punching nazis and pacifism

The above video of Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched in the face has gone viral and it’s led to predictably uninteresting discussions online about whether it’s okay or problematic to punch a Nazi/Fascist in the face.

So that’s what I’m going to talk about, since I’m a pacifist and I suppose I have things to say about this.

Like anarchy, I think pacifism is largely misunderstood, and wilfully so. The same is true of the anti-war movement or any other cause in america that’s seen as being outside of the normal political discourse.

For example, someone in the anti-war movement may not be a pacifist. In fact, they may support all kinds of violent action, including punching a Nazi in the face. Anti-war means, quite simply, that they’re against war on principle.

Pacifism, like most ideologies, exists on a spectrum. Here’s the wikipedia entry on it for those looking to get a short overview. But, in general, a pacifist opposes all forms of violence, from systemic to personal.

Of course, not all pacifists feel this way. One of the most famous and renowned pacifists in history is Mohatma Gandhi, who has a less than absolute perspective on the role of violence.

Here’s what Gandhi had to say about violence:

I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using violence… Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour.

But I believe that non-violence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment…

He also had this to say:

Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or for the defense of the defenceless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right.

And also this:

Ever since my experience of the distortion of ahimsa (non-violence) in Bettiah in 1921, I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death, may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. He has no business to be the head of a family. He must either hide himself, or must rest content to live for ever in helplessness and be prepared to crawl like a worm at the bidding of a bully.

When people think of pacifism and non-violent action, they often think of Gandhi. He didn’t invent either of these, but his actions were perhaps the most significant on the globe, and his influence is extremely widespread. But here he makes the case for violence.

Pacifism is not one thing, just as racism or sexuality or English is not just one thing. It generally means one thing to the person using the term, but so much of life and ideology is multifaceted that it’s silly to pretend that it’s not.

And so, when I talk about pacifism, I’m only speaking for myself. For there’s no one else I can speak for. I’m not a leader of some movement or even a member of any organization (not really a joiner, I guess), and so my views are only mine. Which can be said about anyone saying anything.

Also, it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Just because I’m a pacifist does not mean I expect everyone to be a pacifist. In the same manner, I don’t expect other pacifists to be pacifists in the same way that I am a pacifist.

Anyrate.

I actually disagree with Gandhi. I don’t think there’s ever a case where violence is useful.

Which also means I happen to be against punching Nazis. Or, to put that a different way: I have no interest in inflicting violence (systemic or personal) on any other human. Regardless of the reprehensible nature of a person, I still reject violence done against them.

That being said, it’s not my place to judge someone else (and here I agree with Gandhi) for their choice to use violence in the face of extreme violence. So while I can say that violence is always incorrect action, I’m not going to say that someone in an abusive relationship or living under imperialism is doing something wrong by fighting back violently.

It’s why I have no trouble supporting Palestinians, for example.

But I have no intention of committing an act of violence, or even being associated with violent acts.

That doesn’t make me better or worse than you.

Just makes us different.

I often call this radical pacifism, and it’s something at the heart of who I am. I believe all violent action is incorrect, and I’ll talk about why.

When I say this, I often get extremely aggressive responses to it, which is sort of baffling to me. My pacifism becomes something that they want to disprove or reject utterly. It’s almost as if I’ve insulted them by rejecting violence!

And so the conversation, almost without deviation, goes into the realm of hypotheticals, where my interrogator tries to get me to admit that there is some instance where I would accept violence as the correct or necessary form of action. As if admitting one case is admission of all cases or some sign of personal hypocrisy.

What if someone breaks into your home with a gun and tries to kill you?

I imagine they’ll kill me whether I like it or not.

What if they threaten to kill your family?

Probably a lot of us will die.

So you would just let them die? Are you that much of a coward?

And it continues in this manner.

The point they’re trying to make is silly, especially when you throw out such random circumstances that seem to only have one course of action. And, weirdly, most people come to this same circumstance, of a stranger breaking into my house and threatening me or my family or both with a gun. Like, let’s say that I could fight this person. I don’t own a gun or even a weapon. If they have the will and desire to kill me and my family, they’ll probably kill me either way. So to me, the circumstance only ends with one result. My interrogator is only trying to force me to choose a path I disagree with.

To what purpose, I can’t even begin to imagine.

I find it profoundly strange when someone tries to insist that you must feel and think and behave as they do. But that plays into this. Because to try to force someone to be as you are is a form of violence. Small and inconsequential as the practice or method may be, it’s still inherently violent to force yourself upon another person.

Just as it would be a form of violence to demand that you also behave non-violently.

A minor infraction, certainly, but the principle is the same, I think.

It’s a cliche that violence only leads to more violence. Not only is it a cliche, it’s an ancient one.

But I think it’s also self-evident. Even the circumstance I outline above: if the only answer to violence is more violence, then what have we done? People expect me to want to kill my would be killer, and this, in some way, is a justification to them or to the world.

But to me, either way, we have dead humans killed by other humans.

While I certainly value my life more than yours (how could I not?), I don’t see my survival as being a prosocial moment if it means I had to kill you, or anyone else. Either way, violence was done here and a life was destroyed. Likely many more lives than just those present.

And so I reject the violence done against Richard Spencer, worthless Nazi that he is.

That being said, I’m not sad or even upset that someone punched him in the face live on television. Nazism is inherently a violent ideology. There’s no denying this. There’s not even a qualification possible for this. It’s an ideology that promotes genocide, and is therefore absolutely unacceptable.

This is also why it doesn’t bother me that someone punched him, or that anti-fascist movements often use violence. Every Nazi desires violence. Not just violence against one person, but against entire ethnic groups. The plural there is important. It’s not just Jewish people or people of African descent. It’s everyone who is not on their checklist of what constitutes white. This even includes people most would consider white, like Polish, Scandinavians, Russians, French, and on and on. It goes as deep and ridiculous as to be about specific kinds of white, defined by such backwards pseudoscience that I don’t even care to give a summary of it.

And so when fascists come to your home, I won’t and don’t blame those who react violently to that.

Nick Mamatas said something interesting about this:

One of the unfortunate aspects of school bullying is that school culture trains the victims of bullies to loudly perform their vulnerabilities in order to summon the authorities to deal with the bully.

This tactic doesn’t work at all when the bully IS the authority. See Trump, and the increasingly desperate political delusions around faithless electors, impeachment, a voided election result due to treason, etc. There is no higher power to appeal to, period.

When the authority is a bully, you simply have to outbully him. Thus appeals to civility, handwringing about what has been lost to our political culture, expressions of fear, daydreams about an Obama coup, and the like, are all rhetorical and tactical misfires.

It’s time to find your inner bully.

It’s an interesting thought. And, to go along with that:

Non-violence as a tactic for resistance is only effective if the other side considers you human. If they see you as subhuman or whatever else, they will have no problems with hurting and/or killing you.

Non-violence is predicated on the belief that everyone is human.If you and your antagonist can’t even agree on your own humanity, then it’s unlikely anything useful will come of it.

But let’s go back to punching Nazis.

Every time someone encounters the Other, there’s always the argument made that we should squash them out because they represent a threat to our lives and our way of life.

Just listen to Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins or any of their fans talk about Islam.

They’ll tell you that Islam is an inherently violent ideology that poses a threat to every non-Muslim on the planet. While this may sound absurd, it’s a pretty widely held belief in both conservatives and liberals in the western empires.

The same is said about Mexicans in the US or North Africans or Turkish in Europe. Or even Eastern European immigrants living in Western Europe. Or, weirdly, indigenous people in any country colonized by Europeans.

And so the definition of ‘dangerous ideology’ becomes a matter of preference and perspective. It may be Nazis today who deserve punches, but yesterday it was Muslims (even among many liberals–just ask them about Yemen), and tomorrow it may be activists (nothing new, there) or anarchists (again, always) or pick an ideology.

The general argument for violence is that it’s necessary because of extraordinary circumstances. And while I agree that Nazism is absolutely an extraordinary case, this logic gets thrown around way too often for me to be comfortable with it as a rubric.

I mean, I’m not going to try to argue that you shouldn’t beat up fascists and Nazis. I have no interest in defending such people, since they have no interest in doing anything beyond inflicting violence upon the world and its people. And not just your average run of the mill beatings, but actual genocide.

If there are people who are unfit for humanity, it’s the ones who utterly reject the humanity of others.

The danger with violence is that it doesn’t end. It spreads like a disease.

When you choose violence, you reinforce violent systems.

I don’t think it’s inconsequential that the US, who takes such pride in beating Nazi Germany, has essentially been at war with ‘dangerous’ ideologies and people since Hitler died. Like, ceaselessly. We have yet to find a war or people whose blood we don’t crave.

Further, we’ve gone on to create the kind of surveillance state Hitler, Stalin, and Mao would be endlessly jealous of. We’ve created a criminal justice system that is the envy of every dictator or totalitarian state. We routinely put inmates in solitary confinement, which has been identified as torture for a long time. And we do that as a casual disciplinary decision to thousands or maybe even as much as hundreds of thousands of inmates across the US. Our police routinely murder civilians. Our Intelligence Agencies routinely spy on citizens and assassinate foreigners (and sometimes citizens) and overthrow democratically elected governments and install vicious dictators.

The list goes on an on, and I don’t think it’s inconsequential that a nation who has fallen so deeply in love with violence is one whose ‘progressive’ citizens and politicians still have very little to say about ending war or even just pulling our troops out of warzones. They also have little to say about the surveillance state we live under.

We developed an atomic bomb because we needed a weapon to fight the Nazis, but then we dropped it on the Japanese (who were not super different, ideologically, from Nazis). And since then, we’ve been in a constant state of warfare with dozens of countries on nearly every continent humans inhabit.

Of course, this isn’t a result of fighting Nazi Germany, but I don’t think they’re as separate as some might like to believe.

Violence poisons us. It reduces us. It makes us less human. It makes us more violent. More willing to give into violence. More willing to reduce our enemies to the Other.

Violence is a choice that we make as a society. And, like personal choices, it becomes easier to make that choice every time we make it. So when we went to war with Germany and Japan, it seemed to make sense. When we went to war with Korea, it still felt that way. With Vietnam, we eventually rejected our own behavior. But then came the 70s and 80s when most of our military violence came in a way that is especially recognizable now. Most of it passed through the CIA and we used locals to wage our wars for us, whether it was fascists in Chile or Jihadists in Afghanistan, we stopped sending massive mobilized forces. The 90s were a mix of boots on the ground and covert assassinations and bombings, until we perfected the new state of world war.

After September 11th, 2001, we decided, once more, that there was no such thing as a bad war, and we declared an endless war. Sixteen years later, and we’ve only expanding our warfare in the Middle East, stretching it to seven different countries and thousands of new enemy ideologies who we all call the same thing: terrorists.

Most people I know are in favor of violence, whether explicitly or implicitly, whether vocally or not. I’ve seen the things you say online. I’ve heard you say it with your own mouth. I heard you say it every time you described a politician as ‘hawkish’ instead of ‘war criminal.’ You support violence, and that’s your choice, and that’s okay, I suppose.

I mean, obviously I disagree with you, but that’s okay, too.

But your support of violence is your own choice. And while I must be complicit in most of these choices, whether I like it or not, because we belong to the same nation, whether we like it or not, I can’t stop you, but I can try to resist the rising tide of violence that is all round us.

And so go ahead and punch a Nazi or ten. Beat up some fascists. Make it a party! An anthem!

But think of tomorrow and what our violence costs us, because there is a cost, and it’s not inconsequential.

For now (and always), I hope for peace.

on pardoning american heroes

This Op-Ed in the LA Times got me thinking a lot about something. I encourage you to read that first before reading on.

I think the author there covers the main reasons. Chief among them: Edward Snowden is a heterosexual man.

I fully support what both Snowden and Manning did, so it’s not really an issue of one being better than the other or more worthy of praise or pardon. I think they both should be pardoned. They both need to be pardoned.

The fact that Chelsea Manning is a transgender woman is definitely at the heart of this. While she was locked away for a few years pre-trial (something that is literally unconstitutional), the government worked very hard to smear her. They described her as having serious mental disorders.

As it turns out, her mental disorder can best be described as being transgender.

This matters a great deal for a few reasons.

First, the government outed her as transgender.

Second, they used this as a framework to explain that her motives were petty defiance stemming from her mental instability.

Third, and perhaps worst of all, this became the public narrative surrounding Chelsea Manning.

Fourth, Chelsea was not allowed to speak on any of this. She was often held in solitary confinement (torture) or was denied access to journalists.

She had to watch from prison (where she was being held without charge for well over the allotted 120 days, which is unconstitutional) as pundits picked apart her life. From her sexuality to her alleged motives.

It was, for these reasons, that she faced the trial as Bradley Manning. She and her lawyers decided they did not want the government to use her gender identity against her.

The fact that it’s even possible to smear someone based on their gender is astounding. The public’s discomfort with transgenders is well known. We’ve seen actual laws come into place regarding where they are allowed to use the public restroom.

So maybe it isn’t surprising that the US government used this as a tactic to attack her character. Maybe it’s unsurprising that it worked. But that doesn’t make it any less disgusting.

But let’s talk about the mechanics of a Hollywood biopic. Because, really, that’s what’s shining a light on Edward Snowden at the moment. But even before that, there was the documentary CitizenFour, which is an amazing film that I highly recommend.

Why was Chelsea Manning treated differently?

There are a few obvious reasons. For one thing, she made no grand escape. Chelsea Manning leaked information to Wikileaks, who then worked with several news organizations to release the information. It should be noted that Manning first reached out to news organizations. She wanted to disclose the information right to journalists.

She was ignored.

So she went to Wikileaks.

This isn’t exactly riveting screentime. Sure, they could make it that way, but Manning didn’t hack through government databases. She took readily available information and secretly sent it to Wikileaks, who then, in conjunction with places like the New York Times, released it to the public.

Once she was imprisoned, Chelsea Manning faced extensive cruel and unusual punishment for years before her trial. That’s not even an exaggeration.

Solitary confinement for months at a time. Sometimes she was stripped naked and left naked in her cell.

Human Rights organizations, world leaders, activists, and academics have written letters, pleaded, and demanded that she receive better treatment, but this was largely ignored.

Compare that to Snowden’s story.

Snowden learned an important lesson from previous US whistleblowers. From Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, he learned that he couldn’t just go to his superiors to let them know that what the NSA was doing was unconstitutional and illegal. From Chelsea Manning he learned that he had to be out of reach before he disclosed the information or he would sit in prison for years. Potentially the rest of his life.

So he made his escape.

I haven’t seen the film yet, but I understand it has the feel of a spy thriller. And it kind of sounds that way!

Maverick government employee steals secrets, escapes abroad, then releases secrets to journalists, and finally puts his own name on those documents, in order to take control of the narrative before the US government could smear him, the way it smeared Manning.

I think it’s true that we wouldn’t have Snowden without Manning. That Manning’s actions seem daring and thrilling makes it all the more appealing to a mass audience. Add to that a love interest, in Snowden’s long time girlfriend, and the fact that Snowden has had the freedom to speak extensively about what he did, why he did it, how he did it, and has been able to be a regular commentator about privacy, national security, and human rights for years since his disclosure.

To put it simply, Snowden became a household name. Even people who don’t follow politics are aware of him. Some think he’s a traitor while others a hero, and still others are wholly indifferent to him as a person. But there was a built in audience for him. An audience that he is allowed to cultivate by virtue of not being in prison.

Add to that the documentary, which is thrilling and amazing and informative, and you have an easy road to make him a movie with a certain level of mass appeal, or at least mass interest.

But when I say Chelsea Manning, most people need to wikipedia her name to even know who I’m talking about. Even people who have followed Snowden’s disclosures may be unaware of who Chelsea Manning is and what she did.

Being imprisoned took the narrative out of her hands and into the hands of her captors. More than that, the collaboration of the pundit class with our military’s agenda makes this kind of story easy to ignore and hide from the general public.

So Chelsea Manning was ignored and continues to largely be ignored.

How do you film the last six years of her life?

One prison cell after another. Solitary confinement. Her trial, which was a military tribunal so no reporters were allowed to even take notes, seriously hampering any kind of transparency. In fact, many have described it as a kangaroo court. To many, including Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, it appeared that Assange was being tried in absentia along with Manning.

Without evidence–or rather, refusing to allow evidence to the contrary–they described Manning’s disclosures as aiding the enemy and seriously endangering the lives of US soldiers and intelligence officers.

None of which was proved because none of that was true. In fact, just the opposite. She made it safer for everyone by exposing US war crimes.

After her trial, she came out as transgender, was imprisoned in an all male prison. She had to petition and fight to receive gender transition medication, which they outright refused at first. For the last three years, Manning has been refused to be moved to a female prison. Refused to grow her hair out. Refused, at times, access to her medication and to be able to undergo gender affirming surgery. This led to her attempting to commit suicide, which she’s facing even more charges for.

This isn’t exactly a sexy narrative to play out on screens across america. A nation still actively at war in the Middle East. Now in even more countries than when Manning disclosed our war crimes. A public that believes we should continue these wars. A government that plans on expanding them still further.

To me, these are the reasons there has been no huge movement to grant Chelsea Manning a pardon.

  1. She’s a transgender female.
  2. Lack of visibility
  3. Her disclosures are even more damning to the US

My hope is that Snowden receives his pardon. But my greatest hope would be that Chelsea Manning also receives a pardon. Her plight is far greater than Snowden’s and she faces far more barriers to freedom.

If President Obama pardoned both, it would do a lot to lessen the great damage he has done to freedom of the press.

Sign the petition to free Edward Snowden.

Sign the petition to free Chelsea Manning.

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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