Monday, September 9, 2013

Comic: The Red Line Dance

Turn on some music!

Keep Dancing

That's Enough

Comic: Syria in Crisis

Syria in Crisis

Sunday, September 8, 2013

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From the whistleblowing-gone-awry department:
via Buzzfeed:
One refrain in the wake of the National Security Agency leaks is that Edward Snowden should have reported his concerns up the chain of command rather than leaking documents to the press. But the internal reporting system is seriously broken in the military. All too often when a soldier reports misconduct or illegal activity, it is swept under the rug.
Many sites are maintaining a detailed tally of the House's upcoming Syria vote:
As of Friday afternoon, there were 223 members in the “no” or “leaning no” category, more than the 217 that would be needed to sink the resolution
Apparently Obama is learning about the NSA's activities from leaks along with the rest of us. Via Techdirt again:
Regarding Syria, it's never a good sign when your own military has misgivings:
 And finally, the good folks at ProPublica liked Thursday's comic!

Anything for my heroez. As I said recently, more alliances like these are needed in journalism. Everyone involved in the NSA leaks is fighting the good fight and they should all be immortalized in song.

See you Monday!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

NYT, Guardian, and ProPublica Join Forces

For the first time, a National Security Agency leak has been published simultaneously by three different news organizations. The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica all joined forces following a tumultuous experience with British authorities last month.

As ProPublica made clear in their eloquent explanation, an important relationship exists between publishing leaks and protecting civil liberties:
There are those who, in good faith, believe that we should leave the balance between civil liberty and security entirely to our elected leaders, and to those they place in positions of executive responsibility. Again, we do not agree. The American system, as we understand it, is premised on the idea -- championed by such men as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison -- that government run amok poses the greatest potential threat to the people’s liberty, and that an informed citizenry is the necessary check on this threat. The sort of work ProPublica does -- watchdog journalism -- is a key element in helping the public play this role.
As we've seen lately, government abuse has finally reached a point where no one can go it alone. The lone journalist who attempts to speak truth to power is sure to fail, pulled down both by the power he attempts to hold accountable and by his own peers, who enjoy their access to government officials far too much to speak up.

Luckily, journalists are finally learning the meaning of "United we stand, divided we fall." While it is easy to call for the prosecution of a lone journalist who reports on government abuses, very little can be done about three major news organizations working together. Even if the government were to push back, we would see the alliance between journalists strengthen -- as it did following the destruction of the Guardian's hard-drives -- rather than weaken. More alliances like these are needed to keep the ball rolling toward transparency.

Thanks For The Info

The New York Times website today:

Good to know. Tell us more.

Update: Looks like the Guardian has just published their story relating to this.

And here is the NYT's version.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Obama's Own Words Could Be Used to Justify an Attack on the US

In his long-awaited address to the nation, the president made another call for the US to uphold international norms. The problem with this line of reasoning is that if the US were to strike Syria for the sake of upholding the law, then another country could just as reasonably attack us on the same grounds. There are, after all, laws prohibiting military aggression in the same way that there are laws prohibiting the use of chemical weapons.

If another country did decide to attack us, they would probably find Obama's words perfectly fitting for their own purposes. Just read the president's speech again with the references to chemical weapons replaced by references to military aggression:
What message will we send if a president can attack a foreign nation in plain sight and pay no price? What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on military aggression that has been agreed to by the governments of 98% of the world’s not enforced?

Make no mistake -- this has implications beyond illegal warfare. If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorists who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?

We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us.

...we will insist that an aggressive attack on another country...must be confronted.
Would anyone object if Russia issued that statement in response to our actions? What if they backed it up by sinking our ships? No, they wouldn't have the law on their side, but neither would we. Their intent to uphold the law would appear just as noble as ours, which is to say, not very noble at all. In fact, it would seem downright hypocritical. How can anyone claim that the act of breaking the law actually upholds it?

More on Syria >>

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See you tomorrow!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Obama: We Must Uphold International Law by Breaking International Law

Attempting to justify his plans for a military strike on Syria, Obama said today that the US, as a leader in the world, has an "obligation" to uphold international norms.

The problem with this argument is that by attacking Syria, the US would actually be breaking international law, which forbids the sort of strike that Obama is contemplating. In essence, Obama wants to break international law in order to uphold it, a senseless proposition. Assuming the US does have a special obligation to the world, the best way to fulfill it would be to play by the rules. That means respecting both the Constitution and international law. A unilateral strike on Syria would violate both.

(For those who think the president has the power under the Constitution to launch an attack, I addressed that issue here and here. Both Thomas Jefferson and Candidate Obama said that the president did not have that power.)

Of course, it may be that Obama thinks our obligation to punish Assad is greater than our obligation to obey the law. But if we adopt that line of reasoning, then Russia, who is currently moving warships into the area, may very well adopt a similar line of reasoning toward us. We would, after all, be breaking the same sort of international agreement that Assad is supposedly breaking, and we would, therefore, be worthy of receiving the same sort of unilateral punishment at the hands of Russia.

Would people complain if Russia attacked us? Of course. But anyone who thinks that Obama is justified in punishing Syria would have to agree that Russia would be equally justified in punishing us. As Obama said today, no one will take international laws seriously if no one enforces them. Just imagine those words coming from a Moscow official next week when Russia is sinking our warships. I wonder if Obama would see the irony.

Of course, all this can be avoided if Obama sits tight and convenes Congress for a vote. It would fail, but it would send an important message to the rest of the world, that world-leaders are bound by their own laws. That sounds much better to me than the reckless course of action currently being considered.