Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Memory Hole

There are plenty of good reasons to despair at the state of our politics. One grows weary at the impunity of lies in public discourse; the continual elevation of trivia, name calling, and faux outrage to the headlines; the systematic exclusion of not only viewpoints, but facts, that do not conform with the elite consensus about what is "serious."

The great Paul Krugman, for one, labors tirelessly to muck out the sewers. (He himself is "unserious" because he thinks European leaders should be more worried about mass unemployment and general economic collapse than they are about this year's budget deficits or the fools who bought Greek bonds. But I digress.) Today he again points out the obvious: That for Romney to win the election people will have to forget that the recession began while George W. Bush was president and that job losses stopped nine months after Obama took office; that private sector employment has done better under Obama than it did under Bush throughout his term; that Obama has been unable to implement most of the economic policies he wanted to anyway because the Republicans in congress prevented it; and that Romney wants to return to the very policies that caused the financial crisis in the first place. But Krugman also figures he will likely get away with it: "Are the American people -- and perhaps more to the point, the news media -- forgetful enough for that attack to work?"

Why yes, they are. Thanks for asking. Larry Siems, writing in Slate, tells us that he has read thousands of classified documents obtained by the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit. And, as we already basically knew, "Our highest government officials, up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them." The U.S. tortured people all around the world. The U.S. tortured innocent people. The U.S. tortured people repeatedly even when their torturers had decided it was useless. Senior officials lied, suppressed dissent, and destroyed evidence in order to cover it up. Siems writes, "From emails among FBI agents sharing their shock over scenes they had witnessed in interrogation booths in Guantánamo, to letters and memoranda for the record, to major internal investigations, the documents show that those who ordered and carried out the torture did so despite constant warnings and objections that their actions were ineffective, short-sighted, and wrong. It is no wonder that so many of these documents were suppressed."

Have you heard anything about this on the nightly news, public affairs yack shows, Sunday morning gabfests? Heard anything about it from anybody holding public office, including by the way B. Hussein Obama? Didn't think so. Nor will you, I predict. It would be too unserious to decide that the former president is a criminal.

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