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Roman statesman Cato the Elder was famous for (among other things) ending every speech before the Roman Senate, no matter what he was speaking about, with the above statement, which translates roughly as, “And furthermore I think that Carthage ought to be destroyed.” His goal, of course, was to keep that topic firmly planted in his listeners’ minds. And as those who follow history know, eventually Rome did get around to destroying Carthage and sowing the earth there with salt to prevent it from ever rising again.
It is with this in mind that I have decided to end each post in this blog from here until the statement becomes moot (or at least until I become bored doing it) with “And furthermore I think that Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.” Because really, they ought to be. They have violated the Geneva Conventions and our own Constitution more times than I would care to count, practically eliminated the right of habeas corpus, instituted torture as an official government policy, and dragged us into a war of aggression under false pretences. They have repeatedly lied to the American public, shown their contempt for our laws and fundamental principles, and advanced their own (and Halliburton’s) interests to the detriment of us all. They should not continue to go unpunished for these crimes.
Thus I think that Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.
So apparently our alleged president, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to begin a covert campaign to destabilize Iran. Obviously the fiasco in Iraq, the re-emerging war in Afghanistan, the Justice department scandal, the World Bank mess, and his battles with Congress aren’t enough to occupy his time, and he has decided to go looking for additional trouble on another front.
And how do I know about this covert campaign, you may ask? Because it was very helpfully reported by ABC News.
This, of course, has prompted howls of ungrammatical outrage from the steadily dwindling number of Americans who still support George Bush – witness the comments to the above-referenced story, where commenters called ABC News “traders” (one assumes the person meant traitors) and speak of their “tresonous [sic] actions”.
While I can understand the poorly articulated concerns of those who commented on the story, I disagree with their conclusions. There are actions that our government takes that clearly should be kept secret. Broadcasting details of troop movements during combat operations, for example, would put our troops and our entire strategy at grave risk. Barring some notorious exceptions, I think our press has generally been sensitive to this need for vagueness in reporting on ongoing operations.
On the other hand, when our leaders decide to take unauthorized action against a country with which we are not at war, hoping to destabilize its government in the face of very vocal protests by many Americans that we should not go looking for trouble with that country given our current commitments in the world arena, and a news organization finds out about it, I believe that circumstances justify a decision to report on that story.
Clearly, someone within the administration was concerned enough about Bush’s decision to feel that public disclosure was necessary to prevent a huge catastrophe. Just a few weeks ago, George Tenet came under strong criticism from many quarters for his decision not to quit as head of the CIA and go to the press in protest of Bush’s actions in the run-up to the Iraq war. Someone watching all that apparently concluded that they didn’t want a similar catastrofuck on their conscience with respect to Iran – and bless them for it.So am I angered by ABC News’ decision to run this story? No. I view them as the whistleblower in this instance, alerting us to yet another questionable action by this administration that is running amok at our expense. We cannot afford a war with Iran at this time, due in large part to Bush’s bungling of the Iraq situation. And frankly, I don’t trust the motives of anyone in the Bush administration anymore.
As our alleged president’s administration has lost the few remaining voices of dissent within it and Bush’s policies and public statements have become increasingly divorced from mainstream political views in the country, I have been inevitably reminded of a study I read about eight months ago on group deliberation and its effect on the individual members of the group in question.
The study, by David Schkade, Cass R. Sunstein, and Reid Hastie, compared two sets of groups asked to deliberate together on the issues of global warming, affirmative action, and civil unions for same-sex couples. One set of participants was drawn from the community of Boulder, Colorado – a city with a well-known liberal leaning. The other set of participants was drawn from Colorado Springs – a city as conservative as Boulder is liberal. Participants completed measures designed to assess their views on the three subjects prior to the deliberation, and again post-deliberation. Not surprisingly, there were significant differences between the Boulder and Colorado Springs groups prior to the deliberation, with the Boulder groups reporting scores indicating views associated primarily with the liberal viewpoint and Colorado Springs groups reporting views associated with the conservative viewpoint.
Now, according to the researchers, when groups containing diverse viewpoints deliberate about divisive issues together in an open manner where all parties are able to express their views, post deliberation views of the individual participants are generally closer to the group mean than their pre-deliberation views were. That is, people on both the liberal and conservative ends of the spectrum tend to moderate their views somewhat, bringing them closer to the middle.
Researchers in the Colorado study expected to see similar trends within each of the 5-person groups, at least with respect to the groups’ means – that is, people at the extreme ends in a given group would become less extreme and more centrist, at least as far as moving toward the center of that group’s spectrum of opinions.
Instead, what they saw, which they attributed to the relative lack of opposing views from the other end of the political spectrum within individual groups, was that the group means for Boulder and Colorado Springs became more extreme post-deliberation – that is, the Boulder groups were even more liberal, and the Colorado Springs groups were even more conservative than they were pre-deliberation. In the words of the study’s authors, “Deliberation thus increased extremism.”
Secondly, post deliberation, the groups showed much less diversity of opinion within the group. Pre-deliberation, the groups showed significant variation in opinion on the various issues discussed, but post deliberation “group members showed much more agreement, even in the anonymous expressions of their private views.” The authors concluded that “deliberation among like-minded people produced ideological amplification – an amplification of preexisting tendencies, produced by group discussion.”
Why does this concern me with respect to the current administration? Because over the last several years, anyone who has expressed even relatively minor disagreement with the alleged president’s views has left the administration – perhaps it would be more accurate to say that such dissenting voices have been forced out. And there are troubling reports that they are not even listening to outside voices at all – it has been reported elsewhere that Dick Cheney and other members of the administration demand that hotel TV’s be pre-tuned to the Faux News Channel so they don’t have to risk hearing even a moment of news coverage that might be upsetting to their increasingly out-of-touch world view.
Thus at a time when cooperation and collaboration among politicians with different views has become critical in order for any political movement to take place at all in DC (witness the increasingly acrimonious debate on war funding and demands for the removal of Gonzo if you don’t believe me), the alleged president is becoming even more committed to his increasingly extremist conservative agenda. He is even losing his connection with members of his own party, as Republican senators and representatives face the political reality of a Democratic controlled Congress and loss of support in their home districts.
Presidents should, as a matter of course, appoint at least some Cabinet members from opposing parties, or at least some that don’t agree with them. We have already had plenty of opportunity to learn the drawback of a rubberstamp Congress, but now research (in the form of the study I describe above) and empirical evidence (in the form of the increasingly extremist Bush administration) have shown us the danger of homogeneity of opinion within the executive branch.
Okay, I didn’t get my act together in time to come up with an “Alberto Gonzales Congressional Testimony Drinking Game,” but let’s face it, those hearings started way too early in the day, and ran way too long, to be good drinking game material, anyway. I mean, just saying, “Take one sip whenever Gonzo says ‘I can’t recall’” would have had everyone snot-slinging drunk before noon, and the hearings went until, what, 5:00 pm EST?
Here’s one thing that struck me, though. As someone in the audience at the Senate hearings pointed out (audible over the C-Span microphones), how did Alberto get through law school if his memory is really that bad? In law school, you really need to be able to remember a lot of information to pass your courses – fifty- to eighty-page study outlines by the end of the semester are probably the norm. So how did someone who apparently can’t remember whether he attended meetings or participated in discussions just a couple of months ago manage to graduate from Harvard Law School?
Occam’s razor answer: He is lying about what he can and can’t remember, and he’s doing it to cover for individuals in the Bush administration. Is he covering for The Decider, Rove, or someone else? Don’t know, and don’t really care, at this point, as it ultimately comes down to the President.
I’m just saying…
Yes, I have been gone for a while now. I apologize to you, my non-existent readers, for my absence. I could blame it on end-of-the-semester overload, but that really wouldn’t cover what’s been going on in my mind. The simple truth of the matter is that I have felt a bit overwhelmed by all the various revelations over the past few months about the depth of the malfeasance, corruption, and perversion of political processes that we are seeing in Washington right now. There were, quite simple, too many things to be writing about, and I felt like I was drowning in a rising tide of scandals. Talk about a target-rich environment!
So I have been delaying work on the blog till I could focus a bit. Expect to see more over the next couple of days, as I get caught up on Gonzogate, the looming presidential election (it really is looming, you know, like a monster in a gothic horror story), the whole Iraq catastrofuck, privacy intrusions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So apparently Jerry Falwell has shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to join the choir invisible, or whatever. An intolerant, fearful, hate-filled, small-minded man has gone on to his great reward, whatever that might be…
I get this vision of the good Reverend wandering around the afterlife and encountering gays, feminists, people who lost their lives to AIDS, all the people he used to rail against in life, all in heaven. Wouldn’t it be nicely ironic if there was an inclusive, welcoming heaven that accepted all people of good intentions, whatever their beliefs, and that heaven turned out to be Falwell’s personal hell?