Category Archives: Opinion

This we’ll defend

defend

America will no doubt survive the election of a celebrity with dubious qualifications and temperament to her highest office, but if our experiment in self-rule is to continue unblemished, if not humbled, let us keep our eyes wide open to the effects of Mr. Trump’s ascendancy, and make every effort to stand up for the rights his unexamined impulses threaten.

With respect to Trump’s support for tortureleaders who want to return to a dark era must be convinced that such a path is unwise. Remember, sirs, we tried torture already. It did not lead to the end of Al Qaeda, but did convince fence sitters to join the jihad, creating additional death and chaos. America is tougher, “greater”, when we rebuke the calculated savagery of Islamic extremism. They aren’t like us. Let’s not be like them.

With respect to unconstitutional police actions, while we must keep secrets secret, we must not spy on ourselves. The 4th amendment exists because of state overreach.  Our forefathers fought and died for this right. Let’s honor that sacrifice and reject the surveillance state.

We must be vigilant. We must reward competence. We must be purposeful when we have information about a threat, act on leads, and crucially, hold trials where judges, weighing evidence, condemn the worst of the worst, imprison enablers, and, with courage, free the innocent. Let’s remember: Trials and systems are what civilization does, cruelty and caprice are the manners of savagery. When we are the model for other states to follow, cooperation will improve with our neighbors. Such cooperation is the key to our security.

Let us hope that thoughtful citizens now come forward to assist Mr. Trump, help him understand that his primary role is to defend what really matters about AmericaBrave men and women can advise Mr. Trump to think beyond impulse and instinct, and to uphold the principles that have already made America great, namely:

Amendment I

Freedoms, Petitions, Assembly

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

Right to bear arms

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

 

Amendment III

Quartering of soldiers

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

 

Amendment IV

Search and arrest

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

 

Amendment V

Rights in criminal cases

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

 

Amendment VI

Right to a fair trial

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

 

Amendment VII

Rights in civil cases

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

 

Amendment VIII

Bail, fines, punishment

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

 

Amendment IX

Rights retained by the People

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

 

Amendment X

States’ rights

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

— Marcus

Internet access – a human right?

Alongside reasonable, affordable access to health care (whether through private or public means, we can leave it up to the politicians to debate) there’s an argument to be made that internet access should be a right. When the state controls access to information, the result is more often than not oppression:

Robert Mugabe Seizes on the Latest Political Threat to His Zimbabwe: WhatsApp

Zimbabwe has joined a growing list of African nations that have curbed social media in the last year. Fearing the power that social media gives to rivals, activists and ordinary citizens, governments in Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Chad, Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia have switched off access to the internet for days or weeks, including during elections.

 

— Marcus

An interesting question…

“Some were fed watermelon to fill their bladders, they said, and then had their penises tied.”

Besides the Kingdom’s uncomfortable taste for torture, the article below reveals that some tolerance for diversity, however limited, also reflects the modern Saudi state. Such tolerance suggests that pluralistic political reform, while surely distant, may one day come to America’s long-standing gulf ally:

In Saudi Arabia: Can It Really Change?

Thirty-five years after Wahhabi forces saved the Saudi monarchy, foreign descriptions of Saudi Arabia remain for the most part remarkably bleak. The writers of the four books under review examine the domination of the al-Saud dynasty with the fascination with which a zoologist might regard a black widow snaring its prey.

— Marcus

 

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

Off topic humor

Unrelated to the theme of this site, but related to current political winds, a classic Hollywood television show demonstrates that entertainment can help us consider the most sensational and sensitive cultural issues with humanity and humor:

Related to this site’s theme, and this post, humor — that is, the ability to tell and take a joke — can often be an excellent method to develop rapport in an interview with a subject under lawful scrutiny. It may therefore be wise for an interviewer to learn a few in-language jokes when operating overseas.

— Marcus

The beginning of a long war

Citizens and soldiers of the civilized lands of this world, those that eschew the mindless cruelties of political and social extremism, its pointlessness and nihilism, must always remember why we fight, what we fight for, and remain vigilant.

Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda fights on | The Long War Journal

All appeared lost for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in December 2001. In the years leading up to the 9/11 hijackings, bin Laden believed that the US was a “paper tiger” and would retreat from the Muslim majority world if al Qaeda struck hard enough.

 

Maybe a visit to the donate page here is in order today:

National September 11 Memorial & Museum | World Trade Center Memorial

No Description

 

— Marcus

Fragile bits…

It’s possible, though difficult, for a sophisticated organization to fake an iOS or Windows update in order to target a person for surveillance. Barring joining a neo-Luddite society, or wearing a tin-foil suit, security professionals who might face such an attack should consider running Linux systems at home; these take a bit of a tinkerer’s savvy to set up, but the peace of mind and safety may be worth it. Linux is a harder target.

In addition to the work of nefarious, secret actors, software companies are increasingly monitoring and recording our personal habits — as a means to make money. To such companies, we are not flesh and blood individuals whose unique experiences should be respected, but lifeless data points to be exploited — sifted over in search of silicon gold.

In my view, stewards of free nations — especially those who work in security and who care about freedom — should encourage our leaders to push for an open, vigorous debate over this subject; and, in consideration of our heritage, we should ask these leaders to stand up for the right to privacy.

— Marcus

Governments turn to hacking techniques for surveillance of citizens

In a luxury Washington, DC, hotel last month, governments from around the world gathered to discuss surveillance technology they would rather you did not know about. The annual Intelligence Support Systems (ISS) World Americas conference is a mecca for representatives from intelligence agencies and law enforcement.

 

An artist’s take on knighthood

Hollywood artist Ethan Hawke mines family lore to create a work of fiction outlining knightly virtues.

20 Rules for a Knight: A Timeless Guide from 1483

“Often we imagine that we will work hard until we arrive at some distant goal, and then we will be happy. This is a delusion. Happiness is the result of a life lived with purpose. Happiness is not an objective. It is the movement of life itself, a process, and an activity.

 

 

 

The terror years

Larry Wright argues that we must never give up on the ideals enshrined in our constitution.

One question posed in this interview: Should we still care about Al Qaeda in light of the ascendency of ISIS?

Answer: Yes, the ideology and tactics of Islamic extremism — that Al Qaeda birthed — continue to spread, threatening the stabilty of the Middle East and the liberties and security of enlightened democratic states. Zawahiri’s cohort must remain a target for justice.

‘The Terror Years’ Traces The Rise Of Al-Qaida And ISIS

From Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State Hardcover, 366 pages | Author Lawrence Wright was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, which meant he was required to do two years of what was called “alternative service.” He ended up in Egypt, teaching at the American University in Cairo.

ISIS eats itself

When leaders in an organization begin to victimize subordinates — out of fear, paranoia — it’s often a sign that the end is near. Mistrust means weakness. Isis’s self-immolation may be an opportunity for opposition forces to press.

islamic-state-kills-dozens-its-own-hunt-spies | MilitaryTimes

BAGHDAD – In March, a senior commander with the Islamic State group was driving through northern Syria on orders to lead militants in the fighting there when a drone blasted his vehicle to oblivion. The killing of Abu Hayjaa al-Tunsi, a Tunisian jihadi, sparked a panicked hunt within the group’s ranks for spies who could have tipped off the U.S-led coalition about his closely guarded movements.