Friday, January 23, 2015

Cruising the Web

I must confess that I've been much more interested in Deflategate and Coach K's hunt for his 1000th victory this week than public affairs. As a Patriots fan, I'd been hoping that there would emerge some information clearing the team of malfeasance. Nothing that has happened yet has removed that suspicion. My response from Brady's press conference is the same as Andrew McCarthy's - the NFL doesn't want to find out what happened. It was amazing to hear that they hadn't spoken to Tom Brady yet. What does it mean to say they're conducting an investigation if they haven't talked to him?
This is simply mindboggling. Because of the way footballs are handled pregame, the quarterback would be the most essential source of information in the event irregularities occur. Brady is thus the first person the NFL should have spoken with if the league really wanted to get to the bottom of what happened.

One now has to be suspicious that the league would rather not know at this point. Why? Because we are just ten days from the Super Bowl and there is very strong evidence of cheating. If the league quickly learns who is responsible, it would have to suspend the cheater(s) from the big game or be mercilessly ridiculed for turning a blind eye. The NFL obviously does not want to suspend star players or coaches from its showcase event.

But now, the league will be mercilessly ridiculed anyway. There are very few people who handle the balls or might influence how they are handled between the time they are chosen and the time they are used in a game: the starting QB, the equipment manager, the ball boy(s), the referees, and the coaches. That means a competent investigation to get to the bottom of this growing controversy could be completed in a few hours – meaning, it should have been done by now.
Whatever you might think happened in Deflategate, we can all agree on despising the NFL's leadership this past year.

Here's one scientist's explanation of how deflating the balls could be accomplished without any tampering with the footballs after they were checked. It sounds like a loophole in the NVL's rules and procedures. And guess which NFL coach is very good at exploiting loopholes?

By the way, I was talking before school with my students about this and told them about this physicist's explanation and their reaction was that there should be no penalty if the Patriots were just smarter about physics than the NFL and other teams.

David Adesnik explains how wrong-headed Obama and Hillary's concept of "smart power" is.
Don’t get me wrong — I fully supported the surge in Afghanistan and the intervention in Libya. My problem is with the president’s failure to finish the wars he started. But regardless of whether you were for or against those decisions, you might find it troubling that such a smart president can’t come up with a rationale that can account for his own choices. Or that such a smart president admitted several months ago that he had no strategy for dealing with the Islamic State. For some reason, this president can’t apply his brilliance to the actual challenges in front of him.

The root of the problem may be a persistent misunderstanding of what it means to be smart. For this president, being smart always seems to correlate with withdrawal of American troops, resistance to using force, and attempting reconciliation with the most oppressive and hostile regimes. For some reason, this president couldn’t recognize that it might have been smart to keep enough troops in Iraq to prevent its implosion or to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition before Islamic extremists hijacked the anti-Assad movement.

Ironically, the president’s complete confidence in his own intelligence has made his foreign policy less decisive and less coherent. Despite his determination to avoid conflict, the president has often found himself in situations where getting tough seems to be necessary, whether it is with the Islamic State, Iran, or Vladimir Putin. Under pressure, the president then moves to a stronger position, but hesitates to follow through. Being tough still doesn’t feel smart, so Obama begins to bend.

After promising to destroy the Islamic State, Obama has presided over a lackluster military campaign. Tonight, he patted himself on the back for “stopping ISIL’s advance.”

After a failed reset with Russia, Obama responded to the invasion of Ukraine with a parade of threats. In the end, Obama and his European partners only imposed pinprick sanctions. Tonight, Obama bragged about Russia’s diplomatic isolation, but the Kremlin’s proxy army hasn’t loosened its grip on eastern Ukraine, where thousands have died.

After Ayatollah Khamenei rejected Obama’s friendly overtures in 2009, the White House went along with a congressionally driven strategy of imposing harsh sanctions. With its economy ailing, Tehran agreed to talk about abandoning its drive for nuclear weapons. Even though Tehran is just stalling for time, Obama has threatened to veto bipartisan legislation that threatens to impose new sanctions if Tehran doesn’t negotiate a disarmament deal by July 1. Tonight, the president re-issued his veto threat.

He may be smart, but he just never learns.
Charles Krauthammer explains how Iran is winning in the Middle East, most recently in Yemen where the government that has been working with us against terrorism was just overthrown.
Why should we care about the coup? First, because we depend on Yemen’s government to support our drone war against another local menace, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It’s not clear if we can even maintain our embassy in Yemen, let alone conduct operations against AQAP. And second, because growing Iranian hegemony is a mortal threat to our allies and interests in the entire Middle East.

In Syria, Iran’s power is similarly rising. The mullahs rescued the reeling regime of Bashar al-Assad by sending in weapons, money, and Iranian revolutionary guards, as well as by ordering their Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to join the fight. They succeeded. The moderate rebels are in disarray, even as Assad lives in de facto coexistence with the Islamic State, which controls a large part of his country.

Iran’s domination of Syria was further illustrated by a strange occurrence last Sunday in the Golan Heights. An Israeli helicopter attacked a convoy on the Syrian side of the armistice line. Those killed were not Syrian, however, but five Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and several Iranian officials, including a brigadier general.

What were they doing in the Syrian Golan Heights? Giving “crucial advice,” announced the Iranian government. On what? Well, three days earlier, Hezbollah’s leader had threatened an attack on Israel’s Galilee. Tehran appears to be using its control of Syria and Hezbollah to create its very own front against Israel.

The Israelis can defeat any conventional attack. Not so the Gulf Arabs. To the north and west, they see Iran creating a satellite “Shiite Crescent” stretching to the Mediterranean and consisting of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. To their south and west, they see Iran gaining proxy control of Yemen. And they are caught in the pincer.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is pulling out all the stops to block a Congressional effort to impose economic sanctions if Iran doesn't agree to give up its nuclear program.
Which makes all the more incomprehensible President Obama’s fierce opposition to Congress’s offer to strengthen the American negotiating hand by passing sanctions to be triggered if Iran fails to agree to give up its nuclear program. After all, that was the understanding Obama gave Congress when he began these last-ditch negotiations in the first place.

Why are you parroting Tehran’s talking points, Mr. President? asks Democratic senator Bob Menendez. Indeed, why are we endorsing Iran’s claim that sanctions relief is the new norm? Obama assured the nation that sanctions relief was but a temporary concession to give last-minute, time-limited negotiations a chance.

Twice the deadline has come. Twice no new sanctions, just unconditional negotiating extensions.

Our regional allies — Saudi Arabia, the other five Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel — are deeply worried. Tehran is visibly on the march on the ground and openly on the march to nuclear status. And their one great ally, their strategic anchor for two generations, is acquiescing to both.

And Hillary Clinton is going to have a tough time defending her time as Secretary of State.
She stupidly scorned the foreign policy wisdom in the long-headed Farewell Addresses of Presidents George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower. They warned against entanglements abroad and the influence of the military-industrial complex towards objectless wars.

Clinton, however, championed a virtually lunatic “humanitarian” conflict against Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi, and a military entanglement to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that would strenghthen the Islamic State or the equally terrorist-minded Al-Nusra Front.

In pre-war years, Libya’s Gaddafi had renounced support for international terrorism, abandoned weapons of mass destruction, and paid compensation for the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. He was an ally in opposing al- Qaeda and radical Islam. He was unthreatening to the United States. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified that Libya was not a “vital interest.”

Even a school child could see that to overthrow Gaddafi would steel Iran and North Korea against renouncing their nuclear ambitions; would open his stockpile of conventional weapons to Islamic radicals throughout the Middle East; and, would cause chaos and strife to ensue among tribal, ethnic, sectarian, or secular militias enabling penetration of Libya by al-Qaeda or the Islamic State.

Clinton’s memoir Hard Choices shows that she was clueless as to the Pandora’s Box that would be opened by overthrowing Gaddafi, like a child ignorant of the dangers of a Kalashnikov rifle. The multiple adversities that should have been foreseen have come home to roost.

Iran has refused to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for a relaxation of economic sanctions. North Korea has enhanced its nuclear arsenal and delivery vehicles. Gaddafi’s conventional arms have fallen into the hands of our enemies. Libya splintered into hundreds of ethnic or tribal-based militias or terrorist groups and was left without a functioning government.
Just where in the catalog of Hillary Clinton's record on foreign affairs do we see an argument that this woman should again be the leader of our nation's foreign policy?

As usual, despite the rhetoric about taxing only the rich, Obama's proposed tax changes would hit middle-class savings plans for college.
President Obama is pitching his new tax plan as a way to help the middle class at the expense of the rich. But middle-class savers are bound to notice if he achieves two of the White House’s stated goals—to “roll back” tax benefits of 529 college savings plans and “repeal tax incentives going forward” for Coverdell Education Savings Accounts.

Both plans allow parents, grandparents or anyone looking to help fund a kid’s education to contribute after-tax dollars into accounts that grow tax-free. There is also no tax when the money is withdrawn, provided it is used for qualified educational expenses such as tuition, fees, books, room and board.

Mr. Obama wants to allow the IRS to tax as income any withdrawals from future 529 contributions. This would make them less attractive. The White House goal seems to be to discourage private thrift, and encourage greater use of government benefits, when paying for college.

Alan Abramowitz at Sabato's Crystal Ball analyzes how Obama's approval rating may affect the 2016 presidential election.

Peggy Noonan is quite tired of Obama posing as if he's still concerned only with purple America, not red or blue Americans.
After forgetting to be gracious to the victors of the 2014 election, or even to note there’d been a significant election, he referred to his relations with Congress. “Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different,” he said. “A better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.” It is instead one “where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.” Well, OK, but before this sweet hectoring he had sternly threatened to veto Republican-backed legislation. (CBS News’s Mark Knoller counts nine veto threats since the new Congress was sworn in Jan. 6.) Somehow Mr. Obama’s olive branch always looks like a blunt instrument. He has spent the past six years blaming Republicans when he wasn’t ignoring or dissing them, and despite some nice touches in the speech, his essential disrespect for his political adversaries shone through.

He hates them. They hate him back.

Kevin Williamson writes about liberal protesters have erased the concept of private lives as exhibited by recent protests invading restaurants where people were eating Sunday brunch.
The message these protests send is that there is no private space — and, therefore, no private life — so far as this particular rabble is concerned. It’s the familiar Trotsky conundrum: You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.

That the people at brunch have no real direct connection to the events motivating the protesters is beside the point. They were targeted on racial grounds: These were detestable “white spaces,” and the people there were to be punished for being white — even if they were not, in fact, white, their presence in “white spaces” makes them guilty by association. That the protesters were themselves largely white goes without saying: Protests of this sort are a prestige performance for stupid white college kids, mainly. If you want to see a genuinely “white space,” a protest is your best bet....

Such was the case in San Francisco’s Castro district, a prominent gay neighborhood, when 300 protesters shut down its main street to protest the fact that the neighborhood “is a space dominated by white middle-class men, and is symbolic of the racial divide within the LGBT community and gentrification in San Francisco in general,” as one local dope put it. Their demands were for “all mainstream LGBT organizations to take concrete action in support of black lives,” and they provided a list of organizations to which they would like to see local organizations offering donations.

Which is to say, they’re running a protection racket.

That’s historically been a pretty good business for the Left. Jesse Jackson, surely one of the wealthiest Baptist preachers without a congregation, has had a very successful career at that, and he’s smarter than the “black brunch” gang. He isn’t in New York complaining that Manhattan brunch spots are too white; he’s in Silicon Valley complaining that the C-suites and boardrooms of gazillion-dollar tech companies are too white. You don’t get paid leaning on brunchers; you get paid leaning on Google, a company in which whites are slightly underrepresented but Asian Americans are wildly overrepresented, constituting about 30 percent of its employees. When it comes to “people of color,” you can be sure that the Reverend Jackson has a favorite crayon in his diversity pack. Practically every affirmative-action debate in California, whether on corporate diversity or college admissions, is silently, guiltily concerned with the fact that it is not whites who are overrepresented in positions of prestige but members of a minority group, one whose interests there is not much juice in defending. When it comes to politics, all the money is in dysfunction, and Asian Americans are relatively short on that.
Sensible people would tell these pathetic bullies to mind their own business, but minding your business — and Google’s business — is literally Jesse Jackson’s business. (Literally, Mr. Vice President.)

The Senate under a brief three weeks of Republican leadership has now allowed more votes on amendments to bills than the Democrats allowed all last year. And Democratic senators are quite happy about this.

President Obama inadvertently gave his view of the media a couple of days ago.
"I mean, we have an entire industry that's designed to sort us out," said Obama, as recorded by C-SPAN and officially transcribed by the White House. "Our media is all segmented now so that instead of just watching three stations, we got 600. And everything is market-segmented, and you got the conservative station and the liberal stations. So everybody is only listening to what they already agree with."
599 to 1. That's the ratio that Obama just gave us when he indicated that each station has an ideology and there is only one conservative one. Sounds about right.