Archive for May 12th, 2011

Oh, look, the sun is going supernova…

May 12, 2011 in Journamalism

As the Republicans’ threat to burn the economy down to the ground, i.e. not raise the debt ceiling, marches closer to the day of suicidal conflageration, those with the Beltway-itis (I gots it real bad, Mama!) are starting to stir from their slumber. PM Carpenter goes after one usual culprit, Ruth Marcus (at Ground Zero of the Beltway infection, the Washington Post):

The Post’s Ruth Marcus is, at long last, “alarmed” that the Republican Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is, when it comes to economics, grotesquely guileful. “Even more alarming,” she writes, “is the incoherent, impervious-to-facts economic philosophy undergirding Boehner’s remarks.”

Marcus cites several of these ideological Boehnerisms, which run from “The recent stimulus spending binge hurt our economy” to “A tax hike would wreak havoc … on our ability to tackle the national debt.”

One would almost think this is something new, but this is pretty much standard GOP boilerplate dogma, dialed to 11 since the thunderous collapse of 2008 pretty much eviscerated most Republican economic theories. They can’t leave, so they double-down. So where has Marcus been all this time?

What did alarm — indeed, what appalled — in Marcus’ column this morning was this:

Reporters naturally tend to ignore this boilerplate. Journalistically, that makes sense. Boehner’s economic comments [to the New York Economic Club] were nothing particularly new. Indeed, they reflect what has become the mainstream thinking of the Republican Party. But that’s exactly the point. We become so inured to hearing this thinking that we neglect to point out how wrong it is.

Let’s review that line of journalistic … logic. It “makes sense” journalistically to “ignore” profoundly misguided and inescapably harmful economic theories in national vogue because the ideological pols who tout these squalid theories have succeeded in bamboozling millions of voters who don’t comprehend just how profoundly misguided and inescapably harmful they are, because journalists have ignored the theories’ imbecilities, because they’re “inured” to the theories’ national vogue.

Even a freshman, D- student of logic would laff at this circular drivel; and virtually any honorable student of journalism would no doubt promise herself that should she ever “become so inured” to politicians’ self-serving swill of national sabotage that she “neglect[s] to point out how wrong it is,” then she’d quit her profession and just move to Madison Avenue or K Street, where she could, in better conscience, practice an older one.

Whoopty-doodles…Marcus is like most with the Beltway careerist paralysis. She can’t identify what’s going wrong with America without admitting she’s been twiddling her journalistic thumbs. Oh, those silly people are actually a serious threat?

Meting out revenge on Marcus and others like her isn’t so important, except that there’s no reason to believe they won’t go right back to sleep the second we clear this particular hurdle. Yes, you have sinned, Ms. Marcus, but you must sin no more! And part of that is understanding the scope of your past transgressions.

Do you finally feel the horrible regret, Ms. Marcus?

-hw

Whether or not torture got bin Laden does not justify torture, but torture didn’t get bin Laden.

May 12, 2011 in Torture, War Crimes

John McCain, who takes the torture issue a bit more seriously than the Republican party due to the fact that he experienced torture firsthand in Vietnam and has authority on this issue, felt the need to get to the bottom of what led to the intel that eventually led to bin Laden.

Leon Panetta gave torture supporters some ammo last week with a vague statement that info came from detainees, and that some of those detainees were tortured. This week Panetta seems to have looked into the specifics more closely and is thus able to shed a little more light on exactly what intel was gleaned from who and how:

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

McCain doesn’t rule out that torture can potentially offer leads, but reminds us that torture will give you fewer leads of poorer quality than standard interrogation practices. Consistent with that paradigm, the most useful info that came from torture was when KSM and al-Libi lied badly, arousing investigator suspicions. It should be self-evident that interrogation that produces lies isn’t effective, and the question of what more could have been found will always haunt us. Instead, we got such paltry info that the CIA had declared the trail cold.

In conclusion, the bin Laden leads did not originate with torture and were not enhanced by torture, thus removing even the appearance of a moral quandary.

Torture would still be wrong even if we had gotten a useful nugget out of it, but the lack of evidence that torture led to bin Laden important to note because Republicans are perfectly content to use the pragmatic argument. Removing that plank reveals just how depraved and unscrupulous they’ve been the past week, as Fox News and nearly the entire Bush administration has launched a PR salvo in order to rehabilitate their reputations and retroactively justify torture. Much like Andrew Sullivan has noted, they are war criminals seeing an out. More literally, they are torturers who are desperate to find excuses for torture. They got it temporarily legalized, they got the NYT and others to call torture other names when it was done by the US, they got the next president to back off on prosecutions, but they still seem to understand that they lost the argument. They still felt that need for justification.

They thought they had it, and they squeezed tightly, but…it has run through their fingers, and there they are, empty-handed except for the bulk of their crimes. We are left with the threat that the next Republican president will resume torture, and of future blowback from torture-hardened enemies and sympathetic populaces. Letting criminals off inevitably rewards crime and guarantees its continuance.

-hw

Librul media update.

May 12, 2011 in Journamalism

Laughing to avoid poking my eyes out…

-hw

Any day Michael Gerson is lambasted by people smarter than him is a good day.

May 12, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives, Drugs

Most 7/11 clerks would qualify, but this drizzling beatdown from Daniel Larison is to be savored:

At last week’s debate, one of the Fox panelists posed a question to Ron Paul about heroin and prostitution as “exercises of liberty.” Paul demurred a little, objecting that the panelist was putting words in his mouth, but then went on to object to the insulting paternalism that holds that drug prohibition is necessary to protect people from themselves. Paul was assuming that most people would be personally responsible and wouldn’t rely on government prohibition to steer them on the right path in these areas. Gerson could accuse him of having too much confidence in people, but that wouldn’t go over nearly as well as attacking him for having contempt for the poor and destitute. Most irritating of all, Gerson presents himself as a defender of the weak and downtrodden, when these are the Americans disproportionately harmed by the drug war that Gerson is quite happily defending.

Although I do have to recommend this column by Gerson, where he slaps around people even dumber than him: Ayn Rand fanboys.

Rand’s novels are vehicles for a system of thought known as Objectivism. Rand developed this philosophy at the length of Tolstoy, with the intellectual pretensions of Hegel, but it can be summarized on a napkin. Reason is everything. Religion is a fraud. Selfishness is a virtue. Altruism is a crime against human excellence. Self-sacrifice is weakness. Weakness is contemptible. “The Objectivist ethics, in essence,” said Rand, “hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.”

If Objectivism seems familiar, it is because most people know it under another name: adolescence. Many of us experienced a few unfortunate years of invincible self-involvement, testing moral boundaries and prone to stormy egotism and hero worship. Usually one grows out of it, eventually discovering that the quality of our lives is tied to the benefit of others. Rand’s achievement was to turn a phase into a philosophy, as attractive as an outbreak of acne.

Yes, Ron Paul qualifies, but on the drug war issue Paul is right about Gerson, whereas on the issue of whether Rand is meant to be taken seriously by anybody over 19, Gerson is right.

-hw

Holy smokes.

May 12, 2011 in Clueless Conservatives

Huckabee isn’t running for president, ever. To do so after having made this would make Sarah Palin’s Alaska look like a masterstroke of vexing genius.

-hw