Patterico's Pontifications

12/31/2017

Happy New Year to Patterico Readers

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:37 pm

Here is to a happy and prosperous New Year!

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Open Thread: Iran Protests

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:09 am

I have always said that many among the Iranian people are pro-American. One of the pro-America vigils across the world after 9/11 took place in Tehran. What is happening now is a reminder that the Iranian regime is not synonymous with the people of Iran.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 83

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 7:00 am

It is the first Sunday after Christmas, and also New Year’s Eve! Enjoy some music from one of the greatest composers who ever lived as we close out 2017. The title of today’s cantata is “Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde” (Joyful time in the new covenant).

Bach composed the cantata for the feast known as the Purification of Mary. The readings for that day included the same Gospel reading you are likely to hear in church today: Luke 2:22-40:

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

The text of today’s cantata is available here. The fourth movement contains this passage:

Yes, though your faith still sees much darkness,
your Savior can part the shadows of doubt;
indeed, when the night of the grave
makes the last hour terrifying,
you will certainly
perceive His bright light in death itself.

This invocation of the image of the Lord’s light accompanying one’s death is reminiscent of Simeon’s praise quoted in the above Gospel passage.

The final chorale, at 16:15 in the recording, is based on Martin Luther’s “Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin” (In peace and joy I now depart), a hymn written for the Purification feast, but which has also been used for funerals. Here is a lovely version of that hymn played on classical guitar:

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

12/30/2017

Daughter of Communist Refugees Wonders Why Ivy League Communism Is Now Hip and Chic

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:32 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Credit where it’s due: I came across this thanks to a tweet from the often insufferable Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. This remarkable piece ran in The Harvard Crimson last month and was written by a sophomore majoring in applied mathematics (note: not some grievance-mongering studies discipline).

In 1988, my twenty-six-year-old father jumped off a train in the middle of Hungary with nothing but the clothes on his back. For the next two years, he fled an oppressive Romanian Communist regime that would kill him if they ever laid hands on him again.

My father ran from a government that beat, tortured, and brainwashed its citizens. His childhood friend disappeared after scrawling an insult about the dictator on the school bathroom wall. His neighbors starved to death from food rations designed to combat “obesity.” As the population dwindled, women were sent to the hospital every month to make sure they were getting pregnant.

My father’s escape journey eventually led him to the United States. He moved to the Midwest and married a Romanian woman who had left for America the minute the regime collapsed. Today, my parents are doctors in quiet, suburban Kansas. Both of their daughters go to Harvard. They are the lucky ones.

Those of us of a certain age are likely to forget that today’s college student, likely born sometime between 1995 and 2000, has no direct experience with large-scale communism of the sort practiced in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries in the latter half of the past century. Their view of communism is skewed by countries like China and Vietnam who have blended some capitalist practices with authoritarian central government to create a system where the government picks and chooses who gets rich and how much they can keep (ironically enough, this is the same system that seems to hold a great deal of appeal to the Barack Obamas and Hillary Clintons of the world). Or else they view communism through the prism of Cuba, a small and poor island nation with catchy rhumba and mambo music and cool classic cars prowling the streets. But the author, Laura Nicolae, is here to set her schoolmates straight:

Roughly 100 million people died at the hands of the ideology my parents escaped. They cannot tell their story. We owe it to them to recognize that this ideology is not a fad, and their deaths are not a joke.

[. . .]

Walk around campus, and you’re likely to spot Ché Guevara on a few shirts and button pins. A sophomore jokes that he’s declared a secondary in “communist ideology and implementation.” The new Leftist Club on campus seeks “a modern perspective” on Marx and Lenin to “alleviate the stigma around the concept of Leftism.” An author laments in these pages that it’s too difficult to meet communists here. For many students, casually endorsing communism is a cool, edgy way to gripe about the world.

After spending four years on a campus saturated with Marxist memes and jokes about communist revolutions, my classmates will graduate with the impression that communism represents a light-hearted critique of the status quo, rather than an empirically violent philosophy that destroyed millions of lives.

I was in college in the very waning days of Soviet communism (the Berlin Wall came down the summer after my freshman year). Back then the campus radicals were circumspect enough not to climb aboard the broken-down Marxist-Leninist bandwagon (well, except for Van Jones who is a whole separate category of nutjob), and most of them gravitated more towards anarchism, which after all, they liked to say, was what Trotsky understood was the real future all along. But today’s college kids, not even old enough to recall very clearly the first stirrings of Islamofascism, now find old Uncle Joe Stalin to be a benign figure, just as clueless fellow travelers did a century earlier. The estimable Ms. Nicolae is having none of it:

Many in my generation have blurred the reality of communism with the illusion of utopia. I never had that luxury. Growing up, my understanding of communism was personalized; I could see its lasting impact in the faces of my family members telling stories of their past. My perspective toward the ideology is radically different because I know the people who survived it; my relatives continue to wonder about their friends who did not.

The stories of survivors paint a more vivid picture of communism than the textbooks my classmates have read. While we may never fully understand all of the atrocities that occurred under communist regimes, we can desperately try to ensure the world never repeats their mistakes. To that end, we must tell the accounts of survivors and fight the trivialization of communism’s bloody past.

There’s more, so do read the whole thing, but it does my grumpy and worried heart a world of good to know that Harvard has at least some sensible students like Laura Nicolae to counter the baneful effects of the Bernie Sanders-worshipping modern campus Marxist.

– JVW

Listen: Interview with SWATter Who Got an Innocent Man Killed in Wichita

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:00 pm

Yesterday, someone interviewed a man claiming to be the SWATter in the Wichita SWATting that killed 28-year-old Andrew Finch. Finch, the father of two young children, was not involved in the argument that precipitated the SWATting, and was shot by police at his front door while unarmed. The appalling interview with the SWATter is here:

I don’t know if the person being interviewed is Tyler Barriss, the suspect who has been arrested in the SWATting. But the interviewer claims to have contacted the interviewee through his Twitter account, on which he claimed responsibility for the SWATting. And the interviewee here sure sounds like the guy from the fake call to police:

The lack of remorse or empathy is infuriating if not surprising.

If you believe his story, he was not involved in the argument that precipitated the SWATting. Two gamers were playing Call of Duty online and got into an argument. One gamer (we’ll call him Gamer #1) gave a fake address to the other gamer (we’ll call him Gamer #2) and challenged Gamer #2 to SWAT him. Gamer #2 then contacted the SWATter and said, basically, some guy gave me an address and thinks he isn’t going to get SWATted. Want to prove him wrong? The SWATter said sure; after all, he SWATs people all the time. Then Gamer #1 contacted the SWATter on Twitter and taunted him, further spurring the SWATter to make the SWATting call.

If this story is to be believed, several other people were involved in this incident, from the police officer who fired the fatal shot, to Gamer #1 who provided the fake address, to Gamer #2 who solicited the SWATting.

But never mind all that. If it’s Barriss, I want him to go down for murder.

Police also need to find and punish the other people involved, if any.

If you’re new to this story, you can read my post about this deadly SWATting here, as well as my own account of having been a SWATting victim in the past. I published the audio of the SWATting call and the body cam footage of the shooting here. I posted about the arrest of the suspect here.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Bret Stephens: Why I’m Still a NeverTrumper

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:00 am

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens is the quintessential “conservative” columnist at a big-city newspaper. He has suggested that the Second Amendment should be repealed, has said he can never vote for a Republican again after the Roy Moore debacle, and openly wishes that Hillary Clinton were in the White House. In other words, like Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, he is in many ways a CINO: Conservative in Name Only.

I understand how the Internet works: this means that 95% of people will automatically discount anything the man has to say. But for the 5% of you that remain, put aside your disdain for the man himself and consider some of his points in this column, even as we Trump critics consider some of the points that Trump supporters would make in response.

Stephens opens with a nice summary of some of the successes of the Trump White House:

Tax cuts. Deregulation. More for the military; less for the United Nations. The Islamic State crushed in its heartland. Assad hit with cruise missiles. Troops to Afghanistan. Arms for Ukraine. A tougher approach to North Korea. Jerusalem recognized as Israel’s capital. The Iran deal decertified. Title IX kangaroo courts on campus condemned. Yes to Keystone. No to Paris. Wall Street roaring and consumer confidence high.

And, of course, Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. What, for a conservative, is there to dislike about this policy record as the Trump administration rounds out its first year in office?

It’s a good question. You might not agree that every accomplishment on this list is a good thing (I don’t), but most conservatives will see the list as quite good on the whole (I do). Some of us are disappointed by what we consider to be more significant and fundamental failures, such as the inability to repeal ObamaCare, or the utter lack of interest in controlling spending. But these shortcomings can hardly be blamed exclusively on Trump; they result primarily from the failures of Congress, the electorate, and ultimately our very system of government itself. Given these constraints, Trump has certainly done much to make conservatives happy — more than many of us expected.

So what’s the problem? Stephens says that it begins with the importance of our culture:

Can I still call myself conservative?

The answer depends on your definition. Here’s one I’ve always liked: “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” said the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. To which he added: “The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

More specifically, Stephens worries about the effect that an immoral president has on our culture:

This is the fatal mistake of conservatives who’ve decided the best way to deal with Trump’s personality — the lying, narcissism, bullying, bigotry, crassness, name calling, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness — is to pretend it doesn’t matter. “Character Doesn’t Count” has become a de facto G.O.P. motto. “Virtue Doesn’t Matter” might be another.

But character does count, and virtue does matter, and Trump’s shortcomings prove it daily.

. . . .

Conservatives may suppose that they can pocket policy gains from a Trump administration while the stain of his person will eventually wash away. But as a (pro-Trump) friend wrote me the other day, “presidents empower cultures.” Trump is empowering a conservative political culture that celebrates everything that patriotic Americans should fear: the cult of strength, open disdain for truthfulness, violent contempt for the Fourth Estate, hostility toward high culture and other types of “elitism,” a penchant for conspiracy theories and, most dangerously, white-identity politics.

Has Trump hurt the culture? I don’t agree with Stephens in every respect, but I think he has a point here. You don’t have to agree with Stephens in every respect. You don’t have to agree with his argument that the policy advances listed above are outweighed by Trump’s character flaws. But surely that there is something to the concern about Trump’s character.

Online, I often see this impatiently brushed aside, as people tell me angrily to “get over it” and completely ignore Trump’s character and what Trump has to say. Concentrate only on his accomplishments! I am told. (By the way: the same people who say that the words of the President of the United States are unimportant get very upset at my words. It’s almost as if a double standard is being applied!)

As I get older, phrases like “I don’t know” and “I could be wrong” seem more important. When I review the list of Trump accomplishments in one year, I’m disappointed that we still have ObamaCare and a huge debt with no prospect of relief in sight. But I don’t know that Hillary Clinton would have been better, and the list Stephens cites strongly suggests she would not have been. And while I worry about the effect that Trump’s character will have on our culture, the fact remains: I could be wrong about that. Maybe we will bounce back the second he is out of office, and there will be no lasting dent in our culture.

I’d like to gently suggest to Trump supporters that the opposite just might be true. Do you know what damage is caused to the culture by having a serial liar and bully in the White House? Have you seen a normalization of mindless alpha-male silliness since Trump became a candidate? Are you sure that the damage to the Republican party and the country generally is worth the tradeoff for the above-named policy gains?

Could you be wrong?

Part of what irritates Trump supporters about NeverTrumpers, I think, is the seeming self-righteousness about their position. “We are the only ones who care about principles” is the message Trump supporters hear, whether NeverTrumpers mean to convey that or not. I have never used the term “Never Trump” to describe myself, but as someone who is a frequent critic of our president, I try harder each day avoid adopting a self-righteous attitude. I don’t always succeed. But I’m trying.

I’ll point out that 1) taking a modest stance doesn’t garner attaboys or clicks, and 2) not all Trump supporters are real big on modesty or avoiding self-righteousness. There is a cottage industry of columnists who like to beat their chests with mocking references to the “irrelevance” of the NeverTrumpers. These columns do very well. If you love those columns, you might not like my position or this post. I understand that. You can’t please everybody.

But I ask the more thoughtful among you to reflect on what Stephens has to say here. To consider whether you know that having Donald Trump in the Oval Office is a bet positive in the long run. To consider that you might be wrong.

As I continue to watch Trump’s performance in the next three (seven?) years, I’ll try to do the same. I’m very pleased with a lot of what has been accomplished. I don’t know that his presidency will be a net negative. It feels to me like he has done a lot of damage to our culture.

But I could be wrong.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

LAPD Makes an Arrest in That Deadly Wichita SWATting

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:30 am

Sincere congratulations to the Los Angeles Police Department for making this arrest. If you’re new to this story, you can read my post about this deadly SWATting here, as well as my own account of having been a SWATting victim in the past. I published the audio of the SWATting call and the body cam footage of the shooting here. Now a suspect has been arrested in Los Angeles:

A 25-year-old California man was arrested in connection to an online quarrel between two “Call of Duty” gamers that prompted a hoax call and led to a man being killed by police in Kansas.

Los Angeles police on Friday arrested Tyler Barriss, who law enforcement claimed is the “prankster” who called 911 and made up a story about a kidnapping in Wichita, ABC 7 reported.

Barriss reportedly gave police the address he believed the other gamer lived.

In the audio of the 911 call, the caller claimed his father had been shot in the head and that he was holding his mother and a sibling at gunpoint. The caller added that he poured gasoline inside the home and “might just set it on fire.”

. . . .

Dexerto, an online news service focused on gaming, reported that the series of events began with an online argument over a $1 or $2 wager in a “Call of Duty” game on UMG Gaming, which operates online tournaments including one involving “Call of Duty.”

The mother of the SWATting victim says her son was not a gamer. If that’s right, this was not just a SWATting, but also a SWATting in which the SWATter gave the wrong address. The man who opened his front door probably had absolutely no idea why he was being shouted at by police.

It’s reassuring to see law enforcement taking a SWATting seriously for once. It’s a shame that it took someone getting killed to motivate them. As I mentioned in my initial post, the “investigation” of my own SWATting was slipshod and laughable. The FBI waited so many months to gather basic evidence, some of it was purged in the interim. Evidently that lazy and disinterested level of energy was not in play here — for obvious reasons.

If the evidence is there to show the suspect made the call, I hope he is charged with murder. The act of making a SWATting call creates a high risk of death, and the person making the call knows it, and either intends that death or doesn’t care. If someone dies as a result, that’s murder, any way you slice it.

Some online are also calling for the prosecution of the police officer who fired the fatal shot. That may well be called for, but it also may be a heavy lift. The body cam footage (which I published here) does not clearly show the actions of the SWATting victim, which would be relevant to the officer’s mindset, even though the decedent was obviously innocent of any wrongdoing. The witnesses are all likely to be police officers with a possible bias towards justifying the shooting. Again, however, depending on the facts, a prosecution might be appropriate.

Unless you’re a radical salivating cop-hater who believes all cops are looking to shoot people for sport (and there are plenty such people online, I have found), you understand that the mindset of a police officer firing out of (even totally unreasonable) fear is different from the premeditated and malicious intent of the person who made the SWATting call.

I again think back to the two times I have faced police officers pointing guns at me — both resulting from misunderstandings that were quickly resolved — and I thank God that the officers did not have itchy trigger fingers. It’s a very volatile situation — and in this case, that situation was created entirely by the SWATter.

Charging the SWATter with murder in this case, if they can show he made the call, should be a no-brainer. I’ll stay on top of this story for you.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Year-End Roundup: The Five Best Ted Cruz Twitter Burns of 2017

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:00 am

It’s the end of the year, and time for end-of-the-year roundups. Here are the Top Five Ted Cruz Twitter Burns of 2017:

1) Ted Cruz Pwns Deadspin

First, we have this exchange from January. The lefty site Deadspin asked for a picture of Ted Cruz playing basketball:

Cruz’s response:

(Hint: that’s not really him. It’s Duke’s Grayson Allen.) Deadspin made the mistake of responding in the following churlish fashion:

Cruz kept his cool and responded with this:

2) Ted Cruz Pwns New York Times Reporter

Then there is this, from August 14, 2017. A clueless New York Times reporter thought it would be clever to tweet this:

Cruz’s response:

Ouch!

via GIPHY

3) Ted Cruz Pwns Ben Sasse

After Ben Sasse did a humorous video apology to Ted Cruz for spilling a Dr. Pepper on him, a Twitter wag made this joke:

Sasse responded:

And Cruz’s response was a hilarious nod to the jokes about him being the Zodiac killer:

4) Ted Cruz Pwns Rand Paul

Rand Paul engaged in his traditional Festivus airing of grievances on Twitter again this year, and he took a couple of shots at Cruz in the process. Cruz had recently gotten into a fracas with Mark Hamill on Twitter, and Sen. Paul had this to say about it:

Cruz got back at Paul pretty good. Everyone I read this to said: “Whoa.”

Whoa.

Finally, we have this:

5) Ted Cruz Pwns Bernie Sanders

After Bernie Sanders suggested that we should make the GOP tax “cut” bill permanent:

Cruz responded with this:

Chances of this: zero. But it was good for Cruz to call Bernie’s bluff.

So there you have it: Ted Cruz’s Five Best Twitter Burns of 2017. Feel free to share it with friends.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

12/29/2017

Awful: SWATting Finally Kills Someone

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:30 pm

SWATting is a dangerous hoax in which someone calls the police and falsely reports that a shooting has happened at a particular address. When police show up at the address, the person who answers the door has no idea what is going on — and is suddenly facing police officers who think the homeowner is armed and dangerous. It’s been going on for years, and has always been a recipe for getting someone killed. And now, that has apparently happened:

Online gamers have said in multiple Twitter posts that the shooting of a man Thursday night by Wichita police was the result of a “swatting” hoax involving two gamers.

. . . .

Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston said Thursday night that police were looking into whether the call that led to the shooting was a case of swatting.

Livingston said the department received a call that someone had an argument with their mother, that the father had been shot in the head and the shooter was holding his mother, brother and sister hostage.

“That was the information we were working off of,” he said.

Officers went to the 1000 block of McCormick, preparing for a hostage situation and they “got into position,” he said.

“A male came to the front door,” Livingston said. “As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon.”

Livingston didn’t say if the man, who was 28, had a weapon when he came to the door, or what caused the officer to shoot the man. Police don’t think the man fired at officers, but the incident is still under investigation, he said. The man, who has not been identified by police, died at a local hospital.

I have been in that situation — although, thank God, I was not shot when it happened to me. On July 1, 2011, I was SWATted at my home in California, after receiving an email threat a week earlier. I fully described the incident in this post:

At 12:35 a.m. on July 1, 2011, sheriff’s deputies pounded on my front door and rang my doorbell. They shouted for me to open the door and come out with my hands up.

When I opened the door, deputies pointed guns at me and ordered me to put my hands in the air. I had a cell phone in my hand. Fortunately, they did not mistake it for a gun.

They ordered me to turn around and put my hands behind my back. They handcuffed me. They shouted questions at me: IS THERE ANYONE ELSE IN THE HOUSE? and WHERE ARE THEY? and ARE THEY ALIVE?

I told them: Yes, my wife and my children are in the house. They’re upstairs in their bedrooms, sleeping. Of course they’re alive.

Deputies led me down the street to a patrol car parked about 2-3 houses away. At least one neighbor was watching out of her window as I was placed, handcuffed, in the back of the patrol car. I saw numerous patrol cars on my quiet street. There was a police helicopter flying overhead, shining a spotlight down on us as I walked towards the patrol car. Several neighbors later told us the helicopter woke them up. I saw a fire engine and an ambulance. A neighbor later told me they had a HazMat vehicle out on the street as well.

Meanwhile, police rushed into my home. They woke up my wife, led her downstairs and to the front porch, frisked her, and asked her where the children were. Then police ordered her to stand on the front porch with her hands against the wall while they entered my children’s bedrooms to make sure they were alive.

The call that sent deputies to my home was a hoax. Someone had pretended to be me. They called the police to say I had shot my wife. The sheriff’s deputies who arrived at my front door believed they were about to confront an armed man who had just shot his wife. I don’t blame the police for any of their actions. But I blame the person who made the call.

Because I could have been killed.

I never described how slipshod the investigation was, but the FBI investigators clearly did not care about my case. They waited seven months to subpoena the phone records. They failed to subpoena records of other calls made by the SWATter until those records had been purged. Whenever I called them about the case, I got the distinct sense that I was regarded as a pain in the rear.

I got frustrated with them and finally told the agent in charge of the case that they needed to work harder on these cases. I said that SWATting was very dangerous. That one day, eventually, it would end up killing someone.

Now that has evidently happened.

I’ve been shouting about this issue for years, and have warned again and again of the danger.

I should feel vindicated.

Instead, I just feel sick to my stomach.

My heart goes out to the man’s family.

What an awful, terrible thing.

UPDATE: His name was Andrew Finch. He leaves behind two children, ages 7 and 2. His family says he was not armed.

Rest in peace.

UPDATE x2: Police have released the audio of the SWATting call:

The voice does not sound familiar, but the dead affect of the voice does. There is also body cam footage:

It’s very difficult to see what actions (if any) prompted the shooting.

What a tragedy.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Outrageous: California Prosecuting Man for Anti-Muslim Insults

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:30 pm

Here in the United States of America, the California Attorney General is actually prosecuting a man for Internet insults. Eugene Volokh:

In September 2016, Mark Feigin posted five insulting comments on the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Facebook page (before he was finally blocked by the ICSC from commenting):

  • “THE TERROR HIKE … SOUNDS LIKE FUN” (written in response to the Center’s “Sunset Hike” announcement).
  • “THE MORE MUSLIMS WE ALLOW INTO AMERICA THE MORE TERROR WE WILL SEE.”
  • “PRACTICING ISLAM CAN SLOW OR EVEN REVERSE THE PROCESS OF HUMAN EVOLUTION.”
  • “Islam is dangerous – fact: the more muslim savages we allow into america – the more terror we will see -this is a fact which is undeniable.”
  • “Filthy muslim s**t has no place in western civilization.” [Note by Patterico: I bleeped the expletive here, but Feigin’s original comment contained the curse word.]

California is now prosecuting him for posting these comments, on the theory that they violate Cal. Penal Code § 653m(b):

Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device … to another person is … guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business.

These are Facebook comments, not calls into a person’s home. All the organization had to do was block the guy. But they, and the Attorney General, want to punish him for what he said. And they are using the criminal justice system to do it.

As Volokh explains, the California Attorney General makes no bones about the fact that it is going after Feigin because of the content of his speech. It is the allegation that the language is intended to “vex” or “annoy” members of the ICSC that the Attorney General claims is unlawful. If Feigin had praised Muslims or Islam, there would be no prosecution. They admit this, openly.

Volokh notes that the logic of this prosecution would also support a prosecution for, say, comments on the NRA’s Web site intended to annoy NRA employees — or comments on President Trump’s Web site intended to annoy Trump. I’ll add that it could apply to comments on this very Web site intended to annoy me. But if you leave a comment intended to annoy the NRA, or Trump, or me, the remedy is for someone to respond to it, or in an extreme case to ban you from the site. It’s not to prosecute you.

One strongly suspects, given the partisan leftist bent of California’s Attorney General, that there would be no prosecution for comments intended to annoy the NRA or Trump. And it is the partisan nature of government retaliation for speech that is at the root of the First Amendment’s prohibition against such retaliation.

The actions of the California Attorney General in attempting to punish Feigin for his free speech are so outrageous as to shock the conscience of this prosecutor. (I should add, as I always do, that I speak for myself here and not for my office.) This is very basic First Amendment stuff. They should be ashamed of themselves.

P.S. I should note that there is a separate count for an actual alleged threat. But as Prof. Volokh explains, the evidence supporting that count is very weak:

(I should note that Feigin is also being charged with making a threatening phone call to the Islamic Center; but that is a separate count, based on separate conduct, and it’s far from clear that Feigin was actually the person who made that call, as this CNN story [Scott Glover] describes. The Center employee who received the call claimed that it sounded like Feigin’s voice, which he heard when making a call to test the theory that the caller was the same person who wrote the Facebook posts. But the employee also continues to claim that the call sounded like the voice of someone who had left a different message on the Center’s voice-mail the day before — and that person has been proved to be someone other than Feigin.

Nor do the police have any phone records linking the threatening call to Feigin: They waited seven months before trying to get the records, and by then Citrix, which operated the calling number as part of its GoToMeeting teleconferencing system, had purged its records. This is why this post focuses on the Facebook posts, which Feigin did make, and not on the separate threatening phone call charge.)

The bit about waiting months to get the records, only to see that they were purged, reminds me of the slipshod efforts of the FBI in “investigating” my SWATting. But the fact remains that this sounds like very bad evidence for the threat count.

In any event, prosecuting someone for annoying Internet insults that can easily be blocked is an outrage. I hope these prosecutors get hammered hard in court. They deserve to be.

P.P.S. Full disclosure: I am friendly with Ken White of Popehat.com, who has done pro bono work for me in the past. His law partner is the man defending Feigin. This has no effect on my opinion but it should be noted regardless.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

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