Syrian Dead Babies and all the other Dead Babies

Oops they’ve done it again.  Syria has launched a chemical weapons attack against its own people, with of course the main casualties being, “the children.”  In fact those dead babies may have totally overturned US foreign policy.  As the Guardian reports:

“I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact,” Trump told reporters in the rose garden. “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much … You’re now talking about a whole different level.”

This was the first alleged attack by the regime using sarin since 2013, when the nerve agent was dumped on an opposition-controlled area of Damascus. More than 1,000 people perished. This latest attack – after a deal brokered by Russia, in which Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons stockpile – “crossed a lot of lines for me”, Trump said.

He went on: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal – people were shocked to hear what gas it was. That crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many, many lines.”

So a defining characteristic of Donald Trump’s foreign policy, to stay out of the Syrian Civil War, is now seemingly overturned by dead babies.  Now, I’m anti dead babies myself, particularly babies dead due to a sarin gas attack, but these are not the first dead babies in the Syrian Civil War, and I’m a bit of a skeptic that we should allow dead babies to control US foreign policy.

So considering Trump’s past positions on Syria…

…I admit I’m disappointed that a pretty firm twitter and campaign position has been overturned by “…innocent babies, babies, little babies…”  There were dead babies in 2013 too.  In fact all civil wars, civil strife, famine, plague, and every other malady that smacks mankind upside the head has plenty of dead babies in them.  But it’s not the first time dead babies have altered policy.  Remember this little tyke?

Of course, the real story was a lot less desperate fleeing-from-civil-war and a lot more dad-wants-free-dental-care.

So although Trump disappointed me by launching a cruise missile attack because of dead babies (and made himself look easily manipulated), there is an upside for him.  Politically, this attack against Syria appears popular.  When McCain/Graham, the neocon establishment, and the Democrats, are all praising the President, for many the first time ever, that will probably help polling for the next few days.  And who knows, maybe this action will actually give Trump some leverage with China in dealing with the North Korea situation.  In my opinion, what happens in North Korea is far more important than anything that’s happening in Syria.

Meanwhile, there were more dead babies piling up like cordwood all over the world, but we don’t care about them, only the dead babies that feature a frantic western newsman or are nicely photographed for Western media consumption.

No matter our new Dead Babies Foreign Policy, Syria remains intractable. As I wrote almost two years ago, the only reasonable solution for Syria is partition, which is an impossibility as long as the Russians are standing beside their ally Bashir Al-Assad.

Hopefully this is a one off attack and US foreign policy, and Trump’s attention, doesn’t get strangled by trying to figure out how to do the impossible and wipe every tear from every Syrian eye.

 

On Making Predictions

Watching the breaking news of the terrible terrorist attack in Nice, during Bastille Day celebrations, I felt a morbid interest as the casualty count marched upward.  After the initial shock on hearing of the news of the attacks however, I skipped over the part about mourning a senseless tragedy, or whatever the current buzzwords are.  As I described last November after the Paris Attacks, I’m over it.  Europe would rather have regular terrorist attacks than recognize why they have regular terrorist attacks.  No, my interest was in the causality numbers, 30, 40. 70, and then finally it went over 80.

“I win.”  And I say that with no satisfaction.

On January 1st I listed these following predictions for 2016 on a forum:

The Syrian government will be in a better position than today against the IS and the other rebels, thanks to Russian help. Also Assad will still be in power.

There will be another terrorist attack in the US resulting in the deaths of at least 10 people.

Oil will be back over $40 bucks a barrel.

Trump gets the Republican nomination.

Hillary will NOT be indicted.

And finally…

There will be another terrorist attack in France resulting in the deaths of at least 80 people.

So with the Bastille Day attack, the last open prediction I had came true, and we’re only half way through the year.  Of course you could argue that the year is still not over and something could still happen to Assad’s government, or there could be a convention coup next week to put Jeb! Back on the Iron Throne, but if I had to call it now, I would say every prediction I made almost 7 months ago was right.

I don’t think this makes me a super forecaster, like the ones being sought for the Good Judgment Project, a crowd sourcing website for predictions.  But amateurs often beat the experts on these kinds of things.  My accurate prediction that the Supreme Court would uphold Obamacare had nothing to do with my (limited) legal knowledge, or the disastrous oral arguments, even though multiple “experts” declared Obamacare dead after the Solicitor General stumbled and fumbled his way through them.  My view was more holistic, and simpler: The left leaning judges will always vote left, regardless of the law or the Constitution.  With the right leaning judges, it’s more of a crapshoot.  They actually peek at the Constitution and case history.  And as Judge Roberts demonstrated, they can be intimidated by media pressure.  That’s why the Burwell case on the Obamacare State Exchanges was easy to predict.  No knowledge of the law was required, only the knowledge that the right leaning judges could crumble under media pressure.

And as for gay marriage, that was about the easiest prediction I’ve ever made.  Who didn’t know that as soon as it hit the Supreme Court, they would find a way to make sure love is love?

I applied the same holistic thinking to Presidential elections.  I called the 2012 election for Obama by the end of summer, and after the 2014 midterms, which was a huge Republican success; I went head and predicted that Republicans would lose both the Senate and the Presidency in 2016.  Again, I took a holistic approach.  I didn’t think I needed to know each county’s voting history, aka Michael Barone.  I just knew that overall demographic trends, media bias, and the increased tribalism of American politics favored the Democrats.

But I couldn’t anticipate Black Swan Events, and that very much describes Donald Trump’s impact on the 2016 election.  Minus Trump, this election would have gone pretty much as I had predicted it would in 2014, one of the other 16 primary candidates would have won the nomination, they would have run an honorable campaign, and would give what everyone would later acknowledge as one of their best speeches when they conceded on election night. But Trump was a wildcard not only in showing how Republicans could beat the media’s political correctness game, but he pushed the Overton Window on Immigration and single handedly threw out one of the Republican Party’s golden platform planks on trade.  By doing so, he changed the calculus on which votes he might attract.

So when it comes to predicting this year’s race…I’m out.  I think Trump could win if his campaign confiscates his twitter account, keeps him on a steady diet of prepared speeches, and Muslims continue to be Muslim.  However all of the default conditions that make me think the Democrats have a natural advantage in Presidential years are still in play.  If nothing else, this particular black swan has made this the most interesting Presidential race in my lifetime, and who could have predicted that?

 

When Every Tragedy needs its own Talking Points

First of all, just like on Facebook, I should note that I’m safe.  I was not in a downtown Orlando gay club at 2:00 am this weekend.  Shocking I know but I was actually in bed asleep, so it was jarring to wake up on Sunday and discover that that my local Central Florida news was the center of a national, actually international; story.

And it’s a particularly horrific one.  Depending on how you count it, the Pulse Nightclub shooting was either the 3rd deadliest terrorist event on US soil or the worst mass shooting.  Apparently how you count it very much depends on your political leanings.  As a divided country, I suppose it’s only natural that events like these get pulled out of their factual moorings to be used as an ideological talking point.

Having gotten so used to that exact thing in the now routine terrorist attacks that plague the West, I was curious how the quickly the talking points would be developed, and what they would be.  But first, the media reaction:

South Park Muslims

As I’ve noted previously, the media has to go through it’s own version of the 5 stages of grief so they can first deny, then soften the blow that terrorism is actually terrorism;  particularly if they can attempt to pin the crime on someone else.  In fact I was joking yesterday that the headlines on American papers will say something like, “White Homophobic Gun Owner Slaughters Innocents.”  I came pretty close with this Florida Today headline, “Co-worker: Omar Mateen homophobic, ‘unhinged.’”  Some days the jokes just write themselves, and some days they’re written by newspaper editors.

But back to the talking points; based on following the political forums and cable news, the real issue is not of course, radical Islam, it’s guns and religion.  I should say, by religion, they are not talking about Islam, they are talking about religion in general.  After all, a Christian is a Muslim is a Buddhist is a Mormon…only wait, they are talking about a specific religion!  Good old Christianity!  The real root of Islamic terrorism!  As this ACLU attorney tweeted:

Besides Christians, let’s not forget guns.  Listening to Morning Joe this morning, they actually took a break from calling Trump a racist to mention that some guns were involved in a nightclub slaughter.  Yes, just the guns.  The gun argument is so overplayed that it’s hard for even gun control advocates to try to make it the solution to this crisis.  But still they try…

It’s too bad that the battle is over talking points rather than the real root of the problem; Islamic terror.  I honestly thought that 9/11 was a big enough tragedy to wake the country up, but it looks like we’re a few dirty bombs short of paying attention to our real terror problem, and I’m not sure even that would be enough, which dooms us to more and more of these incidents in the future.

 

The San Bernardino Shooting Might have been stopped

The political firefight over the San Bernardino shooting terrorist act started almost before the event was over, with President Obama calling for gun control even while the suspects were still on the loose.  Morning Joe seemed to think this was another Sandy Hook and peppered all of their interviewees with gun control related questions.

But for me, the take away of this event is the utter failure of “see something; say something.”  As reported by CBS:

A man who has been working in the area said he noticed a half-dozen Middle Eastern men in the area in recent weeks, but decided not to report anything since he did not wish to racially profile those people.

Americans have been taught, and have learned the lesson, that it’s better that multiple people die horribly than to be thought of as racist.

Political Correctness kills.

The Media’s Five Steps in Dealing with Islamic Terrorism

I don’t have much to add to the attack on the offices of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.  I don’t want to say that we are exactly getting used to these sorts of things, but who is surprised that a magazine that mocked Mohammed, or as NBC news refers to him, “The Prophet Mohammed,” gets machine gunned?  That’s just the world we live in, a vibrant and confident Islam flexes its demographic muscles in areas where it’s been allowed to settle.  Meanwhile, a weak West, which believes in less and less, goes through its cycle of blame and recriminations.Charlie Hebdo

I don’t know exactly when I noticed it, but since yesterday, following the evolving news coverage of the shooting and aftermath, I was struck by how unsurprised I was at each step of the coverage.  It seemed to follow a fairly predictable pattern that resembles the Five Stages of Grief.  The only difference is that no progress is made when the media does it.  They never seem to get to acceptance.

Step 1:  We don’t know that Muslims did it.

You may think this step is prominent in the early moments of the crisis when we genuinely don’t know for sure who the culprits are, but it continues long afterward to deny who the culprits were.

Step 2:  OK they’re Muslims, but not real Muslims.

This is to separate Islam the religion, from Islam….uh…the religion.  Or at least it’s teachings.  Howard Dean was an especially amusing example of this when he insisted that the attackers were no more Muslim than he was.  Well Assalamu Alaykum Governor!   You’ll notice we’re near the end of stage two when you hear references to the Inquisition, the Crusades and Westboro Baptist Church.

Step 3:  Standing Together

This is where the media exhorts us to “stand together” with the moderate Muslims or with Free Speech, depending on the condition.  Sometimes it’s a mixture of both.  However nothing is more temporary than standing “with” anyone who is a target.  Ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali about that.

Step 4:  Root Causes

I’ve noticed that the root causes never have anything to do with the actual root causes.  In this case, the root causes were that Charlie Hebdo ran insulting Mohammed cartoons.  I mean, that is the real root cause.  But instead we’ll be treated to Islamaphobia, Imperialism, poverty, alienation, or whatever the left oops excuse me I mean the media, want to talk about.

Step 5:  Backlash

This is the real media worry, not continuing violent acts by Muslims, but that someone may actually be upset about it.  The New York Times put it perfectly:

LONDON — The sophisticated, military-style strike Wednesday on a French newspaper known for satirizing Islam staggered a continent already seething with anti-immigrant sentiments in some quarters, feeding far-right nationalist parties like France’s National Front.

This is a dangerous moment for European societies,” said Peter Neumann, director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London. “With increasing radicalization among supporters of jihadist organizations and the white working class increasingly feeling disenfranchised and uncoupled from elites, things are coming to a head.”

A “dangerous moment for European societies?”  “Things are coming to a head?”  You mean more Islamic terrorism?    Ha!  Foolish mortal!

Anti-immigrant attitudes have been on the rise in recent years in Europe, propelled in part by a moribund economy and high unemployment, as well as increasing immigration and more porous borders. The growing resentments have lifted the fortunes of established parties like the U.K. Independence Party in Britain and the National Front, as well as lesser-known groups like Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the West, which assembled 18,000 marchers in Dresden, Germany, on Monday.

In Sweden, where there have been three recent attacks on mosques, the anti-immigrant, anti-Islamist Sweden Democrats Party has been getting about 15 percent support in recent public opinion polls.

Yes the real threat is anti-immigrant attitudes!

We can’t have any of that.  So the stages of dealing with Islamic Terrorism do lead to an acceptance of sorts, that the terrorists are the real victims all along.

It’s like an O Henry short story.

Zinger.

And then there will eventually be a new terrorist act, and the process begins all over again.