Thursday, January 31, 2008

What a political blog post is NOT supposed to be.

Some thoughts:

Somebody DO something!

So we've got a lame duck president, who continues to sign bills into law and comment that he won't follow them, who wants MORE surveillance powers and thinks lawsuits against his pals should be ex post facto taken off the books, and now I hear on NPR that he's making treaties with Iraq that he won't call treaties and building permanent bases that he won't call permanent, because if he calls them something else, apparently that makes it so the un-permanent bases are legal and the un-treaties, while binding, don't need ratification.

Take the craven Republican congress away, and his truly despotic nature came to the fore -- in the face of the craven Democratic congress.

I am furious! This administration is a blight and he STILL keeps coming up with new and worse wrongs to commit and nobody's DOING anything to stop him!

I don't want to advocate violent upheaval and active dissent and passive resistance and civil disobedience, but come on! What do I do inside the rules that ends the flagrant horror?

So, it's all waterboarding under the bridge?

Before he was confirmed, Mukasey wouldn't say whether waterboarding was torture because he didn't have the information. So now?

He won't say if waterboarding is torture because the CIA doesn't do it (or at least, it isn't policy) and they're not planning to do it. Never mind that they unquestionably DID it. And why is he not going to look into whether it WAS torture? Because if he "second-guesses" his predecessors, that sends the wrong message. It tells the interrogators that they if they get told to do it and later it "turns out" to be torture, then they might get in trouble just for following orders. And that's the wrong message

Seriously, the only way to finish that sentence is "because they won't do what they know is torture if we tell them to." Anyone care to argue that would be "the wrong message"?

Luckily for us, this isn't the only vile fume issuing from Mukasey's mouth. He also put forth the position that whether
waterboarding (or whatever) "shocks the conscience" depends on the circumstances. Like, if the information that might result from the "interrogation" would save lives, then it might not be torture.

I _had_ thought that all this absolutism about torture was just unserious. I mean, it's _only_ torture; obviously _sometimes_ it's not so bad. If it was wrong all the time, you'd call it something else, like, uh...

The snark in me assumes the Republican position would be that sentence ends in "homosexuality", but more seriously, isn't the whole friggin' point of banning TORTURE is that "even in extremis, when lives are at stake, we DON'T DO THIS?" What moral high ground are you claiming with "we don't torture, but we do exactly things that in other circumstances would be torture if it's really important"?

I'm not accusing Mukasey of dissembling and hypocrisy at orders unthinkable. I'm writing words that in other contexts could assert that he's an unthinkably hypocritical liar, but given the dire circumstances and horrific scenarios that could result if he ISN'T called an unthinkably hypocritical liar, the potential benefits of this action preclude labeling it an accusation.


So, I had a touch of an epiphany during a conversation with my wife's uncle. He talked about grand jury duty, and I found that he used words to mean something I would use the antonym to mean. Kind of like "flammable" and "inflammable". For example, he said he was a conservative, so he thought you needed to have some evidence to indict someone. Or similarly, that busting someone for drug possession and drug paraphernelia possession because the weed was in a baggie, he didn't think that was right. He didn't know if I would agree, since you know, I might be liberal, but that was his opinion. A different uncle assumed I wouldn't like his thoughts about health care at all -- when he expounded those ideas, they sounded exactly like the Australian system.

The first realization is that we attribute our virtues to political designations even when they don't deserve it -- there's nothing "conservative" about "innocent until proven guilty" and rejecting sneaky end-arounds by DA's to try to rack up felony counts. But there's nothing "liberal" about that either. In many real ways, we are not politically divided at all.

The second realization, after reading Ronald Reagan's rejection of "Trust me" government and John Ashcroft's demands to preserve privacy rights (?!) (see Glenn Greenwald), was that the labels were just teams: the Republicans spend like "Liberals" when they're in power, and the Democrats serve big business when they're in power. It's very 1984ish.

Politically speaking, the party in power tries to extend and calcify the reach of government generally and their hold on the reins, and the party out of power tries to limit (executive) government control and promote opportunity -- for them to wrest control.

It would make more sense for citizens to identify as "pro-incumbent" or "pro-opposition", rather than R or D. That the politicians would switch party titles when they switch roles would be more honest hypocrisy than what we have now -- an endless redefining of liberal and conservative and neoliberal (which means conservative) and neoconservative (which means fascist, which Jonah Goldberg tells me means liberal) to fit the exigencies of the moment, resulting in a cascade of political identifications that, though more confusingly used, are in fact rather less meaningful than "Bloods" and "Crips".

I'm mostly curmudgeonly, bitter, pessimistic, etc. But there's a small silvery lining here: despite the similarly disingenuous use of the word "bipartisanship", there really are (potentially) swaths of stuff that government could do (or get out of) that "liberals" and "conservatives" alike could agree on, if they didn't vilify it by association with the other camp. I don't know that this is true of the politicians claiming to be the heads of those two groups, but the actual people on the ground are a different story.

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Sarah said...

I approve of everything the CIA does as long as it keeps the factbook up to date.