government agencies. But more than anything, the fact that any day of the week I can turn on the radio, TV or computer and hear my fellow Americans, from everyday citizens to blowhard pundits all the way up to the President of the United States, demanding the right to torture people, is beyond unreal. America-hating comsymp traitors like me are constantly being accused of harboring feelings of shame over what is the freest country on earth, but it's pretty goddamn hard to be proud of your country when its leadership is bitching and moaning about how they aren't allowed to torture prisoners.



Everybody likes to talk about torture. All of the sudden, torture is the bad guy. Like there's no such thing as GOOD torture! Come on, you liberal hippie freaks! What happened to 'there is no such thing as a man with no good in him"? But once you talk about our old pal torture, it's like he never accomplished anything! What about the Spanish Inquisition? Torture did a good job then, saving who knows how many thousands of souls. Without torture, all those forcible conversions would now be damned to Hell instead of eating Pizza Rolls in Heaven with John Wayne and Jesus! the Bush Administration is pro-torture, and you know how big they are on moral clarity. Even when they're against it, they're for it, kinda. And torture works as an anti-terror tactic, no matter what a couple of mean-spirited dissidents say; we have no less an authority than popular TV show 24 saying it's so!

How else can we tell that torture is a good thing? Well, the United Nations says that torture is worse now in Iraq than it was under Saddam Hussein, and the administration keeps telling us that there's lots of good news in Iraq, so maybe this is it. Maybe this is one of those things-getting-better we never hear about in the biased liberal American media! Thanks, BBC, for hipping us to one of the frequent victories in the new, democratic, peaceful Iraq. Torture also creates jobs, and that's good for the economy, so that should put an end to the discussion right there, but some people just love to complain.

Not complaining are leading lights like Rep. Lynn "I Voted for Torture" Westmoreland (R-GA), Thomas "Moral Courage" Sowell, John "Nobody Hated America in the '70s" Yoo, and the always-reliable Wall Street Journal's editorial board. If those people are in favor of torture, why aren't you? The WSJ is America's paper of record, people! And speaking of America, this country is widely hailed as the advance-guard of freedom and democracy, so if we are the first nation ever to officially authorize violations of the Geneva Conventions, maybe the problem isn't us, but the stupid Conventions.

As if any more proof were needed that torture is A-OK, no less august a body than the Traditional Values Coalition has come out in favor of it, and in opposition to those who would restrict it. TRADITIONAL VALUES, folks! That's what they're all about! If torture wasn't a traditional value, they would naturally oppose it! What more do you need to know? GO GO GADGET TORTURE


As long as I'm floundering...

...it's been a while since we did a Town Hall Roundup.

Michael Medved: Television is taking over our lives! Learn more on my daily three-hour radio show. Also, don't listen to that crazy Al Gore.

Mike S. Adams: My boss is a stuck-up bitch. Also, my deranged story about raiding a crackhouse proves that liberals are racist, somehow.

Walter Williams: I am Uncle Ruckus.

Brent Bozell, Ben Shapiro, Kathleen Parker, Debra Saunders, and Cal Thomas: Boy, that Clinton sure is an angry nut! Not that we're obsessed with him or anything! It's just that he is like Charles Manson!

Andrew Tallman: You should always stand up for what you believe, unless what you believe is that the President is an asshole.

Michelle Malkin: Charlotte Church is a skanky cunt because she uses sex to sell herself. Also, don't miss my weekly video blog at hotair.com, which often features me wearing skimpy outfits and jumping on a trampoline!


At last, the truth

The man from Fuddled, MN, in defense of his claim that his is not a political blog, finally explains himself.

I have zero objections to homosexuality but balk at redefining marriage.

I don't mind homos, as long as they don't ask for the same rights as regular people.

I recycle and abjure waste and live light as possible and dislike Hummers but I’m unimpressed by environmental scaremongering.

I like environmentalism as long as nobody tries to convince me that it's important.

I believe women are the intellectual equal of men but emotionally and psychologically different.

You know, because of the "curse".

I don’t want to outweigh the firefighter who attempts to carry me down the steps, and I don’t want a 37-year old man leading my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. No Harvard jobs for me!


I would rather hang out with Iggy Pop than Frank Sinatra.

Even though both of them would call me a tweedy nerd and flick cigarettes in my face.

I love the 50s but, if I lived there as a 20-something I'd be the sort of person who annoys me now, railing against the very symbols of artifice I prize today.

I am barely capable of recognizing what a profounding irritating person I am, but that won't stop me from complaining about the kids today with their rock and roll and their hair.

I hate the 60s, but know full well I would have been a pretentious stoner antiestablishment wannabee until the pose cost me money.

I would have pretended to be a hippie until it started to interfere with my income. I am a poseur and proud of it!

I think light rail is a money pit sinkhole beloved by New Urbanists, but support public subsidies of large-scale bus systems to move inner-city people to wherever the jobs may be.

I think public transport is a great idea for the poor and other people who aren't me.

I dearly love the inner city but don’t care if people move to the burbs for nice houses and good schools.

I hate the symptoms, but I am not interested in the cause.

I support the public schools. I support school choice.

I make no sense.

For that matter I support the New Urbanists, except when they get high-mindedly pissy about people’s free choices.

I am in favor of progressivism, as long as it doesn't try to get people to do something they don't want to do, or point out that it might be harmful to do the things they're already doing.

I believe in God, but I’m not throwing away my Coop books because he had a hot time at a Black Mass.


I can’t stand everything Islamicists stand for, despair of the tide that seems to swamp a religion for which I have, despite my efforts, no empathetic connection whatsoever, but I celebrate the first Muslim in space.

I hate Muslims except when they remind me of Star Trek.

I dislike most TV, most modern music, and most movies, but love the big messy hot throbbing blob of Western pop culture, partly because I connect with part of it like a dog biting on a live wire, and partly because the loud rude crass mess spells freedom, and that is the root word at the heart of the American experiment.

I am an old crank.

We can always learn from others, but they’ve much to learn from us.

America is the best.

Unless they have a 200+ year track record of expanding rights and unimaginable prosperity as well.

America is the super-best.



My arch-nemesis James Lileks is on vacation at a cabin up by the Boundary Waters. He has not only updated his (free) website twice, but has done a half-hour audio blog and also redesigned the site. While on vacation. With his family. At the Boundary Waters.


Speaking of schmucks, I can't link to the whole thing since it's NYT premium content, but uberschmuck David Brooks, who actually makes a fat living writing on political and cultural trends in America, has just written a column in which he notes that getting a tattoo isn't really very rebellious, because a lot of people have them now. WHAT A STUNNER! Only about fifteen years behind the rest of the country comes D. Brooks with that dynamite observation. Next up from the keen eyes of this trend-hawk: 'punk rock' is actually sorta reactionary and conservative! Also, ad agencies are now using images of '60s rebellion to sell products!