August 20, 2014
IN THE MAIL: From David Weber & Jane Lindskold, Treecat Wars.
Plus, today only at Amazon: 70% Off Norton Security Software.
And, also today only: Yamaha ATS-1520BL-R Factory-Refurbished Soundbar with Bluetooth, $139.95 (60% off).
TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day 468.
Note this from Laura Ingraham: “What do you think would have happened, guys, if tea party activists, right, came to Washington D.C. after the IRS scandal broke and decided to start smashing windows, rampaging through neighborhoods, throwing fire bombs. What do you think Eric Holder and Barack Obama would do? Would they start saying, ‘Well, we understand that people are angry, we really get your emotion here, but this isn’t acceptable. Do you really think there would have been this nuanced language, this emoting that has become the pastime of this administration?” Well, that’s not entirely off the table, these days.
YOU KNOW, THERE’S A REAL LYNCH MOB MENTALITY HERE. ‘Simply crazy’; TPM’s Josh Marshall thinks Gov. Jay Nixon, D-Mo., might be nuts. I’m glad to see Josh noticing this.
ANNALS OF ANTI-SEMITISM: Edinburgh a Sad Symbol of Anti-Israeli Intolerance.
Each August, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe puts on edgy cultural fare that draws capacity audiences from across the world. A play called The City, staged by the Incubator Theatre of Jerusalem, was hardly the most challenging production in the festival repertoire, a murder mystery sung in rhyme and inspired by hip-hop, hardboiled fiction, and 1940s detective films. Yet it became controversial in the wake of Israel’s forceful action in Gaza to neutralize rockets being fired into the country and destroy a labyrinth of tunnels used for terrorist attacks. The City had just one performance, and then was axed when the Fringe management became unnerved by the scale of protests provoked by the Israeli nationality of the company. The police were less surprised, and their impassive (some would say supine) response sealed the production’s fate.
I spoke to several members of the cast, liberal-minded folk who were surprised that Gaza should be such a potent issue in Scottish politics. In Scotland the Israel-Palestine dispute is currency used by two left-wing parties that are vying for supremacy: the ruling Scottish National party (SNP) and the Labour Party. They try to outdo each other in their radicalism on the issue in order to appeal to middle-class liberals and a growing number of Muslim voters, most hailing from Pakistan.
But according to Scotland’s Jewish leadership, “the disproportionate obsession with Israel in Scottish public life . . . has itself made many Jewish people very uncomfortable, whatever their views on the current conflict.” The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) issued a statement on August 10 claiming that it was adversely affecting everyday community relations. Scotland historically has frowned upon anti-Semitism, but the new situation reflects the mounting insecurity felt by European Jews from Manchester to Berlin. . . . Back in the 1930s, the Scottish media, at least, defied the agitators with scathing editorials. But this time none have appeared, news coverage has been patchy, and only several arts correspondents, such as Joyce McMillan, Tiffany Jenkins, and Brian Ferguson, have denounced the surrender to intimidation.
And yet most American Jews probably find the Tea Party scarier.
And those Pakistani voters are the fruit of Labour’s secret 1990s plan to lure immigrants to gain votes and dilute traditional British culture.
As Eugene Volokh says, in a democracy, when you let immigrants in, you are letting in your future rulers. Choose carefully. Most of the British Jews now concerned with growing antisemitism probably voted for Labour, because they thought it was progressive and caring.
SEEMS LEGIT: Mark Udall Spent Your Tax Dollars on A Wealth Advisory Firm. “According to reports released by the Secretary of the Senate, Udall used official funds to pay BSW Wealth Partners, a Boulder, Colorado-based independent wealth adviser that was founded by a campaign donor, each year between 2011 and 2013.”
REPORT: Only 3 of 78 Arrested Protesters Were Ferguson Residents. The usual lefty idiots, I presume.
JUST ANOTHER CONVENIENT SCREWUP: Wisconsin union has no idea how that forged card got in there.
Dian Palmer, president of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Wisconsin, wants one thing to be perfectly clear: Her union takes its ethical responsibilities very seriously. So it’s just baffling to her how a forged signature was used to financially support the union’s political arm.
Palmer conceded in a Aug. 11 letter to a lawyer for Milwaukee-based Supportive Homecare Options Inc., that somebody apparently signed up one of the company’s employees to support the union’s Committee on Political Education without that employee’s knowledge or approval. But as far as who that was, well, the trail seems to have gone cold.
Until recently, I had no idea that Wisconsin was such a dirty state. It seemed so clean, until you looked under the covers.
BENTHIC TREATY RENEGOTIATION — TOP SECRET: The Hill: Obama Heads Back To Vacation After Unexplained DC Trip, Leaving A Puzzle Behind Him.
USA TODAY EDITORIALIZES: Rick Perry’s Flimsy Indictment.
Politics as usual should not be a violation of criminal law. This ought to be obvious to anyone in a democratic society. But it does not seem to be well understood in Texas, where a special prosecutor in Austin persuaded a grand jury last week to indict Gov. Rick Perry, who was booked and fingerprinted on Tuesday.
Perry, a once and potential future candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has been charged with misusing his office and coercing a public official. Sounds serious, until you look at the flimsy, two-page indictment. . . .
Beyond Perry, two other potential Republican presidential aspirants also face investigations. One, involving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, is a straightforward, legitimate focus of inquiry. But another, involving fundraising efforts on behalf of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, seems just as mired in politics as the Perry case.
It’s political lawfare, pure and simple.
HIGHER EDUCATION TENURE GAP: Sexism, Or Productivity? Well, the only women who didn’t get tenure at my school basically just never wrote anything. So in that case, at least, it was clearly productivity.
SOME HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE FROM TAM:
In the Twenties, cops had better guns than the military. Submachineguns and self-loading rifles were widespread in law enforcement before they ever were in the Army. People need to stop getting their history from Andy Griffith reruns. Frank Hamer didn’t gun Bonnie and Clyde down from ambush with a flintlock musket, you know.
In the Sixties, they’d have already turned the dogs and water cannons on the Ferguson protestors. In the Twenties, Andy and Barney would have broken the old Potato-Digger out of the armory and started mowing them down. The po-po used to be pretty quick to go weapons-free on unruly crowds, especially if such crowds were made up of black folk or commies.
Realistically speaking, the rate of police violence (like all violence) is probably at a low ebb, but in this age of social media, ubiquitous cameras, and the 24-hour news cycle, you get to hear about every bit of it. (And of course the media is 100% infallible when they report on police brutality, the way they are with gun-related stuff. We mock the “shoulder thing that goes up” utterances and then Gell-Mann our way across the page to nod in sage agreement at reported use-of-force abuses.)
Sure, in the old days, Officer Flatfoot walked a beat and said “Hi!” to the kids and helped people carry their groceries in. He also “tuned up” the occasional vagrant with some brass knuckles for giving him lip or helped a black guy ensure that the sun didn’t set on his back in Pleasantville, and everybody just shrugged and went on, because that’s how things were.
Let’s everybody be thankful that, so far, Ferguson 2014 hasn’t turned into either Los Angeles 1992 or Tulsa 1921.
True. What’s amazing about Ferguson is that, for all the sturm und drang, the casualty count is pretty light.
August 19, 2014
NEW YORK TIMES: Who Will Stand Up For The Christians? “Why is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa? In Europe and in the United States, we have witnessed demonstrations over the tragic deaths of Palestinians who have been used as human shields by Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza. The United Nations has held inquiries and focuses its anger on Israel for defending itself against that same terrorist organization. But the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.”
REPORT: Officer Darren Wilson Suffered “Orbital Blowout Fracture to Eye Socket” During Mike Brown Attack. That would certainly challenge the media narrative, wouldn’t it?
REALLY? BECAUSE HE’S PRETTY MUCH EXACTLY LIKE SARAH PALIN PREDICTED. Mitt Romney: Obama Even Worse Than He Expected.
MOST OF THESE STORIES WILL TURN OUT TO BE FALSE ALARMS: Hospital: Calif. patient may have been exposed to Ebola.
THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE 31-Year Battle Over Flashdance. “The dancers and photographer who inspired one of the biggest pop culture touchstones of a generation have gone most of their lives unable to publicly talk about the credit they think they deserve. Until now.”
21ST CENTURY PROBLEMS: Here’s a Terrible Idea: Robot Cars With Adjustable Ethics Settings. I’m setting mine on “Highly Punctual Sociopath.” Out of my way!
IS THIS BECAUSE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION HAS INFLATED THE CREDENTIAL? Black Men Need More Education Than White Men to Get Jobs.
WITH OBAMA TALKING HIGHER ED COSTS AGAIN, IT’S WORTH REVISITING THIS: Government Policy and Tuition in Higher Education.
ARTHUR BROOKS: Republicans Need To Break Out Of The Party Box.
They should try siding with people like this: Reason TV: Locked Out: A Hair Braider Fights Occupational Licensing. The GOP has tentatively taken a step in this direction by siding with Uber over regulators, but they need to expand that sort of thing to help people trying to climb onto the economic ladder.
WHAT FACEBOOK DOESN’T SHOW YOU: It’s Not Just Your Imagination — There Are A Lot Of Old Posts In Your Facebook Feed. “It seems I don’t much care about my hometown or the people in it, I’m far more interested in feminist blogs than I am in technology or sports, I’m still hung up on New York after moving away last spring, and I’m apparently very interested in the goings on of someone I worked with at Pizza Hut when I was 16.”
With every change, Facebook gets crappier. All I want is an unfiltered feed of what my friends post, as they post it. Even “Most Recent” doesn’t seem to do that any more.
Your body is home to about 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes, collectively known as your microbiome. Naturalists first became aware of our invisible lodgers in the 1600s, but it wasn’t until the past few years that we’ve become really familiar with them.
This recent research has given the microbiome a cuddly kind of fame. We’ve come to appreciate how beneficial our microbes are — breaking down our food, fighting off infections and nurturing our immune system. It’s a lovely, invisible garden we should be tending for our own well-being.
But in the journal Bioessays, a team of scientists has raised a creepier possibility. Perhaps our menagerie of germs is also influencing our behavior in order to advance its own evolutionary success — giving us cravings for certain foods, for example.
Maybe the microbiome is our puppet master.
Mess with me too much, I’m sending the Cipro down. Upside: Lots of marketing opportunities based on It’s not your fault you’re fat! It’s your gut bacteria!
I HAVE MY OWN THEORY: “Why Obama won’t give the Ferguson speech his supporters want.”
UPDATE: From the comments:
Obama campaigned as a “Uniter”.
The moment he was elected, he governed as a “Divider”
He won reelection by carefully dividing.
At this point, all the unicorn dust has blown away.
Yeah, pretty much.
HOPEY-CHANGEY: Average Price of Ground Beef Hits All-Time High. “Five years ago, in July 2009, the average price for a pound of ground beef was $2.147, according to the BLS. In those five years, the average price has climbed by $1.737 per pound–or almost 81 percent.”
OUT: CATCALLS ARE HORRIBLE AND SEXIST. In: “It had been a few months since I’d heard a cat call. Had I heard my last one and not even realized it?”
I guess the video was right.
A READER EMAILS: “It might be time for a reminder that many of the folks protesting the shooting in Ferguson, MO are likely of the opinion that only the police and members of the military should have the right to carry guns.” Good point!
Meanwhile, I saw this on Facebook yesterday:
UPDATE: And by reader request, there’s this.
WELL, THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU KNOW: Delaware becomes first state to give heirs broad digital assets access.
IT’S COME TO THIS: Austin American-Statesman Destroys Democrats’ Narrative on the Perry Indictment. The Austin American-Statesman isn’t prone to destroying Democrats’ narratives, so that’s a big deal.
THE PROBLEM IS ATTITUDE: Police Officer: ‘if you don’t want to get shot…just do what I tell you.’ “The thing is, Officer Dutta (pictured) is also an Adjunct Professor of Homeland Security and Criminal Justice at Colorado Technical University. And he uttered those words not in the heat of the moment, but in an opinion piece in the Washington Post responding to widespread criticism of police attitudes and tactics currently on display in Ferguson, Missouri, but increasingly common nationwide. . . . If you have the attitude that you are owed deference and instant obediance by the people around you, and that you are justified in using violence against them if they don’t comply, we already have a problem. That’s especially true if official institutions back you up, which they do.”
WALTER OLSON: Let’s Demilitarize The Regulatory Agencies, Too. “Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) has introduced a bill called the Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act, citing such unsettling developments as a U.S. Department of Agriculture solicitation for submachine guns. 28 House Republicans have joined as sponsors, according to Ryan Lovelace at National Review. There has already been left-right cooperation on the issue, as witness the unsuccessful Grayson-Amash amendment in June seeking to cut off the military-surplus 1033 program. As both sides come to appreciate some of the common interests at stake in keeping law enforcement as peaceful and proportionate as situations allow, there will be room for more such cooperation.”
A REDISTRIBUTIVE GOVERNMENT IS INHERENTLY A GOVERNMENT THAT SIDES WITH SOME CITIZENS AGAINST OTHERS: The Sinestro Theory of The Administrative State. “Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a decline in the level of trust in government, and a rise in distrust, to levels unprecedented in American history. But to think this is an entirely new phenomenon is a mistake: trust in government has steadily declined since the Great Society and the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson. This graph from Pew with data running through the fall of 2013 shows how people answer the question: ‘How much of the time do you trust the government in Washington?’ The answer is pretty clear: not much at all.”
RICHARD EPSTEIN: Paul Krugman Sure Is Clueless About Libertarianism. Like a lot of liberal commentators, he’s attacking the libertarians in his mind, not in the real world.
IN THE MAIL: Slow Train to Arcturus.
Plus, today only at Amazon: 50% off Lily Pulitzer.
And, also today only: Up to 77% Off a Scotch Laminator and Laminating Pouches.
MEGAN MCARDLE: More Bad News For ObamaCare.
Last Monday, Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily reported that insurers say Affordable Care Act enrollment is shrinking, and it is expected to shrink further. Some of those who signed up for insurance on the exchanges never paid; others paid, then stopped paying. Insurers are undoubtedly picking up some new customers who lost jobs or had another “qualifying life event” since open enrollment closed. But on net, they expect enrollment to shrink from their March numbers by a substantial amount — as much as 30 percent at Aetna Inc., for example.
How much does this matter? As Charles Gaba notes, this was not unexpected: Back in January, industry expert Bob Laszewski predicted an attrition rate of 10 to 20 percent, which seems roughly in line with what IBD is reporting. However, Gaba seems to imply that this makes the IBD report old news, barely worth talking about, and I think that’s wrong, for multiple reasons.
The first is simply that we didn’t know what the attrition rate would be until we actually saw the final numbers, and it could have been lower — or higher — than Laszewski suggested. It’s always valuable to have actual data rather than guesstimates (and we should remember that we’re still getting data; we won’t know the final attrition rate until December).
The second is that while attrition was predicted, not everyone was necessarily expecting it. People are still citing enrollment figures from March as the number of people covered by Obamacare policies, even though that number didn’t tell us how many would ultimately pay. In fairness, the Barack Obama administration conveniently stopped issuing enrollment reports after that March peak, so there isn’t a better hard number to use.
It seems like wherever there’s a book, it’s being cooked.
ROGER L. SIMON: The Real Villain Of Ferguson. “The Great Society. There, I’ve said it. The Great Society, which I voted for and supported from the bottom of my heart, is the villain behind Ferguson. Ferguson is the Great Society writ large because the Great Society convinced, and then reassured, black people that they were victims, taught them that being a victim and playing a victim was the way to go always and forever. And then it repeated the point ad infinitum from its debut in 1964 until now — a conveniently easy to compute fifty years — as it all became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Great Society and similar policies screwed black people to the wall. It was racist to the core without knowing it. Nobody used the N-word. In fact, it was forbidden, unless you were Dr. Dre or somebody. But it did its job without the word and did it better for being in disguise.”
UPDATE: By the way, the press coverage of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on this doesn’t seem to emphasize that he’s a Democrat. But as the party of Bull Connor and Richard Daley, the Democrats have a long, ugly track record in dealing badly with urban unrest. . . .
Minorities and millennials were the core of President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 election victories, and, according to conventional political wisdom, will continue to be the twin anchors of the Democratic Party for the foreseeable future.
While African-Americans appear to be the modern equivalent of “Yellow Dog Democrats,” evidence is steadily growing that millennials are a different matter entirely. . . . Chamorro-Premuzic notes that millennials are more likely to highly value freedom and independence, and to overestimate their own talents and to underestimate the difficulties inherent in entrepreneurial endeavors.
The key here is millennials hate to be told what to do. They want to do things their way and be creative about it. Getting rich isn’t their first priority.
Interestingly, Silicon Valley no longer has the appeal it did to younger workers, according to Chamorro-Premuzic It is now seen among millennials as too big and greedy.
Regardless why millennials want to be independent, that desire could make them unusually receptive to a political message that emphasizes the importance of encouraging entrepreneurial freedom.
Besides, it’s the right thing to do.
MICKEY KAUS: Nice Try, New Republic.
Imagine Mitt Romney, campaigning on a platform of raising the limit on taxable estates to $20 million dollars (from the current $5.3 million). Romney wins the election. He’s President! But he can’t get his estate tax bill through Congress. He decides he can’t wait! If Congress won’t act to boost the incentives to “job creators,” he will! His IRS announces that, as a matter of “prosecutorial discretion,” no estates under $20 million that fail to pay estate tax will be pursued by the IRS. Romney could grant case by case leniency power to IRS auditors and lawyers — but a blanket categorical free pass makes the law so much more predictable, don’t you think? And predictability is important for job creators! They have investments to make. You wouldn’t want an IRS with the leeway to play favorites — going soft on Republicans, or Romney donors, while coming down hard on dead multimillionaire Democrats.
Yeah, it’s supposed to work the other way, apparently.
ROLL CALL: Republicans Gain Steam in House Races. “While political reporters and party strategists argue over whether there is an electoral wave ahead, district-level data demonstrates a difficult landscape for Democratic candidates in House races. Democrats believe, as competitive races become more engaged and the party exercises some of its financial advantage to get its message out, that some contests will turn in their favor. That scenario is possible, but in many cases Democratic challenges aren’t developing as quickly as expected and some Democratic incumbents are struggling to gain their footing. We’re changing The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in a half dozen House races, all in favor of Republican candidates.”
THE HILL: Poll finds sharp racial, political divide over Ferguson shooting. In 2012, Dems/Media deliberately fomented racial division over the Zimmerman case to boost black turnout. Not so clear that will help them with the Senate.
See, Obama won’t want to do that because then he’d be agreeing with Mark Steyn.
IT’S ALL IN THE LANGUAGE: Yes, AP Violated Its Style Guide to Refer to Michael Brown, 18 as a ‘Youth.’
Here’s what my 2001 AP Broadcast Handbook says:
youth Don’t use it; people don’t talk that way. Use man or woman for individuals 18 and older, teenager, boy, or girl for people aged 13-18.
K-12 IMPLOSION UPDATE: Study: A fourth of public school spending goes to salaries and benefits of nonteachers. “Our sense is that these millions of people have quietly accumulated over the years as districts simply added employees in response to sundry needs, demands, and pressures—including state and federal mandates and funding streams—without carefully examining the decisions they were making or considering possible tradeoffs and alternatives. This was the path of least resistance and, at a time of rising budgets, was viable even if imprudent. But it’s no longer sustainable in the public sector any more than the private.”
August 18, 2014
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, LEGAL EDUCATION EDITION: Quinnipiac Law School Opens New $50 Million Building Amidst 33% Decline in 1L Enrollment.
You know, I specifically warned against this sort of thing.
IF SHE WERE A REPUBLICAN, SHE’D BE PRESENTED AS THE FACE OF ALL REPUBLICANS: Montana Democratic Senate nominee has some strange video selfies.
HEADLINES FROM THE FOURTH BUSH TERM: Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. jets, claim swift gains in push to retake dam from militants.
STACY MCCAIN: My Official #Ferguson Commentary.
Here’s the thing: Stories like this happen all the time.
People get shot to death on a daily basis in America, and if I was required to express an opinion every time somebody died in a shooting, I’d never have time to comment on anything else. The only reason the the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has become The Biggest Story in History of the Whole Freaking World is that (a) Brown was black, and (b) the cop who shot him was white.
That’s it — the whole story.
Criminal suspects getting shot by cops isn’t really unusual. Brown was unarmed, but the policeman who shot him — identified as Darren Wilson — didn’t know that. There was a robbery, and Brown matched the description of a suspect. I don’t know the details of Brown’s encounter with Officer Wilson, and can’t say why he drew his gun and fired. If you forced me to speculate, I’d guess that Officer Wilson believed Brown might be armed, and that Brown made a sudden move that caused Officer Wilson to believe Brown might be reaching for a gun, at which point Officer Wilson made a split-second decision that turned out to be completely wrong. But that’s just speculation, as is nearly 100% of what idiots have been saying about this story.
LIZ SHELD: “It is becoming highly unlikely the civil unrest in Ferguson will provide an opportunity for a serious evaluation of the militarization of America’s police forces. Instead, the commentariat and their associates have tribalized into typical camps regarding the topic of law and order vs. race relations.”
WELL, THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU KNOW: Tunable Assembly of Nanoparticles for (Photovoltaic) Devices.
LIFE IN THE 21ST CENTURY: Woman Films Porn Inside Church, Gets Caught When Man Recognizes Her Boobs.
WELL, THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU KNOW: A Famous Art Museum Is Offering Everyone Remote Tours, Using Robots.
SOME EVIDENCE WE KEEP, SOME EVIDENCE WE DELETE: California Cops Seize Recordings Of Questionable Arrest, Claim They Have The ‘Right’ To Do So. Yeah, they didn’t “seize” the recordings, they stole them. They’re thieves and criminals and should be treated as such.
JAMES TARANTO AND MEGAN MCARDLE ARE ALWAYS TRYING TO TALK ME INTO JOINING THEIR SOUS-VIDE BORG: Sous-vide startup wants to take the tech-industry’s kitchen darling mainstream: Cooking food at low temperatures for a long time is the new sliced bread.
REPORT: Michael Brown was shot from the front, had marijuana in his system. Doesn’t prove the shooting was justified, but blows a lot of narratives all the same.
UH HUH: ‘Heard about it on the news’: WH ‘did not know’ about National Guard deployment in Ferguson. So did Democratic Governor Jay Nixon keep them in the dark on purpose? Or — and this may be worse — did it just not occur to anyone in Missouri to tell the White House what they were doing?
SURPRISE! THEY’RE A SOROS-FUNDED LEFTWING HATCHET CREW. Bryan Preston: Who Are ‘Texans for Public Justice,’ and Why Does Their Role in the Perry Case Matter?
IN THE MAIL: From Charles E. Gannon, Trial by Fire (Caine Riordan).
Plus, today only at Amazon: PowerAll Rosso Red/Black Portable Power Bank and Car Jump Starter, $79.77 (33% off).
And, also today only: “Gilmore Girls: The Complete Series Collection,” $53.99 (79% off).
K.C. JOHNSON: Four Straight Legal Victories For Campus Due Process. “In the fourth consecutive court ruling of its type (following Xavier, St. Joe’s, and Duke), a federal judge in Vermont has sided with an accused student in a due process lawsuit. In a previously below-the-radar filing, a student named Luke Benning sued Marlboro College after the school suspended him for three semesters for sexual assault. Last week, Judge William Sessions (a Clinton appointee) rejected the school’s motion to dismiss.”
BUT OF COURSE: Hillary Is Already Insisting On Staying In Presidential Suites. “The former first lady is already insisting on staying in the ‘presidential suite’ of the world’s finest hotels, typically traveling to them on nothing less than a $39 million private Gulfstream G450 jet before collecting a $250,000-plus speaking fee, a new report says. Just like the president, she sends an ‘advance’ team to check out her accommodations and speech set-up before she touches down, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which reviewed her standard speaking contract and other documents related to an upcoming Nevada visit.”
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: The Agony of Obama’s Middle East Policy.
As Nouri al-Maliki agreed to step aside earlier this week, and even though the U.S. doesn’t have a lot of confidence (“muted enthusiasm”) in his replacement, President Obama’s reluctant re-engagement with Iraq continued. It has been agonizingly painful for the man who made opposition to the war in Iraq the cornerstone of his national political appeal and who trumpeted his withdrawal from Iraq as a mission accomplished to recommit U.S. forces to the country, but President Obama has had little choice.
With Maliki is gone, his choices get harder. The biggest problem is going to involve the fight against ISIS. So far, the administration’s strategy seems to have three main components: bomb ISIS when it goes on the offensive beyond its current holdings, arm the Kurds, and use the carrot of more aid to persuade the Baghdad government to do a somewhat less awful job of running the country—less discrimination against Sunnis, less politicization of the army.
The trouble is that all these strategies so far are half hearted—and hedged about with the typical hesitations, restrictions and cautionary measures that are the hallmark of this president’s foreign policy style. Bomb ISIS—but not too much. Help the Kurds—a little. Those policies are more likely to produce a stalemate than anything else, and at this point, a stalemate is a huge ISIS win. Every day ISIS controls huge chunks of territory is another day that hundreds and thousands of radicalized militants will see the ‘caliph’ as their leader. It is another day of collecting taxes, training fighters, teaching bearers of Western passports to carry the fight back into their home countries and otherwise building the legend of ISIS. It is also another day in which ISIS can go on slaughtering moderate Sunni opponents in Syria.
The core problem with President Obama’s strategy isn’t, in this case, the ‘split the difference’ approach that undermined his administration’s effectiveness in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It’s about substance. The only way to beat ISIS and bring about some kind of stability in the Middle East is to reach out to conservative Sunni forces who favor stability. In Iraq, this would be the tribal leaders and military figures responsible for the Anbar Awakening. In Syria and Lebanon it is a combination of the remnants of the sane wing of the Syrian opposition with the forces who support people like Hariri in Lebanon. Ultimately, it is about working with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to stabilize the Sunni world.
This is probably the safest and the most practical course for American policy, but it’s likely that a solid U.S. commitment to this strategy would alienate Iran.
Valerie Jarrett wouldn’t like that, so it won’t happen.