Assorted links


4. "In another incident, University of Florida campus police tasered a student for pressing Senator John Kerry with an awkward question at a debate after he had been told to shut up." In their defense, the "don't tase me, bro!" guy clearly deserved it.

Correct. Don't ever ask not to be abused by government officials. People who have no reason to fear being tazed don't express fear of being tazed. They should have tazed him twice for requiring them to taze him.

My problem with that incident is that the guy was not disrupting the event and Kerry was engaging him while the police were trying to drag him away.

As much as I disagree with excessive use of force, he was resisting detention and removal. But the officers were detaining and removing him for behavior that violated his right to freedoms of speech and assembly. He had a 1983 claim against the officers for violating his civil rights.

3. A banking crisis validates liberals? Not during the last two centuries at least.

Yes, the monetary system should be robust to bubble bursting and since at least the civil war the monetary system is run by the federal government. The monetary system has terrible feedback but no democrats will take the system on.

Another note: It is not like the governments saw the housing bubble and collapse coming and so appropriated ran huge surpluses. Most local Governments spent the increased income from bubble real estate taxes. So Governments were just as foolish and/or corrupt as wall street.

Not just in Texas schools, but throughtout the country, all the apparatus is ready for a totalitarian state. Under the National Defense Authorization Act, US citizens have no legal rights that can’t be over-ridden by miltary or presidential fiat. The only thing missing, so far, is a demagogue with enough popular support.

"The only thing missing, so far, is a demagogue with enough popular support." To a certain extent, this is true everywhere. However, it is less true in the United States than almost anywhere else on earth. Our checks and balances and the strength of our institutions make a move to totalitarianism extremely unlikely.

The 2012 NDAA, which authorizes military detention of people engaged in acts of war against the United States, is not sufficient to establish totalitarianism, nor does it even remotely mean that "US citizens have no legal rights that can't be over-ridden by military or presidential fiat." The courts are a check on potential abuse of this (and any other) law.

'Our checks and balances and the strength of our institutions make a move to totalitarianism extremely unlikely.'
Because in the U.S., it won't be called that.

I just spent time in NYC - the visit to the Statue of Liberty was only at MarSec 1 ( ), meaning airport security levels at the first checkpoint. (For fun, let's just call them 'freedom gates'.) All visitors performed their mandated civic duty (without taking any pictures, which is forbidden) at the freedom gates before going aboard either the Miss New York or the Miss New Jersey, where the restrooms, along with other areas of the boat, were restricted to authorized personnel.

Arriving at Liberty Island, one notes that the freedom gate before entering Liberty is surprisingly large, giving an impression of being somehow comparable to the statue's base, though upon somewhat closer inspection (without violating a possibly secret law or regulation along the lines of how passengers are allowed to fly), it did seem a bit smaller. Since the Statue was closed, we did not experience the freedom gate and its procedures before being allowed to enter the Statue of Liberty.

The mechanisms of totalitarianism are not merely available, they are being used in daily life.

The fantasy is that this is not happening, though one shared in large part by the same people that defend the above procedures as somehow being required. To keep us all safe. By requiring fingerprints of all foreign visitors (though the fingerprint readers are available at all passport check stations at Dulles), who have already gone online to receive permission to travel to the U.S. (the only nation with such a highly developed system, and involving the mandatory use of a credit card) and passed through the freedom gates where piles of suitcased laptops, apparently DHS equipment, lay about as each passport is seemingly screened through a more or less real time system combining various information, including the PNR of all passengers.

Visiting today's U.S. is eye opening - assuming one doesn't start with the assumption that the actual mechanisms of totalitarianism are trumped by belief in checks and balances. Like 2 Americans killed in a desert because the president, in his sole discretion and preferrably in total secrecy, determined they needed to be killed. This should have been impossible in the U.S. - yet it happened. Using a network of CIA run drone bases, involving complete NSA monitoring of communication, with likely FBI assistance, the U.S. is now in the global business of killing Americans without due process. And the reason that you think this won't finally happen here is because of some words written in 1789?


However, in the US at present it is not likely that the police state will be enforced by the military. Of greater concern is the growing number of federal "law enforcement agents" spread throughout the federal bureaucracy.

Federal Police Ranks Swell to Enforce a Widening Array of Criminal Laws, WSJ, Dec. 17, 2011

Another check on police state powers may be the young men coming out of the military who have been well trained, and not all of them are returning to crime-free living. See, e.g.,

The security you describe for visiting the statue of liberty sounds dumb, I agree. The process for visiting the U.S. leaves a lot to be desired, I agree. However, providing these as examples of totalitarianism is absurd. Is there a constitutional right to visit the statue of liberty without undue hassle? Is there a right to enter the country without too many ID checks?

You are mistaking appearance with substance. Airport security (or statue of liberty security) might superficially resemble a scene from a totalitarian country, but the crucial ingredient is not there: use of this apparatus to control and monitor every aspect of a person's life.

Killing two U.S. citizens in Yemen--I agree that this is a significant issue for debate. However, they were allied with our wartime enemy and inciting people to fight us. It is not a small step from this action to predator drones filling the U.S. skies and killing anyone that disagrees with the government.

Calling these things totalitarianism is an insult to those who have to live under the true tyrants of the world.

'However, providing these as examples of totalitarianism is absurd.'
Really? An entire system of security checkpoints is now in place throughout the nation's transportation networks (I count EZ-Pass as part of that system, along with Ameber alert infrastructure), all internal telecommunications are monitored, it is currently not possible to get a driver's license without a fingerprint if under the age of 45 or so, should I go on? The infrastructure has been built, in part because people dispute its existence as tools for a police state instead of actually understanding what is happening.

'...but the crucial ingredient is not there: use of this apparatus to control and monitor every aspect of a person’s life.'
Except all the tools to do that actually do exist - and are used. Just ask any number of political activists - like the Catholic nuns on the no-fly list because of their commitment to pacificism as the basis for their opposition to American fioreign policy that results in dirty wars in places like Central America. Simply because one does not hear of such practices don't mean they don't exist - and the number of secret laws in the U.S. is impossible to guage at this point, since even acknowledging their existence on the part of the government is illegal (the no-fly lists are about the best example of this - though this is from more than 5 years ago).

'Killing two U.S. citizens in Yemen–I agree that this is a significant issue for debate. However, they were allied with our wartime enemy and inciting people to fight us.'
What enemy? And no, I not being facetious - what enemy have we declared war on through Congress? The laws concerning treason are very clearly laid out in the Constitution, as is the due process all American citizens are entitled to before being deprived of life or liberty. And yet, due to some unspecified yet seemingly omnipresent enemy, we are now killing Americans without even bothering to follow the Constitution, a document which was directly concerned that previous practices concerning 'treason' be carefully restricted to prevent it from being used to kill those the American government defines as enemies.

3. "It’s not because recent events have disproved the liberal worldview. "

Has David Brooks turned to satire, or is he trying to reassure the readers of the NYT that all is well? Does this guy ever say anything insightful or merely truthful? I think the simple answer is that it's rather clear that the liberal worldview is in tatters and that a majority of voters have figured that out. The best stimulus will come in November.

Does this guy ever say anything insightful or merely truthful?


Isn't it insightful of Brooks to note that the Dems are in a double-bind situation? This is definitely insightful journalism/opinion piece writing:

"Life is unfair. Republican venality unintentionally reinforces the conservative argument that government is corrupt. Democratic venality undermines the Democratic argument that Washington can be trusted to do good."

Seriously, CBBB, what you are doing when you post -- especially stuff like the "NOPE" above -- is just venting. It's not analysis, it's not humorous, it's just gratifying to yourself, at best. Let me paraphrase Jon Stewart criticizing Crossfire: just stop. Think of the country. Think of the other readers. Stop.

Those who suffer from narcissism are almost always completely incapable of masking their symptoms. CBBB is not going anywhere. Like herpes.

"Worse, in an attempt to match Republican rhetoric, Democratic politicians are perpetually soiling the name of government for the sake of short-term gain. How many times have you heard Democrats from Carter to Obama running against Washington, accusing it of being insular, shortsighted, corrupt and petty? If the surgeon himself thinks his tools are rancid, why shouldn’t you?


Liberalism has not expanded because it has not had a Martin Luther, a leader committed to stripping away the corruptions, complexities and indulgences that have grown up over the years. "

Aren't these two paragraphs pretty much the opposite of one another. Didn't Martin Luther accuse the church of being " insular, shortsighted, corrupt and petty?"

Brooks is a good enough writer, but he is pretty much a "concern troll". Why would a conservative give good advice to liberals? Brooks sure doesn't. I don't even think he does it on purpose.


You think I'm going to waste one of my free NYT articles for the month reading a David Brooks column?! I can pretty much predict what this windbag was going on about.

That the Democratic Party is run by morons and short-term-minded charlatans is hardly news or insightful

But we still need a bigger, more powerful government, right?

No, that's a strawman. Let's be real here neither of the two major party establishments - Republican or Democrat are against big government. They both love high spending just on different priorities.

I may have to take that back - Brooks did say something insightful, about the first time he met The Won:

"That first encounter is still vivid in Brooks’s mind. “I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”

And the guy wasn't even the editor of the style section.


David Brooks was exposed years ago as a lazy peddler of stereotypes and cliches. He is a talented writer so he manages to work these into somewhat engaging pieces but, ultimately, it's just the intellectual equivalent of "tastes great, less filling."

If you want to be entertained by stereotypes, just watch Chris Rock. David Brooks is an amateur comedian and a not-even-amateur sociologist and political scientist.

The best part of Brooks' article: "Liberalism has not expanded because it has not had a Martin Luther, a leader committed to stripping away the corruptions, complexities and indulgences that have grown up over the years...President Obama might consider running for re-election as Luther."

This reminds me of a scene from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" when Pappy O'Dan is running for reelection as governor:

Junior: Well people like that reform. Maybe we should get us some.

Pappy O’Daniel: I’ll reform you, you soft-headed sonofabitch! How we gonna run reform when we’re the damn incumbent!

4. The culture that is Texas.

No. The culture that is US zero tolerance. And the increasing criminalization of life. In addition to complaining to the legislators (city councils, state and local, and congress) who write and vote for these idiotic laws, we can not do much about this other than: every traffic ticket and every arrest should be contested. Also, at a minimum jurors should refuse to convict users of possession of drugs.

Once the countless number of defendants stop accepting plea deals for activity that should not be criminal, the criminal injustice system will be brought to its knees.

As the number of interactions with and news stories about police over stupid stuff like this increases, combined with increasing visibility of police misconduct, the police are rapidly being seen as armed gangs. The thugs of the state.

It is only anecdotal, but the attitude towards the police by most of the middle class people I know has shifted over the last 5 to 10 years to disdain and contempt. See, e.g., Radley Balko's blog The Agitator, and "Cop Haters" by Scott Greenfield.

It would be one thing if they could actually project behavior, but the education part of the school system that is actually supposed to do that is horrible at it. They can't even understand the purpose of testing, which is to find the margin. I'm nearing mid-life, having spent most of it in education institutions and have spent part of the morning trying to figure out on my own what I am actually good at. Thanks arse-wipes.

Related, sort of, I dropped the ankle biter off at the daycare the other day and he wanted to take his white and orange ray gun in to show his friends. Since it is a church daycare it was no biggie. The kids started shouting about how he has a gun. The frightened teacher kept saying "it's a hair dryer." I chimed in "no silly people, it's a toy." It's not even a toy gun. It's a non-working, plastic facsimile of a fictional ray gun. WTF are we doing people? Blowing the shit out of other countries, and our boys can't draw cops and robbers. News flash. They are boys. I didn't tell my kid what a gun was until AFTER he invented the concept for himself.

And I get it, you can't be allowed to muck up everyone else's mental masturbation, but after a moment of reflection, we really have to taze the guy because we are all so captivated by what John Kerry has to enlighten us with?

What happened to old fashioned bouncer skills? Cops are getting lazy.

Good stuff!

3. Brooks wants to blame the decline of liberalism on the inefficiencies of government. He is right to a point. He leaves out, though, that while old-school liberalism is in decline, progressivism does not seem to be. The old anti-establishment liberals have been replaced by establishment progressives.

Progressivism is deeply illiberal though.

2. A pizza parable: when arbitrage becomes more costly.

From that article:
"Plus, our local pizza place knew this was coming: the slice of cheese there has already been upped to that wallet-rocking price of $2.50."

I'm broke but even I wouldn't describe $2.50 for a slice of pizza as "wallet-rocking".

I paid $1 for a slice and a coke back in the 1970s.

A slice for $2.50 isn't wallet busting at all. That's a pretty low inflation rate.

A Big Mac costs more than that now. I'm not sure where you could get a cheeseburger, burrito, or gyros for less than $2.50.

As a transplanted New Yorker living in Chicago, I must keep secret my strong preference for NY pizza. It just has a taste that can't be duplicated. They say it's the water, but I can't believe it. I've had good New York style pizza in New Jersey, Denver, and San Francisco. I'm sure they don't import the water.

The Fukuyama article doesn't quite grasp the point that some countries, e.g. France, have a tradition of telling people what to do, and others - e.g. Britain - of letting be. It doesn't follow that letting be is always the right policy, but it doesn't become policy in an ahistorical vacuum.

Brooks uses a rhetoric that is in some ways the opposite of Krugman but as annoying: he tries to make his point by showing that everyone else has a good point.

We don't have more liberals because it's been decades since a liberal administration was popular and successful. Clinton only got things going when he moved to the center. Carter was a disaster and so was LBJ. You have to really go back to JFK if you think about it.

Not that Republicans do much better but expectations for a Republican government are by definition lower. After all, we are the guys who say that government doesn't work :-)

If I go back to JFK, I don't see a liberal.

Me either, the Republicans would run him today.

From someone who went to Washington as a LBJ liberal -- all JFK achieved was almost starting WW III over Cuba.

Yes, today JFK would be a republican.

And Nixon would be a Democrat?

If that were so, wouldn't his brother Ted have become one later in life?

No, JFK was a Southern Strategy Democrat. He was a hawkish anti-Communist and didn't really care about segregation initially but his economic policy was left-liberal.

He even gave a speech that included a poetic riff on man's love for the sea and how natural it is since science tells us mammals once evolved from sea creatures. Can you imagine a Republican running for national office saying such a thing today?

I think Brooks' most effective argument is when he points that "It’s more likely because [most Americans] think the whole system is rigged. Or to put it in the economists’ language, they believe the government has been captured by rent-seekers."

If government has been captured by rent-seekers, by association that means both parties have been captured by rent-seekers. The only way out of this that I can see is campaign finance reform, regulated lobbying, and electoral reform. We need more credible third parties to challenge the captured major parties, but without those reforms, we'll be stuck. There's no substantive platform to keep the major parties honest.

"The only way out of this that I can see is campaign finance reform, regulated lobbying, and electoral reform. "

Campaign finance reform was captured by rent seekers from day one. Why do you think media companies were exempted from many of McCain-Feingold's provisions?

"regulated lobbying"

This is absurd!
You are going to allow the lobbyists to regulate themselves now to keep new lobbyists out? Wow, Just wow, go back and read Buchanan before you write about how to deal with rent seeking.

What's your solution, big fella?

In reply to that blog entry-- I don't entirely understand the author's (your?) argument. He points to the 2010 freshmen being richer than the 2004 freshmen, but that seems to indicate money entering politics, not vice versa. (It also indicates just how classist politics has become.) I do agree with his (your?) ultimate conclusion though, that the aggregation of wealth weakens democracy.

I guess I don't understand why people insist on blaming either politicians OR corporations. It's a two-way street and the whole boulevard is filled with corruption. Suggesting that politicians cede more control of money is a dangerous step toward an even more domineering corporatocracy; we need to rethink the entire relationship between politics and money.

Not a complete solution, but something that would certainly help. Pay Congress critters a lot more. Pay members of the House $1 million per year, Senate $2 million, President $10 million, Supreme Court Justices $3 million. The actual cost is chicken feed. Do we really want our Congressman's average pay to be less than an average dentist?

Certainly, this wouldn't stop corruption, but it would at least ensure that we don't have them completely reliant on campaign donations.


They aren't reliant on campaign contributions. They don't make their money that way. They make their money through insider trading. The campaign contributions are for adds and payoffs to other interested parties so they can get support during elections.

JFK administration:
Strong foreign policy, lowered taxes, pro-growth, promoted American exceptionalism, pro-Federal death penalty, strongly religious.

JFK would be a centrist Republican.

Strong foreign policy = started America's war in Vietnam, and bloody near started WWIII. You're being awfully hard on centrist Republicans.

1 (& 4). Toys *should* be fun ... adults pushing their "agenda" on kids, no matter how noble the intentions, is a shame.

... but to be clear, I personally think making science fun is great. (I volunteer at my son's day care doing science lessons, which is a bit of stretch for an economist...) But I try to listen to what my kids what...overly popular dolls and noisy firetrucks wouldn't be my first choice but it makes my kids happy.

I would have loved such a toy growing up and I would love to buy it for my kids now. But today that set would be illegal to sell to children (probably to anyone at all.) Certainly the modern Chemistry learning sets are so neutered as to be completely boring.

@1 A similar but not radioactive "toy" can be found at Amazon (see link below). My 7-year old son loves it! There are several levels, but the the version linked below is a good one.

3) I think I'm turning austrian I really think so!
"The urge to slash the government back into the 18th century is not a common one in Europe" - I'm not sure about this as it seems all sides think the other side is the one truly capable of making us lose civilizational ground. A commercial just ran on TV that sang, "get your degree, set yourself free." But diminishing returns on human capital is not setting knowledge free, hence police in the schools. As for that raging generational debt argument, it exists primarily because of the exclusion of mass amounts of (tax paid for) human capital that have no place in economic participation. That can be changed, and the sooner the better.

We're still clearly stuggling with the notion of ideologies.

Let the ideologies slide to the top as objective functions: they are the very goals of policy, not considerations. There are three fundamental ideologies (and potentially many variants): egalitarianism, liberalism (fiscal conservatism) and (social) conservatism. Egalitarians want equality in wealth, income and other rights, implicitly derived from the declining marginal utility of wealth and income. This ideology requires coercion of several sorts. Liberals (free market folks) are about maximizing individual property rights. Volunteerism and the notion of contracts are central. Social conservatism is about increasing returns to social organization. This enables the group to deliver a result greater than the sum of the individual efforts, and hence (classical) liberals must yield, in real world terms, to conservatives. (Social conservatism is superior in economic terms!) But conservatism is about maximizing the benefit of the group as a whole, and group results must be allocated back to the constituent individuals. This is both a central issue and structural weakness of conservatism. Thus, agency is a critical concept for conservatives, otherwise the liberals (the principals) will seize the benefits of group output. This is one source of the notion of fat cats and a reason that both egalitarians and liberals tend to dislike conservatives ('the old boy network'). It also explains why the Islamists do so well in decaying dictatorships in the Middle East. Their religious affiliation give the best hope that they will act as agents on behalf of the people.

People are disaffected with government because an agent given mutliple and competing objective functions will be, in effect, liberated to act as principal. If both deficit spending and fiscal probity represent sound fiscal management, then the politician has a free hand regarding which policy to employ. He is virtually unaccountable and will thus tend to choose the policy best aligned with his own particular interests, ie, he is liberated to act as principal.

This stuff is not that hard, if you let ideologies slide to the top, use a little principal-agent theory, and accept that multiple objective functions will cause the principal to lose control over the agent.

Re: 4
It should be titled "The culture that is US."
Or possibly, "The panopticon for our children."



4: Make it "The Culture That Is Labor Unions"

Teachers Union decides it no longer wants to discipline children.

It outsources the job to the Police Union, which therefore gets more overtime money. If they are smart about it, the money comes from the Police budget and not the School Budget, thereby freeing up more money for teachers for doing less work.

Everybody wins!!



In Texas, part of the problem is the prohibition of enforcing discipline. If a student is very unruly, you simply can not send them home or out of the class. You can't always call their parents, because sometimes they just don't care. The district won't let you suspend them from class, because their absence costs the district money. Sometimes the only way to get parents to step in and help out with discipline is to make them pay money.

The real problem comes with kids diagnosed with ADHD or anything similar. If the student is unruly and has been found to have learning disabilities that can be linked to the unruly behavior, the school district is EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED from disciplining the student for that behavior BY LAW.

Teacher: "Billy, I have told you 15 times today to quit talking, I am giving you detention."
Billy: "You can't give me detention, I have ADHD, and I am easily distracted. I know my rights! The man can't keep me from talking in class!!"

I really think that the story here is that the police are the least likely to get sued for handing out discipline, so they get to do the heavy lifting, especially with kids that are found to have disabilities.

I'd really like to see this law you mention. I've never heard of such a thing.

The federal IDEA law regulates the disciplining of children with disabilities, though it doesn't prohibit it. I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes very prohibitive in practice, as schools try to avoid exposing themselves to litigation.

It's amazing how a smack in the head will get a child's full attention.

If the disability is so severe as to require creating a legal accommodation, doesn't it then deserve consideration whether everyone might be better off with these disabled children educated in special schools or at least under special sequestered sections of the school?

They probably don't have ADHD. The problem is that they only understand Spanish.



Re #3:

(a) I can't read the financial times most of the time; nor I expect can most MR readers.

(b) Brooks is very, very, clever, and my two bob is:

Life is unfair. Republican venality unintentionally reinforces the conservative argument that government is corrupt. Democratic venality undermines the Democratic argument that Washington can be trusted to do good.

This is *entirely* fair.

Liberalism has not expanded because it has not had a Martin Luther, a leader committed to stripping away the corruptions, complexities and indulgences that have grown up over the years.

For now, Ron Paul has the American rights to the Liberal Luther franchise. Remember that Martin Luther was a nutter too.

(a1) Google the article title and follow the link.
(a2) Install the a User Agent Switch extension and pretend you are Googlebot.

Martin Luther was a fire-breathing antisemite and demagogue who attracted fanatics to his side. No, American politics does not need such a person -- shouldn't this be a natural observation for anyone calling themselves "conservative"? But then, as pointed out above, Brooks is probably "concern trolling" here.

Well, Brooks probably doesn't have the incredibly tendentious understanding of Martin Luther that you do.

Nonsense. A better model for a conservative would be Erasmus who joined Martin Luther in criticizing the abuses and corruption of the Catholic Church but also saw a dangerous level of fanaticism in some of Martin Luther's followers.

3. Who cares what people call themselves. Liberal ideas are (gay rights, universal health care, immigration, ...) succeeding fine. Heck Republican candidates are attacking each other for shipping jobs overseas.

The U-238 toy has no uranium in it. However, it would excellent set for undergrad studying physics.

4. Wrong heading. Should have been "Culture that is The Guardian."

Some truth here? Obviously, though Texas gets better outputs given its inputs than any other school system in the country, so it deserves some leeway. Stop imagining that Texas is educating kids who resemble your child — IQ 120, conscientious, curious, constrained by strong, functional family — and then perhaps you'll understand the need for a bit more structure. But probably not.

Not as much structure as the article implies, of course, but, bear in mind, reality on the ground bears little relationship to the story. Hence, Culture that is The Guardian = Distorting America to Mock It for Smug British Liberals. Not really the best place for accurate reportage on Texas.

Just seems a waste and overkill to use armed, trained police officers. Why don't they recruit some equivalent of trained school "bouncers"? After all, these are mostly 15 and 16 year olds you are dealing with!

"Why don’t they recruit some equivalent of trained school “bouncers”? After all, these are mostly 15 and 16 year olds you are dealing with! "

Because police have qualified immunity so they can't be sued unless they /grossly/ violate someone's rights. This is what our constitution refers to as a title of nobility and expressly prohibits. Because the law applies to them differently than to non-police, they are the preferred go-to in situations where parents might sue.

Interesting reading of "title of nobility" you have there. Please explain the unconstitutionality of a law that treats someone differently when they are acting in a certain role.

Law enforcement officers are specifically excluded from immunity statutes as a check on their authority. A state or local LEO can be sued under section 1983 or a Bivens action. A federal LEO can be sued under FTCA or Bivens.

The standard is not that they grossly violated your rights. Any violation will do. The standard is that the unconstitutional nature of the officer's conduct is clearly established.

There is no absolute protection, yet IMHO "Name Redacted" might have a point under the doctrine of qualified immunity . Clearly, the standard of a civil lawsuit against a federal / state employee seems higher than an ordinary citizen.

>>>Governmental officials, performing their specified functions, are afforded qualified immunity from liability stemming from civil damages suffered by others to the extent that the officer’s actions "does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Secondly, qualified immunity protects "all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law."<<<

Of course, not sure if teachers are covered by this as well? I could be wrong; I've no legal background.

"15-16 year olds." In high schools, it's more 15 to 18 year olds — a group that's as likely as any to commit serious violent crimes. The effort to pain them as "just kids" is a bit of a stretch.

Qualified Immunity: Just speculation, but if the reason for cops is the desire for qualified immunity, it may well have been made necessary by an immature culture that would not accept teachers using any sort of force, no matter how judicious or necessary, to maintain order. It is wholly reasonably to use force (the minimum necessary, but, still, force) to remove a kid who is standing in a class shouting obscenities (or whatever) but a teacher who does it is going to get sued. Yet it has to be done. So you get cops in your school. Theoretical but plausible.

Again, not saying that I agree with many of the practices written about in the original argument, just that I can see reasonable justifications (which no Guardian article will ever mention) for having cops in schools and environments that would be too strict and low-tolerance for other student groups.

Stripping out the time wasting claims of liberal bias, it seems I can paraphrase your post as: "Cut Texas some slack, it has to deal with children who are intellectually and socially behind the children of [insert your state here]. Therefore, these measures are justified."

Assuming your claim that Texas is not "educating kids who resemble your child" is true, that makes a *criminal* citation for misbehaving in the classroom all the more unacceptable, from an economic and a moral perspective.

Economic: if they have an already have a huge disadvantage in their home and school environments, what possible purpose could stacking a criminal charge on top of that serve? Apart from the immediate waste of having police on staff, having the district attorney prepare a case against the child, and having a judge hear it – you're also increasing the probability that this child's potential economic output is negative. Branded a criminal by the state, this closes down opportunities and makes subsequent offenses more likely to result in jail time. The bill for all of this is laid at the feet of taxpayers, the same taxpayers who clamor for less government spending while supporting wasteful activities like "zero tolerance for teenagers."

Moral: these citations are coming at a time where children are hormonally and socially very predisposed to rebel against authority. Teenagers are also highly susceptible to peer pressure. Criminalizing the behavior that results is morally abhorrent and an abdication of the duty that adults have to protect and raise children.

As teachers become more comfortable exercising this power they have over the students, their behavior will become unethical. With no independent supervision of their actions, it becomes simply the teacher's word against the student. With teachers accepting that handing out such referrals to the police is a normal, acceptable part of disciplining a child, they will drift further away from defusing situations using creative social skills and more towards unethical application of their power (see: Stanford Prison Experiment).

Imagine if your boss at work caught you surfing youtube on your phone during a meeting. He then called the police and said you were being disruptive in the meeting, were consistently disruptive in other meetings, and he was fed up with it. You robustly deny these claims, but in the eyes of the police your boss is an "expert" and they are inclined to believe him more than you. The officer charges you with a misdemeanor.

This is a misdemeanor and the officer has in effect arrested you and released you on the spot (although he has the power to detain you too). You are given a court date. You have to report to the local police office for an informal booking, where you are fingerprinted and photographed. You are now in a national police database and the police in any state can access this file.

You report to court on the given date (or maybe you don't, and the court issues a warrant for your arrest) and are asked whether you plead "guilty" or "not guilty". You didn't' hire a lawyer, because they are expensive, so you decide to plead "guilty". Because after all, you *know* you did something. Nobody has told you that pleading "not guilty" is in effect simply opting for a pre-trial hearing with the district attorney, and won't carry a punitive effect if you're subsequently found guilty.

So you plead guilty and the judge issues the default penalty for your offense, a $400 fine. She also sentences you to one year probation in lieu of jail time. You are now a criminal in the United States of America. Congratulations.

Months later you are stopped for a speeding offense. The officer opts to do some digging to see if you've any outstanding warrants (perhaps you had an Obama bumper sticker on your car and he thinks you're suspicious). He finds that you are on parole. This gives him the power to search you without obtaining a warrant.

He elects to do so and finds half a joint in the trunk of your vehicle. You have no idea where this came from, you don't even smoke. Thanks to zero tolerance policing laws, you are arrested on the spot for possession of a prohibited substance. Because you committed this offense while on parole for an existing criminal conviction, the judge is inclined to show you no mercy. You spend six months in the county jail.

But hey, at least now you understand the need for a bit more structure?

Scoop wasn't defending the Texas school system as portrayed in the Guardian article. You can't simply remove the main part of his/her argument because it is "time-wasting" in your opinion, and then attack what remains as if it is Scoop's actual position.

Well, he just did, so obviously he can. No one can stop someone from being a demagogue, or from being lazy and dishonest.

Point taken.

"Time wasting claims of liberal bias" No liberal bias at The Guardian? That's just stupid. The Guardian isn't a US paper that bothers to fake objective neutrality. It proudly proclaims itself the liberal paper in a country that is, in general, unwilling to punish adults for serious crimes — which has to make any sane person highly skeptical about its coverage of how the hated rednecks of Texas discipline children.

Are the anecdotes in that story outlandish? Many of them are. But there are about five million school children in Texas, which means it would be really easy for a paper that's looking to smear the Texas system to find enough outrageous stories to fill a 30 inch story. And that, I would guess, is what The Guardian is doing.

Still, from the tone of your post, I'd imagine that you and I would disagree about appropriate punishment for misbehavior, particularly among kids who lack the mental wherewithal and social structure to keep themselves roughly on track, so I'll engage your arguments, substituting the misbehaving student's transgression from "flying a paper airplane" to "giving another student a pretty good beating." (I do not support criminal prosecution for paper airplanes.)

"If they have an already have a huge disadvantage in their home and school environments, what possible purpose could stacking a criminal charge on top of that serve?"

This may shock you, but the primary purpose of punishing people who act badly is not to help the people who act badly. It is, first, to protect the people they would victimize and, second, to scare other potential miscreants into not misbehaving. Unless I've really misunderstood a lot of what I've read, there's lots of evidence to show that stern punishments, if handed out quickly and consistently, achieve both these goals.

As for your implication that criminal charges will forever wreck their lives, I doubt that will be true in most cases. Juvenile records are sealed unless you're almost 18 and your transgression is so serious you get tried as an adult. (Am I wrong here? If so, I might reconsider some. I don't think a school fight at 15 should show up when employers vet you at 26, assuming you haven't been beating people in the intervening years.)

But most importantly, you wrongly paraphrased the argument I made about why Texas should get the benefit of the doubt.

I did not say, "“Cut Texas some slack, it has to deal with children who are intellectually and socially behind the children of [insert your state here]. Therefore, these measures are justified.”

I said "Cut Texas some slack. It not only has to deal with kids who are intellectually and socially behind the children of [insert the elite school district or private school attended by the kids of people who read econ blogs here] but it also achieves far better results with those kids and for those kids than nearly any other state dealing with even remotely similar demographics. Therefore, it's reasonable not to tar and feather the people who run those schools on the say-so of a snide British hack looking to drum up condescending outrage among his readers. It's also necessary to acknowledge that the proper environment for such kids will look very different than the proper environment for kids at Exeter."

Perhaps you're reading comprehension skills would be better if you'd had a bit more structure during your school days.

I say "time wasting" because any time I see partisan flag waving I know we're at significant risk of confirmation bias. We jump straight to assumptions that the Guardian hates redneck Texans. It's entirely possible the Guardian is withholding information. A productive discussion would reveal these instances without needing to rely on "liberal bias" as an excuse.

So it turns out the Guardian was sloppy – in the article they talk about you being compelled to answer "yes" if you've ever been arrested. Texas has the notion of "Restricted Access" to court records, where an adult can legally say "no" to that question if the offense was a class C committed while they were a juvenile.

Unfortunately this doesn't quite make your case that this won't forever wreck your life. If that person is, as an adult convicted of a criminal offense, the previous juvenile accusations will come home to roost. In fact it's considered perjury to deny them at that point. Bear in mind that the net of potential criminal offenses is ever expanding, and could be things like reckless driving, DUI, possession of a controlled substance, or even driving without a license. At your pre-trial hearing you can expect this previous conviction to be vigorously used by the D.A. against you. Even if you are innocent of the offense you're current accused of, you will be on the back foot because you don't have a clean record. Don't forget that multiple infractions can sometimes stack together into a misdemeanor (this is frequently how reckless driving is arrived at).

This "stern punishment" being handed out is literally the government socially "downvoting" you. This is not a carefully timed slap to the face that stings but is remembered. It's like being infected with a legal form of malaria that will haunt you into adulthood. And it's given out at time where as a teenager your horizons are very short, and you likely have no real understanding of how this might affect you. In fact, apart from this black mark on your record and a hefty fine, nothing much in your life will immediately change.

Even if the Guardian article has been selective about the anecdotes it retrieved, even a handful of things such as spraying perfume in class and disrupting it, tell me that violations these kids are being charged under (I would have loved to see some references to what they are, exactly), are very, very broad. This puts way too much power in the hands of teachers and police. I didn't see anything that implied this was limited to direct physical violence between teenagers. And I'm glad you feel that's an appropriate place to at least start drawing a line, although I would hope the bar is also very high within that realm (I'd say no to fisticuffs with minor abrasions, yes to something that could justify hospitalization).

Finally, there are school districts the world over that have to deal with exceptionally difficult kids who do not feel the need to rely on criminalizing juvenile behavior. So I don't buy any justification related to Texas having special demographics. This isn't happening in Oakland or indigenous schools in the Northern Territory of Australia. I'd welcome evidence that the enforcement policies in Texas have produced better educational outcomes relative to similar demographics - you've implied this exists but I'd like to see it. To your own point, with 5 million students, any study would have to be carefully controlled. It would be easy to cherry pick with such a large data set.

I think the points I hope we can agree on are:

-- Texas is in fact charging kids with class C criminal misdemeanors, even for incidents that don't involve physical harm to other students.
-- In Texas, a class C misdemeanor will have ramifications into adulthood, *definitely* if as an adult they have any further run-ins with the police. And *possibly* if there are other circumstances a Restricted Access record can be unsealed (experts on Texas law are welcome).
-- My reading comprehension skills are just fine. I went to a rural boarding school where kids were strapped and caned by the Christian Brothers. I feared the brothers way more than I ever feared the police.

In the late 1970's, on the heels of desegregation we always had police in the high schools in Providence RI were I lived.

Cool story!

4. The culture that is Texas.

The article seems to take a "overly strict policing is the problem" angle, but couldn't this just as easily be a nanny state issue? As in, parents are too lazy to discipline their kids, so let the state police do it.

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