Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Sunday Morning Rumination

Here I am at the kitchen table on a b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l, cool Sunday morning, a sunbeam streaming down onto my shoulders, WPFW playing some sort of klezmerish jazz, everybody asleep but me. My favorite time. So ... because nothing is interrupting me, I will go on too long.

I'm looking at the morning paper, and, oh, the bad guys are being caught, yes, but nothing's going to happen. The whole newspaper is full of corruption and degeneracy. In other times, the discovery of crimes and lies would result in corrective action. I am not so confident these days.

The Carpetbagger Report had a tidy summary of the past week, which I'm just going to copy and paste, including their links:
On Sunday, we learned that the National Intelligence Estimate, the most complete intelligence report completed by all available agencies, argues, in the words of one American intelligence official, "[T]he Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse." The same day, we learn that the president dismisses the ongoing tragedies in Iraq as "just a comma" in history.

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), with no evidence at all, argued on national television that Saddam Hussein had WMD and was an accomplice to the 9/11 attacks, despite reality that says the opposite.

On Wednesday, a majority of the House of Representatives endorsed the Bush administration's deplorable torture bill.

On Thursday, a majority of the Senate endorsed the Bush administration's deplorable torture bill.

On Friday, a report explained that the White House misled the country about its connections with Jack Abramoff. A few hours later, Mark Foley, a member of the House Republican leadership, was forced to resign in disgrace for being a sexual predator.

On Friday and Saturday, revelations from Bob Woodward's new book highlighted, for the umpteenth time, that the Bush White House has been breathtakingly "clueless, dishonest, and dysfunctional" in its handling of the war in Iraq. Worse yet, the same book notes that the White House was offered a chance to kill Osama bin Laden months before 9/11, but the Bush gang didn't feel like it.

And today we learn that House GOP leaders knew about Foley's "problems" nearly a year ago, but decided not to do much of anything.

You'd think, now that the media seem to be realizing that they can't cover this stuff up any more, that something would happen, wouldn't you? You'd think the party in charge would be expecting to go out on their butts. But no. The other party can't say with certainty that they'll gain a majority in either house of Congress in the elections that are coming up in about a month.

I understand it, but I hate to believe it. I'm going to copy a few paragraphs from a news story earlier this week:
WASHINGTON - The House approved a bill Thursday that would grant legal status to President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program with new restrictions. Republicans called it a test before the election of whether Democrats want to fight or coddle terrorists.

"The Democrats' irrational opposition to strong national security policies that help keep our nation secure should be of great concern to the American people," Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement after the bill passed 232-191.

"To always have reasons why you just can't vote 'yes,' I think speaks volumes when it comes to which party is better able and more willing to take on the terrorists and defeat them," Boehner said.

After the House voted 253-168 to set rules on tough interrogations and military tribunal proceedings, Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was even more critical than Boehner.

"Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 159 of her Democrat colleagues voted today in favor of more rights for terrorists," Hastert said in a statement. "So the same terrorists who plan to harm innocent Americans and their freedom worldwide would be coddled, if we followed the Democrat plan. " Wiretap bill sets up election-year issue

A bill gives away some of our most fundamental rights as citizens, guaranteed from the beginning of our country. Some in Congress vote against it -- and their explanations are in this story, too, but that's not what's on my mind this morning, it's not about the wiretapping bill. This particular story just gives some examples of a common type.

So here's the first guy saying that voting against the bill showed "irrational opposition to strong national security policies" and cautioning that the American people should be concerned about these "irrational" leaders.

But it's the other guy's comment that seals it. He says those who opposed the bill "voted today in favor of more rights for terrorists."

Listen, he can say that, it's ridiculous, but that's not actually the part that bothers me. What really worries me is that I realize now, after working this blog for nearly two years, that some people will actually believe this statement. We will have people in our country who don't care that their rights are being sold off, well, they won't really understand that their rights are under discussion here. The side that controls the dialogue says it's about giving rights to terrorists, and that's as far as some people -- lots of people -- are going to get.

Can you imagine that anyone in America would believe that any person who has been elected to Congress wants to give more rights to terrorists? The fact that this guy can paint the world black and white, and that people will agree to see it that way, is just horrifying. And the fact is, this is just one statement, buried in another news story in a time when these kinds of statements actually comprise the official public debate.

Whenever I think this problem through, I end up back at the subject of public education. This kind of rhetoric can only succeed in the absence of critical thinking.

John Dean's latest book has really opened up discussion on the topic of authoritarianism in America, which he identifies as the underlying perspective that explains so much of what's going on. Why would anybody believe that 160 Congressmen want more rights for terrorists? Because an authority says so. Nobody would reach that conclusion on their own, looking at the evidence. There has been a brisk dialogue, and not everyone was persuaded that this was the right thing to do. You don't have to be a genius to see that nobody supports terrorism. But the Speaker of the House says so, so it must be true.

If there's anything you learn in a public school, it's authoritarianism. You, the student, will fit into their, the teachers', routine. If your essay points are not on the rubric, you're wrong. You'll sit in a group and face the teacher, who stands alone; you'll listen while she talks. The institution, from coast to coast, is set up to produce obedient little robots -- in this, I agree with the home-schoolers, and, really, c'mon, doesn't everybody see that? I disagree with the home-schoolers in a significant way, though. I don't think it's right to abandon the public institution just because it's broken, I think the right thing to do is to reclaim ownership of it and fix it.

I think the schools should be where students learn to be participants in their society, not recipients of it.

This is the underlying struggle that our sex-ed controversy rides on. Some of us believe that students should be presented with facts, that valid knowledge and critical cognitive skills should be imparted, so young people can make well-reasoned decisions at important points in their lives. Others see education as a process that should insitutionalize a traditional way of life and pass well-worn, commonly-held beliefs down to the next generation. We're lucky that most people in our county don't see it that way. Just lucky, that's all.


Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

From Jim's first link in this blog entry,

The Carpetbagger Report
Reality-Based Commentary, Analysis, and Tirades on Politics in America

Thanks for the, that was funny..."reality-based"...yeah, keep telling yourself that come election day. Then again, who knows, maybe the AL can pull it off...first the leaked NIE report (a classified govt document, but hey, who cares...right?), now this misconduct (though to be fair, the GOP deserves to be skewered literally for this), what next?

I can't wait for the next October Surprise...

October 03, 2006 3:08 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Orin, the phrase "reality-based" comes from a famous article about a month before the 2004 election. Ron Suskind wrote for the New York Times Magazine that he had interviewed a "senior adviser" to President Bush:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Some people, it turned out, did not find it embarrassing at all to be part of the "reality-based community." Including, apparently, Carpetbagger Report.

It's an interesting, very revealing article. You oughta follow that link and read it.


October 03, 2006 9:50 AM  

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