Currently viewing the tag: "war on terror"

I also have this sweet new graphic.Nothing justifies slaughtering a bunch of cartoonists and editors, or police officers trying to save lives. Let’s get that essential, should-be-obvious truth out of the way first and foremost.

Though some prominent people like Glenn Greenwald and the writers at the leftist Jacobin magazine found Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons to be from distasteful to downright racist, no one is saying the French satirists deserved this monstrous assassination. There is something fundamentally (pun intended) terrifying about killing people over words and images.

Yet, there’s something frustrating about the response to the tragic murders in Paris on Wednesday. This is because the miserable muck that is the war on terror reminds us, as do all wars, that some animals are more equal than others. In the face of this disturbing crime, it would be nice to feel rallied towards civil liberties, and freedom of speech. Rallied towards not living on your knees, as the late editor Stéphane Charbonnier said he would do even after the Charlie Hebdo offices were bombed in 2011. But it isn’t that simple.

The perpetrators of the Paris attack – now identified, with one in custody – should be found and brought to justice. But oh, If only one could depend on a narrowness of response – that only the terrorists responsible would be punished for every attack, and no freedoms, no domestic privacy or rights would be sacrificed; no innocent Muslims or their houses of worship assaulted or oppressed, and no civilians would be caught in any crossfire of any ensuing international effort.

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  • It's all true.

    It’s all true.

    A meeting of minds on sites for which I write: Antiwar.com’s Justin Raimondo chats with Rare’s Kurt Wallace, mostly about Rand Paul’s prospects.

  • Also, I enjoyed this Eric Garris (also Antiwar.com) chat with Alan Colmes, of all people, from this summer. They talk about the return of Americans to Iraq, which is a topic that gets more relevant every damned day.
  • Since I’ve been internet creeping on Eric and Justin lately — thanks to many epic Eric stories — here are some other good things. Let us admire Justin’s completely un-hidable contempt for a security state creep who looks like a painted LEGO in this Freedom Watch interview. And Eric being generally insightful and well-spoken in this RT thing from a few years back.
  • Boohoo, Bruce Springsteen played “Fortunate Son” at a 11/11 rally. Jesse Walker has the best response to this non-controversy.
  • Apropos of none of these topics, I wrote a thing for Rare about how the sex offender registry is bad.
  • I guested on Tiffany Madison’s Bourbon and Bitches podcast twice in the past month.

This one is about online harassment, rape laws, and other feminist-leaning topics.

This one is about net neutrality, the troops, and my half-assed defense of Lena Dunham. Also sex robots. Tiffany loves to discuss sex robots.

Let me declare this is today’s video, if only to keep on practicing at not being a music snob. Or being the kind of music snob who likes certain pop music. Which I don’t usually.

But this is pretty fun.

And yet — and yet:

This is why I don’t understand people who only or mostly listen to poppy stuff. It’s fun, it’s good, until you listen to realer stuff. You’re not bad, Taylor, you just gotta know your place.

potAmerica’s National Security Agency (NSA) records and archives nearly every single phone call in the Bahamas. We’re not just talking call logs. Call content of that nation of 370,000 people is being snooped on as well.

That came as news to the Bahamian government when The Intercept broke the story this week. NSA reportedly used the legal access granted by the Bahamas to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as cover for its secret, somewhat less legal inroad into the Bahamas mobile phone services.

America’s excuse for this vast violation of the privacy rights of an entire nation was the usual spiel about national security concerns, with one alarming but predictable twist. As the Intercept notes, this program is being used to go after “international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers.”

The website also published a partially-redacted NSA memo that notes how the lines between the wars on terror and drugs have blurred over the years, and the war on the latter has “equally high” stakes as the former.

Lines have indeed blurred. Now, while activists, advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and rare pro-freedom politicians such as Rep. Justin Amash continue to fight against NSA spying, it behooves us all to remember that it’s not just No Such Agency that we need to worry about.

If the now-toothless attempt at reform, the USA FREEDOM Act, can’t even collar the NSA, how are we supposed to go after the other enemies of privacy and freedom such as the DEA, especially when they’re so cozy with the other federal agencies?

The line between soldiers and cops became hazy under presidents Nixon and Reagan. But it wasn’t until George H.W. Bush’s invasion of Panama that the idea of the war on drugs as a grand, international campaign really took off.

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steigerwald-montage-2On May 21, the $700 million dollar National September 11 Memorial Museum opened to the general public,12 years and change after that awful, now-historic day in September.

The museum provoked controversy for years before it even opened. The astronomical cost – a mixture of private and government funding – to build the thing, as well as the $24 cost of admission is just one sore spot. More painfully, some families of 9/11 victims spent years in court fighting the placement of 8,000 unidentified remains of some 1000 people into a special mausoleum of sorts in the museum. These pieces of human beings are not going to be put on display for gawking tourists or anything, but it’s perfectly understandable that family members would still find the prospect of bits of their loved ones sitting behind a museum door for all eternity to be distressing. Yet, this is also the fundamental contrast between history and personal sorrow. Though the former is made from the latter, it’s trickier to know how to memorialize and remember when people who suffered or lost people are still here to witness how a tragedy is preserved.

This conflict was beautifully explored by Buzzfeed’s Steve Kandell. In a recent essay, Kandell describes a gut-wrenching visit to the new museum after 12 years of his family’s attempts to mourn the sister they loved alone and without any of the pomp and politics of having such “special” grief. Mostly, it’s a personal piece, but Kandell mentions briefly his trouble with the loaded quality of 9/11. Or at least what came after – blowback is not mentioned. Still, one guy mourning his sister should be forgiven for being unable to see the big picture; particularly when seeing the death of a sibling turned into a drop in the grand bucket is a large part of what upsets him.

The 330 million people who tolerated two aggressive wars and a decade and more of hysteria after 9/11 are another matter. And this brings up the question, what should be done about 9/11, historically? Can you make a museum about such a political moment – to use the most banal term for murder being paid back by more than two orders of magnitude – when it is still rippling throughout Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and all over the Middle East? When it is still being used to justify an incomprehensibly vast global spying enterprise? And when it gave us not only the PATRIOT Act, but also what one writer dubbed “the most dangerous sentence in U.S. history,” the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)?

The rest here

I also have this sweet new graphic.Check out my most recent War at Home:

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it did not intend to appeal last month’s court decision which removed Rahinah Ibrahim from the “No-Fly list” – making her the first person in years to be taken off that bureaucratic black-hole relic of the Bush war on terror.

This is great news for Ibrahim. But she has been battling for seven years to win this victory for herself. The rest of the however many thousands of folks on that list remain there, with no clear road out of that swamp. And that’s only a small aspect of the myriad ways in which Americans and visitors to America are harassed, oppressed and impeded during their travels.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a study that harshly critiqued the U.S. government’s various watch lists, including the “no-fly” list that Ibrahim found herself on. Some of the problems the ACLU highlighted were the secrecy and the lack of an appeals process for folks who find themselves flagged at airports or downright prevented from flying. They estimate up to a million people are on such lists, and this includes US citizens. People who suspect they are on the no-fly list can only go to the airport and see if they’re prevented from flying. But they still may not get a straight answer from the government, or have any way to get off the list. There is no other way to discover whether a typo, knowing the wrong person or being from the wrong country put them on a list that radically decreases their right to travel.

During the last week of March, the Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) official report to Congress said the agency wanted armed police officers to be nearby during peak passenger hours. Considering the state of cops in this country, and the complete lack of rights travelers – especially at the borders – have, this is a terrible idea. Yes, last November someone targeted and killed a TSA agent. That’s unfortunate. But thebureaucratic, thoughtless, petty TSA does not need any more power than we have already let it take. We do not want air-travelers who attempt to film their pat-downs or express objections to their treatment fearing that if they reach in their pockets, some itchy-fingered cop will get worried.

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401977_820298143983_859526031_nThe lockdown was something new. Not serial killers, not cop-killing cop Christopher Dorner’s LA rampage, not even 9/11 shut down a city like this. Still, Bostonians seemed fine with staying inside for the most part. Cops found their guy relatively quickly, and the city partied in the streets afterwards. During the manhunt, a tough-looking officer even brought two gallons of milk to a family with young children, serving as a perfect meme to refute any accusations of jackbooted thuggery. Even some normally anti-police libertarians urged restraint in reacting to the manhunt.

What shouldn’t go unmentioned, however, is that while the circumstances were unique, the military muscle displayed by law enforcement is hardly reserved for responding to rare acts of terrorism. Videos from the lockdown—particularly this piece of paranoia-porn, in which a SWAT team orders a family out of their home at gunpoint and one of the officers screams “get away from the window!” at the videographer—either look frightening or grimly necessary, according to your views. But haven’t we seen displays like this before?

Those who say that the above high level of police intrusion was due to the unique seriousness of the situation in Boston had better explain what cops are doing with their expensive toys during the other 360 days of the year. A suspected bomb-toting terrorist is cause for specific, serious law enforcement measures (if not an excuse to impose martial law on an entire metro area). But a visit from cops that look like soldiers is a reality for 150 people per day who are targeted by police raids—mostly on suspicion of possessing or selling narcotics.

The rest here.