Monthly Archives: February 2010

M.I.A.

I have been very busy lately, preparing a few interesting – though not very lucrative — projects that I will hopefully discuss in the near future, and therefore have been missing in action. Nevertheless, I have still been thinking about many of the issues of the day, such as:

  • Obama is not a communist. I repeat, he is not a communist. He is a sell-out, and his health care plan and proposals are nothing more than hand-outs to the status quo. To believe anything else is to have your head in the sand (or in the snow, Mrs. Palin). Nothing that he has done to date has been left of center.
  • I don’t care about Tiger Woods. But we treat our athletes, actors and politicians like rock stars. Our culture sexes them up and tells women that these are the desirable men in society. Then the expected happens: these athletes, actors and politicians actually become rock stars, having sex with everything that moves. The press is fully aware of all of this, witness all of the infidelities and sexual escapades, and form a tacit agreement with the celebrities to remain silent (in exchange, the press gets exclusives; the same agreement the White House press corp has with the president). It is only the rare occasion when the celebrity crosses the line – crashing his vehicle or making a public spectacle of himself – when the press then reports on the matter and the celebrity is forced to apologize, teary-eyed. It’s all just too silly for me. Come on! We should just stop pretending anymore. They are all — every one of them — having sex, all the time, and very publicly. Get over it!
  • Our enlightened press wants us to believe that White Christians who terrorize are not terrorists. Only Muslims and foreigners can be terrorists.
  • Hillary is worried that Iran is becoming a military dictatorship. Look, I am not comfortable with Iran having nuclear weapons either, but Mrs.-We-Can-Obliterate-You’s reasoning doesn’t pass the laugh test: the Iranian military’s increasing relevance in the country’s politics and oil economy. That doesn’t sound at all like the U.S., where our military spending makes up for almost half of the entire U.S. budget, making it the largest military budget in the world, and where generals — not the commander-in-chief — are the ones dictating military policy instead of implementing it. Meanwhile, Iran has the smallest military budget per capita in the entire Middle East (after Dubai). Also, the U.S. would never use its military to promote its economic interests, would it, Haliburton? And of course, Hillary forgot to mention that every ally the U.S. has in the Middle Eastern is a dictatorship. Nice try. She should just admit that Iran is the new Sadam Hussein.
  • Talking war when we aren’t winning two other wars is probably not very threatening to anyone. Committing troops to two completely unnecessary wars leaves us exposed before any real potential threats. It is pure national defense negligence.
  • Our Justice Department thinks lawyers are scum anyways, so torture memos are kosher.
  • Regardless of the factsthe Bush/Cheney White House mirandized and successfully prosecuted and convicted 175 terrorist suspects in civil court and was mostly unsuccessful and ineffective in trying suspects in military tribunals, the press and the Republicans want us to believe that Obama has suddenly changed course. And instead of the rule of law prevailing over how we treat terrorist suspects, it all comes down to what one guy in the Senate – a man named Lindsey – wants.
  • Cheney once again on the stay out of jail tour: I disagree with Greenwald that Cheney thinks he is above the law and therefore is flaunting having broken the law. I believe he is scared that he may very well be prosecuted – heck, the British are investigating themselves, someday Americans may also demand a little accountability and transparency from their own government. Thus, Cheney’s only card is to turn breaking his right to break the law without impunity into a political football, not a question of maintaining the rule of law.
  • My cousin, Grave Error contrarian par excellence, has started his own blog – Machiavellian. We thoroughly enjoy disagreeing without each other. Now you can join in the fun too. Check out his new blog.
  • And more.
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The Neocon Washington Post

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If there were any doubts left whatsoever as to whether a liberal mainstream press actually existed in the United States, the Washington Post’s op-ed page once again proved itself to be overwhelmingly neo-conservative with four out of six articles, including articles by the blood thirsty, macho, war-wongering neocons Krauthammer and Kristol. Then there are the Bushdom nostalgists, Michael Gerson and Michael B. Mukasey, who want us to believe that neither U.S. sovereignty nor the U.S. legal system are strong enough to prosecute and incarcerate terrorists.  Maybe the two should put their articles together and then they’d come to the conclusion that after you fail to afford criminal and even military suspects their rights, then the evidence you have obtained against them is no longer admissible in either civilian or criminal courts. That leaves you with the only option left of operating a prison like Guatanamo, hidden from the Rule of Law, where suspects are held without ever being charged or tried with a crime. Then when Iran holds a trial against a U.S. citizen, Kristol and Krauthammer cry “human rights violation” and plead for a healthy dose of air strikes; what Hillary diplomatically calls obliteration.

Forget the fact that Miranda requires all suspects who are in custody and being interrogated to be read their rights. Forget that Robert Reid was Mirandized and tried in civil court under Bush/Cheney. Forget the fact that the Constitution’s Bill of Rights applies to people, not just citizens (even though Mukasey appears to believe that Miranda does not always apply citizens). Forget that these Constitutional rights — under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments — do not come with “except during wartime” exceptions (or that Congress has not declared war). Forget all of the domestic and foreign terrorists tried and convicted in federal civilian court over the past decade, and forget about the ones that could not be convicted by military tribunals under Bush/Cheney. Forget all your facts and your law. Sarah Palin — a politician to take seriously according to senior Washington Post pundit Broder — says she’s a Constitutionalist and, along with the neocon Post, believes that the Constitution just shouldn’t apply to the law anymore.

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Our Lynch Mob

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More than a political post, this is a post about our politics. From the recent article by Glenn Greenwald:

The Lynch Mob mentality
If I had the power to have one statement of fact be universally recognized in our political discussions, it would be this one:

The fact that the Government labels Person X a “Terrorist” is not proof that Person X is, in fact, a Terrorist.

That proposition should be intrinsically understood by any American who completed sixth grade civics and was thus taught that a central prong of our political system is that government officials often abuse their power and/or err and therefore must prove accusations to be true (with tested evidence) before they’re assumed to be true and the person punished accordingly.  In particular, the fact that the U.S. Government, over and over, has falsely accused numerous people of being Terrorists — only for it to turn out that they did nothing wrong — by itself should compel a recognition of this truth.  But it doesn’t.

All throughout the Bush years, no matter what one objected to — illegal eavesdropping, torture, rendition, indefinite detention, denial of civilian trials — the response from Bush followers was the same:  “But these are Terrorists, and Terrorists have no rights, so who cares what is done to them?”  What they actually meant was:  “the Government has claimed they are Terrorists,” but in their minds, that was the same thing as:  “they are Terrorists.”  They recognized no distinction between “a government accusation” and “unchallengeable truth”; in the authoritarian’s mind, by definition, those are synonymous.  The whole point of the Bush-era controversies was that — away from an actual battlefield and where the Constitution applies (on U.S. soil and/or towards American citizens wherever they are) — the Government should have to demonstrate someone’s guilt before it’s assumed (e.g., they should have to show probable cause to a court and obtain warrants before eavesdropping; they should have to offer evidence that a person engaged in Terrorism before locking them in a cage, etc.).  But to someone who equates unproven government accusations with proof, those processes are entirely unnecessary.  Even in the absence of those processes, they already know that these persons are Terrorists.  How do they know that?  Because the Government said so.  Even when it comes to their fellow citizens, that’s all the “proof” that is needed.

That authoritarian mentality is stronger than ever now.  Why?  Because unlike during the Bush years, when it was primarily Republicans willing to blindly trust Government accusations, many Democrats are now willing to do so as well.  Just look at the reaction to the Government’s recent attempts to assassinate the U.S.-born American citizen and Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.  Up until last November, virtually no Americans had ever even heard of al-Awlaki.  But in the past few months, beginning with the Fort Hood shootings, government officials have repeatedly claimed that he’s a Terrorist:  usually anonymously, with virtually no evidence, and in the face of al-Awlaki’s vehement denials but without any opportunity for him to defend himself (because he’s in hiding out of fear of being killed by his own Government).  The Government can literally just flash someone’s face on the TV screen with the word Terrorist over it (as was done with al-Awlaki), and provided the face is nefarious and Muslim-looking enough (basically the same thing), nothing else need be offered.

That’s enough for many people — including many Democrats — to march forward overnight and mindlessly proclaim that al-Awlaki is “a declared enemy of the United States working to kill Americans” (if you can stomach it, read some of these comments — from Obama defenders at a liberal blog — with several sounding exactly like Dick Cheney, screeching:  “Of course al-Awlaki should be killed without charges; he’s a Terrorist who is trying to kill Americans!!!”).  Even now, beyond government assertions about his associations, the public knows virtually nothing about al-Awlaki other than the fact that he’s a Muslim cleric with a Muslim name dressed in Muslim garb, sitting in a Bad Arab Country expressing anger towards the actions of the U.S. and Israel.  But no matter.  That’s more than enough.  They’re willing not only to mindlessly embrace the Government’s unproven accusation that their fellow citizen is a TERRORIST (“a declared enemy of the United States working to kill Americans”), but even beyond that, to cheer for his due-process-free execution like drunken fans at a football game.  And the same people declare:  no civilian trials are necessary for Terrorists (meaning:  people accused by the Government of being Terrorists).  Even more amazingly, the identities of the other Americans on the hit list aren’t even known, but that’s OK:  they’re Terrorists, because the Government said so.

A very long time ago, I would be baffled when I’d read about things like the Salem witch hunts.  How could so many people be collectively worked up into that level of irrational frenzy, where they cheered for people’s torturous death as “witches” without any real due process or meaningful evidence?  But all one has to do is look at our current Terrorism debates and it’s easy to see how things like that happen.  It’s just pure mob mentality:  an authority figure appears and affixes a demonizing Other label to someone’s forehead, and the adoring crowd — frothing-at-the-mouth and feeding on each other’s hatred, fears and desire to be lead — demands “justice.”  I imagine that if one could travel back in time to the Salem era in order to speak with some of those gathered outside an accused witch’s home, screaming for her to be burned, the conversation would go something like this:

Mob Participant:  Burn the Witch!!!  Kill her!!!

Far Left Civil Liberties Extremist-Purist (“FLCLE-P”):  How do you know she’s a witch?

Mob Participant:  Didn’t you just hear the government official say so?

FLCLE-P:  But don’t you want to see real evidence before you assume that’s true and call for her death?

Mob Participant:  You just heard the evidence!  The magistrate said she’s a witch!

FLCLE-P:  But shouldn’t there be a real trial first, with tangible evidence and due process protections, to see if the accusation is actually true?

Mob Participant:  A “real” trial?  She’s a witch!  She’s trying to curse us and kill us all.  She got more than what she deserved.  Witches don’t have rights!!!

Return to Question 1.

That’s essentially how I hear our debates over Terrorism, and how I’ve heard them for quite some time.  And it’s how I hear them more loudly now than ever before.  And with those deeply confused premises now locked into place on a bipartisan basis (“no trials are needed to determine if someone is a Terrorist because Terrorists don’t have rights”), imagine how much louder that will get if there is another successful terrorist attack in the U.S.  But in fairness to the 17th Century Puritans, at least the Salem witches received pretenses of due process and even trials (albeit with coerced confessions and speculative hearsay).  Even when it comes to our fellow citizens, we don’t even bother with those.  For us, the mere accusation by our leaders is sufficient:  Kill that American Terrorist with a drone!

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