Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cruising the Web

This is really one of the funnier efforts by the administration to demonize Israel. The WSj reported yesterday that Israel had spied on the nuclear talks between Iran and the U.S. And the administration is just so very angry. Not that Israel might have been spying since we all know that countries spy on each other. If we hadn't known that, Edward Snowden surely made it clear that the U.S. spies on our allies. And Israel denies that they spied on either the U.S. or its allies. As the story states, they say they got their information through other means.
Israeli officials denied spying directly on U.S. negotiators and said they received their information through other means, including close surveillance of Iranian leaders receiving the latest U.S. and European offers. European officials, particularly the French, also have been more transparent with Israel about the closed-door discussions than the Americans, Israeli and U.S. officials said.
And how did the U.S. find out about this operation? Well, the U.S. was spying on Israel.
The White House discovered the operation, in fact, when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks, officials briefed on the matter said.

No, it isn't any intelligence efforts by the Israelis that have angered the administration.
The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.

“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.
Oh, no! How despicable of Israel to share with the U.S. Congress details that the Obama administration is desperately trying to keep from them.

So how did the WSJ get this story? It's rather clear that it was leaked to them by U.S. officials since those are the people attributed throughout with the information. Why would they leak this story to the media? It sounds rather like the administration wanted to put out there another reason for why they so despise Netanyahu's government.

But why shouldn't the Israeli government want to know what was going on in negotiations that so directly impact their country? And isn't it quite telling that the Obama administration tried to keep them out of the loop?
Americans shouldn’t be surprised, said a person familiar with the Israeli practice, since U.S. intelligence agencies helped the Israelis build a system to listen in on high-level Iranian communications.

As secret talks with Iran progressed into 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies monitored Israel’s communications to see if the country knew of the negotiations. Mr. Obama didn’t tell Mr. Netanyahu until September 2013.

Israeli officials, who said they had already learned about the talks through their own channels, told their U.S. counterparts they were upset about being excluded. “ ‘Did the administration really believe we wouldn’t find out?’ ” Israeli officials said, according to a former U.S. official.
Maybe if the Obama administration hadn't been so determined to keep Congress out of the loop, Israel wouldn't have had to take care of letting legislators know what Obama is up to. I understand that, during delicate negotiations, U.S. diplomats don't want to share information with 535 members of Congress. But a president who cared at all about getting Congressional leaders on board for a controversial agreement would keep at least the leaders of both parties and heads of the Foreign Relations committees informed. Woodrow Wilson arrogantly thought he didn't need to talk to Republicans at all about his negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference. That mistake resulted in the Senate refusing to ratify the Treaty of Versailles which resulted from those negotiations. If he'd brought some Republicans along with him, he might have experienced a different outcome. If Congress does manage to block this terrible deal, Obama can look to his own arrogance in trying to conclude a deal while keeping Congress out of the picture. And that is why the administration is so offended at Netanyahu's temerity.

And here is yet another sign of the fatuousness of this administration's approach to Iran. Guy Benson summarizes,
If you ask the White House, any effort to hold Iran accountable for its actions poses an unacceptable threat to the current, fragile nuclear negotiations. The regime violates the interim agreement? It was just an accident, move along. Congress asserts its authority by demanding a role in the process? Outrageous meddling. Increased sanctions are threatened if Tehran walks away from the table? A veto-worthy provocation. France warns against giving away the store? "Not constructive." Brand new demands from the mullahs? We'll deal with it. Will the Obama administration also chastise UN inspectors for attempting to do their jobs? Iran's evil, illegitimate, brutal regime is playing hardball because they know whom they're dealing with across the table. That's why they're evidently quite confident that they'll also get away with this:
An Iranian official on Tuesday rebuked the chief of the U.N. atomic agency for demanding snap inspections of Iran's nuclear sites, saying the request hindered efforts to reach an agreement with world powers, state TV reported.
Oh, of course we should trust the mullahs not to lie about any of their nuclear program. It's not as if they haven't lied to the IAEA before. Bret Stephens wrote about this in November.
Does it matter what sort of deal—or further extension, or non-deal—ultimately emerges from the endless parleys over Iran’s nuclear program? Probably not. Iran came to the table cheating on its nuclear commitments. It continued to cheat on them throughout the interim agreement it agreed to last year. And it will cheat on any undertakings it signs.

We knew this, know it and will come to know it all over again. But what’s at stake in these negotiations isn’t their outcome, assuming there ever is an outcome. It’s the extent to which the outcome facilitates, or obstructs, our willingness to continue to fool ourselves about the consequences of an Iran with a nuclear weapon.

The latest confirmation of the obvious comes to us courtesy of a Nov. 17 report from David Albright and his team at the scrupulously nonpartisan Institute for Science and International Security. The ISIS study, based on findings from the International Atomic Energy Agency, concluded that Iran was stonewalling U.N. inspectors on the military dimensions of its program. It noted that Tehran had tested a model for an advanced centrifuge, in violation of the 2013 interim agreement. And it cited Iran for trying to conceal evidence of nuclear-weapons development at a military facility called Parchin.

“By failing to address the IAEA’s concerns, Iran is complicating, and even threatening, the achievement of a long term nuclear deal,” the report notes dryly.

These are only Iran’s most recent evasions, piled atop two decades of documented nuclear deception. Nothing new there. But what are we to make of an American administration that is intent on providing cover for Iran’s coverups? “The IAEA has verified that Iran has complied with its commitments,” Wendy Sherman, the top U.S. nuclear negotiator, testified in July to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It has done what it promised to do.” John Kerry went one better, telling reporters Monday that “Iran has lived up” to its commitments.

The statement is false: Yukiya Amano, the director general of the IAEA, complained last week that Iran had “not provided any explanations that enable the Agency to clarify the outstanding practical measures” related to suspected work on weaponization. Since when did trust but verify become whitewash and hornswoggle?
Was there ever a U.S. president so eager to exist in a fantasy world just so he could pretend to produce some landmark bit of policy that will be doomed to disaster?

And now the White House is shrugging off the Ayatollah Khamenei chanting this weekend "Death to America." Apparently, whatever Netanyahu may or may not have said about a Palestinian state is much more dismaying to this administration than what the Ayatollah says while supposedly negotiating in good faith.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to acknowledge that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had backtracked on his pre-election rhetoric against a two-state solution.

The administration appears to have found a talking point that can help it create further separation between the two countries and have not changed their stance since Netanyahu’s views changed.

While Netanyahu has expressed support for a two-state solution, so long as Palestine splits with Hamas, the White House has said they will “reassess” its position with Israel.

Jim Acosta questioned Josh Earnest on why the White House has not accepted Netanyahu’s redaction.

“The president has said things that he has reversed over the years,” Acosta said.

“Well, as I said before, words matter,” Earnest said.

Iran’s Ayatollah led thousands to chant “Death to America” just days ago while the countries continue to negotiate a nuclear deal Israel opposes.

“Do those comments give this White House any pause about moving forward with a nuclear deal with that country?” Acosta asked Earnest.

Earnest said the comments only underscore the need for a deal. When pressed to explain the Ayatollah’s comments, White House officials dismissed it as pandering to a base.
So if Netanyahu said something in the heat of a democratic election that may have been pandering to his base but the administration doesn't like, that leads them to reassess their policies toward Israel. But chanting "Death to America"is simply domestic pandering that the White House can ignore.

Allahpundit wonders if
they’re now so invested in a legacy-building detente with Iran that they’re willing to spin “death to America” rhetoric from the mullahs to get it done.
It would seem so. Doesn't that tell us all we need to know about this administration's approach to Iran?

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki tries to elucidate their approach to Iran in a typical for this administration incoherent fashion.
I would say, one, as a reminder, even if there is a deal with Iran, it doesn’t mean we let slide or forget, whether it’s the comments, the – or more importantly the actions, state sponsorship of terrorism, their human rights record, the fact that they’re holding American citizens – they remain – they continue to hold American citizens, including a Washington Post reporter in their jails. I mean, these are all issues that we remain very concerned about. Those concerns are not going to be soothed by a deal.

But we also feel that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is not only in our interests, it’s in the interests of the international community, and that’s why we’re pursuing it. It’s not about trust.
Got that? It's not as if we trust these terrorist-supporting, America-hating, American hostage-holding Iranians. We just want to make an agreement with this government we don't trust.

Given this administration's failures in foreign policy, Thomas Sowell wonders what accomplishments Hillary Clinton brings to her argument that she deserves to sit in the Oval Office.
Before Barack Obama entered the White House and appointed Mrs. Clinton Secretary of State, Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq had notified their higher ups, stationed in Pakistan, that their cause was lost in Iraq and that there was no point sending more men there.

Hosni Mubarak was in charge in Egypt. He posed no threat to American or Western interests in the Middle East or to Christians within Egypt or to Israel. But the Obama administration threw its weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood, which took over and began terrorizing Christians in Egypt and promoting hostility to Israel.

In Libya next door, the Qaddafi regime had already given up its weapons of mass destruction, after they saw what happened to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But President Obama's foreign policy, carried out by Secretary of State Clinton, got Qaddafi removed, after which Libya became a terrorist haven where an American ambassador was killed, for the first time in decades.

The rationale for getting rid of Middle East leaders who posed no threat to American interests was that they were undemocratic and their people were restless. But there are no democracies in the Middle East, except for Israel. Moreover, the people were restless in Iran and Syria, and the Obama-Clinton foreign policy did nothing to support those who were trying to overthrow these regimes.

It would be only fair to balance this picture with foreign policy triumphs of the Obama-Clinton team. But there are none. Not in the Middle East, not in Europe, where the Russians have invaded the Crimea, and not in Asia, where both China and North Korea are building up threatening military forces, while the Obama administration has been cutting back on American military forces.

Hillary Clinton became an iconic figure by feeding the media and the left the kind of rhetoric they love. Barack Obama did the same and became president. Neither had any concrete accomplishments besides rhetoric beforehand, and both have had the opposite of accomplishments after taking office.

They have something else in common. They attract the votes of those people who vote for demographic symbolism -- "the first black president" to be followed by "the first woman president" -- and neither to be criticized, lest you be denounced for racism or sexism.

Does this surprise anyone?
Not long before he became governor of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe received special treatment on behalf of his electric-car company from a top official at the Department of Homeland Security, according to a new report from the department’s inspector general.

McAuliffe was among several politically powerful individuals from both parties, including Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), seeking special visas for foreign investors through a program administered by the department. But intervention on behalf of McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive company by Alejandro Mayorkas, now the department’s No. 2 official, “was unprecedented,” according to the report.

So much for the Obama budget.
President Obama’s budget suffered its latest ignominious defeat when the Senate rejected it on a 98-1 vote Tuesday evening, capping off the first votes of the budget season.

Democrats objected, saying the plan wasn’t really Mr. Obama’s, but Republicans said it had all the same numbers as the president’s blueprint, and so the vote counts as a rejection of his fiscal year 2016 plan.

“This is the president’s proposed budget,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who forced the vote by offering the amendment, complete with the tax hikes, spending increases and deficit targets Mr. Obama had projected in the document he sent to Congress last month.

Rejecting presidential budgets has become standard in recent years. The Senate defeated Mr. Obama’s fiscal year 2011 plan by a 97-0 vote and his 2012 plan by a 99-0 vote.
It has gotten harder and harder to teach the budget process to my students. There is the process as laid out by law of what should happen, but that hasn't happened for years. And when I discuss how the OMB director puts together a president's budget and works on that for months, I also have to tell them that it is usually DOA when it gets to Capitol Hill. Much like the whole legislative process, I have to teach my students the procedures as they should be and what actually goes on. Teaching AP Government is an exercise in cognitive dissonance.

Well, this makes you feel secure, doesn't it?
Could Lois Lerner still take a look at your tax returns on IRS computers? It sounds preposterous, but a new watchdog report says former IRS employees still have access to IRS computer systems long after they have no official business with the information. The report is by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. The GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. In the case of IRS security, the report says not well.

This report cites significant deficiencies in the security of IRS financial reporting systems. Millions of Americans who are legally required to file taxes are fearful about fraud. The report says the IRS needs to continue improving controls over financial and taxpayer data. In the case of former IRS workers with continuing access to IRS data systems, they need to be cut off.

One co-author of the report said the IRS horde of taxpayer data can be used by identity thieves. The timing couldn’t be worse for the IRS. The IRS is failing to secure its massive computer systems, leaving private taxpayer data vulnerable to fraudsters and hackers, the new report from the GAO reveals.

Lisa Schiffren explains why Hillary Clinton is not the future.
It’s hard to forget that story, told by the Arkansas state troopers, about Bill and Hillary fighting over her desire to put a pool in the Governor’s mansion, at taxpayer expense, in the nation’s second poorest state. Bill thought it unseemly. Ms. Clinton screamed, “Everyone else has one.”

Remember the fraudulent Whitewater real estate deals, and the famous commodities trade, in which Ms. Clinton “invested” $1000 with a friend who magically turned it into $100,000? And young Mrs. Clinton’s frugality in donating Bill’s used underwear to Goodwill—and taking a tax deduction of a dollar a pair?

Now, with a net worth around $100 million, the Clintons’ income comes through the Clinton Foundation. The ex-president collects hundreds of thousands of dollars speaking to shady businessmen and corrupt third world regimes, among others. The fact that the Secretary of State of the United States found it acceptable to go hat in hand to kings, despots and oligarchs to beg for her family operation boggles the moral sense. It is disgraceful. That it doesn’t generate universal disgust is a legacy of … the Clintons. We are inured to the way they have sold the American presidency by taking money that guarantees access and perhaps future favors. It’s a safe bet that emails on the private server confirm such deals.

America has known Hillary Clinton for 24 years. We met her in 1991. She dresses better these days, and has an air of command. But there are no hidden depths left. She is a political animal, through and through. Elevating her to higher office won’t unleash wisdom, original ideas, or more grace than we’ve seen this quarter century.

Finally, on the ‘first woman’ matter, HRC graduated from Wellesley College in 1969, 45 years ago, at the height of social revolution. She was ambitious and radical. But as a feminist she lacked the courage of her convictions, or she wouldn’t have pursued power through marriage, especially one so sexually humiliating.

Today’s world is peopled with women who graduated in those decades, and pursued serious careers. They have deep experience in the professions, business, and politics. We have female Senators and Governors, who built their own political operations, have measurable achievements, and honest bank balances. A few have wartime military experience. None has faced multiple hearings over legal and ethical lapses. One of them will be the first female president.

Hmmm. I wonder if this quote from Justice Kennedy's testimony before the House committee on the Supreme Court's budget may signify how he's leaning in King v. Burwell, in which one of the outcomes would have the Court leave it in the hands of Congress to fix the mistake in how the Affordable Care Act was written. The administration has urged them not to do that because of the difficulty this Congress would have in passing such legislation.
It is not novel or new for justices to be concerned that they are making so many decisions that affect a democracy. And we think a responsible, efficient, responsive legislative and executive branch in the political system will alleviate some of that pressure. We routinely decide cases involving federal statutes, and we say, “Well, if this is wrong, the Congress will fix it.” But then we hear that Congress can’t pass the bill one way or the other, that there’s gridlock. And some people say, “Well that should affect the way we interpret the statutes.” That seems to me a wrong proposition. We have to assume that we have three fully functioning branches of the government, that are committed to proceed in good faith and with good will toward one another to resolve the problems of this republic.
Might that be a hint as to what Justice Kennedy thinks of the administration's argument? As always, who can predict how Justice Kennedy might decide?