Cancun The Conference of States Parties—the first meeting of nations that have ratified the controversial Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)—wrapped up in Cancun on Thursday. Because it’s wisely not ratified the ATT, the U.S. was there as an observer.
So was I. And on Thursday, I got to observe as the U.S. got played.
Nominally, the ATT is about controlling the illicit arms traffic, and about encouraging nations to show responsibility in whom they sell arms to. On its face, that’s a sensible idea. What isn’t so sensible is believing that a treaty will force nations to do what they evidently don’t want to do.
For example, the ATT will supposedly bring transparency to the arms trade by requiring nations to declare their arms imports and exports. Well, if they want to do that, they can: They don’t need a treaty to impose the responsibility.
The entire treaty is littered with similar paradoxes, and it’s further poisoned by the overweening tendency of the progressive activists who support it to spend most of their time blaming the U.S. (and Israel, of course) for the world’s problems.
The Senate, under the leadership of Republicans Jerry Moran and Jim Inhofe, has made it clear that the ATT isn’t wanted there, and the House, led by Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, has been just as inhospitable. As a result, the U.S., a mere treaty signatory, didn’t have a vote at Cancun.
It wouldn’t have mattered if we did. When the U.S. had an opening chance to object in public to the conference’s rules, we didn’t take it. After that, decisions were taken by majority vote. Of course, voting isn’t everything: the U.S.’s voice is more important than a single vote.
Or so I thought. But not a lot at Cancun went our way. The CSP adopted a modified version of the UN’s assessment scale to fund its activities, meaning that, if we’re ever silly enough to ratify the treaty, we’ll be on the hook for 22 percent of its costs.
Against behind-the scenes objections by the U.S., the CSP also adopted majority rule decision-making. And it put the treaty’s secretariat in Geneva, where they will likely be housed with those of the U.N., even though the U.S. has always wanted to keep the treaty’s institutions separate.
But the kicker came on Thursday as the conference was wrapping up. One of the U.S.’s biggest objectives was to make sure that the secretariat stuck strictly to administrative duties, and didn’t become a headquarters for expanding, re-interpreting, and implementing the treaty.
Late Thursday, the president of the conference suddenly presented a new program of work for the secretariat, a program that wasn’t administrative at all, including “collating best practices on the implementation and operation of the Treaty,” and “identifying lessons learnt and need for adjustments in implementation.” That’s exactly what the U.S. didn’t want the secretariat to do.
One of the perks of covering the alcohol beat is the occasional complimentary sample that arrives by mail. It’s usually a medium-sized package containing, at most, a 750-ml. bottle. Often it’s smaller: A sample of the delicious Chopin wheat spirit Single was 375 ml. in size, Woody Creek vodka from Colorado measured a mere 100 ml., and Wild Turkey’s Master’s Keep came in a plastic flask (and good to the last drop). So when the interns showed up to my office carrying two enormous cardboard boxes, I was intrigued—as were the interns.
I’d been expecting a sample of Cachaça 51, the leading brand of the Brazilian spirit distilled from fermented sugar cane, but because of a misunderstanding with the distributor, I ended up with an entire case—12 bottles of the stuff. Suddenly I was like those midlevel gangsters handing out swag to my associates. (Next week it’s furs!) Everyone seemed excited and grateful to receive a bottle, but was anyone quite sure what to do with it?
I was reminded of a line from David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948): "From time to time, my friends have said to me, ‘Dave, I have been given a bottle of vodka. What the (mustn’t say the naughty word) do I do with it?’” Embury’s suggestion: “If, therefore, you need grain alcohol to dilute your tincture of iodine or to rub on your back and the corner drug store is closed, just use vodka. Of course the vodka is half distilled water but that won’t harm your back at all.”
Needless to say, he was not a fan of vodka, which, since 1949, has been defined by the government as “neutral spirits distilled from any material at or above 190 proof, reduced to … 80 proof [or 40 percent alcohol], and, after such reduction in proof, so treated as to be without distinctive character, aroma, or taste.” But as it turns out, there are a good many people out there who prefer not to taste the booze in their booze. In that respect, vodka is the most versatile (mixable) of spirits.
Like vodka, cachaça is colorless. On the other hand, it’s distilled at less than 190 proof, lending the spirit more odor, flavor, and character. And, as Smithsonian magazine reporter Natasha Geiling explains, “because cachaça is distilled from raw sugarcane, it retains a grassy, sulfurous, earthy quality that rum lacks—rum, by turn, is sweeter with more notes of vanilla.” So what can we make with it?
The immediate answer is the caipirinha, a distinctly Brazilian concoction involving cachaça, sugar, and lime, served on the rocks. The first one I ever tasted was at the late Café Atlantico here in the District, a South American outpost of the José Andres empire. The lime and sugar were so thoroughly muddled that it tasted like limeade. Three limeades later, and it was Carnival.
More recently at home, I made a caipirinha based on the Cachaça 51 recipe. It calls for practically one lime per glass and I could have added a bit more sugar—then again, the more sugar you add, the more it tastes like limeade, and suddenly the kids are wondering why Dad is trying to get the family to form a conga line.
Last Friday, I moderated a panel at Hudson Institute titled, “Why is Qassem Suleimani Smiling? The Iran Deal and Sanctions Relief for Terrorists.” (See video of the event here.) The panel’s focus was not speculative—for instance, how the regime might spend the signing bonus promised by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or how the deal might moderate the regime, or reconfigure Iranian society—but rather looked at the regime’s actual behavior over the last 36 years. In particular, the panel discussed Iran’s acts of terror against Americans, especially servicemen and women.
The panel included three career, now retired, U.S. army officers, all with first-hand knowledge of Iran’s war against America—Captain (retired) Michael Pregent, Colonel (retired) Derek Harvey, and General (retired) Jack Keane. Pregent, a former intelligence officer and now executive director of Veterans Against the Deal, talked about the physical suffering and mental anguish that the Iranian regime has brought to American homes (here’s heart-wrenching testimony from Robert Bartlett, a combat veteran who was severely wounded in Iraq). Harvey, another former intelligence officer who worked with General David Petraeus in Iraq, and has concentrated on the Iran account for two decades, described not only Iranian strategy and tactics but also the character of particular IRGC officers, like Suleimani himself. Keane, a retired four-star who served for 37 years, filled in the big picture, explaining what it would mean for American interests if Iran came to control the Persian Gulf.
The three panelists provided both interesting details and larger perspectives with which to understand the ongoing conflict with Iran. I only wish that we’d had more time to delve further into the issues. For instance, I’d have liked to hear more details of Harvey’s interrogations of IRGC officers. And is it true that American forces once had Suleimani in their crosshairs, but our political leaders decided against killing a man responsible for killing so many Americans? As Keane explained, both Republican as well as Democratic administrations have neglected to punch back against the Iranians, leading to where we are now.
For me, the most striking observation was when Keane noted that while it’s true the Iranians do not now pose the same sort of threat to America that the Soviets did during the Cold War, the Soviets also did not attack American forces, and civilians, directly, as the Iranians have done since 1979. It’s worth considering how the JCPOA, and a multi-billion dollar cash windfall, might further embolden an aggressive regime that’s been making war against the United States for more than three decades.
Donald Trump has a new online video ad that hits Republican rival Jeb Bush for the former Florida governor's statement that immigrating illegally to the United States is an "act of love." The ad, available on Trump's Instagram feed, features audio and video of Bush speaking about the issue of illegal immigrants.
While Bush was speaking about fathers and mothers who come to the U.S. to improve economic standing of their families, the Trump ad conflates these people with those illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes.
"Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony," said Bush at an April 2014 event at the George H.W. Bush presidential library. "It's an act of love." The audio plays over photos of some recently convicted murderers who were illegal immigrants to the U.S. and who had been deported or referred to authorities before their killings.
"Love?" reads the text in Trump's ad. "Forget love it's time to get tough!" Watch the ad below:
A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on Aug 31, 2015 at 9:16am PDT
Here's the fuller context of Bush's remarks last year:
"There are means by which we can control our border better than we have. And there should be penalties for breaking the law," he added. "But the way I look at this -- and I'm going to say this, and it'll be on tape and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families -- the dad who loved their children -- was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families."
Update: The Bush campaign has responded to Trump. "While Donald Trump was still supporting liberal, soft-on-crime politicians, Jeb Bush accumulated an eight-year record of cracking down on violent criminals as governor of Florida. Mr. Trump's immigration plan is not conservative, would violate the constitution and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, which he will likely attempt to pay for through massive tax hikes," said Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell in an email.
Illinois will happily take your money and sell you a lottery ticket but, as the AP reports,
Without a state budget agreement two months into the new fiscal year, there’s no authority for the state comptroller to cut checks over $25,000. That means smaller winnings can be paid out, but not the larger lottery wins.
Now, the state has a monopoly on these little games of chance. Set up one, yourself, and it will send people out to arrest you. Then it will charge you with a crime and attempt to put you in jail.
Out in the realm of free enterprise there are these things called casinos. You can walk into one, put down some money on one of many types of bets, and if you win, the house pays. You can ask Mr. Trump and he’ll tell you that this is the way it works.
But the state? Well, it plays by different rules. Or no rules at all. But the Illinois winners shouldn’t feel too bad. The money they paid for winning tickets went to a good cause.
A new poll of likely Republican caucusgoers in Iowa finds Donald Trump and Ben Carson tied for the lead at 23 percent support. The Monmouth University poll is the first since July to show Trump not in the sole lead position in Iowa.
Behind Trump and Carson in the poll is Carly Fiorina at 10 percent support. All three top candidates are not officeholders and only one, Fiorina, has ever run for public office before.
The remaining Republican candidates, all current or former elected officials, poll in the single digits, with Ted Cruz at nine percent, Scott Walker at seven percent, Jeb Bush at five percent, John Kasich and Marco Rubio at four percent each,Rand Paul at three percent, and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum each at two percent.
Carson appears to be doing better than Trump among evangelical voters, winning 29 percent of them compared to Trump's 23 percent, while Trump does better with non-evangelicals, 24 percent to Carson's 18 percent. While both candidates are doing about equally well with "very conservative" and "somewhat conservative" voters, "moderate to liberal" voters prefer Trump by a significant amount, 26 percent to Carson's 18 percent and Fiorina's 13 percent. Women also prefer Carson to Trump, and for men it's the other way around.
I've suggested before that 2016 is beginning to look more and more like 1968. This is true in terms of the presidential contests—on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is Eugene McCarthy, Hillary Clinton is Lyndon Johnson, Joe Biden will be Hubert Humphrey, and (the big question!) Elizabeth Warren could be Bobby Kennedy; and on the Republican side, where Donald Trump is "a kind of cartoon version of Richard Nixon."
But the reason our politics looks like 1968 is that our broader social condition is increasingly reminiscent of 1968. This was brought home in remarks Saturday by Houston district attorney Devon Anderson, after the shooting of Harris County sheriff's deputy Darren Goforth.
"Anderson...said the criticism of police had gotten out of hand: 'It is time for the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement,' she told reporters at a news conference."
"The silent majority." The phrase is back, and rightly so. I'm pretty sure the silent majority does support law enforcement, and will speak up. But isn't it time for political leaders to speak for and support the silent majority? Donald Trump claims to do so. Can't the Republican party do better? Won't some other Republican candidate—a current contender, or someone not yet in the race—emerge to speak convincingly for middle America?
After all, when GOP candidates did aim to speak for the silent majority, they won 5 of 6 straight presidential elections (1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988). Since then they've lost the popular vote 5 of 6 times—with the one exception being when George W. Bush came closest to being a silent-majority-type candidate in 2004. Obviously, the phrase won't be enough. There will have to be a re-thinking of Republican and conservative orthodoxy, something both Nixon and Reagan were willing to do. I'd prefer more of a Reaganite than a Nixonian re-thinking. But either way, the time is right and the moment is now.
Barack Obama is personally hurt when people call him an anti-Semite, the president said in an interview with the Jewish newspaper the Forward. Obama says "there not a smidgen of evidence for" the accusation.
The editor of the Forward asked the president, "[D]oes it hurt you personally when people say that you’re anti-Semitic?"
"Oh, of course. And there’s not a smidgen of evidence for it, other than the fact that there have been times where I’ve disagreed with a particular Israeli government’s position on a particular issue. And I’ve said before, and I will continue to say, that if you care deeply about Israel, then you have an obligation to be honest about what you think, the same way you would with any friend. And we don’t do anybody, any friend, a service by just rubber-stamping whatever decisions they make, even if we think that they’re damaging in some fashion," the president said.
"And the good news is that the people I’m close to, the people who know me, including people who disagree with me on this issue, would never even think about making those statements. I get probably more offended when I hear members of my administration who themselves are Jewish being attacked. You saw this historically sometimes in the African American community, where there’s a difference on policy and somebody starts talking about, well, you’re not black enough, or you’re selling out. And that, I think, is always a dangerous place to go.
"These are hard issues, and worthy of serious debate. But you don’t win the debate by suggesting that the other person has bad motives. That’s I think not just consistent with fair play; I think it’s consistent with the best of the Jewish tradition."
A week ago, I suggested that—contrary to conventional wisdom and perhaps even to first-blush common sense—the GOP field might benefit from one or more new candidates. One of the well-qualified dark horses I mentioned was third-term Rep. Mike Pompeo from Wichita, Kansas.
Pompeo's been a leader in fighting the Iran deal, and has kept on battling over this recess. Recently he criticized a former Kansas Democratic congressman, Jim Slattery, who's been campaigning for the deal and (following President Obama's lead) slandering its opponents. Pompeo put out a release that got good coverage in the local papers. It would be nice if lots of other Republicans were as aggressive in making the case against the deal—and in turning up the heat on its defenders.
Here's Pompeo's statement:
“Congressman Slattery is a good man, but he is tragically naïve for supporting the Iranian nuclear deal. The deal provides tens of billions of dollars for the Islamic Republic to expand its terror regime. Rep. Slattery places his hopes for this ‘historic opportunity’ in Iranian goodwill – but they are already cheating even before the deal is signed. Rep. Slattery says we ‘can’t let perfection be the enemy of the good,’ but the truth is that President Obama didn’t get ‘good’ in this deal, he simply surrendered to the Ayatollahs.
“Moreover Slattery suggested, according to one article, that opponents of the deal were doing so in part to ‘move the American Jewish vote and campaign contributions to the Republican column.’ This suggestion is disgusting, borderline anti-Semitic and deeply repugnant. Rep. Slattery should apologize immediately for even hinting that those of us against this are doing so on behalf of a ‘cadre of political operatives’ and for the purpose of currying favor with the so-called Israeli lobby.
“Opposition to this deal is only increasing, and includes over 60% of Americans and leading Democrats, including Senator Chuck Schumer. This broad opposition is solely based on the dangers to America presented by this deal. This kind of language, hinting that Jews are in control of American policy, has a long, nasty history and Rep. Slattery knows it. Using such terms as a political weapon is beneath the dignity of a good Christian man like Rep. Slattery. He should correct his statement and apologize to every Kansan, and indeed, every American, today.”
Indeed, Pompeo hasn't limited himself to taking on defenders of the deal in the U.S. Here's a report from the London Sunday Express of an interview Pompeo gave criticizing the British government for making the same "specious" arguments the American administration has been employing:
StemExpress is the bio-medical company featured in a number of the undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress in connection with its Planned Parenthood exposé on fetal organ and tissue harvesting. StemExpress made several changes to its website last week, some cosmetic but others more substantial. One significant change was to remove references to "financial profits" available to clinics who provide "raw materials", the term StemExpress uses for blood and tissue "usually discarded during procedures," including abortions. The change came during the same week the Center for Medical Progress released a new video showing the CEO of StemExpress acknowledging that a clinic's relationship with StemExpress can be "financially beneficial.
The page contained several references to financial benefits available to clinics: "Financial Profits", "providing a financial benefit to your clinic", "contributing to the fiscal growth of your clinic", "Financially Profitable", and "StemExpress partner program that fiscally rewards clinics." Stem Express also promised "complete professionalism and source anonymity."
Recently, however, the page was revised and now appears as follows with all references to finances removed:
In the undercover video released last week, StemExpress CEO has the following exchange with one of the actors in the video (via Daily Caller):
“We’re going into it knowing that it has to be financially beneficial for you,” an undercover actor posing as a fetal tissue buyer tells StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer in the video.
“Yeah,” Dyer agrees. “Yeah, and both of us for sure.”
This is the first time Clinton, the former secretary of state and longtime presumptive front-runner, has dropped below the 50 percent mark in four polls conducted by the Register and Bloomberg Politics this year.
Poll results include Vice President Joe Biden as a choice, although he has not yet decided whether to join the race. Biden captures 14 percent, five months from the first-in-the-nation vote Feb. 1. Even without Biden in the mix, Clinton falls below a majority, at 43 percent.
"This feels like 2008 all over again," said J. Ann Selzer, pollster for the Iowa Poll. [...]
The vice president saps support from both Clinton and Sanders, the poll shows. Without Biden in the mix, Clinton is at 43 percent and Sanders is at 35 percent.
"So, Biden takes 6 points from Clinton and 5 points from Sanders," Selzer said.
Those are somewhat amazing stories in the Post, Politico, & CNN about how strong Clinton is and how hard it would be for Biden to win the nomination. Note: they largely quote Clinton supporters and use her talking points.
Each story is written as if the email and trust issues have not emerged, or as if Sanders isn't running very close to her in early states.
If I were Biden I'd be cheered by the lengths to which Clinton is going to discourage him.
I think if he gets in and any more negative stuff comes out about emails/security etc., her numbers will drop significantly.
If Biden doesn't run, it will mean that he has looked at the race exclusively from the conventional wisdom perspective. From that vantage point he doesn't have a chance. But in fact he does have a chance, especially if he can demonstrate that he could advance an Obama/Warren agenda and isn't tainted, and then if one or two more negative revelations about Clinton occur. If he's already in the race then, he is the beneficiary. If he's not, then someone else will emerge.
I very much agree with this. The key question on the Democratic side now is: Will Biden be bluffed out of running by the Clinton machine?
Warren Buffett had it right, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” Peer through the fog of commentary on recent share price gyrations and you can see the unclothed figures of Chinese president Xi Jinping and his fellow managers of the Chinese economy, the very one that in recent years has been providing about half of global economic growth even though it accounts for only about 15% of world output. The rulers of the world’s second largest economy first attempted to shore up their collapsing stock markets by intervening – no short sales, limited ability to sell shares, massive purchases by government entities -- then managed a devaluation of the renmimbi that went about twice as far as they intended, and finally directed the central bank to cut interest rates and ramp up liquidity in an effort to maintain a 7% growth rate. Which succeeded, if you believe Chinese government statistics, which no one does, not even premier Li Keqiang, who years ago said that his country’s GDP figures are “man-made … for reference only”. Many analysts, among them economists at Capital Economics Ltd., reckon that the Chinese economy is growing at around 5% rather than the officially reported 7%. Not bad, but the aggregate figure conceals a structural shift.
The Chinese economy has relied on export-led growth, fueled by massive government borrowing and lending to state-owned enterprises in the heavy-industry sector, resulting in a banking system loaded with uncollectable IOUs. But rising wages and increased competition have driven China’s exports down by 8.3% in July compared with last year, while construction starts have fallen 16.8% so far this year. In a market economy, capital would flow out of those industries into the consumer goods sector. Some of that is happening, but not much, and slowly. Xi knows that abandonment of the export-led, debt-fueled, heavy-industry model will have a negative effect on job creation, at least until any transition to a more market-driven allocation of capital is complete. According to Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, there were three times as many strikes and worker protests in the fourth quarter of 2014 as in that same period in 2013, and the number rose by an additional 14% in the first quarter of this year. With no democratic outlet for unhappiness, these are a good indicator of troubles to come for the regime if unemployment ratchets up.
So, Xi finds himself in the position of King Faisal in the film, “Lawrence of Arabia.” Faced with the choice of annihilation of his army or placing it under European command, Faisal mused, “I must do it…. But I fear to do it. Upon my soul I do.” Xi has no desire to become the Mikhail Gorbachev of China, liberalizing the economy but unable to maintain one-party rule. Job-creating construction of cities that will never be occupied and production of goods that will only be sold at a loss just might be more attractive to the regime than following communist parties in the Soviet Union and other centrally controlled Eastern European economies into the dustbin of history. Except that it is unsustainable, even for a country possessed of China’s massive foreign currency reserves.
Speaking to cadets at the Citadel today, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker criticized the "Obama-Clinton" foreign policy and called for deploying greater resources to defeat the Islamic State.
After cataloguing Hillary Clinton's failed "reset" in Russia, "pivot" to China, and intervention in Libya, Walker declared that "everywhere in the world Hillary Clinton has touched is more messed up now than before she and the president took office."
"In the real world – the world outside Washington – when you fail at one job you don’t get promoted to another," Walker added. "You get fired."
Discussion of the Obama administration's failure to defeat the Islamic State took up much of Walker's speech, in which he called for "embedded American advisors" to help defeat ISIS:
Far from beating ISIS, President Obama is barely disrupting it. His actual goal is to contain ISIS until he leaves office, all the while accommodating Iran. My goals will be to defeat ISIS and rollback Iran’s influence in the region.
These strategic objectives will guide our military commanders, but let me be clear: defeating ISIS and rolling back Iran will require a greater investment of U.S. resources. Sternly-worded tweets and isolated air strikes will not destroy this enemy.
As we learned in the surge, embedded American advisors are key to training and motivating Iraqi, Sunni tribal, and Kurdish allies. They can provide good intelligence, logistical resources, and call in close air support to direct devastating strikes that will bolster our partners on the ground.
Today, however, the Administration is tying up our troops with political restrictions, preventing them from doing what is necessary to defeat ISIS. These restrictions must be lifted immediately and all options should remain on the table.
We need to stop micromanaging the military and broadcasting our limits to our enemies.
Throughout the speech, Walker sounded some angry, Trumpian notes that were perhaps too on the nose. "Hearing gut-wrenching stories of Americans held hostage, tortured, raped and executed by these radicals makes my blood boil," Walker said of ISIS.
After noting that the military's capabilities have been degraded, Walker declared, "as an American, this angers me."
Last week, Walker reportedly told donors on a private conference call that he intended to show more passion as a candidate. "One thing I heard about the first debate was: ‘You were fine, you did no wrong, but people want to feel the passion,'" Walker said, according to source who spoke to the Washington Post.
Walker's entire 25-minute speech may be viewed here: