Sunday, February 28, 2010

Half The Sky, An Event by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn About the Oppression of Women

Below, is an interview on WNYC with NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn discussing their bestseller "Half The Sky" and the oppression of women. Their book focuses particularly on sex trafficking, maternal mortality, and violence against women. On Thursday, CARE, a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, will be hosting an event called "Half the Sky," a rebroadcast at select theaters nationwide of "Woineshet" by Marisa Tomei and Lisa Leone, a film about an Ethiopian girl and her triumph over the sexual violence and discrimination that are a part of the local tradition. The evening will also include music and discussion. For more information about the event and the film, go here. h/t Crooks and Liars. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blogging, the 10 Fallacies, and Comments (and a brief note to the trolls)

I've been working on a couple of lengthy posts on personality disorders and mental health and a couple of unrelated issues, but keep getting distracted by other posts I want to write. I am also working on my book, so if my posts are not as regular as they have been, that is why. This post is in response to something that has been building for awhile and I believe, relevant to a lot of the activity on this site and elsewhere.

I've commented here and there on numerous blogs and other websites that accept comments, but do not have the time to stay on a blog to maintain a conversation as many are able to do so don't have a lot of people dropping by here to comment. I started this blog for myself as a form of self-expression but linked to it on a couple of boards whose posters I respect. Over time, I have generated quite a bit of traffic through links from other blogs, comments I leave, and Google searches. I receive comments from maybe 1% of my readers and although I am always happy to know what people think and would be delighted to generate some good dialogue, I've been around the tubes long enough to know that comments are not my driving force.

That said, I do not moderate my comments and leave up everything I receive. I respond to some if I have anything to say, but not everything. As a sociologist, I am fascinated by people and how they behave, and as a counselor, I'm always interested in what makes people do what they do. I have no problem with anything people have to say to me and will leave up all the ad hominem attacks I receive unless they are really over the line (and yes, I get to decide where that line is). I will however, delete immediately any comments that attack anyone else who leaves a comment.

If I think someone has made a comment with a good argument, I'll respond. I do not feed trolls nor respond to posters whose comments are completely fallacious. While I don't take down posts that attack, neither will I respond to them (again, I don't feed the trolls). I am realizing that many people do not understand logic, reason, and fallacies and I cannot really expect my readers to understand them either when most of the media is as guilty of building straw men, using unwarranted assumptions, mindless conformity, and overgeneralization as they report and comment on the news. In that effort, below is a list of the 10 basic fallacies to be alert for when listening to what you hear and read. Obviously, comments based completely on fallacies will be ignored. Carefully reading of what you are commenting on is appropriate as well.

As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said," Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." Lately, we seem to be getting not only a lot of opinion, but a lot of opinion presented as fact. Politicians, pundits, and others throw facts around to support their arguments with no regard to the truth.

The 10 Major Fallacies

The fallacy of Inappropriate Authority
  • Use of an 'authority' who is not actually an expert in the field in which they are presented. An appropriate authority generally has credentials such as degrees, certificates, or other qualifications required to speak with authority on the subject. An inappropriate authority would be using a TV doctor to sell aspirin, or Sam Waterston selling financial services. We see someone who we are used to seeing as a doctor, so trust his word about headache medicine, or someone who plays a role on television that has authority, so we respect him in other areas. This fallacy also occurs when someone with a lot of credibility in one field uses that credibility in an area they know nothing about.
The fallacy of Appeal to Force
  • Appeals to accept a conclusion based on a threat of force. The threat may not be physical, but could be emotional, psychological, or social. If you do not do something, then some other action may or may not occur. The Republicans have used this tactic as they use the fear of 'death panels' and loss of Medicare for seniors to achieve their legislative agenda.
The fallacy of Attacking the Person
  • This is often called an ad hominem attack and is used in attacking the individual by demeaning their character, intelligence or perhaps their social standing. Another common use is attacking the individual's sincerity, i.e., "How can you object to X if you do Y?" Suggesting that two wrongs make a right.
The fallacy of Oversimplification
  • This happens when something complex is reduced to a simplistic, trite statement, often with the use of "one-liners" that then become over-used and meaningless (Obamacare). This then trivializes important issues, minimizes them, and if an issue that is emotionally loaded, can be used to generate that emotion by use of the "one-liner." The conclusions reached then usually have little to do with the complexity of the overarching issue.
The fallacy of Shifting the Burden of Proof
  • This fallacy says that the burden of proof is shifted to the opponent to disprove the conclusion: if they cannot, then the conclusion is true. In other words, prove a negative. You cannot prove there are no ghosts, therefore, ghosts exist.
The fallacy of the Straw Man
  • A straw man is a weak imitation. Straw men are one of the fallacies that are deliberate attempts to deceive as the individual "building" the straw man is misinterpreting or misrepresenting someone's words or point of view--often because of negative assessments of the individual and a lack of empathy. This is a frequent device used in the media and by politicians attacking our current administration as they put their own "spin" on the president's actions or words in a deliberate attempt to make him look bad, inept, or incompetent. They create a "straw man" to attack, an imaginary character that they can assign their own characteristics to and thus tear apart.
The fallacy of Mindless Conformity
  • We all want to "fit in" and so tend to agree with those around us. Society depends on our need to fit in as we follow the mores, customs, and laws that hold us together. Mindless conformity, however, occurs when this need is taken to the extreme and we accept all ideas because they are popular, because they are what our friends, our neighbors or group, or our party tell us to believe. This particular fallacy has been studied extensively by social psychologists and I could do a whole post simply on some of the work done on the dangers of groupthink and conformity, however, the current Tea Party movement and many of those who watch Fox News are classic examples of mindless conformity.
The fallacy of Irrelevant Emotion
  • This consists of using emotion to support your argument to divert attention from the situation to play on the emotion of the other person. Pleading with someone in authority to forgive the crime/accident/mistake because of some emotional manipulation designed to make the authority figure feel pity. Note the word irrelevant. I am not suggesting that emotion be removed from arguments--an expressive premise is appropriate if relevant to the argument, i.e., studies on child abuse typically make people angry and sad and generate feelings that child abuse is wrong. There is nothing wrong with these feelings and if these emotions generate action, then they are not irrelevant because the argument was built on studies. Irrelevant emotion is emotion brought in deliberately to manipulate the conclusion--emotional blackmail if you will. The fear of healthcare reform killing grandma, death panels.
The fallacy of Overgeneralization
  • Applying the features of one to the entire group. These are called broad statements and are not necessarily bad. Some groups form because of common characteristics. The negative aspect is when the generalization is made over characteristics that the individual has no control over. Descriptors have to do with quantities (all, a majority, everyone, many, some). An overgeneralization exaggerates those characteristics (all dogs..., all blacks..., All Americans...) when it is obvious that not all dogs (or blacks or Americans) could all share the same characteristics other than all dogs are dogs and all Americans are people. A biased overgeneralization occurs when an attack on the person is also included. Overgeneralizations usually occur in the conclusion and occur when the evidence does not support the conclusion. This is the most common fallacy of reasoning as the broader the statement, the more support the statement needs. Schools don't..., Muslims...
 The fallacy of Unwarranted Assumption
  • Found when the conclusion is based on information that is not known, that is false, and that is often controversial. The argument makes assumptions of fact in error. For example, if something is commonly understood, but is applied inappropriately as the basis of the argument, the whole argument falls apart. Many arguments made by the extreme right-wing today on social issues are based on unwarranted assumptions--that is, assumptions of something as proof that many other arguments are built on (the earth is 10,000 years old, therefore evolution is faulty science).

A fallacy is a "serious error in the quality of an implication" (Stratton, 1999). It is important to note as well, that not all fallacies are used to deceive--although there are many times when they are--but often simply errors in judgment. What is important, is to understand that logical, critical examination of the evidence will detect the fallacy and therefore, answer the argument. If the premise is untrustworthy, then so are the conclusions.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Republicans Rationalize Murder Suicide

From Firedoglake. We've been hearing quite a bit from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this week, but as a counselor who is also a certified victim's advocate, I have to say that Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota really struck a nerve with this one:
"Conservatives could learn a lot from Tiger Woods’ wife Elin, she said, I’ve had enough. We should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government.”
He said this the day after Joseph Stack flew a single-engine Piper Cherokee into the Federal Building in Austin, Texas.

And while introducing Grover Norquist, one of the most famous anti-tax advocates, noted for the creation of the "Contract with America"  Jed Babbin, editor of Human Events said:
"And let me just say, I'm really happy to see Grover today. He was getting a little testy in the past couple of weeks. And I was just really, really glad that it was not him identified as flying that airplane into the IRS building." (h/t TPM) 
Source: BartCop
And as reported in the Washington Monthly, our newest senator, Scott Brown displayed both his intelligence and his sensitivity by saying:
"I don't know if it's related but I can just sense not only in my election, but since being here in Washington, people are frustrated. They want transparency. They want their elected officials to be accountable and open and talk about the things affecting their daily lives. So I am not sure if there is a connection, I certainly hope not, but we need to do things better."
Brown continued by saying that the action was "extreme," but that:
"No one likes paying taxes obviously."
Steve Benen of the Monthly concluded that:
"So, let me get this straight. An anti-government nut flies an airplane into a building and Scott Brown thinks the incident reminds him of ... his own campaign? Indeed, Brown almost seems to be rationalizing the actions of a domestic terrorist, as if Stack's murders can be understood if we just appreciate how "frustrated" people are."
 I could go on, but I'm feeling slightly queasy already that our Republican leadership feels comfortable making jokes about killing federal workers because they work for the IRS.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Short Lesson in Satire. Limbaugh? Not.

satire [sat-ahy ur]
  1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
  2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
  3. a literary genre comprising such compositions.
 (definition courtesy of

Satire is a device used to point out--by use of sarcasm, ridicule, derision, or other means--the shortcomings of individuals, groups, or governments. It is intended, often with anger added to humor, to reflect a point of view that is in opposition to what is actually portrayed. It is often uncomfortable, and frequently objected to when it hits too close to home. People often laugh at parody until the subject of that parody is something they have experienced, then they begin to object. Although satire is meant to make the viewer/reader laugh and be seen as funny, it is a reflection of the anger or disapproval felt by the creator of the piece. The key word here, is humor.

Given this short lesson in satire, let's review. Rahm Emmanuel referred to a non-specific "they" as "effing retards" behind closed doors. Sarah Palin immediately claimed that he was insensitive and should be fired. Along comes (Republican) Rush Limbaugh who said, over the public airwaves:
"Our politically correct society is acting like some giant insult’s taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards."
When asked, repeatedly, why she did not object to Rush Limbaugh's use of the word retard, Sarah Palin states that his use is "political satire" and therefore okay. Satire? I guess some could try to stretch the above incident to fit within the definition of satire. Rush Limbaugh is definitely a very angry man,and enjoys holding up for ridicule anyone in the Democratic Party--as well as women and minorities. He frames his radio show around politics and politicians, so attacks against them could, I suppose, be considered political satire, but where's the humor? Okay, he is laughable, but he's not trying to be funny, and that's the key. He is deadly serious and his attacks are serious. Any humor that arises out of what he says is unintended. So, some may see political satire, but I see it differently.

I believe that Rush Limbaugh's use of the word retard was a slap at Sarah Palin, and his dig at our "politically correct society" was perhaps a reminder to her that she was overreacting (in this and other situations) and should dial it back if she wanted his support. She has shown over time that she takes offense easily and does not forgive, two qualities that will not serve her well if she pursues a career either in politics or the media. It is clear that her cheerleaders at Fox, and now Rush, are having second thoughts about her ability to learn from her missteps (or even acknowledge that she has made any). It will be fascinating to see how this unfolds over the next weeks and months.

Friday, February 12, 2010

WaPo Solicits Alexander Opinion Piece Saying Liberals are Condescending

Gerard Alexander wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post last week that he says, was solicited. One has to wonder why. His premise is that American Liberals, "... to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration." He continues with the assertion that despite his calls for bipartisanship, President Obama is the "leading voice" of "intellectual condescension." I have to confess that as a lifelong liberal--and a fairly radical one at that--I find that Alexander's piece is breathtaking in its condescension and lack of fact and reason. After reading it, my reasons should be self-evident, however, his opening argument appears to be the fact that "...Democratic fortunes are on the wane..." and that we claim that our troubles are a combination of "...conservative misinformation...and the country's failure to grasp great liberal accomplishments" This is critically important to Mr. Alexander as his argument is that, "...[this] liberal tradition for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government -- and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever." On the wane? Impoverished debate?

Evidently, liberals have always looked down on conservative thinking, believing as we do that right-wing ideology "...stressed paranoia, intolerance and insecurity..." In the 1950's and 60's, according to Alexander, liberals trivialized conservatives. His argument falters somewhat when he acknowledges that this changed during the Carter years and their associated economic difficulties followed by the rise in the 1980's of Reaganomics.In four areas, liberals attack conservative thought and action, says Alexander, and by so doing, we lose the benefit of sound science and thinking from the conservative side of the spectrum. I can almost feel the little pat on the head at this point.

The first area in which liberals attack conservatives, according to Alexander, is the paranoid delusion of--as coined by Hillary--the vast right-wing conspiracy. The premise of this point is that supported by such entities as Fox News today and conservative columnists in the past, science is distorted and evidence ignored in order to, "... reflect the biases of industry-backed Republican politicians or of evangelicals aimlessly shielding the world from modernity." To be successful, this tactic must have the tacit approval of the "...dupes, quacks, or hired guns..." who disseminate this information. By extension, "...the rank-and-file Americans who support them must be manipulated at best, or stupid at worst." Which is, to Alexander, the second point of attack. Seriously people. Think about this. If all cats are animals, then all animals are cats? He has created a false dichotomy (it is either this or that, when in fact, it is neither).

I am curious how anyone could watch even a portion of Fox News and not see that it is the media arm of the Republican Party. Every news story or opinion piece is full of fallacies or distortions. Loaded words are de rigueur, if it was said by President Obama it is bad, politicians can stare into the camera and lie and no "journalist" will hold them accountable. Policies in place under Republican administrations become bad policy if continued under a Democrat, every action taken, word spoken, or gesture given is distorted and twisted in order to manipulate its audience. It is not a conspiracy if the Republican leadership holds press conferences and distributes "talking points" on how to bring down the Obama presidency and Fox News pundits discuss how to stop the "dangerous" programs of this administration. It may not be hidden so it is technically not a conspiracy, but it is definitely an organized attack by the right-wing extremists of the Republican Party.

Over the past forty years, the Republican media machine has convinced blue-collar, middle-class America to vote against their self-interest. Those most affected by the actions of Wall Street, the corruption of the insurance industry, the revolving doors on K Street, and the loss of our manufacturing jobs overseas do not seem to understand that it is the very policies they say they support that have permitted those things to happen. The deregulation of business took away the controls on the free market which allowed the meltdown of 2008--even Alan Greenspan admitted that he relied on the banks to regulate themselves, assuming that they would not take advantage of the system. To be fair, Jimmy Carter began the slide with his deregulation of the airline industry, but Saint Reagan and his disastrous "trickledown economics" which more than any other factor in history widened the gap between rich and poor, took away all constraints.

I talk to people who complain about Democrats, complain about taxes, complain about lazy government workers and waste and fraud in government (where have they been for the past 20 years?), and then complain because they can't find a job, their house is in foreclosure, and their 401k isn't worth anything anymore. To top it off, they bitch about the conditions of the roads, complain if the snow isn't cleared immediately, or storm drains cleaned out to prevent flooding, and get angry when they have to buy school supplies and books for their children who are in overcrowded classrooms with leaking roofs.

What people don't understand is that when government collects money, it spends it. What does it spend it on? Goods and services. Goods means supplies and materials to maintain infrastructure (roads, bridges, buildings, etc.), and paper and pencils, computers, printers, and other office equipment. Services in the form of government workers to provide all the social services that we are now doing without, processing the paperwork for all the myriad reasons governments process paperwork, and generally providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of people.

I imagine that most of us appreciate that when we pick up the telephone and dial 911 someone answers and does not put us on hold (we hope), and that if we need an ambulance or police or fire truck, one will be provided. Taxes. I hear repeatedly from Republicans that we know best how to spend our own money. Sure. I'm like most people and would as soon hang on to what's mine. At the same time, I know I'm not going to get much for my dollar. But, if I add my dollar to your dollar, and we add our dollars to their dollars, and then add those dollars to everybody else's dollars, we might have enough to actually buy something. Never mind the fact that if someone claims to be a Christian, it is in the Christian tradition to care for those in need...

By getting Americans worked up over immigration, abortion, and guns, conservatives are thus able to convince voters to vote against their own economic self-interest, something Alexander claims is obviously not the case [Really?]. He cites the gatherings at last summer's town hall meetings by members of the "tea party" movement stating that liberals refused to listen to what they were saying. I know. It is hard to listen when people insist on shouting and have no coherent message. We had birthers and deathers and people calling Obama a fascist and a socialist and a communist and wanting him to fix this or that but then said they didn't want to pay taxes. They want him to win the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but again, don't want to pay taxes. They want jobs and to stop foreclosures, and somehow think that 8 months after taking office, he is supposed to have solved all of the problems that 8 years of a Bush White House created.

In his third point, Alexander misses a couple of decades as he talks about racism--in the 1970's and 80's. He tries to spread the blame, stating that both parties are responsible for the role of "...mobilizing ethnic and other resentments of some Americans against others." He acknowledges the role of race in the shift of the Democratic Party of the South to the Republican Party, and cites examples (Nixon and Reagan) of the use of "...white prejudice against blacks and immigrants" but is somehow unable to provide any examples when he then claims that, "...candidates and agendas of both parties demonstrate an unfortunate willingness to play on prejudices..." That's it. Point three, probably one of the most divisive in our country right now and he spends two very brief paragraphs of a two-page article in discussion of this issue. But liberals are condescending? Is it not condescending to marginalize a significant segment of our society and the issues that concern them?

Let's stop trying to dance around the subject and instead of calling it "...mobilizing ethnic and other resentments of some Americans against others," let's just call it what it is. Racism. The placards held up at the Tea Party rallies, the use of the "n" word that has become so frequent that it is almost routine, the slurs against the President and First Lady. Alexander gives specific examples but then says that the Democrats are guilty of this as well, (but neglects to provide any examples). Are all Democrats free of racism? Probably not, but it is certainly not institutionalized to the extent that it is today within the Republican Party.

Moving on. Point four claims that liberals condescend when they insist on using facts and logic. Republicans, however, according to liberals, Alexander says, play on emotions and fear.Liberals evidently claim that extremists in the corporate world fight against anything that interferes with their bottom line, religious extremists form coalitions, and neo-cons refuse to look outside their rigid foreign policy ideas. He quotes Psychologist Drew Westen, who is also a Democratic political consultant who said that, . "They [liberals] like to read and think. They thrive on policy debates, arguments, statistics, and getting the facts right." According to Alexander and the rest of the GOP, this is evidence that liberals are just too intellectual. So, trying to use evidence and reason rather than emotional manipulation and fear is condescending and assumes a stupid electorate.

We all like to think that we have all the answers, or if not, that our side has all the answers; that the collective wisdom and combined knowledge of our group, clan, tribe, or party is right. We might occasionally disagree--usually on little things--and sometimes argue vehemently until we reach consensus (if consensus is how our particular unit has decided to form decisions), but in the big things, the core issues and beliefs, we agree. In this country, the reason for our two major political parties is because at their core, each has a fundamentally different belief in how this country should be governed. Both agree that the Constitution set the appropriate framework upon which to build our system of laws, and both agree that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what the Constitution actually means when a law can be interpreted in more than one way. But in the big things, the two parties cannot and will not agree and are not likely ever to agree.

The Republican party believes that a country is governed best that is governed least, and that the proper role of government is to see to the national defense, foreign policy, and little else.That this country was built by individual achievement and since the Constitution says "All men are created equal...," then if someone has not succeeded, it is through their own lack of effort. In a Republican world, the free market rules. The marketplace sets the price and everyone is free to participate as they are able. If you cannot afford something, you get credit. If you cannot afford something or cannot get credit, you do without. While there is a continuum of ideology within the party, there are some who believe that any kind of social welfare is wrong; a kind of social Darwinism if you will. I remember talking to a parent of one of my children's friends several years ago and he said, "If someone cannot afford to feed himself, he should starve." I thought, at the time, that his view was isolated, but have since learned that it is not. Anti-immigrant feeling has been with us for a hundred years although scratch a Republican's family tree and I would imagine an immigrant fairly close by. Initial immigration was northern European as the first settlers were from first England and Scotland, later the Scandinavian countries,and Germany and France. Ireland was considered, early in our history, in the same manner that Mexico is today, and when southern Europeans began their wave of immigration, there was very strong anti-immigrant feeling. Although we all--for the most part--came here from somewhere else, we have also all wanted to shut the door behind us. The Republican Party with their anti-tax, small government,platform exemplifies this.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, believes that in a representative democracy such as ours, all of the people get to decide how they want their country to run. The Democratic Party believes that it is the role of government to ensure that the social fabric of this country is maintained, that the wealth of the nation is used for the benefit of everyone, that if individuals and corporations benefit from the physical and social infrastructure of a country then they should in turn share those benefits with the country that provided them, and most importantly, that there is no one way to think, or believe, or be. That all are welcome within the party and within the country.The Democratic Party believes that while we may not always agree on the details, we believe that there are some things that government can do better. We believe in a pluralistic and secular society that is tolerant of differing opinions and ideas. And, we believe that if the country wants to spend its treasure on providing for its poor, then a small group of the wealthy should not be allowed to overturn that decision (and by the same token, if the majority do not want to spend its treasure on war...).

Sorry for the length of this post, but after 12 years of Republican control of Congress (the Democrats have had it now for 3), and 8 years of George W., the Republican Party has shown the effects of its decades long public relations campaign. Because people tend to respond to emotion with emotion, they use emotions in their messaging. Democrats try to use logic, reason, science, and evidence, a methodology that is doomed to failure in a country that is increasingly dominated by a very loud, albeit small, extremist fringe group that claims that the evidence is wrong, the science produced from that evidence distorted, and that God gave us this world and its resources to use--when the Rapture comes, it won't matter if it's all used up. The largest textbook buying state is Texas. Textbook publishers publish what states will buy. Other states then are limited by what is available. Texas has appointed a creationist to head the state school board. See where I'm going with this?
Condescending? Perhaps someone should explain the term projection to him.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chris Hayes Tries to Educate Morning Joe on the Constitution

Remarkable exchange between Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe and Chris Hayes of The Nation. Chris was on discussing the ongoing issue of the Christmas Day Bomber and whether or not he should have been given a Miranda Warning, this conversation taking place within the larger discussion of whether or not President Obama is handling the "war on terror" appropriately.

One moment in particular struck me as an obvious effort on the part of Joe Scarborough to - per the Republican methodology - build a strawman to argue rather than actually discuss the issue.

Joe: "Did we Mirandize Nazi prisoners of war?"
Chris: "I don't know if we Mirandized Nazi prisoners of war."
Joe: "Noooooo. I mean we've never done this before. I know Bush did it, but that doesn't make it right."

Why is this important? As Joe very likely already knows, there was no Miranda warning during the Nuremberg Trials. In the period 1945-1946, a full 20 years before Miranda, a series of military tribunals tried 22 of the most important captured Nazis and then later a second series of trials for "lesser" war crimes. These trials were not 1) in the United States, or 2) under the United States justice code, thus any question of Miranda or Constitutional protections are beside the point.

Just as an example of what a military tribunal is supposed to look like, the Nuremberg Tribunals were established by the three allied powers (Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States) and the legal guidelines were established within the documents of surrender of Germany. Its jurisdiction was limited to Axis countries (Germany and its allies), for war crimes only, and only crimes commmitted after the official start of the war (Sept. 3, 1939).

 The Miranda Warning became embedded in Constitutional law on June 13, 1966 when the case of Miranda v. Arizona was decided. Ernesto Miranda was convicted of robbery, kidnapping, and rape, to which he had confessed during interrogation. He later claimed that the confession was made under duress. Miranda was ultimately convicted of these crimes, but because his later trial was fair and included witness testimony and evidence, that conviction was upheld. Escobedo v. Illinois in 1964 ensured the right to counsel.

So, another strawman. No, the Nazi war criminals were not Mirandized. We did not have the Miranda warning in 1945. The Nuremberg trials took place in Europe, the legal basis was agree to by the three allied powers, and coordination was conducted by the four Allied nations (France, no longer occupied was included). Each of the four countries provided one judge and one prosecutor. So, no one country's constitution, justice system, or military court applied.

Oh. By the way. Scarborough is a lawyer and before becoming a talking head, was a Congressman, so I think he knows that he was making it up.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Palin & Sen. Collins Need "A Kid's Guide to the Constitution"

In an interview conducted by Chris Wallace prior to her appearance at the Tea Party Convention, Sarah Palin said:
"...[regarding] Attorney General Eric Holder, she labeled his handling of captured terrorists -- "allowing them our U.S. constitutional protections when they do not deserve them" -- a firing offense."
This is a meme I've been hearing a lot of over the past week or so. Somehow constitutional protections have shifted. In her response to President Obama's State of the Union, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said:
"...he [Abdul Mutallab] was given a Miranda warning and a lawyer, and, not surprisingly, he stopped talking. How did we get to this point? How did the Obama administration decide to treat a foreign terrorist, who had tried to murder hundreds of people, as if he were a common criminal?” 
She discusses, in her approximately 5-minute response, other issues related to the 'foreign terrorist' and then states:
“But, today, I want to discuss another failure – a failure that occurred after Abdul Mutallab had already been detained by authorities in Detroit – an error that undoubtedly prevented the collection of valuable intelligence about future terrorist threats to our country.” 

Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist ‘lawyered up’ and stopped talking,” says Collins. “When the Obama administration decided to treat Abdul Mutallab as an ordinary criminal, it did so without the input of our nation’s top intelligence officials.”
American citizens, 'foreign terrorist,' 'do not deserve them.' Terms we have been hearing over, and over, and over again from pundits and politicians when talking about Guantanamo, the trial of Sheik Khalid Mohammad, and now the treatment of Abdul Mutallab, the Christmas Day Bomber as he is so frequently called.

Collins and now Palin berate Obama and the Justice Department for extending rights provided under the Constitution to foreigners as if this is somehow granting them special privileges which by extension must mean that they are soft on terror.

While I admit that the two named above are clearly terrorists, the term has become almost meaningless as, for example, all resident at Guantanam are labeled such when clearly many of them are not. If they were all indeed terrorists, then President Bush and his Justice Department would not have released so many of them and we would not now be working on the release of others.

Collins is clearly mandating torture--excuse me, enhanced interrogation, for Abdul Mutallab when she complains about him 'lawyering up' after being given his Miranda rights. She and others complain that by providing him lawyers and allowing him constitutional protections, we will not get intelligence information we need to protect this country. She is trying to impress upon the American people--after all, she is a United States Senator--that constitutional rights and protections belong only to American citizens--they do not.

The Republican playbook appears to be the same over the past 40 years. Say it often enough, and people will believe it. It does not have to be true, just say it over and over again, and people will begin to believe you. Think Swiftboat, Bush's National Guard Records, weapons of mass destruction and the reasons we went to war in Iraq (a Zogby poll last month shows that 37% of Americans still believe there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, Sarah Palin clearly believed it as recently as the 2008 presidential campaign if you believe campaign aides).

The media does not seem to provide corrections of fact anymore, only corrections of speech (i.e., so and so did not say this, they actually said that). The media no longer checks facts given to them by government officials nor do they gather information on their own, they simply report what they are given as 'press releases' or provide the venue for politicians and others to appear and say, unchallenged, whatever they want.

Unfortunately, saying someone is a terrorist over and over again does not make it so. Saying that foreigners are not entitled to the rights and protections afforded American citizens while on this soil is simply not true no matter how many times you say it. The Republican Party was very successful building a strawman when Dan Rather unfortunately used false documents to report a truthful story. No one paid any attention to the story, nor later supporting evidence; the story became instead about Dan Rather. When Bush lied in his State of the Union Speech about weapons of mass destruction and Joe Wilson (not the Congressman) wrote about his role in verifying that fact, another strawman was built which outed Wilson's wife Valerie Plame so that the story became not the lie, or the lack of weapons of mass destruction, but rather who said what to whom when about an undercover intelligence officer and whether Joe Wilson could be believed because he was married to her. Always, always make the issue about something else. Attack the person, ignore the evidence, and never address the issue itself.

As far as whether or not foreigners have the right to equal protection under the Constitution? Our founding fathers seemed to think they should.

The Constitution, Article III (The Judiciary), Section 2 says that: (emphasis added)
"The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;-- between a State and Citizens of another State,--between Citizens of different States,--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.


The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed."
Sadly for Susan Collins, at the same time that she was giving her little speech, Abdul Mutallab was talking--quite freely--to intelligence investigators. He had been talking with the FBI for several days at that point because, according to Jason Linkins at Huffington Post

"One of the principal reasons why his family came back is because they had complete trust in the US system of justice and believed that Umar Farouq would be treated fairly and appropriately," the senior official said. "And that they would be as well."

"The FBI and Abdulmuttalab's family approached the subject and "gained his cooperation. He has been cooperating for days," the official said."

As Jason said, "Sucks to be Susan Collins!"

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.


I've been taking care of personal business, sorry for the absence. So much to talk about although it is well covered on the blogosphere. I have been working on a couple of lengthy posts that I hope to have up by the end of the week and will, of course, put up day to day comments as I see fit. More later.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.