This reader over at Andrew Sullivan makes a very valid point concerning the possibility of opening investigations on whether the Bush-Cheney administration committed war crimes (notably in torturing people held indefinitely without access to a lawyer to death).
Your fury at Obama over his refusal to put the Bush administration on trial for war crimes is understandable, but misplaced (and it is Obama, not Holder, who made this decision long ago, and set the subsequent agenda). You write:
“[T]he Obama administration is circling the establishment wagons on defending Bush era torture and war crimes. They seem either a) incapable of understanding the gravity of what went on or b) deliberately refusing to tackle clear violations of the law out of the usual political cowardice.”
You leave out the real motivation, which is neither stupidity nor cowardice, but pure pragmatism: any such war crimes trial would eat up the entire Obama administration, along with any hope of addressing the economic, military, environmental and social crises we face; it would ignite a full-blown civil war that would make the current culture war seem like child’s play; and it would accomplish nothing that cannot be done in other, more subtle, but perhaps stronger ways.
The following excerpt from Wikipedia is, I believe, spot on, and describes perfectly what is going on in today’s society. Increasingly, each and every human action or behaviour is measured in terms of its effect on one’s health. In fact, “health” is nowadays by more and more people considered to be the primary moral value, the one concern that overrides every other concern (such as, for example, personal liberties). This is what motivates all those people who desire smoking bans, who hate things because they are “unhealthy”, who would have people who display deviant behaviour in this respect pay more in taxes and insurances. This growing consensus is more suffocating than a smoke-filled bar, in my experience, and also dangerous because it constitutes a gliding scale: how long until the state coerces people to go jogging and to eat healthy?
According to Skrabanek, “healthism” begins when the government begins to use propaganda and coercion to establish norms of health and begins to attempt to impose norms of a “healthy lifestyle.” All human activities are weighed in the balance of their real or imagined effects on health: all human activities are divided into “healthy” and “unhealthy”, prescribed and proscribed, approved and disapproved, responsible and irresponsible, based on this measure. In Skrabanek’s view, “healthism” goes hand in hand with what he calls “lifestylism”, another neologism, which Skrabanek uses to describe the view that most diseases are the result of unhealthy habits or behaviour. Skrabanek notes that while “lifestylism” is ostensibly founded on a basis of mathematics and statistics, it nevertheless has a strong moralistic flavour. Skrabanek cites a Britishepidemiologist, Geoffrey Rose, as expressing the belief that most people live “unhealthily” and constitute a “sick population”. But since (according to Skrabanek) this message would lead to a fatalistic rejection of the lifestyle doctrine, it must be recast to be socially and politically acceptable, quoting Rose for the view that the “sick” society must be re-educated in its “perception of what is normal and acceptable.”
Ultimately, Skrabanek claims that “healthism” either leads to, or is a symptom of, incipient totalitarianism. Skrabanek claims that healthism justifies racism, segregation, and eugenic control; for the healthist, what is “healthy” is moral, patriotic, and pure; while what is “unhealthy” is foreign, polluted, and impure. The doctrine of “lifestylism” suggests that state actions to prescribe what is healthy or forbid what is unhealthy are limitless in scope, and offer no grounds for privacy.
“Avatar” James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers (really?? come on)
“The Blind Side” Nominees to be determined
“District 9″ Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers (cool action movie, but an oscar?)
“An Education” Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
“The Hurt Locker” Nominees to be determined
“Inglourious Basterds” Lawrence Bender, Producer (yes!)
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
“A Serious Man” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
“Up” Jonas Rivera, Producer (ok, why not, 10x better than Avatar)
“Up in the Air” Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers
Ominous headline from the New York Times. The U.S. deficit is stunningly high:
The first is the projected deficit in the coming year, nearly 11 percent of the country’s entire economic output. That is not unprecedented: During the Civil War, World War I and World War II, the United States ran soaring deficits, but usually with the expectation that they would come back down once peace was restored and war spending abated.
This means that in the next decades, there will be no room for big domestic initiatives. I don’t believe that. But this is, of course, the pressing question:
Or, as Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, used to ask before he entered government a year ago, “How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world’s biggest power?”
As usual, problems of this magnitude can be traced back to the devastating Bush years. Republicans today are not helping either:
Mr. Obama’s budget deserves credit for its candor. It does not sugarcoat, at least excessively, the potential magnitude of the problem. President George W. Bush kept claiming, until near the end of his presidency, that he would leave office with a balanced budget. He never got close; in fact, the deficits soared in his last years.
Mr. Obama has published the 10-year numbers in part, it seems, to make the point that the political gridlock of the past few years, in which most Republicans refuse to talk about tax increases and Democrats refuse to talk about cutting entitlement programs, is unsustainable. His prescription is that the problem has to be made worse, with intense deficit spending to lower the unemployment rate, before the deficits can come down.
But then again, the question is how predictable long-term financial forecasts are:
[The] political warnings are contradicted by the market signals. The Treasury has borrowed money to finance the government’s deficits at remarkably low rates, the strongest indicator that the markets believe they will be paid back on time and in full.
He is right. In the early years of the Clinton administration, government projections indicated huge deficits — over the “sustainable” level of 3 percent — by 2000. But by then, Mr. Clinton was running a modest surplus of about $200 billion, a point Mr. Obama made Monday as he tried anew to remind the country that the moment was squandered when “the previous administration and previous Congresses created an expensive new drug program, passed massive tax cuts for the wealthy, and funded two wars without paying for any of it.”
I don’t know how I could have missed this. In November, Underworld and Brian Eno have released a compilation cd: Underworld vs. The Misterons – Athens, with tracks from Laurent Garnier, Moodyman, Squarepusher and two original tracks by Underworld & Eno. It is a downtempo, jazzy album. Reviews here and here. Check out this song: Brian Eno & Karl Hyde – Beebop Hurry (It is a promotional .mp3, it’s not on youtube yet) and this song: Laurent Garnier – Gnanmankoudji. Or go here to listen to what Underworld is doing in the studio right now.
George Packer from The New Yorker refuses to go on Twitter:
Who doesn’t want to be taken out of the boredom or sameness or pain of the present at any given moment? That’s what drugs are for, and that’s why people become addicted to them. Carr himself was once a crack addict (he wrote about it in “The Night of the Gun”). Twitter is crack for media addicts. It scares me, not because I’m morally superior to it, but because I don’t think I could handle it. I’m afraid I’d end up letting my son go hungry.
I don’t have a BlackBerry, or an iPhone, or a Google phone, and I don’t intend to get an iPad. I’ve been careful not to mention this to sources in Washington, where conversation consists of two people occasionally glancing up from their BlackBerries and saying, “I’m listening.” I worry that I won’t be taken seriously as a Washington journalist, and phone calls from my retrograde Samsung cell phone will go unanswered. On Amtrak between New York and Washington I sit in the Quiet Car with my phone off, laptop stowed, completely unreachable, and find out if I’m still capable of reading for two hours.