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If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough. - Mario Andretti
Saturday, September 30, 2006
A Van Down By the River
As you all have undoubtedly heard by now, Rep. Mark Foley from Florida has resigned.
A couple of other interesting nuggets about Foley. Like all adult males who are trying to pick up on teenagers, he has a MySpace page. Since it will undoubtedly be taken down soon, here’s a screen capture. (Rule of thumb: if you’re over 30 and have a MySpace page, you’re probably a pedo.)
So, what does a pedo do when he goes to Congress? Why, he joins the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus. Here’s a press release about one of his political victories in this regard.
I can’t wait to see what John Walsh has to say about this on his show tonight.
Posted by Lee on 09/30/06 at 12:20 PM in Decline of Western Civilization • (4) Trackbacks • Permalink •
Friday, September 29, 2006
Remember Debra LaFave, the world’s hottest pedophile teacher? I think that this might go a long way towards explaining her predilection for teenage boys.
Okay. She starts out with a somewhat effeminate guy. She then cheats on him with a girl. She gets married, and then cheats on her husband with a 16 year old boy. Am I the only one who sees a pattern here?
I don’t care, though. I’d still hit it.
Speaking in Tongues
Al Qaeda has just released a new tape. And, as usual, it’s a regurgitation of Democrat talking points.
I’m not making this up. “Bush is a failure who is killing America’s sons and daughters in order to enrich his corporate benefactors.” That has been a standard Democrat talking point since shortly after 9/11. And it’s also the message of al-Qaeda.
Coincidence? I report, you decide.
The Scarlet Forehead
Sometimes you just have to admire prison justice.
If you click on the link and go to the blog to see the photo you find out one other interesting little nugget which wasn’t in the news story.
So apparently a relative of the little girl was also doing time in the same prison, and decided to mete out a little justice of his own.
Posted by Lee on 09/29/06 at 08:48 AM in Decline of Western Civilization • (1) Trackbacks • Permalink •
Look, A Racist!
Oh, the lefties are going apeshit over this remark by Trent Lott.
This, apparently, is a “racist” comment. Exactly what is unreasonable about it? Imagine he’d been talking about Northern Ireland and said, “Why do Catholics kill Protestants? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.” Would that be racist? Or is it only racist when you make a perfectly legitimate comment about people of a different ethnicity?
This is one of those stupid rules created by the left. If it involves another race, and you’re white, it’s racist. Doubly so if you happen to be a conservative. I’m not claiming that Trent Lott is a paragon of racial harmony, but claiming racist intent in what he said is, well, a stretch.
Let the rioting begin!
The imam then stated, “As payback for this dastardly deed, we plan on severing the heads of three Christians according to the methods and procedures detailed by our blessed Prophet (PBUH). This will demonstrate to the world what a peace-loving people we are, and will serve as a warning to the infidel vermin not to fuck with us.”
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Jim and I are optimizing the site and adding in a few new features. If it looks screwed up to you please let us know.
A Matter of Context
Jonah Goldberg writes: “I think you misunderstood the point of the column when you assume it’s a ‘pro-torture’ column. If that had been my intent or my position it would have been a very different column.” Fair enough. He also had a lot of other interesting things to say but stipulated they were off the record, so I’ll respect that and not publish them.
Over at NRO, Jonah Goldberg has written a column about torture. I think that most of the people who support the president’s position on this issue would find this to be a reasonable summation of their argument. Before we begin, take a moment to read the column.
It’s ironic that Jonah brings up with WFB argument, because I’ve used it countless times before both on this blog and in my personal life when arguing with the bleating liberals I find myself surrounded by here in California. In the larger sense he’s absolutely right, context matters. Driving 100 mph when you’re driving someone to the hospital is completely different than driving that fast when you’re running from the police. But is context the deciding factor in every issue? Can context excuse any degree of behavior? Someone might be able to justify violating the laws against smoking marijuana by saying it’s a stupid law, but can someone use the identical justification for committing child rape? That’s what NAMBLA does. So not only does context matter, but the kind and degree of behavior is also vitally important.
Now, I’m not going to spend this whole post defending Sullivan—he’s perfectly capable of doing that on his own. But I will say that I think it’s completely disingenuous of Goldberg to state that Sully has compared Bush’s America to Stalinist Russia. What he has said, what is a point which Goldberg largely ignores, is that we are using many of the same techniques as Stalinist Russia. So, then the question becomes, are there certain acts which are inherently immoral regardless of context? Or can context excuse any immoral behavior?
Here Goldberg employs a common trick—pointing to the exception and treating it as a norm. Unless you are prepared to believe that every person we have “coercively interrogated” is as valuable an asset as KSM, then pointing to him as a success story is completely disingenuous. Let’s assume that the facts of this incident are true: KSM was waterboarded, he gave us valuable information, this saved American lives, and this provides justification. There are still a number of glaring logical flaws in Goldberg’s argument.
1. It assumes that waterboarding was the only way that we could have gotten this information from KSM. Since there was obviously no “ticking time bomb” information in what he gave us, we cannot know that he would not have given us this same information two days later through traditional interrogatory techniques.
If context can be used to justify certain behavior, then it can be used to justify more or less anything. Unless, of course, you believe that there are certain rules which should never be broken.
This is a bait and switch argument. Of course there is a difference between murder and killing, and there are all sorts of exceptions and situational variations on this rule. But, are the rules regarding killing and the rules regarding torture really that different? The law makes a distinction between murder—the intentional, planned taking of another life—and a life taken in self defense. However, the standard is on the killer to justify after the fact why he felt his life was in danger, and that the appropriate course of action was to kill the other person. Think of the cases of battered wives or abused children who kill their abusers. The law also makes a distinction between an illegal death committed with premeditation (murder) and without (manslaughter).
In order to justify taking a life, the only real justification is “him or me.” If there is a viable alternative to taking another person’s life then the law usually expects you to take it.
Such as it is with torture. It is incumbent upon the torturer to justify the torture by showing how that information could not have been obtained by a non-torturous means. It is an absolutely false analogy to say that since we can kill people on the battlefield and that’s okay, anything less than death can subsequently be justified. Why? Because on the battlefield there is an enemy actively working to kill you, and this the “him or me” situation comes into play. How, exactly, is someone handcuffed to a chair supposed to represent an immediate threat to you? How can you possibly compare the two?
Think of it like the police. When the police are in the process of apprehending a suspect they are given a great deal of latitude in what techniques they are allowed to employ, ranging from beating with a billy club all the way up to deadly force. But, even then, the force is applied within a rigid set of constraints, and it must be justifiable after the fact. Once the suspect is in custody there are a totally different set of rules. You can beat a suspect in the process of apprehending him, but you cannot do so once he is in custody. And, in a similar manner, you can kill someone when they are on the battlefield, but when they are in your custody it is a totally different circumstance and thus subject to a totally different set of rules. Just because behavior is justifiable in one instance does not mean it is justifiable in all instances.
As Jonah himself wrote, context matters.
As I have said many times on this blog, in a ticking time bomb scenario virtually any level of medieval barbarity could theoretically be justified. There is, however, one vitally important point to be made here. When, in modern human history, has this ever happened? The very fact that Goldberg has to cite a fictional character in order to prove this point shows just how insanely low the chances are of it ever happening. I grew up watching James Bond and Dirty Harry and I’m a big fan of 24. Note to Jonah: these are the product of the mind of a Hollywood screenwriter, not germane examples of real-world occurrences which can be used to justify geopolitical ends. I mean, he might as well cite Mars Attacks to highlight the need to use our nuclear deterrent against invading alien races, or Armageddon to warn of the impending doom caused by a giant asteroid hitting the earth.
While it is certainly possible that Martians might attack or an asteroid might kill us all, really, how likely is it that these are going to happen?
This is absolutely correct. The important thing to note here is the definition of torture versus aggressive interrogation. This, to me, seems to be roughly the distinction between a night of passionate lovemaking and a quickie in the back seat of a car. They’re a difference of degree, not kind, and treating them as if there is some massive gulf between the two concepts is astonishingly dishonest.
Jonah mentioned a “disconnect” earlier and I agree, there is indeed a disconnect. Jonah and I are roughly the same age, mid to late thirties. We both grew up in the same time period, where the US was the good guy and the USSR was bad. What made the US the good guy? Our rhetoric, and the fact that more often than not our rhetoric matched our actions.
The Geneva Conventions, and the international accords on human rights and torture, were all the product of a totally different generation. This generation experienced firsthand the abject evil that humans are capable of. They saw the death camps, the extermination of tens of millions of people, the destruction of an entire continent, the gulags, the Bataan Death March, and all of the other examples of the sheer inhumanity that humans are capable of. As a direct result of these horrors this generation took the initiative in enacting a set of hard rules governing the behavior of civilized nations. Why? Think of human behavior like a gradient between black and white. Black is evil, white is good. Civilization requires that we exist mostly in the white areas. What these laws did was establish a minimum baseline below which civilized nations would not go, to operate as a bulwark against a society turning to the forces of evil which resulted in fascism, nazism, and totalitarianism. Whether or not we happened to agree with this arbitrary line in every instance, the fact was that it was there, and everyone knew what it was. There was no ambiguity in the interpretation of these laws, we all knew what they meant. Now Bush has created ambiguity and resentment and nuance where before none really existed.
Now, so-called conservatives are looking to blur this line. “Well, it’s okay if we go a little bit towards Hitler because we’re the United States and we’re inherently good, therefore everything we do is righteous. If we implement Hitler’s techniques it’s different, because we’re doing it to make the world safe from menaces.” Jonah seems to forget that Hitler thought he was ridding the world of a menace, too.
The disconnect comes in that our generation—mine and Jonah’s—has never really had to sacrifice. We grew up in the safety of a world made so by our grandparents and great-grandparents. The evils of that generation are so foreign to us and so obviously evil that the idea we might be heading down that path is ridiculous. Jonah trusts his own interpretation of the necessity of these laws more than the opinion of the people who not only lived through those evil times but paid an almost unbearable price to defeat it.
Allow me to get back to Jonah’s murder analogy for a second. There are strict rules defining what is murder, what is manslaughter, and what is justified. Killing someone just because they’re a real scumbag is STILL against the law. You could not kidnap a serial killer and torture him in your basement and expect this to be justified under law, despite the fact that the guy is a serial killer. You are not allowed to rape a prostitute, despite the fact that she might have already had sex with 30 guys that day. While nuance counts, it only counts so far. And just because a detainee might have information, and just because he might be involved with terror, this does not provide the legal or moral justification to do anything to him we wish.
A nation which actually bases policies on issues as vitally important as these on fictional situations from movies and TV really can’t be said to have any taboos of its own can it?
The important point here is that while you can quibble over where the line should be, until recently we all knew where it was. We’ve now established the precedent that the position of the line is situational, dependent only upon our needs at the time. There is no right and wrong, only beneficial and detrimental to our cause. And that attitude has been the hallmark of every totalitarian regime that our nation has ever fought against.
Actually, I think that thirty years from now, when our nation’s soldiers are suffering because of the shortsighted actions we are now taking, I think the last line of this paragraph would better read “We’ll be sorry we didn’t have a serious debate when we had the chance.”
Because, after all, we’ve got “terrorists” to torture. Who cares what happens thirty years from now?Close this post...
Back for the Attack
You know that “progress” we’re supposedly making in Iraq? I guess this is it.
Thank God we didn’t waste money on those extra 250,000 troops at the start of the invasion. As we can clearly see, they weren’t needed. Gotta stay the course, can’t let the terrists win…
You know, call me old fashioned, but I still tend to think that if you are going to order soldiers into combat, where many of them will die and many more will be maimed, the least you can do is give them everything they need to get the job done. Because if you don’t, the sacrifices made by these warriors will be for nothing. And I still have this kooky idea that the lives of our soldiers should not be so cavalierly tossed around like any other resource. When you have a war as vitally important as this one, I think that from the get-go you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to win. But I guess that makes me an America-hating liberal.
Police Academy: Iraq
The mission of training a new police force is going completely to shit—literally.
Another stunning example of the sheer incompetence with which the entire Iraq gambit has been overseen. “We can’t change construction companies. That would mean the terrorists would win. Gotta stay the course…”
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
The View From the Right
I was listening, as I often do when driving home for lunch, to the Michael Medved show. He was interviewing Fred Barnes from The Weekly Standard. Their conversation got me thinking about this question. Most of the people who participate here would describe themselves as conservatives. What I’m interested in knowing is what YOU happen to think conservatism is.
In the comments to this post, list the five issues or beliefs that you feel best define conservatism. In other words, what five things do you think you need to believe in order to rightfully call yourself a conservative.
And please, let’s refrain from snarky comments, especially from liberals. I don’t want to see people listing “bigotry, hatred, and violence” simply to get a cheap shot in at the opposition.
7/11 could be the greatest company in America right now.
Fuckin-A right. As soon as the Citgo stops flowing, I’m going to 7/11 to fill my truck up.
I just received the following email. Those of you who are Christian conservatives really need to read this.
Actually, I told a little fib at the top of this post. This email was sent to Sully. But, if I’d told you that at the beginning, none of you would have read it, because it came from him (boo hiss). Are there any Christians reading this (and there are, as we all know, a lot of Christians who read this site) who can explain to me how their support of “coercive interrogation techniques” gels with their Christian religious faith?
Ducks and Roses
Allow me to give you a clear example of the Republican Party’s decline into sheer vulgarity. We’ve all heard the phrase “cut and run” to describe the views of a great many liberal Democrats when it comes to Iraq. I’ve used it myself, and in many respects it’s absolutely valid. For all the mistakes we have made thus far, I think pulling out of Iraq would let the Islamists score a massive propaganda victory, so if for no other reason we should stay. The Democrats who subscribe to the cut and run philosophy would have us leaving immediately. It’s not that the phrase is inherently unfair, but I don’t like the way it’s being used lately. It used to be an easily-remembered phrase to describe the “immediate withdrawal” folks, but now it’s being used by Republicans to make their opponents seem like wimps. Now, with that in mind, take a look at this story.
Take a look at the bio page on the Roskam for Congress website. Not a word there about any military service. In and of itself this is perfectly acceptable, I don’t think that anyone should be required to have served in the military as a prerequisite for public service. However, Roskam ought to be praising the service and sacrifice of Americans like Tammy Duckworth, not denigrating her by using the phrase “cut and run” as some kind of pejorative.
Not should she. I’m really turned off and disgusted by the idea that is so prevalent in conservative circles today that nobody with a D after their name can be any kind of patriot. Roskam has never suffered so much as a hangnail in the service of his country. Duckworth gave up both legs.
To me, this is a clear example of the way in which Republicans “support the troops,” which is to say that they do only insofar as it helps them to get votes. Nobody who actually supports our men and women in uniform would ever have the gall to make such a statement about someone who so very recently sacrificed so much for her country, especially when they’ve never had the integrity to put on their nation’s uniform. I can’t say I’d vote for Duckworth, I don’t know anything about her other than what is in this article. That being said, I can guarantee I’d never vote for Roskam, based on this one remark alone.
Tammy Duckworth, through her service and considerable sacrifice, has EARNED the right to speak her mind without having her patriotism questioned. There are (if memory serves) eight veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan running for Congress this year. I believe all of them, or maybe seven of them, are running as Democrats. Frankly, I hope every one of them win, regardless of party. When our political apparatus makes decisions about how to best prosecute the war on terror, I think it would be invaluable to have these veterans in the mix giving their opinions. When it comes to the war, I’d value the opinion of one Tammy Duckworth more than ten Peter Roskams.
This young woman deserves a hell of a lot more respect than this. Disagree with her policies all you like, but to simply denigrate her as some kind of cowardly leftist is beyond the pale, especially coming from a representative of a party which claims to “support the troops.”
(For more info on these eight candidates, see Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America, a PAC dedicated to getting veterans of these wars elected to political office.)
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Good and Bad
I had actually written this up earlier this evening as a comment in response to one left by BB, but my browser crashed and I lost it. Then I went to the supermarket, and while I was there I thought about it, and I think this would make an interesting post. I’ve spent a lot of time lately being incredibly critical of Bush, and I think he’s deserved every bit of it. That being said, allow me to take a moment and illustrate what I think are the good aspects of his presidency, and of him as a president.
No matter how much I disagree with his policies of late, I don’t for a second think that Bush is the kind of evil fascist madman that so many people on the left make him out to be. I believe that he honestly believes that he is doing what he is doing to protect the American people. He’s a very instinctual president. Nobody has ever claimed that he’s any great intellectual, but that’s not really a problem. I know a lot of brilliant people who are not intellectuals, and I know a lot of intellectuals who I wouldn’t hire to so much as wash my car. While someone like Bill Clinton thrived in the minutiae, Bush is a big picture guy. This is in many respects an extremely admirable quality. I know a lot of people who have started their own businesses, and most of them are similar in their style to Bush—they worry about the big picture stuff, and let others handle the details. I also admire Bush’s resolve. He doesn’t govern by polls, he governs by what he thinks is right. This, too, is a quality that should be admired. And, no matter how much I oppose a lot of what he does, I still find the guy incredibly likable and personable.
I’m sure that, for many of you, these are the qualities you admire in the president. Now, let me give you the flip side.
While Bush is not a fascist dictator, it cannot be denied that a lot of what he has done since he has gotten into office tends to lead towards authoritarianism. Since 9/11 we’ve seen warrantless wiretaps, increased domestic espionage, “enemy combatants” detained indefinitely without trial (including American citizens), torture (or, if you prefer, “coercive interrogation"), a total disregard for international law, a total disregard for constitutional concepts like checks and balances, and countless other intrusions on personal liberty. Every one of these things is a tool used by authoritarian regimes the world over. They use additional techniques, of course, so there’s not a direct comparison, but there is absolutely no denying the fact that we are far closer to authoritarianism than we were just a few years ago. The justification, of course, is that this is a post-9/11 world, and we have to have some new rules. Fair enough, I can buy that argument. But what we have seen from Bush isn’t a new set of rules, it’s a policy of ignoring the rules that we already have. And no matter what party you may be from or what ideology you hold, nothing good can ever come from a power structure which does not have strict controls limiting its actions.
Bush’s gut instinct style of leadership, as I said earlier, is in many ways admirable. In many ways it isn’t. Gut instinct often turns out to be wrong. Have you ever thought someone had a crush on you, only to have them recoil in horror after you asked them out? That’s the folly of gut instinct—it is often wrong. It also does not permit a lot of wiggle room, because if the gut turns out to be wrong, then how do yo make future decisions based on the same instinct? Once Bush makes a decision ("I’m the decider") he has no choice but to stick with it, no matter how wrong it might turn out to be. This is not good leadership, and explains why Rumsfeld is still SecDef, despite his monumentally incompetent record since entering office—Cheney and other advisors recommended him, and Bush went with his gut. The gut is never wrong. Rumsfeld told Bush that he could fight the Iraq War with 1/3 the number of troops considered necessary to secure the country, and Bush’s gut told him it was the right thing to do. Now his gut tells him to stay the course. No matter what the facts, no matter how many things go wrong, his instinct tells him to stick with Rumsfeld. Is this a strength or a weakness? That’s for you to decide for yourself.
Why did I write this post? Because I wanted to preface what I am about to write below with a general assessment of Bush. While I have often disagreed with the president on a number of issues, usually social wedge issues designed to appeal to the evangelical base, none of those are really showstoppers as far as I’m concerned. Every administration spends a good chunk of its time undoing the actions of the previous administration, and most of what gets done by Bush can be undone at some point in time. The one significant exception to this is what is currently going on with Geneva.
I’ve gone over the torture issue a million times recently, so I’m not going to do it again. (I can hear you cheering from here.) I will, however, say this. International legal instruments like the Geneva Conventions and various UN human rights treaties have existed for almost six decades. They’re rock solid, and their power lies in the fact that virtually all the civilized nations of the world have interpreted them the same way since they were written. By “tweaking” them Bush is introducing the concept that these legal concepts don’t actually have to mean what we’ve all agreed they meant for sixty years. This then opens the door for every other country in the world to “tweak” the treaties and obligations that they have with the United States. Bush is, literally, weakening the entire concept of international law itself.
There are screw-ups, there are mistakes, and there are monumental fuck-ups. Bush’s recent actions are so far past monumental fuck-up there isn’t even a word I can think of to describe them. I don’t think that we’re going to immediately see any negative consequences; they’ll appear long after Bush is gone, perhaps decades after. But we’ve just started a ball rolling, and none of us know how steep the hill is or just what is going to get smashed when the ball gets to the bottom.
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