Thursday, October 01, 2015

Cruising the Web

Hmmm. I wonder if Russia is demonstrating better cooperation with Israel for their airstrikes in Syria than they are with the United States. Netanyahu had arranged for Israel to set up a joint working group with Russia to coordinate their efforts in Russia. Meanwhile, all the U.S. got was an abrupt message an hour ahead of time delivered to our officials in Baghdad directing us to stand down in Syria. We're now at the point that the Russian military are giving us orders in Syria. Meanwhile, our officials are reduced to spluttering about Russia's air strikes against targets that were notably not ISIS.
Secretary of State John Kerry told the United Nations on Wednesday that the U.S. would not oppose Russian strikes if they were “genuinely” intended to target ISIS, and he maintained the call for Assad to go. Kerry said ISIS cannot be defeated as long as Assad is in power.
So what are we going to do now that it's clear that the Russians are more interested in targeting Assad's enemies rather than ISIS? So Kerry can talk all he wants about "deconfliction," but other than being a stupid word, does anyone expect that the conflict will be ending or ending on any grounds that the U.S. should like.

Arthur Herman says that we are now living Pax Putinica as Obama has become "Putin's Poodle."
Just as the earlier Pax Americana was aimed at containing the Soviet Union, so Putin’s new world order is aimed at smashing the U.S.’s influence as a superpower, first in Europe and now in the eastern Mediterranean.

Our president, meanwhile, is letting it all happen. If Vladimir Putin is the dominant alpha male in the new international pecking order, Barack Obama has emerged as his highly submissive partner....

For every aggressive move Putin has made on the international stage, first in Crimea and Ukraine in Europe, and now in Syria, our president’s response has been largely verbal protestations followed by resolute inaction. Why should Putin not assume that when he orders the U.S. to stop its own air strikes against ISIS in Syria, and to leave the skies to the Russians, he won’t be obeyed?

But there’s more to Obama’s passivity than just pack behavior, and the real explanation is Iran.

Since gaining the presidency, Obama’s entire policy of constructive engagement with Iran, including the current nuclear deal, has been built on the premise that Russia will help, both with shutting down Iran’s nuclear program when a deal is finally struck, and re-imposing sanctions if Iran doesn’t.

That’s why he was so eager to accept Putin’s offer to get Assad to give over his chemical weapons in 2013 — as a test run for cooperation in stopping Iran’s nuclear program — and why he’s been so hesitant about supporting the anti-Assad rebels, even after publicly calling for the dictator’s removal for more than four years — not to mention so weak in confronting Russian aggression in Ukraine.

It even explains why he’s been slow to respond to ISIS’s seizing of territory in both Syria and Iraq, out of fear that aggressive American military action might offend Tehran, and with it Iran’s chief patron, Vladimir Putin.

Of course this is all an Obama fantasy, reinforced by Obama’s deep disdain for our allies in the region, Israel and the Saudis, who are also the ones most worried by Russia’s escalating influence. They know Putin’s ambitions run counter to real peace and stability in the Middle East; that he has no intention of defeating ISIS if it helps keep the region in turmoil and no reason to rein in Iran’s nuclear program as long as fear or Iran serves Russian interests. They also understand that Putin will be able to play the Shia Iranians against the Sunni Arabs in order to increase his own status as power broker, as well as his status as gatekeeper for other powers who will want a bigger piece of the action in the Pax Putinica Middle East, including China.

In the meantime, Obama’s fantasy has turned U.S. policy in the region inside out – and propelled Russia back into the ranks of the world’s superpowers. The next president will have to deal with the consequences of that passivity. For now, the rest of us will be listening for the roar of Russian jets — and hoping they stay in the Middle East.

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Charles C. W. Cooke answers Trump's newest jibes against Marco Rubio for having the worst voting record in the Senate. What Trump doesn't mention is that Ted Cruz has a record that is just as bad, or worse, depending on how you count it. Of course, Trump is still in an insult armistice with Cruz so he doesn't want to knock him. But the more important point is, should we care about how many votes a senator misses.
But do GOP primary voters feel the same way? Far more interesting to me than how many minor votes Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz have missed since they were elected is what they have done while they’ve been in Washington. With the exception of his many sharp-elbowed references to the Gang of Eight bill, Trump has limited his criticism of Rubio’s record to quantity and not to quality. That’s notable.

Why? Well, because it tells us that Trump understands that he is not on solid enough ideological ground to go after his opponents’ voting records per se. Once you put the immigration disaster to one side, Marco Rubio actually has a remarkably conservative voting history — the sort of history that Trump would presumably love to be able to point to. Don’t believe me? Just ask the trackers. In 2012, at the end of his first two years in office, Rubio was given a “100 percent” rating by the American Conservative Union — an honor that went to only eight percent of his Senate colleagues. A couple of years later, after the immigration contretemps had played out in full, the ACU downgraded him to “just” 98 percent. Heritage Action has been similarly impressed. At present, Rubio enjoys a 92 percent positive score from the outfit, which is not only dramatically better than the average Republican senator (61 percent), but better also than all but one of Rubio’s fellow candidates for president. (That “one,” as you might imagine, is Ted Cruz.)

Presumably, there will be some conservatives who consider that the above information does not so much let Rubio off the hook as make an excellent case for the unflappability of Ted Cruz. And perhaps it does! Cruz, after all, did not make a mistake on immigration, and, from some rightward-leaning perspectives at least, has a pretty much perfect record on all other fronts as well. What it does not do, however, is to suggest that Rubio is a “moderate” or that Donald Trump is his superior in any way — both of which contentions are implied in Trump’s critique. Au contraire: Over the last five years, Rubio has amassed a consistently conservative record that has on its face a single major blot — a blot, it should be said, which Rubio now claims to regret. Donald Trump, by contrast, has compiled a long and ugly history as a cynical “foot in both camps” moderate, to which he has now added six months of embarrassingly ersatz “conservatism.” If we are to be encouraged to more closely examine the political records on offer, whose do we think will come out ahead?
Exactly my thoughts.

And Rubio must be getting to Jeb Bush since he's starting to denigrate Rubio's leadership in the Florida House. And he threw a bit of shade on Rubio by comparing his scanty record in the Senate to Obama's record before he was elected.
Pressed Wednesday on why Bush thinks voters should support him over Rubio -- who regularly says it's time to "turn the page" rather than elect "the most familiar name" -- Bush pointed to his tried-and-tested experience.

"I'm a proven leader," Bush told Bash. "I disrupted the old order in Tallahassee. I relied on people like Marco Rubio and many others to follow my leadership and we moved the needle."

Until recently, Bush has largely refrained from going directly after his former protégé. He has, however, argued that lawmakers who miss votes to campaign should have their pay docked, saying they're not doing their jobs. Many consider that a swipe against Rubio given that the Florida senator has missed more votes than any other senator this year.

"Look we had a president who came in and said the same kind of thing -- new and improved, hope and change -- and he didn't have the leadership skills to fix things," Bush said.


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Michael Barone muses about dogs that aren't barking in this campaign. I thought this was rather interesting.
There's another dog that isn't barking as well, on the issues front. House Republican rebels may have pushed Speaker John Boehner out but, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page notes, federal spending during — and because of — Boehner's leadership has been essentially flat for four years — for the only time since World War II. It fell from 24 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 to 20 percent in 2014.

What's interesting here is that no one seems to care. Republican rebels don't, and Democrats who push for more spending behind the scenes aren't making a public fuss about it. It's reminiscent of Britain, where the Conservative-led government cut nearly 1 million public sector jobs in five years. But Labour never raised the issue in this year's campaign and Conservatives gained seats.

Cynical conclusion: No one really misses anything when government spending is cut. Sympathetic explanation: In any large organization there is always room for squeezing out unneeded blubber. That non-barking dog may be something to keep in mind as our campaign continues.

The drip, drip, drip of bad news about Clinton's emails continues.
t least 400 emails that Hillary Clinton sent or received through her private computer server while secretary of state contained classified material, according to the State Department’s latest update Wednesday from its ongoing review of more than 30,000 emails.

In response to a public records lawsuit, the department released another 6,300 pages of the Democratic presidential candidate’s emails after partially or entirely redacting any containing sensitive U.S. or foreign government information on a range of issues.

None was marked as classified during Clinton’s tenure, department officials say, but intelligence officials say some material was clearly classified at the time. Clinton has insisted she did not send or receive any information marked as classified.
And there is still a lot that we don't know about the whole set up.And I don't think it will help her with the Jewish vote if this email gets much attention.
Hillary Clinton described Israeli officials as sounding "cocky" in one of the emails released by the State Department from her tenure as secretary of state.

Kim Ghattas, a BBC journalist who covers the State Department, emailed to say the Israelis sounded cocky in their description of a meeting with U.S. officials. Once added to the email thread, Clinton affirmed they "always sound cocky — in the air and on the ground."
But that email will probably get less attention than the fact that she had to ask what FUBAR means. Not only is she clueless, but she, apparently, doesn't know how to use Google, but figures it's easier to email an aide to find out.

Breitbart News notices that Valerie Jarrett just threw Hillary under the bus by saying that the Obama White House had told Cabinet officials not to use private email. In a Biden-Clinton face-off, any doubts on whose side the Obamas would come down?

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If Donald Trump were elected president (God forbid!), his wife Melania would not only be the first foreign-born First Lady since John Quincy Adams' wife, she would also present other unique biographical details.
e grew up in one of the anonymous concrete apartment buildings of Yugoslavia when Josip Tito was its socialist leader and over-the-top capitalism, let alone full-blown Trumpism, didn’t exist.

“She never really wanted to stand out or be the center of attention,” said Mirjana Jelančič, an elementary school friend in the hilly town of Sevnica in what is now Slovenia.

Then she married The Donald.

The former high-fashion model started her own “Melania” line of jewelry, marketed a $150-an-ounce moisturizer made with caviar and wore a $200,000 Dior gown at their splashy Palm Beach wedding a decade ago....

She might also be the most linguistically gifted first lady, as she speaks four languages including heavily accented English. And, without doubt, she would be the only first lady to have posed in the buff while lying on a fur blanket handcuffed to a leather briefcase, as she did aboard Trump’s jet for British GQ in 2000.
By the way, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal's wives would also be the first foreign-born first ladies since Louisa Adams.


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Allahpundit links to several stories about how bad things have gotten among the refugees admitted into Germany. Violence keeps breaking out.
Germany's police union Tuesday called for refugees to be separated by religion -- especially between Christians and Muslims -- and by country of origin, to minimise the potential for conflict.

Groups banding together by ethnicity, creed or clan were "attacking each other with knives and homemade weapons," said union chief Rainer Wendt, calling for special protection for Christians, women and minors.

Critics argued segregating migrants sends the wrong signal as Germany seeks to integrate them into a pluralistic society, and that portraying refugee centres as powder kegs fed the arguments of far-right agitators.
And what will happen when they leave the camps and start living in German society if they can't live near other religious or ethnic groups.

And stories like this are not going to make Merkel's refugee policy any more popular.
A woman in Germany is being evicted from her home of 23 years to make way for asylum-seekers, in the second such case to emerge.

Gabrielle Keller has been given until the end of the year to leave her flat in the small southern town of Eschbach, near the border with France.
The flat belongs to the local municipality, which says it is needed to house refugees.

“I think it’s a scandal to throw tenants out of their apartments,” the 56-year-old Ms Keller told SWR television. “I can’t see the sense of it.”

A woman in Germany is being evicted from her home of 23 years to make way for asylum-seekers, in the second such case to emerge.

Gabrielle Keller has been given until the end of the year to leave her flat in the small southern town of Eschbach, near the border with France.
The flat belongs to the local municipality, which says it is needed to house refugees.

“I think it’s a scandal to throw tenants out of their apartments,” the 56-year-old Ms Keller told SWR television. “I can’t see the sense of it.”

Mario Schlafke, the mayor of Eschbach, says the town had no choice but to ask Ms Keller to leave.

“The council hasn’t taken a frivolous decision,” he told Welt newspaper. “The alternative would have been to set up beds in the gym.”
So where are those evicted Germans supposed to find housing?

Anne Bayefsky asks something I have always wondered: "Racist Tyrants, Polygamist Islamists, Despots of Every Stripe: Why Are We Funding the U.N.?"
The secretary-general condemned Israel before he thought to criticize “Da’esh [ISIS], Boko Haram, and Al-Shabab.” He worried that “the fight against terror” and terror itself were a “cycle” of human-rights abuses. Democracy merited one mention near the end of his remarks.

It’s Barack Obama, though, who provided the most pitiful image. Casting but a shadow of America’s former self on the world stage, he stepped into this moral morass for the seventh time in his presidency.

Over and over, the leader of the free world thought that this was the time and place to apologize for his country and for his fellow Americans. He said: “Democracy in the United States is certainly imperfect. At times, it can even be dysfunctional.” And for the umpteenth time in his tenure, he trotted out the warmongering, trigger-happy, American straw man: “We see an argument made that the only strength that matters for the United States is bellicose words and shows of military force.” Said no American ever.

The president belittled his opposition at home with his most revealing statement of all: “We see in our debates about America’s role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace.” Since when are China, Russia, revolutionary Iran — still holding American hostages — and the self-proclaimed Islamist brand that is actually incompatible with peace, only “perceived” adversaries?

Obama’s fibs are no less toxic than those of the men who took the U.N. podium when he was done. He boasted, “The last two decades prov[e] that in today’s world, dictatorships are unstable.” If we’re not counting Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Raúl Castro, Hassan Rouhini, Robert Mugabe, and Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani (and more) — since these tyrants alone are the living embodiment of five decades to the contrary. Bad guys rarely go quietly into that good night.

The president conceded that Iran, “as of this moment, continues to deploy violent proxies.” But his response was surreal: “Chanting ‘Death to America’ does not create jobs.”

The U.N. at 70 is an institution where the big lie wins, so it falls to an American president to be — at the very least — a truth-teller. The U.N. at 70 is akin to a false God whose devotees are the morally bankrupt, intimidated, neutered, or ashamed.
Chiding Iran because chants of 'Death to America' do "not create jobs." I can't even. I'm sure the mullahs smacked their foreheads and exclaimed that they now see the light and will cancel all their regularly scheduled demonstrations against America and will get right on those job-training programs. With such fatuous rhetoric from the American president and the respect given to tyrants from around the world, is it any surprise that the U.N. does little besides criticizing Israel?

Bureaucratic lawbreaking to score political points was not limited to the IRS.
The Secret Service leaked sensitive personal information to the press about Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz as the Utah Republican was investigating the beleaguered agency, an inspector general's report said Wednesday.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General issued a report on Wednesday that accused Secret Service Assistant Director Edward Lowery and other agency officials of plotting to leak information about Chaffetz, including his unsuccessful attempt to join the organization.

The leaks were a highly unusual breach of decorum. Lawmakers often battle with agencies, but the fights mostly stay above board and focus on policy, rather than descending into leaking private information.

The report found that between March 24 and April 2, 2015, 45 Secret Service employees accessed “sensitive personal information” on Chaffetz nearly 60 times. Only 4 of the 45 employees had “an arguable legitimate need to access the information,” the report found.

The IG also found that there was widespread dissemination of the personal information.
This is positively Nixonian.

Sarah Ketterer explains yet again why it is a myth that women are paid less than men. This is important because California is set to pass a law to get rid of a pay gap that doesn't even exist.
What factors? Start with hours worked. Full-time employment is technically defined as more than 35 hours. This raises an obvious problem: A simple side-by-side comparison of all men and all women includes people who work 35 hours a week, and others who work 45. Men are significantly more likely than women to work longer hours, according to the BLS. And if we compare only people who work 40 hours a week, BLS data show that women then earn on average 90 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Career choice is another factor. Research in 2013 by Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University economist, shows that women flock to college majors that lead to lower-paying careers. Of the 10 lowest-paying majors—such as “drama and theater arts” and “counseling psychology”—only one, “theology and religious vocations,” is majority male.

Conversely, of the 10 highest-paying majors—including “mathematics and computer science” and “petroleum engineering”—only one, “pharmacy sciences and administration,” is majority female. Eight of the remaining nine are more than 70% male.

Other factors that account for earnings differences include marriage and children, both of which cause many women to leave the workforce for years. June O’Neill, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, concluded in a 2005 study that “there is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.”
These factors have long been known, but political hacks still enjoy pretending that the wage gap exists because it gives them an issue to demagogue. And then they can pass laws that make it more difficult for businesses and provide opportunities for lawyers to bring lawsuits on the merest hint of differing pay.
What California’s Fair Pay Act will do, however, is make the state, already notorious for regulation and red tape, a more difficult place to do business. Companies must now ensure that every penny of wage differential between the men and women they employ is attributable to bona-fide differences in education, training, experience, quantity or quality of work, and so on. Referring to the countless factors at play, Harvard economist Claudia Goldin has said “it’s not checkable.” Yet even attempting to do so will only add to companies’ already substantial regulatory-compliance budgets.

Some of these factors—quality of work, for instance—are inevitably subjective, yet trial lawyers will swoop in to turn every conceivable pay difference into a lawsuit. Employers who cannot “prove” objectively that one employee’s work was better than another’s may face costly penalties. Many will surely pay to settle these lawsuits instead of taking them to court.

All of this money would be better spent by businesses to hire more workers or raise wages, including for countless women. Ms. Goldin has even suggested that women’s employment could decline.

Such are the unintended consequences that may accompany this feel-good but ultimately foolish law. As Gov. Brown prepares to sign the California Fair Pay Act, he should ask himself a simple question: Does he really want to put women at an actual disadvantage while attempting to eliminate an imagined one?
Another consequence, probably intended, is that the constant repetition of the phony data on a supposed wage gap is all that many people know. I find that all my students have heard the phony statistic and many of my female students worry about it. They're shocked to hear that the wage gap doesn't really exist. I wish the message would get out to more girls and women, but politicians would prefer to maintain their demagogic edge.

Speaking of stupid California laws, Thomas Sowell contemplates how government regulations have made it impossible to find affordable housing in San Francisco and other California cities. Sadly, politicians don't understand the basic economic fact that when they limit supply, prices will increase.
Housing prices in San Francisco, and in many other communities for miles around, were once no higher than in the rest of the United States. But, beginning in the 1970s, housing prices in these communities skyrocketed to three or four times the national average.

Why? Because local government laws and policies severely restricted, or banned outright, the building of anything on vast areas of land. This is called preserving “open space,” and “open space” has become almost a cult obsession among self-righteous environmental activists, many of whom are sufficiently affluent that they don’t have to worry about housing prices.

Some others have bought the argument that there is just very little land left in coastal California, on which to build homes. But anyone who drives down Highway 280 for thirty miles or so from San Francisco to Palo Alto, will see mile after mile of vast areas of land with not a building or a house in sight.

How “complex” is it to figure out that letting people build homes in some of that vast expanse of “open space” would keep housing from becoming “unaffordable”?

Was it just a big coincidence that housing prices in coastal California began skyrocketing in the 1970s, when building bans spread like wildfire under the banner of “open space,” “saving farmland,” or whatever other slogans would impress the gullible?

When more than half the land in San Mateo County is legally off-limits to building, how surprised should we be that housing prices in the city of San Mateo are now so high that politically appointed task forces have to be formed to solve the “complex” question of how things got to be the way they are and what to do about it?

However simple the answer, it will not be easy to go against the organized, self-righteous activists for whom “open space” is a sacred cause, automatically overriding the interests of everybody else.

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