Monday, December 26, 2016

Cruising the Web

I hope that everyone had a very merry Christmas with friends and family.

For those of us who care about Israel, Obama's last act the reverse decades of American foreign policy toward our closest ally in the Middle East while a lame duck is extremely disturbing. Jonathan Tobin explains why this was such an egregious act.
Today’s resolution brands the Jewish presence in any part of the West Bank or in parts of Jerusalem that were occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 as illegal. And it makes the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live in those parts of the ancient Jewish homeland international outlaws. The excuse given by the U.S. was that increased building in the territories and Jerusalem is endangering the chances of a two-state solution. But, as I noted yesterday when the vote on the resolution was postponed, this is a canard. The reason why a two-state solution has not been implemented to date is because the Palestinians have repeatedly refused offers of statehood even when such offers would put them in possession of almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem. The building of more homes in places even Obama admitted that Israel would keep in the event of a peace treaty is no obstacle to peace if the Palestinians wanted a state. Rather than encourage peace, this vote will merely encourage more Palestinian intransigence and their continued refusal to negotiate directly with Israel. It will also accelerate support for efforts to wage economic war on Israel via the BDS movement.
For years, Obama's allies have been denying that Obama doesn't like Netanyahu or has a bias against Israel. This action reveals who Obama really is when it comes to Israel. Even the Washington Post sees through Obama's actions and realizes that this is a reversal of policy.
The United States vetoed past resolutions on the grounds that they unreasonably singled out Jewish communities in occupied territories as an obstacle to Middle East peace, and that U.N. action was more likely to impede than advance negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The measure, approved 14 to 0 by the Security Council Friday, is subject to the same criticism: It will encourage Palestinians to pursue more international sanctions against Israel rather than seriously consider the concessions necessary for statehood, and it will give a boost to the international boycott and divestment movement against the Jewish state, which has become a rallying cause for anti-Zionists. At the same time, it will almost certainly not stop Israeli construction in the West Bank, much less in East Jerusalem, where Jewish housing was also deemed by the resolution to be “a flagrant violation under international law.”
And they don't buy the pretense that it is all Israel's fault that the Obama administration hasn't been able to negotiate a peace in the region.
Nevertheless, settlements do not explain the administration’s repeated failures to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas proved unwilling to negotiate seriously even during the settlement freeze, and it refused to accept a framework for negotiations painstakingly drawn up by Secretary of State John F. Kerry in 2014. In past negotiations, both sides have acknowledged that any deal will involve the annexation by Israel of settlements near its borders, where most of the current construction takes place — something the U.N. resolution, which was pressed by the Palestinians, did not acknowledge or take into account.

Lee Smith writes at The Tablet about how this action typifies Obama's approach to Israel.
In a sense, the UN vote is a perfect bookend to Obama’s Presidency. A man who came to office promising to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel, has done exactly that by breaking with decades of American policy. It is also seeking—contrary to established tradition and practice, which strictly prohibit such lame-duck actions—to tie the hands of the next White House, which has already made its pro-Israel posture clear.

No doubt that many of those critical of the U.S.-Israel relationship will defend and applaud the administration’s action, even as the effects of the resolution are obscene. So what if it enshrines in international law the fact that Jews can’t build homes or have sovereign access to their holy sites in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for more than 3000 years?...

But the Obama Administration’s abstention isn’t just about Israel or bilateral relations with a vital partner in a key region. It’s also about the prestige of the United States and its power—the power, for instance, undergirding international institutions like the United Nations. Consider how the Obama Administration has used the UN the last several years—to legalize the nuclear program of Iran, a state sponsor of terror, and make it illegal for Jews to build in their historical homeland. In Turtle Bay, the White House partners with sclerotic socialist kleptocracies like Venezuela in order to punish allies, like Israel. Is this American moral leadership? For Sean Penn, maybe.

Israel is likely to profess not to care that much about the actions of a lame-duck President in a forum that has long been famous for its antipathy to the Jewish State. But in private, Israeli officials are said to be panicking at the fresh gust of wind that the President Obama has blown into the sails of the BDS movement, especially in Europe.
Just think of what Obama's foreign policy has wrought as the final weeks of presidency wind down.
What matters is dismantling the alliance system that has kept America and much of the rest of the world secure in favor of a new system of the President’s own devising, in which the U.S. partners with Iran and stands idly by while 500,000 civilians are massacred in Syria, and Russia and China launch cyber-attacks targeting key U.S. institutions without fear of retribution or reprisal—actions that are reserved only for America’s friends.
For those who think that it doesn't matter - that this is just a meaningless UN resolution, Elliott Abrams explains why it matters.
Does the resolution matter? It does. The text declares that "the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law." This may turn both settlers—even those in major blocs like Maale Adumim, that everyone knows Israel will keep in any peace deal—and Israeli officials into criminals in some countries, subject to prosecution there or in the International Criminal Court. The text demands "that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem." Now add this wording to the previous line and it means that even construction in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City is "a flagrant violation under international law." The resolution also "calls upon all States, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967." This is a call to boycott products of the Golan, the West Bank, and parts of Jerusalem, and support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.
This is what Obama has wrought. Abrams goes on to remind us how Obama and his administration have always regarded Israeli settlements as the true block to peace.

If this were such an important statement for the Obama administration to make, why did Obama wait until after the election to orchestrate this vote? He was afraid it would hurt Hillary's chances. That should be an indication of what a politically slimy act this was.

Jonah Goldberg adds in,
It is now the official position of the United States of America that the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians. That is madness....

It really is remarkable. Obama came into office convinced that the Israeli-Palestinian issue was the key to Middle East peace. Never mind that on his watch the Middle East has become an abattoir over issues that have little to nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinians, possibly his last overture to the region before he heads out the door is to screw Israel for no other discernible reason than that he can finally get away with it.

Ed Morrissey reminds us of the efforts that Obama
took to try to help Netanyahu's political opponents and deny him reelection.
The stunt at Turtle Bay is all the more self-serving, because Obama and John Kerry torpedoed any chance of working with Netanyahu. Obama has spent a lot of time and effort decrying alleged Russian influence in our election, but almost two years ago, the State Department under Obama and Kerry actively attempted to do the same thing in Israel to force Netanyahu out of office. A Senate probe concluded this summer that the State Department funneled cash through OneVoice to Victory 15, an Israeli group committed to defeating Netanyahu in the March 2015 elections.

It’s not as if OneVoice made a mistake. They actively worked to defeat Netanyahu, and still got State Department funding anyway....The media coverage of this UN vote has almost entirely missed this particular point. They have noted Netanyahu’s defense of settlements and supposed intransigence on the peace process without ever noting that his US partner tried to push him out of office — the same partner who’s currently in high dudgeon over hostile governments attempting to do the same thing here. The purpose of this interference was to get an Israeli prime minister who would adopt Obama’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than one who represents the Israelis.

Instead, Netanyahu won a surprise victory, and Obama ended up with egg on his face. It’s difficult to see this stunt at the UN as anything more than a final, impotent, petulant tantrum. This was Obama’s final opportunity to humiliate Netanyahu regardless of the danger it might present to Israelis. It’s one last shameful act in a series from this administration, and it can’t hit the exits fast enough.

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Think of all the hell there is going on around the world today, particularly in the Middle East, but condemning Israel is what the United Nations feels necessary. It might be difficult to pass, but I would totally support Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz in their efforts to cut of eliminate U.S. funds to the United Nations until this pernicious resolution is reversed.
"No US $ for UN until reversed," he added. That comment suggests that Cruz has made his mind up since Friday, when he said he looked forward to working with Sen. Lindsey Graham and President-elect Trump "to significantly reduce or even eliminate U.S. funding of the United Nations, and also to seriously reconsider financial support for the nations that supported this resolution."

Michael Rubin has some suggestions of what the Trump administration could do in response to this resolution. Here are some that I would endorse.
Cut all funding for The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which was supposed to close shop 60 years ago, as well as all U.N. agencies that have unilaterally recognized Palestine.

....The U.S. could recognize that the Oslo Accords are now null and void and that Israel can take unilateral actions in the West Bank and Gaza given that the Palestinians have walked away from the agreement that established the Palestinian Authority in those territories.

....The U.S. Congress could take a no-nonsense approach toward the Palestinian Authority's support for terrorism by implementing the Palestine Liberation Organization Commitments Compliance Act and cut off all funding to the Palestinian Authority until it ceases all support for terrorism, especially the payment of pensions to imprisoned terrorists.

The new State Department could designate the Palestine Liberation Organization as a terrorist group.

Philip Wegmann notes President Obama's startling hypocrisy on executive actions.
During a Monday interview with NPR, President Obama urged his successor to avoid relying on executive action. The next day, he did the opposite, unilaterally closing millions of acres of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans to oil exploration. The episode offers a primer on the Left's double standard on presidential power.

While Obama urges President-elect Trump to work with Congress, he's acknowledged another set of rules for his own actions. Whatever is not expressly forbidden — and more importantly whatever a Democrat president can get away with — is permissible.

Harry Reid continues to brazenly lie. It's what he does.
Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he “did what was necessary” in 2012 when he falsely accused Mitt Romney of not having paid his taxes for 10 years.

Reid was asked about those comments, which he made during a speech on the Senate floor, in response to call during a live interview on Las Vegas’ KNPR.

The caller asked Reid if he thought that “the brazen lie he told about Mitt Romney not pay his taxes has in anyway contributed to the fake news debate that we now find ourselves in.”

....“First of all, there were no brazen lies. What I said is the truth,” he maintained.

“There’s no brazen lies. I did what was necessary,” he said a few moments later.
By "necessary," he means what was necessary to defeat Romney. Of course, there was no evidence that Romney had not paid his taxes in 10 years.
In an interview with CNN last year, he suggested that his statement was warranted because it was effective.

“Romney didn’t win, did he?” he told CNN’s Dana Bash.

And in an interview with The Washington Post in September, Reid said that lying about Romney’s taxes on the Senate floor was “one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Think of empty moral compass it takes to think that way.

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Stanley and Anna Greenberg write in the NYT to analyze how Obama's presidency has turned out to be bad for Democrats seeing as more than 1,000 Democrats have lost elections in those eight years. Despite being Democrats, they find room to blame Obama for those political losses.
Faced with the economy’s potential collapse as he took office, Mr. Obama devoted his presidency to the economic recovery, starting with restoring the financial sector. But he never made wage stagnation and growing inequality central to his economic mission, even though most Americans struggled financially for the whole of his term.

At the same time, Mr. Obama declined to really spend time and capital explaining his initiatives in an effective way. He believed that positive changes on the ground, especially from economic policies and the Affordable Care Act, would succeed, vindicating his judgment and marginalizing his opponents.

Absent a president educating the public about his plans, for voters, the economic recovery effort morphed into bailouts — bank bailouts, auto bailouts, insurance bailouts.
The Greenbergs blame Obama for not doing enough for unions despite all sorts of executive actions to help unions. No matter how much Obama made speeches about how the economy has improved and everything was on the upswing, voters just didn't buy it. It must really burn Obama to read Democrats criticizing him for not communicating well enough. Isn't that supposed to be

Jon Gabriel refutes the criticism that Trump is picking cabinet heads who are opposed to the supposed mission of their departments. I'm with him; I don't see why liberals' definition of what the role of government should be.
Fans of an ever-expanding federal government are aghast, wondering why so many of Trump’s nominees are openly hostile to the mission of the agencies they seek to lead. But limited government advocates are thinking, it’s about time!

Through Republican administrations, Democratic administrations and Congressional majorities of both parties, the leviathan living in Washington, D.C., has grown and grown. Every year they spend more money, print more pages of regulations and add trillions to the debt.

In 1984, the federal government spent $851 billion. Thirty years later, they spent $3.5 trillion – a fourfold increase in just 30 years.

The Federal Register, the gargantuan document encompassing all of Washington’s rules and regulations, expanded from about 51,000 pages in 1984 to nearly 79,000 in 2014. If you printed out the 2014 version on standard copier paper, the stack would tower 26 feet and the Sierra Club would complain about all the missing trees.

In 1984, the national debt was $1.6 trillion, a staggering sum met with outcries from politicians, the public and the press. Today it’s about to hit $20 trillion and few seem to mind.
What is so wrong about trying to scale things back?
When confronted with a problem, Washington is overflowing with people who ask, “How can government fix this?” What the Beltway needs is more people who ask, “Why should government get involved at all?” Many of our problems are better solved by the American people themselves, usually gathered in non-profits, businesses and religious organizations.
What an amazing concept? Get government out of the way. The only way to do that is to start scaling back what government does which is a mission that will be opposed by the permanent bureaucracy in each one of these government agencies. It will be a battle royale.

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This is a hot take
that I can really get behind.
NBA Christmas Day Is Better than Thanksgiving Football
That come-from-behind Cavs' victory over the Warriors was as exciting as any fan could hope for. And the Spurs victory was quite fun.

Well, isn't this just typical of the left?
Who do you believe is the worst leader of all time?

The Atlantic asked the question in its latest issue and included two of the most recent Republican presidents on a list of 12 contenders for worst-ever leader: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Their names appear alongside some who you’d probably expect on such a list: Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, even the devil.

Were Reagan and Bush really “the worst leader of all time?” That’s the opinion of two of the five people The Atlantic invited to contribute.
Newsbusters comments,
The MRC’s Brent Bozell and Tim Graham blasted this lie about Reagan and his federal government idly standing by in the 1980s in their May 30, 2014 column (as well as here in a 2004 column excerpt):

The real Reagan record on AIDS is diffe rent than the seemingly never-ending mud-slinging. His Department of Health and Human Services secretary called it a "top priority" in 1983, when the disease was so new that few people even understood what was happening. AIDS funding skyrocketed in the 1980s, almost doubling each year beginning in 1983 — when the media started blaring headlines — from $44 million to $103 million, $205 million, $508 million, $922 million and then $1.6 billion in 1988.

Now, try finding Walter Mondale "mentioning AIDS publicly" when he ran against Reagan in 1984. It didn't come up in the presidential debates. It's nowhere to be found in his 1984 convention speech. A Nexis search of the Washington Post and The New York Times in 1984 doesn't locate a Mondale quote on AIDS.