Thursday, June 07, 2018

Cruising the Web

Barack Obama likes to pretend that there were no scandals in his administration. What that really means is that the media downplayed the actual scandals such as Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the IRS scandal. And the administration, especially President Obama, were quite ready to lie to the American people. We all know about the "lie of the year" Obama kept telling us that if we liked our health plan, we could keep it. But they also deceived us about the Iran deal. The Associated Press has a blockbuster story about how the Obama administration finagled American laws to allow Iran get money that they were forbidden by American laws from having access to. And then they lied to Congress about what they were doing.
After striking an elusive nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration found itself in a quandary in early 2016: Iran had been promised access to its long-frozen overseas reserves, including $5.7 billion stuck in an Omani bank.

To spend it, Iran wanted to convert the money into U.S. dollars and then euros, but top U.S. officials had repeatedly promised Congress that Iran would never gain access to America’s financial system.

Those assurances notwithstanding, the Obama administration secretly issued a license to let Iran sidestep U.S. sanctions for the brief moment required to convert the funds through an American bank, an investigation by Senate Republicans released Wednesday showed. The plan failed when two U.S. banks refused to participate.
Former Obama officials are trying to dispute that they tried to allow Iran access to U.S. banks and are just blaming the Republicans for exposing what they were doing.
Still, the report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations sheds light on the delicate balance the Obama administration sought to strike after the deal, as it worked to ensure Iran received its promised benefits without playing into the hands of the deal’s opponents. Amid a tense political climate, Iran hawks in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere argued that the United States was giving far too much to Tehran and that the windfall would be used to fund extremism and other troubling Iranian activity.

The Treasury Department license, issued in February 2016 and never disclosed, would have allowed Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at Oman’s Bank of Muscat from Omani rials into euros by exchanging them first into dollars. If the Omani bank had allowed the exchange without such a license, it would have violated sanctions that bar Iran from transactions that touch the U.S. financial system.

The situation resulted from the fact that Iran had stored billions in Omani rials, a currency that’s notoriously hard to convert. The U.S. dollar is the world’s dominant currency, so allowing it to be used as a conversion instrument for Iranian assets was the easiest and most efficient way to speed up Iran’s access to its own funds.

“Yikes,” one former Treasury official told colleagues in an email, as described by the report. “It looks like we committed to a whole lot beyond just allowing the immobilized funds to settle out.”

The Obama administration approached two U.S. banks to facilitate the conversion, the report said, but both refused, citing the reputational risk of doing business with or for Iran.
Jazz Shaw comments,
This wasn’t just some discussion taking place in the Oval Office or a crazy idea they were kicking around. Obama actually issued the license to allow Iran to engage in the currency trading (without telling anyone) and was ready to let them do it. The only reason it didn’t work was that the banks approached by the Iranians were afraid they would be found in violation of the sanctions and refused to put the currency exchange through. The offer was later withdrawn.

This seems to be one more example of a pattern of hidden maneuvers by Obama and John Kerry to salvage a deal which faced tremendous opposition at home and was still failing to satisfy Iran. You may recall last December when we learned that Obama had drained all resources from Operation Casandra, a plan to shut down a Hezbollah cocaine smuggling operation for fear of “rocking the boat” with Tehran and upsetting the nuclear deal. Just how many of these “side arrangements” were going on that the American people never learned about so they could get the steaming pile of Iranian diplomacy over the finish line?
The Weekly Standard points out how the Obama administration lied about what they were doing.
Administration officials had told lawmakers both before and after issuing that license that Iran would not have access to the U.S. financial system. When Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk pressed the Treasury Department over concerns that the administration was working to give Iran dollar access, for example, Treasury responded in June 2016: “The administration has not been and is not planning to grant Iran access to the U.S. financial system.” Materials prepared for congressional testimony by then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also “suggested he disclose the specific license to Bank Muscat “if pressed.”” He did not end up doing so.

“As the Treasury and State Department worked behind the scenes to help Iran access the dollar, the message to Congress remained the same: The JCPOA did not allow Iran to access the U.S. financial system," the report says....

Iran eventually moved the money without touching the U.S. financial system, but not without some frustrated back-and-forth with U.S. officials. One senior State Department official told an inquiring Iranian official that the the administration had “exceeded our JCPOA commitments” by issuing the license. The report continues: “That Senior State Department Official then explained that such “transactions are prohibited by U.S. sanctions that are still in place, and which we were clear we would not be removing as part of the JCPOA. Nevertheless, as a gesture of support for Iran’s getting access, we helped on this as we will on other cases.”
The administration then traveled the globe to try to convince other countries to invest in Iran while hinting to them that the U.S. would close its eyes to their violating sanctions.
Wednesday’s report also detailed efforts by Obama administration officials to drum up business for Iran, including over 200 “roadshows” abroad meant to encourage various countries to engage with Tehran. During one such trip, the report says, one U.S. official signaled that the administration would not stringently punish every sanctions violation.

“For example, during a roadshow in London in March 2015 with representatives from 10 major global financial institutions, the head of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) assured attendees that “95 percent of the time OFAC sees an apparent violation it results in a simple warning letter or no enforcement action,”” the report says. “He explained OFAC would only take action in egregious situations.”

That official later told the subcommittee that “the Treasury Department only has the resources to focus on egregious violations.” The report also notes that a European attendee of one such “roadshow” said that foreign financial institutions “felt “political pressure”” to do business with Iran.

Jim Geraghty reminds us of the other lies that the Obama administration told Americans in order to push through their giveaway deal to Iran.
The administration also lied when it said the Iranians had disclosed all their previous work on its nuclear program.

Despite the administration’s claims that the deal ensured the most extensive monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program ever, nonpartisan experts concluded Iran “did not provide the kind of transparency and cooperation required for the International Atomic Energy Agency to conclude its investigation.”

The administration also lied when it said sanctions would not be lifted until Iran had fully complied.

If you have to constantly lie to the public about what the deal does, maybe it’s a pretty lousy one.
I cringe every time Trump issues some buffonish lie about something. But I'd prefer a president lying about the Philadelphia Eagles kneeling for the National Anthem or crowd sizes to one who lied about actual policies such as Obamacare and the Iran deal.

Our great friend, Iran just isn't being very nice.
Earlier this week, Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei again issued the regime's long held threat to annihilate Israel from the map. In other words, Iran has a goal of murdering nearly 9 million people.
Remember how the Obama administration tried to convince that Iran had become moderate.

Stephen Moore writes at IBD
to summarize what Obamacare has wrought.
Let's summarize what we have gotten for our money under ObamaCare. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars; we have massively increased the size of the federal budget; we have subsidized insurance plans to get Americans to sign up for ObamaCare; we have penalized people if they don't buy ObamaCare; and we still have almost 1 in 11 Americans without insurance. Has there ever been a bigger public policy flop?

Michael Shellenberger writes in Forbes
about the fact that California is such a progressive state but also has such deep poverty. California follows every liberal nostrum for policies. They have the highest tax on the richest one percent. They "aggressively" implemented Obamacare, and they take every opportunity possible to thumb a collective nose at Trump. Yet, somehow they still have the highest poverty and inequality rates in America. The state has become two different states - one for the rich and one for the rest of the population.
In the 2013 science fiction film, “Elysium,” the rich have fled to a luxury satellite orbiting Earth while the poor toil in dangerous conditions below. Life in California today differs in degree, not in kind, from that dystopian vision.

Homeless encampments of hundreds of people have cropped up around the state in the last two years. Occasionally, they are ravaged by hepatitis A, which killed 20 people last year. In Silicon Valley, 132 people died on the street in 2016 — up from 85 in 2015. In San Diego, 117 people died, up from 56.

Last year, San Diego city workers nearly killed a homeless person after accidentally throwing her and the tent she was sleeping in into the back of garbage truck. She escaped just seconds before being crushed by the trash compactor.

Meanwhile, inside comfortable homes perched atop Berkeley and Beverly Hills, affluent progressives condemn the cruelty of the Trump administration toward the poor.

It’s true that workers in California earn 11 percent more than their counterparts nationally. But that amount is not enough to make up for mortgage payments and rents that are 44 percent and 37 percent higher (respectively) than the national average.

Where 56 percent of Californians could afford a middle-class home in 2012, in the third quarter of 2017, just 28 percent could....

One fact says it all: homeowners have a net worth that is a whopping 36 to 45 times higher than that of renters.
The government pretends that they're doing something to address the housing problems, but it's just a band-aid, because they won't address how government regulations put limits on new housing and that just drives up the price of existing housing.
California’s elected officials make serious-sounding pronouncements about the problem but back them up with only symbolic actions.

Last September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed housing legislation that will raise $250 million per year to subsidize housing. But that’s just enough to subsidize 1,824 units annually at a time when 100,000 to 200,000 new units are needed.
And for all their progressive pieties about fighting racism, blacks and Hispanics are the groups most hard hit by the results of those policies. And it's not just housing that presents such a problem for lower-income families. Public schools are rather a dismal prospect.
Progressive leaders who daily denounce Republicans as racist have blithely presided over a significant decline in the academic performance of black and Latino eighth graders relative to their counterparts in other states. Today, less than 40 percent of non-white and non-Asian students meet state educational standards.

The reason is a combination of factors, including lack of funding, lack of accountability, and a high rate of non-English speakers. When the cost of living is taken into account, California spends less on K-12 education than all but four other states.
The picture on crime and justice is also bleak.
What about the state’s much ballyhooed criminal justice reform?

California did indeed reduce the total number of prisoners by 12 percent between 2011 and 2015. But that’s because it had to: barbaric overcrowding resulted in a federal court order that the state to take action.

Meanwhile, the amount California spends on prisons actually increased by a half billion dollars thanks to the influence of the state’s deeply corrupt prison guards union.

As a consequence, California today spends more per prisoner than any other state — $65,000 annually — which happens to be the same amount it costs to send a high school graduate to Stanford University for a year.
And then there are energy prices as a result of the regulations that the state imposes.
California’s high energy prices and regulatory burden result in the state having fewer high-paying manufacturing jobs relative to other states.

Between 2011 and 2017, California’s electricity rates rose an astonishing five times more than they did nationally, undermining the ability of the state to compete for manufacturing jobs which pay $96,711 per year on average — $40,000 more than the state’s average non-farm income.
A lot of the state's budget goes to workers who are retired because the politicians are in bed with the union leaders to vote the taxpayers' money to pad pensions for union workers.
Progressive and powerful public employee unions reward themselves with retirement benefits far beyond those of ordinary workers. Over 200,000 DMV workers, building permit employees, and other government workers collect retirement pensions at the age of 55 at a cost of $5.4 billion per year — an astonishing 30 times more than was paid out before 2000.

Back on Earth, one-third of the public have no retirement savings whatsoever. The median retirement savings of the rest is just $111,000. A person would need $2.6 million in savings in order to receive retirement benefits as large as those received by a California Highway Patrol officer.

Here is yet another reaso
n to be very, very wary of Facebook.
Facebook Inc said Tuesday it has data sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese companies including Huawei, the world's third largest smartphone maker, which has come under scrutiny from U.S. intelligence agencies on security concerns.

The social media company said Huawei, computer maker Lenovo Group, and smartphone makers OPPO and TCL Corp were among about 60 companies worldwide that received access to some user data after they signed contracts to re-create Facebook-like experiences for their users.

Members of Congress raised concerns after The New York Times reported on the practice on Sunday, saying that data of users' friends could have been accessed without their explicit consent. Facebook denied that and said the data access was to allow its users to access account features on mobile devices.

More than half of the partnerships have already been wound down, Facebook said. It said on Tuesday it would end the Huawei agreement later this week. It is ending the other three partnerships with Chinese firms as well.

Chinese telecommunications companies have come under scrutiny from U.S. intelligence officials who argue they provide an opportunity for foreign espionage and threaten critical U.S. infrastructure, something the Chinese have consistently denied.

Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who asked Facebook if Huawei was among the companies that received user data, said in a statement that the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee had raised concerns about Huawei dating back in 2012.

"The news that Facebook provided privileged access to Facebook’s API to Chinese device makers like Huawei and TCL raises legitimate concerns, and I look forward to learning more about how Facebook ensured that information about their users was not sent to Chinese servers," Warner said.
Yeah, sharing customers' data with Chinese intelligence which has a history of hacking into American accounts, such as the Office of Personnel Management, in order to steal the personal data of Americans is going to be hard to explain away. If you were upset about Cambridge Analytica using data for the election, you should be boiling over about their sharing data with any Chinese organization. What were they thinking - just making a buck off naive Americans putting their personal data up on the web and thinking nothing was going to happen to it.

The crime scene in London keeps getting worse. Now the big fear are muggings by people on motorcycles and mopeds.
Britain is in the grip of a violent crime wave as thugs run riot on mopeds and motorbikes.

Shocking figures released yesterday show the armed thieves are striking more than 60 times every day.

In a chilling illustration of the crisis, a young woman was fighting for her life last night after her mobile was snatched by moped-riding thieves. And a motorcycle gang targeted yet another luxury store in London yesterday.

Campaigners and politicians warned the attacks were matched by disturbing rises in stabbings, drug crime and gang violence.

London now has a higher murder rate than New York, with more than 70 killings so far this year. Knife crime has also led to the deaths of a 17-year-old boy in Ipswich and of 15-year-olds in Sheffield and Wolverhampton.
Given that Britain has banned carrying a knive in public as a response to all the knife attacks that have been occurring, how soon before they move to ban motorcycles and mopeds?

Trump is musing about pardoning Rod Blagojevich. Maybe he has a soft spot for Glago because he was on "The Apprentice." That sounds like the way Trump thinks about the pardon power. But, as Juliana Knot writes, there is no way to pretend that he's draining the swamp if Trump pardons Blagojevich.
The charge against the former governor range from threatening the Chicago Tribune to offering state money to a hospital in exchange for campaign donations. The most notorious charge was his plot to sell the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by former president Barack Obama after his election with hopes of leveraging it for money, a cushy spot on a nonprofit board, or an ambassadorship to Serbia.

Blagojevich knew what he had was worth something. Federal wiretaps picked up these gems:

“I’ve got this thing, and it’s f–king golden. I’m just not giving it up for f–king nothing.”

And: “It’s a f–king valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

Not to mention: “If I don’t get what I want … I’ll just take the Senate seat myself.”

Those quotes were not only perfect for a “f–king golden” headline but also enough evidence to warrant arrest, trial, and conviction. Blagojevich joined the infamous roster of corrupt Illinois governors, becoming the seventh arrested since 1971.

What is wrong with Michigan State?
Michigan State University on Monday added yet another sex-crime to its recent list of scandals. This time it’s bestiality.

MSU physicist Joseph Hattey, 51, was charged Monday by the Michigan Attorney General's Office with two counts of bestiality after he allegedly sodomized a basset hound with his hand and penis, according to a release.
They, apparently, also looked the other way on this guy as they did for Larry Nassar.
A former MSU president described Strampel as “boorish” but never suspected him as a “sexual predator.” The Detroit Free Press reports that the school allegedly knew about some of his behavior as early as 2003; and the paper similarly reported that university officials were aware of Nassar’s child molestation as early as 1997.

The Michigan AG‘s office stated that Hattey does not appear to have committed the acts “on campus or with an animal owned by the university.” The dog has been removed from harm and is with Ingham County Animal Control, who collaborated with the sheriff’s department in investigating the alleged crime.

Animal Control director John Dinon told The Daily Beast that bestiality in that part of Michigan is “not a very common thing” but said this was not the first case he’s seen
Well, I guess that's a comfort that bestiality isn't "a very common thing" in Michigan.

These memes continue to crack me up.

Well, all is right with the world now that Google has fixed their salad emoji. We can all relax now.