UPDATED:Authority continues to do stupid things, as usual, by bullying people for not being racist

 Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895

Prosecute People for Not Being Racist Anymore
[Via First Draft]

Doc sent this along, and Jesus tits: 

The June issue of the paper went to print with the white space standing in for the letter, and without the word “Redskins” appearing anywhere. And this was when McGee decided to run around campus in his Quixotic attempt to collect all of the copies. This was also when the elder Pirritano made up his mind that the editors of the Playwickian should be prosecuted for their refusal to print his son’s letter.

“This in my opinion also reaches the level of a conspiracy, in any other context except a school environment it would be considered such,” Pirritano said in an email. “I see this as no different than if these students went into another students [sic] locker and stole their phone or any valuable. Theft is theft no matter how you look at it, and they admit conspiring to do such. My statement reflects that view and in my opinion a police investigation should have taken place. It also reflects my personal philosophy that taxpayers should not be on the hook for such acts and I made that known to the public that attended our meetings as well as received comments from the public that they supported such investigation.”

He’s arguing that the paper’s use of school funds is a misappropriation of tax dollars. One problem though: the final issue of the school year, historically, has been paid for by the students themselves. June 2014 was no different.

On July 2, Gayle Spoul, an attorney hired to represent the Playwickian‘s editors, wrote to Michael Levin, an attorney retained by the school district to sort out this issue: “It is inconceivable to me that the District would decide to expend time and ‘funds’ to ‘investigate’ and then potentially prosecute these students, who are simply attempting to stand up for the rights guaranteed them by the Constitution and Pennsylvania law.”

For more background see Doc’s post here

[More]

UPDATE: The First Draft post is not the important point. Here is a direct link to the important article.

_________________________

I really hate this crap and wish that the authoritarian principal here, who has penalized teachers for doing the right thing when he asked them to do the wrong thing, would simply lose his job and have to work at minimum wage for the rest of his life. But I bet he gets a higher paying job in the administration. Because they, being hierarchical authoritarians themselves, have instituted restrictive polices forcing the editors to use words that they feel are racist.

Think about that? Would any school district force the editors of a school paper to use what the students view as racial epithets regarding a minority? Yet here we have a board bullying students to do just that.

And because of the board’s refusal to compromise, all the school district has really done is radicalize the students even more, while wasting a lot of taxpayers money. Last year it was 15-7 regarding the policy. This year the students editors are unanimous.

And expect the school district to pay a lot more as lawsuits are signed. Lawyers told the board to not make this move, explaining the long term legal effects.

Just stupid.

Authoritarians always end up losing against democracy. They always do stupid things by refusing to compromise, even a little. The British were stupid in the Revolution. The South was stupid in the Civil War. Simple, smart compromise would have been so much better.

But authority simply cannot compromise because it sees that as losing its authority. To many authoritarians only maintain their authority by the naked use of power. Which is why they do stupid things. And why they eventually loses when dealing with rapid change.

Because the power of democracy comes from its ability to adapt, to not be bound by the constraints of hierarchy and position, as it finds a wise answer to the damage done by uncompromising authority.

Left/right is not as important today as authority/democracy

How Far Conservatism Has Changed
[Via Contrary Brin]

All right, it is an important U.S. political season.  As a registered Republican and a frequent speaker at libertarian gatherings, I remain hopeful that this will be the year that several million temperamentally conservative-but-calmly-rational Americans will wake up to the way their movement and the GOP have been hijacked. And that only a shattering drubbing at the polls will send the American right back to the drawing boards — learning to do politics again. Including negotiation about real problems. 

Oh, but it will be so hard! 
The oligarchs who have done the hijacking have ordered up so many narratives, from “birther” paranoia to climate denialism, from preaching “oligarchy is gooood for you” to utter lies about U.S. history. I will explicate the best and most hilariously most damning example below — the George Soros Effect.  
thats-not-austinBut first — In That’s Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right WingProfessor Michael Austin examines dozens of books, articles, speeches, and radio broadcasts by such figures as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Larry Schweikart, and David Barton to expose the deep historical flaws in their use of America’s founding history. In contrast to their misleading method of citing proof texts to serve a narrow agenda, Austin allows the Founding Fathers to speak for themselves, situating all quotations in the proper historical context. 
What emerges is a true historical picture of men who often disagreed with one another on such crucial issues as federal power, judicial review, and the separation of church and state. As Austin — whom I met last week, at Newman University, in Kansas — shows, the real legacy of the Founding Fathers to us is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in America for more than two hundred years, but that regularly comes under attack. How extreme has been the veer off any path of sane conservatism?  

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I feel that the real battle is not between left/right economic divides but between hierarchical authoritarian/distributed democracy. The GOP may have a preponderance of the former but there are quite a lot in the leadership of the Dems. We are out of balance, but luckily have very strong tools now to leverage distributed approaches to regain our footing.

The Founding Fathers had to deal with exactly the same imbalances. We saw liberals and conservatives then come together to develop an entirely new set of tools to deal with the imbalance.

I am confident we will again. 

The question is how long it will take to regain the balance, how much it will be delayed by the authoritarians and how many millions die in the meantime

Bill Clinton’s book recommendations need to be read

 Black Ants Fighting taken using Samsung Galaxy S2 Camera + Macro Lens

Bill Clinton: Two books you should read – Global Public Square – 
[Via CNN.com Blogs]

Mr. President, we usually have an end segment where I recommend a book of the week. We are blowing it out all for you, so I’m giving you the last word, which is what book would you recommend? You’re a voracious reader. If you were to tell our readers, what should they read?

If you’ll give me two.

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No matter what you thinnk of Bill CLinton, his book recommendations should be read by anyone wishing to understand the world today.

The two books –  Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Ketler; and The Social Conquest of Earth by E.O. Wilson.

Both of these books are very important. Because they help offer insights into how the world is changing. And how the solutions that are being sought are already part of our social instittutions. We just need to grab the opportunities,

They have certainly informed me in my model of authoritarian hierarchy and distributed democracy.

Nice to see a politician seeing the same things.

(h/t Mark Minie)

Afghanistan from the inside – a culture in transition and a country with no culture

Afghanistan 

Absurd in Afghanistan
[Via The AmCon » Articles]

Five American troops moved briskly through the streets of Kandahar, their weapons at the ready. It was not yet mid-morning, and things had already broken down. Separated from their convoy, they were following an Afghan prosecutor to the city’s judicial headquarters. Afghanistan is generally not kind to foot patrols or improvisation, and that July morning in 2011 was quickly acquiring an aura of misadventure. Their mission was to kiss the ring of an Afghan judge to obtain the release of a young boy who had been arrested for no other reason than that a police chief found him attractive. Joseph, one of the Americans from that patrol, later explained that it was a uniquely Afghan problem requiring a uniquely American solution: “Begging for a favor while carrying a gun.”

While in police custody, the boy would be dressed in girl’s clothing, made to dance suggestively, and then sexually abused in a ritual practice known as bacha bazi (literally, “playing with boys”). The community had come to the U.S. battalion commander, pleading with him to intervene and secure the boy’s release.

“The commander was a rising star who’d spent months building schools and digging wells to win the loyalty of the village,” Joseph recalls. “He gathered us in a room. Everyone knew the stakes. We were risking our lives. He was risking his career. A firefight on an unauthorized mission in another regiment’s battle space is a quick route to early retirement.” A firefight on a crowded street where the enemies are indistinguishable from civilians would be a quick to route to the front page of the New York Times—and a court-martial.

“This is the tribalism of Afghanistan,” he says. “There is no public consensus on how to act in any situation. Everything is personal. That’s what ‘tribal’ means—it focuses on who is involved: Ask this guy to do you a favor to help you with that guy. Everything is about relationships and demonstrations of power. Who can protect you? Who can pull strings to deliver a favor? Every soldier in Khost and Zhari and Nangahar knows this.”

Joseph—whose full name is being withheld due to his ongoing affiliation with the military—had virtually no combat training prior to his arrival on the streets of Kandahar, but he was more seasoned than most of the soldiers around him. After a classical education at elite schools, his early career on Wall Street was followed by law school, JAG, and then Afghanistan. By the time he arrived, he was in his late 30s—the same age as British novelist Evelyn Waugh when he saw combat in World War II, and every bit as unlikely a soldier. Over an espresso in a Washington, D.C., suburb in the autumn of 2011, I begin a conversation with Joseph that continues off and on for three years, in which he reflects on the military’s helplessness in the face of violence and absurdity, particularly the violence of that July morning at the hands of America’s allies.

“We lacked the confidence even to say, ‘You may not rape little boys.’ All we had to offer was administration and technology, and they sensed this.”

Joseph believes that, in a peculiar way, this parallels America’s institutional system. “We have no consensus either. Nobody can agree on any normative reason to do anything,” he says. “So we default to an institutional structure. Our tribalism is institutional. Afghanistan was an encounter between these two systems. The first lieutenant leading a foot patrol stands square at the pressure point between these two tribal systems: one fluid, personal and violent; the other rigid, impersonal and violent. A quarter mile away from any soldier is a guy in a grape hut who wants to cut his head off. Nine thousand miles away is a guy in an air-conditioned room with video screens contemplating his pension who wants to drop a bomb on the guy in the grape hut.”

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An intriguing discussion. I think it hits some important points – especially about America being in a place where normative behavior is in transition, thus allowing institutional systems to dominate.

We have no consensus because the world is changing too rapidly. America’s historical balance between hierarchical authority and distributed democracy has been put under a lot of stress trying to respond.

Democracy, while often eventually providing the wise solution, usually takes a long time to respond. This has allowed the institutional aspects of authority to dominate. Because authority really only exists by taking actions.

So when we go to a country with no real unifying culture, one where distributed approaches extend so far that authority changes by the minute, we have balance to offer. 

Authority is blind to the complexity of these problems – often sub-nation state in size. Afghanistan is all sub-nation state tribes. It would be a difficult nut to crack even if we did understand  and could bring the balance needed.

Authority wants to fight the old battles, ones it knows how to win, ones involving national governments, laws, justice and culture. That is not going to happen.

These battles will not involve lines on a map.

Because we mostly won that battle. Most nation-states today want to see the benefits of a balanced government,  one with strong authority and democracy. In the early 70s, there were only 40 democracies in the world. By 2000 there wee 120. Roughly 60% of the countries today are democracies. 

Authority wants to keep fighting that battle, a war between nation-states. Distributed democracy sees the problems but keeps talking about possible solutions, not accomplishing any of them.

This is the battle of this generation – seen at all sub-nation state levels, even at the state and local levels here: Finding the balance between the actions of hierarchical authority and the wisdom of distributed democracy.

We are slowly finding it.

 [corrected title. Know I should not write that late at night ;-)

Make it a game – a distributed approach for dealing with protests

Ben the War Journalist 

Citizen journalism game will show how your photos change the story
[Via Engadget]

As the Ferguson protests made exceedingly clear, citizen journalism is both a blessing and a curse; while it can expose police brutality and censorship, it’s also prone to misinformation. But how do you illustrate the complexity of the subject for the general public? If you’re developer Nicky Case, who has a history of tackling difficult subjects, you build a gamearound it. His as yet unnamed title will have your character trying to gain Twitter followers (that is, score points) by taking photos at controversial events like protests. The trick will be to accurately capture what’s happening without polarizing any group more than necessary. You may want to photograph police corruption, but the cops could block you from certain areas if you antagonize them too quickly; at the same time, you don’t want to take extreme shots that turn peaceful protests into riots.

[More]

An interesting approach. Actully put players into a complex situation and let them try and figure out what the best approach is.

How you frame the story, will change the story.”

It looks to be quite an undertaking and may never see the light of day. but distributed approaches allow him to try.

Arthur C. Brooks is a conservative who really understands Adam Smith

Adam Smith

Web Extra: The Conscience of a Compassionate Conservative
[Via BillMoyers.com]

This week on the show, Bill spoke with the president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Arthur C. Brooks. Their conversation was so interesting that they kept talking, and we kept our cameras rolling after the broadcast interview ended. In this web extra, the two talk about the failures of capitalism, who is to blame for the 2008 financial crash, food stamps and a whole lot more.

 

BILL MOYERS: You once wrote, that you shouldn’t talk about the poor unless you’ve been out among them and listened to them before you listen to experts at Brookings or AEI. And I’ve done that as a journalist.

And capitalism is not getting down to them.

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: That’s true. It’s absolutely right–

BILL MOYERS: Capitalism is not getting down–

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: It’s absolutely right. And that’s why we all need to be hawks for the free enterprise system.

And until we’re warriors for opportunity, pushed all the way down to the bottom, until we understand that entrepreneurship exists as a moral force for poor people, for my grandparents and yours, unless we understand that then we’ve repudiated the promise of our founders.

BILL MOYERS: Did you read the book “Winner-Take-All Politics” by the political scientist Jacob Hacker and–

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Yes.

BILL MOYERS: Paul Pierson?

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: They describe how Washington made the rich richer and turned its back on the middle class. They showed clearly to me how our political system, which once served the interest of the middle class, has been hijacked by the very rich.

That the great explosion of wealth inequality which preceded Barack Obama, of course, was politically engineered in Washington by decisions taken under both parties, in both parties, by the people who make policy, in response to the powerful interests. Have you seen that playing out since you got to Washington?

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Yes, sure. Absolutely. Look in the increasingly bureaucratized social democratic state that we’re building. You have greater levels of intricacy and complication. You have an explosion of statist ideas in Washington, D.C.

And what this is effectively is, metaphorically that’s a trough. And who comes to the trough? It’s people who feed there. And people who feed there are the sophisticated, they’re the wealthy, they’re the people who are well connected. We have an explosion of cronyism because it’s the illegitimate spouse of statism. If you want to get rid of cronyism that creates as winner-take-all politics, if you want a true democratic polity, you have to take away the pervasive statism that creates all of these incentives.

You know, the interesting thing is that the two populist movements that we saw over the past five years were the Tea Party and Occupy. They were both right. I mean the Tea Party talked about statism and Occupy talked about privilege and crony capitalism largely. I mean they– all of their solutions were wrong. You know, the problem with, you know, excesses of capitalism isn’t getting rid of capitalism. You need true free enterprise. That’s actually the solution to it, which is a highly populist thing to do.

So what’s happened effectively is– not for any ill intention. No. We have public policymakers, we have a president who loves his country. We have a Congress that’s gotten together and said, “What can we do to solve some of these terrible problems?” They’ve expanded the state. They’ve created greater complexity. And who has showed up to reap the rewards of that? It’s the most well connected citizens and corporations. And it’s left poor people, it’s left small entrepreneurs, it’s left ordinary citizens behind.

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This was a real discussion, something that needs to be seen much more. They talk about where their views overlap and what underlies the problems/ I may not agree with everything but I can see where he is coming from and he is mostly correct.

That said, imagine if on the conservative side we have an examination of conscience where every night before we go to sleep we say, “Did all of my work go for the benefit of people with less power than me?” Then that could be a profoundly moral movement. I bet it’s one that even you could get behind.

I think that if you and I band together with all of our friends on the right and left, and we demand this collective examination of conscience, then we truly can have a better politics where we’re fighting in the competition of ideas specifically to help those who are the least advantaged.

If most of America could come together like these two, recognize the problems and come up with mutually useful solutions, much of our current problems would be fixed. Those in power recognize this and have worked so hard to keep the American people divided.

We have an explosion of cronyism because it’s the illegitimate spouse of statism. If you want to get rid of cronyism that creates as winner-take-all politics, if you want a true democratic polity, you have to take away the pervasive statism that creates all of these incentives.

You know, the interesting thing is that the two populist movements that we saw over the past five years were the Tea Party and Occupy. They were both right. I mean the Tea Party talked about statism and Occupy talked about privilege and crony capitalism largely. I mean they– all of their solutions were wrong. You know, the problem with, you know, excesses of capitalism isn’t getting rid of capitalism. You need true free enterprise. That’s actually the solution to it, which is a highly populist thing to do.

The statists, the reactionaries, are found in both parties, just as we find authoritarians. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street saw the right problems. But as he discusses, the solutions of both were wrong. The solution to the excesses of government isn’t getting rid of the government. You need a truly democratic one, truly beholden to the people, not to the connected, wealthy elite. Government is important and necessary. And capitalism is important and necessary.

He believes in government but recognizes it needs to be firmly controlled so that it does not become a feeding trough for the wealthy and connected, as we see today.

I will have to remember the name. He hits so many of the same points I feel.

The moral code of our free-enterprise system is neither profits nor efficiency. It is quote, “creating opportunity for individuals who need it most.” 

That could have come directly out of The Wealth of Nations. The creator of capitalism felt that empathy and sympathy would be driving the moral code of capitalism.

As Brooks notes, this is not happening today.

Opportunity does not mean food stamps. I believe in food stamps. I believe in them. I believe in the safety net. But it’s not the same thing. Why do we forget that entrepreneurship is not earning a billion dollars, it’s the dignity to live your life as an individual, to build your life up yourself. And why do we talk about dead-end jobs as opposed to making all jobs pay, and remembering that all work is dignified.

[…]

The problem that we have is that we’re actually not practicing capitalism. The problem is that the free-enterprise system is not allowed to flourish.

The main thing I disagree with him is that government was mostly at fault first. It’s a symbiotic one, a degraded collaboration between sociopaths. Running race to the bottom with little regard for the ability of people to have a living wage, much less any dignity.

He is absolutely right here – government is a problem but it comes down to people:

And I will not defend corporate governance. Because people– it does not matter how bad the incentives are and how corrupt the government is and how big and corpulent and immune to good ideas and morality the government is. We still as individuals, no matter what we do, we have a responsibility to not do dangerous things and to be stewards of both a good culture and the resources at hand.

Presidential control only exists in hindsight

 The Peace Hat, FDR (WWll) and Fala, Too!

New NYT: Obama and the myth of presidential control
[Via Brendan Nyhan]

From my new Upshot column:

One of the most common criticisms of presidents – especially struggling ones during their second term – is that they have lost control of events.

This charge, which has been leveled at chief executives such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, has become a mantra lately in coverage of President Obama, who faces a stalled legislative agenda and crises in Ukraine, Gaza and at the border with Mexico.

What happened? One frequent explanation from pundits and journalists is that Mr. Obama has “little control” and is instead being “driven” or “buffeted” by events.

This notion pervades commentary and debate on the presidency.

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I would tend to agree with this. We put too much focus on the President as though he was some sort of monarch. It is not true when things are happening. Hindsight lets us believe the President  was in charge of some things when he often was not.

FDR only got control of WW2 after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He tried all sorts of things to move us closer to joining the war before but was unable to accomplish our entry simply by himself.

Kennedy succeeded with the Cuban Missile crisis not purely with a direct show of military might (we had plans to wipe out the military bases almost overnight). He was vastly supported by the soft power of Adlai Stevenson’s private presentation and the United Nation’s secret negotiations.

Reagan only needed to say “Tear down this wall”. The people in Germany made it happen, but probably not because Reagan had any direct control. That is the soft power of a President.

It is often the indirect actions, sometimes in secret, of a President, not the ones he takes direct control of, that have the greatest impact.

During an administration, we often bemoan the inability of the President to do anything. But we only seem to recognize what a President “does’” twenty years later.

Few have the ability to see it at the time.

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