War on Terrorism/Torture

9/11 Plus 16 — What If Trump Was President?

Each year as 9/11 comes and goes, there is less added to the perspective. An entire generation is now politically aware, who cannot remember that horrible day.  Bizarre, to me.

We forget that Bush, like Trump, was in the infancy of his presidency. I remember thinking that he was over his head — partly because it was unprecedented, and partly because it was, frankly, Bush.

But at least he was surrounded (mostly) by smart people (mostly) and the crisis was handled deftly in the immediate days… until it became a war against Iraq (who did not attack us).

One wonders if the Trump Administration is prepared for something on that level. I suspect not, and I say that knowing that he has the benefit of a 9/11/ type attack no longer being “unprecedented”.  But consider this:

  • The White House is in constant disarray as key personnel are hired and fired at an unprecedented rate. One cost is that most basic measure of experience: days on the job. Another is an inability to forge sustained working relationships as colleagues are summarily dispatched in the manner of a reality-TV show. And how can those who remain do their best work when the boss at the top exhibits a management style that is as volatile and erratic as it is petty? Many dignified people have simply refused to consider working for him.
  • Huge numbers of important State Department positions are still unfilled, including key undersecretary positions; and the ability of the United States to conduct diplomacy or to draw on country-specific expertise seems to have atrophied.
  • The United States is crazy divided. And according to a recent Fox News poll, it isn’t just that a majority of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing—56 percent say that he is “tearing the country apart.”
  • The Trump Organization’s murky asset portfolio, with heavy investments in numerous foreign countries, and the Trump family’s refusal to divest from it, makes it impossible for congressional overseers or the public to adequately discern when the Trump family’s business interests diverge from America’s interests.

And none of this gets to Trump’s incompetency.

One HOPES that there is enough institutional competency such that a terrorist attack would not flummox us. After all, at this very moment, Texas is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma just trampled Florida.  And FEMA seems to be doing fine (Trump’s role seems to be limited to tweeting).

So maybe we can get by without Trump’s leadership, even in a 9/11-type event.

I just would prefer not to test that theory.

Another Terrorist Attack In London

Last night, a van with three people drove into a crowd of worshipers in Finsbury Park, a district in North London. One person was killed, ten were injured.

It was a terrorist attack, but not a typical one that garnishes worldwide press attention. Because this time, the terrorists were white and the targets were Muslim.

Here’s what is known so far:

— The driver of the van, a 48-year-old white man, was wrestled to the ground by people at the scene and held until police arrived. He has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, according to police.
— Muslim Welfare House CEO Toufik Kacimi said the attacker shouted “I did my bit, you deserve it.”
— Imam Mohammed Mahmoud of the Muslim Welfare House stopped an angry crowd from turning on the van driver, telling the furious mob: “Do not touch him.”  This will, and should, get much notice. The imam followed Islam and protected the man from the furious mob.
— Police have not named the man arrested, but the van bears the logo and phone number for Pontyclun Van Hire in south Wales.
— UK Security Minister Ben Wallace, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s World At One, said, “This individual, so far as we know at the moment, was not known to us.”
— All of the victims were from the Muslim community, police said.
— One man was found dead at the scene, according to police, but it’s not clear if he was killed during the attack. Police said he was already receiving first aid when the attack unfolded.
— Two people were treated at the scene, May said, and eight others have been taken to three hospitals. Two of them are seriously injured.
— Islington’s Seven Sisters Road, where the attack took place, is home to at least four mosques, and would have likely been filled with worshipers leaving late-night taraweeh prayers.
— The Islington borough of north London, of which Finsbury Park is a part, is home to a large Muslim community. Around 10% of the borough’s population is Muslim.
— It’s been nearly 24 hours and Trump and the White House have not talked about it.

Then there is this:

The death of a Virginia teenager who police say was assaulted and then disappeared after leaving a mosque in the Sterling area isn’t being investigated as a hate crime, authorities said Monday.

On Sunday, police found the girl’s remains and a 22-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with the case.

The mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, and relatives identified the girl as 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.

Fairfax County police identified the man charged with murder in her death as Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling. On Monday, they did not release any explanation as to why they weren’t investigating the murder as a hate crime.

Relatives identified the slain teen as Nabra Hassanen, 17, right, of Reston, seen in a social media post with a filter. (All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center)

According to accounts from police and a mosque official, a group of four or five teens were walking back from breakfast at IHOP early Sunday when they were confronted by a motorist. All but one of the teens ran to the mosque, where the group reported that the girl had been left behind, according to Deputy Aleksandra Kowalski, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

“Immediately thereafter, the ADAMS’ personnel notified both Loudoun County and Fairfax County authorities who immediately began an extensive search to locate the missing girl,” the mosque said in a statement.

Loudoun and Fairfax police jointly conducted an hours-long search around Dranesville Road and Woodson Drive in Herndon, which is in Fairfax. Remains thought to be the girl’s were found about 3 p.m. Sunday in a pond in the 21500 block of Ridgetop Circle in Sterling. During the search, an officer spotted a motorist driving suspiciously in the area and arrested Torres, police said.

Police said they collected several articles of evidence but declined to provide further details.

The girl’s mother said detectives told her that Nabra was struck with a metal bat.

The ISIS-type terrorists want to start a holy war. It looks like some stupid whiteys are willing to play into that.

UPDATE:   Aaaaand this is happening in France

This was a car loaded with explosives which rammed into a police van on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The driver of the car was killed. No explosion. No other injuries, but it appears to be a botched terrorist attack.

Trump’s Tweets Today Are The Most Unhinged And SELF-Destructive (And It’s Only 10:00 AM)

God knows why they just don’t take his phone away. Or give him a fake phone with a fake Twitter account.

This is how bad it has gotten: Trump’s own advisers have gone on television and stated that Trump’s tweets are not his policy.  Well, who knows? How can we tell? Would Trump agree with that?

Even this morning, Kellyanne Conway said that the media is obsessed with Trump’s tweets, implying that people should not place emphasis on them.  But that is in contradiction from what others in the White House – and Trump himself — have said:

“This obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little what he does as president …” Conway said during that interview.

“That’s his preferred method of communication with the American people,” said Craig Melvin, the show’s co-host.

“That’s not true,” Conway interjected.

“Well, he hasn’t given an interview in three weeks, so lately it has been his preferred method,” Melvin replied.

Even setting aside that three-week modification, Melvin is correct that the administration has touted Twitter as being more important than media coverage. After Trump won the presidency in November, he and his team were asked if he would stop tweeting so much as president. The answer? No — because the media can’t be trusted.

Shortly after the election, Trump spoke with CBS’s Leslie Stahl, telling her how he planned to moderate his Twitter use once he was sworn in.

“I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained,” he said. “I find it tremendous. It’s a modern form of communication. There should be nothing you should be ashamed of. It’s — it’s where it’s at.”

By January, his description of his Twitter habit was a bit less enthusiastic.

“Look, I don’t like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing. But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract,” Trump told Reuters in January. That’s the theme: The media is the enemy, so Trump will tweet to the people directly.

On ABC’s “This Week” in January, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer made that same case.

And more to the point, even if his tweets are not policy, they sometimes contradict policy.  And that makes for headaches for Trump’s team.

Today being a prime example. Let’s start with his first four tweets of the day (which apparently were made while watching Morning Joe on MSNBC):

Let’s start with the first tweet at the bottom, where he calls “it” a “travel ban” and a “watered down, politically correct” version of his original executive order which banned all travel from 7 mostly-Muslim nations. Arguably, Trump is showing his intent to disfavor Muslims by the executive order, a point that has doomed the executive orders in court so far. In court briefs, DOJ lawyers have said the orders are “religion-neutral” in operation, drawing “distinctions among countries based on national-security risks identified by Congress and the Executive Branch, not religion, and applies evenhandedly in the six designated countries.”

There is also a glaring problem: the revised travel ban was authored by Trump’s administration and signed by Trump himself — the Justice Department’s role is merely defending its legality.  Why is he taking umbrage with the Justice Department?

In any event, his tweets this morning on the subject of the travel ban hurt his already weak case.

Next up on this morning’s hit parade, this:

Again, he was watching Fox & Friends and they were apparently talking about vacancies.  Odd that he would blame the Democrats, since they do not control the Senate (who has to improve Ambassadors and other certain posts).

Almost two months ago, Politico did a story on why this is taking so long, and it has nothing to do with the Democrats:

Hundreds of key jobs across the federal government remain vacant as a result of an overworked White House personnel office that is frustrating Cabinet secretaries and hampering President Donald Trump’s ability to carry out his ambitious legislative agenda.

The process is bogged down as a result of micromanaging by the president and senior staff, turf wars between the West Wing and Cabinet secretaries and a largely inexperienced and overworked staff, say more than a dozen sources including administration insiders, lobbyists, lawyers and Republican strategists.

Trump personally oversees the hiring process for agency staff by insisting on combing through a binder full of names each week and likes to sign off on each one, according to two people with knowledge of the administration’s hiring process. Also weighing in on the names — and not always agreeing on final picks — are leaders of sometimes warring factions, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior strategist Steve Bannon, Cabinet secretaries and, sometimes, the White House’s top lawyer, Don McGahn.

“It’s like a medieval court,” said one person advising potential nominees through the confirmation process. “The White House meets once a week to go over personnel in some attempt to create uniformity, but in this White House, you just have to smile at that. … It’s hard to impose uniformity among the White House’s different coalitions.”

The only uniformity is that potential hires must show fealty to the president. One person close to the White House said a sense of “paranoia” has taken over amid fears that disloyal hires might undercut Trump’s agenda or leak to the press.

Another reason they are having a hard time getting positions filled? People don’t want to serve under Trump. especially with a special counsel investigation and FBI probe hanging over the White House.

Even if it were true that Dems were somehow slowing up the confirmation process, that doesn’t explain the vacancies. From the LA Times:

What’s the effect? Just eight of 120 State Department posts, including ambassadorships, that require Senate confirmation have been filled, according to the Partnership for Public Service. As a result, foreign officials and diplomats struggle to find someone to discuss trade and security issues with.

We have officially entered hurricane season with no head of NOAA and no head of FEMA.

And in the Pentagon, Trump has filled only five of the 53 top jobs – the slowest pace for nominations and confirmations in over half a century. No Army Secretary. No Navy Secretary.

The hold-up, insiders say, is Trump’s insistence on absolute loyalty… to him.

The Washington Post has a wonderful database tracker page to keep up with Trump’s lack of progress on filling key positions.

And finally, Trump’s final tweet of the morning (we hope):

This is Trump engaging in an attack against London mayor Sadiq Khan (a Muslim) when Khan said that is “no reason to be alarmed”. Trump attacked that quote, complaining that London had just had a terrorist attack, and they should be freaking out (I guess).

What happened here? Trump watched Fox News, which had truncated the quote and changed its meaning:

But Mr Trump’s criticism is based on a quotation entirely removed from its context. He appears to be confused about what happened in part because Fox News repeated the same short quote but without the full remarks from the mayor of London.

What Mr Khan actually said was that there is no reason to be alarmed about the increased police presence on the streets after the attack.

“My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today,” Mr Khan said. “You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers.

“There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.”

There is no reason to be alarmed by this… with “this” referring to the increased police presence.

Rather than admit he was misquoting Khan, Trump doubled down… on the mayor of a city just attacked by terrorists.

Could it be because this particular mayor is Muslim?

Today could have been a good day for Trump — he intended to announce an infrastructure bill (which Dems could get behind). But he squandered it with these Tweets.  With Comey testifying in a few days, Trump does not have many more chances to have “good days”.

Breaking: Apparent Terrorist Attack At Parliament/Westminster Bridge

BBC report:

Matt Haikin, 44, from London, said he was in shock after seeing the aftermath of the crash on the bridge.

He said: “I just saw a car that had clearly driven off the road into the fence outside Parliament.

“As I went past I noticed there was a body next to it and quite a lot of blood and people standing around.

“Fairly shortly after I heard some shots, at which point it was clear it wasn’t just an accident, something else was going on.”

He then moved to look through the Palace of Westminster gates and saw “a lot of people, people in uniform, I think I saw a couple of bodies on the ground, I couldn’t tell you if they’d been asked to lie down or if they were injured”.

It is worth noting that this come at the one year anniversary of the Brussels attack.  ISIS loves anniversaries.

UPDATE: Officials saying several causalities but won’t give numbers.  Still on lockdown.  Asking for videos and picture from public.

UPDATE #2:  Three officers attacked upon entry to Parliament. Sky News is reporting that one of them has died from stabbing injuries.

Photo of an attacker, who was shot:

UPDATE #3: 4 dead including one policeman and the terrorist. At least 20 injured.

This too:

Things Fall Apart

Look, things in war don’t always go as planned.  I will be the first to say that. No mission is every 100% fool-proof.  But there are many aspects about the Yemeni mission, and Trump’s involvement in it, that are worrisome.

In case you haven’t followed this story, in the first week of his presidency, Donald Trump approved a raid on an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) compound in Yemen, and pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The team encountered strong resistance, Owens was killed, an Osprey aircraft was disabled in a “hard landing” and had to be destroyed so it wouldn’t fall into AQAP’s hands, and according to the Yemeni government, 15 civilians, including at least one child, were killed.

Then, making things worse, the Pentagon released a training video it had seized as evidence of the high-level intelligence the raid produced. But it turned out that the footage was ten years old and had been distributed on the internet some time ago. According to some reports, the true target of the raid was AQAP leader Qasim al-Rimi, who is now gleefully mocking the United States.

The failure has also compromised our ability to conduct further anti-terrorism missions in Yemen. Today the New York Times reported:

Yemen has withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in the country, according to American officials.

In response to the publication of that article, the Yemeni foreign minister said that Yemen had not banned future missions but had asked for a “reassessment” of the raid on the 29th. Either way, it would seem that we’ll have a harder time getting Yemen to approve such missions in the future.

It’s too simplistic to just say, “This was Donald Trump’s fault.” The plan was devised and executed by the military, of course, and every military mission involves risk. But the ultimate decision is the President’s, and it’s his job to factor in all the relevant variables: What are the chances for the mission to succeed? What are the ramifications if it doesn’t? How do I weigh the different strands of information I’m receiving? What are the implications for American foreign policy?

A look at the way this decision was made is not encouraging. While the plan had been circulating within the Pentagon for a few months (there’s some dispute about whether it actually reached the Obama White House), it was approved by President Trump at a dinner that included not only the relevant national security personnel but also his senior adviser Steve Bannon and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. And check out this nugget from a report by NBC News:

After two months of military preparation increasingly focused on the opportunity to capture al-Rimi, Trump was told by Defense Secretary James Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that his capture would be a “game changer,” according to a senior White House official with direct knowledge of the discussions.

In making their case, they told Trump that they doubted that the Obama administration would have been bold enough to try it, this official said.

Now those are some fellows who knew their audience. This is where it gets troubling. Simply put, we’ve never seen a president who combined complete ignorance with rampaging overconfidence quite the way Trump does. Despite having no experience in military affairs or foreign policy, he claimed during the campaign that “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me,” and when asked whom he consulted on foreign policy, said, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lotta things.”

Trump also claimed to have personally devised a secret plan to defeat ISIS that he couldn’t reveal lest the terrorists learn what they were in for, though this was a transparent lie. When the subject came up he would say the most bellicose and simple-minded thing possible, often to the point of literally advocating war crimes: “I would bomb the s–t out of them,” or “I’d bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” or “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families.”

No evidence has emerged since then that Trump has anything other than an infantile conception of what being “strong” means. He continues to express his amazement that General Mattis, despite being an obvious tough guy, is opposed to the use of torture.

So anyone who wants Trump to approve a military mission understands that they need only describe it as tough or strong or bold, and there’s a good chance Trump will be won over. His general cluelessness is also something that the rest of his staff is learning to use for their own ends. Earlier this week the New York Times reported that Trump was angry “that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council.” So Trump apparently signed an order making Steve Bannon a member of the “principals committee” of the NSC — an unprecedented move — without having any idea what he was doing.

All this means trouble for the our country’s foreign policy.

And one would hope that Trump MIGHT — I say “might” — have learned a lesson from this mission failure.  But no.  He and Sean Spicer are spinning it as a success.  Which means, no lesson learned.

The Kinda Crazy, Somewhat Uplifting, Complete Unprecedented Weekend Of Trump

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order that bans some refugees and immigrants from entering the US.

It hits ‘pause’ on Syrian refugees coming into the US. And also temporarily shuts the door on citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Initially, the ban even applied to people with valid visas or green cards. Over the weekend, at least 100 travelers were detained at airports across the country. Including an Iraqi man who once worked as an interpreter for the US gov. So the ACLU sued the White House. And a federal judge blocked anyone who was being held at US airports from being deported. Thousands of people protested across the country, especially at airports.

That the ban may be unconstitutional because it could violate religious freedoms. See: prioritizing letting in Christian refugees coming from places like Syria. Plus, some experts say the order won’t help protect the US, since people from these banned countries aren’t the ones who have carried out deadly attacks in America in recent years. And some people — including GOP lawmakers — say Trump’s move might end up helping terrorist groups recruit more members in the future.

The ban still stands. But the White House has backtracked juussst a little bit. Yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that green card holders aren’t affected by the ban. Meanwhile, more than a dozen Attorneys General are saying ‘see you in court, Mr. President.’

America is a country built by immigrants and religious freedom is a constitutional right. Even though Trump said yesterday that the US has always been the “land of the free,” his moves have some people worried that the founding principles of the US could be at risk.

The ban is arbitrary, which is a nice way of saying it has no basis in reality.  Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.

Zero.

Six Iranians, six Sudanese, two Somalis, two Iraqis, and one Yemeni have been convicted of attempting or executing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil during that time period — so we HAVE been catching them.

And more than that, it actually CREATES a security risk…

Oh, but that wasn’t all.

(1) Reince Priebus issued a statement that the omission of Jews from the statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day was deliberate and is not regretted.

(2) Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that the intent of yesterday’s order was very much a ban on Muslims, described in those words, and he was among the people Trump asked how they could find a way to do this legally.

(3) CNN has a detailed story (heavily sourced) about the process by which this ban was created and announced. Notable in this is that the DHS’ lawyers objected to the order, specifically its exclusion of green card holders, as illegal, and also pressed for there to be a grace period so that people currently out of the country wouldn’t be stranded — and they were personally overruled by Bannon and Stephen Miller. Also notable is that career DHS staff, up to and including the head of Customs & Border Patrol, were kept entirely out of the loop until the order was signed.

(4) The Guardian is reporting (heavily sourced) that the “mass resignations”of nearly all senior staff at the State Department on Thursday were not, in fact, resignations, but a purge ordered by the White House. As the diagram below (by Emily Roslin v Praze) shows, this leaves almost nobody in the entire senior staff of the State Department at this point.

The seniormost staff of the Department of State. Blue X’s are unfilled positions; red X’s are positions which were purged. Note that the “filled” positions are not actually confirmed yet.

As the Guardian points out, this has an important and likely not accidental effect: it leaves the State Department entirely unstaffed during these critical first weeks, when orders like the Muslim ban (which they would normally resist) are coming down.

The article points out another point worth highlighting: “In the past, the state department has been asked to set up early foreign contacts for an incoming administration. This time however it has been bypassed, and Trump’s immediate circle of Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus are making their own calls.”

(5) Yesterday witnessed a reorganization of the National Security Council: Bannon and Priebus now have permanent seats on the Principals’ Committee; the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both been demoted to only attending meetings where they are told that their expertise is relevant; the Secretary of Energy and the US representative to the UN were kicked off the committee altogether (in defiance of the authorizing statute, incidentally).

All of this is objectively horrific, but there are some silver linings, most notably, the public protests.  They sprang quickly, they sprang fast, and they were huge!  it felt almost like Arab Spring.  And it makes the Trump White House very out of touch, as well as corrupt.

You do have to wonder how Steve Bannon is expected to continue to shine in Trump’s eyes.  He has not delivered the adoring masses to Trump, as shown by the inauguration size, as well as the size of the protests.  Photo ops about great executive orders turn into catastrophe.  It’s a constant state of damage control over there.  Trump’s vanity and idiocy are sufficient that it may take him some time to realize this. But once he does, it’s bedtime for Bannon, who will be defenestrated without ceremony.

Well, actually, the machinations of Bannon may have brought ONE person out: Six people were killed last night in a terrorist attack on a Quebec City mosque.

Right wing blogs and media instantly jumped to the conclusion that Islamists were responsible for the shootings, as they always do. But today we’re learning more about the sole suspect in this terrible attack: he’s a far right anti-immigration fan of Donald Trump and French fascist leader Marine Le Pen.  This guy:

Possible Terrorist Attack In Berlin

In a day that has already seen a diplomatic assassination, it looks like we might have a terrorist attack on our hands.

A truck ran into a Christmas market an hour or so ago in a major public square in Berlin. There are reports of several dead, 50 injured. The incident happened in Breitscheidplatz in western Berlin.

Because of the similarity between this and the Nice terrorist attack in July, many are making the assumption that this was intentional.  Berlin media said police at the scene had said initial indications pointed to an attack, which is just a soft allegation at best.

According to one witness, the truck veered off Budapester Strasse across the pavement and stopped just before the Christmas tree on the square. The street has been cordoned off and a meeting point for relatives has been set up. The Christmas market has been cleared and a police spokesman said there are concerns the crash may have caused a gas leak.

UPDATE:   Berlin police say nine dead.

And now word of a lockdown in Brussels as terror police swoop in.

UPDATE #2:  Driver of the truck was arrested.  No shootout as in Nice.  So apparently, we will know motive soon.  CNN is reporting that Berlin police are investigating the incident as an act of terrorism.

Photo Op

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Hey!  Look!  It’s President-Elect Donald Trump!  And who is with him?  Why, that’s Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  This was yesterday as they were meeting at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster NJ.

I wonder what that was all about. Kris Kobach is a central figure in the nativist movement and the architect of Arizona’s notorious “papers please” law.

Oh wait.  What’s our boy Kris holding?

Can we zoom in on that?

328400_web1_top_new112216_kobachtrumpcroppedap

Closer?  Turn 90 degrees clock– uh, can you sharpen that up a ,little?

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Huh.

Looks like some kind of plan…..

The document is arranged in a numbered format. The first point reads, “Bar the Entry of Potential Terrorists.”

The document calls for updating and reintroducing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. The program was implemented in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but largely suspended in 2011.

“All aliens from high-risk areas are tracked,” the document reads.

The document then calls for “extreme vetting questions” for “high-risk aliens”; echoing Trump’s campaign rhetoric. High-risk aliens would be questioned about support for Sharia law (Islamic religious law), jihad, the equality of men and women and the U.S. Constitution.

The document also asks for reducing the intake of Syrian refugees to zero.

The rest of the page is either partially or totally obscured by Kobach’s hand and arm. When the photograph was taken, Kobach was standing outside with Trump – it is highly unlikely Kobach wasn’t aware he was being photographed.

The document contains obscured references to the arrest and removal of illegal aliens, “386 miles of existing actual wall,” the post-9/11 PATRIOT Act, and voter rolls. “Draft amendments to National Voter —” can also be seen, perhaps a reference to the National Voter Registration Act.

Good to know.

Does Korematsu Provide Precedent For A Muslim Registry?

No.

No, it doesn’t.  Not even a close call.

Let’s just all get on the same page.

This is happening:

And the obvious question is…. would it be constitutional for the government to require citizens to register based on their religion?

The OBVIOUS answer should be NO, and the reason most people instinctively know it would be unconstitutional is to do a thought experiment: substitute “Christian” for “Muslim” and see how that flies.

I’m going to set aside the obvious invidiousness of the proposed registry, as well as the obvious difficulties in enforcing registration.  Instead, I’m just going to focus on Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), the case that Trump surrogates are citing as “precedent”.

Korematsu was the case involving Japanese-American internment during World War II.  Roosevelt ordered that George Takei and his family and other Japanese-Americans leave their jobs, friends, businesses, etc. and report to “camps” for the duration of the war.  These were American citizens, living on the West Coast, of Japanese descent.  It came about as the result of a presidential executive order — Executive Order No. 9066 to be exact.

Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California, in 1919, the third of four sons to Japanese parents Kotsui Aoki and Kakusaburo Korematsu who immigrated to the United States in 1905.  When the internment order came down, he refused to comply and went into hiding in the Oakland area. He was arrested on a street corner in San Leandro on May 30, 1942, after being recognized as a “Jap”.  He was tried and convicted of violation of a military order – specifically, the military order for internment given under the authority of Executive Order 9066.

That military and executive orders were challenged and the US Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans, with three dissents.

Korematsu is still good law, so I revisited it. Why did the Supreme Court find such an order to be constitutionally valid?

One reason was precedent.  One year earlier, in a case called Hirabayashi v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld a curfew which applied only to the Japanese.

But addressing the race issue, the majority wrote only this:

It is said that we are dealing here with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice. Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers — and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps, with all the ugly connotations that term implies — we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order. To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and, finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders — as inevitably it must — determined that they should have the power to do just this. There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot — by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight — now say that, at that time, these actions were unjustified.

Basically, they are saying — “we’re at war”.

The dissent by Justice Roberts was having none of it:

This is not a case of keeping people off the streets at night, as was Hirabayashi v. United States,320 U. S. 81, nor a case of temporary exclusion of a citizen from an area for his own safety or that of the community, nor a case of offering him an opportunity to go temporarily out of an area where his presence might cause danger to himself or to his fellows. On the contrary, it is the case of convicting a citizen as a punishment for not submitting to imprisonment in a concentration camp, based on his ancestry, and solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. If this be a correct statement of the facts disclosed by this record, and facts of which we take judicial notice, I need hardly labor the conclusion that Constitutional rights have been violated.

And that is essentially the difference.  We’re not at war with the Muslims — there has been no declaration of Congress to that effect.  Furthermore, there is no “military urgency” now like there was following the bombing of Pearl Harbor (it is more than 15 years after 9/11).  Two good reasons right there.

Then you have something that you didn’t have in Korematsu, which was a case about heritage.  The proposed Muslim ban isn’t about heritage; it is about religion.  “Muslim”, after all, simply means an adherent to the religion of Islam.  Islam knows no national origin or skin color.  Cassius Clay, a black American, didn’t come from another country.  Yet he was a Muslim (which he became Muhammad Ali).

So if this is registry of religious beliefs, — welcome First Amendment.

There’s simply on way in hell this Supreme Court would be cool with registering Muslims.  It would be unanimously shot down, even without overturning Korematsu.

In fact, that would be a nice way to start the Trump presidency.  With a 8-0 loss in the Supreme Court.

The Terrorist Capture — Funny Story, Actually

I know, I know.  Very little blogging this past week.  I just have a lot going on… what can I say?  Hopefully my embedded twitter feed let everyone know I was paying attention to events.

The big news today was, of course, the arrest of suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, the bomber of a Chelsea neighborhood in NYC this past weekend, as well as the guy who planted a pressure cooked bomb on 37th street, plus various bombs in New Jersey over the weekend.  He is a U.S. citizen, a nationalized immigrant who came to America as a child.

Uh,,,, by being a child without radicalized views.  Idiot.

I don’t want to understate the incredible police work of the FBI and NYPD and other government agencies.  It was an amazingly quick investigation and capture.  Less than 48 hours.  Look, this is a triumph for the war on terrorism, although Trump will spin it otherwise.

However, there’s a little humor to the whole thing.

(1)  Had it not been for thieves, the police might not have found out about some of the bombs.  Really, how much more New York can this story be?  This Rahami guy placed the pressure cooked in a suitcase, and placed the suitcase on the sidewalk on 27th street.  What happened next?  What do you THINK happened in NY?  A couple of guys apparently saw the suitcase, opened it, saw the pressure cooker thing and, not knowing what it was, they left it behind — and exposed — while they stole the suitcase.  The same thing happened in New Jersey at the Elizabeth subway station.  Some guys found a knapsack, stole it, carried it away, opened it, and saw what appeared to be a pipe bomb.  To their credit, they called the police.

With the discovery of these devices, the police were able to get surveillance tapes, two of which showed the bomber.

(2)  This Rahami guy was not what you call an expert bombmaker.  Let’s set aside the fact that most of his devices failed to explode, and focus on another aspect of his bomb-building.  He used cell phones as detonating devices. But he appears to have used his actual cell phones – not burner phones purchased for this specific purpose but ones he’d used in the past, calling friends and associates, storing personal information. In at least one case, that phone was part of a bomb that didn’t detonate. So NYPD and FBI investigators were able to secure the phone and download lots of personal information, call records etc.  This may have been the key thing in first identifying him.

(3)  Nor was he much of a hider.  On the radio as I came to work this morning, the pundits were talking about how this bomber (assuming it was one, which it apparently is) was now definitely underground.  A reasonable assumption, but… nope. Initial reports say Rahami was found sleeping in the doorway of a local bar in Linden, New Jersey, about four miles away from his home. It’s not clear whether he just decided this place was a good place to sleep or whether he maybe got drunk in the bar. But he was apparently in plain view, asleep in the doorway, when a Linden police officer recognized him from the wanted poster and approached.

I know Trump and others like to hype terrorism, but sometimes these aren’t the brightest bulbs.

9/11 – 15 Years Later

It is kind of cool to have a blog for this long — I can go back and look at past reflections of past events.

I write about my 9/11 experience here.  I had left New York by the time 9/11/2001 happened, but, like everyone else in the country, I experienced that day.  For me, I came to lump it in with 2/26/1993, the date of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

It is remarkable how things have changed.  I deal everyday with people who were children when 9/11 happened.  The World Trade Center site is a beautiful memorial, museum, and tourist site.  I don’t bemoan that — using that public space as a space of education and commemoration is perfectly fitting.  And it is all in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, representing, if nothing else, that the beat of NYC goes on despite what happened on that terrible day.

Two Little Bits of Non-Election Good News

What with Gene Wilder’s death bumming everybody out, and the constant harangue of a senseless election, here’s a couple of political things to brighten your day:

(1)  Governor LePage of Maine is considering resigning

Gov. Paul LePage raised the possibility Tuesday that he may not finish his second term, amid mounting pressure from Democrats and members of his own party to amend for his recent actions.

“I’m looking at all options,” the Republican governor said while appearing on WVOM, a Bangor talk radio station. “I think some things I’ve been asked to do are beyond my ability. I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not saying that I am going to finish it.”

He later said, “If I’ve lost my ability to help Maine people, maybe it’s time to move on.”

LePage also apologized repeatedly to Rep. Drew Gattine and his family for leaving a threatening voicemail last week.

He said he plans to invite the Westbrook representative to a face-to-face meeting to talk further.

“When I was called a racist I just lost it, and there’s no excuse,” the governor said. “It’s unacceptable. It’s totally my fault.”

Don’t let the door hit you… etc etc.

UPDATE…. a tweet today:

(2)  ISIS is floundering in red tape

What appear to be internal documents from the administration of the so-called Islamic State, obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast, show the terrorist organization under strain from financial misappropriation, embezzlement, alleged infiltration by anti-ISIS spies, and bureaucratic infighting.

These documents, originally captured by a Syrian rebel group near Damascus, are stamped by official ISIS “ministries.” They show the dollar salaries ISIS paid to its jihadist fighters, at least as of a year ago, in addition to other income earmarked for those fighters’ dependents.

The information contained in the documents confirms what various ISIS defectors and deserters have disclosed previously to The Daily Beast about the inner workings of the organization.

They also yield more proof of the extraordinary amount of red tape (and somewhat comedic human frustration) involved as ISIS leaders try to regulate everything from the requisition of weapons and ammunition to the allowance of vacation time.

The entire file was shared by Maher al-Hamdan, a media spokesman for the Ahmad Abdo Brigade. This  Syrian rebel group receives ammunition and financial support from the Military Operations Command in Amman, Jordan, meaning it is backed by the United States and other Western and Arab countries party to the “Friends of Syria” coalition.

Some examples:

Consider how the unsigned letter ends: “Note: the security brothers have grievances as regards salaries during their work in the area.”

Another confiscated document in the Ahmad Abdo tranche reveals just what kind of remuneration the “brothers” were used to receiving, as of last summer when the caliphate’s economy was more bullish than it is now.

On Aug. 25, 2015, a salary table for a “mujahid” (holy warrior) salary is produced with relevant fields filled in. This particular jihadist is called Abu Muslim al-Muhajir and he belongs to the Fath Qaryatain Battalion of ISIS, in the Damascus province. His salary is listed as $50 per month, and he receives another $50 as subsidy for his one wife. This appears the extent of al-Muhajir’s dependents, but the fields left empty show that the ISIS “Islamic welfare state,” as one defector The Daily Beast put it, also encompasses one’s parents and sabaya—that is, sex slaves—as well as their children, should they have any. “Soldiers’ bonuses,” “Eid recompense,” “Fighter’s petty cash,” and “Other petty expenses” are also clearly justifiable forms of disbursement for the average mujahid.

A similarly named Abu Sulaiman al-Muhajir, a fighter in Damascus, seeks a weeklong holiday from ISIS to be spent in the eastern provinces of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa. He is granted permission, although the form takes care to observe: “All brothers should be precise about dates, otherwise, they will be questioned according the sharia law.”

And:

Finally, we see evidence that all is not well in the realm of takfirijurisprudence. Overlapping or intersecting fiefs of ISIS law enforcement appear to have led to frequent and annoying communications cock-ups and attendant complaints among the jihadist civil service.

Dr. Abu Sham, a judge’s clerk, finds himself forced to write to Abu al-Abbas al-Jazrawi, the vice emir of ISIS’s Department of Justice, to explain why there are so many prisoners in one ISIS-run jail in the Damascus province.

“Well, three-fourths of these prisoners were detained only for a few hours,” Dr. Sham states, a bit defensively. “Last month, [nobody] was detained for a period of one week except the last 3 persons mentioned at the end of the list. By the time of writing this letter to you, there is no one in the prison.”

As in with many administrators of overburdened state agencies, Dr. Sham seems to be the put-upon victim of a clerical oversight: “The main problem about the paper that was sent from the Diwan [department] is that it didn’t mention the release dates. As from next time we will add the release dates so this confusion won’t be repeated again.”

The idea of ISIS being buried in paperwork is pretty amusing to me.

Nice Terror Attack: At Least 84 Killed, Including 10 Children, As Truck Slams Into Bastille Day Crowd

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He drove more than a mile through the crowd, swerving at times to make sure he hit people.

The videos of the carnage are devastating.

The driver, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was shot and killed.

The victims include two Americans: Texas residents Sean Copeland, 51, and his son Brodie, 11, who were on vacation with their family in Nice.

Here’s what we know about the terrorist, and it shows a familiar pattern:

Lahouaiej Bouhlel was a 31-year-old French-Tunisian delivery driver known to police who is reported to have driven a 19-tonne white Renault lorry into crowds gathered for Bastille Day celebrations in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing 84 people. His identity as the driver has not been confirmed by the French police.

The perpetrator of Nice’s worst ever terror attack was reportedly a married father of three who neighbours described as a “loner” with a George Clooney haircut.

According to several French reports, Bouhel was born in Tunisia in 1985 and had a French residency permit. Police raided his flat, where he reportedly lived alone, in the Abattoirs area of the city on Friday morning.

According to Tunisian security sources, Lahouaiej Bouhlel hailed from the Tunisian town of Msaken, which is close to the seaside city of Sousse, where 38 people, including 30 Britons, were gunned down by terrorists in June 2015.

French television station BFM TV reported that he was a divorced father of three who had become depressed following the breakdown of his marriage.

Neighbours told the channel he was not particularly interested in religion, adding that he preferred girls and salsa.

They said that he had been unhappy since he divorce, and that he suffered from financial problems.

Neighbors described him as “depressed and unstable, even aggressive” of late. They put this down to his “marital and financial problems”.

One told BFM TV he was “more into women than religion”.

“He (didn’t) pray and like(d) girls and Salsa,” according to BFM’s crime correspondent.

Jasmine, 40 said: “He was rude and bit weird.

“We would hold the door open for him and he would just blank him. He kept himself to himself but would always rant about his wife. He had martial problems and would tell people in the local cafe. He scared my children though.”

She added: “He was very smart with the same haircut as George Clooney.”

Sébastien, a neighbour, said he “didn’t have the apparence of a religious person and was often in shorts, sometimes wearing ‘security’ shoes”. Another neighbour, Anan, said that she found him shifty and described him as “a good-looking man who eyed up my two girls too much”.

One resident told the Telegraph: “He was quiet and moody. I did not know whether he was a Muslim. I think he had a motorbike.”

A woman living in the same block said: “I hardly knew him, but from what I could see he seemed very weird. He lived alone. He said very little to anyone and wasn’t very polite. He wouldn’t hold the door open for you.”

He was known to the police for assault with a weapon, domestic violence, threats and robbery but had no previous convictions for terrorism.

Investigating sources said his last appearance in a criminal court was as recently as March and had previous convictions for armed theft, conjugal violence and threatening behaviour. Despite this, he had no known links with terrorism and was not under surveillance.

According to BFMTV he had also recently caused an accident after falling asleep at the wheel while working as a delivery driver, and was taken into custody following the incident.

The operative phrase: “more into women than religion”.  Like the Orlando shooter, this guy seems to have latched on to committing a terrorist act, not because of some ideology, but because his life was falling apart.  And some psychological problems.

And note — not a refugee.

Enter Donald Trump. Without knowing details about the attack, Trump wants to declare war. On whom, he doesn’t say. On what basis, he doesn’t know. A NATO country has been attacked, sure (by a lone individual as far as we know now). But Trump thinks NATO is obsolete and the U.S. pays too much for it. Others should pay. So with that for background, when Bill O’Reilly asked Trump if he would send in air and ground forces (somewhere) Trump said:

“I would, I would” when asked if he would seek a formal declaration of military action from the US Congress. “This is war,” Trump continued. “If you look at it, this is war. Coming from all different parts. And frankly it’s war, and we’re dealing with people without uniforms. In the old days, we would have uniforms. You would know who you’re fighting.”

But since Trump doesn’t know who that is and can’t force whoever it is to wear uniforms, what this situation absolutely requires is a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part. And Trump is just the guy to do it. Count on him to try to make somebody else pay for it. In the end, that someone would be us.

Trump is, of course, stoking fear.  Just like a terrorist would.

He probably needs to be reminded that ISIS has lost at least 50 percent of the territory occupied since its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of their “caliphate” in 2013.  They’ve been run from places like Haditha, Fallujah, and in due course Mosul.

Not that Trump would dare give Obama credit.

Gingrich added to the stupidity, saying:

Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia, glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door. But we need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are.

Aside from being unconstitutional, it is unclear if that tactic would have stopped this guy (had he been an American) or the Orlando shooter.  Neither was particularly religious.

Also — not for nothing, Newt — but since we’re going to deport people for their dangerous beliefs, I know plenty of Christians who hold incompatible values.

More and More, It Looks Like The Dallas Cop Killer Was A Nut

Dallas police now believe that Micah Johnson, who shot and killed 5 Dallas police following a Black Lives Matter march, was actually planning some sort of mass attack, but advanced his plans to take advantage of the BLM march. His house was full of bomb making equipment, far too much to have put together in recent days.  He had received “defensive” combat training in Dallas two years earlier.

And most troubling, writing on his wall in blood.

This man was a time bomb. It’s almost like he didn’t need a reason to go off.

Tony Blair Lied Britain Into The Iraq War (P.S. Bush Did, Too)

Across the pond, rather than running bullshit investigations like our Benghazi hearings, the parliamentarian body did something useful and tried to discern how they got involved in a huge quagmire.

Sir John Chilcot delivered a devastating critique of Tony Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003, concluding that Britain chose to join the US invasion before “peaceful options for disarmament” had been exhausted. His report, which amounts to arguably the most scathing official verdict given on any modern British prime minister, concludes:

  • Tony Blair exaggerated the case for war in Iraq
  • There was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein
  • Britain’s intelligence agencies produced “flawed information”
  • George Bush largely ignored UK advice on postwar planning
  • The UK military were ill-equipped for the task
  • UK-US relations would not have been harmed had the UK stayed out of the war

For his part, Blair disavowed the conclusions of the report, but apologized anyway:

He began by describing the choice to join the US in military action as the “hardest, most momentous, most agonising decision” of his life.

Blair said he had wanted to set the Iraqi people free and secure them from the “evil” of Saddam Hussein, but instead they had become victims of sectarian violence.

“For all of this, I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you can ever know or believe,” he said, in a speech in which his voice cracked with emotion.

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The Labour politician went on to repeat that he apologised for the failures in planning the war and its aftermath, but was clear that he still believes the decision to remove Saddam was correct. Iraq could be in a worse state than Syria is now if the regime had not been stopped, he suggested.

“I did it because I thought it was right,” Blair said.

Pressed on what he was apologising for, the former prime minister named three areas where he would have done things differently: presenting the cabinet with an “option paper”; pressing the US to have better planning in place for the aftermath; and sharing the advice of the attorney general to senior colleagues.

RNC Deletes LGBT Reference In Its Orlando Statement

In its original statement following the Orlando shootings, the Republican National Committee made an attempt to acknowledge that the attack specifically targeted LGBT Americans—a sad attempt, but an attempt nonetheless. But meh, who really cares about that aspect anyway? So they finally just edited gays out altogether. Rebecca Ruiz reports on the line that was just too dangerous to include:

“Violence against any group of people simply for their lifestyle or orientation has no place in America or anywhere else,” it said.

The RNC’s reference to gender identity and sexual orientation was vague and awkwardly worded. Still, the sentence stood out in a statement that otherwise declined to clearly identify Pulse nightclub as a gay destination or describe the victims as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

But by Monday, the statement had been updated. It was missing that key sentence and contained no explanation for the revision.

RNC spokesperson Lindsay Walters later explained the change:

Walters said the revision was meant to be more inclusive because it invoked a common humanity and referenced all Americans instead of singling out LGBT people.

Right! Including LGBT folks by explicitly excluding them. Note to GOP: even straight people have a lifestyle and orientation, if you think about it.

Trump Comes Right Out And Says It

The Washington Post had a headline which said that Trump was suggesting that Obama was somehow in league with terrorists.

Trump was incensed and banned Washington Post from Trump events.

Then, this morning, Trump outright suggests that Obama is somehow in league with terrorists.

Can this man get any more insane?  He’s citing Breitbart, for crying out loud, and even Breitbart — not know for being factually correct — is hedging on the veracity of that claim.

Contrary to Trump’s insinuation, the memo does not outline Obama’s plan to declare himself the caliph of the Islamic State West. Rather, the 2012 document merely notes that Al Qaeda in Iraq, one of the groups that evolved into ISIS, was a member of the Syrian opposition that “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey” were supporting at the time. The memo does not celebrate this (widely known) fact; it merely states it. The document offers no evidence to support the suggestion that Obama has “something else in mind” with regards to ISIS. On the contrary, it suggests that the administration’s reluctance to intervene more dramatically in Syria was informed by concerns about the ideological orientation of the opposition forces.

Regardless, it’s hard to interpret Trump’s tweet as anything other than a confession that the darkest interpretation of his initial comments was correct — that he really did suggest Obama “supports” the Islamic State.

Americans Reaction To Orlando Shootings

Here are the major take-aways, as I see it

  1. Most Americans see Orlando massacre as an act of terrorism and a hate crime
  2. Americans are divided on whether the massacre could have been prevented
  3. Most Americans approve of Obama’s response to the massacre
  4. Americans are split on Hillary’s response to the massacre
  5. Most Americans, including Republicans, disapprove  of Trump’s response to the massacre.

Read for yourself:

Was Trump Wrong About Orlando Shooter Motive? (Were We All?)

Just a second there, stupid politician man.

Palm Beach Post:

A former classmate of Omar Mateen’s 2006 police academy class said he believed Mateen was gay, saying Mateen once asked him out.

Officials say Mateen shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 others at an Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning.

The classmate said that he, Mateen and other classmates would hang out, sometimes going to gay nightclubs, after classes at the Indian River Community College police academy. He said Mateen asked him out romantically.

“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the former classmate said. He asked that his name not be used.

He believed Mateen was gay, but not open about it. Mateen was awkward, and for a while the classmate and the rest in the group of friends felt sorry for him.

“He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” he said. “He was always socially awkward.”

L.A. Times:

The gunman who attacked a Florida LGBT nightclub had attended the club before the attack and had used a gay dating and chat app, witnesses said.

Kevin West, a regular at Pulse nightclub, said Omar Mateen messaged him on and off for a year before the shooting using the gay chat and dating app Jack’d.

But they never met – until early Sunday morning.

West was dropping off a friend at the club when he noticed Mateen – whom he knew by sight but not by name – crossing the street wearing a dark cap and carrying a black cellphone about 1 a.m., an hour before the shooting.

“He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,’” and nodded his head, West said. “I could tell by the eyes.”

At least four regular customers of Pulse, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender nightclub where the massacre took place, told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday that they believed they had seen Mateen there before.

“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” said Ty Smith, who also uses the name Aries.

He saw Mateen at the club at least a dozen times, he said.

And the Daily Mail quotes his ex-wife as saying he had “gay tendencies“.

It would be unusual for an ISIS adherent to be gay.  And it suggests that Mateen’s motive was based, at least in part, on self-loathing.  There is nothing to suggest that ISIS personally recruited him.  This was a lone wolf.  He may have simply latched on to ISIS as the reason, simply because self-loathing gays aren’t that aware of the self-loathing.  He was trapped between two worlds — the rigid tenets of his faith (perhaps buttressed by his anti-gay father), and his inner desires.  He chose one — violently.  (Not an excuse, of course.  Just a possible explanation).

Trump’s National Security Speech: Based on Lies

In the wake of the Orlando gay nightclub massacre, Trump seized the opportunity to Muslim-bash in a national security speech, even though (as I will write soon) it looks less and less like the shooting was a bonafide Islamic terrorist attack.

Vox summarizes the lies:

1) Trump: There’s no screening for refugees coming to the US

We’re not screening people. So why don’t we have an effective screening system? We don’t. We’re being laughed at all over the world. The burden is on Hillary Clinton to tell us why we should admit anyone into our country who supports violence of any kind against gay and lesbian Americans.

The truth: Trump is wrong: There is an extensive, onerous screening process for refugees who come to America. You can see so yourself here.

2) Trump criticizes Libya intervention, supported it himself

For instance, the last major NATO mission was Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. That mission helped unleash ISIS on a new continent.

The truth: Trump has repeatedly characterized Libya as a unique failure of President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. But he actively supported that intervention, even though he’s spent much of his candidacy pretending he didn’t.

3) Trump: Clinton wants to admit “hundreds of thousands” of refugees to the US

Altogether under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to prevent radicalization of the children and their children.

The truth: Trump is wrong here as well: Clinton has only called for increasing the number of Syrian refugees by 65,000, according to CNN.

4) Trump: The Orlando shooter was “born this Afghan”

The killer, whose name I will not use or ever say was born this Afghan, of Afghan parents, who emigrated to the United States.

The truth: Trump is wrong: Omar Saddiqui Mateen, the killer, was born in New York and raised in Florida.

5) Trump: “Large numbers” of Somali refugees joining ISIS

Large numbers of Somali refugees have tried to join ISIS. The male shooter in San Bernardino, again whose name I will not mention, was the child of immigrants from Pakistan and he brought his wife.

The truth: This dramatically misrepresents the number of Somali refugees from the US who have joined ISIS, which a New York Times story pegs at no more than 15. Perhaps Trump is speaking about Somali refugees globally, but given when he made this point — during a part of his speech about domestic terrorism — that’s almost certainly giving him too much credit.

6) Trump: Obama’s “famous apology tour” created ISIS

We’ve tried it President Obama’s way. Doesn’t work. He gave the world his apology tour. We got ISIS. And many other problems in return. That’s what we got. Remember the famous apology tour

The truth: There is a coherent conservative critique of President Obama’s speeches abroad, in which he has at times acknowledged America’s faults in foreign wars. And there is a coherent conservative critique of President Obama’s approach to defeating ISIS.

But Trump isn’t engaging with either narrative. He’s instead just drawing a direct link from Obama “apology tour” to the birth of ISIS, and I’m not aware of any serious attempt to connect the two. Trump certainly doesn’t give any reason to believe they’re related.

Even if you look at the supposed apologies that have to do with Islamic terrorism or the Muslim world, it’s not clear how they could have possibly created ISIS.

7) Trump: Hillary Clinton wants to ban guns

[Hillary Clinton] says the solution is to ban guns. … She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come into the country. We don’t have guns. …

She wants to take away Americans’ guns and then admit the very people who want to slaughter us. Let them come into the country. We don’t have guns. Let them come in, let them have all the fun they want.

The truth: Clinton has not called for anything remotely resembling a ban on guns — she wants to ban assault weapons but has otherwise not called for a gun ban. Someone listening to Trump’s speech would have come away with an entirely wrong idea of her policy.

8) Trump’s criticism on pushing for regime change in Syria

The decision to overthrow the regime in Libya, then pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria, among other things, without plans for the day after, have created space for ISIS to expand and grow.

The truth: As with his initial approval of the Libya invasion, Trump has grossly distorted his record on Syria. (As Vox’s Matt Yglesias points out, he once called for a “big, beautiful safe zone” in the country.)

The weirder, specific problem here is the knock on Clinton and Obama for creating ISIS by “pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria” — when Trump has himself calledfor ground troops in Syria.

9) Trump suggests Muslims need to do more to help fight terrorism

They have to work with us. They know what is going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know, what they didn’t turn them in and we had death.

The truth: This line revives a long-running Trump suggestion that Muslims are largely to blame for not really joining us in the fight against terrorism.

AND…

Trump’s “solutions” were simply ludicrous. For example, he called for military action in Muslim nations. Citing unnamed military leaders, Trump gave his strategy to kill them there before they kill us here.

“We have generals who think we can win this thing so fast and so strong but we have to be furious for a short period of time and we’re not doing it,” he said.

Why did Trump not mention the names of the generals who think this?  Because they don’t exist, I expect.  However, real, live military experts don’t feel that lobbing bombsin  Syria would stop incidents like the one in Orlando.

“I fundamentally disagree,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, who served as the chief U.S. military adviser in Iraq from 2013 to 2015. “The bottom line is [more bombing] has absolutely no bearing on individuals like Omar Mateen in Orlando, who obviously had some mental issues — like his absolute hatred of gays, lesbians and transgender community. Just wantonly increasing bombing against extremist radical groups in Iraq, Syria, etc. is not going to have a bearing on individuals in the United States and change their behavior.”

20 [Update: 50] Dead In Orlando Gay Club Shooting; Possible Terrorism

USA TODAY:

A heavily armed assailant opened fire in a packed Orlando nightclub early Sunday in a bloody massacre that left about 20 people dead and prompted a terrorism investigation, authorities said.

Police Chief John Mina said the tragedy began at 2:02 a.m., when three police officers engaged in a gun battle with a suspect outside Pulse Orlando, a gay club just south of downtown. A hostage situation then took place inside, and a SWAT team was called in, Mina said. Police received updates from patrons trapped in the club, and decided to storm the club at about 5 a.m.

Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP
Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

“Our biggest concern was further loss of life,” Mina said. “We exchanged gunfire with the suspect, and he was dead at the scene.”

Mina said 42 people were transferred to local hospitals, and one officer was wounded. He estimated the death toll at 20, and said at least 30 people were rescued.

“Tonight our community witnessed a horrific crime… that will have a lasting effect on our community,” a solemn Mayor Buddy Dyer said.

FBI Special Agent Ronald Hopper said the case was being investigated as a possible act of terrorism, either domestic or international. It was not clear if the shooter acted alone, he said. He said authorities were trying to determine if there was a connection with radical Islam.
“We do have suggestions that the individual may have leanings toward that particular ideology,” Hopper said.

A federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY the suspect has been identified as Omar Mateen and said investigators were reviewing the attacker’s possible utterances that may provide more specific information about a terror ideology or affiliation. The official, who was not authorized to comment, characterized the attack as “certainly’’ terrorism. It was not immediately clear whether investigators were aware of the attacker prior to the assault.

Mina said the gunman was armed with an assault rifle, a handgun and some sort of unidentified device. Officers from multiple agencies and dozens of emergency vehicles responded to the scene. Orange County Fire and Rescue called for gurneys to move victims from the club.

Many of the casualties were rushed to Orlando Regional Medical Center, which was placed on lockdown.
“We can confirm this is a mass casualty situation. Support from local/state/federal agencies,” Orlando police tweeted about four hours after events began to unfold. Then, a short time later: “Pulse Shooting: The shooter inside the club is dead.”

The White House said President Obama  was briefed by Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.
Mina said there was no indication that there was more than one shooter. A bomb squad was at the scene, and police reported conducting a “controlled explosion.”
Hours after the shooting, police were still trying to piece together what happened.
“Anyone who was at Pulse nightclub and was a witness Please come to the Orlando Police HQ,” the department tweeted. “Any information you have could aid investigators in this case”

FBI Director James Comey has said in recent months that authorities had about 1,000 open investigations into home grown violent extremists. The overwhelming number of those cases, authorities said, were suspects with alleged ties to the Islamic State.

Orlando recently wrapped up its annual weeklong Gay Days festival on June 6 in which up to 150,000 in the LGBT community attend area theme parks, gay nightclubs and special events. It was the 25th anniversary of Gay Days. It remains one of the largest gay pride events in the world.

Saturday night and into Sunday, the club was celebrating Latin Night. Club patron Christopher Hansen told CNN he heard what could have been 20 or 30 shots, setting off a panic as people scrambled for cover or raced for the exits. He said he helped a couple people who were wounded.

“It’s just shocking,” said Hansen, who crawled to safety. “I just saw bodies going down.”
As the tragedy was unfolding, Pulse Orlando posted to its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”
Rosie Feba, a witness, told the Orlando Sentinel she and her girlfriend were in the club near closing time when, “she told me someone was shooting. Everyone was getting on the floor. I told her I didn’t think it was real, I thought it was just part of the music, until I saw fire coming out of his gun.”

Feba told the Sentinel she her girlfriend ran out of the club and helped a man who had been shot get outside.

The Orlando Fire Department called for its bomb squad and hazardous material team to the scene after 3 a.m. ET. Police K-9 dogs searched the area around nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center with an armed deputy in head-to-toe military gear.

A loud bang was heard before 5 a.m., but Orlando Police tweeted that it was the  controlled explosion by law enforcement.

Ali Kurnaz, 25, told USA TODAY he was working in his living room about a block from the nightclub when he heard gunfire.

“I could hear multiple rounds of gunfire to the point where it scared my cats,” Kurnaz said. “They came running from a different room.”

Kurnaz said he heard sirens as multiple police cars headed to the crime scene and helicopters flying over his neighborhood.
In some tweets appearing to come from inside Pulse nightclub short after the assault, people said they were hiding. Twitter users also said they heard multiple gunshots.
The shooting spree came just
one day after The Voice star Christina Grimmie was shot and killed after a concert Friday night at the Plaza Live Theater in Orlando. That gunman, identified as Kevin James Loibl, 27, of St. Petersburg, Fla., fatally shot himself after the attack.

UPDATE ON SHOOTER:

Both of Mateen’s parents are originally from Afghanistan, according to CBS News.

Mateen was born in New York, NBC News reports.

He was married in 2009, public records show. It is not clear if he was still married at the time of the attack.

Mateen is a registered Democrat who has also lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, according to online records.

He was also a notary public in Florida, but his license, issued in 2008, expired in 2012, records show.

UPDATE: Orlando mayor now says 50 dead, 53 injured

UPDATE: Shooter’s father tells NBC that religion not a factor, but did hear his son speak out against gays as recently as two weeks ago.

Is ISIS On The Ropes?

Don’t look to the Republican presidential candidates for an honest answer to that question.  They want ISIS to be flourishing because it gives them a plank to campaign on.

But if you look at my tweets, you’ll see that Paris and Belgium are sweeping out the network with arrests, and that the Number 2 ISIS guy was killed, US officials believe.

And now, according to the Washington Post, ISIS may be on retreat on multiple fronts.  The paper reports that both Palmyra and a string of villages in northern Iraq are being overrun by US-backed forces:

These are just two of the many fronts in both countries where the militants are being squeezed, stretched and pushed back….Front-line commanders no longer speak of a scarily formidable foe but of Islamic State defenses that crumble within days and fighters who flee at the first sign they are under attack.

….Most of the advances [] are being made by the assortment of loosely allied forces, backed to varying degrees by the United States, that are ranged along the vast perimeter of the Islamic State’s territories. They include the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in northeastern Syria; the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq; the Iraqi army, which has revived considerably since its disastrous collapse in 2014; and Shiite militias in Iraq, which are not directly aligned with the United States but are fighting on the same side.

The U.S. military estimated earlier this year that the Islamic State had lost 40 percent of the territory it controlled at its peak in 2014, a figure that excludes the most recent advances.

….In eastern Syria, the seizure late last month of the town of Shadadi by the Kurdish YPG — aided by U.S. Special Forces — was accompanied by the capture of nearly 1,000 square miles of territory….The operation was planned to take place over weeks. Instead, the town fell within days, said a senior U.S. administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.

“Shadadi was going to be a major six-week operation,” he said. “The ISIS guys had dug trenches and everything. Instead, they completely collapsed. They’re collapsing town by town.”

Emphasis mine.

Is this true?  Maybe, or maybe it is Defense Department spin (it wouldn’t be the first time).  But if this reporting is true, it represents a self-sustaining dynamic: rumors of ISIS collapse inspire Iraqi forces to fight harder, which in turn contributes to ISIS collapse. At this point, the issues in the way of further progress are as much diplomatic as military: “We could probably liberate Mosul tomorrow, but we would have a real mess on our hands if we did,” says Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Something to be cautiously optimistic about.

Brussels Attacks: Silver Lining Edition

The death toll stands at 31 from yesterday’s coordinated ISIS-terrorist attacks in Brussels.

We’re getting some details from the Belgian prosecutor.

There were three explosions. Two explosions hit the Zaventem airport in Brussels around 8 am local time (3 am Eastern) in the departure area. One was in the entryway and the other near the American Airlines ticket counter. Both were suicide bombings. 10 people were killed and 100 wounded. A third bomb was left at the airport and safely deactivated, according to the Associated Press. The bomb, in a suitcase, contained the biggest explosive charge; it exploded right after the bomb squad arrived.

Another explosion followed at 9:11 am local time (4:11 am Eastern) in the Maelbeek metro station near central Brussels.  The explosions at Maelbeek were on a metro car, part of a three-car train that had just pulled out on its way to the next station. The metro explosion alone killed 21 people and injured 106, 17 of them seriously

Belgium’s federal prosecutor identified two suspects as two brothers with criminal records, Khalid el-Bakraoui, 27, and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, 30, as well as a third man, who they did not identify, who is still at large. Ibrahim el-Bakaraoui was killed in the suicide bombing at the airport, and Khalid el-Bakraoui was killed in the suicide bombing in the metro.

Belgian police released video from the airport that showed three men, allegedly the attackers, pushing luggage carts. The man in the center is Ibrahim el-Bakraoui. The man to his left has not been identified but is thought to be another suicide bomber.  They are searching for the man who is wearing a dark hat and light jacket in the photo.

160322130113-01-belgian-police-photo-exlarge-169TERRORISME   Suspect à identifier  1

The cab driver who took the bombers to the airport was able to help Belgian police find the apartment where the men stayed. Investigators found a nail bomb, chemical products and an ISIS flag during a house search in the northeast Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek, Belgium’s federal prosecutor said in a statement.

They also found a laptop computer which contained a will/suicide note from Ibrihim El Bakraoui in which he wrote: “Being in a hurry, I don’t know what to do, being searched for everywhere, not being safe, if it drags on it could end up with me in a prison cell next to him”, which French media have reported is a reference to suspected Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam.”

This suggests a couple of things to me.  The rapid unraveling of the ISIS network on Brussels, culminating in the arrest of one of the Paris terrorist late last week, forced the hand of ISIS.  Obviously, it would have been preferable to bring down the net on the entire operation before these attacks, but we can take some solace in the fact that they were panicky and running.

Also, it looks like the Brussels attack and the Paris attack may have come from the same network, maybe even the same cell or extended cell.  There are some reports that the bombmaker in both attacks may be the same person.  If so, then it is gratifying to know that the problem — while serious — may not be as widespread as the fearmongers suggest.

 

Quote Of The Day

“Good God, they’re probably cutting videos of this right now. . . Donald Trump right now is validating the cartoonish view that they tell their operatives…that America is a racist nation, xenophobic, anti-Muslim, and that that’s why you must carry out terrorist attacks against them…It’s irresponsible and it needs to stop.”

– terrorism expert Malcolm Nance, the head of the Terrorism Asymmetrics Project and a veteran of Navy intelligence, today

trumpbrain

The Brussels Attacks

35 dead (at last count) and over 200 wounded.  The attacks took place during morning rush hour in Brussels, as three ISIS or-ISIS-related gunmen opened fire at the airport in Brussels and then self-detonated via an explosive belt.

An hour later came an explosion in a Brussels subway station — Maalbeek.

The bloodshed came just four days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam — the prime suspect in the Paris attacks claimed by IS — after four months on the run.

It is not known if the attacks were related.

One thing about Belgium — they do have an awful lot of radicalized Muslims going to Syria and other places, and then returning home to Belgium.  It’s a far worse problem for them than with the French or with the U.S.

Both Trump and Cruz are quick to stoke the flames of fear, with Cruz actually putting this statement out:

cruzstatementbrussels

I’m not sure what he means, but apparently being nice to peaceful Muslims is “surrendering to the enemy”.  I guess.

And of course, Trump doesn’t want to be out-Trumped by Cruz, and makes no bones about turning this into votes.  Really.

Trump flat admits that terrorism helps him, as shown in this WaPo column:

CeKi1itUEAEK3aB

That’s pretty insidious.

Hate Is The New Black

Whole Lot of Hatin’ Going On:

The number of hate groups on the American radical right expanded from 784 in 2014 to 892 in 2015 – a 14 per cent increase, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The SPLC released the statistics Wednesday in a new report, The Year in Hate and Extremism.

With the increase in hate groups came an increase in domestic political violence in the U.S., both from the radical right and from American jihadists.

“They laid plans to attack courthouses, banks, festivals, funerals, schools, mosques, churches, synagogues, clinics, water treatment plants and power grids,” writes Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the SPLC.

“They used firearms, bombs, C-4 plastic explosives, knives and grenades; one of them, a murderous Klansman, was convicted of trying to build a death ray.”

Using statistics from a year-end report from the Anti-Defamation League, the SPLC said a minimum of 52 people died from extremist violence in the U.S. in the past 12 months.

That was the most in a year since 1995, the year of the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 men, women and children dead.

The SPLC reports a growth in Klu Klux Klan chapters from 72 in 2014 to 190 in 2015 and attributes the rise in the 364 pro-Confederate battle flag rallies last year.

Those took place after South Carolina took down the battle flag from its Capitol grounds following the June massacre of nine black churchgoers by a white supremacist flag enthusiast in Charleston, S.C.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, black separatist hate groups also gained strength, going from 113 chapters in 2014 to 180 in 2015. The SPLC says the growth followed the explosion of anger fostered by highly publicized incidents of police shootings of black men.

“But unlike activists for racial justice such as those in the Black Lives Matter movement, the black separatist groups did not stop at demands for police reforms and an end to structural racism. Instead, they typically demonized all whites, gays, and, in particular, Jews,” Potok writes.

“Conspiracy-minded anti-government ‘Patriot’ groups rose from 874 in 2014 to 998 in 2015 as well.

Potok notes that terror can breed hate crimes. After a jihadist couple in San Bernardo, California murdered 14 people in December 2015, it triggered a string of physical attacks on mosques and Muslims.

“Several political figures have harnessed that fear, calling for bans on mosques, Muslim immigrants and refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East,” Potok wrote.

To be sure, the report offered less than flattering portrays of the Republican presidential front-runners when it came to fanning the flames of dissent.

Partly fueling the new rise in hate groups are such Republican presidential candidates as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, experts contend.

The SPLC went so far to use Trump’s image on the cover of its report.

Inside, the SPLC makes no apologies, noting: The armed violence was accompanied by rabid and often racist denunciations of Muslims, LGBT activists and others — incendiary rhetoric led by a number of mainstream political figures and amplified by a lowing herd of their enablers in the right-wing media.”

The group says that the right-wing politicians are fostering a sense of polarization and anger in the U.S. that might be unmatched since the political upheavals of 1968.

“Donald Trump’s demonizing statements about Latinos and Muslims have electrified the radical right, leading to glowing endorsements from white nationalist leaders such as Jared Taylor and former Klansman David Duke,” writes Potok.

“White supremacist forums are awash with electoral joy, having dubbed Trump their ‘Glorious Leader.’ And Trump has repaid the compliments, retweeting hate posts and spreading their false statistics on black-on-white crime.”

The report noted that Donald Trump described President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s brutal “Operation Wetback” as a “very humane” way to accomplish mass deportation, and responded to the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally by saying, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”

You can read the report here

ir-160-hate-map-fb

Unedited Video Of the Oregon Standoff and Arrest and Showdown

There have been conflicting stories about how militant LaVoy Finicum.  Occupants of Finicum’s car say he was “executed” with his hands up.  Law enforcement accounts say that he was reaching into his left jacket pocket and not keeping his hands up (and a loaded gun was found in that pocket later).

To me, in this video, a couple of things are quite clear:

(1)  Finicum’s car was trying to flee law enforcement after he was stopped.  This all happens within the first minute of the video

(2)  When the car goes into a snowbank, Finicum comes out and his hands are raised.  However, he is not standing still.

So clearly, he was not complying with the police officers.

But did he reach for the gun.  I see it in the video.  When the video is enlarged to fullscreen, I see his hands come down and toward his pocket and that’s when he gets shot by the federal agent behind him.

You be the judge. This is the complete video footage of a joint FBI and Oregon State Police traffic stop and OSP officer-involved shooting of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This footage, which has only been edited to blur out aircraft information, was taken by the FBI on 01/26/2016 and released by the FBI on 01/28/2016. Note regarding date/time stamp in the left corner of video: Pilots use Zulu Time, also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), when they fly. Zulu time is eight hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). Therefore, although this footage was taken on January 26, 2016 in Oregon, the date/time stamp on the video shows just after midnight January 27, 2016.

If the video provides some sense of how the shooting went down, it still doesn’t offer much indication of why. Did Finicum think he could make it through the snow? Was it his decision alone to drive ahead, or did the other passengers agree? Did he expect police would fire? (He’d previously said he would rather die than be arrested.) Why did all the other passengers in both cars surrender without incident? These questions seem likely to remain unanswered at least until the others describe the moment.

The shooting and arrests seem to have effectively sapped the occupation of its energy. Ammon Bundy, arrested in the Jeep behing Finicum’s truck,  made a statement through his lawyer, called on the remnant to leave, and police surrounded the refuge and threw up road blocks. Several militia members have been arrested as they leave. There are now just four people left, and they are demanding that police agree not to arrest them in exchange for leaving.

“We’re asking, just drop the charges and we’re willing to go. But if they’re not willing to do that, we’re all just willing to stay here and see what happens,” one man, tentatively identified as David Fry, says in a video from the refuge posted Thursday. Fry told the Los Angeles Times’ Matt Pearce that three of them have been told they’re free to go, but a fourth faces a criminal charge. They also don’t want authorities to check their guns. If it’s hard to imagine police agreeing to such an exchange, it’s also true that the occupation’s demands—including release of two men imprisoned for federal crimes and federal surrender of the refuge—also always seemed wildly unrealistic.

Oregon Standoff Loosing Steam

Kudos to law enforcement.  Looks like their tactic worked.  A lot of lefties, including me, thought they were ignoring the armed occupiers when this thing began, but the feds knew what they were doing:

The Mass Shooting You Didn’t Hear About

The FBI doesn’t take victory laps, but I think maybe it should. These stories happen all the time and they never get the same media attention as the stories in which people bleed. And that’s why so many Americans live in (and vote out of) fear. We’re doing okay against the bad guys — better than you might think.  This story isn’t featured in any of the national media:

A terrorist-style plot intended to kill dozens of people with automatic weapons at a Masonic center in Milwaukee was foiled this week by FBI agents, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Samy Mohamed Hamzeh discussed his plan to attack the center with two others, detailing how they would quickly and quietly kill the first people they saw and then methodically move through the building, “eliminating everyone” they encountered, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Hamzeh, 23, has been charged with possessing a machine gun and a silencer. Despite indications of an attempted act of terrorism, Hamzeh is not charged with any terrorism counts.

“We are Muslims, defending Muslim religion, we are on our own, my dear, we have organized our own group,” Hamzeh said, according to the criminal complaint, adding he was confident it would trigger more attacks in the United States.

“Such operations will increase in America, when they hear about it. The people will be scared and the operations will increase, and there will be problems all over,… this will lead to people clashing with each other. This way we will be igniting it. I mean we are marching at the front of the war,” he said, according to the complaint.

Acting U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad called it a “detailed plan to commit a mass shooting intended to kill dozens of people.”

Bravo, FBI.

Domestic Terrorism Update

Busy day today, so I have little commentary.  I recommend an article in The New Yorker for a slightly different, but valuable, perspective than mine:

American vigilantism is never racially innocent. Its two parents are self-mobilization on the frontier, usually against Native Americans at a time when homesteading was reserved to whites, and the racial terror of the Ku Klux Klan in the South during and after Reconstruction. It is too much to call the occupiers “domestic terrorists,” as the Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh or the Klan were, but it is also obtuse to ignore the special comfort that certain white men have using guns as props in their acts of not-quite-civil disobedience. After all, guns were how they acquired their special sense of entitlement to public lands in the first place.

The latest news seems to be that the “protesters” have said they will leave if the locals there want them to.  That’s good news.

A leader of the activists occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon’s snowy back country said he and others would agree to stand down and leave if local residents ask them “directly” to end their campaign.

Ryan Bundy, who along with his brother has emerged as a leader of the activists and protesters holed up in a compound of federal buildings in southeastern Oregon, pledged to organize a meeting as early as Tuesday to let Harney County residents speak with them directly.

But on Tuesday, Bundy renewed his vow that there was no end in sight for the occupation.

Residents in the county’s largest towns – Burns and Hines – have said they agree with the activists’ message but take issue with their tactics, such as the armed occupation of government-owned buildings.

In Burns, signs have gone up asking the occupiers to leave. Some residents said they are fearful of a violent confrontation if federal agents were to descend on the refuge.

That sounds to me like Bundy thought he has the support of the local community when he said he would leave if the local residents wanted him to.  And now he’s finding out, uh, maybe not.  The article continues:

He said the occupying group has made “no direct demands,” but the participants have stated that they will leave if the federal government gives up control of the nearby Malheur National Forest.

Well, that’s not going to happen.

Armed Terrorists Seize Federal Property

You would think this would be 24/7 headline news, but it isn’t.  The terrorist takeover began Sunday morning, but the regular news outlets barely covered it.  Only on Twitter was it discussed at any length, thanks to the hashtag #OregonUnderAttack.

Now that it is a regular non-holiday workday, the media is starting to report it.  Before then, the only real outlet covering the story was The Oregonian.

What’s at the center of this issue is the federal land management, and two people: Dwight Hammond, age 73, and his son Steve Hammond, age 46.  These men are ranchers in Oregon.  Strap yourselves in.

Hammond Ranches owns about 12,000 acres in the Diamond-Frenchglen area. They use this ground to run cattle during the winter. Until two years ago the Hammonds used 26,420 acres of land belonging to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for summer grazing (the U.S. government gives out grazing permits).

Now, when it comes to ranching, fire is an important tool. It is used to burn invasive species that crowd out native grass and other plants.  Fire can kill those pests, leaving plenty of grazing (on the non-burned grass/plants) for the cattle.

The problem is, fire is also a threat. Recent wildfires have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in this territory, putting the ground off limits for grazing. Cattle have been killed in the runaway blazes, and lives endangered.

In 1999, Dwight Hammond got a stern letter from the local manager for the federal land bureau saying that Steve Hammond had set a fire that spread to federal ground. The letter said Steve told officials in a subsequent meeting that he “did not believe there was any way to control fire behavior or where it would burn, and that he did not take any action to prevent the fire from burning.”  Nevertheless, the Hammonds got off with a warning.

The problem started with two more fires set by the Hammonds — one in 2001 and one in 2006.

The fire in 2001 was a simple prescribed burn.  According to Steve and Dwight Hammond, it was intended to take out invasive juniper.  But federal prosecutors said the men’s real motive for starting the blaze, which consumed 139 acres and forestalled grazing for two seasons, was to cover up evidence of an illegal slaughter of deer. The government presented evidence that Steven Hammond called an emergency dispatcher to ask if it was OK to burn — roughly two hours after they already lit the fire. His attorney said in court that Hammond called the land bureau beforehand.

The government acknowledged that the next fire, in 2006, was intended as a defensive move. Steve Hammond set backfires to keep a lightning-caused fire from burning onto the Hammonds’ ranch and hitting their winter feed.  But the government said Steve Hammond lit up on the flanks of a butte, despite a countywide burn ban and the knowledge that young part-time firefighters were camped up higher. Their crew boss spotted the fires, which were set at night, and moved the crew, but campers and others were in danger.

The two men were indicted and convicted in 2010 on federal arson charges. On top of sentencing for arson, they also faced sentencing under the federal Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which reads in pertinent part:

SEC. 708. ENHANCED PENALTIES FOR USE OF EXPLOSIVES OR ARSON CRIMES.

    (a) In General.--Section 844 of title 18, United States Code, is 
amended--
            (1) in subsection (e), by striking ``five'' and inserting 
        ``10'';
            (2) by amending subsection (f) to read as follows:

    ``(f)(1) Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to 
damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, 
vehicle, or other personal or real property in whole or in part owned or 
possessed by, or leased to, the United States, or any department or 
agency thereof, shall be imprisoned for not less than 5 years and not 
more than 20 years, fined under this title, or both.

Hammonds’ lawyers argued that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 did not apply to the Hammonds — after all, they weren’t terrorists.

But the government argued that it didn’t matter.  The portion that dealt with enhanced penalties for explosion and arson crimes did not say the defendant HAD to be a “terrorist”.

You can understand why this was part of the law.  Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrow Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, including children.  The assumption behind Section 708 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (quoted above) was… well, if you are blowing up or setting fire to federal property, you must be a terrorist.

To his credit (in my opinion), U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan opined that although Section 708 applied to the crime committed by the Hammonds, Congress did not intend it to apply to people like the Hammonds.  A five year prison term would be unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment, the judge said.  “It would be a sentence which would shock the conscience,” Hogan added before sentencing Dwight to three months and Steve to one year.

The two men served their time, but the District Attorney appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit.  The Ninth Circuit reasonably ruled (in my opinion) that Section 708 set out a mandatory sentence of “not less than five years”.  The words “shall be” (which I emboldened above) are not “may be”.

So, the Hammonds were ordered back to prison to serve a five year sentence each.  They are supposed to start serving today.

But believe it or not, this has little to do with the Hammonds’ sentence.

Federal agencies own and regulate huge chunks of land in western states like Oregon and Nevada.  The United States of America holds deed to three-fourths of Harney County. Ranching done for a century and more is under pressure from environmentalists, recreationalists, and hunters.

fed_landuse

As such, those with anti-government views, particularly in western states, often focus on the federal government ‘s land-use policies.  The plight of the Hammonds has become a rallying call for one militia and patriot group after another. Men who see tyranny in federal acts are standing for the two men.  The Hammonds’ case — and the change to their sentencing, just further fed into views of a tyrannical federal government out of control.

For example, the federal government sued the Hammonds for $1 million the costs of fighting the fires that they set.  In late 2014, the Hammonds settled the lawsuit, agreeing the federal government $400,000. That has been paid.

But the settlement also required the Hammonds to give the land bureau first chance at buying a particular ranch parcel adjacent to public land if they intended to sell. For some, this is evidence that the government was going after the Hammonds in order to increase its property holdings — a “land grab” the “militia” members would say.  There is little evidence to support that.

So how did the yahoos get involved?  Well, on Saturday, members of the militia attended a demonstration in Burns, Oregon.  The purpose was to protest the Hammonds’ case. After the protest, the militiamen drove to the wildlife refuge and took it over.

It seems that the militiamen may have initially planned to seize the wildlife refuge headquarters in order to establish a “sanctuary” where the Hammonds could go to evade prison.

One of the most outspoken of the militia-terrorists is Ammon Bundy, whose father Cliven Bundy became a Fox News star in 2014 for his armed standoff in Nevada with the federal government over cattle-grazing rights. (see earlier postings about that controversy).  His brother Ryan is another occupier.

What do they want?  Ammon talked to some press people:

The group is demanding that the Hammonds be released and that the federal government give up control of the Malheur National Forest.

As Ammon Bundy sees it, the locals are “not strong enough” to stand up for themselves, so the militia must act as the “tip of the spear” and lead the fight on behalf of the locals.

Thus, Bundy and his fellow militiamen have seized the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — located in a remote area some 50 miles southeast of the city of Burns — in hopes of creating a “base” where “patriots” like themselves can come, with their guns, to live and make their stand against the “tyrannical” federal government.  Several pickup trucks blocked the entrance to the refuge Sunday, with armed men wearing camouflage and winter gear stationed outside.  The exact number of armed men is unknown. It’s worth nothing that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge visitors’ center is probably one of the least critical spots to occupy in all of the United States.

So far, it’s not going well for these “patriots”.  It turns out that the Hammonds don’t actually want the militia’s help — or at least, not anymore.

At first, according to the Oregonian, the Hammonds “accepted the militia’s offer of help to avoid prison.” But they “changed their minds after being warned by federal prosecutors to stop communicating with the militia” and have now “professed through their attorneys that they had no interest in ignoring the order to report for prison.”

Ammon also tried to recruit residents from the surrounding area, reportedly meeting with 10 or so locals, but they all turned him down.

The Oregonian interviewed some locals who expressed sympathy for the Hammonds and for the militia’s “constitutional arguments” but ultimately rejected the militia for its extremism.

The militia, the local fire chief told the newspaper, “seems like a bunch of people ready to shoot. I don’t want that in my county.”

Chatter on right wing blogs about the story is muted.  Breitbart News hasn’t touched it, except for one transitional paragraph at the start of a story recapping the Cliven BBundy matter in Nevada.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he hoped that the protesters would step aside, adding that “our prayers right now are with everyone involved in what’s happening with Oregon, and especially those in law enforcement that are risking their lives.”

“Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds. But we don’t have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence on others,” he said. “And so it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio decried the occupation as “lawless” and urged those involved in the standoff to pursue what they wanted through more lawful, constructive means.

But that’s not what they intend to do.  According to an Oregonian reporter…

Is the situation dangerous?  Not last night.  There was virtually no law enforcement presence of any sort.

But now, as the sun comes up, the FBI has arrived and set up a briefing center.  The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and local schools in the area are closed today.  I feel bad for The City of Burns Police Department which has three officers – the Chief and two officers – and an administrative assistant.

All told, this appears to be an act of terrorism.  When it comes to the Hammond arsons — yes, I can easily see why that was NOT terrorism.  But armed men taking over a federal building and demanding land — that’s insurrection, if not domestic terrorism.

And needless to say, the disparity in news coverage as well as law enforcement response, which compared to — say — Ferguson (where protesters had no guns and took no federal property) is astounding.  Also, they are being called “protesters”, rather than terrorists.

It is unclear how this will play out.  But soime people are serious.  Here’s one guy saying the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a tyrannical agency so he has made a suicide video and has promised to die for “the constitution.”

P.S.  Most of Oregon used to be Indian land.  Now we see a bunch of white guys complaining about a tyrannical oppressive government.  Irony.

To be continued….

UPDATE:  The terrorists want you to join them “to prevent bloodshed”…

UPDATE:  This is a slow-moving story.  I guess the government tactic is to wait them out until they get bored.  Which means no developments for days, weeks, or maybe even months.  But….

I guess “Patriots For God and Freedom’s Constitution of Citizens Together United for American’s Constitutional Second Amendment Crusaders and OathKeepers” was taken.

Anyway, the posted some signs and it looks like they are running low on the letter n.

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ANOTHER UPDATE: HuffPo says the “militia” wants a standoff with the FBI, but the FBI isn’t taking the bait:

The FBI is working closely with state police, and FBI officials are busy establishing a public information office in Burns. But due to a number of factors — the crisis is unfolding in a remote part of Oregon; it doesn’t appear to be a life-or-death situation; and there are no hostages involved — law enforcement officials want to avoid unnecessarily escalating the standoff, the source said. The FBI instead hopes to get a better handle on the situation over the next few days.

The FBI will not be releasing specific information about law enforcement movements, but it is working with local law enforcement agencies to “bring a peaceful resolution to the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” officials from the bureau said in a statement.

***

For now, there are no sirens, no police cars zooming to the seized building and no SWAT teams arriving in armored vehicles. In the parking lot of the refuge’s headquarters building, journalists mingle freely with activists. The 30-mile stretch of road between Burns and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where the militants are holed up, is snowy and barren.

Below the fold…. The Onion summarizes everything

Picture Of The Year?

I don’t know, but it should be contender.  The photographer is not a journalist or professional photographer, but I don’t know if that makes any difference.

This is a woman who escaped ISIS territory and was able to wear color again, taken sometime in early December 2015.

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Did Ted Cruz Leak Classified Information During The Latest GOP Debate?

It went down like this.  While Rubio and Cruz were debating each other’s records on national security and surveillance, Cruz got into some details about what the bulk data program covers.

“What he knows is that the old program covered 20 percent to 30 percent of phone numbers to search for terrorists,” Cruz said, referring to Rubio. “The new program covers nearly 100 percent. That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that’s the case.”

It’s not clear if Cruz, who is unpopular with many of his Senate colleagues, revealed classified information. But in his response to Cruz, Rubio noted that he did not want to say too much about the program.

“Let me be very careful when answering this, because I don’t think national television in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss classified information,” Rubio said. “So let me just be very clear. There is nothing that we are allowed to do under this bill that we could not do before.”

And that was how it went down.  Moments afterward, this was tweeted:

Becca Watkins is the communications director for Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Burr told reporters that his staff was looking into the matter as to whether or not Cruz disclosed classified information. Cruz is not well-liked in the Senate, even by his Republican colleagues.

Late yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that it will not be investigating anything said during Tuesday’s debate.

Meaning…. well, anything.  If Cruz leaked classified information, they’re certainly not going to admit it.  Better than the terrorists think that 100% of bulk phone data is being culled.

The Trump Backlash Continues

A $6 billion golf community under construction in Dubai is removing his name from the project. Trump was tossed from a respected business network in Scotland, where the billionaire says he invested more than $300 million in golf courses and other developments. And Lifestyle, a retailer that does business in an enormous marketplace spanning the Middle East, India and Africa, stopped selling Trump branded products. Trump lost his honorary doctorate at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Scotland.

Trump says that these nations are “caving to political correctness”.

In the national media, Tom Brokaw, the veteran NBC News anchor, has called Trump’s proposal “dangerous,” and likened it to the Holocaust and the Japanese internment. On its front page, The New York Times has said Trump’s idea is “more typically associated with hate groups.” Dan Balz, of The Washington Post, has called Trump’s rhetoric “demagogic,” while BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith has informed staff that it is acceptable to refer to Trump on social media as a “mendacious racist,” because, he said, those are facts.  Thankfully, journalism has moved into the ‘have you no shame’ mode, rather than the typical “he-said she-said”.

Muslim-Americans are speaking out.  The prize goes to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for his Time editorial, which begins:

The terrorist campaign against American ideals is winning. Fear is rampant. Gun sales are soaring. Hate crimes are increasing. Bearded hipsters are beingmistaken for Muslims. And 83 percent of voters believe a large-scale terrorist attack is likely here in the near future. Some Americans are now so afraid that they are willing to trade in the sacred beliefs that define America for some vague promises of security from the very people who are spreading the terror. “Go ahead and burn the Constitution — just don’t hurt me at the mall.” That’s how effective this terrorism is.

I’m not talking about ISIS. I’m talking about Donald Trump.

This is not hyperbole. Not a metaphor. Webster defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal; the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

If violence can be an abstraction — and it can; that’s what a threat is — the Trump campaign meets this definition. Thus, Trump is ISIS’s greatest triumph: the perfect Manchurian Candidate who, instead of offering specific and realistic policies, preys on the fears of the public, doing ISIS’s job for them. Even fellow Republican Jeb Bush acknowledged Trump’s goal is “to manipulate people’s angst and fears.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, 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.” Now, we don’t require by law that our candidates tell the truth. They can retweet (as Trump did) racist “statistics” from a white supremacist fictional organization that claimed 81% of murdered whites are victims of blacks, when the truth is 84% of whites are murdered by whites. They can claim (as Trump did) to have seen on TV thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering on 9/11, even though there is no evidence of this. They can say (as Trump did) Syrian refugees are “pouring” into the country when only 2,000 have come (out of 4.3 million U.N.-registered refugees). Then, when caught lying (as Trump has been over and over), they can do what every belligerent child does: deny, deny, deny.

While Trump is not slaughtering innocent people, he is exploiting such acts of violence to create terror here to coerce support. As I have written before, his acts could be interpreted as hate crimes. He sounds the shrill alarm of impending doomsday even though since 9/11, about 30 Americans a year have been killed in terrorist attacks worldwide — as The Atlanticpointed out, “roughly the same number as are crushed to death each year by collapsing furniture.” Trump’s irresponsible, inflammatory rhetoric and deliberate propagation of misinformation have created a frightened and hostile atmosphere that could embolden people to violence. He’s the swaggering guy in old Westerns buying drinks for everyone in the saloon while whipping them up for a lynching.

About 30,000 foreign fighters have gone into Syria to join ISIS, thousands of them from Europe and at least 250 from the United States. What most of us in these bountiful countries can’t understand is how our young, raised with such opportunity, choose to abandon our values to embrace a culture of pitiless violence. Before going, many of these recruits spend much of their time on social media being brainwashed by propaganda videos. One 23-year-old woman, a devout Christian and Sunday school teacher, was recruited via Skype. The recruiter spent hours with the lonely woman teaching her the rituals of Islam. Maybe that’s because, according to some psychologists, the brain’s default setting is simply to believe because it takes extra work to analyze information.

The same process works for Trump’s supporters. They are impervious to facts or truth because their (understandable) frustration and anger at partisan greed and incompetence have fatigued them out of critical thinking. Like deranged newscaster Howard Beale in Network, they are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. To express their outrage, they have rallied around a so-called “outsider” with no political experience, no detailed policies, and whacky ideas that subvert the very Constitution that he would be required to swear to uphold. Electing him would be like asking the clown at a child’s birthday party to start juggling chainsaws.

Muhammad Ali hit Trump with this released statement:

I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.

We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.

Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.

Even Ted Cruz, who has taken pains to avoid critiquing Trump, remarked at a private fundraiser that he would have problems with Trump as President and having his finger on the button.

None of this, of course, has affected Trump in the polls.  He leads in NH and SC by quite a bit.

Interestingly, there is an article in the New York Times today which reads

Fear of Terrorism Lifts Donald Trump in New York Times/CBS Poll

I am among the many who thinks it should read

Donald Trump Lifts Fear of Terrorism in New York Times/CBS Poll

The San Bernadino shootings (and to a lesser extent, the Paris attacks), of course, started the fear, but Trump is exploiting that fear in a way that even ISIS couldn’t.

On the other hand, not everyone is in Trump’s grip.  He is viewed as strongly negative by the electorate in general.  Here are some graphics from a WSJ/NBC poll released today:

WSJNBC1

WSJNBC2

Again, I think Trump has a ceiling and he’s a media phenomenon, but I don’t think he has a chance in hell to be the GOP nominee.  That’s almost irrelevant though, as his behavior this week is actually damaging to national security.  This is the culmination of years of anti-government right wing radio and TV — an actual honest-to-God fascist candidate who doesn’t see what he advocates as fascism.  In the guise of rejection of political correctness, he rejects the US Constitution and American values.

He’s yuge among white supremacists and crazy people.  The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers in part to cope with a Trump traffic spike.

This typifies a Trump fanatic/.  This lady, I am embarrassed to say, is a state representative in New Hampshire:

This is an interesting chapter in American politics, like the McCarthy Era was at one time.  I can’t wait until it is over.

UPDATE: It’s getting ugly too.  Here are Trump protesters being forcefully removed from a Trump event at the Plaza Hotel


UPDATE #2:  The first poll conducted entirely after Trump’s Muslim remarks just came out.  It was conducted by Reuters/Ipsos:

Trump led the pack of candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination in the 2016 election with 35 percent of support from Republican voters, the opinion poll released on Friday found, the same lead he held before Monday, when he said Muslim immigrants, students and other travelers should be barred from entering the country.

Most Republican voters said they were not bothered by his remarks, though many said the comments could still hurt Trump’s chances of becoming president. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans, who will pick the party’s nominee for the November 2016 election, said they found Trump’s remarks offensive against 64 percent who did not.

***

Still, in a sign of how Trump’s rhetoric has polarized the electorate, 72 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of voters overall said they were offended by Trump’s comments.

Forty-one percent of Republicans polled said Trump’s remarks could hurt his chances of becoming president; that figure was higher among all respondents.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came in second among Republicans with 12 percent in the Reuters/Ipsos poll, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tied with 10 percent.

Trump May Have Hit The Ceiling

Donald Trump has defied political pundits for months now.  When he first attacked John McCain, the thought was that it would kill him in the polls, but then he went up.  And that’s been the story for over four months now.  He keeps on appealing to the worst-of-the-worst conservative base and his numbers go up.

But many are now saying what I have always said.  Yes, he has a strong base, but he has a low ceiling.  I have put that ceiling on mid-30% of Republicans.  I don’t think he can get much higher than that.

Yesterday, Trump crossed a line.

Donald J. Trump called on Monday for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can “figure out what is going on” after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., an extraordinary escalation of rhetoric aimed at voters’ fears about members of the Islamic faith.

A prohibition of Muslims – an unprecedented proposal by a leading American presidential candidate, and an idea more typically associated with hate groups – reflects a progression of mistrust that is rooted in ideology as much as politics.

Mr. Trump, who in September declared “I love the Muslims,” turned sharply against them after the Paris terrorist attacks, calling for a database to track Muslims in America and repeating discredited rumors that thousands of Muslims celebrated in New Jersey on 9/11. His poll numbers rose largely as a result, until a setback in Iowa on Monday morning. Hours later Mr. Trump called for the ban, fitting his pattern of making stunning comments when his lead in the Republican presidential field appears in jeopardy.

Saying that “hatred” among many Muslims for Americans is “beyond comprehension,” Mr. Trump said in a statement that the United States needed to confront “where this hatred comes from and why.”

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Mr. Trump said.

That was too much, even for Republicans who have avoided taking shots at him.  Every GOP candidate spoke against this.  Jeb Bush called it “unhinged”.  Others called it “unamerican”. The former vice president, Dick Cheney, said Mr. Trump’s proposal “goes against everything we stand for.” And others.

Cruz, who rarely distances himself from Trump, took a small step away, saying “I do not believe the world needs my voice added to that chorus of critics” referencing the large group of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates who have criticized the plan, adding “I commend Donald Trump for standing up and focusing America’s attention on the need to secure our borders.”  But then he tweeted how he will always defend religious liberty.  So… a VERY small step away — small enough to still pat The Donald on the back.

But Cruz stands alone in his weak condemnation.

GOP lawmakers have gone to the House floor telling Trump to drop out of the race.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) tweeted late Monday that he was barring Trump from his city “until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.”

Some are concerned and saying that, even as a candidate, Trump is a threat to national security.  There’s a lot of truth to this.  Trump’s rhetoric is the best recruitment tool that ISIS could have.

Trump is also getting burned overseas. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”

Then there is the media.  The Philly Daily News:

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Trump’s rationalization for this is pretty bizarre.  He keeps using the “what’s going on” phrase:

Here’s something else that’s telling: In an interview with ABC News this morning, Trump repeated various formulations designed to express generalized uncertainty and anxiety, over and over: “What is going on?” “We don’t know what is going on.” “We have to figure things out.” “What the hell is going on.” “We have to figure out what’s going on. Something is happening that’s not good.” “Until our country’s Representatives can figure out what is going on, we have no choice but to do this.”

The details don’t matter in the least. What matters is that Trump is speaking to a basic sense among his supporters that something is going on, thatsomething is wrong. He is willing to admit this and speak to the need to do something about it, even something drastic or “frankly unthinkable.” If that offends the politically correct and corrupt media, which is probably complicit in this American decline in any case, all the better.

Details, indeed, don’t matter. On the radio this morning, I heard a CNN interviewer ask exactly how banning Muslims from entering the country would be done, since religion does not appear on passports.  Trump, obviously speaking off the cuff, said in essence, that the customs people would ask them “Are you Muslim?”

Right.  I see a few flaws in that.approach.  From a practical standpoint (they will lie) and, oh by the way, can it get MORE unconstitutional?  I think not.

Trump compares his policies to Roosevelt’s during WWII, but unfortunately for Trump, most people view Japanese internment as a BAD part of our history.  And Trump is getting compared to Hitler today, more than Roosevelt.

Will it deter Trump die-hards?  Of course not.  CNN and NBC News interviewed a number of Trump supporters in South Carolina, and asked them to react to the new “plan.”.  Here’s what they said:

“I don’t want ’em here. Who knows what they gonna bring into this country? Bombs? ISIS? What?”

“That’s a very prudent idea. I think that he’s done due diligence when he makes that statement. We have to protect our American citizens first.”

“We just let terrorists into this country.”

“Somebody just needs to go in there and take control of this. It’s going rampant, and I’m worried about America. Worried about our safety. They’re getting in. They need to be stopped.”

“I think it’s a good idea. With everything that’s going on in the world right now — it sounds harsh, but reality is reality.”

“I’m a veteran paratrooper. Been in three different campaigns and two different wars. Both Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve had too many brothers and sisters lost over there in those two wars to just let them come here free range in our country now. It’s a kick in the face to every veteran there is that’s fought in those wars, to us trying to protect our homeland from them coming in.”

As CNN’s reporter put it: “No one here we spoke with had a problem with the plan.”

It’s too soon to see if this has any effect on his polling numbers.  But given the VERY LOUD outcry, I don’t expect him to go up, as he usually does.  I think this propels him into the ceiling.

Actually, it might be polls that drove this.  According to one poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers, Ted Cruz is on top in Iowa at 24%, followed by Donald Trump (19%), Marco Rubio (17%), and Ben Carson (13%).

The real issue isn’t Trump, but the GOP’s reaction to it.  So far, the party spokesmen have said nothing.  (Reince Pribus simply has said, “I don’t agree”).  But White House press spokesman Josh Earnest said it best:

“The Trump campaign for months now has had a dustbin of history-like quality to it, from the vacuous sloganeering to the outright lie to even the fake hair—the whole carnival barker routine we’ve seen for some time now… The question now is about the rest of the Republican party and whether or not they’re going to be dragged into the dustbin of history with him.”

Thoughts and Prayers

There seems to be a backlash to this almost reflexive (and increasingly meaningless) response to mass shootings, best exemplified by the cover of today’s New York Daily News:

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There has also been a backlash to the backlash.  Christians got offended at what is being called “thoughts and prayers shaming”.  The Weekly Standard offered a headline that blared,“Liberal Outrage Over Prayers for Shooting Victims.” And the American Conservative predictably complained that “We have reached the point in our culture in which leading voices on the Left feel compelled to shout from the rooftops condemnation on Christians for offering something as ordinary and decent as prayers for atrocity victims as a first response to news of the killings. Think about that for a moment. When the simple offering of prayers for the dead and wounded are grounds for spiteful attack, it is hard to avoid wondering just what commonalities bind us as Americans anymore.” And Fox & Friends First tweeted out “Prayer Shaming After Mass Shooting: While GOP Calls For Prayers, Mainstream Media Mocks Them.”  Here’s Rand Paul:

Uh no.  What is being attacked is offering “thoughts and prayers” in the absence of action.  Nothing wrong with “thoughts and prayers” itself, especially if….

That’s a good point.  I suspect that most of these politicians don’t actually pray at all.  I wish they could be asked, what do you think about?  What to you pray for?  Peace for the family’s of the victims, certainly — but is that IT?  What are you doing to make sure you aren’t thinking about and praying for FUTURE victims’ families? Today’s Internet belongs to Mary Beth Williams at Slate, if only for writing this:

It’s not prayer shaming to say that a lot of us — a lot of us who find comfort in prayer — are sick of the very people whose rhetoric and policies are helping perpetuate a culture of death hiding helplessly behind God whenever blood is shed. Which happens to occur quite often.

Related:

Also related: Look how the other New York tabloid changed its cover:

Before —  

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Later on —

CVTm1l8VAAAoXl- Blatant bigotry aside, it’s also important to call out the Post’s inconsistent focus on religion in the aftermath of mass shootings in America. After last Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado, the paper not only failed to feature the story on its front page, its editors opted not to label the shooter a “Christian Killer” in any accompanying stories.

And THIS:

The San Bernadino Shootings: Terrorism Or Not?

Here’s what we know about the shooters:

  • They have been identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27.
  • Farook was an environmental specialist who had worked for the county health department for five years.
  • Farook attended a holiday party for county employees earlier that day.
  • Farook left the party under circumstances that were decribed by witnesses as “angry”
  • Farook returned maybe half an hour later with Malik. Farook and Malik both were armed with .223-caliber assault-style rifles and semi-automatic pistols.
  • They also were wearing attack gear and brought some explosive devices
  • 14 people were killed at the holiday party.
  • The couple fled in a black SUV before law enforcement intercepted them hours later.
  • Both were killed in a shootout with police, who tracked them to a home in nearby Redlands.
  • A third person was detained, but police said they hadn’t determined whether that person was involved
  • The Los Angeles Times has reported that Malik had recently married Farook after meeting him online.
  • Farook was born in the U.S.
  • Co-workers described him as a devout Muslim to the Los Angeles Times, but said he rarely discussed religion.
  • Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia to apparently attend Hajj pilgrimage
  • Farook and Malin had a six month old daughter, who they left with Farook’s mother that morning, saying they had a doctor’s appointment.
  • Neither one was on the FBI terrorist watch list.

The question on everyone’s lips: was it terrorism or not?

On the one hand, it appears to be a workplace revenge situation.  He got into a fight at a holiday party, left angry, came back, and started shooting up the place.

But what is undeniable is that there was planning involved.  They had improvised explosive devices, which had to be made well in advance.  They had the gear and extra ammo.

So here are the theories:

(1)  This was workplace revenge (non a terrorist attack)

(2)  The fight/party was a ruse (or coincidental) and this was a terrorist attack all along (perhaps they intended to go on and hit other soft targets).

(3)  They were planning a terrorist attack somewhere, which is why they had the equipment, but something work-related triggered Farook, and at the last minute, he decided (with his wife) to shoot up the workplace.

In other words, it was a workplace revenge attack (not terrorism) or an Islamic-based attack (terrorism) or some combination of the two.

#1 seems unlikely simply because of the preparedness — the IEDs etc.  That leaves #2 or #3, and I lean toward #3 because the left the baby with the mother that morning and lied about having a doctor appointment.  I think they knew that day what was going to happen.

Now, it still is an odd choice for a target, unless you take into account that he knew the building.  And the lack of “Allah Akbar” is unusual.  And it is unusual that they radical background could be so hidden.

We don’t know the motives for sure, and the FBI is still not saying whether this is terrorism or not.  Time will tell.

Matt Pearce has a wonderful tweet about how Ted Cruz interprets these events when it is a Christian shooter versus a Muslim shooter:

Not surprisingly, Cruz won’t acknowledge Christian terrorism even when the motive is known, but will call out Islamic terrorism when the motive is still murky.

UPDATE: CNN is saying that Farook was in touch with more than one international terrorism subjects.  That seems to end the debate.

UPDATE #2:  It seems that the couple were re-armed for a second attack, after stopping at home (presumably to get more supplies).  But police fortunately intervened.  Also, twelve pipe bombs were found in home of the suspect.

We also know that the shooters fired 65 to 75 rounds at the holiday party and 76 more during police pursuit, according to the SB police chief.

Also, number of injured raise to 21.

UPDATE #3:  

The brother of the San Bernardino shooter is a decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy, a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

Syed Raheel Farook enlisted in August 2003 and left the service in August 2007.

He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy records show.

Syed Raheel Farook was an Information System Technician, Third Class. He was on duty on the USS Enterprise; in the Surface Warfare Officer School Unit, in Great Lakes, IL; and at the Recruit Training Command, in Great Lakes, IL.

He was an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist and won the Good Conduct Medal, records show.

His brother, Syed Rizwan Farook and sister-in-law are suspected of a mass shooting that killed 14 on Wednesday. They both died in a shootout with police.

Today’s Mass Shooting: San Bernadino, California

Breaking news 2:46 pm EST:  12 reported dead, many injured.

Some reports include a second and even third shooter.

Related:

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2:55 pm: The building where the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., was reported provides services for developmentally disabled people, according to its website

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LA Times is reporting active shooters (plural) may be heavily armed and wearing body armor.

3:05 pm EST:  Networks now covering this. FBI and ATF on their way From Inland Regional Center website: – 600 staff members – provide services to 30,000 – Serves San Bernardino and Riverside counties

This is the 352nd mass shooting in the United States this year (“Mass shooting” defined as a shooting where 4 or more are killed or injured).

3:40 pm:  It’s hard to see a political motive here, at least a right wing one.  It’s possible they thought it was an abortion clinic (Planned Parenthood is nearby).  I guess time will tell.

San Benadino PD confirm to MSNBC that “shooting suspect had tactical gear”.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that police are searching for an SUV that fled the scene of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting, according to sources. The organization also reports that police detonated a suspicious device found on the premises. This information has not been confirmed by authorities. It is still unclear exactly how many shooters were involved

4:30 pm: Witness tells ABC affiliate reporter that an event honoring County personnel was going on in the conference center at IRC. Shooters entered there.

Apparently, no shooters caught, but fatalities have been confirmed.

6:15pm 14 dead, 17 injured.

One suspect down and apparently dead. A second suspect and possibly a third in a black SUV next to the dead suspect and surrounded by police who are negotiating a non-violent surrender.

Motives and background of suspects unknown, but this thing is close to over.

Planned Parenthood Shooting Is Domestic Terrorism

I’ve been vacationing and the holidays and yada yada, so there’s been light blogging lately.

Colorado Springs shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina is seen in undated photos provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Nov. 27, 2015 and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover. By the time the shooter surrendered, at least three people were killed, including a police officer and at least nine others were wounded, authorities said. (El Paso County Sheriff's Office via AP)

The big news that I missed was a terrorist attack here on the United States, although whether to call it a “terrorist attack” seems to be arguable.  I’m talking of course about the shooter at Planned Parenthood.  On Saturday, November 27, a shooting and five-hour standoff with police occurred at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A police officer and two civilians were killed; five police officers and four civilians were injured. Police convinced the suspected shooter, identified as Robert Lewis Dear, to surrender. He was taken into custody after a standoff that lasted five hours. Yesterday, Dear was charged with murder in the first-degree, and was ordered to be held without bond.

It wasn’t hard to surmise his motive or political leanings, especially when he told the police “no more baby parts” and was known to have passed out anti-Obama literature.  Obviously, when you are trying to affect political or social change through the use of violence, that is the definition of terrorism — yet Republican candidates seem to have a hard time calling it this.  When a reporter told Ted Cruz that the suspect in the Colorado Springs killings is alleged to have mentioned “baby parts” after his arrest, the Texas senator responded, “Well, it’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and transgendered leftist activist, if that’s what he is.”  Cruz was likely citing a report from The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing blog, that uncovered a Colorado state voter registration form which lists Dear’s gender as female.  (Occam’s Razor suggests it was likely a clerical error — and it was).

On Fox News Sunday, Carly Fiorina called alleged killer Robert Lewis Dear “deranged’ and lamented that the shooting took place on a “holiday weekend,” before zeroing in on the real tragedy: the unfair treatment of Carly Fiorina by pro-choice activists and the left. Host Chris Wallace asked Fiorina if she saw a link between overheated anti-choice rhetoric and violence by abortion opponents. Fiorina, who at the second GOP debate regaled viewers with a grisly and entirely false story about Planned Parenthood workers yanking the brain out of a “living, kicking” fetus, failed to see how her words might inspire someone to take drastic action, adding:

“This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing the messenger because they don’t agree with the message…. Anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is … this is typical left-wing tactics.”

The link was made, however, not by the leftwing, but by the gunman himself. Fiorina advanced the inflammatory lie that Planned Parenthood makes a profit from trafficking in fetal body parts. In fact, the fetal tissue is turned over for medical research, with the attendant fees used to cover expenses.

Ben Carson responded to the attack by wishing everyone would be a little more polite. He then politely blamed Planned Parenthood for the shooting.  Asked if extremist rhetoric emboldens domestic terrorists, Carson argued that “both sides” are to blame for vilifying each other. A fair point, perhaps, although nobody is shooting up Focus On The Family.  Personally, I think it is okay to villify terrorists.

Donald Trump briefly approximated humanness on Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press Sunday, calling the shooting “a terrible thing.” Seconds later the GOP candidate returned to form, denouncing Planned Parenthood and essentially blaming the organization for making Trump supporters angry.

Mike Huckabee had the guts to call the shooting an act of domestic terrorism and mass murder. “There’s no legitimizing, there’s no rationalizing. It was mass murder. It was absolutely unfathomable,” he said. But then he went on to equate what happened with abortion, which is legal.  He accused Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to low-income women, of mass murder, engaging in exactly the kind of extreme rhetoric that might convince an unhinged person the group is deserving of violent attack. “And there’s no excuse for killing other people, whether it’s happening inside the Planned Parenthood headquarters, inside their clinics where many millions of babies die, or whether it’s people attacking Planned Parenthood,” he said.

The point is that what happened in Colorado Springs is just an extreme example of a long line of terrorist actions against Planned Parenthood, which include threats, murders, and bombings.  Back in September, CBS reported that the FBI had noticed an uptick in attacks on reproductive health care facilities since the first video was released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP). There were nine criminal or suspicious incidents (including cyber attacks, threats, and arsons) from July, when the videos first came out, through mid-September.

An FBI Intelligence Assessment at the time found these attacks were “consistent with the actions of lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement.” Moreover, the report said it was “likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities.”

Less than two weeks after CBS reported that, another abortion clinic was firebombed in California. It was the fourth arson at a Planned Parenthood location in as many months.

Since 1977, there have been eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, and 186 arsons against abortion clinics and providers.  Even today, a hospital in Colorado Springs was put on lockdown because of a “suspicious person” making threats to shoot one of the victims from Friday’s deadly Planned Parenthood attack.

So the Richard Dear shootings are not an isolated incident, just an extreme one.  Stay tuned.

Trump: Annoy Your Local Police With Your Paranoia

Well, what he said was this today (emphases are mine):

We can’t let it happen anymore. We have to be strong, we have to smart. We have to be fair, we have to be fair to all side. And it’s tough. You know, if you’re Muslim — and there are so many, they’re so great, they’re such good people — but we to be smart, because it’s coming from this area. I mean, there’s something going on. There’s some nastiness, there’s some meanness there. There’s something going on in the mosques and other places. And we have to at least say there’s a problem so we can solve it. We can’t close our eyes.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Obama — he wants to close his eyes and pretend it’s not happening. Why is he so emphatic on not solving the problem? There’s something we don’t know about! There’s something we don’t know about. (Shouts from the audience can be heard, declaring that Obama is a Muslim.)

So, we have to go out — and again, the greatest source for this is our local police. And the really greatest source is all of you, because you have all those eyes. And you see what’s happening. People move into a house a block down the road — you know who’s going in. You can see. And you report them to the local police. You know, it’s too complicated — call the federal government, who do we call? it’s a big bureaucratic mess, nobody knows what they’re doing, okay?

But you people, and me and everybody, you know when somebody moves to an apartment near you, or to a house near you — you’re pretty smart, right? We know if there’s something going on. Report them! Most likely you’ll be wrong, and that’s okay. But let the local police go in and check out [sic], and you’ll get rid of this stuff. That’s the best way. Everybody’s their own cop, in a way — I mean, you gotta do it, you gotta do it.

Holy Christ.  I mean, it will never happen, but what if he actually becomes President?

Anti-Refugee Fearmongering Continues

What Obama Says:

What I say:

Turning our backs on desperate Muslim refugees plays right into ISIS’s hands.  After all, they recruit from a disenfranchised and angry population.  What better to create a disenfranchised and angry population?

How Hating Muslims Plays Into Terrorists’ Hands

Jonathan Chait:

This is what ISIS, the Islamic State, wants.

“This is precisely what ISIS was aiming for — to provoke communities to commit actions against Muslims,” said Arie Kruglanski, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland who studies how people become terrorists. “Then ISIS will be able to say, ‘I told you so. These are your enemies, and the enemies of Islam.’”

The moments following a terrorist attack are often filled with acts of reprisal. In the six months following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, anti-Muslim violence and mosque vandalism more than quadrupled compared to the same period in 2014, according to the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, a watchdog group.

Extremist groups feed off of alienation, some counterterrorism experts say, and Islamist militants deliberately aim to make Muslims in the West feel isolated and turn against their own communities.

According to this line of thinking, acts of terrorism widen the cultural divide by provoking hate crimes against Muslims in the West. This strategy gained traction in the early 2000s after al-Qaeda was sent into hiding by Western military action. Abu Musab al-Suri, an influential jihadi thinker whom the Wall Street Journal called “the new mastermind of jihad,” argued for a distributed network of terrorist cells recruited from the Islamic diaspora, carrying out terrorist strikes in their own communities. These attacks, and the backlash they generated, would inspire other to radicalize.

“What the Islamic State wants to do is to start a civil war,” said political scientist Gilles Kepel Saturday in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde. Kepel, a professor at Sciences Po and an ISIS expert, has extensively studied the ideology and strategies of modern-day jihadis.

Al-Suri, Kepel said, had a vision: “a proliferation of blind attacks that will provoke lynchings of Muslims, attacks on mosques, harassment of women in veils, and create hotspots of war that will put fire and sword to Europe, seen as the soft underbelly of the West.”

The attacks on Paris this weekend seemed to follow Al-Suri’s script. Four of the terrorists have been identified as French or Belgian nationals who were recruited in the West. And if these early incidents are any indication, anti-Muslim sentiment will again surge in Europe, further distancing Muslim communities.

A study published last year in The Economic Journal found that the spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes after 9/11 led to a decline in assimilation rates in American Muslim communities. In places where hate crimes increased the most, Muslim immigrants in subsequent years spoke English less fluently, were less likely to marry non-Muslims, and women were less likely to be working.

GOP Frontrunner on Terrorism: I’m A Psychic

Donald Trump has magic feels and can tell when terrorism will hit:

“I predicted Osama bin Laden,” Mr. Trump declared in Knoxville, adding, “In my book, I predicted terrorism. Because I can feel it, like I feel a good location, O.K.?

“In real estate — my father always used to tell people, ‘You know, he may be my son, but everything he touches turns to gold,’” Mr. Trump said. His father helped him begin his real estate career with a loan. “When my father said that, that was a great compliment because he was a tough cookie. He said, ‘He has an instinct for location.’ You have an instinct about things. I really believe I have an instinct for this kind of thing.”

Vetting Syrian Refugees: A Governor With Guts

Kudos to Gov. Peter Shumlin

SOUTH BURLINGTON – Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday that governors who turn away Syrian refugees are “stomping” on American values.

As of early Monday afternoon, nine Republican governors had said they would attempt to stop the relocation of refugees from Syria because of safety concerns following Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris.

“The governors who are taking those actions are stomping on the qualities that make America great,” Shumlin said at an unrelated news conference Monday morning, “which is reaching out to folks when they’re in trouble and offering them help, not hurting them.”

As of September, the United States had accepted 1,854 refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. The war has displaced about 4 million people.

Shumlin said he believes seven or eight refugees from Syria are being considered for placement through the Refugee Resettlement Program in Vermont, and he believes the state can take more.

“It’s the spirit of all Vermonters to ensure that when you have folks who are drowning, who are dying in pursuit of freedom, that Vermont does its part,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin emphasized what he called the “rigorous” screening process for refugee resettlement.

“We root out folks who should not be accepted,” Shumlin said.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it seems xenophobia is ruling the day with the red-staters.

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) issued an executive order instructing all “departments, budget units, agencies, offices, entities, and officers of the executive branch of the State of Louisiana” to “utilize all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the State of Louisiana while this Order is in effect.”

Can they do this?  In a word, no.

The problem for Jindal, Abbott and the other governors opposed to admitting refugees, however, is that there is no lawful means that permits a state government to dictate immigration policy to the president in this way. As the Supreme Court explained in Hines v. Davidowitz, “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.” States do not get to overrule the federal government on matters such as this one.

Just in case there is any doubt, President Obama has explicit statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the president may admit refugees who face “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” into the United States, and the president’s power to do so is particularly robust if they determine that an “unforeseen emergency refugee situation” such as the Syrian refugee crisis exists.

The vetting of Syrian refugees to the U.S. (we’re only going to be taking in 10,0000) is arduous:

And entering the U.S. as a refugee is by far the most difficult and complex of all routes in; refugees are the single most vetted population entering the country.

All those seeking to come as refugees must first be registered by the UN Refugee Agency, which identifies the families most in need. UNHCR screens each family, painstakingly documents their family composition and history of flight from Syria, then refers those who best qualify for the U.S. resettlement program on to the federal government.

The U.S.’s own vetting process then kicks in, with the Department of Homeland Security conducting in-person interviews, gathering detailed biographical and biometric data and conducting multiple background checks that include combing through multiple federal agencies’ respective consular, law enforcement, intelligence and national security databases.

Expertly trained officers from the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and multiple intelligence agencies are involved in vetting refugees before they are approved to travel to America. Further screening is also conducted when refugees arrive in the U.S., after their first year here, and if and when they apply for citizenship.

 

The process takes 18 to 24 months, which makes it harder.  For example, the medical screening is only valid for 6 months, so you might have to repeat this process a couple times before all is said and done.

Keep in mind that many countries in Europe will accept a refugee application based simply on a case file.

Here’s one Syrian refugee’s family’s story.

And another from a local family.

UPDATE:  Ben Carson denamds end to federal aid to Syrian refugees (remember, these are people running away from ISIS):

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NUMBERS TO CONSIDER from the Economist

Of the 745,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. since September 11th, only two Iraqis in Kentucky have been arrested on terrorist charges, for aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq.

And that’s it.  NONE — ZERO — NADA — have been arrested for committing domestic terrorism.

UPDATE — Booooo to New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is also challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) for her Senate seat.  She is the first Democrat to express support for halting the flow of refugees.

Paris Attacks: A Summary

There were seven coordinated terror attacks in Paris carried out by militants, killing at least 129 people.

The first attacks were launched virtually simultaneously, with two explosions close to the Stade de France at just after 9.20pm local time, four miles apart.

The explosions came as a large crowd were enjoying the first half of the international friendly between France and Germany.

The attacks then moved to central Paris, where a separate team of gunmen arrived in a black Seat at the Right Bank area of the city.

The attackers opened fire on the Petit Cambodge Cambodian restaurant inRue Bichat, and the Le Carillon bar on the other side of the road.

With devastating coolness they gunned down diners and revellers at the two venues, killing 15 and sending a shockwave of terror through an area being enjoyed by many on their Friday night out.

The fourth attack came on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, when the same unit of terrorists drove the 500 yards to eh Casa Nostra pizzeria and opened fire on diners, killing at least five.

From there, the militants drove around a mile south-east – apparently past the area of the Bataclan concert venue – to then launch another attack, this time on La Belle Equipe bar in Rue de Charonne. At least 19 people died after the terrace was sprayed with bullets at around 9.35pm.

The next attack, at the Bataclan concert venue in Boulevard Voltaire, was the most deadly. There, at least 89 people lost their lives when they were shot by black-clad gunmen wielding AK-47s and wearing suicide vests.

The attackers stormed into the hall and fired calmly and methodically at hundreds of screaming concert-goers, who were watching the US rock group Eagles of Death Metal playing to a full house of 1,500 people.

They began a siege that would last two hours and forty minutes. Two of the militants blew up their explosive belts as heavily armed anti-terror police ended the siege at around 12.30am. A third was shot by officers.

Finally, at around 9.50pm a third blast took place near the Stade de France, this time by a McDonald’s restaurant on the fringes of the stadium.

The boom caused terror among spectators who had already been attempting to flee the stadium following the first two explosions.

The match had continued, with many attributing the initial noises to fireworks, but word soon spread of what had taken place outside the stadium, as people read updates on their mobile phones.

At least 129 people have died, according to city officials, with many still in intensive care.  One was an American student from Long beach, California.

At least 89 people were killed in the concert hall. Three assailants were also killed after police stormed in – two by activating their suicide vests and a third shot dead.

On Sunday, France struck back at the heart of Islamic State, launching 20 airstrikes on the Syrian town of Raqqa, the defacto capital of the “caliphate”.

In a joint operation with US forces, targets including a command post, a recruitment centre for jihadists, an arms depot and a terrorist training camp were destroyed, according to the French defence ministry.

Overnight on Sunday, anti-terrorism units also launched raids across France, in Toulouse, Grenoble, Calais and Paris. Several arrests were made and weapons have been seized.

Fifteen men have been linked to the attacks. Seven of the terrorists were killed by suicide bombs.  In the Molenbeek area of Brussels, the police made seven arrests during a series of raids, at the order of the Brussels prosecutor Francoise Schepmans.  One man is on the run.

15 men have so far been linked to the Paris attacks.

But Belgian intelligence officials have suggested that up to 20 people may have been part of the terrorist cell that planned the attacks, meaning a total of six people could be on the run.

WARNING — GRAPHIC CONTENT BELOW FOLD

Bad News Coming Out Of Paris

Looks like a series of pre-planned coordinated terrorist attacks happening in different places throughout Paris.

Also a reported hostage situation at the Paris Bataclan concert hall.

18 killed in central Paris according to another report.

A possible response to the killing of Jihadi John by a U.S. drone strike?

Two explosions were heard outside the Stade de France stadium north of Paris during a France-Germany friendly football match.

French president Hollande evacuated from soccer stadium.

Continuing…..

MORE UPDATES:

Guardian reports

Eyewitness Ben Grant said he was in a bar with his wife when the gunshots were fired and he had seen six or seven bodies on the ground. He told the BBC: “I was told people in cars had opened fire on the bar. “There are lots of dead people. It’s pretty horrific to be honest. I was at the back of the bar. I couldn’t see anything. I heard gunshots. People dropped to the ground. We put a table over our heads to protect us. “We were held up in the bar because there was a pile of bodies in front of us.”

CNN reporting that the shootings were at three places.

This Vine reportedly captures the explosion noise during the soccer game:

ABC News adds that 60 hostages are believed to be held in what is being described as “an ongoing situation.” AP and Sky News saying it is 100 at Bataclan concert being held hostage.

Shots heard a couple minutes ago outside Bataclan concert hall

LATE UPDATE:

158 dead. Probably still going to go up. Over 100 killed in the theater before the police finally entered and killed the gunmen. A total of 6 separate terrorist incidents in Paris tonight.

Quel tragedie.

Bush 41 On Cheney and Rumsfeld

Dad was a far better president than sons.  Of course, Dad could never be elected in today’s uber-conservative GOP.  But I always had a soft spot for the elder Bush.  And here’s why.  According to the New York Times:

…the elder Bush told biographer Jon Meacham that Cheney “had his own empire there and marched to his own drummer.” Calling the former vice president “iron-ass,” the elder Bush said he “just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with.”

The former president also called Rumsfeld “an arrogant fellow” and suggested that his lack of empathy made him a poor public servant in George W. Bush’s White House.

“I think he served the president badly,” Bush said. “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president having his iron-ass view of everything.”

“There’s a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks. He’s more kick ass and take names, take numbers. I think he paid a price for that,” he said.

The former president’s comments, detailed in Meacham’s book “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” are sure to be seen through the prism of the presidential run of his other son, Jeb. The former Florida governor is struggling to regain political momentum, in part after questions about the dynastic nature of his 2016 run.

In the book, George H.W. Bush doesn’t shy away from criticism of George W. Bush, suggesting that some of his son’s rhetoric – like describing North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an “axis of evil” – was ill-advised.

“I do worry about some of the rhetoric that was out there — some of it his, maybe, and some of it the people around him,” he said of George W. Bush.

That last part doesn’t sound right.  I don’t think Bush is criticizing his son by saying his son’s actions were ill-advised.  I think he was (again) criticizing the advisers, i.e., Cheney and Rumsfeld.

UPDATE – Rumsfeld fired back in a statement to NBC News: “Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions.”

Yeah.  I don’t think that was the point.  He made his own decisions, based on the bad advice (and facts) he was given.

I won’t say anything about Rumsfeld, age 83, commenting on the elder Bush, age 91, getting up in years.

Russian Plane Crash In Egypt

A Russian charter plane crashed over the weekend on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.  All 224 aboard the Airbus jetliner were killed, with company executives ruling out technical or human error only to be upbraided by aviation officials who called such assertions premature.

The Metrojet flight full of mostly Russian vacationers, bound for St. Petersburg from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh, plummeted after reaching cruising altitude, scattering in chunks and bits across Sinai. The lack of information has combined with unsubstantiated claims by the Islamic State that its militants destroyed the aircraft to avenge Russia’s immersion into the Syria war.   The plane had been in the air about twenty minutes when it suddenly plummeted from around 33,000 feet above the Peninsula.

I’ve reviewed the data and in my opinion, this was foul play.  I say this for two reasons:

(1)  Scattered debris.  The parts of the jetliner were scattered over an area of five square miles, meaning that it broke apart high in the air.

(2)  The flight data.

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As the chart above notes, the aircraft rose in altitude and then drops off.  My guess is that event occurred around 4:12 and the aircraft continued to fly, or at least the section containing the flight data black box continued to fly, upward.  This happened with the Lockerbie explosion as well.

This is inconsistent with ordinary mechanical error or pilot error.

The only question I have, in my non-expert analysis, is whether the plane was impacted from something one the outside, or exploded from the inside.  Piecing together the jetliner will be relatively easy and it will be easy to detect residue, if any, of chemicals or explosive powder.  Sadly, one way to figure out what happened is to examine the bodies for shrapnel from the plane.  If a person has something lodged in him/her from, say, the right side of the plane, and that person was sitting on the left, that would indicate that the fuselage exploded in — i.e., a missile.

Or maybe I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.  But I read about this stuff.

Anyway, with Russia taking an active role in the Middle East now, it clearly has skin in the game.  Maybe the United States would be smart to let Middle East turmoil become Russia’s problem.

The Problem With Trump-Bush-9/11 And Clinton-Benghazi-9/11

I know I’m not the first to bring it up, but there is a huge disconnect going on right now when you tie together to seemingly separate stories.

Trump is saying that since 9/11 happened during Bush 43’s watch, Bush 43 bears some culpability.  This makes Jeb Bush act all defensive, because (he seems to argue) the President cannot micromanage every aspect of national security so he cannot be held responsible for the actions of terrorists.

Fair enough, I suppose, although it begs the question: if that rationale is true, doesn’t it apply to Obama and Hillary Clinton with respect to the attacks on the embassy in Benghazi on the night of 9/11 (2012)?

This point was driven home when Jake Tapper brought up Benghazi in this context:

TAPPER: Obviously Al Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attack of 9/11, but how do you respond to critics who ask, if your brother and his administration bear no responsibility at all, how do you then make the jump that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are responsible for what happened at Benghazi?

JEB BUSH: Well I — the question on Benghazi which, is hopefully we’ll now finally get the truth to, is was the place secure? They had a responsibility, the Department of State, to have proper security. There were calls for security, it looks like they didn’t get it. And how was the response in the aftermath of the attack, was there a chance that these four American lives could have been saved? That’s what the investigation is about, it’s not a political issue. It’s not about the broad policy issue, is were we doing the job of protecting our embassies and our consulates and during the period, those hours after the attack started, could they have been saved?

TAPPER: Well that’s, that’s kind of proving the point of the critics I was just asking about, because you don’t want to have your brother bear responsibility for 9/11 and I understand that argument and Al Qaeda’s responsible, but why are the terrorists not the ones who are responsible for these attacks in Libya?

BUSH: They are, of course they are but — of course they are, but if the ambassador was asking for additional security and didn’t get it, that’s a proper point and if it’s proven that the security was adequate compared to other embassies, fine, we’ll move on.

Now, had the conversation continued, I suppose Tapper could have reminded Jeb that there was a call to beef up security prior to the 9/11 attacks as well.  We all remember this, yes — which went to then Secretary of State Rice as well as Bush 43?

bin-laden-doc

So how is this different from a communication or email to Clinton saying that embassy security in Benghazi needs improvement?

Jeb went on to defend his brother by saying “it’s what you do after that matters”.  I suppose.  But that highlights another difference: both Clinton and Obama have acknowledged that what happened in Benghazi was indeed a failure on their part (albeit not a direct one).  Bush, Cheney and Rice have yet to do the same re: 9/11.  Just sayin’.

When Will We Ever Learn… Oh, When Will Weeeee Ever Learn?

I don’t write much about the Middle East because — Jesus, it’s a clusterfuck and it just gets worse and worse and it is depressing.  It’s basically an unsolvable problem and everybody wants to kill each other.

But I think I have figure out ONE truism.

Intervention on the part of the United States makes things worse for us.

I don’t care who the president is, or where the conflict is within the Middles East, or whose side we are on.  Everytime we intervene, it just makes the situation worse.  The Middle East is fire, we are oil, period.  Case in point:

In another embarrassing setback for one of President Barack Obama’s centerpiece strategies for defeating the Islamic State, the Pentagon said Friday that the commander of U.S.-trained Syrians appears to have turned over his pickup trucks and weapons to al Qaeda militants in exchange for protection within days of re-entering his homeland.

The Pentagon admission represented an abrupt reversal of its position as recently as Wednesday, when American military officials firmly denied social media reports that a U.S.-backed commander had defected to Nusra Front, Syria’s al Qaida affiliate, and provided trucks and weapons to the radical Islamic group.

“Unfortunately, we learned today that the New Syrian Force unit now says it did in fact provide six pick-up trucks and a portion of their ammunition to a suspected al-Nusra Front (representative),” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday evening.

Two days earlier, Davis had stated: “The folks that are part of the New Syrian Force are accounted for, as are their weapons.”

The new revelations angered American military leaders.

Remember the good old days when the Russians invaded Afghanistan and we backed the Afghan rebels there by providing them weapons, including that guy — oh, what was his name — Osama bin Laden?  Fine ally he turned out to be.

The political climate is unstable there, and the factional politics is always shifting.  You can show a support for Israel (and we do and we should), but trying to back anyone on the flipside of that coin — it’s impossible.  And if stupid me has figured that out, why hasn’t anyone in power?

14-year-Old Kid Named Ahmed Builds A Clock; Gets Arrested For Building A Bomb

This happened in Texas, so…. no surprise.

Ahmed Mohamed — who makes his own radios and repairs his own go-kart — hoped to impress his teachers when he brought a homemade clock to MacArthur High on Monday.

Instead, the school phoned police about Ahmed’s circuit-stuffed pencil case.

So the 14-year-old missed the student council meeting and took a trip in handcuffs to juvenile detention. His clock now sits in an evidence room. Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb — though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it’s a clock.

In the meantime, Ahmed’s been suspended, his father is upset and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is once again eyeing claims of Islamophobia in Irving.

***

Ahmed’s clock was hardly his most elaborate creation. He said he threw it together in about 20 minutes before bedtime on Sunday: a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.

He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn’t get quite the reaction he’d hoped for.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward.

“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”

The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back.

They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”

Ahmed felt suddenly conscious of his brown skin and his name — one of the most common in the Muslim religion. But the police kept him busy with questions.

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.

“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”

Ahmed never claimed his device was anything but a clock, said police spokesman James McLellan. And police have no reason to think it was dangerous. But officers still didn’t believe Ahmed was giving them the whole story.

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” McLellan said. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

Asked what broader explanation the boy could have given, the spokesman explained:

“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car. The concern was, what was this thing built for? Do we take him into custody?”

Police led Ahmed out of MacArthur about 3 p.m., his hands cuffed behind him and an officer on each arm. A few students gaped in the halls. He remembers the shocked expression of his student counselor — the one “who knows I’m a good boy.”

Ahmed was spared the inside of a cell. The police sent him out of the juvenile detention center to meet his parents shortly after taking his fingerprints.

They’re still investigating the case, and Ahmed hasn’t been back to school. His family said the principal suspended him for three days.

Now for the interesting part. Irvine’s mayor is a notorious islamophobe. You would not go too wrong thinking of Frank Gaffney.

Mayor Beth Van Duyne has accused mosque leaders of creating separate laws for Muslims and the City Council voted Thursday to endorse a state bill that Muslims say targets their faith.

***

The mayor stands by her statements, including an interview with former Fox News host Glenn Beck last month, when she said Sheikh and other imams were “bypassing American courts” by offering to mediate disputes among their worshippers according to an Islamic code called Shariah.

The mediation is advertised as voluntary, nonbinding and in harmony with the law.

But it has led Van Duyne to back a bill by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, that would forbid judges from using foreign law in their rulings.

While the bill does not mention religion, Leach has singled out the Islamic mediation panel as a “problem” it will solve. The wording is largely identical to that in a previous bill pitched by another lawmaker as a way to stop the influence of “large populations of Middle Easterners.”

Ahmed talks about the experience:

Here’s a tweet with a photo:

There is now a twitter account @IStandWithAhmed to show support for Ahmed …. and a trending hashtag #ThingsTexasPoliceThinkAreBombs, e.g.,

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 9TH GRADER?  THESE TEXAS POLICE AREN’T

UPDATE: Enter POTUS…

UPDATE: More invitations….

Chattanooga Shootings

Well, someone went ballistic (so to speak) in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  It is all unfolding now, but he apparently shot up a Navy Recruitment Center.  This pic was posted on Twitter

chatshoot

The suspect has been killed.  That is confirmed   Not much known about him other than he was white and drove a Mustang.

A police officer has been shot but is in stable condition.  Four military officers were also shot — condition unknown but reports are there is “a lot of blood”.  Despite the fact that the shooter is dead, many places in Chattanooga remain on lockdown.

On the local Chattnooga news, they are taking strains not to speculate, but you can tell what they are thinking.

So I’ll say it: shooting at the military?  It sure sounds like someone might be buying into this Jade Helm 15 thing.

UPDATE – 3:00 PM EST:

News conference held.  Some more info….

Investigators confirm Chattanooga, Tenn., shootings occurred at 2 different military buildings.  Three people, including police officer, being treated for injuries.  Four Marines killed.  Gunman killed as well.  He had multiple weapons. Authorities say no reason to believe anybody else was involved.  Motive unknown.

The shooting began about 10:45 a.m. at one recruiting center on Lee Highway in and ended about 30 minutes later at the facility on Amnicola Highway, where all of the deaths occurred.The United States attorney Bill Killian said that federal investigators would take the lead on the case, which he initially called an “act of domestic terrorism” before backing away, saying that the investigation would determine how the crime should be labeled.

UPDATE – 3:44 PM EST:

I know they said we shouldn’t attach labels, but….  Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez?  Yeah, we shouldn’t come to a conclusion based just on the name, but it’s a pretty safe speculation that we can call it “terrorism”.  Domestic or foreign?  TBD.  Guess I was wrong about the Jade Helm thing.

Also, the police are manning the military recruitment stations in NYC.  And other places, I suspect.

No Shooting At Washington Navy Yard

Also no shootings at the White House, Capital, Pentagon, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, or the Smithsonian.

Yes, the nation is at Threat Level Bravo because of the fear that ISIS-inspired lone wolf terrorists may blow things up during our Fourth Of July, and the commentators in the news are saying that it is a good thing that dozens of federal, state and city law enforcement agencies descended on the Washington Navy Yard to respond to a tweet (maybe, or maybe a rumor of a tweet) that there were gunshots fired.

But nothing happened.

Look, I don’t want to rain on anybody’s Threat Level Bravo Parade, but it is the Fourth of July weekend, and there are going to be lots of things that sound a lot like gunshots fired everywhere  They’re called firecrackers.  I agree we should be diligent (if you see something, say something), but let’s take a breathe, shall we?

Hey, Let’s Train The Iraqi Soldiers

Things have gone to hell in Iraq, especially in the fight against the Islamic State group (ISIS) in Iraq. The strongest evidence of this is the recent takeover of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province by ISIS forces.  Although Iraqi soldiers “vastly outnumbered” their opposition in Ramadi, they quickly withdrew last week, leaving behind a half-dozen tanks, a similar number of artillery pieces, a larger number of armored personnel carriers and about 100 wheeled vehicles like Humvees.  All of those things are now in the hands of ISIS.

Obviously, the soldiers need training.  Or a backbone.  Or something.  So….

President Obama’s decision to open a new base for an additional 450 American military trainers and other personnel in Anbar Province in Iraq is designed to give a badly needed lift to the Sunni tribes and Iraqi troops who have been struggling to hold their own against the Islamic State.

Most see this as a first step, at best.

Seems to me that we failed training the Iraqi soldiers.  We’ve been training them for 13 years.  Another 450 isn’t going to do it.

Look, this is how Vietnam went.  We kept pouring soldiers — uh, trainers — in there, thinking that would fix the problem.  If the domestic army (whether it be South Vietnam or Iraq) isn’t going to stand up for itself — hell, get out of there.

So what if Iraq falls to ISIS?  Bad for them, yes, and bad for the Iraqi citizens.  But it’s not OUR country.

I don’t know.  I’m missing something.  But it seems to me we haven’t learned anything.