From the land of sky blue waters

Sometimes it seems that Minnesota is ground zero in the war against terrorism. The problem is that we’re on the wrong side. This week we learned that two men identified as Minnesotans had died fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and now is such a time. Reporting from ground zero, we pause to ask what is happening here?

One of the two — Abdiraaman Muhumed — was a Somali Muslim. He is one of several such “Minnesotans” to have departed Minnesota to fight with Islamic terrorists. The other reported to have died — the inauspiciously named Douglas McAuthur McCain — was a former Minnesota resident by way of Chicago and a Muslim convert. He was a friend of another such Muslim convert — Troy Kastigar. McCain and Kastigar were classmates at Robbinsdale high schools. Their path to Islam is not clear, but it undoubtedly originated in Minnesota, from which they joined several other “Minnesotans” who following a similar path to jihad. McCain reportedly moved in to live Kastigar in 2000-2001. One infers that McCain followed Kastigar’s path, Kastigar enlisting in al Shabab and McCain in IS. Among the common denominators were their friendship in Minneapolis, their conversion to Islam and their pursuit of jihad.

According to the Star Tribune, they both converted to Islam in early adulthood. The Star Tribune also reports without explanation that Kastigar “went by the nickname Abdirahman.” Before he blew himself up for jihad, Kastigar appeared in the al Shabab recruiting video featuring jihadists from Minnesota. The New York Times circles around McCain and gets approximately nowhere.

This much we have on good authority. The Minnesota connection to the jihad phenomenon “began in 2007 with the young Somali men traveling from Minnesota to Somalia,” according to the director of the local FBI Chief Divison Counsel quoted by ABC News. “In Somalia, it started as a nationalistic call…[but] we’ve now seen where some individuals perhaps are not interested or not inclined to travel to Somalia, [they] start to branch out to other hot spots around the globe, obviously Syria being among them.”

“Nationalistic” is a euphemism. For “nationalistic,” read “religious.” And the problem is growing. To borrow the cliché invoking dots, Michael Walsh connects them here.

As I have noted here several times, and I am repeating myself now, Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the United States. We know amazingly little about them, probably because we are afraid to ask the relevant questions. We know they are mostly Muslim — we can see the hijabs, we are familiar with the many local controversies to which their faith has given rise over the past 10 years — but are they loyal residents or citizens of the United States? In the conflict between the United States and the Islamist forces with which we are contending, whose side are they on?

Only three years ago a terror trial in Minneapolis concluded with a raft of guilty verdicts that raised serious questions of loyalty. The two defendants were women convicted of charges including conspiracy to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, of providing support, and of lying to the FBI. The “terrorist organization” was al Shabab.

The ringleader was not exactly remorseful after the jury returned its guilty verdicts. According to a contemporaneous AP report, she stood before the judge and stated through an interpreter: “I am very happy.” She added that she knew she was going to heaven. As I noted here at the time, she may be going to heaven, but she’ll be stopping off in prison first. As for the rest of us, she advised: “You will go to hell.” The feeling was mutual.

I have been told by law enforcement authorities that the investigation leading to the 2011 trial has consumed the local FBI office for the past seven years. The investigation also resulted in a string of guilty pleas (at least one such plea dating back as far 2009) involving local Somali men supporting al Shabab. Investigators believe at least 21 Somali men have left Minnesota to join al Shabab. We’re a little concerned the that the departed jihadists might choose to return to Minnesota and continue the jihad.

What about the rest of the local Somali community? Members of the local Somali community materialized at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis to support the women at trial, but not because they held the charges to be unfounded. The members of the local Somali community appearing at the courthouse never bothered to cite any evidence of innocence. The question was beside the point. No voice expressly spoke up on behalf of law-abidingness or loyalty to the United States.

In the National Affairs essay “The Muslim-American muddle,” Peter Skerry expressly raised the question of loyalty in the context of America’s Muslim population in general. The essay is by turns infuriating and illuminating, but at least it licensed inquiry into the question.

Indeed, Skerry took the question seriously and provided evidence supporting the concerns of “alarmists,” noting the striking absence of any acknowledged tie to the United States on the part of important Muslim organizations. Skerry contrasted “complacent elites” with “alarmist populists.” I would place Skerry on the complacent side of the divide and myself on the alarmist side, although Skerry placed himself (of course) in the middle as the voice of reason mediating between the two camps. But Skerry concludes the essay on what I would characterize as an alarmist (i.e., realistic) note.

Along the way, Skerry seemed to me to treat several basic issues (including assimilation) in a conclusory and question-begging fashion. He cited the naturalization of Muslim immigrants and their involvement in American politics, supporting Democrats, as factors supporting (I will say) complacency. Yet the two defendants in the Minneapolis terror trial were both naturalized citizens. And CAIR has formed a fruitful alliance with Democrats going back to its days as a Hamas front group (Skerry suggests that those days are behind it). Skerry rightly observed: “It is astonishing, given th[e history of CAIR], that the mainstream American media should routinely describe CAIR as ‘a Muslim civil rights organization.’”

Skerry failed to raise the question whether the immigration spigot should remain open while we sort out the serious issues that he addressed in his essay. The question didn’t even seem to cross his mind. In any event, Skerry’s essay badly needs to be updated. In the meantime, we can only try to be clear about what is happening here.

Poll: Obama receives more than twice as much strong disapproval as strong approval

The latest Gallup poll on President Obama job performance is out. At the top line, things could be worse for the president and his party. 44 percent approve of his performance, while 53 percent disapprove.

That’s considerably worse than in the run-up to the 2010 election, and certainly cause for concern among Democrats. But Dems won’t be surprised by this split which, as I said, could be worse.

The intensity numbers, however, are terrible for Obama and the Dems. 39 percent of Americans (essentially 2 in 5) say they strongly disapprove of the president’s performance. Only 17 percent say they strongly approve. In mid-2010, the split was adverse to Obama, but far less so. 34 percent strongly disapproved, compared to 27 percent who strongly approved.

Obama’s current standing with independents is terrible. He’s underwater on the approve/disapprove axis at 39-54. And only 11 percent of independents say they strongly approve, compared to 39 percent who say they strongly disapprove.

So much for claims that Obama is the victim of Republican partisanship. Independents are disgusted with him too.

What does this mean for November? Big trouble for Democrats, one would imagine. As Gallup politely puts it, “the intensity of opinions about the president could affect. . .the forthcoming midterm election.”

Dear Dean Wippman

The University of Minnesota is another brick in the wall of the institutional left that holds Minnesota under its thumb. The university has done and continues to do some great things, but in many ways it remains an enemy of the ordinary citizen seeking to get on with his life. Its outré history faculty, to take just one example, is among the vanguard of anti-Israel, pro-Hamas supporters, and they’re not too crazy about the United States either.

I am a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and grateful for the education I received there, but along with the university as a whole it too is a big part of the problem. Under the leadership of deep thinking social planner Myron Orfield — he knows what is best for us and he means to give it to us good and hard — the law school hosts the blandly named Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity (formerly known with somewhat more candor as the Institute on Race and Poverty) that is the cockpit from which the regional planning assault is conducted in and on Minnesota. Without it, I doubt that Minnesota would be among the featured attractions in Stanley Kurtz’s Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities.

This is how the institute describes its mission: “The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity investigates the ways that laws, policies and practices affect development patterns in U.S. metropolitan regions, with a particular focus on the growing social and economic disparities within these areas. Through top-level scholarship, mapping and advocacy, the Institute provides the resources that policymakers, planning officials and community organizations need to address reform in taxation, land use, housing, metropolitan governance and education.” I trust readers can translate that for themselves, but Kurtz, Katherine Kersten, and Paul Mirengoff have provided considerable assistance.

Given the existing malignancy that the institute represents, I was deeply disappointed to receive in the mail this week the announcement of a new law school project supporting illegal immigration. It is creatively named the Center for New Americans. Its mission “is to expand urgently needed legal services for noncitizens, pursue litigation that will improve our nation’s immigration laws, and educate noncitizens about their rights.” Its “partners,” of course, include the Minnesota’s three biggest law firms.

The announcement I received was an invitation to the center’s kickoff program at the law school on September 30. The program is a discussion among like-minded speakers consistent, shall we say, with the center’s mission.

David Wippman is the dean of the law school. I wrote him to express my disappointment with the program and the center. There is nothing remarkable about the messages we exchanged, but I thought readers might be interested in seeing what Dean Wippman had to say. I wrote:

Dear Dean Wippman: I recently researched and wrote an article on the wave of illegal Central American immigrants with which we are contending at the moment. The article appeared in the July 21 issue of the Weekly Standard ( Through my work researching and writing the article, I got to know something about the issues raised by the current wave of illegal immigrants beyond the headlines.

I am so disappointed to learn of the law school’s new Center for New Americans project via the mailing announcing the September 30 event launch program at the law school. I am even more disappointed to see that the program launching the project includes no element of diversity of opinion on the subject. It seems to me that the program poorly represents the many sided nature of the issues involved and therefore detracts from the law school’s standing as something other than a partisan institution.

Very truly yours,
Scott W. Johnson ’79

Dean Wippman responded:

Dear Scott,

Thanks for your email and your candor. I understand that there are a wide range of views regarding immigration and I agree we should expose our students to a diverse set of viewpoints on that and other issues. I am convinced that the Center for New Americans is a great resource for the School and for the community. It substantially increases the number of clinic slots we can offer to students (though we still can’t meet the full demand for clinics). Our students have been enthusiastic about the opportunities the Center provides. The Center provides much needed legal services in collaboration with our partner organizations and it already has a case scheduled for argument before the US Supreme Court. The program launch is intended to highlight our collaborative model and so has several guest speakers from our non-profit partner organizations. I hope you will join us for the launch event; you could then speak directly to the Center director and faculty

Best regards,

I wrote back:

Dear Dean Wippman: I appreciate your gracious response. The opportunity to come talk with the protagonists is not what I had in mind, but I appreciate your pointing that out as well. When the law school has a program including discussion of the problems raised by the continuing flood of illegal immigration for American citizens, please keep me in mind. I would love to attend.

I had meant to add that my wife Sally (’80) is a legal immigrant and naturalized citizen from Peru. We went through the naturalization process together. That has given me some understanding of the system and the issues as well.

Thanks again.


I will leave Dean Wippman with the last word: “Thanks, Scott. I hope I will have the chance to meet both you and Sally some time soon.”

Rubio flips again on immigration

Sen. Marco Rubio says that if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the immigration reform bill that Rubio sponsored last year to the floor for a vote now, he would vote against it. Rubio explained that passing his immigration bill wouldn’t be productive, and thus the vote would only be for show.

But if “unproductive” and “show votes” automatically deserved a “no,” our solons would rarely vote “yes.” If his bill was meritorious last year, as Rubio believed, it is meritorious now, and should be treated accordingly.

Rubio also claims that he doesn’t regret his support for his immigration reform bill last year, but it’s pretty clear that he does. After all, that bill turned out (thankfully) to be unproductive.

More importantly, if Rubio hadn’t supported amnesty-style comprehensive immigration reform, he would probably be the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. At a minimum, he wouldn’t feel compelled to fast talk his way out of the political damage he inflicted on himself by leading the charge for amnesty.

Amnesty-style comprehensive reform isn’t the only immigration issue as to which Rubio is flipping. There is also the matter of “dreamers.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that Rubio says he wants to end a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gives safe harbor and work permits to some people brought to the U.S. as children. During a speech earlier this week, he told young illegal immigrants that they are hurting their cause.

We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws. You’re doing harm to your own cause because you don’t have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States.

Rubio then waited while security escorted the “dreamers” out of the room.

Rubio took a very different approach during a 2012 event. At that time, according to the Journal, Rubio responded to “dreamers” by saying:

These young people are very brave to be here today. They raise a very legitimate issue. I don’t want them to leave. I want them to stay.

Rubio explained this about face by complaining that the “dreamers” aren’t giving him enough credit for trying to help him. As Sonny Corleone would say, he “is taking this very personal.”

The first law of holes dictates that Rubio stop digging. But presidential politics are impelling him to violate that law.

When Rubio surveys the potential presidential field, he surely sees that no Republican stands out. Why else would we be hearing so much talk about another Mitt Romney bid?

In addition, Rubio surely remembers that, not long ago, he stood out. Couple this with the fact that, like Barack Obama, Rubio seems to have infinite faith in his ability to talk his way out of tight spots, and you get the embarrassment of his latest immigration squirming.

It may well cause some conservatives to take another look at Rubio. But when I look at him, I continue to see a politician whom it is difficult to trust.

For more on the tortured history of Rubio on immigration, see here, here, and here.

Thoughts from the Ammo Line

Ammo Grrrll concludes her series on her high school reunion in a column she titles “50th Reunion, or, How Did I Get This Old?” She writes:

You know those beautiful young ladies in high school back when you were a nerd who could never date them (if you were a boy) or BE them (if you were a girl)? Well, they are still beautiful! What kind of karmic fairness is that? Some of them look like they just stepped out of Miss Skalbeck’s English class on the way to the lunchroom. (It’s meatless Friday, so it’s either Fish Sticks or Mac and Cheese, back in the quaint old days when a Christian religion was modestly accommodated.)

So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that by age 67 or 68, the old cliques have pretty much broken down. By this reunion, people had stopped trying to impress each other and circulated nicely, talking to everyone. Heck, we’re all just geezers now who have done our best, accomplished much, and are hoping that when we meet Our Maker, many years from now, He grades on a curve.

Out of a class of around 240, 175 people registered for the reunion, including some spouses and teachers. There were no nametags at our opening cocktail reception. Some people were instantly recognizable. Others could not have been guessed if my life had depended on it. Whatever reunion you attend, do NOT say, “Guess who I am?” This can only lead to embarrassment all around. Just stick out your hand and say, “Hi, I’m Somebody Johnson” (in Minnesota), or “I’m Tammylou Faye-Anne Whatever” (in Texas).

A dear, late friend of mine told me that when her father visited his native Czechoslovakia, then still Communist, he ran into an old woman whom he recognized from gradeschool and broke the ice after 50 years by asking, “Don’t the government give you teeth?”

Better openers at your reunion would be neutral sports talk: “Would soccer be tolerable if limited to one two-minute shootout? OK, how ’bout with actual guns?” or “Should they change the name of the Golf Channel to The Cialis Channel based on the number of commercials for it?” What’s up with that, so to speak?

I am blessed to be one of very few people my age with two living parents. I had to divide my time between reunion events and parental visits, so I left early. The next night was our big banquet and dance. I sat with travel mates Bonnie and Heather and a guy who still had a crush on Bonnie and Heather who was livin’ the dream for one evening.

This time we had nametags with our senior pictures on them in case we hadn’t been humiliated enough in life. Whatever made me think a Lilt home perm the day before pictures was a great idea? It may be an urban legend, but I read that Barry Manilow bought up all existing copies of his yearbook and destroyed them. If I ever get that rich, count on it!

The organizers of the reunion had done a bang-up job with the banquet. It opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by a career Army classmate. The dance band then played all the military anthems for every branch of service and had the vets who had served in each branch stand to sustained applause. It had to be over half the men in the class, God Bless ‘em. Bonnie, who is a veterinarian,also stood by mistake. OK, I made that up.

Colleen, the emcee, recalled that a certain strict English teacher once scolded a periodically-disruptive student thusly: “Susan, your life would go much better if you didn’t think you were so funny.” Rumor has it that her life went just fine. So, neener, neener.

After the banquet, the cover band played the music from the Sixties. Ammo Grrrll was a dancin’ fool for over an hour. The next day everything hurt, including my hair.

Finally, it was obvious that none of us had gotten through life without challenges and sorrow. No matter how successful, how financially secure, everyone I talked to had dealt with something – from disabled children to mental health issues; from surviving breast cancer to broken marriages and addiction. Life can be a marathon through a minefield.

We are here not to see through each other, but to see each other through. Our class was good at that. Many thanks to the organizers. On to the 60th. This time we’ll leave more time for the Cowboy Hall of Fame even if we need three walkers then instead of just the one.

Ninth Circuit considers Guam’s racially discriminatory plebiscite registraton law

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument yesterday in the case of Davis v. Guam. The hearing occurred in Guam, the first time the Ninth Circuit has sat there since 2002.

Mr. Davis, a resident of Guam, attempted to register to vote in a plebiscite on Guam’s relationship to the United States. He was denied permission to register because he could not trace his ancestry to a native inhabitant of Guam. Guam law allows only those with correct ancestry to vote in the future status plebiscite.

According to a report by Davis’ expert, nearly every ancestor who could “confer” on a modern descendant the right to register to vote was a member of the Chamorro racial group. Thus, Guam has effectively conditioned the right to vote in its plebiscite on race.

Therefore, Davis claims that this racial prerequisite for registering to vote violates the Fifteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and other federal civil rights statutes. However, a district court ruled against him on the theory that he suffered no injury from the statute that excludes him, on racial grounds, from registering to vote because the election has not been scheduled and may not occur,

Try to imagine the reaction to this argument if it were applied to defeat the claim of a black prohibited by law from registering to vote in a prospective election due to his race.

Mr. Davis is represented by, among others, Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Terry Pell of the Center for Individual Rights, and Doug Cox of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. All three, I’m proud to say, are friends of Power Line.

The panel that heard the case yesterday consisted of Alex Kozinski, Randy Smith, and Mary Schroder. The first two were appointed by a Republican president, Reagan and George W. Bush, respectively. Judge Schroder was appointed by President Clinton.

Guam tried to defend its race-based voting requirement on the theory that Guam represents a special case because its native population was never polled as to whether it wanted to become part of the United States. Chief Judge Kozinski countered that “native inhabitants” have never been polled when the United States claimed their land as American territory. In general, he seemed unconvinced by Guam’s arguments.

You can read accounts of the oral argument here and here. You can listen to it by going here.

Michael Brown: Too Burly for the New York Times

Michael Brown was a very large young man, 6’4″ and 292 (sometimes reported as 300) pounds. He used his size aggressively to rob a convenience store and shove aside a store clerk just ten minutes before his fatal encounter with a police officer. Brown’s height and weight are obviously relevant to the police officer’s claim of self-defense, which we assume will eventually be forthcoming.

Yet these basic physical facts are too hot for the New York Times to handle. In a column by Kyle Massey, an assistant news editor, the Times says that it regrets describing Brown as “burly” and will no longer do so. Why? Because the word “burly” is “racially charged.” That’s news to me; I have sometimes described my son as burly, although he weighs more than 100 pounds less than Brown. Evidently I will have to stop, even though the Merriam-Webster dictionary merely defines “burly” as “strongly and heavily built.”

So how will the Times describe Brown from now on? Svelte? Diminutive? I don’t suppose so. The paper’s real problem is that it doesn’t want readers to know that Brown was such a big guy. They just want to keep saying that he was “unarmed,” as though that precludes any necessity for self-defense. 6’4″ and 292 pounds clouds that narrative just a bit. So from now on, the Times will draw a discreet veil over the stature of the burly Mr. Brown.