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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Cruising the Web

Interestingly, perhaps the tea leaves from Monday's hearing on whether the word "Legislature" in the Constitution to signify which level of government should control time, place, and manner of actually means the actual legislature. In that case which concerns whether a voter initiative establishing a redistricting commission could usurp the role of Arizona's legislature in drawing district maps. The three women justices clearly were not troubled with reading the word "Legislature" in the Constitution to mean something other than a state "legislature." But the conservative justices and Anthony Kennedy did seem to realize that legislature has always meant the actual legislature.
More ominously for Waxman, although Justice Anthony Kennedy had earlier expressed to Clement some concern about how broadly a ruling for the legislature might apply, he appeared even more dubious about the commission’s position. At one point, he told Waxman that “history works very much against you” because until the Constitution was amended to allow voters to elect senators directly, it also provided that senators from each state “shall be chosen by the Legislature thereof” – a phrase that was consistently understood to refer only to the institution. And Kennedy later questioned how the commission could therefore read “Legislature” to mean one thing in that provision of the Constitution but something very different in the Elections Clause.
In today's case, King v. Burwell, the matter involves not Constitutional interpretation, but statutory interpretation, but it's a similar question. Does the word "State" mean a state or does it mean the federal government. I can well imagine that the liberal justices will be quite willing to ignore the actual meaning of the word in the face of what they consider the greater good. But perhaps Anthony Kennedy might bring the same common sense to this question as he seemed to bring to deciding what the word "Legislature" means.

John Podhoretz analyzes how Obama made Netanyahu's speech much more significant than it might have been.
On Tuesday, Bibi Netanyahu gave the speech of his life before a joint session of Congress — and he has Barack Obama to thank for it.

Yes, the very same Barack Obama who hates Bibi, the same Obama who was furious the speech was being given at all, walked the bases full for Netanyahu and served up the sucker pitch he hit for a grand slam.

For six weeks, the president and his team have been letting it be known just how angry they are that the leader of the House of Representatives invited the Israeli prime minister to speak about the threat from Iran.

The enraged leaks and overt hostility toward the head of state of an ally have been unprecedented.

The White House even tried to engineer a mass Democratic boycott of the speech, an effort that either (take your pick) met with success because 50 members of his party agreed to it, or was a failure because 75 percent of elected Democrats on Capitol Hill defied him and chose to attend.
What did all of this do? It made the Netanyahu speech the most important political event of 2015 by far.

It elevated Netanyahu’s powerful case against a nuclear deal with Iran to the highest level possible — so that the leader of a country of 8 million people roughly the size of New Jersey now possesses as much authority to discuss the issue as the leader of the Free World.
Obama’s own national-security mouthpiece, Ben Rhodes, has said the White House views a deal with Iran as “biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy.”
Obama’s fit of pique against Netanyahu has led to a man-to-man showdown that will likely complicate that “biggest thing” immensely.

Netanyahu yesterday laid out calmly and comprehensively the reasons the deal is likely to be a bad one — and he had not only an audience of Americans vastly larger than he would’ve had if the president hadn’t had his hissy fit, but also the ear of the audience that matters most in this regard.

That audience is the United States Senate.

And his audience heard him.
President Obama can continue to argue for a deal that depends on Iran following the provisions of that agreement when the IAEA has announced that they don't have the capability to determine if Iran is complying with the provisions they're supposed to following now. Do we really want to trust their word? The main state sponsor of terrorism? The idea is laughable.

As James Oliphant points out
In that context, Netanyahu argued that any deal struck by Obama and Kerry would fail to significantly slow Iran's nuclear program and instead would "guarantee" that Tehran would obtain nuclear weapons. He profoundly disagreed with administration assessments on how soon Iran could build a bomb if it chose to break the compact with the United States and its allies. He was dismissive of Obama's belief that it isn't realistic to expect Iran to completely dismantle its program.

The potential deal, Netanyahu said, "does not block Iran's path to the bomb. It paves Iran's path to the bomb."

He called on the West to keep sanctions in place until Iran shifts in tone and behavior. "If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country," he said. "This is a bad deal. It's a very bad deal. We're better off without it." That prompted an ovation.

In short, Netanyahu accomplished everything Republicans wanted and the White House feared. Polls show that the American public is skeptical of Iran's motives in striking a deal, and the Israeli prime minister stoked those suspicions. Obama has taken a large—and likely a legacy-defining—risk in advocating for the talks. And Netanyahu reminded the world of just how large a risk it is.

The president's challenge in that regard just got tougher. And it doesn't help that he didn't bother to engage with Netanyahu at all. In the interview with Reuters, Obama clung to the notion that he didn't want to affect the outcome of Israeli elections in two weeks, even as he suggested that Netanyahu's judgment with regard to Iran couldn't be trusted.

Yes, the speech to Congress was, at heart, a propaganda piece, one carefully orchestrated by Obama's adversaries. But that didn't make it any less effective. And it was one whose aftereffects this White House could be feeling for a long time.

Peter Wehner observes one notable contrast between how President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu frame their arguments.
As someone who is a lifelong lover of words and the power of words to persuade and reveal the truth of things, it was a relief to finally have a leader of a nation speak to a joint session of Congress and demonstrate intellectual integrity. Unlike President Obama, who never engages the argument of his critics in an honest manner, Prime Minister Netanyahu fairly (if briefly) stated the arguments of those with whom he disagrees. And he proceeded to deal with them in a methodical, empirical, logical way, which of course explains why Mr. Obama fought so hard to prevent Mr. Netanyahu from speaking in the first place. The president knew his position would wither when exposed to reality. There was a maturity and seriousness of purpose in the Israeli prime minister that is missing from our president.

It’s a shame we Americans have to wait for a foreign leader to speak to us in a manner characterized by intellectual excellence and moral seriousness. But such are the times in which we live.

The two lawyers arguing King v. Burwell today before the Supreme Court have very different styles.

Chris Cillizza reminds us of how Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail address as Secretary of State encapsulates what people dislike about her and her husband:
1. They don't think the rules apply to them
2. They are surrounded by enablers.
3. They're always hiding something.
4. They only think about politics.
5. They never own up to anything.
And besides the breaking of the law regarding using private email accounts for government business, there are the security concerns. She was using a domain that had already been hacked once before. The Daily Mail has the details of that previous hacking.
Clinton never had an official '' email address. Her aides reached her at '' for the four years she was America's top diplomat.

The first hint of a secret Clinton email address came from the infamous Romanian hacker who used the nom-de-hack 'Guccifer.' He was later sentenced to four years in prison for his illegal exploits.

Marcel Lazar Lehel – Guccifer's real name – breached the email account of Sidney Blumenthal, a former Bill Clinton aide who later joined Mrs. Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. Blumenthal had sent emails to her at the '' address, according to The Smoking Gun.

Some of the messages Guccifer leaked online consisted of intelligence reports, sent in late 2012 to Clinton's back-channel address, and covered matters in Libya – including the aftermath of the September 11, 2012 terror attack in Benghazi.
The only defense the State Department has been able to put forward is that her emails would be archived because she was communicating with State Department employees who were actually obeying the law and using the government system. Really? That is all the defense they come up with? They have no answer to the obvious question about any other communications she might have had with people outside the Department.
National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs expressed concern over Clinton's 'extensive' use of a private account, deeming it 'insecure'.
Jason Baron, the agency's former director of litigation, told the Times thatthe ided was practically 'inconceivable,' especially regarding a cabinet-level official.
'It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario – short of nuclear winter – where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level-head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,' he said.

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Jennifer Rubin summarizes recent controversies swirling around Hillary Clinton from her establishing a private email domain the day of her nomination hearings in the Senate, her family's foundation accepting money from foreign governments, her silence on Iran. And those are just the stories from the past couple of weeks.
I would argue, however, that it is the third that is really the worst if Hillary Clinton intends, as everyone is certain she does, to run for president. This is, of course, the most important national security issue of our time, and if she has neither the courage nor conviction to tell us what she thinks, she arguably shouldn’t be running for the job as commander in chief.

Needless to say, the political media are focused on the e-mails and not the nukes, but then foreign policy is only superficially considered and dimly understood. Whatever the emphasis, however, it is hard to escape the flashing red lights in front of party regulars and activists: Do you really need Clinton so badly that you would crown her now as the nominee? Wouldn’t it be better to have someone with no responsibility for the most egregious foreign policy disaster of our time (i.e. allowing Iran to gain a nuclear weapons capability)?

It is unfathomable why Democrats feel as though they have no choice. Surely, there are fans of Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others who would recognize that the Democratic Party badly needs not merely a sparring partner in the primaries but an alternative to Clinton who is not perceived as personally corrupt or secretive and is not burdened by an increasingly problematic Obama foreign policy record. Surely, even a candidate who will have to work harder to raise money and create name identification but who is capable and not burdened by scandal would be preferable to a 67-year old woman of immense wealth, low ethical standards and nonexistent candor. Or perhaps the Democratic Party is so devoid of talent that it simply has no choice but to take Clinton with all her obvious and serious defects.

As Mollie Hemingway writes, "1996 called, wants its Clinton fundraising and documents scandals back."
I know that some of you were too young to remember the 1990s, but this was basically what happened with the Clintons all the time. That revelation of a discovery of law firm billing documents that had been subpoenaed by federal investigators two years prior (the Clintons claimed they didn’t have them) came not 24 hours after another revelation of a missing document.

That document was a 2-year-old memo that admitted Hillary Clinton had, according to the Times, “played a far greater role in the dismissal of employees of the White House travel office than the Administration has acknowledged.”

....Seriously, the original investigation into the Clintons dealt with alleged corruption in a land deal years earlier. Close business partners were sent to prison on fraud, conspiracy, federal mail fraud and tax evasion charges. Then it somehow involved the firing of White House travel agents, the improper use of FBI files and a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former employee of Clinton’s. And, as you may have heard, it involved President Clinton’s lies regarding his sexual relationship with a young intern named Monica Lewinsky. He was impeached not for the sex but, as it happened, for obstructing justice and committing perjury in that case. (Though I have even read the footnotes of the Starr report, and you would not believe how detailed they are. We’ll leave that for another time.)

This administration also had a fundraising scandal that involved China trying to influence American politics by giving money to the Clintons. Stop me if you’ve heard this before....

The bottom line, though, is that this story couldn’t be more vintage Clinton if it tried. Some people have fond memories of the Clintons but that’s mostly because they’ve repressed all the memories of the constant idiotic scandals they dragged the country through — all while protesting that a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy was to blame.
Memories in politics can be so very short, but the Clintons can't seem to help reminding us of their sleaziness.

The exaggerations of Bill O'Reilly are piling up. Conservatives shouldn't rally around him just because they like him. We would have criticized liberals who rallied around Dan Rather or Brian Williams based on ideology and shouldn't fall into that same trap.

This gives you confidence, doesn't it?
An Egyptian-born imam who in 2007 said that Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali should receive the death penalty for her criticism of Islam is now a Department of Justice contractor hired to teach classes to Muslims who are in federal prison.

According to federal spending records, Fouad ElBayly, the imam at Islamic Center of Johnstown in Pennsylvania, was contracted by the DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons beginning last year to teach the classes to Muslim inmates at Cumberland Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md.

John Hinderaker has a good recommendation for Ben Carson. He should run for the seat that Barbara Mikulski has just announced she will not run for. Carson has been making all sorts of noises about running for president, but there is absolutely no chance that the Republicans will choose someone with zero political experience. He is no Dwight Eisenhower. But he has much to contribute and he could do that from the Senate. He would have a tough time winning in Maryland, one of the most Democratic states in the nation, but one that just elected a Republican governor. He could be an appealing candidate, but not for the top job. If he truly wanted to contribute, he would abandon his hubristic ambitions that his first job in politics should be the top job and aim a bit lower.

More behavior from a federal agency acting as if it is above the law. And people still think that federal bureaucrats are somehow more noble than people in the private sector.
An inspector general’s report last fall, which somehow escaped publicity, found that political appointees at the Department of Labor violated contracting rules on one project and spent what many would consider an absurd amount of money on another. An earlier IG letter indicated the same officials were involved in misusing department resources on yet a third project.

Of course, when the administration is itself determined to evade the law, more lawbreaking will occur. And this administration definitely is that determined.
The administration processed about 100,000 applications for amnesty for so-called Dreamers under some of the expanded rules President Obama announced last year, lawyers told a Texas judge late Tuesday, in a move that could complicate their claim that they have halted all action under the amnesty.

The New Yorker pays tribute to Greg Gutfeld's Red Eye show.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Cruising the Web

The NYT reports that Hillary Clinton exclusively used a personal email account while Secretary of State in violation of federal regulations.
Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act....

Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.

“It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,” said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Nick Merrill, defended her use of the personal email account and said she has been complying with the “letter and spirit of the rules.”

Under federal law, however, letters and emails written and received by federal officials, such as the secretary of state, are considered government records and are supposed to be retained so that congressional committees, historians and members of the news media can find them. There are exceptions to the law for certain classified and sensitive materials.

Mrs. Clinton is not the first government official — or first secretary of state — to use a personal email account on which to conduct official business. But her exclusive use of her private email, for all of her work, appears unusual, Mr. Baron said. The use of private email accounts is supposed to be limited to emergencies, experts said, such as when an agency’s computer server is not working.
Typically, she behaved as the rules that bind others didn't bind her. Does anyone think it is a coincidence that she would have chosen to violate regulations in order to keep her emails private? As the author of the NYT story, Michael Schmidt, writes,
The revelation about the private email account echoes longstanding criticisms directed at both the former secretary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for a lack of transparency and inclination toward secrecy.

And others who, like Mrs. Clinton, are eyeing a candidacy for the White House are stressing a very different approach. Jeb Bush, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, released a trove of emails in December from his eight years as governor of Florida.
How many of these stories about the Clintons skirting the line of corruption and dishonesty will there be before the Democrats reject the second coming of this family?

And, as Mary Katharine Ham points out, what is Hillary's position on Democrats boycotting Netanyahu's speech?
When a Democrat says something or takes a position that’s potentially problematic, rarely are other leading Democratic candidates asked about the outrage du jour incessantly. Republicans, on the other hand, must answer for every potentially problematic thing said by every member of the party who ever existed.
Why isn't Clinton being inundated with questions on Netanyahu and the negotiations with Iran? After all, her calling card for the nomination is supposedly her expertise in foreign policy. Yet she is totally silent on these questions.

As Howard Kurtz writes, the liberal media are getting a bit fed up with Hillary. Kurtz points out that the story of how the Clinton Foundation was taking money from foreign powers as well as domestic lobbyists first emerged in the liberal press. Of course, the story has already disappeared in the MSM. This is what happens with stories of corruption concerning Democrats. There will be a flurry of stories and condemnations and then the story disappears. For Republicans, the stories stay around forever while the media go dumpster diving to see if the candidate did anything condemnable in high school.

Sean Davis reminds us that what the Clinton Foundation has done in accepting money from foreign governments while she was Secretary of State is actually banned by the U.S. Constitution.
The constitutional ban on foreign cash payments to U.S. officials is known as the Emoluments Clause and originated from Article VI of the Articles of Confederation. The purpose of the clause was to prevent foreign governments from buying influence in the U.S. by paying off U.S. government officials. Here’s the text of the clause:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
Various statutes and rules have been promulgated to effect the constitutional ban on foreign cash. The U.S. House of Representatives bans cash payments from foreign governments. The U.S. Senate, of which Hillary was a member from 2001 to 2009, bans cash payments from foreign governments. And the U.S. State Department bans cash payments from foreign governments.
The Foundation accepted money from governments such as Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Algeria that had issues with the U.S. while she was head of the Department of State. And don't buy the dodge that this money was all going for charitable purposes.
If only that were true. When anyone contributes to the Clinton Foundation, it actually goes toward fat salaries, administrative bloat, and lavish travel.

Between 2009 and 2012, the Clinton Foundation raised over $500 million dollars according to a review of IRS documents by The Federalist (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008). A measly 15 percent of that, or $75 million, went towards programmatic grants. More than $25 million went to fund travel expenses. Nearly $110 million went toward employee salaries and benefits. And a whopping $290 million during that period — nearly 60 percent of all money raised — was classified merely as “other expenses.” Official IRS forms do not list cigar or dry-cleaning expenses as a specific line item. The Clinton Foundation may well be saving lives, but it seems odd that the costs of so many life-saving activities would be classified by the organization itself as just random, miscellaneous expenses.

Now, because the Clintons are Clintons (“It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is…”), their fallback defense will likely be that they didn’t technically run afoul of the law. After all, Hillary didn’t officially take control of the foundation until after she left the State Dept. And the Constitution doesn’t ever say that foreign governments can’t bribe the impeached and disbarred spouses of government officials. Sure, the Constitution says current officials can’t accept dirty cash from foreign government, but it never says that jetset spouses who fly to sex slave islands with convicted sex offenders aren’t allowed to collect under-the-table foreign cash.

That defense makes sense if you think the Founders opposed the practice of foreign governments directly bribing U.S. officials, but wholeheartedly supported the practice of foreign governments indirectly bribing U.S. officials by paying off their spouses. Are we to believe that Hillary was so divorced from the goings-on of the foundation that she was just randomly given official control of it (including having her first name added to the tax-exempt organization’s official name) immediately after leaving the State Department? Are we to believe that poor Hillary just had no clue what was going on at her family’s tax-exempt slush fund?

Please. “I did not have fiscal relations with that government” isn’t going to fly this time. There is most definitely a controlling legal authority here, and it’s the U.S. Constitution.

The latest foreign payola scandal is just the latest chapter in the Clinton corruption novel. They played games with dirty cash in Arkansas. They played games with dirty cash literally in the White House. And now we know they were playing games with foreign cash while Hillary Clinton was serving as Secretary of State. The Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution knew what could happen if U.S. officials put cash before their own country, so they banned the practice.

In other words, the Founders were Ready for Hillary.

It seems that there is a lot of blocking of the legal requirements transparency going around this administration.
A U.S. District Court judge on Monday condemned the Environmental Protection Agency's destruction of emails sought by the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation in a 2012 Freedom Of Information Request.

Though Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied the request for sanctions against the EPA by Landmark, which is run by conservative talk show host and former Reagan staffer Mark Levin, she [sic] lambasted the agency over its actions in response to Landmark's 2012 FOIA request.

"Either EPA intentionally sought to evade Landmark's lawful FOIA request so the agency could destroy responsive documents," Lamberth wrote in his decision. "Or EPA demonstrated apathy and carelessness toward Landmark's request."

"Either way," Lamberth added, it "reflects poorly upon EPA and surely serves to diminish the public's trust in the agency."

Neal Dewing has some good advice for Republicans. Deny Donald Trump any place on a Republican stage. Why should anyone be listening to him?
As I write, Donald Trump has concluded his latest Conservative Political Action Conference speech to somewhat muted cheers, and the odd scattering of boos. The speech itself does not merit critical study, as it contains no new ideas and no particularly eloquent defense of any old ones. It was boilerplate, full of applause lines with little thought behind them.

Between a call to “take our country back” and the shocking claim that “Washington is broken,” it became painfully obvious that Trump was not going to offer any interesting policy prescriptions. So the speech is mainly important for the question Trump did not answer: What the hell is he doing here?

The simplest answer—pimping his TV show—has in times past been the surest explanation for why Trump uses a bit of his valuable time to bray like an ass at CPAC. True to form, earlier in the week he reappeared in the news, a human canker sore issuing a vague threat to run for the presidency.
Stop granting him a place on the stage. All he does is diminish more serious candidates.

The WSJ explains how ludicrous the administration's claims in King v. Burwell are. It is quite clear from the history of the law and the law's text that it was never planned for the federal government to fund subsidies for states that did not create their own exchanges. The Democrats didn't think that governors would act in such a way to deny their citizens those subsidies.
To take one example, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was empowered to grant unlimited sums of money to states to establish exchanges. But the law appropriated not a penny for the federal exchanges, and HHS raided internal slush funds to build them. If there is no legal difference between the federal and state exchanges, why did HHS need this budget ruse?

The Administration also suggests no textual basis for the IRS rule. Instead, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli claims “established by the State” is a “term of art” that must be read in an ambiguous context and that the Administration’s reading is owed judicial deference. The SG is laboring to create confusion where none exists—but what is not ambiguous, he argues, is that Congress’s purpose was to create national health care and that overturning the subsidies would disrupt this policy result. Most liberals have dumped even this legal subtlety, dismissing King as a drafting error.

In fact, ObamaCare’s history shows Democrats made a deliberate choice. As they tried to assemble 60 votes in the Senate, holdouts like then Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson intensely desired state partners. Because the federal government couldn’t commandeer the sovereign states by mandating participation, the subsidy bait was Congress’s constitutional option to encourage buy-in.

As the Mountain States Legal Foundation and other amici briefs point out, previous versions of the Affordable Care Act extended subsidies to the federal exchanges too. But that language was deleted in the secret negotiations to combine various Senate bills. After Scott Brown ’s Massachusetts special election ended the Democratic supermajority, Democrats accepted and President Obama signed the final Senate bill as the last helicopter out of Saigon.

The President cannot now unilaterally revise those details because they are politically inconvenient. Blessing this lawless behavior sets a dangerous precedent, handing the bureaucracy a license to reshape statutes without the consent of Congress. King is an opportunity for the Court to rebuke this growing merger of legislative and executive power.

“It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” Chief Justice John Roberts famously observed in the 2012 ObamaCare case. It is also not the Court’s job to protect Democrats from the consequences of their political choices: The underlying statute worked as designed, albeit not as they preferred. State by state, duly elected representatives of the people debated the law’s instructions and made an informed choice not to involve themselves, in part to repudiate ObamaCare’s coercion.

Byron York writes about how the GOP battle for the 2016 nomination is a fight between the old and the new in the Republican Party. While Scott Walker is the hot new guy at this point, he's still facing questions from the GOP establishment who are seeing him as not quite ready for prime time.
At the same time, Walker could be headed for trouble with the establishment, Washington-based wing of his party. Look for GOP insiders to begin whispering, and then saying out loud, that Walker needs to raise his game if he is going to play on the national stage. On the one hand, they'll have a point — Walker needs to come up with clear, crisply-expressed positions on a variety of national and international issues. On the other hand, Walker's way-outside-the-Beltway method of expressing himself might resonate with voters in primary and caucus states more than Washington thinks.

For example, in our conversation Saturday, I asked Walker what Republicans in Washington should do in the standoff over funding the Department of Homeland Security. "Not just Republicans, I think the Congress as a whole needs to find a way to fund homeland security going forward," Walker answered. He explained that he recognized the concerns lawmakers have about giving up their ability "to push back on the president's questionable, if not illegal, actions." Walker noted that he was part of the states' lawsuit against Obama's action. "I think they're right that the president is wrong," Walker told me, "but I also think we've got to make sure that homeland security isn't compromised."

After a little more along those lines, I said I was still a little unclear on where Walker stood.
Clearly, there are many public issues that a state's governor hasn't concerned himself with, but that is why candidates have to think long and hard before throwing their hats into the ring. And when they do, they better be prepared.

David Harsanyi explains how the objections to Netanyahu's speech aren't about protocol, but about substance.
So the question is: What does the United States gain from entering a deal like this?

Netanyahu may mention some of these apprehensions. Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice says the visit is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.” It seems unlikely that Rice would ever use the word destructive to describe Iran’s obsession with obtaining nuclear weapons … but “partisanship,” now, that’s really corrosive. The fact is that the alliance with Israel has never been much of a partisan issue in the United States. Not until now. And even today only a handful of reliably anti-Israel politicians and a few Obama loyalists are skipping the speech so far. According to Gallup, 70 percent of Americans still have a favorable view of Israel.

What’s truly unprecedented isn’t only the partisanship or the speech, it’s what Abraham Miller perfectly articulated in the New York Observer:
Barack Obama will go down in history as the American president who enabled the Shi’ite theocracy to become the region’s hegemonic power and looked the other way while Iran developed the bomb.
So while there is plenty of criticism aimed at the aggressive methods of Netanyahu in Israel, there will also be widespread agreement among nearly all political denominations in the Jewish State regarding the substance of his speech and the warnings about a nuclear Iran. Surely, hearing out the case of an ally that is persistently threatened by Holocaust-denying Iranian officials doesn’t need to come with this much angst from Democrats. But if it does, it’s worth asking why.

Here's a very depressing story of overt anti-Semitism at my alma mater, UCLA. A Jewish student, Rachel Beyda, was applying for a position on the school's Judicial Board. Powerline has the video of how certain members of the board explicitly questioned whether she could be unbiased in her deliberations on the board given that she is a member of Jewish organizations and is active in the Jewish community. As the school newspaper, the Daily Bruin, editorialized, it is very disgusting that a student would be objected to joining the Judicial Board solely due to her religion.
The main objection to her appointment was Beyda’s affiliation with Jewish organizations at UCLA and how they might affect her ability to rule fairly on cases in which the Jewish community has a vested interest in the outcome, such as cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That objection is confounding both for its vast shortsightedness and for its flat-out discriminatory nature.

Barring the dubious legality of not appointing someone based on his or her religious identity, the controversy over Beyda’s appointment makes little logical sense. The extent of Beyda’s involvement in Jewish community groups is irrelevant to her ability to execute her job on the Judicial Board. Suggesting otherwise implies that any person with any kind of community identity cannot make objective decisions on the board.

If Beyda cannot make decisions about issues that affect her community, can a Muslim student in the Muslim Students Association or a black student in the Afrikan Student Union do so? A Latino student in MEChA?

For a council seemingly obsessed with celebrating diversity in student positions and advocating against discrimination, the proceedings of Tuesday’s meeting were particularly hypocritical.

Several councilmembers asserted that while Beyda was more than qualified for the role, they were uncomfortable appointing her to the position specifically because cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can come before the board, and they felt that Beyda would not be able to judge such cases fairly.

And yet, in recent years, the only case related to the topic that went before the board had to do with the issue of councilmembers’ Israel trips, which is unrelated to the conflict itself. Not to mention that it is not the purpose of the Judicial Board to rule on cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only on cases related to “cases of actions taken among the officers, commissioners and funding bodies to ensure compliance with the (USAC constitution) and bylaws.”

It is obvious that the objections to Beyda’s appointment are not only political, but also discriminatory. To hold an applicant to a standard higher than others simply because of his or her ethnic or religious identity instead of his or her ability to rule fairly in accordance with USAC regulations is illogical and immoral.
Remember that this took place on a Board that is supposed to be the highest decision-making body for the student organization. Can anyone imagine someone being questioned because he or she was a member of any other minority? Yet these students were willing to speak out publicly about their discomfort with having a Jew on their board. It is yet more evidence of the anti-Semitism that exists on our nation's campuses.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Cruising the Web

What a bombshell report to come out just as Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming here to speak before Congress about the dangers of Obama's proposed deal with Iran.
The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report Saturday, that US President Barack Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

Following Obama's threat, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was reportedly forced to abort the planned Iran attack.

According to Al-Jarida, the Netanyahu government took the decision to strike Iran some time in 2014 soon after Israel had discovered the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel's back.

The report claimed that an unnamed Israeli minister who has good ties with the US administration revealed the attack plan to Secretary of State John Kerry, and that Obama then threatened to shoot down the Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

Al-Jarida quoted "well-placed" sources as saying that Netanyahu, along with Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon, and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, had decided to carry out airstrikes against Iran's nuclear program after consultations with top security commanders.
Of course, we have to be quite skeptical of an anonymous report coming out through a Kuwaiti newspaper. I'm not sure how Kuwait would know these sorts of details. If the Israelis wanted to leak the story, there are more legitimate media outlets where they could have leaked it. Roger Simon explains why he think the story is untrue and is perhaps the leak is aimed at discrediting Netanyahu as a warmonger. Perhaps, the most shocking aspect of the report is that it is quite believable. Does anyone doubt that the Obama administration would have been appalled at any proposed Israeli attack and would have done anything in their power to stop such an action? As Rick Moran, who is also suspicious of the story, reminds us, Samantha Power, Obama's ambassador to the UN, once recommended that the US should invade Israel in order to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And if Iran is such a trustworthy partner for negotiations, why are there American hostages still being held in Iran? Shouldn't their release have been one of the starting points for Obama's negotiations with the Iranian regime?
Obama seems more concerned with springing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay than in freeing Americans held captive by one of the world’s most repressive regimes. And, while Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly condemned the Iranian detention of American citizens and called for their release, Obama and Kerry’s willingness to continue business as usual in negotiations and in payments to Iran suggests to the Iranians a lack of seriousness on the Obama administration’s part.

There should not be a single press conference dealing with Iran where the first, second, and third questions don’t force administration officials to address those Americans in prison in Iran. The hostages should be household names. When the State Department counsels quiet diplomacy, what diplomats are seeking is enough distraction to sweep the problem under the rug. They should not be able to. Indeed, there should not be another meeting held, let alone incentive given or payment made, until they are happily at home and reunited with their families. Quite the contrary, there should be no end to sanctions and punishment until the Americans—all four—come home.
Don't count on any such media attention.

But Kerry tells us to give the administration "the benefit of the doubt" on the Iran deal he's negotiating.
The Obama administration deserves “the benefit of the doubt” over a pending nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday, maintaining that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s objections to it shouldn’t be “turned into some great political football.”

“Israel is safer today because of the interim agreement that we created,” Kerry told ABC’s “This Week.” “Now, I guarantee you, we have said again and again, no deal is better than a bad deal. We’re not going to make a bad deal.”

Kerry also said that “given our success on the interim agreement, I believe we deserve the benefit of the doubt to find out whether or not we can get a similarly good agreement with respect to the future.”
Seriously? On the basis of which foreign policy action would anyone surmise that this administration has earned the "benefit of the doubt"?

Remember that this is an administration that just last week was openly telling reporters about their plan to attack ISIS's forces in Mosul. No one could figure out how it made any sense to talk about such military plans publicly several months ahead of time. And now the Pentagon is having an Emily Litella moment. Never mind.
As Ed Morrissey writes,
Old and busted: Open-source war planning. New hotness: Strategic incoherence! A week ago, the Pentagon briefed reporters on the plan to retake Mosul from ISIS in April using mainly Iraqi Army troops, down to the timing of the attack and a rough estimate of the numbers and types of troops needed to accomplish the job. Just seven days later, the Department of Defense pushed off the date until autumn … if then. A DoD source told The Daily Beast’s Nancy Youssef that, er, they’ve belatedly discovered that Iraqi troops aren’t ready now, and probably won’t be ready for months....

This brings up two serious questions about leadership of this war. First, who made the decision to not just leak but brief the media in detail on a planned major offensive against ISIS? It goes against everything known about operational security and the necessity of maintaining elements of surprise. It’s no secret that the Iraqis want Mosul back, of course, but announcing that they’ll throw 25,000 troops against it two months from now gave ISIS plenty of time to move their own assets to meet the threat. It also eliminated the ability to use feints to throw them off the true objective, a basic military strategy that keeps an enemy from focusing all their defenses on one place at one specific point in time.

In fact, that question raises another: cui bono? Who and what benefits from going public with that plan? It’s not the military, which loses all those advantages and therefore will suffer heavier losses than necessary. It’s certainly not the people of Mosul, who will see even more oppression and genocide in preparation to hold the city. Why do this at all? The only benefit accrues to the politicians who are struggling mightily, as Youssef points out, to claim that the war effort is going “smoothly.” At the time this got “leaked,” a CBS poll showed that Americans had shifting significantly on the war, with a 57% majority now wanting American ground troops to go into Iraq and Syria to destroy ISIS. This leak pushed back against the swelling realization that our current strategy is failing by claiming the Iraqi army was ready to stand up and do the job — a ridiculous claim, given that the same army had just been routed from defensive positions in Mosul and all across western and northern Iraq just a few months earlier.

The phantom Mosul offensive is a failure of leadership. If someone at the Pentagon doesn’t get cashiered over it, then we can safely assume that the failure lies above their pay grade.
I feel more secure knowing these people are in charge of our military plans, don't you?

Ross Douthat contemplates how the Democratic Party is ready, without much thought, to hand themselves over to the Clintons.
I’ve written before that Hillary is the candidate most likely to hold a version of the Obama coalition together. But that doesn’t mean it will be pretty to watch. As we’ve been reminded by the revelations about all the foreign powers that donated to what is now known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation during Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state, she’s a celebrity on the surface and the very model of a postmodern machine politician underneath, with the ooze of corruption clinging to all the levers that she’ll need to pull to win.

For the sake of their existing presidential majority, the Democrats are lucky to have her. Where their integrity and ideals are concerned, maybe not so much.

And there may come a time, during the inevitable sleaze of a Clinton restoration if not sooner, when they may find themselves wishing they could just blow the whole thing up.

Jeffrey Goldberg, who has reported before on how much this administration despises Netanyahu, writes that the issue is not Netanyahu's speech, but the awful deal that Obama is negotiating with Iran.
I’m fairly sure Netanyahu will deliver a powerful speech, in part because he is eloquent in English and forceful in presentation. But there is another reason this speech may be strong: Netanyahu has a credible case to make. Any nuclear agreement that allows Iran to maintain a native uranium-enrichment capability is a dicey proposition; in fact, any agreement at all with an empire-building, Assad-sponsoring, Yemen-conquering, Israel-loathing, theocratic terror regime is a dicey proposition.
And by "dicey proposition," I think Goldberg means "absolute catastrophe."
On Israel, here’s the promise Obama made that stays with me the most: “I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff,” he said. “I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli government recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.” He went on to say four words that have since become famous: “We’ve got Israel’s back.”

Netanyahu obviously believes that Obama doesn't have his, or Israel's, back. There will be no convincing Netanyahu that Obama is anything but a dangerous adversary. But if a consensus forms in high-level Israeli security circles (where there is a minimum of Obama-related hysterics) that the president has agreed to a weak deal, one that provides a glide path for Iran toward the nuclear threshold, then we will be able to say, fairly, that Obama's promises to Israel were not kept. One of Netanyahu’s most strident critics, Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad intelligence agency, said recently, “A nuclear Iran is a reality that Israel won't be able to come to terms with.”

He went on to say, “Two issues in particular concern me with respect to the talks between the world powers and Iran: What happens if and when the Iranians violate the agreement, and what happens when the period of the agreement comes to an end and they decide to pursue nuclear weapons?”
Well, then we'll just have one more Emily Litella moment for this president's foreign policy.

In an important column, Caroline Glick details in the Jerusalem Post how Netanyahu is perceived in Israel of having given in on a whole array of issues with his nation's opponents. She reminds us how the Obama administration has undermined Israel and humiliated Netanyahu personally over and over. And the one issue on which Netanyahu has not yielded to Obama's administration on is Iran.
But now we are seeing that far from being an opportunist, Netanyahu is a leader of historical dimensions. For the past two years, in the interest of reaching a deal, Obama has enabled Iran to take over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. For the first time since 1974, due to Obama’s policies, the Golan Heights is an active front in the war against Israel, with Iranian military personnel commanding Syrian and Hezbollah forces along the border.

Iran’s single-minded dedication to its goal of becoming a regional hegemon and its commitment to its ultimate goal of destroying the US is being enabled by Obama’s policies of accommodation. An Iran in possession of a nuclear arsenal is an Iran that can not only destroy Israel with just one or two warheads. It can make it impossible for Israel to respond to conventional aggression carried out by terrorist forces and others operating under an Iranian nuclear umbrella.

Whereas Israel can survive Obama on the Palestinian front by stalling, waiting him out and placating him where possible, and can even survive his support for Hamas by making common cause with the Egyptian military and the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the damage Obama’s intended deal with Iran will cause Israel will be irreversible. The moment that Obama grants Iran a path to a nuclear arsenal – and the terms of the agreement that Obama has offered Iran grant Iran an unimpeded path to nuclear power – a future US administration will be hard-pressed to put the genie back in the bottle.

For his efforts to prevent irreparable harm to Israel Netanyahu is being subjected to the most brutal and vicious attacks any Israeli leader has ever been subjected to by an American administration and its political allies. They are being assisted in their efforts by a shameless Israeli opposition that is willing to endanger the future of the country in order to seize political power.

Every day brings another serving of abuse. Wednesday National Security Adviser Susan Rice accused Netanyahu of destroying US relations with Israel. Secretary of State John Kerry effectively called him a serial alarmist, liar, and warmonger.

For its part, the Congressional Black Caucus reportedly intends to sabotage Netanyahu’s address before the joint houses of Congress by walking out in the middle, thus symbolically accusing of racism the leader of the Middle East’s only liberal democracy, and the leader of the most persecuted people in human history.

Radical leftist representatives who happen to be Jewish, like Jan Schakowsky of suburban Chicago and Steve Cohen of Memphis, are joining Netanyahu’s boycotters in order to give the patina of Jewish legitimacy to an administration whose central foreign policy threatens the viability of the Jewish state.

As for Netanyahu’s domestic opponents, their behavior is simply inexcusable. In Israel’s hour of peril, just weeks before Obama intends to conclude his nuclear deal with the mullahs that will endanger Israel’s existence, Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog insists that his primary duty is to defeat Netanyahu.

And as far as Iran is concerned, he acts as a free loader ad a spoiler. Either he believes that Netanyahu will succeed in his mission to derail the deal with or without his support, or he doesn’t care. But Herzog’s rejection of Netanyahu’s entreaties that he join him in Washington next week, and his persistent attacks on Netanyahu for refusing accommodate that which cannot be accommodated shows that he is both an opportunist and utterly unworthy of a leadership role in this country.

Netanyahu is not coming to Washington next Tuesday to warn Congress against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, because he seeks a fight with Obama. Netanyahu has devoted the last six years to avoiding a fight with Obama, often at great cost to Israel’s national security and to his own political position.

Netanyahu is coming to Washington next week because Obama has left him no choice. And all decent people of good will should support him, and those who do not, and those who are silent, should be called out for their treachery and cowardice.

Eliana Johnson reports on Scott Walker's less-than-impressive performance at the Club for Growth's winter conference..

Hillary fatigue has already set in.
But Ms. Clinton’s inevitability should make serious Democrats want to stick hot pokers in their eyes. She is a purely manufactured candidate, as artificial as plastic flowers in a cheap restaurant. She has no gift for inspiring or moving people, and if she has any ideas beyond the utterly banal, she has yet to express them.

This week, she gave a speech to an audience of women who work in Silicon Valley. Every gesture she made was studied and familiar. The sentiments were familiar, too. She reminded her audience that despite her dazzling accomplishments, even she knows what workplace discrimination feels like. “When I was a young lawyer and was pregnant, I worked in a small law firm and there was no family leave policy,” she said. The first thing her boss asked after she gave birth was, “When are you coming back to work?”

The audience chuckled appreciatively. Unfortunately, the story didn’t have a very good punchline. The young lawyer didn’t get fired or redirected onto the mommy track. Instead, she told her boss she’d be back in four months, and he said “Okay.” One detail she neglected to mention was that at the time, her husband was governor of Arkansas.

So much for being marginalized and downtrodden. Ms. Clinton’s attempt to brand herself as someone who has shared the struggles of middle-class women is completely unconvincing, especially when she’s collecting $300,000 a speech. That’s a lot for someone who’s as pale and stale as a loaf of six-day-old white bread.
I'm still wondering what audiences get for their $300,000 for her platitudinous, dull speeches. If you thought her 2008 campaign was less than inspirational, don't hold your breath for 2016.
Meanwhile, if the voters want her to be a bit (but not overly) religious, well, she can do that. If they want her to be a grandmother and bake cookies, she’ll do that too. If they want her to tell them why she should be president – well, she’ll have to focus-group that one first. Because she can’t exactly tell the truth, which is that she deserves it. And she’s worked so damned hard for all these years. And she put up with Bill. And she’s a woman. And it’s her turn.

As for how she’d tackle the ills that ail America, don’t expect many revelations. Ms. Clinton is nothing if not cautious. To come up with bold new economic policies, she has convened 200 leading experts to give her their best ideas. But something truly bold might offend someone, so her strategy seems to be to add them all up and go with the average. Here’s her boldest idea so far: She wants to help the middle class!
But don't worry. She has dozens of aides and they'll construct some sort of new identity so we can all thrill to the image of Hillary 5.0.

Meanwhile, Jason Riley has a good point that Democrats should be forced to answer.
The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley sees a double standard in Democrats concerns when it comes to money and political figures as it pertains to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative’s acceptance of donations from foreign governments. The foundation recently revealed it received $500,000 from the Algerian government in 2010 and failed to disclose the donation while Clinton served as secretary of state.

“During the midterm elections, any Republican who took money from the Koch brother was considered bought and paid for,” Riley said on Fox News Sunday. ”Hillary Clinton is, through her foundation, taking money from Qatar, Algeria, Kuwait — does that mean she’s going to be bought and paid for?”

“I think the Clinton foundation is less a charity than a political group,” he continued. “Basically a super PAC put in place to help Hillary Clinton politically.”

Michael Godwin ponders the lack of any reason for anyone to be excited about a Hillary candidacy.
On top of the tactical blunders, there was an overarching reason why sure victory eluded Hillary Clinton in 2008. She simply was not a very appealing candidate, offering neither charisma nor a compelling message. She ran with a sense of entitlement that the Oval Office was owed to her.
If anything has changed, it’s a well-kept secret. Already, her run this time is marked by mistakes, gaffes and reports of ethical corner-cutting, which adds up to watching the same bad movie twice.
It’s a strange way to make a fresh start given the dreary end of her time as secretary of state. To describe her four-year tenure as empty of accomplishment doesn’t do justice to the damage. She was complicit in the foreign-policy disasters now erupting around the world.
Remember her clever Russian reset? Benghazi, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, China — the list of things that got worse on her watch is long, while it is a challenge to name one significant advance in America’s favor.
That record is who she is. Once viewed as a smart, passionate woman whose brilliance would shine when she was liberated, she is, at 67, getting long in the tooth to be talked of in terms of potential....

Her new campaign is more of the same. Instead of offering coherent principles and establishing a message, she’s running the Rose Garden strategy of a favored incumbent.
Let the other candidates scrape for attention by responding to the world’s woes. She’s still giving paid speeches, believing she can float above it all like a giant balloon in the Thanksgiving Day parade.

In another sign that she sees herself as president-in-waiting, she’s got a reported 200 advisers, suggesting she’s already staffing an administration.

Ben Domenech explains how Obama's administration continues to be the Eric Cartman presidency.
Practically speaking, today’s Left finally has the situation it wants: a sufficiently progressive president in his second term is, in effect, an unchecked dictator. The only checks and balances the constitution provides are money, nominations, and impeachment. The political and media climate have removed impeachment as a viable option; nomination disruption is a pathetic response to a president committed to Caesarism – “oh, are you going to block my nominees to DOJ, fine I’ll just ban bullets.” That leaves funding, and Republican leaders have publicly committed themselves not to using that leverage at all.

Barack Obama is basically operating now without any congressional checks and balances whatsoever. There is the Judiciary and nothing else preventing him from doing anything he wants. And there is no reason to believe he will abide by court rulings. Federal law is such a thicket now, and litigation so complicated, that for every door the Courts choose to close, there are dozens of cracked-open windows the Executive can try to pry open. It’s a game of constitutional whack-a-mole, and by the time the court rulings come down, you have to deal with the consequences of the illegal steps the president has taken in the meantime.

Imagine this scenario: what would happen if, tomorrow, President Obama seized control of the Internet, imposed a cap-and-trade scheme, opened the Southern borders, raised the minimum wage, and imposed ENDA through executive fiat? The country might lose its mind – temporarily, until the media assured everyone it was no big deal. But what would Congress do? What could it do? They’ve proven they won’t defund down the relevant agencies. They won’t impeach him. They probably would block Executive and lower-court nominations – though not to the degree of SCOTUS. All that would really happen is that private and state actors would sue him, and Republican leaders would do no more than hope the American people punish Democrats at the polls.

There is a description for such a leader, but it is not a president: it is a monarch, a king who is unchecked by any legislature or bound by any commitment to the rule of law, divorced completely from constitutional limited government. What the Republican Party doesn’t grasp is that Obama is not an outlier – he is the fulfillment of what his backers want. On every assertion of extra-constitutional executive authority, the Democratic Party is on board with what the president is doing. And that is the real danger for the future.

L. Gordon Crovitz explains why we should all be appalled at the FCC's attempt to use a 1934 law to establish government control over the internet in what people are already calling "Obamanet." And they don't mean it as a compliment.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler justified Obamanet by saying the Internet is “simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee.” He got it backward: Light-handed regulation made today’s Internet possible.

What if at the beginning of the Web, Washington had opted for Obamanet instead of the open Internet? Yellow Pages publishers could have invoked “harm” and “unjust and unreasonable” competition from online telephone directories. This could have strangled Alta Vista and Excite, the early leaders in search, and relegated Google to a Stanford student project. Newspapers could have lobbied against Craigslist for depriving them of classified advertising. Encyclopedia Britannica could have lobbied against Wikipedia.

Competitors could have objected to the “fast lane” that Amazon got from Sprint at the launch of the Kindle to ensure speedy e-book downloads. The FCC could have blocked Apple from integrating Internet access into the iPhone. Activists could have objected to AOL bundling access to The Wall Street Journal in its early dial-up service.

Among the first targets of the FCC’s “unjust and unreasonable” test are mobile-phone contracts that offer unlimited video or music. Netflix , the biggest lobbyist for utility regulation, could be regulated for how it uses encryption to deliver its content.

Until Congress or the courts block Obamanet, expect less innovation. During a TechFreedom conference last week, dissenting FCC commissioner Ajit Pai asked: “If you were an entrepreneur trying to make a splash in a marketplace that’s already competitive, how are you going to differentiate yourself if you have to build into your equation whether or not regulatory permission is going to be forthcoming from the FCC? According to this, permissionless innovation is a thing of the past.”

The other dissenting Republican commissioner, Michael O’Rielly, warned: “When you see this document, it’s worse than you imagine.” The FCC has no estimate on when it will make the rules public.
Note that the FCC has taken the Nancy Pelosi approach to regulating the internet. They have to enact their policies so we can find what they've done to the internet.

More Pinnochios for Barack Obama.
President Obama, seeking to explain his veto of a bill that would have leapfrogged the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline, in an interview with a North Dakota station repeated some false claims that had previously earned him Pinocchios. Yet he managed to make his statement even more misleading than before, suggesting the pipeline would have no benefit for American producers at all.
Is there anything that Obama has said about the Keystone XL pipeline that has not been a lie?

Gregg Easterbrook reviews the book, Cheated by Mary Willingham, a former academic tutor at UNC and Jay Smith, a history professor there, about the academic scandal at UNC Chapel Hill. The ones who were cheated are the college athletes who enrolled there after being promised an education. Sure, some of them, about 20% went on to pro careers in the NBA or NFL. But too many of them were shortchanged by the administration of the school as they were put in phony classes and brushed through so that they could play on the basketball and football teams and earn the school big bucks. And don't believe that this was just the work of a couple of rogue sports boosters as the school would like to pretend.
The second report attached no blame to basketball coach Williams, the most marketable figure in Chapel Hill athletics, reporting his insistence that he “constantly preaches that [the] number one responsibility [of] coaches and counselors is to make sure their players get a good education.” The men’s basketball program has seven coaches for a roster that averages 16—the kind of instructor-to-student ratio normally found only in doctoral programs. Yet we’re asked to believe there’s no way the coaches could have noticed that many players never seemed to need to be in class. Mr. Williams should have been fired for presiding over an institutionally corrupt program. Instead he was given a pass.
This was endemic to the whole institution and is most probably not limited to UNC. The NCAA would prefer to turn their heads and pretend that this problem doesn't exist because, if they did acknowledge it, there would go the hundreds of millions of dollars that college sports earn. Easterbrook has written his own expose of football in America at both the college and professional level, The King of Sports, and is rightly angry at NCAA officials who prefer to huff and puff over a few players selling T shirts than look at the fundamental corruption underlying so much of the sport.

And the corruption at UNC doesn't end with what Mary Willingham and Jay Smith discuss in their book. New information continues to come out about how UNC worked to get around the rules. Dan Kane, who has been diligent in following the UNC scandals, writes in the Raleigh News and Observer, how the university admitted clearly ineligible athletes to their supposedly vaunted graduate programs in order for those athletes to play out their last year of eligibility. And once again, it's clear that officials up and down the line knew what was going on. And it was not limited to the African American Studies department.
Michael Waddell had a low grade point average, no entrance exam score and was months past the deadline when an athletic official sought to have the football player admitted to UNC’s graduate school in fall 2003.

John Blanchard, then a senior associate athletic director, made the request after classes began, on Sept. 5, just as Waddell was about to be declared ineligible to play against Syracuse the following day, according to records obtained by The News & Observer.

The plea to admit Waddell went up to UNC’s provost, Robert Shelton. Email correspondence indicates Shelton saw no policy that would allow Waddell to enroll, but instead of telling him no, Shelton left it up to Linda Dykstra, the graduate school dean.

Dykstra admitted Waddell, who had already played in the season opener at Florida State. He would play against Syracuse and all but one of the other nine remaining games that season.

Waddell is one of several athletes UNC athletics officials sought to keep eligible to play by getting them into graduate school, according to Cheryl Thomas, the graduate school’s admissions director from 2002 to 2010. Thomas, 51, who no longer works in higher education, supplied documentation about Waddell to The N&O after first sending it to the NCAA and the agency that accredits the university.

Waddell, a cornerback and kick returner, would go on to have his fourth year of eligibility at UNC as a graduate student and attract the interest of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in the fourth round. But as a graduate student, Waddell skipped classes and exams, flunking out with four F’s, university correspondence shows.

Speaking of corruption in college sports, one Syracuse sportswriter publishes a suggestion from a reader of a way to get around the problem Syracuse is facing where the punishment for past crimes falls on current players who are innocent of the corruption, still not clearly outlined, of former students. The proposal is to basically hold off on the inflicting the punishment until all current students have graduated. That way any student enrolling there would be aware of the penalty. While that is one solution, my preference would be to allow any current students to transfer without penalty and committed recruits to switch. And responsible school officials, including coaches, even one so well respected as Jim Boeheim, should either lose their jobs or have to pay millions in fines. If they know they'll be held responsible, there would stop being this deliberate ignorance such as we've seen from UNC's Roy Williams who professes to love his players so much and to believe that their education is the most important part of his job yet was supposedly unaware that his players were taking phony classes.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

Do the people in the Obama administration responsible for working against terrorism even talk to each other. Just this week we had Secretary of State John Kerry solemnly assuring us how safe we are from terrorism and how we're at an all-time low for terrorism. Then the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified to the exact opposite.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, testifying on Capitol Hill, catalogued the growing terror-fueled violence in stark terms.

"When the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been compiled," Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He offered statistics that would appear to challenge other administration officials' claims that the country and world are safer today.

A day earlier, Kerry testified at a separate hearing that, "Despite ISIL, despite the visible killings that you see and how horrific they are, we are actually living in a period of less daily threat to Americans and to people in the world than normally; less deaths, less violent deaths today, than through the last century."
Meanwhile the director of the FBI James Comey was also announcing that the FBI is investigating suspected ISIS supporters in all 50 states.

Is Kerry deliberately lying to downplay the threats and try to increase confidence in this feckless administration, or does he really believe his own claptrap? Which is the more dismaying possibility?

One day Kerry's fatuous testimony will come back to bite him just as Obama's quote about ISIS just being a JV team.

The Obama economy has truly been one for the record books.

What's a little violation of the Constitution matter when the Obama administration is out to shore up Obamacare? Philip Klein explains how the Treasury made $3 billion in Obamacare payments that were not authorized by Congress.
The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations.

At issue are payments to insurers known as cost-sharing subsidies. These payments come about because President Obama’s healthcare law forces insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for certain low income individuals by capping consumer expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, in insurance policies. In exchange for capping these charges, insurers are supposed to receive compensation.

What’s tricky is that Congress never authorized any money to make such payments to insurers in its annual appropriations, but the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway.

Charles C. W. Cooke looks at the continuing downfall of MSNBC and contemplates the differences between FOX News and MSNBC.
In self-professedly “non-partisan” circles, it is common to hear it said that MSNBC is essentially just a leftward-leaning version of Fox News. This appraisal, I think, is wide of the mark. Contrary to its favored claim, Fox is not in fact “Fair and Balanced” but is a rightward-leaning station with an ideologically driven owner, a clear target audience, and an obvious and pronounced set of political biases. Or, as one wag has put it, Fox is designed to appeal to “a niche market called half the country.” This being so the problem is less that Fox is “extreme” or that it is “out of touch,” and more that it is geared rather unsubtly toward serving one of America’s two philosophical poles. As one can open the New York Times and still easily recognize the country one is discussing, to dive into Fox’s world is to be exposed to a familiar but slanted impression of America and its people. Should viewers seek out a second opinion? Absolutely. Should they automatically discount the one they heard on Fox? No, of course not. In this regard Fox is a little different from MSNBC, which, by unlovely contrast, does not aim at a broad swath of the United States at all, but is instead focused on a fascinating alternative universe to which few would-be viewers have ever been. Its handful of rather ordinary news anchors to one side, MSNBC’s hosts do not so much exist to represent a popular viewpoint as they are put on air to play a set of dramatic roles in what has become a vast and monomaniacal piece of conspiratorial performance art, of the sort that one might see composed by the theater department at Oberlin....

Unlike Rush Limbaugh and Fox News — whose audiences flock in droves to hear a point of view that they will not hear anywhere else — MSNBC has found itself in direct competition with more subtly left-leaning outlets such as NPR, CNN, HLN, and the majority of the country’s national newspapers. This has naturally put it at a disadvantage from which the handful of conservative channels are immune. But that MSNBC has also been so sorely lacking in both talent and sanity has been the real fatal blow. It really is no accident that the channel has been at its most popular when its main attractions were likable and competent and when its output was tolerable to viewers who have more than politics in their lives. At present, it is the winsome Rachel Maddow who dominates the ratings. Back in the day, it was the talented and surprisingly likable Keith Olbermann who brought in the eyeballs. The rest of the charisma-free cast, however, viewers can clearly take or leave. This is no accident.

Similarly, too, it should not come as a surprise that MSNBC “regularly attracted a million viewers” during the period in which its hosts aimed their fire at people who actually held power, or that this audience disappeared when they consciously retreated into advocacy. During the Bush years, a significant number of Americans became desperate to hear views that differed sharply from the prevailing political wisdom of the age, and they turned to Olbermann and Co. to find them. Since that time, however, the government has changed, and with it the center of political gravity. Unfortunately for its architects, MSNBC’s business model was built upon the presumption that transient anti-Bush sentiment would translate neatly into viable amounts of permanent anti-conservative outrage, and that the same people who disliked the previous administration on the merits would be keenly interested in watching a bunch of nearsighted know-nothings rail against invisible bogeymen, abstract nouns, and the omnipotent, omnipresent Koch brothers. As we are beginning to see, this simply did not happen. Nor, I would venture, is it going to. That MSNBC is beginning earnestly to inspect the lifeboats indicates that its higher-ups are aware of the problem. But, unless they are resolved to turn their ship around rather dramatically, they will soon be joining Farrow in the water.
I'm not sure that Keith Olbermann was ever all that likable, surprisingly or otherwise. Witness that he just got suspended from ESPN for tweeting nastily about a Penn State student fundraiser to fight against pediatric cancer. Somehow, the surprisingly likable Olbermann found such an effort by college students to be "pitiful." What a charmer.

Doesn't the army have something better to do than investigate Medal of Honor recipients for nothingburger charges that they don't even bring?

Oh, John Kerry, now you're just playing with us. Now he's dissing Bibi Netanyahu for supporting the invasion of Iraq. That would be the war that Kerry himself voted for.
As Kessler notes, the Los Angeles Times titled a January 2003 story “On Iraq, Kerry Appears Either Torn or Shrewd.” In retrospect he appears anything but shrewd, since Kerry’s equivocation made him a laughingstock and arguably cost him the White House. Presumably he doesn’t mean to revive a joke at his own expense—which of course only makes it funnier.

On Twitter, Dan McLaughlin remarks: “This is a preview of the ‘Hillary didn’t *really* support the Iraq War’ argument.” He links to his own lengthy treatment of the subject, which appeared last spring at the Federalist. His conclusion then: “Hillary Clinton’s best hope of reconciling with those who fail to understand or accept the basis of her Iraq War vote is to bank on yesterday staying gone.”

This week, she’s not getting much help from her successor at Foggy Bottom—compared with whom Mrs. Clinton was much less equivocal in her support for the war and took much longer to renounce it.

Meanwhile, look at the list of prospective GOP presidential candidates (based on the polls we cited in yesterday’s column): Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker. Not one of them was in Congress in 2002. That means there is a very strong likelihood the 2016 presidential election will pit a Democrat who voted to authorize the Iraq war against a Republican who didn’t.

Just imagine what they could do if they attempted something worthwhile: "Media Matters Sics All 45 of Its Researchers on Bill O’Reilly.""

Meanwhile, speaking of supposed media watchdogs, Kevin Williamson details his experience of Polifact doing a so-called "fact-check" of something that Williamson wrote that Polifact had to admit was actually true, but still rated "half true."

There are lessons for Republicans from the past week of the media's aggressive interest in Scott Walker and what he thinks about a range of irrelevant questions.

National Review put up an old column from Byron York reviewing two biographies about Hillary Clinton. It's good to remember what a despicable person she is.
But there’s another sense in which Clinton was right to be concerned. Though bereft of headline-making disclosures, each book contains page after page of new details, some of them so far ignored in the press, that reveal Hillary Rodham Clinton to be even more secretive, even more politically tin-eared, and even more combative than previously known. For example, we’ve all heard about the famous War Room of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign. But Gerth and Van Natta reveal that across the alley from the War Room was a more secretive effort, headed by Hillary and known as the Defense Team, that really got into the down-and-dirty stuff. The Defense Team’s job was to knock down any allegation, no matter how well founded, about Bill Clinton’s girlfriends, his avoidance of the draft, Whitewater, Hillary Clinton’s legal work — anything that might hurt the campaign. And to do it by any means necessary, legal or not: Gerth and Van Natta report that on one occasion Mrs. Clinton listened to a “secretly recorded audiotape” of Clinton adversaries talking on the phone about the next possible bimbo eruption. “Bill’s supporters monitored frequencies used by cell phones,” Gerth and Van Natta add, “and the tape was made during one of those monitoring sessions.” Who knew that Mrs. Clinton was an early advocate of warrantless wiretapping?

....Gerth and Van Natta also show Clinton employing secret staffers, in the process sneaking around Senate rules that don’t suit her fancy. They show her threatening a staffer with “You’ll never work in Democratic politics again” if the staffer failed to cover up tax returns showing Clinton’s commodities-trading profits. And they show her directing the operation to stonewall the independent-counsel investigations of her husband. Bernstein’s book doesn’t dwell on that kind of detail. But with a lot of prime sources in the Clinton camp, Bernstein goes much deeper than Gerth and Van Natta, portraying a Hillary Clinton who was even more closely involved in the running of her husband’s administration than we thought. And not only more closely involved — she was also even less competent and more politically maladroit than we thought....

Democrats outside the administration were unhappy, too. Bernstein describes a meeting in April 1993 at which Hillary briefed top party leaders on the health-care task force’s progress. When then-senator Bill Bradley suggested that some changes might be required, she told him to forget it; if any lawmakers even tried, she said, the White House would “demonize” them. Bradley later unloaded on Bernstein. “That was it for me in terms of Hillary Clinton,” he said. “You don’t tell members of the Senate you are going to demonize them. It was obviously so basic to who she is. The arrogance. The assumption that people with questions are enemies. The disdain. The hypocrisy.”

And then there was the rest of Washington. During Hillary’s early days in the White House, Washington journalist and social fixture Sally Quinn wrote a much-noted column saying Hillary should remember that she wasn’t elected president. Quinn’s impudence angered Bill Clinton, who raged against Quinn in a conversation with advisers James Carville and Rahm Emanuel. But years later Emanuel told Bernstein, “James and I had the same take on it, which was, ‘God bless Sally for being honest.’ She was f — ing honest.”

And those, as they say, were her friends.

Reading Bernstein’s account, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Mrs. Clinton benefited greatly, both in Arkansas and the White House, from the eagerness of her husband’s supporters to overrate her. “There was too much mythology about Hillary that stretched the facts,” Donna Shalala told Bernstein. Shalala, Bernstein writes, “had always been made uncomfortable by hyperbolic statements from friends and acolytes of Hillary…who put forth the notion that had she pursued her own political career and not deferred to Bill Clinton’s she would have been a governor or a senator in her own right by 1992.” Mrs. Clinton’s fans, Shalala continued, “assume that [just] being smart is enough. And it’s not enough. It’s judgment. It’s experience. It’s being strategic at the right points.” Not Mrs. Clinton’s strong points.
How pitiful the Democratic Party has become that this woman is all they have to put forth in 2016.

Oh, and now there is this revelation from the trove of documents that Judicial Watch has leveraged out of the State Department.
From the very first moments of the terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top aides were advised that the compound was under a terrorist attack. In fact, less than two hours into the attack, they were told that the al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya, Ansar al-Sharia, had claimed responsibility.
But that didn't stop Hillary and the State Department from maintaining the fiction for far too long that the attack was the result of a video posted on the internet. But then, what difference does it make that the Secretary of State knowingly lied to the American people?

Christian Schneider explains why the unions are going to lose in their fight to forestall Wisconsin's right-to-work law.
What these [pro-union] groups can't seem to grasp is that Wisconsinites actually support the idea of being able to hold a job without being forced to pay dues to a union. According to a poll that noted Marquette pollster Charles Franklin deemed the best when it comes to asking a right-to-work question, 62% of Wisconsinites said they would support such a bill.

These aren't people who are under the thumb of the Koch brothers or who are necessarily antagonistic toward unions. They are just regular Wisconsinites expressing their views on workplace fairness.

That is why the anti-right-to-work protests this week have been so lachrymose. The 2011 public sector union protests had a festive, carnival-style feel. But the crowds around the Wisconsin Capitol this week have been small and glum. On any given summer Saturday morning, bigger crowds show up around the Capitol for the Dane County farmers market.

The private sector unions know the bill is going to pass, and there's nothing they can do to stop it.

Even the bill's legislative opponents haven't been able to muster up any plausible opposition. In a hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) tried to rename right-to-work legislation the "wage theft bill," evidently unaware that forced union dues are the very definition of "wage theft." (However, the most ridiculous argument belongs to the liberal group One Wisconsin Now, which has argued that infant mortality rates are higher in right-to-work states. Not paying union dues now kills babies, evidently.)

In the end, people get that nobody should be forced to financially support a private group from which they believe they get no benefit. And if unions don't want to represent people who don't pay dues, they are under no obligation to do so.
And here's a final kicker for a comparison.
Just go around any union meeting hall and tell all the members they are required to pay dues to the Koch brothers because they are fighting for lower taxes and more take-home pay.
We can imagine the response to that. The Koch brothers they're fighting for what is best for Americans. That is their right. But it doesn't mean that there should be laws forcing people to contribute to their fight. Exactly so for unions.

Charles Krauthammer explains why Obama's proposed deal with Iran is so awful.
The news from the nuclear talks with Iran was already troubling. Iran was being granted the “right to enrich.” It would be allowed to retain and spin thousands of centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Yet so thoroughly was Iran stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that just last Thursday the IAEA reported its concern “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed . . . development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” Bad enough. Then it got worse: News leaked Monday of the “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want. Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would re-enter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview last December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around ten — of good behavior and Iran would be home free. The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping, and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy. Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental-ballistic-missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. It’s not even part of these negotiations. Why is Iran building them? You don’t build ICBMs in order to deliver sticks of dynamite. Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads. Nor does Iran need an ICBM to hit Riyadh or Tel Aviv. Intercontinental missiles are for reaching, well, other continents. North America, for example.
Krauthammer goes on to explain that, now it would be permitted for Iran to have a nuclear weapon future, other countries in the area would rush to develop their own nuclear weapon programs.
The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz.

Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war?

It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war.

It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed, and international legitimacy.

There is a third choice. If you are not stopping Iran’s program, don’t give away the store. Keep the pressure, keep the sanctions. Indeed, increase them. After all, previous sanctions brought Iran to its knees and to the negotiating table in the first place. And that was before the collapse of oil prices, which would now vastly magnify the economic effect of heightened sanctions.

Congress is proposing precisely that. Combined with cheap oil, it could so destabilize the Iranian economy as to threaten the clerical regime. That’s the opening. Then offer to renew negotiations for sanctions relief but from a very different starting point — no enrichment. Or, if you like, with a few token centrifuges for face-saving purposes.

And no sunset.

That’s the carrot. As for the stick, make it quietly known that the U.S. will not stand in the way of any threatened nation that takes things into its own hands. We leave the regional threat to the regional powers, say, Israeli bombers overflying Saudi Arabia.
Obama would prefer a deal to any possibility of a neutralizing Iran's nuclear weapon program. Sanctions were biting, but Obama gave them up for a mess of pottage.

It turns out that proscutorial discretion doesn't mean that prosecutors actually have discretion.

Jonah Goldberg ponders the fatigue besetting the Left. The decline of MSNBC parallels a broader story.
The president is unbowed, of course. He’s unilaterally using — and abusing — the powers of his office to legalize illegal immigration, throw a wet blanket on cheap energy, and turn the Internet into a government-regulated utility. He has the support of his dwindling party and the equally dwindling mainstream media. But even here his policy agenda is as threadbare as his cultural legacy. A majority of Americans believe race relations have gotten worse since he was elected.

Meanwhile, the cultural Left has disengaged from mainstream political arguments, preferring instead the comforts of identity-politics argy-bargy. You judge political movements not by their manifestos but by where they put their passion. And on the left these days, the only things that arouse passion are arguments about race and gender.

For instance, the feminist agitprop drama The Vagina Monologues is now under fire from the left because it is not inclusive of men who believe they are women. Patricia Arquette was criticized from the right for her Oscar-acceptance rant about women’s wage equality, but the criticism paled in comparison to the bile from the left, which flayed her for leaving out the plight of the transgendered and other members of the Coalition of the Oppressed.

Such critiques may seem like a cutting-edge fight for the future among the protagonists, but looked at from the political center, it suggests political exhaustion. At least old-fashioned Marxists talked about the economy.

Of course liberalism isn’t dead; it’s just resting. But it certainly could use an exciting, charismatic savior to breathe new life and fresh thinking into its ranks. Thank goodness Hillary Clinton is waiting in the wings.

From the vault: Sports Illustrated put up their story from when Kevin Garnett was just entering the NBA. Good times.