Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Cruising the Web

Oh, the delicious hypocrisy. Charles C. Cooke makes a startling discovery - the New York Times is hypocritical. Just a year ago they were editorializing against the terror watch list and how easily an innocent person could be placed on it. They told the story of how one woman found herself on the list and wasn't allowed to fly.
Dr. Ibrahim’s saga began in January 2005, when she was a doctoral student at Stanford University on her way to an academic conference in Hawaii. She was arrested at the airline ticket counter, handcuffed and detained for hours. It turned out that an F.B.I. agent had erroneously added her to the no-fly list. The mistake was corrected, and she was taken off the list. She flew to Hawaii, and later to Malaysia, but when she tried to return she learned her student visa had been revoked....

This week, government lawyers informed her that one reason for the denial is engagement in “terrorist activity,” even though they have conceded that she has never posed a threat to the United States.

How can Dr. Ibrahim be a terrorist and not be a threat at the same time? Welcome to the shadowy, self-contradictory world of American terror watch lists, which operate under a veil of secrecy so thick that it is virtually impossible to pierce it when mistakes are made. A 2007 audit found that more than half of the 71,000 names then on the no-fly list were wrongly included.

In a recently unredacted portion of his January ruling, Judge Alsup noted that in 2009 the government added Dr. Ibrahim back to its central terrorist-screening database under a “secret exception” to its own standard of proof. This would be laughable if it weren’t such a violation of basic rights. A democratic society premised on due process and open courts cannot tolerate such behavior.
But now, a year later, the NYT is fully on board with the Democratic talking point about how crucial it is to deny people on the no-fly list the right to buy a gun. And they're so very proud of their brave stand that they placed their editorial on the front page. Amazing how their opinions changed when they saw the chance to bash the NRA and Republicans.

The terrorist watch list is so comprehensive that 72 employees of the Department of Homeland Security are on the list.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) disclosed that a congressional investigation recently found that at least 72 people working at DHS also “were on the terrorist watch list.”

“Back in August, we did an investigation—the inspector general did—of the Department of Homeland Security, and they had 72 individuals that were on the terrorist watch list that were actually working at the Department of Homeland Security,” Lynch told Boston Public Radio.

“The [former DHS] director had to resign because of that,” he said.

DHS continues to fail inspections aimed at determining the efficiency of its internal safety mechanisms, as well as its efforts to protect the nation.

Lynch referred to a recent report that found the Transportation Security Administration, which is overseen by DHS, failed to stop 95 percent of those who attempted to bring restricted items past airport security.

“We had staffers go into eight different airports to test the department of homeland security screening process at major airports. They had a 95 percent failure rate,” Lynch said. “We had folks—this was a testing exercise, so we had folks going in there with guns on their ankles, and other weapons on their persons, and there was a 95 percent failure rate.”

Lynch said he has “very low confidence” in DHS based on its many failures over the years. For this reason, he voted in favor of recent legislation that will tighten the vetting process for any Syrian refugees applying for asylum in the United States.
But hey, Obama gave a speech and we know that his speeches are so very powerful that he got a Nobel Peace Prize just for giving them. So no one should worry.

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Glenn Reynolds explains how the NYT is applying the administration's "stray voltage" strategy on guns. The idea is to distract people with one topic so we don't focus on the failures of the Obama team.
So is the Times editorializing now because gun control is more important than Pearl Harbor? Or because Obama is in trouble? Because when people are talking about gun control, they’re not talking about Obama’s many failures, ranging from the failures of vetting and counterterrorism that may have led to the San Bernardino attacks themselves, to Obama’s foreign policy debacles in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, to how the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign against Boko Haram accomplished nothing, to how Putin is running wild in Eastern Europe, to Obama’s plans to import more poorly-vetted refugees from Muslim countries that foment terror or the still-anemic economy that has left far too many Americans unemployed or underemployed despite years of “recovery.”

Those are all things that the Obama Administration — and the Hillary Clinton campaign — don’t want to talk about. So the editorial board of the Times has pulled out all the stops to ensure that we talk about gun control instead. Gun control isn’t a great issue for the Democrats, but it’s better than all those other topics of discussion, and the expected angry response from the gun-rights community will ensure that people aren’t talking about topics that make the White House look bad.

This approach — basically, trolling the public — is a variation on a tactic that Obama advisor David Plouffe calls ”stray voltage,” about which CBS’s John Dickerson commented, “The tactic represents one more step in the embrace of cynicism that has characterized President Obama's journey in office.”

....The problem is, ignoring those issues doesn’t make them go away. Obama’s Middle East policy is still a miserable failure. Putin is still running wild. America’s security from terrorism has seldom looked worse — in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, we at least thought the people in charge were serious — and life for ordinary Americans isn’t going especially well.

Oh, remember how worried Loretta Lynch is about hate crimes against Muslims? She had to give a whole speech about it telling us that it was her greatest fear. Well, given that hate crimes against Jews dwarf those against Muslims according to the FBI's own data, why isn't she worried about crimes against Jews? In fact, under her own desire to prosecute hate speech, she would have prosecuted Farook for his anti-Semitic diatribes. This was a man who hated Israel and whose father fully agreed with that hatred, but just had a different approach.
The father went on to explain that he had tried to reason with his son by saying that Israel would no longer exist in a couple of years and that the Jews would soon be returning to Ukraine, so there was no need to take up arms for jihad. “But he did not listen to me, he was obsessed.”

Now the Farook family professes utter shock at what’s happened. How can they be shocked? How did we become a society in which a son tells his father that he supports ISIS and it fails to register with this ostensibly integrated Muslim family, living the American dream, that perhaps a call to the FBI would be appropriate?

How inconvenient. The suspect in an attack on a Philadelphia taxi driver that CAIR trumpeted as an anti-Muslim crime turns out to be named Mohamed. Don't you hate when facts interfere with the narrative like that?

Oh, and there goes another liberal talking point about how we shouldn't worry about refugees coming to the U.S.
Intelligence officials have determined that Islamic extremists have explored using the refugee program to enter the United States, the head of the House Homeland Security Committee said on Monday.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) declined to go into detail about the determination, which the Obama administration has not announced publicly.

Yet the disclosure could give ammunition to critics of the White House’s refugee plans who have warned that the program is vulnerable to infiltration by adherents of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“ISIS members in Syria have attempted to exploit it to get into the United States,” McCaul said during a speech at the National Defense University.

“The U.S. government has information to indicate that individuals tied to terrorist groups in Syria have already attempted to gain access to our country through the U.S. refugee program.”

McCaul would not say specifically who informed him and other lawmakers about the revelation, only describing the sources as “elements of the intelligence community.”

“That was very courageous for them to come forward with this, to tell me about this personally, given the political debate on the Hill,” he added, suggesting that the news did not come from intelligence leaders.
Could it be that the administration doesn't want inconvenient information to be reported to Congress while it is debating the Syrian refugee policy?

As he listened to the President's speech on Sunday, Richard Fernandez also noticed how everything must be sacrificed to the narrative.
Yet having coated his remarks with that syntactic sugar, Obama gets down to a very grim business. And what a contrast it is. He ticks off a program at cruel variance with the outward message. What we need to do to stay alive, he says, is control guns, clamp down on social media, review the visa-waiver program. The fine print of the speech is such a negation of the soaring rhetoric that it might as well be from another speech.

A moment's consideration of the speech makes it apparent that "the only thing to fear is not fear itself." The main thing to fear is falsification. The administration is deathly afraid of admitting it got it wrong from the beginning. Or worse yet, admitting where it was going all along. That would ruin its aura of benevolent omniscience. Hope and Change in conflict with Islamism can neither be explained nor managed within the framework of the Narrative. The result is two messages in the speech: the pablum of the Narrative overlaid with the creeping fascism of the details.

Matt Lewis lays out possible topics of discussion that the media could have been engaging in when the news of San Bernardino broke. Realizing that the perpetrators might well have been radical Islamists, we could have talked about how to stop homegrown terrorism and what sorts of government policies might be useful to protect us. If people thought that the perpetrators were mentally unstable, we could have had a discussion of how to protect the public from such people while still respecting their civil liberties. There could have been a discussion of our culture and whether or not it glamorizes violence in movies and video games. Or we could have had a discussion about gun control.

Of course, the media immediately and practically unanimously chose to talk about guns.
Aside from the fact that getting to the truth matters, talk of gun control naturally puts Republicans on the defensive. Most issues have built-in skews. And if gun control comes up—pretty much no matter what is said—conservatives are presented with a lose/lose proposition.

This isn’t because defending the Second Amendment is bad policy, per se. It’s because Americans (and possibly humans) have an instinctive bias toward action. We see a problem, and we want to do something—anything—to fix it.

It does not matter that “common sense” gun control wouldn’t prevent the attack, or that gun control might usurp our Constitutional rights. Something horrible happened, and damn it, something needs to be done!
Yup, that's about it. And why not ridicule people who expressed their sympathy and prayers for the victims and their families?
Guess what? The truth is that sincere conservatives—those of us who have never received a dime from the NRA, for example—honestly do not believe that gun control will do anything to stem gun violence. Instead, we fear that it will make our families less able to defend themselves, and slowly chip away at our Constitutional rights, which—unlike so many of the “rights” that we have made up in recent years—is actually found in the Bill of Rights.

But regardless of how you feel about gun control, it should be recognized how politically maladroit the left’s response was to San Bernardino. Faced with an enemy that confuses them and that they lack a clear agenda for confronting, many liberals retreated deep into the bubble before stumbling into a battle over gun control they were sure to lose.

Bret Stephens ponders the left's approach to fighting terror by self reproach of America.
By now we are familiar with the cast of Mr. Obama’s mind. He does not make a case; he preaches a moral. He mistakes repetition for persuasion. He does not struggle with the direction, details or trade-offs of policy because he’s figured them all out. His policies never fail; it’s our patience that he finds wanting. He asks not what he can do for his country but what his country can do for him.
So Obama made an Oval-Office speech in which he told us that he's going to continue doing all that he's been doing. There was nothing new.
he more grating parts of Mr. Obama’s speech came when he touched on the subject of Islam and Muslims. “We cannot,” he intoned, “turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam.” Terrorism, as he sees it, is to be feared less for the harm it causes than for the overreaction it risks eliciting.

This is the president as master of the pre-emptive self-reproach—the suggestion that Americans are always on the verge of returning to the wickedness whence we came. But since when have we turned against one another, or defined the war on terror as a war on Islam?
Stephens goes on to write about how we've become an overly sensitized society where half our nation's leaders resists calling the terrorism Islamic even when its leaders and operatives call themselves Islamic.
Here’s how we became that society: By pretending that the extreme branch of Islam to which Farook plainly belonged is a protected religion rather than a dangerous ideology. By supposing that it is somehow immoral to harbor graver reservations about 10,000 refugees from Syria or Iraq than, say, New Zealand. By being so afraid to give moral offense that we neglect to play the most elementary form of defense.

If you see something, say something, goes the ubiquitous slogan. But heaven help you if what you see and say turns out to be the wrong something—an alarm clock, for instance, as opposed to a bomb.

This is President Obama’s vision of society, and it is why he delivered this sterile, scolding homily that offered no serious defense against the next jihadist massacre. We have become a country that doesn’t rouse itself to seriousness except when a great many people are murdered. Fourteen deaths apparently isn’t going to move the policy needle, as far as this president is concerned. Will 1,400?
And it is the very self-reproachful sensitivity that Stephens describes that Trump's bigoted statements play into.

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Don't forget how Obamacare has mucked up the nation's healthcare. Even by its own standards, it's a failure.
For years, we’ve heard from Obamacare’s supporters that the law has been a success, because, they say, it has provided more people with health insurance, and slowed the growth rate of health spending. Well, the returns are in. Last week, the Obama administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its official estimates of the uninsured population and of health spending. And in 2014, we learned, Obamacare’s coverage expansion fell between 6 and 12 million short of expectations, while driving the growth of health spending to its highest rate in 7 years.

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Quin Hillyer examines how Donald Trump has a pattern of harming "the little guy," just the guy who makes up his base of support. Of course, there are the stories of his desire to use eminent domain to force a widow out of her home. And, contrary to his claims, he offered her $251,000 for property for which she had turned down a million dollars.
Yet the virtual evisceration of property rights inherent in Trump's expansive eminent-domain advocacy is hardly the only example of Trump breezily leaving innocent victims behind him.

Consider the four Trump corporate bankruptcies which Trump dismissed as merely hurting lenders who "are total killers… not the nice, sweet little people." As usual, Trump was spouting bunk.

In truth, Trump Entertainment Resort's 2009 bankruptcy had the result, according to the Press of Atlantic City, that "low-level investors, contractors, small-time vendors—got less than a penny on the dollar for their claims."

And even apart from the bankruptcies, reported the newspaper, "Trump was a chronic haggler 'notorious for stringing people out and not paying,' [said one contractor]…. 'It was a joke among all the subs that you'd tack on an extra 10 percent onto your bids' to hedge against delayed payments, he said. 'He was slow pay, everybody knew.'"

Small contractors knew that Trump's inherited wealth could be used to force them to accept lower payments, because the mere threat of a Trump lawsuit, with millions of dollars of cut-throat lawyers in his employ, would overwhelm any ability of their own to fight his rapaciousness in court.

To this list of small lenders and vendors, of contractors and homeowners, of family businesses and pensioner-investors, all dumped on by Trump, we can also add Scottish farmers, Hispanic-immigrant workers at a current Trump project, and illegal-immigrant workers from Poland who won several rounds in a long-running court fight against Trump – for conspiring (as per a judge's ruling) with a local union to wrongly withhold medical and pension payments for work they did building the Trump Tower under "horrible, terrible conditions."

Against all these abuses, Trump's Joker-like penchant for crass or vicious insults seems almost harmless. But when he insinuates that a female news host is menstruating and that a female opponent for president is ugly, or belittles a war hero's seven years in the Hanoi Hilton and another, even worse prison camp, or deliberately makes fun of a reporter's disfiguring disability, those blows are low enough to be beneath contempt.
Then he goes and lies about how he's treated such "little guys." His lies are easily exposed, but his followers don't seem to care. They enjoy his insults of all his critics. But how about his insults of entire groups of people? Perhaps his supporters will say that they just love the way Trump will say things that aren't politically correct. They love his plain speaking. I don't think that making bigoted, racist, and sexist comments are what objections to political correctness are all about. And if you're a "little guy," why would you support a guy who seems to think that people work in coal mines just because they're not as brilliant as he is?
In all of this, Trump gives evidence of contempt for his audience, and especially contempt for people born less privileged than he—and often with undertones of racial or religious smears, or outright misogyny. "I have black guys counting my money. … I hate it. The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day," he told USA Today in 1991. "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?" he Tweeted this year. "You have to treat [women] like sh**," he told New York magazine in 1992.

And (speaking of contempt), he said this (to Playboy) of third-generation coal miners: "The coal miner gets black-lung disease, his son gets it, then his son. If I had been the son of a coal miner, I would have left the damn mines. But most people don't have the imagination—or whatever—to leave their mine. They don't have 'it.'"

With an attitude like that, it's no wonder Trump believes (as he said in a recent debate) that "wages are too high." If you have no imagination, it seems, you deserve low wages and deadly disease.
So it's no surprise to hear his blathering against all Muslims today. Sure, why not take advantage of fears of radical Islamic terrorism to ban all Muslims, even American citizens from entering the country? Of course, there is a certain segment of the American people who would support this, but can they really want an American president with these inclinations? My mind reels. But once again another day's media cycle is about Donald Trump. Trump could have called for a pause or a limit on immigrants from war-torn areas where we can't vet those applying for refugee status or reforming the visa-waiver program, but that wouldn't have garnered him the headlines and time devoted to him on cable TV. And that's what it is all about. And, apparently, there are people out there who think that having the most time spent discussing a person on cable TV with all the elites tsk-tsking over him is a major qualification for the presidency.Allahpundit writes,
It’s a perfect Trumpian play, though. It’s highly politically incorrect; the media will go positively batsh*t over it; the rest of the GOP field, especially his new rival Ted Cruz, will squirm about how to respond; and the more heat Trump takes from all sides, the more his fans will love him for it. This is why so many Trump critics, me included, thought that Trump was agreeing with that reporter a few weeks ago when the reporter started asking him about a database of Muslim citizens. That proposal would accomplish most of the same things politically for him that this one does. Maybe he’s saving it for when Cruz crosses 35 percent in Iowa.
Allahpundit links to Ben Shapiro's comments.
In other words, Trump believes the only way to stop terror attacks like those that happened in San Bernardino would be to ban Muslims from entering the country. That’s idiotic, for at least three reasons.

American Citizens Have Citizenship. Trump is not referring only to foreign Muslims. He says his ban applies to “everyone.” If that’s the case, why would he quash the rights of millions of Muslim Americans, many of whom serve in the police and armed services? How would he propose to take away rights without due process? And why in the world would he? This is truly frightening and disgusting stuff. Up until now, it's been the left calling for Americans to give up their rights. Not anymore.

There Is A Difference Between Profiling And A Religious Ban. Looking at religious practice as one component of Islamic terrorism makes sense, given the association between religious practice and Islamic terror. But Islamic practice is necessary, not sufficient, for Islamic terrorism – in other words, there are lots of Muslims who aren’t terrorists, obviously. Being Muslim should not be an outright disqualifier for entering the country if we are actually capable of vetting you. That’s why Ted Cruz’s suggestion of a moratorium on Muslim immigration from countries like Syria makes sense, but Trump’s global ban makes no sense. Our security services will have to be much better than a total Muslim ban if we hope to keep Americans safe anyway, considering the threat of homegrown terrorism – we’ll have to discriminate between Muslims who are a threat, and those that aren’t. There are a billion Muslims on planet earth. Banning all of them is simply impractical, as well as immoral.

Kiss Our Intelligence Apparatus Goodnight. We need to work with Muslims both foreign and domestic. It’s one thing to label Islamic terrorism and radical Islam a problem. It’s another to label all individual Muslims a problem. That’s what this policy does. It’s factually wrong and ethically incomprehensible. Donald Trump has just transformed into the strawman President Obama abused on Sunday night.

So no, this isn’t a good idea. It’s a rotten idea all the way around: legally, ethically, practically. Trump’s supporters need to realize at some point that knee-jerk extreme reactions to events of the day don’t substitute for good judgment. It’s ugly when it’s President Obama looking to grab guns from American citizens without due process, and it’s ugly from Donald Trump.
All I know is that Trump gets uglier by the day.

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Politico has done the research, called their sources, gotten damning quotes, and have now published their results. Their finding - Marco Rubio likes to drink water when he's speaking. Clearly, the man is just too weird to be president.

Well, there goes Hillary Clinton's main claim to fame as Secretary of State.
John Kerry has broken Hillary Clinton's marks for miles traveled and total flight time as secretary of state, the State Department indicated on its website Monday.

With a year to go, he looks set to smash almost every travel record in U.S. diplomacy.
And just consider the diplomacy represented by all that travel. Iran, Syria, Russia, Paris, James Taylor. Whoosh, what a record!

Oh, and that Iran deal?
Iran tested a new medium-range ballistic missile last month in a breach of two U.N. Security Council resolutions, two U.S. officials said on Monday.

The officials, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said the test was held on Nov. 21. One of them said the missile traveled within Iranian territory.

Fox News earlier on Monday on its website cited Western intelligence sources as saying the test was held near Chabahar, a port city near Iran's border with Pakistan.

All ballistic missile tests by Iran are banned under a 2010 Security Council resolution that remains valid until a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers is implemented.
Yeah, but why should Americans care about what Iran actually does instead of what they say they will do? That seems to be the Obama-Kerry approach to diplomacy.

The WSJ writes about an intriguing case before the Supreme Court today that will test the almost sacred principle of "one-person, one-vote" in the context of illegal immigrants. It's a very interesting question, especially considering the Court's rulings against any practice that dilutes a person's vote.
On Tuesday the High Court hears oral arguments in a case that challenges whether illegal immigration has made some votes more important than others. Each decade the Census Bureau counts the U.S. population, including the number of illegal immigrants. The total population is then divided into districts that, under the “one-person, one-vote” precedent, are supposed to have roughly equal populations.

The problem is that undocumented immigrants tend to congregate in some areas over others. The plaintiffs in Evenwel v. Abbott claim that their votes are diluted—in violation of one-person, one vote—because their districts have fewer illegal immigrants.

Plaintiffs Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger live in Titus and Montgomery counties, respectively, both relatively rural areas in Texas with few immigrants. While all Texas state legislative districts have a total population of around 811,000, Ms. Evenwel’s district has 574,000 people eligible to vote and Mr. Pfenninger’s has some 500,000.

By comparison, the district around Brownsville, a town near the border with Mexico, has only 372,000 eligible voters. Ms. Evenwel says her vote is diluted because it carries about two-thirds the weight of a vote in Brownsville.
If the plaintiffs won this case, many of the districts around the country would have to be redrawn using Census data on illegal immigrants. This might be a mini earthquake in representation. But so were the cases that originally established the principle of one-person, one-vote. Almost all U.S. districts as well as state legislative districts had to be redrawn. Chief Justice Earl Warren said that the original case, Baker v. Carr, that established that questions of redistricting were Constitutional questions rather than merely being political questions and the line of cases that followed it as the most important cases of his time as Chief Justice. Think of his tenure on the Court and cases to desegregate schools and uphold the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act plus his cases on criminal rights. But Warren realized that guaranteeing equal representation in the state and national legislature underpinned all other political policies.

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