something positive

It’s a pretty shit day, but I thought I’d share a few positive things.

EFF [Electronic Freedom Frontier] won its case against the government, which will lead to the release of the FISA court ruling that says the NSA surveillance is unconstitutional. Read the full thing here.

For over a year, EFF has been fighting the government in federal court to force the public release of an 86-page opinion of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Issued in October 2011, the secret court’s opinion found that surveillance conducted by the NSA under the FISA Amendments Act was unconstitutional and violated “the spirit of” federal law.

Also, this great speech by an intern for Teach for america:

Also, this is a pretty depressing but ultimately hopeful look at what the labor movement is and why it matters:

Oh, also, Part XV of (  ) is now up at Manarchy Magazine. Only five more days of this.

Read here.

And, because I can’t help it, just a few very depressing things. I won’t say much about them, just post the links.

Obama DOJ asks Courts to Grant Immunity to the Bush Administration for War Crimes on the same day Bradley Manning was sentenced for exposing those war crimes.

Syria just keeps getting worse.

US military blocks Guardian site for soldiers abroad.

Maybe one day soon I’ll be able to make a purely positive post.

I hope.

For now, keep dreaming. Keep fighting.

bradley manning sentenced to 35 years

Which is tragic. I don’t even really know what to say about it except that it’s actually less than I expected. He’s been accused of espionage, which assumes that there’s someone he’s selling these to, when, in reality, he disclosed them to everyone. Because of this ruling, journalism is a crime. Whistelblowing is treason. Exposing warcrimes is a worse offense than committing warcrimes.

If you’ve been following my facebook, twitter, or even blog posts here, you know that I stand with Bradley Manning. You may have even seen my name in the New York Times alongside Noam Chomsky and others. This is a dark day for america.

The fight begins again today. It extends endlessly.

Livestreaming post-sentencing press conference with David Coombs, Manning’s attorney.

Perhaps he’ll win the Nobel Peace Prize, which he deserves.

I don’t know. This is all quite depressing.

I’m thinking of you, Bradley Manning. Almost always. Hopefully we can get this mess straightened out.

But what’s to be expected when war criminals try the innocent?

Bradley Manning Support Network.

Links to coverage:

Democracy Now! They’ve been covering Bradley Manning for years and it’s probably the best place for information.

Reports here and here.

Outcry here and here and here.

Twitter.

And everything Glenn Greenwald.

And a petition here.

There’s so much more to say. And so many other reports to be read about this. Just google Bradley Manning and you’ll get millions upon millions of hits. Just start reading, if you don’t know already.

–Update 15:08–

David Coombs read Bradley Manning’s statement after being sentenced to 35 years. Here’s the transcript:

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

Copied from Democracy Now!

Great article about all the things Bradley Manning has done for us.

a week in review

It’s not been a good week. Bombings, shootouts, manhunts, gun bills, internet privacy, insider trading: everyone lost this week.

Let’s begin with the bombing: two Chechen brothers set off two bombs during the Boston marathon. Terrorism is being offered, and it is, surely, an act of terrorism, but that word has taken on such a particular meaning here in america that I think it should be looked at a bit closer. The news was immediately declaring this an act of darkskinned islamic fundamentalists, even falsely reporting several times that the criminal was a Saudi national. Terrorism, in america, has taken on a very racist connotation, and you can disagree with that, but if you look at most of the domestic acts of terror in recent years, they’re by white fundamentalist christian men, but these people are rarely, if ever, referred to or remembered as terrorists. No, one must be brown and muslim to count! And so now the news is desperately seeking a way to connect these boys to fundamentalist islamic sects around the world.This, I would say, is unlikely. The older one–now dead–may very well have been a fundamental, as it looks like, but I’m pretty confident these two men were working alone, under no direction from foreign powers. This, of course, may end up not being true, but I think there’s a true and nefarious desire amongst americans to make this act of violence more understandable by labelling it under the enemy we already know. It doesn’t help that these kids are white, however.

The Boston marathon, as has been stressed, is really not just an american event. Yeah, it happens here, but there are participants from almost 100 nations. Yes, this happened domestically, but I wouldn’t consider it so much an act of domestic terrorism, in that the focus of the attack was on an international event. What their motivation or purpose was isn’t for me to say, and probably there’s no good reason, but is there ever? The surviving Tsarnaev brother will probably die before he can say or he’ll be tortured into telling pure untruths, connecting himself to a rebel faction in Chechnya that now needs american bombs to stop the terror from spreading. There are talks of him being a tool or some part of a conspiratorial plot, but I find this sort of absurd, for many reasons. My dad fits in this camp, believing that it now sets a precedent for the militarization and shutting down of an entire city, which, truly, was a pretty shocking and frightening thing to see. Whether it was right or wrong, correct or incorrect, isn’t for me to say, but it was alarming to know that people’s houses were being searched warrantlessly across a metro area. But I don’t see the conspiracy angle because they don’t need it. The government does this and can do this and that’s why it was so easy for it to happen. If homeland security suspects you of anything, your rights and privacy disappear. This has been in effect for years, though this is the first widescale demonstration of it. And so, no, I don’t think our government had anything to do with these two men because they didn’t need these two men to make this normal.

There’s the troubling fact, too, about the suspension of the Miranda Rights for the young Tsarnaev. Glenn Greenwald talks about that here and says it much better than I can. But it’s alarming and wholly odious. If we believe in justice, in equality, than we believe in it for everyone, not only those we agree with. Part of what defines our First Amendment rights is a case of neonazis marching through a city. The courts decided this fell within their rights, as citizens, to stage a peaceful demonstration, no matter how reprehensible. If you believe that you have the right to say whatever you want and that should be protected, then even those you find to be the worst humans imaginable have that same right. Believing in justice doesn’t only apply when it’s easy: it applies to everyone, in all circumstances, regardless of your feelings about the individual. If murder is wrong, state sanctioned murder is just as wrong, even if applied to a murderer. If you believe torture is a violation of human rights, then it is always a violation, not only when it happens to people you like/agree with. The suspension of the Miranda rights has already been in practice for a few years, but that doesn’t mean it should continue to be that way. If the young Tsarnaev has no rights, then no one deserves rights. He is a human. This isn’t about him being Chechen, american, islamic, or any other thing: he is a human, no matter how violent and reprehensible his actions and beliefs. If one human deserves rights, all humans deserve rights. You don’t pick and choose with justice.

The Boston bombing wasn’t the only bombing this week. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia all faced such disasters, not to mention Syria, which has been in a state of domestic warfare for almost a year now, yes? These are all horrible and, actually, with much higher death tolls and costs to safety. I mention this not to diminish what’s happened here, but to show that this happens in many places, and often because of things we have done or continue to do. I don’t want to link these events too closely to american involvement because I simply don’t know all the facts, but things we have done historically in these places continue to have great costs on humans who live there. There is a link to us and our government and it’s important not to forget that.

Now, I saw a lot of posts this week that seemed intended to trivialise the Boston bombing, which I find pretty absurd. Yes, this happens everywhere, and I understand that people doing this are trying to point out a hypocrisy, but I find the tactic sort of stupid in this case. Like justice, empathy applies to all cases. If one bombing of civilians is bad, all bombings of civilians are bad. You don’t get to pick and choose which humans are worthy of your empathy. Yes, this is our country so it’s easier to feel it for people here, and that’s appropriate. When a great act of violence happens thousands of miles away it will always be less real than the one that happens to someone who could be you. That’s humanity. No one should apologise or be made to feel bad because they post more about the Boston bombing than they did about the Baghdad bombing that happened, if I’m not mistaken, the same day. So feel high and mighty and righteous, but it doesn’t give you moral superiority because you’re aware of something other people are not. And trust me, I understand the frustration of a country so insular that it’s blissfully and wilfully unaware of our own acts of terrorist literally spread across the globe, but maybe this isn’t the best time to tell people that you care more than them, yes?

But let’s talk about something else that’s happening here, or, not here, but by us, here: Guantanamo. Almost every inmate there is on a hunger strike, subject to forced feeding, which is tantamount to torture. Many of these people have been there for a decade or more without any charges, and many of them are cleared for release or transfer, yet they remain. They have been subjected to the worst humiliations, the worst tortures, incredible indecencies and inhumane situations, and now, with the only thing that they have control over, their ingestion of food, they stage a strike, a protest to try and make the world aware of them, or maybe just to die with the last shreds of dignity possible. And we are torturing them by force feeding. If you don’t know what force feeding is, let me explain. A person is strapped down until they are unable to move their body. A hose is then inserted in through their nose and pushed into their stomach. This is a very painful process as the inmate struggles with the only muscles available to him/her, which are in the throat. The food is forced down in this most painful and humiliating way, and then, after the food is in, they are not released from their bindings, but strapped there for an additional two hours–sometimes more–until they are let go. These inmates are not allowed to see their lawyers, their families: anyone. The Obama administration with impunity continues to keep these inmates concealed and in the dark, buried alive, without crime, without justice.

In addition to this, a bipartisan research task force has unequivocally denounced the Bush administration on crimes against humanity. This investigation was led by Asa Hutchinson, NRA consultant and undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush. The report concludes that never before in U.S. history had there been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” While the report focused largely on the Bush administration after 9/11, it also criticizes a lack of transparency under Obama. This is a task force that President Obama did not want and did not call for, that he in fact decided not to make. Barack Obama continues the Bush administrations calls for secrecy and disruption of justice by making no attempts to investigate these violations of human rights, these crimes against humanity, but simply brushing over them. And still, these men, George Bush included, will never face their crimes in court, while whistleblowers, those who simply tell the world about these abuses, are being prosecuted by the Obama administration to the full extent of the law. Bradley Manning has been in custody for over 1,000 days not without trial–the maximum limit is 120 days before a person is required to be released–for releasing information about crimes against humanity in the Iraq and Afghan wars. This attack on whistleblowers is really an attack on investigative journalism, making them afraid to do their jobs in case they be prosecuted as spies, which leads them to expensive court cases in which they may be tried for their life. Michael DeKort, Thomas Drake, Franz Gayl, and Thomas Tamm are, along with Bradley Manning, the whistelblowers attacked by this administration. I don’t have time to explain who they are because each one probably deserves a book that I’m unable to write. But google them and learn what led them to be tried as spies and have their lives taken apart and ruined by their government, that they served.

The gun bills did not pass through the Senate. Not a single measure has been taken to make guns more strictly regulated, which is something that desperately needs to happen. There is no logic behind fearing the taking away of arms. There are more arms held by private citizens currently in america than could possibly ever be seized by our government. I actually don’t have much to say about gun safety. I think guns are stupid and no one should have them, but that’s me–a cityboy. I understand that many people in the country have a much different relationship to guns, and so while I think no one should own any guns, I don’t think legislation to remove them is necessary. What is necessary, however, is that they be harder to obtain. This should be obvious.

CISPA also passed as did a bill that essentially allows senators and representatives to legally practice insider trading. These are things I also have little to say about because of how obviously horrible they are. CISPA privatises the internet which takes away any shred of privacy you thought or believe you have. Anything that you’ve ever done on the internet, on your phone, or via email is now theirs, and this can and often is traded to the government. The age of downloading and freesharing is going to disappear unless we do something about it. If nothing else, be sure to know how your senators voted, and then make sure they’re moved out of congress. The insider trading bill is also obviously so horrible that it’s barely worth discussing. Essentially what it means is that members of the senate and house can vote on regulations for companies that they own stock in and similar such activities. This allows them to know market value before the market does. By voting on what technologies are to be subsidised or regulated, they can hedge their bets, if you will, and make an enormous profit.

What else happened this week? Maybe I’ll remember later.

But there’s also a line of thinking that will connect all of these things together. While some of them are clearly more linked such as CISPA, insider trading, gun bill because they ensure that those who have power retain their power while gaining more, there are most certainly not related to Boston, for example–though I’d argue that CISPA is pretty related to Guantanamo and whistleblowers. While the mayhem in Boston and Texas–which I forgot to mention–they are most likely unrelated for at least one huge reason: they didn’t need to be. The senate didn’t need you to be distracted to enact these laws or make sure the gun laws never happened. They did this all fair and legal, easy peasy lemon squeezey. They did it right in front of us, against their constituents feelings and desires, but what do they care? They got what they wanted, what the lobbyists wanted for their parent companies. There’s a reason why our government has such a shockingly low approval rating, and it’s not a conspiracy. It’s open knowledge: these people are not in it for you.

And so the links between the Tsarnaevs and the senate or Obama administration are pure fabrication and conspiracy mongering. If they needed a distraction to pass these, they could have distracted you with an abortion or gay marriage debate. There was no sum gain on Boston or Texas for the US government, unless you think that the militarisation of Boston was part of their plan, though, as I said above, I find this unnecessary for a few big reasons.

But, yes: this is the week as I saw it.

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