Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #198 (March 28th, 2007)


Fifteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.

NEW! 15. Legislature Seats must be allocated to women and women must be allowed to bypass the democratic winnowing process in order to guarantee female representation and, thereby, make democracy fairer.


It's now Day Three

Of Jack Baney Held Hostage

By Reputed Misogynist and Evil

Person Dave Sim

Jack Baney continues:

In total violation of our agreement to disagree, I'll add that my admiration for your idealism and determination to uncover unpleasant truths is part of the reason why I always want to argue you out of your current politics. To me, some of the best aspects of you just don't fit with a lot of the views you've been professing over the last several years. For example, I would think that someone willing to go so far above and beyond for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund would have major problems with the Bush Administration's treatment of terrorism detainees. But it's like you see locking people up on charges of selling obscene comics as reprehensible but locking people up, refusing to charge them with anything whatsoever or to give them fair trials, and subjecting them to psychological and sometimes physical torture for years on end is okay. Yeah, I know that Al-Qaeda needs to be prevented from murdering and that Bush isn't a Stalin or even a Castro, but come on – what he's doing with those prisoners is way, way worse than anything the U.S. government has ever done to anyone for selling or drawing comics (in addition to being much worse than McCarthyism and possibly worse than the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII). Also, it strikes me as unfortunate that while you've reached such harsh conclusions about women, sex, families, music, television, mainstream Christianity, etc., your conclusions about Bush, Reagan, and Israel are almost 100 percent sunny. I hope that those conclusions are at least well considered. I mean, I'd rather think that you've wrestled with your view of Reagan's support of the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador and reached the same conclusion as a conservative co-worker I once had – that this support went to some near-genocidal governments but helped to temper their worst aspects while preventing even worse communists from taking over – than to think you're simply naïve and have never even heard of that support.

Well, no, obviously I have. Most of the time my support for President Reagan and the current President Bush stems from the fact that they are dealing realistically with the issue at hand, facing it square on and deciding between the lesser of two evils, whereas Democratic Presidents tend to indulge in wishful thinking. "I really FEEL like this should work so let's try this." I think President Reagan ultimately dismantled himself over Iran-Contra because he chose not to look at it realistically and went by the FEEL of the thing. By giving military armaments to Iran and then taking the money for those armaments and using it to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, in his own mind he wasn't paying a ransom for the hostages Iran then released. They paid for the armaments and because that money went to fund the Contras (instead of going into U.S. Government General Revenues) he somehow convinced himself that they released the hostages on their own initiative and helped fund fighting the Contras by buying armaments. There was, however, just no way that it added up like that. It was CIA-style thinking (we'll do this thing that would ordinarily be deemed wrong and illegal and treasonous – like buying and selling a half-tonne of cocaine – and make it right by using the money for a good cause). Wrong is wrong. The debits and credits don't balance out in any rational way. But certainly I would agree that it is easier to move a right-wing military dictatorship in the direction of democracy than it is a Fidel Castro or a Hugo Chavez. As a general rule and I think the Republicans have always subscribed to that view.

When it comes to the problem of terrorist detainees there are many different levels to the situation. I think the immediate response after 9/11 was a good one, issuing from a visceral understanding of militant Islam as epitomized by Osama bin Laden's assertion that "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they naturally choose the strong horse" and the fact that, therefore, the United States needed to present itself to militant Islam as the strong horse, which the United States had not been doing up to that point in Lebanon under Reagan in Mogadishu under Clinton or much of anywhere else in the Muslim world for that matter. To me that explains Guantanamo and I hope whoever came up with that one in the early Oval Office meetings got a gold star in his notebook. Guantanamo looks strong. Guantanamo suggests that you might want to think several times before targeting American civilians and then change your mind and choose not to. Or you might end up in Guantanamo. It seemed to me a balanced response not only to 9/11 but to the complete lack of Muslim contrition for 9/11 happening. Whichever way you slice it, that lack of contrition was arrogant and suggested an overall Muslim approach of "Yeah, we took down the World Trade Towers, what are you going to do about it, infidel?" The sheer brutality of the attack which unfolded as a series of disaster films one on top of the other: a Muslim passenger taking out a box cutter and using it to cut the neck artery of the passenger next to him and using that particular brand of terror – an innocent civilian suddenly geysering blood into the aisle of a passenger jet – to get everyone under control and then deliberately smashing into a skyscraper which led to everyone on board and everyone on the impacted floor and the surrounding floors being burned alive instantly in ignited jet fuel which then led to the skyscraper's upper floors being consumed in the resulting inferno which led hundreds of other innocent civilians at 9 o'clock on a workday morning to have to choose whether to sit tight and get consumed by jet fuel ignited flames or jump to their deaths from a hundred storeys up. Then the firemen and the police on the ground with civilians hitting the ground at 32 feet per second per second…well, I don't think I have to go through the whole sequence of overlapping disaster movies but I do confess that I have a lot of trouble with leftists who want to place 9/11 on some sort of scale with the Japanese internment and McCarthyism. I mean, where is your sense of scale? 9/11 is, was and always will be completely off that particular Richter scale which is why it needed to be responded to and which required the United States Government to be, irrefutably, the Strong Horse.

As it stands right now, the biggest moral problem that I see is that all of the U.S.'s allies in NATO and NORAD and other organizations have anecdotal examples of "rendition". In Canada, our most celebrated one was Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Arab-Canadian citizen who our government essentially turned over to the American government back in 2003 as an accused terrorist and who was spirited away to Syria and imprisoned and tortured for a year.

Now, if I had been in those early Oval Office meetings with my notepad and my pen and someone – presumably CIA – brought up the subject of "rendition" I'm willing to bet that I would know nothing about it but I would pretend to know in order not to seem uninformed. Who had even heard of "rendition" in this day and age? It smacks of the worst excesses of French colonialism in North Africa, a very dark skeleton in the closet of the countries formerly known as Christendom. Once explained, though, and facing the challenge of being seen as the Strong Horse in Muslim frames of reference (the same problem the French faced in Algeria) I think there would be a certain appeal, a kind of "having your cake and eating it too" quality very much along the lines of Iran-Contra. We keep our hands clean, because we aren't torturing them ourselves, but at the same time word will spread that this is something that can happen to you besides getting shipped to Guantanamo in handcuffs and leg shackles and an orange jumpsuit with a canvas hood over your head. If we capture you in Iraq or in North America we can turn you over to your own government. That's just the sort of thing that would give a Syrian or Saudi or Jordanian or Egyptian terrorist pause since they would be very familiar with what their government does to political prisoners. It's too clever by half, like most CIA approaches to things but in those first early days of figuring out how to show the Muslim world that the United States is not a paper tiger, that the United States means business, as I say, I think it would have a lot of appeal and I suspect there was a definite level of deterrence which resulted. Whether that factor of deterrence warranted the egregious duplicity in suspending individual civil human rights is a question that can't be answered because there is no control group: No United States where there was no Guantanamo and where there was no rendition. That's a fact of realpolitik. Hindsight is 20-20 and there is no control group.

The problem, of course – in practical CIA terms which have already put aside individual civil rights as "collateral damage" -- is "What do you do when you have a terrorist in custody and you `render' him but you can't reveal how he's connected to terrorism without exposing your own `inside people' to the other side?" And there everything really gets murky. Our Foreign Affairs Minister, Stockwell Day was briefed in Washington – after we had released Maher Arar, apologized to him and paid him 10 million dollars or something – on secret information that the White House considered linked Maher Arar to terrorism. And Stockwell Day was shown the secret information and was not convinced by it and maintains that the American government should follow Canada's lead and remove Arar's name from the FAA `no fly' list. Well, at that point – looking at it in practical CIA terms -- I wondered if they had actually showed Stockwell Day their best evidence. I mean, there you get into the question of how much do you trust the Canadian government with really sensitive information? I'd trust Stockwell Day with my life, but I wouldn't extend that trust to most of his inherited Foreign Affairs department most of whom are lifetime Liberal civil service appointees and, ergo, raving anti-American socialist lunatics (in CIA frames of reference and, I must confess, my own frames of reference as well). Would I trust the name and details of a CIA agent planted inside a North American terrorist cell to a largely anti-American socialist government? I'm not saying that is the situation, I'm saying that these are elements that intrude forcibly when you follow through on a program of "rendition". And I'm saying that I think I could be forgiven as a complete novice in that world for not seeing where it was apt to lead during those early Oval Office meetings on "how to show the Muslim world that we're the strong horse" given that I'm sitting there with my pen and my notepad and, apart from "invade Afghanistan" and "invade Iraq" I haven't got much written down. "Shock and awe". That's about it. And all I can see in my mind's eye is that series of overlapping disaster movies that just took place a few days ago. How do you keep everyone's cover intact and keep your allies on board with partial "safe" information?

We're having the same problem with our "security certificates" here in Canada where a number of accused terrorist detainees have been released by the courts because their human rights are being violated with indefinite incarceration. The headline in the local paper, The Record, was "Justice Trumps Security". We also have laws that prohibit us from deporting anyone to their home country if there's a danger they might be tortured or executed. But the net effect of that is that we can't deport suspected terrorists to a terrorist country. If you're from Saudi Arabia (or Syria or Iran or Iraq or Somalia or Indonesia) and you made it here and you're found with ten different passports under ten different aliases, all that will happen is that you'll be held by Immigration for a period of time and then you'll be released into Canadian society because "Justice Trumps Security". In light of 9/11, the Madrid bombings, the 7/7 London underground bombings I think that's nuts and well into the category of potentially disastrous "wishful thinking". Liberals in Canada and Democrats in the United States think that's the way to go. Trust everyone. Conservatives in Canada and Republicans in the United States think that's a foolish risk to take with your own civilian population. There may well come a day when it makes sense to treat immigrants from Saudi Arabia and Syria and Egypt and Jordan and Iran and Iraq the same as you treat immigrants from the U.K. and Australia and France and Germany but I don't think that day is here. Not by a long stretch. Innocents will suffer. No question about it. But I think Conservatives learn to weigh things in the balance. When the alternative is another 9/11 it only makes sense to be deeply suspicious of anyone trying to enter your country from a radical Muslim state or a state that harbours radical Muslims. Personally – just to extend the argument to its obvious conclusion at the high end of potential consequences -- I think it's better that the U.S. invade Iran and destroy its nuclear capability now at the cost of thousands of lives (and in a perfect world, Canada would be right there with them) than that everyone sits on their hands and waits for Iran to build a bomb and nuke Tel Aviv (not Jerusalem, I don't think – the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock are the third holiest sites in Islam) at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives which would lead to the necessity to invade Iran anyway. You can hope that it just turns into a Mexican Stand-off like Pakistan and India. Both have nukes, neither pulls the trigger. But India and Pakistan don't deny each other's right to exist and both India and Pakistan have lived up to at least some of their agreements with each other. That isn't the case with Islam and Israel.

I just don't see any alternative. If the Muslim world in general begins to denounce terrorism and works to eradicate its own terrorist elements and acknowledges that Israel has a right to exist and lives up to their agreements, then you can start to change policy. But until that time the only choice is to be the strong horse or the weak horse.

Tomorrow: Jack Baney's parting shots

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