Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cruising the Web

Well, this doesn't augur well for Obama's deal with Iran.
nternational nuclear inspectors will be barred from all Iranian military sites under any deal with world powers, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guard said Sunday, setting up a possible standoff as negotiators try to reach a final deal.
But, hey, all Obama cares about is getting a deal. There isn't any indication that Iran plans to abide by any of it. The deal is what matters, not the details.

And why won't the White House insist on the release of Americans being held by Iran as part of their negotiations over arms? The fact that they don't must tell Iranian leaders all they need to know about who has the upper hand in these negotiations. They know Obama will give them whatever they want, so why not demand more. As the WSJ writes,
Give Ayatollah Ali Khamenei credit for knowing his opposition. Two weeks ago the Supreme Leader declared that Western sanctions had to be lifted immediately as a condition of a nuclear deal. And sure enough, on Friday President Obama said Iran would get significant sanctions relief immediately upon signing a deal.

The Ayatollah knows that Mr. Obama wants an agreement with Iran so much that there’s almost no concession the President won’t make. So why not keep asking for more?

Keep in mind that the talks began with the U.S. and its European partners demanding that Iran dismantle its nuclear program. But to persuade the Ayatollah to accept the recent “framework” accord, Mr. Obama has already conceded that Iran can keep enriching uranium, that it can maintain 5,060 centrifuges to do the enriching, that its enriched-uranium stockpiles can stay inside Iran, that the once-concealed facilities at Fordow and Arak can stay open (albeit in altered form), and that Iran can continue doing research on advanced centrifuges.

All of these concessions are contrary to previous U.S. positions, and we’re no doubt missing a few. But none of that was enough for the Ayatollah, who quickly asserted two new deal-breaking objections: immediate sanctions relief, and no inspections under any circumstances of Iran’s military sites.

The White House has insisted that sanctions relief would be phased out based on Iranian compliance with the accord. Iranian negotiators quickly denied they had agreed to any such thing. At first White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed this as mere face-saving domestic politicking inside Iran. But then the Ayatollah weighed in with his demand for immediate sanctions relief, adding to reinforce the goodwill that the Obama Administration was “lying” and had “devilish” intentions.

On Friday Mr. Obama nonetheless turned the other cheek and suggested a compromise on sanctions relief is likely. White House sources whispered to reporters that the immediate windfall to Iran could be between $30 billion and $50 billion from access to frozen offshore Iranian accounts.

David French reports on the shameful and shocking methods that Democratic opponents of Scott Walker in Wisconsin have hijacked law enforcement to go after Walker's allies whose only fault was supporting his agenda.
Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking.

She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram.

She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door.

“I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic.

“I begged and begged, ‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ I couldn’t get them to stop barking, and I couldn’t get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix.”

She got the dogs safely out of the house, just as multiple armed agents rushed inside. Some even barged into the bathroom, where her partner was in the shower. The officer or agent in charge demanded that Cindy sit on the couch, but she wanted to get up and get a cup of coffee.

“I told him this was my house and I could do what I wanted.” Wrong thing to say. “This made the agent in charge furious. He towered over me with his finger in my face and yelled like a drill sergeant that I either do it his way or he would handcuff me.”

They wouldn’t let her speak to a lawyer. She looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off.

The neighbors started to come outside, curious at the commotion, and all the while the police searched her house, making a mess, and — according to Cindy — leaving her “dead mother’s belongings strewn across the basement floor in a most disrespectful way.”

Then they left, carrying with them only a cellphone and a laptop.
Does this sound like the American justice system?
As if the home invasion, the appropriation of private property, and the verbal abuse weren’t enough, next came ominous warnings.

Don’t call your lawyer.

Don’t tell anyone about this raid. Not even your mother, your father, or your closest friends.

The entire neighborhood could see the police around their house, but they had to remain silent. This was not the “right to remain silent” as uttered by every cop on every legal drama on television — the right against self-incrimination. They couldn’t mount a public defense if they wanted — or even offer an explanation to family and friends.

Yet no one in this family was a “perp.” Instead, like Cindy, they were American citizens guilty of nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights to support Act 10 and other conservative causes in Wisconsin. Sitting there shocked and terrified, this citizen — who is still too intimidated to speak on the record — kept thinking, “Is this America?”
This is what has been happening in Wisconsin since Scott Walker led Republicans to reform laws concerning union workers.
Yes, Wisconsin, the cradle of the progressive movement and home of the “Wisconsin idea” — the marriage of state governments and state universities to govern through technocratic reform — was giving birth to a new progressive idea, the use of law enforcement as a political instrument, as a weapon to attempt to undo election results, shame opponents, and ruin lives.

Most Americans have never heard of these raids, or of the lengthy criminal investigations of Wisconsin conservatives. For good reason. Bound by comprehensive secrecy orders, conservatives were left to suffer in silence as leaks ruined their reputations, as neighbors, looking through windows and dismayed at the massive police presence, the lights shining down on targets’ homes, wondered, no doubt, What on earth did that family do?

This was the on-the-ground reality of the so-called John Doe investigations, expansive and secret criminal proceedings that directly targeted Wisconsin residents because of their relationship to Scott Walker, their support for Act 10, and their advocacy of conservative reform.

Largely hidden from the public eye, this traumatic process, however, is now heading toward a legal climax, with two key rulings expected in the late spring or early summer. The first ruling, from the Wisconsin supreme court, could halt the investigations for good, in part by declaring that the “misconduct” being investigated isn’t misconduct at all but the simple exercise of First Amendment rights.

The second ruling, from the United States Supreme Court, could grant review on a federal lawsuit brought by Wisconsin political activist Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the first conservatives to challenge the investigations head-on. If the Court grants review, it could not only halt the investigations but also begin the process of holding accountable those public officials who have so abused their powers.

But no matter the outcome of these court hearings, the damage has been done. In the words of Mr. O’Keefe, “The process is the punishment.”

....John Doe investigations alter typical criminal procedure in two important ways: First, they remove grand juries from the investigative process, replacing the ordinary citizens of a grand jury with a supervising judge. Second, they can include strict secrecy requirements not just on the prosecution but also on the targets of the investigation. In practice, this means that, while the prosecution cannot make public comments about the investigation, it can take public actions indicating criminal suspicion (such as raiding businesses and homes in full view of the community) while preventing the targets of the raids from defending against or even discussing the prosecution’s claims.
It's hard to believe that any of this is constitutional. Read the rest and ponder what a partisan Milwaukee district attorney, John Chisholm, can do when he marshals the force of law to go after political opponents and shut down their right of free speech.
These raids and subpoenas were often based not on traditional notions of probable cause but on mere suspicion, untethered to the law or evidence, and potentially violating the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The very existence of First Amendment–protected expression was deemed to be evidence of illegality. The prosecution simply assumed that the conservatives were incapable of operating within the bounds of the law.

Even worse, many of the investigators’ legal theories, even if proven by the evidence, would not have supported criminal prosecutions. In other words, they were investigating “crimes” that weren’t crimes at all.

If the prosecutors had applied the same legal standards to the Democrats in their own offices, they would have been forced to turn the raids on themselves. If the prosecutors and investigators had been raided, how many of their computers and smartphones would have contained incriminating information indicating use of government resources for partisan purposes?
Glenn Reynolds rightly compares the action of these Democratic prosecutors to how Vladimir Putin shuts down opposition.
Is this un-American? Yes, yes it is. And the prosecutors involved — who were attacking supporters of legislation that was intended to rein in unions' power in the state — deserve to be punished. Abusing law enforcement powers to punish political opponents, and to discourage contributions to political enemies, is a crime, and it should also be grounds for disbarment.

If Republican officials treated political opponents this way it would be national news. But when Wisconsin's Democratic apparat behaved like Putin's thugs, it got little attention from the "mainstream" media. One of the good things about Scott Walker's presidential run is that it will bring these abuses national attention. They deserve it, and the perpetrators deserve punishment.

How Hillary earned more at an hourly rate than top 10 CEOs.

Matt Lewis wonders if, instead of her scandals and lack of a substantive record of accomplishments, it will be satire which brings down Hillary.
This all sounds petty and superficial; the best ridicule usually is. The more one watches the coverage of Mrs Clinton, the more it becomes apparent that it won't be the serious scandals – the Benghazis or the private email account – that will matter. Rather, the much greater danger is that she could become a joke.
Unlike Barack Obama's early days, Mrs Clinton isn't viewed as "off limits" to the entertainment and media worlds. And unlike her husband, former president Bill Clinton, Mrs Clinton must get elected in a world where conservative websites and citizen journalists with camera phones are ubiquitous....

The funny thing is that some serious news involving Mrs Clinton came out this week, but has mostly elicited yawns. First, it was revealed that she had simply ignored congressional inquiries into her use of private emails during the time she was serving as Secretary of State back in 2012. Second, it was reported that the Clinton Foundation would continue taking money from foreign governments – even as Mrs Clinton officially ran for president of the United States.

None of these "serious" stories garnered as much coverage or commentary as her failure to leave a tip at Chipotle. This is both a commentary on the American public and the American media. But it's also a warning to Mrs Clinton about how it will be the little things that kill.

Byron York reports on how the Republican candidates did at the big confab in NH this past weekend.

You know that Hillary has no answer to the allegations in the new book by Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash, about all the money that the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton have raked in from foreign donors and governments while she was in the Senate and Department of State by the way that she is responding. She's not denying the allegations and asserting that they have not done any such thing. No, all she has is the typical Clinton brush-off. She calls it all typical political attacks that distract from what people really care about. Translation: she's guilty.

And this can't be good news for Hillary's efforts to laugh away all the book's allegations.
The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton, a move that has confounded members of the Clinton campaign and some reporters, the On Media blog has confirmed.

"Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich" will debut on May 5. But the Times, the Post and Fox have already made arrangements with author Peter Schweizer to pursue some of the material included in his book, which seeks to draw connections between Clinton Foundation donations and speaking fees and Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state. Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative research group, and previously served as an adviser to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Fox News' use of Schweizer's book has surprised no one. The bulk of the network's programming is conservative, and the book's publisher, HarperCollins, is owned by News Corporation. But the Times and Post's decision to partner with a partisan researcher has raised a few eyebrows. Some Times reporters view the agreement as unusual, sources there said. Still others defended the agreement, noting that it was no different from using a campaign's opposition research to inform one's reporting -- so long as that research is fact-checked and vetted. A spokesperson for the Times did not provide comment by press time.

And Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post weighs in in response to Clinton defenders who are outraged that the MSM would report on the allegations in Schweizer's book.
Here's what I say to all of them: OF COURSE we should be examining the claims made in Schweizer's book. Come on!

The most foundational principle of covering a presidential campaign (or anything, really) is trying your damnedest to give people the fullest possible picture of the candidates running to represent them. The more information you have at your disposal then, the better.

Agreeing to look into the claims in Schweizer's book is not, of course, the same as "reporting" those claims. Not to be too much of a teacher's pet, but WaPo National Editor Cameron Barr got it exactly right in his quote to Politico. "What interests us more are his facts and whether they can be the basis for further reporting by our own staff that would be compelling to our readers," he said.

That's right. We are information-gatherers at heart. Our job as reporters and editors and, more broadly as an organization, is to vet all of the information that comes at us to see what should be reported, what shouldn't and what needs to be followed-up on. How then can we (or any media organization) justify turning aside everything in Schweizer's book without a glance?....

As for those who dislike the fact that The Post, Times and FNC entered into an agreement with Schweizer to exclusively look into the allegations in the book, I say: Either what he writes is accurate and worth following up on or it's not. Yes, the market for Hillary stories is a hot one. But The Post isn't going to report things that aren't true just because they got the book a little bit early. And places like the Wall Street Journal or ABC aren't going to avoid reporting on the book slightly after the fact if they find that the allegations made within it are correct. So the timing feels to me like a side issue here.

In the end, this could well be much ado about nothing. After all, it's possible that Schweizer's reporting simply doesn't meet the standards mainstream news organizations require to either look further into or report.

But the impugning of information before anyone even sees it or checks it out seems to me to set a dangerous precedent. Journalism's job is to help people understand their world and the politicians running to represent it. More information is a good thing, not a bad thing, in that quest.

And the White House spokesman's inability to categorically deny the allegations doesn't help her either.

In case you're wondering about how much foreign money went to the Clinton Foundation, the WSJ breaks it down.

Marco Rubio seems to be benefiting from a successful roll-out of his candidacy. And Jeb Bush seems to be losing his purported dominance among Floridians.