[Tom Tomorrow, May 6, 2013]
Among the many victims of our War on Terror, now in its second decade, is the word “terror” itself. Terror has come to refer to what Muslims do to non-Muslims, or to Christians, or to Americans. With bombs. A white supremacist kills six Sikhs in Wisconsin with a gun? He’s crazy. An anti-abortion fanatic kills a doctor while the doctor is attending church? He’s a man of conscience. But if a Muslim shoots people, or more likely, explodes a bomb, then he’s a terrorist. Bomb + Mulsim = terror; gun + Christian = freedom. I know, I’m simplifying. But it’s how these events get covered, and how too many politicians speak of them.
Which brings me to Hamilton Nolan’s article Terrorism and the Public Imagination today at Gawker. (Hat tip: Glenn Greenwald.) It’s worth checking out. I’ll quote from it below.
In America, all villainy is not created equal.
A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into radical Islam and become violent. A couple of disaffected young men in search of meaning drift into street crime and become violent. A crowd of innocent people attending the Boston marathon are maimed by flying shrapnel from homemade bombs. A crowd of innocent people attending a Mother’s Day celebration in New Orleans are maimed by flying bullets. Two public events. Two terrible tragedies. One act of violence becomes a huge news story, transfixing the media’s attention for months and drawing outraged proclamations from politicians and pundits. Another act of violence is dismissed as the normal way of the world and quickly forgotten.
Besides countless deaths abroad and a staggering debt at home, the primary legacy of America's "War on Terror" is our profoundly warped sense of the dangers of the world we live in, and of who our "enemies" are. As a rule, the rare violence committed by Muslims, with some political or religious motivation, is "terrorism," and deserving of the attention of the public and of our stern-faced leaders. The far more common and destructive acts of violence committed every single day on the streets of America due to poverty and the drug war and lack of education and simple human viciousness are "street violence," which is treated as some timeless aspect of the human condition. This violence, which kills many more Americans each year than any Muslim terrorist could dream of, is unworthy of our brain space.
This modern age of Terror That Matters vs. forgettable violence is not simply a matter of ratings. It is a direct outgrowth of a deliberate post-9/11 political strategy to create a world in which the vague specter of “Terrorism” could fill the role of The Big Bad “Other” that had been empty since the end of the Cold War. That strategy was wildly successful. It helped to cow the nation’s news media enough to pave the way for the war in Iraq. It made patriotism synonymous with suspicion. And it persists today, in our reflexes that cause us to instinctively and unquestioningly expect an act of violence inspired by Muslim zealotry to mean something more than an act of violence inspired by any other cause.
[Tom Tomorrow, May 25, 2011]
It’s not news that our government is keeping track of us. I have written about this many times, perhaps most recently four months ago in a post on Obama’s signing of a five-year extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. As Yale law professor Jack Balkin explained years ago, we are “witnessing a normalization of the National Surveillance State and its basic policies.”
My view … is that Obama has played the same role with respect to the National Surveillance State that Eisenhower played with respect to the New Deal and the administrative state, and Nixon played with respect to the Great Society and the welfare state. Each President established a bi-partisan consensus and gave bi-partisan legitimation to certain features of national state building.
After the Obama presidency, opponents of a vigorous national surveillance state will be outliers in American politics; they will have no home in either major political party. Their views will be, to use one of my favorite theoretical terms, “off the wall.”
Glenn Greenwald, in his Guardian column yesterday, brings us the latest news, confirming that surveillance is universal.
The real capabilities and behavior of the US surveillance state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.
On Wednesday night, [CNN's Erin] Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two [Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife Katherine Russell]. He quite clearly insisted that they could:
BURNETT: Tim, is there any way, obviously, there is a voice mail they can try to get the phone companies to give that up at this point. It’s not a voice mail. It’s just a conversation. There’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them?
CLEMENTE: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.
BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.
CLEMENTE: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”
“All of that stuff” – meaning every telephone conversation Americans have with one another on US soil, with or without a search warrant – “is being captured as we speak”.
On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that “all digital communications in the past” are recorded and stored:
Let’s repeat that last part: “no digital communication is secure”, by which he means not that any communication is susceptible to government interception as it happens (although that is true), but far beyond that: all digital communications – meaning telephone calls, emails, online chats and the like – are automatically recorded and stored and accessible to the government after the fact. To describe that is to define what a ubiquitous, limitless Surveillance State is.
Cool, huh? Since reading this, I’ve been wondering: Why doesn’t the government get into the cloud service business?
Isn’t it great to know they’re backing up all our email? And phone conversations too? If I’m careful with my hourly backups to my external hard drive and my use of various email services, I can recover email in an emergency. But something could go wrong. And my phone conversations? I don’t know how I would begin to back them up. Can I even do that legally, unless I ask permission every time I talk to someone? No problem for our government, though, thanks to FISA.
Why don’t they offer to charge us a fee for access to old data? How many times do Gail and I disagree about whether I told her something or not? Now we can settle such debates, assuming the disputed conversation took place on the phone or by email. Then again, maybe they’re recording even our regular conversations, whether in the house, the car, or on walks. Even better, for in that case they could settle any dispute. Just charge a small fee for each individual request, or a larger monthly charge for, say 100 requests, and a still larger charge for unlimited usage.
I would pay for this. Wouldn’t you?
I finished Harvey Jackson’s Inside Alabama: A Personal History of My State yesterday. I wrote about it a week ago and followed up a couple of days later with a post quoting some passages about Dixon Hall Lewis, an Alabama state legislator, congressman, and senator in the 1820s-1840s.
Here, before I set the book aside, I would like to quote one more passage. We jump to the 1960s and perhaps the most famous of all Alabama politicians, George Wallace. What made Wallace so popular in Alabama anyway? And, ultimately, in the country?
Jackson devotes much of the latter part of the book to an explanation, with an illuminating passage that I quote (the essential portion of which is evidently due to Douglas Kiker). Jackson is discussing the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery—the state capitol—led by Martin Luther King. He writes:
One can even imagine Wallace, looking out at the sea of faces stretching down Dexter Avenue, and not really seeing them. One can imagine his mind drifting off to his upcoming trip to New York and appearance on the Today show. Or maybe thinking about all those letters piling up in the mail room, letters from around the nation praising his stand against the subversive forces that were surely behind the march and the movement. Or maybe he was recalling his reception in the North when he made a tentative run for the presidency the year before. And one can imagine, as journalist Douglas Kiker imagined, after the governor’s warm greeting up there, how he lay asleep and was “awakened by a white, blinding vision” that explained why so many Yankees wanted to be his friend. “They all hate black people,” the vision revealed. “All of them. They’re all afraid, all of them.” And that is when it came to Wallace. “Great God! That’s it. They’re all Southern! The whole United States is Southern!”
Realizing this, Wallace also realized, or believed, or at least hoped, that he could become president of that United States, a nation of southerners, so he took to running.
Three years later, Wallace would win 13.5% of the popular vote, 5 states, and 46 electoral votes. Perhaps greater success would have followed if not for the attempt on his life in 1972.
Or so I’ve heard, though the guy who said it probably wasn’t thinking about Higgs bosons. Still, he may be right.
I came across additional evidence yesterday in the book I’m currently reading, Harvey Jackson’s Inside Alabama: A Personal History of My State. About a fourth of the way in, Jackson introduces Dixon Hall Lewis, who represented Alabama in the US Senate in the 1840s. Two decades earlier, he was a state legislator, then ran for Congress. In that race,
the issue he chose to exploit was federally funded internal improvements, which he opposed because (he claimed) they would open the door to tyranny by making people dependent on Washington instead of on themselves and their states.
Jackson contrasts Lewis with William Rufus King, long-time Alabama senator and briefly vice president under Franklin Pierce, until his death.
Together King and Lewis represent the bipolar nature of Alabama politics along with the tension that existed, and still exists, among Alabamians and their leaders. This was the issue: Should the state divorce itself, as much as possible, from the central government and go its own way even though such philosophical purity demanded that it give up advantages that come from collective action within the Union? Or should the state accept federal aid, with accompanying regulations and restrictions so that its people could have the same advantage enjoyed by other states? It was a dilemma, and efforts to solve it have made up much of Alabama’s history.
So while Dixon Hall Lewis denounced federal intrusions and suggested that states had the constitutional authority and moral responsibility to oppose laws that infringed on their sovereignty, William Rufus King offered a more moderate course. And Alabamians rallied to both. Understand that, and you are at the heart of the matter.
A hundred and eighty years later, Lewis’s descendants continue to turn down federal aid, from New Jersey Governor Christie’s rejection of funding for a new train tunnel under the Hudson to New York to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s (and others’) rejection of federal Medicaid funding under Obamacare. And NRA chief Wayne LaPierre fights gun control in an echo of Lewis’s warnings, reminding “senators that the founders didn’t want Americans to ‘live under tyranny.’”
Nothing new under the sun indeed.
We sure love our war criminal presidents, don’t we? Or at least we love rehabilitating them after they spend a few years in purgatory.
Let’s talk a bit about Nixon. The 1972 Christmas bombings of Hanoi were criminal enough, but have a look at this article by Bob Parry last month (hat tip, Charles Pierce), in which we learn of Nixon’s successful efforts to derail Johnson’s negotiations with the North Vietnamese in 1968 that could have ended the war. Moreover, Parry suggests, Nixon’s desire to hide the evidence of this lay behind the Watergate break-in of 1972.
Shortly after Nixon took office in 1969, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed him of the existence of the file containing national security wiretaps documenting how Nixon’s emissaries had gone behind President Lyndon Johnson’s back to convince the South Vietnamese government to boycott the Paris Peace Talks, which were close to ending the Vietnam War in fall 1968.In the case of Watergate – the foiled Republican break-in at the Democratic National Committee in June 1972 and Richard Nixon’s botched cover-up leading to his resignation in August 1974 – the evidence is now clear that Nixon created the Watergate burglars out of his panic that the Democrats might possess a file on his sabotage of Vietnam peace talks in 1968.
The disruption of Johnson’s peace talks then enabled Nixon to hang on for a narrow victory over Democrat Hubert Humphrey. However, as the new President was taking steps in 1969 to extend the war another four-plus years, he sensed the threat from the wiretap file and ordered two of his top aides, chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, to locate it. But they couldn’t find the file.
We now know that was because President Johnson, who privately had called Nixon’s Vietnam actions “treason,” had ordered the file removed from the White House by his national security aide Walt Rostow.
Treason indeed. As Charles Pierce comments:
There were 22,000 more Americans who died in Vietnam after Nixon sabotaged the peace talks in order to win an election. That’s 44,000 more American parents. That’s thousands and thousands more American children. That’s god alone knows how many more men, women, and children in Southeast Asia, all of whom died, very likely unnecessarily, because of Richard Nixon’s treasonous ambitions.
By the time of Nixon’s death in 1994, the rehabilitation was complete. We learn in the NYT obit that at the opening of his presidential library in 1990, he was “hailed as a statesman and a peacemaker.”
And now it’s time for the opening of yet another presidential library, which served as the occasion of more rehabilitation. Last week, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum (pictured above) opened in Dallas on the campus of SMU. Here’s a sight to stir your heart:
[From the presidential library website]
Bush did more than prolong a war. He lied us into one, helped along by a host of government officials and an accommodating press. No point reviewing the familiar details. Oh, and he introduced torture as government policy, this being confirmed (if it needed confirmation) by a report two weeks ago.
A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.
The sweeping, 600-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”
The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.
Yet, the opening of the Bush library offered an occasion to reassess Bush and place him in a positive light, which his fellow presidents were only too happy to do.
On this day, they collectively wrapped their arms around a fellow member of the club.
“We know President Bush the man,” Mr. Obama said. “To know the man is to like the man. Because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.”
Mr. Obama, whose first presidential campaign was built on opposition to the Iraq war, praised Mr. Bush for his bullhorn-in-the-rubble fortitude after Sept. 11 and said his predecessor fought for what he thought was best for his country. He linked his own effort to overhaul the immigration system to Mr. Bush’s.
“If we do that, it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of President George W. Bush,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Clinton, who has become close to the Bush family, offered warm words and recounted how he and Mr. Bush used to talk politics while his successor was in office. Referring to the library behind him, he joked, “Dear God, I hope there’s no record of those conversations in this vast and beautiful building.” Hillary Rodham Clinton, sitting onstage with the other presidents and first ladies, laughed robustly.
Mr. Carter, one of the fiercest critics of the Iraq war, talked about how Mr. Bush ended war in Sudan and helped Africa. “I’m filled with admiration for you and deep gratitude for you about the contributions you’ve made to the most needy people on earth,” he told Mr. Bush.
Really? Spare me. I know it’s a complicated world and not everything is black and white. But here’s some black and white: President Bush was a war criminal and a liar.
[Illustration by 731, in BloomsbergBusinessweek]
In BloombergBusinessweek yesterday, Joshua Green broke the news that as “Mitt Romney struggled in the weeks leading up to the Michigan primary, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum nearly agreed to form a joint “Unity Ticket” to consolidate conservative support and topple Romney.” Green continues:
“We were close,” former Representative Bob Walker, a Gingrich ally, says. “Everybody thought there was an opportunity.” “It would have sent shock waves through the establishment and the Romney campaign,” says John Brabender, Santorum’s chief strategist.
But the negotiations collapsed in acrimony because Gingrich and Santorum could not agree on who would get to be president. “In the end,” Gingrich says, “it was just too hard to negotiate.”
Romney eked out a three-point win in Michigan on Feb. 28 and was never seriously threatened again. While this type of elaborate scheming is more typical of political thrillers, it was real this time. A year later, many of those who worked to build the Unity Ticket still believe it could have been decisive.
My award for quote of the day goes to Esquire’s Charlie Pierce, who had this to say on learning the news (using his standard sobriquets for Santorum and Gingrich):
OK, I was around in February of last year. I saw the Santorum and Gingrich campaigns. And the idea that you could put together a Unity Ticket composed of a colossal dick — and have I mentioned lately what a colossal dick Rick Santorum is? — and the Definer Of Civilization’s rules and Leader (perhaps) of the civilizing forces without throwing the universe over the event horizon of megalomania, never thence to return, is the funniest damn thing I’ve heard about since I watched Michele Bachmann win the Iowa Straw Poll. Not even the way America runs its elections should be this funny.
Really, now. A guy who thinks he speaks God’s will on earth and a guy who thinks He’s the one giving dictation? What could possibly go wrong there?
Yes, it is difficult to build a national ticket when both prospective members are delusional enough to believe they should be president, despite the fact that one of them is a god-bothering nuisance who’d lost his last Senate race to an ice-sculpture by 15 points, and the other guy is on what appears to be an extended vanity exercise cum home-shopping enterprise.
This post is a bit of a rerun, inasmuch as I already featured Tom Friedman’s famous justification for the Iraq War in a post last April. But I don’t know a better way to observe the tenth anniversary of that war’s start than to watch once again as Friedman responds to Charlie Rose’s question (astonishing in its own right), “Now that the war is over, and there’s some difficulty with the peace, was it worth doing?”
Jump to 2:36 for the high point, albeit with some context missing.
Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society? … Well suck on this. That, Charlie, is what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia, … . We could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That’s the real truth.
This is about as depraved a defense of the war as I can imagine. We need to set an example by beating the crap out of some Muslim country. Let’s not pick on our ostensible allies (though they may be the ones that actually lend support to Al-Qaeda). We’ll go after Iraq. Because we can.
A decade later, Friedman remains the dean of American political columnists and the darling of the business community, with his best-selling books and speaking fees that must be approaching $100,000.
Oh, I just did a search to see if I missed Friedman’s apology somewhere and instead found an article in the Christian Science Monitor two days ago in which Dan Murphy took a look back at Friedman’s response to Rose, complete with a transcript of the passage I’ve merely excerpted. And this too, from Atrios yesterday.
[AP Photo/Seth Perlman]
Last week, that is. I’m a little late with this. And on uncertain ground with regard to the facts. Nonetheless, when I read the NYT article a week ago on State of Illinois pension woes, I was struck by Governor Quinn’s use of the phrase “pension reform,” suspecting immediately that “reform” is a polite word for “cuts”.
Are cuts necessary? Again, I’m no expert on this. Clearly the state has made a mess of things. A huge mess. From Mary Williams Walsh’s NYT article:
For the second time in history, federal regulators have accused an American state of securities fraud, finding that Illinois misled investors about the condition of its public pension system from 2005 to 2009.
In announcing a settlement with the state on Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Illinois of claiming that it had been properly funding public workers’ retirement plans when it had not. In particular, it cited the period from 2005 to 2009, when Illinois also issued $2.2 billion in bonds.
The growing hole in the state pension system put increasing pressure on Illinois’ own finances during that time, raising the risk that at some point the state would not be able to pay for everything, and retirees and bond buyers would be competing for the same limited money. The risk grew greater every year, the S.E.C. said, but investors could not see it by looking at Illinois’ disclosures.
The charges put the state’s pension system, generally thought to be the weakest of any state, back in the national spotlight. In his budget address last week, Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, issued a clear warning that the system had to be fixed.
“Without pension reform, within two years, Illinois will be spending more on public pensions than on education,” said Mr. Quinn. “As I said to you a year ago, our state cannot continue on this path.”
By 2003, the state was so far behind that it issued $10 billion of bonds and put the proceeds into its pension funds to make them look flush. The main underwriter of those bonds, Bear Stearns, was later found to have made an improper payment to win the business, figuring in the corruption trial of a former governor, Rod R. Blagojevich.
In 2005, the state passed another law, giving itself a holiday from making even the inadequate annual pension contributions called for by its 1994 schedule. It said it would offset the missing money with bigger contributions from 2008 to 2010, but then did not do so. By 2010, the reported shortfall of the pension system was $57 billion, and senior officials were warning that the system was at risk of breaking down completely.
I just wonder if ultimately reform means that employees who have paid into the pension system are destined to receive less than they contracted for. That’s certainly what right-wing Americans for Prosperity has in mind. In his article Fix Illinois Pensions Now, state director Joe Calomino argues:
Generous pension benefits that the State cannot afford are at the root of this problem. While the state took a step in the right direction last year by reforming benefits for NEW government workers, CURRENT government workers continue to participate in the State’s traditional and costly plans.
They can retire at age 55 or 60 and receive generous cost-of-living adjustments each year. These lifetime benefits can be worth more than $1 MILLION for a full-career employee who retires at 55 or 60. They are completely out-of-line with the benefits offered to taxpayers working in the private sector. Yet the 95% of Illinois taxpayers who do not receive such generous benefits will pay higher taxes to pay for the 5% of State residents who do.
Short of the facts though I am, I can at least say that when cutting contractually promised benefits to current employees is called reform, language is being abused.
I know, it’s those lazy, overpaid, underworked state employees who are the problem. They deserve to have their generous benefits cut! As a state employee myself, albeit in another state, I am not a fan of public sector employee bashing. And I can tell you, the two retired friends of mine who devoted their careers to Illinois and its residents could have made far more money in the private sector, but chose instead to do good for the state. It’s a mystery to me what they’ve done to deserve benefit cuts.
Anyway, the pension issues need to be addressed, and maybe Governor Quinn is on the right track. I just object to the changes being labeled “reform.”
Two days ago, I wrote about Georgia Odyssey, James Cobb’s brief history of Georgia. After quoting from Cobb’s treatment of Georgia’s lynching history, I wrote, “It was a different world. At least I’d like to think so. But when I read Cobb’s account on the introduction of poll taxes and literacy tests to disenfranchise blacks—as well as the Georgia Democratic Party’s move in 1900 to a primary system for selecting candidates, with the added feature of outright exclusion of blacks from participation—I couldn’t help but recognize that today’s Republican Party is in the same business.”
Later in the book, Cobb discusses Georgia’s efforts to attract industry and jobs:
In their efforts to entice industry to Georgia, state and local officials had offered cheap labor and also free and essentially untrammeled access to the state’s natural resources. Not surprisingly, this approach led to some serious examples of exploitation and abuse. When the Union Camp Corporation came to Depression-weary Savannah in 1935, local leaders not only promised nominal rents and protection from competition but pledged as well “to secure the necessary action and, if possible, legislation on the part of the governmental bodies concerned, to protect and save you harmless from any claims, demands, or suits for the pollution of air or water caused by the operation of the plant.” Furthermore, Savannah’s officials agreed that “in case litigation arises or suits are brought against you on account of odors and/or flow age from the proposed plant that the Industrial Committee of Savannah will pay all expenses of defending such suits up to a total amount of $5,000.” …
In 1967, after a fairly strong air-pollution-control measure died in committee, a replacement bill, actually proposed by a Union Camp representative, sailed through the legislature with only a few changes. The new law authorized only such pollution control as was “consistent with providing for maximum employment and the full industrial development of the state” … .
Once again, this sounds familiar, as states continue to deregulate and offer tax advantages in an effort to attract business, other costs (forgone revenue, declining support for schools, eventual need to clean up environmental disasters) be darned.
For instance? Well (and a hat tip to Charles Pierce for bringing this to my attention), let’s have a look at developments in Wisconsin. In Milwaukee’s Business Journal two weeks ago, Jeff Engel wrote:
A bill to streamline Wisconsin’s mining permitting process appears destined for passage after the state Senate approved a bill and sent it to the Republican-controlled Assembly this week, despite Democratic criticisms that it rolls back environmental protections and is a giveaway to mining businesses.
The legislative efforts this session follow a failed attempt to pass a similar bill last year, which would have lured Florida-based Gogebic Taconite to begin a $1.5 billion mining project in northern Wisconsin.
[Governor Scott] Walker emphasized that the bill doesn’t approve the proposed mine, it only is meant to streamline the permitting process. …
Walker said that for any other industry, if a company said they would create thousands of jobs, Wisconsin leaders would be “doing cartwheels.”
“Heck, we do cartwheels for a fraction of that, for hundreds of employees, let alone thousands of employees,” Walker told me. “So it just kind of seems out of perspective.”
Walker’s reassurances notwithstanding, here’s additional background from Jessica Vanegeren in The Capital Times, emphasis mine:
With numerous groups already vowing to challenge the bill in court, Sen. Tom Tiffany also acknowledged that changes were made to the legislation to put the state on stronger legal ground to withstand such a challenge.
“The bill reflects the reality of mining. There are going to be some impacts to the environment above the iron ore body,” said Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst. “If the law is challenged and ends up in court, the judge needs to know it was the Legislature’s intent to allow adverse (environmental) impacts. That way, a judge can’t find fault if the environment is impacted.”
Tiffany made the admission after being asked Thursday in an interview with the Cap Times how Republicans could continue to claim the mining bill doesn’t risk environmental harm when:
- It specifically changes the wording of existing state permitting law from “significant adverse affects (to wetlands) are presumed to be unnecessary” to “significant adverse affects are presumed to be necessary.”
- Bill Williams, present of Gogebic Taconite, which is proposing a massive iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties, said in a recent Wisconsin State Journal article that as much as 30 to 40 percent of the 3,300 acres it is leasing could be covered by waste piles if it builds a $1.2 billion open-pit iron ore mine.
- The land above the rich vein of iron ore contains hundreds of acres of wetlands, numerous pristine trout streams and several small tributaries that feed into the Bad River. The Bad River wends its way to Lake Superior through the Bad River Indian Reservation, which includes culturally and economically significant rice beds.
“We are simply being honest,” Tiffany says. “There will be some impacts but they will be limited. Changing the word ‘unnecessary’ to ‘necessary’ lets the judge know it was the Legislature’s intent that there will be some adverse impacts.”
In a legal context, the wording change proves lawmakers knowingly passed a bill that they accepted would cause some harm to the environment, Tiffany adds, making it more difficult for a lawsuit to be successful on the grounds that a mining permit caused harm to the environment.
This is contemporary Wisconsin, mind you, not Depression-era Georgia. And a Republican Party determined to turn back the clock. There may be stalemate in DC, but at the state level, radical change is underway.
Good book, by the way—Georgia Odyssey. I finished it this morning.
James Whitman’s The Verdict of Battle: The Law of Victory and the Making of Modern War came out last fall. From the book’s website:
Today, war is considered a last resort for resolving disagreements. But a day of staged slaughter on the battlefield was once seen as a legitimate means of settling political disputes. James Whitman argues that pitched battle was essentially a trial with a lawful verdict. And when this contained form of battle ceased to exist, the law of victory gave way to the rule of unbridled force. The Verdict of Battle explains why the ritualized violence of the past was more effective than modern warfare in bringing carnage to an end, and why humanitarian laws that cling to a notion of war as evil have led to longer, more barbaric conflicts.
Belief that sovereigns could, by rights, wage war for profit made the eighteenth century battle’s golden age. A pitched battle was understood as a kind of legal proceeding in which both sides agreed to be bound by the result. To the victor went the spoils, including the fate of kingdoms. But with the nineteenth-century decline of monarchical legitimacy and the rise of republican sentiment, the public no longer accepted the verdict of pitched battles. Ideology rather than politics became war’s just cause. And because modern humanitarian law provided no means for declaring a victor or dispensing spoils at the end of battle, the violence of war dragged on.
The most dangerous wars, Whitman asserts in this iconoclastic tour de force, are the lawless wars we wage today to remake the world in the name of higher moral imperatives.
In Larison’s second post, with the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War’s start approaching, he ponders this passage:
Wars enter their most dangerous territory not when they lose touch with chivalry but when they aim to remake the world.
That suggests a second lesson: great risks for the law of war arise when we commit ourselves to grand campaigns in the name of good government, campaigns for regime change… .The curse of modern warfare, and of the modern law of war, is that … our wars have consistently ended up raising basic, revolutionary questions about the organization of society and the legitimacy of states. We want to go to war only when there is something foul or evil or aggressive about the regime we fight. In America in particular we want to fight only “good wars.” Most especially we want to fight good wars that begin in self-defense and end in the revolutionary cause of spreading democracy through the world. Yet “good wars” easily become bad wars. (p. 251-252)
One of the problems created by this sort of thinking is that it encourages us to keep expanding what we mean by self-defense. We saw this during the Iraq war debate, when preventive war was sold to the public as a pre-emptive act of self-defense. Despite the fact that the U.S. was illegally initiating hostilities when it attacked in 2003, it was apparently very important to the administration that the war be perceived as one waged in self-defense. Of course, wishing to fight only “good wars” doesn’t necessarily mean that a government fights fewer wars. It usually means that it dresses up the wars that it does fight as if they were justified especially when they often aren’t. Explicit ideological justifications for war create another danger, which is the tendency to argue that the ends justify the means. The main problem isn’t that war supporters are insincere in their desire for democracy promotion, though they might be, but that a war with ambitious ideological goals is one that is very difficult to bring to an end and even harder to “win” in any meaningful sense.
Sounds right to me. Indeed, it sounds obvious. Unfortunately, a lot of people with power didn’t, and still don’t, agree.
Inspired by Larison, I downloaded the opening portion of the book and began reading. I’ve put it aside for now, but may return soon.