Posts by: "Lucy Steigerwald"

potAmerica’s National Security Agency (NSA) records and archives nearly every single phone call in the Bahamas. We’re not just talking call logs. Call content of that nation of 370,000 people is being snooped on as well.

That came as news to the Bahamian government when The Intercept broke the story this week. NSA reportedly used the legal access granted by the Bahamas to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as cover for its secret, somewhat less legal inroad into the Bahamas mobile phone services.

America’s excuse for this vast violation of the privacy rights of an entire nation was the usual spiel about national security concerns, with one alarming but predictable twist. As the Intercept notes, this program is being used to go after “international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers.”

The website also published a partially-redacted NSA memo that notes how the lines between the wars on terror and drugs have blurred over the years, and the war on the latter has “equally high” stakes as the former.

Lines have indeed blurred. Now, while activists, advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and rare pro-freedom politicians such as Rep. Justin Amash continue to fight against NSA spying, it behooves us all to remember that it’s not just No Such Agency that we need to worry about.

If the now-toothless attempt at reform, the USA FREEDOM Act, can’t even collar the NSA, how are we supposed to go after the other enemies of privacy and freedom such as the DEA, especially when they’re so cozy with the other federal agencies?

The line between soldiers and cops became hazy under presidents Nixon and Reagan. But it wasn’t until George H.W. Bush’s invasion of Panama that the idea of the war on drugs as a grand, international campaign really took off.

The rest here

steigerwald-montage-2On May 21, the $700 million dollar National September 11 Memorial Museum opened to the general public,12 years and change after that awful, now-historic day in September.

The museum provoked controversy for years before it even opened. The astronomical cost – a mixture of private and government funding – to build the thing, as well as the $24 cost of admission is just one sore spot. More painfully, some families of 9/11 victims spent years in court fighting the placement of 8,000 unidentified remains of some 1000 people into a special mausoleum of sorts in the museum. These pieces of human beings are not going to be put on display for gawking tourists or anything, but it’s perfectly understandable that family members would still find the prospect of bits of their loved ones sitting behind a museum door for all eternity to be distressing. Yet, this is also the fundamental contrast between history and personal sorrow. Though the former is made from the latter, it’s trickier to know how to memorialize and remember when people who suffered or lost people are still here to witness how a tragedy is preserved.

This conflict was beautifully explored by Buzzfeed’s Steve Kandell. In a recent essay, Kandell describes a gut-wrenching visit to the new museum after 12 years of his family’s attempts to mourn the sister they loved alone and without any of the pomp and politics of having such “special” grief. Mostly, it’s a personal piece, but Kandell mentions briefly his trouble with the loaded quality of 9/11. Or at least what came after – blowback is not mentioned. Still, one guy mourning his sister should be forgiven for being unable to see the big picture; particularly when seeing the death of a sibling turned into a drop in the grand bucket is a large part of what upsets him.

The 330 million people who tolerated two aggressive wars and a decade and more of hysteria after 9/11 are another matter. And this brings up the question, what should be done about 9/11, historically? Can you make a museum about such a political moment – to use the most banal term for murder being paid back by more than two orders of magnitude – when it is still rippling throughout Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and all over the Middle East? When it is still being used to justify an incomprehensibly vast global spying enterprise? And when it gave us not only the PATRIOT Act, but also what one writer dubbed “the most dangerous sentence in U.S. history,” the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)?

The rest here

Here is the thrilling first episode of the dynamite, in your face, visionary web show known as Politics for People Who Hate Politics. Later episodes will include me with a better webcam, and will most likely pop up on liberty.me. It’s rough and ran long, but it’s worth a watch if you like ranting. Or me ranting, anyway. We’re like Blogging Heads for people who want more people yelling, or Red Eye for people who don’t have a TV or know how to pirate anything.

Your humble panel is as follows:

  • Lucy Steigerwald: Host, columnist for VICE.com, Antiwar.com, Rare.us, and Editor in Chief of The Stag Blog: @lucystag
  • Joe Steigerwald: Publisher for The Stag Blog, technical dude: @steigerwaldino
  • Michelle Montalvo: Perpetual intern, sci-fi enthusiast: @michelle7291
  • Cory Massimino: Econ student, writer for DL Liberty, Students for Liberty Blog, Center for a Stateless Society: @CoryMassimino

We covered Glenn Greenwald, #bringbackourgirls, Justin Amash, libertarian purity and in-fighting, and things we like better than politics.

Today’s video is the Dead Kennedys playing the first of many of their updates to the classic “California Uber Alles”:

I’m assuming at this point Jello Biafra is back to singing about Jerry Brown. I mean, how could you resist that kind of circle?

Oh, bonus: The first part of one ancient Oprah with Jello Biafra, Tipper Gore, and angry British editor of Spin from 1986:

And another Oprah from 1990 with Tipper Gore, Jello Biafra, and a particularly insightful Ice-T. The whole things are so fascinating for so many different reasons. Also, Tipper Gore is the prissiest woman in the world.

She really is.

upside_down_us_flagA Blair County, Pennsylvania, resident named Joshua Brubaker got into some trouble last weekafter he hung an American flag upside down and painted “AIM” on it. Brubaker, who is part American Indian, was trying to make a statement after learning that the site of the infamous 1890 Wounded Knee massacre—and a 1973 conflict between the American Indian Movement and the FBI—was going up for sale. A graffitied flag is the kind of routine artistic protest often made by 19-year-olds who have just heard of Noam Chomsky, but it really pissed off L.J. Berg, an assistant chief with the Allegheny Township police. Berg—who says a woman who was in the military was offended by it as well—took it upon himself to take the icon down and charge Brubaker with desecration and insults to the American flag.

According to Flag Code, an upside-down flag is a distress signal, and some protesters have, like Brubaker, used it as a symbol for metaphorical or political distress. In 2012, a West Virginia McDonald’s flew an upside-down American flag at half-mast either in protest of Obama’s reelection, or, as the franchise owner later said, because a cable broke. Also that year a veteran in Spokane, Washington, had his upside-down flag stolen from his yard about two weeks after he first put it up to protest “a lot of political things.”

Malcontents from across the political spectrum turn flags upside-down, but there are plenty of people who wish all these damn hippies would get locked up or whatever—as headlines like“Desecration or Free Speech?” reflect. In fact, the right to burn or deface the stars and stripes was only officially affirmed 25 years ago, in the Supreme Court case Texas vs. Johnson. That dealt with a communist named Gregory Johnson, who in 1984 burned an American flag outside the Republican National Convention in Texas and was subsequently arrested for vandalizing a respected object. He was sentenced to a year in prison under the 1968 Federal Flag Desecration Law, but in 1989 his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, which held that burning the flag was “symbolic” and protected free speech. Part of the court’s reasoning was that since burning a flag is a proper way to “retire” it, the prosecution of Johnson was based on his political motivations, not the actual action of burning, and you can’t arrest people for their beliefs in the US.

Subsequent federal laws to protect the flag have been either overturned or gotten stuck in a legislative quagmire, usually in the House. State restrictions on burning or defacing the flag have been overturned since as unconstitutional, but not without a fight—in Missouri, a judge overturned one such law in 2012 after a man successfully sued after his arrest for burning and tearing a flag in 2009, but that fight has continued in other courts. Freedom of speech aside, many Americans still think flag burning should be illegal—a 2006 Gallup poll found that a majority of respondents favored a Constitutional amendment that would allow legislatures to ban flag burning. (Fortunately, America is not ruled by opinion polls yet.)

But hold on—doesn’t all that mean the cops were clearly in the wrong when they arrested Brubaker? Not necessarily. He’s been charged with a third-degree misdemeanor under a 2010 Pennsylvania law that prohibits various desecrations of the flag that makes exceptions for “patriotic or political demonstration.” The legal director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Uniontold the media that Brubaker’s flag absolutely qualifies as political, and thereby protected, speech. The cops can argue that Brubaker’s actions aren’t political and attempt to make the charges stick—they’d just be very, very wrong. As Brubaker said, “If I don’t have a right to fly that flag upside down, which means a sign of distress, which this country is in so much distress right now, then what’s the point of having it?”

The rest of this week’s bad cops over here

police

Earlier this month, news that a 9-year-old girl had been handcuffed and arrested for fighting last May in Portland, Oregon broke to much media attention and public outrage.

Portland officers David McCarthy and Matthew Huspek came to the home of Latoya Harris one week after her daughter got into a fight with another girl at the Boys and Girls club they both attended. Both girls were suspended from the club for a week, and the Harris girl apologized.

Everything should have been squared away, except the other girl’s mom called police after she saw her daughter’s bruised cheek. The officers interrogated the girl and since she, according to McCarthy’s report, “gave vague answers” and seemed nervous and cagey, they hauled her in, still clad in a swimsuit damp from her running through the sprinkler. Her mother was not permitted to come along, and it took her an hour to bus to the station and retrieve her child.

Harris says though she complained to various sources, including Portland’s Independent Police Review Division, nothing came of the matter, so she figured public shaming of the officers might do the trick. The reason the police board said there was nothing they could do? No laws were broken.

Portland law allows the handcuffing of suspects for felonies or class A misdemeanors, and fourth degree assault counts as the latter and that was the charge against the young Harris girl. After all that, the DA never charged the girl, and eventually the charges were dropped.

The savvy Ms. Harris was right about the effects of media attention and public outrage. There is now a push to change the law so that suspects in Portland under 10 can’t be taken into custody without a juvenile court order, among other small changes. This is good, but it it doesn’t change the fundamental absurdity of treating childish bad behavior like a criminal matter.

Nor does it change the fact that neither the local DA, the arresting officers, or indeed the mother who made the first frantic complaint used common sense. But American society has normalized the notion of a law and order response to every vice, every nuisance, and every bad behavior. Why should children be exempt?

Turns out they’re not — not even this month:

The rest here

Presented with little commentary or excuse, the young libertarian poet’s thoughts during the feverish Bush years. (Even the horrible line breaks are accurate. The capitalization is also as written. I am so sorry.) I would like to say this make me feel better about my progress in the past 12 years, but good God is this painful and funny both. I sound a lot dumber than I thought I was back then.

I was super into not using “we” when talking about America during this time. (Which is a good rhetorical point, that I have admittedly dropped entirely now.)  I was also pretty sick of “United We Stand” as a rallying cry. You can see that as I subversively add a question mark to the poem’s title. Look, there were a lot of flags around all the time and I was getting mad.

I actually remember reading this to my homeschool English group to some amount of awkward silence. Once Iraq came along, my terribly edgy sentiment was a little more welcome, if only because these good Christian conservatives weren’t all jazzed about that whole invasion business either.

 

United We Stand?

Tell us what We are

Pawns for Public Service

We Support

When you give us words

What he says — They do

and They make us We

Broadcast as the mood

Love it or leave it

Or cry quietly to be heard by

The arrogant freedom fighter

When there’s nobody like you

Then tell us we stand united

And lean us over the edge

Pray for the chance

For I told you so’s

Here we are, so we’re taken with the tide

– Anarchy anyone?

So maybe they fight

For the nation and the world

But what’s paving that road?

  • Any excuse to post this again -- any.Here is my most recent VICE Bad Cop Blotter, in which I rant about the decriminalization of childhood.
  • Here is my most recent Rare piece, which is about the death penalty. Compare and contrast with my Antiwar piece on the same topic, and please note the same breed of moronic, I didn’t read it but I am angry anyway commenters ([whisper] I miss you Hit and Run. Except Tony [tears]).
  • My latest Antiwar piece was about the fight for journalism drones, and in it I fully admit my urge to Luddite scream when I think about domestic drones. So something for the techies AND the Amish! (Okay, not really.)
  • P.S. Antiwar is doing another fund drive, so if you want to donate to a lovely site that lets me write just about whatever I like, and also has been consistently antiwar since the days of Clinton, please consider doing so. 
  • Another thing you could do — if you are anywhere near Princeton, New Jersey — is go see Bill Steigerwald (dad, occasional Stag Blog contributor) and his friend Ethan Casey, also an author and traveler, go talk about their books on Thursday at the Princeton Library. Go see them at 7 pm, May 15. 
  • (I’ll be busy seeing Willie Watson on that date, though. Because, obviously.)
  • And hey, since there’s a proper hook and everything, maybe go buy dad’s Dogging Steinbeck book, which is full of ruminations on truth, America, literature, politics, and basically everything interesting in the whole wide world.
  • Ethan Casey also has books about his travels in Pakistan, Haiti, and America.
  • I’ve recently started almost-hate-reading the blog Saving Country Music — something about its style is so self-aggrandizing, hipster-country, that it drives me nuts. Also, the dude was down on Old Crow Medicine Show’s authenticity, which is something I cannot abide if you’re going to do it half-assed like that. Nevertheless, the dude did do a fine review of the new Willie Watson album. (And yet I still argued in the comments at 2 am.)
  • Tech Dirt on the FOIA-ed emails that reveal the full scope of the pathetic, creepy person that is Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. Background on the insanity here and here.
  • Denis Lawson, AKA Wedge Antilles, the Rebel pilot who defies the red shirt curse (wrong Star, I know) will not be in the new trilogy because he’s more into being a cool, under the radar Scottish dude. Or something. I shed a conflicted tear, because I hate J.J. Abrams as a director, I hate every Star Wars after Jedi, and I am therefore not even sure I want the original trio in a new movie. But at the same time, George Lucas has been so terrible for so long that there’s almost a “fuck it, I don’t care, let’s see what these sequels are like” feeling that is appearing at last. (Or — OR — I still have a lingering belief that the addition of Harrison Ford will somehow make it all okay again.)
  • Via Jesse Walker, a beautiful demonstration of the power of correlation, not causation. 
  • The DOJ might be secretly pushing banks to shut down the accounts of porn stars and other disreputable folk. Very creepy articles that makes one want to bury gold in the backyard.
  • Jezebel commenters delight in story of homeschool girl kicked out of her prom because the dads wouldn’t stop leering at her. This is offered up as reason that “the homschooling community” is untrustworthy” and why you shouldn’t be allowed to homeschool without a teacher’s certificate. Okay then. In my day, homeschool prom was just a special place where rap songs are edited to a hilarious extent and people play Christian rock versions of “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees. In a world, awkward and terrible, but not this gross. I think there was some praying as well, but I tuned that out.
  • The confusing and racist origin of the ice cream truck song.
  • High heels are totally dumb and unfeminist (yeah, I said it, eat it third wavers). But Collectors Weekly has a fascinating look at their origins, as well as that of the corset, which is not great for you, but is not quite the iron maiden we’ve been lead to believe.
  • People are still being suspended for not saying or standing for the Pledge? Conservatives, let this shit go. Even ignoring the “under God” kerfuffle, this is a piece of socialist propaganda written by the cousin of the writer of the worst fucking Utopian novel in the universe. You know it’s creepy for children to be saying loyalty oaths in public schools, you know it’s unamerican. Let. It. Go.

Done, here’s the video of the day:

Can’t stop listening to this song. Can’t.

Oh, and bonus new Old Crow Medicine Show (sorry, Willie) song! Like “Wagon Wheel” it is actually a finished version of an old Bob Dylan sketch.

I look forward to Darius Rucker’s cover come 2023.