The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

You Can’t Call People ‘Terrorists’ Just for Having Different Viewpoints

David Rohwer of Austin holds his assault rifle during an open carry firearm rally on the sidelines of the annual National Rifle Association meeting in Dallas, Texas, May 5, 2018. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: San Francisco’s city leaders try to redefine the word terrorist to mean “people who we disagree with on gun policy”; the fight over Brexit in the United Kingdom takes another dramatic turn; the not-so-big NFL preview; and Joe Biden finds a way to laugh at his own gaffes.

San Francisco Tries to Redefine the Word ‘Terrorist’

We live in a time when authorities attempt to brazenly redefine the meaning of words by sheer force of will right before our eyes: “By a unanimous vote, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors have passed a resolution declaring the National Rifle Association a domestic terrorist organization and urging other cities to follow their example.” The resolution also orders city employees to “take every reasonable step to limit” business interactions with the NRA and its supporters.

First, does the city of San Francisco have any business interaction with the NRA? Did the supervisors even bother to look before passing this resolution? Or were they too high on performative outrage to even ask?

But let’s assume the guy who heads up the company that makes the orange traffic cones that the city uses is an NRA member and big donor to the organization. Would the city cancel a contract for more traffic cones over the guy’s support for the NRA? Federal courts have overturned agency decisions to cancel contracts over perceived bias against a contractor, even when the contractor was behind schedule. “Objectivity must be the hallmark of any decision to terminate for default.  Therefore, government personnel should remember to focus on the facts and make every attempt to work with the contractor before taking steps to terminate for cause.” A contractor who lost a job primarily because of his support for the NRA would probably have a winning court case.

But back to the label of “domestic terror organization.” You don’t have to like the NRA to recognize that it does not even remotely fit the definition of a “domestic terrorist organization.” What these eleven lawmakers mean to say is that they loathe the NRA and vehemently oppose their views on the Second Amendment and the right to own a gun. They’re free to have those views, but they do not have the authority to declare someone else a terrorist for having that different view.

These city supervisors aren’t the FBI. They’re not the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. They’re not the National Counterterrorism Center.

Terrorism is a crime, not merely a viewpoint. Being a member of Occupy Wall Street does not make you a terrorist. Being a member of Occupy Wall Street and planning to blow up a bridge makes you a terrorist. Being a Trump supporter doesn’t make you a terrorist. Being a Trump supporter and mailing pipe bombs to people you see as his enemies does make you a terrorist.

Can anyone in San Francisco grasp the danger in letting politicians declare by proclamation that those who have committed no crimes but who have differing views are terrorists? Can anyone over there imagine how this mentality could turn out badly for someone they like?

For example, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib wanted to go to Israel on a trip sponsored by Mitfah, an organization that runs articles contending “the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover”; and an American neo-Nazi screed about how Jews control the media; as well as praising suicide bombers, Palestinian terrorists, and bus hijackers who killed people, not metaphorical terrorists. Omar and Tlaib are associating with some really unsavory characters. This doesn’t make the congresswomen terrorists. But if we all decide to follow the San Francisco city supervisors’ example, we can label them terrorists morning, noon, and night. There’s no way that could possibly lead to something bad, right?

Leaders of the NRA frequently argue that they’re the only organization in America who is regularly blamed for the actions of people who aren’t members. I imagine that when they say that, somewhere the Koch network, AIPAC, Focus on the Family, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and National Right to Life grumble, ‘hey, it’s no picnic over here, either, pal.’ But being declared terrorists by a city government might take the cake.

This is the same city government that wants to restrict the use of words like ‘felon’ and ‘convict.’

Some examples include changing “felon” and “offender” to “returning resident” or “formerly incarcerated person.” A “parolee” could be described as a “person under supervision.” “Convict” could be referred to as a “currently incarcerated person,” while a “juvenile offender” or “delinquent” would be described as a “young person impacted by the justice system.”

The city government wants to take it easier on people who have broken the law, while vehemently demonizing people who have not broken the law.

Brexit Cancelled? Postponed? Rebooted?

Wednesday brought its share of surprises to the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Johnson no longer has a Conservative majority in Parliament; ordinarily, this would lead to a new election. But the anti-Brexit forces aren’t so eager for a new election, because they know there’s a chance is that the result would be a decidedly pro-Brexit majority. The anti-Brexit forces passed a bill requiring the prime minister to ask the EU for a three-month extension before a “hard exit.” Johnson is refusing, and now we have a standoff.

Daniel Hannan argues that the train tracks only run in one direction — Brexit — and that the current disputes are simply debating how fast the train goes on those tracks.

The parties that have spent the past month accusing Johnson of mounting some sort of coup just voted to prevent him from subjecting his tenure to a national vote.

The House of Commons has thus put itself in a ridiculous position. Pro-EU MPs have voted to keep in office a government they have calculatedly undermined. They have done so for the sole purpose of overturning a referendum result which they had previously promised to uphold. That, my friends, is our political crisis in a nutshell.

Now the good news. Voters are not idiots. They can see what is going on. Sooner or later, probably sooner, there will have to be a general election. The Conservatives have, in effect, deselected 21 of their MPs, including several former ministers, for voting with Labour to prevent Brexit. Although that purge has horrified commentators, most of whom are in awe of the Europhile grandees, it is a necessary prelude to an election campaign that will turn on Brexit. The Tories could hardly fight an election promising to leave the EU while several of their candidates refused to accept that policy. Though the pundits are fainting like affronted matrons, voters appreciate Boris Johnson’s strength of purpose.

In the meantime, the loss of those 21 votes has deprived the government of its majority, making an election before the end of the year almost inevitable.

Hannan’s not being a wild-eyed optimist. Politico points out that every faction is slowly recognizing that their only option is another election to serve as a second referendum on Brexit.

The Not-So-Big NFL Preview

The NFL season starts tonight, with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears squaring off.

Tom Brady’s been playing quarterback since 2001; he’s appeared in nine Super Bowls and won six of them. Thus, he’s won the Super Bowl two out of every three years, and appeared in the Super Bowl in half of his seasons; though some New England Patriot fans would argue the 2008 season shouldn’t count, as he missed almost all of that season with an ACL injury. This means that almost every year, the New England Patriots are the safest bet to win the Super Bowl.

For several years, I’ve wondered if this is the year the Patriots’ dynasty ends. Each year, there’s some reason to think time is catching up with all of them. Tight end Rob Gronkowski retired, Brady is now 42, and head coach Bill Belichick has to be thinking about retiring. Josh McDaniels’ quickly rescinded acceptance of the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job in 2018 suggests that he’s the heir apparent in New England, and he probably expects to take over sooner rather than later. And while his desire for championships is clear, owner Bob Kraft seems focused on pursuing different happy endings.

Obviously, the Patriots’ dynasty hasn’t ended. I talked about the upcoming season a bit with Mickey on the pop-culture podcast and predicted the Saints and Chiefs in the Super Bowl. But today I want to revise my pick to the Patriots winning it all again. If they do so, I look clairvoyant; if they don’t, it means I probably cursed them by picking them. Win-win.

I’m predicting the Patriots over the Saints in the Super Bowl. The AFC division winners will be New England, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Jacksonville, with San Diego Chargers and the Cleveland Browns making the wild card slots. (I still think Cleveland is getting overhyped this year.) My Jets will finish 8-8 and far too many fans will accept it as a sign of gradual progress. Over in the NFC, the division winners will be New Orleans, Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Chicago Bears, with the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons in the wild card slots.

The five teams picking first in the 2020 draft will be Miami, Washington, Detroit, the Raiders, and Indianapolis.

Later today, Greg Corombus and I will hold our Democratic Presidential Primary Fantasy Draft.

ADDENDA: Okay, this is pretty funny: Last night on Stephen Colbert’s program, former vice president Joe Biden told the host that his gaffes weren’t substantial . . . and then deliberately called him “Jimmy Kimmel.”


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