Thursday, December 11, 2014

Torture, the devil, and the law

The problem with torture is not that "it is ... inconsistent with our values as a nation".

The problem with torture is not that the justification of torture -- that it is needed to ensure security-- is at best factually weak, and more likely false.

The problem is  that torture endangers us.

The character of Thomas Moore, in A Man for All Seasons, defends the law against zeal for even justice by saying:
And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you--where would you hide ... the laws all being flat? ... I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
To parapharase MacArthur to Roosevelt: When some CIA operative drowning, some Marine is being rectally fed, when some Airman is held without sleep for days*, there last words can be a curse on Cheyney, Hayden, and Bush.

*See Stalag 17.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Democrats and ALEC

In the well duh category, the Huffington Post recently posted an article entitled Democrats Create An ALEC-Killer.

Gee, often I have heard the cries about these dark, underhanded, suspicious tactics of this group.

And what are these tactics, why  the Republicans have organized a right-wing group to push for its policies at the state level, providing political discipline, they create draft statutes, coordinate activities,  and support people who agree with them across the spectrum.  And all this has worked for them very well over the last decade.

You know, this is called activism.  I once tried to point this out at a MoveOn meeting I was stupid enough to attend.  The reception to that comment wasn't good.

Sure it's financed by the right's most fanatical and finanically interested participants, and you expected diffierent?

At last someone said, Hey they are killing us by being organized and forceful.  Maybe we should do something too.

Someday, what passed for the American left will actually realize that the game is called politics, and it involves getting things done.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Rant, before it become irrelevant

There will be lots of discussion about why the Democrats lost, and I wanted to get my licks in.

My observation is that there is a common thread when the Democrats have lost significant elections,such as 1980,1994, 2010, or today: the inability to govern, or to put in another way, weakness.

Eisenhower said, "When you appeal to force, there's one thing you must never do - lose."
If you believe in the power of collective action through elected government, then the one thing you cannot do it fail to govern.

Carter was seen (correctly I believe, though people will dispute this) as a weak ditherer.

Democrats under Clinton in 1994, and under Obama in 2010 were hammered because they could not marshal the strength to quickly propose and bring up policies -- most specifically the health plans.

And in the last year, Obama we have had failure to perform governance over, and over again.  There is not justification for:
  • The ACA web site roll out failure
  • That Obama's promise -- however stupid -- not to change existing plans was not honored
  • That the administration was surprised by the VA
  • That the administration was surprised by the board problems
  • That there was not a better Ebola communications plan
  • That there was not better planning about ISIL (screw the CIA missing it, the Economist knew it).
Please note that all of these issues are completely within the purview of an active executive.

The American left (if that is not a null set in any meaningful sense) is big on policies, but has never grasped that implementation -- the sinews of the state -- is an absolute necessity first.

One cannot make a case for government as a useful tool, if its performance is so poor.

Why the current president seems so passively gormless is a question not worth addressing here.

What is worthwhile is the simplest lesson that can be gleaned from this: fill the damned pothots.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, Before we go to Paradise"*

"For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, Before we go to Paradise"*

Not everything I post is about doom, to whit:

 To Improve a Memory, Consider Chocolate -

*G K Chesterton The Rolling English Road

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I wish I could be as saguine.

Small article, or report of a talk I suppose, In his own words: Ben Bradlee on liars,

about truth telling.

As I said in the subject, I am not sanguine about ultimate truth telling

    "In a democracy, the truth emerges — sometimes it takes years —

that is how the system is supposed to work and eventually


     I take great strength from that now, knowing that in my

     the truth does emerge. It takes forever sometimes, but it
does emerge.

I think that what Buchwald said is truer: You Can Fool All the People All the Time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kasserine Pass

Anyone remember the Battle of Kasserine Pass?  It was the first real confrontation between US and Nazi armies, the latter under Rommel's command.  We did not acquit ourselves well.

There is a point.  It was the first battle (and followed the first seaborn landing, which was also sub par).  But it was the first, and was followed by reorganization, retraining, and forward movement.  (Cue the appropriate music.)

Nothing works from the start, and no plan survives contact with reality.  Handling Ebola is no different.  (I doubt anyone thought of the issue of a staffer going off on a cruise.)

So this is to be expected. 

It would help, if leaders wouldn't say 'it's all OK', but instead said something like 'There is a plan, Here are its broad outlines.  It will no doubt have faults.  We intend to adjust.'

Unfortunately, we don't.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Meanwhile in Europe...

A street scene in Schilderswijk, the neighborhood in The Hague where a Jewish resident’s efforts to erect a sukkah have sparked controversy.

I found the content of this article from, Sukkah Sparks Controversy in Mostly Muslim Dutch Neighborhood – not unexpected, which makes it more depressing.

The Jew involved was told
...he could build his sukkah only on condition that he dismantle it by 9 o’clock each night. According to Schomberg [the builder of the Sukkah] , the police had advised the city against allowing a sukkah at all, since it might invite Muslim vandalism*. (Emphasis added.)
I am old enough to recall that during the civil right movement, the excuse of potential violence was used to try and deny pro-civil right protesters parade permits.*

However it was decided, by courts in this country, that the civil authority had a positive responsibility to protect legitimate public displays of opinion, which would include religion. 

That does not appear to be the opinion of the Dutch state.  One wonders, if this issue were to come before  the European Court of Human Rights, whether it would rule that state's have a positive responsibility to protect such rights, like Google's positive responsibility to allow the past to be forgotten.

It does appear to be an attitude that divides the Muslim population from the rest of society and infantilizes it -- that you aren't really fully human, so we can't require you behave in a civil way. 

The behavior of the local Jewish leadership is not uplifting: "his [the Sukkah builder's] behavior puts the entire Jewish community in the Hague (and the Netherlands) at risk."  -- 'Who will be for me', indeed (, Pirke Avot I.15).

As a Jew, this tends to reinforce the view that Europe can never be a home for us.

As a member of 'western civilization' ("It would be a good idea" -- Ghandi), if this is as typical of Europe as it sometimes appears, I despair.

*For the record, I supported the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, so I suppose I am a fundamentalist on this issue.