This is so awesome. It’s like gun porn. You’re welcome.
This is so awesome. It’s like gun porn. You’re welcome.
As you could probably predict, I’m not happy about Sony pulling “The Interview” to appease a beyond parody child dictator and his nation of starving, racist midgets. It’s incredibly cowardly and infuriating…yet partially understandable. Due to our ridiculous tort law, people can sue over anything and Sony, Paramount (which pulled Team America yesterday after a Texas theater announced they were going to show it instead) and theater chains know if anything happened they would be sued. Though I maintain that the main reason Sony pulled it is because they didn’t want whatever was in the rest of the e-mails to see the light of day. Sonny Bunch laments our broken culture here:
There are trial lawyers out there who will sue whomever has the deepest pockets on whatever flimsy pretense they can muster because, hey, dolla dolla bill y’all! This is totally and completely bonkers. Think about this for a second. What we are saying—nay, what we have accepted, as a society—is a situation in which a totally blameless third party would be held responsible for the evil committed by an irresponsible actor. Sony and the theater chains are being punished for the mere potential of a terror attack against them.
I joked with a friend that tort reform immediately became my number one concern for 2016. He pointed out, rightly, that this is a much larger issue. Tort reform? That’s just futzing around at the edges. Our problem runs much, much deeper than concerns over insurance costs for doctors. Our true problem is that, again, we have accepted, as a society, that it’s okay to sue a party for the bad behavior of a second party even if the first party has no role whatsoever in the malfeasance. That’s the saddest part of all this. Yes, Sony and the theater chains have acted cowardly and without honor throughout this ordeal. But it’s not their fault. It’s ours. We made this world. They’re just living with the rules we adopted.
Regarding corporate cowardice, the irony is that we’re talking about an industry that routinely applauds itself for “speaking truth to power” or for it’s own “courage” when it makes films that their fellow progressives love but might anger a few people in Tennessee and Alabama. It’s not courage when you seek the acclaim of your peers at the expense of the feelings and mores of people who will do no more than publicly criticize your product. So, now, in the face of a miniscule “real” threat, we see the stuff Sony and Paramount are made of. And it is weak stuff indeed.
But that’s only part of the story. Unrepresentative tweets and Internet comments to the contrary, I think to the extent that people were even aware of the threats, they would be more likely to steer away from the movie (and theaters that showed it) than they would be to defiantly attend…Free speech may be a value people broadly support, but they also take it completely for granted, giving it zero thought in their daily lives. If they hear about a terrorist threat at a movie theater, their first thought is not necessarily, “I’ll go to the movie as an act of defiance,” it’s more like, “Let’s go out to eat instead.” A critical mass of Americans are not necessarily going to see the meaning and purpose of enduring even the slightest risk for a raunchy comedy.
But here’s the problem: Timidity is habit-forming. Most people like to think of themselves as the kind of person who will do the right thing when the stakes are high, but we can go through most of life without encountering truly high-stakes challenges to our courage and integrity. Instead, we tend to do the easy thing again and again, blissfully unaware that each easy step erodes just a bit more of our character.
The right response to North Korea’s vague threats (and, let’s be honest, when is North Korea not making threats?) was easy: Beef up police presence at theaters to show that we take protecting our citizens seriously, donate a portion of the movie’s proceeds to humanitarian relief for North Koreans fleeing oppression, and celebrate our liberty in a small but meaningful way by seeing a movie — if you can stomach the raunch — that features the one thing that irritates self-proclaimed god-kings the most, pure mockery. But if the right thing was easy, Sony and a host of other companies saw capitulation as easier still. That’s certainly dispiriting, but the thought that they might be accurately reading their customer base is the most dispiriting thought of all.
And from Cooke’s piece:
Arguendo, let us suppose that the e-mail does, in fact, contain a genuine threat. Would a resolute and free people not ask, “So what?” So the buggers denounce our films? So they issue threats against our theaters? So they are sufficiently delusional to try to instill “fear” into the United States? We are talking here, as Michael Moynihan noted this morning, about “a country that subsists on bugs and grass” — a ridiculous, farcical, anemic shell-nation that, as unconscionably ghastly as it can be to its own people, is unlikely to achieve much in the United States besides the prompting of unalloyed hilarity…Do we imagine, perhaps, that moviegoers in Chicago are likely to be faced with the Blitz?
No. How grotesque it is, then, to see businesses in the United States reacting so cravenly to what appears to be little more than a glorified letter of complaint. Is this now to be how America works? If so — if the friends of a campy two-bit dictatorship can force us to put our tails between our legs and ask not to be thrown into the briar patch — then one can only wonder how we might expect to stand up to our more competent foes. Will we perhaps start pulling books critical of the Iranian leaders, the better to protect Barnes and Noble from incoming Molotov cocktails? Will we remove websites that satirize the Chinese Communist party in order to forestall denial-of-service attacks on their hosts? Will we shut down newspapers that print broadsides against the Putin regime, lest his online buddies send a few death threats our way? I would certainly hope not. Rather, I would hope that we recognize that freedom of expression is the most vital of all our civic virtues, and that no good whatsoever can come of according a heckler’s veto to hackers, to family crime syndicates, and to their nasty little enablers on the international stage. If the right of a free people to associate and to speak as they wish is not deemed by civil society as worthy of fighting for, what exactly is?
Sadly, one cannot help but see in this response some faint echoes of another, disheartening development: to wit, our present tendency to accommodate the thin-skinned and the intolerant and to permit their professed discomfort to interfere with our public debate. As much as it is anything else, liberty is a mindset, and the more reflexively we take seriously the complaints of the terminally silly, the less habitually we should expect to see resolve in the face of bullying. In our schools, in the media, and in all of our political arenas, we have of late become accustomed to kowtowing to hecklers, to fleeing from anything controversial, and to treating the outrage du jour as if it were representative of anything more substantial than rank self-indulgence and the desire to silence dissent. Before a people can be cajoled by the fear of reprisal into canceling a work of art, they must first have been familiarized with the process.
Well, we are now well and truly familiarized. We are now fluent in the language of abatement and apology, and we have our “this event has been called off” letters primed and ready for almost any occasion. If today you are embarrassed by Hollywood’s ludicrous pusillanimity, perhaps take a moment to wonder how it was that we got here in the first place, for it seems clear now that these cancellations are not a fluke or an anomaly, but instead the wages of appeasement and under-confidence. Will this be the humiliation that finally wake us up? Unlikely, I’m afraid.
The FBI has ruled that North Korea – probably with some help from China – is behind the hack. The worst part is, there’s nothing much we can do in retaliation because North Korea is a crazy regime with nukes, as John Schindler points out here. If you think this is fun, just wait until Iran gets nukes and can act with impunity. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Most people admire the Greatest Generation for being staunch in the face of evil. But you don’t have to go that far back to see the Western world stand up for something. This sort of surrender is new. When Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini called for the murder of Salman Rushdie for writing a novel, the British government spent millions protecting him and publishers continued publishing his book. During the first Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein was raining scud missiles on Israel, the Israelis refused to bend, even though they reasonably feared that the missiles were tipped with nerve gas. A long-planned symphony concert went ahead as scheduled. Everyone in the audience wore gas masks, but the show went on. Those were credible threats, and democratic leaders stood firm. In America in 2014, in the face of a less credible threat, we just flew the white flag. This sets a terrible precedent that we will pay for for years to come.
Bill Kristol has a sadly fitting quote from a 1978 Harvard speech by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his editorial:
A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.
Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.
Should one point out that from ancient times declining courage has been considered the beginning of the end?
Oh you thought that was it for the week? Think again!
Harvard Law professor says fewer profs are teaching rape law because they’re afraid of upsetting this special snowflake generation of students. Congratulations progressives, you’ve created a generation of illiberal, self-indulgent, ignorant, crybaby students who will become illiberal, self-indulgent, ignorant, crybaby lawyers and judges. Heckuva job.
D.C. public school has students spending class time on what looks like political organizing.
“The public university also held an ‘alternative ceremony’ for those too upset to hear the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist speak, a Saturday event in which a total of five grads took part.” Those five should have their degrees revoked. Imbeciles. If hearing someone speak upsets you, they should put one of those Cheez-It NOT READY check marks on your diploma to let future employers know you are not ready for the real world and should not be hired.
Lefty SJWs vandalize Muslim student’s apartment after he dared to mock trigger warnings in a campus newspaper (which he was then fired from). In other awesome behavior out of the University of Michigan, a department chairwoman has penned a column advising students to hate Republicans.
Marquette University suspends professor, orders him off campus, because he criticized an instructor who refused to allow discussion of anti-gay views in her philosophy of ethics class. By the way, check out Marquette’s “unlawful harassment” training. It’s…special.
Harvard to stop buying SodaStream machines because they’re a ‘micro aggression.’
And that brings us to my new candidate for personal hero: Professor Raney of Oberlin College. Yes, really.
Reminder: Until the standard response when people say “I’m offended by that” is “No one cares” this crap will never end.
Remember that 1-in-5 sexual assault stat? A brand new DOJ study says the actual number is 6-in-1000 and college students are less likely to be assaulted than people not in college. As I say every week, there is no campus rape epidemic.
NYT confirms Romney’s 2012 observation that a significant number of Americans choose not to work. “Deep changes in American society have made it easier for them to live without working.”
Peru says it will sue activists from the environmental pressure group Greenpeace after they placed a banner next to the Nazca Lines heritage site. …He said the Nazca Lines, which are an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 years old, were “absolutely fragile”. “You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years,” he said.
“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” – Mencken
Unbelievable. Ferguson plans to increase city revenue by issuing even more tickets for petty offenses.
“Just how big should the codpieces in Wolf Hall be?” Um, HUGE, duh.
Don’t shout at the terrorists! You might hurt their feelings. Unreal.
This is an awesome idea. Screw the haters.
If we possessed a media when a Democrat is president this would be a juicy story, but we don’t, alas.
CIA interrogator James Mitchell explains what the Left and the media (but I repeat myself) cannot get through their heads about enhanced interrogation. I saw this over and over again in reports last week. Claims that no actionable intelligence was obtained during the EIT sessions, that the detainees only provided information we already knew. Yes, because that’s how it’s supposed to work. You only ask questions you already know the answers to during EIT so you can determine when the detainee has become compliant. When he becomes compliant the EIT stops and the digging for new information begins. As Mitchell explains in the video below, the point is to create a good cop vs. bad cop scenario in which the bad cop (the guy doing the enhanced interrogating) is so bad that the detainee wants to comply with the good cop. It’s also important to note that when people say “X was waterboarded X amount of times,” the amount of times = the number of pours of water, not the number of waterboarding sessions. Eighty 10-second pours of water is different than eighty 20-minute waterboarding sessions. People need to understand that distinction.
Mitchell got his NDA “loosened” over the weekend, so he went into more detail on Megyn Kelly’s show last night (noting that KSM warned him what liberals would do to him) and will be on again tonight, I believe. Stick with the interview until the end. He really opens up at the end and – rightly – goes nuts on Senate Democrats for putting his life in danger.
My thoughts, condensed version:
- The report is a partisan crock. Not a single person from the CIA was interviewed and the report conveniently confirms the Left’s every notion about the CIA. Out of millions of documents, the Democrats cherry picked the few that served their narrative.
- As a rule, we shouldn’t torture but A. It’s arguable whether the enhanced interrogation tactics the CIA used were, in fact, torture. I personally don’t consider waterboarding, being slapped, listening to loud music, etc. to be torture. B. I think most of us would make exceptions in ticking time bomb scenarios…and we need to remember how we felt after 9/11. Ticking time bomb was the constant feeling for our intelligence agencies in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
- The CIA – like all government bureaucracies – is a hot bureaucratic mess that had no business being in the ‘torture’ business and didn’t expect to be. We had shit intel on al Qaeda, KSM, etc. and a shit interrogation apparatus. The post-9/11 fear was real and the CIA was told to come up with something quick and – surprise! – the government fucked it up.
- Congressional oversight of the CIA is necessary. The public disclosure of this report is a political stunt. This is Democrats throwing a tantrum because they got smoked in the midterms. Democrats like Feinstein knew what the CIA was doing. They were briefed on these methods and had no problem at the time.
- While I don’t think torture should be a general policy of the United States, my sympathies for habitual war criminals who tried to murder me are limited…and by limited I mean nonexistent. I don’t feel bad for KSM, Zubaydah, etc. and the Left’s outpouring of empathy for them last week was irritating. The party that enthusiastically supports infanticide is now going to cry because we made the guys responsible for 9/11 sit in uncomfortable positions. Please. They also don’t seem to care if we kill terrorists (and innocents) by raining hellfire from the sky via drone, but get up in arms if we make empty threats about terrorists’ families in order to obtain information. Work on your moral consistency and then get back to me.
- War is ugly and wrong. Torture is ugly and wrong. We live in a world of ugliness and wrong. Moral and ethical lines are crossed in wars. People need to stop clutching their pearls. The CIA was trying to save lives. Human beings are fallible. Mistakes were made. Much as the Democrats would like to paint the CIA as being full of sociopaths who were just licking their chops at the chance to torture some Muslims, that’s not at all the case and you’re an idiot if you believe that.
- As usual, the media insisted on having all the wrong arguments about this. The argument isn’t whether or not torture “works” (spoiler: it does, at least sometimes), it is whether or not we should do it. The argument isn’t whether or not Congress should investigate stuff like this, it’s whether or not information like this – which hurts our allies and our IC – should be made public. Clandestine intelligence agencies sometimes do unsavory things to protect us from evils most cannot even comprehend. That’s why we have them. I care very much what the American government is doing to its own citizens. I care quite a bit less what it’s doing to our enemies. There are some things the world doesn’t need to know. Our allies will be much more hesitant to help us next time. This report has done real harm.
- The CIA isn’t going anywhere…except further underground (which means less transparency) after this. They – rightly – feel burned by Congress who, post-9/11, told them to do whatever it took and are now spanking them for it for purely partisan reasons more than a decade later. I have little doubt we’ll get some juicy revenge leaks in the coming months.
- I think the biggest problem is Americans can’t decide what they want to do and the whipsawing is destructive. We want war, until we don’t; we want IC to take care of business, until we don’t; we want drone strikes, until we don’t. A clear, consistent strategy is impossible when the country disagrees so much on what the problem is and how to solve it. So here we are, in a mess with a clusterfuck of a natsec strategy.
Some must-reads on all of this: IC veteran John Schindler pens an ‘insider’s take’. He explains his overall thoughts and how our interrogation cadre needs to be more like the Israelis':
How Israeli intelligence, specifically their domestic security service, SHABAK, approaches interrogation, is much misunderstood. While SHABAK can employ what outsiders would term torture on occasion, those conditions are tightly controlled by legal authorities: this prevents abuses and, critically, allows interrogators to know they will not face prosecution or banishment, years later, for doing what they were told was legal. But what makes SHABAK interrogators effective is not the threat of physical pressure, rather their professional competence. The most junior Israeli interrogators have completed a rigorous three-year program in psychology and Arabic before they meet their first subject. When I told U.S. senior officers this was the way to go, they gasped and explained this was impossible. Meaning, this was not how the IC likes to do business. (They particularly objected to my mantra: “Interrogation through a translator isn’t interrogation.”) Instead, Americans opted for an ad hoc, somewhat fly-by-night interrogation program, lacking in expertise or language skills, and botched the job — to the surprise only of those who have never seen U.S. intelligence in action.
The salient fact is that, on 9/11, CIA lacked interrogators. That was a messy line of work the Agency had happily run away from after Vietnam, so in 2001 there were no serving officers who had a clue what to do. Indeed, coercive interrogation went deeply against the culture of CIA case officers, for whom getting friendly, if (hopefully) not too friendly, with sources is a requirement. As a result, CIA fobbed this nasty mission off on Agency security types lacking understanding of operations…much less of Arabs, and dumped the rest of the mess on a motley crew of contractors who never had any business falling into this most sensitive line of work.
That said, it is perilously easy to find fault here with people who did their best under most difficult circumstances. I find it noxious that much of the emotional hand-wringing about this comes from people, many of them in Congress, who were happy to sign off on such matters when the danger of terrorism was acute, yet are now happy to throw spooks under the bus when times and administrations have changed.
After the 9/11 attacks, many foreign partners assisted us in our covert fight against terrorism, with the understanding that it would be kept tightly secret. “May we read about you in the newspapers” is a MOSSAD joke-cum-curse for good reason. Now that the SSCI majority has betrayed that trust, I can see no reason why any foreign intelligence agency should believe American promises ever again. Coming on the heels of the Snowden debacle, which rightly raised serious questions about the IC’s ability to keep secrets, this is a grave problem. Without close foreign intelligence partnerships, based on mutual trust and discretion, our ability to protect our country and our interests will be seriously and lastingly degraded.
Thus will CIA remain, largely unreformed. Its foreign partnerships have taken a serious blow, and any operational bias for action, strongly encouraged after 9/11, has evaporated, perhaps for decades. Who, after all, wants to take risks when you might be exposed by an angry Congress a few years down the road? Getting your intelligence services to be risk-averse and ineffective, acting like a very secretive and expensive Department of Motor Vehicles, is an eminently achievable goal, and will be the lasting legacy of the Democrats on the SSCI. Be sure to remember this after the next terrorist “big wedding,” which is sure to come eventually, when Congress seeks scalps to blame for the disaster…My position, which I elaborated long ago, is that torture can be quite effective, but nevertheless is something no civilized country ought to employ. Period. Where easy moralizers see a simple tale of Hitlerian evil in CIA activities after 9/11, I see instead a sad, predictable story of incompetence and severe bureaucratic dysfunction that cries out for reform. A reform that Senate Democrats have now made impossible — until after the next 9/11.
David Harsanyi has a good post on the naked partisanship of this report:
Here’s the story we’re expected to believe: The United States built a worldwide torture network that haphazardly pulled in the innocent and not-so-innocent alike. Some of these suspects were left to rot in prisons for no comprehensible reason whatsoever – well, no reason other than to gratify the sadistic needs of their interrogators. This infrastructure of violence was inexplicably sanctioned by an intelligence apparatus which always lied to civilian higher-ups (who are now, conveniently, free of any culpability) while, in the meantime, they failed to produce meaningful information that might have helped save American lives. Unlikely.
Eric Holder could not find any prosecutable offenses had been committed in the interrogation program after years of investigating…Instead of another round of moral preening, why doesn’t our president release the more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the Senate Select Committee for the past five years? Obama claims that “our most effective tool in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.” I’m not sure how the assassination of a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, by drone comports with these high ideals, but surely the most transparent administration of all-time can allow the public more context on torture. Maybe the program was a moral disaster for the country. Much more likely, the answer is more complicated. Since there will be no threat of criminal prosecutions of those who implemented these programs or those who meted out the interrogations, Democrats only had to worry about the political implications of their presentation. Not justice or the truth.
George Tenet, Michael Hayden and a bunch of other former top CIA officials who weren’t important enough to have their testimony be part of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation told their side of the story in a WSJ piece last week. Read it. Also read Tom Rogan and David French at National Review. Steve Hayes and Tom Joscelyn have a joint piece delving into the specifics of what the report got wrong here. Tom Nichols has a great post over at The Federalist. Here’s an excerpt:
Many advocates of releasing the report rest their case on the “public’s right to know.” This is the shallowest of all rationales. The public already knew, the debate was already exhausted, and the policy was already ended. What the public didn’t know, and didn’t need to know, was the gory details. Alas, we live in a time when people who lack even basic political literacy nonetheless insist on knowing every classified detail of every U.S. operation, even if those operations are over. Why? Because it makes us all feel important and informed to be told the secret, ugly stuff, even as many of us cannot identify which party controls Congress.
The specific recounting of individual cases of torture serves no public interest. It only inflames the public’s morbid imagination, at least for the brief time the public will focus on it. Indeed, if the goal was to change the national news cycle, if only for a week or two, away from the serial disasters of current U.S. foreign policy and instead to return to the liberal comfort zone of re-litigating the policies of the George W. Bush administration, then the Feinstein Report was a terrific success. Beyond that, however, there is no clear policy recommendation attached to any of this except a general caution to “never do this again.”…In my view, however, the “never again” meme is either disingenuous or naïve, and the Feinstein Report will harm, not advance, the cause of intelligence reform.
One thing we know—or should have learned—from the history of U.S. foreign policy is that Americans recoil in horror at stories like this right up until the next attack or atrocity, at which point we inevitably tell our intelligence services to do whatever they must. Our history is to cheer the whistleblowers only temporarily, then to think better of it later. (Don’t believe me? Check your encyclopedia for the entry under “U.S. President Frank Church.”) This belief in “never again” is a cherished liberal fantasy, based on the idea that self-righteous outrage can change human instincts, even the instinct for self-preservation. This is because liberals believe in the essential malleability of human nature; conservatives, more cynical but more realistic, know better.
Robert Tracinski lays out why torture should make limited government types uncomfortable:
For the record, the use of these techniques makes me uncomfortable. But it’s not because I have any sympathy for those on the receiving end. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has no rights we need to be concerned about, and it’s fair to say that his treatment at our hands is better than he deserves. It’s not like we trapped him in a burning skyscraper and forced him to jump to his death, and I’m inclined to think that anything less than that is getting off easy.
What makes me uncomfortable with torture is the fear of establishing a precedent. Experience shows that government will tend to expand its power whenever it is left unchecked. If you let them mistreat one very small category of prisoners, someone will eventually try to apply those techniques to others. But if this is a step down a slippery slope, it’s a very small step, and one that has not in fact led to a plunge down the slope. I think it’s acceptable to take the attitude that the government can get away with this sort of thing in a few very special cases, when the threat is urgent and the public is very angry—but our tolerance will wane quickly as we return to normal times. Which is precisely what happened here, since the “enhanced interrogation” program was ended long ago, under the Bush administration.
So grandstanding about the issue now is somewhat pointless—but not without consequences in the real world. Certainly, the next time we face an emergency like September 11, our allies will be far less inclined to cooperate with us, knowing that they will be left to twist in the wind the moment the emergency has passed. And our intelligence agencies won’t be as inclined to push vigorously to defend us if they know that their own political leaders will eventually betray them and expose them to prosecution for the very policies they approved. Certainly, Democrats can give up on their relationship with the intelligence agencies for another generation. I think it’s good that torture is controversial, and we ought to be uncomfortable with it. But Senate Democrats are dishonestly trying to claim some moral high ground here for the sake of their own political imperatives.
To sum up, I’m on Team CIA.
We live in a dangerous world in which genuinely evil people mean us real harm. Incredibly difficult moral decisions sometimes need to be made and reasonable people can disagree about whether those decisions were right or wrong. But what the Democrats did here was cowardly and pathetic and there will be real world consequences.
This has been my jam lately, but I think the video is stupid so – and I know my male followers will HATE this – here’s the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show performance version: