Friday, November 28, 2014

Is CAIR a Terror Group?

A prominent Arab government thinks so. 

CAIR co-founder Nihad Awad (Alex Wong/Getty)

We who follow the Islamist movement fell off our collective chair on November 15, when the news came that the United Arab Emirates’ ministerial cabinet had listed the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as one of 83 proscribed terrorist organizations, up there with the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.

This came as a surprise because the UAE authorities themselves have a record of promoting Islamism; because CAIR has a history of raising funds in the UAE; and because the UAE embassy in Washington had previously praised CAIR.

On reflection, however, the listing makes sense for, in recent years, the Islamist movement has gravely fractured. Sunnis fight Shiites; advocates of violence struggle against those working within the system; modernizers do battle against those trying to return to the seventh century; and monarchists confront republicans.

This last divide concerns us here. After decades of working closely with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its related institutions, the Persian Gulf monarchies (with the single, striking exception of Qatar) have come to see the MB complex of institutions as a threat to their existence. The Saudi, Emirati, Kuwaiti, and Bahraini rulers now view politicians like Mohamed Morsi of Egypt as their enemies, as they do Hamas and its progeny — including CAIR.

While the Gulf monarchs have not become any less Islamist, they have acquired a clear-eyed appreciation of the harm that MB-related groups can do.

Having explained why the UAE listed CAIR on its terror manifest, we must ask a second question: Is the listing warranted? Can a Washington-based organization with ties to the Obama White House, the U.S. Congress, leading media outlets, and prestigious universities truly be an instigator of terrorism?

CAIR can rightly be so characterized. True, it does not set off bombs, but, as the UAE’s foreign minister explains, “Our threshold is quite low. . . . We cannot accept incitement or funding.” Indeed, CAIR incites, funds, and does much more vis-√†-vis terrorism:

It apologizes for terrorist groups: Challenged repeatedly to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups, CAIR denounces the acts of violence but not their sponsors.

It is connected to Hamas: Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and many other governments, indirectly created CAIR and the two groups remain tight. Examples: In 1994, CAIR head Nihad Awad publicly declared his support for Hamas; the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), a Hamas front group, contributed $5,000 to CAIR; in turn,CAIR exploited the 9/11 attacks to raise money for HLF; and, this past August, demonstrators at a CAIR-sponsored rally in Florida proclaimed “We are Hamas!”

It settled a lawsuitCAIR initiated a libel lawsuit in 2004 over five statements by a group called Anti-CAIR. But two years later, CAIR settled the suit with prejudice (meaning that it cannot be reopened), implicitly acknowledging the accuracy of Anti-CAIR’s assertions, which included:
  • “CAIR is a terrorist supporting front organization that is partially funded by terrorists”;
  • “CAIR . . . is supported by terrorist supporting individuals, groups and countries”;
  • “CAIR has proven links to, and was founded by, Islamic terrorists”; and
  • “CAIR actively supports terrorists and terrorist supporting groups and nations.”
It includes individuals accused of terrorism: At least seven board members or staff at CAIR have been arrested, denied entry to the U.S., or were indicted on or pled guilty to (or were convicted of) terrorist charges: Siraj Wahhaj, Bassem Khafagi, Randall (“Ismail”) Royer, Ghassan Elashi, Rabih Haddad, Muthanna Al-Hanooti, and Nabil Sadoun.

It is in trouble with the law: Federal prosecutors in 2007 named CAIR (along with two other Islamic organizations) as “unindicted co-conspirators and/or joint venturers” in a criminal conspiracy to support Hamas financially. In 2008, the FBI ended contacts with CAIR because of concern about its continuing terrorist ties.

On learning of the UAE listing, CAIR called it “shocking and bizarre,” then got to work to have the Department of State protest and undo the ruling. Nothing loath, department spokesperson Jeff Rathke noted that the U.S. government, which “does not consider these organizations to be terrorist organizations,” has asked for more information about the UAE decision. 
The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs replied that if organizations can show that their “approach has changed,” they are eligible to appeal “to have their names eliminated from the list.”
Pressure from the Obama administration might reverse the UAE listing. Even so, this will not undo its lasting damage. For the first time, an Islamist government has exposed the malign, terroristic quality of CAIR — a stigma CAIR can never escape.

— Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Obama’s Surrender to Iran

Posted By Joseph Klein On November 28, 2014 @ 12:17 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 2 Comments

Iran's President Rouhani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York last year. Photo: Reuters

The commander of the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps, Iran’s top military force aligned with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, openly mocked the United States for having “clearly surrendered to Iran’s might,” according to a report quoted by the Washington Free Beacon.  “Despite the military embargo on the Islamic Republic, there is no weapon that our military is not able to manufacture,” he added.

The commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, was commenting on the Obama administration’s agreement to a further seven-month extension in the talks with Iran over its nuclear program, which were supposed to have expired on November 24th. Sadly, Iran’s top military thug is right. The extension gave the Iranians what they have most wanted out of the talks all along – more time within which to further develop their nuclear arms technologies while still gaining some relief from the economic sanctions. Indeed, Iran will continue to get its hands on $700 million per month in frozen assets under the terms of the nuclear negotiation extension.

Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that “we would be fools to walk away.” As usual, Kerry was being played for a fool. And once again, the United States looks weak under President Obama’s failed leadership.

Iran’s leaders are out to prove to the world that Iran can be counted on to stand up to the “arrogant powers,” as Iranian leaders like to refer to the U.S. and its allies. So far, they are succeeding.

“In the nuclear issue, America and colonial European countries got together and did their best to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees, but they could not do so – and they will not do so,” said Ayatollah Khamenei on November 25th according to his personal website.

The year-long negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program have been going nowhere, even as the Obama administration was reportedly willing to allow Iran to maintain its own nuclear enrichment program. Dismantlement of large parts of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, presumably an original goal of the negotiations for the so-called P-5 countries (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany), is no longer on the table, if it ever really was.  Iran’s missile program never was on the table. Nor were its possible imports of any nuclear materials, technologies and weapons delivery system components from North Korea.

Yet, the Iranians were still not satisfied with the offers they received during the negotiations. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani boasted in a television interview following the announcement of the talks extension that his country’s “centrifuges will never stop.”  He added that “Today we have a victory much greater than what happened in the negotiation. This victory is that our circumstances are not like previous years. Today we are at a point that nobody in the world [in which no one says] sanctions must be increased in order that Iran accept P5+1 demands. No one says to reach agreement we must increase pressure on Iran.”

Rouhani has a history of using negotiations as a delay tactic to achieve by stealth Iran’s strategic objectives. This time, Iran set out, in the words of its Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to reach a final deal that will result in “a serious and not a token Iranian enrichment program coupled with removal of sanctions. This is the objective that we’re working on and this is the objective we will achieve.”
What additional evidence does the Obama administration need to demonstrate that Iran’s strategic objective is irreconcilable with a deal that would truly protect the world against Iran’s emergence as a nuclear-armed power? Apparently, they have learned nothing from the disastrous results of negotiations with North Korea. Instead of walking away from the talks after a year of futility and immediately reinstituting the full array of economic sanctions that have been melting away over the last year, the Obama administration buckled.

During the next seven months, the Obama administration will be deluding itself and sacrificing the security of the American people if it thinks that Iran will simply stand still and freeze all of its vast nuclear technology and production programs in place. According to Greg Jones, a senior research and nuclear analyst at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, “They have a stockpile now that’ll probably support the production of about four nuclear weapons, and that’s slowly increasing over the course. It’ll probably gain another nuclear weapons worth by the end of June 2015 when this agreement runs out. So certainly that’s been continuing.”

John Kerry remarked that the Obama administration has “earned the benefit of the doubt” in agreeing to the further extension of talks, even though he conceded that “significant points of disagreement” remain. To the contrary, the administration has run out of excuses. Its quixotic quest for an elusive deal with a rogue state that continues to refuse the International Atomic Energy Agency access to all of its sites does nothing but raise more doubts about the administration’s intentions and competence.

For example, Iran has persistently refused to allow international inspectors to visit Parchin, Iran’s military facility where the agency seeks to probe for itself evidence that Iran may have been conducting experiments on nuclear detonators. Just days ago, the agency’s director Yukiya Amano complained that Iran was not cooperating “concerning issues with possible military dimensions.” 
Mr. Amano also warned that his agency, while able to assess Iran’s compliance with the interim agreement regarding its declared nuclear materials, was “not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Yet Kerry’s message to Congress is to hold off on re-imposing or adding any sanctions at this time. Some members of Congress in both parties are understandably frustrated by the lack of concrete results. They believe that preserving the threat of increased sanctions if an acceptable, verifiable deal is not reached by a date certain is the most realistic strategy.

“The cycle of negotiations, followed by an extension, coupled with sanctions relief for Iran has not succeeded,” the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in response to the latest extension. “I continue to believe that the two-track approach of diplomacy and economic pressure that brought Iran to the negotiating table is also the best path forward to achieve a breakthrough.”

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), whom has co-authored a sanctions bill with Senator Menendez, said it was now “critical that Congress enacts sanctions that give Iran’s mullahs no choice but to dismantle their illicit nuclear program.”

The chances for Congressional passage of a sanctions bill will improve next year when the Republicans take control of the Senate. However, President Obama is likely to veto such a bill. If the current extension runs out in June 2015 with no final deal concluded, expect the Obama administration to once again plead for more time so that it can kick the can down the road for the next president to handle – if it is not too late by then. Even worse, in a rush to try and improve his tarnished foreign policy legacy, President Obama may end up accepting just about any bone Iran offers him in a deal that he can spin as a positive achievement. The lethal consequences will be for the next president to worry about while the world becomes much less safe.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Vandalized Ferguson bakery receives nearly $100K in online donations

 - The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Natalie Dubose, who owns a bakery in Ferguson, Missouri, says she is "so humbly blessed" after receiving nearly $100,000 in online donations to repair her shop that was damaged by looters. (
Natalie Dubose, who owns a bakery in Ferguson, Missouri, says she is "so humbly blessed" after receiving nearly $100,000 in online donations to repair her shop that was damaged by looters. (
A Ferguson bakery owner says she is “so humbly blessed” after receiving nearly $100,000 in online donations to repair her shop that was damaged by looters.
Natalie Dubose, who owns Natalie’s Cake’s & More at 100 S. Florissant Road in Ferguson, said rioters damaged the shop’s windows and baking equipment overnight Monday, after a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Ms. Dubose started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to repair her shop and has received a wave of support, including from “The Middle’s” Patricia Heaton and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Brandi Glanville.
“Thank you to actresses Patricia Heaton and Brandi Glanville for supporting me!” she wrote in an update on her page. “I must have missed thousands of other tweets, and I’m so sorry I can’t mention them all. The sweet lady who offered money from her social security check brought me to tears … Thank you to EVERYONE for the kind words, prayers, and emotional support.”
The account reached $98,241 in only 20 hours since it was created.
“May God turn this tragedy to a lesson in the power of the love of strangers,” wrote one donor. “I stand with you Natalie and pray God’s blessing and protect on you!” 
Natalie, along with my little bit of money goes all my prayers and thoughts for your success,” wrote another. “Hang in there and stay strong. I am rooting for your continued presence in Ferguson — we have to keep your community strong, with love and hope. Best Wishes.”

Read more: 
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Ferguson a Lesson Lost on Race

By John Kass
November 26, 2014

Natalie DuBose weeps outside her Natalie’s Cakes and More bakery Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, after vandals broke one of two large windows in her store after a grand jury declined to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. DuBose’s bakery is a black-owned business supported by the protesters. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

Of all the wild talk coming out of Ferguson and the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown
by a white police officer — and all that angry and predictable noise emanating from race hustlers
like Al Sharpton — there are two things I just can't shake.

One involves Louis Head, Brown's stepfather. Head had been standing before a crowd in Ferguson on
Monday night, comforting his wife, Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, who was weeping as news broke that there would be no indictment against Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.

You know the basic elements of this. Wilson had shot Brown to death in August and America had split, predictably , into camps. Some of us wanted to see all the evidence before making a decision, and those convinced that Brown was the victim of white institutional racism had already made up their minds.

The way some told the story , Wilson killed Brown without reason. And so they demanded, if not a legal lynching, then at least courtroom revenge that could be passed off as justice. But without an indictment, revenge would have to wait, and this week in Ferguson, the crowd didn't seem eager to wait any longer.

That's when Louis Head began talk of burning.

"Burn this bitch down!"Head began screaming on the video I watched, "Burn this mother— down! ... Burn this bitch down!!!"He said it again and again.

You may not have seen that clip. It's the kind of thing that might be too strong, even for TV. But waving his hands, gesturing wildly , screaming of burning, it was obvious that Head had given in to rage.

If he were just another screamer on the street, that would be one thing, but he is the husband of Brown's mother, and that gave him instant credibility . A few minutes later, Ferguson began to burn.
Was Head responsible? I can't say , but a reasonable man might suggest it was like striking a match in a
fireworks factory .

You must have seen the photos, especially of the cars that were burned and TV reporters hustling to get the cars — burning brightly orange in the night — into the camera frame over their shoulders as they did their stand-ups.

Buildings burned, too, and others were broken into and robbed. Shops were looted by gangs bent on
mayhem, the crowds running into the stores, some of the shops with signs that told the looters these were black-owned businesses. But that didn't stop those who came to take, and you could see them running out again with goods in their arms, giggling and shrieking as they celebrated their wild spree.

The other image I can't shake is of Natalie Dubose, a woman who had spent y ears scrimping and saving to open her bakery shop, Natalie's Cakes and More. Thanksgiving is a big week for bakers, and she had orders to fill before looters destroy ed her place.

"It's just unbelievable,"Dubose told reporters as she picked through her ruined store. "It's like a movie
taking place. It's just unbelievable.

"I've invested every thing into my business. I can't go anywhere. They destroy ed the windows. They
destroy ed the materials I needed to do the Thanksgiving orders,"Dubose said. "This is our only source of income. … This is what I pray ed against."

The talking heads and the politicians keep stressing that we should learn from our mistakes, that we
should change things. But what, exactly , do they want to change? They 're vague and purposely so. Should we change the way we talk about race in America? Perhaps, but it's become so easy , and profitable for some, and we've memorized the rituals and we know the symbolism. I don't think we'll change it any time soon.

Was Michael Brown's killer protected by racist law enforcement? Was Darren Wilson the victim of
cynicism and race card hustlers who continue to use the same tactics, y ear after y ear, because they can get away with them?

Those apt to believe the police account seemed vindicated by the grand jury witness testimony that was
released to the public, the accounts of all those neighborhood witnesses and Wilson's own testimony. He described in detail the confrontation, and Brown punching him in the face, Wilson feeling as if he were a "5-y ear-old holding on to Hulk Hogan," and the gunshots, Brown charging in those final few feet before that last shot put him down.

I'm inclined to think that if you reach into a squad car, grab at a police officer's gun and punch him in the face a few times, you're probably going to get yourself shot to death.

Sharpton continued to push the line that Brown was an innocent victim and prosecutor Robert McCulloch was at fault for not indicting Officer Wilson.

"Let the record be clear,"Sharpton, speaking of McCulloch, told a news conference at Greater St. Mark
Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. "You have broken our hearts, but you have not broken our backs.

We are going to continue to pursue justice."

Justice? What about justice for Natalie Dubose, and other African-Americans who saw their businesses
ruined? Where's their justice?

I wish I could tell you we learned something from Ferguson, but I can't. All I've been hearing is the old
tired politics, and the old tired excuses.

What did America learn from Ferguson? Not much.

Twitter @John_Kass

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Today's Tune: Joe Pug - Downbound Train

The inconvenient (and tragic) truths

By Rich Lowry
November 26, 2014

The inconvenient (and tragic) truths
Photo: Facebook

The bitter irony of the Michael Brown case is that if he had actually put his hands up and said don’t shoot, he would almost certainly be alive today.
His family would have been spared an unspeakable loss, and Ferguson, Mo., wouldn’t have experienced multiple bouts of rioting, including the torching of at least a dozen businesses the night it was announced that Officer Darren Wilson wouldn’t be charged with a crime.
Instead, the credible evidence suggests that Michael Brown — after a petty act of robbery at a local business — attacked Wilson when the officer stopped him on the street. Brown punched Wilson when the officer was still in his patrol car and attempted to take his gun from him.
The first shots were fired within the car in the struggle over the gun. Then, Brown ran. Even if he hadn’t put his hands up, but merely kept running away, he would also almost certainly be alive today. Again, according to the credible evidence, he turned back and rushed Wilson. The officer shot several times, but Brown kept on coming until Wilson finally killed him.
The case is a terrible tragedy. But it isn’t a metaphor for police brutality or race repression or anything else, and never was. Aided and abetted by a compliant national media, the Ferguson protesters spun a dishonest or misinformed version of what happened — Michael Brown murdered in cold blood while trying to surrender — into a meme and a chant (“hands up, don’t shoot”), and then a mini-movement.
When the facts didn’t back their narrative, they dismissed the facts and retreated into paranoid suspicion of the legal system. The grand-jury process was rigged, they complained, because St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch didn’t seek an indictment of Wilson and instead allowed the grand jury to hear all the evidence and make its own decision. Who could really object to a grand jury hearing everything in such a sensitive case?
Then, there is the argument that Wilson should have been indicted so there could be a trial “to determine the facts.” If a jury of Wilson’s peers didn’t believe there was enough evidence to establish probable cause to indict him, though, there was no way a jury of his peers was going to convict him of a crime, which requires the more stringent standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Besides, we don’t try people for crimes they almost certainly didn’t commit just to satisfy a mob that will throw things at the police and burn down local businesses if it doesn’t get its way. If the grand jury had given in to the pressure from the streets and indicted as an act of appeasement, the mayhem most likely would have only been delayed until the inevitable acquittal in a trial. The agitators of Ferguson have proven themselves proficient at destroying other people’s property, no matter what the rationale.
Liberal commentators come back again and again to the fact that Michael Brown was unarmed and that, in the struggle between the two, Officer Wilson sustained only bruises to his face. The subtext is that if only Wilson had allowed Brown to beat him up and perhaps take his gun, things wouldn’t have had to escalate.
There is good reason for a police officer to be in mortal fear in the situation Officer Wilson faced, though. In upstate New York last March, Police Officer David Smith responded to a disturbance call at an office, when suddenly, a disturbed man pummeled the officer as he was attempting to exit his vehicle and then grabbed his gun and shot him dead. The case didn’t become a national metaphor for anything.
Ferguson, on the other hand, has never lacked for media coverage, although the narrative of a police execution always seemed dubious and now has been exposed as essentially a fraud.
“Hands up, don’t shoot” is a good slogan. If only it was what Michael Brown had done last August.

‘Whiplash’ creates a relentless tempo


Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash"

“Whiplash” begins with the steady tap-tap-tap of a drumstick on a snare and ends, one hour and 45 minutes later, with an apocalypse of percussion. In between, a young star comes of age, a much-loved character actor grabs the gold ring, and an up-and-coming filmmaker stakes his claim for greatness. I first saw the film in January at the Sundance Film Festival — maybe the only time I’ve seen an audience explode in cheers when a movie ended — and recently revisited it with trepidation. Was it that good?

Oh, yes. It’s that good.

“Whiplash” tells the story of Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller), a young jazz drumming student at the tony (and fictional) Shaffer Conservatory in Manhattan. He worships Buddy Rich, which already tells us a lot: Rich, a hyper-aggressive showboat who was legendarily nasty to the musicians in his bands, may be hated by jazz purists but it makes sense he’d be worshipped by an ambitious kid with a sweet, failed nudnik of a dad (Paul Reiser).
It also makes Andrew susceptible to the charms of the school’s prince of darkness, the professor who leads Shaffer’s crack jazz orchestra. Terence Fletcher could be the role J.K. Simmons (“Juno,” “Oz”) has been waiting for his entire career: it allows this actor to concentrate his unique manner — a brusqueness poised precisely between affability and threat — to near-Satanic levels. Fletcher dresses in aging-hipster black, has a shaved head and pitiless eyes. When he gazes out at his quaking students, he could be a T. Rex sizing up his prey.
At Sundance, “Whiplash” quickly picked up the nickname “Full Metal Juilliard” on the basis of scenes in which Andrew, plucked from a late-night practice session to be the orchestra’s drummer, is raked over the coals by his new mentor. Horrifying as they are, these sequences are dazzling exercises in total humiliation. Fletcher throws chairs, slaps students, screams insults about their parentage and sexual proclivities — and then cues them into sublimely tight renditions of bop classics (like Hank Levy’s title tune) using a tiny twitch of his hand. When he stops the band and tells a player “That’s not my tempo,” it’s the judgment of an Old Testament God.
Simmons makes the most of this mesmerizingly awful man, but he’s been given a lot to work with. “Whiplash” is the second film by the young Harvard graduate Damian Chazelle, whose 2009 debut — a gossamer Boston-set romance called “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” — was hardly preparation for the follow-up. Where does a filmmaker get this kind of confidence? Fletcher’s invective approaches operatic levels at times, but better than the dialogue is the way the movie looks, sounds, feels. Shaffer is envisioned as a church of music, with rehearsal rooms paneled in dark oak and burnished amber lighting. The brilliant, electric editing by Tom Cross cuts sometimes on the beat, sometimes against it, sometimes skittering along the rhythm of whatever’s being played. This isn’t show-off stuff, like the chop-a-thons in films like “Chicago.” The characters breathe music, and so does “Whiplash.”
Another question: Why does Andrew put up with Fletcher’s abuse? Does he buy into the teacher’s assertion that nice is the enemy of art, that “good job” is the worst thing you can say to a musician? Chazelle doesn’t, I’m guessing, but he’s fascinated by those who do, and he structures this movie like a pit fight. “Whiplash” sees the world through its obsessive young hero’s eyes as he drums his hands bloody into the night to be worthy of Fletcher’s “tempo.” If the essence of jazz is collaboration, not competition, then this isn’t a jazz movie at all — it’s an essay on power. Other students are rivals or non-entities; there’s a girl, Melissa Benoist’s Nicole, but even she’s jettisoned as a distraction. A Sunday dinner scene with cousins — preening jocks who can’t understand this weirdo in their midst — devolves into a hilarious display of Andrew’s arrogance, possibly even warranted. The kid doesn’t just want to earn Fletcher’s approval. On some level, he wants to be him.
Miles Teller has been the best thing, or close to it, in a number of movies up to now — “Rabbit Hole,” “Footloose,” “The Spectacular Now” — but here he battles to own the movie. “Whiplash” was adapted from an earlier short by Chazelle and its one flaw is a slackening of energy toward the end of the second act, when Andrew is briefly removed from Fletcher’s orbit. You can feel the padding, and yet Teller almost turns the deadening of his character’s soul into a drama of its own. Without something to hit — or hit at — Andrew’s just another yutz from the suburbs, and it hollows him out.
“Whiplash” then comes charging back for a showdown in which Andrew finally gets a chance to settle the score at the JVC Jazz Festival at Carnegie Hall. At least, I think that’s where it is; there’s the faint possibility that the movie’s climax plays out entirely in the hero’s head. Chazelle and his collaborators tighten their grip; the sequence is a bravura display of camerawork, editing, sound recording, and acting in which the relationship between Andrew and Fletcher gets defined, then redefined, then redefined again. It goes on far too long, yet you want it to go on forever. And it ends with a look of understanding between the two men that may chill your bones.
“Whiplash” takes us to the edge of creative expression and then it sails right off, into the place where the monsters are.
Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe .com. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hagel Ouster Won’t Solve the Obama Foreign Policy Crisis

Posted By Joseph Klein On November 25, 2014 @ 12:45 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | No Comments

President Barack Obama announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
President Barack Obama announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel has resigned his position under pressure from the Obama White House. According to one senior administration official, “He wasn’t up to the job.” Of course, if competence were the standard, President Obama himself should resign.

Hagel is being made the fall guy for Obama’s own national security failures, including not forcefully addressing the ISIS threat at a more opportune time to destroy ISIS. After all, it was Obama who derided the jihadist militants earlier this year as being akin to a junior varsity team.

Obama had precipitously pulled all American troops out of Iraq in 2011, against the advice of his military advisers, which helped create a vacuum filled by ISIS. Then he watched and did nothing while ISIS racked up victory after victory in Iraq during the last year, ignoring warnings from Iraqi government officials, U.S. intelligence and U.S. military leaders. Hagel added his own warning, declaring that ISIS represented an “imminent threat to every interest we have.”

Finally, in response to mounting criticism from home and abroad that he was showing no leadership while multiple global crises were exploding around him, President Obama first ordered air attacks on ISIS positions in Iraq while telegraphing to the enemy what he would not do. Then he expanded the air attacks to parts of Syria, while gradually increasing the number of U.S. troops he was willing to send back to Iraq, ostensibly to play a non-combat role.

Incredibly, senior administration officials are reported by the New York Times to have claimed, as justification for the pressure on Hagel to resign, that Hagel lacked the skills to deal with the ISIS threat. It was Obama – not Hagel – who had so recklessly minimized the ISIS threat in Iraq when it could have been dealt with more readily. And it was Obama – not Hagel – who admitted he had no strategy to deal with the ISIS threat in Syria. Hagel had his eyes open and saw the ISIS threat more clearly. Obama looked away as long as he could. But Hagel takes the fall.

President Obama chose Hagel for the Pentagon chief post in the first place to serve as the nominal Republican in his cabinet. Hagel also shared Obama’s skepticism about the Iraq War. Hagel’s combination of actual war experience as a Vietnam veteran and his cautiousness in committing American troops to vaguely defined missions suited Obama’s own inclinations. After having experienced the strongly opinionated Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, who went on to criticize the president in his memoir, Obama appears to have wanted someone he thought would focus more on internal management of the Pentagon than embroiling himself in national security policy debates.

Opposition to Hagel’s nomination among his former colleagues in the Senate and among some analysts stemmed in part from the remarks he has made about the Iraq War over the years and his evident anti-Israel bias. Questions were also raised about his overall fitness for the job. Hagel did himself no favors in that regard with his widely criticized poor performance during his Senate confirmation hearings. Nevertheless, Hagel was eventually confirmed as defense secretary by the Senate in a 58-41 vote.

During his relatively brief tenure, Hagel served as Obama’s manager of a diminishing U.S. military footprint. Hagel oversaw the draw-down of troops in Afghanistan that Obama had ordered, and began the process of looking for ways to trim the Pentagon’s budget.

However, on matters of national security and crafting responses to emerging threats such as ISIS, Hagel never made it into the inner circle of decision-makers in the Obama administration. He is reported to have remained mum during cabinet meetings, as he concluded that his advice was not being taken seriously by those who had the president’s ear. Hagel is said to have provided his advice to Obama in one-on-one phone calls, but he was still relegated to the outer periphery of influence on Obama’s final decisions.

While Hagel came across during his Senate confirmation hearings and in some public appearances since he became defense secretary as tentative and unsure of himself, he is no shrinking violet. He has at times expressed the kind of sharp-edged skepticism about the direction that the current president is taking the country’s military and national security that he displayed as a senator regarding former President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War.

For example, Hagel wrote a memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice last month raising concerns about the administration’s Syria strategy, particularly how to best deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad while simultaneously fighting ISIS in Syria.

Rice is at the heart of Obama’s inner circle and does not take kindly to disagreements with her patron’s policies. “I guess I could be a testosterone-driven, territorial kind of personality in this role,” Rice was quoted by the New York Times last month as having said. “My view on this is that it’s an asset to have a partner down the hall.”

Hagel did not have that kind of access to the president. He had also been losing patience with what he regarded as interference on his own turf by an inexperienced White House national security team.

Said Senator John McCain, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “I know that Chuck was frustrated with aspects of the Administration’s national security policy and decision-making process. His predecessors have spoken about the excessive micro-management they faced from the White House and how that made it more difficult to do their jobs successfully. Chuck’s situation was no different.”

During an interview with Charlie Rose last week, Chuck Hagel’s frustration seemed to have boiled over. Hagel expressed concern about the military’s declining capability under President Obama’s watch.  “I am worried about it, I am concerned about it, Chairman Dempsey is, the chiefs are, every leader of this institution,” Hagel said, referring to the Pentagon. Then, in a not-too-subtle slap at the dithering that Obama brings to decision-making when a quick response from a capable and confident leader is required instead, Hagel added that “the main responsibility of any leader is to prepare your institution for the future. If you don’t do that, you’ve failed. I don’t care how good you are, how smart you are, any part of your job. If you don’t prepare your institution, you’ve failed.”

President Obama has displayed a thin skin time and time again. Truly believing that he is always the smartest person in the room, Obama wants yes-people around him. Hagel, for all his faults, did not fit that mold.

During a White House ceremony Monday at which Hagel’s resignation was officially announced, Obama said he and the defense secretary had determined it was an “appropriate time for him to complete his service.” Obama’s praise for Hagel as an “exemplary defense secretary” rings no truer than all of Obama’s other statements on a variety of topics. Hagel served as Obama’s scapegoat. Sadly, this president’s national security failures will continue.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

The Benghazi Cover-Up Continues

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On November 24, 2014 @ 12:40 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 3 Comments

A diplomatic mission was slapped down in the middle of a city controlled by terrorists. The diplomatic mission was left mostly undefended, despite multiple requests by everyone in Libya right up to the deceased ambassador, except by a militia gang linked to Al Qaeda which wasn’t getting paid.

At a time when the State Department was spending fortunes on bad art, on Kindles at the bargain price of $6,000 a reader, not to mention renovating the mansion residence of a political donor/ambassador in Europe who would be the subject of yet another cover-up after being accused of pedophilia (but not before causing a public scandal by blaming anti-Semitism on the Jews) there was no money for securing a diplomatic mission that was so far behind enemy lines it might as well have been in the middle of Iran.

And again it was no one’s fault. Despite multiple whistleblowers from the State Department coming forward, most of them left of center types who wouldn’t spit on a Koch Brother, the panels and committees wrote the establishment a blank check.

It was no one’s fault. Anyone who disagreed with the assertion that the murder of four Americans might be someone’s fault was a right-wing conspiracy theorist. Anyone who thought that we should listen to the testimony of Gregory Hicks, the highest ranking diplomat in Libya after Ambassador Stevens was killed, or to Ambassador Stevens’ own messages asking for more security, was a crazed nutjob.

Only a lunatic would think this might be someone’s fault.

“When I arrived in Tripoli on July 31, we had over 30 security personnel, from the State Department and the U.S. military, assigned to protect the diplomatic mission to Libya. All were under the ambassador’s authority,”Hicks wrote. “On Sept. 11, we had only nine diplomatic security agents under Chris’s authority to protect our diplomatic personnel in Tripoli and Benghazi.”

“For some reason, my explanation did not make it into the Senate report,” he added.

Now “for some reason” the testimony and statements of the CIA annex security team, the men on the ground like Mark Geist and Kris Paronto, did not make their way into the House Intel Committee report which once again exonerates everyone under its purview in true Washington fashion.

Was aid denied? Nope. Was there a lack of security? Maybe, but that’s a job for the State Department and State already concluded that it was the fault of three people whom it pretended to fire. The Senate committee concluded it was Ambassador Stevens’ fault despite his multiple requests for security because dead men don’t appear at committee hearings.

Was there a “stand down order”? Geist and Paronto say there was. The House Intel Committee however says that there was no stand down order; there were only “mere tactical disagreements about the speed with which the team should depart.”

Those “mere tactical disagreements” according to Paronto merely resulted in the death of Ambassador Stevens.

But the report insists there was no stand down order whatsoever, just “some Annex members wanted to urgently depart the Annex for the TMF to save their State Department colleagues.”
Gregory Hicks had stated that a team was prevented from heading to Benghazi. General Dempsey explained in his testimony that it was not told to “stand down”. It was told that it had a new mission of not going to Benghazi.

“They weren’t told to stand down. A `stand down’ means don’t do anything,” the General explained. “They were told that the mission they were asked to perform was not in Benghazi, but was at Tripoli airport.”

Orwell wept.

And so the idea that there was a “stand down order” has been conclusively and thoroughly disproven. Media Matters has splashed the news all over its front page. American lives might have been saved, but weren’t, because of “mere tactical disagreements” between doing something and doing nothing.

But don’t call it a “stand down order”. That might imply that a decision was made and that the giver of the order is responsible. And that someone above him might be responsible for setting a policy.

The House Intel Committee report, like all the reports before it, are full of such brilliant lawyerese, of technical explanations for why black is white, white is black and why none of it is anyone’s fault. The latest report insists that the administration was always aware that Benghazi was a terrorist attack and that Susan Rice was telling the truth when she claimed it wasn’t because she was misled by the CIA.

The administration was always telling the truth even when it wasn’t. Ambassador Stevens was responsible for the lack of security that killed him even while he kept pleading for more security. No personnel were told to stand down. They were just told not to go.

It’s all perfectly airtight by the standards of a political establishment in which one hand covers up for another, in which holding people in government responsible is a bad precedent. If blame has to be distributed, it can be dumped on the vague infrastructure of the CIA, on expendable diplomatic personnel and on a dead guy. And none of them will be held responsible either.
That’s just the magic of government.

We have an $18 trillion national debt which no one is responsible for. We have a fake unemployment rate of 6 percent and a real unemployment rate somewhere between 12 and 18 percent. And no one is responsible for that either. We have a terrorist group in Iraq that morphed into its own country and is executing Americans who could have been saved and no one is responsible for that.

Not anyone in our government.

We can go through numerous panels and committees that will humor us by pretending to care about the latest government scandal we’re outraged by and after going through the motions, they will announce that it’s no one’s fault.

It never is.

The Saudi visa express program that helped cause 9/11 was revived last year by Obama. The consular officer who issued visas to 11 of the hijackers despite numerous problems with their applications was not fired or demoted. Instead she still works for the State Department where she claims that “shopping” is her “great love” because it lets her snap up unique Middle Eastern items at “local prices.”

And the Senate continued to reconfirm her nomination because nothing is anyone’s fault.

There is simply no such thing as accountability in government. The incestuously corrupt culture of government insiders and the smug political reporters who eat out of their hands make that impossible. No matter how many whistleblowers come forward, how many of the men and women on the front lines tell their story, a group of lawyers with red pens will huddle over a report and use technicalities and word games to ignore the whistleblowers and exempt their government superiors from blame.

Washington can never allow any accountability for Benghazi because once we look closely at the murder of four Americans we might just have to start looking at the thousands of soldiers who died or were wounded in Afghanistan for many of the same reasons; including being denied support to avoid offending Muslims.

The media can never allow any accountability for Benghazi because the buck stops with their chosen presidential candidate for 2016.

Benghazi is the tip of a very nasty iceberg. The Libyan War was illegally fought and backed by lies that have never been addressed including false claims of genocide by Obama. That war has now resulted in ISIS in control of at least one Libyan city.

Benghazi is a political firewall. If the political establishment and the media can stop blame from being assigned here, they can permanently shut down these bigger questions. And if we can break their firewall, then the establishment will burn.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Benghazi Annex Security Team Members Disagree Forcefully with House Intel Committee Report

Kris Paronto: I looked Mike Rogers in the eyes and said, "If we would have not been delayed we would have saved the ambassador's life and Sean Smith's life."

Posted By Paula Bolyard On November 22, 2014 @ 6:50 pm In Benghazi | 7 Comments

Saturday on C-SPAN’s Book TV, CIA Benghazi annex security team members Kris Paronto and Mark Geist answered questions about a report released Friday by the House Intelligence Committee on the 9/11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012. The two former CIA contractors pushed back forcefully against parts of the the committee’s conclusions about the night that Ambassador Chris Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in Benghazi.

The report by the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), chaired by Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, concluded that “the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi” and that “appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night.” The committee “found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support.” The report, according to the House Intelligence Committee, is meant to serve as the “definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during, and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans” so that the American public can separate “facts from the swirl of rumors and unsubstantiated allegations.”

Kris “Tanto” Paronto, co-author of the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazireacted to the report on Twitter Friday night and Saturday morning, prior to the C-SPAN interview:

Kris Paronto @KrisParonto

So this BS report came out.....i don't think these weak congressman understand our resolve..i promise i will bring them all down!!!

Kris Paronto @KrisParonto

GOP-led report debunks Benghazi theories  @jaketapper @cnnbrk quick to job on the POS report,cnn ur worthless

During the Book TV interview, Paronto and Mark “Oz” Geist, who also co-wrote the book (along with Mark Teigen, who attended the interview but did not appear on camera), explained that it took them over an hour to get to the consulate from the time they heard about the attack. Asked why it took so long for them to reach the scene Paronto said, “That’s the million dollar question.”

Paronto stood by the claim made in the book that they were ordered to stand down, a claim that was disputed in this week’s House Intelligence Committee report. “We were told to stand down. We were delayed for approximately 27 minutes on our compound,” he said. “We do not know, as far as outside of our chain of command outside Libya, where that came from. We know that the stand down orders and the waits and the delays came from Libya. Came from chief of station, chief of base. Whether it came from anybody higher, we don’t answer that. We don’t know. And we’d like to know, but we have no idea.”

A caller from Sanford, Florida, accused the men of lying about the Obama administration to boost book sales, saying that House Intelligence Committee report proved they were not telling the truth.
“Ma’am,” Paronto said, “during the House intel subcommittee I looked at Mike Rogers in the eyes and I said, ‘If we would have not been delayed — which, we were delayed three times — that we would have saved the ambassador’s life and Sean Smith’s life.’” He added, “Why he came out with the report, I don’t know what to tell you on that. You’re going to have to ask him. What we said in the book is what happened on the ground and that is the truth.”

He insisted to another caller that they were the ones who knew the truth about what happened on the ground that night. “Whether [the House subcommittee] wanted to believe us or not, that’s up to them,” he said. “But there were no other people on the ground but us that night and our stories haven’t changed. They haven’t wavered. So if the subcommittee or whoever else wants to come out and say things that doesn’t represent the book, you know, have them on the show and ask them.”

“All we’re going to do is keep telling what actually happened that night,” Paronto told the caller.

Geist said that while the hearings that have taken place to date have been very useful, the investigation is far from complete and more must be done to determine what happened “so we don’t repeat” what happened. “The only way to do that is to kick that horse until it’s down and we’ve still gotta do that because we haven’t reached the full complexity because not everybody that was on the ground there has been talked to.”

Book TV host Peter Slen asked Paronto and Geist what they would have done differently the night of the attack in Benghazi if given the opportunity.

Paronto said he would have disobeyed orders earlier and left for the consulate. “If I had control of the supporting elements or had the ability to contact them, the supporting elements would have been there sooner,” he said. But as far as the tactical movements of his team, he said he believes they did everything correctly from a military perspective. “That’s why we were able to save lives and we were able to fight off an extremely large force,” Paronto said. “The mistakes that we made on our end — and I do take responsibility, whether people say I should or not — us not leaving early enough and us not being able to save the ambassador’s life. I take that personally.” He repeated that not leaving soon enough — not disobeying the stand-down order — was their biggest mistake. “I don’t know if everyone else agrees with that. It keeps me up at night.” 

Geist agreed. “Whether it was not our job to protect the ambassador, he’s an American serving in an area of operations that we — when we’re there we feel that we’re responsible, probably for any other American that’s there,” he said. “And the fact that we couldn’t get over there quick enough, I think was probably one of the biggest things.”

Geist added that the HPSCI report said that the chief at the base was relying on Libyans to asses the tactical situation, a decision with which he disagreed. “Well, I’m not going to depend, personally, I’m not going to depend on a Libyan or a third country national or somebody else to do that.” He said that he preferred to rely on highly trusted Americans, noting that between the six security contractors involved in Benghazi, they had over 100 years of experience in war zones around the world. “Tyrone Woods, he was with the most elite of military forces — with the SEALS — a number of different teams. He had retired from that. He had been an instructor at BUD/S,” he said. “Tanto with his experience, John (Tiegen) with his — all of us. I mean, if you have a guard dog are you going to let the guard dog do his job or are you going to hold him back and tell him he can’t?”

Geist also thinks U.S. assets around the world should be better protected. He said the U.S. should ensure that any facility we have overseas has the assets available to protect itself “because you’re always going to have that unforeseen.” In addition, he said, there should always be a response team or plan in place. “The best thing to do to keep Americans alive overseas is make sure you have a strong presence and you’re putting up that bigger defense and you don’t look like the victim or look like the person that’s going to go down without a fight.”

Paronto agreed that more should have been done to protect the consulate in Benghazi and that more should be done going forward to protect U.S. assets overseas. “You either defend your keep and you make sure you have it properly defended or you pull up chops and you leave,” he said. “And we were kind of stuck in the middle. It was halfway. You can’t do that. You either show the big force or you’ve gotta leave. If we’re not going to fully secure our facilities overseas like they should have been, then we probably shouldn’t have been there.”

A caller from New Jersey asked the men how Hillary Clinton’s “what difference does it make” statement during her Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony made them feel.

“Angry,” Geist said. “No matter what context you put that statement in from somebody at that level within politics, it always makes a difference. If you don’t find out the truth about what happened you can’t evaluate what you did right and wrong and it angered me very much.”

“It angered me as well,” said Paronto. “People died. A UN ambassador at a high level and then our friends died. It is a huge difference when Americans die on foreign soil, so context or not, it was still an incorrect statement and it still makes me angry today hearing that.”

He said he thinks he speaks for the rest of the team when he says it makes them more determined to get the real story out about the night of the attack “and not be swayed or bullied to not continue to put the truth out there.” He said that every time he hears Clinton’s statement it makes him want to dig his heels in so everyone knows that “what happened on that night matters.”

“You’re in charge. You’re a leader. You don’t say that about military personnel when they die, especially the way they died, or when you lack support, when we didn’t have the support we needed over there,” Paronto said.

Asked by a caller what they’re doing now Paronto said, “We’ve had to resign. It kills us. I miss the job immensely.”

He and Geist both defended their decision to write the book and tell their story, insisting it was not for financial gain.

“I have my own business on the side. I don’t need the book selling money,” Paronto said. “We didn’t do this to sell a book. We did it to tell the truth. We also deployed for a year after that waiting for the administration or somebody to come forward and tell the truth, which they didn’t and we made a decision as a team to come forward and tell the truth.” 

Geist added, “Had we stayed working, we would be able to make more working than we would selling this book. We did it to honor the four guys that died there because they weren’t being honored.”

After the interview Paronto made some even stronger statements on Twitter, letting everyone know that the story about what happened in Benghazi that night will not die with the House Select Committee report.

Kris Paronto @KrisParonto

I will on multiple shows telling the truth as many times as it takes!!!!!!!

Kris Paronto @KrisParonto

I will not stand by and let those responsible walk away from this! Taking a stand comes easy for me!! RLTW!!!!!

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