Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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OCTOBER 25, 2014
ELECTION PREDICTIONS – AT 11:34 A.M. ET: We publish predictions and polls because they're fun, and may give us some indication of where the public is at one moment in time. I think Justin Wolfers, at The New York Times, has it right: The predictions by the pundit class are outpacing the polls, predicting a solid GOP victory a week from Tuesday, whereas the polls are more cautious. The "Leo" he refers to is his team's statistic method for determining who will win:
One very real possibility is that the Republicans are just starting to open up a decisive lead, and this will start to show up in polling next week. Because our statistical models are programmed to be somewhat conservative around turning points, this lead will take some time to filter through to Leo’s bottom line. And while poll-aggregation models like Leo try to figure out the underlying average levels of support from recent polls, traders in prediction markets are free to extrapolate recent trends forward. By this view, Leo’s estimates will converge toward the prediction markets as Election Day approaches.
Or maybe Leo has it right, and the markets are just overconfident. While possible, history in fact suggests that political prediction markets tend to undervalue strong favorites. Based on the historical pattern, an 87 percent chance in prediction markets might suggest an even stronger likelihood of Republican victory, perhaps as high as the mid-90s.
Another possibility is that what we’re seeing is a prediction market bubble driving the Republican stock to levels unsupported by fundamentals. Perhaps, but with the stock set to expire Nov. 4, it’s hard to see what would keep the bubble afloat. Market manipulation is also a possibility, but with Republican support so strong across a variety of prediction markets, it sure doesn’t look like it.
COMMENT: I remain very cautiously optimistic, and I worry that polls that are too positive can drive people on our side to stay home on election day. (Why vote when it's in the bag?) President Dewey learned all about that in 1948.
We must still fight as if we're 20 points behind. Nothing is certain. I prefer Larry Sabato's conclusion that, while the GOP is probably favored to take control of the Senate, anything can still happen. Ask me for predictions after the election. That's when I give them, and I'm always right.
RAISING THE STAKES – AT 11:16 A.M. ET: The terror attacks this past week, and those recently, have raised legitimate fears that ISIS is growing, not contracting. We can also legitimately contemplate whether other terror organizations will now try to outdo ISIS. From The New York Times:
CAIRO — The British police arrest four men accused of plotting a bombing on the scale of the Mumbai hotel attack six years ago. The Australian authorities arrest a ring of 12 accused of plotting daring murders, including a public beheading.
In Canada, a gunman assaults the Parliament building and kills a soldier guarding a war memorial, and a motorist strikes two soldiers, killing one — in both cases, perpetrators with tenuous links to Islamist extremism.
And in New York City, a man wielding a hatchet attacks four police officers in Queens, slashing one in the head and another in the arm.
The series of episodes over just the last four weeks is raising new fears about the capacity of the extremists who call themselves the Islamic State to catalyze so-called lone-wolf attacks, conceived and carried out by individuals or small groups around the Western world who may have little or no connection to the Islamic State.
There is no evidence that any of the episodes were carried out by any centrally organized terror network. But in each case the violence was plotted or executed by individuals moved by the messages of Islamist extremists, and all took place in the one month since the Islamic State began exhorting Muslims in the West to commit such acts.
“The Al Qaeda ‘fan boys’ never did this, definitely not in so coordinated a fashion in so close a time,” said William McCants, a scholar of Islamist militancy at the Brookings Institution.
Decades of Qaeda calls for Muslims in the West to instigate their own attacks mostly “fell on deaf ears,” but “the ISIS guys are just really energized,” Mr. McCants said, using an alternate name for the group, the Islamic State.
Analysts say the far-flung plots and attacks mark a change in the nature of the group and its threat to the West. Unlike Al Qaeda or other jihadist groups, the Islamic State had previously focused on capturing territory across Syria and Iraq and on sectarian killings in its own region — not on a global war against the West. But since the American-led bombing campaign against the group began to hit its Syrian stronghold, the Islamic State has sought to retaliate by urging its sympathizers throughout the West to strike back on its behalf.
COMMENT: Well, I guess The Times ultimately had to blame us. You know, the "root cause" argument. But the root cause of terror, as Andy McCarthy noted in our post just below, is ideology. It's what they believe. The terror attacks in the West are a tactic, and they're likely to continue no matter what we do or don't do.
QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 10:31 A.M. ET: From the great Andrew McCarthy at NRO. On the casual use of the term "lone wolf" in describing terrorist attacks, like the two attacks in Ottawa this week, and the attack on police officers in New York:
A Muslim does not wake up one day and spontaneously decide to commit mass-murder. No one is radicalized out of thin air. Muslims are radicalized by the doctrine. To be sure, there is often an intermediary between the doctrine and the person who becomes a terrorist — it might be a terrorist organization in the field or an extremist imam in the mosque. But it could also very well be the jihadist literature a person reads while alone in his room. Such literature is liberally available on the Internet and in countless American mosques and Islamic community centers. It is a staple of Muslim Brotherhood indoctrination efforts, and the Saudi regime — to take the most notorious example — has spent billions of dollars propagating it worldwide.
New York, Ottawa, Quebec, Oklahoma, Fort Hood . . . The “lone wolf” canard no longer conceals the harsh reality: The violence in “violent extremism” is terrorism even if performed alone; and what the “wolf” is “extreme” about is Islam.
COMMENT: Andy is absolutely right. We reject the notion that all Muslims are terrorists, but we must finally accept that something has gone terribly wrong within Islam.
We are awful, in the West, at understanding ideology. We finally, after it was too late, recognized the evil in Nazism, and properly called the swastika "the twisted cross," a perversion of Christian civilization. In World War II the United States Navy could not understand the Japanese kamikaze, suicide being so far from our values. We finally understood that people can actually believe what they believed.
We must as the distinguished expert on Iran, Michael Ledeen, as said, recognize that other people don't think the way we do. And we must get a president who tells the truth about what we face.
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:55 P.M. ET:
NAILED – New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton officially labgreat eled yesterday attack on two police officers a terrorist act. The attacker, who was killed by another officer at the scene, had a jihadist history. I am baffled by the lack of general outrage. Canada had two similar incidents this week, and the prime minister responded. The nation was shaken. I'm not aware of any response to the terrorist attack in New York by the president of the United States. Amazing.
A MITT IN OUR FUTURE? – From Fox: "MESA, Ariz. – Flashing the easy smile of someone whose name isn't on the Election Day ballot, Mitt Romney has never been so politically popular. He’s traveled the country – 23 states by his count – in recent months to lend support to fellow Republicans in advance of November’s midterm election. 'A lot of people who helped me – I owe big time,' the two-time presidential candidate cheerfully explained when asked about his campaign stops. It’d be understandable if Romney’s enthusiasm for rallies, banquet halls, fundraisers and the seemingly never-ending line of outstretched hands had waned since his 2012 loss. But two years later, Romney is busy stumping for candidates in tight races nationwide including this two-day stretch in Arizona." I just have a feeling he's paving the way for another run for president.
OH, THE PHONIES – From ABC: "Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren both stumped for Massachusetts governor candidate Martha Coakley today, and one thing was clear: Hillary hearts Elizabeth. 'I love watching Elizabeth,' Clinton gushed about the populist Massachusetts senator. 'You know, give it to those who deserve to get it. Standing up not only for you, but people with the same needs and same wants across our country. It's a great pleasure to be here in a state that has such tremendous tradition of leadership.' Clinton called Warren a 'passionate champion for working people and middle class families.'" I hope Warren had a food taster with her.
THE DEMS' FEMALE PROBLEM – AT 10:52 A.M. ET: There has been a serious erosion of support for the Democratic Party among women. From The Wall Street Journal:
In a warning flag for Democrats, recent polls suggest the party is failing to draw enough support from women in three key Senate races—in Iowa, Arkansas and Colorado—to offset the strong backing that men are giving to Republicans.
Surveys this week in Arkansas and Colorado for the first time also showed the GOP candidates pulling even or ahead of Democrats among women voters, threatening to close the gender gap that has been a cornerstone of Democratic electoral strategy for decades.
While the situation remains fluid, an erosion in the Democrats’ traditionally large advantage among women would be perilous for the party, especially in an election year in which men, who favor Republicans overall, are showing a greater enthusiasm for voting.
Democrats are making a particular effort to mobilize unmarried women—their strongest supporters, but a group that tends to skip midterm elections. However, the rise of national-security concerns and low approval ratings for President Barack Obama may undercut that effort.
This month’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, taken Oct. 8-12, found men more enthusiastic about voting than women. Groups such as men age 50 and over were among the most enthusiastic about voting, while core Democratic groups, such as women age 18-49 and college-educated women, were among the least enthusiastic.
COMMENT: I just have the sense that the Democratic Party is rapidly becoming the party of the past – past issues, past grievances. Most American women, from what I understand, don't get up every day thinking about abortion. They have wider concerns, and the Democrats seem not to care about those concerns, or even to ridicule them.
But we'll have to see actual turnout figures on election day. There have been times when turnout of the Democratic base has been underestimated in the days before the election.
THE ATTACK ON COPS IN NEW YORK – AT 9:47 A.M. ET: There is this, from Fox:
The NYPD is reportedly investigating whether Islamic extremism played a role in Thursday's hatchet attack on city cops.
Officers shot and killed a man identified as Zale Thompson, 32, of Queens, who fractured the skull of Officer Kenneth Healey, 25, at about 2 p.m. in the Jamaica section of Queens. Videotape and witness accounts apparently showed Thompson intentionally targeting four rookie officers.
Thompson was seen minutes before the attack pulling a hatchet from his backpack and then began attacking the officers, slicing a second cop on the arm before he was fatally shot, the New York Post reports.
"There's nothing we know at this time that would indicate that [Islamic terrorism] is the case," NYPD Commissioner William Bratton told reporters during a press conference at Jamaica Hospital. "That's what the investigation will attempt to determine."
A 29-year-old woman walking nearby was struck in the back by a stray police bullet and remains in stable condition, police sources told the Post. The second injured cop, Officer Joseph Meeker, was "conscious and alert" at Jamaica Hospital.
Thompson, whose Facebook page includes a passage from the Koran and a photograph of a masked militant, is being investigated for possible terrorist connections.
"There are suspected terror ties," one source told the newspaper.
Thompson allegedly called for a revolution on American soil on his Facebook page, but the messages were no longer visible early Friday.
"America's military is strong abroad, but they have never faced an internal mass revolt,” Thompson posted on the social media site. “They are weaker at home. We are scattered and decentralized, we can use this as an advantage. They are centralized and strong, which can be exploited as a weakness. Think of a swarm of bees (negroes) that surround and attack an elephant (America) to death."
The suspect also called for guerilla warfare.
COMMENT: Just a guy with some problems. Nothing to see, nothing to see.
Note how the mainstream media types are playing this down. Two fatal attacks on soldiers in Canada by Islamists, and now a near-fatal attack on New York policemen, and the New York attack is carried out by a guy who quotes the Koran on his Facebook page. And we're told simply that authorities are "investigating" possible links to terrorism.
This is the impact of having a Mayor DeBlasio rather than a Mayor Giuliani. Rudy would have called this one in about five minutes, just as Canadian Prime Minister Harper did.
FBI WARNS JOURNALISTS OF DANGER FROM ISIS – AT 9:14 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation sent a bulletin to reporters on Thursday warning that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had identified reporters and media personalities as "desirable targets" for retribution attacks against the United States.
"The FBI assesses, based on open source statements and postings, that [ISIL] members and supporters view members of the US media establishment as legitimate targets for retribution attacks as the US-led air campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria continues," the FBI bulletin states. "Online supporters of ISIL have called—via various social media sites—for retaliation against the United States and US interests abroad, especially since US-led air strikes in Iraq and Syria began."
In the bulletin, the FBI claims to have "recently obtained credible information indicating members of an ISIL-affiliated group are tasked with kidnapping journalists in the region and returning them to Syria. Members of this group might try to mask their affiliation with ISIL to gain access to journalists," the bulletin reads.
The bulletin also noted the recent executions of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and cited an online post by an ISIL supporter titled "A Message to 2.6 Million Muslims in the United States: This Is How To Respond to Obama's War on Islam." The post's author identified media personnel such as anchormen, field reporters and talk show hosts as people “proved to be biased” and, as such, prioritized targets for execution.
The bulletin, which the FBI supplied to news organizations so that they "may take appropriate steps to notify their journalists in the field," was dated Oct. 22 but sent out Thursday by the Public Affairs department for the FBI's Washington Field Office.
COMMENT: That is very chilling, and we wonder how it might affect reporting. Will reporters, understandably concerned about themselves and their families, start pulling their punches? They're human, after all.
Remember that the purpose of terror is to terrorize, to render your opponent frightened and ineffective. This assault on the press is clearly part of a terror campaign. It has already claimed lives by beheading.
ISIS HAS USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS – AT 8:43 A.M. ET: One of the nightmare scenarios born in the days after 9/11 was that a terror group would get WMD. Welcome to the nightmare come true. From the Washington Post:
ALAD, Iraq — Dizzy, vomiting and struggling to breathe, 11 Iraqi police officers were rushed to a government hospital 50 miles north of the capital last month. The diagnosis: poisoning by chlorine gas. The perpetrators, according to the officers: Islamic State extremists.
The chlorine attack appears to be the first confirmed use of chemical weapons by the Islamic State on the battlefield. An Iraqi Defense Ministry official corroborated the events, and doctors said survivors’ symptoms were consistent with chlorine poisoning.
Iraqi forces say two other crude chlorine attacks have occurred since the extremists seized vast tracts of Iraqi territory this summer, but details on those incidents remain sketchy. The reported assaults all raise concerns that the militants are attempting to hone their chemical weapons capabilities as they push to control more ground.
The presence of a large former Iraqi chemical weapons production plant in territory seized by the Islamic State has compounded those fears, although officials and chemical weapons experts say the 2,500 degraded rockets filled with nerve agents that remain there are unlikely to be fit for use. Weapons inspectors sealed them off with concrete in a bunker more than 20 years ago.
The Islamic State’s reported chlorine attacks appear to have been largely ineffectual. The attack on the police officers last month is the only one officially documented.
COMMENT: Ineffectual...for now. And let's not worry about that German military buildup, Mr. Chamberlain.
Wonder where ISIS got those chem weapons. Hmm, they were used in Iraq. You don't think that Iraq actually did have WMD, do you? Why, that would mean Bush was right. Can't have that, can we? Nah. ISIS probably got 'em from ebay.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
- Jacques Barzun
"Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain."
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