Category Archives: America

About American politics, our spirit, and our soul

In 2014 darkness deepened its grip on America. None can see ahead to the dawn.

Summary: Recent events show that the darkness has claimed us. I see it, as do others with clearer sight. Perhaps you do too. What does this say about our future? What should we do about it? (First of 2 posts today)

Despair or Folly? It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.

— Gandalf speaking to the Council of Elrond in Fellowship of the Ring

Hope

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My gig has long been peddling optimism. During the 1990s I gave 3 speeches every week, on different subjects but all variations on the theme of “the good news is the bad news is wrong” (thanks due to George Gilder and my talented booking agent). Since 2007 the FM website provided optimism, analysis only as diagnosis — the prelude to treatment. This year something changed. I’ve found my optimism impossible to sustain.

The GOP response to Obamacare (giving affordable health care to the working poor = evil socialism). The expansion of our futile wars. Growing inequality. Our passive response to Snowden’s revelations. The passive response to videos of police brutality. Now our response to the Senate torture report: ineffective, except for those that applaud our torture.

The last has had an especially severe effect on my spirits. I’m old enough to remember when defending torture marked one as a NAZI, Commie, or generally evil person. Now it’s a subject of mild debate, with broad support (when used by us; it’s evil when done by our foes). That torture is good and works is now part of the mental DNA for people in our security services, intelligence agencies, and military. Also this makes it almost certain we’ll torture again — probably Americans next time.  Perhaps I’ll live long enough to see mothers urge their children to work hard so they can get a good job with the Gestapo (being American, we’ll have a snazzier name for it).

Over the past few years I have analyzed each of these subjects, and posted the analysis of experts on these things. It all points to a common element in our various problems: us. We’re broken. The War on Terror has corrupted us (Bin Laden’s victory). I cannot even imagine what a cure might look like. All our fancy technological progress, military and civilian, cannot counterbalance the darkness in our souls.

I’m not the only one in despair. William Lind has a new book coming soon — Victoria: A Novel of Fourth Generation War (published under the pseudonym “Thomas Hobbes”; you can read it online here). It starts from a dark outlook, telling of post-USA America (when the Republic has fragmented, due to liberalism). Last week I asked a well-known Army officer (brilliant, author of several books) how we can reform America. His answer: ” Revolution”.

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Our leaders justify torture in ways that justify its future use on their foes (including Americans)

Summary:  On Friday I said that we would torture again., despite the evidence in the Senate’s report.  This weekend former and current high officials of the US government confirmed that guess. Defenders of torture dispute the evidence, deny that torture was torture, and offer bold affirmations that they would torture again.

For I doubt not but, if it had been a thing contrary to any man’s right of dominion, or to the interest of men that have dominion, ‘that the three angles of a triangle should be equal to two angles of a square,’ that doctrine should have been, if not disputed, yet by the burning of all books of geometry suppressed, as far as he whom it concerned was able.

— Thomas Hobbs in The Leviathan

Shining City Upon a Hill

By Hawk862

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The Bush and Obama administrations have put torture into our national DNA.  In the past Americans supporting (or enjoying) torture spoke quietly, least they (rightly) get compared to torturers of the NAZI Gestapo, Soviet KGB, and the many lesser known secret police of 3rd world nations (many of whom learned their craft at the US Special Forces’ School of the Americas).

Now come the propos to convince the American people that this is business as usual, that we’re still an exceptional City on a Hill (Matthew 5:14).

So closes the next chapter in America’s fall. We’ll use torture again. Read Republican’s justification of torture. Hear the echos from the past. As so many have said before, Hitler was just early (hence Godwin’s Law). Listen closely — their words justify torture of Americans (when designated as bad guys by the government). That shouldn’t surprise us after so many tools of the war on terror appear on America’s streets. (plus, of course, Obama’s assassination of American citizens).

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

His word salad clearly communicates that our rights mean nothing to him. CNN about Scalia’s interview on December 12 on Swiss National Radio:

The justice who’s been a mainstay of the high court’s conservative wing for 28 years condemned the “self-righteousness of European liberals” who oppose torture “so easily” Friday in an interview with Swiss National Radio.  “I don’t think it’s so clear at all,” Scalia said. “I think it is very facile for people to say ‘Oh, torture is terrible,'” he said. “You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people. “You think it’s an easy question? You think it’s clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person?”

… “What are human rights is not written up in the sky, and if it were written up in the sky, it would not be up to judges, lawyers, just because they’ve gone to law school, to know what human rights ought to be and therefore are,” Scalia said.

“And therefore each society’s perception of what it believes human rights should be ought to be up to that society, and I think it’s very foolish to yield that determinations not only to a foreign body but to a foreign body of judges,” he said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to do that.”

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Close this chapter of America’s use of torture (it’s over). Look ahead to the next chapter.

Summary: Here’s the last thing you need read about America’s WOT use of torture, unless you enjoy reading about such things. This ends with a transition to the next chapter, our future use of torture — and a song by Justin Timberlake about our long and rocky relationship with the CIA.  (This is the first of two posts today)

” I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture, and I’m going to make sure that we don’t torture.”

— President-elect Barack Obama on CBS “60 Minutes”, 11 November 2008. We elected him to tell us pretty lies.

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Dreamland

Dreamland: the alternative to learning

The debate has ended. Next comes the squawking by politicians and policy gurus, which serves important purposes. Members of the outer party (i.e., the kind of people that write and read these kind of posts) need entertainment and a sense of participation. The news media need clickbait to get readers, and content to fill the space between ads.  “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Cut to the chase; this summary can help us remember the key points:

  1. Under Bush Jr our high government officials authorized torture.
  2. The CIA tortured (incompetently) but gained little or nothing of use.
  3. Medical and legal professionals violated the canons of their profession to assist.
  4. We, the citizens of America, knew about it but did nothing (a large fraction applauded).
  5. Our leaders stopped torturing at their discretion, and remain unapologetic about it.
  6. The only person punished was John Kiriakou, the CIA operative who blew the whistle (and went to jail for it).
  7. President Obama approved it by hiring those responsible for high office (e.g., John Brennan) and shielding everyone responsible from punishment.

To see the future we turn to John Brennan — senior CIA officer under Bush and Obama, vocal advocate of torture, who ran the “extraordinary rendition” program that sent people to be tortured abroad. A man who knows about these things. When asked about future use of torture at his December 11 press conference, he gave us a word salad — with a clear meaning.

And then finally, as far as what happens if, in the future, there is some type of challenge that we face here, the Army Field Manual is the established basis to use for interrogations. We, CIA, are not in the detention program. We are not contemplating at all getting back into the detention program using any of those EITs. So I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.

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Our love for gun play grows as our trust in ourself wanes. Logical, mad, sad.

Summary:  Polls are our mirrors in which we see who we are and how we’re changing. The new Pew Poll showing our increased trust in gun-play reflects several obvious but grim trends in America. Let’s examine them. Always stare at the news; never ask for the blindfold. {This is the second of today’s posts}

“Well in the first place, an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization.”

— From Beyond this Horizon, a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein (1942). Fun fiction, although quite false.

Americans trust in themselves

The saddest of graphs, from Gallup

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As you see in this graph, each year we have less confidence in ourselves, collectively. So, quite logically, we have less confidence in the officials we elect to run America. That makes us weak (we have power only when acting together), and strengthens those people with the resources and confidence to rule America. Worse, we are losing our ability to clearly see the world — and become more credulous in accepting things told to us by people we trust. This makes us easy to manipulate.

PEW poll on guns

Nowhere is this clearer than with gun rights. We have gone from several generations of moderate regulation to allowing widespread concealed carry to increasing agitation for open carry (something forbidden in most towns in the Wild West). It’s logical, in a mad way, that we’d turn to personal weapons for a sense of control and security (unraveling several centuries of social progress).

The reason we tell ourselves for this confidence in guns range from false to delusional, while the astonishing toll in blood astonishes people in other developed nations (subscribe to Robert Waldman on Twitter for horrific real time reports: @KagroX).

The latest Pew Poll about Americans attitudes about guns makes grim reading. Support for gun regulation has dropped significantly among most groups during the past ten years. Among Black Americans, the group suffering the most from gun violence, belief that guns protect them from crime almost doubled in two years (29% to 54%). It’s “the hair of the dog that bites” them; massive evidence proves this false. See the posts at the end for detailed debunking of the major myths about guns.

This reaching for guns oddly accompanies a long-term decline in the crime rate. The hysteria about 9-11 and Benghazi matches contrasts with our far larger annual death toll from mass shootings.

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Consequences of US torture. A snapshot of a tottering Republic going through the motions of “debate”.

Summary:  What are the consequences for the US from its use of torture on a scale with few precedents among developed nations in the modern era (and those examples considered shameful)? We can only guess, but there are some obvious ones — although seldom mentioned. Also, here are a few interesting notes from the “debate”.  This is a follow-up to this morning’s post, The protests start about CIA torture as the echoes die on protests about NSA surveillance. Expect the same result.

“indifference to evil is worse than evil itself. In a free society some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972), “The Reasons for My Involvement in the Peace Movement” (1972)

Contents

  1. Consequences of using torture
  2. Growls about accountability
  3. A rare note of realism
  4. The experts counter-attack
  5. The Right counter-attacks
  6. Fox News sees the torture debate
  7. Posts in this series about CIA torture
  8. A last note, about brothers in arms

(1)  Consequences of using torture

What’s the bottom line of these repeated revelations about US torture? Other than welcoming evil into our hearts, the long-term price of which will prove large beyond imagining.  Consider the factors involved in Realpolitik. Owning the moral high ground often provides substantial advantages in mobilizing support, both domestic and foreign. Sometimes owning the moral high ground provides a decisive advantage.

Americans should know this better than most. The Founders carefully cultivated support in Britain, explaining that we were fighting for our rights as “Englishmen” — such as no taxation without representation. That paid off big after Yorktown, with a collapse of support in Britain and eventually a peace treaty highly favorable to us.

The moral high ground proved even more decisive in the Civil War. Both Britain and France saw large gains from a Confederate Victory, but faced internal opposition from those uninterested in even a profitable alliance with evil. The War could easily have ended differently if the South had external support (much as the Revolution would have ended quickly without French support).

Our belief in American moral exceptionalism gains substance from our WWII crusade against fascism, and our almost unprecedented construction of a rights-based international order afterwards. The UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights might be remembered long after the USA becomes a minor entry in history books. Some unknowable part of our world leadership since comes from the moral capital gained then. Now we’ve squandered it. All of it.

Now people will laugh at our pretense of moral superiority, such as the State Department’s list of terrorist states (use of flying death machines doesn’t qualify?) and their endless reports about human rights violations by other nations. Laughter is poison to Empires. Fallen off our pulpit, we’ll have to find another way to relate to the world. Equally absurd has become our assumption that America’s actions must be regarded as inherently benign, unlike those of designated bad guys that get no benefit of the doubt (e.g., Russia, Iran).

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The protests start about CIA torture as the echoes die on protests about NSA surveillance. Expect the same result.

Summary:  Yet again the protests start. The ink on the placards protesting NSA surveillance has almost dried as the outrage begins about the Senate torture report. We can expect the same result: nothing. The battle over torture was fought and lost by 2009. Our use of torture, the debates about it, and the outcome reveal much about America, about us — and points the way to building a better America. See today’s follow-up post:  Consequences of US torture. And a snapshot of a tottering Republic going through the motions of “debate”.

For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword though the world.

— John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity (1630)

PEW Research: Americans  torture

Source: Pew website

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Consider the futility of the protests about torture sparked by the Senate report. While the details are new, we knew the basic facts in 2007. We had this debate then, and I doubt repeating it will lead to different conclusions.

I did a series of posts about torture in Spring 2009, with hundreds of comments (see here) — most supporting torture (when done by Americans; it’s barbaric when done to Americans). Similar discussions took place on a hundred other websites, with similar results.

The years since then have seen only moral degeneration in America, not renewal. We cheered the fictional success of CIA torturers in “Zero Dark Thirty”. We enjoyed watching “24” on TV, with torture routine and effective — when done by the good guys (i.e., us). Our leaders told us stories of brave government agents gaining essential information by torture.

All lies, as we knew then (if we cared to see), and as the Senate report tells us again now. But with cumulative effect, strengthening our support for torture and alienating us from our history fighting evil in WW2 (I have long feared that Hitler was just early).

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The University of Virginia shows how change comes to America: through agitprop and hysteria

Summary:  Another round of hysteria in America, this time about the “rape culture” causing a “rape epidemic” on campuses. The flagship of this campaign, the lurid gang rape reported in Rolling Stone, has sunk. But the program rolls on, disconnected from the truth of this or any other aspect of the activists’ case. This is how change comes to America, and why meaningful reform remains difficult while our society slowly decays. As any society will when it’s ability to self-repair breaks down. We can do better.
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A rape victim speaks

To read the message, click to enlarge

Contents

  1. How Did We Get Here?
  2. How Change Comes to America
  3. What About All Those Rapes?
  4. For More Information

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(1)  How did we get here?

The story showing the “rape culture” at the University of Virginia continues to unravel, with stories in the media such as “Key Player in UVA Rape Story: Rolling Stone Never Talked to Me“, Hanna Rosin, Slate, 6 December 2014. However we’re dealing with agitprop, not just news. Activists manufacture these stories to justify social and political change. Their underlying truth is irrelevant to these stories ability to motivate Americans. That’s possible because people have found that we don’t object to lies. That’s a discovery of kind that changes the course of nations.

The initial project, pushed for decades by feminists, was re-definition of “rape” from crime by force to the more ambiguous crime due to lack of consent, then to the in the eye of the beholder crime due to lack of “explicit consent”. This greatly increased the numbers so that rape could be declared a major social problem (although a large fraction of sexual assaults or even rapes under the new definitions are not considered rape or assault by the victim — not just at occurrence, but even years later during the survey).

That required blurring the lines between rape by force (assault or battery) — which often leaves behind forensic evidence that provides a strong base for prosecution — to “he said, she said” accounts that would stump Solomon (this also distorts surveys, as they probably have very different rates of under-reporting). For details of the early stages of this project see “A matter of force: The redefinition of rape“, Timothy W Murphy, Air Force Law Review, 1996.  For an example of this advocacy in the press see “The Misguided Definition of Rape as ‘Force’“, Mary Adkins, The Atlantic, 21 May 2014 — “Sometimes, saying no is as brave as a person can be. Isn’t that brave enough?” She conflates woman sleeping with their boyfriends, with sex despite no affirmative consent (but no resistance), with violent stranger rape:

“Another close friend of mine, at age 27, was raped and murdered by an intruder in her sleep. She survived in the hospital for several days before passing away, having been beaten so badly. Her hands were broken from fighting back. Another local woman was also raped by the same intruder, but she didn’t fight back. She lived.”

Once people believe we face an emergency, hastily drafted legislation gets passed and the law enforcement system swings into action to force the desired changes in our behavior. The Left believes in social engineering. It’s one of their defining characteristics, despite their repeated failures from busing children to other schools (instead of fixing all schools) to wrecking our inner cities.

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