9 years ago: No apologies

June 3, 2004, on this blog: No apologies

The pictures from Abu Ghraib — and the revelation that this goes far, far beyond the actions of a few “bad apples” or “morons” — has forced every American to react in one of two ways. We are either made to feel ashamed of our country, or else we are forced to rationalize away that shame by reassuring ourselves that we can condone torture and still be good people, and that anyway Saddam was worse.

Somebody owes us an apology for that.

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  • mroge

    Quite frankly there is such a mishmash of accusations going on from way back that it is very confusing to try to sort them out. If the far right would stop crying “wolf” all the time then people would take the real problems more seriously. As far as the IRS scandles the right hasn’t been entirely truthful about a lot of it. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t mistakes made, however in the case of the pro-life groups being harassed they left out one important detail. All groups that are planning protests are required to submit paperwork and agree that they will conduct their protests in a legal manner. This means not blocking doorways, harassing clients and staff and other acts of civil disobedience such as blocking traffic. This law has been in place since 1975 in response to the anti-war protests. They started screening people in order to make sure that no trouble makers would get tax-exempt status. There were already local city codes prohibiting this behavior but some of the protesters wanted to be arrested to bring attention to their cause.

    Were pro-life groups unfairly targeted and harassed? I don’t know. Their story is that they were told not to protest Planned Parenthood at all. I find this suspect simply because I see so much lying going on in these groups. It seems likely to me that they could be exaggerating the truth. And these groups do have a history of harassing clients and staff so I definately think it would have been appropriate to ask them not to do that.

    Some other religous organizations were also targeted, but one was actually a liberal one so it is not true that only conservative ones were targeted.

    Obviously there were problems with the way things were being done and the IRS has admited to that. However I am wondering if this whole thing is being exaggerated by the conservatives. Again they have lied about so many things that I simply can’t trust them. This thing needs to be investigated before people jump to conclusions about Obama’s involvement in the matter.

  • mroge

    Yeah the repubs are definately not innocent when it comes to dirty tactics. And yet we are supposed to trust these good, God-fearing people to govern us.

  • Lori

    However I am wondering if this whole thing is being exaggerated by the conservatives.

    Yes. Fox has, as one would expect, been totally ridiculous about it.

  • Lori

    I don’t care if they don’t talk to me at all. I would however like them to fix the problems. In some cases they have, in others they have not and the big thing is one they refuse to acknowledge as a problem at all. Forced threading works for their purposes so we can all like it or lump it.

  • Lori

    Yes, believe it or not they do. It’s painful to behold.

  • Lori

    The person who was the head of the IRS at the time the improper actions were taken had already resigned a while ago. In a sop to the Fox New frenzy the acting head of the IRS, who did not personally have anything to do with the improper behavior, resigned.

    The poll numbers have made it pretty clear that the Right isn’t getting anywhere trying to hang this on Obama, but Fox is determined to get something out of all these “scandals”. AFAICT it’s going to be Eric Holder’s job.

    I don’t have a problem with him losing his job. However, I’m pretty sure that thanks to Right Wing screeching we’re going to get the right outcome for the wrong reasons and I do have a problem with that.

  • Lori

    This is not necessarily true. I think it’s quite possible that they’re hiding something major and/or covering for W, but that’s not the only explanation for their attitude toward Wikileaks. The security state that was spun up during W’s term had reached a kind of self-perpetuating critical mass before Obama walked in the door.

    I saw some of this in person while I was doing research in grad school and talked to and was taught by people who were living it. Short version: classification is totally out of control. Some of it is correct and necessary. Plenty more is strictly CYA and buck-passing and a whole bunch more is ego. The system is defending itself. (The fact that Julian Assange is an asshole doesn’t help.)

    Part of what Obama pledged to do as president was push back against that system and instead he’s been totally co-opted by it. It will keep rolling until some major scandal final knocks the wheels off. Think of the way CIA was curtailed by the drug running scandals in the 80s.

  • mattmcirvin

    I should add: there are plenty of things to criticize in the Obama administration’s foreign/military/security policy. I don’t personally like the degree of continuity that has existed with the Bush administration on domestic wiretapping and the use of drones. The Associated Press story actually worries me, though as a scandal that gets opposition media attention it doesn’t seem to have the legs that IRS or Benghazi do. The IRS story seems at the very least to point to mismanagement that Obama should have been more on top of than he was.

    But it’s getting to irritate me when Republicans open their arguments on liberal blogs with preemptive rhetoric about how if we don’t agree with them we stand revealed as hypocrites who love our perfect God-King Obama too much. The comment threads on most of the liberal political blogs I read are about 50% people bashing Obama from the left, and that’s been the case really ever since he took office; he got a few weeks’ grace period, but I think the first major disappointments were when people realized he wasn’t actually going to be able to shut down Gitmo, and that the Justice Department wasn’t reversing itself dramatically on civil-liberties cases.

    It was the same way with Bill Clinton; blogs barely existed back then, but the US left spent much of its time complaining about how disappointing and crypto-Republican Clinton was. And the same kind of thing certainly went on with Carter and Johnson, neither of whom were liberal dream Presidents. There was more of a cult of personality with Kennedy, but I suspect part of that is that he was murdered before it got the chance to erode too badly.

    People imagining that American liberalism is just a personality cult revolving around Democratic Presidents can’t actually be reading much that American liberals write. What we don’t do is necessarily buy into the specific attacks that get traction with American conservatives, largely because most of them are nonsense.

  • Carstonio

    The editors at Mad magazine and at the company’s science fiction and horror comics regularly condemned racism while endorsing gender essentialism and eventually homophobia. I found that frustrating because all three go against a core principle of justice. Racism involves a exploitation of a natural power imbalance, majority versus minority. Sexism involves establishing an artificial power imbalance. Homophobia is a mix of the two. Gender essentialism in particular could reasonably be compared to Jim Crow, at least in principle.

    That’s how I see Obama. He does seem to understand that power imbalances constitute or perpetuate injustice, and he has worked to help reduce some of those – the Ledbetter Act, the CFPB, health care reform and fairer taxation. But it’s not been enough. And the drone killings, Gitmo and the treatment of the media are cases where his adminstration has pushed injustice. If you oppose male employers exploiting their power over female employees, you should also oppose the US exploiting its power for killing civilians in Afghanistan and holding people prisoner for years without trial. At least his predecessor’s administration more or less openly advocated power imbalances, in particular using tax plans to throw money at the very wealthy.

  • phantomreader42

    My crazy right-wing aunt sent me a ridiculous email babbling about Obama bowing to a Saudi Prince, among other idiotic things. Along with other debunkings, I sent back a link to a video of Dubya KISSING said prince, and she could not bring herself to object in any way. Or, in fact, acknowledge anything I’d said, because she knew she had nothing to back up the bullshit the GOP cult had fed her.

  • I asked for that, too….

  • P J Evans

    They want everyone who works in a PX to have a secret clearance, because knowing what people are buying might allow them to guess what’s about to happen. And a few more ‘WTF?’ things like that. Add to that thirty or so years of officials doing business via unlisted e-mail addresses, to keep stuff from becoming public that might lead to prosecutions or at least public embarrassment.

  • P J Evans

    Try AdBlock.

  • NoScript will also filter the ads if you only allow patheos.com and disqus.com and permit cookies from patheos and disqus.

  • SisterCoyote

    A note that if you do this, which is totally understandable, it would be cool to also drop some revenue by the tip jar every so often, since unless I’m much mistaken, it undercuts Fred’s ad revenue from the site.

  • Lori

    Classifying things that don’t actually need to be classified leads inevitably to more and more jobs requiring security clearance. Having so many people with clearance, especially in fairly low-level jobs, itself creates security vulnerabilities, which necessitate more security measures, and on and on it goes. The security state is self-perpetuating.

    People using anonymous email to hide things is as old as email. It’s useless if a person becomes the focus of an investigation, but unfortunately it’s effective for dodging FOIA requests.

  • Jurgan

    Did you hear that Obama once ATE A DOG! Scandalous!

  • I don’t see anything particularly WTF about the idea that “Guy who knows whether everyone’s buying hot-weather or cold-weather gear” is a position of trust. “The locals you employ to clean the place are selling your trash to the enemy” is basically the story of operations security.

  • Lori

    Requiring a security clearance goes well beyond “position of trust” requirements and in any case is an ineffective way of preventing your low level employees from selling you out. Basically it’s a pointless, money-wasting* CYA maneuver.

    *I don’t know what a Secret clearance is running these days, but the process for a Top Secret clearance was averaging between $10-$15k four years ago.

  • arcseconds

    these people need to learn about regression testing.

    how on earth is it that they don’t have a heavily-nested comment thread on a test server to prevent embarrassments like this?

    Vanity of vanities, why can no-one build software correctly!

    (I mean, I appreciate it’s difficult, but these are rookie mistakes!)

    at least the non-flat format seems to be by design, however much we disagree with it.

    incidentally, are we sure ‘these people’ are disqus? My rough understanding is that patheos calls disqus’s API, so maybe it’s up to them to format the comments correctly?

  • mroge

    You bring up some good points and this is where it is frustrating to say the least. I can’t say that I support a lot of what Obama is doing but I see the repubs as being much worse and actually more of a danger to this country than Obama. But you are right that there is hypocracy there but at the same time could it be that Obama is trying to please both sides? If so he is doing a poor job of it. Or maybe you are right and he really doesn’t stand for what he says he stands for. Unfortunately most politics is about power and money, not principles. I have never worshipped Obama but the conservative extremism is really what pushed me into supporting him. I have never registered with either party and have just voted for whoever I thought would do the best job. It just seems like it always comes down to voting for the lesser of two evils which is why I hate politics in the first place.

  • mroge

    Thanks everyone for your suggestions and if I choose to do that yes I will tip. Probably I am too lazy to go that route anyway. There is nothing offensive about the ad itself but it is a bit galling that while Fred Phelps is universally condemned by even most conservative Christians, Billy Graham is somehow a nice guy even though he holds the same opinions. Apparently it is okay for him to say that God is punishing us for tolerating gays as long as he doesn’t picket funerals. This is hypocracy among conservative Christians because they will claim that they just hold to the idea that homosexuality is wrong and that they don’t hate anyone. But scapegoating a minority IS HATE. I am not gay myself but even I can see that that is wrong so it burns me up.

  • mroge

    A lot of people are starting to call it “Faux News” which I think is appropriate.

  • mroge

    Very good analysis. I feel the same way. Conservatives like to throw the term, “Owe-bama” around as if we have sold our souls to the Devil and are kissing his feet and singing hymns of praise to him. Of course some actually literally believe that he does actually serve Satan and is the Anti-Christ, so therefore anyone who voted for him, even if they were strongly conservative Christians, are evil.

    I think that some are projecting their flaws on others because in fact a lot of conservatives practically worship the two Bushes and Reagan simply because God was supposedly on their side. Once you decide that God supports a person’s every action, no matter how wrong it is objectively, then you have made him into a saint beyond reproach.

    I have yet to hear any liberal ever say that God supports their candidates. Never. I have never heard any liberal say that God is on Obama’s side. Of course a lot of conservatives think that liberals don’t believe in God in the first place, which is bull. I am rather tired of liberals being called “anti-God.” Of course not all liberals believe in God, which is okay, but my point is that this is just a demonizing tactic on their part.

    So no democrats do not feel that Obama is beyond reproach. However so much of the repubs tactics seem to be to throw as much sh** as possible at Obama and then see what sticks. They should be called out on this behavior. This is not honorable behavior for people who claim to be representing what God wants.

  • mroge

    I KNOW that that is it. You mean an “apology” like this?

    “Dear Lord, I apologize for not killing enough of Your Enemies who do not believe in your Holy Righteousness like I do. I apologize for not for not verbally beating the living hell out of every liberal God Hating Muslim-Loving Socialist Marxist Communist Fascist I come across. I apologize for my negligence that has caused You to punish this country for its tolerance of Homosexuals and Other Evil-Doers. I apologize for not hating those whom You Hate. Yes Lord purge me of the Sins of Compassion, Love and Tolerance for those things are not Your Will. Yes the God-Haters have tried to convince me that Your Holy Inerrant Word of God teaches these things but since You have provided me with Your Holy Spirit Who Guides Me in All Learning I know that they are wrong. Their hearts are Evil and cannot be trusted so I Must Defend myself from what they say even though they may seem to make sense. Yes Lord thanks be to you that You have Provided the Assurance that I am Always Right According to Your Will so I will not be Misled.”

    The sad thing is that a lot of Christians would actually not see anything wrong with this prayer! I know because this is the garbage they spout all the time…

  • mroge

    My dad is the same age so I know is exactly what you are talking about.

  • Maniraptor

    Misread as “Owl-bama”. He has all the hipsters in his avian thrall!

  • Carstonio

    I suspect that Obama is fundamentally an idealist. He doesn’t seem to fully appreciate that the modern GOP would oppose anyone with his combination of ethnicity and education. Forty years ago, the party sold its soul to win the allegiance of reactionaries, and an educated black man violates their idea of a social pecking order. (Imagine their reaction if the president were Michelle instead of Barack.)

    It’s not as simple as saying that Obama needs to be less of a negotiator and more of a fighter like LBJ, although that’s a fair assessment. It’s that the other party has strong disincentives against compromising with him. Pat Toomey is right – his colleagues who aren’t themselves reactionaries are afraid of helping Obama in any way, because their base would revolt and they would likely lose in the next GOP primaries. My hope is that the party will fracture in 2016, with the establishment folks backing Christie or Rubio and the fanatics backing Ryan or Santorum.

  • arcseconds

    Surely it’s just jingoism.

    the USA is the bestest nation in the whole wide world. it’s inconceivable that it, as a nation, could ever have done anything wrong (particularly not whenever it goes to war! I can hear the fife and drum and see the red-white-and-blue even now!)

    (also, I’ve spent my entire life believing in America and how great and shiny and awesome it is, and how I’m connected to this great moral enterprise, there is no way I’m allowing my bubble to be burst now even if I have to go into apoplexy every time someone makes so much as a mild criticism of it)

    and even if, on the odd occasion, mistakes were made (WHICH I SHALL THINK NO MORE UPON god bless america), it clearly wouldn’t do to apologise to any lesser nation.

  • mroge

    Power and tribalism, that is what the Republican party seems to be about. You make a good analysis. I happen to be an idealist myself, which is why I find so much of what they do incomprehensible. What is so hard about doing the right thing? Compromise is not something that is in their vocabulary. I understand that there are times where you might want to take a strong stand on something, but their obstructionism has reached ridiculous heights. I bet you are right, it has a lot to do with racism.

    One of the most frustrating things that I see is that the Republican party seems to be about maintaining or returning to a prior status quo. Any change is seen with suspicion (unless of course it benefits them). So for instance while I often agree with them that there are social programs that haven’t worked and need to be either eliminated or reformed, I don’t think you should throw the baby out with the bath-water and get rid of programs that do work. The fact is that this whole idea of returning to small government is a actually disingenuous from the standpoint that I don’t think they really believe in small government at all. They believe in big government for the programs that they support, such as spending massive amounts of money on warfare. Also let’s spend even more money trying to stop people from getting married!

    There are some things that the government can actually do better than charities can. I worked in the mental health field for a while for a non-profit that recieves government money. They co-ordinate their services with other government agencies in order to get the homeless mentally ill off the streets, get them proper medical treatment, housing and money from public assistance. They also help get them job training and provide job placement assistance. In addition they provide support services such as peer run mental health centers to help people stay well. This has saved the taxpayers a lot of money by reducing the number of mentally ill people who end up in hospitals and jails over and over again. (And yes they do end up in jails, even when they have not done anything wrong).These are programs that are both humane and effective. There are absolutely no charities that could possibly do these things and in fact the issue of the homeless mentally ill something off of their radar entirely except for maybe providing meals for them.

    I am not going to let some ignorant conservatives gut programs like those. They want to make out that all social programs have been failures and that is simply not true. There is in fact a trend among conservatives to dump on the disabled which is despicable, to say the least.

    Congratulations Republican Party! You’ve made another Democat!

  • SisterCoyote
  • Misogyny is not okay, I don’t care who the fuck you’re attacking with it.

  • I don’t think we’re going to get anything while Disqus has a near-monopoly. Why the hell everyone changed to Disqus when it is terrible, I do not know, but there it is.

  • It’s not that he’s an educated black man. It’s that he’s a Democrat. It’s that he’s not on their side. That he is both educated and black makes it easier for Republicans to rile their base, but all they actually care about — ALL they care about — is winning. If they can’t win, they’ll make the other side lose.

    They were every bit as bad with Clinton. They just didn’t have as much power to block every little bit of everything that they do now.

  • Carstonio

    I mean that the party’s base is repulsed by an educated black man in a position of authority. I wasn’t necessarily talking about the politicians. You’re right that the latter group is exploiting that sentiment.

  • mattmcirvin

    ORLY? Taitz thinks he’s not rly an owl at all.

  • mattmcirvin

    …And, what do you know? Since I wrote that, another big story broke about domestic wiretapping! (Well, mass NSA collection of phone-call metadata, strictly speaking. I’d call it an unreasonable search, in any event.)

    Of course, Republicans can’t particularly call foul on this, because the executive branch’s authority to do this was endorsed legally by Congress in a highly bipartisan manner. (Obama voted for it when he was a Senator. So did a lot of Republicans.)

    I don’t see any real remedy for it other than convincing people from the bottom up that they don’t want the government to do this sort of thing, even if the alternative is maybe not catching a terrorist. And that’s hard.

  • mattmcirvin

    There’s the other half, too: the USA is the bestest nation in the whole world, and it can do no wrong, except that it’s been corrupted by liberal traitors and kids these days and gangsta rap and its government is an evil tyranny, which furthermore has the temerity to apologize for itself and deny that it is the evil tyrannical corrupted greatest country in the world that can do no wrong, and we need to root out the terrorist fifth column that is preventing me from rebelling against the greatest country in the world with my guns. Freedom!

    There’s a guy in my town (in Massachusetts!) who likes to drive around with the Stars and Stripes fluttering on one side of his vehicle and the Confederate battle flag on the other. Meditate on this and one may approach understanding of the mindset, but a full comprehension is beyond the mind of logic.

  • arcseconds

    It must be some kind of zen.