The recent brouhaha over salary increases to Ozaukee County supervisors brought some interesting issues to light. The proposed increases of 13.3% for supervisors and 51% for the Board Chairperson fell six votes short of the 2/3 majority required by state statute. Some of the debate comments were enlightening. Supervisor Dave Barrow from Cedarburg argued that the raise was necessary to attract qualified supervisory candidates in the future. That’s 180 degrees from my perspective as an elected official for some eleven years. Good people are attracted to public service usually to give something back to their community, not for the compensation. In fact, I believe it works the other way – a large compensation package attracts the mediocre and often incompetent who see the salary as a way to improve their life style. One need look no further than many full time elected officials in this State to confirm this observation. So when Supervisor Barrow states “People don’t appreciate what they don’t pay for”, I reply, “People are happy they don’t get all the government they are already paying for.”
Supervisor Bob Walerstein raised the question, “Are we martyrs?” apparently referring to supervisors’ current compensation as inadequate. Is he correct? We can examine this question by comparing compensation levels of local equivalent elected officials, namely aldermen. Having been a Mequon alderman and a county supervisor I feel competent to say that the aldermanic position had a larger workload and a bigger responsibility to my constituents than did my supervisor position. Here’s a comparison of current compensation levels of these elected positions on an annual basis.:
The “Reduce the Size of the County Board” syndrome is back again after a short hiatus. This time it is apparently driven by a constituent of Cedarburg Supervisor Kathie Geracie who is allegedly threatening a referendum campaign to reduce the Board from 31 to 7. What a disaster that plan would be for the residents of Ozaukee County.
Instead of 31 community minded part-time supervisors, we’d end up with 7 full-timers. Some may think that will improve efficiency but one need only to observe that a dictatorship is probaby the most efficient form of government. Believe me in a democracy there is safety in numbers. Democracy is basically a messy process, but one that works when it involves a willingness of the people to participate in their own government to a maximum extent.
How we get information from a captured terrorist is a debate that is roiling the country. Is torture appropriate if it means saving innocent lives? Just what qualifies as the definition of torture anyway?
I went to my "World Book Dictionary" and extracted the definition of torture as: "the act of inflicting very severe pain." We can all cite examples that include beatings with implements, extracting finger nails, branding with hot irons and hanging backward from the shoulders. These kinds of treatments leave permanent marks and disabilities for a lifetime.
How about water boarding, a very effective technique for extracting information? Does water boarding meet the definition of torture? No, water boarding does not inflict very severe pain leaving permanent scars and disabilities. Rather, it is a psychological experience wherein a person’s mind believes he is drowning under a wave of water being poured on his face. In contrast to the technique used during the Spanish Inquisition when the head was held under water, the current method incurs little danger of drowning. Other psychological techniques used to extract information include continuous loud music, disrupting sleep, humiliating treatment and solitary confinement. The latter are long term psychological treatments, whereas water boarding apparently produces almost instantaneous results. None of the many psychological treatments leave any permanent physical damage.
As the debate regarding water boarding rages in the US Congress we now learn that the same members of Congress who approved and encouraged this technique after 9/11 are now opposed. This confuses me because they offer no logical explanation except they now apparently believe that it will help win elections. What a sorry rationale!
I can see carrying the torture debate into new areas. All of us have our own definition. In the psychological field I might consider being exposed to Senator Hillary Clinton’s cackle or Roseann singing our National Anthem, for hours at a time, a form of torture, although no severe physical pain is involved. On the other hand, the use of a Taser by our law enforcement agencies certainly meets the dictionary definition of torture, since it inflicts severe physical pain to the recipient. If you’ve seen the tape of the driver dropped by a patrolman with screams of anguish or the student’s strident cry: "Don’t Tase me Bro," you know that real pain was inflicted. To see for yourself just click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bVa6jn4rpE and/or http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312466,00.html.
One might wonder why Senator Harry Reid isn’t carrying on about the use of Tasers compared to his rants against water boarding. A Taser is used because it creates instantaneous results and is supposedly non-lethal but it does inflict severe pain. Actually 150 deaths have been reported in the 2001-2005 period of persons who were Tasered. Water boarding is used because it brings almost instantaneous results, does not inflict severe pain and no deaths have been reported from its usage. How is it that we can embrace Tasering (severe pain and often lethal) and yet oppose water boarding (no pain and not lethal)? Very puzzling!
I have some other ideas for extracting information from captured terrorists. I’ve always considered that a prostate exam or a colonoscopy is a form of torture. Why hasn’t the CIA thought about inflicting two prostate exams or a colonoscopy every day on the hard cases? In less than a week, they’d get all the information they ever wanted – and without a single complaint from Congress.
In summary, why can’t we all agree that physical torture per its dictionary definition is out-of-bounds, but psychological techniques, including water boarding, used within specific bounds and national security necessities, are acceptable.
While I’m on the subject of intelligence and national security, the lack of logic emanating from the halls of Congress frustrates me. We’ve all read and heard for several years now, how bad the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was when it stated that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction – and thereby resulted in a faulty decision to invade Iraq. Now that same clientele who pounded that NIE have embraced the latest NIE that Iran has halted their nuclear weapons program – although they are still going all-out with their nuclear enrichment project which produces the main elements to create A-bombs. I can only conclude that the NIE’s are used as a convenient crutch to support one’s political position to gain votes and win elections. What a shame when American citizens can’t count on their elected representatives in Congress to subvert their politics to put the security of their country first!