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.

July 25th, 2016

Two Syrian asylum seekers on separate rampages in Germany

In separate and seemingly unrelated attacks in Germany, two Syrian “asylum seekers” commit heinous acts of violence that are probably some mixture of terrorism and just plain craziness or psychopathy or vicious rage. This seems to be the new pattern, where young men from various Arab/Muslim countries wreak havoc on people in their new European residences.

Germany seems to be the focus at the moment, either through plan or contagion or both.

July 25th, 2016

When is a Democrat not a Democrat?

When they want him to be a Republican.

Revisionist history, brought to you by Democratic Representative Keith Ellison:

Note that George Stephanopoulos—whom I presume knows better—does not trouble himself to correct Ellison because it suits George’s purposes to let the mistake slide. It’s only when Representative Tom Cole (R), who was sharp enough to pick up Ellison’s error, corrects Ellison, that Stephanopoulos gives a little knowing chuckle and smile of acknowledgement that Cole is correct.

Not that it matters to most of American anymore. The “Republicans are the racists” narrative is firmly ensconced.

July 25th, 2016

One begins to think it’s time to go back to sending notes by carrier pigeon and then swallowing them (not the pigeons; the notes)

Emails are probably not the best way to conduct clandestine business, as Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus, and now Debbie Wasserman Schultz have learned:

The Florida congresswoman’s resignation — under heavy pressure from top Democrats — comes amid the release of thousand of leaked emails showing DNC staffers favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the party’s 2016 primary contest.

Her announcement that she was leaving had pro-Sanders supporters cheering during a demonstration in Philadelphia and Donald Trump and other Republicans crowing about the disarray among the Democrats.

I never did quite understand exactly what Wasserman Schultz was so good at, although it was clear she was a loyal party apparatchik who never met a line of propaganda she couldn’t sling with a shamelessly straight face. And I would have thought that damping down Bernie Sanders and favoring Hillary Clinton would have been exactly what the party wanted, although being careless enough to have the emails published on Wikileaks was most definitely a no-no.

The disunity in the GOP is enormous, gargantuan. But once again (just as with the two candidates’ unfavorability ratings) the disunity in the Democratic Party is starting to rival it. And the Trump campaign has wasted no time tying the Wasserman Schultz email problem to the Hillary Clinton email problem, with Trump himself emphasizing the “rigged system” that elevated “Crooked Hillary,” and campaign manager Manafort chiming in:

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned over her failure to secure the DNC’s email servers and the rigged system she set up with the Clinton campaign,” he said in a statement. “Now Hillary Clinton should follow Wasserman Schultz’s lead and drop out over her failure to safeguard top secret, classified information both on her unauthorized home server and while traveling abroad.”

Well, that happens to be correct, even if Manafort is the one who said it. But of course I wouldn’t suggest you sit on a hot stove until it happens.

Covering this campaign is like swimming through mud. And “mud” is a euphemism.

July 23rd, 2016

Actor pairs: separated at birth

At first this seems extremely weird. What are the chances two celebrity actors or actresses would look so very much like each other? But when you think about it, the chances are actually rather good—they have regular features of a certain type that appeal greatly to people. So it’s not so surprising there are quite a few celebrity look-alikes:

July 23rd, 2016

Why Trump hates Ted Cruz

The day after his address at the close of the RNC, Trump decided to tear into Ted Cruz and to repeat some of his most scurrilous and over-the-top accusations (some couched in the form of “questions”) against Cruz and his family. In addition, there’s a report (perhaps true, perhaps not) that Trump has vowed to spend tons of his own money on a super PAC to destroy the careers of both Cruz and Kasich. Even if the latter threat is one he actually made, I would bet he’s not going to actually do it. But it’s the typical Trumpian threat (remember when he said he would go to court to find out if Cruz was a natural-born citizen, for example?).

So, why would Trump be dissing Cruz (and perhaps Kasich) the day after his triumphant acceptance of the GOP nomination? It wouldn’t be because they’re too conservative or too liberal—Kasich was the most liberal of all the people running against Trump, Cruz probably the most conservative. It wouldn’t be because they haven’t endorsed him; several others haven’t endorsed him, either (although they don’t hold office: Fiorina and Jeb Bush come to mind). It wouldn’t be because they did or didn’t come to the convention; Cruz did and Kasich didn’t.

It may be in part because they were both the last men standing towards the primary season’s end. It’s also clear that Cruz is Trump’s main target rather than Kasich, probably because Cruz is the strongest and most potentially powerful of Trump’s primary rivals who wouldn’t kiss his butt in the end (sorry for the crassness of the language, but with Trump it’s apropos).

Trump hates anyone who doesn’t ultimately kiss his butt, and that makes him want to make them kiss his butt or at least to humiliate them greatly. This is not some new behavior of Trump’s since he’s become a candidate; it’s a trait he’s had for decades: he is tremendously vindictive, as you can discover from his Twitter history, his litigation history, and any biography of the man.

Trump tried to humiliate and even destroy every single one of his major opponents in turn during campaign 2016. But not one of them has he tried to slander as much or for as long a time as he’s attacked Cruz (of course, some have now joined his campaign, such as Carson). For the most part, he attacked them until they fell in the polls, and then he moved on to the next contender.

But Cruz’s head is bloody but unbowed. It’s not enough for Trump to have defeated him, he is out to destroy him politically and personally for the future, too, if he can accomplish that. Call Trump an “alpha male” if you wish, but real alpha men don’t need to do this, although narcissistic bullies do (I wrote previously on the subject of whether Trump is an alpha male here). And I don’t care how many times Trump’s kids say what a nice guy he is. He may be nice to them, and he may be nice to those who show him the proper obeisance, but to anyone who crosses him he is not only out to criticize but to humiliate and destroy them, if possible.

Now, many politicians are vindictive or fond of showing subordinates that they’re the boss. LBJ was famously the latter, for example (as well as coarse), sometimes liking to receive people while sitting on the toilet in order to demonstrate his dominance over them. But he did this to aides rather than enemies, it certainly wasn’t done in public, and it didn’t involve vicious slurs on their wives or fathers. Here’s the way it went:

LBJ was well-known (although the stories only came out publicly some time after his presidency was over) for insisting that aides accompany him to the toilet, where he continued to talk to them. It was a sort of test:

Johnson also upset aides with his habit of adjourning a conversation to the bathroom when the need arose. Those who were reluctant to follow him to the toilet were a source of great amusement to him. He frequently recounted a story about “one of the delicate Kennedyites who came into the bathroom with me and then found it utterly impossible to look at me while I sat there on the toilet. You’d think he had never seen those parts of the body before. For there he was, standing as far away from me as he possibly could, keeping his back toward me the whole time, trying to carry on a conversation. I could barely hear a word he said. I kept straining my ears and then finally I asked him to come a little closer to me. Then began the most ludicrous scene I had ever witnessed. Instead of simply turning around and walking over to me, he kept his face away from me and walked backward, one rickety step at a time. For a moment there I thought he was going to run right into me. It certainly made me wonder how that man had made it so far in the world.”

Trump doesn’t invite aides into the toilet, as far as I can see. What he does instead is public and libelous. It seems he cannot resist grinding into the dirt those people he thinks have consistently opposed him, and he doesn’t care how dirty he becomes in the process. Yes, “he fights,” and that’s something the GOP has needed for a long, long time. But there are ways to fight and targets to choose, and this just makes him look bad, petty, and even crazy—solidifying the perception (right or wrong) among many people that he’s a loose cannon with poor impulse control. That’s not what’s wanted in a president.

Cruz is gambling that taking the high road and also keeping away from an endorsement of Trump will hold him in good stead, four years from now.

[NOTE: See also this.]

July 23rd, 2016

Munich: terrorists targeting children

So, was the Munich gunman an Islamist terrorist, or a crazy guy who wanted to imitate school shootings, or a “German” who hated foreigners (despite his Iranian origins)? It’s pretty clear to me that the German authorities really don’t know yet, if in fact they’ll ever know (the gunman committed suicide). Plus, I wouldn’t necessarily trust them to tell us if they did know.

In fact, right now I’m going to assume that it was some hybrid of at least two of those things, probably Islamic terrorist-inspired crazy person who imitated other shooting sprees. So far they’re saying the shooter, a 18-year old Iranian-German (whatever that means), was named Ali Sonboly, that he had once been treated for depression, that he had read a book about school shootings, that he may have yelled the usual Muslim profession of faith during the shooting spree, and that he may have set up some victims by luring them to MacDonalds with a Facebook post about free food there.

Authorities say they not know his motives, and it also seems very unclear which reports of his behavior are true and which are unsubstantiated rumors. And if Sonboly was a homicidal maniac or psychopathic school shooter a la Adam Lanza at Newtown, for example, why then did he not target a school? Plus, although two of his victims were 13 years old, the rest were older.

German-Iranians can be homicidal maniacs, too, I suppose, without being political. It is also the case that overt ties with Islamist terrorist groups (or other terrorist groups, for that matter) are not necessary for a person to be motivated by admiration for them and unofficial affiliation with them. In the case of Sonboly’s attack, the police are analyzing “a video in which the gunman is seen and heard exchanging racial slurs and profanities with another man. ‘We are trying to determine who said what,’ a police spokesman said.” One thing you can say about the ubiquity of cell phones these days—they certainly offer a lot of forensic evidence to analyze.

In case Sonboly really did purposely target young people, either as an Islamic terrorist or anti-foreign terrorist or as a rampage murderer, or as some combination of several, I’m going to repeat a portion of a post I wrote on the occasion of the Newtown shootings, on the subject of the targeting of children:

As for the question of, “why did the Newtown shooter [Lanza] choose very young children as his targets?”, my answer would be that in many such cases it’s in order to maximize the evil and the resultant horror and revulsion…

As time goes on and more information is revealed, I may change my mind about this, but until then my leading theory is what I’ve come to think of as the Pied Piper Impulse…[I]f a person is filled with inchoate rage at almost everything and everyone in the town around him, what better way to exact revenge then to kill the town’s youngest, sweetest, cutest, most beloved, and most vulnerable residents—its…children? And what better way to impress on the world what a cold-blooded and to-be-feared killer he is/(was)?

Child-killers, even serial child-killers, usually operate from very different motives than a mass killer such as Lanza. They are often pedophilic kidnapper-rapists who then murder their victims. Other single or multiple child-killers are harshly punitive parents and/or parents gone mad. But mass murderers of children often have a political agenda which we define as terrorist (for example, the Beslan horror, in which terrorists caused the death of over 300 people, many of them children of similar age as the victims in Newtown; and the shootings in Norway in which Breivik killed 77 people, most of them teenagers). Terrorists seem to operate under the Pied Piper Impulse of “get them where it hurts” in order to maximize both their leverage and the fear and grief their acts engender.

July 22nd, 2016

Between 6 and 15 people reported to have been shot and killed in Munich shopping center

[See UPDATES below]

Details still emerging, but here’s what we know so far. The reports seem to indicate there were probably three gunman. Unfortunately (very unfortunately), they are at large:

Tonight, Munich police tweeted: “We currently do not know where to find the perpetrators. Watch yourself and avoid to be the public.”

Obviously a bad translation, but you get the idea.

I haven’t seen a word that reflects on whether this is Islamic terrorism or not, but it’s an excellent excellent bet.

In addition, there’s this:

The shopping centre is next to the Munich Olympic Stadium, where the Palestinian militant group Black September took 11 Israeli athletes hostage and eventually killed them during the 1972 Olympic Games.

They weren’t taken hostage in the stadium, it was in their living quarters, but I’m not even sure that building remains intact; it might have been temporary. Nor do I know whether this proximity is meant to be symbolic, or whether it’s a coincidence.

In a personal note, yesterday I went into a medical office and noticed a sign on the door that said no firearms were allowed. It startled me, as these signs (once so innocuous-seeming) have done now for many years. The sign might just as well read: killers, let it be known that there are a bunch of vulnerable defenseless people in here. Sitting ducks.

UPDATE 5:25 PM

The police are calling it “terrorism,” but it’s unclear what variety of terrorist might be involved. Reports differ widely, some indicating right-wing anti-immigrant terrorism and some indicating Islamic terrorism.

Fog of war quite heavy right now.

UPDATE 5:45 PM

I don’t know whether this is correct or not—so many different stories are coming out—but the latest report indicates Islamic terrorism and the targeting of children:

A gunman shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ opened fire at children in McDonald’s before rampaging through a shopping mall, killing at least eight people.

Munich is in lockdown tonight, as a major police operation is ongoing around the city’s Olympic Park, with the force warning people to stay in their homes and avoid public spaces.

A ninth body has been found tonight and investigators are looking into the possibility of it being the attacker.

Terrified shoppers were seen running for their lives from the Munich Olympia Shopping Centre, in the district of Moosach, after hearing gunshots.

Witnesses said that the gunman screamed ‘I’m German’ and ‘Allahu Akbar’ before shooting at children.

July 22nd, 2016

Will Hillary’s Veep be Kaine?

Is Kaine, the Democratic senator from Virginia, going to be Hillary’s VP pick? Signs point to it:

After an extensive, months-long process during which the campaign considered a host of different options — even vetting a serious candidate from outside the political arena — the squeaky-clean Virginia senator, whose biggest liability to emerge was that he was boring, is emerging as Clinton’s top choice. Kaine has been urged along by two men familiar with the demands of the job: President Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton, those close to the process say.

And after Donald Trump’s somewhat more polished performance Thursday night, even Democrats who had been pushing for a flashier choice like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker were sobered by the challenging four months ahead. “After last night, she needs to make the safest choice possible,” said a former senior White House aide.

“Safe” seems to be Kaine’s middle name.

This does not appear to be a charismatic person. I think Hillary needs a charismatic person, but then again, she may not want the contrast to be too great.

There’s already a Kaine Mutiny brewing, though:

A liberal group is urging Hillary Clinton not to select Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) as her running mate because of his positions on trade and banking regulation.

“Making Senator Tim Kaine our vice presidential candidate could be potentially disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump this fall,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America. The group had endorsed Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary…

Chamberlain criticized Kaine for voting for fast-track authority for the “job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership.” He also argued that Kaine has participated in a “push for bank deregulation.”

I don’t see this choice as mattering either way for Clinton. People have very firmly set ideas about her already.

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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