“24” is just TV

24 04 2009

Not particularly high-quality TV, either (IMO).

I’m assuming that everyone has now seen or heard about the White House releasing declassified CIA reports regarding so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”.  You may also heard the President say that he wasn’t interested in prosecuting those responsible for conducting this torture, on the grounds that those men and women were “just following orders”.

Let us not mince words, people. Everyone involved in this, from the lowest pay-grade grunt performing waterboarding to the former President, needs to be brought before a court of law to answer for this series of crimes. “I was just following orders” is not now and must never be an acceptable defense for committing atrocities. When I wore my country’s uniform, we were told from day one that we are not required to obey illegal orders. Furthermore, we were always told that we had a duty to refuse to obey any order in violation of US law or the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.  There is no fucking excuse for this sort of behavior.Torturing prisoners is always wrong. Period. Full stop.

Many people- especially those associated with the previous administration’s decisions regarding torture- have been claiming that violating US and international law was worthwhile because we learned about upcoming terrorist actions and thereby saved the lives of Americans and our allies. I’ve heard several people ask, “What would you do if the option was torture a terorist or allow one of your loved ones to be killed?” The implication being that torture is somehow a lesser evil- the ends justify the means.

I’m not buying it. My answer to the hypothetical question is, I would do whatever it took to extract the information which would save my loved one’s life, and then I would expect- I would demand– to be arrested and tried for my crime. If the men and women who willingly reduced themselves to the same level of barbarism as our enemies are so sure their actions were noble and patriotic, they should willingly submit themselves to judicial review for their crimes. Anything less is tacit admission of guilt.

If we resort to using our enemies’ methods, how are we any different from them? If we lower ourselves to their level, we run the risk of becoming what we- as a nation- despise: a brutal, swaggering bully, convinced that might makes right.

You become what you fight against very easily. Doing the right thing is hard.

President Obama, I call on you to convene a military tribunal to judge those responsible for these outrages against justice and the American character. If the military tribunal finds sufficient evidence that crimes were committed, everyone involved in these abuses should be turned over to the Hague under charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We are supposed to be the Good Guys. Shouldn’t we start acting like it?

Current status: sick

Current music: Song for America by Kansas

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Poor Impulse Control

10 04 2009

Last week, a couple of monumental ass-hats decided to drive around the neighborhood and shoot dogs. Not stray dogs, mind you. That would have been bad enough. These scumbags went around killing dogs in other peoples’ yards.

Here are the douchebags in question:

douchebag1

douchebag2

Obviously men of sterling personal qualities.

They had killed a total of five dogs by the time they pulled up to Marcus Luttrell’s house in Hunstville, Texas. They saw a yellow lab in the yard, so they got out of the car and called the dog, who ran over to the fence to greet them. Then they shot her to death. For kicks.

All of the above makes these jackasses the scum of the Earth. What really puts them over the top in the Universal Douchebag rankings is their last victim. Marcus Luttrell is not an ordinary man. He is a decorated war hero. A Navy SEAL who survived a vicious firefight with the Taliban and saw his entire team get killed. He was severely wounded himself, and was awarded the Navy Cross for valor above and beyond the call of duty. Since returning from the war, he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), an occasionally debilitating psychological injury made worse by survivor’s guilt. To help him deal with this problem, Marcus Luttrell was given a dog. This “therapy dog” was one of the few bright spots remaining in this hero’s life. He named her DASY- an acronym of the names of the men on his team (Danny, Axe, Southern Boy [Marcus] and Yankee).

dasy

When he heard the gunshots at around 2AM, Marcus Luttrell armed himself, then checked to make sure his mother was okay. Then he went outside to investigate. He saw our two shining examples of humanity getting into their car just before he stumbled across Dasy’s body.

He ran into the house, grabbed his cell phone and car keys, then took off in pursuit of the shooters. He called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher what had happened, then kept up a running conversation with the dispatcher as he pursued Dasy’s killers through three counties at speeds sometimes exceeding 100 MPH. Listen to the 9-1-1 audio and marvel at Marcus Luttrell’s controlled voice as he kept the police informed about the killers’ flight. At one point, he calmly tells the dispatcher to get the police there in a hurry, because if he caught them, he’d kill them both.

Eventually, the police pulled the car over. Our two wonderful specimens of humanity spent the time during their arrest taunting Marcus Luttrell. Under similar circumstances, I doubt I would have had the self-control to stand there and let these vermin make jokes. It speaks volumes about Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell that he did not give in to his justifiable anger. Finding Dasy’s body must have felt like watching his team die all over again, but he kept his head and let the police handle it. He is a far, far better man than I for this fact alone. His heroism in combat puts him so far above Dasy’s killers that he might as well be another species. He is a credit to his uniform, his team-mates, and his country.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Petty Officer Luttrell has withdrawn from society. He has gone out to camp in an undisclosed location, far from what passes for humanity and civilization. He is one of our best and brightest, and has sacrificed more than most of us can even imagine, and his reward was to have the one good thing left in his life slaughtered by a couple of fuckwits for no reason.

Some of Marcus Luttrell’s friends and family are taking donations to get him another therapy dog, if he wants one. If he can’t bear the thought of replacing Dasy, the money they raise will go toward buying therapy dogs for other returning warriors. You can donate here.

In the meantime, let us do what we can to get some justice for Dasy and Petty Officer Luttrell. Let us make sure that Dasy’s killers do not get a slap on the wrist for their actions. Don’t let the story die. Killing Dasy was bad enough (I like most dogs more than I like most people), but the injury they have caused to an honest-to-god hero deserves severe repercussions. Worse still, if these wastes of sperm are released without significant punishment, I fear that some of Marcus Luttrell’s friends, relatives, or neighbors might end up in prison for some understandable but illegal actions.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: High Water by Rush





Liberty Wept

6 04 2009

sadliberty

I’ve written at length about how our country seems to be turning into a police state. Police departments around the country are apparently regarding the citizens by whom they are employed as the enemy. In the name of the “War on Terror” or the “War on Drugs”, more and more of our precious liberties are getting filched away- nibbled to death by ducks. Merely understanding and standing up for one’s Constitutional rights is increasingly viewed with suspicion by almost every police department- or at least the ones which make the news. The most innocuous of behaviors is increasingly falling afoul of some Government regulation or another, which are frequently misapplied by law-enforcement personnel to the detriment of individual liberty in this country.

For example, a photographer standing on a public sidewalk in Phoenix, Arizona, was told by a police officer that he wasnot permitted to take a picture of one the Federal building. When the photographer asked what legal authority forbade taking pictures of a public building from a public sidewalk, he was brusquely told to “Google it”. There have been numerous reports of citizens getting harassed and even arrested for the “crime” of taking pictures or video of police in the performance of their duties on public thoroughfares. A group of police in Philadelphia have taken to raiding local grocery and convenience stores for the crime of selling small ziploc bags. Worse still, these Phillie cops go out of their way to disable all security cameras in the establishments they raid.

In the course of my job, I am frequently required to undergo periodic security training. The last annual training refresher I took instructed me to beware of suspicious activities such as owning firearms and practicing marksmanship. After hearing this little security tip, I immediately went to the Security manager for my building and reported myself for meeting several of the criteria which my training indicated were possible terrorist behaviors. He was less than amused, the more so since he would have to report himself under those same guidelines.

In yet another case, a self-described libertarian was at an airport to catch a flight when the Transportation Security Authority agents became suspicious of the cash he was carrying. When they asked him how much he was carrying, why he was carrying it, and what he did for a living, he replied by asking if he was legally required to answer those questions. This was deemed suspicious behavior, and the police and FBI were called. The FBI disgustedly told the TSA to let the man board his plane. In defense of the TSA, my few experiences with them have been uniformly professional and courteous.

When police perform traffic stops, they often ask if they can search the vehicle. If they are not granted permission to search, their frequent reply is the statement, “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you shouldn’t object to a search.” I have no problem with the police saying this in an attempt to induce cooperation, but I do have a serious problem when refusing to permit a warrantless search becomes probable cause for issuance of a search warrant.

Since when did refusal to permit a search become probable cause? I’m pretty sure the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution are reasonably clear on this subject, but I’ll let you be the judge:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The supreme law of the land is the Constitution of the United States. Why, then, are we (the People) permitting our public servants to trample the liberties enshrined and guaranteed therein?

We (the People) have been sold a bill of goods by our elected officials. We are being told that these infringements upon our liberties are necessary to keep us safe from drugs, child molesters, terrorists, commies, albigensians, heretics, martians, or fill-in-your-boogieman-of-choice. And we (the People) have swallowed this line of bullshit with nary a twinge of remorse.

It has become easier to just go along with whatever new byzantine abuse of Government power comes down the pike than to stand up for our inherent liberties. The Rights guaranteed (not granted) by the Constitution are worthless if we (the People) do not stand up and demand that those rights be acknowledged. All rights come with concurrent responsibilities, foremost among them the responsibility to ensure the continuation of those rights.

Please note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Anything you may have seen on TV may bear little or no relationship to the real world of police and courts. If you want legal advice, hire an attorney. Since I am neither licensed nor qualified to give legal opinions, the following is not intended to be legal advice. This is only my personal opinion and stated intent for my own actions when detained or arrested. Your mileage may vary. Follow this course of action at your own risk.

If the police want to search your house, car, office, or person, demand that they first get a warrant. When detained or delayed by the police for any reason, be courteous- but refuse to speak without an attorney. Ask if you are under arrest. If you are not under arrest, ask if you are free to go. If you are not free to go, demand to speak with an attorney. Do not raise your voice, swear, or argue. Simply refuse to speak without an attorney present.

Be warned, following this course of action will very likely result in increased police attention and possible arrest. The police will be extremely annoyed with you, and will use a wide variety of tricks to try and get you to talk to them. Even if you answer some of their questions, you are under no obligation to continue to do so. Here is the Wikipedia entry on the subject:

In the US, the Miranda warning is a warning given by police to criminal suspects in police custody, or in a custodial situation, before they are asked guilt-seeking questions relating to the commission of a crime. A custodial situation is one in which the suspect’s freedom of movement is restrained although he or she is not under arrest. An incriminating statement by a suspect will not constitute admissible evidence unless the suspect was advised of his or her “Miranda rights” and made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of those rights (the term “Miranda rights” is somewhat misleading, as the mandated Miranda warning simply clarifies preexisting Constitutional rights). However, a 2004 Supreme Court Ruling upheld state “Stop and Identify” laws, allowing police to require biographical information such as name, date of birth, and address, without arresting suspects or providing them Miranda warnings.

The Miranda warnings were mandated by the 1966 US Supreme Court decision in the case of Miranda v. Arizona as a means of protecting a criminal suspect’s 5th Amendment right to avoid coercive self-incrimination.

The wording of the so-called Miranda Warning varies from state to state, but the general meaning is fairly unambiguous. The police can stop you and demand that you identify yourself without necessarily placing you in a “custodial situation”. This does not necessarily mean that you have to provide some identification, only that you must give the police your name, date of birth, and address when requested. You are not legally required to answer any other questions, and you are within your rights to refuse to answer any further questions.

Given the increasingly hostile attitude of far too many police toward the citizens they allegedly serve, and the deliberate and methodical diminution of our precious liberties by both police and our elected officials, it is my opinion that everyone should do their utmost to protect the tattered remnants of our Constitutional rights while we still can. Furthermore, I call upon everyone to contact their elected representatives in both state and federal governments and remind them that they are public servants and we (the People) are the public. If those public servants wish to retain their cushy jobs and exorbitant paychecks, they had better start paying attention to the proper historical relationship between the US government and the citizens it is supposed to serve.

Here is a quote from Benjamin Franklin that needs to be more often on the public lips:

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

There are Four Boxes to be used in defense of liberty, in the following order: Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo. On this page, I am calling for all Americans to use the first three. The precipice of tyranny is creeping up on us with cat-like tread. If we do not act now, we may soon be forced to resort to that fourth box. Like Pandora’s box, opening the Fourth Box will unleash horrors and chaos upon the world. Let us all work together to forestall its use. Write your representatives and senators. Stand up for your rights. Our liberties are under attack from within. Failure to use those first three boxes now leads inexorably to the opening of that Fourth Box, and nobody sane wants that.

Current status: Concerned

Current music: Man in the Box by Alice in Chains