Monday, November 23, 2015

Cruising the Web

Well, this is a scary reminder. The former director of intelligence analysis for the NYPD, Mitchell Silber, writes in the WSJ about why Paris could happen here. He reminds us that there are Americans who have chosen to work with ISIS in Syria. They have access to the sorts of materials necessary for building powerful bombs and can acquire semiautomatic weapons.
As FBI Director James Comey recently noted, the bureau has more than 900 active ISIS investigations in 50 states. Those are just the domestic ISIS supporters that the FBI knows about. In May two ISIS-inspired American citizens, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, stormed an event featuring Muhammad cartoons in Garland, Texas, wearing body armor and carrying assault weapons. If it were not for the good work of law enforcement, who shot and killed the men, scores may have been murdered....

Mr. Comey told Congress this summer that upward of 200 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to participate in the conflict. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, about 40 of those Americans have returned from the jihadist battlefields of Syria since that civil war began.

In May 2014, a U.S. citizen from Florida, 22-year-old Moner Abu-Salha, carried out a suicide-bomb attack for the al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. After training in Syria he had traveled undetected to and from the U.S. There are likely more American citizens like Moner Abu-Salha....

Police and intelligence agencies have an enormously difficult job because radicalization pathways to violence are not always straightforward. Sometimes an individual on the periphery of an investigation, who is assessed as low risk, rapidly becomes a threat. Similarly, an individual considered very dangerous may never act or may disengage from extremism. As the 2009 investigation of al Qaeda operative and New Yorker Najibullah Zazi demonstrated, the manpower needed for physical surveillance of even a single individual requires dozens of agents and hundreds of man-hours, and that doesn’t include the analytic team required to evaluate electronic communications such as email, chat, tweets and phone data.

In the past, Western intelligence organizations intercepted communications that allowed security agencies to move against al Qaeda or ISIS operatives, often before they could strike. Now end-to-end encrypted communications apps like “Telegraph” have become standard operating procedure among terrorists. So intercepting and deciphering communications is far more difficult, even for organizations as sophisticated as the National Security Agency or the FBI.
We have hard-working police and intelligence operatives, but it is optimistic to expect that they can uncover every plot. I don't know what the answer is, but complacency is misplaced.

Derek Hunter points out how how President Obama has given up on persuading people.
No matter the issue, President Obama is comfortable only when lecturing. Pushback, even slight, is greeted like a microaggression at the University of Missouri.

The president prefers the warm embrace of an adulating crowd, interviewer or staffer. His inner circle is the buffer zone between reality and him. And he likes it that way.

How else to explain him finding out about his Justice Department forcing the sale of guns to Mexican drug cartels or the IRS targeting of American citizens because of their political beliefs through “news reports”? Aside from the prospect his stories are lies – which is a real possibility and would reflect even worse on his character – the only remaining option is he’s constructed a “safe space” around himself.

No foreign opinions or unsafe thoughts are allowed in the safe space; His Greek chorus of advisors have all the curiosity of a row of bobble-head figures on a dashboard going down a bumpy road. Diversity is only skin-deep.

The president has no interest in convincing, no desire to persuade and no need nor concern for offending. The destruction in his wake is not only to our economy and national security, it is to his own party – and is it complete.

This administration doesn't have much luck making broad pronouncements on the successes of their policies fighting terrorism. Events keep getting in the way of their self-congratulation.
Just as President Obama claimed ISIS had been contained nine hours before the attacks on Paris, so too Secretary of State John Kerry said al Qaeda was neutralized just before the massacre in Mali.

"I'm confident if we stay steady, keep our heads in thinking creatively but also being strong and committed to our fundamental values, we're going to defeat Daesh. We always said it will take time. We began our fight against al Qaeda in 2001 and it took us quite a few years before we were able to eliminate Osama bin Laden and the top leadership and neutralize them as an effective force. We hope to do Daesh much faster than that and we think we have an ability to do that. So that's the effort, and we're going to continue," Kerry claimed.

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The NYT notices that Hillary Clinton has image problems with her ties to Wall Street. Imagine that.
Mrs. Clinton’s windfalls from Wall Street banks and other financial services firms — $3 million in paid speeches and $17 million in campaign contributions over the years — have become a major vulnerability in states with early nomination contests. Some party officials who remain undecided in the 2016 presidential race see her as overly cozy with big banks and other special interests. At a time when liberals are ascendant in the party, many Democrats believe her merely having “represented Wall Street as a senator from New York,” as Mrs. Clinton reminded viewers in an October debate, is bad enough.

It is an image problem that she cannot seem to shake.

Though she criticizes the American economy as being “rigged” for the rich, Mrs. Clinton has lost some support recently from party members who think she would go easy on Wall Street excess if elected.
Not trusting Hillary? Join the club.

Matthew Continetti explains how Hillary Clinton can't escape from Obama's foreign policy shadow.
They’re not kidding when they say it’s difficult to hold the White House for three terms in a row. So much depends on the incumbent: Is he deemed a success or a failure? Is he loved or derided? The candidate seeking to replace a president of his own party is betting the country doesn’t want to change. Bush 41 bet correctly — in 1988. Al Gore and John McCain did not.

Hillary Clinton? Her problem was on display Thursday when she presented her anti-ISIS war plan to the Council on Foreign Relations. For ideological and political reasons, she is unable or unwilling to distinguish herself from Obama. If the war against ISIS were going well, her decision would be smart politics. But the war is not going well. The war is a disaster. A growing one, as the Paris attack made clear.

The president is quite the neoliberal — mugged by reality yet refusing to press charges. His approval rating on foreign policy is consistently underwater. Two-thirds of the country say it’s headed in the wrong direction. And yet Clinton’s ISIS strategy is essentially the same as Obama’s. Fierce airstrikes. An “intelligence surge.” Special forces. Pressure the Iraqi government to be nice to its Sunnis. Agree on a diplomatic resolution to the Syrian civil war. “Increased support from our Arab and European partners.” Accept Syrian refugees. Above all, no major deployment of U.S. troops. On ISIS, Clinton is Obama’s prisoner. A willing captive to his strategy. Where it goes, she’ll go.
She will try to explain that there are minute differences between them, but her proposals are basically the same as his. And she's limiting herself because she refuses to criticize Obama's performance. And she can't because she was part of his team. So she has a very thin eye of a needle to thread when she puts forth her policies.

Add to her problems escaping Obama's shadow the reality that she really has very little that she can claim as an accomplishment. Bruce Bialosky looks at the accomplishments that 20 prominent Democrats told Politico Hillary could be credited with. It isn't an impressive list.
For example, multiple people suggest Clinton was key in passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. This bill was submitted by Barbara Mikulski in 2009 as soon as the Congress opened and was passed in the initial days of the Obama Administration with the new Democratic majorities. It was signed 21 days after submittal. I can find no significant dispute to this bill passing (it sailed through both houses) and I can find no reference in any material to work done by Clinton.

Clinton is also given credit for key work on the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program). This is a bill which was sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy in 1997. First Lady Hillary Clinton definitely participated in moving this bill toward becoming law. Some argue she did not, but it is clear she was helpful in getting this piece of legislation passed.

Then there are the multiple insipid statements made in her support. Bill Richardson, a Clinton ally, former Energy Secretary, and Governor of New Mexico, had this to say: “As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was key in rebuilding America’s leadership and prestige overseas after the Bush years. She restored our alliances with the EU and key Asian allies as well as key relationships in Africa and Latin America.” This is a nice attack on Bush, but does not speak of any accomplishment by Clinton. That is completely separate of the fact that our standing in the world has vastly declined under Obama and Clinton.

Then there is the person she worked most closely with in the Senate – Chuck Schumer (D-NY). His statement was seconded by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Her principal accomplishment as defined by them and as stated by Schumer, “Hillary Clinton was instrumental in helping secure $21 billion in federal aid to help New York rebuild after 9/11. She fought tooth and nail to protect the first responders who rushed into danger when the towers collapsed and was pivotal in the passage of legislation that helped those first responders who got sick get the care and treatment they deserved.”

You all remember America rising up and stating – no money to New York. Was there anybody other than four cranks sitting in their underwear on their couches arguing against taking care of the people of New York and the first responders after 9/11?

Hillary Clinton seems to have no self-awareness at all. Her tweet saying that all victims of sexual assault should be believed was met with reminders of her husband's victims.
The link in her tweet went to a campaign webpage on sexual assault on campus that starts with a quote from a speech Hillary gave in September: “I want to send a message to every survivor of sexual assault: Don’t let anyone silence your voice. You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed, and we’re with you.”

…was immediately greeted with a crush of reminders of allegations against her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for sexual assault and even rape.
And then people went back to remember the rape suspect that she defended and how she went after the 12-year old victim. The Hillary Tapes that were revealed last year demonstrate her amused attitude to how she got the child-rapist off with a lighter sentence.
And though the former first lady mentioned the ethical difficulties of the case in Living History, her written account some three decades later is short on details and has a far different tone than the tapes.

“It was a fascinating case, it was a very interesting case,” Clinton says in the recording. “This guy was accused of raping a 12-year-old. Course he claimed that he didn’t, and all this stuff” (LISTEN HERE).

Describing the events almost a decade after they had occurred, Clinton’s struck a casual and complacent attitude toward her client and the trial for rape of a minor.

“I had him take a polygraph, which he passed – which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs,” she added with a laugh.

Clinton can also be heard laughing at several points when discussing the crime lab’s accidental destruction of DNA evidence that tied Taylor to the crime.

From a legal ethics perspective, once she agreed to take the case, Clinton was required to defend her client to the fullest even if she did believe he was guilty.

“We’re hired guns,” Ronald D. Rotunda, a professor of legal ethics at Chapman University, told the Washington Free Beacon. “We don’t have to believe the client is innocent…our job is to represent the client in the best way we can within the bounds of the law.”

However, Rotunda said, for a lawyer to disclose the results of a client’s polygraph and guilt is a potential violation of attorney-client privilege.

“You can’t do that,” he said. “Unless the client says: ‘You’re free to tell people that you really think I’m a scumbag, and the only reason I got a lighter sentence is because you’re a really clever lawyer.’”
She got her client off with no jail time by attacking the credibility of the young girl and depicting her as emotionally unstable. Read or listen to the amused bragging of Hillary of how she was able to keep the evidence of the girl's bloody underwear from being used in trial. This is what lawyers do and every defendant deserves a strong defense. But there is something despicable about her laughter later on how she got a guy she knew was a child rapist off. And for her to put herself forward as the defender of all victims of sexual assault is indeed rich. Especially for those of us who remember the believable claims of Juanita Broaderrick. Hillary certainly didn't extend her the belief that she says should be extended to all victims today.

And here is yet another mistake by our country's foreign policy leaders.
As Bloomberg Businessweek reports, the Obama administration realized just days ago that ISIS is one of the richest organizations in the world — with assets totaling billions.

And not just that $500 million a year from smuggled oil, which Team Obama has only now begun to truly target. (The Pentagon had declined to bomb moving oil trucks, for example, for fear of killing civilian drivers.)

Even on that front, the administration ignored warnings. Five years ago, a Rand Corp. study, based on captured ledgers, warned of ISIS’s oil might.

Compounding the problem: Bloomberg reports that, until this past week, the administration “wildly overestimated the impact of what they did” to shut down ISIS oil sales.

But oil is just a drop in the Islamic State’s very deep bucket. Its assets include:
 Up to $1 billion seized from Iraqi banks.
Some $200 million a year from stolen Iraqi wheat.
Hundreds of millions a year in taxes extorted from captive populations.
Tens of millions from selling sex slaves and looted antiquities, as well as ransoming foreign hostages.
How could they just be glomming onto this? Is our intelligence really this lame? And where are they keeping this money? Is it in banks? Is there anything that can be done to shut down the access they have to those funds?

This is what our laws regulating the media have brought us. NBC has to offer other Republican candidates equal time on some show in order to match the 12 minutes that it gave Donald Trump.

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The joke that college protests have become continues, but it's gets more and more dismaying by the day. Now some students at the University of Minnesota have decided that a moment of silence for 9/11 victims is offensive to Muslims.
The everything-is-offensive brand of campus activism has struck a new low: Students at the University of Minnesota killed a proposed moment of silence for 9/11 victims due to concerns—insulting, childish concerns—that Muslim students would be offended.

Has it truly come to this? Is feelings-protection now such an overriding goal that completely unreasonable fears win out, even if they have no basis in reality? Can we not even have a single moment to recognize legitimate victims of terrorism without worrying that someone will feel marginalized on campus?
I thought terrorism had nothing to do with Muslims? So why should commemorating the murder of Americans be offensive to them?

Meanwhile, Erick Erickson has a good question for all those Democrats who find some mysterious connection between global warming and terrorism. Somehow, they argue, it causes people to become terrorists.
But if that is so, if global warming causes terrorism, then I think the Democrats need to answer this question. Why does global warming only turn Muslims into terrorists?

There are Jews in the Middle East and Africa. There are Christians in the Middle East and Africa. There are animists, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and others. But only certain Muslims, often from wealthy families, turn into terrorists. The Jews, Christians, animists, Zoroastrians, Hindus, and the rest never seem to be affected by global warming in that way.
Excellent point. I'd like to see some enterprising journalist pose it to these Democrats who seek to blame global warming for anything bad so that they can continue to argue that it is the biggest security threat to the country.

Even earlier Arab immigrants don't want immigrants from Syria.
They're not rolling out the welcome wagon for the Syrian refugees in the Arab immigrant enclave of Dearborn, Michigan.

And some longtime residents told NBC News they even agree with Gov. Rick Snyder's decision to suspend efforts to bring the long-suffering Syrians to his state after last week's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris.

"We don't need no more troubles, you know?" said Hicham Dawil, who immigrated to the U.S. three decades ago. "I feel bad for the people. On the other hand, look what's happening in France. This is crazy, you know. It's just evil."

Dawil, a father of five college-aged kids all born here who runs his own heating and cooling business, said the ISIS attacks turned his stomach and the fallout affects him as an Arab immigrant.

"We just cannot afford being looked at like, 'Oh, well, you are one of them,'" he said. "Let's say I walk into a lounge ... I can see people look at me."

So Dawil supports Snyder's move "100 percent."

Kevin Williamson excoriates the authorities at the University of Missouri for not taking any action against Melissa Click, the professor who called for "muscle" to prevent a student journalist from photographing a student protest. Williamson calls them out for their moral cowardice.
She has not yet been charged with a crime, but Professor Click is prima facie guilty of, at the very least, third-degree assault, which is defined under Missouri law as “placing someone in fear of immediate physical injury”—which is what she did with her call for “muscle” to eject the undergraduate from an open public space on campus—as well as “knowingly causing physical contact with another person knowing it will be considered offensive by the other person,” which she plainly does in the video, swatting at his face. That is an offense that comes with a modest jail sentence under Missouri law, and Professor Click should do every day of it.

Worse, she committed her crime in furtherance of another illegal act—obstructing access to a public space. The University of Missouri quad would be a public space under any ordinary circumstance, but in this case a state statute specifically guaranteeing access to the space makes that unequivocal.

As a professional matter, Professor Click is in violation of specific policies of the University of Missouri regarding violence on campus and standards of professional conduct. She should be terminated as a matter of course.

We have seen institutions such as the University of Virginia move with great speed to punish students corporately for fictitious crimes in the absence of any evidence. Here we have a professor, incontrovertible evidence, and a police complaint filed by the student. But no action has been taken. This isn’t an occasion for an apology, a mandatory sensitivity seminar, or a disciplinary afternoon with human resources. This is a criminal assault on a student committed by a professor who then attempted to incite mob violence against him. She should not resign—she should be terminated, charged as a criminal, convicted, and jailed.
Excellent point. If a high school teacher did the same thing to a student, I bet there would be action taken against the teacher and there is a good chance the teacher would lose his or her job if the teacher didn't have tenure. I teach at a charter where teachers don't have tenure and I can't imagine my principal tolerating such behavior. But the authorities at Mizzou seem unable to crawl out of their fetal position cowering before student protesters.

John C. Goodman characterizes the left's thinking about terrorism.
1. If there are no boots on the ground, you’re not really at war.

Barack Obama said it over and over again – to our troops, to the American people, to the news media, to the world: “There will be no boots on the ground.” That was before he ordered boots on the ground in Iraq.

But why is that distinction so important? The implicit idea is that when we are dropping bombs, our planes are so high up the enemy can’t shoot them down. So no American ever gets shot or captured. We can kill them, but they can’t kill us. Voila. We can actually fight the bad guys without anyone on our side getting hurt.

Earth to Obama: When you are dropping bombs on people, you are at war. And the enemy will find ways to fight back. Look at what just happened in Paris.

2. If you don’t say what you are fighting against, you’re not really at war.

In the Democratic presidential debate last Saturday, Hillary Clinton was given ample opportunity to say we are fighting “radical Islam.” She demurred. President Obama never uses those words either.

But if we are not fighting “radical Islam,” what are we fighting? If you can’t identify what you are against, how do our soldiers know who to shoot at? How do we know whether we are winning or losing?

3. Killing is better than torture.

Think about the terrible ordeal Sen. John McCain went through as a prisoner of war. Ditto for Rep. Sam Johnson and other Americans who were tortured by their Vietnamese captors. Awful as all that was, does anyone think the world would be better off if McCain, Johnson and the others were killed rather than tortured?

Well, that is how Barack Obama thinks. He criticized George Bush for allowing three captives to be water boarded. He called it “torture” and apologized to the world. But Obama has no problem at all with killing people. As I previously reported, that is what our drones are doing day in and day out and the number of drone kills has spiked radically during the Obama years. In the president’s first five years in office, the C.I.A. made 330 drone strikes in Pakistan alone (a country we are not even at war with!), compared with 51 total drone strikes in four years of George W. Bush’s presidency.

Remember: Our drones are killing people who are not wearing uniforms. They are not shooting back at us. They are not in any traditional sense “combatants.” I’m sure that a lot of the people the Obama administration has killed deserved to die. But we don’t always know who we are killing. And we admit that bystanders, including children, are victims as well.

Is that really more humane than water boarding?
Read the rest. He does a good job of capturing the logical fallacies underlying their positions.

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David Drucker writes that Ted Cruz isn't as firm in his political positions as he'd like people to believe.
"Because everyone knows exactly where he stands."

That's the voiceover from Ted Cruz's first round of television ads currently running in Iowa. The claim fits with the image of a rock solid conservative who doesn't waver under pressure that the Texas senator has cultivated, successfully, on his swift climb up the political ladder to his position as a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination. But is it true? Not necessarily to the extent that both Cruz's supporters and detractors might believe.

Cruz hasn't moderated on politically-charged issues since launching his 2016 campaign last March. If anything, Cruz has hardened his stance on immigration, trade and other policies that matter to the coalition of conservative voters he views as his ticket to the nomination. But underneath Cruz's carefully crafted persona of principled inflexibility is a pragmatist who continues to change his mind on key issues and make other tactical adjustments that serve his broader political agenda....

But as the competition for the GOP crown heats up ahead of first votes in Iowa on Feb. 1, Cruz opponents are likely to point out that he's backed down under pressure from the right flank of his party and otherwise altered longstanding positions multiple times. In June, Cruz abandoned support for Trade Promotion Authority; just last week he dropped support for increasing the amount of H1-B immigration visas made available to high-skilled workers.

And, while Cruz has been a strong proponent of beefing up border security and withholding citizenship from illegal immigrants, his tone when discussing the topic has changed since Republican front-runner Donald Trump became a fixture atop the polls. Before Trump, Cruz emphasized his support for streamlining and encouraging legal immigration. Post-Trump, Cruz has highlighted his opposition to birthright citizenship, itself the product of a flip-flop that is a couple of years old.
In these modifications of previously-held positions, Ted Cruz is no different from the others running for president. But that is not the persona he wants people to believe. He wants Republicans to turn to him instead of Rubio based on his supposed purity espousing conservative positions.

CNN's journalistic principles depend on how prestigious the culprit is.
For CNN, a reporter tweeting out a single opinion is apparently more serious than a host plagiarizing.

CNN suspended global affairs correspondent Elise Labott for two weeks Thursday after she disregarded the network's guidelines on objectivity, and criticized Congress for passing a bill to condition the acceptance of Middle East refugees into the United States.

In contrast, CNN host Fareed Zakaria was suspended for only six days in 2012 after claims surfaced that he had plagiarized a New Yorker article for a Aug. 20 Time magazine column on gun control.
Since then there have been dozens of examples found of Zakaria plagiarizing someone else's work. And CNN has done nothing.

Become a bureaucrat. It's nice work if you can get it.
Here’s a story that is emblematic of life in Washington, D.C.: The Department of Veterans Affairs—a well-known sinkhole of mismanagement—handed out more than $142 million in bonuses last year. Taxpayers stumbling across this news might have been surprised by these rewards for bureaucratic incompetence, and perhaps they also got the sense that working for the federal government is a sweet gig. They’re right.

A review of the nation’s capital turns up ample evidence: In a report released last month, Cato Institute budget analyst Chris Edwards calculated that the average federal employee earned $84,153 in 2014—roughly 50% more than the average worker in the private economy. When you include benefits like health care and pensions, the average federal worker’s compensation rises to $119,934—nearly 80% higher than everyone else. “The federal government has become an elite island of secure and high-paid employment,” Mr. Edwards wrote, “separated from the ocean of average Americans competing in the economy.”