November 28th, 2008

Pixel Stained

Mukasey's Comments

In the midst of Micheal Mukasey falling down while speaking to the Federalist society, the actual speech seems to have been lost, so I went to their website and took a look.

It’s a subtle, and nasty, piece of work, rife some talking points, and a very pernicious piece of rhetoric, the meat of which is attached to all the talking points.

He argues, “Casual requests for criminal investigations, as well as the even more prolific conflation of legal disagreements with policy disagreements, reflect a broader trend whose institutional effects may outlast the current Administration and could well endanger our future national security.” It happens I agree completely with the sentiment, but not the actual argument he’s presenting.

What he’s alleging is that investigations of possible criminal behavior on the part of this administration, or its appointees, would be unreasonable, because the real issues here aren’t matters of actual law, but merely disagreements about policy.

If we can forget (which is a hard thing) the blatant use of criminal charges to affect issues of policy We don’t need to co back to Clinton, we can look more closely at the voter fraud charges which were at the heart of the US Attorney firings. Those are the sorts of, “casual requests for criminal investigations” which conflate policy disagreements with criminal behavior (the actual firings of the attorneys is a different sort of question, and there are issues of influence, and what might be illegal activity in the way they were fired, though the firings themselves were, almost certainly, legal. Choosing to prosecute individuals, while not not going after people like Nathan Sproul who run companies which seem to have destroyed registrations they were legally required to turn in, which might cause someone to believe they were registered, only to discover on election day they weren't. That's a question of policy, e.g. how to best spend limited resources and ensure the best result for the body politic).

Worse, is the “defense” he offers throughout the speech, he says those who made the decisions (in this case to torture people) did so, “in good faith,” and to protect the country during a time of war, or with the belief that what they were doing was in any way contrary to the law.

There you have it, the belief that one is doing a thing for the common good, combined with ignorance is an absolute defense. Put those two things together, and what you have isn’t a violation of US laws and treaties (the Geneva Conventions, UN Treaty Against Torture, and the War Crimes Act of 1998: USC 18 §2441), nope, those stop being crimes when one “believes” one is acting, “in good faith,” and become mere “policy disputes,” nothing to see here, move along.

Even if they weren't wrong, this is some sort of “moral relativism, no because, It is important for those who are so quick to condemn the attorneys who were working nearly around the clock, for months on end, in the wake of September 11th, to keep that in mind.. See, they were scared, and people were clamoring for action, so they acted in good faith when they broke the law, and recommended that other people do the same, so investigating to see if they broke laws would be a bad thing.

Which is nonsense, there are some crimes (such as fraud) where intent is a large part of the actual crime. There are some in which intent changes the nature of the crime committed (manslaughter, versus murder), but in none of them can one say, “I was doing it because a good thing was going to happen; and I was acting in good faith to achieve that end.”

If I embezzle money from my employer, and donate it all to charity, in the “good faith” belief that my boss could afford it, and there were people in desperate need; and that helping them would be good for my employer, it’s just that my employer didn’t realise that was what he needed to do... I’m not going to be able to plead to the court that it wasn’t something meriting a criminal charge; that the two of us were just engaged in a “policy dispute” about how to best manage the company’s assets.

How much less can we afford to sweep under the rugs such things as tossing the 4th amendment into the dustbin of history (warranteless wiretaps), or torturing people; some of them to death?

The other problem with his argument is that it boils down to, “we did what we did for the good of the state,” and demands no actual scrutiny take place. In short he wants to grant an imperial presidency to Bush; and delegate that imperium to Bush’s lackeys, while he exhorts his audience to be robust in opposing the incoming administration.

The loyal opposition, of course, remains as important a part of democracy as the majority in power. In that regard, I take comfort in the fact that whether in office or not, many members of this Society will remain a part of the public debate and will help ensure that the next Administration acts responsibly and effectively to protect our country and to protect the ideals on which it is based. For that, and for your support based on the principles that support this Society, I am grateful, and I can say with certainty that the Nation is grateful.

To which I can only say, I am, most emphatically, not grateful to the Federalist Society, which has been, IMO, a most disloyal opposition, and is opposed to the things I see as good, and useful and worthy of praise in the nation; while supporting, fostering and spending money to further the more base and wretched aspects of the nation. What Mukasey was praising is that reactionary streak which was so strong in the past eight years. Those qualities which have cost us what moral stature we had gained.

Those lawyers he praises, as he asks for the absolution of ignoring their actions, gave cover to the policies which cost us that place. They made it possible for people to argue that tortures weren’t tortures, and habeas corpus was antiquated. It’s possible they didn’t break laws, but the only way to know for sure is to do the thing he hopes will not be done, we must haul the things they did into the light and look at them, that we might know if real crimes were committed, or merely piss-poor policies perpetrated.

A small bit of advertising

It doesn't do me any direct good, but my father has a book out.

Picture Yourself Getting the Most Out of Your Digital Camera.

It's not a bad primer. My name is on it, but that's not because I had a huge hand in the writing, it's a bit of honest nepotism. I helped with the content of several chapters. It does get me a published credit, but until the one which has my name first I'll refrain from going for the blinky text.

There are some of my pictures in it (elisem Ratty's Wharf is in there, so you are getting a "famous" print. :) which is nice.

Now to finish the proposal for the Macro Book. When I sell it I'll be looking for people who have pictures I can use to illustrate the book (because I don't have the photos to use for everything I need to talk about).