News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: May 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Are You Insane?

The issue of whether someone is insane when they commit a crime, especially murder, is one of those that I think tells a lot about the American psyche. In the past, it seemed pretty obvious that people acting in such and such a way are obviously insane. In recent years in America, however, the notion that anyone should or could be declared insane has slowly become impossible. At the risk of oversimplifying, no one is innocent, everyone is responsible--no matter mitigating circumstances or any such considerations usually ascribed to a sense of compassion. ...

Jonathan Turley writes about this phenomenon of the vanishing insanity plea in US law in USA Today:

For defendants such as Yates, Schlosser, Laney and others, killings were compelled by the same motivation as Abraham's, albeit because of delusions of divine direction. They didn't have an angel who "called out ... from heaven, Abraham! Abraham!' ... 'Do not lay a hand on the boy.' ... 'Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God."

From a defense standpoint, the angel was truly godsend. The convergence of religion, the law and insanity makes for the most difficult cases. Even so, just as religion teaches that we must obey the command of the Almighty even in killing a child, the law must recognize that troubled persons may be acting under the delusion of such orders.

When states fail to recognize the difference between a premeditated and delusional act, they commit an act every bit as immoral as disobeying the command of God.
Read more!

Fascism, Aesthetics, Nussbaum, and Disgust

In my draft essay on fascism, I listed several important elements of fascism as I had understood them from my own experience growing up with a fascist father. One aspect of fascism that I missed in my remembrance was that of disgust--at the world, at oneself, at others. ...

I recently came across a work by Martha Nussbaum, a philosopher whose work on emotions has to be the most relevant and insightful work by a thinker in America for the last half-century. The book that has piqued my interest the most is her work on disgust, as it related to women's bodies but also more generally as it plays itself out on the wider social scale, especially in the law.

In the introduction to that work, Nussbaum writes:

What I am calling for, in effect, is something that I do not expect we shall ever fully achieve: a society that acknowledges its own humanity, and neither hides us from it nor it from us; a society of citizens who admit that they are needy and vulnerable, and who discard the grandiose demands for omnipotence and completeness that have been at the heart of so much human misery, both public and private. To that extent, its spirit is less Millian than Whitmanesque: it constructs a public myth of equal humanity, to substitute for other pernicious myths that have long guided us. Such a society remains elusive because incompleteness is frightening and grandiose fictions are comforting. As a patient of Donald Winnicott's said to him (in an analysis that I shall analyze in detail in chapter 4), "The alarming thing about equality is that we are then both children, and the question is, where is father? We know where we are if one of us is the father."20 It may even be that such a society is unachievable, because human beings cannot bear to live with the constant awareness of mortality and of their frail animal bodies. Some self-deception may be essential in getting us through a life in which we are soon bound for death, and in which the most essential matters are in fact beyond our control. What I am calling for is a society where such self-deceptive fictions do not rule in law and in which--at least in crafting the institutions that shape our common life together--we admit that we are all children and that in many ways we don't control the world.
I must admit that disgust has informed some of my own aesthetic works, in terms of eliciting disgust as well as its relationship to the sublime and beautiful. I've always been fascinated by the work of Joel Peter Witkin. His photographic fanstasias play on this juxtaposition of disgust and the sublime--especially in relationship to myth.

Related Links
  • Disgust, Shame and the Law Radio interview with Nussbaum; with call-ins from listeners. Also listen to the Ebadi sound-byte at the end of the radio show.
Read more!

Justice Miscarries in Lodi Terrorism Case

The fact that one of the most distinguished and decorated FBI agents finds the government's case against two Pakistani immigrants full of holes should provoke not only shame but also anger. Miscarriages of justice will only lead to further erosion of trust in the US legal system's legitimacy as the US moves forward in its so-called "war on terror." ...

According to the LATimes, "James Wedick had been a star at the FBI. When his former colleagues prosecuted a suspected terrorist, he came to the side of the defense and was branded a traitor."

Wedick couldn't look Hamid Hayat in the eye. He had pledged to him months earlier that he was going to do everything he could to see injustice righted, even if it meant turning his back on 35 years in the FBI. "Hamid is a hapless character, but, my God, he isn't a terrorist. The government counted on hysteria, the 1,000-pound gorilla, to be in the room. And it worked. Damn, it worked."

He saw one juror holding back tears and made a straight line for her apartment. She wouldn't let him in at first, talking through a crack. Two hours, four hours, finally she opened the door and told him what he suspected. She didn't believe Hamid was guilty. So intense was the pressure from fellow jurors to convict him that she had to check into the hospital. Throughout the trial, she said, the foreman kept making the gesture of a noose hanging. "Lynch the Muslim," she took it to mean. Wedick persuaded her to write it all down and sign it. Then he filed the affidavit with the federal court, hoping it might lead to a new trial.
Read more!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Fear, Control, and the New Fascism

We face a historical watershed for the moment when the US is about to stray from democracy and become a fascist state. Perhaps the greatest assumption that underlies this watershed is that which assumes that America has a right to act as and be an empire. In the name of what morality or sense of justice known from our inherited Judeo-Christian heritage would lead you or me not to believe that the US' recent foreign adventures do not reflect that heritage but betray its very source? ...

I'll paraphrase Judith Shklar, a much underrated political philosopher. Shklar came to her views based on her experiences in Nazi Germany and the Nazi persecution and murder of Jews. For Shklar, the basis of any government is the use of fear. What a populace does in electing representatives is to give them the right to use deadly force in the name of the "people." As such, government is only able to maintain the people's trust when it shows that it does not misuse that weapon of fear and terror in unjust and inhumane ways.

Shklar is a skeptical liberal. This means that she is open to and cognizant of the many ways that humans use fear and terror for less than noble and humane reasons. Her model in this regard is Montesqieu, whose skeptical essays explore the diverse ways that people find to inflict pain and misery on their fellow human beings--whether it be by religious or political framework.

There is no denying that greater equality of power would enhance the conditions for justice, but many of the plans offered for its achievement are flawed. The single most serious objection to them is not that they are radical but that they are often so paternalistic as to arouse a sense of injustice. Though they aim at a more perfect democracy, plans for the reform of existing institutions often require remaking the citizenry as well. And who exactly is competent to do so? (quoted in FEAR AND THINKING, by Peter Berkowitz)

Indeed, who can change or remake "the citizenry"? Following Shklar, I suggest, and will continue to say, that the only way for any political system to work is to support an environment in which fear is at a minimum. The campaign launched by Bush in retaliation for 911 was over-reactive and unnecessary. It bred as much terror and fear as it hoped to stem. The US response was not proportional in relationship to the threat. The outcome, of course, is that the objects of that state-sponsored terrorism gain the rightly felt identification of their co-religionists.

Indeed, Shklar's words have most recently been echoed by Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace-prize winner, Shirin Ebadi:
Though democracy is inevitable universally, Ebadi argues that nations must be left alone to experience social crises, work through them and autonomously reach their historical imperative of free and democratic societies.Foreign interventions in the name of democracy, like the US occupation of Iraq, only delay the natural, inevitable disintegration of despotism, strengthen forces opposed to freedom and inspire hatred of external others, argues Ebadi.
The effects on the home front are just as disastrous. To carry out such a comprehensive foreign anti-terror program, the Bush administration has effectively brought on a constitutional crisis, threatened civil liberties, and bred a domestic environment of fear and distrust that undermines any legitimacy that the foreign intervention could have hoped to achieve. Instead of remaining the land of the free, America now stands on the verge of becoming the land of the fearful and paranoid.

One can only add to this laundry list of side-effects from the so-called “war on terror.” Perhaps the most disastrous effect has been the promulgation of hate-filled stereotypes and biases toward members of one of the world’s largest religions. Not only are these stereotypes untrue, they also effectively bolster the animosity on a basis that belies the religious tolerance which the US is noted for.

The stereotypes are untrue, for however much a significant minority of Moslems might say they support the Osama bin-Laden types, only a fraction of them actually think that terrorism is a viable tool for attaining their ends. Hamas and the Islamic Brotherhood are just two instances of a democratic trend that will gain momentum. Contrary to the caricature image of traditionalist Islam gaining the upper hand through the electoral process, the results in Iran—as well as countries as diverse as Pakistan, Morocco, Turkey, and so on--show that everyday Moslems want a moderate, mostly modern tolerance toward religious and political differences.

In such a context, then, what are the responsibilities of a world power? For Shklar, the ultimate criterion for any state is reducing the level of fear and terror in the world. Any country must do all it can to reduce the level of paranoia that only increases the deep-seated, mostly personal, animosities that individuals and ethnic groups have toward each other. Only a largely secularized and liberalized social framework can bring this about. But, again, such a framework must be built from the inside out, not from the outside in.

Summarizing Shklar’s views, Berkowitz writes (see URL above):

Shklar's liberalism offers no greatest good, but [b]it insists that cruelty, and the fear that cruelty inspires, is the greatest evil[/b]. It regards government and its agents as the greatest perpetrators of cruelty, and [b]it pays special attention to the poor and the weak since they are the most likely to suffer[/b]. It requires not weak government but limited government, government that is strong enough to devise and to execute "public policies and decisions made in conformity to requirements of publicity, deliberation and fair procedures." It recognizes that citizens must exercise virtues such as self-restraint, respect for the claims of others, self-reliance, and moral courage, but it declares that "it is not the task of liberal politics to foster them simply as models of human perfection." It rejects the idea of rights as natural or fundamental, but it employs them "as just those licenses and empowerments that citizens must have in order to preserve their freedom and to protect themselves against abuse." It is wedded to representative democracy, the ideal of political equality, the institution of an independent judiciary, and a pluralism of political groups and interests.
[my emphases]

I suggest that the Bush admin, along with its neocon theoreticians, betrayed exactly those principles that Shklar discusses: government going beyond its bounds and bringing democracy to a world that instead must find these institutions for themselves.

Strangely enough, however, Shklar is silent about the social and personal impact of economic systems such as capitalism. It is perhaps here more than anywhere else that real change can and must occur. For economics make possible certain forms of life (most specifically along the lines of resentment and envy); and it is economic interests in liberalized societies whose control is often beyond both the citizen’s and the politician’s grasp and therefore must receive special attention.

Until the architectonics of capitalism are addressed and modified, the types of fear and terror that Shklar puts down to personal moral and character lapses will continue to foster an environment in which fear and terror are the dominant modes of control and political machinations.

For a picture of what foreign interventions create, consider the following description of Iraq from reporter Nir Rosen:
Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, dissidents called Iraq "the republic of fear" and hoped it would end when Hussein was toppled. But the war, it turns out, has spread the fear democratically. Now the terror is not merely from the regime, or from U.S. troops, but from everybody, everywhere.
Read more!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Remembering the Brave, Reproaching the Guilty

Helena Cobban's suggestion for remembering the Iraq dead echoes with the gestures of times past:

Reproach and remembering are, of course, the two main messages of Maya Lin's beautiful Vietnam War memorial. But reproach is also a strong element in another U.S. memorial from the Civil War era: Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery was established right on the grounds of Gen.Robert E. Lee's family home, on the banks of the Potomac River looking straight across at Washington DC. Lee, who had been a general in the Union Army before the Civil War, was probably the highest ranking military man to defect to the Confederacy. (His wife was also the grand-daughter of George and Martha Washington.) After Lee's defection, the Union Army sent troops to occupy his homealong with all its extensive pastures and other landholdings. In 1864, the US government expropriated the land from the Lee family. By that time the dead from the war were becoming very numerous. The Union generals transformed much of the Lee land into a vast war cemetery, burying the dead right up to the edge of the family home of the man they blamed most for the prolongation of the rebellion and the terrible, continuing toll of the fighting.

So here's my plan. Maybe the best reproach for this present war would be for the next US administration to acquire land right up to the door of George W. Bush's family home on Prairie Chapel Road, in Crawford, Texas, and to establish there a large and impressive monument of reproach, mourning, and remembrance. Or we could have two such monuments: one in Crawford, and one in St. Michaels, Maryland, that could take in and engulf the homes there of both Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
Read more!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Another One of Those Profiles in Courage

"Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi draws wild applause and a few taunts at a speech:"

The applause swelled when Ebadi promised that "I will continue pressing for the release of all the political prisoners in Iran!" and denounced Iran's hostage-taking as an "embarrassing mistake" and "wrong." When Ebadi began to criticize U.S. support for the 1953 coup and U.S. backing of Sadham Hussein during the destructive eight-year Iran-Iraq war, a few people even yelled, "Bravo!"

"It's time to forget past animosities and think about the future," she exhorted. "The people of Iran have no disputes with each other. Over 2 million Iranians live in the U.S., and the U.S. has been very hospitable. The people of Iran and the United States have no differences. It's the governments that are fighting."

At this, an older man with a cane stood up and yelled, "Down with the Republic of Iran!" Another man yelled, "Talk about the political prisoners!" A young man in a black suit chanted "God bless America!" as he gave Ebadi two thumbs down.

The crowd defended her, chanting: "Ebadi! Ebadi!" Campus security moved toward the most raucous hecklers.

"A lady in the audience called me a liar. What am I lying about?" Ebadi asked. "People in Iran demand an advanced democracy in Iran.

"In my book you will read about many human rights abuses in Iran," she continued. "But military invasion of Iran or bombing of Iran is not going to solve this. The people in Iran love their country and are not going to permit it to be a second Iraq. It is upon all of us to work for democracy in Iraq. But democracy cannot be brought to a nation with cluster bombs."

The audience roared, the loudest ovation of the evening.

Then came a difficult question: Knowing what she knows now, someone asked, would Ebadi have joined in supporting the Iranian revolution?

"Yes she would! She's an agent!" the protester in the black suit yelled.

Ebadi paused. She does, after all, live in Iran. Iranian media would beam her words back to Tehran. The crowd waited, wondering if she would publicly disavow the 1979 revolution.

"After citing all the discriminatory laws in Iran to you, I do not think I would have," Ebadi finally answered, choosing her words carefully. "I think you would agree that this is not the right way."
Read more!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cobban on Fukuyama

Mideast expert and reporter, Helena Cobban, provides personal impressions of a speech given at the University of Virginia by noted foreign policy expert and former neo-conservative, Francis Fukuyama. Cobban's very good at transcribing Fukuyama's words. Her own comments on his views come from her vast experience as a peace activist who knows the personalities and movements involved in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. ...

Cobban concludes:

In his book, Fukuyama anticipates that some Americans will ask why the sole superpower, why Gulliver, should risk binding itself into new organizations with so many nattering Lilliputians to tie it down. His answer, in part, cited America’s own domestic reliance upon “checks and balances” against concentrated power. So why then should the rest of the world be expected to trust a country that at least traditionally, doesn’t trust itself? International institutions, with all their faults, may yet be the best venue for crafting cooperative action and for providing the critically needed “international legitimacy” to see it through.

Fukuyama has surely added to our understanding of neoconservatism, its roots and its evolution. In the end, he remains comfortable with generic neoconservative goals, “but it's the methods that have failed.” Yet he is no longer interested in rescuing neoconservatism, lamenting that it has become inextricably equated with catastrophic Bush Administration failures. Fukuyama aims then to bury neoconservatism as a foreign policy doctrine and his book may well stand as a first draft of its obituary.
Read more!

Bird's-eye View of NSA Domestic Spying Campaign

[via War & Piece] Jason Rood tries to get a bird's-eye view on the press reports about the NSA domestic surveillance program. ...

Rood concludes:

Maybe all these articles are on different programs, different efforts. But they seem to fit together into a larger structure, a clever one, that -- if it exists -- is quite a concerted effort to skirt the Constitution while conducting a massive domestic surveillance operation.
Read more!

Israel and US Joined At the Hip

With Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's visit to the US, we find the US President professing undying support for Israel. PM Olmert gave a speech to a joint session of Congress, where members from both houses of Congress showed their intense support for Israel and its policies in the mideast. Of course, the press coverage parroted the official line--inside government and the mass media--that Israel is indeed our bosom buddy for life and death. ...

In a press conference featuring Bush and Olmert, Bush's opening remarks informed gathered reporters:

I told the prime minister what I've stated publicly before: Israel is a close friend and ally of the United States. And in the event of any attack on Israel, the United States will come to Israel's aid.
BUSH: The United States is strongly committed and I am strongly committed to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state.
For many, these remarks are not surprising for it has become a tacit assumption in US politics and in the public sphere that Israel and US political interests are indeed the same.

Indeed, as Bush and Olmert met, the US House or representatives was passing a bill that disallowed the President from providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, who are suffering from economic sanctions imposed by the international community in solidarity with the Israeli policy of non-negotiation with the democratically-elected Hamas.

Jim Lobe reports that the congressional action was pushed in congress by AIPAC:
Even as Olmert met with President George W. Bush at the White House Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming 361-37 margin to impose strict conditions on aid to Palestinians, as demanded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Washington's most powerful pro-Israel lobby.
Questioning the assumption that US and Israeli policies are not coincident can get you in trouble. Scholars and politicians or anyone else for that matter will immediately be branded as an anti-semite. This has proven true in the latest controversey surrounding an article by respected scholars Mearshimer and Walt in a London newspaper.

According to noted historian Norman Finkelstein, questioining Israel's internal and external policies has not always been answered with accusations of this kind. This changed, says Finkelstein, after several Israeli historians published studies that cast the country's founding in a darker light. In a recent interview, Finkelstein says:
I think the answer is that in the past, if you take the 1960s. 1970s and early 80s, the scholarly record and the documentary record, it seemed to be supporting Israel's position. And so Israelis and their supporters didn't typically charge anti-Semitism. What they did was tell you to look at the record, look at the history and see that it supports their claims. Beginning in the late 1980s and 1990s the work of important Israeli historians as well as the documentary record of human rights organizations, Israel's record not as good as it once did. And it turned out that many of the things that people thought were the case when they came to Israel actually turned out not to be the case. Thus Israel's position both historically and in terms of its current human rights record as that position became more indefensible; it was then that the charges of anti-Semitism began to be hurled with reckless abandon. Because there was no other way to respond to the charges that Israel has done and is doing. It's wrong.
As I noted, Finkelstein's comments follow the publication of an article by noted scholars, Mearsheimer and Walt. The article itself was rejected for publication in the US, even though it had been commissioned by a US magazine. It appears that once the brunt of the article bacame known, magazine editors balked at publishing it. As of now, there has been only speculation about why they did not publish the article.

Given the thesis of the article--that the Israel lobby is one of the top two most poweerful lobbies that holds sway in the US congress--the fact that a major media outlet refused to publish the article might serve to prove at least part of the article's thesis.

The history of how the media and the Israel lobby in particular reacted to these scholars' work is reported by NYT's Michael Massing. Massing provides some critical remarks on the Mearsheimer-Walt article and then describes in detail the inner workings of AIPAC, the main organization behind the Israel lobby.

Massing concludes his essay:
The nasty campaign waged against John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt has itself provided an excellent example of the bullying tactics used by the lobby and its supporters. The wide attention their argument has received shows that, in this case, those efforts have not entirely succeeded. Despite its many flaws, their essay has performed a very useful service in forcing into the open a subject that has for too long remained taboo.

Update 6/26/06 According to AP:
The United States reached out to hostile Arabs three decades ago with an offer to work toward making Israel a "small friendly country" of no threat to its neighbors and with an assurance to Iraq that the U.S. had stopped backing Kurdish rebels in the north.

"We can't negotiate about the existence of Israel," then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told his Iraqi counterpart in a rare high-level meeting, "but we can reduce its size to historical proportions."

A December 1975 memo detailing Kissinger's probing conversation with Foreign Affairs Minister Saadoun Hammadi eight years after Iraq severed diplomatic relations with Washington is included in some 28,000 pages of Kissinger-era foreign policy papers published in an online collection Friday.
Related Links Read more!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Craven, Angst-Filled Democrats?

[Corss-posted at Unclaimed Territory]

It seems "we" as a society keep bumping up against this glass ceiling every time we write about the subject of the Democrats' refusal to challenge the Bush admin's policies. The collusion of the Democrats with the Repubs on foreign policy and the related issue of domestic surveillance reflects a common interest of both parties in maintaining something that continually eludes our grasp. ...

I agree with statements that put this collusion down to temerity and fear, serving tactical political concerns such as not appearing soft on terorism, weak on defense, and s on. But do these assertions really explain anything? Aren't these tactics part of a much larger strategic vision that reflects a common set of assumptions that the Dems share with the Repubs?

I'm willing to characterize politicians and technocrats like Hayden in as moralistic terms as anyone else. Who doesn't think that politicans are egotistical, self-serving, and craven hacks? That is, everyone else's politician, not the ones who "work" for us and our local interests. So we are continually faced with the emotional state that something's wrong but we don't know why or how.

This last point merely echoes the old saw about "all politics is local." It works at a micro level where the over-arching principles and currents that determine the decisions of these politicians never get aired. But are there such principles? What are they?

Of course, we could say that the Dems act from no larger set of principles. If true, this just gives us one more reason to despise them. They simply let the Repubs set the agenda and then devise their own talking points by countering each Republican agenda point--to varying degrees to the left, so to speak. But they never question the very assumptions that determine the Repub agenda; were they to do so, they could undermine the very world-view that gives birth to the Repub agenda. But they never do question that world-view.

This Democratic operating procedure makes their own political agenda quite predictable, since all we need to do is to look to the Repubs and then triangulate the possible responses (or non-reponses) that the Dems can make to that agenda. Whether this situation implies a general moral failure on the Dems' part is almost beside the point. We can express moral outrage at their lack of spine, but all that does is create frustration and an anxious political itch.

It's perhaps a cliche to say that the Dems and Repubs are just two sides of the same coin. For the moment, it seems, the Repubs have the upper hand because they are more assertive and they lead while the Dems follow.

For the last 40 years or so, the Repubs have changed the public sphere from one of political dialog into one of cultural warfare. Values, life-styles, moral issues have become the political lingo. By attacking a perceived loose, anti-authoritarian, anarchistic, and narcisssistic 60s counter-culture ethos, the Repubs tap into three things: 1) guilt over excesses that individual 60s ex-patriates feel now that they have children to raise, 2) resentment and envy of the lower socio-economic classes over the lavish life-style lived by those very expatriates, and 3) a general economic angst that both lower class and middle-class feel in the winner-take-all workplace.

These three observations do not seem to have a common factor. Economic concerns do characterize 2 and 3. The first point, I'd argue, simply adds a psychological dimension to the economic factors in 2 and 3. Using this guilt, the Right can shame ex-60s expatriates into silence, since the 60s-70s are just a fad and you can be painted in the old hippie stereotype. And we all know what that means, don't we?

What's the solution? The Dems must undertake to question the very economic assumptions that inform the shared world-view of the Dems and Repubs. Until they do so, they will simply become mroe and more irrelvant and continue to morph into a sad, pale reflection of their alter-ego Republican "opponents."
Read more!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Are Journalists Better Than The Rest of Us?

Does the press have no more/no less rights than a citizen has? On the face of it, this seems to be an appeal to fairness and one that plays on the fear that someone will get more--have more rights--than someone else. The power of this suggestion is very strong in American life, where power, money, prestige, and other things rest on the principle of rights. ...

This emotionally charged appeal would then seem to work in a media critic's favor. We don't like to think that anyone else is getting something that we can't--in principle--get too. This argument sits at the basis of many of the Right and Left appeals for justice and equality.

Yet, I think that this appeal, while unsavory, is wrong not because of its implicit legal correctness but because it misses the point. That is, the rights that I have to freedom of expression are different from the rights that news media have. If I read the constitution correctly, freedom of the press is not lumped together with an individual's right to freedom of expression. Freedom of the press stands by itself as another right:

or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press [First Amendment]
This "freedom... of the press" could be seen from several angles. That is, I could see it from the angle of myself as a citizen who has an implied right to true ideas and information. This right is based on the presupposition that to carry out my duty as a citizen I must have the truest and most accurate information to make an informed political decision.

The second aspect of the right of a free press involves the rights of journalists as journalists. It seems to me that in their role of journalists, they perform a function that is inherently different from that of an individual citizen. This function, I suggest, has attached to it certain rights that go above and beyond those that an individual acting solely as a citizen has.

But there are people who have different rights, depending on their functions, no? Police have the right to kill people engaging in threatening acts. An executioner has the right to put someone to death. Soldiers can kill in war. These are rights that come in the preformance of a certain function. If a policeperson were to kill someone off-duty and without cause, they'd be prosecuted like you or me.

Journalists--as journalists--do have rights that accrue to their function of reporting news. They must have a press pass to enter places where you or I can't--a crime scene, for example. I believe that the case law on this protects these "special" rights that journalists have when they are carrying out their function as a journalist.

We should not conflate these two rights. Playing on the emotional appeal attached to the idea of someone having more or getting more via special privileges or rights, he wants to call into play the resentment that often haunts the modern representative democracy framework of government.

Yet, the framers of the constitution appear to have realized that a free press warrants a separable set of rights. These guarantee what further seems to be a necessity in a democracy: the free flow of and access to information that enables citizens to carry out their constitutional right to a free and democratic government. Read more!

P(ro)ersecuting the Press

This weekend, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said that journalists who leak sensitive government information--such as in the NYTimes story on NSA domestic spying--should be prosecuted for divulging important state secrets. This phenomenon of p(ro/er)secuting journalists must be seen from the larger perspective.

The manipulation of the press and news stories goes back to the 1920s, when Edward Bernays (Hitler's favorite adman) and Walter Lippmann were actively helping ogvernments formulate campaigns of misinformation. One of my favorite authors, John Dos Passos, fictionalized this process in his USA trilogy. So, what we see happening today has a long and unhallowed history. ...

What seems unique in today's news environment is the trashing of any pretension to presenting hard news. The presumption, I'd argue, in the past was that the news media had a duty to present information that the public could use to make informed decisions. Granted, the issues and information were often distorted and pre-selected, but the news media still gave out the impression that hard news mattered.

Today's media seem to have given up that pretension. The working assumption these days is manifest in the tabloid journalism that we find not only in newspapers but also on TV. Information as infotainment has captured the media boardrooms and their cohort of lower level editors. The ostensible reason for this is that this tabloid trash is what the public wants.

Of course, we could all week debating the issue whether the news gives the public what they want or create that need. From the writings of Bernays and Lippmann and others, the suspicion tend toward the latter, ie, the media create the need as an adjunct to capitalist interests.

It has been suggested by some that the political spin-meisters and public relations professionals are as much caught up in a system that they neither control nor have much influence over. That is, the underlying socio-economic factors are such that the media technorati simply respond to trends and currents as best they can. This possibility, Alastair Hannay writes, is truly sinister.

If Hannay is right, then the modern political context is much more chaotic and prone to disorder than is commonly believed. It shows that the media specialists and politicos are as much outsiders as anyone else. Who is running the show, then, would seem to be those who control the economics, who themselves have merely greater and greater accrual of capital as their number one priority.

Hannay suggests that what's required is for people to gain an outsider's outsider vantage point in respect to the socio-political context. The journalists are key to this vantage point. For without them, citizens in a democratic republic will never be able to gain insight into the atrocious machinations at work in undermining the democratic ethos.

Calling on the spirit of Voltaire, whose journalistic work in the torture and imprisonment of an innocent man set the model for later generations of journalists, Hannay suggests that they must be allowed to fulfill their function as the outsider's outsider.

Therefore, any attempt to p(ro)ersecute the truth-tellers is indeed a sinister development. When the political machinery is marshaled to silence its only critics, there's much more at stake than a journalist's reputation or well-being. Yes, as Glenn notes, the implications for the democratic form of government many cherish is threatened. But--and perhaps more importantly--is the very ethical processes that are required to form individual citizens whose responsibilities include more than simply gratifying consumer appetites.

This true because a country is only as ethically strong as is its instruments for conveying and distributing the truth. Individuals nurtured on and catered to infotainment will lose the ability to ascertain and deliberate about moral and ethical issues. They will not have the ethical character to do so.
Read more!

Behind the Scenes at Your Local Think Tank

Many people in the US think that laws and congressional legislation, as well as the major policies put forward by the President are responses to real issues that the public thinks and feels. But what if the idea that it's really insiders in Washington who set the public agenda? One think tank expert spills the beans on how they and their insider friends really determine what we get to vote on, maybe. ...

So how do you get people to accept the idea of sleeping with Uncle Sam, aka the NSA microphone under your bed? This is how think tanks move ideas from white board to policy:

Change can happen by accident, true: but it is just as often the product of deliberation and intent, and it does all of us well to understand the mechanisms by which it occurs.
Read more!

Xtian Right Wakes Up to 666?

I have noted the Xtian Right's hypocrisy on the govt. spying scandal for some time. One of the key parts of rapture theology, a.k.a. Dispensationalism, is the idea that the Beast 666, the Devil's emissary, will institute a surveillance program to track everyone. ...

Now Pat Robertson has broken the odd silence about this issue in reference to allegations of spying by the NSA. According to the following, Robertson told a group of students:

In light of the NSA wire-tapping revelation, which he called a "tool of oppression," Robertson admonished the Bush administration for "encroaching on" Americans' personal liberties.

Now Bush is really in trouble. My guess has been that much of the remaining 29 percent faithful in the polls are the fanatically faithful Xtian Right. About seven months ago, I suggested that Bush's approval ratings would hit 25 percent. Once Robertson gets onboard the anti-Bush ship, we could see those poll numbers dipping to around 20 percent. Read more!

Red-Neck, Trailer Park Rage Over Immigration

With the Congress' recent legislation on immigration and Pres. Bush's plan to send troops to help protect the border, much has been made in the rightist blogosphere about making sure that immigrants from Mexico not taint the purity of the American spirit.

I have maintained that much of the outrage expressed in the media and at the grass roots level emanating from the nativist undercurrent in American political life comes from a rage by dispossessed white Americans. ...

The socio-economic factors surrounding the enraged trailer redneck are paramount in understanding this rage. That rage is well-earned but it is misdirected. Their rage should be directed at a government that refuses to carry through on the promise of a revolution which was supposed to benefit everyone. The ugly fact is that the revolution has only benefited those at the top.

Bush and the Right has tried to deflect that rage by scapegoating--symbolically as you put it--the illegal immigrants. The problem is, the rage is so deep and the socio-economic disenfranchisement is so great that symbolic actions will not work. As these pundits exhibit, for the hardcore nativist nothing short of a military-style stand is enough.

One is right to note how the Bushites and the necons conned the religious right and the nativists. They played those cards, hoping to keep them at bay with largely irrelvant but ideologically powerful shadow plays.

Now, those factions want the promissory note paid. And Bush has to eat shit because he knows that if he pays them what they want, he'd look like the fascist fool many take him for anyway. The problem is the reality of his actions have not yet sunk in for Bush--he really thinks he's Gary Cooper or something. But the reality of his actions makes him out to be more like the Gene Hackman sheriff in Eastwood's Unforgiven. Witrh this issue on immigration, he's realizing the devil's pact he made with the nativists but which he thought he could wiggle out of.

On the other hand, the evangelical Xtians are pretty conflicted about the immigration issue, it seems. If true, then Bush is alienating some part of his evangelical base.

According to CBN News:

But other evangelical Christians are torn between a biblical belief in law and order, and the commandment to love one's neighbor.

When Marc Galli, the editor of Christianity Today, wrote an editorial praising illegal immigrants, he received a flood of angry emails.

Galli said, "The feeling was that if we allow illegal immigrants in and if we don't hold them accountable -- the illegal immigrants that are here -- we are going to have anarchy."

"What's concerning to some evangelicals,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, “is that immigration has gotten out of control. And there's the illegal side of immigration - not the legal side - that causes concern."

But in the end, Vallet believes her response to the immigration debate is in line with what Jesus would do.

She said, "There is law, of course, but there is also this thing called grace."
Read more!

NSA Spying Update

Now that has published secret documents relating to the NSA domestic spying case, the question remains: shouldn't we just scrap the 1970s laws that restrict spying on domestic communications since they are outmoded technologically and do not meet so-called post-911 intelleigence gathering requirements? This the proposal many on the Right are proposing. ...

This op-ed from the LATimes sums up this position I believe:

This archaic law [FISA] should be euthanized. Replace it with legislation that gives the president permission to order any surveillance deemed necessary, subject to only one proviso: If it is later determined that an intelligence-gathering operation was not ordered for legitimate national security objectives — if, for instance, it was designed to gather dirt on political opponents — then the culprits would be punished with lengthy prison sentences. Given that our intelligence bureaucracy leaks like a sinking ship, it is a safe bet that any hanky-panky would become front-page news faster than you can say "Pulitzer Prize."

So far there has been no suggestion that the NSA has done anything with disreputable motives. The administration has nothing to be ashamed of. The only scandal here is that some people favor unilateral disarmament in our struggle against the suicide bombers.
The onslaught against the constitution has now become blatant and it is trying to gain mainstream legitimacy. How will you and how will the public at large respond? Read more!

Did Bush Lie About WMDs or Anything Else?

Obviously, for now that's simply impossible since we don't have access to all the evidence. The Senate is investigating these alleged lies about pre-war intel, but that investigation has been stymied by the Republicans. ...

Until such an investigation takes place, we in the public are left with the less rigorous baseline of probability. Therefore, we can induce from evidence like that provided by Paul Rosenberg that Bush probably has lied and continues to lie.

There is one fact that seems undeniable. Most people believe that Bush lied about WMDs. That's the common-sense conclusion that people have drawn from the oh-so-certain assertions made by Bushco that there were WMDs in Iraq and the fact that none were found.

Whether this latter case is one of perception vs. reality is perhaps a matter of political will. That is, Bushco has to counter this perception with some form of counter-probability. From the polls, it seems that everything they have tried so far to produce a perception of truthfulness emanating from the White House is not working.
Read more!

Is It Moral to Take Responsibility for the Actions of Others?

Does personal morality or ethics mean taking responsibility for the actions of those we call countrymen? In what way are either I or you not responsible for the actions of the soldiers in the field fighting in our name in Iraq? …

In the American judicial system, people are often held responsible for things they did not do. I am responsible under some laws, for example, for what my child does. I am also responsible for something that occurs in my house, such as drug dealing, for example. A more dramatic example is when I know of a murder, do not do it, but am held responsible for it. All of these examples--perhaps obviously--are not equal. But it does show that individual responsibility according to the law does not stop at the limits of the skin on my teeth.

Indeed, one can only remember the Nuremberg trials to consider how much culpability resides in the actual act of killing and the actions of creating the conditions or possibility for that killing. Some have even gone so far as to accuse the German people per se of being responsible for the holocaust--simply by doing nothing.

But my own comments relate not to social or group responsibility. I am speaking from a first-person stance not a third person plural perspective.

The actions committed in my or your name seem to imply the idea that we are or morally should take responsibility for those actions. We may not want to take responsibility for them, shrinking back from their horror, but they are nonetheless ours. It seems that the type of distancing you suggest--a distancing that I might use to dissociate myself from the evil is in fact a mirror image of the types of moral distancing that occurs when a Bush, for example, talks about collateral damage being just a fact of war. He takes no personal responsibility for the deaths of innocent men, women, and children because a bomb did it, not him. This seems to me to be a morally bankrupt understanding or moral responsibility.

Ted Honderich talks about this in an essay:

What makes something right or wrong is what it can reasonably be expected to do. What makes it right or wrong is not what the person would do instead if he had more choice. It does not matter what he says to himself or others is his goal -- or what he puts out of his mind. The prate of politicians about freedom does not often justify frying people.

Do you need what is as good as a proof of this, out of your own judgement?

Consider an ordinary murderer. His wife left him and he won't take it. He glues the locks of the house she is in and sets fire to it, knowing that an entirely unconnected person went in there and is probably still there. No judge will agree that he is responsible for only one death. No relative of the unconnected person will feel or think that about him.

As the casualty figures for innocents killed on account of American and British soldiers mount, it is impossible to make a relevant difference between the action of the leaders of the soldiers and a young Palestinian woman who carries a bomb onto a bus in Israel to kill innocents and herself.

In a similar way, we must and should take responsibility for the actions of our soldiers in the field. That is the morally responsible thing to do. We should not hold ourselves somehow purer or immune to the consequences of unjust actions perpetrated by either our leaders or our fellow countrymen. That type of distancing only makes us appear self-righteous and holier-than-thou.

The reason for this non-distancing is important in the following way: by identifying with both the victim and the victimizer we gain a deeper insight into the truly human tragedy that is involved in these actions. From this understanding of the human tragedy involved, we can hopefully attain a moral distance that enables us to provide a deeper moral judgment that comprehends both the victim's viewpoint as well as the motivational factors determining the unjust actor's actions.

This latter distance would hopefully give us insight into how to attack and undermine those very determining factors that bring these other humans to carry out these barbaric acts. And via this insight we could thereby counter the actions and develop ways to undermine further acts of their kind.

My point, again, is that one must, to gain an appropriate moral distance, identify with those who commit the crimes and those who are the victims of those crimes. This is because doing so provides an insight based on the tragic nature of any situation.

What is the possible reason for this you might ask? Let me use an historical analogy. You are no doubt familiar with the South African Truth commission. The sole purpose of this commission was to allow victims and perpetrators to tell their stories. One of the reasons for this commission was to enable a form of public and communal forgiveness. Through telling their stories, the perpetrators became more human, less monstrous and fantastical. Thereby, victims and families of victims could find some basis of humanity in themselves that showed how much of the criminal we might indeed have in ourselves.

The forgiveness could not happen if the community continued to hold itself purer and holier-than-thou. In some way, individuals had to recognize themselves in both victim and perpetrator.

The brunt of my previous comment posited that to attain a truly moral distance one must accept responsibility for the actions that others perpetrate. This is a responsibility--of course--that does not imply legal culpability, although it might (I think of nations that allow slavery or genocide). It does imply the notion that to take on injustice I must oppose the perpetrator in myself before I can hope to destroy the injustice that others perpetrate.
Read more!

The Bush Spin-Machine, According to Simon Critchley

Simon Critchley has some important remarks about how this administartion and its apologists do politics. For Critchley, contrary to the view on the left that Bush is an idiot, Bush and his minions are extremely adept at using the main tools of politics: fear and terror.

Critchley writes:

This idea of politics as the management of fear is nothing new. ... Shore up the mean with reverence and terror. But never banish terror from the gates of the state. The stronger the fear, the stronger the reverence for the just, the stronger your country's wall and the city's safety. A safer world, a more hopeful America, to recall the slogan of the brilliantly, indeed spectacularly, well-managed Republican National Convention in New York in September 2004. The political as the strength of the country's wall, is maintained through an economy of fear and an economy of terror. Peace is nothing more than the regulation of the psycho-political economy of awe and reverential fear, of using the threat of terror in order to bind citizens to the circuit of their subjection.

As a general outline for how this administration marshals its power in the field, we can see how Bushites always work at creating an enemy. Once this is done, they then proceed to raise the danger that these enemies pose to the "righteous" thoughts and morality that buttress the US social order. Enemies who give the lie to this fantasy threaten the noble lies that the Bush admin uses to justify its domestic and its foreign policies. These noble lies include the concepts of freedom, democracy, and human rights.

For Critchley, the Bushites' political mobilization of fear and lie occurs via a millenarian context--that is, the language used is depoliticized because it relies on the religious, absolute and supposedly context-free universality of divine revelation.

[T]he [Bushite] concept of the political is based on the fantasy construction of the enemy and maintenance of the economy of awe and terror that allows order to be secured in the so-called homeland. On the other hand, the decisive feature that defines the current US administration is a thoroughgoing hypocrisy about the political. What I mean is that, in Carl Schmitt's terms, there is something chronically depoliticising about the ideology of the current administration. Going back to those ignoble lies that are being told, contemporary US imperial power espouses an utterly moralising, universalist, indeed millennial, ideology whose key signifier is freedom. Allied to freedom are notions of democracy and human rights, and the administration even has the audacity to speak about human dignity in the 2002 National Security Strategy document that provided the metaphysical justification for pre-emptive military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While Critchley is critical of this politics, however, he sees it as highly effective. Its hypocrisy resides in the disconnect between the propaganda about the higher virtues of justice and the actions undertaken to accomplish those ideals. The depoliticized nature of the ideals--thgrough revelation--allows them to marshal the fear of a higher power at the same time that the means used to accomplish these ideals literally can include every possible means.

The "depoliticizing" aspect of the Bushian approach to politics which Critchley refers to is the idea that there are laws that are beyond time/space and historical conditioning. Bush's pronouncements sound as though he's saying something eternal, absolute and without question. For his base, of course, this goes without saying. However, even for those on the Right who have no religious proclivities, there's still the notion that some essential "human nature" exists and that Bush's style of down-home rhetoric reflects that truth about what it means to be a human being.

Critchley suggests that the religious terminology used by the Bush apologists for their decision making appears to take the political decisions out of the political realm. This is the fantasy part of Critchley's essay. The fantasy involves a duplicitous use of religious rhetoric to cover for what are really political decisions. These political decisions are really the stuff and substance of every political system per se. That is, the use and maipulation of fear and terror. The religious terminology ameliorates the brute reality of these political gestures by the Bush fantasy machine.

Neoliberalism serves as the "space" or logical context in which the religious ideology of Bush and his apologists can be brought into play. This type of religious ideology has its own unique characteristics that differentatiate it from, say, the way that Christianity was used (or fit) in the Roman Empire, in the rise of industrial capitalism in the 19th century, and so on. Each socio-economic era does seem to give rise to various, perhaps determined, religious possibilities and individual types. That neoliberalism has given rise to free-market evangelicals (think of Robertson and others) who spread not just the Gospel of Xrist but also American-style capitalism perhaps best exemplifies this.

The Critchley article does not address these questions directly but merely seems to describe something that, for me, is simply a fact--that the neoliberal Xtian, such as Bush, sells an economico-political agenda by asserting the non-historically conditioned form of Xtianity--a Xtianity that, according to this ideology, has no contingent accretions. It is instead a way of getting direct access to God. As such, the Bushites can declare that its political appeal is to an authority above and beyond merely historically conditioned laws, procedures, institutions, etc.

This is part, I think of what Critchley is saying the fantasy of the Bush ideology involves. The fantasy here, of course, is that the Bush ideology can assert truths that are non-contingent and that are therefore non-political. This millenarian aspect--the depoliticized, religious nature of the Bush doctrines--leads the Bushite apologists to raise apocalyptic premonitions of disaster. At the same time, the depoliticized nature of the rhetoric enables them to suggest what most would call inquistional tactics and terrorist modes of attack against its perceived enemies.

Critchley's points about fear and terror and forming enemies falls out from this depoliticized formulation of the Bush ideology. The fear and terror are the key instruments used in governing any political system. By calling upon a higher authority, one that transcends time/space, the Bush political machinery can use these tools in such a way as to give the illusion of eternal verity. The illusion (Critchley calls it fantasy) seems, therefore, two-fold: 1) that a political ideology can be realized from sources that are non-contingent, and 2) that the implementation of it using the tools of terror and fear arise from an eternal authority, ergo beyond earthly question.

I may be stating the obvious here. If so, please disregard the comments. But I do think that Critchley has homed in on very important aspects of the Bush ideology. Critchley has done so by focusing on fear and terror, psychological elements that form the basis of any state or political structuring. The recognition of the use of fear and terror in governing a state goes back to Plato. (Note Critchley's allusion to the noble lie.) For in his Republic Plato stresses that the guardians (those who rule the state) must be taught "what to fear and what not to fear." In knowing this, the guardians thefore derive their respect for the laws and also their very ability to maintain control over Plato's version of Orwell's proles. Read more!

US War Atrocities in Iraq

Dahr Jamail is reporting on US atrocities in Iraq. Dahr links to a video of a US Army Ranger who tells how he and his unit executed suspected terrorists' children. ...

NOTE: The link to the video is currently broken. Check back to view it--if it hasn't been permanently blocked/removed/etc.

"When we were doing the night raids in the houses, we would pull people out and have them all on their knees and zip-tied. We would ask the man of the house questions. If he didn't answer the way we liked, we would shoot his youngest kid in the head. We would keep going, this was our interrogation. He could be innocent. He could be just an average Joe trying to support his family. If he didn't give us a satisfactory answer, we'd start killing off his family until he told us something. If he didn't know anything, I guess he was SOL."
Also see this article. Read more!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fear and Fantasy

According to Simon Critchley:

To summarise my main point, the Bush administration has a clear and strong understanding of the political, but this is wrapped up in a moralising, depoliticised discourse. This combination is hypocritical but politically extremely effective. It is, indeed, lethal to its enemies.
Read more!

The Moral Babarism of Our Great Leader

According to Ted Honderich:

No decent morality, no morality worth disputing with, could conclude that the reasons assembled for the Iraq war, that mess, plus this stuff about unintentional killing of innocents, could justify it. The morality of humanity condemns it. No decent morality, no morality above contempt, could justify our leaders and political parties.

Our leaders have been deficient in moral intelligence. The morality of humanity condemns them absolutely. It places them on a level with bin Laden. It brings them together with Sharon. It joins them to Saddam Hussein. Bush and Blair are greater contributors than they to the Iraq killings.

And the question of right and wrong now, of what to do now? It is not hard. It follows from what you have heard. Also from the photographs of naked men on leashes in the American prison in Baghdad, and the film of the savage beatings of young captives by British soliders.

This is moral barbarism, moral barbarism that trickles down from the leaders of two democracies. A rich and decent people can have a barbarian government. This is far larger than the fact that our illegal war has course been exactly a terrorist war -- it has had all the features of terrorism itself except for being larger-scale. It has been killing and maiming, for a political and social end, illegal, and prima facie wrong.
Read more!

The New Native

The native--remember the ones we decided to exterminate in love of gold, land, freedom? Remember... the ersatz native drums, head dresses, moccasins that line the walls of the trucker diners on highway 40? Oh well, who cares...

The new native, according to Richard Rodriguez is the illegal alien, aka wetback, aka illegal, aka illegal immigrant:

Of course, there are those in America who now say, “We are a complete nation. We don't need any more immigrants.” But by and large, the idea that immigrants contribute to the formation of a work in progress still dominates the American imagination.

Truly, in America today, the past and the future are meeting each other. It is at this border of time that the United States now plans to put tanks and soldiers, and there is talk of a wall.

What this obsession reveals, perhaps, is the nativist anxiety of a relatively young country that has been black and white since its founding. A future marriage to Latin Americans, literally and figuratively, means the introduction of the mestizo or mixed culture — what Jose Vasconcelos, the education minister at the time of the Mexican Revolution, called “la raza cosmica.”

In some profound way, this transformation is subversive, freeing America from its black/white dialectic. Ultimately, what we mestizos bring to the United States is a sense of impurity. After all, we are a people who violate borders. That is our gift.
Read more!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Speaking Common-sense to the Hoi Polloi

That people are unwilling to give up their preconceptions and most cherished beliefs is understandable and perhaps uniquely human. If people were always changing their minds, heck, they'd be in constant upheaval, probably psychologically unstable. You have to believe in something that does not change all the time to get along in life. ...

The Bushites have put their--understandable--faith and trust in GW. That's understandable for all kinds of reasons. Bush represents a worldview that brings order to the chaos of the modern world. He appeals to a higher authority for his actions, something many in their most dire moments find themselves doing.

As polls show, a huge majority of people in the US would not even give an atheist who runs for office the time of day. So, the notion that many voted for Bush because he is a man of faith is also quite normal and reasonable. People want a leader who just doesn't pull his/her principles out of their rear ends. They hope/want to believe that the leader understands that there is a higher law, a higher power than base human self-interest.

S'alls good so far. With 911, the majority of the public rallied around the flag and by implication the commander-in-chief. To do otherwise would be unreasonable--perhaps even anti-social, if not treasonous, given the nature of the attack and its consequences.

In his role of (supposed) commander-in-chief, the majority of the people were willing to give the President a lot of leeway in deciding what is or is not in the country's interests. He has the info, after all, that we the public cannot and probably should not know or have access to.

There was very little criticism of the President's military operation in Afghanistan. Any criticism that there was was looked upon as either eccentric at best, misplaced at worst. Most people could live with that--we are a nation proud of its tradition of freedom of expression.

The war in Iraq seemed absolutely reasonable to a majority of people, especially given the "evidence" evinced by the Knower-in-chief and his knower insiders. Who could argue with the possibility of germ letters, mushroom cluds on the horizon, and the crazy Arab/Moslems who all look alike and whom people can hardly tell part anyway?

The breaking point to this wholly reasonable and common-sense view of the public came with the fact that no WMDs were found. Then there's the fact that many Iraqis just didn't lie down and accept us as liberators. If there's one thing that the public can't stand it is being lied to by the knower-in-chief or anyone else. People generally don't like to be seen by others as rubes or self-deluded fools who'll believe in falshood.

But there're those who see the world differently than most people who believe in comon-sense. These people see common-sense just as a form of PCness and therefore self-delusion. These true believers are the ones who see reality, see the truth, see the REAL threat.

The fact that facts do not turn out in the way they were reported is simply a matter of interpretation and open to an infinite number of interpretations. Here, big picture view overrides petty facts. The point is that these "facts" are just details that only the petty-minded enemies use to attack and undermine the greater reality.

This greater reality is that 1) western/American values are under attack from inside by the secularist/relativists, 2) under attack from outside by medievalist mind-sets, 3) Moslems/Arabs are procreating like rats and, given the nature of their ideology, are all born to be terrorists who mindlessly wish to kill us and our cherished way of life, and 4) the nature of reality is struggle and the winners in this struggle are those who will go to any lengths to protect themselves.

Of course, fewer and fewer of the majority public are willing to accept much of this. To the true believers, they are caught in the snares of illusion and self-deception. Depending on the filter you want to use, they are either those who will be Left Behind or duped masses who will follow any lie just as long as the facade of truth can be ginned up in the form of threat to their private worlds and consumerist fantasies.

We must assume some things about this "gullible" majority. We must assume that they have the ethical disposition to common-sense judgement to weed out fact from fiction. I still believe that most people are disposed to acknowledging a more reasonable, common-sense argument such as several coming from the Left and elsewhere.

At heart, this argument will be more credible to the public the more it appeals to them as ethical beings who do indeed think that the truth in the form of evidential and forensic facts matter.

In a world of change and variability, all truth is probabilistic. In most cases, people in general are willing to believe the better argument which can prove its case inductively. Truth in this case is the more probable.

Given all the potential for manipulation and spin that the political insiders give to the facts, there are just some things that you can't deny. In the argument presented by some on the Left and elsewhere, the things that people can't and won't deny is something that relates to an inherent immorality that inspires the grand gestures perpetrated by this admin.
Read more!