Foreign Policy Question of the Day

Why don’t we talk about the chaos in Libya as much as we talk about the chaos in Iraq?

This time it was the guards from an Austrian-run gas facility in Libya’s Saharan southwest. They were shown beheaded in a series of images posted to social media on March 8. A few weeks earlier it had been 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian labourers, their throats slit, some murmuring prayers as they were slaughtered in the central coastal city of Sirte. A month before that it had been the storming of the five-star Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli in which nine were killed, including US and French nationals.

The message was clear: not only had the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the group known as Isis , expanded its network to lawless, warring Libya, it has managed to spread tentacles throughout the vast oil-rich desert nation.

“What else needs to happen to create alarm?” asks a senior official of the Italian government, among the countries most anxious about the emergence of Isis at the heart of its former colony. “All the signs are converging. We have to avoid what happened in Syria. We did not understand the dramatic nature of the problem and we woke up with the tables turned.”

The emergence of Isis has waylaid what was already a shaky western consensus on how to end the complicated Libyan civil war and further marred the 2011 toppling of Muammer Gaddafi, once a signature achievement for the British, French and US administrations. The severity of the problem — as well as domestic political constraints — has left a sense of powerlessness and drift that is only starting to be challenged. Libya is back on the agenda of world leaders. An EU summit on Thursday will discuss events in the country.

More here (subscription required). Could the reluctance to talk about the chaos in Libya have something to do with the fact that said chaos was caused by a war launched by a Democratic president? Writing for myself, I’m pretty sure that if George W. Bush–or any other Republican–had ousted Muammar Qaddafi, the news programs would have been flooded any and every zone on the planet–and some zones off-planet–in talking about how Libya had become Hell on Earth.

Anti-Semitism on Full Display in London

Behold:

A drunken mob of more than 20 thugs shouted “kill the Jews” as they stormed into a north London synagogue while young worshippers celebrated the end of the sabbath.

The anti-Semitic abuse was hurled by the group of men and women as they first beat up a young man outside before chasing him inside, breaking windows and attacking others.

Part of the chaotic incident in Stamford Hill was captured on video before the intruders were beaten back as the worshippers grabbed chairs to protect themselves.

Scotland Yard said six people – four men and two women – were later arrested on suspicion of public order offences and assault.

We are told a little later in the story that “synagogue elders . . . are convinced the attack was not religiously motivated and was merely a typical example of anti-social behaviour.” Strangely enough, of course, this “anti-social behaviour” did not involve attacks on churches or mosques or shopping centers or schools–though if it did, no one should feel better about things. It involved an attack on a synagogue, and shouts of “kill the Jews.” All of this sure seems anti-Semitic to me.

Just as a reminder, we were told in the past that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.” Are we still supposed to take that nonsensical claim seriously?

Obstructionists

I write this blog post to condemn and denounce a faction of Congress that seems bound and determined to prevent the passage and implementation of a host of Obama administration policy initiatives. It seems like on a regular basis, this particular faction–which of course is substantially represented in Congress–tries to throw a plethora of monkey wrenches into just about any Obama administration proposal. Frankly, the whole thing is unseemly and appalling; doesn’t this group of representatives and senators have anything better to do than to reflexively oppose the president and his policies?

The faction I am condemning and denouncing is, of course, the congressional Democratic caucus:

Congressional Republicans may be singularly focused on unraveling President Obama’s executive orders and actions, but when it comes to what is left of his viable policy agenda on Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama’s biggest problems are now often with Democrats.

The administration’s most pressing goal, expansive trade legislation, is adamantly opposed by scores of Democrats in the House and Senate even as most Republicans support it. Mr. Obama’s formal request for congressional authorization to fight the Islamic State is deeply imperiled, in no small measure because Senate Democrats find it wanting.

The president’s dismissal of the role of Congress in approving any nuclear agreement with Iran was facing a potential veto override before Republicans scrambled the political dynamic by sending a letter directly to the Iranian leadership. But if international negotiators reach an accord this month, Democrats’ concerns are all but certain to roar back.

Efforts to change a national security program that sweeps up Americans’ phone call data and other records have also stalled over disagreements with Democrats, even though both parties seek changes to the program.

My goodness, what’s next? Claims from the Democrats that the president is not a natural-born citizen of the United States?

Social Media: Not the Place to Go for Sober-Headed Legal Analysis

There has been a lot of debate about the letter sent by 47 Republican senators to the Iranian regime regarding the negotiations over nuclear energy use–likely for weapons–by Iran. I happen to think that sending the letter was a bad idea; foreign policy has been found to be the province of the executive branch, with a few exceptions, and I generally don’t like it when people of either party freelance in opposition to any White House when it comes to foreign policy–even if I disapprove of the White House’s foreign policy.

But while it is one thing to disapprove of the letter, it is another thing to sign on to two of the sillier claims that have polluted social media over the past day or so. Those claims are as follows:

  1. By sending out the letter, Republican senators “committed treason.”
  2. By sending out the letter, Republican senators committed a Logan Act violation.

Let’s take this nonsense in turn.

First, the treason claim. Art. III, Sec. 3 of the Constitution of the United States defines treason as follows:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Republican senators are not “levying war” against the United States. Also, they are not “adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” Thus: No treason. This is a remarkably easy call, but you wouldn’t know it from reading all of the self-proclaimed lawyers pontificating on Facebook and Twitter.

Now, the Logan Act claim. First of all, the claim is defeated by the Speech or Debate Clause, which can be found in Art. I, Sec. 6, and which states the following in pertinent part:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

“But Pejman,” I hear you cry, “the letter doesn’t constitute ‘speech or debate in either House’!” Well, actually, it likely does, my fine-feathered friends. I give you Gravel v. United States, in which the Supreme Court stated that a written communication may be considered protected by the Speech or Debate Clause if it is:

an integral part of the deliberative and communicative processes by which Members participate in committee and House proceedings with respect to the consideration and passage or rejection of proposed legislation or with respect to other matters which the Constitution places within the jurisdiction of either House.

Senators will likely be able to claim that the letter to Iran relates to “the consideration and passage or rejection of proposed legislation” in the event that any nuclear deal with Iran is presented as a treaty, or in the event that enabling legislation is needed to pass any executive agreement. Certainly, as foreign policy oversight–including, but not limited to advice and consent given to treaties–is placed in the Senate, the senators will also be able to claim that the letter relates to “other matters which the Constitution places within the jurisdiction of either House.”

Even if the Speech or Debate Clause were not found to apply, the Logan Act would likely not be found to have been violated in this case. As Steve Vladeck points out, the legal justification for a violation of the Logan Act is just not there.

So much, then, for the absurd contention that 47 Republican senators are going to prison, or might be convicted of the capital crime of treason. Let’s note a few other things in addition:

  1. A whole bunch of non-Republicans chortled when the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, allegedly schooled the 47 Republican senators on international law. In fact, Zarif didn’t know what he was talking about.
  2. As we continue to peruse Jack Goldsmith’s excellent post, note that back when Joe Biden was a senator, he demanded that a nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia be approved via the treaty process. Now, we are supposed to believe that treaties are bad, and that executive agreements are the way to go. Why? Because the president is a Democrat and the Senate is controlled by Republicans. What a shock.
  3. Let’s remember all of the times when Republican presidents had their foreign policy positions undermined by Democratic freelancers. They include (a) the “Dear Commandante” letter to Daniel Ortega (see also this);(b) Nancy Pelosi visiting Syria; (c) Jimmy Carter writing to leaders of other governments on the Security Council in order to frustrate attempts by the George H.W. Bush administration to obtain a resolution authorizing the use of force to liberate Kuwait from Iraq; and (d) Edward Kennedy asking the Soviets to help Democrats defeat Ronald Reagan in 1984(!) in exchange for Kennedy “lend[ing]” the Soviets “a hand” in dealing with Reagan. None of the people yelling and screaming about treason and Logan Act violations over the past day or so ever said one word about these attempts to undermine White House prerogatives when it comes to foreign policy. Wonder why?

Venezuelan Humor Has Turned Mordant, which Means that the Venezuelan Political Landscape Could Be Ripe for Change

Nicolás Maduro had better be worried. Jokes like this one have become popular:

An Englishman and a Frenchman are at a museum, admiring a Renaissance work depicting Adam, Eve, and the apple in Eden. The Briton observes that Adam sharing the apple with his wife shows a particularly British propriety. The Frenchman, unconvinced, counters that the pair’s obvious comfort with their nudity clearly marks them as French. A passing Venezuelan, overhearing, remarks candidly, “Sorry to intrude, caballeros, but these are obviously Venezuelans: they have nothing to wear, practically nothing to eat, and they are allegedly in Paradise.”

Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez, the writer of the linked piece, reminds us that many of these jokes have a Warsaw Pact provenance. We all know what happened to the Warsaw Pact, don’t we? Of course, there is no guarantee that a revolution in Venezuela is on the horizon, but jokes like the ones that Lansberg-Rodríguez highlights are born from massive political discontent:

. . . Venezuelans’ patience with the system does appear to be rubbed raw. With the country’s economic model seemingly continuing its inexorable disintegration, pro-government media have tried to placate the populace with think pieces purporting to explain why waiting in line is actually good for you, and have lauded the state’s creation of a new Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness, but the results have been underwhelming. According to a survey conducted in December by the polling firm Datanálisis, eighty-six per cent of Venezuelans currently think that the country is off track, and only twenty-three per cent approve of Maduro. Meanwhile, YouTube videos showing barren shelves, people stampeding for scarce products, and angry outbursts from those in line (particularly when the well-connected attempt to skip ahead) circulate widely, even beyond the opposition’s traditional middle-class base. It has long been an exasperated mantra among critics of the revolutionary regime that Venezuelans should stop laughing at their misfortunes and actually do something about them. From jokes to polls, there are signs that this motion is taking place.

Why Would We Want the Headaches of a Clinton Presidency?

Oh, look; an ethical lapse associated with the Clintons. And it’s a doozy.

The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.

Most of the contributions were possible because of exceptions written into the foundation’s 2008 agreement, which included limits on foreign-government donations.

The agreement, reached before Clinton’s nomination amid concerns that countries could use foundation donations to gain favor with a Clinton-led State Department, allowed governments that had previously donated money to continue making contributions at similar levels.

The new disclosures, provided in response to questions from The Washington Post, make clear that the 2008 agreement did not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the U.S. government from giving money to the charity closely linked to the secretary of state.

In one instance, foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government.

Anyone really surprised by any of this? Of course, even in instances when foreign government donations did not violate the ethics agreement, money was very likely being given in order to ensure that the foreign government in question would be able to get access to the State Department. Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state created any number of conflicts of interest, and those conflicts of interest would only magnify if she becomes president; the Clinton Foundation will continue to accept donations, after all. Are we really comfortable with having a president whose relationship with foreign governments was–and could be–so ethically complicated?

And of course, no story about the Clintons would be complete without a reminder of Clintonian hypocrisy:

Hillary Clinton emerged from her undisclosed location Tuesday to reportedly earn $300,000 speaking to a group in Silicon Valley, where she couldn’t resist praising actress Patricia Arquette’s Oscar night exhortation for equal pay. It’s especially staggering in light of reporting out the day before showing that Clinton paid women less than men while serving in the U.S. Senate.

It’s one thing when Hollywood stars dripping in couture get up on their soap boxes and make political statements at awards ceremonies, but quite another when an all but announced presidential candidate earning more for a speech than most Americans will in several years trumpets wage equality, when it already exists and she knows it.

Did she pay men more for the same work in her Senate office? Probably not, but she’s not answering the hypocrisy raised by the report published by the Free Beacon on Monday. The article reveals Clinton’s own U.S. Senate staff had a wage gap on average of $15,708.33 between male and female staffers. Clinton, according to the analysis of Senate expenditure filings, paid women 72 cents to every dollar that men on her staff were paid. That doesn’t seem to bother her — she just needs a campaign message and the gender wage gap seems real convenient. It’s not the no-brainer Democrats make it out to be, but that won’t stop Clinton from using it.

You know, we can do better than Hillary Clinton when it comes to choosing our next president. The question is whether we as a nation will decide to do better.

Quote of the Day

A journalist decided to test how safe the streets of Paris are for Jews – by wearing a religious skullcap and filming the public’s reaction using a hidden camera.

Zvika Klein, a reporter for Jewish news outlet NRG, silently walked in the city for ten hours wearing a kippah – also known as a yarmulke – on his head and a tzitzit (knotted ritual tassels).

And the shocking hidden camera footage shows antisemitism is rife in the French capital as he is seen harassed and intimidated.

As he wanders around neighbourhoods wearing the garments associated with the Jewish faith, he is spat at, threatened and even called a ‘dog’.  

[. . .]

In an article accompanying the video, he said tourist attractions were ‘relatively calm’ – ‘but the further from them we walked, the more anxious I became over the hateful stares, the belligerent remarks, and the hostile body language,’ he wrote.

Boys shouted ‘Viva Palestine’ and as he passes a group of youths, one remarks: ‘I’m joking, the dog will not eat you’.

Fingers were pointed at him in a cafe – and moments later, thugs awaited him on a street corner, he adds.

A little boy was shocked at his appearance in his neighbourhood, he reports. ‘What is he doing here Mommy?’ he asked. ‘Doesn’t he know he will be killed?’

Khaleda Rahman. But I am confused; I could have sworn that people have said that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.”

Jeb Bush’s Foreign Policy Fluency

Edward Luce finds much to like in Jeb Bush’s recent speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs:

Jeb Bush knows George W Bush, he was raised with George W Bush and can safely declare that he is no George W Bush. That — in a manner of speaking — was the message the former governor of Florida wanted to convey in Chicago. Billed as his first foreign policy speech since he chose “to actively explore” a presidential bid, Mr Bush has doubtless garnered the “I am my own man” headlines he sought. Yet people listening to the detail of his address had already drawn that conclusion for themselves. The older brother was all hat and no cattle, as one saying had it. On the evidence from Chicago, the younger Bush has plenty of cattle — but is not so big on the hat.

Their personalities could hardly be more different. In his first campaign in 2000, George W famously was unable to name the leaders of several foreign governments — Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf among them. George W happily wore his ignorance on his sleeve. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, is a fluent wonk. Mr Bush corrected one questioner about the general failure of the Arab Spring — “not Tunisia,” he said, “Tunisia is doing OK.” When asked about the decline of the nation state in today’s Middle East, Mr Bush skipped back to 1915 as the birth of the modern Arab nation state (when the Ottoman Empire began to collapse). Asked about the risks of Iran acquiring a ready-made nuclear weapon, Mr Bush gave a brief summary of A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani freelance nuclear salesman, who was arrested in 2002. Asked about how to tackle poverty on Chicago’s south side, phrases such as “stickiness at the top end and the bottom end” of the income scale tripped off Mr Bush’s tongue.

I’d be delighted to have a president who actually knows what he is talking about when it comes to foreign affairs and national security policy. Luce does critique Jeb Bush for not having the retail campaigning skills of his brother. To be sure, in order to win an election, one has to actually be a good campaigner, and to the extent that Jeb Bush is not a good campaigner, he needs to do something really quick in order to augment his campaigning skills. There is no getting around that.

But it would be kind of nice if the voters tried to meet him halfway on this issue. We currently have a president who is a very good campaigner, and whose foreign and national security policies have been quite disappointing; we are, after all, talking about sending troops back into Iraq in order to combat the ISIL threat because Barack Obama hastily promised to remove all troops from Iraq and hastily delivered on that hastily considered promise. Jeb Bush many need to be a better campaigner, but more importantly, America needs a better president and this American, for one, is willing to have a president who can actually do the job and who shows familiarity and fluency with the issues, even if the president in question may not be the world’s greatest glad-hander.

Speaking of Curbs on Freedom . . .

The onetime fans of the Hugo Chávez regime in Venezuela–the ones who thought that the regime was filled with wonderful people and ideas and who thought it was just marvelous that Chávez went to the United Nations to call George W. Bush “the devil”–have been rather quiet (as noted many times on this blog), now that it is clear that the regime is responsible for an economic catastrophe and the decline of political freedoms. One would think that they might say something about how they now regret having supported Chávez and his gang, but thus far, most of the past supporters of the Chávez regime haven’t had the integrity to own up to their bad judgment and to apologize for it.

I suppose these folks get more and more uncomfortable with each and every new story that comes out of Venezuela and shows the current chavista regime to be intellectually and morally bankrupt. If so, this story ought to make current chavistas–and former ones who never expressed regret for the error of their ways–very uncomfortable indeed:

Police in camouflaged uniforms smashed into the office of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma on Thursday and carried the opposition leader away in a move heightening political tensions in the socialist-run South American country.

President Nicolas Maduro announced that Ledezma, one of his most vocal critics, would be punished for his efforts to sow unrest.

[. . .]

“He’ll be held accountable for all his crimes,” Maduro said in comments that TV and radio stations across the country were required to carry.

Last week, Maduro named Ledezma among government critics and Western powers he accused of plotting a coup to bring down his socialist government, one of more than a dozen such denunciations Maduro has made since taking power in 2013. Ledezma mocked the accusation in multiple interviews, saying the real destabilizing force in Venezuela was the government’s corruption.

Tensions have been running high in Venezuela this week, with the one-year anniversary of the start of weeks of anti-government street protests that choked the country with tear gas and smoke from flaming barricades and resulted in more than 40 deaths. National police arrested several other mayors and former mayors during last year’s unrest, including Leopoldo Lopez, who is considered by human rights groups as Latin America’s most high-profile political prisoner.

Allies of the 59-year-old mayor called for more protests Friday to demand his immediate release, a call echoed by Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. State Department called Venezuela’s accusations of coup-plotting “baseless and false” and intended to direct attention away from mounting economic problems such as widespread shortages and galloping inflation that reached 68 percent last year.

“The Venezuelan government needs to deal with the grave situation it faces,” the State Department said in a statement.

But of course, the Venezuelan government is not interested in “deal[ing] with the grave situation that it faces.” Rather, it is interested in finding and persecuting scapegoats in order to distract from the incompetence of the government and the monstrousness of its actions. And it will likely continue to be aided and abetted by the silence of those who once lauded the chavista regime, and who now remain silent instead of speaking out against the regime, and expressing some semblance of remorse for their past awful judgments.

The Worst Analysis Regarding ISIL that You Have Ever Seen

Courtesy of Marie Harf, who actually has a job in our State Department, and who said the following regarding the war with ISIL:

. . . We can not win this war by killing them. We can not kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium and longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs–

Harf has now taken to Twitter to claim that her critics are too dumb to have properly understood her comments. Or something.

To be sure, there is much more that has to be done–in addition to military campaigns–in order to defeat terrorism. But a “lack of opportunity for jobs” is not driving the creation of ISIL, and a jobs program won’t stop the beheadings. To claim otherwise is to live in a fantasy world; something this administration and its foreign policy/national security team seem to make a habit of doing.

Marxist Economist Begins to Realize that Marxist Economics Does Not Work

You’d think that the lesson would have taken earlier:

Venezuela’s economic failings are turning it into the “laughing-stock” of Latin America, according to late president Hugo Chavez’s top economic planner.

Former Finance and Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, who was sacked in mid-2014 by Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, said in an interview this week that reforms in the South American OPEC nation are years overdue.

“We should have taken measures from Oct. 7, 2012,” Giordani told local website notitimes.com, referring to the date of Chavez’s last presidential election victory. Chavez, who was president for 14 years, died of cancer in 2013.

“In truth, we are almost the laughing stock of Latin America,” Giordani, 75, said. “If the situation is bad, if the thermometer is at 40 degrees, there are those who blame the thermometer … We need to acknowledge the crisis, comrades.”

It’s nice to see the beginnings of wisdom, but of course, it ought to be noted–as it is at the end of the story–that Giordani still hasn’t fully grasped that he is part of an utterly unworkable system:

However, “of course we must defend the revolutionary government … and the construction of socialism,” he added, in the face of “fascist” threats from Venezuela’s domestic opponents and the United States.

How much more does the situation have to deteriorate before Giordani finally understands that Venezuela’s most dangerous opponent is its own government?

As always, it is worth remembering that all of the bloggers who once had really nice things to say about chavista Venezuela–in part because they liked the fact that Hug Chávez went to the United Nations and called George W. Bush “the devil”–are really quiet now that it is clear that Chavismo is a failed ideology.

How Easy Will It Be for Ashton Carter to Work with Barack Obama?

I have written before that I am glad that Ashton Carter has been nominated to be secretary of defense. I am still glad. I think that he can be very good at his soon-to-be new job. But like Jennifer Rubin, I wonder whether the Obama administration will let Carter be good at his job. Carter has repeatedly said during his confirmation hearings that he will not shy away from giving the president his best advice, and it is entirely possible that Carter will succeed in getting the president to follow that advice. But I do wish that some senator would ask Carter whether he will resign if there remain the policy gulfs between him and the president that Rubin discussed. The answer might actually be somewhat revealing.

A Long Overdue Goodbye to Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan was one of two big-time bloggers–the other being, of course, Glenn Reynolds–to have helped put me on the blogospheric map. For that, I shall always be grateful.

He was also–as Ross Douthat pointed out–extraordinarily influential in advancing the cause of same-sex marriage. Anyone who is the least bit concerned with fundamental human rights should be grateful to Sullivan for all that he has done on this issue.

At the outset, when I first started blogging, Sullivan’s political views and mine coincided quite neatly. After a while, they began to diverge. I certainly changed some of my political views as the years went on, and I don’t quite see how anyone could go an appreciable period of time without reappraising at least some political views. Sullivan’s views, of course, changed drastically. He went from being a supporter of George W. Bush to a fervent opponent. The shift began when Bush signed on to the Federal Marriage Amendment issue, and Sullivan reacted with outrage. I always got the sense that this issue became the jumping-off point for other Sullivanesque disagreements with the Bush administration; over Iraq, over interrogation and detention policy, and over foreign policy in general. Of course, it ought to go without saying that Sullivan was and is entitled to change whatever political views he wanted and wants to change.

So while Sullivan and I had our differences, some of those differences were reasonable in nature. Others . . . not so much.

In 2008, Sullivan decided that he really liked Barack Obama a lot. But he didn’t want to be identified as a contemporary American liberal, so he started concocting all sorts of ridiculous claims that the onetime senator and future president was and is a conservative. Hayek was cited, as was Locke, as was Oakeshott. Oakeshott was cited a lot. The claims, of course, made no sense whatsoever, but that didn’t stop Sullivan from making them, even as the rhetoric and policies from the White House became more and more port-sided. Of course, Sullivan could have taken the honorable road and simply announced a fundamental shift in his political philosophy. But instead, Sullivan, like Shakespeare’s Caesar, claimed and claims to be as constant as the North Star when it comes to his ideology, and his approach instead has been to desperately try to shoehorn Barack Obama into that ideology. It never worked before, it doesn’t work now, and it won’t work in the future, but Sullivan, not recognizing defeat when it stares him in the face, keeps on trying to make it work. The whole thing is rather pathetic, really.

There have been other Sullivanian obsessions as well. As anyone and everyone remotely familiar with Sullivan’s work are aware, he has engaged in an on-again-off-again seven-year obsessive quest to prove that Trig Palin is not actually Sarah Palin’s son. Oh, Sullivan denies over and over (and over) again that he actually doubts Trig’s matrilineal line. He just felt and feels that he needs to ask questions, and if only Palin would answer those questions by releasing a medical history that proves that she had the baby she claims to have had, Sullivan will give up his Ahabesque project to show that Trig is someone else’s son. To be clear: Sullivan’s theories and mutterings have been proven insane by science, but Sullivan refuses to admit defeat, and still periodically questions Trig Palin’s matrilineal line–against any and all medical and scientific evidence showing that Sullivan is making a fool of himself by continuing to doubt and deny the bloody obvious.

The obsession with Trig Palin’s parentage alone should have made Andrew Sullivan the laughingstock of the Blogosphere, but Sullivan, always willing and eager to double down on lunacy, decided that for his next trick, he would hate on Israel so much, that he would and could reasonably be accused of anti-Semitism. “Something Much Darker”, indeed. It is, to be sure, possible to criticize Israeli foreign policies without sounding and acting like an anti-Semitic loon, but the evidence shows quite plainly that Sullivan failed spectacularly to do so.

I guess I should mention as well the perpetually ridiculous periodic “meep, meep” blog posts, in which Sullivan wrote smugly about how, if one ingested enough LSD to kill a herd of elephants, an Obama political defeat could actually be viewed as a political victory–mostly over Republicans. This blog post had it right; during the Obama era, Sullivan has indeed blogged “like a hack in a one-party state.” At times, Sullivan’s blogging project seemed like a giant audition aimed at getting Sullivan named chief propagandist of the Obama administration. Sullivan may have failed to achieve this particular station in life, but his failure wasn’t for lack of trying.

I write all of this, of course, because Andrew Sullivan claims that he has decided to quit blogging. Now, Andrew Sullivan has claimed that he decided to quit blogging before, and he has come back, so I’m keeping the champagne on ice for the moment. But I’d like to think that at long last, Sullivan has realized that his fatuous, overwrought, emotionally unstable, intellect-insulting writing has finally reached China Syndrome proportions of insufferability. I would like to think that Sullivan took a good long look at his writing, his thought process (if one can be so generous as to claim that Sullivan’s writing is backed up by any thought whatsoever), and himself, and didn’t like what he saw. I would like to think that at long last, Andrew Sullivan decided that a belated embrace of discretion and silence was the best–the only–way to salvage whatever dignity he once had, before he decided to squander the vast majority of that dignity via anti-Semitic trolling, logic-defying apologetics on behalf of the Obama administration, and the spelunking of Sarah Palin’s womb.1

I would like to think all of this. So, I will do what Andrew Sullivan has frequently asked his readers to do.

I will know hope.

Andrew, if you read this, remember: We can’t truly miss you, if you won’t stay away.

UPDATE: Cross-posted.

1. I thought that I had come up with the “spelunking Sarah Palin’s womb” image. Alas, I did not.

Let’s Put Matters Bluntly

The Charlie Hebdo murders were caused by Islamist terrorists.

They were not a false flag operation.

Anyone who says otherwise is a lunatic.

Any group of people who publish that particular anyone’s claims that the Charlie Hebdo murders were a false flag operation may be considered a group of lunatics.

Any former politician whose name is used by that particular group of lunatics to also name the institute of the lunatics in question may have some ‘splainin’ to do.

And finally, any son of the former politician in question who doesn’t say something along the lines of “the lunatics who appropriated my father’s name in order to promote silly conspiratorial ideas do not speak and never have spoken for me,” has no business even being considered for the position of president of the United States.

Pope Francis Blunders

I actually like the pope. But this is just awful commentary:

Pope Francis said there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith, in comments that the Vatican later said Friday did not mean justifying the attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines on Thursday, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.

But he said there were limits.

By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasbarri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.

“If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

Er . . . yes you can. That is what free speech is all about. Sometimes, it is highly offensive, but thus far, no one has come up with a way to restrict highly offensive speech that does not somehow lead to the restriction of other kinds of speech. The price we pay for living in a free society is that sometimes, we are offended by the speech of others. But we are willing to pay that price in order to be able to freely express our own speech.

It is remarkable that this basic point has to be made in 2015.

Oh, and if someone says a curse word against your mother, and you punch that someone in response, you are risking indictment for assault and battery. You may even get sued in civil court. Someone inform the pope of this, before he gets into a bar fight and lands in the slammer as a consequence.

More on the Charlie Hebdo Murders

Let’s run through a list of news updates . . .

1. Al Jazeera is not a real news organization:

As journalists worldwide reacted with universal revulsion at the massacre of some of their own by Islamic jihadists in Paris, Al Jazeera English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr sent out a staff-wide e-mail.

“Please accept this note in the spirit it is intended — to make our coverage the best it can be,” the London-based Khadr wrote Thursday, in the first of a series of internal e-mails leaked to National Review Online. “We are Al Jazeera!”

Below was a list of “suggestions” for how anchors and correspondents at the Qatar-based news outlet should cover Wednesday’s slaughter at the Charlie Hebdo office (the full e-mails can be found below).

Khadr urged his employees to ask if this was “really an attack on ‘free speech,’” discuss whether “I Am Charlie” is an “alienating slogan,” caution viewers against “making this a free speech aka ‘European Values’ under attack binary [sic],” and portray the attack as “a clash of extremist fringes.”

“Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile,” Khadr wrote. “Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response — however illegitimate — is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.”

So much for covering the news fairly. Clearly, at al Jazeera, there is an editorial line, it must be respected, and woe to anyone who dares to think for him or herself and offer the facts to the viewing and listening audience, instead of offering up a cooked-up editorial spin on the news.

2. There was a march against extremism in Paris attended by a host of world leaders. The United States decided to only send its ambassador. No Barack Obama. No John Kerry. Eric Holder was in the area, but even he failed to show up. Appalling, really:

Don’t look for the president or vice president among the photos of 44 heads of state who locked arms and marched down Boulevard Voltaire in Paris. Nor did they join a companion march the French Embassy organized in Washington on Sunday afternoon.

Indeed, Obama’s public reactions to the attacks in Paris last week have been muted. His initial response Wednesday to the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices was delivered as he sat calmly in an armchair in the Oval Office speaking about the “cowardly” acts and defending freedom of the press. Two days later, as a gunman took hostages and went on to kill four people in a kosher grocery, Obama took a few seconds away from a community college proposal rollout in Tennessee because he said with events unfolding, “I wanted to make sure to comment on them” — but neither then nor afterward specifically condemned that attack.

Obama wasn’t far from the march in D.C. on Sunday that wended silently along six blocks from the Newseum to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Instead, he spent the chilly afternoon a few blocks away at the White House, with no public schedule, no outings.

Joe Biden was back home in Wilmington, Delaware. Neither they nor any high-level administration official attended either event.

The White House has admitted that it made a mistake in not having a high-profile figure attend any of the marches. That’s how bad this blunder was; usually, this White House never admits it made a mistake of any kind, and tries to blame George W. Bush for anything that might go wrong.

3. Finally, it is worth noting that living in France has become a nightmare for Jewish people. Remember how some silly people liked to pretend that anti-Semitism “scarcely exists in the West”? The claim would be utterly comical if the issue were not so serious.

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