Thursday, August 22, 2013

Painted Nails, Espionage, and Confusion

Fear the Bunny!
I'm digesting a large number of separate news stories right now, and I'd been planning on talking about them individually, but at the moment, they've become entirely too interconnected in my mind because they share a single thread - rabbits.

No no, lagomorphs aren't taking over the world, running people into jails, tapping your phone, and giving Swiss track athletes fabulous manicures. I simply find them the easiest-to-remember species analogue to remind people that homosexual/bisexual behaviour is perfectly natural. At last count, I recall some 1500 species exhibit it. So if you don't like rabbits for some reason, there are thousands more.

I'm talking, of course, about the generalized issue of LGBT Rights. I'll dive more specifically into the interplay as we get going, but each of the stories I'll discuss this morning have something to do with it.

Chelsea Manning is going to jail for seven times longer than Donnie Snook would have if his crimes were committed in the United States.
Let's start with the obvious starting point - the recent sentencing of (former) Private First Class in the US Army, Chelsea E. Manning, who came out publicly as transfemale shortly after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for divulging sensitive material to WikiLeaks, a wildly politically-unpopular service for anonymously collecting things like diplomatic cables, internal-use-only SWAT analysis, and so forth, as a service to news agencies.

Personally, I consider the identity of Chelsea Manning significantly less relevant to the discussion at hand than the particulars of the case. She leaked military documents - including video footage pertaining to the shooting death of reporters on the ground in Iraq - that ranged from "significantly uncomfortable" to "potentially actionable" for people who disagreed with that conflict. Some would argue that some of the things her documentation revealed were criminal in nature. Some might even argue that what she did was a service by revealing that information. Others, naturally, including the courts that sentenced her, recognized that what she did was, by nature, a criminal offence in the United States of America and that she, rightly, should be penalized for it.

I take a middle road - I'm glad she did what she did, but as the saying goes, an act of sacrifice usually requires some sacrifice. What I don't agree with isn't the guilty verdict, it's the 35 years in prison. At the age of 25 that'll make her 60 when she leaves. While I agree that what Manning leaked was sensitive, embarrassing, and uncomfortable, it wasn't operationally compromising. The Iraq war would not have ended differently if she did not leak the information, and the Iraqi Republican Guard were not better equipped to fight with their 1970s-era equipment against a 21st century force by the knowledge that America has a bad habit of ignoring collateral damage when the collateral waves a different flag. She will be spending more time in prison than she has presently been alive.

That, in itself, is absurd. Statistic Brain, citing the U.S. Department of Justice, lists the penalty for Sexual Assault where the victim is a minor at 25 years. Murder, at 25 years. Sexual Assault of the first degree at two years for the first offence. Nine months in the second degree. "Contact with intimate parts of a minor under the age of 13" is five years. Chelsea Manning is going to jail for seven times longer than Donnie Snook would have if his crimes were committed in the United States.

The problem isn't that Chelsea Manning was sentenced for violating counter-espionage laws. It's that the US's sentencing priorities are 83 kinds of messed up.

The next story to talk about, of course, is the problem of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. At this point, nobody should be unaware of the specifics - Olympics in Russia, Russia basically bans being gay (the law is naturally more convoluted than that), champions of equality everywhere including myself have a good time screaming themselves into a frenzy about the IOC refusing to move the olympics.

On this issue, I have only one thing to say - Homophobia has a root in voyeurism.

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