The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Punishing Patterns

In writing about the serial scandals that have followed the Clintons throughout their decades in public life, Jonah Goldberg relates very wise advice:
You forgive mistakes; you punish patterns. Everybody screws up. But if someone won’t learn from his mistakes and try to correct his behavior, then he either doesn’t think it was a mistake, he just doesn’t care, or he thinks you’re a fool.
Unquestionably, this applies to Hillary's Servergate scandal and the questions surrounding political favors that have been tied to multimillion dollar donations to her charitable foundation. Her surrogates claim that honest mistakes were made. A more penetrating look sees a pattern of unethical, dishonest conduct. But hey, the Clintons never seem to get caught, and besides, there's "no smoking gun" (only lots and lots of smoke), so who am I to argue?

But the patterns don't stop with the Clintons. The Obama administration calls the revisiting of destructive, dishonest and ineffective patterns "doubling down" and thinks its a badge of honor. More honest people might suggest that behavior that stonewalls the truth (think: Fast and Furious, the VA scandal, the Benghazi scandal, the IRS scandal) or creates chaos in foreign policy, would be better to discontinue. Nope, doubling down works, as long as a compliant media allows it to. It's an ugly, unethical pattern, but hey, Obama's Team of 2s really do think they're the smartest guys in the room, so who am I to argue?

And the patterns don't stop with the administration. Now that the riots in Baltimore have begun to wane, we see the Democrats advocating a well worn pattern—spend (oops, sorry, I mean "invest") still more money on the inner cities and talk about "reform" of the justice and education system but never actually propose anything that is substantively new or different, and of course, suggest that its really all about class warfare and/or "oppression" by the "haves."  Of course trillions have been spent without good outcomes already, but the pattern is all that matters. In addition, this pattern deflects any blame or responsibility from those who are doing the rioting, suggesting that a climate of oppression has caused their actions. It's nice to be serially forgiven for criminality and violence, but hey, our guilt for errors of the past knows no bound.

To quote Goldberg: "... if someone won’t learn from his mistakes and try to correct his behavior, then he either doesn’t think it was a mistake, he just doesn’t care, or he thinks you’re a fool." Or all three. Maybe it's time for the electorate to begin "punishing patterns."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

More Baltimores

When Eric Holder's justice department issued a report on the Ferguson, MO riots, the report suggested that a lack of diversity among the Ferguson police department lead to "racist" behavior that drove resentment, and therefore, the riots themselves. Many questioned Holder's findings, but let's take them at face value.

But if we do, how can Baltimore be explained?

Jason Riley asks the same question:
Broad diversity is not a problem in Baltimore, where 63% of residents and 40% of police officers are black. The current police commissioner is also black, and he isn’t the first one. The mayor is black, as was her predecessor and as is a majority of the city council. Yet none of this “critically important” diversity seems to have mattered after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died earlier this month in police custody under circumstances that are still being investigated.

Some black Baltimoreans have responded by hitting the streets, robbing drugstores, minimarts and check-cashing establishments and setting fires. If you don’t see the connection, it’s because there isn’t one. Like Brown’s death, Gray’s is being used as a convenient excuse for lawbreaking. If the Ferguson protesters were responding to a majority-black town being oppressively run by a white minority—which is the implicit argument of the Justice Department and the explicit argument of the liberal commentariat—what explains Baltimore?
Democrats continue to contend that a lack of economic opportunity drives the crime rate in the inner city, resulting in tension between the police (black or white) and the residents of the inner city. That much is undoubtedly true, but a lack of economic opportunity is a symptom, not a cause.

The "solution" posed by the most Democrats is the same tired approach that has been attempted for almost 60 years—more government programs and more government spending. The definition of insanity (and delusional thinking) is trying the same thing (that results in failure) over and over again while expecting a different result each time.

Within major cities (with a few exceptions), the blue model of governance isn't working. This from the Wall Street Journal editorial board:
You’re not supposed to say this in polite company, but what went up in flames in Baltimore Monday night was not merely a senior center, small businesses and police cars. Burning down was also the blue-city model of urban governance.

Nothing excuses the violence of rampaging students or the failure of city officials to stop it before Maryland’s Governor called in the National Guard. But as order starts to return to the streets, and the usual political suspects lament the lack of economic prospects for the young men who rioted, let’s not forget who has run Baltimore and Maryland for nearly all of the last 40 years.

The men and women in charge have been Democrats, and their governing ideas are “progressive.” This model, with its reliance on government and public unions, has dominated urban America as once-vibrant cities such as Baltimore became shells of their former selves. In 1960 Baltimore was America’s sixth largest city with 940,000 people. It has since shed nearly a third of its population and today isn’t in the top 25.

The dysfunctions of the blue-city model are many, but the main failures are three: high crime, low economic growth and failing public schools that serve primarily as jobs programs for teachers and administrators rather than places of learning.
Are there "solutions?"

I think the answer is a qualified yes. You can only solve a problem once you clearly understand what the problem is and what it is not. The current problem of the inner city is cultural, educational, and familial, and as I wrote yesterday, it can only be solved by the black community and its leaders, and only if frank and painful discussions occur within the black community. I'm afraid that won't happen, and as a consequence, there will be more Baltimores.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Low Expectations

Someone named Benji Hart writing in provides us with a look inside the fevered mindset of some on the far-Left when they consider the current rioting in Baltimore, MD, following the suspicious death of a African American man in police custody. Hart writes:
As a nation, we fail to comprehend Black political strategy in much the same way we fail to recognize the value of Black life.

We see ghettos and crime and absent parents where we should see communities actively struggling against mental health crises and premeditated economic exploitation. And when we see police cars being smashed and corporate property being destroyed, we should see reasonable responses to generations of extreme state violence, and logical decisions about what kind of actions yield the desired political results.

I’m overwhelmed by the pervasive slandering of protesters in Baltimore this weekend for not remaining peaceful. The bad-apple rhetoric would have us believe that most Baltimore protesters are demonstrating the right way—as is their constitutional right—and only a few are disrupting the peace, giving the movement a bad name.
Let me be sure I have this straight. Those, including Barack Obama, who suggest that violence is unacceptable are guilty of "pervasive slandering" of the rioters. After all, Benji Hart and many of his fellow travelers would argue that burning down stores that serve their community, rioting, violently attacking police, disrupting their own neighborhoods and terrorizing the law-abiding citizens who live in them, are to be commended—no wait, praised, for reacting violently to their "premeditated economic exploitation" at the hands of white, privileged classes. All of the problems in the black urban community are the fault of old white men, big corporations, a government that doesn't provide enough assistance, and a media that doesn't cover their experience with an appropriately leftist spin.

Many of us who have lived during rioting in Watts, Newark, Detroit, Miami, Ferguson and now, Baltimore, to name only a few cities, have seen all of this before. We've watched as "the man" has been demonized by left wing agitators and activists in the black community. Through our taxes we've funded anti-poverty, housing, welfare assistance and education programs that have spent trillions trying to remedy the problems that we are told lead to rioting. And yet, little changes in the inner city (although much has changed for African Americans elsewhere). The prevailing question is why? And the answer cannot be found in the delusional and intellectually bankrupt accusations of the far Left.

Change can occur only from within the black community. Solutions to pervasive problems can only be identified by looking inward, no matter how unpleasant the view. Playing the victim will solve nothing—the past 70 years of intermittent race riots in major cities seem to indicate that "no justice, no peace" (a favorite phrase of activists) is simply not going to work.

Leaders within the African American community need to be politically incorrect. They need to identify what's wrong at a cultural, educational, and familial level and then start a century-long process of fixing it. Some of what they find won't be pleasant, and assuredly, it will be attacked by those who want to keep one segment of the black population dependent on government. But the problem can only be addressed if leaders properly and accurately describe it.

The soft racism of low expectations, promoted by people like Benji Hart, does an enormous disservice to the black urban community. It promotes a culture of victimization, bitterness, and despair. In its own way, that may be more tragic and have longer lasting effects that the rioting itself.

Friday, April 24, 2015


The political metagame, particularly under the Obama administration is fascinating and infuriating to observe. Earlier this week, I discussed the modus operandi of Obama's foreign policy team—their approach to any development that arises and their attempt at addressing it. In every case, they use a combination of deceit, deception, and delay to manage their opponents, the media (who is largely complicit anyway) and the public. In most cases, it works.

Kimberly Strassel discusses the Clinton modus operandi when it comes to managing scandals that have dogged the couple for well over 30 years. She correctly notes that the Clintons continually live in the grey area between acts that are legal and acts that are illegal. They have a unique ability to make any paper/information disappear (think: Hillary's email server), thereby making the claim that there is no hard proof of any illegality. Somehow, they manage to do this without consequences. They also apply a stonewalling strategy that is quite effective. From Strassel:
“Remember, the Press Has ADD.” Pixar’s “Up” features Dug, a cute dog with a serious attention problem (“squirrel!!!”). This is how the Clintons view the media. Pettable. Unfocused. When caught, the Clinton communications team will issue lofty dismissals—calling charges baseless or old news—and wait for the press to believe it. If it doesn’t, Team Clinton will hold one press conference—a la Mrs. Clinton’s email event—and wait for the media to call the case closed. If it doesn’t, they will change the subject (Hillary is running for president! Squirrel!!!) and wait for the press to lose interest. It often does.
If, in fact, all else fails, the Clintons and their surrogates claim that they are victims of a vast right wing conspiracy (VRWC). They attack the messenger, claiming extreme bias, relying on ad hominem attacks on the messenger to deflect from the content of the claim of wrong doing. Again, it often works ... sometimes quite well.

Strassel summarizes:
The question is whether this model, perfected in an earlier age, can hold—especially under the cascade of scandals. Times have changed. There’s more competition in the media these days (blogs, cable, podcasts) and that’s kept pressure on traditional outlets to keep digging into the Clinton Foundation money story. So much so that this week Mrs. Clinton had to escalate to VRWC.
The Democratic Party has changed. It’s now more Obama than Clinton, its left dominated by progressives who didn’t grow up under Hillary, and don’t much like her. They want Elizabeth Warren, and what surely terrifies the Clintons is the potential party explosion were the Massachusetts senator to jump in at this moment of vulnerability. Would it take much to send the party bolting to a fresher female firebrand—without the baggage?
In the end, Strassel thinks that Hillary will prevail, that the media will gladly chase squirrels, and that the Democrats, anxious to relive their identity politics successes of the past eight years will disregard the Clinton's modus operandi with a nod and a wink. We'll see.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


One of the core tenets of Hillary Clinton's upcoming run for the White House will be a set of favorite themes of the Left—income inequality and the minimum wage. These topics, combined with the canard that "the rich" somehow don't pay their "fair share" of taxes (even though the top 20 percent of taxpayers currently pay 84 percent of all income taxes collected) make a trifecta for class warfare.

Today, I'll discuss only one element of the trifecta—the minimum wage. In deep blue states and cities, the call for a $12.00 or $15.00 per hour minimum wage—a so-called "living wage"—has already begun. Now, Hillary and her supporters want to nationalize the issue because, they claim, it will help the lower tiers of the work force. No matter that most minimum wage workers are entry level, no matter that many are under the age of 20 and do not live on their own. No matter that small businesses work on tight margins (e.g., restaurants) and cannot afford significant increases in labor costs. It's all about Big Intrusive Government (B.I.G.) dictating what people should be paid, regardless of the labor market, regardless of the level education/skill required for the work, regardless of the profitability of a business, regardless of common sense. After all, the politics of envy trump sound policy decisions every time.

This morning The Wall Street Journal describes yet another robot that will displace workers at the bottom of the labor scale—in this case farm workers who pick strawberries. Strawberry picking has been a uniquely human activity. It requires color discernment (the berries must be ripe), dexterity (the berries hide below the leaves of the plant), and gentleness (the berries cannot be crushed or bruised). But now, there's an expensive robot that can do the job. From the WSJ:
Harnessing high-powered computing, color sensors and small metal baskets attached to the robotic arms, the machine gently plucked ripe strawberries from below deep-green leaves, while mostly ignoring unripe fruit nearby.

Such tasks have long required the trained discernment and backbreaking effort of tens of thousands of relatively low-paid workers. But technological advances are making it possible for robots to handle the job, just as a shrinking supply of available fruit pickers has made the technology more financially attractive.
The $100,000 machine has been introduced to remedy a labor shortage in the fields, but it's representative of the increasingly human activities that robots can accomplish. If wages for entry level work rise to a level where robots become cost competitive with entry-level human work (and they will), many small and moderate sized businesses that currently opt for relatively low cost human labor will be forced to take a hard look at the automatons, particularly as prices for such machines come down.

From their high moral perch where income inequality and living wage rule, Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and the rest of the Left seem oblivious to this simple reality. Of course, their solution—the B.I.G. solution—would undoubtedly be to ban the robots. But Luddites tried that 1779 and it didn't work. It won't work today either.

It's particularly galling to listen to politicians claim to be on the side of the poor and middle class while instituting policies that keep them dependent on B.I.G., and worse, threaten their ability to work and progress up the economic ladder. If entry level jobs are erased by automation because those jobs become cost ineffective, where will those who need them begin, where will they go, what will they do? Hillary and the rest of the crew don't care. All they really care about is the leverage they can gain by applying the politics of envy and resentment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Humanitarian Disaster

News stories over the past few days have reported on the plight of thousands of Libyan refugees who are fleeing the chaos in their country and trying to sail across the Mediterranean to Italy. Reportedly, over 700 hundred people drowned when their boat sank, and now, predictably, every progressive EU government, every Leftist organization, and the UN is ringing its hands and lamenting "a humanitarian disaster." They're right—it is a humanitarian disaster, but as we'll see, it's a whole lot more.

And besides, it seems I've heard the phrase humanitarian disaster used before where Libya is concerned.

Back when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she and Barack Obama initiated a "Kinetic Military Action" (war) of choice in Libya. The excuse they used was that they wanted to avoid a "humanitarian disaster" that was sure to occur if Mohammar Kaddifi stayed in power. Kaddifi was toppled and Hillary and Barack gleefully celebrated that fact. Unfortunately, with the strongman no longer in control of the the country, Libya descended into chaos.

Now, there is clear evidence that there's more to this "humanitarian disaster," but it's visible if and only if one recognizes that we're at war with radical Islam and the Jihadists that carry its flag. Richard Fernandez notes that Clinton and Obama, along with the EU, inadvertently enabled ISIS to gain power in Libya by eliminating Kaddafi. Sectarian violence escalated exponentially, and a mass migration of hundreds of thousands began.

But here's the thing. Fernandez suggests that the mass migration is an ISIS tactic. He writes:
Chaos, in ISIS’ view, is a weapon and as the refugee report shows, it is a massive weapon. Perhaps not coincidentally, deliberate population displacement largely coincides with Jihadi doctrine.  Management of Savagery, which is the Mein Kampf of the ISIS movement, advises the destruction of ordinary life. It
argues that carrying out a campaign of constant violent attacks in Muslim states will eventually exhaust their ability and will to enforce their authority, and that as the writ of the state withers away, chaos—or ‘savagery’—will ensue. Jihadists can take advantage of this savagery to win popular support …
Management of Savagery advocates destroying people’s lives so they are left with no choice but to build a new world — the Caliphate — because the old world is gone. The Management of Savagery is going to ride the wave of chaos to reestablish the return of true Islam to power.
We must make this battle very violent, such that death is a heartbeat away … When savagery happens in several regions … a spontaneous kind of polarization begins to happen among the people who live in the region of chaos. The people, seeking security, rally around the great personages of the country or a party organization or a jihadi organization or a military organization composed of the remainders of the army or the police of the regimes of apostasy.
Set against a highly sophisticated, albeit perverted strategy that one might call deliberate “inhumanitarianism” and carried out by iron willed terrorists, the half-baked liberal ideology in opposition to it has all the force of wet spaghetti. In many ways the image of jihadi leaders as illiterate rubes in comparison to the sophisticated likes of Hillary Clinton is a complete inversion of the truth. [emphasis mine] The jihadi enemy is quick, intelligent and ruthless by comparison to the EU bureaucracy and the geniuses of the Obama administration. Despite the disparity in material resources the contest is closer than one might think.
The last paragraph quoted above is an excellent and frightening description of the progressive response to Islamic terror in general and ISIS in particular. Obama, Clinton, and Kerry along with their Team of 2s are over-matched in every way. They have no strategy and no resolve. They are neither intelligent nor ruthless and when pitted against hard men, they do, in fact, have the "force of 'wet spaghetti.' "

Now we're asked by Democrats to elect the one of the authors of this "humanitarian disaster" as the president in 2016. It might be worth asking Ms. Clinton to take a short break from her shrill complaints about "income inequality" and the "war on woman" and answer just a few salient questions:
  • Why has Libya become a failed state after the kinetic military action she championed as Secretary of State?
  • Did bad decisions on the part of her State Department lead to the current humanitarian disaster in Libya?
  • Did her decisions lead to increased power and influence for ISIS and al Qaeda in Libya? 
  • Did her decisions as Secretary of State lead to greater regional instability?
  • Does she even know what The Management of Savagery is? Does she care?
Reasonable questions that any competent journalist should ask. But even if they were asked (that's not likely) Hillary would use the typical Clinton response when substantive questions are asked. It's likely she'd respond that Libya is "old news" and anyway, it's related to Benghazi and we know that's just of phony scandal, don't we? If fact, this whole ISIS thing is just a "distraction" from the clearly more important issues of the day—climate change, "income inequality" and the "war on woman."

Just another example of the failure of software power in a region where hard men rule.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Modus Operandi

In the foreign policy realm, there's a consistent modus operandi that is applied by Barack Obama and his Team of 2s.
  1. When a difficult decision must be made—delay. Suggest that this is being done to "study" the situation and make a good decision." Imply that those who think that immediate action is required are "politically motivated" and therefore "neo-cons" who don't understand 'soft power.'
  2. When no decision is forthcoming, suggest that making a decision will ensnare the United States in a "war," that the American public is "war weary," and that anyone who demands both a decision and action is a "war monger."
  3. If you establish a "red line," keep moving it. If the final "red line" is crossed, disregard the red line altogether.
  4. As events escalate because of a lack of decisions (some would say lack of will) and more important, a lack of action, make a half-hearted, knowingly ineffective effort to address the situation.
  5. When your minimum effort fails to address the situation, suggest that there is only a choice between "bad outcomes," so inaction is both wise and desirable.
  6. Allow your adversaries (Russia, Iran, China) to intervene in negative ways (e.g., providing weapons to other bad actors) without any consequences. Never initiate actions that would result in negative consequences for your adversaries.
  7. Finally, lie. Tell the American public that lack of action has lead to success, even as news accounts indicate that events are now escalating out of control.
This modus operandi has lead to chaos in the Middle East and may very well have irreversibly changed the situation on the ground. Bret Stephens is one of Barack Obama's harshest critics (with very good reason). He comments on the only country in the Middle East that elicits Obama's antipathy:
Recent conversations with senior Israeli officials are shot through with a sense of incredulity. They can’t understand what’s become of U.S. foreign policy. They don’t know how to square Barack Obama’s promises with his policies. They fail to grasp how a president who pledged to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons is pushing an accord with Tehran that guarantees their proliferation. They are astonished by the nonchalance with which the administration acquiesces in Iran’s regional power plays, or in al Qaeda’s gains in Yemen, or in the Assad regime’s continued use of chemical weapons, or in the battlefield successes of ISIS, or in Russia’s decision to sell advanced missiles to Tehran. They wonder why the president has so much solicitude for Ali Khamenei’s political needs, and so little for Benjamin Netanyahu’s. In a word, the Israelis haven’t yet figured out that what America is isn’t what America was. They need to start thinking about what comes next.
Actually, once you understand Obama's modus operandi, the incredulity disappears. What comes next from the Obama administration is exactly what has preceded it. Therefore, over the next 20 months  there is no hope that Barack Obama will change his modus operandi. One can only hope that the damage he does is reversible.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Mess

The Obama administration has performed so badly on the foreign policy front that there is absolutely no way they can leave a legacy of success. With bad decisions that have negatively affected virtually every Arab country, with increasingly virulent anti-Israel rhetoric (which, by the way, frees the Left to ratchet up its antipathy for the only liberal democracy in the Middle East), with the rise of radical Islamic elements like ISIS and al Nusra (on top of a resurgent al Qaeda), you'd Obama and his Team of 2s would step back and take a different approach. But noooo. Obama loves to double down on bad decisions, using mendacious statements to inform the public that failure is success and capitulation is strength.

Only 18 months ago, Obama initiated "negotiations" with Iran, our avowed enemy and the world's most significant sponsor of Islamic terror organizations. Sanction imposed by Congress (not by Obama) forced Iran to sit down because those sanction were creating economic problems for the Mullahs. When the "negotiations" began, Obama said that Iran would be forced to "dismantle" its nuclear weapons machinery, open its secret weapons development sites to international inspections and would have sanction lifted slowly and only after this duplicitous, dangerous country demonstrated compliance. Heh.

Today, all of that is off the table. The Wall Street Journal comments:
The Ayatollah knows that Mr. Obama wants an agreement with Iran so much that there’s almost no concession the President won’t make. So why not keep asking for more?

Keep in mind that the talks began with the U.S. and its European partners demanding that Iran dismantle its nuclear program. But to persuade the Ayatollah to accept the recent “framework” accord, Mr. Obama has already conceded that Iran can keep enriching uranium, that it can maintain 5,060 centrifuges to do the enriching, that its enriched-uranium stockpiles can stay inside Iran, that the once-concealed facilities at Fordow and Arak can stay open (albeit in altered form), and that Iran can continue doing research on advanced centrifuges.

All of these concessions are contrary to previous U.S. positions, and we’re no doubt missing a few. But none of that was enough for the Ayatollah, who quickly asserted two new deal-breaking objections: immediate sanctions relief, and no inspections under any circumstances of Iran’s military sites.

The White House has insisted that sanctions relief would be phased out based on Iranian compliance with the accord. Iranian negotiators quickly denied they had agreed to any such thing. At first White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed this as mere face-saving domestic politicking inside Iran. But then the Ayatollah weighed in with his demand for immediate sanctions relief, adding to reinforce the goodwill that the Obama Administration was “lying” and had “devilish” intentions.

On Friday Mr. Obama nonetheless turned the other cheek and suggested a compromise on sanctions relief is likely. White House sources whispered to reporters that the immediate windfall to Iran could be between $30 billion and $50 billion from access to frozen offshore Iranian accounts.

Mr. Obama even suggested at a press conference that sanctions relief wasn’t really that large an issue as long as the U.S. could reimpose sanctions if Iran cheats. “Our main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement that we don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions,” the President said. He added that this “will require some creative negotiations.”
Barack Obama no longer has any credibility. He has twisted the truth on so many issues, told outright lies on dozens more, and done so with a degree of "in your face" assurance that is shocking.

His trained hamsters in the media remain silent or ask tepid questions that dance around the edge of his distortions and dishonesty, allowing the American public to believe the lies. His party is complicit in much of this, allowing this president free reign with very, very few exceptions. The 2016 presumptive Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton remains silent on all of this—not encouraging.

What a mess!


Amir Teheri discusses the upcoming Arab summit at Camp David, called by Barack Obama to smooth over growing concerns among Sunni Arabs that he is playing directly into Iran's hands. Teheri writes:
Analysts believe Obama’s strategy is to use the talks as a means of influencing Iran’s domestic politics to help the more “moderate” faction led by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, now in control of the presidency, capture other organs of power in Tehran.

Arabs believe that Obama’s strategy is built on the same illusion that led Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton into helping the mullahs out of tight corners in the hope of securing a “grand bargain.”

“The Rafsanjani crowd has been trying to sell us the same bill of goods for decades,” says a senior Arab official. “The idea was that if we helped them tame radical Khomeinists, they would lead Iran to normality. We bought the fable and paid the price. Obama is repeating our mistake on a grander scale that also includes the threat of a nuclear-armed rogue state.”

The Arabs worry that Obama wants to use Camp David to fudge his decision to appease the mullahs by claiming he has Arabs on side.

“He is going to give a Churchillian speech,” says an Arab official. “But we know that you can’t be Chamberlain one day and Churchill the next.”
Barack Obama is Chamberlain every day. He has neither the temperament, the smarts, or an adequately realistic view of the world to ever be a Churchill. That much is absolutely clear.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Contrast and Compare

Contrast and compare: the trained hamsters of the main stream media treatment of Rand Paul after his announcement as a candidate (among many) for the GOP presidential nomination and the treatment of Hillary Clinton after her announcement this past Sunday. Paul was immediately branded as "extreme" in some of his positions; he was asked detailed and substantive questions about a wide range of inflamatory topics, he was challenged on statements he made as a private citizen 10 year ago, he was criticized broadly for his prickly interaction with interviewers. All of that is fine, after all, he's running for president.

But now we come to Hillary. We learn from the trained hamsters that (1) Hillary calls her touring RV  "Scooby;" (2) that her road trip to Iowa is specifically designed to connect with middle class people; that the insipid photos of a smiling Hillary with a smiling young middle class family (babe in arms) are representative of the "new" Hillary, and (3) that she's having "fun," and that's a wonderful to see. She granted no interviews and the media was neither upset nor ready to comment on that fact. Hmmm.

It comes as no surprise that after a flurry of commentary on Hillary's mendacity with regard to her State Department emails and private server, the media is now ready to fall in line and aggressively support her presidential run. Since her announcement, there has been no push for facts, no questions that might make her uncomfortable, just a broad based list of he past positions (not accomplishments, just positions) and why those positions make he "well-qualified" to be president.

Bret Stevens comments on what he harshly labels the 'Clinton way of lying:'
Sometime in the 1990s I began to understand the Clinton way of lying, and why it was so successful. To you and me, the Clinton lies were statements demonstrably at variance with the truth, and therefore wrong and shameful. But to the initiated they were an invitation to an intoxicating secret knowledge.

What was this knowledge? That the lying was for the greater good, usually to fend off some form of Republican malevolence. What was so intoxicating? That the initiated were smart enough to see through it all. Why be scandalized when they could be amused? Why moralize when they could collude?

It always works. We are hardly a month past Hillary Clinton’s Server-gate press conference, in which she served up whoppers faster than a Burger King burger flipper—lies large and small, venial and potentially criminal, and all of them quickly found out. Emails to Bill, who never emails? The convenience of one device, despite having more than one device?

It doesn’t matter. Now Mrs. Clinton is running for president, and only a simpleton would fail to appreciate that the higher mendacity is a recommendation for the highest office. In the right hands, the thinking goes, lying can be a positive good—as political moisturizer and diplomatic lubricant.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the Clinton way is the Intersection of Alinsky and Machiavelli. You'd think that with almost seven years of experience with this type of politician, the trained hamsters would learn that violating the public trust and blatantly promoting a mendacious and malicious leader does the country no good. But that requires objectivity, and the trained hamsters have none. Looks like it's deja vu all over again.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Intersection

With Hillary Clinton's formal announcement of her candidacy for president (what a surprise!) it's worth remembering that Ms. Clinton is, despite protestations of her 'pragmatism,' a long time follower of the Saul Alinsky school of political combat. Unlike the sitting president, she's more circumspect to be sure, but at the core of her philosophy (if there is a core to be found) she is an Alinskyite. It's likely that if Hillary is elected, she will expand and intensify the Big Intrusive Government (B.I.G.) programs instituted by Barack Obama. As important, she will continue and intensify a political philosophy that is a strange intersection of Machiavelli's, The Prince, and Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Pete Peterson explains:
Despite myriad philosophical inconsistencies, “Rules for Radicals” is meant to empower the weaker against the stronger. Alinsky writes: “The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

In a similar vein, the political philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain supported Alinsky’s work in getting disengaged communities—typically in lower socio-economic strata—to assume the difficult responsibilities of citizenship. As a way of challenging “big government,” even conservatives such as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey have recommended Alinsky’s tactics (minus his professed hatred of capitalism, etc.).

But what happens when Machiavelli’s Prince reads and employs “Rules for Radicals”? In 2009 President Obama’s friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett was asked on CNN about media bias, particularly at Fox News, and she responded: “What the administration has said very clearly is that we’re going to speak truth to power.” I remember thinking: “Wait a minute, you’re the White House. You are the power.”
When the cynical but effective rules espoused by these two diametrically opposing ideologies intersect, we get the current Obama administration and a future Hillary Clinton administration. We'll get the demonization of political opponents—overtly, arrogantly, and continually. We'll get the weaponization of government agencies (the IRS, the EPA, ICE, the DoJ), forcing them to do conform to one ideological position rather than work for all Americans. We'll get a continuous mendacity (e.g., "I [unilaterally] erased only personal emails from my personal server"), voiced to bury the truth, and keep the public confused and misinformed. More broadly, we'll get a continuation of subtle censorship—the dampening of free speech on college campuses; political correctness taken to irrational extremes intended as a bludgeon and destroy those who might ask questions, and narrative-driven news reporting that misinforms and misleads. We'll get ... well ... we'll get the current Obama administration extended beyond 2016.

Peterson summarizes:
More broadly, what has happened is that a generation of American politicians who came of age during Saul Alinsky’s lifetime has moved into positions of institutional power that he so often derided as “the enemy.” They are showing an inability to leave behind Alinsky’s tactics that were intended for the weak against the strong. Civil discourse and academic freedom suffer while the “Prince” becomes more powerful.
Elections do indeed have consequences. It would serve the public well to remember this in 2016, because ... there is no public figure who exemplifies the intersection of Machiavelli and Alinsky more completely than Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Friday, April 10, 2015


As we move into still another fruitless negotiating stage on the vaunted Iran framework, concern grows among foreign policy experts, a bipartisan majority of Congress, and many of us that have been following Barack Obama is his Quixotic quest for an detente with the radical Islamic Mullahs of Iran. Now that details must be committed to paper, the Obama administration relies on obfuscation, spin (another word for bending the truth) and demonization of it opponents when it proposed an ill-conceived and potentially damaging plan to the American public.

Henry Kissinger And George P. Shultz comment on some of the issues:
Negotiating the final agreement will be extremely challenging. For one thing, no official text has yet been published. The so-called framework represents a unilateral American
interpretation. Some of its clauses have been dismissed by the principal Iranian negotiator as “spin.” A joint EU-Iran statement differs in important respects, especially with regard to the lifting of sanctions and permitted research and development.

Comparable ambiguities apply to the one-year window for a presumed Iranian breakout. Emerging at a relatively late stage in the negotiation, this concept replaced the previous baseline—that Iran might be permitted a technical capacity compatible with a plausible civilian nuclear program. The new approach complicates verification and makes it more political because of the vagueness of the criteria.

Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites. The physical magnitude of the effort is daunting. Is the International Atomic Energy Agency technically, and in terms of human resources, up to so complex and vast an assignment?

In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and domestic distractions, is another. Any report of a violation is likely to prompt debate over its significance—or even calls for new talks with Tehran to explore the issue. The experience of Iran’s work on a heavy-water reactor during the “interim agreement” period—when suspect activity was identified but played down in the interest of a positive negotiating atmosphere—is not encouraging.

Compounding the difficulty is the unlikelihood that breakout will be a clear-cut event. More likely it will occur, if it does, via the gradual accumulation of ambiguous evasions.
And now, some of Kissenger's and Schultz's questions are being answer—and not in a good way. The President of Iran said yesterday, " “We will not sign any agreements unless on the first day of the implementation of the deal all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the same day.” According to The New York Times, he also stated that "that military sites would be strictly off limits to foreign inspectors."  Hmmm.

This, after Obama assured us all that sanctions would be lifting in a phased manner once Iran demonstrates compliance with the Swiss cheese agreement that he promised would be completed in June and that the "good deal" would be absolutely, positively, unequivocally "verifiable."

Richard Fernandez comments:
Obama says his doctrine is “we will engage,” but it looks like the actual doctrine is “we will be fooled.” Of course they insist that nobody will make a fool of them, however they reserve the right to make fools of themselves.

It’s painful to watch. It’s hard not to think that Iran is out to humiliate Barack Hussein Obama. With this calculated slight [Rouhani's statement], they not only want to wipe the floor with his reputation, they want to see him crawl. And he probably will. Obama gave them Iraq, allowed Iran into Syria, permitted Hezbollah to take over Lebanon, and let them run him out of Yemen all in the expectation that Rouhani would give him his “game changer,” his “once in a lifetime deal.”

And now, after he’s handed in all that earnest money and proclaimed his purchase to the world, they won’t deliver the merchandise. He’s been had, pure and simple. They gave him a special surprise gift and he’s proudly opened it in front of relatives and friends, only to discover it contains a pile of … .

Iran knows he won’t fight, because he’s already scuttled his position in Iraq and allowed himself to be humiliated in Syria by drawing “red lines” with crayons. His “moderate rebel forces” in Syria have all defected to someone else. Iran watched America flee from Yemen, Obama’s counterinsurgency “model,” leaving a list of local U.S. intelligence agents to fall into their hands. Those men are probably being hunted down or dying in agony. Tehran probably gaped in amusement as he made enemies with their oldest ally in the Middle East, Israel, all for the sake of the agreement they have now thrown in his face.

If Obama was going to fight, he would have done so already. And now it’s too late. Who in the region will trust Barack Obama? Israel? The survivors of Yemen? A loyal remnant in Syria? Maybe someone in Anbar who fought for America and then escaped first from ISIS and then the IRG?

Maybe there’s somebody left who hasn’t been sold out.
What is truly worrisome is that Obama and his Team of 2s will not walk away. Instead, they will agree to any terms—no matter how ambiguous, no matter how difficult to verify, no matter how easy for the Iranians to cheat—just to get a deal done. The Iranians know this. And that's why this isn't a negotiation, it much more like a capitulation.

Thursday, April 09, 2015


At the beginning of 2008, in a post entitled, Pain, I quoted Robert Samuelson on the welfare state:
The big lie of campaign 2008 -- so far -- is that the presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, will take care of our children. Listening to these politicians, you might think they will. Doing well by children has now passed Motherhood and Apple Pie as an idol that all candidates must worship.

"We will do whatever it takes to make America a better country, to give our kids a better future," says Mike Huckabee, winner of the Republican Iowa caucuses.

"We will deliver for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren," claims Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic winner.

"We're going to reclaim the future for our children," says Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Then I added:
Yet it appears that as government entitlements grow, we’ll have a future in which there will be fewer and fewer dollars available to improve public services and national infrastructure. In fact, the young will be required to transfer their wealth (via taxes) to the old. And for those of you who are class warriors a la John Edwards, there simply aren’t enough “rich” people and "big corporations" to tax to make up the difference.
Seven years later, nothing has changed, and the Big Intrusive Government (B.I.G.) programs championed by the sitting president have made matters far worse. Even more troubling, my concerns about the solvency of the social security system (voiced in dozens of posts over the years) have not been addressed by either the GOP or the Dems. Even worse than that, it looks like the hard left (as exemplified by Elizabeth Warren and her supporters) have decided that entitlement reform is not going to happen and instead, we should increase social security payouts to keep seniors mollified.

Megan McArdle comments:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Americans are underprepared for retirement. And given this sad fact, there's a growing movement on the left saying we need a government solution, stat: specifically, an expansion of Social Security benefits.

Perhaps you are confused. Weren't we just talking about entitlement reform so that we could spend less on the program? Why, yes, we were. But since no one, left or right, really wants to take on our vast army of retirees, that chatter has died down. Now that it has, progressives who are ideologically opposed to shrinking the welfare state and are, of course, worried about retirees have decided that the best defense is a good offense, as Jamelle Bouie chronicles in Slate. Instead of reluctantly agreeing to a compromise where Republicans let some taxes rise and Democrats agree to entitlement cuts, they're demanding bigger tax hikes to fund bigger entitlements.

At the core of their argument is a good point: Americans really do need more money for retirement. Missing, however, is a realistic discussion of where that money might come from.

And it's a lot of money. The OASI Trust Fund (the portion of Social Security that covers old-age benefits) already pays out more in benefits than it collects in tax income. In 2014, the Social Security Trustees expect the system to collect $643.9 billion in payroll taxes and spend $716.4 billion on benefits and administrative overhead. If you add in the taxes collected on Social Security benefits, you get $671.9 billion in total tax revenue, which leaves a $44.5 billion deficit between outflow and inflow. Under its middle-of-the-road "intermediate" assumptions, the trustees' report predicts that by 2023, the gap between taxes collected and benefits paid will be almost $170 billion. The only reason that the system isn't in the red already is the net interest the government is paying itself on the bonds in the trust fund.
That's bad enough, but in the leftist's fantasy world of unlimited "government" money, why not increase social security payouts? In fact, if you listen to Elizabeth Warren (and probably Hillary Clinton, once she realizes that she must court the left-wing base of her party), all we really need to do is tax the "rich."

McArdle addresses this issue:
So where is the money going to come from, for our once and future Social Security program? The unhelpfully vague answer is generally "the rich." Some specific numbers would be useful here, and thankfully, some folks from the Third Way have actually provided some.

Let’s say the top income tax rate was raised a whopping 10 points, to 49.6 percent -- a level higher than anything under serious consideration. Tack on the “Buffett rule,” with its 30 percent minimum tax on millionaires to squash loopholes. And let’s take a whack at wealthy inheritances, cutting the estate tax exemption by about one-third and setting the rate on large estates at 45 percent.

If we leave entitlements be, our annual budget deficit in 2030 would still be $1.3 trillion in today’s dollars, not much different from the $1.6 trillion deficit we’d have if income tax rates for the wealthy were kept the same. Sure, raising some additional taxes on the wealthy is necessary, but it is not nearly sufficient.

Another favorite is eliminating the cap on Social Security taxes, which is a slightly less vague way of saying "the rich". Every time I discuss Social Security, at least one angry person will demand to know how I can so disingenuously claim the system is in need of reform, when "all we need to do is get rid of the cap on the payroll tax." All? "All we need to do" implies some sort of modest, unremarkable undertaking. In fact, as the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget points out, this amounts to a 12.4 percent surtax on all income above $118,500. That's an enormous tax hike, which would generate exactly the same pushback you'd get if you announced, well, a 12.4 percent surtax on all income above $118,500. And as the committee notes, with admirably dry understatement, "a tax increase that large would make it politically challenging to raise more revenue from the wealthy, if it all."

By that point, the top marginal tax rate would be well above 50 percent -- closer to 60 percent in high-tax blue states. That would pretty much exhaust our fiscal capacity to tax the wealthy, meaning that any new program that liberals want to implement, from early-childhood education to high speed rail, will have to come paired with an announcement that middle-class taxes will be rising significantly to pay for it. And I haven't even mentioned the current programs we have to find money for, such as Medicare. Even assuming you could get such a large tax hike through Congress, is expanding retirement benefits really the one thing you want to spend all the money on?
Now, I recognize that many liberals are math-challenged and that all these numbers are, well, numbers, and therefore not to be trusted. But that doesn't change the reality that it won't be only the rich alone who must pay more, much more, to support the current social security payouts, much less any new benefits added by those who want to be sure that increasingly dependent citizens vote Democratic. And it won't be only the rich who suffer because the government won't have money to pay for other vital services, infrastructure, and other things that benefit the middle class and poor. But wait, aren't the the middle class and poor the very people who the Dems care so much about?


And since we're on the topic of profligate federal spending by both parties and the delusional demand by most Dems that we increase spending even more, it's worth spending a few moments considering the truly frightening federal debt picture. Ron Haskins reports:
Of all the failures of recent Congresses and Presidents, none is more important than their failure to deal with the nation's long-term debt. Although Congress tied itself in knots trying to address the problem, the growth of debt remains, in the words of the Congressional Budget Office, "unsustainable."

Debt figures tell part of the story. When the Great Recession hit, the federal debt was equal to about 40 percent of GDP. But to fight the recession, Congress enacted an $800 billion dollar stimulus bill. Stimulus spending, combined with already enacted spending and tax policy, resulted in four years of trillion dollar deficits. As a result, the debt ballooned to 78 percent of GDP in 2013, almost twice the pre-recession level. The annual deficit is now declining at a stately pace, but by 2016 it will begin increasing again, and by 2020 under CBO's alternative fiscal scenario, we will once again return to annual deficits above a trillion dollars, thereby once again greatly increasing the national debt.

The accumulation of debt should prevent federal policymakers from feeling any sense of accomplishment. In fact, CBO estimates that the debt will be well over 100 percent of GDP by 2039 under conservative assumptions about spending and revenue. When CBO incorporates its estimates of the impact of the continuing large federal deficits on the nation's economy, it estimates that the accumulated debt held by the public will reach an astounding 180 percent of GDP by 2039. One wonders if members of Congress or the President read these CBO reports.
But the Elizabeth Warrens of the world refuse to face reality and would prefer to believe the fantasy that class warfare and tax-the-rich schemes will somehow save the day. They won't. In fact, they can't. Unlike "climate change" that Warren would surely argue represents an existential threat (that is 100 years out), the level of fiscal irresponsibility coming out of Washington, DC represents a threat that is here today and getting worse tomorrow.

UPDATE (4/10/2015):
The class warriors on the Democratic side of the aisle keep telling us that income inequality is the true villain and that the "rich" don't pay their fair share. Really?

Here's a breakdown from The Wall Street Journal on who is paying for the nation's needs based on income tax payments:

So, the top 20 percent of wage earners pay 84 percent of all income taxes collected. That seems like a fair share to me, but I suppose we could ask the top 20 percent to pay all income taxes and allow the other 80 percent to vote themselves increases in government entitlements on a yearly basis. After all, it won't cost them a penny.  Yeah, that'll work. After all, just look at the debt and fiscal shortfall numbers ... oh wait ... I forgot, the numbers don't matter. Do they?

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Collateral Damage

There's a false narrative that has been widely promoted by radical feminists and their media sympathizers (meaning a significant majority of the main stream media). It goes like this: "Sexual violence on college campuses is rampant, uncontrolled, and dangerous. One in five women on campus are victims (there are no meaningful data to support this claim), and there is a need for extreme measures to remedy the situation. The federal government injected itself into this issue and now demands that colleges and universities re-double their efforts to expose the "violence," punish the perpetrators (generally, college-age men) and do this with the assumption of guilt for those accused. Due process is thrown out the window, under the assumption that no college-age women would fabricate an accusation that wasn't true.

Except, fabricated accusations of sexual violence are occurring with increasing frequency. Male students who are wrongly accused have been expelled from colleges and universities without due process, and in a recent case at the University of Virginia (based on an expose published in Rolling Stone magazine), the reputations of many members of a male fraternity have been ruined and the fraternity has been banned by a UVA president all too eager to believe the narrative and jettison fair play and due process. And the female accuser who fabricated the entire story has gone unpunished. In fact, the media refuse to use her real full name. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.

Naomi Schaefer Riley comments:
The verdict’s in on Rolling Stone. According to no less an authority than the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism [certainly not a hot bed of right-wing sentiment], the magazine’s story last year on a University of Virginia gang rape was a “journalistic failure [that] encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.”

But as with many other stories that don’t fit into the right narrative, the media will continue to draw the wrong lessons.

As an AP article noted, “Despite its flaws, the article heightened scrutiny of campus sexual assaults amid a campaign by President Barack Obama.”

Despite its flaws? You mean despite the fact that as far as anyone can tell, the story was made up out of whole cloth?

Even once the police investigated the claims of the alleged victim, The New York Times reported: “Some saw a more complex picture, saying that the uproar over the story and the steps that the university had taken since in an effort to change its culture had, in the end, raised awareness and probably done the school, and the nation, some good.”

How has the university benefited from the fact that a fraternity has been falsely accused of a horrific crime? And how has the nation benefited from the false but now widespread belief that violent rape, even gang rape, is raging on US campuses?

Wouldn’t it have done more good for people to know that young women are statistically less likely to be attacked on a campus than off one?
But in the case of sexual violence and many other issues that are typically associated with leftist activists, the narrative rules. It doesn't matter if the facts don't fit or that reality differs rather significantly from the fantasy landscape depicted in the narrative. It doesn't matter whether it's about sexual violence on college campuses, or the hysteria engendered by 'climate change,' or "income inequality," or "hands up, don't shoot," or the faux outrage over the "oppression" of specific groups in the Middle East, the narrative is all that matters.

In fact, those who believe fervently in the narrative are true believers. Facts will not deter them—emotion is the driving force behind the narrative. In the case of the sexual violence narrative, so-called feminist writers like Amanda Marcotte would label a post like this one as "rape denial" or "anti-feminist," rather than an examination of sexual violence hysteria run amok. To be sure, there is sexual violence on college campuses, and its perpetrators should be severely punished, but only after the facts have been verified, the accused has had an opportunity to defend him- or herself, and due process occurs.

That approach should be acceptable to those on the Left who usually worry far more about the process than results. But when it comes to any left-wing narrative, they seem more concerned with the end result than the process. That is, it doesn't matter if facts are purposely skewed or the narrative distorts the truth or is an outright lie. If it "raises consciousness" for a perceived problem, the narrative has served its purpose. And if innocent people are hurt as a consequence, well, that's just collateral damage.


Although tangential to this post, there's another narrative that's been making the rounds since Barack Obama's "good deal" with Iran was announced last week: "It's either this Iran deal or war; therefore, anyone opposed to the Iran framework is in favor of war."

Like all left-wing narratives, this one is a clear example (to quote from the post) of a situation in which "It doesn't matter if the facts don't fit or that reality differs rather significantly from the fantasy landscape depicted in the narrative."

In a post in early March, I delineated a plan that could be implemented immediately if we walked away from negotiations (that are actually nothing more than capitulation to Iranian demands). It involves 11 steps:
  1. Ratchet up sanctions with particular emphasis on the banking sector.
  2. Work with allies to ensure that those sanctions will hold.
  3. Begin to supply material support to any group within Iran that wants to overthrow the government (e.g., Kurds in the North, liberal students throughout the country, other opposition groups)
  4. Work with Sunni Arabs to undermine the Iranian Shiite regime
  5. Ratchet up cyber-attacks on the Iranian technology sector.
  6. Work with allies to seize all Iranian assets in all countries where they have been placed.
  7. Use the international banking system to devalue Iranian currency.
  8. Encourage defectors who come from the Iranian nuclear technology sector.
  9. Work with regional partners to topple Iranian proxy regimes (Hezballah would be a good place to start).
  10. Work with Western partners to deny visas to all Iranian passport holders, working to cripple their ability to travel internationally.
  11. Declare Iran a terrorist state.
I don't see the word "war" anywhere in those eleven steps. If they were applied mercilessly, Iran's economy would be crippled, its access to the world would be impaired and unrest among it's people would increase. Then, Iran might be forced to come to the table and negotiate for real. Obviously, this approach is impossible for Obama's Team of 2s to comprehend—after all, they're true believers (in their own way, just like the Mullahs are) and their narrative is all that matters.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Mutually Assured Obfuscation

Those of us who have been highly critical of Barack Obama have found little solace in his latest "historic" preliminary nuclear "framework" with Iran. In fact this president's Rose Garden pronouncements on the deal have a eerie similarity to earlier Rose Garden pronouncements on other matters of import.

In a worthwhile retrospective on the Rose Garden, Matthew Continetti suggests that pronouncements on Benghazi, Bowie Bergdahl, and now the Iran deal are cut from the same fabric of fantasy thinking, political maneuvering, and outright lies. In each case, White House statements made in the Rose Garden immediately following each event have been shown to be false—not misinterpretations of existing facts, but outright lies that contradict facts known to this president. Obama's trained hamsters in the media try hard to look the other way, and that's what they're doing yet again as the White House puts on a full court press to try to convince the public (via a media that asks milk toast questions and then accepts vague answers without further hard probing) that the Iran "deal" is in the best interests of the United States.

Bret Stevens comments:
‘So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

That was Barack Obama on Thursday, defending his Iran diplomacy while treating its opponents to the kind of glib contempt that is the mark of the progressive mind. Since I’m one of those inevitable critics, let me answer his question.

Yes, it’s worse. Much worse.

Yes, because what the president calls “this verifiable deal” fails the first test of verification—mutual agreement and clarity as to what, exactly, is in it.

Take sanctions. Iran insists all sanctions—economic as well as nuclear—will be “immediately revoked” and that “the P5+1 member countries are committed to restraining from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.” But the Obama administration claims Iran will only get relief “if it verifiably abides by its commitments.” The administration adds that “the architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal.”

So who is lying? Or are we dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation?
This morning I listened to Wendy Sherman, one of the U.S. negotiators on Obama's Team of 2s. She gave new meaning to the word "obfuscation," providing non-answers to question like:
  • Will the sanctions be lifted immediately upon the signing of any agreement in June?
  • Why is it that the U.S. and Iran have such different interpretations of the framework?
  • How much advance notice will we have to provide before any inspection of any facility?
  • Why is it that Iran can litigate verification findings they don't agree with?
and on and on.

There's something unsettling about a president who is has worked overtime to make Iran the good guy and Israel the bad guy during these negotiations, about a White House that is working hard to keep Congress from evaluating the details of any deal that is struck, and about spokespeople who hide behind vague statements and excuses about a "deal that isn't done" but at the same time try to  sell the deal (as if it were done) to a skeptical public.

If, as Wendy Sherman and her administration clones argue, the deal isn't done, then why try to sell it at all? Why tell us it's a "good deal" if it isn't done? Why tell use that it's verifiable if it isn't done? Why say anything, except that more work remains before we'll know if it's a "good deal."

The administration told us that Benghazi was the work of a mob (absolutely, positively not al Qaeda) that watched and didn't like a anti-Muslim video. That was a lie. The administration told us that Bowie Bergdahl served with "honor and distinction." That was a lie. Now they're telling us that Iran won't develop nuclear weapons because of the brilliant diplomacy conducted by John Kerry. There's a reason to feel uneasy—very uneasy.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Coming Storm

So ... as suspected, Barack Obama, John Kerry, and their Team of 2s didn't walk away but concluded what Obama characterized as an "historic" deal with Iran. He felt compelled to tell us it's a "good deal." Of course, the claim of a "good deal" should be assessed in the context of other mendacious claims that Obama made ("you can keep your doctor" comes to mind as but one of dozens of examples). But the deal may very well be historic, although not for the reasons Barack Obama thinks.

In November, 2013, Barack Obama eliminated key sanctions on Iran, telling us that (to quote The Wall Street Journal):
At that time, Mr. Obama said U.S. negotiators were still focused on dismantling much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, including a heavy-water reactor in the city of Arak, a fortified underground enrichment facility called Fordow and advanced centrifuge machines which spin uranium gas into nuclear fuel.
When Iran, in no real position to push back, pushed back, Obama's Team of 2s caved. They did this, they claim, because they are realists, and they saw no hope of forcing the issue short of war (still another in a long list of lies promoted by the Obama administration). In fact, the Team of 2s caved because Obama was and is desperate for a deal, any deal, that he can claim as a foreign policy legacy achievement.

So ... this president did what he always does. He told us that what he really meant that what he wanted to do was elongate Iran's "breakout time" from 2 - 3 months to a year. Whoopee! What that means is that the world's major sponsor of Islamic terror gets to keep its nuclear development capability, but it'll take a year, rather than a few months to build a bomb. But it gets worse. Even that isn't true, because it looks like there will be no effective way for international inspectors to visit the facilities thought to be doing the real bomb work and absolutely no way to discover the suspected additional secret bomb making facility that are as yet unknown to western intelligence services

Today, after the "outline of principles" has been established, Iran gets to keep all of its nuclear capability, moth-balling some centrifuges but allowing thousands to keep running. It gets to control the depth and frequency of inspections, undermining any real attempt at verification. It gets to keep its ICBM research and development—that wasn't even on the table. It gets ... pretty much everything it wanted. And the United States and the Middle East region gets ... verbal promises from a president who has been known, now and then, to renege on promises.

It's time for Democrats to show some courage and speak out again a very bad deal. Then again, Robert Menendez did just that, but he was indicted by Obama's DoJ just yesterday on corruption charges. Pure coincidence, I'm sure. So, in a true profile in cowardice, the Dems remain silent.

We have entered into an "historic" time, alright. A time when storm clouds that have been on the horizon for the past few decades begin to move across the land toward us and our allies. Lightning begins to flash, and the ominous sound of thunder can be heard in the distance. Barack Obama seems obsessed about the climate. He seems completely uninterested in the coming storm.

It's highly likely that Obama's trained hamsters in the mainstream media will, as they always seem to do, put the best possible face on what critics are already calling a "Swiss cheese agreement."  The Obama administration's interpretation of this "good deal" looks at things one way, while the Iranian interpretation is radically different. Rick Moran provides an early deep dive into the details. He writes:
The vagueness of the framework deal struck between the P5+1 powers and Iran is going to work out beautifully for Tehran in that there is apparently enough wiggle room for them to engage in nuclear activities that the U.S. is clearly saying they can’t engage in.
Looks like this good deal isn't so good after all. Read the whole thing.


To its credit, The Washington Post has been more honest than other mainstream media outlets (the NYT comes to mind) in its assessment of Barack Obama's "historic" deal. The editors write:
THE “KEY parameters” for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.

That’s a long way from the standard set by President Obama in 2012 when he declared that “the deal we’ll accept” with Iran “is that they end their nuclear program” and “abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place.” Those resolutions call for Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium. Instead, under the agreement announced Thursday, enrichment will continue with 5,000 centrifuges for a decade, and all restraints on it will end in 15 years.

Mr. Obama argued forcefully — and sometimes combatively — Thursday that the United States and its partners had obtained “a good deal” and that it was preferable to the alternatives, which he described as a nearly inevitable slide toward war. He also said he welcomed a “robust debate.” We hope that, as that debate goes forward, the president and his aides will respond substantively to legitimate questions, rather than claim, as Mr. Obama did, that the “inevitable critics” who “sound off” prefer “the risk of another war in the Middle East.”
So ... according to a president who welcomes a "robust debate", any criticism of his "good deal" is political, not substantive. That's typical Obama, who says one thing (in 2012, 2013) and then tells us he meant another, who is willing to lie to sell some perceived presidential "achievement." For once, one of his erstwhile media allies has called him on it.

Listen carefully. That's thunder you hear in the distance.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Walk Away

As deadline after deadline passes and Barack Obama's Team of 2s continues in its effort to find a level of capitulation that is acceptable to Iran, I'm reminded of simple words of wisdom imparted when I went to purchase my first used car (a beat up Chevy). My father said this: "You have to be willing to walk away. If the deal isn't right, thank the seller for his time and walk away. You'd be amazed how often the terms of the deal can change as you're walking out the door."

Now, I'm the first to admit that buying a cheap used car isn't quite the same as negotiating a nuclear arms deal, but the basic principle imparted by my father remains the same. It appears that the golden boys on Obama's Team of 2s never learned that simple wisdom (with silver spoon in hand, they probably had their staff do all the automotive negotiations at the Jaguar/Bentley dealership), and now, they refuse to walk—even though the Iranian demands are unacceptable.

I suspect that John Kerry, under Obama's direction, would happily agree to the removal of all sanctions right now, so this president could achieve his "landmark diplomatic achievement." Luckily, even Obama couldn't get away with that. A bipartisan majority of Congress would justifiably scream bloody murder.

John Podhoretz uses an amusing metaphor to describe the current situation:
[Secretary of State John] Kerry is the party guest who wouldn’t leave. Kerry is the customer in the restaurant after closing time who remains sitting at his table while the staff puts the chairs up, turns the lights off in the front and then goes downstairs to change so they can go home — and when they come upstairs he’s still there, John Kerry is, sipping on his flat Pellegrino.

Kerry has morphed into the absurdist movie director Luis Bunuel, whose famous 1962 film “The Exterminating Angel” is about a group of people at a dinner party in Mexico City who find it impossible to leave the dining room in which they have gathered, for weeks and weeks.

In Bunuel’s case, he only wrote and directed “The Exterminating Angel.” Kerry is both writer, director and star of this remake, and his fellow cast members are [Iran's negotiator] Zarif and the other diplomats in the so-called P5+1 process whom he has trapped in Lausanne.

Every director needs a studio executive to greenlight his would-be masterpiece, and in this case, the executive in charge of production is President Obama.

Obama is like the executives back in 1980 at United Artists who agreed to make “Heaven’s Gate” and then continued pouring money into it even as it became a bottomless well of expense.

To acknowledge the mistake and cancel the production in the middle would have been to admit a mistake so profound it would have humiliated them beyond measure.

Of course, once the picture was done, they weren’t just humiliated — they were fired, en masse, and United Artists literally went out of business.

Obama won’t be fired, and the United States won’t go out of business. But whatever happens at the end of this negotiation, he and Kerry and the nation they represent will have been humiliated, United-Artists style.
Humiliation is one thing, but the potential for a mushroom cloud over the Middle East is quite another. Returning to my used car metaphor, it's better that we don't pay far too much for a car that will breakdown within a quarter mile of the showroom. It's far better to walk away.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

April Fool

A self-imposed deadline for nuclear talks with Iran has come and gone. Like virtually every other commitment made by the Obama administration, we now learn that the deadline wasn't really a deadline, more like a ... well ... it wasn't a deadline. And that talks will continue until Obama's team of 2s capitulate sufficiently to mollify Iran—a true hegemon in the Middle East, a radical Islamic sponsor of terror on a worldwide scale and a bad actor in the region. It seems only appropriate that the deadline passed on April Fool's Day.

In fact, if one looks at this situation objectively, it almost seems like an April Fool's prank. Iran, a country that repeated and frequently shouts "Death to America" and espouses the annihilation of Israel, is now the target of a delusional rapprochement. "Pay no attention to what Iran says or does," suggest Obama's supporters, "if only we can give them enough, they'll change." But radical Islamists don't change—ever. Their world view is cemented in the seventh century, their intolerace of others is epic, their hatred of all things western is constant. They. Are. Bad. Actors.

But no matter, Barack Obama, says otherwise—and his great accomplishments in the Middle East over the last six years suggest that we should listen. Oh, wait, there haven't been any great accomplishments? Only disastrous failures, chaos, and the demonization of long time allies? No matter. We just have to walk through the looking glass.

The New York Observer comments:
Barack Obama has been compared to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain , who concluded the ill-fated Munich Pact with Hitler in 1938. But Chamberlain acted out of a sincere belief that he was avoiding a greater evil. Chamberlain was not thinking of his place in history. He was thinking only of the Britain that he loved, a Britain that was all but disarmed, exhausted, and vulnerable. He was dealing with a nation that had been decimated by the Great War, a nation whose “best and brightest” five years earlier had declared in the infamous Oxford Oath that they would not fight for king or country, and a nation that was as materially unprepared for war as Germany was prepared to fight. Chamberlain dealt from a position of weakness, one that Hitler continually exploited in the negotiations, even by changing the time and place to make it more inconvenient for the British leader to attend them.

In sharp contrast, Mr. Obama is acting out of personal aggrandizement. He believes he is replicating President Richard Nixon’s historic opening of China. For Mr. Obama, the Iranian nuclear arms deal is about his place in history. Mr. Obama is dealing from a position of strength that he refuses to use. The sanctions have hurt Iran. Falling oil prices only add to Iran’s vulnerability. Instead of using the sanctions to pursue his original promise that Iran would not get the bomb, Mr. Obama has moved the goal post. Iran would not get the bomb immediately. It would be permitted to enrich uranium well beyond the 5 percent need for generating nuclear energy and be left with a breakout capacity to create a bomb.

Meanwhile, Iran is refusing surprise inspections, the hallmark of any such agreement, and has ruled its military facilities, such as the enrichment plant at Fordo, off limits to any inspections, period. Iran continues to showcase public displays of Israel being obliterated by an Iranian nuclear bomb, and even in the midst of negotiations government-orchestrated mass rallies cry out, “Death to America.”

If Chamberlain possessed America’s strength and was dealing with Iran’s weakness, would he be negotiating as Mr. Obama is? Would he be more concerned about a Jew building an extra bedroom in Jerusalem than an Iranian building a bomb at Fordo?
Obama and his supporters do what they always do. They set up false choices and then condemn those who reject their argument. Make a very bad deal or go to war. This is dishonest in the extreme in that there are many other options short of war, some suggested in this blog. But that wouldn't be appropriate for Obama's legacy—so appease, capitulate, and suggest that a deal will be enforceable. Worse, suggest that it will preclude Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

April Fool!