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  • Mar 23rd, 2018 @ 1:50pm

    Sufficiently Christian to serve in the US Army

    Wendy Cockroft I hadn't seen those documents directly before, but I have encountered the sentiments in discussions with people genuinely afraid of an alleged implacable Islam menace. Curiously, they'd refer to Islamic scripture and I'd point out that the bible does not portray a gentle, civilized people either. See, but that's different...

    Chronologiclly this also correllates with the introduction of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness standard that was introduced into the US Military under the watch of Chief of Staff of the US Army George Casey. Solders had to show a quantifiable rating of Spiritual Fitness to which Evangelists got easy high scores, and atheists and non-Christians got conspicuously low scores, and were sent to indoctrination farms to receive guidance that looked an awful lot like military evangelization camp.

    The CSF program is still part of US Army readiness preparation, though the spiritual fitness part has been adjusted to be milder to some degree. There are still complaints that it violates first-amendment rights.

    But it all smacks as if our military was gearing up for a literal religious crusade against Islam. It would not surprise me, given George W. Bush really wanted to fight a righteous war, and although most religious consultants told him Iraqi Freedom was not a just war he was able to muster five ministers from his own church to tell him it was.

  • Mar 23rd, 2018 @ 1:13pm

    Drawing the line.

    It's the same line as what is sexual harassment: coercion and extortion.

    According to international law (id est the geneva conventions) if you threaten someone with bodily harm, or threaten their children, or threaten to airstrike their village / carpet bomb their county / nuke their city / Death-Star their planet, you've crossed the line.

    And yes, they'll tell you whatever it is they believe will get you to stop.

    What is not torture? Using the carrot instead of the stick. Every FBI behavioralist specialist agrees with Mattis' two beers and a pack of cigarettes approach. Make it in their own best interests to talk.

    During the cold war, the US got into the habit of treating Soviet POWs like kings. The point was not to get them to blab but to indoctrinate them with how awesome capitalism and democracy were. They blabbed whether we needed intel from them or not.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 11:36pm

    To make money

    I'll grant you that conflicts that lead to war typically occur when the fight can lead to a large amount of money, property or resources changing hands. We tend not to fight over ideologies, but to seize territory or control of resources.

    But I think that's one of multiple factors to start the proverbial fire. We don't go to war without a lucrative cause. But the people won't get behind a war unless it appears there is a difference worth fighting over. If the new boss already looks too much like the old boss, the people won't rally.

    That's where the difference in ideologies, or the perceived wrongdoing or the threat or the promise come in. And yes, too often this difference is false or illusory.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 11:27pm

    Sufficiently Christian (in the eyes of the US administration)

    I was commenting about the administrations of the United States, who have in recent history been eager to dismiss proper rules of engagement against their brown-skinned, often Muslim enemies.

    The George W. Bush administration not only tortured POWs in Iraqi Freedom but would use mercenaries for to sweep and clear regions (id est, massacring everyone, including civilians in a zone). The Bush administration even sought to justify dismissing the Geneva Convention entirely so as to ignore proper treatment of POWs and refugees

    In contrast, the US was a bit more steadfast about clean rules of engagement when fighting Soviet forces during the cold war. But then the US military was fine with atrocity in Vietnam and in South America.

    So this led me to wonder if our policy regarding one enemy versus another was due to the race or religion of the units we were encountering on the front line. (Technically, the USSR was atheist, as religion was forbidden, but much of the Soviet population practiced underground, and US officials liked to imagine we were rescuing the wretched Soviet peoples from their godless oppressors)

    So I wasn't talking about the debate over who is (or isn't) a true Christian, or what it means to be one. Rather I was considering how US officials regard certain peoples, and if those people are not white or not Christian, do we regard them differently on the battlefield, or as captured POWs. If we had liberated, say, France or Italy (both are still largely Catholic nations) rather than Iraq, would we have tortured them? Would we have bombed out villages because a person of interest might have been there?

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 10:30pm

    So... fascists for social justice?

    I'm not sure where this is leading, but it's fascinating.

    The problem with ideological fascism is that it is prone to tyranny and to corruption since there is no oversight of the regime. It's possible start a fascist order with equitable ideals, but fascism itself contains no mechanism to preserve those ideals, especially if the regime should change.

    Though there have been some emperors who have established rights of the people (the Napoleonic Code comes to mind), contemporary fascist orders have risen with the idea that the preservation of the state must supersede the rights of the individual, which is entirely contrary to social justice. Indeed, historical examples have demonstrated dangerously radical utilitarianism on false pretenses.

    In the meantime, I'm sure some of the allies wore jackboots as well, though I think GI boots had laces.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 1:41pm

    Jackboots for social justice

    That's the point of having the jackboots (id est law enforcement).

    We make laws to create a society that is just, specifically to cover those realms where people are not naturally fair. Hence we have to establish rules of equality, of proper conduct, of rights of the individual.

    Granted, the jackboots always get corrupt and abusive of their power, but that's the point of having an oversight service. It's not a paradigm we've entirely worked out.

    But if we can enforce law (thereby enforcing social justice) without the jackboots, we're still open to ideas.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 12:56pm

    Sean Hannity water boarded

    That's too bad that he's refused. We've seen a number of correspondents over the last fifteen years try it to see what it's like (by SERE experts, no less) and all of them came out with the same unqualified verdict: Yes. It's torture. No, it shouldn't be done if there are alternatives. (And there are.)

    I'm curious if Hannity simply knows that his career depends on sticking to the far right ideology. His audience doesn't want truth, they want their own views comfortably reaffirmed. And if he ever could not hold to such rhetoric (say due to a traumatic conflicting personal experience) then he'd be out of a job. But I can't tell if he's that self-aware.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 12:13pm

    Encrypt everything!

    Much the way police intrusions into devices lead to Apple and Android encryption-by-default, this may lead us towards an era in which the common internet end user uses end-to-end encryption for all communication.

    Still, it won't happen until enough people are persecuted that it scares the public.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 12:05pm

    The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin...

    What this may end up doing is simply giving more legitimacy to the darknet and cypto-enforced anonymity, though it'll take a few years while the internet public adapts to the new methods of hunting down what they want and where they can talk. The common web surfer will learn the tools once the purview of terrorists, pirates and child-porn enthusiasts.

    This reminds me of the porn crackdown in California, where laws to stop prostitution instead used the word pandering and so the DA used it as a means to crack down on porn production (hiring someone to have sex in front of a camera is hiring someone to have sex, after all). A bunch of lengthy lawsuits, California is now one of the few places where it explicitly states in our law that the production of porn is legal.

    We may in up with such a situation regarding the internet, lest the US become a big-corporations-only zone...

    Or the US may just become a big-corporations-only zone. The dystopia gets more cyberpunk with each passinng year.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 11:14am

    Torture in history

    Torture has lasted so long in history because people can be vengeful fucks. It's natural to disregard the punks from the nearby district as undesirables or subhuman, so why concern ourselves with their suffering? Most of the wars throughout history have been against enemies we did not regard as our equals.

    If by torture works you mean to say that it gets some people off to reduce their enemies to broken blubbering masses, then yeah, I agree with you.

    But as was noted by Nice Guy Eddie If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire! Now, that don't necessarily make it fucking so. In fact, the US Army has studied use of torture at length and found that it consistently yields unreliable intel, and we have better methods to extract more consistently reliable intel from captives, but that involves not torturing them. But this means we have no purely utilitarian cause to torture. If we're going to torture, we need to admit we're doing it for the jollies.

    And that's what it comes down to. We torture some folk because we want to torture some folk. We get off on torturing folk, and even are drunk off torturing folk. That's what it's all about. We hate. We're furious. We want revenge, so we make them suffer. We attempt to justify it later as if it could have been a measured deliberate choice.

    I want the United States to be better. I want the US to be a nation of measured deliberate choices. Instead we make groups suffer not just at the ignorance of our aristocracy but so they can feel satisfaction that the people they hate are suffering. And an unsettling quantity of the US public gives no fucks about it.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 2:05am

    Things getting bad.

    Well, now we Americans live in a country that tortures. In a century or so we'll get to say we did that but we don't any more like massacring Indians, except we still treat the first nations like shit to this day.

    And we're still torturing (Mostly we outsource our torture so we can claim The US does not torture!) It means we can't even start counting the days since there's been an atrocity committed by Americans.

    And yeah, it means we are losing soft power. Other nations are very clear America is not a model of state to be emulated.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 1:59am

    POWs versus "Unlawful Combatants"

    Making the distinction wasn't difficult to do. In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq most of the combatants we were fighting were irregulars, which is to say they didn't wear a national uniform and they didn't have conventional training. Rather than regarding them as militia or partisans, the United States under George W. Bush regarded them as spies, hence they could strip them of their POW status and do whatever they wanted to them.

    And to be fair, suicide bombers look like saboteurs, id est spies.

    But these weren't suicide bombers. Some were even mistargeted Americans. They weren't spies of any kind, and it would have been appropriate to regard them like militia, civilians defending their own homes. But the Bush Administration did not want to regard them as human beings at all. Cheney implied very strongly the torture program was for his pleasure and for the appreciation of vengeance-seeking Americans.

    Eventually the military ceased participating inthe program. The detainees were handed over to the CIA who rendered them to black sites.

    Then again, we still torture at Camp Delta, there's a compound to which detainees are sent for disciplinary measures (id ests, doesn't entirely cooperate) in which all the rooms are kept in bright light and saturated with loud noise and rancid smells. So even though the DoD isn't waterboarding anyone (that we know of) they're still willing to shove people into the Wookie Torture Room when they're feeling cranky, and keep them in there for months at a time.

    I remember as a kid being taught that as Americans, we'd never do this kind of shit because we were better than that. My heart's been broken over it since 2003.

  • Mar 22nd, 2018 @ 1:43am

    "Its perfectly acceptable to kill millions"

    Evidently you do not understand war at all.

    The point of war is to resolve the conflict and come to terms of peace using the least amount of force possible. Which is why it is abominable that the US resorts to massacring civilians by the hundreds just in the hopes of nailing a person of interest, or two.

    But that is also to say you aren't alone in misunderstanding war. Officials of the United States have leaned towards heavy-handedness in war, not realizing that it destroys the reputation of the United States and strips the US of our soft power (which John Oliver discussed and explained recently).

    By torturing, and by massacring the United States has confirmed it is as monstrous as our enemies say we are. And it drives all the more survivors to their recruitment agents.

    And what's worse, the US doesn't torture because it's effective. The US doesn't firebomb villages because it's in US interests to do so. America's officials don't respect Afghanis or Pakistanis as human beings, so they just don't care.

    I wonder if it's because they're just not white or Christian enough.

  • Mar 21st, 2018 @ 8:59pm

    Blood of patriots and tyrants

    From what I've read of Jefferson's, he was pretty serious about the necessity of bloody revolution from time to time. Of course his opinions were before the French Revolution showed us what a it's really like.

    The American revolt involved the execution of fewer major political players, given the ones the victorious wanted to kill were safely across the pond. France's revolt happened right in Paris, and once the window of death was open for business, it was very easy to get caught up in the wind.

    I think that Jefferson imagined that we wanted the horror of purges in recent memory always, so as to keep our officials mindful of the people's fury lest they provoke it.

    While I don't necessarily agree with him -- purges are really terrible and we don't want to be going through them even every century, and yet our officials seem to have no fear of the people and rule with the forethought a Duke might give his lowliest serfs.

  • Mar 21st, 2018 @ 1:30pm

    The private arsenal as defense against tyranny

    Firearms are common self-defense or individual infantry weapons, and as such are not the crucial element that will fight tyranny. They'll be nice to have around in a jam, but will be secondary weapons at best.

    What is important is public access to all the knowledge the military has, and that's a provision that has long been betrayed, partially because our officials and law enforcement believe they are and should be privileged over their civilian counterparts. Fortunately, a lot of that information trickles out to the public anyway thanks to the internet, but not legally. The critical element of the second amendment -- that the people have access to everything the state and military have access to -- is already compromised.

    A resistance war against the state would not be fought as a stand-up pitched battle, but as a sabotage and liberation campaign by guerilla irregulars. And the US military, as grand as it is, is designed to fight standing armies.

    The US DoD method of fighting terrorists / resistance is to give no fucks about the civilians we kill and burn them out, hoping we get some actual targets in the blast. We've talked about it before in what's called targeted killings which differ from assassination in that the latter aims to minimize casualties and just get the intended target. The former is using intel to determine the location of the target, and then bombing the hell out of that site.

    (Sun Tzu has a few things to say about indiscriminate sieges. Mostly avoid.)

    Yes, that's pretty much US drone strike policy. I get the feeling that if our drone pilots were told to lay down Hellfires on Americans, there'd be a lot of mutiny.

    Actually, a lot of mutiny is typically what happens when military is sent in to aggressively control the people. No army likes to kill their own countrymen.

    And curiously, all the extra money we budget for the military is earmarked for fancy fighters and invisible tanks. We budget as if we're prepping to fight Russia or China on a pitched theater. In Afghanistan or Pakistan the US is fighting infantry hiding in jungle and mountains, for which tanks and planes are much less useful. The DoD should be beefing up its infantry.

    And yet, US military families still have to construct home-made body armor supplements and ship them abroad, because proper armor and protection against IEDs is not in the military budget. We're still using Humvees with Rino retrofits rather than provide our troops with transports that actually resist IEDs.

    (This has been a pet peeve of mine since I had a friend who suffered a TBI in the aughts. We expected tons of advancements in treatment of TBIs since they're the most common injury coming out of Afghanistan. But it appears the DVA has been telling vets to just walk it off and don't talk about it much to family.)

    So I get the feeling that when the American resistance gets going, it's going to be a long quagmire of attrition, and yeah, those private weapons collections are going to become useful, just not useful for attacking. And what army doesn't mutiny and join the resistance is going to have to slaughter Americans and get no thanks for it.

  • Mar 21st, 2018 @ 12:47pm

    Well, there goes my musical career.

    I had quit some time ago while my work wasn't very good yet, but my computer and operating system became no longer compatible with my software.

    I had gotten to that point when I realized the stuff I was writing wasn't all that great, and to take a step back I started doing study works, that is, deliberately emulating the styles of past composers to better understand what they did.

    And evidently now that's illegal.

  • Mar 21st, 2018 @ 12:42pm

    Lack of free speech in the UK.

    Neil Gaiman has noted on multiple occasions the lack of free speech guarantees in the United Kingdom. He's had to make trips to the United States to acquire and read a number of books The 120 Days of Sodom for instance.

    This is something that Parliament has refused to relinquish: the people of Great Britain cannot be trusted to hold their tongues when appropriate. Brits cannot be trusted with dangerous knowledge (such as the process of making explosives). Nor can they be trusted to mind their propriety of letters. So if an official is offended by a new book, it can get banned. If a lord is offended by what you someone says in public, he can be arrested for it. And if a specific bit of literature is too racy / too enigmatic / too political for the Queen, it can be prohibited for publication or for reading.

    So criminal charges for teaching a dog to Nazi-salute is actually something that Scots can anticipate.

    As Gaiman has noted in the many times he's had run-ins with UK speech control, it isn't necessarily right. Authorities have a lot of say as to what is proper public discussion and what isn't, and as a result many Brits are punished for exercising what would be freedoms in the US. But for now, it is the norm.

    Heart and hand for Caesar

  • Mar 21st, 2018 @ 12:29pm


    It is one of the problems that rises when a party has taken to election fixing to stay elected, after that we don't know if they could have won their seats and titles in a fair election, and it becomes easy to assume they couldn't.

    Is the nation still a democracy?

  • Mar 20th, 2018 @ 6:31pm

    Privacy safeguards

    Right now that's the way that our systems develop: a leaky technology gets popular, government agencies and commercial interests start using the leaks. The public feels intruded upon. At this point a couple of things start happening:

    One, the issue gets addressed in courts. Most of the time (right now) the courts side with law enforcement, but sometimes they decide that a certain kind of surveillance (e.g. use of stingray cell-phone spoofers) requires a warrant. Also legislators can pass laws declaring such things illegal. Of course the DoJ will fight back.

    Two, new services will emerge that intentionally don't keep records or obfuscate those records and otherwise make it not easy for law enforcement (or commercial interests) to track the end user. In this case, an auto-manufacturer or third-party might provide an anonymous mode for privately owned cars, or a an Uber-style taxi service might delete their records after a transaction is complete. And again, the DoJ will apply pressure to leave trails much the way the FBI wants to be able to decrypt smartphones.

    So yeah. Early adopters will, like the early adopters of IoT get screwed by lack of security.

  • Mar 20th, 2018 @ 3:20pm

    Murder and Arson

    I guess when I think of crimes such as murder or arson (granted from a fictional crime-drama perspective) I'm thinking this person needs to die or this place needs to burn to the ground so much that I need to act outside the law to get it done. That means going dark and having alibies that even my closest friends and loved ones would believe.

    Heck, I might borrow the phone of some rival and leave it around there to throw off the investigators. Though to be fair, that's overthinking it.

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