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Allowing the Jihadist Cloud Darken the Age

Writing on the terrorist attack in Manchester, Mark Steyn reflects on a suggested course of action that we’ve been hearing in this country since 9/11:

“Carrying on exactly as before”, as The Independent advises, will not be possible. A few months ago, I was in Toulouse, where Jewish life has vanished from public visibility and is conducted only behind the prison-like walls of a fortress schoolhouse and a centralized synagogue that requires 24/7 protection by French soldiers; I went to Amsterdam, which is markedly less gay than it used to be; I walked through Molenbeek after dark, where unaccompanied women dare not go. You can carry on, you can stagger on, but life is not exactly as it was before. Inch by inch, it’s smaller and more constrained.

To put the best spin possible on the West’s reaction to Islamism’s attacks, we’ve been trying to find the balance between security and respect for others’ rights.  That would be a more successful strategy if it weren’t for the stultifying political correctness with which we’re currently infected.  Questioning the actual wisdom of “coexist” stickers even just a little would mean we get to maintain more liberties and need less-strenuous security.

I share Steyn’s pessimism about the future.  Little by little, as people change their decisions in response to perceived risks, our society will change — not because our children have been persuaded that teenage diva-pop really isn’t worth their time, but because parents aren’t willing to sacrifice them for enjoyment of such fluff.

The politically correct fantasy is fluff, too, and we shouldn’t be willing to sacrifice our society for its enjoyment.  We’ll only get to carry on as before if we shed those indulgences of self-loathing that we’ve permitted to fester.  Not only our children, but our society is worth defending, and we should start acting like it.

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Creeping Sharia and Freedom of Speech

Mark Steyn describes how (and how quickly) the West is caving to the censorious demands of hard-line Muslims:

I have had the privilege of sharing stages with Ayaan Hirsi Ali at various places around the world from London to California. It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels already like the past – a previous era, just the day before yesterday but already the rules have changed. In 2015, I spoke in Copenhagen at an event to mark the tenth anniversary of the famous “Mohammed cartoons”. As on the fifth anniversary, it required the protection of PET, the Danish security police. But this time, as an additional precaution, it had to be moved inside the fortress-thick walls of the Danish Parliament in order to lessen further the likelihood of fellows who regard debate as a waste of time (and, indeed,an affront) busting in and shooting us all. Nevertheless, notwithstanding all the security, both the US State Department and the British Foreign Office issued formal warnings advising their nationals to steer clear of the Parliament building that day.

The group presenting at the event had scheduled a dinner afterwards, but when security went to do an initial review of the place, the restaurant owners panicked and canceled the event, according to Steyn.  So, the story is two-parts radical Islam, but one-part Western timidity.  Flip those fractions, if you like; the screaming snowflakes who can’t stand contrary opinions on “their” campuses are merely the enforcers of the rule that Western Civilization must stand down.

As Steyn writes, “they’re all in the shut-up business.”

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Who Ordered the Code Red, Smoking Gun

This Eli Lake article from Bloomberg seems like kind of a big deal.  I wonder how much we’ll actually hear about it from the news media:

White House lawyers last month learned that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Rice, you may recall, was the primary face of the Obama Administration’s like about the background of the Benghazi attack.  Things get stranger, too:

The National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with Bloomberg View on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice’s multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel’s office, who reviewed more of Rice’s requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.

Why would the White House General Counsel order this research stopped?  Were Obama holdovers still calling the shots, or was there some other reason?

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For the Part of the Country That Sees the Refugee Program as a Danger

Given that every tweet and extemporaneous comment from the Trump administration is being deemed newsworthy even by local papers, this — reported by Leo Hohmann on World Net Daily — would seem worthy of mention:

Doetsch retired about two months ago as a refugee coordinator. One of her assignments was at a United Nations refugee camp in Jordan, from which many of the Syrian refugees are flowing into the U.S. She did three tours of duty, in Cairo, Egypt, dealing with Middle East refugees; in Vienna, Austria, with mostly African refugees coming in through Malta; and in Cuba.

Her letter affirms two-and-a-half years of reporting by WND, which has reported that the “vetting” of refugees from broken countries such as Somalia, Syria and Sudan often consists largely of a personal interview with the refugee. These countries have no law enforcement data to vet against the personal story relayed to the U.S. government about the refugee’s background. Sometimes even their name and identity is fabricated and they have no documentation, such as a valid passport, or they have fraudulent documentation.

We really are dividing into a nation of two realities.  In the case at hand, one part of the country sees the refugee program as a clear vulnerability that has resulted in atrocities in other countries and (at the least) warning signs in the United States; the other part of the country sees it as a way to save good people from a terrible situation at little cost and no significant risk.

This state of affairs might change if the supposedly objective news organizations weren’t so slanted or, alternatively, if their slant were more honestly acknowledged and people felt it their duty to get both sides of every issue.

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Different Risks for Different Faiths Suggest That Religious Consideration for Refugees Is Reasonable

This Perry Chiaramonte article on FoxNews provides an important reminder both to Western Christians and to our non-Christian peers who see us as the enemy:

The report comes on the heels of another study by the Center for Studies on New Religions that showed nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016 and that as many as 600 million were prevented from practicing their faith through intimidation, forced conversions, bodily harm or even death.

“These numbers underscore what we already know,” Robert Nicholson of the Philos Project, an advocacy group for Christianity in the Middle East, told Fox News at the time of the report’s release. “There are many places on Earth where being a Christian is the most dangerous thing you can be. Those who think of Christianity as a religion of the powerful need to see that in many places it’s a religion of the powerless. And the powerless deserve to be protected.”

The reality of different degrees of risk around the world for people of different religions shines a different light on domestic arguments about policy.  In discussion of who can come to the United States in order to escape persecution and danger — refugees, which derives from the word “refuge,” let’s not forget — I have to confess that I find religion to be an absolutely appropriate criterion.  A blanket ban on a particular religion goes too far, in my view, but if left-wingers scream about a “Muslim ban” based on geographic restrictions, they’d obviously find religious-preference rules beyond the pale, even though it would arguably be more reasonable and humane.

Taking a step back, progressives should understand that a great many people agree with me on this point, and harassing them into silence only hardens positions and makes problems more difficult to solve.

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In a Bad Place with the Impolite Trump

Let’s be very, very clear:  As superficially satisfying as many of us on the right may find it, President-elect Trump’s treatment of the CNN reporter at his press conference today wasn’t appropriate.  CNN didn’t exactly sneak into the press conference, and many Americans still use it as a source for information.  Trump’s style may differ, but there are ways for a president to express disapproval without excluding journalists and, in turn, their audiences.

That said, Trump is less likely to receive push-back from his political allies than he should be for two reasons.  First, the double standard of the mainstream media leaves its practitioners deserving of ire.  Here’s a fresh example:  After weeks of hearing how unconscionable it was of Russia to use hacking and other methods to manipulate the American public, Politico reports:

Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

If these efforts had worked out and Clinton had been elected, would she be the subject of as much aspersion as Trump has been with respect to Russia?  Not a chance.  That fact leaves conservatives who aren’t comfortable with Trump’s style, views, or policies less likely to echo a media that we find so incredibly un-credible.

But that’s only the first-level problem.  The deeper hindrance is that the mainstream media aided, rather than checked, President Obama when his administration suppressed the Tea Party.  Consequently, we’ve less leverage on our side.  As Glenn Reynolds often writes, the government and media crushed the polite Tea Party; welcome to the impolite consequence.

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Senator Reed Gets to the Heart of the Russian Hacking Story

A remark by Democrat Senator Reed in a recent Providence Journal article by Donita Naylor deserves notice and comment:

Three of Rhode Island’s four congressmen have called for a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference with the U.S. election of 2016.

“Our elections should be decided by American citizens, not foreign hackers, heads of state, or their propagandists,” U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said Friday in reaction to a U.S. intelligence report saying Russia had “actively manipulated” the election.

Reed helpfully gets to the heart of the matter:  Nobody at all is alleging that the election was not decided by American citizens.  At worst, we chose to give credence to information — some false, like “fake news,” but some apparently true, like the Democrat email releases — regardless of the source.

That isn’t a minor distinction, and it’s difficult not to see Reed’s complaint as essentially that elections should be decided by the elites who presume to tell Americans what to believe.

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The Missing Point in the Russian Hacking Story

Any way you look at it, this information, if true, is disconcerting:

Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials – including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election – contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.

To some extent, what follows might be considered inflammatory, so I want to preface it with the disclaimer that my intention is to express a feeling.  That feeling may be in need of correction, but acknowledging it would be the first step toward doing that.

I figured out what the missing piece of this whole controversy is for me.  The information about Russian “hacking” is just sort of being thrown out there without a clear “and so.”  Consequently, the effort just seems nakedly political, without a point.  In general, one would expect the point of an opposition-party Congressional inquiry to be the failure of the current administration, whether forgivable or not, to guard against such actions.  Prompted by the executive branch, the point might be to further some policy for a response, as in the build up to war.

But this just seems like a post facto rationalization why something political happened that the people who try to predetermine our electoral outcomes didn’t foresee and to throw mud on the incoming administration.  It’s all just so bizarre, and frankly, unless the Russians did something more like real hacking than releasing true information about the Democrats, it isn’t crazy to feel like they were — albeit by sheer coincidence — more on the side of the American people than those who hold us in such contempt that they think it’s self evidently corrupt when their status as our ruling class is challenged.

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Hacking the Narrative

It continues to astonish that discussion of why hacking Democrats’ emails and making them public was so damaging to their presidential candidate is hardly part of the reporting on the hack.

Bob Plain @bobplain How Russians hacked the DNC and handed the election to Trump. Fantastic story telling. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/13/us/politics/russia-hack-election-dnc.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Justin Katz @JustinKatzRI @bobplain Honest question: How important is it that the Dems’ internal communications were so damaging?

I don’t believe it’s reasonable to claim that the Russians “handed the election to Trump.”  As I’ve already written, the hacked emails were only part of a wave of information coming out from different sources, and all of it painted basically the same picture of Hillary Clinton and her associates.  Picking the most objectionable of those sources for special attention is simply a way of avoiding a serious look at the substance of what we learned during the election.

But speaking of things we’re learning, I’d suggest that Americans should take a moment to compare the DNC’s handling of hacking, as described in the New York Times, including a lackadaisical response to FBI warnings, with the Wall Street Journal’s report that the same hackers didn’t get past the RNC’s filter.

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“Effort to Stem Homegrown US Extremism” Shows Delusion of Elites

An AP story by Philip Marcelo, formerly of the Providence Journal, raises the familiar question of whether Western liberals or progressives understand the world well enough to lead us through it and to protect us from its dangers.

The article is about a “federally backed effort to stem the rise of homegrown extremists” in Massachusetts that is supposed to work by increasing funding for social-welfare-type services for targeted immigrant groups.  Here are two of the three programs Marcello describes:

United Somali Youth, which operates out of New England’s largest mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, was awarded $105,000 to help Somali, African and Middle Eastern youths build critical life skills through afterschool programs, counseling, college readiness assistance and other efforts.

Empower Peace, which was founded by a communications and marketing executive, was given $42,000 to teach high schoolers statewide how to develop social media campaigns promoting tolerance and combating bigotry so that they can produce them at their schools.

The blindness to circumstances is what shocks.  “College readiness” will stop terrorism?  One of the Boston Marathon bombers was a student at UMass Dartmouth.

Teaching media campaigns on “combating bigotry”? The Somalia-born Ohio State attacker appears to have been enrolled in a course on just such a subject.  Here’s the syllabus.  Indeed, the lessons taught may very well have been key to radicalizing the young terrorist, which means these programs, small as they are, may actually increase the chances of radicalizing American Muslims.

Of course, impeding education would be folly, but that some people — who are empowered to take Americans’ money through taxes and implement laws restricting our rights — see such things explicitly as anti-terror measures is worrying.

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One Area in Which U.S. Unity Is Critical

David French reminds us that America’s enemies will make their plans according to what they think we’re going to do.  He quotes from a book by James Mitchell, who states that al Qaeda honcho Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was surprised when the United States actually retaliated for 9/11, rather than following the Clinton-Obama approach of treating such attacks as “law-enforcement matters.”  French goes on:

… as [Marc] Thiessen notes, our enemy is counting on our exhaustion. “In the end, he told Mitchell, ‘We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.’”

Unfortunately, we’ve spent the last eight years reinforcing the idea that differences within the United States mean defeating us by getting us to quit is a simple process of holding out for a few election cycles.  This is one area in which some national unity would really be to the better.

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Want to Battle “Fake News”? Do It with the Real Thing.

It would appear that the “alt-right” hysteria has been supplanted by “fake news” hysteria as the American Left goes through its post-election stages of grief.  To be absolutely clear, here, I’m open to the possibility that made-up-story click bait is an existential problem for our society, and I’d welcome serious discussion about whether and how to address it (and at what cost in freedom and treasure), but my goodness, can’t the news media just report the news?

Today’s Providence Journal features an article from Craig Timber of The Washington Post, which the Rhode Island paper gives the click-bait headline, “Russian propaganda helped spread ‘fake news.'”  How bad is the article?  The reader must plow nearly halfway through the 700-word article before Timber bothers to identify the “researchers” whose word he is passing along as tantalizing truth.

Even when we find out who the sources are, they’re just a bunch of names, which the Providence Journal does not contextualize with any details about their backgrounds, their fundings, or any detail that ought to give them credibility.  Timber’s original article in his home paper is longer and therefore has more detail, but even so the question of whether the Russian government used social media and the Internet as a field for propaganda is not put in the context of all of the other interests, on the Left and the Right, attempting to do the same thing.

On The Week, Edward Morrissey argues that the “fake news” narrative is indicative of liberals’ contempt for those who do not share their views.  It can’t be that an astoundingly horrible and corrupt candidate like Hillary Clinton simply lost.  It must be that somebody else was able to deceive the rubes more effectively than the Democrats were. Ian Tuttle of National Review Online is correct to highlight the hypocrisy of handling “fake news” in an ideological fashion.

One need only look at Craig Timber’s report for evidence, according to which one of the dread objectives of Russian masterminds is “undermining faith in American democracy.”  And yet, here is the Washington Post, the Providence Journal, and other reprinting news organizations furthering that objective by building a narrative, essentially, that the election was rigged.

Why?  Because it serves their partisan and ideological agendas to do so.

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In the Darkness Beyond the Footlights

This Richard Fernandez essay would be worth a read if only for the historical analogy:

… Florence Foster Jenkins was a Pennsylvania socialite who aspired to be a diva. The trouble was she couldn’t sing a note. “From her recordings it is apparent that Jenkins had little sense of pitch or rhythm, and was barely capable of sustaining a note. Her accompanist, Cosmé McMoon, can be heard making adjustments to compensate for her tempo variations and rhythmic mistakes. Unfortunately, there was nothing McMoon could do to help conceal the glaring inaccuracy of Jenkins’ intonation: the notes she sang were consistently flat and their pitch deviated from the sheet music by as much as a semitone. Her dubious diction, especially in foreign languages, is also noteworthy. Additionally, the technically challenging songs she performed, requiring levels of musical skill far beyond her ability and vocal range, served only to emphasize these deficiencies.”

The key part is that Jenkins’s friends covered for her, forbidding objective critics from entering her shows and deploying such Obama-esque spin phrases as lauding her “intentionally ambiguous” technique.  Fernandez even supplies an audio clip to capture what sound the phrase was intended to describe.

Readers won’t be surprised that I agree with Fernandez’s application of this analogy to President Obama and the mess that he has made of the world.  To the extent that the question remains whether Obama is incompetent or bumbling for some ulterior purpose, the best spin available might be that his performance is “intentionally inadequate.”

Still, the most intriguing part of the comparison with Jenkins is Fernandez’s suggestion that our elites in government and the media “can’t see the audience in the darkness beyond the footlights heading for the exits.”  That captures the feedback problem we have when the elites who want to spin reality have thorough control over so much of the country’s education and information systems.  Those of us wincing at the sound from the stage have no way of knowing, really, whether the audience is going along with the con or is preparing to throw rotten vegetables at the stage.

The unexpectedly successful candidacy of Donald Trump gives some indication, but without making clear whether people are accurately associating their headaches with the noise from the stage or are merely lashing out, knowing not at what.

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The Party of Trump, Which I Cannot Support

Maggie Gallagher succinctly describes the Trump policy platform, inasmuch as it is possible to discern and predict:

Here is the new Party of Trump that we saw in this convention: liberal in expanding entitlements, pro-business in terms of tax and regulations, non-interventionist in foreign policy, socially center-left (with the possible, but only possible, exception of abortion).

Americans who pay attention to politics and policy tend to err, I think, in allowing themselves to be drawn toward the exchange of discrete, independent policies as a form of compromise.  I give you this social policy; you give me that regulatory reform.  That’s how we end up with a worst-of-all-possibilities mix of policies that, for example, encourages dependency while socializing the losses of major corporations, all to the benefit of the inside players who are well positioned to manipulate the system to serve their interests.

Broadly speaking, policies are components of a machine that have to work together, with a basic operating principle.  As the most-charitable interpretation, the machine that Gallagher describes is designed to drive corporations forward in order to generate enough wealth for government to redistribute as a means of providing comfort and accommodating the consequences of an anything-goes society, with the world blocked out at the borders and not engaged in socio-political terms so as to avoid bleeding of the wealth.  (The only difference between that vision and a fully progressive one is that progressives don’t want the machine to be independent, but to be plugged in as a component of a bigger, international machine.)

Put that way (again, most charitably), Trumpian nationalism doesn’t sound too bad.  Unfortunately, the lesson of the past few decades (at least) is that the machine doesn’t work.  The corporations recalculate to the reality that the politicians’ plan makes them (not the people) the engine of the whole machine, while the value of promising entitlements leads politicians to over-promise and the people to over-demand, particularly in response to the consequences of loose culture, while the world outside the borders erodes the supports of our society and allows implacable enemies to rally.

Now add in the stated intention of Donald Trump to actively agitate against members of his own political party because they show insufficient fealty, and the policy mix points toward disaster.  The aphorism that “success is the best revenge” is apparently not good enough for Trump.  More than that, though, from his late-night tweets about the pope to this planned attack on Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and some unnamed foe, Trump shows no realization that these leaders have supporters.  Trump is free not to respect Pope Francis, but his behavior shows that he has little concern for the vast world of Roman Catholics.  His own supporters Trump loves, and he’s happy to condescend to them; those who aren’t his supporters are either enemies or inconsequential.

Nobody should have any trust that they’ll continue to have Trump’s support starting the moment their interests conflict with his, and that has implications for the instructions he’ll attempt to give the machine.

Yes, one of the very few arguments in favor of a Trump presidency is that he may remind certain sectors of American civic society about the importance of the checks and balances designed into our system.  However, Trump’s behavior has also proven that we should not assume he’ll moderate or react well to the reinstated rules of the game.

This isn’t to say that our electoral alternative is any better.  As I’ve written before, more than any I’ve ever seen, this election hinges on the timing of oscillating disgust with the two major candidates.  The wise move may very well be not to invest much wealth, energy, or emotion in the outcome, devoting personal resources instead to battening down the hatches.

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News Media as Political Booster

From time to time, I’ll recommend a news article for English teachers to use in their classrooms as an example of how language can be used to advance some impression or other.  An AP article by Lynne O’Donnell appearing in yesterday’s Providence Journal is a fine one.  Consider (emphasis added):

After two years of heavy casualties, the Afghan military is trying to retake the initiative in the war against militants with a new offensive next week against Islamic State group loyalists, an assault that will see American troops back on the battlefield working more closely with Afghan soldiers. …

The inexperienced Afghan forces have largely stalled in the fight against Islamic militants ever since most international combat troops withdrew in 2014. American forces that remained shifted to a supporting role and U.S. airstrikes diminished, letting the Afghan military take the lead in carrying out the war. …

In an acknowledgment of the deteriorating security situation, President Barack Obama last month gave a green light to a more assertive role for U.S. troops, though still short of direct combat. With that boost, Afghans are shifting back on the offensive. …

Obama’s directives, issued in June, enable the U.S. military to work alongside Afghan forces in the field on offensive missions against insurgents, though still in a non-combat role. Since 2014, their role was confined to battles in which the Taliban directly threatened U.S. and NATO forces. They also allow U.S. involvement when Afghan forces face “strategic defeat,” …

In between those quotations are details designed to justify the increased activities, such as the nature of terrorist attacks and the critical importance of the objective.  The language betrays the article as boosterism.  After President Obama led the “international combat troops” in allowing the Afghan military to “take the lead,” the situation deteriorated, so now he’s given the “green light” for a “boost” that will “retake the initiative” and shift the good guys “back on the offensive.”

It’s baloney.  Obama announced a time line to the enemy for political reasons and made the disastrous decision to remove troops prematurely, saddling an under-prepared local force with the responsibility of the complex war against dug-in zealots.  Since then 5,000 to 6,000 of those under-prepared soldiers have been killed each year, and the situation is reaching the point that even Obama can’t ignore it.

But the news media is on Obama’s side, as well as that of his chosen successor, so Americans will just have to read between the lines.

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Nice Attack: Are You Serious, AP and Projo?

Here’s the information from a top-of-the-front-page Associated Press article that ran in today’s Providence Journal:

“I saw that suddenly people were fleeing and shouting,” she said, speaking by phone from Nice. “People were shouting, ‘It’s a terrorist attack! It’s a terrorist attack!’ It was clear that the driver was doing it deliberately.”

The astonishing thing is that it takes reporters Ciaran Fahey and Raphael Satter until paragraph 20 for the statement that the massacre in Nice, France, was likely a terrorist attack (which we now know to be true).  Here are the operative phrases in the opening paragraphs, which (to my mind) bring into question the integrity of the journalists and the publication that selected this particular article for its coverage:

  • Paragraph 1: “A truck loaded with weapons and hand grenades drove onto a sidewalk”
  • Paragraph 2: “the truck ran over people on a ‘long trip’ down the sidewalk”
  • Paragraph 3: “a Nice native who spoke to the AP nearby, said that he saw a truck drive into the crowd”
  • Paragraph 5: “the truck plowed into the crowd over a distance of 1.2 miles”
  • In paragraph 7, we finally learn that the truck had “a driver.”

We’re reaching the point, in Western Civilization, that we face the very real possibility of death by passive voice and personification.  For crying out loud: Even those whose reading is no deeper than Harry Potter should have learned the lesson that one can’t defeat an evil whom one won’t even name.

Perhaps it would help to offer a practical lesson with reference to evils that the news media is happy to proclaim: If you want to help stop such things as the mosque vandalism in South Kingstown (assuming it wasn’t a hoax), or Donald Trump’s candidacy, or Brexit, the very first step — the very first step — is to show that you can be trusted to report on (journalists) and combat (politicians) a clear and present danger.

If your focus is, instead, your own politically correct virtue signaling, you’re only going to contribute to frustration and maybe (just maybe) finally get the backlash you’ve been self-righteously worrying about since a handful of Islamic extremists connected to an international jihadist organization flew planes into American buildings in 2001.

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14 Paragraphs to ISIS

Really, what can one say about politicians who rush out of the gate to use a terrorist atrocity to advance their partisan political agenda?  Democrat Congressman David Cicilline and Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo do just that in an article by Ian Donnis, which gets around to mentioning the ISIS connection in the 14th paragraph.

Folks, it’s becoming an existential necessity for us to identify real enemies and real reasons for these events.  Anybody who doubts that should consider this statement from Raimondo:

The governor said she always attends the gay Pride parade and considers it more important to take part this week to let the LGBT community know “we’re with them, to let them know we’re not going to tolerate this. We’re going to stand together. We’re going to fight for their freedom and security.”

Oh?  And what does it mean not “to tolerate this”?  What exactly is the governor proposing to do to “fight for their freedom and security”?  Take guns away from the potential victims and from those among their countrymen and -women who literally would fight for their freedom?

Maybe “fighting” is more like a term of art for remembrance ribbons and rainbow flags at half mast.  More likely, judging by Donnis’s article and Raimondo’s statement on the flag lowering, the actual “fight” is against those among these politicians’ fellow Rhode Islanders and fellow Americans whom they declare to be “intolerant.”  It’s not exactly news that the Islamists who consider themselves at war with our nation hate homosexuals, and yet Cicilline doesn’t skip a beat in insisting that the attack is evidence that homosexuals do not have “full equality in this country.”

In the congressman’s view, is it ISIS that’s withholding that equality in the United States?  No.  It’s people with whom he disagrees on politics and culture.  We’re the target of his fight.

Let’s put our differences aside for one moment.  This was a terrorist attack on Americans.  In its circumstances, it arguably most resembles the recent attack on a rock concert in Paris (France being a nation with about one-third the number of guns per person as the United States).  As we take stock and decide how we should move forward, let’s also consider how we should respond to politicians who are so obviously angling to use this attack as a means of dividing us.

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Terrorism and Confidence

Over the weekend, I attended a conference at the Portsmouth Institute themed “Christian Courage in a Secular Age.”  For the second session on Saturday afternoon, Knights of Columbus executive Andrew Walther talked about genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.  He noted, in particular, the challenge of getting Westerners to acknowledge that it’s possible for Christians to be a minority.  After all, the narrative of the Western Left is that Christians are the oppressive majority.

After his talk, an audience member identifying himself (if I recall correctly) as a civil rights attorney made an accusation, masquerading as a question, that one might charitably characterize as tangential:  Does the Knights of Columbus intend to pressure the United States to pressure Israel to cave to the Palestinians and thereby resolve the problems of the Middle East?

In stark contrast, my co-contributor Andrew Morse followed this question, asking whether the United States should look to the cultural confidence it exhibited in bringing down the communism of the Soviet Union as a model for handling the Middle East.  In subsequent conversation, I suggested that something more would be needed, because Russia’s cultural experience had more shared assumptions with Western Europe and the United States than the predominantly Islamic Middle East has with any of us.

With the Soviet Union, we could largely rely on the confidence to compete.  With the Middle East, there really isn’t a competition, at least inasmuch as there is no agreement about the direction of the race, so to speak.

Waking up Sunday to the horrible news of an apparent terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, it came home to me how tangled and tripping our politics have become.  Much of the initial reaction I saw online associated the attack with internal Western culture wars rather than the accelerating series of terrorist attacks.  If you want an archetype, look to the disgusting cover of the New York Daily News.

In some respects, cultural confidence grows out of a sense of our own strength, as a people and as individuals.  The Left wants to weaken a core aspect of our culture that gave a set of principles about which to be confident — a constitutional republic founded on the assumed assent to the basic Judeo-Christian moral framework — not the least because it made us successful and strong.  The Left also wants to to weaken us as individuals, not the least when it comes to security, making us dependent on government under the Left’s control for our safety and self defense.

Maybe those who sympathize with the Left should start asking what it was about the United States that made us a country in which religious traditionalists could share the land with sexual radicals — that leaves many of us seeing this attack as a reason for unity of purpose and renewal of our shared heritage in opposition to its enemy.  Charging forward with the fundamental transformation of our nation is sure to be fatal.

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A Word on Global Terrorism

Long ago, before I focused in on Rhode Island issues, I wrote more often on global terrorism and related topics.  Such things don’t tend to be directly relevant to policies and politics in the Ocean State.  Of course, national security is ultimately relevant to life anywhere in the nation, but there isn’t a whole lot that a local conversation can accomplish, particularly with Rhode Island’s hyper-partisan congressional delegation.

One common theme between handling global violence and addressing Rhode Island’s failed governing system, however, is the importance of being honest and allowing frank, open discussion.  If the terrorism of Islamic radicals in ultra-tolerant Western Europe exposes any problem, it’s the problem of making certain topics and assumptions off limits.

As usual Theodore Dalrymple has relevant experience and clear insights:

… On my visit to that quarter of Brussels a few years ago, I could see the dangers clearly enough. People like Salah Abdeslam, the terrorist arrested there a few days ago, would swim like a fish in the sea there, to use a Maoist metaphor. Between the sympathetic locals, and the rest of the population—whom they could intimidate into silence—it would be easy for them to hide. This social world is impenetrable to the forces of the state. My informant told me that the Belgian government is unable to collect taxes from businesses there—though it is, apparently, able to distribute social security.

And on a related note, Nabeel Qureshi writes on the intrinsic problem of preventing Islamic radicalization when it’s written into the religion’s foundational texts:

As a young Muslim boy growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, it was impossible for me to look up a hadith unless I traveled to an Islamic library, something I would have never thought to do. For all intents and purposes, if I wanted to know about the traditions of Muhammad, I had to ask imams or elders in my tradition of Islam. That is no longer the case today. Just as radical Islamists may spread their message far and wide online, so, too, the Internet has made the traditions of Muhammad readily available for whoever wishes to look them up, even in English. When everyday Muslims investigate the Quran and hadith for themselves, bypassing centuries of tradition and their imams’ interpretations, they are confronted with the reality of violent jihad in the very foundations of their faith.

This doesn’t mean that no venerable strains of Islam exist that are entirely peaceful, or that scriptural literalists from ISIS are expressing “true Islam.”  It does mean that the scriptural backstop for the religion isn’t going to be a ready lever for the former.  Qureshi suggests, from his own experience, that the strongest reform alternative for peaceful Muslims may be Christianity.

Be that as it may, the West is only making matters worse by plugging its ears and shouting “Islamophobia” every time the topic arises for consideration.

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Will the Fire Alarm Wake the World Up?

It’s beginning to look like the world may not quite manage to maintain its sleeping dreams through the end of the Obama Administration.  Having abandoned Iraq prematurely in order to have an election-year talking point, Obama is now quietly ramping up boots on the ground — naturally, without the sort of debate and fanfare that would lead to Americans’ knowing what’s going on:

The U.S. military has around 5,000 service members in Iraq, officials said on Monday, far more than previously reported, as the Obama administration quietly expands ground operations against the Islamic State.

The number of American forces in Iraq has come under increased scrutiny following the death over the weekend of a Marine staff sergeant, the second combat casualty in renewed U.S. operations in Iraq. He was killed when militants launched rockets at a small U.S. base around the city of Makhmour. The existence of the Marine detachment had not been known prior to Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin’s death.

And today, Europe added another substantial terrorist attack to its growing list:

As many as 31 people were killed and more than 180 injured as coordinated terrorist bombings rocked the Brussels airport and subway system during rush hour Tuesday morning in the Belgian capital. …

“We are at war,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday. “We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war.”

We learned after the ’90s that our society’s vacations from history only last so long, and that the longer it takes us to wake up in our own beds, the more difficult it is to get things back in order.  This isn’t a time for either denials or impetuous decisions.  Our civilization’s history and our nation’s founding documents chart a course for us — not an easy one, but a sure one in which we can have confidence.  We need only shed the hubris that we’ve evolved into new moral creatures.

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Emailgate (Remember That?) and the President (Remember Him?)

It’s worth checking in, now and then, on developments in the criminal investigation of Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, if only for the fun of imagining how the story would be playing differently if Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice were in the exact same situation as Clinton for an election coming up at the end of the Bush presidency. Here’s Andrew McCarthy expressing a sort of disbelief at the details of the scandal:

So egregious have the scandal’s latest developments been that a critical State Department admission from last week has received almost no coverage: Eighteen e-mails between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama have been identified, and the government is refusing to disclose them.

The administration’s rationale is remarkable: Releasing them, the White House and State Department say, would compromise “the president’s ability to receive unvarnished advice and counsel” from top government officials.

Think about what this means. Not only is it obvious that President Obama knew Mrs. Clinton was conducting government business over her private e-mail account, the exchanges the president engaged in with his secretary of state over this unsecured system clearly involved sensitive issues of policy. Clinton was being asked for “advice and counsel” — not about her recommendations for the best country clubs in Martha’s Vineyard, but about matters that the White House judges too sensitive to reveal.

The idea that Clinton is even considered a plausible candidate for the highest office in the country by many in her party’s establishment — including Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo — is mindboggling. The idea that the news media isn’t constantly after the president to explain himself on this issue and (from what I understand) didn’t even bother to bring it up at a presidential debate is unbelievable. Truly, it must be that nothing matters to these people more than power.

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