Saturday, January 31, 2015

Does Europe Have No-go Zones?

Comments by Steven Emerson on Fox News have prompted a heated debate over whether predominantly Muslim "no-go" zones exist in Europe. On Jan. 11, Emerson said they "exist throughout Europe … they're places where the governments like France, Britain, Sweden, Germany don't exercise any sovereignty. .. you basically have zones where Shariah courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don't go in, and where it's basically a separate country almost, a country within a country."
Although Emerson, whom I admire for his moral courage and investigative skills, immediately apologized for his "terrible error" of saying that cities like Birmingham, England, "are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don't go," he did not address the larger question of whether no-go zones, in fact, do "exist throughout Europe" and are places where governments "don't exercise any sovereignty."
Is he right about this?
In a 2006 weblog entry, I called Muslim enclaves in Europe no-go zones as a non-euphemistic equivalent for the French phrase Zones Urbaines Sensibles, or Sensitive Urban Zones. No-go zonessubsequently became standard in English to describe Muslim-majority areas in West Europe.
After spending time in the banlieues (suburbs) of Paris in January 2013, as well as in their counterparts in Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Malmö, and Stockholm, however, I have had second thoughts. I found that those areas "are not full-fledged no-go zones" --- meaning places where the government had lost control of territory. No war lords dominate; Shari'a is not the law of the land. I expressed regret back then for having used the term no-go zones.
So, what are these places? A unique and as-yet un-named mix.
On the one hand, West European states can intervene anywhere and at any time in their sovereign territory. As the shoot-out in Verviers and the subsequent raids in Belgium suggest, their overwhelming advantage in force – including military, intelligence, and police – means they have not ceded control.
On the other hand, governments often choose not to impose their will on Muslim-majority areas, allowing them considerable autonomy, including in some cases the Shariah courts that Emerson mentioned. Alcohol and pork are effectively banned in these districts, polygamy and burqas commonplace, police enter only warily and in force, and Muslims get away with offences illegal for the rest of population.
The Rotherham, England, child sex scandal offers a powerful example. An official inquiry found that for sixteen years, 1997-2013, a ring of Muslim men sexually exploited – through abduction, rape, gang rape, trafficking, prostitution, torture – at least 1,400 non-Muslim girls as young as 11. The police received voluminous complaints from the girls' parents but did nothing; they could have acted, but chose not to.
According to the inquiry, "the Police gave no priority to CSE [child sexual exploitation], regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime." Even more alarming, in some cases, "fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene." Worse, the girls "were arrested for offences such as breach of the peace or being drunk and disorderly, with no action taken against the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault against children."
Another example, also British, was the so-called Operation Trojan Horse that flourished from 2007 until 2014, in which (again, according to an official inquiry), a group of school functionaries developed "a strategy to take over a number of schools in Birmingham and run them on strict Islamic principles."
What does one call Rotherham and Birmingham? They are not no-go zones, neither in terms of geography or sovereignty. This is where we – Emerson, others (such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal), and I stumbled. The English language lacks a readily-available term for this. And for good reason: I know of no historical parallel, in which a majority population accepts the customs and even the criminality of a poorer and weaker immigrant community. The world has never seen anything comparable to the contemporary West's blend of achievement, timidity, and guilt, of hugely superior power matched by a deep reluctance to use it.
Instead of no-go zones, I propose semi-autonomous sectors, a term that emphasizes their indistinct and non-geographic nature – thus permitting a more accurate discussion of what is, arguably, West Europe's most acute problem.

Could the Financial Crisis Repeat Itself?

Could the Financial Crisis Repeat Itself? 
Government regulators are creating a recipe for another housing bubble. 
(Maksym Yemelyanov/Dreamstime)


What caused the financial crisis? How can we prevent another one from happening again? The answers you most often hear to those questions are (1) greed and deregulation and (2) the Dodd-Frank law.
But they’re patently inadequate. Greed — or the desire for monetary gain — has always been with us and always will be. And no one has convincingly linked financial deregulation to the crisis. Dodd-Frank, enacted to increase regulation, confers too-big-to-fail status on very large financial institutions, which incentivizes unduly risky behavior and penalizes smaller competitors.
The real problem was housing finance, argues my American Enterprise Institute colleague Peter Wallison in his new book Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World’s Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again. Without changes in housing finance policy, he says, there would have been no financial crisis in 2008.
Government policies encouraged the granting of mortgages to non-creditworthy homebuyers, and government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac funneled securities laced with high-risk mortgages into major financial institutions. When house prices suddenly and unexpectedly dropped in 2007, these mortgage-backed securities became unsellable and the financial crisis quickly followed.
Wallison traces the policy mistake back to 1992, when Congress passed a law requiring the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) to purchase a certain percentage of its mortgages granted to low- and moderate-income homebuyers — 30 percent originally, later adjusted up to 56 percent by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Previously the GSEs bought only mortgages in which the buyer made 10 to 20 percent down payments. That was revised downward to 3 percent and even zero. Such subprime mortgages proliferated until in 2008 when they accounted for more than half of U.S. mortgages, 76 percent of which were on the books of the GSE’s or government agencies such as the FHA.
This was in line with the policy priorities of the Clinton and Bush administrations. They hailed the increase of homeownership from the 64 percent that prevailed from the mid-1960s up eventually, and temporarily, to 69 percent. They emphasized the importance of increasing homeownership by blacks and Hispanics who did not qualify as creditworthy under traditional credit standards, which were treated as superstitions.
The result was a house-price bubble of unprecedented magnitude. Low down-payment mortgages inflated housing prices because buyers could afford a larger house with the same down payment. Above-average households, though not the intended beneficiaries of lowered mortgage standards, took advantage of them by converting inflated housing values into cash by refinancing their mortgages.
The problem metastasized into large financial institutions because of imperfect information and perverse government regulations. Fannie and Freddie classified as subprime only those mortgages they bought through traditional subprime lenders — an action for which their officers were later sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The three rating agencies licensed by the SEC — and paid by the sellers rather than the buyers of securities, a classic case of misaligned incentives — gave mortgage-backed securities AAA ratings, which encouraged big banks to buy them. Similarly, the Basel II international banking standards rated mortgage-backed securities as ultra-safe investments.
When housing prices fell, the market in mortgage-backed securities tanked: No one would pay anything for them. Financial institutions that borrowed to buy them had to raise equity to account for the losses. Wallison argues that the government response made things worse: By rescuing Bear Stearns in March 2008, regulators led other firms to believe they would be rescued too — but Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail six months later, and panic followed.
That panic would not have occurred, Wallison argues, had not the government sparked the creation of defective securities and had not government regulations masked their defects. Private firms, after all, do not buy assets that they believe will become worthless.
Could it happen again? Wallison points out that government regulators are once again reducing the credit standards for mortgage seekers. The argument, as in the 1990s and 2000s, is that traditional standards are misleading and unduly prevent low-income and minority households from buying homes.
Fannie and Freddie are now purchasing the large majority of mortgages and announced last month they would buy mortgages with only 3 percent down payments. The qualified mortgage standards laid down by HUD and other regulators in October allowed for mortgages with zero down payments.
That sounds like a recipe for another housing bubble — and for mass foreclosures, which hurt the policies’ intended beneficiaries; and perhaps for another financial crisis, as well.
— Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner. © 2015 The Washington Examiner. Distributed by

Behind the Koch Caricature

Behind the Koch Caricature
The Koch brothers are nothing like Harry Reid’s lurid portrayal of them.
By Ian Tuttle

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Great Alaska Shutout

The Great Alaska Shutout 
Obama’s drilling ban in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not about caribou. 

Stephen Moore 
It was just one week ago that President Obama took credit for falling gas prices in his State of the Union address, and already he is sticking another knife in the back of America’s domestic oil and gas producers — to say nothing of the residents of Alaska.
Obama’s latest anti-fossil-fuels directive is to move off-limits to exploration and drilling some 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is one of the most oil-rich regions in the world. The area to be removed from drilling is larger than the combined land area of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Alaska’s economy is already softening because of low oil prices; now he tosses the state’s drowning economy an anchor.
Obama says his motivation is to keep this land environmentally undisturbed and to protect wildlife — as if he were a modern-day Theodore Roosevelt–style preservationist. “Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge is an incredible place — pristine, undisturbed,” Obama says. “It supports caribou and polar bears, all manner of marine life, countless species of birds and fish, and for centuries it supported many Alaska Native communities. But it’s very fragile.”
Well, no, not really. Think of a football field, and then think of placing a postcard on that field. This is roughly the size of the development footprint required to drill in these wilderness lands, compared with the entire Alaskan landmass. Thanks to horizontal drilling, the footprint from oil and gas production is getting smaller all the time. Drilling will hardly alter the majesty of the mountains or the forest lands.
Would oil and gas drillers kill off the eagles, caribou, and polar bears, as the White House warns? These were the arguments made more than 40 years ago against building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System — which carries oil from Alaska’s North Slope to the port of Valdez for shipment to the lower 48 states. Over the last 35 years it has carried more than 17 billion barrels of oil, a quantity worth nearly $1 trillion in today’s dollars. At the time, the Sierra Club moaned that the pipeline would mean “the wilderness is forever broken,” while the Wilderness Society said the project would lead to “imminent, grave and irreparable damage to the ecology, wilderness values, natural resources, recreational potential, and total environment of Alaska.” No bird or caribou would be safe from the carnage. Sound familiar?
Instead, the impact on Alaska’s wildlife and natural beauty has been almost nonexistent. A study delivered in 2002 to the American Society of Civil Engineers found that “the ecosystems affected by the operation of TAPS and associated activity for almost 25 years are healthy.” Today the size of the caribou herd in Alaska is estimated at about 325,000 — four times the number before the pipeline was built.
It turns out that the radical greens in and out of the White House are dead wrong. Nature is not fragile; it is resilient, durable, and adaptable.
So what’s really going on here? This latest White House move isn’t about saving polar bears. It’s about a radical climate-change agenda to stop all domestic oil and gas drilling and coal mining, wherever and whenever possible. The middle-class Americans who will lose jobs or pay more for gas at the pump are collateral damage.
Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski calls this White House maneuver “a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy . . . for our children and our grandchildren.” She’s right, of course, and it’s not only Alaska’s children and grandchildren who will suffer, but all future generations of Americans. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin and the leaders of ISIS and OPEC are smiling — and not because they care about elk and polar bears.
— Stephen Moore is chief economist at the Heritage Foundation and a Fox News contributor.

Why We Line Up for American Sniper

Why We Line Up for American Sniper
It’s honest, the opposite of a simple-minded war movie.
By Lee Habeeb

SOTU Address: No Middle Class Economics but Lots of Spin

By Clark S. Judge: managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc.; Chairman, Pacific Research Institute
Last week President Obama delivered his next to final State of the Union address. In it, he extolled “middle class economics”, which was the name he attached to his economic policies. The more I listened, the more I thought, this is spin, not reality.
As with many, perhaps most, Americans, when I hear the words “middle class economics”, I think not about my own history but of my family’s. My great grandfather arrived here with his parents and siblings shortly after the Civil War. There is no record of him having much schooling, but the family clearly coveted education. Records show that his sister, who became a teacher, was soon in college, almost unheard of for a girl in the mid-19th century. His father was listed in the census as a laborer, but within the decade the son was partner in a store and later either took over the business or started his own, the records aren’t clear. After graduating from college (the family’s first male recorded as having done so), his son married a teacher and took over the business.
With the exception of the women achieving advanced education before the men, this family story has been repeated millions of times on these shore and, more recently, around the world. It reflects a recurring theme, the role of education and entrepreneurship in American and now global middle class economics. On each of these, the president’s speech and his Administration have fallen short.
I know Mr. Obama promised free community college to all. But cost is not the key barrier to completing a program of higher education at either the two-year or four-year levels. The key barrier is the quality of high school preparation.
As reported by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University: “In a sample of over 150,000 students in community colleges… 2.5 percent for students referred to developmental education” (that is, who have inadequate high school preparation) earned a bachelors degree in five years. It is not an exact comparison but after six years more than half of all students who enroll in community colleges receive a two or four year degree or are still enrolled and working on it.
Can remedial work make up for poor high schooling? Surely it can, but according to the Center, “A number of recent studies on remediation have found mixed to negative results for students who enroll in remedial courses.” In other words, the odds are stacked heavily against those who arrive at either two or four year institutions without sufficient high school training. (
What does that say about the president and last week’s speech? An administration that is dedicated to “middle class economics” and values college performance will do everything it can to help students get the best high school education possible, including, maybe particularly, by helping them escape failing or mediocre schools. But again and again, the administration has shown indifference or hostility to school choice in all forms. It has turned its back on Middle Class Economics, preferring what might be called Teachers Union Economics.
So how about entrepreneurship? As James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute has shown (, since the recession began, the number of firms closing has exceeded the number starting. It is true that the gap, which for decades favored starts ups, began closing right after Ronald Reagan left office. My guess is that this change had to do with the surge in national business regulation and class action litigation that got going about that time. Still, a disturbing development for “middle class economics” became really bad during the Obama years. In the last six years federal regulation of business has become vastly more onerous and capricious, the litigation culture has been barely checked, and taxes on entrepreneurial income have spiked. Are these examples of effective “middle class economics”?
One more thing. Vast increases in productivity made possible the rise of the middle class in the British Isles and North America beginning between the late 18th and mid-19th centuries. This burgeoning of output per worked hour was a product of institutional and technological revolutions, among them the harnessing of fossil fuels. Surely anyone who cherishes “middle class economics” will take great care in approaching the Chicken Little sky-is-falling claims swirling like a superstorm around climate policy.
Instead the president and his minions have brushed aside the large and rapidly growing body of evidence that climate change alarmist have been, well, alarmist. No one is better on these questions than celebrated science writer Matt Ridley, author of the brilliant best seller, The Rational Optimist.
One of Ridley’s recent blog postings goes directly to the question of alarmism and middle class economics. Ridley writes: “I am especially unimpressed by the claim that a prediction of rapid and dangerous warming is ‘settled science’, as firm as evolution or gravity. How could it be? It is a prediction. No prediction, let alone in a multi-causal, chaotic and poorly understood system like the global climate, should ever be treated as gospel…. The policies being proposed to combat climate change, far from being a modest insurance policy, are proving ineffective, expensive, harmful to poor people and actually bad for the environment: we are tearing down rainforests to grow biofuels and ripping up peat bogs to install windmills that still need fossil-fuel back-up. These policies are failing to buy any comfort for our wealthy grandchildren and are doing so on the backs of today’s poor.” (
Today’s poor are tomorrow’s entrants to “middle class economics”, unless, as Ridley suggests, we precipitously knock out the legs from under the middle class’s energy and productivity stool. This is exactly what the administration seems set on doing in its now-failing (thanks to fracking) war on fossil fuels of all varieties.
The president talked about “middle class economics” for something like an hour. But spin goes only so far. When all was said and done, the “middle class economics” he preached was just so much hot air.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


If you’re a climatista, that is. The news that 2014 is the hottest year EVER!* has the climatistas wetting their drawers: we’re back in business! Amazing what two one-hundredths of one degree will do for the hard up.
John has already noted the general weakness of this case, but if you think John beats down on it, check out NASA’s Dr. Roy Spencer:
I’ve addressed the “hottest year” claim before it ever came out, both here on October 21, and here on Dec. 4.
In the three decades I’ve been in the climate research business, it’s been clear that politics have been driving the global warming movement. I knew this from the politically-savvy scientists who helped organize the U.N.’s process for determining what to do about human-caused climate change. (The IPCC wasn’t formed to determine whether it exists or whether is was even a threat, that was a given.)
I will admit the science has always supported the view that slowly increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere from burning of fossil fuels should cause some warming, but the view that this would is any way be a bad thing for humans or for Nature has been a politically (and even religiously) driven urban legend.
I am embarrassed by the scientific community’s behavior on the subject. I went into science with the misguided belief that science provides answers. Too often, it doesn’t. Some physical problems are simply too difficult. Two scientists can examine the same data and come to exactly opposite conclusions about causation.
We still don’t understand what causes natural climate change to occur, so we simply assume it doesn’t exist. This despite abundant evidence that it was just as warm 1,000 and 2,000 years ago as it is today. Forty years ago, “climate change” necessarily implied natural causation; now it only implies human causation.
Worth reading the whole thing. Meanwhile, here comes the asterisk from above: How certain is NOAA that 2014 is the hottest year ever? Um, this could be embarrassing. If you look into the uncertainty ranges of the data, and apply the protocols the climate science community has used in its other assessments, you get a table that looks like this (hat tip:Bob Tisdale/WUWT):
Tisdale chart copy
The Daily Mail has a good summary of the story:
The claim made headlines around the world, but yesterday it emerged that GISS’s analysis – based on readings from more than 3,000 measuring stations worldwide – is subject to a margin of error. Nasa admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all.
Yet the NASA press release failed to mention this, as well as the fact that the alleged ‘record’ amounted to an increase over 2010, the previous ‘warmest year’, of just two-hundredths of a degree – or 0.02C. The margin of error is said by scientists to be approximately 0.1C – several times as much.
As a result, GISS’s director Gavin Schmidt has now admitted Nasa thinks the likelihood that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880 is just 38 per cent. However, when asked by this newspaper whether he regretted that the news release did not mention this, he did not respond. Another analysis, from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, drawn from ten times as many measuring stations as GISS, concluded that if 2014 was a record year, it was by an even tinier amount.
Of course, one thing left out of the discussion is a couple of simple questions. Let’s assume the data is absolutely correct. How does a two one-hundreths of a degree “record” temp prove that we’re going to be catastrophically warmer five decades from now, given that the current temperature record is coming in at the very low end of the predicted ranges of the climate model runs?
And exactly what policy difference does this rather feeble “record warm year” make? The carbon suppression agenda of the climatistas is still just as stupid as it was a month ago.

The Perils of Thoughtless ‘Diversity’

The Perils of Thoughtless ‘Diversity’ 
Europe is learning, as should we, that not all cultures are mutually compatible. 
Muslim youths clash with police in suburban Paris, August 2014. (Pierre Andrie/Getty)

Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe, and European governments’ counter-attacks are more than just a passing news story.
Europe is currently in the process of paying the price for years of importing millions of people from a culture hostile to the fundamental values of Western culture. And this is by no means the last of the installments of that price, to be paid in blood and lives, for smug elites’ utopian self-indulgences in moral preening and gushing over the magic word “diversity.”
Generations yet unborn will still be paying the price, whether in large or small installments, depending on how long it takes for the West to jettison utopianism and come to grips with reality.
Meanwhile, in the United States, no one seems to be drawing any lessons about the dangers of importing millions of people from fundamentally different cultures across our open border. In America, “diversity” has still not yet lost its magical ability to stop thought in its tracks and banish facts into the outer darkness.
Perhaps here, as in Europe, that verbal magic can only be washed away in the blood of innocent victims, many of them yet unborn.
To cross our open border with Mexico, you don’t have to be Mexican or even from Central America. You can be from Iran, Syria, or other hotbeds of Middle Eastern terrorism.
It is one of the monumental examples of political irresponsibility that the southern border has not been secured during administrations of either party, despite promises and posturing.
Many fine people have come here from Mexico. But, as with any other group, some are just the opposite. With open borders, however, we don’t even know how many people who cross that border are Mexican, much less anything more relevant, like their education, diseases, criminal records, or terrorist ties.
There are some politicians — both Democrats and Republicans — who just want to get the issue behind them, and are prepared to leave the consequences for others to deal with in the future, just as they are leaving a staggering national debt for others to deal with in the future.
These consequences include irreversible changes in the American population. Ethnic “leaders” and welfare-state goodies guarantee the fragmentation of the population, with never-ending strife among the fragments. People who enter the country illegally will get not only equal benefits with the American people who created those benefits, they will get more than many American citizens, thanks to affirmative action.
We cannot simply let in everyone who wants to come to America, or there will be no America to come to. Cultures matter — and not all cultures are mutually compatible, as Europeans are belatedly learning, the hard way. And “assimilation” is a dirty word to multiculturalists.
State and local officials who blithely violate their oath to uphold the law, and indulge themselves in the moral posturing of declaring their domains to be “sanctuaries” for people who entered the country illegally, are unlikely to reconsider until disastrous consequences become far too big to ignore — which is to say, until it is too late.
Meanwhile, harsh punishments are reserved for people in business who fail to carry out the law-enforcement duties that elected officials openly declare they are not going to carry out.
To many in the media, the only question seems to be whether we are going to be “mean-spirited” toward people who want to come here — especially children who were brought here, or sent here, “through no fault of their own.”
It is as if those children had some pre-existing right to be in the United States, which they could lose only if they did something bad themselves. But those children had no more right to be here than children in India, Africa, or other places with millions of children living in poverty.
Surely we can think ahead enough to realize that children living in this country illegally are going to grow up and have children of their own, with cultures and values of their own — and ethnic “leaders” to promote discontent and hostility if they don’t get as good results as people who have the prevailing American culture, beginning with the English language.
You can’t wish that away by saying the magic word “diversity” — not after we have seen what “diversity” has led to in Europe.
— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His website is © 2015 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Liars’ Remorse--Democrats have second thoughts about Obamacare (DP: Lengthy essay but well worth it)

Liars’ Remorse--Democrats have second thoughts about Obamacare