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Story Without Substance

Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007 3:42 AM

A Boot to the Head for CBS News and last night's over-hyped story about the videogame Manhunt 2, published by Rockstar Games. Much fuss was made about the game's violent content, in which the player portrays a patient in a mental asylum and must actually plan and carry out murders to effect their escape, but even a child psychiatrist could not attest to a definitive link between violence in video games and behavior.

In the end, the story was almost entirely anecdotal and without substance. It also lacked an opposing viewpoint (or even a 'we were unable to find a psychologist or game player who disagreed with us'). Throw in a fuss about the motion-sensitive controller for the Nintendo Wii, which requires players to mimic stabbing or striking motions and how that makes the computer-animated violence so much more insidious.

Because we all know that playing MLB '07 on the Wii will turn a kid into the next Barry Bonds.

Seriously. Waving a Wii remote is not going to turn your child into the next knife-wielding mass murderer.

The game is rated 'M' and requires purchasers to be 18 or older, though there continues to be no remedy for adults who purchase the game and hand it off to their kids.

Except, of course, parenting.

There's every indication that Michael Mukasey will be confirmed as the next Attorney General, if only because leading lights like California's Senator Dianne Feinstein has only said she might vote against his confirmation.

Of course, she voted to confirm Leslie Southwick. And Michael Hayden. And Alberto Gonzales. Affirming each time that the president is entitled to counsel he feels comfortable with.

As opposed to, oh, say, an attorney general who understands the Constitution, or an NSA chief who comprehends the Fourth Amendment.

Feinstein is not alone. It should be noted that the fuss is about Mukasey's waffling over torture, but at no point have our elected representatives come out and said, "No, torture is unacceptable under any circumstances."

Instead, they continue to argue the merit of the ticking time bomb scenario, which is a wholly fictional construct.

Let's consider. If I were a terrorist mastermind, sending eight teams out into major American cities to oversee the placement and detonation of explosive devices, under no circumstances would Team A know anything pertinent to any of the others. It's called 'operational security.'

Still don't get it? Consider a fictional government computer. President Bush has his password, Vice-President Cheney has his, and so on. Waterboarding Condoleezza Rice will not yield President Bush's password, and if we were aware that Secretary Rice had been captured by an enemy, her password would be deactivated to prevent them from doing harm.

These are scenarios that both our intelligence agencies and enemies must be aware of.

Furthermore, the torture scenario is based on the assumption that the subject actually possesses knowledge you desire, but won't admit to or reveal it. If the subject continues to deny possessing such knowledge, we assume he has been trained to resist interrogation, rather than admit the failure of our hypothesis, and are committed to even harsher methods.

Torture does not work. Torture is against the law.

You cannot assert that 'America does not torture' and then carve exceptions for waterboarding and enhanced interrogation based on movie-plot scenarios.

And farewell to actor/singer Robert Goulet, who passed away on Tuesday while awaiting a lung transplant.

A Happy Samhain to those who observe it.

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