We Know Tar Sands, But Why Don't We Know Biomass?

DDThe US Congress perseverates. Its new leaders, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, have it bad. John McCain holds its longest recognized precondition. It is incurable and resists every treatment. Perseveration is a state of thought and speech, a mindset on a loop that repeats and repeats and prolongs an action long after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased. Think Keystone XL. Think Keystone. A political mutation from the perseveration of Obamacare.

Perseveration is a dangerous condition. It is a frequent condition that infects terrorist leadership who carry it to inhuman extremes. At home, perseveration often occurs as a host/carrier relationship between politicians and the media. Media is highly susceptible to its effects and has created recent epidemics and panics that stem from the main condition. Fears of Ebola’s spread to US soil is one such recent incident. The grand jury verdict in Ferguson is now another.

Congressional Republicans are single-minded and love to perseverate. About the XL, they ring memes: “thousands of jobs,” thousands of jobs,” “thousand of jobs;” the loud repetition masking that the pipeline has many dirty little flaws—beginning with the misleading jobs claim. Perseverating Republicans have a wild XL jobs math that includes school crossing guards anywhere near trucks with XL equipment, the counter and register workers at the doughnut shops where the truck drivers have coffee, and the supermarket worker who sells the bread for their sandwiches and the banker who receives their mortgage.

Here’s a more accurate picture: As we know, XL pipeline construction jobs will be less than the number on any NJ-NY highrise, less than those involved in building the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The XL requires infrastructure (mainly grading, bed prep including stone and rock beds, drainage, installing braces), but is easy construction (mainly bolting and welding); these jobs will turn over swiftly as it builds out. The main impact will be in transportation and heavy equipment jobs (engaged hauling pipe sections, parts and instruments; then in lifting and positioning sections for installation, transferring and moving equipment and parts along the pipeline). Total new jobs: less than 500! New jobs lasting for more than six months: 150. Permanent jobs added to the economy: 50. Mainly for pipeline monitors, reading instruments and driving along to visually inspect the pipeline for damage and leaks.

The impact on refineries? The Texas Gulf refineries aren’t empty or idle. And no one proposes building new capacity. Net result: Jobs will remain constant; output will increase. China benefits. No tanker leaves Houston or Port Arthur empty.

The Washington Post says the economy adds the numbers of jobs provided by the XL every 10 minutes and nine seconds. Exactly the time it takes Republicans to perseverate about their lie of thousands.

The danger of perseveration is not only its exaggerated realities, but it how it pushes out new ideas and solutions and keeps them away from public attention.

Biomass is perhaps the most important green energy technology no one has heard of and for which Congress has not taken up a banner of support.

At its most basic, biomass is producing energy from organic matter; burning wood in a stove or fireplace, for example. At its most advanced, biomass energy is sustainable and an efficient recycler of bio products considered waste and left abandoned by lumber and agricultural industries. It is one of the most scalable of green technologies, and breakthroughs are happening swiftly, improving the process and dropping the costs of production and transmission.

biomass_graphic

Beaver Wood Energy, a Vermont company, reclaims forest waste from logging operations. Within a 50-mile circumference of its facilities site, 2.6 million tons of logs are harvested annually, leaving behind nearly a million tons of waste, mainly in the form of tree tops and branches stripped from the stem trucks to be used as timber in construction and craft. Continue reading We Know Tar Sands, But Why Don’t We Know Biomass?

A Time To Act

DDThe next Republican step will be to force President Obama to use the veto in a way that tanks Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the Presidency. The GOP-led Senate will not be interested in passing any useful legislation. The Senate will function only as a political wedge, driving bills that the President will veto, but that will also be loaded with riders affixed to the GOP agenda.

With the McConnell Senate, President Obama will be consistently faced with the lesser of two evils, between which there won’t be a dime’s worth of difference. The Senate will turn his vetoes into a political wedge, often pointing to the issues from both sides, to create a circle of confusion.

Remember, the House rarely sent up a clean bill, whether on the debt or a continuing resolution—which is what led to the government shutdown in 2013—surprisingly never mentioned by Democratic candidates, who gave the GOP a free pass on one of the worst of its legislative disasters domestically and internationally, damaging US standing in every world capital. Expect no less from Democrats, nor any more from Republicans with their win in the Senate.

It seems throughout the election Democrats were thinking about offices; Republicans were thinking about power. Republicans used the very shadows they created (a do-nothing Congress, Obama!) and pretended to oppose it by feigning substance, taking even tougher stands on waste, debt, red tape and intrusion—all of which they created in the shadows, all of which had been reduced in the light. But no one among the Democrats attached this darkness to Republican names.

Only dark money was attached. Russ Choma, at NoOpenSecrets.org (part of the Center for Responsive Politics) writes:

The real story of the election’s campaign finance chapter was not which side had more resources, but that such a large chunk of the cost was paid for by a small group of ultra-wealthy donors using outside groups to bury voters with an avalanche of spending.”

OpenSecrets further noted:

Spending by outside groups fall in three categories: independent expenditureselectioneering communications and communication costs. The 2004 election marked a watershed moment in the use of independent expenditure to sway voters, with most of the new spending coming from the national party committees. The 2010 election marks the rise of a new political committee, dubbed “super PACs,” and officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” which can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as wealthy individuals.

The center issued this chart that looks at combined totals: Continue reading A Time to Act

New Hampshire Points to the Future

DDThe real story of the 2014 midterm election can be found in New Hampshire’s Senate race. More than any other states, its votes show how American politics is being redefined. Its results show how rapidly voters are shifting away from the old political paradigms of party and local issues to agenda-driven national issues that drown out regional and state concerns. In New Hampshire, look beyond the winners and losers, at the details and trends. There you’ll find the emerging politics of tomorrow.

First, New Hampshire was the place of Scott Brown’s third try in four years for the US Senate, with only his first attempt being successful but short-lived—but each of his last two races were competitive. New Hampshire was Brown’s second try in two years to win a Senate seat; he moved to the state in December 2013, after losing to Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, losing a seat he won after a special election.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

His 2014 Democratic opponent was the incumbent Senator, former Governor and state legislator Jeanne Shaheen, who had a string of eight election victories in New Hampshire, and was without scandal or personal negatives. She had lived in New Hampshire for 40 years.

In the end, the difference was 17,000 votes out of a rough count of a quarter-million votes cast. That means over 225,000 voters voted for a man who had never served in New Hampshire politics and only jumped into its Senate race last April. Brown had never lived there until 11 months ago, and was clearly using the state as a stepping stone for his singular ambition to win a Senate seat. He had a single plank in his platform: Obama is bad news.

Make no mistake, Republicans want that slogan’s conclusion to resonate as they interchange the names: Hillary is bad news; O’Malley (of Maryland) is bad news; Warren (Massachusetts) is bad news; any and all Democrats are bad news, because they allowed the nation to elect Barack Obama. It is a negative cult of personality tied more to race than reality.

Brown’s boldness, changing states, running on a single plank devoid of state issues, represents a remarkable shift in American politics. It shows conclusively that local politics do not matter (witness Tillis’s win in North Carolina against Kay Hagan!), and that political rhetoric is separating and decoupling from political reality. In one debate, asked about the local economy in Sullivan County, Brown said he saw no difference between it and the than the rest of the state. Shaneen, on the other hand, clearly articulated a list of important local issues. Continue reading New Hampshire Points to the Future

How to Buy Power and Influence

DDOnce, you bought elected officials. Today, you buy the election. How? With ads! Short, distorted, repetitive, intense, saturated, without facts. Who pays? Outside groups. An example: since 2006, the Republican State Leadership Committee has gone from spending $20 million on GOP candidates to a projected $37 million by next week, mainly aimed at state legislatures and judges. In a break with precedent (and mainstream media coverage!), the new era of free speech has focused attacks on elected judges, especially on state Supreme Courts. In North Carolina, one televised ad accused a sitting judge of “siding with child predators.”

And win or lose, these ads are working. A new report  says state judges are considering these ads when they issue rulings in court. The net effect of these ads is slowly, invisibly changing justice, even on constitutional questions.

According to the American Constitution Society (ACS):

Outside interest groups, often with high-stakes economic interests or political causes before the courts, now routinely pour millions of dollars into state supreme court elections. These powerful interests understand the important role that state supreme courts play in American government, and seek to elect justices who will rule as they prefer on priority issues such as environmental and consumer protections, marriage equality, reproductive choice and voting rights. Although their economic and political priorities are not necessarily criminal justice policy, these sophisticated groups understand that “soft on crime” attack ads are often the best means of removing from office justices they oppose.

The Society issued a report, Skewed Justice: Citizens United, Television Advertising, and State Supreme Court Justices’ Decisions in Criminal Cases, that compiled data from more than 3,000 criminal appeals decided in state supreme courts in 32 states from 2008 to 2013.

It found:

  1. The more TV ads aired during state Supreme Court judicial elections in a state, the less likely justices are to vote in favor of criminal defendants. In a state with 10,000 ads, a doubling of airings is associated on average with an 8 percent increase in justices’ voting against a criminal defendant’s appeal.
  2. Justices in states whose bans on corporate and union spending on elections were struck down by Citizens United were less likely to vote in favor of criminal defendants than they were before the decision. In these states, the removal of those prohibitions after Citizens United is associated with, on average, a 7 percent decrease in justices’ voting in favor of criminal defendants.

ThinkProgress notes: “Outside spenders pay for ads with particularly vicious content” even as candidates they support distance themselves; one in Ohio dissembling its support by claiming an ad against his opponent as not an “appropriate approach to judicial campaigning.”

A Mother Jones article cites these phrases from ads: “Terrorist sympathizer. Friend to criminals. Pedophile supporter.” A “free a terrorist” ad ran in Michigan 416 times!

Heavy on emotion, short on facts, completely without context or specifics, watch this example from Michigan:

This kind of ad, televised, makes electoral debate a tough sell and appeals to the lowest forms of information, anger and fear—at the sacrifice of the freedom the soldier died for.

In states with elections for local court seats, money is also wielding a bigger presence on justice.

But the changes in political funding created by the Citizens United decision, along with the internet, have also created more citizen ads, with low production values and distinctively local flavors. For example, these next four, each a little bizarre: Continue reading How to Buy Power and Influence

Turkey, Sayreville, and Some Democrats Get It Wrong

DDI.

Turkey’s actions, however it thinks itself justified by its internal and regional politics, have been outrageous on the international front and strike the wrong balance for a country concerned about its security.

Turkey should have promised aid long ago when the international coalition against ISIL formed. Aid helps promote peace and opens new channels. Aiding the Kurds in the fight against ISIL might further the peace talks with its Kurdish opposition and win support for coexistence within Turkey among its Kurds, 20% of its population and long oppressed. One thing is sure: the act of denying support and access only hardened old tensions and angered the international community and the Kurds at home. Turkey is missing a unique opportunity to forge a new era of cooperation by failing to focus on a dangerous regional enemy and turn a new page.

That missed opportunity—which Turkey is now trying to regain—may prove to be a greater threat to Turkey’s future than the narrow concerns that drove it to launch air attacks early last week on the Kurdish rebels, taking advantage of the Kurdish forces’ engagement with ISIL.

After hitting the Kurds with F-16s, Turkey accused the Kurds of using Kobani support as a “blackmail” tactic for the peace process. In reality, Turkey is using Kobani to further its wrongheaded military aims and as blackmail to compel the US coalition to attack and engage the Assad regime in Syria.

Turkey’s change of direction may help in the fight over Kobani. But it may come too late to win brownie points internationally or further peace internally.

II.

Attitudes in response to the Sayreville hazing range from cavalier to laissez-faire to open anger and hostility—all which point to evidence that we have a larger problem: we are becoming a nation of bullies and victims who are to minimize their degradation and find the humor in their shame. It matters less the details of who did what; the crime here is the attitudes that are shaping the response of both the children and adults. It seems that few can see or realize the moral failing put on display by the hazing. Whether as a potential threat or a real one, physical restraint is not “bonding,” it is intimidation. It takes away a fundamental right to feel safe and secure physically among peers. It’s a social form of attack that violates every moral and legal practice, but few seem to get it. All have dismissed the homoerotica in the nature of the hazing which was planned and executed; the lights out symbolic of denial.

Evidence the young female student quoted in the New York Times as saying, “We sure as hell hate them now,” about the victims. She feels her righteous indignation is justified by her sacrifice—not being able to attend football games. She has not a single thought of empathy for those hazed and expressed no ambivalence about the misconduct. She simply wants to pile on. She does not see in her own anger cause for remorse.

In a sport in which individual behavior affects and penalizes the team, many seem to be denying this fundamental relationship and consequence of bad behavior. Too many are focusing on sport and competitive success. If not the hazing, it’s really about a massive failure of character and the community climate which enables, supports and justifies the debacle.

III.

Neither party nor policy is responsible for the shredding of the President’s leadership by Democratic candidates: with job growth unprecedented, GDP growth up, troops at home, uninsured numbers reduced, US oil production globally number one, the Dow doubled, consumer confidence tripled, and higher wages on his plate and several successful fixes for the bureaucracy in progress, his opposition is in name only. Largely without support or cause. Continue reading Turkey, Sayreville, and Some Democrats Get It Wrong

Police Bullets Kill People and Truth

DDA cop’s strongest weapon is the truth. Honesty is more powerful than his or her bullets. I can sense doubts, objections and disclaimers rushing forward. Honesty won’t save you from physical threats, from people armed with guns! True, but is the prime strength of policing the biggest capacity for violence? It’s a dangerous world! True, but is strength measured by who’s quicker to the trigger?

An irony of violence is it loses its strength when it is applied for the wrong reasons or when it serves the wrong purpose. When state violence steps outside of the law, or only serves itself, it is illegal. It violates the social order it cunningly claims it protects.

More and more, violence is embraced by individual police officers, who cite a person’s actions as “threatening” to their own safety and welfare. This assertion is not made on behalf of public safety, but officer safety: the state is making the claim on behalf of its right of enforcement that officer safety, no matter the degree of doubt about the claims of “threat,” is paramount, above all public good and order. It asserts the police decision is supreme. This is a meta-legal process. It argues I have to kill to protect my right to kill and to protect my person, and my judgement is sufficient alone to determine the threat.

The last group of renegades who acted on these self-granted claims of violence and power were the Confederate Cavalry under “Fightin’” Major General Joe Wheeler, who pillaged and sacked Southern plantations, looted their treasures and supplies, and raped their women (to maintain morale), in support of the cause.

Police violence is no longer serving the public; it is acting out personal ends. With the rubber stamp of the state. Protest and the police show up with armored personnel carriers, military rifles, and snipers aimed and ready.

Once the threat that entitled force was “resistance,” violence was justified when the subject was resisting arrest or apprehension. During slavery, Frederick Douglass reported the most common offense for whipping was “impudence;” it was charged whenever it pleased the propertyholder. Today, the police buzz word is the ubiquitous “threat.”

Is violence justified by the feeling of a threat without a real perception? Is the mere idea of a “threat” enabling police to get away with murder?

In some analyses, anger is a threat. An angry officer, “threatened” by a subject, fires and kills.

Are there elements within police culture that tacitly support violence—or vigilantism, the taking of the law into their own hands?

The strongest weapon of policing is the one that meets the goals of policing: to protect and serve, to reduce crime and threats. That weapon is truth. But let’s look at the law.

Violence, which used to be the last resort for police, is now becoming the first choice. The legends of the Wild West, of Dodge City and the OK Corral, haunt certain neighborhoods, where police training standards are disappearing and their fade is supported by administrators who argue the justifications for the wanton and obvious misuse of force, deferring to excuses and denials, and more often, just plain lies.

Trust is based on truth. Trust is the collective virtue that is the basis for the unnamed rights implied and protected by the seldom mentioned Ninth Amendment, that addresses a host of the natural rights of people and communities, including the right to associate and travel freely, without state interference, suspicion or monitoring.

Strangely, no court cases have ever been decided under the Ninth Amendment. It has been alluded to only once, as the basis of the legal protection of privacy within marriage. It does, however, provide constitutional protection that citizens have the right and expectation to be free from state violence—and police shootings—during the normal enjoyment of their lives and their duties and leisure. Further protection is provided by the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects citizens against the denial of those natural rights without due process—which includes snap decisions made by police under duress. Continue reading Police Bullets Kill People and Truth

What Is Happening to the Children

DDWhat’s happening to the children? I bet your first thought is which children? The kidnapped girls in Nigeria who captured the interest of the world, gaining commitments from international governments to send troops to pursue their return—but suddenly vanished from our imaginations, or at least our television screens and social media accounts?  Or the 40,000 children massed along the US southern border with Mexico, whose 1,000-mile pilgrimages were met with protests, demanding their immediate return to countries and communities where they would be met by death and rape, the violence of  promised threats from criminal gangs? Or maybe the uncounted and silent thousands of children who suffer from hunger because food assistance was cut by the Congress to “help” the balance sheet of federal deficits driven by Wall Street and tax giveaways to corporations, who are leaving the country in a huff because they want more even as we give the children less.

The Lost Boys of the Sudan. Duane Romanell photo.

The Lost Boys of the Sudan. Duane Romanell photo.

Thousands of children are refugees, displaced by conflict violence, whose only hope is to abandon their homes with their families and flee into the unknown. They live on the edge of civilization, marginalized as temporaries, their lives suspended from education and the security of a society rooting for them to find a future of success. As refugees, they live in a world in which hope is denied.

What’s happening to the education of US children? Why are states and communities resisting a national standard that allows any methodology and curriculum to meet the new standard?

Why is there a virus that suddenly emerges in 47 states that is sending hundreds of children to hospitals and has registered more US deaths than Ebola, with only miniscule public outcry?

Why are teachers engaging in sex with students, according to reports from Louisiana where two female teachers are alleged to have had a threesome with a male high school student; in Virginia where a married female teacher admits to having sex with four high school students; in Red Bank, NJ where a male substitute teacher is accused of having an ongoing sexual relationship with a student; in Bucks County, PA where a female middle school band teacher is accused of having sex with a student inside her vehicle; in Maplewood, NJ where a female teacher is charged with having oral sex with 15-year-olds on school property; in Brooklyn, NY where a male math and science teacher at one of the city’s elite high schools is charged with having sex with at least six female students, supported by evidence from videos and texts; in New Hampshire, where a male teacher is accused of having sex with a student in his classroom and encouraged the student to cover it up in an e-mail; in El Paso, TX which has reported four incidents so far in 2014; in South Carolina, where among multiple incidents involving multiple students, a female Berkeley County teacher is alleged to have had sex with a three students during a house party? Continue reading What Is Happening to the Children

The Secret Service's Open Secrets

DDIt was clear she had been a dedicated agent and administrator, but Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was in over her head. She spent her years in the Service as a field agent in Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida, and except for four years from 1988 to 1992, she was never directly involved in Presidential Protections or White House duty except for oversight.

From her resumé:

In 1996, Ms. Pierson entered the agency’s supervisory ranks with her selection as Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Protective Operations. Later that year, she was transferred to the Tampa Field Office where she served as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge and was responsible for directing Secret Service investigative and protective activities in western Florida. Ms. Pierson established an Electronic Crimes Task Force to investigate cyber crimes in the Tampa Bay area.

In 2005, Ms. Pierson returned to the Office of Protective Operations as Deputy Assistant Director. In this position, Ms. Pierson oversaw the agency’s Presidential Protective Division, Vice Presidential Protective Division, Special Services Division, as well as budgetary operations for 1,200 employees.

Since June 2006, she has held the position of Assistant Director of the Office of Human Resources and Training. As Assistant Director, she was responsible for all human resource programs and training for the Secret Service, including policy development and management of the agency’s Personnel Division, Security Clearance Division, Workforce Planning, Work-Life Programs, and the James J. Rowley Training Center.

Good jobs. But do any of them sound like the kind of hands-on innovation and knowledge of drills required of the world’s most important Master Chief or Sergeant Major, responsible for the daily details and lightning responses, piersonafter long, numbing periods of maudlin ennui, to thwart potential threats against a President from an ever-growing list of crazies?

Did her resumé really prepare her for a laser focus on carrying out the policies and standard of the performance, training and conduct of the Secret Service’s Presidential Protection Division?

One Congress member at Tuesday’s House hearing pointed out that protection detail agents had received no training in 2013 and only one class the year before. Pierson acknowledged different segments of the Service can’t communicate because they use different radio frequencies. But most telling was an inspector general’s report that indicated the rank and file had little trust (less than 50%!) in the bosses, a vital tell that signaled the problems that kept reoccurring and the reasons why they are not fixed.

The breach of the White House and the other recent failures in protection and agent misconduct begin with the loss of personal and professional integrity, apparently widespread among the Protection Division, according to an earlier Inspector General report. That 2012 report reviewed agents soliciting sex workers in Cartagena, Columbia ahead of a Presidential visit, and noted such incidents were numerous. Continue reading The Secret Service’s Open Secrets

Racism and Noble Virtues

DDWhat is racism? Is it a universal idea? A judgment about biological identity? A group of dysfunctional behaviors in a culture? Persistent myths about a community’s strength and weaknesses? Does it belong equally to white and black, and yellow and tan?

Is racism a political idea? A wedge for advantage? Does it exist? Is it an excuse? Do statistics verify its presence? What role does it play in society? How does it change individual lives?

Racism does exist; it always reflects the role race plays in society. For instance, the structures and forms of racism during slavery have virtually no role in society today. The laws, punishments, limits and ideas that governed race then were very different and many have been erased.

Since these ideas have lost their viability, does that mean racism has ended? In modern society with its pledge to equality, has racism been eliminated? No. But it has changed forms. Remember, each era produces its version of racism. Remember, the construct of racism is based on the role race plays in the social milieu.

Before looking at modern racism, let’s ask: How does race fit into today’s society?

In America today, race has become the major standard and measure for equality and equal opportunity. Collectively, through numbers and statistics; individually, through incidents and events, race provides the details and the rough measure of fair play and justice. Race sets the bar for social and economic improvement, the standard for civil liberties, but is also the target of anger for those in and out of power, and a source of constant confusion. This positivist function of race is rarely mentioned; race is most often framed as a problem or a source of friction, or as a factor of mistreatment.

But race has noble virtues. It is the source used to reflect how far America has come in resolving internal tyranny and it measures America’s social progress. It is also a measure of how far apart Americans stand on many social issues. It has been the bubble at the center of the builder’s level.

Race, in part, is the weight of a group response, for both blacks and whites. The shooting of whites by police, while tragic, doesn’t alert the nation to the attack of police violence and misconduct aimed at the American Promise; race is a sentinel for the entire country—not just for blacks. Race puts blacks in the vanguard of social change, yet also makes blacks one of society’s most vulnerable groups. The paradox leads to scepticism and ignorance about the fix for social problems as race as a change agent is caught in a fluid whirlwind of individual and indirect forces.

That is why whites were always visible and angry in the Ferguson protests, every night, in every frame, side by side with blacks. Race is America’s active metaphor for character and justice, for liberty and criminality, for alarm and good riddance. It is not a discussion about blacks or whites, but about the vision and substance of America and the content of the American character, not just of the individuals whose roles shape the discussion.

In the same way, America’s educational success is measured by race. The differences in student test scores reflect race as a means of distributed wealth.

Race as an American idea is always in motion; different than last year, changed by new experiences, redefined by the culture it represents. Unfortunately it is often tied to omissions, deficiencies and neglect more than success, and its noble side is missed.

From this view, I propose racism plays three key roles in today’s America, all three tied to politics and culture:

  1. To unify race appearance (by skin color) into a common culture of values and desired qualities (i.e., loyalty, defense, ideology) that lead to mutual and joint actions for power and privilege limited to and controlled by a group.

  2. To install social barriers supported by legal frameworks and individual decision makers that limit life chances and prospects for many of those outside of the group.

  3. To deny the advantages that racism inherently seeks to make permanent.

The three are easy to understand with examples.

1. At the diner where I often eat, we wondered during the 2012 election how long it would be before Mitt Romney screamed, “I’m white!” to pander for votes. The opposite nearly occurred. Romney’s campaign adviser John Sununu approached that edge, claiming someone needed to teach the President “how to be an American.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich skirted the same precipice: he cited Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial world view” “as the the most accurate, predictive model for his [Obama's] behavior,” calling it “a profound insight.” “The food stamp President” was another of Gingrich’s contributions.

Rick Santorum came within a syllable of an offensive racial slur before he caught himself. Recently, a New Hampshire police chief uttered the word publicly (saying the President “met and exceeded” his criteria). He refused to back down, resigning but never apologizing.

My oft-cited example is the empty chairs that appeared after the 2012 Republican National Convention, tied to tree limbs on private property, often with roped nooses hung over chair backs—performance art that starkly expressed the dark dread of justice as lynching. These spontaneous racial installations were a reminder that the media never reported in 2008 the high degree of fear in the black community for Barack Obama’s life; people were frantic and the hysteria went unnoticed.

Racism is tasteless and invisible—until the first tug of attitude pushes one of its many structures into place to block progress—and to strangle black success. Members of Congress have said Barack Obama was only elected because he is black. Others say he won due to white guilt.

These conversations and actions call white people to band together under a banner of skin: a favorite principle of racism is to unite to defend and defeat the idea of the other. The other is different—and also more dangerous, more deadly, more deficient. The most important other in America is race. Its group tensions involve a history of violence, lynching, lawlessness, blame, poverty and social control.

I think that race as a social measure should change. Women and children are suffering greater attacks than African-Americans in this historical moment; women and children need a movement worthy of the anti-war and Civil Rights movements, yet they remain on the edge of America’s conscience. Thankfully, ending domestic violence has become a noble virtue. So should ending the murders of children by their peers.

2. Examples of social barriers abound. The most prominent and dangerous, as US House member John Lewis rightly recognizes, are the state-level bills that are redefining the right to vote. The new tactic recognizes it is not necessary to disenfranchise minority voters en masse (the old, pre-1960s tactic). Trimming voter turnout  by 3 to 10 percent will often be enough to swing close national elections.

Remember, racism fits the role of race in society. In politics, that’s votes. After the Civil War, bills sought to disenfranchise the entire Negro vote, which ended with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Now, in this era, with this Supreme Court, the same outcome can be achieved with a more limited, targeted effort to restrict early voting, raising the bar to voter access by requiring more paperwork and reducing polling hours. Continue reading Racism and Noble Virtues

In the Fight Against ISIL, Going Beyond Either/Or

DDA big part of the American legacy is to reduce things to a simple either/or. It creates the illusion of being willing to make tough choices, of moving forward with decisive shows of strength while leaving piddling details unexamined.

Often this preferred way turns out be a stumbling block; America trips over details and consequences patience would have allowed the nation to foresee. Barack Obama’s mighty effort to restore the nation to the security and values of patience has been met at every turn with resistance that insists on immediate either/ors. But his patience is not incompetence, as America is soon to find out in the fight against ISIL.

Rush in, says John McCain. Despite being the Senate’s senior war hawk, his state’s Republican Party voted last January to censure their senior Senator for a voting record insufficiently conservative. Send troops, “think of an American city in flames,” Lindsey Graham cries. The terrorists have already occupied space in his mind.

But the criticisms of the President continue, this time from sources who attended a recent off-the-record press meeting and a White House invitational dinner. At both, the President reportedly said he would not rush to war. He would be deliberate. “I do not make apologies for being careful in these areas, even if it doesn’t make for good theater,” sources quote him as saying.

But the Wall Street Journal used these sources to speculate about his motivation rather than applaud the President’s principles. Richard N. Haass, an invitee (a former Bush official and president of the Council of Foreign Relations), said the President has been “forced to react to events here.” Haass goes on in the Wall Street Journal article:

“… attention to nuance is a double-edged attribute. “This is someone who, more than most in the political world, is comfortable in the gray rather than the black and white,” he said. “So many other people in the political world do operate in the black and white and are more quote-unquote decisive, and that’s a mixed blessing. He clearly falls on the side of those who are slow or reluctant to decide because deciding often forces you into a more one-sided position than you’re comfortable with.”

In this scene from Apotheosis of the US Capitol, armored Freedom, sword raised and cape flying, with a helmet and shield reminiscent of those on the Statue of Freedom, tramples Tyranny and Kingly Power; she is assisted by a fierce eagle carrying arrows and a thunderbolt.

In this scene from Apotheosis of the US Capitol, armored Freedom, sword raised and cape flying, with a helmet and shield reminiscent of those on the Statue of Freedom, tramples Tyranny and Kingly Power; she is assisted by a fierce eagle carrying arrows and a thunderbolt.

Haass is wrong. Patience provides you with a better perception; it prevents the errors that come from a rash rush to judgment. But Haass has assumed his conclusion and made it fit the circumstance. He has reduced the President’s incredible strength to wait without wasting resources into a waste of time. He deliberately denies that patience is an investment of time, rewarded by its unique benefits of resolve and understanding—a special quality of the President’s keen insight, tied to his clarity and force of intellect. For some, the President is always on the wrong side of their either/or. Likewise, the either/or of “boots or no boots” (to use US combat troops in Iran and Syria or no) is distorting the military argument and misleading strategy by failing to focus on choices outside the forced choices that neocons like Haass embrace and take comfort with in their sleep. The purpose of forced choices is to create limits. They do not enhance freedom; they tighten restrictions. They ignore options.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014.

We see how the forced choices of either/or set limits on the domestic front. Voting rights, women’s rights, fracking, education standards, taxes, healthcare, immigration are all discussed without nuances—which prevents using the overlooked details to find a path that is reinforced and refined by answering its objections and working in its strengths; instead, Haass and his ilk double down on win or lose and participate in the giddy exercise of shutting down the government or the repetitive stupidity of voting 54 times to repeal a healthcare bill without a chance of success and with no alternative. Continue reading In the Fight Against ISIL, Going Beyond Either/Or