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America at the Crossroads

Discussion in 'Alley of Lingering Sighs' started by Chandos the Red, Sep 21, 2006.

  1. Chandos the Red

    Chandos the Red This Wheel's on Fire

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    In the winter of 1761 the Old State House in Massachusetts was filled to capacity. The issue at hand, and before the court, was the infamous “Writs of Assistance,” which the British Crown had put in place over Boston merchants as a part of its Navigation Acts. On hand to argue against the writs was a newly converted radical, James Otis, who ironically had recently been rewarded for his loyal conservatism by the Crown with an appointment as the King’s General Advocate to the colony. When it was all over Otis had spoken for five hours and he completely electrified the colonial spectators sitting in the courtroom. A young John Adams , who was among those present, was to later comment that he was “ready to take to the streets as were those others who had attended” to protest over the issue so well argued against by Otis. Some American scholars have argued that it was the speech that sparked the American Revolution. And it may have been precisely that:


    The last part is the most interesting because it focuses on the need for accountability within the government itself – “That no man, no court may inquire,” was one of the major points that had offended the colonist’s sense of justice. But in the larger picture it is about the “natural rights” of the individual versus the State. The American Revolution was more than one of canons, guns, battles and flag-waving, but it was an intellectual revolution as well, often referred to as the American Enlightenment. It may not have originated in America, since the revolution in thinking was already well under way in Scotland and England as well. But the American Founders crafted a systematic government based on the Rule of Law and the basis of power and authority resting with the People themselves. It would seem that it was, for the most part, successful for more than the last two hundred years, since then the nation has walked a path (if not somewhat twisted) towards greater liberty for all individuals, including blacks, other minorities and women.

    In the year 2000 enter a new regime. One which was not interested in the traditional American experiment, with its notions of the Rule of Law, Due Process of Law and the natural rights of the individual, but with the notion of reviving the old dreams of empire-building based on executive power and privilege, with all the trappings of the military-nation state, which is exactly what many of the founders despised. How can a nation with several hundred years of a tradition steeped in liberty be falling so fast? That the current administration is even tolerated by 35 percent of the population is an abysmal statement on the current condition of its citizenship. The last week has seen the all-out attempt by the Whitehouse to embrace its policy of torture, secret detentions and its circumvention of the Rule of Law and Due Process regarding anyone it considers “an enemy.” Let’s take the case of the Canadian businessman, Maher Arar.

    To Syria? Isn’t that one of those “terrorist states?” Of course Maher was not really an American anyway, so why the big deal?

    If the desire is to keep the nation safe, perhaps finding who the “bad guys” really are might prove helpful. Let’s see what valuable information “Team Bush” gathered as a result of its vaunted torture and retention strategy:

    Amazing, don’t you feel safer now? Isn’t it comforting to know that the government is on the case? Of course, no one ever said Arar committed a crime – only that he was considered “dangerous.”

    The point is that had there been the tiniest shred of the Due Process of Law in all this, it could have been avoided, and the government could have been looking for the real “bad guys” rather than hunting up harmless computer programmers who happen to be Islamic. That any American would stand for this speaks volumes of where the nation is regarding its own heritage of the Rule of Law and individual rights. But this case is not just about the policies of King George, because the Canadians unwittingly share much of the blame for what happened to Maher. Yet, they had no idea of the brutality of what Maher would face:

    This is something King George is promoting at the moment. Last week he said that he would like congress to give him a definition of “torture.” Someone please give the man a dictionary. I guess they were in short supply at Yale. In a recent poll King George’s ratings improved somewhat. It was a surprise – sort of – since some are regarding this improvement as a result of Rove’s policy of embracing torture and secret government prisons. But to a more acute observer it is more likely the improving economy and, just as important, the price of oil. Have Americans become better consumers than they have citizens? This is the question Americans will have to answer if they wish to continue to claim to promote “freedom” in not only their home country, but other parts of the world.

    It would be a tragic commentary to that tradition of individual rights and liberty if America fell to the wayside on the heap of history as result of a patch of poor judgment regarding its leadership. The American president (and I apologize to the memory of the real King George, since even he was a better and more competent ruler than the current American leader) – has “led” America to a Crossroads, which direction it goes in from here is up to its citizens.

    The reputation of James Otis diminished in the last years of his life. And he once commented to a friend that when he died, he hoped that he would go out in a “flash of lightening.” Several years later he was standing in the doorway of a friend's home when he was hit by lightening, and killed on the spot. Be careful what you wish for.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/18/AR2006091800883.html

    [ September 22, 2006, 01:39: Message edited by: Chandos the Red ]
     
  2. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    I saw that article yesterday regarding Arar, and considered starting a topic on it, but to be honest, for the most part, I'm just so sick and tired of complaining about this administration. I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of people in the U.S. - those that have lost all respect for the Republican Party who see the latest torture initiatives as just one more thing to add to the list of what they don't like about the administration, and those that will support Bush no matter how wrongly he leads this country.

    There are two things that I can't believe no one brings up regarding torture: 1.) It rarely provides good intelligence. It is far more likely for someone to say anything they think will make the torture stop - regardless of whether it is true or not. 2.) America lost the moral high ground in the war on terror by the time Abu Ghraib came about, but does it not occur to anyone that if you allow certain types of torture to people you capture, that those same techniques can then be applied to U.S. soldiers? I will admit that American POWs in Iraq and Afghanistan are few and far between - they are much more likely to be killed outright upon capture than to be tortured. But it's also equally unlikely that this is the last war America will ever find itself in, and in later conflicts the prospects of American POWs may be a greater possibility.

    I hope not. Just as I thought it really wasn't the fault of the administration that gas prices soared last year, the cause of the recent drop has little to do with the administration as well.

    When Katrina hit last year, the federal government's response was deplorable. However, due to all the human suffering one thing that was overlooked was that Katrina also knocked a bunch of refineries and oil stations located in and around the Gulf of Mexico off-line. The administration doesn't take much heat for that - and rightly so. While they should be soundly criticized for not helping the people of New Orleans more, there really isn't much you can do to move an offshore oil platfrom out of the way of approaching hurricane. However, because of the loss of these platforms and refineries, the remaining refineries were operating at or near 100% production, and still not meeting consumer needs. Now one year later, we have finally reached a point where repairs have been made and production is back to where it was before the hurricane. As a result, refineries are now operating at around 93% capacity, and are actually producing more than what is being consumed. THAT'S why the price of gas is going down more then anything else.
     
  3. Chandos the Red

    Chandos the Red This Wheel's on Fire

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    Prices are falling very fast, just in time for November. I'm sure that the election and the price of gas are not connected in anyway...well...
     
  4. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    The only flaw in the argument is that torture has been standard operating procedure for the CIA for a very long time. Every president has faced this issue and every president has allowed the CIA to continue this practice. I find it ironic that Slick Willie is now coming out against torture (now that it is en vogue I guess it shouldn't be surprising) yet he did absolutely nothing the prevent the use of torture while he was president.

    I can understand why President Bush is taking his current stance even though I don't agree with it. This is all about diminishing the power of the presidency and the ability of the president (through the intelligence agencies) to protect the United States. It is also about congress trying to wrestle control away from the president -- I believe any president would fight against it. That Bush is fighting for this in the twilight of his presidency (knowing full well that a democrat will probably follow him) is actually a testiment of his desire to protect the office of the president -- an admirable trait (albeit he should instead formulate a doctrine which gives guidelines for field interrogation).

    I agree that torture is unreliable and reprehensible -- yet, torture is quite relative. Many non-damaging techniques used to soften prisoners (such as sleep deprevation) could be considered torture to some. Indeed for some people incarceration is torture. To generically ban torture is to eliminate many valid and reliable information gathering techniques.

    I think you should be questioning the Canadian authorities even more than the US -- they knew they were sacrificing a Canadian citizen. They classified him as dangerous. They knew the consequences of that classification. And if he really were a dangerous threat to Canada and America, would you be so quick to condemn what happened?

    Edit:

    I would be willing to agree with you if I did not know about the rebuilding of the chemical plants and refineries from both the chemical journals/magazines I read and the industry I am in. However, yes, it is just a fluke the two coincide. The repairs to a hurricane take approximately one year -- add to that a few months for the refineries to get back to full capacity (you don't just flip a switch and suddenly start producing at 100%) and, low and behold, prices are coming down.
     
  5. Chandos the Red

    Chandos the Red This Wheel's on Fire

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    It's not the first time we ever had a hurricane in the Gulf - they are not new to the Gulf of Mexico.

    I too deplore the use of torture, yet do you not believe that the Due Process of Law could help greatly in making sure that we were "torturing" the rght person, someone who actually knew something important? And how is Bush protecting the presidency? in what manner and with what specific legislation is the office threatened by Congress?
     
  6. Harbourboy

    Harbourboy Take thy form from off my door! Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    This, from financial columnist Robert Kiyosaki:

     
  7. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    I certainly cannot deny that torture has taken place during many presidential administrations. I think the problem that is being discussed here is that this administration is openly outsourcing people they have detained to be tortured in other countries, and in many cases only flimsy (if any) evidence is compiled against them. Torture is always a reprehensible practice, but to do it on someone who has done nothing wrong and doesn't even know what information you're asking him about is contemptable.
     
  8. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Sorry HB, but the 'Rich Dad,Poor Dad' guy is not a very reliable source. He's off base in the majority of his predictions and recomendations. Not to mention the man he describes as his dad ... wasn't. He's got integrity issues. But that's kind of going a little off topic from Chandos' post.

    Chandos: Katrina was the worst in a while. Historically, major hurricanes (Andrew, Ivan, etc.) have taken a year to firmly redevelop the infrastructure of the areas they hit. It's the infrastructure that is critical to the reimergence of major business capabilities.

    You know as well as I do that Due Process can take years. Not a good timeframe for fighting terrorism. Like I said, I'm not for torture, but some people need to be questioned right away. Either they are going to give up info or they're not.

    Any law that limits the capabilities/methods of executive agencies limits the power of the president -- I'm not sure such limitations are not necessary, but I don't think they should be given up at the whim of congress without a fight. It should either be freely conceded without congress involvement (which I believe in this case it should be) or the president should fight it -- Bush has chosen the latter. In this case I think President Bush is listening to his advisors (such as the head of the CIA) and not following the moral high road.

    Aldeth: The sources were credible -- the Canadian government said the guy was dangerous. Torturing the guy was wrong, going after him, based on the Canadian info, was not. I really don't think this type of act is new to any government.
     
  9. Chandos the Red

    Chandos the Red This Wheel's on Fire

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    T2 - Thanks for responding in a thoughtful manner to my questions. Still, it is the job of Congress to legislate laws that are based on the principles on which this nation was founded: That was my point in crafting this thread. And that representative government and the Courts make opened and informed decisions regarding such important questions as whether or not we torture detainees or other "suspects." The role of the exceutive is to only enforce those laws and carry out to the best of its ability the decisions made in the courts and under the Rule of Law. The executive does not decide the guilt of a suspect, nor does it create new laws to further its own ends.

    No suspect can be held for this long under the Due Process of Law without evidence, at least in free nations. The man committed no crime. Nor was he accused of one.

     
  10. The Shaman Gems: 28/31
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    With that last issue, I find myself basically tired of protesting. I don't know about you, but I catch myself becoming callous simply by the amount of brutalities classified as "just" or "reciprocated" in today's world. How many times must we quote Nietzche's saying that he who fights monster should be careful to not turn himself into one, I don't know. I offer the American people my condolences for the loss of the reputation their nation enjoyed. Unfortunately, it would probably take a while before people stop having a sour taste in their mouths whenever an American official starts talking about, say, freedom or justice. Concepts such as these do not deserve the abuse they endure from politicians, and these last few years have been especially appaling.

    Note: I presume you know already, but burning a flag is, in fact, the proper method of destroying one. A flag is a symbol of a nation's strength and integrity, and when it has been desecrated, say by an act of cowardice or treason, it should be burned. Actually, there are usually very few situations in which a flag can be used, and its use in any other case (such as, for example, advertisement of a good or service) can easily count as such abuse as to be considered a desecration. Burning a flag is not in any way offensive to what it stands for; on the contrary, it means that a person or group considers the flag dishonored and abused, and want to save it further degradation. Symbolically speaking, it is a burial ceremony for the ideals the flag used to stand for.

    So when people burn a flag, they are making a serious political and emotional statement. It is sad when the people in power do not know or do not want to know that.

    [ September 21, 2006, 23:51: Message edited by: The Shaman ]
     
  11. Gnarfflinger

    Gnarfflinger Wiseguy in Training

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    But it should not be done as a sign of protest. In fact, it ought be done quietly, with little to no attention. In a furnace would be appropriate.

    All this talk of moral high ground is n illusion. The real point behind Afghanistan, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, etc is about neutralizing perceived threats to national security. And it's not done. Iran and North Korea still thumb their nose at the US. How long before Hezbollah launches more rocket attacks on Israel? Where is the corpse of Osama Bin Laden? This isn't over, and it will continue beyond 2009, no matter who is in the White House...
     
  12. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
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    To me, it seems the issue is what the country stands for. We should not be surprised by hypocrisy in government, in the lust for power that people seem to exhibit and their willingness to ignore inconvenient details that challenge their narratives. That news is older than Splunge.

    Ultimately, this thread seems to be about the willingness to exercise power, for whatever means are considered necessary, and the ideological rationalisations of those means (whether it be flag-burning or precision-bombing). It's so much easier to not worry about it, particularly when life is comfortable and petrol costs less, or to just point the finger without considering one's own complicity in matters.

    That said, take heart that it's not just the US. People are willing to look the other way, so long as it's not them in the firing line, as long as it gets the job done. The saddest part is that in doing so, they don't just lose the chance to engage in debate - they actively avoid it. We surrender the ground almost without knowing it, and certainly not having considering all of the consequences of our actions.

    I'll admit that torturing suspected terrorists and investigating allegations against police are different matters, but at their core, they relate to the same thing: our willingness to be active in holding our institutions accountable. People may say "it's a different world, now", or "everything changed on 9/11". Garbage. It only changed because we let it change. Because we were so shocked, and so scared, that we let it happen, and barely put up a whisper. I don't think many people would argue that the old methods are still completely viable, but the ideas underpinning them - that we do these things, we authorise the use of force in our names and interests - should not have.

    It's sad, but I had hoped I wouldn't have had to deal with a political and social reality that ascribed to the same philosophies as Nathan R. Jessep. Sure, we need to be protected. We live in a world that has walls and doors, and those points have to be guarded. We have the luxury of not knowing what intelligence and counter-terrorism personnel know. They're doing the job we sent them to do.

    That doesn't mean we can't (or shouldn't) question the manner in which they achieve those goals. It doesn't mean that they can do whatever they consider necessary in the pursuit of those goals. And in the end, it means that if we are going to hold ourselves up in the world as proud examples, we need to be willing to ask those questions and face the reality of the answers.

    PS: Man, I've missed sitting under Chandos' learning tree...
     
  13. Death Rabbit

    Death Rabbit Straight, no chaser Adored Veteran Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    HA!
     
  14. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Chandos: It's easy to thoughtful when we both feel the same way about the subject (I realize I am sometimes a little too agressive :eek: ). Along the lines of the due process issue -- I thought there were special provisions for 'enemies of the state' which means enemy soldiers and spies. By declaring a 'war on terrorism' (and specifically al-Qaeda) members of those organizations are considered 'enemies of the state' and no longer have the same rights as do citizens and visitor to this country. But I can't remember where I've read that.

    Gnarff: As much as I hate seeing someone show for disrespect the flag (which includes the ignorant masses who put the flag out AND LEAVE IT until it's nothing but a tattered ruin), I have to disagree with you. I spent a majority of my adult life in the military -- 'support and defend the Constitution of the United States.' It is the right of individuals to protest and that includes burning/desecrating the flag. I am not alone in this, the main opponent of the legislation was a Medal of Honor receipient from Hawaii.
     
  15. Equester Gems: 18/31
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    Actually amnesty international does consider sleep deprevation a form of torture. In denmark at least, we have a cormercial going in black and white where you see a supposed iraqee prisoner with a goldmedal around is neck. the speaker slowly says, "if there was a gold medal for staying awake it would go to an unnamed iraqee prisorner. sleep deprevation is a form of torture no mather what mr bush says. write a letter to bush" screen turns black and amnesties logo turns up.

    I find the cormercial great and the pint very good. you can called it what you want, forcing people to stay awake and stay in uncomfortable positions and so forth is torture no mather what you call it.

    And to ban torture is the only right thing to do, as soon as you allow the lesser evil in, you are no better then then the evil.
    "he who fights monsters, shall watch out or he himself will become a monster"
     
  16. Abomination Gems: 26/31
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    Torture, like many things, depends on the result. If the torture resulted in saving the lives of innocents then torture was justified in that situation. If the torture results in some innocent being tortured then it wasn't justified in that situation.
     
  17. joacqin

    joacqin Confused Jerk Veteran

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    Torture is never justified, by using torture you turn yourself into something worse than what you are trying to fight. Sure it might seem worthwhile in the short run, but in the long one?

    As for this Canadian, there have been many people from all over the world whom which the US government have basically kidnapped and then flewn to secret prisons around the world. Was one German man who even ended up on 60 minutes.
     
  18. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Amnesty International is a great organization, but at times a bit overzealous (which is a good thing). Sleep deprivation is a good tool to use to a point -- it can, and has been, abused as a tool to the point of torture. But the line between effective use and torture is quite gray. Hence, the requirement for definitions of what constitutes torture.
     
  19. AMaster Gems: 26/31
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    I'd agree, except it's unreliable; one cannot realistically expect torture to consistently result in accurate information.

    Doing evil to prevent evil is, to a point, acceptable. The point where it becomes unacceptable is either where the evil one does as prevention has little/no efficacy (Ex: torture) or exceeds the evil one seeks to prevent (Ex: nuking the entire middle east to forestall another 9/11).
     
  20. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    That's why you need to torture lots of people: corroboration ;)
     
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