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July 4, 2003

A Design to reduce them.
[The Washington Post, July 4, 2003:] “President Bush designated six suspected al Qaeda terrorists as eligible for trial before military tribunals yesterday, bringing the United States to the brink of its first prosecution of enemy prisoners since the aftermath of World War II….

“The United States has turned to military tribunals to conduct the prosecutions in part because the proceedings can be held under extraordinary security, sometimes even with judges’ names withheld. The trials can be closed to the public when classified information is discussed, and, in contrast to federal criminal courts, the normal rules of evidence are relaxed. The rules generally favor the prosecution.”

She’s waiting for me when I get home from work
But things just ain’t the same
She turns out the light and cries in the dark
Won’t answer when I call her name
[Independent, July 4, 2003:] “Officials at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have begun planning for construction of court facilities and an execution chamber, since the tribunals may consider imposing the death penalty….

“Although Pentagon officials would not say where the suspects are imprisoned or where their tribunals might be held, legal experts said the trials likely would be at Guantanamo, where almost 700 Taliban and al Qaeda suspects are being held.

“The Pentagon officials also raised the possibility that the military might continue to hold the suspects even if they are acquitted by a tribunal….

“Any tribunal cases would be decided by a panel of three to seven military officers who would act as both judge and jury.”

She gives me her cheek when I want her lips
And I don’t have the strength to go
On the lost side of town in a dark apartment
We gave up trying so long ago
[Jim Henley, June 17, 2003:] “The question is not ‘Do terrorists deserve the same rights as ordinary criminals?’ The question is ‘Are terrorist suspects terrorists?’ That’s exactly congruent with the question ‘Are criminal suspects criminals?’ We have centuries of experience on what can go wrong trying to answer that question, and developed an elaborate system of rights and procedures to minimize the potential for disaster—depriving the innocent of the liberty, property and even lives….

“It was a really bad day, all right? Thousands died. Decent people who did nothing to deserve their fate. It was awful, just awful. Hate and scorn are the only emotions appropriate for the perpretrators, grief for the victims. But we cannot let ourselves be ruled by fear for the rest of our lives. It is not manly. It is not womanly. You would insist that your child face such fear down. Life is so much easier for the brave, let alone more dignified. Live and die like human beings or live and die like whipped dogs. We have that choice. We are making that choice, and at almost every juncture, making it wrong.”

On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below
Hey, baby, it’s the Fourth of July
Hey, baby, it’s the Fourth of July

Whatever happened, I apologize
So dry your tears and baby, walk outside
It’s the Fourth of July

[“Fourth of July” by Dave Alvin]
[01:47 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on A Design to reduce them.:

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2003, 03:06 PM:

Oh, Patrick, you bring tears to my eyes.

(I'm at work, my Fats Waller CDs won't play here.)

Glen Engel-Cox ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2003, 05:08 PM:

Nicely done, but I think another song, just three tracks away from that one on the same disc, fits slightly better:

There are men lost in jail
Crowded 50 to a room
There's too many rats
In this cage of a world.

And the women know their place
Sit home and write letters
Then they visit once a year
When they both just sit there and stare

See how we are
Gotta keep bars in between us
See how we are
We only sing about it
Once in every 20 years
See how we are

There are 17 kinds of coke,
500 kinds of cigarettes.
This freedom of choice in the U.S.A.
Drives everyone crazy.
While in Acapulco,
They don't give a damn
'bout kids selling chiclets
with no shoes on their feet.

See how we are
Hey man, what's in it for me?
See how we are

--John Doe/Exene Cervenka, "See How We Are"

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2003, 05:45 PM:

Let's see if I have understood this: A person, whose name is never revealed, can be tried on charges of which he is not informed, accused by witnesses who are never identified. He defends himself without representation, and, if in spite of all this he manages to win himself an acquittal he can still be held indefinitely?

Is that right?

workin_granny ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2003, 06:28 PM:

What Macdonald said at 5:45 PM.

And of course, to me it seems only logical that any of our citizens visiting or working in other countries of the world can be treated in the same way. Should do wonders for tourism.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2003, 06:29 PM:

I believe that's a correct assessment of the situation.

It's not right.

Jeff Crook ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2003, 08:18 PM:

How do I get out of this chicken shit outfit?

And let's not forget that our beloved leader recently gave himself the power to declare American citizens as enemy combatants, subject to the same nifty alternative legal system.

I feel so much safer now.

Raven ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2003, 11:57 PM:

It makes my head spin to even think about the rationalizations for this, and I feel like I was dropped into the world of "Catch-22". I really do wonder: where is the outrage?

Military tribunals, enemy combatant designation, indefinite incarceration without trial not only seem clearly unconstitutional on their face, they do not even have a foundation in law! It is absolutely beyond me how any court can let this stand.

There is really not much to argue about: as soon as the first American citizen, arrested on American soil, was imprisoned, indefinitely, without a trial and due process of law, simply on the president's say-so, the rule of law was lost for all. Only the whim of the president now stands between freedom and prison for life without recourse, for every person in this country. "A Nation of Laws, not Men." I wish.

Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 01:49 AM:

In all this, I feel I have to say that the problem is _not_ that these would be military courts. It would be just as vile if the same system were set up with civilian Federal Judges. It is the secrecy combined with the continuing abuse of Due Process.

If anyone were arrested in Europe on charges related to terrorism in the USA, they would have a strong legal argument to oppose extradition.

The US governments electric-Gatling toenail clipper is performing as one would expect.

Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 02:02 AM:

As a non-American citizen currently living on American soil, I (perhaps understandably) tend to think that the rule of law somehow ought to apply to people like me, too...

Yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 02:53 AM:

"our beloved leader recently gave himself the power to declare American citizens as enemy combatants, subject to the same nifty alternative legal system."

I don't think the ability to designate American citizens who fulfill certain criteria (i.e. fighting for an designated enemy of the US) as enemy combatants is new. Nor is it different from the laws in just about every other country, including democratic ones.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 03:55 AM:

My impression is that, in the past, non-citizens captured wearing the uniform of an enemy army were the ones classified as "enemy combatants."

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, accused (many think falsely) and executed for selling A-Bomb secrets to the Soviet Union had to be tried by a jury.

Under Bush, apparently, they would lose their right to jury trial.

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 06:19 AM:

Does anyone think these powers will ever be repealed or revoked? Won't any politician who now stands up for the rule of the law, and all those other good ideas in the constitution, be hammered and scorned as soft on turrrrsm?

This is quite a serious question. For all the wonderful and inspiring optimism of this place, I cna' tsee Bush as a blip. Sometimes I see him as a historical hinge: one of thoese rulers so bad and so catastrophic that they change the course of history. In hhis case by replacing notional democracy with an undisguised imperial oligarchy.

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 08:29 AM:

You know, Karl Rove is explicit about what model he has been using: the McKinley administration.

This stuff is nothing new. The US has garnered an empire before, for even worse reasons (yes, that is possible), and immediately removed Constitutional protections from their inhabitants. Google up the Insular Cases, and be amazed. Be even more amazed that these are still *used*.

"And certainly, it is not open to us in light of the Insular Cases to endorse the view that every constitutional provision applies wherever the United States Government exercises its power." Guess what year.

Personally, I don't find going back to the era of Comstock, Plessy versus Ferguson, or Operation Howling Wilderness at all appealing. Some people's mileage might vary.


Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 08:37 AM:

Yehudit, in fact Bush has not imprisoned any US citizens in Camp X-Ray, nor is he allowed to try US citizens under this regime. (I can't call it "law".)

British and Australian citizens, on the other hand, are being tried under this regime. The US doesn't have enough loyalty to its allies to give citizens of allied countries a just trial.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 09:07 AM:

There's at least one US citizen being held without charge or communication or quite sign or a trial, but, hey, the point is there is no way to tell; once you start holding people in secret, AmCits will also get disappeared.

As for everyone having laws like that -- well, yeah, up to a point. The fellow CSIS said 'terrorist' about and wants to hold on those grounds has a lawyer, who gets to talk to him, his family knows where he is, his statements reach the newspapers, and CSIS is fighting a fairly desperate bureacratic delaying action to keep the very annoyed judge from springing the fellow on grounds of their total lack of evidence.

I'm still pretty peeved about this; it's not right, and it's an argument for disbanding CSIS entirely and forbidding anyone who works for it from every working in any part of the public service ever again.

But it's not quite the same thing as the USG's current practice of causing people to disappear by administrative fiat.

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 11:35 AM:

I did a cartoon some time back of a man in jail being told "The crime you're accused of is so serious, we don't need to give you a trial."

Bitter as I was when I did it, I still didn't want it to be prophetic.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 01:17 PM:

Patrick -
Thank you, and pardon the fit of parochialism.

Meg ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 01:24 PM:

Raven said:
"It makes my head spin to even think about the rationalizations for this, and I feel like I was dropped into the world of "Catch-22". I really do wonder: where is the outrage? "

Oh Raven, the really sick thing is that the "outrage" is all from the perpetrators. Why, who could*consider* that they might be tried for *war crimes* !! Sacre bleu! et merde, aussi.

Raven ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 01:47 PM:

Yehudit said:

"I don't think the ability to designate American citizens who fulfill certain criteria (i.e. fighting for an designated enemy of the US) as enemy combatants is new. Nor is it different from the laws in just about every other country, including democratic ones."

That's just not right. For an American citizen, fighting for an enemy against the United States is treason, and it is a crime. If the state accuses somebody of a crime, the state has to prove that the person did in fact commit the crime in a court of law.

That's just the point of contention, and Jim Henley, as cited in Patrick's post, said it eloquently enough. But let me still restate it: everybody would agree that people who "fulfill certain criteria" (for example, who have killed someone) are criminals. But the determination of the fact that they indeed fulfill the criteria has to be made in a court of law, according to the US Constitution, by trial by jury, in public, and with the right of the accused to confront his accusers, and to secure testimony and witnesses on his behalf, and with assistance of counsel.

According to the US Constitution it is not the president, and not the department of defense, who determines that somebody did in fact commit the crime of treason.

And you know what, Yehudit? This "ability to designate [...] as enemy combatants" is not in the law, I believe that it does not have any basis in law. It's based on an executive order, not a law passed by Congress.

And contrary to your assertion, no country that values human rights and safeguards them has a law like this on the books.

It's a disgrace.

Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 02:13 PM:

I agree with you Raven. I would point out as an example, however, that Z. Moussaoui has really turned his case into a circus. Should we treat all terrorist suspects as criminals? Should we treat 9/11 as a crime, and not combat?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 02:53 PM:

Of course you should treat it as a crime; that's what it was.

If you treat it as an act of war, you're elevating a bunch of thugs to a status equivalent to that of a nation state.

daveanjo ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 03:08 PM:

Yehudit, "enemy combatant" is a new one, similar to the status of German spies captured after WWII, but new and improved for US citizens. don't worry, though, you'll get a lawyer if you're the right color (Cf. Lindh)

daveanjo ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 03:09 PM:

and padilla had a bomb, too. the president says so. i guess that's good enough for you.

Raven ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 04:01 PM:


spot on, a very good point.

On some level I find this really absolutely astonishing: throughout the history of modern terrorism, terrorists have always claimed for themselves the status of combatants, and rejected to be treated as criminals, and governments have consistently denied them this recognition (for example, the IRA in Northern Ireland, where terrorists in British prisons are often regarded as prisoners of war, or the RAF in Germany, which also claimed this status for its prisoners).

Of course, the understanding then was that their status as POWs would be much better than that of a common criminal. The US government has now given terrorists combatant status, but has found an ingenious solution to the problem that normally this would entitle them to more rights: they are "combatants", they fight in a "war", but yet they are not prisoners of war and not entitled to the rights that are afforded to POWs according to law and treaty.

They exist in legal limbo. It used to be that there were only two categories of people detained by the state, with clearly defined rights: criminals and those accused of criminal wrongdoing, and soldiers captured in armed conflict. Now there's a third category, and they do not seem to have any rights at all. Really ingenious.

Roz Kaveney ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2003, 04:28 AM:

What really worries me about this is that it has the feel of the sort of thing groups do to initiate people. Cannibal gangs make people eat human flesh, because after that you cannot go back.

The American public is being persuaded to let there be these trials without proper defendant rights so that afterwards there is nowhere to go but further on the path to dictatorship...And eventually there will be summary executions without proper trials.

Every time the whole thing gets ratcheted up.

A paranoid brutal US is what terrorists want - because it justifies who they are. The important thing is not to play their game.

It is a good thing that people fought internment and jury-less courts in Northern Ireland and that, even when suspects were jailed on dodgy evidence, there were still people who fought e.g. the Guilford appeals. It is also worrying that at least one judge took the line that, if the agencies of the state had lied, they should be supported in that lie. After all, there was a war on.

Idiot/Savant ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2003, 07:13 AM:

Those facing trial at Guantanamo are now being told to confess or die. Torquemada would be proud of you, America.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2003, 07:14 AM:

Roz: thank you. I've been trying to say that for at least a year. Having read what you just wrote, though, all my efforts now seem like incoherent mumblings. I'm going to be quoting this a lot!

Also, people don't generally understand why I still hate Margaret Thatcher, an enemy of freedom and civil liberty if there ever was one.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2003, 01:11 PM:

The story that Idiot/Savant links to has me puzzled. Over and over again, we're finding out that people offered sentence adjustments in return for testimony do not give reliable testimony. (This is sufficiently known that some current appeals (and IIRC overturnings) rest on a jury not being informed that some testimony they heard was given in exchange for a lighter sentence.) Are the authorities described in this story so blind that they don't know this? Are they willfully ignorant of anything that doesn't fit their worldview? (Or blocking, cf the scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: -"that Indian child is contradicting what we know to be true; therefore he couldn't have said it."-) Or are they trying to look like they're making progress to save their own and their party's skins?

I suppose there's some place in information theory that says that given a sufficient number of doubtful stories you can pull out the truth from the overlaps. (Possibly even from the things that nobody says -- I've been told that somebody mapped all the bullet holes on bombers that came back to a base during World War II and argued that the areas with no holes needed more armor, because the holes would have been randomly distributed if hits in these spots weren't fatal.) But the lack of WMD (not to mention the administration's willingness to use palpably false "evidence") suggests how readily such a technique can be bent to "prove" whatever one wants it to -- which says to me that these tactics are stupid as well as wrong.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2003, 10:35 AM:

quote - It used to be that there were only two categories of people detained by the state, with clearly defined rights: criminals and those accused of criminal wrongdoing, and soldiers captured in armed conflict./quote


Jeff Crook ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2003, 10:35 AM:

Military tribunals, enemy combatant designation, indefinite incarceration without trial not only seem clearly unconstitutional on their face, they do not even have a foundation in law!

There are so many levels to this. Our "civilized" society exists largely because of our fair trial system. It works because the large majority of individuals understand that, if arrested, they at least theoretically have a chance at a fair trial, acquittal, and release.

Let's say that you are a peaceful political activist and George Bush decides he's had enough of you. He can arrest you, detain you forever in a secret location, and never allow you to defend yourself in a court of law. Remember, not only can he designate you an enemy combatant, he can classify the 'evidence' proving your status.

In such a case, many people would see their only recourse as flight, or self defense. Which, in effect, forces that person to become the very thing which Bush has designated they are - an enemy combatant.

Isn't it keen how this process creates terrorists, rather than eliminating them?

Raven ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2003, 12:12 PM:


You are right, there are indeed also people held for deportation, or pending their approval of refugee or asylum status. Especially grave are the cases of people who are held indefinitely, when they cannot be deported because their home country does not want to take them back.

I think that is wrong as well. But apart from the last category (which should not exist at all), at least these people have a right to an adjudication of their status.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 03:26 AM:

What really worries me about this is that it has the feel of the sort of thing groups do to initiate people. Cannibal gangs make people eat human flesh, because after that you cannot go back.

You cannot go back because of social stigma, or because the taste of human flesh is potato chips crossed with nicotine?

People decide things are not to their taste all the time, and society has all manner of ways of ritually separating the then from the now. One is called scapegoating. Somebody who gets really bloodthirsty and is responsible for a lot of bad things will instead get blamed for all the bad things, allowing those who did some bad things to sweep them under the rug and shift the blame.

Of course once all this is said and done, if we burn Bush in effigy for a thousand years after some less ritual form of comeuppance, I suppose I'll be reasonably satisfied. Holding everyone else even marginally responsible to accounts would be an ugly business, and would guarantee you get a few innocents mixed in along with the guilty.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 10:22 AM:

It would also guaruntee that the problem keeps happening.

Bush is the photogenic front to a gang of evil men.

You -- collective, 'we the people' you, there -- need to try those evil men for their crimes, lock them up until they die, and confisticate their fortunes at a minimum if you want to not be fighting a rearguard action for the idea of civil liberties until you die.

It'd be a very good idea to reverse the post-1970 structural damage to various market and investment systems, when they decided that the idea wasn't to make every better off, it was to get as much money in one place as possible, too, but that's not quite the same problem.

But just voting Bush out won't actually get you anything but another four years of crazed media attacks over nothing important.

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 10:55 AM:

Graydon Saunders wrote:

"It would also guaruntee that the problem keeps happening."

Sigh. Not this preoccupation with final solutions again.

"You -- collective, 'we the people' you, there -- need to try those evil men for their crimes, lock them up until they die, and confisticate their fortunes at a minimum if you want to not be fighting a rearguard action for the idea of civil liberties until you die."

The idea of civil liberties has always required a fight. This is nothing new.

And I saw you palm that "rearguard" card. Doomed to defense, the death of liberty? Tsk. Thanks for eliminating any motivation to be proactive, Mr. Oracle.


Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 06:10 PM:

With Carlos on this.

Setting any minimums on punishments, particularly talk of "confiscating fortunes," gets into the same creepy territory as the drug seizure laws. You know, the ones where you can seize a 200 year old $3mil frat house for sale of a dime bag of pot.

Most of those evil people had money left to them by people who were somewhat less evil, and after they die and/or are imprisoned would be leaving it to other people, who might not be evil either.

Prison and fines seem as if they should do an admirable job. The rest just reads as trappings lifted from the witch trials except you don't actually get to burn the witch.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 06:29 PM:

The particular boundaries of civil liberties have always required argument; the idea of civil liberties enjoyed in the US for some time a position in the mainstream of discourse in which they were a presumed part of the argument.

They're leaving that position, in large part by the concentrated efforts of the same faction which has recently installed Mr. Bush.

As for their fortunes -- money is power. If you leave your polity in such a case that money can be directly translated into political influence (at a ridiculously low rate, for that matter) and permit the use of public markets as machines for wealth concentration, yes, you will not get your liberty back.

You've already lost it; American citizens may be imprisoned indefinately without charge, trial, public notice, or any right of communication with anyone.

Tell me what your founding fathers would say of your state of liberty when such a thing is true.

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 07:41 PM:

Graydon wrote:

"As for their fortunes -- money is power. If you leave your polity in such a case that money can be directly translated into political influence (at a ridiculously low rate, for that matter) and permit the use of public markets as machines for wealth concentration, yes, you will not get your liberty back."

Except this has happened before. It was called the Gilded Age. Constitutional amendments that were intended to protect freedmen were used to bolster corporate interest. Strikers were shot down in the streets. Presidential elections were surrounded by a miasma of corrupt deals. Civil rights for blacks were rolled back, sometimes violently, and the US embarked on an incredibly sleazy run of empire building, distinct from mere territorial aggrandizement. And money talked then. Oh, how it talked!

Oddly enough, liberty survived. The Gilded Age was followed by the Progressive Era, to use the schoolbook terminology. Led by a leftist splinter faction of the Republican party, in fact.

"Tell me what your founding fathers would say of your state of liberty when such a thing is true."

I take it you've never heard of the Alien and Sedition Acts. 1798. Even worse.


Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 08:22 PM:

Just because someone historically got lucky, doesn't mean that you will.

You appear to be arguing historical inevitability here; if you really believed that, you'd be aware that, in the same sense that to a first approximation every species is extinct is a true statement, the historical condition of mankind is unremitting toil under conditions of brutal compulsion. (Whether economic, political, or situational.)

The historical existence of evil doesn't make present evils less serious, just as the historical success of progressive forces doesn't mean that those progressive forces will ever again suceed.

And yes, I have heard of the Alien and Sedition Act. It was repealled, it was controversial, and it isn't an answer to the tremendous disjunction between the actual and appropriate political consequences of John Ashcroft's policy of holding American citizens without charge, trial, or communication.

You're not especially blessed by God; historical forces aren't on your side. Everything you hold dear and value is being lost, now, today. It's not a pendulum, it's not a regulated system of any kind.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 09:01 PM:

Graydon: If anyone here is arguing historical inevitablility, it's you, not Carlos. Carlos is pretty clearly saying that your conclusions do not follow from your premises, given that similar situations have not played out that way.

You might also notice that no one here is arguing that everything's hunky-dory.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 09:28 PM:

I wouldn't say the situations are similar.

Holding AmCits by administrative fiat is new; voting machines that don't perserve an archival record of the ballot are new; an attempt to assert (quite successfully at various times) that the Constitution only applies to Christians is new, at least in having the judiciary accept it.

All of these things are things that move the axis of political struggle outside the 'is the right way for the United States to behave' and into 'is this the United States?'

That's where the analogies start to break down; the group holding power does not agree that due process, the rule of law, or public accountability are good things even in the abstract.

I invite you, or anyone, to provide an historical example of such a group governing well or letting go of power quietly and peacefully.

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 10:24 PM:

Graydon, I am certain you don't know enough US history to make that sort of blanket statement about US history.

I also have grown to seriously dislike the dishonest rhetorical strategies you use: the excluded middle, the shifted ground, the phony aura of historical inevitability, and above all else, that pseudo-poetic 'packed' prose style of yours which, when you get right down to it, is only a fancy way to get people to ask you what you _really_ mean. Beowulf meets egoboo.

And lately, you've been using all these strategies in service of one basic idea: 'kill the bully or you'll be sorry'.

I don't much like it when the people in Washington promote that idea, and I don't much like it when you do it either.

The sad thing is, you won't realize what you're doing even after I tell you. You're already well into the psychological projection phase of the Brain Eater syndrome. But there it is.

Such a waste.


Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 11:01 PM:

There are times when 'kill the bully or you'll be sorry' is a true and accurate description of affairs.

As for my prose style, well, it's the best I can do. It's better than it used to be.

I, personally, am terrified; I entirely lack your confidence that thirty years of work by smart, well funded people can be encompassed by normal political processes when those normal processes are what the smart, well funded people are trying to subvert.

Civilization doesn't rest on civilization; civilization is just an agreement about how we're going to treat each other. If the people holding state power think that agreement is wrong and stupid, it goes away, and there isn't any civilized way to get it back.

You may know about a pile of historical counter examples for this expectation of events; I do not.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2003, 02:45 AM:

Despite the techniques of the well-funded, "smart" (= opportunistically manipulative?) Republican brain trust, Gore won the popular vote in 2000. The Republicans used a combination of franchise-denying skulduggery and thuggishness in Florida. Even with the current, patrician-partisan Supreme Court, they might not have been able to pull off their hijacking of the election if Al Gore had decided it was worth it to continue fighting.

I agree with Graydon's constant reminders that unauditable computer ballots may create a wider vulnerability to the same kind of skulduggery in 2004. I hope he continues to harp on that.

But I can't see his certainty that variations of this skulduggery applied to the 2004 election are already inevitably bound to succeed.

Right now, (I believe), the success of an incrementally larger and larger coup still depends upon the consent of a majority of American voters to the unilateral control of the United States by a small, wealthy class.

If we lose again in 2004, it will most likely be because an insufficient number of people of good conscience have acted civilly, legally, and cannily to contest the manipulation and criminality of a powerful minority.

If/when Democrats (or responsible Republicans) reassume control of the U.S. Government, Graydon is right that America will still be facing an efficient, destructive meme in the minds of its upper class.

But it's the meme that needs to be removed, not the people. I still don't buy the idea that you eliminate crime by executing all of the criminals. It didn't work out so well for Robespierre or Lenin. Napoleon and Stalin succeeded them.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2003, 05:24 AM:

Meanwhile, it has just filtered into the public domain that two London businessmen guilty of flying while Muslim are among the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

My favourite bit in the Guardian article is the bit about the phone charger. They were first arrested on 2 November 2002 in the UK: "Anti-terrorist officers told them the reason for their detention was a suspect device in their luggage - a battery charger. According to their lawyer, Gareth Peirce, they had been freed after an Argos catalogue was produced to prove to the officers that the charger was widely available."

Six days later they flew to the Gambia and were arrested there by the Gambian secret police. From then on, they were not permitted access to lawyers or Argos catalogues.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2003, 10:58 AM:

Lenny -

The basic trick for a democracy is that it's better to gracefully acknowledge political defeat and maintain the framework of law and custom so the consequences of political disputes never escalate to violence. (Similar to the way the trick with markets is for the wealthy to be pleased to take a smaller piece of a much larger pie.)

This lot have demonstrated very publically that they don't accept the framework; they weren't even surreptitious about sending people to stop a vote count by force.

Since there is no conceivable reason to have voting machines that don't retain recountable ballots that doesn't involve 'skullduggery' -- premeditated election fraud -- you also know that there is widespread intent to not count the votes this time, either.

Will it be enough that no one will ever know who really won the 2004 presidentail election? Almost certainly.

Will it be enough to produce a sufficent legitimacy to re-elect George W. Bush?

If it isn't, it won't be for lack of trying, and the people pushing this really are smart, as smart as you are or as I am; certainly plenty smart enough to count vote margins.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2003, 03:20 AM:


I don't know what the name is of the fallacy you're using, but its the same one currently popular with the Bush administration: Bad people use money and stuff to do bad things; to stop them, we need to take away their money and stuff.

Yes, money is power. Power can be used for good, for evil, and frittered for entertainment value. I no more believe the Bush administration's assertions that EVERY SINGLE PENNY spent on illegal drugs will be funneled directly to Columbian drug lords who will then spend everything to assassinate judges, with no waste or other expenses, than I believe your idea that the only way to prevent evil cackling Republicans from buying elections is to take away all their money, because that's all they spend it on, and....

Drug money is used for a great many things, including pizza, and if you want to get money into a local community and the economy, it probably does a better job than tax rebates. Similarly, evil robber barons, aside from buying elections and causing Teapot Dome scandals and suchlike, also tend to endow universities and libraries. Confiscating their money might cause problems with this, aside from the question of who is the "we" that we're talking about taking it away.

Money doesn't just vanish, and if money is power, I'm wondering just who you're talking about getting the power. The Committee for Public Safety?

Pendulums do in fact swing, and at the far ends of each are dangerous zealots. Obviously we need to do something about the current mess, but I'm not going to sign on for anything more draconic, no matter how prettily you tart it up.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2003, 04:03 PM:

Kevin -

The Bush administration is the product (in large part) of the efforts of some extremely rich people to change the purpose of the NorAm economy from generating a general increase in wealth -- a general increase in choice -- to bringing them all the money.

Risk-shifting, mandating profitability as the sole concern of corporations (rather than profit as a necessary part of achieving some human purpose), and the various attempts to dilute or remove traditional consumer rights and establish monopolies are all symptoms of this.

Getting rid of those things requires taking the ability to try away, because otherwise, it'll keep happening.

Says nothing about the other very rich people, or what else that money goes on, or anything else.

I would also think that the attempt to buy an election was a sufficently serious crime to warrant very large fines.

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2003, 09:05 PM:

Hm. Someone espouses an ideology about increasing personal choice, but tries to use rhetorical strategies to limit other people's choices.

It's rather like how many so-called libertarians kneel before naked power and tyranny.

And it's completely unconscious.

Ah well.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2003, 12:03 AM:

Although we're all born into the poker game called capitalism in the United States, we do like to go outside and smell the flowers once in awhile. Some of us do think that personal choices of the rich should be limited when they consist of strategies that force everyone to play for them until bankrupt and then leave the game to become indentured wait-persons.

Elections in this country weren't intended to be bought. If barons are actually shown to be robbing, I have no objection to throwing them out of the poker game -- despite the occasional chips they might toss out to less wealthy players.

Leave for another day the question of whether the poker game should rule our lives just because we're born at the table. (Begging Alan Bostick's pardon.)

Also waiting for a convincing argument that the progress of historical events in the United States is like unto a cylindrical object attached to a long metal rod, following a fixed cyclical path.

Gratuitous armchair psychology jibes at Graydon make a less convincing argument for the virtues of cutthroat capitalism (at least for me).

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2003, 02:39 AM:


You seem to be postulating these "rich people" as ancient vampire kings or some other form of immortal, rather than people who will eventually die without the ability to take it with them.

You also seem to be changing your tune. "large fines" seems to be a very different thing from your earlier "confiscate their money." A fine, no matter how large, is finite, whereas forfeiture of all wealth and property is a different order of thing. It's a matter of taking part vs. taking all.

Also, right now, there are limits on how much money you can give to any given candidate, and campaigns unfortunately do cost money. Much of this money is spent to buy a person fame, so people at the polls won't just say "Who?"

It may be a sad fact, but a movie star or a member of a famous political dynasty is better set up to win a popular election than a qualified unknown. Likewise, a rich man can afford to spend more to buy fame than can a poor or middle class one. Then again, the rich guy can't trade on the sympathy vote for sons of poor immigrant sharecroppers, so I'm not certain how it evens out in the wash, except that I think that it does.

Recently, we've had a religious peanut farmer for four years, a B-movie actor for eight, a wealthy nebish for four, a poor-boy turned Rhodes scholar for eight, and now the nebish's son. Seems about even to me.

It's no great secret that Reagan was better looking and better spoken than either Bush, and got more votes as a result. If we hamper the wealthy, should we also hamper the pretty and articulate? Hell, Carter's teeth probably got him more votes than his policies.

People should of course be fined and imprisoned for outright vote fraud, but people opening up their checkbooks at fundraisers is perfectly legitimate.

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2003, 04:29 AM:

Lenny Bailes wrote:

"Gratuitous armchair psychology jibes at Graydon make a less convincing argument for the virtues of cutthroat capitalism (at least for me)."

Who's arguing the virtues of cutthroat capitalism? Me, I am pointing out that Graydon, by the tenets of his own ideology, is a hypocrite.

He's making arguments based on emotion ("I, personally, am terrified") and lack of knowledge. He's not interested in discussing any actual set of facts. They might get in the way.

Ask yourself, why is he so interested in having us make decisions out of fear and ignorance?

Now notice that the same questions can be applied quite usefully to 1600 Pennsylvania.

I don't believe in any fore-ordained pendulum. I do believe that this is how the pendulum swings back.

Graydon has made it very clear, on this and other threads, that he is on the side against the rule of law and for the abuse of power. He's one of them. He's only against the current instantiation. Not someone I want on-sides, thank you very much.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2003, 08:14 AM:

Is it impossible to consider that Graydon may be angry and upset over very real crimes and might moderate some of his thoughts on the matter?

Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2003, 10:07 AM:

Maybe you missed Graydon's astonishing recent performance regarding the American Civil War, where he suggested, and defended, and continued to defend, the idea that all slaveowners should have been killed after the war for political reasons, a neat idea which he expressly claimed would have prevented the US's current political situation.

It certainly caught my eye.

I don't doubt that he's angry and upset. But I notice how he has consistently and persistently avoided even mentioning the possibility of a more moderate solution.

Again, another paragraph equally applicable to 1600 Pennsylvania.

Of course I pity Graydon more.