Did Donald Trump Hire Someone To Bomb New York City And New Jersey? Some People Are Saying He Did.

Just think about it. Donald Trump had a bad day on Friday. He not only got a lot of hyper-negative press for pulling a con on journalists—by pretending he was going to have a press conference and renounce his birtherism when he really used the event to get free publicity for his new hotel and himself—he also got a lot of bad press for launching yet another Big Lie that it was Hillary Clinton who was responsible for the birther movement (a lie his surrogates spent Sunday perpetuating with Goebbels-like intensity; more below). By all measures, it was a bad day and a bad weekend for Trump.

And there was no better way to make everyone forget about birtherism and Trump’s pathological lying—and, of course, look to him for “tough and smart and vigilant” leadership—than to get a shiny new terrorist attack in the news.  And since terrorists didn’t seem to be cooperating, Trump had to do something. He had to act fast. There was no time to lose.

Now, rightly, you should demand to see just what evidence there is to support the claim that Trump may have been involved in the terrorist attacks on Saturday night. Well, I will use a patented Trumpian analysis of the “facts” and list the evidence for you:

  1. Some people are saying Trump was involved.
  2. Trump’s campaign had riled the press on Friday and he was getting a lot of negative coverage, including journalists actually saying, finally, that he was lying about birtherism. Motive.
  3. Before any local official confirmed what had happened Saturday night, Trump stepped off his plane in Colorado and unequivocally stated that “a bomb went off in New York.” How did he know that? How did he know the explosion wasn’t some kind of gas leak that got ignited and not a bomb at all?
  4. The first blast was in Manhattan. Trump lives in Manhattan.
  5. Other explosions happened in New Jersey. Trump once had casinos in New Jersey and admits he has lots of connections there.
  6. A person police say may be involved in the bombings is a naturalized citizen originally from Afghanistan who now lives in New Jersey. That fits nicely, so nicely, into Trump’s narrative about why we should be scared of all such people.
  7. Dotrump-and-terror-suspecdtnald Trump said almost exactly a year ago—coincidence?—the following to CNN’s Jake Tapper: “I have friends that are Muslims.” Was one of his friends the bomber (or bombers) in New York and New Jersey? Some people are saying they might be.
  8. In December of last year Trump said, “Many Muslim friends of mine are in agreement with me. They say, ‘Donald, you brought something up to the fore that is so brilliant and so fantastic.'” What could be more brilliant and fantastic than a terrorist attack executed just in time to change Trump’s negative coverage on the campaign trail?
  9. Again in December of last year he said, “I have been called by more Muslims saying what you are doing is a great thing, not a bad thing. Believe it or not, I have a lot of friends that are Muslim, and they call me…” So, Trump has admitted he talks to a lot of Muslims. Did he talk to the bomber or bombers in New York and New Jersey? Somewhere, some people are saying he may have.
  10. Trump recently had killing on his mind when he suggested we take the guns away from Hillary Clinton’s security detail and, “Let’s see what happens to her.”

In addition to this “evidence,” we can also see that the Trump campaign, as mentioned, has resorted to keeping alive a Big Lie about Hillary Clinton starting the birther movement, a lie so big and brazen that it would make Joseph Goebbels blush. To remind you, Goebbels was Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda. He famously said,

The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

Just look at the Big Lie repeated on Sunday by some of Trump’s top propagandists:

♦ Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, told Face the Nation: “This started with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, number one. Number two, it was Donald Trump who put the issue to rest when he got President Obama to release his birth certificate years later…”

♦ CNN’s Jake Tapper tried to correct the record with Chris Christie, the biggest Trump hack in the country:

TAPPER: Just as a point of fact, Donald Trump did not accept when Barack Obama released his birth certificate in 2011. He kept up this whole birther thing until Friday, that’s five years.

CHRISTIE: That’s just not true. It’s just not true that he kept it up for five years.

TAPPER: Sure he did.

CHRISTIE: It’s just not true.

TAPPER: It is true.

CHRISTIE: No, Jake. It wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis until then. And when the issue was raised, he made very clear the other day what he position is.

WORN OUT TAPPER: Okay.

♦ Finally, there was the chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus. He said on Face the Nation:

People get convicted every single day with circumstantial evidence that is enough to tip the scale. And by the preponderance of evidence before us, Hillary Clinton or her campaign were definitely involved in this issue. We can’t keep saying it’s not true. That’s ridiculous.

As you can see, Trump and his campaign officials and surrogates (and many conservative media outlets) are willing to employ propaganda techniques in the Goebbels style, “even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

Let’s be clear: Every journalist in the country knows that Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with the birther movement. In fact, the Trump campaign, accidentally, proved she had nothing to do with it when it released a transcript of an interview with Clinton’s 2008 campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle. She said that either a volunteer or a paid staffer forwarded “an email that promoted the conspiracy” and that Hillary Clinton “made the decision immediately to let that person go.” Immediately. She didn’t need five years.

And that would be the end of the Hillary-started-it lie in any other universe except a Trump-Goebbels one. And if Trump and his campaign are willing to use such appalling Reich-like tactics, who could put it past them to hire a bomber or two in New York and New Jersey as a way of changing the subject? Let me paraphrase Priebus:

People get convicted every single day with circumstantial evidence that is enough to tip the scale. And by the preponderance of evidence before us, Donald Trump or his campaign were definitely involved in the terrorist attacks in New York and New Jersey. We can’t keep saying it’s not true. That’s ridiculous.

I want to end this piece of Trumpish speculation with something Vin Weber—a former GOP congressman from Minnesota and once a top adviser to then-Speaker Newt Gingrich—said to Jonathan Martin of The New York Times about Donald Trump:

It’s frightening. Our politics, because of him, is descending to the level of a third-world country. There’s just nothing beneath him. And I don’t know why we would think he would change if he became president. That’s what’s really scary.

“There’s just nothing beneath him,” says a fellow Republican. Case closed.

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Their Father Taught Them Well

Some of us wonder what makes people, appearing to be drunk on religious faith, to kill others in the name of their religion. We wonder how someone starts out their day thinking, “This is the day the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad and in it—and kill infidels.”

It’s easy for Western Christians, particularly Christian Right blowhards here in the United States, to point to Muslims, at least those who terrorize others in the name of Islam, and say there is something inherently wrong with that religious tradition, that its unique Quranic theology endorses, indeed, encourages, violence against both non-Muslims and against those Muslims who deviate from a certain fundamentalist form of Islam. Even decidedly non-Christians like Bill Maher, commenting on the terrorist attacks in Paris, says of Islam:

When there are that many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.

Yes. There is something wrong. There is something wrong with the orchard of Islam. And what is wrong is in the soil.

But the ground from which the Islamic orchard blossomed also produced Judaism, with its murderous excesses chronicled in the Old Testament. And it also produced Christianity, with its murderous excesses recorded in secular history books. The soil in which the roots of these three monotheistic religious orchards have thrived—remember: Islam embraces the Bible, too, calling the Quran “a confirmation of” and “a fuller explanation of the Book”—has been poisoned by the same toxic idea, an idea found first in the Book of Genesis:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.

Every warrior for Yahweh, every soldier for Christ, every jihadist for Allah, could point to the idea found in that passage and, with a certain state of mind, find a justification for killing the wicked, the faithless, and the infidel in the name of God.

Or they could turn to another episode in Genesis where God destroyed two populated cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their imputed sin and wickedness.

The Massacre of the Innocents - Nicolas PoussinOr they could turn to the Book of Exodus and learn how God punished the Egyptians for the sins of their leader. Their punishment, among other things, was the killing of innocents, the firstborn sons of all Egyptians, of their slaves, even of their cattle.

Or they could turn to the Book of Numbers and learn of the slaughter of the Midianites, whose alleged sins amounted to their women having sex with the men of Israel, which then caused those men to worship the “false God” of the Midianites, which then meant the men were disloyal to the One True God. Moses ordered the death of every Midianite—man, woman, and child—and confiscated their wealth.

After that orgy of inspired violence and murder and plunder—there is plenty more, of course—it is rather easy for a zealous and disturbed mind to find a book-based justification for killing in the name of God, or Allah. All that is required is to determine just who are the wicked, the faithless, and the infidels.

Unfortunately for the world today, there are a few groups of armed extremists who have so determined, and thus are endeavoring to carry on a tradition recorded on the pages of an ancient book, the same book that conservative American Christians proudly tote to church with them every Sunday, a book that both Christians and Muslims believe is the Word of God.

Karma, Meet Glenn Greenwald

How ironic it is that Glenn Greenwald has found himself the victim of what he calls “distortions.” Not too long ago, Greenwald was one of those who encouraged the slander of Sam Harris as a “genocidal fascist maniac” for something Harris wrote that was, in my view, misrepresented and distorted. Today Greenwald himself is complaining about being misunderstood, as people read and interpret his latest anti-anti-terrorism piece (“CANADA, AT WAR FOR 13 YEARS, SHOCKED THAT ‘A TERRORIST’ ATTACKED ITS SOLDIERS”) published on his website The Intercept.

Writing about the death of a Canadian soldier on Monday, who, along with another soldier, was deliberately struck by a car driven by a convert to Islam, Greenwald said:

If you want to be a country that spends more than a decade proclaiming itself at war and bringing violence to others, then one should expect that violence will sometimes be directed at you as well. Far from being the by-product of primitive and inscrutable religions, that behavior is the natural reaction of human beings targeted with violence. Anyone who doubts that should review the 13-year orgy of violence the U.S. has unleashed on the world since the 9/11 attack, as well as the decades of violence and interference from the U.S. in that region prior to that.

If you think that sounds like Greenwald is justifying the attack on two Canadian soldiers, you are not alone. But Greenwald attempted to cover himself:

The issue here is not justification (very few people would view attacks on soldiers in a shopping mall parking lot to be justified). The issue is causation. Every time one of these attacks occurs — from 9/11 on down — Western governments pretend that it was just some sort of unprovoked, utterly “senseless” act of violence caused by primitive, irrational, savage religious extremism inexplicably aimed at a country innocently minding its own business. They even invent fairy tales to feed to the population to explain why it happens: they hate us for our freedoms.

I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether Greenwald adequately insulated himself from claims that he was blaming the Canadian government for not only the attack on Monday, but by extension the attacks yesterday on Canada’s National War Memorial and its Parliament, attacks that coincidentally occurred shortly after Greenwald published his controversial article. But given Greenwald’s willingness to distort the arguments of others, readers are not obliged to give him the benefit of the doubt. Referring to the attack on the Canadian soldiers, he wrote:

Except in the rarest of cases, the violence has clearly identifiable and easy-to-understand causes: namely, anger over the violence that the country’s government has spent years directing at others. The statements of those accused by the west of terrorism, and even the Pentagon’s own commissioned research, have made conclusively clear what motivates these acts: namely, anger over the violence, abuse and interference by Western countries in that part of the world, with the world’s Muslims overwhelmingly the targets and victims. The very policies of militarism and civil liberties erosions justified in the name of stopping terrorism are actually what fuels terrorism and ensures its endless continuation.

I’ll let Greenwald in on a secret that most of the civilized world is coming to know: there are violent Islamist extremists, whether primitive or not, whether irrational or not, whether savage or not, who want to kill Westerners simply for being greenwald on twitterWesterners. And Greenwald has become a man at war with those who think that doing something about those violent Islamist extremists is a bad thing, in fact a thing that is perpetuating terrorism.

Greenwald acts as if the terrorists would stop being terrorists if the West walked away from its responsibility to protect itself and others, including Muslims who are most victimized by militant religious extremism, either by death or oppression. He lashes out at the West’s “rage and demand for still more actions of militarism and freedom-deprivation,” while mostly ignoring the actions of militarism and freedom-deprivation done by Islamists who want to establish a theocratic state. He speaks of “the 13-year orgy of violence the U.S. has unleashed on the world since the 9/11 attack” without distinguishing between the just attempt to pursue the 9/11 killers in Afghanistan and the misguided war in Iraq. He mocks what he calls “the standard Churchillian war rhetoric about the noble fight against evil,” as if there is no evil to fight.

But there is evil to fight. And people like Greenwald make it harder to fight it.

Apple Just Made The World Safer For Terrorists

Has it become un-American to want to catch the bad guys? Think hard about this lede from a Washington Post story titled, “Apple will no longer unlock most iPhones, iPads for police, even with search warrants“:

Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.

I would guess that bit of news warms the hearts of terrorists everywhere, not to mention other criminals who can now avail themselves of the latest technology knowing there is a greatly reduced risk of getting caught via the use of smartphones. Apple, and no doubt other tech companies will follow its lead, couldn’t help the good guys even if it wanted to. To hell with law enforcement, we Americans demand our privacy!

Or do we? We routinely give corporations, like Google and Facebook, lots and lots of information about ourselves, which they use to make money. Most people don’t think twice about sharing that information. And once it is in the hands of these non-government entities that exploit our generosity, then we no longer have control of it. And we do all of this voluntarily.

Yet, many people almost lost their minds, not to mention their faith in good government, when it was revealed, through illegal leaks by Edward Snowden, that the National Security Agency was conducting electronic surveillance and going to court to force tech companies to turn over data that might help take the terror out of terrorism. I argued with some of those people on this blog. One would have thought all hope for the future was lost just because the government was doing what it is supposed to do: helping to protect us against bad people.

It is certainly true that since the dawn of smartphones, more than five years ago, people have increasingly used them to store all sorts of information, some of it intensely private. And it is certainly true that Americans should expect such information to remain invisible to government eyes, unless there is a compelling reason to examine it. The Supreme Court earlier this year rightly decided that the police had to have a search warrant to gather data from mobile devices. Now, after Apple’s announcement, that ruling will soon be as out-of-date as, well, landline phones. Ten thousand court orders won’t do any good. Apple has blinded itself and done so on purpose. And its inability to see means the government can’t see either:

Ronald T. Hosko, the former head of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, called the move by Apple “problematic,” saying it will contribute to the steady decrease of law enforcement’s ability to collect key evidence — to solve crimes and prevent them. The agency long has publicly worried about the “going dark” problem, in which the rising use of encryption across a range of services has undermined government’s ability to conduct surveillance, even when it is legally authorized.

“Our ability to act on data that does exist . . . is critical to our success,” Hosko said. He suggested that it would take a major event, such as a terrorist attack, to cause the pendulum to swing back toward giving authorities access to a broad range of digital information.

Given what Apple has done, it is hard to see how that pendulum can swing back. The world is now a lot safer for the bad guys, especially terrorists who use smartphones for recruitment and planning attacks. Those wonderful little devices we all carry around with us are now, for a select few, much better weapons than ever.

isis phone

Remarks And Asides

The most poignant post-bin Laden comment I’ve heard so far came from the sister of a woman killed on 9/11. She was glad that the last thing Osama bin Laden saw on this earth was an American bringing justice.

__________________________________

There seemed to be four threads running through the otherwise crow-eating conservative commentary on Monday: 

♦ Obama shouldn’t have given bin Laden a short Muslim send-off into the depths of the Arabian Sea.

All I can say is that ceremonies for the dead, however small, are for the living, not the dead.  And since no matter what we did with his corpse, it wouldn’t please the Muslim extremists or the conservative ones, why not feed him to the tuna?  Who knows, someday part of him may end up in a tuna casserole on the table of Ayman al-Zawahri.  Yum, yum.

♦ George Bush was the real hero of the day.

If you listened to some right-wingers on Monday, including Republican presidential hopefuls, you would have thought that George Bush ordered SEAL Team Six into Pakistan to kill bin Laden.

Forget for a moment, if you can, that 9/11 occurred on Bush’s watch.

And forget that Bush reportedly told the operative who brought him the pre-9/11 memo titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S.,” the following: “All right, you’ve covered your ass now.” 

And forget that Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s Defense Secretary, and General Tommy Franks, who led the attacks in both Afghanistan and Iraq, had a chance to get bin Laden at Tora Bora before he escaped, but, in the words of Peter Bergen, committed “one of the greatest military blunders in recent history” by failing to do so.  By the way, both of these gentlemen were guests on Fox on Monday night and neither was asked about their blunder.

In any case, forget all that stuff but remember that George Bush famously said about bin Laden in 2002 that, “I truly am not that concerned about him.”  

He demonstrated that by invading Iraq.

♦ Torture works.

Despite conservative claims, there is no hard evidence that torturing prisoners led to the killing of bin Laden.  Khaled Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times without coughing up the real names of any of bin Laden’s couriers. In the end, it involved tedious intelligence work to discover who the relevant courier was, but speaking of torture:

♦ Bin Laden is in hell.

If hell is located at the bottom of the North Arabian Sea then, yes, he is in hell.  Otherwise, he’s just dead.

The Death Of American Pessimism?

As I sit and watch the large crowd of Americans—mostly young folks—gather outside the White House this Sunday night, waving our flag and chanting,”USA! USA!,” I am thinking how sweetly ironic it is that the final order to kill the arch enemy of not only the United States, but of all Western civilization, Osama bin Laden, came from an embattled American president named Barack Hussein Obama.

Mr. Obama, who has been accused by his most vulgar political adversaries of harboring sympathy for the cause of the terrorists, said on Sunday night:

On September 11th, 2001 in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country.

On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family…

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people…

The cause of securing our country is not complete.  But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to.  That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things, not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Those gathered outside the White House, their numbers swelling even as I write, aren’t celebrating an Obama victory or a Bush victory or even a stunning, if long-awaited, military victory.  In these days of waning confidence in the primacy of our nation, they are celebrating a victory of the American character.

Perhaps it is believing too much that with the death of Osama bin Laden we will have the death of what has become a troubling American pessimism.  Polls show that Americans have lost confidence in their country, many thinking the nation is in decline.  Not only do most people believe we are on the wrong economic track, despite evidence to the contrary, many mistakenly think China is the world’s number one economy, even though it isn’t even close. 

Many on both the left and right believe the American Dream is dead.

My sixteen-year-old son—who was in the first grade when we began hunting Osama bin Laden—came into my office on Sunday night, before I even knew what was going on, and ask me if something had happened to bin Laden.  He had heard some reference to him while watching his television and he seemed uncharacteristically interested in the news that was about to break.  “Let me know when the President comes on,” he demanded.

It would soon occur to me that along with all those young faces celebrating outside the White House and elsewhere, my son had grown up with the fact that Osama bin Laden had eluded the mighty—perhaps the once-mighty—United States. That no matter how hard we had tried to get him, he remained at large, outside our grasp, free to continue terrorizing the civilized world.  My son hadn’t really known an America that could claim a triumph, either at home or abroad.

And, thankfully, tonight he would know that America. Tonight there was reason to celebrate not so much the death of Osama bin Laden but, irony of ironies, the possible resurrection of the American spirit.

The Magic Kingdom Of Conservatism

You’re sailing softly through the sun in a broken Stone Age dawn. You fly so high, I get a strange magic.

Oh, what a strange magic.

—Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra

Bill Maher made an interesting observation about the difference between conservatives here in America and those across the Atlantic in the land of our Founder’s fathers:

…they just had an election two weeks ago and, power changed hands — but the party that lost is working WITH the part that won — they are not accusing them of being Bolshevik Zulus out to destroy the Magna Carta. Because the English are grown ups, including their conservatives who enjoy a wonderful luxury that conservatives on this side of the pond do not. They’re allowed to be sane. They don’t have to pander to creationists and anti-intellectuals. Only in this dumb country do liberals and conservatives argue over things like “evolution” and “climate change” and whether “sick people should be left to die in the street.”

Maher also pointed out that conservatives in America “tend to believe in magical ideas“:

America is never wrong; you can defeat terrorism militarily; and lower taxes will somehow fix the deficit. And I’m not even mentioning the stuff about how Jesus used to fly around on a pterodactyl and just hated it when homos ate wedding cake.

Now, no matter what you think about Maher’s brand of humor, there is something odd about the current iteration of conservative philosophy, as expressed by right-wing media and echoed by Republican politicians all across the country.

It does sort of have a strange magical quality to it. 

We can wave our tax-cutting wand, and jobs will come back, the deficit will diminish, and our debt will soon disappear.  

We can talk mean and nasty to the rest of the world, and then we can pull a rabbit of peace out of a hat.

We can build a magic wall, and our immigration problems will vanish.

We can elect Tea Party sorcerers to the Congress, and they will restore Lady Liberty—who Obama has cut in half—to her original state.

Oh, what a strange magic.

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