Saturday, February 04, 2017

Narco-Terrorism on the U.S-Mexico Border

By Janet Levy
February 3, 2017

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Soldiers escorting five alleged members of the Zetas drug gang during their presentation to the press in Mexico City in 2011. Alexandre Meneghini/AP

President Trump's first steps to secure the U.S. borders as he promised during his run for the presidency have been greeted by protest, demonstrations, and outrage.  Yet the record has been clear for years that our country is at grave risk, not only from those who cross our porous borders to do us harm, but also from those who have turned a blind eye and refuse to see what has been occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In August 2014, Judicial Watch (J.W.) broke the story that Islamic terrorist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, were operating in the Mexican border city, Juarez, and planning attacks against the United States and that Fort Bliss, the El Paso Army installation, was beefing up base security.  Remarkably, the Department of Homeland Security failed to respond to the story itself and to direct inquiries from conservative, non-partisan Judicial Watch.

A few years earlier, at an El Paso meeting with border city mayors, DHS chief Janet Napolitano stated, "There is a perception that the border is worse now than it ever has been."

In a reproach to public concerns about cross-border terrorist activity and Republican opposition to the Obama administration's lax border and illegal immigration policies, she asserted, "That is wrong.  The border is better now than it ever has been." 

Clearly, it was politically inconvenient for Napolitano to admit that the southern border was compromised, serving as the nexus of drug cartels that control businesses worth hundreds of billions of dollars and of Islamic terrorist group operatives, as cogently detailed by Judicial Watch investigations.

Adding their voices to the politically correct chorus on border security were FBI director James Comey and Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke (D).  In 2015, Comey responded to J.W.'s report by proclaiming it "nonsense."  He took a swipe at the government watchdog by complaining about the inconvenience it posed to his staff to chase down spurious charges.  Congressman O'Rourke's comments arose from his background as a former El Paso city councilman, known for his boosterism of neighboring Juarez, Mexico, who had attempted to stop the Minuteman Project – a citizen effort dedicated to patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border – and had sponsored a resolution asking the federal government to end the prohibition of illegal drugs.  Not surprisingly, O'Rourke responded to border security concerns with "[t]here has never been a terrorist organization or terrorist plot that has successfully entered this country through the southern border."

The pushback from the FBI and other government officials was surprising, especially at a time when there were anti-ISIS investigations in all 50 states.  According to a study from George Washington University's Program on Extremism, "As of the fall of 2015, U.S. authorities speak of some 250 Americans who have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State (ISIS) and 900 active investigations against ISIS sympathizers in all 50 states." 

A recently released report from the Texas Department of Public Safety in collaboration with other law enforcement and homeland security agencies confirms terrorist infiltration across the U.S.-Mexico border.  It cites examples of jihadists who have crossed the border since 2012, including several who have used the opportunity to attempt travel to Syria to join ISIS. 

In "The Sun City Cell," a film produced by Judicial Watch in collaboration with Blaze TV, former military intelligence officer Chris Farrell exposes the fallacy of such denials as he reveals the underbelly of life at the southern border: an extensive narco-terrorist network with ties to cartels, gangs, jihadist groups, law enforcement, and politicians vying for money and power.  Farrell has investigated the region for four years and conducted extensive interviews with law enforcement, government officials, civilians, and even sources with direct contact with cartel members.  He reveals how unpatrolled remote farm roads, unguarded border areas, unsecured private airstrips, and hundreds of sanctuary cities amount to a border-jumper's dream and an open invitation to criminals and terrorists.

Farrell, who currently serves as director of research and investigations for Judicial Watch, explains how the Juarez-El Paso corridor is a secure route for smuggling all kinds of contraband – money, drugs, people, weapons – with the express assistance of corrupt and incompetent government officials on both sides of the border.  He describes how border-crossers can easily acquire new identities replete with fake documents and obtain training in language, culture, reconnaissance, and terrorist tactics.  A symbiotic win-win relationship between the cartels and Islamists offers mutual assistance with counterfeiting expertise, drug-harvesting techniques, smuggling operations, and guerrilla warfare training.

According to Farrell and his informants, Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, the second largest binational metropolitan area on the Mexico-U.S. border, are inextricably linked cartel-run cities.  They inhabit opposite sides of the Rio Grande and are connected by four international ports.  Juarez, situated on the Mexico-U.S. border just south of El Paso with a population of 1.5 million, has been billed as "the world's most violent city."  It is home to over 300 maquiladora manufacturing or export assembly plants employing over 250,000 workers, which means constant cross-border traffic, not all of it legitimate.

In direct contrast, El Paso, a city of 700,000, often referred to as "the safest city in America," is an air, truck, and rail hub for commercial traffic.  Its low crime rates belie the overriding presence and influence of the cartels.  According to informants, the cartels control law enforcement and government officials and won't tolerate any openly unlawful activity by its associates that could disrupt business in what is considered its operational base in the U.S.

According to an El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization report, in 2007, there were close to 23 million crossings by pedestrians, commuters, and commercial trucks between Juarez and El Paso.  With the constant movement of people and goods back and forth, the area presents great opportunities for moving contraband, money, and people across the border.

The extent of the threat is exemplified by thwarted Chicago-area terrorist attacks planned by two wanted senior-level al-Qaeda officers who entered the U.S. from Juarez in 2009.  According to Judicial Watch, Adnan el Shukrijuma, a commercial pilot and explosives expert billed as al-Qaeda's #2 and "the next Mohammed Atta," and Jaber Elbaneh, an associate of the Lackawanna Six terrorist cell that trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, easily entered the U.S. by avoiding established border crossings altogether.  They flew unhindered from Juarez, Mexico to the Cielo Dorado Estates Airport, a private airfield eight miles across the border, a short distance from El Paso, Texas.  

Once in El Paso, the pair met with Emad Karakrah, an ISIS operative and transportation and logistics expert involved in smuggling operations for the cartel, and Hector Pedroza Huerta, his longtime associate and an illegal alien with multiple arrests for intoxicated driving, to identify potential terrorist targets inside the United States.  Together, they planned to attack Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios and the Sears Tower in Chicago. 

After renting a U-Haul trailer and purchasing a step van, they acquired Tannerite, a binary explosive, legal for purchase in all 50 states and used for exploding targets in firearms practice, and C-4, a malleable plastic explosive used by the U.S. Armed Forces and acquired through access to Fort Bliss in El Paso.  Karakrah and Huerta then drove to Chicago, where they were foiled by law enforcement. 

Curiously, at the time of Karakrah's and Huerta's apprehension, the FBI did not publicize the thwarted attack or release any pertinent information.  The perpetrators were remanded to county jails on lesser charges and soon released.  Requests for information from the FBI and the Department of Justice went unanswered.  It wasn't until five years later that news of the foiled attack was revealed, when two unrelated arrests brought the situation to light.

On August 28, 2014, Karakrah was arrested in Chicago after leading the police on a high-speed chase while flying an ISIS flag out of the window of his car.  When officers attempted to inspect his vehicle, he threatened to detonate an explosive device.  A few weeks earlier, Huerta, his partner in crime, was arrested in El Paso for a third DWI.

After their arrests, it was revealed that both men, alleged smugglers of drugs and weapons, had partnered in a plan to commit the Chicago bombings at the behest of two of the FBI's "most wanted" terrorists: Jaber Elbaneh and Adnan el Shukrijuma.  Curiously, neither Karakrah nor Huerta faced federal charges for their respective roles in the failed plots.  Remarkably, both men were released from custody in 2015 on plea deals, and their current whereabouts are unknown.  

Surprisingly, the attempted bombing received little media attention.  Instead of arresting Karakrah in 2009, the FBI enlisted him as a confidential informant.  It is speculated that no federal action may have been taken for political reasons, either to maintain Obama's charade that al-Qaeda had been defeated and that "ISIS is a J.V. team" or to avoid the embarrassment of revealing that people implicated in attacks were cooperating with the government. 

In December 2014, Shukrajumah, who had left the country to avoid capture and questioning, was killed by the Pakistan Army.  Possibly, as a top al-Qaeda leader and coordinator of terrorist operations wanted by the U.S. government, he represented too great a risk to future al-Qaeda operations.
Clearly, every part of the country is affected by the growing threat posed by cartels, terrorist networks, and criminals who traffic in drugs, humans, weapons, and money.  This bad situation deteriorated further under Barack Obama's lax border and immigration policies and his mandate to reduce the presence and authority of law enforcement and border and customs agencies.

The Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. reported that under the Obama administration, the number of illegal aliens selected for deportation from the United States declined 34% between FY2011 and FY2013, and criminal arrests declined by 11% from FY2012 to FY2013.  In 2012, Obama closed nine border stations: six in Texas and one each in California, Montana, and Idaho.

Fortunately, the days of Mexican drug cartels and terrorists being able to operate with impunity on both sides of the border may be over.  In October 2016, presidential candidate Trump said, "I have a message for the drug dealers, for the gang members and the criminal cartels: your days are numbered." 

Hopefully, President Trump's pledge and his recent executive orders to build a wall on the Mexico-U.S. border, end aid to sanctuary cities, and limit immigration are just the start of efforts to enforce immigration laws, secure the border, and put an end to this grave threat to the homeland.

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The Audacity of Jonathan Chait

A book trumpeting the Obama “legacy” should have been reconsidered in light of November’s electoral repudiation.
February 3, 2017
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Modern liberalism was born without a navel. Progressive forerunners of today’s liberals, such as Woodrow Wilson and the historian Charles Beard, tried to undercut the influence of the Founding Fathers and remake America as an expression of expert knowledge. Long before the Founders were denounced as slavers, Beard tried to show that they were fat cats who used constitutional parchment to advance their own greedy interests.
The appeal to expertise was undercut by the poverty of the Great Society’s attempts to rebuild the inner cities. Left adrift, liberals took to arguing that, as they had long insisted in constitutional matters, America was best guided by its underlying values. But it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that arguments pioneered by Justice William O. Douglas were translated into politics. 
In 1980, Ted Kennedy challenged fellow Democrat and incumbent president Jimmy Carter for his party’s nomination. When CBS journalist Roger Mudd asked Kennedy why he wanted to run, however, the Massachusetts senator was left stammering. JFK’s little brother hemmed and hawed his way out of the nomination. A few years later, the eloquent (if less than effectual) governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, reframed liberalism in terms of its underlying values. 
Cuomo and New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan were Catholics, politicians, and intellectuals. But while Moynihan merely wrote about family breakdown, Cuomo sought to bandage the wounds, blurring the lines between public and private. He spoke of “the family of New York,” as if the intimacy and obligations of private life could be widely extended. If the state embraced the right values, Cuomo asserted, it could repair the devastating wounds inflicted by fatherless families. Feigning naiveté, Cuomo insisted that government with a “soul” had “an obligation to assist those who, for whatever inscrutable reason, have been left out by fate.”
In his 1984 keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, Cuomo electrified the crowd with his eloquence and argument by analogy. He presented the story of his Italian immigrant parents as a way to refine liberalism. The basis of his family’s success was entirely scrutable: they were dedicated to each other, and to hard work. The Cuomos’ ascendance over time was, as Mario saw it, a model for society. When the family came to America, they were briefly on welfare. Of course, as Cuomo told the DNC, we should have “only the government we need, but we must insist on all the government we need.”
After a dozen years in the governor’s mansion, it was hard to discern Cuomo’s accomplishments. The two most commonly cited were the construction of new prisons in the Empire State’s impoverished far northeast and the construction of new restrooms on the New York Thruway. In 2004, 20 years after Cuomo’s famous speech, the young Illinois state senator Barack Obama, who also had no significant accomplishments, employed Cuomo-like rhetorical skills to put himself on the political map with his own keynote convention speech. The Democrats got an earful of one of Obama’s two “virtues”—speechifying and campaigning. But unlike “the Hamlet of the Hudson,” Obama made a dash for the White House.
Jonathan Chait’s argument-cum-hagiography is contained in his book’s title,Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied his Critics and Created a Legacy that Will Prevail. The logic and substance of the book demonstrate that Chait, a New York political columnist and Obama cheerleader, wrote in expectation of a Hillary Clinton presidency that would carry Obama’s “accomplishments” forward. The book’s most pointed sections are directed at the leftists who didn’t succumb to Obama’s postmodernist pirouetting. Chait aims his fire at such liberal “heavyweights” as Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, and Keith Olbermann, who occasionally forgot to join the echo chamber. But as a candidate, Clinton had a hard time specifying Obama’s achievements while campaigning in effect for his third term.
Chait attributes Obama’s failures to Republicans, who, he says, produced a paralyzing polarization. When he can’t lay blame on the GOP, he attributes Obama’s failures to structural trends beyond any president’s repair. The honorable path for Chait would have been to rethink his argument in light of Clinton’s defeat. After all, Donald Trump’s victory was a repudiation of the Obama legacy of slow economic growth, heightened racial tensions, and global instability. Had Chait taken the time to recast his thesis in light of Clinton’s electoral embarrassment, he might have noticed that Obama’s farewell address—the lengthiest in history—was short on deeds but long on references to himself. A fitting valedictory, the speech contained 79 references to “I” or to “me.” 
Chait’s rush to publish has the virtue of demonstrating the journalistic “audacity” that allowed failure to be repackaged as success. Obama’s great achievement was that, like Cuomo, he was able to make hard-edged, partisan politics seem moderate. Few will bother to read Chait’s book. Those who do will get a good look at the collapse of American journalism and how it enabled the Obama presidency, even as it undermined the nation.

Prosecute the Rioters

And make sure that we condemn them as well.

By Andrew C. McCarthy — February 4, 2017
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UC Berkely (Ben Margot/AP)

From time to time over the years, the eminent historian Daniel Pipes has lamented that treason, not just as a crime but as a concept, appears defunct in the West. The question of bringing treason charges against jihadists has been raised from time to time. Often its very asking proves Dr. Pipes’ point: Most radical Islamic terrorists are not American citizens; as to them, treason is not a cognizable offense because traitorous conduct is central to the crime.

Even against American jihadists, a treason charge is of dubious usefulness. The 1996 overhaul of federal counterterrorism law codified crimes tailored to terrorism that are easier to prove than treason. The aim of an indictment in a national-security case should be the surest route to the severest sentence. The point is not to teach a civics lesson, regrettable as our education system’s default has been in that regard.

Yet what is true of treason is not true of sedition. There are charges to bring against those who would destroy our society. They should be brought. Case in point: the University of California at Berkeley.

As our National Review editorial observed in the aftermath of this week’s Berkeley rioting, “there is within the American Left an increasingly active element that is not only deeply illiberal — fundamentally opposed to free speech — but also openly violent.”

I’d further contend that the problem is not confined to this increasingly active element, the Left’s “progressives in a hurry.” Whether it is Berkeley or Benghazi, it is standard operating procedure among the most influential, most allegedly mainstream Democratic politicians to rationalize rioting as mere “protest.” In their alternative reality, violence in the name of sedition is “free speech” — a passionate expression of political dissent — while the actual political speech they so savagely suppress is the atrocity.

There is no mystery about how we got to this dark place. Violent rampaging was the coming-of-age rite of the New Left. That would be the Sixties Left that eventually won the battle for control of the Democratic party and, in its extremism, has estranged that party from its traditional working-class base, and thus from much of the country. The New Left rioted against racism, capitalism, colonialism, and the Vietnam War. They gleefully announced their hatred for AmeriKKKa. They bombed and killed. And in large measure, they got away with it. In fact, they got rewarded for it.

One of the worst legacies of those Days of Rage was the failure of will to prosecute violent leaders of the radical Left to the full extent of the law — particularly the likes of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, Weather Underground terrorists who got a complete pass. In its madness, the nation drew a moral equivalence between anti-American terrorism and the excesses of American government agents who pursued the terrorists, as if warrantless searches and spying, however concededly outrageous, were comparable to plots and attempts to commit mass murder. The government did not want the depths of its misconduct explored, so charges were dropped in some cases and pled away for a song in others — denying an exploration of the depths of the terrorists’ depravity.

“Guilty as sin, free as a bird,” crowed Ayers, waxing nostalgic on the eve of the 9/11 attacks.
It is worse than that, though, much worse. Ayers is not just free; he has been lionized — laundered into a respectable academic. It was a comfy fit for him and many of his confederates, once it dawned on them that indoctrination inside the schoolhouse was more effective than blowing up the schoolhouse.

The plaudits, moreover, have rained down from the government as much as they’ve pushed up from the campus.

It was famously in the Chicago living room of Ayers and Dohrn that their fellow “community organizer” Barack Obama made his political debut. Soon the radical leftists who actually had been prosecuted were being sprung from prison by President Bill Clinton with the help of his trusty deputy attorney general, Eric Holder — himself a onetime student radical, having participated in the occupation of an ROTC headquarters at Columbia University in 1970. First Clinton commuted the sentences of FALN terrorists. Then, in an infamous pardon spree on his last day in office, he released two Weather Underground confederates of Ayers and Dohrn.

Obama’s fondness for the radical Left was a hallmark of his administration, from its early dismissal of a civil-rights case against New Black Panther Party members who had menaced voters in Philadelphia through its outreach to Hugo Chávez, the mullahs of Tehran, and the Castro brothers, as well as its overt sympathies for anti-police rabble-rousers, and finally to its last-minute release of an unrepentant FALN leader.

The prevailing attitude was best expressed in the spring of 2015, when Baltimore police were directed to stand down as rioters looted and torched sections of the city after Freddie Gray, a lawfully arrested black man with a criminal record, died in police custody — as a result of injuries primarily caused by his own wild misbehavior. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told the assembled press, “We also gave those who wish to destroy space to do that.” As if cracking down on arson, assault, and theft would have suppressed the right to peaceful protest.

Last summer, when Democrats gathered in Philadelphia to nominate Hillary Clinton for president, it was Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake whom they chose to chair their convention.
The message could not be clearer: For the political Left in this country, violence in the pursuit of “social justice” is not to be condemned, it is to be understood. There is the occasional winking rebuke of the forcible methods, but the underlying “progressive” cause is always endorsed, and the seditionist vanguard is the object of adulation.

It is a huge problem in our country.

What is being championed is not dissent. It is the destruction of the right to dissent. It is the suspension of the rule of law, without which a free society protective of life, liberty, and property is impossible.

During the Civil War, Congress enacted the first seditious-conspiracy law. Aimed at rioting and other aggression by Confederate sympathizers, it criminalizes plots to levy war against the United States, or to oppose by force the government and its execution of the laws. It has been on the books ever since, though rarely invoked. (It was used against the FALN in the late Seventies, and I used it in 1993 to prosecute terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center and conspired to bomb other New York City landmarks.) It is similarly a felony to advocate the destruction of the federal or state governments and their subdivisions.

More pointedly, there is a sweeping federal anti-riot law, making it a crime to incite, organize, promote, participate in, or aid and abet a riot. In addition, the federal civil-rights laws make it a crime to conspire to “injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate” people “in the free exercise or enjoyment” of their constitutional rights — including, obviously, the right to free speech. These laws further criminalize forcible acts and threats that interfere with people’s lawful enjoyment of any federally subsidized activity (note that the government provides lavish funding to universities). They outlaw interference with the conduct of commercial business during a riot or other civil disorder.

For too long, our elites have portrayed transgressive behavior (very much including its allegedly artistic expression) as virtue. The constant undercurrent is that our country, our principles, and our norms are not worth having — much less admiring or defending. We are perversely taught to loathe ourselves, and thus to excuse and even revere those who raise the loathing into intimidation, aggression, and violence. Much of this phenomenon is cultural, which means government cannot fix it. But government is duty-bound to uphold the rule of law, and thus to ensure that our problems can be addressed peacefully.

Sedition and its related pathologies must be prosecuted. Equally important, they must be condemned. Without that, there cannot be a pluralistic, flourishing society.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The First Firestorm

Pat Buchanan
January 31, 2017

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Demonstrators outside the US Capitol in protest of Donald Trump's immigration policies on Jan. 29, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Chet Strange, AFP/Getty Images)
That hysterical reaction to the travel ban announced Friday is a portent of what is to come if President Donald Trump carries out the mandate given to him by those who elected him.
The travel ban bars refugees for 120 days. From Syria, refugees are banned indefinitely. And a 90-day ban has been imposed on travel here from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.
Was that weekend-long primal scream really justified?
As of Monday, no one was being detained at a U.S. airport.
Yet the shrieking had not stopped. All five stories on page one of Monday’sWashington Post were about the abomination. The New York Times‘ editorial, “Trashing American Ideals and Security,” called it bigoted, cowardly, xenophobic, Islamophobic, un-American, unrighteous.
This ban, went the weekend wail, is the “Muslim ban” of the Trump campaign. But how so, when not one of the six largest Muslim countries—Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey—was on the list? Missing also were three dozen other Muslim countries.
Of the seven countries facing a 90-day ban, three are U.S.-designated state sponsors of terror, and the other four are war zones. Clearly, this is about homeland security, not religious discrimination.
The criterion for being included in the travel ban appears to be that these places are the more likely breeding grounds for terrorists.
Yet there are lessons for the Trump White House in the media-stoked panic and outrage at the end of his first week in office.
First, Steve Bannon’s observation that the media are “the opposition party” is obviously on target. While Sen. Chuck Schumer was crying on camera that the ban was “un-American,” the media were into the more serious business of stampeding and driving the protesters.
A second lesson is one every White House learns. Before a major decision is announced, if possible, get everyone’s input and everyone on board to provide what Pat Moynihan called the “second and third echelons of advocacy.” Those left out tend to leak.
A third lesson Trump should learn is that the establishment he routed and the city he humiliated are out to break him as they broke LBJ on Vietnam, Nixon on Watergate, and almost broke Reagan on the Iran-Contra affair.
While the establishment may no longer be capable of inspiring and leading the nation, so detested is it, it has not lost its appetite or its ability to break and bring down presidents.
And Trump is vulnerable, not only because he is an envied outsider who seized the highest prize politics has on offer, but because his agenda would cancel out that of the elites.
They believe in open borders, free trade, globalization. Trump believes in securing the Southern border, bringing U.S. industry home, economic nationalism, “America First.”
They want endless immigration from the Third World to remake America into the polyglot “universal nation” of Ben Wattenberg’s utopian vision. Trump’s followers want back the America they knew.
Our foreign-policy elites see democratization as a vocation and an autocratic Russia as an implacable enemy. Trump instead sees Moscow as a potential ally against real enemies like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
There is another reason for the reflexive howl at Trump’s travel ban. The establishment views it, probably correctly, as the first move toward a new immigration policy, built on pre-1965 foundations and rooted in a preference for Western-Christian immigrants first.
When the Times rages that “American ideals” or “traditional American values” are under attack by Trump, what they really mean is that their ideology and agenda are threatened by Trump.
We are headed for a series of collisions and crises, and what has happened in Europe will likely happen here. As the Third World invasion and growing Islamization of the Old Continent—which the EU has proven unable to stop—has discredited centrist parties and continuously fed a populist-nationalist uprising there, so may it here also.
And Trump not only appears to have no desire to yield to his enemies in politics and the media, he has no choice, as he is now the personification of a surging Middle American counterrevolution.
Undeniably, there are great numbers of Americans who agree with the libels theTimes showered on Trump and, by extension, his backers whom Hillary Clinton designated “the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic … deplorables.”
But by whatever slurs they are called, Middle Americans seem prepared to fight. And history shows that such people do not calmly accept the loss of what is most precious to them—the country they grew up in, the country they love.
They have turned to Trump to lead them. Why should he not, having been raised up by them, and knowing in his own heart what the establishment and the media think of him and would do to him?
Ten days in, and already it is “Game On!”

Hillbilly Energy

J.D. Vance and the forces that elected Trump

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In retrospect, that interview in the summer was a seismic warning of the election earthquake to come in the fall.
In late June last year, Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance’s memoir of his tumultuous childhood lived on the border between Appalachia and the Rust Belt, appeared in bookstores, attracting little notice. A month later, an interview Vance did about the book with The American Conservative went viral, melting down this magazine’s internet server three times and propelling the book to the No. 1 slot on the New York Times bestseller list.
Vance, 31, became an overnight media star, the go-to guy to explain Donald J. Trump’s appeal to the white working class. As a Yale Law School graduate now working in finance in San Francisco, Vance straddled the sharp cultural and experiential divide between deepest Blue and deepest Red America. Given Trump’s stunning victory, and the fact that the Rust Belt delivered the win, Hillbilly Elegy was undoubtedly the most important political book of 2016. 
What does the accidental hillbilly prophet see in Trump Nation’s future? Vance forecasts a great deal of instability ahead with challenges that he is not sure either party is capable of meeting. Come what may, though, the Hillbilly Elegy experience convinced its author that he has a calling to leave the world of high finance to take a hands-on role in helping to solve the social crisis his bestselling book so powerfully describes.
Though a Republican, Vance was not a Trump supporter. Throughout the election season, he made it clear in interviews that he believed Trump to be a false messiah bound to break the hearts of his supporters.
Nevertheless, the Trump phenomenon was an apocalypse in the strict sense of the word—that is, an unveiling that revealed some startling truths about economic class and culture in America. In the aftermath of this historical election, Vance says the vote showed most of all how staggeringly out of touch elites—both liberals and conservatives—are with an enormous number of their fellow Americans.
“They couldn’t imagine that anyone would vote for Trump, couldn’t imagine that a person might not even love Trump but would vote for him anyway,” says Vance. “Something analogous happened with the book. So many readers have told me that they had no idea that people grew up like I did. They didn’t understand where so many of us came from, so they didn’t understand Trump.”
As the national media’s premier explainer of the Trump phenomenon, Vance says journalists searching themselves to see how they got so much wrong should get out of their coastal bubbles, choked with the acrid, blinding smoke of confirmation bias, and spend serious, sustained time among ordinary Americans—both those who voted for Trump, and those who hate him.
After all, identity is a complicated, many-layered thing. Hispanic voters were expected to despise Trump and turn out in record numbers to vote for Hillary Clinton. In the end, exit polling showed that Trump won 29 percent of the Hispanic vote. One working-class Hispanic immigrant told me after the election that it shouldn’t surprise me that so many Americans like him share Trump’s view that immigration ought to be lawful and orderly.
“It’s remarkable how diverse even the most devotedly pro-Trump areas like my hometown can be,” says Vance, a native of Middletown, Ohio. “And the only way to really understand people is to spend time. Journalists have to get back to the qualitative side of things. Too many people are willing to draw very sweeping conclusions by parsing data and discussing the quantitative side of the equation. Anyone who really knew these areas would have appreciated that Trump had a very high floor.”
Even so, Vance was as surprised as anybody else that Trump won. He underestimated his own observations about the potent anger of alienated white working class voters, and the ability of Trump to channel it into a win. He was in New York City on election night, making the rounds of network interviews. In the ABC News studio, it finally hit him that Trump was really going to win.
“I mostly felt humbled: I should have seen this coming before anyone,” he confesses. “In the week leading up to the election, I had focused too much on the data component of the election—the polls and the forecasts—and not enough on the real people who were powering Trump’s success.”
Though Vance had resigned himself to the inevitability of a Clinton presidency, he’s not particularly happy that Trump will occupy the White House for the next four years. Sure, he’s pleased that “all the good people who voted for him even though the media told them he didn’t have a chance” have been vindicated, but Vance foresees years of volatility ahead for the nation. The Trumpified GOP cannot take the Rust Belt for granted, he says.
“My guess is that the white working class is going to continue swinging between two political poles until something really begins to improve,” says Vance. “That doesn’t mean people want to see overnight economic turnarounds.  But they do want some of these problems—the opioid crisis, stagnating wages, low social mobility, foreign policy failures—to show consistent signs of improvement.”
That makes sense. However, one of the things that made Hillbilly Elegy such a compelling read was Vance’s unsentimental insistence that politics and public policy cannot solve all the problems that have immiserated the white working class.
In the book, Vance said that as a younger man, he “very desperately” wanted to believe that an abundance of good jobs would fix what was broken in the Rust Belt. Experience taught him otherwise. In the summer between completing his Marine Corps service and enrolling in law school, he took a job working in a floor-tile distribution business. It was hard physical labor, but the pay and benefits were good.
Even so, the warehouse had trouble keeping workers. Far too many young men in Vance’s hometown are averse to hard work, and quick to see themselves as society’s victims. Vance wrote that he comes from “a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”
Does Vance believe, then, that the white working class has the cultural wherewithal to bootstrap itself out of the mire? It’s not an either-or question, he says. Politics can’t solve these problems, but it can create the conditions that allow people and their local institutions to solve them.
“We need a better leadership class to set the tone for the discussion,” Vance tellsTAC. “The most depressing part of the 2016 election is that the candidates often failed to show any cultural leadership: any recognition that the world of public policy was important but hardly the only good and necessary part of our shared society.  They don’t talk about the church, about local community organizations, about businesses as anything more than providers of jobs.
“We’re very good at talking about the individual in American politics, and excellent at talking about the government,” he continues. “But we have little ability to even acknowledge everything that exists in the middle, and given how influential politics is on every other part of our life, I think that failure of discourse is pretty corrosive to our overall culture.”
The stakes are very high now. Vance expects the Rust Belt working-class vote to be up for grabs for the next few political cycles, with struggling blue-collar voters siding with whichever candidate, Republican or Democrat, promises the greatest change. This is a prescription for instability.
“We could see the emergence of someone from the Left, a Bernie Sanders-type figure who captures the populist rage of the moment,” says Vance. “It could be someone else from the Right.  It could be a relatively innocuous figure—or it could be someone really dangerous.”
Whatever becomes of the new administration, there will be no return to the pre-Trump status quo for the GOP. This is no bad thing, argues Vance, who was only three years old when Ronald Reagan left office. There were as many years between Reagan’s 1980 election and Trump’s 2016 victory as there were between the waning months of World War II and Reagan’s win. It was time for something new politically, something more relevant, a Republican politics that prioritizes Main Street over Wall Street. Vance gets that, though he does worry that classical conservative principles could be lost in the stampede toward populism now remaking the Republican Party.
“I like Yuval Levin’s framing that conservatism’s modern approach must contain an element of nationalism,” he says. “At its core, conservatism should recognize the excesses of a given political moment, and the excesses of the past 20 years trended toward finance-centric globalism: too little concern for the communal and the local in our politics, a failure to recognize that the finance-centered American economy produced decent growth (until recently) but very little real wage growth, a preoccupation with consumption rather than dignified, stable work. The new conservatism has to incorporate within it a significant degree of economic nationalism.”
Given his class background, sympathies, and convictions, Vance is uniquely positioned to be the face of the next generation of American conservatives. He came from a broken family within a hardscrabble culture populated by what Donald Trump has described as the “forgotten people.” Thanks to his late grandmother and the United States Marine Corps, he was able to work his way from the “hollers’’ of Appalachia, so to speak, to the pinnacle of the American elite. This year, Vance has used that access and the platform it gives him to explain, and advocate for, the forgotten people.
Now, though, speaking from his present home in San Francisco, Vance has a message for Red America: as depressing as the post-election liberal meltdown has been, don’t write off the Blues and their fears.
“If it’s hard for Blue America to see Red America as anything other than a bunch of dumb, racist rednecks, it’s hard for Red America to recognize that many minorities are legitimately worried about what a Trump presidency means for their family,” he says. “You can believe that many of the election protesters are hysterical and irrational while also accepting that many of your fellow citizens have legitimate concerns with a Trump presidency.”
Consider, says Vance, how unfair and inaccurate it is for the left to call all 60 million Trump voters racist. By the same token, he says, “Republicans have got to show a little compassion” to Clinton voters anxious about their future.
“It sounds trite, but compassion and empathy are remarkable weapons against the hysteria of the moment,” he says. “Republicans have won the right to govern, but if Trump approaches that task with a little bit of humility and graciousness, I think it would have a remarkably positive effect on our political conversation.”
In fact, the hillbilly millennial who has been living off and on as a resident alien in Blue America for the past six years says Red America ought to have the grace and humility to learn from Blue successes.
“The truth is that on some of the things that matter most to us—like the marriage rate, for instance—parts of Blue America do better than Red America,” Vance points out. “Some of these people are beating us at our own damned game. That should worry us, but also give us reason to think that we can learn some things from those coastal elitists.”
Though he is doing very well professionally working at Mithril Capital, the venture-capital firm co-founded by tech billionaire and Trump backer Peter Thiel, Vance cannot resist the tug of home. He and his wife Usha are planning to move to Ohio next year.
In Hillbilly Elegy, Vance writes that he “was one of those kids with a grim future. I almost failed out of high school. I nearly gave in to the deep anger and resentment harbored by everyone around me. … Whatever talents I have, I almost squandered until a handful of loving people rescued me.”
Now, Vance wants to be someone like that for other struggling Rust Belt kids. His book’s success filled Vance with a sense of gratitude and mission. As detailed in Hillbilly Elegy, loyalty is both a signature virtue and vice of the Scots-Irish Appalachians from whom he is descended. Vance can’t shake the sense that he owes it to his people to go back home and do what he can to help.
The fresh-faced, Yale-educated hillbilly lawyer is the second most unlikely political star to emerge from this bizarre year. More than a few people have speculated that Vance has a political career ahead of him. For now, J.D. Vance is focused on bringing hope and change to the Rust Belt through the means of civil society.
“The idea of a political career strikes me as a little odd, simply because I think politicians should have at least the prospect of gainful employment outside of government,” he says. “For now, the plan is to move home and try to give back a little. I’m going to start with a little nonprofit that will focus on this dreadful opioid epidemic, and maybe a couple of other issues.”
It’s a modest start, perhaps, but the man who wrote a lament for the fall of his people and their culture is determined to write the story of their rebirth and rise—even if, this time, he doesn’t use words.
Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today's Tune: The Head And The Heart - Colors (Live)


A riveting new book tells his disturbing story.

January 31, 2017

Image result for gosnell serial killer

Masked by innocuous language like “pro-choice” and “reproductive care,” and protected by a media conspiracy of silence, the grim reality of abortion rarely surfaces in our cultural awareness, as it did with the recent undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s moral vacuum. But a new book about the chilling crimes of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, America’s most prolific serial killer, highlights that ugly reality in an even more horrifying but compelling fashion.
Part true-crime investigation, part social commentary, part courtroom drama, and part journey into the banality of evil,Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer was written by investigative journalists and filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, well-known for their controversial documentaries FrackNation andNot Evil Just Wrong, as well as a play called Ferguson drawn entirely from testimony about the shooting of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson. The husband-and-wife team have also miraculously crowdfunded a feature film based on the Gosnell story (it raised more money than any film project in Indiegogo history), directed by conservative actor and Twitter gadfly Nick Searcy (Justified), with the screenplay written by novelist and political commentator Andrew Klavan.
McElhinney begins the book with a confession that she had “never trusted or liked pro-life activists”; she resented the “emotional manipulation” of their demonstrations – until she began researching the Gosnell story, a process so “brutal” that at times she wept and prayed at her computer, not only over Gosnell’s evil but over “the reality of abortion” even when it’s performed properly and legally. Writing the book changed her dramatically, and it’s not an overstatement to say that reading this book will have the same effect on many readers as well.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell might still be butchering babies today if it weren’t for the dedication of a Philadelphia narcotics investigator named Jim Wood who followed up a lead about Gosnell’s lucrative illegal prescription scheme. The lead led to a raid on Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society abortion clinic in February, 2010, where investigators discovered shockingly unsanitary conditions and incompetent, untrained assistants, as well as improperly medicated post-abortion patients sleeping or sitting together under bloodstained blankets, a few in need of hospitalization. The procedure room was even filthier. Fetal remains were found throughout, in empty water and milk jugs, cat food containers, and orange juice bottles with the necks cut off. One cupboard held five jars containing baby feet, which Gosnell apparently severed and kept for his own amusement.
Unfazed by the presence of the FBI, Dr. Gosnell proceeded to perform an abortion in the middle of the raid. When he was done, Gosnell sat down with the investigators and ate dinner while still wearing torn, bloody surgical gloves (his staff later reported that Gosnell normally ate during his abortions). He pointed out one of the cats that roamed the clinic, which reeked of cat urine, and casually said it had killed 200 mice there. The only time his cool, casual demeanor slipped was when he realized that the staff were telling detectives about his habit of manipulating ultrasound readings to falsify fetal ages, in order to perform late-term abortions well after the state’s legal limit. Detectives also would later learn that Gosnell’s practices included killing babies that were born alive by plunging scissors into the backs of their necks and snipping the spinal cords.
A grand jury was convened, and its final report chronicled how America’s biggest serial killer got away with murder for more than thirty years. The grand jury pointed the finger of culpability not only at Gosnell and his wife who assisted him, but at his staff and officials in numerous state government agencies all the way up to the governor. “The report is a scathing rebuke,” McElhinney writes, “of the scores of bureaucratic automatons and pathetic paper pushers who failed to do their jobs.”
Despite a long history of complaints and even suspicious deaths, official incompetence and neglect from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Department of State, Department of Public Health, State Board of Medicine, and more official entities meant that Gosnell never suffered any consequences for decades of criminal malpractice – while the victims kept piling up.
“[T]he Planned Parenthood people and the [pro-choice] community would tell you that everybody knew about him,” said Assistant D.A. Christine Wechsler. But when “he got arrested, and we were investigating, no one wanted to unearth it. It was very taboo.” It was taboo because, as the authors write, “[m]edical professionals didn’t want to contribute to any official proceeding that might shine a negative light on abortion… It seems the medical establishment cared more about the principle of unfettered access to abortion than the safety of real-life women.” Even the grand jury judge worried that the report would become fodder for anti-abortion activists.
In the end, Gosnell faced 258 charges including seven counts of first-degree murder for babies whose spines he snipped; third-degree murder in the death of a patient who died post-abortion; conspiracy to commit murder in “hundreds of unidentifiable instances” of killing babies born alive; two counts of infanticide for failure to resuscitate born-alive infants that could have survived, and much more. But for the statute of limitations on infanticide, and Gosnell’s thorough destruction of evidence (not to mention the state officials who didn’t want his crimes to spike Philadelphia’s crime statistics), he could have been charged with hundreds or perhaps even thousands of murder charges. Even so, as he was arrested and handcuffed, the smirking, confident Gosnell merely said, “So this is what happens when you try to help people.”
The authors also examine the motley crew of Gosnell’s incompetent staff, all of whom he selected for their “appalling dysfunction”: addiction, depression, mental illness, childhood abuse, and neglect. They were willing accomplices who carried out Gosnell’s orders without calling him out for his illegal procedures and horrific proclivities.
Despite all the disturbing evidence mustered against him, Gosnell’s trial was no slam dunk. First of all, the jury was very pro-abortion. Second, Gosnell’s masterful defense attorney Jack McMahon ingeniously exploited the hazy line between what Gosnell did and what constitutes normal abortion procedure, which is barbaric enough even when legal. He also planted the seed of doubt about the exact cause of death of the babies his client aborted, and raised the specter of racism over the prosecution’s targeting of a black doctor working in an inner-city clinic.
Nevertheless, Gosnell ultimately was found guilty of capital murder charges, but fearing that a lengthy appeal might mean he wouldn’t live to see his own execution, prosecutors offered him a life sentence if he waived the right to appeal. McMahon convinced his reluctant, egomaniacal client to agree. Gosnell was later hit with an additional thirty-year sentence for the drug dealing part of his practice.
The book closes on a chilling face-to-face prison interview with the creepy Kermit Gosnell conducted by Ann McElhinney. It makes for a riveting coda to an already gripping read.
In addition to the silence of the largely indifferent medical professionals who didn’t want to demonize abortion, the abortion-sympathetic news media also attempted to ignore this shocking story. But new media journalists and thousands of social media users joined forces to bring Gosnell and his charnel house of horrors into the light of day, and finally Kirsten Powers helped give it mainstream attention.
Even so, Gosnell’s bottomless evil is not as well-known as that of more infamous serial killers with household names and far fewer victims to their credit. That is one reason why Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer’s book Gosnell:The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer and their feature film deserve as wide a readership and audience as possible.