Monthly Archives: October 2006

A New Language of Racism

We’ve made one important quantum leap in regards to race relations. Society now frowns upon overt racism. To be a racist is to be attached with a stigma. When you’re labelled a racist, people employ an ad hominem fallacy and extrapolate that nothing else you say can be trusted. People don’t want the stigma attached to them. People avoid being called a racist. They refuse to call themselves racist.

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon that I don’t see get much focus. This might be because it’s fairly modern. People will say very plainly racist things, and then refuse to believe that they are racist. There’s a strange cognitive dissonance in effect, and I believe it’s because of the stigma attached to overt racism. People don’t like to believe that they are racists because racists are bad.

The interesting thing about modern racism is that people can act racist without realizing that they are being racist. This may sound surprising, but it isn’t if we analogize it with other mental states. For example, you can act a certain way because you are feeling jealous, but at the moment, you’re not thinking about jealousy. It’s only when you retrospect that you may attribute your actions to jealousy. Of course, someone can also falsely attribute your actions as jealously, when you were really acting on other impulses. Or, your motives may be mixed.

Racism isn’t simple anymore. It may no longer be useful to outright call someone a “racist.” After all, a person can be jealous, without being a jealous person — without jealousy clouding all their actions. I’m proposing that it may be more appropriate to make racism more like a mental state. Or, we could use racist to refer to certain actions and thoughts.

I don’t know how useful that actually is, but it’s something to seriously consider. I’ll repeat it once more: Racism isn’t simple anymore. I’ll present an even more bizarre scenario that is more common in our modern times. I believe that if we think hard, we can probably find people who are racist towards some black people but not racist towards others. Can you truly call this person racist? I say that people can be racist towards a minority group in some contexts, but not in other contexts. Are these people “racists”? There’s something seriously flawed in our usage of the word. That’s why I believe it may be more useful to apply the term racist to specific instances and mental states, rather than to a person as a whole.

That’s not to say that there aren’t racists, as we traditionally perceive them, but like I said, our society doesn’t like overt racism. These people, such as the KKK, have been pushed to the margins of society. I don’t think mainstream America is full of racist people, like the KKK is. Still, I believe racism is a problem. The solution is that we need to redefine racism. People can act racist without necessarily being a racist. Maybe we can introduce a new word.

Perhaps I can also make another distinction for the modern racial lexicon: “Racially offensive.” I’m sure there’s a better way to phrase it, but it’s what came to my mind first. My proposed distinction is that things can be racially offensive without someone ever having the intention of being racist, not even a latent racist sentiment. People must understand that context, especially historical context, can make things seem racist even when the author doesn’t intend it. Yet, such authors should still be held culpable for their negligence. If it’s obvious to most black people that a certain ad is racially offensive, there’s obviously something wrong with the ad even if you can’t figure it out at the time. Just because you didn’t intend for it to be racist, doesn’t mean it’s not racially offensive. You should listen to other people.

Finally, I’m ambivalent on the issue of PC culture. On the one hand, I don’t think it helps because it drives racism into the shadows, and we need to put it in the light if we want it fixed. In addition, it produces blowback. On the other hand, I find myself trying to correct people who use “gay” in a derogatory context.

In the meantime, I’ll mull over my thoughts on the lexicon of racism.

Racial Controversy on Campus

Racial controversy on campus: Hopkins fraternity accused of racism — Black students protest mock lynching, language on Halloween party invitation.

I’m going to take this opportunity to block this week out for meditations on race in America in general, not necessarily specific to this event. I hope you’ll find them interesting and informative, and hopefully you’ll be glad for a break from politics as usual as we approach fever-pitch heading into election day. Please keep an open mind.

Hm, strange that I don’t have a category for this. I should add a broad “Society” category or something.

EDIT: These next entries will not be formal essays. I will be feeling my way out on these issues in a public way. Perhaps the words will lead to essays.


Due to a (kind of) last-minute drop-out, I decided to participate in the College Democrats vs. College Republicans debate. I was woefully unprepared. Furthermore, I hate Bush and I’m disappointed in Congress. I think our foreign policy is a mess. I’m abstaining from voting because I can’t in good conscience vote for the current batch of Republicans. So, you can see how difficult it was arguing for a party I’m disillusioned with. But during a deficit question, I managed to say, “As a Republican, I’m confused…” and then proceeded to say that we need to cut spending.

I don’t know if the other Republicans agree, but we got our asses handed to us. At least they didn’t quote from the article I (barely) co-wrote for the Black Student Union in which the Republican party was chastised for suppressing the black vote. Hahahaha.

*Sigh* At least I got a free bottle of water, and some more public speaking experience.

Guess I’ll continue wandering the political wilderness…

Are you serious?

Oregon State up 20 points against USC in the 3rd quarter. Goddamn.

EDIT: Didn’t quite come back. Missed the 2 point conversion. 33-31. 4 freakin’ turnovers. Agh.

USC is still going to crush Cal.

EDIT: Texas trailing Texas Tech by 10 at the half. My day just might even out if Texas manages to lose.

An Alarming Situation

You know what, I’ll be honest, I had no clue this was still going on: “The figures are stark. An average of 112 cars a day have been torched across France so far this year and there have been 15 attacks a day on police and emergency services. Nearly 3,000 police officers have been injured in clashes this year. Officers have been badly injured in four ambushes in the Paris outskirts since September. Some police talk of open war with youths who are bent on more than vandalism” (Why 112 cars are burning every day).

A Plan to End Torture

In thinking about the recent Military Commissions Act, I’ve been banging my head against the wall, trying to come up with a plan of action.

I considered protest, massive student protests, but they’re anathema to my character as a conservative and I wondered if they’d really have an effect. As I write more for Principles of Agitation, I realize that real, concrete actions have to be taken, and a light must be shone so people know that there are real problems.

Civil disobedience is out of the picture, however, unless you want to try to plot a terrorist attack and bring up a case before the Supreme Court. Alternatively, see how popular you are when you try to defend the rights of a terrorist.

No, I’ve finally realized a better plan. First, however, I must explain a hypothetical I like to call, “The Ticking Time Bomb Gone Wrong.”

In the Ticking Time Bomb Gone Wrong scenario, we open with the typical Ticking Time Bomb scenario. A bomb of some sort is about to go off somewhere. We have a someone we suspect has information about this bomb. The characters in the scenario decide to torture this person to get information. Whilst they go about the torture, the real culprit goes free, unnoticed, except by one plucky investigator. To make the scenario even better, make sure the tortured person is a horrible person, maybe even involved in the plot, but does not know where the bomb is located. The information they get from torture leads them to the wrong place, and/or the wrong person. Meanwhile, the plucky investigator is trying to get their attention about who the real person is, but they don’t listen because they think the information they got from torture is right. The bomb goes off, and there are massive casualties. The authorities have failed because they relied on torture.

If my scenario sounds highly improbable and kind of like a movie or TV plot, you’re exactly right. That’s the point.

My plan involves getting the media to buy into this story. To make this scenario the subject of a TV show. To get a movie to use this story. To convince people that torture doesn’t work.

Or maybe, with our savvy youth media skills, make this catch fire on YouTube or MySpace videos. To make this the subject of a rap song. Essays. Stories. Novels. Newspaper articles. Weblog entries. Anything and everything.

The power of the Ticking Time Bomb Gone Wrong scenario is that it goes one step further than saying torture is merely ineffective, it says that torture actually weakens our ability to fight terror. It does so in a simplistic fashion that most people can understand. I’m sure it has the emotional power to convince people. It is an effective counter to the torture-apologists’ propaganda, especially in its ability to reach the common person.

Will it motivate them to action? Maybe not. But this is but the first step, and I think an important one. Torture only has this strut to stand upon. If we take it away, support will wither, and we can mount an organized attack.

For now, I throw these thoughts out into the void, but I will expand the Ticking Time Bomb Gone Wrong plot, maybe even write up a script, or find someone to write a script. I will try to find my own crew to make a short film, or I will try to find connections to someone, anyone to do it. I will try to find a way to publicize this story.

Maybe I can hold a competition of some sort, with monetary compensation for the winner.

Are there any people out there willing to turn the Ticking Time Bomb Gone Wrong into a film (or other type of) reality?

Lloyd, surely you know some creative minds out there.

EDIT: An interesting plot twist could be to have the real perpetrators be Sunni and the tortured ones be Shiite, or vice versa. Of course, the torturers have no idea what the difference between the two groups are.

EDIT: As always, critiques of my plan are welcomed. However, if you’re here to criticize the Ticking Time Bomb Gone Wrong scenario, stop. It’s just as improbable as the Ticking Time Bomb scenario itself, but unfortunately, most people don’t realize that.

The Purity of Pool

In an overwhelming world, it’s sometimes good to take a break. Since I can’t jetset off to some far away land, I have to make do with other means.

Today, I played pool from 2PM to 1AM, with a 1 hour break for dinner and a 1 hour break for Battlestar Galactica. After I played for 4 hours, I was like, “I should just play the whole day.” So, I did.

And it was good.

Hobbes on torture

Touchy feely liberal Thomas Hobbes on torture:

“Also accusations upon torture are not to be reputed as testimonies. For torture is to be used but as a means of conjecture and light in the further examination and search of truth; and what is in that case confessed tendeth to the ease of him that is tortured, not to the informing of the torturers, and therefore ought not to have the credit of a sufficient testimony; for whether he deliver himself by true or false accusation, he does it by the right of preserving his own life.” — Leviathan [emphasis mine]

For those unfamiliar with Thomas Hobbes, he’s not a touchy-feely liberal. He’s a 17th century philosopher with a rather bleak view of human nature.

I thought the part I highlighted was interesting. Take it for what you will.

Stay the Course

Stay the course!

“The American military’s stepped-up campaign to staunch unrelenting bloodshed in the capital under an ambitious new security plan that was unveiled in August has failed to reduce the violence, a military spokesman said today.

“Instead, attacks have actually jumped more than 20 percent over the first three weeks of the holy month of Ramadan, compared to the previous three weeks, said Gen. William Caldwell, the military’s chief spokesman in Iraq.”

Ah, but I forgot this from the New York Times, so therefore it must be left-wing liberal bias trying to destroy American resolve in the war. Yes, that’s it.

Remember, everyone: Stay the course! George Bush is a courageous genius!

Newt Gingrich

Been busy. Essays, blech. More busy-ness to come.

Tomorrow, Newt Gingrich is coming to speak at Hopkins and he’ll be on C-SPAN. The speech starts at 8 Eastern time. I think I might be working a microphone during Q&A, so you may see me.

Blogging will be light for the rest of the week.

EDIT: Haha, I’m an idiot. I have no clue when the CSPAN speech will be on. They recorded and will probably play it within the next two weeks. I’ll tell you when it’s on.

EDIT: I got to eat dinner with Newt Gingrich (along with some other peoples in the Symposium). We didn’t talk about politics at all. Some conversation centered on technology. I explained to Newt what Facebook was. That’s exciting on some level.

Decided By Asses

This midterm election, Republicans will be voting with their asses. The GOP’s control of Congress depends on whether people get out and vote, or sit at home, with potato chips, watching Maury. Splendidly entertaining imagery aside, this election will be decided by the success or failure of the Republican “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) effort.

There are plenty of reasons for Republicans not to vote Republican. I don’t see them jumping out of their seats to vote Democrat (thus, I doubt there will be a Democratic wave akin to 1994), but I do see them perfectly content to sit in those seats and not provide support to the corrupt Republicans. The feature story, Time For Us To Go, of the Washington Monthly openly expresses a sentiment I’m sure is shared by many Republicans. In fact, one I’ve heard expressed by die-hard Republicans on campus. We’re tired about spending and illegal immigration (although my line has considerably softened on immigration). We don’t think we’re winning the war. Not all of us drink the party Kool-Aid.

They keep trying to scare us with “Speaker Pelosi.” Yet, there’s an inherent flaw with that strategy. The reason Bush didn’t lose the election was because Kerry and the Democrats weren’t able to articulate a positive alternative. Yes, the Republicans have a platform, but they’ve dissolved that platform via rampant hypocrisy. Some of us have had it. We’ve come to the conclusion that the Republicans really aren’t any better than the Democrats anymore. You’ve lost your ability to articulate a positive vision.

And so, I will sit home this election day, refusing to vote for you.

It’ll be hard for the Democrats to gain control, though. According to Rasmussen’s Senate Balance of Power, “Democrats have to win all five races leaning their way plus all three Toss-Ups to regain control of the Senate.” Meanwhile, only one seat is listed as “Lean Republican.” Slate’s Election Scorecard shows similar results. It’ll be only slightly less than surprising if the Democrats take control, as opposed to a few months ago, when I would’ve said that there’s no way in hell the Democrats will take the Senate. Still, it’s a tall order. I’ll be not surprised at all if Republicans retain control or if it goes 50/50 (in which case Republicans still retain control because Dick Cheney casts deciding votes). Yes, we’re ranking the election on “How Surprised Will Shawn Be.” It’s a very accurate, scientifically tested scale. In any case, there’s no doubts whatsoever that the Republicans will lose seats.

As for the House, I’m unsure. Again, Republicans will lose seats. It’s just a question of “How many?” And that “how many” has drastically increased since my last musings on these elections. Democrats could take control of the House. However, I think it’s more likely that Republicans will retain control by just a sliver.

Undoubtedly, momentum has shifted away from the Republicans, but we’ve still got a few weeks left yet. Does Rove have anything up his sleeve? There’s still time for momentum to shift back, as shown in this particular race from the Rasmussen article linked above: “In Tennessee, Harold Ford, Jr. (D) overcame a large summer deficit to pull into a five-point lead last month. Republican Bob Corker (R) then fired his campaign manager, brought in a new team, and has pulled to within a couple of points.”

In any case, don’t expect Republicans to massively switch over to the Democratic camp. Democrats still don’t represent their best interests. This election won’t be decided by donkeys, it’ll be decided by Republican asses.

Is College Hurting My Education?

There are so many things I want to learn. Perhaps it’s just my inefficient time management, but I haven’t really been able to do much outside reading, aside from keeping up on the news. I need to read more presidential biographies, texts related to democratization, etc. Of course, I had time to do this over summer and all I got done was essentially one, albeit large, text on the Marshall Plan. (The other book I never finished because I didn’t find it very useful.) It’s rather disappointing.

There’s no doubt I’m learning things in college, but I’m doubting the model of learning. I mean, I like lectures. They teach me so much I couldn’t find in the text alone. Still, I don’t feel like I can properly immerse myself in topics I really enjoy.

Right now, despite my provocative blog entry title, I’m thinking it’s more me than the college experience. I just need to learn to prioritize (among other things). The biggest problem is that when I have a big project looming over my head, I can’t get anything else done. I feel as if devoting time to these side projects is bad. But then, I just end up wasting the time anyway. What’s the difference? Perhaps, I should stop procrastinating.

At least I managed to drop a class. It should be easier to find some type of balance now.

Ready to go… or not…

Today I went to see Reverend James Forbes speak. I probably would not have gone had I not been part of the staff of the MSE Symposium. Actually, I just went because I was obligated, not really out of any desire to see Forbes because I didn’t really know who he was.

I am really glad I went. He was so charismatic and energetic. It was infectious. I felt his energy in me.

He talked about finding a “project.” Finding purpose, a calling, in a way, but much more than that. What will they say about you in your obituary?

I could try to make this clearer and more distinct to you the reader, but this is primarily a marker in time for myself.

What I can say is that at the time, he said exactly what I needed. I felt doubt and he introduced a certain type of certainty. Or rather, he inspired me… that I can achieve the change I wish to make in the world.

I’ve been doing some thinking and begun vaguely to define a certain mission as preserving democracy in America. But isn’t this more like preserving the status quo? I answer: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” — Wendell Phillips

At the time, I felt a fire burning within. I was ready to attack the world.

As the energy fades, though, the question arises: “How?” I realize once again that it will be a long and arduous journey. But at least, for once, it seems possible. I suppose some solace can be found in the formulation “project.” It’s something I will work on all my life.

And now, even further from fiery rhetoric, I suddenly realize that the current thing nagging at me hasn’t been answered. Do I stay within the Republican fold and fight for change from within? Or do I start anew with a new party? And what do the words “youth movement” mean to me?

So, I’m thinking even more, and I’ve remembered a phrase, “Above all, you must have faith in yourself.” I suppose that is what has been restored, which I had lost even before my whole political apostasy issues. It cannot be a logical faith. It must be a burning passion.

No, no, now my clarity has been replaced with confusion. It was but there for a moment. I think I need to sleep on it.

North Korea Tests Nukes

North Korea tests a nuke. Will the Republicans beat the war drums loudly enough to drown out the Foley scandal?

Will they place the blame squarely on Clinton?

Are we safer now than we were 6 years ago?

What is Rove’s October Surprise?

Tune in this month for the answer to these questions and more on…

Ah shit, this is fucking real life…

Not Enough Hours in a Day

How am I supposed to pursue my interest in politics while at the same time being so busy with schoolwork? I can handle my classes, but I can’t handle them and all I want to do at the same time. How can I write my discourse?

I think I might have to drop a class… Then again, if I’m so busy, other people must be more busy. How do I convince them to act when the time comes?

Rule of Law vs. Forever-war

Today, I’m doing what I said I’d do yesterday. I’m defending my position against The Apologist. I will go through his comment paragraph by paragraph.

Shawn, detainees are found to be unlawful combatants, or not, under the Geneva Conventions and the UCMJ. You don’t try combatants, lawful or unlawful, in federal court. You never have and you never will. There is only one thing which has changed since 9-11. Terrorism is now considered an act of war, not simply a criminal act.

Timothy McVeigh committed an act of terror. Let’s say McVeigh did what he did today. According to you, terrorism is now an act of war. Thus, McVeigh committed an act of war against the US. He must now be considered a combatant. He must be tried in a military tribunal, no?

Yet, habeas corpus should still apply. He’s a citizen. If you believe that the MCA doesn’t strip citizens of the right to habeas corpus, we have reached a dilemma.

The situation is not as clear-cut as you would have us think. You cannot treat every act of terror as if it was purely an act of war.

A problem I didn’t address in my original entry was the fact that to be declared an unlawful combatant, you need not commit a terrorist act. All you have to do is provide material aid to a terrorist organization, which further blurs the term, “act of war.”

There exist gray areas. The solution is not to let the executive decide who’s a combatant and who’s not. The terrorist exists in a vacuum when it comes to international law. The solution isn’t ceding more power to the executive, to let him decide which legal residents, on US soil, should be detained or not detained. Where there is too much gray, it is better to extend the rule of law, than to expand the prerogative of the executive. We must outlaw terrorism under international law. Read: The Dread Pirate Bin Laden. Doing this will do more to reduce terrorist acts than to allow the executive to prosecute a forever-war against small, disparate bands of extremists.

The next paragraph I have to split into two parts.

Your objections remind me of the infamous “Gorelick wall” between the CIA and the FBI. You cannot prosecute a war in court.

Ah yes, because I think it unusual for the writ of habeas to be suspended for legal residents on US soil, I must have a pre-9/11 mindset, n’est-ce pas? To say that we are either at war or must treat terrorists solely as pre-9/11 criminals is to introduce a false dichotomy. “You cannot prosecute a war in court” sounds very convincing on paper, but how does this work in real life? Since terror as a tactic will never be fully extinguished, you’ve now given the executive permanent war-time powers. Bravo. Instead of giving the president more discretion, we could extend the law so that we can treat terrorists differently than other criminals.

Wild eyed speculations and farcical morality tales about random people being disappeared by the Stasi are unserious. This is a real war. Real people are dying every day all over the world at the hands of Jihadi terror. You are treating it like a poli-sci thought experiment.

Here, you completely mischaracterize my argument. I specifically say that those wild-eyed speculations don’t matter, using “It doesn’t matter” multiple times in the same paragraph. I was engaging in something called abstract reasoning. “This is a real war” is hardly an argument for cavalierly dismissing the entirety of philosophical enterprise. Just because there’s a war going on, doesn’t mean you give up the right to question the actions of your government. Just because people are dying, doesn’t mean you don’t try to consider the consequences of your government’s actions. As a conservative, it is my duty to put out my hand and say, “Stop!” It is my duty to call for prudence. You give a president power today, and you don’t know what the president 20 years from now will do with it. Humans beings are imperfect and it is inevitable that we will occasionally elect truly corrupt individuals. The Constitution is not created to guarantee that the best person will get the job, but so the tyrannical man cannot screw things up too much. I’m saying that we’re treading down a dangerous road, giving the executive power that has the potential for abuse.

And to throw in a cheap shot, maybe Bush and Rumsfeld should’ve done some thought-experiments about the aftermath of Iraq.

The Constitution remains what it has always been. No one has c[e]ded Supreme Executive Power to the President. Congress can always repeal the law or amend it if it proves too broad or leads to abuse. Congress retains all [its] powers of oversight. The Executive is still subject to Congress and the Courts. Congress has an inherent power to determine the Court’s jurisdiction. It has done so. It can undo so if it sees fit.

Let’s not be clinical when we talk about the circumstances in which Congress may decide to repeal the law. “If it proves too broad or leads to abuse” means innocent people shoved in jail forever and not given a lawyer. Like I said before, as a conservative, it’s my job to call for prudence. Maybe we should try not passing laws that could lead to broad abuse. Maybe we should exercise caution instead of saying, “Yeah, let’s give the President the power to indefinitely detain legal residents and we’ll think about repealing it if too many people wind up in prisons.”

I do agree that the President doesn’t have Supreme Executive Power. Luckily, we still have the courts. But the Supreme Court doesn’t have the power to convene and strike down a law. The trial process takes a long time. Congress doesn’t appear to be growing a backbone anytime soon. In the interim, we have too much potential for abuse.

Does this automatically preclude military action? No. The war in Afghanistan was just. However, there is a vast world of difference when you declare the entire world, including the US, to be a battlefield. The point is that the situation isn’t merely a decision between war and treating them as pre-9/11 criminals. There are many additional factors to take into account.

In conclusion, it doesn’t mean I have a pre-9/11 mindset if I engage in abstract reasoning. It doesn’t mean I have a pre-9/11 mindset if I have a respect for the rule of law, which is essential for liberty. When it comes to acts of terror, it is nonsensical to treat all of them purely as acts of war. Instead of letting the president indefinitely detain legal residents to fight a forever-war, we should figure out how we need to change the law to effectively reduce and punish terrorism.

Into the Wilderness

I’d like to thank The Apologist for this comment:

Shawn, detainees are found to be unlawful combatants, or not, under the Geneva Conventions and the UCMJ. You don’t try combatants, lawful or unlawful, in federal court. You never have and you never will. There is only one thing which has changed since 9-11. Terrorism is now considered an act of war, not simply a criminal act.

Your objections remind me of the infamous “Gorelick wall” between the CIA and the FBI. You cannot prosecute a war in court. Wild eyed speculations and farcical morality tales about random people being disappeared by the Stasi are unserious. This is a real war. Real people are dying every day all over the world at the hands of Jihadi terror. You are treating it like a poli-sci thought experiment.

The Constitution remains what it has always been. No one has ceeded Supreme Executive Power to the President. Congress can always repeal the law or amend it if it proves too broad or leads to abuse. Congress retains all it’s powers of oversight. The Executive is still subject to Congress and the Courts. Congress has an inherent power to determine the Court’s jurisdiction. It has done so. It can undo so if it sees fit.

Don’t be an Andy Sullivan. The man has lost his mind. Don’t wander too far off into the Libertarian wilderness. We need smart young republicans and conservatives. Try breathing into a paper bag for a couple of seconds.

I’m going to write a detailed defense of my position tomorrow.

For now, I just wanted to reply to this part: “Don’t be an Andy Sullivan. The man has lost his mind. Don’t wander too far off into the Libertarian wilderness. We need smart young republicans and conservatives. Try breathing into a paper bag for a couple of seconds.”

It’s going to take more than breathing into a paper bag for a couple of seconds. You may need me, but do I need you? Why do I need a party that spends so much and proclaims to be in favor of fiscal responsibility? Why do I need a party that tramples all over the states and then claims it is in favor of less government? Why do I need a party that doesn’t let two people who love each other marry and then claims it is in favor of family values? Why do I need a party that haphazardly launched us into a war without adequately preparing for the consequences (thus, setting us up for possible defeat) and then claims it is in favor of strong defense?

No, I think it’s too late to convince me to come back. I must wander the wilderness for a time. Maybe I will find my way back into the Republican fold eventually, but for now, I’m coming to the conclusion that I can no longer in good faith call myself a Republican. Specifically, give me a call when these two things happen: 1) When the Republicans stop bashing gays 2) When the Republicans get serious about security instead of using it as a political bludgeon.

Perhaps what I’m about to do is stupid, but I will be more disappointed with myself if I sit by and accept the status quo.

Good King, Bad King (or, Abstract Reasoning on the Writ of Habeas Corpus)

You can create a lot of problems (centuries’ worth) by framing a problem incorrectly.

In Disney’s Robin Hood the villain is Prince John, the “phony king of England.” While his brother King Richard is off fighting in the Crusades, he becomes a tyrant. He taxes the people, and when Robin Hood embarrasses him, he decides to tax the people more. He taxes the heart and soul out of the people, eventually throwing almost everyone in jail. The Sheriff of Nottingham even takes money from the clergy, and shoves Friar Tuck in jail.

Does anyone remember the resolution to this problem? Think past Robin Hood breaking everyone out of jail… Think further…

The movie resolves when King Richard comes back from the Crusades. He punishes Prince John and crew. It explicitly shows that all is well once the good king returns.

The problem, however, was not Prince John. There’s a villain much more nefarious that is not shown in the film. The problem was giving absolute power to the sovereign. You put the sovereign in position where he merely has the ability to tax the heart and soul out of the people by decree.

The problem doesn’t go away when you switch to a new king because at any moment, he could decide to change his mind. Or, you could get a new king who’s not so nice. The problem isn’t ever the disposition of the king. The problem is putting yourself under the arbitrary will of any king.

The solution is not getting a new king because the problem can always arise again. The solution is creating laws such that any king cannot tax the hell out of the people. This is why we live under laws, and why no one should be above the law.

Otherwise, you put yourself under the arbitrary will of an individual (or group of individuals). Even if you think they will never act as tyrants, you cannot give them the ability to abuse you if they wanted to. That’s why the president is bound by laws. Because even if you believe one president may not cause harm, what happens with the next president? You’re never guaranteed safety unless you live under the rule of law.

Thus, if you grant the sovereign too much prerogative, you live no longer under laws, but under his arbitrary will. It matters not what his actions are. It matters not if he is a good king, or a bad king: He is still a king! You do not live free!

And now, we turn to the current suspension of writ of habeas corpus for legal aliens — legal residents, your neighbors and my neighbors, your friends and my friends. Or perhaps, yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t listen to any of the shrill cries. It doesn’t matter if you think no one will be whisked away in the dead of night and indefinitely detained. It doesn’t matter if you think Bush will never abuse his power. It doesn’t matter if you think we will be so careful that only the guilty will be captured. It doesn’t matter if you think occasionally capturing innocents is worth it in order to protect the homeland.

What matters is only the fact that the executive branch now has the power to indefinitely detain legal residents, without having to give a reason. The writ of habeas corpus has been suspended for legal aliens. Sure, they may be subjected to military tribunal at some point, but this tribunal is also created at the discretion of the executive. He makes the rules, not the people. Remember, there’s a reason why the Founders separated the government into separate branches.

It matters not if he is a good executive or bad executive. It doesn’t matter if he does anything or not; it only matters that he can. Legal residents of the US have been placed under his arbitrary will. No one should ever have that power.

Good king or bad king… He is still a king.

The Courts still exist, still function. We are under no threat of invasion or rebellion. There is no reason to give that much prerogative to the executive.

And of course, the objection will arise that we are fighting a new type of war against a new type of enemy. Yet, surely, you don’t think you’re safe if you place yourself under the arbitrary will of another man? The shield of law protects everyone with much more strength than an over-zealous executive. If you relinquish this shield, what will happen when the enemy has been vanquished, and the conquerer turns around and looks at you.

[An objection I haven’t fully addressed is the issue of the fairness of the military tribunals. I welcome comments of that topic that will further enlighten me. I will also attempt some of my own research. However, I felt it necessary to get this message out now. Mainly because I felt it was certain that the writ of habeas corpus was stripped, I believed that I had enough ground to stand on to make my arguments.]

Important Reading on Torture and Terror

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Read: What A Terrorist Incident in Ancient Rome Can Teach Us

But it was too late to raise such questions. By the oldest trick in the political book — the whipping up of a panic, in which any dissenting voice could be dismissed as “soft” or even “traitorous” — powers had been ceded by the people that would never be returned. Pompey stayed in the Middle East for six years, establishing puppet regimes throughout the region, and turning himself into the richest man in the empire.

Read: ‘The More Subtle Kind of Torment’

The prisoner’s environment must be manipulated to produce a “regression of the personality to whatever earlier and weaker level is required for the dissolution of resistance.” This usually doesn’t take much. “Relatively small degrees of homeostatic derangement, fatigue, pain, sleep loss, or anxiety” are generally sufficient.

It doesn’t require “real” torture to produce disastrously unreliable information.

Read: Lloyd’s on dehumanization.

History clearly shows that the use of torture moves quickly from an interrogational method to elicit vital information to a device that wrings a confession from an individual. This distinction is critical to understand.

Quote of the Day

From the great Machiavelli, in his Discourses on Livy:

“…Caesar, as their head, could so blind the multitude that it did not recognize the yoke that it was putting on its own neck.”

The Republican party has been blinded by its devotion to Bush.

I hope that the American people have not become so corrupt that we can no longer live free.