Thinking Security

Several of you have asked in comments or by email if I’d write a little bit (a lot of bit?) about security. Specifically, personal security. I intended to get this up earlier in the week, but things went sideways on Tuesday, then did an inversion on Wednesday, then a triple lindy yesterday, so…

The first thing that I think is important is something I, and several others, have stressed here in posts and comments: freaking out is not a useful activity. I’m not stating that to pooh pooh anyone’s reactions to the elections, whether they be anger, fear, anxiety, stress, depression, or any combination thereof. All of these are normal and understandable responses. And, of course, if you are feeling really overwhelmed and are having trouble finding/regaining your equilibrium please go see a professional counselor or therapist.

The second thing is don’t do this!

CLEVELAND – Police are investigating the theft of seven guns swiped from a Cleveland home sometime early Tuesday morning.

A mom and her two children were asleep upstairs when she said the thief or thieves broke into the home and cleaned out two gun cabinets. “They’re ready for a war, we were ready for a war,” said Teena Brayen

Brayen and her family are doomsday preppers. “We’re preppers, we believe in preparing for what could happen,” said Brayen.

The Brayens are part of the Three Percenters Club, a militia group that ‘exists to… protect and defend the constitution and our way of life’ by helping people ‘execute Military Strategies to defend against foreign and domestic enemies’.

But the items they wanted to use to defend against invasion in Rome made them a target for invasion in Cleveland.

On November 22, burglars – who, Brayen believes, spotted the weapons when she was moving into the home – took seven guns, 12 machetes, body armor, smoke grenades, more than $1,000 in ammo and some of their food.

Two gun cabinets were emptied of their contents: a high-powered, armor-piercing sniper rifle; five shotguns, and a pellet gun.

Leaving aside the Brayens and the Three Percenters Club, which is not the same as the other Three Percenters, what was missing here was a failure to think security.

Thinking security means to proactively consider what the potential threats might be in order to establish effective, reasonable solutions to them. This means to consider what the potential threats and dangers are to oneself, one’s family, and one’s property (home, business, etc) and what reasonable steps should be taken ahead of time to either deter them or, should deterrence fail, respond to them in the most effective and safe manner possible. This is not just for human threats like crime or terrorism, but also for preparing to deal with natural or man made disasters such as a hurricane or blizzard or earthquake or a gas main explosion or a fracking induced sinkhole or earthquake. To do this one needs to consider several questions.

  1. Who or what is the threat? And what kind of threat is it?
  2. Does the location, item, and/or person need to be secured against a potential threat?
  3. What is the extent of the location’s vulnerability?
  4. Does the potential security countermeasure need to be human, animal, technological, or a combination of them?
  5. How far can I, and how would I go about, extending my secure zone away from myself, my family, my home, etc?
  6. What effect will the potential security response have on me, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my employees, coworkers, and/or customers?

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For Aficianados Only: “The Creator of Doctor Strange Will Not See You Now”

Steve Ditko is old enough and has done enough for his chosen art form that he owes us nothing. On the other hand, although as a comix geek back in the 1970s I’d read about the acrimonious Ditko / Stan Lee creative breakup, I don’t remember hearing that Ditko was a full-metal Objectivist. Writers, as Joan Didion reminds us, are always selling someone out… so make your own judgement as to Abraham Reisman’s conclusions in his NYMag story. But Mr. Ditko does come off as a tragic example of the warning attributed to that Nietzsche fella about staring into the abyss:

For a recluse, Steve Ditko is surprisingly easy to locate. You won’t see him in public: Despite being one of the most important figures in comics history, the most recent published photograph of the 89-year-old was taken about 50 years ago. And though his name appears prominently as “co-creator” in the credits of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange — which has already grossed more than $490 million worldwide — he has never been on a red carpet, or appeared on TV or radio. But if you ask within the comics community, you can readily find the location and phone number of his Manhattan studio. The man’s around. It’s putting that contact information to good use that’s difficult.

Ditko hasn’t done an interview with a journalist since 1968, two years after he shocked comics fandom by leaving Marvel in a move for which he offered no explanation — even to his boss, Stan Lee, with whom he created Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, among other classic characters. What followed has been an idiosyncratic crusade that has consumed Ditko’s capacious imagination: the creation of spite-filled, didactic, and often baffling comics and essays that evangelize the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Ditko has long been principled in a way few popular artists are, and he changed the comics medium twice: first with his elegant, kinetic, at times psychedelic artwork; then by being the first high-profile creator to inject serious philosophical arguments into superhero comics. His influence is staggering, but his personal story is almost totally hidden. He remains one of pop culture’s most enigmatic figures…
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Ya Think?!?!?!?!


Today in Hashtag Violence and Terrorism

I’m going to start documenting acts of hashtag violence and terrorism around the US in the wake of President Elect Trump’s election on Tuesday. I doubt it will be comprehensive as a lot of the reporting of this stuff is on Facebook and Twitter and I don’t have a presence on or really use either of those platforms other than to check a few, select twitter feeds for specific breaking news and other information. So if you all want to send me links to reports in your local media at my contact info here at Balloon Juice, I’ll incorporate them and the reporting when I do the posts. To contact me go up to the quick links, click on contact a front pager, and then click on Adam L Silverman and you should be good to go.

As a reminder hashtag violence and terrorism are:

Hashtag radicalization refers to the process that leads to terrorism, as well as acts of mass violence, that may not have a specific political objective, undertaken as a result of what is learned through the 24/7 news and social media. In this way it is a variant of G2Geek’s stochastic terrorism:

“… the use of mass communications to stir up random lone wolves to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.”

What we need to document and track is threats and actual violence that are, unfortunately, being done either under the mantle of President Elect Trump’s election or in response to it. For instance:

And this:

Or this:

Or this:

Or this:

You all get the idea. And in case anyone asks, I’m not posting the video of the white man being beaten by several African American men and one woman in Chicago, because the Chicago Police Department has indicated that this fight/beating was the result of a vehicular accident, not politics despite what is being put out on the Internet.

While it’s clear the man in the video was assaulted, it seems from initial police reports that the assault stemmed from a traffic incident. Bystanders are heard taunting him for voting for Trump, but it’s not clear from the video itself or the statements from police whether he did in fact say he voted for Trump, and if he did, whether that was the impetus for the attack.

It’s also not clear, as some publications are claiming, that the battery suspects in the video were supporters of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. One woman can be heard off camera asking, “Are you gonna pay for my shit?” which seems to align with the police statement that the fight stemmed from a traffic accident resulting in property damage.

Further, the racial undertones of some of the posts surrounding the video raises the possibility that the incident is being exploited in order to further enflame tensions on the heels of a charged and contentious election.

I also will do these posts a couple of times a week. I don’t think I’m going to want to do them everyday and I don’t think anyone here is going to want me to. But documenting what is happening and the motivations behind it are important.

The Maskirovka Slips VI: The Grey Zone Attacked


As we’ve chronicled the reporting on Russian attempts to impact the US election for their own ends one thing has become increasingly clear: the real target of Russia’s cyber operations, psychological operations, and information operations is the American Grey Zone. While Putin’s ultimate goal is to delegitimize America in the eyes of its allies, partners, and peer competitors, as well as liberal democracy, the target of the attack to achieve these effects is the American Grey Zone. The American Grey Zone, the civil society space that allows both native born and naturalized US citizens, as well as immigrants in various legal categories (students, workers, etc) to be part of the warp and weft of American life in public while at the same time having a private life that is their own. And being able to share as much, bring as much of that private life into public as each individual is comfortable with. The form of that private life – being a member of a minority religion or minority ethnic or racial group or being LQBTQ – is irrelevant to the attack being made on it.

The weaponization of hacked material, whether completely accurate, doctored, and/or completely falsified by selective leaking is one of the major forms of ordnance in this attack. Another is the creation of massive amounts of completely inaccurate disinformation and pushing it into the American and European news and media cycle. If anyone or everyone can have their private lives dumped into the public eye or even worse have their private life adjusted for effect by those who have stolen it and then dumped into the public eye it will not merely stifle dissent, it will also make people think twice before standing up to run for public office or work for organizations that contribute to the public good or make a stand on controversial issues. Or even vote.

The attack on the American Grey Zone isn’t the only attack on the Grey Zone we’ve seen in the past year. ISIL’s terrorist actions outside of the areas they still hold in Iraq and Syria are attacks on the civil spaces of the states and societies where those attacks take place. So to was Russia’s semi-covert support for the UKIP and Brexit. As well as Russia’s overt and covert support for the neo-nationalist and neo-fascists movements and parties in Europe that seek to weaken the European Union and Texas’s largest neo-secessionist movement. Russia’s information, psychological, and cyber operations within Eastern Europe are all also attacks on the Grey Zone.

The point of all of these attacks on the Grey Zone, on the civil space where we life is lived within liberal democracy, are intended to force the citizens of liberal states to chose sides. ISIL wants Muslims to adopt their doctrine of the radical unity of the Deity (tawheed) and then chose to either relocate to the self proclaimed caliphate or to take terrorist action at home against those Muslims that won’t adopt tawheed, as well as their non-Muslim fellow citizens. Russia wants to delegitimize liberal democracy, both within the US and other liberal states in order to demonstrate the US and its EU and NATO allies and partners, as well as its Australian and New Zealander allies, are hypocrites and should not be emulated. Moreover, this attack on the Grey Zone is intended to weaken the EU and NATO, as well as other western alliances and partnerships. Putin’s strategic objectives are revanchistgetting revenge for what he believes is US, EU, and NATO meddling for their own benefits in post-Soviet Russia and intended to allow Russia to reestablish influence and power over its historic near abroad and sphere of influence.  It is also economic. Putin’s attempts to weaken the US, the EU, and NATO – even if it is only their prestige – is intended to create the opportunity for the post Crimean seizure economic sanctions to be weakened or fall apart completely. Not because Putin expects a President Trump would get rid of them as soon as he is inaugurated, but because the idea of a President Trump is enough to make European and NATO allies wonder whether they will be able to rely on the US for support and leadership, which will lead to the sanctions regime falling apart of its own weight.

Putin and ISIL are unlikely to be successful in their goals, and can only really be effective if Americans or any other states and societies they are each targeting buy into the intended effects of the information and psychological operations directed against them and, as a result, facilitate the destruction of their own civil spaces. However, the damage that they are doing by creating the opportunities to pull extremism into the mainstream, for helping to make it acceptable for some citizens to set upon their fellow citizens will take years of hard work to fix. Ideas that had never existed, outside of the extremes, in even the worst periods of American history or that had been pushed from the mainstream to the extreme fringe over time, have now been given a new life within the mainstream of American politics.

It was less than eight years ago that Republicans, nervous about a presidential election cycle that delivered the Presidency and sizable majorities in both chambers of Congress to the Democrats, were very, very concerned about politicizing, and possibly criminalizing policy differences. Specifically, the policies that had led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the conduct and normalization of torture under the euphemism of enhanced interrogation, the political weaponization of DOJ investigations into Democratic candidates in proximity to elections, and the fiscal, monetary, and budgetary decisions that had led to the 2008 economic crash and crisis. Today the vast majority of elected Republican officials, many the same men and women who were so concerned in 2009, stand mute when members of the Republican Party shout “lock her up” at campaign rallies, as well as “hang the bitch”. Sometimes they also participate as was seen with Governor Christie’s public indictment and trial of Secretary Clinton at the Republican National Convention in July and Senator Burr’s somewhat obtuse reference to gun owners targeting her just last week. Even when Federalist Party President John Adams was engaged in a bitter and divisive campaign against his Democratic-Republican rival Thomas Jefferson, the suggestion that one would imprison the other should he be elected never made an appearance. These extremist ideas, as well as thinly veiled allusions to global conspiracies of bankers, intellectuals, and other elites seeking to oppress and defraud the average American, will continue to infect and effect the Grey Zone, the civil space for years to come. It will take consistent, hard work to push these beliefs back to the fringe and keep them there.

By the time the polls close tonight in the eastern time zone, as well as the US’s Caribbean territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, it will be November 9th in Germany, Austria, and the Czech and Slovak Republics. On November 9, 1938, seventy-eight years ago, Kristallnacht occurred. The Night of Broken Glass was a set of violent attacks by some Germans, Austrians, and Czechoslovaks against their Jewish German, Austrian, and Czechoslovak neighbors. While it is alway easy to fall into the historical analogy trap, it is also important to recognize historic parallels and trends. In this case the lessons of Kristallnacht are the lessons of what happens when the Grey Zone is successfully attacked through dedicated information and psychological operations promoting extreme and extremist ideas. In 1938 the civil space in Germany, Austria, and German occupied Czechoslovakia was gravely wounded and would eventually be destroyed and remade in the NAZI’s ideological image. While it is unlikely that this will be the case in the US in 2016 it is important that we recognize that America’s Grey Zone, its civil space where we all live as citizens and participate as much or as little as we choose in the life of the state and society, has been attacked, has suffered some very real damage, and that we all have important work ahead of us to repair that damage. This is the real challenge going forward from the 2016 Presidential election. It will not be fun, it will not be easy, and it will not be pleasant. But it will be necessary if we really care about forming a more perfect Union, establishing Justice, insuring domestic Tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general Welfare, and securing the Blessings of Liberty.

Early Morning Open Thread: Seriously (from Funny or Die)


This is Hollywood — you’d think somebody on the captioning staff would know how to spell ‘syphilis’!

A busy day open thread

I’m sleep and caffeine deprived and I am waiting for an exceptionally exciting phone call so I am watching Cat Twitter:



Open Thread