Hello, World. Still Fucked Up, I See: Elliot Rodger Edition

Not that I expected it to improve dramatically while I was sleeping, but I have to say, a few things we’ve been pointing at and shouting “HELLLOOOO THERE’S A PROBLEM HERE” have been rather emphatically highlighted by certain recent actions. I shall be exploring them in between marathon snooze sessions. In between, we shall have nothing but lovely happy fun picture time round here, because from what I’m seeing, ya’ll could use the break.

So, misogyny. You know, I used to deny there was a problem with that in this civilization. My gosh, I could wear pants and talk about being an astronaut someday, so all problems with equality were solved forever and women who objected to being treated as sexual objects and resented being treated as invisible otherwise were just whiny bitches. Then people like Stephanie Zvan popped me on the noggin and did that thing where the sensei grabs the pupil’s jaw, mooshes their lips into an appropriate representation of their gaping ignorance, and proceeds to forcibly enlighten them. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to realize that you, a woman, are in fact a misogynist? Awkward.

I’m just glad unapologetic feminists did me this favor before Elliot Rodger invested much time and effort into making videos and writing manifestos that explained exactly how his extreme hatred of women was motivating him to go out and kill as many of them (plus their men) as he could manage, then attempted to live his vile dream. Without them, I may have been one of those howling about feminists besmirching the good name of misogyny. Or denying that the call is coming from inside the house. I mean, how dare we take a man at his word, right? He can’t be a terrorist – those are supposed to be foreign, brown, and generally screaming about Allah. Gotta be one of those crazy people, even though the shit he was spewing was separated only be degrees, no kind, from the kind of shit spewed at women by “ordinary men” every single fucking day.

It was comfortable, believing that. It’s not comfortable, reading about a man shooting up UC Santa Barbara and not being in the least surprised, only wondering why it doesn’t happen far more frequently. Denial was wonderful. It made the world look better. It was nice to pretend people like Rodger are anomalies and not depressingly common. But even before the feminists claimed me as one of their own, I’d begun to recognize the truth. I’d had a friend turn into a predator when I turned him down, after all. I’d read the forensic psychology books on the “nice, quiet men” who liked to indulge in a little light serial killing when their terrifying hatred of women overcame their ability to play ordinary citizen. I’d seen the evil that men do.

I just didn’t understand how intimately connected it was to the background sexism of our culture. I just didn’t want to.

Even back in my denialist days, I couldn’t deny that when it came to perpetrator-versus-victim populations, it was an overwhelming majority of men doing the evil, and an overwhelming majority of women suffering the evil. What I could deny was that this was a continuum, from my friends who casually denigrated women (present company accepted, o’ course – you’re practically one of the guys, Dana!), to the domestic violence my mother suffered, to the creeps who let their creep-flags fly, to the rapists and murderers and their cheering sections. It’s so much easier to blank out that grim line connecting the middle to the beginning and end. You certainly take a lot less shit for saying that people like Rodger are just crazy weirdos, total anomalies, rather than taking them at their word and saying that, yeah, this society has a huge problem with women – and while Rodger’s violence was a bit extreme, it wasn’t actually so far removed from the every-day beatings and rapes and murders that men commit.

But nothing improves when we pretend these connections don’t exist. So I shall add my voice to those who have already spoken quite eloquently. I do agree that, yes, Rodger had some serious issues, and that the little don’t-kill-people switch in his brain was broken, and we need to improve the way we recognize and handle people whose don’t-kill-people switches are broken. But I’m also going to mention that there are many people whose don’t-kill-people switches don’t function properly. It’s a damned good idea to work on fixing the bits of our culture that gave them the genius notion that some subset of the population deserved all the hatred and violence their broken little selves could muster.

And pointing out that Rodger’s violence existed on a continuum, that it’s part-and-parcel of the contempt too many people in this world have for women, that it’s not an isolated incident but part of a pattern, isn’t “hijacking” a tragedy. It’s facing facts. That shrieking you hear about hijacking is coming from people who find those facts rather painful. I shall play my tiny violin for them, but not for long – there’s serious work to be done, making this a better world. Perhaps the denialists will be so kind as to join us once they’ve finished being deliberately obtuse.

Image shows the British crown with the words "Keep calm and change the world" beneath it.

Now is the Time When We Come Together

Rage settles to righteous anger. Shock becomes determination. In the aftermath of a disaster, we have our chance to rise to our feet, scrub our faces dry on a sleeve, and roll up those sleeves to get to work. We help heal the wounded, comfort the bereaved, fix the damage, and set things as right as we can.

If your faith in humanity wavered, remember: some people ran toward the blasts. The Red Cross had all the blood and funds it needed within hours. People all over the world stepped up immediately to do whatever they could. A few would rip apart: many will put back together.

We will come together and lift each other up. Fall seven; up eight. That’s us. That’s people.

I’ve listed as many resources as I could find. Let me know what I’ve missed.

Find loved ones (h/t):

Google Person Finder

Red Cross Safe and Well (1-800-733-2767)

Mayor’s hotline 617-635-4500

 

If you have tips or have media (photos, video) from the marathon:

800-494-TIPS

 

Crisis Counseling:

1-800-985-5990

 

Help for Victims’ Families:

(I’ve vetted HopeMob to the best of my ability. It seems legitimate, but if they’re not, please let me know ASAP.)

 

For those needing a place to stay, or who have a place to offer, see here. More resources available at this link. (h/t)

 

Donations:

Atheists Giving Aid has a page set up for Boston. The current total (as of 10:45 PDT 4/16) is over $20,000. You all are remarkable!

The Red Cross is reporting it’s good for now:

Thanks to the generosity of volunteer blood donors, there is currently enough blood on the shelves to meet patient needs. The Red Cross also has the financial resources it needs to support this event right now. We are asking those who want to help to make an appointment to give blood in the coming weeks and months. They can do that by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or visiting redcrossblood.org.

If you know of any other legit organizations who are collecting donations, please let me know, and I’ll update this section.

For news (h/t):

Boston fire dept: https://twitter.com/BostonFire
Boston Globe: https://twitter.com/BostonGlobe
Boston PD: https://twitter.com/Boston_Police
Cambridge PD: https://twitter.com/CambridgePolice

Live media feed: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9996363/Boston-Marathon-bombing-live.html
Police chatter: http://www.broadcastify.com/listen/feed/6254/web

Massachussetts Emergency Management Agency

 

To the Boston Bomber(s)

You’re a fucking coward, whoever you are.

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you’re a domestic or foreign coward, or a single coward or many. Doesn’t matter. I don’t need your name and your back story to know you’re a fucking coward. Only cowards plant bombs where innocent people and children will be out enjoying a race. Only cowards run away so they don’t have to deal with the aftermath of what they’ve done.*

You’re a pathetic little shit. No decent human being thinks bombing civilians is a great way to achieve their agenda.** I don’t give two tugs on a dead dog’s dick what your agenda is. It could be some liberal end-all-wars-and-free-healthcare-for-all agenda, the same one I root for, and I’d still call you a despicable rat-fucking coward. Blowing up people watching a marathon isn’t the way to go about it. It’s what ineffectual, cowardly losers do. It’s what people without the courage of their convictions and lacking the fortitude to stay the course do.

And you know what? I’m willing to stake cash money you’re religious. I don’t care what your religion is. If you think your god approves of what you did, you’ve either got a sadistic shitlord of a god or you’re completely fucking wrong about its agenda. Being as gods are products of our own minds, I’m pretty sure it’s option A. You’ve created something just as bad as you. Congratulations. You’ve proven you don’t belong with the rest of the human race. We’ll find you, and we’ll excise you like a cancer.

I’m anti-death penalty, but I’ll tell you: that stance is hard to hold when it comes to despicable cowardly little shits like you. But I hope you don’t get put to death when we catch you, try you and convict you. I hope you have to rot away in a tiny concrete room. I hope you spend so many years there that most everyone forgets you. I hope you live to understand how little you matter, how much better off the world is without you. I hope you live until your conscience comes calling, and tears you apart from the inside. There are worse things than death, and I’m not a good enough person to prevent myself from wishing them upon you.

I hope the people you ripped apart with your cowardice get justice. I hope every single one of them haunts you, waking and sleeping, until the end of your days.

I’ll cry for your victims later. Right now, I just want to make you this promise, coward: your life is over as of this moment. We’re coming for you. We can never set this right, but there will be a reckoning.

 

*Suicide bombers are twice the coward, because they don’t stay to face any of the consequences, not even seeing their victims on the evening news and risking that stark moment of humanity when they realize they’ve done the worst possible thing, and will have to live with the blood on their hands for the rest of their pathetic lives.

**No, I’m not letting America off the hook for its drone strikes. That’s cowardice, too.

In the Face of Terrorism: Norway, the Myth of a Madman, and a Better Way

Image Source Guardian.co.uk

This man is a terrorist.

Blond, blue-eyed, solidly middle-class, raised and educated in a Western democracy, yes.  He’s far from the al Qaeda foot soldier everyone expected when news of the Oslo bombing and subsequent shooting on Utoya island broke.  Some are calling him Norway’s Timothy McVeigh, and that’s apt: both of them were home-grown terrorists who decided to express their dissatisfaction with their societies by building farms out of fertilizer and parking them in front of government buildings in hopes of maximum mayhem.  But Anders Behring Breivik proved a far more ambitious fanatic.  The fact his body count didn’t exceed McVeigh’s isn’t due to anything more than somewhat poor timing and excellent police work.

This is Norway’s Oklahoma City in more ways than one.  I remember when we all thought the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building must have been bombed by Arab terrorists, back in the early hours before McVeigh got arrested for traffic violations and the truth that even good ol’ American boys could be terrorists fell down upon us.  Norwegians are a bit shocked at themselves for their assumptions, but let’s face facts: most of the people we encounter blowing up selves and others these days are, indeed, Muslim.  A few too many people, especially in my country, made the leap from “could be” to “must be” far too quickly, but the initial suspicion wasn’t completely unfounded.  When Islamist fanatics tell the West repeatedly and often they’re determined to blow our shit up, it’s not silly to think of them when a bomb goes off.


But people like Breivik and McVeigh remind us that terrorism is not the exclusive method of Middle Eastern extremists.  And this is something we must accept.  Even blond, blue-eyed native sons can be terrorists.  When someone engages in mass slaughter for political and religious motives, with the intent of terrorizing society into compliance with their views or destabilizing the government they despise, they have committed acts of terrorism, no matter how white and Christian they are.  This is something some people seem to forget, the moment the suspect turns out to have a pale complexion.  People stop using the word “terrorist” and start using words like “madman” and “mass murderer” instead.  The terrorist goes from being a terrorist to some lone weirdo who must be an anomaly.


Breivik is not.  Breivik is a cold, calculating, far-right son of a bitch who hasn’t a trace of remorse.  He is a man with a cause who planned his act of terror carefully.  He was as driven by ideology as any other political terrorist, and to call him delusional or insane is an insult to people with genuine mental illnesses.  He’s a product of right-wing ideology, not mental disease or defect.

We need to get over this tendency to think that our native sons and daughters are nuts when they adhere to home-grown extremist ideologies.  When their ideologies lead them to commit stunning acts of terror, we need to stop comforting ourselves by thinking they must be aberrations.  They belong in the same category as other people we call terrorists.  Terrorism is not merely a foreign phenomenon.  Terrorism is a method any extremist can use, and native extremists do.  It’s just that, with a few spectacular exceptions, our home-grown extremists haven’t been quite as good at it.  That, unfortunately, could easily change.  And we won’t be prepared to handle them if we insist on seeing our very own terrorists as something qualitatively different from other sorts.

What Breivik has reminded us is that terrorists can and do arise even in the most peaceful, progressive societies.  Wherever there are politically disaffected people with a martyr complex and the belief that violence will serve them where the ballot box has not, you’re at risk of having some despicable shits load up on bombs and bullets and attempt to change the political landscape by force. 

What can a society do, in the face of that?

Norway appears headed in the right direction.  So far, their people and their leaders have understood that the answer to terror is to not be terrorized.  They’re standing strong on their values and their democracy.  They’re not leaping immediately to create a national security or police state.  This has pushed them in the opposite direction from what Breivik seems to have intended, and that’s exactly the right response.  You won’t get terrorists to stop terrorizing by letting their attacks succeed.  All you’ll do is help them destroy your cherished society.  You may not remake it in the image they intended, but by giving in to the terror, by letting fear strangle your freedoms, you’ve handed them a win.  That’s not the way to go, and I’m glad to see Norway understands that.

What can a society do, in the face of terror?  Do what Norway is doing: catch the terrorist(s) who did it.  The fact that they took this terrorist alive, right in the middle of his shooting spree, is outstanding.  That denied him martyrdom, which takes a lot of wind from his sails and gives those desiring a glorious death for the cause something to think about, should they decide to attempt an act of terror themselves.  It also makes it much less likely that there will be further terrorist attacks undertaken as acts of revenge.

You might notice Norway hasn’t shipped Breivik off to some military installation to be tortured.  They’re using no “enhanced interrogation.”  He’s being afforded due process.  Under Norwegian law, it appears he’ll even have a chance at freedom in 21 years.  Never mind that his chances are about equal to Charlie Manson’s.  The point is that the criminal justice system is handling him just fine, without going to extremes, staying within the boundaries set by an extremely civilized society, up to and including affording him proper representation, and yet they are perfectly confident that society has nothing more to fear from this murderous piece of shit.  They’re completely right.  Democracies do not have to adopt totalitarian tactics to handle terrorists.  They should not.  Doing what my own country is doing – suspending constitutional rights, eroding civil liberties in the name of “security,” destroying i
ts moral authority by engaging in torture – doesn’t lead to a safer society, but one in which the terrorists, both home-grown and foreign, have all but won.

We have to accept the fact that we’re never going to be perfectly safe.  Even if we completely closed our beautiful open societies, even if we crushed dissenting voices, arrested people for showing the slightest tendency toward ideas that sometimes lead to violence, even if we turned every building into a bunker and strip-searched every citizen several times a day, we’d still be at risk from people who hold extreme beliefs and aren’t afraid to risk their lives in order to kill for their cause.  Better, then, to live in freedom.  We can take precautions, harden targets and give law enforcement the tools they need to mitigate our risks and deal with those terrorist acts we couldn’t prevent, without destroying our civil liberties and our democracies.  But let’s not make the mistake of living in terror.  Let’s accept that there are risk inherent in any type of society, and some risks are more acceptable than others.  I’d rather risk getting killed by an extremist than live under a dictatorship in the name of security.  I’d rather risk dissenting voices that might get out of hand than silence all but the most bland.

I’d rather not fight terrorism with bigger guns, escalating the violence and spiraling us off into endless conflict.  I’d rather fight Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s way:

At a press conference in Oslo, Stoltenberg, pictured, said that those guilty for the atrocities would be brought to justice and that the attacks would bring “more openess and more democracy” to the country.

“No one will bomb us to silence. No one will shoot us to silence. No one will ever scare us away from being Norway,” Stoltenberg said.

“You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy or our ideals for a better world,” he added.

I wish my own country had followed Norway’s lead, rather than letting fear all but destroy everything that made her great.

All of us, every single democracy faced with terrorism both native and foreign, can do better.  We must recognize terrorism for what it is, no matter who perpetrates it, and deny those terrorists the satisfaction of remaking our great societies into small and fearful ones.  If we don’t, we are lost.

Feds Express a Decided Interest in Sean Hannity’s Pal Hal

Quick, my darlings, to the wayback machine! Remember this bit o’ drama last January?

We’re already aware that the white-supremacist crowd is already creating a higher level of security concerns surrounding Barack Obama’s inauguration.

So somehow it probably figures that Sean Hannity’s old pal Hal Turner would be out there leading the parade of nutcases making threats around the events.

According to Mark Potok at the SPLC, Turner has gone public this week with his threats:

On Friday, neo-Nazi threatmeister Hal Turner, amplifying on an earlier posting suggesting that it would be a good thing to use an unmanned drone carrying explosives to attack the crowds, said a mass murder of those attending the festivities “would be a public service.” “I won’t say what may happen Tuesday but I will say this,” Turner wrote on his blog. “After Tuesday, the name Hal Turner may live in infamy. Let it be known that I saw what was necessary and decided to do what had to be done. I make no apology to those affected or their families.”

Earlier, on Jan. 11, Turner had posted photos to his blog, under the headline “My Inauguration Dream,” of a small, unmanned drone, an electronic guidance system and sticks of dynamite as he laid out one method of attack. He also discussed the possibility of sending up balloons filled with helium and a “payload” and fitted with fuses that would explode the balloons over the crowds. And he displayed a grainy video that purported to show that method being tested. “Too far fetched?” Turner asks of a possible balloon attack. “It got tested and it worked! … Watch the video and imagine what payload, other than the index cards taped to the outside of the test balloons, might be substituted? HMMMMMM. Might be something messy? Something contagious? Something deadly? Ahhhh, such possibilities!” Then, last Thursday, he posted an update, saying: “All the assets that need to be in-place for next week are now in-place; deep within the security perimeter. Everything is a ‘go.’ We have crossed the Rubicon; let history judge us well.”

Hal, you poor silly shit. You’re too much of an assclown to pull of your dreams of wholesale death and destruction, and you made a ginormous ass of yourself blustering threats you couldn’t follow through on. But hey, congratulations – if it was just attention you were seeking, boy, you sure got it:

Today, FBI agents went to the New Jersey home of white supremacist blogger/radio host Hal Turner and arrested him “on a federal complaint filed in Chicago alleging that he made internet postings threatening to assault and murder three federal appeals court judges in Chicago in retaliation for their recent ruling upholding handgun bans in Chicago and a suburb,” according to a statement released by the Justice Department. A summary of Turner’s dangerous tirade against the judges:

Internet postings on June 2 and 3 proclaimed “outrage” over the June 2, 2009, handgun decision by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, further stating, among other things: “Let me be the first to say this plainly: These Judges deserve to be killed.” The postings included photographs, phone numbers, work address and room numbers of these judges, along with a photo of the building in which they work and a map of its location.

Turner’s posts also “referred to the murder of the mother and husband of Chicago-based federal Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow in February 2005,” saying, “Apparently, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court didn’t get the hint after those killings. It appears another lesson is needed.” In the Justice Department statement, U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald — who announced the charges — said, “We take threats to federal judges very seriously. Period.”

Oh, yes, they do, Hal – yes, they do. And they’ll probably want words about your Inauguration Day threats, too – forms a pattern of escalating murderous ideations, y’see.

It’s okay, Hal. I’m sure you’ll only get a few years, considering all you’ve done so far is make terroristic threats. And I’ll betcha your old pal Hannity’ll be happy to come visit you in prison. No, really. I mean, he hasn’t got a reputation to defend, and the Faux News audience is so far gone they’ll probably rally round you like a martyr.

I mean, a right wing dumbfuck enough to say this about Sanford’s little dereliction of duty…

The two silliest defensive responses from before he fessed up:

“It is refreshing that Mark Sanford is secure enough in himself and the people of South Carolina that he does not view himself as an indispensable man.” (Erick Erickson)

And:

“Are [Cassie] and I married to the only real men left in the entire freakin’ country? Do we only want Momma’s boys or Daddy’s girls in the White House from here on out? Teddy Roosevelt is doing backflips in his grave right now: apparently no one is allowed to go on a writing retreat, take a road trip, or hike, hunt, or fish if they have any political ambitions at all. Unbelievable.” (Little Miss Attila)

…is certainly dumbfuck enough to make excuses for you. They’ll probably write you in prison and everything.

Hell, you get enough of a following going, you might even get the Charlie Manson treatment. How would you like being seen as someone so likely to incite murder and mayhem that you have to be locked up for life, eh? That’s fame, that is.

Couldn’t have happened to a better racist asshole, I’d say.

Why Extraordinary Rendition’s Not Always Eevviilll

So the L.A. Times reports that Obama’s keeping rendition on the table, and suddenly everybody loses their heads. Without looking, I can tell you how this will play out: the Cons will crow that Obama recognizes the need for torture, and the progressives will howl that he’s becoming Bush III.

Neither of which is true. Ask Dr. Rendition (aka Hilzoy):

Since the publication of the LA Times story about rendition yesterday, I’ve noticed some confusion about the topic. So Dr. Rendition will try to make things easy.

Q: What is rendition?

A: Rendition is the act of transferring a person into a different jurisdiction.

Q: “It occurs to me that this more benign definition of rendition as transferring someone to another criminal justice system, used to be called extradition. Can someone explain the difference to me?”

A: Extradiction is one form of rendition, as you can see from Lawyers.com’s Glossary of Legal Terms, which defines ‘Rendition’ as “extradition of a fugitive who has fled to another state.” Here’s a nice example of the term’s normal usage from a hundred-year-old case:

“Among the powers of governors of territories of the United States is the authority to demand the rendition of fugitives from justice under 5278 of the Revised Statutes, and we concur with the courts below in the conclusion that the governor of Porto Rico has precisely the same power as that possessed by the governor of any organized territory to issue a requisition for the return of a fugitive criminal.”

That was just the first case I found when I looked. There are lots more.

Q: But extraordinary rendition means sending someone off to be tortured, right?

A: No. Extraordinary rendition is rendition outside normal legal frameworks. (Extradition is a form of “ordinary” rendition.) It includes sending people off to countries where we have reason to think that they will be tortured. But it also includes things like catching Osama bin Laden in another country and bringing him to the United States to stand trial. What makes something a case of extraordinary rendition is the way the person is transferred from one jurisdiction to another, not what happens to that person once s/he arrives.

Q: But don’t most people who talk about ‘rendition’ just mean ‘sending people off to other countries to be tortured’?

A: Probably. That’s the kind of rendition that became famous when Bush was in office. But remember: lawyers are not most people. They use all sorts of words in peculiar ways (besides using words like ‘estoppal’ that normal people don’t use at all.) To them, this is a technical term. They use it accordingly.

Glenn Greenwald, who is certainly no fan of torture, extralegal methods, and all that rot, puts forth a hypothetical that basically illustrates what extraordinary rendition’s supposed to be used for: extracting dangerous, horrible people from the countries where they’ve gone to ground and bringing them to a country that will prosecute. We’ve used this method many times in the past, and so have other countries, taking such people as Adolf Eichmann and Mir Aimal Kansi from their hidey-holes and delivering them to courts that tried, convicted and sentenced them for their crimes. The U.S. Department of State has a handy little chart showing folks who were either extradicted or renditioned between ’93 and ’99, back before “rendition” became a synonym for “snatch, disappear and torture the possibly innocent bastard.” Keeping the door open to rendition doesn’t mean Obama’s sliding down the slippery slope to Jack Bauer Fantasyland. Sorry, wingnuts, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for validation.

But what’s to keep rendition from becoming a dirty practice again? We all know there’s a dark side to it, just as there is whenever you get into gray areas of the law. Cujo359 once again comes through with a sensible proposal:

My own feeling is that the act of rendition itself may be necessary for some time, since there’s no way of enforcing any edict of the World Court or other international justice system in a country that doesn’t agree to abide by it. Perhaps in the long run, though, the only acceptable way of doing this will be to go through an international court to obtain a warrant. Messy as that idea sounds, it’s probably better than letting everyone do it on his own.

That begs the question of what would happen if the World Court declined to issue such a warrant in a case that clearly merited it, but it would be at least a step closer to bringing extralegal actions under the scrutiny of a court, where abuses could be minimized, and a judicial eyeball kept on rendition to ensure that renditioned people aren’t simply shipped off to be warehoused and tortured without legal recourse.

Even without such warrants, we can ensure that our own practice of rendition is restricted to bringing suspected criminals to trial in regular courts. It’s not a get-into-Guantanamo-free card. And considering Obama’s closing Gitmo and doing all sorts of things to show that yes, really, truly, he’s serious about this no-torture stuff, I imagine that’s exactly what’s going to happen when he revamps the rendition option. If not, enough of us screaming at him should do the trick.

Mongers of Fear

We’re all gonna diiiieeeee!!1!!!111!!!

Such is the sentiment of the right-wing retards that brought us 9/11 by ignoring intelligence community warnings, sent 4,871 soldiers to die in wars that were not only pointless but generated more terrorists for us to deal with, and presided over the destruction of America’s moral authority.

President Obama issued orders to close Guantanamo and cease torturing people. Thirty seconds later, the right wing exploded. Preliminary reports suggest the remnants of their sanity imploded, setting off a chain reaction of insanity with a force roughly equivalent to India’s entire nuclear arsenal.

Bush’s former speechwriter is shitting himself in terror:

Just yesterday, Marc Thiessen, up until recently George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, wrote a rather twisted op-ed for the Washington Post, engaging in the kind of shameless demagoguery that’s so over the top, it almost reads like a parody. Today, Thiessen went even further.

Yesterday, Thiessen argued that if Barack Obama changes Bush’s national-security apparatus in anyway, he’ll invite domestic terrorism and will shoulder the blame for American deaths. Today, writing for the National Review, Thiessen believes Obama is the most dangerous president “ever.”

Less than 48 hours after taking office, Obama has begun dismantling those institutions without time for any such review. The CIA program he is effectively shutting down is the reason why America has not been attacked again after 9/11. He has removed the tool that is singularly responsible for stopping al-Qaeda from flying planes into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, Heathrow Airport, and London’s Canary Warf [sic], and blowing up apartment buildings in Chicago, among other plots. It’s not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office.

This is not only a rather hysterical rant, it’s rather silly.

For example, a CIA program was not “singularly responsible for stopping al-Qaeda from flying planes into the Library Tower in Los Angeles.” What Thiessen neglects to mention is that the Library Tower plot was an idea that “had not gone much past the conceptual stage.” Many within the intelligence community eventually concluded that the Library Tower scheme was never much more than “talk.” We literally tortured this idea out of detainees, but that doesn’t make it a thwarted terrorist plot. What’s more, the evidence to bolster Thiessen’s other examples is no more compelling. (And this puts aside the notion that we might be able to get intelligence without torturing suspects.)

Bill O and Laura Ingraham screech that without torture, America can’t possibly be safe:

Bill O’Reilly was harping on his recent favorite theme — that Obama needs to keep America a torturing nation in order to keep us safe from imminent terrorist attack — with Laura Ingraham last night, and she chimed in thus:

Ingraham: We want to understand here, Bill, if America is safer today or less safe than she was on January 19. And I think any objective review of what’s being done — and you’re right, he promised to do these things and he’s doing them — shutting down the military tribunals temporarily, a 120-day pause, closing Gitmo by 2010, and doing away with [scare quotes] “harsh interrogation methods” — I think you can make a pretty compelling case that we’re less safe today. And Barack Obama apparently is willing to roll the dice on that. Because he made these promises and — he campaigned on them.

This particularly ugly meme is rapidly gaining favor on the right. It was recently advanced in the Washington Post by George W. Bush’s ex-speechwriter, Marc Thiessen…

[snip]

As Jason Zengerle adroitly observed, “You almost get the sense guys like Thiessen are hoping for an attack so that they can blame Obama when it happens.”

Indeed, claims like these actually invite domestic terrorist attacks, since they announce to terrorist organizations that Obama will be especially politically vulnerable to divisive right-wing attacks if they pull off another major event; Obama won’t have Bush’s right-wing Mulligan. This in turn will further motivate them to pull off such an event. It makes America a much more inviting target to strategic-oriented terrorists like Al Qaeda (which, since 9/11, has been largely content to focus on its own back yard).

Once again, Conservative ideology is more important to right-wingers than our national well-being.

Thanks, Cons, for not only creating more terrorists, but giving them more ideas. That’s just awesome.

I’m not sure what it is about Cons. They seem to live in a state of perpetual paranoia. What else explains rampaging idiocy such as this?

One day before President Obama ordered the closing of Guantanamo Bay, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) said he would be willing to facilitate the process by bringing some of the detainees into his district. “Sure, I’d take them,” Murtha said. “I mean, they’re no more dangerous in a prison in my district than they are in Guantanamo.”

Fox News’s Glenn Beck called Murtha a “clown” yesterday because of the proposal. But Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, may have won top prize for the most absurd reaction. Calling the idea “ludicrous,” Gramley’s main complaint seems to be that the al Qaeda suspects will indoctrinate the other American inmates:

“I don’t think the average murde
rer or rapist hates all Americans or hates what America stands for like the terrorist prisoners from Guantanamo,” said Gramley, who lives in Venango County. “You intermix them with the prison population, and there’s the very real possibility they would influence those individuals in prison.”

What amazing visions they have dancing in their heads. Not only do they believe that mixing a terrorist or two in amidst our own crooks will have the instant effect of turning everybody into terrorists, they think people in a Supermax get to socialize. You know what? I think we should have a sleepover program so that right-wing dumbfucks can see firsthand that the prisons they consign the worst of the worst ordinary criminals to are not the luxurious resorts they consign their own white-collar malefactors to.

They should also have their citizenship stripped and have to attempt to get it back. Then they might realize how incredibly stupid this hypothetical is:

Discussing Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo on Mike Gallagher’s radio show yesterday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) claimed that Obama’s actions could be “the beginning of shutting down…the activities of the CIA.” When Gallagher said that Obama wanted to “bestow American citizenship rights to somebody from another country” who wants “to murder civilian Americans,” King claimed that closing Gitmo could put 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed “on a path to citizenship”:

KING: Let’s just say that, that, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, is brought to the United States to be tried in a federal court in the United States, under a federal judge, and we know what some of those judges do, and on a technicality, such as, let’s just say he wasn’t read his Miranda rights. … He is released into the streets of America. Walks over and steps up into a US embassy and applies for asylum for fear that he can’t go back home cause he spilled the beans on al Qaeda. What happens then if another judge grants him asylum in the United States and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is on a path to citizenship. I mean, I give you the extreme example of this.

[snip]

As terrorism expert Peter Bergen noted on CNN last night, “the idea that somehow these terrorists are going to be released is just absolutely nonsensical.” “When terrorists have been tried in the United States, they go away forever,” said Bergen. “The embassy attackers in ‘98 who blew up two American embassies, they are in prison for life without parole.”

I don’t think anyone has to worry about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed getting a green card and buying a house in the burbs any time soon.

Choosing a winner for most ridiculous statement was damned difficult, but I think Rep. Cantor won by a nose:

GOP House Minority Whip Eric Cantor warned: “Actively moving terrorists inside our borders weakens our security. Most families neither want nor need hundreds of terrorists seeking to kill Americans in their communities.

Well, no shit, Eric. That’s why they’ll be in prison, not roaming the streets, you fucktard.

Their hysteria’s bad enough when it’s based off of their fantasies. It goes up astronomically when there’s a wee bit of reality to feed the flames:

The New York Times reports that “the emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.”

[snip]

Asked about the Times story, CAP’s Ken Gude responded that “it is impossible to guarantee that no detainees released from Guantanamo will ever join up with terrorists or commit violent acts. The Obama admininstration must do all that it can to prevent this from occuring, but the chances are likely that it will.”

But you cannot assess the dangers of Guantanamo simply by looking at a handful of released detainees and whether they participate in terrorism. Guantanamo’s existence has driven far more individuals into al Qaeda’s ranks than those who could join the fight after being released.

And the Iraq war provided an environment in which to train them. Contrary to what conservatives will inevitably insist, the story of Said Ali al-Shihri doesn’t argues for abandoning the effort to close Guantanamo (it’s unknown whether al-Shihri’s Gitmo stint further radicalized him, as it has other detainees), but for a more competent and responsible process for dealing with detainees. More importantly, given the apparent ease with which al-Shihri was able to hook up with an Iraq-fed Al Qaeda affiliate after his release, it argues for a counter-terrorism policy that doesn’t actually fan the flames of extremism in the Middle East, as the Bush administration’s did.

Of course, the frothing fuckwits can’t reason this through. They can’t accept that the mess they created is going to leave a stain. And they’re trying to pawn responsibility off on Obama, who didn’t even release the above terrorist:

I’d just like to point something out to the many rightwingers who are frothing at the mouth today over the NYT’s story that a former Gitmo detainee has become the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch.

The Bush administration released this man in 2007, without trial -a decision made by political appointees, not judicial review – and handed him over to the Saudis who let him walk.

So who is at fault here?

Rather than blaming Obama for wanting to actually put bad guys on trial – proper trial – shouldn’t these rightwing pundits be asking why the Bush administration made a political decision to let this guy go?

Well, they should, but they won’t. That wouldn’t fit their fearmongering narrative, which is that Obama’s going to get us all killed because he’s not willing to be a lawbreaking, torture-encouraging, short-sighted dumbshit like Bush.

We are seeing just the beginning of the right-wing freakout that will sweep this nation. We need stamp on the flames before they get out of hand. In a rational country, all of their babbling would be no more than an amusing distraction. Alas, there are far too many willingly stupid people in America. So arm yourself with facts, my darlings. Sharpen them into pithy points. Hone your rapier wit. And be ready to turn right-wing attacks right back at ‘em, just as Glenn Greenwald has so ably done.

Tell the mongers of fear to go peddle their wares elsewhere.

Gaza: Israel Withdraws

Even in the afterglow of Inauguration Day, we’re keeping up on the news from Gaza, my darlings. It wouldn’t do to get distracted by shiny things. Considering how the ongoing crisis between Israel and the Palestinians destabilizes the Middle East, it’s worth keeping a close eye on.

The news is mixed. On the good side, Israel has withdrawn its forces:

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday said it had withdrawn all of its soldiers from Gaza, three and a half weeks after launching Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the coastal territory.

“As of this morning, the last of the Israel Defence Forces soldiers have left the Gaza Strip and the forces have deployed outside of Gaza and are prepared for any occurrences,” an army spokesman said.

On the bad side, there’s been mortar fire and some shootings:

Israel reported mortar shelling from Gaza on Tuesday. The Palestinians have said Israeli troops shot to death two farmers since the truce took hold.

[snip]

The Israel Air Force on Tuesday attacked areas in the Gaza Strip from which Palestinians fired mortar shells. The Israel Defense Forces said that about eight mortar shells were shot from near a central Gaza refugee camp, apparently by Hamas. Two of the shells landed in the Strip and the rest fell in open territory in the western Negev near the border.

At this stage, the IDF is holding its fire after its attack at around 6 P.M. Tuesday.

The Palestinians also fired light weapons into Israel on Tuesday, from both north and south of the Kissufim crossing. An explosive charge was also apparently set off.

Not good.

The reporting’s too sketchy to determine what exactly is happening – after the lies Israel told during the invasion, I’m disinclined to believe their claims that it’s all Hamas’s fault. But I’m also not going to be shocked in the least if some pissed-off Palestinians have ignored the cease-fire in the interest of extracting a pound or two of flesh.

After all, there’s plenty to be pissed about:

As outside observers enter Gaza, we’re learning more about what has happened during the Israeli attack. What they are seeing is devastating – and is leading to accusations of Israeli war crimes.

[snip]

Amnesty International reported Monday on the findings of a four-person fact-finding team who have just been allowed to Gaza. The team included a weapons expert who said:

“Yesterday, we saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army…White phosphorus is a weapon intended to provide a smokescreen for troop movements on the battlefield. It is highly incendiary, air burst and its spread effect is such that it that should never be used on civilian areas”.

And their conclusion is that the Israeli use in Gaza “is a war crime:”

“Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely populated residential neighbourhoods is inherently indiscriminate. Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

They’ve left behind plenty of outrage, and there’s that small matter of having destroyed the very security forces that might have enforced a cease-fire.

It’s not over. Not by any means.

Gaza: What Israel Gained

For now, the fighting has stopped. Bombs aren’t falling, rockets aren’t firing. It may seem to a naive observer that Israel met its objectives.

But look deeper, and you see that all they’ve done is make a horrible situation worse.

The threat of imminent violence is still there:

The 22-day war ended without surrender. Neither Israel nor Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, made any concessions, except to stop fighting temporarily.

“The essence of this is you have two completely separate cease-fires, with no underpinnings in them of agreement or understanding, and no resolution of the original causes of the conflict,” said Alistair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer and former European Union adviser on Palestinian issues. “On one level, it’s back to square one, and all of the elements of the situation are back to where they were before the war.”

Although Hamas sustained the heavier losses, by a lopsided margin, Israeli officials acknowledged that the movement could quickly rebuild its political and military wings and that it still posed a potent long-term threat to Israel.

The chance of enduring peace is further away than ever, especially since right-wing hawks are poised to poison Israeli politics still further:

And prospects for the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and Syria that have been central to Kadima’s platform look shakier than ever.

Many believe the Israeli operation has further weakened the legitimacy of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the negotiating partner on the Palestinian side.

“I don’t think we have a peace agenda now – Syria doesn’t want to talk any more, the Palestinians are in a very delicate situation,” says David Nachmias, Professor of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center, an academic institute north of Tel Aviv.

[snip]

And Prof Doron points out that an electorate that was already right-leaning has moved further right, as evident in gains for the Yisrael Beiteinu party of far-right Avigdor Lieberman.

They’ve earned a reputation for senseless brutality:

“We walked at the head of a group of women and we waved white flags. We managed to pass three houses on the street and then I saw an Israeli soldier 40 meters away aiming his weapon at us,” said Yasmin A-Najar. “I thought he wanted us to come closer. Ruwahiya and I continued to walk and suddenly the soldier shot at us.”

Yasmin was wounded in her right leg and Ruwahiya fell on the street with her head bleeding. The rest of the women panicked and scattered, hiding while the shooting continued.

Yasmin said she tried to return and help Ruwahiya but the soldiers fired at her. They also shot at the ambulance driver who arrived and he was forced to turn back, she said. When Ruwahiya was finally evacuated at 8 P.M., she was already dead.

And Hamas is not broken:

The top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said Israel had “failed to achieve its goals”.

In a speech broadcast on Hamas TV, he said: “God has granted us a great victory, not for one faction, or party, or area, but for our entire people.”

Hamas said it would hold fire for a week to give Israel time to withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for Hamas’ military wing, Abu Ubaida, said its rocket capabilities had not been affected by the conflict.

“We hereby stress that our rockets are being developed and are piling up, and that the enemy will receive more rockets and God willing, our rockets will hit more targets,” he said in a news conference broadcast live on Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV.

I fail to see how this insanity served Israel’s long-term interests. All they’ve done is created sympathy for the Palestinians and broken fertile ground for extremism and terrorism.

Gaza: Returning to Devastation

Hamas has turned the tables on Israel by declaring its own cease-fire and reiterating its demands:

Hamas announced an immediate cease-fire by its militants and allied groups in Gaza on Sunday, giving Israel a week to pull out its troops from the coastal territory.

Israel, which mounted an offensive against Hamas three weeks ago to halt years of rocket attacks, agreed to silence its guns and ground its aircraft early Sunday.

“We the Palestinian resistance factions declare a cease-fire from our side in Gaza and we confirm our stance that the enemy’s troops must withdraw from Gaza within a week,” said Damascus-based Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk.

Ayman Taha, a Hamas official in Cairo for talks with Egypt on a truce deal, demanded that Israel open all of Gaza’sw border crossings to allow in food and other goods to meet the “basic needs for our people.”

This is a brilliant move on their part. It shows they’re willing to play the diplomacy game, and takes back the initiative. Hamas is bruised, battered and bloody, but refuses to back down. I think this is a signal to the rest of the world that, despite attempts to declare them nothing more than a terrorist group, they’re a duly-elected government that intends to govern. And they’re going to have to be treated as such.

I’m not sure about the borders, but it looks like Israeli troops may soon be leaving Palestinian soil:

Olmert told European leaders visiting Jerusalem on Sunday evening that in the wake of the cease-fire, Israel planned to withdraw all of its troops as soon as possible. He said that such a move would come when the situation between Israel and Gaza was “stable.”

That stability may be a wee bit hard to achieve:

Meanwhile, although Hamas’s leadership said they’d stop firing missiles, the missiles have kept firing. Why? Well, at a guess “Hamas’s leadership” is a lot less powerful than it used to be since the Israelis assassinated most of it. And the security forces who used to make sure that missiles didn’t get fired if Hamas’s Leadership didn’t want them to be fired, well they were the first and main target of Israel’s strikes. It’s almost as if Israel wanted to make sure that Hamas’s leadership couldn’t control their military wing.

That’s a recipe for catastrophe, and Israel won’t have anyone to blame but themselves. Hamas showed itself capable of controlling other militant groups’ activities during the six-month cease-fire. With their security forces destroyed, angry Palestinians with access to rockets won’t have much standing in their way. Just the excuse Israel will need for yet another invasion.

Of course, invading under indictments may prove a little tricky:

Israel is preparing for a wave of lawsuits by pro-Palestinian organizations overseas against Israelis involved in the Gaza fighting, claiming they were responsible for war crimes due to the harsh results stemming from the IDF’s actions against Palestinian civilians and their property.

Senior Israeli ministers have expressed serious fears during the past few days about the possibility that Israel will be pressed to agree to an international investigation of the losses among non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead; or alternately, that Israelis will be faced with personal suits, such as happened to Israeli officers who were accused of war crimes in Britain for their actions during the second intifada.

It wouldn’t sadden me a bit to see Olmert and a few other of Israel’s hawks stuffed in the Hague with our own war criminals. Should we all splurge to buy them a vacation in Amsterdam?

Israel’s doing its best, now that the true extent of the destruction will be revealed, to craft its alibi:

With this in mind, Israel is reportedly “readying a new offensive — the battle for public opinion.” AFP reports Israel has begun compiling information to try to prove that many of the 4,000 residential buildings, 51 government buildings, and 20 mosques it hit during the offensive were legitimate targets used by Hamas militants. At least six Israeli ministers will be “fanning out to different countries to press home Israel’s view of the conduct of the war.” Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog said Israel is aiming to prevent an ‘over-dramatization‘ of the facts.”

I’m not quite sure how you can over-dramatize facts that are dramatic enough in and of themselves.

First, an illustration:


That was the death toll before the war even ended. That’s a hell of a lot of dead women and children to have to explain.

Then there’s the evidence of new weapons used:

Some Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip were wounded by a new type of weapon that even doctors with previous experience in war zones do not recognize, according to Dr. Erik Fosse, a Norwegian cardiologist who worked at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital for 11 days, during Operation Cast Lead.

However, he added in a telephone conversation from Oslo, most casualties were people hit by shrapnel from conventional explosives.

Fosse, a department head at a university hospital in Oslo, worked in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and several times in Lebanon, also in 2006. That was when he first heard about the new kind of weapon, but did not see any such wounds with his own eyes.

The unknown weapon appears to mainly affect the body’s lower part, he said. It severs the legs, leaving burns around the stump, small punctures in the skin and internal bleeding.

[snip]

Fosse and a Norwegian colleague, Mads Gilbert, arrived in Gaza on December 31 and remained until January 10. They were financed by the Norwegian government.

On his return, Fosse submitted a report to his government in which he accused the IDF of deliberately targeting civilians. Fosse said he believes Israel deliberately chose to attack while We
sterners working for international organizations were back home for the Christmas vacation.

“The Palestinian witnesses, as medical workers, are very accurate in their reports, but if we hadn’t been there to confirm their testimony, it would all have been presented as Hamas propaganda,” he said.

Remember that, when Israel starts presenting its case and dismisses horror after horror as “Hamas propaganda.”

Palestinians are left to assess the rubble and try to put their shattered lives back together. This is what they’re coming back to:

All day, thousands of Gazans have been rushing back to their neighbourhoods to see what is left after Israel’s campaign of bombing and shelling.

Gaping holes and fire-blackened cars litter the streets in the areas hit hardest by the fighting.

I have spoken to some people who say they have not even been able to find their way round their bomb-damaged neighbourhoods, never mind find the remains of their homes.

Many simply turned round and returned to the UN-run schools they fled to amid the fighting.

But for some Gazans even attempting to return home is virtually unimaginable.

Amira al-Girim, 15, lies in a hospital bed with her leg in traction.

She was found alone, bleeding in a house, about four days after she saw her father killed by an Israeli tank shell in front of her.

Her brother and sister died – she thinks in an air strike – as they ran to get help.

Her remaining family thought she too had died, and had already buried the scraps of flesh they thought were her remains in a box.

Let those images sear themselves into your mind. Don’t forget. This is what happens when a country responds with disproportionate force to a threat. America did it on a far greater scale than Israel, and for less reason. The war in Iraq and the war in Gaza are inextricably entwined.

We must not forget:

As we wait to see what happens next, it’s important to remember what we’ve just seen. So often we are encouraged to sink into a comfortable amnesia designed to wipe away the news of civilian deaths and the war crimes – whether our own in Iraq and Afghanistan – or now those of our allies and best arms customers in Israel. So let’s recap and remember – and insist on international action.

Last March, Israeli officials met with Condi Rice and then approved a plan for a war on Gaza. By their own admission, Israel signed onto the June 19 cease-fire in order to buy time for preparing for that war – and while Hamas honored the cease-fire, Israel used the world’s focus on the Obama election on November 4 to launch an incursion into Gaza, killing 6 Palestinians – knowing this would provoke a Hamas reaction since it was an act of war. That reaction was then used as an excuse for further Israeli incursions and as the justification of a siege of Gaza, blocking all shipments of food, medicine and fuel to the residents who live in a virtual prison, unable to leave, unable to live with no electricity, starvation level food supplies and a compromised water supply since the fuel needed for the water sanitation plants was not let in. The people of Gaza were reduced to eating bread made from animal feed – and when that ran out, grass. Even with this continuous collective punishment of the people of Gaza, their elected government announced – multiple times – that they would agree to a new cease-fire on the condition that the blockade of supplies be lifted.

Instead, Israel – with its massive PR campaign – claimed that Hamas refused a new cease-fire – and then launched a vicious attack on Gaza.

Over 1300 Gazans have been killed, over 5,000 wounded – one third of those children – and the casualties included medics trying to rescue wounded families, journalists, and more than 50 Gazans who had fled to UN schools for refuge from the fighting. The UN warehouse and all the humanitarian aid in it were destroyed when Israel bombed it– apparently using white phosphorus, setting the building on fire.

There can be no real peace for the people of Gaza until they are allowed self-determination – in the meantime, at least we can insist that Israel open the borders and allow in the humanitarian aid they so desperately need. Let’s not forget them while the world shifts its attention t the celebrations in Washington this week.

We have this chance to take a new direction. With Obama in office, we’ll be leaving Iraq to determine its own way forward. We’ve failed to learn a harsh lesson from the wars of the past several years: we cannot solve terrorism with bombs. We cannot bring peace by raining down destruction. America tried and failed. Israel tried, and I guarantee you that they will also fail.

Peace, if it comes, will be brought about by tough compromises. We cannot call every government we do not like a “terrorist organization.” We cannot continue starving populations in order to bend them to our will. We have to start building up rather than tearing down. And we have to grant these people the same rights we hold precious: the right to self-determination, to live without threat of annihilation, to be able to work hard and raise families, to eat and drink and live another day.

We need a Marshall Plan for the Middle East. More will be accomplished by helping them build strong economies and functioning societies than would ever be accomplished at the point of a gun. We need to give aid, help them find a path to peace, but not impose our will on them. We need to give them the tools and the room to discover their own solutions to their internal problems. We need to find ways to work together, and we need to be patient, because the wounds we’ve inflicting will be a long time healing. Our whole attitude to the region will have to change, or the bombs will fall again.

It’s time to give Palestinians and Iraqis the most precious gift of all: a future.