It’s Terrorism, People

Obama Administration

Do read this article about security at Planned Parenthood:

The advanced camera system was just one of the increasingly elaborate security measures that abortion clinics around the country have adopted. According to discussions heard on police scanners on Friday, when the attack occurred, at least one woman retreated to a protected “safe room.” The clinic also had a supply of bulletproof vests.


It Started With the Pilgrims


Here’s some holiday entertainment.

Happy Thanksgiving!


The Hallucinations Continue

Obama Administration

(Please consult Google maps if you’re unfamiliar with Manhattan). Now Trump is claiming that on September 11 he watched people jumping from the burning towers from his apartment. This would not be a fantastical claim, but his apartment is on the east side, between 56th and 57th, four miles or more from the Trade Center. I know for a fact you cannot see downtown from there, even from a 68-story high-rise. For a time after 9/11 I was working in an office tower on Madison between 48th and 49th, and you can’t see downtown from there.

On 9/11 I could see the towers clearly from West 17th between 7th and 8th avenues, but even from there I couldn’t make out bodies.


The Republican Crackup Continues

Obama Administration

They were crazy before the terrorist attacks in Paris. Since then, it’s like crazy on speed and steroids. And it seems to me that, at the moment, the entire Right is sorting itself into pro- and anti-Trump factions. You’re either fer the Donald, or you’re a RINO.

A comment on Hot Air sums it up:

At this point, I can’t think of a single thing that Trump could say that would keep me from voting for him. I want him to triple down on the PC police and stick it up their rears. The PC crap must be rejected NOW! And Trump is the one to start that process. PC is the antithesis of free speech which is the foundation of freedom. Who besides Trump, and especially if he is POTUS can do it? If he can do nothing more than to kill PC and the GOPe, I will be happy as a pig in slop and he will have done more than any politician in the past 100 yrs. The more PC incorrect he speaks, the better because it shows who has the balz and who are the hos of the GOPe and the CoC.

You remember Hot Air, the site founded by Little Lulu Malkin and written these days by Allahpundit, Ed Morrissey, Mary Katharine Ham and a few others. It used to be where the wingnuts went to get their hate speech talking points straight. Now Allahpundit is trying to explain to the plebes that no, there really weren’t thousands of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating in the streets on 9/11/01, as Trump claims he saw. But judging by the comments, most of the readers are not falling into line.  The heirs of Little Lulu are now RINOs and squishes, according to several commenters.

Trump is like the best wedge issue ever.

Some wealthy Republicans, alarmed that their once-reliable toady machine is running out of control, are spending millions to discredit The Donald. The problem is that what “discredits” Trump is exactly the stuff the mouth-breathers love about him. Steve M:

Oh, brilliant: You’re going to tell angry Republican voters that Trump really can’t deport all the undocumented immigrants and register all the Muslims, policies those angry voters desperately crave? While you’re at it, why not tell some pre-schoolers that there’s no Santa Claus? That’ll go over equally well.

This is one more reason we ought to raise taxes on the rich: because when it comes to spending money on politics, the rich have no damn sense. We need to save them from themselves.

Meanwhile, the “Third Way” crew is clinging to their sinking raft of “both sides are just as bad.” Charles Pierce on the Sunday Morning Bobblehead shows:

After a pretty good bipartisan dose of the old boogedy-boogedy, Dickerson brought out the panel, and we heard this from Ruth Marcus, scourge of teenaged potty-mouths everywhere.

“This was a very ugly week for Republicans in terms of their response on refugees and I think it was something that was exacerbated by the failure of President Obama to explain to people that we weren’t crazy to be nervous but to understand their nervousness and to explain it away.”

​ Holy Third Way No Labels! If that isn’t the perfect distillation of the vaporlock caused by Beltway conventional wisdom, I don’t know what is. (It’s even worse than the hairball Fournier coughed up on the same subject, over at the Overlook Hotel, where my man Chuck Todd always has been the caretaker.) Apparently, it either has escaped Ruth’s notice, or she thinks it’s impolite to mention, that the Republican party is completely out of its mind, and that its current front-runner, the Libidinous Visitor, is one step away from invading Ethiopia. How in Broder’s name is the president in anyway responsible for the xenophobic rantings of a party gone mad? I know the president has mad Kenyan telepathic skillz, but what precisely would Ruth have him say? “Only worry a little, Americans. We are extremely unlikely to be overrun by exploding Syrian toddlers”? Jesus, these people …

Speaking of toddlers, do you realize that so far this year more Americans have been shot to death by toddlers than have been killed by jihadis?

Nate Silver reassures us that Trump can’t become POTUS.

Right now, he has 25 to 30 percent of the vote in polls among the roughly 25 percent of Americans who identify as Republican. (That’s something like 6 to 8 percent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.) As the rest of the field consolidates around him, Trump will need to gain additional support to win the nomination. That might not be easy, since some Trump actions that appeal to a faction of the Republican electorate may alienate the rest of it. Trump’s favorability ratings are middling among Republicans (and awful among the broader electorate).

News media are confounded by The Donald. They have long politely overlooked conventional lies, such as claims that cutting taxes will reduce the federal budget or that Democrats hate Jesus. Now they’re covering a national candidate who is spewing lies at unprecedented rates (except perhaps by Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, both of whom seem to be fading).  If someone bravely corrects The Donald and explains that what he is saying is demonstrably, verifiably, I’ve got it right here in black and white not true, he just repeats his lie even more loudly.

And people like the Hot Air commenter eat it up, because he is showing them the universe as they want it to be. They’re not going to give that up easily.


ISIS and the Teabaggers

Obama Administration

Andrew O’Hehir may be the only good reason to read Salon any more, but he’s a really good reason. The latest article begins,

Amid all the terror and panic and xenophobic hysteria of the Paris aftermath — which seems to have set the dial on the political Way-Back Machine to about 2002, at least for now — Republicans actually have a point. Maybe it’s half a point, because when Donald Trump or Ted Cruz (or Marine Le Pen) raise the contested question of whether Islam is compatible with democracy, they don’t really understand the basic terms of the question, let alone where it leads. …

,,,It gives me absolutely no pleasure to insist that on this question, as on others, the Islamist militants of ISIS and the anti-Islamic Western right have reached the same conclusion. To put it more bluntly, every major Republican presidential candidate (excepting one or two of Jeb Bush’s multiple personalities) largely subscribes to the political and philosophical worldview of ISIS, except when it comes to final eschatological questions about who ends up in Paradise.

Indeed, in both cases the idea that Islam and democracy are incompatible is more like an essential premise than a conclusion, and the kinship goes much deeper than that. Both sides begin with the same diagnosis, which is that Western civilization faces a fundamental, existential crisis, and arrive at closely allied prescriptions aimed at producing closely related outcomes. In one case, Western democracy is seen as a corrupt and decadent sham that will simply be destroyed (and perhaps, in some fantasy future, subjugated to Islamic rule). In the other, Western democracy is corrupt and decadent and so on, and it must be destroyed in order to save it.

Lots of people analyzing the GOP meltdown over terrorism have pointed out that ISIS wants us to be afraid; it wants us to be mean to the Syrian refugees and order up more drones and generally give the Middle East more reasons to hate us. That is why they do what they do. Terrorism is public relations.

This point about the ideological marriage of ISIS and the Republicans has been made in various ways by various commentators since the Paris attacks — I made it myself in the immediate aftermath, even if I “buried the lede” — but I don’t think it can be restated often enough. Strategists of the Islamic State want Western regimes to persecute and marginalize Muslim citizens, crack down on immigration and squander their financial and political capital on a military response that is unlikely to produce a clear-cut victory and highly likely to harden anti-Western attitudes in the Islamic world. A similar approach worked brilliantly for Osama bin Laden in 2001 — better than he expected, I would guess — and ISIS possesses a far more sophisticated understanding of Western politics and culture than Osama and the old-school al-Qaida leadership ever did.

Today’s Right also is opposed to democracy, except perhaps as it existed in the late 18th century — as government of, by and for white property-owning males. How conscious the Republicans are of their own motivations I do not know. By now the Right loves its buzzwords — freedom! — but doesn’t love or even understand what the words stand for.

As strange as this may sound, I do not doubt the faith that lies behind the right-wing distaste for democracy, or at least no more than I doubt the conflicted zealotry that lies behind militant Islam. Both sides correctly observe that the various strains of post-Jeffersonian democracy in the Western world have been plagued with problems from the beginning, and now face a dire crisis. Both the Western right and fundamentalist Islam yearn to pull their societies back toward a purer distillation of faith and a collective sense of purpose, and what could serve that purpose better than an apocalyptic “clash of civilizations”? They see the salvation of their respective societies in the rejection of the flabby ideal of democracy, explicitly or otherwise, and its replacement with a more virile, more godly and more effective system.

Yeah, pretty much.


The Least of Their Problems

Obama Administration

News from my state-of-origin: Missouri governor Jay Nixon (D) has declared he will not block Syrian refugees from entering the state. This inspired the state legislature (WTF) to weep and wail and stampede into the Missouri River like frightened antelope, except they didn’t drown, darn it.

After drying himself off, one legislator penned the following letter calling for a special session to consider what to do about the “potential Islamization of Missouri.” I reproduce it here in full, bad grammar and all:

Governor Nixon seems intent on allowing the relocation of Syrian refugees in Missouri.

I do realize that the refugees we should be scrutinizing most is one who professes the muslim faith. Unless I’m mistaken, a practicing muslim can do whatever is necessary for the “good” of the faith – telling “fibs” is a smallpart of what they might do. And, from what I’ve seen, a practicing muslim comes in all flavors (black, white, brown, yellow – American, African, European, etc. etc.). A “white” lie could allow an individual to pass through the vetting process.

In this instance, we cannot afford to be too careful – especially given the fact that immigration officials report they cannot properly vet the refugees (before or after they’ve entered the country).

If my information is correct, Afghan refugees sent to Pakistani and Iranian refugee camps returned to their homeland when it was safe to do so. I see no reason not to follow that example because once they’re on U.S. soil they’d have no reason to leave. Our preference, as a nation, should be to place the refugees in camps so that they can be properly cared for and returned safely home when the time is right.

Unless appropriate legislative action is taken, Governor Nixon may very well proceed with the acceptance of the refugees. For the safety of Missourians, we can ill-afford to wait. I ask that you begin the process of calling the General Assembly into Special Session in order to tie the Governor’s hands, putting a stop to the potential Islamization of Missouri.

Mike Moon

Yes, he was oblivious enough to sign his name to that monstrosity. Remarkable.

First off, good luck trying to “Islamify” Missouri, terrorists. It’s got more conservative evangelical churches per square foot than New Jersey has traffic cones. But I’d personally rather take in hypothetical terrorists hiding among Syrian refugees than the terrorists already in Missouri’s borders — namely, the Missouri state legislature.

Awhile back, Andrew Cohen wrote (in The Missouri Legislature — Unhinged Again) —

What in the world is happening in Missouri? Don’t state lawmakers there have more important things to do with their time, and more practical causes to advance on behalf of their many constituents, than ginning up one unconstitutional piece of legislation after another? Is the political process in Jefferson City so hijacked by radicals that it cannot help itself?

Local journalist David Hudnall writes,

Despite the most corrupt ethics laws in the nation and a rising tide of tea-party gubment haters in the House and Senate, Missouri has mostly escaped national-laughingstock status.

(Missouri is really good at staying under the radar, possibly because it’s surrounded by Illinois, Iowa and Kansas, which tend to get more attention for various reasons.  Hardly anyone pays attention to Arkansas, either. )

Basically, whatever whackjob teabagger bills have been introduced anywhere in America have their counterparts in Missouri. They’ve tried to make it illegal to enforce federal laws in the state, especially those concerning guns and Obamacare., for example. They attempted a Stand-Your-Ground law on steroids that would have made it permissible to shoot someone for as mild an infraction as sitting in the wrong seats at Busch Stadium. They tried to make it a crime to even propose legislation that would reduce gun ownership.  I wouldn’t put it past them to pass a law arming toddlers before they can go to nursery school.

See also Gloria Shur Bilchik, who provides a medley of recent bills.

Somewhere in heaven, Mark Twain and Harry Truman are weeping.


Nursery School News

Obama Administration

At the same time they are hyperventilating about admitting Syrian refugees who might be terrorists, Republicans in Congress are opposing a bill that would block suspecting terrorists from buying guns in the U.S. Because they care more about their toys than anything else, I suppose.

Ben Carson’s campaign doesn’t know where all the states go on a U.S. map.

In the middle of an international crisis, Ted Cruz has a hissy fit and called on the POTUS to insult him to his face. I hope our President takes him up on that.

Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates continue to confuse bellicose chest-thumping with intelligent foreign policy.

Oh, and Gov. Kasich proposed a new government agency to promote Judeo-Christian values around the globe. If those are the same values that cause us to turn away desperate refugees, maybe we should can that. We might need shelter some day ourselves.


The Weird Geography of Fear

Obama Administration

Lots of a-fearing going on out there. I believe I’m seeing something that happened in the weeks and months after September 11 also. Well, in the years after September 11. And that is, the further away from an actual or likely target of terrorism, the more hysterically fearful people were about terrorism. I wrote about this in 2006:

If you understand the fear issue, then what I call Erin’s Paradox (named for my daughter because she noticed it, not because she has it) becomes more understandable. Erin’s Paradox says that the further away Americans live from any likely terrorist target, the more fearful they are of terrorism.

After 9/11 I kept reading about people out in the Midwest stampeding to buy firearms during the infamous Anthrax episode, for example. Yes, that does not make sense. I was working on Madison Avenue at the time and could see Rockefeller Center — where at least one actual anthrax letter was delivered, as I remember — from my office, yet somehow I was not struck with fear that I would be next.  Anyway, the 2006 post continued,

“Likely terrorist targets” are urban, and city dwellers learn to be comfortable with multiculturalism. If you live in some homogeneous little town out on the prairie, however, it’s more likely you are not comfortable with multiculturalism at all. Thus, dusky Islamic terrorists from unfathomable foreign places scare the stuffing out of them, much more so than the potential Timothy McVeigh wannabee next door.

 See also: White supremacists more dangerous to America than foreign terrorists, study says.

Of course, I’m spending most of my time in a temple with like-minded people, but I’m not personally seeing people having fear meltdowns. But, apparently, some are.

Charles Pierce looks at some of the hysteria out there.



Hate, Fear, and All That Stuff


Here is something I wrote over the weekend for the Buddhism website. Those of you who have read my book will recognize some of the themes.

See also Paul Krugman, Fearing Fear Itself.

Like millions of people, I’ve been obsessively following the news from Paris, putting aside other things to focus on the horror. It’s the natural human reaction. But let’s be clear: it’s also the reaction the terrorists want. And that’s something not everyone seems to understand.

Take, for example, Jeb Bush’s declaration that “this is an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization.” No, it isn’t. It’s an organized attempt to sow panic, which isn’t at all the same thing. And remarks like that, which blur that distinction and make terrorists seem more powerful than they are, just help the jihadists’ cause.

It would be really nice if the next President is someone who can find the Middle East on a map and recognize that all those Ferrin’ places over there are not just alike. For example, in the recent Republican debate, Toast! actually said  “If you’re a Christian, increasingly in Lebanon or Iraq or Syria, you’re gonna be beheaded.” To which some Lebanese responded, “Um, no, we’re not.”


Let’s Place Blame Where It’s Due

Bush Administration, September 11

While social and news media are, justifiably, focused on the terrorist attacks in Paris, let us not forget the incompetence that allowed 9/11 to happen. And then let us not forget how the Bush Administration’s spectacularly wrong-headed response helped create what happened in Paris yesterday.

That said, the new information on 9/11 isn’t entirely new. New details of how badly the Bushies botched national security in 2001 keep trickling out, but it’s been trickling out for a while. See this post I wrote in light of then-new information in 2012.

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