Existential Threats

[The following is slightly adapted from a comment written for a Facebook post, based on this article about President Obama’s December 6, 2015 speech, which for some reason Facebook would not allow me to post. Possibly because, at nearly 3,500 words, it’s too long. What can I say? I felt inspired. The comment that inspired me basically expressed doubt that Obama has put as much thought into “ISIS and the implications of radical Islam” as the article’s author thinks. I have adjusted some formatting and added some links.]

You may be right about Obama not thinking through the full implications of radical Islam, but the exact same can be said for people on the right who posit radical Islam as a threat to “Western civilization” (a fluid and undefined term if ever there was one) on a par with German fascism or Soviet communism. Lest this seem like a tu quoque argument, I’ll even concede that Obama might underestimate the short-term threat posed by radical Islamism, but only because I believe the proponents of the radical-Islamism-as-mortal-threat viewpoint drastically overstate its dangers—furthermore, by arguing for such an aggressive stance against it, they paradoxically serve its aims. Continue reading


What I’m Reading, September 28, 2015

What it’s like to live on $2 a day in the United States, Chico Harlan, Washington Post, September 11, 2015

It’s worth pondering for a moment just how difficult it is to survive on $2 per day. That’s a single gallon of gasoline. Or half a gallon of milk. If you took a D.C. bus this morning, you have 25 cents left for dinner. Among this group in extreme poverty, some get a boost from housing subsidies. Many collect food stamps — an essential part of survival. But so complete is their destitution, they have little means to climb out. (The book described one woman who scored a job interview, couldn’t afford transportation, walked 20 blocks to get there, and showed up looking haggard and drenched in sweat. She didn’t get hired.)

Edin is a professor specializing in poverty at Johns Hopkins University. Shaefer is an associate professor of social work and public policy at the University of Michigan. In several years of research that led to this book, they set up field offices both urban and rural — in Chicago, in Cleveland, in Johnson City, Tenn., in the Mississippi Delta — and tried to document this jarring form of American poverty.

Batman: Arkham Knight Has a Serious Problem With Women, Denny Connolly, Game Rant, June 2015 Continue reading



So, here’s a thing that actually happened (h/t Jason):

Former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) predicted in a recent interview that President Barack Obama’s handling of the Middle East was a sign of the End Times and that Jesus Christ would soon return to Earth.

“If we actually turn our back on Israel as we have seen Barack Obama do today, if that happens then I think we will see a scale and a level of push back in the United States, negative consequences,” Bachmann told Understanding the Times radio host Jan Markell on Sunday. “I don’t know what they are, but I believe that the Bible is true. And believe what the Bible says is that our nation and the people of our nation will reap a whirlwind, and we could see economic disasters, natural disasters.”

Sometime I wonder if these folks think that heaven has a sign that’s like the “DEFCON” sign in WarGames. Every time conservative Christians enact one of the signs from Revelation, God has to lower the APOCCON (that’s “apocalypse condition,” obvs.) When it hits APOCCON 1, well, things will get interesting.


Cutting Off the TLD to Spite the Face

Azadi_MonumentThe group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has, by all appearances, a worthwhile goal, which is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. To accomplish this, it often puts pressure on private companies to divest from Iran, both directly and through any subsidiaries or affiliated business that might do business there. By and large, this is clearly the free exercise of economic power to try to bring about social change, something I generally support. I could say a few things about the long-term wisdom of tarring an entire nation of people with a history and culture spanning millennia based on the oft-psychotic behavior of a 33-year-old regime, but let’s focus on UANI’s latest campaign instead.

According to a UANI press release dated September 18, 2012:

On Tuesday, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) launched its World Wide Web campaign, and called on both the Internet Corporate for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE) to disconnect the Internet access of sanction-designated Iranian entities such as its Central Bank and its military’s engineering arm.

ICANN is the nonprofit corporation that has the authority to designate and assign domain names on the World Wide Web. RIPE performs a similar service in Europe. UANI sent letters to both agencies on September 7, demanding that they cease providing services to “sanction-designated Iranian entities.” This may work as a public relations move, but it has multiple problems, not least of which is the fact that ICANN and RIPE can’t just turn off a spigot and cut Iran off. UANI seems to be suggesting cutting off specific Iranian entities included on the sanctions list, but it could never work that way. John Levine, a writer for the internet technology journal CircleID, calls the idea that ICANN or RIPE could just cut Iran off “ridiculous”: Continue reading