Thursday, June 29, 2006

Guantanemo, and a call to arms.

They called it "asymmetric warfare", and came up with some amazing BS to try to make it sound good.

"They just did it to make us look bad."

"They have no value for life, not ours, not their own."

"They're the bad guys, and we're the good guys." Hey, that's a good line; I wonder if our soldiers have to keep repeating that, as they strap prisoners in a chair, leaving them immobilized, to stuff a tube down their throat and force food into their belly.

"We have to force them to eat", the explanation comes, "can you imagine the uproar if we let them die?"

Yes, indeed. There'd be an uproar, just as there was when we did let three prisoners in Guantanemo commit suicide.

And there should be an uproar. One of the suicides was cleared for release; do you really think he was a terrorist, engaging in a final strike against America? That he'd survived all those many months of interrogation, and stayed quiet, so they thought he was safe to be released, just so he could hang himself to embarrass us? Come on; that's not just a bad excuse, that's a piss-poor excuse for an excuse.

In a sense, the military creepy-guys who made that claim are right. Yes, this was a method of warfare, known as passive resistence. The idea is to shame your enemy into doing what's right. And it doesn't tend to work too well on the enemy that's got its boot on the back of your neck, because that enemy is usually too angry to think about shame. But when the rest of the world sees it, well, that's when you hope that something will change.

Should the rest of the world be pressuring us to change? Should we be ashamed of what's happening? Should our allies look us in the eye and say "this is not the America that we knew, loved, and respected"? Sadly, yes... they should.

The America that they respected would have held a fair hearing for detainees. The detainees would have lawyers, and yes, we'd have taken a chance that maybe we'd release a couple of terrorists, because freedom is too goddamned precious to take away from an innocent person. If we weren't pretty sure that a person was guilty, we'd let them go. And if they thumbed their nose at us and said "hah hah, you let me go!" we'd look back and say "But if you come after us again, we will get you again."

The America that the world loved would never - never - have gone to war if there was another way. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Admiral Yamamoto said "I fear we have wakened a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve", and he was right. And since that day, America has stood as a defender, not an attacker.

The America they knew would not have had the photographs from Abu Ghraib published, because Abu Ghraib would never have happened. If it had, the corruption that allowed it to happen would have been rooted out, and no one would pretend that it was "a few bad apples."

Because, you see, the Fay report said that Abu Ghraib happened in part because the soldiers felt that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the Global War on Terror, and believed - because the Bush administration had linked the two so many times - that the Iraq war was part of the GWOT.

The America they knew would never, never, never have violated the Geneva Conventions, those absolute minimum standards that any civilized nation would insist on following in a war... not because the enemy deserved to be treated well, but because no civilized nation could contemplate breaking those rules. War might be necessary, but the good guys follow the rules... always. It's no virtue to follow the rules only when the rules are easy and useful.

Should we be ashamed of the actions taken by the Bush administration, and allowed by the Congress? Should we say "those prisoners in Guantanemo deserve fair hearings, and have a right to go free, unless we can prove the've done something wrong!"

Thankfully, today, we don't have to. The Supreme Court did the hard work for us.

The President must follow the law, just like everyone else. And Congress has made the law, and has demanded that we follow the Geneva Conventions. No more holding detainees and taking a risk that we're punishing - and sometimes torturing! - innocent people. These people need to get fair hearings, not the military tribunals the Bush administration envisioned.

Thankfully, today, we can say that America has been set back on the right track, and might someday be the America that was known and respected throughout the world.

But we don't know what tomorrow will bring.

Congress could change the law; Congress could say that we don't have to follow the Geneva Conventions. Congress could say that we don't need to follow the rules that we would demand of any civilized nation. And if Congress changes the law, the Supreme Court might let the new law stand. Congress just passed an anti-torture bill, but they let President Bush explain that he didn't feel bound by it. Congress can't roll over for him again.

America is a civilized nation. Moreover, it's the most powerful, most technologically advanced, and wealthiest nation on the planet. We can fight, and win, the war on terror without having to violate the rules of civilized warfare. Sure, the terrorists might break the rules... but they're the bad guys. We're supposed to be the good guys, and we were, until George W. Bush decided we shouldn't be, and forced our military and our intelligence agencies to violate the basic standards of decency.

The Supreme Court did its part. Now its time for all of us to do ours... to remind him who his boss is. Telling him the boss's name might even remind him of that document that he's sworn to uphold and protect: "We, the people of the United States." It's long past time we took our country back.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cynicism about the latest 'scandal'

Bush is upset. (Possible registration or a trip to required)

People are talking about a secret bank monitoring program. Except... well, it wasn't that secret. It's been talked about before. It's just, this time, it was spread a bit more widely, and said a bit louder.

You know, one of the things the Bushies really hate is to see their Great Leader acting defensively. They love to see him go on the attack.

Let's see. The US kills an important terrorist three years after having passed up the opportunity to kill him. Bush flies to Iraq, and says the new leader is really, really good, so y'all can ignore all the bad news out there. And now, the President has a brand new scandal to attack, and talk tough about.

Does anyone else think that these leaks were a well timed attempt to play to the base, at the same time as the Republicans started to make loud noises about gay marriage and flag burning?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Cheap talk...

Talk is cheap. Everyone knows that, and everyone believes that, but the implications of it elude most people. Which isn't surprising; saying that "talk is cheap" is talk, and therefore, cheap.

There are times when you can look at someone's words and say "that's cheap talk". For example, President Bush has asserted that the costs of the war in Iraq are "worth it".

If you support the war, you should still agree that it's cheap. Because, what does it say? It says that the war in Iraq is worthwhile, for some reason or another. Moreover, let's face facts. Few people, if any, would have supported the war if he said, in 2003, "we are going to invade Iraq, and spend hundreds of billions of dollars, lose the lives of thousands of our soldiers, see tens of thousands of them injured, may with lost limbs, we're going to anger many of our allies, and three years later, we're still not going to have any guarantee that anything will work out well. In fact, we'll still have a real, honest-to-goodness fear of civil war."

Even if you think Iraq is "worth it", merely saying that the war is "worth it" is cheap. We already have high costs; we don't have any benefits that are certain (though we have hopes, and reasons not to despair). We have some rock solid facts to point to, and we can recognize that if anyone wants to make the claim that it's "worth it", they need to do more than just say that it's worth it. They need to point to something that clearly offsets the huge costs.

But what about situations where there is a lot less certainty? There's one that's been on my mind in recent days, and it's an opinion that's upset me for a long time. That's the opinion that many people express when they say that "abortion is murder". Is that cheap, or not cheap?

You see, it's a really subtle question. There's no real way to decide with certainty when an abortion is right, wrong, or neutral. While we have very good guesses as to what makes something right or wrong, we don't (and can't) know the answers with certainty.

Ah, but I cheated. I didn't ask if it was cheap to say "abortion is wrong". I asked if it was cheap to say "abortion is murder", and I did that intentionally.

Saying the war in Iraq is worth it is cheap because it's completely unsupported; you need to dig a lot deeper to be able to say that and have it be taken as being meaningful. However, saying that abortion is murder is cheap because, among the people who say it, damn few believe it.

Oh, they say it, and they can fake sincerity quite well after saying it a lot, and they insist they believe it. But do their actions bear them out?

Doing a quick google, I found estimates of over 750,000 abortions performed yearly. Every estimate I found showed more than that, but let's take that. Three quarters of a million murders in the US, done under the protection of the government.

Do these people act as if 750,000 US citizens are being murdered each year? Remember that the murder of three thousand caused a great many people to be willing to go to war against a completely uninvolved nation (Iraq). This is two hundred fifty times as many, each and every year.

Do they fight back, claiming that they are fighting against a greater wrong? No, in fact, they've pretty much condemned that approach - in public, at least - because it made them look bad. How many people fighting against murderers give up because it makes them look bad?

Are they willing to overwhelm the prison system, through civil disobedience? Well, no... silly thing, they're not really all that big into going to jail, and they don't think enough people believe as they do to make a difference if they did engage in civil disobedience.

When they try to get abortion outlawed, what do they do? Well, in South Dakota, they made it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion, not for a woman to receive one. If you believe abortion is murder, you can't go saying that only the hired assassin deserves to be punished; you go after the person who hires the assassin as well, especially when that person's identity is obvious.

When it comes to those who claim that "life begins at conception", a claim that abortion is murder is even cheaper. If you were around in the 70s, you might remember having read essays where people talked about holding an inquest over a menstrual pad. You might have thought those people had lost it; I know I did. I later realized that there was a point to this. We don't hold an inquest when a woman has her period, because we don't consider it to be the death of a human being... even if she was expelling a fertlized egg that hadn't implanted, or one that had implanted, but didn't continue. We don't think of fertilized eggs as full human berings.

But you don't even have to go that far. If a woman has a miscarriage at twelve weeks, you might be pretty darn insensitive if you said "well, you can try again, right?" In some cases, it might be okay to say that, but I wouldn't risk it myself. Nevertheless, it would only be insensitive. You'd be a complete asshole if you said "well, you can always have another" to a parent who lost a child to SIDS.

Whether abortion is right or wrong is a question that can be debated... but a blanket claim that abortion is murder is not only wrong, it's cheap. The speaker probably doesn't believe it, and neither should you. Use it for fertilizer; that's a fine use for bovine manure, but for gods sake, don't swallow it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Poor, poor heterosexuals...

I'm a strong advocate of gay marriage. Thankfully, there are people who can point out how unfair I'm being to heterosexual folks, myself included, by not recognizing why they deserve special rights. Here, we get the interesting idea that het folks deserve a little something extra, because a oral sex and mutual masturbation carry a heavy risk of pregnancy.

No, really, hetersexual sex carries a huge risk of pregnancy, and that must mean that going down on your partner, or pleasuring your partner with your fingers, or even rubbing/stroking up against your partners body can cause pregnancy, because those certainly bring about sexual pleasure and are certainly accessible to het folks.

Okay, yes, I'm teasing. When I say I'm a weirdo, I don't just mean I'm, you know, weird, I mean I'm, you know, weird. I never learned that intercourse was supposed to be the be-all and end-all of sex. In fact, one of the things that upsets me about abstinence only sex education is that, honestly, I'd prefer if kids learned that intercourse is the baby-making game, but other stuff is okay. Yeah, you can avoid babies with condoms and a secondary form of birth control (properly used, condoms are 99% effective, but 1% is pretty high when it can mean an unwanted pregnancy at a young age), but there's so much more you can do, and it's a shame that some people have to learn that much later in life than they should.

One of the things that bugs me about sexual attitudes is that a lot of the time, I don't feel as if guys are given the message that making your partner happy is better than 50% of the pleasure of sex. Yes, that's right, I said more than half. Of course, its hard to measure, because when two people want to make each other happy, and they realize that the other person is happy to make them happy, well, you get this delicious spiral of happiness, and love, and sharing going.

But I'm digressing a bit from the main point. The main point was a feeble argument that het folks deserve a special advantage over gay folks because het sex is more risky than gay sex. Oh, yeah, and men and women are so different that having to date outside one's gender is a Big Deal.

Me, I don't see why any pair of people who love each other should be disallowed from declaring that they are a family, and have that accepted by the state. Marriage has nothing to do (directly) with sex. It has to do with the forging of a family tie.

And yes, that family tie is more useful when procreation enters the picture. It doesn't change anything important. Love is what makes a family; marriage is only the recognition of this.

No one should be denied that recognition.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Who I'm reading right now

Someday soon, I'm going to have a set of links going down the side of my page, like all good bloggers. I'll still want to make an occasional post like this.

Here's a list of some of the blogs I read regularly, and why.

Glenn Greenwald's blog

Glenn is thoughtful and passionate, and, as far as anyone can know from reading a person's essays, honest and principled. I respect his opinion a great deal. I started reading his blog as he wrote about the NSA's warrantless domestic spying program, and he helped clarify a great many issues about the matter. Frankly, I think he could have been the staunchest Bush supporter ever, and he still would have turned on Bush in an instant over this.


The otter, er, author of this blog is an old friend of mine. Have you ever had a friend where, if you felt very strongly about something, and were dead certain that your opinion was correct, could make you re-think your position by saying they didn't agree? Someone whose intelligence and wisdom you admire so much that you'd always give them a listen, no matter how strongly you felt you knew everything you needed already? I'm fortunate enough to have multiple friends like this, and she's one of them.

The Rude Pundit

Okay, I confess. I watched "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" on opening weekend. I own the DVD. I've watched it more than once. Thoughtful, nasty, rude, hilariously funny, with fewer dick and fart jokes than J&SBSB. (Now, if Rude Pundit reads this, I wonder if he'll be insulted... and if so, which way he'll be insulted.)


Lots of good stuff here. I don't always agree, but you know, you don't have to agree with people to read what they have to say, and think about it.

Hullaballoo/Digby's blog

It's kind of embarrassing, because I sometimes see references that make it sound like everyone knows Digby... everyone but me. Ah well, it's not the first time I've been clueless. Thoughtful, combative, and principled.

Huh. Five. And here I am, noticing it's after 11, when I need to be in bed by 10:30. Well, I think I'll call five a good roundup for the moment, and try to continue this another day.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

You can't make this up...

From "No More Mister Nice Blog" a zinger that you really would have a hard time imagining if it wasn't real.


(if you're too lazy to click, the maximum fine for mine safety violations was raised... to about 2/3rds of the maximum fine for indency on the airwaves. Because, you know, people dying while trapped underground is nothing compared to Janet Jackon's accidental boob-flash or George Carlin's "Seven words".

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