The Trump Trash Talking of Puerto Rico

This spot in our week here at Emptywheel is supposed to be a set aside for light hearted banter on sports, especially football and Formula One. That is what we have done since our beginning over a decade ago.

But I just cannot summon the enthusiasm for that right now any more than I could last weekend when the Trump racism and narcissism were already raging.

There are 3.5 million American citizens in the lurch in Puerto Rico, suffering from dehydration, starvation and death. Because of a fundamental lack of fuel to move, and communications to know, the full extent of the damage is still not really known.

So, what is the most powerful leader in the world doing? Tweeting a bunch of racially bigoted trash at the people and leaders of Puerto Rico. Here is what our disgrace of a President blasted off this morning:

That graphic was posted on Twitter by Josh Marshall of TPM, and his annotations are perfect.

Trump’s conduct is disgusting and unconscionable. From a man fiddling golfing while Rome burns Puerto Rico dies. What did the Mayor of San Juan, the largest population center and capitol hub of Puerto Rican government say? She begged for her people via a tearful plea to all of the federal government:

“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy,”

That would be Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. She also had the temerity to call out Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke who made the horribly insensitive and asinine comment that Puerto Rico is a “good news story”. For seeking to keep her constituents from dying and calling bullshit on the actual bullshit of Elaine Duke, Trump now thinks Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz is the functional equivalent of Kim Jong-Un. Even insanity has rarely run this far amok.

Where will you find Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz? Perhaps there is a photo somewhere in an office, but since the Puerto Rican crisis began, I have never seen her portrayed by the press, or anybody else, as being anything other than tirelessly out in the streets and flooded destroyed neighborhoods with her devastated constituents. Like a real leader would be. This photo is indicative:

Remember General Russell Honore, who brought some long past due seriousness and reality to Katrina in NOLA? He is in San Juan now. Here is what he had to say when questioned on Trump’s attack on the Mayor:

“The mayor’s living on a cot and I hope the President has a good day at golf.”

Can’t argue with that. Maybe Trump can secretly meet with the Puerto Rican bondholders he so cherishes that put their craven investments ahead of the lives of American citizens, while he is relaxing at his fucking golf resort this weekend. It is simply who he, and they, are. It should NOT be who we are though. This country is better than that.

I would also like to, again, point out that the much ballyhooed by Sarah Sanders and Trump Administration “Jones Act Waiver was a complete fraud and sham on the press, public and, most of all, people of Puerto Rico. There are effectively little more than SEVEN days left on Trump’s bogus waiver and gift to craven bondholders and rapacious shippers. Trump insured he got good press for a news cycle and completely stiffed Puerto Rico of any meaningful assistance via relief from the hideously oppressive Jones Act. Heckuva job Trumpie.

If you want a couple of fantastic pieces of reportage on Puerto Rico today, go see the Washington Post piece “Lost weekend: How Trump’s time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria” as well as the superb interactive overview from the New York Times, “One Day in the Life of Battered Puerto Rico”. You will be better for having seen both.

As to the games. Eh, Pirate Mike Leach and Washington State pulled off a serious upset of USC last night. Leach had his usual awesome take. As to the NFL, the focus seems to be more on the pre-game than the real games. I will note that Tom Brady’s first start was 16 years ago today. The Patriots have since won 5 Super Bowls, 14 AFC East titles and 185 of his 238 starts. Kid can play ball. Also, this weekend is the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit. Hamilton takes pole and Vettel starts at back of the grid due to a bad engine. That likely ends the Drivers’ Championship battle for yet another year.

That is it for today. Rock on, and put the thoughts of our fellow citizens of Puerto Rico in your hearts.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Did President Trump Violate Federal Law With His Alabama Rant?

I wrote yesterday about the racial, social and football implications of Trump’s rant in the history and home of George Wallace.

But a new, and by all appearances excellent, commenter on that post noted this:

“It occurs to me that his tweets are at least arguably in violation of 18 U.S. Code § 227. That section prohibits the POTUS (among others), from “attempting to influence or interfere” in a private company’s labor matter, to urge a “political” firing. This is especially true where the basis for the POTUS’s urging of the firing of such a private company employee (union covered, collective bargaining agreement governed) — is (as here) centered on protected political first amendment expression.”

So, is that right? Well, it is a LOT closer call than most would dismissively think. Let’s look at the language of the relevant statute, 18 USC §277:

18 U.S. Code § 227 – Wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions by a Member of Congress or an officer or employee of the legislative or executive branch:

(a) Whoever, being a covered government person, with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity—
(1) takes or withholds, or offers or threatens to take or withhold, an official act, or
(2) influences, or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another,
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 15 years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.
(b) In this section, the term “covered government person” means—
(1) a Senator or Representative in, or a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, the Congress;
(2) an employee of either House of Congress; or
(3) the President, Vice President, an employee of the United States Postal Service or the Postal Regulatory Commission, or any other executive branch employee (as such term is defined under section 2105 of title 5, United States Code).

Read the statute. It is a lot closer call than you think. Will Trump’s own Department of Justice pursue this? No, no chance, nor probably should it be. Is it a viable question, and one that ought be discussed in the public and media, yes, absolutely.

As sports law “experts” would say, let’s break it down. There are elements to a crime. Trump is unequivocally a “covered person” within the ambit of the statute. Also unequivocal is the fact that his words in Alabama were meant to influence “an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity”, in this case, the National Football League.

The problem lies in section (a)(1) of the relevant statute, which requires:

takes or withholds, or offers or threatens to take or withhold, an official act

It is easy to see and admit that Trump would do just that in a heartbeat. But Trump did not do that per se in his Alabama speech.

No. That element cannot be met by Donald J. Trump’s Alabama Song of hate. So, no, there is no exposure to 18 USC §227.

It is a great thought and question though.

And it is a perfect example of the precipice of racism, bigotry and ignorance on which the political discussion in the United States, and our Article II Executive Branch, courtesy of President Trump, nows perilously treads nearly every day.

The events and actions in and from the NFL today, tomorrow, and in the next few weeks pale in comparison. They are a symbol and a voice. But it is so much more and bigger than that.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

When The President Hates A Race And Talks Racist Trash

President Donald J. Trump is a racist bigot. Jemele Hill was right on that one, not that sane people had not already realized it long ago, and well before his election. Take his ignorant position on the Central Park Five case, just as a for instance. Then add on how he was sued decades ago for discriminating against blacks in housing. Throw in a thousand other tell tale points and you have a picture of a self entitled candy assed rich New York racist. That is just who he is. It has always been there for inquiring minds to see if they so desired.

Now the latest pure and unadulterated racism from the now President of the United States. Last night in Alabama, Trump let loose a rambling self centered screed of a speech that would make George Wallace cringe. Here is a sample:

“Wouldn’t you like to see one of these owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!”

He then went on to state that any player so exercising free speech should be “fired” and unemployable at their career job. From Michael David Smith at PFT:

Trump said an NFL owner who releases a player would instantly gain broad support across America.

“Some owner’s gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag? He’s fired. And that owner . . . they’ll be the most popular person in this country. Because that’s total disrespect of our heritage. That’s total disrespect of everything we stand for,” Trump said.

Trump added that he believes fans should walk out if players don’t stand for the anthem. “If you see it, even if it’s one player,” Trump said, “Leave the stadium.”

Trump also argued that if they do this to boycott the NFL and personal free speech, they would be supporting him and his position.

Clearly aiming at Colin Kaepernick, Michael Bennett and Malcolm Jenkins, prominent NFL players who have had the audacity to be free thinking humans and exercise the protected free speech our Bill of Rights is led by and that generations of American patriots fought and died to preserve. Donald Trump shits on every ounce of that every time he goes on one of his little pointed and racist rants. And boy did he shit on it last night in Alabama. You’d almost think Trump is aligned with the neo-Nazi white supremacists with torches in Charlottesville that he praised as “fine people” instead of the full diversity of American citizens. Including, you know, black people.

Was Trump done? Of course not. He then cravenly went on to scold the NFL for being soft because of their (still lame and ineffective) concern about CTE degenerative brain disease:

“When the ratings are down massively, massively. The NFL ratings are down massively. Now the number one reason happens to be that they like watching what’s happening….with yours truly. They like what’s happening.

Because you know if they hit too hard…Fifteen yards! Throw him out of the game! they hd that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom, fifteen yards!

The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game!”

An outrageous thing to say about, again, American citizens and their workplace safety issues. Especially when the most recent studies found CTE degeneration in 99% of the brains from NFL players they have examined. And when the NFL was just slapped with a complaint on Aaron Hernandez that exhibited that even a relative young player displayed “a raisin-like brain of a 70-year-old even though he was 27″. Simply craven, bigoted and outrageous.

It is the the stuff of a narcissistic self entitled bigot plantation slave owner. Trump literally thinks he is not only the the better, but genetically superior to other humans, including the constituents he works for. Including people he thinks are owned as slaves by the NFL and other terrorized employees.

When Trump instructs NFL owners to fire people that disagree with his own petty world view, he thinks they are plantation owners such as he sees himself with the rest of humanity. Trump makes “the best deals” but cannot see, nor appreciate, the NFL collective bargaining agreement (CBA), nor does he respect that deal for squat if employees thereunder happen to annoy the fat ass boy king and god.

Apparently Trump thinks the illustrious group of NFL owner oligarchs are his bitches too. As Don Van Natta noted, “Bob Kraft, Jerry Jones, Stan Kroenke, Daniel Snyder, Shahid Khan, Woody Johnson & Bob McNair each gave $1M to Trump”. That is nearly one quarter of the NFL owners. What are they rewarded with by their benefactor Trump? A call for boycott of their business interests unless they enforce an unconscionable suppression of political free speech he disagrees with.

This may “only be sports”, but this is one of the more stunningly outrageous and un-American symbols of the cancer the Trump Presidency really is. And what a demented, sick and small man Trump really is.

Did Trump stop with that stunning pettiness and bigotry? No, of course not. He woke up and decided to be the charlatan of humanity he really is, and decided to lash out at another icon of sports. Steph Curry. And more:

Well that is brilliant Art of the Squeal Like a Pig Don.

So, lets see, who has Donald Trump lashed out at exclusively in the last 24 hours? Ryan Lizza hit it on the head:

Trump has now attacked Jemele Hill, Colin Kaepernick, & Stephen Curry. All have something in common but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Ryan was being sarcastic about the putting a finger on it. And, again, he was completely correct in his observation. I wonder what Trump would say about a golden white boy who turned down a White House invitation”? Oh, wait….

The face of the New England Patriots, Tom Brady, did not attend Wednesday’s White House ceremony with his teammates due to “personal family matters” — but the show went on without the star quarterback.

Brady’s decision not to visit the White House comes on the same day former teammate and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez was found dead after an apparent suicide in his prison cell.

Yes, a pure as white can be Tom Brady gets no bad mouth at all from our racist bigot President, but be a black person in sports, whether athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett, or sports journalist like Jemele Hill, and he will try to deprive you and your family of the essential income your professional career provides.

This is where we are in America in the Age of Trumpism. If you are a white nationalist fat ass racist bigot, your President thinks you are “fine folk”. If you are an intelligent black, brown, gay or other, even trying to serve your country’s military, your President, Trump The Genetically Magnificent, will attack you and your family’s very source of income, and well being, mercilessly.

It is the shame of modern America.

I’m sorry, I’ve no stomach for the actual games this weekend at this point. We can all discuss that in comments, but not here. Not now. Not after this.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

McCain’s Brain Versus American Lives and Healthcare

There is no joy here in the Mudville that is Arizona. John McCain may have been somebody that natives like me disfavored from the start because of his hubristic usurpation of a true legend and son of Arizona, John Rhodes, but no one here wanted this.

Not now. Not ever.

So the “press” such as they may be, can run all their blathering hagiographies. Go run with that. It’s what you do, isn’t it?

But, for now, thankfully, McCain is alive and well. I am thankful for that.

And, I hope, at this critical juncture in life, John McCain finds it within himself to realize that the healthcare that has kept him alive, and diagnosed his problems, should NOT be limited to Congresspeople and those that married into money. We all deserve the benefit of what McCain has realized.

John McCain has an opportunity to stand up now for those that have none of his storied display of heroism, nor the benefit of his position. His story, because Mr. McCain was born into military care and then segued into other money and entitlement that does not transfer to most of us. For the common citizens he has always talked about, yet curiously abandoned, when it counted in close measures on the Senate floor, where has John McCain been? Absent, that is where.

The man who lived under the press moniker “Maverick” can ride into the famous sunset of his adopted state by helping real people instead of going out with the McConnell Republicans determined to screw the populous. Who will John McCain be?

Who will John McCain be? The elusive and etherial “Maverick” he has always painted himself as being? Or the reliable vote for craven Republican policies that devastate real citizens? Arizona, indeed America itself, deserves the McCain always portrayed and lionized in his numerous campaigns. Not the guy who always defaulted to the GOP sick and craven core.

Will John McCain have the guts and glory he is famous for, and go out fighting for the common American and their human rights to healthcare and financial and educational stability? The exact things McCain has fatuously blabbered about and never really supported in Congress? Or will he do better?

Who are you truly John McCain? A dying country, in the age of Trump, wants to know.

You have a chance to now be the man you always painted yourself to be. For the sake of this country, please be that man.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram Kendi

I’m on the road, which is great for reading, but not so much for writing. I just finished Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. It won the National Book Award for 2016. The citation reads:

Stamped from the Beginning turns our ideas of the term “racism” upside-down. Ibram X. Kendi writes as a thoughtful cultural historian, aware that he is challenging deeply held, often progressive assumptions. Using a masterful voyage through the history of U.S. political rhetoric, beginning with Cotton Mather and ending with hip-hop, he argues that even the most fervent anti-racists have been infected with that resilient virus. With his learning, he dares us to find a cure.

I always assumed that racist ideas arise from ignorance and hatred, or tribalism or some other source in individuals. Kendi says that first there was slavery, and then there were people who created justifications for slavery. When slavery was abolished the racist ideas persisted. There were plenty of people who benefited from using those racist ideas to exploit newly freed people for cheap labor. The ideas also proved useful in controlling the behavior of poor white people. There were plenty of people ready and willing to provide new versions of the old racist ideas, and many new ones.

Some of those people have names. Aristotle, for example, justified enslaving Caucasians from the north because the cold temperatures made them slow, stupid and ugly, and enslaving Africans because the hot temperature made them burnt and slow-witted, unlike the perfect Greeks; therefore slavery was justified. Then there was Gomes Eames de Zuzara, who wrote the first book about African slavery in 1452, explaining that the Africans were barbarians who needed to be saved into the right religion and civilized, and slavery was therefore a good thing. Others are nameless, the preachers, newspaper writers, authors, speakers, politicians and others who used their authority to spread poisonous ideas. The book is an intellectual and cultural history of anti-intellectual ideas and culture. Kendi describes a number of racist ideas and follows their twists and turns and the usually unavailing efforts to defeat them across the centuries in the US. In one chilling aside, he shows how these ideas formed the basis of anti-Semitic laws and theory in Nazi Germany. This is the subject of a new book, Hitler’s American Model, reviewed here by Jeff Guo.

If racist ideas could be stomped out by facts and reason, the results of the study of the human genome should have done the trick. Craig Venter, who led the project, said that his work showed that it is not possible to tell the “race” of a person by looking at the genone. The genes of humans are 99.9% the same. That didn’t stop the racists though: they announced that the different .1% was obviously the source of race and the superiority of white people, and they hired people to prove it. The idea of genetic differences cannot be eradicated.

The book forced me to think about how racist ideas are buried deep in my mind; about how African-Americans have been affected by and infected with racist ideas about themselves; about the relation between racism and other forms of prejudice; about the way these prejudices are used to create anger and hostility in our society; and much more. This wide range of ideas gives a good picture of the depth of Kendi’s work.

The idea that racist policy comes before the justification for racist policy is one thread that runs throughout the book. As Kendi shows, slavery came first, then the justifications for slavery. Race-based policies were in place, then came the justifications for race-based policies. This is the way many ideas we see in the world today came into existence. In economics, for example, trickle-down economics, an idea with roots in the 1890s, came back into common usage in the 1980s just in time to justify Reagan’s enormous tax cuts for the rich. It didn’t matter that it was laughably silly; it did its job of providing cover for people who benefited from the policy. Paul Krugman calls economic ideas like trickle-down zombie ideas, dead but on the move, eating brains. After reading Kendi’s book, I now think of racist ideas as zombie ideas, wholly false and known to be false, utterly unsupported by evidence and still eating brains.

I feel like I’ve spent my life unlearning ideas I somehow picked up along the way. Some of those ideas were deeply wrong, some stupid, and some irrelevant. Maybe there are billions and billions of galaxies, but what difference does that make in my life as compared with the idea that there are billions of stars as I first learned? There are other ideas that are wrong, and I acted on them and maybe hurt other people, and I wish I never had those wrong ideas or done those things.

Either way, carrying around wrong ideas is intrinsically bad. But how do I know which ideas are wrong, especially in areas in which I have no training or expertise? Let’s make that concrete with one of Kendi’s examples. Suppose in the mid-1860s I read Charles Darwins’s On The Origin of Species, and then read Herbert Spencer, who taught that human society evolves in the same way as fauna and flora. This led him and others to formulate what we now call Social Darwinism, another zombie idea used to justify racism. It led people to believe that white people were on top because they were the fittest, and Africans were at the bottom of society because they lost the battle; some even argued that the African population would die out completely in short order.

I ask myself if I would have had the strength of mind to reject Spencer and the racist implications of his misbegotten theory. Maybe I would have, but I don’t know. And that’s a problem. Today there are people who are paid to invent new justifications for racism, and their tactics are more and more sophisticated. It’s up to all of us to recognize them as the vicious lies they are, and try to stamp them out as they emerge. I just hope Kendi doesn’t have to add new chapters to his book to cover a new set of racist lies.

Notre Dame undergrad (math); JD, Indiana University at Bloomington; 1st Lieutenant, US Army.; private practice in corporate and securities law; Assistant AG in Tennessee for consumer protection and securities; Blue Sky Securities Commissioner, Tennessee; private practice, bankruptcy and corporate law.

I have had a lifelong interest in economics. For most of my career, that interest was practical, focused on the problems in front of me. Lately I have been more interested in economics as a theory, especially its impact on the lives of people like those I met in my bankruptcy practice, and on the politics of money in the US. I also enjoy reading philosophers, starting in college and steadily expanding my reading ever since. I wrote at FireDogLake for a number of years.

Generally, I think the problem facing the US is the dominance of neoliberal discourse. I think it clouds the vision, and limits the kinds of problems that can be identified and solved. For example, the existence and danger of climate change can easily be identified in a scientific discussion. However, the problem does not fit the neoliberal discourse because science insists that the pursuit of individual and corporate self-interest will lead to devastation. In neoliberal discourse, the pursuit of self-interest always leads to Eden.

The neoliberal project has two prongs. One is the police function of crushing dissent and alternative views. The police function is provided by government agencies and private and institutional actors. The counterpart is the economic system , which is operated by government and by private and institutional actors. Some of these actors operate in both spheres. I focus on the second prong.

Security, Territory and Population Part 6: Pastoral Power and Interim Conclusion of Series

In his lecture of February 8, 1978, Foucault takes up the issue of “pastoral power”. He says that the idea that one could govern men has its origins in the Mediterranean East, Assyria, Egypt, the Levant, and Israel, where it applies both to the government of souls by religious leaders and to the government of societies by secular rulers, both claiming the authority of the Almighty. The model for pastoral power is the New Testament figure of the Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” John 10:11.

Most people are familiar with this set of ideas about governance, as it is common in religious groups, and in secular governments as well. It is fundamentally beneficent, especially as compared to the idea of government in ancient Greece and Rome, where the idea of power is primarily centered around wealth and strength, with less regard for the interests of the members of society.

Foucault concludes the lecture with this:

Of all civilizations, the Christian West has undoubtedly been, at the same time, the most creative, the most conquering, the most arrogant, and doubtless the most bloody. At any rate, it has certainly been one of the civilizations that have deployed the greatest violence. But at the same time, and this is the paradox I would like to stress, over millennia Western man has learned to see himself as a sheep in a flock. … Over millennia he has learned to ask for his salvation from a shepherd (pasteur) who sacrifices himself for him.

The idea of the pastoral power, both in civil and religious government, leading western people to see themselves as members of a flock asking for salvation from the Good Shepherd, opens a lot of space for thinking about the development of politics in the US. One common explanation of right-wingers voting against their economic interests has to do with the idea that they have authoritarian personalities. As a group, right-wingers are more religious, and more willing to act on guidance from their religious leaders, or so we think. They generally show great deference to their lawful leaders. Foucault’s explanation, that they see themselves as sheep in the flock, seeking salvation by following the leader, makes sense.

I’m not so sure the authoritarian personality explanation works for liberals. They aren’t generally authoritarian; in fact many are activated by a suspicion of authority. Instead, they vote on policy and expect that policy will be driven by reasoned responses to real problems and that experts will have a strong say in formulation of policy. They feel the same way about their religious leaders. As a simple example, liberal Catholics loved most of the doctrines of Vatican II. They looked for ways to put those ideas into practice in their personal lives and worship, but not through the Catholic hierarchy, which they saw as outside their reach, even though as it was taught to me, the hierarchy was meant to serve the People of God, and therefore should have been the subject of the will of the People of God. Then they were demoralized by subsequent popes and US Bishops who reversed those changes. It was because of those revanchists that many liberal Catholics left the Church. Conservative Catholics had exactly the opposite responses, including returning to the Church as the changes were abandoned.

Nevertheless, liberals seem to have unrealistic hopes for secular salvation through elections. When their candidates win, they act as if that were all they need to do, and as if it isn’t necessary to keep up the pressure for action. They seem to think that the liberal institutions and groups they support will handle the policy input. For liberals, at least, Foucault’s formulation seems much more useful. They expect that salvation will come from winning elections, especially the Presidency.

======================

I won’t be able to continue this series, as much as I enjoy this book. I hope things will change and I’ll be able to pick it up again, but we’ll see.

Now my first thought was to do a series on Possession by A. S. Byatt, or maybe even Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, as a way of getting over the results of the last election. I’ll do that privately, though, unless someone knows a website that wants the thoughts of old white guys on these fantastic books. Instead, I’m going to be looking in some new areas.

When I took up the overall project of trying to see how we got into the neoliberal trap and trying to find a way out, I thought we’d have several years to work out the practice of fighting and the theory we would need to move forward. I thought the bulk of the elites of both legacy parties were neoliberals. I figured Clinton would win, and that the problem would be to resist the dominant neoliberal sector of elected Democrats and their Republican colleagues and push in a new direction, one even further from neoliberalism that the road proposed by Bernie Sanders. That turns out to be wrong.

It turns out that the Republicans are solely motivated by helping the rich at the expense of everyone else, and by the exercise of power, both political and military. I expect nothing but random policy from the Republicans, based on whichever ideologue gains the ear of the Tsar. We will need all hands to deal with the fallout as best we can. And I expect the Democrats to continue to push neoliberalism as their road back to power, leaving us fighting on two fronts: a double war pitting the rich against everyone else.

A huge number of people in this country reject the “elites”, a code word for smart people, and for educated people. They fit firmly in the long tradition of US anti-intellectualism. Here’s a bit from a recent New York Times article:

Ms. Adams says her daughter is just as stubborn when it comes to politics. “Nancy puts up a wall,” she said. “If you don’t vote the way she does, you’re voting wrong.” She added: “Democrats are always trying to talk you out of your ideas.”

Ms. Adams thinks it’s bad for people to discuss political ideas seriously. Of course, ideas are, or should be, the lifeblood of politics in a democracy. And lefties are generally better at explaining our views than Trumpheads who can’t defend their own ideas and want to be allowed to justify their opinion on the basis that they believe them because they saw something on Facebook. We can’t allow that. We have to show them the damage that racism, homophobia and xenophobia are doing to our fellow citizens, and to make it personal; and we need to point out the enormous economic losses the Trumpheads and the rest of us are going to incur as elite Republicans continue to wreck government and the economy for their own benefit. I plan to do my part.

Maybe it’s time to reread Richard Hofstadter’s book, Anti-Intellectualism In American Life.

Notre Dame undergrad (math); JD, Indiana University at Bloomington; 1st Lieutenant, US Army.; private practice in corporate and securities law; Assistant AG in Tennessee for consumer protection and securities; Blue Sky Securities Commissioner, Tennessee; private practice, bankruptcy and corporate law.

I have had a lifelong interest in economics. For most of my career, that interest was practical, focused on the problems in front of me. Lately I have been more interested in economics as a theory, especially its impact on the lives of people like those I met in my bankruptcy practice, and on the politics of money in the US. I also enjoy reading philosophers, starting in college and steadily expanding my reading ever since. I wrote at FireDogLake for a number of years.

Generally, I think the problem facing the US is the dominance of neoliberal discourse. I think it clouds the vision, and limits the kinds of problems that can be identified and solved. For example, the existence and danger of climate change can easily be identified in a scientific discussion. However, the problem does not fit the neoliberal discourse because science insists that the pursuit of individual and corporate self-interest will lead to devastation. In neoliberal discourse, the pursuit of self-interest always leads to Eden.

The neoliberal project has two prongs. One is the police function of crushing dissent and alternative views. The police function is provided by government agencies and private and institutional actors. The counterpart is the economic system , which is operated by government and by private and institutional actors. Some of these actors operate in both spheres. I focus on the second prong.

Security, Territory and Population: Foucault on Power

Security, Territory and Population: Foucault on Power

In this post I discussed some aspects of Foucault’s method of inquiry, focused on some of the terms he uses. That post was based on other sources besides Foucault himself. Before moving on in the discussion of Security, Territory and Population, I think it will be helpful to see how Foucault understands power, particularly in the government sense. I thank commenter Alan for this link to an interview of Foucault from November 1980. There are several related strands of thought in this discussion. This post focuses on power but the entire essay is worth reading to see Foucault’s understanding of morality and of the role of the philosopher.

For Foucault, power is a relationship. In its broadest sense, power ts a relationship in which one person has the ability to guide another, to influence the behavior of another. This is an unequal relationship, but it is in itself neither good nor bad. For example, the interviewer asks if it would be oppressive to stop a child who was scribbling on a wall.

And there’s no reason why this manner of guiding the behavior of others should not ultimately have results which are positive, valuable, interesting, and so on. If I had a kid, I assure you he would not write on the walls—or if he did, it would be against my will. The very idea!

It can involve physical force, but there are other relations where it doesn’t involve force, but other factors in a relationship.

Good. I exercise power over you: I influence your behavior, or I try to do so. And I try to guide your behavior, to lead your behavior. The simplest means of doing this, obviously, is to take you by the hand and force you to go here or there. That’s the limit case, the zero-degree of power. And it’s actually in that moment that power ceases to be power and becomes mere physical force. On the other hand, if I use my age, my social position, the knowledge I may have about this or that, to make you behave in some particular way—that is to say, I’m not forcing you at all and I’m leaving you completely free—that’s when I begin to exercise power. It’s clear that power should not be defined as a constraining act of violence that represses individuals, forcing them to do something or preventing them from doing some other thing. But it takes place when there is a relation between two free subjects, and this relation is unbalanced, so that one can act upon the other, and the other is acted upon, or allows himself to be acted upon.

Therefore, power is not always repressive. It can take a certain number of forms. And it is possible to have relations of power that are open.

A good example of an open system of power relationships is that of parent and child. Parents are heavily affected by babies, and change their behavior to comfort and soothe the child, At the same time, the child is affected by the parents, and gradually begins to be affected by the desires and guidance of the parents. Not, of course, without friction, and not in every case, but certainly as a general rule, the child and the parents come to equilibrium, and when one or the other changes, for example by aging, the equilibrium changes too. Or consider our process of education. In the early years, the child is the object of a practice of education. The system makes certain demands, not by force, but by other means. Over time, the situation changes and the students become part of the practice of education, both through their own demands on the system, and through their own attempts to educate themselves outside and inside the system. In college, students are more or less completely in charge of their own learning, and the teachers can learn from the students as well, and many do.

This gets us close to the idea of power in governments. Government has the power to influence and guide our behavior and to some extent even our thinking. The relationship is not completely open, but citizens have the abililty and the right to influence government actions. Depending on the responsiveness of the government actors to the concerns and demands of citizens, it can be more open, or it could be more repressive or worse.

Relations of power are not in themselves forms of repression. But what happens is that, in society, in most societies, organizations are created to freeze the relations of power, hold those relations in a state of asymmetry, so that a certain number of persons get an advantage, socially, economically, politically, institutionally, etc. And this totally freezes the situation. That’s what one calls power in the strict sense of the term: it’s a specific type of power relation that has been institutionalized, frozen, immobilized, to the profit of some and to the detriment of others.

When power is frozen in a society, in its institutions, its organization, and its laws, sooner or later it becomes intolerable, Foucault says. And, of course, what seems acceptable at one point in time may become intolerable at a later time. When power relationships reach the point that people no longer accept their position as subjects of that power, something has to change. Foucault’s goal is to analyze those frozen relationships and see what can be done to liquefy them so that there is more mobility, more freedom, more openness.

This definition and this application help me to think about our situation in the US. Power relationships are unequal. If people agree to be governed, they are in fact accepting a certain kind of inequality: they are saying someone else is likely to be better than they are at guiding or leading in some area of their lives. This is the basis for a decent society. Power relations, relations of inequality, do not have to be oppressive. As long as each side is heard, and decisions take into account as much as possible of the interests of all concerned, then the exercise of power may not be what some want, but it is not oppressive.

People who don’t agree to be governed frequently talk about that rejection in terms of power: “Its those damned liberals and intellectuals always telling me what to believe, they think they’re so smart. They can’t make me do anything.” Foucault would say they confuse mere physical force (“make me do anything”) with his definition of power as influence or guidance or something more forceful.

Everyone is subject to influence by someone else. It might be Fox News or Trump or a Preacher; or some French philosopher; but there’s always someone. Many of the anti-liberals are perfectly willing to be governed by those who defend their prejudices and hatreds, and insist that the rest of us be subject to the same people. The insistence on purity of principle has a strong potential to be oppressive.

Notre Dame undergrad (math); JD, Indiana University at Bloomington; 1st Lieutenant, US Army.; private practice in corporate and securities law; Assistant AG in Tennessee for consumer protection and securities; Blue Sky Securities Commissioner, Tennessee; private practice, bankruptcy and corporate law.

I have had a lifelong interest in economics. For most of my career, that interest was practical, focused on the problems in front of me. Lately I have been more interested in economics as a theory, especially its impact on the lives of people like those I met in my bankruptcy practice, and on the politics of money in the US. I also enjoy reading philosophers, starting in college and steadily expanding my reading ever since. I wrote at FireDogLake for a number of years.

Generally, I think the problem facing the US is the dominance of neoliberal discourse. I think it clouds the vision, and limits the kinds of problems that can be identified and solved. For example, the existence and danger of climate change can easily be identified in a scientific discussion. However, the problem does not fit the neoliberal discourse because science insists that the pursuit of individual and corporate self-interest will lead to devastation. In neoliberal discourse, the pursuit of self-interest always leads to Eden.

The neoliberal project has two prongs. One is the police function of crushing dissent and alternative views. The police function is provided by government agencies and private and institutional actors. The counterpart is the economic system , which is operated by government and by private and institutional actors. Some of these actors operate in both spheres. I focus on the second prong.

The Jetzon’s Self Driving Auto Car Drone Aint Here Yet

1376873104000-xxx-future-1

History shows again and again
How nature points out the folly of men.

Yeah, truer words never spoken. Even if in relation to Godzilla. And you can apply that to the relentlessly ballyhooed “autonomous driving automobiles”.

Seriously, this stuff is Henny Youngman type of slapsick comedy. It ain’t happening.

Okay, I am cribbing from Atrios, but dammit, what the hell do you think us conspiracy propagators are supposed to do??

I’m just saying these cars won’t ever (in our lifetimes – sure, eventually the singularity might arrive) really work as hyped and certainly don’t deserve all of the press they’re getting. I also don’t think that even if they did work they’d be a big improvement for all (some) of the reasons people think they will be, but those are more debatable issues which I rarely bother to debate because the fact is the things aren’t going to work. Okay, I’ll define “work.” Basically, you have to be able to tune out 100% over 90% of the time. I’ll even allow for a “last mile” kind of “time for you to drive” thing as long as the rest of the time you can kick back and read your book or whatever. Because if you have to pay attention but usually not doing anything, what’s the point? It’s just better cruise control. A neat feature for some, but nothing more than that.

Ya. I am sure that all of you out there driving their Tesla 3’s will squawk [oh, wait, they are not out yet!]. As I am sure all of you on the waiting list for Tesla 3’s [good luck with that!] that is already years behind technical and production capability at Tesla are oh so defensive of the giant Elon Musk dream. Surely the dream will catch up to reality, it must!

Also, the supertrains between Los Angeles and San Francisco (okay, forget the “cheaper” stuff, that was a joke!) and between New York and Washington DC are totally gonna be ready to roll after New Year’s Eve.

When the candidates talk about their totally awesome “infrastructure and jobs” proposals, maybe ask what the hell they are talking about. Because it is probably bullshit. Hold them to it.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

America, Friday Night Lights and Ditka Is An Ass Trash

_91332625_091716-woodrowwilsonhighschoolfootballteam-ss14Colin Kaepernick started something when he sat, and then kneeled, for the Star Spangled Banner. Not sure he knew or fully intended the scope of reaction he generated, but generate it he did. It has led to much consternation and discussion across sports, media and the nation’s conscience. Not yet to the significance of the #BlackLivesMatter effort, but remarkably substantial.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said of his decision to kneel during a pregame performance of the national anthem.

The action, which Kaepernick said was intended to draw attention to the way law enforcement, and American society in general, treats minorities, has since been adopted by other athletes, professional and otherwise, around the country.

Critics, like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have upbraided Kaepernick and others for an action that they say is disrespectful and unpatriotic. Kaepernick recently shot back, saying “there’s a lot of racism in this country disguised as patriotism.”

I always had some doubts about Kaepernick as an upper tier QB in the NFL, but nobody who has listened to him talk about his basis for doing what he has, and read about his backstory, can doubt his sincerity and motivation in what he is doing as to seeking social commentary, action and remediation.

Oh, and before you get too wrapped up in your flag, patriotism and the holier than thou national anthem, take a gander at the third verse Francis Scott Key wrote, and that is now oh so conveniently omitted from the hallowed singing of it:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Yeah. Our precious national anthem, from the conveniently omitted third verse, to other descriptions of only “free men”, was really a racist ode to slavery and oppression. Go figure. How dare Colin Kaepernick, or any other citizen possibly object??

Now there is a distinction, often poorly understood, between free speech, and free speech that is protected by the Constitution. The former is what we pretend to ascribe to, the latter is that which the Constitution, mostly, protects from from impingement from government law and/or censorship. There is a difference. And, no, please, do not even think about netsplaining to me that there are limits because “fire in the theater”, lest I have to reach through the inner tubes and strangle the last ounce of life out of you.

Even the craven cop unions which have predictably displayed their belligerence and ignorance over national anthem protests are likely not government actors per se impinging on Kaepernick and others free speech. Unamerican jerks who have no clue what the founding principles (including life other than those in blue) stand for, sure, but that is it.

Before this morning, I might have ended there with a few more words about the dubious antics of jacked up militarized police unions. But then Hall of Fame coach and player Mike Ditka went off in full ignorant racist bigot mode:

Anybody who disrespects this country and the flag, if they don’t like our flag then get the hell out,” he said on Dallas’ 105.3 The Fan. “That’s what I think. So if you’re asking me, I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick.

Yikes. That is not the lovable, if cantankerous, “Da Bears” guy Ditka has made a living existing on. Not to be impolitic or anything, but Mike Ditka can go fuck himself. And, since we are all entitled to our opinion without having to leave the country of our birth and residence, there will be no call here for him to go elsewhere. But I’d sure rather have a thoughtful human like Colin Kaepernick, concerned about racism and fundamental rights, than a blowhard fat jackass like Mike Ditka if it came down to a choice for a neighbor.

And then I saw the story of Coach Preston Brown and the Woodrow Wilson Tigers of Camden, New Jersey. The Tigers don’t play on Sunday like the oh so important NFL, nor even on Saturday with the NCAA elite. They play on Friday nights (okay, sometimes Saturdays), and make it through the week to get there through grit, determination, character and the love of their coaches, led by Preston Brown.

As the head coach of the Woodrow Wilson High School Tigers, he took on the 24-hour-a-day job of being a mentor and a father figure to 68 young men and boys who are growing up in one of the poorest cities in the US. The 31-year-old spends his own money to feed them when they’re hungry. He gives them a place to stay when they have nowhere to go.

So why do so many strangers want him out of a job?

“You are a disgrace to your high school and a coward.”

“I will help them fire you … I hate you with all my heart.”

“Get the f*ck out of this country if you don’t like it you anti-American asshole.”

Brown – a married father of three – wakes up every morning to emails, Facebook messages and voicemails questioning his intellect, his humanity, his patriotism.
For the past two weeks, the Camden City School District has received dozens of calls from across the country, calling for Brown’s dismissal. A local radio personality denounced his “ignorance, shame and stupidity” on the air.

The sin that Brown committed: on 10 September, at the Woodrow Wilson Tigers’ first game of the season, Brown refused to stand for the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. Instead, he took a knee in a silent protest.

With the exception of two players, the entire Tiger football team joined him. A local sports reporter captured the incident on video – a row of players kneeling in their black and orange uniforms – and posted it online. By evening, the story had gone viral.

Ain’t that America? It is not all little pink houses and white picket fences. The American ethos will not succeed from the top down. Decades of income inequality, land barons, corporate depravity and arrogant Trumpism have proven that. It will come, if at all, from the streets and ground up.

Read the full story. I implore you, read the thing. It is long, but oh so worth it. Preston Brown is a man, a teacher, a leader, and everything that is America. At least that we are supposed to cherish and that we deign to claim with the drumbeat of “American exceptionalism”.

Colin Kaepernick and Preston Brown clearly don’t know each other in the least. but while Kaepernick started a valuable conversation, let the story of the Preston Browns, and the students he is shaping, be the bigger story. And that is the thing, a single man like Brown or Kaepernick can start a fire, even tend it somewhat, but it is up to those it touches to absorb the heat and take it further. So, for all the focus on Preston Brown, let the admiration also be for the students and players at Woodrow Wilson High who are buying into the message and taking it to heart. This is how a difference is made, both small and large.

Okay, moving along to the games, there are a few good choices in the NCAA. The best of the lot is probably Wisconsin at Michigan State. Sparty, despite their 2-0 record looks off this year, and the Badgers look on. But the game is in East Lansing, so I rate it a pick em. Georgia is at Ole Miss, and I will take the home team in an upset. Jim White’s Gators are at Neyland stadium to take on the Vols. Shaky on this, but will take another home team for the upset. And then there is the Stanford Trees at UCLA. There is an old joke that goes “what happens when the smog lifts in Southern California”? The answer is “UCLA”. Okay, lame joke, can’t pick against a McCaffrey, but this has trouble for the Trees written on it.

In the pros, Jacoby Brissett and the unstoppable Patriots have already dispatched Houstonians. But Brissett injured his thumb, and I am calling for the signing of Tebow to play and win the next game. That would truly cement the Belichick legacy. Broncos at Bengals and Lions at Green Bay will be critical games. The Cheese has looked Swiss with holes early on this season. The Kittehs look dangerous. We shall see. The really exciting matchup is the Steelers versus the Eagles in Philly. Carson Wentz and the revamped Iggles under Doug Peterson have been great so far. But Big Ben, Antonio Brown and D’Angelo Williams are rolling. This should be a great game, but have to take the Stillers. Lastly, Honey Badger and Pat Peterson are coming for these two clowns.

Music this week by John Mellancamp. That is it. Go, set forth, and make America great again (by voting against Trump).

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

9/11: A Story of Attacks, Horror, Victims, Heroes and Jingoistic Shame

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-2-54-38-amSeptember 11, 2001 is now 15 years in the mirror of life. Like the two Kennedy assassinations, the Moonshot and a few other events in life, it is one of those “yeah I remember where I was when…” moments. Personally, being on west coast time, I was just waking up thinking all I had was a normal morning court calendar. When my wife, who gets up far earlier than I, shouted at me to rub out the cobwebs and watch the TV because something was seriously wrong in New York City. She was right. It was a hell of a day, one of unspeakable tragedy and indescribable heroism. It was truly all there in one compact day, unlike any other, save maybe December 7, 1941.

2,996 people lost their lives, and their families and history were forever altered in the course of hours on an otherwise clear and beautiful day in Manhattan. Most were simply innocent victims, but many were the epitome of heroes who charged into a hellscape to try to salvage any life they could. There were other heroes that altered their lives in response, and either died or were forever changed as a result. One was a friend of mine from South Tempe, Pat Tillman.

No one can speak for Pat Tillman, and, save for his family, those who claim to only prove they never met the man. All I can say is, I wish he were here today. The one thing that is certain is he would not give the prepackaged trite partisan reaches you are likely to hear today. It would be unfiltered truth. Which the US did not get from its leaders after September 11, 2001, and is still missing today.

Instead of rallying and solidifying the oneness of the American citizenry that was extant immediately after September 11, 2001, the Bush/Cheney Administration and GOP told us to go shopping and that we needed to invade Iraq, who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. It was a fools, if not devil’s, errand and a move that threw away an opportunity for greatness from the country and exploited it in favor of war crimes and raw political power expansion and consolidation.

Instead of gelling the United States to make ourselves better as the “Greatest Generation” did sixty years before, America was wholesale sold a bill of goods by a determined group of unreformed and craven Neo-Con war criminals left over from the Vietnam era, and we were led down the path to a war of aggression that was an unmitigated disaster we have not only not recovered from today, but are still compounding.

The 2000’s will prove to be a decade of American shame when history is written decades from now. Not from the attacks, but from our craven response thereto. So, pardon me if I join Colin Kaepernick and choose not to join, every Sunday, just because the Madison Avenue revenue generating NFL of Roger Goodell cravenly exploits it, the jingoistic bullshit of rote dedication to a racist National Anthem. Also, too, shame on opportunistic and Constitutionally ignorant whiny police unions who scold free speech and threaten to abandon their jobs in the face of it.

powell_un_anthraxBut that is all over now surely. Taking the United States, nee the world, to a forever war on the wings of a craven lie is universally recognized, condemned and scorned, right?

No. The Neo-Cons are unrepentant and still trying to advance themselves on the lie that their once and forever war justifies more than their prosecution and conviction in The Hague. Here is a belligerent and unrepentant Dick Cheney passing the torch of evil to his spawn Liz Cheney in the august pages of the Wall Street Journal:

We are no longer interrogating terrorists in part because we are no longer capturing terrorists. Since taking office, the president has recklessly pursued his objective of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo by releasing current detainees—regardless of the likelihood they will return to the field of battle against us. Until recently, the head of recruitment for ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan was a former Guantanamo detainee, as is one of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders in the Arabian Peninsula.

As he released terrorists to return to the field of battle, Mr. Obama was simultaneously withdrawing American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. He calls this policy “ending wars.” Most reasonable people recognize this approach as losing wars.

Times may change, but the bottomless pit of Cheney lies and evil do not. As Charlie Savage pointed out on Twitter, the two terrorists the Cheneys refer to were actually released back to the “field of battle” by Bush and Cheney, not Obama. Was Obama involved in the story? Yes, he would be the one who actually tracked them down and killed them.

And then there is the failure to learn the lessons of the failed torture regime Bush and Cheney instituted as the hallmark of the “War on Terror”. Our friend, and former colleague, Spencer Ackerman has a must read three part series over the last three days in The Guardian (Part One, Part Two and Part Three) detailing how the CIA rolled the Obama Administration and prevented any of the necessary exposure, accountability and reform that was desperately needed in the aftermath of the torture regime and war of aggression in Iraq. It will take a while, but read all three parts. It is exasperating and maddening. It is also journalism at its finest.

And so, as we glide through the fifteenth anniversary of September 11, what are we left with from our response to the attacks? A destabilized world, an ingraining of hideous mistakes and a domestic scene more notable for jingoism and faux patriotism than dedication to the founding principles that America should stand for.

That is not what the real heroes, not only of 9/11 but the totality of American history, died to support and protect. In fact, it is an insult to their efforts and lives. If America wants to win the “War on Terror”, we need to get our heads out of our asses, quit listening to the neocons, war mongers, and military industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower warned us about, and act intelligently. This requires a cessation of adherence to jingoistic and inane propaganda and thought, and a focus on the principles we are supposed to stand for.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.