The case against torture

Published: Daily Dot (March 31, 2015)

If there was any doubt that Jeb Bush would repeat his brother’s mistakes on the use of torture if elected president, it has been decisively dispelled.

Last December, the Senate published a report that harshly criticized the use of torture by George W. Bush’s administration. Although it noted that the president himself wasn’t informed of the details of these “enhanced interrogation” techniques until 2006, Bush nevertheless offered a characteristic defense of the people who worked for him, declaring on CNN that “if it diminishes [the CIA’s] contributions to our country, it is way off base.”

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A Great Cosmic Joke: The Hilarious Human Body

Published: Good Men Project (March 31, 2015)

Human beings are clumsy, hairless monkeys obsessed with looking beautiful. How is that not funny?

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For as long as I can remember, I have found the emotion of awkwardness to be endlessly amusing. It’s why I enjoy TV shows like “Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job,” so-bad-they’re-good movies like “Troll 2,” and reciting anecdotes from the Darwin Awards to my always-politely-uncomfortable parents. Explaining why I tend to crack up at awkwardness (including my own, although that’s usually in retrospect) is as difficult as deconstructing why my favorite food is salami or my favorite color is green. For whatever psychological and/or biological reasons, my taste in comedy runs in that direction. It is what it is, for better or worse, with the salient point here being that possessing a healthy appreciation for the comedy in awkwardness helps you notice its presence when others don’t.

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It’s Time for Civil Disobedience in Indiana

Published: Good Men Project (March 30, 2015)

It is time to bring the nonviolent protests of the 1960s civil rights movement to anti-gay Indiana.

I don’t live in Indiana, and because I don’t own a car, there is little chance I’ll be visiting anytime soon. Nevertheless, like most decent people, I am horrified by Indiana’s recent so-called “religious freedom” bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against homosexuals (they claim that pro-gay rights modifications to the measure are pending; I’ll believe it when I see it). As similar bills continue to get pushed in states throughout the country (including Georgia, Michigan, Arkansas, Texas, and Nevada), it is time we take a look at the revered American tradition, one that half a century ago resulted in a civil rights act that guaranteed “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

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Inside the Texas bill that stops you from filming police brutality

Published: Daily Dot (March 30, 2015)

Those with power must be held accountable for how they use it.

This may seem like a self-evident proposition, but it is actually facing a considerable challenge in Texas right now. If passed, a new bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) would define the act of “filming, recording, photographing, or documenting the officer within 25 feet of [a police] officer” as “interfering” with their duties and, consequently, as being a crime (the limitation extends to 100 feet for residents carrying a concealed handgun). In short, H.R. 2918 wants to address the problem of police officers abusing citizens’ rights by making it harder in the future to prove that such abuses actually happen.

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It’s time to kill the PATRIOT Act

Published: Daily Dot (March 26, 2015)

It’s doubtful that the PATRIOT Act will be repealed in this legislative session, but make no mistake about it: Dispensing with this bill, one of the more pernicious legacies of the post-9/11 erosion of American civil liberties, is long overdue.

First, here’s an introduction to the measure that could theoretically pull this off: the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which was sponsored by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY). If implemented, it would do more than simply repeal the PATRIOT Act; after all, getting rid of that one bill won’t eliminate National Security Agency spying and other surveillance state activities anyway (especially since the PATRIOT Act is already set to expire in June).

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The real reason Ted Cruz will never be elected president

Published: Daily Dot (March 26, 2015), Salon (March 28, 2015)

Despite what he wants you to think, Ted Cruz is not the great anti-politician of our time. In fact, he may be our most potent symbol of everything that is wrong with modern politics.

This would be hard to believe if you’ve been listening to him, of course. He desperately wants to be thought of as the one principled man in Washington—at least if your values hew closely to those of the Tea Party—but that posturing has alienated much of the party establishment. Ted Cruz attributes that development to them being “squishes,” while the rest of the world suspects it’s because Cruz is the kind of guy who goes around calling his co-workers names like “squishes.”

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Why Texas shouldn’t ban the Confederate flag from license plates

Published: Daily Dot (March 25, 2015)

Whether it’s Reddit trolls or real-life ones, freedom of speech in the Internet age can be very unpleasant.

The Supreme Court is currently preparing to hear a controversial case about whether the government of Texas has the right to ban hate speech from state-issued license plates; in this case, the issue is over use of a Confederate flag-based insignia by a hate group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Given the history of the flag, the Internet rightly has some feelings about the issue.

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Ted Cruz’s birthplace matters – but not for the reason you think

Published: Daily Dot (March 24, 2015), Salon (March 26, 2015), Interview with CBC – Edmonton (March 26, 2015)

It’s the hypocrisy, stupid.

Much mirth has already been derived from Ted Cruz’s announcement that he is running for president in 2016; Twitter users were sharpening their rhetorical knives with cutting hashtags in preparation for his official declaration, while pundits from Jamelle Bouie of Slate to Donny Deutsch of MSNBC’s Morning Joe have gone on record to proclaim that Cruz is unelectable.

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