Thursday, April 16, 2009
Anne Kass Guest Blog: Scalia in Albuquerque
This is a guest blog by political activist and retired Second Judicial District Judge Anne Kass of Albuquerque.
The Albuquerque Journal reported yesterday that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia appeared in Albuquerque to deliver a talk to The Federalist Society who made it their goal to capture the U.S. judiciary, and to talk to two classes at the UNM School of Law.
The report used Scalia's jargon. He calls himself an "originalist" and claims himself to be a "constitutionalist" sometimes also called "strict constructionist." The notion, as I understand it, is that he, and his fellow Originalists or Constitutionalists, claim they have the ability to give the constitution's words the exact meaning they had at the time the so-called Founding Fathers wrote them. It's a different version of the game "What Would Jesus Do," which is to say it is a process where people today project their own opinions, thoughts, and objectives onto people who are long dead and therefore not available to dispute the projections. Language is vague and subject to different meanings and interpretations, but these Originalists, and WWJD people, insist that they have an inside track on what the Founding Fathers (who didn't even agree with each other, back then) would do, or on what Jesus would do, if he/they had been faced with today's problems. The Founding Fathers are not available to be questioned or to speak for themselves so people like Scalia just make shit up and project it onto them.
It would be one thing if Scalia were directing his considerable imagination, creativity and intellect to writing fiction, akin to Harry Potter novels, where the major character had the magical ability to know the minds of others, including dead others, but this guy is writing rules that affect, and sometimes control, the lives of real people. And because he's been given a position of power, there are other people who feel compelled to treat his imaginative musings as though they deserved genuine consideration and respect, as, apparently, did the Dean of the Law School.
Scalia clearly has an active fantasy life. Too bad real people, like the Dean of the Law School, get roped into pretending that this emperor has new clothes.
This is a guest blog by Anne Kass. Click to see earlier posts by Anne. If you'd like to submit a post for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of this page.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Anne Kass Guest Blog: The NM Caucus & Privatized Elections
This is a guest blog by political activist and retired Second Judicial District Judge Anne Kass of Albuquerque:
Enough with the headlines and lead sentences about how embarrassing the Democratic "Caucus" was on February 5th. That so many voters were made to wait in long lines was shameful, but that was the result of not enough money and volunteers to provide an adequate number of voting sites. Not having enough money is a problem, but it's not an embarrassment. In truth, we did the best we could with the limited resources we had.
As for the headlines that continued during the week proclaiming that the outcome of the "Caucus" remained unknown, get a grip -- and lose the word "winner"! The election was not about winners or losers. The election was about how to apportion New Mexico's delegates to the Democratic National Convention. New Mexico is not a winner-take-all state.
We knew the outcome of the election before we went to bed Tuesday night. The outcome was, and is, that New Mexico Democrats are roughly evenly divided between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, and each one of them will receive delegates from New Mexico.
What's With the Lists?
The really important story from this event has to do with the 17,000 provisional ballots. As someone who worked with provisional ballots at one of the polling places, it appeared to me that easily half of those made to vote provisionally were regular voters, at their correct polling place. Still their names did not appear on our list. Albuquerque Journal columnist Jim Belshaw reported that Judge William F. Lang was made to vote provisionally because his name did not appear on the list at his regular polling plase. A friend who worked at another site said their list had no names beginning with the letter "A." The big, and important, question -- and news story -- is: What's with the lists?
I only recently learned that Secretary of State, Mary Herrera has privatized or outsourced voter list maintenance to ES&S. As reported on Alternet:
"James Flores, spokesman for Secretary of State Mary Herrera, a Democrat. 'There is a (voter) list and it is compiled by ES&S (Election Systems and Software).'"
I, and every Democrat I know, made it clear to Ms. Herrera, when she was asking for our votes, that privatization of our election process had to stop, which she promised she would do. Needless to say, I'm very disappointed to learn that she broke her promise and has contracted with a corporation the name of which my mind instantly associates with the words "election fraud."
The Democratic Party should be spending its resources tracking down each one of those 17,000 provisional voters, first, to make sure their names DO appear on the lists for November, and then to find out why their names were not on the lists, or more to the point, who exactly is responsible for their names not being on the lists. If it's ES&S, they should be investigated. Whether ES&S is or is not responsible for the faulty lists, we need to stop privatizing our election process, period.
And to those quoted in the Albuquerque Journal who had harsh words for Democratic Party officials and the volunteers who worked the "Caucus," -- such as Mr. Andrew Mook who was reported to have said, "Why must we continue to suffer these vestiges of total incompetence?" or Former Attorney General Patricia Madrid who was reported to have said the caucus was a "major embarrassment" and that the Party didn't spend enough money to fund it; or Former County Commissioner Daymon Ely who was reported to have said, "What they did is political malpractice..." I say, next election, don't just go to vote -- volunteer to work for and contribute money to the Democratic Party (as opposed to a candidate) so the Party will have the resources to prevent the shameful consequence of voters being disillusioned by long lines and defective voter lists.
Oh yes, and just in case either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama dares to complain about the "Caucus" process, it would have been much wiser if, instead of sending their many volunteers to the polling sites to watch, they had sent them to the Party to work.
This is a guest blog by Anne Kass, who posts periodically on DFNM. Guest blogs provide our readers with an opportunity to express their opinions, and may or may not represent our views. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand side of the page.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Anne Kass on Peeling the Paint: Justice for All
I had the opportunity to attend the swearing-in ceremony for Charles W. Daniels to the New Mexico Supreme Court Friday. It was a moving and inspiring ceremony.
Justice Daniels told of being a share-cropper's son in Arkansas where, as a small child, he played with a black child names James. When it became time to start school, James went to the dilapidated schoolhouse down the road, while young Charlie Daniels was bussed miles away to a white-school. He was taught the Pledge of Allegiance and began to recognize the disconnection between the words “with liberty and justice for all” and the reality of his experience. He talked about his dedication to making the promise of “justice for all” a reality. His talk was truly moving.
During his remarks Justice Daniels addressed the issue of equal rights for women. He mentioned that Fred Hart, who was Dean of the New Mexico School of Law when Justice Daniels was a student and professor there, opened the doors of the law school to women and minorities. (I made the same observations when I was a student at the UNM School of Law.)
Justice Daniels said, after some years, when almost half the law school classes were comprised of women, "... the good 'ole boys discovered that the paint didn't peel off the walls when women appeared in the courtroom as lawyers or judges." While he continued his remarks, I found myself thinking -- That's right, the paint didn't peel off the walls, and THAT'S the problem. The paint should have peeled off the walls.
The paint of property law that allows for the private ownership of everything needs to be peeled off the walls of the halls of justice, starting with laws that allow for the private ownership of everything, including other human beings. Today, one manifestation of this notion is in the form of incarceration and deportation of undocumented workers only trying to survive while their exploitative employer-owners go unpunished.
Property law also allows for private ownership of DNA genetic codes and private ownership of cures and treatments for terrible diseases. In many of these cases, the underlying research has been paid with public dollars. There are many layers of property-law-paint that need to be peeled off the walls.
The same holds true for many layers of criminal-law-paint which dictates grotesquely disproportionate imprisonment of people of color for drug offenses and which makes the penalties for shoplifting severe while providing no penalties at all for the looting of the national treasury by corporations such as Halliburton.
Justice Daniels was correct. The “good ol’ boys” have learned they have nothing to fear from either women or minorities entering the law. They have simply co-opted them. Women and people of color have been allowed and even encouraged to join the ranks of lawyers and judges but only on the condition that they walk, talk, and look just like the “good ol’ boys” who wrote the rules and laws in the first place.
Women and people of color have not changed the system. They have accommodated themselves to a very rigid system. They are the ones who have changed, become assimilated. And that's why, although a relatively small number of women and people of color have risen to positions of much prestige and power in the law, the status and circumstances of women and people of color, in general, remain virtually unchanged.
If Justice Daniels has any hope at all to make good on his promise to make the national promise of “justice for all” a reality, the first thing he needs to do is peel paint -- lots of paint -- off the walls of the halls of justice. I enthusiastically support his intentions.
This is a guest blog by Anne Kass, who posts periodically on DFNM. Guest blogs provide our reader with an opportunity to express their opinions and may or may not represent our views. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand side of the page.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Guest Blog: Anne Kass on Appointment of Charles Daniels to NM Supreme Court
This is a guest blog by political activist and retired Second Judicial District Judge Anne Kass of Albuquerque:
Bill Richardson made a very good decision this week -- he appointed Charles Daniels to the New Mexico Supreme Court.
I thought all of the names that were submitted to the Governor belonged to really good people. My favorite was Charlie, largely because he has been devoted to civil rights and human rights his entire legal career. He has been a law professor and ACLU hero He plays in a rock 'n roll/cowboy band and drives a race car. He is a real live human being who has rich life experiences on which to draw. He is knowledgeable about the law, but more importantly, he is knowledgeable about and sympathetic to the human condition.
In my view, the judiciary desperately needs independent judges as opposed to cookie-cutter-judges who work so hard to appear neutral that they disappear into blandness. I think that Earl Warren got it right that one major role of the judiciary is to protect individual human beings against over-reaching by the other two branches of government, as the other two branches of government have been doing for too long now. I see Charlie as someone cut from Earl Warren cloth, not someone who will look for an invisibility cloak. Let me just say that I'm really jazzed about this appointment.
He will need petitions signed to run for election in November 08, so I'm hoping you will either contact him at KS@FBDLAW.com or me at email@example.com and we'll will see to it that petitions are sent your way.
For now, rest easy and know that in New Mexico at least, the Bill of Rights is in good hands.
Editor's Notes: Here's the issued by Governor Bill Richardson about his appointment of Charles W. Daniels to the New Mexico Supreme Court to replace Justice Pamela B. Minzner, who passed away in August. You can read his legal profile .
This is a guest blog by Anne Kass. Guest blogs provide our reader with an opportunity to express their opinions and may or may not represent our views. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand side of the page.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
(Updated) Anne Kass: My Take on the Impeachment Resolution Hearing at Senate Public Affairs
UPDATE: Good news! According to Las Cruces blogger Heath Haussamen, Democratic Sen. Mary Kay Papen (D-Doña Ana 38), was allowed to add her yes vote to the tally on the impeachment resolution since she was present for most of the committee hearing Sunday, making the final Do Pass margin 4-2. Another Democratic member of Public Affairs, Sen. Mary Jane Garcia (D-Doña Ana 36) has signed on to the resolution as a cosponsor even though she wasn't able to attend Sunday's hearing. Hurrah for Senators Papen and Garcia!
A terrific report on today's hearing before the New Mexico Senate Public Affairs Committee on SJR 5, impeachment of Cheney and Bush, from Anne Kass, expanding on my earlier brief post:
The Senate Public Affairs Committee met today to hear Senate Joint Resolution 5--a call to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The Resolution got a "do pass" recommendation from the Committee on a 3 to 2 vote.
A gathering of supporters of the Resolution met at 1:30, where we were joined by a Senate staffer who explained to us that it was generally the view of Legislators that the Committee meeting last week--before Senate Rules--where the 4 Republican Senators were "too busy" to attend, was too "wild." Someone mentioned the word disrespectful, to which I took offense, as did others. That hearing was boisterous, passionate and exuberant, but never disrespectful. In any case, we were cautioned to mind our manners--and we did, or at least I think we did. Unfortunately, when the Resolution received the 3 to 2 Do Pass recommendation, applause broke out, which may have rendered us, yet again, an unruly bunch in need of yet more manners lectures when this matter comes before Senate Judiciary, hopefully soon.
The Committee meeting began at 2:40. Present were Democrats: the Chair, Dede Feldman, Jerry Ortiz y Pino and, at the beginning Mary Kay Papen (who left after about 45 minutes of public comment and who did not return for the vote). David Ulibarri came and went, but was there at the end when it counted, and voted "do pass" for the Resolution. Mary Jane Garcia (Las Cruces) for some reason couldn't be bothered to attend any of the hearing. (I wonder how that minding one's manners thing works, exactly.) Majority Leader Michael Sanchez appeared for part of the hearing, as he did with the Rules Committee Hearing.
The Republicans apparently decided they didn't want any more photos of four empty chairs, so present from that Party were Steven Neville (Aztec), Stuart Ingle (Portales) and Gay Kernan (Hobbs), although Senator Kernan left the meeting just as the Chair was about to call for the vote--hmmmm. Steve Komadina (Corrales) couldn't be bothered to attend the hearing, as he couldn't be bothered at the Rules Committee Hearing as well.
As with the Rules Committee, the room was packed at least a half hour before the Hearing began and the estimate was that 50 people or more were in the Hall. I think the Committee Room, which was SRO, holds about 100 citizens. As with the Rules Committee, more people signed up to speak than there was time to hear. As with the Rules Committee, the citizens made me proud.
Retired Representative Max Coll appeared to talk in support of the Resolution. Several teenagers, complete with facial piercings, spoke as compellingly as anyone present--one of them, a young woman, noted that she felt like she was living in a science fiction novel and mentioned that she'd just finished reading 1984 and found current reality more scary than that. A woman spoke wondering how the absent Senators were going to learn about what the citizens had to say and noted that her son was so upset with the United States that he's become an expatriate. Several speakers seemed to me to be Republicans, one from the southern part of New Mexico.
Dallas Timmons said that although she couldn't know for sure what Thomas Jefferson actually had in mind when he wrote the provision that allows a State Legislature to initiate impeachment proceedings, she had a hunch that it was because he knew that State Legislators would be closer to the people than the elected officials in Washington. She told the Committee they were the last chance we-the-people had and that she hoped they would recognize how sincere and serious we all are and act to send this Resolution to Washington D.C.
And so they came to the microphone, young, old, middle aged, men, women young people, Democrats, Republicans, one and all expressing their sadness, their outrage, their disappointment, their fear. It was moving and inspiring, and I'm sorry that any of you reading these words who weren't there missed it.
Chair Feldman asked if there was anyone in the room to talk in opposition. Not a peep. She called for comments from the Committee. Not a peep from the Republicans. So Chair Feldman thanked Senators Ortiz y Pino and Grubesic and spoke of her own views about the seriousness of the allegations and evidence against Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, and then she called for the vote. The two Republicans voted no. The three Democrats voted yes. If Senator Gay Kernan had not left the hearing and had voted yes, it would have been tied, which I believe would have been a "no recommendation" which is neutral, as opposed to a "do not pass" recommendation which would have killed the Resolution.
So now it's on to Senate Judiciary, chaired by Cisco McSorley. We were told that it has been arranged to have a live hook-up with Elizabeth Holtzman, a former Congresswoman who wrote The Impeachment of George Bush, who will testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
We need a strong presence at the Senate Judiciary Hearing. This thing is gathering steam!
Editor's Note: You can watch Elizabeth Holzman speak about impeachment here.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Anne Kass: My Take on Friday's NM Impeachment Hearing in Senate Rules
This is a post by our sometimes guest blogger, Anne Kass:
The room was packed by 8:30 AM even though the Resolution was not scheduled to be heard until 9:00. Not only was the hearing room packed, SRO, but the hall outside was as well. A second sign-up sheet for those who wanted to make public comments was circulated in the hall. Shortly after 9:30 Senator McSorley noted that Senator Altamirano would need to leave at 10 to chair the Senate as a whole, which would make the committee lose its quorum so the comments were stopped to allow the Committee Members make remarks and vote.
Senator Altamirano spoke first, and he spoke the longest--more than 10 minutes even though the citizens had been asked to keep their comments to 2 minutes or less. Most of what he had to say was about how he had been wrongly accused, "by a man who is active in many beneficial civic matters" of giving the Resolution three committee assignments with the intent to defeat it, when he had not done so. He mentioned phone calls to his office, and he also noted that he had been informed of a plan to picket his house. He suggested that some people needed to take Lobbying 101 (perhaps to learn how to behave in a more sycophantic manner?) and how all this untoward behavior directed at him had nearly persuaded him to vote against the Resolution, BUT because he has consistently opposed what President Bush has done, he voted in favor of the Resolution.
The rest of the Committee Members spoke eloquently about the Resolution itself. Senator McSorley noted that when John Adams was President, early 1800s, there were people in Congress, I think, who wanted to go to war with France. That was stopped by actions that started in the States. Senator McSorley noted that this century it was up to us to stop a war. Senators Lopez and Feldman were equally compelling and eloquent in their support of the Resolution and their appreciation to Senators Ortiz y Pino and Grubesic for having the courage to initiate this action.
After the vote in favor of the Resolution of 5-0, Senator Altamirano left, but the rest of the Committee stayed to take additional public comments until 10:30, when they were summoned to the Senate as a whole. There were still people present who had come to go on the record to impeach Bush and Cheney. In all, 2 to 3 dozen citizens spoke, each with a variation on the theme.
There were, of course, many more present who did not speak. Some brought children so they could see that grown-ups cared. A couple of teenagers spoke saying this public participation gave them hope. One man spoke whose son is shipping out to Iraq tomorrow. Veterans from WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and Gulf I spoke. A naturalized citizen who had been born and lived in Nazi occupied Denmark spoke about how she had been warned to be careful about speaking out at this hearing, which took her back to another time and place. A man spoke noting that he was from Republican Carlsbad, I think it was.
People spoke with passion. One thing was made clear. This was not a "publicity stunt" by Senators Ortiz y Pino and Grubesic. There were lots of press present. No one signed up to speak in opposition, and no one requested to speak from the audience in opposition, perhaps because the opposition all boycotted the hearing, rather like sticking their fingers in their ears, covering their eyes and mumbling la, la, la, la, as most of us must have done before we grew up.
All in all, it was an exhilarating experience to see so many citizens who said that they considered it to be their responsibility to speak out, unlike--as one speaker noted--the "good Germans" who, after the war, wrung their hands and whined "what were we to do?"
So, now it's on to hearings in Senate Public Affairs and Senate Judiciary...when exactly remains TBA. --Guest Blogger Anne Kass
Editor's Notes: You can read the statement Anne gave at the hearing towards the end of our earlier post.
Here's an Impeachment Channel audio interview with Desi Brown, legislative aide to Sen. Ortiz y Pino, on what happened at Friday's Senate Rules Committee hearing on SJR 5, and what comes next.
You can also listen to a podcast of Eric Griego of the radio show Insight New Mexico interviewing Sen. Ortiz y Pino on a recent broadcast.
If you'd like to submit a post for consideration as a DFNM guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of our main page.
Friday, February 02, 2007
ACTION ALERT: Help Stop Damaging NM "Terrorism" Measure
Guest Blog from Anne Kass:
Everyone who is protective of civil liberties should be very concerned about the implications of HB 653, Prohibit Terrorism. Please contact NM Rep. Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces), who is sponsoring this "bill opposing terrorism" (Office 986-4248, Home 532-1145, email firstname.lastname@example.org), as well as Attorney General Gary King and , both of whom are also supporting it according to an Albuquerque Journal article, and express your opposition to the bill's misguided focus.
According to the Journal, the bill makes it a felony to commit an act of terrorism. No problem there. However, the bill goes on to define terrorism to include any act or threat of violence intended to, "intimidate or coerce a civilian population" or government and causing more than $20,000 in property damage. We must convince Rep. Steinborn to remove all references to property damage, in general, and any specific dollar figure, in particular. Including property damage in the definition of terrorism is an arrow at the heart of civil protest. It is a corporate sponsored undertaking which corporations already got through the Federal Congress.
The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has announced plans to oppose the bill:
"This is an unfortunate attempt to re-create the Patriot Act in New Mexico," said Peter Simonson, referring to federal law passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "What this law would do is create an overly broad definition of terrorism that could easily be used to criminalize acts of civil disobedience and even non-violent protests."
He specifically pointed to language that would allow prosecution for a "threat of violence" that reasonably could be considered dangerous. That threshold could prevent protests similar to anti-World Trade Organization protests that occurred in Seattle in 1999, when protesters tore down barricades.
Let me tell you how the federal law works.
A few months ago I watched a news report about a group of animal rights activists who had seen actual video footage of horrible animal abuse being inflicted upon laboratory dogs by the employees of an animal research laboratory. The lab technicians shook beagles until their necks snapped and threw them to the floor for resisting whatever experimental protocol was being inflicted on them. It motivated people to organize to picket the accounting firm that did the laboratory's books. Apparently research had shown that the accounting firm might be sympathetic to abused animals.
It was a peaceful protest, and it worked. The accounting firm quit doing the laboratory's books. The laboratory then persuaded a Republican U.S. Attorney to charge the protestors with terrorism because they had intimidated or coerced (picketed) a civilian population (the accounting firm) and caused more than $10,000 worth of INTELLECTUAL property damage. (The laboratory claimed it cost them more than $10,000 to find and educate a replacement accounting firm, and $10,000 is the specific figure in the federal law.)
The protestors were convicted. I watched one young man interviewed just as he was about to begin his three year federal prison sentence.
I'm not making this up.
What Needs to be Done
Not only must Representative Steinborn remove the property damage language from his bill, but he should insert language that expressly excludes at least "intellectual property damage," expressly states that the bill isn't aimed at the economic damage that may result from peaceful protest (for example boycotting a product) and that further expressly protects peaceful protest in all its forms.
This is important. Please contact your own Representative and Senator as well, and stay on top of them until you get a commitment that in New Mexico corporations do not control ALL of our legislature. The bill will be heard first by the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, followed by the House Judiciary Committee.
Clearly, under current state law, acts of violence are already criminal offenses, as is vandalism. This bill may in fact need to be defeated, not just modified. Its intent is to impose far greater penalties on political activists than it would impose on others guilty of similar offenses.
Editor's Note: This is a Guest Blog by Anne Kass. If you'd like to submit a post for consideration as a Guest Blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of this page.
Friday, August 18, 2006
War vs. Cosmopolitanism
From blog contributor Anne Kass:
Recently I happened onto a lecture given by Dr. Mary Kalder, a professor at the London School of Economics. She used terms that I was unfamiliar with --"new" wars, "spectacle" wars, and cosmopolitanism, and other terms in ways new to me, including globalization, nation-state and legitimate killings. I made notes of the lecture which I hope will provoke you to Google Dr. Kalder and cosmopolitanism. I also hope you will agree that her way of framing issues and ideas provides new and useful ways to think and talk about the mess we are in.
Dr. Kalder noted that WWII ended in a military victory for the U.S., and it spawned an American narrative about America having saved the world. The narrative was enhanced by 50 years of cold (imaginary) war and is now deeply embedded in the American culture. It is a narrative that, of industrialized nations, only America continues to believe.
Globalization -- some worry it means the end of the nation-state/sovereignty and is a danger; others believe it happened because nation-states made conscious policy decisions designed to let corporations take control; others believe it merely means that something is happening to the nation-state -- that the nation-state is changing.
The nation-state, in its first form, was headed by kings who set about to build armies to gain territory. Kings were concerned about building tax structures, eliminating private armies, and creating financial institutions from which to borrow money to pay their armies. Along the way Kings made compacts with their subjects to provide security and other governmental services, generally under threat of revolution. Dr. Kalder noted that one historian said of nation-states, "they are a monopoly on legitimate violence and soldiers are legitimate killers." In any case the nation-state had police and the rule of law and public services on the inside and armies to acquire territory on the outside.
However, war has steadily been losing favor, because of (1) growing destructiveness of weapons and their widespread availability and (2) growing international norms against war -- both formal in the form of the UN and treaties and informal in the form of peace movements. World citizens are ever more opposed to war with human rights as the foundation for their opposition. That is to say, the old view was/is that war is legitimate killing. The new view is that war is a violation of human rights.
The new view about war is growing but not yet in place, witness Israel and Palestine. Many, many more Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli soldiers than have Israeli civilians been killed by suicide bombers. However, for much of the world, because the Israeli killings are done by soldiers, they are legitimate killings.
New wars are fought not to control territory as were "old" wars such as WWII, but for identity, meaning ethnic, religious, tribal or political oneness. New wars are fought by ethnic cleansing, or genocide, and the violence is directed at civilians. They are fought in failing nation-states and are a process of state un-building. Failing states are those where public services are no longer provided and the tax base has eroded, which damages the legitimacy of the government and gives rise to a criminalization of the economy and law enforcement in the forms of selling illegal items and taxing through hush/safety demands
Spectacle wars are wars fought by the United States and by terrorists. For terrorists, they use a spectacular event to draw the media and to draw people of a like-mind to their cause. For the U.S., spectacle wars are undertaken with spectacular display of military power, against weak states. American spectacle wars are spectacles for Americans but not for the people against whom they're fought.
Spectacle wars help maintain an illusion of a nation-state by creating cohesion through fear and hatred. Spectacle wars are a way to maintain a nation-state without the government having to provide government services to the public as was originally contracted for. Spectacle wars exacerbate the causes for terrorism by encouraging criminalized economies and law enforcement in the weak states and by adding to the polarization by fear, hatred, and general insecurities.
Spectacle wars are difficult to stop because they create groups based on fear and hatred of otherness, and because they create still other groups who make enormous amounts of money from the criminalized economy.
Spectacle war does not maintain security or order as is claimed, but it does provide the political achievement of creating cohesion through fear of external enemies. Terror feeds war and war feeds terror and it all undercuts the rule of law and civil liberties.
Cosmopolitanism: Cosmopolitanism refers to a process and philosophy where nation-states strengthen themselves by banding together -- multilateralism. It is what is happening in Europe (perhaps aided by post WWII NATO and similar structures which promoted cooperative efforts). Under cosmopolitanism, nation-states remain nation-states, but with conditions. One condition is that they agree never to go to war with one another, to only use force to protect or defend and only in multilateral/international efforts. They use force only to contain, never to compel. A second condition on the nation-state authority is a commitment for a respect for basic human rights of their citizens.
This all requires persuasion, debate and respect for rule of law, not coercion.
Dr. Kalder ended her lecture by saying that before 9/11, international treaties were growing in number. The Bush Administration used 9/11 as an excuse for the U.S. to act unilaterally using the politics of fear, polarization and intimidation. Given that the idea of cosmopolitanism is relatively new and does not yet have deep roots, it remains to be seen whether politics by debate and reason will win the day.
My own thinking is that the recent debacles in the Middle East, although not having made a dent in the thick skulls of the neo-CONS, have captured the attention of much of the world's population. Whether the neo-CONS will allow or provoke yet another "catalyzing" event similar to 9/11 in furtherance of their apparent desire to continue waging spectacle wars remains to be seen. We can only hope that the world citizenry will chose to embrace human rights and reject the notion of legitimate killings.
Editor's Note: Anne Kass is now a regular contributor to the DFNM blog.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
From Blogger Anne Kass: The Fallacy of False Choice
Recent posts to the DFNM website concerning the Israel/Lebanon horror left me thinking that not enough people saw the Doonesbury cartoon last Sunday. See below the fold.
Trudeau is obviously picking on Mr. Bush, in particular, but it is important to understand how the logical fallacy of "false choice" works. When a human brain (not just Mr. Bush's) is asked a question, it quickly tries to answer it. When the question is posed as a choice between two possibilities, the brain tends to exclude other options and pick one from the two provided. It is an especially vicious rhetorical tactic because it immediately narrows the focus and over-simplifies whatever is at issue. Worse yet, when a brain selects one of the choices, the brain tends to want to defend the correctness of the choice it made. That is to say, the brain makes an ill-informed choice then locks it in.
Recently a friend, who supports Israel, seemingly in all things, wrote to me claiming that it seems a short step from "opposition to Israel to accepting the killing of Jews." I was reminded of Trudeau's depiction of false choices.
The opposition I feel and hear others express is to Israel dropping bombs, especially on civilian targets and on civilian infrastructure, and to Israel undertaking a ground invasion of Lebanon. Our opposition is to actions taken at the direction of the current Israeli government, and not to Israel. It is a false choice that one must either approve of whatever Israel does or stand convicted of being opposed to Israel. Moreover, I've heard no sane person promote the killing of Jews or even the acceptance of killing Jews, and it is another false choice to suggest that either one must accept what Israel is doing or be convicted as having taken a step towards approving the killing of Jews. The framing of this invasion in terms of Israel fighting for its life is yet another example of a false choice. The notion that one must choose between Israel destroying Lebanon or Israel being destroyed itself cannot withstand rational analysis, not today any more than in the 1980's when another such conflagration occurred and the same false choice was offered to us.
I am altogether weary of the rhetorical gimmicks that have infected virtually every aspect of what is called political discourse. If we're to have sensible conversations and if we're to engage in useful explorations for genuine solutions, the gimmicks and rhetorical excesses must be set aside. Let's start by becoming acutely aware of tricks disguised as questions posed in either/or terms. Be careful! Know that your brain quickly accepts the task of choosing one, in which case you will almost certainly come to a bad decision. The tactic of either/or creates a simplistic picture of what is always a complex situation and once the simplistic decision is taken, it gets stuck, meaning learning, growth, considering new information, and critical thinking are diminished. We can and must do better.
Editor's Note: I'm pleased to announce that Anne Kass has agreed to be a regular contributor to the DFNM blog. Keep an eye out for future posts by Anne as they can pop up any time, whenever the writing spirit moves her.