Saturday, October 07, 2006

What Hastert Should Have Said:

In a hard-hitting opinion piece, USA Today - a publication not noted for Deep and Important Thought - easily came up with the two paragraphs that Dennis Hastert Should Have Said.

Presented with the right timing - and obvious follow-through - it might even have saved his political career.

Now, if a USA Today editorial board could figure this out, why couldn't Hastert and his staff?

Capitol Hill crisis exposes lawmakers behaving badly - Yahoo! News: "'Clearly, I made a grave mistake. The information that was brought to my attention did not constitute convincing evidence that Rep. Foley was a threat to the young pages who come to us to learn the value of public service and to whom we owe a special responsibility. But it certainly was enough to prompt questions - many questions - that were not asked. I should have asked them of Foley. I should have brought the matter to the attention of Democrats as well as Republicans, so we, together, could investigate fully and fulfill our duty to protect the young people in our charge. This could have been handled discreetly until the evidence we've now all seen was unearthed. It then should have been handled forcefully and publicly.

'None of this happened. We know it now only because the media exposed it, and that is an embarrassment. For all of this I apologize to the pages, to their families, to Americans and to my colleagues. But I promise you that this is a lesson sorely learned, and I will make it my business to ensure the procedures will be put in place to make sure that it never happens again.'"

Or in other words; "I was wrong."

These are the three words no politician seems comfortable saying, and no Republican seems capable of even admitting to themselves. This inevitably leads, in the fullness of time, to moments of profound discomfort followed by sudden unemployment.

One can comfortably survive a time in the wilderness for doing the right thing - but when one is forced out of politics for knowing the right thing and refusing to do it, opportunities are limited to those firms that are both intrinsically corrupt - and unembarrassed about their corruption.

That's a short list.

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An Ironic Footnote to the Regan Chapter of the War On Drugs.

Another reason to halt the War on Drugs | "Another reason to halt the War on Drugs
Johnathan Pearce (London) Health

Scientists have observed that smoking pot may stave off Alzheimer's Disease. Hmm. I am not a medical expert, but this is not the first time that people have claimed medicinal benefits for smoking this substance. There appears to be quite a steady drumbeat of support for the idea that marijuana may beneficial and that some of the scare stories are just that - scares. Of course, there are certain downsides to a 'spot of blow': such as a desire to suddenly consume the entire contents of one's fridge (I speak from
experience over several years' ago).

The War on Drugs is a disaster on many levels. Besides the encouragement to organised crime, the corruption of the legal system, and the obvious assaults on individual liberty, one of the stupidest aspects of said war has been the way in which substances like pot, which might have useful properties in dealing with certain conditions, are ruled off-limits by the law. It is high time ('scuse the pun), that the law was changed.

Remember, when was the last time you heard of a bunch of young British youths getting into a fight because of lighting up a large bong as opposed to being blind drunk?"

Reams of non-hemp-based paper have been expended on this topic from all angles, and yet here I am writing more which I hope to be cited, if I am to be totally honest, in some more of that non-hemp-based paper wastage.

Every law that limits the freedom of people precludes the unexpected, unanticipated rewards to society of that freedom being explored. Therefore, it must be a matter of near-certainty that the observable problems are outweighed by the unpredictable possibility of net benefit.

In the case of the War on Drugs, the problems it creates are far worse than, say, the costs of environmental regulation because there is actual science involved, and that science has the benefit of being hotly contested within and without the EPA. All regulations are subject to revision and review based on real-world effects.

So while it's not an ideal "free market," it's primary motive is to avoid the "tragedy of the commons," not to preclude any particular activity that might USE the commons. It's not at all outside of the realm of possibility that a particular commercial use might actually have the effect of expanding the commons, or reducing the load on the commons while bringing new products to market.

I like to cite Presto-Logs as an example of what can happen when regulations present a creative challenge to industry. Where I grew up, "tepee burners" were ubiquitous as a means of disposing of waste wood chips and sawdust. It was cheap and efficient - and highly polluting.

So they were outlawed, leaving sawmills and plywood plants screaming about these new imposed costs until someone figured out that there were people who would PAY to have this wood waste so they could burn it in individual fireplaces. Processing made it burn cleaner and hotter too, and everyone was overjoyed, not to mention somewhat astonished at such a marvel appearing on their supermarket shelves. Just incidentally, it reduced pressure on forests, because fireplace fuel was being drawn from wood waste, not from fresh-cut logs.

Nobody would have argued that it was reasonable to outlaw logging and wood-processing because of the waste-management issues - and yet that's pretty much what's happening with the War on Drugs.

There is no regulation of the hemp or pot markets. There is only the attempt to stamp them out, for reasons that cannot be rationally addressed. They cannot be rationally addressed because they are fictional, speculative rationalization, not based in any real-world research, experience or application; treated as doctrine instead of as a testable and questionable hypothesis.

Indeed, any amount of research, scientific, cultural or personal will lead a fair-minded individual to come to the conclusion that these laws are both nonsensical and abusive, as well as having a fairly large and negative quantifiable economic impact which would more than offset even the most dreaded outcomes predicted by prohibitionists.

There is another observation about drugs in general that isn't widely known, but which is vital for anyone who needs drugs to know and understand. It is true of all drugs, legal and illegal, taken for whatever reason, licit or illicit.

The effect of a standard dose of a given drug on any given person is highly variable, and there is ultimately only one person qualified to judge the cost/benefit ratio of the use of that drug. This is one of the best arguments I know for decriminalization and against various schemes for forced medication of mental health patients. There is simply no "expert" that can replace the reality of what is a highly personal experience.

I underline this by stating that experienced Mental Health professionals have a first question they ask everyone that is not as rude as it seems. People with mental problems often self-medicate, and what they use is a highly diagnostic pointer. If the diagnosing professionals are honest about it, there is no licit drug as suitable as a pure and certified dosage of the illicit drug would be. For instance, there is currently no drug as effective for dealing with the lows of rapid-cycling manic depressives as crack cocaine, because of the way it quickly stimulates, and clears the system equally quickly. What gives a recreational user a quick high gives a manic-depressive a quick hit of "functional." So a reliable and safe supply of "crack" is pretty important to those who are effectively untreatable with currently available drugs.

But therein lies the rub. It's well established that a high percentage of deaths associated with heroin are attributable to either unpredictable dosage or adulterants to the drug itself. Natural and naturally-derived opiates are actually some of the safest and (more importantly) best-understood drugs we have. There is no good reason for there to be any large percentage of death associated with them, even within the population of chronic "abusers. "

And, as with "abusers" of all drugs, there is a question that should be asked - what would they be like without the drug, and would that be a good thing for themselves or society as a whole?

I'm caught up in this myself, though my vital drug is tobacco. I use a LOT of tobacco, and some would say I abuse it. I know better; while the effects on my health are inarguable, they pale in comparison to the potential risks of being smoke free. I know, I spent two years smoke free, and only realized I was clinically insane when I "lapsed." The percentage of mental health consumers who smoke is over sixty percent, more than three times that of the population as a whole.

Finding myself instantainiously sane, I smoked up very seriously, while in a cold sweat about how close to the edge of madness I had unknowingly wandered. Think about that the next time you feel morally superior about the vices of another. Unless, of course, you are willing to pay the price of their sobriety.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Moral Relativism for Congress. Moral Absolutism for you

House Republicans Move to Back Hastert -

Moral Relativism is a distinctly dirty word when conservative republicans use it, generally to demonstrate the absolute moral bankruptcy of those shifty, over-tolerant liberals.

Conservatives generally hew publicly, to a standard of Moral Absolutism founded in Biblical principles.

Apparently their morals are relative in private - relative to the potential political costs of a perv being caught as opposed to the political benefits of maintaining a safe seat with a completely "reliable" vote. Yep, "ideological reliables" are all fine and good, but for real security in an uncertain world, there's nothing like like blackmail and the terrified compliance it brings.

Apparently the "right" thing to do was to keep Foley in his job. Because, at least according to Randi Rhodes, who's been following this closely, Hastert either did know or should have known as early as three years ago - and did nothing. When pages are being warned about Foley in 2001, with you being in the oversight position, that means that if you did not know, Mr. Hastert, it's because it was a matter of policy for you to be uninformed.

The GOP Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert sounds like a paranoid, ill-informed Bill O’Reilly. He blames ABC, Democratic operatives, George Soros, and Bill Clinton via Dick Morris…someone Clinton fired 10 years ago and is now a GOP pundit. Astonishing! Especially for someone who turned the other cheek on Foley for years.

Hastert then has the audacity to say he taking responsibility! Responsibility, just not any blame. Sick.

The House Ethics Committee announces near 4 dozen subpoenas. And the GOP chairman of the committee thinks Hastert’s doing a great job, or does he?

The pages involved did everything conceivable to bring this to the attention of someone who would do something - anything. Their Page supervisor (Republican) did nothing - aside from freezing out the lone Democrat on the page board.

The Speaker, Mr. Hastert - who's office was contacted? He did nothing.

Dennis Hastert is a former educator and coach, an insight that gives me the creeping oogies, now that I think of it in this context. He is either a mandatory reporter or once would have been - I do not know if the mandate lapses with the licence or persists. Certainly the moral imperative and the training to spot problem situations does not. I am not inclined to give him wiggle room on that point.

Even the FBI declined to investigate. They do try to not get involved in politically sensitive matters. It can interfere with a career. Especially when the AG is Republican and an election is just over the horizon.

So let us be clear. Moral Relativism states that things are moral or immoral vis-a-vie the culture and the context. Well, by both, this was and is an immoral situation, a violation of every standard of expected decent behavior of authority figures in our Culture. Moral Absolutism agrees - and hints strongly toward stoning, or perhaps castration followed by stoning.

But "Don't get caughtism" allows a free pass - on condition that you cover the asses of all your buddies who are doing the same thing.

Is that an unreasonable assumption? Not for the parents of America; it's the only safe assumption, short of absolute proof to the contrary. I'm not at all sure what sort of proof I would consider acceptable.

As far as I am concerned, anyone who knew about this situation and permitted it to continue for political reasons is even more guilty than Foley, who has at least the thin and slight excuse having been thinking with the little head.

People who thought with their big heads and came to the same conclusion are, in my humble opinion, pimps, panderers, procurers and human traffickers in what seems to have been a private preserve of teenage sex toys. If this has being ongoing since 2001, it's not just Foley, it's not just boys and it's certainly not just gay congress-critters, not that the latter has any bearing. Indeed, it's probably not limited to the House; it may well spread to K street, the Senate and the White House. There is no influence that lasts longer than photos of someone important in bed with a teenager - unless it's a dead teenager. And if influence is what you peddle - why settle for less than the guy down the hall?

So I am asking myself aloud - when did Karl Rove Know, and Who Got Known On Tape?

Now, the FBI is searching computers and records of various persons they think may be involved.

I'm kinda hoping they find one or two Dems involved, just so there's no question about it being a partisan job. Because right now, that's Hastert's spin, as spun on Limbaugh's show.

SPEAKER HASTERT: There were two pieces of paper out there, one that we knew about and we acted on; one that happened in 2003 we didn’t know about, but somebody had it, and, you know, they’re trying — and they drop it the last day of the session, you know, before we adjourn on an election year. Now, we took care of Mr. Foley. We found out about it, asked him to resign. He did resign. He’s gone. We asked for an investigation. We’ve done that. We’re trying to build better protections for these page programs.

But, you know, this is a political issue in itself, too, and what we’ve tried to do as the Republican Party is make a better economy, protect this country against terrorism — and we’ve worked at it ever since 9/11, worked with the president on it — and there are some people that try to tear us down. We are the insulation to protect this country, and if they get to me it looks like they could affect our election as well.

YOUR election. Sir? YOUR election? What an interesting Freudian slip! Is there something about also illegally screwing the voters that you'd care to share with us? And how utterly arrogant - and factually inaccurate - to claim "You are the insulation that protects this country."

Damn you sir, and the party you rode in on.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Essence of Satire, explained.

Slashdot | The Daily Show as Substantive as Broadcast News

Are You Being Served?

The image itself can be used however you wish, so long as you leave the url intact. Print it out and put it up on your cube, email it to friends, copy it and blog it, whatever you care to do. Here's what I did with it:

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Cato Unbound » Blog Archive » The Case for the Libertarian Democrat

Cato Unbound » Blog Archive » The Case for the Libertarian Democrat by Markos Moulitsas

Of all the people I would least expect to utter the "L" word, it would have been Markos (Kos) Moulitsas, so I was somewhat stunned to be referred to a Kos essay at Cato Unbound(!) by Andrew Sullivan(!?!) in his own rather transgressive short entry on "Goldwater Democrats."

In this essay, Sullivan posits this:

Well, we've had Reagan Democrats. And we've had Goldwater Republicans. Why not a new version: Goldwater Democrats? By Goldwater Democrats, I mean old-style libertarian conservatives who actually believe in fiscal responsibility, small government, prudent foreign policy and live-and-let-live social policy. After being told we are completely unwelcome among Republicans, should we shift to the Dems?
Shift, shmift. I, along with many others, have seen the Republicans shift so far to the right that they have come all the way around to the radical LEFT, advocating policies and attitudes not very different from Collectivist totaltitarian states in which the individual serves the state or is dispensed with as an irritant to the Greater Good, as arbetrarily defined by some idealized strong strict father-figure. There was nothing "Republican" about Stalin or Mao and there's little to distinguish either from the position of power George Bush and his ilk seek, other than perhaps sheer lack of competence in translating vision into reality, for which we may all give thanks.

Kos opens his case this way:
"The case against the libertarian Republican is so easy to make that I almost feel compelled to stipulate it and move on. It is the case for the libertarian Democrat that has created much discussion and not a small amount of controversy when I first introduced the notion in what was, in reality, a throwaway blog post on Daily Kos on a slow news day in early June 2006.

Like all really good site moderatiors, Kos knows the value of throwing something out there for people to write about. It's like a good editorialist - the first thing is to get people talking. Then you can get them talking about something. But first, they have to talk, and that means obaying the first dictate of the editorialist: "Say Something Contraversial."

View Comments | 900 comments

Clearly, he did. And it sparked, either a new movement, or perhaps more accurately, a new name for a long-simmering reality.


Like me, these were people who didn’t instinctively
reject the ability of government to protect our personal liberties, who saw government as a good, not an evil, but didn’t necessarily see the government as the source of first resort when seeking solutions to problems facing our country. They also saw the markets as a good, not an evil, but didn’t necessarily see an unregulated market run amok as a positive thing. Some of these were reluctant Republicans, seeking an excuse to abandon a party that has failed them. Others were reluctant Democrats, looking for a reason to fully embrace their party. And still others were stuck in the middle, despairing at their options—despondent at a two-party system in which both parties were committed to Big Government principles.

That blog post on libertarian Democrats, imperfect as it was, struck a chord. But it wasn’t written in a vacuum. It stemmed not from theory or philosophy (I’m neither a theorist, political scientist, nor a philosopher), but from personal experience and from my excitement at the growing ranks of Western Democrats who aren’t just transforming the politics of the Mountain states, but will hopefully lead to the reformation of the Democratic Party and a new embrace of the politics of personal liberty.

I sometimes call myself a "neolibertarian," when I'm not speaking to Canadians. In Canada, I would be counted a "Progressive Conservative" or "Red Tory."

As a libertaraian, I want government to stay out of my private affairs - but I do not limit that objection to government alone. George Washington observed that "Government is Force," nothing more or less. It is, in it's simpest form, a gang of like-minded people staking out their turf.

Well, that makes being held up (or down) by a gang of robbers no different in essence from being shaken down for "protection money" by the federal government.

Well, when you pay your money - as we do - do you not expect some return beyond not being beaten up? Some positive effect? Canadians demand that - but clearly, here, that idea has been lost, so in the minds of Libertarians, government is restricted to doing little or nothing - depending on how close to utter Anarchism one's flavor of Libertarianism approaches.

But it's impossible to have meaningful liberty if one's freedom to act is circumcribed, and it matters little if it's by government fiat or by the lack of profit in providing the means of free action.

In the United States, we are not nearly as free to live as we wish, nor practicly speaking, free to contribute to the general welfare as we should due to limitations placed upon us by governement, and by some particular refusals to govern either fairly, or at all.

Liberty requires infrastructure and some degree of co-operation. Indeed, both of those things are inherent in the idea of a truly free market. As part of that, government regulation should foster competition and minimise transaction and participation costs.

Kos has observed - to the outrage of many more doctrinaire Libertarians and Republicans - that in a practical sense it matters little whether you are being screwed with by a government agency or a corporation. If the net effect is that you have to pay more money, take more time, or fulfil more requirements than an irriducable minimum as a means to restrict you or prevent you from claiming services you are owed, it's a tax, or an infringment, or theft.

It's something I pointed out to my doctor, actually. He has a medium-sized practice and in order to support it, requires three people who's primary job is to deal with varying insurance agencies. He doesn't even take Medicaid because Medicade pays less than it costs to do the work and process the paperwork.

In Canada, the same job is done by one receptionist. There is universal access to medical care, through the same mechanism although the question of who pays and how much varies a great deal from province to province and individual to individual.

For the patient and the doctor, it's immaterial who pays - you present your card, it's swiped, and the computer takes care of that while calling up your full medical record. Doctor-shopping for prescriptions is precluded - but shopping for a doctor that you are compatable with is very simple.

I should point out that the cost savings in this model are tremendous. No paper records are needed. No time is lost looking for records, or transferring them. And catistrophic costs due to misdiagnosis have been significantly lowered. If you happen to be in another province, you can walk into any doctor's office and be seen as quickly and as transparently as in your own.

If you are VERY poor, you pay nothing. If you are able to pay, you do, on a sliding scale. But nobody loses coverage if they lose their job, even if when you had a job, the premiums were paid by the company you worked for.

The approach here is not socialist in the sense people think. Rather, the approach is to create a standard for information sharing and require that everyone use the same one. So rather than a hundred different forms for various insurance providers, the same information is input once, and routed where it needs to go. Nobody is required to have coverage. Nobody is told to do this or refrain from that as a condition of coverage. That sort of socialism becomes very costly, requiring small armies of busybodies to implement, while achiving little in the way of positive gain.

This lazzez-faire attitude toward individual choices saves everyone involved an absolute ton of time and money, without sacrificing private enterprise initiative. Indeed, it makes it more possible for doctors to go into private practice, and it's funded by a more regular income, as people are more likely to go to the doctor more often for regular mantainance.

This makes the underwriters happy - the higher regular costs are more than offset by the prevetion of catistrophic health costs and the costs of long-term disabilities they cause.

To me, this is a very useful model of pragmatic Libertarianism; regulating a market in such a way that getting into the market, doing business and leaving is as effortless and as secure as possible.

It seems to me that this is exactly what a government should be doing - concentrating on governing the markets we all must operate within, rather than trying to govern the individual actions of people. Aside from being intrusive, it's largely futile and tends to create unregulated black and grey markets as people network around government.

For the last hundred years or so, US governing philosophy has been focused on the idea of compelling people to do the "right thing" and punishing them if they fail to agree. Rarely, in spots, it tries a more Canadian approach of enabling people to do things the Government would like to see happen. But these can be seen almost as anomolies, and are usually charactorized as "welfare state" approaches, if not outright socialism.

What our style of government has most in common with the dreaded "socialism" and demon "communism" is the control-freak aspects, where it's considered the role of government to regulate every tiny step of the process, even when doing so will almost certainly preclude a cost-effective outcome, much less any innovation that might not fit within comprehention of procurement officers.

For instance - it used to cost something like five hundred dollars apiece to provide submaranes with ashtrays for submarine wardrooms. It was not an unfair price, either, because in their wisdom, the Naval procurement officers had specified that it be a certain mass, as shatterproof as possible, with the stipulation that if it did break, would break in large, non-jagged pieces - and be made of GLASS.

Had they simply said, ashtray, large, shatterproof, suitable for officers they could have gotten them wholesale for five bucks a pop, with a range of tasteful alternitives.

Government is not itself immune from the price of interefering with free markets, and in a very real sense, this is what Jefferson was speaking of when he said "The government that governs least, governs best." In many ways, the drive to control and manage is incompatable with effective governtment, and to the degree that things are controlled, they cease to be governed at all. So the less government tries to control specifics, the more it can effectively achieve positive outcomes.

That's true of any organization, when you think about it. In fact, The Daily Kos is a living example of what can happen when you don't excercise strict control over every little thing at the expense of innovation and unexpected outcomes... like, say, the idea of "Democratic Libertarianism."

The right wing is not about liberty, or freedom. It is about control, and paradoxically, freedom from being controlled - by means of controlling, destroying or forbidding anything that might control them - or confront them with the truth of their own imperfect self-control.

But nobody and no group can control everything, and when we try to control ourselves and our own private nightmaares by forbidding them to others, we put ourselves at risk of catistrophic irony.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Olbermann's Special Comment on Clinton Sandbagging

It bears repeating.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Terrorists or Pedophiles? Hm... Let me think...

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Illustrating the Problem with Ensign.

Nevada Up North: In case you forgot

"Jack Carter is running against this guy." ...Put down your coffee before you click the link.
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Wagging The Dog : What Happens When Politics is the Only Policy

Tenet, Black and Rice Meeting: Catalyst For August 6 PDB? | TPMCafe

I know, in a sense, all this is old news, but then again, it really isn't. First we had Clarke tell us the Bush Administration ignored serious and material warnings about 9/11. Then we had Tenet and/or McLaughlin through Ron Suskind tell us the Bush Administration ignored serious and material warnings about 9/11. Now Bob Woodward is doing the same thing, revealing to us that the Bush Administration ignored serious and material warnings about 9/11 and continues to ignore serious and material warning about Iraq.

Mitchell wonders in the article if Condi will resign. She denies the meeting ever took place. I doubt she will. But this is a dangerous place for the country right now. This Administration is like a wounded animal in a corner, there is no telling how (or where) they will lash out.

There is one clear message buried in the spin and twaddle coming from the various actors in the White House; at the bottom, a sense of utter confusion and astonishment that Reality is not behaving as it has been directed to by the President.

I have come to the conclusion that when Bill Clinton was accused of "Wagging the Dog" for attempting to take out Bin Ladin during the Lewinsky scandal his critics were utterly sincere, in that their personal universe did not include the possibility that there is any action that is NOT a political action. They accused Clinton of acting for the reasons they would have acted. It never occurred to them that when a sitting President claims to be acting in the interests of US National Security, he might really be speaking of actual US National Security, not the security of incumbents.

The reasoning was simple. Bill Clinton had attempted to counter the Republican political offensive centering around the Lewinsky scandal with the specter of Bin Ladin, trying to distract and terrify the electorate into countering the impeachment process.

And no doubt they felt that "political strategy" was in part responsible for the failure to convict Clinton in the Senate.

That sort of reasoning - if I may use the term loosely - resulted in the current mess. George Bush was supported by such people because he is simple-minded and drawn to simple answers to complicated issues. Or in other words, effective governments understand that complex issues often need to be put in simple terms for the convenience and effective understanding of the electorate; this government truly believes things actually are that simple!

Condi is - I grudgingly admit - a supremely well-qualified and well-read person. But I do not think it very arguable that she is political to the bone; a neoconservative first, last and always. Like many academic ideologues, she is as tenacious with her ideology as a dog with a bone; should evidence or reality conflict with her preconceptions, she is often literally incapable of even hearing, much less understanding the implications. I would also suggest this is exactly why she has a position in this Administration; there does not seem to be a single person there who is intellectually capable of being confused by the facts. Of all the people who should NEVER be put in the position of National Security Advisor, she must be somewhere near the top of the list, right up there with Carrottop and Bono.

Consider the implications of this mindset - it implies the internalization and acceptance that the whole Lewinsky affair was purely politics and that the current administration neither considered, nor even comprehended the necessity for any actual substance. Likewise, it never considered the threat posed by Bin Ladin as being anything other than a Democratic political ploy, which as a matter of pragmatic politics, they refused to lend energy to. Any appeals to the morality and sensibilities of "the base" during the Lewinsky affair and currently is devoid of any real appreciation of the morals of sincere social conservatives - other than as a sure-fire way to motivate them.

It has a certain awful majesty; an entire class of people so divorced from reality that they are reduced to pushing emotional hot-buttons in response to events, with no understanding that those buttons have effects and purposes that go beyond the political effect during the current news cycle. Furthermore, they seem to have no understanding that when you make a policy statement, people expect to see concrete results evolving from it that have some logical connection.

The most convincing argument for my case is to point to the things this administration has been utterly blind-sided by, and the most obvious of these is Katrina. With 9/11, who and where the failures occurred is still somewhat obscured, but there is no confusion in the minds of Americans as to Katrina. They knew from experience how FEMA and other agencies were supposed to respond, expected that response, and did not get it.

Furthermore, they know damn well that if the administration couldn't cope with a cat five hurricane destroying a city, it couldn't do any better if that city had been devastated by a smuggled atomic weapon. The reality was this, in the face of much-touted terrorist threats used to justify war and spiralling debt, none of that very expensive rubber had actually met the road!

Clearly, there were real-world warnings, long before Katrina came that there were real problems with the levy system. But it was apparently politically convenient to divert money to uses other than vital (and far cheaper) preventive measures.

Second, they clearly did not comprehend the point to FEMA, which is that emergencies regularly happen within the US that are on a scale that requires a federal response and resource management - often because the "proper" State authorities are underwater or otherwise disrupted. They saw it as a democratic political agenda, perhaps as a way of "buying votes" in hurricane-prone red states. Since they already had those votes, they saw no point to continuing the effort.

FEMA is, through a doctrinal lens, an "improper enlargement of government" or some damn twaddle such as that.

It was therefore subsumed into the Department of Homeland Security, used as a dumping ground for political reliably incompetents and left to "rot on the vine."

DHS itself is clearly intended as an exercise in seeming to do something useful, and perhaps a cloak for doing things we would very much object to if they were more widely understood, such as creating networks of concentration camps for displaced and inconvenient persons.

How very neoconservative, to perceive citizens in need of emergency services as primarily a threat to their political power, who must first be isolated and controlled.

I don't miss Clinton because he was a Democrat. As Democrats go, he wasn't very faithful to Democratic ideals. To me, he seemed far closer to Barry Goldwater than to JFK. But what he - and honestly speaking, most of his predecessors - understood is that politics is a means to a real-world end, not an end in itself.

To neoconservatives, the point to power is power. To George Bush, the point to torture IS torture. And yes, I am paraphrasing Orwell, though this Brave New World Order is even more banal and petty than his most bleak imaginings.

Mark Twain once remarked that the difference between fiction and reality was that fiction had to be plausible.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Teen Sex Slave Called a Liar by Texas Congressman

I picked this up from Digg a little while back, with simply the bare essentials. Now it appears that it's being cited by Glenn Melançon, Ralph Hall's opponent.

As happy as I am to be cited at all, ordinarily; I'm slightly miffed, because my link was simply a pointer to the TPM Muckraker article with a link to "digg it" higher. The paragraph below was the sum total of what amounted to a "throwaway" post.

A Texas congressman is denying charges he slandered a foreign sex slave at the behest of Jack Abramoff. Hall's challenger says "When investigators discovered child prostitution and forced abortions on the Mariana Islands, Congressman Ralph Hall was paid for for covering it up . . ."

read more | digg story

Sir, that is what we call "Padding the Bibliography" in the trade. It also might be taken to suggest that I support Glenn Melançon for the seat, because I think his opponent is a slimeball.

Pardon me, Sir, but all I know about Hall is that he did a remarkably sleazy favor for Jack Abramoff. He's not my congresscritter, and the judgment as to whether he should continue to represent his constituents is up to them. Perhaps his base has a large proportion of sex tourists who frequent the Mariana Islands, or has several large businesses that make use of it's cheap slave labor. Perhaps they have no problem at all with the exploitation of Asian women.

I've observed that many Conservatives are rather emphatic about the virtuous necessity for exploiting and oppressing women, though of course they choose to put it in slightly different terms. But as they are more than willing to create situations where people have no access to choices concerning their essential freedoms, I see little here that they would be likely to object to in principle, for the principles are identical.

Forced abortions are no less a violation of one's freedom and dignity than forced pregnancies and both often result from the sexual exploitation of youth.

It’s no more and no less of a violation of the essential dignity of a youth who has reached the age of Reason to forbid them access to sex and sexual information than it is to compel it. So I must assume they do not believe that things I consider essential human rights are rights at all; indeed, I've heard people such as the Rev. Dr. Dobson argue exactly that.

There are Conservative evangelicals that directly advocate that parents choose the future lifetime sexual partners of their children, who consider it their right to take away the moral agency of not just underage, but adult children. This is simply the other side of the coin Ralph is accused of trafficing in; the sexual favors of a daughter in return for future financial considerations. The only difference, really, is how valuable those sexual and reproductive services are. Or in other words, “I already know what you are, now we are just haggling over the price.”

So it seems quite possible that Hall is accurately and faithfully representing the people he is beholden to and it would be wrong and irresponsible of me to suggest otherwise. The Mariana affair was well publicised at the time, and he apparently was neither investigated for his role in it, nor polictially embarrassed by it, so it's quite a reasonable assumption for me to make.

After all, I hold most insistently to my own principles, I’m not about to suggest that others abandon theirs in favor of mine, unless our principles come into direct and practical conflict.

Slavery has deep roots in the former Confederacy, and there have been long, scholarly and highly moral tomes written to explain it in Biblical terms. I shall not presume that such beliefs are held lightly or insincerely when I know for a fact that many believe passionately otherwise; that the darker races both need and deserve the guidance of the more highly evolved White race, as well as the elevation of their racial character via judicious injections of superior genetic materials. No, for many, these are not beliefs of mere convenience; they are deeply, primordially and utterly sincere racists. Are they not also Citizens? Do they not deserve one of their own representing them?

I'm going to quote from Glenn Melançon's newsletter. Please overlook the patriotically red white and blue text and read for content. Glenn reveals something essential to this discussion and understanding what we are really talking about.

The President's speech was an act of desperation. His proposal does nothing to stem the flow of undocumented workers across the border. The real problem is illegal employment. Unscrupulous employers entice Mexicans and Latin Americans to the U.S.

Why? Falsely documented workers don't complain about working conditions or pay; they know they are one complaint away from being turned over to immigration officials. Corporate America "imports" this docile workforce. If undocumented immigrants couldn't get jobs, they wouldn't come.
The President could solve the problem by simply enforcing existing laws and punishing illegal employers. According to a Knight Ridder report by Liz Chandler, “One internal study found that a restaurant company had submitted 4,100 duplicate Social Security numbers for workers. Other firms submit inaccurate names or numbers reports for nearly all of their employees. One child's Social Security number was used 742 times by workers in 42 states.” The problem isn't a lack of information; it's a lack of will.
So the question arises; if we have what amounts to a slave labor force; underpaid, exploited, without recourse to law or unions, is that what the people of this Texas constituency want?

After all, the current draconian proposals are not aimed at the employers who know damn well who and what they are taking advantage of; they are aimed at the undocumented workers themselves – should they happen to come to the attention of the Authorities.

If one is against lawbreaking - and these illegals are doing just that - one should be equally concerned about all those involved in the crime.

The best way to forestall such crimes is to make them unprofitable. But if one actually wishes to allow that sort of crime to continue without difficulty, then one must take steps to silence those most likely to complain about being exploited by richer and better-connected criminals.

As Glenn points out, there's certainly no need to come up with new legislation to prosecute those who employ illegal labor. All that is required is to enforce existing law.

Social Security fraud, forgery, conspiracy, racketeering and human trafficking laws could all be applied to various situations with great glee to eliminate this problem.

Unless, of course, one does not wish to eliminate the problem at all, merely regulate it in favor of those profiting by it. We should be honest here; the scope and practical effect of this additional legislation – at least, the House Version – is to create a permanent class of disenfranchised slaves, with INS as the enforcers who punish those who seek to escape that fate.

I am forced to assume that there is a great need for slaves, and as a Libertarian, I am expected to advocate in favor of free market forces. If US citizens are not willing to become slaves, is it not legitimate for the entrepreneurs that fuel our massive and beneficent economy to import them, so that our poor and underemployed may partake of 99 cent cheeseburgers? Is this not the proper evolution of a free market?

In a purely amoral Libertarian sense, I cannot argue against the choices of those who willingly subject themselves to slavery; I can only object to regulations that stand in the way of this institution being transparently and equally implemented. I must of course equally argue that US citizens be freely able to compete within this market. If they wish to be slaves, they must be able to contract to do so. Right-to-Work legislation is a mere sop to this ideal when the servitude of Americans is being taken away by illegal imports.

I wax sarcastic, but there’s nothing actually wrong with the argument, other than it’s transparent absurdity.

The only question here is whether or not the Great State of Texas wishes to be a slave state. If it does, one must then ask what is so wrong about the status of slave that US citizens must be prevented from serving in that capacity, and why everyone is so embarrassed about the reality of the situation that they construct towering edifices of distraction to blame it upon the fortunate who have achieved that most blessed and hallowed state. After all, it's a status that many Americans bled and died to preserve!

If Texans believe in slavery, and all the social differences and values that go along with that most ancient of human institutions, I say, let us speak honestly about it, it's vices and virtues, it's costs and benefits and implication instead of sneaking around and failing to create a proper and functional institution that would serve all as they deserve, both slave and free.

Since there ARE laws that exist on the books, both federal and, I presume, state laws forbidding the various contrivances that create this effective state of slavery, why are they not being enforced? Who has been choosing to overlook infractions, or not seriously prosecute them? And if they are not being enforced, what is the point of enacting new laws?

Could it be that “reasonable men” are aware that it’s only a crime in the minds of “liberals” who think everyone deserves such unreasonable entitlements as freedom, liberty and equal justice under the law?

I mean, my goodness, we are speaking of MEXICANS!

TPMmuckraker September 25, 2006 02:56 PM: "In November of 1997, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) publicly questioned the credibility of a teenage girl's claims that she'd been the victim of the sex trade in the Northern Mariana Islands. The statement, which Rep. Hall entered into the Congressional Record, was prepared by Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist for the islands.

It's always surprised me how very cheap it seems to be to buy a US Congressman.

Come to the Marianas and get Leied

[Hall]traveled to the Northern Marianas as a guest of felon Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay, only to come back calling it a "a well-kept secret" with great economic growth and potential. Now he refuses to return $30,000 of campaign contributions from PACs associated with Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff. --

Please note that Hall used to be a Democrat, back when Democrats were powerful and Democratic corruption was profitable. He now calls himself a Republican, but I for one am skeptical; it seems to me that he continues to represent his own core values and the values of those who contract for his influence.

"[S]he wanted to do nude dancing," Hall's statement said of the fifteen-year-old girl. She had earlier told federal investigators that she'd been forced to work for a local nightclub in a nightly live sex show. You can read the entirety of Hall's statement here.

Press accounts at the time detailed how the girl had been taken from her parents in the Philippines, and forced to perform sex acts on stage and before video cameras at a Northern Marianas sex club. A 1998 Department of Labor report confirmed those reports.

Yes, just like those Guatemalan economic refugees like working 18 hour shifts for less than minimum wage and no benefits. Do I hear faint echoes of a Steven Foster tune?

Has it escaped Hall's notice that it is completely immaterial under federal law as to whether she "wanted" to dance nude? It's also completely immaterial if she "wanted" to be videotaped performing sex acts with customers (who illegally provided her alcohol) and that merely possessing a tape of those acts, much less distribution it is in fact child pornography? Even in 1998, that was a very, very serious allegation, one that could result in the loss of - well, pretty much everything for those involved.

In this particular case, it seems the Marianas Islands government felt it worthwhile to contract the rather expensive services of Jack Abrahamoff to deflect any serious investigation of the general standards and practices of commercial enterprises there, and to that end, Hall was willing to insert this statement into the Congressional Record.

Had such evidence as this department of labor report come to MY attention, my reaction would have been very different indeed. To me, the idea that there might possibly be widespread exploitation of children in any way, much less organized child sex smuggling rings to be something that would require my FULL attention. I would not see it as an opportunity for a little "pay for play" as seems to be the case here.

I would like to think that even were I generally inclined to a little friendly greasing of the wheels for a large contributor, I would draw the line at anything that might possibly involve conspiracy to obstruct justice. I’d certainly never do such a thing for a mere thirty grand and “other valuable considerations,” which I presume he did. Hall is certainly a cheap date.

Lest I be accused of a low and cheap shot, let me point this out; had Hall done anything at all to address the situation according to his clear legal and moral duties, he would have plenty of materials to refute charges against him. So whether he actually did much to further Abramoff’s efforts to stifle investigations into the various potential scandals and outrages occurring there, we know he knew about it, could have done something about it and chose to not do anything about it.

I must assume that, given this past position, and given Hall's current views on immigration, that a vote for Hall is a vote for the return of slavery to the South. But, then, that's a question of social policy that I would consider a State's Rights issue, in general, so long as the State in question was open and above-board about it.

I do not approve at all of covert end-runs around anti-slavery legislation and constitutional remedies to what many perceive to be an ancient human evil of the most depraved sort. Of course, many of those people are Liberals, so perhaps Texas varies on that point of philosophy.

So I do suggest to Congressman Hall that if he is indeed in favor of slavery, and other Confederate Family Values, let him defend them courageously! Let him propose legislation to regulate slavery, let him challenge the "liberal political correctness" that makes it impossible for "Men of the World" such as himself to advocate their just due; the exploitation of the poor, the vulnerable, the uneducated and, indeed, the delightfully nubile and underage.

Let him explain to us how these ripe fruits are the perfectly reasonable prerogative of those fortunate few who, by virtue of power and an understanding of what really makes the world go round, actually deserve a wink and a nod instead of, say, twenty years in a federal penitentiary, for the production and distribution of child pornography.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Foley, Hypocracy and the closeted life.

I ran into this today, and think it sums up a leftie-gay perspective of the ethics here pretty well. It's also true, as far as it goes. It just doesn't go far enough.

Pam's House Blend:

"Sully [Andrew Sullivan} weighs in with the same sentiment we've also discussed many times here about the corruption that comes when power hungry-pols protect their closets. I, however, have no patience with people who attempt to govern from the closet. The McGreeveys, Schrocks, and now Foley watched their political careers go up in smoke over their pathologies.

I don't know Foley, although, like any other gay man in D.C., I was told he was gay, closeted, afraid and therefore also screwed up. What the closet does to people - the hypocrisies it fosters, the pathologies it breeds - is brutal. There are many still-closeted gay men in D.C., many of them working for a Republican party that has sadly deeply hostile to gay dignity. How they live with themselves I do not fully understand. But I have learned you cannot judge someone's soul from outside. That I leave to them and their God, and some I count as good friends and good people.

What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go, and for which they have to take ultimate responsibility. From what I've read, Foley is another example of this destructive and self-destructive pattern for which the only cure is courage and honesty. While gays were fighting for thir basic equality, Foley voted for the "Defense of Marriage Act". If his resignation means the end of the closet for him, and if there is no more to this than we now know, then it may even be for the good. Better to find integrity and lose a Congressional seat than never live with integrity at all.

The problem is not being a Gay Republican. It's not a contradiction in terms, after all. Andrew Sullivan is about as out as they come and he's still reliably and sensibly Conservative, in non-evil sort of way.

But as Sully points out, the Closet is corrupting, and the practical reality of being a Republican these days - at least, a Republican with any influence - is that you have to appear to be in concordance with the most reactionary, narrow and narrow-minded views of culture, family and individual rights possible. You have to appear to be a fundamentalist. Most of all, you cannot say or do anything that would offend the Theoconservatives, or your career is over.

There are far, far more Republicans in closets than there are gays in total, I'd imagine. For the fact is that the forced closeting extends outside of the purely political realm - as does the general view that conformity to public expectations is far more important than private exceptions, which are supposed to be "between you and God."

So, we have closet drug addicts, closet child abusers, closet drunks, closet divorces, closeted kink.

More than half of the Leatherfolk I know are Libertarian or Republican in their politics, and there are quite a few "Christian BDSM" discussion groups out there.

Keeping your closet closed often leads to intensely hypocritical actions, and furthermore, those actions often lead to actual, concrete harm to other individuals. So I have to admit that as much as the idea makes me wince, I think closet doors are fair game.

I would like to make one distiction here, though. It appears that Foley was not particularly closeted as a gay - though he wasn't voting in accordance with his community interests, so maybe he was in effect. But like so many, he was hiding a secret with a secret. What was really his downfall was the closet hidden behind his closet.

Foley wanted to have sex with minors. Worse yet, he was willing to abuse the power of position in order to get it.

I really don't care if he's gay, OR even if he's a pedophile. People generally have little choice about their sexual orientation. What they DO have a choice about is the expression of that nature, and the responsiblity to express it in ways that are not abusive.

It's not who you are, it's what you do. We are all judged by that standard; politicians are no different in this regard.

What stuns me is that there should be so many people claiming to be pius Christians who have no undesrstanding of that simple Biblical parable; "By their fruits ye shall know them."

And please, no wincing at the unavoidable pun; it’s a distraction. I've done theatre and I've met a lot of bitter fruits, but that ain't what I'm talking about.

This is about the fact that no matter how appealing and good someone seems, consequences arise from what they actually do, and those consequences will become known. Christ was not just speaking of Pie in the Sky consequences, Hellfire and Damnation consequences; He was speaking about practical outcomes in the real world, and how you should evaluate other people.

Don't depend on how they appear, or how righteously they conform to some arbitrary standard. Judge them on the consequences of their acts. While the act itself may be successfully hidden, and perhaps some of the consequences concealed, nobody can ever completely hide all the possible "tells" of a conflict between public appearance and private reality.

And the moral of the story here is "don't try." Don't try to conceal who and what you are, instead, accept who you are and express it in a principled way, ethically, without harm to others.

It is not a shameful thing to demonstrate some integrity, and a little humility in the face of your own human nature.

Oh, and what did Jesus say about the pretty tree that bore bitter, poisonous fruit? That it will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Mark Foley, here endith the lesson.

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Ayatollya So:

Christianist Right and Islamist state terrorists have much in common.

Got Evil? Lyndi England, poster child for the legal and moral consequences of mindless submission to authority.

There have been rumblings of late that the War on Terror is awfully convenient for the politics and agendas of the Right, if for no other reason than to get critics and analysts to shut up and support the president in "a time of war."

To quote local Nevada Senator John Ensign:

Bush a Key Issue for Nevada’s Senate Contenders - Newsweek Elections -

"NEWSWEEK: There have been a lot of critiques from both sides on the war in Iraq. Some say critics are appeasing the terrorists. Others say dissent is part of a healthy democracy.

John Ensign: When you are at war, leaders have a heavy responsibility to be careful what they say. Back in the Civil War, Robert E. Lee used to read the Northern newspapers. He saw the discord in the North and that is the reason he drove to Gettysburg. These extremists around the world are looking at the division here in America. It is emboldening them. They think America is weak.

But polls show growing public dissatisfaction with how things are going in Iraq.

I think that has a lot to do with leadership. We need statesmen right now. We don't need politicians taking polls and have their governing based on polls. We need people who will have the courage to do what is right."

Of course, that all depends on whether what you think is right is actually correct, not to mention Constitutional and appropriate to the values of a diverse nation composed of free, independent and contrary citizens.

Let's turn back to look at what one of the primary international policy thrusts of the United States within the United Nations is - and who their allies are in achieving this. Note the post 9/11 date, folks.
Islamic Bloc, Christian Right Team Up to Lobby U.N. ( By Colum Lynch
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, June 17, 2002; Page A01: "UNITED NATIONS -- Conservative U.S. Christian organizations have joined forces with Islamic governments to halt the expansion of sexual and political protections and rights for gays, women and children at United Nations conferences.

The new alliance, which coalesced during the past year, has received a major boost from the Bush administration, which appointed antiabortion activists to key positions on U.S. delegations to U.N. conferences on global economic and social policy.

"The main issue that brings us all together is defending the family values, the natural family," added Mokhtar Lamani, a Moroccan diplomat who represents the 53-nation Organization of Islamic Conferences at the United Nations. "The Republican administration is so clear in defending the family values." [Emphasis Mine]

Lamani said he was first approached by U.S. Christian non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, at a special session of the U.N. General Assembly on AIDS in New York in June 2001.

Liberal Western activists and governments, he said, had offended the religious and cultural sensitivities of Islamic countries by proposing that a final conference declaration include explicit references to the need to protect prostitutes, intravenous drug users and "men who have sex with men" from contracting AIDS.

"It was totally unacceptable for us," Lamani said. "The Vatican and so many NGOs came up to us saying this is exactly the same position we are defending."

The Islamic-Christian alliance claimed an important victory at the U.N. children's meeting last month.

The Bush administration led the coalition in blocking an effort by European and Latin American countries to include a reference in the final declaration to "reproductive health care services," a term the conservatives believed could be used to promote abortion.

The U.S. team included John Klink, a former adviser to the Vatican at previous U.N. conferences; Janice Crouse, a veteran antiabortion advocate at Concerned Women of America; and Paul J. Bonicelli of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va., a Christian institution that requires its professors teach creationism.

Now, it's rather interesting, that Christianist Theocons and "Islamofacists" would have so much agreement on an issue like "family values." But that is, indeed, core to both versions of theocratic social control; start with the family. When both groups say "family values," what they mean is that values will be imposed on families, whatever the views, beliefs and preferences of those families may be.

There WILL be a "Strict Father" who is Head of the Family and his wife WILL submit unquestioningly to his Book-backed will. This is true even if she has 20 points of IQ on him and three times the earning potential. Furthermore, this authority will extend to his children beyond the age of majority, who will be betrothed only to those who share those values and are pleasing to the parents. In other words, Christianists are encouraging a return to arranged marriages.
The New American - Christian Courtship - January 1, 2001: "... Emoly West’s mother and father want her to be 'courted.' Jonathan Lindvall, a writer who conducts Bold Parenting seminars, describes courtship as a 'parentally authorized romantic relationship focused on serious contemplation and hope of future marriage; hopefully, but not necessarily, the sole romantic relationship before marriage.' Parents often act as chaperones during the courting period."
I have less problem with this model of family then you might think, save for one overriding and total objection; the idea that this is an ideal model, worthy of imposition upon all who can adapt and worth "defending" by making all known alternatives either illegal or at least depriving them of all positive social recognition.

The concept most central to right-wing Christianist social thought is that anyone who does not conform is being "selfish," perhaps "hedonistic," and certainly sinful. I do not know, but rather suspect that this viewpoint is shared to some extent in Islam. Both consider their models of family to be a social expression of submission to God.

I cannot help but think that imposing the external forms of submission to God will do little to promote any actual, spiritually valid submission. It will, however, permit society as a whole to sweep alternate models out of site so that those who grow up within their ideal society will have no occasion to speak to persons who view society and their relationship to God (or Goddess) in entirely different ways. From a spiritual perspective, I see it as a way to preserve the support of those who are weak in faith, and in parallel, preserve a Faith that is so weak and corrupted with contradictory social agendas that it cannot survive outside of a protected area.

I prefer a faith capable of existing in the wild. "He is not a TAME Lion!"

Furthermore, I have a very high regard for selfishness and regard for self above the interests of any collective values. I see submission to the collective will under any model to be an abandonment of one's most holy Will and the height of personal irresponsibility. Whatever one might wish, one's responsibility to act morally, ethically, righteously is a non-transferable, PERSONAL obligation.

Gonzales could not recall his original position on the August 2002 "torture memo" he helped draft but added that "I don't have a disagreement with the conclusions then reached." But in what has by now become part of the official record, the abuses of Abu Ghraib and beyond "were in fact procedures, which would not have been possible without policies that had been approved" and still supported by the likes of Alberto Gonzales. Once again, Gonzales sanctioned torture.

(The August 2002 memo discussed interrogation techniques Americans could use against detainees and narrowly defined torture as something that induced organ failure or worse.)

Asked whether he thinks the president can order torture and throw out anti-torture conventions, Gonzales acknowledged that, "hypothetically that authority may exist" and that while he could not remember who had requested the August 2002 memo, harsh interrogation techniques were discussed at White House meetings.

If a superior told you to put a naked man on a leash and pose for a photo to degrade and humiliate him, would you do it?

That's what Lynde England did, and she's paying the legal and consequential price for following an order that she should have known to be unjust, unlawful, Unamerican and, frankly, evil.

It was her responsiblity to understand, in her role as a prison guard, that her job does not automaticly justify the abandonment of those values that should have been taught to her in Kindergarten, at her parent's knees and in Sunday School.

Roger W. Norman's Radio Weblog: "And now we have the inkling of just how far these Republicans are willing to go in order to continue being tough on terror. For you see, now they are considering a proposal offered by the White House to eliminate any possible responsibilties for war crimes participated in by administration appointees and their bosses. That means that Rumsfeld would never be able to be held accountable for his implementation of torture, but poor little Lynde England is going to end up doing her full sentence for something her superiors ordered her to do."

As "poor little Lynde" deserves, frankly. The fact that other, more responsible persons are not being held accountable - yet - is immaterial. She chose to act as she did and has been made the patsy as a consequence. This should be seen for what it is; an example of how little regard this Administration has for those sent to do it's dirty work, and how much it relies on them to obey illegal and immoral orders without question.

A suggestion to those who find themselves in such a situation: "I request and require written orders to that effect, Sir."

Both Christianist and Islamist movements demand you abandon your personal, informed moral agency to that of a "superior." The consequential abuses are predictable and inevitable. Consider, for instance, the Branch Davidians at Waco. Whether or not you agree with how that issue was handled by the BATF and the FBI, the fact that those people were in that situation in the first place was due to willful manipulation of their ability to discern the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and their willful abandonment of their responsibility to know that for themselves.

When supposed Christians, seeking to impose a theocratic state, are seen to be working together with supposed enemies, having clearly abandoned the principle of "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you,” you are pretty safe in assuming that they may well be colluding and co-operating in other ways. Certainly, a worldwide state of fear serves their interests, as do the general expansion of fundamentalism and a general distrust of fact and reason.

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