Thursday, December 29, 2016

Cruising the Web

AEI's Michael Rubin explains what John Kerry got wrong in his speech on Israel. Most importantly Kerry ignored the intransigence of the Palestinians in rejecting offers from Israel that would have given them just about everything they purport to want.
Who is holding up peace? After long and careful negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority brokered by the United States and the broader international community, Israeli leaders offered their Palestinian counterparts peace deals in 2000 and 2008. Both the late Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas rejected the offers and walked away, without offering a counter proposal. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze settlement construction upon Obama's request, Abbas again refused for nine months to even talk to the Israelis.
But, in Kerry and Obama's views, the blame must fall eternally on Israel. They're willing to ignore the Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist and reward them without their having to give up anything in exchange.
The Palestinian Authority was created as a result of the Oslo Accords. By walking away from that agreement, both in terms rejecting terrorism and acting unilaterally, the Palestinian Authority have done away with the foundational document which legalizes their existence. By acquiescing to unilateral Palestinian actions and revising the basis of Palestinian-Israeli peace, Kerry has shown that U.S. diplomacy and commitments can never be trusted....

Everyone can see what a final agreement looks like — both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush helped negotiated it. Why can't we impose that and just offer guarantees? Here's the problem: It's hard to talk about the ability of any state in the region to trust American security guarantees or red lines given Obama and Kerry's reversal on the Syria chemical weapons red line.
All Obama and Kerry have achieved is to give more hope to Palestinian obstructionists that they don't have to give up anything in order to get world support against Israel. Sadly, that seems to have been a pattern.
It is deeply ironic that Kerry seeks to make peace between Israel and Arabs when ties have never been better between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and the Gulf Cooperation Council states despite the U.S. rather than because of it. What Obama and Kerry have achieved is manna for rejectionists and a huge setback for those who seek to build upon diplomatic precedent. Kerry's ban on settlements, if confirmed by the United Nations, will be the death blow to diplomacy and a guarantee that unilateral actions determine the future of the region. Kerry will have blood on his hands.
Kerry's statement that, if Israel chooses the one-state solution, it can be either Jewish or Democratic, but not both, ignores the reality of Israel today. As David French points out,
In Israel, Arab communities live in peace with their neighbors, they vote, and Arabs hold high public office. In the West Bank (the historic regions of Judea and Samaria), Jewish communities have to live under constant, armed protection or they face slaughter. Indeed, in the event that a true Palestinian state ever exists, one of its first orders of business will be a spate of ethnic cleansing. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian journalists, “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.” In other words, remove the Jews, or we’ll remove them for you.

Make no mistake, when Palestinians imagine their own state, they don’t imagine a multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy. Instead, they imagine yet another intolerant, Muslim-dominated ethnic enclave. That’s their vision of “peace.” That’s their vision of statehood. No Jews in Judea. I’m not clear which American “value” dictates that we lift one single finger to facilitate such mindless hate.
Andrew McCarthy adds,
Kerry did not mention that Jordan was never subjected to international pressure to grant the Palestinians their own state during the 19 years that Jordan occupied Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem; nor did he acknowledge that the Palestinians would long ago have had their own state if they had recognized Israel’s right to exist and abandoned jihadist terror....

Implicitly, of course, if Kerry is saying that a country with a Muslim minority cannot maintain its Jewish character and still abide by democratic principles, then neither can the United States maintain its Judeo-Christian character and still abide by democratic principles — notwithstanding that our Judeo-Christian character is the basis for our belief in the equal dignity of all men and women, a foundational democratic principle. It is a principle one does not find in classical Islam, the law of which explicitly elevates Muslims over non-Muslims and men over women.
McCarthy also points out the constitutions of Afghanistan and Iraq which the U.S. State Department helped draft. Both of them guarantee an Islamic nation that is also democratic.
Note that second clause carefully. It assures that Iraq will maintain its Islamic identity no matter what. It further reaffirms that, when it comes to an Islamic country, the State Department believes a country can be fiercely Muslim in character, yet be a democratic republic that respects the rights of religious minorities.

Of course, as things have worked out, we’ve seen that even Muslim minorities are not granted equal rights in these “Islamic democracies.” Concurrently, we watch Turkey, which gets less democratic and less respectful of minority rights as it becomes more Islamic. It is only in Israel, a Jewish state, that Muslims live with full democratic rights.

Yet, in Obama-world, Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic. Evidently, you need sharia for that.

Victor Davis Hanson points out 15 turning points in which the Obama administration's choices exacerbated problems in the Middle East.
Had Obama only:

1. Cut out all the trash-talking of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which ranged from off-the-record slights (“coward,” “chickens**t”) to public snubs to hot-mic ridicule, to constant ankle-biting of Israeli policy in pursuit of “daylight” between democratic Israel and the U.S.

2. Quit the 2012 politicking and just left the 10,000 or so U.S. peacekeepers in a calm Iraq after 2011 to ensure what Vice President Joe Biden had strangely called the administration’s “greatest achievement,” and Obama had acclaimed as “a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq.”

3. Taken ISIS seriously early on and not written it off as a “jayvee” terrorist group.
There was a pattern with Obama's actions: "bombastic self-serving declarations coupled with weak or nonexistent concrete follow-ups — all in a weird landscape of punishing friends and empowering enemies." Remember this is an administration that doesn't think that Israel is entitled to control the Western Wall in Jerusalem, but that Iran is entitled to billions of dollars that they can use to fund terrorism. Ponder this choice by this administration.

Elliott Abrams notes to hypocrisy
of Kerry's pretense that the resolution was balanced in what it said to Israel and the Palestinians.
The latter point is significant, and shows the fundamental failure of Kerry's argument. The resolution passed last week will do actual damage to Israel, because calling all the settlements and even construction in East Jerusalem a violation of international law opens Israel to further boycotts and to prosecution as criminals (in local courts all over the world or the International Criminal Court) of Israeli officials or of settlers. The "balance" that moved the administration to permit adoption of the resolution was non-existent: There is in the resolution no call upon the Palestinians to stop glorifying terrorism by naming schools and parks after murderers and celebrating their "achievements." Instead the resolution does not mention the Palestinians in that context at all and merely "calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism…and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism." Israel is condemned but the Palestinians are never criticized in that supposedly "balanced" text.

Kerry noted in his speech that "We have repeatedly and emphatically stressed to the Palestinians that all incitement to violence must stop." Kerry actually spoke at some length about these Palestinian practices, as if repeating how much he dislikes them strengthened his point. But it does not, because the United States has been complaining about this for all eight years of the Obama administration to no effect whatsoever. The key point is that the Palestinians are never penalized for glorifying terror and the U.N. resolution doesn't penalize them either. The resolution will harm Israel and do nothing at all to the Palestinians, which means it is not balanced and Kerry's argument here is simply false.

I also wonder if the Obama team would have refused to veto the UN resolution and if Kerry would have given this speech defending their actions if Hillary Clinton had won the election.

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The WSJ writes about Secretary Kerry,
In his speech, Mr. Kerry went out of his way to personalize his differences with current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming he leads the “most right-wing” coalition in Israeli history. But Israelis also remember that Mr. Netanyahu ordered a settlement freeze, and that also brought peace no closer.

The lesson is that Jewish settlements are not the main obstacle to peace. If they were, Gaza would be on its way to becoming the Costa Rica of the Mediterranean. The obstacle is Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in any borders. A Secretary of State who wishes to resolve the conflict could have started from that premise, while admonishing the Palestinians that they will never get a state so long as its primary purpose is the destruction of its neighbor.

But that Secretary isn’t Mr. Kerry. Though he made passing references to Palestinian terror and incitement, the most he would say against it was that it “must stop.” If the Administration has last-minute plans to back this hollow exhortation with a diplomatic effort at the U.N., we haven’t heard about it.
And the administration's claim that the UN resolution they refused to veto doesn't break any new ground is patently ludicrous (much like their foreign policy in general).
The reality is that the resolution denies Israel legal claims to the land—including Jewish holy sites such as the Western Wall—while reversing the traditional land-for-peace formula that has been a cornerstone of U.S. diplomacy for almost 50 years. In the world of Resolution 2334, the land is no longer Israel’s to trade for peace. Mr. Kerry also called East Jerusalem “occupied” territory, which contradicts Administration claims in the 2015 Supreme Court case, Zivotofsky v. Kerry, that the U.S. does not recognize any sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Jeff Jacoby chides liberals for ignoring how socialism has destroyed Venezuela.
When the Cold War ended 25 years ago, the Soviet Union vanished into the ash heap of history. That left the West’s “useful idiots” — Lenin’s term for the ideologues and toadies who could always be relied on to justify or praise whatever Moscow did — in search of other socialist thugs to fawn over. Many found a new heartthrob in Hugo Chavez, the anti-Yanqui rabble-rouser who was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and in short order had transformed the country from a successful social democracy into a grim and corrupt autocracy.
Venezuela went from being one of Latin America's most affluent nations to the hell hole that it is today. And the useful idiots, as Jacoby writes, ate up that transition because they admired Hugo Chavez and his handpicked heir Nicolas Maduro.
Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that. Venezuelans, their economy wrecked by statism, face crippling shortages of everything from food and medicine to toilet paper and electricity. Violent crime is out of control. Shoppers are forced to stand in lines for hours outside drugstores and supermarkets — lines that routinely lead to empty shelves, or that break down in fistfights, muggings, and mob looting. Just last week the government deployed 3,000 troops to restore order after frantic rioters rampaged through shops and homes in the southeastern state of Bolivar.

In the beautiful country that used to boast the highest standard of living in Latin America, patients now die in hospitals for lack of basic health care staples: soap, gloves, oxygen, drugs. In some medical wards, there isn’t even water to wash the blood from operating tables.

Socialism invariably kills and impoverishes. Gushing oil revenues amid a global energy boom could temporarily disguise the corrosion caused by a government takeover of market functions. But only temporarily. The Chavez/Maduro “Bolivarian revolution” has been economic poison, just like every other Marxist “revolution” from Lenin’s Russia to Kim Il Sung’s North Korea to the Castros’ Cuba. By shredding property rights, dictating prices, and trying to control supply and demand, socialist regimes eventually make everything worse and virtually everyone poorer. Conversely, when governments protect free markets and allow buyers and sellers to interact freely, prosperity expands.
Of course, the useful idiots who praised Chavez like Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, and Jimmy Carter are not notably silent on what the government they so admired has accomplished.

If the Democrats in the House decide to stage another sit-in on the floor of the House and stream it on social media while trying to fundraise off of it, the Republicans will have passed new rules to counter such antics that break established House rules.
The proposed changes are slated to include fines up to $500 for a first offense of broadcasting from the House floor, which would be bumped up to $2,500 for repeated offenses, Bloomberg first reported. The fines would be deducted directly from lawmakers’ paychecks.
If I were in charge, I'd make it a more substantial fine. But it's a start.

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Robert Shibley of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) writes in the WSJ
about how it is well past time to end the kangaroo courts that college campuses now use to deny due process rights to students accused of any sort of sexual assault or of speech that is deemed inappropriate. Using Title IX, Obama's Education Department has pressured universities to regulate sex and speech.
In April 2011, the OCR surprised colleges by announcing in a “Dear Colleague” letter that, henceforth, campus tribunals involving sexual misconduct had to use a standard of proof known as “the preponderance of the evidence,” which requires that they be only 50.01% certain when determining whether a student committed an offense. Given that campus courts routinely deny students counsel, the right to face their accusers, access to evidence, and even the presumption of innocence, this mandate banned what was often a student’s only meaningful due-process protection: that fact-finders be more than just barely persuaded of their guilt.

Worse, in May 2013, in a settlement with the University of Montana that it labeled a blueprint for other colleges and universities, the OCR, joined by the Justice Department, determined that all “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including speech, should be deemed sexual harassment. Even a single, unwelcome, overheard dirty joke is “harassment” under this standard.

The results have been profound. My organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has sponsored lawsuits challenging the OCR’s decisions, has identified more than 130 lawsuits filed by students who claim they were wrongly punished for sexual misconduct since the Dear Colleague letter was issued. Victims and accusers also routinely complain of bad investigations by college administrators who are poorly equipped to handle felony crimes.

The OCR’s debased definition of harassment, meanwhile, has led to absurdities such as a feminist professor being investigated for criticizing Northwestern University’s Title IX efforts in a newspaper column. Confidence in the system is low for very good reason.
Of Trump's Education Department can roll back the understanding of Title IX to what it was before 2011, it would be a blessing.
Campus courts might not be real courts, but sexual assault is equally serious whether it happens on campus or off and deserves to be treated as such. New leadership at the Education Department dedicated to equal justice for every student could do much to help schools like the University of Minnesota fight sex crimes on campus while improving the fairness and accuracy of campus discipline and respecting the Constitution.
Read more in Shibley's short book Twisting Title IX.

Daniel French has some other recommendations.
Congress needs to intervene in two concrete ways. First, it needs to withhold federal funds from any public university that repeatedly violates the constitutional rights of its students or faculty. If a court of final jurisdiction finds that a public university violated the constitutional rights of a student or faculty member more than once in any five-year span, it should lose all federal funding for at least a year. Moreover, there should be a substantial, fixed financial penalty for each constitutional violation, no matter how infrequent.

Second, universities need to get out of the sexual-assault-adjudication business. Universities are educational institutions, not criminal courts, and they are poorly equipped to decide criminal cases or even civil liability. It is easy enough to separate students who are embroiled in pending criminal or civil proceedings, and universities should discipline or expel only students who are found guilty or liable by courts of final jurisdiction.

It’s simply too much to ask the Trump Department of Education to “fix” Title IX or to protect constitutional rights on campus. Any rulemakings or memoranda generated by a new administration can be just as easily undone by the next. It’s time to use sensible congressional majorities to pass sensible laws. Universities have proven they can’t govern themselves. Perhaps Congress can fill the breach.

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Isn't Pearl Harbor a strange place for the President of the United States to say “There is more to be won in peace than in war”?

2016 was not a good year for political prognosticators. I know that most of my predictions were completely off. So there was a lot to choose from for Politico's list of the worst political predictions of the year.

Here'e's a way for celebrities to gain attention for themselves - post on social media how horrified you are that your hair looks somewhat similar to Melania Trump's hair and then post a picture of the new haircut you got. Otherwise, how can starlets get public attention for their haircuts if they don't package it as an anti-Trump protest?