Friday, January 30, 2015

Cruising the Web

Having embarrassed himself and his White House yesterday by claiming that the Taliban is an "armed insurgency," but not a terrorist organization, now Press Secretary Josh Earnest has modified Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz's statement to further obfuscate the ridiculous position of this administration. Now he's claiming that the Taliban is still not a terrorist organization, but they do "pursue terrorist attacks."
Today, [ABC's Jonathan Karl] was back again, asking, "Yesterday it was said that the United States government, that the White House, does not consider the Taliban to be a terrorist organization. I'm just wondering how that is consistent with what I believe is the designation that the Treasury Department has on its list of Specially Designated Terrorist Groups which clearly lists the Taliban. So, does the administration consider the Taliban a terrorist organization or not?"

Earnest responded, "John [sic], the reason that the Taliban is listed on this description that you have put forward here, is for two reasons. One is they do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism. They do pursue terror attacks in an effort to advance their agenda and by designating them in the way that you have described, does allow the United States to put in place some financial sanctions against the leaders of that organization in a way that has been beneficial to our ongoing efforts against the Taliban."

"Now what is also true though," Earnest continued, "is that it is important to draw a distinction between the Taliban and al Qaeda. The Taliban has resorted to terror tactics, but those terror tactics have been principally focused on Afghanistan. ... Al Qaeda is an organization that has aspirations beyond just the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, have sought to carry out terror attacks against Americans and American interests all around the globe. And that explains the difference between the classification."
Got that? It's just silliness piled upon ridiculousness. As Conn Carroll explains,
As Earnest admits the Taliban does "pursue terror attacks in an effort to advance their agenda" and the Obama administration uses this Treasury list to "place some financial sanctions against the leaders of that organization in a way that has been beneficial to our ongoing efforts against the Taliban."

So if the Taliban carries out terror attacks, and the Obama administration uses those terror attacks as justification to freeze their assets, why aren't the Taliban terrorists?

Earnest says the Taliban are not terrorists because their "terror tactics have been principally focussed on Afghanistan" while al Qaeda attacks American interests around the globe.

But the official State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations is chock-full lot groups that only focus on local grievances. The Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the Irish Republican Army are just some of the terrorist groups listed by the State Department that are "principally focussed" on local disputes.

The reality is that Obama does consider the Taliban a terrorist group, but he just can't admit it because then his trade for Bergdahl would violate America's longstanding principle against negotiating with terrorists for hostages.

And now we find out this unsurprising news.
he U.S. military and intelligence community now suspect that one of the five Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo Bay in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May of last year has attempted to return to militant activity from his current location in Qatar, CNN has learned exclusively.

The development has led to an ongoing debate inside the administration about whether there is a new threat from this man, and potentially the other four.

This is the first known suggestion that any of the detainees involved in the exchange may be trying to engage again in militant activity. It comes at a politically sensitive time as the administration has quickened the pace of prisoner release in an effort to encourage the closure of the Guantanamo, and the Army must decide in the coming weeks whether and how to punish Bergdahl for leaving his post.
Ya think?

Charles Krauthammer writes, in the wake of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, that Europe has returned to its norm of anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism has returned to Europe. With a vengeance.
The rise of European anti-Semitism is, in reality, just a return to the norm. For a millennium, virulent Jew-hatred — persecution, expulsions, massacres — was the norm in Europe until the shame of the Holocaust created a temporary anomaly wherein anti-Semitism became socially unacceptable.

The hiatus is over. Jew-hatred is back, recapitulating the past with impressive zeal. Italians protesting Gaza handed out leaflets calling for a boycott of Jewish merchants. As in the 1930s. A widely popular French comedian has introduced a variant of the Nazi salute. In Berlin, Gaza brought out a mob chanting, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone!” Berlin, mind you.

European anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem, however. It’s a European problem, a stain, a disease of which Europe is congenitally unable to rid itself.
We were just discussing the Dreyfus Affair yesterday in my AP European History class and how it led to the birth of the Zionist movement as Theodor Hertzl realized that Jews would never be safe in Europe and recommended that they settle in what would one day become Israel. One of my students made the connection to what is going on in Europe today and how Netanyahu made a speech welcoming Europe's Jews to immigrate to Israel. Though they won't be safe there. As Krauthammer points out, the most dire threat to the world's Jews lies in the Middle East.
The threat to the Jewish future lies not in Europe but in the Muslim Middle East, today the heart of global anti-Semitism, a veritable factory of anti-Jewish literature, films, blood libels and calls for violence, indeed for another genocide.

The founding charter of Hamas calls not just for the eradication of Israel but for the killing of Jews everywhere. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah welcomes Jewish emigration to Israel — because it makes the killing easier: “If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.’’ And, of course, Iran openly declares as its sacred mission the annihilation of Israel.

For America, Europe and the moderate Arabs, there are powerful reasons having nothing to do with Israel for trying to prevent an apocalyptic, fanatically anti-Western clerical regime in Tehran from getting the bomb: Iranian hegemony, nuclear proliferation (including to terror groups) and elemental national security.

For Israel, however, the threat is of a different order. Direct, immediate and mortal.
And somehow, I don't put much faith in Iran's promises to be good when they're also publicly announcing of their goal to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth. And the Obama administration is trusting their promise not to do what they publicly say they want to do. Krauthammer concludes,
The Iranian bomb is a national security issue, an alliance issue and a regional Middle East issue. But it is also a uniquely Jewish issue because of Israel’s situation as the only state on earth overtly threatened with extinction, facing a potential nuclear power overtly threatening that extinction.

On the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz, mourning dead Jews is easy. And, forgive me, cheap. Want to truly honor the dead? Show solidarity with the living — Israel and its 6 million Jews. Make “never again” more than an empty phrase. It took Nazi Germany seven years to kill 6 million Jews. It would take a nuclear Iran one day.

It has become routine. If the kosher-grocery massacre in Paris hadn’t happened in conjunction with Charlie Hebdo, how much worldwide notice would it have received? As little as did the murder of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse. As little as did the terror attack that killed four at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

Of course, we're used to hypocrisy among our nation's political leaders, but Harry Reid really takes the prize. Now he's babbling about how valuable the filibuster rule is to protect the minority. Please. Just stop.

Hugh Hewitt has put forth a strategy for the Republicans to use in this period before the 2016 campaign produces a GOP nominee for attacking Hillary Clinton. Republicans have the advantage of knowing who the nominee will be and can start the efforts to clarify her image for the American electorate.

The CBO has some grim projections for our national debt.

The Obama administration has just decided that perhaps they do indeed an authorization for the use of military force to fight ISIS.

This is no surprise from a country government by Vladimir Putin who called the break-up of the Soviet Union as the "greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century."
Russian lawmakers will consider a new statement that would condemn an event that happened 25 years ago – the reunification of Germany.

According to Russian news agency Tass, State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin has asked the Duma's Committee on Foreign Affairs to look into condemning the "annexation" of East Germany by West Germany in 1989.
Laugh now, but who would have predicted that Russia would take over the Crimea this past year.

Ian Tuttle notes that the Castros are not showing much love to the U.S. in response to the Obama administration's pledge to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Tuttle titles his post, "If you give a dictator a cookie..." Exactly.

The new Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, is taking on government unions for the way they've been raking in money and benefits while bankrupting the state's treasury. Good luck to him.

Stella Morabito writes in The Federalist to draw the connection between over-anxious, helicopter parents who are reducing children's ability to be self-reliant and those who argue that we need government to provide more and more for what we used to rely on ourselves to achieve.

Obama's budget proposal reveals what Obama is like when he's unleashed from concerns about being reelected.
The president has already proposed — and had to drop — a plan to tax college savings accounts. He’s writing for The Huffington Post. He declared war on “mindless austerity” while pledging fresh tax hikes on banks and the rich to pay for free community college and other goodies. Remember those budget caps put in place in 2011? Obama wants to blast right through them.

It’s a progressive’s dream version of Obama, untethered from earlier centrist leanings and flirtations with “grand bargains” with Republicans on entitlement reform. But the approach also carries significant risks, analysts and some Democrats say.
Obama could wind up alienating moderate swing voters who still tend to worry about debt and deficits, generally oppose higher taxes and fear the economy the president is now celebrating is not really all that great. And the president could wind up bequeathing to nominee-in-waiting Hillary Clinton a Democratic Party that is oriented well to the left of her traditional comfort zone, making an eventual general election campaign more challenging.

Congressional Democrats miss the Clintons.
Congressional Democrats for the past six years have lamented their chilly relationship with President Barack Obama. He doesn’t schmooze enough, they say. He is missing the glad-handing gene that makes politics fun. He just doesn’t get it.

But they are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel: the prospect of a Clinton back in the White House.

Hillary Clinton’s all-but-certain 2016 bid has perked up Democrats, as they once again dream of invites to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, rowdy late-night dinners, overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom and, not least, consultation on policy and politics.
Ah, yes. Those were the days...

Here are some good questions for Hillary Clinton. For example,
How would you explain to a normal American why you insist on charging a public university $300,000 to hear you speak?

-If your first instinct is to point out that $300,000 is a “special university rate,” do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?
-You’ve been in politics long enough to know how poor these optics are, how potentially damaging it could be to one’s political ambitions, so why run that risk for an extra $300,000?
-That may be about six times the U.S. median income, but it’s not a life-changing amount for a someone like you, is it?
-President Obama, who you have praised for his approach to helping the middle class, has said: “At a certain point, you’ve made enough money.” Do you agree or disagree? -How would you define “enough” money? Is it more or less than your current net worth?
-What is the point of demanding $300,000 from a taxpayer-funded university? Why not do it for free, when it’s so easy to make that money elsewhere, by giving a one-hour speech to a group of Goldman Sachs executives, for example, and when doing so would make you look good politically? Is there something about your current financial situation that we don’t know that would explain your voracious quest for cash?
-Will you be able to maintain your current lifestyle requirements on a presidential salary of only $400,000 a year?
On the same note, what would liberals say about a Republican who got so many free rides on privately-owned jets?
Hillary Clinton took more than 200 privately chartered flights at taxpayer expense during her eight years in the U.S. Senate, sometimes using the jets of corporations and major campaign donors as she racked up $225,756 in flight costs.

Clinton, 67, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, reported the travel in official filings with the Senate. The records were provided to Bloomberg News by a Republican operative.

Some of the companies whose planes she used included Coca-Cola Co., Citigroup Inc. and Saban Capital Group Inc.

While the flights fell within congressional rules and were not out of the ordinary for senators at the time, they could play into the emerging Republican line of attack that Clinton’s wealth and years in government office have left her out of touch with the voters she’ll court on the campaign trail.
I'm sure there are a lot of Democrats who are unenthusiastic about the notion of Hillary Clinton as their party's prohibitive nominee. Probably about as unexcited Republicans were about Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. But that's the way politics often works out - we end up with having to choose the least bad candidate. And, as Jay Cost writes, the Democrats have a "shockingly weak" bench.
At this point, the only three other candidates seriously considering the race are: Martin O’Malley, former Maryland governor who is decidedly lackluster; Jim Webb, the quirky one-term senator who -- oh by the way! -- used to work in the Reagan Administration (Democratic voters will love that); and Bernie Sanders, who does not even call himself a Democrat (he’s a socialist).

Why are the only three challengers such fourth-raters? Peruse the sitting governors who are Democrats. Don’t worry, it won’t take you very long. You’ll see that none of them could be serious contenders. They either hail from small states, were just recently elected, were barely reelected, or are quirky/problematic.

Now take a gander at the party’s Senate caucus. If you squint really hard you might imagine some of them could be presidential material, but not really. The overwhelming majority are too old, too dull, too new, or barely won reelection. Elizabeth Warren is the only exception out of these 45 senators, and she looks like she is not going to run.

The media, in their relentless focus on the micro-political cycle (not to mention their eager cheerleading for the Democrats), are representing the party as being in a strong position. “Obama is up in the polls (a little bit)! Hillary is going to raise lots of money! They’re back!”

But look past those two, and you see precious little in terms of quality would-be candidates. On an aggregate level -- combining House, Senate, state governments -- the Democrats have not been so weak since 1928.