November 25th, 2015

Yes, these attacks have a great deal to do with Islam

The current meme of the left that terrorist attacks “have nothing to do with Islam” is absurd on the face of it, an example of the tried and true Big Lie technique. And yet, as so often happens with Big Lies, if it’s repeated often enough it can come to seem to be the truth to many people. At this point, it is believed not just because all the smart people are saying it, but because all the nice, tolerant people are saying it (not those mean Republicans)—and by joining in the chorus, a person can feel nice and tolerant too.

The net result is that people are happy to deny that the emperor is naked, averting their eyes and chanting the PC mantra as the emperor strolls down the street in his birthday suit.

Some say that George Bush started this “terrorism has nothing to do with Islam” business right after 9/11. But he faced a very different situation than today—a country, a Congress, and a populace that was playing catch-up in learning about the menace of Islamist terrorism and what it really was capable of, a need to rally together all Americans in the wake of a terrorist attack that has still never been surpassed in its magnitude and daring, the very real fear of a backlash against innocent Muslims in the US, and the goal of gaining worldwide allies (including many Muslim countries) in fighting the country that had harbored Bin Laden, Afghanistan, as well as fighting Islamic terrorists as a whole.

That was a tall order. Bush had entered relatively unknown territory, and he needed to tread carefully. At the same time, his actions were strong and clear, and involved the willingness to wage war if necessary.

This could not be more different from the situation today. None of the current terrorist activities are a surprise anymore, after what we’ve seen since 9/11. There have been vanishingly few backlash attacks on innocent Muslims in this country. Obama isn’t waging war on countries that harbor terrorist training camps and headquarters (despite his intermittently tough talk of red lines) and therefore he doesn’t need those kind of allies—except, of course, our new loyal ally, Iran. As for rallying Americans together, his motto is divide and conquer.

Not only that, but Bush was never quite as naive as some might remember. In his first post-9/11 address to Congress, this is what he actually said (September 21, 2001). It’s a mixture of soft and hard-hitting; paragraph 3 of the quote I’ve selected shows him moving back and forth rapidly between the two [emphasis mine]:

Americans are asking: Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda. They are the same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for bombing the USS Cole.

Al Qaeda is to terror what the mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making money; its goal is remaking the world – and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.

The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics – a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam. The terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans, and make no distinction among military and civilians, including women and children.

This group and its leader – a person named Osama bin Laden – are linked to many other organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction.

So, despite Bush’s “Islam is a peaceful religion” rhetoric, he correctly identified the terrorists as practicing a form of Islam. Bush also correctly described its aims as killing women, children, Christians, Jews, Americans, with the goal of “imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.”

Democrats have retreated from that sort of stark rhetoric. Instead, the idea that Islamic terrorists have nothing to do with Islam is shouted to the skies by a varied group of liberals intent on making a preposterous claim. As Mark Steyn writes, they’ve now retreated even from George Bush’s very careful tiptoeing around the issue:

Secretary Kerry doesn’t care what you name it as long as you don’t name it “Islam”. Because the not-naming of Islam is more important than the actual naming of whatever it is. Even the qualification that many have been careful to make over the years – of course, most Muslims aren’t terrorists but an awful lot of terrorists unfortunately happen to be Muslim – will no longer suffice. As President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton assures us:

Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.

So not only is terrorism nothing to do with Islam, but Muslims have “nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism”. She said this a few hours before yet another US citizen was killed by terrorists shouting “Allahu Akbar!” – this time in a mass slaughter at the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Mali. Hostages were given a stark choice: if they could recite from the Koran, they would live; if they were incapable of reciting from the Koran, they would die. So whoever these terrorists were – “you name it” – they knew enough about Islam to be able to recognize quotations from the Koran. Yet they can’t be Muslims because Muslims have “nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism”.

We’ve gone straight through the looking glass and then some.

Steyn continues:

So who does have something to do with terrorism? Republicans mainly. Republicans are the greatest recruiting tool for terrorism that has ever been devised – far more effective than jihadist snuff videos on social media. Just ask President Obama

So “Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism” except when Republicans goad them into it.

Read the whole thing. And read the whole text of Bush’s post-9/11 address to Congress while you’re at it. Compare and contrast to what we’re hearing now from most Democrats and this administration.

November 25th, 2015

Message from the Chief Rabbi of Belgium

A lot like the good old days:

There is a sense of fear in the streets, the Belgians understand that they too are targets of terror. Jews now pray in their homes [as opposed to at synagogues] and some of them are planning on emigrating,” Gigi said. “Since Shabbat the city has been paralyzed. The synagogues were closed, something which has not happened since World War Two. People are praying alone or are holding small minyanim [small prayer groups] at private homes. Schools and theaters are closed as are most large stores and public events are not permitted. We live in fear and wait for instructions from the police or the government,” he said.

I wonder, actually, what the Belgians thought would happen when they failed to culturally assimilate the Muslims they accepted into their country in such huge numbers. Assimilation is not a game; it means that newcomers should adopt the customs of their host country. It is paradoxical that espousing values of tolerance and freedom of religion in modern Europe encouraged countries to be sanguine about taking in so many immigrants who did not accept and adopt those values. The process has undermined the liberty and safety of all.

In the US, we used to do a lot better than that with assimilation. The melting pot may always have been somewhat of an unrealizable ideal, but we came fairly close to achieving it. A combination of factors has made things worse now, even in the US. The first is that we’ve lost pride in, and even knowledge of, our own culture and traditions and what makes the country so exceptional, and we’ve stopped insisting on transmitting them in the way we once did. For example, bilingual education may have sounded like a nice idea (although I never thought so), but it was always a bad one. The second factor is that Islam is a religion that’s more conceptually at war with liberty and tolerance than most modern religions. The third is that Islamic fundamentalism of a particularly strict and intolerant sort has become far more popular in recent decades, and has been purposely and aggressively spread by propaganda throughout much of the Muslim world.

November 25th, 2015

Did Rubio do something right on Obamacare?

Did a Rubio budget measure back in 2014 doom Obamacare?

Sen. Marco Rubio may have dealt the biggest blow in the GOP’s five-year war against ObamaCare.

A 2014 budget measure inspired by the Florida Republican and presidential hopeful is pushing some insurers to drop out of the ObamaCare exchanges, experts say.

“I think this is one of the most effective things they’ve done so far in terms of trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act,” Tim Jost, a healthcare law professor at Washington and Lee University, said of Republicans in Congress.

This fall, more than a dozen health insurers representing 800,000 people have dropped out of the ObamaCare exchanges, many out of fear that the administration no longer has the cash to cushion their losses in the costly early years of the marketplace.

Read the whole thing; see what you think.

November 25th, 2015

The Iran deal: it’s no big deal

Check this out [hat tip: commenter “sdferr”]:

President Obama didn’t require Iranian leaders to sign the nuclear deal that his team negotiated with the regime, and the deal is not “legally binding,” his administration acknowledged in a letter to Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) obtained by National Review.

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document,” wrote Julia Frifield, the State Department assistant secretary for legislative affairs, in the November 19 letter.

Frifield wrote the letter in response to a letter Pompeo sent Secretary of State John Kerry, in which he observed that the deal the president had submitted to Congress was unsigned and wondered if the administration had given lawmakers the final agreement. Frifield’s response emphasizes that Congress did receive the final version of the deal. But by characterizing the JCPOA as a set of “political commitments” rather than a more formal agreement, it is sure to heighten congressional concerns that Iran might violate the deal’s terms.

As we parents used to say while watching our sons’ Little League games: good eye, Mike Pompeo, good eye!

I guess the administration thought no one would ever notice. And not too many did—for which I can’t blame them, because the audacity of this move is a bit astounding, even for Obama and Kerry.

So, what is the highly vaunted Iran deal? We already knew it was not a treaty; that would have required Congressional approval. We kind of thought it was an executive agreement, didn’t we? And it is an executive agreement—it’s just that all the “agreeing” seems to have been on the Obama side. We also already knew that, as an executive agreement, a subsequent president could change it or do away with it if he/she so desired, although that might be awkward. And we certainly knew that, even if signed by Iran (which I would imagine most people thought it had been), Iran would breach it without a moment’s hesitation if it wanted to, and no international tribunal saying it was “legally binding” would be able to enforce it.

It sounds as though Pompeo was on the ball with this one:

“The success of the JCPOA will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures we have put in place, as well as Iran’s understanding that we have the capacity to re-impose — and ramp up — our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments,” Frifield wrote to Pompeo.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discouraged his nation’s parliament from voting on the nuclear deal in order to avoid placing legal burdens on the regime. “If the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is sent to [and passed by] parliament, it will create an obligation for the government. It will mean the president, who has not signed it so far, will have to sign it,” Rouhani said in August. “Why should we place an unnecessary legal restriction on the Iranian people?”

I doubt that Iran thinks we (and Europe) are prepared to re-impose sanctions if they broach the deal’s conditions. And once the money has been freed under the deal, they’ve gotten quite a bit of what they wanted anyway.

November 25th, 2015

Cornhead in Iowa: on Rubio and Fiorina

Powerline has more reports on live viewings of the candidates from David Begley, who comments here as “Cornhead.”

On Marco Rubio.

On Carly Fiorina.

November 25th, 2015

Here are your pre-Thanksgiving instructions…

…for talking to your progressive friends and relatives who might want to stir things up with you at the Thanksgiving table.

How to give offense without offense being taken. Easier said than done.

At Thanksgiving, I just try to keep my mouth shut when politics comes up. It does no good to argue under those conditions, and everyone at the table with me already knows my opinion anyway. Luckily—very luckily, and I hope my luck continues—politics has been a topic my greater family and I have steered clear of for the last decade or so.

Actually, my generation of the family (a small group, I might add) never really discussed politics very much anyway. It may be because we grew up witnessing recurrent and bitter verbal battles at the dinner/holiday table between the two wings of the family’s older generation—and by “two wings” I mean the Communist pro-Soviet wing versus the liberal Democrat wing. My parents were the latter.

November 24th, 2015

A proposal to help the Syrian refugees stay within Sunni Arab countries

Well worth reading, and containing some surprising and little-known facts:

Yet most of the Syrian refugees have been taken in not by Western countries but by Syria’s neighboring states: Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, whose capacity has been overwhelmed. Lebanon, with a population of around four million and a territory smaller than Maryland, is hosting over a million Syrian refugees. Young people are overrepresented in the refugee population, so that more than half of the school-aged children in Lebanon are now Syrian.

It is estimated that an extraordinary number of people have left Syria, or have been driven from their neighborhoods within Syria (this is from a year ago):

Already, more than 10 million Syrians — nearly half of the country’s population — are estimated to live as refugees, either living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Syria or having fled to Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan.

If you’re confused by the difference between the terms “displaced persons” (familiar from WWII) and “refugees,” you’re not alone. A great many of the Syrians we call refugees don’t actually fit the definition of “refugee” in the legal sense:

“A [refugee is a] person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…

That fits the Christian Syrians but I don’t see how it fits the Sunni Syrians. They appear to me to be displaced persons, both internal and international. However, if this is true, it doesn’t seem to matter much to those in charge right now.

More about displaced persons of the internal variety:

A forced migrant who left his or her home because of political persecution or violence, but did not cross an international border, is commonly considered to be the less well-defined category of internally displaced person (IDP), and is subject to more tenuous international protection…A migrant who fled because of economic hardship is an economic migrant.

Back to the plan in the original article:

Some 83 percent of Jordan’s refugees live in cities—around 170,000 in Amman alone. Their situation is clearly unsustainable: without access to international or state assistance, children grow up without education and families deplete their savings. The fate of the refugees who stay in the camps is similarly unfortunate: there, displaced Syrians languish under extreme dependency…

To avoid such outcomes, donor states and international organizations such as the UN have urged the governments of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey to permanently integrate Syrian refugees into their societies. But leaders in those countries are deeply resistant to that idea, because they perceive refugees as a threat to domestic employment and a drain on stretched budgets. Nor are Syrian refugees easily incorporated into the fragile ethnic and sectarian balances that are crucial for maintaining stability in all three countries.

Take a moment to think about it. Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, majority Muslim countries which are ethnically and culturally similar (quite a bit less so for Turkey, but still a lot more similar than Western Europe or the US) are keeping the refugees in camps because they are afraid of the consequences of integrating them into their countries. And yet we are not supposed to feel a similar reluctance? What’s more, my guess is that the given reasons for those countries’ refusal is not the entire story; they may be all too aware of the possibilities for disruption and even terrorism in their own countries.

To continue:

An effective refugee policy should improve the lives of the refugees in the short term and the prospects of the region in the long term, and it should also serve the economic and security interests of the host states.

Jordan offers one place to begin. There, a reconsidered refugee policy would integrate displaced Syrians into specially created economic zones, offering Syrian refugees employment and autonomy, incubating businesses in preparation for the eventual end of the civil war in Syria, and aiding Jordan’s aspirations for industrial development. Such an approach would align the interests of a host state with the needs of refugees and might prove broadly applicable to refugee crises elsewhere.

There’s much more. I have no idea whether this would work, but it seems a lot better than what we’re doing now—which means it’s probably never going to happen.

November 24th, 2015

Cruz’s Iowa star rises…

as Carson’s sinks—a bit, anyway:

Mr. Cruz, the Republican Texas senator, was the choice of 23 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers in the new poll, from Quinnipiac University, following Mr. Trump at 25 percent and ahead of Mr. Carson at 18 percent. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was in fourth with 13 percent.

I expect a lot of up and down to continue in the Republican field. Notice this, too: “The margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points.” That means the the three leaders in Iowa are pretty much neck and neck and neck.

The Times ascribes Cruz’s rise to his hardline on terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks. I suppose that might be true—even if it is in the Times. But I think it’s also the case that the concerted campaign to discredit Carson has drawn blood, and evangelicals who have growing doubts about Carson would be likely to veer to Cruz.

November 24th, 2015

Turkey shoots down Russian military aircraft near Syria

This story is still breaking, and it’s hard to sort out all the facts. But one fact that seems clear is that it has great potential to lead to a serious conflagration:

Turkish warplanes have shot down a Russian military aircraft on the border with Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Su-24 was hit by air-to-air missiles fired by Turkish F-16s while it was flying over Syrian territory.

But Turkish military officials said the plane was engaged after being warned that it was violating Turkish airspace.

Mr Putin described the incident as a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists”.

The crew ejected before the jet crashed in Latakia province, but Syrian rebels said at least one was dead.

It reminds me of those logic riddles where you have to figure out which of several groups is telling the truth: who is trustworthy, who is not? Sometimes the answer is: no one is trustworthy.

Turkey is a NATO country, and NATO is meeting. Where? In otherwise locked-down Brussels, of course.

Since the area over Syria is a war zone, there’s been more violence reported:

General staff spokesman Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, added that rebels in Syria fired on a Russian helicopter that was searching for the two pilots of the Su-24.

The shooting killed one crew member on the Mi-8 helicopter and forced it to land in neutral territory, he says.

Russia and Turkey are arguing over where the first plane was when shot down. Turkey says over Turkey, while Russia says over Syria. Putin said:

“Our pilots and our plane did not in any way threaten Turkey. It is quite clear,” he added.

“They were carrying out an operation against [Islamic State militants] in the mountains of northern Latakia, where militants who originate from Russian territory are concentrated. So they were carrying the key task of preventative attacks against those who could return to Russia at any time.”

I assume we’ll learn more as time goes on.

November 24th, 2015

Brussels still on lockdown

See this.

The Paris attacks did not accomplish all the terrorists’ goals. They had big plans for mass murder at the stadium, and perhaps even the assassination of the president of France. In that, the day resembled 9/11, where one of the hijacked airplanes was taken down by its passengers before it reached its likely Washington DC destination.

Despite that, both operations were a big success in terms of numbers of people killed (France being a smaller country than the US, the numbers killed there were even bigger than they might initially seem), shock and fear throughout the Western world, and jubilation among Muslim jihadis and their sympathizers. The more long-term repercussions from 9/11—the War on Terror, plus the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars—have been difficult for the terrorists, but thanks to the West’s decline and the influence of the left (two linked phenomena), jihadis have overcome that and strengthened their forces and influence lately.

So not only were the terrorist attacks in Paris wildly successful in those ways, but the continuing post-attack disruption of Brussels, one of the major capitals of the Western world, must be an extra source of tremendous jihadi joy. Brussels is not just a big European city, and home to many Muslim immigrants and their offspring, it is also a center for numerous international organizations of the Western world and what passes for international governing bodies. This list tells you some of them: NATO, for example, also Eurocontrol and many UN agencies. It is also the de facto capital of the EU, being the official seat of “the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and European Council, as well as a seat (officially the second seat but de facto the most important one) of the European Parliament” (more here).

The fact that a city of this magnitude and importance on a world scale can be so easily hog-tied is disturbing. I don’t have a solution—it’s not that I think it should be business as usual there right now. My solution would have been the obvious one of not letting the situation get to this point; for example, better police work and less denial, and a different immigration policy, to begin with. Now a city like Brussels is playing catch-up, and that’s a lot more difficult, particularly since its city government is particularly Balkanized and inefficient.

November 23rd, 2015

Obama, knave

More evidence emerges that Obama knew what he was doing when he armed proto-ISIS groups in Syria, and did it anyway. In addition, the administration pressured intelligence to downplay the ISIS threat.

In a sane world, with a sane 2-party system, this would lead to impeachment at the very least.

In this world, probably a big yawn—except for us, the hysterical crazies who care about these sorts of things.

November 23rd, 2015

New Canadian government tells the people “take your refugee medicine, like good little boys and girls”

Canada joins the liberal leaders of the US and much of Europe and plans to go ahead with the admission of many thousands of Syrian refugees:

Canada plans to fly in 900 Syrian refugees a day as of next month, according to media reports, as the defense minister said showing compassion for these people sends a message to Islamic State extremists.

Canadian officials said details of a plan to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end would be announced Tuesday.

The Canadian media reports come amid fears that IS jihadists could slip into the country posing as refugees, in the wake of last week’s attacks in Paris that killed at least 130 people.

The bill is projected to be 1.2 billion Canadian dollars.

Canada has come up with a stupendous rationale for what they’re doing. The liberal Canadian Minister of Defence (who is a Sikh, by the way, with what appears to be a pretty strong resume) has made some statements that are similar to the reasoning of liberals in this country as well:

This crisis is not just about a humanitarian project,” he said in his opening remarks to military commanders and defense ministers from around the world.

“This also sends a great message to ISIS that you might create this environment for us, but we will not let you take advantage of this,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the IS group.

“By doing our part for this, we are actually hitting ISIS in a different way as well.”

I am certain the men of ISIS are quaking with fear and anxiety over this turn of events.

Oh, and the people of Canada? What do they think?:

The Ipsos poll, conducted exclusively for Global News, found that 60 per cent of Canadians disagree with Justin Trudeau’s election promise to relocate 25,000 people displaced largely due to the conflict in Syria.

Opposition is highest in Alberta with 70 per cent and lowest in Ontario with 56 per cent.

The major concern among those who oppose the Liberal’s refugee plan is security and the fear that appropriate security checks will be limited in order to hit Trudeau’s timeline.

The poll found 67 per cent of Canadians believe terrorists pretending to be refugees could enter our borders.

And those who don’t believe it could happen are mindboggingly stupid or perhaps stupendously trusting of the government and its competence and efficiency. In the US, when asked the same question about whether terrorists pretending to be refugees could enter the US, 81% agreed.

The liberal governments of both countries, however, could not care less.

No doubt Canada’s young and telegenic speechmaker Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is bringing his formidable experience as teacher and youth advocate to bear on this and other pressing issues.

[NOTE: I don’t know where to put this factoid, but I find it truly amazing that Richard Nixon seems to have correctly predicted Justin Trudeau’s future when he (Trudeau, not Nixon) was only a few months old:

…[Justin Trudeau, soon of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau] spent his early years at 24 Sussex Drive, the prime minister’s residence in Ottawa. In fact, only months after his birth, American president Richard Nixon predicted his political future during a Canadian state dinner with Trudeau’s father. Nixon said, according to BBC news, “I’d like to toast to the future prime minister of Canada: To Justin Pierre Trudeau.”]

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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