Obama, marriage, race, rights

I had brunch today with the kids who changed the President’s mind. If you’ll remember, when Barack Obama ten days ago declared his support for same-sex marriage, he cited “members of my own staff who are incredibly committed, in monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together.” There was one member of the White House staff during the presidential term who was both queer and a parent — she even took the bairns to meet the Leader of the Free World and get their pictures snapped — and this shining Sunday, she and her partner entertained. The twins in question are extremely self-possessed toddlers, who could probably persuade me of anything given the chance. I hope no one informs them of their role in history for some time yet. To have succeeded at so much at so young an age could drain them of the ambition to get through kindergarten.

Everything has already been said about what Obama said. Consider this:

President Barack Obama’s May 9 announcement that he favors same sex marriage led to a huge spike on YouTube … YouTube is owned by the online search giant Google, which [also] saw a 458 percent increase in national searches for “Obama” and “gay marriage” between 10 am and 6pm the day Obama disclosed his views …

Matthew Nisbit, a professor of communications at American University who studies the intersection of politics and social media, said online videos and an interest in gay rights were a natural pairing. “The heaviest users of video are people under the age of 25, and gay rights is one of the few political issues young people feel passionate about,” Nisbit said. “And the gay community was an early adopter of social networking—the technology was a good fit for people of minority status looking for like-minded others.”

Following Obama’s announcement, more videos with the key words “gay marriage” were uploaded on YouTube than ever before, drawing more than 3 million views and 100,000 comments.

Am I the only person who finds that terrifying?

Anyway, I can add nothing but point to a couple of interesting consistencies in all those images and words.

What am I pointing at? Huck and Jim on the raft, by Thomas Hart Benton

You might call one of them the Persistent Sexiness of Race, or Raciness of Sex. Put simply: sex and race are the two authentic American obsessions. But so close are they to every American’s pulsing heart that proximity induces blindness, and natives of these territories have considerable difficulty telling them apart, or deciphering where, when, or how they interrelate or -twine. On one day, your average white American will go from believing that sex was invented by non-white people — carried to this shore to sap the moral rigor of austere Puritans who reproduced by spores — to supposing that non-white people are fierce enemies of sex in general, paralyzed by their primitive inability to appreciate orgasms, orifices, or online porn. When it comes to homosexuality, there are thus two versions. Either black people are responsible for it, because they got the gender roles all wrong (“Come back to the raft ag’in, Huck honey!” cries Jim in the one true, classic narrative of the American Dream, and surely the white boy’s comparative health is figured in the fact that his name rhymes with “Fuck” as any proper man’s should); or black people are going, by their weird and regressive goetic magic at the ballot box, to forbid loving white people from enjoying the rightful dignity of gay marriages in jurisdictions from Palo Alto to High Point.

It’s inevitable, then, that the first African-American president’s support for LGBT people should be read through these antinomies. Even before Obama took the plunge, the Washington Post warned him:

African Americans, one of the main pillars of the President’s political coalition, remain decidedly skeptical about gay marriage. In the last year’s worth of Post-ABC [polling] data, just 42 percent said they support legalization while 55 percent oppose it. … Coming out in support of gay marriage … would clearly thrill a portion of his base (gays and lesbians) but it could alienate — at least in parts — another portion of his base (African Americans) that he desperately needs to win reelection this fall.

Now, there is plenty of counter-evidence of sympathy and support in black communities. Just yesterday the executive board of the N.A.A.C.P. — the country’s “most prominent civil rights group,” as the New York Times notes — overwhelmingly passed a resolution declaring that “We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.” The legendary African-American activist Julian Bond told the Times that the vote “proves that conventional wisdom” about black opposition to marriage equality “is not true.”

Still, where there are divisions, as many people have pointed out, the tenor of white LGBT activists’ advocacy bears a substantial share of the blame. Last week Andrew Sullivan (who wept when his “father figure” affirmed his marital authenticity) wrote a piece for Newsweek, speculatively borrowing Obama’s racial identity in service to Sullivan’s own gay one:

Barack Obama had to come out of a different closet. He had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family.

It’s not the same, you want to scream. Experience is not to be expropriated like that. Assimilating race to sexuality, as though both were purely defined by internal awareness and “discovered” the same way, is likely to put off plenty of non-gay African-Americans, and possibly some gay ones. Moreover, Sullivan has an unerring instinct for finding ways to be more alienating.  It’s an article of his faith that he invented the campaign for gay marriage, and that it’s a right-wing idea. (How Sullivan continues to call himself conservative, when he dissents from the right on every issue from Obamacare to Israel, is one of the present era’s greater mysteries. The only leftists he appears to dislike are the gay ones, perhaps more from sour memories than ideology.) “Marriage equality started out as a conservative revolt within the gay community,” he wrote: “Gay conservatives and Republicans helped pioneer gay marriage as an issue.” And in a rather pissy-sounding email to Gay City News (capable of making anyone pissy, to be sure), he added:

[I]t was a struggle to be heard above those on the left arguing for employment protection, hate crimes, and economic ‘justice’ as core priorities… Without the emergence of the gay right, I don’t think we would have come as far as we have.

Those quotes taloning “justice” are the giveaway. They show how little a perspective informed by Sullivan would make sense to many African-Americans, for whom material inequality and economic reality are the urgent facts of politics.

It’s true that “civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law,” as the N.A.A.C.P’s president said; and as one former N.A.A.C.P. official informed the TImes, the resolution entailed “coming to a very civil rights understanding of marriage equality versus a theological understanding of marriage.” Does that make marriage “the new civil rights movement,” though? Does that make Obama’s embrace the equivalent (as Jonathan Rauch suggests) of LBJ adopting MLK’s language and intoning, “We shall overcome”? Uh, no. Marriage is a civil right, but not a political right. Being deprived of it marks out “impaired citizenship,” in Gayle Rubin’s phrase; but it doesn’t mark you as deprived of entry, respect, resources, or decision-making throughout the entire public realm.  The laws and prejudices that did isolate LGBT people in that way have, in the US, largely receded over forty or fifty years, thanks to the long labors of people living and dead; it’s only possible to talk about marriage because those more terrible impediments have eased.  Imagine living your lifetime without the right to marry, and then imagine living it without the right to vote. You’ll understand what I mean, and maybe see why the uncritical comparison to the civil rights movement is, for some African-Americans, annoying.

Huey P. Newton, 1942-1989

That said, African-American history has confronted the denial of both rights — slave marriages, of course, had no status in law, and African slaves were unable to make a legal contract. There are several things to draw from this, but one is that the “outreach” model — where white gay activists troop out to teach African-American communities why the marriage battle is important — is crazy. Too much experience and wisdom about having your rights curtailed lie on the other side. Listening and learning are a better stance for marriage activists than presumptuously leaping to the parallels. And a deep African-American engagement with the issues we would now call “sexual rights” goes back centuries –certainly way farther back than the movement activist Bayard Rustin, a true civil rights hero who seems, all the same, to be the only black gay man some people can name these days. (Obama has now put a tribute to him on his campaign website.) In my perverse way, I prefer to cite  Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, who on August 15, 1970 gave a speech on “The Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements”:

Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say “whatever your insecurities are” because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. … Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it.

Now, that’s honest.

The second consistent note of the Obama commentaries is what I would call the Politics of Premature Ejaculation. It consists of announcing, midway through any controversy,  that it’s over, all over — even though the fat lady has neither sung, nor shivered, nor even opened her mouth. Liberals, acolytes of Enlightenment and its pre-ordained triumphs, are particularly prone to this. Thus the American Prospect proclaimed the war over marriage equality “is over,” the opposition a “lost cause.” “Support for marriage equality has crossed the halfway point, and no one in their right mind could think there will be some reversal in that trend.” Yet conservative David Link also contended, “As a national matter, today we can envision as a reality the last days of government discrimination.”

This contention is a bit weird, since national polls don’t decide the issue. In 31 states, it’s already decided. That’s the number that have added amendments to their constitutions banning recognition of same-sex marriages, all since the marriage wars began.  North Carolina passed the latest, the day before the President’s announcement. Unless a certain four justices of the US Supreme Court all perish of salmonella from eating Nino Scalia’s calamari, and Obama gets to replace them, most of these bans will take decades to reverse, either by votes or courts.

everything that rises must converge

Nonetheless, two successive Gallup soundings have now shown a thin majority in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, a far cry from the nearly two-thirds opposed a decade and a half ago. This is neither final victory nor the tidal inevitability of Progress, but it is no negligible fact, either. The commentariat is busy trying to explain the sea-change: is is the neighbors? is it the TV?

Did popular culture bring us here –  … Ellen Degeneres and popular sitcoms like ABC’s “Modern Family”? Or is our liberalized attitude just a cumulative effect of the straight community having more contact with “out” gay couples who, like them, just strive to form loving families and raise well-adjusted kids?

I have a different take. Opinions changed on marriage because marriage didn’t change anything.

the weather in Sodom: maybe we should move the wedding inside

For all the apocalypse predicted when Massachusetts went off the deep end into Gomorrah in 2004, the impact of eight states opening civil marriage to same-sex couples has been pretty much nonexistent. For the couples themselves — those who availed themselves of the opportunity — it’s been nice enough, primarily in terms of symbolic recognition (all at the local level; federal rights, which include immigration and income-tax benefits, of course are still debarred.) But nobody else has been inconvenienced in the slightest. Nobody else’s marriage was devalued or changed in any way. Most people didn’t even notice. Of course, Pat Robertson and preacherdom can fulminate that brimstone impends: “In history there’s never been a civilization ever in history [sic] that has embraced homosexuality and turned away from traditional fidelity, traditional marriage, traditional child-rearing, and has survived.”  But eight years after avenging fires should have crisped us, the polity continues as if nothing had happened at all.

If you believe, as many people now do, that marriage is the end point and goal of LGBT people’s liberation struggles, this is all remarkable. How many revolutions have succeeded by changing nothing? When in history has a people been granted rights long denied them, and left everybody else completely undisturbed? America is still grappling with the massive consequences and implications of African-Americans’ sixty year-old civil rights movement, even if it remained unfinished. Europe’s emancipation of the Jews in the nineteenth century still has echoes, heard alike in debates about the conduct of Israel and the identity of France. Most contemporary social movements — the ones the French call the révolution des sans — are defined by people wanting something others have. The sans papiers, the immigrants, want to break the borders; the sans emploi want jobs and benefits; the sans abri, housing. The enthusiasm and the resistance they rouse both reside in the struggle to wrest those things away from their accumulators, to redistribute possessions and prepositions, to turn “without” into a “with.” Is the movement of the sans épouses distinctive in that it doesn’t ask anybody to bother?

really a very simple request

You could argue that this means the gay movement’s inner meaning really is conservative, as Sullivan argues. If marriage is its core issue, then the movement has no positive demands to make on government, for benefits or protections. It just wants a little recognition; then leave it alone. It’s a very good movement, modest in its aspirations and quiet in its manner, leaving the peace unbreached and the indifferent untroubled. David Link writes, “However we get to marriage equality, I’m going to view that as the end of the line.  I don’t want the government discriminating against me, and once it doesn’t, my activist days will be over.” But he adds:

The left expects more of government.  In addition to not discriminating itself, the left believes government should also act to prohibit others from discriminating, and should do a lot more as well.

And beyond that, there was an old left dream of social transformation as well: an idea, often slipping toward the Utopian, that individual lives and their interconnections could be radically renewed. And should be. Changez la vie! Sous les pavés, la plage. And more.

I don’t think Link quite gets what the movement has really done.

My belief is: the sheer innocuousness of the success of marriage doesn’t mean the LGBT movement itself is innocuous. It means that the historic meaning, the larger impact, of the LGBT movement lies quite elsewhere. There is a radical change, partly accomplished and partly still to be fulfilled, that marriage misses. It’s not that marriage is an unimportant goal; but it is only achievable when the deeper, the more lasting and far-reaching challenges to reality as it was given us have been launched and felt. Some historian a century from now, I’d guess, would see the real effects of the movement not in wedding vows but in the widespread acceptance of a radical claim to everybody’s sexual freedom and bodily autonomy; the insistent assertion that customarily “private” acts have public and political relevance; the tectonic shifts in gender roles and the way they’re understood. When we — by we I meant the movement, or the movements — talk about marriage as our political terminus ad quem, we are a bit like Ulrich in The Man Without Qualities, contemplating courses that are perfectly plausible but somehow not quite authentic, not his life’s meaning, not himself. “But whatever destiny awaited him, he knew it must be something entirely different.”

N.B. For a collection of skeptical writings about same-sex marriage and US politics, see the resources here. 

P.S. Rick Santorum thinks sex is cheap

In a speech to a huge mob of pitchfork-wielding, witch-incinerating, rabid conservatives today, Rick Santorum opposed the whole idea of including contraceptives in insurance plans. Surprise!  His argument, though, wasn’t so much moral as economic:

[I]nterestingly enough, here is what they are forcing them to do—in an insurance policy, they are forcing them to pay for something that costs just a few dollars. Is that what insurance is for? The foundational idea that we have the government tells you that you have to pay for everything as a business. Things that are not really things you need insurance for, and still forcing on something that is not a critical economic need, when you have an economic distress, where you would need insurance. But forcing them even more to do it for minor expenses.

Of course, the kids you might have otherwise (or the abortions) aren’t exactly minor expenses, so this might turn out to be a bit of a false economy in the end.  Still, it reflects his sense that sex is not a “need,” or a drive, or even an impulse. It’s a cheap treat, like the mint a restaurant gives you at the end of a meal.

 

Why won’t Obama arm Human Rights Watch?

Video of a Bahrain Defence Forces unit on the Budaiya Highway near al-Qadam, March 16, 2011. Visible are an M113 in front, with three others behind it on the ground and on the flyover, a Humvee, and a tank, possibly an M60. All are likely there thanks to US arms sales.  Bahiya al-Aradi, a Bahraini woman, and Stephen Abraham, an Indian guest worker, were murdered nearby the same day, probably by the same forces.

A couple of good pieces in Salon yesterday bear on the street cred the Obama administration has been getting for its embrace of LGBT people’s human rights. Kudos to Barack and Hillary again. Just remember: other people are getting killed.

Justin Elliott notes that the Obama administration has been delivering arms to Bahrain, despite the royal regime’s penchant for killing protesters. For some time, the administration has had a $53 million arms package for Bahrain on the table, but has put it off due to Congressional qualms and human rights groups’ opposition.  But this is a different package.   Obama is so eager to get hardware to the killers that he’ll exploit any technicality to permit it. Foreign Policy explains:

The State Department has not released details of the new sale, and Congress has not been notified through the regular process …The State Department simply briefed a few congressional offices and is going ahead with the new sale, arguing it didn’t meet the threshold that would require more formal notifications and a public explanation. …

Our congressional sources said that State is using a legal loophole to avoid formally notifying Congress and the public about the new arms sale. The administration can sell anything to anyone without formal notification if the sale is under $1 million. If the total package is over $1 million, State can treat each item as an individual sale, creating multiple sales of less than $1 million and avoiding the burden of notification …

We’re further told that State is keeping the exact items in the sale secret, but is claiming they are for Bahrain’s “external defense” and therefore couldn’t be used against protesters. Of course, that’s the same argument that State made about the first arms package, which was undercut by videos showing the Bahraini military using Humvees to suppress civilian protesters.

It’s not just Bahrainis. Glenn Greenwald observes that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has reaffirmed, with no public scandal attending him, that Obama can kill any US citizen he likes without a trial. In other words, what happened to Anwar al-Awlaki, US passport-holder killed by a drone in Yemen, could happen to you.

President Obama’s hit list of those he approves for assassination is completely secret; we only learned that Awlaki was being targeted because someone happened to leak that fact to Dana Priest. The way the process normally works, as Reuters described it, is that targeted Americans are selected “by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions”; moreover, “there is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel” nor “any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”  …

Panetta’s whole case rests on simply asserting, without proving, that Awlaki was a Terrorist trying to “kill Americans.” That, of course, is precisely what is in dispute: actual Yemen experts have long questioned whether Awlaki had any operational role at all in Al Qaeda (as opposed to a role as its advocate, which is clearly protected free speech). No evidence has been publicly presented that Awlaki had any such role. We simply have the untested, unverified accusations of government officials, such as Leon Panetta, that he is guilty: in other words, we have nothing but decrees of guilt.

The whole interview with Panetta is here: 

Obama loves his drones. As the Washington Post summarized, in an extensive report on the program last month,

In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force­ ­cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents. Other commanders in chief have presided over wars with far higher casualty counts. But no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.

George Monbiot in the Guardian elaborates on the consequences:

 

As a report last year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed, of some 2,300 people killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004 until August 2011, between 392 and 781 appear to have been civilians; 175 were children. … As soon as an agency claims “we never make mistakes”, you know that it has lost its moorings, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn suggested in his story of that title. Feeling no obligation to apologise or explain, count bodies or answer for its crimes, it becomes a danger to humanity.

It may be true, as the US air force says, that because a drone can circle and study a target for hours before it strikes, its missiles are less likely to kill civilians than those launched from a piloted plane. (The air force has yet to explain how it reconciles this with its boast that drones “greatly shorten decision time”.) But it must also be true that the easier and less risky a deployment is, the more likely it is to happen.

In other words: it might be the case that a drone kills fewer civilians than targeted bombings by humans. But we’ll use the drones even more than bombers, as Obama does, because they don’t put any humans on our side at risk. Hence more civilians will end up dead anyhow.

Protest against drone attacks, North Waziristan, Pakistan, January 2011

There is always something absurd, however murderous, about technology taking over the supremely personal job of exterminating persons.  Death is the one inalienably human thing about each of us, the one thing we cannot trade or give away. The more killing is alienated from human beings and handed over to machines, the less our own deaths seem our own property, somehow. What machine, in what hospital or killing field, will take responsibility for the last act?   But for sheer and sick absurdity, I don’t think you could go farther than the New York Times op-ed this morning, “Drones for Human Rights,” by the “co-founders of the Genocide Intervention Network.” They note that “Drones are not just for firing missiles in Pakistan” anymore: “In Iraq, the State Department is using them to watch for threats to Americans.” Hooray! “It’s time we used the revolution in military affairs to serve human rights advocacy. With drones, we could take clear pictures and videos of human rights abuses, and we could start with Syria.”

There’s hardly a sentence here I cannot quote with morbid delight. “Drones are increasingly small, affordable and available to nonmilitary buyers. For hundreds of thousands of dollars — no longer many millions — a surveillance drone could be flying over protests and clashes in Syria. …  It isn’t the kind of thing nongovernmental organizations usually do. But … We have a duty, recognized internationally, to monitor governments that massacre their own people in large numbers. Human rights organizations have always done this. Why not get drones to assist the good work?”

 

“Graphic and detailed evidence of crimes against humanity does not guarantee a just response, but it helps,” they conclude. “If human rights organizations can spy on evil, they should.”

Drone in flight: Tremble, puny evildoers

I suppose no one will get far by arguing that evil has a right to privacy, or even a “right to be forgotten.”  But what about the ordinary person who finds her life monitored and recorded by sleek rockets overhead, in the name of “spying on evil?”  After all, the evil will come intermixed with a lot of snippets of normal life, and even normal peccadilloes, all for the human back somewhere at the end of the monitoring chain to sort into the appropriate categories. And does anyone really think the drones will stop at “monitoring” evil?  Won’t the pressure be enormous for somebody — if not the human rights groups themselves, then some friendly government — to use a drone to strike down the evildoer instantly with a virtuous lightning bolt, without the bother of a trial?  After all, these guys’ group is called the “Genocide Intervention Network,” not the “Genocide Observation Network.”

Indeed, why wait for the evil to be done? If you can predict someone is going to commit atrocities, by recording their conversations, or watching who they meet with, or Googling their blogs for “genocide,” why not act pre-emptively? (Oh, my God, how can I keep Google from registering this post? Now I will look up every time I step outdoors.) After all, that’s what the Obama administration says it’s doing: Didn’t al-Awlaki die, ostensibly, to save others from dying? And you do have to wonder. Human rights activists tout their endorsement of due process; but in secret, all too many long to become due process, expropriating the roles of police, prosecutor, judge and jury.  “Granted the chance,” as George Monbiot says, “to fulfil one of humankind’s abiding fantasies: to vaporise their enemies, as if with a curse or a prayer, effortlessly and from a safe distance” — granted the chance, how many of our unco guid, our insistently righteous, could keep on saying no?

Cyberninjas at the CIA are after your tweets

the eye of Sauron: tremble, puny Tweeters

So you tweak your Facebook status a few times a day, toot out five or six tweets, post the odd snarky comment on a Youtube video of dancing cats, dress up as Gabourey Sidibe on GayRomeo.com, and have an old Friendster profile out there somewhere to embarrass you like a passport photograph from 1992. You probably think these are just random traces, right? But they are texts, and good literary scholars and cool cyberpunks alike read their Derrilard and Baudrida and know that texts are endlessly fascinating, texts add up, you can put them together in all kind of configurations, you can invent or imagine old and new people behind them, you can read Don Quixote as if it was written by Pierre Menard, or the Hardy Boys as if it was about the Koch Brothers, and you can find all kinds of sentiments in them that defy the dull freight of ordinary meaning. What if “That cat could beat Chaz Bono on Dancing With the Stars” were a coded message? What if it were a cry of mourning for Osama bin Laden?

Hey! This should flatter you. Life is not random, and neither are your maunderings. Even without guessing it, you may be part of the “chatter” they are always saying they were listening to just before something big got bombed. The CIA has all kinds of cool, tattooed Ninjas in tortoiseshell glasses tapping the keyboards to track you.

In an anonymous industrial park, CIA analysts who jokingly call themselves the “ninja librarians” are mining the mass of information people publish about themselves overseas, tracking everything from common public opinion to revolutions….

The agency’s Open Source Center sometimes looks at 5 million tweets a day. The analysts are also checking out TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms — anything overseas that people can access and contribute to openly.

From Arabic to Mandarin, from an angry tweet to a thoughtful blog, the analysts gather the information, often in a native tongue. They cross-reference it with a local newspaper or a clandestinely intercepted phone conversation. From there, they build a picture sought by the highest levels at the White House.  …

The center’s several hundred analysts — the actual number is classified — track a broad range of subjects, including Chinese Internet access and the mood on the street in Pakistan. While most analysts are based in Virginia, they also are scattered throughout U.S. embassies worldwide to get a step closer to their subjects.

The center’s analysis ends up in President Barack Obama’s daily intelligence briefing in one form or another almost every day. The material is often used to answer questions Obama poses to his inner circle of intelligence advisers when they give him the morning rundown of threats and trouble spots.

Of course, if you are lucky enough to be an American citizen, you are illegally immune to this surveillance, which is only directed at the population of the other 195 countries in the world, plus several animal species that communicate in tones only Michelle Bachmann can hear.

“The OSC’s focus is overseas, collecting against foreign intelligence issues,” said CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood. “Looking at social media outlets overseas is just a small part of what this skilled organization does,” she said. “There is no effort to collect on Americans.”

Of course you can believe them!  They’re the CIA, for God’s sake!  The United States intelligence community does not collect information on its own citizens. Instead, we kill them with drones.

the new face of Homeland Security

And the people who do this are really funky. Inside each one, carefully vetted by professional recruiters employing sodium pentathol and waterboarding, lurks a body-pierced, bisexual Scandinavian with a history of child abuse.

The most successful open source analysts, [OSC director Doug] Naquin said, are something like the heroine of the crime novel “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” a quirky, irreverent computer hacker who “knows how to find stuff other people don’t know exists.”  An analyst with a master’s degree in library science and multiple languages, especially one who grew up speaking another language, makes “a powerful open source officer,” Naquin said.

CIA analysts are notorious for their weird tattoos. 

Meanwhile, while you are mulling all this over, pay a little visit to youropenbook.org.  This site trawls Facebook pages to search for information that’s publicly available, even if the people who put it there don’t have any idea it is. Wired editor David Rowan (who explains here why he is not on the social network) suggests trying out search terms like “cheated on my wife” or “my new mobile number is” or “feeling horny.“  You’ll be surprised how much these open, friendly Facebookers share.

The idea of the site is to shame Facebook into instituting more understandable, usable, and safe privacy protections. Check out their “proposed privacy controls for Facebook” here.