Trump’s Selective Isolationism Would Endanger US Support For Israel

April 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Posted in Dysfunctional Politics, Presidential election, Terrorism | 1 Comment
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Flipped version of Trump Sr. at Citizens United Freedom Summit in Greenville South Carolina May 2015, photo by Michael Vadon.

Flipped version of Trump Sr. at Citizens United Freedom Summit in Greenville South Carolina May 2015, photo by Michael Vadon.

As long as the US remains fully engaged with the rest of the world, actively promoting open stable societies and allies, it makes perfect sense for the US to aid Israel. Israel is an open society, socially and technologically advanced (apart from its short-sighted ‘lebens-raum’ policy of settlements, and is a steadfast ally.

But Trump wants to drastically reduce US involvement with the rest of the world – to save money!

Does Trump know what pennywise and pound foolish means?

If we pulled back fron NATO, does he think that we would still have international partners for embargoes, sanctions, and for cooperation in fighting terrorism?

Does he think that we would have diplomatic and military allies when we suddenly needed them?

Trump’s policy would unleash unintended, undesireable consequences.

Here is just one that he hasn’t thought of.

If the US became isolationist, as Trump favors, then US aid to Israel would become an anomaly. It would become an exception. It would stick out like a sore thumb. It would soon cease.

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Bernie Sanders As Commander in Chief?

March 14, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Conceited, Fairness, Presidential election, Terrorism | Leave a comment
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Flag of the Islamic State. This flag is also used by al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Boko Haram. Graphic by Yo.

Flag of the Islamic State.
This flag is also used by al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Boko Haram. Graphic by Yo.

Here are some questions about Bernie Sander’s fitness to be the Commander in Chief.

Does Bernie Sanders agree that we need a capable – hence adequately funded – Department of Defence?

What capabilities of the Department of Defence does Bernie Sanders want to enhance?

How does Bernie Sanders plan to respond to the non-traditional military sitiations posed by terrorism and by countries (Syria, Russia, China, North Korea) that sneer at international law?

What policies does Bernie Sanders think should govern the use of drones?
What are his thoughts on collateral damage?

What areas of defense R&D does Bernie Sanders think needs to be pursued? What new weapons and tactical capabilities are needed?

What is Bernie Sander’s rough estimate of the proper level of funding for the Department of Defense next year? How many Divisions and how many aircraft carriers should we have?

A Syrian soldier aims an AK-47 assault rifle wearing a Soviet-made, model ShMS nuclear–biological–chemical warfare mask. Unknown author - http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/0JoLDPpw5WbYCMAmPsXL1g

A Syrian soldier aims an AK-47 assault rifle wearing a Soviet-made, model ShMS nuclear–biological–chemical warfare mask.
Unknown author – http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/0JoLDPpw5WbYCMAmPsXL1g

When Assad used chemical weapons against peaceful Syrians, did Bernie Sanders support the idea of US participation in setting up a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians from attack by Assad’s military? (A no-fly zone was not set up after Asaad’s use of chemical weapons, despite our prior hollow talk of a ‘red line’. That created a vacuum. That vacuum helped catpult ISIS into becoming a priminent player. Our lack of follow-through, and the hollowness of our threat, bears a major responsibility for the flourishing of ISIS.)

What would Bernie Sanders do to protect the non-extremist anti-Assad groups in Syria from Assad, and from Putin?

What would Bernie Sanders do to protect the very effective Kurdish fighters against attacks by Erdogan’s authoritarian Turkey?

Yazidi refugees and American aid workers on Mount Sinjar in August 2014" USAID U.S. Agency for International Development - https://www.flickr.com/photos/usaid_images/14783000490

Yazidi refugees and American aid workers on Mount Sinjar in August 2014″
USAID U.S. Agency for International Development – https://www.flickr.com/photos/usaid_images/14783000490

What would Bernie Sanders do about the desparate refugees who have fled ISIS?

Any candidate who cannot come up with thoughful, practical answers to these questions is utterly unfit to be commander and chief.

Any candidate who has not already pondered these questions is utterly unfit to be commander and chief.


During the Presidential election, that will be obvious to anyone who values practical effects over wishful thinking.

Being good-hearted is not enough.

Economic fairness is important, but do not underestimate the importance that most voters assign to:
– adequate defense
– our role in supporting international fairness
– and to being respected internationally, and effective internationally.

Some of those latter urgeswere a major factor in the ability of Mussolini and Hitler to replace open political systems by authoritarian ones.

Those same aspects drive Putin’s high popularity in the face of the economic disaster he has brought to Russia.

The importance of same aspects are why China follows an aggressive, nationalistic policies in south-east Asia, despite the political and economic backlash from neighboring countries, and because of China’s falling rate of economic growth.

In the Presidential election, a candidate that lives in dream-land will lose to a candidate who at least cares about what is achievable, no matter how ill-considered are that candidate’s specific goals and paths to those goals.

So a vote in the primary for a well-intentioned candidate who does not care about defense and about foreign policy will inadvertantly aid the victory of the candidate of the opposite party, as long as that competing candidate does have strong opinions (however stupid) about defense and foreign policy.

Remember how votes for the egotist Ralph Nader first made George Bush president instead of Al Gore, and then four years later help George Bush win a second term. (Recall also Nader’s hypocritical claim that there would be no difference between Gore and Bush presidencies.)

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CREDO and MoveOn

October 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Posted in Enemies of Freedom, Terrorism | Leave a comment
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Study for the head of a young man sitting in the foreground to the right of the fresco The Reconciliation between Aemilius Lepidus and Fulvius Flaccus of the Sala del Concistoro in Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. Drawing acquired by the French state in 2004 for the Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques,  Domenico di Pace Beccafumi (1484–1551), 1520s, Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques, Paris, France. Source: Livre De la Renaissance à l'Âge baroque : une collection de dessins italiens pour les musées de France. Exposition présentée au Musée du Louvre, salle de la Chapelle, du 8 juin au 29 août 2005. Paris : Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2005. ISBN 9782711849758

Study for the head of a young man sitting in the foreground to the right of the fresco The Reconciliation between Aemilius Lepidus and Fulvius Flaccus of the Sala del Concistoro in Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. Drawing acquired by the French state in 2004 for the Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques, Domenico di Pace Beccafumi (1484–1551), 1520s, Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques, Paris, France. Source: Livre De la Renaissance à l’Âge baroque : une collection de dessins italiens pour les musées de France. Exposition présentée au Musée du Louvre, salle de la Chapelle, du 8 juin au 29 août 2005. Paris : Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2005. ISBN 9782711849758

When well-intentioned organizations do not think things through, they can cause great harm.

Such is the case for CREDO and for MoveOn.

Both organizations are idealistic, and aspire to be humane.

But their opposition to the use of lethal force has become reflexive and unthinking. The result is that both organizations inadvertantly facilitate cruelty and evil.

Both organizations have become enablers of what they claim to oppose.

By opposing military action against ISIS, both organizations now facilitate beheadings, barbaric rules for women (stifling their natural human diversity), military action by ISIS, and by emulators of ISIS, such as the Taliban and Boko Haram. Indirectly, the attitudes esposed by CREDO and by MoveOn facilitate all those who chafe at the constraints imposed on civilzed behavior, including Putin (the great emulator of Mussolini), and the Chinese police, in their treatment of both real and imagined differences of opinion.

This comes on top of CREDO’s opposition to punishing Assad for using chemical weapons. All those who suffered from Assad’s subsequent use of barrel bombs, and his other attacks on civilians, owe their suffering in part to CREDO.

CREDO and MoveOn, you are facilitating evil by others. You are facilitating the suffering of innocents.

You are asking the open societies of the world to be suicidally passive.

If that is not the case, then prove it, by specifying specific situtations where you would regard the use of lethal force as justified.

Becky Bond, you are facilitating beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

Zack Malitz, you are facilitating beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

Josh Nelson, you are facilitating beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

The same is true of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Anna Galand, Matt Blizek, Mari Tchijov, Sister Simone Campbell, Ilya Sheyman, Victoria Kaplan, and Susan Sarandon.

Astoundingly, the Democratic National Committee (the DNC), which should know better, recently broadcast an email promoting CREDO. That block-headed decision has proviked the present posting.

DNC, you are facilitating the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

Anyone who signs any of CREDO’s or MoveOn’s petitions is contributing to those organization’s facilitating of beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents. The goal of an individual petition may be worthy, such as for overturning Citizens United, but more thoughtful organizations offer similar petitions.

Anyone who contributes to CREDO or to MoveOn is contributing to those organization’s facilitating of beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

I contributed over $1000 to Obama’s first campaign.

Many emailed requests to sign petitions and to contribute have arrived come from CREDO and MoveOn and the DNC since the DNCs email promoting CREDO. All have been for causes I strongly support. Ordinarily, as in the past, I would have signed and contributed.

But ever since CREDO and MoveOn announced their opposition to using lethal force against ISIS and similar groups, it has become immoral to do so, even for the causes I support. I will continue to promote those causes, but not by any route that is associated with CREDO and MoveOn. Contributing or adding my voice to those two organizations or their facilitators, such as the DNC, would prolong the agony of those who are injured by ISIS and by those other vicious organizations, it would promote cruelty, intolerance, and would retard the continued existence of open socities, and their spreading.

No person who understands this should contribute to any of the organizations named above, for any of the causes they espouse, until those organizations rethink their positions about the use of lethal force against ISIS, the Taliban, al Qaeda, Boko Haram and like organizations, and Assad.

There are other organizations to which it might still be moral to contribute, since I am not aware of their having promoted CREDO and MoveOn. But after the DNC’s surprising decision to do so, we cannot be sure, until they make explicit their own positions on the use of lethal force.
The organizations in question are the DSCC (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee), Color of Change, ActBlue, AmeriCares, Organizing for Action, DCCC, and UltraViolet.

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Humane Executions

July 29, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Brain and mind, Crime and punishment, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment, Terrorism | 1 Comment
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A woodcut showing a rabid dog in the Middle Ages. "Middle Ages rabid dog" by Unknown - Scanned from Dobson, Mary J. (2008) Disease, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Quercus, p. 157 ISBN: 1-84724-399-1.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg

A woodcut showing a rabid dog in the Middle Ages. “Middle Ages rabid dog” by Unknown – Scanned from Dobson, Mary J. (2008) Disease, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Quercus, p. 157 ISBN: 1-84724-399-1.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg

 

Execution by lethal chemical cocktails has recently become more difficult.  Some of the makers of the required chemicals refuse to sell them for that purpose.  The remaining makers desire anonymity, to avoid becoming the target of protests.  Worse, some of the recent chemical executions have been botched, and seem to have produced drawn-out painful deaths.

All of these problems could be eliminated by returning to an older technique: death by bullet.

But the shooting should not be performed by a firing squad.  Too many things can go wrong with a firing squad.

Instead, use a device that softly but firmly holds fixed the head and chest of the condemned.  A commercially available cervical collar might be one part of the device.  The condemned should be lying horizontally, face up, unable to move, on a special table having a soft surface.

The execution would be carried out by one or more gunshots from behind the head.

The gun could be fired by either a person or a computer.  Computer-controlled firing would be less subject to mistakes.  Sensors viewing the vicinity of the condemned could provide signals to the the computer so that the gun could fire only when no other person was in the line of fire.

Note: The general design described above is hereby released into the public domain by thepoliblog.WordPress.com.  It is not patentable.

That covers the how.  What about the why?

As long as the death penalty is imposed fairly, its morality is clear.  We kill mad dogs, attacking wild animals, and armed enemy soldiers.  We kill terrorists.  We kill madmen and criminals who try to kill the police, and madmen who attack the public.  We kill cancers.  No matter how morally advanced we become, we will always regard such killing as justified.

But can the death penalty be imposed fairly?

Some claim that the death penalty can never be imposed fairly on an individual who is now under our control.  Why not treat such a person as a prisoner of war?  Why not restrain them instead of killing them?  Why not try to rehabilitate them?  These are difficult questions which I hope to address in a later posting.  But for the present, recall that we do not use these alternatives for mad dogs.  Recall that the intrinsic dignity of human beings may be a too-sweeping and vaguely founded concept, and likewise for the concept of free will.  And recall that many innocents have been killed by seemingly reformed but unreformed parolees: different person’s brains are wired differently.

On these matters I have to agree with Charles Lane, and have to disagree with Eugene Robinson, who is usually one of the most insightful analyzers of public issues, and with the Editors of the Washington Post.

 

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It Was Legal to Kill al-Awlaki

June 27, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Posted in Crime and punishment, Enemies of Freedom, Terrorism | Leave a comment
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Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, a lightened version (by Greg A L) of a photo taken by Muhammad ud-Deen.

Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, a lightened version (by Greg A L) of a photo taken by Muhammad ud-Deen.

On September 30, 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a Hellfire missile fired by the US government, even though al-Awlaki was nominally a U.S. citizen at the time.  (See here.)

Absurdly, the legality of this act is controversial in the most idealogically blinkered circles.

Think back to the Civil War in the U.S. If it was legal for Union soldiers to shoot Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, then it was legal for the US Government to kill al-Awlaki.

Wikipedia states that ‘The “targeted killing” of an American citizen was unprecedented.’ It is impossible to believe that during the Civil War soldiers were not particularly enouraged to kill named generals and high-ranking officers. So there are actually many precedents.

Killing al-Awlaki was prudent and just, as well as legal.

 

If we do not punish al-Assad

September 3, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Crime and punishment, Enemies of Freedom, Terrorism | 1 Comment
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A 1939 Second World War-era baby's gas mask in Monmouth Regimental Museum. This design covered the whole of the baby except for its legs. (The caption was obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_mask).  Photo taken by Rock Drum on 19 May 2012, at the Monmouth Regimental Museum.

A 1939 Second World War-era baby’s gas mask in Monmouth Regimental Museum. This design covered the whole of the baby except for its legs. (The caption was obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_mask). Photo taken by Rock Drum on 19 May 2012, at the Monmouth Regimental Museum.

If we do not physically punish the al-Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons:
=> All treaties on the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, on the use of torture, on terrorism, on the treatment of civilians, and on the treatment of captured enemy soldiers, become meaningless.
=> The U.S. and others should immediately begin stockpiling chemical and biological weapons, and radioactive contaminants, and methods for delivering them, because others will do so.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.  We must physically punish the al-Assad regime.

As for the vote in the British Parliament, those who voted against action have learned nothing from Chamberlain’s mistake in Munich.

For background, see here, here, and here.

 

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The Discussion that Edward Snowden Wanted

July 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Privacy, Terrorism | Leave a comment
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USA technical contractor Edward Snowden, grafitti by Thierry Ehrmann in the "Abode of Chaos" museum of contemporary art, in Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Rhône-Alpes region, France.

USA technical contractor Edward Snowden, grafitti by Thierry Ehrmann in the “Abode of Chaos” museum of contemporary art, in Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or, Rhône-Alpes region, France.

As everyone knows by now, Edward Snowden revealed classified information about a system that was designed to warn the government about impending terrorist attacks.

He claims that he released the information to provoke a public discussion about the trade off between privacy and the prevention of terrorist attacks.

As many have noted, in a partially analogous case, Daniel Ellsberg turned himself in so that his trial would throw a spotlight on the content of the Pentagon Papers, and also as proof of the purity of his motives.  Unlike Ellsberg, Edward Snowden fled, and is now seeking asylum in countries that are antithetical to the principles that Snowden claims to be defending.  This caused Julian Assange to voice his support of Snowden – Julian Assange, another coward who claims to be driven by principles, in Assange’s case the principle that no government has the right to secrets, a principle that Assange invented, an idiotic impractical principle that is not enshrined in law anywhere.

Despite Snowden’s loss of honor, the discussion he wanted has occurred, and its outcome is now known.

But the discussion not been explicit.  It has been implicit.  The public’s verdict has been declared by ‘the dog that didn’t bark’, to borrow a phrase of Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes.

The outcome is that the great majority of Americans are not outraged by practices that seem to have prevented a goodly number of terrorist attacks.  They think that these practices represent a balanced trade-off.  A limited loss of privacy has been traded for the prevention of the murder and wounding of innocent people.  Anything less would have constituted a failure to perform the duties of government with due diligence.

No matter what they say publicly, other countries recognize this.  Britain, which is careful about privacy and civil liberties, nevertheless places cameras in most public places, to help it deal with the same threat.

How to stop suicide bombings

July 16, 2012 at 10:40 am | Posted in Terrorism | Leave a comment
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Many are willing to serve as suicide bombers.  Few have the expertise to build the explosive devices.  One bomb builder may equip  many suicide bombers.  So eliminating the bomb builders would be an efficient way of reducing the number of suicide bombings.

Most suicide bombers are not walk-ins.  They must be wooed and recruited.  The recruiters are not as scarce as the bomb builders, so they are not as efficient as a choke point.  But the recruiters are indispensible to the process.  Also, one recruiter can recruit many suicide bombers.  Eliminating recruiters will help.

The family and friends of a now-dead bomber will often know the identity of the bomb builder.  They will also often know who recruited the suicide bomber.  The family and friends should be encouraged to identify the bomb-builder and the recruiter.  Each are at least as culpable as the suicide bomber.

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