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It Just Isn’t California’s Day

August 19th, 2014 - 2:22 pm


Decade, really. On top of this morning’s story that the Golden State’s recovery is already tarnished, we have this item out of LA:

From buckling sidewalks to potholed thoroughfares to storm drains that can’t handle a little rain, the infrastructure that holds the second-largest U.S. city together is suffering from years of deferred maintenance. Bringing pipes that deliver water to 3.9 million people up to snuff could cost $4 billion — more than half the city’s annual operating budget. The bill for repaving streets will be almost that much, according to estimates from a city consultant, and patching or replacing cracked sidewalks will require $640 million.

City Council members recently gave up on a proposal to ask voters for a sales-tax increase to finance street and sidewalk repairs, and Mayor Eric Garcetti has ruled out raising water rates anytime soon to upgrade pipelines.

“We’re in trouble,” said Jack Humphreville, the budget advocate for L.A.’s advisory neighborhood councils. His estimate, based on figures provided by the city, is that getting public works into good shape will take $10 billion to $15 billion. “This is no different from debt.”

Councilman Mitchell Englander added, “We can’t tax our way out of this,” since Los Angeles already has one of the highest sales taxes in the nation, and that’s on top of the state’s income tax, which is also among the nation’s highest.

California has trouble keeping the water inside the pipes, but they’ve got the money to build high-speed passenger rail connecting Palmdale to Merced.

Bad governance sucks.

The Hillary-Madonna Axis

August 19th, 2014 - 2:16 pm

Local reporters are making hay about the former SecState’s royal ways. Here’s Jon Ralston in Las Vegas:

We don’t have kings and queens in America, or at least we shouldn’t. But when I see the red carpet UNLV is rolling out for Hillary Clinton in two months I start to wonder. Unless you’re a mindless partisan, the details of that contract with the UNLV Foundation should disturb you. They were uncovered, as I said by the RJ’s Lara Myers, and published over the weekend. The contract reads as if Hillary is being given the, yes, royal treatment. Now it is bad enough that the UNLV Foundation folks agreed to that outrageous $225,000 fee as students struggle to make ends meet.

Hillary can’t seem to decide if she’s running against President Obama or with him, and her behavior indicates she might not be running — or that she’s entirely too out of touch to be running at all.

Most celebrities have a limited shelf life. A few do manage to age with as much grace and glamour as they began with — I’m thinking now of some of the old school greats like Lauren Bacall and Cary Grant. Kevin Costner is sticking mostly with age-appropriate roles, as is Helen Mirren. Neither is allowing their personal lives to detract from their public personas. There are other examples, but you get the idea.

They’re the exceptions though. Some stars get too weird (Michael Jackson) to keep their shine. Tom Cruise, despite being well into his 50s, keeps starring in increasingly-ridiculous sci-fi action flicks, when he ought to be letting some gray show through — and showing guys my age how to do it right. Superstars like Madonna reach a place where they can’t be told No, and cease being recognizable as fellow earthlings. Others burn out, some fade out.

Others — I’m thinking again of Madonna — have so much money and they just won’t go away no matter how much we’d like them to. Lady Gaga would like to go down that road, but she’s probably already past her shelf life.

In the second half of the 20th Century we had our first celebrity-presidents, starting with JFK, formalized by Reagan, and perfected by the Clintons. The Obamas are a whole new ballgame, taking the White House from mere celebrity to superstardom.

Hillary seems determined lately to follow that example, but she also seems to have too much of Madonna’s brittle remoteness to make it work.

The Worst Silver Lining Ever

August 19th, 2014 - 1:04 pm

Is the (lame) party almost over for the US economy? Jim Pethokoukis has a definite-maybe on that question:

What could go wrong? Well, a lot. Wall Street certainly has worries aplenty. The advance of the militant group ISIS in Iraq and Syria threatens important oil exports, which could jack up global oil prices. The eurozone economy isn’t growing at all and risks a triple-dip recession with knock-on effects here. Then there’s the Fed. It’s winding down its “quantitative easing” bond-buying program and is expected to begin raising interest rates at some point next year.

Now, none of those things is necessarily an existential threat to the recovery. But with slow-growth expansions — of whatever age — you just never know what’s going to screw them up. They’re just really fragile.

The good news is that this weak recovery doesn’t leave us all that far to fall.

The bad news is that the good news is a lie.

One of Our Commanders-in-Chief Is Missing!

August 19th, 2014 - 12:12 pm

At the Daily Beast, Stuart Stevens wants to know what happened to that “hopeful, eloquent man we elected in 2008.” Read:

Six years into the Obama presidency, it’s still true that no problem confounds America like black-white relations. In the country that defines itself by an assumption that no challenge is beyond our grasp, the quest for a post-racial society is like the elusive cure for an ever-transmuting disease. Great effort and time has produced grudging improvements in quality of life, but the sickness defies a cure. It is always there, ready to strike without warning.

Could Obama have done more to help heal the trauma of Brown’s death? He’s played a healing roll well in the past. If the president had stepped in early and reassured the Brown family, Ferguson, and the world that a fair and impartial investigation was under way, it is difficult to imagine it not helping. That would have required putting his personal credibility on the line as president and, yes, as our first African American president.

But clearly this president is uncomfortable in this role. For a political leader propelled to the heights by his ability to speak of race in transforming terms, he seems to have lost faith in his own voice.

The hope was a sham and the eloquence was scripted. Confronted with the realities of six years of bad policies and vindictive governance, I might conveniently lose my voice, too.

Sign “O” the Times

August 19th, 2014 - 11:00 am


Guess who’s lecturing us on how to deal with violent protestors? Egypt:

Egypt on Tuesday urged U.S. authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with racially charged demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri – echoing language Washington used to caution Egypt as it cracked down on Islamist protesters last year.


Bear Flag State Turns Bearish

August 19th, 2014 - 9:45 am

So it turns out that “California Comeback” was based on smoke and mirrors. IBD has the numbers:

This time last year, liberals around the country were trumpeting the big fiscal comeback of the Golden State in the wake of Jerry Brown’s giant tax increase — Proposition 30.

That initiative was passed by voters on Nov. 6, 2012, and it raised the personal income-tax rate on taxpayers making over $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for married couples to as high as 13% — which is the heaviest tax penalty on working and investing in the nation outside of New York City.

What was especially devious is that the tax hit was made retroactive to January 2012. Sacramento was so desperate for money that nobody seemed to mind this after-the fact taxation is really a form of confiscation.

In the short term, it worked and revenues climbed a whopping 21% because California’s top 2% had to pay taxes twice in 2013 — once on their current-year income and a supplemental check to pay for the retroactive tax on income from the year before.

And today? Sacramento’s personal income tax collections declined 11.1% last quarter, indicating that California is all out of tricks for disguising its serious spending problem. Besides, they can only hike taxes retroactively one time, right?


Why HRC is MIA for DNC

August 19th, 2014 - 8:24 am

Hillary Clinton

Michael Barone explains the former SecState and presumed 2016 contender’s absence from the campaign trail:

As Patrick Buchanan shows in his recent and characteristically vividly written book, “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority,” Nixon campaigned tirelessly for Republican candidates in the 1966 midterm elections.

That election produced big Republican gains, including 47 House seats (contrary to the obituaries written for the party after Barry Goldwater’s 1964 defeat), and helped elect Nixon president in 1968.

So why isn’t Clinton following Nixon’s example? For reasons as clear-eyed as her takedowns of Obama. First, she is in a stronger position to win her party’s nomination today than Nixon was 48 years ago.

Second, she, unlike Nixon in 1966 and like most sober-minded observers this year, doesn’t see this as a good year for her party.

The explanation might be simpler still. She could either Gulfstream her way to pre-scouted Presidential Suites in five-star hotels to give a brief speech for a quarter of a million dollars, or show up for hours at a grubby fundraiser hosted by some second-string candidate in one of those third-tier flyover states where the hotel has “Holiday” or “Comfort” in the name.

For a woman of Clinton’s stature, it’s a no-brainer.

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

August 19th, 2014 - 7:09 am


It’s difficult to imagine that a website which still doesn’t have a fully functioning backend might also have a security problem, but here you go:

After promising not to withhold government information over “speculative or abstract fears,” the Obama administration has concluded it won’t publicly disclose federal records that could shed light on the security of the government’s health care website because doing so could “potentially” allow hackers to break in.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied a request by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act for documents about the kinds of security software and computer systems behind the federally funded The AP requested the records late last year amid concerns that Republicans raised about the security of the website, which had technical glitches that prevented millions of people from signing up for insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

This goes to the heart of a tangentially related story about the White House’s obsession with keeping you in the dark:

The civic watchdog group Cause of Action on Monday sued the Obama administration, claiming that presidential attorneys have interfered improperly in the release of public documents under the landmark FOIA law in an effort to curb the release of derogatory information about the White House.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the nonpartisan Cause of Action, names 12 federal agencies that the group says slowed the release of documents so officials could consult with White House attorneys under a review process established in spring 2009. FOIA analysts say this practice never occurred in prior administrations.

Prior administrations weren’t nearly so …imaginative… in the execution of executive powers — which is really saying something.

And then there’s this item, which isn’t directly related to ♡bamaCare!!! or to the White House, but which might prove telling nonetheless:

One of the biggest hospital groups in the US revealed Monday that it suffered a monumental security breach, which possibly led to 4.5 million patients’ data being stolen, according to Reuters.

Community Health Systems, which oversees 206 hospitals in 29 states, said the stolen information includes Social Security numbers, patient names and addresses, telephone numbers, and birth dates, according to Reuters. This is the largest known attack to involve hospital patient information since the US government began tracking these types of data breaches in 2009.

“One possible goal of this attack is to facilitate future targeted attacks,” Elysium Digital data security expert Joseph Calandrino told CNET.

Cyber security — which the Administration is keeping deliberately quite secret — is going to become an even bigger problem, as the ♡bamaCare!!! goal of getting everybody off of job-based insurance and onto the exchanges becomes more real. In the case of, the residents of 37 states will eventually have their records stored at a single digital location, the security of which the White House won’t discuss.

That’s one great big fail in the making.

Meet Amanda Curtis

August 19th, 2014 - 6:17 am

This is the Democrats’ real live Senate candidate in Montana, which is enough to make me feel slightly less bad about Todd Akin.

Thought for the Day

August 19th, 2014 - 5:05 am

Play It Again, Rog

August 18th, 2014 - 3:00 pm



It’s common for brain surgery patients to stay awake. That’s how surgeons know everything is going smoothly, after all. When concert violinist Roger Frisch started suffering from tremors that are only a problem when he’s playing, however, Mayo Clinic doctors had to resort to some rather unusual technology to find out if they were installing the necessary brain pacemaker correctly. The surgical crew gave Frisch a bow equipped with a motion-tracking sensor and asked him to fiddle during the operation; the team knew it had electrodes in the right spot when the musician’s performance was steady.

I’m speechless.

News You Can Use

August 18th, 2014 - 1:55 pm

Facebook is testing a [SATIRE] tag for their hard-of-reading users:

Here’s how it works: If a friend posts an Onion link to his or her Facebook feed, click on it for a laugh. Once you’re done at The Onion and come back to your desktop or laptop browser, Facebook will have generated three related articles in a box directly below whatever you’d clicked on. In the case of an Onion link, that box will usually contain at least one article from the same site, only that article’s headline will begin with the word “satire” in brackets. As of press time, we were able to duplicate this result on three different computers from different accounts, one of which is shown above.

We can only assume this was implemented as a reaction to users believing that Onion links are nonfiction reports (you can lose hours flipping through Literally Unbelievable, a site that catalogs such boneheaded moments), but we’re not sure what compelled Facebook to go so far as to assert editorial control. Maybe the company still feels bad about how users reacted to its intentional News Feed manipulation from 2012.

We’ve probably all been suckered on occasion by a good satire. One of the best is Duffel Blog, which took me in for days the first time I came across one of their stories. But that’s the part of what makes great satire great.

There are three levels of satire. The first is simple sarcasm, which is saying something outrageous that you don’t believe, in such an obvious manner, that everybody knows you’re kidding. The next higher level of satire is to say something outrageous you don’t mean, in a serious enough manner, that people think you might actually believe it. But the highest level of satire, and the most difficult one to produce, is to say something outrageous, in such a clever way, that people nod their heads in agreement with the outrageous thing.

Discovering you’ve been taken in by great satire produces a momentary but unique emotion — equal parts embarrassment and delight, which even the Germans probably don’t have a word for. Facebook would take away that moment.

Sign “O” the Times

August 18th, 2014 - 12:48 pm


Jonathon Trugman has today’s ominous observation:

Crude prices are down 10 percent since mid-June, when global tensions mushroomed.

Yes, oil continues to fall right smack in the middle of summer driving season.
It falls despite the US posting a respectable second-quarter GDP number.

It falls while Israel and Hamas are in an all-out war and the rest of the Middle East is burning and being taken over by violent Islamist extremists.

Well, here is one fact that we do know: During recessions and weak growth, energy prices do fall.

Look no further than during our own financial crisis; crude got down into the high $30s a barrel at the end of 2008.

Perhaps nobody is buying the first look at second-quarter GDP at 4 percent and are awaiting further downward revisions.

Partly the decrease is the result of Saudi Arabia increasing their oil output. As the low-cost producer of crude, they can keep the taps open at prices that would put many other producers out of business. So maybe the Saudis are trying to keep oil prices low enough to keep the global economy floating; maybe they’re trying to kill fracking in the womb. Maybe both. Although there’s an argument to be made that it’s impossible to keep the global economy afloat without fracking, because fracking production and jobs are keeping the American economy afloat, and without the American economy, there really isn’t a global economy. But that’s an aside.

The broader point is that for any product, demand only has to outstrip supply by a little, to cause prices to rise by a lot — frantic buyers get frantic, yo. Furthermore, oil prices almost always move in lockstep with international friction, and for the same reason. When tensions flair, buyers want to get their hands on the sweet crude now, before somebody nukes the Straits of Hormuz or before Russia gets sanctioned, or what have you. It’s even worse with a Progressive Democrat in the White House, because there’s no telling what domestic or offshore oil production he’ll shut down in a fit of smart diplomacy.

So, yeah, the US is in what is supposed to be peak summer demand while coming off a hot Q2 GDP increase, while Russia continues its crapstorm in Ukraine, Israel is at war again, and all the rest.

And oil prices are down 10%, as you can see for yourself.

Something doesn’t add up — but who are you gonna trust, the Federal government’s statistics or your own lyin’ eyes?

Name That Party!

August 18th, 2014 - 11:05 am


You might have read about how Missouri Governor Jay Nixon snubbed President Ditherton Wiggleroom. If not, here’s the report from St. Louis station KMOX:

Missouri’s governor on Monday ordered the National Guard to a St. Louis suburb convulsed by protests over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen, and he reportedly did so without first telling the White House.

Gov. Jay Nixon said the National Guard would help “in restoring peace and order” to Ferguson, where protests over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer entered their second week. Police said they acted Sunday night in response to gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails.

“These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes,” Nixon said in a statement. [Emphaisis added]

What you might not have read, because it wasn’t in the report, is that Nixon is a Democrat.

Thought for the Day

August 18th, 2014 - 10:17 am

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

August 18th, 2014 - 9:41 am


“I feel like I’m in labor all of the time,” Reed said.

The 49-year-old single mother says she hasn’t stopped bleeding since February. She has nearly a dozen growths on her uterus and ovaries. And one twisted ovary, she says, gives her pains comparable to child birth. A hysterectomy and cyst removal would fix Reed’s problems, but the surgery costs $30,000.

Until this month, Reed was listed as having no health insurance. But she has paid seven months’ worth of premiums to Nevada Health Link, the market place through which consumers buy subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s like paying for car insurance and getting into an accident to find out you don’t have coverage,” Reed said.

It bears repeating: Coverage does not equal care.

Perry Charges “thin but clarifying”

August 18th, 2014 - 8:36 am

I figured Salon would be the first major publication to find a writer willing to defend the trumped up “charges” against the Texas governor for using his constitutional veto power — but no, it was The New Republic and Alec MacGillis.

But regardless of how strong the charges against Perry are, it is worth noting how fitting they are. Put simply, the case against Perry points to an aspect of his political persona that is well known in Texas but has too often been overlooked in the national portrayal of Perry. On the national stage, Perry is alternately depicted as a hardened ideologue—the states’ rights gunslinger who openly flirted with secession—and as a bumbling buffoon who watched his high-octane 2012 presidential campaign flame out in a moment of debate-stage befuddlement. Both of these caricatures miss Perry’s essence. As I argued in a 2011 profile of him for this magazine, Perry is both more conniving and less ideologically-motivated than the national perception of him would have one believe. He is, at heart, a political operator and a striver who has wielded the many levers of power available to him as governor of the second-largest state less to advance a coherent conservative agenda than for his own aggrandizement and that of his cronies.


The Great White Northeast

August 18th, 2014 - 7:26 am


At some point when economic and political theory are put into practice, their legal realities must square with physical reality. The Left’s obsession with outlawing affordable energy might face just such a moment as soon as this winter. Jazz Shaw explains:

During the dog days of summer (which haven’t been all that doggy in the Northeast this year) it’s not very popular to sit and speculate about the winter months ahead, but the people responsible for keeping the lights – and the heat – turned on have to do it. One of these folks is Joe Bastardi of WeatherBELL Analytics, and he’s looking ahead with some trepidation. Joe is reading the meteorological tea leaves and sees the potential for another round of heavy snowfall and crippling cold temperatures coming our way. And he also notes that our net energy production, in the wake of new EPA carbon regulations, is actually declining from the previous curve at a time when bad weather puts full load demand on the system. During an interview with Wall Street Journal Live, he voices some of these concerns. (Check out the video. An excerpt follows.)

Read the excerpt. Watch the video.

They’re… chilling.

Required Reading

August 18th, 2014 - 6:19 am

For absolutely no good reason whatsoever, Mark Steyn’s regular column fell off my radar a while back. Here’s what got it back on:

As for what’s happened in the days since the shooting, I’ve written a lot in recent months about the appalling militarization of the police in America, and I don’t have much to add. But I did get a mordant chuckle out of this line from Kathy Shaidle on the green-camouflaged officers pictured above:

Shouldn’t a ‘Ferguson’ camo pattern be, like, 7/11 & Kool-Aid logos?

Indeed. To camouflage oneself in the jungles of suburban America, one should be clothed in Dunkin’ Donuts and Taco Bell packaging. A soldier wears green camo in Vietnam to blend in. A policeman wears green camo in Ferguson to stand out – to let you guys know: We’re here, we’re severe, get used to it.

This is not a small thing. The point about “the thin blue line” is that it’s blue for a reason. As I wrote a couple of months ago:

“The police” is a phenomenon of the modern world. It would be wholly alien, for example, to America’s Founders. In the sense we use the term today, it dates back no further than Sir Robert Peel’s founding of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. Because Londoners associated the concept with French-style political policing and state control, they were very resistant to the idea of a domestic soldiery keeping them in line. So Peel dressed his policemen in blue instead of infantry red, and instead of guns they had wooden truncheons.

So, when the police are dressed like combat troops, it’s not a fashion faux pas, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are. Forget the armored vehicles with the gun turrets, forget the faceless, helmeted, anonymous Robocops, and just listen to how these “policemen” talk. Look at the video as they’re arresting the New York Times and Huffington Post reporters. Watch the St Louis County deputy ordering everyone to leave, and then adding: “This is not up for discussion.”

Read the whole thing.

Twenty years ago almost in the wake of Ruby Ridge, NRA President Wayne LaPierre called federal agents “jack-booted thugs” in their enforcement of gun laws. The left reacted in its typical mock horror. But that thug attitude has trickled down from the BATF, along with billions in military equipment, to local police forces across the nation.

The horror we feel now should be real, and it should be felt by everybody.

Amazon Enters Retail — Again

August 18th, 2014 - 5:18 am

Amazon is introducing its own mobile card reader and payments system for small business:

Similar to Amazon’s strategy in many of its businesses, the company aims to compete on price in the mobile payment arena. For customers who sign up for the service by Oct. 31, Amazon will take as its fee 1.75 percent of each payment processed, or each “swipe” of the card, a special rate that will last until Jan. 1, 2016. For people who sign up after Oct. 31, Amazon will take a service fee of 2.5 percent of each payment processed.

The first $10 in transaction fees will be credited back to the customer, essentially paying for the card reader.

That’s below most of its competitors’ rates. Square takes a fee of 2.75 percent of each transaction. PayPal Here takes 2.7 percent of each transaction and Intuit’s GoPayment rates start at 1.75 percent per transaction if businesses pay a $19.95 monthly rate or 2.4 percent of each transaction without a monthly payment.

That’s a helluva good deal from Amazon for small retailers, made possible by the company’s huge cash flow.

Friday Night Videos

August 15th, 2014 - 10:32 pm

Talking Heads explores the casual cruelty of big brothers in an innocently catchy little song with a visually arresting video because… well… who else would?

Thought for the Day

August 15th, 2014 - 6:01 pm

The Wandering Jew

August 15th, 2014 - 1:23 pm

Time magazine has a touching piece by longtime blogging favorite Karol Markowicz on how growing antisemitism is causing her world to shrink:

I wore a Star of David around my neck the entire time I lived in Scotland. I think I’d be uncomfortable doing the same now. The rage emanating from Europe toward Jews is white hot. A synagogue in Surrey was defaced. Another synagogue was vandalized in Miami of all places. But what’s lacking when it happens in Europe is any sense of outrage from the Europeans. In Miami the atmosphere was “how could this happen here?” In Europe there is no such question. Of course it happens there. In France, when synagogues get firebombed, as they do with alarming frequency, there isn’t a national movement to say they won’t stand for it. They very much stand for it. French Jews are the scapegoats for the real problems in France, between the French and those the French call “the Arabs,” even though “the Arabs” have lived there for decades and should just be French by now. Forget Turkey, a country I once enjoyed visiting. They went off the rails years ago. It’s an election year in Turkey now, so obviously Israel is the top issue in a country with 9% unemployment.

The tragic irony is that one of the world’s most cosmopolitan peoples is increasingly isolated to just two countries.

Sailing the Good Ship QE4

August 15th, 2014 - 12:04 pm

L.A. Little says that despite the taper, there might still be more quantitative easing to come:

Looking back at the SPDR Gold Trust and iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF chart, there was one period during this ongoing experiment that is noteworthy and that is when both bonds and gold exploded higher during the first six months of 2011. Looking back, we know that QE1 underwent a tapering phase throughout late 2009 – 2010. But, the Fed reversed course in late 2010 and introduced another round of QE — this time focusing specifically on Treasury debt to push interest rates lower. By 2011, bonds and gold were leaping higher driving bond yields to historic lows.

If we fast forward to today, once more we are tapering again and QE3 should be finished up this year but if we look over to the gold and bond markets, both seem to be suggesting that our three experiments with QE may not be the end of it.

We’re addicted to stimulus.

Required Listening

August 15th, 2014 - 11:47 am

I don’t normally link to this kind of thing, but I saw it earlier at Instapundit and figured I’d give it a listen. Fast-forward to the 0:42 mark of Joe Scarborough on Hugh Hewitt.

If you don’t want to listen, here’s my quick & dirty transcript of Morning Joe himself arguing that Obama is “either politically tone deaf or he just doesn’t give a damn.”

Scarborough: This is a President who does go out of his way to show that he’s not paying attention to what anybody says, he’s going to do exactly what he wants to do and he’s going to be stubborn about it. His, he’s either politically tone deaf or he just doesn’t give a damn. And I, I tend to believe, based on everything I’ve heard from people who work inside the White House, and we’ve got a lot of friends there, based on my friends who are senior Democratic senators, this President’s checked out.

Hewitt: Well he is.

Scarborough: [Unintelligible] I hear it time and time again from his close political allies, this man wants to be an ex-President. He doesn’t want to be there anymore.

Hewitt: He wants to get to his Carter Center phase, but he’s got two-and-a-half years.

I’m not going to make a habit of correcting Hugh Hewitt, but it might be more proper to say that we have got two-and-a-half years.

Iran: Negotiations with the US Are Futile

August 15th, 2014 - 10:39 am


In a speech to prominent diplomats from around the world, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today that he firmly believes further negotiations with the United States should not go ahead. Iran is willing to cooperate with any country in the world, he said, “with two exceptions: the Zionist regime and the U.S.”

Though he did not go so far as to forbid the Iranian delegation from continuing nuclear negotiations with the U.S., he warned against the dangers of engaging with the U.S. on all other international matters.

Five-plus years of wishful thinking just got sand kicked in its face.

Bush kicked this can for eight years, and it was our “bad luck” that the next President turned out to be an even more devoted can-kicker. A nuclear Iran can probably be contained, but it’s going to require extending our nuclear umbrella over some rather unsavory characters, and a nuclear resolve we haven’t seen (or needed) by this country since the Reagan Administration.

Our aging nuclear forces and shrinking defense budgets might make that… problematical.

Required Reading

August 15th, 2014 - 9:22 am

David Ignatius is about as level-headed a writer on foreign affairs as you’re likely to find in the American press. So when he says the IS/Caliphate has “staying power,” you have to take notice. Here’s the conclusion to his latest WaPo column:

My takeaway from this unusual briefing was that the Obama administration needs a broad strategy that gradually degrades this group back to its earlier size. That won’t be quick or easy: Baghdadi has benefited from all of the failures of rival Muslim and secular revolutionaries in the Arab Spring. The Islamic State won’t implode because of its own mistakes. It will have to be fought, patiently and subtly.

Read the whole thing, of course.

Ignatius gives me hope that President Obama’s “months” long bombing campaign might be a good first step against the Islamic State, which Ignatius reports has international fighters “going home” to countries throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North America, “with or without orders, to start cells.” But the next step will have to be rallying Arab armies (the Kurds can’t do it all). Some — many? — of those Arab soldiers might prove sympathetic to the Caliphate, as we’re seeing indications of in Lebanon.

The second step might require more than just American “advisors” working against IS forces, which doesn’t seem like the thing Obama has the stomach for — he’s almost always preferred his “death from above” approach to dealing with terrorists. I like a dead terrorist as much as the next person, but that approach does have its limits, especially as the Caliphate ensconces itself into cities.

The third step (it’s a concurrent one, actually) is heightened domestic security against, yes, Muslims. While I trust the FBI probably has a good handle on who and where the bad guys are, the Administration seems wedded to its Kumbaya approach.

But we allowed the IS to fester for years, and Obama threw away our presence in Iraq and now lack the means to counter it directly. So now we’ll have to counter them here.

Clinton Cruising to a Crash?

August 15th, 2014 - 8:16 am

I try not to pay much-if-any attention to the polls this far out, but the latest on Hillary Clinton holds some interest:

Clinton remains ahead of potential Republican rivals including Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. But recent gaffes by the former secretary of state have helped close the gap.

For example, Clinton leads Christie 47 percent to 41 percent with 12 percent of voters undecided. In April, she led 53-42 with 5 percent undecided, and in February she enjoyed a 58-37 lead against the governor with 6 percent undecided.

She’s seen her cushion against Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush, erode to 48 percent to 41 percent with 10 percent undecided. That’s down from 55-39 with 6 percent undecided in April.

And against Paul, her lead has shrunk to 48 percent to 42 percent with 10 percent undecided from 54-40 and 6 percent undecided in April.

Foreign policy helped kill the GOP in 2006 and ’08, and it looks like it might do the same to the Democrats in 2014 and ’16.

So what does a winning foreign policy look like, politically here and on the ground over there?

News You Can Use

August 15th, 2014 - 7:11 am


Rachel Brothers sued and won against her former employer, where she’d been bullied for not being black enough:

Rachel Brothers was hired by the Black Educators Association in 2006 and almost immediately came under fire from subordinate Catherine Collier who, according to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, made it clear she thought Brothers was too young and too light-skinned to represent the race-based organization to the community, The Chronicle Herald reports.

Other employees joined in on the bullying, with one telling Brothers she should “go work for whitey,” reports.

But Collier was the instigator of much of the abuse directed at Brothers. It’s worth noting Collier had interviewed for the job that ended up going to Brothers.

The content of Collier’s character could not be reached for comment.

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August 15th, 2014 - 6:11 am