Monday, April 06, 2015

Cruising the Web

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. It couldn't get much better for me with Duke making it into the championship game and Kentucky getting defeated. I've barely paid any attention to current affairs when there has been so much sports news to follow. Plus, an extra-curricular activity that I sponse for which students spend a day pretending to be the North Carolina assembly and debate bills that they've researched took place on Friday so I've been busy.

But now that I've settled down from last night's excitement, here are some stories that I'm following.

It's quite notable how Iran's claims about the deal with Iran are different from what President Obama is claiming.
Sometimes the two texts are diametrically opposed.

The American statement claims that Iran has agreed not to use advanced centrifuges, each of which could do the work of 10 old ones. The Iranian text, however, insists that “on the basis of solutions found, work on advanced centrifuges shall continue on the basis of a 10-year plan.”

The American text claims that Iran has agreed to dismantle the core of the heavy water plutonium plant in Arak. The Iranian text says the opposite. The plant shall remain and be updated and modernized.

In the past two days Kerry and Obama and their apologists have been all over the place claiming that the Iranian nuclear project and its military-industrial offshoots would be put under a kind of international tutelage for 10, 15 or even 25 years.

However, the Persian, Italian and French texts contain no such figures.

The US talks of sanctions “ relief” while Iran claims the sanctions would be “immediately terminated.”
It's pretty bad when we don't know whether to believe Iran or our own president.

As Matthew Continetti reminds us, President Obama doesn't have a good track record on the truth of his initial announcements on foreign policy.
The president has a terrible record of initial public pronouncements on national security. He has a habit of confidently stating things that turn out not to be true. Three times in the last four years he has appeared in the Rose Garden and made assertions that were later proven to be false. He and his national security team have again and again described a world that does not correspond to reality. No reason to assume these concessions to Iran will be any different.
Remember his initial announcements on Benghazi, Syria's crossing of his "red line," an the trae for Bowe Bergdahl.
Three stories that collapsed under the weight of the evidence, three instances of the White House doggedly sticking to its policy line despite everything. This president’s resistance to events in the actual world of space and time is more than ideology, however. It’s also good politics: By refusing to concede the facts of the case, Obama is able to hold his base and stay on offense against his true adversaries: Republicans, conservatives, and Bibi Netanyahu.

And now we have the Iran story. Iran, the president says, will reduce its centrifuges, dilute its enriched uranium, open its nuclear sites to inspectors, and turn its fortified underground reactor into a “research” facility in exchange for sanctions relief. The only alternatives, Obama goes on, are bombing Iran or ending negotiations and re-imposing sanctions. “If, in fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking for the most effective way to ensure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, this is the best option. And I believe our nuclear experts can confirm that.”

Sure they can. Though I believe other nuclear experts, such as Charles Duelfer, can also confirm that this agreement has major holes, such as the spotty effectiveness of inspections and the failure to get Iran to disclose fully the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. And there’s always the tricky issue of sanctions relief: The United States says the process of lifting sanctions will be gradual and contingent on Iranian compliance, but Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif says it will be immediate.

What the president and Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled Thursday was another fancy, another fairy-tale, another fable about what might happen in an ideal world where enemies and allies share common interests and objectives, autocratic and theocratic regimes adhere to compacts, and moral sincerity is more important than results. Best be skeptical—these so-called triumphs of Obama’s diplomacy have a way of falling to pieces like ancient parchment. And keep in mind this rule: When the president enters the Rose Garden, run for cover.

Roger L. Simon ponders Obama's lies about Obamacare and now the differences between how the administration is portraying the Iran deal and Iran describes it.
It goes on. It’s worth reading it all, if you haven’t. It’s almost like an episode of Fawlty Towers.

What we have here is not “a failure to communicate,” but Obama’s moral narcissism gone berserk. Forget his former proclaimed views on Iran. Driven by his need for legacy and his conviction that “he knows best” about world peace, the future, whatever, he has reversed course and powered through to what he thinks, or wants us to think, is the framework for a deal that would prevent Iran from fabricating nuclear weapons. Only — as in Gertrude Stein’s Oakland and Amir Taheri’s translations — there’s no there there.

But never mind. His troops seem to be rallying. Democrats who were initially skeptical are apparently folding in and Senator Menendez, Obama’s greatest thorn on the Democratic side, is currently and conveniently being hounded out of office and possibly into prison.

Meanwhile, Dianne Feinstein — whose greatest worry is making sure her and her husband’s hundreds of millions are kept legally separate — is telling Benjamin Netanyahu — whose greatest worry is a second Holocaust – to “contain himself.” (Anyone who thinks a new Holocaust unlikely should read Howard Jacobson’s magnificent new J: A Novel.)

And Iran, the mending of whose evil ways was never addressed by the negotiators, is up to its usual mischief, not just expanding across the Middle East from Iraq to Syria to Yemen (we know that), but now — at the same time Obama has told his lap dog Thomas Friedman that America “has Israel’s back” — is making a new alliance with Hamas:

As usual, Barack Obama is posing a false choice telling us that the only choice is between his deal with Iran and war. David Harsanyi refutes this.
Iran will have its enriched uranium and it will be on the threshold of becoming a nuclear state. It will not get rid of its centrifuges. This isn’t really argued anymore. Iran will get sanctions relief in exchange for inspection enforcement that depends on international organizations like the IAEA, who have already told us that the Iranians manipulate and lie about their enrichment program. And any portion of this deal can be broken at any time without any real consequences.

Remember when Susan Rice told an AIPAC audience: “Now I want to be very clear: a bad deal is worse than no deal. And if that is the choice then there will be no deal. We are not taking anything on trust. What matters are Iran’s actions, not its words.” Read the Politico piece. The administration’s argument is now the opposite.

There are many alternatives available. The sanctions which Obama keeps telling everyone worked to bring Iran to the table–the ones he fought to constantly weaken–can be strengthened and more international pressure can be brought. Yet, the same administration that has attacked Benjamin Netanyahu for overreacting and overstating the threat of a nuclear Iran now argues that this very moment is the last chance to save the Middle East, no matter how much we have to forfeit in negotiations.

Or, you know, war.

Current events is putting the lie to President Obama's claims that he can compartmentalize problems. Remember how he rode that claim to dominance in 2008 when the recession hit.
One of President Obama’s most crippling habits when it comes to foreign policy is his pretense that he can compartmentalize problems.

He imagines it makes sense to treat al Qaeda, ISIS and other terror groups as entirely separate threats; to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear-weapons program without reference to Tehran’s other criminal activities.
And by refusing to even admit there’s a big picture to see, he leaves himself playing whack-a-mole — and missing most of the moles.

For example, he’s pretty much ignoring the rise of terror groups in Africa. (The first lady tweeting #BringBackOurGirls doesn’t count as serious action, nor does sending a few FBI agents to help in the hunt.)

We’re not saying the United States should send troops everywhere, or even lethal military aid. But America will definitely pay a price someday if the likes of Boko Haram and al-Shabab don’t get stomped now.

Africa is already paying the price — most recently in last week’s al-Shabab attack on a Kenyan college, killing 147.

Meanwhile, the president’s effort to drive a nuclear bargain with Iran has back-burnered efforts to recover Americans being held hostage there.

Indeed, it often seems this administration doesn’t care about rescuing any citizen-hostages unless it helps release a Guantanamo Bay prisoner or two.
Instead Americans languish in Iranian prison.

LA Magazine profiles the extraordinary Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy. There was a lot that I hadn't known about him.

Ed Feulner of The Heritage Foundation asks a question that is becoming increasingly relevant: "Why Are US Colleges So Afraid of Letting Students Speak Freely?"
Hardly a week goes by without news about one campus or another preventing unpopular views from being expressed. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which tracks such violations, most U.S. colleges are guilty.

“This isn’t just an American problem,” Jim DeMint, president of The Heritage Foundation, noted in a lecture at Yale University. “Academia spans nations, and its diseases can swim across oceans.” Thus, for example, Oxford University canceled a pro-con debate about abortion “because, apparently, men aren’t allowed to have opinions on such things anymore.” Even the pro-abortion debater found that ridiculous.

More and more, this is our world. We don’t debate, we demonize. The New York Times Magazine documented this trend in a chilling article titled “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life.” It showed how Sacco and others have lost jobs, endured vicious threats and been forced into hiding for daring to make ill-conceived jokes or off-the-cuff remarks that others found offensive.

Part of the problem, surely, is rooted in basic ignorance of American history and our founding documents. That’s why I opened by quoting the First Amendment. It may strike some readers as too basic to even mention, but numerous surveys show an alarming degree of ignorance and illiteracy.

Heck, you don’t even need a survey. Jimmy Kimmel and other late-night comics often mine this ignorance for laughs with their man-on-the-street interviews.

But there’s nothing funny about the underlying cause. Or with its effect: a society where political correctness makes debate impossible and only those who express the “accepted” opinion are permitted to speak.
Sadly, it is not just social media which is shutting down debate. Too often, it is the professors and administration which are setting the pattern of intolerance for debate.

Though Glenn Reynolds does note some colleges that still seem to accept free speech. Sadly, that is now news.

Rolling Stone published a semi mea culpa about what went wrong with their bogus University of Virginia rape story. The Columbia Journalism Review concluded that Rolling Stone totally ignored basic standards for good journalism. And no lawyers seemed to issue warnings about the lack of evidence for the story. But no one will be fired. Of course. With such institutional failure, they should get the "death penalty" just as a university sports program that had demonstrated such institutional failure. Instead editor Jenn Wenner said that the story's author would continue to write for the magazine.

Eugene Volokh analyzes the possibilities of a libel case against Rolling Stone over their negligent story about the UVA fraternity rape story.

Glenn Reynolds identifies one other person who should lose her job over the rape story, but who most probably won't suffer any penalty.
One person who shouldn’t get off the hook here is UVA President Teresa Sullivan. She essentially found the fraternity guilty based on a story in a music tabloid. She could have told the University community that “we don’t convict people based on stories in the media,” that she was going to independently investigate the accusations, and that people named in tabloid stories should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty in the American tradition. She did no such thing. She hastily imposed a group punishment on the entire Greek system, and pretty much stood by while angry crowds mobbed and vandalized the fraternity house. (Faculty members didn’t help by staging their own marches; they may want — especially now — to characterize those marches as “anti-rape” or “pro-woman,” but there’s no getting around the fact that they were perceived at the time, and probably meant, as targeting the accused. In this case, the falsely accused.) As I’ve said before, there’s no place in America today where the authorities are more likely to be found siding with (or at least enabling) a lynch mob than on a university campus, and that’s a disgrace.

University presidents, along with the rest of the administration and faculty, talk a lot about a “university community.” But when it comes time to show students who produce bad press the kind of fairness that any member of an academic community should expect as a matter of right, they often drop the ball. At the very least, Sullivan owes these fraternity guys, and the Greek community, an open, public, and contrite apology. If I were on the UVA Board of Visitors, I’d be demanding her resignation.

And John Hinderaker notes what is missing from the writer's apology.
Notably missing from Erdely’s apology, at least by any specific reference, are the people she actually hurt: members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, whom Erdely accused of casually (and, one might infer, habitually) encouraging the gang rape of young women who wander into their parties, and the administrators at U. Va. whom Erdely accused of self-interested callousness toward rape victims. Ms. Erdely seems to believe that her story was really “true”–men who belong to fraternities are animals, and university administrators are corrupt buffoons–and she only chose the wrong vehicle to express these verities.

So don’t be surprised next time Rolling Stone, or any other liberal publication, gets a story wrong. These journalists’ biases are set in stone. We and many others have revealed them countless times, and liberal bias has led to countless errors and embarrassments. But such setbacks don’t faze the social justice warriors who went into journalism to further the left-wing narrative. They are mere temporary checks. It is notable that no one at Rolling Stone will be fired or even disciplined as a result of the “Jackie” fiasco. From the establishment’s perspective, they may have erred–published an entirely fabricated story, in fact–but their hearts were in the right place.

Victor Davis Hanson explains the origins of California's drought in state policies.

Jonah Goldberg ponders the moral sanctimony of all those arguing that Indiana's RFRA law was the equivalent of Jim Crow laws. First, you can read his brief backgrounder on Jim Crow legislation.
What I do think is far more relevant and timely is the fact that so many people want to glom onto the moral stature of the civil-rights movement and reenact it for every single American with a grievance (save for conservatives who, like the Civil War re-enactor who’s always forced to play a Confederate, must always be cast as the bad guys). If you take all the people idiotically, reflexively, and sanctimoniously invoking Jim Crow at face value, it’s hard not to conclude they’re reflexive and sanctimonious idiots — or simply dishonest. And while that’s probably true of some, it’s clearly not true of many. Instead, I think you need to see this tendency as a Freudian slip, a statement of yearning, a kind of self-branding or what you (well, probably not you) might call moral megalothymia.

Megalothymia is a term coined by Francis Fukuyama. It’s a common mistake to think Fukuyama simply took Plato’s concept of “thumos” or “thymos” and put a “mega” in front of it because we all know from the Transformers and Toho Productions that “mega” makes everything more cool.

But that’s not the case. Megalothymia is a neologism of megalomania (an obsession with power and the ability to dominate others) and thymos, which Plato defined as the part of the soul concerned with spiritedness, passion, and a desire for recognition and respect.

Fukuyama defined megalothymia as a compulsive need to feel superior to others.

And boy howdy, do we have a problem with megalothymia in America today. Everywhere you look there are moral bullies utterly uninterested in conversation, introspection, or persuasion who are instead hell-bent on grinding down people they don’t like to make themselves feel good. If you took the megalothymia out of Twitter, millions of trolls would throw their smartphones into the ocean.

Make no mistake: This is a problem across the ideological spectrum, because it is a problem of human nature in general and modernity in particular. But in this context, it’s a special malady of elite liberalism.

We teach young people they should be morally heroic, and that is good.

The problem is we lack the ability to think about morality seriously, never mind talk about it seriously. In a world where Harvard — once a Christian seminary! — is now a place where its “safe spaces” aren’t safe enough because the poetry is too offensive, we should not expect a lot of serious conversation.

This is one of the reasons why our moral categories are so content-less. Tolerance and sympathy become moral imperatives without reference to what is being tolerated and sympathized with. All week people on Twitter have been telling me that all discrimination is bad, no matter what. That’s awful news, because I really don’t want to invite pedophiles, Nazis, or complete strangers from the 7-11 parking lot to my Passover seder. Now I’m told such discrimination is wrong, no matter what.

Well, that's quite a relief. Politifact investigated the most important story about Scott Walker - whether he really could have bought a sweater for $1 at Kohl's. And you'll be glad to know that they term the story as true.

Ed Driscoll links to stories that we have not yet evacuated American citizens from Yemen and have no plans to do so. The State Department just encourages them to "monitor the news and seek available departure options from Yemen." Yeah, that makes things easy. Other nations such as China, India, Pakistan and Somalia have evacuated their civilians, but not the U.S.