Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Presidential Protocandidate Speaks Out Against Treatment Of Manning

That candidate is Gary Johnson, ex-governor of New Mexico. He also questions the dismissal resignation of Crowley.
Bradley Manning, the accused WikiLeaks leaker, is either a traitor or a patriot, depending on who is doing the judging. If he did what authorities claim he did, he most certainly broke some serious laws, and for that, there should be consequences.
Regardless of his guilt or innocence, the seriousness of his actions, or whatever, one thing is clear: No American should be stashed away in the brig, under questionable conditions and treatment, without a timely day in court. And perhaps even more importantly, a government spokesman like P.J. Crowley who tells the truth, or even his own observation about what the government is doing, shouldn't be the one to 'take the fall' for yet another embarrassing example of federal arrogance.
The truth can be painful. P.J. spoke the truth, and now he is out of a job. And the President, well, he says he will look into Manning's treatment. Of course, that means asking the people holding him if they are doing so appropriately. Wonder what answer he will get?
We have a judicial system that works pretty well if we actually use it and make sure all have access to it. This case is no exception. If the facts and the evidence can't stand the light of day, then we have a much bigger problem than WikiLeaks.
Link here. With respect to past and future presidential contenders, Dennis Kucinich has also spoken out.

This will be an item in my forthcoming catalogue of reasons why it is morally impermissible (especially for progressives and other liberals) to vote to reelect Barack Obama in light of alternatives. Item #2 will probably be "Glenn Greenwald's blog, and links therein."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

vegetarisch in Deutschland

Jeanine, telling me my business, thinks I should use my blog to talk about my experiences as an American expat in Germany, in addition to blogging about political things that only I care about. I'll give that a shot.

The first surprise (no so-called culture shocks yet) I had in moving here was seeing how easy it is to be be a vegetarian. Since I've been here (seven or so weeks now) I have had meat a few times, but that's usually been because of my laziness/shyness. Basically, I've been faced with a menu and, being illiterate, I've ordered things that I had guessed (with about 70% confidence) were meatless but in fact were not. I could have asked, since nearly everyone speaks English. And in fact I could have made German-like noises that got the gist of an inquiry across. But I've been lazy. Not losing sleep over it.

My favorite places to eat are the Turkish doner joints, which offer a number of options for vegetarians, including falafel, vegetarian döner (the same sandwichesque vessel minus the meat; the vegetables are plentiful and varied enough that this is usually satisfying), vegetarian yufka (a wrapped döner, but in this case without the, you know, döner meat), and any number of vegetarian pizzas. Yes, for some reason, nearly all the döner joints also make pizza. Since the only business more numerous than Turkish holes-in-the-wall are bakeries (handy, or mobile phone, shops come in third), I'm in pretty good shape. But there are also Chinese restaurants and Indian restaurants, which of course have veggie options. And even burger places usually have something that passes as vegetarian. It's not always healthy, mind--at a popular student hang-out near the university I had a mozzarella burger, which replaced the meat patty with a grilled slab of mozzarella cheese. Even when I went to see Symphony X in concert I was able to have something called a tofufrikadellen. It wasn't even as freaky as the name implies. Finally, the big grocery store near my barracks has an entirely adequate meat substitute section, comparable to what you see in most Safeways back in God's country. I got a sampler mix of faux meats meant for barbecues and the pieces I've tried have been pretty good, with diverse textures.

The one time I was at a restaurant where there really was no meatless option on the menu was a fancy, 25 euro per plate restaurant. Not even a risotto or the dreaded grilled vegetable platter. This is pretty similar to what you find in America, and brings out my populist, anti-foodie Angst. Why is it that expensive restaurants give you fewer options, smaller portion sizes, often lackluster service, and still get away with charging more? One idea of course is that they focus on a small menu set so they can really make those dishes extra special. There's something to that. At the expensive restaurant in Karlsruhe I had some sort of pork that was falling off of some sort of bone and it was really quite fantastic. Fine, focus, but that's no reason to ignore the 9% of Germans who are vegetarians. And isn't it cheating, just a little? I'm not one of those vegetarians who claim not to like the taste of meat. On the contrary I think it's often delicious. And so it's a lot easier to make a decent tasting meal with meat: take some meat, add a vegetable side, and serve over a complementary carbohydrate, voila. It takes a little more effort to make a compelling vegetarian meal. If chefs at fancy-pants restaurants are so status-starved, then why don't they man up and offer more vegetarian options to show off their prowess?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

just say no to evil

Here is something I meant to blog about a few weeks ago, but life got in the way. For Reason, Radley Balko interviewed Stewart Rhodes, the founder of Oath Keepers. In Rhodes' words:

The mission of Oath Keepers is to persuade the guys with the guns not to violate the Constitution. I look at it as constitutional triage. I worked for a congressman; I've worked with judges. And it seems clear to me that judges and politicians don't really care about our rights that the Constitution is supposed to protect. So I'm focusing on the guys with the guns, the ones who ultimately enforce the laws, on educating them about the Constitution.
So the point of Oath Keepers is to remind the military and law enforcement that they are supposed to be thinking about the Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights, and they need to be thinking about the lawfulness of the orders they're given. And they actually have a duty to refuse when it's unlawful or violates fundamental human rights.
And, importantly:
Reason: Is there any scenario under which you would encourage your members to respond to a government policy with violence?
Rhodes: No. That's the strange thing about the criticism we get. The entire point of Oath Keepers is to advocate nonviolence. We're telling police and soldiers that if they're asked to do something unconstitutional, or asked to violate the rights of Americans, that they put down their guns. We just saw this with the Tunisian military, by the way, when it refused orders to fire on protesters.
I was impressed with the entire interview and, reading it, one really gets the impression Rhodes would feel right at home working alongside the ACLU. I think the idea of the group is incredibly powerful, and one need look no further than the current goings on in the Arab world to see his idea in action in a benevolent, world-historical way.

I've always wondered if the very act of learning about the Milgram experiments, learning that perfectly normal people can be tricked into committing deplorable acts, might go some way toward lessening the likelihood of being similarly tricked into evil. (I suppose this is testable: repeat the Milgram experiments and look for a difference in behavior between groups according to their familiarity with the original study or related research/life experiences.) I view the Oath Keepers as an attempt to engender a culture of preparedness. It's a way of teaching "You might be called upon to do evil. It could actually happen. Even in this country you love, even by these men and women you admire. Be prepared to throw down your weapon." I'm guessing people just don't think about that possibility when they join the police or the military. After all, there's a strong chance they have made their career decisions at least in part because they already hold their institutions in high esteem.

But of course there are critics. Justine Sharrock in Mother Jones painted a rather dark portrait of the group, zooming in on some particularly nutty members. I'm quite sure the individuals in the Mother Jones piece were cherry-picked, but I also wouldn't be surprised much of the group really does consist of conspiracy theorists who are convinced every democratic president secretly wants to turn the US into one big United Nations concentration camp. I don't think Rhodes encourages any of this, and he seems embarrassed by some of his membership, but I think it's fair to judge an organization by its actual make-up. And it certainly didn't help matters that he only founded Oath Keepers after Obama took office. Given the disproportionate representation of conservatives in the military (and police too, I believe, although I couldn't find an easy number with a quick Google), some of this is inevitable.

Still, I'm disappointed that this really brilliant idea has been so heavily attacked by liberals for what I suspect are mostly reasons of tribalism. If liberals think it might be a good idea for the people with the guns to consult their consciences before committing atrocities but are scared the Oath Keepers is full of batshit right wingers, then they should join the Oath Keepers to give it some ideological balance. Or at least encourage their liberal friends in the military and police to do so.

Interviews of Stewart Rhodes by Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews.