I was recently involved in a debate about torture. During the debate, my opponent asked, has it ever occurred to you that the people who are allegedly being tortured have information that could save lives. They are not being tortured for the sport of it, you know.
Really? Theres a problem with this claim. A few months ago I wrote an editorial for Agitate called Tortured Logic. This article shreds the logic of torture as a device for gaining information. All intelligence experts know that little valuable information comes from torture and that agents are more likely to find themselves chasing red herrings based on information gleaned from a desperate, or even psychotic person hoping to escape intense pain or deprivation.
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Many liberals are expressing concern over the Obama Administrations disappointing position regarding torture. On one hand the administration appears to be coming clean on the Bush Administrations legal acrobatics around the torture issue. The release of the now infamous torture memos and the endless stream of information that is pouring forth is nothing short of sickening, but certainly indicative of major crimes against humanity.
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I just read the May 19, 2009 article I Wish I were a Liberal by Nancy Morgan. It was largely a waste of time. If you’ve read any conservative critique of liberalism you’ve read this article. It’s pretty much a rehash of all the baseless balderdash that passes for conservative “critical thought” since the demise of Goldwater. Morgan makes some broad, sweeping generalizations about the nature of liberalism without bothering herself with supportive evidence.
At first I was inclined to ignore the piece as drivel–which it is. However, it popped up on my Facebook and then was referenced somewhere else. I realized that people (friends of mine, even) are actually reading this article and largely agreeing with it.
I came of political age in a political age in which the word liberal was, in essence, an effective curse and technique for silencing criticism. Much like the word Socialist, the L word was a pejorative used to discredit any position taken by those who wished to reform a deeply flawed system. The Dark Ages of the Bush Administration and the surprise vitality of the Obama campaign has resurrected liberalism to a certain extent, though liberal thinkers still prefer using the term progressive to describe their political ideology. In the meantime, conservatives are still trying desperately define liberalism/progressivism as a synonym for socialism despite the fact that such talking heads can’t actually point to a single “socialist” idea coming out of the Obama Administration (at least socialist ideas that corporate “capitalists” aren’t begging for).
Yet conservatives, with nothing better to do or say, are reverting to the very methods that worked during the Reagan Administration regardless of their validity. For instance, it was the Reagan campaign that linked the meme “tax and spend” to “liberal.” So the new era “teabaggers” prance around and shake their fists against Obama’s tax increases, despite the fact that almost every participant saw a decrease in their taxes. But whatever!
The problem is, these methods worked once before. Reagan destroyed the perception of liberalism as a positive influence in society (with the help of spineless Democrats and Conservacrats). The consequence: thirty years of stagnant wages, loss of benefits, erosion of the social safety net, crumbling of the national infrastructure, hemoraging of jobs to foreign countries, a 1920’s style wealth gap, disasterous foreign entanglements and economic ruin! And the government that conservatives whip themselves into a froth to shrink…has grown! Now history is repeating itself. Who will be the next Reagan to lead us into catastrophy within the next twelve years? I fear such a cult of personality.
I think (though I’ll admit that I have no hard, sociological evidence) that one of the reasons such tactics are effective is that liberals are too stupid to realize that balderdash and hypocrisy…work eventually. Even Hitler knew that. Consequently, liberals take the high road by “not dignifying such tripe with a comment.” But if liberals don’t comment, then the tripe wins!
So in response to Ms Morgan, I’m sorry that you are not liked, that your family will not talk to you and that your husband broke his wedding vows (through no fault of your own, of course). However, being liberal will not guarrantee that you will be liked. If your political ideology is so caustic that your own family doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, you might want to look within for some answers.
Conservatives don’t allow others to form their opinions. That’s news to me. The same group that mindlessly participates in “Teabag” events, sponsored primarily by corporate lobbyists (who are blissfully unaware of the undercurrent meaning of the word “teabag”) form their own opinions to do so. Wow! Perhaps they should allow others to think for them.
Ms. Morgan fails to highlight exactly which shortcomings liberals are rewarded for. Also, why does being a conservative exclude her from being an “important cog in the wheel of social justice, and a cherished warrior in the current fight for equality?” Is social justice and equality unworthy of conseravitive attention? Perhaps writing senseless rants about liberalism takes up too much time.
And, Ms. Morgan, if you want to have sex, you go girl. Being conservative shouldn’t exclude you. It didn’t exclude David Vitter. You’re obviously single and available, and you’ve already suggested that your ex is unlikely to renew the vows, so go out and have fun. But be responsible. If you don’t want to have an abortion, guess what, liberals don’t want you to have an abortion either. That’s why we support things like birth control.
I’m not sure why you, by your own admission, have guilt for what used to be considered deviant, irresponsible behavior. What deviant and irresponsible behavior are you referring to? And what does this do with “advocating the expenditures of other people’s money.” Are there no outlets for conservatives to assuage guilt? What do conservatives do that they might feel guilty for? Maybe I’ll get a better answer from David Vitter.
The last I heard, tolerance, diversity, equality and patriotism are not “fashions.” Well, maybe patriotism is, but this fashion statement is surely owned, signed and sealed by conservatives who never hesitate to drape themselves with the American flag and scream treason against anyone who dares question the actions of America the Beautiful. But tolerance, diversity and equality are Enlightenment ideals with a rich philosophical tradition–a tradition that liberals take very seriously. Why do conservatives like Morgan scoff at these ideals?
This next paragraph is one of my favorites. I’ll quote it directly. “I’d like to be a liberal because everyone knows that conservatives are racist, homophobic, stupid and, well, beneath contempt. Conservatives are motivated by — gasp — profit, instead of being nice. Enough said.” That’s awesome! Do you see what Morgan did there? She used an overgeneralization to satire an overgeneralization and, by what can only be described as ingenious verbal acrobatics, created another overgeneralization! I am impressed. Nancy Morgan…I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy! But I shouldn’t be surprise. All conservatives overgeneralize. (See what I did! I used an overgeneralization to poke fun at an overgeneralization that was derived by overgeneralizing an overgeneralization–and with less words–perhaps I am worthy!)
As for redefining reality to her own specifications, there are plenty of conservatives who can help her out, here. Most of them are looking for jobs now that the Bush Administration is defunct. Remember weapons of mass destruction? That was my favorite contortion of reality. Hussein was accused of having weapons of mass destruction. If such weapons were found it would justify war. Since weapons were not found it proved that he was hiding them…which justified war! That one’s hard to beat, but conservatives have done a pretty good job, like calling torture “enhanced interrogation.” Another favorite of mine was Justice Scalia claiming that torture wasn’t a Constitutional issue because it is not, technically, punishment. Wow!
And, yes, liberals don’t condone lying, cheating or stealing; oh nor do they condone torture. That’s not to say that liberals don’t fall short of their own standards, but again, conservatives would know about not living up to their own moral expectations. Just ask Newt Gingrich about traditional family values!
And the requirements for being a liberal may not be as difficult as Morgan believes. She does not have to “acknowledge that government is the best and only solution.” Many liberals do considerable work with Non Governmental Organizations, community groups and are active in their churches (believe it or not, there are liberals who believe in God). She would, however, have to acknowledge that not every government solution has ended in disaster, GI Bill, Medicare, oh and that whole freeing the slaves thing was pretty cool, too.
She wouldn’t have to acknowledge that America or white Christian males are bad. Many of my close friends are liberal, white, American Christians. She wouldn’t have to renounce Christianity or quit smoking.
I would, however, be interested in knowing which liberals defined terrorists and third world dictators as freedom fighters or “misunderstood.” If she can’t find them, then there’s probably a file right under the vast array of scientific research that supports global warming that is stacked in her office–being ignored. While she’s searching her vast database of research for such liberals, she can also identify the “proven harm” that “newly minted sexual behaviors” and “gay marriage” do to traditional families. She claims to do research, but strangely doesn’t cite any in this article.
I’d also, as a liberal, be interested in what she identifies as “newly minted sexual behaviors.” As one who has studied ancient societies as well as sexual behavior, I know the ancients were pretty creative when it came to such things. Maybe Ms. Morgan knows something that I don’t.
Her expectations might be a little high, however, as she expects to be popular and no longer subject to being insulted. As the comments to her own article demonstrate, liberals are not so immune. And if Ms. Morgan would like to see her columns published in her home town paper, she can move to my home town of Fort Myers. Conservatives, even far right borderline witchburning conservatives have no difficulty in that area.
Ms. Morgan, if you really want to be a liberal, come and join our “best parties.” (nobody beats the Kennedys here) Your article revealed some interesting internal conflicts. In the meantime, I’m glad I’m not a conservative. I do care about things like tolerance, equality and diversity, as well as freedom and democracy. I do believe that working people should make a living wage, and people who do not have jobs should not have to depend on the whims of corporations to find meaningful work. I believe that the Constitution is a “living instrument;” that if it wasn’t we would still define “slaves” as 3/5’s of a person and women would not be able to vote. I do believe that health care and housing are rights. I accept that global warming is real and I believe that what two consenting adults do in private, “new minted” or not, is none of my business. Dialogue is better than war and has worked. I also believe that being nice is more important than making a profit and that gay people should be allowed to marry if they so choose. All of these statements made by Ms. Morgan are true, and I embrace them, defend them and promote them.
As a liberal, I also derive great satisfaction in knowing that I’m held to a higher standard. I can’t get away with making the same baseless overgeneralizations that Nancy Morgan can. I derive satisfaction from this because I do hold myself to a higher level of responsibility for the things that I write. I also know that, even if what I write is mostly right, if I’m a little wrong, conservative writers like Ms. Morgan will verbally skewer me. I’d like to think that this encourages the best in me.
I do not, as a liberal, necessarily believe that “”thinigs are different, now that Obama is president,” or that “I must have faith,” in any politician or, even worse, political pundit like Rush Limbaugh. Like most liberals I am very critical of my elected officials and their actions. I am disappointed that Obama isn’t making a principled liberal stand on torture. I was against shoveling billions of dollars to incompetent and crooked bankers. I am angered that, as a candidate, Obama abandoned his promise regarding publicly financed elections. As a liberal I am my own thinker. Liberalism and liberal thinkers may inform my beliefs, but they do not define them. You do not see liberals cowtowing to Kieth Olberman or Rachel Maddow the way you see conservatives prostrate before the prophet Limbaugh.
For these things I’m glad I’m not a conservative.
I have to admit that I’m considerably taken aback by the a recent article in the New York Times (Source of the Photo Above) about a new program offered by the Boy Scouts branch known as the Explorers. This postmodernized version socializes children into paramilitary techniques. Kids are taught how to fight terrorists, take down “border jumpers” and raid drug producers.
Of course, the Scouts and the Explorers are designed to instill traditional and sound American values in young men and women. So what is this program teaching? That Americanism is something not just to be learned, but to be enforced at the back end of an assault rifle?
I know that educational institutions and socializing institutions have a hidden agenda, a latent function, if you will. What is the latent function here? Xenophobia? Exceptionalism? Racism?
In case you think I may be reactionary in my thinking, keep reading the linked article. Read to almost the end where one of the targets in the Explorer’s paramilitary “role play” was dressed in “traditional Arab dress.” I wonder how the “border jumpers” are made to look, or the drug growers. One deputy Lowenthal remarked,If were looking at 9/11 and what a Middle Eastern terrorist would be like, he said, then maybe your role-player would look like that. I dont know, would you call that politically incorrect?
Politically incorrect!? No! It’s beyond politically incorrect! It’s loathsome! Really? Are we teaching kids to identify terrorists, or are we teaching kids to hate? To fear the other.
According to the article the Explorers have not had any complaints over their program. There should be protests. Perhaps people who care just don’t know about this particular program. John Anthony is the National Director. His contact information is below. Please contact him and let him know how you feel about this program.
John Anthony, MS
Naomi Wolf, in her article We are all Torturers in America, poses an interesting question. Where were we the last eight years that we are suddenly all “outraged” about the prospects of torture now. After all, it’s not like the Bush Administration hid their torture from us. And, let’s face it, attempts to spin torture as “enhanced interrogation” or “nothing more significant than fraternity hazing” are pretty hollow. Torture is torture, and in the words of George Bush, America doesn’t torture. Really?
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I’m writing this letter for consideration for the position of Supreme Court Justice. I will be unemployed by June 1st and available to fill another position. The seat on the US Supreme Court is just what I am looking for. I have a background in research and an interest in human rights activism. As a sociologist, I am trained to see the structural influences of institutions that apply norms (such as laws) to the real lives of people throughout our country. I am confident that, as a sociologist, I can contribute unique assets to the court.
President Obama, you have stated that you are looking for an independent thinker to fill this position. Since there are no Constitutional qualifications for Supreme Court Justice there is no reason why you must select from a pool of jurists or politicians. A sociologist can do the job just as effectively. If I’m not mistaken, as a Supreme Court Justice I would be the first sociologist in that position. Isn’t it time to bring a new skill set to the court.
Also, Mr. President, I am relatively young and healthy. I am thirty-nine years old. My family has a long history of men who have lived vital lives well into their eighties and nineties. So appointing me to the Supreme Court would guarantee a critical, liberal voice for at least the next fifty years.
I know that the nomination process can be brutal, having to face a panel of Senators, at least half of whom will hate me. This is not a problem. I am a teacher and an activist. If I can face a room full of apathetic teenagers, I can handle Senators. If I can stand in front of a room of boaters and advocate for Manatees, I can handle Senators. I am well read in the issues, well spoken, and not afraid to stand my ground in the face of grilling before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Many years ago I sent a letter to President Clinton when he had to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. I guess he never received my letter as he select Justice Ginsberg to the bench. That’s all right. I’m not bitter. However, Mr. President, I am now desperate for a job. Please take my qualifications to mind in considering me for the position.
Michael Andoscia, M.A.