COMMON SENSE HAS MOVED TO “THE UNITED STATES OF COMMON SENSE”

Check out “The United States of Common Sense” in “AND Magazine” for future postings.

 

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PUTTING OUT THE WELCOME MAT FOR TERRORISTS

Recently the Majority staff of the Committee on Homeland Security issued a report on the results of an investigation in the threat posed to the United States by the radical Islamic terrorist group, Al Shabaab, which is allied with Al Qaida.  The report focused in particular on the efforts of the group to recruit Americans and the possibility that the group would be able to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States.

The findings detailed in the report were highly disturbing.  The Committee staff concluded that there was a significant and growing danger of American Al Shabaab fighters returning to the U.S. to launch strikes or helping Al Qaeda and its affiliates attack the homeland.   In support of this conclusion, the Committee noted:

–                   Al Shabaab has an active recruitment and radicalization network inside the U.S. targeting Muslim-Americans in Somali communities.

–                   At least 40 or more Americans have joined Shabaab.

–                   So many Americans have joined that at least 15 of them have been killed fighting with Shabaab.

–                   At least 21 American Shabaab members overseas remain unaccounted for and pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland.

–                   Shabaab has the intent and capability to conduct attacks or aid Al Qaeda in attacks on the U.S. homeland.

For an illustration of the dangers posed by Al Shabaab one look no further than Sweden where police a week ago arrested four men with suspected ties to Al Shabaab for preparing to carry out an attack using firearms and explosive devices.  It appears the four were likely targeting Lars Vilks,  a Swedish artist, who has received death threats from Al Shabaab for depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a dog.  Vilks was apparently scheduled to attend an art fair in Gothenberg, Sweden’s second largest city, when the arrests occurred.  At the same time the arrests took place, Swedish authorities evacuated hundreds of people from the building hosting the art fair “after concluding that there was a threat that could endanger lives or health or cause serious damage,”.  Police then searched the building, breaking open several lockers.

Given all this you might assume that our homeland security apparatus would be taking a particularly hard look at any Somalis attempting to enter the country and doing everything possible to keep Al Shabaab operatives from making it to our shores.

You would be wrong.  Despite the growing danger of an attack inside the United States by Somalis affiliated with Al Shabaab, our immigration policy continues to be one of effectively allowing any Somali who can make it to the US border to enter the country and to remain here indefinitely,  unsupervised.

Every week Somalis, having completed a lengthy trip across Africa and Central America, arrive at the U.S. port of entry in San Diego and request asylum.  They claim that they are refugees from the fighting in Somalia.  Typically, they have little to no documentation to support their claims or to identify themselves.  In almost all cases, we have no information of any kind in any database to substantiate who they are or any element of their stories.

It does not matter.  The individuals are admitted into the United States and held at taxpayer expense pending a determination regarding the legitimacy of their claims.  Most are actually held for no more than a couple of months.  They are then released into the United States pending the scheduling of hearings in their cases.  While on release there is effectively no control on their activities and no real effort to control where they go.

But, here’s the real kicker.  When a hearing finally takes place and a determination is made regarding the individual’s claim for asylum, even if that claim is denied, the individual is still not deported.  We have suspended deportations of Somalis back to Somalia.  In other words, no matter what happens, once you make it to the border at San Diego and request asylum, you are virtually guaranteed that you will be admitted into the United States and that you will be allowed to remain here indefinitely.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of Somalis coming to this country are decent, hard-working individuals fleeing a nightmare at home and seeking to start new lives.  I also suspect that the drive and ambition they bring with them likely enriches the communities in which they settle.  I am equally as certain, however, that a dangerous, committed enemy like Al Shabaab cannot possibly miss the opportunity afforded them by our shortsighted policies and our blindness to obvious holes in our security.  We have provided our enemies with a ready-made almost foolproof methodology for moving terrorist operatives into the United States.  We have put out a welcome mat for terrorists.

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WITHOUT THE MILL THERE IS NO TOWN

Imagine a small factory town like those that used to dot Pennsylvania and New York States.  The total population is a few thousand people.  There’s a mill, a town hall and a main street lined with stores.  Everyone in town makes their livelihood in one way or the other from the mill.  If they don’t work there they sell goods and services to the mill or they sell goods and services to the men and women who work there.

Then, one day, the mill closes.  The smokestacks stop puffing smoke.  The parking lots sit empty.  The workers are idle.

It doesn’t take long before the ripple effects hit the whole town.  Restaurants are shuttered.  Grocery stores are closed.  Homes are foreclosed on.  The unemployment rate goes through the roof.  Demands for public services skyrocket.  Tax revenues plummet.  The town is in crisis.

The town council begins hearings on the situation.  As a good citizen you attend.  Weeks pass.  The hearings continue.   No action is taken.

The town council is deadlocked.  Democratic members of the council rant and rave that the unemployment rate is through the roof, that families are hurting, that schools are hard pressed to pay teachers.  They demand higher levels of public spending.  They demand higher levels of taxation to pay for it.

The Republican members of the council thunder back.  They point to the lack of revenue and the existing shortfalls in the budget and demand cuts.  They want layoffs at City Hall.  They want police officers furloughed.  Fiscal austerity is the only remedy they insist.

You sit day after day as the debate rages on and nothing is done.  You wonder.  Am I in a dream?  Am I the only person here who can see the obvious?  If we don’t get the mill running again, none of this makes any difference.  Without that vital industry there is no budget.  There are no services.  There is no town.

It’s not a dream, of course.  It’s a nightmare, and it’s one in which all of us are trapped.  They say there is no bipartisanship in Washington, nothing on which the two major parties can agree.  Apparently, that’s not true.  Because for the past twenty years both parties have facilitated the dismantling of our manufacturing base and the shipment of one vital industry after another abroad.  And, now, with unemployment at dangerously high levels, job creation stagnant and our economy hanging in the balance, they continue to ignore the central issue.

We need to balance our budget.  We need to live within our means.  We need to do a lot of other things as well.  But none of that makes any difference if we do not immediately take steps to bring back manufacturing and industrial production.  Without the mill there is no town.  Without the mill there is no nation.

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EATING YOUR SEED CORN

Eating your seed corn.  It’s an antique expression from a more basic, agrarian time. It conjures up images of a family, trying to make it through the winter, reduced to eating their seed corn to survive.  It will get them through a few more weeks, but it will only postpone the inevitable.  Spring will come.  Planting time will arrive.  They will have nothing to plant, and the inevitable, starvation, will follow.

That’s what we’re doing right now with China, eating our seed corn.  And, if you want to see a graphic example of what I mean, you need look no further than General Electric’s (GE) recent decision to hand over its sophisticated synthetic vision technology to the Chinese state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation  (AVIC).

Synthetic vision is a state of the art technology.  It produces an articial view of the outside world and projects it on a video screen inside the cockpit of an aircraft.  Terrain features, mountains, obstacles and runways all appear along with indicators for heading, altitude and airspeed.  This allows pilots to continue to fly “visually” even when weather conditions outside reduce visibility to zero.  Using synthetic vision instrument flying may actually become easier and safer than flying visually.

It’s a huge leap forward, a prime example of the kind of high technology that the United States can still develop better and more rapidly than anyone else.  It’s the kind of thing that gives us hope that we can still turn this economy around, regain our competitive edge and rebuild our manufacturing base.

And we just agreed to give it to the Chinese.

We talk a great deal these days about our trade imbalance with China and the necessity for our businesses to adapt, embrace the era of free trade and figure out how to compete.  The situation is complex.  There are any number of angles to it.  But, here’s one thing that is very simple and very straightforward.

The Chinese do not believe in free trade.

The Chinese have a very clear, very deliberate mercantilist economic policy.  That means they have put in place a whole series of measures, which are explicitly designed to promote their exports and to limit foreign imports.  The most commonly mentioned is their continued manipulation of their currency, making their exports cheaper than they would otherwise be and simultaneously raising the cost of imports from other countries.  But, there are many other measures utilized by the Chinese as well.

One of these is the Chinese requirement that foreign companies doing business in China agree to transfer to Chinese companies sensitive technologies.  In the case of General Electric, for example, the synthetic vision technology, which will be used on a Chinese airliner, will be transferred to AVIC.  Having spent decades developing the technology at huge cost, General Electric will now be required to hand over that technology to the Chinese in order to be allowed to conduct business in China.

General Electric has defended its decision on two levels. First, it has emphasized that, whatever the cost, the Chinese market is too big to pass up.   Second, it has claimed that there are “robust” protections for their technology in the joint venture, including measures they believe will prevent the Chinese military or national security apparatus from getting access to the technology.

China is a Communist nation.  Its industries are largely under state control.  Its people are subject to brutal repression, and domestic surveillance of dissident activities is intense.  To suggest that inside such a nation technology given to a Chinese, state-owned, enterprise will not rapidly find itself into government hands is laughable.  That said, frankly, the Chinese military getting its hands on the synthetic vision technology is probably the least of our worries.

Our real concern should be for the inevitable economic fallout from the long term application of the Chinese policy of requiring foreign firms to hand over their most sensitive technological secrets in return for the “privilege” of doing business in China.  Bit by bit, one invention at a time, the Chinese are catching up, closing the gap and positioning themselves to shift from a country that has made its progress to date on the backs of cheap labor to one which can hold its own with the most advanced economies on earth.  Our technological edge, the one key advantage we still hold, is slowly but surely eroding.

The day may soon come when we no longer have anything to give away and no way to compete.   We will no longer be the ones on the cutting edge, creating new industries and leading the world in new directions.  We will have eaten our seed corn, and we, like the farmer, will face the inevitable consequences.  .

 

 

 

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I SURE AS HELL KNOW WHAT AMNESTY LOOKS LIKE

The Obama administration said Thursday that it will allow many illegal immigrants facing deportation to stay in this country and to apply for work permits.  Individuals convicted of crimes or posing national security or public safety threats will be jumped to the front of the line.  Many others, as part of an ongoing review of all cases in federal immigration courts, will effectively be allowed to remain in the country indefinitely.  The rationale for this action, according to the Administration, is to focus deportation efforts on criminals.

“From a law enforcement and public safety perspective, DHS enforcement resources must continue to be focused on our highest priorities,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano wrote a group of senators. “Doing otherwise hinders our public safety mission – clogging immigration court dockets and diverting DHS enforcement resources away from the individuals who pose a threat to public safety.”

I guess I missed something along the way.  Maybe I don’t know what the word criminal means.  I would have thought that individuals who have deliberately penetrated our borders in violation of our laws, in many cases dozens of times, and then remained here in contravention of those same laws for years or even decades would most certainly qualify as criminals.  In fact, given their clear, continued disregard for the law and their sustained effort to subvert it I would have thought that such individuals would have deserved priority in expulsion.

Apparently not.  The Obama Administration, frustrated in its efforts to persuade the Congress to pass legislation like the Dream Act to grant formal amnesty to at least some of the illegal aliens in the country, has now decided to simply bypass the legislature completely.  It continues to maintain that it is not granting legal residence to the individuals whose cases will be dropped, but this appears largely to be a case of a distinction without a difference.  The individuals will no longer be facing deportation.  They will be allowed to remain in the country.  They will be allowed to apply for work permits so that they can gain lawful employment and support themselves.  There will be no time limit on the amount of time they can remain.

Maybe I don’t know what criminal means anymore.  But, I sure as hell knows what amnesty looks like.

 

 

 

 

 

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NOT TO DECIDE MAY RUIN EVERYTHING

 

In 1864, Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding General of the Union Army, was approached by a quartermaster officer in regard to an order by Grant to spend several millions of dollars on one phase of an approaching campaign.  The officer was hesitant to approve the massive expenditure and asked Grant if he was sure that he was right in making the decision to proceed.

“No, I am not,” Grant said.  “But, in war anything is better than indecision.  We must decide.  If I am wrong, we shall soon find it out and do the other thing.  But not to decide wastes both time and money and may ruin everything.”

 

Grant was talking about a military operation in the American Civil War.  His words of wisdom are just as applicable today.

Pick up the paper.  Turn on the TV.  Log onto the Internet.  We are beset by problems.  All around us is difficulty and peril.

We ring our hands. We despair.  Our problems seem insurmountable.

What will it take to fix things?

What it will take is for us to make some decisions.  What it will take is for us to stop complaining and waiting for the situation to fix itself.  It will not.

For close to forty years we have talked about energy independence and the necessity to break our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.  Yet, we have not expanded our domestic oil production in response.  We have not built new nuclear plants.  For all our supposed interest in renewable energy we have not significantly expanded solar or wind energy production either.

We stand paralyzed, trapped in a maze of environmental, safety, security and economic concerns.  We are unable to move.

Our entitlement programs are growing out of control.  Anyone with a calculator and access to some very basic information has been able to see for many years that we cannot afford to continue to fund them as they are currently structured.  They are dragging us over a fiscal cliff.  Changes have to be made.

We do nothing.  We do not terminate the programs. We do not trim the programs.  We do not modify eligibility nor do we find alternate sources of funding.  We stand like deer in the headlights, unwilling to give up any benefits, unwilling to bear any pain, knowing that we are headed for disaster and doing nothing to avert it.

Our economy is stagnant.  We have shipped our manufacturing base overseas, allowed our infrastructure to decay and made ourselves hostage to a Chinese regime which talks “free trade” while acting in accordance with an overtly mercantilist policy deliberately designed to expand exports and limit imports.  Our unemployment rate is staggeringly high.  Our major industries are shadows of their former selves.  We are in grave danger of losing our status as the world’s largest economy.

We do not act.  We ask the Chinese to consider modifications to their policy of undervaluing their currency but insist on nothing.  We wish for a resurgence of manufacturing but do nothing to overhaul tax codes and regulatory schemes that discourage companies from producing inside the United States.  Competing considerations of economic competitiveness, workers rights and environmental protection befuddle us.  We watch as the situation worsens and wish it were different.

There are no easy answers.  There are just decisions that need to be made.  Yes, we need to encourage the development of alternate forms of energy to replace fossil fuels.  In the meantime, while we are doing that we need to cut loose of foreign oil.  That means expanding domestic production.  Figure out how to do it with the minimum disruption to the environment, tell the relevant government regulatory agencies to do their jobs and ensure that the appropriate rules are followed, and move.

Take a hard look at entitlement programs and our budget and put some numbers on a piece of paper that represent what we can actually afford, in the real world, to spend.  Then adjust the programs to fit within that budget.  That means some people are going to get less and some people are going to get nothing.  There will be painful adjustments.  No matter how painful those adjustments are, however, they will be nothing as compared to what people will experience when these entitlement programs fail completely.

Sit down at the table with business leaders from the major American manufacturers who have moved their production abroad and ask them what it would take to make it profitable for them to manufacture their products inside the United States again.  Then, within reason, give it to them.  Tell the Chinese what modifications they need to make to their policies in order for us to be satisfied that they are acting in good faith and actually committed to free trade.  When they don’t make the necessary changes, slap tariffs on their goods and limit their exports to this country until they absorb the fact that we’re serious.  In the short term it will cost us more for big screen TV’s and plastic junk from Wal-Mart.  In the long term, we will have a balanced trading relationship, a healthy domestic economy and significantly lower unemployment.

None of these decisions will be without consequences.  None of them will fix our problems overnight.  But, we have no choice.  Not to decide may ruin everything.

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THE NIGHTMARE HAS ONLY BEGUN

London is ablaze.  Violence has spread to Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool as well.  For four days, the streets have been filled with hooded and masked youth looting, burning and taunting police.  The Prime Minister of Great Britain has cut short his trip abroad and called Parliament back from recess.  Sixteen thousand policemen have been deployed on the streets of London in an attempt to gain control of the crisis.

And, for Europe, this is likely only the beginning.

We have gotten used, in recent years, to thinking of terrorism and political violence as the exclusive province of Islamists.  We have forgotten that long before Al Qaida, long before 9/11 and long before what we now call the “war on terror” the most lethal terrorist organizations on the planet were European and violence directed against “the system” in Europe was widespread.

They may not have had the addiction to mass casualty attacks that has been the hallmark of Islamic terrorism, but groups like the Red Brigades, the Red Army Faction and Revolutionary Organization 17 November exhibited a ferocity and a discipline that made them extremely dangerous adversaries.   For decades they staged assassinations, robbed banks, bombed key buildings and kidnapped politicians, jurists and military officers.  The last of them, 17 November, was not finally put out of business until 2002.

These European terrorist groups were born of a much larger body of leftists and anarchists who opposed capitalism, what they saw as American “imperialism” and, in many ways, the whole structure of Western society.  Their ideology was often confused and contradictory, but they agreed on one thing.  They wanted to burn down the existing system and start anew.

This broad based leftist movement lost considerable steam in the aftermath of the Cold War.  It did not, however, ever fade away entirely.   In recent years ,as economies have sputtered and European nations have begun to grapple with reining in their welfare states, European leftists and anarchists have begun to gather strength again.

In 2008 hooded and masked youths in France battled police for control of neighborhoods near Paris for weeks.

The same year Athens was convulsed with riots after the shooting of a teenage anarchist by police.  The following year, on the anniversary of the shooting, rioting began again.

In November 2010 a Greek anarchist group mailed a total of 14 letter bombs to foreign embassies in Athens.  When members of the group, called the Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire, were arrested, Italian anarchists began a letter bombing campaign in solidarity.

In December 2010  a courthouse in Athens was bombed by anarchists to protest legal action being taken against the architects of the original letter bombing campaign.   The same year a bombing at a government office building killed a police officer, and a journalist was assassinated.

This year we have seen successive waves of violence in Greece, with the streets filled with anarchists and the police battling for control of the city.  The heart of the anarchist district in the city, Exarcheia, remains a virtual no go area for security forces to this day.

All of this unrest is fueled by a deteriorating economic situation and the resulting decline of the welfare states of Europe.  An entire generation of young people has grown up with a sense of entitlement, an abiding belief that it is the obligation of the state to provide for their welfare and to support them in perpetuity.    As governments across the continent are forced to grapple with economic reality and make dramatic cuts in the social programs that have created this expectation, they are fueling an intense, angry reaction.  That reaction is driving a resurgence of the leftist/anarchist movement and an increase in violence.

It will get worse.  Greece, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and grappling with 35% unemployment amongst its young people,  is on the leading edge of this phenomenon.  Even so, it is only now just beginning to actually institute the cuts and reforms mandated by the EU.  As the impact of these measures begins to be felt, the reaction will strengthen and spread.

Many other European nations are following close behind.  As they are forced to begin to implement their own austerity measures they will likely see the same kind of reaction.  Once accustomed to cradle to grave security, people are not easily convinced to accept that they must work harder and take responsibility for their own lives.

“The economic recession is conducive to political tensions and, in a number of Member States, is triggering both left and right-wing extremists to demonstrate their views both on the recession’s causes and on the solutions required.  This is raising public order concerns and threatening social cohesion.  Growing unemployment, especially among young people seeking to enter the job market, has radicalized some youths, even those with relatively high levels of education.  In 2010, 45 left –wing and anarchist attacks occurred.  The increased use of violence lead to six fatalities. “  TE-SAT 2011, EU TERRORISM SITUATION AND TREND REPORT

The full scope of what is coming is not yet clear.  Whether what will emerge will remain primarily street violence or will evolve is unknown.  In the 1970’s, a large amorphous collection of leftist groups gave birth to organized, highly effective terrorist organizations.  That may happen again.

However the situation evolves,  one thing is sure.  The nightmare has only begun.

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