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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cruising the Web

This year's college graduates and their families are not very optimistic about their children's employment futures.
About half of students expect to be supported financially by their parents for up to two years after graduation, according to a new survey of 500 students and 500 parents released Tuesday by Upromise, the savings division of Sallie Mae, the student lender....

Parents seem to be more lenient about letting their graduate children come back home. Some 36% of parents say they expected to support their children financially for more than two years, up from just 18% last year, and only 2.8% of parents expect their kids to have a full-time job after college and only one-quarter see them having any kind of job in their chosen field when they graduate. And if they moved in with their parents after graduation, 20% of students expect it would be at no cost to themselves....

Almost one-third of graduates expect to receive some support for up to six months, and another third expect to rely on their parents for up to two years, according to Serido’s study. The final third are evenly divided between those who foresee financial support for over two years and those who expect no financial support from their parents. It also appears to be impacting other life ambitions: Some 28% say marriage is not an important life goal, while 19% say the same about home ownership.

This interdependence between parent and graduate offspring underscores the continuing struggle facing college graduates even at a time when the overall unemployment rate hit 5.4% in April, down from 6.2% in April 2014. The effective unemployment rate for 18 to 29 year-olds, which adjusts for labor-force participation by including those who have given up looking for work, was 13.8% in April, according to Generation Opportunity, a conservative, nonprofit think tank based in Arlington, Va.

Mark Hemingway details how Christina Hoff Sommers has become the number one enemy to radical feminists because of her common-sense, fact-based arguments about some of their wildest claims. Her newest book, Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why It Matters Today (Values and Capitalism), promotes her vision of what should be the goals of feminists in contrast to what today's feminists are riled up about. And her arguments are so powerful, that the only alternative seems to be to attempt to silence her rather than debate her.
This view, she writes, “stands for the moral, social, and legal equality of the sexes,” but also for women’s freedom—including the freedom to embrace traditional femininity. “Efforts to obliterate gender roles can be just as intolerant as the efforts to maintain them,” she writes, and “theories of universal patriarchal oppression or the inherent evils of capitalism are not in [freedom feminism’s] founding tablets.” Above all, Sommers’s approach is moored in reality, not utopian notions of social justice.

Sommers’s efforts to spread her gospel have annoyed many academic feminists for years, but recently the response to her has gone from confrontational to hostile. “I have never stopped going to campuses, and I’ve been going to law schools. But I have rarely faced protests,” she tells The Weekly Standard. “I used to face vigorous debate, and the young women would come ready to argue—and that was fine, that’s what I was there for. But this is different, and it only started happening this year.”
When she appears to now on college campuses, there are protests that attempt to deny her the ability to speak and present her message.
Indeed, an inability to distinguish between threats and disagreements seems to be a hallmark of this contemporary feminism. Sommers is scary precisely because she doesn’t shy away from heightening the contradictions. Where op-ed writers have patiently picked apart the discredited “wage gap” statistics feminists insist on recycling, Sommers shows up in the proverbial lion’s den, calmly points her finger at the scolds-in-training, and challenges them to prove their commitment to female equality by changing their major to the lucrative and male-dominated field of petroleum engineering.

These days, campus feminists make no attempt to debate Sommers on substance. Instead, she routinely faces attempts to shun her, silence her, or distort her message. After her Georgetown speech, there were demands that the student group that had hosted her remove the protesters from video of the event. A university administrator warned that if the upset students weren’t edited out, “Georgetown [would] need to step in.”

Got that? Protesters showed up at a public event to draw attention to their message—but then realized that footage showing ostensible adults holding signs saying “Trigger Warning: Antifeminist” was an embarrassment to the students and bad PR for the school, so they wanted it censored. Another embarrassment is young feminists’ ignorance.
Whenever one side seeks to totally silence the other side instead of combating its arguments, they have indicated their own intellectual surrender.

Kirsten Powers whose book, The Silencing, argues that this sort of effort to silence someone whose views they dislike is part of a general effort to make sure that such arguments never get heard. And what has been happening to Christina Hoff Summers is part of this campaign.
I see the trigger warnings as being extremely aggressive. I think people have laughed them off frequently and the safe spaces and sort of say ‘Oh, these poor…they’re so frail.’ And that may be true. They are very intellectually frail. They’re unable to deal with different ideas but there’s a real intimidation factor to it. So when you’re Christina Hoff Summers showing up at Oberlin, as happened in April, and you have people portraying you as if you’re creating an unsafe environment for them, to the point that the university has to give you security. And you show up and there’s a sign outside saying, “Warning: You may hear discussions of sexual assault or a person denying your experience,” which is of course nothing she’s ever…she’s never denied anybody’s experience of being raped. And then a safe room in this room. That’s an intimidation tactic. If you’re Christina Hoff Summers, first of all, it’s lying about who you are and it’s meant to delegitimize you and to make it seem like you’re a person who is expressing views that are dangerous. They’re so dangerous that you have to go to a “safe space.”

BN: So it’s aggressive and passive-aggressive.

KP: Right. Yeah, it’s passive-aggressive but, I don’t know, it’s an aggressive act to treat somebody as if they pose some sort of psychological danger to you because they’re expressing an opinion. And that’s what they’re doing. Like I said it’s one thing if they’re off doing this on their own. Whatever. They can do whatever they want but that’s not what they’re doing. They’re trying to delegitimize a speaker who is coming by pretending that you need to have a safe space because she’s speaking and they’re standing their with trigger warnings. A trigger is supposed to refer to PTSD. That is a serious illness. To suggest that somebody coming in and speaking about equity feminism, which is what she was there to do, is a potential threat to your psychological well-being, literally to the extent that you could have a melt-down because of what she’s talking about–it’s delegitimize her as a speaker.

BN: So it is an attack in a way.

KP: Yeah, that’s why a lot of people when they laugh about it… this isn’t funny. Sometimes it is funny but you have to kind of then step back and see it in the broader context and you realize these aren’t things that you should just roll your eyes at.

Since deductibles and insurance premiums have jumped so high under Obamacare, the law's advocates have their own typical solution - more government regulation.
So now, many of the same groups that agitated for Obamacare are agitating for new government spending or tighter controls on the insurance industry and businesses to "solve" the problem. But perhaps the first question to ask is: How did those deductibles get so high in the first place?

The answer is Obamacare.

Obamacare's upward pressure on deductibles started in the law's first year. By the fall of 2010, six months after President Obama signed the bill into law, Obamacare dictated that insurers could no longer impose lifetime caps on payments, could not deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and had to insure adults up to the age of 26 on their parents' policies.

Those provisions raised the insurers' costs, and since then some additional cost-increasing Obamacare provisions have become law. Sure enough, deductibles began to increase significantly. The pro-Obamacare group Commonwealth Fund measured adults for whom the insurance deductible represents five percent or more of annual income. In 2003 and 2005, Commonwealth Fund found, three percent of adults were in that category. In 2010, the figure doubled, to six percent. In 2012, it rose to eight percent. In 2014, it rose to 11 percent.

Republicans have long predicted the increase in deductibles. But most analyses from liberal groups pay scant notice to the effect that Obamacare's edicts are having on deductibles. Instead, groups on the left like the Center for American Progress are coming up with proposals for new mandates, like more free preventive services and a "shared savings rebate," in which employers would be forced to turn over some healthcare payments to employees, as solutions to the problem.
Look for these proposals in the upcoming election as Democrats seek more government power to apply their own approach to the problem they exacerbated in the first place.

Meanwhile, Megan McArdle looks at the projected increases in Obamacare insurance rates and doesn't see much comfort for consumers.
Eyeing the Journal's list, the most obvious pattern is that states are converging on a price somewhere well north of $300 a month for a 40-year-old nonsmoker seeking a Silver plan; the states with the biggest rate hikes all had premiums under $250, and are asking to be allowed to go near or over $300, while the states that asked for low increases were already over $300, and in some cases well over. (Vermont is at $430 -- and asking to go to $476! "Only" an 8.4 percent increase, but wow.) It seems as if states where insurers initially underpriced are now trying to move toward a natural price somewhere between $3,600 and $5,000 a year for a single nonsmoker. If that's the price of providing basic benefits, regulators cannot command it away by fiat; the best they can do is to force insurers out of the market.

Paul Waldman thinks that the Koch brothers are preparing to wield their financial might in the GOP primaries to help those candidates they like and perhaps promote separation between their favored candidates and all the others.

Dennis Prager makes an attempt at dissecting the fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives. As Thomas Sowell argued in A Conflict of Visions, Prager places the foundational difference in ideologies in their views of human nature.
Left-of-center doctrines hold that people are basically good. On the other side, conservative doctrines hold that man is born morally flawed — not necessarily born evil, but surely not born good. Yes, we are born innocent — babies don’t commit crimes, after all — but we are not born good. Whether it is the Christian belief in original sin or the Jewish belief that we are all born with a yetzer tov (good inclination) and a yetzer ra (bad inclination) that are in constant conflict, the root value systems of the West never held that we are naturally good.
This difference in views leads to different approaches to crime.
This is so important to understanding the Left–Right divide because so many fundamental Left–Right differences emanate from this divide.

Perhaps the most obvious one is that conservatives blame those who engage in violent criminal activity for their behavior more than liberals do. Liberals argue that poverty, despair, and hopelessness cause poor people, especially poor blacks — in which case racism is added to the list — to riot and commit violent crimes....

So, poor blacks who riot and commit other acts of violence do so largely because they feel neglected and suffer from deprivations.

Because people are basically good, their acts of evil must be explained by factors beyond their control. Their behavior is not really their fault, and when conservatives blame blacks for rioting and other criminal behavior, liberals accuse them of “blaming the victim.”

In the conservative view, people who do evil are to be blamed because they made bad choices — and they did so because they either have little self-control or a dysfunctional conscience. In either case, they are to blame. That’s why the vast majority of equally poor people — black or white — do not riot or commit violent crimes.

Likewise, many liberals believe that most of the Muslims who engage in terror do so because of the poverty and especially because of the high unemployment rate for young men in the Arab world. Yet, it turns out that most terrorists come from middle-class homes. All the 9/11 terrorists came from middle- and upper-class homes. And of course Osama bin Laden was a billionaire.

Material poverty doesn’t cause murder, rape, or terror. Moral poverty does. That’s one of the great divides between Left and Right. And it largely emanates from their differing views about whether human nature is innately good.

Instapundit has a round-up of posts about how, as Bob Woodward says, Bush didn't lie about WMD in Iraq and Obama's policies have helped lead to the mess we're facing now in the Middle East. Glenn Reynolds reminds us of how Obama and Biden bragged and campaigned about pulling troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He concludes,
Yes, I keep repeating this stuff. Because it bears repeating. In Iraq, Obama took a war that we had won at a considerable expense in lives and treasure, and threw it away for the callowest of political reasons. In Syria and Libya, he involved us in wars of choice without Congressional authorization, and proceeded to hand victories to the Islamists. Obama’s policy here has been a debacle of the first order, and the press wants to talk about Bush as a way of protecting him. Whenever you see anyone in the media bringing up 2003, you will know that they are serving as palace guard, not as press.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Cruising the Web

Dan Balz has read the advice of Republican pollster Whit Ayers for the GOP. Ayres is now the pollster for Marco Rubio and before that had written a book of advice for Republicans on how to win future elections, 2016 and Beyond: How Republicans Can Elect a President in the New America. Ayres has meticulously studied poll data and demographics to advise Republicans that Republicans can't win in 2016 if they just capture the same percentage of the white vote that they've captured in previous elections. As Balz recapitulates,
Put another way, if the 2016 nominee gets no better than Romney’s 17 percent of the nonwhite vote, he or she would need 65 percent of the white vote to win, a level achieved in modern times only by Ronald Reagan in his 1984 landslide. Bush’s 2004 winning formula — 26 percent of the nonwhite vote and 58 percent of the white vote — would be a losing formula in 2016, given population changes.

Ayres also points out that the GOP’s support among whites is not evenly distributed across the country. He notes that Romney won “overwhelming margins” among whites in conservative Southern states, but won fewer than half the white vote in Northern states such as Maine, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Oregon. More importantly, Romney won fewer white votes than he needed in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

To Ayres, this isn’t an either-or choice for the GOP. As he puts it, “For Republicans to become competitive again in presidential elections, Republican candidates must perform better among whites, especially in the overwhelmingly white states of the upper Midwest, and much better among minorities.”
For Balz, it is not a coincidence that a pollster with this viewpoint would end up working for Marco Rubio. It is not just Rubio has a Hispanic background that makes him the obvious candidate to take advantage of the roadmap that Ayres has laid out. I'm not even sure how much a Cuban-American candidate would appeal to the wide diversityamong Hispanic voters. There might be a large percentage of Hispanic voters who would prefer Hillary Clinton's positions on policy to those of any Republican even if he is fluent in Spanish and can tell inspirational stories about his parents' efforts to bring up their family in America.

On the other hand, the NYT reports that "a Hillary Clinton match-up with Marco Rubio is a scary thought for Democrats."
They use words like “historic” and “charismatic,” phrases like “great potential” and “million-dollar smile.” They notice audience members moved to tears by an American-dream-come-true success story. When they look at the cold, hard political math, they get uneasy.

An incipient sense of anxiety is tugging at some Democrats — a feeling tersely captured in four words from a blog post written recently by a seasoned party strategist in Florida: “Marco Rubio scares me.”
The Democrats and their Super PACs are busy attacking Rubio as a typical Republican and portraying him as young and inexperienced.
Still, when many Democrats assess Mr. Rubio’s chances, as nearly a dozen of them did for this article, they put him in the top tier of potential candidates who concern them the most, along with former Gov. Jeb Bush, another Floridian who is courting Hispanics, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Mr. Rubio’s heritage and his youth could be particularly dangerous to Mrs. Clinton, they said. Each of those points could help neutralize one of her biggest strengths: the opportunity to help elect the first female president, and the experience Mrs. Clinton gained as secretary of state.

Mr. Rubio already appears to be pursuing that strategy. By calling himself a candidate of the “21st century, not the 20th,” he seeks both to turn Mrs. Clinton’s long career against her and to entice voters who may desire a change of direction.

In Florida, Democrats who have watched Mr. Rubio’s rise warn against playing down his strengths...

Steve Schale, the Florida strategist who wrote the “Marco Rubio scares me” blog post, said that when he worked for the Democratic leader of the Florida House of Representatives, his boss, Dan Gelber, had a saying about Mr. Rubio’s effect on crowds, and about his sincerity: “Young women swoon, old women pass out, and toilets flush themselves.”

And Mr. Gelber himself recalled the day in Tallahassee, Fla., in 2008 when he and Mr. Rubio, then the speaker of the State House, gave their farewell speeches. He spoke first, followed by Mr. Rubio, as Mr. Gelber’s wife looked on.

“She’s sitting there weeping,” Mr. Gelber recalled, still incredulous. “And I look up, and I mouth, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”
Remember that winning Florida will be key to winning in 2016 and you can see why some Democrats worry about Rubio. I think he would be much more of a threat to them nationwide than Jeb Bush would be with all the baggage that he would carry as a member of the Bush family.

Admittedly, some of my political perceptions are slanted because I spend so much time with teenagers. So I'll pass along three observations from the teen world of political thought. I overheard some of my female 10th graders talking about next year's election. One girl said that she really wanted to see a woman president but she just couldn't like Hillary all that much. The other girls signed and agreed. Their attitude made me wonder how much Hillary would appeal to younger women as well as how Rubio might appeal.

Back in 2010 my students had an assignment to work in small groups to follow a senatorial contest for several months and then report back to the class how the campaign they'd followed matched what we had learned in class. The groups drew the contests they'd followed and the group of girls who happened to be 12th graders and had picked Florida were complaining because they hadn't heard of any of the candidates. As I projected up on the screen pictures of the candidates for each race, they immediately perked up when they saw Rubio's picture and started making jokes about how now they were a lot more interested in following that campaign. And when they made their presentation a couple of months later they were still quite enthralled with Rubio. It's silly and immature, but then that is how a lot of teenagers think. His looks caught their interest and, from then on, they were sympathetic to his message. And it didn't hurt that Charlie Crist was so very repellent.

Those students were the same sort of voter that was sighing dreamily about Barack Obama. And believe me, I saw plenty of my students fully ensorcelled by Obama in that election when all they could say to explain why they liked him was because he was young, inspirational and good-looking. Well, that also describes Marco Rubio. He may just steal some of that youth vote away from Hillary.

One other observation I've had for the past few years concerns how young people regard Bill Clinton. I've long noticed that there are certain politicians or countries that I can just mention in class and the kids will start giggling. For some reason they'll start laughing if I mention Canada. And France gets the same treatment. When Bob Dole and John McCain ran in 1996 and 2008, the mere mention of their names would get kids cackling because they were, like, old. Well, Bill Clinton gets the same response. Just this past week, my AP US History students were reporting on their long research papers that they'd written on any subject in American history. So one boy starts out and said, "I wrote my paper on Bill Clinton," and immediately, the rest of the class started giggling. They didn't know what else that boy had researched, but they knew that Bill Clinton was a joke to them. Interestingly, that boy had started out thinking that his argument was going to be that Clinton shouldn't have been impeached, but he ended up changing his mind after doing the research and argued that the impeachment was the correct decision.

Remember that that a voter who is 18 in 2016 was a toddler when the Clintons were last in the White House. That is history to them, not current events. And they don't know much about that history, but they all seem to know who Monica Lewinsky is. Hillary might be a female, but she's also very old-seeming to them. And for those with an immature approach to politics, which sadly many of them have, all they might have to see is a picture of Hillary next to one of Rubio and their minds might be made up.

John Hinderaker argues that the real damage to Hillary from Benghazi isn't the murder of four Americans and the administration's deceptive reaction to attempt to portray that attack as the result of anger over a video. What will really damage Hillary Clinton is that the administration policy in Libya was her baby from the get-go and it's been a terrible failure.
In my opinion, Hillary’s biggest problem isn’t Benghazi per se, it is the broader issue of Libya. Why were Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans murdered? Because by September 2012, Libya was a terrorist playground. Since then, things have only gotten worse. Libya has become a failed state, a 21st century source of boat people, as refugees from ubiquitous violence stream across the Mediterranean. Libya is now a haven for ISIS and other terrorist groups; it was on the Libyan coast that ISIS beheaded 30 Christians. Some of the “refugees” now making their way into Europe are, in fact, ISIS agents. In short, Libya is a disaster.

Whose disaster? Hillary Clinton’s. It was Hillary who, more than anyone else, pushed to overthrow Moammar Qaddafi. Why? No compelling reason. Qaddafi had been tame ever since the Iraq war, which he interpreted as a threat to his rule. Almost incredibly, Clinton and her cohorts in NATO overthrew Qaddafi (who was subsequently murdered by a mob) without having a plan for what would come next.

Who says Hillary Clinton is responsible for the Libya fiasco? She does. In fact, at one point she was poised to claim Libya as the notable accomplishment of her term as Secretary of State.
Hinderaker points to one of the released emails about how to give Clinton credit for her "leadership.ownership.stewardship of this country's libya [sic] policy from start to finish." Of course, that was back in 2011 before it became clear that Libya would not be the masterpiece of Hillary's accomplishments at State.
Hillary’s problem is not primarily the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, outrageous as those murders were. Rather, her real problem is that she bears primary responsibility for a policy that was not just a failure, but a disaster. Further, it was a policy that, as you can see from Sullivan’s email, she intended to be a crown jewel of her years as Secretary of State and, no doubt, a chief credential in her run for the presidency. Instead, it blew up in her face–worse, in ours–like an exploding cigar.

The Benghazi murders are of course important. But it is critical to recognize that they resulted not just from a lack of adequate security or other misjudgments that may have been made at the time. Rather, the fact that terrorists were largely in control of Benghazi by September 2012 was the direct result of Hillary’s bad judgment in leading the overthrow of Qaddafi while having no plan for what would come after, and no ability to influence events on the ground. It is that poor judgment that disqualifies her as a candidate for the presidency.

Karen Tumulty ponders what we can learn about Hillary's management style from the few e-mails that she has given over to be released and the even smaller subset of those emails that were released on Friday. As Tumulty, no right-wing stooge, notes, Hillary is just as paranoid and ineffective as an administrator as she has always been.
For those who have worried that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign would be a repeat of the chaotic operation she ran eight years ago, her advisers have often pointed to her time in between at the State Department — which by comparison was an archetype of crisp managerial efficiency.

But a trove of newly released e-mails suggests that one of Clinton’s tendencies persisted during her time as secretary of state — an inability to separate her longtime loyalties from the business at hand.

The e-mails from her private account reveal that she passed along no fewer than 25 memos about Libya from friend and political ally Sidney Blumenthal. Blumenthal had business interests in Libya but no diplomatic expertise there.
So why keep corresponding with Blumenthal and passing along his advice on Libya to State Department officials who were decidedly unimpressed with his insights?
Blumenthal fits a pattern of allies to whom Clinton has long been drawn — those who share her view that she is surrounded by enemies and dark conspiracies.

“She’s not a paranoid person, I don’t think, but she wants some paranoid people around her,” said one former aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Clinton’s distaste for those who speak to reporters when not authorized to do so.

Another former high-ranking staffer said that Clinton prizes “a combination of loyalty, blind devotion, willingness to stand up and fight for her — somebody who doesn’t back down from a fight on her behalf and who doesn’t flinch.”

On that score, Blumenthal had more than proven himself over the years. Indeed, one of the reasons that the White House objected to putting him at the State Department was that many there believed he had spread toxic rumors about Barack Obama during the lengthy primary battle with Clinton in 2008.
Tumulty poins out how similar her secretive relationship with Blumenthal while she was at State is to the backdoors relationship she encouraged with Dick Morris to help her husband get reelected. She liked him because he was a tough campaigner who didn't object to doing the unsavory stuff necessary to win. So she encouraged Bill to bring him into his campaign plans but to hide the communications from his other aides. And it worked. And her 2008 campaign built on that same pattern of having all sorts of contradictory advisers.
Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential operation was similarly dysfunctional. Veterans of that campaign recall that there were too many advisers elbowing each other on important decisions and no one empowered to tell them to stop.

Her 2016 organization has been built with those mistakes in mind. Relatively few of those who were involved in 2008 remain; in their place is a new generation of data-driven operatives, few of whom have long or deep ties to the candidate herself.

Her new campaign chairman, John Podesta, was picked in part for his willingness to act as an enforcer.

“With Podesta in charge,” said a longtime Clinton friend, “it’s a new game in the sense that Podesta’s big skill is the ability to tell people to go to hell.”

In other words, they are building a different kind of Clinton campaign. The question is whether the candidate can be a different kind of Clinton.

It's not a good sign for Carly Fiorina when her former staffers from her Senate campaign have such a negative opinion of her. Not being able to pay staffers for what they did for her five years ago is no way to trumpet her managerial competence.
Twelve of about 30 people who worked on Fiorina’s failed 2010 California Senate campaign, most speaking out for the first time, told Reuters they would not work for her again. Fiorina, once one of America's most powerful businesswomen, is now campaigning for the Republican nomination in 2016.

The reason: for more than four years, Fiorina - who has an estimated net worth of up to $120 million - didn’t pay them, a review of Federal Election Commission records shows.

On the campaign trail, the former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ.N) CEO has portrayed herself as a battle-hardened business leader who possesses the best financial skills among fellow Republican presidential hopefuls. But some former staffers on her Senate campaign are now raising questions about that portrayal.

Federal campaign filings show that, until a few months before Fiorina announced her presidential bid on May 4, she still owed staffers, consultants, strategists, legal experts and vendors nearly half a million dollars.
Of course, it's not unusual for candidates to finish off campaigns in the red and campaign operatives and vendors are used to being owed money. But the length of time those Fiorina staffers went unpaid is a real black mark against a woman who is a multimillionaire.
A number of former campaign workers said they were upset that Fiorina paid them only once she had decided to run for president. They also complained that around the time she lost her campaign, Fiorina repaid herself $1.2 million of the $6.78 million she had loaned her campaign.

Another source of pique: nine months after she lost the election, Fiorina paid $6.1 million for a 5-acre (2. hectare) waterfront estate in Virginia, near Washington, D.C. The house has no mortgage, property records show.

James Taranto marvels at the narcissism of Barack Obama's approach to public policy. After reading through Obama's interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, Taranto notes the passage in which Obama tells Jews not to worry about what will happen to Israel if the Iran deal goes through because Obama recognizes that his "name will be on this" so he has "a personal interest in locking this down." Taranto comments,
n the next two paragraphs, Goldberg restates the argument in his own (considerably more numerous) words. Clearly he finds it persuasive, or at least he wants to. By contrast, we find it rather terrifying.

The question at hand involves the proliferation of nuclear weapons by a regime that not only is anti-Semitic but also describes America as “the great Satan.” And the president of the United States wants to talk about . . . himself—his reputation, or, to use the political-class buzzword, his “legacy.”
And Obama gave almost the same answer to questions about his trade agreement.
That argument, like the one he makes in the Goldberg interview, evades completely the substance of the dispute. It is a pure appeal to personal authority—not to Obama’s authority as president but to his ideological credibility as one who is “focused on how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal,” that is, a liberal. In this context, the argument can be reduced to this: I’m a liberal, therefore liberals should trust me.

The logic is faulty—Warren is also a liberal, and Obama has offered no reason why liberals shouldn’t trust her—but at least the premise is true: Obama is a liberal, which is to say that he has been largely (albeit not completely) consistent in supporting liberal priorities.

The Iran argument, also an appeal to personal authority, is even less convincing than the trade one. It can be reduced to this: I am concerned about my legacy, therefore Americans should trust me. (In our mind, Goldberg’s awkwardly particularistic formulation, “many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews,” amounts to “many Americans.”)

Obama’s argument here rests not on his ideology—he doesn’t mean to appeal only to liberals—or on his record. Rather, his claim is that he is trustworthy because as a future ex-president with a perhaps unusual preoccupation with his own legacy, he will spend his old age living with the consequences of his decisions—and thus he has an incentive to make wise ones....

Note further that the president frames his argument not in terms of how “history” will view him but how his future self will (“20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing”). In other words, the putative incentive depends crucially on the expectation that Obama will acknowledge error or failure.

Eli Lake dissects Obama's interview with Jeffrey Goldberg and the President's puffery about how much he admires Golda Meir. As Lake points out, Meir was much more harsh towards Palestinian than Netanyahu. Obama really doesn't know anything about Israeli history, but why should that surprise us? He frequently has displayed his ignorance of American history.
The national character of Israel is not shaped by a desire to be a light unto nations, as Obama says, but by the ordinary desire to survive. Zionism, at its core, is the recognition that Jews and only Jews can be counted on to save themselves from the people who will inevitably try to destroy them.

All of this brings us to Obama's relationship with Netanyahu. In Obama's telling, he has an obligation -- as a great friend of Israel -- to criticize Israeli policies that he sees as undermining the nation's long-term security. This is why Obama treated construction of buildings in East Jerusalem as settlements. It's why he said he was re-evaluating the U.S. relationship with Israel after Netanyahu said, in a last-minute campaign message, that he wouldn't see a Palestinian state during his government. Friends don't let friends drive drunk.

Obama doesn't muster this kind of tough love for the Palestinians. When Kerry tried to restart peace talks in 2013, the Palestinians demanded the release of prisoners as a precondition for their participation. Israel and Kerry went along with it. These were not political prisoners. These were not men jailed for advancing the national aspirations of Palestinians. Many of them committed heinous crimes, such as Atiyeh Salem Abu Musa, who was arrested in 1994 for murdering a holocaust survivor, Isaac Rosenberg, with an axe. When Musa returned to the West Bank, he was given a hero's welcome.

Obama also professes to be a good friend to the Palestinian people. This might have been a good time for him to use his rhetorical skill to remind them that in their struggle for statehood, there is no place for the celebration of axe murderers. He could have told them how counter-productive the celebration of anti-Semitic violence is to their national cause, or how it makes his job defending them in the international community difficult when they provide official stipends to the families of suicide bombers. But Obama chose not to say anything about the prisoner release and the celebrations that followed.

In his interview with Goldberg, Obama said he rejected the idea that if you publicly criticize Israeli settlements or express empathy with Palestinians, you are automatically considered "anti-Israel." But this logic goes both ways. What does it make you if you indulge the Palestinian celebration of violence against Jews as a short-term proposal to restart peace negotiations? At the very least, it doesn't make you a very good friend of the Palestinians.

The "Affordable" part of the Affordable Care Act is becoming more and more ironic. As IBD reports on how Obamacare premiums are spiking on average 18.6% next year with some states increasing rates even more. Why is this happening? For exactly the reasons predicted before the law passed.
First, insurers now have claims experience on which to base premiums, and what these market leaders are finding is that enrollees are older, sicker and more expensive to cover than they'd anticipated.
Second, federal bailout programs meant to cushion insurance industry profits in ObamaCare's first couple years are starting to end.

The Washington Examiner notes the revolving door aspect of Hillary Clinton's time at the Department of State and the money she has earned from organizations that lobbied the administration on the Trade Promotion Authority issue.
So what does Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for president in 2016, think about the issue? Funny you should ask. While serving as secretary of state, Clinton was an enthusiastic supporter of free trade, and especially of the deal Obama is still negotiating with 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim. Lately, she has avoided taking a clear position on this issue, but the latest smoke signals out of her camp, from last month, came in the form of a statement from an aide that suggested a "wait-and-see" attitude.

Meanwhile, journalists have made a curious discovery in Secretary Clinton's financial disclosure forms. Since January 2014, Clinton has been paid $2.7 million in speaking fees by at least 10 organizations that are specifically lobbying the Obama administration right now on the issue of trade....

How is this not a classic case of "the revolving door?"

The revolving-door concept is simple: Today's officeholders and bureaucrats, from the lowliest to the mightiest, make decisions in the knowledge that someday the people subject to their decisions today may well end up showing them some gratitude — perhaps in the form of a paycheck for lobbying or "consulting," or perhaps in the form of one-time speaking fees.

Again, the question here is not whether money has changed, obscured or otherwise affected Clinton's position. The question is whether Clinton has taken way too much easy money from people involved in this issue. The answer is yes.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cruising the Web

Well, all right then. The President doesn't think we're losing in the struggle against ISIS. In fact, losing Ramadi is just a setback in what President Obama says he's always thought would be "a multiyear campaign." While Obama isn't worried, the Islamic State is moving successfully across the region. As the WSJ writes,
Meanwhile, back on Planet Middle East, an opposition monitoring group estimates that after taking Palmyra Islamic State now controls about half of Syria, including most of its oil fields. The West is fretting about Palmyra because of its 2,000-year-old cultural treasures, and rightly so.

But of more immediate importance is that Palmyra is the first major city that Islamic State has captured from Syrian government troops, as opposed to other rebel groups. The would-be caliphate is consolidating its base in Syria even as it expands its reach in Iraq. In September Mr. Obama vowed to “degrade” and “destroy” ISIS, but the jihadists are doing most of the destroying.

It’s also worth mulling over Mr. Obama’s claim that he always “anticipated” this would be “a multiyear campaign.” This is the same President who criticized George W. Bush for conducting endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan and vowing to end it in both places. The Iraqi city of Mosul fell last June, Mr. Obama laid out his anti-ISIS strategy in September, and eight months later he promises years of more American commitment to Iraq.

At least Mr. Bush, for all his mistakes after the fall of Saddam Hussein, ordered a change of strategy that left Iraq stable by the time Mr. Obama took office. On present trend Mr. Obama’s Cool Hand Luke generalship will leave his successor an Iraq in turmoil and a mini-caliphate entrenched across hundreds of miles. If this isn’t “losing,” how does the President define victory?

Charles Krauthammer sets up the question that the media should be asking today instead of, if we'd known what we know now, would you support the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The fact is that by the end of Bush’s tenure the war had been won. You can argue that the price of that victory was too high. Fine. We can debate that until the end of time. But what is not debatable is that it was a victory. Bush bequeathed to Obama a success. By whose measure? By Obama’s. As he told the troops at Fort Bragg on Dec. 14, 2011, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” This was, said the president, a “moment of success.”

Which Obama proceeded to fully squander. With the 2012 election approaching, he chose to liquidate our military presence in Iraq. We didn’t just withdraw our forces. We abandoned, destroyed or turned over our equipment, stores, installations and bases. We surrendered our most valuable strategic assets, such as control of Iraqi airspace, soon to become the indispensable conduit for Iran to supply and sustain the Assad regime in Syria and cement its influence all the way to the Mediterranean. And, most relevant to the fall of Ramadi, we abandoned the vast intelligence network we had so painstakingly constructed in Anbar province, without which our current patchwork operations there are largely blind and correspondingly feeble.

The current collapse was not predetermined in 2003 but in 2011. Isn’t that what should be asked of Hillary Clinton? We know you think the invasion of 2003 was a mistake. But what about the abandonment of 2011? Was that not a mistake?

Mme. Secretary: When you arrived at State, al-Qaeda in Iraq had been crushed and expelled from Anbar. The Iraqi government had from Basra to Sadr City fought and defeated the radical, Iranian-proxy Shiite militias. Yet today these militias are back, once again dominating Baghdad. On your watch, we gave up our position as the dominant influence over a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” — forfeiting that position gratuitously to Iran. Was that not a mistake? And where were you when it was made?

Iraq is now a battlefield between the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State and the Shiite jihadists of Iran’s Islamic Republic. There is no viable center. We abandoned it. The Obama administration’s unilateral pullout created a vacuum for the entry of the worst of the worst.

And the damage was self-inflicted. The current situation in Iraq, says David Petraeus, “is tragic foremost because it didn’t have to turn out this way. The hard-earned progress of the surge was sustained for over three years.”

Do the math. That’s 2009 through 2011, the first three Obama years. And then came the unraveling. When? The last U.S. troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, 2011.

Want to do retrospective hypotheticals? Start there.

Steve Huntley ponders the same hypothetical question that Charles Krauthammer has posed.
Democrats might start viewing such “knowing what you know now” inquiries as hypothetical questions, mental exercises based on 20-20 hindsight and arrogantly dismissive of conditions existing at the time the original decisions had to be made. Democrats might also begin to see them as “gotcha questions” — designed to elicit a potentially embarrassing answer — as some GOP presidential contenders see the Iraq question. Those Republicans have a point in that none of the declared presidential contestants, including Jeb Bush, had anything to do with President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq.

Bush, given his name and family relationship, has no choice but to expect questions arising out of his brother’s White House years. It’s also possible to argue that the questions have relevance because he picked for his foreign policy team some of the same advisers who worked for President Bush and advocated the Iraq invasion.

By the same token Clinton can’t escape such questions, and with more reason. She served as secretary of state for President Barack Obama, was a leading voice on foreign affairs, and advocated many of the positions embodied in the questions above.

It’s also worth remembering that Clinton, as a member of the U.S. Senate, voted to authorize military action against Iraq. She now calls that vote a “mistake.” Would she admit to other mistakes?

No doubt it would be politically problematical for Clinton to try to distance herself from the foreign policy of the president she served.

But the ISIS crisis, Russia’s interference in Ukraine, the festering Libya dilemma, the loss of U.S. credibility in the Middle East and other of today’s headaches are the result of decisions made when Clinton served in the Obama administration.

She is, in effect, running for president on the premise that she is the best person to clean up the foreign policy mess that she is in no small measure responsible for.

“Knowing what you know now” might be the wrong way to approach these issues, but they without doubt pose questions that Clinton must answer to persuade voters she can at long last get foreign policy issues right.
I've seen enough writers around the web pointing out that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama should be asked such hypothetical questions about the decisions that they made in Iraq to suppose that some reporters will indeed start asking these questions. Perhaps Hillary will laugh it off as she has questions about her dear friend, Sidney Blumenthal, or about the Clinton Foundation receiving money from groups that also had business before the Department of State when she was there.

Meanwhile, national security adviser Susan Rice is still trumpeting that the Obama administration "ended two wars responsibly."

Oh, what a shocker. The Clinton Foundation is now catching up with payments that it hadn't previously reported.
The Clinton Foundation reported Thursday that it has received as much as $26.4 million in previously undisclosed payments from major corporations, universities, foreign sources and other groups.

The disclosure came as the foundation faced questions over whether it fully complied with a 2008 ethics agreement to reveal its donors and whether any of its funding sources present conflicts of interest for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins her presidential campaign.

The money was paid as fees for speeches by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Foundation officials said the funds were tallied internally as “revenue” rather than donations, which is why they had not been included in the public listings of its contributors published as part of the 2008 agreement.
And now we are finding out that the kind of money that Peter Schweizer reported on in Clinton Cash was made tax deductible by rules proposed when Bill Clinton was still president and was setting up the Clinton Foundation and with the full endorsement by then First Lady Hillary Clinton.
As first lady in the final year of the Clinton administration, Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed a White House plan to give tax breaks to private foundations and wealthy charity donors at the same time the William J. Clinton Foundation was soliciting donations for her husband's presidential library, recently released Clinton-era documents show.

The blurred lines between the tax reductions proposed by the Clinton administration in 2000 and the Clinton Library's fundraising were an early foreshadowing of the potential ethics concerns that have flared around the Clintons' courting of corporate and foreign donors for their family charity before she launched her campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

The Clinton campaign is so secretive that they even demand anonymity in a conference call with Clinton campaign operatives.

Peggy Noonan has some advice for all those college students bemoaning the lack of trigger warnings presented before they have to read great literature that might signal some thoughts of feeling unsafe like the Columbia undergrads who were upset at having to read Ovid's Metamorphoses because there were stories of mythological rapes.
Why are you so fixated on the idea of personal safety, by which you apparently mean not having uncomfortable or unhappy thoughts and feelings? Is there any chance this preoccupation is unworthy of you? Please say yes.

There is no such thing as safety. That is asking too much of life. You can’t expect those around you to constantly accommodate your need for safety. That is asking too much of people.

Life gives you potentials for freedom, creativity, achievement, love, all sorts of beautiful things, but none of us are “safe.” And you are especially not safe in an atmosphere of true freedom. People will say and do things that are wrong, stupid, unkind, meant to injure. They’ll bring up subjects you find upsetting. It’s uncomfortable. But isn’t that the price we pay for freedom of speech?

You can ask for courtesy, sensitivity and dignity. You can show others those things, too, as a way of encouraging them. But if you constantly feel anxious and frightened by what you encounter in life, are we sure that means the world must reorder itself? Might it mean you need a lot of therapy?

Masterpieces, by their nature, pierce. They jar and unsettle. If something in a literary masterpiece upsets you, should the masterpiece really be banished? What will you be left with when all of them are gone?

What in your upbringing told you that safety is the highest of values? What told you it is a realistic expectation? Who taught you that you are entitled to it every day? Was your life full of . . . unchecked privilege? Discuss.

Do you think Shakespeare, Frieda Kahlo, Virginia Woolf, Langston Hughes and Steve Jobs woke up every morning thinking, “My focus today is on looking for slights and telling people they’re scaring me”? Or were their energies and commitments perhaps focused on other areas?

I notice lately that some members of your generation are being called, derisively, Snowflakes. Are you really a frail, special and delicate little thing that might melt when the heat is on?

Do you wish to be known as the first generation that comes with its own fainting couch? Did first- and second-wave feminists march to the barricades so their daughters and granddaughters could act like Victorians with the vapors?

Everyone in America gets triggered every day. Many of us experience the news as a daily microaggression. Who can we sue, silence or censor to feel better?

Finally, social justice warriors always portray themselves—and seem to experience themselves—as actively suffering victims who need protection. Is that perhaps an invalid self-image? Are you perhaps less needy than demanding? You seem to be demanding a safety no one else in the world gets. If you were so vulnerable, intimidated and weak, you wouldn’t really be able to attack and criticize your professors, administrators and fellow students so ably and successfully, would you?

Are you a bunch of frail and sensitive little bullies? Is it possible you’re not intimidated but intimidators?

Heather Wilhelm bemoans what has become of feminism that some are cheering the Columbia University student who has become known as Mattress Girl for hauling a mattress around campus to protest a supposed rape.
Sulkowicz’s claims, to put it kindly, are dubious. After an allegedly brutal attack, she refused to press criminal charges, saying it would be “too draining”—strange, given that she had the raw and obsessive energy to cart a mattress around all day for two semesters—and sent intimate and cutesy texts to Paul Nungesser, the young man she accused, in the months following the alleged assault. Mr. Nungesser, meanwhile, has been cleared multiple times by the university, and has filed a lawsuit against Columbia for enabling a targeted harassment campaign.

Oh, well. Details, details! “Mattress Girl” has gained media accolades, applause from high-profile politicians, and even an invite to the State of the Union. MTV lauded the mattress’s graduation appearance as a “touching act of symbolism” worthy of a “slow clap.” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Columbia’s commencement speaker, gave the mattress a triumphant shout-out in his address. Sulkowicz’s mattress, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte wrote, ended its run “as a piece celebrating women’s strength.”

....Sulkowicz’s mattress project was an act of symbolism, to be sure, but it certainly didn’t celebrate women’s strength. Rather, it serves as a striking illustration of the logic-free, wild-eyed, finger-pointing, all-bitterness mess that modern feminism has become.....

Let us now contemplate modern feminism, a movement that drives university professors to offer agonized trigger warnings for poems like Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock,” which is not about rape, but about a young rapscallion who cuts off a piece of a lady’s hair. More importantly, let us look at the latest feminist shock study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which claims, among other things, that a jaw-dropping 37 percent of American women will be victims of rape or attempted rape by the end of their freshman year in college.

Let’s pretend, as a thought experiment, that these shocking numbers are accurate and representative of reality. (They are almost certainly not, thanks to flaws in the study—including some seriously cloudy numbers surrounding alcohol use—but work with me here.) If these mind-boggling numbers are real, after all, American women live in a savage, dangerous wasteland rivaling some of the worst war-torn environments in history, and maybe even the one in “Game of Thrones.”

With this in mind, if you really care about women, shouldn’t your first priority be locking this army of perpetrators—male monsters, apparently still on the loose, ready to assault other women—in the clink? Shouldn’t item one on the feminist agenda involve encouraging women to officially report sex crimes, seek some real justice, and stop the alleged madness?

Alas, in the world of today’s feminism, hand wringing is 80 percent of the fun. As the “37 percent” report was released this week, it was, rather predictably, greeted by a chorus of feminist horror, self-pity, sanctimony, and utterly impractical, quasi-therapeutic advice—not to mention repeated proclamations that drinking until incapacitation is a treasured modern women’s right, up there with suffrage and dodging questions about mysteriously deleted emails and your shady family foundation during various political runs. To suggest otherwise, you see, is “victim blaming.”

Strange, isn’t it? It’s almost like feminists (a) don’t care about women; (b) don’t really expect anything of women; or (c) deep down, know that the truth about the sexual assault “epidemic” is far cloudier than they acknowledge. The result, sadly, is mattress feminism: a squishy, no-backbone ideology that eschews female agency, rejects critical thinking, and encourages women to be helpless doormats—or downright delusional—when it comes to the topic of sexual assault.

Ian Tuttle writes that Emma Sulkowicz or Columbia's Mattress Girl, whose claims of rape have been totally debunked, demonstrates that the feminist left doesn't seem to care about facts.
What Sulkowicz wants is to make claims about another person that cannot be challenged, checked, questioned, or doubted.

That was the substance, if not the style, of her address in April to a group of Brown University students marking Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The speech, live-tweeted by students in attendance, included alarming, Jezebel-worthy taglines — “If we use proof in rape cases,” said Sulkowicz, “we fall into the patterns of rape deniers.” Yet it also trafficked in high-sounding maxims composed of that mélange of pseudo-academic, quasi-mystical jargon that passes today for profundity: “In saying I expose the truth, the viewer superimposes their truth upon mine, and once again silences me.” “Well-meaning people on the street will touch me reverently. . . . They do not believe they are violating me with their hands.” “When people engage in believing in me, they objectify me.”

With such aperçus Sulkowicz was not making an effort to say anything of substance, but rather to stifle speech — to put a “transcendent” gloss on her claims and, in so doing, to elevate accusations like her own out of the realm of reasoned consideration. When she can’t do that — for instance, in e-mails with dogged reporters — she resorts to outrage.

It’s fortuitous, then, in a grim way, that the feminist Left found Emma Sulkowicz. As a response to the horrific selfishness of rape, feminists have increasingly embraced their own, intellectual selfishness, a uniquely destructive brand of have-it-all-ism that rejects responsibility for anything beyond one’s own feeling of victimization — and Sulkowicz is their pitiable poet.

John Hinderaker ridicules a Washington Post story reporting that Marco Rubio has debts and has had to borrow from a retirement account. So now it's a potential scandal that a presidential candidate hasn't become rich while being a public servant.

Mona Charen rejects the premise that only a woman, such as Carly Fiorina, can criticize Hillary Clinton.
Here's how Democrats prefer to arrange matters regarding women: They claim that nominating the first woman for president is a huge advance for all women, proving that women are just as competent as men. Yet they demand that their particular woman be insulated from the usual vigorous debate that is essential for democracy. Any criticism of Hillary Clinton is presumptive sexism, while her attacks on opponents are unrestricted. Neat trick if you can pull if off -- and she can if Republicans accept the bridle.

In a sense, Clinton has been using the victimized-woman angle for her whole political career. Her popularity soared during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for example, when Americans sympathized with her for enduring her husband's satyriasis. In her 2000 Senate race, she was losing to Republican Rick Lazio until her campaign picked up on a moment in a debate when he crossed the stage to ask her to sign a pledge. As Mother Jones recounted:

"In the hours and days after the debate, Clinton's team worked mightily to turn this interaction to her advantage. Clinton aide Ann Lewis told the press that Lazio had 'spent much of the time being personally insulting.' Howard Wolfson, another veteran Clinton hand, said Lazio was 'menacing' to Clinton.

"'They saw this opportunity and they drove it and that's the clip that was on TV over and over again,' (Lazio said). The next day, media outlets began to embrace Wolfson's portrayal of Lazio as a sexist bully. ... Jon Stewart titled his segment on the debate 'Rodham 'N Creep.'"

In 2008, Clinton's comeback began when she seemed to be patronized by Barack Obama's "you're likeable enough" comment. Patti Solis Doyle, her campaign chairman, summed it up: "Whether it was during the Lewinsky scandal or whether it was when Lazio was bullying her, people seem to like (the) damsel-in-distress sort of thing, which is sad to me, but it helped her (as first lady) in '98, and it helped her in 2000 certainly."

There's a different standard for Republican women. South Carolina's Democratic gubernatorial candidate called Gov. Nikki Haley a "whore" without creating national outrage. And then there was the treatment meted out to Sarah Palin.

The American electorate signaled in 2014 that there are limits to its tolerance for "war on women" hooey. It failed miserably in Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana and elsewhere -- most spectacularly in Colorado, where former Sen. Mark Udall earned the moniker "Mark Uterus."

The best response to the charge of sexism is ridicule. Any female candidate who hides behind her own skirts to avoid robust debate is not striking a blow for equality or dignity. Rather than displaying fitness for the job of commander in chief, she's conveying her weakness and inability to compete. Any male candidate who pulls his punches is patronizing her. Anyone who takes her on (within the bounds of civility) is according her respect.

James Taranto ridicules the logic, or lack of logic perhaps, underlying President Obama's recent speech to the Coast Guard Academy about climate change.
He rehearsed the litany of weather disasters supposedly caused by climate change: “more extreme storms,” “deeper droughts and longer wildfires,” flooding of streets in coastal cities. And he went further, blaming global warming for geopolitical problems:
Understand, climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world. Yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East. So, increasingly, our military and our combatant commands, our services—including the Coast Guard—will need to factor climate change into plans and operations, because you need to be ready.
Even if one assumes all these assertions are true, they do not advance a case for urgent action. As the president acknowledged with that initial disclaimer, the chain of causation is just too weak. Global climate change contributes somehow to local droughts, which contribute somehow to instability, which contributes somehow to the rise of Boko Haram and rebellion in Syria (a rebellion, let us recall, for which the president briefly urged U.S. military support back in 2013). The vagueness of the hypotheses make it impossible to evaluate any proposed climate policy as a remedy for the Nigerian or Syrian conflicts.

The most telling assertion in the president’s speech was meant as a throwaway line. Immediately after setting up his some-folks-back-in-Washington straw man, Obama allowed as how “on a day like today, it’s hard to get too worried about it,” the antecedent being “climate change.” It was a cool spring day in New London, Conn.

Now of course weather isn’t the same thing as climate, as global warmists are quick to point out in fair weather. But that’s true of all weather. It is fallacious to attribute bad weather but not good weather to “climate change,” as if every day was idyllic everywhere on preindustrial Earth.

Similarly, if “climate change” is contributing to war and instability, it must also be contributing to peace and stability. Obama boasts of various foreign-policy achievements, such as the “end of the war” in Iraq and the diplomatic openings to Iran and Cuba. Stipulating for the sake of argument that these are in fact favorable developments, the logic of the president’s Coast Guard speech is that he must share the credit for them with all humans whose activities have contributed to climate change.

But of course he does not. As with the weather, he presents “climate change” as a cause of all manner of bad effects but no good ones. In the geopolitical realm, it is an all-purpose excuse when things go wrong. It is logically little different from saying of a disaster, whether natural or man-made, “It was God’s will.” That statement is true if one accepts the underlying metaphysical theory, and it may provide comfort to those who do. But it is not an empirical explanation. It isn’t science.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cruising the Web

Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute sums up what Obama's real approach to foreign policy is.
In his memoirs, Duty, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates tells a story that could only have occurred in the Obama White House. In February 2011, as crowds occupying Tahrir Square in Cairo demanded the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a debate swirled over the proper American response: should the U.S. force Mubarak to abdicate, or support his plan to manage an orderly transition of power over the next seven months?

On one side stood Gates and the other principal members of the National Security Council (NSC). Mubarak, they argued, though a dictator, had been a reliable ally for 30 years, and toppling him would unleash chaos in Egypt, with no guarantee that the forces replacing him would be sympathetic to Washington, to America’s regional allies, or to democracy. On the other, pro-ouster side stood White House staffers vocally represented by Ben Rhodes—who, though only in his early thirties, bore the grand title of Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication and Speechwriting. In addition to his youthfulness, Rhodes had limited experience in international politics; his master’s degree was in creative writing, and his official role was that of a “communicator,” or spinmeister.

In the end, the president sided with the Rhodes faction, thus placing himself, in a phrase that soon emerged from the White House, “on the right side of history.” That side led, as Gates had warned, to a political vacuum in which the only established and well-organized party was the Muslim Brotherhood, which soon took power.

One might conclude from this story that Ben Rhodes has a deep influence over the president, but in truth he is simply his mouthpiece, or his clone. As Obama’s own two memoirs attest, he himself has long practiced a literary approach to his profession, acting simultaneously as author and as heroic protagonist. In this conception, the exercise of foreign policy is not simply about safeguarding American interests abroad; it is also about fashioning a creative and compelling personal narrative of the effort.

To be sure, all politicians impute pure motives to themselves and malign ones to their rivals. But Obama, raising the practice to the level of art, has recognized a simple but profound truth about political life: if you can convince people that you are well-intentioned, they will tend to side with you even if you fail to achieve your stated aims. In the Middle East, especially, the list of the president’s failed efforts is already long and growing longer by the day; it includes, among many others debacles, solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, launching a humanitarian intervention in Libya, and promoting a political solution to the Syrian civil war. Becoming painfully obvious is the last and greatest item on this list of pious failures: the president’s promises on Iran, embodied most recently and dramatically in the deal struck in Lausanne on April 2.

Obama has presented this deal as an effort to solve, through entirely peaceful means, the most consequential dispute in the Middle East. At the same time, he is signaling that his Iran gambit heralds much more than that. It is nothing less than the birth of a new vision of the American role in the world—an antidote to the military approach that allegedly characterized our foreign policy for decades.

This vision, however, is a fiction. Just as Robert Gates could see clearly in February 2011 that ousting Mubarak would deliver chaos and not democracy, it is clear to sober observers on all sides that the agreement with Tehran will fail to establish the elementary conditions for preventing the regime’s development of a nuclear bomb. Yet most people still do not appear to regard the president as either the cause of this disaster or as the solution to it. Will they ever?
And that is exactly right. Obama's approach to Iran is based on a fiction that Iran will become a useful member of the international community and a positive force in the Middle East if we would just conclude this nuclear deal with them. No one could believe that unless one had bought into the central fictions of Obama's whole foreign policy from the beginning.

Ron Christie identifies the question that the media refuse to ask Democratic leaders. Forget about rehashing the invasion of Iraq. What about what is going on right now?
Rather than chase announced and presumed Republican candidates such as Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL)—gentlemen who weren’t in the Congress to cast a vote going to war with Iraq more than a decade ago—why won’t the media ask this question of America’s two top diplomats who have steered our foreign policy since 2009: If they knew then what they know now, would Clinton and Kerry still have supported President Obama’s decision to remove our troops in Iraq, which has led to a void now filled by ISIS? Do they agree that the president’s belief in December 2011 that the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” that was a “moment of success” is still true today?

The media should demand that the current administration account for the deterioration in Iraq as well as ask potential candidates on either side of the aisle running for president how they would move to stabilize the region. The time for gotcha games is over—the time for serious journalism presents itself now more than ever. Are the media up to the task?

To celebrate the end of the year, my AP Government classes have been watching the 1972 classic movie, The Candidate, starring Robert Redford. I've just been struck by how modern it is. Sure the campaign aides have to worry about making a response to get on the nightly news or they'll lose 24 hours before their next opportunity. But otherwise, I would guess that today's campaign operatives would recognize quite a bit from the movie.

I suspect that they were modeling Redford's character on JFK and there are some scenes where he looks a lot like Kennedy. The film ridicules how he makes these platitudinous speeches talking about the future and how we need to fulfill the dreams of the young and help the poor. Redford's character gives these cliche-ridden speeches to adoring crowds of young people and women who are just enthralled with him because he's young and good-looking and sounds inspirational if you ignore the fact that he's not really saying anything. Hmmmm. Sound familiar? All he needed was the Greek columns for his last speech. And of course the Republican candidate is a bogey-man of all the left thinks of Republicans. He rants against environmentalists and welfare recipients. He's clearly in the pocket of big business, just as the Democratic candidate, Redford, is going to be indebted to labor unions. The movie holds up quite well and if you haven't seen it recently, it's well worth watching.

Jonah Goldberg identifies Jeb Bush's real problem. He's just not up to par with campaigning these days.
By now everyone has had their say about Jeb Bush’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. The consensus is that Bush misheard Megyn Kelly’s “knowing what we know now” question about the Iraq War. I’m not convinced.

Politicians routinely answer the question they wish they were asked rather than the question they were actually asked. Indeed, those are the only kinds of questions some politicians — particularly ones with the last name Clinton — ever answer. The question Fox News’ Kelly asked is the tougher one, at least for Bush, so perhaps he opted to answer in a way that let him take a shot at Hillary Clinton, who also supported the war?

But it doesn’t matter. Bush should have murder-boarded every possible variant of that question. His team should have run drills on it, as if he were prepping for a presidential debate. And, he should have given a speech specifically about the Iraq War months ago to inoculate himself against all of this.

In other words, the disturbing thing about his response and the awkward effort to clean it up is that it was necessary at all.

Josh Kraushaar warns Democrats of the problems they will have if Alan Grayson is their candidate for the Florida Senate seat.
The list of Grayson's greatest hits is long—and contains equal-opportunity vitriol against Republicans, Democrats, and reporters alike. He reportedly called Murphy a "piece of shit" when recently meeting with DSCC Chairman Jon Tester. In the run-up to a 2010 landslide loss against GOP Rep. Daniel Webster, he aired an ad labeling his opponent as "Taliban Dan" and, without basis, accused him of wanting to outlaw divorce for abused women. Grayson called a Federal Reserve adviser a "K Street whore" and told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Dick Cheney has blood "dripping from his teeth" when talking. He threatened a conservative constituent with five years of prison time for launching a website titled Most recently, he asked Tampa Bay Times political reporter Adam Smith whether he was some kind of "shitting robot" when confronted with questions surrounding his offshore investments.

Grayson also is enmeshed in an ugly divorce battle with his wife of 24 years, who has accused him of domestic abuse. He's vigorously denied the allegations, and has accused her of engaging in bigamy and being a "gold digger."

"On a professional level, before he went to Congress he was a wealthy trial lawyer looking for fights to make a living. That's what he had to do. In 2010 [when he lost his first reelection], Alan Grayson proved to me that when the going got tough, he completely lost control," said Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who led President Obama's campaigns in the state. "My gut says Grayson's looking for a fight. This is a guy whose entire career has been based on looking for a bully to hit. If he says he's probably going to run for the Senate, he's probably going to run for the Senate."
What a charmer. And here is another story about what a despicable man he is.
Florida Rep. Alan Grayson recently called his estranged wife a “gold digger,” but a review of the potential Senate candidate’s soap-opera divorce case shows he unsuccessfully tried to have her criminally charged for far less: ringing up grocery, gasoline and car-repair expenses on his credit card.

Grayson’s previously unreported effort to have Lolita Grayson arrested on credit-card fraud charges was revealed in one of her court filings that complained about the wealthy Democrat’s tactics to withhold money from her.

Jotkoff noted an irony between Grayson’s 2010 campaign — in which he ran a misleading ad attacking an opponent for saying women should “submit” to their husbands — and Grayson’s current divorce proceedings. Others have pointed out that Grayson’s 2012 campaign criticized another opponent for trying “to cheat his wife out of alimony and his children out of child support.” Now he’s being accused of the same thing.
And this man is in the House of Representatives today. Perhaps other Democrats should be asked if they support the way that their fellow Democrat treats his estranged wife. That is what happens whenever some Republican says or does something stupid or worse. Every other Republican suddenly becomes his brother's keeper in the eyes of the media.

Kirsten Powers, author of The Silencing, about how liberals are trying to shut conservatives out of public discourse, explains why George Stephanopoulos could have made such a mistake and endangered his reputation. It's the environment he works in.
While Stephanopoulos might be the piñata of the week, singling him out misses the point. Simpson is harkening back to an era of journalism that sadly no longer exists. After all, we have a mainstream news media that took a Democratic Party talking point — "the war on women" — and reported it as if it's breaking news.

Presuming guilt among Republicans and goodness among Democrats is so reflexive and rewarded in today's mainstream media culture, it's not that hard to see how Stephanopoulos truly would not have understood he had an egregious conflict of interest as he faced down Schweizer. Like a fish doesn't notice the water, today's mainstream journalists are impervious to their bias in favor of Democratic candidates or liberal issues. They believe they are being objective because they have mistaken their ideological belief system for truth. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has noted repeatedly, "The facts have a liberal bias."

This view has fertile ground in which to flourish, as the ideological and intellectual diversity of the nation's newsrooms decreases. Per The Atlantic, "Among journalists who align with one of the two major parties, four in five said they're Democrats." While many of these people are able to account for their bias, too many aren't. A friend recently recalled to me watching journalists at a mainstream media outlet erupt in cheers as election returns came in favoring President Obama. It must have been lonely for the few Republicans: According to an Indiana University survey, in 1971, almost 26% of reporters were Republican. Today, it's 7%.

Expect the facts to keep getting more liberal.

So does sending out daily emails attacking a political opponent actually help a campaign? Not in the case of last year's North Carolina Senate race.
From February 2013 through Election Day 2014, I received more than 550 emails from Democratic entities attacking Tillis. That’s an average of nearly one email per day. And those are just the ones I didn’t delete.

“The emails helped control the conversation and the issues,” Ben Ray, the author and deliverer of at least 300 of the emails as communications director of Forward North Carolina, told CQ Roll Call.

Another 200 or so emails came from the Hagan campaign, 18 from EMILY’s List (including “Thom Tillis — outright scary for NC women”), a handful from Progress North Carolina and 30 from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

It’s a “win the day” mentality that seems to have started with Rahm Emanuel’s Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 and was accelerated by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign two years later.

By some indications, the tactic appeared to be working in North Carolina.

Democrats point to some tangible ways the aggressive email strategy directed at reporters was making a difference. An NBC News segment featured a focus group of Charlotte mothers who identified education as the defining issue in the race. Democrats also point to Tillis’ own ads, well into September, defending his record on education as evidence their messaging was resonating.
As a North Carolinian, I can testify that the attacks were constant on TV and radio. The anti-Tillis ads seems to greatly outnumber the anti-Hagan or pro-Tillis ads. I really thought Hagan was going to win. She was consistently up in the polls...until election day. But don't expect campaign operatives to give up the cheap and easy tactic of inundating people with emails and tweets.

Fox News has announced that their first debate will involve the top ten candidates as determined by an average of the five most recent polls before the debate. The Washington Post looks at who that would be if it were held today.
That's Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Donald Trump and Rick Perry, in that order. Just out of the running? John Kasich, Rick Santorum, etc.
Let's hope that future polls move Donald Trump to the clown range where he belongs. I can also imagine Carly Fiorina moving up as she gains more attention as the only woman in the race. She's relatively unknown now, but she has been quite active in appearing in basically any media venue that will interview her. I can't believe there are still people who take Trump seriously. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has a slightly different configuration of Bush, Walker, Rubio, Paul, Huckabee, Cruz, Carson, Christie, Perry, and Santorum. Of course, so much of the polls now are just name recognition. That's the problem with relying on polling to determine who gets into the debates, but it's hard to see what other solution there might be.

However, Daniel Henninger is right that having 19 or more Republicans competing for the nomination is preferable to just having Hillary Clinton lurching alone to a coronation.
The Democrats don’t need the Roman Colosseum. They’ve got the Clinton Foundation. It isn’t every day you get to see a candidate create her own trial by ordeal, but Hillary Clinton has done it with evaporating emails and speaking mega-fees.

So long as the Clinton mess stays this side of being legally actionable, Hillary Clinton will be in Iowa next February to pocket the caucuses she lost in 2008. Still, how did an American political party of such size and history become so sclerotic that beyond one candidate, there’s no one—other than Joe Biden and John Kerry?

Barack Obama was a Democratic anomaly. He became president at 47 in large part because he slipped through his party’s coast-to-coast bedrock of aging officeholders-for-life. If the NBA were run like the Democratic Party, Charles Barkley would still be starting for the Houston Rockets and James Harden would be on the bench.

For now, the Republicans are running 19 to 1. It may be unseemly, but last time I looked, there’s never been a coronation in the United States.

Those who have been paying close attention to the GOP nomination fight like Marco Rubio. Unfortunately for him, they're not the only ones who get to vote.

Yet another blow to the UAW.
Alabama factory workers voted for the fifth time in two years to break ties with the UAW on Tuesday.

Workers at NTN-Bower voted 74-52 to boot the union off the premises of the manufacturer, making it the third time anti-union employees have beaten UAW Local 1990 in the last 18 months.

So a bunch of sports reporters are irritated that Stephen Curry's adorable two-year old daughter, Riley, stole the show at the postgame conference. My first response when I saw the clip was to think that there should be a lot more children at these press conferences. Reporters are complaining that they have a job to do and deadlines to meet and having a toddler at the podium interferes with their ability to file their stories. Oh, come on. How often is it that anything worthwhile is said at these press conferences? Would their postgame stories be that much worse without the athletes' answers to questions about what went right and what went wrong during the game. If they're real sports analysts they should be able to watch a game and use their analytical powers to figure out what went well without the mostly empty answers that athletes give at these press conferences. Bring on the toddlers instead. In fact, the NBA should welcome the appearance of their players as loving fathers in contrast to the sort of Adrian Peterson story that the NFL has had to deal with.

And now we get the real reason why Alcee Hastings wants a congressional pay raise.
Hastings is far from wealthy: he has the second-lowest net worth of any member of Congress. However, his own financial troubles may have less to do with the cost of living in D.C. than the exorbitant legal fees he amassed since the 1980s.

According to his most recent personal financial disclosures, Hastings is as much as $7.5 million in debt. With the exception of a 2009 mortgage on which he owes up to $250,000, all of those debts are legal fees stemming from decades-old corruption charges.

In 1981, two years after President Jimmy Carter appointed Hastings to the federal bench, the FBI conducted a sting operation designed to catch Hastings soliciting bribes in exchange for reducing racketeering sentences for two brothers convicted of ripping off a union pension fund.

FBI agents busted a friend of Hastings’, D.C. lawyer William Borders, when he accepted a $150,000 bribe, allegedly on Hastings’ behalf, in exchange for lenient sentencing.

Hastings was acquitted of subsequent bribery charges, while Borders was convicted and later given a full pardon by President Bill Clinton. However, a subsequent investigation by a federal court of appeals found that Hastings was probably complicit in the scheme, his acquittal notwithstanding.

The report also concluded that Hastings had lied under oath during the trial. The House took up impeachment proceedings against Hastings, leveling 17 charges against him.

A Senate investigative panel voted to convict him on six of them, including charges that he had “engaged in a corrupt conspiracy to obtain $150,000 from defendants in United States v. Romano, a case tried before Judge Hastings, in return for the imposition of sentences which would not require incarceration of the defendants.”

Hastings became the sixth federal official in U.S. history to be removed by impeachment.

Hastings sued, claiming that he was improperly convicted by a Senate committee, as opposed to the full Senate. A federal judge agreed, striking down the conviction, but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling in 1993.

All of those legal proceedings resulted in massive fees for Hastings. In 2013, according to financial disclosures, his legal bills were somewhere between $2.1 million and $7.3 million.
So don't cry for Congressman Hastings. He made his bed and now he wants the taxpayers to help pay for it.

Perhaps Sean Davis's idea would get Hillary to talk more to the media.
You have to admire the sheer chutzpah of the Clinton media operation here. They know that their candidate is unlikable, that she has no charisma, and no ability to connect on a personal level with most voters. They know she is grating. They know she is no Bill Clinton. What she lacks in raw political ability she makes up for with raw political ambition. It is that animation, that desire for political power, that keeps the Hillary engine running, day after day. The Clinton operation knows this, and it’s why the campaign is so desperate to protect her from scrutiny and to avoid any and all opportunities for unscripted conversation.

There’s a simple solution to this problem. There’s a very simple way to incentivize Hillary to do the unthinkable and *gasp* answer questions from those whose job it is to solicit information from candidates for public office: ignore her entirely.

As political consultant Rick Wilson noted in an extended Twitter rant this morning, media coverage is the oxygen that keeps candidacies alive. Without it, they suffocate and die. Yes, paid media in the form of massive ad buys is important, but it’s nothing compared to the power of earned media. In politics, you only matter if you’re on the news. And if you’re not on the news or in the newspapers, you’re a nobody. And nobodies don’t get elected president.

Hillary desperately needs coverage of her painfully scripted and obviously inauthentic campaign events with the kinds of normal people she goes out of her way to avoid when not seeking office. She knows that America wants to see a friendly grandmother, not a conniving, corrupt, cynical career cuckquean trying to claw her way into office. That image can only be portrayed via coverage of her official campaign events. So if reporters and their news bureaus and TV networks want her to start answering questions, they should institute an immediate blackout of all her campaign events.
What if they gave a Hillary photo op and no one showed up? Now that's an idea.

Megan McArdle objects to the idea enunciated by President Obama and other liberals that Christians don't care about the poor.
Conservative denominations could easily argue that they are putting poverty on their public agenda, just not in ways that Putnam thinks are right, or effective, or enough. Groups like Chuck Colson's prison ministry have been a leading voice in prison reform, which I think we can all agree is an issue that largely effects the economically disadvantaged, and arguably creates a lot more of them. Conservative denominations also fight for what they consider traditional morality on issues like premarital sex and abortion. But it's a mistake to see these campaigns as being just about sex and sin. These are priorities because the denominations want to encourage stable families -- something that both they and Putnam can agree we'd like to have more of. Some conservative Christians oppose big expansions of the welfare state. Because they don't care about the poor? Here's another theory: because they don't think a massive welfare state is the best way to help the poor.

You may not agree with them on all of these points, of course; I certainly don't. But the fact that I disagree does not preclude the possibility that these are their honest convictions, pursued with good intentions. If you let yourself get sucked in by egocentric bias, you can't see this. For people with these blinders on, the invitation to join a national conversation on poverty is actually code for "hush up and repeat after me."

To put it another way: What if conservative Christians started saying that secular liberals don't care about poverty, and the only way liberals could show their human decency would be to step up charitable donations to the same level as conservative religious people, get active in efforts to provide private assistance, take in foster kids, and aggressively support stable nuclear families through a combination of exhortation and social sanction? It doesn't feel quite fair, right?
Good point, but don't expect it to sink in.

Rich Lowry reminds us of the history of Sidney Blumenthal, known in political circles as Sid Vicious. And this is the man whom Hillary Clinton arranged to give her back-channel advice on Libya while she was Secretary of State even while he was receiving money from a business that had stakes in what was happening in Libya.
Let’s think about this. One scenario is that Blumenthal’s would-be business associates got together and thought, “We need to find the best expert we can on North Africa, someone who understands the subtleties of Libyan political and tribal dynamics. Let’s get Sidney Blumenthal!”

Another is that they thought, “We need to find someone who is in tight with the Clintons and has a back channel to Hillary so, when the time comes, the State Department will give our venture the most favorable possible consideration. Let’s get Sidney Blumenthal!”
One of the principals in the prospective Libya venture, Bill White, told The New York Times, “We were thinking, ‘O.K., Qaddafi is dead, or about to be, and there’s opportunities. We thought, ‘Let’s try to see who we know there [emphasis added].”

It’s a telling statement about the nature of so many of the businesses that were drawn to the Clinton Foundation. They weren’t bringing new products to market so much as benefiting from political connections — from whom they knew — to get contracts and other advantages from government favor.

The Blumenthal story underlines what we already knew or suspected about Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state and at the Clinton Foundation.

She portrayed herself as a technological simpleton in her initial news conference about her emails, incapable of juggling multiple devices or email addresses. But here she is with another private email address that we might not know about but for the exertions of a Romanian hacker who first exposed the Blumenthal-Clinton correspondence.

She portrays herself as the picture of openness, explaining in a press availability in Iowa on Tuesday how she wants her emails public as soon as possible. But we wouldn’t know about the Clinton-Blumenthal correspondence but for the exertions of a Romanian hacker.
For all its good works, the Clinton Foundation was a political slush fund and holding tank for Clinton operatives. Presumably, the March of Dimes manages to get along without paying former government officials for vague work as they scheme to return to power.

The ethics of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state were atrocious. In what world is it OK for the secretary of state to get and pass along back-channel advice from a friend about a country where he has business interests at stake? The Clintons have managed to make their own rule book according to which, if there isn’t hard evidence of a felony, there is no ethical breach. But the standard in government is supposed to be avoiding even the appearance of impropriety, which the Clintons have decades of experience failing to meet.

Finally, it’s impossible to credit “the new Hillary” so long as she is dependent on the same old cronies.

Asked about Blumenthal at that brief Iowa press availability, Hillary said his emails were her effort to make sure she wasn’t “caught in the bubble.” Because nothing keeps you intellectually fresh and on your toes like emails from a loyal hatchet man of some 20 years and counting.

For a little history, check out this 19th century British primer for children to learn their ABC's. It's just amazing to see how unself-consiously they use racist little poems in a book meant for little children.