Just had to ask

I’ve avoided raising this, because it’s such an obvious point. But I guess that’s me all over, so… The Bush/Cheney unit appeared before the 9/11 commission today. Most reports of the event have noted in passing that they were not under oath, but none of them seem to have extended that to its very immediate, logical conclusion. Herewith:

It’s OK for them to lie then, right? Not ideal, of course, we’d like for them to tell the truth and all. But lies are, you know, alright.

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Law and Sausage

The Supreme Court took a look yesterday at the hidden discussions between The White House and the energy industry on the government’s energy policy. Andy has pointed out that a) we don’t have a (new/good) energy policy, and b) there are things happening that suggest we should, and that the fact we don’t is…interesting.

Slate has an overview of the legalities of the case, one of the more interesting aspects being that the White House believes they are being asked to do something unconstitutional, and is therefore refusing and appealing to anyone who’ll listen. Compare and contrast with various districts that rightly received a judicial smackdown for trying to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples because they felt that not doing so was unconstitutional. I say rightly because believing something to be unconstitutional is a great reason to go to court, but taking action outside of the court is unlawful until decided otherwise. Anyway…

Gregg Easterbrook made the point last year that the devious, snidely, underhand way the government put together its energy policy is not really important. The plan was published. You can look for every reckless, foolish, irresponsible paragraph and clause in the final document. Presumably the White House stands behind every word of the plan, so if there are plans to clean power plant emissions by using baby lungs as filters, or creating fluffy kitten-powered generators, then we’ll know it. And we’ll know it’s Bush’s fault, personally, whether the idea was dreamed up by Ken Lay or some intern.

This doesn’t alter the fact that knowing how such plans are created is very interesting. It can help us understand the President’s motivations, his obligations, and even his abilities. Those things are important for voters making a choice (correction: they should be important), and are hugely important for opposition parties trying to find things to beat a President with. But, right or wrong we don’t get to find out the scheming that is done in the White House, or the headquarters of the GOP or DNC. Like a purveyor of fine sausages, we should judge politician’s outputs first, and if as voters we eventually show even the slightest competence at that level it might be time to worry about process. As Bismarck said,

Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.

Episode II: A New Hope*

I took a minute to do a quick design refresh at lunchtime. Nothing much, just adding in the header image from the photo gallery and tidying a couple of things. I may do a little more later. I should also mark the end of Gregg Easterbrook’s blog over at The New Republic; I shall move quickly to find somebody else’s opinions to pass off as my own.

*Yes, I know it was Episode IV, no I don’t care, it was just a weak joke because I’m not used to having titles for my posts

It may not surpise our regular reader to learn that I’m not a big fan of Bill O’Reilly. So when I was reading a transcript of his interview with the son of a 9/11 victim you can imagine where my sympathies were. Let’s put that aside for now, however, and look at an interesting use of language in the conversation by the interviewee, Jeremy Glick, specifically

“you said it was a moral equivalency, and it’s actually a material equivalency.”

The item under discussion was whether the US attacks on Vietnam and other countries could be equated with the terrorist attacks on the US.

The actions of the US in these earlier wars were, at least some of the time, objectionable. The word objectionable can carry a lot of meaning in this context. You may feel that while they were not what one would wish, they were nonetheless understandable and justified given the circumstances. On the other hand, you may think they were examples of state-executed terrorism. Obviously that latter view would give them an equivalence with the terrorist attacks on the US. Such a debate, I believe, arises because we’re thinking about it as a moral equivalence. If you feel that America’s heart was pure then its actions can be put down to poor execution, or even regrettable miscomprehension of a situation. If you find America to be The Great Satan then the moral equivalance is presumably clear. I imagine most people, myself included, sit somewhere along that continuum.

What I found interesting in Mr Glick’s language was the idea of material equivalance. Was the US morally justified in making Laos the most bombed nation on earth? Was my namesake morally justified in levelling Dresden? Is either side in the Isreali-Palestinian standoff morally justified in its actions? I have little but ill-formed opinions to offer. But when it comes to material equivalance, the case is much easier to make. Ask Kim Phuc about material equivalence. Or the 28,000 Boer women and children who died at the start of the 20th Century. Or any of the millions of Russians, Chinese, Koreans, Rwandans, Ethiopians, Native Americans, hell, just pick a nationality, who died from some internal or external force that was morally equivalent to either beneficence or terrorism to someone.

Materially, they’re still dead.

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Here’s a little something that causes me no end of irritation. Apparently Midsize sedans fail SUV side-impact test. These normal, perfectly usable, perfectly decent cars are “failures” because when some behemoth urban assault vehicle hits it the car gets a dent. Yes, there’s a failure here, but the failure is with the SUV. These are cars that almost nobody needs, that actually decrease road safety, and that suck gasoline like, well, insert your own crude imagery here. Yes the cars “fail”, in the same way that the nerdy kid’s nose “fails” when punched by the school bully.

I suppose I should make a practical suggestion here (or not, this is a blog after all). So count the number of buttocks in your household, divide by two, then go and buy something reasonable that holds that many people.