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Friday, June 17, 2016

Cruising the Web

Bret Stephens argues that Obama is learning the lesson that King Canute tried to teach his subjects. Just as Canute couldn't stop the tide simply by commanding it to stop, Obama could not declare an end to terrorism just by stating that it was so as he did in his 20123 speech on terrorism.
“Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants,” the president boasted at the National Defense University, in Washington, D.C. “There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure.” The “future of terrorism,” he explained, consisted of “less capable” al Qaeda affiliates, “localized threats” against Westerners in faraway places such as Algeria, and homegrown killers like the Boston Marathon bombers.

All of this suggested that it was time to call it quits on what Mr. Obama derided as “a boundless ‘global war on terror.’ ” That meant sharply curtailing drone strikes, completing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and closing Guantanamo prison. It meant renewing efforts “to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians” and seeking “transitions to democracy” in Libya and Egypt. And it meant working with Congress to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al Qaeda.

“This war, like all wars, must end,” he said. “That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
That hasn't worked out so well now, has it?
In 2010, al Qaeda in Iraq—Islamic State’s predecessor—was “dead on its feet,” as terrorism expert Michael Knights told Congress. World-wide, the U.S. government estimated al Qaeda’s total strength at no more than 4,000 fighters. That was the result of George W. Bush’s surge in Iraq, of Mr. Obama’s own surge in Afghanistan, and of the aggressive campaign of drone killings in Pakistan and Yemen.

But then the Obama Doctrine kicked in. Between 2010 and 2013 the number of jihadists world-wide doubled, to 100,000, while the number of jihadist groups rose by 58%, according to a Rand Corp. study. That was before ISIS declared its caliphate.

Today, the U.S. government estimates that ISIS can count on as many as 25,000 fighters. This is after a two-year campaign of airstrikes to destroy the group. In Libya alone, U.S. intelligence recently doubled its estimate of ISIS fighters, to as many as 6,000. Even “core” al Qaeda is surging again in its Afghan and Pakistani heartland, thanks in part to the military gains the Taliban have made in the face of America’s withdrawal.

Apologists for Mr. Obama will rejoin that it’s unfair to blame him for trends in terrorism, an argument that would have more credibility if he hadn’t been so eager to take credit for those trends only three years ago.
As Stephens points out so-called lone-wolf attacks have greatly increased during Obama's presidency. ISIS is particularly adept at using social media to reach disturbed young men and inspire them to acts of mass murder.
It would require more humility than Mr. Obama is capable of mustering to admit that what happened in Orlando is also a consequence of his decisions—of allowing Iraq and Syria to descend to chaos; of pretending that we could call off the war on terror because fighting it didn’t fit a political narrative; of failing to defeat ISIS swiftly and utterly; of refusing to recognize the religious roots of terror; of treating the massacre in San Bernardino as an opportunity to lecture Americans about Islamophobia, and Orlando as another argument for gun control.

As Daniel Henninger writes, when it comes to terrorism, Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus. Democrats rank terrorism much lower as an important issue facing the country than Republican voters do.
That difference is reflected not just in attitudinal preferences, but in policy results across a broad spectrum of real-world security matters, both domestic and international.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Patriot Act with virtual unanimity, presumably in recognition that the nation’s security apparatus was inadequate for the nature of this new threat.

The left argued that liberal Democrats voted for it because of post-9/11 “panic.” Soon, Democrats were legislating or filing lawsuits to pare back the Patriot Act’s provisions. The law’s title itself became a shorthand derision of then-President George W. Bush.

The experience with the Patriot Act, however, tracks with the divide on virtually every security issue: the many lawsuits to constrain the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the battles over the National Security Agency, litigation to end “stop-and-frisk” policing or the endless tensions over the Fourth Amendment and police investigations.

There are indeed serious constitutional issues raised by these disputes, but Democrats always end up on the same side of any policy affecting domestic or national security—conveying unmistakably that they find these functions morally distasteful, rather than morally necessary.
That's why the reaction to the massacre in Orlando is so different from each side. The Democrats prefer to focus on gun control and hatred of gays while Republicans look to how this fits into the larger picture of the threat from ISIS inspiring those here in the U.S.

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The Fiscal Times explains how an EU ban on tea kettles may well spark British citizens to vote for Brexit. They're just sick of all the over-regulation coming from Brussels interfering in their daily lives.
As is so often the case, a momentous decision may be triggered by something quite small. Indeed, the future of the western world may come down to this: a squabble over tea kettles. The Brits are riled up by the imminent threat that the EU, driven by its aggressive climate agenda, will outlaw the electric tea pots that the English have relied upon for generations to produce their daily fix of Earl Grey and toast.

New “eco-design” regulations governing small appliances have been on the EU shelf for months, delayed by officials correctly worried they might ignite a firestorm of protest just as Brits prepared to vote on their European alliance. Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, finally decided at an April 20 meeting to plow ahead with the new rules.

The issue grabbed headlines when David Coburn, EU skeptic and UKIP Member of the European Parliament, tweeted in February, “My toaster takes 4 attempts before bread goes brown and can put My Dundee marmalade on many thanks to EU.” Americans forced to flush twice because newly required water-saving toilets don’t get the job done can sympathize....

In 2014 the Daily Express, crusading for Brexit, revealed 158 laws impacting British lives that were passed the year before by what they call “EU meddlers.” The list contained mind-numbing rules governing food labeling, ferret imports, cross border healthcare, safety at sea, packaging and so much more. As UKIP leader Nigel Farage said at the time, “Virtually nothing is decided by the British government; it is not debated on the floor of the House of Commons, it is not voted on because we have to a very large extent given away the running of our lives to a set of institutions in Brussels.”
The list of such regulations are so intrusive that it's no wonder that ordinary Britons are infuriated.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs brought in 34 laws, including complex regulations about fruit juice labels.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills introduced 33 laws, including rules on packaging which came with a 37-page guide and a 66-word definition of what packaging is.

The Department of Health brought in four pieces of legislation, including the Cross Border Healthcare Directive, which will give EU citizens easier access to the NHS.

Timber merchants have also been subject to a risk assessment when they trade in wood to show they are abiding by laws.
This regulation is both ludicrous and infuriating. The EU ruled that diabetics who treat themselves with insulin who have two or more episodes of hypoglycemia within a year will have their driving licenses revoked. As diabetes advocates explain, most diabetics who have such episodes of hypoglycemia have then when they're asleep so advocates are fighting to get the regulations revoked. But why should they have to spend five years fighting such a regulation?

All this overregulation is not cost-free although bureaucrats never seem to acknowledge the cost of their rulings.
Estimates suggest that as many as 80 percent of British laws being passed derive from EU mandates. The price tag is significant; a think tank called Open Europe reported in 2014 that compliance with EU regulations, including environmental and labor rules, cost the U.K. £27.4 billion a year, or nearly $40 billion. The cost of regulations adopted in the U.S. between 1980 and 2012 have cumulatively cost the country $4 trillion – more than the entire GDP of Germany – according to estimates from the Mercatus Center. That is not to argue that all those regulations were pointless; but, they are not free and studies show they impede growth.
These are the unseen costs that Bastiat warned us about. So when those advocates of remaining in the EU give doomsday predictions of what Brexit would mean for the British economy, they're not taking into account what a release from those regulations would do for the British economy.

Patrick Brennan writes about the irony of the same people who agree that Britain made the right decision to stay out of the euro now think it would be a disaster for Britain to leave the EU.
There’s an irony here: The commentators who think Brexit is some kind of loopy nativist project that will impoverish Little Britain did a pretty good job of admitting over the past few years that a similar project, the euro, proved a costly failure.

Moving governance from the national to the international, unaccountable level has already impoverished millions of actual Europeans (and stoked some actually-bad nativism), as Douglas Murray points out in his NR cover story. Economics and policy wonks admitted it — yet they seemingly refuse to apply this lesson to the Brexit debate.

Now, the EU is not the euro. A common currency without political and fiscal union is a much worse idea, economic-policy-wise, than the EU’s attempt to forge a closely integrated common market and ever-closer political union.

But the lessons of the euro should teach us something about the EU, too: Elite, undemocratic integrationist projects that ignore the will of actual people, the diversity of a continent of hundreds of millions of people, and their national identities come with some real downsides and pose unforeseen risks. Take the current migrant situation in Europe: The EU has been just as bad at handling a serious political/cultural/security crisis as the European Central Bank has been at handling an economic one.

This applies to economic concerns per se, too. The euro disaster — which, again, experts have recognized — is a good example of why economic policy is ceteris paribus better made by national political authorities than unaccountable transnational bureaucrats. The EU has tons of other economically important policies besides the euro: immigration, resource management, anti-trust rules, IP protection, and lots more. Taking these decisions out of the hands of nation-states and handing them to supra-national authorities comes with certain economic benefits, but the economic downsides, especially ones that are harder to recognize or yet to materialize, can be much greater. We have a signal example of this on the very same continent that economic types seem to be ignoring.

But of course. With all the health crises around the world, the World Health Organization has decided that it should call out...Israel. It's worried about health conditions in the "occupied Palestinian territory" and the Golan Heights.
The resolution, sponsored by the Palestinian delegation and the Arab bloc, was the only country-specific one considered. The WHO’s session neglected to address the bombing of Syrian hospitals by Syrian and Russian warplanes. It skipped the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, where the Saudi-led bombings and blockade have left millions without food and water.

Israel, like any country, makes mistakes. Its actions should be scrutinized, but it shouldn’t be held to an arbitrary, higher standard. Far from being outraged, the WHO should laud the Jewish state for its treatment of Syrians in the Golan. Israeli hospitals have stepped up to provide medical treatment to more than 3,000 refugees from the brutal civil war.

This typifies the Jewish state’s humanity. Palestinians regularly go to Israeli hospitals for treatment. Two years ago, the daughter of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh underwent emergency treatment in a Tel Aviv facility shortly after Hamas-Israel fighting ended.
WHO has chosen politics over legitimate health concerns.
In singling out Israel, the WHO chooses politics over progress and undermines its own credibility.

Yet the WHO has gone this route before. In 2009, an executive-board resolution called out Israel for its actions during hostilities with Hamas. But the document failed to hold Hamas accountable for launching thousands of rockets at Israel, which had triggered the conflict.
Just one more piece of evidence about what a pernicious entity the United Nations is.

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The Daily Caller has researched
the Clinton Foundation's filings before a New York state charity board. A recent filing reveals that the Foundation received $17.7 million in donations from foreign countries while Hillary was Secretary of State.
Clinton Foundation officials used an obscure New York state charity board filing to disclose that the non-profit received nearly $17.7 million in donations from foreign governments while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned. The specific foreign governments were not identified in the document, entitled “Exhibit A.”

The latest filing was submitted last January before the public charity division operated by New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann, a Democrat. The money was given between 2010 and 2013, the exact years when Clinton was America’s chief diplomat.

The January filings also were unusual in that the latest submission now constituted a third “official” revised version of the Clinton Foundation’s financial statements for the foundation’s activities while Clinton was in public office.

Last November, amid much fanfare, foundation officials issued a second revision of the foundation’s federal tax filings for the four years.

But a new line was added in the January submission that stated: “All other government grants came from foreign governments.” The total figure for each of the four years equaled $17.7 million.
Of course, those masters of transparency aren't listing those donations on their website.

Get ready, folks.A new study by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation predicts that Obamacare enrollees will see double-digit increases in their premiums in 2017.
In the 14 cities whose data KFF used, Obamacare enrollees living in 10 are likely to experience large premium increases on top of this year’s already-substantial hikes. And the unfortunates who live in 6 of those 10 will endure double-digit increases. Those big spikes will occur in Portland, OR (26%), Washington, DC (21%), New York City, NY (16%), Hartford, CT (13%), Richmond, VA (12%), and Baltimore, MD (10%). Even in Denver, where individuals will enjoy a lower increase than in 2016, enrollees will be hit with a double-digit spike. Their 14 percent increase is “lower” only when compared to this year’s 29 percent hike.

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Alan Pomerantz, an international and real estate lawyer, explains that the leadership skills a real estate mogul needs are not those that a president needs.
1. Businessmen can always walk away from a deal. If a real-estate developer doesn’t trust a potential partner, he can find another interested party. In Mr. Trump’s line of work a different deal is almost always possible. The opposite is often true at the White House. The president cannot simply walk away from China if he does not like Xi Jinping.
What experience does Mr. Trump have in negotiating when the consequences of no deal are potentially devastating? Failed talks with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia or North Korea are not the same thing as an unsuccessful real-estate deal.

2. Companies usually can fire at will. In business, any employee or contractor who does not share the company’s vision, goals or methods will soon be replaced by one who does. Not so in politics. A President Trump would have to work with 535 members of Congress whom he cannot fire. Many will want him to fail. Some may have their eyes on his job.

Mr. Trump has not shown any skill at dealing with people who disagree with him—nor any desire to learn how. Instead, he has mocked and belittled anyone who has challenged him. See: “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted” and “Crooked Hillary.” What would President Trump do if German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced sharp disagreement with his international agenda? Could he restrain himself from personally attacking an American ally?

3. Executives are autocrats. Real estate is heavily regulated, but developers are not. Pretty much anyone can buy whatever he wants, as long as he has the money. It is inconceivable that Mr. Trump’s business decisions at Trump Enterprises could be overruled. Presidents, in contrast, are tightly constrained by laws, rules and regulations. Even if the White House’s actions appear to be in compliance with the law, courts may disagree.

Mr. Trump does not seem to understand the limits of presidential power. Take his pledge to make Mexico pay for a border wall. The candidate has suggested that he would recoup the cost of the wall by imposing a tariff on imports from Mexico. But such a tariff would have to be passed by Congress, and it would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Trump has also suggested that he would confiscate remittances to Mexico, which would require court action and proof of a criminal act. The courts would not support him.

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The WSJ has a little primer about assault rifles and the effect of the ban that was instituted under Bill Clinton and lifted under George W. Bush.
The rifle ban also didn’t matter when it ended. The gun homicide rate remains about half (3.8 deaths per 100,000 people) of what it was prior to the seven deaths per 100,000 in the early 1990s. The media this week are full of stories about gun-death rates, without bothering to note that most of the surge is occurring in cities like Chicago that have the strictest gun laws....

As for stopping terrorism, California is among the states that continued to ban assault weapons after the federal version expired. But that didn’t stop the San Bernardino killers, who used modified rifles that violated the law. France’s strict gun laws also didn’t stop the Paris assailants.
If a ban were to work, they'd have to confiscate an estimated 10 million AR-15 rifles from people who already have them. What would be more effective would be, as the WSJ advocates, better background checks.
What has reduced gun deaths are better background checks, but Democrats are now politicizing this success. They are insisting that anyone whose name appears on the FBI’s terror watch list should be banned from buying guns. But we know that names are mistakenly on the list. The GOP alternative would alert Justice if someone on the list tries to buy a gun, triggering a special court proceeding and 72-hour investigation. Democrats say that’s not enough, no doubt because it doesn’t provide the gun-control wedge issue they want.

By the way, how about enforcing existing law? Handguns account for more than 80% of gun crime, and the primary way felons obtain firearms is through “straw purchasing”—that is, using friends or relatives without criminal records to buy the guns for them. The Justice Department prefers not to prosecute straw purchasers on grounds that they aren’t the main problem. But surely the deterrent signal would get around if Justice began to prosecute some of these gun gophers.
Also at the WSJ, Heather MacDonald explains why Chicago has become such a violent and dangerous city despite its tight gun control laws. The death toll from violence in the Orlando night club is basically a weekend in Chicago. It's not just gang members who are being killed, but innocent bystanders just driving by or children playing in their own yards.
Someone was shot in Chicago every 150 minutes during the first five months of 2016. Someone was murdered every 14 hours, and the city saw nearly 1,400 nonfatal shootings and 240 fatalities from gunfire. Over Memorial Day weekend, 69 people were shot, nearly one an hour, topping the previous year’s tally of 53 shootings. The violence is spilling from the Chicago’s gang-infested South and West Sides into the business district downtown. Lake Shore Drive has seen drive-by shootings and robberies.

The growing mayhem is the result of Chicago police officers’ withdrawing from proactive enforcement, making the city a dramatic example of what I have called the Ferguson effect. Since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014, the conceit that American policing is lethally racist has dominated media and political discourse, from the White House on down. Cops in minority neighborhoods in Chicago and other cities have responded by backing away from pedestrian stops and public-order policing; criminals are flourishing in the vacuum.
Leftists argue that there should be some sort of quota system for how many people of each race should be stopped by the police.
Antipolice animus is nothing new in Chicago. But the post-Ferguson Black Lives Matter narrative about endemically racist cops has made the street dynamic much worse. A detective told me: “From patrol to investigation, it’s almost an undoable job now. If I get out of my car, the guys get hostile right away.” Bystanders sometimes aggressively interfere, requiring more officers to control the scene.

In March 2015, the ACLU of Illinois accused the Chicago PD of engaging in racially biased stops, locally called “investigatory stops,” because its stop rate did not match population ratios. Blacks were 72% of all stop subjects during a four-month period in 2014, said the ACLU, compared to 9% for whites. By the ACLU’s reasoning, with blacks and whites each making up roughly 32% of the city’s populace, the disparity in stops proves racial profiling.

This by now familiar and ludicrously inadequate benchmarking methodology ignores the incidence of crime. In 2014 blacks in Chicago made up 79% of all known nonfatal shooting suspects, 85% of all known robbery suspects, and 77% of all known murder suspects, according to police-department data. Whites were 1% of known nonfatal shooting suspects in 2014, 2.5% of known robbery suspects, and 5% of known murder suspects, the latter number composed disproportionately of domestic homicides. Whites are nearly absent among violent street criminals—the group that proactive policing aims to deter.

Despite the groundlessness of these racial-bias charges, then-Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and the city’s corporation counsel signed an agreement in August 2015 giving the ACLU oversight of stop activity. The agreement also created an independent monitor. “Why McCarthy agreed to put the ACLU in charge is beyond us,” a homicide detective told me.

On Jan. 1 the department rolled out a new form for documenting investigatory stops to meet ACLU demands. The new form, called a contact card, was two pages long, with 70 fields of information to be filled out. This template dwarfs even arrest reports and takes at least 30 minutes to complete. Every card goes to the ACLU for review.

The arrangement had the intended deterrent effect: Police stops dropped nearly 90% in the first quarter of 2016. Criminals have become emboldened by the police disengagement. “Gangbangers now realize that no one will stop them,” says a former high-ranking official with the department. People who wouldn’t have carried a gun before are now armed, a South Side officer told me. Cops say the solution is straightforward: “If tomorrow we still had to fill out the new forms, but they no longer went to the ACLU, stops would increase,” a detective said.
Why would any reasonable person decide to become a policeman today, especially in Chicago, when they hear stories like this. And the ones who truly suffer are the poor, black residents of these police-free firing zones.

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