I never heard of Captagon

h/t David French in “So much for the lone wolf theory for the Nice terror attack.”

The note abut Captagon is particularly interesting. It’s a little-known fact that at least some jihadist fanaticism is chemically-induced. Our soldiers have fought again and again with jihadists who are high on various stimulants. Friends in Iraq told me of stories of injured, drug-crazed jihadists who literally tried to bite American medics even as they bled from gaping wounds. These men knew they wanted to fight to the death, but they couldn’t muster up the courage without drugs.

As the investigation continues, we’ll learn whether the attack was directed or “just” inspired by ISIS or another jihadist organization, but let’s be clear — when inspiring terrorists is a core aspect of jihadist strategy, there is little comfort in finding no coordination. Indeed, the lack of coordination may be more disturbing. It means that jihadists need fewer and fewer resources to strike at the heart of the West. They just need a willing audience, a few friends, and — in this case — one big truck.

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Libertarian theory and its limitations

How’s that ‘Libertarian Moment’ working out?”  asks Kevin D. Williamson before answering:

And we libertarians wonder why we’re losing.

The Las Vegas area is in fact a pretty good test case for libertarian theory and an excellent example of its limitations. The legalization of prostitution in nearby lightly populated counties was supposed to provide all of the benefits familiar from anti-Prohibitionist arguments: moving prostitution off the streets, bringing it under responsible regulation, eliminating the influence of organized crime and criminal exploitation, etc. A drive down West Tropicana, where the street corners are full of underage girls and lost addicts plying the oldest trade in the oldest fashion, suggests very strongly that this hasn’t happened. So do the arrest numbers. So do the human-trafficking operations that help stock the nearby massage parlors. The casual marijuana peddlers offer similar testimony about the state’s relatively liberal marijuana laws. So does the fact that you can go to jail for organizing a dollar-a-point bridge game here where “gambling is legal.”

Las Vegas’s vice economy isn’t libertarian at all: It is one of the most tightly regulated economies in the United States, staffed by union members and dominated by politically connected cartels and their friends in elected office.

The real world does not unfold according to our neat ideological models.


In the event, the two presidential candidates Americans got most excited about were Donald Trump, a nationalist, and Bernie Sanders, a socialist. Between the two of them, they make a pretty good national socialist. Trump won his party’s nomination and Sanders ceded his to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is (arguably) a little bit more of a nationalist and (arguably) a little bit less of a socialist but in many ways a much better distillation of the partnership between big government and big business that characterizes our current political moment.


The complexity of the real world exceeds what can be adequately addressed by our ideologies, and the variety of real human beings — and real human experience — means that there are real differences in basic, fundamental values. Most people do not want their values to be tolerated — they want their values to prevail. The terrorists in Nice and Orlando are not fighting for toleration. Neither are the neo-socialists now migrating from the Sanders camp to the Clinton camp or the Trumpkins who are sure that their frustrations and disappointments are being artificially and maliciously inflicted on them by a nefarious elite.

And that’s why we are not having a libertarian moment, but a nationalist-socialist moment.

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Seeing beyond epistemic horizons

Jonah Goldberg writes that “this is what a real national conversation looks like.”

At least for a moment, antagonists on either side of polarizing issues could see beyond the epistemic horizon of their most comfortable talking points. Black Lives Matter activists thanked the police for their protection and sacrifice. Conservative Republicans, most notably House Speaker Paul Ryan and former speaker Newt Gingrich, spoke movingly about race in America. Gun-rights activists were dismayed that Philando Castile, the man shot by a police officer in Minnesota, had followed all of the rules — he had a gun permit, cooperated with the officer, etc. — and was still killed. Liberals who insist that rhetoric from their political opponents inspires violence were forced to consider whether rhetoric from their allies might have helped inspire the shooter in Dallas.

It was a welcome change. “National conversations” are usually efforts to bully everyone into accepting a single narrative when the reality is that, in this country of more than 300 million, many narratives can be in conflict and still be legitimate.

Conservatives, of all people, should understand that misdeeds committed by agents of the state are categorically different from the same acts committed by normal citizens. A father who slaps his son for no good reason, however wrong that may be, is very different from a cop who slaps a citizen for no good reason.

This country was created, in part, because the founders were outraged by arguably slight infractions — taxes on tea! — against their liberties and dignity. Is it really so unfathomable that African-American citizens should be outraged or distrustful of government when they have good reason to believe the state is murdering young black men?

It should be said that the data do not actually corroborate this belief — at least not as clearly as one might think. Harvard economist Roland Fryer found that when black suspects encounter the police, they are slightly less likely to get shot than white suspects. He called it “the most surprising result I have found in my entire career.” Fryer, by the way, is African American.

But Fryer also found that blacks are disproportionately victims of bias when it comes to non-lethal use of force by police, such as use of pepper spray, manhandling, and the like. Is it so unreasonable to assume that citizens who experience such bias would also believe that it extends into police shootings? Particularly when such tragedies receive so much attention in social media and the press?

In other words, if blacks experience being unfairly stopped, frisked, and manhandled, is it really nuts for them to think the unfairness extends to shootings as well?

Liberals, meanwhile, have their own blinders when it comes to the police.

Although they have seemingly boundless faith in the power and nobility of government, many draw a line around cops, creating one of the strangest ironies of modern liberalism: Many of those most eager to support new laws and new regulations suddenly lose faith when it comes to the government employees charged with enforcing them. It’s particularly amazing given that law-enforcement personnel typically receive far more training than your typical bureaucrat or legislator.

Another blind spot: Most of the problems with black homicide — by police or otherwise — take place in cities run by Democrats for generations, yet Republican racism is always to blame.

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Unable to fundamentally transform Sun Tzu

telegraphI believed the Jihadists when they declared war on us in 1979, and again sporadically since, and fear we’re in Year 37 of our Hundred Years’ War.

Here’s Andrew McCarthy, in the wake of the all the terrible attacks this year around the world, arguing that “By failing to take the jihadists’ ideology seriously, we refuse to understand the breadth of the threat we face.”

(I)t should by now be perfectly obvious that that there is no “Islam,” at least not if we are talking about a monolithic belief system. There are sects of Islam, all vying for supremacy in what is, in the main, a conquest ideology — with the various splinters having very different ideas about what conquest entails, and with no papal analogue to impose order by decreeing orthodoxy and condemning heterodoxy.

Clearly, some of these sects are our enemy. And just as clearly, these sects also have a legitimate claim on the designation “Islam.” That does not mean they have a monopoly on the interpretation of Islam (there, again, being no such monopoly). But it does oblige government officials responsible for national security to deal with jihadists and other sharia supremacists on their own terms.

Why? Because the objective is to defeat our enemies, not redefine them. To defeat the enemy still requires knowing the enemy. Try as he might, Obama is unable to fundamentally transform Sun Tzu

Jihadists care neither about what Washington thinks “the true Islam” is, nor about the counterfactual “peace” and “tolerance” rhetoric in which this “true Islam” is swaddled. Our enemies’ Islamic legitimacy was not granted by us, and we are powerless to take it away from them…

(P)eople do not commit mass-murder attacks because of economic privation or over trifling slights. They commit it because they are seized by commands that they take to be divine injunctions rooted in scripture, their devotion to which will determine whether paradise or eternal damnation awaits…  You may roll your eyes over quaint notions like religious obligation, but not everybody is equally evolved. Not everybody is convinced that bloody sectarian conflict — the norm of history — is just as obsolete as the rule of law in the age of Obama…

If we don’t grasp that the goal of our enemies is the imposition of fundamentalist sharia, we will continue to miss the breadth of the threat — the fact that the jihadists are just the front-line militants. Slipstreaming behind them, exploiting the atmosphere of intimidation they create, are the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated faux moderates who pursue the same ends by infiltrating our councils of government policy and institutions of opinion.


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Making a distinction between a policy position and a moral struggle

h/t David Harsanyi, writing at NRO:


I doubt the president is substantively more partisan than the average politician, but like most people on the left these days, he no longer bothers to make a distinction between a policy position and a moral struggle.

The issue of gun control, for example, is not a good-faith disagreement among people of different persuasions but — like civil rights or suffrage — a struggle waged by the righteous against the evil (and sometimes those poor souls tricked by the National Rifle Association). Seemingly every political battle waged by the modern Democratic party — gay rights, immigration, climate change, inequality — is imbued with a kind of spiritual certitude that justifies circumventing debate. If a person who opposes the Obama administration’s transgender-bathroom policy is just like a Klansman, why even discuss the matter? In this context, the histrionics of Democrats in Congress over guns or the media’s melodramas make all the sense in the world.

In this context, why wouldn’t the president lecture us about gun control in his eulogy? Why wouldn’t Obama offer completely unsubstantiated claims about guns? “It is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book” was a contention Obama made that no rational person could ever possibly believe. It’s meant to convey the idea that half the nation cares more about the NRA than about children.

So maybe some conservatives are put off by Obama’s awe-inspiring propensity to create straw men and offer false choices at every opportunity — all under the guise of thoughtful discourse. Maybe it’s that he never offers a fair or reasonable assessment of his opposition’s positions before pretending to debunk them. Or maybe it’s that no matter what actually happens, he clings to a predetermined message before blaming the half of America that didn’t vote for him

If you continually claim that every problem in America is driven by hate, people may start believing you. According to a new Pew Research Center poll, Americans’ perception of race relations is more negative today than it has been in 20 years. About 48 percent of those polled claim that “race relations are generally bad.” And 36 percent of adults say that “too much attention” is paid to race and racial issues today. Are things really worse today than they were 30 years ago? Fifty years?

When Obama calls for unity (you’ll recall this was a big part of his first campaign), he’s not talking about a nation that maximizes its freedom so that there is space for an array of cultural outlooks and ideas. He means a nation of diverse people who can all agree that progressivism is right for the nation.

Meanwhile, this administration has made a habit of using the power of the state to coerce and compel others to accept its cultural attitudes. For Obama, unity means little dissent. In his last State of the Union address, for example, he laid out a progressive agenda and then implored us to embrace “American ideals” as if they were the same. Obviously, the nation is divided because Americans have deep-seated, legitimate, and meaningful disagreements about the future. One man can neither unify us nor break us apart on his own. But it’s been a long time since we’ve had a president as divisive as Barack Obama.

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Bringing a knife to a gun fight, part 1,263,988

Whenever a small-r republican institution has the power and responsibility to step in, the Clintons operate to put the institution (and the principal responsible for the institution) in a tight spot:  sure you can stop us, but it’ll cost you everything and damage your institution.  Each time, it works;  over time, it erodes the small-r republican checks and balances necessary for well-ordered liberty.

Reminds a bit of Obamacare at SCOTUS.

How much better would things be if any one principal, in any one instance, would just pull a Sir Thomas More.  Sigh.

h/t Jonah Goldberg:

For me, it’s pretty simple. Clinton maintained an illegal, unsecured server in violation of law, policy, and common sense to protect her political privacy. As I’ve been shouting for over a year, the server itself is the smoking gun. If it’s illegal to ship classified information in a secret pneumatic tube from your office to your home, the mere fact that you had a pneumatic tube installed for such purposes is all the proof of intent you need.

But it’s worse than that. When Clinton and her aides were informed that what she was doing was wrong, she kept doing it anyway. When the facts came to light, she lied to the public. As Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) noted during Thursday’s hearing, those lies illuminate her intent. You only lie about not doing something wrong if you know that what you did is wrong.

That said, I don’t buy the conspiracy theories that Comey was bought off somehow. I think his decision to side against prosecuting Clinton stems from the fact that it was the safest course for him and the FBI. For millions of people, this decision taints the FBI, but much, much less than it would have if he opted to fatally damage the candidacy of a major-party nominee, even one who’s always been willing to attack, belittle, and smear anyone standing in her way.

This has always been at the heart of why I think the Clintons are so repugnant. If a woman goes public with a credible — or demonstrably true — accusation of sexual harassment or assault, Bill and Hillary Clinton are perfectly happy to destroy the accuser. If a law-enforcement official or journalist tries to get the truth about any of their myriad misdeeds, then Clinton Inc. goes into overdrive to discredit the truth-seeker.

Comey was presented with a terrible set of options. He chose the one that would least damage his reputation and the reputation of his agency. I don’t like the decision, and I don’t agree with his arguments defending it. But the ultimate blame resides entirely with Hillary Clinton and her gang. They taint and politicize everything they touch, because they put their interests above everything else.

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Capitalism happens, and capitalism can carry a great deal of dead weight

Kevin D. Williamson thinks he sees some upside in The bright side of 2016:

We should not be glib about the likely choice American voters will face in the 2016 presidential election: The Democrats are offering a corrupt, lifelong machine politician who just narrowly avoided indictment with the help of a remarkably solicitous FBI; short of a rebellion in Cleveland, the Republicans are set to offer one of that Democratic crook’s friends and financial patrons, a semiliterate aspiring strongman whose greatest contribution to public life has been a stint as a game-show host. We are being given a choice between gonorrhea and syphilis.

If there is a silver lining in that ugly cumulonimbus mess, it is this: The country probably will muddle through, just as it usually does. Things will go on very much as they have in the past, and the things that are dramatically different will be things that we are not thinking about very much right now. And that will provide us with an opportunity to learn something important: Yes, it matters who the president is, but not as much as we think. It matters what the character of our government is and who we entrust to run it, but not as much as we think. Jackass A or Jackass B will do his or her worst, to be sure, and the damage will be both real and painful, but America will go on, because America doesn’t actually need these jackasses as much as Americans think.

Of course it would be better to have good, responsible, honest, nimble, transparent, effective government, to protect property, defend the borders, enforce contracts, frustrate our enemies, and keep the peace. But we’ve gotten by for at least 40 years without having that on any kind of a consistent basis. Perversely, some of the most important work in our economy is being done, and has been for years, in some of our worst-governed states: California and New York, notably. There are great things going on in Texas, too, which is better-governed than California but which nonetheless suffers from corrupt and ineffective public institutions. Thanks in no small part to our most hated industry — the money-shuffling industry — investors still shunt great shimmering streams of fresh capital into innovative and imaginative firms and enterprises, from fracking to social media. Capitalism happens, and capitalism can carry a great deal of dead weight, including the Clinton and Trump families.

Those enterprises produce elites of their own, too, but elites of a different kind. Does anybody really expect the next boss at Tesla or SpaceX to be one of Elon Musk’s children? That Silicon Valley venture capitalists will hunt down obscure Zuckerbergs the way Democrats cherish the Kennedy sang réal? Not likely.

The America outside of politics is doing pretty well. Americans continue to make the best and most interesting stuff in the world, and it isn’t only start-up founders and financiers who make a good living out of that. There are some real social and economic pressures that need to be dealt with: Things are going much better at the 18th percentile than they are at the 50th percentile, and that produces stresses that have unhealthy, antisocial effects, one of which is a two-party political system that coughed up two hairballs like Clinton and Trump.

Our politics consists of a more and more vicious fight over the leadership of institutions that have less and less real importance to our security and our prosperity with each passing day. If there’s an upside to 2016, it’s that it should shine a bright light on how little use our aristocrats and mandarins really are, and how little need we have of them.

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