Friday, May 22, 2015

Cruising the Web

Well, all right then. The President doesn't think we're losing in the struggle against ISIS. In fact, losing Ramadi is just a setback in what President Obama says he's always thought would be "a multiyear campaign." While Obama isn't worried, the Islamic State is moving successfully across the region. As the WSJ writes,
Meanwhile, back on Planet Middle East, an opposition monitoring group estimates that after taking Palmyra Islamic State now controls about half of Syria, including most of its oil fields. The West is fretting about Palmyra because of its 2,000-year-old cultural treasures, and rightly so.

But of more immediate importance is that Palmyra is the first major city that Islamic State has captured from Syrian government troops, as opposed to other rebel groups. The would-be caliphate is consolidating its base in Syria even as it expands its reach in Iraq. In September Mr. Obama vowed to “degrade” and “destroy” ISIS, but the jihadists are doing most of the destroying.

It’s also worth mulling over Mr. Obama’s claim that he always “anticipated” this would be “a multiyear campaign.” This is the same President who criticized George W. Bush for conducting endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan and vowing to end it in both places. The Iraqi city of Mosul fell last June, Mr. Obama laid out his anti-ISIS strategy in September, and eight months later he promises years of more American commitment to Iraq.

At least Mr. Bush, for all his mistakes after the fall of Saddam Hussein, ordered a change of strategy that left Iraq stable by the time Mr. Obama took office. On present trend Mr. Obama’s Cool Hand Luke generalship will leave his successor an Iraq in turmoil and a mini-caliphate entrenched across hundreds of miles. If this isn’t “losing,” how does the President define victory?

Charles Krauthammer sets up the question that the media should be asking today instead of, if we'd known what we know now, would you support the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The fact is that by the end of Bush’s tenure the war had been won. You can argue that the price of that victory was too high. Fine. We can debate that until the end of time. But what is not debatable is that it was a victory. Bush bequeathed to Obama a success. By whose measure? By Obama’s. As he told the troops at Fort Bragg on Dec. 14, 2011, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” This was, said the president, a “moment of success.”

Which Obama proceeded to fully squander. With the 2012 election approaching, he chose to liquidate our military presence in Iraq. We didn’t just withdraw our forces. We abandoned, destroyed or turned over our equipment, stores, installations and bases. We surrendered our most valuable strategic assets, such as control of Iraqi airspace, soon to become the indispensable conduit for Iran to supply and sustain the Assad regime in Syria and cement its influence all the way to the Mediterranean. And, most relevant to the fall of Ramadi, we abandoned the vast intelligence network we had so painstakingly constructed in Anbar province, without which our current patchwork operations there are largely blind and correspondingly feeble.

The current collapse was not predetermined in 2003 but in 2011. Isn’t that what should be asked of Hillary Clinton? We know you think the invasion of 2003 was a mistake. But what about the abandonment of 2011? Was that not a mistake?

Mme. Secretary: When you arrived at State, al-Qaeda in Iraq had been crushed and expelled from Anbar. The Iraqi government had from Basra to Sadr City fought and defeated the radical, Iranian-proxy Shiite militias. Yet today these militias are back, once again dominating Baghdad. On your watch, we gave up our position as the dominant influence over a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” — forfeiting that position gratuitously to Iran. Was that not a mistake? And where were you when it was made?

Iraq is now a battlefield between the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State and the Shiite jihadists of Iran’s Islamic Republic. There is no viable center. We abandoned it. The Obama administration’s unilateral pullout created a vacuum for the entry of the worst of the worst.

And the damage was self-inflicted. The current situation in Iraq, says David Petraeus, “is tragic foremost because it didn’t have to turn out this way. The hard-earned progress of the surge was sustained for over three years.”

Do the math. That’s 2009 through 2011, the first three Obama years. And then came the unraveling. When? The last U.S. troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, 2011.

Want to do retrospective hypotheticals? Start there.

Steve Huntley ponders the same hypothetical question that Charles Krauthammer has posed.
Democrats might start viewing such “knowing what you know now” inquiries as hypothetical questions, mental exercises based on 20-20 hindsight and arrogantly dismissive of conditions existing at the time the original decisions had to be made. Democrats might also begin to see them as “gotcha questions” — designed to elicit a potentially embarrassing answer — as some GOP presidential contenders see the Iraq question. Those Republicans have a point in that none of the declared presidential contestants, including Jeb Bush, had anything to do with President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq.

Bush, given his name and family relationship, has no choice but to expect questions arising out of his brother’s White House years. It’s also possible to argue that the questions have relevance because he picked for his foreign policy team some of the same advisers who worked for President Bush and advocated the Iraq invasion.

By the same token Clinton can’t escape such questions, and with more reason. She served as secretary of state for President Barack Obama, was a leading voice on foreign affairs, and advocated many of the positions embodied in the questions above.

It’s also worth remembering that Clinton, as a member of the U.S. Senate, voted to authorize military action against Iraq. She now calls that vote a “mistake.” Would she admit to other mistakes?

No doubt it would be politically problematical for Clinton to try to distance herself from the foreign policy of the president she served.

But the ISIS crisis, Russia’s interference in Ukraine, the festering Libya dilemma, the loss of U.S. credibility in the Middle East and other of today’s headaches are the result of decisions made when Clinton served in the Obama administration.

She is, in effect, running for president on the premise that she is the best person to clean up the foreign policy mess that she is in no small measure responsible for.

“Knowing what you know now” might be the wrong way to approach these issues, but they without doubt pose questions that Clinton must answer to persuade voters she can at long last get foreign policy issues right.
I've seen enough writers around the web pointing out that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama should be asked such hypothetical questions about the decisions that they made in Iraq to suppose that some reporters will indeed start asking these questions. Perhaps Hillary will laugh it off as she has questions about her dear friend, Sidney Blumenthal, or about the Clinton Foundation receiving money from groups that also had business before the Department of State when she was there.

Meanwhile, national security adviser Susan Rice is still trumpeting that the Obama administration "ended two wars responsibly."

Oh, what a shocker. The Clinton Foundation is now catching up with payments that it hadn't previously reported.
The Clinton Foundation reported Thursday that it has received as much as $26.4 million in previously undisclosed payments from major corporations, universities, foreign sources and other groups.

The disclosure came as the foundation faced questions over whether it fully complied with a 2008 ethics agreement to reveal its donors and whether any of its funding sources present conflicts of interest for Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins her presidential campaign.

The money was paid as fees for speeches by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Foundation officials said the funds were tallied internally as “revenue” rather than donations, which is why they had not been included in the public listings of its contributors published as part of the 2008 agreement.
And now we are finding out that the kind of money that Peter Schweizer reported on in Clinton Cash was made tax deductible by rules proposed when Bill Clinton was still president and was setting up the Clinton Foundation and with the full endorsement by then First Lady Hillary Clinton.
As first lady in the final year of the Clinton administration, Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed a White House plan to give tax breaks to private foundations and wealthy charity donors at the same time the William J. Clinton Foundation was soliciting donations for her husband's presidential library, recently released Clinton-era documents show.

The blurred lines between the tax reductions proposed by the Clinton administration in 2000 and the Clinton Library's fundraising were an early foreshadowing of the potential ethics concerns that have flared around the Clintons' courting of corporate and foreign donors for their family charity before she launched her campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

The Clinton campaign is so secretive that they even demand anonymity in a conference call with Clinton campaign operatives.

Peggy Noonan has some advice for all those college students bemoaning the lack of trigger warnings presented before they have to read great literature that might signal some thoughts of feeling unsafe like the Columbia undergrads who were upset at having to read Ovid's Metamorphoses because there were stories of mythological rapes.
Why are you so fixated on the idea of personal safety, by which you apparently mean not having uncomfortable or unhappy thoughts and feelings? Is there any chance this preoccupation is unworthy of you? Please say yes.

There is no such thing as safety. That is asking too much of life. You can’t expect those around you to constantly accommodate your need for safety. That is asking too much of people.

Life gives you potentials for freedom, creativity, achievement, love, all sorts of beautiful things, but none of us are “safe.” And you are especially not safe in an atmosphere of true freedom. People will say and do things that are wrong, stupid, unkind, meant to injure. They’ll bring up subjects you find upsetting. It’s uncomfortable. But isn’t that the price we pay for freedom of speech?

You can ask for courtesy, sensitivity and dignity. You can show others those things, too, as a way of encouraging them. But if you constantly feel anxious and frightened by what you encounter in life, are we sure that means the world must reorder itself? Might it mean you need a lot of therapy?

Masterpieces, by their nature, pierce. They jar and unsettle. If something in a literary masterpiece upsets you, should the masterpiece really be banished? What will you be left with when all of them are gone?

What in your upbringing told you that safety is the highest of values? What told you it is a realistic expectation? Who taught you that you are entitled to it every day? Was your life full of . . . unchecked privilege? Discuss.

Do you think Shakespeare, Frieda Kahlo, Virginia Woolf, Langston Hughes and Steve Jobs woke up every morning thinking, “My focus today is on looking for slights and telling people they’re scaring me”? Or were their energies and commitments perhaps focused on other areas?

I notice lately that some members of your generation are being called, derisively, Snowflakes. Are you really a frail, special and delicate little thing that might melt when the heat is on?

Do you wish to be known as the first generation that comes with its own fainting couch? Did first- and second-wave feminists march to the barricades so their daughters and granddaughters could act like Victorians with the vapors?

Everyone in America gets triggered every day. Many of us experience the news as a daily microaggression. Who can we sue, silence or censor to feel better?

Finally, social justice warriors always portray themselves—and seem to experience themselves—as actively suffering victims who need protection. Is that perhaps an invalid self-image? Are you perhaps less needy than demanding? You seem to be demanding a safety no one else in the world gets. If you were so vulnerable, intimidated and weak, you wouldn’t really be able to attack and criticize your professors, administrators and fellow students so ably and successfully, would you?

Are you a bunch of frail and sensitive little bullies? Is it possible you’re not intimidated but intimidators?

Heather Wilhelm bemoans what has become of feminism that some are cheering the Columbia University student who has become known as Mattress Girl for hauling a mattress around campus to protest a supposed rape.
Sulkowicz’s claims, to put it kindly, are dubious. After an allegedly brutal attack, she refused to press criminal charges, saying it would be “too draining”—strange, given that she had the raw and obsessive energy to cart a mattress around all day for two semesters—and sent intimate and cutesy texts to Paul Nungesser, the young man she accused, in the months following the alleged assault. Mr. Nungesser, meanwhile, has been cleared multiple times by the university, and has filed a lawsuit against Columbia for enabling a targeted harassment campaign.

Oh, well. Details, details! “Mattress Girl” has gained media accolades, applause from high-profile politicians, and even an invite to the State of the Union. MTV lauded the mattress’s graduation appearance as a “touching act of symbolism” worthy of a “slow clap.” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Columbia’s commencement speaker, gave the mattress a triumphant shout-out in his address. Sulkowicz’s mattress, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte wrote, ended its run “as a piece celebrating women’s strength.”

....Sulkowicz’s mattress project was an act of symbolism, to be sure, but it certainly didn’t celebrate women’s strength. Rather, it serves as a striking illustration of the logic-free, wild-eyed, finger-pointing, all-bitterness mess that modern feminism has become.....

Let us now contemplate modern feminism, a movement that drives university professors to offer agonized trigger warnings for poems like Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock,” which is not about rape, but about a young rapscallion who cuts off a piece of a lady’s hair. More importantly, let us look at the latest feminist shock study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which claims, among other things, that a jaw-dropping 37 percent of American women will be victims of rape or attempted rape by the end of their freshman year in college.

Let’s pretend, as a thought experiment, that these shocking numbers are accurate and representative of reality. (They are almost certainly not, thanks to flaws in the study—including some seriously cloudy numbers surrounding alcohol use—but work with me here.) If these mind-boggling numbers are real, after all, American women live in a savage, dangerous wasteland rivaling some of the worst war-torn environments in history, and maybe even the one in “Game of Thrones.”

With this in mind, if you really care about women, shouldn’t your first priority be locking this army of perpetrators—male monsters, apparently still on the loose, ready to assault other women—in the clink? Shouldn’t item one on the feminist agenda involve encouraging women to officially report sex crimes, seek some real justice, and stop the alleged madness?

Alas, in the world of today’s feminism, hand wringing is 80 percent of the fun. As the “37 percent” report was released this week, it was, rather predictably, greeted by a chorus of feminist horror, self-pity, sanctimony, and utterly impractical, quasi-therapeutic advice—not to mention repeated proclamations that drinking until incapacitation is a treasured modern women’s right, up there with suffrage and dodging questions about mysteriously deleted emails and your shady family foundation during various political runs. To suggest otherwise, you see, is “victim blaming.”

Strange, isn’t it? It’s almost like feminists (a) don’t care about women; (b) don’t really expect anything of women; or (c) deep down, know that the truth about the sexual assault “epidemic” is far cloudier than they acknowledge. The result, sadly, is mattress feminism: a squishy, no-backbone ideology that eschews female agency, rejects critical thinking, and encourages women to be helpless doormats—or downright delusional—when it comes to the topic of sexual assault.

Ian Tuttle writes that Emma Sulkowicz or Columbia's Mattress Girl, whose claims of rape have been totally debunked, demonstrates that the feminist left doesn't seem to care about facts.
What Sulkowicz wants is to make claims about another person that cannot be challenged, checked, questioned, or doubted.

That was the substance, if not the style, of her address in April to a group of Brown University students marking Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The speech, live-tweeted by students in attendance, included alarming, Jezebel-worthy taglines — “If we use proof in rape cases,” said Sulkowicz, “we fall into the patterns of rape deniers.” Yet it also trafficked in high-sounding maxims composed of that mélange of pseudo-academic, quasi-mystical jargon that passes today for profundity: “In saying I expose the truth, the viewer superimposes their truth upon mine, and once again silences me.” “Well-meaning people on the street will touch me reverently. . . . They do not believe they are violating me with their hands.” “When people engage in believing in me, they objectify me.”

With such aperçus Sulkowicz was not making an effort to say anything of substance, but rather to stifle speech — to put a “transcendent” gloss on her claims and, in so doing, to elevate accusations like her own out of the realm of reasoned consideration. When she can’t do that — for instance, in e-mails with dogged reporters — she resorts to outrage.

It’s fortuitous, then, in a grim way, that the feminist Left found Emma Sulkowicz. As a response to the horrific selfishness of rape, feminists have increasingly embraced their own, intellectual selfishness, a uniquely destructive brand of have-it-all-ism that rejects responsibility for anything beyond one’s own feeling of victimization — and Sulkowicz is their pitiable poet.

John Hinderaker ridicules a Washington Post story reporting that Marco Rubio has debts and has had to borrow from a retirement account. So now it's a potential scandal that a presidential candidate hasn't become rich while being a public servant.

Mona Charen rejects the premise that only a woman, such as Carly Fiorina, can criticize Hillary Clinton.
Here's how Democrats prefer to arrange matters regarding women: They claim that nominating the first woman for president is a huge advance for all women, proving that women are just as competent as men. Yet they demand that their particular woman be insulated from the usual vigorous debate that is essential for democracy. Any criticism of Hillary Clinton is presumptive sexism, while her attacks on opponents are unrestricted. Neat trick if you can pull if off -- and she can if Republicans accept the bridle.

In a sense, Clinton has been using the victimized-woman angle for her whole political career. Her popularity soared during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for example, when Americans sympathized with her for enduring her husband's satyriasis. In her 2000 Senate race, she was losing to Republican Rick Lazio until her campaign picked up on a moment in a debate when he crossed the stage to ask her to sign a pledge. As Mother Jones recounted:

"In the hours and days after the debate, Clinton's team worked mightily to turn this interaction to her advantage. Clinton aide Ann Lewis told the press that Lazio had 'spent much of the time being personally insulting.' Howard Wolfson, another veteran Clinton hand, said Lazio was 'menacing' to Clinton.

"'They saw this opportunity and they drove it and that's the clip that was on TV over and over again,' (Lazio said). The next day, media outlets began to embrace Wolfson's portrayal of Lazio as a sexist bully. ... Jon Stewart titled his segment on the debate 'Rodham 'N Creep.'"

In 2008, Clinton's comeback began when she seemed to be patronized by Barack Obama's "you're likeable enough" comment. Patti Solis Doyle, her campaign chairman, summed it up: "Whether it was during the Lewinsky scandal or whether it was when Lazio was bullying her, people seem to like (the) damsel-in-distress sort of thing, which is sad to me, but it helped her (as first lady) in '98, and it helped her in 2000 certainly."

There's a different standard for Republican women. South Carolina's Democratic gubernatorial candidate called Gov. Nikki Haley a "whore" without creating national outrage. And then there was the treatment meted out to Sarah Palin.

The American electorate signaled in 2014 that there are limits to its tolerance for "war on women" hooey. It failed miserably in Virginia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana and elsewhere -- most spectacularly in Colorado, where former Sen. Mark Udall earned the moniker "Mark Uterus."

The best response to the charge of sexism is ridicule. Any female candidate who hides behind her own skirts to avoid robust debate is not striking a blow for equality or dignity. Rather than displaying fitness for the job of commander in chief, she's conveying her weakness and inability to compete. Any male candidate who pulls his punches is patronizing her. Anyone who takes her on (within the bounds of civility) is according her respect.

James Taranto ridicules the logic, or lack of logic perhaps, underlying President Obama's recent speech to the Coast Guard Academy about climate change.
He rehearsed the litany of weather disasters supposedly caused by climate change: “more extreme storms,” “deeper droughts and longer wildfires,” flooding of streets in coastal cities. And he went further, blaming global warming for geopolitical problems:
Understand, climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world. Yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram. It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East. So, increasingly, our military and our combatant commands, our services—including the Coast Guard—will need to factor climate change into plans and operations, because you need to be ready.
Even if one assumes all these assertions are true, they do not advance a case for urgent action. As the president acknowledged with that initial disclaimer, the chain of causation is just too weak. Global climate change contributes somehow to local droughts, which contribute somehow to instability, which contributes somehow to the rise of Boko Haram and rebellion in Syria (a rebellion, let us recall, for which the president briefly urged U.S. military support back in 2013). The vagueness of the hypotheses make it impossible to evaluate any proposed climate policy as a remedy for the Nigerian or Syrian conflicts.

The most telling assertion in the president’s speech was meant as a throwaway line. Immediately after setting up his some-folks-back-in-Washington straw man, Obama allowed as how “on a day like today, it’s hard to get too worried about it,” the antecedent being “climate change.” It was a cool spring day in New London, Conn.

Now of course weather isn’t the same thing as climate, as global warmists are quick to point out in fair weather. But that’s true of all weather. It is fallacious to attribute bad weather but not good weather to “climate change,” as if every day was idyllic everywhere on preindustrial Earth.

Similarly, if “climate change” is contributing to war and instability, it must also be contributing to peace and stability. Obama boasts of various foreign-policy achievements, such as the “end of the war” in Iraq and the diplomatic openings to Iran and Cuba. Stipulating for the sake of argument that these are in fact favorable developments, the logic of the president’s Coast Guard speech is that he must share the credit for them with all humans whose activities have contributed to climate change.

But of course he does not. As with the weather, he presents “climate change” as a cause of all manner of bad effects but no good ones. In the geopolitical realm, it is an all-purpose excuse when things go wrong. It is logically little different from saying of a disaster, whether natural or man-made, “It was God’s will.” That statement is true if one accepts the underlying metaphysical theory, and it may provide comfort to those who do. But it is not an empirical explanation. It isn’t science.