Presty the DJ for Jan. 18

The number one single today in 1960 was written by a one-hit wonder and sung by a different one-hit wonder:

The number 45 45 today in 1964 was this group’s first, but not last:

Today in 1974, members of Free, Mott the Hoople and King Crimson formed Bad Company:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Jan. 18”

An utterly predictable crisis

David French:

I speak and write quite a bit about American political polarization. I’m alarmed by the extent of mutual partisan loathing and enmity. It’s terrible, it’s getting worse, and I’m convinced that—unchecked—it’s a threat to our national existence. There is no law of nature that says that a diverse, continent-sized, multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy will always remain united.

To understand the reality of our political polarization, I highly recommend diving into More in Common’s outstanding research on America’s “hidden tribes.” They dive deep into American political attitudes and find that much of America’s polarization is driven by roughly one-third of the population—the “devoted conservatives” and “traditional conservatives” on the right, and the “progressive activists” on the left.  “Traditional conservatives” (16 percent of the population) are defined as people who are religious, patriotic, and highly moralistic. They also “believe deeply in personal responsibility and self-reliance.” The “devoted conservatives” (6 percent) are “deeply engaged with politics” and tend to “perceive themselves as the last defenders of traditional values that are under threat. “Progressive Activists” are “deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America’s direction today. They “tend to be more secular, cosmopolitan, and highly engaged with social media.”

The devoted devoted conservatives and progressive activists in particular are people with a disproportionate amount of wealth and who spend a disproportionate amount of time on politics as a hobby. They have resources, they’re engaged, and they’re angry. They’re a minority, but they tend to dominate public discourse—even as an “exhausted majority” retreats from political engagement and longs for an alternative.

The rage of the “wings” is well-known. We can see it every day on social media. We can see and hear the fury at many political rallies and events. The reasons for that rage are complex, but let me advance an under-appreciated reason why red-pilled Uncle Karl and his woke niece Alice hate each other so darn much.

The story starts with public apathy.

I haven’t been a writer all my life. I spent most of my professional career (21 years!) as a litigator, and for most of that time I worked for public-interest law firms. My practice focused on the First Amendment, and it required that I focus not just on the court of law, but also on the court of public opinion. I wasn’t just a lawyer, I was a legal activist, and I saw firsthand how hard it was to motivate the public to actually care about important constitutional concerns.

If you try to raise awareness (much less money) from people with busy lives and multiple family responsibilities, the first thing you learn is that it is extraordinarily difficult to break through to the public with a proportionate, measured message.  If your message implies, “I’m working on something important, but there is no true emergency.” Or, “I’m concerned, but there’s no crisis,” then prepare to face indifference.

No, the tried and true activist message is simple—“The threat is dire, and we’re the last line of defense.”

None of this is new. “Scare grandma with direct mail” has funded much of the conservative movement for a generation (or more). But technology has made the experience much, much more intense. Sign one online petition, and you magically find yourself on a dozen new mailing lists. Start clicking on alarmist social media posts, and you start to tell the algorithm that’s what you want to see. It’s hard to merely put your toe in the water politically. Test the temperature with a small donation, and within days, five scam PACs, nine breathless email messages, and four Facebook ads are deluging you with some variation of the same message, “They hate you! They want to destroy you! Only I can save you!”

There are Americans who recoil from this like they’ve touched a boiling cauldron. “Just stop,” they say, and they furiously unsubscribe, ignore political posts, and go back to talking about the Tennessee Titans, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the utter dominance of SEC football (ideally, anyway). But there are millions of other Americans who have a very different reaction.

“I had no idea things were so terrible!”

As the messages flood your inbox, and the posts flood your feeds, concern grows to alarm, and alarm turns into rage. And if you’re looking for things to be angry about, there’s always a fresh outrage, somewhere. The immediate nationalization of every volatile local event means that a politically engaged American can know within hours (sometimes minutes) after someone punches a kid wearing a MAGA hat in Des Moines, or if a busybody white woman calls the cops on black kids who are innocently grilling in a Sacramento park.

Instantly, each incident becomes emblematic of the other side’s perfidy. It’s as if the scales fall from the eyes, and you see the world anew. You’re “woke.” You’re “red-pilled.” You’re not simply “Jane” anymore. You’re “Deplorable Jane,” and it’s your mission in life to own the libs.

But the strange thing is that this new life doesn’t actually awaken you to  reality, it deceives you. It distorts the truth. One of the most fascinating aspects of the hidden tribes research is its finding that Americans on the “wings” have the most twisted views of the other side. The wings are far more likely to believe that political opponents are more extreme than they really are. In crucial ways their political engagement is increasing not just their political extremism, but also their political ignorance. They consistently accept opposing extremism as the norm, when it is not.

This is where, when someone makes an assertion that ignores facts, I ask: “Evidence?”

There’s no simple solution to this problem. I routinely tell people that the two types of pieces I write that cause the most dramatic negative reaction either 1) criticize Donald Trump; or 2) argue that a particular problem is a concern and not a crisis. It’s as if an argument that a problem isn’t an emergency is viewed as detrimental to the cause of public mobilization and public activism. And they’re probably right. When was the last time 10,000 people flooded the streets of a state capital chanting, “We’re concerned! We’re concerned!”?

Leadership does matter, however. And partisans respond to winning politicians. If someone can turn down the temperature and win while doing it, perhaps we can chip away at the culture of permanent outrage.

I agree with French that it’s a mistake to assume that “They hate you! They want to destroy you!” is credibly followed by “Only I can save you!” That is because politicians care about your vote, and your money to fund their campaign. And that’s it. The next politician who helps me will be the first. I have written before that there is no place in this state, and I’ve lived in seven different places, where I have felt I got my tax money’s worth. I am confident that I will die thinking the same thing, because it’s the truth.

What French sees as a crisis is the logical result of the growth of government beyond anything this country’s founders intended. When government does more and taxes and regulates more (in whichever ideological direction), the stakes in elections go up. When the stakes go up, the rhetoric gets more intense, and candidates will do anything short of murder (and that’s on the way, no doubt) to win. And doing anything encompasses raising and spending money, rhetoric from supporters and opponents, and basically everything wrong with American politics today.

The fact that people of opposing political views get along more often than not in the non-political world is not significant. Put them in the political arena, particularly when the stakes are higher than a town board position, and watch what happens.

How you stop that is not by having more reasonable-sounding candidates winning. Today’s politics include numerous examples of how bite is worse than bark. The only way for this to stop before the next real civil war is to take away politicians’ power.

Great moments in opinion journalism … not

James Wigderson:

The Madison-based Capital Times posted on Wednesday, then pulled, a cartoon depicting the president of a conservative legal organization as a hangman lynching people wanting to vote in Wisconsin.

The cartoon by artist Mike Konopacki accompanied an op-ed by Cap Times Editor Emeritus Dave Zweifel, “Don’t let the vote suppressors win in Wisconsin,” complaining about a lawsuit brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) against the Wisconsin Election Commission. The lawsuit seeks to force the Election Commission to follow state law and remove the voter registrations of people who have been identified as moving from the residence where they are currently registered.

The op-ed never cites the actual law, and the one example given by Zweifel of a person’s voter registration being cancelled has nothing to do with the lawsuit by WILL.

WILL President Rick Esenberg is depicted in the accompanying cartoon as a hangman with a blue hood over his head while holding a noose. Several other nooses are shown in the cartoon. Esenberg is shown saying, “The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty WILL let you vote, but first you gotta jump through some hoops.” The word “WILL” is the organization’s logo.

The cartoon is clearly indicating that voters will be lynched by WILL. The symbolism of the cartoon is especially strong given the history of actual lynchings in America over voter rights, especially of African Americans in the South during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow eras.

After the cartoon appeared, a number of conservatives objected on social media, including Collin Roth of WILL, and the Cap Times pulled the cartoon from its website by 3:00 PM. However, the cartoon remained on the Cap Times’ Twitter posts until 10:00 PM when Opinion Editor Jessie Opoien was able to complete the cartoon’s removal.

An editor’s note now accompanies the op-ed online: “A cartoon previously published with this column was determined to be in poor taste and has been removed.”

Esenberg and Opoien will be discussing the cartoon and the decision to pull it down on the Steve Scaffidi show on 620 WTMJ AM on Thursday.

Opoien responded in an email to inquiries from RightWisconsin about the decision to pull down the cartoon. She explained that Konopacki and Zweifel work together on cartoons to accompany his op-eds for the Cap Times.

Cartoonist Mike Konopacki has a long history with the Cap Times, and a long history working with Cap Times editor emeritus Dave Zweifel to illustrate his columns. As a relative newcomer to the Cap Times opinion section, and as a person who deeply values ideological diversity, I’ve tried to balance a great number of competing interests in my role as opinion editor. I’ve taken a lot of flak from readers for publishing conservative perspectives – perspectives I believe should be shared with our traditional, deeply progressive audience – and I’ve certainly taken some flak from conservative friends who disagree with the liberal and/or progressive perspectives published in our section. What I always aim to do is stay away from undeserved personal attacks, and to keep the conversation smart and fair. In my opinion, the cartoon in question failed to meet those marks, and I take responsibility for not having raised concerns before it was published. I appreciate the conversations I’ve had with the folks at WILL and I look forward to publishing a response from them, and to talking about this more on air with Rick on WTMJ tomorrow morning.

Esenberg released a statement on Facebook, calling the cartoon “offensive” and “nasty and ignorant.” He also commended the decision by Opoien to pull the cartoon down.

Some of you may know that the Capital Times published an offensive cartoon that depicted me as a hangman (and I oppose capital punishment!) and pushed a clumsy implication that our case governing outdated voter registrations was somehow akin to lynching. It was accompanied by an op-ed by Dave Zweifel who complained about his barber’s voter registration not being on file. He admitted that this was a huge non sequitur since it had nothing to do with our case but nevertheless discerned some unfathomable truthiness in the story. We did not ask the Cap Times to take the cartoon down but it did so anyway, recognizing that it was in poor taste. I give them credit for that and commend Jessie Opoien for recognizing that we can disagree without mistreating each other. I will be on Stephen Scaffidi‘s show tomorrow morning at 10:20 to discuss this. I don’t mind if someone criticizes what we do but it’s best done with civility and an appropriate regard for the facts. The First Amendment allows people to be nasty and ignorant if they want. It doesn’t require them to be that way.

RightWisconsin will not be posting the cartoon due to its inflammatory and offensive nature.

Well, Empower Wisconsin did:

Esenberg posted on Facebook:

Some of you may know that the Capital Times published an offensive cartoon that depicted me as a hangman (and I oppose capital punishment!) and pushed a clumsy implication that our case governing outdated voter registrations was somehow akin to lynching. It was accompanied by an op-ed by Dave Zweifel who complained about his barber’s voter registration not being on file. He admitted that this was a huge non sequitur since it had nothing to do with our case but nevertheless discerned some unfathomable truthiness in the story. We did not ask the Cap Times to take the cartoon down but it did so anyway, recognizing that it was in poor taste. I give them credit for that and commend Jessie Opoien for recognizing that we can disagree without mistreating each other. … I don’t mind if someone criticizes what we do but it’s best done with civility and an appropriate regard for the facts. The First Amendment allows people to be nasty and ignorant if they want. It doesn’t require them to be that way.

Nothing says First Amendment, or for that matter sticking to your guns, quite like posting something controversial, and then pulling it off the Internet. This also makes you wonder who makes editorial decisions at The Cap Times, given that the way to avoid having to backtrack on something is to have enough judgment to not do it in the first place.

Iran’s mullahs and their Democratic allies

Victoria Taft:

Congressman Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida, accused his Democratic colleagues of being cowards for their weak-kneed reaction to the killing of Iranian terror-master Qasem Soleimani. Mast made his comments on the House floor Thursday during the debate over the “war powers act resolution.” The Democrats passed the resolution, arguing Trump didn’t have the authority to order the missile strike taking out Soleimani and another top terrorist in Iraq.

Mast served in an ordnance detail in Afghanistan and lost his legs while trying to clear a roadside bomb. Soleimani’s IRGC and Quds Force orchestrated the building of many of those bombs. They were responsible for killing 603 U.S. troops and wounding hundreds, if not thousands, of others.

The congressman walked forcefully to the podium, his prosthetic legs exposed, took a second to tune his verbal flame-thrower, and then put the Democrats on blast.

I know most in here haven’t seen or smelled or touched that kind of death, but let me tell you about it. They were burned alive inside their Humvees. Their lungs were scorched by the flames of the explosions. The vehicle fragments were blown into their skulls. Some of them were paralyzed. Some of them had their arms blown off. Some of them had their legs blown off. Some of them will never see again. Some of them will never be recognized again by those who knew them previously. Each and every one of them – they are the credible explanation for deleting this terrorist target from our world. And, no doubt, it is dangerous to take out a terrorist target, but a coward is somebody who lacks the courage to endure danger” [Emphasis added]

He wasn’t done yet.

And this is the fundamental difference in voting yes or no here. If you vote no you understand that we would be justified to kill 100 Soleimanis for just one of our heroes, that have been killed by him. And the danger would be worth it. For those who vote yes, they see that he has killed hundreds of our service members but still can no find the justification to kill him because, unlike our fallen heroes, they lack the courage to endure danger” [Emphasis added]

Democrats upset with President Trump for killing Soleimani were called out by Mast for lacking “the courage to endure danger,” which he’d just defined as cowardice.

The war powers resolution was a rebuke to President Trump for what Democrats and a couple of Republicans claimed was overstepping his role of commander in chief.

They claim Soleimani isn’t under the previously approved AUMF, the authorization for the use of military force. But not only was the Iranian terror leader an enemy combatant, he was a leader of enemy combatants on the fields of battle in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He had just overseen the assault of the American Embassy in Baghdad. Baghdad, IRAQ.

President Trump said at his rally in Ohio Thursday night that the Iranian Quds Force leader not only wanted to bomb the American Embassy in Baghdad but other embassies as well.

American embassies are favorite targets of terrorist bad guys. Terrorists targeted the U.S. Mission in Benghazi in 2012. In 1998 two American embassies were destroyed by Al Qaeda in Tanzania and Kenya.

Watch Mast’s speech below, but make sure you’ve got a fire extinguisher to put out the flames.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1215376088639201280

Calling the elimination of a terrorist an assassination is what anti-Americans do, even if they are Americans. That sounds familiar to Jim Geraghty:

Jeane Kirkpatrick accurately declared: “they always blame Americans first.”

Sure, the Iranian air-defense system would not have been on highest alert this week if the United States had not killed Soleimani outside the Baghdad International Airport January 3. But the Iranians made the choice to fire rockets into Iraq that evening, the Iranian government made the choice to permit civilian air traffic in the hours after their rocket attack, and ultimately it was the Iranian military that fired the surface-to-air missile. You really have to squint and stretch to say that this tragedy — which killed 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, eleven Ukrainians (including the crew members), ten Swedish, seven Afghans, and three Germans — is President Trump’s fault.

One question for the military-technology experts: Does this tragedy stem from poor training on the part of the Iranian military, or does Russian air-defense system equipment do a lousy job of differentiating between civilian airliners and military jets?

Whatever the answer to that question is, the fact remains that right now, the Democratic grassroots believe that Trump is the root of all evil, and all bad things that happen lead back to him in one form or another. There’s a Democratic primary and impeachment battle going on simultaneously. No one of any stature in the Democratic party can afford the political risk of publicly arguing or even acknowledging that anything isn’t Trump’s fault. The Democratic presidential candidates, in particular, have to offer the biggest, most vocal, most emphatic, “yes, you’re right, grassroots” that they possibly can.

“Innocent civilians are now dead because they were caught in the middle of an unnecessary and unwanted military tit for tat,” Pete Buttigieg declared. The most common term floating around Thursday night was “crossfire,” even though Tuesday night only one side was firing any weapons. Keep in mind, so far in this conflict, the United States military hasn’t fired anything into or in the direction of Iranian territory.

If we really want to extend blame beyond the Iranian military, there is a long list of individuals and institutions who should be standing in line ahead of President Trump. Let’s start with Iranian aviation authorities who kept their local civilian aircraft flying, and the airlines who chose to keep flights taking off shortly after Iranian military action — when no one could know for sure whether the military action had concluded.

About 2 1/2 hours before the Ukraine International Airlines jet with 176 people on board took off, the Federal Aviation Administration issued emergency orders prohibiting American pilots and airlines from flying over Iran, the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman.

The notices warned that heightened military activity and political tension in the Middle East posed “an inadvertent risk” to U.S. aircraft “due to the potential for miscalculation or mis-identification.”

Foreign airlines aren’t bound by FAA directives, but they often follow them. In this case, however, several large international carriers — including Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and Aeroflot — continued to fly in and out of Tehran after Iran fired missiles at military bases inside Iraq that house U.S. troops. They still were flying after the FAA warning, and after the Ukrainian jetliner crashed, according to data from Flightradar24, which tracks flights around the world.

“It was awfully peculiar and awfully risky,” said Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. “That’s a theater of war and these guys were acting like there was nothing going on.”

Goelz said airlines should have canceled all flights when Iran fired the missiles.

That Kirkpatrick speech from the 1984 Republican National Convention, linked above, is always worth rereading, because while the particular issues change, the philosophy doesn’t. (Although note one section of her speech dealt with Iranian-backed terrorism: “When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the “blame America first crowd” didn’t blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States.”)

Kirkpatrick concluded: “The American people know that it’s dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause. They understand just as the distinguished French writer, Jean Francois Revel, understands the dangers of endless self-criticism and self-denigration. He wrote: ‘Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.’”

A certain kind of U.S. foreign-policy thinker or lawmaker believes that if we just apply the right combination of incentives, every problem beyond our shores can be fixed. If some foreign leader takes action against us, it’s because we didn’t do something we should have or because we did do something we shouldn’t. It’s as if they don’t really see foreign leaders and peoples as having independent wills and agencies, just instinctive responses to our actions, and that all of their acts, no matter how malevolent, are entirely rational responses to our failures to meet their expectations.

A couple people griped that Monday’s piece assessed the behavior of the Iranian government starting in 1979 — you know, when the revolution and current regime took over — and didn’t go back to the coup in 1953 or the formation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1914. (At least this is a refreshing change from the folks who believe Iranian history began when Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal.)

I’m a big fan of studying history, but the past can’t be changed. When trying to figure out how to deal with the threat of this regime, declarations like, “well, we never should have opposed Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq 67 years ago!” don’t really get us anywhere.</blockquote?Fortunately, the Iranian people seem to be getting the idea, even if American Democrats are not, that their government is failing them. Brian Stewart:

Iran, said President Carter on New Year’s Eve in 1977, “is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” It didn’t take long for this confident avowal to prove erroneous. Just over a year later, Iran’s shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, would be forced into exile, with a clutch of hysterical mullahs led by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini taking his place. Iran’s vaunted stability turned out to be a mirage, and the Islamic revolution has been a source of trouble in the region ever since.

A little more than 40 years later a similar conviction has taken hold regarding the staying power of the regime seated in Tehran. This fashionable fatalism claims that, whatever its problems or the designs of its enemies, the Islamic republic is here to stay.

But there is ground for skepticism about this reigning complacency, and not only because the stability of an autocratic government is fiendishly difficult to gauge. There are unmistakable signs of fatigue and fragility roiling the Islamic republic today. For starters, the paralysis gripping the economy as a result of chronic mismanagement, the diversion of resources, and onerous sanctions is causing acute distress among average Iranians. The tenacious political demonstrations that have been rising in the face of lethal violence from the authorities reveals both the determination of the opposition and the cruelty of Iran’s rulers. Even in the aftermath of the targeted U.S. strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s extraterritorial Quds Force and adjutant to the Supreme Leader, the people have not significantly rallied behind the clerics. To the contrary, they have been given fresh occasion to see clearly the nature of a regime whose Revolutionary Guard incites aggression, recklessly shoots down a civilian airliner, and then literally attempts to bulldoze the evidence.

All of this suggests that the affairs of Iran are drawing rapidly to an eventful crisis. Observers reconciled to the endurance of the Islamic republic might want to reconsider their determinism before history passes them by.

In the turbulent life of the Islamic republic, it has not been foreign meddling by outside powers but domestic insurrection that has posed the greatest threat to its rule. Recalling the revolt across Iran in June 2009 may be instructive here. Here was more proof that it was not a “regime change war” (with apologies to Tulsi Gabbard) that nearly felled the Islamic republic, but the vox populi. No less a figure than Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later admitted that during the Green revolution the regime suffered a near-death experience.

Back then, pro-democracy protests had engulfed the country after the regime in Tehran engineered a crude voting exercise that flouted the elementary standards of a “free and fair” contest. (No one with the faintest understanding of Iran’s government—and its totalitarian doctrine of clerical control known as velayat-e faqui—could bring himself to credit this charade, or the alternately credulous and cynical response of the Obama White House that treated the “result” with deference.) The peaceful uprising was viciously suppressed by the regime’s Revolutionary Guard units, including the fearsome Basij paramilitary force, but not before a bravura display of people power by Iranians chafing under theocratic rule.

One decade later, it seems that the 2009 Green movement was a dress rehearsal for a larger and more lingering confrontation between Iranians and the mullahs who oppressed them for four decades.

This past November, protests erupted in several cities across the country in response to abrupt government increases in fuel prices. The demonstrations called for a swift end to the Islamic republic, and were vigorously put down by rulers accustomed to meting out violence to peaceful protesters. According to credible accounts, hundreds and perhaps more than a thousand Iranians were killed for the offense of raising their voices against the regime. Thousands more have been detained and tortured.

At first, this ferocious crackdown gave every appearance of having worked as intended. The demonstrations disappeared and the regime’s security apparatus came off high alert by mid-December. It seemed as if the status quo had survived intact. Then, in January, many stories appeared in the Western media suggesting that the Iranian people were broadly united behind the mullahs—a supposedly monolithic nation in mourning for Soleimani. Press coverage of the mass funeral procession for the fallen commander offered little skepticism about the meaning of such a highly orchestrated event in an authoritarian state.

So imagine the surprise when Iran’s protests reignited last week. The backward and brutal regime has imposed martial law to thwart memorial services for the victims of the recent repression. For the ayatollahs, all this domestic turbulence has come at an inauspicious time when popular discontent with the Islamic republic—and its corrupt and violent proxy and surrogate political forces—has reached a boil from Baghdad to Beirut. This tense domestic situation will not be allayed by the show of force from China, Russia, and Iran, all holding joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. Nor does it seem that, after the death of Soleimani, the Iranian street has been fooled by the regime’s “face-saving” gesture of lobbing rockets toward coalition bases in Iraq without harming any U.S. or Iraqi forces.

The persistent nature of this inchoate anti-regime movement—this revolution against the revolution—suggests something other than a revolt rooted solely in severe economic hardship. Whatever the misery inflicted by the combined weight of excessive government debt (ballistic missile development doesn’t come cheap) and punitive U.S. sanctions, the scale and resilience of the demonstrations gripping Iran suggest a more thorough repudiation of a regime characterized by superstition, reaction, and transnational violence. The Islamic revolution of 1979 finds itself under siege today by would-be revolutionaries who have not only challenged its economic mismanagement but also its very political legitimacy.


The late scholar Bernard Lewis liked to note a curious phenomenon in the Middle East: Pro-American regimes that were dictatorial often had anti-American populations, but anti-American regimes like Iran had pro-American populations. This certainly looked true in 2009 when the Iranian masses cried out for the explicit support of the American president, to no avail. How the U.S. government responds to the new protests and the likely crackdown against them may be even more consequential than its recent action in the skies over Baghdad.

The observers who consider Iran’s regime resilient beyond measure believe a revolution against it holds so little hope that its potential scarcely deserves mentioning, let alone supporting. These fatalists contend that the Iranian regime, like a cornered animal, is most dangerous when cornered, and therefore the wisest course is almost endless conciliation. The alternative, this argument runs, is a policy of mutual confrontation in which Iran’s Revolutionary Guard lashes out and turns the region into a cauldron of violence and terror.

The trouble with this argument is that it does not account for the violence and terror the regime has already inflicted across the region, and will continue to inflict. But with sanctions beginning to bite down hard and the Iranian masses inflamed against their bellicose but exposed regime, now may be the time for those who blithely assume the stability of the Islamic republic to ask themselves the breathless question: What if they are wrong?

Governor Coward

The Richmond (Va.) Times–Dispatch:

Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in Richmond ahead of a rally Monday that is expected to bring thousands of gun rights activists to Richmond.

The state of emergency will be enforced Friday evening to Tuesday evening. It includes a firearms ban on Capitol Square, as well as a general ban on weapons that includes bats and knives.

Northam cited safety threats “similar to what has been seen before other major events such as Charlottesville,” a reference to the deadly Unite the Right rally in August 2017.

“These are considered credible, serious threats by our law enforcement agencies,” Northam said, citing claims that groups plan on “storming our Capitol” and “weaponizing drones over our Capitol.”

Monday’s rally is being organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which says it is expecting between 30,000 and 50,000 people to arrive on the steps of the Capitol to protest gun control legislature proposed by Democratic lawmakers.

In an email to rally participants sent Tuesday, VCDL encouraged a peaceful demonstration. It told protestors planning to go inside legislative buildings to leave their guns at home or in their hotels. But, it also encouraged unarmed protestors to travel with an armed “designated defender” that will wait outside the buildings for them. It’s unclear how the group might update its directive following Northam’s announcement.

“We cannot stress enough that this is a peaceful day to address our legislature,” Tuesday’s email reads. “The eyes of the nation and the world are on Virginia and VCDL right now and we must show them that gun owners are not the problem. Lead by example.”

By violating the First and Second Amendment rights of those opposed to Northam’s unconstitutional gun-banning efforts, Northam is certainly leading by example … the example of a coward.

Saving Iran from its mullahs

Nick Gillespie:

The killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the United States military will understandably dominate headlines for weeks if not months to come.

But the actual demise of the authoritarian regime that’s been in power since 1979 will come more from acts like the one taken by Kimia Alizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist. Late last week, the bronze medalist in Taekwondo in the 2016 Summer Games announced via Instagram that she has fled her home country due to the systematic oppression of women. Via CNN:

“Let me start with a greeting, a farewell or condolences,” the 21-year-old wrote in an Instagram post explaining why she was defecting. “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years.”…

“They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me,” she wrote, adding that credit for her success always went to those in charge.

“I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools,” Alizadeh added, explaining that while the regime celebrated her medals, it criticized the sport she had chosen: “The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!”

On the heels of Alizadeh’s self-imposed exile comes reports that two anchors for Iranian state broadcaster IRIB have quit over qualms about censorship and official lies. From The Guardian:

Zahra Khatami quit her role at IRIB, saying: “Thank you for accepting me as anchor until today. I will never get back to TV. Forgive me.”

Her fellow anchor Saba Rad said: “Thank you for your support in all years of my career. I announce that after 21 years working in radio and tv, I cannot continue my work in the media. I cannot.”

The journalists’ statements are part of a crisis of confidence following the initial attempts by state officials to deny that Ukrainian jetliner 752 had been shot down by mistake by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) air defence force.

A third broadcaster, Gelare Jabbari, said she quit “some time ago” and asked Iranians to “forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.”

This is all happening against the backdrop of massive protests in Iran following the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner that carried 176 people. Demonstrators protested rising gas prices late last year and in the years prior, there have been other protests and general strikes for a host of reasons, including increased dissatisfaction with theocratic rule. According to a Carnegie Endowment report, 150,000 educated Iranians emigrate each year, “costing the country over $150 billion per year” as relatively young and motivated residents leave for greener pastures elsewhere.

By all accounts, sanctions imposed by the United States in 2018 have hit Iran’s economy extremely hard and are playing a role in sparking protests. It’s never fully clear how those sorts of intervention, much less more militaristic actions such as the killing of Soleimani, play out—sometimes overt pressure applied by an outside power emboldens dissent and sometimes it decreases it. But when a country starts to get hollowed out from within, as seems to be the case with Alizadeh’s exile and other recent and ongoing domestic developments, autocrats should start sweating.

 

Presty the DJ for Jan. 15

Today in 1967 was not a good day for fans of artistic freedom or the First Amendment, though the First Amendment applies to government against citizens and not the media against individuals.

Before their appearance on CBS-TV’s Ed Sullivan Shew, the Rolling Stones were compelled to change “Let’s Spend the Night Together …”

… to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”:

The number one British album today in 1977 was ABBA’s “Arrival” …

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Jan. 15”

The most dangerous Democrat

Rich Lowry:

Bernie Sanders is leading or near the top of most polls in the first two Democratic nominating states, Iowa and New Hampshire. He could plausibly win both, which would instantly transform the race into a desperate effort to Stop Bernie.

Sanders doesn’t exactly get good press. A lot of the punditry (understandably) wrote him off when Elizabeth Warren eclipsed him in the polls a couple of months ago and he had his health scare. Longer profiles have tended to be fond, while expressing skepticism that Sanders can build out his coalition. But the same people who have spent years worrying about norms — by which they usually mean things President Donald Trump says and tweets — express little alarm about Bernie’s campaign of jaw-dropping radicalism.

If he had his way, he’d fundamentally change the character of the country. He’d make the United States an outlier in the Western world, not in terms of its relatively limited government, but its sweeping activism. A Hellfire missile aimed right at the federal fisc, Sanders would make Barack Obama’s economic agenda look like the work of a moderate Republican.

In foreign affairs, he’d bring to the Oval Office a sympathy for America’s enemies not often heard outside academia or Noam Chomsky reading groups.

He’s the American Jeremy Corbyn, a socialist true believer whose fantastical agenda reflects the dictates of dogma. The difference is that Corbyn effectively promised a return to socialist-imposed stagnation in Britain, whereas Bernie is inviting America to experience it for the first time.

His domestic program, according to Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute, would cost nearly $100 trillion over the next decade. It would more than double federal spending and blow past Western European social democracies in government profligacy. What would ordinarily be considered ambitious spending plans — his proposed increased expenditure expansion on Social Security, infrastructure, housing, education, and paid family leave — are dwarfed by his gargantuan commitments to his “Medicare for All” proposal, his federal job guarantee, and his climate plan.

He’d fundamentally transform the relationship of the individual to the state, which, among other things, would ban people from owning their own health insurance.

Sanders pitches his health-care proposal as “what every other major country on Earth is doing,” but no other place is as sweeping or as generous. “There is not a single country in the world,” health-care analyst Chris Pope writes, “that offers comprehensive coverage with an unlimited choice of providers, fully paid for by taxpayers, without insurer gatekeeping, service rationing or out-of-pocket payments.”

Sanders would drastically increase taxes and still fall short of funding his program. As Riedl notes, he’d boost the top federal income-tax rate to 52 percent from 37 percent, and the payroll-tax rate to 27.2 percent from 15.3 percent, as well as impose a 62 percent investment-tax rate on upper-income taxpayers.

His foreign policy bears the stamp of soft spots for the Communist regimes in Nicaragua and the Soviet Union. He called the killing of General Qasem Soleimani an assassination. He condemned the ouster of Bolivia’s leftist autocrat, Evo Morales, who has called Sanders “brother.” He won’t call Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro a dictator but slams Benjamin Netanyahu as a “racist.” He has said his vote to authorize the war in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks was a mistake.

Sanders does indeed have his charms. He’s sincere, consistent, and inarguably himself. He now has a step on frenemy Elizabeth Warren in the leftist lane in the primaries because he’s not as painfully calculating as she is. But make no mistake: Sanders is a socialist continuing his takeover attempt of the Democratic party to forge what he aptly calls a political revolution. He may be more polite than Trump, but he’s wildly outside the mainstream and a clear and present danger to the public welfare.

And Comrade Bernie attracts these kinds of supporters, summarized in this tweet: