August 21, 2013

Bradley Manning's Post-Sentencing Statement

This statement from Bradley Manning was read after hos 35-year sentence was passed by his lawyer, David Coombs.

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life. 
I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability. 
In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror. 
Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission. 
Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light. 
As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” 
I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. 
If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.
One might wish that President Obama could put up such a principled defense for his scurrilous conduct in handing over the security of the American people to secret courts and universal surveillance.

August 4, 2013

Getting Back to IT

Life has become much more interesting of late. With two or three interns in The Open Bastion office periodically I am revisiting basic software development practices to try and explain them. I am using it as an opportunity to bring my own skill-set up to date, and it's immense fun to actually get to grips with, even though quite a challenge in the face of intelligent (and sometimes daunting) questioning from the interns. We are all learning a lot, me included.

Because we want to be able to build flexible web systems we have decided to use django CMS as our base system. The editing interface may not represent the absolute zenith of design (though the 3.0 release, currently in Beta, looks rather better), but it appears to be a solid piece of technology and it is capable (when applied by a team including design skills) of producing attractive and easily-edited web content. Even with a relatively puny SQLite database and with the Django debug toolbar switched on you can see how people with little deep understanding of information technology could nevertheless use it to build their own web resources fairly quickly.

The original attraction of django-cms was its ability to maintain flexible content via its flexibly extensible plugin system. This is a valuable part of keeping content separate from presentation—and, of course, there's nothing to stop you writing plugins to use the same data as other Django code that's already part of your site. For a crowd of tech-heads the most difficult part will be the presentation and styling. Who knows, perhaps a design intern will want to get in on the ground floor.

Our first task was to get to grips with a solid but simple workflow. We have now settled on the simple but effective git branching model proposed in Vincent Driessen's excellent paper. Of course since everyone is learning git we are making all the usual mistakes and stumbling along at times. It's reassuring that whatever mistakes you do make are usually recoverable. Nowadays I sometimes even remember to checkout a new branch before committing development changes.

We are currently at the stage of creating a solid build and learning how to work with plugins. I have managed to extend the tables plugin to allow drop-down style selection (albeit with a somewhat inflexible mechanism) and gained much insight thereby. We still face the challenges of testing and deployment

Sadly now I have to go back to writing the code to create the slots for the DjangoCon schedule, but I hope to write more later.