Just a few quick thoughts on the "compromise," and the Bush administration's love of torture in general. I suppose if my brain wasn't taking a much-needed weekend off I could probably weave them both together into some kind of coherent narrative, but today is just not the day.
1) If I understand the "compromise" correctly, it means a prisoner can only be tortured if the president says it's okay. That should certainly cut down on abuses, right?
2) I'm not sure how useful it is to argue that torture is not very effective at garnering usable intelligence, because that's not really what it's for. In reality, torture as practiced by the Bush administration has two main functions:
The first is to punish Arabs and Muslims for having the temerity to attack us, or to sympathize with those who attack us, or to look like those who attack us. It satisfies a deep-seated, atavistic desire for vengeance against the Muslim world in general.
The second is to gather politically useful intelligence. Torture is a very effective way to get someone to tell you what you want to hear (Bush must use it on his subordinates on a regular basis...). If you capture some poor schmuck off the street and torture him long enough, he will eventually admit to being a Big Scary Terrorist, and give you all kinds of juicy leads to nonexistent plots that you can crow about. And if the FBI wastes a few man-years chasing them all down the rabbit hole, well, it helps them stay crisp.
3) I would like to see the Democrats go out on a limb and say that torture, as well as warrantless wiretapping, is immoral, and should be prosecuted instead of retroactively legalized. This would be a good time to remind America that the Republicans marketed themselves as the Christian Moral Values Party, and between torture, illegal wiretaps, and rampant corruption, they haven't exactly been living up to it. Challenge Americans to rediscover their sense of right and wrong. Remind them that Clinton stopped the Millenium Plot and put away the WTC bombers without ripping up the Constitution.
I fear that too many voters this November will say, "If the Democrats won't take a stand on torture, what on earth will they take a stand on?"