Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Obama Letter to Nadler: Real Iran Deal Revealed

I ask for your indulgence for a few more weeks. I understand that the Iran agreement which has been the subject of several postings over the weeks will go into effect. Congress either cannot or will not exercise any - ANY - constituional authority to even force a vote on the stillborn Corker bill, so the President can in effect use his power as commander in chief to force the agreement into effect.

Still, it is interesting to observe and comment on his actions in the weeks leading up to a vote or filibuster. Perhaps the most interesting document or statement on the Iran matter has come to light this week. The President wrote a letter to Rep. Jerry Nadler, a democrat from New York, who claims that he decided to support the Obama deal predicated upon this letter. He is the sole Jewish member of the New York delegation to support the deal, and he has been subjected to very rough treatment from Jewish voters who oppose.

I have mentioned in prior posts that I felt this agreement would create a permanent division among American Jews. It has very little to do with religious observance and much more to do with the definitional notion of "ally" and "strategic commitment" and broad concepts of that nature. When those issues become the focus of a foreign policy challenge, it is impossible to separate the language of today with the actions of this administration in other circumstances. Rep. Nadler published the letter from Obama on his website and it is extremely revealing.

Perhaps the essential observation I would make about the letter is that it is filled with odd revelations. It presents an unconvincing argument and raises many new questions. If you have any investment in this deal whatever, you should read it for yourself. I'm not going to waste your time by critiquing the individual points, but I will comment on several of them. Obviously, the White House permitted Nadler to release this.

Obama admits that a nuclear armed Iran would present a significant security threat to the U.S. and its allies, particularly Israel. He maintains this will not happen during the term of the agreement. Further, he claims that "his administration" is not removing the military option to prevent this from happening. Of course, he's only in office 17 more months and can't speak authoritatively beyond his term.

He says Israel's security is "sacrosanct" and he is committed to an expansion of Israel's defensive capabilities "in light of our shared concerns vis a vis Iran". If this agreement is intended to usher in new era of cooperation between the U.S. and Iran, this would seem to suggest otherwise. I have been extremely critical of Obama on many issues, but he has backed up these words with action. He has supplied Israel with generous levels of military support, particularly in Iron Dome-like technology. The only thing he has really denied Israel is access to is the MOAB - massive ordinance air blast, the largest non-nuclear bomb which is thought to be the only conventional ordinance that can penetrate deeply buried targets.

Of course, this begs the question: why would Obama feel the need to expand defensive support to Israel and other allies if this agreement makes everybody safer? He claims that sanctions will remain in effect preventing Iran from supporting Hizballah, the Assad regime, its missile program and its human rights abuses at home. How is this supposed to happen when there is nothing in place that prevents that today? I have seen nothing before this letter that makes such an assertion.

He also addresses the subject of "snap back" sanctions in the event of Iranian violations. He seems to suggest that the P5+1 partners have a mechanism and agreement in place to restore sanctions should Iran violate the agreement. No serious observer has suggested that Russia or China will reinstate sanctions after they are lifted.

Finally, he guarantees (through the creation of yet another governmental entity under supervision of the State Department) that the JCPOA implementation office will report Iranian compliance to Congress every 90 days and every 180 days a report will be submitted describing the details of "Iranian terrorism, human rights, ballistic missiles and money laundering activities among others." So, the president openly acknowledges the regime engages in terrorism, denies its citizens basic human rights, has engaged in ballistic missile development (only needed for long distance delivery of nuclear payloads), and launders money - presumably to elude sanctions or to sell oil in violation of sanctions or to hide the sale of weapons in violation of sanctions.

How is it that letter pushed Rep. Nadler over the edge and convinced him that was something he should support? This agreement was negotiated by John Kerry with Russia, France, China, Germany and the UK. How is it that these economic superpowers got out negotiated by a religious autocracy, ostracized for nearly 30 years and economically crippled? Wasn't the strategic point of this agreement, in addition to shutting down all military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program, to extract behavioral concessions, so they could rejoin the community of nations?

It is impossible, especially in light of the IAEA side deal which permits Iran to essentially examine their own compliance at Parchin, to not conclude that there was NEVER an intention to extract these concessions from Iran. The only objective was to get Iran to commit to an agreement - any agreement. Obama is served by securing a legacy agreement he insured Congress would not have to approve; China and Russia can sell military gear and nuclear infrastructure to a country flush with $150 bil; France, Germany and the UK can reestablish economic ties with Iran, can buy their oil and pat themselves on the back that their social multiculturalism has restored Iran's legitimacy.

It's no wonder abuse has been heaped on Nadler. I wholly reject any attacks that slam him antisemetically, but if he's using this letter as his rationale for accepting this agreement, his stupidity supersedes any of his Jewishness.

His devotion to his liberal ideology and his obligation to join with his democrat colleagues to insure that Obama and Kerry get their agreement at any cost trumps all.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Howard Beale Comes Alive!

Some people, and the media en mass, are flummoxed by the seemingly irrational appeal of Donald Trump. He is obnoxious, egocentric, politically incorrect, speaks in truncated non sequiturs and never fails to mention his accomplishments building buildings and golf courses. This petty feud he has with Megyn Kelly at Fox is emblematic of his inability to measure responses to perceived attacks. He is all about emotion.

At this moment in time, however, he has become a real Howard Beale, the epic character from the film "Network" who bellows, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Many people feel that way, and the present support for Mr. Trump is more visceral than rational in a political sense. He has not articulated any sort of programmatic manifesto for, as an example, reducing the size of our debt or the federal government. What passes for policy pronouncements are things like "I'm going to make America great again!" or "We're going to build a wall and Mexico will pay for it!" Whether he likes it or not, at some point, he will be forced to commit to some kind of vision for the future that is grounded in concrete, legislative proposals. To do that, I think, he's going to need more counsel than his buddy, Carl Icahn, to tackle a range of political challenges.

Getting back to the visceral response of voters to Mr. Trump, allow me to use one example that typifies the sense that there is no accountability in government. When it was first revealed that the IRS was targeting conservative 501(c)(3) groups during the heat of Obama's reelection campaign, the President said in 2013 their behavior was "outrageous" and intolerable. "They have to be held fully accountable...I will not tolerate it."

But not only has he tolerated it. As usual, he has plumbed the depths to find justification for it. In July 2015, he claimed that the real scandal was that republicans were not providing the IRS with adequate funding to do their job.

David Brooks, the NYT columnist often referred to as the token right-leaning Op-Ed writer, calls the Obama administration "amazingly scandal free". This could rank among the Top Ten Dumbest Statements ever made by an "expert" political commentator. Honestly, this statement is as patently absurd as anything that's come from Mr. Trump's synaptically challenged brain. Has Mr. Brooks' comment ever received any significant scrutiny or analysis by anyone? No, but then, you might say, he isn't running for President,

Lois Lerner, the designated fall gal for this particular scandal, (and, let's be honest: there have been many) who pleaded the 5th after explaining at a congressional hearing that she had done nothing wrong, has been permitted to "retire" with full benefits. In the meantime, we have been fed a battery of false narratives: it was the work of rogue employees in Cincinnati; Lerner's emails were wiped clean in some bizarre accident orchestrated by IT; Lerner's emails appear to have been recovered; and now we hear she was using multiple private email accounts for government business (speaking of which, why do all these Obama bureaucrats have this coincidental proclivity to conduct the public's business under private email accounts using pseudonyms? This is the "most transparent" administration in history?). To top it off, the Commissioner of the IRS, John Koskinen, has danced his way around the truth, has evaded and delayed legitimate congressional inquiries, and carries himself with an arrogance of power the likes of which reminds one of....Mr. Trump.

So: while the Justice Department makes regular announcements about pursuing police officers for civil rights violations, there is silence on the IRS matter. Why is Congress not impeaching Koskinen if Obama fails to remove him? Most difficult to understand, how is Lois Lerner not the target of some judicial proceeding? This is absolutely outrageous. Unlike many other scandals that have plagued this administration where a legitimate case can be made that they were "used" for partisan exploitation, that case cannot be made with the IRS. Obama himself said at the outset, "If IRS personnel...were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then this is outrageous...." But in typical Barack fashion, one year later he told Bill O'Reilly that there was not "a smidgen of corruption" at the IRS.

So, which Barrack is right? Whom are we to believe? Why hasn't the American court system made a determination of whether there is corruption or not? On what basis does the President make these reckless declarations?

This is but one example of the type of non-action that drives people nuts. Someone in government conducts themselves inappropriately and it's covered rigorously if it involves one party and is virtually ignored if it involves the other. No one believes anymore that Lady Justice holds the scales of justice impartially. She's peeking out from under that damned blindfold to see who the litigants are.

This is the wave of outrage and frustration that Mr. Trump is surfing. What he says at the moment is not important; how he says it means everything.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Harry Reid Tips the Scale

On a day when the Dow drops more than 500 points and the Shanghai exchange drops more than 8.5%, I should be expected to discuss the interrelation of world economic structures. Unfortunately, I am fixated on the continuing push by Obama to ram a perilous and poorly constructed agreement with a criminal regime in The Islamic Republic through the Congress unconstitutionally and against the will of the American people.

Last night, Harry Reid announced that he would support passage of the agreement, despite the revelation that one secret (are there more?) arrangement between the IAEA and the Islamic Republic (I think I'm going to begin calling Iran by the name it prefers) appears to permit the Republic to conduct its own inspections of Parchin (and other sites?). John Kerry claimed before Congress that he had not seen or read this secretive agreement. And these side agreements have not been provided to Congress despite the fact that the lunatic Corker bill required that all relevant documents be transmitted to Congress before a vote was taken.

In my view, Harry's support effectively kills any chance that the agreement will be rejected under the terms of the Corker bill. Even if it were to be rejected, it is inconceivable that a presidential veto would be overridden. Therefore, we must now face facts: the Islamic Republic will soon be an internationally accepted nuclear power; initially, experimenting with centrifuge technology, midterm, continuing its work on ballistic missile technology, longer term, extracting plutonium and developing methodologies for creating focused explosive techniques to create nuclear combustion.

How to project how this nuclear legitimacy will or will not alter the Republic's behavior? We can assume - early on - that the Islamic Republic and the radical element which controls much military and intelligence infrastructure - the IRGC - will renew its purchase of conventional arms with Russia and others. Antiaircraft missile batteries, halted temporarily by economic sanctions, are already rescheduled for delivery, even though the deal has not been approved in the Congress.

Even when the Republic was subject to UN and international weapons and economic sanctions, they worked in conjunction with North Korea on Syria's behalf to construct a nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert. If they are freed from sanctions and their nuclear experimentation is essentially "blessed" by the UN and the Security Council, how might we predict they will act? Will they abandon their support for Bashar Assad? Will they cut off funding to Hizballah which is supporting the Assad regime militarily and acting as a front line confrontation proxy with Israel in Lebanon?

It is pure fantasy to expect that the Islamic Republic's return to the international community of nations will somehow alter the fiber of a regime that has not moved since 1979. That is focused on the evils of America and Israel to divert attention from its internal failures. That embraces revolutionary dogma - like Mao, like Stalin, like Fidel - to justify suppression and repression of expression by its populace to consolidate its hold on power.

Barack Obama and John Kerry with their democrat allies are legitimizing the chronic concealment that has defined the Republic's nuclear program's essence. They will not receive a single republican vote in either House. Like whatever legacy might be left by Obamacare domestically, they will also forever be tied to the consequences of legitimizing the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Obama took his deal to the UN before Congress. The United States continues to pay a disproportionate share of the operating expenses of an organization that targets Israel for unbalanced humanitarian offenses, that seats totalitarian regimes on human rights councils, that is ineffectual in preventing ethnic cleansing, that has embraced and coddled the "non-aligned" movement for decades which was never non-aligned.

The IAEA is a bureau born and bred by the UN. It stands by its impartiality, but even former arms inspectors are surprised by the secretive, unusual nature of these "side" agreements. Given the Republic's penchant to evade, conceal and bury facilities, on what basis have they earned the right to conduct even cursory inspections without rigorous oversight? How do they have standing to demand that American and Candiam inspectors cannot be present during visits or that they can demand that the IAEA be barred from access to certain sites? If there weren't desperate American interest to reach a deal, there would be no deal under these circumstances largely driven by the Republic.

Obama and Kerry have worked with accommodating establishment republicans to circumvent the "advise and consent" provisions of the Constitution regarding treaties. Both parties cannot avoid culpability whatever the consequences of this agreement. Should the Republic become an ally in the fight against Isis; should they tamp down their bellicose rhetoric and action against Israel; should they squeeze Hizballah and others financially and materially; and, should their nuclear program be verified as having no military application, then Obama and Kerry will rightfully be hailed as visionaries and worthy of Nobel Peace Prizes.

Forgive my skepticism. Neither Obama and Kerry, the UN/IAEA, nor the Islamic Republic have track records worthy of such dreamy expectation.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Chicken Coop Seeks Security. Contracts with Wolves.

Like the realities of Obamacare which only became apparent following the passage of the bill; like the faux outrage expressed by the president when the IRS targeting scandal was revealed; like the explanation that a video was responsible for triggering the attack in Benghazi; like Hillary's justification for having a private server in Chappaqua; we now know that the Kerry/Obama/Muniz agreement with Iran does not represent what we were told.

There is no "anytime/anywhere" inspection regiment; there is no realistic prospect that the Euros, Russians and Chinese will do anything other than capitulate to Iran; there are no "snapback" sanctions; there is no threat of military action; they will not be prevented from purchasing conventional weapons and shipping them to whom they wish; current sanctions are clearly not preventing Gen. Suleiman from traveling where he wishes including Moscow; and, of course, we now know that Iran will be in charge of monitoring their own compliance.

Could Iran have crafted a more advantageous deal for itself if Kerry and Moniz had been absent from the talks? Unlikely.

What we are left to conclude is what was feared by many at the outset. This was never about a negotiation where one side gives and the other takes and vice versa. This was about: what will be required to concede to Iran in order to obtain an agreement. And under no circumstances will this agreement be presented to the Congress and the American people as a treaty because a treaty of this nature with this theocracy can never collect a 2/3 approval in the Senate.

What to do? Bully spineless republicans who control both houses into an unconstitutional bind in which a presidential veto has to be overridden to stop the agreement from becoming law. Along come the compliant Bob Corker and Ben Sasse, only too happy to carry water for Leader McConnell, who craft legislation the president is only too happy to sign.

Corker stomps and writes endless Op-Ed's expressing his opposition to the proposed agreement, but - like promises made to end Obamacare or stop executive amnesty - they are words and meaningless gestures. Posturing for the purpose of erecting a facade of opposition. No action of any consequence to prevent the agreement from becoming effective with a presidential veto.

This deal was a disaster before the revelation of the IAEA side agreement. Now that we know what at least one side agreement contains, I am anxious to see if democrat Jewish members of Congress continue to fall in line with Obama. If they do, it should be as clear as the weather was in New York on 9/11 that their devotion to liberal ideology is their highest calling.

Under what possible circumstance can anyone defend an arrangement in which the subject of sanctions obtains relief acting as the primary collector of data to police its compliance? Is there a comparable historical precedent?

The Iranian government lies serially. It represses dissent. It supports terror groups with money, material and intelligence. It has murdered American servicemen and diplomats. It has murdered Jews in Argentina. With North Korean assistance, it has constructed nuclear facilities for Bashar Assad in Syria. It denies the existence of the Holocaust. Its political "moderates" call for the destruction of Israel and seizure of the Al Aqsa mosque.

Under what hallucinogenic delusion does Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, Al Franken, Debbie Wasserman, Richard Blumenthal and others believe that Iran will change? That the deal could have been better, but this is acceptable?

This agreement is a scandalous capitulation. Iran should be completely isolated from the process of determining what the base line dimensions of their military nuclear program has been. They should be carefully excluded from ANY involvement in monitoring future compliance. Their ballistic missile program should have been terminated - the missile program is only needed for long range delivery of combustible nuclear material. The cash unfrozen by sanctions relief should have been designated exclusively for internal purposes. Any "reasonable" negotiation would have included these essential elements.

Whether they did or not, the final agreement includes none of it. It is positively terrifying to think that our key negotiator, John Kerry, anti war activist who slandered his fellow servicemen in testimony before Congress, was nearly President of the United States. This agreement is a triumph for Iranian theocrats. It legitimizes their autocratic rule, it effectively blesses their development of nuclear power, and tacitly supports their hegemonic influence in the region.

Obama, Kerry and their supporters have relinquished any position of strength we may have enjoyed in order to secure an agreement. Any agreement. They have placed our regional allies in extreme jeopardy, have elected to cut and run from the region, and trust the Iranians with their own compliance.

Even those with no love lost for Obama could never have imagined such an outcome.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fox, Mr. Trump and Megyn

Much has been made of the purported singular treatment Donald Trump received at the recent Fox News debate. Perhaps we will discuss the viability of Mr. Trump in another post (I love the fact that Michael Cohen, his attorney, who appears on TV as his proxy, never fails to refer to him as "Mr. Trump"). In the interest of full candor, I am not a big Mr. Trump fan, and I will get to that in a bit. But what I will say about this dust up is that I think it's actually more a commentary about Fox than it is about Trump.

Let's remember that Fox News is a very big business. Its ratings on cable are second only to ESPN. It is estimated by Forbes to generate in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion in revenue with nearly a 40% cash flow margin. Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News for Rupert Murdoch, is in the business to make money for himself, his boss and his boss' stockholders. To do that, he needs to develop content that generates ratings which generates advertising. Fox has dominated cable news ratings for 13 years. I could care less what your political persuasion is, if you know anything about business, you have to give Ailes some props. He may be Republican at heart, but his wallet is pure capitalist.

Fox began to deviate from its more pronounced ideological platform a few years ago when it began giving more prominence to a soft news reporter named Shepard ("Shep" to his audience) Smith. He touted his good ol boy credentials by making repeated references to having attended Ole Miss. He was given "disaster" assignments to polish up his news chops, most notably covering Hurricane Katrina during which he threw some editorial grenades at the federal government's response to the crisis.

Shep was undeniably getting more airtime, his folksy demeanor working well in the afternoon hours when ratings aren't as essential as they are during prime time. He had clearly found himself in the good graces of the executives at Fox since his profile and portfolio continued to expand.

Fox's prime time was dominated by more overly right side commentators, all men, all white. Shep was morphing into the newer news side of Fox: an on air "talent" placed on a set that looked like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise with massive video displays and crew members who sat at touch screens wearing headsets. They even called it the Fox News "deck"! It was and is a disturbing development.

And then came Megyn Fox....I mean, Kelly. She had occupied the afternoon hours now featuring Shep and made very appealing guest appearances with Bill O'Reilly, reigning ratings king of the network. He would consult her on legal matters, so Megyn could display her lawyerly chops, and she would have the audacity to challenge Bill, often with a playful smile. She was smart, attractive, a mom and....she stands up to Bill O'Reilly!

Then Ailes took his big gamble: he broke up the male monopoly during prime time and gave Megyn a coveted hour. Megyn is not a commentator like O'Reilly or Hannity, nor does she deliver hard news as their mid-morning anchor duos do. She and Shep, in my view, are cut from the same cloth; they both cover the hard news stories of the day, but they also enjoy delving into the prurient, somewhat tabloid stuff that makes the assignment editor's desk. The stuff that gets ratings. And they both like to make suggestive comments about their opinions, usually just before they go to a break.

It's a Millenialized version of the news intended to draw viewers of that younger demo into the Fox ratings pool. Which gets me back to the debate, Fox and Mr. Trump.

Despite statements to the contrary, I do believe that Megyn Kelly targeted Trump with those early, provocative questions, not to test his presidential mettle, or because Fox wants to drive him out of the race, but because Ailes knew the potential of that night's "content". He knew that with this
unconventional debate structure, unconventional number of candidates and The Celebrity Apprentice himself, the prospect of ratings being off the charts was too big to ignore.

How to stoke the fires, light up Twitter and guarantee the highest possible numbers for the longest possible duration? Go right at Mr. Trump right away and see what ensues. Uh, how bout 24 million
viewers and the highest rated non-sport telecast EVER on cable? Megyn goes on vacation and Mr. Trump announces that there is no issue between he and Mr. Ailes.

Mr. Trump knows a lot about a lot of things. And one of them is getting ratings. He is as media savvy as they come. Mr. Ailes might have bested him on this night.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lew's News

Whether intentional or not, I think much of what I've written lately has focused on the notion of hypocrisy - inconsistency in positions, statements and policy.

I've been critical of Obama on a host of topics in this regard and I cannot remember a President in my lifetime whose words were so at odds with his actions. I cannot conceive how any observer with an IQ that registers on any scale can, for example, make the case that this is one of the most scandal-free administrations in history.

I've been equally critical of Republucans in the House and Senate. Having campaigned through more than one election cycle to change the direction of Washington, to reverse the course of Obamacare, to halt the funding associated with overreaching executive actions, we find ourselves with a Congress that functions much like the one ruled by Harry Reid. "Cromnibus" passes with McConnell and Boehner assistance, those who challenge the "establishment" are pilloried and lose positions of authority in committees.

Despite the self-centered bombast of Donald Trump, he expresses a contempt for the politically correct that is shared by many in the electorate. Nixon used to call them the "silent majority" and while I doubt the demographic composition is the same, the label remains apt. There is a general sense of disgust with a bilateral, bicameral "biopoly" which effectively controls the wheels of government. Though they have minor policy differences, their objectives are shared: to maintain the status quo, to avoid confrontation with the opposition, to maintain the preeminence of federal government.

Unfortunately, we have seen the limitations and foibles of centralized government which acts in contravention to the concepts enumerated by the Constitution. An EPA that releases pollutants into rivers affecting Colorado, Utah and New Mexico; what is the EPA doing assuming operational control of anything? These are private enterprise and state government functions. Under what legislation does the federal government get into the business of directly investing in "clean energy" companies, effectively picking winners and losers? What constitutional provision enables any arm of the federal government to selectively enforce laws it favors or disfavors? How does a Secretary of State come to the conclusion that she can conduct her official digital affairs on a privately owned and maintained server and then further decide to what the government is entitled and to what it is not?

Is there not something inherently corrupt in the presumptive nominee of a major political party who's earned millions from private and foreign governments insisting that she wants to be the champion of the oppressed middle class? The socialist Betnie Sanders sees no contradiction in asserting that the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy while he trolls for funds in Martha's Vineyard? Obama rips the opponents of his Iran Treaty as confederates of Twelver hardliners, but he ignores the Constitution's imperative to bring treaties before the Senate for a 2/3 approval requirement?

People who do not understand the disgust felt by a significant portion of the electorate do so at their peril. Trump does, but despite his occasional perspicacity, I think it's more instinctive than intellectual. Cruz and Fiorina get it and I believe they will have much to say at the end of the day. Bernie Sanders taps into it, too, but from an opposite ideological perspective. Sanders supports Obama without reservation, but feels his socialist agenda hasn't gone far enough. Clinton represents perpetuation of the status quo, a retreat of sorts from the Obama agenda, and Bernie's supporters are in favor of unexpurgated redistribution: expansion of federal taxation, single payer health care and unrestrained spending expansion. It is a literal mirror image of the approach favored by the opposition.

In this atmosphere of rampant hypocrisy, for me, nothing comes close to the drama surrounding the
Iran Treaty. I believe, as I have mentioned previously, that Obama will get his treaty through a
presidential veto. It will forever enshrine legitimization of Iran as a nuclear power. In historical retrospect this will be seen as one of the most important markers of an Obama administration. Bernie Sanders has been a proponent of this treaty from the outset. All of the Republican candidates have expressed their objections to it.

With great reservation, I have to admit that no one embodies the double speak of this administration on Iran (and there are so many candidates from which to choose!) like Jack Lew. He has written an Op-Ed today attempting to defend the deal with words mimicking the lunatic logic of that foreign policy genius, John Kerry.

You uninformed peasants have no idea what a great job we did cobbling together ANY economic sanctions with Russia and China. They just don't want to do it anymore! We'll be on our own! Isolated from the world community! Who approved this deal already! What is wrong with you
people? No other genius administration (and let's be honest: no administration has ever been filled
with the quantity and quality of genius talent as our's has) could have crafted a deal as tough and crafty as this one! The Euros know what a great deal this is. If the Israelis hadn't elected that boob Bibi, they'd accept it, too. We can't go it alone on this! We don't want to piss off the Ayatollah!

I swear, you couldn't make this up in your wildest dreams.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Schumer Leaves Reservation - Tribe In Shock

Much to my surprise, Chuck Schumer has announced his opposition to the Iran treaty (I've decided to permanently refer to it as a treaty despite Obama's, Kerry's and Senate Republicans' parsing of the language). The real shocker in the announcement is that he also declared that he would vote to override a presidential veto. This should give some undecided democrats some measure of pause as well as valuable political cover.

Here's my next shot in the dark: Harry Reid will join Schumer at least in an initial rejection of the treaty. And here's why. One of Harry Reid's biggest supporters in Nevada (aside from casino workers' unions, of course) is the Greenspun family. They operate The Las Vegas Sun, a struggling daily newspaper, and are developers of Green Valley, an enormous commercial/residential pod that has enjoyed substantial growth over the years. They are generous philanthropists and have contributed major gifts to UNLV.

The paterfamilias of the family, Hank Greenspun, started his career with Bugsy Siegel when the gangster essentially created the modern Las Vegas with the creation of the Flamingo Hotel. He later started The Sun, owned Vegas' first TV station and eventually controlled the city's single cable franchise. He also fell afoul of the law. As an ardent Zionist, he helped smuggle arms to the Haganah, a paramilitary group fighting for Israeli statehood. He was arrested, convicted and fined, but did not serve any jail time. He was pardoned by John Kennedy in 1961.

Though Hank thought of himself as a Republican, his children, like most Jews of this generation, have supported liberal democrat causes. Under son Brian's supervision, The Sun's editorials are consistently liberal, supportive of Harry Reid, and very much defenders of the Obama agenda. Brian has even written a recent Op-Ed that, while skeptical of some of the elements of the Iran treaty, generally supports passage of legitimizing a nuclear Iranian state.

I'm hopeful in the final analysis that Brian may be swayed by Chuck Schumer's decision, will remember the unusual sacrifice made by his father and decide that the treaty is far too risky, gives away far too much to the Iranians and, ultimately, must be resisted. If he should come to this conclusion, I have little doubt that he will communicate the family's position to Harry Reid and Harry will join with Chuck. Harry has little political risk at this juncture.

He is retiring because there is speculation that in a republican  administration there would be a serious investigation into Harry's sketchy intervention with DHS to fast track visas for Asian casino investors in a project in which Reid's son is involved. And Harry always seems to have something to do with his son's projects. Obama owes Harry everything and would never permit his apolitical Justice Department to pursue charges against him.

And Schumer has been a very loyal foot soldier for Reid. Obama's attack dogs, in the form of Jon Favereau and Ben Rhodes, have made noise that perhaps Schumer has lost his standing to succeed Reid because of his opposition to the treaty. But Reid may feel a sense of allegiance to Schumer for having his back for nearly a decade and, though we know Reid doesn't have an ethical bone in his body, he may feel compelled to stand with Schumer with a strong nudge from the Greenspuns and other influential  Nevada Jews who have contributed to his campaigns liberally. I wouldn't put it past Sheldon Adelson, not one of Reid's biggest fans, but a man with a huge bank account and enormous influence in Las Vegas, to throw some shekels in the direction of one of Reid's less objectionable causes to insure he votes with Schumer to further pressure the president.

Again, I'm under no illusions that this treaty will ultimately win the day. There will not be enough democrat votes to override a veto. At a minimum, I would like to see it rejected, in order to force Obama to use a veto for its "passage". That would be absolutely unprecedented, would undermine the legitimacy of the treaty and subject the likes of Kerry, Boxer, Feinstein and others to the ridicule of history.

More importantly, it might lead to a fissure between the Jewish community and the democrat party which has enjoyed their monolithic support since the 1960's.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Animal Rights and Women's Health Win!

Ok, I threatened to write about the recent Planned Parenthood controversy, but I refuse to be drawn into the ridiculous Cecil The Lion analogy. Everybody's used that one. You want hypocrisy? I've got hypocrisy. It was worth the wait.

Today, a federal judge ruled in favor of a gaggle of liberal groups, including the ACLU, saying legislators wrongly tried to inhibit free speech because animal rights activists wanted to release undercover videos which graphically displayed animal abuse at various "factory farms". Nathan Runkle,  President of Mercy for Animals, said, "We hope [Idaho's lawmakers] will now focus their efforts on improving animal welfare and rewarding the brave whistleblowers who uncover criminal activity in Idaho's agricultural operation."

This is too rich. It's a shame Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton and Cecile Richards don't feel the same way about babies. We need a Mercy for Embryos! How much consternation has there been about these Planned Parenthood videos, how they were obtained, what they depicted, that they had been edited and taken completely "out of context"? Cecile Richards described the "brave whistleblowers" who are responsible for the Planned Parenthood videos as , "...the most militant wing of the anti-abortion movement that has been behind the bombing of clinics, the murder of doctors in their homes, and in their churches." No substantiation for these slanderous charges, no challenge from George Stephanopoulos on whose show she made these lunatic statements.

Let's be frank. It would be a disingenuous admission on the part of liberals if they attempted to dispute that there isn't ideological linkage between animal rights activism and pro-choice advocacy. And yet we find boisterous litigation on behalf of First Amendment rights in the former's case and a gagging of free speech protection in the latter's.

How to account for such blatant contradiction? I'm afraid the answer to that question is all too obvious, too. There is uniformly broader support for animal rights generally and against the slaughter of animals bred for consumption than there is outrage over the sale of embryo body parts by abortion clinics. It is an essential part of the dogma, a belief system that cannot be challenged and if challenged, must be delegitimized. Free expression does not have application when liberal orthodoxy is confronted, and dissent cannot be broached.

In my view this is a fundamental reason we find ourselves so polarized. Harry Reid, when trashing Senate Republicans following the failed cloture vote on defunding Planned Parenthood said they had "lost their moral compass". Could there be a more ironic face slap than this? Regardless of how one feels about a "woman's right to choose", what kind of feeling human being could see those shreds of humanity in a Petri dish and not feel some sense of shame or outrage? And have those pieces discussed with less emotion than one feels about a chicken stuffed into a coop? The lack of moral equivalence is breathtaking.

Does Planned Parenthood provide valuable health services to women exclusive of abortions? Certainly. Are there alternative, low cost options for women besides Planned Parenthood? Definitely. Does Planned Parenthood deserve some exclusive access to $500 million in taxpayer support? Unlikely. In many ways, this effort to strip Planned Patenthood of taxpayer funding is a beachhead; not so much to overturn Roe vs Wade, but to stop the profligate spending that has run amuck under both democrat and republican administrations. This is not a vast amount of money. It isn't going to make a dent in the reduction of our debt. But if we cannot find some justification for removing this subsidy from an organization whose services can be sourced through other, non taxpayer supported clinics, then we have no hope of ever reducing the size of government and its inexorable growth is therefore irreversible.

If this isn't really about the provision of health services to women, but rather about the sacrosanct
nature of abortion, then Harry's right. Our moral compass has been sledgehammered, and as Elizabeth Warren asked, have we hit our heads and gone back to the 1890's? Maybe not the 1890's, Great Chief Liz. But the area of 1914, perhaps. That's when Saint Margaret Sanger coined the term "birth control" as a more palatable way of describing "family limitation".

And just to come full circle, she viewed "birth control" as a First Amendment struggle since anti-obscenity laws prohibited open discussion of contraceptive options. Another stroke of cosmic irony that the organization that Sanger founded strives to silence its critics by denying them free speech while accusing them of unfounded bombings and murder. Thank God the animals have the ACLU and Mercy for Animals to speak on their behalf.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Whom to Trust on Iran Deal

I'd love to write something about the overreaction to the killing of Cecil the Lion and the underreaction to the Planned Parenthood "organ donations", but I feel compelled to stick with the story of the Iran agreement.

Two stories attracted my attention and they speak volumes in very different ways about the examination or lack thereof taking place before the Congress. Before I deal with the stories, I must reiterate two fundamentals that are artificially tipping the scales in favor of the agreement's passage.

One, it is a complete bastardization of language to attempt to call this an "agreement". It is a treaty by any definition of the word and the mendacious troika of Kerry-Obama-Moniz should be ashamed of themselves - despite the contents of the treaty itself - to refer to it otherwise. It is a work of artifice intended to circumvent the approval process in place in the Constitution in the same manner that Harry Reid invoked budget reconciliation to insure the passage of Obamacare without a single Republican vote.

Two, Republicans are completely to blame for foresaking their constitutional responsibility by agreeing to pass the ridiculous Corker-Sasse bill which turns on its head the notion of "advice and consent" on treaty approvals. They and their buddies John McCain and Lindsay Graham defended their actions by saying it was the only process to which democrats would agree. What a complete crock. And now they have given Obama the opportunity to veto their potential disapproval of the "agreement", forcing them to find democrats willing to join them in an override. Fat chance. The lot of them - including Kerry-Obama-Moniz - should be impeached for failing to uphold the Constitution.

But back to the two stories. The Guardian, Britain's most openly left newspaper, published a column by Iran's chief nuclear negotiator calling on Israel to give up its nuclear program now that Iran is effectively foresaking its own. Aside from the patently ridiculous claim that Iran's nuclear research is purely for civilian purposes (which is why they bury their facilities beneath mountains and hide them from international inspectors), there is a mysterious fatwa in place that bars the regime from producing nuclear weapons. This is indicative of what the future holds. Iran can cloak itself in a legitimacy conveyed by this agreement and make ludicrous claims that it embraces peace and non-proliferation. It flips on its head what we know to be true. So, c'mon, Israel - it's time to join with "new" Iran and get rid of those pesky nuclear weapons. Death to No One!

Unfortunately, Javad Zarif, despite his comfort with English and his blossoming relation with Kerry and Moniz, is not a moderate. I suppose compared with other Iranian leaders he is, but everything is relative. He has traveled to Lebanon and paid homage to Hizballah killer, Imad Mughniyah, who bears responsibility for numerous assassinations of Jews and Americans. His government effectively funds a shadow government and military in Lebanon through Hizballah and no one issues a condemnation. His government is proudly anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying and his boss, its leader, appears at speaking engagements carrying an AK-47. We all know this country cannot be trusted, it will not stop exporting violence, but we are sucked in by this American educated Foreign Minister because we want to be. In Obama's case, there was never a moment of hesitation or doubt.

The second story is from Stephen Hayes and Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard. Whatever you might think of Kristol, Hayes is a superb reporter and seems to have great sources in the intelligence community. They write that there is much evidence, seized from Osama bin Laden's compound, that confirms a substantial relationship existed between Iran and Al Qaeda before and after 9/11. Very little of that information has been released to the public. Like the two secret side deals between the IAEA and Iran that Kerry seems to know little about, aren't we owed some reasonable level of disclosure about these matters before legitimizing this country as a nuclear state and releasing more than $100 billion to them? How could one not conclude that relevant facts are being obscured for the purposes of securing a desired outcome?

I do not deny that much of the attention-getting rhetoric from opponents is rooted in the campaign to succeed Obama. Similarly, those who favor the agreement defend it by spuriously linking it to agreements forged by prior administrations with adversaries. But, as usual, Kerry-Obama-Moniz insured themselves that the opposition would have strong traction by acceding to demands that were unrelated to a nuclear deal; by outsourcing and giving Iran the ability to drag its feet on inspections; and most damning of all, never giving any indication that it would push away to demand a better deal under any circumstances. On what basis do they attack opponents with righteous indignation that they have secured a deal "that makes America safer"?  They cannot assure the American people that they have instituted measures that stop Iranian chicanery because there is doubt even among the negotiators that they have.

This deal is a treaty and should have been considered as such.  But that ship has sailed. At the very least, Congress should insist that there be a full accounting of relevant information and their 60 day
consideration period not begin until all that information is in hand. Like many, I anxiously await any declarative statements from democratic Jewish members of Congress in whose hands the fate of this agreement rests. Do they support Kerry-Obama-Moniz because their devotion to their ideology requires it or do they admit that the agreement embraces too much uncertainty and leaves Iran unrestrained to threaten its neighbors and spread conventional weapons to its proxies?