Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Ignoring Competence And Honesty -- Again

Dear Colleagues:

Recently the papers have been filled with interesting reports. Congress has failed to enact a bill changing our intelligence set-up. There has been a shake-up at the CIA, with many resignations. Condoleezza Rice has been nominated to be Secretary of State. Republicans in Congress changed their rules, virtually without delay, to allow Tom DeLay to remain their leader even if he is indicted. And in the midst of all this, George W. Bush is regularly propagandized to be a "change agent."

There is something that one infrequently reads about in connection with these and other matters, however. That is the question of honesty and competence (honesty being, of course, a sine qua non for competence because wrong decisions are fathered by false facts, as in Viet Nam and Iraq). Has anyone raised the question, for example, of whether all the restructuring in the world of our intelligence set-up will make any difference if the people who run it and work in it continue to be incompetent, as seems too often to have been the case in the past? There seems to be an assumption that restructuring will equal or necessarily leads to success, although the last 100 years are littered with governmental and corporate proof that this is not so, and that it is competence that is needed for success. How could such a simple, everyday lesson be so regularly ignored?

With regard to the CIA, is anyone discussing whether Porter Goss – a very partisan politician -- and his Congressional staff tag-alongs are competent to work a desirable revolution in the agency? Are the people who are being cast out among the incompetent personnel of the CIA? Who knows? And, for that matter, who can know, since the CIA is one of those many American institutions where horrible misconduct and inept management of affairs is hidden by secrecy -- the historically used device for hiding the truth (as the secretive Bush appears to understand very well).

We will now have a Secretary of State whose level of competence is illustrated by her demonstrably false statement that it was impossible to predict the use of airplanes to destroy buildings -- it was impossible to predict, or foresee, the possibility of using airplanes to try to destroy buildings despite the use of Kamikazes to destroy ships, despite the plane that flew into the Empire State building, despite the plane that was deliberately flown into Clinton’s White House, despite governmentally-known plans to fly a plane into the Eiffel Tower? Rice is a great yes-woman for Bush, but a fine mind she is not, regardless of how many Stanfords she may help run and no matter how successful her articulateness may make her in fooling gullible people.
Does the question of honesty have to be explicated with regard to DeLay?

And Bush is a "change agent?" Let us put to one side that so were all the great tyrants of history, so that being a change agent is not ipso facto a great thing to be. Let us instead ask a simple question. How can someone be considered a desirable change agent when he has not even been intelligent enough to learn or care that both God and the devil are always in the details, when he and his supporters boast that he simply sets policy and ignores the rest – a sure fire recipe for a leader to incompetently fail. (Or is Iraq a huge success, but we just don’t know it?) And as for Bush’s level of truthfulness, this may be assumed to be high by denizens of red states, but to me it does not ever bear discussion.

So, where are we? One blogger’s opinion is that we are at a place where basic fundaments of a successful society are largely being ignored -- again. This posting has hardly even begun to touch on the uncountable examples where this occurs. If you want a decent society, you must promote, as basic values, honesty, competence and a decent level of concern for others. Is there anyone out there who thinks that this is what is going on in the United States today?

A last matter, one that to me is both a bit puzzling and in a way troublesome. As a daily reader of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe, and as an occasional reader of The Washington Post, it has been my impression that the only columnists who are willing to speak the truth, who are willing to say that Bush and his crowd are incompetents and to use words or phrases like incompetent, or dumb, or there are doubts about basic competency, are African Americans. I am thinking particularly of Bob Herbert of The Times, Derrick Jackson of The Globe, and William Raspberry of The Post. Assuming that my impression is correct -- and maybe it is wrong -- why is it that only African Americans will say the truth? Is it because their people have gotten the short end of the stick for so long that this is how they see things, and they and their people, after centuries of slavery and segregation, figure that they might as well speak the truth in unvarnished terms because they have but little to lose? Whereas white columnists generally have a different take on matters because whites have always been on top, and white people think it impolite and socially unacceptable to speak candidly? Is it some other reason? Is my entire perception incorrect? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but, as said, do find it troubling that, at least seemingly, only African American columnists are willing to speak the real truth.*

*If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.

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