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April 2018

Sweden’s War on Free Speech by Judith Bergman

Apparently, turning in fellow Swedes to the authorities for alleged “hate speech” is now viewed in Sweden as “heroic”.

“One can criticize fascism or Nazism, but why not Islam? Why should Islam have any protection status?” — Denny, a 71-year-old pensioner, on trial for “incitement to hatred”.

Instead of using its limited resources to protect its citizens against the violent onslaught against them, Sweden is waging a legal war on its pensioners for daring to speak out against the same violent onslaught from which the state is failing to protect them.

According to the Swedish mainstream media, the country has experienced a significant rise in prosecutions for “hate speech” on social media

last year. The organization believed to be largely responsible for this rise is “Näthatsgranskaren” (“The Web Hate Investigator”), a private organization founded in January 2017 by a former police officer, Tomas Åberg, who has taken it upon himself to identify and report to the authorities Swedish individuals whom he and his organization decide are committing thought crimes and “inciting hatred” against foreigners.

Åberg’s organization reported no fewer than 750 Swedish citizens in 2017 to the authorities for “web hate”. According to Aftonbladet, 14% of the reported cases went on to prosecution of which about 7% — 77 cases — led to actual convictions. Most of the people identified and reported by the organization were middle aged and elderly ladies. “The average age is around 55 years”, said Åberg, “Young women almost do not appear at all”.

Donald Trump, Tragic Hero By Victor Davis Hanson

His very flaws may be his strengths

The very idea that Donald Trump could, even in a perverse way, be heroic may appall half the country. Nonetheless, one way of understanding both Trump’s personal excesses and his accomplishments is that his not being traditionally presidential may have been valuable in bringing long-overdue changes in foreign and domestic policy.

Tragic heroes, as they have been portrayed from Sophocles’ plays (e.g., Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Philoctetes) to the modern western film, are not intrinsically noble. Much less are they likeable. Certainly, they can often be obnoxious and petty, if not dangerous, especially to those around them. These mercurial sorts never end well — and on occasion neither do those in their vicinity. Oedipus was rudely narcissistic, Hombre’s John Russell (Paul Newman) arrogant and off-putting.

Tragic heroes are loners, both by preference and because of society’s understandable unease with them. Ajax’s soliloquies about a rigged system and the lack of recognition accorded his undeniable accomplishments are Trumpian to the core — something akin to the sensational rumors that at night Trump is holed up alone, petulant, brooding, eating fast food, and watching Fox News shows.

Outlaw leader Pike Bishop (William Holden), in director Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, is a killer whose final gory sacrifice results in the slaughter of the toxic General Mapache and his corrupt local Federales. A foreboding Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), of John Ford’s classic 1956 film The Searchers, alone can track down his kidnapped niece. But his methods and his recent past as a Confederate renegade make him suspect and largely unfit for a civilizing frontier after the expiration of his transitory usefulness. These characters are not the sorts that we would associate with Bob Dole, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, or Mitt Romney.

The tragic hero’s change of fortune — often from good to bad, as Aristotle reminds us — is due to an innate flaw (hamartia), or at least in some cases an intrinsic and usually uncivilized trait that can be of service to the community, albeit usually expressed fully only at the expense of the hero’s own fortune. The problem for civilization is that the creation of those skill sets often brings with it past baggage of lawlessness and comfortability with violence. Trump’s cunning and mercurialness, honed in Manhattan real estate, global salesmanship, reality TV, and wheeler-dealer investments, may have earned him ostracism from polite Washington society. But these talents also may for a time be suited for dealing with many of the outlaws of the global frontier.

The Real Investigation By Andrew C. McCarthy

President Trump now has real legal peril. The potential jeopardy stems from the investigation that came to light this week when the FBI conducted raids on the office and residences of his lawyer and self-professed “fixer,” Michael Cohen.

I’ve never thought “collusion with Russia” posed jeopardy. If there had been anything criminal to that storyline, the politicized anti-Trump factions in the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies would have leaked it. And, notwithstanding Trump’s nauseating nods to Putin, the administration has taken enough aggressive steps against Russia that it is past time for the Kremlin to broadcast the big kompromat file if it exists.

I’ve also never thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s other known angle, obstruction, posed a great risk. There is a line between foolishness and crime. For important policy reasons, a president should not weigh in with the FBI director on the merits of investigating a friend and political ally; and it would be better if he did not make personnel moves that could be perceived as efforts to influence witnesses or affect the course of an investigation. But as long as a president’s actions — e.g., firing the FBI director, discussing the possibility of pardons — are on their face legal and within his legitimate constitutional authority, I do not believe they can validly predicate an obstruction prosecution. (In theory, they could be grist for impeachment, which involves a political inquiry into abuse of power, not a legal proceeding to establish the essential elements of a statutory crime.)

The matter now under investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), however, is a very live criminal investigation. Anyone potentially connected to it should be worried.

Much of the commentary about the SDNY investigation puts the cart before the horse. When Cohen’s law office, hotel residence, and home were searched pursuant to court-approved warrants this week, there were howls about a purportedly unconscionable violation of the attorney–client privilege. As I pointed out in the aftermath, however, whether this was an egregious constitutional affront or textbook investigative rigor depends on (a) exactly what was under investigation and (b) whether the materials sought from Cohen were, in fact, privileged attorney–client communications.

The Left gets even sicker By Richard Baehr

Every time you think the left could not possibly sink any lower, you get proof they can. Here is a Canadian woman “journalist”, concerned that the contributions to families of the victims of the horrible bus crash of a junior hockey league team in Saskatchewan, are substantial only because they are going to families of white males, those who are privileged. This is where identity politics takes you, and the left is completely wedded to it (via Matt Vespa, Townhall):

MSNBC is part of NBC, so when MSNBC host Chris Hayes lets loose with his full blown anti-Israel hatred, spouting off Hamas propaganda as fact, this is a major network buying into this garbage, not a fringe cable channel. Tamar Sternahll in The Algemeiner:

In a completely biased report saying Israel is endeavoring to “pick off” unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes discarded any semblance of journalistic professionalism and embraced Hamas propaganda.

The MSNBC host insisted that the figure he provided for the number of Palestinians wounded by Israeli live fire during the Gaza border “March of Return” on March 30 was sound — despite the fact that it was unconfirmed data supplied by a terror group that has a long history of manipulating casualty statistics to suit its propaganda purposes. (snip)

In addition, the accompanying text stated — as fact — that 750 Palestinians were shot.

How is Hayes so certain “that is the correct number” and “that’s the fact” given that the information is supplied by Gaza’s Health Ministry — meaning Hamas itself?

At no point does Hayes attribute the unconfirmed information to Hamas, and nowhere does he point out that the United States, the European Union, Canada, and Israel have all labeled Hamas a terror organization, making it an unreliable source at best.

Indeed, no source has independently verified Hamas’ figure.

David Horowitz Explains the Ruling Ideas of the Left By Richard Baehr

The Black Book of the American Left

The Collected Conservative Writings of David Horowitz

Many people I know grew up in liberal households, and at some point in their lives, they gravitated to the right politically. Many others were nurtured in conservative homes and moved left politically. These shifts are not too surprising. What made someone start in one place and move one way or the other is a function of many things, including the political thinking of one’s spouse or partner; the community where one lives; the schools one attended; the company where one works; the political environment of the country, which has shifted left and right at different times; and whether someone was religiously observant and became more secular or moved in the other direction. In general, most people are not obsessed with politics. They may have strong political views, but they don’t choose politics as a career path or live and breathe it to the exclusion of other interests or passions.

David Horowitz has had a fundamentally different life experience. He grew up in a communist household with parents who were true believers in the superiority of Marxist-Leninist thinking and the model of the Soviet Union as a pathway to a better world for those who could break the bonds that held them captive to ruling-class capitalist ideology and government. Horowitz’s parents were committed ideologues whose allegiance to the hard left never wavered. While they were momentarily upset with the revelations in 1956 of the mass murders committed by Stalin’s government in previous decades, they considered this at worst an aberration, not a reflection of the tyranny and destruction routinely associated with Marxist regimes. Their lives were too tightly wound in the narrative of the communist collective in the Queens neighborhood where they lived as public school teachers to allow themselves to rethink or reconsider their ideological faith.

David Horowitz, on the other hand questioned things from the start of his politically conscious years. While he remained on the left for another two decades after the news of Stalin’s crimes, his allegiance was never so tight or his mind so closed as to be unable to challenge his belief system when presented with new evidence or arguments.

Comey ‘Very Much’ Struck by Disinterest in Trump Camp on Stopping Future Russia Attacks By Bridget Johnson

Former FBI Director James Comey said he was “very much” struck by disinterest within the Trump camp about the nature of Russia’s campaign influence operation and preventing the Kremlin from continuing to attack the United States.

Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership comes out Tuesday. It’s currently No. 1 on the Amazon best-seller list.

His first TV interview to accompany the book release — and his first TV interview since being fired last year by President Trump — will air Sunday at 10 p.m. EST on ABC.

The network aired excerpts with Comey and George Stephanopoulos this morning, in which the ABC host asked the former FBI chief about his first meeting with Trump on Jan. 6, 2017, at Trump Tower in New York.

“President-elect Trump’s first question was to confirm that it had no impact on the election. And then the conversation, to my surprise, moved into a P.R. conversation about how the Trump team would position this and what they could say about this. They actually started talking about drafting a press release with us still sitting there,” Comey said. “And the reason that was so striking to me is that that’s just not done; that the intelligence community does intelligence, the White House does P.R. and spin.”

“No one, to my recollection, asked, ‘So what’s coming next from the Russians? How might we stop it? What’s the future look like?,'” he added. “It was all, ‘What can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had?'”

Comey met alone with Trump to discuss the sensitive details in of the Steele dossier, which in part alleges that Trump had a salacious encounter with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.

“Called out to meet with a person who doesn’t know me, had just been elected president of the United States. By all accounts, and from my watching him during the campaign, could be volatile. And I’m about to talk to him about allegations that he was involved with prostitutes in Moscow, and that the Russians taped it and have leverage over him,” Comey recalled of the meeting.

Comey said he didn’t discuss the financing of the Steele dossier with Trump at the meeting; the research was first funded by GOP opponents of Trump during the primary season and then by Democrats. “It wasn’t necessary for my goal, which was to alert him that we had this information,” he said.

The former director said he got “as graphic as I needed to be” describing the dossier’s allegations.

“I started to tell him about the allegation was that he had been involved with prostitutes in a hotel in Moscow in 2013, during a visit for the Miss Universe Pageant, and that the Russians had filmed the episode,” Comey said. “And he interrupted very defensively and started talking about it, you know, ‘Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’ And I assumed he was asking that rhetorically. I didn’t answer that, and then I just moved on, and — and explained, ‘Sir, I’m not saying that we credit this. I’m not saying we believe it. We just thought it very important that you know.’ …I never said ‘I don’t believe it,’ because I couldn’t say one way or another.”

Intelligence officials have said parts of the Steele dossier have been verified while other parts have not yet been verified. Comey said the raw intel describing a prostitute encounter was still unverified at the time he left the bureau.

Comey called the briefing “really weird — it was almost an out-of-body experience for me. I was floating above myself, looking down, saying, ‘You’re sitting here briefing the incoming president of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow.'”

In a private dinner with Trump at the White House on Jan. 27, 2017, Comey said Trump raised the topic again.

“He says he may want me to investigate it to prove that it didn’t happen, and then he says something that distracted me, because he said, ‘You know, if there’s even a 1 percent chance my wife thinks that’s true, that’s terrible,'” the former FBI director said. “And I remember thinking, ‘How could your wife think there’s a 1 percent chance you were with prostitutes, peeing on each other in Moscow?’ I’m a flawed human being, but there’s literally zero chance that my wife would think that was true. So what kind of marriage to what kind of man does your wife think there’s only a 99 percent chance you didn’t do that?”

Comey said Trump told him, “I may order you to investigate that.”

“I said, ‘Sir, that’s up to you, but you’d want to be careful about that, because it might create a narrative that we’re investigating you personally. And second, it’s very difficult to prove something didn’t happen,'” Comey said.

Asked if he believed Trump’s denial, Comey replied, “Honestly, never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

After the excerpt aired, Trump lashed out at Comey on Twitter: “James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH. He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”

Comey last tweeted at Trump on St. Patrick’s Day: “Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.” CONTINUE AT SITE

School Is Expensive. Is It Worth It? For your kids, yes—at least assuming they graduate. But the author of ‘The Case Against Education’ says the benefits to society are vastly overstated. James Taranto

If America listened to Bryan Caplan, he’d probably have to find another job. And he loves his job.

Mr. Caplan, 47, is a professor of economics at George Mason University, a public institution in the Washington suburbs. He enjoys exploring against-the-grain ideas, as evidenced by the titles of his books: “The Myth of the Rational Voter,” “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids” and the one I’ve come to discuss, “The Case Against Education.”

The new volume’s subtitle is “Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.” But if you’re hoping for permission to raid your kids’ college fund, forget it. Mr. Caplan doesn’t mean schooling is a waste of your money—or his, for that matter. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a doctorate from Princeton. He’s home-schooling his twin sons, gifted 15-year-olds who study quietly in his office when I drop by. Before he took them out of public school, he looked into college admission practices and found that home-schooled applicants these days face what he calls “only mild discrimination.”

Thus Mr. Caplan’s case against education begins by acknowledging the case in favor of getting one. “It is individually very fruitful, and individually lucrative,” he says. Full-time workers with a bachelor’s degree, on average, “are making 73% more than high-school graduates.” Workers who finished high school but not college earn 30% more than high-school dropouts. Part of the difference is mere correlation: Mr. Caplan says if you adjust for pre-existing advantages like intelligence and family background, one-fifth to two-fifths of the education premium goes away. Even so, it really does pay to finish school.

The prevailing view among labor economists—Mr. Caplan disdains them as “human-capital purists”—is that education works “by pouring useful skills into you, which you then go and use on the job.” That’s true to a point, he allows. School teaches basic “literacy and numeracy,” essential in almost any workplace. Specialized skills carry their own premium, so that a degree in engineering is worth more than one in philosophy or fine arts. But that 73% college premium is an average, which includes workers who studied soft or esoteric subjects.

Break it down, Mr. Caplan says, and “there is no known college major where the average earnings are not noticeably higher than just an average high-school graduate.” Yet there aren’t many jobs in which you can apply your knowledge of philosophy or fine arts—or many other subjects from high school or college. He goes through a list: “history, social studies, art, music, higher mathematics for most people, Latin, a foreign language.” That is the sense in which education is a waste of time. CONTINUE AT SITE

McCabe and a Lower Loyalty The IG report explains why the former FBI deputy director was fired.

Apparently Jim Comey’s FBI had in its leadership an official even more self-serving than the director. His name is Andrew McCabe, and a report released Friday from the Justice Department’s inspector general confirms that Mr. McCabe was fired for leaking to a Wall Street Journal reporter to “advance his personal reputation at the expense of Department leadership”—and then lying about it.

The IG report contradicts the accounts put forward by Mr. McCabe and his wife, Jill, at the time he was sacked on March 16. In separate op-eds for the Washington Post, Andrew McCabe and Jill McCabe each played the Trump victim card. Mr. McCabe said that “divisive politics and partisan attacks” played a role in his firing. Dr. McCabe blamed “the president’s wrath.”

The IG report makes clear that Mr. McCabe was fired for good reason: because he leaked information to the press, and then he denied it to investigators. The IG concludes he was guilty of “lack of candor” multiple times, sometimes with a lawyer present, and at least three times under oath. And though he would later change his story, he did so only when he knew the IG was closing in on the truth.

The IG says Mr. McCabe even lied to and about Mr. Comey, who was then FBI director. He lied to him when he denied knowing who had leaked the information about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation the director had refused to confirm even to Congress. And Mr. McCabe lied when he told investigators he had told Mr. Comey what he had done.

For a man who claims to be all about the bureau, perhaps the IG’s most damning line is the one noting that “no other senior FBI official corroborated McCabe’s testimony that, among FBI executive leadership, ‘people knew that generally’ he had authorized the disclosure.”

Justice for Scooter Libby Trump pardons a man Bush left behind on the battlefield.

On April 7, 2015, these columns said the next Republican President should pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby “in his first week in office.” President Trump waited a little longer, but in pardoning the former chief of staff to Dick Cheney on Friday Mr. Trump rectified a legal injustice and corrected one of George W. Bush’s worst decisions.

Above all, Mr. Trump pardoned an innocent man. In an op-ed nearby, David Rivkin and Lee Casey recount the story of Mr. Libby’s unjust prosecution amid the political uproar over the leak of the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald never did prosecute the leaker, who was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. But in his zealous pursuit of Mr. Cheney, Mr. Fitzgerald railroaded Mr. Libby for lying to the FBI based in large part on the testimony of former New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

Ms. Miller says she testified truthfully at the time, but she later concluded based on new information that she had been led into false testimony by Mr. Fitzgerald. As the White House press secretary said Friday in a pardon statement: “In 2015, one of the key witnesses against Mr. Libby recanted her testimony, stating publicly that she believes the prosecutor withheld relevant information from her during interviews that would have altered significantly what she said.”

Mr. Fitzgerald had called her testimony “critical” to the case in his summation for the jury, and Ms. Miller says that the prosecutor twice said that he would drop all charges against Mr. Libby if he offered evidence against Mr. Cheney. Mr. Libby had no evidence to trade, and Mr. Fitzgerald then set out to ruin Mr. Libby for supposedly lying about a non-crime.

U.S., U.K. and France Launch Strikes Against Syria Trump blames ‘Russia’s failure’ for suspected Syrian chemical attack By Nancy A. Youssef and Michael C. Bender

U.S., U.K. and French forces launched airstrikes targeting sites associated with Syria’s chemical-weapons capabilities, a reprisal for an attack last week that killed at least 43 civilians and injured hundreds more.

The decision to strike was aimed at cutting off the production and use of chemical weapons in the country, President Donald Trump said at the White House on Friday night.
Strikes on Syria
Beginning at 9 p.m ET, U.S., British and French forces struck three targets associated with chemical weapons in Syria:

Mr. Trump blamed “Russia’s failure” for the suspected chemical attack in Syria, saying Moscow had vowed to stop the use of such weapons in the country. He said Russia needs to decide whether it will continue down a “dark path” in Syria or become a force for “stability and peace.”

“Hopefully, someday, we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran—but maybe not,” Mr. Trump said.

The strikes were a culmination of a weeklong international push to punish the regime of President Bashar al-Assad after images and videos emerged last Saturday from the Syrian city of Douma suggesting civilians—including children—had suffered in the attack.

Syria and its chief patron, Russia, have denied that chemical weapons were used in Douma.

Mr. Trump said the operation would be “sustained” until the Syrian regime stopped using chemical weapons. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford, said at a Pentagon briefing it was a single wave of strikes that is complete, for now.

“This is a one-time shot,” Mr. Mattis said. “Right now, we have no additional strikes planned.”

Gen. Dunford said manned aircraft were used in the attack on targets including a Damascus scientific research center and a storage facility for chemical weapons. He said the strikes would set back Syria’s chemical-weapons program for years.

President Donald Trump said the recent suspected chemical attack in Syria was the crime of a ‘monster’ and the airstrikes aim to deter the production and use of chemical weapons. Photo: AP

The U.S. didn’t give advance notice to Russia, which has forces in Syria, Gen. Dunford said. He said the only communication with the Russians leading up to the strike campaign was via a phone line designed for the two nations to communicate during the war against Islamic State, but those communications weren’t intended as formal notification.

U.S. and U.K. submarines armed with missiles moved within strike range of Syria. A U.S. destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, and the French frigate Aquitaine were in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, while three more American cruisers and destroyers are currently deployed in the Middle East.

The U.S. took pains to avoid civilian casualties and any targets with foreign personnel, Mr. Mattis said. He has expressed concerns that any airstrike operation not escalate the conflict in Syria with Russia or Iran.

The coalition used twice the number of weapons in the attack than were used last year in Mr. Trump’s first airstrike against a Syrian air base, Mr. Mattis said. CONTINUE AT SITE