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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cruising the Web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cruising the Web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wendy Davis does not speak for most American women.

Sandra Fluke does not speak for most American women.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cruising the Web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope. Carl Levin is not Mr. Integrity.

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cruising the Web

The unfolding hostage crisis in Sydney is a horrific story. We can all imagine how this could be any of us or our friends who happened to stop in a bakery for a cup of coffee. I've long thought that the most efficient way for terrorists to paralyze western economies would be to have small attacks on ordinary life so that people would fear to go out shopping or gathering. Good luck to the Australians in dealing with these terrorists.

Ross Douthat notes two separate reports on the differences between the college-educated and the struggling working class. One notes that divorce is declining among well-educated Americans and the other report notes that less-educated men are less likely to work and are more likely to not come from two-parent households.
But the two articles read together also raise a crucial cultural question: To what extent can the greater stability of upper-class family life, and the habits that have made it possible, be successfully imitated further down the socioeconomic ladder?

Many optimistic liberals believe not only that such imitation is possible, but that what needs to be imitated most are the most socially progressive elements of the new upper class’s way of life: delayed marriage preceded by romantic experimentation, more-interchangeable roles for men and women in breadwinning and child rearing, a more emotionally open and egalitarian approach to marriage and parenting.

The core idea here is that working-class men, in particular, need to let go of a particular image of masculinity — the silent, disciplined provider, the churchgoing paterfamilias — that no longer suits the times. Instead, they need to become more comfortable as part-time homemakers, as emotionally available soul mates, and they need to raise their children to be more adaptive and expressive, to prepare them for a knowledge-based, constantly-in-flux economy.
As Douthat politely notes, this is a ridiculous recommendation. The last thing the poorly educated and low-employed classes need is less marital stability. Don't these progressives know the positive effects there are for children to come from a two-parent household? Why would progressives want to encourage the exact opposite approach?

If the Senate Democrats are all about transparency, there is a whole lot more about which that we could shine a light on.
It goes without saying that Obama has less regard for transparency in his own domestic governance, which affects citizens much more directly. He cut a secret deal with the pharmaceutical lobby to support Obamacare; his administration resisted releasing accurate information about enrollments in that program for months; his agencies routinely try to avoid honoring Freedom of Information requests, to the point that they have to be sued to divulge non-life-threatening information; top officials in his administration have been caught conducting business on secret, private email accounts to conceal their doings; his IRS is balking about releasing emails that will shed light on its violations of citizens' rights between 2010 and 2012.
Think about how Obamacare was crafted and pushed through. Transparency wasn't so important then, was it? Or how about how the Holder Justice Department has jumped all over journalists from AP or James Rosen from Fox to track down leaks? I guess that transparency wasn't so important the, was it?

Chris Cillizza awards President Obama "the worst year in Washington. Again."

Katherine Timpf summarizes "seven insane Christmas shopping tips from the PC police." Progressivism - where fun goes to die.

Kevin Williamson describes how Elizabeth Warren is really a big supporter of corporate welfare.
No doubt aware that 99 percent of those who look to her for guidance on financial regulation could not explain what a derivative is, Senator Warren did her usual dishonest shtick, engaging in her habitual demagoguery without every making an attempt to actually explain the issue, which is a slightly complicated and technical one, to the rubes who make up the Democrats’ base. Angrily insisting that the reform is about nothing more than ensuring that “the biggest financial institutions in this country can make more money” is cheap, and it’s easier than trying to explain why many midsized banks believe that the rule puts them at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis the big Wall Street firms, to say nothing of exploring the convoluted question of why agricultural swaps are covered by the rule while interest-rate and foreign-exchange swaps are not....

The Tea Party came into being as a reaction to Republican complicity in bailouts of all sorts: of Wall Street firms, and of irresponsible mortgage borrowers. Occupy, and the potty-trained version of that movement led by Elizabeth Warren, demands more bailouts: of people who borrowed money for college or to buy a home, of fashionable corporations that do not want to pay market rates for financing, etc. Senator Warren is an energetic proponent of corporate welfare for Boeing, General Electric Bechtel, Caterpillar, and other such poor, defenseless little mom-and-pop operations.

If you are looking for actual rather than theoretical opposition to bailouts and corporate welfare, then your choices include Senator Rand Paul and Senator Ted Cruz, but practically nobody who might be called a progressive.

Nobody ever says he’s in favor of more bailouts or more handouts to business interests, but every time you hear a politician trotting out federal loan guarantees for certain businesses or targeted tax breaks for others, that is what he is talking about. Senator Warren may dismiss the revision to Dodd-Frank as a sop to big business, but she does not oppose sops to big business —she only opposes the ones not originating on her side of the aisle.

And Obama's presidency and the Democcrats' actions in Congress have not done good things for their party at the state level.
In 2010 Republicans picked up 675 legislative seats, flipped 21 chambers, and won complete control of 25 statehouses. This year Mr. McCollum credits a “perfect storm” of strong candidates, effective strategy and a highly charged political atmosphere that delivered 69 of 99 state legislative chambers to Republican hands, exceeding the party’s previous high-water mark of 64 in 1920.

Republicans this year flipped nine state legislative chambers: the Colorado Senate; Maine Senate; Minnesota House; Nevada Senate and Assembly; New Hampshire House; New Mexico House and West Virginia House and Senate.

Next year, the GOP will control the legislatures and governorships in 23 states, while Democrats will enjoy hegemony in seven—California, Delaware, Oregon, Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Bolstering the GOP’s ranks in state government, Republicans will have 31 lieutenant governors, 28 secretaries of state and 27 attorneys general.

such facts lead Jamelle Boule at Slate to fret about how the Democratic Party is "down and out" at the state level. They run the risk of being closed out of redistricting if they continue to be shut out of state legislators. They aren't building up a good farm team of governors like the Republicans have been doing. We're seeing the dearth of Democratic talent by the paucity of reasonable candidates other than Hillary for 2016. The Democrats can thank President Obama and the slavish voting in support of his policies by the Democrats in Congress for the past six years.

We're starting to get a better idea of how much Obamacare is going to cost. And it's not a pretty picture.
The basic budgetary facts are not in dispute. When Obamacare was enacted, the official cost estimate was roughly $900 billion over the period from 2010 through 2019. However, the health law’s cumulative costs have since roughly doubled as more of its provisions come online. The simple difference in the time period, plus the increase in massive new entitlement spending, has started to bring the law’s true costs into sharper focus. For 2015 through 2024, CBO now estimates that the insurance subsidies and the big Medicaid expansions will cost $1.89 trillion.
So all the more reason to find out what went into and what came out of Jonathan Gruber'd modeling of the costs of Obamacare.

The Washington Examiner pays tribute to how Ayaan Hirsi Ali is fighting the real war on women and contrasts that with the focus of the left.
If American liberals were as concerned about women’s rights as they claim to be, they would have to shift their focus to other countries, but that would mean giving up a cherished narrative about conservatives here at home and acknowledging the threat radical Islam poses to women worldwide.

The real horrors facing women in the world aren’t discussed in America, where those who try to point out what is going on in other countries or criticize the trivial nature of feminist obsessions are sidelined from the public debate.

But recent events have cast a glaring light on the brutal treatment of women by those claiming to act in the name of Islam, posing a challenge to the American Left by creating a conflict between the liberal desire for women’s equality and a multicultural reluctance to criticize other cultures....

The Left’s kid-glove treatment of even radical Islam exposes the logical flaw at the heart of multiculturalism. How does one tolerate the murderous intolerance of another culture? Is someone really a principled supporter of diversity, of women’s rights, of gay rights, if he refuses to resist or even acknowledge the mortal threat that is posed to those causes by a different culture?

Many liberals downplay the threat of Islamic extremism that they claim in principle to find abhorrent.

If women’s equality and homosexual rights are important to the Left, why are liberals hesitant to criticize an ideology that threatens both groups? Homosexuals are subject to judicial execution in several Muslim countries including Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Although homosexuality is legal in more than 20 Muslim-majority nations, it is still viewed as shameful and sometimes punished by private citizens, who are forgiven for persecuting homosexuals and even for killing them.

P.J. O'Rourke was forced to write about Lena Dunham. And he's not happy about it.

John McCormack examines what Jonathan Gruber's testimony means for the Supreme Court case of King v. Burwell. He hasn't done much good for the government case.

Brian Hughes wonders why there is all this soul-searching on enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA, but no parallel soul-searching on using drones to blow suspected terrorists to bits. Somehow, it's better to kill such terrorists and risk killing civilians than it is to try to capture them and get some information from them.

Matthew Continetti explains why we don't need another "national conversation on race." The last thing the left want is a true dialogue on any topic.
America does not need another “national conversation on race.” The previous one, which lasted from 1997 to 1998, was so utterly useless that hardly anyone remembers it. President Clinton delivered speeches, convened town hall meetings, empaneled an advisory board, and issued a report on race relations. It went nowhere.

Why? Because the public forums were characterized by self-indulgence, protest, confusion, miscommunication, and acrimony. The advisory board presented the view of race from Harvard Yard. Affirmative action was defended when it was not ignored, its critics muted.

There were racial gains during the Clinton years. But those advances did not come from any “conversation.” They came from a vast reduction in crime and from a booming economy.

Conversation itself is overrated. When someone tells you it is “time to have a conversation,” he is about to fire you, deliver criticism, or relay other bad news. A friend of mine has a saying: You rarely get in trouble for what you do not say. And the more you say, the longer the conversation, the more “honest” and “open” it becomes, the more likely it is to devolve into soliloquy, recriminations, passive aggression, insults, tears, and bad feelings.

“National conversation” is a misnomer. An ideal conversation is free flowing; a discourse between friends; a meandering and pleasant exchange of ideas, of opinions, of gossip, of knowledge. There is no program to such conversations, no objective, no overriding purpose. A nation encompasses too many people with too many divergent and opposing views for such casual and edifying talk.

Especially when the government is involved. Who is invited to speak, what the terms of dialogue are, how long the parties engage—in a “national conversation” these are questions not freely answered by individuals but deliberately settled by collectives. Which is why the advocates of such conversations often seem more interested in acquiring a platform than a parley.

The very notion of a free-flowing symposium is undermined by the time the ground-rules of conversation are established. Cutting the pretense of free exchange and true diversity of opinion would be more honest. But no politician is going to call for a “national lecture” on race. Who would show up?

Conversation implies voice, analysis, abstraction. But politics is not merely theoretical. There are tangible consequences. And so a “national conversation” is more than an exercise by which power determines the ground of acceptable debate. It also provides cover for unelected academics and technocrats to implement controversial agendas the voters may not want.

National conversations are worse than useless. They are harmful. They presuppose, they live off of, the racial, ethnic, and sexual divisions they intend to mend. Separate the public into competing tribes, and not only will disagreements between them fester. Other tribes will feel unrecognized, excluded, alienated from the proceedings. Differences will become entrenched. Slights and peeves will multiply.

In wake of the Rolling Stone's fiasco of reporting on a supposed gang-rape at the University of Virginia, the Daily Caller reports on eight other stories of rapes on campus that turned out to be hoaxes. Several of these hoaxes shared the same goal as the Rolling Stone story - to bring attention to the supposed rape culture on campus.

James W. Ceaser reports on how college campuses are becoming places where truth and reason are no longer relevant.
Like many such crowds, this one sought its own victims to punish. Strangely, retribution against the seven alleged perpetrators was treated as less important than one might have thought, for this result would have placed the onus in the affair on these individuals and their criminal acts. From the moment of the first mass rally, speakers from the faculty and student body left no doubt that they were in search of much bigger game. Moving in a reverse pyramid from the specific to the more abstract, they decried the fraternity system, privilege (the “money-fraternity complex”), and the rape culture of the South, including Thomas Jefferson for his relations with Sally Hemings. The charges went higher and higher up the ladder of generality until the sex crime committed at UVA became a confirmation of the basic theory of privileged Western male oppression that is so widely subscribed to in the disciplines of cultural studies. The theoretical or ideological dimension that began to take hold, which relies on class profiling, accorded with the subtext of the Rolling Stone article that is directed less against sexual violence per se—of which Charlottesville has tragically suffered more than enough in recent years—than against sexual violence perpetrated by males belonging to society’s “upper tier.”

...Noble sentiments, but have they been followed? The latest and most disturbing turn in the whole sequence of events came in the aftermath of the unraveling of the published story. No one, of course, knows exactly what, if anything, happened in that fraternity house, or how many, if any, of the victim’s charges can stand up to scrutiny. Despite promises from different parties to get to the bottom of things, one coming from Rolling Stone no less, this matter may never be resolved. What stands out, however, is the reaction of the activists. Though disappointed that the veracity of this story of suffering and bestiality has been placed in doubt, they remain undeterred. Now they claim that the facts of this case ultimately do not matter. It is the larger cause that counts. The article, they say, has served to put a spotlight on the epidemic of sexual violence on campus. As one of them put it, “The main message we want to come out of all this is that sexual assault is a problem nationwide that we need to act in preventing. It has never been about one story.” The activists, moreover, can claim already to have won a victory. They are certain to be at the center of the next step in the process, now underway at UVA, of adopting new measures to deal with this problem.

But the truth does matter. Even on the level of future policy changes, this problem can only be properly addressed if it is presented in an unbiased way, not in terms of a preconceived framework. The moral dimension of disregarding the truth also cannot be forgotten. Members of the university community have been vilified as gang rapists. Does anyone mind? The University of Virginia has been charged with bearing the full burden of national obloquy. Does anyone care? If the faculty and administration prefer to abdicate to a crowd rather than offer a defense, even in comparative terms, of the university’s reputation, then who will stand up for the place?

....Far from being an end in itself, the truth on our college campuses is now treated as a mere instrument of combat. It is wielded with feigned righteous-ness when it promotes a preferred cause and then abandoned when it produces the opposite result. In the end, this is the sad message that universities now convey.
As Kevin Williamson writes, all this brouhaha about a supposed culture of rape on college campuses ignores the actual facts from the DOJ that young women on campuses are less likely to be sexually assaulted or raped than young women not on campuses. The elites who are all worried about this mythological epidemic of campus rapes instead of caring about the terrible rapes that are actually happening.
Our policy debates are dominated by relatively narrow-minded and self-interested elites, and so it is natural that our discussion of sexual assault focuses on what might be happening at Villanova University rather than what’s happening on Riker’s Island or on Ojibwe reservations. But the way we talk about rape suggests that we do not much care about the facts of the case. If understanding and preventing rape were our motive, we’d know whether the victimization rate was x or 11x, and whether elite college campuses are in fact rather than in rhetoric more dangerous than crime-ridden ghettos and isolated villages in Alaska, a state in which the rate of rape is three times the national average. We’d never accept that the National Bureau of Economic Research didn’t know whether the inflation rate were 1.6 percent or 17 percent. We’d give the issue properly rigorous consideration.

But if your interest were in making opposition to feminist political priorities a quasi-criminal offense and using the horrific crime of rape as a cultural and political cudgel, then you’d be doing about what we’re doing right now.
Charles C. W. Cooke notes that this all of a piece with the liberal approach to journalism. What matters is the narrative, not the actual facts.
Just a few short weeks ago, when Rolling Stone’s story was almost universally believed to be true, we were urged to read each and every sordid detail of the case so that we might better acquaint ourselves with the broader problems that are presented by “rape culture.” Today, as the story continues to collapse, the opposite view is regnant, and the very same people who pointed excitedly to Erdely’s work now contend that we should not be focusing on an individual case such as this in the first place. Thus are we being asked to accept two contradictory positions. The first: that Erdely’s gang-rape story was important enough not only to justify months of research but to serve as the hook on which her piece was hung. The second: that it didn’t matter at all. “Not sure,” Vox’s Libby Nelson asked last night in a tweet that summed up the volte-face, what the Washington Post’s “endgame is in continuing to pursue” the facts.

Such self-serving inquiries illustrate something crucial — namely, that many of those who describe themselves as “journalists” these days are more interested in moral positioning and the advancement of their agendas than in the attainment of objective truth. Where most of us are primarily concerned with whether a given claim is correct, others seem more attentive to how we react to that claim in the first place. Did you ask questions about Jackie’s story as it was reported? If so, you must hate women, work for the patriarchy, or hope to prove that nobody is ever raped. Did you believe Jackie uncritically and with a full-throated roar? Excellent, then you must be a good person who wants to help women, move the country forward, and do something concrete about the issue of sexual assault. It’s really that simple, my dear.

Amazingly, these presumptions tend to remain intact through thick and thin. In consequence, a person who incorrectly judged the veracity of Rolling Stone’s story can remain on the side of the angels, while a person who was correct to doubt the account is dismissed as a devil who just got lucky. (Links in original)

One benefit of the collapsed UVa story is that it has cast light on what Glenn Reynolds calls "the great campus rape hoax."
The truth — and, since she's a politician, maybe that shouldn't be such a surprise — is exactly the opposite. According to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of rape and sexual assault is lower for college students (at 6.1 per 1,000) than for non-students (7.6 per 1,000). (Note: not 1 in 5). What's more, between 1997 and 2013, rape against women dropped by about 50%, in keeping with a more general drop in violent crime nationally.

Upshot: Women on campus aren't at more risk for sexual assault, and their risk is nothing like the bogus 1-in-5 statistic bandied about by politicians and activists. So why is this non-crisis getting so much press?

It's getting press because it suits the interests of those pushing the story. For Gillibrand and McCaskill, it's a woman-related story that helps boost their status as female senators. It ties in with the "war on women" theme that Democrats have been boosting since 2012, and will presumably roll out once again in 2016 in support of Hillary Clinton, or perhaps Elizabeth Warren. And University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan hasn't apologized for her action in suspending all fraternities (and sororities) on the basis of a bogus story in Rolling Stone. Nor has she apologized for the mob mentality on campus that saw arrests, vandalism and protests at a fraternity house based, again, on a single bogus report. Instead, she's doubling down on the narrative.

This kind of hysteria may be ugly, but for campus activists and bureaucrats it's a source of power: If there's a "campus rape crisis," that means that we need new rules, bigger budgets, and expanded power and self-importance for all involved, with the added advantage of letting you call your political opponents (or anyone who threatens funding) "pro rape." If we focus on the truth, however — rapidly declining rape rates already, without any particular "crisis" programs in place — then voters, taxpayers, and university trustees will probably decide to invest resources elsewhere. So for politicians and activists, a phony crisis beats no crisis.

At least until people catch on. As George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf notes, "After a while, the boy who cried wolf wasn't believed, and the women who cry rape may likewise not be believed, especially with the accusations of rape at Duke University and the University of Virginia fresh in people's minds."

Even one rape is too many, of course, on or off of campus. But when activists and politicians try to gin up a phony crisis, public trust is likely to be a major casualty. It's almost as if helping actual rape victims is the last thing on these people's minds.

Daniel Payne tells us how and why the fiasco of what happened at Rolling Stone will happen again. When the approach to all tales of rape is that we must believe the victim and never believe the accused.
f a woman claims she’s been raped, we should offer her our support, our trust, and our tireless advocacy. We should not, however, suspend all of our doubts and throw ourselves headlong into full-fledged and unequivocal belief—any more than we would for any other reported crime. The genuinely responsible thing to do is to discover the truth; it’s not to accept one person’s testimony with no reservations whatsoever. Nothing is that certain, as Rolling Stone and Erdely are now painfully discovering.

Meanwhile, the New Yorker points out the odious way in which the Rolling Stone portrayed Jackie's three friends who supposedly refused to get her help because they didn't want to risk not getting invited to future frat parties. The female, called Cindy in the story, is portrayed as basically a slut who thought being ganged raped would be fun if the guys were hot fraternity guys. It's not clear if Rolling Stone even contacted the female friend. We know the author didn't contact the male friends. Apparently, it was so acceptable to accept the supposed victim's story, that it didn't matter how the magazine portrayed her three friends. Describing one of those friends as a fun-loving, but heartless slut was perfectly fine even if no research was really done to support that depiction.

It's striking how so many on the left are eager to believe the accused's story for any type of crime, except that of rape. Then the presumption is that the accused is always guilty and the victim's story should never be questioned. Freddie deBoer writes at The Week about how dangerous this approach is. Anyone who questions the veracity of the victim is excoriated online as a supporter of rape.
The insistence that every rape accusation must be presumed to be true inevitably means that the credibility of those opposing rape will always be bound up with the least credible accusation. This, perversely, makes it harder for those people to speak out against rape, not easier. The notion that rape victims should be believed by default seems humane and understandable. But in practice it leads to a condition where all rape accusations must be true for any individual standard to be taken seriously. That's an impossible standard, one no crime should ever have to meet.

So, does the Mel Gibson banishment standard apply to Amy Pascal and Scott Rubin at Sony? Or are anti-Semitic rants less acceptable than racist jokes about President Obama?