Friday, January 16, 2009

The Ticking Nutbag Scenario

At the risk of destroying my country music career and drawing the ire of my conservative fans, I will state right out that I am embarrassed that Senator John Cornyn is from my home state of Texas.  I always have been embarrassed and I can't imagine a situation where I could ever be proud of that ridiculous man.  It's like he's made it his mission to make my other Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, look respectable by comparison.

And so I see him attempting to trap our next Attorney General in one of the dumbest hypothetical questions and I can only shake my head deeper in disgrace.  I'm sorry, but The Ticking Time Bomb Scenario?  Really, Senator?  That's what we're paying you for?  My god, that's the kind of imbecilic fantasy hypothetical you'd expect to hear from a fifth grader, akin to asking if someone would rather be eaten by zombies or ground to death in a giant meat grinder.  (BTW, the answer to that is zombies, because zombies are cool.)  

And it was obvious that Holder was completely stunned that he was asked such an inane question.  And of course, he was right.  It's a dumb hypothetical; even worse than the Zombie v. Meat Grinder situation.  Because there can only be one right answer to Cornyn's hypothetical: If we knew that a terrorist could expose a terrorist plot that would kill thousands and we knew that torture was the only way to obtain that information, then yes, we'd torture the guy.  

That's the only possible answer and Cornyn knew it.  That's why he imagined it was such a great question.

Always Torture, Always

But that's the whole point of why we oppose torture: Because you can't "know" that a terrorist has information to expose.  And you can't trust what a torture victim may say.  And there are other alternatives to torture, including techniques that work far better than torture.  And so that hypothetical is so ridiculously stupid that Cornyn should be glad that Holder abstained from laughing his ass off when the question was asked.  I don't think I have as much restraint, which might explain why Obama went with Holder instead of me for Attorney General.

Besides, if this situation ever could exist, then the interrogator should just take it on his own to torture the guy and hope the jury would exonerate him.  There's no reason to make this our official policy, just in case an impossible situation ever actually happens.  Similarly, it might occur that a bank robbery is necessary to save lives, but that doesn't mean we should legalize robbery.  We shouldn't base our laws on very specific scenarios that have never happened.

Of course, this would be keeping with the conservative distrust of our legal system; preferring tort reform and mandatory sentences in order to obtain the "proper" court decisions.  Somehow, it's better for politicians to make sweeping changes that affect everyone rather than allow judges and juries to decide things on a case by case basis.  And in keeping with that, they believe it's better for our government to torture every suspected terrorist, just in case we might actually need to torture one of them some day.

Torture, Reality Style

And Cornyn's absurdities aside, if you legalize torture it will be used against innocent people who aren't withholding information.  And it will also be used on actual terrorists who don't have information to reveal.  And even if you're using it against a real terrorist with real information, you still can't trust a damn thing he says.  He might know of a plot to destroy the Empire State Building, and he'll tell you they're blowing up the Chrysler Building.  And if the bomb's set to go off on Wednesday, he'll tell you it'll be Friday.  That's the big problem: You just can't trust what torture will get you.

And then, of course, there's the contradiction these jerks always give, where they insist that torture isn't torture, but also believe that it's some all-powerful technique that can get hardened terrorists to betray their friends and even their god.  Waterboarding is just a low-grade frat prank when they insist it's not torture, but it's powerful enough to get a suicide bomber to confess to everything?  Huh??  This makes no sense.  Either it's a horrible technique that's very persuasive, or it's a harmless technique that gets lousy results.  

Or, as the case actually is, it's a horrible technique that gets lousy results.  Because again, even the true terrorist with the ticking time bomb can lie to you, and you won't know until after the bomb explodes.  And the more the guy has to hide, the more likely he'll hide it.  And beyond an actual ticking bomb, any evidence we get is tainted due to the nature of how it was extracted, and therefore inadmissible when it comes to actually punishing a terrorist for wrongdoing.  So torture is counter-productive and stupid.  Is it any wonder conservatives like it so much?

Blowing Your Mind

And beyond all that, it was a silly, juvenile question that had no business coming from an actual senator.  I mean, really.  It's nothing but a ridiculous trick question that's only effective if you drop it on someone who's never heard of it before and doesn't have time to think it through; much like Pascal's Wager.  But once you've heard the question and have had time to give it some thought, you quickly realize what a joke the whole thing is, describing an impossible situation with no relation to reality.

But conservatives still don't see that.  Because they don't want to give it any thought, and even if they did, thinking really isn't their strongsuit.  So they drop these abysmal questions on us and imagine themselves to be the cleverest people in the world.  Hell, even with Holder politely mocking Cornyn's stupidity, the Senator still imagined himself to be uber-clever for having "trapped" his prey.  And he imagined that Holder's inability to answer the question was because the truth of the scenario is so undeniable, rather than because Holder was astounded that such a stupid question was even asked during such an important event.

But so it is with conservatives.  They consistently believe that because they can say such stupid things that we become speechless, that this proves how deliciously clever they are.  And while you stand there, stammering, futilely trying to figure out where to even start unraveling their latest absurdity, they somehow imagine that they've achieved a brilliant coup.  They're like little kids who proudly display the "Playdoh" they found in the kitty litterbox, except these are important people playing dangerous games.  Fortunately, they were too incompetent to stay powerful; if only people had learned that sooner.

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