Monday, February 05, 2007

Oh goody ...

I think that a couple of points need to be made before responding to Mark's latest. The first point that I want to make is that despite whatever reading comprehension problems he may have, Joe D'Hippolito is not a contributor to the Coalition for Fog. He is instead a commenter who posts stuff in the comments ... just as he does over at any number of other Catholic blogs including Jimmy Akin's. So unless you want us to start applying the opinions of certain choice commenters (Marv Wood, Morning's Minion, Chris Sullivan, Celine, etc) onto yourself, please refrain from projecting his opinions onto Victor and myself. While you're at it, you might also want to stop distorting our positions in favor of your straw man caricatures, but it's pretty clear that this isn't likely to happen.

Skipping past the above mentioned caricatures, when Patrick raised the issue of whether or not the Coalition has a definition of torture. I pointed him to my answer to Dave Armstrong as well as to Victor's. I don't think that we're being terribly unclear here and neither does Mark judging from the fact that he has been made aware of these posts repeatedly (and he seems to spend an awful lot of time thinking about us) but doesn't find them worthy of response. So while he is claiming that we have never really sought to engage the question so he can continue to accuse us of bad faith, he might want to read this post where I explicitly said:
Jimmy Akin has started trying to define torture over at his blog. I'm still reading through all of it but there doesn't seem to be anything I've come across so far that I disagree with. The differences between this and the views articulated by Dave Armstrong (which I also agreed with) strike me as being mainly stylistic and semantical rather than substantive.

Nothing has happened since November to change my view on that point and if Mark wants to provide evidence to the contrary with quotes explaining where Akin or Armstrong and myself differ substantively on this one I would be very interested to see it. Instead, he continues to claim bad faith and slavish adherence to the Bush administration as the only reasons why anyone could possibly disagree with him here.

The reason I keep invoking Akin or Armstrong, as I have explained repeatedly, is that I believe that the positions of myself and Victor are identical with their own and would challenge Mark to provide evidence rather than assertions to the contrary. Thus far, he has failed to do so and has continued to assert that Victor and I are arguing in bad faith whereas Akin and Armstrong are decent Catholic apologists whose positions are only due to the fact that they haven't spent enough time studying the subject. Ignoring the patronizing nature of the latter claim, the sad fact as many of us here have come to recognize is that the only real difference appears to be who exactly happens to be in good standing within Mark's social circle of Catholic apologists. You will forgive me for not regarding that as a substantive reason to accept your claims on matters as important as morality.

As to Mark's other points:

1) The comment in question was not made by a contributor, but by a commenter. And given some of the stuff that occurs within your own combox, I thought you might be willing to sympathize. As for claims about the general hostility that exists here towards your views, we have been more than willing to turn down the temperature of the debate but as long as you keep calling the tune we will be more than happy to pay the piper. At the very least we manage to do our best to keep your actual positions straight without hyperbole while doing so, which is more than I can say for you.

2) To be fair, you seem to enjoy reading our site enough that it looked like a decent enough guess to me.

3) This one deserves its own response in full:
A curious elaboration of the cherished myth that Jimmy Akin dealt some crushing blow to my point that the basic Church teaching that torture is intrinsically immoral.

Thank you for once again demonstrating that you have no real conception of what this discussion is about. We hold that the passages from Gaudium et Spes that you cite cannot possibly mean what you claim that it means because of the obvious contradictions between that claim and what the Magisterium in fact teaches concerning the issues that are given equal weight in the relevant quotation such as deportation. Akin concurs with that assessment, as does Armstrong. When presented with this problem, your only recourse to date has been to continue to appeal to the text and to accuse those who continue to note this as holding to ill motives. This is why I say that you argue like a fundamentalist.
I'm still not sure what the CtF guys think Jimmy did, but what he in fact did (if we grant his argument) is this: he made a case that, as with abortion, there could be a situation in which the principle of double effect makes an act that would otherwise be torture "proportional" and (somehow) justified. I'm not ready to grant that, but let us suppose that I did. What are we saying at the end of the day? It seems to me obvious that we are saying something equivalent to "On rare occasions, tubal pregnancies make it necessary to remove the fallopian tube in order to save the Mother. The intention is to save mom, not kill baby (who will die in any event)."

Now, does anybody in his right mind say that, because of this extreme situation, that therefore abortion is *not* intrinsically immoral?

No, because you clearly either don't understand what Jimmy did:
I see the situation as analogous to the use of the term "theft." There is a popular understanding of the term "theft" that would include taking food from someone who has plenty if you are starving and cannot buy food. According to the popular usage, that would count as theft, and an ordinary person might say, "Sometimes theft is okay." The Church does not want to say that sometimes theft is okay, and so it defines the sin of theft in such a way that this is precluded (i.e., taking property against the reasonable will of its owner). The Church would thus say that theft is always wrong, but taking food in the above circumstances does not count as the sin of theft.

In the same way, there may be things that would count as torture under the popular understanding and yet be justified, leading an ordinary person to want to say "Sometimes torture is okay." But the Church will not want to say that and so--if my thesis is correct--it will instead define torture such that those things which are potentially justifiable do not count as torture.

Mark may well disagree with that, but my point is (as it has been stated repeatedly) that he cannot hold to a good faith argument by making the case that our position is so horribly removed from that of Akin's. To be fair, I think that Zippy, who Mark seems to rely on to do most of his intellectual heavy lifting on this topic, has in fact conceded this point.
So, granting all that Jimmy said, the question remains: "Does Jimmy remote and hypothetical argument justify, for instance, the murder by hypothermia of torture victims in Afghanistan? The rendition and torture of Maher Arar? The torture and murder of the Ice Man by CIA ops at Abu Ghraib? Nope.

No he didn't and neither do we. To begin with, we distinguish what was authorized by policy (rendition, for instance) and what occurred as the result of abuse (Abu Ghraib). Mark doesn't, all the better to serve his demagoguery, but this is a distinction that needs to be made. As far as whether or not Akin's argument justifies any of this, I think that the answer (and I haven't studied all these cases in-depth) is no. But Akin was making an argument on the morality of torture rather than whether or not we should practice it as a matter of public policy, so this is something of a category mistake to begin with. Moreover, Akin was speaking of a situation within the context of extraordinary circumstances, something that I don't think was met in any of the cases referenced by Mark. Now there are cases, such as those of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, where I think that the arguments for extraordinary circumstances are much, much stronger, but that is my own opinion. Now maybe if Mark were actually reading this blog for something other than polemical value he would recognize it.

4) Here again, this was said in the combox rather than by a contributor. Mark can take that argument up with the individual in question, but unless he want us to start citing every single moonbat remark that shows up in his own combox (a task I have neither the time nor inclination to engage in) I would ask him to exercise a little charity here assuming he were reading us for something other than demagoguery. Oops, too late.

5) Except you have frequently cited Richard as an expert witness on this one Mark, and argued that we unfairly persecuting him for opposing torture until it has surfaced that he is more than a little loopy. Oh yeah, and then he threatened to sue us for pointing that out and claimed that we were being financed by some shadowy group in order to engender ourselves to the ruling elite or some such nonsense. You have yet to take note of this, near as I can determine, though you have been polite enough to (more than justifiably) remove such remarks from your combox.

6) The reason for these contradictory statements lies in the fact that in the combox, a variety of individuals often surface with a variety of different points of view. Imagine that!

7) See replies 4 and 6. It seems to me that Mark is only willing to allow for good faith in the "oh, these people have just started the debate and are still learning the ropes of the discussion" when he's certain that they'll come around to his point of view. How intellectually charitable of him.

8) The efficacy of torture is a factual point, whether or not it is moral is another matter altogether. To draw a comparison I'm sure Mark will approve of, the fact that we can yank organs from babies or the mentally retarded and place them within our own to live longer is likely entirely workable but that has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not it is moral. MacDonald's atheism is a red herring and an ad hominem in this instance, though she seems to be ideologically pure enough to get a hearing from Mark's new buddies over at The American Conservative these days.

As to answering Patrick's question of what torture is, I will here again defer to Jimmy Akin:
The sin of torture consists in the disproportionate infliction of pain.

So much for Mark's whole "they won't define it because they want to justify everything" shtick.

To understand how he got to that point, I would recommend following his posts on the subject here, here, here, and here. As I said at the time, everything he said pretty much makes perfect sense to me as a matter of both sound reason and Catholic theology.

As for the specific case that Patrick cites, my answer would be, "Not enough information." Because torture (for lack of a better term, see Akin) is only to be used under extreme circumstances, these have to be weighed on a case-by-case basis. Using the term "terror suspect" is far too vague because we have no idea what the individual in question is suspected of doing. Are they a cell leader? A bombmaker? A chemical weapons expert? A member of the al-Qaeda ruling council? I don't think, and Victor may disagree with me on this, that you should adopt a blanket set of interrogation techniques for everyone and anyone who is suspected of being a terrorist. The more they are suspected (or known) to have done and the danger they continue to pose to the community, the closer you would come to becoming justified in an "extreme measures" situation. This, by the way, is pretty much what Senator McCain said during the debate over the McCain Amendment when discussing secular policy.

Addendum: Because just reading over my post in retrospect, I want to make sure I make my point clear on the issue of chopping off fingers. I don't support it, I don't want it carried out by the United States, etc, etc. I have repeatedly made this clear as a matter of secular policy, which is why I supported the McCain Amendment in the first place. I also have absolutely no idea as to whether or not it would be effective and my best guess would be no (the detainee need only endure the pain until he runs out of fingers, not a terribly efficient method). The broader point that I was trying to make (as opposed to that which Mark will almost certainly misinterpret), however, dealt with the issue of extreme measures and porportionality as explained by Jimmy Akin far more than it did the specific technique described by Patrick. This is because (and I think that Akin does an excellent job of explaining why this is) the issue is far more one of porportionality and intent than it is of the specific technique in question.

Or as Akin explains it:
Take waterboarding as an example. I would say that waterboarding is torture if it is being used to get a person to confess to a crime (it is not proportionate to that end since it will promote false confessions). I would also say that it is torture if it is being used to get information out of a terrorist that could be gotten through traditional, less painful interrogation means (it is not proportionate to the end since there are better means available). I would not say that it is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution). And I would not say that it is torture if it is being used to train our own people how to resist waterboarding if it is used on them (this is apparently something we do, and it is proportionate on the understanding that there is no better way to help people learn to resist waterboarding).

I find it hard to think of particular physical acts that automatically count as torture irregardless of the circumstances. Even cutting off parts of a person's body is not torture if you're doing it to prevent them from dying of gangrene and there is no anesthetic available. But if the pain involved in that physical act is not automatically torture then I don't know what would be. Indeed, I don't know how to establish a maximum amount of pain that can be inflicted, even if it is for purposes of saving someone's life.

The only amount I can think of is one that would permanently damage the person in some way, and then we're talking about some kind of physical or mental mutilation rather than torture itself--and even that might not always be immoral since the Catechism acknowledges that mutilations can be legitimate for therapeutic reasons. "Okay, maybe removing your leg on the battlefield left you mentally 'scarred,' but at least you're alive, and you can live with the scars," I could see someone arguing.

It also strikes me that adopting the kind of general moral definition that I have proposed may be a good thing in that it lets us get past a semantic chokepoint in the discussion: Instead of worrying about whether or not something counts as torture, we can start figuring out whether particular acts are or are not moral. If the pain involved in them is disproportionate then they are immoral and therefore torture. If the pain involved in them is not disproportionate then they're not immoral and not torture.

Somehow I expect that this isn't the answer that Patrick wanted to hear, but I just wanted to make my opinion on the issue plain, Mark's demagoguery be damned.


Christopher Fotos said...

The upside of the Torq/Akin etc. approach is that it manages to find a way to preserve indefectability, truly the foundational issue here.

Now, I was going to develop a point about Mark just waving this away--how, for example, it seems unlikely that he's read Fr. Brian Harrison's lengthy, erudite, respectful and by no means pro-torture approach to the subject--but having read the referenced post, it isn't worth the candle. An anointing of atheist Heather MacDonald...the Usual Faux Bafflement...How can a person be expected to tell the difference between treating somebody "humanely" and subjecting them to hypothermia, strappado and waterboarding?...Patrick attempts to find out if there is *any* limit they will place on the brutality they will countenance for the Fatherland....

The pride of Catholic Answers.

Not to mention the usual misreading, misrepresentation or heaven forbid the sheer unwillingness to comprehend the actual analysis provided by Victor and Torq, a defect magically cured when a similar solution is described by Jimmy Akin. All of which is quite ably covered by Torq in the post above, and since the gist seems not to have arrived at the final frontier--inside Mark's head--there is no point in launching another hopeless mission.

Tom Connelly said...


Mark's point number 8 (An anointing of atheist Heather MacDonald as the go-to gal for all Catholics interested in the morality and efficacy of "productive" torture.) is utterly incoherent. What in the world is he talking about? Nowhere in the articles cited, which Mark cannot possibly have read, does MacDonald advocate torture, productive or otherwise. Nothing in the articles cited gives any comfort to "Catholics interested in the morality and efficacy of 'productive' torture" (whatever that means).

Mark end his comments with this:

The *real* question is right there in your field manual: "How do we treat prisoners humanely?" The related question, of course, is "How do we do that and still get the intelligence we need?"

MacDonald apparently agrees with Mark, and she actually tries to grapple with these questions, rather than simply posing them, despite the fact that she's an atheist. She interviews interrogators who have actually dealt with the terrorists. They tell her, among other things, that the methods mandated "right there in your field manual" do not work against the terrorists we are confronting.

In other words, the tried and true methods of interrogating prisoners do not "get the intelligence we need."

Mark's response is to sneer. How disappointing.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Chris, I don't think indefectability is really an issue here. If you read Father Harrison's articles, he concludes that there isn't anything in Catholic tradition that would prevent the Church from holding that torture was intrinsically immoral.

Phillip said...

In hopes of not appearing to be a “moonbat’, I think Mark is characteristically misrepresenting my argument. The point was initially made in response to Patrick’s response to my question as to whether sleep deprivation was torture. His response was that whether it was torture was predicated on how the sleep deprivation was enforced:

“The sleep question again begs the next step: how are you keeping the person awake? Someone who is tired enough will sleep through even the loudest noise and brightest lights. If you beat the prisoner every time he shuts his eyes, then it's torture again.”

This seems to say that sleep deprivation was not itself torture but beating to enforce it made it so. Using this logic it was pointed out that in that case time-out could be torture if the means to enforce it was severe enough. This was not to state on my part that time-out was torture, but rather that using Patrick’s logic it would be. This of course to point out a flawed logic

Of course Mark cannot honestly present the discussion because if he did he could not make his debater’s points.

Anonymous said...


Torq, I wish to thank you for, for lack of a better term, defending me in the opening of your post.

Shea, I have been praying, and will continue to pray, that God impliment Psalm 109 in your life.

Christopher Fotos said...

Chris, I don't think indefectability is really an issue here. If you read Father Harrison's articles, he concludes that there isn't anything in Catholic tradition that would prevent the Church from holding that torture was intrinsically immoral.

Josiah, indefectability is the great over-arching question Mark has not engaged, given past Church practice and authority on the issue. It's the main reason it's attracted my attention for so long. If Mark's correct, goodbye constant teaching, hello last encyclical wins. And as I said when this issue first emerged, frankly that wouldn't be all downside because there are some teachings I'd love to see changed and would happily campaign for now, regardless of the censure, since I could be confident of being a visionary ahead of my time.

Your characterization of Fr. Harrison's position is mistaken, unless you want to go the route of saying inflicting severe pain isn't torture because torture is disproportionate pain, a la Jimmy Akin (because it isn't disporportionate under the right circumstance). And in that case I have no quarrel, insofar as the magisterium is concerned. But the end result is the same: Some dude being waterboarded.

Fr Harrison:

First, three practices do seem to merit the description ‘intrinsically unjust’ according to authentic Catholic doctrine, on the combined basis of the three aforesaid pillars of authority in matters of faith and morals:

(a) Torture for extracting confessions of a crime of which one is accused (as practiced, for example, under Roman Law)....

(b) Torture carried out on those not even accused formally of any crime or offence, simply in order "to frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred" – also specified in the Catechism, #2297....

(c) Torture, or indeed, mutilation or any other kind of physical or psychological violence against the person, carried out not by public authority in accordance with a norm of law, but by those acting arbitrarily and clandestinely, without any legal authority (even if they should happen to be heads of state, secret police, etc.)...

Secondly, I do not think that the direct infliction of severe physical pain, as a punishment for duly convicted delinquents carried out by public authority in accord with a norm of law, can be categorized as intrinsically evil.

That's startling--I personally wouldn't condone severe physical punishment, and I gather neither would Fr Harrison--but he continues:

Such a thesis would seem to be incompatible with the divine inspiration of the Old Testament, which clearly prescribed such penalties for numerous offences. It would also amount in practice to the thesis that imprisonment is the only penalty that can ever justly be applied to even the worst criminals. But this would clearly be impractical, and indeed, inapplicable, in primitive nomadic societies (like the Israelites during the Exodus and many others) wherein nobody has any permanent dwelling place. Under such social and physical circumstances, much less is there a possibility of prisons for delinquents....

We then have some zig-zagging, reputable zig-zagging to put it concisely, starting with However, as we have argued, not everything that escapes the extreme moral censure of being intrinsically evil or unjust can without further ado be pronounced compatible with the New Law of Christ. Jesus has left us no specific legal instructions for dealing with crime in a society based on Gospel principles. But as we have seen in Part I of this study, the Lord has certainly left us, by precept and personal example, a new approach or outlook which emphasises, much more than the Old Law did, the importance of mercy and forbearance in the treatment of sinners. ...

Makes sense to me, and I don't even have a degree in theology. Continuing later:

For all these reasons, it seems that the exclusion of torture (flogging, etc.) as legal punishment can be seen as an appropriate practical implication of the Law of Christ, especially under modern circumstances, even though such punishment is not intrinsically unjust. I would suggest that the Catechism’s censure of torture (and mutilation) as "punishment of the guilty" (#2297), and Pope John Paul II’s allocution against torture at Geneva, be understood in that light.

That tracks as well. But then point three:

Thirdly, there remains the question – nowadays a very practical and much-discussed one – of torture inflicted not for any of the above purposes, but for extracting life-saving information from, say, a captured terrorist known to be participating in an attack that may take thousands of lives (the now-famous ‘ticking bomb’ scenario). As we have noted above, this possible use of torture is not mentioned in the Catechism. If, as I have argued, the infliction of severe pain is not intrinsically evil, its use in that type of scenario would not seem to be excluded by the arguments and authorities we have considered so far. (John Paul II’s statement about the "intrinsic evil" of a list of ugly things including torture in VS #80 does not seem to me decisive, even at the level of authentic, non-infallible, magisterium, for the reasons I have already given in commenting above on that text.) My understanding would be that, given the present status questionis, the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians.

Not to mention bloggers.

So when you say:

If you read Father Harrison's articles, he concludes that there isn't anything in Catholic tradition that would prevent the Church from holding that torture was intrinsically immoral.

I don't see how you can support that, based on the text. Unless you mean it in a speculative way--in which case it strikes me as off-point, since Harrison has demonstrated that whatever the Church might do, at the moment, 2,000 years into the game, it hasn't defined the severe infliction of pain as intrinsically evil.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

One would assume, Phillip, that if you send your child to time-out you don't back that up with threats of repeated beatings. So the analogy is a strange one, to say the least.

Christopher Fotos said...

In hopes of not appearing to be a “moonbat’, I think Mark is characteristically misrepresenting my argument

Surely you jest.

Phillip said...


It is not an analogy. It is applying Patrick's logic.

Let's summarize the logic:

A is torture if B is done.
(in Patrick's case sleep deprivation is torture if beatings are done to enforce it.)

Change the terms and get:

Time-out is torture if beatings are done to enforce it.

No analogy at all.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

In the passage Chris quotes, Father Harrison reaches three conclusions:

First, he concludes that Catholic teaching has condemned as intrinsically evil the intentional infliction of severe pain if done to extract confessions, or if done extra-judicially.

Second, he concludes that Catholic teaching does not condemn and could not condemn corporal punishment.

Third, he says (tentatively) that issue of whether it is ever permissible to intentionally inflict severe pain as a means of extracting life-saving information from a suspect is currently unsettled.

I would agree with Father Harrison that corporal punishment is not intrinsically immoral, and that saying that it was intrinsically immoral would be hard to square with Catholic tradition. I don't think of corporal punishment as amounting to torture, though it does involve the intentional infliction of pain (sometimes even severe pain), and Father Harrison does sometimes use the word torture to refer to any infliction of severe pain (a fact which in my opinion leaves him vulnerable to misinterpretation). To my knowledge, pretty much everyone in this debate accepts the permissibility of the intentional infliction of severe pain, at least in some circumstances.

My point is that - excluding corporal punishment - there is nothing in Catholic tradition that prevents the Church from holding that torture is intrinsically immoral. Father Harrison may think that the permissibility of torture in a ticking bomb scenario is unsettled, but he would be the first to admit that nothing in Catholic tradition prevents the Church from saying this (if it did, then the issue wouldn't be unsettled; it would be settled in favor of torture).

I apologize for any unclarity on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Phillip, I'm not sure I get the purpose of your original statement.

Patrick says that anything can be torture if not doing it if its backed up with the threat of beatings. You respond by asking if it's torture to put a child in time out. I'll grant you that putting a child in time-out isn't generally considered torture. But then, putting a child in time-out doesn't generally involve threatening them with beatings, either. Which makes it a strange bit of logic, if that's what it is.

Here's what I think: I think you did what most of us are tempted to do when confronted with a rule we don't like, which is to stretch the rule to the nth degree until it produces some absurd result. But you over-reached. You ignored a key constraint in the rule (that whatever happened had to involve major physical threats), with the result that you ended up coming across as a little moonbatish. Not a big deal. What you shouldn't do, though, is force yourself into sounding more and more absurd in order to defend the original statement. Just let it go.

Patrick said...

Let me clarify what I was trying to say about sleep deprivation. There is a subtle distinction I failed to explain very well.

First: it is not torture to tell your prisoner he must stay awake - assuming of course it does not go on so long as to be life-threatening.

Second: the consequence of failing to stay awake may itself be torturous in and of itself. Then again, it may not.

HOWEVER, even if the consequence is tortuous, it does not follow that the original act was torturous. My point was that sleep deprivation could be acceptable as an interrogation technique, but may not be effective unless it is accompanied by a consequence severe enough to qualify as torture.

I did not intend to say that I think sleep deprivation, in and of itself, is torture. I was trying to say that unless it is accompanied by something that probably is torture, it is rather pointless.

Sleep deprivation and other such things can LEAD to torture, in much the same way that taking your girlfriend to park and look at the stars can lead to other less wholesome activities. It is therefore best avoided wherever possible.

I hope this is clearer now. Have a nice day.

Phillip said...


Interesting but no.

Patrick orginal response was sleep deprivation is torture not because of what sleep deprivation IS, but because of how it would be enforced. But the same could be said of most disciplinary measures. I just happened to pick time-out. Sorry, but that is how the logic simply follows.

Patick clears his point up in his response. He doesn't use the tack you use which is to attribute some malicious intent. He clarifies which is what reasoned debate does.

Just let it go.

Phillip said...


Thanks for your response which provides light and not smoke.

So we are left with the question of what distinguishes sleep deprivation from waterboarding/finger snapping?

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

I didn't mean to attribute some malicious intent to you (just the opposite, actually). But I'm more than happy to let the matter drop.

Phillip said...


Thanks and good night.

Ken said...

Well, I mentioned it the other comments, but I still think it needs clarification. Benedict XVI stated in his Regensburg address that:

"Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

Not only that but that it is "unreasonable" to utilize compulsion in religion and "not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature" (approvingly quoting the Byzantine Emperor).

So even the idea that it was some "prudential" judgement doesn't wash. Let's put it this way, according to B16 there cannot be any reason for the use of force in the matters of faith.

However, we know that the RCC approved of the use of force in extracting confessions and getting heretics to recant, both matters of faith. Therefore, the RCC, in its official capacity, acted unreasonably, which is against the very nature of God. (Note, this isn't a matter of some personal sin of some Pope).

In order for a judgement to be "prudential" it must act in accordance with reasonable goals. Its like saying its a prudential judgement if someone got cut off in traffic and they decide to kill the person that cut them off. Its an action that goes beyond merely being unwise into unreasonableness. But, in reality its not a prudential judgement at all, simply because no prudential judgement was made.