Sunday, July 21, 2013

Welcome home, Scarface

It was past ten when we arrived home from holiday last night, and the resident muscle-men were kind enough to haul all the bags and boxes from the car to the kitchen.

All but one duffel: mine.

And I was damned if I wasn't going to have my favorite nightgown and the engrossing book I was reading, having just traveled for ten hours, through pounding rain, in a vehicle whose interior was dark enough to make reading said book impossible but light enough that I could see the ghost-whiteness of my knuckles.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to marry race-car drivers.

So I trudged out to the car, heaved my duffel's neck-breaking entirety onto one shoulder, yanked Ruby's pillow from the backseat, and wound my way in the dark through the family's various trucks and heavy machinery, back to the house.

The fever-steam we call Florida rain had ceased a while earlier, but water was still trickling and splatting everywhere. And then an enormous fan palm frond, its moorings weakened by God knows how many gallons of water and miles-per-hour of wind, tumbled from above, hitting me in the face--hard--and giving me a lovely diagonal gash on the bridge of my nose. I knew it was a gash because I immediately tasted the blood now coursing downward, ruining my camisole.

Oh joy.

I pounded on the much-closer back door, because Robert had locked it so the boys wouldn't go in and out and in and out the way they always seem compelled to do, letting mosquitoes in. Nothing. I pounded again, feeling more anger than pain at that point. Then I gave up, shifted the duffel (which was getting wetter by the minute) to my other shoulder, and traipsed, pack-mule-like, to the kitchen door, all the while trying to ignore the earsplitting din of the incessantly copulating tree-frogs who rarely have anything better to do on a Saturday night in rural Florida and who can fucking blame them.

My poor nose duly Neosporined and Band-aided, my tea made (with condensed milk, because the bloody milk had gone bad before its time--typical), I went to bed, looking forward to a good six hours of oblivion.

But I'd forgotten about the vicious, inconsiderate bastards who drive the Tropicana train along the lake at all hours of the night. In just a few hours, there they were again, blasting their house-rattling, dog-awakening horns.

There is nothing you can do to me that Florida has not already done.

Photo via.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

On Privacy

Here is why intruding on my privacy, and the privacy of millions of other people living in America, is wrong on its face: it is not that I have something to hide--it's that I have everything to lose.

And when the intruder is the State, with its ominous, full-on power to destroy any individual by accident or intent (because as said destroyed individual will tell you, the results are the same), that which an individual has to lose can be significant, and the results of his having lost it, life-altering.

The notion of "innocent until proven guilty" underpins our jurisprudence for a good reason. The burden of proof is not, and should never be, on me: I should not have to prove a negative, that I am not something bad, that I'm not doing something bad. I simply am. I exist.

Thus, if I am suspected of wrongdoing, well, prove it in court. Prove it in accordance with the laws that, however imperfect, have managed to convict and imprison serial killers, armed robbers, and terrorists alike (at least they did until the Patriot Act afforded the State an easy, lazy way to do an end-run around the Constitution).  But if I am simply existing, minding my own business, communicating with my family, friends, and business associates, the State should have no right to monitor my words--not the time when, or location where, they were written or spoken; not the frequency with which some recipients (as opposed to others) crop up on some concocted list of my associates; and certainly not the words themselves.

That is--or rather, was--the point of having warrants: to protect those who are merely existing from intrusion into their private, personal lives by the State. By setting forth very specific requirements, most saliently probable cause, that must be met before allowing intrusive evidence-gathering that disrupts an individual's security and privacy.

Proper warrants, too, not bullshit rubberstamped-anytime-anyplace-totally-unspecific-to-any-one-crime-applicable-to-countless-millions-of-citizens-FISA-warrants that are issued in secret.

The only reason all this is happening is this: we're allowing it.

The existence of secret courts with secret rulings--much like secret police--does not bode well for the health of our democracy. And when the death rattle kicks in, we will not be able to blame the terrorists. The government is us.  We are the ones who harvested, processed, and swallowed our own hemlock, because someone, somewhere, convinced us that the potion would protect us from all evil, and damn if he didn't make a pretty penny in so doing.

Monday, July 01, 2013

On Ed Snowden's "Oppressive Regime Tour"

For those who argue--ridiculously--that Edward Snowden should have "faced the music" and stayed in the US rather than "tour the oppressive, anti-human-rights regimes of the world", a little reminder: Neither Russia, nor Ecuador, nor Venezuela, nor Cuba executed anyone in 2011 (the most recent year for which statistics are available).

The United States? We put 43 human beings to death in 2011 alone.

That puts us behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, but ahead of every other nation in the world in terms of the state killing of citizens.


Does it count when the US "renditions"--aka, has other cruel regimes do it for us, like Syria, Egypt, or Jordan? Because even if it doesn't, we're right up there at the top among the world's torturers.

Good grief, people. Take off the prima-donna sleep mask, open your eyes, and wake the hell up.

P.S. As for rendition, the U.S. is still at it, too--the only difference between then (under Bush) and now is that our government currently claims it is overseeing things so that when we do apprehend someone suspected of wrongdoing, throw a hood over his head, and haul him off to another country to be "interrogated", the questioning will not be accompanied by torture--at least, not as far as we know (because it is, after all, taking place in another country, and we can't completely control what goes on behind closed doors). Don't you feel better?

Image: Andy Warhol, Little Electric Chair (Green), 1964