Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cruising the Web

This is an absolutely appalling story about what our craven leadership agreed to in the Iran deal.
Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.

The revelation on Wednesday newly riled Republican lawmakers in the U.S. who have been severely critical of a broader agreement to limit Iran's future nuclear programs, signed by the Obama administration, Iran and five world powers in July. Those critics have complained that the wider deal is unwisely built on trust of the Iranians, while the administration has insisted it depends on reliable inspections.
Just try to twist your mind around this - we're going to allow Iran to conduct its own investigation of itself. And Obama and Kerry agreed to this because there is, apparently, nothing to which they wouldn't have agreed to get the pretense of a deal. But this isn't a deal, because Iran is not giving anything up. They're just trusting the Iranians to be honest with them. And when have the Iranians given us any indication that they are to be trusted?

Allahpundit reports,
If you’re wondering how often a country suspected of covertly working on a bomb is allowed to report on its own facilities, without the IAEA conducting independent inspections, former UN inspector OIli Heinonen told the AP he’d never heard of such a thing in all his time at the agency. This capitulation, essentially putting Iran on the honor system, is totally unprecedented. Heinonen, incidentally, is also the guy who raised alarms last month when it came out that Iran’s deal with the U.S. would give them 24 days potentially to clean up a site where secret nuclear work is suspected before the UN is allowed entry. That’s more than enough time to cover your tracks, said Heinonen, if the site is small, as is likely to be the case with Iran’s attempts at cheating. In other words, we have one of the world’s foremost experts on nuclear weapons programs telling western media that the enforcement provisions of the deal are a sham....

Why is this a secret? I could understand keeping it under wraps if the secret side deal amounted to a huge capitulation by Iran; in that case, you’d want to keep it out of the media so that Iran’s hardest fanatics don’t revolt against the deal as a national humiliation. But in reality, the side deal is a huge capitulation to Iran. What reason is there to keep it classified except to spare Obama and his European partners some enormous political difficulty in selling this deal to the suckers in their electorates?
The WSJ writes,
But that spin started to unravel three weeks ago with the discovery that the Parchin inspections were part of a secret side agreement between the IAEA and Iran—not between Iran and the six negotiating countries. Secretary of State John Kerry has said he hasn’t read the side deal, though his negotiating deputy Wendy Sherman told MSNBC that she “saw the pieces of paper” but couldn’t keep them. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has told Members of the U.S. Congress that he’s bound by secrecy and can’t show them the side deals.

That secrecy should be unacceptable to Congress—all the more so after the AP dispatch. The news service says it has seen a document labelled “separate arrangement II.” The document says Iran will provide the IAEA with photos and locations that the IAEA says are linked to Iran’s weapons work, “taking into account military concerns.”

In other words, the country that lied for years about its nuclear weapons program will now be trusted to come clean about those lies. And trusted to such a degree that it can limit its self-inspections so they don’t raise “military concerns” in Iran.

Keep in mind that the side deal already excludes a role for the U.S., and that the IAEA lacks any way to enforce its side deal since it has no way of imposing penalties for violations. Iran has also already ruled out any role for American or Canadian nationals on the inspection teams....

The news raises further doubts about a nuclear pact that is already leaking credibility. Unfettered access to Parchin is crucial to understanding Iran’s past nuclear work, which is essential to understanding how close Iran has come to getting the bomb. Without that knowledge it’s impossible to know if Iran really is a year or more away from having the bomb, which is the time period that Mr. Kerry says is built into the accord and makes it so worth doing.

Earlier this year President Obama signed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which says Congress must receive all documents related to the deal, including any “entered into or made between Iran and any other parties.” That has to mean the IAEA.

And note that this was a secret agreement that the administration was hoping no one would find out about. They want to keep these side-agreements from the Congress. Typical. Yet the Democrats will still hold their noses and vote for this abomination. Shameful.

What's next for our pusillanimous leaders? They must be looking around the globe for some other tyrants that they can grovel before. Khamenei, Putin, Castro...who's next?

And now comes the accusation that the Obama administration is already undermining its own defense of the Iran deal.
Two leading U.S. senators are calling on the Obama administration to release secret letters to foreign governments assuring them that they will not be legally penalized for doing business with the Iranian government, according to a copy of a letter sent Wednesday to the State Department and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) disclosed in the letter to the State Department that U.S. lawmakers have been shown copies of several letters sent by the Obama administration to the Chinese, German, French, and British governments assuring them that companies doing business with Iran will not come under penalty.

The Obama administration is purportedly promising the foreign governments that if Iran violates the parameters of a recently inked nuclear accord, European companies will not be penalized, according to the secret letters.

Congress became aware of these promises during closed-door briefings with the Obama administration and through documents filed by the administration under a law requiring full disclosure of all information pertaining to the accord.

The issue of sanctions on Iran has become a major issue on Capitol Hill in the weeks since the Obama administration agreed to a deal that permits Iran to enter the international community in exchange for temporarily constraining its nuclear program.
What it all points to is that Obama wanted to cave to the Iranians and he's achieved his goal already. It doesn't matter what the Congress does about the deal. Iran will get its $150 billion in frozen assets to throw into the terrorism and intimidation market and they'll be well on their way to a nuclear weapon while the possibility of renewed, "snap-back" sanctions is just a mirage.

You donate to the Hillary Clinton campaign and expect to pay your own parking and food costs.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which has struggled to keep costs in check, wants donors to pay for their own food and valet parking at fundraising events, according to a request it filed this month with the Federal Election Commission.

The request, released publicly by the FEC on Tuesday afternoon, sketches out a novel accounting plan under which the Clinton campaign would shift some fundraising costs to donors, without counting against their contribution limits.

According to the request signed by Clinton’s lead campaign lawyer Marc Elias, Clinton’s presidential campaign “plans to organize and host numerous events throughout the election cycle in restaurants, hotels, or similar event spaces,” including some at which it “does not plan to make significant food or beverages available to event attendees.” Instead, the campaign “anticipates that individuals in attendance may want to personally purchase food or beverages at the location of the event,” Elias wrote in the request.
It might be a good idea. Her campaign knows that they can't waste money. But it's also a clever way to maneuver around laws controlling donations.

If only the Hillary camp could keep its story straight, but, alas, they're prevented from doing so because they don't know what the server might turn up.
And, complicating things, Clinton might not actually know for certain whether her server was “wiped clean.” Let’s face it: Clinton was probably told that the server was “taken care of,” but can she be sure? No doubt, in her mind, someone has already failed to do his job and has failed her in the process. Who knows what the FBI will be able to uncover? The uncertainty of what is in the e-mails that have been disclosed and what e-mails might be discovered later prohibits Team Clinton from getting its story straight. It’s hard to lie when you don’t know what you’re lying about. It is safe to assume a prayer for a clean server has become part of Clinton’s daily routine.

PJ Media finds the most amusing email in the files of Hillary's correspondence.

Campaigns usually either pay such costs directly or, in the case of smaller events in donors’ homes, allow hosts to donate food, drink and parking costs. But, when hosts provide services and the tally exceeds $1,000, the FEC interprets those costs as in-kind campaign contributions because they are considered “necessary expenses incurred to provide an inducement for the making of a contribution.”

And those in-kind contributions count against donors’ $2,700 contribution limit for the primary election. For example, if a host paid $3,000 for pastries, juice and coffee for a breakfast fundraiser, that person could write off $1,000 of it if it was in their own home, but they would only be able to donate another $700 in cash to the beneficiary campaign.

Under the accounting sketched out in the Clinton request, though, individual attendees — rather than the host — would each pay their own way. But the costs wouldn’t count as an in-kind contributions, and, as such, wouldn’t diminish the amount of cash they could give to the campaign.

The campaign’s rationale, according to the request, is that the food and parking services offered at the fundraisers in question aren’t “necessary expenses” related to the fundraising, but rather elective extras that aren’t central to the event.

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Hypocrisy is alive and kicking in the Obama administration as they approach low-level leakers compared to insiders who leaked.
This administration has investigated and prosecuted more security leakers and people who mishandled secrets than any other in history. It has sent six persons to prison.

But when it came to retired Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was said to be President Obama’s favorite general, the White House refused to cooperate with a special prosecutor. The prosecutor had named Mr. Cartwright as the target of his investigation of leaked secrets about a covert program to foil Iran’s nuclear program.

The Washington Post reported the White House cited national security as the reason for not turning over records. NBC News reports Mr. Cartwright was a target, generally meaning the FBI had gathered enough evidence for an indictment. Mr. Cartwright’s attorney said his client did nothing wrong.

Then there is the case of retired ArmyGen. David H. Petraeus, one of the great figures in the war on terror who advises the Obama White House on national security. As CIA director and part of Mr. Obama’s closest national security advisers, he mishandled classified documents.

He received what some lawyers for other defendants complain was a slap on the wrist in a plea deal that allowed him to avoid prison.

Then there were the leaks from the Obama administration about the May 2011 SEAL Team 6 raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign frequently pointed to the mission as a reason to re-elect him.

Then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was so appalled by the amount of information on tactics and techniques secrets pouring into the public from the White House that he strongly urged Obama aides to shut up.

The Defense Department inspector general conducted an investigation into White House support for the 2012 bin Laden hunt movie, “Zero Dark Thirty.” It found that the White House created talking points on the intelligence leading up to the mission to be shared with the moviemakers, according to a draft copy obtained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

The IG also found that then-CIA Director Leon E. Panetta disclosed classified information at an awards ceremony at CIA headquarters attended by moviemakers who were not authorized to hear classified information. Mr. Panetta disclosed the ground commander’s name, which was protected. He also discussed material that was “TOP SECRET//SI//REL,” the draft report said.

SI refers to “special intelligence,” or communications intercepts. REL means it can be shared with certain countries listed.

The IG’s final version, released publicly in June 2013, scrubbed any mention of the Panetta slip....

Former CIA analyst John Kiriakou spent two years in prison for leaking the identify of a CIA operative to the news media. Last year, he wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Panetta’s disclosures “should result in a criminal espionage charge.”

“The president and the attorney general have used the Espionage Act against more people than all other administrations combined, but not against real traitors and spies,” he wrote from prison. “The law has been applied selectively, often against whistle-blowers and others who expose illegal, corrupt government actions.”

Mr. Kiriakou was released from prison in February.

There are no public reports of any Obama administration officials being punished for providing raid details that so alarmed Mr. Gates.

In contrast, the Obama Justice Department has prosecuted at least nine persons for leaking or mishandling classified information: one Army soldier, two National Security Agency personnel, two FBI employees, one State Department contractor, two former CIA officers and Mr. Petraeus.

Unlike Mr. Petraeus, the other eight were relatively low-ranking employees, and six were sentenced to prison terms.

The Obama administration also has placed government whistleblowers under investigation on claims they made unauthorized disclosures. The whistleblowers see these probes as a blatant attempt to silence them.

Hillary thinks it's enough of an answer to the media to say that "Nobody talks to me about it other than you guys." That is a doubly stupid thing to say. First of all, she faces crowds of her supporters so they might not care. Or if people do care, they're too polite to ask her a rude question to her face. That doesn't mean that people, in general, don't care about the story. And secondly, this is the job of the media - to pursue stories where they're taken and ask tough questions of the candidates. And thirdly, she's running for president and she's being accused of breaking federal laws and is being investigated by the FBI. That isn't a story? Once again, we're being given a glimpse of how she would conduct herself as president. Journalists would be treated as rude pests whom she can ignore and brush off while she cloaks herself in self-righteous claims of doing the job that the American people sent her there to do - just as her husband stonewalled through a year of scandal.

Nate Silver thinks that its still very likely that Hillary will win the nomination and then see an upswing in her poll numbers. He also points out that it's not uncommon for the seemingly "inevitable" candidates to see their popularity numbers decline. And Bernie Sanders is ideally suited for Iowa and New Hampshire because they're such white states. But once a GOP nominee is chosen, the media will remember that they prefer Democrats and order will be restored.

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Rubio's strategy is to be the tortoise of the GOP pack. That might be very clever or very stupid.

Mark Blumenthal provides his analysis that Trump may have a lot of trouble capturing the nomination because he may not be able to build his support beyond the approximately 25% now supporting him. He may be at the ceiling of his popularity. Once other candidates start dropping out, their support will coalesce around some other candidate than Trump. Hot Air has some poll results that indicate that a race between Trump and another candidate would be hard for Trump to win, unless the other guy is Jeb Bush.
Yes, in theory, Trump's support could grow to a majority of Republican primary voters, but right now his vote falls well short of a Republican consensus. His unique celebrity status may help protect the support he now receives. His voters already know him well and have learned little, so far, to change their existing opinions. However, that same characteristic -- the fact that Trump is already a known quantity -- may also make it very hard for that support to grow.

Mayor Blasio moves to protect himself. Amazing how these supposedly populist politicians choose such policies, isn't it?
Mayor de Blasio, who promised to run the most transparent administration in city history, has taken steps to have his office review any public records request of any city agency that could "reflect directly on the mayor."

That broad mandate, outlined in a May 5 email obtained by The Associated Press, could give de Blasio's office control over virtually all newsworthy Freedom of Information Law requests from journalists, watchdog groups or members of the public.

Although the ramifications of the policy are not yet clear, transparency advocates fear such control could lead to prolonged delays in responding to records requests, a criticism both President Barack Obama and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced when they instituted similar policies.

If you don't like Trump's position on an issue, wait a few days; he'll have a new one for us. Sometimes, it won't even take a couple of days.
This has been too much for some conservatives, such as National Review's Charles Cooke, who complained about Trump's flip flopping on Hannity's show. "He said on this show... that he was fine with the progressive income tax. ... The day before, he suggested he was in favor of a flat tax. Literally 24 hours before. He's making it up as he goes along, and we are all falling it for some reason."

It's possible that this is simply a reflection of Trump's brazen style. He likes to sound bold and decisive, even if he doesn't have the particulars worked out yet. But if Trump has such a thin grasp on key issues like tax reform, it does raise legitimate questions about just what it is he'd do if elected president.

As Trump starts releasing details about his plans, it will be far more difficult for him to wing it without looking incredibly fickle. Or worse, looking like a typical politician who'll say anything to get elected.

Tom Steyer has spent millions to support Democratic candidates and push green policies. Unfortunately for California, his recommended economic policies aren't producing the desired results. In fact, they've been a total bust.
In 2012 the hedge-fund billionaire bankrolled a California ballot initiative (Prop. 39) hitting up corporations to finance green construction jobs. The referendum changed the way many corporations that do business across state lines calculate their tax liability. Half of the new revenues were to be earmarked for “clean energy” (e.g., LED and solar panel installations) with the rest flowing into Sacramento’s general fund for the politicians to spend.

Mr. Steyer and friends claimed the initiative would raise more than $500 million annually for green projects and create tens of thousands of jobs. Neither dream has come true. According to AP, the initiative’s clean-energy fund has raised $973 million over the past three years—about a third less than projections because companies have responded by seeking to minimize their tax liabilities.

And little of that has gone toward creating “clean energy.” Funding recipients have frittered away millions completing paperwork—energy surveys, audits, data analytics—to meet California Energy Commission’s guidelines, which require $1.05 of energy savings for every dollar spent. Schools have spent more than half of the $297 million that they’ve received on consultants and auditors. As if California’s regulatory compliance industry needed more work.

AP reports that the initiative has created all of 1,700 jobs over three years, yet the state doesn’t know how much if any energy has been saved. Credit to Mr. Steyer for his grand ambitions. His initiative may beat the 2009 Obama-Pelosi blowout as the country’s least effective jobs stimulus.

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It's not a good sign for the party when Joe Biden is regarded as its savior.
The enthusiasm, however, is not shared at the White House. President Obama doesn’t want to have to pick sides between his current veep and former secretary of state. A Democratic source told CNN, “I’m not getting any sense of a Joe Biden caucus inside the White House.”

On first blush, why not Biden? He’s a sitting vice president with massive name recognition, is beloved among Democrats and, as a vetted entity, has the experience to slip seamlessly into a presidential election.

But on the other hand, how bad must things be for Clinton if Democrats are trying to get a guy who just lost his son to brain cancer to re-enter what will undoubtedly be a brutal and exhausting campaign season? Further, how thin is the Democratic bench that a guy who has twice run for President unsuccessfully, who would be 74 when sworn into the White House, who has zero campaign money and no campaign infrastructure, is your next best hope?

The short term optics of Biden swooping in — either to rescue Hillary or to usurp her — are pretty terrible for a party insisting it alone owns the women’s empowerment mantle. Not to mention, how “fresh” will Democratic ideas look when the top candidates touting them are 67 (Clinton), 72 (Sanders) and 73 years old?

In the long term, if Hillary’s supporters feel she’s no longer viable, it’s likely they divide between Biden and Sanders, leaving the party even more fractured and weakened than before.

It’s an unenviable dilemma for Democrats, but one they should have seen coming a mile away. Hillary Clinton not only brings old baggage wherever she goes, she picks up new baggage when she gets there.

Will the mounting pile sink her and the party? Or will Biden attempt an intervention? It’s a distinction without a difference.

The Democrats like to claim that the Republicans don't have any plan to replace Obamacare. That's ignoring the three decent proposals out there.

Charles C. W. Cooke watched Hillary's video with activists from the Black Lies Matter protests and came away feeling sorry for her.
In another sense, however, Clinton was coming up hard against a perennial problem of our contemporary political world — a problem that anybody who deals with activists will recognize immediately: namely, that those who are the most deeply invested in a particular cause can often become hooked more on the fight than on achieving its stated aims. Seen this way, Clinton’s “gaffe”— which was rooted in sarcasm rather than malice — was the understandable, legitimate product of a genuine frustration with a conversation that had become farcical, circular, and impossible to effectively navigate.

Leon Wolf explains why it is a fallacy to think that some candidate who is an outsider would make all that much of a difference in Washington.
Here is the salient fact that many people are missing in this particular logical chain. It’s easy to say and do all the right things and to be non-corrupted when you are a political neophyte. Literally everyone who has ever run for office their first time has done it. What’s hard (apparently, at least based on the evidence) is to remain true to your principles after you win your election and actually get to power.

So what we ought to be looking for isn’t really someone who’s never been tested by the allure of power. History tells us that almost all people fail that test. What we ought to instead be looking for is people who have already been tested, to determine which ones have passed the test with the most success.

The best way to tell whether someone will remain true to their principles is not to listen to their campaign speeches during their first run for office. History shows us those are almost entirely lies (or, more charitably, they are well-meant platitudes that wilt under the harsh glare of reality). Rather, the best way to tell is to look at the actual records they compile after running for office and winning.

It is not for nothing that many people who are broadly supportive of Trump/Carson have groused aloud that they should have run for, say, NYC mayor or Virginia Governor/Senate before throwing their hat into the Presidential ring. Too often have we heard people who sounded almost exactly like them who came before, only to be singing a different tune a couple years into their first term.

Holman Jenkins defends Carly Fiorina's leadership at Hewlett-Packard.