ABOVE AND BEYOND

Posted in Rants on June 29th, 2015 by Ed

Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court ruled that every state is obligated to issue same-sex marriage licenses, surprised me with its breadth. In it the Court dealt with two distinct but closely related big-picture questions. First, is a state obligated to recognize a marriage license, including those for same-sex marriage, issued by another state when it differs from their own practice for issuing licenses? Second, must every state issue same-sex marriage licenses by law regardless of their current policy? I confidently expected the Court to rule on the former and punt on the latter. They didn't.

For nearly 20 years I have argued that same-sex marriage is miscast as a moral issue and obfuscated with all of these irrelevant discussions of tradition and the nature of marriage in Western society. To me, the question is and always has been solely a matter of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. Period. The FFCC mandates that states must recognize "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state." The FFCC is the reason that you do not need to get a new marriage or drivers license when you cross state lines. Your New York drivers license is valid in New Jersey, and when you get married in New Hampshire you don't need a new marriage certificate when you move to Vermont (and, crucially, you also don't need to return to New Hampshire to get divorced if you choose to do so).

In this light, my opinion has always been that as soon as gay marriage became legal in one state – any state – it was effectively legalized everywhere. Even if Hawaii were the only state to issue gay marriage licenses, the FFCC obligates every other state to recognize it. I expected the Court to rule decisively in this manner, requiring every state to recognize all marriage licenses issued by any other state as valid for its own purposes. This would have allowed the Court political cover, sidestepping any discussion of the nature of marriage, the "moral" rightness of different types of marriage, and so on. The result, I expected, was that gay marriage would become similar to what divorce used to be in terms of interstate heterogeneity. Back before divorce was widely accepted, for example, Nevada was the only state to grant quickie no-fault divorces. So it was not uncommon for couples to file for divorce in Nevada, where the process was quick and easy, and return to their home state with a dissolution of marriage that every other state would be legally obligated to recognize. So, in such a ruling the Court would allow two men in Mississippi to drive four hours, get married just across the state line in Illinois (or any other state legally recognizing gay marriages) and then return to Mississippi, which would now be required to grant that marriage license full faith and credit. In this reality, you can imagine the ad campaigns: Gay Wedding Packages to Lovely Colorado! Come to California, all weddings performed, same day licenses! New York, a wedding destination that welcomes all!

Would that have been ideal? Certainly not. But it would have given every person who wanted to get married in a manner not recognized by their home state a reasonable method by which they could do so. Traveling across state lines obviously represents a burden, but one that the Court historically would not recognize as terribly onerous. Anything within the reach of a Greyhound Bus ticket is generally recognized as being accessible.

Had the majority limited itself to that logic, I think they might even have gotten Roberts on board. As it stands, though, the five-justice majority was far bolder and appears to have settled the entirety of the issue. In my opinion, despite the fact that I agree with their conclusions I fear that they made the opinion a bit more open to future undermining in the process. Kennedy's defense of the nature of marriage and its status as a basic right is eloquent but also subjective. It's the type of decision that a future Court with a radically different composition could have a field day reversing. But that will take quite a while, and it seems highly likely that within the next few years gay marriage will become ingrained as a social institution and so unexceptional to the vast majority of the population that objections will cease beyond the comparatively small world of die-hard religious fanatics. And as the Court ruling affects only civil marriage – religious institutions are wholly unaffected by this decision – they won't have a leg to stand on anyway.

GUNS OF BRISTOL

Posted in Rants on June 25th, 2015 by Ed

NPF, as it sometimes must be, is postponed for something too good to pass up even for a few days.

Many of you no doubt wish you were more successful. I certainly wish I was. On the one hand, building financial security and a comfortable life for oneself seems – and demonstrably is – more difficult than ever right now. On the other, we have examples trotted out before us almost daily of people without a shred of talent or work ethic who make money by the trash bag. Why can't we follow their example? If a moron can find ways to do no work while profiting handsomely, surely a half-smart person can.

It boils down to dignity and connections. You need to know the people who can get you a ticket on the gravy train, and then you have to be sufficiently amoral to get on board. So clearly Bristol Palin is good to go on both counts.

It's predictable but disappointing to see so much of the criticism and humor here boil down to Slut Shaming; jokes about how she can't keep her pants on are not only factually precarious (If you want to be rational about it, there's no proof that she's had sex more than two times. Maybe she just has really bad luck.) but more importantly miss the point entirely. First of all, who gives a crap how much sex she has and with whom. That's not our business. She's a legal adult. Rather than focusing on that, how about we talk about the real problem here: the staggering ineffectiveness of "abstinence only" approaches to sex education that eschew birth control, and the equally staggering hypocrisy required to be a highly paid spokesperson for Saving It For Jesus or what-the-hell-ever while being sexually active.

Again, to be clear, there's nothing wrong with being sexually active. There's also nothing wrong with getting large paychecks to tell people that abstinence is a great lifestyle. But you kind of have to pick one. To do both…I can't imagine the extent of the mental gymnastics necessary to rationalize that inside your head.

The Alaska Hillbillies are a group of people who collectively I have zero respect or sympathy for. Bristol Palin is an adult who has made herself a public figure through her career choice and her decision (hers! she has agency!) to be a spokesperson for abstinence. So by all means, point and laugh. Drag her through the mud where she and her entire clan of grifting con artists spend so much time rolling around. But do it for the right reasons, please. Laugh at her because she can't figure out how condoms work or, even worse, that it's somehow a better decision to be young and sexually active without using any form of birth control. And laugh at her for being just one more log on the fire of right-wing hypocrites preaching morals absent from their own lives.

AMERICAN CRAPCEPTIONALISM

Posted in Rants on June 24th, 2015 by Ed

Thus far I've kept the promise to myself that I would limit the Thomas Friedman style "observational" posts as I drive across the continent. One won't kill anyone though, right? And I promise I didn't interview a cabbie.

The remote parts of the Yukon and Alaska have a lot in common. The distances are vast, the landscape inspires a mixture of wonder and terror, and the people who live in the region practice a kind of self-sufficiency that seems foreign to people in urban areas. When running to the grocery store involves a seven hour round-trip drive, you tend to approach life a bit differently.

People in the region appear to share a lot of characteristics whether American or Canadian. One tangible difference in crossing the invisible line between Canada and the U.S. is immediately apparent, though. Americans have a fondness for warning onlookers to KEEP OUT of their PRIVATE PROPERTY because TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT that their Canadian self-sufficient cousins demonstrably do not share.

It makes perfect sense that the kind of person who would willingly live in such an isolated manner are, shall we say, desirous of privacy. They do not welcome uninvited guests, they do not revel in the company of others, and they willingly disengage from social institutions. Probably not big fans of the government. Alaskans, though, seem to think that someone is coming to get them in a way that Yukoners (??) do not. There's an explicit hostility on the Alaska side that isn't present in the otherwise quite similar Canadian side of the vast, empty north.

On some level this amuses me – the idea that The Government or the Illuminati or anyone else is interested in Randy's plywood shack and rusted hulk of a derelict Plymouth Valiant is almost heartbreakingly delusional but not quite to the point where it can be considered touching. I want to sit these people down and explain to them that having physically removed themselves from society by hundreds of miles of forbidding terrain in a region that experiences nine annual months of complete darkness is enough to convince people that they wish to be left alone. And the rest of us look at their hand-to-mouth existence without envy. In fact, most of us think they are crazy. Nobody is interested in removing the collection of bleached caribou bones from their yard. Of course, they'd shoot me if I tried to have this or any other conversation with them.

Is it a need to feel Important? Do they grapple with their own insignificance by imagining that the U.N. and Obama are plotting to come after them? Are they afraid of ordinary crime, like teenagers stealing things from their tanning shed? Or are they simply reveling in a persecution complex that justifies the level of misery that is their lives? The most interesting question, though, is why an invisible border filters out such attitudes as one heads east. If anything, Yukon Canadians (many of whom are Native) would seem to have more cause to be angry at the world than Alaskans who get a check from the State every year for doing nothing. But here we see the folly of applying logic to crypto-survivalists brimming with outward hostility.

CAN v. SHOULD

Posted in Rants on June 21st, 2015 by Ed

Try this little experiment sometime. Walk up to a large person and say "Hey, you're FAT." When they get angry and when other people within earshot start calling you an asshole, state that the 1st Amendment protects your right to call people fat. It does, after all. And since you're able to call people fat, doesn't it follow logically that you should?

This is an example I've been using in class for a decade to introduce the section on freedom of speech / expression when we cover the Constitution and Bill of Rights. What the 1st Amendment protects our right to say is almost without limit. Seriously, take a look through Federal court cases involving free expression. Then look around the internet at the things people say without sanction. You can find examples of every conceivable objectionable expression of ideas: racism, blatantly incorrect facts and history, websites dedicated to ad hominem attacks on single individuals or groups of people, misogyny, anti-anything groups, and so on. Hell, the average news site comment section is guaranteed to contain at least a handful of exhortations to kill somebody. Put on a Klan outfit and march around your city. Scream "Fuck you, Kikes!" as loud as you can in public. Start a group advocating the extermination of Muslims. People will think you're an asshole, but the fact remains that you can do any of these things legally in the U.S.

Of course you don't do any of them, because the fact that you can does not mean that you should or that you will. As a human being with a basic awareness of the society in which you live, it doesn't take much thought to conclude that these are all terrible ideas even if they did enter your mind for some reason.

OK? Let's talk about the Confederate flag now.

Can you plaster Confederate flags on your car, home, and person? Yes. You can do the same with swastikas, Juggalo logos, or images of Cap'n Crunch if you feel like it. It's highly unlikely that the Courts ever will interpret the 1st Amendment otherwise. If you want people to think you are a jackwagon, go ahead and do any of those things. Otherwise, consider these good examples of how discretion moderates your enjoyment of the rights afforded to you.

The important thing to remember, in that light, is that displaying the Confederate flag is not illegal but it most emphatically is a dick thing to do. When Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry – Rick Perry! – and ultra right-wing Town Hall columnists say that it's time for the old Dukes of Hazzard flag to go, it's a pretty good sign that it is approaching swastika territory as the kind of symbol you're legally able to display but you might possibly probably be a major asshole if you do it.

As the aforementioned columnist states, "Like a lot of people below the Mason-Dixon Line – white people, anyway – I saw the emblem as a token of regional pride. I didn't revere slavery and Jim Crow. But I thought there was much about the South to love." You hear things like this a lot; it's a symbol of "southern pride", or honors the bravery of the Confederate soldier from 160 years ago, or heritage or tradition or blah blah blah. Try wearing a swastika t-shirt and telling curious onlookers that your purpose is to honor the memory of the Indus River Valley civilization of 3000 BC. They will look at you like you have brain damage or are in need of the padded van. So why should essentially the same argument hold any water with the flag?

It shouldn't. The Confederate States of America stood for "states' rights" alright – states' right to have slavery. If you want to honor your southern heritage, there are other symbols you could choose that don't stand for our racist past, the legacy of which fuels the racist present. You can choose symbols that aren't a giant, throbbing middle finger extended at about 30% of the population who are not white. Try your state flag. Try an image of your state or the whole south. Try literally anything that isn't a thinly veiled expression of semi-literate white underclass rage about the passing of the days in which they could stay off the bottom rung of the ladder simply by virtue of being white. Every time I see a Confederate flag I think of Gene Hackman in Mississippi Burning: "If you ain't better than a nigger, son, who are you better than?"

That's what the flag represents. So shut up about how you have the right to display it; you do. Spend a little more time thinking about whether it's a good idea. Think about what it says to other people. Think about what it says about you. When you get over your own stubborn ignorance you'll realize that it's not complicated. It's a very basic Can vs. Should problem with an obvious correct answer.

FASHIONABLE

Posted in Rants on June 15th, 2015 by Ed

(From a laundromat in Anchorage. Remind me to copyright the slogan "Anchorage: The Scenic Bakersfield!")

One sad but interesting development since the end of the second World War is the death of pacifism as an organized movement. Well, at least I find it interesting (Nicholson Baker's "Human Smoke" is a particularly good read if you're interested too). In the course of reading a book about Henry Ford, I was reminded about the Peace Ship debacle prior to World War I and the central role that religious groups used to play in the pacifist movement. And it wasn't just groups like the Quakers, whose stance on nonviolence remains well-known today. Major, mainstream Protestant religious groups – especially, curiously enough, evangelicals – the Catholic church, major Jewish organizations, and the like were all strongly associated with the anti-war movement before World War II.

Part of the difference today stems from the Hitler, Imperial Japan, and fascism making war a moral crusade that religiously inclined people felt safe getting behind. War is not a moral or ethical dilemma if one conceives of the potential target or opponent as the Third Reich. Unfortunately this has served as little more than a straw man since 1945, as whoever the western nations of the world feel like reducing to rubble happens to be "just like Hitler," coincidentally enough. Attempts to recreate the black-and-white morality of World War II in modern conflicts is not only idiotic, but seemingly mandatory on the part of political leaders.

What stands out to me is how much, in the United States, mainstream Christianity has bent and molded itself around the preferences and prejudices of the one demographic – white people, particularly conservative and rural white people – with which it is still popular. We know from all varieties of survey data that Americans are identifying with organized religion less than ever today, and even among identifiers the percentage of Protestants and Catholics is declining. Smaller religions like Mormonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, "New Age" belief systems, and so on are all growing at the expense of traditionally common Christian denominations.

Not to be accused of concern trolling, but it seems like a religion should have a belief system that tells followers or potential followers "This is the One True Path. Join us. If you're not interested, piss off, because the One True Path does not change for anyone." In practice we see American Christianity, particularly the evangelical variety, becoming hard to distinguish from a Support Our Troops rally, which makes sense when you realize both organizations are aiming at the same demographic. Religion seems to have ceded, at least in our case, the moral argument against violence and war. I haven't been a practicing Catholic in decades, but I do like the fact that the incumbent Pope is willing to remind his flock that there are things they should be opposed to beyond just abortion and The Gays – poverty, war, injustice, and other things that fly in the face of the Dignity of Life and Humankind thing that they care about collectively.

I may not be the kind of person to whom organized religion appeals, but nonetheless I understand the potential it has to be a positive force in the world and in the lives of individuals who do find it appealing. It would be nice, in that light, if American churches were willing to take some kind of moral stance against something other than the convenient target groups that its core supporters already hate. It's safe and easy to bash abortion from the pulpit; how about branching out and asking the congregation what exactly it needs all those guns for, or why they don't mind that an alarming number of unarmed black men seem to end up dead when they encounter police. I don't disrespect right-wing Christianity because of the beliefs per se, as there are tons of belief systems in the world I find ridiculous personally. I disrespect it because it tells the faithful what they want to hear while remaining silent about what they need to hear. "The customer is always right" is a poor strategy in this case.

AND IT'S ONLY JUNE

Posted in Rants on June 9th, 2015 by Ed

I usually express optimism here about once annually, and rather than procrastinating I decided to get it out of the way early this year.

One of the lessons of American history is that we're capable of social change but we take our sweet time doing it. Think about Dwight Eisenhower calling on American blacks to exercise "patience" in their calls for equal rights – nearly a century after the 14th Amendment ostensibly guaranteed them (and Thurgood Marshall's sick burn response, "I'm the world's original gradualist. I just think ninety-odd years is gradual enough.") And of course here we are sixty years later with some of the same problems left unresolved. We're….a little slow sometimes. Glacial, even.

There are some less bleak examples, though. In the past 20 years Americans, particularly those born since 1980, have done an about-face on gay marriage (57% opposed in 2001, 57% in favor today). That might not seem like much, but swings in public opinion on social issues usually play out over decades. The fall from 57% opposed in 2001 to 39% opposed today is significant.

As completely hopeless as the problem of excessive force and institutionalized racism in law enforcement seems – God knows the death toll isn't subsiding – I think Americans are starting to get it. Not all of us, of course. There's 30% of the population that is intractable on this and many other issues for a variety of reasons (usually something to do with racism and/or an Authoritarian-Follower personality type). The recent incident in McKinney, TX not only resulted in the cop losing his job but didn't see the usual number of people rushing in to defend him. Sure, some people still defended him, the ones would defend a white cop beheading someone for no reason as long as that person happened to be young and black. Moreso than other recent incidents, even those in which someone ended up dying, we seem much more willing to look at this video and say, "What the hell is wrong with that guy." I think – hope – that a growing number of people see this endless stream of videos of police brutality and weekly stories about unarmed black men being shot and think that maybe there's some kind of pattern here. If nothing else, people who don't pay attention to anything going on in this country might be forced into awareness through sheer repetition.

Don't get me wrong, there remain plenty of problems. Incidents in which cops actually get punished or prosecuted still inevitably require a bystander's video to keep the system from reverting to the default setting of believing whatever story the cops concoct. And the willingness of Americans to see themselves as Good People who have rights while others are Bad People who don't (or, more accurately, that the violation of their rights is fine because they're Bad and unworthy of sympathy) remains disturbingly high. Prosecutors and juries are deferential to police to the point of absurdity. Despite all that, there are reasons to be optimistic; not that the problem will be solved by Christmas or your next one's free, but that we are moving in a positive direction. The first step in solving the problem is admitting that it exists.

INCENTIVE STRUCTURE

Posted in Rants on June 2nd, 2015 by Ed

Like any professional association or interest group, the American Political Science Association bombards its members with emails, occasional junk mail, and various Calls to Action. Lately and quite regularly those Calls have been related to Congress's attempts to cut funding for the social sciences from the National Science Foundation. There are no data available but I suspect the response rate on the exhortations to "Contact your elected officials and tell them to fund the NSF!" is very low. Part of that is the nature of the shotgun approach to asking for help. Part of it is because while no one in the field doubts that funding the study of all subjects is inherently good for obvious reasons, the APSA is trying to mobilize its 10,000 members to save something that directly benefits about 0.5% of us.

As is the case in any profession, I assume, academia has a pretty rigidly defined class structure. If we're being honest with ourselves, 99% of the NSF funding in this field goes to tenured faculty at about three dozen universities – with the top 5 or 10 collecting a disproportionate amount. So when the APSA asks all of us to help it lobby for NSF funding, what it's really asking us to do is to petition Congress to help our social/professional betters stay on top of us. Sure, they push hard on the idea that NSF-funded projects affect us all, and that's not without merit. But if I'm self-interested – and who isn't, regarding their own professional advancement and compensation – I want to know why I should help Joe Blow get a $5 million dollar grant at Stanford to conduct a survey in the hopes that years down the line I can use the crumbs of the data to scavenge for publications knowing that Dr. Blow and colleagues have already published all the good stuff.

It's a nice case study of how the incentive to participate in politics declines as inequality rises. Maybe if the vast majority of the profession had a snowball's chance in hell of getting an NSF grant we would all be fired up about this and put some real pressure on the relevant members of Congress. Or, as I suspect many of us do, we look at it as the rich asking us to help them get richer in the professional sense and check out. That 50% of Americans who cannot be motivated to vote, or can be only at great cost, probably looks at the political process and draws the same conclusions. Hard to blame them. Survey data shows not only that income predicts participation but also that it predicts political efficacy – one's sense of whether participation is meaningful and the process itself is legitimate. The more money people have, the more they believe the political process is responsive to their interests. They believe that because it's true.

As a gainfully employed white male, I generally don't have a hard time paying attention to politics because the entire system and the society it reflects are biased in my favor. It's remarkable, though, how easy it is to disengage when that's not the case. No wonder so many Americans do it so often. We could debate whether the futility of politics is reality or merely a perception generated to keep the poor complacent. Either way, it's working like a charm.

THE CLOSET

Posted in Rants on May 31st, 2015 by Ed

Within hours of the Dennis Hastert news breaking, I texted two people I know who have met him on multiple occasions for their thoughts. Both stated that he did not Seem Like the Type but that the evidence of what he did is substantial and he is now persona non grata. This was a relief to hear, as it bothers me when people leap to "I know him and he would never do such a thing" defenses. What scandals like this remind But us is that whether our friends are nobodies like us or powerful elected officials, you never know them as well as you think they do. I sincerely believe that a lot of Hastert's friends, even family, are shocked by these revelations. They're shocked because you never suspect someone you know so well of harboring this kind of secret. But that's just it; everybody has secrets. Maybe, hopefully, not everyone has a secret as vile as having molested a minor. But show me somebody who has never done anything of which they are ashamed or was against the law and I will show you a liar.

It's not a defense of his actions in any way, shape, or form. Instead it is a reminder that humans are remarkably talented at hiding parts of themselves from one another. Even our spouses, our parents, our children, our best friends…no matter how well we think we know them, we never know them fully. What we've seen lately, this wave of men being outed for secret (and in some cases lawbreaking) lifestyles, is a result of our shrinking privacy. I don't mean that in the "The gub'mint's stealin' my emails!" sense, but rather a recognition that the ability to hide some secret aspect of one's life is becoming more difficult. If some pastor wants to have sex with other men on the side and ends up, as people do these days, using the internet to facilitate that, it's not a matter of if but of when it will become public knowledge.

I used to fancy myself someone who was a good judge of character, the kind of person who said he knew right away what a person is like. Over time and with experience I learned how silly that is. There are people in this world who are married for years and still don't know everything about one another, people who sit next to one another in the same office for forty years with no idea that one of them is swindling money from the company and the other hosts bi-weekly Craigslist anonymous orgy meetup in that charming little ranch house. So "I know Bob and he wouldn't do that" is one of the most dangerous conclusions a person can jump to. We don't know what the people we interact with and know are capable of. We've seen the cliche often enough, the reporter interviewing the neighbor of the recently unmasked serial killer saying "But he seemed like such a nice boy…"

Life is full of surprises; finding out what the people we know are hiding from us and from the rest of the world is the least pleasant type.

ABOUT FACE

Posted in Rants on May 26th, 2015 by Ed

Some things are funny because they are predictable, but it's a tricky kind of humor. When Leslie Nielsen turns to the bartender and asks for a Black Russian, you know with such certainty what's about to happen that there is no room left for humor when the visual punchline arrives. Foreshadowed is funny, telegraphed is not. Predictability is a source of humor more often when there is no overt attempt to be funny. When Charlie Brown lines up for the hundredth time to kick the football he's not trying to crack you up. It's funny because he doesn't know what's going to happen but you do.

When we saw the first reports of severe flooding coming out of Texas, I suppressed a soft chuckle. Not because I think death and destruction inflicted upon my fellow man is funny – no, the impending humor was the certainty that we'd be seeing Greg Abbott requesting Federal disaster relief aid by the end of the week. It may not take long, though, since he has already met with He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken in Texas.

Stop me if I've mentioned this before, but when I teach Intro American Government (a breadth course that forces you to cover a new topic every other class, with no time to address anything in real depth) I am a realist who accepts that the students are unlikely to remember more than a fraction of the details. So I try to make sure that there's one or two big points from each topic that they remember. With the obligatory chapter on federalism, the One Point is that states balk at Washington's involvement in their affairs only until they're begging for it. With the dire budgetary situation found in most states today, there is no Rainy Day money lying around for hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, measles outbreaks, or anything else that can't be forecast with certainty. All the tough-sounding talk about getting Washington off Our backs goes right out the window when things, as the kids say, get real. It is politically appealing for state-level politicians to bash the federal government; some of them may even believe it. They learn very quickly, however, that ideology goes out the window when the state is faced with billion dollars in repair and cleanup costs. No one's a states' rights advocate when a city is under water and the Coast Guard and FEMA are the only ones equipped to handle it.

The men who wrote the Constitution were more suspicious (earnestly so) of power in the hands of a national government than any of the corn-pone orators elevated into high offices today. Yet they understood the necessity of having such a government. Even if they don't realize it, people like Greg Abbott recognize it too. It takes very little reflection and imagination to come up with a dozen scenarios that would have even Sam Brownback reaching for the phone to beg for Washington's help faster than he could say "I've never met Josh Duggar."

WORTH REMEMBERING

Posted in Rants on May 24th, 2015 by Ed

Usually on Memorial Day I go through the list of people serving in the military who died in the previous year in Iraq or Afghanistan, choose someone at random, talk a little about who they were and what happened to them. Generally I think this holiday is misguided, though, in that it focuses on the sacrifices made to the exclusion of why they were made. As important as it is to recognize that the ordinary men and women of the military do what they are ordered to do regardless of whether they want to or think it's a great idea, recent history teaches us that we and the political process in which we participate have an obligation to think a little harder about when we require them to make that sacrifice. Because if you'll recall we didn't think too hard about it the last time it came up, and here we are, 13 years later still fighting wars that were pitched as brief excursions.

This is more important than ever now not because the events are so recent but because as we stand here today they are distant enough in the past to be forgotten. Worse, they are distant enough in the past to be remembered not entirely accurately, with the intervening decade slowly eroding away the details. We remember, but we remember selectively and heavily influenced by 13 years of re-imaginings and re-tellings that cast the events as we want them to be rather than as they were. The narrative of the well-intentioned political and media class acting in good faith – a phrase that has become the modern Nuremburg Defense, "just following orders" – leading us astray because of intelligence that unfortunately and unexpectedly turned out to be false has taken root with a large segment of the population. It is worrying to think of young people who don't recall the events from personal experience being exposed to such an appealing but wholly fictional version of events.

With Jeb Bush apparently being considered seriously for the presidency by some portion or the electorate, Iraq is likely to come up periodically in this election. And the early indications are that we are in for some brazen revisionist history. The "faulty intelligence" trope simply isn't true even if our recollection of the run-up to the wars is distorted as badly as the intelligence in question. Even giving it the benefit of doubt, the faults were a direct result of the ideological and political commitment to generating a specific narrative. To say "Knowing what we know now, I would not have done it" is the most intellectually dishonest of cop-outs, since the passage of time has only confirmed and added more detail to what was already known at the time. Facts will always remain unknown to people who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge them.

And people died because of it. Remember that part of the story today as well.