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Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Orwellian World is Upon Us!

I am beginning to think George Orwell was closer to being right than anyone wants to acknowledge, even those trying to wake us up to the development of "Big Brother" government. George Orwell predicted three critical areas of development that, out of context, might seem like good ideas.

The first was digital media. Digital media has opened up a tremendous potential for sharing information rapidly and broadly in our society. It also allows the quick, responsive editing of content, permitting us to alter the information as new information and knowledge is obtained. This is also a major drawback. The digital media can be altered in response not to changing knowledge, but changing politics. Entire documents can vanish from the Internet over night, simply at the say of some political boss or corporate executive. With the changes, our viewpoint on various issues is altered, even if the changes make no sense what so ever.

The second was increasing polarization of our society. This was presented in the real-time changes of who the "enemy" of the society was, even to the point of changing in the middle of a political rally with people altering their signs and chants without missing a beat. Today, we see this in the form of our political party shifts. We see the Republicans in charge, advocating deregulation of big business and creating a single-payer health care program. Democrats scream about the economy crashing and socialist government developing from the nationalization of the health care system. Leadership changes, with Democrats taking the reigns, and we see advocacy of deregulating big business and creating a single-payer health care program. Now it is the Republicans screaming about the economy crashing and our society becoming socialist with the nationalization of the health care system. This keeps us off balance, not really knowing who to trust.

The third was increasing surveillance technology and its misuse. We have gone from a society where wiretapping and spying on citizens was considered Constitutional violations to a state where having cameras on every street corner, surveillance of our telephone and Internet usage, and even the monitoring of what books we buy or borrow from the public library are seen (at least by our leaders) to be fair game. This has put us in a state of mind where we are reluctant (if not fearful) of exercising our Constitutional rights.

Orwell predicted this state many decades ago, he just didn't get the date right.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Enemy Combatants?

I see a fundamental issue with labeling people "enemy combatants". The phrase implies a state of declared, definable war where we know who is or is not our enemy. The problem with our current situation is our "enemies" have only one thing in common ... they are Muslim. Islam is a religion, not a country. There is no definitive territory from which Muslim's come, no military bases flying a recognized Muslim flag, nothing upon which to declare an absolute target of action.

Labeling those who commit crimes like the attacks on New York and Boston as "enemy combatants" clouds the issue, leading us to argue over how they should be handled. Do we treat them as common criminals, in which case they have rights under our civilian legal system, or do we treat them as prisoners of war, in which case they have rights under the Geneva Convention?

A third possibility does exist: accept them as prisoners of war who, due to their deliberate targeting of non-combatant, civilian populations and targets, are war criminals, subject to military tribunal and trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This does, of course, require us to hold our soldiers and leadership to the same standard, hence my opposition to the continued use of "drone strikes" in countries against whom we have no declaration of war, yet continually commit military strikes within their territories, often killing nothing but non-combatant, civilian "targets".

Start thinking people, we already have established rules of law to handle people like this. Let's start using them the way they were designed and honoring them ourselves, otherwise we have no right to call ourselves a "civilized" nation.