What is happening in the South China Sea is a big deal and I don’t see a clear or good way out of it. I can see no course of action without significant and negative consequences. AXIOS has a good three point synopsis.
Apparently the folks at Zinc only upload videos to FB. It’s a short video (1:13).
Let’s lead with the fact that banning people because of their religion is quintessentially unAmerican.
Just like Trump, but to a different direction, this video misses the point. The Muslims killing Muslims e.g. ISIS, would claim those being killed are not Muslims.
While 106,000 is a small percentage, it is a large number. It looks nice to say 0.006% of Muslims are terrorists and makes a useful point but it is missing the larger point.
Having seen how badly people misinterpret Christianity from the outside, I am reluctant to make any statements about what a religion is or is not. With that understood, it is my understanding that the actions of ISIS are justifiable under the Quran and Sharia law. This not to say it is the only perspective one can take but that it is a perspective ISIS and their supporters can support from text and tradition.
This leads us to the larger point, What is Islam?
What is happening right now is a battle for the meaning of the faith. So when 1.6 billion Muslims are mentioned, what does that mean?
The video also treats Islamism as a spontaneous movement devoid of context. The West (US, UK, et al), Russia, and others have acted to the detriment of people living in areas with high concentrations of Muslims. That is not the sole reason we have our current troubles but it is part of it.
It is the morning after and we already know everything we need to assert the following: this tragedy will be used to justify more restrictive gun laws and this tragedy will also be used to demonize Islam. Both of these perspectives have already come to a conclusion and are looking for evidence to confirm it. This approach to thought has a name. It is called “confirmation bias”
Now, it is silly to think that we should wait for all the evidence to come in before we start thinking about it. It is entirely reasonable to see things happening and to get an idea. In some circles this is called forming a hypothesis. You then look to see whether there is further information that supports or undermines that idea.
That is not what we see happening with this. We have people devoted to ideas rather than devoted to the truth. The way things are is the way things are. If we want to change the way things are we need to engage reality as honestly as possible.
The “anti-gun” folks, by and large, want a good thing i.e. let’s not kill each other so much. While the “anti-Islam” folks too want a good thing i.e. let’s not be killed as much.
The problem is that good intentions will not accomplish either of these goals. These problems exist in a system and without changing that system the problems will remain. What folks don’t like about systemic change is that it is often uncomfortable and sometimes takes a while for the change to be visible. Add to this that there are people, bad people in my opinion, who profit from calling for simple linear solutions to these systemic problems (and so look like they are working for improvement but are actually interfering with it and so preserve their jobs while “claiming a halo for their dishonesty”) and people get distracted from meaningful work that will make things better.
There is no easy solution. One thing we can do is ask ourselves when presented with these problems, Are we protecting ourselves from uncomfortable ideas? Are we placing our biases ahead of problem solving? Our ideals inform our objectives but if our beliefs are not subject to change by reality they become dogma and actively interfere with changing our situation for the better.
Today is a guest post written by Jason Rosenblatt. I read this and was so impressed that I got permission to post it here.
An amazing book that will leave fans of Obama at a bit of a loss (i.e. having to retreat from thinking Obama is great to accepting that he was better than the alternatives, to finally having to consider that his popularity in some ways acted as the candy coating around a poison pill as far as counter terrorism policy and actions that, had they occurred while an unpopular Republican was in office, would’ve resulted in much greater outcry). The book’s full title, derived from an official quote: the World is a Battlefield argues (very well supported) that there are no longer limits to what actions can be taken in the name of counter terrorism (specifically bypassing due process for reasons deemed classified as state secrets) and being able to pretty much kill anyone anywhere in the world without having to prove any standard of imminent threat. As it sheds light on as many dirty practices started by Bush as dirty practices maintained or used by Obama, it’s kind of guaranteed to be unpopular among both Republicans and Democrats who prefer the more simple (Bush bad/Obama good – or vice-a-versa) world view. The problem with trying to maintain such a viewpoint is that imprisoning and torturing people in Guantanamo sucked, and but so does murdering people using predator drones. Wars against terrorists who MIGHT attack someday becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and, as the book illustrates through a few examples, you end up creating terrorists who would not otherwise have existed. The next stage (as the movie Sicario depicted) is that the same techniques used to fight terror are used to fight cartels. Then once you grow comfortable with that notion, it progresses to the next stage. The spine of Dirty Wars follows the first American citizen ever to be targeted and killed in the war on terror and how that has been accepted and paved the way for the next logical step. If American citizens living overseas can be targeted for assassination, what about American Citizens at home? And if your primary action is advocating taking a stance and articulating rage and being a cultural leader who has and will inspire violent actions do you deserve to die? The book doesn’t bring them up, but it’s worth mentioning that both Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela were branded as terrorists. If they were active today would they be targeted by privatized kill teams? And I wish I could say this was a document of a dark time that has passed, but the pattern is not complex or difficult to understand. A screwup overseas results in innocent people being killed, a few people start to question the whole war on terror thing, but then a failed or successful attack of some sort (organized or not) occurs and shuts up any voices of dissent, convinces us there’s bad people out there so it’s okay if a few bad things are done to stop them and we skip to the sports or celebrity news and then act confused when it seems like everyone living in the places we’re supposedly helping hates this country.
As John Oliver pointed out, kids in parts of the world feel safer and happier on cloudy/rainy days because US drones don’t work so the possibility of deadly bombs falling out of the bright sunny sky is reduced. In other words they live in constant fear and are terrorized. If someone was flying remote controlled bomb dropping devices over my home growing up and I had relatives and friends who died, don’t you think it would pretty easy to be motivated to do something about it? Yes, drone strikes don’t put as many current American lives at risk, but like with most logic these days, it doesn’t account for the future safety of both American soldiers and citizens as tragedy and loss inspires passionate hatred and does all the recruitment work needed for a terrorist organization. From the initial pronouncement that Bush made wherein he linked terrorists with those who would house them and aid them he declared an unwinnable war with no end in sight. The headline “Obama apologizes for bombing hospital” is not just a Homer Simpson doh! It’s evidence that the harder we try to “win” the worse it gets. Come on if “they” (insert anyone) bombs a US Hospital do they get to say “sorry”? We don’t get to accidentally kill innocent people over there in the name of preventing someone from intentionally killing innocent people over here. That’s not fair, that can’t be how this shit works. We wouldn’t argue that and expect to win.
So yeah none of the lessons of what brought about the end of terrorist organizations and campaigns in the 70s were heeded this time around and now we’re in a war but because we haven’t invaded a country, because it’s not about a number of troops overseas inside a specific border, we don’t know how to tell our leaders to cut it the fuck out. We can’t say bring our troops home because it’s not about that. Calling for the truth in reporting (if the reporting reveals we’re the bad guys) is quickly labeled treason because we’ve kinda all decided that there’s the truth and then there’s the truth. If it’s the kind of truth that justifies terrorists targeting Americans then it’s terrorist propaganda that’s being spread. The problem comes once you can’t handle the truth cause you just have to be the good guys all the time. There are solutions to undermining terrorists and terrorist organizations. But it’s like a grease fire, you can’t just splash water and more water on it – that just makes it worse. And at this point in time, the amount of power people are willing to give up for the illusion of safety means nobody in charge is going to want the war on terror to end.
The only thing you can control is what you decide is acceptable and unacceptable. Shit like 9/11 that is going to happen, the Boston Marathon bombing proves it doesn’t require huge international organizations and multiplying the kill list is gonna create more terrorists than it eliminates, so we just have to accept the possibility that shit like that will happen and draw the line at what WE are willing to do or have done in our name by the people we elect. If we’re cool with torture, extraordinary rendition, imprisonment without trial, targeting and killing people for what they say and redefining the standard for terrorism based on whether the victims are over there or over here. Come on, our country bombed a hospital, they’re calling us terrorists and we’re pretending it didn’t happen because the argument “the bombs were meant for other people not worthy of a trial by jury” kinda sucks. I mean is this what everyone wants? 9/11 sucked but the endzone was Bin Laden and once he was gone they just moved the goal post so what the fuck are we doing?
Jason Rosenblatt is just a struggling artist trying to stay educated and informed (and encouraging others to do likewise).
The procedural decision barely cleared the 60 votes needed — the tally was 60 to 37 — but final passage will need only 51 votes.
There really aren’t that many bad people in the world. In fact, most folks want the same things like security and opportunity. Where folks generally diverge is on what constitutes the best way to achieve these things. When “liberals,” or what really should be called a statists, and libertarians are at odds with each other then they most likely are arguing about how to accomplish something. However when statists and libertarians are lining up on the same side then you know they alarmed about where we are going. And that is what we have with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The Intercept has a great article on Barbara Boxer’s (shown above) attempts to view the document.
There is only one legitimate reason for secrecy and that reason is security. Since there is no security concern connected to the TPP we can reasonably infer that the reason for this document’s secrecy is not legitimate. TPP’s secrecy makes the whole document suspect and certainly not appropriate for fast track authority.
To my Democrat friends, I don’t want to hear about the Republicans in congress. Obama is your man in the White House and he is driving this one hard. To my Republican friends, I don’t want to hear about Obama. There aren’t nearly enough Republicans in the House and senate opposing this (and considering the number of folks who have actually read the document, almost all should be opposed).
This is not a pro-business trade deal, it is a pro-massive-multinational-corporation deal. They don’t need any help. Small business is the largest employer and creator of jobs and they are who we should care about. All they need is a level playing field.
I have my misgivings about Glen Greenwald. Sometimes he seems more like an activist than a reporter. However, this seems to fall within the bounds of investigative journalism.
This is not the first time I have heard of the FBI using these tactics. I am a huge fan of hunting down terrorists down. I believe we should put mad dogs down, but does poking a dog with a stick until he bares his teeth and then shooting him count as protecting us?
If the article is accurate then this practice needs to be stopped not just for reasons of justice and liberty but because it will piss off the people who will be the most likely to know of a threat. If they don’t trust the authorities they wont talk to them. This is not a new thought. It is a fundamental principle of law enforcement.
James Clapper is claiming that terrorists are studying Snowden’s NSA leaks and becoming more proficient and difficult to monitor but David Kravets in Wired writes:
“Clapper is not the most credible source on Snowden and the NSA leaks. Snowden’s very first leak last June had the side-effect of revealing that Clapper had mislead the public and Congress about NSA spying.”
I agree that Clapper is less than credible, but even if in this case he is accurate I would point out that Clapper is (perhaps willingly?) missing the point in his claims. Yes, terrorists may indeed be learning from the leaks but to hold Snowden alone responsible for all this presumes that there were no precipitating events leading to the leaks. The intelligence system is malfunctioning. Just look at the terrorist watchlist:
The above information was obtained by The Intercept. The graphic above supports the assertion in the article made by David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent, that the system is “revving out of control.”
Snowden’s decision to disclose his information did not form in a vacuum. Rather than trying to find the terrorists to monitor, we are monitoring everyone to see if they are a terrorist. This is a symptom of our malfunctioning intelligence apparatus. Clapper wants to blame Snowden for the leaks but if the apparatus was functioning correctly we would not see these kinds of leaks and so, neither would the terrorists.