Author Archives: Michael Bryan

Pandora’s Drone

By Michael Bryan

Note: This is a think piece that has been languishing in my drafts for some time. I am publishing now in order to see what, if any, feedback readers may have, not in response to any current events, although it does briefly touch upon the terrorist attack in Charlottesville in my last revision.

In a complete reversal of American norms before 2001, Americans have come to expect that our foreign, sub-state political foes will be dealt with by assassination. That might seem a shocking assertion, but the policy of targeted killings of those identified as enemies of the United States by drone can only be euphemized, not denied. Bush and Obama placed such assassinations at the heart of our military strategy against those groups and individuals seen as a terrorist threat to America, and regardless of who the President might be, that tool will not be disposed of unless its use is wholly rejected by Americans. Given that no great outcry or mass movement has yet denounced the continued use of drone assassination in our foreign policy, it seems very likely to continue. In fact, Donald Trump has re-authorized the CIA to carry out its own drone strikes, lowering accountability and reporting requirements in place under Obama, when only the military was empowered to carry out lethal drone operations.

Our desire for the perception of safety and demand of bold action by our leadership against possible terrorist threats has swamped any scruple we may once have held against merely murdering our geo-strategic enemies. We have always killed in war, but killing specific people, and all persons believed to be members of designated organizations, anywhere they may found, even in countries we are not hostile to, is a new thing entirely. But no modern politician will run the risk of being accused of not having done everything possible when the next mass casualty attack on American soil comes, as it inevitably will, therefore a tactic that began as an expedient use of a new technology in a crisis seems to have become the centerpiece our de facto anti-terrorism strategy.

Americans seem to have decided that extra-judicial state murder, even of some American citizens, is justified in our fight against terrorism. Despite the fig-leaf of “due process” of review within the executive branch that was constructed around the practice by the Obama administration, targeted drone strikes and so-called signature strikes on suspected terrorist activity are extra-judicial executions, pure and simple. We may hide behind the fiction that we are “at war” with some ill-defined terrorist organizations and thus those killed are “enemy combatants,” and any innocents killed as a result are unfortunate “collateral damage”, but this only semantics. Since we are not going invade Pakistan, or Somalia, or Yemen, or Syria, or (re-re-re-invade?) Iraq, or any of the other failing or weak states where terrorist cells might find sanctuary, in order to end the threat of these sub-state organizations pose to our security, we are going to continue to fight these “wars” with proxies, intelligence assets, and drone strikes. We will continue to make targeted killings, i.e. murder, a key component of our foreign policy.

My point is not to suggest an alternative, or even to suggest that the policy is necessarily wrong or immoral. There may be no more effective, more politically acceptable, or more morally inoffensive alternative. My point is to question what effect this will have on the evolution American political culture, and on the normative behavior of governments visa-vis their own citizens – including our own toward us.

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Why I Voted for Felicia Chew for City Council

By Michael Bryan

ChewI voted in the Ward 3 Tucson City Counsel Primary today. I voted for Felicia Chew. BlogForArizona doesn’t endorse candidates, but each author is free to talk about why they support a particular candidate. Here’s why I decided to vote for Felicia Chew.

1) She is endorsed by Karen Uhlich.

First, but by no means primarily, she is endorsed by the incumbent. I have been a supporter of Karen Uhlich during her time in office and believe that she has done a commendable job of representing the Ward and helping to lead Tucson forward. I think she is in a good position to recognize in others the same qualities of leadership she brought to the job, and her choice is Ms. Chew. I respect that, and her recommendation figured strongly in my choice.

2) She is the only woman in the race.

I don’t advocate automatically supporting a female candidate over a male candidate, but the underrepresentation of women in our politics is real, it’s a problem, and it can only be remedied by voting for qualified female candidates when possible.

3) Her life history demonstrates a deep care for others and her community.

Ms. Chew’s history and life experience demonstrates to me her deep commitment to caring for others, and her community. I’m confident that her competition are also public spirited people who would make fine counsel-persons, but Felicia stands out. Her chosen career of public education is itself a life-long commitment to the future of our society. That she chose to serve some of the poorest and most-disadvantaged populations by teaching Native American children on New Mexico’s reservations demonstrates a genuine concern for those who need the most help in our communities. With Arizona’s cities having among the highest poverty rates in America, that is a vital character trait for a leader in Tucson.

4) Her personal experience has prepared her for leadership in advocating for victims of domestic abuse.

Ms. Chew does not hide the fact that she was a victim of domestic abuse, and is willing to talk about the matter publicly. To me, this is a vital fact. The victims of domestic abuse must have role-models in positions of authority and power to advocate for them, and to demonstrate that being a victim is not shameful for the victim, only the perpetrator. Having been a city prosecutor, I know that for many suffering domestic abuse, municipal courts are where the rubber hits the road. We need a strong advocates in our city governments for prosecutorial and police resources to combat domestic violence and to provide victim services and support.

5) She has done her homework and has demonstrated a willingness and ability to learn the issues.

Ms. Chew has repeatedly demonstrated that she understands the issues facing Tucson, and that she appreciates the scope of the city government’s work as well, if not better, than her competitors. I think that she will learn swiftly what she does not know and quickly become an effective advocate and leader for our city. Most importantly, she knows that she does not know everything or have all the answers; she is open to advice and the views of others.

6) She was unfairly attacked for voting her conscience.

Though it was not a formal part of my decision to support Ms. Chew, it certainly rubbed me the wrong way when Paul Durham sent out an attack mailer targeting Ms. Chew for voting for the Green Party candidate in the 2016 Presidential election. I find the tribalism of the GOP appalling, and I do not support importing such attitudes into the Democratic Party. Far be it from me to condemn anyone for choosing what they perceive to be a more progressive or liberal candidate. I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 over Al Gore. Does that make me an apostate to my party, too? Does that mean that I failed to support Al Gore against George W. Bush? Paul’s mailer would certainly suggest so, and to me, it was a divisive, ugly, and unworthy attack.

Those are the reasons I chose Ms. Chew, and I invite you to do the same.

AZ Donkey Feed Fired Up, Ready to Go!

By Michael Bryan

Some of you may have noticed, and others not-so-much, the widget on the sidebar called AZ Donkey Feed. That is a live feed of the news and information that I take note of every day though my Digg RSS Reader. I follow several hundred RSS feeds from around Arizona and the national media, including traditional media, online, blogs, and institutional and government information sources, in order to get a reasonable picture of what’s happening in the world, with a special emphasis on politics here in Arizona and nationally.

Yes, I know… I might have a problem. But my obsession might save you some time in ferreting through your own rss feeds, bookmarks, and daily web rambling.

However, I will freely admit, I’m also damned lazy. There has been some problems with the link structure in the Arizona Donkey Feed for some time, but I think I finally have it all fixed and running properly. So if you have had some difficulty in the past with dead links, be assured, anything you click on should now land you on the source I intended and not dead link limbo.

The feed should be properly updating from now on – please let me know, if otherwise. So feel free to save yourself some time and benefit from my dysfunctional news obsession. Just click on the big “kiss my ass” donkey in the sidebar to visit my full feed (which you could just bookmark, if you like), or just take a gander at the latest twenty links in the sidebar. Come back often, as I usually update my Digg Reader a few times a day. I know… as the Cheeto Twittler might say, “Sad!”

Trump’s Muslim Ban Executive Order Reveals an Administration Ready to Lie About Absolutely Everything

By Michael Bryan

Many have identified the reasons why Trump’s Executive Order (EO) suspending travel from seven Muslim majority counties is ineffective, illegal, and just plain stupid: it is clearly discriminatory toward Muslims, it harms our counter-terror efforts made in conjunction with those nations’s governments, it is a propaganda win for the terrorists, and there haven’t actually been any terror attacks in America by visitors from the targeted countries since 1975, among many other reasons.

But what I find most disquieting about the EO is something that I have not seen a lot of commentary on, thus far: it demonstrates that this Administration is ready and willing to take ill-considered and deleterious actions regarding national security for purely political reasons, and then blatantly lie about classified intelligence to justify it.

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A Warning to Martha McSally

By Michael Bryan

Martha McSally ought to be looking to reign-in Mr. Trump’s worst impulses, and demand her caucus provide the strict oversight of the Executive that the Constitution requires. Instead, she merely seems determined to remain vague and indeterminate regarding her support for Trump. She must not forget that her electoral fate lies in the hands of voters who voted for Secretary Clinton by almost a 5% margin; we voters certainly will not forget.

As you can see in the chart below, 23 Republican members sit in districts that voted for Clinton, and McSally is one.

These Representatives will be among the most vulnerable incumbents in 2018, and would all do well to take seriously the institutional role of Congress to check and balance the Presidency.

McSally must stop cowering in her bunker and listen carefully to the concerns of her constituency regarding ethical and constitutional over-reach by this President. If McSally will not serve as an ally in ensuring that this unqualified, bullying, reckless President is constrained and checked by close Congressional oversight and a vigorous assertion of Congressional constitutional prerogatives, voters of her district will certainly find someone who will.

Mr. Trump, just a few weeks into his term, is increasingly unpopular. Smart money is on Congressional incumbents who stand up to his reckless and unpopular agenda. Mr. Trump promised his voters a populist economic agenda that would “drain the swamp” and “make American great again,” but has delivered a cabinet of billionaires and unqualified ideologues, and a dangerously incestuous and radical inner-circle, headed by avowed white nationalist Bannon, who are pushing an extremist right-wing agenda through executive orders. His popularity, even among his supporters, is falling off because his own voters recognize they have been delivered a classic bait and switch.

McSally had best get off the Trump train before it derails, and make it clear to voters of CD02 that she has disembarked.

“The Night Of” and Prosecutorial Ethics

By Michael Bryan

TheNightOf_Weiss-1024x576Like so many others, I watched the limited HBO series “The Night Of” and loved every minute of it… except the last 30 or so. I was reduced to screaming at the television for those minutes. Not only was the suspension of disbelief destroyed for me, but a major opportunity to engage a serious societal issue regarding the justice system was lost. It is through entertainment such as this show that much of the public learns and thinks about the difficult issues raised by our system of justice, it is therefore important that it be done responsibly and accurately.

The show was lovely over-all — compelling characters, great performances, wonderful direction and writing, great cinematography — but it seemed to lack a reasonably competent legal advisor. I know that legal accuracy is generally not what people tune in to watch a legal drama for, but there was one major legal and ethical lapse that deserved to be depicted accurately and highlighted in the plot itself — and it was not.

There are major plot spoilers in the remainder of this post, so don’t click through if you haven’t finished watching…

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