Friday, February 15, 2008

How Do You Stop a School Shooter? With Your Concealed Weapon, Of Course

About half an hour ago, I experienced one of the most shocking moments of my life: I learned about the organization Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, which has a Facebook membership of 11,000.

Why am I so shocked? Why do I find that this group's existence is so unbelievably unbelievable? Because this organization is convinced that, to prevent school shootings, America needs to legalize concealed weapons on campus.

This is a clear solution that, apparently, goes by a simple logic. "The only way to stop a person with a gun is another person with a gun," Michael Flitcraft, a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati, told USA Today.

But to anybody with half a brain in their head, there is a very blatant problem with this concept: It would legalize the behavior of Stephen Kazmierczak, who walked onto Northern Illinois University campus yesterday with a shotgun stuffed in a guitar case and guns hidden behind his jacket, in order to prevent the behavior of Stephen Kazmierczak, who proceeded to enter a lecture hall and open fire on the class, killing five students.

Surely I'm not the first to point out the extremely obvious twist of logic here. But apparently, some people actually think that this is not a ridiculously stupid idea, and in fact that it is a smart one. Bills to legalize concealed weapons on campus are currently under debate in 12 states, including Washington, Michigan and Kentucky.

Democratic Rep. Robert Damron, who sponsored the Kentucky bill, says that gun-toters should have the same rights at the university as in anywhere else in Kentucky, where they are allowed to keep guns in their cars. Fair enough. But riddle me this, Damron: how will a handgun locked in a car prevent a shooting that takes place inside a lecture hall?

It seems, judging by the general fear people have of someone who is weilding a gun, that this law would cause more harm than good. By the time a student would make it out to the car to get their handgun, after all, it's likely that the police would already have been notified of the emergency, if not already on the scene. So the moment that this maverick student-hero waltzes over to the scene of the crime, pistol in hand, he or she will either get arrested or gunned down.

It should be obvious enough why that would happen. But just in case an S.C.C.C. member happens across this blog entry, I'll explain: Because this person is holding a fucking gun.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Clean Teams" - Fixing the Mess Torture Made

The law to set up military commissions at Guantanamo Bay's new portable courthouse bans the use of evidence obtained through torture, according to the NYT. The presiding judge has to decide whether or not to admit evidence obtained through techniques that seem to be torture, like waterboarding.

Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, points to the obvious problem: “Every time they try to introduce a piece of evidence, the defense lawyers are going to say, ‘This piece of evidence is unreliable,’” because it was obtained through coercion.

So, if America tries the planners of the Sept. 11th attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi and Walid bin Attash, using evidence obtained through waterboarding and other tortuous techniques, then doesn't it stand to reason that a good deal of this evidence will be thrown out?

That is a question I have been asking myself lately. Evidently, many government officials have been asking themselves the same thing. Their answer? Make new evidence!

I feel sick. Justice should not have to resemble a Soviet show trial. In this case, it does.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Eskander Vs. Makiya, Pt. 2

I've been away from email, but I just came across John Gravois' second piece about the controversy surrounding Baath Party documents recently whisked off to a conservative think-tank in California.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

75 Years After the Birth of the University in Exile, Endangered Scholars Speak at the New School

Exiled scholars and political activists from Iraq, Iran and Ethiopia spoke at a panel discussion in Tishman Auditorium last Thursday, part of a lecture series that commemorates the 75th Anniversary of the New School's University in Exile.

The University in Exile was founded as the graduate division of the New School for Social Research in 1933 by Alvin Johnson, the New School's first president, to provide a safe haven for European scholars like Hannnah Arendt, Leo Strauss and Erich Fromm, whose PhDs were revoked by the Nazi party.

NSSR Dean Michael Schober announced at the beginning of the talk that Henry H. Arnhold, a member of the university's board of trustees, recently offered a donation that will fund a three-year Scholar in Residence Program, in partnership with the Scholar Rescue Fund, to hire scholars who have been persecuted by their native countries.

Schober declined to give the sum of Arnhold's grant after the presentation, but added that it was not "in the millions."

The speakers recounted doing work in the trying, often terrifying, atmosphere of their homelands.

The first was Mehrangiz Kar, a woman who worked as a lawyer for 21 years in Iranian courtrooms governed by Islamic religious laws, known as Sharia. She is the author of several books, including her memoir, Crossing the Red Line: The Struggle for Human Rights in Iran, and has worked as a journalist for reformist publications.

"By [Iran's] Constitution," she said, "every door to reform is closed."

In 2000, after she returned from a conference in Berlin, the Iranian government threw her in solitary confinement for two months, charging her with "acting against national security," "insulting Islamic values," and violating the "Islamic dress code." Two months after they released her, the police imprisoned her husband, the journalist Siamak Pourzand, for several months and tortured him.

After his release, he stayed in Iran to get medical help, while Kar received treatment for breast cancer in the United States. She has lived here since 2002.

Donny George Youkhanna, the third speaker, served as the Director of the National Museum in Baghdad until the summer of 2006. At the National Museum, he worked with the U.S. military and a short-lived 1,400-man Special Antiquities Task Force to help retrieve 15,000 ancient artifacts that were stolen from the museum and from Iraq's 12,500 archeological sites during the rampant looting after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The stolen items included statues, vases, cuneiform tablets, and antiquities that date back 6,000 years. According to the F.B.I., between 7 and 10 thousand items are still missing.

Youkhanna had high hopes for the American overthrow of Iraq's former President, Saddam Hussein. "I started thinking that, 'Yes, we will be more free,'" he said.

But as an English-speaking Christian, his family became a target of sectarian antagonism.

In 2006, his fifteen-year-old son received a death threat in the mail, accusing him of insulting Islam and making inappropriate comments to Muslim girls, and his father of working with the United States. After Youkhanna whisked his family off to Syria for their safety, he returned to continue his work. But the Minister of the State Board of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage revoked all of Youkhanna's executive authority, who at the time held the deputy ministerial position. "I could not spend one dinar," he said.

He soon retired, took a job offer from the University of Stony Brook and moved his family to New York.

Asked during the Q&A session about what should be done to preserve Iraq's antiquities and cultural heritage, he said that this effort would be very challenging. He noted that Iraq's national symphony orchestra, the first of its kind in the Middle East, has lately performed only at secret locations.

The final speaker was Berhanu Nega, a NSSR alumnus and the International Scholar in Residence in Economics at Bucknell University. Nega is a prominent member of Ethiopia's pro-democracy movement and the mayor-elect of Ethiopia's capitol, Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia's ruling party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, derailed the democratic elections of May 2005. Nega never assumed his mayoral post because the government arrested him and threw him in jail and charged him with treason, he said, along with between 30,000 and 50,000 other activists, politicians and journalists.

A prolonged trial sentenced Nega and 37 other opposition leaders to life in prison, but the Ethiopian government suddenly released them in July. Nega has been in the United States since September.

Ethiopia is a key partner in the War on Terror and, according to USA Today, has received nearly $20 million in American military aid since 2002. Nega is a fervent critic of U.S. foreign policy.

Asked about the Presidential elections during the reception after the event, Nega put his right hand up, crossed his fingers, and said that he is rooting for Barack Obama.

This article appears in next Tuesday's issue of the New School Free Press.