George W Bush – Officially a Criminal

Unindicted criminal, George W Bush.

George W Bush, former president and current criminal, has admitted that he authorized the torture of prisoners in US custody. Torture is illegal under the laws of the United States and under international law. It doesn’t matter why you do it, or that we haven’t been attacked by terrorists since then. It’s illegal. Pure and simple.

So of course this brings up the question of whether or not waterboarding is torture. Of course it is. You’d have be an idiot to claim it’s not. We executed Japanese officers who did it to our troops during World War II. The Viet Kong did it to John McCain and it was certainly torture then.

I think we can all agree it’s torture. Torture is illegal under US law. Bush said he authorized his people to do something that’s illegal. I’m no great legal scholar, but I believe this is described as engaging in a criminal conspiracy, right? Since it crossed state lines, it’d be a federal crime.

This sounds like I’m being twee or overly partisan here, but this is actually a very serious question. Bush has admitted to breaking the law. Let me restate this. A former United States president, a civilian under our system, has admitted he broke the law. Bill Clinton broke the law and was prosecuted for far less. Why shouldn’t Bush be prosecuted?

Yes, Bush was president, but so what? We’ve always held in this country that the president is not above the law, and should not be. Bush did what he thought was right and correct at the time, and that’s fine and dandy. But what he did, what he has admitted to doing was flat-out illegal. So why shouldn’t he be prosecuted?

Of course I’m not naive. I know he won’t ever be and it’s because he was president and despite what we like to pretend, we do view presidents as being above the law. Plus there’s no way it wouldn’t be painful and lead to a lot of political crap.

But we still need to do it. I wrote about this last year and here’s what I said then:

Now of course there are those who say this would be tough for our nation; that it might “tear us apart”. That was part of the logic Ford used when he pardoned Nixon, after all.

But you know what? Yeah, it’d be tough for our country, but that’s not a bad thing. We need to know what was being done in our name and if it was illegal, the people who were doing it need to be brought to justice. Just because Bush and Cheney were high-level officials that doesn’t excuse their behavior. You are not above the law because of your position in this country. Just like how Nixon should’ve been tried, so should Bush and Cheney and others (if there is sufficient evidence, of course).

The message must be sent that you are not above the law no matter who you are or what you do for a living. If the former President and the former Vice-President broke the law, they should be punished as any other American would be, period. Anything else is simply unAmerican.

It was true then, and it’s true now.


Letter Bomb Gets Stopped Before it Gets Delivered

That’s the message to take away from all this. It was, essentially, a letter bomb. They suck, but they happen a lot and we deal with them. It’s not anything worth getting overly concerned over. Hell, remember back in the day when the Unabomber was running around? This is basically the same thing and nothing to really get worried about.

I say this because the way the media is covering it, you’d think dozens were dead and America was having a huge crisis. CNN has spent several hours covering this story and only this story. So, please, get a little perspective here. Nothing happened. The system worked as it was supposed to, the bomb never even reached American soil and no one was killed. Even if they had been, well, it’s a letter bomb. It’s bad, but not as bad as all that.

So can we please stop pretending this is a major event and quickly move on?

Security As Illusion

So the last month I went to Vegas. Had a great time, aside from the damage to my feet from all the walking around. Glad I went, and I look forward to going again.

On my way back I was going through the airport and was in the area past the security gates. As I walked I noticed all the restaurants and thought to myself, “Hang on a moment. I bet any of the steakhouse-type restaurants probably have steak knives. I know for sure that any of the restaurants probably have sharp knives in the back for cooking and prep. Sure, some can be done offsite but not all. How hard would it be to just get a knife and go to town once on an airplane?”

Now to anyone out there from the TSA (hi, guys!), let me point out here that I have no interest in bringing a knife onto a plane. But there are people out there who do want to so such things.

Airport security is an illusion. Many kinds of security are, but this is especially egregious. As the cartoon above points out, anyone with a basic knowledge of electronics can turn a laptop or two into a bomb. Not to mention any number of other electronic devices brought on board that I’m sure could be McGyvered into something deadly. Hell, a power cord can be used as a garrote. When I came back from Vegas I had a souvenir glass in my carry-on. That wouldn’t be hard to break and use a shard to do something unpleasant with. I could sharpen the ear-supports on my glasses and cover them with plastic caps. That’d make for a good stabbing weapon. I’m sure a reasonably creative person who was motivated to do so could come up with a dozen ways to get weapons of one sort or another on board.

Currently when one goes through airports, you have to take off your shoes at security. You can’t have more than 3 oz of liquid in bottles (and I’m willing to bet that one could probably mix two or thee kinds of 3oz of liquid, combine them with something solid and start a fire or make some poison gas). You have to go through full-body scanners at some places (Vegas, I’m looking at you!). Despite all that, even someone like me can come up with ways to breach the system.

I don’t know. Our current system is really stupid. Sure, you’ll stop the next shoe/underwear bomber, and no one is going to smuggle large amounts of liquid explosive on board, but someone will figure out a way around that soon and then we’ll have another set of restrictions as to what we can and cannot bring on board.

I think we need to do our airport security more like what the Israelis do. Yes, we’re a target, but I’d say they’re a lot more so and it’s been a while since any Israeli jets were hijacked. They do lots of different things (like some mild forms of profiling and lots of training for personnel at every step in the process), and still manage to have a high level of security without it being nearly as intrusive as what we have.

Even their security is, rather like lunchtime, still at least partly an illusion, but probably a lot less so than ours. We do need to understand and accept that a highly motivated person will find a way around every form of security we can think off. We could all fly naked and strapped down and someone will find a way to have exploding dentures triggered by the plane’s transponder frequency.

There’s a balance between security and freedom that must be struck. Currently we’re striking it in a very stupid, illusionary and ineffective way. I don’t know that there’s an easy solution and I’m not entirely sure what the hard solution is, but we do need to come up with something, cause our current system just doesn’t work.

Stripping Our Citizens’ Citizenship

A bipartisan group of legislators, faced with massive budget deficits, high unemployment, the need for energy and immigration reform, a crumbling national infrastructure, an educational system sorely in need of improvement, and a health care system that needs even more reform than it has already have, have decided that, rather than acting on any of the above, they’ll instead introduce legislation to remove the citizenship of anyone convicted in terrorist activity.

Well, yes, I’m sure that will be a great deterrent against people who are generally determined to kill themselves in the process of committing whatever crimes they are trying to commit.

Let’s see… what’s the best, most snarky way to describe this? I think I’ll settle for “really, really stupid, pointless and not likely to past Constitutional muster in the courts.” Ok, that’s not terribly snarky, but it gets the job done.

First, yes, I can somewhat understand the idea of removing citizenship from anyone who was born elsewhere and became a citizen here, like the would-be Muslim terrorist who targeted Times Square last week. In that case you can strip him of his citizenship and send him back to Pakistan.

But what about someone like Eric Rudolph, the Christian terrorist who attacked the Atlanta Olympics? Or Scott Roeder, the Christian terrorist who murdered an abortion provider in Kansas. Or Timothy McVeigh, the now-deceased Christian terrorist who blew up the Oklahoma City federal building? These are all people who were born here in the USA. They’re full citizens. Under this bill, they’d lose their citizenship and then we’d do… what? I mean, they’re in prison for the rest of their lives regardless, right? So what difference does it make if you’re prison as a citizen or not as a citizen?

Ok, but let’s say someone, like the Times Square idiot who likely won’t get more than 25 years, gets out of prison. Pretend it was someone who was born here and we strip them of their citizenship. What do we do with them? Where do we send them? We can’t send them home since they were born here. No other country would likely want them. What are we supposed to do with them?

You know what’s really going on here? A group of people want to appear “tough” on terrorism. They know this likely won’t get voted on in Congress, much less be signed into law, and even if by some chance it is, they know it likely won’t get through the courts without being tossed out. But no matter. They wanna be “tough” on terrorism!

There’s also a subset who clearly want to be able to brutalize anyone involved in terrorism. These are people who get bent out of shape by the idea that the Constitution applies to people who are here regardless of their legal status. They are under the impression that if someone isn’t a citizen they don’t have the same rights in our legal system, which is pure bullshit. Anyone arrested and put through the courts has the same rights. But that’s not how these guys want it, and they figure that stripping away citizenship and generally dehumanizing terrorists as much as possible is a good step towards getting the kind of Draconian legal measures they want.

The only good thing about this proposal is that it isn’t going to go anywhere. I can understand why some people want it passed, but it won’t happen, and if it does, it won’t stand up in court. It serves no real purpose and is completely unnecessary.

Stunning News: Terrorist Convicted In Civilian Court!

In a move sure to stun and enrage conservatives everywhere, Najibullah Zazi entered a guilty plea to terrorist charges. He was convicted in a civilian court. He had a lawyer. He wasn’t tortured. He’s one of many, many people convicted in such a fashion (versus three convicted in military courts, two of which have already been released).

So to all you cynics out there, let me point out to you one simple fact: the system works.

Al Qaeda’s Softer Side

A spokesman for Al Qaeda has offered a nice little apology for all the innocent people they’ve killed over the years. Well, not all of them. Only the Muslims.

From the above-linked article:

“We also express the same in regard to the unintended Muslim victims of the mujahedeen’s operations against the crusaders and their allies and puppets, and to the countless faceless and nameless Muslim victims of the murderous crusades” in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Waziristan regions and Swat Valley, and elsewhere, he said.

Well, how sweet of them. How nice. How conciliatory. So no apologies for the non-Muslim innocent men, women and children killed on 9/11 or in other terrorist attacks. Even if they believe those who worked in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were legitimate targets, they should still apologize for the people on the planes that were rammed into them.

Oh, well. Once again we prove that it takes religion to bring out real evil in people. Sure, you can have it without religion, but believing it’s what God wants you to do sure makes it easier.

Tonight’s Address

So the President has given his speech at West Point on the need to expand our presence in Afghanistan. I’m still cool on the idea, and I gotta say his speech didn’t change my mind much.

I’m glad that he laid out some real reasons for our presence and shot down the Vietnam comparisons, and that he addressed some of the financial issues, and it’s very good that he actually listed off some of our goals. I’d wanted the mission to be more defined, and it is, though still not as much as I’d like.

I’m also very happy he brought diplomacy up. Too often we believe in this nation that power derives from the barrel of a gun, but unless you’re willing to constantly fire that gun, you need to recognize the value of diplomacy.

And I’m quite happy he made it clear that there won’t be any more torture. We can’t find terrorism by becoming terrorists ourselves.

I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, but we’d better see some progress soon.

On a side note: I really, really wish Presidents would stop ending speeches with “God bless the United States of America”. It’s trite and meaningless, and if you have to invoke God somehow, why not just say “God bless humanity”? Better yet, don’t mention God at all. No one that matters will miss it.