Beg forgiveness for a long post, but these ripened in a pending file long enough. You’ll find some good material here. I’ll confess some text needs editing, but if I try to do that, it will stay in the pending folder still longer. If you find mistakes, please let me know in the comments!
Do we live in a national security state, or not?
Fifteen years of lousy wars and lousy economic policies, coupled with pie-in-the-sky political rhetoric and pigs-in-the-mud crony capitalism, has produced a political alienation arguably more vast than anything we’ve seen since the 1970s. ~ Matt Welch
Welch is right, but he should add a few more serious items to his list: “torture, lies, and state crimes against democracy.” You might suggest state policy during the last fifteen years has been business as usual, but it does not appear so. Evolution of the national security state appears to reach new examples of appalling behavior with each new crime, and each new mistake. Call the results apocalypse or whatever you like – dismiss the prophets as crazies – but citizens’ response to their government is based on politicians’ deeds, not some irrational fear that the sky is about to fall. Pervasive alienation arises from real circumstances.
“We have this little item here on Facebook that we’re concerned about…”
And here is Homeland Security’s defense on background checks for people like Ms. Malik:
A secret U.S. policy that prohibits immigration officials from reviewing the social media messages of foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas was reportedly kept in place over fears of a civil liberties backlash and “bad public relations.”
Note that it’s a secret policy. It’s not government if it’s not secret!
You have a government that tortures people in the name of homeland security and revenge, then worries about ‘bad public relations’! I love these guys.
“So Ms. Malik, we see here on your Facebook page…”
Here’s another wonderful omission. It’s fourteen years after 9/11, and Homeland Security figures it should check online to see if applicants for immigration have posted anything suspicious or threatening. After Snowden’s disclosures about snooping, this lacuna is amusing for anyone with expectations for government competence.
Here’s the lede from the article:
WASHINGTON (AP) – Lawmakers are working on legislation to ensure a person’s online presence is reviewed as part of the vetting process for a visa to enter the United States.
The goal is to close security gaps that didn’t pick up on one of the radicalized shooters in the San Bernardino, California, attack, who entered the country last year.
The Obama administration has directed the Homeland Security and State departments to review the process for screening people who apply for visas and to return with specific recommendations to close security gaps in the U.S. visa system, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest Monday.
You know I do not advocate snooping, but I’m also conscious of the gap between citizens’ expectations and government performance. Looks like our security people couldn’t get it right again!
Do you like your politics hot?
The latest Washington Post – ABC News poll shows four candidates split 77% of the Republican vote:
All the other candidates share 23%! The experts said last spring that as the field gelled, Trump’s share would drop. The opposite has happened. Now the experts say, what do we do about that?
Let’s see what they do.
Do you like your politics hot?
How can you deny the climate?
This article makes liberal use of the phrase ‘climate denier.’ What does that phrase mean?
Islamic State requires more than the Rex Ryan style of leadership
If the Commander-in-Chief were doing so well against the Islamic State, he would not need to defend his record. He would not need to crank up his usual public relations machine. Success would speak for itself.
Anyone at the Pentagon can tell the president that air power alone cannot ‘degrade and destroy’ the Islamic State. The other half measures he has tried don’t work either. ‘Degrade and destroy’ are the president’s stated criteria for success in the campaign against ISIS. Why does he keep trying to convince us that he’s succeeding, when all we observe is one failure after another?
It’s the Rex Ryan style of leadership: you keep saying how good your team is, and you keep losing. If you want to look weak, there’s no faster way.
Obama’s defenders will come back to say, “Alright, what do you recommend, then?” I won’t try to answer that in this post, but I will refer you to these two articles.
First, understand your enemy. Here is Graeme Wood’s article in The Atlantic, What ISIS Really Wants:
Here are some practical suggestions by Majid Nawaz, How to Beat Islamic State:
What articles have you read on this subject, that you find helpful?
When someone dies in police custody, who is responsible?
Sounds to me prosecutor Bledsoe made good arguments, and defense attorney is doing the best he can with a weak case.
Good summary of the Freddie Gray trial.
There’s bad policing, and there’s really bad policing
Here is as letter to the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Tamir Rice was hardly an ‘innocent little boy’
The recent letter from Marianne B. Woods (“Tim McGinty has poorly handled killing of Tamir Rice,” Letters, Nov. 12) refers to “an innocent little boy” playing with a toy gun and ending up dead. Then she goes on to claim the police were not doing their job. Her comments make things seem as if the “law” had gunned down a 3-year-old toddler. Quite frankly, I am tired of hearing it.
Police were absolutely doing their job. They got the call and they responded. Police rarely have all the information they need when they arrive at a scene. They didn’t know the age of the perpetrator. They didn’t know if the gun was a toy. What they knew was someone was pointing a gun at people. That has been verified by the video, before the police arrived.
Think about this. Had I been in the park that day, and I saw someone reaching for or pointing a gun at me, and I happened to have a license to carry a gun, I might have shot that not-so-innocent big boy, who didn’t appear to be “playing”.
Was this tragic, of course it was. But I do not blame the police.
Susan L. Gundich
If you have read my other posts on the way our communities are policed, especially communities where young black males reside, you know what I think of this letter. I don’t think Susan Gundich would have written this letter if Tamir Rice had been her own son.
I’m fascinated when I watch Donald Sutherland play President Snow in the Hunger Games series.
Low tech vs. high tech snooping
That is as typical for government practice as you can get: monitor the entire U. S. internet and phone system, because you do have the technical means to do it, but don’t check Facebook posts when you vet immigrants! It’s too low tech!
What is the matter with those people?
Washington’s elites are figuring out just now that people are angry?
“The elite political community has been struggling to figure out how to deal with him because they don’t fundamentally understand the phenomenon,” said David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama. “He’s speaking to something that they’re just getting their arms around.”
That tells you something. This anger has been growing since at least 2009, in its current form, and since the early 1990s in all of its many forms. The fact that the Washington elites do not understand it confirms that the anger is justified. The bubble exists. Once again, The Hunger Games has it right. No one in the capital has a clue about what it’s like out in the provinces. They don’t have a clue because they don’t care. They don’t have a clue because they don’t want to know. They just want money from the districts to keep flowing into the Capitol. If the outlanders keep paying for the Capitol’s extravagant evil, who cares what the provincials feel?
“…and may the odds be ever in your favor.”
Imagine hearing that when you are about to go into the arena to die. We hear the same kind of dishonest trash from Washington almost every day.
Is the FBI a PR agency or a law enforcement bureau?
The FBI is a PR agency that pretends it’s a law enforcement bureau. So is the Department of Homeland Security, for that matter. They both crank out press releases, lapped up by their lapdog friends in the media, about what a great job they’re doing. The FBI still – after how many years of this laughable practice? – sets up poor suckers with terrorist stars in their eyes who want to join jihad. It works with them for a long time to prepare them for arrest.
Imagine the research it takes for the FBI just to pick these poor people out. After they have recruited their target, the bureau runs its prospective terrorist through an elaborate playbook, where they plot a terrorist attack together. At last – after the conspiracy is all worked out and the bureau has gathered all the “evidence” it needs – it drops the axe and makes the arrest.
Note that the axe falls on just one person, because all the co-conspirators are in law enforcement! The FBI would never work with a group, because a group of people would never be so trusting. A group would smell a rat much faster than an individual. The recruit becomes isolated from friends, because the FBI undercovers tell him to keep everything secret. Then whammo – the guy’s in jail and he’s never going to get out. He’s lucky if he doesn’t spend thirty years in solitary for planning some attack cooked up by the FBI. The FBI supplies him with money, equipment, building plans, contacts, the works. All he has to do is get arrested!
Now the FBI has their guy, and they can put out their press release. That’s what the whole pretense is for: a press release to make the FBI look good! Of course the FBI adds, the public was never in danger. That is your clue that the plot was fake from the start. We had it all under control, folks. We just want to let you know we’re on the job, protecting you from The Terrorists. You can rely on us, because we are vigilant. We watch your home while you sleep at night, and we watch your workplaces, too.
That’s the message. Yet the elaborate conspiracies, with hundreds of agent hours devoted to development of fake plots, show that the agency doesn’t know wtf it ought to be doing. If it did know what it ought to be doing, it surely wouldn’t be engaged in transparently unproductive public relations. Honestly, what would you think if you bought a guard dog for your property, and the dog went up to everyone around with a wag of his tail to show what a good job he was doing? You would get another dog, and send the first one off to play with the children. That’s what the FBI does with its stings and press releases. It’s badge polishing. Give them all a pat on the head, and a gold star for their personnel records.
What do you hear from the FBI after the San Bernardino shooting? If they were honest, they might say, “Oh, sorry. We were so wrapped up catching fake terrorists, we didn’t have time to find real ones. We can’t do so many things at once, you know.” Instead we have a new term invented by some apologist in the PR office: self-radicalization. Tell me, what does that mean? Does it mean that some people decide to gun down dozens of people on their own, whereas other terrorists depend on their handlers to push them into such an act? What does a Non-Self-Radicalized Terrorist look like? Is that someone who goes to an ISIS training camp, or do you just meet up with some local contact with an FBI badge in his coat pocket to get yourself radicalized?
The term implies that we can’t catch self-radicalizing terrorists, because they don’t throw off the signs that non-self-radicalizing terrorists do. We have our profile: you go to your mosque, from there you become part of a sleeper cell, then one day the cell awakes. You have to find those cells and root them out before they can do any harm. A couple in San Bernardino with a six-month-old child? Well, there’s no way we can find people like that. It’s not like they acquire a lot of weapons or practice their attacks ahead of time.
Some will say the FBI, with adequate investigation, should have been able to stop the San Bernardino massacre before it happened. Others will say that law enforcement officials cannot prevent attacks of that type. We can say one thing for sure: setting up elaborate stings for gullible terrorist wannabes does not stop the real thing. Real attackers do not need the FBI’s help, nor are they gullible.
The FBI has to understand that every time it mounts one of those ridiculous plots, it wastes scarce resources. Moreover, the bureau distracts itself from doing the preventive work it so proudly claims it is doing. It also has to understand something else: when attacks like the San Bernardino shooting occur while it is still pursuing criminals that it creates, it looks incompetent. Stupid is as stupid does.
Talking Productively About Guns
“If you come to Popehat because you think that it is a law blog, you are sorely mistaken. Popehat is a geek blog, and it’s a matter of mere happenstance that most of the bloggers here are law geeks. Some, such as Ken and Patrick and Charles, have carried their preoccupation to absurd extremes….”
Enjoyable article, here.
Suppose we talked about dogs the way we talk about guns
Outstanding dialogue about proposed restrictions on dog owners:
When the state sees one group turn on another, it smiles
Imagine what the rest of the world would think if a candidate for leadership of Germany called for recreation of concentration camps. Trump wants to register Muslims, close mosques, bar Muslims from entering the country, and cites Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese American citizens after Pearl Harbor as a relevant precedent! Locking up American citizens of Japanese heritage for years during the war is one of the most shameful events in our whole history. Now we have a leader who says he would like to follow the same path, but with a different group!
The only good thing you can say about Trump is that he reminds us we still have free speech in our country. He also reminds us that free speech includes hate speech, fear speech, and discriminatory speech. As people have said often enough, a government that can act against all Muslims as a religious group, can act against anybody. It can confiscate guns, confiscate property, throw you in prison, deport you, shoot you in the street, entrap you, collect personal data about you, tase you and beat you. It already does all of those things.
Now we have a public figure praise Roosevelt for his treatment of Japanese Americans. Trump might say that internment camps are good, because it protects inmates from being lynched or shot: akin to putting young people in solitary confinement for their own protection. We already live in a jittery, rapidly evolving police state. If you stir up fear and hate against a particular group in that kind of environment, one group after another falls to the state’s tender mercies. The state makes no distinctions when it counts its enemies.
Why holding onto your wallet no longer matters
How to make the United States even more unfriendly to business than it already is:
The U. S. government acts as if it is entitled to a portion of corporate profits. In a republic, citizens and corporations pay taxes voluntarily, to achieve common goals. People and companies set tax rates required to meet essential objectives, such as security from invasion. No entitlement to revenues also means no waste in spending. People who pay voluntarily and set rates democratically do not want to see money spent for purposes other than approved, common objectives. Effectively, taxes operate as dues that members pay when they voluntarily join a group or an organization.
Does that not sound like a realistic description of public revenue? That is because we are no longer a republic. The U. S. Treasury, like the treasury of every nation in history that has fought long, losing wars, needs money. It plans to obtain the money it needs any way it can. Its means are not democratic. They are certainly not voluntary.
So busy are the skies in some parts of the country that Syrians frequently do not know who is bombing them.
If you threaten the national security state, watch out
The United States government or its emissaries has forced these heroes and heroines into exile:
Bobby Fischer, World Chess Champion, 1972 – 1975
Judyth Vary Baker, author of Me & Lee
Laura Poitras, producer, director, and writer of CITIZENFOUR, winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary – see LeakSource at http://leaksource.info/2015/02/23/citizenfour-wins-oscar-for-best-documentary-laura-poitras-acceptance-speech-edward-snowden-statement/
Edward Snowden, whistleblower who uncovered widespread, sophisticated domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency
Remember as well:
Chelsea Manning, sentenced to thirty years in military prison for revealing war crimes and other secret records – see http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/the-ongoing-persecution-of-chelsea-manning/401195/
Julian Assange, publisher of Wikileaks, under house arrest in London.
Sarah Harrison, Wikileaks editor who helped Edward Snowden, wanted by UK and US authorities.
Ibrahim Todashev, murdered by the FBI during interrogation related to the Boston marathon bombing.
Can you think of others?
Do not give up the right to own weapons
Another massacre brings more calls for gun control. We even see references to the so-called Australian model, which aims to remove guns from citizens’ hands entirely. It’s like one of those western’s where the killers, extortionists, and general scum ride into town with a show of force, to intimidate the town folk. The sheriff calls a meeting of all the men. In a typical western, the men bring their guns. In the new, Australian scenario, the sheriff tells everyone he’s going to take their guns away!
Now the argument begins. Gun control advocates say that we have police now: the sheriff does not need to commission a posse comitatus to keep order and defend the town from criminals. The idea of armed self-defense is out of date: we’re not in the wild west anymore. Gun rights advocates respond, “It doesn’t look like the police have done such a good job protecting us, have they?” Gun control advocates come back, “How can they, when we’re all swimming in an ocean of firearms?” This argument does not have an endpoint.
Shane, both the book and the film, tells a story about the role of guns in self-defense. A man named Shane – he doesn’t have a last name – rides into town. He looks like a regular working hand, and he hires on with a local farmer. One day the farmer’s son discovers a handgun among Shane’s belongings. He’s fascinated, and super-impressed that Shane owns such a handsome piece. Shane reminds the youngster that it is weapon, to be used only as a last resort.
Then a murderer comes to town. He kills a local man who challenges him. The town does not know what to do. They are peaceable people, without skill or experience to deal with a man who offs people almost as a sport. So Shane goes into town, with his gun, to challenge the killer. In the showdown at the bar, Shane reveals he is not a regular working guy. He shows consummate skill as he rids the town of the killer and his cronies. No one but Shane could have performed this good service. He rides away with the town’s gratitude, and no one knows who he is.
The town’s salvation tells why some individuals – at their discretion – need to know how to use weapons. In this sense the story explains the Second Amendment. We all know the amendment’s opening clause, and the clause that follows: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Gun control advocates say that just as we no longer form posses because we have police forces, we no longer form militias because we have the Department of Defense. All the justifications for owning firearms have expired with the development of both our law enforcement and our national security apparatus. Ownership of firearms – and the amendment that guarantees the right to own weapons – are anachronisms.
Anachronism or not, the right is still there. You cannot abrogate a right merely because you think the justification for it is out of date. People have made similar claims that new circumstances require dilution of established rights. During one national security hysteria after another, from the Japanese internment to the Red Scare to 9/11, that we should suspend or modify basic rights to protect ourselves. They say that free speech, free movement and privacy rights grant our enemies advantages they can use to kill us and destroy our free institutions. Our enemies only need to kill us – we can destroy the institutions on our own.
Let’s return for a minute to the Second Amendment. Suppose the need for militias, and therefore the need for private gun ownership, are both things of the past. We know one thing for sure: someday current institutions, needs and norms will be things of the past, too. Would you permanently abrogate a right – a right so fundamental it is written into the Constitution – because one group of people, under particular circumstances, thinks private ownership of weapons threatens them? Make no mistake: once government representatives become the only individuals who can deploy firearms, private citizens will never have that capacity again. No matter how much conditions change in the future, the citizenry will remain disarmed.
That is the surest path to tyranny I can imagine. We have already traveled a long way in that direction. Some would say we have arrived. Others would say we are still free. No matter where you think we are in the spectrum of light and dark, freedom and tyranny, and no matter which direction you believe we are moving, confiscation of firearms by government would represent an irrecoverable loss. As Americans, we would never be free again. We would be ants, our home would be an ant heap, and our government could do whatever it likes with us.
Government already does what it likes with us. Gun ownership at least grants the self-respect required for civil resistance. That holds even if you believe violent resistance can neither restore nor effectively establish rights. A disarmed, demoralized citizenry rapidly becomes unable to protect itself, corralled like animals in a small pen, fed twice a day. An armed citizenry would never go through the gate. An armed citizenry produces judicious protectors with no last name.
Why would you fear or hate people who can help us defeat the Islamic State?
This idea of a backlash is nuts. Do we really want to institute a form of ethnic cleansing, here in our own country, out of fear and hate? In a free country, we deal with individuals, not groups. If you want to see what happens when you judge people according to the groups they were born into, look at the rest of the world.
You might also note that although the Islamic State loves to go after Christians and Jews in the Middle East, most of its victims are Muslim. That’s right, its holy warriors want to kill anyone who doesn’t share their own vision, for they are all infidels. That should make you want to unite with Muslims to extinguish this movement. We can argue forever about whether the Islamic State represents true Islam or not. They think they do. Do we want to agree with them on that question?
For our part, we ought to find a way to deal with the monster we created with our little adventure in Iraq. I would say that hating or fearing Muslims here in our own country is not an especially effective path to victory or any other good outcome. Someone said that opening our country to help people who want to flee the Islamic State would help us defeat this outlandishly cruel movement. I agree. Our other ideas have not worked out so well.
America at Obama’s End
Here are a couple of excerpts from Daniel Henninger’s column in the Wall Street Journal:
Forget the old joke about the government coming to “help.” There’s a darker version now: We’re the government, and we’re here to screw you.
. . . .
Mr. Obama has repeatedly mocked institutions he didn’t control and abused the powers of those he did. Almost always, the ridicule and condescension came in front of cheering audiences. It’s hardly a surprise that Donald Trump is exploiting and expanding the loss of public faith. Mr. Obama spent seven years softening up Mr. Trump’s audiences for him.
We may get a third Obama term after all.
The reasons are complex, but George Wallace was right: “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican parties.” Do you think Donald Trump is Obama’s antithesis and nemesis? Watch what happens if he is elected. Henninger’s last sentence suggests the outcome. Left and right are not so dissimilar as they seem.
More thoughts from the campaign trail
Texas Senator Ted Cruz took the stage at the presidential forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition and called for a moment of silence for the victims of the San Bernardino shootings.
Then, while acknowledging “the details of what happened are still unclear”, he said that he is “deeply concerned” that the events in California are “another manifestation of radical Islamic terrorism here at home”.
He said the San Bernardino shootings, along with the Paris attacks last month, “underscores that we are in a time of war”.
“Whether or not the current administration realises or wishes to acknowledge it,” Mr Cruz continued. “Our enemies are at war with us. I believe this nation needs a wartime president to defend it.”
. . . .
As he did in last month’s Republican presidential debate, he chided President Barack Obama for not using the term “radical Islamic terrorism”.
A president, he said, must speak the truth. “When the president stands up and says the Islamic State isn’t Islamic – that’s just nutty,” he said, calling Mr Obama an apologist for “radical Islamic terrorism”.
Former New York Governor George Pataki said we don’t know for sure whether the shootings in San Bernardino “involved terror or not”, but it was a “horrible, horrible planned assault”.
What we do know, he continued, was that the bombings at the Boston Marathon, the shooting at the US Army base at Fort Hood and the foiled assault at an art exhibit in Garland, Texas – all of which have happened during Barack Obama’s presidency – were “carried out by radical jihadists here in America”.
The US should not let First Amendment protections of free speech stand in the way of confronting this “warped view of jihad”, Pataki continued, comparing a ban on inflammatory Islamic rhetoric to prohibitions on yelling “fire in a crowded theatre”.
“Radicalisation in America isn’t protected speech,” he said. “It is a crime, and we should stop it.”
Do we even know how to find the truth anymore?
One interesting element of the so-called partisan divide: each side says that people on the other side lie, or “get it wrong.” No arguments revolve around substance. Virtually all arguments revolve around opponents’ character, intelligence, and trustworthiness. This kind of argument reinforces partisan loyalties, but it does not produce truth, wisdom, or practical solutions. It creates rancor, parent of misunderstanding. It produces disrespect, anger, contempt, accusation, self-righteousness, and solidarity with your own side, but no vision. Partisans claim loyalty to the truth, but in fact they do not care about the truth at all. They care about winning.
How does ISIS survive? What sustains it?
News report about Russia’s accusations do raise this question: if Turkey does not buy ISIS oil, who does? We know the purchaser has to be along a land route, as ISIS does not ship oil by sea or air. So then you look at a map, and consider the candidates. You don’t see too many of them.
Another part of Russia’s accusation is that Turkey resells ISIS oil at a profit. Other countries, including oil producers, could do that as well. We have been fighting ISIS for a long time now, and we don’t even know where its oil goes! Why do you suppose our intelligence agencies keep that information a secret?
The question is similar to one I’ve raised earlier. Where does ISIS obtain its equipment, weapons, and ammunition? When it expanded its territory so dramatically in 2014, some of it came from the military forces it routed. It has not conquered substantial new territory since 2014, but its war fighting capabilities are still robust. Where does it obtain its military supplies?
And, same question as above, why do our intelligence agencies keep that information secret?
I don’t mean to imply that Turkey is complicit in ISIS’ military activities. I don’t like innuendo. I just want to know why basic information about one of our enemies is so closely held.
Some have suggested that the CIA actually has ties to ISIS. That would explain the secrecy. Then you have to ask: what ties, and why? Once more, we need information, not innuendo. Nevertheless, when information is secret, innuendo follows.
NYT article published September 20, 2014:
“We are taught to shoot and move.” Police training of the worst kind.
‘I had very little time…’
In the statement he provided to investigators this week, Loehmann says the officers responded to the scene after receiving a call of a “male waiving (sic) a gun and pointing at people.”
Time was of the essence, Loehmann says in his written statement.
“I had very little time as I exited the vehicle,” he says. “We are trained to get out of the cruiser because ‘the cruiser is a coffin.’ ”
Once he got out of the car, Loehmann says he rushed to get behind it.
“We are taught to shoot and move. You do not want to be a sitting target,” he says. “The suspect had a gun, had been threatening others with the weapon and had not obeyed our command to show us his hands. He was facing us. This was an active shooter situation.”
~ Police officer’s written statement to a grand jury about the seconds that preceded his killing of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland on November 22, 2014.
Turkey shoots down a Russian fighter jet
NATO leader Jens Stoltenberg said:
“This is a serious situation” that calls for prudence and de-escalation… “We have to avoid that situations, incidents, accidents spiral out of control.”
This sentiment is rational, and consistent with Stoltenberg’s position. It’s a little late, though, as the situation spiraled out of a control when the United States attacked Iraq in March 2003. After that, the fight was on, and no one could predict exactly what would happen. It was easy, however, to predict that a catastrophe would result. We have seen that catastrophe develop through twelve years. Right now the situation is worsening rapidly.
Loss of free speech on college campuses
If free speech and open discussion continue to come under attack, we will come to a point where transmission of knowledge comes only via oral communication with people you trust. The same goes in political matters if the secret state continues to conceal evidence of its crimes. Do you remember Farenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s dystopian vision where firemen burned works of literature to keep people’s minds free of disturbing thoughts? We are headed that way with all speech. Consider the effort to cleanse college campuses from all disturbing thoughts.
Safe spaces permit no room for free thought. Free thought, at its roots, is unsafe thought. Free speech, at its roots, is disturbing speech. You cannot remove yourself from disturbing thoughts without removing speech that produces and communicates those thoughts.
In Bradbury’s police state, the only way to keep works of literature alive was to have members of the underground – outlaws subject to death if they were caught – memorize each book. We are headed that way on our campuses. If suppression of free speech succeeds on campuses, it can succeed anywhere. Students who advocate restrictions on speech have no idea what they are doing.
Investigation: Laquan McDonald shot by Officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago
The elements are here: video evidence, mayor and prosecutor support, police unwillingness to make evidence public. I have no idea whether the police officer involved in this case is guilty of murder or not. What is clear is that police departments have to stop investigating their own behavior. Everyone in the world is accountable to outside bodies, except police officers. You have police officers shooting people to death on the streets, then other police officers decide whether the action was justified. How can that be? That arrangement can only exist in a police state.
What is a police state? A police state is a regime where law enforcement action is self-justifying. That is, police officers decide what they must do to keep order, then they do it. If order requires shooting people in the streets until they are dead, do it. If a claim that you feared for your safety satisfies the internal investigators, make the claim. Who’s going to admit to colleagues that you pumped sixteen bullets into a dying teenager because your adrenaline got the better of you? When you operate in a police state, no one will question what you say.
Until now. We have mobile video cameras. These cameras can record horrific acts that go back to Rodney King and long before that. Police claim they can’t do their job properly anymore, because the video cameras are everywhere. That shows a vicious mindset, because it suggests that to do your job properly, you have to gun people down whenever they do something you don’t like. That includes running away, mouthing off, refusing to obey an order, or doing anything at all that could be construed as a threat. On the street, looking someone straight in the eye, rather than casting your eyes down, is a threat in a tense situation. So is raising your voice, moving your hand, or doing anything at all the officer does not like. That’s why black parents run their children through extensive lessons about how to behave in the presence of a police officer. Your life depends on playing the game correctly.
If you do not want to live in a police state, keep your camera ready. Here’s another feature we need: car manufacturers ought to put a record button on the dash of every automobile. When a police officer or border patrol officer pulls you over, push the button to make an audio recording of the interaction. Officers will learn quickly enough that this recording capability exists. In a police state, some officers may try to force citizens to turn their recorders off. In a police state, an officer might threaten you if you refuse to do so. That is where we have arrived. Police officers threaten citizens, when citizens try to monitor police behavior. Who would describe that as anything other than a police state?
Black families can tell story after story of instances where police officers have abused their authority. The significant thing is, some police officers don’t see it as abuse. They regard it as a joke, or a sport, or a game, or a display of power. It’s the most deadly game of one upsmanship you’ll ever witness. The black man always loses the game. That’s part of the point. Both parties enter the interaction knowing who will win, and who will lose. It took a long time to reach this point. Now we have to think about the best way to make police officers change the way they conduct themselves. Now we have to think about how police officers and citizens interact outside of a police state.
University of Kansas succumbs to student aggression
If you want evidence that demonstrates an active attack on free speech and open discussion on campuses, you have it in this report. The outcome of this investigation is predictable: the administration will back the students, and Professor Quenette will be, as the students requested, “terminated.” Andrea Quenette will never work at another college or university. And her students will never understand why what they have done is wrong. Her students have also demonstrated they have no understanding of the concept “racism.”
Suppose I wanted to read Huckleberry Finn aloud to my students in class? Would I be fired for reading every word of it, including the word Mark Twain uses to describe Jim? If it’s alright to read Huckleberry Finn in the classroom, but not alright for Professor Quenette to use the same word to illustrate a point about the experience of racism, does she get fired because she isn’t Mark Twain? You can’t say Twain was just a man of his times. His whole book speaks against racism. So why is the forbidden word okay in a piece of literature, but not in an open discussion?
Students are so vocal and vehement about protecting their safe spaces. Don’t they recognize that if safe spaces are important to them, they are equally important to everyone else on campus, including professors? They say they are concerned about agression. Would they not count a public attack on their professor – a professor who was doing her job – as an act of aggression? Or do professors not count because they are part of the power structure, and therefore part of institutional racism?
The behavior of Andrea Quenette’s students shows you can rationalize any mean act you like.
Gambling and inside information
You see a lot of articles about DraftKings and Fanduel these days. You see even more of them in Boston, since DraftKings is headquartered here in Bean Town. The other day, a couple of commentators on the radio talked about the scandal and the latest legal ramifications, including efforts to regulate the industry. One reporter asked, “Why didn’t the industry self-regulate.” The other replied, with that knowing, I-don’t-even-have-to-say-this tone, “Have you ever heard of a business that regulates itself where profit is involved?”
Well yes, that’s the big question, isn’t it? Does government regulation make an industry more trustworthy, reliable, and honest, or does it lead to behavior that is even worse than it would be under a hands-off regime? We saw that question come up in the bank panic of 2007-2009. Some people said the panic would not have occurred if the industry were better regulated. Other people said that government regulations, in the perverse way they often work, operated to make the panic and its effects much worse than it would have been. Still others pointed to the panics we had before 1929, and the panics we had after 1929, and suggested that regulation does not make much difference, as we have these episodes with some regularity whether or not government agencies regulate banks.
Back to gambling. People like to place bets. It’s exciting, fun, and it occasionally pays off. One of my relations was a bookmaker, and he served his customers well. Not one of them would have said that the service he provided was unfair, or that he was untrustworthy. Like any business man, he wanted to keep his customers happy.
Another thing we can say is that people are endlessly creative about the kinds of things they bet on. Sports competitions are a big favorite, as are games of chance. No matter where you look, new forms of betting crop up, like corn seedlings in an Illinois field. One reason that happens is that gambling is such a social activity, whether you place bets on a football game or enjoy a night of poker with your friends. Even bingo in the church basement is gambling. People go out for bingo night to see their friends, and see if they might come home with a little extra change. The household atmosphere in the film Silver Linings Playbook shows how central sports betting can be for a good social life among family and friends.
Along comes a government agency to say you can’t gamble. The regulators have two reasons up their sleeve: 1) gambling is addictive, so we have to protect you from yourself; 2) gambling is dangerous, because the industry is infested with criminals. The first reason about out-of-control behavior is surprising: imagine if a police officer showed up at your door with a warrant for your arrest because you bought too many things at Ebay, Amazon, or the Shopping Network. No one needs a person with a badge to stipulate where you may or may not spend your money. The second reason is doubly galling, because gamblers are criminals only because regulators made them so! You tell someone he has to have your permission to engage in some harmless activity, then declare him a criminal when he doesn’t ask your permission! If you want to know what a racket looks like, that’s one.
Now let’s go back to incentives for self-regulation. The bookmaker in my family obviously has a lot of reasons to treat customers honestly. If a bettor wants to gamble on baseball, the same person likely wants to bet on football as well. If you want to bet on footballl, you make like hockey or basketball. The more knowledge you have about the game, the more confident you feel about winning some cash. You know each bet carries a healthy element of chance, no matter how much you know about the game. That’s actually one of the attractions of betting: the combination of skill and chance. The introduction of odds, spreads, handicaps, stakes, pools, pots, and other standbyes in the bettor’s toolbox only add to this attraction.
The one thing you do not want to have in the bettor’s toolbox is insider information. You do not want to fix a fight, or the World Series, so some bettors fleece others, and book makers make out above all. The game loses its legitimacy, bettors lose faith, and the whole enterprise starts to look like professional wrestling. That’s a sport a lot of people find entertaining, but the only people who would bet on it are people who play the slots or buy lottery tickets – that is, people who want to gamble with no element of skill involved.
The biggest taboo on inside information applies to the stock market, of course. The stock market is the biggest gambler’s paradise by far. I’m kind of curious whether value investors outnumber quants and day traders in the market, but in the end the proportions don’t matter. People like to bet on stocks. You can make a lot of money if you have inside information, and you don’t get caught using it to place your bets. People take the stock market seriously. They become angry if they perceive they’ve been beat out by someone more clever about inside information than they were. So we have the Securities and Exchange Commission, referees in striped shirts to impose penalties if you break the rules.
So the last thing a gambling outfit wants even of whiff of – especially if it’s making a lot of money – is inside information. That will crack open the golden egg and spread the yolk everywhere, to use a cleaner metaphor than something more smelly hitting the fan. DraftKings and Fanduel know the industry they operate in. They know that if they are caught using inside information, the men with badges will break down the doors and blow their whistles. We’ll let you gamble because, after all, we all like to place a bet every so often, but by God, if you cheat, we’ll come down on you hard.
So what do the fantasy sports firms do? They let their employees place bets! Moreover, they did not seem to have any enforcement mechanism in place to prevent employees from doing so, or any public relations procedures in place to handle inquries if their employees were caught doing so. That is, they did not even give an appearance of regulating themselves. Employees just placed bets, and they did not even appear to care much if other people knew about it.
If you’re in the gambling industry, that’s about the most stupid business move you can imagine. That’s not just a failure to self-regulate because you can make more money if you don’t have any rules. That’s a failure to make money, at least in the longer term, because you don’t have or enforce any rules. Nothing shuts down or reduces your income stream faster, when you run a large book making operation, than a sudden apprehension by your customers that you run your game to benefit yourself at the expense of your customers.
What can explain stupidity like that? One explanation is stupidity. People do make stupid mistakes. Another explanation is the sense of invulnerability you may develop when you do something a little risky for a long time, and nothing bad happens as a result. A third explanation is that the firms had a blind spot on this matter, which is kind of like making a stupid mistake, but perhaps more psychologically interesting. Blind spots are difficult to explain, especially in a social setting like a business firm.
The last reason might be the one suggested by the radio commentator mentioned above: when a business firm sees a chance to make a lot of money, it is willing to engage in unethical behavior to keep money coming in. That appears to have been the case with VW’s fixing of its software to pass emissions tests. The difference for fantasy sports, of course, is that DraftKings and Fanduel did not benefit from having their employees place bets. The employees just took advantage of the inside information they had, placed bets, didn’t conceal what they were doing, and succeeded in brining the heavy hand of regulators down on their enterprise. So the stupidity is twofold: the employees acting as if they can get away with anything they want, and their employers letting them get away with it.
I’m not going to draw any lessons from the fantasy sports debacle, other than the ones implicit in the argument above: 1) self-regulation is always better than government regulation; 2) government referees would be great if they could prevent cheating, but they rarely have the ability to do that; 3) if you cheat when you run a gambling operation, you have truly placed short-term winnings over long-term profits; and 4) gambling is no more harmful than other businesses.
If we were to treat gambling like other businesses, we would apply the same legal framework we ought to apply to all business relationships. We look to the law to enforce contracts. If any business firms, including gambling operations, commit fraud when they execute a business contract, they are subject to sanction. That is a different model of enforcement than creation of regulatory agencies to prevent fraud in advance of the crime. When the Massachusetts attorney general says she wants to keep fantasy sports off college campuses, that’s an effort to protect young people from the supposed attractions of wasting your money gambling on sports. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with fraud.
If you want businesses to regulate themselves effectively, you impose a penalty when they commit fraud. Fraud is easy to recognize. We all know it when we see it. For most purposes, you do not need carefully drawn, industry specific rules to define fraud. The definition of fraud in each business relationship is written into the contract. If both parties meet the terms of the contract, government enforcement does not come into play. If one or both parties do not meet the contract’s terms, we have a lot of different ways to adjudicate the resulting disputes. Gambling and other money centered businesses, like banking and the stock market, are no different from other activities in that respect.
Dallas love project vs Dallas indignation project
How is it the Dallas media come out with a piece like this one, one day before the anniversary of Kennedy’s murder? It’s a gauzy treatment of a bloody murder scene, papered over with handsome portraits of the couple from Camelot. You know you’re in Sixth Floor Museum land when you see these phrases: “lives changed forever,” “witnesses to history,” and “the tragedy of that day.” Why does Dallas not share indignation with the rest of the country about what happened there?
First, no one from Dallas killed the president. His murderers travelled there to carry out the hit. Even Lee Oswald, the fall guy set up to take blame for the hit, was not from Dallas. The only gunman from Dallas was the clean-up man, Jack Ruby.
Second, Dallas authorities – not Dallas residents, but Dallas authorities – participated in an immediate, thorough, and long-running cover-up of November 22’s events. That wasn’t true of everyone Dallas’s law enforcement apparatus, but people with doubts knew enough to keep quiet. You don’t mess with LBJ, especially not when he’s president: the guy behind the homicide desk knows that.
Third, the gauzy pieces make Dallas look complicit fifty-two years later. Pitifully, Dallas public relations people want the rest of the country to love them again, let assassination bygones be assassination bygones. Instead, they only win more disdain for their willingness to propagate the same old lies they participated in from the day sinister visitors from Washington executed their coup.
Where in Dallas is the indignation many of the rest of us feel about what the national government perpetrated in Dallas? When the feds moved in to occupy Boston during the aftermath of the marathon bombing, did the home of the Boston Tea Party welcome the intrusion? Yes, some did, including Governor Deval Patrick. Others said, “WTF? You’re going to roll tanks down our streets in some kind of show of force, because you have one guy on the loose? Then you go home for dinner before he’s even caught? Your intimidation and training exercises are not welcome here.”
Massachusetts’ post-action reviews and reports reflect the uneasiness Bostonians feel about seeing hordes of armed officers swarm around their city’s neighborhoods, forcing people to stay indoors – shelter in place, the governor called it – so they could open fire in Watertown or anywhere else they felt like spraying bullets around. Do you think police have become trigger happy? Look to their so-called training exercise after the marathon bombing to see how a police culture of abuse gets started.
That’s enough about Boston. Dallas is an excellent case where some salty Texan indignation would be in order. At the time, most of Dallas welcomed the president. They recognized a good leader. The Dallas love people fifty years later want to emphasize that. It’s only a small part of the truth, though. The rest of the truth is that the nation’s premier intelligence agency brought in its criminal operatives to execute an elected president, then had the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, the Dallas police, and the Dallas district attorney cooperate in the cover-up and whitewash. How could that be?
That could only happen in an atmosphere of compliance and submission, not an atmosphere of indignation and resistance. Why Dallas wants to promote such an unhealthy, false, lazy, romantic, and – let’s say it, delusional – atmosphere a half century later is beyond me. Dishonesty and craven propo pieces won’t win the city any love in a country where, by the day, the secret government builds on the power it assumed on November 22, 1963.
Suppose Jim Garrison had been able to secure cooperation from the Dallas district attorney when he opened his investigation of Kennedy’s murder three years later. You might ask, why did a district attorney hundreds of miles from Dallas have to take the lead in this matter? Why didn’t the Dallas district attorney, Henry Wade, approach Garrison to ask for his cooperation? Why didn’t Wade stand up to FBI Director Hoover on November 23, 1963? It didn’t happen because the Dallas district attorney was cowardly by comparison with his colleague in Louisiana. We don’t know what sort of pressure the FBI or others applied to the Dallas district attorney, but it worked. He decided that he didn’t care about the truth, and let perpetrators of the crime of the century, conducted in his own jurisdiction, go unpunished.
What does Katniss Everdeen shout back in Mockingjay Part 1, when she runs toward the battle and her escorts yell, “What if you get killed?” She says, “Make sure the camera’s running!” The same thing holds for the aftermath of the Dallas killing. Think how much impact Jack Ruby’s hit had because newsmen filmed it live. You looked at that and said, “Man, that’s not right. That’s the most f**ked up perp walk I’ve ever seen. You don’t just walk up to someone in the basement of a police station and whack him unless someone wanted that to happen. Jack Ruby did not do that because he wanted to protect the widder Jackie from further pain.”
The same principle should have entered the reasoning of the Dallas district attorney: “When the assassins come after me because I try to discover the truth, make sure the cameras are running.” If authorities in Dallas had acted the way they should have acted, from the moment the coup took place, do you suppose they would be trying gin up some love with gauzy propo pieces now? Of course not. They would have had a solid moral foundation for leadership and resistance to a secret state that chose their city in central Texas as the site of a travesty, a crime so shocking the rest of the world wept while police in Dallas helped the real murderers cover their tracks.
Here’s an appeal, fifty-two years later. Please, Dallas, take the lead. People all over the country will take heart, if they see the city’s leaders change their tone for treatment of this public execution. Most city leaders were not born when Kennedy’s brains and gore spattered all over the presidential limousine, pavement, and police escorts behind him. If Oswald shot Kennedy from the sixth floor of the book depository, all that gore would have covered Governor Connally, immediately in front of President Kennedy. It would have gone past Connally, to hit the secret service agent in the limousine’s front passenger seat. Some of it would have landed on the inside of the front windshield.
Kennedy’s brains did not go toward the front of the car. The gore sprayed in the other direction. It sprayed toward the Lincoln Continental’s left rear tail light, where Jackie Kennedy climbed to recover a piece of her husband’s tissue and skull immediately after the fatal rifle shot. Lyndon Johnson made sure people equipped with buckets and sponges washed the president’s brain tissue off the automobile’s trunk as soon as possible.
A lot of people don’t even think about Kennedy’s murder anymore. It happened long before they were born. Other people think about it a lot, because they see its consequences so plainly today. That the perpetrators got away with the crime bothers them. Whack a loyal but vulnerable asset like Oswald, publish a long report blessed by the nation’s chief justice, and you are done. We can go about our business, which is to run our country the way we want, without interference from an idealistic but tough president we don’t trust, a president that in fact poses a mortal danger to our country. They would not have planned the murder, then followed through, if their distaste and distrust had not reached such a high level.
Yet indignation over this crime still feels subversive, forced underground, when the true subversion came from the perpetrators. You can still get tagged as a conspiracy nut, or buff, or theorist, or whatever derogatory label you choose, if you stick your head up and say the crime was a publicly executed coup. You can still find yourself dismissed if you say too much, or say the wrong things. To this day, the Central Intelligence Agency makes sure key evidence about Kennedy’s death is not published.
That’s why leadership from Dallas could have a distinguishing effect. It could be a tipping point for the country’s desire for truth. Clearly people are fed up with lies, dishonesty, secrecy, betrayal, corruption, chicanery, cruelty, and practically every type of criminal behavior you can imagine on the part of the national government. Yet people – particularly in the mainstream media – remain afraid to talk or write about it. If Dallas, in the tradition of their independently minded state, were to take the lead in finding the truth about this crime, Washington would have a hard time dealing with an effort like that right now. It might tip the rest of the country into a wave of resistance the national government could not suppress. It would take some moral courage, but I expect that somewhere in Dallas, a man or woman of Jim Garrison’s character exists.
For more, see T. J. Hill’s Infamy: November 22, September 11, published November 2015 by Puzzle Mountain.
Evolving norms of the police state
Developing norms of the police state:
Do not mouth off to a police officer. Do not object, protest, or do anything but obey.
Do not run away from a police officer.
Do not shut the door on a police officer.
Always do what a police officer tells you to do. Submit, no matter what.
Do not disrespect a police officer in any way.
Points one, four, and five all say the same thing, in different ways. If you do not comply when a police officer issues an order, you will be shot, tased, shouted at, roughed up, beaten, abused, and handcuffed, and generally abused for non-cooperation. Chances are good that you will lose your life. Police officers know their employers will usually protect them when they treat you this way. This protection gives them freedom to use their weapons and their physical strength indiscriminately.
A lot of people have died under this regime. Police have beaten or tased many others into submission. Have the video function of your smart phone ready. Think about how you can record the actions of police officers without being beaten yourself. The recording is extremely valuable evidence. Conceal the camera. Do not let police confiscate it.
And yes, citizens have strength in numbers. If you are with many other people, you can record police actions in the open, as police cannot confiscate every camera. Citizen recordings have to counter the ability of police officers’ employers to slow down investigations, conduct proceedings in secret, conceal and destroy evidence, and in general exonerate officers, no matter what they do.
World Must Launch World War Against Terror; Arab, Muslim World Must Examine Itself
Thank you, Mr. Freund, for a good summary of Charbel’s article. I think the west has waited for something like this appeal for action, without knowing it. That is, if Arab countries do not take the lead in the battle against ISIS, western intervention just looks like more imperialism (see Sheldon Richman’s article). If Arab countries do take the lead in the battle against ISIS, western intervention has a chance of doing some good. Arab countries have already committed money to the battle, but not military or moral leadership.
This article says, to Arabs of all beliefs everywhere, “Here we go: let’s fight.”
Fathom the unfathomable
Brennan’s reasoning seems to be: “If you don’t give us full freedom to do anything we like, we take no responsibility for anything bad that happens.” Of course, the intelligence agencies did not complain about having too little freedom before 9/11, yet they took no responsibility for that bad thing.
Brennan’s response to the Paris attacks previews his response to the next attack here in the United States. It’s Snowden’s fault. But for Snowden, we would have been able to stop it. You cannot change or even slightly disrupt the world view of these guys. They are right no matter what.
Here’s an excerpt from Amy Davidson’s article in The New Yorker:
A reporter from the Guardian then asked Brennan, “What impact do you think Edward Snowden’s revelations had on everything you just talked about and that debate on privacy?” Brennan’s answer was, again, unmistakable. “I think any unauthorized disclosures that are made by individuals who have dishonored the oath of office, that they raised their hand and attested to, undermines this nation’s security,” Brennan said. He was interrupted by applause, then added, “And heroizing such individuals I find to be unfathomable as far as what it is that this country needs to be able to do, again in order to keep itself safe.”
Perhaps it would help Brennan to fathom the unfathomable if he remembers that, before the Snowden revelations, James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, raised his hand and, in a Senate hearing, gave false testimony about whether the N.S.A. collected information on Americans. (The Times also pointed to false statements that Brennan made in connection with the Senate Report on Torture and civilian deaths from drone strikes.)
No way out
Some good points, but does anyone think that a consistent policy of non-intervention would end the Islamic State’s war on the west? Individual attacks, such as those in Paris, may be for revenge, but the war has continued for decades. I agree that drone strikes as a defense policy don’t yield good results, but why would we think the war is over if we stop drone strikes and all other forms of intervention? No evidence suggests that our opponents would stop fighting if we stop fighting.
That’s why the Champ’s rope-a-dope strategy was so strange. Ali said it would wear his opponents out, but all they did was beat him up until his face became so puffy he couldn’t talk.
One other comment: it’s true enough that we started a war in 2003, against Iraq, that was appreciably worse than low-level, anti-western jihadi wars from the Iranian revolution on. The 2003 war was an egregious blunder. The dilemmas the United States faces now confirm all the dire predictions of catastrophe made before the attack. Critics said at the time warned, “Don’t do it!” but the war cabinet attacked anyway. Once you start something like that, you will never escape the demons and devils you create.
Another instance of trigger happy policemen
Mr. Yantis murdered in Idaho:
Read this story.
Cruel to animals, cruel to people.
Another story about our evolving police state
Mr. Yantis murdered in Idaho:
Age of demagogues
Donald Trump says on Fox News we must “strongly consider” shutting down some mosques in the United States after the Paris attacks of November 13. He even said, “We’re going to have no choice.” Peter Suderman’s response in Reason:
And he is a dim, dull bully at that. Whether Trump is ignorant of one of the most famous and important parts of the Constitution or simply disdainful of its existence, his deliberate amplification in this particular instance is yet another reminder that he is not just a poorly informed blowhard, but an unapologetic knee-jerk authoritarian who cares little for the most basic and fundamental principles upon which the country he says he wants to lead was founded.
Trump has insisted throughout his campaign that his only goal is, in the words of his campaign slogan, to “make America great again,” but every time he opens his mouth, he offers a reminder that if granted the opportunity he would casually decimate what made it great in the first place.
At first Trump was entertaining. As the primaries draw near and he shares the lead with Ben Carson, he’s not so entertaining anymore.
No victory without truth
Comment on the article above:
Instead of finding out who actually committed the 9/11 attacks, U. S. leaders falsely declared that Saddam Hussein was complicit, then declared war against Iraq. ISIS today grew out of that war. Say that once more: our enemy today sprang from a misplaced desire for revenge after 9/11.
The first rule of warfare is, know your enemy. The United States has ignored that rule for a long time. If you find yourself asking, “why can’t we take out these bastards?” — you have a major hole in your strategic thinking department. If you want to “take these bastards out,” you have to discover the truth about who is responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Once you know that, you can figure out what to do now.
Google Infamy by T. J. Hill, or visit http://puzzlemtn.com/books/.
You are not welcome here, you’re not welcome there, you’re not welcome anywhere
“You might not like Republicans calling for a ban on refugees. But it’s smart politics.”
No more Syrian refugees. Do you know what that suggests? We have no confidence in current screening methods, used to identify people who may pose a threat to us. If that’s the case, why do we let anyone in from anywhere? If we believe the screening methods don’t work, why do we let in anyone from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, or any other country for that matter? Why do we let any Muslims at all into our country?
Well that’s been the subtext for the immigration debate all along. Close the borders. Build a fence. To keep ourselves safe, we have to keep foreigners out. The threat is out there. We go to war there so we don’t have to fight them here. Yes, and close the borders. If France had closed its borders, the Paris attacks would not have happened. You can’t go to war against ISIS and not close your borders. Otherwise they’ll come and get you.
I don’t even want to think about how many problems exist with these arguments. They are just shot through with poor reasoning. Except for the first part: the desire to close the borders does in fact suggest that our leaders have no confidence in the methods they use to screen people who want to come to the United States. The rest is pandering, fear mongering, demagoguery: more of the same. If you appeal to your constituents’ irrational fears, they’ll like you. Do it.
Interestingly, when a religiously based attack does occur in the United States, as at the Fort Hood massacre, leaders try to pretend that it is not related to Islamic militancy. So fear mongering has its limits. When Republican governors say they want to exclude Syrian refugees from their states after the Paris attacks, that position finds support. Who can tell where the next attack will originate? No answer to that question exists, so leaders focus their new security measures on the last attack. Follow our president’s example, and don’t think strategically at all.
For lack of strategic thinking, we have to have something in its place. After attacks like those in Paris on November 13, we still try to orient ourselves by Bush’s Manichaean north star, which suits ISIS just fine: “If you’re not with us, you’re with the Terrorists.” If you want to take on evil in the world under a banner like that, go ahead. Most Americans have become far too war weary to think about marching off to Syria, and after all, closing the border is something closer to home that we might actually accomplish. The policy has a lot of appeal.
If you don’t like the Republicans’ exclusionary inflexibility, Bush’s Axis of Evil, or Obama’s wait-and-see stroll in the park, we have a children’s story. The first pig’s house was made of straw. The second pig’s house was made of wood. The third pig’s house was made of brick. The wolf eyed that brick house and climbed up on the roof. He came down the chimney and fell right into a pot of boiling water. The pigs slapped a heavy cast iron cover right on top of that bad wolf. Somehow I do not think our leaders are as clever as those pigs. Nor do I think ISIS is as dumb as the wolf.
The Dept. of Homeland Security classifies you an illegal, subject to deportation
Homeland Security says: You’re an illegal. Want to know why? Because we say so! You came here without our permission!
What about the economic argument? Don’t illegal immigrants take jobs away from Americans?
“As an economist friend says, if an unskilled Mexican who can’t speak English threatens your job, you’ve got a bigger problem than immigration.” ~ Sheldon Richman
While people mourn, governments investigate
However government security agencies respond to the November 13 Paris attacks, victims are dead and wounded. If I have lost a daughter in Bataclan concert hall on Friday, I have three questions alongside my grief:
~ Why were gunmen able to shoot at people for so long before police arrived?
~ Why were gunmen able to mount an operation that large, without alerting any security agencies?
~ How could the president of France announce that Daesh carried out the attacks – with assistance from complicit internal actors – when every attacker died? He said an investigation would confirm this conclusion.
Are France’s security agencies incompetent? After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, how could attacks like these happen? You will never, ever find an answer to that question, because no government agency ever takes responsibility for its action or inaction. Moreover, no government agency ever publishes information that reveals the truth about internal security failures. Government agencies don’t want to lay out any information at all, because they operate in secret.
Even if ISIS is responsible for the attacks, we won’t find out anything useful about how they managed to carry them out. The investigation will take a long time. These attacks took a long time to prepare, so a lot of evidence has cooled the day they are carried out. By the time the investigation is complete, the evidence is truly cold if it exists at all. Google the investigation of the November 13 attacks on January 1, 2016: see if the results tell you anything you don’t know today.
When President Hollande says that an investigation will confirm exactly what he said before the investigation started, you know one hundred percent the investigation will confirm his conclusion. Which makes you wonder why you would want to conduct an investigation, if you already know the outcome. Don’t wonder long: security agencies conduct investigations, by necessity, to give people confidence that such a thing won’t happen again. Then it does happen again.
“If we subvert world order and destroy world peace we must inevitably subvert and destroy our own political institutions first.” ~ Hannah Arendt
Why do so many defendants plead guilty when they’ve done nothing wrong?
Here is another story to show that the term criminal justice system is an oxymoron. The system does not serve justice. It is a criminal system. Some prosecutors act like criminals. How so? Because they observe no constitutional restraints. They operate outside the law. You could say their methods have become so commonplace that no law even exists to restrain them anymore. They operate in an environment where whatever they do is legal, because they did it.
If you want a criminal justice system that serves justice, you have to have a system that operates under the law.
Why would you report that Ben Carson is dishonest?
Now we are arguing whether the scholarship that West Point offers all its students is a scholarship. West Point calls it a scholarship: aside from a career in the army and the opportunity to serve as a leader, a full scholarship is its main selling point. The school encourages high school seniors to apply because they’ll receive a full scholarship. Now Politico says Ben Carson made it all up because it’s not a scholarship when every student receives it.
As Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief.” If West Point calls it a scholarship, it’s a scholarship. If Ben Carson tells how West Point encouraged him to apply when he was a senior ROTC cadet in high school, you’re going to say he ‘fabricated’ the story because you don’t think West Point should call it a scholarship? (Interestingly, Politico withdrew the word ‘fabricated’ in a revised edition of its story, but stood by the story itself.)
Don’t try to play gotcha with Ben Carson. The man is honest. He doesn’t make stuff up. For over a century we have talked about “the mystery of the pyramids,” yet now the question is solved so we can attack Ben Carson. For ages we have asked candidates to be forthright about their pasts, yet now we suggest Ben Carson is a liar because journalists can’t find anyone to testify to his violent temper as a youth. Maybe journalists would like to publish an article to say we can’t find any evidence that Carson was actually a surgeon. After all, he could have arranged for his secret twin brother to enter the operating room.
Journalists seem to lose it when they can’t play their usual games. More precisely, they play their usual games, then lose even more credibility than they’ve already lost. I can’t figure out why you would sacrifice your credibility to prove someone else is a liar. If you attribute dishonesty to an honest person, you really better know what you are doing. Then again, the excitement and buzz you create with a successful gotcha may be too tempting to forego.
Do you know why the shepherd boy cried “Wolf!” so often? He wanted to get attention, and stir things up. Does that remind you of so-called investigative journalism? The journalists who play gotcha are self-important busybodies who want to create a little commotion. People come running at the shepherd’s alerts because wolves actually threaten the flock. Like shepherds, journalists are supposed to protect citizens from dishonest politicians. When you call Ben Carson a liar, though, no one will believe you when a truly dishonest leader appears.
On representative government and powerlessness of the people
“Just as the exaltation of the king could be a means of controlling him, so the exaltation of the people can be a means of controlling them …If the representative consented, his constituents had to make believe that they had done so.” ~ Edmund Morgan
Why is this the president’s decision to make?
Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency
I don’t think George Will has to worry too much. Don’t people read these books because they like Bill O’Reilly and the O’Reilly Factor? We’ve had five books now in the “Killing” series: Killing Lincoln, Kennedy, Jesus, Patton, and now Reagan. For his last subject, O’Reilly selected someone who wasn’t even killed! That’s alright, you can write whatever you want, and call the book whatever you want.
I’m skeptical that people believe this material merely because O’Reilly wrote it. True, he’s a conservative authority, more respectable than Limbaugh, but still, would anyone read his books if he weren’t already famous? That is, they may buy the book because they know who he is, and some people may trust him so much they believe whatever he says or writes, but will most readers swallow O’Reilly’s version of history without thinking about it? Don’t people like to compare one account with another?
Check out Amazon reviews of O’Reilly’s book on Reagan. Interestingly, 73% award five stars. Read the one and two star reviews, several of them from readers familiar with all five books in the “Killing” series:
The Queen of Hearts could do a better job than Roger Goodell
NFL owners should fire Roger Goodell. They’re not going to do that, though. Replacing him is like electing a pope, except the owners don’t get to deliberate in secret, and they don’t want to go through that process until Goodell steps aside on his own.
So short of firing or retirement, the owners and the league should remove discipline from Goodell’s hands. He is terrible at it. He is also bad at PR. He makes his disciplinary decisions for PR reasons, and everyone knows it. The disciplinary decisions he makes are horrible, unfair, and even dishonest, no matter how you look at them. They’re so bad, over time, that they just generate more bad publicity.
So the commissioner and the owners need to create a body to hear cases. You could even have a supreme court to hear appeals, with lower level boards to handle drug offenses and the like. It works with the U. S. judiciary, and it would work for the National Football League. Then Goodell could do whatever the commissioner does when he’s not working on discipline, like go out to lunch with the owners.
Honestly, the man has to stop punishing people. He has made the league’s whole disciplinary system into something that looks like Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts. “Off with his head!” she would say, to the surprise of all her listeners. The decision he hands down in a particular case is absolutely unpredictable. He is the league’s supreme lawgiver. Yet he has shown everyone – in real life – what Lewis Carroll was thinking about when he created his fantastical queen, dealer of fantastical punishments.
“They’ve just gone into the first turn…”
Here’s a quick summary of observations about the Republican primary:
Both leaders, Carson and Trump, are not professional politicians
Together, the two leaders poll more than fifty percent of likely voters in Republican primaries. That’s a remarkable figure when you consider the field is a dozen or more.
Mainstream journalists remain confident the Republican Party establishment will find a way to block both Carson and Trump, or that that their support will fade on its own when the voting starts.
The candidates are correct to take more control over the debates.
We have less than ninety days till the Iowa caucuses, but neither Iowa nor New Hampshire select the Republican nominee. The big dates are Tuesday, March 1, through Tuesday March 8, when twenty states plan to hold primaries or caucuses to cast votes. These contests start just one month after the Iowa caucuses on Monday, February 1.
Journalists can’t wait to find out the results – they still use phrases like ‘neck and neck’ – but this over eagerness has no bearing on outcomes, nor does it lead to accurate predictions.
One prediction is sure enough: the field of viable candidates will be smaller at the end of March than it is now. You can’t say any more than that.
What does it mean to be workmanlike in football?
Everyone remarks on Tom Brady’s workmanlike performance at quarterback in every game. Do you want to hear what he says about his own approach to the game? The way he thinks about the game shows in the way he plays it:
“Like I said, every week you put together a different plan,” Brady said. “(Bill Belichick) talks about, it’s a blank canvas. You start each week and you’ve got to put the same amount of work in every single week. And you can’t forget one detail. And then you get one chance to go out there and do it on Sunday.
“It’s hard to win. It’s really hard to win. It’s easy to take it for granted, because we have a good record and we’ve played well for a period of time. But I don’t think we as players ever take it for granted, because I’ve been around long enough to realize how hard it is to get the ball in the end zone, to put together drives. It’s no easy task. You’ve got to keep working at it.”
Prepare, then do your best with the situation in front of you.
Refusing to cater a gay wedding will bring the full weight of the nation’s condemnation down on you. Refusing to care for children whose parents decline a vaccine brings no disapproval whatever. The Twitter mob selects its causes, but don’t expect fairness or consistency.
$43 million for a natural gas station in Afghanistan
It’s great to find specific examples of waste, but the amount of money the U. S. has wasted in Afghanistan far exceeds $43 million. If you add the amount wasted in Iraq, you have a figure that goes into uncounted billions of dollars.
Cross-country runner disqualified for helping another runner in distress
Champion teen runner disqualified after helping rival in medical distress: http://fxn.ws/1OZ9GWP.
Mindless officials apply a rule written to sanction cheating to a completely different situation. If you have to say “rules are rules” to justify your action, you know you’ve done something wrong.