A reader shares a harrowing series of stories and insights on corporal punishment:

This email is too long, Andrew. But I don’t know another way to do it. Those last sentences in your post on “The Racial Divide On Spanking Kids” are packed with the stuff I’ve been struggling with all week. I’m sending this because I took so much time to write it. I’ve been close to tears often this week, and I suppose it’s a way of defending that tenderness.

“Discipline”: It was a belt or a switch in my house, except for the handful of times I was slapped. I hail from a poor, white, fundamentalist family in Texas. Sometimes we managed to get a hold of the bottom rung instead – lower-middle class, or is it upper-lower class? – but it wasn’t ever a very firm grip. I think that matters, our economic and social status – how it operated on my parents, their sense of self, their sense of control and agency, their standing, that fuzzy line between “poor” and “trash,” the dependable hierarchy at home of respect and obedience. But I can’t unpack all of that, and I don’t know what it would mean for anyone else if I did.

Whenever I got caught swearing – or if someone told my mother I’d been swearing – I had my mouth washed out with soap. In practice, even this is a stupid and violent thing to do. Really, the logistics of the sink and the soap and the faucet, the mouth and the hands, the gagging and spitting and crying – it’s jammed with aggression. I was six the first time.

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An expert from the in-tray weighs in:

I am a political scientist, and my research focuses on executive power and the American warfare state. I’m writing in response to the ongoing discussion about the Obama administration’s tenuous legal rationale to wage war against ISIL without requesting permission from Congress. Most legal scholars that you cite agree that a congressional authorization is constitutionally required in order to carry out extended air strikes. You pushed this normative case even further, balking that “Obama…has blown a hole so wide in any constitutional measures to restrain the war machine that he has now placed future presidential war-making far beyond any constraints.”

However, there are very logical (if troubling) reasons why presidents continually assume the prerogative to carry out their national security agendas unilaterally, and why Congress’ power to declare war has become nearly obsolete.

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Readers may understandably be concerned by my continued dissent on the new war counter-terrorism operation in Iraq and Syria – which has no chance to roll back a Sunni insurgency that will endure as long as Iraq is still kept as a unitary “state”, huge chances that blowback will bring terror to the US again, and has only token Sunni support in a region where the Shi’a-Sunni war may well continue for years or decades. But I have long argued that we should look at Obama’s long game in assessing results. And with two years to go, the long game can begin to be assessed.

The results in foreign policy? A new open-ended years’ long war in Iraq and an indefinite continuation of thousands of troops in Afghanistan. These were not wars, it turns out. They were operations in which the United States became permanently responsible as a neo-imperial power for two more failed states. More to the point, as ISIS has managed to become the new al Qaeda, Americans have returned to their 2002 mindset, with a new Congress looking as if it will be dominated by Republicans, who are all-too-eager for ever more wars against ever more non-threats to the United States. The last two years of Bush were more hopeful for some kind of unwinding of this war machine. But now a liberal Democrat has given them bipartisan legitimacy – and fueled the fires for a Cheneyite comeback.

Gitmo, of course, remains open. More to the point, even as war criminals have been given total immunity, the Senate Intelligence Committee report remains bottled up, as the CIA is allowed to doctor, redact and openly challenge it, while the president sits back and lets Denis McDonough protect the war criminals we once had some aspiration to at least expose. James Clapper has been revealed as a liar to the Congress and suffers no consequences; he admits he failed to anticipate ISIS’s breakout, and the president retains full confidence in him. John Brennan runs an agency which actually spied on its Congressional over-seers, lies about it in public – and retains the president’s full confidence. And now we discover that a real current issue of mistreatment of detainees in Gitmo is being covered up:

The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to hold a highly anticipated court hearing on its painful force-feedings of Guantánamo Bay detainees almost entirely in secret, prompting suspicions of a cover-up.

Justice Department attorneys argued to district judge Gladys Kessler that allowing the hearings to be open to the public would jeopardize national security through the disclosure of classified information. Should Kessler agree, the first major legal battle over forced feeding in a federal court would be less transparent than the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay.

That’s precisely what we supported Obama for, isn’t it? That allegations of abuse of detainees in Guantanamo Bay be kept completely secret – and that no one will ever be held accountable for it. The actual videotapes of the force-feeding – critical evidence to allow anyone to judge whether these methods are indeed a form of torture – are barred from any public viewing.

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Ebola Makes It To America, Ctd

Oct 1 2014 @ 3:04pm

Sara Stern-Nezer and Aliza Monroe-Wise insist that “even if you were on that September 19th flight from Liberia to Dallas and shook the hand of America’s ‘patient zero,’ your risk of transmission remains relatively small.” Julia Belluz looks at how fast Ebola spreads:

A mathematical epidemiologist who studies Ebola wrote in the Washington Post, “The good news is that Ebola has a lower reproductive rate than measles in the pre-vaccination days or the Spanish flu.” He found that each Ebola case produces between 1.3 and 1.8 secondary cases. That means an Ebola victim usually only infects about one other person. Compare that with measles, which creates 17 secondary cases.

If you do the math, that means a single case in the US could lead to one or two others, but since we have robust public health measures here, it probably won’t go further than that.

Jonathan Cohn doesn’t see how we could have prevented the Dallas case:

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What Do Prisoners Value Most?

Oct 1 2014 @ 2:41pm

Sarah Shourd argues that a certain “progressive” jail in New Hampshire has major drawbacks:

There are many things about Cheshire County Jail that you’d be hard-pressed to find in any other carceral space in the country. The warden, Rick Van Wickler, prides himself on the building’s environmental design—complete with a geo-thermic heating and cooling system—and overall low-carbon footprint. The correctional officers insist that there’s “very little conflict” between the 150 prisoners currently being held at this 240-bed facility. They also claim that they’ve had relatively few issues with contraband and zero escapes in the 4 years of the jail’s existence, thanks in part to high-tech surveillance and the 118 cameras spread throughout the site. Boasting accessible health and psychiatric services, over 100 community volunteers and the strict enforcement of U.N. standards on the use of solitary confinement, which limit isolating a prisoner to 15 days, Cheshire County Jail has attracted national attention as a rare model of progressive incarceration.

The prisoners at Cheshire offer a different perspective. …

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New York Shitty, Ctd

Oct 1 2014 @ 2:21pm

A reader sends an ominous view from his East Village window yesterday morning:

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Another New Yorker pounces on my recent snark over the subway:

Really, your pique about New York merely makes you look like an idiot. It’s like a bad breakup that you can’t get over. Well, try.

You would also have a stronger case if you didn’t live in a city where the Metro stations look like the set of a science fiction film about the dystopian future. Every time I’m there, I half expect someone to come running into the Dupont Circle station screaming, “Soylent Green is people!”

Several more dissenters have the floor:

I can’t believe I am writing once again to rail against your railing against NYC, but here I am. Yes, the subway is different from the London Underground. I found the tube-medium-zonedUnderground dizzyingly different when I first encountered it. But yes, it is cheap, and all the millions of people who ride it to school or work really appreciate it! One price takes you to wherever you want to go, no matter how far you have to go, unlike the Underground, which had me standing in front of the map longer than I wished, wondering which zone I will be in if I went here or there. But I just assumed it is just one of many different ways in which seeing the world teaches us to adapt and adjust. If I whined every time a city didn’t live up to my dream image of it, I would never leave my house!

You hate NYC, so you left. Good for you! But can you please remember that it is still home to many, many people and we don’t appreciate someone bashing it again and again, even after he has left, and even if we may actually agree with some of your opinions about it? Please give it a rest!

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Damon Linker Goes Trolling

Oct 1 2014 @ 1:59pm

I’ve read quite a few slippery slope arguments from the religious right against allowing gay people to marry … but Damon really has discovered a doozy. He notes that a German Ethics Council has come out in support of allowing adult siblings to marry (something that the German government opposes):

The council’s position is based on the claim that “the fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination” overrides all other moral considerations, including “the abstract idea of protection of the family.” That is very similar to the rationales that have been used to uphold reproductive rights and to strike down bans on same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

Except it isn’t “very similar” to any such arguments. In fact, the argument for gay couples to be able to marry is based precisely on “the abstract idea of protection of the family.” Here’s why: By singling out gay people alone and barring them from the same civil institution that binds their own families together, we are actually attacking the family itself. So the point of gay marriage is the very opposite of the case for incest or polygamy, both of which tear families apart and undermine social order.

And unlike heterosexual adult siblings, gay people have historically been barred from marrying anyone they fall in love with and want to spend their lives with. Siblings can marry anyone they want right now, as long as they’re straight, except their siblings. The case for incestuous marriages is therefore to add another option to an already vast array of choices. The case for gay marriage is to give gay people just one option, like heterosexuals, where before they had none at all.

Last week, a US air strike meant to hit a base held by the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front almost hit a Free Syrian Army facility instead:

Since U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Syria began on Sept. 22, there has been no coordination between the U.S. military and its alleged partners on the ground, according to FSA leaders, civilian opposition leaders, and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the U.S. and allied military operation. It’s this lack of communication that led to an airstrike that hit only 200 meters from an FSA facility in the suburbs of Idlib. One source briefed on the incident said multiple FSA fighters were killed in the attack.

“Unfortunately, there is zero coordination with the Free Syrian Army. Because there is no coordination, we are seeing civilian casualties. Because there is no coordination, they are hitting empty buildings for ISIS,” Hussam Al Marie, the spokesman for the FSA in northern Syria, told The Daily Beast.

Shocking that things can go awry like this during a war “effort”. Allahpundit rightly sees potential downsides to targeting both ISIS and other jihadist groups at the same time:

What’s at risk of happening here, as ISIS and the Nusra Front congeal, is our allies in the Free Syrian Army suddenly getting it on all sides. Assad has every reason to keep killing the “moderates”; the west has always eyed them as a potential governing regime in Syria once Assad is gone, so by eliminating them Assad makes himself the only anti-ISIS game in town. And now both ISIS and the Nusra Front have a strong reason to target the FSA.

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It’s simple really, says Elaine Scarry:

Last spring I went, as did many other people, to the UN when they had a conference in preparation for next spring’s Nonproliferation Treaty review. Country after country said, “We want a guarantee that the United States will never target us with a nuclear weapon.” I mean, that may seem ho-hum to us. But imagine now if you’re a citizen of this other country and you don’t feel an absolute guarantee that the United States won’t do this?

In the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, President Obama wanted to present an improvement—and it was an improvement. But do you know what its improvement was?

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Living Planet Index

Christopher Ingraham flags a highly disturbing study:

The new Living Planet Index report from the World Wildlife Fund opens with a jaw-dropping statistic: we’ve killed roughly half of the world’s non-human vertebrate animal population since 1970. … The declines are almost exclusively caused by humans’ ever-increasing footprint on planet earth. “Humanity currently needs the regenerative capacity of 1.5 Earths to provide the ecological goods and services we use each year,” according to the report. The only reason we’re able to run above max capacity – for now – is that we’re stripping away resources faster than we can replenish them.

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