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Friday, December 19, 2014

Cruising the Web

The Washington Post explains pretty clearly what was wrong with the President's gift to the Castro regime.
Mr. Obama argued that his sweeping change of policy was overdue because the strategy of isolating the Communist regime “has had little effect.” In fact, Cuba has been marginalized in the Americas for decades, and the regime has been deprived of financial resources it could have used to spread its malignant influence in the region, as Venezuela has done. That the embargo has not succeeded in destroying communism does not explain why all sanctions should be lifted without any meaningful political concessions by Cuba.

U.S. officials said the regime agreed to release 53 political prisoners and allow more access to the Internet. But Raúl Castro promised four years ago to release all political prisoners, so the White House has purchased the same horse already sold to the Vatican and Spain.

The administration says its move will transform relations with Latin America, but that is naive. Countries that previously demanded an end to U.S. sanctions on Cuba will not now look to Havana for reforms; instead, they will press the Obama administration not to sanction Venezuela. Mr. Obama says normalizing relations will allow the United States to be more effective in promoting political change in Cuba. That is contrary to U.S. experience with Communist regimes such as Vietnam, where normalization has led to no improvements on human rights in two decades. Moreover, nothing in Mr. Obama’s record of lukewarm and inconstant support for democratic change across the globe can give Ms. Sánchez and her fellow freedom fighters confidence in this promise.

The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely. Mr. Obama may claim that he has dismantled a 50-year-old failed policy; what he has really done is give a 50-year-old failed regime a new lease on life.

Sean Davis explains why the whole idea that free trade will lead to freedom for Cubans is a total fantasy.
Cuba’s economy is not normal by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it actually has two economies: the dollar economy, and the peso economy. Americans who are allowed to visit get to participate in the dollar economy, and only the dollar economy. Cubans who live there are required to participate in the peso economy, and only the peso economy. The markets are completely segregated.

So, when an American goes down there, he buys things with either the dollar, or the Cuban version of the dollar (CUC), which generally has a 1:1 conversion ratio. Cubans are forced to use only the peso (CUP), which has roughly a 25:1 conversion ratio to the dollar (for every 25 CUP, you get one dollar; or for every 1 CUP, you get about $0.04). That rate is set by the Cuban government. That leaves Cuban vendors who accept dollars with only two ways of using those dollars to get the things they need to survive: 1) purchase them on the black market using dollars, a risky proposition for obvious reasons, or 2) exchange the dollars for CUP.

There’s no trading the CUP on the open currency market. Apart from sentimental souvenir value, it’s worthless everywhere else in the world. Whenever a Cuban gets his hand on a dollar, he either has to put himself at risk by using it on the black market, or he has to turn the dollar into the government in order to receive a pittance which he can use to buy food for his family.

The Cuban government, in turn, has two ways of screwing its people out of their hard-earned money: 1) it can either tax them to death, or 2) it can just manipulate its exchange rate, a way to effectively tax them to death. Different means, same ends. Cuba’s communist, after all, and communism is not a system that has ever put the welfare of its people ahead of the welfare of its rulers.

The result of the Cuban two-currency economy — one of which is forbidden to its people — is that every dollar will eventually find its way into the hands of the Cuban government. Since their internal currency, the CUP, is worthless, it’s not like they can just exchange it for dollars on the open market, like most other countries do. No, if the Cuban government wants dollars and the wealth that comes with them, it has to import them. And more dollars don’t mean more prosperity for the people of Cuba; more dollars means more wealth and power concentrated in the hands of Cuba’s communist regime.

As Charles Lane explains why Obama traded our trump card for a pig in a poke.
Raúl Castro can live with that. He knows that when the hoopla over this week’s big policy move is over, when Obama has finished collecting kudos from foreign policy mavens who have been clamoring for a more “rational” U.S. Cuba policy, Obama and most of the rest of official Washington will move on to other things.

Meanwhile, Castro and his fellow military officers will remain in firm control of the political and economic levers of power in Cuba, including the little things — jobs, visas, building permits, export and import licenses, court cases — that really determine whether and how Cubans and Americans get to interact and how much freedom seeps in to the deeply traumatized society.

Castro can look forward to dealing with second-tier U.S. diplomats, torn between their belief in democracy and the bureaucratic imperative to keep their bosses’ “engagement” project on track. When needed, a new Cuba lobby in Washington will help explain why it would be counterproductive to press Havana for immediate reform.
So when you hear people today arguing that Obama's decision will lead to benefits for the Cuban people, they don't really understand what is going on in Cuba. But then ignorance about Cuba has fueled misunderstandings among many American elites for decades.

Andrew McCarthy clarifies how Obama has given up doing anything to improve human rights in Cuba.
In other words, it has been American policy for decades – the policy Obama says does not “work” – that the United States may and should provide significant aid as long as Cuba, in return, stops terrorizing its citizens, respects basic human and civil rights, respects democratic freedoms, refrains from arming terrorists and insurrectionists, liberalizes its economy, establishes a free press, and lays the groundwork for free and fair elections.

So, if that hasn’t “worked” to encourage Cuban reform, what is the president suggesting will “work”? Giving Cuba aid and legitimacy without requiring the regime to change? Why would we want to give an American taxpayer dime to, or help legitimize in any way, a regime that rejects these basic elements of a civilized society?

And has it occurred to the media and the president’s other apologists that American law and policy have not relentlessly mandated a blockade on and isolation of Cuba for all these years? All that had to happen to eliminate the restrictions, without any congressional action, was a halt to the persecution of the Cuban people by the Castro dictatorship.

The blockade is still in place because the Castro regime will not change and therefore Obama cannot make the required representations.

So, since the dictator will not change, what will “work” is for us to change? What will “work” is to give the dictator the recognition, the legitimacy, the aid, and the trade money in exchange for no reforms?
Stephen Miller ponders the extraordinary life of President Obama's imaginary son, a child that Obama keeps mentioning whenever he feels it convenient to make some sort of statement on whatever the topic of the day is.
Once again, Barack Obama’s imaginary son has found himself unfairly in trouble with the law. If you recall, his imaginary son was also shot by an imaginary neighborhood watch guard in the same style as Trayvon Martin. But Obama’s imaginary son is plucky and resilient and has lived a hard life in the hood so he keeps bouncing back.

In his life, Obama’s imaginary son has been shot at, concussed out of football, and racially profiled. Yet he keeps picking himself up and carrying on. Obama’s imaginary son should be an example to us all. No matter what kind of imaginary circumstances we find ourselves in, we can continue on with our imaginary lives....

The President of the United States seems more comfortable citing the struggles of his imaginary son than the privileged successes of his real daughters. In truth, Obama’s son would have attended private schools in Chicago, just like his daughters. He would then be attending Sidwell Private School in DC, just like his real daughters. Obama’s imaginary son would get his pick of any college in the world, just like his real daughters. His imaginary son would then go on to any career he chose, in medicine, law, Hollywood, or Wall Street, just like his real daughters. But that doesn’t fit the divisive racial narrative — so his son lives the hard-knock life.

David Frum explains why Jeb Bush's entry into the 2016 race for the nomination is bad for Hillary. Every criticism that can be made about Bush can be made more strongly about Hillary.

Charles Krauthammer explains why fighting against lone-wolf attacks depends on defeating ISIS in the Middle East.
The first line of defense against lone wolves is, of course, protective measures: identification, tracking and preemption. But given the sheer number of the disturbed, unstable and potentially impressionable among us, and given the strictures that civil liberties have placed on prior restraint, that defensive posture can take us only so far.

The Islamic State has discovered that the projection of terror does not depend, al-Qaeda-style, on sending expeditionary cells to kill infidels abroad. It can do so long distance by inspiration, by wire, as it were. Which is why the ultimate line of defense against lone wolves is to turn the fortunes of the warrior tribes themselves, the script writers of jihad.

The great new specter is the homegrown terrorist. But he is less homegrown than we imagine. He is fed from abroad. Which is where, as ever since 9/11, the battle must be fought.

John Hinderaker notes that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee just sent out an email thanking Stephen Colbert for his TV show. That prompts a reasonable question.
I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?

Steven Hayward wonders what there is that we can still safely joke about without offending some group of people. He narrows it down to we can joke only about Jewish mothers and that's it. I would add that comedians can still joke about rednecks and most well-to-do white people. He includes a video of John Cleese on Bill Maher's show bemoaning what political correctness and fears of violent backlashes from Muslims has done to comedy.

If Elizabeth Warren doesn't run, progressives really have no fallback candidate. And if Hillary Clinton doesn't run, does the entire Democratic Party have a fallback candidate?

If you've been driving an electric car and feeling rather righteous about how you're protecting the environment, think again.

Timothy Carney reminds us of how some members on the left spent the Cold War preferring the Soviets to the U.S. Few might be aware now of what Edward Kennedy was doing during the Cold War.
While many Democratic politicians throughout the Cold War sought to defeat the communists, others sought to partner with them.

“In 1978," a KGB report to the Communist Party stated, "American Sen. Edward Kennedy requested the assistance of the KGB to establish a relationship” between the KGB and a firm run by Kennedy's former colleague, former Sen. John Tunney a California Democrat. During the 1980 election, as Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter in the Democratic primary, Tunney traveled to Moscow on Kennedy’s behalf to help devise a strategy to counter what he saw as Carter’s excessive bellicosity towards the USSR.

In May 1983, Kennedy sent Tunney to Moscow on a confidential mission to undermine Reagan. As a Soviet agent wrote it in a contemporaneous letter, Kennedy asked for Soviet help “to counter the militaristic politics of Reagan.”

Kennedy wanted to visit the Soviet Premier, Yuri Andropov, in order “to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.”

Gee, the administration is sure taking a different approach to "The Interview" and North Korea's objections to it than they took to the Mohammed video they blamed for the attack on our consulate in Benghazi. And the State Department won't apply the logic that they're using to open up relations with Cuba to opening up relations with North Korea. Or the Sudan.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cruising the Web

Is there any tyrant around whom Obama won't appease without getting anything in return? He started off by giving Russia what it wanted by backing out of a deal to put a missile defense system in Poland. And we got nothing in return. He's made a deal with Syria to ignore his supposed "red line" and got only empty prisons. The administration continues its negotiations in Iran without achieving anything except extending Iran's opportunity to continue building its weapons program. It's not so much that recognizing Cuba and ending the embargo is the wrong thing to do, but that Obama gave Cuba what it wanted without getting anything in return. Paul Mirengoff notes the many anti-American tyrants that Obama has appeased and gotten nothing in return.
President Obama was a good friend to Mohammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s man in Egypt. He has made nice with the mullahs in Iran, bailing their country out of serious economic woes under the pretense of slowing Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He “reset” relations with Russia on terms highly favorable to Putin and would have done more to help the autocrat, as he promised to do after he gained “flexibility” following the 2012 election, had Putin not set out to dismember Ukraine.

Why should the Castro brothers be nearly the only anti-American tyrants not to benefit from Obama’s largess? Only domestic politics stood in the way....

The consequences of Obama’s action are also clear enough. As Falcoff explains, “the normalization of relations with Cuba comes at precisely the moment that the Castro brothers need it the most, since their principal foreign patron, Venezuela, is running out of money because of the collapse in the world price of oil.” Obama “has decided to make the United States a replacement for [Venezuela's] Maduro.” Obama thus gives the Castros a new lease of life and helps forestall the total discrediting of Latin American communism.
Mirengoff links to this analysis by Elliot Abrams on the consequences for other countries' evaluation of the U.S.'s policies of Obama's announcement yesterday.
magine for a moment that you are a Saudi, Emirati, Jordanian, or Israeli. Your main national security worry these days is Iran—Iran’s rise, its nuclear program, its troops fighting in Iraq and Syria, its growing influence from Yemen through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.

Your main ally against Iran for the past decades has been the United States. Naturally you worry about American policy. You remember President Obama’s outreach to Iran in 2009, and his failure to back the Iranian people’s protests in June of that year after the stolen election. You wonder if the United States can be relied on, or will one day announce a major policy shift.

What shift? A rapprochement with Iran that ends the sanctions, throws an economic lifeline to the regime, re-establishes diplomatic relations with it—in exchange for nothing. That is, the Islamic Republic would make no concessions about its foreign or domestic policies. And the change in U.S. policy would show that in the long struggle between the United States and Iran since 1979, the Americans have finally blinked.

And now, you turn on the TV and see the announcement about the change in American policy in Cuba. Re-establishment of diplomatic relations. Lots of changes in the embargo that will mean plenty more cash for the Castros. A change in the whole American official position vis-à-vis Cuba. In exchange, the Castro brothers have pledged to let 53 political prisoners out, free one American spy, and free the American hostage Alan Gross. As to real changes in the regime—changes in its foreign or domestic policies—none. Zero. Zip. So, you conclude that in the long struggle between the United States and the Castro regime since 1959, the Americans have finally blinked....

The American collapse with respect to Cuba will have repercussions in the Middle East and elsewhere—in Asia, for the nations facing a rising China, and in Europe, for those near Putin’s newly aggressive Russia. What are American guarantees and promises worth if a fifty-year-old policy followed by Democrats like Johnson, Carter, and Clinton can be discarded overnight? In more than a few chanceries the question that will be asked as this year ends is “who is next to find that America is today more interested in propitiating its enemies than in protecting its allies?”
And to sweeten the pot for Obama, Iran just has to capture more American hostages because we see now what Obama is willing to trade for them. It's impressive how many diplomatic "victories" Obama can rack up if he doesn't worry about getting much in return.

Marco Rubio reminds us of what we have traditionally looked for in return for regularizing relations with Cuba.
Since the U.S. severed diplomatic relations in 1961, the Castro family has controlled the country and the economy with an iron fist that punishes Cubans who speak out in opposition and demand a better future. Under the Castros, Cuba has also been a central figure in terrorism, narco-trafficking and all manner of misery and mayhem in our hemisphere.

As a result, it has been the policy and law of the U.S. to make clear that re-establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba is possible—but only once the Cuban government stops jailing political opponents, protects free speech, and allows independent political parties to be formed and to participate in free and fair elections.

The opportunity for Cuba to normalize relations with the U.S. has always been there, but the Castro regime has never been interested in changing its ways. Now, thanks to President Obama’s concessions, the regime in Cuba won’t have to change.

The entire policy shift is based on the illusion—in fact, on the lie—that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people. Cuba already enjoys access to commerce, money and goods from other nations, and yet the Cuban people are still not free. They are not free because the regime—just as it does with every aspect of life—manipulates and controls to its own advantage all currency that flows into the island. More economic engagement with the U.S. means that the regime’s grip on power will be strengthened for decades to come—dashing the Cuban people’s hopes for freedom and democracy.
And don't believe that there is no connection between Cuba releasing its American hostage, Alan Gross, or its own political prisoners.
The problem is that wrapping the prisoner swap into a larger policy shift makes it look like Cuba’s hostage-taking of Mr. Gross paid off. All the more so because Mr. Obama is going out of his way to give formal U.S. recognition to the Castro government that remains one of the world’s most tyrannical.

The benefits for the regime from this new era are obvious. Cuba is starved for cash, and its main patron in Venezuela is teetering as oil prices fall. The country desperately needs hard currency, which is the main reason it exports its doctors to work abroad.

So the dictatorship will cheer Mr. Obama’s decision to allow greater dollar remittances to the island, as well as more opportunities for Americans to travel and invest in “humanitarian projects” and information technology, among other things.

Only Congress can fully lift the trade embargo, but with Mr. Obama’s many new loopholes, creative investors will find ways to gradually break it down. Keep in mind that the regime confiscates every dollar spent in Cuba now, while paying its workers in near-worthless pesos. The White House press release did not say that will change.

Mr. Obama is also giving U.S. companies more freedom to export telecom equipment to the island, in the name of giving ordinary Cubans the tools to communicate with the outside world. But other countries can already supply Cuba’s telecom needs. The problem is that Cuba’s police state bars private ownership and limits and monitors private communication.

The least defensible part of Mr. Obama’s new policy is its attempt to rehabilitate Cuba as an ordinary state. The President has tasked Secretary of State John Kerry to begin talks on renewing formal diplomatic ties, and he wants “high-level exchanges and visits between our two governments as part of the normalization process.”

Mr. Obama also called for a review of Cuba’s designation on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba wants off that list, though there is solid evidence that it has helped Venezuela relocate Iranian agents in the Americas.

What’s striking is how little Cuba had to do for such a major shift in U.S. policy. At least Burma’s military government released the leader of the opposition and opened up its political process before the U.S. lifted sanctions....

Mr. Obama came to office in 2009 promising a new era of engagement with U.S. adversaries, and engage he has. Perhaps his Cuban “reset” will turn out better than have his efforts with Russia, Syria, North Korea and Iran.

Ross Douthat expresses the distaste that many might feel at having to vote in 2016 for either the Bush or Clinton dynasty. It's just as John Podhoretz writes - Jeb Bush's real weakness is not his ideology, which is actually rather in line with many Republicans, but his last name.
But there’s something else that I doubt he can overcome.
Flash forward to one of the GOP debates next fall. Imagine that Bush is leading in the polls, or close. One rival takes the opportunity to say this:

“Jeb, you were a great governor. You’re a fine man. Your father is a great American. Your brother gave his all to keep America safe and secure.

“But Jeb, we have to face facts. This is a party that needs to convince ordinary working-class and middle-class Americans that we stand with them.

“Look around you. Scott Walker and Ted Cruz are the sons of preachers. Marco Rubio’s father was a bartender and his mother cleaned rooms at a hotel. John Kasich’s dad was a steelworker. Chris Christie’s was a CPA.

“This will be the 10th presidential election since 1980. In all but three of them, a Bush was on the ticket. America isn’t a monarchy, Mr. Bush. That’s not who we are.

“Is this the message we want to send to the American people — that to get a major-party nomination, Democrats need to be named Clinton and Republicans need to be named Bush?”

It may not be fair. But it’s unanswerable.

Charles C. W. Cooke also writes that Jeb Bush has the wrong name at the wrong time.
Dynastic objections aside, it strikes me also that Jeb is almost perfectly wrong for this moment in American history. Without doubt, he is a talented, upstanding, and accomplished man, and he would probably do an admirable job if he parachuted into power. But, this being hardball democratic politics, and not the Biography Channel, there are many, many more questions for us to consider. In 2012, a weak President Obama not only managed to draw an astonishing amount of blood simply by riffing on Mitt Romney’s remarkable business career, but, with a little help from Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, was able to adroitly leverage the still-tender memories of the recent financial collapse and to paint his opponent as a detached, Gilded Age demon. Presumably, Bush would get precisely the same treatment. Just a few months ago, he teamed up with a bunch of Wall Street bankers and started a private-equity fund that will specialize in oil and gas. A few years ago, moreover, he worked with Lehman Brothers until, in the heat of the 2008 financial crisis that is still largely blamed on his brother, it collapsed in ignominious disgrace. Fair or unfair, what exactly do we imagine the story will be if the next Republican candidate is not only vulnerable in this area in his own right, but has the surname “Bush” to boot?

As the days roll on, I am increasingly of the view that if Republicans are going to win the White House in 2016, their candidate will have to run as an insurgent. In my ideal world, the GOP’s choice would present himself to the public as a breath of fresh air after the fractious and moribund Obama years; he would cast his philosophy as an alternative to a progressivism that is intellectually exhausted, unbearably arrogant, and increasingly frivolous; and, as far as is humanly possible, he would sell himself to swing voters as the rightful torch-bearer of dynamism itself. Without being too obvious about it, then, the Republicans’ candidate will need to advertise his youth, and to contrast it with his opponent’s wear and tear; he will need to make it clear that, in government at least, the Left has no monopoly on women and minorities, and that its ideology is marked by irreconcilable contradictions; and he will have to simultaneously cast the Obama administration and its champions as irresponsible despoilers of vital American traditions, without permitting his defense of classical liberalism to be mistaken for a defense of the status quo. In other words, he will need to be the candidate of both sober responsibility and of forward-looking change: one part ascetic fixer-upper, one part Space Age futurist, with a little Patrick Henry thrown in for good measure.

Further, he will have to run not only against the last eight years, but against the last 16 – a considerable challenge, and one that can only be met by someone who is flexible enough to explain what the last Republican administration got wrong without alienating his supporters too badly. The brother of the last Republican president, suffice it to say, cannot do this.

It is true that some of these challenges would be mitigated if, as is expected, the Democratic party chooses Hillary Clinton as its aspirant. Certainly, in the case of a Bush-Clinton matchup, progressives will not be able to shout “retread” without the charge rebounding on their own heads. But Republicans who note this should not be kidding themselves as to Bush’s prospects writ large, for while both names are damaged, the Clinton years are remembered a great deal more fondly than are the Bush years. Should 2016 become a referendum on the question of whether 1993–2001 was a better era than 2001–2009, Clinton will win handily. Likewise, if the battle is between the “First Woman President” and the “Third Bush President,” Clinton will prevail. Yes, Hillary would neutralize some of Bush’s more toxic attributes. But the Right should not be seeking to “neutralize” Hillary; it should be seeking to vaporize Hillary. Since when exactly did successful political parties nominate weak candidates in the hope that the other team will willingly cancel out their deficiencies?
It is rather a shame since I had really liked Jeb as governor of Florida and appreciated his strong support of school choice. I would have preferred him to his brother in 2000.

So is Atticus Finch, the much-admired hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, actually the most famous rape apologist in history? After all, we're being told now by feminists that we should never doubt a victim's story of having been raped.

Stuart Rothenberg had to serve jury duty on a rape trial. His tale provides interesting and relevant insights as to what is like to sit on a jury and be presented limited evidence because of what the prosecutor can't tell the jury.

Shop Amazon 12 Days of Deals in Home

Another reason the Democrats should be upset about this year's elections is that they've lost a lot of the farm team for future candidates as legislative and congressional candidates lost. Another effect could well be that those Democrats who did win were more likely to be from quite blue districts thus pushing Democrats further to the left.

Apparently, a University of Michigan professor doesn't think that there is anything wrong with publishing an essay about she hates Republicans and thinks that they're despicable human beings. Katherine Timpf notes,
U of M’s anti-discrimination policy forbids “creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive, or abusive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a University activity.”

It seems as though, for a student who votes Republican, knowing you had a teacher who assumed you were an intolerant bigot and blatantly advocated for hating you would likely create an “intimidating” educational environment; however, the anti-discrimination policy only protects against discrimination against someone “because of that person’s race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight or veteran’s status.” (Basically anything except for political affiliation.)

Daniel Henninger argues that the Democrats have now become the "new stupid party." The Republicans used to own that title, but the Democrats are now competing to maximize stupidity.
The Obama administration’s resolute opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has cost the party the support of the Laborers International Union’s 500,000 members, plus their families and relatives. Would a smart party do that?

It won’t stop. One of Elizabeth Warren’s key constituencies—the Occupy Everything movement on campuses and in the streets—is wholly alienated from the private sector, like much of this new generation’s Democrats. A lot of men and women who go to work daily in the private sector surely have decided that they are the object of these attacks.

Sen. Warren’s fiery “middle-class” speeches are normal politics. But the activist left’s political compulsions are producing a lot of stuff that isn’t close to normal. It is craziness at the political margins, and like weeds, it is occupying the party’s public personality.

The left often says its ideas should move people out of their “comfort zone.” Whatever the ancient attractions of radical populism, discomfited people abandon the party of discomfort. In November’s election, 64% of white males voted Republican.

The GOP showed in the midterms that it had rescued itself with voters from terminal stupidity. The Democrats? I’d rate the chances of the party reining in its extremes at below zero.

Many traditional liberals still consider themselves JFK or Clinton Democrats. But that party is gone. The party’s presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, is going to be transformed into a Warren Democrat, the party’s future.

Some Democrats may console themselves in thinking the Republicans will always be stupid. Now, though, there’s dumb, and dumber.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cruising the Web

This is what mush sounds like. Secretary Kerry was asked about why he was holding discussions about the Palestinians' move to introduce a draft UN resolution to end Israeli occupation instead of just vetoing the resolution as the U.S. has always done in the past. See if you can parse what Kerry said in his answer.
Now, coming back to the first part of the questions, right now, what we’re trying to do is have a constructive conversation with everybody to find the best way to go forward in order to create the climate; the atmosphere; the political space, if you will, to be able to go back to negotiations and resolve this politically.
Got that? What a convoluted linguistic path of saying nothing. He wants a "constructive conversation" to "find the best way" to "go forward" to "create the atmosphere" to "go back to negotiations." In other words, he wants to talk about talking about talking about talking about talking some more.

Conservatives might be exultant that a federal judge declared Obama's decision to ignore federal law on immigration is unconstitutional, but the judge's opinion doesn't impress some law professors. Orin Kerr finds it "an exceedingly strange opinion." It does sound as if the judge was reaching in order to express his ire at the President's choice to ignore the separation of powers to legislate immigration policy for himself. Conservatives might be sympathetic to the argument that the President has acted unconstitutionally, but that doesn't mean that we should celebrate when a federal judge stretches his role to issue a judgment that has nothing to do with the case before him. We wouldn't support such an action by a liberal federal judge to chastise a Bush administration action. We need to be consistent.

I see that John Yoo has made the same point.
Conservatives should remain principled in their opposition to President Obama’s misuse of executive power, but they should also remain true in their resistance to the siren song of judicial activism.

After the Pakistani Taliban massacres children at school, can't President Obama even bring himself to condemn them by name?

Mary Katharine Ham notes that the self-indulgent students begging for postponements on their finals because they're so upset about the Grand Jury decisions on the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner have even lost an Oberlin professor. Noah Rothman had this great response to an editor on the Harvard Law Review who demanded exam extensions because students' "cups of endurance have run over."
“Cups of endurance?” Good lord. Do they runneth over into your “saucer of fortitude?” Mayhaps a few of those errant droplets are captured by your “doily of grit.”
I'm not sure how having so many across the country laughing at these very special students who want excuse notes for their indulgence in social protest is going to help either their cause or their future job prospects.

Or as Charles C. W. Cooke titled his post on these precious snowflakes: "Social Injustice Ate My Homework"

Stephen Moore notes that Democrats have decided to double down on their progressivism.
On immigration, energy, climate change, regulatory overreach—Obama issued 3,000 new rules before Thanksgiving—the Democrats have pretended that the election didn’t happen.

Obama’s immediate response to middle- and working-class economic anxiety was a new global warming deal with China and a call to close down coal-burning power plants, both of which will destroy even more jobs. The White House followed up with a new program centered on “gender equity” in the workforce.

Democratic approval ratings have gotten even worse in the month since the blowout election. Some Democrats, like New York’s Chuck Schumer and retiring senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, have rung the alarm that the party is out of sync with working-class voters. But they’re lonely voices. The party’s New Democrat Clinton wing—Bill Clinton, that is—is extinct.

The left is flummoxed that their progressive economic message has fallen so flat. After the election, the seven-figure-and-up donors gathered with Democratic leaders to assess what went wrong. “Many Democratic patrons and party strategists concluded that the White House did not offer a compelling argument about how much has improved on President Obama’s watch and how people’s lives would benefit if congression-al Democrats held their seats, the Washington Post reported. “There’s a strong sense that we weren’t full-throated enough about jobs and economy—both in talking about accomplishments and what we need to do,” one attendee said. “We needed a broader narrative.”
Yes, because it's never about their actual choices on issues, but on the narrative by which they sell those policies. As Moore notes, their doubling down provides opportunities for conservatives. I've been reading Amity Shlaes' excellent biography of Calvin Coolidge and had been struck at how popular Warren Harding's 1920 campaign promise to "return to normalcy" was at the time as people just wanted an end to the runaway progressivism of Wilson's administration during World War One that progressives at the time now wanted to continue and extend after the war. I see a lot of that sentiment today after Obama and the Democrats' control in Congress. People are just saying that we've had enough and want to return to normalcy.

The NYT reports on how the Obama administration delivered favors on immigration to a wealthy family that contributed to Democrats.
The Obama administration overturned a ban preventing a wealthy, politically connected Ecuadorean woman from entering the United States after her family gave tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, according to finance records and government officials.

The woman, Estefanía Isaías, had been barred from coming to the United States after being caught fraudulently obtaining visas for her maids. But the ban was lifted at the request of the State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton so that Ms. Isaías could work for an Obama fund-raiser with close ties to the administration.

It was one of several favorable decisions the Obama administration made in recent years involving the Isaías family, which the government of Ecuador accuses of buying protection from Washington and living comfortably in Miami off the profits of a looted bank in Ecuador.

The family, which has been investigated by federal law enforcement agencies on suspicion of money laundering and immigration fraud, has made hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to American political campaigns in recent years. During that time, it has repeatedly received favorable treatment from the highest levels of the American government, including from New Jersey’s senior senator and the State Department.
Senator Menendez of New Jersey is involved also in trying to get a visa to reward a campaign donor. Ah, remember what we disliked about the Clintons selling favors for campaign donations. Seems that she continued such behavior in the State Department and the the Democratic Party, including Obama's administration, are perfectly happy to sell such favors in return for donations.

Quin Hillyer has some "random thoughts on politics.
Here are some fairly random things that, it is safe to say, a large majority of Americans would agree with:

Al Sharpton is not in any way a legitimate spokesman for racial “justice,” much less racial healing.

Wendy Davis does not speak for most American women.

Sandra Fluke does not speak for most American women.

Lena Dunham does not even come close to speaking for most American women.

Barack Obama comes across as arrogant — and there are no racial connotations in that statement.

Obama has made a habit of insulting, belittling, and mocking those who don’t agree with him. George W. Bush almost never did so.

The practice of insulting, belittling, and mocking those who disagree creates a tone that, to say the least, is anything but “presidential.”

The idea of EPA agents swooping in on businesses or municipal installments while armed to the gills — which they do, repeatedly — is outrageous, frightening, and completely contrary to American values.

There is no excuse, in a republic with constitutional protections as strong and well observed as ours, for violent riots that harm innocent bystanders and businesses. Those who engage in such riots, if caught, should be shown no mercy, but rather punished to the full extent the law allows.

John Hinderaker explains how, under the Obama's "most transparent administration ever, " the Freedom of Information Act has become virtually worthless. Meanwhile, despite the IRS blocking the release of hundreds of IRS documents is just to give an Orwellian response denying reality.
In response to a question about the case at a White House press briefing earlier this month, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the Obama administration “has been very rigorous in following all of the rules and regulations that govern proper communications between treasury officials and White House officials and the Internal Revenue Service.”
Well, that's not true, but bravura assertions that are contrary to reality seem to be a specialty of this White House.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cruising the Web

Patrick Poole writes that the Iranian cleric who took the Sydney cafe hostage was more than a "lone wolf." He was a "known wolf." He was someone who was well-known to Australian authorities from his prior actions.
orn Manteghi Bourjerdi, Monis fled Iran for Australia in 1996 and thereafter had multiple run-ins with the law. He was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman while working as a “spiritual healer” in 2002, and was also charged as an accessory when his ex-wife was stabbed to death by his girlfriend last year.

He had written despicable letters to families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, calling one soldier a “child killer.” That led to a conviction for sending “offensive and deplorable letters.” An appeal attempt on Friday was unsuccessful, a development that may have prompted the hostage incident.
Quite a few of past terrorist actions that the authorities here talk about as the result of actions by a "lone wolf," actually involve individuals whom authorities knew about and who were connected with some terrorist group. If our counter-terrorism experts don't recognize that pattern, then they will continue to be unable to act against such attacks. We should be having a much tougher discussion on how to deal with individuals whom the authorities know about. For example, the gunman in Sydney was a political refugee from Iran, having arrived in 1996, but having been in trouble with the law in several troubling incidents. Perhaps, Australia needs to discuss if there are any actions in which a refugee's welcome can be retracted and he can be sent back to Iran.

Unless we figure out what to do with such "known wolves," as Robert Tracinski warns, we can expect such copycat attacks to come to a Starbucks near us.

James Taranto notes how we are already hearing how we must have empathy for the Sydney gunman because "he must have loved ones, too." Except he was indicted for helping to murder his ex-wife. Maybe we can ask Hillary how we should best have empathy for him.

Apparently, some on social media are more upset about Uber recognizing supply and demand than they are about a gunman holding up Islamic slogans and taking people in a Sydney cafe hostage.

One last gift from Harry Reid to President Obama - confirmation of several woefully unqualified Obama nominees.

It's not clear whether or not the Ted Cruz/Mike Lee tactic to force debate on immigration cleared the way for Harry Reid to push through more Obama nominations. To believe that is to believe that Reid would not have brought up the nominations anyway and if enough lame-duck Democratic senators would have stuck around town for a few more days to vote in those nominees. I would guess they would have, but who knows. But the Cruz/Lee plan was always doomed to failure. It was purely symbolic. Enough with the symbolism. Let's not have any more of these fruitless, doomed maneuvers simply to make symbolic points. That is not how things are accomplished in our system.

Elizabeth Warren insists that she is not running for president, but she refuses to go beyond using the present tense in her assertions. So there is still hope for all those who are Ready for Warren. As Guy Benson notes, Warren is now 67 so this is probably her last opportunity to run for president if that is her desire. David Harsanyi persuasively argues that Warren is now smack in the center of the modern Democratic Party.
Her hard-left economics—what the press quixotically refers to as “economic populism”—propels today’s liberal argument. It’s the default position of nearly every grassroots constituency on the Left. The center of the Democrats’ agenda. This isn’t just reflected in the embrace of class struggle (“inequality”) but a slow warming to socialistic ideas (and I’m not throwing the word in as invective; I mean it in the most literal way). Right now, few if any politicians are better than Warren at stoking the anxiety that makes that work.
And Hillary Clinton is a more vulnerable candidate than many think. Her big selling points are her husband and the Democrats' fondness for him. People generally like her background of having been on the political scene since 1992. People respect that she was Secretary of State and a senator, but will that popularity remain when people realize that she accomplished little in those positions and is now responsible for many unsuccessful foreign actions of the Obama administration.

National Journal explains how Rand Paul became a Chamber of Commerce Republican.

The New Criterion ponders the state of feminism today when we have women getting hysterical about the shirt worn by an astrophysicist who led the effort to successfully land the Rosetta spacecraft on a comet or for Larry Summers who lost his job as president of Harvard because he speculated on why there are not more women scientists at elite universities.
Why is it acceptable for celebrities or other certified feminist icons to prance around in pornographic splendor when men are expected to behave with Mrs. Grundyesque rectitude? And why is the former “empowering” while any deviation from the latter is “sexist”? Why is it that these self-appointed moral guardians and professional feminists are always looking for a whipping post? Why don’t they just get on with their work: do something to command admiration rather than screaming murder at every unsanctioned statement? Look just beyond America’s horizons—there one can surely find women who deserve the defense of an angry horde. How about the women in Egypt, for example, where more than 90 percent over age fifteen are subjected to the barbaric practice of genital mutilation?

The case of Dr. Taylor’s shirt may seem like little more than a bad joke. In fact, it is something more sinister. It is a vivid example of what happens when a self-enfranchised politically correct cadre sets about quashing freedom and eccentricity in the name of an always-evolving sensitivity. The goal, as one wag put it, is a testosterone-free society in which everything that is not mandatory is prohibited. Which is why the Rose Eveleths and Nancy Hopkinses of the world are victimizers, not victims, and their brand of feminism is an atavistic, tribal ideology as harmful to women as it is to men.

Jonah Goldberg has his own nominee for Person of the Year - Jonathan Gruber.
He represents the arrogance of the expert class writ large. They create systems, terms and rules that no normal person on the outside can possibly penetrate. They make life and living more complicated and then get rich and powerful off of their ability to navigate that complexity. Time and again they sell simplicity and security and deliver more complications and insecurity, which in turn creates demand for more experts promising simplicity and security the Gruberians never deliver.

It's not that Americans are stupid, it's that the experts have been geniuses at creating a system that makes normal people feel stupid.

Debra Saunders is not impressed with Hollywood's righteous indignation, represented by an Aaron Sorkin column in the NYT, about the media reporting stories based on the Sony hacks.
There is something precious about Sorkin's outrage toward the Sony leaks. Sorkin notes that the Guardians of Peace have threatened Sony families. OK, the same can be said of a spate of national security leaks, which threaten to expose U.S. intelligence assets abroad.

It says something about this country's lack of seriousness that the Hollywood left can applaud hackers who purloin sensitive national security information but can find outrage after leaked emails reveal that Hollywood honchos -- as opposed to tea party activists -- can be racially insensitive. CNN's Don Lemon confessed that he is "torn" about the Sony story. Lemon asked, "Do you want people gaining information that way?" How else does Lemon think this happens?

Sorry. It's hard to hit the brakes on the leak culture when it has run over so many nameless public servants in the intelligence community.

Jonathan Turley writes on how college campuses have been so cowed that they have lost any pretense at supporting reasoned debate.

Nope. Carl Levin is not Mr. Integrity.

Suddenly, gray hair is the new black. Who knew how cool I actually was?