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July 27, 2022

Comments

I agree that many girls today would recognize the manipulation, but I doubt they're all proof against it.

Well, I think you're right and I've been thinking about that since I posted. My informants tell me that modern, mainstream heterosexual porn is overwhelmingly, misogynistically semi-violent (slapping, quasi-strangulation, spitting), and apparently young girls report being under increasing pressure for what is being represented to them as "normal sex". I fear for them, and the young men who are being indoctrinated in this way.

The sexual revolution that came about roughly during my coming of age years happened for many reasons

My recollection, having also live thru it, is the relatively sudden availability of contraception kicked it off.

Thru the early 60s (i.e. high school for me), pretty much the only method we knew about was condoms.** Which were only likely to be available near a port or military base, and even then required you to ask the pharmacist to get them from behind the counter. Which, if you were young, and weren't visibly a sailor or a soldier, he likely wouldn't.

But in the late 60s (college), the pill was abruptly readily available. And the world changed. Before that, young people still had sex. But we knew the risks were non-trivial. For example, one boy in my high school got his girlfriend pregnant in the middle of our senior year. Both dropped out immediately, got married, and he got a job. (They did let him, but not her, come back for a week in June so he could graduate. Job prospects without a high school diploma being dire.) Any plans for their later lives, which in my school universally included college -- gone.

** Abortions were (then, as once again now) mostly illegal. And hard to find, even where they were legal. Certainly nobody advertised them.

Sex wasn't talked about by the adults in my world when I was a kid.

As a member of the WASP tribe, we deny all bodily functions. To the death. Pretty sure we're the ones who came up with that whole "stork" business.


Pete, if your pet peeve is what I think it is,

You got it. I'm really trying to "never give up on my dream" of the lawn mowing itself, but I may sadly have to abandon it.

I get that it's dated, but I still think even 9 & 13 are too...?

9. I dunno what the "dictum of sexual liberation" is, but it sounds authoritative. I'm on board with the whole "keep an open mind" thing if that's what he means by "Nothing forbidden". But after that initial part, a whole lotta stuff is forbidden, namely everything and anything that isn't mutually consented to.

13. Sex can serve hedonistic and recreational ends. What exactly is the point here?

As for 12, I'm thinking, "If you really want a preview of how someone will be in bed, check out if they can tie a knot in a cherry stem with their tongue or suck a golf ball through a garden hose. What's up with the dishes?" YMMV.


We got a pretty fun and unusual thread out of it?

And I wouldn't be all over the comments if I wasn't enjoying the conversation. :-)

Pete, what number 9 is saying, at least to me, is what I was getting at before about invidious pressure: none of the activities are forbidden if consensual, but none are required either. i.e. it is emphasising what you say about consent.

13 is saying that what whereas sex can be hedonistic and recreational as a matter of free choice, never forget that it can also be used to repress and subordinate, and reinforce oppressive norms, even when this is subtle and unspoken.

At least, this is my reading. Anyone else? Janie? nous?

GftNC -- your readings make sense to me....

@GftNC,

Aside from the pomposity of the "dictum" part, I actually appreciate the inclusion of "nothing required". I guess it just seems obvious to me, but that could also be attributable to the age.

13 is a good starting point for the ways in which sex can be and is used for subordination and oppression. That's an important discussion to be had (and to continue having). But to just hang it out there like it has some inherent wisdom on it's own gets back to my peeve. I dunno. Maybe it's just the style I find grating.

...but again, I don't really care what George Leonard meant. I'm interested in what we here think about all of it.

I actually appreciate the inclusion of "nothing required". I guess it just seems obvious to me

Speaks well of you, Pete, but alas is not remotely obvious, even today, to young women. As noted @12.34 above.

On 13, you've got to remember that at the time, one might have been forgiven for thinking that sex was newly invented, and exclusively for and by the newly liberated young. See Larkin's not-quite jokey "Sexual intercourse began in 1963/Between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP"

Further to which, how old are you, Pete? If you don't mind me asking....

I either missed or read it wrong, but I just realized that page was from a 1995 issue. I would have guessed this was a piece from the '70s.

I'm a coupla years to the bad side of 50.

I would have guessed this was a piece from the '70s.

Me too! I think I did see it originally, then forgot it. However, as we have seen, some of this stuff still needs to be borne in mind.

Thanks for age answer. A mere youth and stripling!

Anyway, leaving George Leonard aside, I'm with Janie on this. What the folks here think is the interesting thing, and so it has proved.

I think I did see it originally, then forgot it.

I saw it because Janie mentioned it in the opening post. But it really does seem from an earlier time....

A mere youth and stripling!

Tell that to my knees. And my shoulder.

Back to the original topic on the question of sex, I guess put me in the "in favor of it" column. Otherwise, I'm not clear on the topic. Or was it pants? If so, also "in favor of it" column.

I'll always remember my first crush. She was blonde, played drums in a band, and had this adorable high-pitched giggle. And she had this thing where her ears would wiggle when there was danger about. It could never work, of course. After all, I was 4 and she was a cartoon. Still, I dreamt about how we would travel through space solving mysteries and stuff, because I didn't know what sex was. I will never forget you, Melody.

So in a way I guess Melody was sexy to me, even though I didn't know what that meant. Somewhere upthread were comments about what people find arousing and what people actually want to (or don't want to) participate in.

So what's the difference between sexy and sex?

I started skimming back through the thread and found several things I'd like to circle back to if I get time. But this, from nous, particularly popped out at me:

He was a feminist, and a full-on screaming lefty, but he could not imagine, having grown up in the 70s, what an adventurous sexual relationship could look like if all engaged were up front about their desire and what they actually wanted. He railed about how that took all the mystery and excitement out of the pursuit and rendered everything so vanilla and inevitable.

There was something that bothered me about that description that I couldn't quite bring to consciousness at first. But now it's leaping out at me: it implies that the guy couldn't imagine having good sex in a long-term relationship, or, to put it the other way around, in a long-term relationship that included good sex.

Because if you're with anyone for any length of time, surely satisfaction (and adventure, as nous says!) comes from something other than the mystery of the unknown.

There's intimacy and then there's intimacy, I guess.

correction for my 4:28:

...having in a long-term relationship that included good sex

...having a long-term relationship that included good sex

There isn't a lot to go on but it sounded to me like that guy had some weird ideas about relationships and people in general. How does one not get that people grow and change and develop new interests and curiosities?

George Leonard is a piece from the 60s/70s, so he was still in his mode when trying to address the issues of the 90s. He's going to swing pretty much everything he sees in line with his ideas of the Human Potential Movement.

I take nine to be a sort of statement similar to the biblical "all things are permitted, but not all things are edifying." I take thirteen to be a statement that even though something might be a reaction against one form of involuntary domination, that does not mean that the response is not itself just another form of involuntary domination.

Going back to the whole "it's fraught" side of things, I've been thinking more about the consent/BDSM side of this all, filtered through my philosophical inclinations towards shamanic/animistic cosmologies. The idea in living is to find one's place and one's power within the network of beings. (Sorry if this sounds all guru-y, it's mostly just a product of a whole lot of reading of nordic mythology under the influence of Deep Ecology a la Arne Næss and Sigurd Olson.). We try to grow and thrive as individuals, but we have to negotiate the space and resources for that (physical, social, metaphysical) with the others within our world. We are never alone, and we have to find a way to live within the constraints of that shared space. Not all the beings we share space with are human.

All this being prelude to me introducing this pop psych article, occasioned by the then-popularity of the 50 Shades... books (none of which I have read):
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understanding-the-erotic-code/201502/shades-play-trauma-reenactment-versus-trauma-play

What I valued in this piece was this distinction:

Trauma reenactment is when people recycle the events and relationships from childhood, repeating old wounds by placing themselves at emotional risk or in physical danger in a compulsive mimicry of the past. An example of this may be a man who was physically beaten by his mother, who finds himself in relationship after relationship with physically abusive women. This is obviously unhealthy and we work with clients to stop engaging in behaviors that put them in harm’s way.

Trauma play is when someone learns how to “play” with their childhood traumas without putting themselves in danger or stunting emotional growth. A person learns to transcend his or her past rather than having it inflicted upon them. Using the example of the man who was physically beaten as a child, he may have some sexual kink in which he becomes physically aroused by being spanked or whipped. This is possible in a non-abusive relationship between consenting adults. Just as an artist may use past trauma to express herself in her work, a person may use past trauma to express herself in the bedroom. Nobody tries to get an artist to stop expressing past traumas!

Within some shamanic cosmologies trauma is conceptualized as "soul loss." Part of the individual's animating spark has been removed and has become inaccessible to them. This could be abuse or it could be some form of mourning - the individual having invested some of their spark in something outside of themself as a way of increasing their power/joy/spark. The loss of that, and the violation of the narrative of the world that goes along with it, becomes a scar and a source of pain.

Is there a point in all this for me? Dunno. I'm mostly just processing this out loud in public, trying to wrap my head around it.

But it seems to me that the people who are backlashing hard against women, and consent, and sex as anything other than procreation, and kink, and permissive attitudes towards gender roles, are interested in causing trauma, are reenacting trauma, or both, and they do not have the power and awareness to play in ways that will allow them to grow or to restore themselves.

Hopefully this adds something to the overall conversation.

The issues that arise in BDSM are really productive, philosophically, for thinking about human relations in general, even if you, like me, are not all that interested in personally exploring kink.

or it could be some form of mourning - the individual having invested some of their spark in something outside of themself as a way of increasing their power/joy/spark. The loss of that, and the violation of the narrative of the world that goes along with it, becomes a scar and a source of pain.

The whole 4:50 comment gives me a lot to think about, but this is especially powerful / meaningful as it relates to my own tendencies in relationships.

Thanks, nous.

The whole 4:50 comment gives me a lot to think about

Yeah, thanks a lot, nous. You gonna follow up my Melody story with that??!

Welp, down the Deep Ecology/shamanistic cosmology Wiki hole I go. Followed by a reexamination of my entire relationship history, not to mention my comments history.

At least I’m keeping that lawn-mowing-itself dream alive.

As for my mentor, I fully believe that he is a feminist, but like all of us (and especially all of us male feminists) a flawed one.

He was a good looking guy who grew up in the 70s and had a lot of sexy times during the heyday of the Sexual Revolution. It was the old school dating scene, but with sex as an open subject and a primary pursuit. He found that fun and exciting as a young person.

He could not imagine what it would be like to be a young male in search of sexual recreation in an era where all of the intentions and possibilities were known and acknowledged ahead of time. The risk of a stolen kiss and the rush as it is reciprocated is a powerful drug, and the harm for an unreciprocated response may seem small and easily passed over.

I was a bit surprised by his response on this as well. It doesn't make me doubt his commitment to feminism or any other issue of social justice, it just shows me that he still had some blind spots where his privilege was concerned, that those of us who grew up a decade later didn't seem as hung up on.

I haven't read 50 Shades either, nous, but I also think there's a lot that's extremely interesting about the BDSM world.

And I too thought the distinction you excerpted was very resonant. The bit that Janie mentions spoke to me as well, but in addition I thought the following was a very positive way to look at something which often involves shame or disgust, not only when exhibited by puritanical moralists, but also self-inflicted by those involved who may not have consciously worked through just what they are doing:

Just as an artist may use past trauma to express herself in her work, a person may use past trauma to express herself in the bedroom. Nobody tries to get an artist to stop expressing past traumas!

If you want some of the philosophical framework of the risk of investing personal happiness in other mortal beings with their own agency from an Aristotelian, rather than an animist/shamanistic perspective, Martha Nussbaum's The Fragility of Goodness is always a great exploration of the topic.


Italiexo!

He could not imagine what it would be like to be a young male in search of sexual recreation in an era where all of the intentions and possibilities were known and acknowledged ahead of time. The risk of a stolen kiss and the rush as it is reciprocated is a powerful drug,

Well, now I have to reverse course a bit and say that this reminds me vividly of the first time I made a tentative step toward intimacy with the woman who became my first girlfriend.

I once read an essay about that moment, and the larger process that might follow it, from the point of view of the old days, where many people had no notion that gay relationships existed, or even if they did, they didn't know any gay people, and so in that sense they had no modeling to either guide them or constrain them as to what such a relationship might be like. The line I remember from the essay was, "You get to wing it."

It was a "Let there be light" moment, like nothing else I have ever experienced.

And with gay people visible, and even taken for granted by a lot of the population, that particular kind of thrill is no longer available.

I'd say it's worth the trade-off, but still...the memory of it helps me see your mentor's point a little better.

I'm a coupla years to the bad side of 50.

Not to worry. A couple more years and you'll make it to the good side!

The risk of a stolen kiss and the rush as it is reciprocated is a powerful drug.

Yes. I'm rather glad I wasn't young in an era where men felt they had to conscientiously ask before they kissed you. And I do realise how this makes it clear that it was always that way around between the sexes in those days!

I'm rather glad I wasn't young in an era where men felt they had to conscientiously ask before they kissed you.

The alternative is a world in which the cost of that thrill is paid by all of the people who wished to remain unkissed, but were expected to treat that boundary as if it were unmarked, or be seen as villains if they protected that border. I think the tradeoff makes for a more ethical world, and we can probably find some (fairer) compensatory thrills to balance the scales.

I also suspect that a lot of the incel crowd are people who had a hard time figuring out those ambiguously enforced borders and had been stung by rejection and treated as creepers in the process, and they resent all those who did transgress and were rewarded, but blame the women for having preferences.

And the people who insist on perpetuating the fun of the game (because they are good at the signals, or they are manipulative enough to make the receiver feel powerless to object) and continue to win become the proof to the incels that women are all lying and hurtful.

(And this is the point where I sit and question my word choice, and wonder if there are any female or homosexual male incels.)

And as JanieM reminded us upthread, gay men risked losing their lives if they got those signals wrong. Those borders and their permissions are absolutely fraught, the more so the farther from the social norms you wander.

(And this is the point where I sit and question my word choice, and wonder if there are any female or homosexual male incels.)

I don't know about gay men, but I certainly know a couple of straight women who 1) haven't ever been in serious relationships but would like to be, or at one time thought they'd like to be; and 2) kind of generally don't like men, although they tend to blame that on specific men's failings rather than seeing a general pattern.

The trouble is, it's impossible to tell which is the chicken and which is the egg. And the women do present very differently from what I know (which isn't much) of male incels.

And when I say "specific men's failings" I of course mean from the POV of the women in question, who don't tend to factor in their own failings when they make these judgments.

And by failings I mean: being human.

blame the women for having preferences.

I don't think that they blame women for having preferences, per se. What they blame women for is having preferences that don't include them.

Not to worry. A couple more years and you'll make it to the good side!

I like the cut of your jib, sir!

And this is the point where I sit and question my word choice, and wonder if there are any female or homosexual male incels.

It’s probably important to make the distinction that ‘incel’ describes a specific, rather toxic group, whereas “involuntarily celibate” describes a self-identifying condition. There must be women in the second group, but I’ve not come across any who exhibit the violent tendencies of the first. My Adirondack chair psychology guess, which is worth what you paid for it, says homosexual males of the first group may actually present as militant homophobes. Surely there are homosexual males in the second group, likely more so in conservative areas precisely because of Janie & nous’ point about signals.

Re: the conversation about incels and men (I think the incels are men) to access to women.

Remember that illegal immigrant who murdered a young woman who was out riding her bike in the countryside somewhere around Iowa city, Iowa? Rightwingers jumped right on it as proof that immigrants were an evil threat to white American womanhood.

That individual was evil--but I remember thinking about the context. He was a minimum wage worker who lived in a dorm set up on a farm with other male minimum wage workers who had very little hope of every having a wife and a family due to not having enough money. Rural Iowa has plenty of immigrants from Central America and Mexico, so the lack of access to a normal family life wasn't completely due to language barrier or racism; however, the employment situation of that immigrant was one that reduced men to workers with no life outside of work, including no prospect of a family life and no prospect of sex in the context of affection. THey had no vehicles, no way to date, no housing for a sexual encounter, nothing. Some of the men had wives back in Mexico or Central America and came up seasonally, so they had a family to go back to. Others hoped, I suppose, to get a better paying job where they can get their own place to live.

Of course, I'm not justifying murder. I don't even know if poverty had any influence on that particular murder. I'm just mentioning something I thought of at the time because the murder reminded me of a theme in folk music: the man who kills the girl he yearns for. Those songs come from a period of history in the British Isles when many men had no expectation of every being able to support a wife. Some used prostitutes. Some impregnated women and abandoned them. Some became enraged?

I'm suggesting that the feeling of being entitled to sex, or the condition of having a sex drive with no way to gratify it due to poverty making it impossible to support a family, is most likely going to lead to use of prostitutes, rape, or seduction and abandonment but could also lead to misogyny and murder.

I'm just speculating, and I don't think the incels are poor. My limited understanding of them is that they are guys who are for various reasons not likeable to very many women and have decided to avoid responsibility for their own behavior by blaming women.

I don't think that they blame women for having preferences, per se. What they blame women for is having preferences that don't include them.

Sorry, I was being an omniscient narrator with a quaint editorial stance about women being people, not a third person limited narrator.

And Laura, your comments made me think about the plight of the Filipino farm worker during the first half of the 20th C. as well, where those conditions were the norm for anyone coming here from the Philippines.

a minimum wage worker who lived in a dorm set up on a farm with other male minimum wage workers who had very little hope of every having a wife and a family due to not having enough money.

For those who honestly care about families and family values [/snark], increasing numbers of women arriving, legally or otherwise, from the same areas has to be accounted a plus.

Kipling had a lot to say about the plight of native English common soldiers in India. Usually banned from marrying and definitely from marrying native Indian women (and the 'import' of English women was frowned uopn) they had little choice but frequenting prostitutes. Depending on the unit and time 'inofficial' stable relationships with native girls were either tolerated as the lesser evil (don't ask, don't tell) or suppressed with prejudice (pun intended). At times there were controlled regimental brothels (controlled mainly for STDs). But there wwere also times when religious fanatics and know-nothings took control leading to the closing of said brothels, strictly enforcing the ban on inofficial families and a deliberate ban of all information on STDs (what Kipling called 'the order that rotted out the armies'). 'For the wages of sin is death' was the implicit reasoning: you have sex, you (should) die (hopefully in a very unpleasant way).
STD rates skyrocketed, sometimes to a degree that units became inoperable.
The religious fanaticism was of course not limited to that. One viceroy saw no other option than to demand the immediate recall of a bishop back to England because the guy would otherwise trigger the next Indian Mutiny (said bishop was very vocal about his perceived need to stamp out Hinduism and Islam in India during his term of office).
Feel free to draw parallels to the US.

While we are at it: During the UN mission in ex-Yougoslavia different nations handled the problem of soldiers and sex quite differently. The French were open and had official brothels for their men. The Germans went for 'don't ask, don't tell' (officers on patrol made themselves conspicuous and the soldiers kept someone on watch, so his comrades could leave through the backdoor safely*). This policy was partially motivated by not wanting to waken bad memories about WW1&2 and partially because most soldiers had families (or at least girlfriends) back at home and it would look bad, if it was known that those soldiers with official backing visited prostitutes). US forces were of course supposed to be chaste, naturally with the usual results (rape**, STDs etc.).
Btw, there is a popular urban legend in the German armed forces that their food is deliberately laced with anti-aphrodisiacs.

*always checking that there IS a backdoor of course being part of the scheme.
**both of local women and female comrades (not that many of those around yet at the time, I'd presume)

...there is a popular urban legend in the German armed forces that their food is deliberately laced with anti-aphrodisiacs.

British soldiers in the first world war thought there was bromide in their tea. French soldiers imagined it was in their wine. Germans believed it (iodide for them) was in their coffee.

...there is a popular urban legend in the German armed forces that their food is deliberately laced with anti-aphrodisiacs.

In Marine Corps boot camp, this was the go-to explanation for the psychological impact of boot camp on the male anatomy. Saltpeter in the mashed potatoes perhaps...

The alternative is a world in which the cost of that thrill is paid by all of the people who wished to remain unkissed, but were expected to treat that boundary as if it were unmarked, or be seen as villains if they protected that border. I think the tradeoff makes for a more ethical world, and we can probably find some (fairer) compensatory thrills to balance the scales.

I'm sure it won't surprise you to hear that a woman who has lived a life, and came of age in the 70s, understands very well the issues surrounding the question of consent. And as for men who "get away with" intuitive understanding of when a kiss may or may not be acceptable being the indirect cause of the incels' resentment, I am afraid the cause is very (very) much broader than that. A culture in which young women are principally valued for their looks, and implicitly (or explicitly) seen as agency-less playthings for men's use, ensures that men who are regularly rejected will harbour resentment and aggression at being balked of their "rightful" male reward. A very broad change indeed in the cultural conception of the sexes is needed to change this situation, and at the moment much change seems to be in the wrong direction. Indoctrinating young men with the understanding that consent is necessary, and must be sought, is certainly one part of the puzzle, but only one. And, as I said, I am glad I came of age at a time when intuition was allowed to play a part.

The old cliche is that the first kiss is to be answered by a slap in the (male) face independent of whether it was wanted or not.

My dad told me that the base where he was deployed handed out condoms literally by the barrel. The barrels were set up by the exit so that soldiers could grab a handful on their way to the nearby village.

One viceroy saw no other option than to demand the immediate recall of a bishop back to England because the guy would otherwise trigger the next Indian Mutiny (said bishop was very vocal about his perceived need to stamp out Hinduism and Islam in India during his term of office).
Feel free to draw parallels to the US.

Parallels:
1) Supreme Court Justices who see a similar duty to stamp out sin and heresy (as they see it thru their particular personal theology).
2) Potential for things to get messy if puritanism keeps going.

Non-parallel:
Nobody resembling a viceroy who is in a position to successfully demand their recall from office.

Nichelle Nichols, 1932-2022
RIP, Lieutenant

And Bill Russell.

Both tremendously important to civil rights.

Yes, someone at BJ was mentioning today that Nichols recruited astronauts, including Ron McNair, who died in the Challenger disaster.

Not that that's all she did, but I didn't know it. I was never a dedicated Star Trek fan, so didn't know much about her at all.

Wow. Just when you think they can't go any lower, this.

West Virginia State Rep. Chris Pritt (R) attempts to argue that making absent fathers pay child support will encourage more abortions during debate on the state’s proposed restrictive abortion bill.
And here I thought "legitimate rape" was the height of misogyny. Failure of imagination on my part.

https://mikethemadbiologist.com/2022/08/02/covid-and-blue-people-in-red-states/

Looks like Jabbabonk was at least partially right for once, athough it was not sufficient to tip the elections in his favor.
But I guess for the likes of deSantis it would not have much of a difference as far as mishandling the pandemic went. Just an added bonus.

Please insert 'made' between 'have' and 'much'.

I'm wondering what the commentariat think of the assassination of Zawahiri? Anybody interested in giving their reaction? I'm prepared to give mine, when I've thought it through...

Kansas! --- is there hope after all? People are mad as hell and they're not going to forget they're mad as hell?

One of my friends who has been deeply involved in politics-adjacent work, though not directly in electoral politics, used to say that the Rs really don't want Roe reversed, because they want to use it to keep riling up their base forever.

They lost the run of themselves, as my Irish girlfriend used to say. All because of that fanatic Sammy Alito. Or maybe his paymaster, Leonard Leo.

Although that's not quite right; i don't think Alito needs any payment for what he's doing besides the satisfaction of ruining other people's lives for his concept of religion and the cruel deity he has created in his own image.

Kansas! --- is there hope after all?

See the new Open Thread

I'm wondering what the commentariat think of the assassination of Zawahiri?

I will shed no tears for that hate hollowed shell of a human. If his remains were in my possession, I'd bury him face down in a lead filled coffin in an unmarked grave. We are well rid of him.

Problem as always, though, that the US continues its policy of de facto assassination. It makes any stance we take against MBS ring hollow, even though Khashoggi was merely a critic of MBS and Zawahiri was a terrorist. The use of state power is the same even if there is no moral equivalency between the targets.

It would be far better for the US's reputation as a world leader if we did not have these moments of sovereign DGAF where international law was concerned.

The likelihood of us stopping these sorts of extrajudicial assassinations, though, is somewhere in the neighborhood of us getting our shit together on our impending environmental collapse.

Yup, that's pretty much where I am on the subject. I deplore extrajudicial killings, but this guy was obviously (and openly) a blight on humanity, so I can't regret it too much.

They may have avoided collateral damage in this case. His wife, daughter, and grandkids appeared to have escaped from the house after it was struck.

Biden deserves some credit for requiring that the killing cause as little danger to others as could feasibly be managed. (I'm assuming here that the initial reports from the US are accurate in this case, recognizing that the US has a rather poor ethos where these reports are concerned.) Could not have been easy to wait and to work with so many contingencies, especially with his poll numbers looking the way that they do.

I wonder how much - if at all - Carter's failed Operation Eagle Claw weighed on Biden's thoughts?

[nooneithinkisinmytree is banned from my threads. He wrote not long ago that he had respected that ban, as if it's up to him to honor it or not. It's not up to him. -- ETA: signed, JanieM, as if it might not be obvious]

Several problems here:

- there is no legal basis
- it violates territorial integrity
- drone wars are inherently based on the rule of force rather than law
- it was retribution
- nothing good has been achieved (he was not a threat)
- international law has been undermined once more, providing others with justification of their own misdeeds
- the media and public discourse is at a low point ("justice done", "rot in hell" etc.)

https://twitter.com/craigxmartin/status/1554491101402337281

drone wars are inherently based on the rule of force rather than law

How does that differ from any other war? Seriously, what characteristics does a drone war (ignoring, for the moment, what the definition of "drone war" should be) have which any other war does not?

From what I can see, drone strikes are inherently easier to direct to strictly military targets than an artillery barrage.

I am a little more concerned about the way Biden stole billions of dollars of money from Afghanistan, a country on the brink of famine, than I am about another drone killing. There is no rules based international order on such things. The US just flings that stupid phrase around when it wants to criticize someone else.

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2022/08/what-do-we-owe-afghanistan

( Much of this is about various war crimes— you have to scroll down to read the part about the American bank theft. You can also Google There have been occasional articles about it.)

I have criticized the drone assassinations before, but as US crimes go, it is pretty far down the list. Various idiots criticized the far left for dropping the issue under Trump— to the extent it was true it was because antiwar lefties realized that other US policies were killing more people. In Yemen, for instance, but there were also conventional bombing raids in Iraq and Syria that killed thousands and sanctions on various countries that also kill people.

Basically, though, I don’t expect us to change, whether liberals or conservatives are in the WH. People with power are mostly incapable of moral self reflection and this is unlikely to change. What is changing is that the US is seemingly losing its status as the unchallenged hyperpower. This means self righteous people with too much power in other parts of the world clearly think they too can invade who they want. And the DC crowd seems unwilling to recognize we aren’t living in 1990 anymore. It seems like a recipe for stumbling into bigger wars than anyone actually wants. And it means we will be flushing even more money down the Pentagon toilet every year when we should be getting serious about climate change.

what characteristics does a drone war (ignoring, for the moment, what the definition of "drone war" should be) have which any other war does not?

wj, if you google "drone warfare ethics" or something similar, there are plenty of articles and academic papers on this very subject, which explain the differences in a more rigorous way than I could ever do - even most proponents of drone warfare acknowledge that drones are a game changer.

But let me list some points from the top of my head anyway (and I'm obviously an opponent, but I'll try to stick to your question):

1.) - drone warfare erases the risk of human losses on part of the attacker, thereby removing a big obstacle traditionally faced by those trying to justify waging war and thus lowering the threshold of doing so

2.) - drone warfare lowers the psychological barriers to killing people, thereby making it easier to have people do it. This is of course only the most recent stage in the history of technological advances removing soldiers from the actual act of killing (manned aerial combat was the first big step).

3.) - drone warfare helps enable waging war forever without ever declaring war or ending it, it is just accepted as the new normal, that "we" will strike at any time anywhere

4.) - relatedly, drone warfare fundamentally subverts the principle of territorial integrity

5.) - drone warfare creates an unprecedented situation for those who live in countries or areas that are being threatened by drones: they know that they are being constantly monitored by a foreign power and that a strike can happen at any time anywhere - imagine living under these circumstances for a second

6.) - drone warfare is state sponsored assassination, eliminating the chance of capture or surrender and subsequent legal process, which is hard to square with international law, to put it mildly

7.) - drone warfare is radically disproportionate, the the targeted countries and regions have very few means of fighting back and are at the mercy of an technologically infinitely superior enemy

novakant: well summarised. Thank you.

Yeah, that was some pretty good "from the top of my head" material.

I see those issues with drone warefare. Relative, mostly, to no warefare. What I'm not seeing is how they don't apply to war in general. But I'll think on it further.

Then there's
drone warfare lowers the psychological barriers to killing people, thereby making it easier to have people do it.

You mention bombing from aircraft, in this regard. But let's think about artillery (which I cited specifically), which goes back way further. There, too, the guy firing the cannon mostly can't see the people he's shooting at. Or even whether or not there are any people there. So aircraft weren't that big a jump.

In fact, drones might be a step in the other (right) direction. Unlike bombs or artillery shells, drones typically include cameras, so the guy pulling the trigger can steer to the target. But those cameras also mean he can see the guy he's shooting. Target anonymity is much reduced.

Isn't the fact that drone killings aren't necessarily a part of "war in general" largely the problem? Were we "at war" with Afghanistan, where the killing took place?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not all that upset about it in this particular case, but I am at least interested in understanding the arguments properly.

But the drone pilot is also in no danger of return fire, even less so than in computer games. Or is there a psychological effect like being killed in a computer game in case that the drone is hit mid-flight? I think drone piloting is deliberately designed (to look and feel) like a game (and vice versa to a degree these days) to remove the reality of the kill from the mind of the operator. Plus the pilots don't (to my knowledge) really see the carnage up close as soldiers on the ground are likely to do (even if it's not their personal kill).

One point not yet discussed is the question of autonomous drones. For surveillance that's usually not a major ethical problem but (to my knowledge) there is no final legal judgment made yet about potential autonomous armed drones ('killbots') and who is responsible, if they commit acts that would be war crimes, if executed by human beings*.
At the moment human cannon fodder is still cheaper and more efficient/versatile for full-scale warfare but that could change within our lifetime.

*not that the powerful would care about legal niceties, admittedly (cf. the Invade The Hague Act).

Forgive me if it's been mentioned before but Eye in the Sky was an interesting film on the subject. Hellen Mirren and, notably, the excellent Alan Rickman in his final onscreen appearance.

As a side note, "drone" is a broad category. A Reaper with a full boat can loiter for 12+ hours and be controlled from across the globe. A Switchblade is not dissimilar from a "smart" mortar, if you will, and those deploying it are very much in the field of battle.

Also, in cases where job title is requested I often use “corporate drone”. Corporate does not seem to appreciate that description.

I think drone piloting is deliberately designed (to look and feel) like a game (and vice versa to a degree these days) to remove the reality of the kill from the mind of the operator. Plus the pilots don't (to my knowledge) really see the carnage up close as soldiers on the ground are likely to do (even if it's not their personal kill).

Drones are operated with controls that are very much like video game controls and esport competitors are recruited for the role of drone operator. This is very much a matter of parallel niches.

I don't believe that militaries are attempting to "gamify" the mission in any way, but the mediating effect of screens for willingness to commit violence and for suffering trauma are well documented. Drone operators can suffer moral injury, for example, if they are shown the aftereffects of their own actions on innocents in the area of effect, or if they find that they were lied to by their chain-of-command. This reduces the need for downtime and other limiting costs for the use of force, and thus becomes a source of moral hazard.

We also know that being in mortal danger causes biochemical dumps that create "flashbulb" memories that feature in trauma. By removing the mortal danger to the drone operator, the drone strike avoids this effect, leaving the biochemical effect as a sort of reward system. Again, moral hazard.

The Iliad is not very positive in its portrayal of the gods. They are above physical danger and untroubled by fellow feelings for lesser beings, and that leads them to become callouses and capricious.

Drones make us like the Greek gods.

Still an open thread...

More California pictures, with a few anecdotes thrown in.

Thank you. I'm feeling super mellow now. And amused over that lying Nelson.

But at least in the Iliad gods can still be hurt, although not permanently harmed, occasionally even by mortals (e.g. Diomedes wounding Aphrodite with his lance). And they inflict a lot of physical pain on each other (and remind each other of it regularly).
I usually say that Homer's gods are a sitcom cast. The truly dark stuff comes from other poets.
I also get the impression that the gods go from amoral to immoral to outright evil over time, from the Greeks to the Romans with a low-point reached in the era of the Flavian emperors.
Some gods are digestive rear exits from the start though, at least it seems to me that way (Apollon being about the worst even in Homer).

OK, that makes the comparision of the gods to our polictical landscape even more apt.

Glad to be of help, hsh.

Will expect return service when you give us your report on Gettysburg. :-)

amused over that lying Nelson.

Likewise. Although his father might have had even more trouble believing the diameter of some of those trees.

Beautiful pictures, Janie! Bold choice with the shoes, tho, and I'm a little surprised that the lowrider Beans were not featured. ;-)

Coming back from California as a kid, my folks had decided to take a northern route home, seeing as we went out through the south. I was only 4, but I recall a lot of stuff from that time - I guess because of all of the "newness" of it (this is 1973). Anyway, we were going to spend the night at Sequoia NP. We got in late. We went to the only diner around. They closed at 9. It was 9:05. But we had a cabin. With a "kitchen". Well, the cabin was in a line with a whole bunch of other ramshackle huts. I didn't know it at the time, but I'm pretty sure it was housing for a timber or mining company or some such endeavor before being repurposed. The bathrooms were a few football fields away down a partially gravelled road. It was raining. The only lighting was a kerosene lamp. Mom was NOT having any of this. But she soldiered on - she was built like that. So she cobbled together what food we had and set to fire up the ancient propane stove in the one room shack. And that's when I saw it.

Now, tensions were already pretty high, given the driving and two awful kids and I'm sure a host of other "adult" stuff I was clueless about. Then the diner thing and the fact that the "cabin" was considerably more "rustic" than the brochure had suggested. But we were gonna make do.

It was only a few seconds, but it's one of those burned-in memory things. As Mom, over-exasperated and trying to salvage the night, fussed with the stove - it happened.

This big, black, stereotypical, out-of-the-movies-looking spider descended, deliberately, from a wooden beam. Directly on top of her head. I don't know if I held my tongue because of the impossible hope that the situation would work out well, or if I didn't want to contribute to the maelstrom of fury that was inevitably moments away.

Yeah, that didn't go well. I don't think any of us slept. Tensions eased the next day, after the drudgery of the bathroom walk in the morning and a good fulfilling breakfast. The park was breathtaking and the day of just walking and taking in all of the bigness of it was exhilarating. I can't say for sure, but I think that knowing the next stop was a Holiday Inn probably added to the enjoyment.

Oh my God, those redwoods! Some of those images (mainly the closeups) actually induce in me a physical feeling I can barely describe. I find them intensely moving. If I saw them IRL, I'd probably get whatever is the natural world equivalent of Stendhal Syndrome. And I also loved the forest floor with the clovers. And that quotation from John Muir (presumably he for whom the wonderful Muir Woods are named). Thank you so much, Janie!

ps I realise that that comment would be a worthy candidate for Private Eye's famous column Pseuds' Corner, but I stand by it nonetheless!

Agree about the diameter, wj.

Little bits of lore:

Jonathan, Nelson's father, grew up in Connecticut and made his way to the Western Reserve on foot with two friends, carrying a peddler's pack on his back.

Nelson's 2nd wife, born Louisa Peck, was the granddaughter of another migrant from CT to the Western Reserve, Dan Peck, who fought in the Revolutionary War. My mother, who wasn't Italian and resented the prejudice against the family she had married into, thought it was a kick that we could all join the snooty DAR if we wanted to. (We didn't.)

Louisa Peck Woodruff was my grandma's grandma. My grandma's given name was "Rosalia Louisa," but she didn't like it and changed it to "Rosalie Louise." She then married Carl Rose and became Rosalie Louise Rose.

I have her middle name, which is (by implication) a connection back to Louisa Peck. Five females in my family, from my generation down to the grandkids, have "Rose" as a middle name. It's as blendable as "Ann" was among my Catholic school friends when I was a kid.

Pete: LLBean footwear doesn't work for me. I've tried a number of kinds over the years, with no luck. But don't fret, I have one or two LLBean Henleys on, and an LL Bean Scotch Plaid flannel shirt. Plus my socks.

The shoes were meant to be a sort of joke for Steve, who took the picture, because early on in our photographic friendship I meantioned that blue was my favorite color, and he said that blue was over used. (Or something to that effect.) When I found those Saucony sneakers last summer that fit me so well, I bought five pairs in 4 colors -- two shades of blue, those magenta ones, and an understated pink (!!!!!). I may never have to buy another pair of sneakers in my life. ;-)

I loved the story of your family's camping adventure. There's a good chance I would have died of a heart attack if the spider had dropped onto *my* head. Sounds like your mom was made of sterner stuff.

GftNC -- yes, it's the same John Muir.

It occurs to me that you might not know what the DAR is. It's "Daughters of the American Revolution" -- to join it, you have to be able to prove that you have an ancestor who fought in that war. (Kind of like bragging about having a Mayflower ancestor, although obviously nowhere near as exclusive!)

In the old days they *were* pretty snooty, as I understand it. But my only direct experience of them is that a group used to wrap presents at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Augusta at Christmas time -- various non-profits do that to raise money. Just a little gang of typical older Mainers as far as I could tell.

As for Stendhal Syndrome -- well. I felt like that a lot of the time I was on that trip -- it was so beautiful I almost couldn't take it in at times. If you've been to Muir Woods you have a sense of it, anyhow -- including the smell of the forest, which obviously can't be captured in a picture.

Also for Pete, and how could I have forgotten: the layer under my jacket is this Katahdin Iron Works flannel-lined hoodie. I might not actually have had a Henley on; it wasn't that cold by Maine standards. ;-)

Saucony? Magenta and Pink???! You might just be a bit more fashion-forward than you give yourself credit for!

My favorite trees are evergreens. The white pines here leak like a sieve so you park under them at your peril. I suspect that anyone from the Pine Tree state would have something of a natural affinity for California's redwoods. I also like weeping willows. The people in the adjacent property had a beautiful one - drip line was probably 60'. New owners cut it down for the "view" of the bay. Idiots.

IDK what they're calling them now, but my brushed cotton henleys are threadbare and I need new ones. And the "slightly-fitted" flannels fit me perfectly, so I totally lucked out there. (I dunno what forms you're using, LLBean, but keep using them!)

But I ain't gonna turn this into another Maine thread. ;-)

Minor note: Mom hated spiders. Deep, dark hatred. She was born here in the States well after 1939 but - no offense to the British - I remain unconvinced that she didn't coin the phrase "Keep Calm and Carry On".

The white pines here leak like a sieve so you park under them at your peril.

Far worse are mulberry trees. Because birds love the berries. But their digestive systems do absolutely nothing to the pigments of the fruit. Result: anywhere the birds sit (and poop) gets turned purple. Including, in my childhood, all our line-dried clothing. We had purple underwear long before it was cool.

The people in the adjacent property had a beautiful one - drip line was probably 60'. New owners cut it down for the "view" of the bay. Idiots.

These are the people that *I* mean when I mutter imprecations about "immigrants" -- people from other states (almost never happens with folks from other countries), who insist on turning here into a visual immitation of wherever they are from. They should go back there! Plus, getting rid of their enthusiasm for big green (necessarily heavily watered) lawns in a desert climate would definitely help our water issues.

Far worse are mulberry trees

My Dad’s place has 2. Right over the driveway and I hate them. He loves them though & currently has 6!!! pots of cuttings going. I keep hoping they’ll die, but he’s been diligent about watering them. Between them and the black walnuts, this place is a war zone.

Apologies if I’m repeating myself, but the black walnuts are gorgeous. There are a few that are ~3’ in diameter & go at least 80’. They also suck, dropping those stringy things and then the walnuts. But deep roots, hardwood… I had to cut up a 20’ widow maker that missed my car by roughly the same distance just this morning. And there’s a huge one about 50’ up with no leaves on it this season.

Still, when the breeze comes off the bay & rustles through them, there’s no place I’d rather be.

I haven't been lucky (?) enough to have any black walnuts in my various homes, but you're reminding me of the horsechestnut that was in the front yard of the house where I grew up.

All the kids in the neighborhood walked by our house on the way home from school, and they would come and pick up nuts in the fall. The tree dropped sticky flowers in the spring and leaves and nuts in the fall and my dad, of course, had to clean it all up.

Everyone called it a "buckeye"(Ohio is the Buckeye State), but it wasn't, really. Just quite similar to one, I guess.

Sticky?

They are the sea urchins of the lawn and the bane of all barefoot goers unfortunate enough to trod thereon! Grandpa had one - we avoided that part of the lawn. Walking over there was a mistake you made once.

Sea urchins -- yes, the "skins" were awful, especially once they had dried out.

The maximum height that a tree can get water from the ground is a little over 400 feet.

"It sounds hard to hide the tallest tree in the world. But that’s exactly what officials at California’s Redwood National Park have been trying to do since 2006.

Now, the 380-foot redwood tree is officially off-limits. In a statement last week, the park wrote that visitors caught near it could face six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

For 16 years, the park kept the location of the tree hidden in order to protect it. They feared that too many visitors to the site could damage it and the delicate ecology of its surrounding slopes."
California trying to make the world’s tallest tree invisible. Now visitors face jail, fines

I kinda hate that, but I’m kinda okay with it. OTOH, maybe it’s a “good guy with a gun” thing? I mean, if it’s open, is there less of a chance that someone will wreck it, as long as it’s properly curated? Walled off, the only ones getting to it are those with ill intent. And you can’t stop crazy.

Reminds me of Stonehenge. When I went there in 1997, you couldn't get near it. But I don't remember what preventive measures were in place. On the one hand, it's England. On the other hand, it's full of tourists. I dunno.

When I say "it's England," I'm thinking of one of the most amazing aspects of that visit. A friend of mine who lived over there took me around to a number of stone circles, and we were driving around some green countryside that day and she pointed and said, "There it is."

And there, amidst a sea of grazing land, was one of the most famous places in the world, with not a single McDonald's or strip mall or enticing ridiculous sign in sight. Unbelievable.

So, occasionally, when stabbing myself in the eye with a pencil doesn’t provide enough “zing”, I turn on Fox. According to the worst person on the planet (some call her Laura), Dick Cheney is now a friend of the Left.

Dick Cheney. Leftist.

I coulda swore I read somewhere that whoever “owned” Stonehenge stipulated that it remain open to the public in perpetuity. Is that not true?

It's open, but you can't go up and touch the stones. Or at least that was the case in 1997. IIRC once or twice a year some druid-type folk are allowed inside the boundaries to have ceremonies. Probably the solstices? Maybe our Brits, or Google, could tell us.

When Stonehenge was first opened to the public it was possible to walk among and even climb on the stones, but the stones were roped off in 1977 as a result of serious erosion.[89] Visitors are no longer permitted to touch the stones but are able to walk around the monument from a short distance away. English Heritage does, however, permit access during the summer and winter solstice, and the spring and autumn equinox. Additionally, visitors can make special bookings to access the stones throughout the year.[90] Local residents are still entitled to free admission to Stonehenge because of an agreement concerning the moving of a right of way.[91]

Dick Cheney is now a friend of the Left.

no thank you.

English Heritage does, however, permit access during the summer and winter solstice,

That’s probably what I saw in recent photos. Thanks, Google Lady! ;-)

The fundamental problem with drone warfare is not the specifics of why it is terrible— the US leveled Raqqa and Mosul with artillery and conventional bombs. The NYT, Anand Gopal and others have written about how the US uses bureaucratic procedures to convince itself that it is never guilty of anything criminal when its air strikes kill civilians, no matter how egregious the individual case may be.

The problem is that politicians and bureaucrats in Western democracies think they cannot possibly be guilty of war crimes, precisely because they are part of a democratic system. It is rather like someone living in 1850 arguing that the US couldn’t be guilty of a crime against humanity because the laws governing slavery were arrived at through established democratic mechanisms.

Here is Blinken arguing that the US and Israel have shown they have mechanisms that enable them to hold their own war criminals to account. People in his position spout this kind of nonsense because they exist in a social environment where real accountabilty for people like them is unimaginable. And then they can with a straight face denounce Putin for his war crimes.

https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/ilhan-omar-questions-antony-blinken-on-prosecuting-crimes-against-humanity-in-israel-palestine

It is worthwhile trying to ban cluster munitions and drone warfare and land mines but it doesn’t really get at the root of the problem, which is the unshakeable Western belief that our shit doesn’t stink.

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