Jan 13 2011
I think it's pretty safe to say that a lot of us are glad that the year 2010 of the common era is over, done with, and a candidate for erasure from the Time Vortex if it starts getting uppity again. Sure, it had its ups and downs for all of us - they always do - but last year was a particularly bad one on a large scale. There was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that's destroyed a entire ecosystem, perhaps permanantly. Last January was the earthquake that devastated the island of Haiti, resulting in the death of thousands of people (though the exact figure is disputed by at least one news agency) and the continual suffering of many more. One year later, Haiti still hasn't recovered from the earthquake, the aftershocks, the spread of disease due to compromised utilities and lawlessness. A little over a month later an even more powerful earthquake hit Chile and set a world record for its strength (8.8 on the Richter scale) as well as triggered a tsunami that traveled the Pacific Ocean. I think everybody knows at least one person who was affected by the eruption of a volcano beneath Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland which spewed ash and soot into the air for days and adversely impacted air travel throughout much of Europe.
The name on the lips of most everyone for the remainder of 2010 was Wikileaks, which unleashed a number of bombshells that shook the world's governments to their foundations. While they unleashed a number of records last year the one which really set the mood was a directory of 75,000 documents collectively referred to as the Afghan War Diaries, which described in much better detail than the news media was just how well things were going in Afghanistan. Or not, as the case happens to be. A few months after that Wikileaks published the Iraq War Documents, a mass of nearly 400,000 Army field reports from Iraq that cast the United States in a much less trustworthy light when you crunch the numbers and follow some of the contacts described. Then, to round the year off Wikileaks began the process of distributing the contents of a cache of a quarter million diplomatic cables dating back to the mid-1960's called Cablegate which caused a counterintelligence shitstorm the likes of which has probably never before been seen by people like you and I in that we're seeing the aftershocks of it outside of the intelligence community.
I also shan't forget the US Transportation Security Agency kicking their operation up a couple of notches with millimeter wave radar and X-ray backscatter scanners in airports and county jail-style skin searches. Depending on who you talk to, this is either a perfectly reasonable thing to endure or an act that can see sexual assault from its front porch all in the name of keeping us safe. As if that weren't enough to make you reconsider airline travel a number of fairly well known individuals were harassed at the US border, from Dr. Peter Watts to Jacob Appelbaum to Moxie Marlinspike. With the exception of Dr. Watts, Appelbaum and Marlinspike were detained without being arrested, searched, and had various pieces of equipment confiscated, in all probability permanantly. Watts was arrested and eventually convicted of having the nerve to ask a border guard about what was going on, which bars him from entering the United States for life.
Incidentally, I find this both surprising and hilarious in a "Hi, I think I just had sex with Nyarlathotep!" kind of way.
I could go on, but I really don't have the heart to. I have a queue full of stuff that I could post individually about, but it's so grim that I really can't see the point. We have a senator who thinks that your Miranda rights only get in the way, another state trying to pass an 'insufficiently white' immigration law (thanks heaps, Kentucky, I was considering moving there in a few years), and production of meth has actually gone up despite all of the laws passed to the contrary. Long story short, those of us with hayfever get looks askance and copied driver's licenses if we get the sniffles, but everyone up to no good doesn't have any trouble. Then again, it always boils down to the white hats vs. black hats dynamic: black hats get more done because, by definition, they don't play by the rules.
I don't think that I can write any more without saying something about the attempted assassination of US Representative Genevive Gifford in Arizona last weekend during a public "Meet your rep" gathering. Long story short (because it's been all over the place and I really can't do it any justice), 22 year old Jared Loughner brought a pistol and opened fire, nonfatally shooting Representative Gifford in the head, wounding another thirteen bystanders, and killing six, including a nine year old girl. The United States government stepped in and is bringing charges of attempted assassination against Loughner. Almost immediately after the shooting on Saturday it became a political rugby game with the clueless running their mouths and each side blaming the other for being too weak or attempting to incite violence. Then again, maybe he really is just a nutter. Gun control pundits are screaming for stronger laws (nevermind the fact that the gun used was legally purchased) but with the speed at which fingers are being pointed you've got a better chance of getting your brain poked out than you do of getting shot.
I don't know what to say, anymore. I used to have hope that if enough of us spoke out, tried to be reasonable, and convinced the the asshats to knock it the hell off before somebody got hurt we'd have a fighting chance. Cliche' though it be, violence (like XML) never really solves anything. No matter what, when punches are thrown and bullets are flying people always get hurt, and people that get hurt take up arms and do it again, and again, and again in a cycle of stupidity that doesn't end until there are none left standing. With the the attempt on the life of Representative Gifford, I fear we've passed the point of no return and I don't have the slightest sodding idea what's going to happen next. The best I hope for is that enough people got jolted out of their particular trips long enough to take a good, long look around them and ask "What have we done?"