November 28th, 2015

Do they also serve who only stand and blog?

My friend and fellow-blogger Bookworm had this to say about the work of a blogger:

There is probably no higher expression of patriotism than the willingness to serve in your nation’s military. I serve my nation sitting in my warm little office in front of a computer, trying to convince a handful of Marin liberals that they’re wrong.

That second line made me chuckle, as it was meant to. I do about the same as Bookworm does, but with a few differences. I don’t have an office. I don’t sit at my computer; I stand (bad back). I’m not in Marin. And the vast majority of my friends don’t read my blog, although they know it exists. So, who am I trying to convince that they’re wrong?

I suppose that every now and then a liberal crosses paths with this blog. Do any get convinced of anything different by reading it? If they have, they’ve never seen fit to email me and tell me about it. I’ve heard that some of my readers send email links to my posts to liberal friends of theirs, so there’s that. But mostly I write because it helps when dealing with what a dear friend of mine refers to as my “seething cranium.”

What good does a blog do? When I began blogging, I wanted to tell my change story. I’ve done that. I also wanted to provide a forum for other changers. I’ve done that. I wanted to provide a forum in the comments section for like-minded (and not so like-minded) people. I’ve done that.

I find that as I research and write, it helps me sort my thoughts out on my topic of choice. And as things have gotten worse in the world in the ten years (10 years; nearly 11!!) since I’ve been blogging, it helps to exchange ideas and reactions with other people. Does it do any good? I think so; I hope so, because I’ve certainly spent a lot of hours on it. There are over ten thousand posts on this blog, some of them very long.

When I started this blog, I was writing almost entirely to myself and for myself. I was surprised when I got any readers at all, and then even more surprised when my readership started to build. It’s still meaningful and important to me, but does the blog matter in the larger scheme of things? I have no idea. We bloggers type our little letters to the world, hit the “publish” button, and send the word out.

As I do now.

[NOTE: The title of this post is from the last line of this Milton sonnet.]

November 28th, 2015

Polling the refugees: getting to know you

Ever wondered what the majority of Syrian refugees think about terrorists, and what they think about the US? Here are some very chilling answers (the numbers are taken from this poll):

When Syrian refugees were asked to list the greatest threat, 29 percent picked Iran, 22 percent picked Israel and 19 percent picked America. Only 10 percent viewed Islamic terrorism as a great threat.

By way of comparison, twice as many Iraqis see Islamic terrorism as a threat than Syrians do and slightly more Palestinian Arabs view Islamic terrorism as a threat than Syrians do. These are terrible numbers.

Thirty-seven percent of Syrian refugees oppose US airstrikes on ISIS. 33% oppose the objective of destroying ISIS.

And these are the people whom our politicians would have us believe are “fleeing an ISIS Holocaust.”

Remember, these are the refugees, not just Syrians in general. No doubt those doing the vaunted vetting of the refugees who come here would say that of course, only those Syrians who agree that ISIS should be destroyed are allowed to come here. But—as author Greenfield points out—why would the high percentage of Syrian refugees who support ISIS and the even larger number who hate the US mention those pesky facts during the vetting process to come here? And even though they hate the US, there’s no reason they wouldn’t want to come to the belly of the beast to wreak some havoc.

No, it’s not the majority, of course. But it hardly strains the imagination at all to envision that a significant number could easily dissemble about their feelings in order to stir up trouble here, both minor and major.

November 28th, 2015

The newest Trump flap

I hadn’t read much about the latest Trump insult-and-denial, the supposed mocking of a disabled reporter. I figured it wouldn’t change my point of view either way: I have no problem believing that Trump would crudely mock the disability of a person he had reason to be annoyed with—after all, crude mockery is one of his favorite ploys. And I have no problem believing that the MSM would exaggerate and misrepresent some gesture of Trump’s in order to try to discredit him. As I’ve said countless times, I don’t support Trump and hope his star fades and someone else gets the nomination.

But today I decided to read what Powerline’s Scott Johnson had to say about the incident, and it seems to me that there’s a distant possibility that Trump’s denial is an unusually blatant lie by Trump. I don’t know, of course, but Johnson makes a strong case for it:

On Tuesday, Trump mocked Kovaleski’s retreat from his 2001 story. Kovaleski has a congenital condition called arthrogryposis that limits the movement of joints. At a campaign rally on Tuesday, flailed his arms in apparent mockery of Kovaleski’s movements. “Now the poor guy, you ought to see the guy,” he said as he gestured …

Called on his performance after the event, Trump denied mocking Kovaleski’s disability. In his trademark style, he colorfully asserted that he knew anything personal about Kovaleski: “I have no idea who this reporter, Serge Kovalski is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence,” Trump said in a statement Thursday, misspelling the maligned reporter’s last name. “I don’t know if he is J.J. Watt or Muhammad Ali in his prime — or somebody of less athletic or physical ability.”

Kovaleski, on the other hand, said he got to know Trump well in the course of his career. In an interview with the Times on Thursday, Kovaleski said that he met with Trump repeatedly when he was a reporter for the New York Daily News covering Trump’s business career in the late 1980s, before joining the Post. “Donald and I were on a first-name basis for years,” Kovaleski said. “I’ve interviewed him in his office,” he added. “I’ve talked to him at press conferences. All in all, I would say around a dozen times, I’ve interacted with him as a reporter while I was at The Daily News.” I’m sure it was more memorable for Kovaleski than for Trump, but that’s Kovaleski’s testimony.

My guess is that this incident will not matter, just as so many others involving Trump do not matter. Trump’s opponents (count me as one) already know enough about the man. Trump’s supporters will either ignore the incident, disbelieve Kovaleski and believe Trump, say they don’t care enough for it to matter, or admire him for it.

[NOTE: Yes, I should start a “Trump” category, but I’m resisting for now.]

November 28th, 2015

Shooting at Planned Parenthood

We still know very little about the background and motive to the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado yesterday. The suspect is in custody and three people are dead, including a police officer.

It is easy to speculate that the gunman was someone on the order of a case I (purely by coincidence) wrote about yesterday, that of the assassination of abortion doctor George Tillman by an anti-abortion killer. Or it could be one of those where the shooter is essentially, to use the vernacular, crazy. Or something else. We simply don’t know, but just about everyone can agree that it is deplorable.

And that’s where it stands at the moment.

November 27th, 2015

The MSM presents the GOP as being in an uproar about Trump

And perhaps, for once, the MSM is correct (see this sort of thing).

Since Trump’s candidacy began, I’ve certainly been distressed by his popularity, and I’m hardly a GOP insider, mover, or shaker.

But two things continue to tell me that Trump is not necessarily going anywhere. The first is the actual total of his support in terms of the whole; it remains low. As other candidates drop out, will they go to Trump? This is actually a three-part question:

Will other candidates drop out?
If so, when?
To which candidates will their supporters turn?

The answer to the first question is probably “yes.” Money is a limiting factor for many.

The answer to the second is unknown, and that will affect how many delegates are won by each remaining candidate during the primaries. I’ve read many articles trying to figure out what’s likely to happen, and they contradict each other. My opinion is that this is something that is truly unknown.

The answer to the third is a tentative one, but I would say that it is probably not Trump to whom many of them would turn. It makes sense to think that establishment candidates such as Bush and Kasich, or someone moderate like Christie, mostly have supporters who would support an alternative candidate other than Trump. The key to this idea is that Trump’s negatives are unusually high, and he is not the second choice of most Republican primary voters. That last bit is the statistic that could end up mattering a great deal, although if enough candidates drop out, it also will matter who their supporters end up choosing third or fourth or even fifth.

In many previous posts I’ve made no secret of my disapproval of Trump as a candidate or as a possible nominee; no need to go into that again right now. But in addition to my concern if he were to be nominated, I would probably be even more concerned if he ran third party and acted as spoiler. I believe that he, much like Ross Perot before him, would guarantee the election of a Clinton.

November 27th, 2015

Turkey soup…

…is being made.

On the other hand, I had chips and guacamole for breakfast. What about you?

November 27th, 2015

Counting terrorist attacks: what does the FBI say?

The FBI keeps statistics on terrorist attacks within the US, and yesterday commenter “japan” brought up the fact that, when they count number of attacks in the last couple of decades, the vast majority have not been committed by Muslims.

Which is, of course, an irrelevant statistic, although it sounds good if you want to make the point that Islamic terrorism in this country is no big deal, and what we really have to fear are the natives.

What’s wrong with trying to use the statistics, which begin in 1980 (and seem to end in 2005 on the only such FBI list I could find online) to prove much of anything about Islamic terrorism and its incidence? Let me count some of the ways.

Before 9/11, there were very few Islamic terrorist attacks on US soil, but they have increased since then. Starting in 1980 skews the numbers to begin with.

The Muslim population of the US until quite recently was infinitesimal, and it is still very small compared to, for example, the number of white people (the group from whom white supremacists—perpetrators of many other acts labeled “terrorist”—come). So statistics that make no attempt to account for that can be very misleading.

There have been many Islamic terrorist attacks against the US or US citizens abroad, and they do not appear in the statistics.

Counting the number of attacks and comparing that number is meaningless unless the attacks are broken down by type and severity, including number of people killed and injured. A planned attack to place a smoke bomb somewhere and destroy some property, and where no one was injured nor was anyone intended to be injured, is malicious and needs to be prosecuted, of course, and if it is perpetrated by a political group intending to intimidate I assume it’s correct to call it a terrorist act. But to count that as one attack and the 9/11 attacks as one (or even three, with the three venues being NY, DC, and PA) is a preposterously and outrageously false equivalence. Common sense dictates that, but whoever said that government agencies, or propagandists, demonstrate common sense?

The chart I linked to doesn’t give all that many details, although it is somewhat helpful. More helpful, though, if you want to understand the problem with equating all acts as equal, would be to look at the terrorist acts actually perpetrated by “Jewish extremist groups,” which essentially means the Jewish Defense League many decades ago. See this to get a sense of what most of these acts were, and when they were committed. The vast majority were quite minor, and were committed in the 70s and 80s. Virtually all of the more serious ones (there were only a couple of those) were suspected to have been committed by JDL members members but never proven to have been.

Consider, also, that Ft. Hood was not officially considered a Muslim terrorist act by the FBI–it was workplace violence (see this):

The U.S. government declined requests from survivors and family members of the slain to categorize the Fort Hood shooting as an act of terrorism, or motivated by militant Islamic religious convictions. In November 2011, a group of survivors and family members filed a lawsuit against the government for negligence in preventing the attack, and to force the government to classify the shootings as terrorism. The Pentagon argued that charging Hasan with terrorism was not possible within the military justice system and that such action could harm the military prosecutors’ ability to sustain a guilty verdict against Hasan.

By the way, if you’re curious to know how the FBI does define terrorism, this is it:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

At the FBI’s own site, there’s also a page that lists links to major terrorism cases of the last few decades. They are overwhelmingly by Muslims, especially since 9/11. And of course, 9/11 still is enormous in terms of damage done and death toll. Nothing even remotely compares, and it basically represents the start of the era of the most serious threats by Muslim terrorists in the US. Prior to 9/11, the big terrorist attacks were by the Unibomber and of course, the left’s favorite home-grown example, Tim McVeigh and accomplices in Oklahoma City—which was indeed a very large-scale and terribly lethal domestic non-Muslim terrorist attack.

All these FBI statistics might be meaningful to the FBI, and to the government in making the propaganda points it currently wishes to make. But they say very little about the relative seriousness of different terrorist groups in the US in terms of scope and danger to human life.

Another point of interest is how non-Muslim terrorist acts are classified. For example, what is a right-wing terrorist group? White supremacists are a category responsible for many domestic terrorist acts, and they are counted as being on the right (follow that link for a very helpful chart), although very often they don’t espouse the principles of the right. Perpetrators such as Dylan Roof, a crazy drug-addled white supremacist who hated blacks and liked the Confederate flag are automatically considered to be on the right even though what I’ve just described was about the sum total of his politics. Many of these are simply anti-government, or are often neo-Nazis or Nazi admirers. Here’s one who was fairly typical, a crazy white supremacist racist reacting with anger to something. Hardly what we think of as a terrorist act or a member of the right:

In 2009, Robert Poplawski killed three police officers who responded to a domestic dispute call at his mother’s house where he was living. Poplawski frequented white supremacist websites and expressed anti-government and racist views. Poplawski was reportedly lying in wait and ambushed the responding officers.

When you get rid of all the white supremacist neo-Nazis, all that seems to remain of this “right-wing terrorist” group are people like the killer of George Tiller, a terrorist (or rather, assassin, which is somewhat different) who was anti-abortion, a bona fide cause of the right as opposed to white supremacy. He was also fiercely anti government, and mentally ill. How is a guy who’s basically an anarchist considered to be on the right? Anarchists defy classification, and the attempt to shoehorn some of them into the left and some into the right is a doomed one, because anarchists are not part of either group.

In sum: everyone intuitively understands that a manic-depressive white supremacist who tries to hurt his mother and then kills police officers who comes to answer the domestic violence call is a dangerous murderer. But everyone also understands that classifying the act of such a person as of the same type and magnitude as the destruction of the World Trade Center by jihadists is a travesty.

November 27th, 2015

Black Friday. Deals. Amazon.

Today is Black Friday, which means not only that you might be eating some turkey leftovers, but that it’s now only about a month to Christmas. It also means there are sales at Amazon, and that if you click on this link and buy something, I’ll be receiving a percentage and it won’t cost you a penny more than it otherwise would have. It’s like a free donation to neo-neocon.

Another way to do it is to click on any of the Amazon widgets on the blog’s right sidebar to get to Amazon and place your orders. In case you have ad blocker or something of that sort, and the Amazon widgets don’t show up on your computer, go here. You can also click on any Amazon book link within a post and anything you order during that click-through gets credited to me. I believe it’s true even for things you put in your cart but don’t order till a bit later, although there’s a time limit on how long they can be there and still get credited when ordered (I’m not sure what that limit is, though, so best to order sooner rather than later).


November 26th, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!


I happen to like Thanksgiving. Always have. It’s a holiday for anyone and everyone in this country—except, of course, people who hate turkey. There are quite a few of those curmudgeonly folks, but I’m happy to report I’m not one of them. Even if the turkey ends up dry and overcooked, it’s nothing that a little gravy and cranberry sauce can’t fix. And although the turkey is the centerpiece, it’s the accompaniments that make the meal.

My theory on turkeys is that they’re like children: you coax them along and just do the best you can, but as long as you don’t utterly ruin or abuse them, they have their own innate characteristics that will manifest in the end. A dry and tough bird will be a dry and tough bird despite all that draping in fat-soaked cheesecloth, a tender and tasty one will withstand a certain amount of abuse.

One year my brother and I were cooking at my parents’ house and somehow we set the oven on “broil,” an error that was only discovered an hour before the turkey was due to be done. It was one of the best turkeys ever. Another time the turkey had turned deep bluish-purple on defrosting and was so hideous and dangerous-looking it had to be abandoned. Another terrible time, that has lived in infamy ever since, my mother decided turkey was passe and that we’d have steak on Thanksgiving.

Since I like to eat, I am drawn to the fact that Thanksgiving is a food-oriented holiday with a basic obligatory theme (turkey plus seasonal autumnal food) and almost infinite variations on that theme. Sweet potatoes? Absolutely—but oh, the myriad ways to make them, some revolting, some sublime. Pie? Of course, but what kind? And what to put on it, ice cream, whipped cream, or both?

For me, there are three traditional requirements—besides the turkey, of course. There has to be at least one pecan pie, although eating it in all its sickening sweetness can put an already-sated person right over the top. The cranberry sauce has to be made from fresh cranberries (it’s easy: cranberries, water, and sugar to taste, simmered on top of the stove till mushy and a bright deep red), and lots of it (it’s good on turkey sandwiches the next day, too).

The traditional stuffing in my family is non-traditional: a large quantity of cut-up Granny Smith apples cooked in fair amount of sherry as well as a ton of butter till a bit soft; and then mixed with prunes, almonds, and one Sara Lee poundcake reduced to crumbs by crushing with the hands.

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that has a theme that is vaguely religious—giving thanks—but has no specific religious affiliation. So it’s a holiday that unites. It’s one of the least commercial holidays as well, because it involves no presents. It’s a home-based holiday, which is good, too, except for those who don’t have relatives or friends to be with. One drawback is the terribly compressed travel time; I solve that by not usually traveling very far if I can possibly help it.

The main advantage to hosting the day is having leftovers left over. The main disadvantage to hosting the day is having leftovers left over.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, filled with friends and/or family of your choice, and just the right amount of leftovers!

[NOTE: This is a repeat of a previous post, slightly edited.]

November 25th, 2015

Yes, these attacks have a great deal to do with Islam

The current meme of the left that terrorist attacks “have nothing to do with Islam” is absurd on the face of it, an example of the tried and true Big Lie technique. And yet, as so often happens with Big Lies, if it’s repeated often enough it can come to seem to be the truth to many people. At this point, it is believed not just because all the smart people are saying it, but because all the nice, tolerant people are saying it (not those mean Republicans)—and by joining in the chorus, a person can feel nice and tolerant too.

The net result is that people are happy to deny that the emperor is naked, averting their eyes and chanting the PC mantra as the emperor strolls down the street in his birthday suit.

Some say that George Bush started this “terrorism has nothing to do with Islam” business right after 9/11. But he faced a very different situation than today—a country, a Congress, and a populace that was playing catch-up in learning about the menace of Islamist terrorism and what it really was capable of, a need to rally together all Americans in the wake of a terrorist attack that has still never been surpassed in its magnitude and daring, the very real fear of a backlash against innocent Muslims in the US, and the goal of gaining worldwide allies (including many Muslim countries) in fighting the country that had harbored Bin Laden, Afghanistan, as well as fighting Islamic terrorists as a whole.

That was a tall order. Bush had entered relatively unknown territory, and he needed to tread carefully. At the same time, his actions were strong and clear, and involved the willingness to wage war if necessary.

This could not be more different from the situation today. None of the current terrorist activities are a surprise anymore, after what we’ve seen since 9/11. There have been vanishingly few backlash attacks on innocent Muslims in this country. Obama isn’t waging war on countries that harbor terrorist training camps and headquarters (despite his intermittently tough talk of red lines) and therefore he doesn’t need those kind of allies—except, of course, our new loyal ally, Iran. As for rallying Americans together, his motto is divide and conquer.

Not only that, but Bush was never quite as naive as some might remember. In his first post-9/11 address to Congress, this is what he actually said (September 21, 2001). It’s a mixture of soft and hard-hitting; paragraph 3 of the quote I’ve selected shows him moving back and forth rapidly between the two [emphasis mine]:

Americans are asking: Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda. They are the same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for bombing the USS Cole.

Al Qaeda is to terror what the mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making money; its goal is remaking the world – and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.

The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics – a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam. The terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans, and make no distinction among military and civilians, including women and children.

This group and its leader – a person named Osama bin Laden – are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.

So, despite Bush’s “Islam is a peaceful religion” rhetoric, he correctly identified the terrorists as practicing a form of Islam. Bush also correctly described its aims as killing women, children, Christians, Jews, Americans, with the goal of “imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.”

Democrats have retreated from that sort of stark rhetoric. Instead, the idea that Islamic terrorists have nothing to do with Islam is shouted to the skies by a varied group of liberals intent on making a preposterous claim. As Mark Steyn writes, they’ve now retreated even from George Bush’s very careful tiptoeing around the issue:

Secretary Kerry doesn’t care what you name it as long as you don’t name it “Islam”. Because the not-naming of Islam is more important than the actual naming of whatever it is. Even the qualification that many have been careful to make over the years – of course, most Muslims aren’t terrorists but an awful lot of terrorists unfortunately happen to be Muslim – will no longer suffice. As President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton assures us:

Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.

So not only is terrorism nothing to do with Islam, but Muslims have “nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism”. She said this a few hours before yet another US citizen was killed by terrorists shouting “Allahu Akbar!” – this time in a mass slaughter at the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Mali. Hostages were given a stark choice: if they could recite from the Koran, they would live; if they were incapable of reciting from the Koran, they would die. So whoever these terrorists were – “you name it” – they knew enough about Islam to be able to recognize quotations from the Koran. Yet they can’t be Muslims because Muslims have “nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism”.

We’ve gone straight through the looking glass and then some.

Steyn continues:

So who does have something to do with terrorism? Republicans mainly. Republicans are the greatest recruiting tool for terrorism that has ever been devised – far more effective than jihadist snuff videos on social media. Just ask President Obama

So “Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism” except when Republicans goad them into it.

Read the whole thing. And read the whole text of Bush’s post-9/11 address to Congress while you’re at it. Compare and contrast to what we’re hearing now from most Democrats and this administration.

November 25th, 2015

Message from the Chief Rabbi of Belgium

A lot like the good old days:

There is a sense of fear in the streets, the Belgians understand that they too are targets of terror. Jews now pray in their homes [as opposed to at synagogues] and some of them are planning on emigrating,” Gigi said. “Since Shabbat the city has been paralyzed. The synagogues were closed, something which has not happened since World War Two. People are praying alone or are holding small minyanim [small prayer groups] at private homes. Schools and theaters are closed as are most large stores and public events are not permitted. We live in fear and wait for instructions from the police or the government,” he said.

I wonder, actually, what the Belgians thought would happen when they failed to culturally assimilate the Muslims they accepted into their country in such huge numbers. Assimilation is not a game; it means that newcomers should adopt the customs of their host country. It is paradoxical that espousing values of tolerance and freedom of religion in modern Europe encouraged countries to be sanguine about taking in so many immigrants who did not accept and adopt those values. The process has undermined the liberty and safety of all.

In the US, we used to do a lot better than that with assimilation. The melting pot may always have been somewhat of an unrealizable ideal, but we came fairly close to achieving it. A combination of factors has made things worse now, even in the US. The first is that we’ve lost pride in, and even knowledge of, our own culture and traditions and what makes the country so exceptional, and we’ve stopped insisting on transmitting them in the way we once did. For example, bilingual education may have sounded like a nice idea (although I never thought so), but it was always a bad one. The second factor is that Islam is a religion that’s more conceptually at war with liberty and tolerance than most modern religions. The third is that Islamic fundamentalism of a particularly strict and intolerant sort has become far more popular in recent decades, and has been purposely and aggressively spread by propaganda throughout much of the Muslim world.

November 25th, 2015

Did Rubio do something right on Obamacare?

Did a Rubio budget measure back in 2014 doom Obamacare?

Sen. Marco Rubio may have dealt the biggest blow in the GOP’s five-year war against ObamaCare.

A 2014 budget measure inspired by the Florida Republican and presidential hopeful is pushing some insurers to drop out of the ObamaCare exchanges, experts say.

“I think this is one of the most effective things they’ve done so far in terms of trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act,” Tim Jost, a healthcare law professor at Washington and Lee University, said of Republicans in Congress.

This fall, more than a dozen health insurers representing 800,000 people have dropped out of the ObamaCare exchanges, many out of fear that the administration no longer has the cash to cushion their losses in the costly early years of the marketplace.

Read the whole thing; see what you think.

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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