Edward Snowden & the NSA Leak: The Basics
Posted on June 10, 2013 at 12.22 pm
Q. Do you know what’s up with Edward Snowden and this NSA leak? I can’t find anything on exactly what he leaked? — hippydippysays, from tumblr.
A. Absolutely. Here are the basics:
► Edward Snowden is responsible for what is being described as the “biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history.”
► I don’t know the details on everything he leaked, but remember all that news from last week about the NSA spying on users of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, etc.? That came from Snowden’s whistle-blowing. His own summary of the leak is:
“That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”
► Snowden is currently in Hong Kong, comparatively outside the reach of the U.S. government. He may never be able to return to America again, and will likely proceed to Iceland to be safer from extradition.
► Glenn Greenwald did an interview with Snowden in which they discussed his motivations for whistle-blowing and much more. It’s definitely worth a read. Here’s a taste:
Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?
A: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.
“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”
► This piece goes into extensive detail about Snowden himself, if you’re interested in more background on him as a person.
Iraqi birth defects from U.S. bombs have outpaced Hiroshima
Posted on June 6, 2013 at 12.13 pm
The United States may be finished dropping bombs on Iraq, but Iraqi bodies will be dealing with the consequences for generations to come in the form of birth defects, mysterious illnesses and skyrocketing cancer rates.
Al Jazeera’s Dahr Jamail reports that contamination from U.S. weapons, particularly Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions, has led to an Iraqi health crisis of epic proportions. “[C]hildren being born with two heads, children born with only one eye, multiple tumours, disfiguring facial and body deformities, and complex nervous system problems,” are just some of the congenital birth defects being linked to military-related pollution.
Many of these defects are linked to the use of phosphorus and depleted uranium in US bombs dropped on metropolitan areas. The latter is a “chemically toxic heavy metal produced in nuclear waste, [which] is used in weapons due to its ability to pierce through armor.” It’s extremely hazardous, producing birth defects and cancer, and attacking numerous organs. Because depleted uranium can be so “useful,” however, the governments of the US, UK, France, and Israel have opposed banning or limiting its use in bombs.
The price for this prioritization of convenience over, you know, not mass-torturing huge segments of the civilian population and their unborn children is being paid by the Iraqi people:
Today, 14.7 percent of Fallujah’s babies are born with a birth defect, 14 times the documented rate in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fallujah’s babies have also experienced heart defects 13 times the European rate and nervous system defects 33 times that of Europe. That comes on top of a 12-fold rise in childhood cancer rates since 2004. Furthermore, the male-to-female birth ratio is now 86 boys for every 100 girls, indicating genetic damage that affects males more than females.
If there remains any doubt about the morality of the invasion of Iraq, it seems to me we can consider that question damningly settled.
NOTE: This link does feature some graphic images. It also offers a link to see even more disturbing photos — the birth defect shown there are the “milder” ones. Click at your own risk.
Feminism & Liberty
Posted on May 31, 2013 at 10.29 am
Q. What do you think of feminism? — skepticalyouth, from tumblr.
A. I delayed answering this because 1) it’s super broad and a lot could be said in response, and 2) right around the time you sent it, a start-up magazine in the UK did an email interview with me on related topics. Since then, it seems like the magazine won’t be publishing that interview, so I’ll just post some of what I wrote for them here. Also, if you’re interested in reading the work of a libertarian feminist (a label I don’t claim), check out this blog.
➲ Do you think there will come a point at which feminism will have achieved its goals for the most part, and what do you think should be done to help advance the goals of feminism?
That depends on what you mean by the goals of feminism.
First-wave feminism’s goals are by and large achieved in the Western world. Women have the right to vote, hold property, testify in court, etc. in the United States. Personally, I think that achieving that baseline for women around the world by working peacefully with local activists should be a top feminist priority today.
I also think the attention feminists have brought to victim-blaming is important, and actually very compatible with libertarianism — it’s quite analogous to the attitude the government often takes in foreign policy in particular:
- “I wouldn’t have raped you if you weren’t in the wrong bar at the wrong time, looking like a slut in your skimpy clothing.”
is eerily similar to:
- “We wouldn’t have droned you if you weren’t in the wrong house at the wrong time, looking like a terrorist with your Muslim clothing.”
As for achieving and advancing feminism’s other, later goals, I can’t claim any special expertise on what we’ll see in the future. My main interest, as it would be with any social movement, is that needed cultural change is effected through peaceful, voluntary action, not government mandate.
➲ The GOP at the moment seems to be cooking up policies in which women’s rights are being demeaned and infringed upon — do you think this is true?
I think both major parties do a lot to infringe on women’s rights, not just the GOP. Both support policies like indefinite detention (NDAA); spying on our private lives without a warrant (PATRIOT Act); censoring our internet usage (SOPA/CISPA); regulating what we put into our bodies (drug war, fat and soda bans, smoking and drinking limitations); killing civilians (drone strikes and undeclared wars in the Middle East); devaluing the money in our pockets through inflation and deficit spending; and much more. All of these policies are demeaning to women.
It’s not a question of whether one party or another is anti-women’s rights. That focus totally misses the point. These policies are broadly supported by the establishment of both parties—and they’re not just anti-women; they’re anti-human.
➲ Do you think that women should become more active in the libertarian movement and what would be your pitch?
Yeah, absolutely. The liberty movement is young collectively and in terms of the age of its members, and it’s rapidly growing and diversifying. That’s fantastic.
As for a pitch to get more women involved, I don’t think there’s any single pitch that would appeal to all women, and I don’t think we need one. Rather, I’d say we need good marketing all around—an understanding that having great ideas isn’t enough; we also have to present our ideas in an attractive manner. And that entails a lot of things, like starting with common ground and explaining the practical benefits of our ideas instead of just categorically announcing they’re true. In many ways, this is really an intra-movement discussion at this point.
➲ What is your opinion of the left wing and their policy when it comes toward women?
Well, “the left wing” is a pretty broad term, so I hesitate to generalize. That said, I will comment that there’s a serious cognitive dissonance in those on the left (which is not everyone, but certainly some) who tout their support of choice when it comes to abortion but have no similar interest in choice when it comes to food, drink, smoking, insurance, light bulbs, unions, drugs, and schools.
It’s patronizing at best to say that women are capable of deciding what to do about an unwanted pregnancy but not capable of deciding what size soda is right for them.
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