The Morning Jolt


Some Asiri-ously Good News

Ibrahim al-Asiri (REUTERS/Saudi Interior Ministry/Handout )

Making the click-through worthwhile: An infamously demagogic gun-control advocate enters his 16th minute of fame, the U.S. military scratches another name off its list and the world becomes a little bit safer, Russia’s hackers start expanding their reach into American politics, and a good man in a tough spot offers a suggestion on how to help others when they need it most.

Hogg Wild

If your perspective on 18-year-old former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student and gun-control activist David Hogg is, “Why won’t he just go off and live a normal 18-year-old’s life, instead of becoming the insufferable permanent face of a movement aiming to repeal a part of the Bill of Rights?” then you probably shouldn’t flip out about the lengthy and mostly glowing profile of him in New York magazine. This is because Hogg very much wants conservatives and gun owners to flip out about him. Hogg’s role in what the piece acknowledges as “the celebrity-activist vortex” is primarily fueled by that outrage — and Hogg’s unique role as someone who can denounce Republican officials in the most demagogic and unfair terms and deflect any counter-criticism with the defense that he’s a kid who survived a school shooting.

Yes, the article salutes Hogg’s “appetite for the nitty-gritty of policy disputes,” which is an odd way to characterize a young man who called Florida governor Rick Scott “Voldemort,” keeps insisting Senator Marco Rubio took money in exchange for children’s blood, and makes statements such as:

“When your old-a** parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,’ and you’re just like, ‘Give me the f***ing phone and let me handle it.’ Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a f***ing democracy, so we have to.”

Those are not the nitty-gritty policy details, and he is not Cicero — even if many conservatives will  quietly smile at Hogg’s accusation that “older Democrats just won’t move the f**k off the plate and let us take control. Nancy Pelosi is old.”

The piece strangely does not mention at all the “swatting” of Hogg’s house while his family was on vacation.

The piece concedes towards the end, “Sometimes he thinks and speaks exactly like a teenager.” The world has, and has had, many wonderful teenagers. But most of us who are past age 18 look back at our 18-year-old selves and cringe at least a bit. We thought we had all the answers. When we looked at most adults, we saw unforgivable hypocrisy and failings, instead of good human beings doing the best they could in a complicated world. A lot of us were intemperate, judgmental, and arrogant. (We had no idea how right our parents had been about so many things all along.) We thought we knew a lot about life, and most of us had barely started. A lot of us had at least a little Holden Caulfield in us, smugly deriding all of the “phonies” around us.

In other words, while part of the negative reaction to Hogg stems from his positions and overall tone of debate, another part of it stems from the chunk of the adult world that remembers being a teenager and recognizing that insufferable self-righteousness and oblivious naivete. David Hogg isn’t a bad person because he supports gun control; Hogg is a bad person because he insists that the politicians he opposes want to see more school shootings. And instead of elevating and celebrating Hogg for saying these things, a more responsible mainstream media would gently correct him.

And they would wonder why Broward Sheriff Scott Israel is appearing on school-safety posters when his department did such an abysmal job in its encounters with the shooter before and during that awful day.

Al-Qaeda Finds Itself in Asiri State of Affairs

Perhaps the most important news of the day, and, I suspect, a development that will be infuriatingly under-discussed:

U.S. officials are confident that al Qaeda’s chief bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri has been killed by an American drone strike in Yemen. After Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, al-Asiri might well have been the single most dangerous terrorist in the world.

“Probably the most sophisticated terrorist bomb maker on the planet. Incredibly creative, incredibly innovative,” said former CIA deputy director Michael Morell.

Al-Asiri designed the so-called “underwear bomb,” which nearly took down a U.S. airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. The plot failed only because the young man wearing the bomb failed to detonate it properly.

One year later, the Saudi-born al-Asiri nearly pulled off another audacious attack by hiding explosive devices in printer cartridges being shipped on cargo planes to the United States. The devices got through airport security in London, and were only discovered because of a last-minute tip.

The drone strike that the U.S. believes killed Asiri took place last year in Yemen. Which leaves the question — did we just accumulate enough intelligence to come to this conclusion recently? Or has the U.S. government known or strongly suspected they killed al-Asiri for about a year, and is only publicly discussing it now?

Separately, if this story goes largely undiscussed today . . .  is our news-media environment just allergic to good news?

Is Russia Sniffing around Your E-Mails, Too?

This morning, I found a message from Gmail telling me they believed hackers connected to a foreign government may have attempted to steal my password. I wonder if that’s connected to this:

The Russian military intelligence unit that sought to influence the 2016 election appears to have a new target: conservative American think tanks that have broken with President Trump and are seeking continued sanctions against Moscow, exposing oligarchs or pressing for human rights.

In a report scheduled for release on Tuesday, Microsoft Corporation said that it detected and seized websites that were created in recent weeks by hackers linked to the Russian unit formerly known as the G.R.U. The sites appeared meant to trick people into thinking they were clicking through links managed by the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, but were secretly redirected to web pages created by the hackers to steal passwords and other credentials.

Microsoft also found websites imitating the United States Senate, but not specific Senate offices or political campaigns.

The shift to attacking conservative think tanks underscores the Russian intelligence agency’s goals: to disrupt any institutions challenging Moscow and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

. . .  “We are now seeing another uptick in attacks. What is particular in this instance is the broadening of the type of websites they are going after,” Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, said Monday in an interview. 

“These are organizations that are informally tied to Republicans,” he said, “so we see them broadening beyond the sites they have targeted in the past.”

Gee, it sure would be nice if we could get the president to explicitly denounce this!

ADDENDA: The great Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout and his wife are going through a rough time, and he lets you know that you can make the world a better place — and perhaps even help out others in his circumstance —  by registering to be an organ donor.


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