Distributed Mind

May 18, 2004

Liberal and Pro-Life?

by ben

I heard about this from our resident elf (Justin/Earendil) but I thought it was kind of useful, so I decided to post it here. Sojourners has an article on being Christian, pro-life and progressive (a.k.a. politically liberal) called "No Place to Stand." I might not agree with every word of every one they interviewed for the article, but, on the whole, the place I find myself as well (the parts about trying to decide whom to vote for were particularly apt).

01:23:58 - Politics - ben - No comments

May 14, 2004

Abuses Destroy the Lives of Abusers as Much as Abused

by ben

Just as Frederick Douglass said about slave owners, the lives of those who perpetrate offenses against others are damaged just as th lives of those against whom they are perpetrated. The New York Times has an article about the now infamous young woman whose picture we can now all recognize. That was one of my first thoughts about these pictures - imagine how they have destroyed the lives of those Americans involved. It makes me wonder what brought them to this point? And it makes one wonder what has happened to others in the military in Iraq. Pacifists often point to the damaging effects of war on the psyche of participants. Unfortunately, we will have another generation of combatatns to examine. I will leave it as an exercise to the reader (as we say in mathematics) whether the prize was worth the cost - your opinion may differ from mine.

02:18:04 - Politics - ben - No comments

No News that the U. S. Treats Prisoners Poorly

by ben

Some of us have known for some time that the United States considers torture (and similar techniques - called "stress and duress" evidently - that do not technically qualify as torture under current definitions) acceptable practice. They have practiced some of the milder forms of these kinds of practices in Guantanomo Bay and elsewhere for some time. Although I can not find a citation, I seem to recall reading in 2001 admissions by officials in the U. S. (I unfortunately do not recall what was said on the record and what was from anonymous sources - which I admit I am usually wary of) that such practices were taking place, whether practiced by U. S. forces (in the case of "stress and duress") or on deported persons by other nations with U. S. knowledge (in the case of torture).

One well known practice the U. S. has engaged in is to "render" prisoners to countries that are known to practice torture. Many persons have implied or stated on an anonymous basis that the reason for this practice is for the purpose of getting information out of the suspects. The Washington Post reported on the practice of rendition and other abuses in December 2002. The most well known case was that of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, former MathWorks employee, who was deported from the United States while on a layover in New York on his way back to Canada. He was sent to Syria, his birthplace, onstead of Canada; in Syria he was detained for several months, and he claims he was tortured. Arar has recounted his experiences, and even the Washington Post reported on his story. And there have been many other less known examples.

Human Rights Watch has written up a timeline of allegations about detainee abuse (though as I said, I seem to recall allegations from even earlier).

Thus U. S. has made it clear on many occasions that the Geneva Convention is considered to be an obstacle to be avoided. Their insistence on prisoners not being prisoners of war was entirely about that issue. And in February of 2002 one official, Prosper, went on record as saying that the Geneva Conventions were outdated.

I do not know or claim to know the state of affairs in Iraqi prisons. Based on past indicators one would expect to see a pattern of abuse. I am open-minded, however, as to the real state, and would like to see more documentation. However, it will be no schock if there is a pattern, as the U. S. has already made it clear that they will do whatever is necessary in their opinion to extract information from prisoners - even ones that may be innocent, and even regardless of their citizenship. (I should note that I do not think the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld would mean anything. These practices could have been stopped by persons other than Rumsfeld - and especially by the President himself.)

I have to admit I have not been as vocal on this issue as I suppose I should have been (or intended to be). As defense, all I can say is it is a difficult subject to broach. Most persons don't like hearing about such things. And much of the documentation is hazy. And, as we have seen as a result of the reports about abuses in Iraq, some persons seem to find this acceptable. You can count me as going on record saying, I do not.

02:05:27 - Politics - ben - 1 comment

May 08, 2004

Words, Words, Words (what Ben sounds like on sleep deprivation)

by ben

Alright, I am like tripped out on lack of sleep so don't hate me too much when you read this...(like what kind of excuse is that, anyway?)

In politics all the players think everything is monochrome: Good, bad; you, us; right, wrong. Whatever. Give me numbers, ranges, tradeoffs, reasoned discussion. Can the posturing, name calling, and motive reading. It's the last one that has been ticking me off lately about the stuff coming out of the liberals and progressives - of which I consider myself to be. And I know I do it too, even if I would claim a certain co-blogger of mine might do it alot more.... :) As a good revolutionary I always had to do that, thouh I think I have always unconciously rebelled when others did it (good liberal hypocrite that I am - but then you can usually count on hypocrites to speak the truth; that's the irony of it). But maybe there is a better way.

I think all radical liberals have to struggle with the balance of indignation at injustice committed against individuals and the love you have to have for the first part to matter. I and many of my intellectual colleagues have maybe spent too long on the wrong side of that fine line. Too much hating going on. That was supposed to be the domain of system-loving conservatives (i.e. those who love status quo more than people). I think I am trying to get us to stop hating Bush & Co. so much and do something. And by do something I don't mean get a large group together and yell about how bad things are or how enlightened we are. We have to talk, but civilly, even with those who don't deserve it. And I know that's hard because I can't even talk civilly with those I agree with for the most part (hey, Justin). [Well, actually I belive I speak the harshest with people I trust precisely bevause I do trust them. So I guess if I seem to hate you that's a sign of acceptance... But anyway, a discussion for another time.] Let's get off of our self-righteous trip and really start practicing what we preach. Spread the love, man. Even to G. W. Bush. Mind-blowing I know. We need to remember all the trash we do, like supporting repression of workers, polluting, and hurting animals, and just generally being apathetic. (That is, sorry for the non-religious here, a very Christian point of view. But useful nonetheless, I would claim.)

(Man, makes me want to go work for an NGO over there... For a few years I have had this fantasy of doing something dangerous but good and pacifist, like work for some NGO in a war zone. Man, that would be hard, but I guess if you want to really show that you mean what you say, that is a great way to go. Not that we should be all about proving ourselves to everyone, but... Okay anyway now I am rambling.)

Man, what is the point of this vertiginous missive, other than don't write when exhausted (as it makes one both too honest and disorganized)? Well, first, let's all stop sounding like panicked jerks, and speak the truth in love. Don't let them get by with trash, but be careful not to be vitriolic or self-righteous. (On the other hand, don't get so fed up that you start defending them, like I have been doing lately, ugh.) Second, man, let's figure out a way to be really useful [seriously, I expect to see comments on this one - what can we do that will really help people].

And will people please regularly remind me I don't believe in politics!?

06:31:41 - Politics - ben - 2 comments

May 06, 2004

National Security

by ben

Sometimes, I think the best way to promote American security and defense is to simply stop being the largest and best. As the saying goes, the tallest blade of grass is the first to get cut down. Why do we want to be a superpower again? If we really wanted to be safe, we would start by making sure that there were people bigger and richer than us. Encourage the European Union to expand and grow and unify; beef up Russia and India and Brazil. It won't be the end of the need for defense, but it would make it much easier. (Did you know there are some countries with no military? Probably because nobody wants to invade them. Not to suggest we will ever be that, but still, something to think about.)

03:02:35 - Politics - ben - 2 comments