Number of posts: 85
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By John Hickman:
Why Police The Middle East?
Who wants to intervene in the Syrian civil war? Opinion polls on both sides of the Atlantic make it clear that while events in Syria are tragic there is no desire for involvement in another war in the Middle East. Recent experience has taught the public lessons about their cost and futility. Instead, it is the diplomats and the journalists who ache with war fever. You can read it in the rigorous application of double standards about democracy and human rights by the Clinton State Department. You can read it in the slanted framing of the Syrian tragedy by the major English language news sources.
Liberty of the Powerless
Scarcely two years have passed since excited crowds of Tea Party activists thundered fervent evocations of individual liberty and yet today there is only a faint echo of their temper tantrum. Although they could be faulted for puerile conceptions of the American Revolution, for treating the U.S. Constitution as holy text rather than as a deal struck about the rules of the game for competing for power in a liberal democracy, and for barely concealed racist hysteria about President Barack Obama, we can still grant that some Tea Party activists were sincere in declaring their love of freedom. That is what makes their nearly complete silence in the face of current threats to individual liberty from state governments across the country worth noting.
Iran Sure Looks Big
Would it be too much to ask that the neocons at the Weekly Standard decide which country in the Middle East they want the United States to attack next? Astonishingly, in the same March 19th issue of this leading journal of the neoconservative movement can be found an article by Stephen F. Haynes critical of the Obama administration for not being bellicose enough on Iran and another by Lee Smith critical of the Obama administration for not being aggressive enough on Syria. After having waged two very long and, as it is now obvious, pointless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, can the neocons be serious that they want to launch two more?
What U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says that she wants from the Obama administration is a foreign policy of consistent toughness toward repressive authoritarian regimes. On October 27, 2011, she complained that the administration talking tough to the governments of Libya and Yemen but engaging the government of Cuba.Coming from a Cuban-American who represents the Miami-Dade County District that is home to a large Cuban-American population, that is easily dismissed as yet another regrettable case of ethnic foreign policy lobbying.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith deserves recognition for achieving something that many observers would have thought impossible. He found a way to make the War on Drugs an even greater public policy disaster. On October 10th, the House Judiciary Committee that he chairs voted final passage of a bill amending the Controlled Substances Act to make U.S. drug prohibition prosecution authority universal. If adopted into law by Congress, his Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011 would make anyone within the borders of the U.S. who “aids or abets” anyone outside the borders of the U.S. in committing acts involving the many substances prohibited and/or heavily regulated by the underlying law that would be illegal if committed within the borders of the U.S. in violation as a conspirator. The range of absurd prosecutions that would be made possible is outlined in a recent piece by Radley Balko in Huffington Post.
There being no escape from the recent efflorescence of evocations of American Exceptionalism by Republican presidential candidates and conservative commentators, I felt compelled to investigate the phenomenon. For insight I turned to Berry College’s own Dr. Michael Bailey, whose scholarship focuses on the ideas that animate American Politics. Surprisingly, his answers point to something positive.
Hickman: First, am I correct in thinking that there a lot more discussion about American Exceptionalism now as opposed to the past? Why are we seeing it now?
Alarmed by a recent encounter with ticks and unable to synthesize what I was finding online about tick borne disease, I decide to exploit the expertise of Berry College’s Biology Professor and College Veterinarian Dr. Martin Goldberg, who just happens to be one of the planet’s foremost authorities on the biology of ticks. His answers offer important background together with some practical advice and useful perspective.
Hickman: Are we in “tick season” now? How long does it last? Is it the same time every year?
Goldberg: Yes, we are in tick season now but it is starting to taper off. Maybe a few more weeks. Generally tick season starts in the spring runs through the summer and into the fall. Ticks need heat and moisture to thrive.
What is the difference between an ‘atrocity’ and a ‘killing spree’? The question is worth asking because, although English language news sources have employed different words or phrases to label the recent horrific events in Norway, the phrase ‘killing spree’ keeps cropping up in place of the word ‘atrocity.’
Part of the difference in connotation involves intention. Where soldiers, police officers and terrorists ‘commit atrocities,’ common criminals, juvenile delinquents and madmen ‘go on killing sprees.’ Atrocity implies greater intention than killing spree. Like the phrase ‘shopping spree,’ killing spree conveys the idea of spontaneous, irresponsible action. Another part of the difference in involves scale. Atrocity implies larger numbers of victims than killing spree. What happened on March 16, 1968, when Georgia’s own Lt. William Calley issued orders to Charlie Company that resulted in the execution of 504 unarmed peasants in the village of My Lai as a reprisal for supporting the National Liberation Front, was an atrocity.
You could almost hear the deflation in Atlanta as the CNN news editors lost interest in the terrorist attack in Norway. The initial report must have seemed so promising. Here was a great news story. A brutal bombing in the capital of a Western European government that was almost certainly committed, or so CNN’s ‘terrorist expert’ concluded, by radical Islamists. No doubt still enraged about some political cartoon in a Danish newspaper. For many network executives and for much of the audience, the Nordic countries are almost indistinguishable anyway.
An Interview with Ian Almond on Attorney General Sam Olens
When the most senior law enforcement officer and legal advisor for the state of Georgia accuses a group of Georgia State University students of being pawns for international terrorists, every liberty loving Georgian should pay close attention. On May 24th, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens stated that he “absolutely” believed that the Progressive Student Alliance leaders who had made an opens records request for information about the Georgia International Law Enforcement Program were acting for unnamed others.
Georgia will not be joining the states where serious consideration is being given to raising motor fuel excise taxes. What is sensible and possible in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland and Nebraska is sensible but absolutely impossible in Georgia. Opposition to any tax increase has become an Article of Faith among conservative Republicans as unquestionable as their opposition to abortion and gun control. Any attempt to challenge economic dogma on taxes is likely to be terminated with a pious intonation of the phrase “job killer.”
Such discussions end before they begin because tax increases are like visits to the dentist. They are inevitable.
Pause for a moment to salute the courageous coalition of Democrats and Libertarians who dream of creating America’s 51st state: Baja Arizona. What they propose is nothing less than to free Pima County and Tucson from the grasp of an increasingly reactionary state government in Phoenix. Secession is the most difficult of exit options to execute. National governments and sub-national units of government are sometimes willing to allow people to leave but never dirt. Holding territory is part of the hardwiring of every modern State.
The specific obstacles that the Start Our State stalwarts will have to overcome to create Baja Arizona are daunting. Unless or until the constitutional authority exercised by the United States Government decays further – every regime is ultimately mortal even if we don’t want to think about it – both the Arizona state legislature and U.S. Congress would have to vote their approval. Extremely unlikely now to be sure …
You freethinking Yankees go ahead and laugh. When Texas Governor Rick Perry called upon Texans to pray for rain he did nothing more than petty rulers have doing since our species began farming and herding. We need only consult Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough to be reminded that, “Of all the things that a public magician sets himself to do for the good of the tribe, one of the chief is to control the weather, and especially to ensure an adequate fall of rain.”
Perry is undoubtedly a very powerful public magician…
Among the cable television series dramatizing subject matter deemed too controversial for broadcast television and violating FCC standards against indecency and obscenity, Showtime’s highly rated Weeds stands out for the sophistication of its challenge to the official narrative in the War on Drugs. How the challenge is executed bears analysis. On first encounter, many critics dismissed Weeds. Struggling to place it one critic described it as occupying the middle ground between HBO series like The Wire and softer fare like Desperate Housewives. The series seemed merely one more satire exploring the emptiness of suburban life and the central character of Nancy Botwin, played by Mary Louise Parker
President Barack Obama’s decision to impose a ‘no fly zone plus’ on Libya obviously worries the gathering swarm of declared, undeclared and/or ‘just in it for the publicity’ Republican presidential candidates, though their reasons probably have less to do with furthering American national interests than with its effect on their chances of being elected in 2012. The most obvious reason for concern is that their reactions have exposed the fragmentation of a once monolithic GOP. Republicans are all over the map on Libya. At one end of the spectrum, Rand Paul opposes any military action in Libya. At the other end of the spectrum, Tim Pawlenty not only demands military action against Libya but also…
Why did Richard M. Nixon launch the War on Drugs? Despite the immense domestic and international costs from that policy decision, like so much else that issued from our most disastrous presidency, there is no scholarly or popular consensus about his motives. What we know for certain is that drug prohibition had been national public policy in the United States for decades before events during his administration signaled an escalation in such efforts: passage by the U.S. Congress of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in October 1970, Nixon’s description of drug abuse as “public enemy number one in the United States during a June 1971 press conference, universal urinalysis drug screening for returning U.S. Vietnam War veterans under Operation Golden Flow that same month, creation of the Office of the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) in December 1971, and finally, Nixon’s request that the U.S. Congress establish the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in a July 1973 speech…
There is more than a simple public relations lesson to be learned about the risk of thinking out loud in the recent experience of Kansas State Representative Virgil Peck. During a March 14th meeting of the State House Appropriations Committee on a proposal to deal with the problem of feral pigs by shooting them from helicopters, the 11th District Republican suggested that, “if shooting these immigrating hogs works maybe we have a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem.” Conservative lawmakers would be wise to express their murderous impulses away from microphones. Aerial summary execution of the undocumented as a state immigration policy is shocking enough, but what Peck later said in response to criticism was even more chilling. “I was just speaking as a southeast Kansas person,” he said.
The first time you view the 35-minute long ‘Muslim Pirates and Ayatollahs’ speech by U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert on March 3rd it is easy to suspect that it is a spoof. If he were still with us, performance artist Andy Kaufman couldn’t have delivered a better send-up of the stereotypic cornpone Texas politician obviously out of his depth as he rattles on about complex foreign policy issues. Amusement eventually fades to dismay, however, with the realization that Gohmert’s act is no act. After all, C-SPAN regularly broadcasts rank nonsense but never spoofs.
Having recovered from the shock that this is actually a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives speaking and that these are actually his thoughts about foreign policy, the second thing you notice is the puzzling nature of his speech. The First District Republican sometimes returns to a narrative about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East after an excursus on a high school history lesson or a trip down memory lane but at other times he simply abandons the digression to its own fate to strike off down another path.
That Georgia House Bill 401 is not really about preventing Barack Obama’s name from appearing on the 2012 presidential ballot in Georgia is patent. Less obvious is what it is intended to accomplish. Rather than an exercise in irrational partisanship, a collective temper tantrum on the part of conservatives convinced they are entitled to have one of their own in the White House, as is supposed in much of the commentary on the ‘Birther Bill,’ there is method to the madness of Georgia Republicans.
Granted, among the 89 Republicans in the Georgia House of Representatives who chose to affix and leave affixed their names on HB 401 as co-sponsors may be individuals willing to insist upon choosing the Democratic nominee who will lose the state in the general election.
Failed witch hunts reveal political ambition at its most repugnant and most ridiculous. Consider the unhappy situation in which Virginia State Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II now finds himself. Like every other politician on the make, his career has been a search for issues to capture public attention and garner campaign contributions. When he launched his crusade against climatologist Michael E. Mann, the Virginia Republican probably thought he’d caught the scent of an issue that would elevate him above the herd of conservatives who also staunchly oppose universal health care, abortion, same sex marriage, gun control and undocumented workers. Unfortunately that recognition has come at a rather steep price: the unmistakable, unshakable odor of the aggressive crackpot.
Back to back news reports about the War on Drugs on the December 1, 2010 broadcast of the PBS NewsHour, widely considered to be the best nightly television news in America, provide examples of the hollowness of drug policy news coverage. The first story by reporter Tom Bearden is a vehicle for the local official sources in Colorado Springs to describe their War on Drugs while the second story was an interview by reporter Margaret Warner with Wall Street Journal correspondent Nicholas Casey. Both reports on the economics of the drug trade carefully elude the fundamental reason that it is so extraordinarily profitable.
Decrying high taxes, high unemployment and high deficits is in every legislator’s job description. So there is nothing wrong with Jim DeMint bemoaning each of those economic problems. What is wrong is for the junior Senator from South Carolina and Tea Party Grandee to assert that all three can be reduced simultaneously. Wrong because he knows that it cannot be done and wrong because he is disingenuous about which problem is his real priority.
Here is the economic policy dilemma. Dealing with one of these three problems nearly always has implications for the other two.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is rarely subtle but there was an important subtext to his recent comments about the Mosque scheduled for construction in lower Manhattan on Fox & Friends. Gingrich said the following: “You know, Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.” The false parallel hidden in plain sight is between ‘Nazi’ and ‘Japanese.’ Gingrich was a history professor so he knows that how the enemy is identified is crucial in determining how countries fight their wars. Where ‘Nazi’ identifies a political ideology and movement rather than all Germans as the enemy during the Second World War in Europe, ‘Japanese’ identifies an entire people as the enemy during the Second World War in Asia. That is consistent with the how the United States waged that war. German industry rather than the German population was the primary target for the American aerial bombardment of Germany. The Japanese population, however, was the primary target for the American aerial bombardment of Japan. Very few German Americans were interned in United States during the Second World War while most Japanese Americans in the continental United States were interned.