Tag: Terrorism

Sunday Triple Play

Three thoughts on unrelated topics:

Brexit:

When it came to the Brexit vote, I was partial to Remain, mainly because I am an avid supporter of free trade. And I’m worried that the departure of the UK could trigger an eventual dissolution of the EU, with bad economic consequences and an empowerment of Russia. I still worry about this but … I think the reaction of the Remain faction has been hysterical. Vox alone has run a few dozen articles rending their garments and gnashing their teeth over this. To borrow a thought from Greg Guttfield, this is about ten times as many articles as they’ve run on Venezuela, which is having an actual economic meltdown right now, with severe shortages of good, medicine and power. For Americans to go into hysterics because the UK’s economy might be a little weaker going forward while ignoring the Lord of the Flies situation developing in our own hemisphere is insane. McArdle argues they are lamenting the decline of this idea that we will no longer be citizens of nations but “citizens of the world” — a notion that has a lot of sway in elite circles.

Warren Meyer has a great post up, contrasting the “it was racism!” explanation that is now the default on the Left against the real regulations coming down on things like tea kettles. It’s worth a read but here’s a critical point:

The real crime from a US perspective is the actions of our President. Mr. Obama has told the British that by voting for Brexit, they go to “the back of the line” for trade negotiations with the US. This is, amongst a lot of stupid things politicians say, one of the stupidest I have ever heard. My response as president would have been to move Britain to the front of the line, offering them a free trade treaty with the US the day after the Brexit vote. Like most politicians, unfortunately, President Obama does not view trade as a vehicle for the enrichment of individuals but as a cudgel to enforce his whims in the foreign policy arena. Why on Earth has President Obama threatened to undermine America’s strong interest in trading with the UK merely to punish the UK for not staying in the EU, a transnational body this country would certainly never join?

The UK would be one of the most logical countries in the world for us to have a free trade agreement with. I have little hope that our next President will grok this.

Orlando:

The FBI has said that they have no evidence that the Orlando shooter was gay. That doesn’t prove he wasn’t, as the FBI notes. There are still indications from his friends and wife that he might have been. But the narrative that he was actively dating men and a regular at the club appears very unlikely.

The FBI is currently saying “they may never know” his motive, given some of the ambiguity around his sexuality. But given that he called 911 to specifically pledge allegiance to ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the slightest thought might begin to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing our minds that this was Jihadist terrorism. Especially as Jihadism and killing gay people are not exactly incompatible ideas.

Honestly, theres enough blood to go around. We don’t have to confine ourself to one motive.

Obamacare:

Blue Cross has announced that they are pulling out of the Minnesota individual insurance market. The Kaiser Foundation is projecting steep hikes in insurance premiums. The longer this goes on, the more Obamacare is faltering, slowly destroying the individual market. We’re barely two years into this thing and we are now at the point where it’s not if, but when, Obamacare is going to face a massive overhaul. I don’t know that the insurance market can be repaired after this. But I know that if we dick around for much longer, we’re going to see uninsured rates spike drastically to the point where individual insurance may cease to exist.

Makes you kind of wonder if that was the point.

Gun Grabbing Fails

The Democrats filibustered the Senate until they got a vote on four gun control measures yesterday. All four failed:

Senators couldn’t muster enough bipartisan support to pass a series of gun control measures Monday, the latest in a long string of failed attempts at enacting tighter curbs on firearms in the United States.

Spurred by the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, senators from each party introduced the measures they said would have strengthened background checks and prevented suspected terrorists from obtaining weapons.

But tough election year politics, paired with disputes over the effectiveness of each party’s ideas, proved too powerful to break the longstanding partisan gridlock that’s surrounded gun issues for years.

The result was expected. A fifth option, set to be introduced and voted upon as early as Tuesday by moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins, has generated more optimism, but still faces long odds at passage.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who sponsored one of the failed measures expanding background checks, reacted angrily after his provision was defeated.

“I’m mortified by today’s vote but I’m not surprised by it,” Murphy said Monday evening. “The NRA has a vice-like grip on this place.”

No, it really doesn’t. What has a grip on Congress is a fleeting minimal respect for due process of law. It wasn’t just the NRA that opposed this. The ACLU vehemently opposed it because the ACLU, unlike the Democrats, sees the danger in restricting basic civil liberties for “potential terrorists” through secret and nebulous FBI criteria.

The Collins bill is a little better in that it would only use the “no-fly” list. But even that list is secretive, vague and almost impossible to challenge. The Democrats know this because they’ve been complaining about that list for years. What’s more, they exposed those years of complaining as political opportunism, not genuine concern about civil liberties. Provisions were offered to reform the terror watch list, to make the process more transparent and to make it easier for people to challenge their placement on the list. The Democrats refused because they really don’t want a gun control law as much as they want a gun control issue for the election.

Remember when not compromising to get legislation passed was a sign of evil Republican unreasonableness and partisanship? Good times.

And just in case you thought the Democrats were the voice of reason here:

If I said opposing the Patriot Act empowered terrorists or opposing torture empowered terrorists or closing Gitmo empowered terrorists or ending mass surveillance empowered terrorists, Democrats would have a fit. But apparently it’s OK to say your opponents are terrorists when it’s gun control.

It’s kind of amazing the philosophical flim-flam the Democrats have pulled off here. As Lucy Steigerwald pointed on Twitter, passing gun laws is now considered an apolitical act, just “common sense”. The only people who “play politics” are those who oppose such laws.

Shooting in Orlando

My God:

Fifty people were killed inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, Orlando Police Chief John Mina and other officials said Sunday morning, just hours after a shooter opened fire in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

At least 53 more people were injured, Mina said. Police have shot and killed the gunman, he told reporters.
“It’s appears he was organized and well-prepared,” the chief said, adding that the shooter had an assault-type weapon, a handgun and “some type of (other) device on him.”
Officials warned that a lengthy investigation was ahead, given the number of victims and the scope of the violence.

Once again, be suspicious of initial reports and fuck anyone who tries to use this to advance their pet political cause before they know what happened.

(I won’t print the name of the shooter. Suffice it to say there are good reasons to suspect the motive.)

The No Fly Fraud, The Donald and the Death of Civil Liberties

In this corner, we present the Democratic Party. Fresh off of Obama’s lackluster Oval Office speech, they are pushing to ban people on the federal no-fly list from buying guns. Never mind that the list is arbitrary and secretive. Never mind that it’s difficult to find out why you’re on the list and almost impossible to get off of it. Never mind that there are several hundred thousand people on the list, including the odd PhD Candidate and the occasional 4-year old. Never mind that this would deprive people of a basic civil liberty without due process. Never mind that terrorists will simply get their guns illegally. There’s an election coming up. Time to sow some panic!

And in this corner, we have the Republican frontrunner. Fresh off making false claims that he saw video of thousands of American Muslims celebrating 9/11, calling for Muslims to be registered and saying that some mosques should be closed, today he said that we should just stop letting Muslims come into the country. He clarified later that this would include US citizens currently abroad although he didn’t clarify if this meant military personnel. In support of this, he cited a bunch of unscientific online polls from anti-Islamic groups. Never mind that we’ve had a total of 40 people killed on American soil by anything remotely Islamic in the last five years (against five million American Muslims and 70,000 total murders in that time). Never mind that it would be unconstitutional. Never mind that there would be no practical way to do it without forcing everyone to declare their religion to the government. Never mind that his campaign is drifting further and further into something that can only be called fascism. There’s panic to sow!

So one party wants to take away civil liberties based on secret lists. The other wants to bar people from the country based on their religion.

And people wonder why I vote libertarian.

Colorado Again

We’re still learning the details, but some information has emerged on Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood Clinic. It does appear that Planned Parenthood was the target but that no one was killed there because the patients and staff went behind a security door (abortion clinics have developed extensive security procedures since a wave of anti-abortion violence hit in the 90’s). Preliminary reports are that the shooter was talking about baby parts so this does not appear to have been a random attack.

A few little thoughts:

Democrats who are jumping on this to promote gun legislation can go to hell. Colorado has background checks and an assault weapons ban and it’s still not clear what weapons were used. I have lost patience with this business of milking every tragedy for their agenda.

Last week, we got a bunch of think pieces asking why Muslims always have to denounce jihadist violence. We’re already seeing those same outlets demanding that anti-abortion politicians and Christian organizations denounce this act of violence. Of course, many of them, including Mike Huckabee, already have.

Was this terrorism? Well, it wasn’t part of a mass organization to attack abortion clinics. But it is violence directed against innocent people to try to end abortion. So, yeah, I have no problem calling it terrorism.

There has been a recent uptick in attacks on abortion clinics. But, overall, violence directed against clinics and providers is way down from the late 90’s. Keep that in mind.

In keeping with my previous posts, I will not name the shooter. I will, however, name Garret Swasey, the police officer murdered by this lunatic.

Turkeys and Drumsticks 2015

For eight years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.

We’ll start with the Turkeys of the Year. For reference, the past winners are:

2007: Alberto Gonzalez, Nancy Pelosi, Hugo Chavez

2008: Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin’s critics, Hillary Clinton, Congress, Joe Biden

2009: Mike Steele, Glen Beck, the State Department, Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan.

2010: Janet Napolitano and TSA, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, MSNBC, Lower Merion Schools, California Voters.

2011: Nancy Pelosi, Republican Presidential Field, Occupy Wall Street, Anthony Weiner, the Eurozone.

2012: The Culture Warriors, Unions, The Poll Unskewers, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, MSNBC

2013: Healthcare.gov, the Platinum Coin, the Shutdown Caucus, the National Park Service, Fiscal Cliff Panic Mongers.

2014: Jonathan Gruber, Lamenting Democrats, Barack Obama, Jim Ardis, Paul Krugman

For This Year:

The Presidential Field: Here are your candidates for 2016:

On the Democratic side, a 68-year old political insider with a 30-year track record of deception, vindictiveness and blame evasion, running on her record of having unleashed chaos in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Then there’s the 74-year-old socialist, rejected because his views on gun control are insufficiently pure. Then there’s the “young” guy running on his horrible track record as mayor of a failed city and governor of a failed state. And, because things weren’t surreal enough, there was the former senator who looked like he’d gotten baked on his yacht and accidentally wandered into a Presidential debate.

On the Republican side, you have the reality TV show star with narcissistic personality disorder who has an iffy relationship with the truth and seems determined to insult every demographic he can. You have the brilliant brain surgeon who is clueless on policy and has crackpot ideas about history. You have the asshole Texas senator. You have the President of a nearly collapsed company running on her record as a businesswoman. You have the worst Bush yet, somehow managing to piss away the complete support of the establishment. And then you have a bunch of little guys vying to get 3% support so they can stay in the big debate.

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Coolidge, Reagan, Bush I … and one of these guys. Ay, caramba.

So far, the only ones who impressed me are Webb and Rubio (see below). One is out and the other is still in fourth place.

College Students: Have you guys seen Life of Brian? In that movie, the anti-Roman guerrillas spend way more time fighting each other than fighting the Romans. This was modeled on 1970’s left-wing radical who hated the government but hated each other more for “splitting” the movement and being insufficiently ideologically pure. This process is happening with political correctness as they slowly turn on each other.

Think of what we’ve been seeing. Who are college students forcing out of positions of power? Who are they screaming at in public squares? Who are they banning from bringing cameras into their “safe spaces”? This ire is directed against people who agree with them on 95% of the issues. Occasionally, there are real issues. But all too much of the anger is because lectures on European history are too European, because there aren’t enough tenured professors of women’s studies, because someone suggested, maybe, that it wasn’t the university’s job to tell grown men and women what Halloween costumes to wear.

Previous generations of college students protested against wars, against vicious racism and against in loco parentis. This generation is protesting against offenses so trivial they are literally called “microgggressions”.

The Election Media: It’s a little under a year until the election and I’m already exhausted. They’ve pronounced Trump dead at least eight times. They’re bending over backward to not criticize Clinton. And they’re doing nothing to illuminate the issues with their focus on the horse race.

Rolling Stone: Last year, they published a horrifying tale of a campus rape that turned out to be a fiction. The blame laid squarely on them. They didn’t bother to call the fraternity in question. They didn’t bother to talk to the supposed victim’s friends. They didn’t bother to read the rather famous (in Charlottesville) book about a rape that the victim took her story from. That’s horrible. What moves them into mockery land is their refusal to take responsibility. No one was fired. They blamed it on the victim for being a good liar. And now they’re being sued for millions.

(And it would seem the lesson has not been learned. The Hunting Ground, a new and much-praised, documentary about campus rape, has an equally problematic relationship with the truth.)

Barack Obama: He pronounced ISIS contained days before they attacked Paris. His Obamacare is seeing double-digit rate increases and companies leaving because they’re hemorrhaging money. His Iran deal is … dubious. The Democratic nominees are trying to pretend that Republicans have secretly been President for the last eight years. His attempts to gin up support for Syrian refugees infuriated half the country.

Maybe he needs to appear between two ferns again.

Dishonorable Mention: Kim Davis, Jeremy Corbyn, Vox, Everytown USA, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Vox, Bill deBlasio, the NFL, the anti-vaxxers, Sepp Blatter, Greece, Volkswagen, Putin.

Now the Golden Drumsticks, awarded to those who best exemplified what is right with the world. Here are the past awards, the first round from West Virginia Rebel.

2007: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ron Paul, Barack Obama, David Petraeus, Juan Carlos, Burma’s monks

2008: US Military, Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, Republican Governors, Barack Obama

2009: The American Fighting Man, Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, George W. Bush

2010: The Tea Party, Chris Christie, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the Next Wave of Republicans, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, The American Soldiers

2011: Seal Team Six, Mark Kelly, The Arab Spring, the Technicians at Fukushima

2012: Down Ballots, The Sandy Responders, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, Mathew Inman

2013: Francis I, Edward Snowden, Rand Paul, The American Military, The Institute for Justice

2014: Ebola Responders, Francis I, Rand Paul, David Brat, The Supreme Court

For 2015:

New Horizons and Dawn: It was another banner year for science, headlined by New Horizons stunning visit to Pluto and Dawn‘s visit to Ceres. The Philae lander also revived and began providing more data from a sublimating comet. In other science news, rubella has been rendered extinct in North America and polio is on the run.

Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler: These are the three men who stopped a would-be terrorist on a French train. Stone came home … where he got stabbed protecting a friend. As Charles Cooke said, we’re a few news cycles away from finding out this guy is Batman.

Amnesty International: In the face of withering criticism and a rising intense moral panic about sex trafficking, they did the right thing: called for the complete decriminalization of sex work for both providers and clients.

Video and Body Cameras: There are legitimate civil liberties concerns when it comes to cops always carrying cameras on them, especially with our culture’s tendency to exploit and shame people doing things on tape. But they are making a huge difference. They not only show when cops do bad things (such as recent horrific shootings in Chicago and Marksville), they exonerate cops who’ve been falsely accused of brutality or sexual harassment. For cities that have implemented them, complaints about police brutality and abuse are way down, both because cops are acting better and because people find it harder to make false claims. There are still issue to work out about when and how footage becomes public. But I think this is a big help on the way to criminal justice reform.

The Non-Crazy Presidential Candidates: Marco Rubio may not get the nomination and Rand Paul definitely won’t. But they’ve injected some much-needed sanity and real debate into the Republican primary. Jim Webb gets a shout-out here too for trying (and failing) to find a moderate stream of Democrat.

Honorable Mention: USA women’s soccer team, the American military, France, Francis I.

Put your nominees in the comments. And have a great Thanksgiving.

On Islam, ISIS and War

In the aftermath of the attacks on Paris, we are getting the usual chorus of think pieces about how ISIS is not Islamic and does not represent Islam. We are getting ridiculously pedantic parsings of words to argue that we are not in a clash of civilizations. While I think there are points to be made here, I think the writers of these pieces are missing the forest for the trees.

First, it goes without saying that most Muslims are not Islamists and radicals. It goes without saying that you can read through the Koran (which I have) and find many passages that support peace and coexistence. But that’s kind of beside the point.

Here we land at the centre of the problem — a centre we have spent the last decade and a half trying to avoid: Islam is not a peaceful religion. No religion is, but Islam is especially not. Nor is it, as some ill-informed people say, solely a religion of war. There are many peaceful verses in the Quran which — luckily for us — the majority of Muslims live by. But it is, by no means, only a religion of peace.

I say this not because I hate Islam, nor do I have any special animus against Muslims, but simply because this is the verifiable truth based on the texts. Until we accept that we will never defeat the violence, we risk encouraging whole populations to take against all of Islam and abandon all those Muslims who are trying desperately to modernise, reform and de-literalise their faith. And — most importantly — we will give up our own traditions of free speech and historical inquiry and allow one religion to have an unbelievable advantage in the free marketplace of ideas.

Islam, like every other religion on that planet, has many strains. You will find many people — some 80-90% Muslims — who take the tolerant passages of the Koran and build their lives around that. But you will find others, basically everyone we are fighting right now, who take the more war-like passages of the Koran and build their lives around that. To pretend that they “aren’t practicing Islam” is a pedantic word game at best. At worst, it is not only inaccurate but censorious, trying to elide periods of history and Islamic writings that are inconvenient.

I’ve linked this before in my previous discussion of the nature of ISIS. It’s worth reiterating:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

Me:

When the President says that violent extremists like ISIL are not the real face of Islam, he is both right and wrong. The face of Islam can be one of tolerance and peace. But it can also be one of intolerance and violence. Islam has gone through periods of enlightenment and gone through periods of horrific fundamentalism. At this point in history, it hangs in the balance caught between hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims and violent sects that, while a minority, wields enormous power and influence. We’ve seen in pre-war Afghanistan and in the ISIL-controlled territory what these people want: beheadings, slavery, crucifixion, stoning. Their ideology recognizes no authority other than “pure” radical Islam. Whether they represent a minority or not is beside the point. The Nazis were never a majority in Germany. The Communists were never a majority in the countries they ruled with an iron fist. But they were able to control massive parts of the world and enormous armies through violence, intimidation and bloodshed.

The “most Muslims are good” argument, while based in truth, has no practical meaning. Most Germans are good people. We still had to defeat them in two wars. Most Russians are good people. We still had to fight a dangerous and tense Cold War against the Soviet Union. Most Japanese are good people. We still had to drop two atom bombs on them. It doesn’t really matter what the vast majority want when the monsters have the floor. The problem is that while most people are good, they are also easily persuaded or coerced to do bad things or stand aside while bad things are done. This is true of everyone in the world. There is not a religion or country that isn’t capable of doing horrible things. The question is: who is in charge? We’ve seen what happens when people like ISIL are in charge: entire regions of the world become unspeakably violent.

And now they are exporting that violence. And, to head off another talking point, they aren’t exporting their violence because of our “aggression”. France and Russia were not leading the campaign against ISIS. And ISIS did not target politicians or military personnel or defense contractors. They targeted civilians specifically because of Western values. They targeted them, according to their own words, because Paris is “the capital of prostitution and obscenity” (by which they mean consensual sex and any entertainment other than stoning women to death).

This is their stated goal. No one out having a good time … anywhere in the world. No one out at soccer stadiums except to watch executions. No one out drinking, obviously. No one at theaters. Women completely covered and regarded as little more than sex objects for the powerful. And they won’t stop if we leave them alone and stop bombing them. They will simply ramp up their attacks.

Call me crazy but when someone says, “this is why we are attacking you”, I think it behooves us to consider the possibility that this is why they are attacking us.

It seems we are destined to be caught between two groups of idiots. The first insists that all Muslims are this way. This ignores, of course, the hundreds who have tipped off authorities to radicals, the thousands fighting an actual bloody ground war against ISIS and the millions who condemned the Paris attacks and prayed for the dead. But there’s a second group who try to insist this violence has nothing to do with Islam, as though ISIS were just a street gang.

Again: we don’t have to guess at ISIS’s motives. They’ve stated them. They want to establish a caliphate, bring about the apocalypse and establish a worldwide Islamic state built on the most radical principles taken directly from the most extreme passages of Koran and the Hadith. That the vast majority of Muslims disagree with them does not change the nature of their ideology. It does not bring back the dead in Paris and more than “that’s not real Christianity” brings back the dead of the Crusades or “that’s not real Judaism” brings back the victims of the Caves of the Patriarchs massacre.

If a Jewish terrorist murdered a bunch of Arab men, women and children and took their daughters as sex slaves, citing the Midian War as his justification, we wouldn’t pretend it had nothing to do with religion. If a Christian terrorist burned down a bank and cited, as justification, Christ turning out the money-changers, we wouldn’t pretend it had nothing to with religion. Hell, when a radical Christian calls for executing gays or murders an abortion doctor — things completely antithetical to the teachings of Christ — we don’t pretend it has nothing to do with religion. But when Islamists murder people in the street and cite centuries-old writings as their justification, we suddenly pretend religion’s got nothing to do with it?

ISIS is a tough problem to deal with and it’s not exactly clear where we go from here. Can we destroy them sans a massive decades-long occupation of the region? I don’t know. I know we can probably decapitate their leadership and cripple them militarily. But, ultimately, this will come down to that majority of Muslims who oppose ISIS and their evil ideology (and are fighting them right now). They are the ones who must stop this horror. We can support and help. But we don’t support and help by covering our eyes and pretending that at least part of this conflict isn’t a war for the heart and soul of the world’s second largest religion.

Vive La France

Word tonight is that terrorists have struck France in a series of attacks, including a bomb at a football match, multiple shootings and a hostage situation. As of this moment, the French are fighting back. Preliminary news is that this is tied to ISIS.

This is why you stand with Charlie Hebdo. This is why you stand against ISIS. Because these monsters know no mercy and no decency. They will attack and they will kill. Right now, their violence is focused on the Middle East. But as the bombing of the Russian airliner and these attacks show, they will expand the fight until we are all in the crosshairs.