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Worse than every war before?

Matt Lauer on NBC to Hillary Clinton:

“It seems, Secretary Clinton, that information is so vital when it comes to combatting terrorism, and that is why perhaps—perhaps—you hear some people say when you get a key suspect like the one who was taken into custody in Brussels last Friday, maybe you should use some enhanced techniques to get information out of that person. It also may be why, if you look at this country in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings that you just brought up, a lot of people say, ‘wait a minute, Apple, you’ve got to unlock that phone that was left behind by one of the shooters because it’s crucial that we get that information.’ Is that simply just a logical step that people take after events like this, and do you agree with it?”

Wouldn’t that kind of information have been useful in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and the Cold War? And yet not only did they not use torture for any of it, no one had the lack of moral character to even suggest it?

Are you saying that these guys are more dangerous than the Nazis? More dangerous than the combined might of the Soviet Union with its world ending nuclear arsenal pointed at us?

Or maybe we have just lost our way?

Why we find terrorists after they terrorize…

If you want to know, despite all the dollars spent, why we seem to only find terrorists after they’ve finished terrorizing, this entry from the Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report might give a clue:

Ferrrari recalls 185 California T vehicles for fuel leak risk.

This is why the idea of sweeping as much data into the NSA databases as possible can be counter productive – if you can’t separate the real information from the noise, too much information can be as bad as too little information. This Homeland Security report shows exactly that – it would be hard to pull out relevant concerns from the noise of items that have little to do with security at all.

A fitting follow up…

I truly find what Trump is saying is execrable, though I have to admit I find those who agree with him far more scary, even if I count some of them my friends.

Still, have we really come to the point where we find it necessary to censor ideas that we find objectionable?:

MoveOn call to censorship

Isn’t one of the great hallmarks of fascism and totalitarianism the inability to tolerate alternative ideas lest they “infect” the  masses with their beliefs? That somehow those who behave badly have to be “radicalized” rather than radicalizing themselves?

Adolf Hitler was terrifying in his rhetoric, but it is convenient to blame his oratory skills and propaganda rather than give agency to those who chose to follow him, “chose” being the operative word. Hitler was not a sorcerer, those who followed him were not bewitched into their actions. It was their personal moral failings not his that led them to the crimes they supported, or worse, committed. Figures like Hitler and Trump don’t make the people evil, they just expose the latent evil within.

Yes, we must speak out, but we need to speak out with the strength of our arguments, not by using the same tools of those we object. If nothing else we should be cautious for we provide the very tools by which we too may be censored in the future.

If anything Trump shows is that “what goes around, comes around”. We see the the tools populists have used for centuries turned on themselves. Let’s not hand him another.

Hate speech is legal…

I hear arguments from my fellows on the left against the types of speech that may have incited anti-abortion violence (“anti-abortion violence” a sort of oxymoron in itself). While I agree that morally the right should STFU a bit (or rather, tone it down), I disagree with any implication that censorship would be reasonable here.

What most people don’t know is “incitement to violence” in most forms is actually legal – something I didn’t know myself until reading the always excellent Glenn Greenwald:

That’s because I agree with what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 45 years ago in Brandenburg v. Ohio. That case overturned the conviction of a KKK member for giving a speech that threatened political officials (including the U.S. president) with violence. The Court invalidated as unconstitutional the Ohio law that made it a crime to “advocate . . . the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform.”

The Brandenburg Court’s key reasoning: “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force.” Only incitement of imminent violence — e.g., leading a mob holding torches outside of someone’s house and directing them to burn it down — can be punished; advocacy of violence by itself cannot be (my most comprehensive argument against criminalizing ideas on the ground that they are “hateful” or “violent” is here).

I know it’s appealing to censor when it’s “the other guys”, but someday if the tables are turned, you might disagree. And, being an old fuck, I have seen the tables turned many times.

Welcome to Hell…

“We are on the brink of a disaster and this is the government of political suiciders. So welcome to hell.”

– Acting Ukrainian President, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, via The Bugle Podcast (also see BBC)

An understatement…

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

– Bertrand Russell

Luxuries to the few…

“I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of God’s children smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.”

– Martin Luther King

In Britain, Labor finally gets its head out of its ass…

Will the Democrats finally do so too?

For the Conservatives, the deficit is just an excuse to railroad through the same old Tory Republican agenda: driving down wages, cutting taxes for the wealthiest, allowing house prices to spiral out of reach, selling off our national assets and attacking trade unions. You can’t cut your way to prosperity, you have to build it: investing in modern infrastructure, investing in people and their skills, harnessing innovative ideas and new ways of working to tackle climate change to protect our environment and our future.

– Jeremy Corbyn in The Guardian (slightly edited for American eyes)

Worth reading the whole thing here.

The sanctity of it all…

Via a friend, says it all really:


The new “anti-Americans”…

Just as the religious fundamentalists claim a lock on the truth of Christianity, the Republicans claim a lock on the truth of “patriotism”. I would argue that modern history shows both conjectures to be false, but particularly the later.

The thing is, when I was a kid while the Republicans were the “squares” fighting equality, growing social programs, and being eminently pro-war, they stood strongly on the foundation of our nation being great because we collectively banded together to end the great depression and win against the Nazis. They didn’t want to go back to the Gilded Age, they wanted to go back to the 50’s.

Patriotism and the greatness of our nation wasn’t defined on individualism” or that only certain “entrepreneurs”, “leaders”, or “job creators” made us great (though certainly we had our heroes), but rather the American society together as a whole made us great. That working together “in commons” we could solve the issues that plagued mankind immemorial. We would, as a nation, end poverty, end war, make energy abundant for all, cure the sick, end the drudgery of manual labor, and create a utopia where all would benefit.

That is not to say some would not benefit some more than others – what supposedly made “capitalism” better than “communism” was a degree of competition, but there were boundaries and the majority of the gains were to be in common. We weren’t communist, quite the opposite, but in a truly American way, we coopted what the best from other’s cultures and ideas to make ourselves better. We were willing to have high taxes, help the needy, place limitations for the betterment of all, and let the government work in our name. In doing so, beyond even the depression and WWII, it got us to the moon and held us against the ever expanding Communist threat.

Read the science fiction of the time and the repeated idealized world is one where robots work and there is a shared prosperity leaving all of us free to ponder greater questions, while our robot friends serve us Mint Juleps. The optimism of that “science fiction” has been turned on head today. If one is to look at the Republican platform, we would still have the robots, but those replaced would not share in the prosperity and the government. having not “earned” a cent for the “entrepreneurial class”, would get nothing. The “lazy” displaced, meanwhile, would be unemployed and scrapping for whatever food, shelter, and menial work they could find.

Why? Because they are not  the “creators” (or sons/daughters of creators) and therefor have no right to “share” the collective gains. No matter how hard the  “parasite class” might work, they do not work hard enough. Not being “leaders” they are not “deserving”.

I would argue this mentality turns the “patriotism” we were brought up with on its very head. We are no longer “one nation united”, but a nation of individuals, with only the individuals who have the wherewithal to reach the top being worthy. Ideas are all that matter, and no matter how many others it takes to make those ideas become reality, directly or indirectly, only those with the ideas deserve the returns. There is no “nationalism”, the core of patriotism, but only individualism. The rest should just come up with their own ideas, even if they are incapable. Even, ironically, if everyone only came up with ideas, there would be no one left to implement them.

Unlike for our parents, America isn’t great because of “Americans” – a cooperative community that stood together and stood for something, but rather just empty jingoism. America is great now simply because it is America. Like grace through faith alone, ultimately empty without deeds. A broken covenant.

And so, in that regards, I would strongly argue the Republicans no longer have a lock on “patriotism”. In fact, their platform is an anathema to the patriotism our fathers believed in, the patriotism that included working together, that included sharing the gains, that even included sharing the hardships.

The Republican agenda is a radical agenda of change from who we were, not a “conservative” agenda, not an agenda that “conserves” the great nation our fathers left us after WWII. Instead it turns it into something else, something uglier, something that isn’t the “America” our parents fought and died for.

In short, they can wave their flags and show their “Don’t tread on my stickers,” (made in China no less) – but they are not the patriots anymore, they are the “anti-Americans”.