Tuesday, November 17, 2009

And I Confess, I Shiver

A few things apparently happened during my blog hiatus. Let's take a look-see:

- Seems our Attorney General has decided to give Khalid Sheikh Mohammed his day in court. Standard supporters and critics apply. Supporters claimed victory for the rule of law, critics stammered something about "but... but... but he's a terrorist!" You can guess which side I'm on here, though I don't think it was anything remotely resembling a victory for the "rule of law." As Adam Serwer points out, there's no chance KSM will ever be released. Remember, Obama has a three-tiered system* in place wherein the outcome is predetermined and the process is chosen based on that outcome. Holder wouldn't be trying this case in a civilian court if that trial wouldn't certainly result in a conviction. It's a slam dunk, and not a George Tenet one either.

The point is this. Conservatives have long accused liberals of treating terrorism as a law-enforcement issue, an accusation at which liberals have historically shuddered. But my response has always been "why is that a bad thing?" Terrorism, even at its absolute worst, is a large organized crime syndicate. The only difference between John Gotti and Osama bin Laden is one of degree. Crimes committed by al-Qaeda may be gruesome, but they're still crimes and should be treated as such. We don't need all this extralegal scaffolding that has been in place over the past eight years. We have a legal system that is pretty damn good at putting people in jail - why not use it?

It's a fear thing, of course, and that fear arises from not putting terrorism in perspective as a threat. Loose nukes? Huge threat. Nuclear proliferation? Also bad. Terrorism? In the grand scheme of things, not so much. Relying on intel and policework to build cases against terrorist conspiracies and put them behind bars doesn't come with a huge cost. Working outside our legal system does, however, as Johann Hari documents.

That said, creating a section of federal crimes known as terrorism isn't wholly illegitimate. The motivation behind al-Qaeda attacks does make them more potentially disruptive to society than your average St. Valentine's Day Massacre. It's the same idea behind hate-crimes legislation - think of terrorism as a hate crime against Americans. (Which is why it cracks me up when conservatives support massive federal programs to fight terrorism and then balk at hate crimes legislation. It's the same thing, people.)

Anyway, the KSM trial is about perception. Hari reports - and numerous other studies concur here - that one of the things that makes jihadists give up the fight is learning that, shockingly, Americans aren't out to get them. Treating KSM as a criminal instead of as some Muslim warrior that we have to fight a "war" against is important in that regard. So Obama's walking a tightrope - he doesn't want freaked-out Americans thinking he's going to let potentially violent people go, and he doesn't want potential jihadists thinking that America's fighting a war on Muslims. Thus the KSM trial - it's a show with a guaranteed outcome designed to encourage jihadists to give up the fight and undermine jihadist recruitment efforts.

Instant update: This guy says basically what I said about conservatives and terrorism, he's just a hell of a lot meaner and more sarcastic about it.

- From The Times of London on Obama's visit to China:
It appeared that only the party faithful were allowed to raise their hands, since most questions came from members of the Communist Youth League. However, one of the thousands that had been posted online was put by the US Ambassador, Jon Huntsman. Did Mr Obama know, he asked, about the “Great Firewall of China” — the blocks that China’s censors impose on internet traffic to separate the country’s 350 million web users from content deemed inappropriate?

Mr Obama seized his chance. “I have always been a strong supporter of open internet use. I am a big supporter of non-censorship,” he said, adding that a free flow of information was a source of strength.


China’s propaganda tsars may have been displeased with Mr Obama’s comments: they relegated coverage of his first full day in China to the sixth item, some 20 minutes into the half-hour evening news programme, and then devoted less than 60 seconds to his arrival.
And from the AP wire via Yahoo:
BEIJING – President Barack Obama is pushing China on human rights, telling President Hu Jintao the U.S. believes all men and woman [sic] have "certain fundamental rights."
Obama met with his counterpart during two meetings Tuesday and pushed for improved treatment of Chinese ethnic and religious minorities. Obama said they agreed to continue the discussion in a session scheduled for early next year.
A little tweak on human rights? Not bad. Not a full-throated blaze-of-glory denunciation, but a minor diplomatic fuck-you nonetheless. Good stuff.

- Doug Hoffman, the loser of the NY-23 special election back in November, is doing his best Al Gore impression. Manbearpig will soon have two stalkers.

- Apparently Carrie Prejean made a solo sex tape and her d-bag boyfriend released it to the media. I don't agree with Prejean a lot, but dude, you have to be kind of a dick to take a very private, very personal tape someone made just for you and make it public. Jeff Fecke calls it sexual assault, and Amanda Marcotte agrees (relating another story of naughty picture madness from Indiana while she's at it). While there's certainly nothing legally that can be done, morally Fecke and Marcotte are right on. Prejean, presumably, didn't want the entirety of America to watch her get herself off. This guy is essentially forcing Prejean to engage in an act of public sexuality in order to humiliate and intimidate her. From a moral perspective, if that's not sexual assault, I don't know what is. (Remember, sexual assault is more about exerting power over someone than it is about the actual sex.)

So that's all the stuff I would have posted on if I had been around this week. And major kudos to anyone who remembers the song in the post title.

*There's also a "three-tiered system" for distributing alcohol in place in most states that causes ridiculous distortions in the market for no apparent reason but to enrich alcohol distributors. Can we all just consign "three-tiered system" to the "Phrases That Set Off Automatic Alarms" dustbin where "five-year plan" now resides and be done with it?

1 comment:

Ben said...

So should plans take place over less than 5 years or more?

Thought this article in favor of the KSM trial might interest you: http://tinyurl.com/ybqfa67