Category: Current Events


when Justice lies

June 27th, 2012 — 6:18pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

When you are sworn into Federal Court, you are exhorted to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Each of these phrases carries a slightly different angle against any possible lie – not only are you swearing to speak no lies, but also to not hold any part of the truth back, and to not mix in lies among the truth you do tell.

And so by its own standards, the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has been openly and unabashedly lying about the racial divisions that remain within the American penal system for at least the past seven years.  It’s a lie so patently absurd that if our current President was incarcerated, the Department of Justice would pretend he wasn’t there, and whitewash his existence from their racial prisoner data entirely.

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Comment » | controlled substance, Current Events, diversity, economics, innercity violence, islamist, marijuana, organized crime, politics, prison system, racial inequality, racial tension, racism, reform, war on drugs

innocents and innocence alike

August 13th, 2011 — 12:52pm

(read the book free online - get a copy for your Kindle - read the Reddit AMA)

In one of The Dark Knight‘s pivotal scenes, Alfred descends into a strictly ordered and starkly lit Batcave as Bruce Wayne is doggedly patching himself up. After helping his employer with some stitching, Alfred realizes that Master Bruce doesn’t fully comprehend the dystopian miasma of violence that the Joker has brought upon Gotham City:

Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?

Alfred: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

It’s a fantastic scene from a cinematic standpoint, but a problem occurs when you pull the Joker out of the movie as one crazy-ass allegory for chaos and death. And especially when you make the leap of trying to fit terrorism into the framework provided by the Joker, to use the the Joker as a rubric for terrorism.

No one better proves this than the Ft. Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan.

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Comment » | books, counterinsurgency, Current Events, domestic terror, islam, news, politics, terrorism

innocence and innocents alike

November 7th, 2009 — 8:38pm

In one of the pivotal scenes of The Dark Knight, Alfred descends into a strictly ordered and starkly lit Batcave as Bruce Wayne is doggedly patching himself up. After helping his employer with some stitching, Alfred realizes that Master Bruce doesn’t fully comprehend the miasma of violence that the Joker has brought upon Gotham City:

Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?

Alfred: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

It’s a fantastic scene from a cinematic standpoint, but a problem occurs when you pull the Joker out of the movie as one crazy-ass allegory for chaos and death. And especially when you make the leap of trying to fit terrorism into the framework provided by the Joker, to use the the Joker as a rubric for terrorism.

No one better proves this than the Ft. Hood shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan.

Because we lose any chance of gaining useful insight when we label Hasan a terrorist, stuffing him into a box of our choosing. Instead of trying to see the box that he saw himself in, and carefully crafted for himself.

Terrorism isn’t about creating chaos simply for chaos’s sake. Terrorists don’t kill for the pure joy of killing, they aren’t evil embodiments of some dark sinister incomprehensible force. That’s where the Joker fails as a metaphor for terrorism.

The Joker is terrorism only as we see it, he perfectly embodies terrorists only as we perceive them. But that perception is never the entire story. If anything, the Joker embodies just how limited society’s take on terrorism so often is – we are unwilling to approach it unless it seems to be disfigured by insanity, the twisted product of a warped and disturbed mind.

But viewing terrorists that way masks who they really are. It hides their true identities, and prevents us from either understanding or preventing their actions.

The men we call terrorists view themselves as fighting the good fight, as dying for for something greater than themselves. Each and every one of them, to a man. They view themselves as serving a cause, as sacrificing their life at the altar of some worthy or noble duty. Judging their moral calculus, pressing our own ideas of when killing is or isn’t justified onto them, does absolutely nothing to help us understand or analyze their actions and their origins. Lives we see as innocent, they see as necessary or unavoidable collateral damage.

Innocence and innocents alike are lost in the stench of terror’s breath.

In times of war, civilians lose their lives. By the thousands, sometimes by the millions. But in the context of war, as a society we’re okay with that. Innocent lives can be sacrificed at the altar of warfare, it’s an unfortunate but unavoidable side-effect that we don’t let ourselves be troubled by. And in the same way, killing civilians doesn’t trouble terrorists either.

Because terrorists see themselves as soldiers. Soldiers fighting a war worth dying in, a war that transcends their lives, and any interpretation of right or wrong and good vs. evil that we – as outsiders – might bring in from the outside.

The shooter of an Arkansas military recruitment center, Abdulhakim Muhammad, who made his initial extremist contacts online before ultimately converting to radical Islam while in prison,  recently changed his plea:
“My lawyer has no defense,” Muhammad wrote in the two-page letter, dated Jan. 12. “I wasn’t insane or post-traumatic nor was I forced to do this act.”

In the letter, Muhammad described himself as a soldier in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and called the shooting “a Jihadi Attack.”

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overtaken by events

June 11th, 2009 — 12:25am

California is going to explode. And it’s not just because of the $18.6 billion dollars in cuts that Arnold is going to have to make, which is going to include eliminating entire welfare programs.

The budget crisis, unemployment, all of that is going to the last of your average Californian’s worries before the summer’s out.   Probably the last of  many of our worries, as what begins in California will inevitably spread to many of our doorsteps. Getting to that point though,  that requires a little bit of explaining.

In one of the opening scenes of the coming-of-age cinematic classic Dazed and Confused, the history teacher yells after her class on the last day of school that over the summer during the holiday weekend “when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha,”  they shouldn’t forget “what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, rich white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”

There’s a lot of truth to that sentiment, although it’s not something anyone studies much in high school – where we focus on the social and philosophical elements of the American Revolution and, for the most part, ignore its underlying economic element. But if those rich white men had been taxed more fairly, the Revolution might never have occurred.  Something you’re reminded of every time you see the cheeky slogan on a DC license plate.
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