Friday, December 08, 2017

Cruising the Web

So Al Franken has made it official with a bitter resignation, or planned resignation speech. He pointed to the irony that he is resigning but Trump is president and Roy Moore might be elected to the Senate. I can understand why that is making him furious. He's accused of crass and unacceptable behavior to women, but so is Trump. And Roy Moore is accused of even worse behavior. But then he also basically called the women accusing him of being liars.
"I think that [resigning] was the right thing to do," he added. "I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven't done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true, others I remember very differently."
Hmmm. How does he remember those events? He just keeps repeating that vague phrase but won't say what that means. He says that he "wanted to be respectful" of the broader national conversation about sexual harassment "because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously." But then said these women were not telling the truth. So he's respectful of women's experiences except when they accuse him. And not that there wasn't any apology or contrition in his speech. In fact, Steven Hayward wonders if Franken deliberately set his resignation for "the coming weeks" just in case Moore gets elected and then he could rescind his resignation when the attention shifts to Moore and the accusations against him. That's a bit more cynical than I am. It could be that he just wants to wind down his office and keep his aides on the payroll in the weeks before Christmas. And he can stay around and vote on the budget and tax bill.

But if, as he claims, he's innocent, why resign? He says that he can't pursue the Ethics Committee process and still be effective as senator. Why not? As the WSJ points out, plenty of senators have gone through Ethics Committee investigations and still serve as senator.
Yet plenty of Members of Congress have endured an ethics investigation while conducting normal business. And if Mr. Franken really did nothing wrong, he is doing Minnesota voters a disservice by letting himself be run out of the body half way through the term they elected him to serve. By defending himself he would also be helping others, in Congress and out, who are accused unfairly.

The truth is that Mr. Franken is being run out of town by fellow Democrats in large part for their own political purposes. They want him banished so they can claim to have cleaned their own stables so they can attack Republicans who support Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and Donald Trump. Mr. Franken is political ballast who had to go.

We’d even have a little sympathy for him had he not chosen the disingenuous exit of claiming innocence but resigning anyway.

Meanwhile, we can expect more such resignations. Prepare to say good bye to another Republican representative.
Congressman Trent Franks announced his resignation from Congress Thursday evening, saying he was unwilling to undergo an Ethics Committee investigation into conversations about surrogacy he had in recent years with two female staffers.

Franks said that he and his wife had struggled with infertility, and had twins through a surrogate in 2008. Later, when they wished to have another child, Franks apparently broached the topic with members of his staff.

“Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Franks said. “I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress."

Franks, who has served in Congress since 2003, categorically denied that he had ever made sexual overtures to anyone in his office.
If that's all, I'm not sure how that qualifies as inappropriate sexual conduct. I wonder if this is just one part of the allegations against him and that he decided to resign to keep more from coming out. But if we're believing that Franken's behavior was just inappropriate and unfortunate, as some of his supporters are suggesting, then asking a young woman if she wants to be a surrogate doesn't seem like harassment. She can say no and that should be the end of it. Maybe there is more behind the story. Roll Call is implying that there is, because that's where we're at these days - when respected publications report the rumor that there are rumors.
One Arizona Republican said there had been rumors of inappropriate behavior. The Republican said the congressman had apparently been making plans to run for Senate in 2012, but abruptly canceled those plans.

“There’s been rumors swirling around him for years, at least in 2012,” the Republican said. “And if this turns out to be true, there won’t be that many people who are surprised.”

Buckle up. It's going to be a long, bumpy ride.

Representative Luis Gutierrez has announced that he's resigning. His family budget is going to take a hit.
Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), who announced last week that he will not seek reelection after spending 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, will no longer be able to pay his wife hundreds of thousands of dollars from campaign funds once he officially departs from Congress.

Soraida Gutierrez, his wife, has collected more than $430,000 from Gutierrez for Congress, Luis's campaign committee, since 2010. Soraida is the top recipient of expenditures this year.
Isn't that convenient that he could put his wife on his payroll? Just one of those congressional perks.
Members of Congress have been allowed to place family on campaign payrolls since a 2001 Federal Election Commission opinion requested by former Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.).

After the FEC gave the green light for federal politicians to pay relatives from their committees, Jackson Jr. went on to pay his wife's firm hundreds of thousands of dollars from his committee.

Jackson and his wife later pleaded guilty to using $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

Just a little more crazy from Roy Moore.

Michael Rubin warns not to be fooled by days of rage in the Arab world in response to Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It's all public theater.
But make no mistake: Whatever happens, it will not be spontaneous. Spontaneous protests are a rarity in the Middle East.

When I lived in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1990s, students and state workers talked about being bussed to supposedly spontaneous “Death to America” protests. Likewise, when I first visited Iraqi Kurdistan in 2000, Iraqis visiting from regions controlled by Saddam Hussein talked about going to supposedly spontaneous anti-American demonstrations for the free kabobs and ice cream, luxuries while living under sweeping sanctions.

In 2000, then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, a site holy to Jews and Muslims, sparking rioting which would escalate into the Second Intifada, or uprising.

But was the violence spontaneous? Consider Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader subsequently imprisoned for terrorism: He quipped at the time that the "explosion of violence would have happened anyway," that "it was necessary in order to protect Palestinian rights, but Sharon provided a good excuse." Meanwhile, Palestinian Communications Minister Imad al-Faluji told Palestinian radio that Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat had ordered the second Intifada months earlier after the Camp David II summit collapsed. So much for spontaneity.

The list goes on. Remember those Danish cartoons which spread protests across the Middle East? Planned in advance, they occurred months after the cartoons were published. Pernille Ammitzbøll, a journalist with the Danish paper which first published the Muhammad cartoons, and Lorenzo Vidino, a terrorism analyst, traced the story in the Middle East Quarterly as Saudi-funded Danish imams racked up frequent flier points meeting with officials from the Arab League, al-Azhar University in Cairo, and Al Jazeera in order to put all the pegs in place.

Then, of course, there is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has become the master of mob rule. He planned his 2009 Davos shouting match in advance, and carefully planned a spontaneous rally to meet him upon his return to Istanbul.
Rubin goes on to point out that these nations are dictatorships. Such dictators don't like spontaneous demonstrations unless they're the ones organizing them.

Ari Fleischer comments,

And just think of this:

Interestingly, as Shadi Hamid reports, the Saudi Crown Prince is proposing a peace plan that is "more tilted toward the Israelis than ever embraced by the American government." The NYT reported on this earlier this week.
The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
And that is coming from an Arab nation. Hamid concludes,
In effect if not in intent, few are as indifferent to Muslim life as Arab countries are. It may be hard for Arabs to admit, but Israel, for all the suffering it has inflicted on the Palestinian territories, has proven—in relative terms—more respectful of Muslim life than most Arab regimes. Nothing Israel has done, or probably could do, can compare to the ongoing Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, which has been roundly condemned as a moral and humanitarian catastrophe of unusual proportions.

No one, then, should fall under the illusion that declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital will harm America’s alliances with most, or even many, Arab nations (Jordan being a notable exception). The fact that most Arab countries are autocracies, though, complicates the matter, since unelected, unaccountable regimes do not generally reflect popular sentiment, particularly when it comes to the Palestinian conflict. Arab leaders have been content to use Palestine and Palestinians for rhetorical effect and to absorb or deflect popular anger over their own failures and missteps. But for Arab populations, Palestine still matters, even if primarily on a symbolic level (and if we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that symbols matter).
Then he goes on to worry about the Arab street or how moving the embassy to Jerusalem will exacerbate anti-American feelings. Dictators like manipulating that opinion so as to distract from how poorly their own people are living. You can decide for yourselves how much you think an American president ought to cater to such practices.

Matthew Continetti knows where he stands.
There is no peace process to wreck. The conflict is frozen. And the largest barriers to the resumption of negotiations are found not in U.S. or Israeli policy but in Palestinian autocracy, corruption, and incitement. Have the former Obama administration officials decrying Trump's announcement read a newspaper lately? From listening to them, you'd think it would be all roses and ponies in the Middle East but for Trump. In fact, the region is engulfed in war, terrorism, poverty, and despotism; Israel faces threats in the north and south; its sworn enemy, Iran, is growing in influence and reach; and the delegitimization of the Jewish State proceeds apace in international organizations and on college campuses. I forget how the Obama administration advanced the cause of peace by pressuring Israel while rewarding the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Maybe someone will remind me.

One of the reasons the Middle East persists in its decrepit condition is that it has been, for decades, a playground of magical thinking. Whether it is believing that poverty is the cause of terrorism or that the Ayatollah Khamenei is a good-faith partner, whether it is imagining that Assad will go just because we tell him to or that ISIS is akin to a terrorist "JV team," liberal internationalists have all too eagerly accepted an alternative picture of the Middle East that is much more flattering than the actuality. A similar form of doublethink is present in our discussions over Jerusalem. Every Israeli knows Jerusalem was, is, and will remain his capital. Every recent president has agreed with him. And the U.S. consensus has been bipartisan. The last four Democratic platforms have said the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. The Senate voted 90-0 only six months ago urging the embassy be moved to the ancient city. Were we to take seriously neither these platforms nor that vote? Was it all virtue-signaling, a bunch of empty gestures in the kabuki theater of U.S. diplomacy?

Sounds like one crooked South American leader is going to face justice.
An arrest warrant has been issued for former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner after she was accused of covering up Iran's involvement in a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center that killed 85.

Years after the attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), Kirchner was accused of having struck a deal with Iranian officials to grant those responsible for the bombing immunity in exchange for oil, the Telegraph reports. She has called the treason case against her "an absurdity" in the past and said it is part of an international conspiracy against her.

Daniel John Sobieski explains
what was behind Bill Clinton's 1996 declaration that he was making 1.7 million acres of Grand Staircase-Escalante a national monument. I hadn't realized that there was extremely valuable low-sulfur coal there that Clinton's designation blocked from mining. And who benefited from that? - a name that you might have forgotten from Clinton scandals.
Bill Clinton's unilateral land grab in Utah declaring 1.7 million acres a national monument and placing off-limits to an energy starved United States up to 62 billion tons of environmentally safe low sulfur coal worth $1.2 trillion that could have been mined with minimal surface impact was in fact a political payoff to the family of James Riady.

James Riady was the son of Lippo Group owner Mochtar Riady. Young James was found guilty of and paid a multi-million dollar fine for funneling more than $1 million in illegal political contributions through Lippo Bank into various American political campaigns, including Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential run. Connect the dots. Riady’s relationship between the Clintons, would be long and corrupt, even extending to donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton took off the world market the largest known deposit of clean-burning coal. Who owned and controlled the second-largest deposit in the world? The Indonesian Lippo Group of James Riady. It is found and strip-mined on the Indonesian island of Kalamantan.

The Utah reserve contains the kind of low-sulfur, low-ash, and therefore low-polluting coal the likes of which can be found in only a couple of places in the world. It burns so cleanly that it meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act without additional technology.

“The mother of all land grabs,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said at the time. Hatch has called what was designated as the Grande Staircase of the Escalante National Monument the “Saudi Arabia of coal.”
And Clinton's move also hurt the children because the schools of Utah were going to receive as much as a $1 billion over 50 years because a trust fund had been established in the 19th century to have money from the region go to a fund for children. So was Clinton's action for cynical reasons to help a big donor? Is there anything in the Clinton record that would cast doubt on such a view of Clinton's motives?