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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 19,678

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Risk Analysis for Democracy: Modified Intelligence Appreciation

Start with "knowledge is power": Accurate information is the basis of nearly every kind of planning, policymaking, and/or prosecution of national goals, from allocating budget resources to preventing and dealing with existential threats. Then look at the history of America's national commitment to the acquisition, processing, and use of intelligence.

First, until nearly the end of World War II, less than a century ago, America had almost no intelligence infrastructure at all. What did exist was purely functional and inward-facing, the collection and analysis of statistics and data for mainly economic purposes and the ongoing functional tasks of domestic government - census demographics, crop yields, employment numbers, etc.

Various 19th-century wars (particularly the Civil War) had produced brief spurts of intelligence gathering to facilitate espionage, military planning, subversion, etc., but those were entirely situational. When the war was over, the intelligence was archived, the staff reassigned or dismissed, etc. Only the U.S. military maintained any kind of ongoing intelligence apparatus, and until after WWII, America's peacetime military was small beans and few in the hill, with proportionate intelligence efforts.

After WWII and in the face of U.S. paranoia about the potential threat posed by communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular, America embarked upon a vigorous, expansive program of throwing money at the concept of intelligence, military and civilian.

It was recognized that diplomacy and policymaking must be informed by intelligence channeled through non-military apparatus - military intelligence "sees" through the lens of its own missions and purposes. These, in a democracy, must be at the service of the civilian government and policy establishments. Thus the State Department and the FBI took on new intelligence mandates, the CIA was created, and other departments, civilian and military, were tasked with gathering, providing, and coordinating intelligence for the benefit of the Executive Branch of government.

Initially, the CIA, after various transmogrifications rooted in the wartime OSS, was tasked with being the CENTRAL mechanism for gathering, coordinating, appreciating/estimating, and supplying intelligence for the President and cabinet to use in shaping policy and responding to events. It was a nice idea but it never actually panned out thus.

Lacking any history or any real experience of how professional peacetime civilian intelligence services operate, the U.S. did not succeed in creating a functional structure to manage the flow of intelligence from various sources, but it did create some truly epic bureaucratic feuds, rivalries, bunfights, and passionate vendettas within the various branches of government and the intelligence community. The same lack resulted in the creation of an operational structure for the CIA based more on the anything-goes wartime structure of the OSS than on a civilian peacetime agency that could navigate the treacherous shoals of governmental bureaucracy, foreign policy, public perception, domestic political and ideological conflict, and the opposing demands of secrecy and accountability.

However, necessity and Cold-War paranoia ruled, and the CIA eventually stumbled its extremely expensive and often catastrophically incompetent way through the crises of the 50s and 60s, to build enough infrastructure and relationships of dependency in high places to slide through efforts at reform in the 70s with barely a scratch. It did occasionally provide some useful, reliable intelligence. Not always on time, and not always what their "Customer" (the Executive Branch and its head) wanted to hear. In the process it did produce a small percentage of skilled, dedicated, canny and experienced intelligence professionals among the bloated thousands of paranoid ideologues, grifting adventurers, and aimless chairwarmers.

Then came three cataclysmic self-owns in less than 20 years that devastated not only the CIA, but the overall structure of civilian intelligence in America. First was the impossible-to-ignore levels of criminality in Iran-Contra; next came the culmination of a long, willful denial of the realities of the Soviet Union that failed to anticipate and prepare for its collapse, catching everyone flatfooted and resulting in catastrophic dissolution of resources (especially human resources); and the third was the suicidal collusion of the intelligence community with the Bush warhawks to promulgate blatant lies to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Concurrent with the last, "peacetime" ended in America. The Forever War began. The U.S. military had been growing in budget, size, capability, and mission ever since the ludicrously over-hyped build-up in the Reagan era. With the end of peace and soggy chaos engulfing the remains of the official civilian intel services, two disturbing trends built up rapidly, within a decade or so:

First was the "brain drain" of professional intel personnel from the civilian establishment to a burgeoning new network of private-sector intelligence players that could offer them superior compensation packages, and then turn around and contract their services back to the agency(ies) that had provided them with training and experience, at a premium contract price. Blackwater was one of the early ones, along with Booz Allen Hamilton, but the 'industry' is now dominated by acronymic corps that rival government for opacity: CACI, SAIC, CSRA, etc. To whom are they accountable? Answer: NOT the people of the United States of America.

What functions of our intelligence services are not outsourced to unaccountable private mega-corporations have largely, thanks to the End of Peace, been militarized. Of the top echelon of intelligence professionals, some incalculably high percentage now wear military uniforms, replacing the rumpled-suited, cigar-chomping, martini-swilling stereotype of the civilian intel bosses. It has probably improved efficiency in operations as well as coordination and flow of intelligence, but at what cost? The ends of military intelligence are military.

Final risk factor: The last three years have exposed the extent to which a cabal of wealthy oligarchs, ultra-conservative politicians, and extremist ideologues of various racist, religious, and pure lunatic fringe origins have penetrated the various mechanisms of our government. We are also just beginning to learn the extent to which Putin's Long Game of black propaganda, hackery, and social media subversion-on-the-cheap has intertwined itself with those forces.

So, threat assessment challenge: How blind are we, and how much of our intel capacity is in the hands of people whose overt, expressed mission is to subvert our democracy and replace it with an authoritarian oligarchy?

It were well to be aware of these things. We are long, long overdue for a restructuring of our nation's intelligence infrastructure from the very core of the earth to the depths of space.


Of the three kinds of people...

People who are convinced they matter;

People who are convinced they don't matter; and

People who are convinced everyone matters,

It's pretty easy to understand who they vote for and why.

People who are convinced they matter need to be sure everyone understands how much they matter, so they vote Republican.

People who are convinced they don't matter are terrified others will find out they don't matter, so they vote Republican.

People who are convinced everyone matters vote Democratic.

Since the first two have also been convinced that "if everyone matters, then no one matters," the crossover is almost nonexistent.

I don't know if this is fixable, without quality public education, a robust safety net, and trusted checks and balances.

And I don't know how we are ever gonna accomplish those...


My "I told you so" rant about who gets to run for office under a Party banner...

The first Democratic (technically, "DFL" as I lived in Minnesota) Party precinct caucus I attended, I wasn't actually old enough to vote yet. My stepfather took me, as part of a school project.

He was a delegate, so he also took me to the District Convention. He chose not to run for one of the State Convention delegate slots, so I had to follow that on Public Radio.

Every precinct caucus I attended after that, (and I attended them all, until I moved away from Minnesota in 1997) there were at least ten and in some cases as many as 35-40 people in attendance. Everyone attending had taken the time and effort to be there and many of them had studied issues, were already backing candidates, etc. Some were delegates or officers in the District party, many were just neighbors. In the cities and suburbs there were many precincts to each district, the rural areas had fewer, but often had greater attendance at their caucuses. So somewhere between a few hundred and a couple of thousand people in each District participated in precinct caucuses. There was no requirement for Party membership or participation, anyone could attend either the DFL or IR caucus, just because they wanted to participate.

Minnesota at the time had about 67 legislative Districts, so you could average that at about 67,000 people participating at the Precinct level, sending their Delegates to their District conventions. District Conventions elected and sent about 1200 delegates to the State Convention, in addition to that, another couple of dozen Party officers have delegate votes.

The State Convention is where what used to be known as "smoke-filled rooms" were presumed. You know, 'secret' meetings of 'Party elites' who 'put the fix in' for a particular candidate. It was so undemocratic!

'Scuse me while I belly-laugh for a few minutes.

Having been there, I can tell you, the DFL was NEVER organized enough to have "an" elite that could put fixes in. Sure, there were groups that had more power, interest, passion, money, etc. and weighed more heavily in the process. Sometimes that resulted in candidate choices that seemed poor or unpopular, and when those candidates lost, the derision and rage against the "fixers" could be scathing.

But here's the thing: Not once in the nearly thirty years I observed and participated in that process, did it EVER result in a manifestly incompetent, unqualified, mentally ill, extremist, or intellectually-challenged candidate getting the Party nomination.

Yes, it produced some duds. Okay, many duds. Some bought-and-paid-for assholes, some ideologues with fixations I profoundly disagreed with, some time-servers and place-holders. There were plenty I despised.

But two things about this process: First, it also produced many I respected and admired. Sometimes popular will DID prevail. This was the process that brought Paul Wellstone to the Senate, and I worked for him at every step of the process, and we thought it was a long shot, but pulled it out. "Conventional Wisdom" said he was the wrong candidate to oppose Rudy Boschwitz, we needed someone more centrist, more experienced as a politician, who knew the levers and buttons better. But Paul won and did amazing things for us.

Second thing: Even the 'nonconformists', the duds and the ideologues generally stuck with their caucus in the state legislature, and eventually voted as the caucus required. Owing their seat to the Party process (not just to popular votes) they recognized Party discipline and when push came to shove they were generally in the vote count as needed. They might subcaucus with their fellow-believers, they might dicker and work the system behind the scenes, but when the gavel fell, they voted the platform and the Party line.

Now, y'all may still think this a "bad thing". But all you have to do is look at the stark terror of "being Primaried" that has resulted in so many GOPpie candidates that are manifestly incompetent, unqualified, mentally ill, irrationally extremist, or intellectually-challenged.

There is a case to be made that if we are going to have a government that is, de facto (and at some levels effectively de jure) based on two major political Parties, those Parties have a responsibility to offer the voters candidates who have some competence and qualifications. And thus, those Parties should exercise some process that allows both citizens who are not Party members, and Party membership, to have a say in selecting those candidates, creating a platform, etc.

The system I participated in back in Minnesota did that. Yes, it demanded that people do more than just show up and check boxes after listening to electioneering for weeks or months.

Maybe that is "undemocratic".

But the more "democratic" process of allowing Oligarchs to directly influence voters through vast expenditures on propaganda in that electioneering period, astroturfing and otherwise manipulating voters unwilling or unable to actually participate in a real process has taken representative democracy itself to the brink of extinction.

If not the caucus system, we need to find a way to restore a Party process that both allows open participation AND provides experienced, invested people who know the process, the jobs, and the qualifications needed to responsibly and constitutionally exercise an oath of elected office to ensure some kind of minimum quality in candidates.

Primaries got us here. Primaries allow raw tribalism masquerading as "populism" to co-opt an entire system, especially when backed by moneyed self-interest.


(And yes, I do vote in every single one. It's what we have, and I'll participate. I'm just saying we can, and should, do better.)


Independence Day and the American Dream

I grew up hearing about "the American Dream".

No one ever told me exactly what it was. I had to infer from context. And the contexts could be confusing.

To some people, the American Dream was freedom from fear of going to jail or being killed if they worshipped the "wrong" God or had the wrong name or supported the wrong leader or failed to support the "right" leader. They were grateful just to be here, to be able to walk freely on streets where people weren't looking over their shoulders or ducking into doorways or following them in windowless vans.

To some, the American Dream was being able to cast a vote, to write a Letter to the Editor, to publish a newsletter, to run for public office, to have a campaign sign in their front yard, to attend a Party caucus or meeting- to take an equal and active part in allocating executive and legislative power.

And then there were those to whom the American Dream meant someday being able to buy any house they could afford, in any neighborhood. And their children having access to good public education in well-funded schools, taught by teachers who were good at their jobs and paid adequately. And being hired to do any job they qualified for on an equal basis with other applicants, regardless of skin color or religion.

To many of the young men I went to school with, the American Dream meant not being conscripted to become cannon fodder and die in a meaningless war they had no say in starting or continuing. To the young women I went to school with, the American Dream meant having equal legal status in the economic, political, and social spheres, and the right to decide what to do with their own bodies.

As I grew a bit older, I encountered people to whom the American Dream meant the freedom to get rich without restriction. The freedom to do whatever they wanted to do, regardless of whether it might cause harm to the land or the water or the air or the safety of their neighbors. Freedom from "government interference" telling them they couldn't enjoy themselves or make money in ways that might harm others.

Even more recently, I have run across those to whom the American Dream means using the force of law and government to make everyone abide by the rules their own God has ordained, and the right to not be made uncomfortable by being confronted with people or beliefs who are different, or by having to acknowledge the injustices and suffering that resulted from privileges their predecessors arrogated to themselves by virtue of race and gender and religious faith.

But in order to make those latter two "American Dreams" cone true, it has become necessary to kill all the other versions of the American Dream.

America, is this a good bargain? Is this really the price we want to pay?

Perhaps we need another Declaration of Independence.


Know Your Junta


"Americans, KNOW YOUR JUNTA! Match the names with the pictures below
A. JusticeOligarch B. Justice Beerboof
C. Justice Stepnfetchit D. Chief Justice Enabler
E. Justice Serenajoy E. Justice Torquemada

Pictures below of you can imagine who, with numbers."


When the national anthem is played or the pledge of allegiance performed...

...from now on I will remain seated, arms crossed, head bowed, silent. Or if standing, I will cross my arms, bow my head, and remain silent.

I am in mourning for my freedom and the America I loved and held dear.

I hope that more and more women will remain silent on such occasions. I hope men who value freedom will join us. They have taken our voice. Let only theirs chant the rituals of an increasingly fascist state.


Blast from the Past: The Protest We Need is "Human Carpet"

Back in the 1950s and 1960s this type of protest was known as "The Human Carpet." Here's what you do:

You fill your backpack (now I guess it would be your daypack or fannypack or whatever they're called) with water, extra bandannas, snacks, an empty plastic bottle, and your legal counsel information. I guess nowadays you'd add your phone. Wear long trousers and long sleeves and sunglasses and a hat. Extra points for a couple of "letter" bandanna-sized pieces of cloth.

Pick your target: The sidewalks, stairways, and driveways that constitute the approach to the building where enemy business needs to get transacted.

Time your assembly: Approach silently, together, within a 15-20 minute period, on foot, NO SIGNS, looking like ordinary tourists, etc.

Gather until you are closely packed in those sidewalks, stairways, and driveways. Still silently.

LINK ELBOWS. Silently.

SIT DOWN. Still silently.

Pass around your "letter" cloths until they can be held up in order to spell out (back then "NO MORE WAR" ) your short message.

Remain sitting. Silently, except maybe for an occasional song. "We Shall Overcome" is a perennial favorite.

Remain sitting. Have a snack. Drink some of your water to stay hydrated.

When they lob the teargas, wet your spare bandannas, put them around your face.

When they come to drag you away, keep your arms linked but otherwise go limp.

Stay silent. Unless you have to cry out in pain when being beaten by the cops. On the dozens of cell phone cameras around you.

That's a nowadays addition: "Those closest to the center of the carpet use phones to document."

Use the empty bottle to pee if you have to. Later on you can pass it along and those near the edge can uncap it and toss it at the po-pos, if needed.

Sleep in place, if you have to.

This is "The Human Carpet." Some of us will get arrested.

Some of us will get beaten up and teargassed.

But in the long run, if discipline is maintained, this is ferociously effective.

We used to do it when young men were being sent to die in Vietnam.

Now young women are going to be dying right here in America.

So let's roll out the Human Carpet again.


Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health is about "religion" the way rape is about "sex."

Religion is only a tool (albeit a very powerful one) of patriarchy.

The fundamental driver of patriarchy is not religion. It's POWER.

Placing half the population in a structurally subordinate role is the single most effective POWER move, ever.

Using religion to do that is like using money to do that (and money played a huge part - plenty of the steps to this culmination had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with leverage created by $$.)

It's about POWER.

Which is the only thing terrified manbabies and their manipulative, fearful female enablers think will stop the painful fear that lives inside them. The fear that they're insignificant.

THAT'S what it's about.

Religion and money are just frosting on a cake of raw, unchecked power-grabbing.

The problem for them is, the institutional structure that made it possible for them to impose and maintain this particular power fifty years ago is no longer what it was.

And this will not end well. For anyone.

But in the long run, they will lose the power they have appropriated today.

At a terrible cost to themselves, and to everyone else.



"Go resentfully, making noise and waste, and remember what profit there may be in crypto. As far as possible, without logic, sign on to the latest Qanon lunacy.

Holler your lies loudly and repetitiously, drowning out others, applauding the dull and ignorant, for they will believe your nonsense.

Be a loud and aggressive person, causing vexation to "woke" spirits. If you compare yourself with billionaires you can stay resentful and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser assholes than yourself.

Deny your failures and highlight your fantasies. Keep obsessed with your own genitalia, however inadequate; it is your only possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise gullibility in your business decisions, adding to the world's griftery. But let this not discourage you from wacky conspiracy theories; there are always more scammers and they need a constant supply of suckers.

Be yourself. Especially, do not regard compassion. Neither be kindly or considerate, for more aridity and disenchantment provide perennial profit margins for oligarchs.

Lash out viciously at the counsel of the years, and gracefully surrender your children's futures.

Purchase more guns to shield you in sudden misfortune. Keep distressing yourself with dark imaginings, for those woke libs really do want to keep you weary and alone.

Ignore any form of discipline, except to force it on others. You are the only child of the White Christian God that matters, no one else has a right to be here.

And whether or not Fox News covers it, no doubt the secret CRT LGBTQ Trans Replacement criminals are coming for you. Therefore invoke the wrath of God exactly as YOU conceive Him to be. And whatever your inadequacies and follies, in the noisy confusion of life, keep rage where your soul would have been. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it's still YOUR world and not those other peoples'. Be angy. Strive to be violent."


I never wanted to "ban guns".

I grew up in a family with sport hunters who had rifles and shotguns. Relatives shot skeet and entered marksmanship competitions.

I always assumed that the 2nd Amendment was there to ensure that the government would be able to call on citizens who could be quickly mobilized in the event of an invasion or a threat to the nation, because those citizens could participate in organized, trained units (i.e. 'militias'). Such units could be quickly transitioned to formal military service at need. This made sense for the 18th Century and in more recent times, we have had National Guard and Reserve units that served the same function.

I never had a problem with the 2nd Amendment, considered in those terms.

And I never had a problem with working firearms being available to ordinary people for sporting purposes, or functional antiques and/or non-working modern firearms being collected by antiquarians and/or hobbyists. What harm?

Especially since back when I was young there were a good many programs that focused on firearm safety for the owners of sporting weapons. Including one called "the National Rifle Association" that provided excellent safety education and training. My grandfather taught all of us a few basics about firearm safety, things like "always assume it's loaded," "always be aware where it's pointing and NEVER point it at a person," "if you find an unsecured (i.e., not in the cabinet or locked rack) gun, immediately inform an adult and show them where it is."

I never had the hand-eye coordination for any sport that required accuracy in aiming things, even softballs or tennis balls, so I never got into gun sports. But they never bothered me.

Where did this thing about "the 2nd Amendment is about arming the people so they can fight against the government if they need to" come from?

This makes NO sense. No intelligent jurist or legal thinker would include that in a document creating the structure, powers, and limitations of a democratic government!


Sensible firearm regulation is not contrary to the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution and it is not an infringement on the rights of any citizen to peacefully enjoy sporting weapons in safe contexts.

You get a buzz from shooting big ones? Okay, there are actually shooting centers where you can go and pay to shoot 50-caliber machine guns. Wouldn't be my idea of fun, but I wouldn't make it illegal. Those guns are locked away when not in use, and you have to sign waivers and shoot them under supervision, making them as safe as possible.

You find fondling the blue steel of a "piece" exciting? Uh, well... okay. Fine. There are shooting sport centers, maybe they can add 'gun fondling' rooms for the enjoyment of their patrons. The guns can be not loaded and/or nonfunctional, and you can fondle away all you want, and NO ONE WILL GET KILLED. This is weird but should not be illegal.

You want to shoot skeet or engage in marksmanship competition? Great! Join a shooting club, keep your weapons secured at the club, hang with your buddies and shoot to your heart's content.

You want to hunt for the pot? Okay, keep a legal hunting weapon at home (and 'legal hunting weapon' will not include guns that would rip your dinner into too many pieces to collect, right?), registered, and secured when not in use, and bring it in for inspection as needed.

You want to trophy-hunt? Ick. But it's still legal, I guess. Go to a "game ranch" or other facility and use the weapons there.

You engage in a hazardous line of work and/or have good reason to believe you need a weapon for personal protection? Fine. Make that case to law enforcement, get a permit and training, register your weapon, secure it when it's not under your direct control, and bring it in for inspection as needed.

None of this infringes on any reasonable interpretation of the 2nd amendment.

I don't want to "ban guns".

I want to keep people from being killed by criminals and irresponsible people with guns.

This should not be rocket science.

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