Category Archives: Opinion

Irritation can be good

Defending the Republic

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Cass Sunstein about the fragmentation of American society, “choice architecture,” the importance of face-to-face interactions for problem solving, group polarization and identity politics, virtuous extremism, the wisdom of crowds, direct democracy, the limits of free speech, the process of Presidential impeachment, and other topics.

Al-Atrak

America and her NATO allies might be wise to focus on finding a path forward for the Kurds that works for Turkey. After the vote for Kurdish independence in September, tensions will likely increase in the area. The article and video below provide details.

It’s important to note here that losses incurred in our nearly generation-long engagements in the Middle East have been as much diplomatic as military. Without receiving significant support from Turkey, a nation that fought side-by-side with NATO in the Korean War and supported the first Gulf War, we were unwise to start conflicts in the ancient Ottoman territories. The Turkish border has become a conduit for human traffic into and out of Europe, including refugees and jihadists, and the government trends authoritarian and Islamist. This situation is arguably more consequential to world affairs than instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so should be reversed.

The good news is that America and her allies have made great strides against the menace of ISIS, lessening the pressures of human traffic. We can seize this opportunity to work wth Turkey, Iraq, Syria and the Kurds to map a future for the region that is as stable and peaceable as possible, a political solution that provides dignity and security to the Kurds — who have earned some freedom — without taking those same interests away from the Turks.

The Trouble with Turkey: Erdogan, ISIS, and the Kurds

Turkey, a key member of NATO, has so far chosen to sit out the war against ISIS. Instead, it is at war with Kurdish militias in Syria, the only ground forces so far that have managed to take on ISIS and win.

— Marcus

“I proceed from the assumption that every human being is guilty.”

Fools, Cowards, or Criminals?

Marcel Ophuls’s The Memory of Justice never suggests that Auschwitz and the My Lai massacre, or French torture prisons in Algiers, are equivalent, let alone that the Vietnam War was a criminal enterprise on the same level as the Holocaust. Nor does Ophuls doubt that the judgment on Göring and his gang at Nuremberg was justified.

Hybrid threat

I recently had to write a few paragraphs about something called a hybrid threat. Results below.

— Marcus

Al-Amlaqa

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 podcast below. 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 toward 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.