Defending the Indefensible

If you’re thinking about jumping into someone’s comments to try to defend three armed men chasing down and killing an unarmed man running on a public street… just don’t.

Their whiteness doesn’t give them authority or agency over brown bodies. Slavery is over. Jim Crow is supposedly over.

They had zero authority to do whatever it is they said they were trying to do.

Before you say anything, and I mean anything, examine what you’re really thinking and why you feel you need to defend them; interrogate your own learned racism.

Read Understanding and Dismantling Racism. Read The Half Has Never Been Told.

Until then, please choose to stay quiet. No one needs your opinion, especially not people hurting over yet another case of white men who think they’re judge, jury and executioner.

Mourn with those who mourn. May justice be done.

Letters to My Congressman

My local congressman, Buddy Carter, sends out a weekly newsletter and this week’s was a doozy. I don’t normally write to him, because I’m not sure it does any good, but I had to in this case.

Here’s what I wrote. Feel free to use it and write to your representatives.

In your latest newsletter you say the following: “I believe committing this horrific act removes all civil liberties and they should be investigated in whatever way is necessary. This is now an issue of national security and it is ridiculous that Apple is not participating in the investigation of known murderers and terrorists.”

This paragraph shows an amazing lack of understanding of the Constitution and our fundamental civil rights, and a failure to grasp the most basic facts of not just what the FBI is asking Apple to do, but the FBI’s own actions that led to where we are right now.

I’ll leave the constitutional questions to someone else, but the technical ones are simple:

  1. Creating a backdoor, ANY backdoor, for the FBI means that Apple will have to give that backdoor to any government in any country they do business in. Submitting to this request of our government means that they have to give that back door to repressive regimes in China, the middle east, etc.
  2. Creating a back door, ANY back door, in encryption or security means that back door can be exploited by any one – good guys, bad guys, terrorists, etc.
  3. The FBI wouldn’t be in this situation if they hadn’t asked local law enforcement to change the suspects’ Apple ID password. If they’d left it as is, Apple could have gotten into their account and given the FBI whatever they wanted – as they have done in many many cases.

This isn’t a simple case, but just demanding that Apple do what the FBI asks denies the complexity of the issues and weakens security for everyone.

We need strong encryption, unfettered by ill-informed and ill-advised government demands, for ALL of us to be safer. Any weakness at all can be exploited by the bad guys just as easily as the good – and like people are so fond of using the 2nd amendment as a “check against unchecked tyranny” – strong encryption is an even better check against that tyranny, and not just in the US.

I ask that the government get smarter, that our representatives gets smarter, about thinking about how to perform their duties and catching criminals than asking the innovative companies that drive our economy to get dumber.

Thank you for your time,

Kevin Lawver

We’ll Never Understand

So far, I’ve seen statements from at least 3 politicians, who have no problem expressing strong opinions about people outside their religion and race; who never let their own ignorance keep them from pronouncing judgement on others, say today that we’ll “never understand the motivations” of the monster who killed 9 people last night in Charleston.

Why reserve your whip-smart judgement now? Why be so “sensitive” and offer your “prayers”? Could it be because your ignorant ramblings maybe inspired this guy?

Media figures and politicians demonize entire races and religions all the time, saying, like Glenn Beck did, that people are “willing to lay down their lives” for whatever batshit crazy cause they’re spouting off about. And then, when some crazed lunatic actually DOES WHAT THEY SO SLYLY SUGGEST, they clasp their hands and say they’re praying for the victims and say we’ll never understand what drove them to do such a horrible thing.

We know. They were inspired by parents, by the talk radio hosts they listen to, by the politicians that pander to any loony zealot who will vote for them (or give them money), by the mentally unhinged bastards who say we’re at war with everybody.

So, maybe instead of just praying for the victims, we should stop being such assholes and preach the religion we say we follow? Preach peace. Preach understanding. Preach forgiveness and humility. Teach your kids not to be racist. Teach your kids to love their neighbors (no matter who they are).

These tragedies are avoidable, and praying for the victims is the least you can do. Condemn violence. Condemn racism. Condemn those who make targets out of innocent people. And if you are one of those people, stop it already. You’re the problem. Be a part of the solution.

What’s Happened to the Boy Scouts?

They’re now training Explorer scouts to ‘combat terrorism’. That’s crazy. As a wee bit of backstory, I’m an Eagle Scout. I was a Cub Scout and in scouting from age 8 to about 17 when I was a junior assistant scoutmaster. I got my Eagle when I was fourteen and was an Explorer.\
I can’t imagine what the point of this is other that a bunch of macho jackasses being, well, macho jackasses – and passing it on to kids. It’s just sad that Scouting has come to this; I’m not sure what else to say about it other than I’m disappointed and that my kids won’t follow me into Scouting.

Categorized as terrorism

Bad Idea

Can we agree now that the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea? Nothing that the Administration said would happen has happened:

  • There were no WMD.
  • Saddam had no ties to Al Qaeda.
  • We weren’t greeted as liberators.
  • Fighting them there hasn’t made us safer here.
  • Democracy hasn’t “flourished” in Iraq or been a good example to anyone.
  • We could fight the war on the “cheap”.
  • We could do it without losses. If you think the war is worth it, worth the sacrifice, read this, and think about it again.\
    On top of the things that the Administration got completely wrong, they’ve turned this country upside down. The United States of America has now admitted to torturing suspects. We’ve admitted to hiding prisoners in secret and illegal prisons scattered throughout the world. We’ve sent innocent people to other countries to be tortured for knowledge they didn’t have. We’ve let Osama bin Laden escape for 5 years. That’s five years of tough talk and inexcusable mistakes at all levels of government.\
    Whatever the President’s intentions, or the intentions of those who support him, he’s a complete and utter failure. And that’s not a “partisan” statement. Really think about it. Look at what he said would happen in Iraq, or after Katrina, or how we would find bin Laden. Nothing he has promised has happened. Nothing he has claimed has turned out to be true. He told us we don’t torture. He told us we followed the Geneva Conventions. He told us New Orleans would be rebuilt. He’s either a liar, or the most imcompetant leader in modern history… I’d bet on both.\
    Our government is a disgrace, a disgrace to its citizens, its history and its ideals. It’s time to do something to change it.\
    How? Vote. Vote in November and do what you can to kick out of office anyone who supports our incompetant president and his cronies, no matter what party they belong to. Yes, most of them happen to be Republicans, but the Democrats are still responsible for not standing up stridently enough. They could have stopped the Patriot Act. They could have done more to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. Some Democrats, like Joe Lieberman, actually support this Administrations ridiculous policies.\
    Vote for people who will hold them accountable, who will find the truth, and do something about it. If we don’t, we’re just as guilty as those who approved the torture, who ordered the bombs to be dropped, who have failed so completely to do the right thing.

Not much has changed

Five years ago, I really thought my world was going to change drastically. I had flashes of a WW2-style life, with money being scarce for everyone, goods being rationed, and the economy in general being unstable. I remember wondering if my husband could still pay the mortgage if he lost his job and had to work for Best Buy instead. Some friends bought a brand new (expensive) minivan just days after 9/11 and I was incredulous. I thought they should have saved their money for when all hell broke loose. Did anyone else feel like this back then?\
But really? Not that much has changed for me personally. All of my military family members are out. My husband won’t ever be drafted for health reasons and my sons are too young. Gas prices are higher, but not prohibitively so. Security is higher at airports, but that is more annoying than actually life-changing.\
With all of the loss, and I am talking about more than the 3000 that died that day, I feel like there should be more of an impact here. We are destroying Iraq, and yet… I don’t know.\
I am not a Muslim, not an Arab, not a New Yorker, not involved with the military or airlines, and not suspected of any crime. I feel like the only lasting change for most of the country (and most of the country probably falls into the above category) is a general feeling of anxiety. Does anyone else feel like this?\
I am not saying things were peachy for me after 9/11. I remember the local scares, the tanks, the paranoia, the evacuations, and the talks Kevin and I had about what would we do if Max were at his mom’s if a report of a dirty-bomb went off (She had plans to immediately hit the road, but we did not). But those specific fears went away. And now I am left with what, besides an extreme distaste for Bush?

Categorized as terrorism

No Excuses, No Rationalization

Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority. Every act constituting torture under the Convention constitutes a criminal offense under the law of the United States. No official of the government, federal, state or local, civilian or military, is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to commit torture. Nor may any official condone or tolerate torture in any form. No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture. US law contains no provision permitting otherwise prohibited acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be employed on grounds of exigent circumstances (for example, during a state of public emergency) or on orders from a superior officer or public authority, and the protective mechanisms of an independent judiciary are not subject to suspension. (Report of the United States to the UN Committee against Torture, October 15, 1999, UN Doc. CAT/C/28/Add.5, February 9, 2000, para. 6.)\
With today’s revelations about white phosphorus, and the continued revelations about “black sites” and Cheney’s continued lobbying for torture exemptions, it’s high time someone goes to jail.\
I’ve never been more disappointed in my country. I was embarrassed by the Lewinsky thing, because I saw it as a case of sexual harassment. I thought impeachment was the right thing to do, because there was obvious wrong-doing and a crime was committed (even if it wasn’t the one they charged him with). But this? THIS?!\
There is no excuse. There is no rationalization. There is no way to cover this up or make it go away. Our government has committed atrocities in the name of “freedom” and put a huge bloody mark on our flag that may never go away. It’s time for people to stand up and say “no more”. Write your congressman, write your senator, write the President. This has to stop, and those responsible have to be held accountable.\
bq. US law contains no provision permitting otherwise prohibited acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be employed on grounds of exigent circumstances (for example, during a state of public emergency) or on orders from a superior officer or public authority, and the protective mechanisms of an independent judiciary are not subject to suspension.\
It’s already the law, and we’ve already broken it. In the past, we’ve gotten exemptions for US soldiers and military leaders from international courts, but you know what, this is a case where it may be justified to turn Bush, Cheney and anyone else who endorsed and passed down the pro-torture rules, over to the Hague. It’s not the soldiers’ fault, it’s their commanders.\
This makes me think of Abu Ghraib. Since we now know that torture was a part of the policy, what does that mean for Lyndie England and the other enlisted soldiers who were found guilty? Why hasn’t anyone in a position of authority been held responsible?\
We’re supposed to be better than this. We’re supposed to be land of the free, home of the brave, not the land of the war criminal, home of the torturer. We can’t spread freedom if we’re also spreading torture, death and oppression. They’re mutually exclusive. You can’t build a democracy from the scorched bones of women and children. You can’t wipe away the stain of secret torture prisons without someone paying the price for it.

Probing The Wrong End

GOP leaders urge leak probe into secret prisons report\
I would think that whoever leaked the information would be covered under the whistle blower law. The tactic is illegal, and they’ve uncovered illegal activity. Classified or not, the leaker should be given a medal, not investigated.\
Again, the GOP has it backwards:

  • The crime is the torture, not pointing out the torture.
  • Outsourcing torture is worse than doing it ourselves. It’s a cowardly act.
  • The traitor is the one who drags our country’s reputation through the mud, not the one who points it out.
  • The traitor is the one who ignores treaties and established international law when it suits their narrow purpose.
  • The liar is the one who said no one in the White House was involved in the leak when they knew they were, not the one who revealed the lie.
  • The patriot wants us to live up to our ideals, not throw them away at the drop of a hat.
  • The patriot points out failure in the hope of fixing them, doesn’t cover them up hoping to save face.
  • The hero does the right thing even though it’s hard, not the expedient thing because it’s the easy choice.\
    The moderates in the GOP that I truly respect: McCain, Hagel, Snowe, Warner and others, are not in control. The crazy cold and culture warriors are driving the ship of state into the rocks, and it’s time for the sane members of the party to do something about it. McCain’s push for the anti-torture legislation, which shouldn’t even be needed because torture is already illegal has revealed the cracks in the Administration’s armor. “We don’t torture, but we want exemptions in case we do… you know, torture.” is not going to fly, because the memos written by the Administrations lawyers redefining torture and dismissing those same laws and treaties are already out there.\
    The problem, Mr. President, is that we don’t trust you any more. We were willing to give you the benefit of the doubt after 9/11, but no longer. You’ve lied and failed too many times for us to believe anything you say. You saying “We don’t do torture” has no value after “I’ll fire anyone involved in the leaking of classified information”, and “We know right where the weapons of mass destruction are”. You’re going to have to give us more proof than a smirk and a wink. Stop the obstruction and give us some real proof..

Wrong Is Wrong

CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons\
How do we justify this? If this is against the law, both US law, and treaties we’ve agreed to as a country, and the President can’t sign a “finding” that breaks the law – how were we able to do this? Why didn’t someone in the government put a stop to it?\
Are we so far gone as a country, so without ethics, so without a moral compass, that we’re not all outraged by this? We’re in the business of torture.\
I’m ashamed of my government. It’s time for us, as a nation, to take a long hard look at ourselves, and how our government represents us.\
We should demand better. There are solutions to terrorism and to the other problems that plague us that don’t require torture and don’t require us to turn against our better nature.\
Shame on us for not demanding better. Shame on us for re-electing the fools who brought us here. Shame on us and Congress and our courts for not holding them accountable.

Categorized as terrorism

What I’ve Been Up To

I’ve totally redone the categories, so they’re more tag-like. I’m also slowly going through all the posts I did while I was on Blogger, over 600 of them, and moving them to their appropriate categories. It’s been fun going back and looking at some of the stuff I wrote a few years ago. It’s a lot of fun.\
Tonight, I got to my posts around September 11th, now in a new category called terrorism that’s slowly growing. I expect the memories to come flooding back when I get to the sniper attacks here in DC. For us, they were almost worse than September 11th. It went on longer, and had the whole area wracked with fear for so long – all at the same time the anthrax scare happened. All of it local, all of it random, all of it could strike anyone at anytime.\
Keep an eye on the categories. They’ll keep moving around, and I’ll be redesigning the archives page in the near future.