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.