Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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...Ratification, Bill of Rights and Other Amendments
The 1787 Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights. Few except Madison himself were opposed to adding one, but many other delegates would have failed election without promising it. Negotiations at the Convention had proved so excitingly innovative that time ran out before the Convention had to adjourn with only a promise of a Bill of Rights, first thing.

Right Angle Club: 2016
In progress.

Terrorists: Mafiosa or Just Nuts?

Dr. Eric A. Zillmer

At a recent meeting of the Right Angle Club, meeting in the Pyramid Club quarters nowadays, a psychology professor from Drexel gave a talk on the psychology of terrorists. He looks as though he played basketball himself, and rather favored the espionage approach to the law enforcement one. Together with the trouble exactly clarifying his role either with Drexel or the government, it all suggested the Yale approach rather than the Notre Dame one if you understand what I mean. He gave an excellent talk, and questions would have gone on for hours if he had been able to stay longer.

al-Qaeda or ISIS

One interesting distinction he makes is between organized crime and mental illness. That is, between al-Qaeda or ISIS, and solitary Americans who shoot random schoolchildren in high school cafeterias. Both nationalities tend to end up dead at the end of the episodes, because the swat teams called in, have little patience (or trust) with risking lives to read Miranda Rights to people with smoking machine guns in their hands. But either because there are actually some survivors, or because other members of the criminal network are caught and interrogated, several hundred terrorists have ended up in Guantanamo for further interviews. Somehow, or for some reason, it was arranged for our speaker to interview them on cellphones, with a military interpreter on the line.

Suicide Bombers

Now that the Middle Eastern uprising has gone on for a few years, he said is possible to distinguish two different types of Muslim terrorists, the ones who get blown up in the attack, and others, their handlers whom they have often never met before. These handlers are to pull the triggers on radio devices to set off the suicide vests worn by the "useful idiots", who are sometimes hesitating at the last moment. The ones who get blown up are usually educated young male idealists from the upper classes, quite sane and highly dedicated to the cause they serve. They and their families will be glamorized later for their sacrifice, whereas the gimlet-eyed handlers fade off into the distance through the networks of safe houses. When they do get caught by intelligence agents of various sorts, they generally prove to fit the mold of tough-minded mafiosa, in this tough business for long-run power and control. They might be conspirators, but could hardly be called idealists.

Peaceful Domestic

At least, that's what our Drexel professor said he believed to be the case, and in general, his prescription for winning this war is to enlist the support of the wavering majority of Muslims who belong to neither one of the activist groups -- yet. Meanwhile, peaceful domestic American citizens can play an important role in distinguishing warrior enemies of several sorts from the occasional young American schizophrenics in cafeterias acting as lone wolves with their mayhem. The American variety needs electroshock therapy more than they need more rights, defense lawyers or longer prison terms. Strengthening or weakening the Second Amendment will have little effect on any of these people, Asian or American, but it might hamper the national survival to mischaracterize the two groups once they are taken into custody. Essentially, the intelligence community doesn't care what is done with the nutcases, as long as you don't hamper their efforts with the Mafiosa. And judging from the Human Rights protectors, they don't much care what happens to the Mafiosa, so long as we protect the rights of nutcases. There are surely a few double-agents mixed in, whose motives for saying what they say, are kept unclear. When the shouting dies down there are nevertheless elements of hope in this controversy. But it could easily get out of control. Because we are outnumbered worldwide, we might just lose.

Originally published: Thursday, June 30, 2016; most-recently modified: Thursday, June 06, 2019