Friday, March 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

Sorry for the delay in posting, but it's Spring Break and I get to sleep extra late instead of my usual 5:30 AM wake-up call. And one must have priorities and with three Triangle teams in the Sweet Sixteen, I am spending a lot of my free time reading NCAA analysis and watching videos. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed for NC State and Duke tonight well enjoying UNC's loss last night as well as a somewhat forlorn hope that the Irish can down Kentucky tomorrow night.

Well, good riddance. Harry Reid will not run for reelection next year. He was probably going to have a lot of trouble winning the election and leading the minority is not that fun anymore. Reid's legacy is a dirty one. He has tarnished the Senate and left it worse than he found it.
His strategy of “filling the amendment tree” blocked Republican senators from offering their own amendments to force Democrats into politically embarrassing debates and votes. When frustrated Republicans attempted to force Reid to consider their amendments by voting against his motions to close debate, Reid accused the GOP of “filibustering” the important work of the Senate.

Prompted by the liberal wing of the conference, Reid changed the Senate’s longstanding filibuster rules in 2013 to further weaken the minority party. Young progressives had had the filibuster in their sights for years, even though some Democrats were skeptical that getting rid of the tool was a good idea long-term—Democrats like Harry Reid, once. “If some had their way, and overruled the Senate parliamentarian, and the rules of the Senate were illegally changed so that the majority ruled tyrannically, then the Senate​—​billed to all as the world’s greatest deliberative body​—​would cease to exist,” he said in 2008.

Reid’s slash-and-burn strategy was effective at getting major liberal policy goals passed. While Democrats’ Senate ranks dropped in both the 2010 and 2012 elections because of these policy gains, Reid held on just long enough to stop Republicans from being a fully effective check on Obama. But his iron-fisted control over the process also hurt red-state Democrats’ abilities to distinguish themselves from their party when political winds shifted toward the GOP. Former senators Blanche Lincoln, Russ Feingold, Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Udall, and Mark Begich can partially thank Reid for their current titles. The Democratic conference Reid will leave behind is smaller and more liberal than the one he took over in 2005.

Charles C. W. Cooke writes about Reid's so-called "service" to the U.S. Senate.
Today we will hear a lot about Reid’s “service” to the Senate and to the American people. Ha! “Service” indeed. The truth of the matter is that Harry Reid is a stone-cold killer who has damaged Washington considerably, who has elevated his own political preferences above the institution he was elected to protect, and who has made worse the partisan rancor that our self-described enlightened class claims to abhor. The greatest service he can do America is to go away.

From a purely Machiavellian perspective, there is a strong case to be made that Reid has been the most effective federal politician in the United States over the last decade or so. In order to protect the president and to advance his movements’ goals, Reid has been willing to diminish the influence, power, and effectiveness of his own institution; in order to thwart his opponents, he has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to play dirty — a capacity that sets him apart even from other harsh players such as Chuck Schumer, Ted Cruz, and Dick Durbin; and, in order to satisfy his own need to feel powerful, he has perfected the scorched earth approach that has kept Obama’s presidency on life support since November of 2010 (in my estimation, the Democratic party’s success during the 2013 shutdown was the product of Reid’s obstinacy and resolve, not Obama’s).
Cooke links to this reminder from Ed Morrissey.
By any objective measure, Reid has been a blight on the Senate and on Congress. He declared the Iraq war “lost” while Americans were still fighting there, and he derailed a budget process that had worked well before his ascent into leadership. He stripped the Senate of one of its debate functions after sabotaging the amendment process, and nearly destroyed regular order. On top of that, Reid used his post to commit McCarthyite character assassination of Mitt Romney, claiming to have inside knowledge that Romney hadn’t paid taxes in ten years, a smear that turned out to be utterly false. He has been a malevolent force for years in American politics, and nothing he did in Washington will improve the place as much as his leaving it.

Even is disgusted with the administration's attempt to pretend that their policy in Yemen has not been an absolute failure.
If this sounds like a disaster, that's because it is. The Obama administration, which just earlier this week was touting its "Yemen model" as a success in counterterrorism strategy, has not been eager to own up to the country's disintegration. And that has come out in a series of muddled, highly cringe-worthy statements given to the press to explain how the US is handling the crisis. It will not leave you feeling confident in the administration's grasp of what to do about Yemen's chaos.
Read some of those quotes. You will cringe and be totally disgusted.

Even our European allies dislike the deal that Obama is negotiating with Iran. So that means that the administration has take out their anger on....our allies. But of course.
Efforts by the Obama administration to stem criticism of its diplomacy with Iran have included threats to nations involved in the talks, including U.S. allies, according to Western sources familiar with White House efforts to quell fears it will permit Iran to retain aspects of its nuclear weapons program.

A series of conversations between top American and French officials, including between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, have seen Americans engage in behavior described as bullying by sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The disagreement over France’s cautious position in regard to Iran threatens to erode U.S. relations with Paris, sources said.

Tension between Washington and Paris comes amid frustration by other U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. The White House responded to this criticism by engaging in public campaigns analysts worry will endanger American interests.

Western policy analysts who spoke to the Free Beacon, including some with close ties to the French political establishment, were dismayed over what they saw as the White House’s willingness to sacrifice its relationship with Paris as talks with Iran reach their final stages.

Watch White House spokesman decline to answer whether the President views Netanyahu in "the same light" he views Vladimir Putin.

As Peter Wehner points out, Obama has been obsessive about two goals regardless of the consequences: weakening Israel and emptying out Gitmo.
But what made this particular case even more problematic is that Bergdahl was freed in exchange for five high-value Taliban figures who had been held captive in Guantanamo Bay. As several outlets and individuals have pointed out, getting back a soldier who was almost certainly a deserter was simply a pretext. The main goal of President Obama is to empty Guantanamo Bay. It is something the president declared he wanted to do during his first day in office and it’s something he is committed to doing before his last day in office. Swapping Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders–several of whom are trying to return to the battlefield so they can kill more Americans–was the convenient (if explosively contentious) excuse. The Wall Street Journal reminds us that Mr. Obama told NBC that emptying Gitmo “is going to involve, on occasion, releasing folks who we may not trust but we can’t convict.”

So we have a president with at least two obsessions: One of them is attacking the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and weakening the Jewish State of Israel; the second is to empty Guantanamo Bay and release terrorists committed to killing as many Americans as possible.

We’ve never seen anything quite like this president.

Josh Kraushaar notes that the Democrats have set up problems for their 2016 Senate races as they try to figure out what their party stands for.
And already, there are several primaries that would pit the Democratic Party's pragmatic liberal wing against the true-blue progressives. Democrats may not end up with significantly more contested primaries than in the past, but the ideological stakes will be higher. The battles are shaping up to be over core issues splitting the party: entitlements, support for Israel, national security, and others. The intraparty divisions that President Obama has suppressed and Hillary Clinton has avoided will be litigated down the ballot, and the stakes won't be for control of the Senate, but for control of the party's future....

The prospect of a few competitive Democratic primaries normally wouldn't be worth noting. They pale in comparison to the messy, consequential fights that have divided the GOP over the last several election cycles. But what makes these looming battles relevant now is that they're a sign of the creeping demand for ideological purity among Democrats, as well as of the declining role of leadership in being able to shape the races to their liking. These are the same factors that led to the recent Republican skirmishes.

In case you have heard a lot of liberal outrage over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Mike Pence just signed, here is an explanation of what the law really says and can do. It's amusing how a law modeled on a federal law that passed unanimously in 1993 and was signed by Bill Clinton is now seen as so very outrageous.

Tom Gross explains what a "shocking breach" it was for how the Pentagon declassified its analysis of Israel's nuclear program last month.
In the declassified document, the Pentagon reveals supposed details about Israel’s deterrence capabilities, but it kept sections on France, Germany, and Italy classified. Those sections are blacked out in the document.

The two main exceptions in the international media that wrote about the declassification at the time were the state-funded Iranian regime station Press TV and the state-funded Russian station RT.

Both these media were rumored to have been tipped off about this obscure report at the time by persons in Washington. (Both the RT and PressTV stories falsely claim that the U.S. gave Israel help in building a hydrogen bomb. This is incorrect.)

Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons. To do so might spark a regional nuclear arms race, and eventual nuclear confrontation.

The declassification is a serious breach of decades’ old understandings concerning this issue between Israel and its north American and certain European allies.
Does anyone think it was a coincidence that they declassified the Pentagon analysis of Israel's program, but not that on France, Germany, and Italy? And that it would take place right at the time of controversy over Netanyahu's speech before Congress.

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As Bowe Bergdahl is cited for desertion, it isn't irrelevant to note all the Democrats who praised the swap of Taliban prisoners for Berghdahl.
Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state, defended the deal in the days following. Clinton dismissed claims at the time that Bergdahl had deserted as "irrelevant." "We bring our people home," she said. Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice said Bergdahl had served with "honor and distinction."

Congressional leaders were effusive in their praise as well.

“Today is a joyful day for our nation," said House minority leader Nancy Pelosi in a May 31 statement. "As Sgt. Bergdahl returns home, we join in celebrating his safe return, and in expressing our gratitude for the relentless dedication of all the service members, intelligence officers, and diplomats who worked so hard to make this day a reality."

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, then the majority leader, took to the Senate floor on June 4 to castigate Republicans criticizing the exchange. "As the president said, this is not a victory for him. It is a victory for the United States military and our country," said Reid.

For another side of Mitt Romney, enjoy his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week. It's a shame that we didn't see more of that man in 2012.

With all that an elementary school principal has to be concerned about, why take the time and effort to force a seven-year-old student shave his head because he had gotten a military-style haircut to honor his stepbrother who is in the army? Sometimes, I just don't understand what some public-school administrators are thinking.

In the spirit of March Madness, Casey Breznick has set up bracketology for Obama administration scandals. Picking the worst one is a tough job. Filling out the NCAA bracket is a breeze in comparison.