James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, September 25, 2006

Lost Freedoms

In case you haven't seen it, there is/was a lengthy exchange with commenter UpLateAgain in my Rape is Next post. I didn't have the energy or interest to get into a debate and didn't do a very good job, but it is what counts as "new content" on the blog for today. It can be found here.


  1. UpLateAgain seems to have an inordinate amount of faith in the competence and good will of government officials. The individuals who will be doing the torturing will not be accountable for results, and they have no incentive to moderate their methods.

    As an aside on Abu Ghraib, the maltreatment of detainees there by the 95-charley turnkeys was completely gratuitous. 95c's don't interrogate. They just house detainees. Messing around with them was not even part of an intelligence gathering procedure.

    As for freedom we've lost and never regained after losing it in an exigency: 1. we never got back the checks and balances of federalism after the Civil War, and we lost any vestige of local sovereignty. 2. we never got back the concept of limited government after the New Deal measures and the total war state built up for WW2. 3. We never meaningfully demobilized from WW2 and have been in a state of pseudo war and mobilization for war ever since with a vast increase in our tax burden and decrease in our safety. 4. We have never retreated from building and growing a massive national security and surveillance apparatus, the cost of which is enormous.

    Coercion in a war? Please. War is all about coercion. But violence, including torture, against a noncombatant, which status includes former combatatants taken as prisoner, is illegitimate. I will take the moral high ground any day, thank you very much, and UpLate Again and his ilk can stick their means justify the ends reasoning where the sun don't shine. The circumstances where you know that a detainee has critical information and can extract it by torture will be rare, and it is imprudent to base a policy of torture on the unlikely extreme case. Coerced information is not reliable, and you can bet your ass that detainees are being tortured to secure confessions.

  2. I can't, of course argue that we wouldn't have more freedom FROM GOVERNMENT without government. I can argue that we would not have more freedom without government. Somalia is the classic example of what happens when government is forfeit. Freedom then only belongs to those with the most or biggest guns. The rest are relegated to ignorance, poverty, and involuntary servitude on a very real basis. I have no doubt that the average Somali is free to take whatever drugs he wants without concern by anybody.

    So the issue comes back to the classic one of personal freedom vs. the law. How far do we go in which direction? What kinds of restrictions do we have government put on us, and how much authority do we divest them with to enforce those restrictions. A number of people feel we should be allowed to use any drugs we want to. A different set of people have seen the overall costs of libertine policies regarding drugs,and since they ALSO live in this society, they feel they have a right to request restrictions in those areas.

    Personally, I couldn't care less if you want to sit somewhere and smoke grass until your brains run out your ear as long as you don't go out and get in a car and become a public menace. But I've had relatives who became addicted to crack and it completely ruined their lives and their families' lives. If it were just their life... so be it, but we don't live in a vacuum, and the crack use had far reaching implications for the family and cost us all significantly both emotionally and financially. And I feel the government has a responsibility to stop the jerk who is getting rich by supplying this addictive AND extremely destructive drug. They're not like a cigarette company you can sue, and unless you actually ARE going to allow anarchy and let me just get my gun out, drive down the street, and blow away the piece of ofal dealing this death, you (meaning the government) had better do something about it. Because once I become convinced that the government isn't even slightly interested in protecting my family from this slow death dealer, I'm going to protect it. And that would mean if I thought you were behind it... it would be you I'd be coming after... and there would not be any appeal, or claim of rights.

    But rather than revert to the law of the jungle, we empower government to restrict certain activities and require others, and we charge the 'stormtroopers' (as you call them) with the responsibility for seeing that the laws are carried out. It is a balancing act. A young girl can walk the streets of Teheran at three in the morning without fear of being assaulted by anyone EXCEPT maybe the police if they don't feel her reason for being out was sufficient. There's a reason for her personal safety in that environment, that hopefully will never exist here. She has paid a dear price for it. She has personal safety at the expense of anything like freedom to be, do, or say what she will.

    And anyone who thinks the police in this country are 'stormtroopers', has NEVER met with an actual one or its equivalent, and really sounds pretty silly to anyone who has.

    For vache folle: Your point about Abu Graib is right on. That was not government policy being enforced... it was individual abberation, for which they were punished.

    However, I would NOT bet my ass that we are torturing prisoners as you believe. And who, pray tell, are these 'noncombatants' that you think we are torturing? And what 'confessions' are you referring to? Confessions of what?
    Water boarding was admittedly used to gain information that stopped twelve different attacks in this country over the last five years. The information wasn't obtained from John Q. Citizen. It was obtained from foreign nationals caught in the act of participating in terrorist acts. That makes them combatants - not noncomabants. And once you cross that line you don't get to throw up your hands, holler "King's X', and say you don't want to play any more so you should be left alone if you get caught. And, as it turned out the information obtained WAS reliable, and has saved thousands of innocent lives.

    Ever had to pick a child's hand up off the street to be disposed-of after a bombing? Probably not. I have. If you had, you would consider quite a bit of means as justifying ends. I don't consider just ANY means as justifying ends, but I damned sure consider certain means as being justified under certain circumstances. Idealists get people killed as surely as radicals. Information used to protect us was gained in the interrogations, not confessions. No 'confessions' of anything have been obtained that anyone seems to know anything about, and what is the point of a confession if it is kept secret?

  3. This is my last post on the thread(s); I have to move on.

    When cops stop behaving like carjackers and end no-knock raids, perhaps I'll stop calling them stormtroopers.

    There are plenty of sites that expose the futility of thw War on Drugs, such as LEAP. What is infuriating, however, is the total lack of respect Drug Warriors have for the Constitution. At least the Prohibitionists had enough respect for it to amend it.

    In pure, "ends justify the means" thinking, the War on Drugs is a disaster. That's because limited government is actually better government.

    Defending the War on Drugs is telling. It isn't surprising that one who would abandon the rule of law (i.e., the Constitution) in order to wage the War on Drugs would be willing to place unchecked power in the President to wage the endless "War on Terror."

    There are no checks and balances anymore. There are no restraints on government power. With the power to spy and torture, the Establishment will have more effective control of both parties and their dissenters - elections will be even more meaningless than they are now.

    A tax cut here, some de-regulation there, does not result in smaller government or restored freedom. What the government has given back, it can just as easily take away again. That is the essence of lost freedom. It seems that now, only a cataclysmic change will reverse the tide.

  4. Good bye, Mr. Wilson. Thanks for the venue. I too am out!