Vienna With Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif’s one-day trip back to Tehran for consultations with supreme leader Ali Khamenei, it was a slow day for the nuclear talks here in the Austrian capital. Journalists are shuttling back and forth between the press tent and the lobby of the adjacent Marriott where Iranian intelligence officers, many of them posing as journalists, unabashedly photograph and film anyone that catches their attention. I opted out and spent the morning wandering around the city.
It’s a small city, say Viennese. It’s a very small city, several Viennese have now told me. It’s true Vienna has only 1.5 million residents, but it’s the former capital of a mighty empire. And the scale of the city—its monumental architecture, and broad avenues— is appropriately imperial. But for current residents, Vienna perhaps resembles the enormously oversized wardrobe of an ancestor with exquisite, if impossible, taste. That is, Vienna isn’t small—it’s the Austrians that got smaller. The country is unable to project power even in its near abroad and thus its foreign policy is driven entirely by business concerns. And that’s one reason why the Austrians are happy to host this round of the P5+1 talks—an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program means business opportunities for Austrian industry.
And then there’s also something fitting about the talks being held here. For quite a while now Vienna has served as something of a crossroads where opponents meet, or at least intersect, even if they don’t quite yet understand they’re adversaries. This path was blazed even before the Cold War when Vienna was a center for both Western intelligence services and their Eastern bloc adversaries. After all, this is the city whose famous late 19th-century mayor Karl Lueger, an anti-Semitic populist, shaped the thinking of two very different Vienna residents, one who plotted to destroy the Jews, and another who sought to restore them to their national homeland.
Maybe we should call such circumstance “the Café Central phenomenon,” since this Vienna coffee shop, now well over a century old, is the staging ground of so much twentieth-century historical coincidence. Both Adolf Hitler and Theodor Herzl were regulars here, though there is no chance they met since Herzl died before Hitler started hanging out there. However, according to the great Austrian-American writer Fredric Morton, who died this April at age 90, Hitler surely crossed paths with the future dictator of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito, as well as Lenin and Trotsky.
1. As Solicitor General, you would be charged with defending the Defense of Marriage Act. That law, as you may know, was enacted by overwhelming majorities of both houses of Congress (85-14 in the Senate and 342-67 in the House) in 1996 and signed into law by President Clinton.
a. Given your rhetoric about the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy—you called it “a profound wrong—a moral injustice of the first order”—let me ask this basic question: Do you believe that there is a federal constitutional right to samesex marriage?
Answer: There is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
b. Have you ever expressed your opinion whether the federal Constitution should be read to confer a right to same-sex marriage? If so, please provide details.
Answer: I do not recall ever expressing an opinion on this question.
Emphasis added. Of course, there was no right to constitutional right to same-sex marriage right up until last week when Kagan joined four other justices on the court in creating one. Appropriately enough, your opinion of whether or not Kagan lied to Congress in her confirmation hearings depends on what the meaning of 'is' is.
The Hillary Clinton campaign is selling the "Chillary Clinton Koozie Pack" to help supporters gear up for the summer. Here's a screen grab from the merchandise section of Clinton's campaign website:
"Be the coolest person at the party (with the coolest soda)," reads the description for the item.
It's an odd label for a piece of merchandise. After all, Clinton detractors who view Mrs. Clinton as cold and distance have at times labeled her "Chillary." For instance, Urban Dictionary defines Chillary Clinton as, "Hillary Clinton who is a cold politician and wears pant suits all the time."
US says system reached to give UN access to suspect Iran sites
Vienna (AFP) - A system has been reached in talks between Iran and major powers towards a nuclear deal that will give the UN atomic watchdog access to all suspect sites, a senior US official said Monday.
"The entry point isn't we must be able to get into every military site, because the United States of America wouldn't allow anybody to get into every military site, so that's not appropriate," the official said.
"But if in the context of agreement... the IAEA believes it needs access and has a reason for that access then we have a process that access is given," the official said on condition of anonymity.
"We have worked out a process that we believe will ensure that the IAEA has the access it needs."
This sentence is key: "The entry point isn't we must be able to get into every military site, because the United States of America wouldn't allow anybody to get into every military site, so that's not appropriate," the official said.
Think about that. The American official argues that Iran—a rogue regime that sponsors terror and that has lied about its nuclear program, and that is under sanctions precisely because it has proved time and again it can't be trusted—should be held to the same standards as the U.S. Amazing. It turns out the left's old doctrine of moral equivalence between the Soviet Union and the U.S. has been replaced by a doctrine of moral equivalence between Iran and the U.S.
This sentence says it all. Opponents of a bad deal should make it famous: You can only vote for this deal if you accept this basic equivalence between the Iranian regime and the U.S.
And those who've been genuinely undecided, but have said repeatedly that an acceptable deal would have to have "go anywhere, anytime" inspections, must now acknowledge the Obama administration has unequivocally yielded on what had been presented by the administration as one of its key requirements. Could this sentence be a final tipping point in collapsing congressional support for the deal?
Are airlines unfairly conniving to keep capacity low and thus drive up fares? According to Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, they are—and he's asked the Justice Department to investigate.
Unfortunately for airlines and their passengers, Blumenthal has succumbed to a particular Washington, D.C., affliction: thinking he can run a business better than the people actually running it. If they had their druthers, Elizabeth Warren would moonlight as a banker, Joe Barton as a college sports administrator, Jay Rockefeller as an oil company executive, and Hank Johnson as a geographer.
Based on a New York Times report on an airline industry meeting, Blumenthal is concerned that “many of these [airlines] publicly discussed their strategies to remain ‘disciplined’ in their decisions to manage capacity across their flight routes.” He adds that “most airlines have traditionally viewed capacity reductions as a highly valuable way to artificially raise fares and boost profit margins.”
The use of the scare quotes on “discipline” is telling. Discipline is normally a positive word, as it connotes sound management and prudent behavior—precisely what the airline industry has needed as it continues the long shakeout in the era of fare deregulation.
First of all, capacity has not been reduced in recent years. As the chart below shows, since air travel demand contracted during the recession, capacity has slowly but steadily climbed. The difference is that it has not climbed as fast as during the go-go years of the mid-2000s, when investors thought a low-fare, no-connections airline based in Columbus and a flying version of Hooters were good ideas. As airline industry analyst Brett Snyder says: “You’re only as smart as your dumbest competitor. And there were plenty of dumb competitors out there who threw a ton of capacity into a market only to make everyone unprofitable.”
The The Republican National Committee is releasing a new video to argue that Democrat Hillary Clinton turn over the private email server she maintained while serving as secretary of state to an indpendent investigator. The web video showcases several reporters and members of the media excoriating Clinton's lack of transparency. Watch the video below:
The video comes as South Carolina congressman Trey Gowdy, who is leading the House special investigation committee on the Benghazi terrorist attack, told CBS's John Dickerson Sunday that Clinton is withholding emails concerning the attack.
RNC chairman Reince Priebus released a statement with the video. “From Day One, Hillary Clinton has not been telling Americans the truth about her secret email server," said Priebus. "Not only were emails not being archived as she originally claimed, but she hasn’t turned everything over either. This is another example of why a growing majority of Americans don’t trust Hillary Clinton and why she must turn her secret server over to a neutral third party for independent review.”
AEI reports that Ben Wattenberg has died. I met him only once but had admired him for years, and it strikes me that he stands as a particularly important figure today. Not for his intellect, though it was keen; or for his energy, though it was abundant. No, what marked Wattenberg foremost was his courage. When the world went crazy around him, Ben Wattenberg found the truth, stood for it, and refused to abdicate his post.
Let me explain. Beginning in 1968, America fell into the grip of a Malthusian demographic mania. It had its roots in historical racism, but commingled with the radical ideals of the sexual revolution, the nascent environmental movement, and then-thriving Marxism. The flashpoint for the hysteria was the publication of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb,which became one of the most influential books of the century. Ehrlich predicted total calamity—hundreds of millions dead because of “overpopulation” within a few years. He proclaimed (among other things) that England would cease to exist by the year 2000.
In response, Ehrlich proposed a number of correctives, some of which were laughable, others of which were horrifying. He wanted to ban the internal combustion engine, for instance. He also wanted to impose punitive taxes on people who had children and advocated that the government take coercive actions, such as drugging the water supply to stunt women’s fertility and reduce the number of children being born.
It sounds crazy now, but this madman was celebrated at every level of society. He was a frequent guest of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show; he was showered with academic prizes; his advice was sought by generals and presidents. Such was the mania of the day.
And against this storm stood Ben Wattenberg. In 1975, at the height of the overpopulation hysteria, Wattenberg began looking at the data and noticed that fertility rates had plummeted across the West and were falling precipitously just about everywhere else, too. He wrote a piece for the New Republic highlighting this research and proposing that the Malthusians had it exactly backwards: Within two generations, the world’s big economic problems were likely to be caused by there being too few people.
Wattenberg expanded this piece to book length in The Birth Dearth in 1987. It stands as a landmark to truth. Where Ehrlich’s work has been thoroughly discredited—not just in the academy, but even by the New York Times!—Wattenberg’s has been vindicated. Totally. Completely.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye may have avoided walking into a potential minefield in postponing her recent Washington visit due to the MERS outbreak in her home country. Following the highly successful Washington visit of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, there is a growing sense of “Korea fatigue” among American policymakers – a narrative being vigorously promoted by the Japan lobby. And with even Tokyo’s regional rival, Chinese President Xi Jinping, relenting enough on history issues to meet twice with Mr. Abe, President Park’s continued avoidance of ally Abe is being denigrated by some as not befitting a true alliance “team player.” Thus the current scramble in Seoul to convey the message that South Korea is moving forward with strategic issues of vital importance, such as cooperation on the North Korean nuclear threat. And there was President Park’s own recent comment in a Washington Post interview regarding “considerable progress” with Tokyo on the historically contentious comfort women issue (a view not necessarily shared by Japanese negotiators.)
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se recently made the first visit to Tokyo by a foreign minister of his country since 2011 in order to attend a June 22nd ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the South Korea-Japan normalization treaty. In an interview with the South Korean wire service Yonhapupon his return to Seoul, Yun stated that, "We can say that there is certainly a difference before and after this week in terms of the will for improved bilateral relations."
Yet history will rear its ugly head repeatedly this summer threatening to upset the proverbial applecart. First, there will be the June 28-29 meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Bonn where committee members will consider Tokyo’s controversial bid to have Meiji-era industrial sites registered without mentioning the POW, Korean, and Chinese slave labor that was utilized at a number of them. Then there will be Prime Minister Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War in August. A number of questions surround this statement: Will it be official or private? And will Abe repeat former Prime Minister Murayama’s wording in 1995 that Imperial Japan, “through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”
A veteran Obama Mideast adviser is claiming President Obama's position on a Palestinian state is no different from that of President George W. Bush--and he has effectively rewritten a key Bush letter on Israel in order to prove his point.
Philip Gordon, who was the White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf Region until this April, performed these literary acrobatics in the book review section of the Washington Post on June 28. The context was Gordon's petulant critique of Israel's former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, for writing in his new book that Obama's position constitutes a significant departure from previous U.S. policy.
The background to this dispute is complex but worth rehashing, since it goes to the heart of current American-Israeli tensions, and the lengths to which some Obama administration officials will go in order to advance their agenda in this area.
President Obama, it will be recalled, asserted back in May 2011, that the borders of a Palestinian state "should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps." According to Philip Gordon, writing in the Post, this was not some radical break with U.S. policy, but has been the consistent position of U.S. presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, "the 'Clinton parameters' in 2000."
Kessler noted that not only had pre-Clinton presidents, such as Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, specifically denounced the 1967 lines as indefensible, but President Clinton himself, in his own description of his parameters, "shied away from mentioning the 1967 lines…" Kessler noted a statement Clinton made in January 2001, just before leaving office, that a Palestinian state would have to "accommodate Israel's security requirements and the demographic realities."
Thus, Kessler concluded, Obama's May 2011 declaration indeed "represented a major shift," because "he did not articulate the 1967 boundaries as a 'Palestinian goal' " -- as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did on a number of occasions -- "but as U.S. policy. He also dropped any reference to 'realities on the ground'--code for Israeli settlements…"
The "realities on the ground" concept refers to the fact that about two-thirds of the Israeli residents of the disputed territories reside in five "settlement blocs," as they are known, that are less than an hour's drive from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Most Israelis oppose withdrawal from those blocs, both because it would reduce Israel to impossibly narrow borders, and because the blocs are so close to the rest of Israel that their presence does not interfere with the lives of the Palestinians.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, while dictating one of the most sweeping social changes in history in his opinion in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that legalized same-sex marriage across America, waxes magnanimous towards foes of the expansion of the millennia-old definition of marriage. He said those who believe same-sex marriage is wrong may "reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged" in the court's pronouncement. Likewise, President Obama spoke deferentially of "Americans of goodwill" whose "[o]pposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs."
But these statements are platitudes at best; more likely, they are simply disingenuous. In a previous Supreme Court opinion, United States v. Windsor, Kennedy characterized the Defense of Marriage Act as calculated to "degrade or demean" same-sex couples, hardly a "decent and honorable... premise" by any definition. And the president has often compared the treatment of gays wishing to marry with the treatment of blacks prior to civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Certainly the president would not characterize opponents of racial equality as "Americans of goodwill" simply following "sincere and deeply held beliefs."
So while Kennedy and the president pay lip service to religious freedom when it comes to the same-sex marriage, the American Civil Liberties Union is more forthright. Even before the decision was handed down on Friday, the ACLU's deputy legal director Louise Melling made clear in a Washington Post op-ed that toleration for religious liberty claims when it comes to same-sex marriage and gay rights issues in general is wearing thin. "[R]eligious liberty doesn’t mean the right to discriminate or to impose one’s views on others," Melling wrote.
On the surface, Melling's view may seem to be at odds with Kennedy's summation of his opinion's effect on religious liberty:
Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate.
If the world is looking for a go-to expert on links between Twitter and heart health, the University of Pennsylvania might just be the place. Earlier this year, The Telegraph reported on a study entitled "Psychological Language on Twitter Predicts County-Level Heart Disease Mortality" conducted at the university and written up in the journal Psychological Science. Now a study is underway at the University of Pennsylvania, funded by a three-year, $668,114 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), called "Twitter and Cardiovascular Health."
According to a description of the grant proposal, the study aims to not only gather data about heart problems by evaluating tweets, but ultimately validate Twitter users with heart disease and use the medium to deliver "high impact" heart disease-related information "to improve patient activation and disease management."
While this present study seeks to use Twitter to help improve health, the previous study was more focused on the relationship between "emotional language" in tweets and the heart health of the users. The Telegrapharticle, entitled "Angry tweeting 'could increase your risk of heart disease,'" explains:
Drawing on a set of public tweets made between 2009 and 2010, the researchers found that communities where words like 'hate' or expletives were tweeted frequently were found to have higher rates of heart disease mortality.
Positive emotional language showed the opposite correlation, suggesting that optimism and positive experiences – words like 'wonderful' or 'friend' – may be protective against heart disease.
The National Institutes of Health was not entirely happy with The Telegraph's report on the study, or at least not with the way the story was headlined. Shortly after the story ran, the NIH published a lengthy explanation of the study on its website. The NIH suggested a more accurate headline would have been "Stress and other negative psychological emotions increase risk of heart disease, and these people are more likely to send angry tweets," (effectively demonstrating the tension between accuracy and brevity in headline writing in the process.)
Chris Christie will officially announce he's running for president on Tuesday, but the New Jersey governor has released a video suggesting he's certain to make the bid. Watch the 2-minute spot titled, "Telling It Like It Is," here:
The video emphasizes Christie's bluntness and biography. It does not mention where he's from -- New Jersey -- or the political party whose nomination he's vying for -- the Republican party.
Vienna Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif is heading back to Tehran for consultations. Perhaps he’s relaying the Western reaction to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s remarks earlier in the week when he seemed to trash the key points of the deal the two sides came to in April.
As Stephen Hayes explains in the latest Weekly Standard, Khamenei “called for an immediate end to all United Nations Security Council and U.S. economic sanctions on Iran; he said Iranian military sites would not be subject to international inspections; he declared that Iran would not abide a long-term freeze on nuclear research; and he ruled out interviews with individuals associated with Iran’s nuclear program as part of any enforcement plan.”
Yesterday, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius urged the P5+1 to hold the line and ignore Khamenei’s tirade, but given past performances it’s not hard to guess who’s going to blink first.
Zarif is scheduled to return tomorrow, which suggests that his excursion is likely meant to show his Western interlocutors that he’s operating in good faith. John Kerry and his team are likely telling themselves it’s a good sign—Zarif is taking their concerns back to Tehran and talking it over with the supreme leader. This is the real hard work of diplomacy, the secretary of state must be thinking—and it requires patience, fortitude, and of course some flexibility.
And flexibility is precisely what Zarif will be expecting from Kerry when he returns to Vienna. The alternative is highly improbable—Zarif relayed Western concerns, and Khamenei reconsidered his overly strong words and decided to walk them back some. The supreme leader is ready to show some flexibility.
That is a highly unlikely scenario. What is much more likely is that Zarif’s trip is simply meant to underscore the red lines that Khamenei has repeatedly drawn. The Iranians aren’t going to budge at all, because if they do, from Khamenei’s perspective, it will make the supreme leader out to be a liar and a weakling who caved into the West.
Everyone here agrees that the negotiations are going to push past the June 30 deadline, but the reality is that two days before the deadline we already have a pretty good idea of what the deal is going to look like—Khamenei’s red lines are the basis of the only deal the supreme leader can accept. If the White House wants a deal, they’ll have to agree to Khamenei’s position. And that’s presumably why the Vienna talks are going to go on for another week or so into July—Kerry’s going to need some time to paper over a bad deal. Zarif will undoubtedly lend a hand—after all, the two of them are going to be sharing that Nobel Peace Prize.
The alternative is this: Kerry walks away right now. While Zarif visits Tehran, Kerry should head back to the United States, not for consultations but for vacation. It’s almost July 4, and the wind-surfing is great out on the Cape this time of year. The lobster is perfect. The corn delicious. It’s America. Kerry can tell Zarif, “Hey, call me when the old man is serious about a deal.”