Monday, May 04, 2015

Cruising the Web

Does a story like this give you confidence in any guarantee Iran might give us in a nuclear deal?
Britain has informed a United Nations sanctions panel of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to two blacklisted firms, according to a confidential report by the panel seen by Reuters.

The existence of such a network could add to Western concerns over whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal due by June 30 in which it would agree to restrict sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.
They've been cheating all along and the IEAE has said publicly that they can't guarantee any compliance by Iran.
Iran, which is has been under sanctions for years, has a long history of illicit nuclear procurement using front companies and other methods of skirting sanctions.

That has enabled it to develop a substantial atomic program in spite of aggressive international efforts to curtail it, U.N. diplomats say. But analysts and Western intelligence officials say sanctions have slowed the development of Tehran’s nuclear program.

The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency have repeatedly said that Tehran has so far complied with the terms of a limited agreement struck in November 2013 between Iran and the six powers involving some reductions in its nuclear activities, including enrichment.
So why should we end sanctions based on any promise they might make? It defies logic.

Christopher Caldwell reviews the sad history of how difficult and long the road back is for cities that have been burnt in riots.
In the wake of urban unrest, well-positioned neighborhoods eventually attract private and public capital for rebuilding. Both Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles have suffered riots that were orders of magnitude greater than this week’s in Baltimore. Washington’s U Street corridor, nearly destroyed by the revolt that followed Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, is again a lively business hub.

But it took a very long time. U Street didn’t see the first stirrings of revival until the 1990s. And businesses were replaced, not restored. U Street was once the premier black downtown in the U.S.; now it is a place for hipsters to drink microbrews and smoke hookahs. That’s better than nothing, but U Street isn’t the hub it was. It is a new hot spot on the site of the riots rather than any sort of resolution of the problems that the riots revealed.

The legacy of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which followed the acquittal of four policemen videotaped beating the black motorist Rodney King, is similarly mixed. A 2009 poll found that 68% of the city’s African-Americans and 76% of its Latinos had a favorable view of the city’s police department, formerly denounced for its paramilitary tactics.

But here, too, the process took time, with the lost economic activity amounting to as much as $3.8 billion. A 20-year retrospective in the Los Angeles Times showed that the unemployment rate in the neighborhood is now higher and median income lower than at the time of the riots.
Other cities have fared worse. How long will it be before businesses want to invest in the burned out regions? Sadly, the riots and violence leads to an extension of the conditions that created the seeds of the violence in the first place.

And as Rich Lowry outlines, the policies that have been used to govern Baltimore for decades are not the policies that will lead to economic growth.
The city has been shedding jobs and people for decades, including in the 1990s when the rest of the country was booming.

Baltimore is a high-tax city, with malice aforethought.

“Officials raised property taxes 21 times between 1950 and 1985,” Steve Hanke and Stephen Walters of Johns Hopkins University write in The Wall Street Journal, “channeling the proceeds to favored voting blocs and causing many homeowners and entrepreneurs — disproportionately Republicans — to flee.

“It was brilliant politics, as Democrats now enjoy an eight-to-one voter registration advantage.”

To counterbalance the taxes, they note, developers need to be lured to the city with subsidies, and the developers, in turn, contribute to politicians to stay in their good graces. This makes for fertile ground for the city’s traditional corruption.

Baltimore’s preferred driver of growth has been government. Urban experts Fred Siegel and Van Smith write in City Journal that Baltimore has “emphasized a state-sponsored capitalism that relies almost entirely on federal and state subsidies, rather than market investments.”

The model makes for high-profile development projects, but trickle-down crony capitalism hasn’t worked for everyone else.

At the same time, the city has failed at the basic functions of government.

Mayor Kurt Schmoke, in office for three terms beginning in the late 1980s, was notoriously soft on crime.

Siegel and Smith write, “During the nineties, tolerant Baltimore’s crime rate, much of it drug-fueled, rocketed upward (75 percent of the city’s murders were drug-related); tough-on-crime New York’s plummeted.”

Under Mayor Martin O’Malley’s subsequent, more strenuous policing, the crime rate dropped. But it is still a violent city. Baltimore has the fifth-highest murder rate among cities with a population of 100,000 or more.

The schools, predictably, are a disaster, run by and for the teachers unions.

On top of all this, two-thirds of births in the city are out-of-wedlock.

Jay Steinmetz, a businessman who owns a business in Baltimore near where the liquor store was burned down explains how difficult it is to run a business there. He describes the frequent crimes besetting daily operations there such as gang grafitti and burglarizing cars in the parking lot as well as their building.
City policies and procedures fail to help employers address these problems—and make them worse. When the building alarm goes off, the police charge us a fee. If the graffiti isn’t removed in a certain amount of time, we are fined. This penalize-first approach is of a piece with Baltimore’s legendary tax and regulatory burden. The real cost of these ill-conceived policies is to the community where we—and other local businesses in similar positions—might be able to hire more of those Baltimoreans who have lost hope of escaping poverty and government dependency.

Maryland still lags most states in its appeal to companies, according to well-documented business-climate comparisons put out by think tanks, financial-services firms, site-selection consultants and financial media. Baltimore fares even worse than other Maryland jurisdictions, having the highest individual income and property taxes at 3.2% and $2.25 for every $100 of assessed property value, respectively. New businesses organized as partnerships or limited-liability corporations are subject, unusually, to the local individual income tax, reducing startup activity.

The bottom line is that our modest 14,000-square-foot building is hit with $50,000 in annual property taxes. And when we refinanced our building loan in 2006, Maryland and Baltimore real-estate taxes drove up the cost of this routine financial transaction by $36,000.

State and city regulations overlap in a number of areas, most notably employment and hiring practices, where litigious employees can game the system and easily find an attorney to represent them in court. Building-permit requirements, sales-tax collection procedures for our multistate clients, workers’ compensation and unemployment trust-fund hearings add to the expensive distractions that impede hiring.

Harder to quantify is the difficulty people face who want to live here. Our employees reduce their tax burden and receive better public services in the suburbs. I live in the city, however, and it is a challenge to stay here. My two children attend a public elementary school where classrooms are filled beyond capacity with 30 or more students. Bathroom stall doors and toilet-seat lids are missing. The heat goes out in the winter and the air-conditioning goes out in hot weather. It’s hard to explain the importance of developing science and math skills to students wearing winter coats in the classroom.

Contrary to President Obama’s suggestion in a news conference following saturated television coverage of the riots, lack of urban “investment” is not the problem. The Maryland state and Baltimore city governments are leveraging funds to float a $1 billion bond issue to rebuild crumbling public schools. This is on top of the $1.2 billion in annual state aid Baltimore received in 2015, more than any other jurisdiction and eclipsing more populous suburban counties. The financial problem Baltimore does face is a declining tax base, the most pronounced in the state. According to the Internal Revenue Service, $125 million in taxable annual income in Baltimore vanished between 2009 and 2010.

This is an unfortunate choice of words that will torpedo any hope Ohio governor John Kasich might have had of gaining the GOP nomination for either president or vice president.
Asked by NPR for his response to reports that Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina had accused him of “hiding behind Jesus” for why he expanded Medicaid through Obamacare, Kasich fired back.

“I’m really not hiding behind anybody,” Kasich said, adding, “The last Republican I can think of who expanded Medicaid was Ronald Reagan. OK? People tend to forget that. … If other people don’t want to take the money, that’s up to them, but I got money I can bring home to Ohio. It’s my money. There’s no money in Washington. It’s my money. It’s the money of the people who live in my state.”
Paula Bolyard of PJ Media responds to Kasich's deceptive claim.
In media appearances Kasich has repeated — over and over again — that Medicaid expansion brings “Ohio money” back to Ohio, as if there’s a special pot of unclaimed “Ohio money” just sitting in Washington waiting for a savvy governor to claim it. Now he’s taken that false claim to a new level by arrogantly boasting, “It’s my money.” The truth? Medicaid expansion is paid for with new federal spending from a government that is $18 trillion in debt. If those Kasich apologists at Fox News (who seem to be giving him more air time than Karl Rove these days) could stop swooning over the Republican moderate for just a few minutes, perhaps they’d ask Mr. ‘I-was-in-the-tea-party-before-there-was-a-tea-party’ about these contradictions his narrative. I’m not holding my breath.

And while we’re on the subject of falsehoods, let’s just dispel with this notion that Kasich is ‘just like Ronald Reagan’ because they both expanded Medicaid. Hogwash. Reagan gave states the option of expanding Medicaid to include pregnant women and children and didn’t include the economic coercion included with Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
>Kasich is also deceiving people about how the Common Core standards were written by claiming that governors wrote them.
If governors didn't write the standards, as Kasich suggests, then who did? That's a difficult question to answer. "It was all done behind closed doors," McCluskey said. "The actual drafting was closed to the public. Again, there's no evidence that there were any governors actually sitting there, doing it."

The idea of local school boards adopting Common Core also stretches the truth. States adopt Common Core standards, and local school districts risk losing funding if they don't score well on Common Core-aligned tests. Technically, local school districts don't have to comply with Common Core. But if they don't, it is almost guaranteed they will lose money.

Kasich also falsely implied that President Obama had nothing to do with Common Core adoption. President Obama essentially forced states to agree to adopt Common Core before they could get a waiver from the standards created by No Child Left Behind, which more than a decade after its adoption had become obsolete and increasingly harsh and impossible to meet. Obama also attached federal dollars to Common Core adoption using Race to the Top funding.

There are legitimate arguments in favor of Common Core, but the notion that governors came together to write the standards in a transparent fashion is false. If Kasich wants to make the case for Common Core, he should focus on any academic gains made in his state instead of lying about the way Common Core was written.

Matt Lewis explains why unlikely candidates such as Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee might have no chance of getting the nomination, but can aid the Republicans by making arguments against Hillary.

Chris Cillizza examines the trust deficit that accompanies Hillary Clinton's fight to be president.
“It’s the Clinton way: raking in millions from foreign governments behind closed doors while making promises about transparency that they never intended to keep,” said Carly Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard chief executive who is expected to formally declare her bid for the Republican presidential nomination Monday. “Have we had enough of a ruling political class that doles out favors to the wealthy and well-connected few?”

That line of attack is hugely problematic for Clinton’s presidential bid because it speaks to the concerns about trust that many in the electorate — including many who are favorably inclined to the Clintons — feel toward her and her family.

It affirms for people that there is always some piece — or pieces — of baggage that comes with electing the Clintons to anything. It’s part of the deal. You don’t get one without the other.

The question at the heart of the election, then, is whether Clinton’s competence or readiness to be president outweighs doubts about whether she can be fully trusted with the office for which she is running.
Just exactly what is the evidence for her competence? She blew her chance during her husband's administration to craft a health care proposal that even Democrats, in control of Congress at the time, would not bring up for a vote. Her campaign in 2008 was marred by internal conflicts and inferior organization. They didn't seem to understand the importance of caucus elections and how to organize for them. And what did she do as Secretary of State that would support any idea that she was a competent administrator? Add in the accusations of decisions made on behalf of donors to her family's foundation or her husband's speaking coffers that bear more than a whiff of corruption. Who can justifiably describe her as competent?

Jonathan S. Tobin explains why the Clinton Foundation is not truly a charity.
The two largest items on its list of charitable expenditures are support for the Clinton Presidential Library and paying for the Clinton Global Initiative.

The Library is, like those edifices built to house the papers and glorify the memory of other presidents, a not-altogether-worthless endeavor. But it is a monument to the vanity and the legacy of the Clintons, not the sort of “good work” helping the impoverished of the Third World, as well as the women and the girls, Hillary Clinton is always telling us she’s out to save. It may be a non-profit institution but it is not a charity.

The Clinton Global Initiative is also not a charity. According to the New York Times, it’s a “glitzy annual gathering of chief executives, heads of state and celebrities.” Those who attend it may do charitable work. But their main purpose in attending is to see and be seen talking about being charitable. The same can be said of the event itself.

The foundation’s “business model” is that rather than raise money to give to those helping the poor on the ground, its alleged charitable acts are done by those on its payroll. Fair enough. But the controversy here is that the foundation and its liberal apologists want us to think that when the Clintons and their staff scurry around the world talking about helping the poor that amounts to charity.

This is not a made-up argument about how to characterize expenditures. The Clintons don’t feed the hungry or clothe the poor. They are conveners of famous and smart people who supposedly brainstorm about how to do those things. They call this “life-changing” work and no doubt it does some good. But the only ones whose lives we can be certain have been “changed” are the Clintons, their cronies, and their staff. Most of the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by the foundation yearly is spent on salaries, travel, offices, and other perks. The Clinton Foundation is the ultimate “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” reality show cloaked in a veneer of good intentions and charitable rhetoric. But it is not much of a charity.

What makes this relevant to the Clinton Cash allegations is that most of the money spent by the foundation is geared toward providing access for the donors to the Clintons via the annual celebrity conference and events at the Library. The business model here is all about the show of charity and, as our Abe Greenwald wrote on Monday, primarily interested in lauding a “class of global VIP celebrating its good works.” That doesn’t help many poor people, but it did aid the Clintons in their effort to attract wealthy, self-interested donors who preferred to give to a foundation that could advance their personal political and economic agendas rather than aid the poor.

Brendan O'Neill in Reason Magazine ponders the idea that women would vote for Hillary simply because she is a woman.
There's something profoundly sexist in this. Hillary is valued, not for her ability to think abstractly, which is the very essence of politics, but for what she represents viscerally—the visceral being, in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary, the bowels, "the seat of emotion."

A hundred years ago, the precise same view of women as visceral rather than abstract creatures was used as an argument against having them in the political realm.

In 1910, the London-based journal The Anti-Suffrage Review said women have difficulty "forming abstract ideas." "Woman is emotional," it said, "and government by emotion quickly degenerates into injustice." Yet now, a century later, the potential first woman president of the U.S. is hailed by some for her visceral—"not abstract," in Harding's words—understanding of women's lives and everyday issues. To stick with the biological-function theme, modern feminism is pooping all over the suffragettes, who fought tooth-and-nail against the valuation of their viscera over their brains.

Harding's pussy politics is only a more physical, blood-obsessed version of one of the main arguments coming from Hillary's cheerleaders in the media: that she deserves to be elected because she's a woman, because she has a vagina.

In response to the claim that Hillary is "playing the gender card," Jessica Valenti says "good," adding "I hope she plays the gender card so hard..." Valenti writes about "the very important, symbolic and necessary vision of the first woman president," and says "that's a gender card I'd play again and again." In short, she's voting with her vagina.

Chelsea Clinton says her mother's femaleness is "absolutely important for...symbolic reasons." Nancy Pelosi says Hillary's sex should also be a "very major consideration" for voters, because of the brilliant gravity of "what it would mean to elect a woman president of the United States." In short, vote with your vaginas. Or if you're in the unfortunate position of having a dick, then at least give "very major consideration" to the fact that Hillary is a woman and vote for her accordingly. Think about what is in this woman's knickers rather than what is in her mind.

Glenn Reynolds explains why it is such a bad idea to federalize local police. He has some other suggestions that will, of course, never be enacted.
Instead, if we're really serious about increasing law enforcement accountability, we should end civil service protections for federal employees, while outlawing public employee unions. We should also abolish governmental immunity for federal, state, and local employees, forcing them to face civil lawsuits for illegal behavior, just as the rest of us must do.

Instead of centralizing law enforcement, we should promote decentralization, and accountability. Accountability is a good thing. Sharpton should try it some time.

Jeff Jacoby bemoans what has become increasingly clear in America today. The tyranny of the mob is stifling free exchange of ideas.
More and more, this is what the marketplace of ideas is turning into. The ruthless determination not just to silence opposing points of view, but to humiliate and crush even allies willing to hear an opposing point of view, violates every liberal principle of tolerance, reason, and dialogue in the public sphere.

The language police in Baltimore and the auto-da-fé of Cruz’s dinner hosts are but two fresh examples of a phenomenon rising all around us. Commencement speakers are disinvited from college campuses. Mozilla’s CEO is forced to resign over a donation made years earlier to a ballot campaign supporting the traditional definition of marriage. Hillary Clinton declares that abortion rights must be defended with the “political will” needed to change “deep-seated . . . religious beliefs.” Speech codes and “trigger warnings” are deployed to enforce a spurious — but expanding — right not to be offended or disturbed.

Increasingly, the censors and silencers are at work, stifling ideas, demonizing speakers, ostracizing open-mindedness — decreeing even certain words beyond the pale. It is a dangerous, illiberal, antidemocratic trend. If we don’t rouse ourselves to reverse it now, we may never get the chance.

Just what your mom might want for Mother's Day - a call from Hillary Clinton.
“Give someone special in your life a Mother’s Day gift to remember: A call from Hillary (on your behalf!) Enter now for your chance to win,” reads Clinton’s campaign website, which then prompts users to enter their email address.

After entering that information, the site makes another pitch.

“Now increase your odds — chip in to be automatically entered again for another chance to win,” reads the site, which allows for contributions ranging from $5 to $2,700.
Can you imagine your own mother's reaction if you told her, "Hey, instead of getting you a gift or calling you on Mother's Day, I've won a call from Hillary for you!" I'm sure that would go over well.