My grandfather once said that you know you’re doing something wrong when you don’t want to tell anyone about it. Unless the NSA is using our phone records and social media data to plan an awesome surprise party, there is something suspect in the claim that domestic surveillance was kept secret for our own good. Secrecy is antithetical to democracy. Tim Weiner argues as much at Bloomberg, where he points out that presidents from LBJ to GWB have demonstrated that you can’t trust the executive. At Esquire, Charles Pierce puts a simultaneously finer and more vulgar point on it when he asks that the federal government please tell him what it is doing in his name.
My first thought when I woke up this morning was that I would find out who bombed the Boston Marathon, and maybe why. As of this writing, no explanation is available. From a practical standpoint, that should not bother me so much; it pales in comparison to knowing that, say, an eight year-old boy was among those killed, or that several people who had just finished running 26 miles suddenly had their legs blown off. That is catastrophe, right there. It is disaster, in the same sense as a tornado or an earthquake, which also happened yesterday. The difference is that in nature, a bunch of screws and BB’s and nitrates do not spontaneously fly together and make a bomb. Somebody had to do that, and I would like to know who it was so that this disaster can become a tragedy.
CNN has a fantastic article about Usman Raja, the former British MMA fighter and respected trainer whose Unity Project uses fight training to rehabilitate convicted terrorists. You read that right: Raja’s plan is to make terrorists better at hand-to-hand combat. Anyone who came back for two day two of muay thai class knows how it feels to start learning a practical fighting system. It feels bad. The sensation of being a tough guy who can’t get the hang of a check-and-counter drill—or of being a talented striker who’s getting guillotined over and over the first month of jiu jitsu—is immensely humbling. That seems to be the operating principle of Raja’s approach. “Any idea you’ve got of yourself will be challenged as soon as you come in here,” he told CNN. “Once that idea of yourself is challenged and that opening happens we are able to go in and start dismantling that perception.”
Those of us who have our thighs caressed by a high school graduate every time we pass through Missoula International Airport* often wonder about the theoretical limit at which TSA screening procedures would not be worth preventing terrorist attacks. I call it the Castillo Limit, after former Miss USA Susie Castillo, and it’s hard to say where it would lie. Taking my nail clippers does not approach the Castillo Limit. Making everyone fly naked in a tank of that breathable gelatin from The Abyss seems like we overshot it. Somewhere in the middle is the precise border between liberty and security, but where exactly is a matter for our elected minders and, of course, international terrorists. At least one and possibly both groups got a little closer to discovering the Castillo Limit yesterday, when the Times announced that terrorists were exploring the idea of surgically implanted bombs.
The Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation and Liberty University have all pulled out of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, citing CPAC’s inclusion of GOProud as proof of “how committed they are to advancing the homosexual agenda.” Props to Ben al-Fowlkes for the link. Obviously, the Republican Party has been taken over by a gay conspiracy; any schoolchild will tell you that. What you may not know is that several members of the CPAC board are also under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood. So says Pamela Geller and several other conference participants, who claim that directors Suhail Khan and Grover Norquist, of all people, are secret Islamic supremacists. Seriously. I’m not saying that contemporary conservatism is defined by conspiracy theories, bigotry and religious persecution, but I am saying that if you put a bunch of spiders in the same jar, don’t be surprised when someone gets his liquefied organs sucked out.