Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Syrian refugee resettlement program: shortsighted and dangerous

Americans are sharply divided over the Syrian refugee situation. Compassionate impulses are countered by the need for due caution.

The White House, which thinks any of the Syrian refugees ought to be welcomed with open arms, reported the following last week:
·         -- The United Nations High Commission on Refugees has referred 23,092 refugees to the U.S. Refugees Admission Program.
·         -- The Department of Homeland Security has interviewed 7,014 of them since FY 2011.
·         -- Of that number 2,034 Syrian refugees have been admitted since FY 2011.
·        --  So far, none of the 2,034 Syrian refugees have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges.

This information is intended to show the American people that the vetting process for these refugees works flawlessly, but even some government officials do not hold that view.

The pro-Syrian refugee crowd regards as anti-refugee those who cite reasons for being cautious about bringing refugees to the U.S. They say proponents of caution are engaged in religious stereotyping and scapegoating, and are afraid of women and orphans. Such rhetoric itself is a signal that caution is what the pro-refugee crowd fears most.  

But fallacies abound. While the U.S. is the most compassionate nation on Earth and helps people in trouble all over the world, it has no obligation to take in Syrian refugees. The U.S. didn’t cause the problems from which Syrians want to escape, and therefore it has no guilt to assuage by bringing them here.

Just because a lot of people somewhere experience a major crisis, that is no reason to invite them to come to America. It is a reason to start investigating all of the circumstances about the crisis and the people affected by it. After that, perhaps there will be good reasons to bring some of them here, or perhaps not. What follows are some very good reasons for exercising caution.

** Honduran authorities arrested five Syrians last week with stolen or doctored Greek passports that they said were headed for the U.S. Later, authorities said the five Syrian men were actually college students fleeing the war in their homeland. Note to the “bring refugees to America” crowd: Why would college students use fake passports to enter the U.S., and if they thought of using stolen or doctored passports, might not it be possible for terrorists to do the same?

** No less an authority than FBI Director James Comey has said that our government has no real way to conduct background checks on refugees. “We can only query against that which we have collected. And so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them,” he explained. This is why common sense needs to be applied to this situation.

** A recent U.S. Transportation Security Administration report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General found that 73 aviation workers, employed by airlines and vendors, had alleged links to terrorism. How did they get past the vetting system and get hired?

** The brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three and injuring nearly 300 others, were not refugees, as their family sought political asylum in the U.S in 2002. Through the years the Muslim brothers became more and more hostile to the U.S., and Russia’s FSB warned the FBI about them in 2011, but the FBI found no connections to radical Islam. Yet two years later they set bombs at the Marathon in "retribution for U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq" as one of the brothers wrote in a note. Radicals can hide here, and people who come here as peaceful immigrants can evolve into radicals after they come here.

So, after considering these factors the question then becomes, “what amount of risk to the safety of Americans do the refugee advocates think is acceptable?”

It is certainly appropriate for us to try to help the actual refugees, but we must not expose even one American to a terrorist hiding among the refugees. ISIS has pledged to come here, and it is foolish to believe that terrorists will not use the refugee situation to infiltrate the US, as those students did. We must not ignore the weaknesses in the vetting process for Syrian refugees that some US officials are specifically concerned about.

Most of the refugees don’t speak our language, most or all do not understand our ways, and many things we do in the U.S. are at odds with the tenets of Islam. With such vastly different ideas about life and living, will they really be comfortable in America? And how can we guard against radicalization among some refugees after they come here, as occurred with the Chechen brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon?

There just is simply no good reason to bring them here when we can assist them to settle somewhere that is closer to their homeland, both geographically and culturally. They will be happier, and America will be more secure.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Higher education under attack from within, by disaffected students

College campuses – once the bastion of diverse opinion, a garden where ideas thrived, where contrary viewpoints were freely expressed – are fast becoming cesspools of narrow-mindedness that stifle free speech, where political correctness rules over common sense, where free thinking is discouraged, and they are occupied more and more by students offended because someone expressed a different opinion, didn’t pay proper deference, or wore the “wrong” costume on Halloween.

Student protests are returning to 1960s/70s levels, and arise because some students think that there aren’t enough minority professors on campus while others decry a lack of “social justice,” and some have called for hunger strikes over what they perceive as a lack of support for students of color.

If students don’t like a professor’s point of view, or they detect “microaggressions” in the classroom, they feel led to demand the professor resign or be fired. You are a Hispanic kid and someone wears a sombrero and a poncho on Halloween, it’s time for a protest.

And did you know that the First Amendment makes some college kids feel unsafe? Would you ever have imagined that such an idea could take hold on an American college campus?

The vice president of the Missouri Students Association, Brenda Smith-Lezama, told MSNBC last week, "I personally am tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here." Poor little thing must be terrified listening to rap or watching television or movie drama. And she suffers under the delusion that her comfort is more important than someone else’s.

While these kids have yet to accomplish much, they believe the world must work to calm their fears, perceptions that may be adequate to drive protests and hunger strikes, but their perceptions do not necessarily reflect reality. The concerns expressed by these students are precisely the types of things the liberal attitudes that prevail on campuses today work to eliminate.

Many of the complaints have a racial element, but they really center on hypersensitive feelings about things that have always been normal aspects of life. Suddenly, these normal campus happenings that students – white students, black students, Asian and Hispanic students, female students – have dealt with successfully for decades and with little or no difficulty, are now scary and threatening.

College once was a place where kids learned to think. Today, many of them seem to know only how to feel; emotion rules rationality. Listening to different ideas used to be enlightening, mind-expanding. Now, it makes the kiddies cry for their mommies.

Missing from these children-in-adult-bodies is even the suspicion that not everything revolves around them, that they are not the be-all and end-all of the known universe.

And they also want someone to pay their college loans off for them, because … well, just because.

The process of gaining entry to an institution of higher learning is long established and has worked well for decades. Colleges and universities are places where the qualified my go to advance their education, and most of the onus is on the student to fund their education through parental help, scholarship assistance, student loans, the GI Bill, or good old hard work. And then it is the student’s responsibility to perform as expected academically to complete their degree requirements, and then go out and get a job and become a productive member of society.

That is called “life,” and life is not a smooth ride, most times. But tens of millions of Americans have successfully navigated the sometimes-troubled waters successfully without being coddled and nursed along the way. Conquering challenges and facing adversity head-on build character.

The whining behavior demonstrated on several campuses recently shows a fundamental failure of thousands of young people to have learned the basic rules of life, and have their minds grow up at the same rate as their bodies.

However, bowing to the whims of students is letting the inmates run the asylum. College is a place for learning, or once was. Professors led the learning process, administrators ran the school, and the students worked hard and did what they had to do to master the material at a satisfactory level. If students weren’t happy in a particular environment, or couldn’t hack it, they were free to leave. Or they could simply adapt. If that dynamic isn’t restored very soon, we may as well shut down colleges, because they will no longer provide a benefit.

As bad as this is for higher education, it is much worse for America. A generation or two with millions of young people among them who can’t cope with the simplistic problems of going to college surely won’t be able to be good citizens, to hold down jobs in a productive economy, or staff a strong, able military capable of defending the country, or even make sensible decisions about for whom they will vote. They can hardly be expected to weigh complex arguments rationally, when anything that doesn’t agree with their narrow ideas makes them hide under their beds.

This is what liberalism hath wrought, and it will most likely get worse.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Obama pushing for a new United Nations climate agreement

The United Nations has scheduled a meeting in Paris to discuss climate change, with a new international global warming agreement involving more than 190 countries as its goal. The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, starting November 30 and running to December 11, will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The objective is to create a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, and the Obama administration has submitted a plan for a new deal consisting of national contributions to curb emissions that would alter the 20-year-old Kyoto Protocol distinctions between the obligations of rich and poor nations.

The U.S. plan depends on individual countries enforcing their own emissions reductions, and the countries that agree to the plan would be required to set new targets to lower their carbon emissions after 2020. And rich nations like the U.S. and Japan will be held to the same legal requirements as China, India and other fast-developing nations.

This all sounds wonderful, if you believe in manmade global warming/climate change; one-world government; the US making more reductions before China and India – the really big polluters – do; and the Easter Bunny.

Why would China or India voluntarily reduce their emissions when doing so would stop their development or severely hamper it? And, can the world trust both countries to honestly report their emissions? Just recently, The Guardian published evidence that China has already been deceiving the world on its coal burning carbon emissions, even before this new agreement is finalized.

At a meeting in Bonn last month to discuss a draft agreement a bitter fight developed over the degree to which countries of the world should cut their greenhouse gas emissions, how much time they will have to complete those cuts, and who will pay for the transition.

Some provisions of the draft require the complete decarbonization of the global economy by 2050, and that rich countries like the U.S. get to pay more than $100 billion per year after 2020 to compensate poor countries for supposed climate change damages and help them adopt non-carbon producing energy sources.

The basis for this stepped up attack on fossil fuel use is the old story that human activities cause climate change, and global warming is responsible for so much harm, like Al Gore’s shrinking Arctic ice cap that was supposed to disappear by 2014 (the Arctic still has a large ice cap and the Antarctic cap has grown), rising global temperatures (that haven’t risen since 1998 in the U.S.), too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (which makes plants grow and produce oxygen for us to breathe) and the rest of the more than 700 things attributed to global warming, as compiled by the British-based science watchdog, Number Watch.

California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee and several other Democrats believe that if substantial reductions in CO2 emissions aren’t made soon then droughts and reduced agricultural output may force women to turn to “transactional sex” (once known as “prostitution”) to survive. Seriously.

A consortium of environmental activist organizations released a report titled “Fair Shares” which concludes: “Nothing less than a systemic transformation of our societies and our economies will suffice to solve the climate crisis."

Since President Barack Obama is totally on board with this concept he has already implemented his own “climate action plan.” Thus, the theory goes, the U.S. would not need congressional approval to implement the U.N. agreement, since it’s already being done through executive orders. 

Which, of course, means that Obama intends to ignore the constitutional role of Congress. Again.

“So this is just the latest example of President Obama’s contempt for obeying the Constitution and our laws,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center of Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “In the past, rulers who act as if the law does not apply to them were called tyrants,” he noted.

The U.S. Constitution says that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate” to make treaties with other countries. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol had to be ratified by Congress, but it never was, even though the Clinton administration signed onto it. This agreement, too, is a treaty, and it requires Senate approval.

“CEI has warned for several years that the Obama Administration would follow advice from environmental pressure groups and try to sign a new U.N. agreement that ignores the Senate’s constitutional role,” Ebell said.

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee called the plan ambitious and cynical because it “is an attempt to enshrine in an international agreement President Obama’s unilateral environmental regulatory regime, which remains deeply unpopular among the American people.”

Opponents also point out that this agreement will not take effect until after Obama leaves office, so he won’t have to deal with the damage it causes. However, if it does not receive ratification by the Senate making it a treaty, it is only an agreement, and therefore can easily be cancelled by the new president.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Republicans face problems in debates and the House of Representatives

Say what you will about the way CNBC conducted the Republican debate, the business side of NBC News did something that neither Fox News nor CNN were able to do.

All three had similarities, like gotcha questions and efforts to pit one candidate against another, elements that obstructed a discussion of the serious issues of electing a nominee for President of the United States, rather than assisting voters in making an informed decision. To the extent that real issues arose, the combative atmosphere moderators created in all three debates got in the way.

In sharp contrast to the mood in Republican debates was the Democrat debate on CNN, which also failed to reveal important information about the candidates, but approached not doing so by giving hugs and kisses to the candidates.

CNBC was both over the top and under the table. The three moderators were clearly not up to conducting a meaningful debate, not even on business and economic issues, and the muddle that resulted drew almost universal criticism. Moderators were poorly prepared, partisan, thought they were the stars of the show, were argumentative and often interrupted the candidates. While so many TV news people seem infected with the idea that being quarrelsome is cool, CNBC took that to a new level. You can challenge candidates on issues and answers, and still be civil.

However, as horrible as it was, CNBC did succeed in uniting the candidates for the first time since the campaign began, if only against CNBC’s amateurish approach, and the revolt that followed did produce a little discussion of important issues.

The 2016 debate series should be a valuable element in the process of selecting presidential candidates. Along with public and media appearances, the debates are opportunities for voters to hear candidates discuss their platforms and they are the only vehicle where the pros and cons of the various positions are aired in a way that voters have the opportunity to evaluate them side-by-side. 

So far they all have been disappointing, in terms of illuminating the candidate’s views, but CNBC wins the brown ribbon for the absolute worst. In place of questions on substantive issues, the moderators worked hard to trap and demean the Republican participants, which is very different from challenging them on issues.

Unfortunately, our campaign process identifies the best candidate, not necessarily the person best suited to be president. So much is based on appearance and performance, rather than candidates’ understanding of the country’s problems and sensible ideas for addressing them. A track record of success takes a back seat to image, charm and glibness.

And Republicans have the additional obstacle posed by the liberals in the media, who often misunderstand and not infrequently deliberately mischaracterize their objectives, and tell the world how awful they are.

Granted that the GOP is sharply divided, unlike the Democrat Party that pretty much possesses no diversity of thought. But the left portrays this Republican diversity as a weakness, which is interesting, since the left considers diversity one of the most important things in life.

It suits the purposes of the left to mischaracterize and demonize the House Freedom Caucus, the Tea Party groups and other elements of the right, and there are plenty of media sources indulging in that activity.

Some, commenting on Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan’s election as House Speaker, wonder how he will possibly be able to manage such an unruly group. The liberal writers characterize the conservative Republican bloc with terms such as “right-wing fringe” and “radicals.”

The liberal writers are happy to offer guidance to conservatives, such as that if their subgroup wants to set policy for its party, all it needs is to have a majority of the party’s support. And if it doesn’t have a majority, it should meekly abandon its position and support the position of the majority.

And that no doubt would please liberals and Democrats, and many Republicans. However, millions of Republican voters recognize that this approach is largely why things are worse today than when the GOP gained control of the Congress, and why the Republican Congress has been so ineffective at representing their views.

These conservative House members were elected not to offer their ideas and then surrender, they were elected to fight for their supporter’s beliefs in the traditional conservative values that built the country, and to stick by them. Isn’t that what republican government is all about?

The liberals advise that when voters have put one party in charge of the executive branch and another party in charge of the legislative branch, as is the case today, compromise is demanded to move the country forward.

However, compromise does not mean surrender, as many of these “advisors” suggest. One does not oppose a bill with multiple objectionable elements, and then “compromise” by accepting the whole package when others resist changes. The two sides identify those elements they agree on, take the rest out of the legislation, and move the compromise measure forward.

Compromise means that everyone gives up something, not just the conservative Republicans. It is sad – even dangerous – that so many Republicans do not understand this.