August 21st, 2017

Catalonia and terrorism; Spain and Moroccan immigration

It might seem that the perps in the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks should have been easier to detect because this was a multi-person cell, a group rather than a lone wolf. Nevertheless, not a single one of the people involved, at least 12 at last count, appears even to have been on the authorities’ radar screen.

This article explores why that might have been:

…Catalonia is a particularly problematic case. In the past, various Catalan nationalist politicians preferred to import North African labor (even though they sometimes referred to them as “the Moors”) rather than those from elsewhere in Spain…

More recently, on such a basic matter as fundamental defensive measures adopted by many European cities after Nice and London—the placing of obstacles along wide pedestrian thoroughfares like Las Ramblas—Catalan authorities allegedly wanted to show they would take an approach different from Madrid. So, no bollards to stop a vehicle from blasting through pedestrians.

Intelligence sharing with the central government may also have been affected, making it more difficult to tie together threads that stretch across regional borders, let alone international ones.

According to the article, Catalonia appears to be a central location for terrorists in Spain. The Catalan authorities seem fiercely independent:

But conflicting reports suggest that in the immediate aftermath of the explosion in Alcanar, where multiple propane gas canisters were discovered, the Catalan police refused the assistance of TEDAX, a unit of the Spanish government with long experience dismantling bombs and investigating explosive evidence dating back through decades of Basque separatist terrorism. If true, valuable hours may have been lost as the killers raced to go into action.

After reading that I became curious about Catalonia’s history. Reading about it, I discovered that Catalonia was only briefly under Muslim rule in the 8th Century, and then became “a defensive barrier for the Frankish empire against further Muslim invasions from Al-Andalus.” I also discovered (see this), that there’s a lengthy history of Moroccan immigration into modern Spain. The cell of terrorists responsible for the Barcelona and Cambrils attacks was composed of Moroccans.

Here’s the history [emphasis mine]:

…[T]hroughout modern history there has always been a constant presence of Muslims in Spain, many of which were former slaves (known as ‘moros cortados’) freed in the early 18th century. Furthermore, Spain’s proximity to North Africa and its small land border with the Kingdom of Morocco (as well as a colonial presence in North Africa lasting between 1912 and 1975) made Muslim presence in Spain possible. Moroccan Muslims played a significant role in Spain’s Civil War (1936-1939), fighting on the National side, including a Lieutenant General Mohamed Meziane, a close friend of General Francisco Franco, who later became Captain General of Ceuta, Galicia and the Canary Islands during his post-war career.

Moroccans did not require a visa to enter Spain until 1985. This however changed with Spain’s growing economic development and its entry into the European Union, after which stricter immigration controls were imposed. Immigration to Spain exploded in the 90s, with Moroccans of both sexes arriving in large numbers and becoming Spain’s first important economic immigrant community.

I also learned that the perpetrators of the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, a horrific attack that killed 192 and injured around 2,000, were predominently Moroccans.

Spain and Morocco share a border, but it’s a “wet” border—the narrow Straits of Gibraltar:

The border between Spain and Morocco can be understood as a border of borders. Beyond the territorial line between two nation-states, the Spanish-Moroccan border also marks the limits between, Christianity and Islam, Europe and Africa, the former colonizer and the former colonized, EU territory and non-EU territory, prosperous north and impoverished south. A wide range of geographical, historical, political, social, cultural and economical categories face each other on the Spanish-Moroccan border landscape.

Often, visual representations of the Spanish-Moroccan border are condensed into the metaphorical image of the Pillars of Hercules on the two shores of the Strait of Gibraltar -Gibraltar on the one hand, and Ceuta’s Monte Hacho, on the other.

Here’s a map:

Some history:

Ceuta and Melilla are situated on the North Western Mediterranean coast of the African continent, approximately 300 km apart from each other…Melilla is Spanish since 1497, representing one of the fortresses established along the coast to prevent further invasion of the Spanish peninsula by the “Moors”, who had been expelled five years earlier after a presence of nearly eight centuries. Ceuta had been seized by Portugal in 1415, but was transferred to Spain under the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668 (P. Gold, 2000)…

After Spain joined the Schengen Agreement in 1991 tight border controls started to be implemented…From that moment onwards, Moroccan citizens were not allowed to cross the new Spanish/Schengen -Moroccan border without a visa.

The particular characteristics of the enclaves, which are absolutely dependant on the cross-border interaction with their hinterlands, implied that the Schengen regime was put into practice in a selective mode…In this context the enclaves were given status of ‘frontier zone’, providing special provisions for bilateral trade between the two Spanish cities with the neighbouring Moroccan provinces Tetuán y Nador and allowing Moroccans who regularly entered the enclaves to require only a passport for a maximum 24-hour stay…

With their new status Ceuta and Melilla became key gateways for would-be illegal immigrants to the EU…

There’s much more at the link.

August 21st, 2017

Internet free speech threatened

This is a chilling, must-read article.

In it, William Jacobson quotes a post he wrote last Friday:

…[In the past there have been] attempts to intimidate internet hosting companies and companies that provide internet infrastructure to cut off access to the internet. [Previously] the effort has been focused on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. People might not care that The Daily Stormer is taken down, but the history of leftist tactics show that the target universe will expand dramatically and it will not be long before efforts are directed, as they are now for advertisers, at mainstream conservative and right-of-center websites….

Companies like Cloudfare and others who provide internet infrastrucure will come under increasing pressure, and it won’t be limited to the Storm Fronts of the world. We know from history that the “hate” label is broadly applied for political purposes, and will be used only against right-of-center websites.

It certainly didn’t take long for that prediction to come true. The site Jihad Watch was predictably next on the list, because it focuses on the threat from Islamist terrorists and although not a hate site in my book, it is focused on Islamist terrorism and doesn’t mince words about the fact that most of the world’s terrorists today cite Islam as their inspiration. Robert (not Richard, who is a different person!) Spencer and Pam Geller have been under attack for a long time about this, and the latest development is quite chilling in terms of free speech, whether you agree with their site or not.

This is what Spencer has written about the issue:

The Left is mounting an all-out assault against the freedom of speech, and using Charlottesville to try to crush all dissent. I received this email today. I know also that Lauren Kirchner has sent it to other counter-jihad sites as well….

[Question in Email followed by Spencer answer]

1) Do you disagree with the designation of your website as hate or extremist? Why?

Yes, certainly I do. For years, Leftists and Muslim groups with numerous ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have smeared as “hate” all attempts to speak honestly about the motivating ideology behind jihad terrorism. In reality, it is not hateful, racist or extremist to oppose jihad terror, and the claim that it is [is] not only libelous but insidious: the intent has clearly been to intimidate people into thinking it wrong to oppose jihad terror, and it has worked, as illustrated by the neighbors of the San Bernardino jihad murderers, who saw suspicious activity at their home but didn’t report them for fear of being “racist.”

2) We identified several tech companies on your website: PayPal, Amazon, Newsmax, and Revcontent. Can you confirm that you receive funds from your relationship with those tech companies? How would the loss of those funds affect your operations, and how would you be able to replace them?

The intent of your questions, and no doubt of your forthcoming article, will be to try to compel these sites to cut off any connection with us based on our opposition to jihad terror. Are you comfortable with what you’re enabling? Not only are you inhibiting honest analysis of the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, but you’re aiding the attempt to deny people a platform based on their political views. This could come back to bite you if your own views ever fall out of favor. Have you ever lived in a totalitarian state, where the powerful determine the parameters of the public discourse and cut off all voice from the powerless? Do you really want to live in one now? You might find, once you get there, that it isn’t as wonderful as you thought it would be.

3) Have you been shut down by other tech companies for being an alleged hate or extremist web site? Which companies?

No. This is a new thing. First came the ridiculous claim that opposing jihad terror was “hate,” and now comes the other shoe dropping: the attempt to cut out the ground from under the feet of those who “hate.” You can only hope that you aren’t similarly defamed one day; perhaps if that does happen, you will realize (too late) why the freedom of speech is an indispensable element of a free society.

4) Many people opposed to sites like yours are currently pressuring tech companies to cease their relationships with them – what is your view of this campaign? Why?

Nazis will be Nazis. Fascists will be fascists. Today they call themselves “Antifa” and the like, but they’re acting just like Hitler’s Brownshirts did, when they shouted down and assaulted anti-Nazi speakers. Now the violent thugs work in a more genteel fashion: they just pull the Internet plug on those they hate. You, Lauren Kirchner, are aiding and abetting a quintessentially fascist enterprise. Authoritarianism in service of any cause leads to a slave society despite the best intentions of those who helped usher it in.

This should make your blood run cold.

August 21st, 2017

RIP Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis has died at 91. You can read tributes to him here and here.

That first article calls him a “nonpareil genius of comedy.” I guess so, but his shtick—and slapstick in general—didn’t appeal to me. I do recall from my childhood that he and Dean Martin had a TV show I used to watch and must have enjoyed. But I remember nothing else about it except for a vague notion that it was the suave and slightly sleepy Martin I liked more than Lewis, who seemed to me at the time to be a grown man pretending for some strange reason to be a child. My preference in comedy teams was for Abbott and Costello, and especially Laurel and Hardy (whose movies I do remember).

But Lewis was indeed a giant, and lots of people the world over (yes, and in France) thought he was just great. He had a long and intense creative life and did a lot to raise money to fight muscular dystrophy. He was certainly a person who lived large. RIP.

August 19th, 2017

Eclipse, August 21: to feel the always coming on…

On Monday, August 21, 2017, America will witness one of nature’s grandest spectacles. The “Great American Eclipse,” as it is being called, will be the first total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States since 1979, when a massive shadow caused by the moon blocking the light of the sun passed over the Pacific Northwest. But this year’s eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse visible from coast to coast since 1918. Tens of millions of Americans are projected to make their way into the narrow path of the moon’s shadow — a seventy-mile wide swath of complete darkness stretching from Oregon to South Carolina — to watch the sun disappear completely for nearly three minutes over one section of the country after another…

A total solar eclipse is a breathtaking sight. It lasts a few hours as the moon slowly crawls across the face of the sun, obscuring it bit by bit. But the most spectacular part of the eclipse is called totality: the brief period during which the sun is completely concealed by the moon. Totality lasts only a few minutes, but its effects are dramatic. The temperature plummets when the sun disappears, stars and planets become visible in the middle of the day, and on the surface of the Earth, a giant shadow up to 150 miles wide sweeps across the land at speeds approaching 2,000 miles per hour.

The effect of the onrushing shadow often fills those who see it with “primitive fear,” according to the psychologist and eclipse chaser Dr. Kate Russo, as a “wall of darkness comes creeping toward you.” In 1878, one observer, who watched the approaching shadow from the top of 14,000 foot Pikes Peak, described that wall of darkness as “pallid and ghastly . . . weird and terrible” as it devoured distant mountain ranges one by one. This year’s eclipse will speed across America in a little over 90 minutes.

I believe I saw one in Boston in the 70s. Looked it up; probably this one, not totally total but darn close to total. It was scary and creepy, and also tempting and frustrating because of the need to not look directly at it.

Here are some charts of the path of Monday’s eclipse.

For me, the quote with which I began this post conjures up this poem by Archibald Macleish, which is not about an eclipse, but about nightfall (and much much else):

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth’s noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthy chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change…

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on…

Please read the whole thing. That poem gives me a shiver that starts somewhere in the middle of it and lasts right to the end.

August 19th, 2017

Updates on the Barcelona and Cambrils terrorist attacks

The perpetrators of the Barcelona and Cambrils terrorist attacks seem to have been a fairly large and organized group of young men who are either Spanish citizens of Moroccan origin or non-citizens of Moroccan origin (the coverage has not made it clear):

Police and security services were hunting for the remaining members of a Moroccan-born terror cell, amid fears that they could be preparing further attacks at popular tourist areas.

The 17-year-old key suspect of the Barcelona van outrage, Moussa Oukabir, was one of five terrorists shot dead by Spanish police during an attack on the coastal resort of Cambrils in the early hours of yesterday, authorities confirmed last night…

But police were last night continuing to appeal for information on Younes Abouyaaqoub, 22. There were also reports that two further suspects were being sought…

Security officials believe the attacks on Barcelona and Cambrils were the work of a terror cell of at least 12 people, who may have been inspired by the London Bridge outrage in June.

And here I thought they were inspired by Fields in Charlottesville—or at least, Wolf Blitzer thought it:

“There will be questions about copycats, there will be questions if what happened in Barcelona was at all,” Blitzer responded, “at all a copycat version of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, even though they may be different characters, different political ambitions.

“They used the same killing device,” he explained, “a vehicle going at high speed going into a group, a large group of pedestrians.”

Blitzer, fool or knave? Or is he just the kind of guy who doesn’t follow the news and hasn’t a clue that vehicle attacks have been the m.o. of Islamicist terrorists for years—and that if anyone was a copycat, it was the Charlottesville perp?

Here are some of the dead in Spain. They range from little children to the elderly, although most are young adults. It is heartbreaking to see the happy photos, some of them taken not long before the people in them were mowed down. One 7-year-old child is still missing (see this), and many of the dead are from countries other than Spain because the site of the attack was a popular tourist spot.

It’s quite common for the details from first reports to subsequently turn out to be untrue. But if this story about the Cambrils attack response is correct, there’s quite a cinematic tale there. Police were able to react quickly because there were extra officers stationed in the vicinity due to the previous attack in Las Ramblas:

The [terrorists’] Audi ploughed into pedestrians [in Cambrils], injuring up to four people. The car then tried to mount a kerb but in doing so flipped into the air and landed on its roof…

The terrorists crawled out the car, brandishing their weapons. One officer from the police car suffered a broken leg and a head wound.

His colleague, reacting with lightning speed, pulled out her pistol and shot four of the terrorists dead. The officer was last night being called a hero.

“To kill four people, even if you are a professional, is not easy to digest,” said Josep Luis Trapero, a Catalan police chief. The fifth attacker – the one captured [in a video showing him taunting the police] on Fitzroy Davies’s camera phone – fled the scene…

Mr Davies likened the scene to “a horror film”, adding: “Particularly when he jumped back up after being shot and started laughing at the police. I can’t get that out of my mind.”

That terrorist was later killed as well.

Police are also seeking an iman who is thought to have been in contact with all the perpetrators, who hail from an area called Ripoli:

El Pais, a leading Spanish daily, said they were investigating whether the imam, who apparently left Ripoll around a month ago, might be one of two dead bodies discovered in the Alcanar house [after an explosion]. Sources involved in the investigation told El Confidencial they believed he was a “spiritual or idealogical leader” to the cell members, radicalising them and helping them to plan the attacks.

The sources cited the lack of previous terror links among the group…

The imam, said to be a father of about 45 years old, had never said or done anything to prompt concern, said the mosque chief, Ali Yassine.

“We never heard anything about him or received any (complaint) until this happened, and we don’t know how this happened, this has fallen on us like a stone,” he said. But, he added, no one could know what was happening “inside a person’s head”.

The suspected cell members rarely came to the mosque, but from their little interaction had seemed like “normal boys”, Mr Yassine explained…

These seem to have been unknown wolves.

August 19th, 2017

Bannon unleashed and Trump untethered

I detect a theme and a meme.

Here we have Bannon unleashed (you’ll find the word in the URL) and unchained.

And here we have Trump untethered, now that Bannon has gone.

Tethers work like this:

Failure modes for tethers are considered when designing arrangements where a tether is needed. When a tether or line breaks suddenly, backlash of the segments may cause severe damage or loss of life. Safety links are sometimes used to prevent excessive tension in a tether involved in towing objects or persons, like in the towing of sailplanes; the safety link in a tether is thus a tether itself.

The image I think we are supposed to get is of wild men held in check by being tied together. Now that the tie has been broken, who knows what mayhem they will wreak?

August 19th, 2017

CNN tries really really hard to say something bad about Antifa…

…but does a pretty lousy job of it.

For example, this sort of thing:

Activists [members of Antifa] don black bloc, Crow said, as a means to an end.

“People put on the masks so that we can all become anonymous, right? And then, therefore, we are able to move more freely and do what we need to do, whether it is illegal or not,” he said.

And that means avoiding police, whom many Antifa members see as an enemy, as well as skirting the scrutiny Antifa activists often get from alt-right trolls on the Internet. Black bloc, one member told us, also unites the movement.

“Even though it only takes one person to break a window, it doesn’t matter because the bloc moves together,” said a 26-year-old named Maura, who wouldn’t give her last name.

…is followed almost immediately by this sort of explanation from Antifa activists:

“We cover our face because the Nazis will try to find out who we are. And that is a very bad thing because they harass people,” he said. “We’re trying to stop them from organizing. … When they organize, they kill people, they hurt people, they fight people. And we’re the ones who are fighting back.”

It’s a position taken by many Antifa activists: “This is self-defense.”

The CNN story makes it clear that Antifa members are violent and do illegal things. But whenever it discusses their violence, it quotes their stated rationale for their violence without offering any counters to their reasoning other than to say that some of them hate police or hate government. For example, the word “anarchist” is mentioned several times but only in passing and never explained. The article acts almost as an unchallenged apologia for Antifa; while it admits that they are violent (just as Trump said), it seems to indicate that they are violent in a good cause, and that the only problem with their violence is that it might backfire by encouraging sympathy for neo-Nazis.

Interestingly, the Antifa member who said (in a quote above) “We cover our face because the Nazis will try to find out who we are. And that is a very bad thing because they harass people” probably has no problem at all with this:

In Portland, where the Rose City Antifa has been active for a decade, members focus on outing people they believe are neo-Nazis, even trying to get them fired and evicted from their homes.

“We’ve done mass mailings. We’ve even gone door to door before in communities,” said the group’s leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We’ve gone out to areas that we know that a lot of Nazis live with, like, ‘wanted’ posters, like, ‘Do you have any information on this person?’ and put them up in the area, and we usually get a flurry of tips like, ‘Yeah, this person works here,’ and so on and so on.”

I detest neo-Nazis as much as almost anyone does, maybe more. But what the neo-Nazi demonstraters have been doing as a group (the killing of Heather Heyer by a single neo-Nazi is a different thing) has been almost entirely a lawful exercise of free speech.

Neo-Nazis are neither numerous nor powerful. They weren’t particularly numerous in this country even during the build-up to WWII at the height of Nazi power (see this). Should they be allowed to demonstrate peacefully? Yes, if we don’t want to lose our liberty. It’s paradoxical, but true. Their ideas are bankrupt, and without Antifa and its counter-violence to spark a confrontation, the neo-Nazi demonstrators would hardly be noticed (they’ve been around as long as I remember, without much fanfare). As Brian Levin (director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, and quoted in the CNN article) notes, the recent Antifa violence at demonstrations only makes potential martyrs out of the neo-Nazis, who can rightly claim to have been victims of Antifa.

Any group that claims that words are violence, and uses that to justify violence against those who are peacefully demonstrating, is itself very dangerous:

The [Antifa] movement, Crow said, sees alt-right hate speech as violent, and for that, its activists have opted to meet violence with violence.”

This sort of thing is self-serving, sophistic claptrap from people who yearn to be considered as brave as the real Resistance during the real World War II fighting the real Nazis, and who have a love affair with violence themselves.

August 18th, 2017

Jonah Goldberg on fascists vs. communists

Jonah Goldberg writes:

There’s a natural tendency to think that when people, or movements, hate each other, it must be because they’re opposites. This assumption overlooks the fact that many — indeed, most — of the great conflicts and hatreds in human history are derived from what Sigmund Freud called the “narcissism of minor differences.”…

…One of the only nice things about the alt-right is that its leaders are honest about the fact that they want nothing to do with traditional American conservatism. Like the original Nazis, they seek to replace the traditional right with their racial hogwash.

The antifa crowd has a very similar agenda with regard to American liberalism. These goons and thugs oppose free speech, celebrate violence, despise dissent and have little use for anything else in the American political tradition. But many liberals, particularly in the media, are victims of the same kind of confusion that vexed so much of American liberalism in the 20th century. Because antifa suddenly has the (alt-)right enemies, they must be the good guys.

That’s probably what most liberals think. But most leftists (and there are plenty of them in the media and the Democratic Party) are not the least bit confused about what antifa is and what their goals are.

By the way, I’m not sure whether the following history comes under the heading of “minor differences” or major ones. It feels pretty major to me. In Nazi Germany and in several other countries occupied by the Nazis during WWII, Communists formed a major part of the Resistance. In addition, they were numerous among those who developed an underground network to help Jews escape and/or hide, and this in particular strongly distinguished them from Nazis. In the Soviet USSR there was a great deal of anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews, of course, but this was not true of these particular Communists outside of Russia during World War II.

Communists were not the only rescuers and resisters; not at all. Among the ranks of rescuers were a great many religious people (this was certainly true in Germany) and even atheists who just felt that the Holocaust was wrong. But Communists were fairly well-represented among the rescuers and resisters, and they had the added advantage of already being well-organized and accustomed to launching clandestine operations.

This isn’t a defense of Communism in general; not at all. But it is a way in which Communists during WWII distinguished themselves from Nazis.

[NOTE: See this for a discussion of a fascinating part of Polish rescuer history: Zegota, a group compromised of Catholic rescuers with quite a few socialists and Communists mixed in.]

August 18th, 2017

Terrorism in Barcelona

While we’ve been busily parsing every word Trump says, ISIS hasn’t been letting any moss grow under its feet. A terrorist on a vehicular rampage killed 13 people in Barcelona and injured more than 100 before he fled—and escaped—on foot.

And it might have been even worse:

A rented Fiat van was driven into crowds in the tourist district of Las Ramblas yesterday afternoon…

Investigators believe the atrocity is linked to an explosion at a home 70 miles away which happened 24 hours earlier. Documents discovered at the scene reveal details of the planned attack, police sources have claimed.

It is thought the address was being used as a bomb factory, and that the terror cell responsible for yesterday’s attack planned to fill the van with explosive butane canisters.

The targeting of a tourist destination is designed to kill foreigners as well as natives, and discourage tourism and therefore hurt a country economically. The scene was chaotic and horrific.

That Daily Mail article I linked to is typical of the British press, in that the coverage is more thorough and more graphic than is ordinarily the case in the US. More of the injured are expected to die, because quite a few are in critical condition.

There is little doubt that the attack was perpetrated by Islamicist terrorists, although the details are still emerging:

In the aftermath of the attack police circulated an image of Driss Oukabir, a 28-year-old Catalan resident of Moroccan origin, saying he had rented out a second van thought to be intended as a getaway vehicle – where his documents were found.

But police sources said Oukabir later handed himself in at a police station in Ripoll, 65 miles north of Barcelona, claiming his brother had stolen his documents.

His brother is named Moussa Oukabir, 18, who lives in Barcelona, El Pais reports…

[The Las Ramblas vehicular attack] is believed to be connected with a second incident – the explosion of a house in Alcanar. We received an alert of an explosion where one person has died and others were injured.

‘A part of the building collapsed. We are linking these two incidents. I cannot give further details as we are still working on the investigation.

‘This led to the arrest of two people directly implicated in this attack. This does not mean that the two people under arrest are those who carried out the attack in Barcelona – but they are connected to the attack.

‘Neither of them was the person driving the van. Neither of them has any convictions for terrorism. One is from Melilla (a Spanish enclave in north Africa) and the other is Moroccan.

That wasn’t the only terrorist attack in Spain, either. Just a few hours later, a group of five terrorists wearing what turned out to be fake suicide belts but driving a very real Audi A3 were shot dead by police in the town of while Cambrils perpetrating a similar—although fortunately less successful—attack:

Five suspected terrorists have been shot dead by Spanish police in the coastal town of Cambrils, south-west of Barcelona, after they drove into pedestrians as part of what appeared to be the country’s second terror attack in a day…

The attack in Cambrils, where six bystanders and a policeman were also wounded, ended a day of bloody violence along the Catalan coast, which the police said was the work of a terrorist cell determined to “kill as many people as possible”.

There are many expressions of unity and sorrow and outrage from around the world, but the real question is what is the West going to do about it, if anything. These sorts of attacks have become almost commonplace. They are relatively easy to execute (if one can apply the word “easy” to that sort of wanton, deliberate, up-close, mass murder) and inexpensive as well, and there are plenty of the usual “known wolves” (or even unknown wolves) who seem willing, able, and eager to perpetrate similar murderous attacks.

August 18th, 2017

Buh-bye Bannon

In no surprise whatsoever, Steve Bannon has been relieved of his White House duties:

President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has been fired, two White House officials told CNN Friday.

A source told CNN that Bannon was given the option to resign but was forced out. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Bannon’s departure but did not say whether he was fired or resigned.

“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best,” Sanders said in a statement.

Bannon’s tenure as a Trump advisor, in one position or another, lasted a year plus a day. I first wrote about his appointment as campaign advisor here, and reading it just now reminds me that prior to becoming “chief executive” (whatever that may be) of the Trump campaign he was the head of Breitbart, which was highly instrumental in popularizing and promoting Trump’s candidacy. I noted then:

Steve Bannon used to work for Goldman Sachs, but unlike Trump’s crusade against Heidi Cruz, I guess such a resume is okay with Trump if it’s possessed by an ally of his.

Bannon was appointed during a time when Trump’s campaign wasn’t doing so well, and he was hired along with Kellyanne Conway. They helped turn it around, or something helped turn it around, but Bannon was always a controversial figure to say the least. He became tainted, rightly or wrongly (I believe wrongly), as a racist and even a white supremacist, but even before Charlottesville it was long rumored he had to go. I wrote about that last April in a post the entire text of which goes like this:

One thing I can say about Trump…

…is that he’s pretty good at firing people whose performance he finds wanting.

So, is Bannon in disfavor and possibly on the way out?

I haven’t a clue. But it wouldn’t break my heart if it were to happen.

Today’s reports contain various reasons for Bannon’s firing. Who knows which are true, if any? But the bottom line seems to be that Bannon rubbed a great many people in the Trump camp the wrong way and he racked up many enemies, until something or a series of somethings made Trump turn on him, too.

Was it this?:

[Trump] was furious with his chief strategist after he was quoted in an interview with the American Prospect contradicting him on North Korea and asserting that he was able to make personnel changes at the State Department.

In other words, Bannon may have gotten too big for his britches. I think it also highly likely that the appointment of John Kelly had something to do with Bannon’s departure.

So far, I’m liking Kelly.

August 17th, 2017

More on the Charlottesville violence and Trump’s reaction to it

Yes, apparently we’re not done with this topic yet. The MSM certainly isn’t done, nor is the far left or the far right.

I’m going to summarize some of what I’ve observed so far.
Continued »

August 17th, 2017

Free speech for me and not for you

All too predictably, there’s a call in the NY Times for the ACLU to “rethink” its support of freedom of speech for Nazis.

It’s from a lawyer named K-Sue Park, who works as “a housing attorney and the Critical Race Studies fellow at the U.C.L.A. School of Law.” The text of the op-ed demonstrates a rather pragmatic attitude to the principle of freedom of speech. My comments are interspersed in brackets:

The hope is that by successfully defending hate groups, its legal victories will fortify free-speech rights across the board: A rising tide lifts all boats, as it goes. [No, the hope is that by successfully defending hate groups, its legal victories will protect their rights to free speech, because those rights belong to them too in a free society and must be protected.]

While admirable in theory, this approach implies that the country is on a level playing field, that at some point it overcame its history of racial discrimination to achieve a real democracy, the cornerstone of which is freedom of expression. [No, it has nothing to do with that, because freedom of speech does not exist merely between those of exactly equal power, it exists for all, and its goal is not to overcome racial discrimination—laudable though that goal is. Its goal is to protect liberty, even for those whose views we detest.]

I volunteered with the A.C.L.U. as a law student in 2011, and I respect much of its work [when it furthers your own political goals, I have no doubt that you do]. But it should rethink how it understands free speech [physician, heal thyself]. By insisting on a narrow reading of the First Amendment [narrow reading=reading you don’t like; it’s actually a very broad reading], the organization provides free legal support to hate-based causes [yes, yes it does, but you seem to think only the groups you approve of should have recourse to free legal support. Isn’t that the same sort of argument that the civil rights movement used to fight against?]. More troubling, the legal gains on which the A.C.L.U. rests its colorblind logic have never secured real freedom or even safety for all. [Nope,, they haven’t yet succeeded in creating the utopia that you would no doubt create for us if only you had the power.]

I could keep going with this—because K-Sue Parks certainly does—but I think you get the idea.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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