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Malcolm X was prescient
March 3, 2005 9:34 AM   Subscribe


 
China has been doing this every year for a while.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 AM on March 3, 2005


Ah, but it's different. Because, you know, we're America. And God likes us better.
posted by kgasmart at 9:42 AM on March 3, 2005


And that, delmoi, makes it ok for us for us to do too.
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:43 AM on March 3, 2005


China has been doing this every year for a while.

It's important to note (as the article does), delmoi, that China's statements are not coming from the foreign ministry but the cabinet of the Premier himself, and that it is a lot more charged and pointedly written. And when taken along with all the rest of the other nations also complaining about it, that arguably makes it a "bigger deal."
posted by tittergrrl at 9:51 AM on March 3, 2005


You even included the Goldhagen book. Very good, orthogonality. Thank you.
posted by davy at 9:52 AM on March 3, 2005


China has been issuing this report for six years, which critices the US for anything they can think of --including violent crime and domestic violence (both of which are underreported in China). The old USSR issued constant condemnations of the US human rights record. Saudi Arabia and other countries have repeatedly said that their women don't want to be able to vote. If you really don't see a difference between current Chinese and Russian approaches to human rights and the US, then something is wrong.

Torture is bad. Prison abuses are bad. But there are mechanisms for balance in the US, as well as a democratic system that allows the government to be overturned every few years. We should all be concerned by abuses in the US, but we should not let other countries with worse records get away with much worse hypocracy. We do not need to be without sin to be able to make a change.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:53 AM on March 3, 2005


If you really don't see a difference between current Chinese and Russian approaches to human rights and the US, then something is wrong.

I think that's the point.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:56 AM on March 3, 2005


The fact that China is bringing this up doesn't make it more true than it has been for some time. The government of our country has no real commitment to any higher principles that I can think of except for being Pro-Life and Pro-$$$. Our ruling party's elite shows no sign of being anything other than highly corrupt, dishonest, jaded and hypocritical individuals.

But like the Good Germans there is literally nothing that I can think of to do about it. What can I possibly do? I protest, I sent a lot of money I didn't have to their opposition, I present reasoned arguments against our government to every Republican I know and as far as I can see this has all had zero impact. Nada.
posted by n9 at 9:57 AM on March 3, 2005


orthogonality, do you really see this spinning into a good conversation? Okay, maybe you do. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. I still say this is bad; news links + inflammatory rhetoric = meanness and emptiness on all sides. But I'll try.

Maybe you can explain: what do you mean by this, orthogonality? I'm sort of conservative, and I guess I have trouble putting these things together. There are a lot of disturbing news links here about a torture incident, and then some other countries condemning the United States on their human rights record. I don't know how to connect these; can you tell me? Are you saying you're afraid that the United States is going the way of Germany in the 1930s? I've already said before that I think this is sort of crazy; you, I think (I don't know) disagree with me. You should have a chance to speak for yourself, so go ahead.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 AM on March 3, 2005


The thing that's amazed me most of all, not recently but four years ago, is that if you were to argue with a Republican over the legitimacy of the Bush Administration he would completely dismiss the concerns as being unimportant and even possibly seditious.

Essentially, what was being said is that to a Republican gaining control of the White House was more important than making sure that American democracy actually decided the outcome.

That opinion does not seem to have abated since. In the debate over the no-paper-trail, no-accountability Diebold voting machines it seemed to be the unified right-wing position that any such concerns didn't matter at all and that everyone should just take it on faith that nothing was broken.

That's incredibly sad. Maybe one reason that people don't make the "...or the terrorists have already won" joke anymore is that they realize that the terrorists have, in fact, already won, by which I mean that they have succeeded in tipping the US government and society into a situation where America has abandoned everything that she claims to stand for.
posted by clevershark at 9:58 AM on March 3, 2005


Think your analogy of using "Good Germans" is off as US is not killing Iraqis on US soil. Doing this you may have Godwined your post. You are pointing at Americans in The United States, can't you say that? Bad Americans. Please recognize the correct citizens here as current Germans maybe appalled having their Name lumped in with it too.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:01 AM on March 3, 2005


Torture is bad. Prison abuses are bad. But there are mechanisms for balance in the US, as well as a democratic system that allows the government to be overturned every few years.

I doubt this is much comfort to the people currently being held without due process and tortured in US prisons.

We should all be concerned by abuses in the US, but we should not let other countries with worse records get away with much worse hypocracy.

Oh, "they're hypocrisy is worse than our hypocrisy"? And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
posted by 327.ca at 10:02 AM on March 3, 2005


Torture is bad. Prison abuses are bad. But there are mechanisms for balance in the US, as well as a democratic system that allows the government to be overturned every few years.

I doubt this is much comfort to the people currently being held without due process and tortured in US prisons.

We should all be concerned by abuses in the US, but we should not let other countries with worse records get away with much worse hypocracy.

Oh, "their hypocrisy is worse than our hypocrisy?" And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
posted by 327.ca at 10:02 AM on March 3, 2005


clevershark: "The thing that's amazed me most of all, not recently but four years ago, is that if you were to argue with a Republican over the legitimacy of the Bush Administration he would completely dismiss the concerns as being unimportant and even possibly seditious."

As I recall, there were several articles in Commentary (the most neoconservative publication there is) about how they thought it was incredibly disconcerting that the supreme court was involved in an election. Their general consensus seemed to be that it was wrong, even if they liked the outcome.


I know it might not mean much, but it's human nature that people don't complain when their immediate wishes are fulfilled. The same thing happens on both sides of the camp.
posted by koeselitz at 10:05 AM on March 3, 2005


327. Abuses in the US should not be excused, but the implications of the first part of the post is that the US should mind its own business first, or somehow has lost the right to criticize. That too, is immoral. To quote Richard Stallman:

"The report's conclusion is that the US, being guilty of human rights abuses, should stop criticizing other countries. That conclusion seems to rest on the view that criticism of human rights abuses is nothing but a way of harrassing another country--so that China is really telling the US, "Hey, lay off, or I can do the same to you." That cynical view assumes that human rights have no real importance and no one ought to stand up for them. That cynical view is present implicitly any time someone says, "My country is ok because some countries are worse," or, "You can't talk; your country is guilty too.""
posted by blahblahblah at 10:15 AM on March 3, 2005


If I may add to what was previously stated.

If you really don't see a difference between current Chinese and Russian [and Cuban and Iranian and Syrian and South American and African and the majority of European and Asian] approaches to human rights and the US, then something is wrong [with you].

Ongoing criticism and debate is productive and necessary. There is certainly much of that happening within the US and across the globe with respect to security, civil rights and the balance that must be struck between the two. Hysteria, hyperbole and shrill edicts about "moral authority" threaten honest analysis of "human rights" more than the PATRIOT act or Alberto Gonzales ever could.

Also, the Tehran Times has some articles that I think were neglected in compiling this list.
posted by loquax at 10:22 AM on March 3, 2005


"Also, the Tehran Times has some articles that I think were neglected in compiling this list."


--nice one! Very good technique, painting with the broad brush of 'biased, dirty, enemy 'journalism'. Pundits piss poor in debate have been using that skill to effectively cut short valid sources of discussion for too long , i think, but i digress.

There are some honestly very valid points made in this thread... I am presently surprised. Although I am surprised Fark wasn't sourced in the argument.. (see how that works? cool hunh?)

I happen to agree with the idea that our record doesn't have to be spotless to make correctons:
Analogy:
Bill:
"Jesus Christ frank, you just killed your family with a hacksaw!!"

Frank: "hey, look who's talking, i saw you hit Marge for burning your dinner last week!"

Bill:
"good point, hack away!!"

But i think what the other side of the argument points out, and is very valid , is that the built-in reciprical argument is just as shitty and invalid:

George:
"Holy Crap! Bill is beating his wife!"

Bill:
"hey, look at Frank, he's Killing his wife!'

George:
"oh yeah, carry on..."

So, the point is, it is great that we are trying our damndest to right the wrongs of human rights abuses abroad...but when that brings our own abuses to light, shouldn't we be focusing a little energy on fixing them as well? I mean, besides hiding everyhting surrounding the details as 'national security issues'. That is SOMETHING...but a far cry from action
posted by das_2099 at 10:36 AM on March 3, 2005


Hmmm... Interesting question, blahblahblah.

I wonder if there's a useful distinction to be made between positions taken by countries in the form of foreign policy and positions taken by individuals.

The Bush administration has (IMHO) lost whatever moral authority it inherited and, I think, deserves the official condemnation of other nations. I just don't want to hear the Presnit say that "freedom is on the march" ever again. It's a degrading statement and it makes me sick. There may be "mechanisms for balance in the US, as well as a democratic system that allows the government to be overturned every few years," but clearly something was more important than human rights in the last election and the slide into fascism continues at an increasing pace. (Again, IMHO.)

On the other hand, there are countless dissenting Americans deeply concerned about human rights whose voices matter even more, now that their views are in such sharp contrast to those of the administration.
posted by 327.ca at 10:45 AM on March 3, 2005


This is depressing, but I guess I knew it was coming. Of course the people who don't give a shit about torturing "others" are going to be the same ones who don't give a shit about what the other countries think. They're just not going to be savvy enough to comprehend the implications.
posted by malaprohibita at 10:45 AM on March 3, 2005


This passage from the link to the poll on public sentiment for curtailing the liberties of Muslim American citizens struck me as worthy of scrutiny:

The results were based on 715 completed telephone interviews of respondents across the United States, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.

Is it even statistically possible for poll results based on such a small, inherently biased sample (including only respondents with telephones, and probably only those with conventional land lines, at that) to have such a small margin of error? My understanding of statistics is that small samples like this can produce extremely misleading results.

This is one of my pet peeves: Incomplete disclosure of polling methods. What's to stop pollsters from running a poll until they get the responses they need and then only reporting whatever sample size gives them a desired result? Say I poll 2000 people, and 25 percent of them tell me what I want to hear. If I were to selectively cut back my sample size to 1000 or fewer of the respondents, couldn't I report that 50% of the poll respondents gave some desired response, with a 3.9% or similar margin of error?

I'm not suggesting that anything is wrong with the methodology of this particular poll (aside from the sample potentially being unrepresentative of the general population). I'd just like to know what mechanisms (if any) exist to stop pollsters from gaming their poll results in this way...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 10:47 AM on March 3, 2005


malaprohibita: "This is depressing, but I guess I knew it was coming. Of course the people who don't give a shit about torturing "others" are going to be the same ones who don't give a shit about what the other countries think. They're just not going to be savvy enough to comprehend the implications."

What are the implications?
posted by koeselitz at 10:49 AM on March 3, 2005


koeselitz writes There are a lot of disturbing news links here about a torture incident, and then some other countries condemning the United States on their human rights record. I don't know how to connect these; can you tell me? Are you saying you're afraid that the United States is going the way of Germany in the 1930s? I've already said before that I think this is sort of crazy; you, I think (I don't know) disagree with me. You should have a chance to speak for yourself, so go ahead."

This isn't about me, it's about the links. And I'll try very hard to not read "[y]ou should have a chance to speak for yourself, so go ahead" as condescending.

That said, I have always been a patriot, I have always fervently loved my country, and -- I'll be honest -- I thought there was something special about being an American.

I was never a lefty. In fact, I remember back in the 1980s arguing with lefties, some of whom in addition to bashing America, told me how wonderful the USSR was.

My response (having read The Gulag Archipelago) was always that whatever the United States did wrong, we didn't arrest people at midnight, hold them without charges in Lubyankas, or have a policy of torturing prisoners -- but that Stalin's and Brezhnev's and even Andropov's Russian did.

And when I met people from Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or the Soviet Union or Iraq or Iran, I was always polite, but I would wonder silently to myself "How can these people be proud of being Kuwaiti or Saudi or Russian or Iraqi or Iranian, when they know that they're well-off enough to be tourists or students in America because of their regime back home, a regime that is ultimately based on suppressing political dissent by arbitrary arrest, torture and execution. I always wondered what mental gymnastics were required to see oneself as "civilized" when one's prosperity and access to the amenities of civilization were built on the bloodied backs of beaten prisoners.

Well, now I know. Because I'm as much a "good German" (or Kuwaiti or Russian or Iraqi) as any of them were.

It's not just that torture -- whoops! -- happened. We had an official policy not only authorizing torture but also claiming that the President of the United States can set aside laws he prefers not to obey! And according to the U.S. Attorney General, while the torture policy is currently in abeyance, he, the highest law-enforcement officer in the land, still believes the President can arbitrarily set aside laws. And teh President, says the Attorney General, can even bring back torture if it's his whim to do so.

(Conservatives rail about "activist judges"; don't Presidents unconstrained by law worry you too?)

And after knowing about this torture, and these polices, a majority of Americans reelected the President responsible, and a majority of the United States Senators consented to the elevation of a man who at best looked the other at an official US policy of torture.

In the past, you're right, we could afford to ignore hypocritical Chinese or Russian criticism of our human rights record. But now that we have consented to make an admitted and unrepentant torturer US Attorney General, we can't. We're not upholding the American values that made America a little better than the rest. We're all "good Germans" now, and any idea of "American exceptionalism" is consigned to the dustbin of history.

And I am angry, and I am ashamed, that my America has been turned into a country that can't unequivocally say: "we are not like Communist China, we are not like Russia, we have morals and values and we do not do those things totalitarian regimes do."
posted by orthogonality at 11:03 AM on March 3, 2005


Nice job orthogonality. With torture of prisoners apparently sanctioned at the highest levels of government in the United States and with the new practice of locking away prisoners without access to due process or counsel, the US is starting to sound pretty hypocritical in criticizing other nations' human rights abuses. I am not so sure we have fallen so far as to lose our moral authority to make such charges, but they certainly carry less impact now.
posted by caddis at 11:08 AM on March 3, 2005


What I find most interesting about this is less what the Bush administration does and more what the public is apparently willing to tolerate. Because as orthogonality says, what has happened in the past few years is simply extraordinary; and it might not have happened had the public in general been as outraged about it as we profess to be when similar things happen in, say, China.

But the reason is obvious; we in the United States will do virtually anything and excuse virtually anything so long as we don't have to live through another 9/11. And to try and tell someone that by some of these actions we may actually be increasing the chances that another 9/11 will happen simply Does Not Compute.
posted by kgasmart at 11:09 AM on March 3, 2005


And I am angry, and I am ashamed, that my America has been turned into a country that can't unequivocally say: "we are not like Communist China, we are not like Russia, we have morals and values and we do not do those things totalitarian regimes do."

I don't want to sound facile, but isn't this the pitfall of patriotism? Nations will always ultimately disappoint. It's that old bit about "things fall apart, the centre will not hold." If we hold nations above people, then we're bound to fail.
posted by 327.ca at 11:12 AM on March 3, 2005


(Thanks, orthogonality. And I'm sorry if I sounded condescending-- I didn't mean to be.)
posted by koeselitz at 11:14 AM on March 3, 2005


Is it even statistically possible for poll results based on such a small, inherently biased sample (including only respondents with telephones, and probably only those with conventional land lines, at that) to have such a small margin of error?

Sure. Margins of error aren't affected by selection bias; for that you have to be careful about what the relevant population is (ie, people with landlines who are willing to talk to you; the number of people in the US with no phone service is negligible), or model the selection process.

Selection bias is a problem, but it's a different problem from sample error, which margins-of-error deal with.

My understanding of statistics is that small samples like this can produce extremely misleading results.

715 isn't a small sample; it's, to use a technical term, middling to big.

715 is a small number relative to 300 million, yes. But it turns out that sample error isn't very sensitive to population size -- 715 people is about as good a sample of 10,000 people as it is of 100,000 people as it is of 100,000,000,000 people. Most of the calculations for things like margin of error assume that the population is infinite for mathematical convenience.

What's to stop pollsters from running a poll until they get the responses they need and then only reporting whatever sample size gives them a desired result?

Nothing at all. But if it got out, they'd never work in that field again.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:16 AM on March 3, 2005


If we hold nations above people, then we're bound to fail.

amen.
posted by mr.marx at 11:16 AM on March 3, 2005


And I am angry, and I am ashamed, that my America has been turned into a country that can't unequivocally say: "we are not like Communist China, we are not like Russia, we have morals and values and we do not do those things totalitarian regimes do."

Hyperbole aside, when was America "turned" this way? By whom? When was America ever able to unequivocally claim what you state? Was it in the '60s? The 70's? The 80's? When, for the love of god? Was America's moment in the sun the Roosevelt administration? How about the great liberal administrations of Ike Eisenhower and Richard Nixon? Maybe LBJ's era represents the time when America was above all reproach? Was it when Metafilter was a garden of love, respect and tolerance? Perhaps you're not familiar with American history, but the current human rights regime and foreign policy in place is a heck of a lot closer to any objective high point than it is to the low. I'd really like to know how you would have felt about America in 1973.

I *can* unequivocally say that America is not like Communist China, and is not like Russia. America does have morals and values (like all other countries and peoples) but does not do the vast majority of things that totalitarian regimes do, and when American administrations do some of those things, they are far less severe and subject to far more scrutiny and public protest, with the ultimate power of removal from office residing with the people. I'm angry and ashamed when people don't internalize those basic truths and work to minimize the exceptions to these rules, and instead cast a blind eye to reason in standing on a soapbox proclaiming that end times is nigh.

I hope you feel good about yourself, orthogonality, in condemning "America", because the overwhelming majority of this planet is laughing at you, and many would gladly risk life and limb to be subject to the horrors of life in New Jersey, or wherever it is that you are, living under the cruel and Nazi-like republican boot.
posted by loquax at 11:39 AM on March 3, 2005


thomcatspike writes "Please recognize the correct citizens here as current Germans maybe appalled having their Name lumped in with it too."

Well boo-fucking-hoo. There are still original Nazis, and Germans who profited from the Holocaust, alive. Indeed, the German government still gives pensions to retired SS men -- but not to former slave laborers who toiled for Das Dritte Reich. De-nazification was largely a joke, and even some of those at Wannsee, yes, at fucking Wannsee! -- got to lead quiet and prosperous lives as "pillars of the community" after the war.

And got to die in bed surrounded by their adoring families. And got to pass along their wealth to their heirs, those current-day Germans. And were never packed into cattle-cars and never had their children wrenched from their hands, never to be seen alive again.

So boo-fucking-hoo if some "current German" is "appalled" at having it alluded to that his grandpa actually did think der Führer was great guy, cheered the Nuremberg Laws, and looked the other way when they filled the crematoria. Odds are, his grandpa did.

Current day Germans should be appalled by what their grandpas and grandmas did, not at my alluding to those things.

I'm not going to hold my own country's feet to the fire on this and overlook the complicity of "average" Germans in Naziism, not am I going to tell modern-day Germans that they don't have a special historical burden to carry. Because they damned well do.

Frankly, on my darker days, I wonder if we shouldn't have dumped the Marshall Plan for the Morgenthau Plan.
posted by orthogonality at 11:47 AM on March 3, 2005


subject to far more scrutiny and public protest

Well, that is the rub here now isn't it? Where is the outcry over torture? Where is the outcry over incarceration without due process and without access to counsel? Hah, it is suppressed by fear. Brave America is now willing to trade the freedom for which we fought so hard for the illusion of security. We have changed for the worse since 9/11 and our moral authority is slipping.
posted by caddis at 11:58 AM on March 3, 2005


Not only that, caddis, but it is going to slip further.

As the War on Terror may last decades, or so we are told, we may expect decades of these incremental infringements upon the sort of freedoms we have long taken for granted.

If you didn't like the Patriot Act, just wait 'til the inevitable next terror attack on American soil. And we'll gladly acquiesce to it, because quite counter to what Franklin said, we are willing to trade freedom for security. Because we're not Muslim or an immigrant, so it doesn't concern us if, as Michelle Malkin has so infamously suggested, the Muslims are trotted off to camps.

And that it how we become Good Germans.
posted by kgasmart at 12:05 PM on March 3, 2005


Loquax, this country was never lily-white in the human rights area. But the difference between human-rights abuses that were hushed up, or were properly condemned when they came to light, vs. human rights abuses that have been shrugged off or even justified, is the difference between a government I can still feel proud about and a government that makes me ashamed

Yeah, New Jersey is better than, say, Tehran. Should we wait until things even out before we say something? Have we really set the bar that low? Loquax, when things do get that bad, will you be the one to come down to the station house and help us out?

And by the way, I'm sure Berlin in the late 30's was about as good a place to be as Hoboken today, if (and this is a big "if") you were part of the right group of people. Just because the "cruel and Nazi-like republican boot" is stomping other people in other places doesn't mean we can't raise the alarm.

[That being said, the stench of Godwining here is strong. Can we find a better analogy than the Nazis?]
posted by PlusDistance at 12:07 PM on March 3, 2005


Loquax: Is it really enough to say "Well, at least our executive branch isn't abusing its expanded powers as liberally as it could be. You should be ashamed for thinking they ever intend to!" Isn't the point that the system itself is now trending in an undemocratic direction? I think what orthogonality and others are concerned about is the continuing corruption of America's core democratic ideals. Your response overlooks the substance of these charges completely. You haven't directly addressed, much less refuted, a single direct charge against the administration. You can't honestly believe that American democracy has survived this long because American leaders were wise enough not to abuse their power? Our civic obligation as American citizens is to vigorously defend existing checks on the power of all the branches of our government, no matter the historical circumstances. And when is concentrating more power in the executive branch actually supposed to start helping in the 'war on terror'? Bush has had all the power a President can humanly have for more than a couple of years now (since the legislative and judicial branches have been so flaccid), and we still haven't even managed to snare Bin Laden. Hell, we haven't even tracked down the guys who slipped anthrax into all those democratic lawmakers' legislative mailboxes. Remember that? Most mainstream news reports no longer even allude to this incident when discussing terrorist attacks on American soil. Why is that? It's a huge embarrassment that investigations into those incidents have yielded so little information.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 12:18 PM on March 3, 2005


"...subject to far more scrutiny and public protest..."

"Well, that is the rub here now isn't it? Where is the outcry over torture?"


Maybe it's tucked away in some nice, secluded free-speech zone...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 12:22 PM on March 3, 2005


PlusDistance: "Yeah, New Jersey is better than, say, Tehran. Should we wait until things even out before we say something? Have we really set the bar that low? Loquax, when things do get that bad, will you be the one to come down to the station house and help us out?"

See, we're all arguing, but it doesn't mean anything yet, since we're not listening to each other. We should note some of the things we agree on, and stop accusing each other of positions neither holds.

To wit: none of you on the left think that the modern U.S. is equivalent to Nazi Germany, you're just angry that in some ways it's starting to look more authoritarian to you. (I believe that orthogonality's comments have made it clear that he wasn't necessarily referring only to Hitler, and that he's more just disturbed by the authoritarian bent; it seems like this isn't necessarily a Godwin issue.) And none of us on the right are saying that it's all peaches and cream in the U.S.; we just think that this is still the right side to be on.

Right?
posted by koeselitz at 12:31 PM on March 3, 2005


When the topic under discussion involves things like officially sanctioned torture, appeals to Godwin's law seem woefully inappropriate. "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." -George Santayana.
posted by Manjusri at 12:34 PM on March 3, 2005


Right?
Right, sort of. We haven't slipped as far as the Nazis to be sure, but we have slipped and it is not just authoritarianism. We, as a populace, have given up some of our ideals in our quest to obtain more security. That seems cowardly to me. Are we still on the right side? I think so, but we are slipping.
posted by caddis at 12:40 PM on March 3, 2005


To put this into context, though, we should remember some abuses of our past - Japanese internment, abolishing habeas corpus during the Civil War, and the Alien and Sedition Acts, just to name a few. We have a long history of giving up on our ideals when we feel threatened and we still have a way to go before we fall to some of our prior depths. We must be vigilant against further slippage and fight to get back some of our lost freedom.
posted by caddis at 12:50 PM on March 3, 2005


I think what orthogonality and others are concerned about is the continuing corruption of America's core democratic ideals.

These ideals are really very young, and it isn't that surprising to see them challenged. As loquax points out, be careful of what Golden Age you choose to invoke. It was only a bit over a hundred years ago that slavery was abolished in this country, about a hundred years ago that women got the vote, just over fifty years ago that Japanese-Americans were sent to concentration camps and their property seized (it was never returned), about 40 years ago that Jim Crow as essentially ended. I agree that it looks like the rights of White male Americans who aren't gay seem to be getting a relative drubbing these days, but the rest seems to be a vast improvment over history.

It isn't that I'm not concerned about the Patriot Act and torture and everything else that's going on, it's that I don't think that that obviates the differences in the US approach to democracy and individual freedom. I also think that at almost any other point in history one could pick much more disturbing (but group-specific) anti-democatic measures.

On preview-Caddis
posted by OmieWise at 12:58 PM on March 3, 2005


Your response overlooks the substance of these charges completely. You haven't directly addressed, much less refuted, a single direct charge against the administration.

I was not intending to address or refute any charges against the administration. I was addressing the naivety and short-sightedness of orthogonality's statement.

Our civic obligation as American citizens is to vigorously defend existing checks on the power of all the branches of our government, no matter the historical circumstances.

I 100% agree, as I stated above. It is not, however, your obligation as a citizen to claim the sky is falling based on whatever cherry-picked information you choose to acknowledge. You're more than free to do so if you wish, as it is a free country and no one will suppress or arrest you, but equating orthogonality's "ranting screeds" as he calls them, to a vigorous defense of the checks on the US government is laughable.

And when is concentrating more power in the executive branch actually supposed to start helping in the 'war on terror'? Bush has had all the power a President can humanly have for more than a couple of years now (since the legislative and judicial branches have been so flaccid), and we still haven't even managed to snare Bin Laden. Hell, we haven't even tracked down the guys who slipped anthrax into all those democratic lawmakers' legislative mailboxes. Remember that? Most mainstream news reports no longer even allude to this incident when discussing terrorist attacks on American soil. Why is that? It's a huge embarrassment that investigations into those incidents have yielded so little information.

This is all fantastic, and makes for an interesting debate. If you think that these charges against and disagreements with the current administration validates or "proves" orthoganility's claims of America's descent from the peaks of social justice and human rights to the depths of Chinese and Russian authoritarianism, you're as wrong as he is.

but we have slipped and it is not just authoritarianism. We, as a populace, have given up some of our ideals in our quest to obtain more security.

I'd really like to understand this. If America has slipped, what year was the peak? In what respect? How far, in terms of a percentage, has it slipped? What is the rate of slippage? What ideals have been given up? By everyone, or just some?
posted by loquax at 1:00 PM on March 3, 2005


Rather odd to link to the review of Goldhagen, seeing as Goldhagen basically says that only GERMANY could've done such horrific things, and after the wonderful West reeducated Germany after 1945, all was well. It could never happen again...
posted by stray at 1:04 PM on March 3, 2005


Go back a half a dozen years or so loquax and ask yourself what the public reaction would have been to Clinton interring several thousand Islamic men on Guantanamo with no due process and no access to counsel, or what would the reaction have been to high ranking White House lawyers and officials generating memos sanctioning torture? We now have do-not-fly lists where a government official decides you can never take an airplane again (how would you like it if you were on the list loquax?) and you have no mechanism to appeal this decision. We have sanctioned high levels of government intrusion into our privacy under the so called Patriot Act. These are but some of our lost ideals and slippage, and in such a short time.
posted by caddis at 1:14 PM on March 3, 2005


Koeselitz and Loquax: Yes, The US is still the best place in the world for me to live. I love America. But, I think that those responsible for the transgressions we are talking about here should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Do you agree?
posted by Freen at 1:27 PM on March 3, 2005


loquax, I say we take off, nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

The general tone and orientation of this thread illustrates the lame, obtuse moonbattyness that constitutes about 85% of everything that sucks about Metafilter.

DNFTT(s). Pray the echo chamber becomes a dining hall and they all devour one another.
posted by techgnollogic at 1:30 PM on March 3, 2005


i call godwin
posted by pyramid termite at 1:32 PM on March 3, 2005


OK, Loquax, I'll bite.

I can't speak to whether things in this country are worse now than they were, say, during Vietnam; I was only born in 1967.

And since, officially, we aren't tossing dissidents in jail, we aren't as bad as the likes of China.

But let's examine what is happening. No, we're not jailing dissidents - but via the right-wing outrage machine, we're sure trying to get them shitcanned from their jobs and blacklisted.

We don't have sedition laws - though some folks seem very eager to bring them back.

So this authoritarianism is an organic thing, not from the top down but from the ground up. The sentiment may not be more virulent than it has in the past, but the fact is that via television and in particular the Internet, a mechanism by which these sentiments may be disseminated and reinforced more efficiently than ever before now exists.

And for perspective, let's turn your question on its head. Were sedition laws to be reinstated - what would the reaction of conservatives be? Would they decry the infringement upon freedom?

If, as Malkin has suggested, we created internment camps for Muslims, would the American public as a whole be outraged?

If it turns out that torture in Abu Ghraib was more widespread and deadlier than previously reported, would Americans in general step back and say that our policies need to be realigned with what we say our values are?

And if another terror attack on the "homeland" results in the passage of Patriot Act 2, will Americans begin to wonder and worry about what they're giving up?

Or would they think, in each case, Good?
posted by kgasmart at 1:47 PM on March 3, 2005


Loqax: I never said America is "as bad as China or Russia," but I think it's a safe bet that there were lots of points along those countries' paths to authoritarianism that the same arguments could have been made on behalf of their ruling bodies. What's with all the 'not as bad as' or 'better than' talk anyway? I thought the leftists were the ones who were supposed to be all about moral relativism? (For the record, I'm not a leftist. I distrusted Clinton for many of the same reasons I distrust Bush: Both men seem more concerned with concentrating power in the executive branch than with providing the restrained, principled leadership America needs to solve its problems.) Shifts of power tend to be a one-way street: Anyone who holds office after Bush will have ample authority to deny basic legal protections to any American citizen without any checks on that authority. That should scare everyone, especially right-wingers. Think about it: What if another Clinton takes office and starts declaring interns who spurn his advances "enemy combatants"? There's no independent legal standard for what the term means, so why not? Now that's a scary thought...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 1:56 PM on March 3, 2005


Caddis, BIRT that everything you claim is true and as pejorative and insidious as you believe it to be, it does not justify orthogonality's and others' claims. In direct response to your question, I think public reaction under Clinton would have been the same if he had been president instead of Bush on September 11th. Whether or not he would have acted in a similar fashion in response to the same circumstances is is anyone's guess, along with the outcomes of alternative policy. America's ideals seem firmly in place to me, whether you like them or not, and for better or worse. This is part of the problem I think. Some people seem to project value systems and polices on the United States that never existed. The US never was like the Dutch, or the Belgians or the Canadians or the French. They've always had different ideological drivers and different ways of doing things. I think it's fine to say that "compared to Sweden, the US has a human rights philosophy and regime that I disagree with", but it's disingenuous to claim that the basic foundation of American policy has changed in any substantial way. I wish I had the time to debate each of the circumstances and symptoms of American political ideology you mentioned but I really don't. Suffice it to say that my earlier post was not directed at you, or reasonable dissent regarding the Bush administration and American policy. Far from it. I would much prefer your line of logic and reasoning be strengthened by not having to apologize for and rationalize claims made by those such as orthogonality (and Michael Moore, and Fidel Castro, and the Chinese Government, and so on...)

Koeselitz and Loquax: Yes, The US is still the best place in the world for me to live. I love America. But, I think that those responsible for the transgressions we are talking about here should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Do you agree?

Which transgressions?


Or would they think, in each case, Good?

Honestly, I think the answer (depending on the exact set of circumstances, of course) to each of your questions in order is Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes, as evidenced by the fact that the questions exist today, without any of those scenarios transpiring.
posted by loquax at 1:56 PM on March 3, 2005


This isn't about me, it's about the links.

As someone who largely agrees with you, in the future could you at least put the links together using some semblance of competent design? Perhaps with a summary of what you are linking to and separators between links to avoid confusion?

ROU_Xenophobe: Thanks. I've been wondering if I need to keep a boiler plate text for answering this boilerplate objection to sample size in surveys.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:57 PM on March 3, 2005


really, this all boils down to "when are the administration and/or its supporters going to vocally disavow torture and our concentration camp in cuba?"

and "when are those responsible going to be charged with crimes?"

(please do not mention any of the fall people, like lynndie england).

the longer you wait, the more you damage your humanity.

on preview: I think public reaction under Clinton would have been the same if he had been president instead of Bush on September 11th

thanks, loquax. you've brightened my day with uproarious laughter.
posted by Hat Maui at 2:00 PM on March 3, 2005


Loquax: Which transgressions?

Um, they have been listed repeatedly in this thread. Please don't tell me you don't know what they are. And in case you are wondering, yes the Geneva conventions have the force of law here in the United States because they were ratified, so any violation of the Geneva conventions is consequently a violation of US Law. That's why Gonzales was so keen on trying to find a legal means of exempting presidential descisions from the force of law.
posted by Freen at 2:05 PM on March 3, 2005


n9: But like the Good Germans there is literally nothing that I can think of to do about it. What can I possibly do?

Foment revolution. America needs a goddamn enema.

kgasmart: If it turns out that torture in Abu Ghraib was more widespread and deadlier than previously reported ...

It was. Men were raped and murdered. The mainstream media reported this when the story broke, and then abandoned the unpleasantness by the next news cycle. Down the memory hole.
posted by oncogenesis at 2:08 PM on March 3, 2005


And it continues. Extraordinary Rendition is a reality.
posted by Freen at 2:08 PM on March 3, 2005


Loquax, you assume that I meant that these things happened after 9/11. My rhetorical question, is what if they happened prior to 9/11. The point being, now we are acting out of fear and are willing to take actions we would not have previously taken including the limiting of civil liberties and the whole torture mess. It is not that Bush and company have done these as much as the support or indifference to the actions from the American people that I find troubling. In the past we reformed after the source of danger and fear had passed and hopefully we will again reform. However, I fear that these diminutions in freedom will not be corrected easily as we are likely to face a situation with the Jihadists similar to that we faced during the Cold War where a high and continuing level of fear led to some repressive actions (I should have added the McCarthy hearings and blacklisting to my list above).
posted by caddis at 2:15 PM on March 3, 2005


Tom Friedman, of all people, has possibly the best take on it. For better or worse, over the past century, the rest of the world has basically forgiven the US for its hypocrisies in the way a battered wife forgives her husband, under that it's an aberration from the ideal she married. Friedman's point is that people in repressive societies forgive American failings because of the aspirational quality of its founding ideals, and (recallying) because Americans usually do the right thing after trying every possible alternative.

Now, though, thanks (ironically) to the exceptionalist impulses of the neocons, brutality is being justified under the letter of the constitution. It's a bit like a wife-beater saying, 'honey, I was this way all along, and you married me all the same. Shame on you for thinking otherwise.'
posted by riviera at 2:20 PM on March 3, 2005


loquax, I say we take off, nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

The general tone and orientation of this thread illustrates the lame, obtuse moonbattyness that constitutes about 85% of everything that sucks about Metafilter.


Funny how the first post suggesting anything even faintly extremist came from someone ostensibly 'parodying' an extreme position. Until this post, no one participating in the discussion had made an uncivil or confrontational remark (much less proposed nuking anything), and the tone of the conversation had been pretty restrained--passionate on both sides, but still reasonable and civil. What's so 'moonbatty' about having a civil political discussion? Did I miss something?
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 2:22 PM on March 3, 2005


While our system.. our checks and balances, the distribution of power within our government and the freedom of the press to condemn it do make ours without question the most fair, the men working at the top of it pushing its boundaries can be called no less corrupt than those in any criticizing nation.

And while citizens of Germany during the Third Reich couldn't speak out at all, Americans can and don't... For a number of reasons, I think.. not the least of which is that we are each struggling so much harder than those Germans and even our own parents to maintain a comfortable living without the extra energy and personal interest in the evolution of our own country, let alone the world..

People here are struggling to get by. It sounds like an excuse, but for a lot of us it's just the truth. And I don't have the statistics, but I would bet that those of us farther to the left are more likely to hold the two jobs plus the part-time school schedule that your average white guy..

And of course everyone no matter their economic situation SHOULD care, but when what's being discussed is the motion of an entire population, economics is a cornerstone..
posted by onanon at 2:22 PM on March 3, 2005


All-seeing eye dog: Dissent itself is treasonous. If you disagree with the status quo, you agree with the enemy. Plus, we on the right like to make up insults by simply adding to nouns together. You SpongePancake!
posted by Freen at 2:25 PM on March 3, 2005


When was America ever able to unequivocally claim what you state? Was it in the '60s? The 70's? The 80's? When, for the love of god?

Actually, I think orthogonality's links are more about America's loss of moral authority in the world than about the erosion of civil liberties at home (though both are of course alarming).

And on that topic, loquax, I think America's declining moral authority is best illustrated by the difference between the honest, forthright, incontrivertible evidence of Soviet missile bases on Cuban soil presented to the United Nations in October of 1962 and the trumped-up, fear-mongering, obfuscating evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction presented to the same body by Colin Powell in February of 2003.

In 1962, American leaders were trusted by the UN, by the leaders of other free nations, by almost anyone outside the Iron Curtain; if they made claims at the UN, those claims could be taken at face value, and when acted upon, they'd be proven right. Today, almost no one - at the UN or elsewhere - trusts the word of America's leadership. This is a profound decline in moral authority, and not just Americans but anyone who values the ideals of the Enlightenment should be concerned.

On preview: what riviera said. Not only is America's current leadership willing to lie to the world, it is unrepentant even after it gets caught.
posted by gompa at 2:26 PM on March 3, 2005


Those Germans were struggling much harder than we are today, to be sure. The depression in Germany during the 30's made the depression in the US during the 20's seem like just a momentary economic hiccup.
posted by caddis at 2:28 PM on March 3, 2005


Speaking of enlightenment values...
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 2:30 PM on March 3, 2005


When the topic under discussion involves things like officially sanctioned torture, appeals to Godwin's law seem woefully inappropriate. "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." -George Santayana.

hear, hear. Godwin's law seems to serve no purpose other than to reassure flag-wavers that America could never be as bad as Hitler's Germany therefore let's all just not worry about it, ok? A quote I really like is "history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes." We should remember that abuses of power and crimes against humanity come in many different forms.
posted by jimmy76 at 2:31 PM on March 3, 2005


People here are struggling to get by. It sounds like an excuse, but for a lot of us it's just the truth. And I don't have the statistics, but I would bet that those of us farther to the left are more likely to hold the two jobs plus the part-time school schedule that your average white guy..
What is in bold; "that” or “than”? Unable to see your zip code in your profile, where do you live? You comment above I’ve observed from the far right at College, struggling, two jobs + to make ends meat while in school. So what is your point here, the far right keep the far left down or you’re smarter and have to struggle?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:35 PM on March 3, 2005


We cannot escape history.
Abraham Lincoln in Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 1, 1862

posted by thomcatspike at 2:40 PM on March 3, 2005


My point, and thanks for the grammatical correction.. *coughmeatcoughcough* ...was that a person's first priority is to himself and his family.

I've gone back and forth with resentment and exasperation for the people in this country after that election.. and now I just think it all boils down to economics. If someone feels his and his family's future threatened.. however that compares to other nations, then his energies will be spent there first, his immediate community somewhere after that, and his country and the world after..

I just think that while Americans are shirking their duties as the watchmen of their government, they can't be hated for it. It's not that simple.

posted by onanon at 2:53 PM on March 3, 2005


If someone feels his and his family's future threatened.. however that compares to other nations, then his energies will be spent there first, his immediate community somewhere after that, and his country and the world after..
Not being involved more with "The immediate community" -- I feel lies the problem and the solution correcting The Over Powering Federal Government.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:02 PM on March 3, 2005


ROU_Xenophobe: Thanks.

I live to serve. That, or I have to teach the stuff tonight anyway.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:04 PM on March 3, 2005


Frankly, on my darker days, I wonder if we shouldn't have dumped the Marshall Plan for the Morgenthau Plan.

Where did your rant come from? It seems hard to imagine that *any* plan could have created a better postwar situation than the one we got.

I'm not going to hold my own country's feet to the fire on this and overlook the complicity of "average" Germans in Naziism, not am I going to tell modern-day Germans that they don't have a special historical burden to carry. Because they damned well do.

If we are to be damned by the sins of our parents, then I think we're all heading to hell. Every landowner in America benefits from the genocide of -- and theft from -- the native Americans. Few are as aware of this past as the average German is of his or hers.
posted by Slothrup at 4:05 PM on March 3, 2005


Freen: "Koeselitz and Loquax: Yes, The US is still the best place in the world for me to live. I love America. But, I think that those responsible for the transgressions we are talking about here should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Do you agree?"

Yes, for what it's worth. But it has to be done carefully, slowly, with a hell of a lot less finger-pointing (on the one hand) and "let's-not-talk-about-it" ignorance (on the other.)

Also, we should talk at some point about when and where torture is acceptable, since I believe that most people think it sometimes is. (To save lives, for example.) This is a difficult point to discuss. I don't pretend to know what to do here.

posted by koeselitz at 4:10 PM on March 3, 2005


I hope you feel good about yourself, orthogonality, in condemning "America", because the overwhelming majority of this planet is laughing at you

You have some serious difficulties in elementary reading, dude. orthogonality said he was ashamed that America had been turned into the opposite of its ideals, not that he was ashamed of America.

But then, addressing orthogonality's argument wasn't the point, was it? you're just going on your typical right-wing rants again... if someone disagrees with you, distort what he says and point to the distortion. Typical straw man attack.

As to the "overwhelming majority of the planet" laughing at him, well, don't presume to know too much about the rest of the planet is thinking. In fact, don't presume to know much at all about things outside of America, it'd be less embarassing for you in the long run.
posted by clevershark at 4:28 PM on March 3, 2005


China better be careful. That much contradictory irony and hypocrisy in a statement about hypocrisy about irony could cause some kind temporal rift in the Irony fabric of the universe creating a Black Hole with spinning accreted disc hypocrisy event horizon. China bitching about human rights is like Bush bitching about cocaine abuse and fraternity hazeing...

And then there was jewels such as this peppered through out the last article:
" ...LBJ was a crook with indirect ties to the Mafia, and likely foreknowledge of the Kennedy assassination..."

Sorry my far-left-crank bullshit detector went off far too many times for me to concentrate on this thread.
posted by tkchrist at 4:36 PM on March 3, 2005


koeselitz writes "Also, we should talk at some point about when and where torture is acceptable, since I believe that most people think it sometimes is. (To save lives, for example.) This is a difficult point to discuss. I don't pretend to know what to do here."

I've got an answer that is clear, simple, and probably wrong, but I'll open it up anyway: necessity defense.

Keep Make torture illegal. If someone thinks that he's in a situation where the products of torture would actually justify it, let him commit the torture and then turn himself in for prosecution. He then pleads the necessity defense (warning: link is to anti-Catholic whack-job site) and the jugde and jury decide if that defense applies.

Under federal law, a defendant must establish the existence of four elements to be entitled to a necessity defense: 1) that he was faced with a choice of evils and chose the lesser evil; 2) that he acted to prevent imminent harm; 3) that he reasonably anticipated a causal relation between his conduct and the harm to be avoided; and 4) that there were no other legal alternatives to violating the law. See , e.g., United States v. Aguilar, 883 F.2d 662, 693 (9th Cir. 1989).


I gave this some thought after 9-11, determined that in such a situation I'd probably think it necessary to torture a highjacker, and determined that having done so I'd have no choice -- unless I wanted besmirch America -- but to turn myself in for arrest afterward.

I think in a few cases of imminent harm (the clichéd terrorist who knows the location of a nuclear bombs about to explode) a necessity defense can be upheld, and I furthermore think that if a potential torturer really thinks that torture is justified, he should be willing to risk his job and his freedom on it -- as after all, he's putting the torture's victim's life and future well being at risk.
posted by orthogonality at 4:41 PM on March 3, 2005


The ends do NOT justify the means.

On UseNET the mouthbreathers constantly pose the "torture a terrorist - what would you do" hypotheticals.

They are always constructed like a hollywood script with almost fetishized glee in the violent details and childish simplicity of how it all will turn out.

Always it's the same. Would you torture somebody if you knew 100% that they were a guilty party, and had the knowledge to stop an impending event (how that is possible, I don't know)?

And these scenarios are turned upside down when you ask back:

Ok. What if the "terrorist" was a 12 year old child? Or a young girl? They could still provide you the same information to "save the world" right? Would you torture them? Why not?

Most people then decline or spin yet another set fantasies to make the "torture" not so bad.

But the fact is torturing one or two individuals is simply not a reliable way to get actionable information. Never has been. State secret police torture thousands and cross reference the results to garner little bits of intel - but mostly it is to create a climate of fear in the enemies of the state.

This tells you more about our internal psychologies than it does about what really exist in objective reality.

Instead of this Ends vs. Means discussion one should ask is torture as a concept wrong? After all we can torture people without causing any lasting physical harm. It's simply not as fun for the sadist who usually does these things.
posted by tkchrist at 5:01 PM on March 3, 2005


America the Mercurial

...By signing the United Nations Convention Against Torture yet gutting it in Abu Ghraib, by signing the U.N. Charter rules limiting the use of force and then using force without Security Council approval, and by ratifying human rights treaties and then ignoring criticism of its own performance from other countries, the United States has recognized the importance of law in framing international affairs while not respecting law's authority. Neither the political scientist nor the international lawyer can adequately explain this pattern...

The strong strain of ideological hostility to international law goes a long way toward explaining the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. As Hathaway's theory would predict, the United States has been reluctant to shoulder international obligations. But, in the past, once the government did so, it embraced them meticulously. The United States has a good record of compliance with the Geneva Conventions, which govern the treatment of prisoners of war. Past administrations complied with the Conventions because they wanted other states to do so when they held American detainees, and because Geneva's norms were consonant with—and partly derived from—American codes of warfare.

Yet now this pattern of compliance seems to be breaking down. Lawyers working for a president determined to exert maximum pressure on terrorist suspects sought to justify coercive methods of interrogation. While actual torture wasn't intended, the photos taken at Abu Ghraib show that the humiliation, terror, and degradation inflicted there crossed the line into egregious violations of international law...

posted by y2karl at 5:16 PM on March 3, 2005


Ok. What if the "terrorist" was a 12 year old child? Or a young girl? They could still provide you the same information to "save the world" right? Would you torture them? Why not?

Would you torture a 12 year old, quadrapalegic altar boy, whose father was your minister, if you thought he knew the location of a nuclear bomb, because his cancer stricken 14 year old altar girl sister helped the IRA to plant that bomb in retribution for the bombing of her parish by a protestant extremist group? (I mean no offense to the IRA or protestants via this example).
posted by caddis at 5:27 PM on March 3, 2005


...forgive American failings because of the aspirational
quality of its founding ideals...

Thats the thing.

If you went overseas past couple decades you'd notice that all the French people looked French, all the Germans looked German - etc, - for the most part - yet Americans all look different.
We are indeed a country united by only ideals.

The danger here is not that we might look bad in the eyes of the world or whether we should be ashamed of ourselves or not, or whether we've slipped - the danger is in us becoming something other than Americans.

We're not united by race, ethnicity, or any bullshit 'moral values' foisted upon us by others, we're united only by our belief in the American way (the self-evident truths) and the cost of that is eternal vigilance.

Why we're not constantly kicking this adminstration - or any administration - in the ass 24/7 for any little step out of line I have no idea.
People seem to have more concern for paying too much in taxes to their local schools than the feds grabbing people and torturing them behind doors marked -metaphoricaly - 'secret' (or shooting them in the back - Ruby Ridge - or burning children to death - Waco - etc. etc.)

Dissent? The president should be under investigation.
But he isn't.Because it's not a left/right thing any more than it was ever a black/white thing.
It's just a have/have not thing.

And I'm with tkchrist on the torture thing. Only to add it saps the will to fight of the group/person using it.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:02 PM on March 3, 2005


orthogonality He then pleads the necessity defense (warning: link is to anti-Catholic whack-job site) and the jugde and jury decide if that defense applies.

I'd had that thought myself back in the day, but let me tell you why it should be rejected.

It's not necessary- any Jack Bauer wanna-be can already make that choice now, even with torture being having once been illegal. Why worry about the "defense" part? If it's really that important, then they should torture away, get brutally prosecuted, and happily go to jail or even be sentenced to death, knowing they saved countless lives.

But seriously- ANY opening, any "defense" or excuse is one that will be abused. Take the case of police officers using lethal force. In theory, any officer using lethal force is subject to an inquest to ensure it wasn't wrong for him to do so. Here in King County (read: seattle) Washington, they've done a number of such inquests in the past few years. No cop ever goes to jail, though, because jury's are notoriously leniant, fellating the police force even in some highly questionable circumstances.

Don't even give the hint of defense for torture, because even without the defense you see the easiness with which people will excuse it. And if they'd excuse it when it should still be wholly illegal and unethical, they'd certainly excuse it if it was used in a case where it could retroactively be branded "ok".

Make torture a capital crime, and kill those who practice it. And if hey, some tough guy can save LA from a nuclear bomb by torturing another human being, then they're will be only one death: their own.

That's exactly what Jesus would do, innit? Suffer for the sins of others?
posted by hincandenza at 7:09 PM on March 3, 2005


malaprohibita wrote:
This is depressing, but I guess I knew it was coming. Of course the people who don't give a shit about torturing "others" are going to be the same ones who don't give a shit about what the other countries think. They're just not going to be savvy enough to comprehend the implications.

Amen.

I loathe the neocons for their flippant dismissal of "the great unwashed" (both here and around the world).That said, I have to admit that their power derives as much from the governed as the governing. Everytime their shenanigans are exposed and are met with a resounding "ho-hum" from the populace, they become even more emboldened. Rove and Gonzales and Rummy and their ilk have finally realized that they can get away with practically anything because the citizenry is too tired, or busy, or bored, or stoned (or gagged and detained) to give a shit.

Don't get me wrong- I think most Americans do care about what's happening. But if our leaders are not going to be held accountable in any meaningful way, we might as well all go back to sleep. We truly do get the government we deserve.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:31 PM on March 3, 2005


Jeez. If you want to post an under-explained item with a different link for each word, please do it on memepool.
posted by krisjohn at 9:06 PM on March 3, 2005


If you went overseas past couple decades you'd notice that all the French people looked French, all the Germans looked German - etc, - for the most part - yet Americans all look different.

Did your guide dog tell you that? What complete fucking bollocks. The French national football team should disavow you of that particular point of contrast.
posted by riviera at 10:03 PM on March 3, 2005


Would you torture a 12 year old, quadrapalegic altar boy, whose father was your minister, if you thought he knew the location of a nuclear bomb, because his cancer stricken 14 year old altar girl sister helped the IRA to plant that bomb in retribution for the bombing of her parish by a protestant extremist group? (I mean no offense to the IRA or protestants via this example).
caddis

Hmmm...this would be a tough case. First of all, since he's quadraplegic, he has no feeling below his neck. Thus you could only really cause pain to him with trauma to the head and neck, but this is risky as he is likely in a fragile condition anyway, and a human can't sustain much damage to that area without death or brain damage, which would defeat the purpose of the torture. You could cut off body parts to shock him, but the effectiveness of that seems minimal on someone who never could use the parts anyway. I'd say tha the most effective method to information would be to torture his family members in front of him, breaking him that way. Luckily, we know he has at least two. Bring the sister in, and shoot her to prove that you mean business. The sister is the one who should be shot because the father is not sick, and can thus take more abuse. The boy will eventually break.

(Sorry, it just struck me. Thought I'd ride with it...)
posted by Sangermaine at 11:21 PM on March 3, 2005


If you went overseas past couple decades you'd notice that all the French people looked French, all the Germans looked German - etc, - for the most part - yet Americans all look different.

Yeah--this is not at all accurate. Half my surviving family (sisters, uncles, etc.) are native Germans, and none of them look alike. Not even close.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 8:31 AM on March 4, 2005


"Jeez. If you want to post an under-explained item with a different link for each word, please do it on memepool."

You mean you can't figure out what he's trying to say? Aren't the supplied labels for the links and the links themselves enough?

I was waiting for someone to post about this, so I wouldn't have to.
posted by davy at 9:23 AM on March 4, 2005


koeselitz asks, "What are the implications?"

I'm sorry that I didn't reply before now, as I've been away from metafilter and computers in general for the sake of my sanity. I skipped the other entries here, so what I say may have already been said. I believe the implications to be that the position of the United States to criticize any other nation for human rights violations has been hamstrung. All other issues aside (for the sake of argument), it makes the U.S. look hypocritical. Sure China has a horrible record, but if they didn't have an opening for blowing us off on philosophical grounds before, they (and everybody else in the world) do now. They are going to milk this opportunity for all it's worth, and continue to use it as the PR nightmare it is for the foreseeable future.

In this instant-communication world where digital photographs are extraordinarily easy to disseminate, it is more important than ever to consider the consequences and repercussions of actions. That is something the soldiers who took the pictures failed to do. I think our government has failed in this regard as well. Had the administration really considered the consequences of these horrible actions (the tortures as well as the photographs) to be of any importance, then someone high in the chain of command--Rumsfeld in particular comes to mind--should have resigned. That is how civilized nations should show the world they hold a high standard when it comes to human rights.
posted by malaprohibita at 11:10 AM on March 4, 2005


I think most of the industrialized world is doing the America thing way better than America. That's sort of the sad part. I don't think the American government has ever believed in the things "America" is supposed to stand for. It seems every administration had some connection to supporting/training terrorists, overthrowing democracies to make way for dictators, and so on.

But let's not hold our standards too high. America's definitely cooler than Iran and China. SCORE.

None of this stuff has ever been a secret. We've known about American crimes for a long time in the rest of the world. Most Americans have never been interested in this stuff, either before or after 9/11. That's why they keep on electing Democrats and Republicans.

Bush isn't anything that special. I don't know why "THE LEFT" thinks he is the worst thing to ever happen.

Very interesting discussion everyone. It was a nice (but long) read. And quite polite, amazingly.
posted by Kleptophoria! at 7:11 AM on March 5, 2005


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