Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cruising the Web

The Obama administration is conceding itself to an almost complete surrender to Iran in nuclear negotiations.
The latest round of nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and its Western partners and Iran ended today in Geneva without agreement. But it’s clear that the Obama administration is hoping that its latest concessions will entice Iran to finally sign a document in the coming weeks that could somehow be interpreted as a foreign-policy victory for a president badly in need of one. To support this notion of an impending deal, a “senior administration official” briefed the press on the outlines of the latest proposal delivered to the Iranians. But while it seems like something Tehran ought to pounce on if it really wants to “get right with the world,” in the president’s words, the details tell us more about the administration’s desperation than about progress toward an accord that would conclusively end the Iranian nuclear threat. After several previous Western retreats that had gradually ensured that Iran could keep its nuclear infrastructure, the latest concession in the form of a phased program will eventually grant the Islamist regime the freedom to do anything it wants....

One is that like past concessions giving Iran the right to enrich uranium, albeit at low levels and then the one authorizing the regime to hold onto thousands of centrifuges and the option to keep its nuclear stockpile in a non-active state, this latest retreat isn’t the last one Iran will expect the West to make on its way to an agreement. The dynamic of the negotiations that President Obama has authorized is clear. Whenever Iran says no to a Western demand, the U.S. simply says OK and gives in. At this stage, and with no sign that the Americans will ever walk away from talks that have already been extended three times, the Iranians clearly think they can keep negotiating indefinitely until the U.S. eventually agrees to a deal that would give Iran everything it wants, seriously endangering the security of the West but also that of Israel and moderate Arab nations.

The second problem is that, as last week’s report from the International Atomic Energy Agency stated, Iran is still stonewalling the UN body’s efforts to discover the facts about their progress toward weaponization of their nuclear research. The West simply has no idea how close the Iranians have gotten to a bomb. They also have no idea how much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is unknown to them.
But, apparently, the real threat is Bibi Netanyahu giving a speech to Congress about the dangers of Iran.

Alan Dershowitz writes today about how disgusting it is for Democrats to boycott Netanyahu's speech to Congress.
Congress has every right to invite, even over the president’s strong objection, any world leader or international expert who can assist its members in formulating appropriate responses to the current deal being considered with Iran regarding its nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, it is the responsibility of every member of Congress to listen to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who probably knows more about this issue than any world leader, because it threatens the very existence of the nation state of the Jewish people.

Congress has the right to disagree with the prime minister, but the idea that some members of Congress will not give him the courtesy of listening violates protocol and basic decency to a far greater extent than anything Mr. Netanyahu is accused of doing for having accepted an invitation from Congress.

Recall that President Obama sent British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby Congress with phone calls last month against conditionally imposing new sanctions on Iran if the deal were to fail. What the president objects to is not that Mr. Netanyahu will speak to Congress, but the content of what he intends to say. This constitutes a direct intrusion on the power of Congress and on the constitutional separation of powers.

Juan Williams wrote this weekend why Justice Clarence Thomas is "America's most influential thinker on race."
The principal point Justice Thomas has made in a variety of cases is that black people deserve to be treated as independent, competent, self-sufficient citizens. He rejects the idea that 21st-century government and the courts should continue to view blacks as victims of a history of slavery and racism.

Instead, in an era with a rising number of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and immigrants, he cheers personal responsibility as the basis of equal rights. In his concurring opinion in Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena (1995), he made the case against government set-asides for minority businesses by arguing that “racial paternalism and its unintended consequences can be as poisonous and pernicious as any other form of discrimination.” The Constitution, he said, bans discrimination by “those who wish to oppress a race or by those who have a sincere desire to help.”

In the same vein he contends that people who insist on racial diversity as a worthy principle are hiding assumptions of black inferiority. “After all, if separation itself is a harm, and if integration therefore is the only way that blacks can receive a proper education, then there must be something inferior about blacks,” he wrote in his concurring opinion in Missouri v. Jenkins (1995). “Under this theory, segregation injures blacks because blacks, when left on their own, cannot achieve. To my way of thinking that conclusion is the result of a jurisprudence based upon a theory of black inferiority.”

Justice Thomas holds that quality education should be the focus of educators for children of all races and argues there is no proof that integration necessarily improves education. Black leaders, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Thurgood Marshall, he has noted, were educated at black schools.

He also makes the case that diversity in school admissions has never been proven to raise black achievement to the level of people admitted with no special consideration. “Racial imbalance is not segregation,” he wrote in a 2007 case ending Seattle and Louisville plans to reverse racial segregation in schools, “and the mere incantation of terms like re-segregation and remediation cannot make up the difference.” Federal judges, he said, are “not social engineers” charged with creating plans to achieve racial equality.

As he wrote in his concurring opinion in Fisher, even if schools have the best intentions and justify lower standards for blacks seeking college admission in the name of reparations for past injury, “racial discrimination is never benign. . . . There can be no doubt that the University’s discrimination injures white and Asian applicants who are denied admission because of their race.”

Stephen Green ponders our nation's military leadership which was bragging to reporters about plans to launch an offensive against ISIL in the Spring.
What we have is a president counseling “strategic patience” against a foe which has gone from “the jayvee” to a regional power (and an international purveyor of religiously themed snuff films) in less than 18 months. Rather than go in whole hog and killing off ISIL immediately (which would not be terribly difficult), Obama is squandering away the last of our stature and standing.

Months of airstrikes against ISIL has led to… its further expansion. “Strategic patience” has cost the north of Iraq. “Working with our allies” means castigating the Egyptians for trying to halt ISIL from expanding further in Libya, and it means withholding targeting data from Jordan as it attempts to avenge the murder-by-immolation of one of its Air Force pilots. But don’t you worry, folks — Obama is going to retake Mosul in April. Or perhaps in August. Whenever.

But don’t be too hard on the president, he’s just spitballing here.

Yes, that’s it — he’s spitballing. There’s no concerted effort to actually accomplish anything, because other than ridiculous, idle chatter about “jobs,” Obama still doesn’t have a concept for how to wage this war. He’s tried decimation-by-drone, but that has hardly kept al Qaeda “on the run.” He’s tried an air campaign, but never really committed to it. He’s sent troops into Iraq to train what’s left of the Iraqi Army, but not to fight alongside it. He’s forged a coalition of some 60 countries, but won’t lead them and sometimes actively works (as with Egypt and Jordan) against them.

In this atmosphere, a tiny Somalia-based al Qaeda offshoot feels strong enough to make threats against the Mall of America, which our own people are treating seriously enough to advise Americans to be “particularly careful” when shopping there...

The environment we’re in? When al Qaeda struck on 9/11/2001, they did so secretly, taking advantage of holes in our immigration system and of bad practices in our domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Today’s jihadis go on TV to scare the pants off us, just to see what happens — and, hell, who knows, maybe even actually blow up a mall. We’ve reached a point now where a jihadi operating out of war-torn Mosul may have more reason to feel safe and secure than a winter sale shopper in suburban Minneapolis. Well, at least until April. Or perhaps August. Whenever.

Robert Tracinski examines how Scott Walker's success despite not having a college degree threatens the "existing social order" of liberal elites.
The real purpose of higher education is to learn the knowledge and skills required for success later in life. So if someone has already become a success, whether or not he went to college is irrelevant. If he has achieved the end, what does it matter that he didn’t do it by way of that specific means? But for the mainstream elites, particularly those at the top level in the media, a college education is not simply a means to an end. It is itself a key attainment that confers a special social status.

There are no real class divisions in America except one: the college-educated versus the non-college educated. It helps to think of this in terms borrowed from the world of a Jane Austen novel: graduating from college is what makes you a “gentleman.” (A degree from an Ivy League school makes you part of the aristocracy.) It qualifies you to marry the right people and hold the right kind of positions. It makes you respectable. And even if you don’t achieve much in the world of work and business, even if you’re still working as a barista ten years later, you still retain that special status. It’s a modern form of “genteel poverty,” which is considered superior to the regular kind of poverty.

If you don’t have a college degree, by contrast, you are looked down upon as a vulgar commoner who is presumptuously attempting to rise above his station. Which is pretty much what they’re saying about Scott Walker. This prejudice is particularly strong when applied to anyone from the right, whose retrograde views are easily attributed to his lack of attendance at the gentleman’s finishing school that is the university.

That brings us to the heart of the matter. I have observed before that left-leaning politics has become “part of the cultural class identity of college-educated people,” a prejudice that lingers long after they have graduated. You can see how this goes the other way, too. If to be college-educated is to have left-leaning views—then to have the “correct” political values, one must be college-educated.

You can see now what is fueling the reaction on the left. If Scott Walker can run for president, he is challenging the basic cultural class identity of the mainstream left. He is more than a threat to the Democrats’ hold on political power. He is a threat to the existing social order.
All the more reason why conservatives are intrigued by Walker. And the Washington Post's story about the demise of public employee unions in Wisconsin after Walker's reforms is yet another reason for conservatives to celebrate Walker. How predictable that membership in such unions declines once members aren't coerced into joining.
The [previous] law required most public employees to pay more for health insurance and to pay more into retirement savings, resulting in an 8 to 10 percent drop in take-home pay. To help compensate for the loss, Anliker said he took an additional 10-hour-a-week job.

“Everyone’s on their own island now,” he said. “If you do a good job, everything will take care of itself. The money I’d spend on dues is way more valuable to buy groceries for my family.”

Rahm Emanuel's term as mayor of Chicago has been a disaster. It's been a humbling experience for such an arrogant man.

Phil Gramm proposes a solution for Republicans to enact if the Supreme Court rules against federal subsidies to states that didn't set up exchanges.
I believe that strategy is what I would call “the freedom option.” Every American should have the right to decide not to participate in ObamaCare: If you like ObamaCare and its subsidies, you can keep it. If you don’t, you are free to buy the health insurance that fits your needs.

The freedom option would fulfill the commitment the president made over and over again about ObamaCare: If you like your health insurance you can keep it. If Republicans crafted a simple bill that guarantees the right of individuals and businesses to opt out of ObamaCare, buy the health insurance they choose from any willing seller (with risk pools completely separate from ObamaCare), millions of Americans would rejoice and exercise this freedom. Such a proposal would be easy for Republicans to articulate and defend. And it would be very difficult for Democrats to attack.

Of all potential Republican proposals, the freedom option seems the most likely to garner the six Democratic votes in the Senate needed to break a filibuster, pass the bill and put it on the president’s desk. If the freedom option were combined with a provision that allowed federal-exchange subsidies or state actions setting up state exchanges, existing providers and recipients of subsidies would not be threatened.

The opposition would come solely from those who understand that ObamaCare is built on coercion—and that unless young, healthy Americans are forced into the program to be exploited with above-market insurance rates, the subsidies will prove unaffordable. That will be an exceedingly difficult case to make to the public.

By extinguishing coercion, the freedom option would put ObamaCare on the path to extinction. Without the ability to exploit the young and healthy, the Affordable Care Act will collapse under its own funding weight, all but guaranteeing a 2017 revision of the entire law.
There are other proposals out there for Republicans if the Court rules against the administration. Republicans need to make it very public that they have a plan to go forth at such a moment so that the administration can't predict calamities as a result of a decision adverse to them.

Seth Mandel remembers the highpoint of Christiemania back in 2012 when people were begging him to run for president. Now his time has come and gone. As Mandel writes, timing is everything and Christie missed his time and he could save himself a lot of effort, money, and humiliation by not running this time.
Another aspect of Christie’s fall from conservative grace was the quality of the field in each election. In 2012, Christie was not the first “savior” that activists and donors thought might rescue the GOP from a bevy of weak candidates. There was also, among voters on the right, a sense of urgency in seeking to prevent a second Obama term. This time around, it’s an open seat. And the class of prospective candidates is strong.

But the key point is that we knew all this years ago. It was never going to be a surprise that stronger candidates would emerge in 2016, that Christie’s reelection campaign would have to tack to the center, that governing New Jersey requires a certain amount of cooperation with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, that Christie’s tough-guy approach was bound to find a more sympathetic target than public unions, or that style-centric flavors of the week are soon eclipsed by the next new thing.

That last one is something Barack Obama understood, to his credit. Could Obama’s career have survived losing in 2008 or passing on the race in a nod to Hillary’s “turn”? Sure. But at that point, he was nothing but a speech. And that speech would have been quite stale by the time 2016 rolled around. He wouldn’t have been the young, JFK-like smasher of the status quo. And his essential boringness, bitterness, and lack of knowledge of the issues would have been impossible to hide for another eight years.

2008 was Obama’s moment. 2012 was Christie’s. It doesn’t seem fair for Christie to be punished for his display of humility. But that’s presidential politics. Timing is everything.