Thinking, Fast and Slow; The Baby in the Well; and Travel Bans

Epilogue


10 February 2017 

The affair with the White House list adds to my suspicion that part of the reason we *even got to where we are now with a travel ban, is not only:

(a) a disproportionate fear stoked by terror (i.e. the acts of terror succeeded), but also 

(b) the belief in the nature of that terror being “the West v the Rest” (being a direct result of a bias from believing that What You See Is All There Is)

First (a), then (b), then someone (40-plus percent of Americans polled) thinks a travel ban targeting “the Rest” is a rational, even necessary, response to a perceived problem.

See, Katie Mettler, “What’s largely and glaringly missing from Trump’s list of terrorist attacks: Non-Western victims“, The Washington Post, February 7, 2017:

“What the data show is that a vast majority of terrorist attacks — about 98 percent between 2001 and 2015 — occurred outside the United States and Western Europe, even if the White House’s list and rhetoric may suggest otherwise.

“658 people were killed in 46 attacks in Europe and the Americas. During that same time period, 28,031 people died in 2,063 attacks in the rest of the world.

“Among the deadliest attacks noted in the analysis were a suicide bombing that killed 292 in Baghdad, an attack by Murle tribesman that killed 208 in Ethiopia and the downing of a Russian airliner by an explosive device that killed 224 people, almost all of them Russian.

“The only one mentioned on the White House’s list was the airline crash.

“The list also left out the massacre of more than 140 civilians by Islamic State militants in the Syrian border city Kobane in June 2015. It marked one of the terrorist group’s deadliest assaults on civilians since it declared a caliphate in the region the year before.

“The death toll in the West tends to be lower most of the time, but the coverage the West gets is an order of magnitude larger,” Mohamad Bazzi, a journalism professor at New York University and former Middle East bureau chief for Newsday, told FiveThirtyEight.”

… Bazzi told FiveThirtyEight that it was “sidebars and human features and profiles of the victims and all the associated stories” about the Paris attacks that separated its coverage from that of the other equally deadly incidents around that same time period.

“It’s that imbalance of reporting that Monica Guzmán,  vice chair of the ethics committee at the Society of Professional Journalists, told FiveThirtyEight reporters they should be aware of.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/07/whats-largely-and-glaringly-missing-from-trumps-list-of-terrorist-attacks-non-western-victims/?
See, 4 June 2017

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-06-04/trump-seizes-on-london-attack-as-leverage-in-travel-ban-case?



January 12, 2017

(original post)
If we were to try and understand the nature of a conflict, I’d imagine we would want to go where that conflict is the most intense. We’d be looking for the epicenter, which lays perpendicular and above the “hypocenter,” or focus, to trace the a fault line from the peripheries back to the source.
In that case, the epicenter of militant Islamism is not Berlin, San Bernardino, Nice, or even Istanbul. The epicenter is either Baghdad, where the Abbasid Caliph ruled from 750-1258, or Damascus, where the Umayyads preceded the Abbasids from 661-750. Last summer alone, 292 were killed in a single Baghdad car bomb – more than the total of San Bernardino, Orlando, Nice, Berlin, Istanbul, combined.
The latter tragedies spawned multi-hued Facebook profile photos to declare we were (je suis) French, or together with Orlando, or one with Berlin. Those photos, by exclusion, essentially say, we are (nous sommes) “the West”, and it is through this prejudice (see, e.g. Baby in the Well) that we further, and reflexively, define the nature of a conflict along the Y-axis of a “clash of civilizations” between the “West” and “radical Islam”.

But the West is not the epicenter. 

Literally thousands – thousands – have died in Baghdad in recent years, since the “Islamic State” began taking territory in Iraq (then moved on Syria). 
Seen in the context of where the intensity of a conflict rages most fiercely, Baghdad reveals the nature of the conflict is X-axis: fitna within Dar al-Islam.
The real war may be less a clash of civilizations between the West and radical Islam – than it is a civil war within the House of Islam itself, though that war touches us all. And if that is the case, then it is not a war to be “won”, ultimately, by the West, any more than, say, the Revolutionary War was to be won by the French.
That is not to say so-called Western civilizations sit by and do nothing, but it does call to question the notion that we can swoop into the Middle East and “defeat” “radical Islam” by military force alone, independent of the entirety of the worldwide 1.7 billion Muslim community.
***

February 10, 2017

Additional thoughts – Daniel Kahneman coined the somewhat unwieldy acronym, WYSIATI: What You See Is All There Is.
The Facebook profile photo syndrome is self-reinforcing, in the sense that it creates the illusion that the conflict in Islam is West-versus-the-rest, by what we choose to *not see.
Ignoring the wider scope of the Islamic conflict (the result of empathy for only those who look like us), misdiagnosing the root (or epicenter) of a problem, can lead to policies that answer the wrong question.



***



See, 




1.

http://www.ttbook.org/book/transcript/sonic-sidebar-daniel-kahneman-thinking-fast-and-slow
“Suppose you ask people that are about to travel abroad, and you offer insurance … in one case the insurance is for something that happens during the trip, is for death for any reason.
“And in the other case you offer them a policy that covers death in a terrorist incident. 
“That study was done when there was a fair amount of terrorism in Europe, and it was done in the United States. People pay more for the second policy than for the first, even though the first presumably would include the second.
Daniel KAHNEMAN: Now, this is absurd. It would include the second, and it would include many other sources, forms of death, which are a lot more likely than dying in an incident. But, what happens is this, what we do when we do when we buy insurance is we measure how afraid we are. 
That is answering the wrong question.

2. The Baby in the Well.
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/05/20/the-baby-in-the-well
“The psychologist Paul Slovic points out that, when Holloway disappeared, the story of her plight took up far more television time than the concurrent genocide in Darfur. Each day, more than ten times the number of people who died in Hurricane Katrina die because of preventable diseases, and more than thirteen times as many perish from malnutrition.
“In the broader context of humanitarianism, as critics like Linda Polman have pointed out, the empathetic reflex can lead us astray. When the perpetrators of violence profit from aid—as in the “taxes” that warlords often demand from international relief agencies—they are actually given an incentive to commit further atrocities. It is similar to the practice of some parents in India who mutilate their children at birth in order to make them more effective beggars. The children’s debilities tug at our hearts, but a more dispassionate analysis of the situation is necessary if we are going to do anything meaningful to prevent them.
“… There’s a larger pattern here. Sensible policies often have benefits that are merely statistical but victims who have names and stories…. 
“Moral judgment entails more than putting oneself in another’s shoes. As the philosopher Jesse Prinz points out, some acts that we easily recognize as wrong, such as shoplifting or tax evasion, have no identifiable victim. And plenty of good deeds—disciplining a child for dangerous behavior, enforcing a fair and impartial procedure for determining who should get an organ transplant, despite the suffering of those low on the list—require us to put our empathy to one side. Eight deaths are worse than one, even if you know the name of the one; humanitarian aid can, if poorly targeted, be counterproductive; the threat posed by climate change warrants the sacrifices entailed by efforts to ameliorate it. “The decline of violence may owe something to an expansion of empathy,” the psychologist Steven Pinker has written, “but it also owes much to harder-boiled faculties like prudence, reason, fairness, self-control, norms and taboos, and conceptions of human rights.” A reasoned, even counter-empathetic analysis of moral obligation and likely consequences is a better guide to planning for the future than the gut wrench of empathy.
3. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/11/23/youre-more-likely-to-be-fatally-crushed-by-furniture-than-killed-by-a-terrorist/?
4. http://www.nature.com/news/three-minutes-with-hans-rosling-will-change-your-mind-about-the-world-1.21143
5.  http://m.jpost.com/Middle-East/Setting-a-new-Islamic-tone-481834

Setting a new Islamic tone

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

Sat, 18 Feb 2017, 09:17 AM

President Sisi and Al-Azhar University want to reform Islam in Egypt and the wider Sunni world, but the pace and depth of that reform are the subject of quite a struggle

 In January 2015, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi raised eyebrows around the world when he gave a speech demanding a “religious revolution” and asserting that Egyptian imams should lead the way.

“The entire world is waiting on you. The entire world is waiting for your word, because the Islamic world is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost – and it is being lost by our own hands,” Sisi said in a speech celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

It was an extraordinary and seemingly rare self-critical comment from within the heart of the Arab and Islamic world. Yet, at the same time, Egypt was walking a fine line between antagonizing the conservative religious establishment and sowing the kind of religious chaos that has been unleashed through the region which has led to sectarianism and conflict in Syria and elsewhere.

According to former United States undersecretary of state for public diplomacy Richard Stengel, when the State Department asked Cairo for advice on fighting Islamist extremism, it agreed with the Jordanians, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia that characterizing terrorism as being driven by radical Islam was counterproductive. 

“They also told us that they did not consider Islamic State to be Islamic.” The US agreed and described ISIS as a “radical perversion of Islam.”
Yet there is a real attempt being made in Egypt to set a new Islamic tone. It has not gone without controversy. Headlines tell that part of the story. Sisi generated somewhat of a storm in late January by helping to pay for a new church in the administrative capital he hopes to build near Cairo. In early February, Egypt’s High Constitutional Court ruled that Christians, who make up about 10% of its population, should receive the same paid leave to go on pilgrimage as Muslims do for hajj.
Sisi even spoke out about reforming divorce laws on National Police Day in January, suggesting that divorces be formalized on paper and that the practice of oral divorce, or men divorcing their wives without their wives being present, be done away with. Divorce laws are rooted in Shari’a law for Muslims (for Christians, divorce is adjudicated by the church they belong to), and any attempt by secular authorities to interfere is controversial.
However, the Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm reported in February 2016 that at Al-Azhar University, the foremost center of Sunni religious learning in the Muslim world, the Council of Senior Scholars – the highest body of the university’s religious establishment – confirmed the validity of the oral divorce. “The council said this is what Muslims have settled upon since the time of Prophet Muhammad.”
For Sisi it was a case of winning some changes and losing others. His keen understanding of how to navigate the Egyptian system and its various lobbies and pillars, such as the armed forces and the religious establishment, has served him well so far.
When Sisi was appointed commander- in-chief of the Armed Forces, his Muslim piety was highlighted. The Financial Times called him a “pious and observant Muslim, reportedly with family connections to the [Muslim] Brotherhood.” His wife wears a head scarf, in contrast to the wives of Hosni Mubarak, Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser. He looked the part of a pious general who would stand by the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, who was elected in June 2012.
When Sisi overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, he was seen by the media as yet another authoritarian general, riding the tiger of populism in Egypt. That all changed in January of 2015 when he gave the New Year’s speech at Al-Azhar calling for a “religious revolution.” At Davos in 2015 he said that “Islam is a religion of tolerance and it should not be judged by the acts of murderers and criminals.” In January 2016, he told Muslims to “purge religious discourse of extremism.” He wants Egypt to be an anchor of stability in the Arab and Islamic world.
But what is Sisi up to? Shahira Amin, at the website Egyptian Streets, argues that he has stepped back from his initial revolutionary comments. Blasphemy convictions are ongoing in Egypt. The president seems to be taking small steps, pushing a public campaign to reduce female genital mutilation, quietly encouraging parliamentarians to consider repealing the blasphemy law and reforming marriage laws. He has made symbolic gestures, visiting a church after a vicious terrorist attack.
In a country that was outwardly secular and nationalist since the time of Nasser in the 1950s, the vast majority not only remains rooted in a deeply conservative religious tradition but has become more religious over time. Customs such as female genital mutilation were carried out by more than 90% of the population until recently, and the majority still supports it.
Sisi understands that the Middle East is not becoming more secular; rather, parties akin to the Brotherhood have come to power in places such as Turkey, and political Islam is on the rise from Indonesia to Morocco. He must chart a course between Saudi Arabia and Iran, both run by religious establishments. When speaking about the divorce law, he didn’t say the reform was for women’s rights, but to cut down on the ease of divorce.
The problem for Sisi is that Al-Azhar is an ancient institution dating to the 10th century, and such an institution cannot change quickly, nor does it want to change. This is why jihadist groups throughout the world have outpaced traditional Sunni bastions in Egypt and even the Wahhabi clergy of Saudi Arabia, with each Sunni Islamist jihadist group competing to be more extreme. ISIS is an expert in using social and online media to recruit.
To combat the problem Al-Azhar has sought to use new media. With some 90,000 students at its university, 400,000 in related educational frameworks, 60,000 imams throughout Egypt and issuing some 2,000 fatwas a day, the institution has unparalleled influence. The European Parliament announced in November 2015 that it would adopt Al-Azhar’s Dar al-Ifta publication as a reference.
Ibrahim Negm, adviser to Egypt’s grand mufti, said he would provide translations of fatwas confronting extremism, but he also said “insults to Islam” were leading to extremism.
Negm preaches a quiet reform as well. In 2011 he pioneered use of new technologies and social media to “cope with the changing times.” He said in 2015, “The true understanding of Islam that can be legitimately attributed to our predecessors is one which interacts with the world with understanding and discernment, accommodating new realities as they emerge,” and during the Charlie Hebdo controversy he urged followers to “ignore it and show kindness.” On February 6 he went further, describing ISIS and its kind as a “cancer spreading in the body of the world.”
An entire generation had to be saved from radicalization online.

Egypt’s government has quietly supported attempts in the US to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization (it was designated as such in Egypt in 2013).
In an August op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Egyptian Ambassador to the US Yasser Reda said Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “the intellectual force behind the Muslim Brotherhood,” should be held to account, as the “global fight against terrorism will remain incomplete as long as the international community fails to mobilize to destroy the intellectual fuel that justifies the evil of terrorism.” He argued that Qaradawi’s views are similar to Nazi propaganda.
But some academics at Al-Azhar, such as Naji Shurrab, have opposed the designation, arguing it could drive Brotherhood members and affiliates into the hands of more extreme groups.
As with the divorce law, Egypt’s leaders must tread lightly. Too much reform can backfire; too little can allow the wild weeds of extremism to grow again.

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Captain America, Mean Girls, and Pope Francis

 

Steve Rogers: Can I ask you a question?

Dr. Abraham Erskine: Just one?

Steve Rogers: Why me?

Dr. Abraham Erskine: I suppose that is the only question that matters. [to Steve] So many people forget that the first country that the Nazi’s invaded was their own. You know, after the last war the…my people struggled. They…they felt weak. They felt small. And then Hitler comes along with the marching and the big show and the flags and the…and the… {red baseball caps}
[he waves his hand]

Dr. Abraham Erskine: And he…he hears of me, my work and he finds me. And he says, you…he says you will make us strong. Well, I am not interested. So he sends the head of Hydra, his research division. A brilliant scientist by the name of Johann Schmidt. Now, Schmidt is a member of the inner circle and he’s ambitious. He and Hitler share a passion for a cult power and Teutonic myth. Hitler uses his fantasies to inspire his followers. But for Schmidt it is not fantasy. For him, it is real. He has become convinced that there is a great power in the earth, left there by the Gods, waiting to be seized by a superior man. So when he hears about my formula and what it can do, he cannot resist.

[flashback of how Schmidt takes Erskine’s formula and injects himself with it]

Dr. Abraham Erskine: Schmidt must become that superior man.

Steve Rogers: Did it make him stronger?

Dr. Abraham Erskine: Yeah. But, there were other effects. The serum was not ready. But more important, the man. The serum amplifies everything that is inside. So, good becomes great. Bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen. Because a strong man, who has known power all his life, will lose respect for that power. But a weak man knows the value of strength, and knows compassion.

Steve Rogers: Thanks. I think.

Dr. Abraham Erskine: Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.

http://transcripts.wikia.com/…/Captain_America:_The_First_A…

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OdgrOdVBjBU

 

 

16142256_10104018393988084_6162918429100314004_n

 

There will always be those who are willing to follow, even grovel before, bullies, so long as they are within the bully’s protective orbit.

The relationship of opposites is symbiotic. A bully attracts the weak because a bully does not like to be challenged, and those weak will not challenge.

I once heard an anecdote, purportedly from 101 Arabian Nights. A slave master freed his slave, and asked his slave, “Now you are free, what is it you most desire with your freedom?” The slave responded, “A slave of my own.” Security, not freedom, was what the former-slave had learned to value.

If the Bully were deposed, those weak still would not stand for themselves. They would seek another bully, or a new Queen Bee to anoint and/or follow.

 

16299159_10104018411582824_5922854102714611690_n

 

Historically, it has been that the vulnerable were most drawn to religion – Christianity, Islam, or other. Those who had reason to fear.
But when a once-vulnerable person finds security, he/she can choose one of two paths:

Raise others out of their vulnerability, out of a sense of empathy and compassion, or

Exclude others from rising out of vulnerability, out of a fear that “I just got in, and the raft is not big enough.”

Both the above began “weak,” in the sense of being vulnerable to external circumstances.

Only the latter is truly weak, in the sense of weakness of mind and character, fearful of losing one’s own sense of security.

 

NOTES:

1. Richard J. Neuhaus, “The Public Square: A More Real World,” First Things, 78: 68-83, December 1997 http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9712/public.html

“The unborn, the dying, the radically handicapped, the lepers, those afflicted with AIDS—all those who are shunned by the sleek and strong because they smell of neediness and death—live along the fault lines of society. Mother Teresa understood that a people is judged not by the successful whom we celebrate but by those along the fault lines for whom we care.

The message she embodied, and the message of the thousands of sisters all over the world who joined her in the Missionaries of Charity, is disturbingly countercultural.

It is disturbing because it demands a response not simply of admiration but of emulation.

Christians know better. Or at least we should.

 

 

2.  “Pope Francis: You can’t defend Christianity by being ‘against refugees and other religions’”,  Catholic News Service, 13 October 2016

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/10/13/pope-francis-you-cant-defend-christianity-by-being-against-refugees-and-other-religions/

Meeting a pilgrimage of Catholics and Lutherans from Germany, Pope Francis said he does not like “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.”

“This is not something I’ve read in books, but I see in the newspapers and on television every day,” Pope Francis said.

 

“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” he said. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”

16195820_10104018703228364_3861543460168478967_n

See, also,  Vatican Radio, “Wellbeing of society measured by response to migrants”, 27 January 2017

 http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/01/27/wellbeing_of_society_measured_by_response_to_migrants/1288774

(Vatican Radio) The way a country responds to the needs of migrants and refugees is a “thermometer” of the wellbeing of that society. That’s the view of Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, recently appointed as undersecretary of the Vatican’s new department for Intergral Human Development.

 

3.  When Pope Francis supports the “March on Life”  and supports refugees, that’s “Pro-Life.” When American evangelicals support “March on Life” but reject refugees, that’s Anti-Abortion. Very different things:

John Pavlovitz, “White, Conservative, Christian Friend – I Wish You Really Were Pro-Life,” 12 October 2016

 

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/10/12/fellow-white-christian-friends-i-wish-you-really-were-pro-life/

 

“I actually don’t believe you’re pro-life, I believe you’re anti-abortion, which is a far more selective and convenient defense of Humanity.

“From where I’m standing it seems as though “Life” for you, comprises a very narrow demographic—one that bears a striking resemblance to you. The unborn are easy to advocate for because you can idealize them into something palatable to you, something benign and comfortable, something in your own image.

“You see, it’s not that you’re really pro-life, you’re pro-straight, white, Christian fetuses.

“I can tell by how often your heavy burden for the sanctity of life evaporates upon delivery. In so many cases this compassion really has a nine-month expiration date, as if life begins at conception but ends upon leaving the birth canal. The completion of that third trimester is actually the shelf life of your passionate regard for much of the living.

“Because if that life you say you so treasure, one day converts to Islam, you label it dangerous, you see it as a threat, you applaud suggestions of its expulsion, you deny it open worship.

“If that life eventually comes out as LGBTQ, you condemn its soul, harass it in your workplace and church, try to prevent its marriage, tell it where and when it can use a public bathroom. You bully it and drive it to suicide.

“If that life has brown skin and wears baggy pants and gets gunned down during a traffic stop, you not only have little grief over its loss, but readily blame it for its own execution.

“If that life doesn’t reside in the continental US or speak English and comes here fleeing oppression, poverty, and war you’ll never understand, you ask it to go back and “go through the proper channels”, instead of the barely sea-worthy makeshift raft or the stinking, stifling storage container it nearly died in trying to get here.

“I wish you were pro-life, my friend—I really do.

http://johnpavlovitz.com/…/fellow-white-christian-friends-…/

“I wish all human beings mattered as much to you as caucasian embryos do. I wish that once these diverse babies are thrust out into a violent, difficult, painful world; many enduring disadvantages, obstacles, and trials you will likely never experience—that you actually gave more of a damn about them.

“Because if you did, Life would be far bigger to you.

“You would want to do more than prevent abortions.

“As vigorously, passionately, and loudly…

“You’d want to prevent hunger and poverty.
You’d want to prevent illiteracy and child mortality and forced prostitution.
You’d want to prevent racism and bigotry and homophobia.
You’d want kids in the “bad neighborhood” to have great schools and teachers just like your kids have there in the “good neighborhood.”
You’d want to support single parents and the terminally ill and the mentally ill by helping them carry their oversized burden.
You’d want religious freedom even for people who aren’t Christian.
You’d want LGBTQ people to live and work and worship and love as they desire.
You’d want people of color not to have to fear law enforcement and not to be disproportionately incarcerated.
You’d want fewer guns in the hands of kids and criminals and those with mental illness.
You’d want to prevent violence and workplace termination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
You’d want a living wage for all people who work hard, and healthcare for their children that won’t have to replace their daily meals.

 

4.

Tragedies less tragic  SUNDAY, MAY 31, 2009

On facebook status updates noting the tragedy of the Kansas abortion doctor’s slaying – the slaying of Tiller, reminded me of an email the day after 911, from my supervising attorney when i interned at the DC Public Defender:

“Yesterday was truly a black day. Along with all the terrorist tragedies, our client Jermaine Jackson died. He was shot early Saturday and they pulled the plugs yesterday. His stepdad thinks it was a robbery gone bad.I feel very bad for his family.”

I’ve kept this email all these years. I remember thinking – the individual mothers of sons whose lives are taken in the american ghetto every day grieve no less than the individual mothers and families of those who lost their lives to terrorist attack.

Here’s my question to you, now – Is a tragedy less tragic because there isn’t a political spin to it?

These tragedies are telling, not only in each respective story in and of itself, but also of our character as a people – through those whom we choose to remember, and also those whom we choose to ignore.

Sean Taylor. Heath Ledger. Jermaine Jackson.

It has been said that “a people is judged not by the successful whom we celebrate but by those along the fault lines for whom we care.”

 

5.  Subnotes:

 

 

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The 5th Estate and The Resistance

1/3:  My sense is that a resistance is already in place – not from democrats in Congress, or protesters marching in the streets – but within the executive agencies themselves:

2/6: https://www.lawfareblog.com/more-donald-trump-and-justice-department

I’ve posted this before, but see it becoming both increasingly relevant, and apparent that there is a struggle taking place:

More on Donald Trump and the Justice Department
By Benjamin Wittes Wednesday, June 8, 2016, 4:25 PM

“First and most importantly, the bureaucracy is the front line of defense against executive abuses. So yes, in my opinion, my correspondent and others like him have—as he puts it—some “ethical and civic responsibility to stay here to do [their] small part to try to keep things in check.” The amount of damage that an abusive chief executive can effectuate is dramatically lessened if he has professional staff that will only behave legally and ethically. 

…. That means that people acculturated to modern ethical and legal norms of behavior among government lawyers should remain in place, at least at the outset. The same is true of FBI agents and CIA officers. It’s important, very important, that the government be staffed at the career level by people who know the lines they will not cross.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/01/26/the-state-departments-entire-senior-management-team-just-resigned/

3/6:


Bureaucracy – the Fifth Estate
NOVEMBER 9, 2016 JASON LEAVE A COMMENT

https://youhatemosquitoestoo.com/2016/11/09/bureaucracy-the-fifth-estate/

One of the deepest impressions I took away from Afghanistan 2009-10 was an appreciation *for bureaucracy. 

#Bureaucracy in the United States carries a lot of baggage, and negative connotations, and yet, what struck me in Afghanistan was the challenge of sustaining a democracy amidst rampant corruption, when the country had a ~92% illiteracy rate. 

A competent bureaucracy was precisely what was needed, because how do you fight corrupt practices and run an accountable government when the vast majority of the people cannot read or write? We had one out of twenty Afghan National Police on our outpost who was literate – i.e., only one person could document witness statements, keep records, etc. – sometimes tedious things to ensure shit wasn’t just made up out – and that there was a Process for things.

You leave a place like Afghanistan with its history of tribalism and Warlords, in an externally imposed and nascent attempt at a centralized democracy, and you just think, if only they had a Bureaucracy- a functioning and professional Civil Service working in institutions free of all the cronyism, nepotism, parochial influences that manifests itself in the corruption.
Well, maybe this is the last line in the United Stated for those who fear Executive overreach – that those who make the Bureacracy is up to snuff, and having spent more than a spot-Political Appointee term at one thing or another, know what lines they will not cross. 

###

What Trump has said about the CIA and the military has “put us in a difficult position, but the flip side is there is an institutional ability to survive,” said a second senior U.S. official. 

“Bureaucracies chug along and take lumps and have conflicts. If you ask about rank and file, for a long time there has been a sense that [presidents and administrations] come and go, but we’re still here. You’ve got to assume that the Foreign Service at State, generals at the Department of Defense, have that belief. There’s an institutional stability built into the system that can withstand spasms.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/with-trump-about-to-learn-the-nations-deepest-secrets-a-sense-of-dread-in-the-intelligence-community/2016/11/09/e4206810-a676-11e6-ba59-a7d93165c6d4_story.html

4/6: Feb 24, 2016

https://youhatemosquitoestoo.com/2016/02/24/15/

Say what you will, your USG is not a monolithic entity of robotic bureaucrats. There may be folks who disagree with you on issues, whether due to personal ideology, or job role, but they are not inherently unreasonable, even when under immense political pressure from elected leaders.

Now, imagine if a Trump, who proposes things that constitutional scholars of all political inclinations pan as unconstitutional, were president, and simply said, ok “You’re fired” and put into the Executive Branch a cabal of Yes Men.

Essentially, think of Nixon, but probably worse. Much worse.

Watergate and Nixon era intelligence scandals broke a lot of trust the American people had in its government, that today’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies still pay a price in trying to overcome – e.g. the broad distrust between Academia and law enforcement that has roots in historical enmities, and has never recovered in a way that the relationship between the public and the Vietnam era US military has.

The way the President of the United States intends to wield the instruments of Executive Power can diminish those instruments standing with the American people for years to come, and long after those Presidents are gone – and to the detriment of American society. 

We’ve not, it seems, gone over a tipping point, in which the breach becomes too wide to mend, but, given the tenor of a Trump candidacy, its disdain for rule of law, and the demeanor of Trump himself, where this puck is heading toward is scary indeed.

—-

“The next day, as terrorist bombs killed more than 200 commuters on rail lines in Madrid, the White House approved the executive order without any signature from the Justice Department certifying its legality. Comey responded by drafting his letter of resignation, effective the next day, March 12.

“I couldn’t stay if the administration was going to engage in conduct that the Department of Justice had said had no legal basis,” he said. “I just simply couldn’t stay.” Comey testified he was going to be joined in a mass resignation by some of the nation’s top law enforcement officers: Ashcroft, Mueller, Ayres and Comey’s own chief of staff.
Ayres persuaded Comey to delay his resignation, Comey testified. “Mr. Ashcroft’s chief of staff asked me something that meant a great deal to him, and that is that I not resign until Mr. Ashcroft was well enough to resign with me,” he said.

The threat became moot after an Oval Office meeting March 12 with Bush, Comey said. After meeting separately with Comey and Mueller, Bush gave his support to making changes in the program, Comey testified. 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/15/AR2007051500864.html

“Reflecting the context of this heart-breaking case, I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other. Although this case is about the innocents attacked in San Bernardino, it does highlight that we have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety. That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living. It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living. It should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before. We shouldn’t drift to a place—or be pushed to a place by the loudest voices—because finding the right place, the right balance, will matter to every American for a very long time.”

https://www.lawfareblog.com/we-could-not-look-survivors-eye-if-we-did-not-follow-lead

5/6:

This is probably disturbing to both many liberals and many conservatives, who view Comey as the reincarnation of Hoover, and know his name primarily through the context of the presidential elections (and might have also believed he would be gone regardless of who won the elections.)

I have different views, from a sense of what I’ve gathered both over the years and also how he has responded to different situations.

Nevermind what my dreams tell me – 😂
http://on.wsj.com/2k0amlw


(And then the shitstorm hit, except it was Attorney General Lynch punting on the decision – but only after compromising herself by being caught meeting privately with Bill Clinton – and we know the rest of the story)

6/6


“They should insist in being heard.”
9:00 – 11:00
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tKIJKQRb53o
and 



General Anthony Zinni, United States Marine Corps; The Obligation to Speak the Truth;
2003, United States Naval Academy:

“Senator McCain was very upset with me, and he said to me, “What gives you the right to question this?” Later on, I got the same question from the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger: “What gives you the right to question this?” My response was the First Amendment. You know, they didn’t appreciate that answer, but that’s what gave me the right.

And I mentioned to the Senate Armed Services Committee that, unless I forgot something, when I first came before you to be confirmed as the Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command, Senator Strom Thurmond required of me to raise my hand and swear that I would come before this committee in the Senate and give my honest opinion and my honest views, even if they were in opposition to Administration policy or any other policies that may have been implemented by our government. I swore to do that, and yet those who were not hearing what they wanted to hear objected to it. It was very painful.

I managed to get called over to see my boss, the Secretary of Defense, along with the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and got an appropriate portion of my anatomy chewed on. I had to respond to questions like: “Why did you do this? Why did you say this to the Senate?” And I said, “Because they needed to hear the answer. They needed to understand my view, that I have an obligation if asked a question to provide that.” I asked the Secretary of Defense, “Do you think I’m wrong? Do you agree with them and disagree with me, because if that’s the case, then you know, you obviously need to get another Commander in Chief.” He said, “No, I agree with you, but I disagree with the way you said it.” I said, “Well, I don’t understand. I spoke in declarative sentences. I know that’s unusual for Washington, but you know, it’s the way I was brought up.”

The Undersecretary for Policy said, “No, you don’t understand the problem. You weren’t nuanced enough,” and I said, “You know, if you want nuance, don’t send a Marine. We don’t do nuance very well.”

The Undersecretary for Policy said, “No, you don’t understand the problem. You weren’t nuanced enough,” and I said, “You know, if you want nuance, don’t send a Marine. We don’t do nuance very well.”

Not long after that, David Hackworth, one of my favorite guys, because he is irreverent and p—-s everybody off, wrote an article in 1999 about Marine generals, and he said, in effect, “What is it with most of these Marine generals? They get inoculated with double shots of truth serum in boot camp? Why is it that Jack Sheehan, Chuck Krulak, Charlie Wilhelm, and Tony Zinni speak their minds? Why doesn’t anybody else speak their minds?” I liked it. Most of my bosses didn’t.

There is an obligation when you are in uniform to follow orders. There may become a point in time in your career when you have to make a decision. Your choices are only two: to follow those orders or to step aside. You have no other choice when you swear that oath to the Constitution of the United States except to follow the orders of our Commander in Chief, but you have, up until that point when you have to make that decision, a sincere obligation to give your honest view and opinion on what’s going to happen and what in your view is right or wrong about the decision that’s being made.

If you speak out, you’re going to find that there are things that work against you speaking out. One of them is the question of loyalty. You’re required obviously to be loyal to your bosses and loyal to the system…. There can be an issue that you feel you need to deal with, you need to speak out on. It’s a personal decision. It’s a difficult one to make. What you have to say may not be well received. What you have to say may come back in some way to harm you career-wise or other ways. 

In my war, back when I was your age, we went into a conflict, as you heard Secretary of Defense McNamara say, with the right intentions, but we did it the wrong way and found the wrong cause. We created an incident, the Tonkin Gulf incident. We had the United States of America and its citizens believe in the President of the United States, who created a falsehood for going into war. 

We fought, based on a strategy that I believe the decision-makers felt was right, the domino theory. If you don’t stop communism in Vietnam, all of Southeast Asia will begin to fall, and it will affect us adversely around the world. It was a flawed strategy. It was based on a lie, and we fought it terribly. We didn’t mobilize this nation for that war. We went to individual replacements instead of unit replacements and made a whole series of mistakes and bad decisions at the lowest tactical levels all the way up to the highest strategic policy decisions. We can’t let that happen, when you get yourself in that strange situation where you need to trust and believe in your leadership and that point where you as someone who has sworn an oath to the Constitution must obey the order or step aside, but have those doubts and those gnawing concerns that tug at your heart.

No one can give you the right answer. It’s pretty clear what your obligations are in terms of whom you answer to and what kinds of answers you’re supposed to provide, but in most cases, the timing, the decision to speak out, ends up having to be a personal one. There is no universal rule about all this, and it’s very difficult for anyone senior to you to give you the advice on how to do it. Those judgments have to be made from within.

We do not swear an oath to the President of the United States. We do not swear an oath to the king or the queen. Each one of us swears an oath to the Constitution of the United States. It is unique. Even our closest allies, the Brits who are on the battlefield with us, swear an oath to an individual, to the Queen. We don’t. You swear an oath to a concept, to an ideal, to a law, and with that comes the obligation to protect the men and women that you’re responsible for, to protect the concept, the values, the ideals of what our country stands for, and it supersedes any obligation or duty to any one individual. What goes with that is the understanding that when the order is issued, you have to follow it or step aside, but up to that point, there is this obligation to speak out and to speak the truth.

https://www.usna.edu/Ethics/publications/lectures.php

Standard

The Best and the Brightest 

Are you loyal to your family, your faith, and your country?
– If Brock Turner was your child, would you hold him accountable, or defend him before the law.
– If you were Catholic in the 16th century, would you support Martin Luther’s rebellion in the Reformation, or choose loyalty to a corrupt Papacy?
– If you were German in WW2, would you question Nazi authority, or choose patriotism and serve your country faithfully.


17 January 2017




Took a trip to #YadVashem, the Israeli #Holocaust memorial on Mount Herzl. The strange thing I thought about while there, was a refrigerator magnet I once saw. 

It was one of those “quotable” magnets, with a proverb, attributed to the Talmud: 
“You can educate a fool, but you cannot teach him how to think.” 
Toward the end of the museum, was a wall with profiles of Third Reich leaders tried at Nuremberg in 1945. The display consisted of individual flight recorder “black boxes” which could be opened, and contained excerpts of the respective testimonies, explaining why they did what they did, given by the individuals during their trials.
Our guide made an emphatic point that all the Nazi leaders were highly educated men, and, by some accounts, also “normal” – going home from “work” to their families, being husbands and fathers like any other person. How could this have happened? What were they thinking?
These men were no fools. Given IQ tests by psychiatrists, the majority of those tried at Nuremberg scored above 120. 
But it does occurs to me that too often we conflate “educated” with “thinking.” It’s one thing, for example, to be “educated” with Nazi propaganda on international jewish conspiracy theories and “medical data” by Nazi doctors showing that jews were a “sub-human” race. 
It’s a separate thing entirely, to think critically, and to periodically evaluate and to question the various things we are taught or are exposed to.
To Hannah Arendt, “the Nazi war criminal’s actions stemmed from her well-known phrase ‘banality of evil,’ not as a result of mental illness but as a result of a lack of thinking.” 
I imagine that each of us, if put in a comparable situation, would like to believe that we would be among the “Righteous among the Nations.” 
But maybe only if we are inclined to question and capable of thinking critically – and that a liberal education is not an ends to itself, but a means to advance critical thinking, by exposing us to diverse thought in the first place.


Notes:

1.  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/07/inside-the-nazi-mind-at-the-nuremberg-trials.html


2.  Obedience, orthodoxy, and faith.


3. 

https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/the-san-antonio-spurs-are-coached-to-think-for-themselves-1475768553?

By Ben Cohen

Oct. 6, 2016 11:42 a.m. ET

San Antonio

Gregg Popovich came to San Antonio Spurs training camp this year prepared with some questions for his players. Such as: Who were the explorers pushing west in early America? What is the fourth holy city of Islam? And where is one in danger of being attacked by wombats?
This is not what most NBA teams talk about. It’s not what employees in a typical office talk about. But their boss is the one who demands the Spurs broach these topics and more serious ones at their place of work.
Popovich has been quizzing the Spurs on current events and world history for years. Now he wants them to engage more than ever. So this season, for the first time, he also plans to track which players know the most about everything other than basketball.
“What’s cool is that everybody looks at that person, like: How do you know that?” Popovich said….

“It’s in large part because of Popovich’s intellectual curiosity that this basketball team in the middle of Texas is usually acknowledged as the most progressive organization in the most socially conscious American sports league. For years, being an informed citizen has been a prerequisite of playing for the Spurs….
Popovich spoke out during Spurs’ media day on the morning of the first presidential debate. After the first 2012 debate, Popovich gave his players DVD copies to watch. He did not subject them to the same exercise this year. Popovich found the first debate incredibly disheartening. Then he tried to watch the vice-presidential debate and couldn’t get through the whole thing.
“I worry that maybe I’m being a little too pessimistic, but I’m beginning to have a harder time believing that we are not Rome,” he said. “Rome didn’t fall in 20 days or 30 years. It took a couple hundred years. The question is: Are we in that process and we don’t even know it? I really am starting to think about that. It’s not just the two candidates. It’s the way the whole thing is being treated.”
The Spurs try to exchange ideas, especially about race, in more substantive ways. In last year’s training camp, they hosted John Carlos, the Olympian who raised his fist on the medal stand in 1968. During the season, they scored tickets to the Broadway show “Hamilton,” and they had a private screening of “Chi-Raq,” the film by Spike Lee, who answered questions from the players and then joined them for dinner.
This year, when they arrived at training camp, they received copies of the Ta-Nehisi Coates book “Between the World and Me” and previewed “The Birth of a Nation,” the new film about Nat Turner’s slave rebellion. The Spurs were so moved that they sat silent through the entire credits sequence, Popovich said. He expected they would talk about it on their own the next day.
“I think it’s important for their lives, for their kids, their wives, for our basketball team,” he said. “Everybody’s gotta get engaged with this elephant in the room that we all have to deal with, but nobody really wants to. People are, like, tired of it. Is it race again? Do we have to talk about it? Well, the reason we do is because it’s still the elephant in the room. Because it still has never been taken care of. Because it’s still there.”
What’s most remarkable isn’t that Popovich is one of the few people in sports to speak about such issues sensibly. It’s that, at this point, it was almost expected of him. People slap “Popovich for President” bumper stickers on their cars here because of his reputation for being utterly reasonable.
“If I just did basketball, I’d be bored to death,” said the coach with five titles spread over three decades. “How much satisfaction can you get out of doing jump shots and teaching someone to deny in the passing lanes? OK, that’s cool, that’s my job, that’s how I earn my living, and I have a good living and I enjoy it. But I’m not a lifer. It doesn’t define me. If I win a game, I’m fine. If I lose a game, it hurts, but I’m fine real quick. It’s not that important.”
His perspective has influenced the entire NBA. Popovich’s coaching tree casts a long shadow: More than one third of the league’s teams are now run by coaches or general managers who have spent time in San Antonio and understand the value of their organizational culture. The result is that the Spurs are the team that other teams want to be.
Popovich says there’s a simple reason he wants his players to be engaged citizens: It makes for a fuller life. He believes there are basketball advantages, too. He thinks it makes them want to play with and for each other. “I think it’s sad if a person’s whole self-image and self-worth is based in their job,” he said. “Whether you’re a basketball player, a plumber, a doctor, a mailman or whatever you might be, why not try your best to live a more interesting life that includes other people, other cultures and different worlds?”
The Spurs certainly have. They are loaded with foreign players who tend to follow the news and debate international politics more than anyone else in the locker room. “They like to tell us what’s wrong and right about our country,” said Spurs forward Kyle Anderson.
The Spurs never quite know what Popovich might ask when they show up for work. But the foreign players often have an advantage when their coach tests them “to see who’s paying attention in the world,” as American guard Danny Green put it. Which is why they’re sometimes disqualified from Popovich’s quizzes….
3. 

When I was a captain at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in 2008, all the HQ Battalion officers had to attend a PME (“professional military training”) that talked about Stanley Milgram’s experiments. 
For all the alleged rigidity of the military, it has been the *only place I’ve ever worked that gathered its leaders and said, hey – if *everyone else is doing something, but it doesn’t feel right to you – DON’T FORGET TO FUCKING THINK
4.

“They should insist in being heard.”

9:00 – 11:00

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tKIJKQRb53o

and General Anthony Zinni, United States Marine Corps; The Obligation to Speak the Truth;

2003, United States Naval Academy:

Senator McCain was very upset with me, and he said to me, “What gives you the right to question this?” Later on, I got the same question from the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger: “What gives you the right to question this?” My response was the First Amendment. You know, they didn’t appreciate that answer, but that’s what gave me the right.
And I mentioned to the Senate Armed Services Committee that, unless I forgot something, when I first came before you to be confirmed as the Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command, Senator Strom Thurmond required of me to raise my hand and swear that I would come before this committee in the Senate and give my honest opinion and my honest views, even if they were in opposition to Administration policy or any other policies that may have been implemented by our government. I swore to do that, and yet those who were not hearing what they wanted to hear objected to it. It was very painful.

I managed to get called over to see my boss, the Secretary of Defense, along with the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and got an appropriate portion of my anatomy chewed on. I had to respond to questions like: “Why did you do this? Why did you say this to the Senate?” And I said, “Because they needed to hear the answer. They needed to understand my view, that I have an obligation if asked a question to provide that.” I asked the Secretary of Defense, “Do you think I’m wrong? Do you agree with them and disagree with me, because if that’s the case, then you know, you obviously need to get another Commander in Chief.” He said, “No, I agree with you, but I disagree with the way you said it.” I said, “Well, I don’t understand. I spoke in declarative sentences. I know that’s unusual for Washington, but you know, it’s the way I was brought up.”

The Undersecretary for Policy said, “No, you don’t understand the problem. You weren’t nuanced enough,” and I said, “You know, if you want nuance, don’t send a Marine. We don’t do nuance very well.”

The Undersecretary for Policy said, “No, you don’t understand the problem. You weren’t nuanced enough,” and I said, “You know, if you want nuance, don’t send a Marine. We don’t do nuance very well.”

Not long after that, David Hackworth, one of my favorite guys, because he is irreverent and p—-s everybody off, wrote an article in 1999 about Marine generals, and he said, in effect, “What is it with most of these Marine generals? They get inoculated with double shots of truth serum in boot camp? Why is it that Jack Sheehan, Chuck Krulak, Charlie Wilhelm, and Tony Zinni speak their minds? Why doesn’t anybody else speak their minds?” I liked it. Most of my bosses didn’t.

There is an obligation when you are in uniform to follow orders. There may become a point in time in your career when you have to make a decision. Your choices are only two: to follow those orders or to step aside. You have no other choice when you swear that oath to the Constitution of the United States except to follow the orders of our Commander in Chief, but you have, up until that point when you have to make that decision, a sincere obligation to give your honest view and opinion on what’s going to happen and what in your view is right or wrong about the decision that’s being made.

If you speak out, you’re going to find that there are things that work against you speaking out. One of them is the question of loyalty. You’re required obviously to be loyal to your bosses and loyal to the system…. There can be an issue that you feel you need to deal with, you need to speak out on. It’s a personal decision. It’s a difficult one to make. What you have to say may not be well received. What you have to say may come back in some way to harm you career-wise or other ways. 
In my war, back when I was your age, we went into a conflict, as you heard Secretary of Defense McNamara say, with the right intentions, but we did it the wrong way and found the wrong cause. We created an incident, the Tonkin Gulf incident. We had the United States of America and its citizens believe in the President of the United States, who created a falsehood for going into war. We fought, based on a strategy that I believe the decision-makers felt was right, the domino theory. If you don’t stop communism in Vietnam, all of Southeast Asia will begin to fall, and it will affect us adversely around the world. It was a flawed strategy. It was based on a lie, and we fought it terribly. We didn’t mobilize this nation for that war. We went to individual replacements instead of unit replacements and made a whole series of mistakes and bad decisions at the lowest tactical levels all the way up to the highest strategic policy decisions. We can’t let that happen, when you get yourself in that strange situation where you need to trust and believe in your leadership and that point where you as someone who has sworn an oath to the Constitution must obey the order or step aside, but have those doubts and those gnawing concerns that tug at your heart.

No one can give you the right answer. It’s pretty clear what your obligations are in terms of whom you answer to and what kinds of answers you’re supposed to provide, but in most cases, the timing, the decision to speak out, ends up having to be a personal one. There is no universal rule about all this, and it’s very difficult for anyone senior to you to give you the advice on how to do it. Those judgments have to be made from within.

We do not swear an oath to the President of the United States. We do not swear an oath to the king or the queen. Each one of us swears an oath to the Constitution of the United States. It is unique. Even our closest allies, the Brits who are on the battlefield with us, swear an oath to an individual, to the Queen. We don’t. You swear an oath to a concept, to an ideal, to a law, and with that comes the obligation to protect the men and women that you’re responsible for, to protect the concept, the values, the ideals of what our country stands for, and it supersedes any obligation or duty to any one individual. What goes with that is the understanding that when the order is issued, you have to follow it or step aside, but up to that point, there is this obligation to speak out and to speak the truth.

https://www.usna.edu/Ethics/publications/lectures.php


6.



“We have a great deal of difficulty acknowledging the role of what we don’t know. So we know what we know, and we tell a story about what we know. If I ask you is this national leader and I tell you, well, she is intelligent and strong. Now you already have a sense that she’s a good leader. Now, I could continue, you know nothing about her character. I could tell you she’s corrupt and cruel. But you have already jumped to a conclusion on the basis of very little information. You have a story. If I’d stopped there, you would feel that you know that here is a strong leader. That’s the way the mind works. It’s intended to jump to conclusion”


http://www.ttbook.org/book/transcript/sonic-sidebar-daniel-kahneman-thinking-fast-and-slow

KAHNEMAN: Suppose you ask people that are about to travel abroad, and you offer insurance and ask, some of them would be willing to pay for insurance. And in one case the insurance is for something that happens during the trip, is for death for any reason. And in the other case you offer them a policy that covers death in a terrorist incident. 
That study was done when there was a fair amount of terrorism in Europe, and it was done in the United States. People pay more for the second policy than for the first.
PAULSON: Even thought the first presumably would include the second, right?

KAHNEMAN: Now, this is absurd. It would include the second, and it would include many other sources, forms of death, which are a lot more likely than dying in an incident. But, what happens is this, what we do when we do when we buy insurance is we measure how afraid we are. 


That’s a simpler question than, how much should I by willing to buy insurance. So the first (?), what comes to mind immediately is the reaction which is basically, the intensity of the fear that I experience. 


And then you map that intensity of fear into a number, and amount of dollars that you are willing to pay for insurance. 
That is answering the wrong question.


http://www.ttbook.org/book/transcript/sonic-sidebar-daniel-kahneman-thinking-fast-and-slow


7.  How to become a Donald Trump.




1) Be smart, even very smart

2) Be good at at least one thing, even very good.

Example:

(a) Imagine you are smart, and good at, say languages. In Russian class, you shine. The kids good at math suck. But you aren’t in calculus with them. You only see how smart you are and better at Russian you are. You start to think you are just smarter than everyone, period.

(b) Your growing confidence leads to to make quick conclusions and take extreme opinions. You dismiss people who disagree because you think you are obviously smarter than them. Maybe all that math stuff is just bullshit anyway, because if those kids struggled so much in Russian – they obviously aren’t *that smart – how can all those numbers they come up with really mean anything? Fake science.

(c) At some point, you might even begin to engage in conspiracy theories. But people who recognize your extreme opinions and quickness to conclusions don’t bother arguing with you because they know you already made up your mind and don’t listen to anyone else. You actually interpret the lack of anyone challenging you as confirmation of your own positions and your natural and wide-ranging superiority on all subjects you express firm opinions and reach quick conclusions on.

(d) By habit, you become convinced you know everything, are very smart, have a good brain, can figure anything out, don’t need experts in math or science or climate change to tell you whats up.

4) Donald Trump.

 

Standard

State Power and Social Contracts


The biggest thing I observed in 2016: Loyalty and respect must first flow down from Power, before Power can demand that loyalty and respect flow up.
Otherwise it leaves an every-man (or clan)-for himself tribalism. Instead of #citizens, you are left with clansmen.
p87 – “citizens were no longer citizens… loyal to the nation …. The more government persecuted its own people the more those people headed back into their tribe, traditions, their church and hunkered down, like among like.”


About the spasms of violence yesterday … I’ve been thinking about this in the domestic context – why it is that in America extremists are sometimes praised for their ideological “purity”, but when it comes to Islam we condemn their extremists for their “fanaticism.” One reason might be the association with militancy. But the reason for the militancy, in the first place, is a perceived or actual lack of *peaceful options. In other words, the American political system permits free speech and protest from the most right-wing or liberal groups, whether neo-Nazi or Code Pink. That may not be the case in many secular but authoritarian governments which *happen to be predominantly Muslim countries, and in which the communities then and *only then (though not always) perceive their only option as militant resistance:
“… ‘#radicalization’ does not simply happen out there in society apart from the state; it is produced in a symbolic and material struggle with the state. Research conducted by many of the signatories of this letter demonstrates that theology and doctrine are largely irrelevant in explaining why mobilization takes place in the majority of instances. In other cases, the demonization of a religiously-identified group by a militantly secular government can create a conflict where there was not one before. When the #state declares its own #opposition to a religious group, its members are left with no choice but to either abandon their religious beliefs or find themselves in opposition to the state. However, in Central Asia, there has not been a direct correlation between state oppression of religious groups leading to people taking up arms in resistance. Repression does not automatically lead to #rebellion.
“The point is that the factors are specific and multiple, most of them are non-religious, and none of them are sufficient in and of themselves. They are not about a lack of modernization, and rarely much to do with theology, but about conflicts between #political #factions about #inclusion, #inequality, and political #economies perceived as unjust….”
President Trump announced that he would “eradicate” radical Islam from the face of the earth. But maybe there is also a *radicalization process, in the United States, that is a direct result of anxiety that his very Presidency – (1) through his persistent attacks on those who disagree with him (ordinary citizens and institutions alike) threaten America’s democratic traditions allowing open forums for dissent, and (2) through his refusal to release his taxes, divest himself from his businesses, and his hiring of his son-in-law as a close advisor, that he will be a president not for all Americans but his own faction and family.
“When the *state declares its own opposition to a [] group, its members are left with no choice but to either abandon their [] beliefs or find themselves in opposition to the state.”
http://thediplomat.com/2017/01/understanding-islamic-radicalization-in-central-asia/?

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Information Sourcing : Signals and the Noise


JUST IN… Russia Today and Breitbart coordinated news reporting. (Joke)
looking around on FB to see how people’s perceptions can be shaped by where they get their info, via the filters the sources themselves apply. 
i noticed, for example, a cluster of reporting on “obama approval rating” by certain sources on December 15, 2015, in contrast to more widespread reporting on the same in the June-July and October-December 2016 timeframes.

RUSSIA TODAY, the Kremlin-run state media, and BREITBART appeared in lock-step reporting on low approval ratings on December 15, 2015. 

Then there was The Atlantic and the mainstream media reporting on “high” approval ratings scattered in the summer time, then again in the final months of the Obama presidency.

Any person who relies on a single set of sources *exclusively might conclude one of several things:

(a) The sources reporting inconsistent information are “#fake” (rather than the possibility that things change/changed over time)

(b) The sources reporting on different information are “#biased” (eg, that “mainstream” sources only report when Obama has high ratings, rather than that ratings of incumbents leaving office are of historical interest)

(c) THE ONION is the *best* source because it explains the discrepancy. (#FakeNews)


Notes



1.  See, Jill Dougherty, “How the Media Became One of Putin’s Most Powerful Weapons: After decades of wielding Soviet-style hard power, Russia is developing a subtler form of influence”, THE ATLANTIC, April 21, 2015

Vladimir Putin is a news junkie.

The Russian president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, didn’t use that expression when we talked by phone, but that’s what he described to me: a man at the center of an ever-churning machine processing vast amounts of news and data at his command.

“Sometimes we’re wondering what is the limit for a human being for absorbing this huge amount of information,” Peskov told me, “but, well, it’s really a very, very, very heavy job.”

Peskov, speaking fluent English, described the operation. “First of all, the information and press department of the presidential administration prepares digests on print media, on Internet sources, on domestic media—federal and regional.

“We have special people working around the clock, preparing TV digests. We’re recording TV news on the [Russian] federal channels for him during the day. Obviously, it’s very hard for him to watch news so we make digests, let’s say, zip versions of TV news, divided into issues.”

“It’s quite convenient when he’s going home, let’s say, from [the] Kremlin, when he is not spending a night here … he can use this 20 minutes for really understanding what happened during the day in terms of information.” He watches TV news channels in English and German—a language he speaks fluently thanks to his posting in Dresden as a KGB agent in the late 1980s—and receives English- and German-language newspapers.

“Frankly speaking, I wouldn’t say that [Putin] is a fluent user of [the] Internet,” Peskov added, “but he is fluent enough to use some resources, plus, definitely, he is comparing what he sees and hears from [the] press … with the news he’s receiving—when it comes to foreign affairs—from his foreign ministry, from his special services, from intelligence, from various ministries, and so on.”

As a former KGB officer and head of the KGB’s successor agency, the FSB, Putin knows the value of information. 

His concept of the media, however, is a far cry from the First Amendment. For him, it’s a simple transactional equation: Whoever owns the media controls what it says.

Putin positions himself as a renegade abroad, deploying the hyper-modern, reflexively contrarian RT—an international news agency formerly known as Russia Today—to shatter the West’s [liberal media] monopoly on “truth.” The Kremlin [Bbt] appears to be betting that information is the premier weapon of the 21st century, and that it can wield that weapon more effectively than its rivals.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/391062/?

2.  But, see, Alex Isensradt, “Trump vexed by challenges, scale of government: The new president’s allies say he has been surprised that government can’t be run like his business”, POLITICO,  02/10/17 

 “Trump, a voracious consumer of cable news…” 
(That’s like saying someone gorges on cheetos)
http://politi.co/2kabPlg
3.  Cf. 

President Barack Obama does not watch cable news. This was the take away from an interview with former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” this Sunday. 
When asked by host Brian Stelter about the president’s news diet, Carney listed The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Politico, describing Obama as a “voracious consumer of the printed word.” But when it comes to CNN, MSNBC and, especially, FOX News, the president respectfully declines. 
“I don’t think it would be accurate to say by not watching cable news, he’s not aware of what the political fight of the day is,” said Carney. “But he does maintain, I think, a healthy distance from it.”
Carney added that governing by the whims of the media might not be the most effective way for the White House to operate. 
“I think that it’s hard to find the sort of perfect balance because you don’t want, and I don’t think any of us should want as citizens, a White House that governs by cable news or governs by Twitter,” he said. “I think that would be very counterproductive.”

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6054190

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Citizenship in a Time of Digital Media

1. “Nabokov, for his awareness of how our suffering can make us callous to the obvious suffering of another. Conrad, for his hypertuned sense of how miscommunication between people can so profoundly impact their lives. Literature not only illuminated another’s experience, it provided, I believed, the richest material for moral reflection.” 
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air, Random House, 2016


2.  “Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can’t interrupt books; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them. They are the expression of an individual or a group of individuals, not of a hive mind or collective consciousness. They speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention. And they demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s.”


Will Schwalbe, The Saturday Essay: The Need to Read, The Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2016
“Reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person and understand life’s questions, big and small.”

3. “It always troubled me that the truth doesn’t fit into one heart, into one mind, that truth is somehow splintered. There’s a lot of it, it is varied, and it is strewn about the world. [Fyodor] Dostoevsky thought that humanity knows much, much more about itself than it has recorded in literature. So what is it that I do? I collect the everyday life of feelings, thoughts, and words. I collect the life of my time. I’m interested in the history of the soul.”


Svetlana Alexievich, The History of Socialist Utopia, Financial Times, December 18, 2015




https://www.ft.com/content/74182b38-a3e9-11e5-8218-6b8ff73aae15

4.  


“… the American president asked the author if she was worried about people not reading novels anymore, as they are “overwhelmed by flashier ways to pass the time”. 
For himself, Obama said, “when I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels”.

“It has to do with empathy,” Obama told Robinson in a conversation which is published in the 19 November issue of the New York Review of Books. “It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of greys, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.” 

Obama [noted] that it isn’t that Americans don’t read; “It’s that everybody is reading [in] their niche, and so often, at least in the media, they’re reading stuff that reinforces their existing point of view. And so you don’t have that phenomenon of ‘here’s a set of great books that everybody is familiar with and everybody is talking about’.”
Television shows can “fill that void”, he felt, but “we don’t have a lot of common reference points”. And in a world where a premium is placed “on the sensational and the most outrageous or a conflict as a way of getting attention and breaking through the noise”, a “pessimism about the country” develops.

“Because all those quiet, sturdy voices that we were talking about at the beginning, they’re not heard,” said Obama. “It’s not interesting to hear a story about some good people in some quiet place that did something sensible and figured out how to get along.”


Alison Flood, “President Obama says novels taught him how to be a citizen”, The Guardian, October 28, 2015




https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/oct/28/president-obama-says-novels-taught-him-citizen-marilynne-robinson?



and


President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 13, 2016
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/12/remarks-president-barack-obama-–-prepared-delivery-state-union-address

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