Monday, November 30, 2020

AIFF2020 - Some World, North American, and US Premieres In Anchorage

 I got a list of films that had been tagged as premiering in Anchorage with the caveat that they may be shown somewhere recently.  So I've tried to check.  (There are so many films to try to highlight before the festival and so little time left - the Festival begins Friday - that this seems as good an angle as any.)

First I started with the world premieres.  Five were listed.  

Pink Violet

I'd recommend folks check out the Pink Violet website.  There's lots of information there and a chat box which I used to see if we really will be the world premiere.  The answer was:

"Hi Steve! Yes, this is the world premiere of Pink Violet. We did place at another festival (SER Film Festival), but because of COVID they were unable to screen the films. So, awards were announced on their website."

When I asked if they had anything to say to Anchorage film goers, they responded:

"Yes! We’re super excited to be part of AIFF 2020 as the film was made in Alaska by young Alaskan filmmakers. Pink Violet was made as part of UAF’s Department of Theatre and Film courses, Film Production I & Film Production II, where over the course of a semester, students take on key positions and crew roles to shoot a short film. We look forward to seeing all of the other selected films!"

This is an interview with the film makers: 

  • Jade Chase, film director and Air Force Veteran  
  • Nancy Napier.  Boise State professor and co-author of author of the book, The Bridge Generation of Vietnam: Spanning Wartime to Boomtime  on which the film is based
  • Dau Thuy Ha (MBA, ’99) book's co-author.  She zooms in from Hanoi.  
  • David di Donato (I think that's right) who filmed much of the movie and did the editing.   

This film was on my list of premieres and I was checking to confirm that we would have the world premier showing.  It turns out that's not the case.  It was shown Nov 17 at the Chi-Town Multi-Cultural Film Festival in Chicago.  

But we'll be among the first to see the film.  If you know any Vietnam vets (Jade, the director works with vets) or friends from Vietnam you might let them know that this film looks at the generation of Vietnamese who experienced the war and have since experienced how Vietnam has changed.  

The interviewer focuses on how the movie was put together - how they connected with the author, how they translated from the book, how they dealt with going to Vietnam and connecting with the subjects, filming and editing technical questions, etc.  

You can see the trailer on the AIFF website.  

I'm going to put this up with just two films.  Each one takes a while to research and two is probably a decent number for people to read about anyway.  

Tickets are on sale for the festival.  You can buy $10 single film tickets or you can buy $100 festival passes.  Since you can watch films at any time between Dec. 4 8pm and December 13 pm online this year, the passes are easier to take advantage of.  

Saturday, November 28, 2020

AIFF 2020: Films In Many Languages - From Norwegian To Korean To Spanish And Many More [UPDATED]

[UPDATE is between Germany and Ireland;  Also gave Turkey its own space, not tacked on to Germany, added Zimbabwe.  And Serbia and Solomon Islands]

 The film festival is an opportunity for people who seldom get to see films in local theaters in their native tongue, or one they've in languages they've learned and would like to hear more of.  And the film festival usually offers many opportunities.  

But this year there will be no theater watching.  But, there are lots of films from other countries.  You can put the name of the country into the search option on the film festival page and see what is playing from that country.  

Meanwhile, here's the list of countries I found.  I may have missed some, so if the country you want isn't on my list you can check the festival website.  

You can get more information about the films on the Festival site too.  I don't have to put in dates and times, because in the virtual festival you can watch when you want between Dec. 4 and Dec. 13.  

And if you only speak English, this is a chance to travel to other cultures for a few minutes to a couple of hours.  


Dear Child   78 mins | United Kingdom | 2020


Alaska  14 mins | Canada | 2018

Cake Day  16 mins | Canada | 2020

Enemy  2 mins | Canada | 2020

Rebel 16 mins | Canada | 2019

Canada French

She Who Wears The Rain  17 mins | Canada | 2019

The Arctics  57 mins | Canada | 2020 (& Norway)

Waste Away   5 mins | Canada | 2020

When It Falls  19 mins | Canada | 2020


Tuva youngster - Yong Deng  30 mins | China | 2019

[The Egyptian film is no longer in the festival]


dissociate (gáidat/máhccat)  4 mins | Finland | 2020


the rage  12 mins | France | 2018

Midnight Kids  24 mins | France | 2020


Encounters   9 mins | Germany | 2020

Crescendo   111 mins | Germany | 2019

Masel Tov Cocktail  32 mins | Germany | 2020

Toprak   106 mins | Turkey, Germany | 2020

[UPDATE 11/29/20:  It turns out there are no films from India.  Somehow "Incendiary" showed up when I searched India (the letters are in the word?).  But I've been assured that Incendiary is in the screenplay competition and is not from India.]


Bainne (Milk)  18 mins | Ireland | 2019


Crescendo  111 mins | Germany | 2019

Masel Tov Cocktail  32 mins | Germany | 2020

Butterflies   9 mins | Israel | 2019

Anna   16 mins | Ukraine, Israel | 2019

Pathfinder - Life beyond fear  11 mins | Israel, Norway | 2020


Gon, The Little Fox   28 mins | Japan | 2020

Woman of the Photographs  89 mins | Japan | 2020


Rafiki   83 mins | Kenya | 2018


My Son   120 mins | South Korea | 2020

Ungbi and non-human friends   18 mins | South Korea | 2020

[UPDATE:  Latchkeys   19 mins | United States | 2020 is in English and Korean]


Keep Saray Home  31 mins | United States | 2020


The Burden   17 mins | Netherlands | 2019


The Arctics   57 mins | Canada | 2020

Antique (Antikk)   13 mins | Norway | 2020

Everything That Could Have Been  60 mins | Norway | 2020

Social Distance  2 mins | Norway | 2020

Pathfinder - Life beyond fear  11 mins | Israel, Norway | 2020


The Arctics   57 mins | Canada | 2020


Just For The Record   8 mins | Serbia | 2020 (in English)

Solomon Islands

Sky Aelans   7 mins | Soloman Islands | 2020


Flora   14 mins | Spain | 2019

Let's go to Antarctica!   6 mins | Spain | 2018


De berde   3 mins | Sweden | 2020


Sapelo  92 mins | Switzerland | 2020


Qafas   12 mins | United States | 2019


Toprak   106 mins | Turkey, Germany | 2020


Anna   16 mins | Ukraine, Israel | 2019

United Kingdom

Dear Child  78 mins | United Kingdom | 2020

Grab My Hand: A Letter to My Dad   6 mins | United Kingdom | 2019

Sleep Tight  9 mins | United Kingdom | 2019


Keep Saray Home  31 mins | United States | 2020

We to Me   45 mins | United States | 2020

[UPDATE: Zimbabwe]


Gonarezhou: The Movie  Zimbabwe | 2020 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Enjoy Your Turkey Or Your Turkey Alternative

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Whether you live in the US or not.  The idea of a holiday when you give thanks is a good one.  And the US has been examining the origin story of this holiday for many years now.  We will, eventually get it right.  

I found this picture in a shopping bag of things I brought home last March from my Mom's house.  I finally got to looking through what was in there.  This turkey has my name written on the back, so it's a really old turkey!  There were also letters my mom got from her parents at the end of 1939 and through 1941.  She had made it to the US, but they were stuck in Germany.  I haven't read through them carefully, but they have to be the last contact my mother had with her parents.  There's also a letter she sent to them in late November 1941.  It was returned to sender.  It must have been on-route when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the US declared war against Japan and Germany.  

With that in the back of my head, I can't help thinking about COVID-19.  A good friend dropped off a small Thanksgiving feast.  Our fresh baked bread in return seems paltry.  

But I'm also thinking about the 3 people who died of COVID yesterday in Alaska.  No Thanksgiving for them.  And an unhappy one for their relatives and friends.  And the 24 people who were hospitalized.  Their Thanksgiving is also messed up.  Or the 553 people who tested positive yesterday.  Many of them will get through it fairly easily.  Some will get pretty sick before they get better.  A few might not get better.  

When my son, maybe 9 or 10 years old, did something he oughtn't to have done, and I'd started out letting him know what I thought about it, he'd put up his hand and say, 

"Dad, stop  That's lecture number 473."  

Me:  "If you know what I'm going to say, tell me."

And he would.  

Me:  "If you know it, why don't you do it?"

It turns out that he had all the lectures very retrievable in his brain.  And as he matured, his behavior matched  the goals of my lectures.  

What I eventually realized, was that he knew what to do, but that he wasn't emotionally able to do them.  

I'm guessing that not wearing a mask is like that, or like not being able to apologize.  You know you should, but you have emotional obstacles to overcome.  Masks don't match your self-image of  ____________ (fill in the blank).  Maybe of a Trump supporter.  Maybe of a person who does what he or she wants, not what they're told.  

There were a few times while I was teaching that I'd get some unprovoked pushback from a student.  When I asked other students, after class, what I had done, they'd say, "Nothing."  My sense was that there are people with authority issues.  And when people can't vent against the person they're really upset at, they pick another, less dangerous authority figure to lash out at.  

That's the only thing that makes sense to me with anti-maskers.  After all, the physical act of putting on a mask is no big deal.  Bank robbers have no problem with masks.  Trick or Treaters have no problem with masks.  Millions of Muslim women adapt to face coverings.  It's not the physical 'sacrifice' of wearing a mask that's the problem.  It's the emotional barriers that are the problem.  

I get that people want to go back to some semblance of their old lives.  Even if they weren't that happy with those old lives.  

The irony is, if we all had been wearing masks when out in public and been practicing social distancing, most commercial businesses could be open now.  

And had we all been doing this, and the experts are right, then most things could be open now - with some accommodations - and two thirds or more of the people who have died, would still be alive.  Including the many health care workers and low income folks deemed "essential workers."

And if the experts turned out to be wrong, the great sacrifice would have been wearing masks in public.     It's sort of on the level of wearing a seatbelt.  Or brushing your teeth every day.   And given that the numbers of cases and deaths in the US far exceeds most other places where people do stay home and/or do wear masks in public, it appears that masks and avoiding large gatherings do work.  

So anti-maskers, just humor me and the others concerned about the health of people in my community and country.  Get a mask that marks you as an Trump supporter or an independent thinker or as someone who doesn't believe in masks, but is willing to make a 'sacrifice' if so many others think it's important.  It's not like you have to cut off your right ear to help others survive.  

I also wish that hospitals could figure out some ways to show what is actually happening in COVID wards without violating patient privacy rights.  Some live "COVID-cams" where people can see what's happening behind the walls of the hospitals.  

Sunday, November 22, 2020

"And remember in the United States there are no secrets, only delayed disclosures."

 In his book The Black Banners: How Torture Derailed the War on Terror after 9/11, former FBI interrogator, Ali Soufan,  writes in great detail about the interrogation techniques he’d been using since he’d joined the FBI in 1997.  As a native Arabic speaker from Lebanon who’d gone to school in the US, he started tracking al Qaeda already in graduate school and was put on the anti-terrorist unit after the initial rotation period in the FBI.  He gained a lot more knowledge of al Qaeda - their members, their funding, their training techniques, their communication networks, etc. - while interrogating suspects in the USS Cole bombing in Yemen.  When he interrogated detainees he got their cooperation quickly by letting them see how much he already knew about them and that lying was useless.  He also treated them with respect.  These techniques got the US volumes of intelligence.  

But after 9/11, the CIA was given control over interviewing detainees.  The CIA had very little interrogation expertise.  That wasn’t how they got information before this, so they hired a psychology professor as a contractor who introduced what came to be known as Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT).  Coercive techniques and torture.  A few times Soufan got to interrogate detainees after 9/11 and was able to get useful information, but the high-value detainees were reserved for the CIA interrogators.  They basically got compliance, not cooperation.  Detainees told the CIA what they wanted to hear.  Often lies that fit the CIA narrative.  Not  useful information.  There were attempts by the FBI and inside the CIA and the military to block the EIT program, but it was supported in the White House.

Soufan writes:

“Mark Fallon, a New Jersey native from a family of law enforcement officials, found himself in a position he had warned his staff members about during their orientation. ‘Even if I give you an illegal order,’ he told them, ‘you can’t follow it.  You are bound by the Constitution.  Remember that at Nuremberg we prosecuted Nazis who claimed just to be following orders.  And remember in the United States there are no secrets, only delayed disclosures.  One day, whether one year away or ten years away, people will be looking at what we did, so make sure you act with the utmost integrity.’”

In the book, Soufan argues persuasively, backed up by Senate reports,  that the insistence on EIT to interrogate al Qaeda meant that the kind of intelligence the FBI interrogators had been collecting was lost and attacks that could have been foiled were not foiled, and finding Bin Laden was delayed by years.  

I think this same lesson applies to Senate Republicans. Their refusal to keep Trump accountable allows him to continue to damage our government, our position in the world, and is endangering our democracy by eroding trust in government.  

I cannot comprehend their reasons for  staying silent in the face of Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the election and to defy the advice of scientists on COVID.  

But I do know that like the decision to supplant traditional interrogation techniques with EIT, the Senate’s refusal to do its Constitutional duty to be a check on the presidency is tearing this country apart.  Allowing President Trump to do further damage to our government and our country in the final 60 days will cause unnecessary additional harm.  

Early on I proposed a statue to honor the first six Republican Senators willing to join the Democrats to force Trump to follow the law and the Constitution.  But despite separating immigrant  children, infants even, from their parents; despite encouraging white supremacists, despite the lies and lack of any kind of plan on COVID, and now despite Trump's attempt to overthrow the election, there still aren't six Republican Senators with courage and integrity.  

Even Trump underestimated what he could get away with.  He just said he could could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and not lose his supporters.  At least 150,000 to 200,000 Americans are dead because of Trump's lies and inaction on COVID 19.  Those deaths belong to the Republican Senators too, who did not perform their constitutional duty to be a check on the presidency.  

I repeat Mark Fallon’s words:

And remember in the United States there are no secrets, only delayed disclosures.  One day, whether one year away or ten years away, people will be looking at what we did, so make sure you act with the utmost integrity.’”

The children and grandchildren of the Republican Senators will one day  know that their once powerful parents and grandparents  did not show integrity or courage in one of America’s darkest periods.  

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Education Level And Elitism

Although most people would like to have the benefits of the elite line boarding an airplane and other perks of wealth, conservatives have been labeling people as  'elitist' people due to their college educations.  Scientists and doctors especially right now are dismissed as elitists if they say that people should wear masks to avoid spreading COVID-19 or if they say that climate change is real.  

On the other hand when people say that we should be focused on economic inequality instead of race, conservatives cry "Class warfare."  This is just another example of how Conservatives are totally inconsistent in terms of content.  Their only consistency now is their focus on winning by any means necessary.  Even by overturning a democratic election.  

A couple of posts back I had the elitist label thrown at me by two regular readers because I suggested that college graduates were harder to fool than non-college graduates.  I'm responding here, in a new post, rather than in the comment section, because I can put an image here and I can't do that in a comment.  Here's what I wrote at the end of a post on Denialism:

"Also, remember, only 35% of US adults has a bachelors degree or more education.  The chart below is from Wikipedia.  That does affect how susceptible people are to the arguments of organized deniers."  

[Including this chart below]

EducationAge 25 and overAge 25-30
High school diploma or GED89.80%92.95%
Some college61.28%66.34%
Associate and/or bachelor's degree45.16%46.72%
Bachelor's degree34.98%36.98%
Master's and/or doctorate and/or professional degree13.04%9.01%
Doctorate and/or professional degree3.47%2.02%

Jacob responded (in part):

"Steve so often writes of his concerns that we should all be scholars in life, but I am one of those folk who never could sit still for college study. I'm one of his 'stupid' people who don't have a college degree (as evidenced in his chart and its implication to thinking things through).

It shows a sort of prejudice that I, not being a Trump supporter, still feel from folk who think themselves better for having achieved. I read. I write. I think. But I don't have an institutional degree.

And I'm thought worse for it, in what work I can do; in what people think of me; of what people assume my ability to think at all. No wonder too many Trumpers think of the 'other' side as being elitist."

And Oliver wrote:

"Steve, these people I would wager do not have degrees ,Carpenter.

Carpet installer .Electrician .Heavy equipment operator (or anyone in the construction trades) .Insulation installer .Landscaper .Painter. Plumber, auto mechanic but might possess a few smarts. I would take anyone of them over a room full of Fine Arts majors or anyone who's degree ends with the word 'studies'. 

Oliver "

A writer recently reminded me that once you put something on paper, it is no longer yours.  People take it and interpret it as they want.  So let's consider this a discussion.

I DID NOT say that all people who go to college are smarter or less likely to be conned than all people who do not go to college.  I never would say that.  

But I would say this: People who go to college get exposed to ideas they would not likely have been exposed to, and they are challenged by classmates and teachers to defend their own ideas and explore the ideas of others in a more disciplined way than most people who do not go to college.  There are lots of caveats.  The abilities of one's classmates.  The abilities and dedication of one's teachers.  Other influences in one's life that might hone these skills without college.

And as I wrote the words quoted above, I was thinking about the statistics I'd seen about college educated and non-college educated voters - particularly whites, particularly white males.  Those statistics support what I was suggesting - that more (not all) non-college educated voters were likely to vote for Trump.  

From a November 12 Brookings Institute Report:

This chart looks at the changing gap between Trump and Clinton and Trump and Biden voters in different categories.  In both 2016 and 2020 the non-college women, and to a greater extent, the non-college men voted at much higher rates for Trump than for the Democrat.  

To have a 48% gap between non-college educated men who voted for Trump and Clinton in 2016, you need 74% voting for Trump and 26% voting for Clinton.*  So after I copied the Denialist strategies that are designed to con people into believing things that aren't true, I was merely pointing out, afterward, that only 35% of the US population had a bachelor's degree.  

*Third party candidates probably skew the numbers a little, but it's still a big deal.  

And the data on how college educated men and non-college men voters marked their ballots sure looks like it supports the implication I made.  You could argue that these non-college men weren't conned and that they simply prefer a sexist, racist, lying, law breaker as president.  

I'd counter by saying that a college education would have exposed them to how sexism and racism actually hurt our economy and the value of the rule of law.  That wouldn't have changed all their votes - there were still a lot of white males with college educations who voted for Trump - but it would have changed many of them.  

Do I think everyone should go to college?  Not really.  People have different aptitudes and learning styles.  Many like Jay simply can't sit still and do the kinds of assignments most colleges require.  But I do believe that in a constitutional democracy, we all need to understand that constitution because it is essentially the "user agreement"  with the ground rules that we all, tacitly, have agreed to.  It's the one thing that all United States citizens and residents have in common.  

And I've written about my thoughts on alternative ways to get this knowledge to people who have talents in areas other than academic studies.  Here's from a post I wrote during a University of Alaska president search on the clash between the business culture of many on the board of regents and the academic culture of universities.  

"It is precisely this conflict between the business model's use of instrumental rationality and traditional academic use of the substantive rationality model - in this case scholarship and learning and truth and even the meaning of life - that is raging around universities everywhere.   Faculty are told to be more productive, which translated first into "more students per class" which would mean less expenditure for each tuition dollar.  It assumes a large lecture model as the ideal, the larger the better.  In fact, why not just do internet courses with thousands of students?  For certain students learning certain topics, this can work.  But this model ignores the possibility that education (as opposed to training) is about self examination, about learning to think critically, about exploring the moral implications of one's actions, about learning to write and learning to recognize the legitimacy of others' knowledge.  It ignores that this kind of learning  requires an intense interaction between a student and a teacher, among students, and among a teacher and a group of students.  The value of that interaction is diluted as more students are added beyond an ideal size. You can get a certain amount from reading a book.  You learn even more from discussing it with others.

Universities are being asked to do too many things

There are lots of things problematic with large modern universities.  For one thing, we decided, as a nation, that everyone needed a college degree, because that is the ticket to earning more money over one's lifetime.  (See how that technical rationality gets into everything, making, in this case, the purpose of a college degree, earning more money?)   A degree rather than an education has become the goal of many students.   Some online schools offer those degrees,  quickly, while the student works full time.  Just send in your money.  There are good online programs that serve students who otherwise couldn't get an education.  And there are schools that essentially sell degrees.

I do think that everyone would be better off learning to do the things I listed above - gaining self knowledge, critical and ethical thinking abilities, etc. - but I  know that not everyone has the aptitude or interest to pursue traditional college level academic studies.  There are lots of other important skills that society needs, but most have been sacrificed in K-12 to focus everyone into a college (translation:  academic, STEM, etc.) track.  We don't have tracks for less academic but still important vocational education which could also be more than technical training.  They could also include self awareness, critical and ethical thinking, but in areas that involve building, growing, and creating in more tangible disciplines than in academic disciplines.  Skilled craftsmen used to have a reasonable status in life and learning one's craft well involves learning the various sciences related to it as well as the social and political and economic realms in which a craftsperson lives.  Why not use carpentry or culinary arts or music or electrical work, or health care as the focus rather than history or math or political science?  Then bring in the other fields as they relate to one's focus.  Carpenters, nurses, cooks all need to know chemistry and biology.  Understanding the humanities, ethics, history, and government are also valuable to a craftsperson making a living.   People with different aptitudes would learn what they need much more easily when it's tied to doing what they really want to do, rather than some isolated, abstract academic subject. 

But we've created an educational monster that forces everyone into an academic track starting in first grade.  And if you aren't ready to read or add and subtract when the curriculum guide says you should be,  you acquire a negative label like  'slow learner' and you (and others) start seeing you as less capable than everyone else.  School becomes increasingly oppressive as you're forced to perform in areas you don't like and aren't particularly good at."

So, no, Oliver, I wasn't demeaning carpet installers.  I was thinking the ideas in the quoted paragraphs above.  That the way education is structured, people without academic skills, are much less likely (not "unable") to acquire a well thought out set of problem solving skills, and an understanding of the political, economic, psychological and other contexts that are needed for negotiating the complex issues of our day.  And the system we have doesn't insure college grads have it as well as they should either.  

I was just saying those without college degrees are more susceptible to a con artist like Trump and more likely to vote for him.  And the numbers seem to support that conclusion.   

The challenge we have is to get that ideal education system that allows people to find the educational tracks that most appeal to their subject interest and learning style.  

Now if you have some facts I've missed, not just opinion, to counter what I've said, please present them.  


Thursday, November 19, 2020

So Much To Blog About Yet So Little Time - Zooming, OLÉ, Winter, Justice, Dark Banners, Anchorage International Film Festival, Elitism

 I try not to blog about sensitive stuff quickly.  I want to get it as right as I can.  And now is a time when so many things are happening that most of the media (let alone a single blogger) has trouble focusing on any one enough to get to the root of the many particular problems.  


Yesterday I was zooming from morning to night.  Probably the best as as a visiting grandfather resource in my granddaughter's class in the Seattle area.  I got to listen to two second graders read.  They did really well.  Then I had three Olé classes, Thomas Merton, Refugee Resettlement, and Alaska Trees and Shrubs. The last of the four class fall semester.  The last class is Friday's Alaska Native Perspectives.  All the classes have got my head buzzing with ideas.  Then my San Francisco grandkids via Jitsi, my son's preferred video conferencing program.  

I also wanted to give you a look at how incredibly beautiful Anchorage is during a cold spell when all the trees are encrusted white and the sun glows on them.  But suddenly the bluetooth connection between my phone and my laptop has failed.  I have to figure out how I moved photos before I used the Blue Tooth.  

Government At Cross Purposes

The LA Times reports this morning on the dropping of drug trafficking charges of the former Mexican defense chief. 

"The U.S. government moved Tuesday to drop drug trafficking and money-laundering charges against a former Mexican defense secretary, a stunning turnaround in a case that had deeply angered Mexican authorities."

Which makes me think about the last few days' readings in Black Banners.  He writes about how the US government agencies work at cross purposes.  One part doing one thing and then having another part of the government take it away.  His example looks at how the FBI and CIA were at cross purposes in interrogating al-Qaeda detainees.   Ali Soufan, the author is a Lebanese born, native Arabic speaking, who grew up in the US and became an FBI interrogator.  He writes about clashes between seasoned FBI interrogators and a new set of CIA contractors over how to interrogate al-Qaeda detainees.   Soufan's group, which has been tracking al-Qaeda since 1998 or so, believes in 

  • developing a relationship with the suspects  
  • through convincing the suspects they know all about them so there's no benefit in lying  
  • treating the suspects decently which confounds the counter-interrogation prep al-Qaeda gave them
  • and they open up and tell the interrogaters lots of valuable information
They've already had great successes with this methods following the USS Cole bombing in Yemen where they've gathered huge files of data on various al-Qaede members and allies along with locations of training camps and networks, and communication, funding, and training methods.  They use all this along with documents  they've captured in raids of al-Qaede safe-houses and hotel rooms.  In Soufan's telling, it doesn't take long to turn the al-Qaede members and allies, once they realize how much the FBI already knows about them and the FBI demonstrates they aren't the weak, stupid, and brutal Americans al-Qaeda has portrayed them as.  As I read this, it's clear that Soufan's Arabic fluency and his good people sense play a large role in their success.  [Here's a link to a Foreign Policy article that counters the campaign against Soufan when the original very redacted book came out in 2011.  The copy I'm reading is much expanded as lots of the material has since been declassified.  I was able to read most of the Foreign Policy  article before the paywall went up.]

But after 9/11 the CIA, which didn't have interrogation specialists, hires a guy Soufan calls Boris, to coordinate the CIA's interrogation.  They're in a black site in an unnamed country (some things are still classified, though he mentions a cobra in the bathroom which means it could easily be Thailand and the black site link says Abu Zubaydah was interrogated there.)  Boris is a psychology professor who is pushing harsh interrogation methods - what is to become known as Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT).  But the CIA at first didn't believe that the captive was in fact Abu Zubaydah, "America's first high-level detainee since 9/11."  So they didn't send anyone to interrogate him, even though Soufan had been told the CIA was in charge.  So this meant Soufan and his partner had about ten days to work with Abu Zubaydah on their own.  And they gained lots of information which was sent back to DC.  So the CIA got interested and Boris arrived.  He was now going to take over by stripping Abu Zubaydah naked, playing loud rock music 24/7, and depriving him of sleep for 24 hours, which would get him to talk instantly.  But they got no information from him in ten days.  Soufan writes, that the CIA interrogator would go in and ask Abu Zubaydah to tell him what he knew.  Abu Zubaydah would then say, "What do you want to know?" and the CIA guy would walk out.  In contrast, Soufan would ask Abu Zubaydah very specific questions that Soufan knew the answers to, and if AZ lied, Soufan would present evidence that he was lying.  In one example, he asks him if he knows the person in a picture.  Abu Zubaydah says no.  Soufan then plays an audio tape of Abu Zubaydad talking to the person.)  After a week of no information, Soufan is allowed to interrogate again and gets lots more information.

But the CIA are in charge and they have bought into EIT as their interrogation method.  And, I guess, if you don't know anything about the person you're interrogating and you don't speak Arabic, torture is an easier approach.  But Soufan argues in the book, that replacing the FBI's technique with EIT meant the loss of valuable information and as the book's subtitle says, this is "How Torture Derailed the War on Terror after 9/11."

So, how, you're asking, is the related to the headline about dropping the Mexican drug charges?  Well, it appears that the Bush administration wanted certain information from the interrogations that Soufan wasn't getting.  Like, proof that Iraq and al-Qaeda were working together.  Like proof of WMD's (I guess there might be readers who need me to spell that out - Weapons of Mass Destruction.)  Soufan says he didn't get that information because it wasn't true.  But the CIA got those confessions, according to Soufan, who also quotes a Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility Report to support his personal experience, to detainees telling the CIA interrogators what they wanted to hear to stop the torture.  

So I'm guessing this Mexican case dismissal is due to funding between different departments that have different objectives, just as Soufan so high-value detainees snatched away from him because the intelligence he was getting didn't match the administration's agenda.  One part of the US is working hard to prosecute this drug trafficker and another part has interests that they believe will be harmed by pursuing this case.  And one day, an Ali Soufan of this case, will write a book telling the story.  

Getting Oliver and Jacob to Agree

A recent post  seems to have accomplished something that hasn't happened before - regular commenters Jacob and Oliver are in agreement that I'm being elitist because I mentioned that only 34% of the US adult population has a bachelors degree.  So I need to clarify that too.  

Individualism vs. Communalism and US Culture

And I'm also thinking about one of the characteristics of "United States culture" is a form of extreme individualism.  This issue came up in the Alaska Native Perspectives class where we also agreed in the that American refers to people in North, Central, and South America, not just the US.  That's wording I try to use here on the blog anyway, though sometimes American slips through.   I think it's part of the complex explanation of Trump's appeal and of the anti mask wearing nonsense,  as well as the inability of people to understand how White Privilege works.  

Anchorage International Film Festival

AND this morning pass holders for the Anchorage International Film Festival were invited to a Zoom orientation on how the virtual conference will work and a little tour of the website.  The Festival starts in a couple of weeks - December 4.  The virtual festival will have some distinct benefits over the in person festival:
  1. you can watch the films whenever you want during the 9 days of the festival and as often as you want
  2. you don't have to be in Anchorage to participate
  3. there will be more sessions with film makers because they don't have to travel to Anchorage
So I'd urge Alaskans all over the state to consider getting a festival pass ($100) which allows you unlimited viewing of all the films and filmmaker events  OR pick out a few films you want to watch and buy individual film passes for $10 each.  There are a total of 111 films.  That includes shorts.  I think that for shorts a single $10 pass will get you to a shorts program which is a collection of shorts.  

In any case, people in Alaska outside of Anchorage who normally can't get to the festival,  and in the US, I urge you to check out the festival.  I asked festival co-director John Gamache this morning if anyone anywhere can get pass and he said yes.  There will be no restrictions for US viewers, and few restrictions for overseas viewers.  He did mention that one of the filmmakers was blocking showing of the film in the home country.  And I'd mention for my Canadian readers, that the country of Canada is a sponsor of the festival this year and there are eight Canadian feature films.  Here's the link:

This opens to the main page with a link to buy passes.  But on top is a link to see the films that are showing if you want to check that out first.

John also said he'd put in "COUNTRY" as one of the searchable categories for people who might be interested in films in a particular language.  I'll try to post on what countries have films in the festival when that feature gets added.  

So all this, plus updating my daily COVID page, gets between what I'm thinking about and those thoughts turning into blog posts.   

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Denialist Playbook

Scientific American has an article called The Denialist Playbook.

It starts with a reflection on the denial of COVID-19 and then looks at past denial movements.  Chiropractors denied that Jonas Salk's vaccine would prevent polio.  (Author Sean B. Carroll attributes this to #6 below.  Chiropractic is based, he says, on the belief that all disease has its origin in the spine, so a vaccine contradicts their basic principe).  He then mentions creationists denial of evolution, the climate change deniers, and the campaign to deny the negative health impacts of tobacco.  

Looking through all these movements, he saw a pattern in how denial is practiced.  

 In brief, the six principle plays in the denialist playbook are:

  1. Doubt the Science
  2. Question Scientists’ Motives and Integrity
  3. Magnify Disagreements among Scientists and Cite Gadflies as Authorities
  4. Exaggerate Potential Harm
  5. Appeal to Personal Freedom
  6. Reject Whatever Would Repudiate A Key Philosophy

Unfortunately, Carroll does not lay out strategies to deal with each tactic.  However, just knowing the list and being able to identify and label what someone is doing, and to tie it to the tactics of other well known denial campaigns is surely a first good step.  

Right now, in addition to COVID denial, we also have election denial.  While this is less science and more administration, the principles seem to hold up.

1.  Doubt the Science - There's doubt about the numbers.  

2.  Question Motives and Integrity - They're fake, it's political, they're liars and cheaters  . . .

3.  Magnify Disagreements - a lost ballot here or there means there are millions of lost ballots

4.  Exaggerate Potential Harm - the election is being stolen

5.  Appeal to personal freedom - get your guns and demonstrate against the ballot counters

6.  Reject Whatever Would Repudiate A Key Philosophy - It violates your sacred vote, it's a plot to install the extreme liberal agenda and destroy America

You get the point.  I suspect that, however, the Trump side could also use these points to say that the Democrats are denying reality too.  But then, every solution spawns new problems.  That's why we have constant change, even though basic things stay the same.  That is, human behavior hasn't change much over time.  Ancient literature - the Bible, Greek plays, Shakespeare - all are timeless because they reveal truths about human behavior.  What changes are the ways those behaviors are played out in different geographies, different cultures, and with different technologies.  

You can read details of each tactic in the original article. 

Also, remember, only 35% of US adults has a bachelors degree or more education.  The chart below is from Wikipedia.  That does affect how susceptible people are to the arguments of organized deniers.  

Educational attainment in the United States (2018)[4]
EducationAge 25 and overAge 25-30
High school diploma or GED89.80%92.95%
Some college61.28%66.34%
Associate and/or bachelor's degree45.16%46.72%
Bachelor's degree34.98%36.98%
Master's and/or doctorate and/or professional degree13.04%9.01%
Doctorate and/or professional degree3.47%2.02%