Dick Cheney Asks To Be Prosecuted For Violation of Federal Law

Many people have already pointed out that Dick Cheney’s discussion of his role in promoting water boarding on Sunday is essentially a confession to war crimes. Scott Horton questions if he wants to be prosecuted:

“I was a big supporter of waterboarding,” Cheney said in an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. He went on to explain that Justice Department lawyers had been instructed to write legal opinions to cover the use of this and other torture techniques after the White House had settled on them.

Section 2340A of the federal criminal code makes it an offense to torture or to conspire to torture. Violators are subject to jail terms or to death in appropriate cases, as where death results from the application of torture techniques. Prosecutors have argued that a criminal investigation into torture undertaken with the direction of the Bush White House would raise complex legal issues, and proof would be difficult. But what about cases in which an instigator openly and notoriously brags about his role in torture? Cheney told Jonathan Karl that he used his position within the National Security Council to advocate for the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques. Former CIA agent John Kiriakou and others have confirmed that when waterboarding was administered, it was only after receiving NSC clearance. Hence, Cheney was not speaking hypothetically but admitting his involvement in the process that led to decisions to waterboard in at least three cases.

What prosecutor can look away when a perpetrator mocks the law itself and revels in his role in violating it? Such cases cry out for prosecution. Dick Cheney wants to be prosecuted. And prosecutors should give him what he wants.

Whether or not Cheney wants to be prosecuted, he should be tried for his violation of the law. If the actions he described on television are allowed to go unpunished there is no reason for any future president or vice-president to fear repeating Dick Cheney’s crimes.

Insurance and Mortality

I cannot believe that Ezra Klein had to even waste time arguing over the fact that lack of insurance leads to increased mortality. He’s been engaged in such a debate in the blogosphere for the last few days and provides what might be his “closing argument” here.

There certainly is no argument with the opposing view that those who are at immediate threat of loss of life will receive emergency care even if uninsured.  However, while such people will not be turned away from an emergency room, the care they receive afterward can still differ from those who are insured and this has been demonstrated to affect mortality.

To deny the effects on mortality of lack of insurance is also to deny that both preventative medicine and long term care of chronic disease have an effect on mortality. Both claims are absurd, and Klein does provide evidence to support what we would think.

While there is no question that lack of insurance does increase mortality, there is a legitimate question as to the actual numbers. Klein cites a number of 18,000 people dying a year due to lack of health insurance. There are other numbers floating around but, regardless of the exact number, in terms of mortality we have the equivalent of multiple 9/11 attacks every year due to lack of health care coverage.

Tamyra d’Ippolito Fails To Get Signatures To Run For Bayh’s Seat

Hotline On Call reports that Tamyra d’Ippolito has failed to in her attempt to get on the ballot to replace retiring Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. While she reports having enough total signatures she failed to meet the required threshold of having five hundred signatures from each Congressional district. She only had three signatures in the 7th district.

Democrats are relieved by this news as the deadline passed. With Bayh retiring d’Ippolito would have been the only candidate in the primary forcing the Democrats to go with a weak candidate who is not felt to be electable. Instead the nomination will be chosen by the party and is expected to be conservative Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth. Ellsworth, a Blue Dog Democrat, was one of the Democrats who voted against health care reform in the House. While certainly not a desirable Senator there is little chance of a liberal Democrat being elected in Indiana.

Anti-Science Spin on Climate Change

Science should be a matter for peer reviewed medical journals, not debates in blogs and the media started by right wing ideologues who prefer to ignore science whenever it conflicts with their political or religious views. Since the scientific consensus is clearly against them, climate change deniers have been attempting to politicize the scientific issues with a number of bogus charges.

The scientific method is self-correcting as finding errors leads to better information, but the denialists typically latch onto any small error and use this to attempt to cast doubt on the entire field. Sometimes we might even have cases of individual scientists behaving badly but this still does not change the entire body of evidence.

Climate Change has a good run down of the latest spin, looking at many incidents in detail. They conclude:

Overall then, the IPCC assessment reports reflect the state of scientific knowledge very well. There have been a few isolated errors, and these have been acknowledged and corrected. What is seriously amiss is something else: the public perception of the IPCC, and of climate science in general, has been massively distorted by the recent media storm. All of these various “gates” – Climategate, Amazongate, Seagate, Africagate, etc., do not represent scandals of the IPCC or of climate science. Rather, they are the embarrassing battle-cries of a media scandal, in which a few journalists have misled the public with grossly overblown or entirely fabricated pseudogates, and many others have naively and willingly followed along without seeing through the scam. It is not up to us as climate scientists to clear up this mess – it is up to the media world itself to put this right again, e.g. by publishing proper analysis pieces like the one of Tim Holmes and by issuing formal corrections of their mistaken reporting. We will follow with great interest whether the media world has the professional and moral integrity to correct its own errors.

Alex Knapp also has a good analysis of how the media has distorted this interview.  He concludes, “I think this provides an excellent example of why, when it comes to scientific topics, you’re much better off going to primary sources than you are trusting a newspaper reporter.”