Thought Crime

A man in France was sentenced to two years in prison this week for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites, even though there is no indication that he planned to stage a terrorist attack.

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Marching to nowhere

On SF Gate today:

‘We’re not going anywhere’: Millennials march against Trump

Truer words were never spoken…

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Americans are in withdrawal from public life

The desperation of people threatened by forces about which they know little and of which they can say less; the cheerful emptiness of people “giving up” all hope of changing things; the faceless ones polled by Gallup who listed “international affairs” fourteenth on their list of “problems” but who also expected thermonuclear war in the next few years: in these and other forms, Americans are in withdrawal from public life, from any collective effort at directing their own affairs.

Port Huron Statement, SDS, June 11-15, 1962.

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Tom Hayden on Memory

President Obama has reminded us to remember, he said, Selma, Seneca Falls and Stonewall. But not Saigon, not Chicago, not Vietnam. We have to ask ourselves collectively why that omission exists, and realize that only we can restore a place in the proper history of those times.…Our national forgetting is basically pathological.

—Tom Hayden, 2015, conference in Washington, D.C. titled “Vietnam: The Power of Protest.”

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The Great Game continues

I’ve told my son numerous times that he can’t imagine the irrational paranoia of the Cold War, when anti-war protesters were routinely told to “go back to Russia” for criticizing anything from the MX missile to funding the contras. I remember during the Carter administration my father saw US and Soviet posturing as a continuation of the Great Game. Until recently labeling anyone to the left of Zbigniew Brzezinski a fellow traveler seemed anachronistic. But not today! Now one can apparently be considered a “Putinite” for criticizing Hillary Clinton’s devotion to transparency. Perhaps I’m only feeling nostalgic, but somehow this turn of events is comforting. Continuity in the face of change reassures, I guess.

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Dreaming of Enlightenment

Today after reading a BBC article entitled “Could Trump launch ‘sneak attack’ on IS?” which evaluated Donald Trump’s Sunday night debate claim the American military is “stupid” for announcing a pending attack on the IS-held city of Mosul, I sat and pondered the reality that neither the BBC nor any of the debate viewers have any reason to believe Trump has any expertise whatsoever in military affairs. Trump may or may not be a successful real estate tycoon. His large real estate holdings and multiple bankruptcies certainly validate attempts to assess his business acumen, but his utterances on foreign policy lack coherence let alone insight. How is it the American people are bothering to pay any attention at all to the man’s statements?

I’m reading Anthony Gottlieb’s The Dream of Enlightenment, on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophers. It occurs to me my countrymen are failing to practice basic analytic principles I remember being taught in junior high school. What would Descartes say? Leibniz? What might a twenty-first century Enlightenment look like?

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Grabbing genitalia in the White House

I’m not sure whether it’s locker room language, but Trump’s video tape remarks definitely fit the White House. Charles Colson’s office had a plaque reading “If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow -Teddy Roosevelt.” Lyndon Johnson in 1965 talking about bombing Vietnam: “I’m going up her leg an inch at a time … I’ll get the snatch before they know what’s happening.” In preparing to be president Trump may well have taken Roosevelt, Johnson and Nixon as role models.

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On dottings and crossings and thinking too much

Gary Johnson: Talking about a foreign leader that you respect, that you admire—I have a hard time with that one. That’s just who I am. And now I’m going to have to pick out a world leader and there’s going to be something wrong with them. And now I’m going to have to defend them! Well, maybe I think too much.

Andrea Mitchell: By the same token, you’re running to be commander-in-chief. Foreign policy and unexpected events are part of the portfolio.

Gary Johnson: Yeah, and you know what? The fact that somebody can dot the I’s and cross the T’s on a foreign leader or a geographic location then allows them to put our military in harm’s way.

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It was almost as if a new word were needed, disresponsible, a step beyond irresponsible, meaning you should have been the one to take responsibility but shucked it off.

—Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2011), 254.

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This morning I am thinking about the Dunning–Kruger effect, anosognosia, and receptive aphasia. It seems an interesting lens through which to view the United States.

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