Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cruising the Web

This is no surprise. The only surprise is that it has become public.
A Hamas official inadvertently acknowledged on Thursday that the group had strong-armed journalists in Gaza into a reporting style that suited its narrative, keeping many under surveillance and kicking out of the territory those who sought to film the launching of rockets at Israel.

In an interview with Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV on Thursday, relayed and translated Friday by the Middle East Media Research Institute, the head of foreign relations in Hamas’s Information Ministry, Isra Al-Mudallal, complained that “the coverage by foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip was insignificant compared to their coverage within the Israeli occupation (Israel).”

“Moreover,” she said, “the journalists who entered Gaza were fixated on the notion of peace and on the Israeli narrative.” She asserted that the foreign press was focused “on filming the places from where missiles were launched. Thus, they were collaborating with the occupation.” (The Israeli army said last week that 600 of the 3,300 rockets fired into Israel over recent weeks were launched from residential areas, including schools, mosques and homes.)

“These journalists were deported from the Gaza Strip,” al-Mudallal said. “The security agencies would go and have a chat with these people. They would give them some time to change their message, one way or another.

“We suffered from this problem very much,” she added. “Some of the journalists who entered the Gaza Strip were under security surveillance. Even under these difficult circumstances, we managed to reach them, and tell them that what they were doing was anything but professional journalism and that it was immoral.”

On Monday, the Foreign Press Association, an umbrella group representing foreign journalists working in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, issued a strongly worded condemnation of Hamas’s intimidation tactics and its interference with their reporting in Gaza.
If the journalists were honest, they would now go public about the intimidation and manipulation from Hamas to color their coverage.

But then, why shouldn't they follow the model of this White House when it comes to stabbing Israel in the back?
What kind of ally refuses to send you desperately needed weapons when you’re smack in the middle of a war?

Apparently, that’s what the Obama folks did with Israel, which is caught up fighting with Hamas. It’s unforgivable.

The decision came, it seems, after White House officials learned that, unbeknownst to them, Israel had gotten mortar shells and grenade-illuminating rounds from the Pentagon to use against Hamas, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Officials say they were “blind-sided” by the transfer. But it turns out that it was done as a matter of routine: No OK by the president or secretary of state was needed.

Still, the White House suddenly put all future transfers on hold, including a scheduled shipment of Hellfire missiles. And it ordered the Pentagon to consult with the executive branch and State Department before approving any future requests.
Obama folks downplayed the move and claims of a new tiff with Israel. They say reports that they held up missile shipments “does not indicate any change in policy.”

If true, though, what kind of a policy is it?
I guess they're angry that Israel won't keep to a cease fire that Hamas keeps breaking.

Hillary's demands don't augur well for transparency in a Hillary presidency. Laura Myers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has obtained a copy of the contract that the former Secretary of State has with UNLV for an October 13 speech there for a fundraiser.
“It is agreed that Speaker will be the only person on the stage during her remarks,” according to the May 13 contract the Harry Walker Agency signed for Clinton’s keynote address at the Bellagio.

According to her standard speaking contract, Clinton will remain at the event no longer than 90 minutes; will pose for no more than 50 photos with no more than 100 people; and won’t allow any press coverage or video- or audio-taping of her speech.

The only record allowed will be made by a stenographer whose transcription will be given only to Clinton. The stenographer’s $1,250 bill, however, will go to the UNLV Foundation.

The foundation, meanwhile, is prohibited from advertising the event on radio, TV or billboards. Mail and website ads are allowed, although Clinton staffers must approve in writing any promotional material. One unhappy UNLV Foundation official in an email complained of “meddling” after Clinton’s agency edited a description of the annual dinner to “dumb it down.”

And Clinton’s demand for approval of all website material before it hits the Internet prompted a UNLV Web designer to grouse in an email that it seems “assbackwards in my mind.”

The foundation complied with Clinton’s wishes, however.
Given the gaffes that have occurred during her PR blitz for her book, one can understand why she would want such strict control. But this is not an expression of confidence, but one of weakness.

Though UNLV did get to argue Hillary down from her normal price of $300,000 which includes the cost of the private jet to get her there.
Presumably, Clinton will have to pay for her own jet to Las Vegas, presidential suite and other costs she normally charges to events, unless some private donor picks up the tab.
Think of this. She's appearing at a fundraiser for a public university and demanding $225,000 as her fee. Clearly, she cares more about her bottom line than any charity.

Hunter Walker, writing an analyst at Business Insider has glommed onto the simple reason why Hillary Clinton has done so poorly
on her book tour: "Clinton just isn't good at campaigning." People want to excuse her by saying that she's just rusty. But she's never been all that talented, especially when she faces any pushback or competition.
MSNBC producer John Flowers hinted at the possibility of this 2008 déjà vu in June when he tweeted about coverage of Hillary's wealth gaffes. Flowers referenced the movie "Memento," in which the protagonist suffered from amnesia, to express his surprise that people were shocked to see Clinton struggle on the campaign trail.

"Why do people go 'Memento' on the fact that Hillary is a terrible, miserable, never-once-very-good campaigner?" asked Flowers.

The indictment of Rick Perry for abuse of power is a dangerous step in the use of legal action for partisan purposes. Even liberals are casting doubt on the legitimacy of the action. Paul Mirengoff reminds of the Democrats' pattern of using "lawfare" against rising Republicans. Jonathan Chait, no apologist for Republicans, explains why the "this indictment of Rick Perry is unbelievably ridiculous."
They say a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and this always seemed like hyperbole, until Friday night a Texas grand jury announced an indictment of governor Rick Perry. The “crime” for which Perry faces a sentence of 5 to 99 years in prison is vetoing funding for a state agency. The conventions of reporting — which treat the fact of an indictment as the primary news, and its merit as a secondary analytic question — make it difficult for people reading the news to grasp just how farfetched this indictment is.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg — a Democrat who oversees the state’s Public Corruption unit — was arrested for driving very, very drunk. What followed was a relatively ordinary political dispute. Perry, not unreasonably, urged Lehmberg to resign. Democrats, not unreasonably, resisted out of fear that Perry would replace her with a Republican. Perry, not unreasonably, announced and carried out a threat to veto funding for her agency until Lehmberg resigned.
Eugene Volokh here and here) and Patterico take a legal look at the indictment and the statutes involved and totally dismantle the use of the law to go after Rick Perry in this instance. Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog decries the "criminalization of politics."

And it's been a pattern in Texas as Democratic DAs went after Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Tom DeLay. The case against Hutchison collapsed on the first day of trial and the conviction of DeLay was eventually overturned. The Texas organization accusing Perry of cronyism is a leftist group that has previously gone after George W. Bush and John Cornyn. There seems to be a pattern here.

This doesn't mean that politicians should be immune from the legal consequences of illegal acts and political corruption. It just means that the political use of indictments in the hands of a partisan prosecutor are extremely dangerous to our system of both politics and law. For example, this story that Nancy Pelosi steered more than a billion dollars to a light rail project in which her husband is a major investor sounds fishy enough to merit legal investigation. But the case in Austin against Perry is a joke.

In my AP Government and Politics class on Friday, we'd discussed possible 2016 candidates and one of the students posted on our class page a link to the story about his indictment on Friday night and asked my opinion of what this did to his presidential hopes. My reply was that I hadn't thought much of his chances to begin with. But, even if these charges are dismissed, the story will remain and soon all people will remember is that Rick Perry had abused power. We saw an example of that in class when we talked about Chris Christie and I asked students what they knew about Christie. In each class there was at least one who knew that he was involved in a scandal involving a bridge. When I asked the students to summarize the scandal for the class, in each of my three classes, the student used almost the same language - that Chris Christie had closed down a bridge for political reasons. They knew the outline of the story, but never learned or remembered the details that it was one of Christie's aides who took that action and that, so far, there has not been any evidence that Christie knew about it or was involved in the closing. (Though hearing that NJ taxpayers are paying the governor's $6.5 million legal bill won't endear him to voters even if he's found totally innocent.)That's the problem with scandals. All that people remember are the broad outlines and they don't pay attention to the details. So, for example, when my students talk about the impeachment of Bill Clinton, which for this year's students happened before they were born, all they seem to know is that he was impeached for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. The fact that he was impeached for obstruction of justice and perjury that he later admitted to is a detail that never penetrated to them. That's why this indictment is so dangerous to Rick Perry's future political hopes. Even if Republicans all believe that he is completely innocent and the charges get thrown out, there will still be a taint attached to his name that Republican voters may well fear would come back to harm him if her were to win the nomination. And after two defeats and facing the Clinton juggernaut, Republican primary voters are going to be especially risk averse.

John Hinderaker goes through the latest smear of the Koch brothers by David Brock's group, American Bridge, and totally eviscerates their claims.

Michael Goodwin wonders when American Jews will be fed up with Obama's attitude towards Israel and Netanyahu.
But Obama’s lack of worry about Israel isn’t limited to his rhetoric, as The Wall Street Journal revealed. The president’s pique at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached a new high during the Hamas conflict, and Obama is now putting a squeeze on military shipments to Israel.

The State Department insists this is routine, nothing to see here, blah, blah, blah. Nonsense.

Even a “review” of American policy is a warning to Netanyahu and an invitation to his political opponents at home that their nation is at odds with its essential ally.

Some American supporters of ­Israel, including Democrats, are furious at Obama. And Israeli media report opposition pols there are blaming Netanyahu for “losing” America.

It is obvious Obama wants a liberal lapdog in Israel, a point underscored by his complaint to the Times’ Tom Friedman that Netanyahu’s poll numbers are very high. “Bibi is too strong,” Obama insisted, saying it insulated him from having to make the decisions Obama wants him to make.

In other words, the Israeli public is also wrong for supporting Netanyahu, and Obama knows what’s best for them. He said that to “preserve a Jewish state that is also reflective of the best values” of its founders, ­Israelis must “find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians . . . You have to recognize that they have legitimate claims and this is their land and neighborhood, as well.”
As a platitude, that could be harmless. But remember the context. In that statement, made during a war that Hamas started, Obama made Hamas a synonym for all ­Palestinians.

It’s not, unless he believes all ­Palestinians, including the relative moderates who govern the West Bank, share the Hamas goal of eliminating Israel.
He’s also undermining the long-standing policy of supporting moderate, peaceful Palestinians with the goal of freezing out the terrorists.

To say, as Obama does, that Israel must recognize that Hamas has “legitimate claims” is to reward it for starting the war. It transfers legitimacy and power from Palestinian moderates to the terrorists.

As one Israeli paper put it, “US livid with Israel? Hamas can’t ­believe its luck.”

So, is this the moment when American Jews realize the Democratic Party has left them?
Short answer: no. Liberal Jews don't vote based on Israel but on the basis of domestic policies. And many of them don't really like Israel all that much either.

Paul Sperry details the sorry history of Obama administration officials deliberately exacerbating racial relations.
Less known, however, is the role of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who’s made incendiary — and shamefully disingenuous — statements about race relations in America.

Last month, for instance, Perez told hundreds of black students in Washington, DC, that school authorities in the South recently had black high-schoolers arrested for infractions as innocuous as fashion faux pas and farting.
He made the shocking allegation during a July 15 speech he delivered at Howard University.

Perez recounted a recent visit to Mississippi, claiming: “I was looking at their feet and every one of them had an ankle bracelet — they were 14 years old — and that’s because they were all in the school-to-prison pipeline.
And I asked them: ‘What are you in for?’ One was, uh, wrong color tie. One was the wrong color socks. One was flatulence.

“I’m not making this up,” Perez insisted. “This is Meridian, Miss., where we still see separate and unequal,” adding, “We thought we had made progress [but] this is America” today.

Only, he was making it up. Meridian Public School District students have never been jailed simply for breaking school dress code, as he implied. That would be false imprisonment.

They have, however, been mildly disciplined for wearing the wrong uniform to school. Meridian, which is mostly black, has a strict dress code to prevent gang violence.

And some students do wear ankle bracelets to school — but only because they broke actual laws and were convicted of crimes by a juvenile judge.

Perez conflated the circumstances, even though he knew better.

Two years earlier, in a speech to the National School Boards Association in Boston, Perez described it much differently.

“I had an opportunity to visit Meridian and listen first-hand to students,” he said. “They told me of serving time in in-school suspension for wearing the wrong color socks. I listened to a panel of eight students, roughly half of whom were wearing ankle bracelets…Regrettably, students of color are receiving different and harsher disciplinary punishments.”

At Howard, Perez made it sound as if Meridian were run by a bunch of white, racist Bull Connors.

What he failed to mention is that the Meridian school superintendent, Dr. Alvin Taylor, and four of the five Meridian school board members are all black. So is the judge running the juvenile court.

Why would this Cabinet official say one thing to an audience of administrators and another to an audience of black students?

There’s only one explanation: To rile young African-Americans up about the specter of a still-racist America. (Requests to Perez’s office for comment went unanswered.)
Remember the argument we heard in 2008 about how electing an African American president would go far towards ending racial tensions in America? Well, that can't happen if his administration sees racial conflict as a partisan tool to help elect Democrats.

George Will takes on the logic of the Democrats' cries that American corporations merging with foreign firms to lower their taxation rate is unpatriotic in a practice known as "inversion.".
Progressives say corporations using inversions are unpatriotic, which is amusing. When the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision stipulated that Americans do not forfeit their First Amendment right to political advocacy when they act together through corporations (including, and especially, incorporated nonprofit advocacy groups), progressives ridiculed the idea that corporations should be treated as people. Now, progressives charge that corporations resorting to inversion are not behaving like patriotic people.

But Democrats believe in recycling even the rhetoric of John Kerry. Campaigning for president in 2004, Kerry denounced as “Benedict Arnolds” those American business executives who moved some operations overseas for competitive advantages. He did this among South Carolinians who work at Fujifilm, Michelin and BMW plants located there by executives who Kerry presumably thought should be despised as traitors by the Japanese, French and German publics.

A publicly held corporation’s responsibility is to its shareholders; its fiduciary duty is to maximize the value of their holdings. If businesses supposedly have other responsibilities, who decides what they are? Presumably politicians such as Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, who must have learned economics from the nursery story “Rumpelstiltskin.”

When the Illinois-based Walgreens retail chain planned an inversion, Durbin sent the company’s chief executive a letter noting that “its stores are a staple in our communities” — as though inversion would have closed the stores. Durbin warned that Walgreens’s “financial success was built on programs and infrastructure provided by the U.S. government,” particularly filling Medicare and Medicaid prescriptions.

This is the progressive premise in action: Because government provides infrastructure (roads, etc.) affecting everyone, and because government-dispensed money flows everywhere, everything is beholden to the government, and more or less belongs to the government, and should be subordinated to its preferences, which always are for more control of the nation’s wealth. Walgreens retreated, costing its shareholders, employees and customers billions.

Inversions strengthen the U.S. economy by increasing the after-tax profits that U.S. corporations have for investment, by increasing the pool of profits available for the wages of U.S. workers and by making the companies’ U.S. shareholders wealthier. Which is why the sensible corporate tax rate would be zero. This is so because corporations do not pay taxes, they collect them, necessarily passing on the burden as a cost of doing business. And studies suggest that corporations’ workers bear a significant portion of the burden.

This should interest Obama and Durbin, who are nothing if not loquacious about wage stagnation, the suffering middle class, etc. But they actually are less distressed by the real distresses of others than they are delighted by the chance to be operatically incensed about the predictable consequences of a tax code they perpetuate.

This illustrates the grandstanding frivolity of the political class. It legislates into existence incentives for what it considers perverse behavior, and then waxes indignant when businesses respond sensibly to the incentives.

Now this is true heroism!
A British Army colonel's life was saved by a US soldier who jumped in front of an assassin's hail of bullets, it has been reported.
The US Army reservist, who normally works for Apple, the Silicon Valley-based electronics company, was shot six times as an Afghan assailant opened fire on a group of high-ranking officers at a military training academy earlier this month, The Sunday Times said.

The reservist, who has not been named, used his body as a shield to literally "take a bullet" for the senior British officer, and was hit twice in the leg and once in the shoulder, with a further three rounds stopped by his bulletproof vest.

Details of the act of heroism were revealed in an American casualty report, the newspaper said.

It describes how the reservist returned fire with both his rifle and sidearm