Sunday, December 14, 2014

Drivers Obeying the Law, Part II

I was biking South down Ladd towards the stoplight at Division, when I heard the Suburban behind me pull around to try a pass. I was going at 25 mph, and there was another car that had just turned off of Division and was heading North in the opposing lane. Once I saw that there was oncoming traffic, I knew there was no way the Suburban could make the pass without causing a head-on collision. But he made the pass anyway! The other car had to slam on their brakes; the right taillight of the Suburban passed a foot from my handlebars.

The stoplight at Division was red, so I caught him seconds after he passed me. I tapped on his window and said that he had passed too close. He had given me only a foot, and the minimum passing distance is my fall height (6 ft). He said that he had been "completely in the other lane," and that I should ride further over. Again, I was riding 25 mph--the speed limit--and had I been riding any further over I would have risked getting doored by a person stepping out of a parked car. He then said to me:

If you want to be a stickler for the rules, just remember that I'm driving a 7,000 pound vehicle, and you weigh maybe 180 pounds. That's your choice.

Remember, I did not slow him down in any way. The light was red while he was passing me. It remained red long enough for me to catch him and exchange several sentences at the stoplight. He gained no time whatsoever. He broke at least two laws and put my body and my life in danger--and the bodies and lives in the car coming towards us--for literally no reason at all. When called out on it insisted that it is my responsibility to stay out of his way.
Tonight's incident won't be in any crash statistics, but that doesn't mean that Clinton and Ladd are safe places to bike. This guy's attitude is too common on Portland bikeways. Drivers almost never allow enough travel distance to complete a pass safely, and end up risking head-on collisions, almost sideswiping bike riders, or both.
You would think that riding the speed limit would stop unsafe passes, but it doesn't. I routinely get honked at, passed too closely, or brake checked. I've even had to endure all three in close succession! I've been honked at going 20 in a 20 on Clinton and on NE 37th; I've been honked at doing 30 in a 30 on SW Steele. I've been passed too closely on the big hill on Woodstock Blvd., while biking 10 over the speed limit! I can't even imagine what it is like out there for people who ride at a gentler pace than I do.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Alan Dershowitz is an America-hating Bleeding-heart Liberal

About 8 years ago, I remarked to my eye doctor that maybe Alan Dershowitz's torture warrant idea wasn't such a bad one if the alternative was no accountability at all. Apparently he thought Dershowitz was an America-hating bleeding heart liberal, though, because he launched into a rant about how the CIA isn't stupid, they know that torture can produce unreliable information, and they always verify torture intelligence against other information gathered. (Other highlights: the ticking bomb scenario proves that using torture to gather intelligence is always justified; we don't know what is going on, so therefore no one should oppose it.)
Now that we have the Senate report, we know that my eye doctor was hopelessly naive. The CIA did indeed take intelligence gathered under torture as gospel, sometimes to disastrous ends—nearly letting bin Laden's driver get away, torturing innocent people whose names were given up under torture, etc.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised. What would an eye doctor from Bend, Oregon know about the CIA's torture program?

Torture vs. American Exceptionalism

Mitt Romney, in No Apology: The Case for American Greatness:
I make no apology for my conviction that America's economic and military leadership is not only good for America but also critical for freedom and peace around the world. (Page 2)
... What's chilling to consider is that if America is not the superpower, others will take our place. What nation or nations would rise, and what would be the consequences for our safety, freedom, and prosperity?
The world is a safer place when America is strong....
... The very existence of American power helps to hold tyrants in check and reduces the risk of precipitous war. (Page 10)
... No nation has shed more blood for more noble causes than the United States. Its beneficence and benevolence are unmatched by any nation on earth, and by any nation in history.
Abraham Lincoln understood that the destiny of the world was twined to the destiny of America. It is why he called the United States the "last, best hope of earth." It is still so. As citizens of America, we should be filled with love and gratitude for what this country has been, for what it is, and for what it can still be. (Page 33)
... I'm one of those who believe America is destined to remain as it been [sic] since the birth of the Republicthe brightest hope of the world. And for that belief I do not apologize. (Page 34)
Findings from the recently released torture report, as summarized by the Washington Post (emphasis added):
[A]ccording to CIA records, seven of the 39 CIA detainees known to have been subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques produced no intelligence while in CIA custody. CIA detainees who were subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were usually subjected to the techniques immediately after being rendered to CIA custody. Other detainees provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques. While being subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques and afterwards, multiple CIA detainees fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence. Detainees provided fabricated information on critical intelligence issues, including the terrorist threats which the CIA identified as its highest priorities.
... CIA officers regularly called into question whether the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were effective, assessing that the use of the techniques failed to elicit detainee cooperation or produce accurate intelligence.

The CIA never conducted a credible, comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques....
There are no CIA records to indicate that any of the reviews independently validated the "effectiveness" claims presented by the CIA, to include basic confirmation that the intelligence cited by the CIA was acquired from CIA detainees during or after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques. Nor did the reviews seek to confirm whether the intelligence cited by the CIA as being obtained "as a result" of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques was unique and "otherwise unavailable," as claimed by the CIA, and not previously obtained from other sources.

More broadly, the program caused immeasurable damage to the United States' public standing, as well as to the United States' longstanding global leadership on human rights in general and the prevention of torture in particular.
Kevin Drum's summary of the torture program seems apt (emphasis added):
The torture was far more brutal than we thought, and the CIA lied about that. It didn't work, and they lied about that too. It produced so much bad intel that it most likely impaired our national security, and of course they lied about that as well. They lied to Congress, they lied to the president, and they lied to the media.
Dick Cheney has an entirely different take on the matter:
[T]he techniques used by the Bush White House—like water boarding—were “absolutely, totally justified,” and hardly akin to torture.
“They deserve a lot of praise,” [Cheney] said, referring to the CIA, The Hill reported. “As far as I’m concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized.”
He also said that waterboarding and similar tactics were the “right thing[s] to do, and if I had to do it over again, I would do it. When we had that program in place, we kept the country safe from any more mass casualty attacks, which was our objective,” The Hill reported.
Cheney's argument on torture is simple: America's first duty is to protect Americans, and that which protects American's is justified. Everyone should have a sliver of sympathy for this argument, even if they reject Cheney's conclusion that his torture program was justified. But this ends-justify-the-means reasoning undermines Mitt Romney's proclamation that "[America']s beneficence and benevolence are unmatched by any nation on earth, and by any nation in history." America tortured people, brutally, without gaining any useful intelligence. America tortured innocent people, brutally, because of faulty intelligence that came from torture. Is this beneficent? Is it benevolent? If you wonder why there are so many skeptics of American exceptionalism, the Senate's torture report might have some answers.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Solidarity for me, but not for thee

On November 14, Portland's KGW TV station reported that "Portland Police Chief [Mike Reese] on Monday ordered three officers to remove 'I am Darren Wilson' images from their Facebook pages." Reese's order was not without controversy:
Maybe the Portland officers where [sic] expressing their rights of free speech when showing solidarity with their brother? [1]

I think that what they are saying is that they don't support the lynching of a white police officer without benefit of due process, a trial or even charges being brought forward.... [2]
On November 30, six members of the St. Louis Rams entered the field with their hands up in the air, in the "don't shoot" position, protesting everything that has happened in Ferguson over the last few months. The St. Louis County Police Officers Association was not amused. From the official statement by the SLPOA:
The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory…
From SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda:
I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. [Blah blah blah]
Jamilah Lemieux of Ebony magazine has an excellent commentary on the statement issued by the SLPOA. Read the whole thing. I will merely remark on this: if you are a black person, showing solidarity with a boy who was killed is "tasteless, offensive, and inflammatory." Indeed, it is so far outside of the bounds of civilized discourse that not even invoking the First Amendment can justify it. By contrast, if you are a "white police officer," expressing solidarity with the man who killed that boy is not just understandable, but beyond criticism.
UPDATE: In addition to believing that the First Amendment does not allow for criticism of police officers, Jeff Roorda apparently also believes that the First Amendment allows police officers abuse their position to bully and intimidate their critics.