Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Cruising the Web

What an odd turn of events. The Obama administration is considering trying to allay Saudi Arabia's fears of the Iran deal by selling them a missile defense system.
The Obama administration is quietly pushing Sunni Arab allies in the Persian Gulf to create an advanced missile defense system, and is preparing to ramp up sophisticated weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in an effort to ease regional fears over a potential nuclear deal with Iran.

With Secretary of State John F. Kerry set to visit Saudi Arabia Wednesday and Thursday, officials privately say the administration is weighing whether to offer Riyadh — already a major buyer of American and European weaponry — GBU-28 bunker buster bombs Washington has so far only been willing to provide to Israel.

The discussions are taking place under a cloak of secrecy. The officials who spoke with The Washington Times did so on condition of anonymity only, and the Saudi Embassy declined to comment.

The creation of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), or Aegis defense system against missiles stretching from Saudi Arabia to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, would also have to involve an agreement from Israel. But U.S. officials say the prospect that such a system could be sold to those nations is real and will be a centerpiece of closed-door talks between President Obama and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders at Camp David this month....

The secrecy around weapons dealings with the Saudis stems from the fact that Obama administration officials are trying to find a way of placating Riyadh without violating a 2008 congressional mandate that requires Washington to ensure Israel’s military superiority in the region, another official said.

“We have to make sure any transfer of weapons to anyone in the region won’t undermine Israel’s ability to defend itself,” said one of the officials who spoke with The Times.

It’s a situation that hangs heavily over the administration’s calculus on whether to offer the Saudis the GBU-28, a weapon Washington first began delivering to Israel in 2009.

The bomb is among the few capable of penetrating underground facilities — including those Iran is widely suspected to have created to shield its nuclear programs — and American diplomats initially sought to keep its transfer to Israel a secret. A classified 2009 State Department cable published by Wikileaks showed both sides agreeing such transfers “should be handled quietly to avoid any allegation that [Washington was] helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran.”

But the desire to carry out such strikes now seems increasingly shared by Riyadh. Analysts say Saudi leaders share the deep skepticism in the Sunni Arab world that the nuclear pact — which faces a June deadline to complete — will stop Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Remember how the Democrats opposed Reagan's championing of a missile defense system. They ridiculed it as Star Wars and claimed it couldn't work and then complained that it would be seen as a provocation by the Russians. One of the first things Obama did was cancel an agreement to sell the missile system they had derided as impossible to Poland and the Czech Republic so we could have that wonderful reset with Russia even though it was meant to protect Central Europe from Iranian missiles. And now the Obama administration is effectively approving an arms race in the Middle East as it pursues its quixotic deal with Iran. Amazing.

Nina Easton writes of the frightening way that ISIS recruits women and uses them to terrorize other women.
We like to think of women as peacemakers, not purveyors of violence. The rise of ISIS, however, which is drawing female recruits from around the world, is turning that assumption on its head.

Two of the world’s leading experts on ISIS describe women as a central part of the terror group’s brutal machinery. Female recruits are the morality enforcers, the propagandists, even the overseers of rape against captured non-Muslim women.

“What was eye-opening to me in my research is that the women were every bit as motivated as the men,” said the Brookings Institution’s William McCants, author of the forth-coming book The ISIS Apocalypse. Together with Princeton Islamic scholar Bernard Haykel, McCants this week described the inner workings of ISIS to invited journalists at the Faith Angle Forum on Religion, Politics and Public Life. Both scholars at this Miami gathering portrayed a terror group with a culture far more brutal than even Al Qaeda, architect of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Of course, women have often been the targets of Islamic terror. Prominent examples include the Pakistan Taliban’s shootings of Malala Yousafzai and her friends—singled out for daring to attend school—and, in Nigeria, the girls and women kidnapped by Boko Haram, some of whom were tragically stoned to death this week.

Operating in large swathes of Syria and Iraq, ISIS reserves its worst brutality for non-Muslim women and girls, particularly the Yazidi women captured last summer, who are being held in brothels and repeatedly raped. Others were sold as brides—another word for prisoners. ISIS “enslaves non-Muslim women and children,” says Haykel. “That’s what the early Muslims did.” And rape of one’s “property,” be they wives or captives, is perfectly acceptable under ISIS theology.

Here’s where it gets even more warped. Young women recruited to ISIS are the ones running those rape brothels. Women also form the core of the terror group’s brutal “morality police,” enforcing strict codes of dress and behavior for female Muslims. “Women are doling out punishment to women,” says Haykel.

Philip Klein explains why Mike Huckabee's candidacy is not going anywhere. He's not the only candidate who appeals to evangelicals this time around. And it's not clear which other voters would find him the most appealing candidate out of the large GOP field. And he has his own Willie Horton problem. As governor of Arkansas, he granted over a thousand clemencies, but one of the beneficiaries of that clemency went on to kill four police officers.

And Politico Magazine has a story about Huckabee's record as a big-government populist.
Mike Huckabee had a pretty good record as governor. It’s too bad he can’t run on it. Better known in recent years for saying occasionally outrageous things as a commentator, Huckabee governed Arkansas for more than a decade as a pragmatist, devoting his attention to basics such as roads, schools and health care. On those issues, though, Huckabee generally took positions too liberal to suit a Republican presidential prospect in 2016—posing a conundrum for him as he plunges this week into the 2016 presidential race

“Mike Huckabee was the consummate conservative populist,” says Jay Barth, a political scientist at Arkansas’s Hendrix College. “He was very conservative on social issues but pretty activist when it came to the role of government in people’s lives.”
In fact, his record as governor would likely surprise many of those who have come to know him only as a political commentator in recent years.

I wouldn't vote for Carly Fiorina for president, but she gets my nomination for being the GOP point-person to talk to the media. Her interview with Katie Couric is a model of how Republicans should reject the premises underlying media questions.

Dan Schnur explains what the real role candidates like Huckabee, Fiorina, and Carson serve in the Republican race.
For all the complaints about the never-ending nature of presidential campaigns, there is something to be said for putting the candidates for the most powerful office in the world through the crucible of a years-long ordeal. Before we elect a man or woman to take on the responsibilities that come with being the leader of the free world, we want to see them tested in every conceivable way and how they react when they are stressed, angry, hungry, bitter, sad, and exhausted. In their convention speeches and television commercials, we see them at their best. But in the grueling weeks and months between those high-water points, voters need to see them at their worst.

Mitt Romney was so discombobulated by goading from more conservative GOP challengers in 2012 that he called for undocumented immigrants to leave the U.S. voluntarily. By the time John Kerry had shaken off Howard Dean’s anti-war challenge in 2004, Mr. Kerry had moved so far to the left that he could not recover. Successful candidates such as Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, survived in large part because of their ability to remain unprovoked by Lilliputian rivals.

Mr. Huckabee in particular presents such a challenge to the leading Republican candidates this year. More than any other of his party’s likely candidates, Mr. Huckabee has an innate understanding of what motivates people of deep religious faith, and he will almost certainly force his opponents into discussions that those with general-election aspirations would prefer to avoid. Similarly, the ferocity of Mr. Carson’s and Ms. Fiorina’s attacks on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will raise the bar for how more emotionally measured candidates express their dissatisfaction.

How the front-runners resist the temptation to be drawn into rhetorical or spiritual arms races next spring will determine how they are perceived by swing voters next fall. Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee are not going to be president. But they could help determine who our next president will be.

Peter Wehner asks a good question that should be drummed home constantly. Hillary Clinton has accomplished very little in her professional life. So just what exactly are the achievements that foster this idea that she is competent.
What exactly are her brilliant achievements? Is it HillaryCare, a substantive disaster that led to a political disaster (the Republican sweep in the 1994 mid-term election)? The multiple ethical problems she’s encountered during her years in politics? Here fierce opposition to the Petraeus-led surge in Iraq long after it was obvious it was succeeding? Perhaps the Russian reset? Referring to Bashar Assad, the genocidal dictator of Syria, as a “reformer“? Or maybe her masterful handling of the Iranian Green Revolution, relations with Egypt, Libya, Israel, the attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Poland, the Czech Republic, the “pivot” to Asia and countless other failures during the first Obama term?

What exactly are her achievements – her concrete, tangible, exceptional achievements – as First Lady, senator, and secretary of state? They don’t exist. In fact, the things she has her fingerprints on have, much more often than not, turned into disasters. The case that her supporters put forward on her behalf — she has flown nearly a million miles, visited more than 100 countries, read briefing books (!) and had tea with local power brokers (!!) – highlights just how pathetic her achievements are.

The media meme that Mrs. Clinton is “competent” – nay, “hyper-competent” – is silly. During the quarter-century she’s been on the national stage, she has proved herself to be an individual of extraordinary ambition, a conspiracy theorist, ethically challenged, and a key figure in a brutal political machine. She is also, pace The Economist and Chris Cillizza, unusually inept. This judgment is not an opinion; it is based on a reasonable assessment of her actual record. Including her briefing book reading habits and tea times.
In the end, the answer is simply that she has held the titles of senator and secretary of state and is a woman. There is nothing more.

The media seem ready to buy the idea that Barack Obama is a bookworm and deride the idea that George W. Bush read books despite all evidence to the contrary.
ill and Chelsea Clinton are convening foreign leaders here at a lush golf resort set in a palm grove this week to showcase their foundation’s charitable work. But the conference also highlights new controversies engulfing the Clinton family’s vast philanthropic enterprises as Hillary Rodham Clinton begins her presidential campaign.

A liberal human rights organization and several Republican lawmakers, for instance, are criticizing the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation for accepting donations from a Moroccan government-owned mining company, whose seven-figure sponsorship of this week’s gathering came amid growing scrutiny of foreign-government contributions to the charity.

Meanwhile, some blue-chip companies that have long provided large donations to the Clinton Foundation are pulling back or reassessing their support.

An Exxon Mobil spokesman said this week that the company has decided not to be involved in the Clinton Global Initiative this year. The oil company said its decision was unrelated to recent scrutiny of the foundation, but this is the first year it has not been a sponsor since 2009. Other sponsors, including Monsanto, are reevaluating their partnerships.

This week’s flashy Morocco conference — a first-ever Africa and Middle East spinoff of the flagship CGI held each September in New York — underscores the foundation’s controversial fundraising practices, which have become a potential anchor on Hillary Clinton’s nascent campaign.

Bill Clinton's splashy conference in Marrakesh isn't generating the type of headlines the Clintons have come to expect as the right of the former president.
The Morocco conference offers the latest examples of the Clinton Foundation accepting money from foreign entities. The event is sponsored by an array of global corporations, including the state-owned Office Cherifien des Phosphates, or OCP, which has given between $1 million and $5 million overall to the foundation and whose sponsorship of the Morocco conference was first reported by Politico.

Human rights advocates — including several members of Congress — have criticized the company’s mining operations in the Western Sahara territory because they say that OCP does not have the consent of the indigenous population there....

The Moroccan government has disputed such charges. Nonetheless, Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) wrote the Clinton Foundation last month urging it to refuse the Moroccan contribution, citing human rights and fair-trade concerns.

“This donation is an example of a blatant conflict of interest” for the Clintons, Pitts said in a statement. “Morocco would like nothing more than having a possible future First Family condone its illegal exploitation of natural resources.”

As the stories about Baltimore depress us about the seeming impossible task of bringing the fate of poor, minority children born into single-parent families in the inner city, here is an inspirational story about the middle school where my daughter teaches in Washington, D.C. With extremely hard work and dedication, students are being given opportunities to change their fate. And remember which party opposes the spread of such charter schools and would prefer that students are stuck in the terrible public schools. President Obama keeps threatening the end for opportunity scholarships for poor D.C. children. Stephen Moore writes,
Virginia Ford, whose son escaped the public schools through a private-scholarship to Archbishop Carroll, now runs a group called D.C. Parents for School Choice. She tells me that “kids in the scholarship program have consistently improved their test scores, have higher graduation rates, and are more likely to attend college than those stuck in the D.C. public schools.”

The numbers back her up. An Education Department-funded study at the University of Arkansas recently found that graduation rates rose 21 percentage points—to 91%, from 70%—for students awarded the scholarship vouchers through a lottery, compared with a control group of those who applied for but didn’t get the scholarships. For all D.C. public schools, the high-school graduation rate is closer to an abysmal 56%.

“If you’ve got a program that’s clearly working and helping these kids, why end it?” asks Pamela Battle, whose son Carlos received a voucher and was able to attend the elite Georgetown Day School. He’s now at Northeastern University in Boston. She says Carlos “almost surely wouldn’t have gone to college” without the voucher. “We send all this money overseas for foreign aid,” she adds, “why not save the kids here at home first?”

Amazingly, these energized parents are opposed by almost every liberal group, even the NAACP, and nearly every Democrat in Congress—including Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia in Congress but opposes a program that benefits her own constituents.

There is little question what stirs this opposition. The teachers union sees the program as taking away union jobs, and it is so powerful that the Democratic establishment falls in line. “It is so sad that our public schools aren’t doing what’s best for the kids,” laments Ms. Ford, but instead are looking out for “the adults.”

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program turns conventional politics upside down. President George W. Bush created the program and invited several of the parents, including Ms. Battle, to the White House. “I got to meet President Bush and his wife, who was so lovely,” she recalls about the meeting.

Mr. Obama won’t even meet with these parents. A few years ago the voucher supporters held a rally with 3,000 minority and disadvantaged families in front of the Capitol to protest President Obama’s proposed elimination of the program for all new students. Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, one of the program’s strongest supporters, stood in solidarity with the families, while Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues were nowhere to be seen.

Democrats should listen to these families’ compelling stories of how this educational program is turning their lives around. ....The most common objection to vouchers is that they drain public schools of resources. But Ms. Ford notes that when the Opportunity Scholarship program was created, the feds gave $20 million for the vouchers and an extra $20 million for the public schools. This meant more money for the public schools—and unionized teachers still opposed the program. “They aren’t afraid that the voucher program won’t work,” she says, “but that it will.”

The left’s rote response to rotten schools is to call for more money, but the D.C. scholarship program shows that a quality education can be had for less money. The Census Bureau reported in 2012 that Washington spent $18,667 per pupil in 2010. The scholarship amounts are $8,500 for elementary-school children and $12,000 for high school. So the voucher program gives kids a better education at about half the cost to the taxpayer.

Several parents point out that President Obama and his wife Michelle shopped around and chose the prep school Sidwell Friends for their daughters. Several of the Opportunity Scholarship children also go there. Now the president wants to end the program for children who sit next to his own daughters in the classroom. “He lives in public housing too,” says Mr. Kelley, half joking. “Why should he get school choice just because he’s rich and we’re not? If it’s good for your children, it’s good for our children.”

Public education has traditionally been the great equalizer in America. The tragedy today is that the decline of public schools is one of the leading contributors to generational cycles of poverty. Democrats say they want to make the 2016 election about income inequality, but they stand united in opposition to one of the most effective ways of reducing the gap between rich and poor: better education.

The good news is that school-choice programs like the one in Washington have spread to more than 20 states and about 300,000 children. While the programs are expanding, they are still too few to have much overall impact on American education.

Republicans should seize this issue. And when unions mobilize to kill school choice, the GOP should fight side by side with these inspiring students and parents to expand it across the country. The Education Department’s spending for K-12 education will soon reach $50 billion. For what? How about a GOP plan that would take that money from the bureaucracy and distribute five million vouchers of $10,000 each to the lowest-income Americans—like those who live in Baltimore?

After all, it is certainly not the case that Baltimore schools are underfunded. They spend more per student than other Maryland schools and as much as nearby Montgomery County schools which have a great reputation.
The Baltimore City Public School district is actually one of the highest-funded districts in the country, on a per-pupil basis. Rather than focus on total funding, concerned Baltimore parents might want to focus on how the cash-flushed school system spends its money.