Humint Events Online: August 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Antifa: Radical Violent Leftists or Freedom Fighters?

Antifa has been in the news a lot lately, getting a lot of negative coverage for starting riots, and of course Trump recently blamed them (in his typical incoherent way) for the recent troubles in Charlottesville. 

I wasn't really what to make of Antifa, or they were really a thing. I thought anyone who fought Nazis and fascists was probably doing a good thing, but this recent interview with Mark Bray, who wrote a book on them, actually made me appreciate and admire them:

MARK BRAY: Right. So, antifa is a pan-left politics of social revolution applied to fighting the far right. It believes in using direct action rather than turning to the state or the police to stop the fascist advance. And it includes anarchists, communists, socialists, across the political spectrum, and really dates back decades. They’re people who are really not going to allow fascists and Nazis any room to organize. One of their main kind of slogans is "No platform for fascism."
AMY GOODMAN: I want to read from The New York Times. They wrote, "[O]verall, far-right extremist plots have been far more deadly than far-left plots ... in the past 25 years, according to a breakdown of two terrorism databases by ... an analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute.
"White nationalists; militia movements; anti-Muslim attackers; I.R.S. building and abortion clinic bombers; and other right-wing groups were responsible for 12 times as many fatalities and 36 times as many injuries as communists; socialists; animal rights and environmental activists; anti-white- and Black Lives Matter-inspired attackers; and other left-wing groups," the Times wrote. Mark Bray?
MARK BRAY: Yes. Well, it’s certainly true that, in terms of body counts, in terms of raw violence, the far right, now and in the past, has much more blood on their hands. But I also want to encourage viewers to think not only in terms of numbers of comparing body counts, not only in terms of violence in the abstract, but the values and context of violence. So, you know, when anti-racists defend themselves violently, it’s different from when racists attack people of color, queer and trans people, with violence. So, it’s certainly true that the far right are much more violent, but I don’t think that we can exclusively think of it in terms of numbers.
The other thing that I want to encourage viewers to think about is that the term "terrorism" usually is used in a way that essentially legitimizes state violence and police violence. Historically, the greatest sources of violence have come from states and have come from their armies and police, but is not labeled terrorism. So, I think, instead of thinking in terms of the sort of seemingly neutral concepts of terrorism or violence or body counts, let’s also think in terms of politics and context.
(snip)

AMY GOODMAN: Let me read from a new piece in The Atlantic by Peter Beinart. He writes, quote, "But for all of antifa’s supposed anti-authoritarianism, there’s something fundamentally authoritarian about its claim that its activists—who no one elected—can decide whose views are too odious to be publicly expressed. That kind of undemocratic, illegitimate power corrupts. It leads to what happened this April in Portland, Oregon, where antifa activists threatened to disrupt the city’s Rose Festival parade if people wearing 'red maga hats''—you know, the "Make America Great Again" hats—"marched alongside the local Republican Party. Because of antifa, Republican officials in Portland claim they can't even conduct voter registration in the city without being physically threatened or harassed. So, yes, antifa is not a figment of the conservative imagination. It’s a moral problem that liberals need to confront." That’s Peter Beinart, writing for The Atlantic. Mark Bray?
MARK BRAY: Right. So, part of the accusation that’s frequently leveled against antifa is the "slippery slope" argument, understood abstractly. So, the argument goes, antifa get to sort of randomly decide who they don’t like, and shut them down, therefore, authoritarianism. But the historical record shows that antifa groups focus on the far right, focus on neo-Nazis and white supremacists. And when those groups are successfully disrupted, there is a long track record of antifa groups essentially disassembling and focusing on other issues. The notion that it’s authoritarian to shut down authoritarianism would not feel very comfortable if we’re thinking about, for example, opposition to Nazis before they got into power in Germany in the late ’20s. Were the communists and anarchists who were defending themselves against Nazis in 1929 authoritarian because they wanted to stop Nazism? That sounds ridiculous, right?
So, once again, as we discussed in the first part of the interview, it’s an example of a kind of all-or-nothing fascism where, in the absence of an immediate threat of a fascist regime, shutting down someone’s opinions—and, of course, that’s how far-right politics are often understood, as opinions, that could just as easily be interchanged with any others, when anti-fascists start the "no platform," which misses, of course, the politics behind it—that these opinions are the lens that it’s examined at, out of context, out of political focus. So, you know, it really is missing the point historically and analytically, and really missing the ways that a lot—a lot of alt-right people are infiltrating the Republican Party.
The Republican Party is now, to some extent, starting to stand up to the far right but needs to do a lot more. And we need to recognize that the far right will try to hide behind the legitimacy that Trump has given their politics, but that anti-fascists aren’t willing to—to stop it. And, now, if Beinart saw, for example, you know, Nazis in the 1920s or 1930s marching along a mainstream parade with swastikas, would it have been inappropriate, considering that the Nazi Party back then was a mainstream party, to have tried to disrupt that? You know, those are the kinds of comparisons that need to be made in discussing this question.

(snip)

MARK BRAY: Right. So, the question is: What is the relationship between neo-Nazis and their victims? What is the relationship between fascists and the rest of society? Is the goal to create a set of abstract rights that allow them to coexist, or is the goal to struggle against them and prevent them from being able to organize? That’s a fundamental question. It’s a political question that divides civil libertarians from many leftists and anti-fascists.
The anti-fascist argument is, if you allow neo-Nazis the ability to organize, the ability to mobilize, they become normalized. They attempt to become family-friendly. We can see back a number of months ago—I believe it was in May or April—in Pikeville, Kentucky, the fascist Traditionalist Workers Party attempted to hold a white pride family picnic, because of opposition that wasn’t able to happen. Let’s imagine if, on a regular basis, we don’t confront them, we don’t shut them down. They start to organize family-friendly picnics. White nationalism seems to—becomes another opinion worthy of granting certain legal protections. Where can that lead us? It can lead us, as we’ve seen through historical examples, to somewhere that’s very dark. So, the question is, from the anti-fascist perspective, a political struggle, not a sort of economy of rights. And that’s where the two political tendencies diverge.
To me, after the horrors of slavery, after the horrors of the Holocaust, we need to prioritize defending the vulnerable. And we need to essentially say that fascism and Nazism are not simply ideas to respect. They are enemies to confront and to rid from history.
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Monday, August 14, 2017

What Does It Mean to be Human?

Transhumanism and artificial intelligence (AI) is really mind-blowing stuff that hardly gets any attention and will seriously rock our world in the coming decades. A really interesting interview here with Zoltan Istvan.




To be sure, the Dept of Defense is doing serious R&D on both of these right now, particularly bionics to make better soldiers, but also AI to out-think the enemy and their computers. There's an intense race for the US to be first in these transformative technologies.
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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Donald Trump Cannot Be President Anymore -- he's less rational than Kim Jong-un

Until this April, Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States of America, thought China could easily solve this pesky North Korea problem that’s been bugging world leaders for over 60 years now. But then he met with the President of China, Xi Jinping, at his Mar-a-Lago resort, after which he told the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal that, “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy.”
Trump went on: “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea . . . But it’s not what you would think.” Again: The President of the United States assumed that because he didn’t know about something, no one else would know about it either, including the editor-in-chief of one of the country’s premiere news publications.
Worse, that “something” he didn’t know about was this: turns out, North Korea is complicated.
Turns out, healthcare is complicated. Turns out, the import-export bank is complicated.
Four months later, this guy is threatening nuclear war.
Which brings us very quickly to my point: Trump cannot be President anymore.
I know you had fun while it lasted, MAGAs (you won the election!), but if it hasn’t sunk in yet, Donald Trump is a bona fide existential threat.
He’s not fit to command the U.S. military in a war. He has no relevant experience, no ideology beyond narcissism, no guiding light, no steady hand. He believes whatever the last person he spoke with said. He gets information not from his security team, but from bots and memes and Fox News. He’s a walking, talking turnstile. And he’s threatening nuclear war.
The biggest threat here isn’t that Trump just drops the big one on the NorKors, a scenario that, at least at this time, is thankfully still far-fetched. But there is a danger that Trump gets into an ever-escalating conflict, then makes blunders that beget reactions he’s not prepared for and that spiral out of control.
He’s selfish, volatile, and vindictive, and in a time of crisis he’d be unpredictable, slave to the hot thrums of his angry little lizard brain. In other words, Trump is exactly the wrong person to lead a war. Trump, friends, is a less rational leader than Kim Jong-Un.
Beyond this, Trump, who took five deferments from Vietnam because of a bone spur in his feet, would be leading the most powerful human force in history into a ground war in Asia, and he doesn’t have a high-school understanding of world history. Worse, he can’t even recognize that he doesn’t have a high-school understanding of world history. And Trump doesn’t have a North Korea policy yet (he’s focus-grouped several different ideas on Twitter). Even if he did, he’s gutted the State Department, so we’d have few resources to negotiate and enforce whatever diplomatic solution he wanted to pursue.
So here’s a breakdown of what might happen next in the Korean peninsula, where war sadly seems more and more inevitable. It’s not a hopeful outlook, but it’s not hopeless, either: For one, there’s a chance Congress will remove Trump before we go to war, if war comes. (This isn’t a political wish. Give me Pence. Really.) And there are matters of Constitutionality that might (but probably won’t) hold Trump back.
Here’s the bottom line: After yesterday, Congress has a moral imperative: We cannot let Donald Trump, a reality TV game show host, have the chance to start a nuclear war. Now that we as a culture have been so directly confronted with this horrifying possibility that we’ve created, we can no longer abide it.

It's a long piece, the rest is well-worth a read. 

Personally, I think the #1 thing someone needs to do (or Congress) is remove the POTUS as sole authority over launching nuclear missiles. It really needs more oversight, it's way way way too important for one person to have the power to do, even for a sane person, and Trump is not sane.
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Sunday, August 06, 2017

WTC Steel Columns-- Heavy Metal

I stumbled by accident onto this 9/11 memorial in downtown Indianapolis.

The memorial consists of two 11,000-pound beams from the Twin Towers. Behind the beams stand granite monuments with inscriptions and timelines of the events of 9/11/01. Perched atop one of the beams is a bronze, life-size sculpture of an American Bald Eagle, with wings outstretched and gazing east toward New York City.

Official photos of the memorial from the website:



My photos are below.

I don't know what floors these are from but they aren't columns from the very base, for sure. This column has a good 4 inches of solid steel on the two sides.

Interesting to see this second column filled with cement along with 2-3 inches solid steel sides:







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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Looks Like Trump and Putin Colluded to Cover-Up the Collusion

The likely sequence of events:
Sometime around June 20th, the president learned that the media was aware of a meeting his son had organized at Trump Tower with Kremlin-affiliated Russians.
At that point, he presumably asked for all relevant information about the meeting and tasked people with organizing a response.
While he was in Germany at the G20 meeting, he and his advisers learned that the story was about to break. They strategized about what they could use as a defense.
The president spontaneously joined Putin at the July 7th dinner with no American interpreter present and discussed the Russian adoption cover story with him.
On July 8th, on Air Force One, he drafted or “dictated” the Russian adoption cover story over the protests of his legal team.
After the story broke, Trump insisted that he had no prior knowledge of the meeting. He and his lawyers and surrogates insisted he had no role in drafting the statement.

The evidence continues to mount of deep guilt by this president in colluding with the Russian government, to help his election.
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Alex Jones, the Snake Oil Salesman

John Oliver does a brilliant job of exposing Alex Jones not so much as a crazy conspiracy theorist, but a crackpot peddler of all kinds of over-priced personal care and nutrition items. But by inference, it casts doubt on everything else Jones says, much like a televangelist spouting nonsense to make money.

Actually a really funny segment too:
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