Category Archives: news

Young Tsarnaev

Photo: FBI

Photo: FBI

There’s your bomber.

You’re looking at the face of the kid the Boston paramilitary police were hunting for. By the time they found him hiding in a boat, his brother had been killed in a firefight. Children of one of imperialism’s most brutal conflicts, five thousand miles from their parents, drifting in a place not quite home, it’s easy to imagine how they went astray. How do kids like that not go astray?

A joke from the young man’s social network page:

В школе задают загадку..
Едет автомобиль. В нем сидят – дагестанец, чеченец и ингуш.
Вопрос – кто ведет машину ?
Мага отвечает: – Полиция.

Translation:

At school they pose this riddle:
A Dagestani, a Chechen, and an Ingush are riding in a car together.
Question: who’s driving the car?
Magus (?) answers: the police.

Just a silly political joke for a central Asian audience. Not long after, the Chechen who posted it found himself being driven to the hospital under arrest.

Our country has had its fair share of crazies and murderers in the news in recent years. For some reason, this most recent (alleged) bomber has evoked a more sympathetic response from me than usual. Sure, the guy could be genuinely evil. But my guess is that more likely he is genuinely confused.

Pray for the kid. Good or bad, he’s going to need it.

Re: Anonymous

So Anonymous (quintuple slogan: “We are Anonymous, We are legion, We never forgive, We never forget, Expect us.”) is at it again, defacing the DOJ sentencing website (including the above video) and threatening release of Justice Department secrets. Gotta say the production quality on the video is surprisingly good. The voice sounds like a synthesized version of Liam Neeson, which is funny—maybe they’re going for the “moral authority” thing that he’s often been associated with.

I never quite know what to make of Anonymous, though. On the one hand, they’re law-breaking hackers; on the other hand, some of the grievances listed in the video are actually reasonable critiques of the justice system. On the one hand, they’re practicing extortion on a grand scale, threatening destructive information release (they liken their files to atomic bombs) if their policy objectives aren’t met; on the other hand, I think it’s healthy for society to have influential non-governmental actors.

What if the individuals behind Anonymous (that assumes it isn’t some massive artificial intelligence floating around in the cloud somewhere) were to use their many skills and obvious passion to reform society through persuasion rather than extortion? Somebody in the organization has something of a rhetorical gift, if that video is any indication. Surely people so clever could find better ways of using their time. But those better ways wouldn’t be anything like as glorious and high-profile as the cyberterrorism thing.

Late 19th century Europe was the cradle of modern anarcho-terrorist philosophy, justifying violence as the only cry that would be heard by an oppressive state. For the most part, though, all those guys did was blow people up. It’s hard to say that the course of history was really swayed by them. Even Al Qaeda’s 9/11 achieved none of the change its planners had hoped. So who does change society? How is corruption and oppression really brought down?

Gorbachev could reform the Soviet Union because he was an influential insider. Hitler was brought down by a massive war machine, by strategic blunders, by “Aryan” arrogance. Yet influential insiders often perpetuate oppression (Kim Jong Il, anybody?) and massive war machines enforce it. The oppressor’s folly is the freeman’s hope; but foolish freemen cast their freedom away of their own choice.

My suggestion is for Anonymous to find some way to reform society and retain its flair for the dramatic that doesn’t hypocritically mock the rule of law they claim to seek. But I guess they didn’t ask me, did they?

Pandemonium

You know, it’s kind of easy to get freaked out about a possibly approaching tidal wave of global fatalities when every day brings so much news about the “swine flu pandemic”. While that does seem to be frighteningly real possibility, I liked this:

While the infected need access to medical care and anti-viral drugs, the rest of the world needs an inoculation against scary statistics and misinformation. [A Vaccine Needed for Bad Statistics]

In other words, yes, this could be a global catastrophe. But, unlike what a scan of recent headlines will make you think, that is still just a possibility. Maybe it will be 1918 all over again. Then again, maybe it will be forgotten like SARS. Whichever way it goes, I’m going to try to keep my panic level proportional to the body count.

By the way, here are two cool maps: 1 2