neo-neocon Fri, 26 May 2017 20:52:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Planning a new theme for the blog Fri, 26 May 2017 20:52:28 +0000 Some time during the next month or so I hope to unveil a new blog theme (template). My goal is to avoid some of the glitches I’ve been having with the old one, but also to improve the way the blog works on smartphones and pads, and make the column of the text wider (some people have complained that on their browser or computer it’s too narrow).

This will take me a while, because there are so many themes to choose from and the conversion has to be fine-tuned. I need assistance from my trusty tech-helper, who does this for free and in his spare time. So I make no promises as to when it will happen (or even if it will happen), but my plan is within about a month.

In the meantime, here are some questions for you—

Do you think it would be good to have just the first couple of sentences of each post show on the main page, and then have to click to go to the body of the post?

Do you think it would be good to have little photos for each post on the main page?

I’m sure there are other decisions for me to make in regard to this, but I can’t think of them at the moment. Any suggestions you have are welcome.

I want to keep the blog simple and clean, and I plan to keep the header photo of the books and the apple and the pointe shoes.

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Dueling presidents in Europe Fri, 26 May 2017 20:41:48 +0000 Ah, that Obama. Far be it from him to retire from the limelight and let his successor have his day. Coinciding with Trump’s trip to Europe, Obama has decided that it behooves him to go, too:

Merkel, the most powerful leader in Europe, first met Obama in Berlin discussing democracy and faith at the Brandenburg Gate, meters away from the path of the Cold War wall which once split the city, at an event hosted by the German protestant church.

Then she will be in Brussels where she will encounter Trump at the NATO summit. The current US president didn’t even shake her hand in her Oval Office visit in March. So Thursday’s meeting will be a chance for a do-over after their odd couple optics during her visit to Washington.

Note the “objective” way CNN covers this, repeating an absurd meme that the MSM was pushing during Merkel’s earlier visit despite the fact that Trump actually did shake her hand.

Speaking of coverage, it’s instructive to see the varying headlines on the current Obama-in-Europe story. CNN opts for the relatively neutral headline “1 day, 2 presidents: Merkel meets with Obama, then Trump.” The Guardian prefers “Trump debuts in Europe as Obama returns to stir nostalgia for the old days.” That’s probably the truth; much of Europe probably longs for Obama to return to office. The Guardian piece calls the confluence of the two trips “apparently unintentional,” and I suppose that may even be true (the Obama Foundation—there’s an Obama Foundation already?—claims that the invite came before the election).

The writers at the Guardian certainly miss Obama; the whole piece is drenched with yearning for the ex-president. And they are not alone:

Regarding Obama’s Berlin visit, the highpoint of a season of celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant church, the Leipziger Zeitung wrote that his presence in Germany would be like that of a “healer”.

“Already he is a painfully missed ex-president,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial, describing him as an “eloquent, charismatic preacher” – qualities it suggested were sorely lacking in Trump.

“Healer”—that’s pretty funny, actually.

The Daily Wire, on the other hand (not an Obama-friendly site) calls its article “So Sad: Pathetic ‘Look At Me’ Obama Tries To Upstage Trump’s First Trip Abroad.” Instead of suggesting that the visits are coincidental, based on the timing of the Merkel invite, it points out a lot of other “coincidences” on this trip:

Guess where the Obamas picked to “vacation” — at the exact time that Trump was meeting Pope Benedict [sic—it’s Pope Francis] in the Vatican and heading to Sicily for the G7? Yup. Italy…

Throughout Trump’s trip abroad — first in Saudi Arabia, then Israel, then Italy and now Belgium — the Obamas have been traipsing across Europe as well, drawing coverage and loving the spotlight. Obama made sure he would make the news on Tuesday — when Trump was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — just by taking a walk through Bolgona.

Well, if Obama’s in Europe taking a vacation, the press is going to follow him like a bunch of puppy dogs, whether he seeks them or not. But the following from Obama is very pointed and very much an attack on his successor:

In Berlin, as he does everywhere, Obama went into a full-throated defense of his failed presidency. And, of course, he railed against the man who succeeded him, saying “We can’t isolate ourselves. We can’t hide behind a wall.”

It’s also absurd. No one’s isolating us, and no one is “hiding behind” a wall. I hadn’t noticed Obama dispensing with his own Secret Service protection, either.

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The spin on Trump and NATO Fri, 26 May 2017 19:47:43 +0000 The headlines have been uniformly negative on Trump’s speech about NATO. It’s as though the MSM is relieved, after Trump’s successful Saudi speech, to have really bad things to say about him (not that they didn’t have bad things to say about his Saudi speech, too).

And although I don’t trust the MSM to fairly report things, when I saw that the Wall Street Journal’s headline for its editorial was similarly negative, I figured Trump really had made a terrible speech to NATO. The WSJ editorial was entitled “Trump Sells Out NATO!” But the subtitle read: “Well, no, but a Trump speech triggers another overwrought uproar.”

Aha, the WSJ being cute. I wonder how many people failed to read past the headline, though.


Donald Trump creates many of his own problems, but sometimes he can’t win no matter what he does. Consider the uproar on Thursday because the President supposedly did not explicitly endorse NATO’s Article 5 commitment that an attack on one ally is an attack on all…

Here is what Mr. Trump said in the third paragraph of his speech: “This ceremony is a day for both remembrance and resolve. We remember and mourn those nearly 3,000 innocent people who were brutally murdered by terrorists on September 11, 2001. Our NATO allies responded swiftly and decisively, invoking for the first time in its history the Article 5 collective defensive commitments.”…

…[L]et’s see: By speaking at an event commemorating Article 5, and explicitly citing and praising Article 5’s invocation on 9/11, Mr. Trump was really trying to send a message that he doesn’t believe in Article 5? Who knew Mr. Trump was capable of such messaging subtlety?…

It’s fair to whack Mr. Trump if he indulges his many bad instincts, but it serves no one other than Vladimir Putin to suggest without evidence that the U.S. won’t honor its NATO commitments—or to drive a wedge between allies simply to make Mr. Trump look bad.

Good luck with getting that message across to your MSM colleagues, WSJ editors. Not going to happen.

Most of the MSM is devoted to the approach of trying to make Trump look bad no matter what . But I think the press continues to risk having it backfire, because a great many (perhaps an ever-increasing number?) people now automatically discount what the MSM writes.

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Gianforte wins in Montana Fri, 26 May 2017 19:42:14 +0000 Ginaforte won, 50 to 44.

Why did he win, despite his being charged with misdemeanor assault? Some or all of the following:

(1) Two-thirds of the votes had already been cast, and so recent events had a limited ability to sway the result.

(2) Montanans think what he did is just fine.

(3) Montanans don’t like what he did, but they think it’s much less important than his politics.

(4) Montanans didn’t believe media reports of what happened, and think they were biased against Gianforte. Or they thnk he was set up.

As far as #4 goes, Gianforte certainly seems to be admitting wrongdoing. In his acceptance speech he said:

“When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it,” Gianforte told his supporters at his Election Night rally in Bozeman. “That’s the Montana way.”

Saying he was “not proud” of his behavior, he added, “I should not have responded the way I did, for that I’m sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I’m sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.”

I think that will probably be the end of it, except perhaps some sort of fine for misdemeanor assault.

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The news du jour: the Gianforte body slam Thu, 25 May 2017 20:44:55 +0000 I figure I ought to cover this story.

It’s the lead story at memeorandum and plenty of other places. The gist of it is that Montana Republican US House of Representatives candidate Greg Gianforte is reported to have body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. There were three Fox News reporters witnessing the incident (one of whom has slightly changed her story to make the assault a bit less violent), and Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

I can’t muster up too much to say about it, though, except the obvious. No footage seems to exist (which is odd because there’s footage of just about everything these days, and several reporters were present). Footage would be very important in evaluating any alleged assault, as we’ve learned many past experiences, because eyewitness testimony is inhernetly unreliable. That said, it certainly looks as though Gianforte snapped and was way out of line.

Reporters can be and often are obnoxious and intrusive and even invasive (of space, and of boundaries). But Gianforte is a candidate. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen before you reach the boiling point.

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British authorities ignored many warnings about the Manchester bomber Thu, 25 May 2017 20:12:37 +0000 Yesterday I wrote this:

In the case of Manchester terrorist Salman Abedi, there were warnings aplenty. But they were general, and amounted to mere speech of a suspicious nature, and it’s not surprising that nothing was done…

This is potentially dangerous behavior, but not actionable behavior except perhaps to call the person in for questioning or some sort of monitoring of activities. I’m not sure if even that was done in the case of Abedi, but I very much doubt it would have mattered had it been done. And there are just too many Abedis all over the Western world to monitor effectively, even if law enforcement wanted to do so and was allowed to do so.

Now we get more details on the warnings that authorities had received about Abedi prior to the bombing—and by “prior” I mean during the previous five years, when at least five warnings were called in on separate occasions from different people. That’s a lot of smoke indicating a fire:

Salman Abedi told friends that “being a suicide bomber was okay”, prompting them to call the Government’s anti-terrorism hotline…

The authorities were also aware that Abedi’s father was linked to a well-known militant Islamist group in Libya, which is proscribed in Britain. Abedi also had links to several British-based jihadis with Isil connections…

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: “People in the community expressed concerns about the way this man was behaving and reported it in the right way using the right channels.

“They did not hear anything since.”

Two friends of Abedi also became so worried they separately telephoned the police counter-terrorism hotline five years ago and again last year.

“They had been worried that ‘he was supporting terrorism’ and had expressed the view that ‘being a suicide bomber was ok’,” a source told the BBC.

Akram Ramadan, 49, part of the close-knit Libyan community in south Manchester, said Abedi had been banned from Didsbury Mosque after he had confronted the Imam who was delivering an anti-extremist sermon…

A US official also briefed that members of Abedi’s own family had contacted British police saying that he was “dangerous”, but again the information does not appear to have been acted upon.

I know there are just too many suspicious people, and reports of their suspicious behavior, for authorities to effectively “monitor” them all (whatever “monitoring” consists of in this day and age). But this is an outrage. This guy was a walking red flag, and basically nothing appears to have been done—not even questioning? At most there’s a single mention that he might have been put on a “watch list.”

Why do these hotlines even exist? Is it to reassure people that they are helping authorities to do something about it when in fact nothing is done? In other words, to give a false sense of security?

And what happens to those on such a “watch list”? If Amedi was on one, it apparently was one that was all “watch” and no action, because he was allowed to regularly travel back and forth to Libya despite it, and it is suspected he traveled from there to terrorist hot-spot Syria as well.

I wonder—did authorities even compile a file on Abedi linking all these reports, or was each call-in treated as disconnected from the others? It seems as though most of them came from the Muslim community in Britain, which would stand to reason would be the main and most valuable source of such complaints. In particular, if the story about Abedi’s being banned from the Didsbury mosque for protesting an anti-extremist sermon is true, that would be the reddest flag of them all.

Are authorities not allowed to do anything at all until someone has acted? Or do they do nothing out of fear of being accused of Islamophobia if they do something? Or are they simply overwhelmed by the numbers, because there are thousands and thousands of people with records just as suspicious as Abedi’s? And if Abedi had not been a citizen, would the reports about him have been treated more seriously, and if so in what manner?

As always, the question is what is the proper remedy for this situation. Non-citizens with terrorist sympathies could be deported (at least theoretically; I doubt we or Britain actually do very much of it), but citizens cannot. What’s more, with a hotline you have the problem of bogus grudge complaints phoned in with the goal of getting someone deported or in trouble, so authorities must authenticate the charges, which can be difficult.

Clearly, the problem is already more than authorities can handle or are willing to handle.

One commenter at this blog has suggested that Islamic terrorists should be treated less as criminals and more as enemies in a war. The problem is that citizens do have certain rights, and suspending them in the case of jihadi terrorist sympathizer citizens who have not yet committed any crimes leads to a dangerous situation where we could have a two-tier justice system.

I’m all for increasing the penalties for terrorist acts or plans for terrorist acts. But terrorist-sympathizing thoughts or words are a different matter. And if we use a warfare analogy, we could end up with domestic internment camps as in WWII. There is no way that is going to happen now.

Which brings us back to my question: what is the remedy? Is there one? One remedy would be to red flag people such as Amedi more readily, and institute more sting operations (including computer surveillence). But that would almost certainly involve the allocation of more resources towards the anti-terrorism activities of law enforcement, as well as the will to do it (which we seem to lack). Another remedy would be quicker deportation of non-citizens who are determined to be jihadi terrorist sympathizers or activists. It seems to me that every non-citizen is here as a guest of this country, and if the guests abuse that privilege they need to be shown the door.

[NOTE: If you can bear it, here are the names and photos of the Manchester victims and something about the life of each. It makes for heartbreaking reading.]

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Seeing through walls Thu, 25 May 2017 18:46:37 +0000 To tell you the truth, I assumed they could already do this sort of thing:

Routers scatter and bounce their signal off objects, illuminating our homes and offices like invisible light bulbs.

Now, German scientists have found a way to exploit this property to take holograms, or 3D photographs, of objects inside of a room – from outside of the room.

“It can basically scan a room with someone’s Wi-Fi transmission,” Philipp Holl, a 23-year-old undergraduate physics student at the Technical University of Munich, told Business Insider.

I can’t say I had thought it through to the extent that I had figured out how it could be done (wi-fi). But I was just assuming they already had very sophisticated devices to spy on people—and in fact for years they’ve already had a slightly different and less sweeping way of doing it, as the article points out. Obviously this type of technology can be used for better or for worse.

The technology is supposedly primitive as yet, but no doubt it will be improved. The images it creates at the moment remind me of the sonogram of my son when I was pregnant way way back when the practice was rather new. I saw just a crude outline of a shape. Nowadays, fetal sonograms are almost like portraits.

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Correction on yesterday’s post “A modern slave” Thu, 25 May 2017 18:26:46 +0000 Yesterday I wrote a post titled “A modern slave” about an article in the Atlantic. I had two articles on the subject open on my browser at the same time; not only were on the same subject, but they looked a bit alike, and unfortunately I linked to the wrong article.

So I wanted to correct that and say that this is the article I meant to link, and everything in that previous post refers to this article and not the other.

The text of the previous post is as follows (now with the correct link):

This a fascinating and deeply touching portrait of a situation that defies easy answers.

Was Lola, the woman described in the article, a “slave”? Let’s not worry about semantics. She was an abused servant whose life was hard, but who had an almost Zen-like philosophy and a great ability to create and give love. Though long, the article is well worth reading.

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Michelle Obama in Italy: fashion for ex-First Ladies Wed, 24 May 2017 20:17:21 +0000 Quite a few people have mentioned the stories fawning over Michelle Obama’s one shoulder blouse in Italy.

Here’s the blouse, in case you somehow missed this item of great and burning import:

That wasn’t all. There was also this, in the same vein:

First, let me re-establish my position on Michelle Obama and fashion, a topic I’ve written about before. Yes, much of the praise of Michelle is over-the-top, but so is much of the criticism. I’ve always found her to be an attractive woman with a good if imperfect figure, who’s a bit challenging to dress. Her pluses are her height and her upper body, particularly her fit-but-still-feminine arms (of which I think she’s justly proud). Sometimes she dresses beautifully in a way that accents her assets and minimizes her flaws (the latter are mainly on the bottom half of her figure). Sometimes her choices are unfortunate, to my way of thinking.

But for eight years she’s had to dress under constant scrutiny from both sides. That scrutiny will never go away. I’m not going to weep for her—it all came with enormous perks and great power, and she sought it and probably enjoys it very much. But still, I would wager she generally dressed a lot more conservatively than she wanted to a great deal of the time she was First Lady.

Now she gets to relax somewhat and be herself—or at least some public-but-private-citizen version of herself. And she probably wants to be trendier now and show off those shoulders.

But IMHO both blouses are very unflattering on her. They are difficult to wear styles, and best left to the young and waiflike. Michelle Obama is neither. I couldn’t pull off those blouses very well, either. Her ripped jeans, likewise. She looks like she’s trying to be a teen. One of her daughters would look great in those outfits, but not Michelle.

I am a bit like Michelle in that I can’t pull off ruffly fashions very well at all. I don’t know why, because I’m not masculine-looking, but I have a look that seems to require cleaner lines. And if there’s a print, it needs to be graphic. If flowers are in the print, they need to be large and dramatic. No little flowered numbers for me—they make me look like I’m in a housedress. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is.

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A modern slave Wed, 24 May 2017 19:56:47 +0000 [CORRECTION: This post contains a link to the wrong article. Please see this for the correction.]

This is a fascinating and deeply touching portrait of a situation that defies easy answers.

Was Lola, the woman described in the article, a “slave”? Let’s not worry about semantics. She was an abused servant whose life was hard, but who had an almost Zen-like philosophy and a great ability to create and give love. Though long, the article is well worth reading.

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