What Is Terrorism?

Does It Have To Be Motivated By Political Or Religious Extremism?


We always thought terrorism was a violent act with the sole purpose of striking terror into people. So we were puzzled when one of Canada’s leading newspapers started describing the vehicle attack in Toronto which left 10 people dead, and at least 15 injured as probably not “motivated by terrorism”. Really? What makes it that? Because the perpetrator, Alek Minassian, who was captured alive, and whose actions “appeared deliberate” according to police, was only copycatting the preferred method of attack by “real” terrorists these days?


Rental van used in Toronto attack


And what about Travis Reinking, captured the day after he walked into a busy Waffle House near Nashville and killed 4 people with an AR-15 before a brave act by a diner cut his rampage short. Is this also not possibly terrorism? The shooter had his guns confiscated, supposedly, after behaving aggressively outside the White House. (In this case it wasn’t a “good guy with a gun” who saved the day: James Shaw, Jr. was just a “good guy”).

Why are we asking these questions? Does it really matter what the senseless murder of more than a dozen innocent people over the last two days is called? Yes. Because in calling it “not terrorism”, we are lessening the import and the impact. We are saying these acts, because they may not have been at least at the fringes of a diabolical international conspiracy, matter less. And we can take it a little bit easier. And the victims become more easily forgotten. They shouldn’t be.



This Is Shaping Up To Be A Very Odd Week For Trump Cabinet Appointees


This is going to be a lot more “inside baseball” than we usually get, but we found it kind of fascinating, courtesy of Roll Call.

Trump’s choice for new Secretary of State, current CIA Chief Mike Pompeo narrowly averted a huge embarrassment (although he’s pretty much a lock for confirmation). With Republican Rand Paul and all Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee lined up against Pompeo, it didn’t look like they would recommend his nomination to the full Senate.

But then Paul, who’s becoming famous for staking out contrary positions and then never sticking to them, backed off, leaving the Committee deadlocked. That’s because one Republican Senator, Johnny Isakson was in Georgia attending the funeral of a close friend. And Senate rules do not let someone cast a deciding vote long-distance. So they were stuck. Until a show of largesse from Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware, increasingly rare in Washington these days. He expressed his opposition to Pompeo, but then voted “present” instead of “no”, meaning Isakson was no longer the deciding vote.


Sen. Chris Coons (D) Delaware at Pompeo confirmation hearing


None of that would’ve really mattered, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already said he’s bringing Pompeo’s approval to the floor of the Senate by week’s end anyway, and with three Democrats saying they’ll vote in favor, it’s a slam dunk. Anyway, Cabinet Members have been approved before without gaining the recommendation of the Committee in charge of interviewing them. The last time it happened though was in the 1940’s.


Mike Pompeo, who should be Secretary of State by the end of the week


Meanwhile, a mysterious delay in the confirmation hearing for Ronny Jackson, Trump’s personal physician, who he’s nominated to run the Veterans Administration. Keep your eyes peeled for more details…

Finally, another one of Trump’s “best people”, Kansas Attorney General and current candidate for Governor Kris Kobach, skewered in a piece by the Daily Kos. It found that people seeking Spanish-language online voting assistance from the state, are redirected to a broken PDF (and even the English-language guide is outdated). Kobach got on Trump’s good side by promoting conspiracy theories about widespread illegal voting in the 2016 election.