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Trolleys come to Terror

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a western koan makes it onto German TV? ]
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What Hala Jaber calls a supermarket trolley in this tweet is not what this post is about — but it sure does connect trolley and terror!

**

Here’s the terror side of things, in a tweet from John Horgan:

The BBC halls it an “interactive courtroom drama interactive courtroom drama centred on a fictional act of terror” and notes:

The public was asked to judge whether a military pilot who downs a hijacked passenger jet due to be crashed into a football stadium is guilty of murder.

Viewers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria gave their verdict online or by phone. The programme was also aired in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The vast majority called for the pilot, Lars Koch, to be acquitted.

Here’s the setup:

In the fictional plot, militants from an al-Qaeda offshoot hijack a Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 164 people on board and aim to crash it into a stadium packed with 70,000 people during a football match between Germany and England.

“If I don’t shoot, tens of thousands will die,” German air force Major Lars Koch says as he flouts the orders of his superiors and takes aim at an engine of the plane.

The jet crashes into a field, killing everyone on board.

So, is the pilot guilty, or not guilty?

**

At the very least, he has our sympathy — but how does that play out in legal proceedings?

What’s so fascinating here is the pilot’s dilemma, which resembles nothing so much as a zen koan.

Except for the Trolley Problem:

trolley_problem
Image from Wikimedia by McGeddon under license CC-BY-SA-4.0

**

Substitute an Airbus for the trolley, 164 people for the lone individual on the trolley line, and 70,000 people for the cluster of five — and the pilot for the guy who can make a decision and switch the tracks.

There you have it: terror plot and trolley problem running in parallel.

To be honest, I think the full hour-plus movie is far more immersive, to use a term from game design, than the Trolley Problem stated verbally as a problem in logic — meaning that the viewer is in some sense projected, catapulted into the fighter-pilot’s hot seat — in his cockpit, facing a high speed, high risk emergency, and in court, on trial for murder.

It’s my guess that more people would vote for the deaths of 164 under this scenario than for the death of one in the case of the trolley — but that’s a guess.

**

The German film scenario — adapted from a play by Ferdinand von Schirach — is indeed a courtroom drama, a “case” in the sense of “case law”. And it’s suggestive that koans, too, are considered “cases” in a similar vein. Here, for instance, is a classic definition of koans :

Kung-an may be compared to the case records of the public law court. Kung, or “public”, is the single track followed by all sages and worthy men alike, the highest principle which serves as a road for the whole world. An, or “records”, are the orthodox writings which record what the sages and worthy men regard as principles [..]

This principle accords with the spiritual source, tallies with the mysterious meaning, destroys birth-and-death, and transcends the passions. It cannot be understood by logic; it cannot be transmitted in words; it cannot be explained in writing; it cannot be measured by reason. It is like a poisoned drum that kills all who hear it, or like a great fire that consumes all who come near it. [..]

The so-called venerable masters of Zen are the chief officials of the public law courts of the monastic community, as it were, and their collections of sayings are the case records of points that have been vigorously advocated.

**

Relevant texts:

  • John Daido Loori, Sitting with Koans
  • John Daido Loori, The True Dharma Eye
  • Loading up for Survival, Church and State

    Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Merkel’s under attack for recommending Germans keep a two-week supply of food ]
    .

    Mormon faithful are exhorted by the First Presidency of their Church in a pamphlet titled All is safely gathered in “to prepare for adversity in life by having a basic supply of food and water and some money in savings.” Specific recommendations follow:

    THREE-MONTH SUPPLY

    Build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet. One way to do this is to purchase a few extra items each week to build a one-week supply of food. Then you can gradually increase your supply until it is sufficient for three months. These items should be rotated regularly to avoid spoilage.

    DRINKING WATER

    Store drinking water for circumstances in which the water supply may be polluted or disrupted. If water comes directly from a good, pretreated source then no additional purification is needed; otherwise, pretreat water before use. Store water in sturdy, leak-proof, breakage-resistant containers. Consider using plastic bottles commonly used for
    juices and soda. Keep water containers away from heat sources and direct sunlight.

    FINANCIAL RESERVE

    Establish a financial reserve by saving a little money each week and gradually increasing it to a reasonable amount (see All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances guide).

    LONGER-TERM SUPPLY

    For longer-term needs, and where permitted, gradually build a supply of food that will last a long time and that you can use to stay alive, such as wheat, white rice, and beans. These items can last 30 years or more when properly packaged and stored in a cool, dry place. A portion of these items may be rotated in your three-month supply.

    That’s a pretty comprehensive survival plan, and while it allows for those who are just starting to prepare themselves to begin incrementally, it’s first real target is three months’ preparedness and longer-term vision extends out to thirty years.

    Note that the motivation here is to live in accordance with the divine will as it may be applicable to human circumstance.

    **

    Compare that with what the secular state of Germany is currently proposing. Deutsche Welle, under the heading What emergency supplies do you need? reports the following:

    Germany’s government is mulling a plan requiring citizens to stock up on food and supplies in case of a natural disaster or armed attack. So what should you have in your pantry? Here’s our comprehensive checklist.

    The stockpile plan outlined in the government’s “Concept for Civil Defense” paper obligates Germans to store 10 days’ worth of food and five days’ worth of drinking water. The idea is for people to have enough supplies – including cash and medicine – on hand to get them through an emergency situation before government assistance kicks in.

    The level of preparedness proposed in the paper hasn’t been seen since the end of the Cold War. The strategy was originally commissioned by a parliamentary committee in 2012, but its release now comes amid a raft of new security measures and heightened terror concerns. Still, its contents aren’t new – German authorities have long urged households to store two weeks’ worth of emergency supplies.

    The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance, for example, has published a checklist online with recommended supplies for a 14-day period. The most important thing on the list is water – 28 liters per person for a fortnight, or around two liters per day. People can survive a few weeks without food, but only four days without liquid.

    The Ministry of Food even has an online “calculator” to help you work out what kind of food – and how much – to stock up on. It recommends 4.9 kilograms of cereal-based products like rice, bread and noodles per person per fortnight. It also suggests 5.6kg of veggies, 3.7kg each of milk products and fruit and nuts, and 2.1kg of fish and meat. All food should be able to last without refrigeration.

    The government also advises keeping a medicine cabinet stocked with supplies in case it’s not possible to get to a hospital. That means, among other things, a first aid kit, the necessary personal prescription drugs, cold medicine, painkillers, anti-diarrhea and nausea medicine, electrolytes, a thermometer and disinfectant.

    Here the anticipated survival time is two weeks, or fourteen days.

    **

    I don’t know what the prophets, seers, and revelators of the First Presidency have been shown, what ISIS may be plotting, what German intelligence suspects, nor what the future has in mind for us. I do know that Matthew 6.34 counsels:

    Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    and that this is generally considered sufficient precaution for the lilies of the field, but that readers of John Robb may well find it insufficiently flexible — if taken literally — to survive encounters with a succession of inbound black swans. And as is often the case with scripture, preparedness too has its place, as indicated by the “kingdom” parable of the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25.1-13.

    I note here that the spiritual claims of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affords the First Presidency the opportunity to call for far more extensive planning than the German Chancellor can ask of her citizens without considerable brouhaha.

    Hence:

    Three months (minimally) to two weeks (suggested) is the recommended preparedness ratio between the (Mormon) Church and (German) State.

    Whence does authority derive?

    McCants explains the Saudis, Quantico rebukes them

    Friday, August 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Saudi-sourced jihadism, the FBI, Baader-Meinhof — hey, it’s all about terrosism ]
    .

    Will McCants explains [upper panel, below] how the Saudis are and are not promoting terrorism —

    Tablet DQ 600 arsonist

    — while a screen-cap from episode 9 in the first season of Quantico explains just why such an approach is logically bound to be defective.

    **

    Oh well, not to worry. It’s just another example of the illusion colloquially known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. I wouldn’t want to go all irrational on you, so I’ll let RationalWiki explain:

    The frequency illusion (also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon) is the phenomenon in which people who just learn or notice something start seeing it everywhere.

    Except that — well, there it is again — Baader-Meinhof — it’s all terrorism!

    Reminders, and other signs

    Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — the camps, theirs and ours, and nuking Mecca, with a pinch of Lynch ]
    .

    Here are the reminders..

    SPEC DQ reminders

    **

    These DoubleQuotes arose in the context of comments by Georgetown Syria specialist Marc Lynch, better known on the web as the blogger Abu Aardvark, on a recent On the Media podcast:

    The kinds of ideas that you are seeing espoused by presidential candidates right now are the sorts of things that you would have seen on obscure right-wing blogs twelve years ago, and now they’re being taken seriously on the op-ed pages. The idea that you would have a religious test for Syrian refugees to let Christians but not Muslims in, or that you would create a national registry to track Muslims, or to shut down mosques – I mean, these are radical fringe ideas, and yet they’ve insinuated themselves into the mainstream.

    **

    Here’s the evolution of an idea, from 2005 to the present. You’ll note that the rhetoric has gained intensity (the qualification “if they nuke us” has been dropped), but in this case the earlier source (Fox) was more mainstream, and the current one (WND) way deeper into the fringe..

    SPEC DQ nuke mecca

    **

    Sources:

  • Raw Story, Trump crosses the Nazi line: Maybe Muslims should wear special ID badges
  • Raw Story, Rhode Island Republican wants Syrian refugees held in ‘centralized’ camps

  • Fox News, Tancredo: If They Nuke Us, Bomb Mecca
  • World NetDaily, Bomb Mecca off the face of the earth

  • On the Media, Lessons Unlearned
  • The Freikorps Revival

    Monday, September 14th, 2015

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen”]

    One of the signs that the Westphalian state system was approaching its zenith was the gradual extinction of legal private warfare in Europe (and in America , east of the frontier). While this trend predated the French Revolution with divine right absolutism monarchs taxing and regulating their nobles once formidable feudal armies into harmless personal bodyguards and ceremonial companies, it was enforced in earnest after the Napoleonic wars by now bureaucratic nation-states. To the sovereign power of the state jealously guarding its monopoly on the legal use of force, in the late 19th century were added the weight of international law.

    While once it was commonplace for heavily armed “Free Companies” to roam Europe’s battlefields, hiring themselves out or pillaging on their own, neither the Lieber Code nor the Hague Convention took an indulgent view of the professional mercenary or the provincial partisan, proscribing their historic role in warfare and condemning them along with spies and saboteurs to death. By the time of the First World War with the exception of Tsarist Russia, which still had vestiges of pre-modern feudalism in their Cossack hosts that supplemented the Russian Army, all of the great and middle powers entered WWI with national armies based upon mass conscription, run by a professional officer corps. Even America saw its long established military tradition of locally raised volunteer units of the States abolished by President Wilson, who instituted a draft. Wilson it seems, feared the political effects of an aging Teddy Roosevelt leading a new band of Rough Riders on the Western Front.

    This situation shifted dramatically in the aftermath of the Great War. Communist revolution and civil war in Russia, Hungary and Bavaria spawned a rebirth of private militarism; right-wing and nationalist “white” paramilitaries composed of ex-soldiers  battled anarchist and Bolshevik “Red guards” made up of factory workers and party militants. In defeated Germany, a vigorous and heavily armed “Freikorps” movement of embittered veterans led by charismatic officers arose and fought engagements in the Baltic states, in Polish and Czech borderlands, in the Ruhr and in Bavaria, where they crushed a short-lived Soviet republic.

    Partially suppressed by the weak Weimar state, partially covertly subsidized and organized by the leadership of the German Army which saw the Friekorps as a “Black Reichswehr” strategic reserve against French attack, the Freikorps degenerated, pillaged, mutated into terrorist  organizations and gradually merged with and militarized Germany’s extreme nationalist and volkisch (racialist) political factions, including the nascent National Socialist German Workers Party. Ex-Freikorps fighters became the backbone of the Nazi SA and nationalist Stahlhelm armies of brawlers, thugs and hooligans. They even had their own newspapers, sports clubs, artists and writers, among whom Ernst Junger was a favorite of that generation.

    The reason for this long historical prologue is that it is happening again. The fascinating article below from VICE gives evidence of what should be called a Freikorps Revival. Note the connection to the French Foreign Legion veterans with the Azov Regiment; the Legion once welcomed almost as many German Freikorps men as did the Nazi Party.

    Meet the European Fighters Who Have Gone to War in Ukraine

    ….”I spent all day with a pistol in one hand and a grenade in the other, wondering how I was going to kill myself and how many [separatists] I could take with me,” said Chris “Swampy” Garrett, a British citizen and a member of the squad of Europeans fighting in Eastern Ukraine for Azov Regiment.

    Garrett had just returned to Kiev after a failed mission behind enemy lines in the small village of Shyrokyne. His team had been surrounded and cut off from Ukrainian positions before the men fled. He spent over 14 hours trapped behind an enemy advance, fighting in close quarters and taking shelter from friendly artillery fire, before sneaking out of the village under the cover of darkness.

    For Garrett, who has served in the British army and done humanitarian de-mining work in the Karen State on the Thai/Myanmar border, the decision to join the Azov Battalion was a simple one: “One day they posted up on the [Azov Battalion] Facebook site, asking, ‘We need people who have any kind of knowledge with first aid, volunteering, with basic military skills, de-mining, anything. If you have any skills at all, to any level, can you come and help?’ So I kind of saw that as my route in, even if I didn’t stay with the [Azov] Battalion. [It was] my surest way to get into the country—get into the east and then be able to see the bigger picture from there.”

    ….Garrett is not the only member of the group of European soldiers who came to defend Ukrainian sovereignty. But while some came to protect Ukraine, others here came to fight for conservative and nationalist politics in Ukraine’s relatively open political space. For Harley, a 42-year-old from France who served in the French navy and later in the private security industry, involvement was two-sided: he came “to help Ukraine against Russia” and wears a “Fuck U Putin” bracelet on his wrist, but joined Azov because its politics were similar to his own: “Azov,” he said, propagated a political agenda that “was closer to my idea.” 

    Azov’s politics have drawn fire for being far-right to the point of neo-Nazism; “If you want to find Nazis, [Azov] is the place to come,” one soldier told me on the way to the frontline. And yet, the political reality of Azov is much more complicated than that. One soldier in the European group told me he estimates that around 20 percent of the battalion could be considered neo-Nazis, while David Eriksson—a 48-year-old Swede who owns real estate and marketing businesses—said: “I think almost 100 percent of foreigners—it used to be maybe 90 percent of foreigners—are not Nazis. They are here to fight.”

    Read the rest here.

    This may be a meta-trend. Everywhere, rootless young (and some not so young) men are turning their backs on civilized existence and seeking out answers to life or a quick death in lawless conflict zones. Third generation European Muslims who leave families and communities to join ISIS in Syria while American and Dutch motorcycle gang members show up to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga. Russian outlaw bikers by contrast are Putin’s Cossacks in the Crimea and Donbass while in Pakistan the ISI has made funneling angry young men into terrorist groups and militias something of a cottage industry

    Some of these men will never return, but most will. If the lessons of history are to be reckoned, this bodes poorly for the future. They will bring a Darwinian outlook and a politics of the gun.


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