September 17, 2014
"There is a tendency to judge the actions of those with the least amount of power the same as those with more power and then ask, “Isn’t that what equality means?” It’s a clever rhetorical evasion of the issue. Equality is the goal, but to pretend that we actually exist as equals right now is to ignore reality. Like it or not, we all carry history with us in our personal interactions."

Mychal Denzel Smith.  Smith’s comments are being made in the context of domestic violence, but I think this quote has a universal quality to it that applies to many other contexts as well, political, personal, and otherwise.

September 13, 2014
"Do we really want this to be the new normal of the way we interact with the world? Do we want to be doing this all over the world, forever, indefinitely, in counterterrorism campaigns that go on indefinitely and that we don’t call war, just adding new countries to the list of where we do this stuff, every year, year after year…when does it ever stop?"

Rachel Maddow

September 11, 2014
Libertarian Jeffrey Carson appears in congressional debate

It’s always nice when third party candidates are actually allowed in the room:

Libertarian Jeffrey Carson, running for Congress in northern Virginia, appeared in a candidate debate on Sept. 2, 2014.ARLnow reported:

A former U.S. Army captain, Carson decried the nation’s “meddlesome, haphazard and dangerous interventionist foreign policy; our failed and unconstitutional drug war; NSA domestic spying; militarized police forces and the erosion of our civil liberties.” He accused Edmond of talking about lower taxes while proposing spending hikes rather than spending cuts, then accused Beyer of ignoring the problem of the national debt altogether.

A video appears at the link above.

September 11, 2014
What We Should Remember On 9/11

Last year’s message seems equally relevant today:

On the anniversary of 9/11, we should recommit ourselves to ensuring that we don’t allow fear to determine our public policy choices.  We should learn the unmistakable lesson of the past 12 years: that trading liberty for more security is a false choice that leads us down a dark path.  As Justice Brennan said in 1988:

For as adamant as my country has been about civil liberties during peacetime, it has a long history of failing to preserve civil liberties when it perceived its national security threatened. This series of failures is particularly frustrating in that it appears to result not from informed and rational decisions that protecting civil liberties would expose the United States to unacceptable security risks, but rather from the episodic nature of our security crises. After each perceived security crises ended, the United States has remorsefully realized that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. but it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis came along.

Let us recommit ourselves to not making this error again.  Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

(Source: letterstomycountry)

September 9, 2014
Domestic Violence & Victim Agency

Yesterday, I wrote about how punishing Ray Rice’s domestic violence transgressions by cancelling his contract and (effectively) blacklisting him from the NFL may not be in the best interests of the victim, Janay Palmer.

Today, Janay took to social media to write about how she feels about the way people are reacting to her situation:

I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend.  But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself.  No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family.  To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing.  To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is a [sic] horrific.  THIS IS OUR LIFE!  What don’t you all get.  If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels.  Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!  Ravensnation we love you!

Janay’s response, and our reaction to it, brings up a broader debate about how much we should respect the agency of domestic violence victims.  A lot of people with good intentions treat domestic violence victims as if they are effectively mentally incapacitated.  Battered Spouse Syndrome is regularly used in both social science literature and courtroom litigation to deny domestic violence victims agency over their lives.  They are deemed to be the victims of a psychosis called "learned helplessness."  Prosecutors regularly use this diagnosis to force victims to testify against their abusers against the victim’s wishes.  Judges often deny bond to the offending partner and throw them in jail, again, against the victim’s wishes. Concerned activists call for harsher punishments and softer evidence standards, making it easier to convict abusers and extract victims from their situation.  That a particular victim may protest and resist intervention is simply viewed as further evidence of mental incapacity.

Battered Spouse Syndrome has been challenged by a number of observers in recent years, due in no small part to its denial of victim agency.  For example, Mary Ann Dutton from George Washington University notes that this Syndrome is “vague,” and tends to overlook the fact that (1) there is not one single cause of domestic violence, (2) not all victims’s reactions to domestic violence fit the “Battered Spouse” model, and (3) many victims have unique needs and circumstances that are not served by the “Battered Spouse” model.  As Dutton notes, actual real-world data suggests that “battered women’s reactions to violence and abuse vary,” and it’s not safe to assume that every woman who chooses to stay with their abuser is doing so because they have Battered Spouse Syndrome.  As Dutton notes, “[a] particular battered woman’s reactions may or may not meet criteria to warrant a clinical diagnosis.”

Nonetheless, a lot of us probably believe that Janay Palmer is nothing short of insane for choosing to stay with a man that hit her hard enough to make her lose consciousness in an elevator.   I personally cannot imagine a situation in which I would stay romantically involved with someone after suffering the type of violence that Janay Palmer suffered.  

But I’m not Janay Palmer.  None of us are.  And it’s pretty clear by now that if we actually respected Janay Palmer’s wishes, Ray Rice would still be playing football for the Ravens, as much as that chafes our innate sense of justice.

This is probably an unsatisfying answer for a lot of people, because it feels like a “do-nothing” response.  It feels like Ray Rice would be getting let off the hook for something that is beyond question absolutely awful.  It’s frustrating to think that there’s no way to punish Ray Rice without hurting Janay Palmer, indirectly or otherwise.

But the bottom line is that Janay Palmer is the victim here, not us.  And as much as it may confuse or bewilder us, she is screaming from the rooftops that she wants everyone to leave her and her husband alone.  I think Ray Rice is a scumbag for what he’s done, but I also don’t want Janay Palmer to suffer more than she already has.  And if punishing Ray Rice will cause Janay even more pain—and she’s telling us pretty clearly that is is—then maybe that’s not the best way to address the situation.

September 8, 2014
Ray Rice And The Politics Of Domestic Violence

Recently, video surfaced of Baltimore Ravens Running Back Ray Rice knocking out cold his then-fiance, Janay Palmer in an elevator.  Ray Rice was given a 2-game suspension, which many people decried as far too lenient.  Some critics pointed out that other NFL players have received year-long suspensions for smoking marijuana, which most people would agree is much, much less awful than nearly killing your fiance in an elevator.

The Baltimore Ravens, perhaps taking advantage of a morality clause in Ray Rice’s contract, have now announced that they are terminating Ray Rice’s contract.  They were no doubt motivated by the backlash and outrage over what many feel was an incredibly lenient 2-game suspension for an unquestionably criminal act.

While Ray Rice’s actions against his wife are terrible, I would like to suggest that terminating Ray Rice is not in Janay Palmer’s best interests.  In fact, terminating Ray Rice is probably worse for Janay Palmer’s welfare than if Ray Rice were allowed to continue playing football.

Domestic Violence is a complicated issue.  Victims often continue to rely on the abusive partner for emotional and financial support after the violence subsides.  This means that authorities are often forced to choose between punishing the offender, or being lenient so that the offender can continue to provide support for the victim.  Punishing the abuser by incarcerating them or taking away their means of generating income can often make the victim’s situation worse.  One prosecutor who deals with domestic violence cases put it this way:

Sometimes these women don’t have the best jobs and they don’t have a lot of opportunities. If the man’s working and supporting their children and then gets arrested and the paycheck stops coming in, these women have a very hard time financially.  They are forced to get a some [sic] job waitressing tables, and then whose [sic] going to watch the kids? I’ve had victims come in that have been honest and say, “Look, he’s paying the rent, I can’t afford to not have him around.”

A judge who deals with domestic violence cases in his courtroom (at the link above) agreed:

Victims often tell me that their abuser is their families’ only source of food and money. If they pursue the case, they realize that he may be going to jail and then hell lose his job, and they need to make ends meet so they come to me and say they will not cooperate.

Janay Palmer married Ray Rice a month after Rice knocked her out in an elevator.  She appeared beside Ray Rice when he apologized at a press conference, and is still married to him today.  The fact that she chose to remain with Ray Rice after a brutal assault suggests that at a bare minimum, she is still relying on Ray Rice for the financial benefits that flow from his contract with the NFL.  Terminating Ray Rice doesn’t just hurt Ray Rice.  It hurts Janay Palmer as well.

Does this mean Ray Rice should go unpunished for brutally assaulting Janay Palmer?  Not necessarily.  But the question of what Ray Rice’s “punishment” should actually look like is not as simple as terminating his contract and throwing him in jail.  In cases involving domestic violence, it has to be remembered that harshly punishing the abuser is not always in the best interests of the victim.  Often times, you cannot punish the abuser without making the victim’s situation worse.  If Janay Palmer chooses to remain married to Ray Rice, then punishing him by removing his livelihood hurts her as well.  It may feel right to us that Ray Rice is getting his contract revoked, but Janay Palmer is the one who has to deal with the consequences, not us.

September 2, 2014
Another Journalist Dies, But Military Intervention Is No Solution

With the apparent death of another journalist at the hands of ISIS, it seems like a good time to reflect on what these executions are actually intended to achieve, and how world governments should respond to it.

Sensational violence is a tool used by extremist groups to draw large countries into guerrilla-style conflicts that they historically cannot win. Asymmetrical warfare is the bailiwick of non-state actors.  It is why the U.S. lost in Vietnam, Russia lost in Afghanistan, and why despite spending billions of dollars and over a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither peace nor political stability have been achieved in either country.  It is the same reason why rockets continue to rain down on Israel despite decades of military attempts to route militants out of Gaza, and also why the British government was unable to bring the IRA to heel through its military might alone.  

There is no military solution to ISIS.  If you want to understand why, I encourage you to read Matthew Hoh’s remarkable and well-informed take on the issue:

American military involvement will serve as an accelerant to and a prolonger of this Iraqi civil war. American bombs, bullets and dollars will further strengthen the bond between Sunnis and extremist groups like ISIS, increasing Sunni desperation by intensifying their backs to the wall dilemma and justifying the propaganda and rhetoric of ISIS: a narrative of a Western campaign of international subjugation enacted through Shia, Kurdish and Iraqi ethnic minority puppets. Further, such American support will strengthen the resolve of the al-Maliki government not to reform and not to address Sunni grievances. With the renewed backing of American might and money, al-Maliki’s government will feel no need to restore a balance of power in Iraq and will continue a policy of disenfranchisement and marginalization of the Sunni population and leadership. Only by withholding support to al-Maliki’s government, and not by sending advisers, tomahawk missiles or cash, will there be a reason for al-Maliki’s government to negotiate and seek peace.

The Iraqi and Kurdish militaries are fighting ISIS, but peace will only be achieved in Iraq when Sunnis are given a meaningful opportunity to participate in Iraq’s Democratic institutions.  Until that happens, groups like ISIS will always be able to take advantage of the resentment of oppressed political minorities in order to create an atmosphere of instability and violence.  Extremism breeds in places where political oppression and poverty are rampant.  Give people access to public institutions, and lift them up economically, and groups like ISIS begin to atrophy and die for lack of a receptive audience.  Extremists still exist in wealthy countries, but they don’t have enough resources or influence to conquer and lord over an entire jurisdiction.  That alone is sufficient to show the effectiveness of economic prosperity and political enfranchisement over military solutions, which can never succeed at stamping out extremist movements without a political solution that enfranchises people and lifts them out of the desperate economic conditions that so often serve as a breeding ground for radical violent movements.

August 30, 2014
What if Hamas fired rockets at Britain? | +972 Magazine

Israeli officials and advocates often ask critics of their foreign policy “what would you do if you had rockets raining down on you?”  This question has a tendency to stump people who aren’t prepared for it.  John Jackson at  +972, however, has provided an excellent response by drawing a parallel to the conduct of the British Government during the worst years of IRA violence:

During the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, civilian deaths were caused by the British Army, the Loyalists and Republican paramilitaries. But for the purpose of answering the Israeli question it is useful to look at the major bombing campaigns by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that took place across England. These campaigns were far more destructive than anything coming out of Gaza. There were approximately 10,000 bomb attacks during the conflict – about 16,000 if you include failed attempts. A significant proportion of them were on English soil.

A time bomb was detonated at Brighton’s Grand Hotel, where Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet were staying for the Conservative Party conference. Thatcher narrowly escaped death, five people were killed (including an MP) and 31 injured. The Queen’s cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, his grandson and three others were blown up while fishing off the coast of Ireland. In Manchester city center a 3,300-pound bomb caused £1.1 billion (today’s value) in damage and injured 212 people. The Bishopsgate bombing in the city of London cost £350 million to repair and injured 44 people. And, as those of us who lived through those times will remember, there were numerous bombs in pubs and shops, on high streets and shopping centers, in train stations and on the London underground. The thousands of rockets fired by Hamas over the last month have killed six civilians in Israel, along with 64 soldiers, while the IDF has killed 2,104 Palestinians, including at least 500 children.

Despite the effectiveness of the IRA campaign, it would have been politically inconceivable and morally unjustifiable for the Royal Air Force to bomb the streets and homes of the republican communities in North or West Belfast – the communities from which the IRA came and amongst which it lived. It would have been unacceptable in Britain and, indeed, to the U.S. government at the time. The British army and intelligence services did terrible things in Northern Ireland, but such a wholesale massacre of civilians would have been unconscionable. The answer to the question of what would you do? In Britain’s case at least, faced with a destructive bombing campaign, it did not respond by sending in warplanes to bomb schools, hospitals or terraced houses.

Read More

August 29, 2014
hipsterlibertarian:

setbabiesonfire:

cyclivist:

Deputy who killed former Napster COO after drifting into the bike lane while distracted by his laptop will not face charges because he was answering a work-related email.

OH OKAY.

I accidentally killed someone, you guys, but I was just doing research for an article I’m writing, so that makes it ok. That’s how it works, right?

LTMC: Meanwhile, 16-year olds get prosecuted for manslaughter for texting while driving.  But don’t worry, police don’t get special treatment.

hipsterlibertarian:

setbabiesonfire:

cyclivist:

Deputy who killed former Napster COO after drifting into the bike lane while distracted by his laptop will not face charges because he was answering a work-related email.

OH OKAY.

I accidentally killed someone, you guys, but I was just doing research for an article I’m writing, so that makes it ok. That’s how it works, right?

LTMC: Meanwhile, 16-year olds get prosecuted for manslaughter for texting while driving.  But don’t worry, police don’t get special treatment.

10:18pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZMMjnx1PY7OCL
  
Filed under: politics police 
August 29, 2014
Philly cop files brutality suit against police department

From the article:

Scores of brutality lawsuits are filed against the Philadelphia Police Department every year. But it’s unusual for an officer, a sergeant no less, to make those charges.

In a suit filed Monday, Sgt. Brandon Ruff did just that.

Ruff claims he was roughed up by seven officers from the 35th District when he attempted to anonymously turn in three handguns at the precinct. Ruff, who says he suffered two sprained wrists and two sprained shoulders in the fracas, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

Ruff, an eight-year veteran assigned to the 16th precinct, said the acts of the 35th District officers “were committed willfully, wantonly, maliciously, intentionally, outrageously, deliberately and/or by conduct so egregious as to shock the conscience.”

The City of Philadelphia, he said in his civil suit, encourages and is deliberately indifferent to the abuse of police powers. Among other accusations, Ruff claims the city tolerates officers who misrepresent facts in order to establish probable cause, and allows officers to have persons falsely arrested or maliciously prosecuted. He also asserts the city permits the continued employment of officers who are psychologically or emotionally unfit to serve.

Another officer turns against the Blue Wall.

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