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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Cruising the Web

Mollie Hemingway refutes the idea that state RFRA laws are all aimed at discriminating against gays by looking at cases in which RFRA laws have protected people's religious practices.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has come out against RFRAs in the Washington Post. “This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings,” he says. Tell that to the religious minorities listed above who won their state RFRA cases.

Does Apple CEO Tim Cook really think that the kindergartener punished by his elementary school for his religious practice shouldn’t have any recourse at all? Is he not a human being who deserves good treatment? Does he think Orthodox Jews in Dallas shouldn’t have the right to worship in their synagogue? Do they really not have a religious issue?

It’s somewhat disconcerting when one of the wealthiest and most powerful men on the planet tells a group of religious minorities that he doesn’t think they have legitimate religious issues and that they shouldn’t have won their cases.

Cook writes that “Opposing discrimination takes courage.” He’s right. When powerful elites take aim at religious freedom, it takes a heck of a lot of courage to fight against anti-religious discrimination. That, of course, is precisely what RFRAs are designed to do.
This used to be accepted by everyone. RFRAs only became necessary after a Supreme Court case in 1990 reduced the level of scrutiny to be used in free exercise courses from the highest level that had been established to be used in 1963. As Michael Brendan Dougherty points out, RFRAs have never been used successfully to protect a business owner from discriminating against gays. And if Indiana passes the law that Governor Mike Pence asked for yesterday to bar such discrimination, this whole brouhaha should die down. Jonathan Adler writes at the Washington Post about why people should stop freaking out about feared discrimination.
Courts have routinely upheld the application of nondiscrimination laws against RFRA-based challenges on the grounds that preventing discrimination is a compelling state interest. Of course it’s possible that a court in the future would reach a different conclusion, but there’s no reason to think such a result is likely, and there is nothing about the Indiana law that makes it a particular threat in this regard. That is, such a court decision is just as possible in one of the other dozen-plus states that has had its own RFRA on the books for years or in one of the many other states that have equivalent protections for religious belief under their state constitutions.

The Indiana RFRA is not identical to every other RFRA, but the textual differences are not particularly material. Here, for instance, is a useful comparison of the Indiana law and the federal RFRA, as applied in the courts.

Do some RFRA supporters hope that such laws will allow individuals or companies to discriminate against homosexuals? Sure. But that is not what the text of the Indiana RFRA actually does. That’s important because courts generally apply the text of the law as written over the unenacted intentions of some subset of a bill’s supporters. Indeed, this debate is just one more example of why the textualist approach to statutory interpretation is a good idea. In any event, this debate is somewhat moot in Indiana because it doesn’t have a state law barring sexual orientation discrimination on the books.

Are there any scenarios in which a state-level RFRA might result in an individual business owner denying service to a same-sex couple? Perhaps. The most likely scenario would be something like a religious wedding planner refusing to help plan a wedding that violates his or her religious beliefs. But even if such laws eventually allow this sort of thing, it is a far cry from, in Tim Cook’s formulation, a general license to discriminate against one’s neighbors.

To be clear, my point here is not to defend the enactment of state-level RFRAs. I am ambivalent about such laws and generally prefer the authorization of religious exemptions from generally applicable laws on a case-by-case basis. Whatever the wisdom of these RFRAs, it is important for the debate over such laws be based upon what these laws actually do.
Oh, wouldn't that be nice? Perhaps Apple's Tim Cook can ponder the fact that he's more upset about Indiana's law than he is about doing business in Saudi Arabia and other countries that sentence homosexuals to death such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Thanks to Mary Katharine Ham for the link. After reading Mollie Hemingway's piece, Ham writes,
Tolerance is giving these people a chance to defend themselves when the government is requiring them to violate their sincerely held beliefs. These cases do not represent some horrible, regressive country giving in to its darkest desires for discrimination. Quite the opposite. They represent the very best of the American experiment, which allows all kinds of people to coexist and do business together without running roughshod over the varied and beautiful customs and religions we practice. But let’s stop with all that. Because tolerance.
Noah Rothman summarizes the hypocritical outrage being whipped up around the country, particularly the governor of Connecticut who wants to prohibit state-sponsored travel to Indiana when his own state has a very similar law. Sean Davis exposes the ignorance of the Connecticut governor.
I don’t know how many staffers, lawyers, and advisers currently work for Malloy, but it’s a real shame that not a single one of them told the governor that Connecticut has had an expansive RFRA on the books for over two decades. That’s right: Connecticut passed its own RFRA law on June 29, 1993. You can read the law for yourself here. The inanity of Malloy’s move doesn’t stop there, though. What makes his grandstanding particularly absurd is the fact that Connecticut’s RFRA provides far greater religious liberty protections than Indiana’s or even the federal government’s.

If you dislike Indiana’s RFRA, then you should loathe Connecticut’s. The difference comes down to a single phrase: “substantially burden.”

Both the Indiana law and the federal law declare that the respective governments may not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion[.]” In other words, the laws require the courts to analyze cases brought under these laws using the strict scrutiny standard. Under the Indiana and federal religious liberty laws, government can burden religious exercise, but it cannot substantially burden it. That’s a key distinction.

Connecticut’s law, however, is far more restrictive of government action and far more protective of religious freedoms. How? Because the Connecticut RFRA law states that government shall not “burden a person’s exercise of religion[.]” Note that the word “substantially” is not included in Connecticut’s law.

The effect of the absence of that single word is enormous. It states that Connecticut government may not burden the free exercise of religion in any way. That makes it far more protective of religious liberty than the Indiana law that has so outraged Connecticut’s governor.

If Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy wants to blatantly discriminate against states with religious liberty laws on the books, that’s his prerogative. But if he doesn’t want to look like a completely ignorant hypocrite who has no idea what he’s talking about, he should probably examine his own state’s laws first.

UPDATE: A number of commentators have suggested that none of this matters because Connecticut has laws banning discrimination based on sexual preference, while Indiana doesn’t. Unfortunately, these commentators do not have the mental wherewithal to grasp that that argument doesn’t undermine my point. It actually strengthens it.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the “Indiana doesn’t ban discrimination” claim is true and that this distinction is what makes Indiana’s RFRA terrible and Connecticut’s RFRA perfectly acceptable. If that’s the case, then it’s literally impossible for Indiana’s new RFRA law to legalize discrimination based on sexual preference. Why? Because it’s allegedly already legal in Indiana. Furthermore, if anti-gay discrimination is what is truly animating those voicing opposition to RFRA, why on earth are they focusing on Indiana’s RFRA and not on enacting the anti-discrimination bans that are in force in states like Connecticut?

If I didn’t know better, I’d be left to assume that the voices agitating to repeal a 20-year-old legal framework that was not even remotely controversial until last week were more interested in outlawing religious liberty than they were in preventing discrimination.
And now that Governor Prence has asked that Indiana pass such a law, will people calm down? I doubt it. As James Taranto points out, the New York Times spilled the beans about why people are demagoguing this issue.
But again, legal hairsplitting is at most a pretext for the fury directed against Indiana. Here we will take the unusual step of praising the New York Times editorial board for forthrightness. In a single sentence, if a lengthy one, the paper sums up what changed: “Religious-freedom laws, which were originally intended to protect religious minorities from burdensome laws or regulations, have become increasingly invoked by conservative Christian groups as gay rights in general—and marriage equality in particular—found greater acceptance nationally.”

....What makes that Times editorial surprising is the frank admission that the editors are unwilling to apply their principles to the religious group they disfavor, namely “conservative Christian groups.” That’s not to say their candor is untarnished by bad faith. They set up a dichotomy between “religious minorities” and “conservative Christian groups.” But unless the old Moral Majority was—and still is—worthy of the latter half of its name, the dichotomy is self-evidently a false one.

It is also an invidious one, since it singles out one religious minority (or, to be precise, one category thereof, since there are many kinds of conservative Christians) and deems it unworthy of the first freedom. And that supposed unworthiness is not limited to the matter of same-sex marriage, or gay rights more generally. The Times once again rebukes the Supreme Court for having “helped the cause of Christian conservatives with its 2014 Hobby Lobby decision,” which held that RFRA limited the government’s coercive authority vis-à-vis the provision of contraceptives through employee medical benefits.

You might sum up the Times’s position as follows: Legal rights are all well and good, but they shouldn’t be extended to an enemy in wartime—at least not if it’s a culture war.
I'm with Ross Kaminsky who plaintively asks: "Can't I support gays and religious freedom?"
I'm a not particularly religious Jewish libertarian, which means — if you wouldn’t have guessed — that I don’t have a moral objection to, nor a public policy framework for, homosexuality.

But the reaction by many others who aren’t social issues conservatives to Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act — modeled on a federal law sponsored by liberal Democrat Chuck Schumer (NY), passed 97-3 in the Senate in 1993, and then signed by President Bill Clinton (while Democrats still had majorities in both houses of Congress) — borders on the insane.
That's about my reaction, but I think that there is a lot more about what we've witnessed this week.

As we observe all this manufactured outrage, get used to it. This is just a skirmish before the real battle - the efforts to persuade the public that whoever is the 2016 GOP candidate is eager to conduct a war on gays and women and whichever other group the Democrats want to motivate to vote against Republicans. I noticed that my students who are mostly 10th graders and not all that politically aware about the day-to-day stories on current events all knew about Indiana's law and the ensuing outrage. Young people are more likely to vote on cultural issues rather than economic or foreign policy issues. This skirmish is preparing the ground for 2016. The Republicans should figure out how they're going to defend against such attacks or, what happened to Romney, will happen again.

And the left will be quite happy to demonize Republican politicians. Harry Reid set the model in 2012 as he admitted this week when asked by CNN if he had any regrets about his demonization of the Koch brothers and his baseless insinuations that Romney hadn't paid taxes.
The Senate minority leader dismissed claims that he is the problem with Washington and said he his proud of taking on the Koch brothers when no one else would.

Reid appeared to take some joy of being a part of the Democrat machine that took down Romney in 2012.

“Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn’t,” Reid said on the Senate floor without any evidence to back his accusations.

When asked about his comments by CNN’s Dana Bash, Reid never rejected the notion his words were “McCarthyite” in nature. He admitted no wrongdoing.

“Well, they can call it whatever they want,” Reid said. “Romney didn’t win, did he?”
All that matters is that Romney lost. Reid doesn't care that he had to lie and mislead the public in order to accomplish that end. Ed Morrissey links to the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza's reaction to Reid's admission that all that mattered was victory at all costs.
Where to begin?

How about with the fact that this all-means-justify-the-ends logic — assuming the end is your desired one — is absolutely toxic for politics and, more importantly, democracy. (Worth noting: Reid is far from the only one who practices this sort of thinking; it's the rule rather than the exception in political Washington, where winning — no matter the cost — is the only goal that matters.) If you can lie — or, at a minimum, mislead based on scant information or rumor — then anything is justified in pursuit of winning. This sort of "the winners make the rules" approach is part of the broader partisan problem facing Washington and the polarization afflicting the nation more broadly. There is no trust between the two parties because they believe — and have some real justification for believing — that the other side will say and do literally anything to win.

Think about Reid's statement in another context. I have two little kids. What if I told my son, who has just started playing soccer, that his only aim was to win the game — no matter how he accomplished that goal. After all, it's not cheating unless someone can prove it, right?

Would anyone think that was either (a) good parenting or (b) broadly beneficial for society? No. That is the same logic Reid is applying here, but because we are all inured to the horribleness that is modern political strategy, people barely bat an eye. No, politics ain't beanbag. I get that. But allowing elected officials to say anything they want about people running for office — and requiring zero proof in order to report those claims — seems to be a bridge too far. And to defend that behavior by saying, "Well, we won, didn't we?" feels like the junior high school logic that shouldn't be employed by the men and women trusted with representing us in Washington — or anywhere else.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes today about how U.S. officials are looking the other way as American inmates are getting radicalized in prison.
Europeans have known for some time that prisons can be breeding grounds for Islamists. The British “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid, is thought to have been radicalized while in prison for smaller crimes. Two of the gunmen in the Paris terror attacks in January—Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly—came under the religious influence of Djamel Beghal, a convicted terrorist and charismatic Islamist, when serving prison sentences. Mohamed Merah, who killed three soldiers, three small children and a rabbi at a Jewish school near Toulouse, France, in 2012, apparently became a jihadist while in jail. The list is depressingly long.

The problem is that experts tend to be concerned about prison radicalization only to the extent that it ultimately results in some type of violent attack. Yet there are good reasons to be concerned about the inmates who come to cherish a radical interpretation of Islam while refraining—for the time being—from the use of violence. The boundary between nonviolent and violent extremism is much more porous than conventional wisdom allows.

What can be done to stop prisons from becoming academies of jihad? Here are four suggestions:

1) Choose better partners than the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Leadership Council to screen prison chaplains. The American Islamic Forum for Democracy, founded and led by M. Zuhdi Jasser, a medical doctor and former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, would be a good choice.

2) Prevent radical clerics from coming into prisons to spread their message to susceptible inmates.

3) Ban radical Islamist literature from being disseminated in U.S. prisons.

4) Stop placing inmates in proximity to radicalized mentors.

The fact that Fouad El Bayly, an imam who publicly called for my death, was chosen to provide “religious services, leadership and guidance” at a federal prison shows that U.S. authorities haven’t learned the right lessons from a growing list of prison-convert terrorists. Bringing in radical imams to mentor vulnerable inmates will not do anyone any good—least of all prisoners looking for a better path in life.

Thomas Sowell laments what has become of the liberal arts.
Diversity of political ideas is not to be found on most college campuses, where the range of ideas is usually from the moderate left to the extreme left, and conservatives are rare as hen’s teeth among the faculty — especially in English departments. Academics who go ballistic about an “under-representation” of ethnic minorities in various other institutions are blissfully blind to the under-representation of conservatives among the professors they hire. On many campuses, students can go through all four years of college without ever hearing a conservative vision of the world, even from a visiting speaker.

The problem is not political, but educational. As John Stuart Mill pointed out, back in the 19th century, students must hear opposing views from people who actually believe them, not as presented by people who oppose them. In the 18th century, Edmund Burke warned against those who “teach the humours of the professor, rather than the principles of the science.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cruising the Web

An Iranian defector speaks the truth that the Obama White House wishes would stay hidden.
An Iranian journalist writing about the nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran has defected. In an interview Amir Hossein Motaghi, has some harsh words for his native Iran. He also has a damning indictment of America's role in the nuclear negotiations.

“The U.S. negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal," Motaghi told a TV station after just defecting from the Iranian delegation while abroad for the nuclear talks.
This is what Obama's dream of ending strife in the Middle East has come to. We are now the mouthpiece for Iran.

This defector also has told us more about what it is like to be a journalist in Iran.
“There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations,” he told Irane Farda television. “But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels.

“My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner any more.” Mr Mottaghi was a journalist and commentator who went on to use social media successfully to promote Mr Rouhani to a youthful audience that overwhelmingly elected him to power.

But he was also subject to the bitter internal arguments within the Iranian regime. One news website claimed he had been forced in to report to the ministry of intelligence weekly, and that he had been tipped off that he might be subject to arrest had he returned to Tehran.

The National Journal traces how Hillary Clinton's henchmen work to try to manipulate her coverage.
Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog group, is part of Clinton hater-turned-helper David Brock's three-pronged empire. American Bridge is dedicated to tracking conservative candidates and doing opposition research. Correct the Record works to preempt any attacks Clinton may have to weather. And Media Matters is focused on monitoring conservative (and mainstream) media outlets to point out "misinformation" in the press on topics from climate change to gun control to presidential politics.

It's often easy to trace Media Matters' influence on a major news story, and you can see that with the coverage of Clinton's email use at the State Department. Media Matters called the New York Times story, which broke March 2, "deceptive," and Brock wrote a letter to the paper asking for a correction.

The Times eventually did walk back its original Clinton story a bit (although public editor Margaret Sullivan called Brock's complaints "over-the-top"). One recent Media Matters story questioned whether the paper—not exactly a right-wing outlet—is "gearing up for more Clinton warfare".
Sound like a vast left-wing conspiracy?

And Carl Cannon details how Clinton supporters have a list of words that they don't want the media to be allowed to say because they have determined that such words are sexist.
You are on notice that we will be watching, reading, listening and protesting coded sexism," read the missive from “HRC Super Volunteers.”

Then came the list of words and phrases constituting “coded sexism,” at least to HRC Super Volunteers: "polarizing," "calculating," "disingenuous," "insincere," "ambitious," "inevitable," "entitled" and "over-confident." Nearly doubling George Carlin’s list of “7 Dirty Words,” Clinton’s loyalists added "secretive" and "will do anything to win,” “represents the past,” “out of touch” and “tone deaf.”
It is such a bizarre effort that Cannon concludes that only a Republican or Elizabeth operative would launch such a campaign. But these are just the depths which the combination of modern feminism and the Clintons have brought us.

David Brooks is concerned that Ted Cruz represents "the new era of performance politics" because he "hasn't done much governing in his life but he's done a lot of performing." I might actually agree with Brooks there, although Cruz has argued successfully at the Supreme Court. But it's a bit rich coming from David Brooks who was so very impressed by the Barack Obama of 2008. What in the world had that Barack Obama ever done besides performance politics? he had absolutely no governing experience and was more known for voting "present" and giving speeches than for actually accomplishing anything. The guy who told us how impressed he was with the crease in barack Obama's pants and how he knew back in 2006 that Obama would be a "very good president" because he seemed so very smart and who makes his living being the pet conservative at the TYT and on PBS should never be allowed to tell Republicans who would or would not be a good candidate.

Thomas Sowell encapsulates exactly why Obama's kowtowing to Iran is so very dangerous.
Why is Barack Obama so anxious to have an international agreement that will have no legal standing under the Constitution just two years from now, since it will be just a presidential agreement, rather than a treaty requiring the “advice and consent” of the Senate?

There are at least two reasons. One reason is that such an agreement will serve as a fig leaf to cover his failure to do anything that has any serious chance of stopping Iran from going nuclear. Such an agreement will protect Obama politically, despite however much it exposes the American people to unprecedented dangers.

The other reason is that, by going to the United Nations for its blessing on his agreement with Iran, he can get a bigger fig leaf to cover his complicity in the nuclear arming of America’s most dangerous enemy. In Obama’s vision, as a citizen of the world, there may be no reason why Iran should not have nuclear weapons when other nations have them.

Politically, President Obama could not just come right out and say such a thing. But he can get the same end result by pretending to have ended the dangers by reaching an agreement with Iran. There have long been people in the Western democracies who hail every international agreement that claims to reduce the dangers of war.

The road to World War II was strewn with arms control agreements on paper that aggressor nations ignored in practice. But those agreements lulled the democracies into a false sense of security that led them to cut back on military spending while their enemies were building up the military forces to attack them.

The WSJ presents its brackets of Republican candidates.

Michael Barone reminds us of the political origins of Obama's "red line" remarks on Syria.
“We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program,” Mr. Obama said of the Iranians in an interview with Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire philanthropist. “They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.”
And now all the reports are that we're going to allow Iran to continue to run its program at Fordo and Arak. We've given up on any sort of true verification when the IAEA tells us that they can't verify whether Iran is telling the truth about their nuclear program and is refusing to allow snap inspections of Iran's nuclear sites. And Iran's production of ballistic missiles are reportedly off the table. It's a horrific list of how much the administration is giving up to Iran.
Some readers may object that Iran has made its own significant concessions. Except it hasn’t. They may also claim that the U.S. has no choice but to strike a deal. Except we entered these negotiations with all the strong cards. We just chose to give them up.

Finally, critics may argue that I’m being unfair to the administration, since nobody knows the agreement’s precise terms. But that’s rich coming from an administration that refuses to negotiate openly, lest the extent of its diplomatic surrender be prematurely and fatally exposed.

Nearly a century ago Woodrow Wilson insisted on “open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in public view.” Barack Obama prefers to capitulate to tyrants in secret. Judging from the above, it’s no wonder.

Bret Stephens reminds us what President Obama promised us back in December 2013 about what he would never give up in negotiation with Iran.

And the administration can't even get an American pastor who has been imprisoned for two and a half years in Iran because he is a Christian. Why didn't they demand Iran release him as a precursor for the negotiations?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Cruising the Web

George Will reminds us of the Clinton record of both Hillary and Bill.
The party, adrift in identity politics, clings, as shipwrecked sailors do to floating debris, to this odd feminist heroine. Wafted into the upper reaches of American politics by stolid participation in her eventful marriage to a serial philanderer, her performance in governance has been defined by three failures.

Her husband, having assured the 1992 electorate that voting for him meant getting “two for the price of one,” entrusted to her the project that he, in a harbinger of the next Democratic president’s mistake, made his immediate priority — health-care reform. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan urged him to begin with welfare reform, just as wise Democrats wanted President Obama to devote 2009 to economic recovery rather than health care, perhaps sparing the nation six years and counting of economic sluggishness.

Hillary Clinton enveloped her health-care deliberations in secrecy, assembling behind closed doors battalions of the best and the brightest — think of many Jonathan Grubers weaving complexities for the good of, but beyond the comprehension of, the public. When their handiwork was unveiled, it was so baroque that neither house of a Congress controlled by her party would even vote on it. This was one reason that in 1994 Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years — a harbinger of 2010, when Obamacare helped end Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as the first female speaker.

Clinton’s Senate interlude was an uneventful prelude to her 2008 presidential quest, which earned her, as a consolation prize, the State Department. There her tenure was defined by the “reset” with Russia and by regime-change-by-bombers in Libya.

Russia has responded by violently dismembering a European nation. Libya was the object of “humanitarian intervention,” an echo of Bill Clinton’s engagement in the Balkans that appealed to progressives because it was connected only tenuously, if at all, to the U.S. national interest. Today, Libya is a humanitarian calamity, a failed state convulsed by civil war and exporting jihadists.

These episodes supposedly recommend a re-immersion in Clintonism, a phenomenon that in 2001 moved the Washington Post to say, more in anger than in sorrow, that “the Clintons’ defining characteristic” is that “they have no capacity for embarrassment.”
George Will then goes on to remind us of all the garbage associated with the end to Bill Clinton's presidency. Younger voters might not know of all that sleaze, but do the voters who remember all this, and who will be reminded in coming months, really want to go through all this again?

Byron York visits reviews the "long, complicated story of Hillary Clinton's Benghazi subpoena."
Now that the public knows Hillary Clinton destroyed all the emails on her secret server -- her lawyer told the House Benghazi Committee that there's nothing left to search -- a question remains: Did Clinton destroy documents that were under subpoena from Congress?

The answer is more complex than it might seem. There's no doubt Clinton withheld information that Congress demanded she turn over, and some Republicans believe the documents she destroyed were covered under a subpoena as well. But a look at the story behind the subpoena and other document requests from congressional Benghazi investigators is a tale of obstruction, delay, and frustration that underscores the limits of Congress' power to investigate Benghazi. Clinton and her aides had the means to make life very difficult for Republicans trying to learn the full story of the attacks in Libya, and they did just that....

And what if a secretary of state simply refuses to comply with a requests and subpoenas? "We can hold them in contempt or run to the U.S. Attorney," notes the Republican. "But guess what? Nothing is going to happen."

The bottom line is that the system of congressional investigations has a very difficult time dealing with an official who acts in bad faith, as Hillary Clinton did in the Benghazi affair. She hid documents from investigators for more than two years, and then, when investigators wanted to see the larger group of documents from which she selected what would be released, she destroyed the whole thing.

Trey Gowdy is determined to piece together the full story of the secretary of state's actions and communications before, during, and after the Benghazi attack. The last few weeks have shown just how tough that job will be.

While they're celebrating Harry Reid's reign in the Senate, perhaps they could do what the conservative media have been doing - revisiting the sleaze and questionable deals that have made him a very wealthy man.
In 1998, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid paid $400,000 for two pieces of residential land outside Las Vegas. It was a complicated deal. Reid secretly transferred ownership of the property to a company set up by his friend and lawyer Jay Brown, who then convinced the local government to re-zone the land for commercial development. In 2004, Brown sold it to a group of developers and Reid walked away with $1.1 million.

"The complex dealings allowed Reid to transfer ownership, legal liability and some tax consequences to Brown's company without public knowledge, but still collect a seven-figure payoff nearly three years later," the Associated Press reported in 2006. "Reid hung up the phone when questioned about the deal during an AP interview."

It was a classic Harry Reid transaction: legal but a little shady, and undoubtedly lucrative. Business deals like that allowed Reid to do very well during his years in the Senate, spent of late in a luxury condominium in Washington's Ritz Carlton.

Marco Rubio is hoping to reprise the success that brought him from being an underdog candidate for the Senate in 2010 to the winner in November.
That said, Rubio's broader political profile is immensely attractive to a wide range of Republicans. His record on a host of issues is decidedly conservative, and he communicates his ideology as effectively as anyone in his party. At the same time, Rubio, the bilingual son of immigrant parents who worked as a bartender and a maid, articulates his conservatism in an aspirational way. This combination allows him to claim a broad appeal that would allow him to attract new demographics—particularly young people and minorities—into a party desperate for diversification.

Many Republicans believe that Rubio would be the GOP's strongest general-election competition against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But after six years of bashing President Obama's inexperience—arguing that he'd only served one partial term in the U.S. Senate before running for president—it's evident already that some Republicans will be skeptical of giving Rubio, 43, that same opportunity.
Of course, the Republicans he would face in the primaries are not Charlie Crist. So few people are.

Daniel Pipes looks at how modern Islamists seem to delight in destroying historic sites and artifacts as they take over new territories. The list is depressingly long.
While the seizure and appropriation of other monuments began at the very inception of Islam (e.g., the Kaaba), the destruction that has reached orgiastic heights with ISIS is something new; note that nearly all the examples listed here date from the 21st century. Turned around, those recently destroyed antiquities survived so long because Muslims had left them alone. In this regard, things are far worse these days than ever before — not a surprise, as Islam is in its worst shape ever. All other major religions have moved beyond such crudely violent impulses, whose motive is unacceptable and whose results are tragic. Is there a Middle Eastern country that exults in its multi-religious heritage, celebrates ancient artifacts on coins and stamps, builds fabulous museums for its antiquities, treats archeology as a national pastime, and studies manuscripts instead of burning them? Well, yes, there is. It’s called Israel. The rest of the region could learn a thing or two about historical appreciation from the Jewish state.

David Harsanyi explains what there was in Ted Cruz's announcement for his candidacy that any student of American history should find familiar whether one is a believing Christian or an atheist.
As an atheist, I suppose I should be deeply troubled by Ted Cruz’s God-heavy presidential announcement. Although the Texas senator’s blast of old-fashioned American exceptionalism garnered most of the chortling media’s attention, it’s what troubles me the least about his aspirations. If the politicians treated the ideals of the Enlightenment as if they were handed down from heaven rather than a pliable set of guidelines perpetually bending to accommodate the vagaries of contemporary politics, I imagine the world would be a better place. They don’t.

As one reporter for Yahoo! News asked during Cruz’s speech on Twitter: “Bizarre to talk about how rights are God-made and not man-made in your speech announcing a POTUS bid? When Constitution was man-made?”

The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This founding document informs the Constitution, which restricts government from meddling in important areas of our lives. That’s how the Founders saw it. That’s how we’ve pretended to see it for a long time. Some of us believe that these natural rights, divine or secular, are universal, that they can’t be repealed or restrained or undone by democracy, university presidents, or rhetorically gifted presidents.

If that’s God’s position — or, more specifically, if enough people think that’s His position — well then He’s my co-pilot, as well.

By the way, here’s John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1961: “And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

Weird, huh?

On one side of the deep cultural divide, the very notion that God tells us anything is silly. That’s why you see many journalists react with confusion or with contemptuous tweets or feel the need to highlight something so obvious. On a political level, the idea that God can give us unalienable rights only threatens an agenda that doesn’t exactly hold your right to live in peace without interference sacred. And this lack of reverence for rights will lead to a serious battle between religious freedom and progressive aims.

Eliana Johnson looks at the series of unforced errors that Scott Walker has made since he shot to the head of the polls back in January and points to his staff as not being ready for the bright lights.
According to several people who have worked with Walker over the years — most of whom requested anonymously to speak candidly — the central problem in the Walker organization is that the governor has long served as his own campaign strategist — and he’s obviously a good one. As a result, he’s never had to build a large team of political professionals and delegate to it.

“He’s his own chief strategist, he’s his own speechwriter, he’s his own PR person,” says a Wisconsinite who has known the governor since his days as a county executive. “That may work when you’re a county executive. It’s a little more problematic when you’re the governor of a state, but you absolutely can’t do that when you’re running for president.” The Washington Post once called Walker a “hands-on tactician fixated on his public image” who “operated as the county executive, chief of staff, press secretary and campaign strategist all at once.”

“There’s a little speculation that his inner circle is like a dot, it’s like two or three people,” says Sykes, “because he’s very, very talented at these things.”
Remember when Obama was claiming that he was better at every job his campaign staff did than they were. He was LeBron. Well, no one is that good and, even if he were, comparative advantage would suggest that he should delegate. I bet even LeBron doesn't mow his own lawn.

Jonah Goldberg explains how the Bergdahl fiasco exemplifies all the Obama fiascos we have witnessed.
What I find interesting about the Bergdahl story is that it is the quintessential Obama fiasco. If you were compiling a checklist of all the things that drive conservatives crazy — and by conservatives I basically mean people who are (a) paying attention and (b) not enthralled in the Obama cult of personality — the Bergdahl story would achieve a near-perfect score.

The Obama M.O. remains remarkably consistent. He announces some initiative, policy, or presidential action. The public rationale for the move is always rhetorically grounded in some deep, universally shared principle, even if the real agenda is something far more ideological or partisan. The facts driving the decision are never as the White House presents them. Indeed, the more confident the White House appears to be about the facts, the more likely it is they’re playing games with them.

Sometimes the facts are simply made up. There are millions of “shovel ready jobs” right around the corner! “You can keep your doctor!” The Benghazi attack was “about a video!” “One in five women are raped!” “The Islamic State isn’t Islamic!” “These exclamation points are totally necessary!” At other times, the facts are selectively deployed. “Something something tax breaks for corporate jets mumble mumble poor Warren Buffet’s secretary’s tax bill blah blah Spain is winning the future with solar panels” and, course, “core al-Qaeda has been decimated” (in which “core al-Qaeda” is defined as “the bits of al-Qaeda that have been decimated”).

The Obama response to all opposition is to either attack the motives of his critics or to dismiss the objections as mere politics or ideology. When Obama met with congressional leaders back in 2009, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan made substantive critiques of Obamacare, and Obama responded by waving away their objections as mere “talking points” — as if any facts written on a sheet of paper suddenly become untrue if you can call them “talking points.”

Republican 1: “It is unsafe to smoke cigarettes around the propane tank.”

Republican 2: “Mass collectivization of agriculture has not worked well in the past.”

Republican 3: “You should not feed salmon to grizzly bears using your lap as a plate.”

Obama: “Those are just talking points…..Ahhhhh! Get this bear off of me!”

When Senate Democrats, led by Bob Menendez (now conveniently under the Department of Justice’s thumb), expressed concerns about Obama’s overtures to Iran, Obama reportedly sympathized, saying he understood their plight, what with the pressure from “donors.” The insinuation, obviously, is that Obama is doing the right thing, while those opposed were motivated by fear of nefarious unnamed “donors” cracking their whips (between servings of lox and bagels, no doubt). Only Obama’s motivations are pure, noble, and fact-driven. Only his opponents are ideologues incapable of “putting politics aside for the good of the American people,” as he likes to say.

There are other anatomical features of an Obama outrage. A few come to mind:

He has a tendency to frame issues in such a way that America is the villain and America’s enemies have a point.

He has an outsized faith — fueled equally by ego and the media’s eagerness to take his side — in his ability to persuade the public not to believe their lying eyes.

Since Obama sees himself as the People’s Tribune and the sole champion of what is right and good, he has little to no use for Congress or legal or constitutional requirements to work with it.

And, of course, there’s the incompetence factor — amplified by groupthink in the White House bunker. They may think Obama is the smartest guy in the room, but they also all think they’re geniuses who just happen to agree with each other. This creates a near total blindness to facts, data, and opinions that don’t line up with their worldview.


Using the above criteria, the Bergdahl story is quintessential Obama.

Invoking high-minded principle? Check!

Really motivated by partisan and ideological agenda? Check!

Made-up facts? Check!

Critics denounced as partisan ideologues opposed to high-minded principle? Check!

Group-think-driven White House’s failure to anticipate the political downsides? Check!

Flagrant contempt for Congress and its laws? Check!

The National Journal looks at how Harry Reid passed the Affordable Care Act and allowed the mistakes in the bill go through without corrections resultiing in the case before the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, if you have your health insurance through an exchange, expect surprises when you do your taxes.

Ah, proof that you don't have to be intelligent to rise to an administrative position at an Ivy League university.
A video sting operation shows Cornell’s assistant dean for students, Joseph Scaffido, agreeing to everything suggested by an undercover muckraker posing as a Moroccan student.
Scaffido casually endorses inviting an ISIS “freedom fighter’’ to conduct a “training camp” for students at the upstate Ithaca campus — bizarrely likening the activity to a sports camp.

Is it OK to bring a humanitarian pro-“Islamic State Iraq and Syria” group on campus, the undercover for conservative activist James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas asks.

Sure, Scaffido says in the recorded March 16 meeting.

Scaffido doesn’t even blink an eye when the undercover asks about providing material support for terrorists — “care packages, whether it be food, water, electronics.”

How about supporting Hamas?

No problem at all, Scaffido said.
“The university is not going to look at different groups and say, ‘You’re not allowed to support that group because we don’t believe them’ or something like that. I think it’s just the opposite. I think the university wants the entire community to understand what’s going on in all parts of the world,” Scaffido said.

The undercover asked if he can invite “a freedom fighter to come and do like a training camp for students.”

Scaffido responds, “You would be allowed to do something like that. It’s just like bringing in a coach, to do a training, a sports trainer or something,” the Cornell official said.

The State Department includes both ISIS and Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations.
Given how James O'Keefe's efforts usually work, I wouldn't be surprised to see other such videos to be released. Or maybe other university administrators are not as stupid as this guy.

The National Journal profiles Hugh Hewitt and how he has grown to be the "go-to pundit" of the Republican establishment. Even Democrats like going on his show.
IF REPUBLICAN pundits fall on a scale from the bombastic right-winger Rush Limbaugh on one end to the civilized centrist David Brooks on the other, then Hewitt is Limbaugh-like in his ideology but Brooks-like in his presentation. In other words, he's an intellectual's ideologue. "He sees himself as a responsible alternative to so much of what's out there," Gearan says. When I tell Hewitt that one Republican I spoke with called him a "gentleman's conservative," he smiles: "Oh, I like that."

Hewitt is popular enough with the base to have hosted a nationally syndicated show for 15 years—and safe enough for the establishment to thrust him into the debate spotlight this fall. In fact, it's hard to find a Hewitt hater anywhere within the GOP. "Hugh's hitting a peak," says David Webb, a tea-party leader and now host of The David Webb Show on SiriusXM. "He's frankly gained the credibility. It's about doing what you do well, gaining the credibility, and people come to you and say you have a voice and you have an audience."

He has a knack for landing on the most conservative possible position a political pragmatist could take.

Jeff Jacoby explores Obama's hypocrisy with Netanyahu.
IT TOOK Bibi Netanyahu nearly a week to apologize properly for his inflammatory comment on Israel’s election day warning that Arab voters were “heading to the polls in droves.” On Monday, speaking at his Jerusalem residence to a group of Israeli Arab community leaders, the newly reelected prime minister expressed his regret: “I know the things I said a few days ago wounded Israel’s Arab citizens. That was not in any way my intention, and I am sorry.”

But even after four and a half years, there has been no apology from Barack Obama for his inflammatory remarks just before the 2010 election, when he exhorted Latinos to generate an “upsurge in voting” in order to “punish our enemies and . . . reward our friends.” Nor has the president ever expressed regret for his running mate’s racially-tinged warning to a largely black audience in 2012 that the GOP was “going to put y’all back in chains” if Mitt Romney won the White House. In fact, the Obama campaign insisted no apology would be forthcoming.

Under normal circumstances, there would be no reason to link these episodes. But the White House pointedly reproached Netanyahu for his distasteful words. “This administration is deeply concerned by divisive rhetoric that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the day after the election. The president himself declared in an interview that Netanyahu’s “rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions,” and warned that it “starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.”

Fair enough — except for Obama’s egregious failure to meet his own standard. The candidate who captivated America with his promise to transcend partisan and racial rancor turned out to be the most consistently polarizing president in modern history. He hasn’t scrupled to inject barbed racial comments into the nation’s political discourse, but if he has ever candidly apologized for doing so, it must have been on deep background. Obama’s contempt for Netanyahu is nothing new, but before he lambastes other political leaders for their “divisive rhetoric,” the president really ought to take a good look in the mirror....

When Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei declaims “Death to America!,” as he did in a speech last week, an unruffled White House brushes it off as “intended for a domestic political audience.” Doesn’t it cast doubt on Tehran’s trustworthiness? Not to worry, Obama’s press secretary assured CNN. Iranian negotiators have “demonstrate[d] a willingness to have constructive conversations.”

But there is no “domestic political audience” allowance for Netanyahu. If he says one thing today and something different tomorrow, the American president’s wrath knows no bounds.

Perhaps Netanyahu should be flattered that Obama holds him to such a high standard of constancy. The president has certainly never demanded it of himself. On a whole slew of issues, Obama has adamantly taken one position, then cast it aside when it was politically advantageous to do so.

He stoutly told AIPAC that Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel. Then he took it back.

He endlessly promised voters that if they liked their existing health plan, they could keep it. Then he took it back.

He repeatedly explained that he didn’t have the authority to unilaterally change or ignore immigration law. Then he took it back.

He coldly warned Syrian dictator Bashar Assad that any use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” calling for a military response. Then he took it back.

He firmly asserted that he was not in favor of same-sex marriage. Then he took it back.

Time after time, the president has come down clearly on one side of a controversial policy debate, only to walk away from it and end up on the other side. “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made,” says the White House witheringly about Netanyahu. Hypocrisy, thy name is Obama.

Jay Bilas has some very good ideas about how to bring the free market to college sports.
Under the pretext of preserving amateurism, the NCAA prohibits college athletes from earning compensation tied to their performance.

Mr. Bilas thinks the rules are hogwash. “No other student on any campus is restricted from earning whatever they can earn in whatever area they can earn it,” he notes. That includes techies, musicians and actresses like Emma Watson, who earned millions for playing Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” movies while attending Brown University....

Under Mr. Bilas’s ideal system, college athletes would be paid what the market deems them to be worth. They could earn remuneration from the colleges and cash in on endorsement deals like their professional counterparts. Critics of that idea, including the NCAA, argue that this would corrupt college sports. President Obama last weekend weighed in on the debate by declaring that compensating athletes would “ruin the sense of college sports” and create “bidding wars” for players. The fear is that deep-pocketed programs will be able to buy up the best players, which would make smaller colleges less competitive.

Mr. Bilas scoffs: “What they are calling a ‘bidding war,’ the rest of the world calls business,” he says. “What most reasonable economists would say is: ‘No, actually, if these universities could pay, the smaller, lesser universities would have better opportunities. They could marshal their resources.’ ” For example, he says, Wichita State can’t compete for players with the University of Kansas. However, if colleges could pay, Wichita State might be able to offer the Jayhawks’ third recruit a better salary and poach him.

Mr. Bilas argues that schools are, in a sense, already competing like this. There are no restrictions on coaches’ compensation. “Should we not have nicer facilities at the bigger schools because the smaller schools can’t afford them?” he asks. Point taken.....

Median revenues at the top 120 NCAA Division I programs doubled to $56 million in 2012 from 2004. More than a dozen college-sports programs gross over $100 million a year. Mr. Bilas predicts that the pot will continue to expand. “Nobody could imagine when I was a kid that people would be paying $100 for a ticket to a college-football game—and they’re doing it,” he says.

But he stresses that his beef isn’t that the raw totals are too high; it’s that the ban on paying players skews the market and misallocates resources. For instance, some college basketball players might not bolt for the NBA after one year if they could get paid. “It’s a huge distortion because they don’t pay their primary revenue drivers, which is the players,” he explains. “The NBA doesn’t pay as much for coaches” or “build the facilities that college builds.”

Further, he argues that the compensation ban encourages rather than deters corruption. Many universities, such as Syracuse and the University of Southern California, have been sanctioned by the NCAA because athletes received money under the table. “Right now a player is prohibited from having an agent,” Mr. Bilas says. “That means the only contact an athlete is going to have is with unethical ones because the ethical agents are on the sidelines.”

Under the Bilas system, colleges and athletes would negotiate contracts that could include a noncompete clause, to induce players to stay for their full college terms, and a behavior clause in case they run afoul of the law. Athletes could unionize if they want, as football players at Northwestern University last year sought the approval of the National Labor Relations Board to do.

“The rest of the world operates in a free market. It’s really not that big of a deal. It’s amazing how we can all handle this free-market system, but the athletes can’t,” Mr. Bilas exclaims. Opponents of paying athletes, he says, act as if “the world is going to spin off its axis, that dogs and cats are going to be living together—all these doomsday scenarios.” The real reason why the NCAA is fighting the free market, he says, is that “they don’t want to lose control of the money.”
Exactly. The NCAA and the schools are raking in millions. That's the real reason that they don't want to introduce any reform that would take some of that money from their pockets and put it in the hands of the ones earning that money for them.

Ah, the Dukies are not only good at basketball, but also smart about it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

Sorry for the delay in posting, but it's Spring Break and I get to sleep extra late instead of my usual 5:30 AM wake-up call. And one must have priorities and with three Triangle teams in the Sweet Sixteen, I am spending a lot of my free time reading NCAA analysis and watching videos. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed for NC State and Duke tonight well enjoying UNC's loss last night as well as a somewhat forlorn hope that the Irish can down Kentucky tomorrow night.

Well, good riddance. Harry Reid will not run for reelection next year. He was probably going to have a lot of trouble winning the election and leading the minority is not that fun anymore. Reid's legacy is a dirty one. He has tarnished the Senate and left it worse than he found it.
His strategy of “filling the amendment tree” blocked Republican senators from offering their own amendments to force Democrats into politically embarrassing debates and votes. When frustrated Republicans attempted to force Reid to consider their amendments by voting against his motions to close debate, Reid accused the GOP of “filibustering” the important work of the Senate.

Prompted by the liberal wing of the conference, Reid changed the Senate’s longstanding filibuster rules in 2013 to further weaken the minority party. Young progressives had had the filibuster in their sights for years, even though some Democrats were skeptical that getting rid of the tool was a good idea long-term—Democrats like Harry Reid, once. “If some had their way, and overruled the Senate parliamentarian, and the rules of the Senate were illegally changed so that the majority ruled tyrannically, then the Senate​—​billed to all as the world’s greatest deliberative body​—​would cease to exist,” he said in 2008.

Reid’s slash-and-burn strategy was effective at getting major liberal policy goals passed. While Democrats’ Senate ranks dropped in both the 2010 and 2012 elections because of these policy gains, Reid held on just long enough to stop Republicans from being a fully effective check on Obama. But his iron-fisted control over the process also hurt red-state Democrats’ abilities to distinguish themselves from their party when political winds shifted toward the GOP. Former senators Blanche Lincoln, Russ Feingold, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Udall, and Mark Begich can partially thank Reid for their current titles. The Democratic conference Reid will leave behind is smaller and more liberal than the one he took over in 2005.

Charles C. W. Cooke writes about Reid's so-called "service" to the U.S. Senate.
Today we will hear a lot about Reid’s “service” to the Senate and to the American people. Ha! “Service” indeed. The truth of the matter is that Harry Reid is a stone-cold killer who has damaged Washington considerably, who has elevated his own political preferences above the institution he was elected to protect, and who has made worse the partisan rancor that our self-described enlightened class claims to abhor. The greatest service he can do America is to go away.

From a purely Machiavellian perspective, there is a strong case to be made that Reid has been the most effective federal politician in the United States over the last decade or so. In order to protect the president and to advance his movements’ goals, Reid has been willing to diminish the influence, power, and effectiveness of his own institution; in order to thwart his opponents, he has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to play dirty — a capacity that sets him apart even from other harsh players such as Chuck Schumer, Ted Cruz, and Dick Durbin; and, in order to satisfy his own need to feel powerful, he has perfected the scorched earth approach that has kept Obama’s presidency on life support since November of 2010 (in my estimation, the Democratic party’s success during the 2013 shutdown was the product of Reid’s obstinacy and resolve, not Obama’s).
Cooke links to this reminder from Ed Morrissey.
By any objective measure, Reid has been a blight on the Senate and on Congress. He declared the Iraq war “lost” while Americans were still fighting there, and he derailed a budget process that had worked well before his ascent into leadership. He stripped the Senate of one of its debate functions after sabotaging the amendment process, and nearly destroyed regular order. On top of that, Reid used his post to commit McCarthyite character assassination of Mitt Romney, claiming to have inside knowledge that Romney hadn’t paid taxes in ten years, a smear that turned out to be utterly false. He has been a malevolent force for years in American politics, and nothing he did in Washington will improve the place as much as his leaving it.

Even is disgusted with the administration's attempt to pretend that their policy in Yemen has not been an absolute failure.
If this sounds like a disaster, that's because it is. The Obama administration, which just earlier this week was touting its "Yemen model" as a success in counterterrorism strategy, has not been eager to own up to the country's disintegration. And that has come out in a series of muddled, highly cringe-worthy statements given to the press to explain how the US is handling the crisis. It will not leave you feeling confident in the administration's grasp of what to do about Yemen's chaos.
Read some of those quotes. You will cringe and be totally disgusted.

Even our European allies dislike the deal that Obama is negotiating with Iran. So that means that the administration has take out their anger on....our allies. But of course.
Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The disagreement over France’s cautious position in regard to Iran threatens to erode U.S. relations with Paris, sources said.

Tension between Washington and Paris comes amid frustration by other U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. The White House responded to this criticism by engaging in public campaigns analysts worry will endanger American interests.

Western policy analysts who spoke to the Free Beacon, including some with close ties to the French political establishment, were dismayed over what they saw as the White House’s willingness to sacrifice its relationship with Paris as talks with Iran reach their final stages.

Watch White House spokesman decline to answer whether the President views Netanyahu in "the same light" he views Vladimir Putin.

As Peter Wehner points out, Obama has been obsessive about two goals regardless of the consequences: weakening Israel and emptying out Gitmo.
But what made this particular case even more problematic is that Bergdahl was freed in exchange for five high-value Taliban figures who had been held captive in Guantanamo Bay. As several outlets and individuals have pointed out, getting back a soldier who was almost certainly a deserter was simply a pretext. The main goal of President Obama is to empty Guantanamo Bay. It is something the president declared he wanted to do during his first day in office and it’s something he is committed to doing before his last day in office. Swapping Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders–several of whom are trying to return to the battlefield so they can kill more Americans–was the convenient (if explosively contentious) excuse. The Wall Street Journal reminds us that Mr. Obama told NBC that emptying Gitmo “is going to involve, on occasion, releasing folks who we may not trust but we can’t convict.”

So we have a president with at least two obsessions: One of them is attacking the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and weakening the Jewish State of Israel; the second is to empty Guantanamo Bay and release terrorists committed to killing as many Americans as possible.

We’ve never seen anything quite like this president.

Josh Kraushaar notes that the Democrats have set up problems for their 2016 Senate races as they try to figure out what their party stands for.
And already, there are several primaries that would pit the Democratic Party's pragmatic liberal wing against the true-blue progressives. Democrats may not end up with significantly more contested primaries than in the past, but the ideological stakes will be higher. The battles are shaping up to be over core issues splitting the party: entitlements, support for Israel, national security, and others. The intraparty divisions that President Obama has suppressed and Hillary Clinton has avoided will be litigated down the ballot, and the stakes won't be for control of the Senate, but for control of the party's future....

The prospect of a few competitive Democratic primaries normally wouldn't be worth noting. They pale in comparison to the messy, consequential fights that have divided the GOP over the last several election cycles. But what makes these looming battles relevant now is that they're a sign of the creeping demand for ideological purity among Democrats, as well as of the declining role of leadership in being able to shape the races to their liking. These are the same factors that led to the recent Republican skirmishes.

In case you have heard a lot of liberal outrage over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Mike Pence just signed, here is an explanation of what the law really says and can do. It's amusing how a law modeled on a federal law that passed unanimously in 1993 and was signed by Bill Clinton is now seen as so very outrageous.

Tom Gross explains what a "shocking breach" it was for how the Pentagon declassified its analysis of Israel's nuclear program last month.
In the declassified document, the Pentagon reveals supposed details about Israel’s deterrence capabilities, but it kept sections on France, Germany, and Italy classified. Those sections are blacked out in the document.

The two main exceptions in the international media that wrote about the declassification at the time were the state-funded Iranian regime station Press TV and the state-funded Russian station RT.

Both these media were rumored to have been tipped off about this obscure report at the time by persons in Washington. (Both the RT and PressTV stories falsely claim that the U.S. gave Israel help in building a hydrogen bomb. This is incorrect.)

Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons. To do so might spark a regional nuclear arms race, and eventual nuclear confrontation.

The declassification is a serious breach of decades’ old understandings concerning this issue between Israel and its north American and certain European allies.
Does anyone think it was a coincidence that they declassified the Pentagon analysis of Israel's program, but not that on France, Germany, and Italy? And that it would take place right at the time of controversy over Netanyahu's speech before Congress.

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As Bowe Bergdahl is cited for desertion, it isn't irrelevant to note all the Democrats who praised the swap of Taliban prisoners for Berghdahl.
Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, defended the deal in the days following. Clinton dismissed claims at the time that Bergdahl had deserted as "irrelevant." "We bring our people home," she said. Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice said Bergdahl had served with "honor and distinction."

Congressional leaders were effusive in their praise as well.

“Today is a joyful day for our nation," said House minority leader Nancy Pelosi in a May 31 statement. "As Sgt. Bergdahl returns home, we join in celebrating his safe return, and in expressing our gratitude for the relentless dedication of all the service members, intelligence officers, and diplomats who worked so hard to make this day a reality."

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, then the majority leader, took to the Senate floor on June 4 to castigate Republicans criticizing the exchange. "As the president said, this is not a victory for him. It is a victory for the United States military and our country," said Reid.

For another side of Mitt Romney, enjoy his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week. It's a shame that we didn't see more of that man in 2012.

With all that an elementary school principal has to be concerned about, why take the time and effort to force a seven-year-old student shave his head because he had gotten a military-style haircut to honor his stepbrother who is in the army? Sometimes, I just don't understand what some public-school administrators are thinking.

In the spirit of March Madness, Casey Breznick has set up bracketology for Obama administration scandals. Picking the worst one is a tough job. Filling out the NCAA bracket is a breeze in comparison.