Truth and Reconciliation

One might almost be inclined to feel sorry for still-my-president if one could only forget what a horrific mess he's made of things.  Reading the transcript of his last press conference was bad enough -- seeing the still pictures or the video of the clueless guy struggling to present his administration in a positive light was truly painful.  Jon Stewart said, "He really doesn't know why we're mad at him!"  I think that might be true.  He's been living in an even thicker bubble than I'd imagined.

His petulant defenses of his interrogation procedures ("Do you remember what it was like right after 9/11?") are particularly gruesome when they're followed just a day or two later by the assessment of a senior administration official that she couldn't bring a certain Guantanamo case to trial because "His treatment met the legal definition of torture."

I admit to being of two minds as to how strenuously the Obama administration should investigate and attempt to charge senior administration officials for war crimes.  The country is in such serious shape that I really don't want their attention diverted in that direction.  It's also clear that, unlike his predecessor, Obama really is trying hard to be a uniter (note his unannounced dinner the other night with several prominent conservative columnists), and any attempt to address the torture and civil liberties issues now would severely damage that effort.

But the damage that's been done to the country has been so severe that I'm loathe to let it go altogether.  If you read the comments to the various news stories on the torture angle it is clear that there are plenty of people who now feel that the administration is completely justified in doing whatever they feel is necessary and that concerns about torturing terrorists are just more namby-pamby left wing liberal hand-wringing.

Thank god we've had Bush, they say.  He kept us safe.  Actually, he didn't.  You can't prove a negative in the first place, but if one wants to run with that argument, then it was Clinton who kept us safe and Bush who screwed up and allowed 9/11 to happen.  There were plenty of warnings.  The evidence is now clear and it was pretty obvious at the time.  Remember Condi Rice saying that nobody could have imagined that terrorists would fly airplanes into buildings?  The report from the Rudman-Hart Commission suggesting just that possibility had been on her desk for months.  I never could understand why she was not only allowed to keep her job as NSA, but was eventually promoted to Secretary of State.

When I was growing up, and was learning about the United States of America, I learned that its heroes were the people who were willing to die in defense of its liberties.  Young men and women went off to war to protect, not just the lives of those at home, but their right to free speech, to free assembly, to freely practice one's own religion, to be free from excessive government control and surveillance.  I grew up believing that our system of government and our way of life was a beacon to the world showing how a free people were willing to put their lives on the line rather than compromise those precious freedoms.  I grew up believing that protecting our principles was more important than just protecting my personal safety.

That's what Bush took away from me.  And I want it back.

I don't care what happens to him.  I don't feel any need to see him punished.  I wish that Congress had had the guts to impeach him years ago, when it might have made a difference.  That doesn't matter now.  But we, as a nation, still have to come to terms with what went terribly wrong.  If we are going to be able to get back to the country that I grew up believing in, we've got to be able to acknowledge to the world that the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz vision of the country was a terrible wrong turn, and that we will do everything possible to see that we don't go down that road again.

In that last press conference, Bush said, "I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged. It may be damaged amongst some of the elite, but people still understand America stands for freedom, that America is a country that provides such great hope."

Wrong again, George.  But I think we still have a chance to get it back.  I still believe in the best of my country that much.

UPDATE:  At this morning's confirmation hearing for Obama's pick for Attorney General, Eric Holder said what no Bush administration official has been willing to say: "Waterboarding is torture." 

Finally.


Living In The Middle Of History

It took me nearly four months, but earlier this week I finished reading Europe: A History.  (The reading was not uninterrupted by other things -- it's too big of a doorstop to bring with me when I'm traveling).

It's a grim picture.  As gruesome as some of the barbarism and cruelty of earlier ages has been, there isn't much to rival the 20th century.   What the human race seems to have learned most in the previous centuries has been improved methods for destroying each other.

I'm not big on the concept of "progress".  While there have been undeniable advances in the overall level of material comfort (although one should keep in mind that the general living standard of a large portion of the planet is still far below the typical European peasant of the 14th century), it is hard to find any evidence that the human race as a whole has learned much of anything when it comes to kindness, empathy, or a capacity for increasing self-awareness.  We're still pretty much the same brutish, petty, jealous, paranoid and cruel stumblebums we've always been.  The glee with which people have seized upon the anonymity of the internet to exhibit their worst tendencies is a uniquely 21st century exemplar of that.

It's the exceptions that give one hope, of course.  And the exceptions are many.  There's an insurance agency that has a marvelous ad campaign on the theme that every day millions of people do the right thing -- it's little things, like the mother who picks up her kids at a ball game and looks back to see one lone little boy still waiting for his dad, and turns around and sits with him until the dad arrives, or the young woman in the wheel chair who goes out through the rain and pushes past the innumerable small indignities foisted on the disabled in order to be able to cast her vote.  Honest to god, I choke up when I see these ads.

Were I still a christian, perhaps I would see the deplorable lack of empathy as a manifestation of original sin, that what cripples us is our inability to put ourselves in the place of another.  As it is, I can only see it as part of the inexplicable nature of human beings.  And yet it seems to me that it would take so little effort for people to be just a little bit more patient and generous with each other.  Just a tiny bit less selfishness and a little bit more empathetic listening would make such a huge difference.

But looking at the vast and complex story laid out in Europe doesn't leave one with much hope that we're going to see any such changes.  It hasn't happened so far, so why would one think that things would be different from here?  It puts me at odds with traditional Western views of history that tend to be linear, and in their more optimistic versions, a continual ascent.  I lean towards the circular visions of the Lakota or the Taoists. 

I return many times to one of the lessons that my mother taught me.  As a reading specialist in the local small town high school for many years, she spent much of her time with the kids who were not going to make it.  They were the ones who were going to drop out, at best get a halfway decent job in the mill, and end up drinking too much, getting divorced, being alienated from their kids, and wondering what had happened to their lives.  Before she retired, she was working with some of those kids, who were clearly on the same track as their parents.  And yet she went at it with the same energy and outpouring of love and caring for each one of those kids right up until the day she retired.  I asked her one time how she managed to keep doing that, knowing that no matter what she did many of those kids were already lost.

She told me that she knew that she couldn't save anybody.  "But," she said, "it's as if in everybody's life there's a balance, on one side the good stuff comes in, and on the other the bad.  How that tips in the long run is out of my control.  But I can make sure that what I give them goes into the good side."

So I ask you, as you go out into the world today, ask yourself with everybody you run into, are you putting your stuff in the good side or the bad?

I don't believe in progress, and I don't believe in saving the world, but I do believe in the inexplicable magnificence of individual human beings, who are so often so much finer than they have any reason to be.


Evidence Based Librarianship?

I have this naive, idealistic notion that librarians, moreso than the members of most other professions, should be particularly scrupulous about facts.  My idealism is often tested.  The latest disappointment comes from the rising tide of hysteria in the biblioblogosphere over Sarah Palin's attempts to ban books when she was mayor of Wasilla and for trying to fire the city librarian for failing to do so.  But a careful reading of the facts reveals no evidence for either of these charges.

The fullest account that I'm aware of is in the Anchorage Daily News, but even a careful reading of the Time magazine article, which appears to be where most people picked up the charge, gives a subtly different picture.

Palin clearly inquired of the librarian, at least three times, what her position would be if she were asked to censor books.  The librarian was aghast at the very suggestion.  Given Palin's background, I think it is reasonable to assume that if a case had arisen where a citizen wanted something removed from the library, Palin would have supported it.  My guess is that her questions to the librarian were intended, at least in part, to get an idea of how big a fight she'd put up and what kind of process was in place.   But there is no indication that an attempt to ban or censor anything ever actually occurred.

Palin definitely tried to fire the librarian, as she did other city officials.  She did fire the police chief.  Both the librarian and the police chief had publicly supported her opponent in the mayoral election.  The police chief had nothing to do with banning books, and Palin backed down on firing the librarian.  Did the librarian's response to the inquiries about banning books add to Palin's concerns about her "loyalty"?  It certainly didn't do her any good.  But there isn't any evidence that it was the primary cause for the attempted firing.

Palin's speech on Wednesday was a breathtakingly cynical array of exaggerations, misleading statements and outright lies.  There are lots of good reasons to be opposed to her election as Vice-President, and I would not want to be misinterpreted as trying to defend her.  But I suffer from this quaint devotion to the facts and it's hard for me to see how claiming that Palin attempted to ban books and then tried to fire the librarian for failing to do so is any different than claiming the Michelle Obama hates America or that Barack is going to raise everybody's taxes or any of the other ridiculous claims that set democratic supporters frothing over the terrible misdeeds of Republicans.

If those who support Obama can't do any better than that, one could almost be forgiven for sitting this election out.  I won't, because I think the issues are too important, but I'm often not much happier with those who are supposedly on "my side" than I am with those on the other.


Campaigning in Alabama

It's going to be a long three months.  As I approached the ramp to the interstate this morning I was behind a big white pickup truck that had a very large sign plastered on the tailgate:

Obama promises to raise your taxes, limit our oil supply, and appoint liberal activist judges.  Vote John McCain

There's a bit of truth to the first charge, if it's me or somebody in my tax bracket who is reading the sign.  But it's not me that the sign is directed to -- most of the people in Alabama who read that sign would actually have their taxes cut under Obama's current plans.  I'm not sure where the charge about oil comes from and of course he certainly hasn't "promised to appoint liberal activist judges."  What I'm always curious about when I see things like this is whether or not the driver of the truck knows that these are lies or has been hoaxed into believing that they are true.  Or whether or not he cares.

And Dick Cheney is in town today for some kind of top secret fund raiser.

I hope there's a martini in my future.


Honesty In Government

It's sort of creepily fascinating that even the announcement of the AG's resignation comes with a scattering of little lies.  According to the NYT, Gonzalez calls my president on Friday to resign.  Bush balks a little and tells him to come down to Crawford for lunch on Sunday.  At lunch, Gonzalez gives him the official letter and Bush accepts it.  And yet,

As late as Sunday afternoon, Mr. Gonzales himself was denying through his spokesman that he was quitting. The spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse, said Sunday that he telephoned the attorney general about the reports of his imminent resignation “and he said it wasn’t true — so I don’t know what more I can say.”

What in the world is one to make of that?  I can understand not wanting to preempt the official announcement Monday morning (although it would worry me if they thought it was still a secret when Gonzalez went to the microphone), so maybe you don't want poor Brian to confirm it.  So make him unavailable.  Go for "no comment."  Why flat out lie?  Is there any purpose being served with it?

No.  It's just that the "reckless disregard" for the truth is so deeply ingrained with these guys that lying comes naturally.  Even when it's pointless.  (Bush did the same thing when he fired Rummy, explicitly denying it after the decision had been made, and then justifying his lie to the press corps a couple of days later in a tone that indicated he was puzzled that anybody would think he should've told the truth about it).

Personally, I think the reason they waited until this week to make the announcement is that the Daily Show is taking the week off.  Froomkin is on vacation.

Decades hence, when the historians look back on the calamity that was 43's administration I'm afraid that it won't be the Iraq war that distinguishes it as particularly remarkable in the history of our young country.   That war is symptom and emblem of the deeper rot. 

The sheer incompetence of the president and his crew still astonishes me.  I can tolerate political differences, priorities that might be different from mine.  But my president's inability to accomplish much of anything, his serial misreading of his own constituency (the Harriet Miers nomination and the collapse of his social security proposals being prime examples), and his insistence on putting his confidence in people who are very clearly out of their depth angers me more than any policy dispute I might have with him.

But alas, the one thing that they have been good at is eroding the balance of powers that is at the heart of American democracy.   To think that only a decade ago, the United States, despite all of our bluster and blundering, our rude manners and pathetic cultural insularity, was still seen around the world as an example of hope and that "beacon of liberty" that speechwriters like to talk about.  Now there are very few countries in which a majority of the people do not see us as doing more harm in the world than good.

Theoretically, I suppose, we might, over time, be able to repair our reputation.  I'm not terribly confident, but if the democratic president to come can bring in a coterie of really smart professional diplomats and cabinet leaders we might be able to restore some confidence.  What I don't think can be repaired is the damage that's been done to the balance of powers.  The unitary executive view of the presidency (exemplified in the liberal use of signing statements), the extreme reliance on executive privilege, the bizarre transformation of the vice-presidency into a powerful office that functions as its own fourth branch of government, and the insistence that civil liberties must always give way in the face of perceived or imagined security threats are likely to be maintained.

Every president has tried to expand their sphere of power and to limit the abilities of Congress and the Supreme Court to rein them in.  None have been as successful as this one.  And since the Supreme Court is now stacked with supporters of the unitary executive, as the various relevant suits make their way up to the high court, the imperial power of the presidency will eventually be upheld.  And it would be naive in the extreme to believe that if Obama, or Clinton, or Edwards or whoever else might rise to the top over the next eight months comes into office with that power that they're going to give it up.  They'll believe that they will never misuse it.  But Bush believes that, too.

That's the saddest part of all.  I actually believe that Bush thinks that everything he does is for the good of the country.  He may be contemptuous of the American people, he may not have any clear understanding of what American democracy is actually about, he may be woefully ignorant of geopolitical realities, but he believes deeply that he is doing the right thing.  In the face of that, why should anyone be bothered by a few lies.


Participatory Democracy

Whenever the pundits decry the nastiness of modern attack ads, I can comfort myself by recalling that political campaigns throughout history have always been foul.  Read the Philadelphia newspapers from the late 1700s or scan the cartoons of Thomas Nast or Honore Daumier and tell me that the scurrilousness of the attacks, one side upon the other, is any more repellent now than it has been in 250 years.

Notwithstanding that historical perspective, I approach this election cycle more disheartened than I recall ever being.  There is a recklessness to the political rhetoric that is in keeping with the growing disregard for truth that has been a hallmark of the current administration.  The recent Kerry gaffe is a good example -- no one who took the time to read the transcript and the context of Kerry's remark could have misunderstood his intent -- but that didn't stop the White House from trumpeting the claim that Kerry was insulting the troops.  He foolishly handed them a club, and they had no compunctions about using it.

I don't mean to imply that Democrats are blameless in this mess -- a quick scan of campaigns across the country should quickly disabuse anyone of that.  What the Republican strategy of the last six years has made clear is how completely one can get away with a reckless disregard for the truth in political advertising -- and as that has become clear, politicians of all stripes have been eager to embrace the strategy and avoid what they see as the primary mistake of the Kerry presidential run, in failing to quickly, and head-on, confront the swift boat veterans. 

It turns out that when you lie about your opponent, the only people who are outraged at you are the partisans who weren't going to vote for you anyway.  The lies will help to energize your own base (whether or not they perceive them to be lies) and they may help to sway some of the undecided voters who are trying to weave their way unsteadily through the rhetorical muck.  There really isn't any down side.

My president's administration has been singularly inept (he hasn't even been any good at managing the things that I agree with him on -- immigration policy being one), and nothing that happens today is going to change that since he has made it clear that, while he is no longer "staying the course," (indeed, he has never taken that approach!) he is still surrounded by people who are doing a damned fine job and he'll stick with them as they make some minor tactical adjustments.

If the Democrats do take control of one or both houses of congress, this won't change.  The incoming politicians will not be much different from the politicians they are replacing, or from their Democratic colleagues who are already there -- quite willing to pander to the fears and emotions of the electorate, all too willing to support legislation that further unbalances the separation of powers for fear of being called soft on terrorism, and generally quite lacking in the sort of visionary leadership that we are so desperately in need of.

The reputation of the United States is in tatters and its standing in the world may never have been lower.  Our ability to influence world events in a positive direction is practically nonexistent, and the notion that we provide a shining example of democracy to the rest of the world is widely considered to be a tasteless joke.  We have ceded to the presidency a degree of independent power that the constitution was explicitly intended to prevent, and no future president, of any party, is ever going to be willing to give that back.   The current makeup of the Supreme Court insures that the theory of the unitary executive, and all that the Bush administration has drawn from that, will be firmly upheld when those challenges finally get that far.

This fundamental restructuring of the presidency, which has been a goal of its architects for nearly twenty years, will be the primary legacy of this administration.  Changing the party that controls Congress is going to do nothing to roll it back.


Happy Mother's Day

In "Lookin' For A Leader" from his new album Living With War, Neil Young sings: "America is beautiful / but she has an ugly side."  Nowhere is this more starkly demonstrated than in our disgustingly high infant mortality rates.

Save The Children has just released a report on the State of the World's Mothers 2006 which includes these facts:

  • Infant mortality in the US is 2.5 times higher than Finland, Iceland and Norway, and about 3 times higher than Japan
  • Among industrialized countries, the US is tied for 2nd to last place with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia
  • Within the US, the infant death rate is highest in Washington DC
  • The rate is 3.4 times higher for blacks and 1.5 times higher for Hispanics than for whites

The depressing thing about this is that it isn't new.  It's not as if something has suddenly gone wrong and with the release of these figures there'll be a sudden national outcry and the energy and will to fix this.  We've always been at the bottom of the heap.  It's just never been a priority.

Infant mortality is a matter of poverty and education.  It's not complicated.  Obviously, the US has the resources to fix this problem.  But in Congress yesterday they're arguing (although not very hard -- the Republicans held a victory rally on the steps of the capitol before the vote was actually cast) about extending the tax cuts on capital gains, as if that's the most critical economic problem we're currently facing.  I don't know if Kanye is right that my president doesn't care about black people, but it's quite obvious that as a nation we don't really care about poor babies needlessly dying.

When Katrina hit, America was shocked to find out that New Orleans was populated by poor black people who didn't have the resources to evacuate.  It'd be a wake-up call, some said.  After seeing those pictures, we wouldn't be able to turn away from that reality.  We'd be forced to mobilize the national will to deal with the horrifying poverty that we had suddenly become aware of.  Of course, that didn't happen.  The news reports quickly devolved into the usual partisan finger pointing and posturing and after a few weeks we got bored and moved on.  Pretty pathetic.

Truly, it baffles me.   I'd like to think that it's a matter of ignorance, that most people in the United States simply assume that because we are the richest and most powerful country the world has ever seen, our children must be the world's healthiest, and as this latest report gets it's brief mention on page A26 of a few newspapers, it'll seize the national imagination and action will be demanded.

Not a chance.


The Arrogance of Conquerors

I'm babbling into my phone as I practically stagger down the street...  "I'd say it was one of the best that I've ever seen...  Except that they've each been one of the best I've ever seen..."

Lynn is laughing as she listens to my exuberance, "You always say that..."

I've just left the Shakespeare Theater Company's performance of The Persians, and, as is always the case when I walk out of the Lansburgh Theater I'm feeling quite overwhelmed by what I've just been a part of.

I've never been much of a theater goer.  Because of Marian's love for Broadway musicals, I've seen quite a few of those in the last decade (both in New York and on the road).  On the few occasions when I've seen a "straight" play, done professionally, I've enjoyed it tremendously, but it's just not something that I generally make time for, or even think much about when I'm travelling and looking for things to do.  But a couple of years ago, as I was getting out of the shower, there was a story on NPR about a new production of Cyrano de Bergerac.  I first saw a tv version of the play when I was in my early teens and it had a profound effect on me.  I've seen every version I could (including Steve Martin's marvelous Roxanne), and read it several times.   So I perked up at the radio story and was thrilled to find, at the end of it, that they were talking about a production that was about to open in DC and that it would be playing while I was there on my next trip.  I immediately got online and ordered a ticket.

It was one of the deepest, richest artistic experiences I've ever had -- right up there with seeing Branford and Ellis at Blues Alley, or walking out of the Whistler retrospective a changed man...  Since then, whenever I'm going to be in DC I look to see if there's something playing at the Shakespeare Theater, and if so, I get a ticket.  Doesn't matter what the show is. 

So this time it was The Persians.  The very beginning of the western theater tradition.  2500 years old.  And absolutely contemporary.  Bob Mondello has an excellent review in the DC City Paper that really gets into the details of the production.   I was too busy being dazzled by the theatrical effects to be as analytical about it as Mondello, so I'm grateful to him for explaining some of the stagecraft that was being used to pound me into emotional submission.  When I read his description of that final heartbreaking moment between Xerxes and his mother I wept all over again.

The play is only 75 minutes long, without intermission.  So there's none of the build & release of tension that one expects in a modern play.  It's just build.  As I practically stumbled out of the theater wiping the tears from my face, I wasn't even sure why I was crying.  They sure weren't the sentimental movie tears that Lynn & Marian tease me about -- this was something much deeper, a complexity of emotions mixing sorrow and anger and fear and astonishment and empathy and horror.  Maybe standing up on my theater seat and howling would have been a more accurate expression of the pounding in my brain & chest. 

This production would be as powerful and moving even if we weren't seeing it played out in front of us in the news every day.  The parallels between the arrogance of the Persians and the blind hubris of my president and his crew of blinkered fanatics couldn't be clearer.  2500 years.  Our politicians learn nothing.

The scholars have a few theories on what Aeschylus was trying to do with this play -- risky business to do something like this in front of the Athenians only a few years after the real events took place.  The one I find most compelling is that Aeschylus was beginning to see in the Athenians the same arrogance to power & grandeur that had led Xerxes to overreach.  It was a warning.  He won first prize in the competition.  And the end of Athens played out just as he might have foretold.

I try to listen to the little imp on my shoulder who tugs at my ear and warns me of my own hubris.  I've learned to be grateful to it -- saved my ass more than once.  I might have to ask sometime if it knows whatever happened to W's imp.  Did he never get one, or did it just give up a long time ago?  When the hubris imps gather in the Cloud 9 bar on their days off, do they look down at W & Condi & Rumsfeld & Cheney and shake their little impish heads in wonder?  And maybe there's even a bit of admiration at how willfully blind & foolish those humans can be, even with all of the horrifying examples of their history laid out before them.


Terrorism and Democracy

"... democracy yields peace and the best hope for peace in the Middle East is two democracies living side by side.  So the Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy."  So says my president at his news conference yesterday.  He continues to beat the drum that by bringing democracy to the Middle East, he will eliminate terrorism.

Quite coincidentally (since I'm several issues behind), I've just finished reading an article in Foreign Affairs pointing out that, on the basis of the actual evidence, "the data available do not show a strong relationship between democracy and an absence of or a reduction in terrorism. Terrorism appears to stem from factors much more specific than regime type."   The overwhelming victory of Hamas in the Palestinian election neatly underscores that point.

More striking than this rather unremarkable conclusion, however, is some of the polling data that the article presents on public opinion in the Middle East.   While there is general support for the notion of democracy, and a general belief that it can work in the Middle East, there is intense dislike of US policies.  The US is viewed most favorably in Lebanon, where 32 percent of respondents claimed to have a somewhat favorable or very favorable attitude toward the United States.  In Saudi Arabia, that response was 4 percent.  Four percent!  No wonder we're not so enthusiastic about promoting democracy in Saudi Arabia -- any democractically elected government there would be actively hostile to US interests.

W and his crew are so filled with righteousness that they've never been willing to look deeply into the causes of the intense dislike around the world for the US, and they blithely ignore the fact that in the past five years they have intensified that dislike manyfold.   As long as W continues on his present course (and I see no reason whatsoever to think that he will change one bit), he will continue to inflame those that hate the US.  But then, he's not really a "cause and effect" kinda guy -- I'm sure he sees himself as more of a "vision" kind of guy.  Those pesky facts musn't be allowed to get in the way.


Politics and Professionalism

I get annoyed when conservative commentators get hostile when a musician or an actor takes a liberal political stand.  Whenever that happens, the Limbaughs and O'Reillys are sure to fulminate about the perverseness of celebrities daring to have political opinions.  The irony that their political opinions make them celebrities seems to escape them.  And it almost seems like cheating to point out that Ronald Reagan was a professional actor who would never have achieved the prominence he did if he hadn't leveraged his celebrity.  Actors are as entitled to be passionate about politics as anyone else -- but because they're individuals, not as actors.

Same with librarians.  As Marcus notes in a recent post, we tend, as a group, to lean left.   I don't know why.  One might speculate, I suppose, that a commitment toward freedom of information is bundled up with a host of other beliefs that push one toward a more liberal political bent.  But "liberal" and "conservative" have become such confused hot buttons these days that I'm hesitant to take that very far.  Leave it as an empirical fact.

But it isn't universal.  Individual librarians run the full gamut of the political spectrum, and I know Republican-leaning librarians who have found themselves in uncomfortable situations when they're with a group of their peers who are enjoying some convivial Bush-bashing without realizing that not everyone at the table shares the same views.

How we deal with that is complicated.  Politeness among colleagues demands that we be sensitive to the views of others when we gather together.   It doesn't mean, however, that we don't get to express political views -- as individuals.  We just shouldn't be surprised if everyone at the table doesn't feel the same way.

As librarians, it's a different issue.  We may have a professional stake in the Patriot Act or copyright legislation.  It is probably not an issue for librarianship whether or not Sam Alito is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. 

But the lines aren't always clear.  When we gather at conferences, we gather as librarians, but that doesn't mean that we check our individuality at the door.   If my president were to be impeached (let me indulge in fantasy for a moment), I would oppose any attempt on the part of the Medical Library Association to take a position on whether or not that was a good thing.  But if I were in the audience when a speaker made positive comments about it, I would certainly cheer.  Those opposed are more than welcome to boo.