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On Thursday, Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley) confirmed what has long been suspected by folks following her story, she is not a gay man, she is a transgender woman. If only her confident-sounding official announcement could have been made in happier circumstances. On Wednesday, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for various charges — including violation of the Espionage Act —  related to her leak of hundreds of thousands of documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and numerous private diplomatic communications.

During the 1,293 days between her arrest in May, 2010 and this statement, there were hints at Manning’s status, but no confirmation. Now Manning herself has stated her preference, which is all that matters. The often oft-amusing Erin Gloria Ryan wrote a good enough Jezebel post on respecting Manning’s transition and not being horrible about it. But Ryan didn’t really delve into the the reason Manning faces such a long time behind bars. Indeed, Jezebel itself (and this is a sign of a bigger problem for the blog, with rare exceptions) seems to be unable to translate caring about feminist issues such as being an ally to the trans community into bigger issues like embracing more radical politics than the dreaminess of the Commander in Chief.

Certainly Manning’s status is not unimportant, especially now that she is set to begin her sentence with the knowledge that the military will not be respecting her gender identity. (Not to mention her torturous treatment during some of her pre-trial detainment.)  Also, her less-than-hetero status has been used by critics ever since her name appeared in the press. Back in 2010, conservative commentator Ann Coulter decided that Manning leaked the information because she was a gay man “in a snit” and therefore couldn’t be trusted with sensitive intel. Other right-wingers like actor Adam Baldwin reacted to the confirmation of Manning as Male-to-Female by charmingly wondering “which came first: Manning’s insanity, or his treason?” Manning’s identity seems awfully convenient for folks who already thought “he” had done wrong by leaking.

But even now, to focus solely on Manning’s MtoF status is myopic. She is more than a trans woman who warrants support because there’s no real reason not to use someone’s preferred gender. She didn’t leak because she was suffering great stress partially due to — but not entirely because of — her difficulties adjusting to the military. She definitely did not leak because she was trans. She leaked because, in her own words, she changed her mind about the war on terror after seeing how up close. She committed an anarchic, arguably reckless act fueled by very clearly expressed principles of opposition to government secrecy, the occupation of Iraq, and the deaths of innocent civilians. She saw things during her stint as a military analyst in a warzone, and she thought people should know some of the things she knew. She wanted a more transparent society.

Yes, you might argue she could have leaked more judiciously. She certainly shouldn’t have trusted hacker and eventual-rat Adrian Lamo with her confession of criminal guilt. But to talk about Manning should be to talk about concepts arguably even more radical than complicated aspects of gender. Government leaders, police, the military, all have special privileges and immunities not granted to the average person. Individuals in the U.S. and more violently abroad bear the brunt of that privilege often. Iraq is a fucking mess, thanks in large part to the United States. Afghanistan, too. Drone strikes throughout the Middle East kill and psychologically torture civilians, and breed more resentment of the United States and more terrorists. Manning’s release of war-logs helped paint a much clearer picture of how these wars are fought, something U.S. society, with its constant refusal to depict the real, bloody cost of conflict, sorely needs. By pushing hard against the stifling, dusty room of government secrets, Manning changed the world and let some sunshine in. She may have even helped jump-start the Arab Spring. And her actions lead to Snowden (even if he looked at her partially as how not to leak). Snowden in turn sparked the current, snowballing debate about what powers the national security sector has, what powers it claims to have, and what Congress, and the President, and the public should do about it.

Knowing the questions her actions raise, it doesn’t make sense to ignore Manning’s status as a political figure. Jezebel has broached the subject of less-sympathetic prisoners who were also trans slightly more cautiously in the past. (Though there’s nothing wrong with expressing some empathy for anyone caught up in the United States’ fucked up, enormous prison system, guilty, violent, or not.) Support her or not (and I argue you should), Manning is a woman who committed a bold and lawless act. She is not just a reason to discuss the rotten treatment of trans individuals by society, the military, or the prison system. That conversation is important, but it’s not the one Manning sacrificed her freedom to start.

Let’s respect Manning by referring to her by chosen name and prefered pronoun. But let’s also respect the woman who is now stoically facing 35 years in prison by continuing to talk about what she did, and how we’re going to respond to the next whistleblower.

  • Any excuse to post this, in the years to come.I recently discovered the adsorbing Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog. Its author, an academic, invented various incarnations of a NukeMap, in which you can use Google maps (or Google Earth, for those not saddled with a Chromebook) to see the effects of various atomic bombs — from Hiroshima to the full, unused iteration of the Tsar Bomba — on various cities.
  • The author also wrote a “Why Nagasaki” post yesterday, which is soft on the whole thing, but is enlightening as to the debated motivations of those involved in nuking the shit out of that bonus city.
  • The Onion said it best on Nagaski.
  • I am reminded of the time a few months back where I asked my would-be engineer friend to explain why nuclear stuff is measured by half-life. Drunk friend fluctuated between condescending over-explanation to poor, sweet liberal arts majors, and baffling science attacks (to poor, sweet liberal arts majors). Somehow it eventually made sense, but God knows I couldn’t explain it.
  • Once-classified US government footage of rebuilding Hiroshima.
  • Matt Novak’s sweet Paleofuture blog seems to have wandered over to Gizmodo.
  • Cato’s Julian Sanchez was deliciously sassy on Chris Hayes on Friday, talking NSA and Obama press conferences. And The Guardian‘s Spencer Ackerman was himself, and was therefore great. And Robert Gibbs said the word debate so. many. times. and it was terrible.

Five non-link tweets I have recently favorited, for your enjoyment:

Today’s video(s):

Willie Watson, the lamented and departed member of Old Crow Medicine Show, singing “High Dice Blues/Shooting High Dice” with guitar that sounds exactly like the Mississippi Sheiks version of the song. Check ’em both out:

I love the Mississipi Sheiks so much. But you would know that if you have been listening to my radio show, now tragically nearing its end.

 

At this point, it’s pretty clear that Jezebel exists to make Gawker look thoughtful, radical, and  passionate. Gawker slants tediously leftist, as do all of its writers (to my knowledge). But Hamilton Nolan, Max Read, and a few others have written quality, serious pieces on cops, the drug war, and war — many of which contain nothing in them that would alienate a libertarian.

Now, compare and contrast  a few Gawker posts with this latest Jezebel piece on the president, entitled “Check Out Obama’s Adorable Prom Pic.” It begins: “After last week’s hellish scandal week, President Barack Obama could use a little PR break.”

It continues:

What’s this? Photos of a young Barry at his prom have unearthed and Michelle was not his date? Is that infidelity? Does this mean impeachment? IS HE WEARING MARIJUANA AROUND HIS NECK? Nope, this photo is just sweet and innocent.

Oh Mr. President, look how happy you were at such a simple time when the greatest concern that could possibly bother you was the size of your fro, the breasts on your date and the awkwardness of the slow dance.

One of Barry’s high school friends, Kelli Allman (second to the left) just shared this gem from senior prom with Time, and it’s beyond adorable. It features Barry’s BFF, Greg Orme (the other dude in the photo) and Barry’s date that night, Megan Hughes. Apparently the double date duo sipped on some champagne before prom, did a Socialist ritual at prom (I kid, I kid) and attended an after-party like any other high school kids.

Allman also shared a photo of her yearbook, which has an even sweeter note from the future President. If you want to get the full experience, just let your eyes wonder at this picture. But if Barry’s handwriting is too handsome for you to handle, here’s what he says:

It continues, but I don’t care to.

Jesus Christ, editors; swoon over Ryan Gosling, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or any of the other currently-dreamy men who have made no choices that lead to the deaths of Pakistani children. This continuing obsession with the attractiveness of the president is completely appalling. It’s worse than the lowest type of gossip site, it’s worse than completely ignoring politics or serious issues, in the manner of Cosmopolitan. Yes, Jezebel is actually more embarrassing for women than Cosmo. It’s official. As a lady writer, I declare it so. Better to not talk about politics than to degrade good, old fashioned fawning in this manner. Teen idols don’t deserve to be grouped in with Barack Obama. The Jonas Brothers do not have predator drones. David Cassidy didn’t spy on the AP. Leif Garrett didn’t permit the DOJ to shut down medical marijuana clinics.

Jezebel is free to hire only leftist writers. They don’t even need to think about how all women are being portrayed when they write for a women’s blog — that’s too much to ask of anyone. They’re a subset of a subset, a moderate-left-blog for women’s interests. But it’s still troubling when there are multiple blogs on one platform, and it’s the women’s one with the most empty-headed, brood-hen bullshit. Just stop writing about politics entirely if you side-step their deadly seriousness.

And if you really support the president, explain why. Don’t write snotty posts with dog-whistles to the most inane, right-wing strawmen critiques so you can all have a hearty laugh about how wacky are those Republicans. Be honest and say the drug war, the wars, the spying is all worth it to you. Politics is awful, but Obama has the power of life and death, or freedom and imprisonment, over millions of people. That is fucking serious, do not write about it as if you were a 12-year-old.

With such posts — and such timing! —  you’re embarrassing the rest of the women, and the rest of the teen idols. Obama might have been a nice guy in private life, but he lost the privilege of being a morally neutral figure the moment he was elected, and he sure as hell lost the ability to be a sex symbol.

In spring 2012, Robert and Adlynn Harte of Leawood Kansas were subjected to a SWAT-style drug raid after they bought materials for their hydroponic vegetable garden, and eight months later a police search through their trash lead to the discovery of what a field test revealed to be marijuana. Except that it wasn’t. It was probably tea. A lab test done after the raid showed that the substance was definitely not weed. Cops: fighting the drug war, unable to identity drugs.

A timeline from The Kansas City Star has more details, including the obligatory scaring children bit:

•  The Harte house was searched April 20, 2012, a date that has been known as a long-celebrated marijuana holiday. Area law enforcement officers were conducting several searches as part of a sting in a response to pot smokers’ blatant flaunting of the law.

Ten search warrants were served that day, and the Hartes’ home was one.

When the tactical-dressed deputies arrived at the home in the 10300 block of Wenonga Lane, Robert Harte was forced to lie shirtless on the foyer while a deputy with an assault rifle stood over him, according to the Harte’s lawsuit. The children, a 7-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy, reportedly came out of their bedrooms terrified, the teenager with his hands in the air.

•  But a lab test done 10 days after the raid and again four months later in August found that the leafy material was not marijuana.

“It does not look anything like marijuana leaves or stems,” a lab report said. [Incredulous emphases added

Some more takeaways:

1) Holy shit, look what good local news reporting can do! Props, 41 Action News. Compare and contrast with these lapdog reporters who think SWAT is just nifty as long as they get to tag along.

2) Props to the father for saying “some goon standing over me with an assault rifle” and for the family for suing.

3) Officials can’t even enforce their awful laws “properly.” The restriction on a pretty damn harmless substance is evil enough — this kind of incompetence takes it to a whole ‘nother level. Who do you trust, you folks who trust government and law enforcement? Which imaginary individuals are you picturing, who will take this much power — the power to kick down your door, point guns at your kids, and trash your house — and use it for good? Where’s the good in frightening a family and trashing their home? And if it had been weed, and the parents had been hauled off to jail, that would have been more harmful still.

At this point, I fee like i’m just addressing David Frum and Eric Holder when I speak to imaginary drug warriors. And, I suppose, Ann Coulter. A lot of people are wising up, but in the mean time this shit keeps happening. And even when it stops, people will still be rotting away in jail — casualties of the dark age when people thought this kind of criminal behavior was okay, as long as the perpetrators had the right uniforms and the right piece of paper.

[H/T: Anthony Gregory]

The undercover cop doesn’t even show his badge to rapper Xstrav, he just demands the Arizona tea, so he can make sure it’s non-alcoholic. The real reason Xstrav gets cuffed, I’d say, is he was guilty of “contempt of cop” and “failure to be sufficiently cowed.”

  • Gawker has more on the case, including links to a second video that confirms the incident is not a hoax or a weird tea promo. It seems Xstrav’s charges are Misdemeanor Second Degree Trespass and Misdemeanor Resisting Public Officer.
  • Long Mother Jones piece on the effects of deinstitutionalization. There a few nods to Szasz-style civil liberties concerns, but not many. Worth reading, though.
  • Interview with a photographer who sneaks into abandoned mental institutions. My camera finger itches.
  • The Weaver family door as historical artifact. It must be very strange indeed to be Elisheba Weaver.
  • VICE piece on the 20 years since Waco gathering at Mt. Carmel. 
  • This National Review Online piece doesn’t say much new about Alex Jones, but it is said well. Basically, the man is a wacky preacher and should probably be treated as such.
  • This 2011 Rolling Stone piece on Alex Jones is very good, and delves deeper into how the weirdness came to be.
  • When you start reading about Alex Jones, you start Googling “Alex Jones prediction 9/11” and “Pentagon surveillance video” and then it’s three hours later and you’re so tired you have a headache.
  • Talking Points Memo reports that the man who recklessly shot at the White House in 2011 so at least in part because of Obama’s stance on marijuana laws. I have no comment that won’t get me placed on a list somewhere.
  • Rand Paul toasts Henry David Thoreau , thereby making it must harder for me to stay angry at the curly-mopped Senator.
  • The age of reason lead to the Holocaust, apparently. 
  • Artist recreates tragedies and news moments with children — many of them work (Jonestown, 9/11), some of them really do not (JonBenet Ramsey is very disturbing, and doesn’t seem logical thematically anyway).
  • Day 4 of the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure in DC — that’s UFO talk, don’t ya know.
  • Old Crow Medicine Show on Conan

401977_820298143983_859526031_nThe lockdown was something new. Not serial killers, not cop-killing cop Christopher Dorner’s LA rampage, not even 9/11 shut down a city like this. Still, Bostonians seemed fine with staying inside for the most part. Cops found their guy relatively quickly, and the city partied in the streets afterwards. During the manhunt, a tough-looking officer even brought two gallons of milk to a family with young children, serving as a perfect meme to refute any accusations of jackbooted thuggery. Even some normally anti-police libertarians urged restraint in reacting to the manhunt.

What shouldn’t go unmentioned, however, is that while the circumstances were unique, the military muscle displayed by law enforcement is hardly reserved for responding to rare acts of terrorism. Videos from the lockdown—particularly this piece of paranoia-porn, in which a SWAT team orders a family out of their home at gunpoint and one of the officers screams “get away from the window!” at the videographer—either look frightening or grimly necessary, according to your views. But haven’t we seen displays like this before?

Those who say that the above high level of police intrusion was due to the unique seriousness of the situation in Boston had better explain what cops are doing with their expensive toys during the other 360 days of the year. A suspected bomb-toting terrorist is cause for specific, serious law enforcement measures (if not an excuse to impose martial law on an entire metro area). But a visit from cops that look like soldiers is a reality for 150 people per day who are targeted by police raids—mostly on suspicion of possessing or selling narcotics.

The rest here.

Sen. Rand Paul’s speech at the historically black college Howard University earlier in the week provoked liberal scorn from some, including the frustrating-cause-he-almost-knows-better MSNBC stable Chris Hayes. The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf wrote a blog post in response to Hayes and company’s easy critique of Paul as the stammering, Southern, pandering white Republican who doesn’t care about the black community and it contains some deliciously damning bits.

To much of the left, Republicans are by default Mitt Romney asking a group of black kids “who let the dogs out?” They’re racist and when they try not be, they’re an out of touch joke, not interested in changing any of society’s racist institutions. This is too-often a fair critique of the right, to be sure. But it also give the left, at least the Democrat left, an absurd amount of completely undeserved credit, and neglects to damn them for their equal sins in this arena.

Friederdorf’s subhed alone — “What’s most racially “cringe-worthy,” Rand Paul’s speech at Howard, Stop and Frisk, or indefinite detention?” — sums it all up brilliantly. Read the whole thing here, but read the takeaway below.

(Friedersdorf is rapidly joining the ranks of journalists that I am mad about not being.)

[Rand] Paul believes minorities are disproportionately affected by failing schools, draconian sentences for non-violent crimes, and drug laws. He believes reforming those policy areas is required for racial progress, and also worth doing because people of all races would benefit. More broadly, he believes that protecting civil liberties is particularly crucial to protecting minority rights. Agree or disagree with his policy stances. But don’t say, as Hayes does, that he believes achieving racial progress is just a matter of having the right conversations.

That is verifiably false.

The irony is that Hayes’ segment and most coverage of race in the establishment media treats conversation about race — it’s earnestness, tone, and sophistication — as a proxy far more important than hard fought policy changes. Awkward moments during a speech at Howard can get you labeled as hilariously backward about race in America in analysis that totally ignores your policy efforts.

Whereas Mayor Bloomberg, who has presided over Stop and Frisk and spying on innocent Muslim Americans, would never be labeled “worse than Braid Paisley on civil rights.” And Barack Obama, who gave a superb speech about race in America, is judged, by virtue of his rhetorical sophistication, to be the epitome of enlightenment on the subject. Hayes is truly a vital voice, in part because (unlike many others on MSNBC) he consistently and admirably criticizes the Obama Administration for its transgressions against civil liberties. Insofar as there’s any chance of stopping indefensible drone strikes or inane drug policies, it’s because of people like Hayes, and I really can’t overstate how much I appreciate that about his work. Yet he would not do a mocking, glib segment that portrayed Obama’s outreach to blacks and Muslims as laughable and “cringe-inducing,” no matter how badly Obama’s policies transgressed against justice. That’s because in America we cringe at awkward moments more than indefinite detention. Paul’s rhetoric on race is thought to be more “unsophisticated” than Stop and Frisk.

Even people who criticize establishment abominations can’t quite bring themselves to mock and ridicule them.

Ridicule is for folks outside the tribe.

The rest of the Paul-mocking media wouldn’t criticize a Bloomberg or Obama on civil rights or racial policy at all, not because Bloomberg and Obama have more enlightened racial policies — they’re presiding over the ugliest of what we’ve got at the local and national levels — but because Bloomberg and Obama know how to talk about race in the way it is done at liberal arts colleges. They’d be far better than Paul at being sensitivity trainers or diversity outreach coordinators.