Archive for May 2009

Republicans Not Making Sense

I have been listening to the Republican allegations about Judge Sotomayor and it is truly repugnant.  No repugnant is not the right word, it is nuts.  Have the psychos taken over the Republican Party?  I listened  to Rush Limbaugh talk about President Obama and I thought to myself, has hate speech come into vogue?  No, I am serious.  Rush Limbaugh and some of the others are inciting to violence.  This is not entertainment.  This is encouraging the demented in our society to take up arms.

Even some Republicans have asked the mouths of Newt Gingrich and  Rush Limbaugh to tone it down.  They are realizing that these racist attacks could alienate one of the biggest voting blocks in the future, but I have no idea how Republican ideology could appeal to them anyway.  I guess what is so shocking to me is that the whole debate is one smear campaign.  Is that what the Republican Party has come to?  Instead of standing firm on their values, they just make outrageous claims about their opponent and hope the feeble minded voter buys into this slander?

I think we are seeing the bankruptcy of Republican ideas in these attacks.  I think what we are seeing is frantic behavior resulting from Republicans starting to realize that their ideas no longer have merit.  They are having a panic attack.  The debates on torture and closing Guantanamo are a case in point.  They have become shrill.  There is no more give and take, but rude interrupting and shouting.  I guess it is hard to continue the torture has value mantra as more and more evidence is mounting that it didn’t.  So out shout your adversary.  Get more frantic.  It reminds me of a discussion I had a while back where a very conservative, conservative explained to me that George Bush wasn’t a conservative, but a liberal.  They are grasping at straws and the straws they are grasping at are less and less rational.

The problem is our 24/7 news media who looks at these shouting matches as entertainment and that is how they cover them.  As Frank Rich pointed out in his column this morning (Who is to Blame for the Next Attack)  and I pointed out in my blog (We Moved On, But They Haven’t) the press is making the same mistake it made before 9/11 allowing false information to go unchallenged.  Dick Cheney’s speech last week is a case in point.  When one side is making outrageous statements, and the other is trying to be rational, the media should not be a neutral moderator of this discussion, but debunk the outrageousness instead of letting it be presented as fact.  If they keep this up, we are doomed as they repeat their errors of the post 9/11 reporting.

I think when you look at the details of some of the allegations that are being made, you really start to see the irrational emotionalism of the Republicans.  Pat Buchannan, who MSNBC keeps giving a microphone to, has attacked Judge Sotomayor about the reverse discrimination suit involving white fire fighters.  Is his emotionalism he missed the whole point of the case, which was that throwing out the test as being unfair because no black firefighters had passed it was not a question of fairness. It was a question of whether throwing out the test was legal  Had she ruled as he felt she should, she would have had to ignore current law and precedent, and in fact, be an activist judge.  For a Republican there is no definition anymore of activist judge except one that doesn’t agree with them.

What we are finding is that Republicans have no argument on the issues based upon the facts because more and more, the facts are not supporting their arguments.  So they are turning to fear and wild emotional appeals not based upon a rational considerations of the actual reality.  Their mantra of small government, low taxes, and faith in the market place with minimal regulation has failed miserably.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t merit in these ideas, but they need to evolve to meet the reality we find ourselves in.  In order to do this, they must jettison their base because it is what mires them in their intransigence.  Right now the Republican’s base are the irrational psychos that need to be marginalized.  Said another way, If the Republican Party is going to be rejuvenated and become a big tent organization, then this base will have to be jettisoned. They are going to have to accept some moderation that their base will never stand for.  Until they are up to this task, we will continue to see the kinds of irrational and emotional attacks and wild claims instead of reasoned and thoughtful debate about our problems.  As long as the 24/7 cable media continues to feed on this circus, we are all done a great disservice and if we fall for it, we are doomed.

Vine/Wine Friday

Vine:   Another week of thinning, now mostly in the Grenache.  I finished these rows which is a relief because the Grenache is a very thick and hearty plant and you really have to dig your way in to see each spur and remove the unwanted shoots.  I am now in the final block of thinning, the Mourvedre, which is considerably easier because the plant is not as thick and it is easier to see what needs to be removed.  The picture above shows the lower vineyard before mowing and final thinning.  Once in a while you break off a keeper and it breaks your heart, but that is life.  I have also been back in the Syrah because it is growing so fast trying to push new growth up through the wires so you don’t end up with a jumbled mess or horizontal growth.  The lower vineyard is more challenging than the upper vineyard because you are always standing on a 45° slope and it just wears you out.  Some of my work was slowed down last week as I really started to feel punk.  I thought it was just old age and too much sun, which is always a possibility, but it turned out to be a tick bite or spider bite which my wife discovered (on my back) which was a little infected.  Once it was cleaned and treated with an antibiotic I started feeling much better. It just goes with the territory of working with nature.  At any rate, I will only have one more week of getting up at 5 am so I can be out by 9am and then it will be manageable.

The other major chore is to mow down the grass/clover in the vineyard and then do a massive weed-eating job to tidy up the vineyard.  The picture on the left shows the upper vineyard after I mowed it.  Most of the grasses and clovers have gown to seed and dried out so it is a good time to cut them down before I am dragging my spraying gear through the vineyard.  It is always a chore to drag out my tow behind deck mower and then get it running since I only use it once a year.  After much cussing and pouring gasoline directing into the air intake of the carburetor, I got it running although in fits and starts, and got the upper vineyard mowed.  This weekend I will tackle the lower vineyard in the evenings when it is not so hot.  Mowing the lower vineyard is a somewhat daunting task as the terraced lower vineyard is very steep so there is a distinct pattern to stay safe.  With 500 #s of mower behind you, you never turn downhill or you may see the mower go by you as you swing around and start down the hill backwards.  More than once, before I learned how to manage the turns and hills, I ended up tittering on the brink of disaster having to gingerly climb off the machine in a precarious position and then use the winch on my ATV to pull into a safe position.  This week, like every week, I think just one more week and then I will be able to relax.  The reality is about June 30 everything is really done and then you just coast to harvest, with some minor thinning and other maintenance.  The picture below shows my trusty ATV with tow behind mower.

Wine:   Last week was our Rock and Rhones event in which four of our wineries in Pleasant Valley (south of HW 50) that grow Rhone Varietals have a pairing of food and wine.  I have written about it in my last several Vine/Wines so I won’t bore you here except to say that the wines were excellent and I now have a good supply for the summer.  Believe it or not, one of my favorite pairings was an El Dorado honey, fennel, ginger & viognier marinated salmon cooked in parchment with a Roussanne/Viognier blend at Narrow Gate, and some goat cheese with a lemon olive oil paired with a Viognier at Miraflores.  I know, I know, whites.  What was I thinking?  There was also a Forest King Boletes Mushroom Tart with spring onions at Sierra Vista with their Mourvedre which was excellent (see a red).  If any of the wineries had live music I would have stayed all day.  The Grenache with a La Clarine Roussette cheese pizza at Holly’s Hill was also excellent.

Tomorrow night, my vineyard advisor and good friend Ron Mansfield is coming over to dinner and I am grilling a leg of lamb.  That will force him to bring over a good Rhone from his cellar and we shall sit on the patio and indulge in slow cooked leg of lamb, roasted potatoes, a nice garden salad with some fresh arugula out of my garden, some artisan bread and olive oil, and a nice southern Rhone, watch the stars come out, and talk vineyard stuff.  Could life be any better.  Carpe Diem.

A Reality Check

I think it is time for a reality check.  In America we only seem to remember the last problem as long as it personally affects us and then it is forgotten to come back and bite us another day.  Take ex-Vice President Cheney.  Here is the guy who had the memos and intelligence to prove WMD and an Al-Qaeda connection in Iraq and now we are listening to him on the efficacy of torture?  Oh well what can I say?  More importantly have we missed the lessons of our latest problems as things seem to be abating and we have changed nothing,  Here are some things that I think are patently obvious or as one of my math professors used to say, glaringly obvious to the casual observer, but totally being ignored by the mainstream, media or otherwise:
•    Economy – On Tuesday there was an article in the New York Times that the economy might be getting better (Markets Rise on Consumer Optimism).  Simon Johnson in his Baseline Scenario blog noted that “…among the people I talk with on Capitol Hill, there is a very real sense that business is returning to usual; certainly, the lobbyists are out in force, they want what they always want, and it’s hard to see many of them as seriously weakened.”  If this is correct then nothing has really changed and we still have a fundamentally flawed market and banking system.  But I don’t think they have it right.  I think the worst is yet to come.  Those on Wall Street are all patting themselves on the back because the banks haven’t failed, but the U.S. is up to its eyeballs in debt bailing them out and they have not been restructured.  They are still too big to fail which is how we got here in the first place.  Almost every state is facing cutbacks and layoffs.  More and more mortgages are defaulting as people lose their jobs.  I think what we have is that the middle class and working people are continuing to suffer and that suffering is getting worse, while the investment class has been saved from feeling the effects by the bailouts.  As more states tighten their belts and more people get laid off, there is going to be anger like we haven’t seen in a long, long time.  There is a real disconnection between working men and women and our upper classes.  We have corrected nothing and restoring the status quo is a recipe for disaster.
•    Iraq – The reality here is that it is going to get bloody and there is nothing we can or should do.  The “Awakening” is over and the results for the Sunnis were not what was hoped for.  Now we will see a great deal of violence as each party jostles for position in the coming power grab.  This is inevitable and the Iraqis will have to sort this out among themselves if they are ever going to stand on their own two feet.  Delaying our withdrawal will simply delay the inevitable and get us caught up in the middle of their local power politics.  Al-Qaeda will be a minor player and should be of little concern as Iraqis dual for power and control, use Al-Qaeda if it suits their means, and then abandon them when they secure power.
•    Afghanistan – The reality here is this will also get a lot bloodier.  As we step up our efforts to eradicate drugs and empower a very corrupt government, we are going to be in the middle of tribal warfare.  I have mixed emotions here as I see that if we are willing to fight the hard fight, the fight that should have been fought seven years ago (thank you Dick and George), it is going to be another 10-15 years before Afghanistan is stable.  I really wonder if it is worth it.  I guess I would have to say no since if I don’t want to sacrifice my own son for this endeavor, then I cannot justify sacrificing anyone else’s.
•    Health Care – This one is a no-brainer.  Without a single payer, government option, nothing is going to get accomplished.  I have written at length about the business model of health care insurers and nothing is going to fundamentally change that until you take profit out of health insurance (See Health Care Wars and Scare Tactics and Reinventing the Wheel – Universal Health Care).  We need a pared down Medicare plan for everyone as a choice with the ability to add additional services and benefits by piggybacking private insurance.  That really is their only role and the only place where profit makes sense in health care.
•    Energy – I don’t think we are getting anywhere fast on a real energy policy that will change our country in a fundamental way.  As soon as gas prices dropped, our eye was off the ball and the forces of the status quo swiftly reasserted them selves in our choices.  But the reality here is that this is the lull in the storm, but in the meantime we are losing precious time.  The cap and trade bill to reduce our dependence on polluting fuel sources is being watered down by special interests invested in the status quo.  If you are not even going to make a dent, why bother.
•    Infrastructure – On the infrastructure side, there may still be hope if I am right about the economy.  If I am, and the economy will stagnate further and a massive infusion of money this time actually focused on rebuilding our infrastructure is our only hope.  It provides good jobs in the short term, and is a long-term investment in a viable economy in the future.  I am not the only one who sees this no brainer.  See Bob Herbert’s column in the New York Times on Tuesday (Our Crumbling Foundation).

I don’t know about the rest of you, but it seems like we are being lulled asleep again and we are failing to make the big changes that are necessary to really change our direction.  I almost feel like we have lost our momentum for change and the Republicans will be allowed to obstruct any real progress as we lose our sense of urgency.  I hope I am wrong.

Prop 8 Follow-Up

I have been listening to the post Prop 8 chatter and it would seem that the talking point for those against equal rights for gays is that the people have spoken and the court has allowed majority rule to triumph. The people have spoken:  Little minds think little thoughts.  They should consider this:  What the California Supreme court did was reaffirm that the California Constitution allows tyanny of the majority where minority rights are not protected.  Had the tables been turned and the people of California had voted to say that the Mormon Church must be taxed as a political entity, they would have been out in droves decrying the tyanny of the majority.  Yet the very battle they have won allows us to do just that.  They have forced their religious beliefs using majority rules on everyone in the state.  Their reckoning will come in 2010 and then they will decry how this should only be done by a two-thirds vote.  It is a sad day in California when some celebrate taking the rights away from a segment of our population.

California Dreaming at Your Own Risk

California used to the place where trends for the country were set.  Some that come to mind are a top-notch education system, great road systems, parks next to none, smoke-free workplaces, environmental standards superior to the most of the country, and an attempt to get a handle on global warming while others napped.  But lately we have been on a very bad trip that started back in the 80’s with the passage of Proposition 13 and the two-thirds majority voting requirement for any funding action.  I must also admit I am deeply embarrassed about the vote on Prop 8, banning equality for gays.  We spend less on students in school than 47 other states, our roadways are a mess as we focused on the automobile over mass transit, and now the state may soon be bankrupt.

The bankruptcy is no surprise as it has been coming for years as Californians want more and more and are willing to pay less and less.  The government is immobilized by the mandatory spending initiatives that passed, and the minorities’ death grip on any compromise with the two-thirds majority required to raise any taxes.  It has been a recipe for disaster for years and it is finally coming to pass.  Paul Krugman opined about it on Monday in the New York Times (State of Paralysis) and he correctly identified the problem but then made the logical leap of what could happen to the federal government if we let a small radical political party (the Republicans) stymie action in the Congress.  In California they will acccept no budget with tax increases.  In one bargaining session the Democrats agreed that for every cut in programs the Republicans would agree to an equal increase in taxes, tit for tat if you will.  There would be no deal because the Republicans stood intransigently mired in no new taxes.  Not much room to negotiate here so we have finally run out of smoke and mirrors and the ship of state is headed directly for the rocks.

After the last “deal” went down in flames at the polls, Arnold and his spokespersons have been repeating that they heard loud and clear from the voters and the message was all cuts, no new taxes.  Actually I don’t think that was what the message was.  The real message was that these propositions were smoke and mirrors, more borrowing and kicking the can down the road without a permanent fix and that is no longer tolerable.  If they had presented a real plan that put us on the road to financial stability again, that got rid of all the borrowing, raised taxes, but also limited many programs that were popular with the voters but needed to be trimmed to balance the budget, the voters would have swallowed hard and accepted it.  But that is not what we got.  It was not possible because we are held hostage by one-third of the state’s representatives who will not allow any revenue increases.

What may be good is that most people have no concept of the impact of the cuts that are coming or how that is going to further depress California’s economy.  It is time for a wake-up call to those that think everybody else’s programs should be cut but not theirs.  It is time to demonstrate how we are all connected and when we think that just those lazy government workers will get laid off, and then the ripple effect shuts down your small business, it is wake-up call time.  These are the people who don’t think they need to pay school taxes after their kids graduate.  Remember we are now 47th in that spending and declining.  I think the only way they are going to get on board with the real changes that need to be made in California governing is if the system finally collapses and I just think it might.

My own thought here is that as long as we expect the super majority (two-thirds majority) to make and go along with really tough decisions, it is never going to happen, especially when the opposition party has become so radicalized (that would be Krugman’s assumption extrapolated to the federal government also (filibuster)).  My experience trying to bring about change in government bureaucracies is that there is always about 40% who are invested in the status quo, never want change, and sabotage any effort for change.  So until California is allowed to totally fail and we get rid of the two-third requirement for funding issues and let a simple majority decide our fate, California will never fix its problems.  California is a shinning example of failure of populace governance as we have a State constitution with over 500 amendments.  It needs to be trashed.

One thought to those Republicans out there that are obstructing any change in Washington or California:  Why not let the Democrats try their solutions?  If you are right then they will fail, the country will be in a mess and you will be swept into office.  You will finally have your mandate.  Instead you keep trying to maintain the status quo and you are creating the deep mess we are in by obstructing any change to the path we are currently on, which by the way was your bright idea.  What’s the problem?  Are you afraid they will succeed?

Careful What you Wish For

President Obama announced his pick for the Supreme Court today and the Republican attacks dogs were waiting with the claim that she will favor minorities too much based upon her ruling upholding a discrimination suit against a firemen promotion test.  Now this is code in Republican speak for racism and we can’t let those minorities displace our favored positions. But  I wonder if any of these morons considered the fact that in a few years they will be the minorities that need protecting.

California Dreaming

Well the court has ruled that Proposition 8, banning gay marriage was a legal proposition, but the marriages performed before the vote are still legal.  Tomorrow I will discuss how far California has fallen, but this truly twisted piece of logic shows just how bad the constitution is in California.  Think about it.  First a majority of voters can deny a minority of their rights.  We have to have a two-thirds majority to passing funding measures, but we can take away someone’s rights and make them second class citizens with a simple majority. Note that this was supported mainly by a religious organizations.  What’s next, ban all Jews?  Apparently it would be constitutional.

Second, some gay people can be married and others can not.  What does this say about equal protection under the constitution?  Well under the state constitution it says its okay, but under our Federal Constitution this presents some real problems.   I do not take issue with the Justices who made this ruling as I think they interpreted the State Constitution correctly which is to simply say the State Constitution is a mess, and is a reflection of the state of California these days.  I am ashamed of my state and their vote on this sorry proposition.

Detainees Part II

Let’s step back a minute and consider our problem.  In the American tradition of justice, if you are accused of crime, and by right of habeas corpus they can’t just hold you, they must present their charges, you are entitled to a fair and speedy trail.  In the “war” on terror, if it is a war, then enemy combatants must be treated according the Geneva Conventions and can be held as prisoners of war until there is a resolution at which time they will be repatriated.  The exception here is when war crimes have been committed.  This is where the military tribunals come in, but these are like Guantanamo, tainted procedures.  Now the first problem with this construct is that the “war” is indefinite and there is no country involved.  That raises the issue of holding combatants indefinitely and having no country to repatriate them to when hostilities are finally resolved.

Then there is the approach of looking at terrorists as criminals and charging them with crimes against the state either in federal courts or military tribunals.  Now the problem is you can’t have it both ways because the Geneva conventions pertaining to war do not allow POWs to the tried in civil courts as criminals.  The approach we are taking seems to be the criminal approach in respect to the Guantanamo and other detainees.  Guantanamo presents a particular problem because detainees were originally moved there, and some were tortured, to be outside the jurisdiction of our federal courts.  Not too long ago both Democrats and Republicans were on the same page about Guantanamo, and that was that it needs to be closed because it is a symbol of our own failed values.  Now in order to close Gitmo, the detainees must either be repatriated or tried and incarcerated in federal facilities in the U.S.  There is the rub.

Now I wrote yesterday about the problems repatriating or trying these folks in our federal courts.   Today I would like to talk about military tribunals and preventative detention.  Military tribunals have a place when you imagine that the evidence is classified and members of the jury as well as the judges and lawyers need security clearances.  The problem with them is that in their present form they have been so slanted in favor of the government that no one believes the detainees will get a fair trial.  Now there are many who don’t care.  These guys are terrorists aren’t they?  And the answer to that is some are and most are not.  President Obama has promised to make the rules (like rules of evidence) fair but I don’t think it is going to work unless these detainees get the full protections afforded in a court marshal.  I guess my argument is simply that no one will see an outcome from these trials as fair and the damage done by these trials is worse than not having them.  This will be an ongoing debate and we will see what happens, but I have heard several military lawyers who are defending the detainees state that there will never be a fair trial in this tainted military system.

Now here is the gist of the original problem:  Most wanted the facility closed, the not so bad guys picked up by mistake (and there were a ton of them in a bounty system for terrorists) repatriated to their home countries to be dealt with there, the bad guys to be tried, convicted, and put in prison with the key thrown away, and no one who is released to return to the battlefield..  Now enter the Republicans with the claim that it is unsafe to put them in our prisons (keep Gitmo open), many will use our system to get out of their sentences and be walking our streets (keep Gitmo open), and the pentagon releasing a study no one can substantiate that one in five of the 525 people released by the Bush administration (a highly dubious number, but…) had returned to terrorist activities (keep Gitmo open).  All of this has a common thread with President Obama’s final proposal that some of these detainees cannot be tried but are dangerous and we must preventatively detain them.  In other words they are all looking to preventative detention and the Republicans want this to be at Gitmo.

In a “war” situation that is in fact what we have with prisoner of war camps.  These people are incarcerated until hostilities have been concluded just so they can’t return to the battlefield.  But what if hostilities are never going to be concluded?  We seemed to have moved these guys to the criminal justice system and there is very little in this system, and for a good reason, to allow for preventative detention. We already have some legal tools that allow for the detention of those who pose danger: quarantine laws as well as court precedents permitting the confinement of sexual predators and the dangerous mentally ill. Every day in America, people are denied bail and locked up because they are found to be a hazard to their communities, though they have yet to be convicted of anything (New York Times).  But we are on a slippery slop here.  Remember the movie Minority Report where the hero could use psychics to prevent crimes by interceding before a crime was committed, then the tables were turned on him?  The question is who decides who is going to commit a crime and what standards are applied to prevent abuse of the incarceration without trail or even a crime committed.

My point here is very simple.  We are all dancing around it, but that is what is being considered.  We need to discuss this and look at the down side because it has a large window in which abuse can slide through.  Are we so afraid for our safety that we are willing to basically gut our system of rights and judicial procedures?  I hope not, but let the debates begin.  But let’s not trick ourselves.  We are really talking about contunuing Bush policies, somewhat spiffed up, just in a different place.  Are we still so afraid to live out our values that we want to go down this road?

Detainees

I was somewhat disappointed this Sunday when I did not see a rational discussion of what to do with the detainees other than the political arguments that are being thrown out there by the Republicans to try to score political points, not solve a problem.  As we are all aware President Obama has proposed closing Guantanamo, which may I add the Republicans in the person of John McCain were fully supportive of till they figured they could use it as a scare tactic.  At any rate President Obama has listed five categories of detainees.  These categories are:

  1. Those the courts have ordered released (21 Chinese Muslims who pose no danger to our country and cannot be released back to China)
  2. Those that can be “safely” shipped off to another country for detention or rehabilitation
  3. Those that can be tried in our Federal court system
  4. Those that can be tried by rejuvenated military tribunals for violations of the laws of war (I wonder if Dick Cheney is in this bunch)
  5. Those that cannot be tried, pose a danger to this country, and must be held indefinitely

Now the Republicans have begun a fear campaign that sadly the Democrats fell for.  This basically said detainees could not be kept moved to our prisons ignoring the fact that we already keep terrorists and serial killers without one escape.  Be afraid, be afraid, terrorists will soon be loose in your neighborhood.  This is, of course patently ridiculous, but the Demos and a fickle public fell for it.  But this doesn’t address what are we going to do with these guys and solve the real problem of closing Gitmo and finding a path to justice.  From the Republican point of view, apparently the status quo carried out forever is okay.  From President Obama’s point of view, Guantanamo is the symbol of our failure to provide justice and is a rallying point for Jihadists and must be closed.  This was the Republican point of view until they thought they could play politics with the issue which tells you all you need to know about their “patriotism”.

I will attack the first three and leave the last two for tomorrow’s blog.  What I find is that we are not rationally discussing these options and considering realistic outcomes.  We have the 17-21 Muslim Chinese that did nothing wrong and the only place to released them is here since we can’t send them home and other countries are hesitant to clean up our mess.  My thought here is get on with it.  We made a big mistake in our approach to using a big net to scoop up suspected terrorists and just as Fidel Castro made a fool of us with the boat people, our offering bounty for terrorists resulted in this misbegotten incarceration.  Sending them home would be to their death, so we have no choice.  Sometimes there are consequences to your stupidity.

Next let’s look at those who can be safely transferred to other countries for detention and rehabilitation. This is what the Bush administration did to the tune of 525 of them and the Pentagon is now claiming that 1 in 5 returned to the battlefield.  Now this 1 in 5 number is highly suspect since they include anyone who made a video about their captivity as “returning to the battle field”, but let’s say it is correct.  Considering their treatment, 1 in 5 is way better than the recidivism rate we get in our own prison system (roughly1 in 2).  But these fine American politicians who are standing up and saying not in my back yard would have no complaint with sending them home.  So odds are if we send them home, we are going to see some of them again on the battlefield.  Does this mean we should incarcerate them forever and do we have any legal basis for doing so?  How does this solve our problem of bringing them to trail or releasing them which is what our justice system demands?

Next we have the group who can be charged and convicted in our federal courts.  But think about it.  Except for a very few who are mass murders, many would not get sentences that exceed the time already served and then what happens to them?  They get released.  So the “move them to the federal system” only ensures that they get justice according to their crimes and then they too have to be repatriated to their countries where some will be seen on the battlefield once again.

Are you getting the drift here?  Unless they are sentenced to life imprisonment, and a couple will be, but most will not, or we keep them indefinitely at Guantanamo, sooner or later we will have to repatriate them to their countries and then it is their choice whether they rejoin the battle.  Keeping them indefinitely at Guantanamo means our justice system is a sham.  So the obvious conclusion is some will return to the battlefield where they will most likely be killed.  Exactly what is everyone so afraid of?   If justice is to mean anything, we will just have to live with it.  All the scare tactics in the world will not allow us to lock up everyone who might threaten us in the future.  We simply must live by our values and accept that freedom brings some risks.  Hopefully we can gut up and live up to our values.

This issue of arresting people before they can perpetrate a crime is a very troubling thought and is at the heart of preventative detention which I shall tackle tomorrow.  But the real question in a war on terror that may go on for years and years is just what do you do with prisoners?  What are we doing with Taliban caught in Afghanistan?  Food for thought.

We’ve Moved On, But They Haven’t

I watched the two speeches on torture and detainees by President Obama, and Ex-Vice President Cheney, the media coverage of the event, and I was appalled.  President Obama laid out a path forward for us and unequivocally restated our values.  Although I found some things in his way forward I will take issue with such as continued use of tweaked military commissions and more fundamentally flawed, the idea of prolonged detention, I found his speech a restating of our basic values and a breath of fresh air.  Then came Dick Cheney’s speech which was full of basic assumptions and assertions that were flawed or have been thoroughly discredited, and yet the media played them over and over without pointing out their misrepresentations.  Thankfully MSNBC did do some fact checking.  You would think that after the rush to war in Iraq the media would learn not to be the bullhorn for misrepresentations wouldn’t you.

Here was Dick Cheney arguing an argument that he has already lost once.  First and foremost is his assertion that torture saved lives and he has the memos to prove it.  This is the man who had the memos to prove WMD in Iraq and a connection to Al-Qaeda.  I am sure there are memos that exist and they were written just as the memos documenting WMD in Iraq, culling only intelligence he wanted to hear and not presenting any of the information that might cast doubt on the veracity of the claims.  I am not going to g:o into all of the outright lies in his speech, but I would refer you to a McClatchy News report that did lay out his assertions and the reality.  Just click on this link: Cheney’s speech contained omissions, misstatements.   Sadly what we have here is a man who so denies reality that in his mind, everything he says is fact.  He will go to his grave grasping his precious memos that were written to make him happy, not find the facts.  Meanwhile his daughter continues to argue that we did not torture because they found some flunkies to say in legal memos it was not torture.  You have to wonder what twisted minds could still accept this as rational.

But there are two other events that really make this a giant step back.  First was the 24/7 cable news failing to debunk his statements as they were made.  In their attempt to entertain by having dueling speeches, they failed to properly vet his statements, playing one against the other as though this were an honest difference of opinion.  This was further magnified by the fact that most of the spectrum of American political thought is now in the Democratic Party.  That means when you put up a Republican against a Democrat to discuss who “won”, by saying the Republican argument is equal to the Democrat’s is lending credence to the Republican argument that it doesn’t deserve.  Since the Republican Party represents now the marginalized radical right, the veracity of their “facts” should not carry the same weight as more moderate members of our society.  In other words the press still treats the Republicans as having an equal and balancing opinion that deserves respect instead of a marginalized segment of our society.  The Public would be better served by a debate between conservative Democrats and Progressives as more representative of public opinion these days.

The second failure was by Democrats and it was huge.  This small group of radical Republicans who are not making any sense on any issue, except to say no, decided to try the fear card again with the scare tactics of bringing the detainees to U.S. prisons.  Note this is just another form of their primary policy statement of just saying no to any change.  Had the Democrats stood firm and laughed at them, it could have been the final blow in their failed politics of fear.  Instead the Democrats acted like frighten children who do not want to look weak on terrorism.  While the rest of us have moved on from reacting to this fear card, the Democrats in Congress cringed and ran for cover, validating the Republicans tactic and putting them back in the game.  It was shameful and disgraceful and it may signal their ultimate demise.  Had the Democrats stood tall and made the obvious arguments that President Obama had to make in his speech because they were so craven, they would now be leading the country.  Sadly they put the Republicans and their scare tactics, which might I add emboldens Dick Cheney, right back in the game.

So all in all in was a bad week for change and seeing the Democratic Party finally lead anywhere.  I don’t know why Congress is always the last to understand what the rest of us think is obvious.