2017-06-18

The Rally

So, I went to the June 4 rally at Terry Schrunk Plaza in Portland.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1927691894133941/

Short version first: It was an amazing experience. I saw Andy there, and finally got to meet Athena and Leo and a number of other local people that I'd only interacted with online. Marco and Harim came up from Cali and I got my picture taken with Harim. A street preacher talked about sin and forgiveness, and a trans activist stomped on a communist flag. This big, friendly Polynesian guy named Tiny started the whole thing off with a warrior dance.

The folks on the other side tried to make trouble for us, but they didn't even make a dent. The Portland police did a good job of keeping order. I had been a bit apprehensive about the event, and didn't decide until the last minute that I was going to go at all. But it was incredible, energizing, and a great chance to build bonds with people I hadn't met before but needed to.

I've already posted (without much context) a few pictures from the event. I'll have more to say soon, both about the rally itself and events leading up to it. But I've had a super busy day and I need to be turning in soon.

Originally posted here: http://asher63.livejournal.com/653076.html

UPDATE: The Federalist has photos.

2017-06-17

Trump

The people who formed a caricatured, cartoon-villain image of Trump based on his persona are deeply invested in their perception. At stake is the validity of their whole system for categorizing people based on speech, mannerisms, and other markers of "sophistication". Threaten this, and a whole world-view comes crashing down in ruins.

Religion and Politics

Maybe you think my religion is stupid. That's fine - sometimes I think my religion is stupid too.

I like being free to explore, question, and re-affirm my beliefs from one day to the next. I love being able to discuss and debate these things with others without fear. One of the great achievements of Western civilization has been the creation of a broad cultural consensus, enshrined in law but deeply rooted in hard-won social norms, that makes possible the free and open discussion of matters of faith without fear of reprisal or persecution.

We are in danger of losing this.

No one will be burned at the stake or imprisoned for attacking Christianity in any Western country. Well and good. But today's self-styled "liberals" who are so proud of their indifference to Jewish and Christian doctrine will bend over backwards to defend Islam against any perceived slight, and to smear and silence those who critique the Muslim faith.

I am under no moral obligation to have a good opinion of Islam, and I don't. Maybe I'm wrong, and you're certainly welcome to debate me on the matter; but I reserve the right to form my own opinion. That doesn't mean that I'm blind to the fact that there are people who are fine, beautiful human beings, and also devout Muslims. It does mean that I'm capable of judging individual human beings by their character - and also of forming judgments about the belief systems that influence the behavior of millions of people.

On my coffee table at this very moment sits a slim, attractively bound paperback titled 'Tolerance: The Beacon of the Enlightenment'. Edited and translated by Caroline Warman and others, it's an anthology of the founding texts of the European Enlightenment.

The book was conceived and produced in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders as a tribute to the highest ideals of the French Republic. A far nobler and more constructive gesture than lighting candles and posting "Je Suis Charlie" on social media - and yet, still tragic. Because in the end, the jihadis unequivocally won. Charlie Hebdo continued publishing, but never again dared incur Muslim wrath with cartoons of Mohammed.

"Can Islam be reformed?" This is a question asked by many well-meaning Westerners. Personally I think it is only answerable by the Muslim world as a whole. Whether Muslims "reform" their religion or abandon it altogether is of no concern to me; what I care about is the practical outcome.

I do not entirely understand the solicitude of Western non-Muslim liberals for the well-being of Islam. They want to defend it from criticism and even save it from itself. It's almost as if, having abandoned church and synagogue themselves, they remain in the grip of an unacknowledged craving for religion.

What I do know is that I care about my relationship with the Creator and with the sacred tradition that I (however imperfectly) follow. I care about the freedom to use my gift of reason to investigate the meaning of the Scriptures and the findings of science. I care about living in a world where people treat one another with the kindness and dignity befitting beings made in the image of G-d.


Originally posted here: http://asher63.livejournal.com/655133.html

Senate Democrats Snub Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani

Andy Ngo in the New York Times:

On Wednesday, Democratic senators appeared to ignore Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani after they gave brief testimonies on the ideology of Islamism at a U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing, sparking a social media outcry.

It was the first time a Senate hearing was devoted to discussing the ideas motivating both violent and nonviolent Islamist movements around the world, but, through a strategy of deflection and demonization, the Democratic senators — mostly women — ignored the scholarly and lived expertise of Hirsi Ali and Nomani.

Viewers in the Twittersphere took immediate notice as they watched the live stream on C-SPAN. ...

Go to the link for the rest. Great reporting by Portland's Andy Ngo, who clearly has gone on to bigger and better things since leaving the Vanguard.

2017-06-08

US vs Iran in Syria

Nicholas Blanford at CSM (via Jonathan Spyer):
US-backed forces announced Tuesday that they had begun the long-awaited assault on the northeastern Syrian city of Raqqa, the so-called Islamic State's main stronghold in the country and its self-declared capital.

But some 170 miles to the south, in a remote corner of Syria’s southeastern desert, another clash is brewing that is pitting the strategic objectives of the United States against those of Iran, and that could soon bring US troops and Iranian-backed forces into direct military confrontation.

Both US and Russian warplanes have been deployed, and some shots have already been fired, including by US-backed coalition forces on Tuesday, the US military said.

The clash is over a military garrison at Tanf, located near a border crossing on a highway that cuts through hundreds of miles of flat desert. It was captured from jihadist forces more than a year ago and is being used by US Special Forces and allies to train Syrian militias to fight ISIS, which controls territory to the northeast. ...
Read the rest at the link.

2017-06-07

Andy Ngo on Free Speech in Portland


Andy Ngo in Conservative Review:

After Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler referred to two upcoming conservative political rallies as “alt-right demonstrations” peddling “hatred and bigotry,” the event organizers are pushing back.

“I am calling on the federal government to immediately revoke the permit(s) they have issued for the June 4th event and to not issue a permit for June 10th,” Wheeler wrote on Twitter. He cited the deadly knife attack police say was carried out by suspect Jeremy Christian, a homeless man with a violent criminal history, as reason for the proposed free-speech bans.

The ACLU of Oregon also weighed in on the controversy, pointing out that Wheeler’s call for censorship is unconstitutional. ...

Read the rest at the link. More on the rally to follow soon.

2017-05-12

The Right to Openly Discuss Ideas Must Be Defended

2017-05-09

Jonathan Spyer on Syria


https://jonathanspyer.com/2017/05/09/assads-hollow-crown/

The old city was tense, behind a veneer of strained normality. There were checkpoints every hundred meters or so. These were maintained not by the army, but by the National Defense Force (NDF), an Iranian-sponsored paramilitary force created to fill the gap presented by the Assad regime’s lack of loyal manpower. Young men mostly, with a sprinkling of older types and a very few girls. Supervised by Mukhabarat officers with pistols in their belts. They were suspicious of foreigners. There had already been a number of suicide attacks by members of the jihadi organizations in regime-controlled areas.

For the most part, though, the atmosphere of strained normality held. Undoubtedly, fear of the regime played its part in the exaggerated professions of loyalty and love for Bashar that one would hear. But there was also justified fear of the Islamist rebels, and what their advance would mean. And, of course, there was mainly fatigue, and the desire of people to live in their own private circle, and willingness to cope with any governing authority which appeared able to provide for that. The Syrian pound had plummeted in value since the start of the war – from 48 pounds to the US dollar in March 2011 to 625 to the dollar now. There were long queues each morning to buy subsidized bread at the state bakeries. The traffic was on the roads, the shops were open, pictures of the dictator and his family were everywhere. But all was far flimsier and more brittle than it initially appeared.

I should explain first of all how I came to be in Damascus. I have been writing about Syria now for over a decade. I have visited the country numerous times since the outbreak of its civil war in mid-2011. My visits, though, were always to the areas controlled by the Sunni Arab rebels or the Kurdish separatist forces. This was a notable gap in my coverage. I wanted to remedy it. ...

Read the rest at the link. At JS's Facebook page, here is the 'Aleppo is in our eyes' billboard.

2017-05-08

Portland's Riot Problam

Bill Currier (Chairman of the Oregon Republican Party) at The Oregonian:

On Monday [May Day], protesters all over the world marched on behalf of world socialism, communism, and a bunch of other causes popular with the political left. In Portland, they rioted. To be fair, many protesters did not riot, but the ones who did showed that they rule the streets of Portland. The rioters were clad in black with scarves covering their faces, burning things, breaking windows, damaging property, and terrorizing afternoon commuters just trying to get home.

In other words, it was a Parade for Rioters. ...

Chadwick Moore at Portland State University

Via my friend and fellow Viking Andy Ngo, here is gay activist turned free speech activist Chadwick Moore at PSU:
https://www.facebook.com/AndyCuongNgo/videos/10106927703987496/


2017-04-09

US Airstrike on Syria

Stratfor:
The United States has opted to send a message to the Syrian government that it will not tolerate chemical weapons attacks. Washington launched approximately 50-70 precision-guided missiles April 6 at the Shayrat air base. The base, located southeast of Homs city, houses the two squadrons of Syria's Su-22 ground attack aircraft that carried out the April 4 attack in northern Syria — an attack that killed at least 88 civilians.
U.S. President Donald Trump said the targeted strikes were in the "vital national security interest" of the United States. He gave the statement at Mar-a-Lago, where he is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later said in a statement that Russia failed in its 2013 promise to dispose of the Syrian government's chemical weapons, saying that Moscow was either incompetent or complicit. Syrian state media responded to the U.S. strikes, called them an act of aggression. ...
Lee Smith at the Standard:

...That is, the Trump administration enforced the redline against the use of chemical weapons that the previous White House ignored. Further, by citing the possible "spread" of those unconventional arms, Trump was alluding to the organization that is the likeliest recipient of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal—Hezbollah, Iran's praetorian guard in the eastern Mediterranean. ...
Genevieve Casagrande at ISW:
The U.S strike against an Assad regime base in northern Syria on April 6, 2017 opened the door to a reorientation of American strategy in the Middle East. President Trump’s action could reset the terms of America’s confrontation of other hostile states, such as North Korea. President Trump may be shifting away from a narrow focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) as the strategic priority in Syria and toward a new approach. It remains unclear whether he will take additional action against the Assad regime, but his statement after the strike appeared to signal an emerging anti-Assad policy. Responses from major international powers and key regional actors indicate that these parties perceive the strike represents a possible strategic inflection rather than an isolated incident. President Trump has the opportunity to exploit the effects of his limited action to pursue America’s strategic goals.
Regional actors responded as if a wider American reorientation against Assad is possible. Traditional U.S. partners in the region like Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported the strike. Turkey also praised the strike and called for additional U.S. action against the Assad regime. These reactions indicate that the strike created an opportunity for President Trump to repair America’s relationships with traditional partners, which had begun to reorient toward Russia or to act unilaterally in dangerous ways in the absence of American leadership. European states under Russian pressure also supported the strike ...

2017-04-02

World Today: 2017-04-02 Sunday

Russia:  Navalny-inspired protests more widespread than expected.  Economist:
And yet on March 26th, 17 years to the day after Mr Putin was first elected, tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in nearly 100 cities to demonstrate against corruption, in the largest protests since 2012.The protests began in Vladivostok and rolled across the country to Moscow and St Petersburg, which saw the largest crowds. Riot police arrested more than 1,000 people in Moscow alone. ... The marches came in response to a call from Aleksei Navalny, an opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner who wants to run for president next year. Despite the government’s crackdown on activism, Mr Navalny has doggedly continued publishing exposés of corruption on social networks and YouTube, and expanding his volunteer organisation. His latest target is Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister.
Stratfor

There will be more demonstrations this weekend in Russia, following protests last week that were the largest in five years. As details emerge about the demonstrations and their organizers, a new picture of Russian discontent is materializing. Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin is choosing to respond with crackdowns rather than by addressing the underlying issues causing the dissent.  Last weekend's protests were organized by opposition heavyweight Alexei Navalny, who traveled through half a dozen Russian cities to promote his anti-corruption campaigns against Kremlin elites....

Both articles cite the broader geographic range of this year's protests as compared to previous years, the focus on corruption and economic issues, the role of social media, and the youth of the participants.

Africa / USA:  Security issues likely to dominate Africa relations under Trump.   Reed Kramer at AllAfrica:  'On 30 March, the Pentagon announced President Donald Trump's approval of revised combat rules for U.S. forces fighting the Al Queada-affiliated Al Shabaab in Somalia, reducing protections for civilians as the U.S. military launches an intensified assault in east Africa. Earlier this month, the White House announced a budget blueprint that includes a $54 billion rise in overall military spending, alongside deep cuts for the State Department and international assistance.'  Kramer also notes that White House National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster has chosen Rudolph Atallah to be the National Security Council's Senior Director for Africa.

Germany:  Government probes suspected Turkish spy network.  Patrick Poole at PJM reports that investigations into the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) reveal Turkish intelligence activities through Turkish-controlled mosques in Germany.  German authorities have raided the homes of DTIB officials.

History:  US enters the Great War.  One hundred years ago, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.

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