Posted in Friends of Mine, guest article, Politics

Droning On Indefinitely

As you know, my husband used to blog for Free Air and Water with his friend Jon–they really need to bring that back.  Let’s start a petition!  Jon is a favorite of mine to read when it comes to–well, anything he writes about.  So, I thought I would do us all a favor and ask him to write a guest article for The Outside Lane.  I asked Jon to write about the Obama Administration’s war policy, drone strikes in particular.  I am distressed by the casual dismissal of civilian life as acceptable collateral damage, and truly concerned with indefinite detention of citizens.  

This isn’t your usual Lip Gloss blog from me, but it is extremely important information.  Neither Jon, nor I will tell you how to vote, how we think you should vote, and I won’t tell you how I am voting (other than to say, “Ugh! Is this all I have to choose from?!”), but as Jon said, no matter which party or platform you support: “The power you trust ‘your guy’ with will be exercised by the other guy.”  Be informed about how we are treating innocents during wartime, and how we are gearing up to treat our own citizens.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Jon:

Since September 11th, 2001, the United States government has launched at least 330 drone strikes on Pakistan and at least 28 in Yemen. The uncertainty exists because this program, despite being commonly known, remains officially secret. These drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are relatively new and raise a number of troubling questions. The manner in which they are employed raises many more.

Before I begin, let me say that I am deliberately starting with the basics and am not trying to condescend to anyone. Lane has been kind enough to offer me her audience and I do not mean to talk down to you, however, this issue is so important that I want to be certain I am as clear as I can be and that everyone, whatever their previous level of engagement with this issue, is able to understand the issue and the arguments I am making.

Much has been said about drones and their capacity for “remote controlled death.” In itself this is hardly new; artillery crews have been bringing death from afar for centuries. However, these aircraft are able to remain airborne for long periods, are relatively unobtrusive, are inexpensive compared to conventional aircraft, and most importantly do not put American pilots at risk. They are not, in Yemen and Pakistan, being employed in lieu of artillery or conventional aircraft. Their greater precision relative to artillery and conventional airstrikes makes them more tolerable for the Yemeni and Pakistani governments, which see the targets of these strikes as a common enemy. If drones did not exist or were not employed, we would not be shelling or bombing Pakistan and Yemen; we simply would not be engaged in these countries. Therefore, the common argument that these strikes are “better” because they “spare” civilians is fallacious.

Further, how many civilians have been killed? Despite claims of certainty, we simply do not know. Whenever you hear administration officials or media personalities claiming that these strikes have killed some vanishingly small number of civilians, remember that the administration officially classifies all dead males as militants unless proven otherwise. That is to say, if a drone strike kills fifteen men, all fifteen are classed militants unless they are conclusively proven not to be. They are guilty until proven innocent, and no effort is made to prove them innocent. Considering that these societies often strictly segregate men and women, they feature few mixed gatherings, and thus these strikes- usually targeted on a man- will generate large numbers of male casualties, casualties that are all described, by the administration and by the compliant media, as “militants.” The unfortunate truth is that we simply have no idea how many innocents have been killed in these attacks.

The use of drones to expand the battlefield and the near-certainty that they are killing more innocents than we are told are in themselves troubling enough. However, the Obama administration has expanded their use in another, extremely troubling way- these drones have been used to carry out the extrajudicial killing of American citizens.

Here I want to digress into history. The idea that a government cannot put citizens to death without trial is an extremely old one. It is not a modern notion. It is not a right created by the ACLU in litigation before the Supreme Court. It was not dreamed up by hippies, left-wingers, or bleeding hearts. It dates back, in the West, to those sternest of stern, hard men, the Romans, who exiled Cicero for executing rebels without trial upon the advice of the Senate. It was first claimed in the Anglo-Saxon world not by starry-eyed dreamers but by the English barons at Runnymede in 1215, who in the Magna Carta asserted that “no free man shall be taken, imprisoned, or in any other way destroyed except by the lawful judgment of his peers.” In its modern form, as the writ of habeas corpus (Latin for “you shall present the body”), it dates to 1640, when the English Parliament, outraged by King Charles I ordering the imprisonment and execution of Englishmen from his secret Star Chamber, passed the Habeas Corpus Act.

The right to free from imprisonment and execution without trial is a right older and more fundamental than freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or freedom from slavery. It antedates by centuries such basic notions as women’s suffrage and the abolition of serfdom. And it is under attack.

The Obama administration has established a new Star Chamber and called it due process. Targets for drone strikes are chosen in secret meetings of administration officials, with the final decision resting with the President himself. So far, this Star Chamber has ordered the execution of Anwar al-Awlaki and, in a separate attack, his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. This man and his son were both American citizens, and they were both executed by the American government without trial and without even the opportunity for trial. Neither was ever indicted. The elder al-Awlaki created a number of videos for YouTube and authored a number of articles calling for jihad against the United States government. The younger was nothing but his father’s son. However, what is important to keep in mind is that our government is not supposed to be permitted to kill citizens without trial, whatever henious crimes they are accused of. We try unrepentant child molesters, confessed serial killers, armed robbers caught on camera.

Perhaps the objection will be made that these citizens were beyond the reach of the American government. First, this claim is demonstrably false by the fact of their execution. Second, other criminals beyond the reach of our government are not summarily executed. Roman Polanski, accused of the oral, anal and vaginal rape of a young girl, has not been executed by drone. Instead the legal forms are observed, his extradition requested, and when denied, statements are issued. Perhaps attempting the capture of the al-Awlakis would have risked the lives of American soldiers. We routinely risk the lives of American policemen who attempt to apprehend armed and dangerous suspects; we do not simply rocket the house we believe the suspects to be in. We do this because these legal forms are not mere formalities; they are the very foundation of liberty, of what it means to be free men and women. If our government can execute at will, we have lost our freedom and exist only on the sufferance of whoever the President happens to be.

Perhaps you are saying, “So what? I’m not a terrorist nor do I associate with terrorists, and besides, it was only two people.” It is important to remember the tremendous significance of precedents in our system. These executions, if allowed to go unchallenged and unpunished, will establish ordering the deaths of citizens as one of the powers of the President provided he thinks very hard about it and talks to a number of his appointed lackeys about it first.

Perhaps you trust President Obama with this power. That has been the response of certain administration lickspittles to concerns about extraconstitutional activities by the President. However, even if you have absolute faith in Obama and the Democratic Party, remember that just eight short years ago this country re-elected George W. Bush and will no doubt elect another Republican president before the decade is out. The power you trust “your guy” with will be exercised by the other guy, and having defended their existence now, you will not have much ground to stand on then.

So what can you do now? At this point, the most important thing is spreading awareness. I would like to thank Lane for giving me this forum and if you, having read this essay of mine share my concern for the ancient right of free men and women to be free from the threat of execution without trial, feel free to share it further or to write your own. Discuss these attacks with your friends and family and consider them before you cast your vote or advocate for a particular candidate in November. I will refrain from advising you how to vote, but you should be aware that both major party candidates support these drone strikes as well as the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Once the right to a trial is lost, it will be very difficult to win back, and we are at the point of losing it if we do not stand up and defend it.

Posted in Politics

Not to go All Dirty Hippy on You, But…

Now and then I still fantasize about going into national politics.  Then, I remember I have this blog and I have pretty much killed all my chances of ever being able to lie convincingly enough to get the traction it would take to make it onto a ballot.  I certainly wouldn’t get Pat Robertson’s endorsement.  While I am murdering my future political career…

Thor asks a lot of questions about politics.  Half the time I feel like I am telling him too much truth, and half the time I feel like the truth is too ridiculous to tell (I tell it anyway, and we laugh together.)  Yesterday, he started asking me about the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the conversation wound around until I found myself trying to explain collateral damage and how targets are chosen.  He processed the information back to me.

“So the soldiers dropped those bombs and then we won the war?  But a lot of innocent people got hurt.  But it made us win the war?  So…I guess those soldiers felt very proud that they had done that.”

I told him I didn’t think the soldiers felt exactly like that, or at least that not all of them did.  That it wasn’t so black and white.  But, yes, the war had ended and we had accomplished our goals.  I told him I wasn’t sure there was such a thing as “winning” a war because no one is a winner when innocent people are hurt.  And no one is a winner when young men and women are forced to kill other young men and women.  We all lose.  Just some of us come out of it with more of what we wanted going into it.  Mainly, the politicians.  It ain’t baseball, Kid.

See?  That’s a lot to absorb.  I may not be doing him any favors by trying to explain the nuance of what makes war hell, but I really want him to grow up thinking about more than Point A and Point B.  I want him thinking about A.1.0001, A.1.0002, A.1.ooo3–all the steps it takes to get to Point B, and all the periphery of an idea.  I don’t want him to hear the President saying that there was an acceptable amount of collateral damage because there is no such thing.  All collateral damage is unacceptable and awful, and it is horrifying and heartbreaking to think that “the other side” might see my son as potentially acceptable collateral damage.  Worse, my own government might see my son as potentially acceptable collateral damage.  We’ve all got to understand that.

But, just as we’ll always have the poor among us, we’ll always have the sociopaths and the power mongers, and they will always be striving toward more for themselves, which will always mean less for someone else.  And those are the people who feel like blowing up children is fine, so long as they get their point across.

This should never be considered acceptable.  Ever.

(Lane’s career in politics=Dead)

Posted in books, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Friends of Mine, Inside Lane, Politics, Religion

Books, Cures, and Poor, Poor Baby Jesus (Updated)

I started a new book.  I can’t tell yet if it is good.  I’m two chapters in and the story has my attention, but the writer writes exactly the way I speak, and I find myself-in-other-people annoying, so I can’t decide whether or not to enjoy it.  I will end up with a grudging appreciation for it, as I do most things that remind me of myself. 

It is funny how we can be repelled by our own personalities.  My dearest friends are usually very different from me.  I gravitate toward big personalities (admittedly, I am one of those), but behind those big personalities are methodical, organized, slow-burning characters.  I have come to realize that the reason I get so irritated with short-fused, paranoid, self-effacing, mercurial talkers is because I am a short-fused, paranoid, self-effacing, mercurial talker.  (Thus, the heroine of the new novel is infuriating, being the poster child for above flaws.)

I do idealize solid people.  I idealize people who are doing the jobs they went to college to learn, and who have done the same jobs for entire career spans.  This fascinates and intrigues me.  To date, the longest I have ever stayed with one industry is five years.  Granted, I have returned to that industry (it also being the industry I most enjoyed), but I don’t feel like that counts because I only returned one peg above where I left it off 15 years ago.  I am in awe of people who commit to a course of career and keep it.

(Telaryn let me know that, “Reports are coming in that the statement is a parody and not, in fact, attributable to Akin.”  Good to know!  I found this retraction/correction.)

Posted in Howling Sea Lane, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized

Uncle Daddy

I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about legitimate rape by now, but chicken is so three weeks ago.  Omniscient Uteri are the new black!  Omniscient Uteri is also the name of my new band.  The first album will be called, “Shutting it Down.”

I hesitated to write anything on the topic, but since I’m awake and thinking about it…

Here’s the thing:  You can’t fix a moron.  If there are people out there who genuinely believe that there is a difference between rape and rape-rape, you can’t fix them.  Ignorance you can enlighten, but stupid is forever.  We just have to quit voting for Stupid.

I am delighted when morons reveal themselves.  Especially when morons in positions of political or religious power reveal themselves.  It’s social Darwinism.  Hopefully, when those morons do the great reveal, we are intelligent enough to say, “Hey, you really shouldn’t be driving this car any longer,” and take away their keys.

Now, people who know there is no such thing as the difference between rape and rape-rape, who only say words to that effect in order to court your vote?  Those people are evil.  You can’t change them either.

The only thing you can do, what I am doing right now, is point out the idiocy when you see it.  When the Emperor rides through town naked, you point and shout, “The Emperor has no clothes!”  That’s the only way to deal with these mugs.  And maybe throw some science up against the proverbial wall and hope that sticks.

As if Representative Rape-Rape isn’t bad enough, now we’ve got this trick who has never heard of a girl getting pregnant by rape or incest.  This doofus, who is a lifelong member of St. Martin’s Church in Odebolt, Iowa, has apparently never made it through even the first book of the beloved Bible he’s banging around on because *cough* Genesis 19:46 *cough*.

“So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.”

That’s two girls right there!  TWO!  With one little Bible verse, I have doubled his knowledge of incest-based pregnancy!

Or I would have.  But he probably won’t read this. 

(P.S., I have always wondered just how drunk a father would have to get in order not to recognize his daughters.  And if he was that drunk, how would he be able to perform in the first place?  I think there’s a bit of revisionist history going on there in Genesis.)

(P.P.S., Technically, we are all the product of ancestral incest, if we are to believe that Adam and Eve were the first and only humans on the planet.  It’s not like their offspring would have had a wealth of choice outside the Smart sister, or the Pretty sister, you know?)

Posted in economy, parenting, Politics, Thor

Civics and the Six-Year-Old

Thor loves NPR and the Classical music station, and has since he was old enough to express a preference by screaming his lungs out when I tried to change to the pop channel.  Because he listens to NPR (and I swear to you, he ASKS to listen to NPR–believe me there are days I’d rather be letting the Top 40 fill my work-vacant brain) he hears a lot of talk of politics, and he asks some pretty good questions for a 1st Grader.

Last week, on our 5 minute drive, after a recap of his understanding of the 2-Party System, he asked me, “So what’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans?”

Uh…in a nutshell?  And impartially?  Geez.

I tried to explain that the Ds were usually more liberal socially, preferred for the Government to be very involved in daily life, and were more likely to spend money on people, and that Rs were more conservative socially, preferred small government, and were more likely to spend money on industry and business.  He then asked what was liberal, and what was conservative, and I said liberal socially meant fewer rules about how people should live their private lives (which was ironic, since many liberals like the Government to make more rules) and conservative meant more rules about how people should live their private lives (with the reciprocal irony.)

And then Thor asked, “So what about the money?”

I said, “It’s kind of like this.  Say you have no money.  The Democrats would ask the Government to give you $2 a week forever.”

He interrupted, “I don’t have any money!  They would give me money?!”

“But…  The Republicans would give $5 a week to a business, hoping that business would give you a job.  The job would pay you $3 a week, but the idea is that you can work hard and get a promotion, then make $5 a week, then get another promotion and make $15 a week.  So you would have a shot at improving your life and be more upwardly mobile.”

“Three is more than two,” he calculated.  “But then I have to get a job.”

“Dude, you are going to have to get a job anyway.  No deadbeats.  So, do you understand?”

“Yep.  Which one is better?”

“Neither.  Both sides want the same thing–a strong country where people are happy.  They just have different ideas about how to get there.”

“What are you?”


“And what are they?”

“Ask Daddy.”

“Cool.  Can I have a treat after dinner tonight?”


I’m sure I over-simplified or screwed that up majorly somehow, but B is the political mind in the family.  I keep hoping one day Thor will ask me a question that is easy to answer.  Like, “Mama, what kind of corsage should I get my prom date?”