Is This the Kind of World You Want?

I’m ashamed of my country again. I’m posting about the Peter Watts thing, of course.

I stole the title from Jo Walton, because it is perfect.

The story started popping up on my friends list after it appeared on Boing Boing this morning.

If you don’t know at least the bare outlines by now, you’re living under a rock; but you can find out at the links above, so I’m not going to repeat any of it.

Here’s what’s terrifying about this: there are quite a number of people commenting on the basic theme of “that’s the way things are.”  That’s terrifying—apparently police (in the broad sense; I believe these were border guards) have been jack-booted thugs above the law for long enough that people have learned to take it for granted.  That’s really, truly, deeply, terrifying.

The concept that the Constitution protects our rights is…incomplete. Nothing static can really defend against hundreds of years of political maneuvering. What it can do is give some basis for fighting back. Rights always need protecting. Ours in the USA have been fairly badly ignored over the last couple of decades, so we need to work extra hard for a while to recover from that.

There are the usual claims that Watts “must have” done something to bring this on himself.  It’s entirely possible he did some things that I would describe as “inadvisable” in his situation.  Nobody who knows him thinks he started  hitting the policemen, though,  so I don’t either. At worst, from what I’ve read, he asked questions, perhaps more than once, and he got out of his car. Those are not actions that could justify a police beating! As Jo put it, “he should have cringed more”.

We’ve given money to Watts, and to the ACLU, and I have written to one elected official already.

Matching Donations

Special offer, today only—donations to qualifying charitable organizations are being matched by a bunch of big players.

Organizations to consider include: Minn-StF, the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company, Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota, Minnesota Literacy Council, Planned Parenthood, Carleton College, the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health, and a huge number of others (looks like they’ve pulled the records and included everybody).  You can do your own search at

Eight Years Ago

Eight years ago, I was woken by a phone call saying “They nuked New York!”

I’ve been a science fiction fan all my life, and I pay attention to security issues (computer security professionally though not as my main responsibility, and other stuff from habit and interest). So the concept of actual nuclear terrorism was by no means inconceivable to me. However, in a short time we worked through that the situation was somewhat different from that, and I got on the computer and started watching videos and looking for individuals posting their own photos (I’ve still got a bunch of the photos I snagged off the net). But I am probably close to unique in remembering learning that airplanes had flown into the World Trade Center as a bit of an anti-climax.

For MultiLogic, where I worked from 1996 to 2000 when they shut down, I’d made a number of trips to New York, and worked with major financial clients there (though none of the groups I worked with had their offices in the WTC complex). On a trip in October 2000 I’d taken a number of pictures including the WTC. I’d also decided to go to the top of the Empire State building rather than the WTC (there were more other buildings of interest nearby; and indeed I’m quite pleased with some of the photos I got from up there). I haven’t been back to New York since then.

I have watched the constant erosion of civil rights, with one small but important exception (RKBA for self-defense), and our blundering around the world smiting right and left at random, since then, with great sadness.