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Best of Blogs Round-Up: Monday, March 6, 2006

Non-disclaimer: We're liberal to the core, but we include in this daily blog review the political, the social, the cultural and the undefinable from the left, the right, the in-between from all over the globe. And we're suckers for good writing regardless of ideology. Clicking the link will take you to the original post.


Featured Blog I: Chop-Shop
Body Parts Lottery

"Twenty", said Stinking Pete, "imagine you got captured by the Taliban."

"Right, the Taliban. That's unlikely."

"Ok then, Al Qaeda or some other Northside vigilante group."


"So you're captured and they're making you dress up like the bloke from scream crossed with a KKK bloke and they're getting a dog to bark in your face and scare the crap out of you and generally they're torturing the shite out of you."

"Grand, I'm picturing the scene, Stinking Pete. Go on."

"Ok, so after a while they offer you a deal. If you let them cut off one part of your body they'll let you go free. Now, it can't be hair or a fingernail or anything that normally stands a good cutting. Would you let them cut something off and if so what would it be?"

"I think you're a bit fucking mad, Pete, so I do, but anyway. It's an interesting question I have to say. Would a man sacrifice a part of his body to get away from the relentless suffering that a good old fashioned torturing at the hands of a bunch of nutters brings? Can we go the way of the animal caught in a trap who will gnaw, and that's pronounced 'guh-nauw' by the way, his own leg off rather than remain constrained by the mechanical teeth which make him a victim and an easy target for passing predators? The need to escape. The fight or flight insinct. It's very difficult to know how you would react, I suppose."

"Yeah, yeah, but which part of your body would you let them cut off?"

"Hmmm, let me think. Obviously I need the essentials. Mickey, bollocks, legs and arms. I quite like having all my fingers and toes too. Vincent van Gogh got away with only having one ear but I like having two. Nose, nah. Eyelids - I once read that if you cut someone's eyelids off they go insane and then they pull their own eyes out so I think I'd avoid that. Arse - well, I need my arse for sitting on and drinking pints. I mean drinking pints while I'm sitting, not that I've ever attempted to drink a pint with my arse. That would be silly. That really only leaves one option. I would let them cut off my right nipple. In fact, I might let them cut off my left nipple too. Let's face it, nipples on men are pretty useless. We do not produce milk and if we were clever enough we'd have figured out how to express 12 year old Laphroig by now so I figure they're going to remain useless for quite some time. Yep, for me that's the way out. It might be a bit sore but it's not going to be something that I'll ever miss and perhaps giving them two bits of my body to cut off they might give me a couple of elastoplast to help them heal up as I make my way home."

"I like your thinking, Twenty. You know what I'd get cut off?"

"Your enormous hunch? That freaky fucking white bubbly thing under your left eye which people who don't know you very well can't help staring at? Your sixth toe on your left foot, you Anne Boleyn looking freak? That ganglian on your inner-wrist? Your 'outy' belly button? That enormous wart on the end of your nose that makes you look like a witch?"

"Nah, don't be silly now, Twenty. I'd have them lop off my tail."


Featured Blogger II: White House Papers
A Time for Civil Courage

"The message to be heard is: This is a situation that justifies risking your career and your associations and your freedom and your life. It justifies the kind of courageous action that we are asking of every person in Iraq every hour of the day and night. […]

It's time for people in this country, civilians, to start looking into themselves for the ability to be brave like [our soldiers]. And not physically, but to have what the Germans term "civil courage." Bismarck said at one point, courage on the battlefield is not rare, but civil courage is rare. We need that concept over here. People talk of moral courage but it's rarely defined what that means exactly.

Civil courage means standing up for principle in the face of the state, risking career, risking the good opinion of other people for the good of the community and the society."

Daniel Ellsberg

Recently SusanG interviewed Daniel Ellsberg for They talked extensively about the leaks with which the Bush White House has been dealing: leaks such as the publishing of the John Yoo Torture memo and the report last winter that Bush was spying on Americans in violation of the law. Both of these leaks clearly show that Bush believes he is above the law. Ellsberg reflected on what it was like when he leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, and how frightening it was to make the decision to leak the papers and to stand against the government. Yet, he knew it was the right thing to do. He said that our country is experiencing another great crisis like during the Vietnam era and it is critical that people who are able to stop the catastrophic actions of our government step up to that challenge.

On January 17th, the country celebrated the Martin Luther King’s Day holiday. We celebrate that day because Martin Luther King was someone who showed real civil courage. He created significant change in our world despite the danger he and his family faced due to his activism. We know that King was aware of how dangerous his speaking up was because he told us that in one of his last speeches. Nevertheless, he felt that it was his duty to continue to speak out, to inspire, to educate and to be an agent for change.

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop and I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will, and He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.

And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.

Martin Luther King

When historians write about the Bush era, they will note that there were a number of people that stepped up to warn about the danger to our Constitution and our country. Yet, they will also ask: why did others who could have done more stay silent?

Today one legacy of the Bush administration is there are many examples of people who have risked their livelihoods and their reputations to warn that our country was in great danger of doing enormous damage to our own values while creating a much more dangerous world for ourselves and our descendents.

Courageous patriots are found in many parts of our government. Before the start of the Iraq war, State Department officials such as John Brady Kiesling resigned and publicly protested that we were embarking on a policy of preventive war which is illegal by the terms of the Geneva Conventions, a treaty that the US was not only a signatory, but a principle sponsor.

Soldiers have also found the courage to speak out. What we know about the torture practices the Bush administration has been using is because brave and honorable people have brought forth information about what they know to reporters. These whistleblowers are truly to be honored for their courage.

At the end of January we learned that some in the Justice Department fought against the overreach of those who declared that the president could decide by himself what the law was and operate without any oversight from the courts or the Congress. We have come to know the name of Jack Goldsmith who showed he loved his country and its Constitution more than he feared losing his job. As a former assistant district attorney, he demonstrated that he believed the clause “no man is above the law” is one of the main principles of our Constitution and he could not do his duty to the Constitution if he did not protest the violation of the FISA law. After all, the Congress had explicitly passed this law as part of its oversight responsibility and the President cannot arbitrarily abrogate it on his own.

Yet, others who could have done more have not done so. Bush declares what he is doing is legal because he has informed the appropriate members of Congress. But we know that some in the Congress felt that they had been put into an untenable spot because they could not do due diligence on the information they had gotten without violating the secrecy laws. Indeed, Senator Jay Rockefeller sent a handwritten note to the Vice President expressing deep concerns about the program he had been told about. Yet, despite his misgivings, Senator Rockefeller did not expose the program publicly because he felt bound by the secrecy laws.

One wonders could this Constitutional crisis have been adverted if our Senators had decided that their obligation to the country and the Constitution overrode the onerous secrecy laws? After all, the Bush administration has cloaked so many of their actions under the rubric of secrecy and national security. If those who are legally obligated to represent the people cannot do so because they feel checked by the administration, then who is standing up for the country? When are the actions of the administration so egregious that our Senators realize it is worth their careers, their lives and, indeed, their reputations to take a public stand on these issues? After all, they too took an oath to “protect and defend” the Constitution and that means acting vigorously to monitor the executive branch that they do not overstep their bounds.

It is well and good to ask why our representatives are not doing more. But we citizens have to recognize that we too must do our part. If we want to promote civil courage, then we must demand an accounting and back those who come forth when they put their careers and lives on the line. After all, our country and our Constitution are important enough to demand this type of courage.

[This article, among others by Ratcliffe, was first published in the February 2006 issue of the Vox Populi Nebraska eZine.]



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