They Think They’re Winning

Good analysis. With the announcement of a Trump Executive Order no longer separating out children, appears all the pressure had an impact but we will need to see how the EO is implemented to know for sure (count me as sceptical):

In the last 48 hours, the portrait of a White House in crisis has been unmistakably clear.

Whether or not the Trump administration has a policy of separating the children of illegal border crossers from their parents to deter prospective migrants in the future depends on whom you ask. Over the last 18 months, administration officials have flitted back and forth from contemplating a policy of separation to openly pursuing it, to denying they’ve pursued it, to blaming Democrats for pursuing it, to claiming that the Bible demands they pursue it, to saying Congress can make them stoppursuing it, and finally to opposing Congressional efforts to make them stop pursuing it. Today, the White House’s immigration hardliners proudly tout their uncompromising new policy while its more conventional Republicans feign great effrontery over the mere suggestion that it exists.

The embarrassment in the West Wing is palpable, but the insecurity displayed by people like Homeland Security Sec. Kristjen Nielsen is prudent. They’re right to be concerned that their position is crumbling. The dam broke on Monday as Congressional Republicans parted en masse from the White House and condemned the new means of deterrence while offering short-term fixes for the problem. As of this writing, the White House’s new and surely untenable position is to oppose a narrow solution to the issue of family separation authored by Senator Ted Cruz—no immigration squish. Another reversal is forthcoming.

The West Wing’s simultaneously tone-deaf and flat-footed attempt to mitigate the damage from the crisis it created is not without basis in some kind of political logic: Trump’s immigration hardliners think they’re winning.

The Trump whisperers in the president’s orbit seem to have fully internalized the origin myth of this administration: that it is the manifestation of the populist backlash against a permissive, liberal immigration regime, and there is no policy they can adopt that will be too aggressive for their voters. “[I]f we’re having an argument on immigration,” an unnamed administration official boasted to the Washington Post, “we always win because that’s our ground, no matter what the nuances of the argument are.” Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was only slightly more explicitly cynical. “If you want to get people motivated, you’ve got to give them a reason to vote,” he told the New York Times. “Saying ‘build the wall and stop illegals from coming in and killing American citizens’ gives them an important issue.” Another Trump aide added that mobilizing Republicans by agitating on immigration issues “upsets some people in the donor class, but it’s the reality of where the party is.” This is a flawed assumption and, if it is the course on which the Trump administration is determined to embark, the journey will be perilously fraught.

That this “is where the party is” is debatable. Three polls on the administration’s efforts to deter migrants with a policy of family separation were released yesterday, and all showed that the vast majority of voters disapprove. But since the White House only seems to care about voters who identify as Republicans, let’s focus on them. Quinnipiac found that 55 percent of Republicans favor separation for “families seeking asylum” while a CNN survey found 58 percent approve of the Trump administration’s policy. But a CBS News poll showed that a slight plurality of Republicans, 39 percent, said a policy of “separating parents from children at the border” was “unacceptable.”

The number of Republicans who support this policy varies, but whether it is 36 or 58 percent doesn’t really matter. The headline from these polls is that the Republican president is losing anywhere between 4 and 6 in 10 of his own party’s voters. Those are disastrous numbers no matter how you slice it, and that explains the cascade of Republicans racing to distance themselves from the president on this issue in the last few hours.

The more revealing thread that deserves tugging here is the animosity toward the GOP that the Trump administration’s hardliners are stoking. The fact that the president has not secured his signature campaign-trail promise despite having multiple opportunities to take “yes” for an answer suggests the immigration fanatics in Trump’s orbit still believe they win by running against their own party. But it’s not the 2016 primaries anymore; it’s the president’s first midterm. With the GOP’s majorities on the ballot and Democrats more energized to vote than Republicans, Trump needs to unify his party, not tear it apart. Stoking a sense of betrayal over immigration rather than a desire to preserve achievements like the GOP’s tax code reform law is a recipe for disaster in November.

That is the conventional view, at least. After all, staving off a GOP wipeout in November would preserve the ideologically and geographically diverse coalition of Republicans in Congress. A sweeping defeat would purge the House of its immigration dovesfirst, leaving an ideologically purer minority in its wake. And with the House gone, so, too, would the legislative phase of the Trump presidency end and take with it the responsibilities associated with governance. Thus, the party’s border hawks get the best of both worlds. They can stoke a galvanizing grievance and a persecution complex among their base supporters, and they can occupy the White House at the same time. The martyring of the wall, the outcry over family separation, and a blue wave in November can seem like a rare species of victory.

That’s a cynical way to look at things, but the alternative—the idea that the GOP base is united rather than torn asunder by the administration’s policies—is simply deluded. So which is it?

Source: They Think They’re Winning

Haidt’s Theory Vindicated at MIT

Further to yesterday’s post (Heterodoxy Academy: Encouraging diversity of thought), this example of interest.

One could likely just as easily find an example of “free market U” driven by ideologies of the right, with comparable blind spots and biases:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology deserves some sort of research prize for confirming NYU professor Jonathan Haidt’s theory that the social sciences suffer from a deficit of viewpoint diversity.

Last Monday, several social scientists from prestigious universities gathered in a state-of-the-art theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts for MIT’s conference on Israel’s 70th anniversary. While enjoying trays of free cookies and drinks, the mostly upper middle-class audience got to hear speaker after speaker complain about the Jewish state.

Of the six academic speakers who were invited to participate, not one depicted the creation of Israel as anything other than a moral calamity. Only MIT professor Stephen Van Evera dared to criticize Yasser Arafat for turning down a generous deal put together by Bill Clinton in 2000. All the rest of the panelists seemed to agree with University of Massachusetts professor Leila Farsakh’s assertion that peace negotiations failed—and continue to fail—because of “Israeli intransigence.”

The near uniformity of opinion was a powerful instantiation of Haidt’s theory that the “American Academy has–arguably–become a politically orthodox and quasi-religious institution,” where “people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.”

Participants in the conference also lent credence to Haidt’s other big idea: that two incompatible “sacred” values are currently colliding on university campuses. One sacred value goes back to John Stuart Mill’s famous maxim, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that”; the other sacred value is rooted in Karl Marx’s injunction that intellectuals shouldn’t just interpret the world but seek to change it.

These two pedagogical visions, Haidt believes, are at loggerheads on college campuses because they aim at different goals. “Marx is the patron saint of what I’ll call ‘Social Justice U,’ which is oriented around changing the world in part by overthrowing power structures and privilege,” Haidt argues. “It sees political diversity as an obstacle to action. Mill is the patron saint of what I’ll call ‘Truth U,’ which sees truth as a process in which flawed individuals challenge each other’s biased and incomplete reasoning. In the process, all become smarter. Truth U dies when it becomes intellectually uniform or politically orthodox.”

Viewpoint diversity is, nevertheless, widely valued in broader American society. So much so that even dogmatic political activists must pretend to embrace it. Before MIT’s Israel conference, for example, the organizers felt the need to market the event as if it would offer a Millsian “array of narratives” by bringing together “Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans to discuss and debate the history, the politics, and the current critical moment.”

But it was false advertising. The conference was squarely in the “Social Justice U” camp. Tellingly, one of the conference organizers, Israeli philosopher Anat Biletzki, argued fervently for the elimination of the world’s only Jewish-majority country. That might explain why her selection of voices on the panel seemed deliberately intended to convey the notion that Israel’s existence was a historical blunder and that the Arabs were wholly innocent victims of it. None of the social scientists raised any uncomfortable truths that might challenge that storyline—truths such as Palestinian Arab collaboration with the Nazis; Islamist aspects of the 1948 war to destroy Israel; historic persecution of Jews in Muslim-majority lands, culminating in the almost total ethnic cleansing of indigenous Jewish communities across the Middle East and North Africa.

Echoes of Marx’s injunction to change the world could also be heard at the conference. Activist-historian Irene Gendzier, a BDS supporter, seemed to channel the spirit of Marx when she claimed that history only matters if “in some way it paves the way for changing not only the perception of the present but the future.” Her own historical publications, presumably, therefore have an a prioripolitical agenda. If not, her thinking suggests, why study the past?

She also said: “although we are consigned to talking about the past, it seems to me that we here [at the MIT conference] are really talking in disguise about what we would like to see for a different future.” Judging by the overall message of this conference, that future involves the Jewish state’s paying in some way for the crime of its existence.

Source: Haidt’s Theory Vindicated at MIT

The Trump Standard Won’t Outlast His Presidency: Noah Rothman on Evangelical Support

Interesting commentary by Rothman on evangelical support for Trump, and the compromise this has entailed:

…In an interview with Politico, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins confessed that the community of moral leaders on the right gave Trump a “mulligan” for the debauchery in which he engaged before he became a political figure. He said that the religious right is “tired of being kicked around” by the left and are “glad” there’s “somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.” What about turning the other cheek, Perkins’s interlocutor asked. “You know, you only have two cheeks,” he replied.

Perkins is getting a lot of grief for that, but his honest assessment of the transactional nature of the evangelical community’s moral compromise is illuminating. “That support is not unconditional,” he said. “If the president for some reason stopped keeping campaign promises and then engaged in that behavior now, the support’s gone.” In other words, if Trump stops delivering for them in office, this community of formerly self-righteous moral scolds reserves the right to rediscover their principles.

Many have offered theories as to why these and many other evangelical leaders compromised themselves for Trump. Less attention has been paid to whether the moral majority’s acceptance of Trumpian turpitude represents a depressing new normal. Is this the standard of ethical degradation to which all will be held in the future? If Perkins’ admission is reflective of unspoken sentiments broadly shared on the right, the answer is no. Trump’s is a standard to which only the politically valuable are held.

There was some justified fear that the Trump standard was being broadly applied in November when the right’s moral gymnasts engaged in a collective defense of Alabama justice Roy Moore. They joined with the institutional GOP to ratify Donald Trump’s support for the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate despite his contempt for the law, the Constitution, and the credible allegations that he had abused underage girls. But once Moore lost, his utility was spent. As Breitbart’s Alex Marlow confessed, the accusations against Moore were credible, but the impulse to protect Trump—not Moore, per se—from his detractors was more important than moral rectitude. This, too, was transactional.

Conservatives might be tempted to retreat into a persecution complex. After all, defending Trump’s repeated indiscretions is a full-time job and one that the left seems conspicuously able to avoid. The Trump standard is the Bill Clinton standard, they might say, and it’s about time that Republicans held a mirror up to Democrats and their enablers in media. Stringent moral standards were shackles by which the right constrained itself, thus allowing the left to operate with impunity. Good riddance.

But the Trump standard and the Clinton standard seem reserved for presidents. Anthony Weiner, David Wu, and John Edwards did not benefit from the Clinton standard. Al Franken and John Conyers’ appeals to precedent didn’t salvage their political careers. Similarly, even in just the last 12 months, personal indiscretions were enough to cut short the political careers of Republicans like Blake Farenthold, Joe Barton, and Tim Murphy.

Some might push back against the notion that we can draw broader conclusions from these politicians’ experiences because Rep. Patrick Meehan and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens have managed to hold on despite the sex scandals engulfing their careers. Their careers might withstand calls for their resignations; time will tell. But their experiences reinforce the fact that there really are no universal moral standards. There are only individuals. And the actions of those individuals are condemned or condoned as a result of calculated cost/benefit analyses, not morality. It was always ever thus.

If this doesn’t sound like cause for optimism to you, buck up. Presidential politics is unique because the stakes at the presidential level are so high. Both parties tend to reflect their titular leaders, but presidents are transitory figures. The Republican Party’s status quo ante was Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and so on; men of moral fortitude who had no stomach for conspiratorial thinking, nativist acrimony, or degeneracy. A reversion to the mean is perfectly imaginable.

If such a reversion is in the cards, no one who compromised their stated values in the Trump era should be allowed to forget the bargain they made. Yet this presidency has exposed a valuable truth: too often, ethical considerations are situational and conditional—particularly in politics. If American moral decline is going to be arrested, the country’s self-styled moral leaders must confront that fact and realize the extent to which they’ve contributed to the plunge.

Source: The Trump Standard Won’t Outlast His Presidency

2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege : Max Boot – Foreign Policy

I regularly scan Commentary magazine writers and this article by Max Boot in Foreign Policy is one of the better ones on white privilege and how he came to understand the concept and reality. Canadians in denial should read this and reflect:

In college — this was in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the University of California, Berkeley — I used to be one of those smart-alecky young conservatives who would scoff at the notion of “white male privilege” and claim that anyone propagating such concepts was guilty of “political correctness.” As a Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union, I felt it was ridiculous to expect me to atone for the sins of slavery and segregation, to say nothing of the household drudgery and workplace discrimination suffered by women. I wasn’t racist or sexist. (Or so I thought.) I hadn’t discriminated against anyone. (Or so I thought.) My ancestors were not slave owners or lynchers; they were more likely victims of the pogroms.

I saw America as a land of opportunity, not a bastion of racism or sexism. I didn’t even think that I was a “white” person — the catchall category that has been extended to include everyone from a Mayflower descendant to a recently arrived illegal immigrant from Ireland. I was a newcomer to America who was eager to assimilate into this wondrous new society, and I saw its many merits while blinding myself to its dark side.

Well, live and learn. A quarter century is enough time to examine deeply held shibboleths and to see if they comport with reality. In my case, I have concluded that my beliefs were based more on faith than on a critical examination of the evidence. In the last few years, in particular, it has become impossible for me to deny the reality of discrimination, harassment, even violence that people of color and women continue to experience in modern-day America from a power structure that remains for the most part in the hands of straight, white males. People like me, in other words. Whether I realize it or not, I have benefitted from my skin color and my gender — and those of a different gender or sexuality or skin color have suffered because of it.

This sounds obvious, but it wasn’t clear to me until recently. I have had my consciousness raised. Seriously.

This doesn’t meant that I agree with America’s harshest critics — successors to the New Left of the 1960s who saw this country as an irredeemably fascist state that they called “AmeriKKKa.” Judging by historical standards or those of the rest of the world, America remains admirably free and enlightened. Minorities are not being subject to ethnic cleansing like the Rohingya in Burma. Women are not forced to wear all-enveloping garments as in Saudi Arabia. No one is jailed for criticizing our supreme leader as in Russia.

The country is becoming more aware of oppression and injustice, which have long permeated our society, precisely because of growing agitation to do something about it. Those are painful but necessary steps toward creating a more equal and just society. But we are not there yet, and it is wrong to pretend otherwise. It is even more pernicious to cling to the conceit, so popular among Donald Trump’s supporters, that straight white men are the “true” victims because their unquestioned position of privilege is now being challenged by uppity women, gay people, and people of color.

I used to take a reflexively pro-police view of arguments over alleged police misconduct, thinking that cops were getting a bum rap for doing a tough, dangerous job. I still have admiration for the vast majority of police officers, but there is no denying that some are guilty of mistreating the people they are supposed to serve. Not all the victims of police misconduct are minorities — witness a blonde Australian woman shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer after she called 911, or an unarmed white man shotto death by a Mesa, Arizona, officer while crawling down a hotel hallway — but a disproportionate share are.

The videos do not lie. One after another, we have seen the horrifying evidence on film of cops arresting, beating, even shooting black people who were doing absolutely nothing wrong or were stopped for trivial misconduct. For African-Americans, and in particular African-American men, infractions like jaywalking or speeding or selling cigarettes without tax stamps can incite corporal, or even capital, punishment without benefit of judge or jury. African-Americans have long talked about being stopped for “driving while black.” I am ashamed to admit I did not realize what a serious and common problem this was until the videotaped evidence emerged. The iPhone may well have done more to expose racism in modern-day America than the NAACP.

Of course, the problem is not limited to the police; they merely reflect the racism of our society, which is not as severe as it used to be but remains real enough. I realized how entrenched this problem remains when an African-American friend — a well-educated, well-paid, well-dressed woman — confessed that she did not want to walk into a department store carrying in her purse a pair of jeans that she planned to give to a friend later in the day. Why not? Because she was afraid that she would be accused of shoplifting! This is not something that would occur to me, simply because the same suspicion would not attach to a middle-aged, middle-class white man.

The larger problem of racism in our society was made evident in Donald Trump’s election, despite — or because of — his willingness to dog-whistle toward white nationalists with his pervasive bashing of Mexicans, Muslims, and other minorities. Trump even tried to delegitimize the first African-American president by claiming he wasn’t born in this country, and now he goes after African-American football players who kneel during the playing of the anthem to protest police brutality. (Far from being concerned about police misconduct, which disproportionately targets people of color, Trump actively encourages it.)

Adam Serwer argues persuasively in the Atlantic that Trump’s election could not be explained by “economic anxiety,” because the poorest voters — those making less than $50,000 a year — voted predominantly for Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, “Trump defeated Clinton among white voters in every income category,” from those making less than $30,000 to those making more than $250,000. In other words, Serwer writes, Trump does not lead a “working-class coalition; it is a nationalist one.” That doesn’t mean that every Trump supporter is a racist; it does mean that Trump’s victory has revealed that racism and xenophobia are more widespread than I had previously realized.

As for sexism, its scope has been made plain by the horrifying revelations of widespread harassment, assault, and even rape perpetrated by powerful men from Hollywood to Washington. The Harvey Weinstein scandal has opened the floodgates, leading to the naming and shaming of a growing list of rich and powerful men — including Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Roy Moore, and John Conyers — who are alleged to have abused their positions of authority to force themselves upon women or, in some cases, men.

As with the revelations of police brutality, so too with sexual harassment: I am embarrassed and ashamed that I did not understand how bad the problem is. I had certainly gotten some hints from my female friends of the kind of harassment they have endured, but I never had any idea it was this bad or this common — or this tolerated. Even now, while other men are being fired for their misconduct, Trump continues to sit in the Oval Office despite credible allegations of sexual assault from nearly 20 different women.

I now realize something I should have learned long ago: that feminist activists had a fair point when they denounced the “patriarchy” for oppressing women. Sadly, this oppression, while less severe than it used to be, remains a major problem in spite of the impressive strides the U.S. has taken toward greater gender equality.

This doesn’t mean that I am about to join the academic political correctness brigade in protesting “microaggressions” and agitating against free speech. I remain a classical liberal, and I am disturbed by attempts to infringe on freedom of speech in the name in fighting racism, sexism, or other ills. But I no longer think, as I once did, that “political correctness” is a bigger threat than the underlying racism and sexism that continue to disfigure our society decades after the civil rights and women’s rights movements. If the Trump era teaches us anything, it is how far we still have to go to realize the “unalienable Rights” of all Americans to enjoy “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” regardless of gender, sexuality, religion, or skin color.

via 2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege – Foreign Policy

The Nazi Next Door Is Real—and Unspectacular | Noah Rothman Commentary Magazine

I agree with Rothman here.

Understanding the banality and normality of someone with unacceptable views does not mean accepting the views but rather helps one avoid one-dimensional caricatures, a lesson that applies to both the ‘left’ and ‘right’:

Six million Jews. Nine million Soviet civilians. Nearly 2 million Poles. Over 500,000 Roma and Yugoslavs. Approximately a half million more religious minorities, homosexuals, political criminals. Up to 10 million Chinese, Indochinese, Indonesians, Koreans, and Filipinos. Millions of soldiers. All told, the conduct of fascist regimes in the mid-20th Century resulted in between 50 and 80 million deaths. These rather elementary historical facts are, apparently, necessary preamble. If you’re going to engage in any rumination on National Socialism, neo-Nazism, or a predisposition toward racial separatism, it’s apparently necessary to tell readers exactly how they should think about those anti-social traits.

That’s the only logical conclusion available to those who have perused the cascade of criticism heaped upon the New York Timesfor publishing a profile of a self-described white nationalist who might have otherwise been unidentifiable. Indeed, that was the entire point of the piece. “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland” explored the views and lives of Tony Hovater, the “Nazi sympathizer next door,” and the white supremacists with whom he was surrounded as they tried to integrate into an Ohio community.

The profile explored not just Hovater’s views but his tastes, which is what seems to have sent Times readers into a state of manic agitation. The piece and all who were involved in its publication were savaged for “humanizing” a neo-Nazi by noting that he, too, shops at the local supermarket and enjoys “Seinfeld” references.

“It is completely insane that big U.S. media keep printing the anti-Semitic garbage of *actual Nazis* without even bothering to correct them,” wrote Toronto Star correspondent Daniel Dale. He specifically cited Hovater’s Holocaust denialism and the Times’ dispassionate retort, which held that six million dead Jews is a “widely accepted” figure. “Why does the NY Times keep normalizing Nazis?” Arizona State University journalism professor Dan Gillmor asked. “This article does more to normalize neo-Nazism than anything I’ve read in a long time,” FiveThirtyEight analyst Nate Silver complained. He theorized that the Times’editors greenlighted this “deeply sympathetic portrait of a white supremacist” because of their collective sense of guilt over failing to appreciate the issues that animate Donald Trump’s America (a theory that both underestimates Trump’s America and likely overstates the collective self-consciousness at the Times).

The outcry grew so deafening that a Times editor felt compelled to apologize for publishing what the critics saw as a soft-focus human interest story about a man with monstrous views.  Among the criticisms of this piece offered by liberals like Quartz editor Indrani Sen and’s Ezra Klein was that a gauzy portrayal of a neo-Nazi seemed to be the profile’s only purpose. “[I]t doesn’t add anything to our understanding of modern Nazis,” Klein offered.

But it did.

The article did not begin and end with an exploration of the items on the Hovaters’ wedding registry. It delved into both Hovater and his network’s thinking regarding how they intend to integrate into acceptable society. It was a deeply disturbing portrayal of a racist movement that is beginning to eschew shock tactics in favor of infiltration and the persuasion of what the profile’s subject called “normal people.”

It described Hovater’s social media habits, which are shared by much of the alt-right—a useful detail for those who may be interested in preventing white nationalists from blending into society without a hitch. The profile explored Hovater’s reading, music tastes, and the evolution of his political thinking. It detailed his affinity for Vladimir Putin, his hatred for the press, and his disgust with United States as it is currently constituted.  If you’re interested in identifying neo-Nazis in the wild, this is all useful information. The piece also described Hovater’s life at home, where he minced garlic, cooed over his cats, and talked about having children with his future wife. For the Times’ critics, this was unacceptable. “That evil is also banal is not new,” Klein quipped. Not so. Apparently, for those who were scandalized by this profile, it is.

Undergirding the left’s revulsion over the “normalization” of an American Nazi is the idea that some—not them, of course, but the vulgar multitudes—will be tempted to embrace white supremacy because a welder in Ohio enjoys  “Twin Peaks.” This is not prudence but pretension. These liberal critics imagine themselves enlightened enough to know evil when they see it in print, but not you.

This is a censorious impulse. It represents the left’s troubling allergy to moral complexity. A man can have cats, buy barbecue sauce, love and be loved like the rest of us, and also be a beast of unspeakable prejudice and cruelty. Likewise, just because an organization calls itself “antifascist” doesn’t render it morally righteous when bands of “antifascists” form marauding bands with the intent of putting anyone who looks like a Trump supporter in the hospital. And so on.

Increasingly and to its detriment, the left in the age of Trump has convinced itself that its adversaries are, or ought to be, one-dimensional monstrosities with a monomaniacal devotion to undermining all that they hold dear. The New York Times should not be catering to children who lash out when their adversaries are depicted as fully formed human beings. The objection here is not to reportorial standards at the Times but to a set of facts the objectors cannot stand.

via The Nazi Next Door Is Real—and Unspectacular | commentary

What an Irrational Immigration Policy Looks Like | Commentary Magazine

Hard to argue but not optimistic regarding change:

President Trump was elected on a platform that called for deporting more illegal immigrants who committed crimes and doing more to stop illegal arrivals. In theory, there is little here that anyone can quarrel with. Few Americans other than the most extreme pro-immigration activists will dispute the need to secure our borders and to evict criminal aliens. In the quest for border security, though, we should not sacrifice our humanity or common sense.

To wit: Recently, six teenage Afghan girls assembled a robot to enter into an international robotics competition behind held in Washington this month. They had to travel 500 miles from their home city of Herat to Kabul to apply for visas at the U.S. Embassy—a trip that is far from safe, and yet they made it twice. They had to order components from abroad, and it took extra long for them to arrive because they could easily be confused with bomb-making parts. Yet after trying so hard, and assembling their robot, they were crestfallen to learn that the State Department had denied their visas.  This is all the more inexplicable and heartbreaking given that girls’ education—forbidden under the Taliban—has been one of the major achievements of the post-2001 state created at such great cost in American blood and treasure.

That’s hardly the only episode of temporary insanity resulting from the president’s new tougher immigration initiatives.

Radwan Ziadeh is exactly the kind of Syrian that the U.S. would like to see running the country. He is a young, liberal, pro-American activist. He has lived in the U.S. for the past decade, and his three children were born here. Yet the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has notified him that he may soon be deported because he provided “material support” to an “undesignated terrorist organization.” The “terrorist organizations” in question were the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which, the USCIS notes, “used weapons with the intent to endanger the safety of Syrian government officials.”

What ICE’s judgment leaves out is that many of the weapons provided to the Free Syrian Army came from the United States. Ziadeh’s association with these two groups stems from his work as an organizer of Syrian opposition conferences in 2012 and 2013 in Istanbul that were sponsored by the U.S. and Canadian governments. “ In effect,” notes a Washington Post editorial, “Mr. Ziadeh is being accused of terrorism because he acted at U.S. urging (and with Canadian funding) to bring together U.S.-backed Syrian leaders.”

Amid this hysteria, the U.S. is at risk of not just sacrificing its soul but also its security.

The Pentagon launched a program in 2009 called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) to enlist foreigners with vital skills in the U.S. military. They would receive expedited citizenship in return for service. More than 10,400 troops have since served honorably and bravely under the program, bringing vital skills in such disciplines as medicine and Chinese, Pashto, and Russian language skills that are in short supply among native-born recruits. But now the Pentagon is contemplating canceling contracts for roughly 1,000 recruits who are ready to start Basic Training, thus exposing to them to the danger of deportation.

These episodes are the work of three different government departments: Rex Tillerson’s State Department is responsible for not issuing visas to the Afghan girls robotics team. John Kelly’s Department of Homeland Security is responsible for notifying Radwen Ziadeh that he is likely to be deported. Jim Mattis’s Department of Defense is responsible for possibly canceling the enlistment of 1,000 foreign-born volunteers.

The good news is that none of these decisions are irreversible—yet. There is still time for the Cabinet agencies in question to display some humanity and common sense. The risk is, in pursuit of a rational immigration policy, America could lose its mind.

Source: What an Irrational Immigration Policy Looks Like | commentary

Salman Rushdie Slams Critics of Charlie Hebdo’s PEN Award

A fair amount of coverage and commentary with respect to Charlie Hebdo’s PEN award on both sides of the issue (I lean towards Rushdie’s position):

Six writers have withdrawn as literary hosts of the 2015 PEN American Center gala, criticizing the organization’s choice to honor satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo with the Freedom of Expression Courage award—a move author Salman Rushdie calls “horribly wrong.”

The writers—Peter Carey, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose and Taiye Selasi—believe it’s wrong to reward the publication for free speech, since they feel its depiction of Islam was often offensive, the New York Times reports. Carey acknowledged that the terrorist act that killed many of Charlie Hebdo‘s staff members was “a hideous crime,” but also noted that France as a nation “does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.”

Though Rushdie (whose death was called for by a Muslim leader over his book The Satanic Verses) calls both Carey and Ondaatje “old friends,” he said the choice of Charlie Hebdo was perfectly appropriate. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others,” he told the Times, “is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Salman Rushdie Slams Critics of Charlie Hebdo’s PEN Award | TIME.

Commentary magazine, while predictably using this to assail the left, nevertheless has a point:

“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Indeed. Liberals have apparently graduated from telling Muslims what is and isn’t truly Islamic to telling Muslims (and their victims) what is and isn’t blasphemy. According to the left, blasphemy is not a religious term so much as it just shouldn’t be applied to people who draw yucky pictures. This is, to say the least, a standard that bodes poorly for those who truly do support free speech. Where are their allies going to come from if not from free-speech organizations?

And there’s also something quite hilarious in the don’t-worry-Rushdie-you’re-still-good defensiveness in the anti-Charlie Hebdo group. That may be true today, but for how long will it continue to be true? At what point will the left finally throw Rushdie under that bus? Because that moment is coming, and I suspect everyone knows it.

The Left Will Disown Rushdie Too; the Only Question Is When

The Globe’s editorial board tries to find a middle approach:

For writers who deal in human complexity like Mr. Ondaatje, context matters. If an awards night is to be more than a self-congratulatory fundraiser, abstract notions like freedom of expression and courage must defer to a harder literary question: Should the boundaries of both free speech and courage necessarily adapt to local realities?

Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, working in the persistent French spirit of secularism and anticlericalism, saw themselves as caricaturing a monolithic sect that consistently behaves with barbaric cruelty and unreason. Islam, for Charlie Hebdo, became an updated version of the Catholic Church, and so a deserving target of ferocious satire.

But for the dissenting authors at PEN, these broad-brushed satirical attacks necessarily had damaging consequences at the human level. France’s colonial past has produced a modern culture of inequality, they say. In Paris, where encouraging anti-Islamic sentiments shades too easily into racism, Muslims are much more likely to be the oppressed than the oppressors PEN normally rails against.

For other prominent PEN members, all this literary ambivalence is a weak-kneed diversion from the no-compromise ideals of free speech. Salman Rushdie, who knows a thing or two about attempts to limit free expression, said his old friend Mr. Ondaatje was “horribly wrong.” But he’s not wrong, just different – and right to avoid the gala’s awkward culture of unanimity.

 Charlie Hebdo deserves praise, but not at all costs 

No “Clash of Civilizations” – Commentary Magazine

From a surprising source, Commentary Magazine:

Surveys indicate that the broad majority of Muslims around the world are not in the violent, jihadist camp. A Pew poll in 2013, for example, found that across 11 Muslim countries, 67 percent of those surveyed said they are somewhat or very concerned about Islamic extremism and 57 percent said they had an unfavorable view of al-Qaeda while 51 percent had an unfavorable view of the Taliban. Moreover, “about three-quarters or more in Pakistan (89%), Indonesia (81%), Nigeria (78%) and Tunisia (77%), say suicide bombings or other acts of violence that target civilians are never justified.” Indeed the only place where a majority of Muslims justified suicide bombings was in the Palestinian territories.

It seems safe, then, to say that most Muslims around the world are moderate. But there is a substantial minority of extremists which, in absolute numbers, pose a serious threat, given the fact that there are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. While those extremists pose a substantial threat to the West, they present an even bigger threat to fellow Muslims. The vast majority of victims of Islamist terrorist organization such as the Taliban, ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Hezbollah have been fellow Muslims. Such organizations, after all, are principally bent on dominating their own societies, thus by definition oppressing and killing fellow Muslims; they generally attack the West only as an auxiliary line of operations. One of the truly disturbing aspects of modern-day Islamist movements is the ease with which they declare their Muslim enemies to be “takfir” (i.e. apostates) and therefore liable to be killed.

What is going on, then, is not a war between civilizations but a war within Islamic civilization pitting an armed, militant minority against a peaceful but easily cowed majority. Any talk of waging “war on Islam” is thus deeply misguided and harmful. What we in the West need to do is to help moderate Muslims wage war on the radicals. Sound impossible? Far from it. Just look at how successfully (if brutally) Muslim states such as Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria have fought to repress Islamist movements–or how courageously so many Iraqi and Afghan security officers have fought against Islamist extremists. (They would fight even more effectively if their own organizations were less corrupt and more effective.)

The “us-vs.-them” narrative only distracts from what needs to be done while playing into the terrorists’ hands–that is after all, precisely the narrative they seek to promulgate to rally Muslims to their side.

No “Clash of Civilizations” – Commentary Magazine Commentary Magazine.