Thursday, November 09, 2006

Checks & Balances

a geebus rarity: editorial comment

Words resonating today (posts of geebus past): June 30 , written in the wake of the Supreme Court's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision. And this one from June 6. And May 31, May 21, May 14, May 8, April 17, April 4, March 27, March 23, March 18 (the 'prairie home excoriation') March 10, March 5, March 2.

And the timeless May 2.

I hope it is an uncontroversial notion that Americans have voted for changing course. The first step is to understand the nature of the problems we need to solve. We cannot lose sight of this imperative in the name of comity or bipartisanship or etiquette. Examining the truth about matters leaves plenty of room for comity and civility, even if it is a source of intense discomfort for a lot of people.

This is not the time to gloss over past events so that we can move forward. This is a time to focus intensely on past events so that we can move forward. I say this both because of the obvious importance of learning history's lessons, but also because of society's rapidly increasing ability (and propensity) to assemble, link, and access information effectively in the service of truthful and substantive discourse (another big theme on the geebus).

For it is precisely the historical inability of our society to perform this function in near-real-time that has enabled much of the egregious conduct we have witnessed. Reality has been too malleable; it is still too malleable, even liquid. But it is gaining viscosity. The conventional attitude that it is possible and somehow necessary to gloss over vital facts in order to move forward is now very mistaken. (I don't know how mistaken it was before, say, 5 years ago, given the expenses of investigation -- pecuniary, psychological, and otherwise.)

As evidenced by the referenced posts, many people have understood for a long time the gravity of recent events, keenly perceiving the threat to our constitutional system of government. Others have clued in only much more recently. Many, maybe the overwhelming majority of Americans, still don't get it, even as they resoundingly vote for change. People just want to move on, to return to normalcy and civility. Yet at the same time everybody demands to know "what is your plan to move us forward."

Any good plan would start out by seeking a shared understanding of where we are now, which requires a candid look at certain information about the past. That's what oversight is; that is the only path to the vaunted accountability we seek in our institutions.

It is not the case that every investigation is a diversion and a political witch hunt, and suggesting the contrary is not an adequate response on the merits presented by the prima facie record (especially today's substantial and burgeoning information-age record). In fact, the whole arsenal of rhetorical tricks that depend on distracting attention from the merits of uncomfortable assertions, the whole lot of them are becoming less and less effective. People who keep employing them anyway are more and more visibly ridiculous.

So too bad for convention as it seeks to enforce its demand that we somehow figure out how to redirect the ship's steerage without necessary information about the course on which we've been sailing, about the motivations and methods of those at the helm, about the very machinery of the ship.

. . .. ... ..... ........ oOo ........ ..... ... .. . .

updated some links 5.12.2008

flash forward: Learn History's Lessons 11.12.2008

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