Friday, July 17, 2015

Cruising the Web

The most common trick that President Obama uses in fending off criticism is to assert a false choice between his policies and what his critics want. Thus, he'd say that his opponents just wanted to leave people uninsured when faced with criticisms of Obamacare and totally ignore all the proposals that Republicans put forward in place of his plan. He does the same thing with Iran. It's his deal or outright war. That is so false. There was another choice, but Obama ignored it and then made it impossible. The WSJ explains this.
Mr. Obama knows there has always been an alternative to his diplomacy of concessions because many critics have suggested it. It’s called coercive diplomacy, and it might have worked to get a better deal if Mr. Obama had tried it.

Take the sanctions regime, which finally started to get tough in December 2011. By 2013 Iran had an official inflation rate of some 35%, its currency was falling, and its dollar reserves were estimated to be down to $20 billion. Mr. Obama had resisted those sanctions, only to take credit for them when Congress insisted and they began to show results in Tehran.

Yet Mr. Obama still resisted calls to put maximum pressure on Iran. He gave waivers to countries like Japan to import Iranian oil. He was reluctant to impose sanctions on global financial institutions that did business with Iran (especially Chinese banks that offered Tehran access to foreign currency). The U.S. could have gone much further to blacklist parts of Iran’s economy run by the Revolutionary Guard Corps. A bipartisan majority in Congress was prepared to impose more sanctions this year, but Mr. Obama refused as he rushed for a second-term deal.

Mr. Obama now argues that the sanctions could not have been maintained, and that they are sure to collapse if Congress scuttles his deal. But there was no sign sanctions were collapsing as long as the U.S. continued to keep the pressure on. And to the extent support did weaken, one reason was the momentum of Mr. Obama’s negotiations. The more the U.S. gave the impression that it desperately wanted a deal, the more other countries and businesses began to maneuver for post-sanctions opportunities.

This is the opposite of coercive diplomacy, which shows determination so an adversary under pressure concludes that it must make more concessions. This is the diplomacy Ronald Reagan practiced with the Soviets, refusing to budge on missile defenses at the 1986 Reykjavik Summit despite pressure from 99% of the world to do so. The Soviets were soon back at the negotiating table.

Mr. Obama could also have pressured Iran on other fronts, the way Reagan did the Soviets by arming enemies of its proxies. The U.S. could have armed the Free Syrian Army to defeat Iran’s allied Assad regime in Damascus, and it could have helped Israel enforce U.N. Resolution 1701 that imposes an arms embargo on Hezbollah in Lebanon.

On Wednesday Mr. Obama conceded that Iran supplies Hezbollah and Assad, while implying he could do nothing about it. The truth is that he chose to do nothing because he didn’t want to offend Iran and jeopardize his nuclear talks. Instead he should have increased the pressure across the board to assist the negotiations and get a better deal.

As for Mr. Obama’s false choice of war and diplomacy, the truth is that war becomes less likely when diplomacy is accompanied by the credible threat of war. The President removed that credible threat from Iran by insisting war was the only (bad) alternative to his diplomacy, as well as by threatening force against Syria only to erase his own “red line.” In May Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei boasted that the U.S. military “can’t do a damn thing” against Iran. He understood his negotiating partner all too well.
There is something truly contemptible about a president ignoring and then destroying one path to achieving his goals and then criticizing those who supported that path as the ones who want war. It might be an effective device with the low information voter, but it is still despicable, particularly when the stakes are so very high.

James Taranto notes Obama's response to a question from ABC's Jonathan Karl about how Syra's Assad and Iranian leaders are trumpeting how well they've done in this deal. Obama said "That's what politicians do." They spin results. How ironic that Obama would say that in the midst of a press conference in which he was spinning the results himself.

Liz Peek writes in the Fiscal Times that the hidden costs of Obama's deal with Iran is what we had to give up to China and Russia to get their cooperation in the deal.
Wat did the Iran deal cost the U.S.? Keeping adversaries like China and Russia at the negotiating table was likely expensive – even though both have much to gain from the relaxation of international sanctions on Iran. Both look forward to ramped-up arms sales and increased trade with Iran, but even so, neither China nor Russia hands out diplomatic wins to the United States without some payback. The proposed acquisition of high-tech chipmaker Micron by a state-owned Chinese company may signal the sort of quid pro quo we will see in months to come.

Abe Greenwald analyzes what he believes were the real goals of Obama in pursuing this deal with Iran.
If you think the United States just struck a poor nuclear deal with Iran, you’re right; but if that’s your key takeaway, you’re missing the point. Iran’s nuclear program was last on the list of the Obama administration’s priorities in talking to Tehran. The administration readily caved on Iran’s nukes because it viewed the matter only as a timely pretense for achieving other cherished aims. These were: (1) preventing an Israeli attack on Iran; (2) transforming the United States into a more forgiving, less imposing power; (3) establishing diplomacy as a great American good in itself; (4) making Iran into a great regional power; and (5), ensuring the legacies of the president and secretary of state as men of vision and peace.
Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds reminds us of Bill Clinton's claims about how great the deal was that his administration signed with North Korea and how that deal would prevent North Korea from getting a nuclear weapon. Do we never learn?

And now they tell us.
Wendy Sherman, the chief negotiator for the United States in the recently agreed upon nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, has admitted that President Obama’s guarantee of “anytime, anyplace access” to Iran’s several nuclear facilities was more rhetoric than reality.

“I think this is one of those circumstances where we have all been rhetorical from time to time,” Sherman told a conference call of Israeli reporters, the Jerusalem Post reports.

“The phrase, anytime, anywhere, is something that became popular rhetoric, but I think people understood that if the IAEA felt it had to have access, and had a justification for that access, that it would be guaranteed, and that is what happened,” she added.

In defending the agreement, which allows for Iran to have 24-day advance notice before inspectors are allowed to visit suspected nuclear facilities, Sherman said, “It’s not so easy to clean up a nuclear site.”

“Twenty four days may seem like a long time, but in nuclear matters, according to scientists and technical experts, it is actually a very short time,” she added.

But of course we gave into this demand.
U.S. and Iranian officials confirmed Thursday that no American nuclear inspectors will be permitted to enter the country’s contested nuclear site under the parameters of a deal reached with world powers this week, according to multiple statements by American and Iranian officials.

If you thought the Obamacare website had improved its abilities to sort out real applicants and fraudulent ones, think again.
Phony applicants that investigators signed up last year under President Barack Obama's health care law got automatically re-enrolled for 2015. Some were rewarded with even bigger taxpayer subsidies for their insurance premiums, a congressional probe has found.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says 11 counterfeit characters that its investigators created last year were automatically re-enrolled by, even though most had unresolved documentation issues. In Obama's terms, they got to keep the coverage they had.

Six of those later were flagged and sent termination notices. But GAO said it was able to get five of them reinstated by calling's consumer service center. That seemed to be a weak link in the system.

Why, Fox News? For God's sake, why?
Meghan McCain, the political scion who has won public fame as a blogger, commentator and TV-show host, will join Fox News Channel as a contributor, Variety has learned.
Why would they want to pay money to such a talentless person whose only claim to fame is her father?

S. V. Date at the National Journal analyzes how Democrats are losing more and more support from white males. And Hillary is not the candidate to win them back.
Karl Savage is the kind of guy that makes top Democrats nervous.

He lives in a working-class neighborhood, with a cigar-store Indian perched on his front stoop and a carved Harley-Davidson sign on his garage. He's voted in Democratic primaries, he's older, he's white—and he does not care for Hillary Clinton. Not one little bit.

He made this very clear, in fact, to a Clinton campaign volunteer who rang his doorbell recently only to watch the front door close on him just seconds into his pitch. A short while later, his wife, Pamela, offered this explanation before similarly shutting the door: "We're not interested. We don't like her."

So while Republicans fret about their party's outreach to Latinos and other minorities, this one Saturday morning door-knock encapsulates the fear among leading Democrats: Their party no longer speaks to white people, particularly white men, and they could lose the White House because of it.
Of course, it's not at all clear that losses among white males would be more damaging to Democrats than losses among women and minorities might be to Republicans.

However, if this trend line continues, she'll have a lot more to worry about than white males.
Hillary Clinton has a problem, according to new national numbers from an Associated Press-GfK poll. The problem is this: Since she's been an active presidential candidate -- she released a video making her intentions plain on Sunday April 12 -- the number of people who view her favorably has rapidly dropped. Since an April AP-GfK poll, Clinton's overall favorable number has dipped by seven points while her unfavorable rating has risen by eight -- up to 49 percent in the new survey.

And, it's not simply Republicans and independents growing more skeptical in their views of Clinton. Seventy percent of self-identified Democrats in the AP-GfK poll said they viewed Clinton favorably, down from 81 percent who said the same back in April.

That's not so good -- especially when you dig further into the AP-GfK numbers on Clinton. Only 31 percent of likely voters say the word "honest" describes Clinton "well" or "very well." Just 40 percent say the same thing when it comes to Clinton being "compassionate." Thirty seven percent say the word "inspiring" describes Clinton either well or very well. You get the idea.

The issue in all of these numbers for Clinton is that they suggest that the more people see her as a candidate -- rather than a stateswoman or former diplomat -- the less they like her and/or warm up to her.
Well, yeah. She's not a likable person. But she is a woman, so maybe that is all that matters.

Well, this isn't any sort of surprise - at least for those people who understand incentives and human rationality.
One of the main causes to the food stamp explosion is the gutting of work requirements. According to federal law, able-bodied adults without dependents need to work at least 20 hours/week or lose benefits after 3 months. In reality, over 40 states have waived such a requirement, according to the Foundation For Government Accountability (FGA). For comparison, in 2006, only six states had such a waiver; it’s now grown to 44.

In 2000, 47 states had asset tests. Federal law states one is eligible if liquid assets are less than $2,000 ($3,250 in homes with disabled or elderly members). Now, asset tests are gone in 35 states, and weakened in five others. It’s to the point where lottery winners and millionaires can be added to food stamp rolls. The removal of the asset test has added 1 million people to the program, with another 4.8 million able-bodied Americans receiving food stamps due to the elimination of work requirements, according to the FGA.

Well, this is a different argument for what a great person Hillary Clinton is.
Patti Solis Doyle, a longtime Hillary Clinton adviser who served as campaign manager during her failed 2008 presidential bid, joined CNN as a political commentator Tuesday morning and penned an op-ed for the network about the Democratic presidential candidate.

During the piece, Solis Doyle, who has previously described Clinton as a “fun” drinker and a gossip, zeroes in on her experience tossing back beers with the former first lady.

“Having worked for her for more than 17 years, I’ve had a beer (or two) with her and I can tell you it is a hell of a lot of fun,” Solis Doyle brags. She spotlights her affinity for “the ‘which candidate would you rather have a beer with’ game,” though neglects to admit whether she would prefer to imbibe with Clinton or other competing candidates.
Apparently, Solis Doyle is quite enthralled with the Hillary-is-fun-because-she-likes-drinking argument because she tends to repeat it over and over. I don't think that will convince anyone. Somehow, the idea of kicking back with Hillary and a beer just doesn't appeal.