Tags: terrorism

Huey Freeman

Confederate History Month

Oh, how I wish I could simply say there's just eleven more days of this nonsense and be done with it, but it's never that simple. Several weeks ago, new Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, at the behest of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, issued a proclamation declaring this month Confederate History Month. The original proclamation romanticized the cause of the South by calling the conflict a war for independence and omitting that the root cause was that the South wanted to maintain the institution of slavery. After a public firestorm, during which he made the unfortunate statement that slavery wasn't a significant issue for Virginia (despite it being the reason Virginia itself broke in two during the Civil War), he backed down and added an apology for slavery to the declaration itself.

Really, there's a lot one can say about this, but one understated irony here is how the party of Lincoln and abolition -- a fact which is brought up frequently when the discussion in politics comes to race -- will today honor the people who launched a war against their country, against Lincoln and those abolitionists. Which brings up the irony of the following, spotted by Gawker.

While condemning an entire religious group because a number of its followers executed an attack on America nine years ago, he is celebrating a group who also executed an attack on America one hundred and forty-nine years ago.

Fifteen years ago today, Timothy McVeigh attacked a federal building in Oklahoma City. Many people died. Today, there will be protests more in support of the militias to which McVeigh swore allegiance to, against this nation. Today, many actual members of the government by election pander to the people who see the United States Federal Government as illegitimate. This is playing with matches around a open powder keg.

Happy 1400th post to me.

The biggest, unconstitutional data-mining operation in history...

...at least to those of us who believe there are protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, or any sort of right to privacy. The NSA has -- with the cooperation of AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth -- collected the phone records of most anyone who made a telephone call, anywhere! Remember those statements by the president asserting this program was constrained to suspected terrorists making an international, and that they are only done after a warrant was granted? I can't imagine any administration more dishonest than this one.

The one tiny bit of good news in this is that Quest managed to stand up for the privacy of its customers, even in the face of an administration willing to exploit both fear and nationalistism for such unamerican means.

Because it still needs to be asked...

There is no bigger story than war. And a war whose major premise -- the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction -- turned out to be unsupported is an even bigger story. That the administration presented this threat to the public with such a strong, yet false, sense of certainty -- including the imagery of mushroom clouds -- is an even more important lesson for all of us about big but not well-examined decisions. How did a country on the leading edge of the information age get this so wrong and express so little skepticism and challenge? How did an entire system of government and a free press set out on a search for something and fail to notice, or even warn us in a timely or prominent way, that it wasn't or might not be there?
---Michael Getler, the departing ombudsman for the Washington Post (who is, by the way, the incoming ombudsman for PBS)

This is a question all American journalists should tack on a wall, a computer monitor, a bathroom mirror, or any place they're going to stare at all day.

Remember, "Bong Dude" was British. . .

Not the Bong Dude who I remember from a forum where I posted comments and a story outline once, but Richard Reid. Remember him? He was the wannabe airline terrorist with explosives in his shoe. Here at SterlingManor, he got that nickname because there was no published picture of him where he didn't look stoned. Also, you'd have to be pretty stoned to even try to get away with an attack involving an airplane.

But why bring up the fact that he was British? Simple, when you start profiling, criminals learn to recruit the unprofiled. If you start profiling the Arab-looking men, then the terrorist organizations start recruiting lighter-skinned women. And while that's happening, you begin to piss off the Arab-looking men, innocent in all, except the mind of public opinion. That will hurt us more in the long run.

Continuing on, shortly after the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, a stupid little meme formed. "If [insert course of action here], then the terrorists win." I think we're about to enter where that saying actually isn't pablum. New York City and Atlanta has started random bag checks on subways, and our Washington Metro is considering the same. That's going to work as well as random police stops have worked to catch HOV violators in this region, or random ticket checks on the Baltimore Light Rail. Hell, London is cameraed up and down, and they still managed to get hit twice in its transportation system in the span of two weeks. Now, back to random checks, unless you plan on posting guards at every stop, well, you'll have the same success as the Virginia State Police has with HOV violators (see earlier link). But then again, let's place every cop we have at every subway stop. Let's break the system in the same way we wrecked airline travel. Then we can marvel in the horror when they hit us using another method. Bolt the doors, and they'll break in through the windows.

That said, if you want more reading on profiling, why it's bad if you're working on nothing more than his skin is too dark it's bad, but it's better if it's based on the fact he's acting weird, here's a longish piece by Bruce Schneier.

And this is the reason racial profiling is bad.

It's good to hear the news that British police may have caught some suspects in the latest round of subway bombings. However, that doesn't lessen the terribleness of learning that the guy police shot and killed over the weekend was an innocent bystander -- at least in the concerns of terrorism. The man, whom the cops must have thought was a suspicious Muslim man was a Brazilian man. Two posts ago, I probably wasn't dismissive enough over the idea of racial profiling. If you thought I was for profiling, I'm not. I should know by now that my style of sarcasm doesn't come across through text.

But that horrible case of mistaken identity, nee assumptive identification is reason enough to pause and resist the urge to endorse racial profiling.