Friday, August 07, 2015

Cruising the Web

Charles Krauthammer takes on President Obama.
But it is precisely because these claims are so tendentious and misleading that public — and congressional — opinion is turning.

Inspections? Everyone now knows that “anytime, anywhere” — indispensable for a clandestine program in a country twice the size of Texas with a long history of hiding and cheating — has been changed to “You’ve got 24 days and then we’re coming in for a surprise visit.” New York restaurants, observed Jackie Mason, get more intrusive inspections than the Iranian nuclear program.

Snapback sanctions? Everyone knows that once the international sanctions are lifted, they are never coming back. Moreover, consider the illogic of President Obama’s argument. The theme of his American University speech Wednesday was that the only alternative to what he brought back from Vienna is war because sanctions — even the more severe sanctions that Congress has been demanding — will never deter the Iranians. But if sanctions don’t work, how can you argue that the Iranians will now be deterred from cheating by the threat of . . . sanctions? Snapback sanctions, mind you, that will inevitably be weaker and more loophole-ridden than the existing ones.

And then came news of the secret side agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. These concern past nuclear activity and inspections of the Parchin military facility where Iran is suspected of having tested nuclear detonation devices.

We don’t know what’s in these side deals. And we will never know, says the administration. It’s “standard practice,” you see, for such IAEA agreements to remain secret.

Well, this treaty is not standard practice. It’s the most important treaty of our time. Yet, Congress is asked to ratify this “historic diplomatic breakthrough” (Obama) while being denied access to the heart of the inspection regime.

Congress doesn’t know what’s in these side agreements, but Iran does. And just this past Monday, Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to the supreme leader, declared that “entry into our military sites is absolutely forbidden.”

One secret side deal could even allow Iran to provide its own soil samples (!) from Parchin. And now satellite imagery shows Iran bulldozing and sanitizing Parchin as we speak. The verification regime has turned comic.
Sadly, it is probably hopeless to believe that enough Democrats in both houses would vote to override their party leader's most important foreign policy action. But Obama doesn't hold back from painting it all as a partisan battle even though opposition is bipartisan.
This tragicomedy is now in the hands of Congress or, more accurately, of congressional Democrats. It is only because so many Democrats are defecting that Obama gave the AU speech in the first place. And why he tried so mightily to turn the argument into a partisan issue — those warmongering Republicans attacking a president offering peace in our time. Obama stooped low, accusing the Republican caucus of making “common cause” with the Iranian “hard-liners” who shout “Death to America.”

Forget the gutter ad hominem. This is delusional. Does Obama really believe the Death-to-America hard-liners are some kind of KKK fringe? They are the government, for God’s sake — the entire state apparatus of the Islamic Republic from the Revolutionary Guards to the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei who for decades have propagated, encouraged and applauded those very same “Death to America” chants.

Common cause with the Iranian hard-liners? Who more than Obama? For years, they conduct a rogue nuclear weapons program in defiance of multiple Security Council declarations of its illegality backed by sanctions and embargoes. Obama rewards them with a treaty that legitimates their entire nuclear program, lifts the embargo on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles and revives an economy — described by Iran’s president as headed back to “the Stone Age” under sanctions — with an injection of up to $150 billion in unfrozen assets, permission for the unlimited selling of oil and full access to the international financial system.

With this agreement, this repressive, intolerant, aggressive, supremely anti-American regime — the chief exporter of terror in the world — is stronger and more entrenched than it has ever been.

Common cause, indeed.
Slash. But it won't be enough because too few Democrats in Congress will listen to such clear logic and instead continue their sheep-like following of this president.

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John Fund reminds us of why Trump and the Clintons are a natural pairing.
The call was one of many conversations the Clintons and Trump have had over the years. Until his recent criticism of Hillary Clinton as “the worst secretary of state in the history of our nation,” Trump used to be a big Hillary booster, enjoying what the Post calls a “cordial, even cozy, relationship” with her. Hillary Clinton attended Trump’s 2005 wedding (and Bill attended the wedding reception), and he has showered her Senate campaigns with contributions on four separate occasions as well as being a donor to her 2008 presidential campaign. In 2012, after Clinton had been secretary of state for over three years, he told Fox News that she was a “terrific woman . . . she really works hard and I think she does a good job.” He has also said that the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton over his perjury before a federal judge and obstruction of justice in the Lewinsky scandal was “totally unimportant” and “nonsense.”

Kerry's State Department is using politics to determine which states are violating human rights? Is anyone shocked?
In the weeks leading up to a critical annual U.S. report on human trafficking that publicly shames the world’s worst offenders, human rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions hadn’t improved in Malaysia and Cuba. And in China, they found, things had grown worse.

The State Department’s senior political staff saw it differently — and they prevailed.

A Reuters examination, based on interviews with more than a dozen sources in Washington and foreign capitals, shows that the government office set up to independently grade global efforts to fight human trafficking was repeatedly overruled by senior American diplomats and pressured into inflating assessments of 14 strategically important countries in this year’s Trafficking in Persons report.

Given that Debbie Wasserman Schultz can't answer a question about whether there is any difference between being a Democrat and being a socialist, Larry Elder is easily able to demonstrate that "they're all socialists now."
Socialism, according to, is defined as: "A theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole."

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, recently appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews." Matthews asked, "What is the difference between a Democrat and a socialist?"

Wasserman Schultz laughed, looked stunned, and began hemming and hawing. Matthews helpfully interjected, "I used to think there was a big difference.

What do you think it is?" Still, Wasserman Schultz refused to give him a straight answer. "The difference between -- the real question," she said, "is what's the difference between being a Democrat and being a Republican."

....There is no real distinction between today's Democrats and socialists. A few years ago Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., conducted hearings in which she grilled oil executives for alleged price fixing. She threatened to nationalize their business. Did any Democrat speak out against her threat? No.

Newsweek, in 2009, ran a cover story with the headline: "We Are All Socialists Now." Jon Meacham wrote:

"The U.S. government has already -- under a conservative Republican administration -- effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries. That seems a stronger sign of socialism than $50 million for art. Whether we want to admit it or not -- and many, especially Congressman (Mike) Pence and (Sean) Hannity, do not -- the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state. ...
It's quite a shift away from where the Democrats were under JFK.
Andy Stern, then the head of the Democratic Party-supporting Service Employees International Union, said, "I think Western Europe, as much as we used to make fun of it, has made different trade-offs which may have ended up with a little more unemployment but a lot more equality."

That's an acceptable trade-off in today's Democratic Party.

Jack Kennedy, a tax cutter, defended his plan by arguing it would invigorate the economy. He wanted growth and said, "A rising tide lifts all boats." Today's Democrat, like Wasserman Schultz, would deride Kennedy as a greedy Republican advocate of "trickle down."

Michael Barone explains why the trend since the 1990s has been for the Democrats to have only a couple of main candidates for the nomination while Republicans have had more candidates and more variety in their choices.
Republicans, with their voters spread relatively evenly over most of the country and with the negative reaction to policies of the Obama Democrats, have been generating a large critical mass of officeholders and plausible presidential candidates.

The 2016 Democratic field, in contrast, comes from the base, winning elections in Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. These states have just 59 electoral votes (if Joe Biden runs, add Delaware's 3) and, except for target state Virginia, are heavily Democratic (62 percent to 67 percent Obama in 2012).

This reflects the fact that in the Obama years Democrats have had trouble winning elections beyond their geographically clustered base in central cities, sympathetic suburbs and university towns. Politicians elected in such constituencies, vulnerable only to primary challenges, tend to compile records too far left to make them viable national candidates.

A long generation ago, Democrats were carrying many different areas and generating plenty, maybe more than plenty, of presidential candidates. Now it's Republicans who are generating more contenders than can fit on one stage.

Alan Dershowitz explains how President Obama has perverted the Constitution by structuring the Iran deal so that Congress can only block it by overriding a veto. This is totally contrary to how the Founders originally structured agreements with foreign nations.
In the two and a quarter centuries since the ratification of the Constitution, the power of the executive has expanded considerably, but the Framers would be shocked by the current situation in which the president alone gets to make an important and enduring international agreement that can be overridden only by two thirds plus one of both the senate and the house. At the very least, this important and enduring deal should have required a majority vote of Congress. Although the Constitution does not provide for such a hybrid agreement, in practice there have been numerous “executive-congressional” agreements that have been negotiated by the president and agreed to by a majority vote of Congress. Basic principles of democracy as well as our constitutional system of checks and balances would seem to require more than a presidential decision supported by one third of both the house and senate.

While a majority of the House and the Senate voted for this exceptional set of rules for approving the Iran agreement, it was only to assure themselves that they would have any say at all in the matter. President Obama's position was that he could make the "executive" agreement without Congressional approval.

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So Senator Schumer has announced that he will oppose Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. I wonder if this means that Schumer knows that his vote isn't needed by Obama. I guess Schumer decided it was time to make common cause with Iranian hardliners.

Apparently, Spain has been mostly able to fix its financial woes. They could be a model for other European nations, but don't expect the lessons to sink in.
The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy bowed to austerity demands, cut public-sector wages and benefits, and increased VAT to 21 percent (with exemptions) from 18 percent. Had he stopped there, Spain might have bumped along the bottom for a good while longer, rather than seeing the recovery it's now enjoying.

Low inflation, a cheap euro, the fall in energy prices and renewed financial stability in Europe have supported consumer spending and lifted Spain's beleaguered retailers. Holidaymakers have favored Spain this season, too -- in part because visiting Greece without bundles of cash has presented difficulties. Put much of all that down to luck.

But Spain's recovery today also owes a lot to hard reform aimed at particular failings in the economy. The Rajoy government braved street protests and the rise of an anti-reform left-wing opposition and persisted in a deliberate rewiring of the Spanish economy, with an emphasis on far-reaching labor-market and tax reforms.

In 2014, the government said it would gradually lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 30 percent. The top marginal rate on personal income will fall to 45 percent from 52 percent. The government is limiting deductions, broadening the tax base and making a serious effort to curb evasion.

Companies have been given more flexibility to set wages and working conditions. Wage growth that had run ahead of productivity has moderated. The barriers that created Spain's notorious two-tier labor market, with its underclass of workers on temporary contracts, have begun to fall.

Be under no illusion: The job is far from finished. Structural unemployment -- what's left when growing demand has done all it can -- might still be as high as 18 percent, more than triple the U.S. figure. Tax and labor-market reforms need to go further. The government could do more to help to match job seekers, many of them high-school dropouts, to work or training. Above all, to avoid repeating the errors of the past, it will need to be careful about maintaining fiscal discipline as the recovery boosts revenues and financial pressure subsides.

Nonetheless, Spain proves an important point: Contrary to reports, geography and euro membership condemn no country to economic failure.

Ross Douthat had a powerful column this week addressing the liberal support for Planned Parenthood.
So let’s be clear about what’s really going on here. It is not the pro-life movement that’s forced Planned Parenthood to unite actual family planning and mass feticide under one institutional umbrella. It is not the Catholic Church or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the Southern Baptist Convention or the Republican Party that have bundled pap smears and pregnancy tests and HPV vaccines with the kind of grisly business being conducted on those videos. This is Planned Parenthood’s choice; it is liberalism’s choice; it is the respectable center-left of Dana Milbank and Ruth Marcus and Will Saletan that’s telling pro-life and pro-choice Americans alike that contraceptive access and fetal dismemberment are just a package deal, that if you want to fund an institution that makes contraception widely available then you just have to live with those “it’s another boy!” fetal corpses in said institution’s freezer, that’s just the price of women’s health care and contraceptive access, and who are you to complain about paying it, since after all the abortion arm of Planned Parenthood is actually pretty profitable and doesn’t need your tax dollars?

This is a frankly terrible argument, rooted in a form of self-deception that would be recognized as such in any other context. Tell me anything but this, liberals: Tell me that you aren’t just pro-choice but pro-abortion, tell me that abortion is morally necessary and praiseworthy, tell me that it’s as morally neutral as snuffing out a rabbit, tell me that a fetus is just a clump of cells and that pro-lifers are all unhinged zealots. Those arguments, as much as I disagree with them, have a real consistency, a moral logic that actually makes sense and actually justifies the continued funding of Planned Parenthood.

But to concede that pro-lifers might be somewhat right to be troubled by abortion, to shudder along with us just a little bit at the crushing of the unborn human body, and then turn around and still demand the funding of an institution that actually does the quease-inducing killing on the grounds that what’s being funded will help stop that organization from having to crush quite so often, kill quite so prolifically – no, spare me. Spare me. Tell the allegedly “pro-life” institution you support to set down the forceps, put away the vacuum, and then we’ll talk about what kind of family planning programs deserve funding. But don’t bring your worldview’s bloody hands to me and demand my dollars to pay for soap enough to maybe wash a few flecks off.

Of course, Donald Trump got Bill Clinton's approval for running for president. The bromance between the Donald and Bill has been going on for quite a while.

Other than Trump, who are the wealthiest presidential candidates? The answers may surprise you a bit.

Jason Riley explains how, contrary to the implicit and sometimes explicit promise of his candidacy, President Obama has increased racial discord.
He has supported college-admissions policies that favor black applicants over their white and Asian peers. He has dispatched his attorney general to accuse advocates of voter ID laws of trying to disenfranchise blacks and Hispanics. He has pressured wealthy suburbs to change zoning laws and build low-income housing so that he can shoehorn minorities into neighborhoods where they otherwise can’t afford to live. He has leaned on local school districts to discipline students differently based on their race and ethnicity rather than solely on their misbehavior. He has appeared before activists at the NAACP to denounce the criminal-justice system as racially skewed.

When Mr. Obama first ran for president, he went to such lengths to distance himself from professional agitators such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson that “Saturday Night Live” ran a cartoon parody that featured then-Sen. Obama sending Messrs. Sharpton and Jackson off to places like Botswana and Paraguay so that they couldn’t interfere with the campaign.

These days, Mr. Obama has the reverend on speed dial. Mr. Sharpton is a frequent White House visitor and the president’s point man on civil-rights issues. Given that the president is keeping company with someone who monetizes racial conflict for a living, is it any wonder that so many people believe race relations have regressed?

....Race relations under Mr. Obama haven’t soured by accident, and so long as a wisher-in-chief occupies the Oval Office, there is little chance of improvement. Community organizers specialize in creating social divisions, not bridging them. So do presidents who profit politically from racial anxiety. America has learned these lessons the hard way.

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I've diverted myself from politics this summer by obsessively following the details of Deflategate. Even though it might anger some of my readers more than those who can't stand my bashing Donald Trump, count me firmly in the Brady camp. The NFL hasn't proven their accusation and their total process stinks. Here are some good links on how the NFL has slanted its process and deceived the public about what they were doing.

Sally Jenkins slams the due process followed by Goodell.
There are two separate issues here. One is whether Brady and the Patriots knowingly softened game balls in the AFC championship game — and it seems clear from the league’s own recent rule changes that it doesn’t have enough evidence one way or the other on that, given its sloppy procedures and the fact that it treated ball inflation as not worth monitoring. The second, larger matter is that of the league’s basic due process.

Watching this case closely and curiously is John Dowd, the special counsel who conducted Major League Baseball’s investigation into Pete Rose and got him banned from the game. As a neutral observer, Dowd finds the abuse of process in DeflateGate to be the real scandal. “I still don’t know what this is about. . . . Like ‘Seinfeld,’ this is about nothing,” he said in an e-mail. He called Goodell’s ruling against Brady based on a sudden issue over Brady’s cellphone “an ambush” and added, “The entire NFL disciplinary process lacks integrity and fairness.”

Goodell’s rulings are always so much livelier than the man himself. One reason they’re so entertaining is because he always doubles back. It’s like watching a kid do a Spirograph. First he gave Ray Rice a two-game suspension for slugging his wife, when he thought no one was watching. When it turned out the world was watching, he suddenly accused Rice of lying to him and declared an indefinite suspension. A federal judge overturned him, finding Goodell not credible.

You see the same pattern here. Brady’s phone was unimportant — until it was important because Goodell needed it to be to rescue his prestige.
The NFL and Wells never stated that they needed Brady's phone in order to make their decisions.
There is another pattern here — a very unseemly pattern of unethical behavior by the league office under Goodell’s leadership. First, there is always a leak from the league that commands a big headline and gins up public indignation. Next comes a disciplinary hammer from Goodell that makes him look like a hero-protector. But when the excitement dies down and actual facts emerge, it all turns out to be a souped-up overreach.

[Brady on Facebook: ‘I did nothing wrong.’]

It happened with the leak of a false report from the league office that 11 of 12 Patriots balls were under-inflated by a full two pounds per square inch. It happened with the science of the Wells report that would later be shredded. And it’s happened again over the phone. It’s only when you go back and examine the Wells report and study Goodell’s written decision more closely that you discover the phone was never demanded as evidence. You also discover Footnote No. 11.

Goodell’s own buried footnote says that during the appeal before him, Brady and his agents furnished comprehensive cellphone records, including records of 10,000 text messages, and offered to help find and reconstruct all relevant communications.

Goodell rejected the offer as “not practical.” Actually nothing would have been easier. Brady’s phone records showed he communicated with just 28 league-affiliated people. It was clear from the phone numbers which of them were Patriots employees in a position to manipulate game balls. It should have been a simple matter to discern whether Brady destroyed relevant communications with them.
Mike Florio at NBC Sports slams the NFL for their ignorance about science.
This exchange demonstrates the pre-existing mindset of Vincent and others: If the balls are at 12.5 PSI before the game, they should be at 12.5 at halftime. If they’re not, and if we have an accusation from the Colts that the Patriots take air out of footballs, tampering must be the explanation.

Vincent’s testimony also confirms the lack of sensitivity to the relevant scientific principles via the steps taken (and not taken) when testing the footballs at halftime. For example, the temperature of the officials’ locker room at the time of testing wasn’t recorded. Whether the balls were wet or dry wasn’t recorded. Neither was the specific time each ball was tested, an important point since the longer a ball is back inside a warmer room, the higher the PSI will be.

Most importantly, there’s no record of the sequence in which the balls were tested. It has been presumed that the 11 Patriots’ football were tested first — and then re-filled with air — before the Colts’ footballs were tested. This theory finds support via common sense, because the official version as explained in the Ted Wells report is that only four Colts’ footballs were tested because they ran out of time. (Some would say they stopped testing Colts’ footballs because three of four came in under 12.5 PSI on one of the two gauges used.)

Even after the testing occurred and the 11 Patriots’ footballs came in under 12.5 PSI, no one in the league office considered the dynamic that causes air pressure in car tires to drop in the winter.

....If, instead of launching that same night an investigation premised on proving that the Patriots had cheated someone had considered the notion that perhaps air pressure changes during games played in the elements, and if someone had immediately retained a scientist to examine the raw numbers under the conditions at Gillette Stadium that night, there’s a good chance that the conclusion would have been that the raw data is inconclusive at best on whether there was tampering.

But the early presumption — fueled by incorrect information given by the NFL to the Patriots and false numbers leaked by the NFL to ESPN — was that tampering had happened. So science became an afterthought, an inconvenience to be dismissed in the official report that found “more probable than not” evidence of cheating instead of what it should have been: An explanation considered seriously and thoroughly by the league office before pointing a finger at one of the 32 franchises it serves.
But, as Dan Wetzel points out, the NFL preceded from the assumption that Brady and the Patriots were guilty and looked at all the evidence through that lens. Wetzel focuses on the communications between Brady and John Jastremski, the Patriots guy responsible for the footballs. I've always thought that there was nothing remarkable about Brady not communicating with this guy for months before the AFC championship game and then communicating after the scandal broke. Why should they have talked beforehand and wasn't it natural that Brady wanted to know what, if anything, had happened. But the NFL regarded those conversations as signs of guilt and didn't entertain any other explanation. And those conversations were really due to phony leaks from the NFL.
With the presumption of innocence, or even impartiality, their actions are quite understandable.

Once accused of playing with under-inflated footballs, of course Brady would want to find out what the heck was going on and talk to Jastremski. And of course Jastremski would want to profess his innocence – especially if he was really innocent – or theorize with Brady about how such a thing could occur.

It would have been far more incriminating if Brady and Jastremski never spoke.

Both Wells and Goodell, for instance, saw no issue in Patriots coach Bill Belichick, upon hearing the news, going to Brady and asking if he knew anything about the footballs. It's completely natural. So not with Brady?

Furthermore, after the first conversation between Brady and Jastremski, all other communication came under false pretenses. By late Monday morning the NFL had wrongly told the Patriots that their footballs were deflated as low as 10.1 psi – which put the organization on its heels because it was such a significant reduction.

Hearing such data from the league office would certainly cause Brady and Jastremski to revisit the situation. Let's say Jastremski said early Monday morning he didn't do it, doubted anyone did and couldn't even believe this occurred – something both Brady and Jastremski said occurred.

Then the NFL put out the false 10.1 psi number. Of course Brady would call back and say, "Well, this is what the NFL found, something must have happened. What's the story?"

Then later, ESPN, citing league sources, reported that 11 of the 12 Patriots footballs were two pounds or more below the league standard. It was also completely wrong but no one in New England knew that at the time so this looked terrible. Again, Brady would reasonably want to ask more questions.

The NFL instead said the daily discussions were proof of guilt.

So the league created fake duress for Brady via false evidence and then found him guilty for reacting to it in an understandable fashion. This is a rather aggressive interrogation tactic generally reserved for murder investigations, terrorist questionings and "Law & Order" reruns. It isn't how anyone would normally expect the league office to act when trying to determine the inflation levels of footballs.
Wetzel quotes from Brady's testimony and compares it to how Goodell framed that testimony in his decision. There's quite a difference. Clearly, Goodell deliberately lied about Brady's testimony and all the NFL lawyers who were supposedly spending the five weeks between the testimony and Goodell's announcement making sure that they had an airtight case that would withstand an expected appeal let those lies go through. Wetzel concludes,
Forget guilt and innocence, is there any reasonable way that Roger Goodell could hear all of that – spend five weeks reviewing the evidence, including the transcript and despite being surrounded by high-priced attorneys and public-relations consultants – and then still write that Brady ONLY discussed preparing footballs for the Super Bowl and as such is untruthful and guilty?

Is that a fair and accurate portrayal of what Brady testified? Is that even remotely reasonable? Or is it just an attempt to make Brady appear guilty and thus continue months of conduct that appear designed to justify the original suspicion.

Perhaps more importantly, how does anyone in the NFL – owner, coach, player or fan – possibly trust the league office to investigate and rule on anything ever again?
That is Dan Steinberg's reaction to Goodell, saying that Goodell "misled me on Tom Brady. I won't trust him again."

Steph Stradley, a Texas lawyer has a good Q & A about the legal issues involved in this case and why it looks good for the NFLPA and bad for Goodell and the league.