Steel City Cowboy

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How to Question a Terrorist

Hit the link in the post title to read an article about the, um, interesting restrictions placed on our interrogators by the Army Field Manual. One such rule regards lying to interrogation subjects. There are only a few lies you are allowed to tell:

You are allowed to pretend you know more about them than you do.
You are allowed to lead them to believe you are from another country.
You can do good cop/bad cop, which implies that you can pretend to be angry or unreasonable when in fact you are not.

This really bums me out. You all didn't know it, but I have been a private contract interrogator with the CIA for a number of years. I'm probably going to have to be done with that now, because throwing around lies was easily my most reliable method of getting information from subjects. Herein you will find some of the lies I've used to great effect, but which are now illegal:

The Lie: "I checked the messages, and no one called for you."

The Goal: To break the subject's spirit by implying the no one cares about them.

The Truth: The terrorist in question had four messages, although I think one was some random survey thing calling. I deleted all four. Just. Like. That.

The Lie: "Me [sic] and the other interrogators were going to go play Wii bowling off base tonight and wanted to ask you along. The Colonel said no. We really wanted you to go though."

The Goal: Good cop/bad cop, using the Colonel as the bad cop in absentia. Using this technique, the subject desperately wants to join the group (we only let them play XBox in their cells [duh, not XBox 360]), and gives up information to try to feel "in." GC/BC is still allowed, but this takes it too far in the clear infliction of emotional distress.

The Truth: We never had any intention of having him go along for Wii bowling. The truth just hurts sometimes.

The Lie: "I texted you like three times, honest. You never got them? I figured you were just ignoring me."

The Goal: Make the subject worry that their wireless provider has bad service and/or poor coverage in the cell block.

The Truth: I had told the subject I would text him after lunch, but thought better of it later. I never texted him even once. Well, I did, but I hit cancel right in the middle of the send, and I'm pretty sure it stopped it from going out. Sometimes we follow it up with "Everyone in D block is getting my texts, so I'm not sure what's up with yours." This breeds jealousy and distrust among the detainee population, a valuable tool.

The Lie: "I saw your sister at a bar last weekend, and she was acting totally slutty."

The Goal: Shake the subject's faith in his family's virtue.

The Sad Truth: We try to track all of our detainee's families in their native countries. His sister hadn't even been seen in the last few weeks, after her appearance showing waaaaay too much ankle in the "Taliban Gone Wild '09" calendar. One barely has to imagine what happened to her after exhibiting such decadent behavior in public.

And finally...

The Lie: "Guest what? Chicken butt."

The Goal: This one's insidious, which is probably why it's not on the approved list. The subject thinks that something awesome is about to happen. Maybe it's their birthday, and they're expecting cake. Maybe they think we're going to let them go. I don't know how these crazy people think, so I'm not sure what depraved wish enters their head when I ask "Guess what?" But I do know that it warms my heart when they excitedly answer "What?" and I crush their spirit with "Chicken butt." It gets me every time.

The Truth: There is no truth to this one. I think that's what hurts them the most. The entire question is a lie.

Without the ability to administer these kinds of mind-warping lies, I'm going to have to tender my letter of resignation.

Le sigh.

The Real Bad Guys

According to Investors.com (a product of Investor's Business Daily), Honduras has captured and extradited a major drug and terrorist weapons supplier into U.S. authority. Good for them. Let me put you some knowledge (from investors.com):

"As shadowy moneymen in the terror underworld go, not many are as unsavory as Jamal Yousef, an ex-Syrian military man turned terrorist arms supplier. Three years ago in Honduras, undercover U.S. agents caught him trying to sell 100 AR-15 assault rifles, 100 M-16 assault rifles, 10 M-60 machine guns, C-4 explosives, 2,500 hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and as many as 18 surface-to-air missiles to Colombia's FARC Marxist narcoterrorists."
There's just one problem -- they most likely have the wrong guy.

Look. We've all watched lots of movies and TV shows -- everyone knows that the only people who are international arms dealers that accept payment in drugs are American ex-pats and jaded CIA agents. All terrorist funding secretly comes from rich, white business men who are looking to perpetuate global chaos because that somehow works out for them. So, wrong guy. Q to the E to the D.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let's Go To Church

For many years, the United Methodist Church has advocated for a Single Payer health care system. During the current attempt by the President and Congress to ram a health care bill through before anyone can read it, apparently the UMC has decided that it is going to try to throw its weight around.

Our church (St. Paul's United Methodist) evidently feels it is in the interest of Christian charity to support the current political position of the Democrat party on health insurance reform. They've said as much from the pulpit in the last few weeks (Health care reform now!) and today, they used their facebook account both to disseminate liberal health care reform propaganda and to point people toward a "Health Care Creed" on their website for members to sign.

Of course, this couldn't be what it looks like. You can't preach politics from the pulpit! It's just humanitarianism, my friends. The love of Jesus! I suppose that's a runaround the IRS buys. However, as the Health Care Creed that we are encouraged to consider points out, we should be honest. The United Methodist Church wants a Single Payer health care solution, and wants us to do what we can to bring that about. They stop just short of saying "Call your congressman!" But come on. There is only one group of people who have any desire to and can make this happen, and we all know who they are. Of course, it's not political.

I realize that many of the leadership team at St. Paul's feel strongly about this, and are willing to expend goodwill capital to bring it to the attention of the congregation. The beliefs of many in the congregation are diametrically opposed to this sought-after political solution, though, and believe as I do, that such a Single Payer system or public option that leads to such a scheme is in fact immoral. The leadership team's expenditure of moral authority is costing them in my eyes and in the eyes of others, most particularly when they deceive themselves into using the spiritual pulpit for political ends.

But all told, I suppose I should to submit to the notion that we should let the government take our labor by force and give it to those who are deemed in need by bureaucrats. Doesn't that count as helping your neighbor?

As Jesus often said, "Let's get the government to do something about it."

Simple Healthcare Economics

I was just checking out some of the ads on craigslist that want you to "HELP SOLVE THE HEALTHCARE CRISIS - MAKE $9-13/HOUR!". And, while they aren't speaking (directly) for the current Presidential administration or band of syphilitic baboons inhabiting the Capitol Building, they do give an insight into the left's popular perceptions.

Simply put, the left feels thusly:

THE PROBLEM: Health insurance premiums are already too expensive for people of modest means to afford, and are quickly becoming unaffordable for an increasing number of Americans.

THE SOLUTION: A government-run health insurance plan.

While it's certainly an extremely distilled version of the position, I think it's a fair one. It is, really, the essence of both their argument and their solution.

So, the question one must ask when presented with this point of view is: how does the proposed solution actually solve the problem? In other words, what is the mechanism by which it will function?

First, I think you have to address the initial problem. The main weakness of the leftist argument in this case is that they have defined the problem incorrectly. The proper addendum to the leftist problem statement should most likely read "...for an increasing number of Americans DUE TO CORPORATE GREED." They believe that the greater-than-inflationary rise in health care prices and subsequent rise in insurance premium pricing is due in large part to corporate (read: big pharma, big hospital and big insurance) greed. Unfortunately for all of us, that is not the case.

Look -- I have no doubt that people in the insurance industry want to make as much money as they can. So do hospitals. They want to be able to stay in business, and continue providing jobs and even raises to their employees and nice payments to their shareholders. In that sense, they are greedy, which makes them no different than any other industry or business in this country. And yet, somehow, greed in this industry is a problem. A systemic, show-stopping problem.

The statement that "many people involved in health care want to make lots of money" may be an indictment on its face to leftists, but to me it is not. In light of the fact that our capitalist system (i.e. greed) in the United States has lead to the greatest period of prosperity and human rights of any other system in the history of human existence, and of the spectacular failures of command-based systems (socialism, communism, touchy-feely-Euro-lite-socialism) to be able to produce any effect beyond the furtherance of mediocrity and often much, much worse, simply accusing "greed" of something bad doesn't fly.

Okay, you don't know it, but I just wrote a whole big long thing then deleted it, because this is simpler than eating baby food and there's no need to be verbose:

- Healthcare services are perceived as valuable.
- Due to the way that Medicare, Medicaid and employer-deducted health insurance are structured, healthcare services feel either free or nearly free to us.
- A system in which something of great value appears to be given away at an enormous discount at all times is unsustainable due to basic economics.

We're just now starting to see that unsustainability.

Adding a government run health insurance plan would do what, folks? That's right -- make healthcare services feel like even more of a discount than they do today.

We all pay for the healthcare services that are distributed today: through co-pays (which are very small -- our only real "felt cost" in the system -- compared to the value of the services we receive for them), payroll taxes (Medicare, etc.), and before-tax deductions for employer-bought health plans. We are paying for this stuff, but it doesn't feel like it to us because we never saw that deducted money in the first place. That causes everyone to act differently than they otherwise would, severely distorting the market.

So, if we believe the theory that prices are rising quickly due to corporate greed, we implement a government insurance plan. A public option. Unfortunately, that only makes the real problem -- a felt cost versus perceived value imbalance -- much worse. That kind of system, as we see with Medicare, is unsustainable. It has a finite economic horizon.

We need to address the base problem -- felt cost/perceived value. The perceived value is either going to remain the same or go up over time as new, better treatments become available. We cannot, nor would we want to, harm the perceived value of healthcare services. What we need to do is to change the felt cost side of the equation. We're already paying for this stuff -- it just doesn't feel like it.

I contend that the only way to restrain the future charged price of healthcare services is to take a more market-based approach, and that begins with removing health insurance as an untaxed benefit of employment. It's compensation, and should be treated as such. When people see that they can either have health insurance or, say, $450 more per month in their paycheck, behaviors will begin to change, which will in turn change the pricing structures of providers.