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With all the blogging I’ve been doing over the last few months, I’ve started to wonder whether there’s a point at which being too well-informed becomes debilitating. I went a good number of years during the Bush administration being completely tuned out from a lot of what was going on in the world. In a way, I think a good part of it was an act of self-preservation.
During the 2008 election, Obama’s candidacy ripped me out of my complacency and got me engaged again. Now that he’s in office, and the lack of complacency persists, I continue to read news outlets and blogs voraciously and post some of the best (worst?) bits here.
This brings me to my point. A lot of the stuff I come across on a daily basis is horrifying. On a daily basis, I absorb reams of religious extremism (both foreign and American), stupidity, ignorance, intolerance, subtle/not-so-subtle gay-bashing, and more examples of gob-smackingly stupid Republican lunacy (seriously, click the link and try not to involuntarily smack your head on the table) than I ever thought imaginable. Although I think blogging about some of this can be pretty cathartic, at what point does the deluge threaten to drown me?
I often envy people who have a spouse, religion, kids, hobbies and other things that fill up their life to the point where they no longer have any time or inclination to independently inform themselves beyond the occasional talking point fed to them by their friends, preachers, Fox News or other convenient sources of soothing empty-calorie mind nourishment.
Is there a happy medium that can be struck? Am I making too much out of this? Was Mill actually right in saying “it is better to be Socrates unsatisfied than a fool satisfied”? At what point does all the cruelty, dishonesty, ignorance and evil in the world become too much to handle?
For those of you who haven’t been following the story, an Alaskan state legislator, Mike Doogan, revealed in an official newsletter sent to his constituents Friday the identity of an anonymous local blogger who was made famous by her criticisms of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign season. This action was done in violation of the blogger’s First Amendment right to free speech and her right to speak anonymously without fear of government punishment or reprisal. For a full run-down, read my earlier post Alaska Lawmaker Violates Privacy of Famed Anonymous Blogger.
I spent a good part of my weekend writing letters to Alaska state legislators to highlight Mike Doogan’s shameful actions.
I just received a response from a member of the Alaska legislature’s Select Committee on Legislative Ethics, Rep. Berta Gardner:
Thank you for your letter. I’m not happy with Doogan right now and think his action was unnecessary and destructive. I don’t believe, however, that it is a violation of legislative ethics as described here:I thank Rep. Gardner for her thoughtful reply. Although I’m not familiar with Alaska ethics law, I wonder how a state legislator violating the First Amendment rights of a state citizen wouldn’t be actionable under the state ethics law. I will do some research and report back.
Surely someone has or will file an ethics complaint and the committee will investigate and make a determination.
Reader Gherald L. and I have been having a spirited discussion over the last few days (here and here) over the merits of the recent Conservadem phenomenon and the question of whether Harry Reid is, as I believe, a tool.
I missed an interesting nuance the other day and offer up a particular gem from Mr. Reid for everyone’s consideration. The following was part of Reid’s response when asked about the Conservadems last week:
Reid has no qualms about the group, and said that “any public statements” Senate moderates have made have been helpful as the chamber takes up a budget next week that would cost more than $3 trillion. And he added: “Some people of course go to those meetings so they can issue a press release back home that’ll make them appear more moderate.”I didn’t catch this the first go-around but the highlighted sentence bears some consideration. In my master political construct, there are:
- Things that politicians do and tell people they’re doing (because it would be to their party’s political advantage to reveal it); and
- Things that politicians do and refrain from telling people they’re doing (because to mention it would be to their party’s political disadvantage).
This election is not about issues.While it was true that McCain’s campaign assiduously tried to steer every conversation away from “issues” and instead tried to push trumped-up personality concerns whenever possible (e.g., palling around with terrorists, celebrity, Obama’s campaign being supported/financed by Hamas, etc.), the public disclosure of the existence of this issues-free strategy was damaging to the campaign — it should have remained unspoken.
This is directly analogous to the Harry Reid quote above. He basically told a reporter that a bunch of the people attending the Conservadem meetings don’t necessarily believe in the Conservadem agenda (i.e. to strategically water down everything proposed by the democratic leadership and “protect business interests“) but are just doing it in order to send out press releases to please the knuckle-draggers back home.
Here’s Chris Bowers on the topic:
This is just about the worst thing a Democrat can say. Hell, it is one of the worst things a politician can say. Here is a different way of phrasing that sentence: of course I don’t actually believe in the values of this group to which I belong-I just joined the group to trick the rubes back home into thinking that I believe in those values.Even though it is probably true that many Democrats attending Conservadem meetings don’t sign on to most of their agenda, it is supremely stupid and disadvantageous for Harry Reid to actually say it out loud.
It is absolutely, utterly soulless and elitist. It is, also, the fundamental problem with DLC, moderate Democrat speak. Instead of actually just taking a stand for center and center-right beliefs, moderate Democrats are constantly couching their policy positions in terms of electability. It is the fundamental reason why so many people don’t think Democrats believe what they say. Democrats keep saying, in public, that the only reason they support certain positions is to trick people into thinking that they are moderate. It is just bizarre, and it happens all the time.
Another reason why I think Harry Reid is a tool…
I just saw that McCain was on Meet the Press this morning. Does it boggle anyone else’s mind that this failed presidential contender (with an understanding of the economy you might be able to fit on the head of a pin) is still such a major presence on news programs? Think back to the last many elections and name one other example of a failed presidential candidate getting this much press time right after the election. Bob Dole? John Kerry? Nope…
I can’t figure out what this illustrates for me. My sense is that its probably the continued obsession of the press with the Republican philosophy they’ve been browbeaten over the last couple of decades into reflexively admiring without critical thought. Who knows — i just want McCain to STFU, especially when it comes to economic matters.
A new article in the Washington Post confirms the proven, decades-old consensus on torture (surprise!) — it just doesn’t work:
When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other [forms of torture], they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.
The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.
In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.
Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. . . . None of [their earlier claims] was accurate, the new evidence showed.
I just want to highlight that bit from above, “not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions.”
So, we abandoned our cherished values and tortured al-Qaeda detainees for… what, exactly? Some kind of retributive feel-good whoop-ass?
We now have to suffer the indignity of a criminal war crimes probe by a foreign court because the Bush administration ignored decades of scientific, law enforcement and military research into torture (which have all consistently found that torture doesn’t actually work) so that some government officials could feel satisfied that we were inflicting grievous 24-inspired* harm on all those evil, brown-skinned towel-heads who made Bush interrupt his reading of The Pet Goat in front of all those nice children!?
I doubt whether I’ll be able to stomach the volume of shame and anger I’ll be forced to endure over the next few years as the mounting stacks of evidence of Bush’s rampant war crimes regime are unearthed.
* – Just to highlight the cold, sober, deliberative process our government used to devise its wide-ranging torture program, consider the testimony of one Lt. Col. Diane Beaver. Beaver was charged with writing a document providing legal authority for harsh interrogation at Guantánamo. She describes the process by which they devised new techniques thusly:
“You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas.” Beaver also notes that ideas arose from other sources, such as the television show 24. Jack Bauer, the main character, had many friends at Guantánamo, says Beaver: “He gave people lots of ideas.” It was clear to Sands that Beaver believed that Washington was directly involved in the interrogations, and her account confirms what others tell Sands—that Washington’s views were being fed into the process by people physically present at Guantánamo.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading Gherald L.’s blog.
Spain’s national newspapers, El País and Público reported that the Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who pioneered the descent into torture at the prison in Guantánamo. The criminal complaint can be examined here. Público identifies the targets as University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith.To underscore the serious of this action, Andrew Sullivan writes:
More ominous for Yoo and Addington et al is that the judge involved is the one who nailed Pinochet. That dude doesn’t mess around. Spain’s action means these war criminals are vulnerable in 24 European countries for arrest and prosecution for enabling torture.Update: Here’s Glenn Greenwald on Britain opening an inquiry into the British government’s possible war crimes:
Wouldn’t it be nice if our government leaders could make a similar, extremely uncontroversial statement — credible allegations of lawbreaking by our highest political leaders must be investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted? In a country with a minimally healthy political culture, that ought to be about as uncontroversial as it gets. Instead, what we have are political leaders and media stars virtually across the board spouting lawless Orwellian phrases about being “more interested in looking forward than in looking backwards” and not wanting to “criminalize public service.” These apologist manuevers continue despite the fact that, as even conservative Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum recently acknowledged in light of newly disclosed detailed ICRC Reports, “that crimes were committed is no longer in doubt.”Update 2: As dday points out, it appears that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey supports the extra-jurisdictional application of domestic anti-torture laws:
The United States for the first time this year used a law that allows for the prosecution in the United States of torture in other countries. On Jan. 10, a Miami court sentenced Charles Taylor, the former Liberian leader, to 97 years in a federal prison for torture, even though the crimes were committed in Liberia.
Last October, when the Miami court handed down the conviction, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey applauded the ruling and said: “This is the first case in the United States to charge an individual with criminal torture. I hope this case will serve as a model to future prosecutions of this type.”
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