Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cruising the Web

Jim Geraghty read the news that France began bombing to take out an ISIS "command center, a recruitment center, an ammunition storage base and a training camp."
. . leaving us to wonder why the command center, a recruitment center, an ammunition storage base and a training camp were still standing in Raqqa after a year of anti-ISIS coalition airstrikes.
Good question. It certainly does sound as if we've just been lightly attacking such forces. Geraghty points out that we're making seven airstrikes per day compared to over 1000 a day in Desert Storm or 800 when we took out Saddam. We know how to attack an enemy from the air. Seven strikes a day isn't going to get it done.

Geraghty also derides the pretense the Democrats are making that we can screen refugees coming in. That is not possible.
Hey, thanks for suggesting “proper screening,” Hillary and Martin. Of course, until Friday night, the French thought they were doing “proper screening” themselves.

Perhaps if Democratic candidates had bothered to pay attention to our cavalcade of government incompetence -- the VA, the giant hack at OPM, Healthcare.gov, the EPA polluting rivers it’s supposed to clean up, Benghazi -- they would realize that very few Americans trust our government to effectively screen 65,000 refugees. Europe is awash in fake passports right now. ISIS doesn’t keep updated membership lists.
Our intelligence forces are so overburdened right now. How are they going to investigate hordes of refugees trying to come into this country when there is no verifiable database of Middle Eastern people who may have been radicalized, but have never been involved in any terrorist activity. CNN reports on how difficult the vetting process is.
Given the abysmal security situation in Syria and the fact that the United States does not maintain a permanent diplomatic presence in the country, it's sometimes difficult for U.S. authorities to gather the information they need to thoroughly vet a Syrian applicant.

FBI Director James Comey hit on the issue at a congressional hearing last month, when he told lawmakers, "If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them."

Statistics like this don't provide us with any confidence about those seeking to be accepted in Europe or the U.S.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, many Democrats are scolding anyone who has tried to link the massacre to the Syrian refugee crisis. A survey, however, reported that possibly hundreds of thousands of refugees support the Islamic State.

According to a poll by the Arab Opinion Project, under the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, found that 13 percent of Syrian refugees hold a positive view ISIS — including 4 percent that had a very favorable opinion.
More than 1-in-8 refugees have positive views about ISIS; 1-in-25 have very favorable views.

That may not seem like a lot, but considering there are 4.28 million Syrian refugees registered by the United Nations Refugee Agency, the numbers add up quickly.

Using the percentage from that survey to the overall population of Syrian refugees would mean that more than 557,000 have a positive view of ISIS — including more than 170,000 with a very positive opinion.
Those are startling and frightening numbers, considering how few terrorists it took to pull off the attacks in New York City, London, Madrid, and Paris.
Scott Atran writes in The Guardian what the ISIS playbook says. It sounds very familiar.
There is a playbook, a manifesto: The Management of Savagery/Chaos, a tract written more than a decade ago under the name Abu Bakr Naji, for the Mesopotamian wing of al-Qaida that would become Isis. Think of the horror of Paris and then consider these, its principal axioms.

Hit soft targets. “Diversify and widen the vexation strikes against the crusader-Zionist enemy in every place in the Islamic world, and even outside of it if possible, so as to disperse the efforts of the alliance of the enemy and thus drain it to the greatest extent possible.”

Strike when potential victims have their guard down. Sow fear in general populations, damage economies. “If a tourist resort that the crusaders patronise … is hit, all of the tourist resorts in all of the states of the world will have to be secured by the work of additional forces, which are double the ordinary amount, and a huge increase in spending.”

Consider reports suggesting a 15-year-old was involved in Friday’s atrocity. “Capture the rebelliousness of youth, their energy and idealism, and their readiness for self-sacrifice, while fools preach ‘moderation’ (wasatiyyah), security and avoidance of risk.”

Think of the group’s appreciation of focus on cause and effect: “Work to expose the weakness of America’s centralised power by pushing it to abandon the media psychological war and the war by proxy until it fights directly.” Ditto for France, the UK and other allies.
John Fund contemplates the unwillingness of Democrats to say that we are at war with radical Islamic terrorism. They say they want to destroy the terrorists, but are afraid to say what is motivating those terrorists. If the terrorists were racists or bigots who hated Muslims, the Democrats would be willing to name those motives. Somehow, radical Muslims are exempt.
That said, the three Democratic candidates soon did find an enemy they could not only identify clearly but also promise to wreak havoc upon: Wall Street. Bernie Sanders claimed that Wall Street’s business model was “fraud.” Hillary Clinton performed verbal somersaults to deny she had any connection with Wall Street. Recall that during the first Democratic debate, Hillary, when asked which enemies she had that she was proudest of, responded “probably the Republicans.”

The debate on Saturday exposed the real weakness the Democratic field has on national security. None of the three candidates were willing to state the obvious: that President Obama’s foreign-policy fecklessness has made America less safe. Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell told CBS News’s Face the Nation on Sunday that “it’s now crystal clear to us that our strategy, our policy, vis-à-vis ISIS is not working, and it’s time to look at something else.” The day before, Morell had told CBS’s 48 Hours that it was now the duty of the intelligence community to confront President Obama with that news.

The sad truth is that the victims of Friday’s terrorist attacks — the French — are far more clear-eyed about the threat facing them and more willing to acknowledge that they need a new strategy....

By comparison with the French, the three Democratic presidential candidates looked timid, obsessed with political appearances, and unserious. Perhaps Wall Street executives should be worried about one of them becoming president, but I’m not sure ISIS leaders should.

As the WSJ writes, her answers to questions about her plans to fight ISIS was basically incoherent.
Moderator John Dickerson of CBS began by suggesting that the Obama Administration had long underestimated the threat of Islamic State and so why should she be trusted. The former Secretary of State replied that ISIS “cannot be contained, it must be defeated,” a rhetorical bid to distance herself from her former boss and the carnage in Paris.

Mrs. Clinton continued: “There is no question in my mind that if we summon our resources—both our leadership resources and all of the tools at our disposal, not just military force, which should be used as a last resort, but our diplomacy, our development aid, law enforcement, sharing of intelligence in a much more open and cooperative way—that we can bring people together.” She added that the U.S. should “be supportive” of allies but “this cannot be an American fight, although American leadership is essential.”

Mrs. Clinton missed the chance to invoke stakeholders, or to point out that there are no silver bullets, but otherwise her free association could not have been more substance-free. Mr. Dickerson tried again, this time noting explicitly that the U.S. failures in the region exposed in Paris bear on her judgment and “prescriptions for the future.” Mr. Clinton absolved herself by blaming George W. Bush for President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011.

No more convincing was her self-acquittal on Libya. Mrs. Clinton persuaded Mr. Obama to topple Moammar Ghadafi, only for the U.S. to retreat after Tripoli fell and ISIS and other militants filled the stateless vacuum. “How did you get it wrong,” Mr. Dickerson wondered, “if the key lesson of the Iraq war is to have a plan for after [a military intervention]?”

“Well, we did have a plan,” Mrs. Clinton said, without mentioning what that plan was. “Now, there has been a lot of turmoil and trouble as they have tried to deal with these radical elements which you find in this arc of instability, from north Africa to Afghanistan. And it is imperative that we do more not only to help our friends and partners protect themselves and protect our own homeland, but also to work to try to deal with this arc of instability, which does have a lot of impact on what happens in a country like Libya.”

Mrs. Clinton’s case for the White House is that she is the most seasoned candidate in the field, but even an entry-level foreign service officer could do better than claiming the way to deal with trouble is to deal with trouble. Presumably Mrs. Clinton recognizes that the growing world disorder is a political problem. She’d like to maintain her top-diplomat image, glide past accountability for Obama-Clinton results, and hope nobody notices the contradiction. No wonder Democrats tried to bury this spectacle—and, by the way, the next debate is the Saturday before Christmas.

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Jonathan Martin points out in the NYT that terrorism has now risen in prominence in the presidential election. I can see that helping Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, but I'm not so sure that Martin is right that it would hurt Trump. He might benefit from the fears the Paris attacks raise about immigration. I don't know that those who like Ben Carson are all that concerned about his actual stances on issues. I've always found his explanations of his policy proposals, such as he has, to be hard to follow or accept. People who like him because of his biography and character may not worry about his lack of understanding on foreign issues.

I thought it was racist to talk about no-go areas of European cities. It turns out that there are such areas in Brussels that the government can't control. And that is where some of the terrorists might have come from.
Belgium’s home affairs minister said that the government does not “have control of the situation in Molenbeek,” a working-class neighborhood of Brussels that has been linked to several terrorism plots in recent years.

Speaking on the VRT television channel on Sunday, the minister, Jan Jambon, said that the government would “step up efforts” to bring order to the area of the Belgian capital....

Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said he was also concerned about jihadist networks in Molenbeek.

“I notice that each time there is a link with Molenbeek,” he said. “This is a gigantic problem. Apart from prevention, we should also focus more on repression.”

Belgian officials had said that the brother of one of the men suspected to be Paris attackers was arrested on Saturday in Molenbeek.

Meanwhile, Obama continues his policies to close down Gitmo. The timing is ironic.
With Congress repeatedly blocking Obama’s attempts at moving the detainees to US soil, the president instead has decided to keep releasing detainees and emptying as much of the facility as he can. The latest release of five prisoners includes a suspected bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, and comes less than 48 hours after the massive attack on Paris by ISIS:

Will Dartmouth officials bring order to their own library? This description of a protest in the library by a Black Lives Matters group shouting racial epithets and obscenities at students studying in the library should clarify for college administrators where their pusillanimous responses to disturbances is bringing their schools. The Dartmouth Review, a conservative newspaper, reports,
Not content to merely demonstrate there for the night, the band descended from their high-water mark to march into Baker-Berry Library.

“F*** you, you filthy white f***s!” “F*** you and your comfort!” “F*** you, you racist s***!”

These shouted epithets were the first indication that many students had of the coming storm. The sign-wielding, obscenity-shouting protesters proceeded through the usually quiet backwaters of the library. They surged first through first-floor Berry, then up the stairs to the normally undisturbed floors of the building, before coming back down to the ground floor of Novack.

Throngs of protesters converged around fellow students who had not joined in their long march. They confronted students who bore “symbols of oppression”: “gangster hats” and Beats-brand headphones. The flood of demonstrators self-consciously overstepped every boundary, opening the doors of study spaces with students reviewing for exams. Those who tried to close their doors were harassed further. One student abandoned the study room and ran out of the library. The protesters followed her out of the library, shouting obscenities the whole way.

Students who refused to listen to or join their outbursts were shouted down. “Stand the f*** up!” “You filthy racist white piece of s***!” Men and women alike were pushed and shoved by the group. “If we can’t have it, shut it down!” they cried. Another woman was pinned to a wall by protesters who unleashed their insults, shouting “filthy white b****!” in her face.
As the student newspaper reports, for all this ugliness in their protest, the demonstrators didn't point to actual examples of the terrible racism they feel justify their actions.
In the absence of concrete examples of systematic racism – specific incidents that show that Dartmouth’s customs and culture actively oppress our minority students – the protesters have asked onlookers to trust in their “experience.” The idea here is that what seems like a minor issue to a privileged observer may actually be a life-altering burden for a disadvantaged student. The broad range of perspectives on our campus guarantees that this is true to a certain point, and navigating our four years of thrown-together pluralism requires us to strive for this type of empathy.

But when empathy cuts against reason – that is, when we are asked to believe that ignorant costumes are oppressive, or that hurling obscenities at sympathetic students is a display of brave resistance – we should realize that empathy has it’s limits. The desire to side with self-described victims is rooted in a spirit of charity. But the habit of doing so even when every ounce of evidence suggests that we ought not to amounts to a total forfeiture of our own ability to discern. In the case of Dartmouth’s most recent Black Lives Matter protest, let’s not convince ourselves that the wrongs that we witnessed were anything other than wrong.
If nothing happens to students making these protests, expect to see such behavior to spread to more and more colleges.
The more dispiriting comparison with the 1960s, alas, has less to do with the self-indulgence of the young than the learned fecklessness of the older and presumably wiser. Across the country the coddled activists—sans culottes with iPhones—have rendered college presidents, chancellors and deans unable or unwilling to challenge the moral superiority of the mob. A pity, because even the 1960s gave us examples worth emulating.

Start with 1968 at San Francisco State College. In the teeth of raging protests that had already claimed the scalps of his two immediate predecessors, a linguistics professor named S.I. Hayakawa became acting president—and a national hero when he climbed atop a sound truck and ripped out wires to the speakers protesters were using to shout him down.

Or John Silber. When activists in 1972 tried to block students from meeting with Marine recruiters, the Boston University president showed up with a bullhorn to direct those interfering with their fellow students’ right to interview where they should line up to be arrested.

Perhaps most successful was the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame. Though by this time a dove on Vietnam, he believed the universities played an important role in training the nation’s military officers. At one point he prevented protesters from burning down the school’s ROTC building. In November 1968, protesters staged a lie-in aimed at blocking other students from job interviews with Dow Chemical and the CIA.

Father Hesburgh was appalled by the idea of forcing a fellow student to walk across your body because you disagree with him. Scarcely three months later, he would issue a letter to the entire campus community—a letter reprinted in this paper and the New York Times.

The Hesburgh letter recognized “the validity of protest” but made clear that any group that “substituted force for rational persuasion, be it violent or nonviolent,” would be given 15 minutes to meditate. Students who persisted would have their IDs confiscated and be “suspended from this community.”
So far we haven't seen any university president with the courage to stand up to these protesters who feel it is their right to disrupt the entire campus. Instead they are all caving and kowtowing in remorse for some imagined offenses.
So where are we today? At Yale, students provoked by a faculty member insufficiently sensitive to potentially offensive Halloween costumes have called for the head of said teacher along with a list of other demands for more diversity, apologies and self-criticism from the top.

On cue, Yale President Peter Salovey calls for civility and has repeated Yale’s commitment to free expression. But at a moment when people thirst for a university president who will back up his words, Mr. Salovey, like so many others, apologizes. “We have failed you,” he told protestors.

Indeed they have failed. Just not in the way they imagine.

William McGurn explains that we shouldn't be crying out for civility on campus, but for the courage to enforce civility. He evokes lessons from the 1960s.

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One of the more absurd kerfuffles in recent days is the efforts of politicians, particularly those in NYC to go after fantasy sports gambling. Christopher Koopman and Jim Pagels explain the faulty legal reasoning used to try to close the gambling down by using the skills versus chance differential. Somehow, they're trying to say that gambling on sports for a season uses skill which is legal, while doing it on a daily basis involves just chance which can be considered gambling and thus regulated.
In Schneiderman’s view, traditional, season-long fantasy sports are games of skill while daily games are ones of chance. Yet every game involves some combination of skill and luck. One recent survey found that success in season-long fantasy sports game is 55 to 65 percent skill, with the remainder being luck.

The problem with using this skill-versus-luck test is that it has never been fully defined. The line between skill and luck is an ambiguous standard that leaves much room for subjective, arbitrary decisions. This has resulted in varying interpretations across states. A handful of states already ban season-long fantasy sports under the skill-versus-luck test, and others have already done the same for daily fantasy games....

When it comes to consumer protection, these latest developments in states like New York and Nevada call into question who is in the best position to protect those who seek to play fantasy sports. Schneiderman’s cease-and-desist letter is based on a rather low opinion of those who play fantasy sports, claiming that DraftKings and FanDuel are merely attempting to “fleece sports fans across the country” by promoting their games as “a path to easy riches.” But if the goal is truly “consumer protection,” is outright prohibition the best route?

As we’ve argued before, if regulators are seriously interested in protecting consumers, the best thing they can do at this point is allow competition to play out. Players who feel that DraftKings and FanDuel no longer provide what they are seeking will likely move to other platforms, and this is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to create products that are more responsive to consumer demands, which might include more equitable prize distributions or more transparent protocols for lineup submissions (to avoid various types of cheating).
An outright prohibition is the sort of paternalistic government that liberals endorse. If people find that they're not making money on FanDuel or DraftKings, they'll stop doing it. They're not doing it as part of their retirement plan. They're doing it to have fun and perhaps win some money. I'm sure that most state officials who want to prohibit sports gambling would prefer that people instead spend their money on buying the state lotteries. In my state, the lottery is supposed to help fund education and continually falls short of projections. How dare people choose to spend their money on fantasy sports when they could be gambling to benefit the state education budget?

In their essay, Koopman and Pagels link to this fascinating story about the efforts to ban pinball machines. I hadn't known that, when I played pinball as a kid, I was involved in a dirty game supposedly used by the mob to rob children of our money. Pinball was only legalized in NYC in 1976 when a star of the pinball world was able to prove that he used skill to get the ball where he wanted.

Hillary Clinton tried to make the lame and offensive argument that he accepted donations from Wall Street companies because she had helped them after 9/11. At the time, I heard that, I wondered how long it would take someone to research how much money she had received from Wall Street before 9/11 when she ran for senator. She and her husband have always been closely tied to Wall Street. It didn't take long. Lachlan Markay reports,
According to OpenSecrets.org, securities and financial industry companies and their employees donated nearly $1.15 million to Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign. The Wall Street giant Citigroup topped the list of her corporate donors that cycle.

The numbers provide a contrast to Clinton’s explanation for Wall Street’s extensive financial support for her campaign, which she said was due to her work after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan....

Clinton’s Wall Street supporters, who include some of her most deep-pocketed backers, say their support has nothing to do with the attacks of Sept. 11.

As campaign finance data shows, that support predates the attacks. In addition to Citigroup employees, bankers from Goldman Sachs, UBS, Bear Stearns, and Credit Suisse provided significant financial backing for Clinton’s 2000 Senate run.

Many of those banks were also large supporters of her Republican opponent in that race. But Clinton was among the top recipients of any candidate that cycle of donations from hedge funds, private equity firms, and commercial banks, according to OpenSecrets.

“Most people in New York on the finance side view her as being very pragmatic,” one Wall Street financier told Politico last year. “I think they have confidence that she understands how things work and that she’s not a populist.”

Though a reliable source of financial support, Clinton’s Wall Street backing has become a liability as she faces off against the stridently populist Sanders, who frequently singles out large banks as pernicious political and financial actors.

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James Antle presents the argument about how the Democrats' policies are hurting young people. It's all there from entitlements to the impact of Obamacare. Their job prospects are discouraging and the situation is worse in light of their college debts. It's all true, but I don't think that these arguments resonate with most young people. They're much more worked up about issues like the environment and gay rights and they don't understand how economic policies will hurt them in the long run.
On each of these fronts, Democrats are working to protect or expand the policies that arguably hurt young people most. They are campaigning on increasing the promises made by entitlement programs rather than reforming them to help them keep current promises. They want to preserve Obamacare, boost the minimum wage and protect unfettered access to abortion. Democrats also have their own strategies for how to turn out the youth vote: marijuana legalization ballot initiatives, more subsidies for college education, advocacy for gay marriage and environmental policies.

Even if there is a logical connection between how many liberal policies hurt young people most, the political question remains: Would it help Republicans to frame Democratic policies as amounting to a war on youth?
I'd like to see this succeed, but I'm quite skeptical. Kids might get outraged when they are presented with the argument on how entitlement spending will eat up the federal budget, but that is too far off and complicated for most young people to care about and I would be it wouldn't make a top-five list of issues they care about. It's ironic that they will get so worked up about the damage to the environment a century in the future, but are indifferent to what the national debt will do to their generation when they're in the prime of their lives.

Oh, the irony.
University of Missouri graduate students, including hunger strike protester Jonathan Butler, have been protesting on campus in part because of cuts to the students’ health-care coverage as a result of Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the cutbacks were explained in detail on an August posting on the school’s website, which said Obamacare’s regulations banned employers, like universities, from paying for their grad students’ health insurance.

Graduate students would have to buy insurance in individual markets as a result of not being eligible for the insurance plan offered to MU staff and faculty.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that the Internal Revenue Service posted a bulletin offering guidance on this issue and threatened “severe” penalties for noncompliance.
So that is another example of where there is a lot of anger, but they don't understand what is causing their distress.

I'm sure this will shock all my readers, but it turns out Barack Obama didn't follow Abraham Lincoln's model of leadership after all. Remember all the hoopla about how he was going to have a Cabinet that was a Team of Rivals like Lincoln's Cabinet. He would demonstrate leadership by having wise advisers of different backgrounds, even those who ran against him and would benefit by the diversity of opinion. Well, not so fast. Seth Mandel has been talking to the lone Republican in the Cabinet, Ray LaHood. Now LaHood is joining other disgruntled former Cabinet members who were disappointed in Obama's leadership. LaHood was discouraged by Obama's decision to ignore Republicans on the stimulus and Obamacare.
But it also shows that, in hiring his so-called “team of rivals,” Obama wanted them not for their dissenting opinions (the president listened mostly to Valerie Jarrett, sometimes to David Axelrod, never to people outside his paranoid inner circle) but to co-opt them. He wanted their names on his policies.

And just their names. Hillary Clinton, for one, was more useful to Obama serving at the pleasure of the president than in the Senate, where she might derail (or at least influence) his agenda.

Same with Vice President Joe Biden.

And so it went with Gates (a Bush administration holdover), LaHood and the other “rivals.”

It was all a sham.

Obama brought scant knowledge and experience to the presidency. Stocking his Cabinet with experienced hands could’ve filled in the gaps. Instead, he remained intellectually incurious, suspicious of any information that contradicted his parochial worldview.

The president wanted those who weren’t yes-men to be seen but not heard. You can understand why they’re not waiting until he’s out of office to have their say.

Peter Kirsanow explains what many liberals don't seem to understand about the Little Sisters of the Poor Supreme Court case. For example, did you know this?
Many people think that the Sisters are asking for a special deal. Not even close. All small business and numerous large ones, including Exxon and Pepsi Bottling Company, are completely exempt from the mandate. All churches and some other ministries are likewise wholly exempt. But ministries like the Little Sisters are not exempt.

Bizarrely, the government’s excuse for discriminating between churches and the Little Sisters was that it assumes the Sisters — nuns who vow lifelong service to God — aren’t religious enough. Let that sink in for a second.

Instead of offering an exemption, the government concocted an “accommodation” scheme for second-class ministries like the Little Sisters. But the scheme’s a fake. A simple comparison makes that clear: the “second-class” ministries must allow contraceptives on their health plans; churches and many mega-corporations do not. That’s an accommodation that doesn’t accommodate.
And another point that aggravates me when I hear some people discuss the case. The argument of the Sisters' is not that women shouldn't have contraception; they just don't want to be the ones providing it since it contradicts their religious beliefs. Instead, the government can provide the contraceptives just as it does for many women.
In fact, over and over again, the ministries have suggested many ways the government can deliver contraceptives without using the ministries. All the Sisters are asking is that the government leave them alone. That seems reasonable: the most powerful government on earth has never needed nuns to help it hand out contraceptives before.

Which is one of the reasons why this case is so important. With such obvious and easy workarounds, this case is not about contraception or health plans. It’s about whether federal bureaucrats can force nuns to disobey their God for no reason at all. If the answer to that question is “yes,” everyone — even the bureaucrats — loses.