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Friday, May 26, 2006  

Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail... Desmond Dekker, dead at 64. I read through the last couple of posts here - angry, angry, angry. And I'm not a particularly angry person, even, I just play one on the internet, I guess. Don't get me wrong, some of this nonsense pisses me off amazingly, and I am left spluttering and breathing funny. But what can you do? De policeman get taller, de soldier get longer, and de rudeboys a weep an a wail. So, why not mention the following: Temperance Hall is a great new bar that has opened up near my house, so that is always great news. This is really funny (or at least, I think it is. "I'm a website!" Ha.) This is a really good record, as is this. This is going to be fucking amazing, and I can't wait to see this. So there you go; Desmond Dekker is eating rotten green chicken in heaven, and this triggers a new birth of optimism. Go figure. The rudeboy's out on probation, and the rudeboy bomb up de town.


Monday, May 22, 2006  

Coward. From Matt Yglesias, guest-posting at Talking Points Memo, this takedown of Senator Pat Roberts, (R-Kansas):

"I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties," Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) remarked at yesterday's Hayden confirmation hearings, "but you have no civil liberties if you are dead." This comes via Dave Weigel and nicely encapsulates at least three different pieces of horribly misguided rightingery.

First off is the sheer cowardice of it. Sure, liberal democracy is nice, but not if someone might get hurt. One might think that strong supporters of civil liberties would be willing to countenance the idea that it might be worth bearing some level of risk in order to preserve them.

Second is just this dogmatic post-9/11 insistence on acting as if human history began suddenly in 1997 or something. The United States was able to face down such threats as the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany without indefinite detentions, widespread use of torture as an interrogative technique, or all-pervasive surveillance. But a smallish group of terrorists who can't even surface publicly abroad for fear they'll be swiftly killed by the mightiest military on earth? Time to break out the document shredder and do away with that pesky constitution.

Last, there's the unargued assumption that civil rights and the rule of law are some kind of near-intolerable impediment to national security. But if you look around the world over the past hundred years or so, I think you'll see that the record of democracy is pretty strong. You don't see authoritarian regimes using their superior ability to operate in secret and conduct surveillance to run roughshod over more fastidious countries. You see liberalism prospering -- both in the sense that the core liberal countries have grown richer-and-richer and in the sense that liberal democracy has consistently spread out from its original homeland since people like it better. You see governments that can operate in total secrecy falling prey to crippling corruption. You see powers of surveillance used not to defend countries from external threats, but to defend rulers from domestic political opponents.

The U.S.S.R., after all, lost the Cold War, not because we beat them in a race to the bottom to improve national security by gutting the principles of our system, but because the principles underlying our system were actually better than the alternative. If you don't have some faith the American way of life is capable of coping with actual challenges, then what's the point in defending it?

Late Update: Reader S.L. reminds me that Patrick Henry had some thoughts on a related subject.

"This dogmatic post-9/11 insistence on acting as if human history began suddenly in 1997." A-fucking-men. All these steely-eyed, flagwaving rationalists running around in circles and calling everyone with a dry crotch "unserious."

This position, that civil liberties must take a backseat at the first sign of danger, is just ahistorical and stupid. And don't give me any of that "Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus" crap. First of all, that's not all he did. He also used the military to shut down (and in some cases destroy the presses of) opposition newspapers, and had political opponents arrested. Moreover, the Emancipation Proclamation was a military edict effective only in occupied territory precisely because the 13th Amendment hadn't passed yet, and enforcing the proclamation in loyal slave states like Maryland would have been unconstitutional. So, fine. But Lincoln was confronted with 11 million people in open rebellion and a loss of 2/5 of the country's land area. So, a somewhat bigger problem. Second of all, why go leaping backward to an example from a lost era, when the Cold War goes ignored? The stakes were higher, and the nation more recognizeable as our own, but all the wingers want to talk about is Lincoln. Why? Oh, we all know why, goddammit.

Also, I hadn't read the Patrick Henry speech in a while. It's pretty amazing. "They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other."


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