May 06, 2004

Something I Now Wish I Did Not Know

Something I now wish I did not know, but that I must know to be a proper citizen. Graydon observes:

Electrolite: The rot.: The grinning fellow with the thumbs up is wearing nitrile gloves. Those are used for much the same set of purposes as latex gloves, only they're physically much sturdier, and less likely to cause skin sensitivities in the wearer with prolonged use. So they're used in surgical applications to avoid the risk of sterility punctures from surgical instruments, or for a number of kinds of solvent based materials handling.

That fellow is wearing the lined, long-wearing kind; the cotton liners are flipped down over much of the glove cuff. He's wearing them with the same degree of disregard wood finishers who wear them all day, most days, do, and with absolutely no regard for their sterility. Anybody who wants to argue for it all being passive -- for values of "passive" as would shame the devil to utter -- psychological coercion is advised to think very carefully about those gloves.

Posted by DeLong at May 6, 2004 05:31 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

Anybody who thinks this won't come to the home front is deluding themselves. Why would people who think it is OK to torture Old Women and children hesitate to bring it here? The Supreme court is about to sign on to executive extra-judicial detention, and you don't think some torture will be included in that deal?

I bet they already have a list with DeLong and Krugman designated for adjoining cells. Aybody who thinks this is crazy should remember: Everytime you think they can't get any worse, even already accounting for them being worse than you fear, the Republicans find a way to descend into a lower circle of hell.

Posted by: CalDem on May 6, 2004 05:41 PM

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Actually, you're wrong about this, and for a very important reason.

The reason employees of the U.S. gov't behave this way in Abu Ghraib and Bergram and presumably other such facilities, but not in the US itslef isn't because they or their superiors are different in the two places. It's because we have a set of institutions in this country that very effectively impede & discourage this kind of thing. Except under the most extraordinary circumstances those insitutions change only slowly.

I would add that the belief that evil acts result from certain people's evil nature, rather than from circumstances that encourage the expression of the evil impulses we all harbor, is what created this mess in the first place.

Posted by: jw mason on May 6, 2004 06:01 PM

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meant: **part** of what got us...

Posted by: jw mason on May 6, 2004 06:04 PM

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Don't you mean we used to have a set of institutions that stopped this sort of thing?

The resident asserts the right to unlimited detention without a right to a lawyer for U.S. citizens on his say so, no judicial review, no lawyers, straight to Gitmo.

Our democratic institutions are gone, you just haven't noticed.

Posted by: CalDem on May 6, 2004 06:08 PM

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I posted a longer comment to this point on Bilmon. The gist concurs with sentiments directly above. Any of us could disappear into the memory hole. We are traveling but we don't reach our destination. No one knows exactly where or how we got lost on the way. This is how it happens.

Posted by: Knut Wicksell on May 6, 2004 06:25 PM

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In a similar vein, anyone who wants to understand why the large military police formations are in the Guard and the Reserves, as opposed to the regular Army, need only Google on phrases like REX-84 and GARDEN PLOT for some hstorical perspective.

Posted by: Charles Kinbote on May 6, 2004 06:36 PM

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I have Chilean friends who never believed that Pinochet could happen. They lived in a country with a strong democratic institutions where torture and rape and dissapearances would never thought- or so they though right up to Allende and Pinochet's coup and all the rest.

Posted by: CalDem on May 6, 2004 06:51 PM

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We're not there yet, but that's the whole point. First comes the thought, then the deed. First the exceptionalism, then the apologism, and then the institutionalization of the "new normal". Once upon a time, we had a draft that routinely picked by lottery young men to go off and senselessly fight and die. It was considered "normal".

Part of the reason why we have a Constitution is that the founders realized that society had incredible plasticity in tolerating abuses and offenses. They wished to place the authority to condone and order such acts beyond the grasp of mere mortals who for political or indulgent reasons might condemn the innocent to die. Thus the ring of such phrases as "inalienable", to put it beyond the supposed grasp of those who rationalize and make thinkable the unthinkable.

Just as it could happen elsewhere, it could happen here. We are not there yet, however we have seen how quickly the abuse spreads in what are claimed to be "exceptional cases" becoming precedents for new broad-based standards. The corruption of power that Archon speaks of, the violation of the very concept of ethics as self-imposed limitations to act as a prophalytic against corruption, have been utterly lost.

Posted by: Oldman on May 6, 2004 08:27 PM

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"They hate us because we are good".
-- George the Idiot King

Posted by: MTraven on May 6, 2004 08:31 PM

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I agree 100% with CalDem.

What do they need to make something like that happen?

1. A hospitable legal environment. The Patriot Act provides that with illegal combatant status, which has already been applied to American citizens captured in the US.

2. A popular movement of the brownshirt type. We're already pretty close to that. Ann Coulter wasn't using the word "Treason" metaphorically in the title of her book, and a lot of people agree with her. She is NOT the representative of a tiny, rejected minority.

3. A pretext. The War on Terror, against no specific enemy, fits the bill. It's planned to last for decades.

4. An immediate need. At some point the tax cuts are going to require benefit cuts, and a lot of people will be badly hurt. They will have to be coerced into silence.

The US has been sponsoring this sort of thing since at least the mid-70's. And while corrupt, backward governments with unprofessional police agencies are always blamed, the US contribution (e.g. in Negroponte's Honduras) has mostly been simply to ask the locals to be more efficient in their brutality, though in some cases such as Chile the US actually changed a civil government into a police state.

Posted by: Zizka on May 6, 2004 08:59 PM

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If "they hate us because of our freedom," is the game plan to get us to love us by ending our freedom?

Posted by: Brian Boru on May 6, 2004 09:30 PM

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While heartily endorsing jw mason's endorsement of strong institutions that prevent political imprisonment, torture, coercion, etc., I am less sanguine than s/he is about how effective those in the US are, for two reasons:

1. Anyone who makes even a slight effort can find out that conditions in US prisons are not that far from some of the things that took place at Abu Ghraib -- especially in the so-called "supermax" prisons, or in places like Pelican Bay. There's been enough reporting about it for any inquiring person to know...with almost no result.

2. Procedural safeguards ARE very important, but they are NEVER enough. There's a long history of them failing, from blood libel and witchcraft trials in past centuries to the alleged mass child-abuse cases of the 1980s and 1990s. There seem to be certain imperatives built into human institutions of coercion, punishment and confinement that create both the opportunity for gross abuse and ways for gross abusers to feel safe doing it. The procedural safeguards therefore must be combined with an alerty politically-engaged citizenry and strong ethical support for the principles of justice and fair treatment.

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