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The [Wednesday] Papers

Just as I wanted to hug every black person I saw on the day of Barack Obama's inauguration in 2008 (see The Cashier), despite all my criticism of him, today I find myself wanting to hug every woman in a hijab.

I hope that, as a white, male, lapsed Reform Jew, agnostic, disheartened and not particularly patriotic American, that isn't offensively privileged or condescending.

In 2008, I wanted to scream, "We have a black president! Kill Whitey!"

I mean, really, I've said my whole life that if every black person in America rose up and slit the throats of every white person, myself included just out of having to make the sacrifice, they would be perfectly justified. My God, what we have done to them. And it's not over yet.

Similarly, I want to hug everyone whom I stereotypically surmise might be a Muslim at least, a Syrian refugee at best, and scream, "You are safe here! I love you!"

Of course, were I to get to know any such person, I would eventually come to hate them just like I hate all humans. But that's just based on what a crappy species we are, not race, religion or any of the other common hate-triggers. I would still love them theoretically.

I hope this, too, isn't offensive or condescending or insulting in any way. I don't think it is, but it could come off like a white savior kind of thing, and that's not at all how I mean it.

Also, you aren't necessarily safe here. But some of us are trying.

As often happens after a tragedy, there is a lotta love in the air - not just the loads of hate emanating from the same predictable precincts. Funny how those of us most disheartened with America seem to believe most strongly in its (many-times broken) promise. Maybe that ought to be the true meaning of patriotism - loyalty not to a nation at any cost but to a set of values at all costs.

For some, this outpouring of love will be brief. It will take another tragedy for those to once again "put things in perspective." I've never understood that concept. You hear it a lot from professional athletes (and their subservient press corps') - they will proclaim that a tragedy (or, say, a serious illness in their family) puts things "in perspective." What kinds of lives are people leading if they live without perspective between tragedies?

Others continue to grind out the hard work day after day. They never lose perspective. They may drown in it, but they don't lose it. They are the real heroes.

Anyway, the city council today voted unanimously to reaffirm Chicago as a sanctuary city, as a response to Gov. Bruce Rauner's call on Tuesday for a "pause" in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Illinois due to Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. None of those identified in the attacks were Syrian refugees, of course; nor is there any evidence any of them posed as Syrian refugees. They were, however, French and Belgium.

No one has proposed banning French and Belgium citizens from emigrating to America.

Fear knocks our senses loose; that's why it's the greatest enemy we have. Reason is our ally.

Anyway, I followed the proceedings on Twitter and I have to say this might be the first time I've ever been touched by the actions of the Chicago City Council. Here's why:

That second tweet is one of my all-time favorites. I can't stop reading it.

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Let's be too great to hate.

*

Today I posted a piece from ProPublica (they encourage publishers to "steal" their stories, which is why I've published what I'm pretty sure is the most extensive collection of reporting in the city on, for example, NSA surveillance and CIA torture ) called "Trail Of Paris Attackers Winds To Terrorism's Longtime Outpost."

I was particularly struck by this passage:

Successive jihads in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have radicalized scores of young, disaffected, working-class Muslims. Most are of North African descent and have criminal pasts; the groups they join grew out of longtime networks active in Europe and the Muslim world . . .

In an interview, a senior Belgian law enforcement official said the swagger and savagery of the Islamic State has a disturbing appeal among aimless young criminals in Molenbeek and other neighborhoods.

"They go to Iraq and Syria because there they will be somebody," he said. "Here they are nobody. They are told that if they join the Islamic State they will get to drive a nice car, get women, they won't have to pay in the shops down there. They will be badass warriors."

The Belgian official described a police search of the home of three brothers who all joined the Islamic State and have been implicated in decapitations and other violence in Syria. Their father had a well-paid job with a U.S. automotive company. Each brother had his own room stocked with computers, video games, clothes and other consumer goods, the law enforcement official said.

"They don't work; they live with their family into their 20s," he said. "They manipulate the welfare system for money; they don't study. They go to Syria, and they come back with PTSD. They come back after they saw killing and raping. What are you supposed to do to cure them? They are ruined people. Game over."

Does that sound familiar to you? It did to me. As Dawn Turner writes for the Tribune: "Similar Conditions Help Radicalize Youth In Chicago, Paris."

Now, the comparison isn't totally apt. Our gangbangers are poor; their terrorists are middle-class, if not well-to-do (as was Osama bin Laden). Turner misses on that point, but not on the disaffection. Consider the conclusion I came to on Monday in About ISIS: A catch-all for aggrieved teenage boys without a coherent ideology but driven my a familiar hidden hand with its own agenda. That sort of sounds like a gang.

*

Refusing Syrian refugees resettlement in Illinois would be like not allowing victims of gang violence to move from Englewood into your neighborhood - even worse, really, because the refugees' enemies are thousands of miles away.

*

To reiterate what I wrote on Tuesday

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On Tuesday, the Tribune posted on its website a Washington Post article ("Senior Obama Officials Have Warned Of Challenges In Screening Refugees From Syria") that was entirely misleading.

To wit:

"I don't, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees, so that's a huge concern of ours," director of national intelligence James Clapper said at a security industry conference in September, using another name for the Islamic State. He added that the government has "a pretty aggressive program" for screening refugees but that he is less confident about European nations.

1. Clapper wouldn't "put it past the likes of ISIL," but doesn't point to an instance of it actually happening - or explain why a terrorist would choose to enter the U.S. through a process that typically takes at least two years to complete.

2. He said this in September, just to make clear. What does he think today in relation to the Paris attacks?

3. He "added" that the U.S. has a "pretty aggressive program" but not so much the nations of Europe. Well, Europe is a different conversation, for a whole host of reasons.

4. James Clapper is a stone-cold liar.

See also: Inside The Mind Of James Clapper: The Guy Who Has To Call Newspaper Editors To Tell Them Not To Print Stories That They Usually Publish Anyway.

Then:

FBI Director James Comey added in congressional testimony last month that "a number of people who were of serious concern" slipped through the screening of Iraq War refugees, including two arrested on terrorism-related charges. "There's no doubt that was the product of a less than excellent vetting," he said.

Though Comey said the process has since "improved dramatically," Syrian refugees will be even harder to check because unlike in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have not been on the ground collecting information on the local population.

1. If the issue is the FBI's incompetence, then Comey has a point. Maybe they should spend more time vetting refugees and less time manufacturing terrorist plots.

2. Comey says the process has "improved dramatically." So citing a six-year-old FBI screw-up is disingenuous.

3. Is this what Ed Burke is referring to here - and is this true? My guess is yes, because that's all I found through the old Google:

"'Interestingly enough, since the tragedy of Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center, there've been 745,000 refugees relocated in the United States of America. 745,000. Of that 745,000, two have been arrested. That's a pretty good record,' Burke said."

As to the difficulty in backgrounding folks from Syria, Burke said something like this today too, but I couldn't find it, so I'll use this:

4. Comey doesn't have much credibility either.

*

Meanwhile . . .

"A Syrian family fleeing war starts a new life in Chicago on Wednesday, despite Gov. Bruce Rauner's temporary ban on accepting Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks," Lynn Sweet reports for the Sun-Times.

"The Muslim family of five - parents and three children - will be assisted by volunteers organized by Exodus World Service, the non-profit headquartered in suburban Bloomingdale dedicated to mobilizing 'the Christian community to welcome refugees.'

"Julie Carlsen, a senior director of programs at Exodus, said in an interview, 'Exodus continues to welcome refugees, including Syrians arriving in Chicago, because we trust the secure vetting process the U.S. government, the federal government has put in place.'"

Also:

"A spokesman for the Jewish Federation of Chicago, the agency that administers the Illinois Refugee Social Services Consortium, a network of nine non-profits who contract with the federal government to provide services, said Tuesday nothing has changed."

Christians and Jews welcoming Muslims. That's how we win - and that's what the terrorists want to destroy.

*

"In Illinois, only 130 Syrian refugees have settled here - half of them are children and most of the adult men are fathers," ABC7 Chicago reports.

Fatima Ibris, 40, and her family settled in the West Rogers Park neighborhood about nine months ago. Her father and brother were killed and she feared for her own life.

"We couldn't go out," she said. "When we go out, they'd kill us with guns."

Before arriving in the U.S., Ibris and her family completed an extensive background check by multiple agencies.

After three years in Lebanon, the United Nations determined Ibris and her family met the legal definition of a refugee and the family was chosen as good candidates to resettle in the U.S.

"They bring us here, they know everything about our life," Ibris said.

The resettlement process begins with a UN screening. Before refugees are allowed in the U.S, an individual must go through a rigorous multi-step security and screening process.

"Our process consists of doing intensive data gathering background checks that can be passed along to the State Department," said Galya Ruffer, of Northwestern University.

Ruffer said it could take as long as four years by the time a refugee is allowed to come to U.S. And yet, another check is done once the refugee arrives.

"The image in Europe of a single male migrating through isn't what our resettlement process. We are offering families who are legitimate refugees, a chance to resettle in the U.S.," Ruffer said.

That doesn't mean mistakes can't happen, but if a terrorist wants entry into the United States, going through the refugee resettlement program is just about the worst way to go about it.

*

Here's the Tribune editorial page - in "The Case For A Refugee Pause:"

"The process of being accepted to the U.S. is painstaking. Candidates are screened for security threats by the FBI, the Department of Defense and the National Counterterrorism Center, as well as international law enforcement agencies. The candidates run a gantlet of medical screenings and background checks."

Okay, you've convinced me! You're wrong!

*

The Republican party is now officially more cowardly than the French.

*

Crain's, on the other hand, says "Shame On You, Governor:"

here is no rational basis for Rauner's action. The terrorists responsible for the Paris atrocities were not Syrian refugees - they were European nationals. And while the governor argues that Syrian refugees represent a security threat grave enough to merit even a temporary review of our immigration procedures, we are not hearing him object to waving in refugees from other war-torn regions. How are the thousands of refugees coming into the U.S. from Afghanistan and Iraq any different from Syrians?

To that point, Sneed reports that "Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is traveling to China later this week, is expected to announce China Eastern Airlines will begin direct service in March between Shanghai and Chicago."

The Chinese are coming, alert the governor!

*

Perhaps Brucey has his eye on higher office and will need to get through a Republican primary.

*

Then there's this voice of reason:

Sorry, most of the whining I've heard has come from the other side of the aisle. If the president is getting off easy on this, it's because few are pointing out just how uncharitable his Syrian refugee program has been thus far.

*

Kass:

Those who dare question Obama's wisdom are subject to jeers from the sophisticated class.

So you prefer unsophisticates?

*

Yet many reasonable Americans who aren't the least bit political have legitimate questions:

What if there are Islamic State followers among the flow of Syrian refugees?

How does Obama plan on vetting the refugees?

Those strike me as questions a reporter might ask! I had those questions and what I did was research the damn issue.

*

And who will guarantee that killers - like those who pulled triggers in Paris - aren't among them?

A "guarantee" is setting the bar awfully high, isn't it?

*

But others were a bit more measured. Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican running for president, introduced a bill the other day to suspend visas to refugees from Syria and 30 other countries with jihadist movements.

That's measured? No more visas to people in 31 countries! Forever? And does that include France and Belgium?

*

Perhaps there is no Obama religious test, but there sure seems to be an Obama bureaucratic test.

According to U.S. State Department statistics, since 2011, there have been 2,219 Syrian refugees admitted into America. Of that number, 53 are Christian.

Only 53? I'm not saying one life is more valuable than another life. But in Syria there is - or was - a place called the Valley of the Christians.

So Kass is alleging that the Obama administration is purposefully keeping Christian Syrians out of the country. Just to be clear. Whoa, if true. (There's no way that's true.)

*

President Obama wants to demonstrate American compassion to the rest of the world. I think he's right to do so. But you have to sell it, Mr. President.

So he actually supports the president's Syrian refugee policy? The problem is the president hasn't "sold it" well enough? Get thee to an editor!

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I'd say the president is doing a pretty good sales job.

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Again, to me, the critique of Obama ought come from a different direction. Here's what showed up in succession in my Twitter this morning:

Why not go after that instead?

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At least Kass acknowledges that he was once a Freedom Fries guy. But isn't credibility built most on getting these moments right?

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See also: From Paris to Boston, Terrorists Were Already Known to Authorities

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I got a large coffee for free today at Filter in Wicker Park because somebody left a "Buy someone coffee" card for the next guy. Now I have that card and it's my turn to pay it forward. (I cut the cashiers in on the deal by putting leaving a little something in the tip jar for them.)

coffeeforward.jpg

I think I'll give it to a woman in a hijab. It's the least I can do.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Your choice.



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Posted on November 18, 2015


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