Posted by Brad @ 11:54 pm on June 4th 2014

Six Years Later, Guantanamo Bay is Still Open

…but not for 5 Taliban commanders who were just released for a prisoner exchange. Just for the 149 that remain, having been there for well over a decade now, 78 of whom have been cleared for transfer or release for four years or more. The five that were released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, by the way, were not among that category.

The real kick in the nuts? In December, Congress passed a law disallowing the President from releasing prisoners from Gitmo (added to the annual defense authorization act). Obama appended a signing statement to that provision specifically, stating that in the administration’s belief the provision was an unconstitutional overstepping of the separation of powers – he specifically couched it in the context of his being frustrated at his inability to close Gitmo or transfer its detainees to civilian court. So, Congress passed the law and the administration basically said it didn’t feel that it had to follow it (which, when Bush did it, Obama called an abuse that advanced sweeping powers of executive authority, but whatevs).

However, that signing statement has never been invoked, Gitmo remains open, the prisoners in limbo, the prisoners cleared for release still sitting there (actually, in many cases, literally – strapped to chairs with feeding tubes).

He is invoking that signing statement now, to release five of the prisoners that probably actually SHOULD have been kept off the battlefield and tried.

Emily Bazelon has a very good summary of disgusting situation as it pertains to Gitmo.

I am not particularly interested in litigating the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange. In truth, I could go either way on the matter, and there’s enough weirdness on both sides – from accounts of how Bergdahl might have ended up in their custody in the first place to the flip side that this was the first successful diplomatic negotiation with the Taliban as a political entity (this was the first time the Taliban embassy in Qatar actually got something done and proved that it could lead to battlefield course changes) – that I don’t really feel comfortable weighing in. I am also not saying that Obama should use bullshit “executive authority” signing statements to essentially declare yet another law he doesn’t like null and void when it’s convenient.

But it is curious to me that for six years now we have heard Obama bemoan that he really totally WANTS to close Guantanamo Bay, you guys, but just can’t because of stupid Congress. It’s totally not his fault – damn Republicans, Guantanamo Bay is their fault again! Except, when the opportunity arises, he is perfectly comfortable ignoring those same pesky laws entirely where it advances his agenda. Which very clearly telegraphs that letting Guantanamo detainees who aren’t strategically important one way or the other be transferred, tried, or released, is not, in fact, part of the agenda.

Bonus quote from Bazelon – file this under “a perfectly succinct encapsulation of a fundamental principle that will nevertheless not be generalized to other political issues where it proves inconvenient to a partisan or ideological worldview”:

Presidents tend toward overreach. Congress isn’t good at pushing back. Each president who usurps more authority for his office makes it easier for the next one to do more of the same. This will be a part of Obama’s legacy that darkens over time.

Posted by Rojas @ 10:20 am on May 28th 2014

The Zone of Death

There’s a fifty square mile area of Yellowstone National Park in which law may not apply.

Posted by Rojas @ 1:58 am on May 26th 2014

The plight of the teenage “gentleman”

A repost from that other blog I write. Trigger warning for excessive self-revelation and use of the phrase “check your privilege”.

Posted by Rojas @ 4:08 pm on May 23rd 2014

Why object to minor regulations and trivial laws?

Because for people living in poverty, no law is trivial.

Posted by Brad @ 4:51 pm on May 19th 2014

CIA Says “Okay, No More Fake Vaccination Programs”

After a number of deans of schools of public health continue to raise alarm that after the CIA’s coordinated fake vaccination program in Pakistan, Pakistani’s who might have reason to fear the West (warlords in far flung areas) have, quite rationally, banned or otherwise harassed vaccination programs and the medical professionals trying to organize and execute them. Oh, and suddenly polio is resurgent there.

For what it’s worth. Although I suspect it’s not based on any internalization of the dangers of perfidy but rather just based on the fact that they don’t really have any going right now. So more a “yeah yeah, whatever, we’ll not do that for now”.

This is one of my hobby horses I know, but to reiterate again, the reason we have rules of war isn’t because we’re sissypants or because we’re following quaint and antiquated “civilized” rules in a world that no longer does, akin to the British lining up in fields to fight the Revolutionary War. Things like prohibitions on torture, on false flag operations, on mass and indiscriminate police state surveillance, on assassinating other heads of state, on indefinite detention or indiscriminate killing of non-battlefield “combatants”, and basically all those things you find prohibited in the Geneva Conventions and Army Field Manual, aren’t based on quint “gentlemen” agreements. They are rather based on centuries of hard won wisdom on unintended consequences and how, even if certain things may expedite short term military objectives, they do so at the expense of the long term goals of what Western Civilization is presumably trying to achieve with military action in the first place – peace, stability, health, freedom, etc.

Posted by Brad @ 5:49 pm on May 12th 2014

Quote of the Day

“When I give talks about interrogations and torture, people always ask me why I have a problem with it. I understand – I was all for torture right after 9/11. I would have tortured the hijackers myself if they were still alive, and if I had been able to find them. I wasn’t thinking very rationally. Then I started learning about terrorism and I met the people who had been tortured, and I realized how wrong I was – and naïve. Believing in torture means you aren’t looking at the facts on the ground – you are just believing in some kind of fantasy about how to fix the world.”

– Tara McKelvey, author of Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.

Yup. There are of course two levels on which to have the torture debate. The first is the moral one – and it’s here that pro-torture advocates love to try and paint opponents as naive or living in fantasy-land.

So, just switch to the reality of torture – its use, its efficacy, its results. And it’s on that ground that I have, time and time again, found torture apologists to basically have the world boiled down to some weirdo macho movie with not only no understanding of actual on-the-ground realities but really no interest in them. It’s just an episode of 24. It’s funny, when I engage with die-hard torture apologists – the “hell yeah water board all of them” folks – they like to talk like they’re the ones who see the world for what it really is and are willing to make the tough calls. But pull back the curtain even a tiny bit, and their dedication to torture looks more like the attachment of a Justin Beiber fan. In other words, they are dedicated to and titillated by a certain vision of the world they have no experience with but love and cling to in an almost fanboy-ish way. I am struck by it almost every time.

Oh, and if you think I mean just casual observers in that, click through the hyperlinks. I mean senior military commanders and policy makers just as surely.

Posted by Brad @ 2:32 pm on May 1st 2014

Vote Fraud as Justification for Voter ID Laws

A Wisconsin judge weighs the evidence, and essentially finds that the perceived problem that voter ID solves are meant to solve is basically pure fiction. In eight years of Wisconsin elections, only one case of “voter impersonation” was found – a man who voted with his recently deceased wife’s absentee ballot. Meanwhile, the measures the “solution” to that problem would put in place would impact 300,000 Wisconsinites – or about 10% of the voting population. This is roughly comparable, in both respects, to the nation at large, by the way, where something like 30 million legal voters lack proper identification, while less than a dozen cases of actual voter impersonation have ever been found in the recent history of American democracy.

Like the “ticking time bomb” thing justifying torture, this appears to be a case of a fictional but very persistent myth embedded in the public consciousness (dead people voting in Chicago! illegal immigrants being bussed into polling stations! Democratic operatives casting dozens of ballots!) creating very real policies with immediate practical implications that undermine the ultimate supposed goal (making terrorism less likely, ensuring the integrity of elections).

Posted by Cameron @ 8:18 pm on March 29th 2014

Why Local is Shit

This is the year 2014. It’s a wonderful time to be a human. We have so thoroughly improved our existence that it is easy to forget how comparatively hellish our livelihood was prior to the industrial revolution. Lives were short and brutal. Disease wiped out large portions of otherwise healthy individuals – undoubtedly many brilliant minds have been lost throughout the eons. It was difficult to to generate enough food to eat, let alone to thrive. The foods that people did eat were generally awful by modern standards. Most folks were born, grew up, lived and died within a small geographic area. The world beyond was unknown, unimaginably vast and unreachable.

This changed as technology arrived on the scene with gusto. As boats became better, the shores of distant continents were suddenly within reach for a small portion of the population. Traversing land was still arduous; beasts of burden were the only option to transport significant loads of materials.

It helps to remember that prior to the invention of trains, the fastest land speed of any man who had ever lived was probably about 30 mph – the speed of a horse at full gallop. No faster. Ever. This changed forever with the development of trains. Suddenly locomotives afforded unimaginable efficiency and speed compared to prior alternatives. Transportation to distant areas was possible for great swaths of humanity and the costs to move cargo plummeted. Easy transportation of men and goods shaped nations and kindled the spark which has driven our species forward.

Many of the greatest technological advancements have served to shrink the world. and have brought ever increasing rates of return on human effort. The wheel served to multiply what man and beast could carry. Motors attached to those wheels exponentially increased what was possible. Wings attached to those motors brought staggering levels of speed and efficiency. Measly copper wires first afforded instantaneous communications; subsequent telecommunication developments have allowed vast amounts of information to be transported across the globe in milliseconds.

Every one of these advancements share a single element – they have each shrunk the world.

The story of technology is one of a shrinking world. Barriers to transportation have been so thoroughly abolished by technology that a prior state is almost unimaginable. A transcontinental airplane flight from Los Angeles to New York exists today for $133 USD – which is 18.3 hours of labor at the federal minimum wage and only 6 hours of labor at the mean US hourly wage of $22.

To put it another way, less than one day’s work in 2014 pays the average American well enough to move themselves 500 mph for 5.5 hours across 2,500 miles of mountains and rivers and swamps and deserts and plains. That is an astounding accomplishment and one worth celebrating.

It is this accomplishment which allows copper mined on one continent to be smashed up with silicon refined on second continent, in a design engineered on a third continent, manufactured on a fourth and sold in a fifth to carry electrons that allow grandparents to see their grandkid’s birthday on a sixth while they’re on a cruise docking at the shore of a seventh continent.

That is the power of global.

Local affords none of this. Local is isolated. Local is limited. Local is blind and backwards. Local is not something to yearn for. Local is a curse that humanity has escaped by its own ingenuity. It harks back to times of less, not plenty.

Global food allows billions to eat. Without it, humanity is cursed to again gather local flora and fauna*.

Global creativity brings once unimaginable diversity of music and art within reach. Without it,
humanity is cursed to only experience local talent – no Beatles or Picasso or Beethoven or Wes Anderson.

Global immigration/travel affords billions of people better lives. Without it, humanity is cursed to again trek by foot or horse and is limited to the range of each.

Global trade raises living standard of all of humanity. Without it, humanity is again cursed only items producible at a local level.

Global communication allows staggering levels of efficiency and closeness. Without it, distance is again an enormous barrier.

Local is shit. Everything that is good about humanity is global. It’s time to embrace it and fully live in the present.

*Yearning for piecemeal return to ‘local food’ that consists of global species and cultivars is as hypocritical as being a Christmas-and-Easter Jew.
**This may or may not morph into a “Why…is Shit” series of posts. I was inspired to post in the first time in a year today so we shall see if the spirit continues.
Posted by Rojas @ 5:59 pm on March 24th 2014

RIP Oderus Urungus

We are all sad whales today.

Posted by Brad @ 11:32 pm on March 5th 2014

Spying to Protect Us

From Congressional staffers investigating the CIA.

It perhaps goes without saying that intelligence superstructures that not only declare themselves beyond accountability but also which turn their efforts against those explicitly tasked with holding them accountable is pretty much the definition of out of control.

Posted by Brad @ 11:27 pm on March 5th 2014

Those Poor, Poor Anti-Gay “Dissenters”

As mentioned in the previous post, the last recourse for the anti-gay rights crowd, after they’ve been pushed entirely out of mainstream and political acceptance, is entirely defensive in nature – the fear that somewhere, someone will not be able to treat a gay person as a lesser class human being and get away with it.

As is often the case, Ross Douthat is there to provide a civil dressing up of the nobleness of bigotry. And, following the test cases of others like Maggie Gallagher, he puts forward a valiant effort explaining how the rights we really have to worry about are those belonging to Christian “dissenters” who won’t be able to freely practice discrimination anymore.

Mark Stern calls him out on it.

Step 3: Find an audience-appropriate euphemism for “discrimination.”

Douthat knows the typical Times reader is sophisticated enough to see past the hackneyed doublespeak of “religious liberty,” so he lands on a clever new euphemism for anti-gay discrimination: “dissent.” According to Douthat, the Arizona bill was just a way for “religious conservatives” to “carv[e] out protections for dissent.” He refers to anti-gay Christians as “a dissenting subculture,” and hopes more states pass Arizona-style laws that “let the dissenters opt out.” By rebranding anti-gay bigots as dissenters, Douthat transforms them from retrograde homophobes to virtuous objectors, unwilling to bend their beliefs to match public opinion. This makes them seem appealing—until you remember that their “dissent” is a hatred of gay people so vehement that they’ll violate non-discrimination laws just to make sure they never, ever have to provide a gay person with a basic service.

Now, I’ve been on record before as saying private businesses should be able to act as assholeish as they like, as far as I’m concerned. And the rest of us should be free to completely marginalize them.

But, two thoughts, one Stern gets to and one he does not.

The first is, as Stern points out, that non-discrimination laws protecting gays are no different than those protecting blacks or whatever other class you can think of. This is not an association Douthat wants, of course, and so he addresses the comparison by mentioning it exists and then moving on, but without ever refuting it. I can think of no conceivable moral logic that holds that the manager of a hotel has the moral right to turn away two gay guys on their honeymoon but not a black man and a white woman. Douthat gets around that by saying there are laws in Arizona against discrimination based on race but not based on sexual orientation (unsaid: that Douthout opposes laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation but not those based on race). I’ll be interested to see if his newfound deferral to legal protections of historically discriminated classes as an arbiter of the morality of said discrimination holds when the times comes.

The second, however, and what I still don’t understand, is how, say, a Christian florist providing flowers to a gay wedding is somehow read, dogmatically, as some kind of forced tacit approval of that Christian for that gay wedding. Is a Christian business owner’s service to customers supposed to be a case-by-case expression of his theological approval or disapproval of their lifestyle? How far is that meant to extend? Why do we take it as a given? Of course we don’t, really – it’s cherry picked to only apply to abortion and homosexuality – but still.

In any event, we still live in a country where Douthat can disapprove of whatever he likes. The only difference is he can’t wield that disapproval like a hammer against other people’s lives. A ready at Andrew Sullivan gets it.

I find I have little sympathy for the protestations of Douthat, Dreher, etc., and here’s why: what they’re protesting is their fading ability to dictate to others how to live their lives. They have not actually lost any rights, but rather lost a position of privilege and authority from which they have called the tunes to which others have been forced to dance. What they’re upset about isn’t the loss of power over their own lives; it’s about the loss of power over others’ lives. To which I say, “Boo-freaking-hoo.”

Again, more power to you Ross, on the ability of private individuals or even business owners to discriminate against whoever they want – be they gays, blacks, or Christians. And if I thought that was all he meant – a philosophical (and obtusely academic) libertarian point ala Rand Paul’s defense of opposition to the 1962 Civil Rights Act – I might give him less a hard time.

But I am pretty comfortable in sussing out that what he really means (whether he thinks its what he means or not) is “Christians can’t oppress homosexuals anymore and that sucks”. And, yeah, world’s tiniest violin.

Posted by Brad @ 4:47 pm on February 24th 2014

All the People Predicting Gay Disruptions Were Wrong

A nice bit from Nathaniel Frank describing Jason Collin’s NBA debut as an openly gay player last night.

The mature response to Jason Collins’ first game as an openly gay player raises the following question, which, with only slight exaggeration, I’d answer affirmatively: Has there ever been so enormous a social change to which so many people, in such a short time, have basically responded, “We were all wrong; it was better on the other side of the darkness”?

Of course, not everyone is happy with the triumphs of gay equality. Too many are still wrong on gay rights. But the response to Jason Collins and to Michael Sam, poised to be the first openly gay NFL player, makes the increasingly shrill and desperate actions of anti-gay activists seem, well, shrill and desperate.

There was a period – and I think it’s past now – between the time where true gay equality was taken as a serious policy proposition (say, late 90s) and the time when that same gay equality was basically normalized and has become almost humdrum (now-ish) – basically after the period where gay equality could just be laughed off, when it had to begin to be seriously engaged if one opposed it – where we were treated to an avalanche of argumentation that basically amounted to “it would be incredibly disruptive to open that door”. From workplace rights to DADT to boy scouts to marriage to whatever. The crux of the argument – and I don’t just mean from evangelical homophobes but even nearly all mainstream liberals like Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton – was that “maybe it’s right to discriminate maybe it’s wrong but either way if we end such and such ban it would be enormously disruptive so let’s not / let’s find a middle path”. End the marriage ban, it would throw polite society into a tizzy. End DADT and the barracks environment would become chaotic, poisonous, and disruptive. A gay in a professional sport would create all kinds of locker room / team chemistry issues and a huge media circus. And on and on and on. None of these predictions were particularly empirical or quantified – indeed the more you tried to nail them down the more nebulous they became – but they were nevertheless nearly universal.

And, guess what, they were nearly universally wrong.

I’m glad we’re turning the page, but I do want to keep pointing that out. Of course, we still have pockets of this argument going still – see the worry (and Pyrrhic legislation in KS and AZ) that not letting private businesses discriminate against gays means the dissolution of freedom of religion somehow – but for the most part, even strident anti-gay opponents have had to more or less give up the ghost on predicting societal chaos if this or that barrier gets broken, for fear of getting laughed off the stage. Either they have to go down the road of complete marginalization in terms of the mainstream conversation (which some do), or they have to try to whittle down their cause to near meanginglessness (like arguing that the reason we should worry about gay equality is because it marginalizes people with anti-gay views and that this is a serious problem we should give a shit about for some damn reason).

Anyway, worth noting, after another perceived barrier to gay equality goes down, like nearly all the others, not with a bang but with a whimper.

Posted by Brad @ 1:05 pm on February 17th 2014

Spying to Protect Us

From lawyers working with foreign clients in trade negotiations.

Is there anyone left that wants to argue that America’s program of total information awareness relating to spying on American citizens is restricted or even mostly used to protect us from terror?

Posted by Brad @ 6:32 pm on February 14th 2014

Music Video of the Week

Chris Smither – Origin of the Species

Posted by Rojas @ 9:47 pm on February 10th 2014

“If you’ve done nothing wrong, what have you got to hide?”

…ask the advocates of unrestricted executive search authority. To which one might reply: Ask Brandon Mayfield.

Posted by Brad @ 2:44 am on February 7th 2014

“Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”

That’s the name of a secret memo Michael Isikoff published, in which Obama’s DOJ offers the (secret) legal justification for targeting American citizens for assassination. It is not the core legal rationale (that is still secret), but tracks closely with what we assume to be in it, so serves as a pretty strong proxy. Again, not only are the details of the kill list top secret, but so to is the administration’s rationale for why it believe it has this power in the first place.

In any event, that title might sound pretty specific, but as Glenn Greenwald goes to great lengths to parse, is so un-specific as to be a literal blank check.

Here are some tidbits from the memo itself deconstructing its own title.

To the question of “well how do we know they’re a senior operational leader of Al Quida or associate force?”, answer:

“an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US”.

Oh, so only in those cases?

“This paper does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation lawful. […]It concludes only that the stated conditions would be sufficient to make lawful a lethal operation”

Ah. Sufficient. But not necessary.

Well, still. Imminent threat of violent attack sounds pretty bad.

[definition of imminent threat] “does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack . . . will take place in the immediate future”.

Huh. Well, at least we as Americans still have due process right?

“while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applie[s], it c[an] be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.”

Oh. :/

Posted by Brad @ 11:34 am on January 28th 2014

Pete Seeger is, has always been, and always will be my hero

I have spent my life being inspired by Pete Seeger, and hoping, skeptically, that I might one day be the man he thought we all could be.

This machine surrounds hate, and forces it to surrender.

“Be wary of great leaders. Hope that there are many, many small leaders.”

Posted by Rojas @ 10:24 pm on January 22nd 2014

The war on terror comes home…

…as Homeland Security resources are deployed to keep Google Glass field testers from using the technology to pirate movies.

To give the government any power for any reason is to give it license to use that power indiscriminately from that point forward. The only meaningful safeguard is not to give the government that power at all.

Posted by Rojas @ 10:22 pm on January 18th 2014

Reality Check

The most insane political post of recent weeks must surely be Jed Perl’s in The New Republic, in which he decries the Phillistines who would refuse to keep the Detroit Art Institute open:

It’s heartbreaking to live in a country where art is expendable. I couldn’t shake that thought the other day, after spending a long afternoon at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of this country’s greatest museums. Detroit, as everybody knows, is bankrupt, and the treasures in the DIA are by some people’s reckonings assets that can be sold to satisfy Detroit’s creditors.

The heartless “creditors” to whom he refers are, of course, the many thousands of retired or near-retirement public employees, whose pensions cannot and will not otherwise be paid.

Here is a city which cannot afford to keep its street lights operational and which has an emergency services response time of nearly an hour in certain jurisdictions. And this guy feels that the crisis of the moment is that the works collected in the local art gallery may have to be sold to other institutions and viewed publicly by people in other jurisdictions.

I wonder if it will come to this at the national level: if, as we descend into a situation in which medicare reimbursement ceases, care is routinely denied to the indigent, and social security checks go unpaid, there will be a class of progressive whose greatest concern will be threats to the federal NEA subsidy.

Posted by Rojas @ 6:22 pm on January 1st 2014

Out of the closet

New year, new rules.

My name is Steve DuBois. I’ve chosen not to produce content under my own name at this blog or elsewhere up until this point. It doesn’t serve the interest of any high school teacher to have an identifiable political agenda.

That’s a secondary consideration at this point, though, because I find myself in the complicated position of 1. working towards the production of a novel, and 2. having to create a public platform for my writing in order to make it, and me, marketable to agents and publishers.

It’s still my intention to produce material for this site whenever my thoughts turn political. For discussion of matters literary, and the continuing chronicle of my attempt to get a truly bizzare young adult novel to market, this site’s readers are welcome to join me at www.stevedubois.net, or to listen to my ill-considered Twitter yelpings at @twitlysium.

Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on December 31st 2013

6 Days of the 12 Days of the Music Video of the Week

1. Fiona Apple – Hot Knife

Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on December 30th 2013

6 Days of the 12 Days of the Music Video of the Week

2. Busby Marou – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on December 29th 2013

6 Days of the 12 Days of the Music Video of the Week

3. Robyn featuring Snoop Dogg – U Should Know Better

Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on December 28th 2013

6 Days of the 12 Days of the Music Video of the Week

5. Chris Smither – Leave the Light On

Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on December 27th 2013

6 Days of the 12 Days of the Music Video of the Week

6. Carolina Chocolate Drops – Hit ‘Em Up Style

Honorable mention.

Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on December 26th 2013

6 Days of the 12 Days of the Music Video of the Week Preview!

So, we suck at blogging.

That said, I can’t let a holiday season pass without my 12 Days of the Music Video of the Week. Except, this year, I’d feel bad going the Full 12. A lot of the songs I posted this year you don’t need a recap of – really, you’re on your own for the “Get Lucky” replay. As with the last couple years, turns out my tastes were pretty mainstream in 2013.

Rather than do that, then, let’s settle a few things and move on:

Best Song of the Year:

Lorde – Royals

Best Video (and Song of the Summer)L

Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines

Best Novelty Song / Viral Hit

Ylivs – The Fox

Except even I’m sick of that one.

And I could go on.

So…all that stuff above is true. So let’s take a different tact and this year, parse out all those and leave us with just the rest. It won’t be as strong a set, and it will be half as long, but at the very least it’ll be different than what you’d get just with a “2013 Music!” featured spotify list or whatever.

So this year, starting tomorrow, the 6 Days of the 12 Days of the Music Video of the Week.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:43 pm on December 14th 2013

Arapahoe

Karl Pierson, the student responsible for the Arapahoe shooting, was a pretty successful high school speech competitor. He qualified to the National Forensic League national tournament in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking, a pressure cooker of an event in which students draw a question related to current events and have thirty minutes to prepare a seven minute memorized speech answering the question.

Pierson was, according to reports, kicked off of the speech team for having threatened his coach’s life. It appears that he decided to follow up on his threats by taking the actions he’d threatened; he came to school with a gun, calling out the coach, and fired at him at least once before he fled.

As I have mentioned from time to time, I coach high school speech as well. It is a weird community, the cultural norms of which involve a high degree of academic rigor and complex interpersonal relationships in which your friends are also, in many contexts, your adversaries. I would not say that bullying is the norm within the activity, but there are specific competitive contexts in high school speech in which the things which win you ballots and debate rounds tread close to that line.

The role of an educator in this context involves fine lines and delicate judgments–one is expected to push students pretty hard towards competitive success, but it can be hard to judge where any one student’s breaking point might be. At times I’ve pushed too hard; without ever intending to, I’ve reduced students to tears, to profanity-laced tirades, and to quitting the activity. I have known (but not coached) students in the activity who took their own lives as a result of events stemming from debate tournaments and competition. I know of at least one instance in which a coach murdered a student and of another one much closer to home in which one of the most prominent coaches in my own state proved to be a serial child rapist who used the activity for grooming purposes for at least a quarter century.

It is hard for me to believe that Karl Pierson is the only student who’s ever seriously contemplated the actions which he ended up taking. I will never know, for sure, whether a student competitor in my own state–or in my own program–ever came close to crossing that line. I do know this: in a different world, under different circumstances, it could have been me on the other end of that gun.

Nothing remains except to walk back into class on Monday and do as much as I can for as many students as I can. Competitive high school speech has a well-documented claim to being the single most academically productive activity in the American school system. But starting Monday, we’ll enter into the activity with a greater awareness of the price some students pay for the community we’ve created.

Posted by Brad @ 12:17 pm on December 12th 2013

The Government Argues Statute of Limitations Laws Don’t Apply Anymore Because We’re at War

So, citing a World War II era law meant to protect against profiteers and fraudulent government contractors, which has already been invoked in the War on Terror, the government is arguing that they’re free to prosecute – Lance Armstrong.

Posted by Brad @ 3:17 pm on December 7th 2013

Music Video of the Week

So one of my favorite Top 40 rock songs in like forever, I love the pace of this one. But I never got around to posting it or even checking out the video for it.

And, I’m sorry, but nobody told me there would be Muppet fights. Am I to understand that there are Muppet fights? And I was not informed of this earlier?

Imagine Dragons – Radioactive

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 5:51 am on December 7th 2013

Music Video of the Week

So, I’ve got a huge backlog of stuff I’ve liked this year that I’ve meant to post to MVOTW but never got around to.

HAIM – The Wire

Kind of a weird thought to have about a music video, but the acting is really good, from the band.

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