3.24.2016

"Making a Murderer" is Not Entertainment

"Making a Murderer" is Not Entertainment


It's one of those things. You notice it slowly, as it pokes at your attention from one website, then your Facebook feed.  No one you actually talk to mentions it at all.  Finally, after a Slate article, you start to watch.



An addictive personality, like mine, will find itself in familiar woods.  You start to pay attention, and then you dive in, resentful of needing to breathe because of the breaks it causes in your new interest.  The frame of reference for your whole life changes.  Everything you experience is repainted into a new portrait of the world.  You have focus.  You have drive.  You have a mission.

As someone who is familiar with my own mental tricks, I have learned a healthy dubiousness to my own reactions.  It doesn't stop me from detaining friends and acquaintances and telling them about the Making a Murderer documentary, its implications and frauds.  My friends, and husband, are tolerant and kind.  (I haven't tried this on my sisters yet.)  But it does keep me from moving across the country to pursue my latest obsession.


I am not alone.  The gripping Netflix series "Making a Murderer" is shocking the English-speaking world.  UK, South Africa, Hong Kong subscribers to Netflix share horror at what they see.

But what, exactly, are they seeing?

Allison Hope Wiener, host of YouTube's CrimeTime on TheLipTV Channel, insists there is an entertainment element to "Making a Murderer."  Love you, Allison, but I disagree.  Her opinion is bolstered by the entertainment news coverage of "Making a Murderer."  Again, I disagree.  They may see the ratings, but none of them got the message.

We aren't just entertaining ourselves during this show.  In fact, "Making a Murderer" is not entertaining at all.  It is a difficult watch, and many report needing to walk away from it for a while because of the feelings it evokes.

We, the watchers of "Making a Murderer," are participating in a political movement.  The easy communication of ideas through the Internet has led to shifts in political power.  Before the Internet, local sheriff departments had little worry about their decisions being questioned.  Power like that was local, and only a reporter or a state-level or Federal prosecutor could change it.  These were the gatekeepers of appeal.  You had to convince one of them to follow your story before improper, or even illegal, actions could be confronted.  One person, or even a group of people, without the power of these gatekeepers, had no chance to affect the status quo.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, supposedly.  And the power to expose bad practices is a power in itself.  But the virtual world goes further.  It permits people to act.  It permits people to gather together and push in the same direction at the same time.  Their opinions and money can be directed very specifically towards a goal or idea.  Witness Bernie Sanders and his famous "let's have a fundraiser" speech that raised millions of dollars.  That effect is possible because the information highways built to facilitate commerce are the same roads used to communicate information.

The Evolution of News




Remember when we were young?  We ingested awful news, Mad Men style, while sitting in our living rooms.  Very passive, and powerless.  Reporters, the gatekeepers of knowledge, decided what we needed to know.  Then it was written down and read to us by some old man with white hair.  Eventually a blonde female was added.  An example of that dynamic in action is the information that smoking causes cancer, which had been discovered many years before being reported in the mainstream press.  Another is negative information about Scientology.  When there was a choke point in the news, and only a few people chose your information, the Church of Scientology could intimidate them with lawsuits and stalking.



This process started to break during the Clinton Administration.  Local t.v. news teams began to do their own national stories, which differed from what was considered "the news" before.  The types of news that would never be reported: an affair with an intern, or that a murderer/rapist had a high level job on the Hill, were driving headlines.  The former gatekeepers began to lost their hold on American opinion, and lamented it loudly.

If they only knew.

At the time, one reporter actually said that he, and everybody else, knew of the powerful Administrative Assistant who was convicted of rape and attempted murder, but that it "just wasn't news." Can you imagine someone saying that now?  More than that, it speaks volumes about the disconnect between those choosing the headlines and those reading the headlines.

Not coincidentally, in the Nineties the Internet started becoming an important means of commerce and communication.  It was clear that a whole lot of money was going to pass through those wires, and everybody better get prepared for it.  What no one anticipated was the same "Information Superhighway" would be a conduit for information. 



Then came the Drudge Report.  Matt Drudge famously worked at the gift shop at CBS Studios and fished discarded news stories from the trash and published them via email, and then later on a web site.  During the later Nineties, The Drudge Report became a pillar of news and information that other outlets had to follow, especially for salacious sex scandals of the kind ignored by the Washington press for decades.

The Great Cat Incident

"Making a Murderer" is all about political power.  It is the latest in a developing political trend that started with Anonymous uncovering the identity of two teenage cat abusers.

At some point, the Information Age gave all of us a way to act, as well as know.

It started with the boys who filmed themselves kicking their cat and posted it on YouTube.  The soon-to-be-notorious cat lovers of Anonymous tracked them down and outed them.


This video is an example from 2010, when users from 4chan became enraged at a video of cat abuse on YouTube.

It showed a young man abusing a family cat.  We know it is a family cat because Anonymous went on a mission to find out who hurt this cat, to get revenge.  That's right Kenny Glenn, I'm looking at you.  And see http://www.kenny-glenn.net/.  

In what has become a familiar story, the personal information on Kenny Glenn, his family, and workplace of his parents were publicized to everyone in the world.  It was a new level of public shaming.  

Bile was thrown at Glenn and his family for years afterwards.

The public expression of outrage morphed into a vigilante groups.  That's not a criticism.  The global online marketplace provided the same path to political expression as buying a pair of shoes.  The ability to remotely shop for linen meant that groups could now politically galvanize on a worldwide basis.  

4chan's Great Cat Incident was not entertainment, any more than popular outrage about the Steven Avery case is entertainment.  It is a political expression.  It is power in a new context: global.  Before then, political power had geographic limitations.  The local sheriff, aside from rarely being trumped by the Governor or State Police or the FBI, usually enforced crime as he saw it.  That happened in the Glenn case.  

After the identity of the abuser and the health of the cats were known, follow-up outrage targeted the decision of local law enforcement to keep the cat in the same house.  Not for long, though.  People didn't just shrug and leave after the initial outing.  They followed the status of the cat and shrieked when they found out it had been returned.  Only then was Dusty the cat was moved to a safe home in March, 2010.    

The attention had forced a reaction from local officials where previously there might have been one article in the paper, but then it would have died down.  This time there was no gatekeeper to decide there were other stories to report.  So the unilateral decision of authorities was not the final word, the activists on the Internet were.

Before the information superhighway, no one would have found out who hurt that cat.  If it was discovered, the original law enforcement decision to not press charges would have ended the matter. What the Information Age gives us is the ability to reframe raw power.  A local guy, in his position of sheriff, has a wide range of reviews of his decisions.  It has never been that way before without a reporter from a powerful newspaper supporting you.  The revolution of ideas, consumerism is also a revolution of power.  You may have been king of your valley, but not any more.  People everywhere can see into your locale and hurt you if they don't like what they see.  They can get you fired, as has happened to more than one YouTuber.  They can put your information on the internet so teen boys can threaten you with sex crimes.

It's the democratization of power.  You used to need a media outlet to agree with you before you could trump local power brokers.  No more.

The next case to look at is the Stuebenville rape case.







2.22.2016

Encryption and Privacy

The encryption tug-of-war between technology interests and law enforcement is nothing new.  Below is an article published at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference at MIT in 1996 by Christine Axsmith.  It was a mock legal debate about a mock law:  "The Cryptography Control Act."

"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without
understanding." Olmstead v. United States, 277 US 438 (1928) (dissent, J. Brandeis). Sadly, today American
jurisprudence faces the same zeal and misunderstanding as it did during the Prohibition years when Justice
Brandeis wrestled with the telephone and privacy. This court is faced with a statute which handles new
technologies in a manner frighteningly unaware of the basic principles of privacy guaranteed under the
Constitution, as elucidated by the Supreme Court. The majority sanctions the wholesale abridgment of the
necessary and supporting right of association that accompanies the First Amendment, the reasonable
expectation of privacy in the Fourth Amendment, and the privacy rights in the Ninth Amendment. New
technologies do not mandate a new constitution, or an erosion of the one currently in place. The
unconstitutional part of this statute cannot be separated from the rest of the statute; and therefore, the entire
statute is unconstitutional, and the conviction under the statute should be reversed.

The defendant was convicted by a lower court of a violation of the Cryptography Control Act in that he
communicated electronically over a wire using encryption for which the US government did not have a key.
The registering of a key in excess of 64 bits with an Authorized Key Escrow Agency is mandated by the
Cryptography Control Act. While the defendant was convicted of section 10 (b) of this statute, this dissent
will address the statute as a whole since its unconstitutionality is encompassed throughout its provisions.

A. First Amendment - Overbreadth

The statute in question does serve some governmental purpose of facilitating the fighting of crime; but it is
achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and invade First Amendment protected speech. The
statute does this by including every person in the United States within its scope, whether a criminal or not. A
chilling effect on protected speech results.

The doctrine of overbreadth was relied upon in NAACP v Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449 1958),
stating "a government purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to regulation may not
be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected
freedoms." Using that reasoning, the Supreme Court invalidated an Alabama law that required the NAACP,
as an organization applying for a license to operate in Alabama, to submit a list of its members. The NAACP
protested, claiming that doing so would subject it members to harassment. The Supreme Court found that the
freedom of association of the NAACP members in Alabama would be infringed upon if the state of Alabama
could demand a membership list. The right of association is tied to the First Amendment's right to free
speech, applied to the state through the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Court found for the NAACP. The
general rule in constitutional interpretation is that parties before the court may only assert their own rights.
However, the Supreme Court has fashioned an exception to that rule in the area of First Amendment
overbreadth, where a party before the court is permitted to claim that a statute is overbroad because it
infringes upon the rights of a party not before the court.

The defendant in the case before the court today seeks to invalidate the statute under which he was convicted
on First Amendment grounds. Facial invalidation of a statute requires "substantial overbreadth." Broadrick v.
Oklahoma, 413 US 601 (1973). If the overbreadth is substantial, then the law cannot be enforced against
anyone, including the party before the court, until it is narrowed to reach only unprotected activity. Brockett
v. Spokane Arcades, 472 US 491 (1985).

Later cases narrowed the application of the overbreadth doctrine where conduct rather than pure speech was
at issue. Here, the constitutional standards for pure speech are appropriate. Pure speech was regulated
because the contents of the file encrypted were pure speech and that is the item which resulted in the criminal
conviction. The argument that the act of encrypting constituted "conduct" that the statute regulated is invalid
because encrypting is not against the statute. It is the failure to file the key with a government agent that is the
source of illegality in the The Cryptography Control Act under sections 10 (a) through 10 (d). Therefore, the
harsher over breadth standard for statutes regulating "pure speech" should apply.

In the case before the court today, the stated legitimate government purpose of the statute is fighting crime,
but that does not mean any measure which would further that goal is acceptable. Two way televisions in
every room in the United States, with each move monitored and recorded, would also do a great deal to
prevent crime in America and aid in law enforcement. Unfortunately for those who would seek such a future
for the United States, there are constitutional limits to some crime fighting measures. In this case, one of the
limits is the First Amendment. While advancing in some manner the legitimate government interest of
fighting crime, legal and protected speech is included, making the sweep of the statute too broad for
constitutionality.

I have already determined that the First Amendment overbreadth standard for pure speech will apply.
However, even using the standard for First Amendment expressive conduct, the statute before the court fails
the overbreadth test. In Frisby v. Schultz, the Supreme Court looked at the factors of ample alternative means
of communication, content neutrality, and the scope of the statute. The statute, though content neutral, is
overbroad in its scope and no other ample alternative means of communication are available (Frisby v.
Schultz, 487 US 474 (1988)) on par with electronic communication. A legitimate interest in regulating
conduct relating to crime prevention and detection certainly exists. The statute before the court today does,
arguably, achieve this end. However, in doing so, its scope incorporates all speech, not merely speech for
which purpose the statute was drafted. In terms of whom the statute is applicable to, it fails in that its scope is
so large it includes every human being that could be kidnapped and dragged onto United States soil.
Additionally, other alternative channels of communication do not exist. Where else could a person post a
message that could very conceivably be read by thousands of people worldwide, and where else could ideas
be spread so quickly as electronic communications and other similar means yet to be invented? Where else
could there be such a diversity of input, or exchange of ideas? Nowhere else.

The government claims that the statute only continues the current abilities of the government to monitor
conversations. The dissent disagrees. The legislature mentions that methods historically used for law
enforcement and national security purposes will no longer be available with the advent of stronger encryption
capabilities in private hands. It claims that advances in encryption pose a serious threat to that continued
ability. Advances in the technology of communication, including encryption, do pose an obstacle to law
enforcement. However, the U.S. constitution was not drafted to aid in law enforcement or to cement the
national security powers of particular government agencies. Other methods are at their disposal to investigate
crimes and assure the national defense.

Once the government acquires the key to decrypt information, everything encrypted with that key is readable.
This is a heavy tool to place in law enforcement's hands. Under this statute, all electronic communications
must be readable to the government. Comparisons to current wire tap laws are wrong because the scope of
information is broader and will expand. In the future, America's lifeline will be on-line. Business and
economics will be vastly impacted by connections to the Internet and various electronic communications yet
to be conceived. Business processes will be as tied to electronic communication tomorrow as it is today to the
telephone and the credit card. This is a larger category of information than mere phone conversations. The
current statute does not merely continue the status quo; it tries to force telephone analogies on a medium of
expression where it does not apply. The rule this court is setting down for future technology is a piteous line
for freedom of speech. In the marketplace of ideas, the truth will flourish against competition, or so our
founding fathers believed. "We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so
long as reason is left free to combat it," wrote Thomas Jefferson. Where every stored and transmitted
communication must be made in a manner that is conveniently decoded, speech critical of the government or
its policies will naturally be chilled for fear of reprisal.

The crucial factor is the interplay of speech and thought that formulates the speech. The Supreme Court has
recognized the importance of uninhibited, robust, and wide-open debate on public issues, see New York
Times v. Sullivan, 376 US 254, 270 (1964), previously in interpreting the First Amendment. Such debate
challenges citizens' minds to explore ideas previously unthought. That basis for understanding the rights
guaranteed by the constitution has not changed. In order to decide whether the overbreadth doctrine applies to
a particular case, we have weighed the likelihood that the statute's very existence will inhibit free expression.
City of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 US 789 (1984). This statute chills protected speech and
causes those under its broad sweep (i.e., all U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens) to glance warily over
their shoulder before even beginning to type.

Absent evidence that most US citizens and permanent resident aliens are criminals, there is no reasonable or
justifiable basis to include all of them within the parameters of this statute. The statute includes protected
speech in its overly broad sweep attempt to fight crime.

Construing the statute as narrowly as possible would still apply it to everyone in the United States.
If the unconstitutional part of a statute can be severed from the constitutional part of the statute, a court
should partially invalidate the statute Allen v. Louisiana, 103 US 80 (1881). Severing the unconstitutional
section from the main body of the statute is not feasible, its unconstitutionality is its essence.
Therefore, the statute as a whole is invalid under the First Amendment overbreadth doctrine and the
conviction should be overturned.

B. Fourth Amendment - Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

The appellant claims that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest and conviction under the
Cryptography Control Act. The dissent agrees.

The Fourth Amendment states "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 particularity describing the place to be searched, and
the persons or things to be seized." The Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment to include a
reasonable expectation of privacy in certain areas. Initially, that expectation of privacy extended to physical
places only. Olmstead v. United States, 277 US 438 (1928). That changed with the seminal case Katz v.
United States, 389 US 343 (1967).

In Katz, a man had made a phone call from a pay phone booth and a bug was placed on the outside of the
booth without a warrant on the wire carrying the voice communication. In a reversal of its previous stance on
the Fourth Amendment search and seizure rulings, the Court wrote, "The Fourth Amendment protects people,
not places, against unreasonable searches and seizures." The Court found that intercepting the call was a
search in violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights since no warrant was issued authorizing the
search. In that case, the Supreme Court chose not to ignore the vital role that new technology, the public
telephone, had come to play in private communication. Bypassing a neutral predetermination of the scope of
a search leaves individuals secure from Fourth Amendment violations "only in the discretion of the police."
Katz, at 358.

In the case before the court, a reasonable expectation of privacy was present in the information because of the
act of encryption. Electronic information is so easily transferable, and there is diminished assurance that there
is protection adequate to prevent an unauthorized access to the communication without it. Encryption is a
specific action taken to ensure that the communication is not read by those not possessing a key to decrypt.
Taking this active measure to prevent non-key holders from reading this information guarantees a reasonable
expectation of privacy in that information. This opinion does not mean to imply a reasonable expectation of
privacy exists only where electronic information has been encrypted. Fourth Amendment privacy for
unencrypted electronic information is not the issue before the court in this case.

Having established that a reasonable expectation of privacy exists for information that has been encrypted,
who has the right to assert a reasonable expectation of privacy? Granting limitless extensions of the
reasonable expectation of privacy for encrypted information would necessarily lead to illogical results. For
example, a hacker could conceivably encrypt the information of a computer she had broken into and then
claim a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information. There is no need to sanction such logical
extremes. A possessory interest must be present in the medium of storage upon which the encrypted
information is stored at the time of encryption before a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth
Amendment attaches. "Possessory" is meant in a very loose sense. A user of an Internet provider would have
a possessory interest in any encrypted information stored on the provider's machine, and an Internet user that
sent an encrypted file over the Internet would retain her reasonable expectation of privacy because of the
possessory interest of the medium of storage when the information was encrypted. It includes any computer
to which a user has authorized access.

Here, the defendant owned the information and the medium upon which it was stored when encrypted and
had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The next question is: does requiring the key to be given to the US
government violate the defendant's reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment? Yes.
The Cryptography Control Act permits the Department of Justice and other law enforcement and intelligence
agencies to reach back in time to prepare their search from a time prior to the establishment of probable
cause. The search begins with the registering of the key. Since the statute reviewed by this court requires that
a key be registered for potential future use by the US government at a later date, there is a violation of the
defendant's reasonable expectation of privacy because the requirement is in place prior to the establishment
of probable cause.

There is also some issue as to the sufficiency of particularity that is required of a warrant. In this type of
technology, under the current legislation, there is no requirement to change keys at all. So if a user would
obey the statute and register her key and then never change it, any warrant issued to decrypt would include all
information that ever was encrypted by that key, which may be broader than what is permissible by warrant.
The court is not unaware that a warrant could just as well issue for everything ever written by someone and
all paper records they have in their possession. However, in the current statutory scheme, no mechanism is in
place that would provide for a warrant requirement for less than everything ever encrypted by a user, should
that user decide never to change their key. Also for that reason, the statute before the court today is
unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. Not every warrant issued under its guise would be assured of
the same high standards of particularity, and the push would be to expand the scope of the warrant in the
instances where the combination of a long-standing key and the requirements for a warrant intersect.
In addition to the unconstitutionality of the statute for the other reasons outlined in this opinion, the statute is
unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment in the process it establishes to retrieve the encrypted
information, and also in that it requires the forfeit of an encryption key prior to the establishment of probable
cause.

D. Ninth Amendment - Right to Privacy

The Ninth Amendment states, "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to
deny or disparage others retained by the people." The amendment reserves to the people rights not
specifically mentioned in the previous amendments and was passed for fear that the listing of rights might
lead to the interpretation that the listed rights are the only guaranteed ones. The Cryptography Control Act
fails to pass this constitutional hurdle as well.

In ben Shalom v. Secretary of the Army, 489 F.Supp. 964 (1980) the federal court wrote, 'If what the United
States Supreme Court itself has termed the right of "personal privacy" means anything, it should safely
encompass an individual's right to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so
fundamentally affecting a person as one's personality, self-image, and indeed, one's very own identity.'
The regulation in ben Shalom and the statute before the court today both chill the freedom of association.
Association is part of a process by which the formulation of First Amendment protected speech is made. The
Ninth Amendment protects the privacy of one's personality, while the First Amendment protects
manifestations of that personality. See ben Shalom, 489 F.964 at 976.

In Olmstead, Griswold, and Wade, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitution protects fundamental
liberties, in addition to those enumerated in the Bill of Rights. In Griswold, the fundamental right was the
right of marital privacy, where a couple was arrested for purchasing birth control. In Wade, the Court
recognized the decision to have an abortion as one of those rights.

The majority would exclude from this list the right to communicate free of guaranteed governmental
oversight. The Cryptography Control Act seeks to reserve a right to the government, that of the ability to be
able to eavesdrop on all electronic communications. The Ninth Amendment states the reverse.
For that reason, the Cryptography Control Act is also unconstitutional under the Ninth Amendment.

E. Conclusion

The Cryptography Control Act is constitutionally invalid under the First, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments to
the US Constitution. The majority adopts the notion that electronic communications have evolved into
nothing more than a variation of speaking on the phone, ignoring reality quite like the Olmstead majority did
over sixty years ago. Only a studied attempt could achieve this result.
The depth of electronic communications in its imagery, widespread reach, and sheer communication to a
large number of people refute any telephone analogies. The founders of this country wrote the Constitution as
a living document to adapt with time and events, not as an encrusted one with outmoded definitions sufficient
only to strangle the freedoms once enjoyed. The statute before this court solidifies the erosion of personal
freedoms in the name of "security." Too soon there will be no real security in what was once the birthright of
every U.S. citizen: freedom.

9.09.2015

A Refugee's Story - from Reddit user throwaway387de

Reddit post from a refugee:

"This migrant crisis in Europe has got me thinking a lot about you again. After many years of bittersweet memories and pent up emotions (I can't decide whether it's nostalgia, sadness, or anger) it's time I let them go.

The war started on my first birthday. Four months later I officially came from a country that no longer existed. It was a civil war and things were too messy with neighbours turning on one another, and with my mother being a muslim and my father an orthodox christian we had no other option but to get out (neighbours constantly threatening to behead their children wasn't their cup of tea).
So we somehow fled to Slovenia. But they didn't want us. (Though it would have been perfect since we would've been so close to all the family that we had left behind).

And then we moved on to Austria; where we were taken in by an Austrian family (who already had five kids) and they lived high up in the hills and holy shit they became our second family. We were allowed to stay there for 9 months before Austria told us that it was time to go.

But the war was still raging on back home. Where to actually 'go' was as much of a conundrum as ever. But that's where you come in Germany. You allowed us to cross that border.

And you placed us in a refugee camp for a year (which was amazing because we had a whole bungalow to ourselves!). The town was called Braunlage and it was in this scouting / ski location that you allowed us to call home for a while, and the place was filled with Balkan and Russian refugees where we all actually had a great time and all us kids used to hang out and we'd come home at 2am (including us rebellious post-toddlers!) because the parents were in too debilitated and depressed of a state to actually care.

And then Germany, you tell us that we're allowed to stay for even longer, years even! And we're all ecstatic, and slowly my mother tongue (which was Russian) slowly begins to transform into German, and then an Egyptian landlord contacts us and tells us that he's heard about our situation and how the kids were riddled with PTSD, so they've got an apartment for cheap and it's up north in a town in Braunschweig ready for the taking. So off we went.

That's where we spent the next five years. Where we were given 400 Deutsche Marks every six months to go to C&A and buy ourselves a shitload of clothing, where my best friends were called Lisa, and Werner, and Otto, where our neighbour gifted us a used radio so we could listen to some diaspora recall the dead for the day, where random german strangers would knock on our door and offer us food and hand-me-downs, where the local toys 'r' us fooled me into thinking I had won a competition and handed me over with a gift card, where my nerd of an older sister was refused entry to the best gymnasium (because she was a refugee) but then the whole town rallied against the decision. They were good (occasionally hard) times — but the good definitely surpassed everything.
But then we got a letter in the mail. It was time to go, they were getting rid of all of us. In hindsight, I guess it makes sense. The war had ended, no more excuses. But you never considered that our dangers didn't end at that time (people had done ugly things in that war), where after six years I might've considered you my only home and that it was going to take me some time to comprehend that you no longer wanted me. I remember my mum tucking me into bed as I cried to her, 'why doesn't my country want me anymore' 'this is not going to be your country for much longer' 'which place will?' 'i don't know' 'then where am I from?' and she told me and i cried even harder because I couldn't even pronounce the name of the place let alone speak the damn language.

And I re-read all those newspaper clippings from back then, how we were told that we were detrimental to the economy (which we were), how we provided no benefit to the country, how they wanted us gone, how we were humans they no longer wanted to have responsibility for (and they were right). Didn't mean that we didn't take it hard. So you stripped my parents of their working rights; my engineer of a mum and my professor of a dad became cleaners for the disabled before that too was put to a hold.

Mine and my sister's classrooms came to see us off at the train station. I remember the teachers crying, tissues in their hands as they waved us off. That was that.

We soon (and finally) found home somewhere else. More than fifteen years later and I'm finishing off my postgrad at Oxford Uni when I'm approached by a German professor, there's a bit of talk when he finally says 'why didn't you stay in Germany? We would have loved you and your family there!!', and I think that I just laughed and responded with 'it was too cold!'.

I get that you didn't want me Germany, even though at one stage in my life you were the only thing that I knew (I thought I was you). I get that at the time you saw no worth in me, even though your citizens disagreed with that. But this was a little child's grudge that I couldn't let go off.
But in the end I just want to say thank you, God knows where I would have been without you. I have no idea how many debts I'll have to repay until we're even. Danke danke danke (I'm over it now).
http://i.imgur.com/2lSfN0Q.jpg?1 (me and my Russian pals!)

Edit: Thank you all so much for your kind comments! I just wanted to emphasise that this was not an attack on Germany, instead it was a thank you. I'm old enough now to understand why we had to be expelled (and that their reasons were definitely justified - they took care of us for six years, that's a lot to be thankful for!!!), but I just needed to get rid off a childhood grudge (kids don't really understand the economy and politics)- hence this post. Although I do have to give an apology to Germany; after spending six years in its borders (and being a native German speaker), I completely forgot the language - it's a travesty and something that my sister won't stop poking fun at me for. I'm giving it another try with duolingo though - we'll see how that goes!!

8.18.2015

Kevin McGuigan is Dead

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Kevin McGuigan was an IRA assassin.  He was blamed for the killing of Jock Davison, a former IRA leader.  According to the Guardian, his family believes McGuigan's killing was done by the Provisional IRA.  This opinion is shared by bloggers more apt to report word of mouth.

A review of violent terrorists' fates provides a short list of outcomes, in my opinion:
  1. most likely you are killed by your "friends," and this option is first by a long shot,
  2. second-most likely you are killed by similar groups who are in bitter competition with your group, 
  3. third-most likely you are killed by whatever government you oppose, 
  4. fourth-most likely is you become a violent criminal, 
  5. fifth-most likely is you kill yourself,
  6. and lastly, and very rarely, you survive to embrace peace, and become an activist or politician.
So if we were to draw lessons from this list, it would be that choosing to express your political ideas through violence puts you in league with others who do the same.  And, what do you know, they tend to express non-political opinions with violence also.

A paranoid, suspicious group of people, used to betrayal, who kill others to achieve their goals, will naturally turn on one another.

This is not an opinion on who is responsible for Kevin McGuigan's death.  I have no idea.

But in general terms, using violence to achieve goals tosses out the people who do the fighting.  Even if they win, they don't.

7.15.2015

Rape, "Social Justice Bullies" and Older White Male Aristotelis Orginos

Aristotelis Orginos writes about "social justice bullies" and "identity politics" by examining the Rolling Stone "rape article" incident.

He points to Millennials as the problem, when the real problem is a character issue not specific to either political beliefs or a generation. Both left and right political stripes have narrow-minded, intolerant believers. In a short-lived blog in DailyKos, I was attacked by liberals for suggesting that Amazon tribesmen should be given the option of getting housing and health care. The belief was that "their way of life" should be left untouched. Fine, if that is what they want. But shouldn't they be given the right to choose? None of my detractors would give up their air conditioning and clean water to return to the practices of 500 years ago. "They live longer, healthier lives" while naked in a dangerous Amazon forest, were the claims - which is patently absurd. Many commenters hadn't even left the U.S., relying on stories of shoeless children in the American south to inform their opinion. Never mind how that relates to the subject. It doesn't.

My DailyKos experience showed me that narrow-minded, irrational thought is not isolated to a generation or political party. It was quite a shock. I will admit to the elitist presumption that such character traits were limited to uneducated, conservative watchers of Fox News. I was wrong.

The rape dialog is separate from Originos' complaints about an entire generation. His reasoning misses the mark. The point of taking identity into account is including an introspection of one's own biases in analysis.

Nowhere in Orginos' remarks does he include his own experiences as someone who knows a person who was raped. It would add to the conversation to know what the culture surrounding accusations of rape when he was young. What does he remember? I want to know how his life has informed his thoughts, analysis, and yes, possible bias.

Because we all have bias. Analysis without acknowledging our own perspective and its limits and strengths is limited. That is the strength of identity politics.

Do you want a discussion of rape, and the presumption of belief? Let's.

Petula Dvorak and Plagarism

A common practice in the print media before the Information Age was:  if you gave anything to a reporter they could put their name on it and say they were the ones who did the work and had the idea.

All that is over now, of course.  Most people get their news from Facebook and Reddit.

But old ideas die hard, it seems.  Reddit user KATSUICHI observed recently that Petula Dvorak is trolling Reddit threads for her column in the Washington Post.  

Accusation aside, reporters who lift information, or quotes, or ideas from Reddit without attribution are plagiarizing.  I know, it is what has always been done.  Power of the pen, and all that.  Words in a newspaper have led to big changes in our world since our country was founded.  A watchdog media is part of our democracy, and any attack on independent media in other countries is seen as a rise in authoritarianism. Not going to argue that point.

But all the while, it really has been "power of the printing press."  Writers, alone their garrets, do not influence government and laws.  People need to be able to read what is written.  They need to be moved by the words.  They need to read them in the first place.  It may be one of the reasons for the squeals of rage from the mainstream media:  loss of power. News organizations were the gatekeepers of what people knew and believed.  

Now everybody has a printing press, and taking ideas from people isn't seamless and invisible.  

Being "qualified" to be a reporter for the Washington Post no longer means accomplished and special.  Petula Dvorak's actions demonstrate that it probably never did.  She "trawls," in the words of KATSUICHI, for ideas, rewrites them, and presents them as her own.  Plagiarism.  It's been going on for over a century.

When I wrote for Georgetown & Country,  a local paper centered on Georgetown happenings in the Nineties, a Washington Post reporter phoned our garden editor and asked that our paper be sent to her each month "because we have such good ideas for stories."  No attempt at hiding a bald intent to steal ideas.  Why would she?  It is how things were done, prior to the Internet.  Our garden editor refused and hung up.

The Washington Post is no stranger to plagiarism scandals.  It's only a suggestion, but now would be the time to update your policies on that, before another kerfluffle forces it.











7.02.2015

Karl Marx Won - But Not in the Way He Imagined

For anybody who has read Karl Marx' Das Capital, it is a tough book to read.  Not because it is so complex or deep, but because that jerk is so offensive.  Das Capital provides a thought map to the earliest communists, and damn if I don't just want to hop into a time machine and slap their faces.

My favorite Marx term is "lumpenproletariat."  He means lower class people who he compares to animals, including that they are disposable for his political cause.  Marx rails against the class system, but as sure as an anti-gay politician in a public restroom, he is blind to his own ironies.

But, as the Buddhists say, you can't have flowers without the manure.  Marx did have some valid ideas, and arguments could be made that the manure of his personal attitudes are what fed them.

Karl Marx did win, because he predicted that workers would gain power and organize.  They did.  And despite the fall of union political power, that gain can be seen in other ways right now.

I'm talking about flexible workspaces.

During the '90s, worker power could be seen in relaxed dress codes, flexible work hours, and open space architecture.  Workers needed to be kept happy because they were really needed, since people had more options for making money.  Articles were written about how the U.S. State Department was losing talented young foreign service officers to private companies.  This was a situation that was new and frightening to the established hierarchy there.  Heretofore, young people with an interest in foreign affairs had one option: the State Department.  In that little fishbowl, advancement was doled out to the loyal and obedient.  Enter the modern economy, with much need for energetic people with new ideas.  Suddenly, there were options.  No one had to suck it up and play the game.  Hence, the talent drain.

Of course, here and now unemployment is a serious problem.  The official statistics are lies and have lost credibility - we all know unemployment is widespread.

But one essential truth remains, workers are needed to do work.  So the return of the post-collegiate worker space is a sign of optimism.  Otherwise, why would there be a need to keep workers happy?  No one would bother with it.  Wages are increasing also.  The term "livable wage" has been created and is well-known, even by Marx's lumpenproletariat.

So the worker's paradise isn't looking like Marx expected.  It is clean air, water, a living wage, rest time and health care.  Owning the means of production, as Marx predicted, is done through the marketplace of the stock exchanges and the pension funds that own those stocks.  It is a pleasant office environment that fosters creativity from employees and support their ideas.

It isn't about controlling all the capital at all.  Sorry, Karl.

6.23.2015

Sentimental Racism

The wheels of justice are spinning themselves silly for the South Carolina shooter.  The state court can't lock him up and send him away fast enough. The speed at which the justice system is moving suggests an injection of crystal meth.

Media reports say he has already confessed - which indicates no attorney is representing him.  The extradition hearing has been held within 24 hours of the shooter's arrest.  Usually, legal representation is required for an extradition hearing.

They can't get this guy out of the headlines fast enough.

For a longer, more careful process would reveal uncomfortable truths about the racism behind this attack on people praying to G-d.  It would highlight that the Confederate flag really does mean racism, and that honor and respect for racist institutions through street names and court house names has moral weight.

That's a little too much to deal with for the modern South Carolina state.

If the death of praying, upstanding citizens is the price for their sentimental racism, then by G-d those Southern states are willing to pay it.  Because recognizing their passive role in this tragedy is still too much, it seems.





6.22.2015

CNN Promotes Terrorism #SCShooter

What's in a name?

So we are horrified once again about another angry white man killing innocent people.  It is finally being called what it is - a terrorist act.

Previous mass shootings have had the media response of glorifying the killer.  Buckets of ink were slobbered in national publications on the life story of the killer, the family of the killer, the educational history of the killer, the childhood friends of the killer, and people who would have been friends with the killer except they lived on the other side of the country and never met him.

The media enters this mastabatory frenzy about the mass killing and its perpetrator.  The killer's face is shown on television and graces the front page of news websites and magazines and newspapers.  The chattering bobbleheads do not stop steering the conversation away from the word "terror" and "institutional racism."

The terrorist's name is repeated and the lobbyists sharpen their swords.  Before the blood dries on the sidewalk, or in the church, the terrorist is labeled "a loner" and "an outcast" so everyone can get the "let's make a change" feeling out of their system.

Putting a mass killer's picture on the front page of your publication promotes what he did.  It's like making the promo photo for a play larger than the bad review.  People will see the photo and not really look at the evaluation.  The mass media will not take responsibility for their unthinking promotion of killing many people at once with guns.  Reporters deflect responsibility for the results of their actions and frame the debate in commercially reasonable ways.

So here we are again.

Finally, this young white man is starting to be termed "a terrorist."  And people who support him are "terrorist sympathizers."  And groups that espouse the killer's methods are "terrorist organizers."  And the media who glorify these mass killers are "terrorist promoters."  I'm looking at you, CNN.

6.19.2015

Rachel Dolezal and Racial Identification

Kareem Abdul Jabbar wrote in TIME magazine that Rachel Dolezal "can be as black as she wants."  His argument is that she has been an asset to the Afincan American community through teaching classes, advocating, etc.  It's a good point.  I mean I don't care, it doesn't bother me.
 
My opinion isn't solid, though.  About twenty years ago, two blonde white men standing at a card table called out to me on the street.  The greeted me nicely, were friendly and chatty.  "Don't be an anti-Semite," they said with a smile.  Odd.  It seems these cheerful gentlemen were standing at their temporary table in Foggy Bottom, DC with pamphlets claiming that G-d's "Real Jews" were in the United States Midwest.  Not the Native Americans, mind you.  The Swedish and Norwegian immigrants and their descendants are the "Real Jews" and the people killed by Hitler were "fake Jews."
 
So how do I feel about this self-identification?  Offended.  Of the two men had claimed to be Jews from one of the lost tribes, I wouldn't believe it, but it wouldn't offend me.  If they claimed to be Jewish and started protesting soldiers' funerals, I would be angry and denounce them as poseurs.
 
Of course, I am open to the same criticisms myself:  I identify as Jewish - but it was a journey starting at my grandmothers funeral, where the chaplain referenced Grandma's Jewish prayers of her childhood.  My sisters and I were flabbergasted.  We had never heard of this idea, and we were all in our 40s.  We asked, immediately, our father and he just shrugged and said "I'm a Unitarian."  Nothing else.
 
Since then has been an exploration of my religious identity.  At first, I walked around randomly saying, "I'm Jewish."  "I just found out I am Jewish."  At home, to friends and at work.  It was hard to get my head around.  Added to that were the sparse written records for my Grandmother and her mysterious first eight years in Michigan that no one knows anything about.  And her last name was different than her eleven brothers and sisters.
 
Of course, Grandma was my father's mother and so only Reformed Judaism  consider me Jewish.  But I wasn't really thinking of that.
 
Slowly - out of curiousity and with the prompting of a friend - I attended classes and services.  The messages resonated.  Friday rituals were started lighting candles and blessing the cat and the dog.  Eating habits changed to exclude pork, shellfish.  Still a weakness for cheeseburgers, though.
 
My family's reactions was mixed.  Justin, my husband, was very supportive.  So were other family members.  Nieces and nephews raised their hands in class when asked if anyone had someone Jewish in their family.  That makes me smile.  Other family members were not so supportive, and I get it.  They share my history and don't consider themselves Jewish at all.
 
The problem with this late awakening is all the information I missed about my heritage.  the average six-year-old in shul knows more about being Jewish than I do.  A synagogue looks different than a church and that homey, comfortable feeling is just missing.  Prior to this, the emotional attachment to architectural styles and décor was not there.
 
Then there was the whole exploration of faith.  Culturally, the Reformed congregations appealed the most for the openness to all of the community, including gays.  In terms of deep connection to G-d, the Orthodox provided the deepest experience, but the warning to wear a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt was a little off-putting at a minimum.  "You don't have to wear a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt, but you might feel uncomfortable if you don't."  Uh, great.
 
So far, the experiences that have best suited me are associated with Rabbi Avis Miller and the Sixth & I synagogue.  I like a place that "meets you where you are at" as my friend Lisette says.  Because, quite frankly, I am all over the place.
 
So going back to identifying as black by Rachel Dolezal it must have started young and taken root strongly.  As Larry Wilmore of the Nightly Report pointed out, "Her parents must hate her."  She must have little fondness for them either if her wholesale rejection of her ethnic heritage encompassed a rejection of them , too.  Later reports of custody fights, homeschooling and Christian fundamentalism fill in the background on that story, and makes it more believable.
 
So we can agree - there's a whole lot of animosity in that family.  Rachel Dolezal's reaction to it was living life as a black woman.
 
Maybe the only people who can judge her are black women.  It's not like she was doing something offensive or scandalous.  But then that's just my perspective.