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Oscars No. 89 Open Thread

[ 126 ] February 26, 2017 |

I’m not watching but the Twitters informs me that Mahershala Ali has won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moonlight.

Here’s a list of nominees and winners that will be updated as they’re announced. Consider this your open thread to discuss the 89th Academy Awards.

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Leak investigation springs a leak (Update – A Spicey Shot & Chaser)

[ 98 ] February 26, 2017 |

Sleepless Spice is trying to catch sources of White House leaks. Can tracking collars and body cams that can’t be turned off be far behind?

Spicer called staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the leaks, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, was a violation of the Federal Records Act.

Suddenly he cares about laws?

Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could
ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.

A cunning plan. No one would ever think to delete incriminating info or communicate with reporters in some way that wouldn’t be on their phones at all.

And now, the punchline.

Spicer asked to review both his staff’s government-issued and personal cell phones, the sources said. He also specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media, one source said.

I hope that one day in the near future these unsung heroes get the thanks they’re due.

Update – Perhaps Spicer should shut up and let the leakers handle everything.

https://twitter.com/ArmsControlWonk/status/835980882116771840

Bill Paxton

[ 70 ] February 26, 2017 |

Bill Paxton has died, after complications from surgery.

Paxton seemed to have been in a thousand movies and TV shows, making him a sort of second-string Kevin Bacon, who appeared with him in Apollo 13, and probably a bunch of other things as well.

I remember him best as Hudson, the cowardly Marine who is given the best lines in James Cameron’s Aliens, and as the earnest husband juggling several wives in HBO’s Big Love, a cheesy but strangely compelling series about polygamy among suburban heterodox Mormons in Salt Lake City.  He was also in Titanic, although I can’t remember who he played.  I do have a painful memory of him in Twister, one of the worst big budget movies ever.   An actor who everybody knows but somehow never quite becomes a real movie star, and who then dies on the day the Academy Awards take place, is something out of Woody Allen movie, or maybe a Raymond Carver story.

 

 

#StupidestPresidentEver tries to box clever

[ 221 ] February 26, 2017 |

SAD!

TrumpPerez

Viva Sandino!

[ 63 ] February 26, 2017 |

Screen-Shot-2014-07-26-at-8.53.30-AM

Glad to see Republicans repudiate the horrific policies of Reagan toward the Sandinistas!

“If the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: America stands with Israel,” Vice President Mike Pence told the Republican Jewish Coalition on Friday night. Meanwhile, Pence’s Twitter account was sending an entirely different message: America stands with Nicaragua.

The person managing Pence’s Twitter account mistakenly tweeted that “the world will know America stands with Israel 🇳🇮 ” and “Under @POTUS Trump, we will stand with Israel 🇳🇮 ” except, there’s one problem: that’s not Israel’s flag. The person tweeting used the Nicaraguan flag in both tweets, which vaguely resembles the Israeli flag if you squint and are completely ignorant of world politics.

If there’s one thing you can say about this administration, it’s that it’s bigly competent.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 72

[ 37 ] February 26, 2017 |

This is the grave of Joseph Story.

IMG_1789

Born in 1779 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Story graduated from Harvard in 1798 and was admitted to the bar in Salem in 1801. In 1805, he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature as a Jeffersonian, a difficult victory in this Federalist stronghold. He very briefly served in Congress, from December 1808 to March 1809, and then returned to the Massachusetts legislature, where he was elected Speaker in 1811. In November 1811, James Madison selected him to serve on the Supreme Court. He was only 32 years old. He would remain there until his death. He is still the youngest person ever selected to the Court.

As a justice, Story would develop into a conservative defender of property rights during an age of industrialization. He became closely aligned with John Marshall, even though he had been a Jeffersonian before this. He fought hard for the supremacy of the Supreme Court over the state courts, not an established fact at this time. It was the Virginia courts that rejected Story’s rulings, again an irony given his background. Overall, his view was one of expansive federal powers, particularly in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee. And in later cases such as Charles River Bridge, when Roger Taney and the Democrats had taken over the court, Story became the chief dissenter, supporting the rights of nascent corporations consistently. Today, he is most famous for ruling for the self-emancipated slaves in the Amistad case. In 1829, he also took a job teaching at Harvard. There, he wrote Commentaries on the Constitution, one of the most important early books on interpreting the Constitution. He died in 1845, the last old-school Early Republic figure in government.

Although you don’t get a lot of obscure Supreme Court justices appearing in film, retried Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun played Story in Amistad.

Joseph Story is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he spoke at the dedication cemetery in 1831.

It Starts Here

[ 130 ] February 26, 2017 |

1462275386337_the-4-best-towns-in-delaware-for-lgbt-families-featured

Just one data point, of course, but still encouraging:

MIDDLETOWN, Del. ― This is what democracy looks like.

It’s been a chant that has animated marches and protests around the country since the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated president, but it’s been more aspirational than descriptive. On Saturday, in a state Senate district in Delaware that stretches from Middletown to Newark, the voices in the streets turned into votes in the ballot box.

In the most expensive special election in Delaware history ― a contest to decide which party controls the state Senate ― Democrat Stephanie Hansen was on track to annihilate her Republican rival on the back of extraordinary turnout.

The last time her opponent, John Marino, ran in this district, in 2014, he lost by just 2 points. Hansen’s 58-42 percent victory over Marino on Saturday ensured that Democrats will maintain control of the state Senate. It also notched a big Donald Trump-era win for a new generation of Democratic activists shocked into action by the November election.

There were roughly six billion DEMOCRATS ARE DOOMED stories written after the 2016 elections, with an urgency heightened by an undemocratic electoral system awarding the election to the popular vote loser. Of course, the same stories were written about Republicans in 2009, when they got 163 electoral votes, lost 21 House seats and were reduced to 40 Senate seats, and had full control of 14 state legislatures. Part of what happened since then might be explained by superior tactics and organizing by the Republican Party. But the much larger factor is that all things being equal being the presidential out party is an advantage elsewhere, and that goes double when the incumbent president is as unpopular as Trump. Regaining this structural advantage doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s a major opportunity.

Our lips are sealed

[ 159 ] February 25, 2017 |

Should ignorance about women’s bodies stop a man from inventing things to be used on women’s bodies? Of course. Does it? Pbbbfffft.

This time it isn’t a law. It’s U.S. Patent 9,539,077, brainfart of Daniel A. Dopps. (The document contains a few line drawings of what may be a woman’s genitals. Or maybe they’re contour maps of Minas Tirith. It’s hard to say.)

Method for alternatively resisting and permitting menstrual flow

Abstract

A method for controlling menstrual flow including sphincterally contracting and expanding labia minora having left and right labium minuses, such anatomical structures moving to a closed position upon each sphincteral contraction or to an opened position upon each sphincteral expansion; adhering and disjoining the labia minora, each adhesion securing the labia minora at the closed position, the disjunctions freeing the labia minora for opening movement; and resisting and permitting menstrual flow, the resistance occurring on sphincteral contraction and adhesion, and the permission occurring upon sphincteral expansion, each adhering step disposing a hydrophobic and bio-compatible adhesive selected from acrylic adhesives, polyisobutylene adhesives, and silicone adhesives, and each disposition step utilizing an applicator selected from brushes, swabs, rub-on sticks, roll-on applicators, pump sprayers, aerosol sprayers, squeeze tube applicators, bottle applicators, and finger applicators.

Yes, it is exactly as appalling as it sounds. This weird and very stupid person has some very wrong ideas women’s bodies. He thinks women can flap their labia minora open and shut, that labium minuses is an actual term and that women should reward him for his ignorance.

Mensez feminine lipstick is a natural patented compound of amino acids and oil in a lipstick applicator that is applied to the labia minora and causes them to cling together in a manner strong enough to retain menstrual fluid in the vestibule above the labia minora where the vaginal opening and urethra exit.

Mensez, for the woman who likes to have her body mansplained to her.

The Mensez compound is instantly washed away with urine, which releases the menstrual fluid along with the urine into the toilet every time a woman urinates. No pads or tampons are needed. Safe, secure and clean.

I am reminded of a joke a friend told during a slumber party when I was in 5th grade. It involved the human penis. In the joke human penises had bones in them. We thought it was the funniest thing we had ever heard until our hostess’ mother burst in and told us penises don’t have bones in them and to stop being silly. Then that became the funniest thing we had ever heard. However, Dopp, an adult person who has medical training, is more ignorant about female anatomy than a bunch of 5th grade girls were about male anatomy. Where’s my friend’s mom when you need her?

“It will be thoroughly tested and improved,” adding that “It makes more sense than putting the plug up there,” and that “we’re using the vagina like a bladder just like tampons do.”

I’m beginning to get an idea of where his fascination with glue comes from. As the article notes, that’s not how this works. Any of it.

And of course he’s a raging (unglued) asshole.

Several women have suggested that Dopps is a misogynist, and that a man shouldn’t make products for women without firsthand knowledge of female anatomy.

He easily corroborated this charge in a response to one visitor’s comment on the Mensez Facebook page, in which he explained that “[Y]ou as a woman should have come up with a better solution than diapers and plugs

Diapers.

but you didn’t. Reason being women are focused on and distracted by your period 25% of the time, making them far less productive than they could be. Women tend to be far more creative than men, but their periods that [sic] stifle them and play with their heads.”

Periods make the ladies crazy and useless so it is up to Dr. Dipp to use his superior, uncluttered by menstrual cycles boy-brain to help us out. His invention won’t stop or shorten the duration of a period, but somehow smearing a hypothetical blood-sweat-lubricant-but-not-urine-proof glue on our nether bits will unstifle us. Perhaps the irritation would inspire us to create a utopia where people like Dopps are allowed – after careful training and under close supervision – to clean out the filters at a sewage/energy conversion plant.

After three years he’d be given a brush.

The Gorka Dissertation, Part II

[ 65 ] February 25, 2017 |

I

JDCIn my prior post, I tried to make clear that you don’t need to get very far—less than twenty pages, in fact—into Gorka’s dissertation to recognize its academic shoddiness. Something like 7% of it is a cut-and-paste job from an earlier article. In of itself, that’s not a problem. But the article came out 3-4 years before the dissertation, and Gorka couldn’t be bothered to change the text or update the data to reflect that gap. The first twenty pages also reveal a pattern that persists throughout the entire thesis: Gorka is not big on citations, especially scholarly ones. Moreover, the citation practices are, shall we say, lax. For example, here’s footnote 10:

The sarin gas attack executed on the Tokyo metro by Aum in 1995 was in fact preceded by several unsuccessful biological agent attacks prepared by the private laboratories the cult had established with millions of dollars of its funds. For a journalistic account of the history of the cult see David E. Kaplan and Andrew Marshal: “The Cult at the End of the World”, Arrow Books, London, 1996. For a scholarly and detailed analysis see the relevant section in Richard A. Falkenrath, Robert D. Newman and Bradley A. Thayer: “America’s Achilles’ Heel: nuclear, biological, and chemical terrorism and covert attack”, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1998 [emphasis added]

In fact the discussion of Aum Shinrykio appears to be spread over multiple chapters. Along these lines, footnote 20 reads “CNN even showed footage of al Qaeda experimentation that involved the gassing of dogs.” That’s it. In fact, getting an appropriate citation isn’t that much of a challenge. But, at least, a reader can be thankful that he provides references at all. The section called “The New International Scene” runs from pages 19-23. It contains myriad empirical claims—such as the countries within which Al Qaeda had affiliates in 2001—and analytical ones—that Al Qaeda launched 9/11 against the United States to divide it from its allies,  or that “the Arab and Muslim world still has a perturbed relationship to the question of modernity” (21)—none of which are sourced in any manner. The only such reference, involving the number of CIA officers who spoke Pashto on September 11, is to “author’s discussion with Marine Colonel who had served in Afghanistan as a covert paramilitary operator within the CIA, Summer 2004” (2007, 22 fn18).

I stress this lack of citations not merely because it amounts to poor scholarly practice—if anything, the typical dissertation suffers from too many citations—but also because it reflects the bloviating tone that runs throughout. The lack of references creates the impression that Gorka is passing off every insight—from the shopworn, the clichéd, and the banal to the unoriginal but tendentious—as his own.

Some examples:

Here it may be too early to prove the existence of a large-scale trend, but with the second and successful attempt against the World Trade Centre (WTC), – following the earlier truck-bomb attempt in 1993 – al Qaeda at least, has demonstrated a determination to attack highly symbolic targets. This author believes the logic behind this tactic is clear. Terrorism is, like guerrilla warfare, always the tool of choice of weaker actors that cannot win a stand- up fight against their nation state adversary. As a result they will rarely, if ever, be in a position to exact lethal damage to the vital interests or functioning of the state they have pitted themselves against. This is why fear has to be the overarching goal, a fear which can be directed as a tool in applying greater and greater political pressure upon the targeted authorities until policies are changed. In this inculcation of fear, the attack of universally recognisable symbols – such as the Pentagon and WTC – is invaluable, especially in this age of live, global cable and satellite news services. Thanks to the likes of CNN, NBC, BBC, etc., Osama bin Laden was able to send his message of fear to as wide an audience at possible in the fastest time imaginable. Add to this last element of media exploitation, the recent rise of media outlets which challenge the ‘white man’s’ news monopoly, e.g. Al-Arabiya and al Jazeera Television, and we now have channels which in fact may be favourable to the terrorist and act as a force-multiplier in the globalisation of his message (2007, 18).

It is interesting to note that despite the beacon-like example that modern Turkey represents, here too there have been significant developments recently toward a revitalisation of a national identity that relies far more on religion than would otherwise even have been imaginable during recent decades. This resurgence can in part ironically be explained by the negative way in which the European Union has delayed talk of Turkish EU membership (2007, 22 fn17).

Globalisation as a process is not new. Many an ancient empire can be seen as a form of (limited) globalisation. Even so, the fact that globalisation is now occurring in an environment of interconnected market economies and the spread of one specific model of nation-state structuring, namely market democracy, means that an actor wishing to exploit the inherent weaknesses of the democratic model, such as a the religious terrorist, has a broader environment in which to operate. Additionally the attitude of many people nominally belonging to the faith community of Muslim fundamentalism may be swayed by interpretations of the current trends to globalisation that exacerbate the centuries old question of Islam’s relations to modernity and the West. Lastly, the fact that the pre-eminent exponent of globalised terrorism at this time has chosen to restrict his actions very much to attacks aimed against just a handful of Western nations (UK, US, Spain) results in the fact that existing alliance frameworks may be severely weakened by differing assessments as to whom has most to fear from “Transcendental Terror”. Within the previously united western world there is now no agreement on whether or not this is a significant new threat that applies to all of us. In part, the problem is that man has a propensity to judge others based upon himself. As a result it is very difficult to believe in, let alone comprehend, an adversary who thinks in a fashion so contrary to our own. We tend to posit our rationality, even our morality, onto the other. Additionally, many of America’s European allies are more inclined to resolve dispute and potential conflict through diplomatic and political means, rather than through the use of force (2007, 24).

The basics needs of a human being are quite easy to identify: shelter, sustenance and community. The importance of the first two is also simple to explain. As a biological entity, without protection from the elements and food and water, we will not function and quickly die. The relevance of the third requirement is superficially obvious, but on closer examination more complex. There are, of course, the economies of scale that come from living in a cooperative group. As our ancestors who did not have the use of firearms well knew, it is quite difficult to hunt and kill a large animal by oneself. Likewise to fish the seas in an efficient fashion or even to build a sizeable home is a faster and easier a task when done in the company of others. But there are also the psychological and societal benefits of not living the life of a hermit or recluse. Man craves friendship and companionship and finds fulfilment in living within community. If this were not the case, given all the benefits of technology, we could in fact choose to live in total isolation from one another today, but we do not. Then there is the more practical profit that accrues with regard to safety in numbers.

It has been said more than enough times that the history of Mankind is the history of conflict. Respect for one’s territory, one’s chattels and even one’s right to life was never a given. There have always been, and will always be, those that threaten our very existence or livelihood. As a result, the need to be able to defend oneself and one’s family has always been apparent. Such defence is easier when done in numbers than individually or just by family unit. In modern terms, this is the function of providing security (2007, 27).

This last bit of banality opens a section entitled “The Evolution of National Security.” Gorka presents one of the diagrams for which, if nothing else, he deserves all the credit due to him.

It-hurts

Gorka (2007, 28) did not think this through.

In conventional language, shifts in scale from “micro” to “macro” are shifts in size: smaller to larger. As best I can tell, Gorka is trying to tell a temporal story here: the evolution of security is a story about the increasing scale of the object that needs to be secured. The result is a mess. As he writes:

It is not the purpose of this dissertation to provide a lengthy discussion of this evolution, to enumerate the dates when one macro level gave way to another.  In gross terms we can speak, however, of a chain of security being tied first to the tribe or clan, then to a village and, or, religious community, and further to the local landowner unit, followed by a kingdom or empire, or a city-state until we arrive at the modern object of macro-security, the nation-state’ (Gorka 2007, 28).

There are a bunch of problems with this, but the most obvious goes something like this.

Here is the Neo-Assyrian Empire:

640px-Map_of_Assyria

Here are some empires in around 750 AD:

height_of_omayyad_caliphate_cropped

Over the past three millennia, there have been many empires that are much larger in scale than national-states. Indeed, empires—along with federative and confederative polities—constitute some of the most time-honored ways of organizing large, heterogeneous political communities. It makes no sense to call “nation states” a more “macro” stage in security evolution than these forms.

Regardless, Gorka next briefly discusses Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles—for just long enough to tell us that “while there is much to commend the work… it does have its distinct flaws, flaws that it shares with a majority of recent treatise that have proclaimed the death of the nation-state, somewhat prematurely” (2007, 30). This allows him to open his next section (“The Westphalian Inheritance”) with a paragraph that gives me hives.

It is often far too easy to take for granted the system of governance and administration in which we today live. If one does not professionally study modern history or the evolution of international law, one could be forgiven for thinking that the current system of independent nation-states has existed for much longer than it has in fact existed. The truth is that as a concept we can describe its evolution as being quite recent in historic terms. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is taken by most commentators as introducing the foundations for the creation in the West of a system in which the objects were states, bodies that were independent of each others – although which could ally with one another – and into whose internal affairs it was not allowed to become involved, a system in which sovereignty would eventually become paramount26. Later, as this concept evolved and as the individual allegiances of the people would shift from local landowner or royal house, to a professional political elite defined around a national identity, the state would evolve further into the nation-state, with is fundamental aspects of citizenship and nationality.

26In fact it was the sacrosanct nature of sovereignty that would later lie behind the creation of the ‘balance-of-power’ system that would be so important to Europe in following centuries.

Again, no sources. None. Zero. And while “most commentators” may have once believed this, it’s wrong. Westphalia had nothing to do with the foundations of the state system. At least if Gorka had been troubled to cite some of the (very smart) people who argue that it did—even if erroneously—he would come across as less of a pretentious blowhard. The footnote is just the icing on the cake. The balance-of-power system did not render sovereign sacrosanct, because it was premised on moving territory around to maintain the balance of power. The inhabitants of what would later be called “Belgium” certainly did not appreciate being placed under the rule of the United Netherlands for the sake of blocking future French expansion.

All of this amounts to a belabored way of making a rather simple argument: almost all states are organized to defend themselves against military aggression, to police their territory, to engage in espionage, and to protect themselves against espionage. Moreover, Gorka contends, the western allies oriented those capabilities against the Soviet Union and its clients. With the end of the Cold War, things are so much more complex and uncertain, what with the cyber, and the environment, and the terrorism. Add a few footnotes, and we’d have pretty much all we need to move forward.

Thus Gorka returns us to terrorism. Or, more accurately, he summarizes a very few sources to tell us nothing original about conceptual issues related to the study of terrorism. But he does supply us with this wonder of a passage: “One more avenue that takes us out of the abstraction of mere words is a pictographic representation of the mechanics of terrorism. By resorting to a Venn diagram-like approach, it may be easier to understand the dynamics at work between the various subjects and objects of political violence [emphasis added].”

A Venn Diagram-Like Approach (Gorka 2007. 47)

A Venn Diagram-Like Diagram

Now, to the uninitiated, this may look merely like a simple flow chart. So I’ve created a diagram to help make sense of it:

WTF

Locating Venn Diagram-Like Diagrams: a Venn Diagram

 

That’s the end of Part II. I still haven’t gotten to the ‘good stuff’. 150 or so pages to go.

And Now, We Can Move Onto Elections Involving Real Power

[ 578 ] February 25, 2017 |

Tom Perez, an excellent Labor Secretary and head of the Civil Rights Division from the left of the party, will be DNC Chair. Keith Ellison, an excellent and influential member of the House from the left of the party, will be Deputy Chair, and as a bonus will get to remain in Congress. This is good, and is an illustration of the extent to which the party has moved to the left over the past 20 years. Of course, Ellison as Chair would also have been an excellent outcome. Either way, ignoring people who wanted to use a contest for a procedural position as a means of re-litigating the primaries and hence had a felt need to smear the candidate they believed to be a Hillary/Bernie proxy is sound practice.

…and they say Wikileaks never breaks important news!

Wait until the emails revealing that Bernie Sanders secretly supported Hillary Clinton for president are revealed!

Sebastian Gorka’s Dissertation, Part I

[ 87 ] February 25, 2017 |
Seriously

This is real. This is an actual diagram from Gorka’s (2007, 166) dissertation. I will discuss it in a later post.

We should exercise caution when evaluating dissertations. Dissertations are not works of scientific perfection. I finished mine in a marathon month, as I was pushing the deadline for retaining my position at Georgetown. Even the substantially revised book that emerged from contains a handful of truly embarrassing historical errors. In other words, I think it would be grossly unfair to reduce Gorka to his dissertation, or to use it as evidence that he is unqualified for his position. Moreover, I concentrated in the study of international security. I know a bit about the intersection between great-power politics and transnational religious movements. Still, I am not a terrorism expert. I am certainly not an expert on Islam. And I am far from an expert on Islamic terrorism.

Nonetheless, I did read the dissertation last night. Members of the Lawyers, Guns and Money community have asked for my opinion. I would not characterize it as a work of scholarship. I am confident that it would not earn him a doctorate at any reputable academic department in the United States. Indeed, it would be unacceptable as an undergraduate thesis for the Department of Government or the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. My guess is that Gorka wanted to call himself “Doctor,” and his PhD-granting institution was happy to oblige.

Despite its overwrought title and often ponderous prose, the dissertation starts with a rather straightforward claim. There are two “sub-divisions of terrorist, the Rational and and Pragmatic and the Irrational, or Transcendental Terrorist.” The former seek a “fundamentally feasible and realistic goal”—such as national independence or autonomy—and hence “there is the possibility for a political or diplomatic solution to the root grievance.” The latter, however, “has as his end goal the realisation of a state-of-affairs that is not obviously feasible or realistic and which is completely antithetic to the opposing government. There is no possibility for a political resolution or even negotiations” (2007, 12).

In November 2007, when Gorka finished his dissertation, this was already a well-established line of argument. Scholars were debating the degree that the latter characterization applied to movements such as Al Qaeda, and bringing multifaceted evidence to bear on the subject.Thus, there was certainly room for an intervention that moved the ball forward. But that would require a dissertation with discipline and focus. This is not such a dissertation.

That becomes clear on the next page, where Gorka (2007, 13) introduces four hypotheses and ways that he will validate those hypotheses. They are:

1. Irrational terrorist actors have become more numerous since the cessation of the Cold War
2. Governments are sorely limited in the selection of tools that can be used in the face of such actors
3. The Irrational or Transcendentally informed terrorist represents a wholly different category of threat, since due to the fact that he is completely uninterested in political resolution, he can justify the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
4. Osama bin Laden typifies the new threat and poses a challenge which we cannot adequately deal with given existing Westphalian state structures and national security divisions of labour.

The evidence comes from:

a) How national security has evolved as a function of the modern nation- state.
b) What the difference is between the geostrategic environments of the Cold War and the post-September 11th 2001 state-of-affairs.
c) Who Osama bin Laden is and how novel an organisation al Qaeda is and,
d) What should be done to reform Westphalian security architectures so as to make them applicable to the new threat environment that has been shaped by the rise of the Irrational/Transcendental Actor and the globalisation of security.

If you wonder how Gorka can accomplish these tasks in 240 pages, the answer is that he can’t. He makes little effort to consider alternative explanations, use anything resembling a proper methodology, adequately source key claims, cite or take seriously more than a smattering of scholarly works, or even sufficiently develop lines of thought. Parts of the dissertation come across as filler. Perhaps they are. Toward the end of the piece, he dumps about eight pages of “potential theories or doctrines that have been penned in an attempt to make the current strategic environment more understandable” (page 167ff). He also used the same text in a September 2007 co-authored survey for the Council on Emerging National Security Affairs (CENA), which is no longer online.

Regardless, the bulk of the dissertation summary—its first part—consists of boilerplate within the realm of conventional wisdom. Gorka argues that the end of the Cold War made the international security environment more complex and the identification of the proper hierarchy of threats more challenging (2007,  7-8), he offers a fairly standard definition of terrorism (sourced exclusively to “discussions” with “Dr. Jenkins“) and defends restricting the term “terrorist” to non-state actors (2007, 11).

The introduction continues apace. He writes that “there has been a resurgence in terrorism that is not purely political in nature” and that the Aum Shinrykio 1995 gas attacks, along with Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks, “together… describe a proto-trend that is supported by quantitative statistics pertaining to terror attacks in the last decade” (2007, 15-16). The only such statistics offered appear in Appendix I, which uses US Department of State data for 1993-2003. This obviously does not cover the “last decade”—recall that the dissertation was deposited in 2007. The data boils down to a rather crude average of number of death per attack.

Why does the”last decade” ends with 2003? The relevant sections are—as best I can tell—recycled from a paper Gorka first wrote in 2003, and come from what I think is a 2004 version. Regardless, this is a good example of how shoddy the scholarship is. Gorka wants to claim that there’s something radically different about contemporary terrorism from that of, say, the classic terrorism of the 1970s. So he needs to extend the data back well beyond 1993. That is, we need to actually compare the different waves. It would also require some basic statistical work that looks at regions and countries, the effects of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, how much the average is driven by outliers, and that kind of thing. It’s hard not to read this section and hear Gorka insisting on “empirical evidence” in his phone call to Smith.

I’m only about 17 pages in, and there’s a lot more to talk about, including some parts that seem relevant to Gorka’s worldview. Stay tuned for Part II.

A warning, though: working through it this way is quite a slog, and I’m not sure that I have the energy to blog the whole way through.

If History Has Taught Us Anything, It’s That Clinton Scandals Proceed Based Only On Objective Evidence of Serious Misconduct

[ 195 ] February 25, 2017 |

clinton benghazi

I decided to invest some time in Keith Gessen’s widely discussed Putin essay, some of which is useful and some of which is strawman burning (who, exactly, thinks that deploying ratfucking principles Don Segretti had probably mastered before he left elementary school makes Vladimir Putin some kind of omnipotent SUPERGENIUS?) But it’s hard for me to get beyond the argument boldfaced below, and I’m equally amazed to see other people parroting it:

There is no reason at this point to dispute the consensus view of most intelligence analysts that Russian agents hacked the DNC and then leaked the emails to Julian Assange; it is also a well-known fact that Putin hated Hillary Clinton.

Furthermore, it is true that the election was very close, and it did not take much to tip the result to one side. But it is also essential to remember that there was hardly anything damaging in the leaked DNC emails.

It is true that the Wikileaks DNC leaks revealed nothing remotely resembling substantial misconduct by Hillary Clinton and indeed nothing even of much interest to anyone with a basic familiarity with how politics works. (It is amusing to see Gessen’s essay getting such high praise from people who tried to hype up inane trivia from the DNC leaks as if they had just uncovered Watergate, but moving right along.) But what is genuinely astounding is that anyone could argue at this late date that if a Clinton scandal ultimately didn’t have any real content it therefore couldn’t have been politically damaging.

In the next graf, Gessen adduces “the 25-year rightwing war on the Clintons” as a variable that affected the election, and true enough although I think this common formulation obscures the role that mainstream media outlets (with the New York Times at the front of the line) have played in this. But, to state the obvious, from Whitewater to EMAILS! “scandals” that turn out to consist of nothing have always been the chief weapons deployed in this war. Trump knew what he was doing when he mentioned the leaks constantly — whether there was anything objectively important revealed by them is completely beside the point. After all, Gessen recognizes the importance of the Comey letter, but this also involved no actual information about a microscandal nobody would have cared about if it involved anybody but Hillary Clinton.

It’s impossible to know with any precision what role the DNC hacks played in the outcome of the election. I’m more inclined to focus on Comey because the nature of his interventions make it easier to isolate the effects, and the evidence that they changed the outcome of the election is overwhelming. But the Comey letter didn’t occur in a vacuum; it mattered because a deep foundation of EMAILS! hysteria had already been laid, and the Wikileaks drip helped keep the Jason Chaffetz’s party going — and, indeed, I’m sure many voters just conflated the DNC leaks with the general EMAILS! pseudo-scandal. It would be wrong to blame Russia and Russia alone for Trump winning, although I don’t know who’s doing that. (Gessen cites but does not link to a “report” attributing this view to “Clinton and her campaign”; I’ll believe it when I actually see it.) But to assert that because the DNC leaks were ultimately about nothing they couldn’t have hurt Clinton’s campaign couldn’t possibly be more wrong.

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