Support Minor Heresies

 

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes
Monday
Apr152013

The Boston Bombing

 As you are undoubtedly already aware, two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday, killing three people and injuring over 170.

Bombs in public places are a daily fact of life in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other troubled countries, but why? I know it is about political conflict, but what are these bombers actually accomplishing? The people of a country plagued by bomb attacks aren’t more likely to say, “Right, you guys with the bombs who killed my family, I want you to be in charge.” It’s not even about frightening people into capitulation. It’s most often an expression of capital-N Nihilism, the pitiless philosophy that existing social and political institutions must be destroyed to create a space for some new order.

Bombings like this, or those in the Middle East, are an attempt to degrade the structure of society. They impose a burden of security expense, reduce freedom of movement, encourage overreaction by security forces, and cripple the mutual trust on which a society depends. Explosions like this are designed to shatter the basic confidence people need to engage in ordinary civic life.

The big question hanging in the air right now is who did it. I have a few ideas on this subject, with huge caveats attached. I wouldn’t bother even speculating at this point, except that a number of commentators have predictably jumped on the “Muslim terrorist” bandwagon. The questioning of a Saudi national evoked a flurry of speculation, although now investigators do not consider the man to be connected, except as a victim.

Mostly, I have an idea of who didn’t do it.

The jihadists have been markedly silent so far. There are no news reports of any al Qaeda franchises claiming responsibility, something that would be automatic if it was such an organization. In fact, the Pakistani Taliban (which claimed responsibility for an attack in Times Square in 2010) went out of their way to deny responsibility. Al Shabaab or similar organizations would be shouting their triumph over the Great Satan by now. This silence goes against all previous instances of jihadist attacks. The lack of a claim of responsibility is characteristic of a domestic perpetrator.

That leaves us with various domestic suspects. There are elements of this attack that tell a story about that.

The first clue is the nature of the explosions themselves. Witnesses noted a smell of sulfur in the air. That points to gunpowder rather than high explosives. Watching the videos of the explosions I noticed the grayish-white smoke, the large yellow-orange fireball, the booming sound, and the relatively slow nature of the blast. The speed of the shock wave was actually slow enough to be visible on video as it blew out banners at ground level. These factors also point towards old fashioned black gunpowder, readily available for use in old-style muzzle-loading firearms.

The use of black powder indicates either a lack of expertise or connections. More powerful explosives such as dynamite, C-4, or even the kind of fertilizer based explosive used in Oklahoma City would have been more effective. One would think that a member of some organized, extended group would have access either to stolen or formulated high explosives.

An anonymous source inside the ongoing investigation told the AP that the bombs were made out of pressure cookers, with ball bearings and nails surrounding the explosive. The pressure cooker bomb has been a common improvisation in the Middle East and Central Asia, but given internet access to such information it doesn’t necessarily point to those areas as a source. What we’re looking at is a pair of simple, low powered devices made from readily available parts.

The timing of the explosions is another clue. They happened roughly 20 seconds apart. That speaks to timers. A set of remotely detonated bombs would have gone off simultaneously.

Then there is the overall timing. The bombs were set near the finish line of the marathon, but detonated four hours and nine minutes into the race, long after the front runners and the not-so-front runners had finished and departed. The crowds at the sidelines were far thinner than they would have been an hour or two earlier. A member of the Boston Police Department noted that they had swept the area for bombs earlier in the day and then before the first runners had finished, so the probability is that the perpetrator waited until after the last sweep to place them. The same source that spoke of the pressure cookers said that the bombs had been placed on the ground in black duffle bags.

The picture that emerges is someone of moderate mechanical competence and some local knowledge.  He was familiar enough with the Boston Marathon to know that the last few blocks of the course were the ones where people were packed, and waited until after the second police sweep. He made moderately powerful bombs, but lacked access to high explosives. He used timers rather than a more complex remote cell phone detonation.

Then there is the target and the date. A marathon is an obvious high profile assembly of thousands of people, but why not the New York Marathon or some other? Why not a target with more political significance?

People have pointed out that the date is significant. It is known in Massachusetts as Patriot’s Day. It is the Monday-holiday manifestation of the battle of Lexington and Concord, fought on April 19th. Aside from its obvious significance in U.S. history, it was the date of the 1993 attack on the compound of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. Subsequently, Timothy McVeigh picked it as the date for bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Since then the date has had significance to extreme anti-government right wing groups. This year it also happens to be tax day. Right wing extremists also have a habit of not publicly claiming responsibility.

Here we get into a correlation vs. causation problem. The Boston Marathon is a huge, well publicized event and a soft target. It has been run on Patriot’s Day for over a hundred years. Was the motivation for this particular time and place the event, the date being incidental, or because the vulnerable event was on this particular date?

The problem with the right-wing extremist scenario is that the target doesn’t fit the pattern. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a comprehensive timeline of violent attacks by right-wing anti-government, Christian identity, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist groups on its website. The targets have been law enforcement officers, government buildings, government officials, abortion providers, minorities, and non-Christian religious buildings. Aside from a few bank robberies all the targets have been explicitly ideological. It’s hard to come up with an ideological identity for the Boston marathon. Although right-wing groups have often manufactured pipe bombs, just as often they have either formulated or obtained high explosives.

So it doesn’t look jihadist and it doesn’t look overtly ideological. With caveats layered on caveats, this looks like a mentally ill loner in the style of James Holmes, the Aurora movie theater shooter. If so, he was probably from the area. Perhaps there is an ideological motive in this, as with Jared Loughner, but secondary to the pursuit of some vaguely defined revenge on society. I could easily be completely wrong on this, but it’s the way the evidence points so far.

So what do we do in the face of this, especially if it is the apolitical act of a vengeful paranoid? Go in exactly the opposite of the direction intended by the perpetrator. Strengthen our ties to each other. Engage in public life. Go out of our normal paths to show compassion for others. Extend our trust and good will to strangers. I’ll repeat that: Extend our trust and good will to strangers. That is the first societal casualty of this kind of event. In a way it would be reacting to him, but more importantly it would be denying him power over us. No matter who the perpetrator and what his motive, it is what we should be doing anyway.

Friday
Apr122013

The true cost of electricity 

I just came across an article and a study that I’d like to bring to your attention. The article, in Forbes magazine, references a study by two employees of the San Francisco EPA office.

The authors sourced a wide range of studies on the health impacts of emissions from fossil-fueled power plants. The particular twist of this report is that they calculated back to a price per kilowatt hour for the actual costs of increased health care, premature mortality, and lost work days.

What they found is staggering, really. On average, the health costs of power plant emissions add 14 to 35 cents to the cost of a kilowatt hour. This varies from state to state and fuel to fuel.

“Rizk and Machol found that the dollar value of improved human health from avoided emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants ranges from a low of a half penny to 1.3 cents per kilowatt-hour in California to a high of 41 cents to $1.01 per kilowatt-hour in Maryland. (When accounting for imported fossil fuel electricity, California’s figures increase to 3 cents to 7 cents per kilowatt-hour – illustrating the importance of the City of Los Angeles’ recent decision to divest from coal-fired electricity.)

Rizk and Machol found a similarly wide range for the valuations for health impacts by fuel type: 19 to 45 cents per kilowatt-hour for coal, 8 to 19 cents per kilowatt-hour for oil, and 1 to 2 cents per kilowatt-hour for natural gas.” (From the Forbes article)

We are actually paying more in health costs for our electricity than we are paying on our monthly bills. In some cases as much as ten times more. (The average cost of electricity in the U.S. is around 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.) Overall they estimate that this costs us $361.7 to $886.5 billion annually, up to 6% of GDP.  As the authors point out, this analysis only takes into account the direct airborne emissions from the power plants. The health costs of air and water pollution from drilling, mining, fuel transportation, and refining aren’t in there. The real health costs from mine/well to wall socket have to be more.

It certainly puts the cost of solar, wind, and hydroelectric power in perspective. Given the cost of health care, solar and wind are absolutely competitive, even without any government incentives or tax breaks. It gives us one more piece of evidence in the case for 1) energy conservation, and 2) a rapid conversion to renewable energy.

Of course, the energy industry has always passed off externalities on the general public. It is the great underwater tax on us all. This study exposes just one more facet of those hidden costs. We should also remember that behind those cents per kilowatt hour is a huge amount of human misery – cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and asthma.

As I’ve written before, one of our great and strange advantages in this sphere is our waste. We in the U.S. waste so much energy that we could dramatically reduce our demand through efficiency without affecting our lifestyles. We can read by LED light just as well as we can read by incandescent. A well-insulated and sealed house “lives” the same as a leaky one, except that it is more comfortable and cheaper. An efficient refrigerator keeps the beer just as cold.

The tough part is fighting the fossil fuel industries. They want public policy that ignores these costs, or in reality passes them on to us.

Afterthought: While I’m piling on the fossil fuel industries (I am sure they are wincing in pain) I’d like to note the cost of maintaining CENTCOM, the Middle Eastern part of our worldwide military presence. We’re not there to protect the sand, nor is the Fifth Fleet swanning around the Persian Gulf just to protect random fishing boats. The U.S. spends about $220 billion a year protecting oil flow in the Persian Gulf. We import about 780 million barrels annually from the Persian Gulf. That’s military cost of $282 a barrel, almost three times the present retail price.

Friday
Apr052013

Two Books About Rituals 

The first is Slow Democracy, by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout. The second is Interaction Ritual Chains by Randall Collins. Slow Democracy is practical and specific in its focus, whereas IRC is academic and general.

Slow Democracy is an exploration and explanation of direct democracy. The most common example is the tradition of New England town meeting. By this I (and the authors) mean a real town meeting, with a printed warning mailed out to all residents, an agenda, Roberts Rules, real decisions made about planning and finances, and a supper afterwards. I (and they) definitely do not mean a staged media event where a hapless politician gets screamed at by a stacked crowd of mutual strangers with nothing invested in the process. Clark and Teachout are clear on this point: people at a real town meeting aren’t yelling at the government; they are the government.

Update and clarification: I should note that what the authors are discussing is direct deliberative democracy. Voting on a ballot initiative is direct democracy, but it lacks the vital components of discussion, education, and negotiation. Voting yes or no on Ballot Measure #12 lacks the nuance of deliberative democracy. It's like a car with its steering wheel replaced by a left/right switch.

More generally, Slow Democracy concerns itself with any political process that involves ordinary citizens in face-to-face meetings, exchanging information, deliberating, and coming to decisions about the policies that affect their lives. It’s a vital subject these days with the word “democracy”, as the authors point out, diluted to the point of meaninglessness. Part of their thesis is that there is wisdom available out there in the population if we create the structures to extract it, encourage it, and organize it. Part of their thesis is that aside from better political outcomes, participatory politics has a cascade of secondary outcomes that benefit a community.

Some of the academic language in Slow Democracy dragged a bit, but it truly shined in describing the successes and failures of real-world political processes all over the U.S. It follows the residents of a small town in Appalachia as they get conned with a public input process that is only window dressing. This makes one of Clark and Teachout’s main points: true democracy is not about giving advice from the back seat, it’s about driving. There is a tendency for conventional government entities to use public input as a political tranquilizer, something the true small-d democrat must watch for. The happy ending is that the townspeople persevere and get what they want. The authors follow the story of Portsmouth New Hampshire as it struggles with school consolidation. Different sections of the community start with mutual animosity and staked out positions. Through an inclusive and carefully planned process the opposing groups get to know each other and do some creative problem solving. It takes time, but the outcome has wide support. Portsmouth also sets itself up for the same sort of resolution of future conflicts.

The authors emphasize that real democracy is not a casual or accidental process. Organizers can’t just rely on a self-selected group for input. The beginning of a process is searching out and inviting a diverse group of citizens. It’s not about throwing people in a room and seeing what happens. That’s reality TV, not democratic process. Democracy needs an agenda, rules of discourse, and specified goals.

Slow Democracy is not a step by step manual, but a comprehensive overview of the principles and fundamental strategies of direct democracy. It gives the reader justifications, techniques, and real examples of real democracy. I’d call it a must-read for anyone interested in getting a better grip on local politics.

 

Warning: Interaction Ritual Chains is dense. PhD dense. Eye-crossingly dense at times. It was not written as popular non-fiction. The intended audience is other people with advanced degrees. You might want to prep by reading the works of Durkheim, Weber, and Goffman, all extensively referenced.

Thus warned, I must tell you that the book is fascinating. It is so jam-packed with ideas that it is virtually impossible to summarize with any justice, but I’ll offer the basics.

Randall Collins studies microsociology, the billions of person to person interactions that add up to what we call society. His theory involves interaction rituals (IR), which can be anything from the little moves we do to avoid bumping into each other on the street all the way up to formal religious ceremonies. The “chains” in the title refers to the fact that each ritual we experience leads into and influences the next. The mass of rituals we have experienced in our lives defines our possible responses to the next IR in line. Collins flips our general view of rules/morals and actions on its head. By his account, interaction rituals are the foundation of our values, and not the other way around.

Collins grades IRs by their level of mutual focus, physical and emotional intensity, and physical entrainment. By the latter, he means the actual physical coordination of our movements. Researchers have reviewed video recordings of people conversing and interacting with the tapes slowed to a crawl. What emerges is that we engage in a subtle dance that we don’t consciously register. A subtle movement by one member of a group is mimicked by another, and the movement ripples through the group.

A successful IR raises the emotional energy of the participants. It’s really all about dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain, and our mirror neurons. We have parts of our brains that fire up when we watch someone else doing something as if we were actually performing that action ourselves. People involved in a successful IR feel a greater sense of belonging, optimism, power, and satisfaction. This can be a subtle lift in mood or something like life changing ecstasy. An unsuccessful IR (and there are many) leaves participants feeling more distressed, alienated, and drained of energy.

We take several things away from an IR:

An attraction or aversion to that particular type of interaction.

A gain or loss of emotional energy.

A symbol or set of symbols that we can later use to recreate what we experienced in the IR.

The symbol could be a word or phrase, an image, a piece of music, a gesture, or a physical object. Imagine the fan of a particular band coming home from a concert and listening to the same music while looking at pictures of that band. It is a faint facsimile of the experience of being in the swaying, roaring crowd, enveloped in high decibel sound.

Symbols are not evergreen. People need to engage in IRs to recharge symbols with their original vitality. Symbols often gain a meaning and importance equal to or greater than their origins. Thus we gain sacred objects. People value them intensely for their ability to recreate positive IR experiences.

Collins illustrates this in a roundabout way by discussing breaching experiments. Some researchers explored the breaching of ordinary and innocuous social standards and observed people’s reactions. One was called the “unexplainable do-gooder.” A person in formal business clothing was set to the task of cleaning up a section of a street. Inevitably a local resident would question the cleaner. Did he live there? No. Was he being paid to clean? No. Was he being forced to clean because of community service, or losing a bet? No. The street was dirty. People would get agitated, confused, even angry because they couldn’t find a socially normative explanation for the man in the business suit cleaning the street. He’s not doing anything truly wrong, but he’s doing something emotionally wrong by stepping outside the boundaries of an assumed social pattern.

It’s not in this book, but it reminds me of an experiment referenced in Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind. Researchers asked people to make moral judgments on hypotheticals, one of them being a woman who buys an American flag and secretly cleans her bathroom with it. The act is legal, it affects nobody and offends nobody, but people still reacted strongly to the concept. The hypothetical cleaning woman was manipulating a powerful emotional symbol in a way that struck at people’s arbitrary valuation of the object.

Collins writes about types of IRs, such as power IRs and status IRs. A power IR is one where one person demonstrates their social power over another. It is a one sided interaction, with the dominant participant walking away with the emotional energy and the other diminished. The other common type is a status ritual, where people demonstrate their belonging to a group. This is also rarely egalitarian, with some people ending up closer to the center of the group and others more towards the fringe, with the relative benefits one would expect. Nevertheless, it is this sort of IR towards which people gravitate. In a species that has made its fortune by being gregarious, belonging is a big deal. THE big deal. An individual’s relative status within a group is also a big deal, and we engage in subtle testing and observation of this ranking in every interaction.

As I wrote above, there is too much in this book to do it justice without actually rewriting it. I’ll give a few more highlights, though.

The more formal a ritual, the more it establishes categories of membership. Think of attending a Catholic mass and taking communion. It’s binary – you are either in or out.

The less formal a ritual, the more it establishes personal reputation. American society is ostensibly egalitarian. We have mostly given up on the formal class based social rituals of the past, and deference is unfashionable. Contrast today to the 1890s, when thousands of people turned out to watch the 400 richest people in New York City attend a grand party. Today our status elite are media celebrities. Minus the aura of deference they become human totems. People strive to get near them, touch them, or take away something significant from them. Note the periodic auctions of a celebrity’s personal items. People are trying to take away a symbolic fragment of the emotional energy accumulated by an IR lightning rod. Movie stars and rock stars have huge resources of social status from continually being at the epicenter of huge IR status rituals.

Collins has an interesting sidebar on tobacco rituals. They used to be status defining rituals. Taking snuff was a refined ritual of the upper classes – until it became more commonly available, at which time it became unacceptable for upper class women. Pipe smoking was originally a convivial activity among men in public places. This slowly evolved until in the mid 20th century it was a solitary occupation for upper-middle class men. Chewing tobacco was exclusively male and exclusively working class, as it remains today. Cigar smoking was a male upper class phenomenon in the 19th and early 20th century, and a defined after dinner ritual. As cigars became cheaper it lost its cachet. Likewise, cigarettes were indicative of the upper class party animal through the first half of the 20th century. People displayed stylish cigarette cases and elegant women gestured with cigarette holders. The movies of the 1930s epitomize this. As with many other things, mass production cheapened the ritual, and by the 1960s all forms of tobacco use had lost their high-status origins. Collins makes the point that anti-smoking campaigns would have failed before this time, not so much because of industry push back, but because tobacco still had a politically powerful constituency using it as a sign of class status.

There is much more here, but I’ll leave it at that. I find the book validating in that it reminds me of an essay I wrote recently, before I ever read it: The Real World It’s about what people call social capital, the sum total of all the little, seemingly pointless face-to-face interactions we have every day. It’s the glue that holds us together.

 

 

 

Wednesday
Feb202013

Confiscation 

I get this guns n’ ammo catalog in the mail periodically. It sells all that “tactical” military gear, military surplus, accessories, and ammunition. Lots of ammunition. Maybe you didn’t realize this, but you can buy thousands of rounds of ammunition through the mail, no questions asked. Last week I looked at the cover of this catalog as I prepared to pitch it in the recycling bin and noticed something odd. There were no prices on the ammunition. I leafed through it and there were no prices on any of the ammunition.

Intrigued, I went to the website. They had a banner at the top of the home page apologizing for shipping delays on firearms and ammunition. I looked up 223 caliber ammunition, the kind used in AR-15 rifles. 95% of their offerings were sold out. Then I looked at 7.62 x39, the kind used in AK47 type rifles. Again, 95% sold out. It was the same for some of their other rifle and pistol calibers. I looked up some other online sites that sell ammunition and they were mostly sold out of what might be called military caliber ammunition. Looks like panic buying to me.

Post-Newtown, with gun control on the national agenda, the National Rifle Association (NRA) info-war machine is cranked up to 11. The armed citizens are stocking up.

The boogeyman concept for the NRA and its more extreme members is gun confiscation. In their view, all stricter gun control legislation is just a slippery slope preface to this. Once we are softened up with restrictions the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF) will sweep down on us with SWAT teams and take our guns away.

I did some basic math. This is logistically impossible.

There are roughly 117 million households in the United States. About 38% of them have firearms in them. That is 44 million households.

The BATF has about 2,600 agents. That’s 16,900 gun owning households per agent. Obviously, the BATF is going to need some help.

There are roughly 750,000 law enforcement officers in the U.S. That includes federal, state, and local. Let’s be absurdly generous and say that we take a quarter of them off duty to concentrate on gun confiscation. We can’t, really. Police departments are understaffed and overworked all over the country. But let’s be crazily optimistic, just to get this done. That’s 187,500 officers.

So we organize them into SWAT teams of ten. Let’s face it; they are going to be dealing with armed homeowners. They are going to have to do some investigative work before kicking down doors and some processing afterwards. That gives us 18,750 SWAT teams.

Let’s say they can locate a firearm-owning household and investigate, plan, and execute one raid a week per team. This is also crazily optimistic, but I want to give the NRA the benefit of the doubt. This includes all the after action administrative work, drinking toasts to Stalin or Marx, and dealing with the disposition of the weapons themselves. (Suggestion: those U.N. soldiers in the black helicopters might want some spares.)

With 44 million households and 18,750 teams, that’s 2,347 raids per team, or 2,347 weeks, or roughly 45 years. That’s assuming everything goes perfectly, none of our raiders gets shot or retires, and that these dedicated public servants take no vacations. It also assumes that there will be no public outcry over 18,750 gun raids a week for four-and-a-half decades while a quarter of ordinary police work is neglected. And I haven’t even tried to calculate the cost.

Right. A quarter of our law enforcement personnel engaged full time in firearm confiscation, raiding thousands of ordinary homes every week for almost half a century, with no political pushback. Tweak the numbers how you wish, but the relative scale of U.S. firearms ownership to law enforcement capabilities makes this scenario, or even a fraction of this scenario, completely ridiculous.

Can we please take the expression “gun grabbers” off the menu? They aren’t coming for our guns. There aren’t enough of them.

Saturday
Feb162013

Exoneration 

NBC News obtained a Department of Justice memo justifying the Obama administration program of using armed drones to kill people, including American citizens. There are so many ways this is wrong I could write an epic novel on the subject. I’ll restrict myself to one aspect.

It’s about fallibility.

But first, the basic concepts. The memo lays out three conditions for killing a U.S. citizen without an indictment, a trial, or a warning.

“Here the Department of Justice concludes only that where the following three conditions are met, a U.S. operation using lethal force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa-ida or an associated force would be lawful: (1) an informed high level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and (3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

I should note that the paper defines “imminent” in a novel way:

“The condition that an operational  leader presents an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,”

Last time I checked, “imminent” referred to something that will happen in the near future. Apparently it now means something that may not happen and not in the near future.

I should also note the vagueness of some of the language used. .”…an informed (How informed? By whom? To what standard of proof?) high level official of the U.S. government (Who? The Secretary of Health and Human Services?) has determined (How? By what method and to what standard?) that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat (See “imminent”, above)…”

Also: “Moreover, where the al-Qa-ida member in question has recently been involved in activities posing an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States, and there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities, that member’s involvement in al-Qa-ida’s continuing terrorist campaign against the United States would support the conclusion that the member poses an imminent threat.”

Got that? Lack of present evidence of non-activity equals a death sentence. To put it another way, “If we’ve been lazy about collecting exculpatory evidence that benefits you we can kill you.”

It all adds up to, “Because we want to.”

But back to fallibility. What we need to realize is that every week three men sit in a room in Washington D.C., look at some intelligence reports, and decide who will live and who will die. Unconstitutionality aside (and we need to turn 90 degrees and walk ten miles to get aside of that) there is the question of judgment.

There are some organizations that are working to determine the actual guilt or innocence of inmates on death row all over the United States. The Innocence Project has used DNA evidence and other evidence to exonerate dozens of men condemned to die.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 there have been 1321 executions. So far, since 1976 there have been 136 death row inmates exonerated, a ratio of just over 10%.

Consider that each of those 136 men condemned and then exonerated received some form of due process. It was by definition a faulty due process, but a process nonetheless. They each had a public trial, a defense lawyer, an opportunity to confront witnesses and present and challenge evidence, and a jury. Even after conviction they had the right to appeal the process.

The system still screwed up. Despite the process, the rules of evidence, the constitutional guarantees, and public oversight, they were sent off to be killed by the state. We’ll probably never know how many of the 1,321 who died should have gone free.

We are supposed to trust three men sitting in a room reading intelligence reports from the other side of the world to do better. Let’s remember that we have been duped into doing the dirty work of our enemies before. Factions in the Taliban used our military capabilities to eliminate rivals in Afghanistan.

Due process is the cornerstone of our republic. It was written into our constitution partly to preserve us from the deliberate abuse of power. Even assuming uniformly virtuous government officials, we need to be preserved from human error. It is the precise and demanding process of justice, the opportunity for appeal, and the extended time and public participation that minimize the mistakes of any one person. The Obama administration has abandoned all that and asked us to rely on their unwavering virtue and perfect wisdom. I’ll leave it there.

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 57 Next 5 Entries »