Thursday, April 02, 2015

Cruising the Web

John Podhoretz imagines how the Iranian negotiations have gone.
What if Zarif’s effort in these last few weeks of negotiations was simply to see how much he could get from Kerry even though he doubted there would be a real deal at the end of it?

Consider: Zarif says, “Listen, we have to keep our enrichment capacity at the hardened Natanz site.” This was supposedly a “red line” America could not accept. But Kerry accepted it.

Then Zarif says, “Hey, you know what, we need to keep 6,000 centrifuges.” Again, such a demand was supposed to trigger an American walkout. Instead, Kerry said OK.

Then Zarif says, “Hey, listen, we have to keep our enriched uranium, we’re not going to send it out of the country.” This was the deal-breaker to end all deal-breakers. But it wasn’t. Kerry says fine.
Then Zarif says, “John, listen to me closely. We are going to keep our hardened facility at Fordow. John: We’re keeping Fordow.” Zarif couldn’t have signaled more obviously to Kerry that the Iranians were now simply screwing with his head. And Kerry said: Screw away.

“I am all smiles,” Zarif said yesterday. No wonder.

Daniel Henninger warns us that, regardless of any deal that is or isn't concluded with Iran, we should look to what happened in North Korea after Bill Clinton concluded a supposedly grand deal for them to end their nuclear weaponization program. North Korea agreed to stop producing nuclear weapons and we relaxed sanctions. They then violated that deal and we imposed more tough sanctions under George W. Bush and North Korea kept firing off ballistic missiles and performing nuclear tests. Bush ended up releasing North Korea's assets that we had frozen and we took them off the list of state sponsors of terrorism. And NOrth Korea has kept on through Obama's presidency with nuclear testing. And we still keep negotiating with them as if they've been honest partners to previous deals.
Every member of the Senate should read the full 81-page chronology. North Korea proves, irrefutably, that the “talks” model, absent credible measures of coercion or threat, won’t work.

Iran knows it has nuclear negotiators’ immunity: No matter how or when Iran debauches any agreement, the West, abjectly, will request—what else?—more talks. Iran’s nuclear-bomb and ballistic-missile programs will go forward, as North Korea’s obviously did, no matter what.

The next U.S. president has to find an alternative to the existing nuclear negotiations model. Hillary will not. That unavoidable job falls to her opposition.

Conor Friedersdorf describes how Hillary Clinton has made it very hard to "follow the money."
One way to evaluate presidential candidates is to follow the money. To whom is a politician beholden? To what extent are her personal financial interests at odds with the public interest? Which moneyed groups is he unlikely to flout?

Republicans and Democrats have their respective (if sometimes overlapping) fundraising bases. Very rich individuals sometimes support a given candidate. And then there's Hillary Clinton, whose relationship to money is even more complicated.

Her family's foundation is one complicating factor. "The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration," the Washington Post reported last month.

That conflict of interest was inappropriate for a cabinet secretary. It ought to be intolerable in a president. Foreign governments would obviously attempt to curry favor or avoid wrath by contributing to an organization that is helping to shape her husband's legacy, providing a livelihood for her daughter, and would perhaps constitute her base of power and influence in the years after she left the White House.

Yet the Clinton family seems to think it would be okay for Bill and Chelsea to keep running the foundation during the campaign (when foreign governments will surely wonder if generous donations might pay off later) and even if Hillary is a sitting president!
He also points out that she was getting secret, independent intelligence reports while secretary of state. Who paid for that? Did she? Did the State Department? Who knows? Are these the types of questions we want to be asking about a president?

Mark Hemingway has some more information on Hillary's private "spy network."

Megan McArdle argues that we should stop giving everyone student loans based on a group of students who have declared that they are not going to repay their loans.
People get taken by scams every day, often with the help of government money. Should Fannie Mae forgive the mortgages of people if the buyer misrepresented the condition of the house? Should the Small Business Administration forgive the debt of some guy who pledged his house to back a no-hope franchise operation? For that matter, what about people who go to a big, public party school and major in sports marketing or tourism? The taxpayer cannot be made responsible for every unwise decision every individual makes, even if the government finances it.

That's not to say these students shouldn't get relief. They should. Happily, we already have a system for dealing with people who are burdened with excess debt: the bankruptcy system. The government should change the law to make it easier to bankrupt student loans.

But at the same time, this case points to an issue that I've highlighted before: the need for better underwriting in student loans. Simply allowing students to borrow large amounts of money and then bankrupt it is a recipe for big government losses. We should allow people to bankrupt student loans, but the corollary to that is that we need to be more careful about the loans we make in the first place.

Right now the system indiscriminately lends to any marginally well-equipped institution that can claim to be teaching anyone any skill, even if that skill isn't going to increase a student's ability to repay their loan. It's no wonder that institutions are setting up lots of useless programs to collect those tuition checks; the real wonder is that there aren't more stories like these.

So yes, we need to offer debtors like these some relief. But we also need to stop making loans for programs that have poor graduation records, high default rates and little evidence of economic benefit to degree holders. I'm not just talking about for-profit colleges here, but also about the wide array of programs at accredited four-year schools that allow students to amass substantial debt without giving them anything of value in return. The easiest way to do this is to stop making the loans directly, then invite private companies back into the student-loan market -- and force them to eat some of the losses. Let them do the job the government has failed to do: Assess which schools and programs actually add economic value and refuse to fund the ones that don't.
Instead we have the President working to expand federal loans for education. And why wouldn't young people support a politician who promises them free stuff?

Daniel J. Mitchell explains why true libertarians should not attempt to impose their values on other people.

Kevin Williamson examines all the criticism that has been directed from the left against Trevor Noah, the successor to Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's Daily Show. Williamson explains why Comedy Central seems to have failed to conduct due diligence examining Noah's past jokes against fat women and Jews before putting him in the premier job on the network.

Ashe Schow wonders why colleges don't take charges of rape and sexual assault seriously enough to treat them as criminal rather than disciplinary matters.
The "seriousness" of the issue is addressed not by prosecuting and punishing offenses appropriately, but by removing due process rights from accused students. The preferred method is to take the word of all accusers as gospel, lower the burden of proof, and presume guilt on the part of the accused. This all makes it much easier to brand young men as "rapists" without having to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

And yet, by doing so, activists, the federal government and colleges have implied that rape and sexual assault are different from all other crimes. By refusing to turn accusations over to the police, activists are implying that rape and sexual assault are not police matters — at least for college students — and can therefore be handled by the same people teaching philosophy or fisheries sciences. They also risk leaving potential rapists free to rape others.

Why would an anti-rape activist behave this way? After discussions with feminist professors and campus administrators whose federal funding may depend on producing a few guilty men every now and, it's not impossible to imagine that a student's feelings of regret and guilt from a drunken hook-up turn into full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder. It's hard to know just how many cases are like this, but it's not hard to see why activists wouldn't want the police involved.

That's not to say every rape on campus amounts to a he said/she said situation (an incident at Vanderbilt University provides a sad example of why police should handle the investigations), but when rape accusations are treated no more seriously than those of cheating on a test, it muddies the water.

Alexandra Brodsky admitted as much during a recent panel in Washington, D.C., saying that "The point of school decision-making is not to be a sort of local police, you know, criminal justice equivalent, but to ensure that a student can continue to learn despite facing gender-based violence."

Except that gender-based violence is a crime, not a disciplinary matter. And expelling an accused student doesn't actually help the accuser, since her alleged attacker is now roaming the streets outside of campus, potentially endangering other women.
Sometimes, up is down in our modern culture.

David A. Graham in The Atlantic looks at the case against Senator Menendez. I think that Republicans should hold off on alleging that the indictment is all about Menendez's criticisms of Obama's foreign policy. That could explain the indictment and its timing. However, there does seem to be a pattern here. Whether it is corruption or not will have to be determined.
Taken individually, many of the individual incidents in the indictment seem questionable, but more like the sort of favors many elected officials perform for friends than like smoking guns. But in aggregate, prosecutors use them to create a picture of long-running corruption. The intent seems to be to present a reader—or, more importantly, a juror—with such a litany of questionable acts that the appearance of a tradeoff becomes unavoidable.
Perhaps this is just politics as usual, but if that is so, it's quite a tawdry business.