John McCain, starting a statement that at first would have accused Donald Trump (like Bill Clinton) of draft dodging, seemed to demur as he then criticized a system in the 1960s that allowed rich kids to get doctors to write them medical disqualifications, while poor people went. Dan Merica has a typical story on CNN. At first glance, it may sound to male millennials or even younger men that different moral standards are applied to men of earlier generations than to them or to women.
Actually, there was a sequence of privileges that I outlined in the footnotes to my DADT-1 book, after 48b, where it says “Chapter 2 additional conclusion” and I supply a table.
For a while, during the Kennedy years, married men with children were protected, and then married men without children were protected until a single-male pool was exhausted. The marriage and paternity deferments were ended under LBJ in 1965, but the student deferments, which figured so much into the course of my own life, continued until the lottery started in 1969. In my case, deferemnt meant that I was much less likely to see combat or even go to Vietnam when I went in, in 1968.
It is well to look at statistics of Vietnam War deaths by race, and also by conscription status (War library; world history)
McCain blithely speaks of an obligation to be available to serve your country. Of course, it sounds a lot more credible from him than Trump. But it’s always seemed like a contradiction to the idea of the “right to life”. For a while, men who did not consummate procreative sexual intercourse with women were more likely to be drafted.
The Supreme Court, in Rostker v. Golberg, had upheld the male-only Selective Service registration iin 1981, but recently there have been bills in Congress to require women to register, as in Israel.
The capacity to share risk and sacrifice was a major part of the moral climate when I was growing up. Cowardice was a real crime. If you evaded your share of the risk, someone else had to pick it up in your place. That certainly complicates the moral compass compared to the more linear idea of personal responsibility and harmlessness in libertarian thought in more recent times. It also complicates the meaning of marriage.
The deepest “meaning” might have had to do with community resilience. Most men experienced the sense of shared duty to protect women and children, with some degree of fungibility or interchangeability. Some duties in life were very gender-based. Milo Yiannopoulos said as much, that manhood included willingness to lay down one’s life for others, although I can’t find the best link right now, here’s a related one. But spouses of men who came back from war maimed and disfigured were to be expected to remain interested in their partners for life – an expectation that my projection of fantasy life in my days at NIH attacked.
There are other ways men take risks – dangerous jobs of the Sebastian Junger viariety help men “pay their dues”. Yes, women can do them sometimes, maybe most of the time. But I didn’t see any women as hotshots in “Only the Brave”, about wildfire firefighters. All of this invokes the low-level hum of debate over national service.
McCain’s echo of the obligation to offer oneself to military service needs to be considered in light of his reluctance to support the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” at the end of 2010. Yet today he seems to support the service of some transgender members, and he opposed Trump’s brusque attempt to re-impose a transgender ban on Twitter. But I advanced arguments in my first DADT book that the possibility of future conscription (or even the “Stop-Loss” backdoor draft of the Iraq war) added to the moral urgency of ending the gay ban and DADT. Few writers tried to make this argument. My staying in this way may (online with search engines, letting my content go to “It’s Free”) have helped with the repeal.
There is a way that people today take risks that weren’t expected in the past – that is, in going all out in very personal ways, like organ and bone marrow donations, to save lives. That’s partly because medicine makes such outreach – using your own body components — possible as a new kind of sacrifice. This gets personal and intimate in ways that were unknown when I was growing up.
The New York Times has a couple of impressive pieces on this topic. Michael Stewart Foley describes “The Moral Case for Draft Resistance” in the 1960s here. Even more challenging may have been John Kelly’s ancillary statement about the ignorance of Americans who haven’t served in a NYTimes “editorial notebook” piece by Clyde Haberman, which argues for the return of the draft, or maybe some kind of national service (civilian service could recur into old age). Remember how Charles Moskos had helped author “don’t ask don’t tell” but decided the whole ban should be lifted after 9/11 when he started arguing for return of the draft.
Recently the New York Times ran a constructive op-ed by Michelle Goldberg “The Worst Time for the Left to Give Up on Free Speech”, featuring a split demonstration poster demanding to “Shut Down Milo Yiannopoulos”.
The editorial makes a central point that democratic societies typically feel they need to take certain topics off the table as legitimate content for discussion. For example, the essay gives, the idea that women and people of color should be subordinate to white men (you can expand that to cis white straight men). The editorial relates an incident at William and Mary recently where an ACLU speaker was heckled and disrupted for supposedly working for white supremacists, which activists demand there be zero tolerance for.
There are plenty of similar examples, such as bans on neo-Nazi speech in present day Germany. The most obvious bans are usually intended to protect groups defined by race or religion (and sometimes ethnic nationality) from being targeted again by future political developments.
By way of comparison, many people believed, back in the 1950s, that there was a legal ban on discussing communism. The federal government, for example, who not employ people who could not ascertain they had never been members of the Communist party. Communism could be banned if it was construed as embedding violence (or the attempt to overthrow the US government) as part of its definition (as compared to socialism, even Bernie Sanders style). But Communism generally, as defined, did not target specific races or religions (although we can certain argue that Stalin persecuted people of faith, including Jews, and so did Communist China).
You could have a similar discussion about trying to overanalyze the roots of homophobia and gender or sexuality related discrimination and persecution in the past, and today in many authoritarian countries. Much of my own writing has dealt with this for the past twenty years, especially the three “Do Ask, Do Tell” books. I’ve generally (as in my post here Jan. 4, 2017) offered arguments that a lot of it had to do with family patriarchs keeping their own confidence in their own power to have biological lineage (procreation). I’ve also paid heed to the past public health arguments that got made in the 1980s in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before the cause was identified. In my writings I’ve paid particular heed to the history of military conscription and past deferment controversies.
A lot of people don’t appreciate my rehearsing the ghosts of the past (John Carpenter’s metaphorical “The Ghosts of Mars” (1995)), for fear that I could be legitimizing lines of thinking long thought debunked and bringing them back. Sound familiar? Is this what people fear from Donald Trump, or, more properly, the people he has chosen in his group? (How about Mike Pence?)
Goldberg doesn’t go there, but the Left is in a real quandary when it wants to shut down all biological speech The Left has demonstrated against and protested Charles Murray for his past writings on race and biology. They object to James Damore for his Google memo on biology (whether this expression belonged in a privately owned workplace is a different discussion). They would probably object to Nicholas Wade’s 2014 book “A Troublesome Inheritance” (media commentary, July 24, 2017). But then what about the gay Left’s dependence on immutability to demand gay equality? I do think there is scientific merit to discussion of genetics (especially with regard to gender identity) and epigenetics (especially with regard to sexual orientation, most of all in non-first-born men) I don’t think that replaces libertarian ideas of focus on “personal responsibility”. But if you want to discuss homosexuality and biology (as in Chandler Burr’s monumental 1996 book “A Separate Creation”) with possible political change as a result, you have to accept discussions of biology, evolution and race. Admittedly, some people can skid on thin ice when they ponder these things, as they consider plans to have or not have their own children (eugenics used to be an acceptable idea a century ago).
That brings me back to a correlated area: that the identity of the speaker matters, as well as the predictable behavior of the listener of speech (possibly creating risk for the original speaker or others connected to him) — what I have called “implicit content”, a most disturbing and sometimes offensive notion. The most obvious example in current events news is, of course, the manipulation of social media especially by the Russians to sow discord among different American classes or quasi-tribes, beyond simply influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The Russians and other enemies used fake accounts and posted fake news in supposedly legitimate-looking news sites and in advertorials. All of this follows earlier concerns about the misuse of social media, especially Twitter, for terrorist recruiting (by ISIS), as well as cyberbullying or stalking and revenge porn. The Russians seemed to have noticed that Hillary-like “elites” would not pay attention if “deplorables” could be lured by silly, divisive supermarket tabloid-like content and false flags; elites tend not to care about people “beneath” themselves in this “mind your own business” world much until those people suddenly knock at the door for personal attention (which is something that happens to speakers who make themselves conspicuous, especially on social media).
You can raise a lot of questions here. Is fake news libel? Maybe. Litigation is often impractical because it involves criticism of public figures (actual malice, etc). You get to Trump’s ideas about using Britain’s standard on libel. But a bigger idea is that the fake news fiasco shows why authoritarian leaders keep a tight lid on dissent, even on individual bloggers’ speech, perhaps maintaining that the dissemination of news to the public need be “licensed” to guarantee (alternative) “truth” (sic). That hasn’t really happened with Trump, yet at least; Trump seems to admire individual speakers even as he hates the established liberal media.
A related idea is whether political ads, and whether commercial ads, are protected by the First Amendment the same way as other speech. That topic was covered in the second session at a recent Cato conference (Oct. 3, 2017 posting here). Generally, the answer is yes. But this topic has become controversial with regard to campaign finance reform, long before Trump.
In fact, back in the 2002-2005 period, there was a concern that even “free content” of a political nature posted by bloggers like me could constitute illegal campaign contributions (as if not everything in life can be measured by money). The June 12, 2017 post here gets to that, as does this 2005 editorial in the Washington Times, which wormed its way into a major incident when I was working as a substitute teacher then.
That brings us to what I do, which is put out my own series of article and blog posts on the news, augmenting my three “Do Ask, Do Tell” books, under my own brand(s). No, this doesn’t pay its own way. I have exactly the situation the 2005 Washington Times editorial was talking about.
I’ve been at this since the mid 1990s. I originally entered the world of self-publishing as a way to participate in the debate over gays in the military (and the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy from Bill Clinton’s compromise that predates Trump’s current transgender ban controversy). I made a lot of unusual, very individualistic arguments, often but not always consistently connected to libertarianism. Generally, most of what I have said starts with the individual, apart from any group he or she belongs to. The first book sold decently (in 1997 and 1998, especially) but then became old hat. The subsequent POD books have not really sold all that well, and I get hassled about it because “other people” can’t keep their jobs based on my books, I guess. I did have the resources from a well-paid job and from stock market good luck under Clinton (Democrats can be good for the stock market, as Hillary’s elite knows). I got lucky with the 2008 crash and that turned out well for me. (Short selling?)
But you see where this is heading. In line with the thinking of McCain-Feingold, one person can have political influence, with no accountability for how the funds were raised. I actually focused on issues, not candidates (which a lot of people seem not to get), and have very little interest in partisanship. I could even claim that I know enough about policy and am temperate enough in my positions that I could function in the White House better than the current occupant, but I don’t know how to raise money for people, or for myself. I but I know the right people to get health care to work, for example. (Do the math first.)
Then, there is the issue of the left-wing boogeyman, “inherited wealth”. Yes, I have some (from mother’s passing at the end of 2010). My use of it could be controversial, and I may not have been as generous (yet) as I should be. But I have not needed it to fund the books or blogs or websites. (I I had, that could be a problem, but that’s too much accounting detail to get into right here. But I can’t just turn into somebody else’s safety net.)
I do get prodded about other things I “should” be doing, as a “prole”, because others have to do them. Let’s say, accept “the free market cultural revolution” and prove I can hold down a minimum wage job (like in Barbara Enrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed”). My life has its own narrative, and that narrative explains my personal goals now. They’re my goals; they don’t need to be anyone else’s. I don’t need to appear on Shark Tank to justify my own “business model”. But I’m corkscrewing into a paradox: if morality is indeed about “paying your dues” before you’re heard, then it’s really not just about group solidarity.
Both sides of a polarized political debate, but especially the Left, would like to see a world where individuals are not allowed to leverage their own speech with search engines the way I have (with an “It’s Free” paradigm, after Reid Ewing’s 2012 short film, where blog postings become “free fish”), but have to march in step with larger groups that they join. Both sides want to force others to join their chorus of some mix of relative deprivation (the alt-right), or systematic oppression (the Left). Both (or two out of three) sides want mass movements (as in Eric Hoffer’s 1951 manifesto, “The True Believer”). Religious groups often follow suit, demanding people join them in proselytizing (which is what an LDS mandatory missionary assignment is all about). It is certainly personally shameful to walk in a (Charlottesville) torchlight march screaming “You shall not replace us”, but I find carrying anyone’s picket rather shameful. Other’s will tell me, get over it. Well, you get over it only if you’re on the “right” (sic) side? I won’t bargain away my own purposes.
To me, the existential threat is being forced or coerced (maybe even with expropriation) to join somebody else’s chorus, or hiding from personal responsibility behind a curtain of “systematic oppression”, to be allowed to speak at all. Some pleas for donation to political opinion sites (from both the Right and Left) make insulting, hysterical clams that only they can speak for me, as if I were impotent and had no right to my own branded voice. They want to force me to join their causes to be heard at all. It would be more honorable to become a slave on a plantation, or at least a minimum wage worker, whose turn it is now to be exploited just as he was once the undeserving exploiter, until dropping dead. And then there is no funeral.
But, you ask, why not “raise people up” in a personal way, when they knock, in a way “you” had not considered before you were so challenged. Is it up to me to make others “all right” in a personal way if others once did that for me? Maybe. But that’s entirely off line. It doesn’t seem like “accomplishment” (maybe it’s a “creative” challenge for someone who did not have his own kids). It doesn’t replace my mission of delivering my own content first.
At a personal level, I certainly believe in the western idea that every human life is sacred, and this could even be true of “non-human persons”.
But when I confront the usual arguments from the “right to life”, especially anti-abortion lobbies, I really wonder how consistent we (or “they”) are.
When I grew up, men were subjected to male-only military conscription. There was even a national security argument that conventional war capability, as in Vietnam, kept nuclear war threats at bay. With some twists, that sort of view could even apply today (as when dealing with North Korea).
There was also a deferment system. At one time that had included fathers, and Kennedy even wanted to defer men from the draft if they got married. Think of the implications: if you don’t have sexual intercourse likely to lead to fatherhood, you are personally more expendable. That makes some sense to fascist. The family deferments had been eliminated by about 1965 as the Vietnam buildup exploded, but student deferments remained until 1969, when a lottery was implemented.
Despite my own history with my own expulsion as a freshman from William and Mary in 1961 as a “latent homosexual”, I got back into the pool (partly out of shame) and was eventually moved from 4-F to 1-A. But I went to graduate school first and, as an assistant instructor in mathematics, was in a position to flunk people (which I did) and increase their exposure to the draft. When I finally was drafted myself, in 1968, I was somewhat sheltered from any deployment by my own education.
So, we had a system that decided that some men were more “valuable” than others, in which I gleefully participated. This would set up my own “conflict of interest” situation in the mid 1990s as I started my first book, largely on gays in the military (challenging the ban and “don’t ask don’t tell”), while working for a company that sold insurance specifically to military officers.
But the system of who was more valuable had shifted from “family men” to nerds with science and math backgrounds, potentially the Turing types who would protect the world from the dominoes of Communism just as it had with Fascism.
But, of course, I had grown up in a world where men were supposed to make themselves fungible to protect women and children until they had run their gauntlets and started their own families. Consider the men needed as firemen (in the days before women’s advancements) and other dangerous jobs. Sebastian Junger says he “paid his dues” as an arborist.
And we have presidents (Clinton, Obama, and now Trump) who avoided the draft or voluntary military service. And one of these presidents, Trump, is going out of his way to keep transgender people out.
But the whole system gave me a somewhat jaded value system (that is, as a matter of logic, some people are “better” than other people) of what could make people valuable to me personally. This was particularly evident in my days at NIH in 1962, right during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That value system can comport with fascism – and survivor of the fittest. But attempts to make everyone “equal” by pretense can lead to authoritarianism, too (Communism). Some people are more “equal” than others, and the leftovers tend to become “expendable” anyway. Then, you have the same idea with the Christian “Rapture” and the remaining leftovers, who fend for themselves and die off.
We come back to the determination of the anti-abortion lobby and its demands to impose its views on everyone in the name of protecting all life. It is certainly true that the sentience of the unborn seems to appear earlier than we used to think. We can note here that Roe v. Wade was decided in January 1973 (the plaintiff would later personally regret her participation), and conscription effectively ended in early 1973, shortly after the Vietnam peace plan was announced in January. However, the Selective Service system remains in place, the registration of women gets proposed, and in 1981 the Supreme Court had upheld the idea that male-only draft registration was constitutionally permissible.
I wonder if this expands to contraception. A philosopher says that someone has to exist to have rights. An unconceived baby (as opposed to unborn) sounds like an oxymoron. But family potential or future lineage might have meaning in the grand scheme of things. That’s a topic for later.
(Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 2 PM EDT)
I won’t keep up with the counter volleying of rhetoric over Trump and his apparent deferral to his base. It seems like the alt-right “started it” fully intending to become combative in Charlottesville (we need not re-enumerate all the groups) and the “Left” (just some of it) believed it needed to become combative to defend itself.
I don’t join other people’s mass movements, or become combative myself to protect other people – and yes, I don’t have my own kids so I very much resent it when others expect this of me. Part of me sees simply joining up in claiming group systemic oppression as a sign of personal weakness. If I was “better” I wouldn’t need to.
We all grow up with coercion, and how we deal with becomes a character issue.
Our parents apply coercion as we grow up, until we gradually become mature enough to accept responsibility for our own choices. At an individual level, accepting responsibility for the direct consequences of personal choices certainly form the libertarian idea of personal morality. But in a real world, it’s important to take one’s part as a member of the group – family, community, religious affiliation, cultural affinity, or country. That means sharing some of the “chores” of the group (work for which usually monetary compensation is of little or no importance), common risks, and particularly the consequences of group hostility (warfare) against the group. The plot of “Romeo and Juliet” lives at several levels.
There is tension between individualized personal responsibility, and accountability to a group. A very good example is that an individual level, we don’t want people to have children until they are ready to raise them (which usually means in a legally recognized marriage, which today could be same-sex). With some people, that will tend to result in never having children. That can be bad for the future of some groups or countries, which fear being underpopulated. This tension, over procreation, as far as I am concerned, has always been at the heart of coercive behavior by many religions and many governments (now days, generally non-Western) against homosexuals and transgender. Part of the issue is that until more recent times, most cultures perceived it was important that most people perform according to their biological genders, including the capacity of males, becoming combative and fungible when necessary, to protect the women and children in the tribe – its genetic future. Consider how this plays out with our history with the military draft and controversy today over whether women should be required to register for Selective Service (or whether there should be conscription at all.) In those days, personal “cowardice” (a somewhat dying concept) had a distinctly physical aspect. Today, childless people still have to take care of aging parents (even more so as people live longer with falling birthrates), and often wind up raising siblings’ children.
All of this winds up being experienced as coercion – what you have to do, because if you don’t, someone else will have to take the risk and possibly make the sacrifice. So rather than dividing people into subgroups according to various abilities, we tend to judge everyone on one continuum, or at least I did. I would say that in “Gone with the Wind“, Scarlet O’Hara has to deal with coercion, but “you” can be offended because her slaves had needed to deal with so much more, as indeed they had.
But as I moved into adulthood, I moved into different groups. In the mid 1970s, as I entered my thirties in New York City, that group was the Ninth Street Center in New York City (the East Village), now the Paul Rosenfels Community. I would tend to cherry pick the people I met for those who satisfied my need for “upward affiliation”. That would irritate or disappoint some others. In fact, the whole idea of personal growth seemed to revolve around an existential challenge that we called “creativity”, which in turn meant learning new ways to care about and provide for other people (including, sometimes, of other races, or those who were much less glamorous or even much less intact) without the obvious catalyst of conventional sexual excitement and then sexual intercourse leading to having one’s own children, who would become “the” dependents. It was caring without an obvious personal lineage. Yet, what I sometimes experienced in the group was “coercion”. In any group, there are those in charge. There is volunteer work to be done (like washing dishes after those Saturday night potluck suppers, in the days when there was no escape from the smoke), in order to share one’s portion of the physical labor of the group.
As I move further into adult life, I became, somewhat, the Pharisee, the watcher, and recorder, being effective politically without having to run for anything or ask for money – ironically that sometimes seems as “Dangerous” (Milo-speak) as conventional partisan bickering. Yes, the capability to do this could be yanked away from me by extreme legislation or perhaps direct hostility. I see that as coercion. People have hinted, with some breath of a threat, “Why don’t you shut up and shut down online, and then volunteer for us?” Well, if I didn’t have my own mission and own message (other than letting a group be my voice) I wouldn’t be effective as a volunteer (particularly to remedy claimed systemic group oppression and victimization). But, I could be forced to, unexpectedly and unforeseeably, perhaps. Then maybe I have no choice to work for “you” in order to “live”. That kind of bargaining with my life, starting perhaps with a knock on the door, is coercion.
So then we come back to some of the more dangerous issues today for the whole country – nuclear weapons, safety of the power grid. Also, civil disorder (which, yes, was most recently perpetrated by the radical right) and terrorism from various sources, by no means always Islamist. The end result is that anyone can be placed into a situation of subservience and helplessness by the “coercion” of another or others. Anyone can wind up housed in a shelter by the Red Cross or other charity. Anyone can experience expropriation and be forced to learn how “the others” have to live, suddenly. The fact is, it is the individuals in a country who bear the ultimate consequences (and therefore “responsibility”) of what their politicians do, even if those consequences are delivered by ISIS or by Kim Jong Un. In that sense, anyone is a potential conscript or combatant. That’s why I see “victimhood” as so ugly (nothing to be proud of) and I call it “casualty-hood” and yet to survive it and rise again, from whatever station in life events place you, seems so essential to resilience and to future generations, if we are to have a future at all.
And, yet, I believe in civilization. I believe in law and order. But there are a few grave threats (like the power grid issue, which I have covered here before) that we must solve (without partisanship) if we are not to leave the world to the doomsday preppers. I would have nothing to contribute to the world depicted in NBC’s series “Revolution”. Don’t ask me to stick around for it.
My own perception of the greatest external threats to “my world” seems fickle and to change over time, sometimes suddenly.
When I was writing and editing my “Do Ask, Do Tell I” book in the mid 1990s (July 11, 2011 will be the 20th anniversary of publication) and building my arguments about how to lift the ban on gays in the military, I perceived another war in Korea as the most likely threat. At the time, I was not really aware of the potentially grave threat to the homeland that radical Islam (then in the form of Al Qaeda) could pose, as 9/11 was still several years out. I had been aware of the economic consequences of oil embargos since the 1970s, but that threat had receded with the oil gluts of the late 80s (with a real estate recession in Texas, where I had been living).
Indeed, until 9/11, I still believed Communism, or post-Communism (which North Korea exemplifies, although with a bizarre royal history) the biggest threat. And, indeed, where the biggest threat within Communism lay had changed with time. I remember a day at the Reception Station in US Army Basic Combat Training in Fort Jackson SC in early 1968 where soldiers were saying it was much safer to go to Korea than to Vietnam. At that time, it was. It would not be now, as Korea is a flash point (with the whole of South Korea held hostage), whereas Vietnam is a more or less acceptable country. (I wouldn’t move there, but Anthony Bourdain had a good time there on his “Parts Unknown”.) And although the Vietnam War got discredited with time, in the middle 1960s the “Domino Theory” to which President Johnson subscribed (and which Nixon had to solve by a fractured “peace with honor”) seemed credible enough to many of us, leading to the 1965 documentary “The War Game”. Much of the argumentation in my first book regarding the military gay ban (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) referred back to earlier controversies over the male-only military draft and the possibility of “getting out of things” (as my own mother’s moral language put it) with student deferments. It turned out, over time, that this unusual argument would be more effective than many people (who had forgotten the draft) expected Discussions of resuming the draft (partly at the instigation of Charles Moskos) ignited again after 9/11. They still go on, with a recent proposal to include women in Selective Service registration.
How serious is the threat to “average Americans”? I’ve put together a few links in mainstream sources that analyze the risks and policy choices.
A few general observations are in order. One is that there is still some residual controversy over whether the July 4 test represented a true ICBM or an intermediate range device. But the best intelligence suggests that the missile comprised two stages, with the upper stage a new design. ICBM’s have two to four stages. Another observation is that North Korea is making much faster progress with missile technology than had been expected even a yea ago. Still, DPRK would face tremendous challenges guiding a missile all the way to the continental US (as Tom Foreman has explained on CNN). And the DPRK does have nuclear weapons, but miniaturizing them to fit on ICBM’s will still be a major feat. Still, the acceleration of DPRK’s progress is alarming. It sounds conceivable that an ICBM nuclear threat to the US west coast could exist as early as 2019. It’s not clear from media reports (and from classification of information) just how effective NORAD would be at stopping a missile, although there have been successful defensive tests recently.
In the meantime, North Korea can hold civilians in South Korea and even Japan hostage with its current weaponry.
North Korea’s motive is said to provide a deterrent from American attempts to upend the regime of Kim Song Un, who (like his father) is well aware of what happened to Qadaffi and Saddam Hussein. Fox News may well call North Korea a mob state (“mobocracy”) that will do anything to survive as a mob family. But Un seems particularly sensitive to personal insults (as is Donald Trump, ironically). There is evidence of the DPRK’s engagement of computer hackers (sending its own prime to school for this) even to punish western private companies like Sony Pictures (“The Interview”). Could this extend to western private citizens? Could he throw a tantrum and release a missile over an insult, despite his desire to “survive” obvious retaliation?
There is still another disturbing wrinkle. Wednesday night, July 5, former CIA director James Woolsey appeared on Don Lemon’s show on CNN at 10 PM EDT and reiterated his claim that North Korea can launch an EMP attack against the US now from a satellite and has been able to do so since 2013. Woolsey said that Trump is naïve about the real threat at that the ICBM issue really is superfluous. I had covered this grim possibility in a posting here March 7. Many other authorities consider this claim largely discredited, however.
Anthony Cordesman, however, this morning suggested on CNN that Trump could consider a limited military strike including an EMP attack on North Korea (which does not require nuclear weapons for more local effects). But if North Korea has EMP attack capabilities from a satellite now, wouldn’t that invite an EMP attack on the U.S., as catastrophic retaliation (“One Second After”). DPRK could even retaliate this way to a private insult (the Warmbier tragedy is indeed a dire warning). I have no idea whether NORAD can disable or remove a hostile foreign satellite.
Of course, all of this brings up the question of civilian disaster preparedness and even “radical hospitality”. I see a lot of material from doomsday preppers on Facebook all the time, on topics ranging from “bug-out” locations to sewing skills (especially from “Survival Mom”). I’m personally an existentialist when it comes to these matters, and I won’t get further into the personal moralizing today. I do think an issue like this calls into question a kind of “rich young ruler problem”, about putting all of one’s own life into orderly civilization and depending on it.
But another question comes up, why does an amateur blogger like me even dare to touch a subject like this. Blogs are supposed to help people with specifics, so says Blogtyrant. A lot of people see this kind of posting as rude, because most people believe they can’t do anything about external global catastrophes anyway (although they will march in climate change demonstrations, before returning to their identity politics). My own life as an individual, however, has always been on the precipice of being affected by major events. True, it may be related to my aversion to unwelcome personal interdependence. More about that later.
I do think there are a few issues where the media has totally missed the boat, and not out of desire to spread fake news or support political correctness. Power grid security is one of the biggest of the issues, and the conservative media companies (like Sinclair Broadcasting) seem closer to covering it right.
There were two developments during my own childhood and adolescence that established “who I am”. They seem intrinsic and deep-rooted, and set up a paradox that affects everything else These evolutions deal with music and sexuality.
I started taking piano in third grade, in February 1952, when we got a Kimball console piano. That’s gone, and now replaced by a (much lighter and more portable) 88-key Casio, which hooks to Sibelius (on the MacBook) for composition and really is pretty good as to tone and dynamics and pedal. In fact, I need to up my skills in using these tools to really make my compositions interesting to professionals.
I don’t remember “why” I wanted to take piano. But once I started, it seems to install my identity. I don’t have a specific past-life recollection, but it seemed to make my existence indefinite, preceding my birth and even conception (in 1942).
I started composing around age 12, leaving to a series of works of increasing complexity as I’ve documented on my “media reviews” blog (here). My esthetic relation to music was one of submission to a certain experience of feeling. I progressed quickly up through high school, winning some awards in festival concerts.
I had an old RCA record player in the basement, that tracked heavy (at 10 grams). Slowly I accumulated some mono records of major works. By 10th grade or so, I became conscious of the “chills and fever” effect of the way some romantic works ended, particularly piano concertos and symphonies. The formula for a big cyclic work in a minor key was to end in the Picardy major with a triumphant “big tune”. I think the first work that introduced this experience to me was Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, Op. 18, in C Minor. (Today, I like the more subtle Third, Op. 30) better.) I learned a few of the Op. 32 Preludes, including the triumphant D-flat Major prelude that concludes the set. The other work that introduced me to this experience at first was Grieg’s A Minor Piano Concerto.
I remember much better my relation to music as a young adult, starting about the time of the William and Mary Expulsion (well documented in my books) in 1961. I attempted a couple large works, including a Third Sonata which I started over the winter 1961-1962 before reentering college at GWU. I more or less have an “acceptable” manuscript in pieces (a lot of it in Sibelius) today, as I have spent more time on it in the past two years (on the Finale).
During that “terrible” hiatus at home after the Expulsion, I did get a recording of Bruno Walter’s performance of the 3-movement form of Anton Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. I’ve discussed completion versions, especially Letocart’s, elsewhere, but one interesting detail was that the first side split the Scherzo in the middle of what Letocart calls the “Hallelujah” theme. The record player cartridge and stylus had deteriorated, leading to inner-groove distortion of that theme. I could not earn my own money yet, and my father resisted spending money on music when I couldn’t and needed to pay for college. Nevertheless, it got fixed, and I had a VM stereo in the fall of 1962. Getting used to multiple speakers and then stereo (with all the problems of inferior players and record wear back then) provided a new level or aesthetic “submission”, especially with a few Mahler Symphonies and then Beethoven’s Ninth. Throughout most of my working adult life, I collected records, then cassettes, and then CD’s, and still do buy CD’s of emerging artists. But in recent years, like everyone else, I’ve gotten used to playing classical music on YouTube or from the Cloud. But the conclusion of the Bruckner Ninth would create a personal irony (as demonstrated in a short film that Letocart provides) which I would in outlining the conclusion to my own Sonata.
One aspect of this whole experience was that “aesthetic submission” provided what seemed like access to real feeling, and made relationships (dating, courtship, marriage, parenthood) seem like an afterthought, a totally privatized experience, with “different stroke for different folks”. I can link all this up to the Polarity Theory of Pail Rosenfels and the Ninth Street Center, which, as a “subjective feminine”, I’ve already discussed elsewhere.
But the other big “development” that filled in my identity would be sexuality, particularly homosexuality. I started “noticing” men gradually, but I was quite aware of my sensitivity on these matters of proper male body image probably by age 12 or so. There would be a few small incidents over the years that would reinforce this impression. But at age 18, in August 1961, when I was with a particular companion to whom I felt attracted, I felt extreme arousal. I don’t want to be graphic here (I’ll stay in PG-13 territory) but the event was transformative for me. The other person did not “respond” but I would have gone through with it if he had. I found that experience of “getting excited by …” could happen in certain other situations that ordinarily imply losing or submission Later, as I was in my adult life in the 1973-1975, becoming fully “human” with that “true” first experience became quite a preoccupation but it would happen. I would of course gradually learn about heterosexual passion intellectually, but my father’s prediction that “one day blue eyes will confuse you” seemed irrelevant to defining me, beside the point.
What seems remarkable about the sexuality is that it was stimulated, ironically, by conservative values. I was attracted to young men who “had it all” I saw undisturbed maleness as a “virtue” with almost religious passion. I viewed the prospect of what could happen to young men’s bodies in war, or from disease, or eventual aging, as desecration. I actually viewed with contempt the rare male (in those days who make a spectacle of gender bending or today’s “gender fluidity”. I needed to believe in my idol to be able to experience sexual pleasure at all, even in a fantasy mode. This counteracts the practical need for emotional resilience needed in marriage, where a partner needs to remain intimate even if the other person has a physical calamity, whether from war, terror, crime, disease, or just growing old. This pattern also undermines getting personal satisfaction out of interacting with cognitively distant people in need, as through intense volunteerism.
Therefore, I tended to look at people very critically. An close connection with someone who had “issues” could not be emotionally important to me. This seems to bear on areas that Milo Yiannopoulos, in particular, has taken up in his tirades about, for example. “fat shaming” Complicating the picture is that I grew up in (in practical terms) a racially segregated society. My ideas of “desirability” for erotic “upward affiliation” pertained much more readily to white males than any other (“people of color”).
This has a bearing on any sense of belonging today. It’s much easier to find real meaning in helping others if you “belong” to groups, and it’s easier to “belong” if you go through the socialization of courtship and conventional marriage and becoming a biological parent first. Becoming a parent upends upward affiliation, and makes the experience of having others depend on you real and valuable,, But you have to be open to intimacy (“the family bed”) under mutable circumstances and sometimes externally imposed hardships. I was not. It sounds a little cowardly of me. One eternal consequence is that I have no lineage, and, as an only child, neither do my parents; it dead-ends with me.
There were other factors that indeed rounded out my sense of identity. I had a certain fascination with “abstract geography” and a sense of elevation and place (as when I took up hiking later in my teen years) as a grounding in science. I also relished the mathematical abstractions of competitive chess, as if that were an oxymoron; chess games seemed to map to “real” team sports. (The map is probably cleaner to American football than to baseball or even European soccer, because in NFL football, the defense can score points.) That led me to one experience of group affiliation, rooting for a baseball team, who were the various incarnations of the Washington Senators (Twins, Rangers, Expos, Nats), with that horrible 18-game losing streak in the summer of 1959 (and that blown 7-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in Boston in `1961, right after high school graduation). I would skip out on Tribunals but “take one for the team” a little bit when I was finally drafted, after graduate school, in 1968. I would make a sacrifice, incurring slight hearing loss and tinnitus in the right ear from my experience on the rifle range at Fort Jackson. Even today, as shown on a recent Sinclair News Channel 8 discussion (“Government Matters”) it’s not clear that the “need” for conscription (probably gender neutral) can’t come back (and in my mind this always had a bearing on “don’t ask don’t tell”).
The whole conscription and student deferment issue was the moral issue of my own coming of age. In my own mind, it connected to the idea of “station in life” (as intrinsic and not necessarily equal to everyone else’s) and “right-sizing”. Grades were my currency during my youth, which was actually an eventful, rich time. But I had to succeed in school to have a legitimate and honorable place in the world and not simply become a fungible sacrifice for someone else’s tribal agenda.
Alyssa Rosenberg today, in the Washington Post, relates how overt “submission” to art and sexual imagery attracts terrorists as “idol worship” and apostasy, in her column “Why terrorists attack concert halls” concerning the Manchester attack on May 22 (and earlier attacks, especially Paris). Ii think you could add comments about alienation of certain young men who feel wired into brotherhood and tribal behavior. Along these lines, look at a recent columnby David Brooks on how democratic capitalism (so good for me) has failed “them” and made me seem like an enemy to them.
On Vox, Sean Illing takes up these issues with an interview with Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky, “Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Worst and Best”.
It’s a vague and general principle in the insurance business that some activities are more readily underwritten when there is outside, third-party supervision of the endeavors.
That gets to be testy when the aim is to help others.
I wrote my three books and developed my websites and blogs without supervision. The lack of peer supervision was actually an issue back in the Summer of 2001 when I was turned down for a renewal of a “media perils” individual policy that National Writers Union was selling as an intermediary.
Yes, I took some risks, and I probably knew what I was doing better than a lot of amateur writers, with regard to areas like copyright and defamation. I did become infatuated with the implications of my own narrative, which are considerable. I did look forward to the fame, or at least notoriety. But was I helping anyone?
Well, the central topic of the first book was “gays in the military,” and in fact I knew a number of the servicemembers fighting the ban (and the old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy) well, at least by correspondence. I would not have desired a romantic relationship with any or many of them, but I did feel legitimately connected in some personal way. I think I helped, although indirectly. My staying in the debate for so many years in the search engines did help make the final repeal in 2010-2011 more likely.
But I also had made some unusual arguments. They were based in part on accepting the idea of duty, of the necessity for shared sacrifice and resilience. Specifically, I talked about the Vietnam era military draft and my own experience with it, and about the idea that it was still possible to reinstate it. I recalled all too well the controversy over student deferments, implied cowardice, and the connection between risk and vulnerability.
I’ve thought about the “duty” concept in connection to the need for refugees and asylum seekers for assistance, sometimes very personalized. One idea that comes through in discussions, especially with lawyers, that anyone offering hosting or major support should have some third-party supervision. That usually would come from a social services agency, or possibly a faith-based group, as well sometimes local or state agencies. Of course, the capacity of individuals to offer this has become muddled by Donald Trump and all his flailing and failing travel bans. The desirable supervision is much better established in Canada (and some European countries) where sponsorship comes with some legally-driven responsibilities comparable, say, to foster care. In the United States, given the political climate, the volume of people assisted is lower, and the risk or cost, whatever that is, gets spread out among more people. The situation is even murkier for asylum seekers than for refugees, since their access to benefits and work permission is less, as has been explained here before.
I don’t yet know how this will turn out for me, but I agree that any adherence to “duty” would require some supervision. So, I am fussier with this than I was with the risk management for my own writing. But what about the people? True, I don’t feel personally as connected to the people in this situation as I was with the military issue. I have to admit that I have led a somewhat sheltered life. For most of my adult life, the “system” has actually worked for me, and I have been associated with others who more or less play by the rules and benefit from doing so. Since retiring, I’ve seen that the interpersonal aspects of need do bring on a certain culture shock. The system simply does not work for a lot of poorer people, who sometimes find that they have no reason to play by the same rules, but who do tie into social capital. The system also fails “different” people, some not as well off as “Smallville‘s” teen Clark Kent. I can understand duty (accompanying “privilege”), but the meaning expected to be attached to helping others in a much more personal way is rather alien to me.
The whole question of housing refugees and asylum seekers (and I’ll even limit the scope of this remark to assuming “legal” presence in the U.S.) fits into a bigger idea about social resilience and radical hospitality, most of all for those (like me) with “accidentally” inherited property. I do recall that after Hurricane Katrina there was a call for helping to house people in other states (sometimes in homes, sometimes with relatives). Even though most people want to be near their homes to rebuild after disaster, this sort of need (a kind of “emergency bnb” lower-case) could come back again after earthquakes or major terror strikes or even a hostile attack (North Korea is starting to look really dangerous). In the worst cases, the nation’s survival could depend on it.
It’s important to keep up with the outside world. Generally, throughout my adult life, I’ve often gotten feedback from some people who say they don’t need to get scary news from the political world from me (unless it’s about their own tiny bubble).
As I’ve noted here before, I don’t necessarily rush to elevate every victim in every marginalized group, including my own. I have to agree with Peter Thiel, speaking at the DNC, that LGBTQ people have more pressing issues that bathroom bills – although I have to say that North Carolina’s recent HB2 “repeal”, under pressure from the NBA, is a bit of “bait and switch”, even in the language of Barbara Ehrenreich. In fact, major league sports have recently become the :GBTQ community’s ally out of self-interest. Major League Baseball, for example, though it has very few if any openly gay players right now, knows it eventually will have them. It is quite credible, for example, to imagine a transgender person as a relief pitcher or “closer” for a pennant winning team. (And one wonders about big league sports and the rare cis females who happen to able to play.)
Over history, collective security for a country or a group is a big influence on respect for individual rights. Whatever our internal squabble, a common enemy or peril can force us to come together. We found that out suddenly after 9/11 (which I do think Al Gore would have prevented).
While Donald Trump has first stated that ISIS is our most dangerous enemy (because of its unusual asymmetry and targeting of civilians). Trump has gotten a rude awakening (“foreign policy by ‘Whiplash’”, complete with Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons) from Assad’s chemical attack on his own people this week, and may suddenly realize how dangerous it is to remain bedfellows with Vladimir Putin.
it’s quickly becoming apparent that our most existential threat may indeed come from North Korea (whom we got a rude shock from in cyberspace over the Seth Rogen and James Franco movie “The Interview”). This morning, on p. A14 of the Washington Post, Anna Fifled has a frightening and detailed article, “Does North Korea have a missile that can hit the U.S.? If not, it will”. Online the title is more blunt. “Will North Korea fire a missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland? Probably.”
The article goes into the technical challenges of actually directing a nuclear warhead thousands of miles. But North Korea is making progress faster than we had thought.
The article does play down the satellite EMP risk discussed here earlier (March 6). There’s a valid question as to whether NORAD would find and intercept such a missile (My classified computer programming job in 1971-1972 in the Washington Navy Yard was about just such capability. ) Fifield notes that it may be harder for US spy satellites to spot the missiles as they become mobile on the ground. And a pre-emptive first strike against North Korea would invoke the obvious problem of making South Korea an instant target (as well as Japan). This is no time for the president of the United States to have an adversarial relationship with his own intelligence services.
It’s also a time to ponder national resilience again, at a personal level. I am not a member of the doomsday prepper crowd, although I have several Facebook friends who are. There is something reassuring about being able to take care of yourself (with guns, and your family (with firearms if necessary), and property, in a world suddenly radically changed by “Revolution”. I can see how some people (mostly on the far right, to be sure) see this as a component of personal morality.
There is some debate as to whether DPRK can threaten all of the US (by Great Circle routes) or “only” Alaska, Hawaii, and the West Coast. But imagine life with Silicon Valley and Tinseltown gone. (I’m reminded of the second “Red Dawn” film particularly, as well as “Testament“). After Hurricane Katrina (and just before Sandy) there was some discussion of “radical hospitality”, as to whether ordinary homeowners with some extra space should prepare themselves to house strangers after a catastrophe. The idea has obviously come up in Europe with the migrant crisis, less so in the US (but somewhat in Canada). As I’ve noted here before, the idea can be tested with asylum seekers (and it hasn’t gotten very far yet).
I’d mention here that a bill to require women to register for Selective Service has passed he Senate, quietly. A prepper friend posted this on Facebook.
Update: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 6:30 PM EDT
Consider this recentpiece in the April 11, 2017 of Time Magazine about loose radiocactive waste in the former USSR and possible terrorist “dirty bombs”. Victims in an incident could be too “hot” to treat, and then there is real estate whose value goes to zero, a definite attack on the rentier class. Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative(with some recent articles about North Korea including charts and timetables) warned about all this in the 45-minute 2005 film “The Last Best Chance“.
I wanted to pull together some threads of animosity in today’s multi-polarized climate over many issues, with all the rancor surrounding Donald Trump’s election and presidency.
A key concept seems to be resentment of “elitism”. David Masciaostra has a piece in Salon on Nov. 20, “’Real Americans’ v. ‘Coastal Elites’”. The tone of the piece reminds me of a drill sergeant, when I arrived at Tent City at Fort Jackson SC during 1968 Basic Combat Training, saying I had “too much education”. Others in the barracks regarded me as a “do nothing” or dead wire when it came to risk of pain and sacrifice. Salon mentions people wanting a leader who can talk in middle school language, or “talk that way”. Voters want respect for “real life” (as my mother called it); they see elites as spectators and critics who don’t put their own skin in the game. And some voters seem way to gullible in their response to authority that can get them what they think they want, whatever it costs others; and these voters actually believe that everything that matters in life happens through a chain of command, even within a family.
I could mention a related issue right away: modern society’s unprecedented dependence on technological infrastructure. Trump hasn’t talked about it this way, but Bannon ought to be paying attention to taking care of the power grids, especially, as I have often written here before. Along those likes, I thought I would share a New York Post piece on teen digital addiction. Remember 60 years ago, middle school teachers screamed, “Read, don’t watch television”. And in those days we had only black and white.
The “real life” person doesn’t trust what disconnected intellectuals write, so the “real lifer” doesn’t think it’s important to listen to arguments about pollution or climate change. The lifer knows that she can’t afford Obamacare premiums, but has no concept of how the policy changes promised to her by huckerizing politicians could make things worse for her or for a lot of other people. Lost. By the way, in the argument about health care, is the total lack of transparency in pricing (the GOP is right about this). But the “lifer”, with her anti-intellectualism, ignores a moral precept: that looking after the planet for future generations matters. Yet, it’s only been the last few decades that we’ve come to see that as a moral idea, even given our preoccupation with “family values” – and lineage. It’s ironic that the cultural, even gender-sexist moral arguments of the past flourished in a time of higher birthrates and shorter life spans, when filial piety and taking care of our elders hadn’t become the issue it is today.
Policy problems are often presented in moral terms, but we actually tend to get used to a status quo without asking why things need to be the way they are. If we did have single payer health care (like Canada), it would become the expected public safety net, and unreasonable demands on families or of volunteerism would no longer have a place at the “morality” table. Bernie Sanders is right about this. But other status quos in the past have been “bad”. We accepted homophobia without understanding why other adults’ private lives needed to be our business. We had a male-only military draft, and a hierarchy of forced risk-taking for the country. It took a long time to change these.
We also get used to begging from politicians in terms of groups and identity politics. That works better with “vertical” groups – long, well-established common identities that policy is used to addressing. These include nationality, religious affiliation, and race, and sometimes economic groups like labor and workers. Groups associated with gender issues and sometimes disability tend to be more “horizontal” as members appear in all the vertical groupings, causing divided loyalties. They intrinsically take longer for partisan political processes to handle. Differentiating “chosen” behavior and inheritance (or immutability) becomes much murkier. “Middle school kids” have a hard time disconnecting this from religion because of “anti-intellectualism”.
We also see appeals to become personally connected to people, as online, as transcending the barriers of the past, but still colored by “identity politics” and a tendency to entangle legitimate individualism with a sense of automatic entitlement to attention from others. We gradually learn that as we distance ourselves from our groups of origin (often families), we find their replacements (even a “resistance”) just as demanding in loyalty and obedience.
All of this leads me to pose the question, “How is the individual who perceives himself/herself as different really supposed to behave?” Maybe not the Pharisee that I became, who wants to be recognized for his original content, but doesn’t seem to care “about” individuals who can’t distinguish themselves.
First, Donald Trump’s erratic behavior after winning the election does worry me – making statements (in “Twitter storms”) that would ignore Supreme Court rulings (flag burning), complaining about “illegal voting” without apparent factual evidence. Some of the people he courts seem to be “science deniers” and have ties with extreme positions on a number of issues (race, LGBT) in the past, even if some of these people claim their views have changed somewhat with the times.
I can even understand the preoccupation some people have with “family” or “tribal” loyalty, with the “take care of your own first” idea, and with respect for authority, and the idea that a lot of people who complain or protest are moochers or “second-handers” (to borrow a term from Ayn Rand in “The Fountainhead”) looking for attention. I’ve leave all that aside for now.
I do share some of Trump’s concerns over national security, even the idea that the nation is in some peril (as the Washington Post characterized his speech at the GOP convention in Cleveland). I would want to make “infrastructure” great again – but I would focus much more on some specific areas (like power grid security) and in general, would develop ways to make renewable energy use profitable and cost-effective. I think that a progressive attitude on climate change is actually good for business and jobs.
I also share Trump’s concerns over the Left’s obsession with identity politics, and elevating victimhood, which I personally don’t find honorable.
So if I were the president-elect, I could make strong statements on some of these issues, without suggesting retaliation against opponents or critics, and without showing disrespect for the Constitution, and without baiting various racial, religious or gender-issue-associated groups. Both parties would be fine with what I would say, especially the GOP mainstream. And, yes, there are some things seriously wrong with the way Obamacare works now, and it hurts some people.
Before getting to foreign policy in this post, I want visitors to look at Christiane Amanpour’s speech about the developing threat to journalism. I also want to call attention to the hard-hitting journalism by Trey Yingst of OAN, with a story about him here . Yingst has done some live discussions on Facebook about the carnage of civilians in Aleppo.
Washington Post editor Martin Baron has a major op-ed in Vanity Fair on the crisis, His advice: do our jobs.
Margaret Sullivan talks about “access” and “accountability” forms of journalism and then says “Get over it, journalists, and then adapt.”But access journalism, as she defines it, would seem to violate objectivity (if you have to “join the team” first to have access — that’s a problem with bloggers and volunteer groups).
And to the best of my knowledge, it appears that most of the carnage seems to come from Assad, and maybe Russia, claiming to eliminate terrorists. But in much of the rest of Syria and in northern Iraq, of course, ISIS is responsible for all the atrocities and carnage.
At this point, it’s appropriate to note that Donald Trump’s planned foreign policy seems to emphasize eliminating ISIS rather than also opposing Assad, or opposing Russian intervention in former Soviet republics. NBC News has a good summary here. Another source is the WSJ, here. RT claims that opposing Assad would jeopardize US-Russia relations, here, but RT is a Russian site, so you expect that.
Trump seems focused on ISIS because of the asymmetry of the way ISIS seems to be encouraging its followers to target civilians at home in western countries, through social media (especially Twitter) recruiting and the “Dark Web”. ISIS is effectively treating civilians in western countries, including the US, as combatants who bear the moral hazard of what their government does, and exposure to sacrifice. It’s a kind of thinking that recalls to me my own journey with the Vietnam era draft, and the privilege of escaping the risk-sharing through student deferments. It brings back a style of moral thinking of a half century ago when physical cowardice was viewed as a mortal sin.
So Trump can reasonably claim he is protecting individual citizens’ lives from personal peril by emphasizing ISIS, instead of the more distant and conventional threats posed by Russia and particular North Korea.
Along these lines, the latest information about the Ohio State perpetrator, Abdul Azak Ali-Artan is particularly disturbing, as in this CNN story. Artan seems to be a “second generation” refugee, whose mother and sisters were fully vetted by DHS and State before he came to the US with a green card in 2014 from Pakistan, having fled Somalia (one of the world’s most lawless places – “Black Hawk Down”, in 2007). It will be of concern to see if Artan was himself recruited first on “amateur” social media (or searchable websites) here, or if his radical views had come from living in Pakistan. I’ve covered how Trump is likely to view this on Nov. 7 and 27. Breitbart has pointed to material on Vocativ covering ISIS claims and training videos. Indeed, if social media and user-generated content platforms are being “weaponized” by foreign enemies, from a legal and constitutional viewpoint, this can be a grim development for the future of everyday Internet speech as we know it,
Can Trump “constitutionally” censor or shut down what is going on? I’ve covered some of this before, but the idea that American civilians are being drawn into war as combatants sounds, to me at least, like a good theoretical (“war time“) justification which most Internet users in the US would not really grasp yet. Trump seems to believe (as do I) that you take “real enemies” seriously at their word. After the Paris 11/13 attacks, the FCC said it does not have the authority to shut down ISIS or terror-promoting websites, as in this article in The Hill (Note the analysis below of the weak infrastructure for reporting outages.) Information on how to build pipe or pressure cooker bombs, flux weapons and even nuclear devices has abounded in published books even before there was a widely used public Internet (the “library” where “It’s Free”). Remember the liability that Paladin Press incurred for one of its books, “Hit Man” (Wiki) – that didn’t need the Internet. France has tried to make it a crime to visit terror websites, an activity that would normally be hidden with SSL and use of https (Reuters story ), and which Electronic Frontier Foundation will say a lot about. Nevertheless, one can imagine the idea of making “possession” of certain terror-related materials a crime on par with possessing (and distributing) child pornography. Precise definition would be a problem (we are not Russia).
As someone who has followed some of the “doomsday prepper” crowd on Facebook, with all the talk of TEOTWAYKI, I would think that more emphasis on the bigger threats (as opposed to loan wolves) is appropriate. Trump is critical of Obama’s deal with Iran, but some on the right (even Newt Gingrich) think that Iran would be the most likely foreign power to try a mass EMP attack like what happens in “One Second After” (which NORAD might stop). North Korea seems to be accelerating its belligerence with its nuclear weapons program. In the past, some observers have claimed that North Korea would be able to reach northern Michigan through the Great Circle route with a nuclear-armed missile. Now CNN recently reported that such a missile could reach Washington DC within four years. And Kim Jong Un, who can throw a tantrum over a Seth Rogen and James Franco movie (“The Interview”), probably will do something provocative on Trump’s first day on office. And Trump could reach with the red button himself, without preparation. Here’s a recent article in FP about US Missile Defenses. The Daily Caller has a map (Feb. 2016) showing the claimed range of the Taepo Dong 3 as 13000 kilometers, encompassing the entire US. Of course, a long range missile could be contemplated as a high-altitude EMP blast over the middle of the US, and there is a good question as to whether NORAD (Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado — “War Games“) would stop it from ever getting here.
(Posted Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 at 5:43 PM EST)
P.S. (later tonight) Check the New Yorker article today, by Monchillo, “The Hand of ISIS at Ohio State“. That article links to a pdf image of Rumiyah, which ironically has an illustrated page on “character”, not as David Brooks defines it. If you look up “Rumiyah” (“Rome”) on Google, you don’t find a direct site (maybe blocked) but you find foreign server sites with various spellings (Trend Micro hasn’t rated them, but it would warn on any it gets around to visiting). I tried one on an iPhone (waiting for a movie to start) and it required login. I could say that the magazine is rather like porn, or it is like an explicit slasher horror movie that’s “bad for you” if you’re young and impressionable. If taken out of religious context, it’s just the kind of stuff most parents don’t want their kids to see, and some filters would take it out. That takes us back to the kind of debate we had with the CDA and COPA. We’ve been in this place before, talking about 11/13 in Paris, Santa Barbara, and Pulse.