- Jacques Delacroix on Barring Entry from Seven Countries. Dear Muslim Fellow Citizens:
- Jacques Delacroix on For several years, I have had faithful readers, or at least, visitors on my blog from the Philippines. I am dying to know who they are. Please, send a private message through my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tige d'airain on For several years, I have had faithful readers, or at least, visitors on my blog from the Philippines. I am dying to know who they are. Please, send a private message through my email: email@example.com
- Jacques Delacroix on Barring Entry from Seven Countries. Dear Muslim Fellow Citizens:
- dalemannes on Barring Entry from Seven Countries. Dear Muslim Fellow Citizens:
- Jacques Delacroix on The Anti-Trump Women’s March
- Jacques Delacroix on The Anti-Trump Women’s March
- concerned cynic on The Anti-Trump Women’s March
- Jacques Delacroix on Trump Disappoints Already
- Cesar Barrera on Trump Disappoints Already
For several years, I have had faithful readers, or at least, visitors on my blog from the Philippines. I am dying to know who they are. Please, send a private message through my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pres. Trump’s executive order temporarily barring entry into the US to those coming from seven countries was a rude act.* To make things worse, it was badly implemented, causing inconvenience and even distress to a number of innocent travelers. What’s more, it’s unlikely to be very effective in its stated goal of keeping Americans safe. The reason the administration gave for the order was to give the appropriate agencies some time to improve their techniques for vetting ordinary travelers from those countries.
As I write, the bar is in circuit court where it will be decided whether a previous federal judge’s order suspending application of the bar holds or not. There is a mano-a-mano between a largely liberal circuit court and a fairly conservative and decisive new executive. Whether the executive prevails or not, the order was given and it will be remembered as one of the first acts of the Trump administration. It’s worth discussing.
Much of what has been said about the order is false, ridiculous or dishonest. I urge you to preserve your collective credibility by not falling for the falsehoods, and worse, for partially true but misleading statements you have heard. Some, you have heard repeatedly.
Beyond this, I suspect you have not done enough collective self-examination. I suspect this because no one reasonable talks to you frankly about matters concerning you. There are plenty of ill-informed hysterical, obscene anti-Muslim shouts which you probably (rightly) shut out. The rest of America is too paralyzed by political correctness to say anything to you that may seem critical. I am reasonable and I am not paralyzed by political correctness. In addition, there is a good chance I am pretty well informed. (Go ahead, Google me.) Where I am not, I listen to advice and corrections with an open mind. I wish to talk to you about mistrust of Muslims and about what you may not have done to represent yourselves in a light inducing others to be fair. Lastly, I wish to address you about what you have done that has not been helpful.
The persecution of Muslims
Fact: The seven countries the executive temporary banning order targeted are all predominantly Muslim countries.
That does not make the order an anti-Muslim measure. If Pres. Trump had wanted to persecute Muslims, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt and even India (yes, India) would be heading the list. There are something like forty predominantly Muslim countries in the world. How do you think the seven were chosen?
The seven were originally selected by the Obama administration as dangerous countries from which it was difficult to obtain enough information to vet travelers. This explains why most Muslim countries – by a long shot – did not make the list. In the case of five Arab Muslim countries on the list, they are there because they are failed states unable to provide credible information if they want to. Iran, is a special case. Pres. Trump, and some of us, think that the information should not be trusted that comes from a country where the political class has been smiling benevolently for the past thirty years on demonstrators whose main demand is “Death to America!” Taking people at their word is not a dirty trick, right? The sixth country on the list, Sudan, is there for both reasons. It’s an ineffective state and its leadership is openly hostile to America. It’s unable to cooperate in vetting and it will not.
Why should Pres. Trump want to go to extraordinary lengths to vet travelers from those particular countries, you wonder suspiciously? It’s because – you are right – the Muslim world is widely thought to be a privileged source of terrorism. That’s in the 21th century. In the 20th century, it would have been (largely Catholic) Ireland, the (Catholic) Basque area of Spain and, especially, the (Hindu) Tamil area of Sri Lanka. The fact that no IRA terrorist, no ETA terrorist and no Tamil Tiger terrorist ever claimed to be acting in the name of God or of his religion may make a difference though. What do you think?
Personally I don’t see how anyone can disagree with the proposition that Muslim countries (not all, some, of course) generate large numbers of terrorists when those same terrorists massacre many more Muslims than they do anyone else? I can’t believe you are not aware of the many car bombs detonated near mosques during prayer from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Iraq. And have you ever thought of what the proportion of Muslims must have been at the massacres in the French night club or during the Bastille Day festivities, in Nice, France? Let me tell you: Many French Muslims are immigrants from rural areas in Africa. It’s been true for a long time. They have more children than people born in France. Whenever you find children and young people, in France, you are looking at many young Muslims. And, go back to the “Underwear Bomber” trying to blow up a plane over largely Muslim Detroit, during Christmas Eve, of all times. Who do you think would have died, primarily? How many Christians are on a plane on that night? (Reminder: He is a young man from a good Nigerian family. He is having a bad time in federal prison, right now.) It’s your duty to be informed about the people who are massacring both your people and your neighbors, I think.
Incidentally, the fact that Muslims die much more than other people under the knife of neo-jihadists does not give your passivity a pass.
This all is sufficient to explain well why there are only Muslim countries on the ban list. It would have been more polite of the Trump administration to add, say Iceland, Paraguay, and Laos, or Timor. Perhaps, they did not think of it. No one is perfect. Perhaps they did thing of this trick and decided to not implement it to signal that political correctness has to go, at last.
Before I move on, note what the paragraphs above do not (NOT) say, lest your memory tricks you later: They do not say that “most Muslims are terrorists,” as stupid liberals allege such statements mean. I don’t think most Muslims are terrorists. I do not think that many Muslims are terrorists. I am not even sure the terrorists who claim to be Muslims are Muslims, or good Muslims. I don’t really know. However much I regret it, however, I can see how it is easy to find justification for religious acts of violence in the Islamic sacred Scriptures. (Ask me or tell me plainly that I am wrong, that there are no such justifications in the Scriptures.)
Trump’s order was intended to keep terrorists where they are for the time being, until we learn better to spot them. It was intended to protect me and my children, and you and your children. I have my doubts about its efficacy, as I have said (See also my short FB essay on January 31st). You should feel free to criticize it on that ground without going to motives you have little way of knowing. “Stupid” is not the same as “prejudiced.”
The Muslim contribution to the mistrust of Muslims: Inaction
Next, I need to ask you if Muslims collectively have done anything to contribute to widespread mistrust of Muslims in America. First I need to ask what American Muslims did not do that they should have done – and can still do. This can be brief.
Large American Muslim organizations have put themselves repeatedly on the public record denouncing terrorism perpetrated by those who claim to be inspired by Islam. They are quick to assert that religious violence is incompatible with Islam, that the neo-jihadists are simply bad Muslims, or even, not Muslims at all. This is all for the good although – I am sorry – most of the protestations sound hollow. One of the things missing, incidentally – is condemnations by obvious religious authorities.
What bothers me personally, and probably others who don’t have the time to think about it, is the lack of individual faces to accompany condemnations of neo-jihadist barbarism. There are two exceptions I know of, two Arab-American men who sometimes come on TV to reject barbarism or any links to American Muslims vigorously. I don’t have either name in mind right now and I would not name them anyway because I don’t have a clear idea of the risks they are taking.
What I am missing is reactions from individual, private persons of Muslim faith, people with a face. I ask how many of you said anything – outside the family – when ISIS was beheading an American journalist and then, an American social worker, all on video. I wonder if you said anything, at work, even if only at the water fountain, when ISIS was burning people alive in cages. How many of you expressed horror aloud or when it was turning thousands of young women and girls into sex slaves. How many dismiss Boko Haram which is burning its way through North Western Nigeria as a (black) African monstrosity?
Some of you, most of you, or all of you, think these questions are superfluous and even, that my expectations are outrageous. I have a friend, a young Muslim woman who tells me straight up that terrorism is no more her problem than mine. It’s unrealistic and it’s false. The abstract category “American Muslims” (I am not using “community” deliberately) turns out enough terrorists and would-be terrorists to destroy this presumption of distance between you and the prevalent kind of barbarism. Note also that, irrespective of provocations, since the masterful, well-planned, very successful aggression of 9/11, there has not been a single act of private terrorism against Muslims or Muslim institutions in America. (Hectoring of women wearing the hijab in public places doe not quite count as terrorism.) Mind what I am really saying: It’s not your job to stop terrorism committed in your names but you would be wise to reject it forcefully and loudly, and also in person when you have a chance.
The Muslim contribution to mistrust of Muslims: Actions
There are also the things American Muslims did that contributed to the process leading to the Trump administration temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim countries.
Let me help you remember. In 2008, you voted for Barack Obama in large numbers although he was a leftist of zero demonstrable achievement but one. (He did pass the bar exam.) I don’t know if you did it because the father he never knew was a Muslim (a drunken Muslim), or because his middle name is “Hussein,” or because you were caught up in the great Democratic emotional sweep. Later, in 2016, you largely supported the candidacy of an obvious liar and cheat who had already sold some of the country to foreign powers before even being elected. What’s more, she presented herself squarely as Pres. Obama’s successor. Many of you just bet on the wrong horse without much of an excuse for doing so. (I think I have read somewhere that American Muslims are better educated than the average American. Correct me if I am wrong.)
Had more of you voted Republican, they just might have influenced the result of the primary, perhaps, Marco Rubio (my candidate) would have won it, or the honorable Mayor Giuliani. The presidential election could have played out differently. If it hadn’t, there is a chance you would have still earned a voice within Republican politics. You chose instead to trust in liberal cliches, to go with the easy flow of falsely generous liberalism.
Even with Donald Trump as president, you would have avoided getting trapped in the Democratic identity mishmash. You would have saved yourselves the embarrassment of ending up squeezed in their book between illegal aliens from China and transgender activists. At this point, your main public, visible representation in American politics – by default, I realize – is the pathetic, corrupt loser’s personal assistant. She is very elegant but she is married to a gross pervert. The fact that her parents are members of the Muslim Brotherhood does not help. It’s not a terrorist organization exactly but it’s very unfriendly to America and to its main values. By the way, you appear to still not be paying enough attention. The fact is that, right now, thousands of Americans are talking (and screaming) in the streets in defense of, and often in the names of Muslims in general. Yet, the voices of American Muslims themselves are hard to perceive in the din. It makes no difference; when the fog clears up, some Americans are going to blame you for the riots. You are innocent, of course but, to a large extent, you put yourselves there.
There is danger in letting others speak in your place on the public square. It’s the same others who recently used the armed power of government to force others to violate their conscience. (By forcing a Catholic nuns’ order, for example, to provide contraceptive services to their employees.) How is this going to play out tomorrow when your own religious practice needs protection, I wonder.
The executive order and our constitutional order
There is much misunderstanding everywhere about the legal nature of the order. It’s all over the media and elsewhere. One Iranian woman, a distinguished MD, I am told, is suing the federal government because she suffered some travel inconvenience as a result of the executive order. (I don’t know if she is a Muslim; it does not matter.) I hope the suit only shows confusion about the American Constitution rather than some sinister plot. Whatever some little liberal judge in the boondocks may say, the Constitution does not apply to those who are not under the power of the US government. This includes citizens, legal permanent residents, illegal permanent residents, prisoners of war, to some extent, and those who are already on US soil by whatever means, or otherwise under exclusive US control. It does not apply to Mr Yokama in Osaka, to Mrs Dupont in Marseille, or to Ms Reza in Iran, or on a layover in Dubai.
The media have also shown growing confusion about the nature of a visa. It’s not a contract between a government and a private foreign party. It’s not enforceable in any court. It’s a promise to admit and evidence that someone is considered acceptable at a particular time. Either of these assessments can change in minutes. Incidentally, American immigration officers at all levels have always had discretion to do what they think is best: You can arrive at LA International from Finland, with a perfect visa, and have a fat federal employee in short sleeves get suspicious of you and deny you admission on the spot. There is no legal recourse, never has been.
Nation-states avoid canceling visas in ways that would look arbitrary, for two reasons. First it makes the relevant government lose international credibility. That’s a subtle phenomenon. No one knows how much denials and cancellation push the relevant country over the brink. Thus, any government, including, the Trump administration assumes it has a good deal of discretion in this matter. The second possible consequence of many negative visa events is that other governments may take retaliatory measures: You do it to us, we do it to you or even, we deny your citizens any visa. It’s not surprising that some governments of small, poor countries just don’t care much about serving up reciprocation to a large, desirable country such as the US. If you are an alien and you have a visa for the US, it means that you have a good chance to get in. It’s not a guarantee.
The president and his conservative supporters are not responsible for the confusion about the Constitution whipped up and smartly supported by liberal opinion.
By now, I suspect, you are thinking “Islamophobia.” I don’t quite know how to defend myself against accusations sitting in your mind about what’s going on in my own mind. It’s like suspecting me of watching porn inside my head. How can it convince you that I don’t? Nevertheless, for what it’s worth, nothing predisposes me to a blind, irrational hatred of Islam or of Muslims. I have known Muslims all my life. I have had nothing but harmonious personal relationships with them. I think there is much to love in Islamic culture. For example I am fond of calligraphy in Arabic, the language of the Koran, so fond that the Profession of Faith (the Sha’hada) hangs over my bed. (I wouldn’t be surprised if this usage by a non-believer is considered blasphemy, somewhere or other.) The few times I have lived among Muslims, I have liked it. There is even a Muslim country where I would like to live permanently now that I am old. (My wife won’t hear of it; what do you know!)
“Islamophobia” is not a real concept anyway. It was invented by liberal intellectuals to shut up debate up. If it were not so, there would be other similarly formed words such as “Protestanphobia” and “Bhuddistphobia.” The impression that Muslims in America take refuge behind that rotten old hyena hide is deplorable. It feeds many unfair stereotypes.
And, by the way, what would be wrong with being an Islamophobe? I mean in the American tradition of freedom of conscience and freedom of speech? Being a Muslim is not a race, an unalterable fact about a person. It’s a choice. If I understand a little about Islam, it’s even the supreme choice. There is widespread confusion there also.
Why should anyone not be morally, intellectually allowed to detest a choice you can reverse any time you wish? Take me, for example. I used to be a Catholic. I am not anymore. I am an ex-Catholic. Anyone could have blamed me for being a Catholic, a believer in fairy tales and a supporter of an organization massively complicit with child rape. “Catholicophobe? would not become an insult; it did not. Why would you deserve special treatment, in this regard?
No one at all blames me either for being an ex-Catholic, by the way. There is (well-founded) Catholicophobia in this country. There is no such thing as “ex-Catholicophobia.” I am also aware as I write that changing religion is called “apostasy.” I am further aware that apostasy is punishable by death in a number of countries. They are all Muslim countries, as far as I know. (Please, correct me if I am wrong on this.) One of the advantages of living in the US, as you and I do, is that there is no penalty here for transgressions of conscience. There is no punishment for walking away from a set of beliefs. This is never discussed in narratives that use the word “Islamophobia.” We don’t speak enough about such matters. Muslims, in particular, don’t speak enough. (And, I don’t believe the media suppress such conversations. The liberal media will print anything said by anyone identified as “Muslim,” especially if the speaker wears a hijab.) I realize that one can find many statements by American Muslims on the Internet. That’s not good enough; I shouldn’t have to do research.
There is also much confusion – often spread by the liberal media – about the First Amendment to the US Constitution. That main amendment to the Constitution is widely misunderstood, by native-born citizens and by many others as well. It states categorically that government cannot have a favorite religion; it says that government cannot interfere with religious practice or belief. Moreover, the Constitution forbids government to administer religious tests as a precondition to holding any government office. That’s it!
There is no part of the US Constitution that protects anyone from criticism by private parties. There are countries where such criticism is illegal; the US is not one of them. Personally, I hate Communism and Devil worship, and I also detest obsessive talk about base-ball statistics, for example. Do I have a right to my dislikes? May I express them openly? Should I count on the protection of my government -whose first assignment is to protect me – when I express these dislikes? May I say safely, “Devil worship is an abomination” ? How about, “Christianity is a false religion”? Should you, personally, have to forbid yourselves from detesting Devil worship aloud? How does the Constitution answer these questions?
Since I began talking calmly about things some Muslims don’t enjoy hearing, let me continue a little way. Let me affirm as a preamble that you have as much right to be here as anyone. If you are an immigrant like me, you might have even a little bit more right than most. (Immigrants contribute somewhat more than the native-born.) Irrespective of your rights, if you are a person who dislikes the separation of Church and State, if the gap between religion and government is anathema to you, I hope you will leave. I won’t do anything about you but you must know that I don’t want you as a fellow-citizen. And, if you take my suggestion, please, take with you as many Baptists, Lutherans and Catholics of the same belief you can find. I hope our government will do its best to limit or prevent the entry of people who hold such beliefs.
To end: It’s likely that most of you are people with whom I would like to have a cup of coffee or a meal. I suspect that we have more in common than not. You would yourselves be astonished at what a pleasant person of culture I am in real life. (Go ahead, Google me.) We would talk about our children and our grandchildren. We would share our experiences in the country I chose. This probable commonality creates no obligation for me to tolerate nonsense. The Trump temporary executive order of mention may well be regrettable. If it’s unlawful – I don’t see how – it will not be implemented. Our institutions are working. In the meantime, it’s not the end of the world. We, Americans, you and I, have bigger fish to fry.
About Syria: There are tens of thousands of Syrian refugees we could take in without endangering ourselves. We should do it, for two reasons. First, it the right thing to do and it’s good for our souls. Second, we are partly responsible for the unending disaster in Syria. I have not forgotten the red line in the sand the dictator Assad was not supposed to cross or else…. That was before the Russians were heavily involved. At the time, the US Air Force and the US Navy could have destroyed 95% of Assad’s planes and helicopters in one morning if there had been political will. It would have made it extremely more difficult for him to continue fighting and to massacre civilians. We did not intervene. Now, we have to give a hand, a big hand. I don’t see why this help should include a path to citizenship
*The executive order has been suspended by a judge (a single judge) as I write. The Administration fast track appeal has been rejected. Afterwards, the administration appealed to the 9th Circuit Court. Our institutions are doing their work even if it’s at the cost of some judges believing it’s their job to make laws. To my mind, the fact that the order was issued at all is important whether it’s ultimately put to work or not.
The day after the inauguration of Pres. Trump, there were protests all around the country, many quite large. They were called a “Women’s March” for reasons that were never completely clear. I speculate below about the name. The media seldom do a good job of helping us make sense of such mass events. So, I watched fairly closely the well attended demonstrations in my city of Santa Cruz (California). It’s a good observation test case because it’s fairly compact and because it’s practically conservative-free.* I only know two avowed Republicans in the city besides by wife and me. I am sure there are more. I am just making the point that we are so sparse, we don’t casually bump into another or, we keep quiet about it. Santa Cruz is liberalism/progressivism in a nearly pure state. During the campaign, I saw zero (0) Trump bumper stickers, and, interestingly, only three Hillary stickers. There was a large number of Bernie Sanders stickers however. When Sen. Sanders was eliminated from the race through cheating, there was no protest, notably.
The protest rallies on Saturday following the Inauguration included a preponderance of women. Many sported the stylish two-horned pink or red hat nicknamed, or officially named (I don’t know) the “vagina hat.” The men there may have been feminists or, they had other goals in mind. Some, the ugly ones, were probably trying to earn sex points. The crowd. carried a multitude of hand made signs, mostly small ones. I don’t know why they were small. It may have been for lack of experience in demonstrating, marking the presence of many first-timers, or it may have been that the function of the signs was to instruct neighbors in the crowd or simply, self-proclamation: I exist!
I gave up quickly on the task of making a list of all, or even of most of the signs in sight. Three kinds stick to my mind the day after. The first kind proclaimed fear about “women’s rights” – undefined. I can think of, imagine of, three categories of claims advanced by this first kind of signs. First, worry about the federally guaranteed right to abortion. When conservatives acquire a parcel of power, there is always concern that the Christian activists among them will impose pregnancy on all women. (I mean instead of say, contraception, or abstinence, or perversion.) Hardly anyone ever mentions that should the Roe and Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion a federal right be reversed, abortion would not thereby become illegal. The decision would simply revert to the states. It’s doubtful any one state of the fifty would outlaw abortion outright although some restrictions might be imposed, including on very late abortions. I think women are deliberately kept in the dark about this simple constitutional fact.
The second category of female claim, I suspect, was about pay. American women have been told for so long, with so much insistence that employed females earn less than employed males earn that the belief has taken root that there exists massive sex discrimination in employment. In fact paying men and women different rates for the same work has been illegal for many years. Doing so would invite financially juicy class action suits.** The academic social sciences have allowed the falsehood to thrive for years without intervening in the public arena. (There are good scholarly articles in respected journals that show that it isn’t so. Ordinary women don’t read them and of course feminist leaders suppress them if they know of them.) This academic failure to intervene is either criminal neglect or intellectual malpractice.
The third category of specifically female protest I discerned simply concerns disappointment about the failure to elect the “first female president” in the person of the astonishingly flawed Hillary Clinton. Mrs Clinton deserved to lose for several reasons I need not list here. Had the Democratic Party selected a normal woman to run though, there would be a very good chance she would have prevailed against the also flawed Donald Trump. It’s even tempting to think that almost any woman not Mrs Clinton would have beaten Mr Trump. In a related but different vein, it seems to me that disappointed female voters don’t give any thought to the fact that even older male conservatives like me would vote in a second for Condoleeza Rice, for example.(who is very happy as a professor at Stanford, I hear and very unfortunately so). It’s a straightforward male chauvinist pig stating this: I believe that women are, on the average, less well informed than men, especially as concerns politics. In the old days not that remote when newspapers were a primary form of political news, you never saw a woman reading a newspaper, anytime, anywhere. (That’s a cross-cultural observation.) *** “It’s our turn to get a president; it’s only fair!” I have not heard for years any argument to the effect that women in positions of political power govern differently than men in the same positions. So, the point of a woman president is?
Aside from statements associated with the female sex, many placards proclaimed some version of “solidarity.” They referred to the situation of illegal aliens. Apparently, sizable numbers of liberals believe that the Trump administration will actually deport 11 or 12 million resident illegals. (For those who read me from overseas: It simply cannot be done.) That such a belief persists is the conservatives’ faults. I would bet large amounts of money that no such thing will happen or even be attempted. And, incidentally, illegal aliens brought here as children will not be expelled. Trump stated late in his campaign that he would focus on illegal aliens that had committed crimes. The memo has not reached the protesters that it was exactly the Obama policy about illegal immigrants. Our fault!
The third kind of placard was noticeable for is brevity and for its euphonious qualities. It was also the most disturbing to this lover of democratic constitutionality. It said, “Dump Trump!” I don’t know to what extend those carrying this sign understand its implications. It seems to me (please, correct me) that the slogan can mean either one of two things. On the one hand, it can be an invitation to impeach Pres. Trump. That’s the only constitutional way to unseat a president. It’s a legitimate recommendation but in context, it’s absurd. One has not ground to impeach a president who has not had the time to do anything wrong yet as president. It would be decent to wait a couple of days to give him a chance to commit treason or a handful of the other impeachable crimes. Those who held the placard and meant “Impeach” are disturbingly childish: “I want my satisfaction now. Screw the facts” It makes me glad they lost.
The alternative interpretation to the “Dump Trump” slogan makes me appreciate even more the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.**** The slogan means simply that we, Americans, should cancel the results of the last election, pretend it did not happen, perhaps, appoint Mrs Clinton although she lost fair and square.***** Such a wish expresses a fascist mentality, of course. I am using the word cautiously here. I don’t believe that everyone I don’t like, every program I detest is fascist. I don’t – for example – believe that Senator Sanders is a fascist or that he would lend himself to leading a fascist movement. There is a strong fascist strand in the current progressive movement. The rioters in DC on the day of the Inauguration are a very small and unimportant part of it. Watch for those who ride their bicycles to work and those who push baby-carriages.
* I call it fondly: “The People’s Socialist Green People’s Republic of Santa Cruz.”
** If you are not sure what a class action suit is, ask me here.
*** Yes, bad sampling, blah, blah, blah…. I can’t afford to wait for the results of five or six well designed studies to develop an opinion for action. Besides, where such studies exist, they tend to be ignored. (See above.)
**** If you read this from outside the US, you may want to Google the Second Amendment. It makes for interesting reading.
***** Reminder: If (IF) Russian hacking actually influenced the results of the election, it’s only by exposing the vulgar corruption of the Democratic Party. I could make an argument that Mr Putin deserves an American medal for helping American democracy clean itself up.
I read the whole document delivered to the Senate and to the President-elect on January 5/6 2017 that describes the main intelligence agencies’ case for Russian meddling in the 2016 election. It was rough going because of the document’s numbing repetitiveness. The author of the report is referred to grandly in several places as “The Intelligence Community.” I think there is no such creature. The real authors appear on p. 6 :
“This report includes an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.” (Bolding mine.)
I find the report plausible by and large but it contains nothing (0) constituting proof or evidence. I am aware of the fact that there may be good reasons rooted in concerns for national security why evidence must not be included in the document. Yet, of course, this deprives it of credibility to a great extent. And, nothing at all could be included? Hard to believe.
The credibility of the report resides entirely, it seems to me, in the fact that the heads of three main American intelligence agencies presented a consensus of what they affirm are findings. Left with nothing else, it’s fair to try and assess the worth of this consensus.
The consensus is more than nothing but it’s not much. It’s more than nothing because the three partners are in a position to watch each other, even to suppress cheating by one of their number. (I hold firmly to the view that conspiracy is unlikely because it’s dangerous and costly. But see below.)
My reservations are as follows: First, each one of these signatories, the people under whose names the report was published, is a political appointee. I don’t deplore this fact, it’s pretty unavoidable. I don’t have a better suggestion. Yet, each of the three directors is a member of the D.C. establishment and probably (probably) shares this elite’s revulsion about Donald Trump, the person, and disbelief about his election. This does not describe a conspiracy but a shared cultural understanding which requires no consultation.
And then, the Directors’ terms are coming to an end at the new president’s whim. They may (may) be interested in future appointments, including with lobbyists. One might see them as top-ranking swamp dwellers. I am awaiting leaks from inside the three agencies to confirm or disconfirm the political appointees’ report. If there is not any in the next month, my skepticism will decrease.
One of the three, the FBI Director, gave us recently a demonstration either of intellectual corruption or of irresolution, on the occasion of his report on the Clinton’s email scandals. If memory serves, he substituted himself for the Attorney General (herself compromised) to recommend that Mrs Clinton not be prosecuted in spite of massive evidence against her. His presence in the relevant trio detracts from its collective credibility, as far as I am concerned. Other might think that he betrayed Clinton by making any public pronouncement at all on the erased emails. This interpretation of recent events would also detract from the trio’s collective credibility.
So, I must return to the intrinsic value of consensus, a topic I brushed on above. As I go there, personally, I get a strange sense of déjà vu. When I was a young man and a young scholar, every French person I knew who was anybody was some kind of Communist (Stalinist, Maoist, Trotskyst, you name it), or a fellow traveler, or even to the left of the Communist Part (très chic this). It was so bad that I often stood alone denouncing the obvious crimes and failures of communism; I was ostracized, I was persecuted in my career by contributors to and supporters of the consensus. (I can think of only two honorable prominent French intellectuals never joined he consensus at all: Raymond Aron and Jan-Francois Revel.) Few of those Communists were monsters, few believed in the virtuousness of mass deportations, or of concentration camps, or of any of the other catalogued horrors. Many of those whose hostility I was then facing would readily agree now that communism was a bad mirage. They should have known better but they did not. Yet, none has apologized. “Let bygones be bygones,” they think. The fact that they are so numerous facilitates self-forgiveness.
They were all victims of a collective delusion, in spite of their intellectual credentials. For many, the delusion lasted twenty or thirty years. This personal experience induces me to assign limited value to the consensus of those who are in the know. Incidentally, I flatter myself that thanks to this same experience, I have developed a good nose for hoity-toity totalitarianism. I smell a rat here.
But those of you who are old enough can dispense with my personal views. We remember well how the US went to war and invaded Iraq in 2003 under the guise of removing Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. An even broader consensus than the one about the present report supported the view that such objects existed within Iraq. The consensus then included not only the main American intelligence agencies* but the intelligence services of several major powers.** It even included the French service although the French government was resolutely opposed to the invasion. Well, it turned out, after a dedicated thorough search that there were no weapons of mass destruction to speak of in Iraq, consensus be damned!
Annex B of the report explicates the measurement devices behind the judgment of degree of certainty expressed on diverse questions. It’s a potentially useful tool. In principle, any smart newspaper intern could go through the whole report and scores its various assertions for credibility as reported. This might lead to an overall assessment of credibility for the whole report. I think no one will bother. The major newspapers don’t care or don’t want to. The TV channels are not much better. (Fox Business, might be an exception.) Nevertheless, I credit the report authors for including this technical annex. Incidentally, Annex A spends six pages and even a graph exposing the anti-American contents of RT television channel, which no one watches. That kind of futility does not inspire confidence in the whole endeavor. It creates the impression that the authors are straining to satisfy outgoing President Obama’s wishes.
And then, finally, ignoring all my grounds for skepticism, we are left with the question of how Russia – Russia – would ever have so much traction. How would a second-rate country be able to disturb so deeply an American political process that has survived for nearly 250 years through war, civil war, economic crises, etc. ? It’s worth remembering in this context that Russia’s population is less than half the American. That it was in steep demographic decline from 1990 until last year. That it has a fragile national economy dependent on the export of oil and gas, an economy the size of California’s, or Italy’s. That Russia’s GDP per person is less than half the American. And – by the way – why wouldn’t the Russian oligarchs worry that anything they do to us, we could do to them, and much worse?
I think we have better things to do than obsess about Russian hacking. Concern about Russian military adventurism – unchecked for 8 years of Obama administration – would make more sense.
* The CIA retracted a little but that was several days after the invasion had been launched.
** Donald Rumsfeld asserts this for Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, Russia, China, France, and Germany. (“Known and Unknown: a Memoir,” p.434.)
In 2017, I will put together a collection of stories about women. It’s going to be entitled provisionally: “Stories of Women.” Below is the preface and a sample story. I pay attention to comments. Thank you.
We exist in the path of an avalanche of books about women. Most of these try to demonstrate or to illustrate, beyond all reason, that women are more or less like the descendants of slaves brought over from Africa in chains and subjected to nameless atrocities for two and half centuries, followed for one hundred years by systematic denials of human dignity. This is nonsense, of course, I mean in Western democracies. In America, women live longer than men, they own most of the money, they have most of the votes. They also earn (earn) most of the college degrees. Besides, if women are oppressed, it’s difficult to identify the oppressor except if it’s really that unspeakable bitch, Mother Nature who decided that only women could become pregnant.
I can’t believe that men in general are the oppressor. For one thing, nearly all the women I know, or that I have heard of, that I have read about, and who don’t own a man, desire one with all their heart. They plot and scheme – when they don’t bravely even go under the knife – to try to catch one, except lesbians of course, and I am not even sure about them. If you don’t believe me, just witness the bitterness, the rage of Italian women forced to remain single because Italian men are often Mama’s boys who rediscover after their teenage years that only their mother knows how to really cook their spaghetti and to iron their shirts just so. Do the oppressed long for an oppressor? Would it make any sense?
Western women are not an oppressed class, but women, in general, are very important for two reasons. First, as the Chinese are said to say, they hold up half the sky. In fact, they are more than half of what is human. If you don’t pay attention to women, you are just not paying attention. Second, here is one of the three or four intelligent things I have said in my life: It’s mostly mothers who rear boys. As a consequence, men have more woman in them than women have man in them. It’s not absurd to think of humanity as a sort of iceberg, half of the top of which is male, with a large female more or less submerged underwater biomass.
In a previous work ( I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography) I described extensively my intense childhood and adolescent interactions with three adult women and how they shaped me forever. But the shaping does not end with a male’s legal majority or when he leaves the nest for good. It continues throughout life, first with girlfriends, then with wives and mistresses, of course. Most of those women are more keen on transforming him than he is to resist their efforts. But that is well explored territory where I would not dare venture with my small pen because I fear unflattering comparisons. (Typical “male insecurity” there, I hear you snickering!)
There are also women to whom one is not related and with whom one is not doing unspeakable things, or thinking of it, (or few, or seldom) and who nevertheless matter. Some count although they barely cross one’s life; many matter for reasons that are not completely clear. It seems to me that the measure of importance of people resides in what is remembered of them, even remembered for no particular reason, or when the reason is of insufficient magnitude to explain even the existence of the remembrance.
This is a collection of short stories about women who stuck to my memory for different reasons. Some, I passed like one passes an express trains in the night, long enough to see passengers in the well-lit compartment, not long enough to make more than superficial sense of the view. Others were part of my journey for a little while, others, for a long time. They are some of the women I remember with clarity. It’s “some,” rather than “all,” or “most, or even “many,” because the stories included here are all decent. I excluded forcefully vivid remembrances offending on common decency.* This is intended mostly as a family book. (Beware: There is still a little bit adult language in some parts.) While I hope it will make women smile, this book is also a sort of how-to-book for men. Those who read it won’t be worse off; they may end up being better off and their relationships with the other sex. I think that is not a common genre, unfortunately.
One more thing: A small number of the stories in this book stage or portray my wife, my wife of many years. Not everything in these few stories about her would be thought flattering. I can see you, girlie men, shuddering at the thought of what she will do to me when she finds out. And you, compassionate women readers can’t help but worry a little on my behalf, imagining what you would do to me in her place. Do not tremble for me, any of you! Like most women, my wife would rather be pictured in an unflattering light than not be pictured at all. Besides, she does not often read what I write. “I already know all of your stories,” she says airily. At least, you can be sure that this male writer has not been spoiled by unseemly domestic adulation.
Three Astonishing Women
I leave my newspaper on the table outside as I dart inside the café to get more sugar. When I return, five seconds later, a middle-aged woman wearing dark glasses is walking briskly across the street, holding my newspaper in her hand.
Hey, I shout fairly amicably, I was not finished with my paper.
She turns around and throws the paper on the table near me.
I don’t want your stupid paper, she says. What would I do with it? I am legally blind.
Fact is that her glasses are unusually thick. Point well taken. What do I know?
I drive into an unevenly paved parking lot behind a woman in a big van. As she makes a right-hand turn, I spot a blue handicapped sticker on her windshield. Just as she is about to place her van in the reserved handicapped space, her engine stops. After several useless attempts to re-start it, she steps out of the vehicle and starts pushing.
I am a real sweetheart and also an old-fashioned nice guy so, my first reflex is to get out and to give her a hand. I abstain because I soon judge her efforts to be futile. She is trying to move the heavy van up a significant bump. I think there is no way the two of us can vanquish gravity and place the van in its proper spot.
Then, the woman braces herself; the back of her dress rises and her big calves become like hard river stones; she harrumphs once and the van ends up perfectly parked in the handicapped space. I learned another lesson: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Speaking of parking makes me think of the last time I went to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. I only wanted a copy of a trailer permit. I had duly paid paid for the original when I obtained it. I was in foul mood much before I reached there because, everyone hates the DMV, right?
Less logically, my irritation grew as I advanced up the line, as I got nearer the end of my ordeal.
The employee to whose window I am directed is a plump young Latina with a pleasant face. I explain my request. She goes tick, tick, tick on her computer with her lovingly manicured fingers and, quickly enough, she hands me the copy I came for.
It’s $16.75, she says.
I explode. That’s ridiculous, I stutter. That fee for a simple copy is an abuse of power. I changed my mind; I don’t want it anymore. Keep it!
Well, I will just have to give it to you, says the lovable DMV lady employee with a big bright smile.
I practically fall on my butt in the midst of dozens of pissed-off customers.
I guess I don’t know everything about women, as I often think I do, just most things.
© Jacques Delacroix circa 2006, 2016
Christmas, the celebration, has a meaning that reaches well beyond Christianity. I don’t mean that it’s the exclusive beginning of a story about loving thy neighbor. That’s comparatively unimportant because some other religions also foster love, peace, and charity. The importance of Christianity is that it makes God become Man, forever. I mean, not a for a little while and only to fulfill mysterious mythical missions as in the religion of the Ancient Egyptians. I mean not in pursuit of nefarious and usually obscene goals such as seducing unsuspecting maidens, or even one’s own sister, as is common in both Greek paganism and in Hinduism*, not temporarily, but for good.
The Christian insistence that God can take human form durably irrevocably closes the distance between the Creator and his creature. It’s but two steps from Man himself becoming God. The incarnation of God was thus a necessary prelude to Western humanism, the belief that Man is the measure of everything. It’s notable that only Europe and its heir societies have, to this day, taken that step forcefully and irreversibly.
Even most religious believers in those parts of the world are humanists in the sense described above. No other kind of society has taken the step. Outside of Western Europe, the sacred and the superstitious reign supreme although there are humanists, in the Western sense, everywhere. (I am tempted to call them “converts” to humanism.) The belief that Man (including woman**) is central from the standpoint of value seems to me to be a pre-condition to democracy and to a fundamental requirement for human rights. I mean by “human rights,” basic rights that apply to all individuals irrespective of nation, tribe,caste, political affiliation, or sex.
To my mind, Christmas is intimately tied to the reasons why democracy works better and in a more sustained manner, and human rights are more likely to be respected as a matter of routine, in Western societies than elsewhere. This, in spite of the fact that there are brave efforts to sustain the one and to protect the other in all kinds of societies.
It seems to me that Christians widely misinterpret the story that Jesus was born in a manger (a cattle trough). The point is not that his family was poor. They were not; they had the wherewithal to travel to near Jerusalem from distant Galilee. Rather, as one of the Gospels states plainly, “there was no room in the inn” (Luke: 2:7). In other words, Joseph faced a typical Christmas hotel overbooking. So, Jesus’ birth, probably inside a warm stable, is another indication that he was a regular kid although he was God. It could have happened to any of us before the Internet.
* I am fairly well informed about Hinduism because I converted to that religion after receiving formal religious instruction in the early 80s, another story, obviously. I am not a worse Hindu that I was a Catholic, thank you very much.
** In the English language, for five hundred years, “man” was understood to include “woman.” It’s only since 1978, in the suburbs of America, that a distinction became required. Guess what usage I prefer.
“The Post cites U.S. officials who received a message from CIA Director John Brennan that said both FBI Director James Comey and James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, stand with the CIA on the issue.” (It means, the Washington Post, specifically.)
Could be but why do we have to hear it from the Washington Post, a newspaper that illustrated itself for both its partiality and its incompetence in the recent election? Why should I be quick to believe those who have egg on their faces because of Trump when they assert anything detrimental to Trump?
Why can’t the president of the CIA, of the FBI and James Clapper give a very public joint press conference where their credibility would be at stake? Mind you, if they do anything like this at all, I will say, “Bravo,” but:
At the risk of repeating something I posted myself a couple of days ago, there is no scientific way to find out who hacked what, only that something has been hacked. What is serving in lieu of a Russian signature in this case, according to the president, to the main press, to anyone? I am not arguing here that Putin is innocent in general. I would easily accuse him of triggering the Deluge and of setting up the Inquisition. It just seems strangely convenient to blame him, because he is an evil man, precisely.
Why is so little said – in connection with any hacking – about the Clinton campaign’s proven electronic incompetence? I remind you that Clinton herself argued this when explaining the external bathroom server and the erasure of tens of thousands of emails. Is it possible the campaign was simply hacked by a 26-year old living in his parents’ basement and still on their health insurance? Did the main press forget that the Clintonites themselves affirmed that they did not know what they were doing in that area?
Why would Putin have favored Trump (again)? Was it because he calculated that Clinton was already sold and paid for in advance by other powers? Did he fear she had little left to sell?
Repeating myself anew: How would the contents of Clinton campaign emails influence voters if those contents were innocent (like mine, for example)? I heard somewhere on TV, from a Clintonite, that John Podesta’s risotto recipe had been hacked. I like risotto, don’t eat it often enough. If that recipe had been made public, it might have made me more (MORE) inclined to vote for Clinton. (I voted for Trump reluctantly.) That’s on the one hand. On the other hand, any credible information of cheating against any of her rivals, including against Senator Sanders, was sure to turn me off for good. It did. It’s reasonable to assume that it turned off some, or even many, independent voters. Yes, it’s quite possible that the hacking influenced the election but only because it revealed filth that was supposed to remain private. Go ahead, kill the messenger!
Conservatives and Trumpistas are all over TV protesting that the current startling revival of that old hacking story is part of an attempt to de-legitimize in advance the Trump presidency. Maybe, but it’s a weak explanation. What I hear and what I read looks to this experienced writer like a collective narrative being constructed haltingly. There is clearly an attempt for all to tell the same story but it’s not going well; it must be confusing for the average person, with kids to take to school and a mortgage to pay. It’s so confusing that a FB friend of mine who prides himself on being well informed as well as analytical gave the impression yesterday on his FB that he thought Putin was accused of tampering with the voting process itself. (That is with the ballots and with their counting.) He is not, so far.
What I think I am seeing instead is a multi-directional set of accusations and of confessions, accompanied by an attempt at collective redemption among the leftist intelligentsia* of this country after the historical kick in the ass administered by not quite half of American voters. It was completely unexpected; it was a landslide next to their expectations of possible Trump success (the 30% deplorables, maximum, at worst?) It was unfair. It’s nearly inexplicable. Faction argues with faction, sub-groups of the Demo Party with subgroups, state Demo centers within themselves, liberal think tanks are paralyzed; sometimes, individual liberals also argue with themselves. That’s all in order to explain and to justify the Trump catastrophe. As, the Bible for example, recounts over and over again, in the aftermath of a disaster, groups of humans usually do two things: First, they find scapegoats and cut their throats. Clinton’s confidante Uma Abedin’s throat has not been cut (yet) but she was sure thrown under the bus. Second, they elaborate an explanatory myth. Here it goes: Monstrous Mr Putin robbed us, the real people, of our merited victory and installed the obscene Donald Trump to rule over us.
* On the left of the American political spectrum, the intelligentsia runs deep. It includes everyone who has read five books, and anyone who subscribes to the Atlantic and sometimes read parts of it.