July 28th, 2016


Do not try this at home:

July 28th, 2016

Watching the Democratic Convention

Have you watched it? I haven’t. I’m not a glutton for punishment.

I barely watched the RNC, either; just a speech here and there, mostly Cruz. Of course, I don’t like speeches in general. But I know that watching the DNC in particular would probably make me seethe in anger, and so it seems like a bad idea to subject myself to it.

Reading the proceedings gives me much more emotional distance, which is sorely needed these days.

July 28th, 2016

Russia and the emails: Trump needs a sarcasm tag

The current Trump brouhaha is about his statements calling on the Russians to find Hillary’s missing emails. I think it’s clear that it was sarcasm with an extra edge; you can listen to what he said here and decide for yourself, but for me the tipoff is that Trump added, “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

I’m not a Trump defender; it’s actually very rare that I find myself in that position. But I think his sarcasm here was fairly clear. Perhaps the MSM and the Democrats have lost their sense of humor (that’s sarcasm too, by the way), or perhaps they just don’t have one when it comes to Trump. I can sympathize there, because I strain to have one, too. But a joke is a joke, and that was a joke.

What it was, however, is the sort of joke presidential nominees don’t usually make. And there’s an excellent reason for that: it’s inappropriate and unpresidential. Trump, however, is a completely different kind of presidential nominee. And in some ways he’s a lot harder to counter because he plays by very different rules:

Instead of ignoring the story or simply scoffing at the obvious distracting attack, the Clinton campaign has fallen into the same kind of trap all those Republican candidates Trump defeated in the primaries fell for: misdirection. Most of the news media seems to have fallen for it, too, as the tone of most of the stories covering Trump’s comments seem to indicate this could be the serious gaffe everyone was expecting Trump to make in this election.

Trump’s ability to steal headlines with outrageous comments and survive the process is well-documented, but no one seems to have come up with an antidote for it. And, as for trying to make Russia into some kind of villain here and thus tainting Trump for any connection to that country or it’s leader Vladimir Putin, ask Mitt Romney how much the voters care about Russia. He found out the answer the hard way in 2012, didn’t he?

I have long thought that these shenanigans will not advantage Trump in the general in the same way they did in the primary season, or at least not enough to allow him to win the election. I’ve become more doubtful about that, although I still think it’s true. I guess the only thing to do is wait and see.

July 28th, 2016

Religion: text vs. interpretation

[NOTE: This is a very big topic, and I’m pressed for time at the moment so I’ll only scratch the surface.]

Earlier today, commenter “Fred” made the following statement:

The problem with religions is not the text in holy books but [what is] created by those who interpreted [those texts].

My response is to both agree and disagree; yes and no. I say “yes” in the sense that most religions of any antiquity have texts that feature problematic portions that conflict with current mores and beliefs. I’m not going to go into a long discussion of each one; suffice to say that they exist, and that various practices we have rejected could be justified by those who follow a literal interpretation of the Bible.

Some of these pronouncements were superseded by later statements in the text that overruled them, and some are either re-interpreted to be more in line with our thinking today, or are ignored. That’s where the importance of “interpretation” comes in. People could focus on the primacy of the earlier text, but few do.

I answer “no,” however, in the sense that it does matter what sentiments and prescriptions are predominant and seemingly basic in a religion’s texts. Islam has a very different mix of such texts, with a far more predominant militancy and number of statements about the need to kill apostates and infidels (that’s what most relevant in terms of terrorism), statements that occur later in the texts rather than earlier, with the later ideas thought to supersede the earlier ones. These violent statements are so common in Islam that they are much harder to ignore or reason away in that religion than in others. In addition, because of Islam’s lack of a strong and/or widespread movement that one might call a “reformation” or modernization that gets away from a literal interpretation of the Koran, a devout Muslim is generally more constrained by the text, believing that the Koran is the literal, unaltered, unmediated word of God

Therefore, it stands to reason that there are many Muslims who are vulnerable to exhortations to follow the letter of the Koran in those violent respects. Many Muslim clerics speak out against terrorism and terrorists, of course, but quite a few do not and some even promote it. So that increased vulnerability among the Muslim population remains, and it’s a vulnerability that isn’t present to anywhere near the same degree in Christianity and Judaism.

July 27th, 2016

I just noticed…

…that the three posts below this one for today are all on the theme of people being released by the legal system or of charges against them being dismissed. Some involve the guilty (Hinckley). Some involve the already-guilty but then afterwards guilty-of-much-more (Kermiche). And some involve the innocent (the Freddie Gray defendants).

July 27th, 2016

In France: terrorist catch and release

Adel Kermiche, the young ISIS sympathizer in France who killed an 84-year old priest by slitting his throat as he performed mass, previously had been detained for wishing to go to Syria. Kermiche was also wearing electronic monitoring, so the question immediately arises as to how he was allowed the freedom to commit this act of terrorism.

The answers are hardly clear, but they are coming into better focus [emphasis mine]:

Kermiche, 19, began making contact with radicals on the internet after the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks in January 2015 and came to authorities’ attention when he tried to help a teenager from Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray join Isil.

He also twice attempted to go to Syria himself, but was arrested once in Munich and later sent back from Turkey to Geneva, where he was charged with “criminal association in connection with terrorism”.

He was returned to France and held in custody for 10 months. In March this year, he was released and tagged, after the public prosecutor appealed unsuccessfully against his release

His mother told a Swiss newspaper in May last year that his transformation into a radical happened very rapidly.

Previously he was a “happy kid who liked music and going out with girls”. But he quickly became a recluse, only going out to the mosque.

“It was as if he was under a spell, in a sect,” said his mother, a teacher. His family and his brothers and sisters tried to reason with him and keep an eye on him.

So, we have a correction system that’s clearly inadequate to (among other things) the task of dealing with terrorist recruitment of the Muslim youth of Europe who had been relatively Westernized till now. ISIS is especially interested in this population, who are not recent arrivals but who either were born in Europe or mostly raised there. If you believe the Kermiche family’s story—and I do (one reason being that they had been the ones to inform on Adel to authorities, and that had resulted in his original detainment for trying to go to Syria)—then his indoctrination into ISIS beliefs bears some resemblance to cult recruitment (he was apparently 18 years old at the time).

Kermiche’s parents’ and family’s actions in the matter—to try stop him—seem somewhat more explicable than those of the French authorities who let him go and decided to keep him free of electronic surveillance for several hours a day. I can imagine what their arguments were—“he hasn’t done anything dangerous” might have been one of them. But jihadi sympathies and terrorist contacts are not like ordinary crimes and should not be treated as such.

France, most of Europe, and the US have all been having internal battles on just how a person such as Kermiche (prior to the murder) and other radicalized Muslim youth should be dealt with. Our own election very much turns on these issues, which are a big element in Donald Trump’s appeal. What Trump would actually do differently, what he even would have the power to do differently, and what would be most desirable to do, are huge unknowns and huge matters of disagreement and debate. But incidents such as the priest’s murder in Rouen crystallize what we have been and will be arguing about, and how high the stakes are.

July 27th, 2016

John Hinckley freed…

…and goes to live with his elderly mother:

John Hinckley is now 61 years old, and as the judge wrote, “suffering from arthritis, high blood pressure, and various other physical ailments like many men his age.”

That’s irrelevant, IMHO, although it’s a sobering reminder of the passage of time.

Hinckley tried to kill a president in 1981, and he nearly succeeded. He left James Brady with permanent brain damage, as well. Hinckley was judged not guilty by reason of insanity and has been residing in a mental hospital rather than a prison, and now his release comes under the following conditions:

Under the terms of the order, Hinckley is not allowed to contact his victims, their relatives or actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was obsessed. Hinckley also will not be permitted to “knowingly travel” to areas where the current president or members of Congress are present. The judge said Hinckley could be allowed to live on his own or in a group home after one year.

“Mr. Hinckley shall abide by all laws, shall not consume alcohol, illegal drugs… shall not possess any firearm, weapon, or ammunition and shall not be arrested for cause,” Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ordered…

Saint Elizabeths Hospital says he no longer presents a danger to himself or others. Doctors report his depression and psychosis are in full remission. In court, his lawyer described a man who plays guitar, goes to movies and browses in bookstores.

He has already been spending time living in the community with his mother.

I tend to lean on the side of thinking this was the wrong decision in this particular case. Without going back and re-arguing whether he should have received a not guilty by insanity verdict in the first place, I’ll say that it’s a combination of two factors that makes me say that Hinckley should have remained where he was. The first is the unpredictability of the behavior of a person with that degree of illness, even if in “remission.” Add to that the extreme gravity of his crime, and I don’t see how you can justify the action the court took today.

I can’t imagine that Jodie Foster’s feeling too great about it, either.

July 27th, 2016

Here’s the first decent move the Freddie Gray prosecutors have made

Prosecutors in the Freddie Gray cases have now dropped all charges against the remaining three police officers out of the six they have used as scapegoats:

Prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers accused in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in a downtown courtroom on Wednesday morning, concluding one of the most high-profile criminal cases in Baltimore history.

The startling move was an apparent acknowledgement of the unlikelihood of a conviction following the acquittals of three other officers on similar and more serious charges by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, who was expected to preside over the remaining trials as well…

In clearing Nero, Goodson and Rice [in their trials], [Judge] Williams had repeatedly said that prosecutors presented little or no evidence to support their broader theory in the case – that the officers acted unreasonably, and willfully disregarded their training and general orders, when they decided not to secure Gray in a seat belt in the back of a police transport van, and that the decision directly led to his death.

All of the officers had pleaded not guilty. Their attorneys have said they acted reasonably and professionally, and that Gray’s death was the result of a tragic accident.

The decision Wednesday to drop all charges came during what was expected to be a contentious hearing…

I doubt this has been done through an excess of integrity on the part of the prosecutors. No; they see the writing on the wall and realize that pursuing the officers will only bring further shame and embarrassment to themselves.

Plus—and perhaps even more importantly—their scapegoating of the six officers has already served its purpose with the mob. Much of the negative energy has gone on to other, more fertile, fields.

But that’s what scapegoats are for, right? Deflect rage onto convenient targets, and forget about actual guilt or innocence.

Kudos to Judge Williams, who has been a model of—I know it’s an old-fashioned word, but I think it’s the proper one—justice.

Now the officers get to pick up their lives. But where do they go to get their reputations back?

July 26th, 2016

Revisiting the Iranian revolution: Khomeini the con man

Most people today have some idea who the Ayatollah Khomeini was: the scowling guy with the beard who created and/or exploited the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and brought Islamic theocracy to Iran. But I’m not at all sure how much most Americans know beyond that—even those of us who were alive back then, and certainly most younger people who were not yet alive. We tend to think, as we often do of history, that certain things were apparent, that certain things were obvious, that smarter people (us, for example!) could have prevented or foreseen what was neither prevented nor foreseen back then, and that we know and understand what we do not know and do not understand.

So as a little memory refresher, I offer a repeat of this post that I wrote in 2011:

Here are some selected quotes from the Ayatollah Khomeini, whose utterances before his return to Iran in 1979 were quite different from his utterances after his return.

Just as an example, in November of 1978 he said, “Personal desire, age, and my health do not allow me to personally have a role in running the country after the fall of the current system.” Then on his return to Iran about a year later: “I will strike with my fists at the mouths of this government. From now on it is I who will name the government.”

Here’s another later quote:

Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us?…Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors!

Straight from the horse’s mouth: Islam, not a religion of peace.

Here’s another that chills the blood, and is meant to:

There is no room for play in Islam … It is deadly serious about everything.

The following is not a quote from Khomeini, but I include it because it so perfectly illustrates the Orwellian madness/stupidity/deception/amorality (take your pick, or take them all) of so many on the left in their confrontation with totalitarian tyranny of the non-Western variety. It was spoken on the occasion of Khomeini’s death in 1989:

The freedom-lovers of the world mourn the sad demise of Imam Khomeini.

The speaker was Ernesto Cardenal, “Nicaraguan combatant, scholar, poet, and liberation theologian.” “Liberation theologian” could be a description of how Khomeini regarded himself, as well, so it’s not so very surprising that Cardenal would see him as a kindred spirit. Cardenal is a Catholic priest, a man of the left who affiliated himself back in the 70s and 80s with the Sandinistas in his native Nicaragua:

On 19 July 1979, immediately after the Fall of Managua, [Cardenal] was named Minister of Culture by the new Sandinista regime. He occupied this office until 1987, when his ministry was closed owing to economic reasons. When Pope John Paul II visited Nicaragua in 1983, he openly scolded Cardenal, who knelt before him, on the Managua airport runway, for resisting his order to resign from the government. The Pope admonished Cardenal: Usted tiene que arreglar sus asuntos con la Iglesia (“You must make good your dealings with the Church”).

One of the doctrines Khomeini was noted for was his idea that Islam should be closely intertwined with politics. This philosophy represented a break with most of his immediate predecessors. Khomeini fully lived out his own beliefs, beginning with his triumphant return to Iran in 1979. The deadly serious repercussions of that decidedly unplayful philosophy are still being felt by the Iranian people today.

That’s the end of the post I wrote in back then. But I also want to add these quotes from Totten’s interview with Abbas Milani (director of Iranian studies at Stanford) in the same year, 2011:

Abbas Milani: And lurking around the corner was Khomeini who cleverly understood what the Americans wanted. The Americans wanted a more responsive democratic government, and Khomeini promised it to them. I have found evidence of his contacting Americans.

MJT: Who in the US did he contact?

Abbas Milani: The American Embassy in Paris. He also sent a letter to Carter. His allies in Tehran were also in contact with the American Embassy. They were saying Khomeini was not as bad as the Shah was making him out to be. All of them were helped by Iranian intellectuals who have a great responsibility in all this.

MJT: What did you think about Khomeini at the time?

Abbas Milani: I was an opponent of the Shah. I spent a year in prison. For six months I was in Evin Prison. The future leaders of the Islamic Republic were my cellmates.

MJT: You knew these guys?

Abbas Milani: I knew all of them. I spent six months with them. I knew they were bad news. I knew that what they were going to deliver was not democracy.

But most people had never read any of Khomeini’s writings because they were banned. The Shah, instead of making them mandatory reading, banned them. In the 1960s and 70s Khomeini had already talked about almost everything he did. Even in 1944 he talked about how evil democracy and modernity are, how evil the rule of law is. He talked about the establishment of Velayat-e faqih, the rule of Islamic jurists. These books could have been an absolutely clear indication of where his regime would go, but they were banned. Even those who were willing, like me, to actually read this stuff, we dismissed it because we were under the Age of Enlightenment illusion that religion is the opiate of the masses and that there is an inverse correlation between reason and science on the one hand and religion on the other. We believed that Iran was too advanced for these ideas.

I often wonder whether we can learn from history at all.

July 26th, 2016

Just imagine

Here’s a comment I found at RedState:

Ted Cruz would have never had to explain why he didn’t explicitly endorse Trump in that speech the next day had the RNC/Trump campaign not orchestrated the booing and outrage from the convention crowd.

Imagine if instead they rallied the crowd to cheer Cruz, and Trump then walked out and shook Cruz’s hand, padded him on the back, embraced him, and thanked him for his kind and inspiring words. Imagine if then Trump addressing the audience said “Ted nailed it. If we stand together on those principles, then Hillary doesn’t have a chance. We will win and win big.”

Humility and kindness is all Trump needed to show, and everyone would have walked away thinking that the party was united and possibly Cruz just endorsed Trump in the same way Reagan endorsed Ford (without actually saying it).

Imagine if pigs could fly. Imagine all the people, living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer.

July 26th, 2016

The DNC in disarray

I don’t watch the DNC, but if you’d like to read other people’s impressions of what’s going on there, see these articles.

Far from a love fest.

The two parties right now are very different, as are the issues ripping them apart—although populism is part of the division in each party. But in terms of discord and internal civil war brewing, they resemble each other more than they have at any time in my memory.

July 26th, 2016

At war with ISIS: at least Hollande says it

The latest atrocity committed by ISIS followers/admirers/members in France had an overtly religious target:

Francois Hollande says France is at war with ISIS after two Islamist knifemen butchered a French priest and left a nun fighting for her life before they were both shot dead by police in Normandy.

One of the men who stormed into the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen during mass was a local man, who was being monitored by electronic tag after being jailed for trying to join fanatics in Syria.

The 84-year-old priest, named as Jacques Hamel, had his throats cut while a nun is critically injured in hospital following the raid which saw five people held hostage by ISIS assailants shouting Allahu Akbar.

That attack was unequivocal as Islamist terrorism. It contains ISIS’s signature method of killing. The perpetrators explicitly claimed ISIS affiliation and declared their faith. And one perpetrator was a “local man” who was not only “known” to police—as are so many perpetrators of Islamist terrorism and general mayhem—but had already declared an intense interest in “joining fanatics in Syria.” Most people with any judgment and decency whatsoever are trying to get out of Syria, not into it.

I wonder what electronic monitoring is supposed to do in a case like that, if it didn’t stop this attack or warn authorities. The article says the following: “His bail terms allowed him to be unsupervised between 8.30am and 12.30pm – the attack happened between 9am and 11am. ” I guess the French police thought you can’t commit a murder between those hours? Because if they didn’t think this guy was a terrorism risk, they weren’t thinking.

Here’s how it occurred:

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Paris had earlier said that the men had crept into the church via a back entrance during a morning service, soon after 9am. The two men seized the priest, two sisters from a local order, and two parishioners.

‘A third nun escaped and raised the alarm, and anti-terrorists officers were on the scene within minutes,’ said a source who lives locally. ‘It appears that the priest who was celebrating the service was attacked first, and had his throat cut.

That brings back the olden days, doesn’t it? “Medieval” is too kind a word for such an attack. Civilization must defend and protect itself, but civilization may have become too civilized to do that effectively.

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.

Monthly Archives


Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge