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First Week of School

I started back at school on Monday and Tuesday for in-service and teacher work; then the students came Wednesday, which mean, thank goodness, a short week. Re-entry is a problem every year, and this year was no exception. It is hard to get back into the swing of things, and no matter how much I strive for uniformity, things always change every year (at the most basic level, they change because the students are different every year).

Too soon to tell what kind of year it will be; the students are still stunned into silence by the newness of me and the class. In another week or two, the pattern will become clear. This year's small class sizes (one class has 23 students) is way cool and will make for a much nicer year than usual, although eventually these class sizes become insupportable, and we lose a section of history. But not yet...

Politics: What About Torture?

What About Nuremberg?

Did Eric Holder ever study U.S. History. Did the teacher omit the part about WWII and Nuremberg?
Holder Overturns Justice Jackson and Nuremberg

U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg war crimes Prosecutor Robert Jackson: "The case as presented by the United States will be concerned with the brains and authority back of all the crimes. These defendants were men of a station and rank which does not soil its own hands with blood. They were men who knew how to use lesser folk as tools. We want to reach the planners and designers, the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness, and wracked with the agonies and convulsions, of this terrible war."

More Prosecutor Jackson: "Secret arrest and indefinite detention, without charges, without evidence, without hearing, without counsel, became the method of inflicting inhuman punishment on any whom the Nazi police suspected or disliked. No court could issue an injunction, or writ of habeas corpus, or certiorari."

More Jackson: "Of the criminal nature of these acts at least, the defendants had, as we shall show, clear knowledge. Accordingly, they took pains to conceal their violations."

More Jackson: "Of course, the idea that a state, any more than a corporation, commits crimes, is a fiction. Crimes always are committed only by persons. While it is quite proper to employ the fiction of responsibility of a state or corporation for the purpose of imposing a collective liability, it is quite intolerable to let such a legalism become the basis of personal immunity."

"The Charter [Articles 7 and 8] recognizes that one who has committed criminal acts may not take refuge in superior orders nor in the doctrine that his crimes were acts of states. These twin principles working together have heretofore resulted in immunity for practically everyone concerned in the really great crimes against peace and mankind. Those in lower ranks were protected against liability by the orders of their superiors. The superiors were protected because their orders were called acts of state. Under the Charter, no defense based on either of these doctrines can be entertained. Modern civilization puts unlimited weapons of destruction in the hands of men. It cannot tolerate so vast an area of legal irresponsibility."

At least one observer thinks that due to his remarkable foresight, the people to whom U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson referred were George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, David Addington, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, George Tenet, Alberto Gonzalez, Jay Bybee, and John Yoo.

More Unapproved CIA Interrogation
The point is that all of these people working for the government were supposed to be able to determine for themselves that the corrupt alleged attorneys were wrong as a matter of law and fact when the bent attorneys opined (based on false or misleading statements of "facts") that what the torture was legal. Suppose the attorneys concluded (as did John Ehrlichman under oath) that murder was permissible as long as directed by the President. Should the actual murderers and those directing them be given a pass just because some corrupt attorney (say John Mitchell) opined that the murders were "legal?" No.
Same situation here. Nuremberg applies. Following orders is not an acceptable defense. If necessary (and probably advisable in the interest of reaching and prosecuting the ringleaders quickly), give immunity to the underlings in exchange for complete and truthful testimony about the conduct and statements and directions of their nominal leaders.

Firedoglake may miss the point, or maybe the Times did
False Banality Is Not Evil
The point (which The Times could have made explicit) is that these descriptions of bureaucratic attention to the details of torture are strongly reminiscent of post-war accounts of what the Nazis did.
For example, see the book "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil" by Hannah Arendt. Only took until the 6th comment on the Firedoglake item for someone to make the point explicitly.


John McCain thinks we can assure the country that torture will never happen again.

How can he make that assurance? Who is the "we" to whom he refers? If in 2012 torture supporter, defender, and enabler Dick Cheney wins the Presidency (for which he is fully constitutionally qualified due to the continuing failure of the Congress to impeach and convict him and remove his current constitutional qualification to hold federal office), who and what is going to stop Cheney from immediately resuming the torture of anyone (including American citizens) he deems to be an "enemy combatant?" Without the precedent of torture investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and long served (not pardoned) jail terms, what incentive will there be to avoid torture in the future? Without the deterrent of torture investigations, prosecutions, convictions, and long served (not pardoned) jail terms, what incentive will there be to avoid torture in the future? For the next 25 or 30 years or so, would the reality of a relatively young George W. Bush (who has a still living, hale, hearty, sky-diving father about 25 years older) serving a life term for his role in ordering and enabling torture serve as a better deterrent than some hot air from John McCain on a Sunday talk show many years before?

Cheney on Fox Entertainment: "The thing I keep coming back to time and time again, Chris, is the fact that we've gone for eight years without another attack. Now, how do you explain that? "

Only because you asked Dick: One possible logical explanation is that the alleged involvement or responsibility for foreigners for the 9/11 attacks was just a good cover story for actions taken by US citizens (in a position to control (or direct control of) the government and opinion making about the attacks) for their own reasons (as for example to have a war which could be used as a campaign slogan to enable stealing the 2004 election by what was made to look like more than 100,000 votes and avoiding the need to steal very narrowly another election after the 2000 close call). Thus, only because you asked Dick, the reason there has been no further domestic attack is that the first one was enough to achieve the purpose of those responsible for it and a second attack would have been counter-productive because it might have led someone to suspect that whoever was in charge of preventing a second "attack" was not competent or capable of doing the job he (or they) assured everyone they could do.

And a load of briefs: Torture, Kennedy, Health Care and just general briefs.


4 Stars out of 5


The main reason I am giving this film four stars instead of my usual wishy-washy 3.5 stars is that it does NOT have a predictable Hollywood ending. I will say no more. It is a love story between Adam (Hugh Dancy), a lonely man with Asperger's Syndrome, and his upstairs neighbor, Beth. She is Rose Byrne, whom you'll remember as Ellen from Damages, if you watched Damages on FX. Her character teaches elementary school in Manhattan and is the wealthy daughter of a sleazy accountant (Peter Gallagher). Remarkably, the summary on AOL Moviefone's web site mentions neither Asperger's nor autism--political correctness run wild! Since we were looking for "that film that features an autistic man's love affair," it made the film moderately difficult to find. My wife is a psychotherapist, and while she has never treated anyone with Asperger's, she tells me the depiction seems moderately true to life. I have had students who clocked in at various levels on the autism spectrum, and Dancy's portrayal matched some of their behaviors as well. The cool thing is, the summary on AOL was almost right--it really is a love story, a rom-com, a chick flick, in which the Asperger's is just one aspect of the story.

I hate the fact that my standards have become so debased, but I can only applaud writer/director Max Mayer for leading this film right up to the edge of every romantic comedy cliché in the book, then careening off in a different direction every time. Bravo!

Wolfe on School Days, Reynolds on Rolling Landscape, Conficker; Dan Grobstein File

The start of school has Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe thinking about the old days again, in this lovely essay, Dip In, Dip Out: The "Ink Monitor"

Nice to hear from Craig Reynolds:

  • People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.
    -Abraham Lincoln

    And I really like this sort of thing! Particularly the way two local process interact to create global structure. I was surprised to learn the important role of burrowing rodents in shaping landforms:

    What makes a rolling landscape roll?

    For more see:

    Earth and Planetary Surface Processes

Dan Grobstein File

School Begins Again

This week marks the start of my seventh year of teaching. I have mixed feelings, as I do every year. Regret at the end of summer, and my failure to accomplish the many projects I set out for myself. Dread of the return of the grind, which puts everything else in my life save teaching and preparation to teach on virtual hold. Anticipation of meeting 90 new students, getting to know them, teaching them and learning from them. It is a heady brew. Blend in reduced exercise and increased sleep deprivation, and it is not wonder I am on edge--and likely to stay that way through next June.

Please, don't tell me "you're so luck to have eight weeks off." If I didn't have eight weeks off, I, for one, couldn't do this job. Too much stress. Should all of our teachers be 23 years old? I don't think so.

A Referendum We Should Support In Iraq, How Tough is Our President?

A Referendum We Should Support In Iraq

The U.S. Government should wholeheartedly support this manifestation of Jeffersonian Democracy. Otherwise, the reasonable conclusion is that the unprovoked, unconstitutional, and illegal attack was motivated by something other than a desire to encourage democracy. Given their support for supporting democracy in this particular case, can we expect George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Don Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Bob Gates, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Dick Lugar, Andy Card, Tom Daschle, Charles Schumer, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John D. Rockefeller IV, Steny Hoyer, John Murtha, Tom Friedman, Judith Miller, and the editorial page of The Washington Post to support the referendum?
Iraqi Voters to Decide Whether to Speed U.S. Withdrawal


How Tough is Our President?

A better question is: How Willing Is Pres. Obama To Go To Bat For The American People Who Elected Him?

Is he willing today to dismiss every one of the Karl Rove approved US Attorneys and to appoint progressive judges to the 70 open federal judgeships for which he has not even made a nomination so Americans have a better chance of getting a fair shake in a court not run by a member of the Karl Rove/American Enterprise Institute inspired Federalist Society?

Is he willing to take a mere $50B (just a tiny fraction of the $9T made available to the big banks so they could stay in business and pay bonuses after running the American economy and banking system into the ground) and make available $25,000 apiece to 2,000,000 families so they can stave off foreclosure and stay in their homes.

Is he willing to use the substantial majorities in the Senate and House given to him by his employers to pass a law allowing first mortgages on a home to be the subject of a bankruptcy proceeding thus keeping people in their homes, off the streets, and giving them leverage (along with the $25,000 to be used in small increments monthly) to renegotiate mortgages with their banks?

Is he willing to ban gambling in all non-exchange traded derivatives so the banks and investment banks (all of which are now federally regulated at their request) can not again run the economy into the ground and then get bailed out again by the taxpayers?

Is he willing to direct the Justice Department (once he immediately fires all holdovers from the last administration) to restore competition and reasonable premiums to the health insurance markets nationwide by instituting civil antitrust lawsuits to break up the insurance monopolies (or duopolies) which in many states control 80-90% of each state market for health insurance?

More Briefs Than You Can Shake A Stick At: Health, Afghanistan, and more...

The Time Traveler's Wife

4 stars out of 5

Eric Bana is Henry DeTamble the time traveler, Rachel McAdams is his wife Clare Abshire in Robert Schwentke's movie of a Bruce Joel Rubin screenplay based on Audrey Niffenegger's novel, which I have not read. It is not really a science fiction film; the old familiar tropes of time travel and its myriad paradoxes are merely the frame on which is hung an old-fashioned love story, exploring the issues of love, desire, abandonment, miscarriage and early death. It had me crying, and although I do that easily at movies, I haven't done it lately. It's a chick flick with just enough guy stuff to keep it interesting. It is well-acted, well-shot, and well-written, albeit occasionally confusing (time travel movies are like that). I defy you to keep a dry eye throughout. Manipulative? Maybe. Entertaining? For sure. Making a stab at higher meaning? Absolutely. See an interesting column comparing the book to movie here.

District 9

3.5 stars out of 5

On the one hand, the parallels with Apartheid are unmistakable. It is a real change of pace to have an alien spaceship hover over some city OTHER than New York or Los Angeles (as the sound track was quick to point out). Neill Blomkamp, who directed and co-wrote the film started with the unusual locale and added a fascinating premise: the aliens have been here, segregated for 20 years. He then sends a bunch of Afrikanners into the district to move the aliens out. It is a mixed bag; they treat their black colleagues like colleagues, but treat the evolved and intelligent aliens like--well, like prawns, which is the derogatory nickname. The thing is, he doesn't really go anywhere with the premise. It ends up being an excuse for a shoot-em-up. A better excuse than usual, but still just an excuse. The first half confused the heck out of me; I much preferred the reversion to linear story telling in the second half. A real mixed bag of a film. Clever but hollow.

Letters: News from Craig Reynolds, Dan Grobstein File

New from Craig Reynolds:

Dan Grobstein File