Monday, September 11, 2006

True Accountability

This has been a blog frenzy! Perhaps I would have put these all together, but they're shorter this way.

So here it is.

Accountability. Conservatives love this word. It is third in their lexicon behind "life" and "free markets". They eat this stuff up. They want you to know that they don't take anyone's guff and they don't help out cheaters. Roar!

Liberals don't like the word, not because they are wimps, but because Conservatives only like half of their words, but repeat it over and over, killing us with misunderstandings. Like their "culture of life" which only cares about living things when they are fetuses, but the second it wants to be born, they turn a blind eye, or their support of death penalties, war-making, and guns; the concept of accountability only refers to punishment and as a means of evaluation for those things they want to dismantle.

The truth is that accountability isn't about punishment, but a framework of evaluation that allows us to see how things are and change them when necessary. I noticed in my own diocese that many individuals drop the ball, but there is no recognition that they have screwed up, nor is special attention been given to those that carried the other person's weight. This is an example of no accountability.

I have just posted two other blogs about this, without actually saying that. One is the character assassination of Dan Rather, and the other is our bad memories of 9/11. Both cases are examples of failed accountability. The problem with these examples, however, is that it is impossible to hold the people accountable without punishment. Positive reinforcement is a much more effective teaching strategy than positive punishment (or negative reinforcement or punishment for that matter), but Republicans, for all their love of "incentives" to "encourage market growth" don't respond to anything but punishment. They won't do what they are encouraged to do, just not do what they are not allowed to do.

What we need most is accountability of failure. When a person doesn't do what they were supposed to do, you need to have a meeting and an expression of disapproval and disappointment; this is regardless of whether or not both parties know that the other party knows that the one party screwed up, it must be put out in the open. It needs to be stated for both parties to take it seriously. When a government uses torture, commits federal and international war crimes, ignores international treaties, etc. we must put our disapproval out in the open. We can no longer expect our News Media to be a watchdog for us. We can no longer expect our Congresspersons to look out for our interests (let alone tell the president what we have told that person). We must be the ones that hold our leaders accountable. We should have been doing it all along.

My Only September 11th Blog

September 11, 2006

Yes, this is my first (and hopefully only) 9/11 blog. It might be helpful to read the previous post for more information about the real topic.

I do remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I was working at Barnes & Noble in Lansing. Rose was also working that day. I was zoning from 7-10, customer service from 10-12, and on register from 12-2 (or something like that). Either way, I was zoning when Randy, our CRM told us that a plane hit the WTC and that they don't know why. A short while later another hit. Then the buildings fell. We listened to the radio throughout the day; I was listening for cause of the event and who would get scapegoated. That didn't take long for both to get filled.

It should be stated for the record that people don't react the way they say they did. I don't remember seeing a male customer after 10 or 11:00. We were busy for a weekday morning, and the mall-walkers were usually done at about that time anyway. We usually only sold newspapers and coffees in the morning anyway. But a strange thing happened over the next few hours: all of the customers appeared to be 30-60 and were white females. This demographic that Republicans would target in '02 and '04 elections as the "security moms" were the ones buying books on September 11th. I even tried to give updates to them. I would say "I just heard that…" and they would say "I know, crazy! Where are your Clancy's?".

The truth about September 11th is that it is now a holiday. It is only a holiday because the holiday's name is also the date. I might suggest that this shows a lack of originality, but that is too flippant. What really worries me is what that name (or 9/11) actually suggests: that we don't agree enough with what the day means. This is the same with the rash of 9/11 movies: the media asks "Is it too soon?" Of course not, boneheads. The reality is that we never took the time to figure it out in the first place. We focused on heroism where it could be found and justice where it could be found and that is it. I wish I could say that only New Yorkers went overboard with the reaction but remember the "We are all New York" T-shirts?

Our response to 9/11 (or Patriot Day, as I derisively called it) was like a bad family system: we allowed the domineering father figure to tell us information through his filter, kept the truth secret, and used insinuations ("the terrorists hate our freedom", "objection is unpatriotic", and "if you do that, then the terrorists will win") that discouraged original thought and created a false sense of homeostasis. We never learned the truth, because that would hurt the President's cause, the bombing and invasion of two countries.

There is no rational reason we have for never addressing Bin Laden's (and others') cause for planning the murder of US citizens. How can we prevent what we do not understand? We have no earthly reason to use war language (and doctrine) when it is individuals that have murdered, not governments. How can we sanction a president to call it a war, when he is unwilling to follow the basic commandments of war? Congress never declared war, so there is no war. The attacks of Afghanistan and Iraq were not acts of liberation but acts of military aggression. We toppled their governments unprovoked by those governments. The president has exerted authority that he does not possess to push these acts of aggression. Instead of hunting down Bin Laden and his operatives, we have made enemies of the entire Middle East. Bush's "War on Terror" is really a new Cold War—a never ending, poverty-creating, military-industrial complex enhancing power-grab by a man who is fascinated with killing people. He killed more people (160) as Governor of Texas in a term and a half than any public official in our history. He sent us into Afghanistan and Iraq with guns blazing, murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians, a war-crime in itself. He encourages lax gun laws, and allowed the elimination of an assault weapons ban that kept a dozen fully-automatic weapons out of the hands of citizens, and made it easier for you and me to get shot on a city street by a neighbor. We need to take a long look at who the real enemy is.

We Are Always to Blame

It's the truth. We screw up a lot. I mean, A LOT. A hick from Texas steals an election. Our mantra "let's just get passed this." It should have been, "throw that bastard in jail!" And the person in charge of that rigged Florida election? She has just won the primary and might get elected to the senate. All we cared was that her make up made her look bad. We screw up a lot.

Perhaps it is my contemplative mood, but how did we ever allow the character assassination of Dan Rather? He had been a whipping boy of conservative press for years, which should have raised red flags from the beginning of "The Scandal". After he retired from The CBS Nightly News, his place on 60 Minutes was curtailed and he was left hanging.

We should all remember the way it went down, right? In October 2004, The CBS Nightly News chose to go with a story based on a document that they had acquired from a source. The document was a memo from George W. Bush's superior office in the Air National Guard telling of preferential treatment that George was receiving. This document was backed up by several sources, and after sitting on it for a couple of days, they headlined with it, causing a major firestorm. Over the next couple of days, Republicans sought many different means of discrediting it. What they settled on were two things that both seem incredibly sketchy: 1) they somehow discovered that the document was forged and 2) they pressured the sources to back away from the story. CBS tried to get their sources to defend them, but they refused and went into hiding. I always assumed that this was a Karl Rove plant from the very beginning, but the originating source of the document is not the issue: the issue is how WE handled this event.

The truth of the revelation should be even more damaging to the president than the original story. They interviewed the secretary of Bush's superior officer and she stated that even though she didn't type this particular document (that it was a forgery), she typed many just like it with the exact same information. She not only backed up the claim from the original story, but that she had typed several pieces stating this information or similar information. She knew that George had received special treatment.

The second truth is that the media and their sources allowed themselves to be bullied by a political party. The original story had sources. And despite the above revelation by the secretary, these sources remained in hiding. CBS News followed the protocol that all journalists follow, but the Republican Party bullied the sources into submission.

Was this collusion to take down Dan Rather? Perhaps, but this case is more disgusting than that. We watched true journalism get mugged, raped, and murdered before our eyes, without letting out a peep. A titan of the 20th Century has been disgraced because he did his job and some political hacks can't win without cheating. So where are we? Where is our humanity?