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News Media as Political Booster

From time to time, I’ll recommend a news article for English teachers to use in their classrooms as an example of how language can be used to advance some impression or other.  An AP article by Lynne O’Donnell appearing in yesterday’s Providence Journal is a fine one.  Consider (emphasis added):

After two years of heavy casualties, the Afghan military is trying to retake the initiative in the war against militants with a new offensive next week against Islamic State group loyalists, an assault that will see American troops back on the battlefield working more closely with Afghan soldiers. …

The inexperienced Afghan forces have largely stalled in the fight against Islamic militants ever since most international combat troops withdrew in 2014. American forces that remained shifted to a supporting role and U.S. airstrikes diminished, letting the Afghan military take the lead in carrying out the war. …

In an acknowledgment of the deteriorating security situation, President Barack Obama last month gave a green light to a more assertive role for U.S. troops, though still short of direct combat. With that boost, Afghans are shifting back on the offensive. …

Obama’s directives, issued in June, enable the U.S. military to work alongside Afghan forces in the field on offensive missions against insurgents, though still in a non-combat role. Since 2014, their role was confined to battles in which the Taliban directly threatened U.S. and NATO forces. They also allow U.S. involvement when Afghan forces face “strategic defeat,” …

In between those quotations are details designed to justify the increased activities, such as the nature of terrorist attacks and the critical importance of the objective.  The language betrays the article as boosterism.  After President Obama led the “international combat troops” in allowing the Afghan military to “take the lead,” the situation deteriorated, so now he’s given the “green light” for a “boost” that will “retake the initiative” and shift the good guys “back on the offensive.”

It’s baloney.  Obama announced a time line to the enemy for political reasons and made the disastrous decision to remove troops prematurely, saddling an under-prepared local force with the responsibility of the complex war against dug-in zealots.  Since then 5,000 to 6,000 of those under-prepared soldiers have been killed each year, and the situation is reaching the point that even Obama can’t ignore it.

But the news media is on Obama’s side, as well as that of his chosen successor, so Americans will just have to read between the lines.


Nice Attack: Are You Serious, AP and Projo?

Here’s the information from a top-of-the-front-page Associated Press article that ran in today’s Providence Journal:

“I saw that suddenly people were fleeing and shouting,” she said, speaking by phone from Nice. “People were shouting, ‘It’s a terrorist attack! It’s a terrorist attack!’ It was clear that the driver was doing it deliberately.”

The astonishing thing is that it takes reporters Ciaran Fahey and Raphael Satter until paragraph 20 for the statement that the massacre in Nice, France, was likely a terrorist attack (which we now know to be true).  Here are the operative phrases in the opening paragraphs, which (to my mind) bring into question the integrity of the journalists and the publication that selected this particular article for its coverage:

  • Paragraph 1: “A truck loaded with weapons and hand grenades drove onto a sidewalk”
  • Paragraph 2: “the truck ran over people on a ‘long trip’ down the sidewalk”
  • Paragraph 3: “a Nice native who spoke to the AP nearby, said that he saw a truck drive into the crowd”
  • Paragraph 5: “the truck plowed into the crowd over a distance of 1.2 miles”
  • In paragraph 7, we finally learn that the truck had “a driver.”

We’re reaching the point, in Western Civilization, that we face the very real possibility of death by passive voice and personification.  For crying out loud: Even those whose reading is no deeper than Harry Potter should have learned the lesson that one can’t defeat an evil whom one won’t even name.

Perhaps it would help to offer a practical lesson with reference to evils that the news media is happy to proclaim: If you want to help stop such things as the mosque vandalism in South Kingstown (assuming it wasn’t a hoax), or Donald Trump’s candidacy, or Brexit, the very first step — the very first step — is to show that you can be trusted to report on (journalists) and combat (politicians) a clear and present danger.

If your focus is, instead, your own politically correct virtue signaling, you’re only going to contribute to frustration and maybe (just maybe) finally get the backlash you’ve been self-righteously worrying about since a handful of Islamic extremists connected to an international jihadist organization flew planes into American buildings in 2001.


14 Paragraphs to ISIS

Really, what can one say about politicians who rush out of the gate to use a terrorist atrocity to advance their partisan political agenda?  Democrat Congressman David Cicilline and Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo do just that in an article by Ian Donnis, which gets around to mentioning the ISIS connection in the 14th paragraph.

Folks, it’s becoming an existential necessity for us to identify real enemies and real reasons for these events.  Anybody who doubts that should consider this statement from Raimondo:

The governor said she always attends the gay Pride parade and considers it more important to take part this week to let the LGBT community know “we’re with them, to let them know we’re not going to tolerate this. We’re going to stand together. We’re going to fight for their freedom and security.”

Oh?  And what does it mean not “to tolerate this”?  What exactly is the governor proposing to do to “fight for their freedom and security”?  Take guns away from the potential victims and from those among their countrymen and -women who literally would fight for their freedom?

Maybe “fighting” is more like a term of art for remembrance ribbons and rainbow flags at half mast.  More likely, judging by Donnis’s article and Raimondo’s statement on the flag lowering, the actual “fight” is against those among these politicians’ fellow Rhode Islanders and fellow Americans whom they declare to be “intolerant.”  It’s not exactly news that the Islamists who consider themselves at war with our nation hate homosexuals, and yet Cicilline doesn’t skip a beat in insisting that the attack is evidence that homosexuals do not have “full equality in this country.”

In the congressman’s view, is it ISIS that’s withholding that equality in the United States?  No.  It’s people with whom he disagrees on politics and culture.  We’re the target of his fight.

Let’s put our differences aside for one moment.  This was a terrorist attack on Americans.  In its circumstances, it arguably most resembles the recent attack on a rock concert in Paris (France being a nation with about one-third the number of guns per person as the United States).  As we take stock and decide how we should move forward, let’s also consider how we should respond to politicians who are so obviously angling to use this attack as a means of dividing us.


Terrorism and Confidence

Over the weekend, I attended a conference at the Portsmouth Institute themed “Christian Courage in a Secular Age.”  For the second session on Saturday afternoon, Knights of Columbus executive Andrew Walther talked about genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.  He noted, in particular, the challenge of getting Westerners to acknowledge that it’s possible for Christians to be a minority.  After all, the narrative of the Western Left is that Christians are the oppressive majority.

After his talk, an audience member identifying himself (if I recall correctly) as a civil rights attorney made an accusation, masquerading as a question, that one might charitably characterize as tangential:  Does the Knights of Columbus intend to pressure the United States to pressure Israel to cave to the Palestinians and thereby resolve the problems of the Middle East?

In stark contrast, my co-contributor Andrew Morse followed this question, asking whether the United States should look to the cultural confidence it exhibited in bringing down the communism of the Soviet Union as a model for handling the Middle East.  In subsequent conversation, I suggested that something more would be needed, because Russia’s cultural experience had more shared assumptions with Western Europe and the United States than the predominantly Islamic Middle East has with any of us.

With the Soviet Union, we could largely rely on the confidence to compete.  With the Middle East, there really isn’t a competition, at least inasmuch as there is no agreement about the direction of the race, so to speak.

Waking up Sunday to the horrible news of an apparent terrorist attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, it came home to me how tangled and tripping our politics have become.  Much of the initial reaction I saw online associated the attack with internal Western culture wars rather than the accelerating series of terrorist attacks.  If you want an archetype, look to the disgusting cover of the New York Daily News.

In some respects, cultural confidence grows out of a sense of our own strength, as a people and as individuals.  The Left wants to weaken a core aspect of our culture that gave a set of principles about which to be confident — a constitutional republic founded on the assumed assent to the basic Judeo-Christian moral framework — not the least because it made us successful and strong.  The Left also wants to to weaken us as individuals, not the least when it comes to security, making us dependent on government under the Left’s control for our safety and self defense.

Maybe those who sympathize with the Left should start asking what it was about the United States that made us a country in which religious traditionalists could share the land with sexual radicals — that leaves many of us seeing this attack as a reason for unity of purpose and renewal of our shared heritage in opposition to its enemy.  Charging forward with the fundamental transformation of our nation is sure to be fatal.


A Word on Global Terrorism

Long ago, before I focused in on Rhode Island issues, I wrote more often on global terrorism and related topics.  Such things don’t tend to be directly relevant to policies and politics in the Ocean State.  Of course, national security is ultimately relevant to life anywhere in the nation, but there isn’t a whole lot that a local conversation can accomplish, particularly with Rhode Island’s hyper-partisan congressional delegation.

One common theme between handling global violence and addressing Rhode Island’s failed governing system, however, is the importance of being honest and allowing frank, open discussion.  If the terrorism of Islamic radicals in ultra-tolerant Western Europe exposes any problem, it’s the problem of making certain topics and assumptions off limits.

As usual Theodore Dalrymple has relevant experience and clear insights:

… On my visit to that quarter of Brussels a few years ago, I could see the dangers clearly enough. People like Salah Abdeslam, the terrorist arrested there a few days ago, would swim like a fish in the sea there, to use a Maoist metaphor. Between the sympathetic locals, and the rest of the population—whom they could intimidate into silence—it would be easy for them to hide. This social world is impenetrable to the forces of the state. My informant told me that the Belgian government is unable to collect taxes from businesses there—though it is, apparently, able to distribute social security.

And on a related note, Nabeel Qureshi writes on the intrinsic problem of preventing Islamic radicalization when it’s written into the religion’s foundational texts:

As a young Muslim boy growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, it was impossible for me to look up a hadith unless I traveled to an Islamic library, something I would have never thought to do. For all intents and purposes, if I wanted to know about the traditions of Muhammad, I had to ask imams or elders in my tradition of Islam. That is no longer the case today. Just as radical Islamists may spread their message far and wide online, so, too, the Internet has made the traditions of Muhammad readily available for whoever wishes to look them up, even in English. When everyday Muslims investigate the Quran and hadith for themselves, bypassing centuries of tradition and their imams’ interpretations, they are confronted with the reality of violent jihad in the very foundations of their faith.

This doesn’t mean that no venerable strains of Islam exist that are entirely peaceful, or that scriptural literalists from ISIS are expressing “true Islam.”  It does mean that the scriptural backstop for the religion isn’t going to be a ready lever for the former.  Qureshi suggests, from his own experience, that the strongest reform alternative for peaceful Muslims may be Christianity.

Be that as it may, the West is only making matters worse by plugging its ears and shouting “Islamophobia” every time the topic arises for consideration.


Will the Fire Alarm Wake the World Up?

It’s beginning to look like the world may not quite manage to maintain its sleeping dreams through the end of the Obama Administration.  Having abandoned Iraq prematurely in order to have an election-year talking point, Obama is now quietly ramping up boots on the ground — naturally, without the sort of debate and fanfare that would lead to Americans’ knowing what’s going on:

The U.S. military has around 5,000 service members in Iraq, officials said on Monday, far more than previously reported, as the Obama administration quietly expands ground operations against the Islamic State.

The number of American forces in Iraq has come under increased scrutiny following the death over the weekend of a Marine staff sergeant, the second combat casualty in renewed U.S. operations in Iraq. He was killed when militants launched rockets at a small U.S. base around the city of Makhmour. The existence of the Marine detachment had not been known prior to Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin’s death.

And today, Europe added another substantial terrorist attack to its growing list:

As many as 31 people were killed and more than 180 injured as coordinated terrorist bombings rocked the Brussels airport and subway system during rush hour Tuesday morning in the Belgian capital. …

“We are at war,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday. “We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war.”

We learned after the ’90s that our society’s vacations from history only last so long, and that the longer it takes us to wake up in our own beds, the more difficult it is to get things back in order.  This isn’t a time for either denials or impetuous decisions.  Our civilization’s history and our nation’s founding documents chart a course for us — not an easy one, but a sure one in which we can have confidence.  We need only shed the hubris that we’ve evolved into new moral creatures.


Emailgate (Remember That?) and the President (Remember Him?)

It’s worth checking in, now and then, on developments in the criminal investigation of Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, if only for the fun of imagining how the story would be playing differently if Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice were in the exact same situation as Clinton for an election coming up at the end of the Bush presidency. Here’s Andrew McCarthy expressing a sort of disbelief at the details of the scandal:

So egregious have the scandal’s latest developments been that a critical State Department admission from last week has received almost no coverage: Eighteen e-mails between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama have been identified, and the government is refusing to disclose them.

The administration’s rationale is remarkable: Releasing them, the White House and State Department say, would compromise “the president’s ability to receive unvarnished advice and counsel” from top government officials.

Think about what this means. Not only is it obvious that President Obama knew Mrs. Clinton was conducting government business over her private e-mail account, the exchanges the president engaged in with his secretary of state over this unsecured system clearly involved sensitive issues of policy. Clinton was being asked for “advice and counsel” — not about her recommendations for the best country clubs in Martha’s Vineyard, but about matters that the White House judges too sensitive to reveal.

The idea that Clinton is even considered a plausible candidate for the highest office in the country by many in her party’s establishment — including Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo — is mindboggling. The idea that the news media isn’t constantly after the president to explain himself on this issue and (from what I understand) didn’t even bother to bring it up at a presidential debate is unbelievable. Truly, it must be that nothing matters to these people more than power.


Clinton’s Mindboggling Email Controversy

Even as the stories and evidence mount, it blows my mind that Hillary Clinton’s email scandal is still being treated as almost a peripheral issue in the election. I mean, this is even in the New York Times:

The State Department on Friday said for the first time that “top secret” material had been sent through Hillary Clinton’s private computer server, and that it would not make public 22 of her emails because they contained highly classified information.

The department announced that 18 emails exchanged between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama would also be withheld, citing the longstanding practice of preserving presidential communications for future release. The department’s spokesman, John Kirby, said that exchanges did not involve classified information.

I’m no expert, but my understanding is that there’s no way for such emails to get onto a private email server without somebody’s having committed a crime. Add to that the fact that a president who claimed to have had no idea about the private email address is now acknowledged to have interacted with that email address.

How is this not an absolutely huge story, given Clinton’s status as a presumed front-runner, with Democrats’ substantive option being a candidate who may very well be indicted and inarguably made the nation less secure as Secretary of State and an avowed socialist? How bad does this thing have to get before the question on every commentary show is: Can she continue to run?

Whatever the case, Clinton’s candidacy and the handling of it is a fascinating case study of the American Left (particularly in the media) and the sort of governance that it engenders. One lesson is that the key point with political audacity is that the fatal step is ultimately an acknowledgement that the crime or unconstitutional action is actually a big deal. The law doesn’t matter… only whether the sycophants feel as if they can wave the action away as inconsequential.


Ripping up the Gun Control Clichés

Larry Correia offers a good summary romp through some of the gun-control-related nonsense that followed the — “Straight up terrorism. Like dictionary definition terrorism.” — attacks in San Bernardino.  Read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

Then they revealed who the shooters were.

Immediately the same exact people who’d just been screeching about evil Tea Party, racist, hate monger, right wing, ciswhitehetero male phantoms, began urging calm, saying don’t jump to conclusions. It isn’t fair to tar the big group because of the actions of a few. Watch out for that hateful rhetoric, because you might inflame people.

Sure, they had no problem making sweeping generalizations and “inflaming” half the country a few minutes ago… But that’s okay. Because when the left talks about how violent and blood thirsty the right is, they’re just virtue signaling for their tribe. If my people were a fraction as evil and hateful as they portray us, they’d never say a word. They do it because they know it is safe to do so. Christians aren’t going to saw their heads off. The Tea Party isn’t going to set off a car bomb in front of their house. Ever notice how to the media talking about radical militant Islam is islamophobia, but there’s no equivalent media buzz word for being irrationally terrified of half of America?

They attack us because they know we’re really the ones who can take their livelihoods and privileges away, if we should decide to cut off the constant flow of government funds and social privilege.  Yet, they still expect we’ll continue to provide the feed stock for the military, emergency personnel, and security staffs on whom they rely to keep them safe.

It’s a dangerous game they’re playing, but they aren’t exactly known for living in reality.


Whether or Not They Connect, Dots Across the Globe

Inasmuch as I find room for the actions of spiritual entities in events that seem conspicuously to line up without any apparent human agency, I’m not one to assume conspiracies are behind any sequences of anecdotes that can be made to tell a story.  Human plans fail; few agents of a cause are so besotted that their own, independent intentions won’t pop up over the course of decades, and meanwhile, those who take an opposing cause are acting in the opposite direction.

That said, Robert Zubrin lays out a suggestive sequence of 21 items, beginning with the following, that sure does leave room for pausing and pondering:

Item 1: The strategic doctrine known as “Eurasianism” calls for the Kremlin to achieve global dominance by uniting a Moscow-headquartered totalitarian “heartland” bloc consisting of Continental Europe, the former Soviet Union, and a revived Persian empire against the “rimland” West.

As I suggested above, there are reasons for skepticism.  Are we to believe that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s existential motivation resides in her (possible) involvement with the East German secret police all those years ago?  And if Barack Obama is in on the scheme, one would think such an incorrigible narcissist — while easy to goad into a particular action — would be very difficult to manage over years and years.

That is, it quickly becomes clear that any conspiracy would have to be so thoroughly orchestrated through subtle cultural suggestions and vulnerable to ebbs and flows of social tastes and natural chance that it would be suggestive of a supernatural force with intentions of its own.

I believe such things exist, but even those who don’t share my beliefs can understand the utility of war-gaming reality as if the unseen (perhaps invisible) enemy were real.  It appears that various trends are building up momentum toward an outcome that we, with our own intentions, hope to avoid.  Whether or not anybody’s doing the pushing, the barriers that we should suggest are likely the same.

So, you’ve got resurgent national powers throughout Asia and the Middle East, with a giant migration of their people into Europe at the same time that steps are being taken in the world of energy that could weaken Europe, even as Western military forces whittle themselves away and the President of the United States (by delusion or incompetence) appears to be on the wrong side.  The steps we should take in opposition are the same whether the conspiracy exists in material or spiritual fact or not:  Work for freedom and security in the West… and pray.


Assimilation and a Banlieue of Our Own

I’ve been meaning to note something important in this Mark Patinkin column from last Sunday, but it may be too subtle a point than I’ll have time to explore to satisfaction.  So, herewith a few hundred words to mark the idea either for future reference or to work the nag out of my system.

On the whole, Patinkin’s got the right idea, but he misses subtleties that may be central to disagreements about the ways in which our country should address cultural and ideological differences.  Take this sentence, for example:

Instead they were treated unequally, mostly segregated in tenement-filled ghettos, called banlieues, built for them outside the cities.

That phrase, “built for them,” isn’t quite correct.  The banlieues are an old sort of inner suburb, not unlike the “municipal zones” that Walter Russell Mead describes in the article about Brussels to which I linked, this morning.  Patinkin goes to far in emphasizing that the French failed to allow immigrants to assimilate.  An important part of the equation is that they gave them room to choose not to assimilate.  This process will ebb and flow, but it’s more of a battle than a one-sided acquiescence.

The French didn’t win the struggle against the reactionary forces within the immigrant communities that sought to build their own fiefdoms.  In some contexts, assimilation isn’t a warm and fuzzy mater of tolerance, but a deliberate choice of force, as would have been required in order to prevent the development of “no-go zones.”

This is precisely the point at which standard liberal thinking flips around on itself — where Patinkin writes, “the original deterrent to homegrown terror [is] avoiding alienation.”  To the mainstream liberal, this invocation means letting those from other cultures maintain much of their heritage and adjusting the American norm to accommodate it.  Meanwhile, liberals and progressives have little concern with forcing their views on an ever-more-centralized scale, like the Supreme Court mandating the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples across the entire country (with a crackdown on private business owners who disagree) or the Obama administration using executive orders to tweak a partisan nationalization of healthcare and then a bureaucratic crackdown to hobble the opposition that arose against him.

They believe their worldview, from race to sexual matters to the environment, is simply factually correct, and nobody (at least nobody who shares their heritage) should be permitted to differ, much less to implement public policy according to differing beliefs.  That’s a recipe for alienation if ever there was one.

We’re getting the worst of both sides of that intellectual contradiction.  With identity-politics running rampant on campuses and in the pop culture, we’re allowing groups to create their own, privileged banlieues in which they don’t have to acknowledge disagreement, and with centralized establishment of the progressive faith overruling federalism and democracy, we’re alienating the majority.

It’s an alignment between identity groups and the cultural elite, meant to hamstring those in the middle and block those who would traverse across the middle from the bottom.


Obama and the Psychology of a Country

Stephen Hayes, an investigative reporter for The Weekly Standard, reports that Obama Administration scandals around war-on-terror intelligence are nothing new:

Readers of this magazine are familiar with the story of the documents obtained in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Sensitive Site Exploitation team on the raid collected more than a million documents​—​papers, computer hard drives, audio and video recordings. Top Obama administration officials at first touted the cache as the greatest collection of terrorist materials ever captured in a single raid and boasted that the contents would fill a “small college library.” An interagency intelligence team, led by the CIA, conducted the initial triage​—​including keyword searches of the collection for actionable intelligence. And then, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials with firsthand knowledge of the controversy, the documents sat largely untouched for as long as a year. The CIA retained “executive authority” over the documents, and when analysts from other agencies requested access to them, the CIA denied it​—​repeatedly.

After a bitter interagency dispute, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, allowed analysts from CENTCOM and the Defense Intelligence Agency to have time-limited, read-only access to the documents. What they found was fascinating and alarming. Much of what these analysts were seeing​—​directly from Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders​—​contradicted what the president and top administration officials were saying publicly.

The issue has bubbled up, again, because “more than 50 intelligence analysis” have come forward with complaints that their findings have been altered somewhere high up the chain of command.  Want to bet more Americans know that Donald Trump made fun of a disabled reporter than that some higher-ups in the president’s administration appear to have modified intelligence and stonewalled analysts for the sake of the president’s reelection campaign?

Political bias is clearly in play when it comes to what stories mainstream journalists pursue and how they frame them, but some of the blame falls on the market, as well.  A great number of people have voted for Barack Obama, and the more decisively he proves to be an ideological and functionally incompetent charlatan, the less they’d be inclined to pay attention to his performance.  Meanwhile, others have now more than once been through the exhausting process of learning about some major scandal, fighting back against the mainstream spin and public incredulity, and watching the whole thing fade into the surge of another scandal.

So, the country has pretty much settled into an understanding that the president is a terrible amplifier of an untrustworthy government, and that it’s ultimately voters’ fault.  People don’t want the blame, and they don’t want to change the unhealthy impulses that will inevitably lead to our current political condition.  The attitude is therefore to turn away while the bumbler-in-chief finishes out his term and just hope for something better next time around.

That would certainly fit Pew poll results showing only 19% trust in government and only 34% trust in the general public, but a majority still want the government to do things for them.


The Doubtful Refugee Screening Process

At the outset, let me say that I’m not fully committed to the no-Syrian-refugees position, either on a temporary or permanent basis.  However, there’s something suspicious in the quick progressive push-back against concerns about the process.  For some, it’s simply a partisan position.  For others, it’s the progressive foible of the total domination of feelings and simplified morality:  Refusing people who are fleeing danger is bad, and I’m not bad, so therefore any resistance to this specific refugee process, performed by this specific presidential administration, is immoral.

When it comes down to it, very few of the people raising concerns about Syrian refugees are absolutists.  Letting in two-year-old Christians, for example, would not meet much, if any resistance.  In other words, while one side is arguing principle, the other is arguing process.

I bring the issue up again because a Facebook thread initiated by Matt Fecteau includes a link to a White House infographic about the refugee-acceptance process, and reading through it reinforces concerns about the process.  Fecteau repeatedly insists that the burden completely falls on the candidate for refugee status, but that’s really not what the steps illustrate.  Sure, they can’t withhold information that they have (and get caught), but it’s entirely a process of checking the information that’s available.  In a war-torn country (that wasn’t exactly First World to begin with), that’s a risky proposition.

The steps rely almost entirely on the records of the United States, or those to which it has access, which might weed out the upper tiers of those involved in global jihad, but certainly not all those who are just sympathizers or who have simply not done anything, yet.  Moreover, there’s no indication of risk for potentially risky refugees if they are caught.

The most important point, however, continues to be the lack of trust that the Obama Administration has earned.  The refugee process puts the burden on a bureaucracy under a petulant, ideological executive, and that executive has decreed that he wants 10,000 people pushed through this system in the next year.

The fact that so many people are responding to concerns about this matter with accusations of bigotry is a sign both that there’s even more reason to fear that the process won’t be well executed and that our society has a serious cultural illness.


Syria Refugees and Imagining a Good President

Some recent posts in this space and arguments on Facebook prove that I’m happy to argue over the moral principles and civic practicalities around United States policy on Syrian refugees, but I have to admit a level of disbelief that this is what we’re arguing about and holding competing rallies over at this particular time in history.  With that disbelief comes an urge to imagine how this issue might have proceeded under a decent U.S. president.

Imagine if, rather than taunting members of the opposing party, which is expressing views that appear to be held by a significant majority of Americans, President Obama had said something like this:

Events in Syria are a matter of war and national security, but they are also creating a humanitarian disaster.  My administration will therefore continue to hold a higher target for admitting refugees into our country.  But I understand that the American people have reasonable apprehensions about the refugee process, in light of the atrocity in Paris, and that large lines of differing opinion currently run across our nation.

My administration will therefore be pausing the acceptance of such refugees for a very brief time — so brief, I’ll be honest, that I expect it to have a negligible effect on the program.  We’re already in the process of inviting people with widely varying views on the matter — people with credibility among those who hold each viewpoint — to gather together to review our process and our projections.  That review will be wide open to the public, and when it is done, we will adjust our policy or modify our process in a way that addresses valid concerns.  We’ll also put out a brief report explaining how refugee review works and giving the American people some sense of who is in the pipeline now and whether that will change.

Personally, I have great confidence that the concern about these refugees is more a misunderstanding than a disagreement, so I expect we’ll move forward with the policy with little or no change.  But we’ll have to see.

I’d probably want more than that, but such an approach would defuse a lot of the discord and address, not dismiss, Americans’ real and legitimate concerns.

Of course, seven years in, that ship has sailed for the Obama Administration.  He staged some performances along those lines early on, but they were obviously for show.  Just look at the party-line votes on ObamaCare, including one on Christmas Eve, followed by procedural tricks to pass it into law.


Terrorism and the President

Last night, I received a little push-back on Twitter to my reaction to the attacks in Paris, specifically President Obama’s comments thereon.  By Obama standards, the commentary wasn’t that bad.  His bar is so low it’s on the ground, of course, but he managed to refer to himself fewer than a dozen times in the 500 words, and at least he didn’t deny that Islamic terrorism was behind the attacks; he just sidestepped the perpetrators altogether.

The problem is that he’s just so weak, and the world is as it is in large part because of his weakness.  (Whether it’s deliberate is another subject.)  He came into office and traveled the world to point a finger of blame at his own country.  He cashed in a victory in Iraq for electoral gain and thereby precipitated much of what followed.  His actions in Afghanistan have been less than impressive, his administration (with Hillary Clinton) turned Libya to (even greater) turmoil, he helped foment unrest in countries like Egypt, while knocking the wind out of it in Iran, where it might have turned things for the better.  His fecklessness in Syria drew that country toward its calamity, and his timidness against Russia has invited that country to press for advantage.

That’s before we get to domestic politics, where open borders have drawn masses of untraceable, low-skilled people into our stagnant economy (which his policies have helped to keep stagnant), and his strategy of fomenting divisions along lines of identity politics (especially race) has weakened us as a nation.  And don’t forget the observation that he’s used taxpayer dollars to make it boom-time for left-wing activists while the bureaucracy under him directly attacks his opponents and imposes policies across the board that erode freedom and opportunity.

All of this leaves us extremely vulnerable.

On the national security front, the two options are to attack the terrorists’ infrastructure in their home countries, thus drawing the fighters back to that land, over there, or to build our own defenses and attempt to identify, trace, and neutralize them on our land, over here.  President Obama apparently lacks the will and clearly lacks the credibility to attack over there, and in any event, it likely aligns with his domestic goals to increase the reach and invasiveness of the government among its own people.

At this point, however, the country is so divided and distrustful of itself and the government that a dragnet sufficient to stop the largest attacks (but never all of them) is sure to fray as Americans resist it.  Meanwhile, the enemy is inside the gates and proclaiming, “The American blood is best, and we will taste it soon.”

It takes a great deal of inanity to get the world to a precipice like this, and another year of this president promises only more inanity.


The Permeating Narrative (Or Not)

Is it possible to doubt this what-if imagining of what the national political discussion would be if Mitt Romney had been elected and were in the same position with foreign policy as Obama?  (The likelihood is that outcomes would have been dramatically different with the policies of a President Romney, but we’re talking hypotheticals, here.)

If Romney were president right now, the White House would be surrounded by protestersand candlelight peace vigils night and day. Some would wave American flags, some would wave signs calling for impeachment, some would have pictures caricaturing the president as Hitler or an animal. They would chant “Not in our name!”, or “Bring them home!”, or “Hey ho, hey ho, Romney has got to go!”

If Romney were president, nightly news reports on CBS, NBC, and ABC would have regular features on war crimes, quagmires, and collateral damage. CNN would be wall-to-wall with team coverage of protests, interviews of bombing witnesses, and Anderson Cooper walking through rubble in full body armor.

If Romney were president, every political analyst left of Judge Napolitano would be fretting over the war-weary public turning the upcoming election into a referendum against the president and his party. Vox and FiveThirtyEight would have maps showing how many Senate seats Republicans would lose because of the president’s sure-to-plummet approval rating. And then there’s MSNBC.

One finds it difficult not to conclude that all of those anti-Bush activities were either completely fake or were the fashionable expressions of gullible people.  The links at the end of this Ed Driscoll post on Instapundit point to some of the absurd credibility-destroying Obama love from the news media in 2008.  The people who behaved in that fashion — or even just tolerated and facilitated it among their colleagues — have to twist reality not just to serve their preferred political narrative, but because their error was so massive and destructive.

The great 2008 conning of the American people has made the world a less wealthy and more dangerous place, and a final tally of its consequences by honest historians decades from now might have to put the toll at trillions of dollars and millions of lives.  Those who played some role in the scam therefore have tremendous incentive to keep it going as much as possible.  Meanwhile, the wolves and scavengers continue their work in the shadows of the facade of normalcy.


Russia and the World in Which We’re Now Living (Thanks, Obama Voters!)

So, Russia appears to have targeted some U.S. allies in Syria…

Human rights groups say Russian airstrikes in Syria targeted US-backed rebels on Thursday, as a new report claims hundreds of Iranian troops have arrived for an upcoming ground offensive. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims the targets of Russian airstrikes included US-backed group Tajamu Alezzah.

… after giving the U.S. one-hour notice (at our Iraq embassy) to get out of the way:

On Wednesday, US diplomats in Baghdad were reduced to the role of meekly receiving a message. Russian air strikes on targets across Syriawould commence in one hour, their visitor told them. For the safety of all concerned, it would be better if the US Air Force stayed out of the way and suspended its own bombing campaign in Syria.

Russia denied the targeting…

‘The rumours that the target of these air strikes was not IS positions are unfounded,’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in New York on Thursday after meeting his US counterpart, John Kerry.

… but then again, Russia denied it was moving in on Ukraine.

Hey, remember when President Obama and the New York Times mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia a “geopolitical foe”?  Be sure to pay attention to the consequences of believing that partisan spin and reelecting Obama.


Increased Pollution Means More Opportunities to Abate Pollution

For the “perverse incentives of environmental regulations” file, we learn that Russia and Ukraine may have been increasing their polluting activities so that they could abate the problem and sell the carbon offset credits to other countries to help them meet their anti-pollution goals:

According to a study released in the journal Nature Climate Change, plants in Russia “increased waste gas generation to unprecedented levels once they could generate credits from producing more waste gas,” resulting in an increase in emissions as large as 600 million tons of carbon dioxide—roughly half the amount the EU’s ETS intends to reduce from 2013 to 2030.

As Glenn Reynolds suggests, “It’s like the whole thing is just one big scam.”  Environmentalism is just about perfect, from the progressive point of view.  It provides an excuse to grab power for the government; it creates channels for corruption to make friends and allies filthy rich (and launder money back to politicians); and it all comes wrapped in the motivational package of a pseudo religion.

And here’s a bonus lesson on Iran:

The UN seemingly left it up to national governments to oversee these projects, and now it has a full-blown crisis on its hands.

Although contested, there have been reports that, under the deal promoted by President Obama, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will send unqualified inspectors to keep an eye on Iran’s nuclear program and may rely on Iran, itself, to participate in the inspections.  Budding internationalism and the push for a global government that is not democratic, but is bureaucratic, come with the gigantic, existential question over whether we can or should trust such a system.