What will people be like if and when they finally emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown? Homo americanus may mutate into an entirely new beast.
The third night of the 2016 Republican National Convention featured an attempt by Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to “big dog” each other. Trump flew his jet over the Quicken Loans Arena during Cruz’s speech. Cruz urged delegates to “vote their conscience,” in other words, not necessari;y Donald Trump, the party nominee. Chaos ensued.
Hillary Clinton seems poised to become the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major American political party. It’s supposed to be a major symbolic moment, at least in terms of identity politics. But it feels hollow, largely because of something most commentators hesitate to say in public: if she hadn’t married Bill Clinton, she wouldn’t be where she is now. Why can’t a nation of 319 million people find a woman president who didn’t marry her way into the job? Because the system still won’t allow it.
Equal justice under the law. That’s the promise American courts make to plaintiffs and defendants alike. But year after year of budget austerity has forced California’s court system to slash its services so deeply that it has made a mockery of that sacred pledge.
Maura Dolan reports that “recession-driven cutbacks in California’s huge court system have produced long lines and short tempers at courthouses throughout the state. Civil cases are facing growing delays in getting to trial, and court closures have forced residents in some counties to drive several hours for an appearance.”
Backups in the courts are affecting Californians’ love lives: “Clerks in Contra Costa County said they have received complaints from people who divorced and wanted to remarry but couldn’t because clerks had not yet processed the paperwork for judges’ signatures.”
Every cloud has a silver lining. Because so many courthouses have closed, some Californians are automatically getting exempted from jury duty: “In San Bernardino County, the Superior Court has stopped summoning jurors from Needles, making the guarantee of a jury of one’s peers elusive. Because of court closures in the High Desert, a trip to court from Needles can take some residents 3-1/2 hours.”
But it’s still a damned dark cloud.
“We are really on the borderline of a constitutional crisis,” Marsha Slough, San Bernardino County’s presiding judge says. “We have victims who want to give up because they don’t want to testify in criminal trials because of the driving distances and costs.”
Whether you’re fighting a traffic ticket, fending off a neighbor over a property dispute or waiting for a divorce, everyone winds up in court sooner rather than later. And contrary to what conservatives keep saying, starving government institutions of cash doesn’t make them leaner and meaner — it makes them broken and, well, mean, but not in a good way (viz, court employees report that fistfights among frustrated citizens waiting in long lines are a common occurrence…and the extra assaults just cause even more backups in the courts!).
We need a better way. Not a bigger budget — that would solve the problem and reduce unemployment.
No, what we need is to automate the court system! There are, after all, algorithm-based lie detectors that determine whether you’re telling the truth by analyzing a scan of your face. Since California’s courts handle millions of cases each year, a huge database of precedents can be uploaded and used as a basis to help determine the outcome of new and future matters. And we already know from last year’s trouble-free launch of Obamacare that the Internet is the perfect tool for replacing old-fashioned human-based bureaucracies.
What could go wrong?
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to take up the issue of gay marriage in California as soon as Friday morning. The moment has prompted nervous debate within the gay-rights movement about the best path to achieve gay marriage. If the justices opt not to hear the Proposition 8 case, then a federal appeals court ruling that found the 2008 state ballot measure banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional would stand, clearing the way for marriages to begin. If the justices take up the case, a ruling would not come until next year and gay marriage would remain on hold until then, or longer depending on how the court rules.
Susan Collins and the Precautionary Principle
Susan Collins is a U.S. senator. She is a Republican. She represents the people of Maine.
Senator Collins gets a lot of big things very wrong. Lots of people die because of Senator Collins.
She voted for the invasion of Iraq.
She voted for the invasion of Afghanistan.
Lots of people are dead. Because of her.
In 2007, four years into the Iraq War, when at least 100,000 Iraqis had been killed and the hunt for Saddam’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction had been called off, Senator Collins nonetheless voted to extend the war.
She had another chance in 2008. Voted the same way. More deaths followed.
Late last year, one or two million dead civilians later, most U.S. occupation troops finally pulled out of Iraq. Remember the main argument for staying there, that we were fighting “them” over “there” to avoid having to fight them in the streets of American cities? It’s only been a few months, and anything can happen, but no one—not even Republicans like Senator Collins—seems worried about hordes of Iraqi jihadis rampaging through Baltimore. Obviously they were wrong.
The danger was false. Thus the war was unjustified.
What happens to Senator Collins after signing off on the mass murder of more than a million innocent people? Nothing. She’s planning a wedding.
Now she’s backing away from her other war.
“Despite the extraordinary heroism of our troops and the brilliance of our military leaders,” she wrote in a March 13th letter, “one has to wonder whether the corrupt central government [of Hamid Karzai] and with the history of Afghanistan, whether we can truly achieve the goal of a secure country.” The letter called for a speedier withdrawal than President Obama has announced.
Finally. Right about something.
Intelligence is the best wedding present ever!
Too bad it comes a decade late for the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq. Who should, at bare minimum, enjoy the satisfaction of putting Senator Susan Collins (and those like her) on trial for waging wars of aggression and genocide.
Why am I picking on Collins? If there’s anything more appalling than unleashing death upon the innocent, recasting yourself as a “moderate” after your war sours in the polls is a major contender.
Back in 2001, when she cast votes in favor of dropping cluster bombs, full of brightly colored canisters designed to attract and blow up curious Afghan girls and boys, by the thousands and thousands, Senator Collins had a choice.
She could have listened to the experts. People who had been to Afghanistan. People on the Left.
There are two kinds of foreign policy analysts in the U.S. The right-wingers get interviewed and appointed to blue-ribbon presidential committees and are invariably wrong. The lefties, who more often than not turn out to be correct, get ignored.
After 9/11 the Left was against invading Afghanistan. (The Left doesn’t include Democrats, who were so disgustingly eager to be seen as “tough” on terrorism that they willingly went along with a war against a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks.)
No one likes invaders, but leftist analysts pointed out that Afghanistan’s history of slaughtering invading armies was unparalleled. U.S. forces, we warned, would face the usual Afghan reception. First the fighters would vanish into the population or into the mountains. They’d study us. Then they’d start picking us off two or three at a time. It’s what they did to the English (three times) and the Russians (once). We’d win every battle but it wouldn’t matter. They’d bleed us of young men and young women and political will.
Senator Collins could have read our essays and our books. If she did read them, she could have taken heed. She decided not to.
And so many people died.
After the Taliban were driven into the mountains and/or melted into the population, Republicans like Senator Collins thought they’d been vindicated. The Taliban are not really gone, we on the Left said. They’re just waiting. We’d been vindicated. The Right couldn’t see that. They wouldn’t listen.
Then the U.S. installed Hamid Karzai.
Those of us on the Left, who had actually been to Afghanistan and talked to actual Afghans, warned that Karzai had no political base. That his regime was hopelessly corrupt. That he was putting warlords, who ought to have been in prison for crimes they committed during the civil war, into positions of power and influence. That his government was universally despised.
We said that stuff ten years ago. So it’s a little galling to hear warmongers like Susan Collins talk about Karzai’s corruption and Afghanistan’s unique history. As if she were reporting information that came to light recently.
Senator Collins violated the precautionary principle—a precept enshrined in the law of various countries, including in Europe. A politician who proposes an action that might cause harm is obligated to present concrete evidence that it won’t cause harm. If she fails to meet that burden of proof, the proposal is rejected.
In the case of Collins and the other Republican and Democratic legislators, as well as the pundits and journalists who enabled them, all the evidence they needed that the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq would do more harm than good was as close as their computer or nearest bookstore.
Susan Collins ought to cancel the wedding and surrender at The Hague.
Failing that, the least she could do is shut up.
(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 22. His website is tedrall.com.)