The View From 1776

Society’s Rights

The lectern used by Senator Dianne Feinstein to announce the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s interrogation methods bore a label declaring “human rights first.”  Human rights, however, depend entirely upon preservation of the political power and social culture that proclaims and supports them.  Enhanced interrogation methods after 9/11 were essential to that end.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/17 at 09:00 PM
  1. Thomas,

    I find it incredible that you are so frightened by a small group of uneducated trouble makers that you would cast your morals to the wind! You seem to forget that the United States has the world's most advanced science and engineering empire, the mightiest army in the history of the world and 315,000,000 people to employ it!

    These Jihadists are, of course, capable of causing a little damage with a suicide bomb, but to think that somehow these guys have the capability of taking over our country is beyond ridiculous, unless you are of the mind of a Chicken Little and run around screaming that the sky is falling.

    Thomas, get a hold of yourself! These jihadists have no factories, no universities, no government, no nothing! They are driving around the desert in stolen trucks making a lot of noise. They are capable only of firing a gun made by someone else using ammunition that they have stolen. These guys are not even the junior varsity! This is an elementary school football team of 7 year-olds trying to take down the Green Bay Packers! We are not looking at the Wehrmacht here! This is not Pearl Harbor or the Alamo with Santa Ana coming over the hill to murder us.

    Senator Feinstein is, of course, correct that human rights are indeed first because that is what distinguishes us from them.

    Thomas, why are you so afraid? I think you are much too willing to jettison your entire moral compass and descend to the level of these Jihadists out of enormously exaggerated fear. Buck up, man! Where is your courage? Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/17  at  11:43 PM
  2. Mr. Jay, maybe you haven't heard about 9/11. Maybe you are unaware of the extent to which jihadists are disrupting and dividing French, Swedish, and English society.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  12:06 AM
  3. The Golden Rule, to which J. J. refers so eloquently, should first be observed by the Jihadists--When they stop torturing and then slitting our citizens' throats, and tossing their severed heads onto the ground, we might stop giving their perps any more anal feedings!

    The extreme outrage over our so-called "torture" is as exagerated as the rioting and looting "protests" were in Ferguson. I believe the tortured prisoners rarely died nor were they permanently crippled. Some were just humiliated by feminine proximity or desecration of their Koran! Compare that to having your head hacked off! How can any rational person equate mere discomfort to death?

    Further, How can anyone oppose waterboarding but condone drone strikes that kill or maim not only foreign nationals on their own land but innocent citizens that happen to be nearby? Obama's airstrikes are actually killing hundreds of people--many innocent. The CIA only worked over actual terrorists who had killed or plotted to kill Americans--and the CIA never consciously killed any of them.

    It is typical of the liberal mind-set to anguish over vague and debatable concepts concerning "human rights" while ignoring real atrocities actually being committed on a regular basis!
    Posted by BILL GREENE  on  12/18  at  11:05 AM
  4. My reactions to your post, Mr. Jay:

    Your comment:
    I find it incredible that you are so frightened by a small group of uneducated trouble makers that you would cast your morals to the wind! You seem to forget that the United States has the world's most advanced science and engineering empire, the mightiest army in the history of the world and 315,000,000 people to employ it!

    My response:
    Yes I am frightened. But perhaps I shouldn’t be, since “…the world's most advanced science and engineering empire, the mightiest army in the history of the world and 315,000,000 people to employ it” so completely and effectively prevented destruction of the World Trade Center buildings and part of the Pentagon, both of them before use of any enhanced interrogation.

    Your comment:
    These Jihadists are, of course, capable of causing a little damage with a suicide bomb, but to think that somehow these guys have the capability of taking over our country is beyond ridiculous, unless you are of the mind of a Chicken Little and run around screaming that the sky is falling.

    My response:
    Of course you are right; I shouldn’t be concerned about trying to prevent the murder of groups ranging from the 40 or so killed by Major Hassan to the the millions who might be killed, maimed, or irradiated by a dirty-bomb nuclear weapon carried by a single terrorist. Not water boarding an Islamic thug is a far more urgent matter.

    Your comment:
    Thomas, get a hold of yourself! These jihadists have no factories, no universities, no government, no nothing! They are driving around the desert in stolen trucks making a lot of noise. They are capable only of firing a gun made by someone else using ammunition that they have stolen. These guys are not even the junior varsity! This is an elementary school football team of 7 year-olds trying to take down the Green Bay Packers! We are not looking at the Wehrmacht here! This is not Pearl Harbor or the Alamo with Santa Ana coming over the hill to murder us.

    My Response:
    Yes, forgive me for lacking your fortitude. I should remind myself that Islamic jihadists lack the smarts and capabilities to make IEDs and bombs powerful enough to down an airliner, yet small enough to fit into a shoe heel. And, yes, my bad; I forgot that Obama had already dismissed ISIS as the junior varsity.

    Your comment:
    Senator Feinstein is, of course, correct that human rights are indeed first because that is what distinguishes us from them.

    My response:
    Sorry, but I must disagree. Human rights do not come first. First comes an all encompassing social and political culture that proclaims certain political and economic liberties and then structures a system of rewards and punishments to enforce those proclaimed liberties. Without widespread and overwhelming support by the citizenry, the whole of society and political governance is eroded and corroded. That erosion and corrosion, if I may take a side shot, is what liberal-progressivism is all about. Our nation was founded upon the Judeo-Christian system of morality and social conduct, which President Obama ridiculed as “clinging to their guns and Bibles.”

    Your comment:
    Thomas, why are you so afraid? I think you are much too willing to jettison your entire moral compass and descend to the level of these Jihadists out of enormously exaggerated fear. Buck up, man! Where is your courage? Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!

    My response:
    I’m sorry that you believe that I have descended to the level of uncivilized, barbaric Islamic jihadists. We can be thankful that enhanced interrogation obviated the need for my courage.

    And, by the way, “Remember the Maine” referred to the retaliatory Spanish-American War.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  09:32 PM
  5. It is typical of the liberal mind-set to anguish over vague and debatable concepts concerning "human rights" while ignoring real atrocities actually being committed on a regular basis!
    Posted by BILL GREENE  on  12/19  at  08:19 AM
  6. J. Jay,

    You, of all people, invoking the “we are a nation of laws” maxim is just too hilarious to pass up. Indeed, we are supposed to be a ‘government of laws’, but for the last seven years we have been ruled by an egotistical elite who take little note of the maxim, its correct meaning, or of ‘we the people’. Witness: we have a president who has repeatedly told us he can and will overrule Congress with a swipe of his pen should they fail to do his bidding. Witness: we have a Senate leader who rules that body with an iron fist, who brooks no discussion of matters he cannot control. Witness: an IRS rendered partisan and hostile to the people it is sworn to serve, who have suppressed one of our most sacred of rights – that of political free speech and protest. Witness: we have an attorney general who insinuates himself and his department into matters outside of his jurisdiction with some regularity. Witness: we have both a Democrat Party dominated by socialists who twist the meaning of that maxim to say ‘the more laws the better’. And, witness: we have a Republican Party tone-deaf to its own constituency. Understand, I am not here faulting you for extolling that ideal in combination with other aspects of ‘justice’, I am merely pointing out how comical that is coming from someone so undeniably statist! And, I do realize the miswording and conflation are not original to you; that you are merely ‘channeling’ the ignorance of those you parrot.

    Mainly, you should at least try getting the quotation straight both as to wording and context. Note, it took me all of 20 seconds to find suitable links to the quote and its context (see http://thefederalistpapers.integratedmarket.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/The-Novanglus-Essays-by-John-Adams.pdf page ,70), so I can’t imagine you’d have all that much difficulty finding it. Your miswording of the phrase suggests its applicability is to us – we the people – rather than to government, and it is that which I find so amusing.

    When John Adams coined the phrase “a government of laws, and not of men” (1775), he was contrasting (and condemning) the arbitrary rule of George III by contrasting that with a true republic, making a case the British system fell short of a particular ideal. His essays built a strong case for people having a say in the laws governing them based on that ideal, that such laws (to meet this standard) must a) have some degree of permanence (i.e., be fixed), and b) should be comprehensible.

    This latter feature of “comprehensibility” is crucially important because, where the laws are incomprehensible to laymen we are at the mercy of lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians to decide their meaning (and our fates) for us. Thus, any system of laws which becomes excessively confusing, contradictory and/or vast (ours is all three) is inherently tyrannous (i.e., arbitrary). It is tyrannous because an incomprehensible system of rules governing any large population guarantees at least some of those so ruled must run afoul of those laws purely through ignorance of them. Moreover, ignorance of laws makes us easy prey to predatory lawyers and those more powerful than the average Joe (because better able to afford lawyers). [Note, I am not here arguing lawyers and/or powerful people are predatory, only that incomprehensible/arbitrary systems increase vulnerability and opportunity to those who are.] People ignorant of the laws applicable to them or unable to keep abreast of ever changing laws and regulations, soon grow disgusted with those laws, wary of police, and unsupportive of a ‘system’ they regard as ‘oppressive’ (e.g., riots in Fergusson, MO). In a simple system (one in which you can count the laws on two hands – e.g., 10 Commandments), everyone knows and understands the fixed set of rules, and has no excuse and little inclination to break them. In a complex system, where the laws are so numerous and shrouded in ‘legalese’ only lawyers can decipher, we are constantly in trouble with regard to the law, and on guard against those who decide our guilt or innocence. Because we feel ignorant with respect to the law, we have grown fearful of it, and we long ago lost that bold spirit which held usurpation in check. Obviously, our society has evolved to the point we need more laws than can be counted on two hands, but the point is still valid we need our rules as compact and comprehensible as we can reasonable make them.

    The permanence feature of ‘good’ law is important because, without relatively ‘fixed’ laws, ordinary people will not and cannot be expected to stay abreast of changes in the law. Another desirable feature, then, is that whenever a new law should be promulgated, it should be publicized, expounded and discussed until a large number of laymen (say 20%) fully understand the new law and its probable impacts. This used to be a function which our newspapers provided admirably, but long ago abandoned when they became advocates of government more than spokesmen for the people. Yet, even with good dissemination, the introduction of many laws at once or single laws with some frequency tends to fatigue lay people; and, so, we wind up with the same effect of ‘ignorance of the laws’. Thus, both ‘fixed’ and ‘comprehensible’ really go to the same issue – how to maintain in the populous a solid understanding of all the rules by which we are governed as avoids enforcement problems and encourages support for law enforcement and jurisprudence.

    Another reason permanence is an important feature to good/stable government is that, the more that laws, rules and regulations are promulgated, the more we create subclasses of citizens (e.g., special-interests) defined by differences in how those laws are applied to us. It takes time to resolve or repair divisions so created, such that a constant flow or ‘progression’ of rule changes merely creates a backlog of patchworks and Balkanization. Our perception of each other shifts as a result. No longer are we ‘fellow Americans’. Rather, we self-identify as hyphenated subgroups incapable of finding common ground.

    Adams understood (as did all the Founders) that, for us to succeed as a free society, we needed to not only copy from the British system (considered one of the more enlightened systems extant), but must modify that system by making its rules more fixed and comprehensible suitable to a free people. In his view, the British system was a good one, but faulted it as being unfixed in law; thereby making it possible for George III and his ministers to run roughshod over Britain’s colonies, if not the British homeland. Thus, Adams argued his ideal government would be one that is, itself, subject to rules. His meaning, therefore, was not that we should be a ‘nation of laws’ (which suggests ‘we the people’ should be ‘well-governed’), but, rather, that our government be governable by us; a government itself forever ruled by fixed laws changeable subject only to ‘our’ consent.

    Yet, how are we to consent to something we can no longer comprehend? Ours is a system so vast and complicated even lawyers now complain they are incapable of understanding it, who must specialize and sub-specialize even to practice any part of it. The answer is: we can’t. To rectify this situation (i.e., to restore our freedoms, re-excite people about our system, and to restore some semblance of trust and respect for government), we must slash away at the forest of laws and regulations until made sensible and manageable to us once again.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/24  at  08:36 PM
  7. It seems I posted my reaction to J. Jay's "nation of laws" misquote/misconstruction to the wrong article. This was meant to be posted at: http://www.thomasbrewton.com/index.php/weblog/comments/3300 . My apologies for the confusion.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/27  at  10:35 AM
  8. Mr. Brewton,

    If you favor torture, and do not believe in the rule of law, how are you any different from the thugs you claim to despise?

    How are you any different from a mobster who protects his "friends," but if you cross him, you will have your legs broken or be rubbed out?

    Is your cowardice so great that you have lost all sense of honor and morality?

    I weep for you if that is your interpretation of morality.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  06:16 PM
  9. This debate suffers from a lack of a useful definition of "torture." I a not convinced there was any significant amount of torture of enemy combatants to justify the the extraordinary agony of self flagellation seen in jay's comments.

    There has been a lot of severe interrogation and sadistic practices throughout history, and marriages, and serfdom, and what the jihadists experoienced. Pales in comparison. And these was alive saving objective in those of the jihadists which somewhat ameliorates the practice.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/29  at  07:03 PM
  10. Bill,

    Finding a definition of Torture should be easy for anyone with a dictionary or a computer.

    Here is one: Torture is the act of deliberately inflicting severe physical or psychological pain and possibly injury to a person (or animal), usually to one who is physically restrained or otherwise under the torturer's control or custody and unable to defend against what is being done to him or her.

    It is considered to be a violation of human rights, and is declared to be unacceptable by Article 5 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Signatories of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols I and II of 8 June 1977 officially agree not to torture captured persons in armed conflicts, whether international or internal. Torture is also prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has been ratified by 156 countries, including the United States. These treaties require trial and, if found guilty, conviction of those who torture.

    You are correct that torture has been practiced throughout history. You need only visit the Tower of London to see examples of exquisite devices designed to elicit maximum pain and suffering.

    Whether the torture ends in murder is not proof that torture has occurred.

    There are few who deny that what happened to our prisoners at Abu Ghraib and at the CIA black prison sites constituted particularly heinous forms of torture.

    That inflicting the torture resulted in obtaining no useful information does not matter in deciding whether those involved are culpable. One of the signal failings of the Obama Administration was its failure to seek legal redress for crimes committed in our name.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/31  at  04:04 PM
  11. Jay-- Your definition of torture is not so "easy" as you assert. IT ALL DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU MEAN BY "SEVERE." Some marriages inflict "severe pyschological pain" -- indeed that has on occasion been grounds for divorce. Plus, capturing terrorists at their nefarious tricks lies outside the parameters of the "armed conflicts" those international protocols define.

    Some boxing and wrestling moves inflict "severe pain" -- not to mention what the bankers did to all of us in 2009-10. Further to the point, I find that listening to our President's many speches to be both physically and emotionally severely painful!

    Finally, the "failings" of the Obama administration are so numerous that I cannot figure out which ones are the most "signal ones" without more time than I have this NEW Years Eve! I think that bumping the Honeymoon couple off "his" golf course might by many be considered more egregious than a jihadists being merely "touched" by a female captor!
    Posted by BILL GREENE  on  12/31  at  04:36 PM
  12. J. Jay,

    I see you have reverted to type. Once again, you are resorting to personal (aka, ‘ad hominem’) attacks as a bogus substitute for reasoned argument. You played the same dumb trick in another post (see http://www.thomasbrewton.com/index.php/weblog/comments/3300 ) a few days ago, and, apparently, still haven’t gotten how transparent and uncouth you are behaving.

    Begging the question “do we favor” something you then deliberately portray as reprehensible, and couched in such a way as renders any answer we make indefensible, is not only a slap in the face, it deliberately misleads readers of your asininities for the sole purpose of derailing and delegitimizing (a priori) any productive counter-arguments we can make. This is demagoguery as kills even the possibility of further debate (which is okay with you); and, is how children and cowards argue – not honest men airing differences of opinion.

    Since you have still not gotten the point, let me illustrate this in terms even you may understand (or at least, as any casual reader to your rubbish will soon get). To do so, I am going paraphrase you:

    Example: If you (J Jay) favor executive-order abuse and do not (therefore) believe in the rule of law, how are you any different from the thugs you claim to despise?’

    Example: If you (J Jay) favor abortion and do not believe in the sanctity of life, how are you any different from the thugs you claim to despise?’

    Example: If you (J Jay) favor cop-killer rioters and do not believe in the rule of law, how are you any different from the thugs you claim to despise?’

    Example: If you (J Jay) favor known pedophiles running our sex-education programs and do not believe in safeguarding children, how are you any different from the thugs you claim to despise?’

    Example: If you (J Jay) favor [substitute any socialist meme], and do not believe in [substitute some carefully chosen, defective, yet seemingly reprehensible moral equivalency], how are you any different from the thugs you claim to despise?’

    You, who are so quick to find fault in others, who crassly pretends innocence while trashing mercilessly, yet complains at every tit-for-tat as though the aggrieved party, ought to have learned by now this is not how gentlemanly debate is conducted. By now, I would have thought you’d have (at least) learned to separate fact from fiction, opinion from emotionally-charged bias, and invective from persuasion, but alas what little progress you have made is proving hollow. If nothing else, you should also have learned you aren’t going to get away with such behavior indefinitely. We have been patient with you of late as we had thought you’d seen the error of your underhanded ways, had but stumbled and needed no more than a gentle reminder of why such behavior is unacceptable. It begins to look like you want to go back to playing hardball with us, however. Is that that really the case?

    Here’s a clue: it’s time you fessed up and apologize to those you’ve, thus far, maligned (and, not one of those weasel-apologies so typical of Democrat politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and MSM commentators). If you have a real point or argument to make, then by all means make it. But, please, cut the phony holier-than-thou crap, ad hominem sneak-attacks, and deliberate mal-attributions.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/31  at  08:47 PM
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