Friday, December 19, 2008

Just another day at the office

Like many writers, I'm interested in how other writers work. This profile of Jon Favreau, President-elect Obama's chief speechwriter, is an interesting look at his process. Writing speeches for the soon-to-be Leader of the Free World is apparently not all that much different from the writing I do. The challenge is to keep The Muse from noticing the pressure and expectations, insane as they must be.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where do we go from here?

Ross Douthat has written a blog post for The Atlantic that captures, I think, much of the moral muddiness around the Bush administration's interrogation policies. As he says,

A term like "stress positions" sounds like one thing when it's sitting, bloodless, on a page; it sounds like something else when somebody dies from it.

Of course, people who use terms like "enhanced interrogation techniques" and "stress positions" do so exactly because of their bloodlessness, the filmy curtain they draw over what's really going on in places like Abu Ghraib. The photos from Abu Ghraib (benign introductory text, links to distressing images) yanked the curtain aside and forced Americans to see what was being done in their names. And now, having seen the photos, having seen the recently released Levin-McCain report (PDF), we have to decide what we want the new administration to do about it.

It's tempting, for all the reasons Douthat gives, to quietly put the curtain back in place, tiptoe away, and try to pretend it never happened. We can do that, but if we do we lose an opportunity to regain our moral authority. We lose the right to pretend that our proud defense of human rights and the rule of law is anything other than a rich nation's luxury, which we will abandon whenever it gets in the way. Americans may want to move on, but the rest of the world is watching to see what our promises really mean.

Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora testified to the Senate Armed Services
Committee in June 2008 that “there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.” -- Levin-McCain report.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Memes that deserve to die

It's not a depression if "depression-themed" merchandise is salable.

First, it's not a depression if people actually have money to buy cutsie depression-themed junk, as opposed to, say, food, clothing, and shelter.

Second, it's not a depression if people are able to see anything remotely humorous about the state of the economy or the possibility of a depression.

I'll be kind and assume that those who see economic depression as a market opportunity simply don't know what they are talking about. And so I'll suggest that such people browse the Dorothea Lange archives rather than speculating on the sort of personality that might see bread lines and massive population displacement as a good thing.