Sgt. Schultz would have been proud

It was Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said (that I first heard) that while a person is entitled to their own opinion, they are not entitled to their own facts.  The annoying trait among so many people lately–to accept as fact only that information which supports their beliefs, and to reflexively deny the…the factualness of what does not–is nicely addressed in today’s piece by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

[I] can remember a time when facts settled arguments. This is back before everything became a partisan shouting match, back before it was permissible to ignore or deride as “biased” anything that didn’t support your worldview.

If you and I had an argument and I produced facts from an authoritative source to back me up, you couldn’t just blow that off. You might try to undermine my facts, might counter with facts of your own, but you couldn’t just pretend my facts had no weight or meaning.

But that’s the intellectual state of the union these days, as evidenced by all the people who still don’t believe the president was born in Hawaii or that the planet is warming.


To listen to talk radio, to watch TV pundits, to read a newspaper’s online message board, is to realize that increasingly, we are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth. We admit no ideas that do not confirm us, hear no voices that do not echo us, sift out all information that does not validate what we wish to believe.

I submit that any people thus handicapped sow the seeds of their own decline; they respond to the world as they wish it were rather [than] to the world as it is.

Do you know what you call a person who does see the world as it is, and doesn’t like what he or she sees, and despite having the responsibility and the power to do something about it, doesn’t?  Yep: a member of the United States Congress.   Paul Krugman accuses Republicans, but they’re not alone on this.

At this point, then, Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.

Know-nothings, and do-nothings.  What worries me the most is the growing number of people in this country who have one foot in each camp.

See, I was right all along

I am amused by human behavior.  At least, I am in those cases when I’m not gobsmacked, or just saddened and confused, by human behavior.

Recently I was amused when a friend sent me a link to a story heralding the unmasking of the Great Global Warming Conspiracy.  He was positively triumphant about the whole thing, as if he’d personally waded into the swamp and slain the dragon, armed only with a Q-tip and the righteousness of his cause.

Today, I sent him this:

If he’s amused, he’s keeping it to himself.  I am not gobsmacked by this development.

more truth, more free

Who knew—now I can’t open a Web page without seeing something new on the topic of trying terrorists.

First, an opinion piece arguing, among other things, that the families of September 11 victims would benefit emotionally from seeing Khalid Sheik Mohammed brought to justice at the site of the crime…an interesting perspective.

And then, who but Ben Sargent, one of my all-time favorite skewerers of fatuousness editorial cartoonists, should offer a thought:

…and the truth shall set you free

I’ve wondered why some people object to putting accused terrorists on trial in civilian courts; today, Houston attorney and Navy veteran Patrick McCann wonders the same thing and offers a thoughtful position on the value of such trials.

My default belief?  People who hijack planes and set off bombs are committing crimes, particularly if they aren’t wearing the uniform of a country that’s declared war on us when they do it.  So why wouldn’t we try them in civilian court?  McCann notes that we, in fact, have, without the courtroom becoming the target of another attack:

the sky does not actually fall when trials occur, even trials of, say, Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th 9/11 hijacker, who now rots in prison. Or that of the original shoe bomber Richard Reid, who is also in prison. Or that of Omar Abdel Rahman, known as the “blind sheikh,” who first tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. Remember him? Well, if you don’t, it is probably because he was tried and sentenced to life in prison in the federal district court of New York. He now is living out his days at the “supermax” prison in Colorado. By the way, Timothy McVeigh, a man who tragically succeeded in blowing up innocent people, was also tried and executed in the federal court system.

As for the worry that an Al Qaeda defendant would use the public trial to condemn us, and tout his beliefs: as they say, bring it on.

The battleground of ideas is not fought by weapons of propaganda but by truth. There can be no simpler, greater truth than to place men such as the most recent tool of these fanatics on public trial, broadcast for the world. Let him spout an ideology that requires the murder of fellow Muslims, the enslavement of women and the use of suicide bombers to carry the word of God. Let him do so in a public court, where the record is tested by his lawyers and where the truth emerges in front of 12 citizens and the rest of the world. Let him try and twist the truth, as he certainly will, because he will fail. Let every person across the globe see the difference between the vision of the power-mad old men who command the vulnerable to slaughter in God’s name and the reality of life and liberty in a place that treats even these fools with decency.


There is no simpler way to reveal these people for what they truly are, and no better way to show the world who we are. That is how the battle gets won, not by hysterical fear of a trial, nor by making these men out to be somehow too powerful for our system to deal with. They are not. It actually helps them to think our politicians and pundits are pandering to panic and fear when they read that they are too dangerous to hold in the United States. They do not deserve such mythic status, and our cowering pundits and public figures should not give it to them.

Today the attorney general said he decided a civilian court was good enough for the underwear bomber, and got no objection from military or intelligence (insert your own joke here).  A good sign, I think.