How do we respond to Russia?

How much of a threat is Russia to US interests? I ask that question in all seriousness. There’s some indication that Russia is essentially no threat. There’s a couple articles over at the National Interest (here and here) that Russia isn’t a threat and that, basically, we should be friends with Russia. Sure, they took a chunk out of Ukraine and snapped up Crimea. Sure, they’re backing Assad in Syria. But they aren’t doing anything directly contrary to our interests. So, the argument goes, we should let them have their little regional sphere of influence. We should try to placate them.

In those articles, however, it fails to take in the other stuff. For instance, when Russia buzzes on the edge of British airspace, or when they send submarines through Swedish waters, or even the massive military buildup along the Ukrainian border.

How should the world interpret that? Let it go? Turn the other cheek? Be the better nation?

Putting aside my personal dislike for Putin and his ilk, I have to ponder what exactly is the proper response. On one hand, Russia isn’t directly doing anything that crosses any line. They’re intentionally being provocative, sure. They’re being assholes. But they aren’t violating anything directly. They’re being aggressive in that hormonal teenage way without actually picking a fight.

What is their goal and how should the rest of the world respond?


Kansas school funding

I came to this post to talk about how the Kansas legislature were a bunch of bastards for ignoring the Kansas Constitution. I came to say that the Kansas Supreme Court was keeping the legislature accountable to the Constitution. That’s the whole point of the Supreme Court! To hold the legislature to laws that the legislature itself passed! 

To explain a little more, I was vaguely aware that Kansas has an actual constitutional amendment that requires the school system be funded (it also does some other stuff). Now, I decided I should actually go check out the exact wording and that’s what I did. Said amendment requires the legislature to “make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”

Contrary to my initial reaction, now that I’ve actually looked at the exact wording of the amendment, I suddenly realized that they…well, they aren’t really ignoring it. The amendment doesn’t have any details. It doesn’t specify what is adequate funding. The wording is so vague that it could mean absolutely anything.

It all depends on what you think the “educational interests of the state” are. I’m not sure that it means a damn thing. However, let’s be honest here. The Kansas Supreme Court is the one body that actually gets to decide what that exact word specifically means. Not the legislature, not the governor, not school boards, no. The Supreme Court gets to decide. That’s what they do.

This mess with the school funding sparked a serious backlash where the Kansas legislature tried to redefine how the justices were appointed. In other words, the legislature declared open war with the courts. In response to the Supreme Court striking down that bit of outrageous theater, the legislature tried to DEFUND THE ENTIRE COURT SYSTEM. The legislature relented because it was pretty much the worst fucking idea ever.

I get the idea the Kansas Supreme Court is taking this way further than they should. I get the idea that they’re really reading more into that amendment that is really there. Yet, perhaps there’s some kind of established precedent that I missed with the school funding thing.

All I can say for sure is that the legislature is in the wrong. They tried to manipulate the court system in a way that clearly violated the sanctity of our entire system of checks and balances. You might say the courts were wrong to strike down this law, but it’s their job to decide what the laws mean. That’s what the courts do. But it’s not the legislature’s job to try to unduly influence the courts. It’s not for the legislature to decide how the courts vote. That’s the entire point of the Supreme Court. Sure, you might not like it, BUT THEY GET FINAL SAY. That’s how the system works.