Michael Mukasey stands to become the chief law enforcement officer of United States, so his opinion on the legality of various interrogation techniques is more than an abstract or academic concern. Mukasey can say with great certainty that torture is unconstitutional, but that’s not so meaningful if you don’t quite know what torture is. He’s not so sure about waterboarding (which was used in the Spanish Inquisition):
Sen. Whitehouse called Mukasey’s answer “purely semantic” and “a massive hedge.” I’d also add “absurd.” If it’s hard for him to make up his mind about whether waterboarding is torture, it should be easy for us to make up our minds about him.
The Internet connection in Myanmar was cut Friday, limiting the free flow of information the nation’s citizens were sharing with the world depicting the violent crackdown on monks and other peaceful demonstrators.
Myanmar-based blogs went dark suddenly. But London-based blogger Ko Htike — who has been one of the most prominent bloggers posting information about the violence — has vowed to keep up the fight, saying where “there is a will, there is a way.”
“I sadly announce that the Burmese military junta has cut off the Internet connection throughout the country,” he said on his blog Friday. “I, therefore, would not be able to feed in pictures of the brutality by the brutal Burmese military junta.”
You can do several things to stand with the Burmese people who are currently under attack by the government that has oppressed them for decades.
Sign the petition holding the UN Security Council and the government of China accountable for the bloodshed.
Fifty years ago Sunday, nine black teenagers integrated Little Rock’s Central High School under the armed guard an elite U.S. military unit. Little Rock Nine member Jefferson Thomas’ spare recollection is a reminder that movements are made of countless acts of individual courage and grace:
Half a century later, sluggish desegregation and rapid resegregation have diluted the legacy of the Little Rock Nine, and the injustice of separate and unequal education persists. Segregation and education are every bit as urgent moral issues now as they were 50 years ago, but the clearly justice-centered approach and energy have dwindled in the “post-Civil Rights era.”
From the vantage point of half a century, it seems an absurd drama. You shake your head at the fatuity of the adults in the old news footage, their mouths twisted, fists clenched, eyes alight, and you marvel that they were driven to such a fury, such a madness, by so innocuous an event. You wonder what in the world they could have been thinking.
But of course, that’s an easy one. They were thinking they were right.
We always expect evil to look different, obvious. We are always anticipating the pointed ears and the pitchfork, the black stovepipe hat and the Snidely Whiplash mustache. The truth, however, is that evil is rather banal. You might pass it five times a day and never recognize it for what it is.
The pale men and women who took to the streets of Little Rock, Ark., in 1957 would have been, in the overwhelming majority, Christian people. They paid their taxes. They helped the poor. They visited the sick. They held hands over hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance. They were decent folks, except they had this evil belief that people with dark skin were of a savage, yet simultaneously child-like, lower order and that if anyone sought to mix pale and dark, pale must resist by any means necessary.
If you had suggested to them that this was wrong, they would looked at you askance, maybe even laughed, and wondered what was wrong with you. Because they knew they were right, knew it in their bones, knew it in their Bibles, knew it with certitude, knew it beyond all question.
Five decades later, there is a starkness, a black and white purity, to the issues argued those tense days in Little Rock streets: inclusion versus exclusion. It is enough to make one nostalgic. After all, after affirmative action, after busing, after O.J., after Cosby, after Imus, there is little starkness, much less purity, to the conflict between pale and dark. All is complexity, all is gray.
Or maybe that’s just the self-deluding conceit of a generation that is pleased to think of itself as enlightened beyond history, pleased to look back on past events and tsk tsk the behavior of the poor, benighted souls who lived through them.
Yet in Jena, La., six American children with dark skin were charged with attempted murder after jumping a pale child whose injuries amounted to a black eye and a concussion.
In Tulia, Tex., 38 mostly dark-skinned people were convicted of drug dealing on the perjured testimony of a pale cop known to describe dark people with a racial slur.
In Paris, Tex., a dark-skinned girl who shoved a teacher’s aide was given seven years by a judge who had earlier given probation to a pale-skinned arsonist.
All this not in 1957, but now.
Yet, it has become common for some pale Americans to deny that these and other inequities have anything to do with skin tone. That’s an absurdity we left in the ’50s, they say. We are beyond that. There are no pale Americans and dark Americans. There are only Americans. They wish dark Americans would understand this and get over it already.
And it’s the darnedest thing. If you suggest that they are wrong, they will look at you askance, maybe even laugh, and wonder what is wrong with you. Because they know they’re right, know it in their bones, know it in their Bibles, know it with a certitude.
By now you probably know by heart the details of the Jena 6 case. If not, there are many, manygood stories about the absurd miscarriage of justice in this isolated, now-infamous town. The best stories always comes from the people on the ground, though. Who better to capture the essence of a demonstration than a demonstrator?
Fortunately, FPL Board President Rev. Meg Riley and her remarkably articulate 11-year-old daughter Jie have sent us some notes from a march in Jena they took part in on Thursday. Jie sets the stage, and Rev. Riley’s insights after the jump.
A dark parking lot is home to action, to a protest finally happening, Jena 6. I am in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is 4 o’clock, the air is fresh and the sky reflects black on the trees. I’ve boarded a bus with people, all with the same mission.
Jena is a dusty, barbecue smelling place. We pulled to a stop in front of two old ball parks. We had passed little businesses and woods. The bus pulled away leaving us on a sandy gravel road.
We wandered a bit and then went to bleachers. The sun blazed down on my face, my sunglasses were sweaty. Static metallic voices boomed out from left field. I’ve met and am meeting many new people. Good music. Many different hairstyles and dos. Different t-shirts and Red Cross handing out free chips, Gatorade, water, cookies, rice crispies, etc.
Rev. Meg Riley:
The march is going two miles to the Jena courthouse, in 90 degree full sun, and then back again. Our row includes Bob and Diana Doroh from Baton Rouge–Bob the courage behind the decision to charter a bus, our bus Captain–and also a family of African American residents of Jena. I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk to them. It is two sisters, their mother, and a son Demetrius who, like Jie is in fifth grade. Unlike Jie, Demetrius is not skipping school today–Jena has closed its schools. Demetrius tells me the school was on ‘lockdown’ the day before, and kids were unable to go down the halls to the bathrooms.
Closed along with the schools are Jena businesses, ranging from McDonalds’ and Popeye’s to local stores. They are eerily surrounded with yellow police tape and orange plastic fencing. We are incredulous; all the money these vendors will lose! But we are delighted to see the entrepreneurial spirit of African American vendors, who sell a wide variety of food and rally paraphernalia. We wonder what the residents of this 85% white town expect to happen today.
I ask Demetrius and his family the questions which have been on my mind as I have made this journey to Jena: Are they worried about white violence after all the ‘outsiders’ have gone home? This extended family (which extends into the entire row behind us, more folks of all ages from Jena) is delighted that we are there. They say some folks they know are worried about ensuing violence, but they’re just happy. I ask them if they see any white folks from Jena in the crowd, and they shake their heads sadly. “No, says the family matriarch, and I been LOOKIN’!â€
A man named Timothy who is the ninth member of our row, a slim young man with a battered Bible in his hand, who says “Bless youâ€ to each person he encounters, tells me, “Even if the whites aren’t here, they’re thinking about this. It’s a good thing to bring these kinds of wounds out in the open, so they don’t fester.â€ Timothy is from another town fifteen miles away. He says life there is very similar to Jena, with whites believing racism is over, all healed, and the people of color holding all the pain of it. Later Jim VanderWeele tells me he did meet one white woman from Jena whose father was a KKK member.
It is a delight to run into one more unexpected colleague, Rev. Forrest Gilmore of Princeton New Jersey, whose black “Free the Jena Sixâ€ t-shirt also says “Philly bus.â€ He tells me that that he is joined by several UUs from Princeton, and that the busride down took 27 hours!
Dozens more NAA buses are held up by sheriffs and never make it. News reports say “tens of thousands of peopleâ€ were in Jena. In town, there are more speakers, allegedly including families of the young African American men, but the sound system makes it impossible to understand a word they say. Someone tells me it has been announced that the $90,000 bail has been raised to release Mychall Ball.
As the day winds up and we wait for our bus to pick us up, rumors begin to circulate. A young woman walking by says that the third circuit Court of Appeals has stated that Mychall Bell must be released within seventy-two hours. We all cheer wildly. This is the same court of appeals who had said a week earlier that it was illegal to try him as an adult and threw the case out. (Why that decision did not result in his being immediately freed has been the matter of bitter speculation all day.)
Soon someone else walks by and says that Louisiana Supreme Court has dropped all charges against all six young men, and they are now home. We all look like we want to believe it but the cheering is less enthusiastic. Three other people come by and say exuberantly that Mychall Ball is home. On the bus home, those with electronic equipment are desperately seeking corroboration of these great rumors, and when I get back to the Baton Rouge hotel room I do the same. All that an extensive search nets me is that the first statement is true: Within seventy two hours, Mychall Ball must be released.
I report this to Jie,saying happily, YES! At least we know for sure that they have to release Mychall within 72 hours! We can hope that our coming here helped that decision to get made! “Sure it did,â€ she replies with wisdom which makes me wonder if it can really be that she’s only turning eleven, not fifty, on Sunday, “No one down here wants this kind of fuss.â€