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June 25, 2008

Comments

I used to say, for several years, that it seemed to me that a chunk of America got tired of being civilized and adult and had fun indulging the inner vicious child. But this is something more than that, and those who defend it and make excuses for it and help shelter the perpetrators and masterminds from justice are directly helping evil. This is not a partisan matter...or it shouldn't be. Those who downplay it and try to push it off-stage are morally exactly like those who, in decades gone by, excused Nazi and Communist atrocities. Those who cheer it on are morally one with the Nazis and Communists who committed the atrocities.

There's something rotting in the soul of America. No nation's ever perfect, of course. There was no golden age when justice prevailed for all. But this systematic, institutionalized, glorified evil is a throwback and aberration. The merely amoral wouldn't do a lot of this because it's inefficient; this takes planning by people who like the pain and degredation. And it continues to freak me out to see people who otherwise civilized suddenly throw their souls in a hole and pontificate about why it's no big deal, certainly not as big as health care or taxes, and besides, we mustn't seem weak. Or whatever the BS line of the day may be.

I'm old enough to remember a brief moment when both parties were willing to face the fact of entrenched rottenness in power, and to act on it. It would be nice to see that again, instead of an entire party's institutions and loyal voices defending crimes against humanity. It's sick and enraging and saddening, and it will be freshly so in this very thread when conservative voices come in to agree that it's awful, only to go on in practice to fight against any effective response, because that's all those nasty Democrats at work.

I wish I could see bottom on this pit.

I bet Justice Scalia and the DoD would think that this post makes me an enemy combatant ...

Wouldn't surprise me, since they don't know who they're fighting in much detail beyond "everyone we disagree with".

The thing that continues to bug me is, why is there no equivalent of ActBlue at work on the Republican Party? People who find that they have a conscience and believe in the rule of law may leave the party, as John Cole and many others have, but the fact that there is zero organized opposition within the party to all of this is what really sickens me. The country can survive, kind of, a decade or two of partial or total rule by an anti-moral junta. I'm far from convinced that it can survive some decades of one of the two parties institutionally committed to such evil. (Cue, no doubt, someone telling me how welfare and schooling are just as evil, when seen from a sufficiently distorted sensibility. I disregard such preemptively.)

Where are the primary challengers? Where are the pressure groups putting fundraising pressure on any of the architects of this? Where are the parliamentarians to throw the bums out of institutional positions? I've seen the argument lately that for all practical realities, the Republican Party simply is now the party of authoritarian leaders, authoritarian followers, and those willing to suppress enough of their moral sensibilities to go along with it. It seems so.

I will gladly change this general contempt when I see reason to. But I know what a party revolt looks like - the Democrats have one in progress, even though its victories are neither as numerous or complete as they should be. Democrats with outraged consciences are highly visible, organizing, and doing what they see at hand to do. When I see Republicans doing anything similar, I will gladly acknowledge their return to the rest of the human race.

It is also worth noting that if you go back and look at archives from 2002 and 2003, the people blogging and commenting who were most right about what the US was likely to do in secret were people like Jesurgliac and Avedon Carol - people who are routinely dumped on for being obviously fanatical and shrill. But they were right, and in the most important way: they correctly assessed the character of the people making decisions about the war and occupation. It's not just the mainstream media that refuse to give proper attention to people who were right at the time, it's a lot of bloggers. The more that comes out, the more we find that it was the persistently, vigorously, intensely left-wing voices that spoke true.

All of us who tried to strike more nuanced or temperate poses were wrong, and I at least have been reflecting a lot on what that wrongness should mean for me. Among other things, it means much less interest in granting any benefit of the doubt to people who can't make a strong showing of good faith in basic moral standards, in practical ways. Do some good, I'll listen. Insist your heart is pure but that you just have to keep voting for tyrants, torturers, and thieves, and I won't. All margin of good will has been used up. These are indeed times that try men's souls, and women's too.

Those who cheer it on are morally one with the Nazis and Communists who committed the atrocities.

The banality of evil.

And no, I don't use that phrase lightly.

Also, what Bruce said at 11:07pm.

But I know what a party revolt looks like - the Democrats have one in progress, even though its victories are neither as numerous or complete as they should be. Democrats with outraged consciences are highly visible, organizing, and doing what they see at hand to do.

This seems to me to be far too self-congratulatory about the Democrats.

I agree 100% with what Bruce says about the Republican Party.

But the visible revolt of a group of Democrats against their own leadership, while a nice indication of some shred of moral decency on the part of the rebels themselves, shouldn't let that party off the hook.

The Democratic Party could have stopped most of this. They controlled the Senate when the USA PATRIOT Act was initially passed (only Russ Feingold voted against it) and the Iraq War resolution was passed (a majority of Democratic Senators, and the House Democratic leadership, voted for it).

They had the numbers to filibuster every single other aspect of this administration's policies that were openly put before Congress. In most cases they didn't even try. (If you doubt the potential power of a united Democratic Party, even in the minority from 2003-2007, look what happened to Social Security privatization.)

And key Democrats were briefed on much of this administration's illegal behavior that didn't come publicly before Congress. They kept silent.

One of the first things that Nancy Pelosi did when taking over as Speaker was to take impeachment "off the table."

As an institution, time and time again, the Democratic Party has served to enable the crimes of this administration. That they are a bigger tent on torture, that some individual Democrats in DC speak truth to power, doesn't change what the party as an institution has done.

This truly is a case in which the best construction that can be thrown on things is that the Democratic Party is the lesser evil (and I mean "evil" quite literally). They, too, are a party that tortures...just with a little less unanimity.

Ben, I wouldn't argue with any of that, and don't mean to sound congratulatory about the Democratic Party. As a party, it's been an awful failure, the willing junior partner to great evil. I mean to say only that it is being challenged in a way the Republicans aren't.

"I never thought a report on things that were done in my name would include sentences like: 'Examination of the peri-anal area showed signs of rectal tearing that are highly consistent with his report of having been sodomized with a broomstick.' I never thought my country would fall this low."

I used to live in the same precinct, the 70th, as Abner Louima, so I'm afraid I can't say the same thing.

"I'm old enough to remember a brief moment when both parties were willing to face the fact of entrenched rottenness in power, and to act on it."

Which year or years are you thinking of, Bruce? Maybe some people in both parties, sure, but that's the case today. I can't think of any time when the majority of representatives of both parties were particularly up in arms in general over moral failure in government, save in extremely limited and spotty fashion. If you're thinking of, say, 1973-? (1980?), so am I, and I don't recall those years that way. If you're thinking of some other years, I genuinely have no idea what years you have in mind, and am quite curious.

Incidentally, since I haven't been around in a while, and probably won't be much for a while, I'm looking for an open thread to ask an unconnected question in, and not finding one. Open thread soon, maybe?

Gary, I was thinking of 1974-6, when impeachment actually got rolling. Undone by the pardon, of course.

...sodomized with a broomstick." I never thought my country would fall this low.

Abner Louima. New York City cops. 1997.

Of course, the officer that did that got 30 years in prison without parole (per Wikipedia). Letting this stuff go unpunished is certainly a lower fall.

Hoping I won't derail the thread, and asking for replies to be posted on a more appropriate recent open thread, if there is one, and only a pointer to said responses here, my query is: if several pale-skinned folk, WASPs, in North Carolina, find it hilarious to "talk like black people" into auto-drive-up windows at fast food restaurants, in excessively exaggerated fashion, would you consider this:
a) hilarious?
b) funny, but harmlessly tasteless?
c) racist, but forgiveably so?
d) highly thoughtless, and lacking in self-awareness, and racial sensitivity, but nothing worse?
e) appallingly racist, and something only privileged "white" people would do?
f) other?

I need a reality check. I know what I think, but I'd like the opinion of others. Thanks for any response. (Hmm, there seem to be no open threads on the front page at all.)

Oh, and if your response is in the c through f zone, what do you think a tactful way might be of suggesting to said folks that this might not be an entirely harmless form of behavior, without provoking defensiveness?

"I'm old enough to remember a brief moment when both parties were willing to face the fact of entrenched rottenness in power, and to act on it."

Too expand briefly, my only guess is that you might be referring to the willingness to impeach Nixon, and that was so completely limited that I can't see making much of it. The Republican Party didn't change in the slightest because of it; they were just willing, a majority, to toss Nixon the individual overboard because the evidence that he had committed vast crimes became overwhelming, and overwhelmingly reported, and they'd have lost all credibility if they did otherwise; but most were dragged kicking and screaming to that conclusion, and some didn't agree anyway, and of those who did, they did nothing whatever to change anything other than Nixon: there was complete continuity from Nixon to Ford, with the same exact evil foreign policy under Kissinger and Haig and all, the same folks who turned up under Reagan and committed Iran-Contra, and the immoral "secret" wars in Central America and elsewhere, and on and on and on, so I don't see any significant movement in the Republican party as having at all taken place, if that's what you were thinking of, and the Democratic party changes were limited, as well.

But maybe you have some other moment in mind. In any case, it's a bit of a reversal of our usual roles for me to be more pessimistic than you, Bruce, if that's the case here. :-)

"Gary, I was thinking of 1974-6, when impeachment actually got rolling. Undone by the pardon, of course."

Ah. See my previous.

Well, I have to try to get some sleep, if I can (tomorrow there's a theory that the contractor will arrive to put an a/c vent in this windowless attic room, and I have to be up early under the theory this will actually happen), so another time for more of this, or at least until tomorrow. Thanks, and g'night.

"Gary, I was thinking of 1974-6, when impeachment actually got rolling."

Short version, though, as someone who studied the details of Watergate and the Nixon and Ford and Carter and Reagan admins intensively, is that I saw no wave of morality in the Republican party at all. Merely a completely utilitarian willingness to throw Nixon over the side, to keep everything going just as it had been, and that only when absolutely forced to. Nothing changed, or nothing significant that I'd draw the faintest optimism from, that I can think of off-hand, I'm afraid.

There was the wave of Democratic reformers, to be sure, but a) they petered out to a large degree, and became complacent, and in any case, limited in power with the failure of Carter, and the Reagan succession -- though still putting up good resistance in various areas; and b) you said both parties.

Certainly I think the Republican party of the late Seventies, and early Eighties, was less corrupt and evil than it has been for the last decade, but talk about low bars, and the soft bigotry of low expectations. :-)

And we should give the guy who raped the 8 year old girl into a bloody mess the benefit of the doubt. Because he wasn't a Republican.

Feh.

Gary: My honky-meter broke a few years ago when a couple of white fratboys from Northern Wisconsin greeted each other, right in front of me, with "What's up, my nigga?" So, um, you'll have to ask someone else.

"Oh, and if your response is in the c through f zone, what do you think a tactful way might be of suggesting to said folks that this might not be an entirely harmless form of behavior, without provoking defensiveness?"

For the cashier, a good tactic might be to ask them if they're Swedish.

Gary: Insufficient info. The best case for us liberals is (d), even if the cashier and cooks are white. The individuals committing the offense probably think (a) and/or (b), and if they're in their low 20s they possibly have an excuse.

As to how to explain to them that they're being at best rude, try "Dude, that n*gger riff is like so 1950s. Are you truly so lame? Don't you have any better material?" (The key, of course, being your willingness to use the word n*gger. Otherwise you come off like a pompous *sshole.) Circumstances may require you modify your approach accordingly.

Bruce: The more that comes out, the more we find that it was the persistently, vigorously, intensely left-wing voices that spoke true.

I'm still wondering why it was that so few Americans looked at their government breaking the Geneva Convention in such a public way in early 2002, and said, then, "We can't support people who are doing this in our name."

For that matter, I can still summon up an (exhausted, by this time) rage against every single American who saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib, broadcast nationwide in April 2004, and still continued then to support Bush & Co.

I'm a very verbal person, but I really don't have words to describe that feeling - it's physical, I assure you. To me, it seemed as obvious as a house burning down: this is what your government is doing in your name, you cannot say you do not know it because it has been on the national news and all over the media, it's obvious, it's appalling - why are you continuing to support them?

I've been yelled at in the past for thinking people must see things my way. Well, yeah, this was one of those times. Still is. Why couldn't you see it my way?

Why couldn't you see that if your government opens a concentration camp to hold prisoners beyond the reach of law, this opens the door for prisoners to be tortured, and when you have actual pictures of people being tortured, this is just the final evidence you need to justify arrest - all further evidence-gathering is to ensure conviction and determine sentencing at the trial. Not sit back, leave it be, let the 2004 election get rigged to put Bush in again.

Yeah, this is a nasty comment. I'm not a good mood this morning.

Jes, for myself only...it was obviously a bad idea, and I expect that there would be terrible abuses. I think that my particular problem was underestimating the actively sadistic element in Bush, Cheney, and some of their senior advisors, and also just how narrowly they draw the circle of self-interest. It wasn't until a year or two later that I first read real info about the Mafia's long-time habit of buying legitimate businesses and looting them through a variety of scams and had a point of comparison.

I think you're entitled to some nastiness. It's evil news.

My daughter's summer reading for high school includes Fahrenheit 451, which contains this about a fireman who's just burned a load of books:

He knew that when he returned to the firehouse he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked in the mirror.

I explained it to her, but she lacked any context to appreciate what it meant, having of course (and thank God) no referent for minstrel shows. In 1950, when Bradbury wrote the book, Amos and Andy was still a top-rated radio show, soon to move to TV.

Bruce: I think that my particular problem was underestimating the actively sadistic element in Bush, Cheney, and some of their senior advisors, and also just how narrowly they draw the circle of self-interest.

In early 2002, when Guantanamo Bay was first opened, I took for granted that the prisoners who had been sent there were in fact "the worst of the worst" - it was just that the US wasn't following the correct procedure that I objected to. I can't remember exactly when I realized that at least some of the prisoners hadn't even been taken "on the battlefield" - I think it may have been when news of Moazzam Begg's imprisonment started percolating out, because from the first, he was obviously innocent, and his arrest had not been "on the battlefield" but in Pakistan from the house where he and his wife and children were staying, refugees from Afghanistan. And that was fairly early on, because immediately after his arrest, Moazzam Begg had been able to use his mobile phone to call his family to let them know what had happened to him. Or it might have been when the six men who had been found innocent by the Bosnian Supreme Court were then kidnapped as they left the courthouse by the CIA. Or it might have been when news of the Tipton Three began circulating - and that was fairly early on, because I remember still having an open mind about whether all three were innocent, though as it turned out all were and one of them at least was cleared in spectacular fashion by the British habit of CCTV in the workplace. But it was probably something of all of the above.

The point is: by the end of 2002, it was clear that the Bush administration had no intention of obeying the Geneva Conventions, and that all of the prisoners whose backgrounds we knew in any detail - those who had been kidnapped from European countries or whose country of origin was in Europe - had turned out to be far from being "the worst of the worst".

And then in 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, the news about the unregulated prison camps in Iraq began percolating out - that thousands of Iraqis, including children, were being held without any proper regulation or procedure.

It wasn't that I knew that Bush and Cheney et al were sitting around in the White House discussing what torture methods were legit (though it didn't surprise me when I found out that had actually happened). But I don't trust the government. Not in the silly way that right-wingers/libertarians claim they "don't trust the government", meaning they don't trust them to run the ordinary functions of a civilised country: I mean that I don't trust any governing power to behave well when it has been handed the ungoverned, unchecked power to behave as badly as it likes.

Not just because of how my government behaved towards IRA prisoners, or because of the innocent people who were framed by the police at the time of the IRA bombings. But because - it just seems obvious to me:

that someone who has another person helpless in their power must be held in check with safeguards, external audits, organizational procedures, the threat of discovery and the certainty of prosecution and punishment once discovered. The more people held, the more helpless they are to protect themselves, the stronger their external safeguards must be.

And a decent person won't object to this because a decent person won't want to do things to the helpless that these safeguards will prevent: the people who will get angry, who resist the safeguards, who want unchecked, unguarded, unsupervised authority to do as they will with people helpless in their power - those people are obviously untrustworthy.

The angry resistance of so many Americans, not just right-wingers or Bush supporters, to the idea that the US should obey the Geneva Conventions with the Guantanamo Bay prisoners and others - resistance even to the fact that the US was and is breaking the Geneva Conventions, - that was the angry resistance of people who did not want oversight into what they intended to do with those prisoners. People who knew that the prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay were going to suffer, that the Iraqis in the prison camps were going to suffer, and who might be disgusted and appalled when they saw the pictures - but who had in their hearts consented to just a little bit of beating up, of isolation, fear, loneliness, pain for these prisoners. God knows you still get people who still seem to think that "obviously" everyone in Guantanamo Bay is a terrorist, despite the increasing amount of evidence made public since 2002 that this is not so.

A lot of these people had a moral turnaround when they realised what the implications of their wish meant. When they saw the photos. When it was real to them. Like De Stogumber in Saint Joan, they repented when they saw.

"Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those who have no imagination?"

Jes, that's a remarkable quotation. Pardon my ignorance, but what's the source?

OT: Outstanding suggestion from david kilmer at 1:58.

OT but only sort of:

I want to register my absolute disgust with Obama's response to today's Supreme Court decision. It reflects a felt need to pander to people with the same revenge mentality described by Jes above -- people who wanted prisoners taken in 2001 to be outside the Geneva Conventions so that they could be punished as payback for the September attacks.

Either that, or it reflects that actual mentality on Obama's part, which would make him much more chillingly similar to the incumbent than previously thought. But at this point pretty much any principles or feelings he actually holds are beside the point; he's going to say whatever he thinks the campaign requires.

His performance this week has met my low, low expectations. This election is a choice of lesser evils, and I use the word advisedly.

Nell: Jes, that's a remarkable quotation. Pardon my ignorance, but what's the source?

George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan. I "did" it for A-Level English, about 23 years ago, and I haven't seen it performed in years - but that one line keeps coming back to me. For some reason.

And I'm not thinking of the actual guards at Abu Ghraib;

Well, I am.

What Bruce said.
What Jes said.
What Gary said about the authoritarian nature of the Republican party for the last 40 years.

But mostly, what Bruce and Jes said.

9/11 showed us what we are made of. Things like that test a nation. We failed, and continue to fail, daily.

Make no mistake, we will pay, and pay, and pay for this stuff. The bill hasn't even begun to come due.

Gary: (e) without the "appallingly".

Simple suggestion for how to respond:

"You're acting like assholes. Knock it off."

That should do it.

If they find that too harsh, they're even bigger wusses than their little prank indicates. I recommend a boot to the behind.

Thanks -

"For the cashier, a good tactic might be to ask them if they're Swedish."

Unfortunately, I'm not the cashier, and I'd like to find a way to get the idea across to at least one person I deeply respect, without seeming like someone who is a crashing bore, and a killjoy with no sense of humor, but to get this across to someone who found it absolutely hilarious, without seeing anything remotely to be bothered about it, or anything at all racist about it, no matter that treating people differently because of their perceived "race" is the definition of racism, and making fun of them for their funny race ways is, ah, not something apt to be received well by someone who isn't so pale.

(Not to mention that it's no different than misogynistically making fun of, say, "women's ways of talking," or antisemitically making fun of Jew's ways of talking, or being homophobic and bigoted by saying "that's so gay," and so forth.)

But even the gentlest ways of trying to get such an idea across to people to whom it never occurs, and who don't mean anything by it, are apt to provoke great defensiveness, so I'm pondering. Thanks for all the replies so far, and any yet to come, and apologies for the thread digressing. I'd ask at my own blog, but the post would be apt to be read by someone involved there, and thus cause the problem I'm trying to avoid.

And thanks, russell; I tend to have a very strong reaction to any kind of perceived bigotry, perhaps overly strong and overly self-righteous (who, me?), so this is why I wanted a reality-check from people who aren't me. Thanks.

"What Gary said about the authoritarian nature of the Republican party for the last 40 years."

Oh, well, I'd go back to the authoritarian nature of the U.S. government, both parties, since Woodrow Wilson/A. Mitchell Palmer, followed by Harding, Coolidge (less), and Hoover (Bonus Army, etc.), myself. :-)

And for all that I admire many things about FDR, lessening authoritarianism in the federal government isn't one of them.

But the preference for that sort of thing continued and increased in the Republican Party under Robert Taft and the other out of power leaders during the Roosevelt/Truman years, and came back into power with Eisenhower, and his increases in the national security state created under Truman, and only continued to snowball from there, in my view. And, yes, the Democratic Party in power has been little better, just a paler version of "me-tooism" on authoritarianism and moral failure, for the most part, as well.

These days, it wouldn't take more than a few large terrorist incidents, and a sympathetic government, to see an American version of Brownshirts arise to "protect the citizenry," I'm afraid. And, yes, I'd rather be a bit paranoid about this sort of thing, than complacent.

As that wise boxer / sage (tongue-in-cheek) Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth."

9-11 was the U.S.'s punch in the mouth. And we immediately dropped the "plan" of adhering to rule-of-law, of a proponent of human rights, and of fealty to the Constitution. Basically the U.S. assumed a thug or bully mentality.

At the close of WWII we showed that we could be just and magnanimous when in a position of victory and strength. But 9-11 showed that, when not flushed with victory and in a position of weakness (having been attacked within our boarders), we as a country are instead vindictive and cruel.

Sorry, missed this (I've only had 2 1/2 hours sleep, due to noise and heat, though fortunately the guy who will put the a/c in this windowless attic is supposed to show up shortly, if the promise is fulfilled):

Simple suggestion for how to respond:

"You're acting like assholes. Knock it off."

That should do it.

If they find that too harsh, they're even bigger wusses than their little prank indicates. I recommend a boot to the behind.

That only works if you feel you're on more than very tentative ground with the people involved, and not worried that the person you most care about won't just find you to be a pompous asshole, with no sense of humor, yourself. Thus the whole looking for the gentlest possible way of getting the idea across. But thanks, as I can't say that I'd disagree if I felt in a position to communicate such a notion. It's a matter of obliviously on their part, though, not malice. But, still, not a good thing to perpetuate, or encourage minors to see as acceptable or inoffensive behavior, it seems to me, no?

I wonder, or at least part of me does: do they have broomsticks in The Hague?

Gary, if you were in their presence at the time of the incident in question, I think you have "standing" to let them know that you object, and you don't want any part of any rumble which could result from their behavior.

Gary:

Ask him/her/them the following:

Why are you talking like that? Why do think it's funny?

Form the question as something that's puzzling you, rather than disapprovingly.

Re Gary Farber's OT:

Like Russell said, (e) minus the appalling.

Jane Hill is a linguistic anthropologist who's published a number of articles on 'mock-Spanish', an analogous phenomenon. If your friends are at all of an academic bent, you might try showing them one of her articles, and expressing your own difficulty in reconciling her rather compelling analysis with your own good opinion of your friends' anti-racist moral character.

http://language-culture.binghamton.edu/symposia/2/part1/index.html

Good luck with the AC!

Of course, the longer you wait to act the less standing you have, and the more likely it is that you'll just come off as being picky. So, maybe you'll just have to wait for another display to administer the object lesson.

I'd ask at my own blog, but the post would be apt to be read by someone involved there, and thus cause the problem I'm trying to avoid.

I think that, if the person you're trying to reach might read your blog, that may actually be the very way to make your point gently. If you were to pose the issue on your blog with language such as:

I'd like to find a way to get the idea across to at least one person I deeply respect, without seeming like someone who is a crashing bore, and a killjoy with no sense of humor, but to get this across to someone who found it absolutely hilarious, without seeing anything remotely to be bothered about it, or anything at all racist about it, no matter that treating people differently because of their perceived "race" is the definition of racism, and making fun of them for their funny race ways is, ah, not something apt to be received well by someone who isn't so pale.

That's hardly a harsh way of putting it. Short of that, I'd have to say there may be no way at all not to upset the person you deeply respect by making your view of his/her behavior known, regardless of how you do it.

Hey Gary --

Sorry, for some reason when I first read your question I came away with the impression that the folks you were talking about were kids, or maybe very young adults. High school or college age people.

A boot in the butt, verbal or otherwise, works less well with peers.

You might just say, "I'm not really comfortable with this, I'd appreciate it if you'd stop it".

Most likely they will, at least when you're around. You run some risk of being seen as holier-than-thou, but then again some folks might appreciate your speaking up.

And as always, thanks for rounding out the historical context on the issue of American authoritarianism upthread.

I agree, it would not take all that much for us to launch our own homegrown version of the brownshirts. To put it very mildly, that would suck, for a lot of people.

Let's do our best to keep it from coming to that.

Thanks -

Jes: Interestingly enough, I grasped that they wanted out of the Geneva Conventions very early on. I wrote at the time that the administration was working hard for a situation in which they'd never be accountable to anyone, in a very two-year-old-like desire to be able to say "no" to everything. Between us, we covered the ground. *rueful grin*

George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan. I "did" it for A-Level English, about 23 years ago, and I haven't seen it performed in years

You didn't see it at the National last summer? Pity -- it was probably the best thing they've done in the last decade, and that's saying something.

I never thought a report on things that were done in my name would include sentences like: "Examination of the peri-anal area showed signs of rectal tearing that are highly consistent with his report of having been sodomized with a broomstick." I never thought my country would fall this low.

Tom @ 1:08, I thought the exact same thing when I read this part, some part of my brain read it as:

I never thought my country would fall as low as Guiliani's NYPD

"Gary, if you were in their presence at the time of the incident in question,"

No, I wasn't. I was in another room, and the event took place earlier in the other day, and the person I heard laughing had had it related to them, and I later asked why the person had been laughing in the other room, and was informed about this event from earlier in the day, and the original person's general habit of doing this hilarious thing.

Thus I was quite remote from the actual event, although I gather that the person who engages in the actual behavior does it all the time. And a good friend of his finds it hilarious, and they related it to a good friend of mine, who is my primary concern, along with some related minors who are also getting the idea that this is a fun way to behave.

"If your friends are at all of an academic bent"

They're not.

"That's hardly a harsh way of putting it. Short of that, I'd have to say there may be no way at all not to upset the person you deeply respect by making your view of his/her behavior known, regardless of how you do it."

Thanks. I'll probably just try to give it some distance in time, and wait for an appropriate moment, so it won't seem so much like I leapt all over it.

(I might even point the person at this thread, so it's, I hope, more clear that I'm not just being an intolerant crazy person who likes to nitpick and harass people for no good reason, or some sort of political pedant, and that other people think that sort of thing is problematic. :-))

"Good luck with the AC!"

One run has now gone in; they now have to put insulation along the whole side of the attic, it turns out, and then fix the other run, having repaired the attic fan. :-)

Naturally, it's due here to be 102 out today.

To paraphrase Jefferson:

"I tremble, in that I know God is just."

I've known about this report for about a year, mostly because one of the chief investigators is someone I've known and worked with for quite some time. Nice to see the report out, but I have to admit that the findings are extremely dismaying to me...on several levels.

I have pretty much accepted the fact that US officials have been involved in torture for some time. This is personally appalling to me because in my work I have some responsibility for implementing US responsibilities under the Convention Against Torture. The internationally accepted definition of torture is:

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
– Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

At 8 CFR 208.18(a) the US pretty much accepts that definition with some caveats. Personally I have never understood the "debate" that has gone on since the photos of Abu Graib were released, about whether certain things like stress positions, sexual humiliation, extreme temperatures and (don't get me started on this one) waterboarding are torture. Of course they are torture. If someone seeks protection from being returned to a country where they have presented credible evidence that it is more likely than not that any of these things will be done to them by a public official or with the consent of a public official, we are obligated under our treaty obligations not to send them back to the country where they would receive such treatment. Imagine how it feels, to know that US public officials are doing these things to others? It sucks.

Now we have clear evidence that these things were done. And the methodology, despite what some right wingers will try to tell you, is the best that is available. A detailed history taken, followed by a gross examination and a detailed and very specific explanation of how the results of the gross examination are consistent, or not consistent, with the history that the patient has given. This method has been used for years to document refugee and asylum claims.

George Bush has, for years, been guilty of war crimes that are committed in your name and mine. And what will come of it?

Regarding the "talking like black people":

Perhaps the first thing to do is to make it clear it's not actually funny. "Is... that supposed to be funny?" or something.

@Aubrey:
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.

Which majun's comment should make us all do.

Today, as it happens, is the International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims of Torture.

There is a conference planned for later this summer at which lawyers and scholars will be laying the groundwork to bring charges of crimes against humanity against Bush and the other officials most responsible for our policy of torture.

There will also be the national conventions of the two major political parties, at which they will adopt platforms. It would be nice to think that the party of the next president of the United States could adopt the No Torture, No Exceptions planks.

Unless, that is, Sen. Obama feels that torture, like government spying and immunity for private partners who break the law at the government's request, has to be tolerated because of our "security needs". Let's find out.

For that matter, I can still summon up an (exhausted, by this time) rage against every single American who saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib, broadcast nationwide in April 2004, and still continued then to support Bush & Co.

What about the British who saw those very same pictures and continued to support Blair? Does your rage include them, and if not, why not?

I'm not saying that the rage against Merkins is misplaced, but complacency in GB was also part of the problem.

Nell: I want to register my absolute disgust with Obama's response to today's Supreme Court decision.

Can I get a link to this response?

I went to Obama's blog, and the only comments about the SC today was on Heller:

We can work together to enact common-sense laws, like closing the gun show loophole and improving our background check system, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals. Today's decision reinforces that if we act responsibly, we can both protect the constitutional right to bear arms and keep our communities and our children safe.

I don't get "evil" from this, so I suppose it must be something else.

Jeff: What about the British who saw those very same pictures and continued to support Blair?

By 2004, I didn't know any British people who supported Blair.

In 2003, if you recall, two million people in the UK marched to stop the war. A standard rule of thumb says that for every person who cares enough to go on a demo, there are probably 6 more who share the same position but didn't actually get to the demo that day. That's only about one-fifth of the population of the UK, it's true, so there must still have been quite a lot of people in the UK who didn't oppose the war in Iraq from the very beginning, and oppose BLiar's tactics for getting the UK into the war. But I never met any of them, either in person or online. It's hard to summon real rage against people who theoretically must exist but who aren't right there justifying their position. (Further, I've never met anyone in the UK who defended the lack of due process in Guantanamo Bay or who argued that what was done to the prisoners in Abu Ghraib "wasn't torture".)

I'm not saying that the rage against Merkins is misplaced, but complacency in GB was also part of the problem.

You've obviously met more Blair-supporting Brits than I have, then. I wouldn't say that complacency in the UK was even close to being part of the problem. (More complex issues were part of the problem, but unless you want a run-down on the political history of the UK in the past 30 years, sorry.)

Jeff: Obama's response to the Louisiana decison is here. It turns out that he held this position before the campaign (it's in one of his books), which is of limited comfort but at least minimizes the extent to which he can be characterized as pandering.

It's not an outrageous position for someone who supports the death penalty. It's just a far cry from "change". In fact, it's a position that moves in the direction of reactionary, Old Testament vengeance law from the current situation.

P.S. Nine times out of ten, news.google.com will be a far more productive source for something that's a reaction to breaking news than the campaign website. He's being quoted directly and accurately in these kinds of accounts, so far.

We have become the 21st century vikings:
attacking, killing, plundering, raping and profiteering without conscience. They (the vikings) were eventually stopped, only by better armed and numbered opposition, not from within their own governing. Wonder if our eventual history has this in store for us?

The difference is that in Iraq the US is paying the Danegeld (= we pay you for not attacking us, knowing very well that you will restart the attack once we stop paying or you run out of cash) ;-)

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