Category Archives: Debate

A perfect setup for authoritarians

Social media, power, algorithms and politics combine to “gerrymander us down to the person”. Author, social scientist and university professor Zaynep Tufekci speaks with Sam Harris in the below podcast. Zaynep asserts that the tools of what she terms “asymmetric surveillance capitalism” — algorithms Google and Facebook build for targeted advertising — have been used by political power-brokers to micro-target individuals for persuasion and control. The click-bait politics of social media are “a perfect setup for authoritarians”, Zaynep states — algorithms stoke divisions and create closed systems that push viewers down a rabbit hole of extreme ideas.

Persuasion and Control

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Zeynep Tufekci about “surveillance capitalism,” the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook, AI-enabled marketing, the health of the press, Wikileaks, ransomware attacks, and other topics.

— Marcus

 

 

Reason of state

Below, reporter Bill Moyers’s critical history of the National Security State, told through the lens of the Iran Contra scandal of 1987. What has changed in 30 years under successive administrations? What might President Trump, a man for whom truth is not a huge priority, at least in his public speaking, do differently? The need for open debate and congressional approval of executive branch security action remains critical; conservatives and liberals alike support constitutionally required oversight of war powers.

— Marcus

The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis | BillMoyers.com

OLIVER NORTH: And I still, to this day, Counsel, don’t see anything wrong with taking the Ayatollah’s money and sending it to support the Nicaraguan freedom fighters. [pullquote align=”right”]”Next week, Congress will publish a report on the Iran-Contra scandal. My colleagues and I have been investigating it ourselves.

 

United States Ship

Our new commander-in-chief had the good instincts to appoint a man to lead the Armed Forces who opposes stooping to the values of our enemies, who stood his ground against unexamined impulses and offered wise counsel when asked about torture. The new Secretary of Defense also skillfully assures America’s allies that the crew of the United States ship of state will avoid sailing her into uncharted waters at the whim of her new captain. Below, an internet link said to be former general and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s recommended reading list from his days in command — worth a look for those who wish to understand (and perhaps learn a thing or two from) a key leader in the new administration:

Lt. Gen. James Mattis Professional Reading (75 books)

75 books based on 15 votes: Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield, The Rommel Papers by Erwin Rommel, One Bullet…

 

Another source is here.

Secretary Mattis writes about the value of reading here.

— Marcus

It’s never too late

“I think I wasted my first 50 years of my life. It is a great loss to me as a human being. I want to spend the rest of my life meaningfully.”

— Thae Jong Ho

 

High-ranking North Korean defector says ‘Kim Jong Un’s days are numbered’

The diplomat’s decision to defect from a regime he had spent his whole life defending didn’t happen overnight. Instead, his misgivings had been simmering for two decades, even as he went around Europe espousing the superiority of the North Korean system.

 

Does terrorism work?

No, not really, the book review below asserts. One reason, in my view, that terrorism does not work is that there are free nations with citizens who are willing to fight and to die for the cause of order over anarchy, for a national culture that celebrates the positivism of religiosity, be it humanist or spiritual in origin, over the nihilism of religious extremism and antitheism of totalitarianism. Absent such freedom, such noble citizens, terror could mesmerize a population, instill the fear it intends, and achieve the political aims of its authors.

Is Terrorism Effective?

There might well be thousands of books on terrorism, which means that it is extremely difficult to imagine something new. But Richard English’s Does Terrorism Work? A History , due to be released next month, differs from most discussions of the terror phenomenon.

— Marcus

Blood money?

While selling arms may be good business, Senator Paul asks if it may also be immoral, illegal, and strategically dubious:

Senator Chris Murphy adds that, inside Yemen, citizens think they are being targeted by a US bombing campaign, and this action is helping radicalize the Yemeni people against the West.

Despite objections from 27 senators, the sale passed the Senate. The other side of the debate argues that the sale was necessary because Saudi Arabia is fighting a militia backed by the Iranian government. For years Iran has conducted actions that destabilize the region, including support for terrorism and the pursuit of nuclear technology.

The Hill praises the senators who forced the vote for reasserting Congress’s proper role with respect to conducting war and overseeing foreign policy:

 

Senators challenge status quo on Saudi arms sales

This week, Sens. (R-Ky.), (D-Conn.), (R-Utah) and (D-Minn.) managed to singlehandedly do something that the rest of their colleagues would much rather avoid or ignore: They forced the Senate to debate the wisdom of continuing to provide Saudi Arabia with some of America’s best weaponry, no questions asked.

 

Secrecy and scrutiny

Know this:

  1. Military secrecy matters, yes, but only insofar as it protects our soldiers and citizens from harm, helps us to win the day, to defeat our enemies.
  2. Secrecy does not exist to protect bureaucracies, bureaucratic procedures, or provide “top people” with special knowledge as a privilege of power.

The officer discussed in the article following, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, appeared to be trying to help his fellow Marines survive, and when some didn’t make it home, help loved ones of the fallen get through a difficult grieving process. If the story is true, then we’re lucky to have leaders like him.

I will defer to General Stanley McChrystal:

Wasn’t this young man just trying to do the right thing?

A U.S. Marine Tried To Warn A Comrade, Now He Faces A Discharge

Enlarge this image Four years ago, Jason Brezler sent an urgent message to a fellow Marine in Afghanistan, warning him about a threat. The warning wasn’t heeded, and two weeks later, three U.S. troops were dead. Now the Marine Corps is trying to kick out Maj. Brezler because the warning used classified information.

 

— Marcus