Saturday, May 07, 2016

Obama adviser Ben Rhodes admits lies to media about Iran deal

Ben Rhodes, National Security adviser, created echo chamber

May 6, 2016
Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting Ben Rhodes speaks to reporters during a press briefing, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, in Edgartown, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) ** FILE **
Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting Ben Rhodes speaks to reporters during a press briefing, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, in Edgartown, Mass., on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications, is highlighted in a recent piece by the New York Times which quotes Rhodes as admitting the Obama administration lied to the American people, Congress, and our allies in how they “spun” the Iran deal.
The revelations are simply astonishing but not surprising. It seems the goal behind the Iran deal was to extricate the United States from long standing alliances in the Middle East, including Israel. This was done to be able to close the Iran nuclear agreement.
The Soviet Union would have been proud. This disclosure shows that anything the Obama administration puts out is nothing short of sheer propaganda and cannot be trusted; but, we knew that already didn’t we.
The reaction to the NYT piece by David Samuels has been swift and fierce. Hudson Institute adjunct fellow Michael Pregent opined: “Dude thinks he’s on ‘House of Cards’ – Rhodes lied to sell Iran Deal and is proud of it.”
“In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters,” Samuels wrote. “We created an echo chamber,” he quoted Rhodes as admitting. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.” “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns,” Rhodes was quoted as telling him. “They literally know nothing.”
According to the article the administration put out a deliberately misleading narrative about the way the nuclear negotiations came about, linking them to the rise in 2013 of the “moderate” President Hasan Rouhani at the expense of “hardliners,” ushering in a supposedly new political reality in Iran, reports CNS News. Obama was known by insiders to have wanted to make a deal with Iran from the beginning of his presidency in 2009, but the idea that the rise of “moderates” provided the opportunity was “largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal,” Samuels wrote.
“By obtaining broad public currency for the thought that there was a significant split in the regime, and that the administration was reaching out to moderate-minded Iranians who wanted peaceful relations with their neighbors and with America, Obama was able to evade what might have otherwise been a divisive but clarifying debate over the actual policy choices that his administration was making,” he wrote.
Now the next president and our children will have to deal with a world where Iran obtains nuclear weapons along with the capability to deliver them as they continue to test intercontinental ballistic missiles. America’s allies in the Middle East no longer trust us. Heck, after reading these reports, how could any of our allies trust us? Obama has done immeasurable damage to the national security of the United States and our allies around the world. But again, we knew that already; we just didn’t know how bad it was yet.

Trump Was a Spark, Not the Fire

The establishments, both media and conservative, failed to anticipate how they’d be consumed.


Friday, May 06, 2016

'Build a Wall' to Block ISIS

Yet another—perhaps most important—reason for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

May 6, 2016

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Of all the legitimate reasons a majority of Americans support U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to “build a wall” along the U.S./Mexican border, perhaps the most important is least known: Islamic terrorists, including ISIS operatives, are trying to use the porous border as a way to smuggle WMDs into the U.S. and launch terror attacks that would make 9/11 seem like child’s play.
Recently, “One of the American men accused in Minnesota of trying to join the Islamic State group wanted to open up routes from Syria to the U.S. through Mexico...  Guled Ali Omar told the ISIS members about the route so that it could be used to send members to America to carry out terrorist attacks, prosecutors alleged in a document.”
But ISIS didn’t need to be “told” by Ali “about the route.”  Nearly a year earlier, the Islamic State explored options on how it could smuggle a WMD “into the U.S. through Mexico by using existing trafficking networks in Latin America.”  Consider the following (currently) hypothetical scenario outlined in an article published by the Islamic State’s magazine Dabiq last May (issue #9):
Let me throw a hypothetical operation onto the table.  The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilāyah [province] in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region….  The weapon is then transported over land until it makes it to Libya, where the mujāhidīn [jihadis] move it south to Nigeria. Drug shipments from Columbia bound for Europe pass through West Africa, so moving other types of contraband from East to West is just as possible. The nuke and accompanying mujāhidīn arrive on the shorelines of South America and are transported through the porous borders of Central America before arriving in Mexico and up to the border with the United States.  From there it’s just a quick hop through a smuggling tunnel and hey presto, they’re mingling with another 12 million ‘illegal’ aliens in America with a nuclear bomb in the trunk of their car.
If not a nuke, “a few thousand tons of ammonium nitrate explosive,” which is easily manufactured, could be smuggled, explained the ISIS publication.  
Such thinking is hardly new.  Back in 2009, a Kuwaiti cleric explained how easy it would be to murder countless Americans by crossing through the Mexican border: 
Four pounds of anthrax — in a suitcase this big — carried by a fighter through tunnels from Mexico into the U.S. are guaranteed to kill 330,000 Americans within a single hour if it is properly spread in population centers there.  What a horrifying idea; 9/11 will be small change in comparison. Am I right? There is no need for airplanes, conspiracies, timings and so on. One person, with the courage to carry 4 pounds of anthrax, will go to the White House lawn, and will spread this ‘confetti’ all over them, and then we’ll do these cries of joy. It will turn into a real celebration.
Hypotheticals aside, ISIS and other Islamic terrorists are known to be based in and coming from Mexico.  In August 2014, Judicial Watch reported that ISIS was “operating in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle borne improvised explosive devices.”  And in April 2015, ISIS was exposed operating in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua—a mere eight miles from the U.S.
In October 2014, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif, said, “I know that at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas.”  
Homeland Security emphatically denied Hunter’s claims, called them “categorically false,” and added that “no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border.”  However, days later it was confirmed that “4 ISIS Terrorists” were arrested crossing the border into Texas.   
On September 20, 2015, “U.S. Border Patrol nabbed two Pakistani men with ties to terrorism at the U.S.-Mexico border….  Both men … took advantage of smuggling networks or other routes increasingly used by Central American illegal immigrants to sneak into the U.S.” 
This is uncomfortably reminiscent of the “hypothetical” scenario outlined in the aforementioned ISIS magazine: after naming Pakistan as the nation to acquire nukes from—and the two men arrested for “ties to terrorism” were from Pakistan—the Dabiq excerpt explained: “The nuke and accompanying mujahidin… are transported through the porous borders of Central America before arriving in Mexico and up to the border with the United States.  From there it’s just a quick hop through a smuggling tunnel.”
On December 2, 2015, “A Middle Eastern woman was caught surveilling a U.S. port of entry on the Mexican border holding a sketchbook with Arabic writing and drawings of the facility and its security system.” Around the same time, “five young Middle Eastern men were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol in Amado, an Arizona town situated about 30 miles from the Mexican border. Two of the men were carrying stainless steel cylinders in backpacks...”
Far from being reassuring, all these arrests ultimately indicate that Islamic terrorists are crossing the border into the U.S. For every illegal caught crossing, how many pass?  One estimate says that at best only half of those illegally crossing the border are ever apprehended.  That would seem to suggest that, for every one ISIS supporter or sympathizer that gets caught—and as seen, many already have been—another quietly slips through.  Under Obama’s tenure alone, 2.5 million illegals have crossed the border.  How many of these are ISIS operatives/sympathizers?  Nor can border guards be especially alert for Islamic terrorists as many Arabs and Middle Easterners easily blend in with native Mexicans. 
Three facts are undisputed: 1) ISIS and other terrorist groups see Mexico as a launching pad for acts of terror in the U.S.; 2) ISIS and other terrorist groups have bases of operations in Mexico; 3) members of ISIS and other terrorist groups have been caught trying to enter through the border.   
In other words, it’s a matter of time.  As Rep. Duncan Hunter once put it:
If you really want to protect Americans from ISIS, you secure the southern border.  It’s that simple. ISIS doesn’t have a navy, they don’t have an air force, they don’t have nuclear weapons. The only way that ISIS is going to harm Americans is by coming in through the southern border—which they already have.
However, just as before 9/11—when U.S. leadership had received ample warnings of a spectacular terrorist attack targeting the U.S.—this problem will likely be ignored till a spectacular attack launched through the border occurs.  Then, it will be more of the usual from big media and politicians: shock and amazement, handwringing, and appeals against “Islamophobia.” 
The idea of securing the U.S.-Mexico border—including by possibly “building a wall,” or electronic fence which has worked brilliantly in Israel—is much more urgent than most know.
 Tags: BorderDonald TrumpISIS

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Can Trump Beat Hillary?

Why the presumptive Republican presidential nominee may defy the conventional wisdom once again.

May 5, 2016
(Lance Iverson/AP)
After the departure of Ted Cruz and John Kasich, Donald Trump is now the Republican candidate for president. For many in the party, this will be the “Trumpacolypse,” as a Twitter hashtag has it. His unfavorable ratings are at 65%––70% with women, and up to 80% with blacks and Hispanics. With those numbers, a Clinton victory is assured, according to three-quarters of Republican “political insiders” polled by Politico. 
Such hysteria six months out from the general election is premature. Much of it reflects the Republican political class’s distaste for the New York real estate developer, reality television star, and braggadocios conspicuous consumer. Trump has violated every canon of presidential campaigning, and scorned all the received wisdom that pundits and prognosticators reflexively dispense. He says what “you can’t say,” and says it in a brutal manner ––“lyin’ Ted” and “crooked Hillary”––that gives many “political insiders” the vapors. In their darker moods, they brood over the possibility of fascism coming to America, or a return of Joseph McCarthy. His biggest offense, though, is that he wins without their help. 
They may be right about Trump losing the general. But such a prediction at this point is a guess. Polls record the transient impressions of the people who are polled. Then there’s the “shy Tory” phenomenon, the reticence of people to state their true preference even to an anonymous pollster, leading to a mismatch between the poll numbers and the actual votes. In the last six primaries before Indiana, Trump’s percentage of the vote averaged eight-and-a-half points higher than the polls, according to the New York Times. Of course, if Trump’s favorability numbers are still as dismal on in Octoberr, his defeat will be more certain.  
But Trump has consistently disproved conventional wisdom. The old electoral truisms may not apply. Take the clichés about Hispanics. For nearly a decade we’ve been told that the Republicans needed to cultivate this “fastest growing demographic group,” as Obama warned everyone in 2012. The party wise men counseled Republicans to drop the harsh rhetoric about illegal aliens and reach out to the 9% of voters who are Hispanic and allegedly “natural conservatives.” Heeding this advice, Senate Republicans toyed for a while with “comprehensive immigration reform,” which many voters decoded as “amnesty” for lawbreakers stealing their jobs. Yet in most polls, “immigration reform” is consistently low on the list of issues that concern Hispanics.  
That didn’t stop some in the party from angering much of the white working class, 36% of the electorate, just to pursue this electoral will-o-the-wisp. About a third of those voters voted Democrat in 2012, but evidence suggests that many are shifting to Trump this year. So Trump speaks to their concerns about ICE’s “catch-and-release” of felons, the hundreds of Americans murdered by illegal aliens, the quality-of-life crimes making many neighborhoods and cities unlivable. Trump promises to put a stop to “sanctuary cities” that blatantly disregard federal law and get away with it.  He gets their anger at seeing protestors, like those in Irvine last week, attempting to stop their right to assemble and waving Mexican flags, or the demonstrators in Indiana Monday arming their children with F-bombs to hurl at Trump supporters. 
And he especially understands how sick many Republicans and Democrats are of the snotty rhetoric from some leaders and pundits of both parties. From their tony enclaves far from the daily disorder and mayhem caused by our immigration failures, they suggest that such complaints reflect bigotry and xenophobia. So Trump promises to round up the illegals, build a wall on the border, and make Mexico pay for it. And I’ll wager that the pollster’s net doesn’t catch significant numbers of voters who sit at home and shout their approval at the television screen and will pull the lever for Trump come Election Day. 
In fact, despite his hard words for illegal aliens, there is growing evidence, much of it anecdotal at this point, that significant numbers of Hispanics and blacks like Trump and may vote for him. Here in the San Joaquin Valley, ground zero for Mexican immigration, one more and more frequently runs into working-class Mexicans who admire Trump for his macho bluster and willingness to slap down politically correct gringos with their superior airs and class snobberies. It’s not just white conservatives who have grown sick and tired of the credentialed class telling them how to live and then demonizing them for disagreeing. No one knows how many Hispanics will vote for Trump, but I’ll wager it will be more than voted for Romney. 
But Trump is ignorant and incoherent when it comes to policy, the critics say. Contrary to the commentators cocooned in their social and cultural enclaves, elections are not about policy. The majority of voters don’t carefully study the issues, pore over policy papers, and objectively weigh various proposals in order to arrive at the best choice. They are motivated by their “passions and interests,” as Madison understood. “Interests” are about “property,” or in our time, jobs and the economy. Years of sluggish growth, lower workforce participation, and the investor class waxing fat the whole time have angered a lot of people, including Bernie Sanders’ supporters. Trump’s tirades against free-trade-agreements and China’s currency manipulation speak to these frustrations. 
The “passions” we see seething through a Trump rally are the anger at elites of both parties who for years now have talked down to the people, dismissed their legitimate concerns, and sneered at their ignorance, even as they pander to privileged minorities or appease the Democrats. They see criticism of Trump, whether intended or not, as criticism of themselves, yet another patronizing dismissal of their grievances. The backlash against political correctness that Trump has brilliantly exploited is the obvious focus of this anger at politicians who are supposed to be on their side, but who always find excuses to cede the high ground to the other side. Why else would the Senate confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General, especially after she told the Judiciary Committee that she viewed Obama’s unconstitutional amnesties as “legal”? Was it because she was eminently qualified, or because she is a black woman? 
Some will dispute these assertions as misleading or false, but whether they are true or not is irrelevant. Politics is about perception. How else did a cipher like Barack Obama get elected twice? In 2008 he was perceived to be a racial healer, the smartest president ever, a “no red state, no blue state” unifier, and a brilliant orator. None of these perceptions turned out to be remotely true. The second time it was partly because 81% of voters perceived him to “care about people like me,” while only 18% felt the same about Mitt Romney, one of the most fundamentally decent and kind men ever to run for president. Trump seems to get that perceptions and passions come first, and policy can be figured out later. To a greater or lesser degree, this has pretty much been true in all presidential elections. Trump has simply discarded the decorum that camouflages the truth about political sausage-making. 
But can he defeat Hillary? Sure he can. A lot depends on events. A terrorist attack in mid-summer, bad economic news, telegenic violence a the conventions, the FBI report on the investigation into Hillary’s private server, the Attorney General refusing to follow the FBI’s recommendation to indict, or something else we can’t foresee could determine the election. Remember, in 2008 at the beginning of September John McCain was leading Obama in most polls, despite battling the headwinds from a media functioning as Obama’s press agent. And then Lehman Brothers collapsed.  
Equally important for November is Clinton’s astonishing incompetence as a candidate. Fifty-five percent of voters view her unfavorably. Her Occupy-Wall-Street pandering to the left has been blatant, and will be hard to walk back in the general. It’s doubtful that she’ll get the turnout from minorities and millenials Obama got. At a time of a populist passion for change and new faces, she’s a tired, old, white professional pol, a habitué of the salons of the rich and powerful. Her campaign has nowhere near the enthusiasm of Bernie Sanders’, while Trump packs thousands into his rallies. The dopey protestors trying to disrupt Trump’s events remind everybody that Hillary’s party created and indulge these two-bit Robespierres. Each wave of the Mexican flag is a big campaign poster for Trump. The “woman card” so far appears a loser when played by a woman who viciously attacked her husband’s sexual victims, and is worth $31 million. Nor has that shriveled satyr Bill Clinton been able to help her out, and he remains a gold-mine of sordid scandal for the Trump campaign. Finally, Trump shows no indication that he will not rhetorically beat Hillary like a rented mule with every scandal and failure of her 25 undistinguished years in the public spotlight. 
So yes, Trump can win in November. What he will do as president is another matter.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Richard Weikart on the Revealing Inconsistencies of Scientific Materialism

By Mike Keas
April 19, 2016
Historian Richard Weikart's new book, The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life, is an important study of the erosion of the most basic values in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the West. Many things are striking about Weikart's powerful treatment of his subject, but I noted, in particular, his discussion of some statements from atheist biologist Richard Dawkins. These statements have a curious, persistent, and revealing inconsistency to them.
Here is Weikart, for example, on a 2007 interview with Dawkins:
[C]onsider how Richard Dawkins responded when Larry Taunton asked in an interview if his rejection of external moral standards meant that Islamic extremists might not be wrong. Dawkins replied, "What's to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn't right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question." Taunton admitted that he was stupefied by Dawkins's answer -- as he should have been. Anyone who thinks that making a moral judgment about Hitler is difficult has lost their moral compass completely and has no business pontificating about any moral issue (or proclaiming that he has discovered the "root of all evil" -- which is what he called religion, of course). (p. 80)
So Dawkins thinks we can't rationally criticize Hitler's actions. Compare that with his Afterword to a 2007 book, What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Dawkins wrote there: "Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster, even in a single particular." The moral monster Dawkins referred to was Adolf Hitler. So which is it? On the one hand Dawkins (like all the rational and informed people I know) considers Hitler a moral monster. On the other hand, he proclaims that we can't rationally criticize Hitler's genocidal racism.
There's more. In a chapter titled "My Genes Made Me Do It," Weikart explores the attack on the belief in human free will from scientists such as Dawkins. Criminals are not responsible for their actions, Dawkins has argued. Why? Because they are like "defective machines" -- victims of defective genes and/or a defective environment. Weikart notes Dawkins's use of the term "defective." How could it be consistent for an atheist like Dawkins to use a word like that?
[It] implies that somewhere there is a standard by which to measure human behavior, such as murder or rape. However, Dawkins's worldview does not have any moral resources to establish any standard or provide any valuations, so I am mystified about why he would call such behavior "defective." Human behavior can only be defective if it is not fulfilling its purpose (for which it was created). Even though Dawkins strenuously and repeatedly denies that humans (or anything in the cosmos) have any purpose or meaning, he smuggles purpose back into his worldview to avoid the dehumanizing consequences of his philosophy. Fortunately, he rightly recognizes that murder and rape are contrary to the way things should be. However, his commitment to materialism drives him to deny that there is any "way things should be." (p. 95)
Weikart returns once more to Dawkins's inconsistent proclamations:
Where did Dawkins get the idea that cooperation, unselfishness, and generosity are morally superior to selfishness and cutthroat competition? Why does he favor the welfare state helping the poor and disadvantaged, rather than letting them starve? He admits that these moral precepts do not come from nature. Where then did he get these extra-natural (dare I say, supernatural?) moral standards that he encourages us to uphold and teach? They certainly did not arise from his own worldview, which denies the existence of any extra-natural morality. (p. 115)
Weikart catches many other scientists and materialist philosophers in similar instances of self-contradiction. These include a few who are no longer alive, but who have many intellectual descendants today: August Comte (p. 30-32), Charles Darwin (p. 54-55), and Bertrand Russell (p. 37-41). The living self-contradicting thinkers canvassed in Weikart's book include (besides Dawkins) Lawrence Krauss (p. 43-44), Jerry Coyne (p. 84-87), Stephen Pinker (p. 89-93), and E. O. Wilson (p. 112). Weikart is respectful of his intellectual opponents, while documenting their contradictions with precision and wit.
Someone might object to his analysis of the historical and contemporary inhumane implications of naturalistic evolutionary theory, asking, "So what? If unguided evolution really explains the origins of biological complexity, then you simply bite the bullet and accept all the unsavory implications." To this objection, there are two responses. The first is in Weikart's book: Note all the contradictory and self-defeating positions articulated by many of the most influential naturalistic thinkers. There is not one "bullet" to bite, but a staggering and stupefying diversity of them! Surely this tells us something significant about the soundness of evolution theory itself.
The second response, of course, is to keep up with the latest debates about evolution and intelligent design. If you missed it, go back and study Dawkins's recent indirect exchange with Stephen Meyer. See here and here for responses from Meyer and Paul Nelson respectively. Dawkins was coming to the defense of his fellow atheist Lawrence Krauss, who after facing Meyer in debate, needed a helping hand.
There is, alas, precious little scientific substance to Krauss's and Dawkins's opposition to intelligent design and or their arguments for unguided evolution. This takes us back to Weikart's book. Don't miss his well-argued critique of both Krauss and Dawkins. Dr. Weikart shows how some of the scientific debate over Darwinism and human nature can be traced back to faulty philosophical foundations, and why all this matters for the future of humanity.
I have read several other books by Weikart and found them all well documented and readable. The same is true of this new book. In fact it is even more readable because it is aimed at a more popular audience. As a historian and philosopher of science who regularly interacts with college students in my classrooms (including on the issues in Weikart's book), I can attest to the cogency of the argument in The Death of Humanity and its cultural urgency.
Image credit: [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.