Friday, July 15, 2016

A Dozen Years Later: “France is today, clearly, the country the most threatened” in Europe by ISIS

“France is today, clearly, the country the most threatened” in Europe by Islamic State (IS), said Patrick Calvar, the head of the internal intelligence service, to a parliamentary commission in May.
Thus reported The Economist last week. [Note: this post, slightly redacted now, was prepared a couple of days before the terrorist truck attack in Nice on Bastille Day (July 14).]
The underlying threat remains terrorism, and the alert level is still at its highest (“imminent attack”). Last month two police-force members were murdered in a terrorist attack in a suburb west of Paris.

 … in France “the threat is permanently high.” Tight perimeter security at football stadiums, and at the walled open-air “fan zones”, has rendered such venues relatively secure—despite hooliganism at early matches. But fears continue over “soft” targets such as public transport, shopping streets and other crowded places. “We know that [IS] is planning new attacks,” said Mr Calvar.

The French response to this threat has been two-fold: a strengthened military and security presence backed by sweeping powers granted to the police under the state of emergency imposed last November, together with reinforced intelligence. Under Operation Sentinelle, 10,000 soldiers are on patrol across France, putting a strain on the armed forces. Soldiers have become a familiar sight on the Paris underground, and up and down the Champs-Elysées. At the same time, the government has boosted intelligence spending. The number of domestic agents will rise from 3,200 to 4,400 by 2018.

The call to armes 

A dozen attempted terrorist attacks have been thwarted in France in the past year. The shortcomings of counter-terrorism operations, however, were underlined on July 5th by a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the attacks in Paris on November 13th. Sébastien Pietrasanta, the Socialist rapporteur, pointed to the “limited impact” of the state of emergency. It enabled the police to make some useful searches and arrests at first, but these no longer justify the emergency powers. The government may lift it after the Tour de France ends. Moreover, said Mr Pietrasanta, Operation Sentinelle was “unsustainable in the long run”, and soldiers were “worn out”.
This excerpt is here for one reason: Ten to 15 years ago, French activists would pride themselves, with clear Schadenfreude towards the obtuse they-deserve(d)-it Americans, that, as Frenchmen, they had nothing to fear from Al Qaeda-like terrorist groups. Since Chirac and De Villepin had opposed the 2003 invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Islamic terrorists would clearly not take action against any members of this enlightened people. (This is easy to think when one ignores the fact that terrorist attacks usually ignore the nationality of their intended victims — wouldn't the Shoe Bomber have had French people among his victims had his December 2001 plane attempt been successful?)

In the wake of the Nice terrorist attack less than 12 hours ago, this post will probably be taken as insensitive and even outrageous. But the fast is, that the question remains: Is there any reason to suspect that any of these people have taken the time to put into doubt that self-serving "opinion" of the past 15 years?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The FBI's on-the-spot revision of federal law; Or, do you know the difference betwen Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon?

Laws are just words on a page to be rewritten by and for powerful people
notes Benny Huang acidly.
The rule of law died a little last Tuesday when FBI director James Comey announced the Bureau’s findings concerning Hillary Clinton and her illegal email server. After a short speech in which he detailed the findings of the investigation, he recommended against charging her with anything.

You didn’t think it would happen any other way, did you? I certainly didn’t. As blatant as her lawbreaking was—some of which was not even discussed in Comey’s speech—it seemed fanciful to believe that Hillary Clinton, the ultimate insider, would actually do the perp walk. As a former First Lady, former senator, and former Secretary of State, she is for all practical purposes above the law. Her consciousness of this fact enables her bad behavior.

Comey’s rationale for not referring the Clinton case for prosecution defied all logic and, according to former assistant US Attorney Andy McCarthy, represented an on-the-spot revision of federal law. McCarthy wrote:
“There is no way of getting around this: According to Director James Comey (disclosure: a former colleague and longtime friend of mine), Hillary Clinton checked every box required for a felony violation of Section 793(f) of the federal penal code (Title 18): With lawful access to highly classified information she acted with gross negligence in removing and causing it to be removed it from its proper place of custody, and she transmitted it and caused it to be transmitted to others not authorized to have it, in patent violation of her trust. Director Comey even conceded that former Secretary Clinton was ‘extremely careless’ and strongly suggested that her recklessness very likely led to communications (her own and those she corresponded with) being intercepted by foreign intelligence services.”
Yes, she did all of things and more. According to Director Comey, Hillary’s saving grace was her supposed lack of intent to break the law. She didn’t mean to do what she did, you see. There are two responses to this.

First, yes there was her intention. Hillary Clinton didn’t set up her illegal email server by accident. She didn’t use it for all of her correspondence by chance. She didn’t wipe the server by bumbling error, an issue I noticed Comey did not even address.

But the second response is even more important: intent is not the legal standard; negligence is. Even his whitewash investigation found that she and her staff were “extremely careless” with classified information. Carelessness is a synonym for negligence.

So Hillary will skate. Director Comey dished out the only punishment she will likely ever face—a stern talking-to. Start printing invitations for the Inaugural Ball—Hillary’s going to be our next president!

 … It should be noted here that at least Nixon paid some price: the not insignificant loss of his elected office. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is on the fast track to becoming the next president. That’s the difference.

 … She can store top secret and special access program materials on a secret email server that is vulnerable to hackers. She can wipe that server when it is subpoenaed. When caught, she can lie under oath to Congress about the whole affair. She can stonewall investigators and throw a fit in hearings. “What difference does it make” if it’s illegal?

The rule of law is crumbling in this country. Like most nefarious phenomena, it’s difficult to pinpoint a starting point. Powerful people have been getting away with illegal behavior for quite a long time—but was it always this blatant? I don’t think so.

These days it’s all right out in the open. We’re starting to look like some kind of banana republic where this week’s junta leader rules by fiat. We’ve got a coterie of junta leaders, I suppose—the president, Supreme Court justices, a few powerful secretaries. But it’s the same crap.

Once you understand that laws are just a lot of useless paper, all of our endless squabbling seems pretty silly. What’s the point of learned men standing around in a courtroom arguing the finer points of the law when in the end it means whatever the judge decides it means?

 … Who cares what the law actually says? Let’s determine what Congress meant, rather than what was debated and voted on. In an odd turn of events, the Court handed down another opinion that same day concerning marriage. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Court found that the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868, guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Am I supposed to believe that the men who labored over, passed, and ratified that amendment intended to radically redefine marriage? It seems that intent is only important when it helps judges get where they want to go.

These people are just making it up as they go along. They decide the hot button issues of the day according to their preferences then go in search of a justification. No justification is too lame because they’re the supremes and we’re not.

This is the way we do things in America these days. The law isn’t really the law. Powerful people do whatever the heck they feel like doing and if the law gets in their way it is magically rewritten on the spot. Sometimes it’s the FBI director who decides to change the plain meaning of a statute. Sometimes it’s a judge. It can be the president, or even on occasion, a backroom bureaucrat. Beneath the tissue-thin pretense of an orderly, principled system, it’s actually just a naked power struggle—and we’re losing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How Boris Johnson was brought to his knees by the 'cuckoo nest plot'

All of a sudden, the leaking of the Sarah Vine email did not seem so accidental after all. Was it deliberately given to Sky News to undermine Mr Johnson and pave the way for a Gove challenge?
As Theresa May (not to be confused with Teresa May) becomes head of the UK's Tories and enters 10 Downing Street, the Daily Telegraph's Gordon Rayner has a longish story on how Boris Johnson was brought down as front runner for both posts (cheers to Ed Driscoll for the Instalanche).

Incidentally: did you know that Boris is a dual citizen, or, rather, that the then-mayor of London was a dual citizen, until he renounced his U.S. citizenship last year? Can you guess who he had been hounded by into returning his U.S. passport in 2015?
Update: something to think about, when you learn that Theresa May has just made Boris the country's foreign secretary in her new cabinet.
With two hours to go until the launch of Mr Johnson’s leadership bid, [Michael Gove (Sarah Vine's husband)], the man who was supposed to be making up the “dream ticket” with him, had not so much stabbed him in the back as run him through with a pikestaff.

The Telegraph understands that Sir Lynton [Crosby, Mr Johnson’s campaign manager] asked Mr Gove whether he had told Mr Johnson. He had not, but said he intended to. The call, however, was never made.

By noon, Mr Johnson, the front-runner for the Tory leadership, was no longer a runner at all, ousted by what was being called a “cuckoo nest plot”. Having been comprehensively stitched up by his running mate and several other “supporters”, he threw in the towel, his ambitions in ruins. …/…

'Gove is a ----!'

Perhaps Mr Johnson should have seen it coming. The history of the Conservative Party is, after all, littered with the shattered careers of leadership front-runners who were knifed by their colleagues: Maudling, Heath, Heseltine, Clarke, Portillo, Davis. …/…

A 'creepy operation'

“Boris was cavalier with assurances he made,” he said. “We're picking a Prime Minister to lead the country, not a school prefect.” With Mr Boles also gone, one Johnson supporter said: “He hasn’t been double crossed, he has been triple crossed. This seems to have been a pretty well developed, quite creepy operation.”

Sources have told The Telegraph that Mr Gove had told Theresa May about his intention to run even before he told Sir Lynton Crosby, such was the cold-bloodedness of the ambush. …/…

'It makes House of Cards look like Teletubbies'

Her performance was masterful: if anyone doubted Mrs May had the ruthlessness required to be Prime Minister, they would soon have their answer.

She talked about people in Westminster who did not understand what it was like to struggle for money and who needed reminding that politics “isn’t a game”. She was not, she said, a “showy” politician enamoured of “gimmicks” (instantly conjuring an image of Mr Johnson dangling from a zip wire), she did not go drinking in the Commons bars or tour the TV studios, “I just get on with the job in front of me”. No-one needed subtitles to explain who she was referring to.

Mrs May also knows that the most devastating thing you can do to an opponent is to turn them into a laughing stock.  …/…

Johnson-backer Nigel Evans MP was asked whether Mrs May had stabbed Mr Johnson in the front after Mr Gove had stabbed him in the back.

“That’s about it,” he said. “It makes House of Cards look like Teletubbies.”

Over at camp Boris, MPs were withdrawing their support by the minute. The 97 backing him were now down to 47, and Mr Johnson’s team realised they had been undone by what they referred to as a “cuckoo nest plot”. For months Mr Johnson had nurtured Mr Gove’s grand plan for Brexit, only to be kicked out when it finally hatched.

Mr Johnson, feeling “sad, disappointed and betrayed”, according to one source, decided he could not go on.
Related: Boris Johnson's heart not in Brexit, ex-aide Guto Harri says (BBC)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Stories About the NRA and Blacks That the National News Media Does Not Tell Usl

Colion Noir makes some points regarding the national Rifle Association.

If any organization acts in a racist manner towards [blacks'] gun rights, it's you — the national news media! You call the NRA racist — while in the same breath telling blacks like me that we shouldn't own guns. Because we can't be trusted to not just kill each other.
The Democratic Party invented gun control after slavery — to keep guns out of the hands of black people. And they haven't stopped since. But you don't tell that story either.
In related matters: Fox News:
Only days after watching five of his officers gunned down by an anti-white anti-cop shooter, Dallas Police Chief David Brown on Monday offered some advice to protesters who remain upset about recent police shootings: Join us.
Even as sometimes violent demonstrations against police continued Sunday night throughout the nation, in cities from Baton Rouge to Los Angeles, Brown made his argument for disaffected civilians to put down cardboard signs and pick up a badge.

“Become a part of the solution,” Brown said during a Monday news conference. “We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in. And we’ll put you in your neighborhood, and we’ll help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.”

Brown knows something about becoming part of the solution. Dallas’ top cop since 2010, Brown joined the department in 1983 after, he said, watching his friends swallowed up by the crack cocaine epidemic.

“It broke my heart and it changed what I wanted to do,” he said.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Today Is George Bush's Birthday (George Turns 13)

Today George Bush will be celebrating his birthday. Some will protest and say, that's not true, the president's birthday was July 6. But we're not talking about the same person, apparently. Nor his father. Because this George Bush turns only 13 today.

The George Bush I have in mind is not the one whose full name is George Walker Bush, nor the one whose full name is George Herbert Walker Bush, but the one whose full name is George Bush Abdul Kader Faris Abed El-Hussein (no relation to Saddam). And this George Bush was born in Baghdad on July 11, 2003.

From a post of exactly 10 years ago:
As far as can be ascertained, George Bush’s parents named him in honor of some Western leader one of whose recent feats they found to be not only impressive and admirable, obviously, but worthy enough to name their new-born son after. They must have been plenty impressed, in view of the fact that they gave their child the name of someone not of their faith, with linguistic roots not of their culture. (Sort of like a Westerner — say, someone from the Bush clan — giving a newborn son a name such as Mohammed Ahmed Yusuf Bush.)

Now, here is what I suggest. I suggest that the West should send a number of representatives to Baghdad. The type of people that David Brooks calls “the members of the sneering brigade”, “the think-tank johnnies and the rest of the commentariate” in “their usual sky-is-falling mode” — people like José Bové, François Hollande, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schröder, José Luis Zapatero, Jean-Marie Colombani, Plantu, Willem (to name only the Europeans), etc… They should choose a couple of high-visibility VIPs, “arm” them with all the usual arguments, and send them to Baghdad.

And there, they should seek out the parents of George Bush. Once the couple has been found, they should patiently explain the “truth” to them and seek thereby to install some common sense in them. That would include telling them…

• that the war was unnecessary and a sham, conducted for bogus reasons;
• that Iraq, and the world, were far better off before the conflict;
• that the presence of foreign soldiers is “humiliating” for George Bush and his fellow countrymen;
• that they must resent America (or at least, the Bush administration) for the current situation in which thousands have been killed over a period of more than three years and hark back to the previous situation in which the secret police killed several thousands per month with total impunity;
• that, in contrast to the administration of George Bush’s namesake, they, the holier-than-thou members of the peace camp, had (and have) nothing but the best interests of his parents in mind;
• oh, and, of course, that George Bush’s namesake is nothing but a nincompoop and a despicable liar.

Once the parents of George Bush have been converted to the sky-is-falling truth, the “the members of the sneering brigade” could go to work convincing more of Iraq’s population.

The members of “the commentariate” could start with Mohammed, Ali, and Omar, the brothers from Iraq the Model and expand outwards, to include the Iraqis who lost hands and tongues to Saddam’s thugs, had their faced scarred by acid, had their sisters, mothers, and daughters raped, and had their parents, brothers, and children shot down and their bodies thrown into unnamed graves. With luck, “the think-tank johnnies” would eventually reach that vast majority of people who in polls believe life has never been better since the war toppled Saddam and who say they feel more optimistic than they ever had in the past.

Let us join together and wish them “good luck and godspeed with your sacred mission”.

Oh, and by the way, Georgie: Happy birthday!
Related: There's a new George Bush in Baghdad,
six weeks old and screaming in a crib
Nadia Jergis Mohammed, 34, … told Associated Press Television News:
"I tell you all Iraqis hated Saddam's regime. It was only George Bush who liberated us, without him it wouldn't have happened. If he hadn't done it the sons of Saddam would have ruled us for years. He saved us from Saddam and that's why we named our son after him"

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The statistics behind gun violence: Mass shootings in the U.S. have fallen so much in the past century that the political left has had to redefine what a mass shooting is

The BBC brings us the statistics related to gun violence. Check them out, and as you will see below, I and Erick Erickson will put these into perspective:

Guns in the US: 

The statistics behind the violence

The statistics

Mass shootings: There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents. A mass shooting is defined as a single shooting incident which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant.
Source: Mass Shooting Tracker
School shootings: There were 64 school shootings in 2015, according to a dedicated campaign group set up in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut in 2012. Those figures include occasions when a gun was fired but no-one was hurt.
Source: Everytown for Gun SafetyResearch
All shootings: Some 13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and 26,819 people were injured [those figures exclude suicide]. Those figures are likely to rise by several hundred, once incidents in the final week of the year are counted.
Source: Gun Violence Archive
How the US compares: The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 - the most recent year for comparable statistics - was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1.

Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK.
Source: UNODC.
The home front: So many people die annually from gunfire in the US that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq.
Source: Politifact.
Total number of guns: No official figure exists but there are thought to be about 300 million in the US, held by about a third of the population. That is nearly enough guns for every man, woman and child in the country.

The NRA: The right to own guns is regarded by many as enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, and fiercely defended by lobby groups such as the National Rifle Association, which boasted that its membership surged to around five million in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Gun violence and terrorism: The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime.
According to figures from the US Department of Justice and the Council on Foreign Affairs, 11,385 people died on average annually in firearm incidents in the US between 2001 and 2011.

In the same period, an average of 517 people were killed annually in terror-related incidents. Removing 2001, when 9/11 occurred, from the calculation produces an annual average of just 31.

As I have written, in The Misleading Statistics of Gun Control,
most of these mass shootings occur between criminal gangs. To learn that a gangster has been, or a group of gangsters have been, shot dead will simply not touch the average citizen — American or foreign — as much as the innocent dead of Orlando or Utøya. And rightly so, since violence is part of their calling, of their chosen profession, if you will. (Which is why — even left-leaning — journalists don't mention those killings in the first place; except, of course, as part of the respective city edition's metro section.)
Thus, "bare" figures of 11,000 killed by guns compared to 17 (or to 31 or to 517) killed by terrorism is misleading because the statisticians, deliberately or otherwise, fail to take into account everyday average beta people who are gunned down with hardly any warning as contrasted with thugs who are in an "occupation" in which shooting by firearm is, shall we say, an accepted risk.

A similar remark concerns "the death toll between 1968 and 2011 [eclipsing] all wars ever fought by the country"; the statisticians would have you believe the dead, like the citizen soldiers on the battlefield, all amount to be the same average all-American red-blooded Joe.

Finally, while the people using weapons in Canada, Australia, and the UK are almost certainly (of necessity, due to their respective gun control laws) outlaws killing people, whether a fellow outlaw or a law-abiding citizen, the shootings in the U.S. might very well be a law-abiding citizen (successfully) defending him- or herself against an criminal, whose "career" he or she helped bring to a close.

From the numbers above, moreover, it is not immediately apparent that, in fact (as Erick Erickson puts it),
mass shootings in the United States have fallen so much in the past century that the political left has insisted we redefine what a mass shooting is. 
Indeed, when we think of a mass shooting, don't we think of a dozen people dead, minimum, or certainly at the very least half a dozen. Check out the BBC's numbers:
372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870. 
You hardly need a calculator to figure out that 371/475 is less than 1.5 (!) people killed on average per mass shooting (along with four wounded or more). In other words, the average number of dead bodies per "mass" shooting — as redefined downwards — turns out to be between… one and two! And closer to one, at that! (And with the assailant being included nowadays, wouldn't that mean that a "mass" shooting might include one in which the only dead person turns out to be the criminal himself?!)

It takes an Erick Erickson to take an even deeper perspective on these "factual" statistics.
There are more than 300 million guns in private hands in the United States and more than 2 trillion rounds of ammunition in private hands. What we are seeing is not an out of control gun problem. In fact, mass shootings in the United States have fallen so much in the past century that the political left has insisted we redefine what a mass shooting is. It is all in the name of gun control.

The left will not talk about mental illness. The left will not talk about radical jihadism. The left only wants to talk about gun control. There is a very easy to understand explanation for this phenomenon

 … Conservatives look on these acts, whether it be Baton Rouge or Ferguson or Orlando or Dallas and they see a world in moral collapse and struggles between good and evil. Black families have crumbled. Black fathers are in jail while the mothers struggle to keep the family together. Unemployment among black youth is high and people of faith understand that there is something soul nourishing about work. Even in the Garden of Eden there was work.

But we cannot even talk about the Garden of Eden because the left laughs it off. Morality, faith, prayer, and concepts of good and evil are all rejected by the left. So they grasp for something on which they can make a principled stand and it is gun control and the erosion of a right the left refuses to recognize in the second amendment.

Secular reporters lament that there are too many guns in America, but they will not admit there is too much moral decay. In fact, they not only revel in the moral decay and defining deviancy as normal and normal as deviant, but they expect the rest of us to do the same. If you uphold natural law or moral law, you are a bigot.

Because they cannot talk about a morality they no longer recognize or the need for a God they long ago rejected, they are forced to insist more laws will solve problems. It is the metaphysical equivalent of the religious believing more prayer will solve problems. When God is traded in for government, prayer gets traded in for law. The more laws there are, the better off we will be because government is our god now.

See also: What Is to Blame for Mass Shootings?
Does the Blame Lie with the Right to Bear Arms Or Can It Be Found Elsewhere?

Update: Meet the Moral Equivalence on 'Meet the Press' After Dallas Attack on Police by Jack Dunphy (thanks to Ed Driscoll)
 … on Sunday’s Meet the Press, crime was scarcely mentioned. Only Charles Ramsey, former commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, mentioned the 13,000 murders that occur every year in the United States, yet he couldn’t go so far as to note that about 6,000 of those murders are committed by blacks against other blacks.

Perhaps most galling about the discussion was the way in which some of the guests seemed to draw a moral equivalence between the atrocity in Dallas and the police shootings that engendered the Black Lives Matter protest that preceded it. Asked by Chuck Todd if he was concerned about the state of race relations in America, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson struck a politically cautious but morally obtuse note. “Well, I am concerned, Chuck,” he said. “And I think at a time like this when tensions are high, in the wake of events in Dallas and Baton Rouge and Minnesota and elsewhere, it's important to remember that just as the shooter on Thursday night is not reflective of the broader movement to bring about change in police practices, that any police officer who engages in excessive force is not representative of the larger law enforcement community, which with increasing frequency, reflects the community at large.”

Note what Johnson did there. Tensions are high, he says, because of “events” in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Minnesota, all of which were, in his apparent opinion, equally objectionable. What rubbish.

 … it’s so discouraging to see these incidents lumped together with the Dallas shooting as though they were two sides of the same coin. Micah Johnson, the killer in Dallas, did not overreact in performance of a lawful duty. Motivated by his self-confessed hatred for white people in general and white police officers most especially, he set out to kill as many of them as he could. Yet the Wise Ones on Meet the Press couldn’t bring themselves to make that distinction lest they appear racially insensitive.