All posts by Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Quick Hits 2014 Pt. 1

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*I have to admit that my first reaction was surprise when I learned that someone was bringing a lawsuit based on comments on Twitter.

Twitter is supposed to be something fun and frivolous. But then I thought about it a bit more and concluded that the plaintiff had a case.

Although its origin may be as a leisure activity, Twitter is the way corporations communicate with their patrons, the way entertainers communicate with their fans. Some folks are being paid good sums of money to tweet positive things about products so it isn’t unreasonable to think their tweets can have an equally negative influence.

As long as someone can argue that American interests are tied in the sovereignty of every country, the United States will never be able to look the other way when other countries undergo upheavals.

The Ukraine needs to resolve what they will do about Russian bellicosity. We can help but at the core this isn’t our fight.

Utah hasn’t given its electoral college votes for the liberal candidate in a presidential election since 1996. Arizona hasn’t since 1948, and Truman was seen more as an unknown than a liberal. But if the governors of these two highly conservative states perceive that laws allowing for discrimination based on sexual orientation are a bad idea in their states – it might be time to call this fight over.

While I might disagree with the way in which it was formed, I admire one of the ways Israel maintains its sovereignty: universal draft. Countries like Israel, that exist amidst multiple nations hostile to its existence, should have the “all hands on deck” philosophy they do. And if we are going to continue to stick our nose in everything we should have the same policy.

I understand that coal companies cannot control the weather. But that is exactly why the Environmental Protection Agency exists. The EPA needs to oversee pollution to make sure that just because West Virginia is lenient on emissions that it doesn’t become the problem of neighboring states. The Supreme Court ruled correctly. And yes they were waiting for my confirmation of a job well done.

It is sad to know that girls are being kidnapped in Nigeria simply because they pursue an education. It is confusing that the people taking credit for the kidnapping are so upset that women don’t know their place in society that they believe the answer is forced sex slavery – I don’t’ think that is the role they envision for women generally speaking. But the silver lining is this: their actions are universally recognized as wrong. This would suggest that most women in Nigeria have less to worry about than women in Sudan or Kazakhstan where violence against women sparks less of an outrage.

Everyone should be able to contribute to the political discussion in the United States. Certainly some who are more politically inclined will contribute more than those who are not; ditto for those with more time and the means versus those with less time and means. But if we are to perpetuate the fallacy that corporations are people the same way you or I, then there must be some change to the way “people” can monetarily contribute to the political discussion.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected]

obama & boehner

The Socialist’s Journal: Boehner vs. Obama

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*Since the ratification of the Constitution there has always been a tense balancing act between the three branches of the federal government; each branch trying to gain authority at the expense of the other two.

The lawsuit being brought by Speaker of the House John Boehner against President Obama is simply the latest round of one-ups-man-ship. In other words don’t expect anyone within government to take this seriously – and nor should they.

The President is charged with enforcing the laws of the land, specifically the federal laws. However there are a lot of laws and priorities must be set. So when presidents issue orders to their staff (and the entire executive branch is basically under their direction), from one perspective it is a president emphasizing what should have their attention. From a different perspective it is a president dictating that federal agents ignore what’s important. Which perspective you take usually depends on whether you align with or against the president doing the emphasizing.

That a president would take it upon himself to issue executive orders is not a new phenomenon. And that folks of a differing opinion would be upset is also old news. What is new, at least since the mid 20th century, is the amount of power vested in office of the presidency. The threat of the Cold War made it understandable (even desirable) that the president would act on his own in the best interest of the country. After all he had access to information that Congress and the Supreme Court did not. In this way the Cold War permanently altered the balance of checks and balances set up in the Constitution.

Speaker Boehner’s lawsuit is supposed to be about the dislike of the President taking liberty to nullify the influence of Congress by running the country as he sees fit instead of according to the laws Congress passed. But what Boehner’s lawsuit truly reveals is the change in the country since the presidency has been imbued with extra power. Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has faced similar criticisms and in a way each of them have deserved it. That should tell us something about the nature of the office, not necessarily the nature of the men who inhabit the office.

When the office of the presidency was conceived it was assumed that George Washington would hold the job first. Many of the powers of the presidency that seemed scary were adopted because everyone knew that Washington would not take advantage of them. And yet even Washington believed it was the duty of the president to look at laws that Congress passed and determine if they should be enforced. This was his interpretation of how the executive branch checked the legislative branch and balanced power between them. So when Obama decides if and how to enforce certain laws he isn’t doing anything new or special. Neither is Boehner when he voices disapproval. The lawsuit is a new and interesting wrinkle.

Even if it will go nowhere.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: From the International Sports Wire

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*NBA – The league announces its plans to expand in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The ownership is debating whether the team will be called the Las Vegas Loansharks or the Las Vegas Pointshavers.

PGA – The tour announced a new event to take place overseas in Poland. The Kike Open is expected to attract many of the country’s up-and-coming golfers and raise significant funds for the national golf academy.

Handball – China has decided to change the name of its national team for the next international competition. Those in charge say the new name the Chinks should be a sense of national pride.

Baseball – An independent minor league that has teams in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia has agreed to take on another team in Alabama. The Selma Rednecks will be holding open tryouts next month.

Cricket – The number one ranked club team in India has decided to change it’s name to the Curry Munchers to take advantage of lucrative sponsorship opportunities. They already have interest from multiple North American corporations.

Volleyball – The Under 16 Volleyball team of Japan will take to calling themselves the Nips. Officials cited the slight build of the players necessitating smaller uniforms because less letters fit.

Basketball – In an effort to promote harmony among ethnic groups in their respective countries, South Korea, Guatemala, and Liberia have announced that they will host youth teams from the other countries in a series of games. Parents interested in joining the Twinkies, Triskets, or Oreos should contact the offices of the clubs. Be advised only those with a mixed European heritage should call.

WNBA – Many former players have expressed interest in getting back into the league should the rumored expansion occur. A sister team to the brand new Las Vegas franchise would carry the nickname the Coffee Getters. No word yet on what the team colors would be.

MLB – In an effort to reach out to fans in Mexico Major League Baseball World Series champion will play a series of exhibition games next spring against the team that has won the last four Mexican league championships. The Wetbacks have gone an astonishing 40-6 in the last four postseasons. Observers think their speed is the main reason for their success.

Soccer – The Saudi Arabian national team will go by the nickname the Towelheads during the qualifying matches for the next World Cup. Coaches said it would do them well to embrace their history and traditional garb.

NFL – Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, recently renewed the team’s contract with a local vendor to provide refreshments at home games. Snyder pledged 10% of all vending sales from next season to help fight racial profiling in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Nation Building

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*Some people point to the budding revolution apparently led by Al-Qaeda and conclude that Obama’s policy of pulling American troops out of the country has failed.

My contention is that the failure of Obama’s policy is the final in a series of events based on a perspective destined for failure.

Any insurgency in Iraq today is really a failure in the exercise of nation building started by George W. Bush when he committed American forces to the task of overthrowing Sadaam Hussein; Hussein’s regime had to be replaced with something. But if the fall of cities to Al-Qaeda is any indication there is a substantial segment of the Iraqi population that didn’t appreciate the American version of society we attempted to establish.

American style nation building is an activity that epitomizes a Cold War mentality. The idea was to create artificial allies all over the world by toppling regimes and installing governments that would align with the United States. We may have ridding the world of some bad guys in the process but the reality is that we also established and strengthened some bad guy as well – see: Husein, Sadaam. Nation building is a bad idea because it makes the goal of having allies not good enough and instead allies have to be of a certain type.

Nation building is especially a problem when an alternative is examined, the idea of a Muslim or non-democratic country befriending the United States and the United States accepting that friendship. Such a relationship might be hard to imagine but the basis of American foreign policy until the Cold War was simply maximizing friends. Ideology was a secondary consideration and so Muslim friends were okay and nation building was unnecessary. But once we became the most powerful country on earth, we tried to enforce our philosophy on potential friends.

The Vietnam War, thought by many across the political spectrum to be the worst episode in American foreign policy during the 20th century, illustrated that nation building doesn’t always work. More importantly it illustrated that the world doesn’t end when American nation building fails. Unfortunately everyone focuses on the first of these lessons without realizing that the second lesson undermines the very idea of forcing a people to do things our way.

The insurgency in Iraq gives the United States a chance to wash its hands of a situation. If the philosophy of Al-Qaeda is just too much for American moral sensibilities, then let’s get ready for another Vietnam-like quagmire.

And then let’s wonder why we exercise these morals sporadically.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Perception and Reality

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*People say “perception is reality” as if it is an accepted fact even though it is the laziest and most destructive idiom in contemporary society.

I realized this while watching the end of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on Friday and reflecting on how people view Lebron James had changed in the past few years. While I acknowledge that I live in the New York City metropolitan area so people here were a bit more upset than those in other places because we felt directly snubbed, four years ago the conversations people had about James was that he was talented but didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to win a championship. People said that James was joining Dwanye Wade’s team and that James could not be compared with the holy trinity of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan, because he was taking the easy way out. The perception of James was that he was not good enough and that became the reality.

In criticizing James for deciding to join the Miami Heat what most people were saying (outside of the cities that were options but didn’t get chosen – like New York) is that they didn’t like the idea of James being in control of his destiny. When the Lakers formed a team of all-stars including Johnson that was fine; when the Celtics maneuvered to acquire three Hall of Fame players and two borderline Hall of Famers including Bird that was alright; when the Bulls formed a team that had two of the top fifty players of all time as recognized by the NBA that was hunky-dory; when James, after giving the Cavalier franchise almost a decade to surround him with quality players, took matters into his own hands somehow this alters people’s perceptions about him.

All of a sudden James was perceived as less than worthy of a championship and that made people misstate the reality of his basketball ability. Four years later we know see the folly of allowing that perception to dictate the story that James wasn’t a good enough basketball player. Over the past three seasons we have seen him make the Miami Heat his team and win two championships and be a runner up in the other season.

This is a minor problem as it relates to bar arguments about sports. But it is a real problem as it relates to other areas in life. Because when you allow perception to become reality it is basically a way of avoiding doing the work of really finding out what is behind the first layer. And often that first layer is something that is crafted by a person or company for a specific reason.

Companies that spend lots of money on advertising do so to change the perception of their company and the products or services that the company offers. But all the ads in the world don’t change the facts. In the mid 2000s Enron bought the naming rights to the Houston Astro baseball stadium in order to seem like an all-American company, but in reality they were engaging in terrible business practices. More recently the financial crisis caused by the mortgage industry was a result of people accepting the perception that the derivative securities they were purchasing were solid when in fact they were based on high risk home loans. Allowing perception to become reality because you’re just too lazy to do your due diligence can be extremely dangerous.

And the funny thing is most people would not accept perception being reality in their personal lives. Meeting someone for a first date gives you an impression of that person. But most of us would not let that initial perception guide our thinking for very long. Bringing flowers to a woman on the first date might lead to a second date, but if a guy acts like a jerk during the second date or if the two people simply don’t have a lot in common, the reality that there isn’t a love connection will soon become apparent and the initial perception is rendered moot.

It’s basically the idea of doing one’s homework.

I prefer to operate by the idea that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. If you don’t want to read the entire book that’s okay but at least open it and read a few pages before drawing a conclusion.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: The Triumph of Western Civilization

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*This might sound like a biased statement but I can’t help but declare that western civilization is in charge of the world right now.

Perhaps it wasn’t always that way, perhaps some would argue that different region of the world is on top, perhaps someone with a conspiracy theory would say that it’s really just these dozen dudes, but I don’t want to get bogged down in that point.

Because assuming that western civilization, that I define as being led by a few countries in Western Europe and their favorite son the United States of America, is in charge of the world means that it is important to understand how and why this reality came to be.

The simple answer is geography. The slightly more complex answer is a lack of natural resources that forced certain behaviors.

The basic story of civilization is that people band together to pool resources and strengthen security. Of course the first of these goals (pooling resources) increases the likelihood that you’ll need to accomplish the second goal because your society becomes a target for others to attack once they see how prosperous you are. This is especially true when natural resources that are considered valuable are scarce.

Western Europe is geographically situated in such a way that there are no threats coming from its western border because that border is an ocean. To the north are some societies that were once competitive but ultimately waned because their geography gave them a much smaller margin for error. It’s easier to survive mistakes in the lower temperate zone than it is in the upper temperate to frigid zone. To the east are other civilizations but that have the disadvantage of being centrally located and therefore must face threats from all sides. And to the south is another major body of water. Consequently Western Europe was spared the same pressure of invasion and being taken over.

In addition Western Europe is not the largest region of the world which meant that while there were relatively fewer invasions from outside the region, there was lots of warring within the region. This fact is that much more important with regard to the relative scarcity of valuable resources. With little space and competition over resources Western Europeans honed their military, and to a lesser extent, their diplomatic skills. So when Western European countries encountered those from outside of that region they consistently triumphed with the exception of Asian conflicts and that was because of the basic numbers. Throughout the late Middle Ages European countries explored the world looking for new natural resources as a way to gain a leg up on their neighbors. When they encountered other civilizations they were able gain the upper hand because of superior weaponry (thanks to their militaristic history dictating that they advance their weaponry as much as possible). Then throughout the 19th century as industrialization became more central to society, coal (one mineral that multiple western European countries count as a natural resource) became the method of fueling the new way of life thus cementing their lead over countries in other parts of the world. As globalization became more and more a reality (19th – 20th centuries) western European countries doubled down on their advantages and maintained control of the world through diplomacy and military supremacy.

The United States is not geographically part of western Europe of course but it was founded by those with a western European heritage and took part in the same practices. In fact the geographic isolation that allowed western Europe an advantage in global competition initially is the same reason that the United States is currently on top. Through two world wars the United States was able to participate with little threat of its homeland being invaded and destroyed. Voila – after the second conflict while everyone else is rebuilding, America takes the driver’s seat.

This is not meant to disparage western civilization at all. It’s not their fault that the countries of western Europe understood competition better than those in other parts of the world. But let’s not pretend that it was their embrace of free markets, democracy, or Christianity (all reasons I’ve heard in trying to explain why western civilization conquered other parts of the world where those things are absent to a degree).

It was kill or be killed; they knew it; and they killed.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at trevormbro[email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.