When Kremlin Trolls Attack

February 23, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

Cold War II meets the social media age.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

The issue of online trolls doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin has been getting some mainstream media attention, finally. The reality that Russia buys, or at least rents, trolls by the battalion to harass, intimidate and make life unpleasant for anybody who opposes Moscow policy, while employing aggressive agitprop to further Putinist propaganda, isn’t exactly news, but it’s nevertheless welcome to see mainstream outlets doing some digging into what’s going on.

I’ve dealt with more than my share of Kremlin trolls ever since the Edward Snowden story broke in June 2013. As a major spokesman for the anti-Snowden viewpoint, as well as the only former NSA counterintelligence officer who’s talked publicly about this case at length, I’ve gotten my share of grief and then some from online Pals of Putin, with their usual modus operandi: smears, lies, slurs, and threats.

Some of these Kremlin clowns…

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I think we can call this a “non-starter” of an idea

February 14, 2015
x

“Wait. She’s serious?”

Let pedophiles adopt? Sure, and let’s give junkies keys to the pharmacy, while we’re at it:

Helen Reece, a reader in law at the London School of Economics, called on Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to relax rules which automatically ban sex offenders from caring for children, saying that this could breach their human rights.

In an article in the respected Child and Family Law Quarterly, Miss Reece suggested that reoffending rates were not high among sex criminals, adding: “despite growing public concern over paedophilia, the numbers of child sex murders are very low.”

Well, if it’s only a few, why should we be concerned about putting child-molesters into direct, daily, and intimate contact with the objects of their perverse obsession? What could go wrong?

This is one those milestones on the road to the collapse of civilization, isn’t it?

Yeesh.

via Jonah Goldberg:


On Arming Ukraine

February 4, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

A needed bit of “real talking” on the slow-motion war in Ukraine.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

I have been sharply critical of Ukraine’s political and military leadership in the war against Russia. Kyiv must get serious, now, if it expects to prevent the further destruction and dismemberment of their country by Vladimir Putin. The lack of gravitas in military matters demonstrated by Petro Poroshenko and his goverment — favoring vacillation, candlelight prayers, hashtags and trips to Davos instead of mobilization and strategy-making — does not inspire confidence in Ukraine’s ability to stem the Russian tide.

That said, Western aid to Ukraine to date is stunningly unimpressive and indicates that even core members of NATO and the EU are willing to watch Kyiv be crushed. Angela Merkel’s Germany has signaled that under no circumstances will it assist Ukraine with weaponry, which sends a clear message to all NATO and/or EU countries east of the Oder that they, too, will be sacrificed by Berlin if Putin decides…

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Sunday Book Review: Paul Johnson’s “Churchill”

January 25, 2015

book cover johnson churchill

It’s less fashionable in the practice of History these days to study the lives of great men, those individuals who by their words and deeds change the course of the world for better or worse. At one time, History was about these men: Alexander, Caesar, Washington, Napoleon, and others. Then that fashion fell out of favor and, in reaction, the role of Great Men was largely supplanted by the study of “impersonal forces,” those societal and intellectual trends that move History along, individuals being less important, often replaceable. This view was popular with progressive historians of the early to mid-20th century, seeing its extreme in Marxist historians.

But the study of Great Men lives on, in this case in the form of Paul Johnson’s “Churchill,” a brief biography of Sir Winston Churchill, the British statesman, soldier, parliamentarian, and his nation’s Prime Minister during most of the Second World War.

Johnson’s biography of Churchill is of an older school, which seeks not just to analyze its subject, but draw from it moral lessons for the reader. In this manner, it is comparable to Plutarch’s “Lives .” As Johnson writes at the start:

Of all the towering figures of the twentieth century, both good and evil, Winston Churchill was the most valuable to humanity, and also the most likable. It is a joy to write his life, and to read about it. None holds more lessons, especially for youth: How to use a difficult childhood. How to seize eagerly on all opportunities, physical , moral, and intellectual. How to dare greatly, to reinforce success, and to put the inevitable failures behind you. And how, while pursuing vaulting ambition with energy and relish, to cultivate also friendship, generosity, compassion, and decency.

Churchill’s life is well-known, and Johnson glosses over the details to cover the important points the reader needs to know: his early childhood with a vaguely disapproving father; his military career , which established the young Churchill as a popular journalist; his political career with his rise to Cabinet rank as First Sea Lord during World War I; his role in laying the foundation for Britain’s welfare state, and his fall from power; his “wilderness” years out of government, when even his fellow party members rarely wanted him around and during which he warned incessantly about the rise of the Nazis in Germany; his return to power when the Nazis started World War II, again as head of the British Navy and then Prime Minister; and his postwar life and career, with one more pass as prime minister, until his death in 1965.

That Johnson can cover all this in just 170 pages while telling a fascinating story and educating the reader is a mark of how good a writer he is. “Churchill,” if it was a joy for him to write, is also a joy for us to read. Johnson’s style is delightful, and he deftly weaves in small details and observations that humanize for us a towering figure who might otherwise be lost behind the noble statues and stern portraits. For example,one that sticks with this reviewer is the revelation that Churchill found happiness in, of all things, bricklaying. So much so, that he tried to join the bricklayer’s union. (He was declined.) Most people know that he was an accomplished painter, but a bricklayer? That such a common, workaday craft should bring satisfaction to a man born in a palace and who dealt regularly with kings and presidents, who commanded his nation’s armed forces in a global war, can’t help but build a bond between reader and subject, reminding us that Winston Churchill, for all the statues and portraits, was still a mortal man.

“Churchill” is not without its weaknesses. A degree of superficiality is inevitable, given the task of compressing so full a life into such a short work. And it touches very lightly on his flaws, such as his Romantic fixations on strategies of dubious worth, for example his attempted defense of Antwerp in the First World War, or his obsession with invading Norway in the Second. A late Victorian in a rapidly changing 20th century, his attitudes toward non-European people were often at best patronizing, sometimes downright bigoted.

But, to dwell on these lacks would be to criticize “Churchill” for not doing what it was never intended to do: to be a “balanced, modern” biography. As much hagiography as biography, Paul Johnson’s goal was to introduce us to the life of one of the greatest men who ever lived and show how it could serve as an example and an inspiration, especially for the young. In this, he has succeeded admirably.

Highest recommendation.

Format note: Churchill is available in both Kindle and softcover formats. I read the Kindle edition and can recall no problems with editing or formatting. And I do get a few pennies from each purchase made through the links in this review.

UPDATE: Catching up on my reading at Power Line, I came across historian Steven Hayward’s post quibbling with the idea of Churchill as “the last lion.” I think what he says about “Great Men” and how they differ from their contemporaries is pertinent to this review:

The tides of history and the scale of modern life have not made obsolete or incommensurate the kind of large-souled greatness we associate with Churchill or Lincoln or George Washington. Of course all of us are powerfully affected by our environment and circumstances, yet the case of Churchill offers powerful refutation to the historicist premise that humans and human society are mostly corks bobbing on the waves of history. Lots of Churchill’s contemporaries were also products of the late Victorian era—many of them from the same schools Churchill attended. But no one else had Chruchill’s courage, insight, and capacities. Why was Churchill virtually alone among his contemporaries? The answer must be that they transcended their environments and transformed their circumstances as only great men can do, and thereby bent history to their will. Which means we are contemplating a fundamental human type. Leo Strauss wrote of Churchill in a private letter to the German philosopher Karl Lowith: “A man like Churchill proves that the possibility of megalophysis [the great-souled man] exists today exactly as it did in the fifth century B.C.” (In other words, as the idea was presented in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.)

Churchill was indeed a “large soul.”

 

 

 


Confirmed: former French soldiers defecting to ISIS

January 23, 2015

France flag

From Canada’s National Post:

Several French former soldiers have joined the ranks of jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, the country’s government confirmed on Wednesday, as it outlined a series of new anti-terrorism measures following the Islamist attacks in Paris.

Most of the ex-soldiers, reportedly numbering around 10 and including former paratroopers and French foreign legionnaires, are said to be fighting on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Most worrying is the reported presence of an ex-member of France’s elite First Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, considered one of Europe’s most experienced special forces units and which shares the “Who Dares Wins” motto of the SAS.

The unnamed individual, of North African origin, had received commando training in combat, shooting and survival techniques. He served for five years before joining a private security company for which he worked in the Arabian peninsula, where he was radicalised before heading for Syria, according to L’Opinion, a news website.

The danger is not just the fighters being trained for combat in the Middle East, though that’s bad enough. But consider that these defecting soldiers were born and raised –or immigrated to and grew up– “being French.” They understand French culture: how to behave, how to fit in, the right lingo, the perfect accent. With their military training, they can move around France and Europe without standing out, which makes them perfect for terrorist operations there in ways no Egyptian-born jihadi could ever equal.

And as I asked before, how many sympathizers do they have who are still in French ranks? It’s no wonder Paris is planning to spend a lot more on counterintelligence to monitor… their own troops.

They’ve got a real problem on their hands.


Comforting: French soldiers joining ISIS

January 22, 2015

France flag

The link from Breitbart to the original article is broken at the moment, but the idea isn’t unimaginable, not in a world in which a US Army officer can describe himself as a “soldier of Allah” and then murder over a dozen of his fellow soldiers while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” And Major Hasan was a psychiatrist acting alone; these former French soldiers represent a whole new level of threat:

A dozen former French soldiers have joined up with jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria, a French official claimed this week, raising concerns about radicalisation of soldiers within the French Armed Forces.

A source within the country’s ministry of defence confirmed the news to AFP news agency after a French radio station, RFI, reported news of the soldiers-turned-jihadis, the Local reports.

“We estimate at around a dozen the number of former troops who have joined these networks,” said the source, who wished to remain anonymous, adding that their concern “is not former soldiers…It’s preventing the phenomenon of radicalization with our forces.”

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian refused to comment directly on the issue, instead telling reporters at a press conference that cases of former soldiers being tempted by jihadism are “extremely rare.”

Rare (we hope), but it only takes a few to cause a disaster. The article goes on to illustrate some of the risks of professionally trained Western soldiers “going jihadi:”

News which will concern French and other European country’s interior security forces is the news that some of the men, who are mostly in their twenties are “explosives experts” opening up the possibility of the front line being moved from Syria to Europe’s doorstep, with bombs being added to the arsenal of techniques used by Islamic radicals.

L’Opinion newspaper reports that one soldier had served in the French 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment whose speciality is going behind enemy lines for sabotage or intelligence gathering.

The paper reports that after five years as a paratrooper the soldier joined a private security firm protecting oil fields in the Arabian peninsular, a lucrative option for former soldiers with experience and training.

Emphases added. The jackals who attacked Charlie Hebdo had training in Yemen, but these guys bring specialist skills sure to be in high demand with ISIS or al Qaeda… or other groups.

I’m not sure what can be done about this — we can kill these guys, but what about the loyalty of other Muslim recruits or those who convert after enlisting? Are there “soldiers of Allah” currently within French ranks in sensitive posts?

Whatever the answer, this is a worrisome development.


Bookshelf update: Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag”

January 22, 2015

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag: A History.”

 

book cover applebaum gulag

I’ve only just started it, so I can’t comment on my impressions of the writing or the quality of the Kindle formatting, but the topic is compelling: a complete history of the Soviet prison camp and slave labor system from its foundation under Lenin to its final dissolution in the 1980s. Like reading a book on the Holocaust, I suspect this is the kind of history that will have me hating humanity by its end. Gulag is available in both Kindle and softcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. Wouldn’t you?


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