Friday, April 10, 2015

Cruising the Web

And this is our negotiating partner whose word Obama is so eager to trust.
Earlier today, Khamenei broke his silence on the supposed “framework” the Obama administration has been trumpeting as the basis for a nuclear accord. Khamenei’s speech pulled the rug out from underneath the administration.

Khamenei accused the Obama administration of “lying” about the proposed terms, being “deceptive,” and having “devilish” intentions, according to multiple published accounts of his speech, as well as posts on his official Twitter feed.

Khamenei also disputed the key terms Obama administration officials have said were agreed upon in principle. Economic sanctions will not be phased out once Iran’s compliance has been “verified,” according to the Ayatollah. Instead, Khamenei said that if the U.S. wants a deal, then all sanctions must be dropped as soon as the agreement is finalized. Khamenei also put strict limits on the reach of the inspectors who would be tasked with this verification process in the first place....

“The White House put out a statement just a few hours after our negotiators finished their talks...this statement, which they called a 'fact sheet', was wrong on most of the issues," Khamenei said, according to Reuters. Khamenei added that the fact sheet, which doesn’t match Iran’s understanding, exposes America’s “devilish” intentions....

During his speech on April 2, Obama said that sanctions “relief will be phased as Iran takes steps to adhere to the deal. If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place.” Other “American sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, will continue to be fully enforced.”

Khamenei is having none of it.

The supreme leader said that sanctions “should be lifted all together on the same day of the agreement, not six months or one year later.” Rhetorically, he asked: “If lifting of sanctions is supposed to be connected to a process, then why do we negotiate?”

Again, Khamenei’s Twitter feed emphasized the point: “All ‪#sanctions should be removed just when the deal is reached. If sanctions removal depends on another process then why we started to talk?”

....In his talk today, Khamenei also drew limits on the inspectors’ hypothetical reach inside Iran. “No unconventional inspection that’d place Iran under special monitoring is acceptable. Foreign monitoring on ‪#Iran’s security isn’t allowed,” his social media team quoted him as saying....

Khamenei drew red lines around Iran’s military sites, which are at the heart of the dispute over the regime’s nuclear work. “The country’s military officials are not permitted at all to allow the foreigners to cross these boundaries…or [to] stop the country’s defensive development under the pretext of supervision and inspection,” Khamenei said.
So why has the President been trumpeting this historic agreement? He's surrendered as much as possible and now Iran is insisting on Obama giving in either more. And why shouldn't they?

And why would even Democratic senators not want to have a vote on this mess that Obama and Kerry have expressed so much pride in negotiating?

Charles Krauthammer explains how much Obama has given up in the deal from his very own stated requirements.
It was but a year and a half ago that Barack Obama endorsed the objective of abolition when he said that Iran’s heavily fortified Fordow nuclear facility, its plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor and its advanced centrifuges were all unnecessary for a civilian nuclear program. The logic was clear: Since Iran was claiming to be pursuing an exclusively civilian program, these would have to go.

Yet under the deal Obama is now trying to sell, not one of these is to be dismantled. Indeed, Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure is kept intact, just frozen or repurposed for the length of the deal (about a decade). Thus Fordow’s centrifuges will keep spinning. They will now be fed xenon, zinc and germanium instead of uranium. But that means they remain ready at any time to revert from the world’s most heavily (indeed comically) fortified medical isotope facility to a bomb-making factory.

And upon the expiration of the deal, conceded Obama Monday on NPR, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear bomb will be “almost down to zero,” i.e., it will be able to produce nuclear weapons at will and without delay.

And then there’s cheating. Not to worry, says Obama. We have guarantees of compliance: “unprecedented inspections” and “snapback” sanctions.

The inspection promises are a farce. We haven’t even held the Iranians to their current obligation to come clean with the International Atomic Energy Agency on their previous nuclear activities. The IAEA charges Iran with stonewalling on 11 of 12 issues.

As veteran nuclear expert David Albright points out, that makes future verification impossible — how can you determine what’s been illegally changed or added if you have no baseline? Worse, there’s been no mention of the only verification regime with real teeth — at-will, unannounced visits to any facility, declared or undeclared. The joint European-Iranian statement spoke only of “enhanced access through agreed procedures,” which doesn’t remotely suggest anywhere/anytime inspections. And on Thursday, Iran’s supreme leader ruled out any “extraordinary supervision measures.”

The IAEA hasn’t been allowed to see the Parchin weaponization facility in 10 years. And the massive Fordow complex was disclosed not by the IAEA but by Iranian dissidents.

Yet even if violations are found, what then? First, they have to be certified by the IAEA. Which then reports to the United Nations, where Iran has the right to challenge the charge. Which then has to be considered, argued and adjudicated. Which then presumably goes to the Security Council where China, Russia and sundry anti-Western countries will act as Iran’s lawyers. Which all would take months — after which there is no guarantee that China and Russia will ratify the finding anyway.
No one should be surprised that the president who set a red line in Syria and then ignored it should now ignore the exact red lines that he set for negotiating an agreement with Iran. And, as Krauthammer points out, this agreement will lead to the very events that Obama purported to desire to prevent - a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.

What is the alternative, asks the president? He’s repeatedly answered the question himself: No deal is better than a bad deal.

As Kimberley Strassel points out, Democratic senators now are trying to avoid voting to override a presidential veto of Senator Corker's bill to give Congress oversight of the Iran deal.
Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.), who last year co-sponsored a bill to impose additional sanctions on Iran, explained in December that he felt “no greater responsibility than to ensure that the United States pursues policies that maximize our security interests.” He’s now doing the White House’s bidding, demanding an amendment to the Corker bill (he too is a co-sponsor) releasing the administration from having to certify Iran doesn’t support terrorism.

This is where Democrats will lay the groundwork for defection, in Mr. Corker’s committee markup of the legislation next week. Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) has unveiled his own White House cover, a separate amendment to allow Mr. Obama to unilaterally roll back sanctions on Iran—regardless of what Congress does. Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), self-described as one of the “strongest supporters of Israel” and also a co-sponsor of the Corker bill, has announced he will also propose modifications that are “acceptable to the White House.” Sen. Michael Bennett (D., Colo.), another co-sponsor, is also in favor of alterations.

The goal of these amendments is to render the Corker legislation useless. Yet if Republicans balk, watch for Senate Democrats to howl that the GOP is acting in a partisan fashion, or refusing to be flexible. And watch for those same Senate Democrats to then use those complaints as their pretext for voting against the legislation....

Those Democrats who have now gone wobbly require Mr. Corker to make a choice. The Tennessee chair has bent over backward to keep many of them on board. When Mr. Menendez wanted the bill delayed until negotiations ended, Mr. Corker delayed. When Democrats insisted the bill go through committee, he agreed. When Republicans sent a letter warning Iran that the deal may not hold, infuriating the administration, he refrained from signing it. He has been cordial with the White House.

Yet given the Democratic default to protect President Obama, it appears that Mr. Corker’s only path to 67—if that is even possible—is to so water-down his own bill as to make it useless. Does he want a meaningless 67-vote victory? The better route is to shoot for 60, send a principled bill to the president’s desk, and force the commander in chief and his defenders to solely face the consequences of a bad Iran deal.

The moment would at least be a wake-up call for outside pressure groups like Aipac and others, who also took Democrats at their word. Forced to choose between national security and party loyalty, Democrats are choosing the latter. Iran is the winner.

And I'm sure that the timing was just coincidental when, as the International Business Times reports,
For union organizers in Colombia, the dangers of their trade were intensifying. When workers at the country’s largest independent oil company staged a strike in 2011, the Colombian military rounded them up at gunpoint and threatened violence if they failed to disband, according to human rights organizations. Similar intimidation tactics against the workers, say labor leaders, amounted to an everyday feature of life.

For the United States, these were precisely the sorts of discomfiting accounts that were supposed to be prevented in Colombia under a labor agreement that accompanied a recently signed free trade pact liberalizing the exchange of goods between the countries. From Washington to Bogota, leaders had promoted the pact as a win for all -- a deal that would at once boost trade while strengthening the rights of embattled Colombian labor organizers. That formulation had previously drawn skepticism from many prominent Democrats, among them Hillary Clinton.

Yet as union leaders and human rights activists conveyed these harrowing reports of violence to then-Secretary of State Clinton in late 2011, urging her to pressure the Colombian government to protect labor organizers, she responded first with silence, these organizers say. The State Department publicly praised Colombia’s progress on human rights, thereby permitting hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to flow to the same Colombian military that labor activists say helped intimidate workers.

At the same time that Clinton's State Department was lauding Colombia’s human rights record, her family was forging a financial relationship with Pacific Rubiales, the sprawling Canadian petroleum company at the center of Colombia’s labor strife. The Clintons were also developing commercial ties with the oil giant’s founder, Canadian financier Frank Giustra, who now occupies a seat on the board of the Clinton Foundation, the family’s global philanthropic empire.

The details of these financial dealings remain murky, but this much is clear: After millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation -- supplemented by millions more from Giustra himself -- Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial U.S.-Colombia trade pact. Having opposed the deal as a bad one for labor rights back when she was a presidential candidate in 2008, she now promoted it, calling it “strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States.” The change of heart by Clinton and other Democratic leaders enabled congressional passage of a Colombia trade deal that experts say delivered big benefits to foreign investors like Giustra.
These are the sorts of stories that would kill any other candidate's hopes of getting the nomination, but the Democratic Party is so supine that they don't seem able to come up with any viable competitor to Hillary Clinton. I guess the Clintons are just assuming that the media will treat such stories as "old news" in 2016. Old news is defined as anything that makes a Democrat look bad.

Jim Geraghty points to recent polls that refute the CW that Hillary is unstoppable by pointing out that, in several swing states, leading Republican candidates are now running even with her. Philip Bump at the Washington Point notes the same thing and that Quinnipiac's new polls show how she's slipped in the past couple of months against Republicans.

Politico Magazine has an excerpt from Kate Andersen Brower's new blockbuster book, The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House. The are stories of how she threw a lamp at Bill after the Monica Lewinsky story broke and made him sleep on the couch. The Clintons were very paranoid about the staff and Secret Service. And they fired an usher who had helped Barbara Bush with her computer. Nothing struck me as particularly new. Such stories had been floating around the conservative media since the 1990s, but didn't really break through to the MSM. What is new now is that there are names given to the sources for these stories rather than anonymous sources. I don't know whether such stories, especially when contrasted with how the staff regarded the Bushes, would hurt Hillary's candidacy. Having this book out there can't be a nice frame for her imminent announcement, but I think that stories about her foundation and her attempts to evade oversight of her communications while Secretary of State are much more damaging to her today. However, such details as this story can't help her image.
One day, according to [House Florist] Payne, he was walking through the second-floor private kitchen when an agent walked in behind him waiting to escort Chelsea to Sidwell Friends, the private school she attended in northwest Washington. Chelsea was on the phone.

“Oh, I’ve got to go,” she told her friend. “The pigs are here.”

The agent turned “crimson,” Payne recalls. “Ms. Clinton, I want to tell you something. My job is to stand between you, your family, and a bullet. Do you understand?”

She replied: “Well, that’s what my mother and father call you.”
With the book #1 on Amazon, a lot of Americans are going to be reading such anecdotes for the first time. They'll see a link between the paranoid approach the Clintons had while in the White House, even before the Lewinsky scandal to a Secretary of State who found a way to ignore federal law so she could keep her communications from any sort of oversight even though there were true dangers of those communications being hacked.

Well, isn't that just what parents want from their children's schools?
Parents were outraged to learn that the Tewksbury Public School District in Massachusetts released a 200-page document last week that included sensitive student data, including parental cooperative ratings....

The newspaper says it was able to easily identify a number of the families in the report and they were contacted by others who were able to identify additional families.

Asked about the cooperation ratings, Superintendent Dr. John O’Connor said, “Probably the choice of wording for the descriptor in the heading should be something different. We were trying to convey to the school committee and finance committee, even if we were to build programs, I’m not certain that all of the families with children who might benefit from the program would want to come back. That is the explanation for that.”

Parents were understandably outraged at the privacy violation and at what they feel is the district’s disrespect for parents of special-needs students.

School districts are collecting more and more information about school children — in fact, it’s a requirement of Common Core — and despite the promises that “no personally identifiable information” will ever be released without parental permission, the example above shows how, even when names are removed, students can still be identified. The promises that our children’s data will be kept private are only as good as the administrators who control that data.