Today in Domestic Terrorism and Stochastic Violence

This week the weekly phone in bomb threat to multiple Jewish Community Centers and synagogues came a day early. Instead of Tuesday, the preferred day for the last several week’s worth of calls, the caller moved it to Monday. Perhaps to capture the festive spirit of Presidents’ Day.

WHITEFISH BAY — Officials with the Village of Whitefish Bay say a bomb threat was called into the Jewish Community Center at 10:08 a.m. on Monday, February 20th.

The Jewish Community Center posted on its Facebook page, Twitter account and its website that the facility was “safely evacuated.”

A limited number of students were at the center because of the holiday. Other guests who were on site using the gym and pool facilities were also evacuated.

Police say the center was cleared by bomb sniffing dogs. The “all clear” was issued around 12:30 p.m. — after the sweep of the building.

This appears to be one of several threats made to Jewish community centers around the country on Monday.

There was also a threat called into the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, AL.

The Levite Jewish Community Center was briefly evacuated Monday morning after receiving a bomb threat. Many parents picked their children up from the child care facility.

Authorities have given the all-clear now, and staff and students are now back in the building.

A Birmingham police officer said there have been several of these threats across the U.S. today.

The JCC has received bomb threats before, including one in mid-January.

The FBI has been investigating threats to Jewish centers in Alabama and several other states.

Both the Whitefish Bay and Birmingham JCCs received similar phoned in threats in January.

Here’s what I think the security issues are going forward:

1) We’ve got some knucklehead who gets his gratification calling these in and seeing the news coverage. He may or may not be a hard core anti-Semite, but he’s basically in it for ego gratification. And based on decades of criminological research into deviance, delinquency, and offending, it is highly likely it is a he. So step up your game ladies! He may or may not even be in the US, given VOIP technology. And he may never intend to do anything but make these calls.

2) Or he intends to eventually escalate. Specifically after he feels that he has made enough of these, or other copycats have, to create a sense of complacency for the folks at the JCCs and synagogues. Basically emergency alert fatigue. At that point he actually plants a bomb at one of these locations because he figures he’s got a reasonable expectation of casualties because the threats have become commonplace and are no longer being taken seriously.

3) Or, even worse, he never originally intended to escalate, but because the threats have become commonplace the coverage drops way off. He doesn’t get his gratification and as a result escalates in order to get his rush. Basic addictive behavior pattern. Also, serial criminal pattern.

4) Or, also even worse, he never intends to escalate beyond calling in the threats, but someone else who does want to do real, physical damage to property and harm to people does. This individual or individuals waits until the coverage begins to drop off because the calls are every week or every other week like clockwork and the local news decides it needs to cover something more important. And then this person that wants to cause real harm and actually hurt people decides its time to strike because complacency has set in and some synagogue or JCC isn’t going to take the threat as seriously.

And I fully expect that this pattern will at some point be fully extended to mosques and Hispanic and Asian churches, as well as Sikh temples. I know that the Hispanic and Asian churches in my area have seen an increase in both vandalism and threats, just as the synagogues and mosques have, because they are viewed as immigrant places (of worship) and therefore acceptable targets despite being churches.

Updated at 6:15 PM EST

Thanks to commenter Timurid, this also happened today:

I cannot emphasize enough just how bad this is. Not the property damage, in and of itself that’s bad, but because ground that has been the site of violence cannot be sanctified/re-sanctified. Provided that this is just cosmetic damage to the headstones – defacing, being knocked over, etc – there should be no problem. But if the graves themselves have been desecrated, then it will require reburials and the spaces will never be able to be reused as Judaism prohibits reusing a grave. This means that if someone has to be reburied in another plot, then the final resting place and marker/memorial will either be aware from the remainder of their relations graves or everyone will have to be relocated. This is not only traumatic for the living, but becomes prohibitively expensive to deal with.



Something Important to Consider

Earlier this evening, in the comments to my post about the concerns being expressed about the US at the Munich Security Conference, a couple of commenters expressed their views that the US has wasted tons of money interfering all over the world, ignoring international law, and basically doing terrible things. And as a result the US is poorer and the world is worse off than if we had just not done any of it. I’m not some pollyanna who is unaware of the fraught and conflicting history of the US’s international activities post World War II – and in some cases before WW II. However, it is one thing to recognize that we often fall short of our ideals or compromise them because of the domestic politics or failure of leadership or short term fears and simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater of US involvement in international affairs post WW II. The point of the earlier post is that our partners’ and allies’ view of the US, warts and all (and I wrote warts and all in the original post) under the current Administration is beginning to sharply diverge from how most Americans, and American leaders, continue to view the US as being a force for good in the world.

So how have others viewed the US? Here’s one example:

What is described above is just one example of the good that comes from America using its national power – diplomatic, information, military, and economic – within the global system. There are many others. For instance, US Army – Japan’s, as well as other Pacific Command elements’ and US government agencies’ assistance after the tsunami and Fukeshima Daiichi meltdown. There is no one else on the planet, no one, that has the strategic lift capabilities, or the expeditionary forward deployed personnel, to conduct over the horizon, global humanitarian assistance, disaster management, and emergency response. While many countries may contribute when something like the Fukeshima Daiichi disaster happens they rely on the US to get their assets and aid on site. And they rely on the US to have personnel close enough to provide immediate response until everyone else can get moving.

In case it was unclear in the earlier post, or any of my other posts, I’m not arguing that the US is perfect. That we never screw up or that we’re always able to align our values and ideals and our strategic objectives. We do screw up and we quite often fail to align our values and ideals and our strategic objectives. Even worse we elect leaders with feet of clay or who’s personal ambitions outweigh the public good. This doesn’t make us evil. It makes us human.

Rather, my intention in the earlier post, and one’s similar to it, has been to argue that we largely established the post WW II order. And that it has benefited us immensely even as we often didn’t always get it right. But until or unless someone can coherently explain who is going to ensure that the Ground Lines of Commerce and Communication (GLOCCs), Sea Lines of Commerce and Communication (SLOCCs), and Air Lines of Commerce and Communication (ALOCCs) if the US doesn’t. Or how a post US driven international order would work, what it would look like, how it would be more stable, then simply either throwing it all out in pursuit of national populism or badmouthing the US for its failings without recognizing its successes, you’re not constructively moving the conversation forward. You’re just picking nits.

We’re not perfect. We screw up. But if you think Vladimir Putin is going to provide strategic lift and take the lead in doing humanitarian assistance, disaster management, and emergency response if the US pulls back or that the People’s Republic of China will, then you are deluding yourself. One day the PRC may be ready and willing and able to do so, but they aren’t now. And even if they reach the point where they have those capabilities, they may not have the desire or will to do so.

What do you think is going to happen if/when the Kim regime fails/falls in North Korea? Sure, the People’s Republic of China is going to have to play a huge role in the response, as will South Korea. Especially for the political, social, and economic responses. But a great deal of that response is going to be humanitarian and the US will be in the lead for that. Not just because its in our best interest to quickly secure North Korea’s nuclear stockpile, but because it is in our interest, as well as in line with our national values, to prevent millions of impoverished North Koreans from over running the Peoples Republic of China, South Korea, and possibly Japan as refugees. This would destabilize the Asia-Pacific region quickly overwhelming the states and societies there, throwing the regional, and possibly the global, economy into chaos. And leading to untold amounts of suffering.

As for Russia, as long as Vladimir Putin runs Russia in order to benefit himself and his select group of oligarchs and agents, it will never have the capabilities, let alone the intentions to pick up the slack. The US is not an indispensable Nation because over the long course of history no Nation-state or person is indispensable. But until or unless someone else demonstrates they have the will and the capability to step up, the US’s role in the global system is as close to indispensable as can be.

And with that I wish you all a goodnight.



This is How You See the World. This is How We See It!

To Steal the Sky is the late 80s HBO docudrama about Israel’s Operation Diamond that resulted in the theft of an Iraqi MiG 21 by Iraqi fighter pilot Munir Redfa. At the 52 minute mark, Ben Cross playing Redfa, stands up to leave the room where he’s meeting with Israeli intelligence officers and walks past a map on the wall next to the door with magnetic backed fighter jet miniatures in Jordan, Syria, and Iraq facing towards Israel. He stops, moves the jets into Israel, points them out towards Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, and states: “This is how you see the world. This is how we we see it!”

The discussion report from the just concluded Munich Security Conference is a report entitled Munich Security Report 2017: Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order? The report is intended to set the terms for discussion at the conference (h/t: Robin Wright via Digby). Interestingly Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s remarks at this year’s Munich Security Conference provocatively mirrored the reports title:

Russia’s foreign minister has called for a “post-West world order” while addressing global leaders at an international security conference.

Sergey Lavrov accused Nato of being a Cold War institution and accused its “expansion” of sparking unprecedented tensions in Europe as both sides expand military deployments and drills.

He said he hoped “responsible leaders” will choose to create a “just world order – if you want you can call it a post-West world order”.

The foreword to the discussion report, written by German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, the conference chair, states:

The international security environment is arguably more volatile today than at any point since World War II. Some of the most fundamental pillars of the West and of the liberal international order are weakening. Adversaries of open societies are on the offensive. Liberal democracies have proven to be vulnerable to disinformation campaigns in post-truth international politics. Citizens of democracies believe less and less that their systems are able to deliver positive outcomes for them and increasingly favor national solutions and closed borders over globalism and openness. Illiberal regimes, on the other hand, seem to be on solid footing and act with assertiveness, while the willingness and ability of Western democracies to shape international affairs and to defend the rules-based liberal order are declining. The United States might move from being a provider of public goods and international security to pursuing a more unilateralist, maybe even nationalistic foreign policy. We may, then, be on the brink of a post-Western age, one in which non-Western actors are shaping international affairs, often in parallel or even to the detriment of precisely those multilateral frameworks that have formed the bedrock of the liberal international order since 1945. Are we entering a post-order world? How this question will be answered in the years to come will depend on all of us.

Ambassador Ischinger provides additional context in the video trailer for the conference:

I want to reemphasize this sentence from Ambassador Ischinger’s foreword:

The United States might move from being a provider of public goods and international security to pursuing a more unilateralist, maybe even nationalistic foreign policy. We may, then, be on the brink of a post-Western age, one in which non-Western actors are shaping international affairs, often in parallel or even to the detriment of precisely those multilateral frameworks that have formed the bedrock of the liberal international order since 1945.

The United states has long viewed itself as one of, if not the primary architect of the post WW II international order and global system, as well as its defender. While many Americans, including American leaders, still do as evidenced by both the Vice President’s and Defense Secretary Mattis’s statements at the conference in regards to the importance of NATO and American intention to honor our commitments, we have reached the point where how we see ourselves and our intentions, warts and all, is increasingly at odds with how our allies and partners see the US and its intentions. We’ve reached the point where Cross’s statement, in his portrayal of Captain Redfa, rings more and more true: “This is How You See the World. This is How We See It!”



Floriduh Man: Presidential Campaign Rally Edition

Submitted without further comment:



Speaking of animals…

I went out early to take photos of some birds at a pond, and a small herd of feral pigs emerged from the tree line:

They rooted around, rolled in the mud and generally had a large time. Also saw this stork nab a fish:

Now the rain has driven us indoors. Has the regime embarrassed us in some way today? What are y’all up to?



Chew on This Open Thread: April Ryan Is Not Trump’s African-American

Donald Trump tells us that he is the least racist person ever. I would say ‘Donald Trump believes he is the least racist person’, but I’m chary of putting ‘Trump’ and ‘belief’ in the same sentence.

April Ryan, incidentally, is not Donald Trump’s ‘girl’ either (in the Mad Men ‘my girl will set it up with your girl’ sense)…



“Come live with me and be my love”

Blue jays have been swooping and screeching and carrying on in my side yard all day. Here’s a pair perched in the banana tree:

They have a nasty reputation, blue jays, but they’re lovely birds.

So glad today is Friday. This week has felt eternal. Got any big plans for the weekend?

I was thinking of joining the protests in Orlando outside Der Gropenfürher’s not-at-all-weirdly-fascist “rally” on Saturday. But some folks who don’t seem overly alarmist or kooky are warning that it might very well be a trap, that Trumpian goons might try to cause trouble to put the resistance in a bad light.

Honestly, I have no idea if that’s true or not. But it’s a good excuse to skip a dreadful trip on I-4 to Orlando and instead fulfill a long-standing ambition to ride the Beer Bus Brewery Tour all over Tampa with my sister.

Open thread!