Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cruising the Web

If Europe wants to protect themselves against the sort of Islamic terrorism that they've seen now in Paris and Brussels, they will have to get serious about security in the way that Israel has become. I don't know if they have that will power because it's a very tough way to live and demands a dedication to preventing terror attacks that European nations have not shown in the past. The Jerusalem Post has some tough love advice for Belgium and other European countries.
Sure, there is no hermetic security, and terrorists take advantage of loopholes. But there is no need to be a genius to understand that what happened yesterday in Brussels was a colossal security and intelligence failure. According to media reports, Belgian authorities had advance warning about an “imminent terror attack.”

Yet neither the country’s police nor its security forces increased their presence in the streets or by deploying check points at the entrances to the airport. No wonder that the terrorists managed to enter with explosive belts.

What happened yesterday was the result of years of negligence.

For decades, Belgium’s police have been afraid to enter rough Muslim neighborhoods such as Molenbeck, in the capital. These areas first became heavens for criminal gangs dealing in drugs, protection and weapons. Then they turned into hotbeds of radical Muslim and anti-western trends.

In recent decades, such neighborhoods across Europe have become fertile recruiting grounds for young Muslims attracted by the slogans of jihadist groups such as Islamic State. Now, radicalized Muslim are returning from the Syrian and Iraqi battlefields.

They are ideologically hardened and militarily trained to perform on the home front.

To gather intelligence, security agencies need to penetrate terrorist networks, recruit agents and intercept communications.

It seems that the Belgian police were either afraid or reluctant, or they lacked the determination to do so. Perhaps all of these. These years of negligence resulted in a reality for which the Belgian public – and the world – pay the price.

Belgium’s security services lack necessary intelligence. The writing was long on the wall. Since 9/11, as well as Madrid, London, Turkey, Bali and more, the international community should have come to realize that it is at war. It took measures but was slow, even reluctant, to draw the necessary conclusions.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attacks, and it makes sense. ISIS has been suffering major defeats on the battlegrounds of Syria and Iraq. Its megalomaniacal fantasy of creating a 7th-century state has been shattered. It now finds itself back to square one – being a copycat of al-Qaida.
However, Europe just isn't prepared to defend itself against such terror attacks.As Thomas Joscelyn reports, their security forces are totally overwhelmed.
Belgian and European authorities knew this day was coming and they couldn't stop it. Beyond the loss of life, that is the most troubling aspect of today's bombings.

Europe's counterterrorism defenses have cracked because there are simply too many threats to track. An unnamed Belgian counterterrorism official made a similar point during a recent interview with BuzzFeed News. Citing this official, BuzzFeed reported that "virtually every police detective and military intelligence officer in [Belgium] was focused on international jihadi investigations."

"We just don't have the people to watch anything else and, frankly, we don't have the infrastructure to properly investigate or monitor hundreds of individuals suspected of terror links, as well as pursue the hundreds of open files and investigations we have," this same official told BuzzFeed.

As a result, we have reached a point where known terrorists are slipping through the West's defenses. And jihadist networks targeted by counterterrorism officials are still able to carry out attacks even though, in many cases, their members are being hunted.
Joscelyn goes on to look at the example of Abdelhamid Abaaoud who was quickly identified after the 2015 Paris attacks as the ringleaders. They knew who he was and he gave interviews claiming responsibility and threatening more attacks. Yet Belgium couldn't stop him.
Belgian authorities certainly knew there was an ongoing threat to their citizens' security. They have repeatedly launched counterterrorism raids for the better part of the last two years. Last week, Belgian officials arrested Salah Abdelslam, an Islamic State operative who is accused of helping Abaaoud and the other Paris attackers. Abdelslam was perhaps the most wanted man in Europe, yet he managed to live for several months undetected in a Brussels neighborhood.

There are still many details to be worked out. But the early suspicion is that a network tied to Abdelslam and Abaaoud carried out today's attacks. We shouldn't be surprised if that turns out to be correct.

The jihadists said they were going to attack Belgium. Belgian authorities tried to stop them. But the jihadists succeeded anyway.
The situation that Europe finds itself in is partially due to their own moral squeamishness that prevented them from working actively to assimilate Muslim immigrants into their own societies. It's as if they are ashamed of their own society and so feel no need to try to inculcate their values in newly-arrived immigrants.
The answer is that this is a problem of Europe’s own creating—and it’s not going away. Beginning in the post-World War II era, Europe was in need of workers to pad its depleted work force. A natural place to look was North Africa, in former colonies of Spain and France. While it was assumed that migration would be short-term, the reality is that the men who came to work stayed, and later brought over their families. Europe made no plan for how to house and assimilate these families (see Christopher Caldwell’s excellent book, “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe,” for an in-depth discussion of this topic).

More to the point, Europe was uncomfortable asking its Muslim communities to assimilate. European leaders felt that would be too reminiscent of the colonial era. Their guilt and newfound “enlightenment” guided them to leave these people to their communities, culture, and religion. At the same time, however, they also ostracized them. What resulted was tight-knit majority-Muslim enclaves often on the outskirts of major European cities (like Saint Denis on the outer edge of Paris, where one of the Paris attackers was found).

These communities are volatile places that are not dissimilar, in some ways, to certain American inner cities. They remain close-knit via shared language, Arabic, shared religion, Islam, and a continued influx of immigration from their countries of origin. This is no longer just family reunification. It is common, for example, for second- and third-generation North African immigrants to look to their ancestral home for a spouse. This is most common among men. They want a woman uncorrupted by European values. These marriage practices keep a continuous supply of first-generation mothers having second-generation children.

These problems have now come home to roost. Europe has on its hands millions of Muslims, many of whom, although certainly not all, identify first as Muslims and second as Europeans. They are loyal, at best, to the local Muslim community with whom they share a sense of solidarity, or in its worst manifestations, to ISIS and its global sense of destiny. This manifests itself in its most extreme in attacking the great evil that is the West—even if it has been their home for their entire life. But, as has played out in the last few months, it is also manifesting itself in a large community of people willing to aid and abet terrorist networks in Europe.
In many European countries, these horrific attacks have been presaged by years of anti-Semitic attacks that many Europeans turned a blind eye to. But the trajectory that we're seeing is that attacks on Jews are the advance tremors warning us of bigger attacks on everyone else. They must no longer ignore such attacks, physical and verbal, against Jews as ugliness that doesn't affect them. Perhaps they'll wake up to realize that single-mindedly attacking Israel while ignoring the brutalities of all other countries is moral surrender.

I don't know what the solution is now that the damage has been done. These problems have been building up for decades. Here in the United States, we've done a better job of assimilating immigrants into our culture, but those efforts have been deteriorating as more and more people, especially leftists, are more interested in criticizing the United States and American culture than looking to inculcate such a thing as "American values" in immigrants. Look at the demise of the term "melting pot," which used to be the aim of our approach to immigrants.

The United States needs to show a similar determination to fight terrorism. Even after the terror attacks on France, we have not seen the administration end or limit the visa waiver program that allows travelers from certain nations to enter the U.S. without much of a background check.
Leading lawmakers identified Belgium as a hotspot for terrorism months ago and are warning that many of the radicalized individuals living there are still able to travel to the United States without first obtaining a visa and undergoing thorough security checks.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon Tuesday afternoon that current flaws in the U.S. visa waiver program—which facilities travel to the United States from partner nations including Belgium—have created a loophole that could permit radicalized individuals to legally enter the United States with minimal background checks.

DeSantis is warning of these flaws on the heels of deadly mass terrorist attack in Brussels on Tuesday that has killed at least 30 and wounded hundreds more.

“The visa waiver reform, this is something we have been perusing and the [Obama] administration has brushed us off at every turn,” DeSantis said, explaining that current policy does not mandate more strenuous checks on individuals identified as coming from terrorist hotspots, such as the small Belgian town of Molenbeek, which has emerged as a principal training site for jihadists.

“It’s the case that if those folks are citizens of Belgium they qualify for the visa waiver program and can hop on a plane and get here,” he added. “Clearly, that is not adequate given what happened.”

The Obama administration “even takes the position it’s safer to allow someone to come in on a visa waiver than make them get one, it’s kind of crazy,” DeSantis said. You’re not going to be able to have intelligence on everyone there because there are so many potential recruits. It’s a clear vulnerability.”

What is worse, DeSantis said, is that the Obama administration has been lax about deporting individuals who overstay their visas, meaning that a radicalized person could disappear in America as they plan a potential attack.

“There’s no enforcement once they get here,” DeSantis said. “Hundreds of thousands of people come over and then overstay” their visas. “You are not going to be removed under current policy under this administration.”

DeSantis and other lawmakers first labeled Belgium as a hotspot for ISIS terrorists in the aftermath of the 2015 attacks in Paris. At least five of the Paris attackers were French nationals, two of whom had been living in Belgium. Another one of the terrorists was a Belgian national.

Citizens from both countries are still able to freely travel to the United States under the visa waiver program, which facilitates travel between the American and a host of foreign countries.

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According to Obama, this is the prime difference between the United States and Cuba.
"But we cannot and should not ignore the very real differences that we have about how we organize our governments, our economies, and our societies. Cuba has a one-party system. The United States is a multi-party democracy."
Mary Anastasia O'Grady debunks the idea that the U.S. lifting of the embargo on Cuba is going to help the average Cuban citizen.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes says the aim of the trip is to make the Obama administration’s Cuba policies “irreversible.” On Cuba’s part there is nothing to reverse. Since Mr. Obama launched his détente, the regime has doubled down on its long-standing practices of denying employment to dissidents as well as beating, torturing and jailing them.

The Obama administration boasts that it negotiated the liberation of 53 political prisoners in 2014. But more than half of those have been rearrested, and four who received multiyear sentences were exiled last week. In 2015 there were more than 8,600 political detentions, and in the first two months of this year there were 2,555, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation....

The regime will turn out plenty of compliant Cubans who will tell reporters that the embargo is the source of Cuban poverty. Mr. Obama has invited some dissidents to the U.S. Embassy but over the weekend the dictatorship warned them not to attend. Yet even if there is a U.S nod to the opposition, there also will be a wink, as the president poses with the dictator along with members of the Colombian terrorist group FARC—invited by Mr. Obama—at a baseball game and pushes for U.S. policies that will finance the totalitarian apparatus.

The big lie will be that by legalizing commercial and banking relations with Cuba, the U.S. will empower the Cuban people. The opposite is true.

Raúl Castro legalized a narrow number of economic activities for the purpose of putting to work millions of Cubans the bankrupt state can no longer “employ.” But these businesses, such as selling fruit and shining shoes, are not allowed to hire employees, and they are only legal as long as they remain the urban equivalent of subsistence farming.

If there is a great capital infusion from the U.S., it can flow only to state-owned monopolies. U.S. hotel chains, for example, will become minority partners with the Cuban military, which owns the tourism industry.

Visitors to the island are charged in hard currency, but Cubans who work in tourism are hired and paid by the state in all-but-worthless pesos. They can’t form independent unions. The big profits go to the Castro mafia, which uses some of the money to run the repressive intelligence network necessary to contain rebellion and keeps the rest for personal gain. Last week Mr. Obama stepped up to help the Castros move these profits around the international banking system by lifting the U.S. ban on facilitating their dollar transactions.
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Jay Nordlinger responds
to those people comparing Reagan speaking under a bust of Lenin with Obama appearing in a photo in front of a mural of Che Guevara. First of all, Reagan had lived a lifetime opposing Communism.
Reagan took office in 1981, and he spent long, hard years countering the Soviet Union: by rebuilding the American military; supporting anti-Communist rebels around the world; launching SDI; refusing to bargain away SDI; and so on. The Left opposed him every step. Reagan and his allies installed cruise and Pershing missiles in Western Europe. This was unbelievably hard. The protests against this move were enormous and momentous.

When he got to Moscow State University in 1988, he was taking advantage of a thaw. And what did he use his speech for?
Reagan's speech at Moscow State University was a paean to liberty and a criticism of the Soviet system. He was not making moral equivalences like Obama did in Cuba when he thanked Raul Castro for his criticisms of the United States.
Now, as my tweeters pointed out, Reagan was speaking underneath a bust of Lenin. But his speech was pure anti-Leninism. Everyone in that auditorium, and everyone in the world, knew that Ronald Reagan was an anti-Communist to his very bone marrow.

About the current president — who went to Havana and posed in front of the mural of Che Guevara — we know no such thing.

Yesterday, Raul Castro angrily responded to a reporter's question about releasing dissidents by saying that there were no imprisoned dissidents and all he needed was a list of such dissidents and he would release them. So that seems like a great opportunity for Obama to hand over a list of imprisoned dissidents and push for their release. So, of course Obama ignores the opportunity.
President Barack Obama told ABC News anchor David Muir in an exclusive interview today in Havana, Cuba, that he had not yet given President Raúl Castro a list of dissidents, which the Cuban leader seemed to request during a news conference earlier today.

In the joint news conference, Obama and Castro clashed on the issue of human rights in Cuba, with the Cuban leader denying knowledge of any political prisoners in the island nation.

"What political prisoners? Give me a name, or names, or after this meeting is over you can give me a list of political prisoners and if we have those political prisoners they will be released before tonight ends," Castro said.

Obama told Muir that while he had not given Castro a list today, the U.S. had given the Cuban president lists "in the past."

"They have responded intermittently to our engagement," Obama said. "And, and this, I think, is an example of why it was my belief that this would be a more successful mechanism for us to advance the values that we care about than an embargo and silence and no communications."
Well, if those lists have had intermittent success in the past and he thinks it would be a "more successful mechanism" now that he's made this historic visit why didn't they jump on this opportunity that Raul Castro provided him to help free those fighting for liberalizing Cuba? If it worked in the past, why didn't the administration insist on real action instead of making the deal and hoping for compliance later? But that is how this administration negotiates (See nuclear deal, Iran).

Obama might have been totally passive in this moment, but some reporters were ready to jump on this opportunity. Jorge Ramos of Univision tweeted out this list.
Mark Knoller of CBS also tweeted out a list. I wish the Obama administration could be so on top of things.

Rich Lowry writes,
At a press conference with President Raúl Castro on Monday, Obama spoke in euphemistic terms of our “two different systems,” eliding the fact that one system is open, democratic, and prosperous, while the other is closed, dictatorial, and economically ruinous. Castro railed against alleged human-rights abuses in the United States — Obama obligingly said he welcomed the dialogue — and El Presidente denied holding any political prisoners when reporters dared ask about it.

There is no sign of greater openness in Cuba since President Obama forged his break with long-standing U.S. policy. Political arrests have accelerated. There were more than 8,000 in 2015, four times as many as in 2010. The exodus of desperate Cubans to the United States has picked up.
In light of the photo-op in front of the Che Guevara mural, Lowry reflects on leftists' romantic illusions about Cuba.
If Cuba were a repressive, small-minded military dictatorship of the right, Obama’s visit and accommodationist attitude wouldn’t be considered so broad-minded. But a patina of revolutionary romance, embodied by that image of Che looking down on President Obama, still hangs over Cuba. It makes its human-rights abuses, theft, and lies an afterthought, or even excusable, for the American Left.

After the Cuban missile crisis, Che said that in the event of a U.S. attack, “if the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression.” It would have been beyond his imagining that so many decades later, with the revolutionary regime cash-strapped and decrepit, the imperialist Goliath would come bearing gifts and asking for nothing substantial in return, except a line in President Obama’s Wikipedia entry.

Eli Lake traces Hillary Clinton's convenient evolution
on Israel. Remember that she supports Obama's atrocious deal with Israel that Israel and its supporters regard as a disaster. And was certinaly tough on Israel as secretary of state. Now that she's running for office, she's ready to pretend that she has never been anything but a close supporter of Israel. Anyone who's paid attention knows differently.
Clinton as secretary of state appeared to be neutral on the conflict that has vexed Israel since its founding. She supported a peace deal for the sake of both sides. As she runs for president in 2016, though, Clinton chides Trump for promising this same kind of neutrality. No wonder Republicans are hoping pro-Israel voters will question her sincerity in November.

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I'm sure that this was either just an honest mistake or just an example of Donald Trump gaming the system because he knows so well the art of the deal.
A new legal complaint against Donald Trump's charitable organization claims the group illegally donated to a political organization supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. State campaign finance records show the $25,000 contribution was made in September 2013, just days after Bondi's office announced she was considering whether to take legal action against Trump's now-defunct online seminar business, Trump University.

Bondi, who endorsed Trump last week, never wound up investigating the company. On Monday the Washington nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called on the IRS to investigate whether the Trump Foundation broke federal law when it donated to the pro-Bondi group.

The Trump Foundation is registered as a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning that it is prohibited from supporting political candidates.
Imagine how Republicans would be screaming from their rooftops if the Clinton Foundation had donated to the political campaign of a state attorney general investigating Hillary. But I'm sure we'll hear crickets from Trump's supporters.

I saw a lot of analysts yesterday writing that the Brussels attacks would help Trump and they pointed to how his poll numbers went up after the November attacks in Paris. But, as S.E. Cupp writes, Trump might talk big about fighting terrorism, but his plans for fighting ISIS are incoherent.
Back in November, just hours before ISIS suicide bombers attacked Paris in retaliation for French airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, Trump declared his strategy to contain the terror group overseas was to “bomb the s--t out of them.”

He also claimed he’d bomb their oil fields, and “get Exxon to come in there, and in two months . . . they’ll rebuild it brand new. And I’ll take the oil.”

Forgetting the hurdles he’d face with Congress, and the unlikelihood that companies like Exxon want to join President Trump in a hostile takeover of violently-guarded foreign oil fields, or that the Iraqi government would readily hand over its only lucrative resource, for this to be at all plausible, you’d assume Trump would also agree that U.S. troops would be needed in Iraq and Syria to oversee this plan.

That’s unclear, at best.

In a recent meeting with the Washington Post editorial board, Trump was pressed on his vision for U.S. troop presence overseas. He first quoted “the generals” as saying that 20,000 to 30,000 troops would be needed to defeat ISIS. But then he said he would “find it very, very hard to send that many troops to take care of it,” arguing we shouldn’t be in Iraq in the first place and nation building is a waste of time.

Then when asked how he would defend the oil he wants to take from Iraq, he said: “You would, well for that, for that, I would circle it. I would defend those areas.”

With U.S. troops?” asks editor Fred Hiatt.

“Yeah, I would defend the areas with the oil.”

So to clarify, President Trump would ignore ISIS everywhere except for the “circles” of Exxon-annexed oil fields. (And he’d do all this with a military that’s bigger, but funded for “a lot less.”) Good plan.
All he has are slogans and we're supposed to ignore that his slogans contradict each other.
ISIS is just the tip of the iceberg. At one time or another during this campaign, Trump has suggested he’s not entirely on board with NATO, may want to shutter U.S. military bases in Germany and South Korea, and doesn’t have strong feelings about where Israel’s capital should be. Sorry, allies.

It’s all hogwash — the mindless, meaningless utterances of an unstudied tenderfoot who is making it up as he goes.

Trump and his supporters are right — the world is a scary place and terrorism needs to be the priority of the next president. And in that case, Trump is the last person who should get that job.

Peter Kirsanow explodes the weaknesses of the Obama administration's
arguments in today's case regarding the contraception mandate and the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Despite already losing a much more complex case in Hobby Lobby, involving whether the government has the right to force the owners of closely-held corporations into providing services that violate their religious beliefs, the ideologues in the Obama administration are still hanging on by their fingernails; they want to take just one more swing. Their target? Religious groups that don’t meet the IRS’s definition of “religious enough.” Groups like Little Sisters of the Poor.

But, as their lawyers at the Becket Fund have put it — these ladies will have nun of it.

It also feels a bit like a return to early 1900s, when tycoons in bed with government cronies got special protection for their monopolies, while little business guys got crushed. Here, the government granted waivers from the Obamacare mandate to big corporations like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, IBM, Visa, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Home Depot, and Boeing, among many, many others. The Little Sisters, on the other hand, received no such favors.

Perhaps in the eyes of the Obama administration, those corporations are too big to fail under the weight of complying with Obamacare, but who’s really going to notice if the Little Sisters of the Poor go quietly into the night? The people they serve — the destitute and dying elderly — aren’t going to be storming Capitol Hill looking for answers. No sleek lobbyists for them.

Indeed, the health-care plans of one in three Americans are exempt from providing the very goods and services, things like the week-after pill, (which no one really denies is a chemical abortifacient), that the Sisters object to. But the nuns just can’t catch a break. The government likes to claim that the Sisters are just “objecting to objecting” to the mandate, but the fact remains that the nuns would still be providing — directly through their health-care plans — services that violate everything the nuns have committed their lives to promoting....

The government cannot force the Little Sisters to violate their First Amendment rights and provide services that are already, as the government readily admits, easily available on the (now Court-affirmed) exchanges. Especially when the government won’t even force soda companies to provide the same services.
Yet that is the argument of the Obama administration - groups that they determine aren't religious enough don't get a waiver. Exxon and Pepsi do.