Category: Uncategorized

I Let My 4 Kids Play Outside, On a Sunny Saturday. The Cops Wrote Up a Report

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

 Hi Folks! Lenore Skenazy from Free-Range Kids again. Tell me when you start getting sick of these stories: The ones where parents let their kids actually PLAY OUTSIDE and the cops come a-calling. I get these letters ALL THE TIME and am at my wit’s end, as I don’t know what to tell these traumatized parents. In fact, I just asked a cop on a post below this one (aptly titled, “Ask a Cop”). So here’s the latest letter. Since when does the government get to decide whether or not our kids are allowed to FROLIC?

Dear Free-Range Kids: I  might be labelled as an overprotective parent. I don’t allow my children to spend the night at anyone’s house, and also don’t allow anyone to spend the night here unless I know the parents very well.  This is due to my own childhood trauma.

That said: I have had social services called on me twice and the police interrogate me 4 times, because apparently I am one of only two families that allows my children to play outside at all in our neighborhood (which is very safe  . Just today, I allowed all four of my children (they were all together) to go play in the field adjacent to my house. I could literally see them outside my kitchen window.  My 10 year old ran home to tell my husband and I that a cop had stopped and was interrogating my oldest daughter.

No, this was not after dark, it was at 4pm on a Saturday.  So my husband walked out to see what was going on, and the police officer even wrote up a report, stating that the children were left outside unsupervised.

So, since I am new to Virginia, I asked my neighbors if this was a “Virginia” thing.  Their response was, “Well, you know it just isn’t safe anymore to allow your kids to play outside.” I thought I was overprotective making them carry cellphones to check in every 30 mins, and only allowing them wander off 1/2 of a block.  Seriously?  We asked the police if they were doing anything wrong, he said, “No they were very respectful kids, I just wanted to make sure they were okay because it was odd seeing them outside unsupervised.”  We are not talking toddlers, we’re talking teens, pre-teens and one 5 year old all together. – A Mom of 4

Alexey Navalny: The Most Important Liberty Activist You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

I’ll start with the Wikipedia introduction:

Alexei Anatolievich Navalny (Russian: Алексей Анатольевич Навальный, born June 1976) is a Russian lawyer, politician, and political and financial activist.[1] Since 2009, he has gained prominence within Russia, and notably within the Russian media, as a critic of corruption in Russia, and especially of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. He has used his LiveJournalblog to organize large-scale demonstrations to address these issues. He also regularly writes articles in several Russian publications, such as Forbes Russia. In a 2011 interview with Reuters, he stated that Putin’s political system is so weakened by corruption that Russia could face an Arab Spring-style revolt within five years.[2]

Navalny was named “Person of the Year 2009″ by Russian business newspaper Vedomosti.[3] In 2011, the BBC described Navalny as “arguably the only major opposition figure to emerge in Russia in the past five years”.[4] In 2012, The Wall Street Journal called him “the man Vladimir Putin fears most”.[5] He was the only Russian to be named in Time magazine’s 2012 list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Here is Navalny on Facebook, Twitter, and here is his Livejournal in English.

-Eapen Thampy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do We Really Need to Make EVERYTHING into a BIG DEAL…Including a SAND BOX? (via Free-Range Kids)

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Hey Folk s– It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, who — reading  this story about a sandbox dispute in Seattle — just cannot understand how come a guy who makes a lovely sandbox for his kids and puts it in a place where the other children on the residential street immediately find it, love it and come together to play in it, is now being scrutinized from every possible angle: Is the sandbox in a safe place? (The dad would put his kids in jeopardy?) Is it in the way of drivers? (They get priority?) Is the owner liable if someone gets hurt, or is the city? (Why do we always think of the worst-case scenario first? Doesn’t that stop all innovation dead in its tracks?) And does the dad REALLY have to pay a $500 A DAY FINE???

Here’s a tiny update on the situation. But the larger issue for me is this: I really don’t know how to get back to an era when we don’t pick apart every aspect of childhood to the point where nothing seems safe enough and the usual conclusion is, “Oh, let’s just skip it. God knows that’s the easiest solution.” I mean: We are talking about kids and playing and sand. THEY get it. Why don’t WE? – L.

God knows, we don't want kids doing anything like THIS, do we?

Work and Meaning

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

When I wrote that post yesterday, I knew one thing would especially irk the left. I almost called attention to it in the text, but then I remembered I was supposed to be writing for the right. I’ll address it here instead:

Markets are never perfect, never fully free, never fully efficient. But they are the theaters of our aspirations, our goals, and our deepest values. When liberals snobbishly put down workers’ or consumers’ choices in the market, this is what they are denigrating.

Sure enough, a couple of progressives called me out on Twitter. I respect them both, but obviously I disagree. “I don’t understand treating the market as a moral good,” said Elias Isquith. “[This] is why I’m not a libertarian,” said Ned Resnikoff. Elias did say I was helping him to understand, so I’ll offer this post to him as a further help.

I have to say I think this is maybe the deepest disagreement that separates me from many people on the left. And honestly, it’s a dealbreaker. When I hear people say that the market and our choices in it are not moral goods, I sort of lock up. I can’t see these choices in any other way.

But to hear many on the left tell it, work and consumption are not a part of that larger, more profound self-authorship project that makes an experience or an undertaking an aspect of Who We Are. Work especially is just something we put up with, perhaps, because we need to pay the bills. And why do we need to pay the bills? So we don’t starve. End of story, I suppose.

I find that really, really odd. For all kinds of reasons. And I’d like to enlist the help of the late Betty Friedan to explain why:

The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no other way. But a job, any job, is not the answer—in fact, it can be part of the trap. Women who do not look for jobs equal to their actual capacity, who do not let themselves develop the lifetime interests and goals which require serious education and training, who take a job at twenty or forty to “help out at home” or just to kill extra time, are walking, almost as surely as the ones who stay inside the housewife trap, to a nonexistent future.

If a job is to be the way out of the trap for a woman, it must be a job that she can take seriously as part of a life plan, work in which she can grow as part of society.

Not work to pay the bills, not work to fill the time. Work to discover oneself. Work for fulfillment. Work for independence and for self-actualization. Work because the potential is there, and it’s a shame to leave it lying around for nothing, or to piddle it away on paying the bills… until we die and it’s gone.

Now, Friedan was no libertarian. She was solidly progressive in her politics. And that sort of proves my point — the experience of work, and having an income, and being independent in the world is potentially very important to anyone, regardless of politics. It’s from my perspective a peculiarly isolated, ivory-towerish claim to view productive work as ancillary to life and not as a key aspect of a life well lived.

We may differ on the political implications of the claim. Personally, I’d say it means that the realm of the market needs to be as free as the realm of religion, another in which people often find profound self-actualization. Regardless of where we wind up, these are the terms on which the debate should be conducted, I think: At least for some people, and clearly not a trivial number of them, work can give a profound sense of self-respect and achievement. Consumption too, for that matter. Does that lead toward market freedom, or away from it? That’s a reasonable question. But doubt in the reality of the phenomenon seems less reasonable to me.

Why the Mainstream Media Never Seems to Learn Any Lessons of History

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

As child molestation charges last year began to swirl around Robert Adams and the school where he was headmaster, the Creative Frontiers School in Citrus Heights, California, Joy Terhaar, the executive editor of the Sacramento Bee, wrote a column claiming that the “lessons of the past” in child molestation cases served as a guide to the newspaper’s present coverage. She declared:

The shadow of the McMartin Preschool fiasco hung over Sacramento law enforcement and media last week.

You likely followed the news of the abrupt closure Monday of a private elementary school in Citrus Heights because of allegations the principal molested students beginning in 1997.

Just as law enforcement learned from the McMartin molestation allegations in the 1980s, and changed its investigative approach in such cases, the media learned to be more skeptical.

Unfortunately, the column was little more than self-serving rhetoric and when Adams was indicted and charged, the Bee ran a number of articles and columns inferring that Adams really was guilty, including this one by Marcos Benton that lumped Adams with convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football defensive coordinator and did not even offer the possibility that Adams might be innocent. Because I will be writing on the Adams/Creative Frontiers case in future posts, I don’t want to go into detail except to say that I strongly (very, very strongly) believe this case is yet another sickening hoax in which the media glorifies police and prosecutors while innocent people are charged with “crimes” that never occurred.

I have been involved as an observer, a blogger, or an adviser in cases where people have been charged with rape or child molestation, including the Tonya Craft trial (she was acquitted) and the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case (in which the charges were dropped after North Carolina Attorney General found “no evidence” that a rape or any other crime had occurred). There also are others and if I have found one common thread in all of them, it has been the role of the mainstream news media. With only very, very few exceptions, the pack mentality of mainstream journalism has come to the fore and journalist after journalist has written or broadcast stories that assume that charges automatically mean guilt.

Meanwhile, despite the Bee’s claim that the McMartin and other notorious cases of false accusation have helped to steel coverage of cases involving such accusations, I find that simply to be untrue. This unfortunate thread runs from the local media all the way to the top national entities. For example, the Duke Lacrosse Case found two newspapers that inferred guilt and purposely ignored all exculpatory evidence all the way to the bitter end: the local Durham Herald-Sun and the New York Times. (Even after “60 Minutes” eviscerated the charges in an October 2006 broadcast, the H-S and NYT continued to hold to the Party Line.)

(American Journalism Review ran a scathing review of how the media covered the Duke case, and I will say that the writer, Rachel Smolkin, pretty much got it right.)

There is a lingering question here, even as we see media people engaging in the same angst over how they cover these kinds of cases and claiming that they have “learned their lessons,” and the question is this: Why does the mainstream media continue to run over the same cliff time and again?

People have any number of answers ranging from the “liberal media” to outright ignorance. Yes, most mainstream media people are politically liberal and, yes, a lot of them are bright yet ignorant on many things. (Don’t get me started on reporters and economics.) Yet, I believe that the reason we see the same patterns repeated over and over again is institutional, and this goes back to the days of Progressivism and the Progressivist 1922 Canons of Journalism.

In 1922, broadcast media was in its infancy, so newspapers tended to be the organizations that hired the most journalists. As an institution, the news media was decidedly Progressive, and it featured people who believed that the role of the press should be to foster “good government” at all levels. That meant that reporters would spend much of their time covering the various governmental entities from the local police and city hall to the U.S. Presidency. Although reporters were claiming to be the “watchdogs” of government, in reality, they became an arm of the individuals in government.

This has developed innocently enough. For example, when the local courthouse reporter goes on his or her beat each weekday, the reporter speaks almost exclusively with government agents, from clerks to judges. While the journalist might talk to individual defense attorneys, they are not going to be able to have the same relationships with reporters as do the government employees because a defense attorney is more likely to keep important information at bay. (There are exceptions, such as the Raleigh News & Observer’s Joe Neff uncovering a number of illegal acts such as strong arming witnesses by one of DA Michael Nifong’s investigators, along with other documents that demonstrated conclusively that Duke accuser Crystal Mangum was not telling the truth. Yet, Neff was an exception, not the rule, in the Duke case.)

As the relationships develop, the skepticism seems to disappear. After all, prosecutors and police tend to be more forthcoming with what they claim to know than are defense attorneys, and delivering information tends to help cement relationships.

In the “sex crimes” cases, the situation is worse. First, states are required to investigate all claims no matter how specious they may be, and news of investigations into these kinds of cases always will be heavily sought by reporters, even if the claims are not true. Second, and I NEVER have seen this fact reported in a mainstream publication or broadcast, government agencies from the police to prosecutors to Child Protective Services receive federal money whenever they pursue charges in such cases, which increases the incentives to charge nearly everyone no matter how bogus the charges might be.

Third, “sex crimes” always are “hot news.” They just are. People are curious, they have instant opinions, and are much more likely to rush to judgment when such accusations are made than they might be in other kinds of cases. Furthermore, political ideology heavily filters the interpretations. For example, the vast number of “they must be guilty” accusations in the Duke case came from the political Left, including much of the Duke faculty and administration, and organizations such as the NAACP. The Marxist blogs such as Counterpunch automatically assumed guilt, and even after the charges were dropped, Counterpunch ran a piece that claimed the charges might have been true and that Nifong was being mistreated.

Daniel Okrent, a former ombudsman for the NYT, told New York Magazine about the Duke case: “You couldn’t invent a story so precisely tuned to the outrage frequency of the modern, metropolitan, bien pensant journalist.”

However, while the “liberalism” bogey certainly has truth, I believe that the situation is institutional, or as the late Warren Brookes once wrote about the mainstream media, the press tends to lean toward the “statist quo.” Not only do media Progressives tend to have a strong faith in the ability of the State to “fix” problems in society, but most of the important professional relationships that reporters have tend to be with government officials. There is a symbiotic relationship between journalists and people in government (and not just elected politicians), as they depend heavily upon each other for news and favorable publicity.

The problem is that when prosecutors and journalists develop symbiotic, mutually-beneficial relationships, due process of law and the rights of the accused often are eviscerated. While various state bar rules for prosecutors specifically prohibit them from making inflammatory public statements that declare someone to be guilty even before trial, prosecutors rarely are disciplined for breaking that rule and for breaking others. Because individuals actually harmed by prosecutorial misconduct are not permitted to sue, the only way for redress is for the prosecutor’s peers to act either through the state bar or by charging the rogue prosecutor with actual crimes. In reality, neither happens very much.

Thus, prosecutors are given free reign and are virtually assured that they will not be held responsible for illegal conduct. Not surprisingly, the media rarely holds them responsible, either. I believe that is because a reporter can benefit when prosecutors illegally leak material to them, an act that is a felony, but is protected by the courts and the media.

One of the worst examples came more than 20 years ago when Rudy Giuliani, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was pursuing Wall Street finance whiz Michael Milken. Giuliani was able to keep Milken and his defense team off balance by illegally leaking testimony and other grand jury material to favorite reporters, and especially James Stewart of the Wall Street Journal. What Stewart and Giuliani did was criminal (as opposed to Milken’s acts which a federal prosecutor later admitted had never been regarded before as criminal), but it was Milken who went to prison and Giuliani and Stewart who went to fame and fortune.

Thus, when journalists act in a reprehensible manner, they are rewarded, and that means it is unlikely reporters are going to change their behavior. What we see in sex crime accusations is that all of these issues come together, and individuals who are accused have virtually no chance with the legal system. With the media trumpeting that the accused always are guilty and with reporters having close ties to the prosecutors, the accused cannot get their story in print or in broadcasts.

In the Tonya Craft case, the prosecutors and police had almost limitless access to the media and quickly pronounced her guilt. When Craft tried to fight back by appearing on a radio talk show, Judge Brian House, who presided at her trial (and made it clear he was in the hip pocket of the prosecutors) slapped her with a gag order that remained until after her trial ended. (A similar thing happened in the Duke Lacrosse Case, when the NAACP demanded that the court impose a gag order. The irony was that the NAACP has long been officially opposed to gag orders because they hurt black defendants, but because of the racial politics of the Duke case, the NAACP was willing to overturn its own positions.)

There is one more factor as to why the media never seems to learn: sheer laziness. When an issue arises, a typical reporter will go to the Rolodex and call up the Usual Suspects. In cases involving alleged child molestation and rape, one often sees Wendy Murphy interviewed, and, as Radley has pointed out, Murphy has a history of telling whoppers. She is not an expert in any sense of the word, but because she is inflammatory, reporters will seek quotes from her.

I recently saw a Discovery Channel broadcast dealing with crimes, and the reporter interviewed Steven Hayne, who claimed that the position of the body would let him know if the murderer was right-handed or left-handed, a preposterous position. Nonetheless, Hayne was available and ready to give a quote. That he was a fraud did not seem to matter, and it took repeated efforts by Radley to expose him.

Likewise, journalists are enamored with people they deem to be experts, and most of them believe that government bureaucrats, from the interviewers at CPS to prosecutors are experts just like the folks at CSI. By not scrutinizing their comments or spending the time to seek out real experts, journalists not only deprive their readers and listeners of facts, but they also further imperil people who are innocent but have been falsely accused.

Given this set of circumstances, I believe that real reform is not possible. The modern media is so tied to government and its stable of “experts” that it is impossible for others to break into that mix. What that means is that every time someone is falsely accused of a sex crime, we can expect the mainstream press to run over the cliff — and then declare after the debacle that journalists have learned their lesson and won’t make that same error again. And again. And again.

William Anderson

An Open Letter to My Friends on the Right

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

by Jason Kuznicki. Inspired by this.

My friends,

For some time now the presidential race has focused on the place of the market in our society. The nomination of Paul Ryan for Vice President only sharpens that focus. I’m happy about that, whatever my other reservations might be about Mr. Ryan. Many of the left’s assumptions on economics deserve to be criticized, and I do hope you give the Obama administration the well-deserved hell it has coming.

You, my friends on the right, are entirely correct when you condemn Obama’s facile “you didn’t build that”-ism. Yes, we are all to some degree the products of our communities. As conservatives, you already know this. But “community” doesn’t equal “federal government,” and giving back to the community certainly doesn’t mean that the government gets to grow indefinitely. Particularly not when spending and debt are already at or near record levels.

You also affirm something the left goes out of its way to deny: The freedom of the marketplace is fundamental. Markets matter not just because they supply consumers’ needs better than any other arrangement yet devised — although they do. Markets matter because what we do in the market is an expression of who we are, both in our consumer preferences and in where and how we earn our livings. Markets are never perfect, never fully free, never fully efficient. But they are the theaters of our aspirations, our goals, and our deepest values. When liberals snobbishly put down workers’ or consumers’ choices in the market, this is what they are denigrating.

As the philosopher John Tomasi put it:

A society that denies people the chance to take up questions of long-term financial planning for themselves, or that restricts the ways in which individuals and families can respond to such questions, thereby diminishes the capacity of citizens to become fully responsible and independent agents. So too a society that limits the freedom of individuals to negotiate the specific terms of their employment, or that makes their ownership of productive property subject to calculations about social expediency, no matter how benevolent their intentions in doing so, thereby creates social conditions in which the moral powers of citizens can be exercised and developed only in a stunted way. (Free Market Fairness, pp 80-81)

Self-fashioning is the reason that market freedom matters, far beyond giving us full bellies, clean clothes, or shiny electronic toys. It’s the reason you can forgive Ayn Rand her atheism: She understood that markets are valuable for moral reasons. And so do you.

But so much for the easy part. My friends on the right, I find that you have failed in two ways. (more…)

“Come Off It, Folks — How Many Paedophiles Can There Be?”

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Hi Folks! Lenore here from Free-Range Kids and yes, that headline is the REAL TITLE of a column by some hack in The Telegraph who was sick of the “no males allowed to sit next to unaccompanied minors” deal, back in 2006, on British Airways.

Oh wait a sec — that hack is Boris Johnson, NOW THE MAYOR OF LONDON!

He was asked to move his seat because he was next to two kids — his own! Once the stewardess realized her error,  he was allowed to stay. But the feeling of being presumed a perv occasioned this column.

Can you imagine someone getting elected HERE who dared to say enough with this overblown  fear for our kids? Can you imagine your OWN mayor writing:

To all those who worry about the paedophile plague, I would say that they not only have a very imperfect understanding of probability; but also that they fail to understand the terrible damage that is done by this system of presuming guilt in the entire male population just because of the tendencies of a tiny minority.

There are all sorts of reasons why the numbers of male school teachers are down 50 per cent in the period 1981 to 2001, and why the ratio of female to male teachers in primary schools is now seven to one. There are problems of pay, and the catastrophic failure of the state to ensure that they are treated as figures of authority and respect; and what with ‘elf ‘n’ safety and human rights it is very hard to enforce discipline.

But it is also, surely, a huge deterrent to any public-spirited man contemplating a career in education that society apparently regards all adult male contact with young people as being potentially a bit dodgy, a bit rum, a bit you know…

It is a total disaster.

Wow! Boris! And the Olympics, too. You rock! – Lenore (from Free-Range Kids)

Boy, 10, Saves 2 Adults…And Yet Authorities Consider 10 Too Young to Be Unsupervised (via Free-Range Kids)

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Hi folks! Lenore from Free-Range Kids here, with a heartening story: A 10 year old British boy, rowing around in his dinghy, rescued two canoeists who’d been in the water for 45 minutes. (Sad to say, one of them was a “canoe instructor.” Maybe the other one might want to ask for a refund?) Anyway, all the boy had with him was 4 feet of rope, which he used to tow the two the half mile. They couldn’t climb in the dinghy because they realized they might capsize it. (Score one for the canoe instructor!)

Contrast this boy’s actions, with what some laws and bureaucrats believe a child his age is incapable of. Let’s see, there’s the story of a  mom arrested for letting her kids, 11 and 7, walk to the local pizza shop. So I guess the dinghy boy shouldn’t have been on his own for another couple of years, at least. (Sorry, drowners.) And there was this school, where the principal  suddenly prohibited 5th graders from going to the village green after school, unsupervised, as they’d done for decades. (Media attention and general outrage reversed this.)  Then there was the Aussie mom chided by police for letting her 10-year-old daughter catch a bus, solo. How dare she let her kid be competent! And here in America, any 10-year-old, hero or no, is  no longer allowed to ride Amtrak without an adult by his side. Thirteen is the age kids can travel as “unaccompanied minors.”

And yet, somehow the boy was perfectly fine, alone on the water, saving two adults’ lives.

Hmmm.  - L.

Happy Hour Wednesday in Denver

Monday, August 13th, 2012

If any Agitator fans want to join, I’ll be speaking to Denver’s Liberty on the Rocks this Wednesday about asset forfeiture. Join us at 6pm-ish and I begin speaking at 7:15. Here is the facebook event. Many thanks to the excellent Amanda Muell, who organizes LOTR. I’ll try to livestream or record it in some fashion.

Eapen Thampy, Americans for Forfeiture Reform

“My Crime: I Let My Kids Play Outside” (via Free-Range Kids)

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Hi Folks — It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, where I get letters like this one with shocking regularity (check my blog and you’ll see a new one there right now!).  CPS must do some good. I’m sure it has saved a lot of kids in danger. But it also has a lot of power, which sometimes it uses to threaten, or even destroy families. Parents who are confident in their kids, their community and their own parenting often allow their children to have some independence. They even — if you can believe this — allow them to play outside! For this, they are sometimes (too often!) hounded. – L.

Dear Lenore: A neighbor of mine called the Texas CPS (Child Protective Services) and the Police on my wife and I because we allow our children, ages 6 and 8, to play in the courtyard directly in front of our apartment. CPS has been investigating my family since April 4th 2012, it is now August 12 2012, and all they have come up with is the one report to Police about my 6-year-old being outside in front of his home. Now we are dealing with the courts in a “Negligent Supervision” case, which makes absolutely no sense because my child wasn’t hurt or asking anyone for help. I was outside with my son when the Police arrived, but the CPS caseworker insists that I take drug tests and parenting classes. People are not neighbors anymore, they are just @$$holes. – A Texas Dad

Chris Tapp Benefit: This Thursday Night

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

The Nashville benefit for musician Chris Tapp, the guitarist and singer for the Cold Stares, is this Thursday night.

We have a great lineup of artists, including Matthew Perryman Jones, Thad Cockrell, Erin McCarley, Jeremy Lister , Emily West, Mark Huff, Betsy Ulmer, Jason Eskridge, Jill Andrews, and Maile Misajon. There may also be a couple surprises.

If you live in or around Nashville, the show will be at 3rd & Lindsley, this Thursday night at 8pm.

As I mentioned, Tapp is very talented blues/rock/roots musician who was recently diagnosed with melanoma. He’s currently undergoing an intense, year-long treatment of radiation and chemotherapy. We’re hoping to help him, his wife, and their two kids out with their finances and medical bills so he can focus on getting treated, getting better, and getting back to making great music.

If you’d like to donate to help out, send a check to:

The Chris Tapp Fund
c/o Brian Mullins
Old National Bank
P.O. Box 718
Evansville, IN 47705-0718

 

If you send $25 or more, they’ll send you a signed copy of the band’s new CD. But send that check here:

Chris Tapp Fund
c/o Brian Mullins
P.O. Box 2566
Evansville, IN 47728

More background on all of this here. My Huffington Post profile of the Cold Stares here.

Militarization and the Implications of Eisenhower’s Prescience

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Eapen Thampy, Americans for Forfeiture Reform

This article titled “The Slow Motion Coup: Militarization and the Implications of Eisenhower’s Prescience” is certainly one of the most important articles I’ve read all year; the author is William J. Olsen, Chairman of the Department of Strategic Studies at the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University:

President Eisenhower made these observations on the eve of leaving office in 1961.  Close on fifty years ago he warned of the dangers to America—heart, body, and soul—of a threat from the militarization of US social, economic, and political life.  Little heeded, the concern he raised then has had two generations to work its work ever more surely than he foresaw.  The consequence today is the militarization of our foreign policy and the dominance of the military in planning and implementing broad areas of domestic policy as well.  It is, in effect, a slow motion coup in which increasingly military officers and military counsel dominates strategic thinking and significant parts of the political agenda, in a reversal of Clausewitz’s dictum that war is an extension of politics.  Unlike most military coup d’etat, however, this is not the result of a small cabal of military officers plotting, ala Seven Days in May, to seize the government in a bold, overnight military take over.  Instead, it has been years in the making and is the result of contributions from a broad spectrum of politicians, businessmen, think tanks and lobbyists, a complacent public, and the military responding to real and genuine threats to national survival for over 70 years.  This is not a story, yet, of sinister conspirators.  The question is, is there any way to undo what is done and walk back from a situation that so concerned Eisenhower for the fate of the country he served so long and so well.

The rest of the article is hard to excerpt, but:

There is no shortage of advice, but advice will not help in this situation…

Take just one simple question: Does the United States need a military establishment as large as it now has?  Two simple answers: yes, which is the default position that will be pushed by those with a stake—and they are legion—in the answer; and no, which is the subject matter for an intense and excruciating soul searching that goes all the way down leaving nothing untouched.  But, on what criteria would an answer be based?  Interest in the outcome or concern by itself are not adequate.  And how does one establish any sort of consensus on the necessary criteria?  Or establish convincingly that any analysis arriving at the criteria is not self-interested, biased, or partisan?  And who is the best source to bring such an issue to the table?  There is no shortage of opinion.  But where does wisdom lie?  And how to know it?  It is a simple question.  There are no easy answers.  To ask it is only the beginning.

To take one example.  If ‘small wars’ are the most likely circumstance for the future of conflict, these, of necessity, require ‘small’ responses.  Not just an appropriate force structure but a support establishment short of the scale and scope of the current Department of Defense with all its rococo embellishments.  There is a need for specialized, scaled components specific to the need and not large, general purpose forces.  But if this is the case, then promotion opportunities, justifications for large, regular military formations and the resources necessary are likely to follow the requirements of a much reduced overall force structure.  The system as outlined above, however, is not only not geared to such a need but is designed to resist any effort to reduce the current establishment or to accept missions that suggest such a course.  This is one reason why China is increasingly seen as a military threat.  It putatively offers a threat of a ‘regular’ sort on a scale to justify a large force structure, which, according to the argument, is then more than capable of dealing with ‘lesser’ threats.  Whether this is strategically valid is less a consideration.  And the shift is itself not part of a politically considered strategy but a process driven by the military and its imperatives that now drives the process.

The current military establishment rejects the logic of small responses expect as ‘other duties as assigned’.  Such a mentality, which pervades military leadership, leads to an insistence on wars that will employ large, regular forces or turning lesser circumstances into those wars it is equipped to fight, creating a capability-requirement mismatch.  Thus, for example, although the United States was engaged in Iraq for almost ten years, the military that the US took to war was only trained and equipped for the first eight weeks of the ten years.

Or another simple question: Why do we have Combatant Commanders?  This is a model drawn from WWII, made formal and deeply rooted as the result of the Cold War.  Both are over.  Why does the establishment linger?  And if we are to have a pro-consul per region, why a military officer?  Why not a senior civilian with a military adviser?

Despite the comment above on commissions, there is one commissioner that needs to engage to follow up on the dialogue that President Eisenhower began.  To echo Cohen’s argument, that commissioner is the President, now and all his colleagues as former presidents.  The immediate demands of the office generally overwhelm the ability of presidents to deal in grand issues, which is one reason why Eisenhower made his observations at the end of his tenure.  It needs to begin the tenure and sustain itself through successive presidents, regardless of party.  It needs presidents to engage members of Congress in the discussion.  It needs leadership and patience and a serious, sustained dialogue with the public.

 

Let’s Just Throw Kids in Jail Like It’s No Big Deal (via Free-Range Kids)

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Hi Folks : It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, already upset by the post below this one – William Anderson’s piece about kids in a  Mississippi town being incarcerated for “crimes” like violating the school dress code, or even flatulence!

Which reminded me of today’s “happy” story in the NY Post about a young man who’d been given a $100 ticket for riding his unicycle on a Brooklyn sidewalk — even though he offered to show the cop a government web site on his iPhone that stated it is NOT a crime. The cop didn’t care. Worse — when he got to court, at first the judge refused to listen to him.

[Judge] Delury also warned him not to ride his bicycle on the sidewalk again “or I’ll put you in Rikers.”

Isn’t that a little FLIP? A high school student rides a unicycle on the sidewalk (incidentally NOT breaking the law) and the next thing you know a judge is threatening to send him to JAIL?

Eventually the judge backed down — but only after the kid had the guts to request a second appearance in front of him to ask for a jury trial. By then the judge had finally DEIGNED to read the ACTUAL LAW. He then declared the issue “dismissed.”

What a lucky break! The kid is not going to do hard time for not breaking a law! – L

Man Must Change Seats on Plane: He Is Seated Next to Two Minors (via Free-Range Kids)

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Hi Folks! I’ts Lenore from Free- Range Kids, where “flying while male” is not a new issue to us (see this post)  just a new airline: Virgin, in Australia. In today’s story, a man named Johnny McGirr, 33, was seated next to two unaccompanied minors — boys, about ages 8 and 10. He was supposed to sit next to the window, but switched to the aisle to let the boys look out, because he’s a nice guy.

That, however, is not how the airline saw him. When the stewardess came by she saw only that he was — accckkkk! — a MALE, and she made him move. The reason? Company policy: A woman can sit next to unaccompanied children, but not a man.

The fellow — a fireman — spent the rest of the trip embarrassed and angry. Eventually, he blogged about it, pointing out quite rightly that the assumption seems to be that every male is at least a  potential pedophile, even in public, on a plane, with people going up and down the aisles. This is what I call “Worst-First Thinking” — thinking up the very WORST case scenario and proceeding as if it is FIRST on the list of likely possibilities.  The airline excused itself by saying, “Most guests thoroughly understand that the welfare of the child is our priority.” As if it’s only a deviant who’d question this practice.

But the airline is wrong. Many people do NOT understand this panicked prejudice anymore. The buzz in Australia is that there is now a “public backlash” that has Virgin (and Qantas, and Jetstar and Air Newland) re-thinking its men-must-move policy.

Let’s hope they get it right this time, as British Airways finally did. Making people sit in a certain place because of  their DNA is something Rosa Parks fought a long time ago.  - L.

Look! Up in the air! It’s predator panic!

Americans for Forfeiture Reform on Twitter; Reader Requests

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

For those of you on Twitter, you should follow Americans for Forfeiture Reform at @ForfeitureAbuse.

Also, I’m working on a series of posts about particular forfeiture cases for next week; if you have a particular request or question you’d like me to cover please leave a note in the comments or email Eapen@ForfeitureReform.com

And we are still looking for forfeiture victims from Colorado, if anyone has a lead!

Many thanks,

Eapen Thampy