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True Conservative Values, and Torture

April 25th, 2009 Comments off

In my earlier post I didn’t give Jim Manzi sufficient credit.

He argues that a systematic government policy of torture (as distinguished from the torturous acts that Americans have engaged in over the centuries) is 1. a radical break with American tradition, and 2. because of 1, is quite possibly (I would say definitely) damaging to American strategic interests.

Here’s the money quote, which I endorse wholeheartedly:

I am looking to tradition, settled practice and the wisdom of our forebears for guidance in a difficult situation. Among other things, this strikes me as the obviously conservative approach.

“The Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture.”

April 25th, 2009 Comments off

“The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

—Major General Antonio Taguba, USA (Ret.)

Read the Report.

Shakespeare Authorship (sigh): They’re At It Again

April 20th, 2009 2 comments

Yet again, we have Supreme Court justices giving credence to the wacky notion that William Shakespeare of Stratford did not write the plays of William Shakespeare. Reported in the the WSJ.

It just goes to show that even supreme court justices who have long histories of probity and prudence can issue totally loony opinions. (cf Taney, Dred Scott.)

I’m not going to take the time to address the ridiculous points made in the article. It’s already been done, and at length. (What an unfortunate waste of good scholarly skills.)

http://shakespeareauthorship.com/

My main point: we have 29 extant editions of Shakespeare’s plays (not counting poems and etc.) that were published during his lifetime with his name on them as author. By many different printers and publishers. And the First Folio — published seven years after his death by his decades-long business partners, compatriots, and dedicatees in his will — trumpets him as author with attestations by them and several other leading writers of the day.

No anti-Stratfordian has explained how this vast, decades-long conspiracy could or would have been coordinated so hermetically that the “truth” only emerged in the nineteenth century, the discovery of an industrious fellow named “Looney.”

Read the pamphlets and broadsheets of Shakespeare’s day — their closest equivalent to today’s news outlets — and you’ll see how similar those writers were to today’s bloggers. They loved uncovering juicy news and insider gossip. (And yes — not that it’s pertinent to the matter at hand — like today’s bloggers they did their fair share of embroidery.)

Do anti-Stratfordians really believe that a huge conspiracy — requiring hundreds of people (and theater people at that) to keep a Really Big Secret for more than three decades — never came to anyone’s attention? Or if it did, that all of those broadsheetbloggers agreed to supress it?

Yeah, and alien abductions are common occurrences.

Here’s an admittedly condensed conversation I had with my friend Robin Williams, who’s published a beautifully written and wonderfully produced book (like all her books) arguing that Mary Sidney Herbert wrote the Shakespeare plays:

Me: Robin, we have all these published plays with his name on them.

Robin: Yeah, but even traditional scholars admit that some of them weren’t written by him.

Me: Well, yeah… [That’s because publishers were trying to capitalize on his name to sell books.]

Robin: See? There’s not a single shred of evidence that Shakespeare wrote the plays.

Like I said: sigh.

I’d really like to see how these judges would rule if there was a human life, a billion dollars, or a fundamental constitutional principle at stake.

My favorite comment on this subject:

The plays weren’t written by William Shakespeare. They were written by another guy with the same name.

More Great Minds: Lincoln on “Conservatives”

August 30th, 2008 Comments off

From the Cooper Union speech. Emphasis mine.

“But you say you are conservative – eminently conservative – while we are revolutionary, destructive, or something of the sort. What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried? We stick to, contend for, the identical old policy on the point in controversy which was adopted by “our fathers who framed the Government under which we live;” while you with one accord reject, and scout, and spit upon that old policy, and insist upon substituting something new. True, you disagree among yourselves as to what that substitute shall be. You are divided on new propositions and plans, but you are unanimous in rejecting and denouncing the old policy of the fathers. Some of you are for reviving the foreign slave trade; some for a Congressional Slave-Code for the Territories; some for Congress forbidding the Territories to prohibit Slavery within their limits; some for maintaining Slavery in the Territories through the judiciary; some for the “gur-reat pur-rinciple” that “if one man would enslave another, no third man should object,” fantastically called “Popular Sovereignty;” but never a man among you is in favor of federal prohibition of slavery in federal territories, according to the practice of “our fathers who framed the Government under which we live.” Not one of all your various plans can show a precedent or an advocate in the century within which our Government originated. Consider, then, whether your claim of conservatism for yourselves, and your charge of destructiveness against us, are based on the most clear and stable foundations.”

One contemporary commenter described the speech’s “sledgehammer logic.” If you haven’t read it (lately), do.

So-called conservatives continue to dig in their heels to this day, denying the very principles upon which our country was founded, in a centuries-long effort to turn back—and turn their backs upon—those very principles.

To again quote the speech that made Honest Abe the President of the United States:

“Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government.”

Why is the militia clause there at all?

March 23rd, 2008 3 comments

Eugene Volokh continues the legal obfuscation for gun rights.

The question that I've never found an answer to:

If the Second Amendment's right to bear arms has nothing to do with a well-regulated militia, why is the militia clause there at all?

They could have simply written, "The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

Like they did in…hmmm…is there any example we can think of? Oh, yeah, like in the First Amendment.

They didn't.

Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor on Guantanamo

February 28th, 2008 Comments off

In case anyone missed the NYT Op-Ed ten days ago by Col. Morris Davis, formerly chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, the opening paragraph speaks more volumes, more movingly, than I could ever hope to achieve:

Unforgivable Behavior, Inadmissible Evidence
TWENTY-SEVEN years ago, in the final days of the Iran hostage crisis, the C.I.A.’s Tehran station chief, Tom Ahern, faced his principal interrogator for the last time. The interrogator said the abuse Mr. Ahern had suffered was inconsistent with his own personal values and with the values of Islam and, as if to wipe the slate clean, he offered Mr. Ahern a chance to abuse him just as he had abused the hostages. Mr. Ahern looked the interrogator in the eyes and said, “We don’t do stuff like that.”

The Times has a piece on Col. Davis today:

Former Prosecutor to Testify for Detainee
Col. Morris D. Davis, once chief prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and still with the Air Force, is now a chief critic.

Until four months ago, Col. Morris D. Davis was the chief prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay and the most colorful champion of the Bush administration’s military commission system. He once said sympathy for detainees was nauseating and compared putting them on trial to dragging “Dracula out into the sunlight.”

Then in October he had a dispute with his boss, a general. Ever since, he has been one of those critics who will not go away: a former top insider, with broad shoulders and a well-pressed uniform, willing to turn on the system he helped run.

I don’t think I need to comment.

Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, yea unto the third and to the fourth generation

December 10th, 2004 Comments off

It is both triply appropriate and at least triply ironic that this quotation (it’s Exodus 34:7, KJV) should lead off the first posting to this blog. First, because it’s all my father’s fault, rest his soul. (Isn’t everything? <g>) Everything you read here started with him. All of it: with one three-word opening line.

Ben Roth was a classic, do-gooder Jewish lawyer in St. Louis in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, working pro bono all over creation, for Legal Aid, the ACLU, the Health and Hospitals board…you get the picture. At one point he received a lifetime achievement award, or something like that, from the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. When he stood up for his acceptance speech (oh how I wish I had a copy of the whole thing), he opened with the words,

“My fellow conservatives…”

With all those bleeding-heart, knee-jerk liberals in the room, it brought the house down. But then he went on to explain that he was really quite serious. The ACLU, he said, perhaps more than any other American organization, was and is devoted to preserving the values of the founders, as embodied in the Constitution and in the Declaration of Independence. (Though as Gary Wills explains in Lincoln at Gettysburgh: The Words That Remade America, it took Lincoln and the Gettysburgh Address to effectively incorporate the latter into the former, giving the beliefs about equality that are embodied in the Declaration true force of law. More anon on that, in a later post.)

The ACLU is a deeply conservative organization. It is all about protecting the values upon which this nation was founded — liberty, freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly — from dangerous radicals like John Ashcroft, the rest of the current Bush administration, and their more fervent supporters.

The people who today call themselves “conservatives” are not just radical attackers of civil liberties. They are opposed to the most fundamental America values, values that are shared by the huge majority of Americans — today and yesterday. Whether it’s preserving the wealth of our environment for our children’s children’s children (now that’s conservative), fiscal prudence (can you say deficit spending? Ten trillion dollars?), world stature and credibility (what world stature and credibility?), or corporate giveaways, the current administration is about as “conservative” as Michael Milken and Attila the Hun. They don’t deserve the moniker, and it’s up to us to take take it away from them.

Because we are the true conservatives.

Which brings us to the second appropriate irony. By opening with this biblical quotation, I am taking the very text that the so-called conservatives claim as theirs and theirs alone, and using it to show how horribly wrong their words and deeds are. Because if their radical trajectory continues, today’s iniquities will be visited upon the third and the fourth generation in a very sad way indeed. Our grandchildren’s grandchildren will be left with a country bankrupt, oppressed, stripped of its wealth and beauty, scorned by the world, and crushed in recompense for the sins of our generation. (Ding dong. China’s calling…)

The “conservatives” have no exclusive claim to the wisdom of the Bible, or to any other wisdom. If we want to take back the mantle as protectors of America’s values, we need a leader who can champion the progressive values embodied in Christianity and every other religion, and trumpet those values like a clarion call, in the very language that the conservatives have co-opted as their own. In the very same way, we need to call on the deeply conservative values of the American people — a conservatism devoted to traditional progressive ideals of equality and fairness — co-opting the very language of conservatism that has been twisted, distorted, and turned on its head by those who claim to be conservatives.

We need to pull their “conservative moral values” rug right out from under them.

Because we are the true conservatives.

The Exodus quotation is approriately ironic in at least one more way. My dad was Jewish by descent, but he had about as much truck with Judaism as he did with any other religion–which weren’t much. (I had four atheist grandparents, so don’t expect to see me running for office any time soon.) But when I turn to see what he has given me, and what I will give to my children, I need look no further than Exodus 34:7. For if anything in this posting rings true for you, it is because my father visited his beliefs, his values — and yes, his iniquities — on his children.

Because he was a true conservative, and he shared it with his son.

So as I said, it’s all my dad’s fault. Everything you’ve just read started with those three words of his. The sins of the fathers shall indeed be visited upon the children, yea, unto the seventh generation. Pity my poor kids…