Blog Credo

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Authoritarian Right

This is a well-written, well thought out exploration of how the Right in this country has fallen into an authoritarian mindset.

It gibes well with this piece by Martin Longman about how conservative "arguments" have no respect in academia.

The Republican party is broken.  And they control half the government.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why Do We Think Ted Cruz Is A Smart Man?

Cruz is this generation's Newt Gingrich, who was the previous generation's Henry Cabot Lodge, of whom it was said, "His mind was like the soil of his native New England: highly cultivated but barren."

Here, Cruz is either mouth-breathingly stupid or simply cynical beyond belief.  The latter is, of course, a possibility, but given his recent blunder in the Senate that allowed Obama and Reid to get a new Surgeon General and a dozen judges confirmed, I'd say the former explanation might make sense.

Cruz calls the Castro regime "totalitarian."  It's not, ok.  It doesn't have the ability to be totalitarian.  Totalitarian regimes control every facet of a country.  The Castro regime is certainly, brutally authoritarian - it is easily the worst regime in the western hemisphere.  But it's not totalitarian.  Not even close.  And we have diplomatic relations with far, far worse countries than Cuba.  Pakistan, for instance.  Or Vietnam.  Or Saudi Arabia, whom we consider our dear friend.  We have diplomatic relations with Russia, who just invaded Ukraine.

He then goes on to say the following:

"If history be our guide, the Castros will exploit that power to undermine America and oppress the Cuban people," he said. "First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba – this is one more very, very bad deal brokered by the Obama Administration.”

OK, no.

If "history be our guide" then greater connection between the United States and Cuba will lessen the ability of the Castros to control their populace.  The more Americans come and spend precious dollars in Cuba, the more capitalist they will become.  The more we flood their country with media, the less they will want to be told what to do by the Castros.

And as for "first Russia"....have you checked in on Putin's Russia, Senator Dipshit?  While the falling oil prices have hurt them, the sanctions - led by Obama - have crippled the Russian economy.  Putin's bargain with his populace, a modification of Deng Xiaoping's deal with the Chinese people after Tiananmen - you can be rich but not free - is falling to pieces.  If oil prices hadn't fallen, Russia wouldn't be suffering nearly as much, but the sanctions have crippled the Russian currency.

And similar sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy as well.  I'm fairly optimistic we will get a deal to end the Iranian nuclear program, and Senator Dipshit will go on Fox and say it's a bad deal, because totalitarian RussiaCubaCicero blah blah blah.

Ted Cruz is increasingly what Sarah Palin would sound like if she went to Harvard and Princeton.

I Take A Nap, Wake Up And The World Has Changed

America's Cuba policy has always been stupid.  I have never been sure if it was stupidity bread of fear, hatred or inertia, but I am glad we are on our way to moving beyond the idiocy of pretending that if we just close our eyes, put our hands over our ears and go la-la-la-la in a loud voice, we can pretend that Cuba never become communist.

We normalized relations with Vietnam before we did with Cuba.  That's just...

Anyway, we've been talking about going to England this summer, maybe we should go to Cuba instead.  See it before Disney gets there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Whiny Police

When Cleveland Brown Andrew Hawkins wore a t-shirt protesting the shootings of Tamir Rice and John Crawford, the head of the Cleveland PBA wrote a whiny demand for an apology.

Today, Hawkins responded.  And he responded in a way that should shut up the whiny police union reps who are trying to silence legitimate protest from some of the few African Americans who have the visibility to make their feelings known.

Read Hawkins's speech:

“I was taught that justice is a right that every American should have. Also justice should be the goal of every American. I think that’s what makes this country. To me, justice means the innocent should be found innocent. It means that those who do wrong should get their due punishment. Ultimately, it means fair treatment. So a call for justice shouldn’t offend or disrespect anybody. A call for justice shouldn’t warrant an apology.
“To clarify, I utterly respect and appreciate every police officer that protects and serves all of us with honesty, integrity and the right way. And I don’t think those kind of officers should be offended by what I did. My mom taught me my entire life to respect law enforcement. I have family, close friends that are incredible police officers and I tell them all the time how they are much braver than me for it. So my wearing a T-shirt wasn’t a stance against every police officer or every police department. My wearing the T-shirt was a stance against wrong individuals doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons to innocent people.
“Unfortunately, my mom also taught me just as there are good police officers, there are some not-so-good police officers that would assume the worst of me without knowing anything about me for reasons I can’t control. She taught me to be careful and be on the lookout for those not-so-good police officers because they could potentially do me harm and most times without consequences. Those are the police officers that should be offended.
“Being a police officer takes bravery. And I understand that they’re put in difficult positions and have to make those snap decisions. As a football player, I know a little bit about snap decisions, obviously on an extremely lesser and non-comparative scale, because when a police officer makes a snap decision, it’s literally a matter of life and death. That’s hard a situation to be in. But if the wrong decision is made, based on pre-conceived notions or the wrong motives, I believe there should be consequence. Because without consequence, naturally the magnitude of the snap decisions is lessened, whether consciously or unconsciously.
“I’m not an activist, in any way, shape or form. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred I keep my opinions to myself on most matters. I worked extremely hard to build and keep my reputation especially here in Ohio, and by most accounts I’ve done a solid job of decently building a good name. Before I made the decision to wear the T-shirt, I understood I was putting that reputation in jeopardy to some of those people who wouldn’t necessarily agree with my perspective. I understood there was going to be backlash, and that scared me, honestly. But deep down I felt like it was the right thing to do. If I was to run away from what I felt in my soul was the right thing to do, that would make me a coward, and I can’t live with that. God wouldn’t be able to put me where I am today, as far as I’ve come in life, if I was a coward.
“As you well know, and it’s well documented, I have a 2-year-old little boy. The same 2-year-old little boy that everyone said was cute when I jokingly threw him out of the house earlier this year. That little boy is my entire world. And the No. 1 reason for me wearing the T-shirt was the thought of what happened to Tamir Rice happening to my little Austin scares the living hell out of me. And my heart was broken for the parents of Tamir and John Crawford knowing they had to live that nightmare of a reality.
“So, like I said, I made the conscious decision to wear the T-shirt. I felt like my heart was in the right place. I’m at peace with it and those that disagree with me, this is America, everyone has the right to their first amendment rights. Those who support me, I appreciate your support. But at the same time, support the causes and the people and the injustices that you feel strongly about. Stand up for them. Speak up for them. No matter what it is because that’s what America’s about and that’s what this country was founded on.”

Why We Aren't Prosecuting Anyone For Torture

I've tried to figure out why we aren't prosecuting anyone, and I am hopeful I have an answer.

Watching what happened in Ferguson and Staten Island, I have to think that the Justice Department is worried that they wouldn't get a conviction.  People are fearful sheep who want some bullshit movie action hero to save them by being mean to "bad guys".

Acquittal of these jackals would be worse than bringing no charges.

So the Justice Department and the Administration is showing a lack of faith in the American people.  A lack of faith that history has shown to be completely justified.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Exams Are Done

Now comes lots and lots of writing.

Which, frankly, is preferable to reading student's scrawling handwriting and trying to read into their hormone-fogged thoughts.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fat Tony At It Again

America's Judicial Concern Troll has decided to weigh in on the torture scandal, because of course he did.

Scalia - who we have been told for 30 years is a very intelligent man who just holds strong beliefs about original intent - says that there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits torture.

I'm just a humble history teacher, but let me take a crack at it:

Let's take a looky-loo at the Fifth Amendment:

No person compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

That looks like you can't force someone to say things, like, you know, under torture.

Then of course, there's the troublesome Eighth Amendment:

...nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Maybe Scalia doesn't think being beaten until he loses an eye counts?  Simulated drowning doesn't count?  Reducing a mentally deficient man to a quivering shell of a person via systematic torture isn't cruel?

Or maybe Scalia simply doesn't think that applies to foreign born persons.  OK, there is some logic to that.  Not sure how that gibes with Jose Padilla, but OK.

How about this?

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

And then you have the US signing the Geneva Conventions and UN Convention against Torture, which are treaties that prohibit torture, making them the "supreme Law of the Land" whatever John Yoo may say.

Once again, I feel like we live in different universes.

Crappy Deal

Can't believe Obama is prepared to sign the CRomnibus and begin the gutting of whatever restrictions we have on the plutocracy.  I suppose this is the level of suckage we have to expect in the coming era of divided government.

I fear another Grand Bargain is lurking off stage somewhere.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Two Different Countries

Check out the link.  I'll wait.

I don't blame Obama for the weak economy, because he couldn't get the sort of stimulus through Congress that was needed.

I don't blame Obama for the complexity of the ACA, because that's all Congress would allow.

I don't blame Obama for leaving Gitmo open, because Congress thwarted him.

But he could have made torture the crime that it is.  And the idea that over 70% of Republicans think it's OK to torture someone makes me sick to my stomach.  It's bad enough that 45% of Democrats think that way, but this isn't a partisan issue.  It's a moral one.

I don't understand who Republicans are.

The Founders Of Our Country Were Objectively Anti-Torture

This is a really solid piece of accessible scholarly writing that points out the many ways in which the men who created this nation abhorred the practice of torture.  For all the Tea Party paeans to Constitutional originalism and reverence for "the Founders" my guess is that they will deny this basic enlightenment ideal that animated the creation of this country: that the state must be bound by its own laws.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Price Of Force

Max Weber notably defined the state as an entity with a "monopoly of violence over a given territory."  That definition always strikes my students as strange until we break it down.  Whether the state is Sweden or North Korea, that state shares the characteristic of removing the use of force or violence from the hands of individuals and placing that use of force in the hands of institutions that ideally serve to create a stable state.

What we are seeing in the United State today is some of those institutions have blurred the lines about what they should do and what they can do.  The great contribution of Anglo-American political thought - stretching from the Magna Carta to the Constitution - is that for a state to be legitimate, it must be bound by its own laws.

This rule of law is the most essential element of legitimate democratic governance.

But for it to work properly, the state must be bound by the laws it sets over the people and itself.  Russia, for instance, had a rule limiting the presidency to two terms.  When Putin decided he didn't like that, he effectively scrapped it.  He basically decided that he didn't need to abide by the laws, so he ignored them.

The problem America is having right now is that some of the institutions that we invest with the power to commit violence on our behalf are not showing the necessary respect for that vital rule of law.

The outrage over the overzealous use of force by police and the systematic use of torture by the CIA is basically linked to the idea of institutions out of the reach of the rule of law.

The ultimate truth about what happened in the case of Michael Brown may never be known, but Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and others are clearer.  And they paint a picture of policing institutions that are not bound by the laws that bind others.  The idea that you can kill someone in broad daylight who is not armed and not even go to trial suggests that the laws that apply to all of us - and even to the police themselves - are no longer working.

As John McCain said yesterday at the release of the Senate torture report, America helped craft the international treaties that forbid torture.  We helped create and signed the Geneva Conventions.  We put laws on the books after the Philippines War that prohibit forms of torture.  And then we ignored those limits when it became mildly inconvenient to abide by them.

Both of these trends reflect the broader, pants-wetting cowardice that we are exhibiting repeatedly in America today.  We are so scared of black men and Muslim terrorists that a large segment of the population is willing to throw over the fundamental achievement of American political philosophy: namely that the government should be bound by its own laws.

This is truly distressing.  Especially when you see mouth breathing morans losing their shit over the idea that America isn't perfect.

The events of the last few years and months represent a challenge to what America thinks it stands for.  If you want to blindly cling to a false image of what America is like a child clinging to a security blanket, then you aren't really worthy of being part of the conversation about what America should be.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

We Tortured Some Folks

The torture report seems to be about what I expected.  It is both not a surprise and yet surprising in its details.

The following is clear:

- It was more brutal than we were told.
- It produced almost no information of value.
- It was pushed from Washington rather than from the field.

And sadly no one will go to jail for this.  Thank God no one in the CIA stole some cigarellos.

The Next Two Years Could Be Fun