“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Is it Un-American to Reject Statist Authoritarianism and Conformity in Favor of Free Thinking Independent Individualism?

The pledge of allegiance must go: A daily loyalty oath has become a toxic, nationalistic ritual

The pledge of allegiance must go: A daily loyalty oath has become a toxic, nationalistic ritual

The final straw came when a teacher accused Alicia, a high school sophomore, of treason.

Alicia (not her real name) hardly comes across as subversive. She’s not one of those kids who is intrigued by anti-American propaganda from ISIS, for example, nor is she one who has been duped by homegrown anti-government groups calling for a citizens’ rebellion. She’s pretty much an ordinary, intelligent teenager—interested in politics, current events and government, but hardly a fringe radical.

Her offense in the eyes of her homeroom teacher, however, was that she chose to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance. This act, for Alicia and countless other young Americans, has brought on the wrath of authority, with teachers and school administrators unleashing mean-spirited accusations and hostility toward students who dare to question the wisdom of a daily loyalty oath. We may be a free country, but any kid who chooses to sit out the collective exercise of exalting America runs a risk of official ostracization.

I’ve spent the last year interacting with kids who have participated in the American Humanist Association’s boycott of the Pledge of Allegiance. The boycott is intended to raise awareness of the fact that the pledge, which was originally scripted by a magazine editor in 1892, did not include the words “under God” until 1954. The insertion of those two words has long irritated many Americans, particularly those who reject the notion of tying patriotism to God-belief, and the AHA’s boycott has been an effective strategy for educating many, especially young people, on the issue.

The Supreme Court in 1943 ruled that constitutional free speech principles guarantee public school children the right to opt out of the pledge, but many school officials need to be reminded of that precedent. As such, the AHA’s legal center, which I direct, spends lots of time helping kids whose teachers don’t respect the non participation right.

And there are many of them.

In fact, the intolerance shown toward nonparticipating kids is stunning, enough to make one realize that the daily pledge exercise is far from a benign, unifying activity that instills healthy values. On the contrary, by the actions frequently displayed toward pledge nonparticipants by teachers and sometimes students, any objective observer would quickly conclude that the exercise is downright toxic, a nationalistic ritual that too often instills a venomous attitude of chauvinism.
We see several recurring themes in the attacks on pledge dissenters. Though some teachers will outright lie and tell students that participation is mandatory under law, most will acknowledge the voluntariness of pledge participation if confronted with a student who seems to know his or her rights. Still, however, teachers will often respond with the accusation that nonparticipation is “disrespectful.” Yet it’s not always clear who is being “disrespected” if a child opts out. The teacher? The class? The country?

Frequently the teacher will answer that question by saying that nonparticipation is disrespectful of the troops, as if any student not taking a daily loyalty oath—something no other developed country expects from its youth—is thumbing her nose at America’s military men and women. Here we see how the pledge is a tool of American militarism, with the clear message: stand each day and pledge allegiance, kids, because our fighting men and women are out there protecting your freedoms. Not surprisingly, no public school offers a daily analysis of the country’s foreign policy to offset this not-so-subtle message of nationalism and militarism.


  1. I don’t know of another democratic or free society or any nontolitarian state that requires school children to pledge allegiance or give a public loyalty oath to a federal power structure.


    Oaths of Allegiance

    Following on the heels of these widespread arrests, formalized oaths of allegiance became the most ubiquitous symbols of federal authority. The widespread assumption that disloyal majorities of secessionists and neutralists were cowing loyalists in the border states made oaths virtual tools of the occupying troops. Even many unionists objected to being forced to take the federal oath, but others saw some utility to the oaths. One soldier wrote home to his aunt that when administering the oath, “It just sutes me to hear them grumble.” But unionists’ objections surprised him. “It don’t hurt a union man to take the Oath,” he admitted, “but we find once in a while one that hates to take the Oath but durst not say anything Once in a grate while they are catched by some of us that over hear their conversation and then put them under an arrest.”

    Many citizens who took the oath did so duplicitously. One woman spat that “every one has been required to take the oath—they are then called Loyal—What a mockery.” Others refused entirely. The oath supporting the provisional government, enacted in December 1861 and required of public officials, was especially reviled because many condemned the convention as extralegal. They claimed that they had taken one already when assuming their positions, and taking the “convention oath” suggested their disloyalty.

    This was, of course, exactly the point. Their refusal to cooperate implied the rejection of the legitimacy either of the state or federal governments. Residents’ refusal to take either the federal or state oath smoked them out, as it were, especially with the final words: “SO HELP ME GOD.” One southeast Missourian knew well that many of his neighbors feigned neutrality, and taking the oath would unmask their ideological beliefs. “They believe this war is waged against slavery,” wrote Joseph C. Maple, who nevertheless condemned “the Republican mode of carrying on war. . . . Hence they do not wish to take an oath which will cut them off from giving aid to the South.”



  3. How about we ask our kids this,

    Do you really want to start a war with these dumbfuck yahoos over standing and mouthing a few words every morning?

    Do we really have nothing better to do?

    How's about you get your ass down to that school, say your pledge, try to get good enough grades to get into a decent college, work on leading that receiver a little bit, and get home in time to clean my truck (did you miss any fucking mudholes this weekend?)

  4. Why do we respect the right to vote in private?

  5. It's a silly thing, but hardly the hill worth dying on. :)

    IMHO, of course.

  6. Since Rufus now represents a "good American" I guess death squads are next..

    galopn2Mon Feb 15, 11:38:00 AM EST
    Yes, I would not, knowingly, buy anything from Israel.

    I'm going to tell you something, you vile piece of shit, you have given me an entirely new outlook on European History. Scum like you can cause otherwise sane people to want to do some pretty dire things.

    To go down there and take the land of people that have lived there for ten thousand years, kill their children, and then call them "fakistanis" is just about as reprehensible an act as any in human history. I hope it all comes to a bad end for you.

    1. So Rufus, are you saying that America is a vile piece of shit as well?

      Did those europeans not kill your children and take their lands????

      Maybe it's time for you to learn actual history and stop reading the backs of beer cans.

  7. Forget it, bubba. I've said my piece, now I'm through with it.

    Go bother someone else.

    1. Rufus, it is you that is a vile piece of shit.

      Supporting terrorists and excusing the Nazi's genocide of the Jews...

    2. As you say...

      " I hope it all comes to a bad end for you."

      But I am not the vile piece of shit you are...

      I will not say that..


      I will say i hope your views eat at your soul until you die... Lay in that hospital bed and ponder, was this medical device created by those VILE JEWS.....

      Yeah, hope the bile flushes up your throat every time you hear a Jew's name.....

      I hope your hatred destroys you.


    3. Yahweh = Allah
      Hat tip: "O"rdure

  8. This whole thread is idiotic, but the Pledge might have this benefit- identifying the mooselims among us so we can boot them out of the country:

    "and to the Republic for which it stands"

    Since they are committed one and all by being mooselims to Sharia they are thereby committed to overthrowing our Republic and our Constitution and we should charge them with treason and kick their homicidal butts outta here. They are all subversives.

    The Constitution isn't a suicide pact.

    1. Bernie is a Marxist/Leninist. He ought to get the boot too.

      He'd dump the Constitution in a heart beat.

      Power to the People, and the People's Committees !!

      There's not a thing wrong with saying the Pledge in the morning.

      I like the idea.

      It reminds that we are a Republic.

      And not a 'People's Republic".

  9. Rufie's folk run the Sioux out of their ancestral homelands.

    And Clan Rufie has squatted there ever since.

    Rufis is a real gas bag.

    1. The Rufie folk were slavers, too.


  10. Tom Goldstein Publisher
    Posted Sun, February 14th, 2016 5:47 pm

    How the politics of the next nomination will play out

    This post substantially revises and supersedes my earlier one on how the political parties will likely approach the Scalia vacancy, in which I had concluded that Ninth Circuit Judge Paul Watford was the most likely nominee. On reflection, I think that Attorney General Loretta Lynch is more likely. I also think that the Republicans will eventually permit the nomination to proceed on the merits and reject it on party lines.

    In thinking about how to respond to the vacancy on the Supreme Court, the administration has two priorities. First, fill the Scalia seat by getting a nominee confirmed. The stakes could not be higher: the appointment could flip the Supreme Court’s ideological balance for decades. Second, gain as much political benefit as possible and exact as heavy a political toll as possible on Republicans, particularly in the presidential election. Precisely because of the seat’s importance, this is the rare time that a material number of voters may seriously think about the Court in deciding whether to vote at all and who to vote for.

    Those priorities reinforce each other. The Republican Senate leadership has staked out the position that no nomination by President Obama will move forward. Because Republicans hold the Senate majority, they have the power to refuse to hold confirmation hearings before the Judiciary Committee and/or a floor vote on the nominee. So, any effort to replace Scalia is dead on arrival unless the political dynamic in the country forces Republicans to change their minds and allow the nomination to proceed.

    Not surprisingly, Republican priorities are the exact opposite. Fundamental conservative legal victories over the past two decades hang directly in the balance. To take just one example, Ted Cruz is exactly right to say that a more liberal replacement for Justice Scalia is very likely to overturn the Supreme Court’s recent recognition of a Second Amendment right to possess firearms or at least render it a nullity as a practical matter. There are dozens of other examples. Conversely, a Republican appointee would not only preserve those victories but continue the Court’s steady move to the right.

    1. In addition, blocking President Obama’s nominee is good politics for important subsets of Republicans. Most directly, the Supreme Court is a signal issue for the conservative Republican base in a way that it is not for core Democratic constituencies. Since at least Richard Nixon, conservatives have effectively rallied against the Supreme Court as a liberal institution that is out of control. We see that dynamic today in Republican candidates’ remarkable attempt to frame even Chief Justice Roberts as a failure, based on his votes to uphold the Affordable Care Act and the administration’s implementation of the Act.

      Those competing priorities put the political parties in a deadly embrace from which neither will easily budge. The administration feels a constitutional responsibility to press for the confirmation of a nominee and every political advantage in doing so. Republicans cannot accede to that effort because their base will not permit it.

      In all of this, it is impossible to overstate the importance of Ted Cruz, who will make the appointment a central issue in the campaign and who will drive enormous pressure against proceeding with any nomination. That pressure is likely to be too great for the Republican Senate leadership to overcome, even if it concludes that it would be better politics to do so.

      Cruz is extremely sophisticated regarding these issues both legally and politically. He understands the stakes perfectly and is a thought leader among Republicans regarding the Court. He immediately understands the value to his own personal candidacy – and he would say, to Republican prospects in the general election – in taking the hardest possible line against permitting President Obama to replace Scalia.

      On some level, this is a reprise of Cruz’s filibuster that shut down the government in an effort to rally conservatives in support of defunding the Affordable Care Act. The filibuster motivated the Republican base and dramatically raised Cruz’s own personal profile. But the general consensus is that it hurt the Republican brand overall among independent voters.

    2. All that said, I do think that an Obama administration nominee may in fact receive a vote. As Amy described in an earlier post, there is no genuine precedent for refusing to act on a Supreme Court nomination because of an impending presidential election. Senate Republicans’ current contrary position invites the administration to put them in a very difficult political position in which there is substantial pressure from important blocs of voters to act on the nomination.

      As a result, I think that the most likely scenario is that if Republicans can come up with even a slender substantive thread on which to base an objection to the nominee, they will seize on it and vote the nominee down on the merits. For example, Danielle Gray, an exceptionally qualified black woman lawyer who served in the Obama administration, would be voted down on the ground that she was one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act. Avril Haines, a widely respected female lawyer who is the current Deputy National Security Advisor, would be voted down on the ground that she was CIA Deputy Director during a controversy over the CIA hacking into Senate computers.

      If the nominee presents a potential substantive ground for objection that the public could take seriously as genuine – even if it seems wrongheaded – I think that Senate Republicans will permit a vote, and reject the nominee. The nomination would be slow-walked, including with numerous requests for information. Eventually either a filibuster would be withdrawn or overcome, with Senate Republicans voting essentially as a block. Any other course than a decisive vote against the nominee invites a certain primary challenge from conservatives in the next election.

      So given the dynamic, how does each side proceed? The administration can pick a nominee who fulfills both its jurisprudential and political goals, without giving Republicans a tool with which to fight back to persuade undecided voters. Dozens of nominees fit the ideological bill of being sufficiently progressive and changing the Court’s ideological balance if confirmed. The more interesting question for the administration will be which one creates the greatest political benefit and exacts the greatest political costs for Republicans in the general election.

      Democrats have two political priorities: motivating turn-out by their own voters and persuading independents to vote for the Democratic nominee. Two Democratic constituencies in particular vote in disproportionately low numbers: young Democrats and minorities.

    3. The youth vote makes little difference here because the age range for a serious nominee (roughly, forty-five to fifty-two) does not directly touch that constituency. There are specific potential nominees who would motivate young liberal voters – Senator Elizabeth Warren, for example. But those nominees are the ones who would give Republicans the opportunity to hold hearings and reject the appointment on an up-or-down vote without serious cost.

      Minority voters are a different matter. Traditionally, black and Hispanic turn-out has trailed white turn-out. In the 2004 election, the percentages were white 67.2%, black 60.0%, and Hispanic 47.2%. In 2008, they were white 66.1%, black 64.7%, and Hispanic 49.9%. The 2012 election was the first in which the proportion of black turn-out exceeded that of whites. The percentages were white 64.1%, black 66.2%, and Hispanic 48.0%.

      Overall, in 2012, the white proportion of the voting population decreased to 71.1% and the minority proportion increased to 28.9% (22.8% black and Hispanic). For that reason, many attribute President Obama’s reelection to minority turn-out.

      The best candidate politically would probably be Hispanic. Hispanic voters both (a) are more politically independent than black voters and therefore more in play in the election, and (b) historically vote in low numbers. In that sense, the ideal nominee from the administration’s perspective in these circumstances is already on the Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor, the Court’s first Latina.

      On the other hand, I think the President personally will be very tempted to appoint a black Justice to the Court, rather than a second Hispanic. His historical legacy rests materially on advancing black participation and success in American politics. The role Thurgood Marshall previously played in that effort is inescapable. The President likely sees value in providing a counterpoint to the Court’s only black Justice, the very conservative Clarence Thomas.

      For those reasons, I think the President will pick a black nominee. I’ve long said that the most likely candidate for the next Democratic appointment was California Attorney General Kamala Harris. She is fifty-one. A female nominee has significant advantages as well. That is particularly true for the candidacy of the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. For reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere, I think her nomination is difficult to oppose ideologically, given her history as a prosecutor.

    4. If Harris wanted the job, I think it would be hers. But I don’t think she does. Harris is the prohibitive favorite to win Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat in the 2016 election. After that, she is well positioned potentially to be president herself. If nominated, she would have to abandon her Senate candidacy and likely all of her political prospects. So I think she would decline.

      But Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who is fifty-six, is a very serious possibility. She is known and admired within the administration. At some point in the process, she likely would have to recuse from her current position, but the Department of Justice could proceed to function with an acting head. Her history as a career prosecutor makes it very difficult to paint her as excessively liberal.

      Perhaps Lynch’s age would give the administration some hesitancy. They would prefer to have a nominee who is closer to fifty. But because the nomination would principally serve a political purpose anyway, I don’t think that would be a serious obstacle.

      The fact that Lynch was vetted so recently for attorney general also makes it practical for the president to nominate her in relatively short order. There is some imperative to move quickly, because each passing week strengthens the intuitive appeal of the Republican argument that it is too close to the election to confirm the nominee. Conversely, a nomination that is announced quickly allows Democrats to press the bumper sticker point that Republicans would leave the Supreme Court unable to resolve many close cases for essentially “a year.”

      I think the administration would relish the prospect of Republicans either refusing to give Lynch a vote or seeming to treat her unfairly in the confirmation process. Either eventuality would motivate both black and women voters.

      Other black women have been mentioned as possible candidates. For example, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger is well known as a former lawyer in the Obama administration, but at thirty-nine probably too young. I also discussed Danielle Gray above. She is widely admired, but lacks the stature of the attorney general.

      Two other potential white female nominees are likely to get close looks. Judge Jane Kelly is a young Obama appointee to the Eighth Circuit who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco is even younger at forty-seven.

    5. Two other potential white female nominees are likely to get close looks. Judge Jane Kelly is a young Obama appointee to the Eighth Circuit who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco is even younger at forty-seven.

      In a previous version of this post I pointed to Paul Watford, an Obama appointee to the Ninth Circuit, as the most likely nominee. Watford is in his late forties. He is well respected and reasonably well known in Democratic legal circles. I still think he is a serious candidate, but the fact that Lynch is a woman gives her nomination a very significant advantage. The same goes for two well-respected appellate judges who are black, the Second Circuit’s Ray Lohier and the D.C. Circuit’s Robert Wilkins.

      The favorite candidate in Democratic legal circles is generally Judge Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit, followed by Patricia Millett of the same Court. Both are recent Obama appointees. Srinivasan is a Indian American. Millett is a woman. Both would fit the ideological profile that the administration would want. But neither provides the same political benefit.

      So while I will update my research on potential nominees, at this point I think that Attorney General Lynch is the most likely candidate. I think the administration is likely to nominate her, that the Senate will initially refuse to proceed with the nomination but ultimately accede after delaying the process significantly, and then vote her down on party lines. At that point, Republicans will slow-walk a follow-up nominee and claim that it is too close to the election to act on the candidate.


    6. This guy at Scotusblog is taken very seriously by those that follow this stuff. He correctly picked Elena Kagan out of the crowd for the last opening.

  11. We need to raise the voting age to 45, and institute a literacy test to weed out the illiterates like Rufus, to save the Republic.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. No on unable to log into their Google account is qualified to vote.
      This is a functional literacy test that "Counterfeit Bob" continues to fail.

  12. Those that "Counterfei Bob" finds repugnant continue to drive the Islamic State back, in Syria.
    The Islamic State, it allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel are getting , like "Counterfeit Bob", ever more frantic.

    Kurdish-backed forces take Syrian town

    The Kurdish-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) has taken control of the town of Tal Rifaat, seizing territory close to the Turkish border and pushing east towards Islamic State-held territory, conflict monitors say.

    The move means the SDF - which include the Kurdish YPG militia - has further consolidated recent gains around the rebel-held Syrian town of Azaz, the last before the border with Turkey.

    Turkey, which considers the YPG to be a terrorist group, has warned Kurdish fighters in northern Syria they would face the "harshest reaction" if they tried to capture Azaz and has been shelling SDF forces for the past few days.

    But YPG fighters appear now to be moving eastwards rather than north, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group and a rebel commander told Reuters on Monday, towards the front line with Islamic State to the east of Azaz.

    The Observatory's head, Rami Abdulrahman, said the SDF was now about 6km away from IS territory southeast of Tal Rifaat.

    SDF =

    1. FEBRUARY 9, 2016

      Officially, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and his Russian allies are at war against the Islamic State. But a gas facility in northern Syria under the control of the jihadi group is evidence that business links between the Syrian regime and the Islamic State persist. According to Turkish officials and Syrian rebels, it is also the site of cooperation between the Islamic State and a Russian energy company with ties to President Vladimir Putin.

      The Tuweinan gas facility, which is located roughly 60 miles southwest of the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, is the largest such facility in Syria. It was built by Russian construction company Stroytransgaz, which is owned by billionaire Gennady Timchenko, a close associate of Putin. The company’s link to the Kremlin is well-documented: The U.S. Treasury Department previously sanctioned Stroytransgaz, along with the other Timchenko-owned companies, for engaging in activities “directly linked to Putin” amidst the confrontation over Ukraine.


      SO Russia is in business with ISIS?