Advertisements

At Long Last, Assange’s Arrest

Julian Assange has gone from left wing hero to right wing hero to an arrestee of the United Kingdom awaiting extradition to the United States, where there’s no telling what might happen to him next.
By now you probably know that Assange is the founder and publisher and editor and seemingly the only employee of the Wikileaks web site, which has won a worldwide readership by exposing documents illegally obtained from governments around the world. Way back in ’10 he published a trove of documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq obtained from Army Private Bradley Manning, who somehow had access to the material that exposed to American allies and tactics to the enemy, and has since had government-paid sex change surgery and become Chelsea Manning while serving a 35-year prison sentence. Of course he or she became such a cause celebre on the left that his or her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama, which of course outraged everyone on the right.
In ’16 Wikileaks published a trove of illegally hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee that proved embarrassing for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, which might or might not have been but almost certainly were obtained from the Russian government, and at that point the left disavowed Assange and a strange new right embraced him. “I love Wikileaks,” Republican presidential nominee told his enthralled rally crowds, and his apologists were explaining how Assange was no different from The York Times publishing the “Pentagon Papers” about the Vietnam War Daniel Ellsberg had illegally purloined, which the left still celebrates and the right used to consider treason. Trump won the nomination either in spite of or because of his opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well the war he draft-dodged in Vietnam, so his embrace of Assange seemed entirely fulsome.
Shortly after becoming a left-wing darling back in ’10 the Swedish government issued a warrant for Assange’s arrest on charges of sexual assault and rape, but Assange claimed he was the victim of a right-wing American plot that the Swedish government was somehow in on and thus gained refuge from the left-wing and anti-American Ecuadorian government at its embassy in the United Kingdom. He’d been stuck inside the building until Thursday, but after Wikileaks recently leaked some documents he was rather brusquely escorted out of the embassy and into the rough arms of the British authorities.
Although we assume that Ecuador’s embassy in London is a pleasant place to be, the years Assange spent entirely inside its walls do not seem to have been unkind. The last photos of Assange showed a rather dashing young fellow with a full head of distinguished wavy white hair, but the video of of him being dragged out showed a crouched and balding fellow with an ugly white beard, clutching a copy of some conspiracy theory book, hardly the sort of heroic figure that either the right or left could embrace.
The Brits plan to turn him over to the Americans, rather than the Swedes, which will surely prove interesting.
The “fake news” National Broadcasting Company has some all-too-real video of Trump praising Wikileaks 141 times at 56 campaign rallies, but on Thursday Trump was telling reporters that “I know nothing about Wikileaks. It’s not my thing. I know there’s something about Julian Assange, I’ve been seeing what happens with Julian Assange. And that will be a determination, I imagine, by the Attorney General.” Meanwhile, Assange’s erstwhile apologists on the left looked almost as ridiculous.
As modestly reluctant as we are to claim the moral high ground, we never did like this Assange fellow. Although we’re free press purists who will defend the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the Wikileaks disclosures revealed the identities of American collaborators who were killed as a result, which was more than the Pentagon paper did and was far more than was necessary to make a case against an arguably unjust American policy, and we think that’s a crucial difference. We never cared much for the Democratic party or its presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, but we nonetheless thought it outrageous that someone would illegally hack the party’s e-mails and that her opponent would publicly ask the Russian government to illegally hack her e-mails.
By now Assange is a crouched and balding and white-bearded arrestee with no friends to his right or left, and from our current vantage point on the political sidelines we don’t much care what happens to him, although it will surely take up much news space..

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

Politics and Other Family Matters

Politics has always been a topic best avoided at family gatherings, but we’ve lately noted that’s especially true these days. The subject of President Donald Trump and the current state of the Republican party and conservatism in general is especially fraught for our conservative and Republican yet Never-Trump selves in our dealings with certain members of our conservative yet more loyally Republican family, but we’re pleased to say it’s not so acrimonious as it seems to be for Arizona’s Republican Rep. Paul Gosar and at least six of his siblings.
Gosar is up for reelection in Arizona’s reliably Republican fourth congressional district, where his brothers Tim and Gaston and David and his sisters Jennifer and Joan and Grace are all currently starring in a widely-aired campaign television ad for Democratic challenger David Brill.
We’ve not paid enough attention to Arizona’s fourth congressional district race to have any idea who the hell this Brill fellow is, and for all we know he’s one of those far-left Democrats we’ve always opposed. Gosar says that his siblings are “six angry Democrats,” and that “These disgruntled Hillary supporters are related to me by blood, but like lefties everywhere they put political ideology before family,” adding the “hashtag” of “#MAGA 2018,” and for all we know that explains the family dynamics. Even so, everything we know of Gosar suggests he’s one of those far-right Republicans we look askance at in these Trumpian times.
Gosar’s six dissenting siblings might well be a bunch of Hillary-supporting angry Democrats, for all we know, and we truly share his distaste for that type, but for all we know they might also well be old-fashioned Republicans such as ourselves who will carry party loyalty only so far. If so, and if that Brill fellow turns out to be one of those more-or-less reasonable Democrats, we’d probably take their side at what will surely be an acrimonious family Thanksgiving dinner
Back here in Kansas’s fourth congressional district we’re faced with a tough choice between a Trumpian Republican and the sort of left-of-center Democrat we’ve always voted against, and we’re seriously considering voting for the centrist Democrats in the state’s gubernatorial and our neighborhood’s county commission races, and we’re planning to talk mostly about the University of Oklahoma’s Sooner football team next Thanksgiving. The family is all conservative and Republican, which leads to all sorts of fraught conversations these days, but at least we’re all on board with the Sooners. The Sooners are undefeated and firmly ensconced in the top-ten ratings and still very much in the running for a national championship this season, but the last couple of wins have been hard-fought against mediocre competition, and there’s no telling what we might be all giving thanks for on that hopefully friendly family Thanksgiving..

— Bud Norman

Politics as Practiced on the AM Dial

Monday’s chores entailed much driving around our sprawling town, and as we’re not the sorts to sit in silence at the interminable traffic lights we spent much of the afternoon scanning the AM radio between the old folks’ station where they play Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra and the country oldies station that occasionally plays some pre-80s tears-in-my-bear honky tonk worth listening to and the local right-wing talk station that broadcasts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and assorted other right-wing ranters. Despite the unpleasant distractions of the day, we couldn’t help noticing a slightly heartening diversity of media views.
So far as we can tell from our occasional stoplight encounters with right-wing talk radio, Limbaugh still hates the presumptive Democratic nominee and is resigned to offering helpful rationalizations for the Republican nominee’s latest “tweets,” Hannity hates the presumptive Democratic at least as much and is at least is fully on board with the presumptive Republican nominee and ever eager to explain — “literally,’ he always annoyingly adds — how the presumptive Republican nominee’s latest “Tweets” don’t contradict every position he’s ever taken on anything from adultery to public health care, and Levin is just as loudly and cacophonously as ever opposed to both the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees, which would probably strike us as the most the most reasonable position if he weren’t shrieking it with all all those capital letters. In between all the ads are for gold bug businesses and doomsday food suppliers and people eager to help out with your problems with the Internal Revenue Service and your credit card debt, and except for an old friend or ours who runs an excellent local hat shop and a couple of other daring local business and some company that makes what it bills as the world’s greatest pillow that’s about all you’d hear on our local right-wing radio station, except for those American Broadcasting Company news updates that come at that the end of every hour and always sound exactly like what those deranged right-wingers predicted they would say.
On Monday afternoon the mainstream media feed into our otherwise reliably right-wing media was reporting that some Democratic Senators had bravely advocated some surely well-intentioned legislative proposal to restrict people’s rights to defend themselves with firearms, and it came right out and said the congressional Republicans were “un-moved” by the past weekend’s tragedy in Florida and therefore callously moved to vote against a bill to to deny gun sales to anyone on the federal government’s “no-fly” list.
Those nasty establishment Republicans did indeed vote against the proposed legislation, but just as the right-wing talkers predicted the ABC news feed at the top of the hour made no mention of the unavoidable matter that almost anyone, including the late “liberal lion” Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, could win up being denied his Second Amendment rights as a result of a more cockamamie bill if it were ever passed and signed. Nor was there any mention anywhere on the radio dial that the presumptive and proudly anti-establishment Republican presidential nominee is entirely on board with this nonsense, and promises to talk with his new-found friends at the National Rifle Association about it, and seems quite eager to have his very own federal government deciding who and who does not have Second Amendment rights. All in all, we’d have to call it perfectly imbalanced coverage of the day’s events during an afternoon’s chores, if not at all satisfactory.

— Bud Norman

A Rightward Stand From the Far Left

For the past many years we’ve been arguing with liberals on the topic of illegal immigration, noting how it depresses wages for the low-wage workers they claim to care about, increases the income inequality that so distresses them, has a disparate impact on the black Americans they champion, strains the educational and social welfare systems that are so dear to their hearts, and even the social consequences of importing Latin American notions about feminism and homosexual rights, but of course to no avail. Thanks to Vermont’s Senator and self-described socialist and surging Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders, however, we finally have an argument that might persuade the left. Quite ingeniously, he’s alleging that illegal immigration is yet another nefarious plot by the Koch brothers.
In a far-ranging and fascinating interview in the internet publication Vox.com, the interlocutor made mention of Sanders’ “Democratic socialism” and “more international view” and assumed that it would lead him to advocate “sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders.” Sanders replied, “Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal.” The interviewer responded with a stunned “Really?,” and Sanders added “Of course. That’s a right-wing proposal, which essentially says there is no United States…” An unexpected argument ensued, with Sanders making the same liberal arguments against illegal immigration that we’ve always attempted, and the interviewer not attempting to rebut any of them as he stammers some nonsense about America’s moral obligation to take in all the world’s poor, and it makes for fun reading.
Sanders’ surprising stand on illegal immigration is one of his few deviations from standard liberalism, another notable one being a general respect for gun rights that he’s had since his days in the far-left Liberty Union Party, which called for “armed struggle” by the likes of the Black Panthers and Weather Underground, so it’s not surprising that he couches his arguments in terms that appeal to liberal sensibilities. Casting illegal immigration as a “right wing proposal” is a masterstroke, though, as one can see by how far aback his liberal interviewer was taken, and given the left’s susceptibility to even the most far-fetched conspiracy theories concerning the Koch brothers dropping their name is also a nice touch, but it’s hard to tell if his heresies will help or hinder his bid to upset Hillary Clinton. There’s already much howling about it from pro-illegal immigration Latino groups and their paler compatriots in the liberal press, but they’re already lined up behind Clinton. It could help him peel away a few black votes, but that bloc is also loyal the Clinton family and its most fevered elements are still sore at Sanders for saying that all lives and not just black ones matter. Low-wage workers and union members should find the stand appealing, but the former aren’t reliable voters and the latter are a dwindling number. Republicans will like it, but they’re voting in the other primary and are highly unlikely to vote for Sanders in a general election.
Sanders’ position will have great appeal to independents, but we suspect that most of them aren’t going to be fooled into believing that illegal immigration is a right wing position. The eventual Republican nominee is also most certain to be taking an even stronger stand against illegal immigration, and for the past many years all the opposition to open borders has been by the most conservative sorts of Republicans, and if he hadn’t been so startled even at the fellow at Vox.com would have pointed out this obvious fact. The hard-core supporters that have lately been filling halls at Sanders’ campaign appearances probably won’t being changing their minds about him, though, and at least they’ll be able to tell themselves that they’re not in agreement with those scary Koch brothers.

— Bud Norman

The Gathering Storm

Another 12 lives have been added to the casualty list from the Islamic fanatics’ war against the West, this time at the offices of a French satirical magazine that was deemed insufficiently reverent toward Mohammad, and there are the usual worries among the chattering classes that Islam will be blamed. The long-awaited backlash against Muslims in the west hasn’t happened yet, and the West’s governments and opinion-makers are as eager as ever to prevent it, but they are right to worry. Each new outrage tests the public’s patience and draws the world closer to an inevitable confrontation between the west and its sworn enemies.
America has already launched costly battles in Afghanistan and Iraq in response to the terror attacks on its soil on Sept. 11, 2001, and even as it withdraws from those conflicts with little regard for the consequences Europe is being forced to confront the broader war within its own borders. Shortsighted immigration policies have left many European nations with large Muslim populations that are rapidly growing while the indigenous ethnic population is at or below replacement levels, and the newcomers are not assimilating to the existing cultures but rather attempting to impose their own culture on their hosts. A generous welfare system and a condescending multi-culturalism seem to have only exacerbated the resentments in the Muslim ghettos that have sprung up across the continent, which are often radicalized Islamic states within the state. The excellent British writer Theodore Dalrymple offers a chilling description at City Journal of the situation in his adopted country of France, where bureaucratic planning has created a segregated ring around the major cities where the police and firemen and emergency medical personnel are afraid to go, filled with angry young men whose culture is defined by its opposition to the nation at large. He describes how the resulting crime and disorder are affecting the lives of ordinary French citizens, and how they have thus far resigned themselves to the situation, and how the arbiters of elite French culture have even championed the anti-French subculture of the ghettos, but the disorder has now killed 12 at a satirical magazine and will soon move on to the gay bars and will eventually threaten everything that even the enlightened French culture will inevitably find worth fighting for.
Already there are worries that there will be increased support in France for Marine Le Pen’s National Front, which has not had much success in shedding the image of her father’s unabashed fascist policies but is the only political party that has forthrightly challenged the creeping Islamization of France. Anti-immigration parties are finding increased support across Europe, and although the European and American press like to describe them all as “right wing” some are merely urging reasonable restrictions on immigration and assimilation policies for those already in the country along with the same sort of economic agenda that conservatives offer in America, but there are parties with a more authoritarian style that will also make gains in countries where the more established parties refuse to offer viable solutions to the pressing problems posed by an increasingly radicalized Muslim population. Wherever any resistance to the Islamic immigration is considered beyond the respectable limits of discourse, the disreputable parties will become increasingly popular.
The United States has a smaller, albeit growing, Muslim population, and it is not segregated and alienated to the same extent as In Europe. Nor are the parameters of the debate about Islam’s uneasy coexistence with the West so severely restricted, despite the best efforts of politicians and the academy and the establishment press and the entertainment industry. The death toll from radical Islam’s war against the West is nonetheless high here, and likely to grow higher, and the same willing blindness to the problem too often prevails at the highest levels of power. The anti-social ethos that Theodore Dalrymple describes in the ghettos outside Paris is eerily similar to what is found in the ghettos within America’s cities, right down to hip-hop music and fashion and government-subsidized bling, and the reaction by America’s intellectual elites to its anti-social and police-hating ethos is pretty much the same, and all that’s missing is radical Islam’s appeal to the spiritual void of those angry young men and its promise of something more meaningful. Post-modern Europe has nothing similar to offer, and America needs to recall the vision that once served that purpose.
The same apologetic and appeasing offer of debilitating support that America has offered its ghettos since launching a “War on Poverty” is what it now offers the Islamic world, but generous welfare systems and a condescending multi-culturalism are no more likely to work here than in France.

— Bud Norman

Sorrow and Speculation

As we write this little can be said with any certainty about the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Generally reliable sources report that at least three people were killed and as many as 130 more suffered injuries as serious as the loss of limbs, everything about the bombings points to an act of terrorism, and otherwise all that can be said without fear of eventual contradiction is that it is a horrible tragedy.
The lack of information has not stopped the usual speculation, of course, even though such tragedies are now common enough to have demonstrated that the early news reports are almost always proved wrong. Those inclined to suspect Islamist motives in these sorts of incidents did so again, but except for early and unconfirmed reports of a Saudi national being questioned there was no basis for the suspicion except its plausibility. Those inclined to suspect right-wing domestic terrorism also followed their inclinations, although there is no basis for the suspicion except that the bombings occurred on the day income taxes are due and the fact that there have been occasional cases of right-wing terrorism in the past. A few have suggested left-wing terrorism or the work of a murderous psychopath motivated by hatreds that have nothing to do with any political ideology, and a paranoid late-night radio program is currently considering conspiracy theories about a false flag operation, but there is nothing to be said for any of these notions except that they are all within the realm of possibility.
Such speculation is a normal reaction to tragedy, but it serves no purpose except for the false comfort offered by an explanation that aligns with a long-held belief. It is also a distraction from the sorrowful sympathy for the victims that is a more human reaction, and can exacerbate our usual political divisions and cloud an objective assessment of the facts as they gradually become known. Whatever the reasons for Monday’s horrible events, they will require a carefully considered response.

— Bud Norman