Sunday, July 31, 2005


Ensign Bill Lets Carriers Mess with Content

Here's the language in the Ensign Bill, aka BICCA (Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act):

a broadband service provider shall not willfully and knowingly block access to such content by a subscriber unless (A) such content is determined to be illegal; (B) such denial is expressly authorized by Federal or State law; or (C) such access is inconsistent with the terms of the service plan of such consumer including applicable bandwidth capacity or quality of service constraints.
Susan Crawford suggests that, "Is determined" does not specify who determines; it's likely to be the telco. Furthermore, she notes that the carrier sets the terms of service -- judge, jury and executioner.

In addition, Jim Baller points out (.pdf) that BICCA contains a familiar, objectionable anti-muni provision: it gives private carriers right of first refusal before cities can build their own networks. That's bad, but it's far, far worse to enshrine in law that carriers can mess with content.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005


Open Source follows the money.

Now hear this (.mp3). Talk show host Christopher Lydon's Open Source program covers the incredible disappearing cash in Iraq, interviewing U.S. Assistant Inspector General Jim Mitchell and other experts. The new unit of currency is "The Blackhawk," approximately half a billion dollars, because the helicopter can hold half a billion in hundreds before it is too heavy to fly. Website. Podcast. Somebody should do a transcript of this one.

One thing I heard, (not quoting accurately, but here's the gist): During the Viet Nam War, the Secretary of Defense saw Brown and Root operating and said it was corrupt to be exploiting the spoils of war. The SecDef was a fellow named Cheney.

*** UPDATE: Apparently it was not Cheney. It was Rummy. Transcript here, thanks to Carl! ***

(If you listen to the podcast, and come to this story, please send me the time and/or the exact words, and I'll make this more accurate. Thanks!)

Much, much more info here.

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Quote of Note: Ed Zander

" . . . on one of the 66 days left in the quarter, we're not saying which one yet ... Apple, Motorola and our biggest operator partners around the world will announce -- and ship -- the first iTunes phone . . . "

Motorola CEO Ed Zander, quoted by Scott Moritz, who reports that the planned announcement will come at a "V Festival" concert sponsored by Virgin Mobile U.K. on Aug. 20-21. U.S. models will be delayed even further, according to Moritz.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005



The BlogHer conference coming this week looks awesome. Here's the aggregate feed. Wish I could be there.

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Just cool

The 50 most recent pix uploaded to livejournal, updated every 60 seconds. Some really great stuff. Occasionally NSFW, occasionally shocking, never a dull 60 sec.

Important Update: Matt Oristano writes to warn that cookies often accompany many of the commercial images from this site. A word to the SMART . . .

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War on Terrorism for unix nerds

Sun Ray Blog codes the war on terrorism. Excerpt:
$ cd Afghanistan
$ ls
bin Taliban
$ rm Taliban
rm: Taliban is a directory
$ cd Taliban
$ ls
$ rm soldiers
$ cd ..
$ rmdir Taliban
rmdir: directory "Taliban": Directory not empty
$ cd Taliban
$ ls -a
. .. .insurgents
$ chown -R USA .*
If your education somehow omitted the joys of unix (or the ritchies, thompsons and kernighans), there's a command-line by command-line translation into English.

Get the T-Shirt here.

Thanks, Joi.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Dan Bricklin's new podcasting series.

Dan Bricklin has started doing a series of podcasts for DiamondCluster. David Reed's featured in the first one, Tom Evslin in the second, and the third one an isen.podcast; I talk about AT&T, smart and stupid networks, Lafayette, LA and the network capabilities of the U.S. versus the rest of the world.

Now I know why my friend, musician Joe Weed, calls his recording studio, "the humilitron." Er, um, ah, uh, what, uh, I said, I mean.

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A write-up of my Wi-Fi Planet keynote

My friend Alex Goldman, a reporter for ISP-Planet, wrote up a too-kind account of my keynote at Jupiter's Wi-Fi Planet keynote in June. A few excerpts:
David Isenberg earned permanent cred when, in his essay "The Rise of the Stupid Network" he told AT&T that they were building the wrong network, that the network of the future would be flexible, changeable, and programmable, unlike the proprietary, closed, and purpose built POTS network. He called the network of the future the "stupid network." It was 1997 and he worked for Bell Labs, who immediately tried to suppress the report (and failed). He now runs an independent, eponymous prosultantcy.
Isenberg said, "three years after the acute phase of the telecoms crisis, companies continue to struggle. There is no controlled or planned rollout of products and services. There is no 20 year or 30 year capital investment. Companies are rolling out small mobile devices that are replaceable and cheap."

The biggest companies, he said, are in trouble. "The dominant telcos, such as SBC, Verizon, and Qwest, are losing their base, sitting on obsolete networks . . . CLECs are up in smoke. They were created by a figment of Congressional imagination, as if competition could replace a state sanctioned monopoly . . . The cable TV companies are risk averse, they dislike competition, and I believe that even cable modems are about to hit an invisible ceiling of corporate fear that will ensure they never deliver TVoIP . . . The cellcos are now struggling too. Their ARPU is static. They love the walled network and will never let their 'value proposition' get away from them. Their idea of a killer app is a downloadable ringtone."

Isenberg's use of the term "stupid network" is confusing to some people [but t]he meta goal here is simple, "any application over any network."
Close enough.

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Quote of Note: James Speta

"Having just limped through the three years of wreckage wrought by the Internet meltdown, making firm predictions about the future of telecommunications technology, markets, and competition would seem a fool's errand."

James Speta, in Deregulating Telecommunications in Internet Time, Washington and Lee Law Review, Summer, 2004.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005


Kevin (heart) Consumers

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required), FCC Chairman Kevin Martin uses the word "consumer" eleven times. In contrast, he uses the word "customer" twice and "citizen" once.

Some day I'll do a word count of an FCC meeting. Sometimes I listen and think that the FCC exists solely for "consumers" but not at all for citizens.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Quote of Note: Jim Sinegal

"On Wall Street, they're in the business of making money between now and next Thursday. I don't say that with any bitterness, but we can't take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now."

Costco Chief Executive Jim Sinegal, quoted here. Sinegal was explaining why Costco's average salaries were 42% higher than rival Sam's Club. Also see this.

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Monday, July 18, 2005


Lafayette wins!

Lafayette, Louisiana voters yesterday voted 12,290 to 7,507 to approve a $125 million bond issue to bring fiber to the home to all of its citizens. Link

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Saturday, July 16, 2005


Election day in Lafayette, Louisiana!

Today's the day they vote on the $125 M bond issue to bring fiber to every household in the city. Will Lafayette become the most wired city in the United States?

Details at 11.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005


Babies Born Polluted

The news today says here
Unborn U.S. babies are soaking in a stew of chemicals, including mercury, gasoline byproducts and pesticides, according to a report released on Thursday.

Although the effects on the babies are not clear, the survey prompted several members of Congress to press for legislation that would strengthen controls on chemicals in the environment.

The report by the Environmental Working Group is based on tests of 10 samples of umbilical-cord blood taken by the American Red Cross. They found an average of 287 contaminants in the blood, including mercury, fire retardants, pesticides and the Teflon chemical PFOA.

"These 10 newborn babies ... were born polluted," said New York Rep. Louise Slaughter, who spoke a news conference about the findings on Thursday.
This is not news to people who have read Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber (1997). An Amazon reader review of Living Downstream says,
Steingraber uses her own story as an example. "Cancer runs in my family," she says. "I have an aunt who died of the same kind of bladder cancer I had, my mother had metastatic breast cancer, I have many uncles who had colon cancer." She pauses. "But I'm adopted. So cancer runs in my family, it doesn't run in my genes. That leads us to ask, what else do families have in common? We drink the same water, we breathe the same air, we have the same dietary habits, we often work in the same places."
Just another story we can't see on CNN . . .

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Quote of Note: Joseph C. Wilson

"The president said in — in the middle of 2004 that he would fire anybody who was caught leaking in this matter. Karl Rove has now been caught. The president has said repeatedly, I am a man of my word. The president really should stand up and prove to the American people that his word is his bond and fire Karl Rove."

Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson in this MSNBC interview.

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Bell Labs Research, RIP

Nice article on the once-great Bell Labs. Thanks Steve.

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Isenberg, Berkman Fellow

It's on the Berkman website, so it must be official; I'm a fellow of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society for Academic Year 2005-2006. My project will be "Freedom to Connect." I'm tempted to link it to the F2C: Freedom to Connect conference I produced in March, but I don't want to lock the project in too tightly just yet.

Note to Berkman webkeepers: I intend to be at Berkman every week, so "non-resident" might not be as accurate a description of me as, say, Barlow or Seltzer. Is there a category between "resident" and "non-resident"?

Some of the topics I want to explore include:
0. Why "Freedom to Connect" is important, and threats to said freedom
1. Roots of first amendment, enlightenment, roots of "freedom" concept
2. How technology is tied to speech -- esp., printing press, telephone system, postal service -- I don't think I want to get into issues like Betamax, Grokster, intellectual property, DRM, etc., unless communication issues supersede content issues in important ways.
3. How affordability is tied to speech and, more generally, democracy, (how affordability changes things), including history of the industrial revolution, and Benkler's notion of low capital intensivity.
4. History of common carriage -- what is this concept, how did it arise, who were its enemies in history, and why is it under attack now?
5. Interfaces, modularity, competition, connection -- work of Carliss Baldwin, popularized by Clayton Christensen, indicates that as technology matures and clean interfaces between modules emerge, important aspects of business change, new competitors and new areas of growth emerge. Does the process ever reverse? That is, do once-clean interfaces ever become dirty, encumbered, to serve the interests of incumbents? Can that happen as a field grows, or is this a sequel of contraction?
I am just beginning to get my mind around all this -- I would like to have a fairly deliberate year. If you, gentle blog reader, have comments, suggestions, criticisms, additional topics to add to this list -- and especially good readings and good people to talk to -- on the above topics, I would be grateful for comments, indeed, for your participation in my Fellowship Year.

[Note: I'll be the other Isenberg at Harvard this year. My younger brother Daniel, from the deeper end of the family gene pool, is a Senior Lecturer at the B-School, where he's teaching International Entrepreneurship. He knows a bit about the topic, having been one for a couple decades.]

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Monday, July 11, 2005


Quote of Note: Dana Blankenhorn

"This is Orwell's FCC. Monopoly is called competition."

Dana Blankenhorn writing in Moore's Lore blog on Kevin Martin's WSJ op-ed.

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Doc paints pessimistic perspective

Doc Searls, writing in IT Garage, says,

. . . think a bit about what the Supreme Court's Brand X decision means . . . All the big boys: the PC makers, the chip makers, the mobile equipment providers, the "consumer experience" deliverers (including Virgin, its many holdings and the rest of the entertainment industry), the patent, copyright and [Intellectual Property] absolutists, the parochial national interests, and — most of all — the carriers by the grace of whose fiber and wiring the Net is made available — all want to control you: what you can do with their services and devices, what you can buy, who you can buy it from, and how you can use it. The free and open Internet, a World of Ends built on an end-to-end, peer-to-peer architecture, is slowly being privatized and nationalized, one DRM file, one blocked port, one platform silo, one walled data garden, one legislative action, one regulatory decree, one Supreme Court decision and one national cyberwall after another.

This is what we are fighting, folks. The open and free marketplace the Internet provides is shortly going to look like the best darn mess of few-to-many distribution systems for "content" the world has ever known. It will not be the free and open marketplace it was in the first place, and should remain. The end-state will a vast matrix of national and private silos and walled gardens, each a contained or filtered distribution environment. And most of us won't know what we missed, because it never quite happened.
That's one scenario. As I wrote recently, them lemons might make some tasty lemonade, but we're going to have to squeeze.

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Civilian death

In a comment on a recent posting, my usually insightful friend JTH writes,
While I will grant regret at civilian deaths... anywhere, I will as[k] the question : Do the Americans celebrate civilian death?
He cites a statement from a radical Islamist website that takes credit for the coordinated London bombings of 7/7, calling them a "blessed raid."

How widespread is this celebration? Muslims around the world have repeatedly and forcefully condemned violent acts of extremists. Here's a broad compilation of Muslim commentary on the London bombings, for example.

Virtually all of the world's people condemn civilian death just about all the time. Only a tiny minority perpetrate it. In some cases this minority forms underground Muslim cells. In other cases, these few rule nations.

Derrick Z. Jackson, writing in the Boston Globe, invites Americans concerned about deaths of innocents -- JTH and the rest of us -- to look in the mirror. He writes,
. . . every invoking of the innocents also reminds us of our despicable, cowardly killing of innocent Iraqi civilians.

Or perhaps you forgot about them. That was by design. We have rightfully mourned the loss of nearly 3,000 people on 9/11. We have begun mourning the loss of about 40 people in London. We have mourned the loss of 1,751 US soldiers, who, bless them, were following orders of their commander in chief. But to this day, there has been no major acknowledgement, let alone apology, by Bush or Blair for the massive amounts of carnage we created in a war waged over what turned out to be a lie, the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

These innocents never existed, either in Iraq or Afghanistan. ''We don't do body counts," said both General Tommy Franks, former Iraqi commander, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. When Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was asked about the images of American soldiers killing innocent civilians on Arab television, Kimmitt said: ''My solution is quite simple: Change the channel. Change the channel to a legitimate, authoritative, honest news station. The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources. That is propaganda. And that is lies."
The leaders of the U.S. piously declaim civilian death wreaked by bombs on busses, but direct us to ignore over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, mostly by U.S. bombs from the air. "Change the channel," indeed! Is ignoring civilian death better than celebrating it?

For every news article and blog posting mourning last week's London tragedy, where's the one for Falloojah, for Mosul, for Kirkuk, for Baghdad . . . ?

The other comment on this posting was about Darfur . . .

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Saturday, July 09, 2005


Pakistan's Internet out 11 days

Wow. An undersea fiber optic cable called called Southeast Asia, Middle East and Western Europe-3 (SEAMEWE-3), serving 90% of Pakistan's Internet connectivity, went on the blink on June 27. The fault was 15 kilometers out to sea from Karachi. Two ships battled the Monsoon season to fix it, and it is finally back on line. Pakistan, which lost significant call center business, bought all of Intelsat's spare capacity, but it was not near enough. Pakistan's monopoly telco is working on a second, redundant link, but it won't be operational until at least November. They're also talking to India about a terrestrial fiber connection. Link Link Link


Quote of Note: Martin Varsavsky

"Why should placing bombs be illegal and bombing civilians from the air not be?"

Martin Varsavsky, via his blog, 7/7/05 Link

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Friday, July 08, 2005


Chairman Kevin's exceptional reasoning

When FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin became Chairman, he said the U.S. had, "the best communications system in the world." A few weeks later, he said, "broadband is critical . . . our Number 1 priority." The other day in the Wall Street Journal, Martin wrote (paid WSJ subscription required, unless you look here or here),
Although last December's report by the OECD ranks the U.S. 12th with respect to broadband subscribership per 100 inhabitants, there is more to the story: broadband growth in the U.S. is exceptional and leads the world.
Exceptional, that is, except for the facts.
In terms of broadband per capita within the 30 nations of the OECD, the U.S. has fallen from #3 in the OECD in 2000, to #4 in 2001, to #7 in 2002, to #10 in 2003, to #12 in 2004.

The U.S. has fallen to #12 among 30 nations. That's world leadership?

Look at the OECD data yourself. If you see anything that looks like world leadership, please let me know!

In similar 2004 ITU data (compare ITU 2002) the U.S. is falling through position #16 on its way towards broadband mediocrity. (Unlike the OECD data, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Israel are included; they're all kicking U.S. broadband butt.)

Martin marshals the best evidence he can, saying,
. . . the U.S. leads the world in the total number of broadband connections with 38 million subscribers. And we are signing up new subscribers at an incredible rate. In 2004, broadband subscribership increased by 34% . . .
China is #2 in raw count, adding 140 million broadband connections each year, a growth rate of 56%. It blows past the U.S. by straight-line extrapolation in 2007. If raw count is world leadership, the U.S. won't lead long.

The U.S. is #9 in growth on the ITU most-connected list (2002 and 2004). Again not a world leader. Eight of the 15 ITU nations listed had higher growth. The Netherlands grew the fastest, from 1 million connections in 2002 to 3.1 million in 2004, a CAGR of over 70%. Then there's Switzerland (2), Finland (3), Japan (4), Denmark (5), Singapore (6), Sweden (7) and Belgium (8). Then the "world leader."

But other countries are growing even faster. Greece is growing by over 300% a year. Hungary, Turkey and Poland are zooming. But this is largely due to the law of small numbers -- when you're way behind, adding a few hundred lines might push you from 0.1% to 0.4%. More interestingly, Switzerland and Netherlands (a) have higher per capita broadband than the U.S. and (b) much faster growth than the U.S.

Martin really stretches (for a Bush conservative) to make Massachusetts a positive example of broadband penetration. Martin writes,
Japan, which ranks 8th in the OECD report has a population density of 350 inhabitants per square kilometer and has 15 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants. These numbers are very similar to Massachusetts which has a population density of 317 inhabitants per square kilometer and 18 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants.
OK, Mister Chairman, it may be a yellowcake story from pick-and-choose facts, but let's say I'm convinced. Let the U.S. follow Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to world broadband leadership.

USA, Number One? When Clear Skies means more pollution, Healthy Forests means rev up them chain saws, Mission Accomplished means many more years of escalating U.S. casualties, Last Throes could mean twelve years, and More Competition means fewer competitors that are better protected, why not declare the U.S. to lead the world in broadband?

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Thursday, July 07, 2005


London Bombings

Today is Wikipedia's most awesome proof of concept.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


China launches game of Go

In polite company, the word "oil" is rarely mentioned around words like "Afghanistan" and "Iraq." But the link is as undeniable as "babies" and "sex."

For the past months, economists have been wondering why China just keeps letting the its U.S. balance of payments get more and more lopsided.

Now it is becoming clear. China is launching a game of Go. The prize is control of mideast oil. The recent bid by CNOOC for Unocal, which has large reserves in and near Iraq, is the opening salvo. Then, mere days later, this:
"We demand that the U.S. Congress correct its mistaken ways of politicizing economic and trade issues and stop interfering in the normal commercial exchanges between enterprises of two countries."
Is nobody struck by the irony of China lecturing the U.S. Congress on free markets?

Is nobody impressed with China's ability to tank the U.S. economy simply by calling its U.S. paper?

Now this:
Meeting in the Kazakh capital of Astana, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - which includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China, and Russia - issued a joint statement saying the active military phase of the Afghan operation was coming to an end and calling on the US-led coalition to agree to a deadline for ending the temporary use of bases and air space in member countries.
This could get ugly. The Shanghai Six couldn't be too enthusiastic about permanent U.S. bases in Iraq either. For now, U.S. military efforts in the mideast are not too antithetical to Chinese interests. But this will change. Hear the sabres.

The current U.S. administration has not evidenced much ability to think strategically -- just look at Iraq's internal state. Nor has it shown much ability to act cooperatively -- check the current state of the "coalition." Now what?

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005


FTTH brings Democrats and Republicans together

In the U.S. Congress, both parties are enemies of Internet-based progress. The Republicans support the telcos and cablecos while the Democrats side with the Kontent Krabs.

In Lafayette, Louisiana, though, it is a different story, both parties support Lafayette's Fiber to the Home municipal networking effort!

A joint, bipartisan letter to Lafayette's voters, authored by the city's Republican *and* Democratic leaders, says
While our committees came to our conclusions differently - BOTH parties
agree that this opportunity is good for Lafayette. This decision is
landmark and we have the ability to set our community apart and
distinguish ourselves for many years to come as a leader in technology
innovation and implementation.

Because Fiber To the Home & Business is truly a “tide that will lift all
boats”, create competition, lower costs, and improve Lafayette’s
technological infrastructure, we ask that you make a concerted effort to
get out and vote “YES”, whether you are voting absentee, from Tuesday,
July 5th – Saturday, July9th, or at the polls on Saturday, July 16th.
The Republican endorsement is here and the Democratic endorsement is here. The main opposition, hopefully left out in the dark lonely cold on Referendum Day (July 16), is populated by BellSouth, Cox Cable and the Heartland Institute.

Fortunately, all politics is local.

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Sunday, July 03, 2005


9000 U.S. troop deaths -- rumor or fact?

The "official" Iraq U.S. troop death toll may be a wild underestimate, according to this article. It reports
We have received copies of manifests from the MATS that show far more bodies shipped into Dover AFP than are reported officially. The educated rumor is that the actual death toll is in excess of 7,000 . . . The DoD lists currently being very quietly circulated indicate almost 9,000 dead . . .
The government gets away with these huge lies because they claim, falsely, that only soldiers actually killed on the ground in Iraq are reported. The dying and critically wounded are listed as en route to military hospitals outside of the country and not reported on the daily postings. Anyone who dies just as the transport takes off from the Baghdad airport is not listed and neither are those who die in the US military hospitals.
I am skeptical of this rumor, but note, as this article in Halifax Live, on the alleged number fudging, says,
. . . if a government has been caught in a major lie which led to a major war, how does one know whether or not they're still lying in a concerted effort to maintain said war?
There's nothing in Snopes on this. It remains a rumor. But as our secretary of defense says, Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; I'd like to see some follow-up, pro or con.

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Presidential Physician says NO! to torture

Torture is worse than death, because when death comes, all desecration, humiliation, degradation, powerlessness and pain stop. How can the United States stand for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," on one hand and torture on the other? How? How???

Burton Lee, who served as Presidential Physician to George Bush the elder, writing in the Washington Post, speaks to my concerns when he writes,

[M]ilitary leaders have long been aware that torture inflicts lasting damage on both the victim and the torturer. The systematic infliction of torture engenders deep hatred and hostility that transcends generations. And it perverts the role of medical personnel from healers to instruments of abuse.

The widespread reports of torture and ill-treatment -- frequently based on military and government documents -- defy the claim that this abusive behavior is limited to a few noncommissioned officers at Abu Ghraib or isolated incidents at Guantanamo Bay. When it comes to torture, the military's traditional leadership and discipline have been severely compromised up and down the chain of command. Why? I fear it is because the military has bowed to errant civilian leadership.

Our medical code of ethics requires us to oppose torture wherever it is inflicted, for any reason.

Reports of torture by U.S. forces have been accompanied by evidence that military medical personnel have played a role in this abuse and by new military ethical guidelines that in effect authorize complicity by health professionals in ill-treatment of detainees . . . we should support the growing calls for an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, and demand restoration of ethical standards that protect physicians, nurses, medics and psychologists from becoming facilitators of abuse.

America cannot continue down this road. Torture demonstrates weakness, not strength. It does not show understanding, power or magnanimity. It is not leadership. It is a reaction of government officials overwhelmed by fear who succumb to conduct unworthy of them and of the citizens of the United States.

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