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


He Made the Case Pretty Easy for Them

The legal underpinnings of the charge of “attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization” seem like they could become constitutionally problematic fairly quickly, but in this particular case, the defendant sure seems to have done prosecutors’ jobs for them:

An American teenager disgusted with the American way of life has been arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare International airport after he allegedly tried to travel to the Middle East to join and fight with ISIS.

Federal prosecutors announced on Monday that FBI agents arrested 19-year-old Mohammed Hamzah Khan, of suburban Bolingbrook, on Saturday evening before he boarded a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, via Vienna.

They accuse him of attempting to travel overseas to support terrorism which carries a maximum sentence of 15-years and Khan is also charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

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The Boston Marathon Bombings Brought Up a Lot of Thoughts, Mostly About Right-Wing Whininess

800px-Boston_marathon_mile_25_beacon_street_050418So far, after the horrors of what happened in Boston yesterday, hope and love are winning out over fear and hate, but only by the tiniest of ever-slimming margins. I so desperately want to strike a positive note today, to focus on the stories of selfless heroism, generosity, and compassion that are still coming out of this event. As Patton Oswalt brilliantly said yesterday, “when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.'” Julie Gillis wrote that “we know there is something better than hating and hurting, something that is just as much our birthright as our breath. Love.”

We still don’t know who is responsible for the attack, whether it is a coordinated strike by a group of pathetic sociopaths or the act of a lone pathetic sociopath. This is where the negative comes in. We seem to be wired as a species, or at least as a culture, to focus on the negative or the prurient.

News of overwhelming donations of time, supplies, and blood cannot possibly compete with frenzied, breathless accusations against anyone’s favored bad guy, especially right now, when those accusations are utterly unburdened by the weight of any evidence whatsoever. And so we have the utterly predictable chorus of rants from the usual suspects about who might be responsible. Fox News claims Muslims, without a shred of evidence. Alex Jones claims a government conspiracy, or maybe the Illuminati, or maybe the radio transmitters implanted in his skull by video games. Westboro Baptist Church continues to do everything in their power to ensure that no one except protesters will attend their own funerals some day. Finally, there is the possibility that the Boston attack was the work of right-wing extremists, who most likely are white, and probably male. And that’s where the real hysteria starts. Continue reading