|11:46 AM, Feb 27, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Matthew Continetti, writing for the Washington Free Beacon:
The emerging nuclear deal with Iran is indefensible. The White House knows it. That is why President Obama does not want to subject an agreement to congressional approval, why critics of the deal are dismissed as warmongers, and why the president, his secretary of state, and his national security adviser have spent several weeks demonizing the prime minister of Israel for having the temerity to accept an invitation by the U.S. Congress to deliver a speech on a subject of existential import for his small country. These tactics distract public attention. They turn a subject of enormous significance to American foreign policy into a petty personal drama. They prevent us from discussing what America is about to give away.
And America is about to give away a lot. This week the AP reported on what an agreement with Iran might look like: sanctions relief in exchange for promises to slow down Iranian centrifuges for 10 years. At which point the Iranians could manufacture a bomb—assuming they hadn’t produced one in secret. Iran would get international legitimacy, assurance that military intervention was not an option, and no limitations on its ICBM programs, its support for international terrorism, its enrichment of plutonium, its widespread human rights violations, and its campaign to subvert or co-opt Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria. Then it can announce itself as the first Shiite nuclear power.
And America? Liberals would flatter themselves for avoiding a war. Obama wouldn’t have to worry about the Iranians testing a nuke for the duration of his presidency. And a deal would be a step toward the rapprochement with Iran that he has sought throughout his years in office. The EU representative to the talks, for example, says a nuclear agreement “could open the way for a normal diplomatic relation” between Iran and the West, and could present “the opportunity for shaping a different regional framework in the Middle East.” A regional framework, let it be said, that would leave American interests at risk, Israel one bomb away from a second Holocaust, nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East, and Islamic theocrats in charge of a large part of a strategic and volatile region.
I feel safer already.
Whole thing here.
10:05 AM, Feb 27, 2015 • By ADAM J. WHITE
Not long ago, Harvard Law School's Charles Ogletree told Politico that Eric Holder "is a race man":
Obama clearly respects Holder’s four decades of experience as an attorney and judge and supports Holder's positions on LGBT rights and racial profiling, often telling his staff he recognizes it’s not all Holder’s fault: The job of attorney general is a “shit magnet” for the most intractable controversies.
But there's another explanation, and according to the two dozen current and former Obama administration officials and confidants of both men I’ve spoken with in recent weeks, it may well be the main reason the first black president of the United States has stood so firmly behind the first black attorney general of the United States: Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say about race.
“He’s a race man,” says Charles Ogletree, a longtime friend of Holder’s who taught and mentored Obama and his wife, Michelle, as Harvard Law School students in the 1980s. “He’s gone farther and deeper into some issues of race than the White House would like, but I know he has the president’s well-wishes. It’s clear [Obama and Holder] believe in the same things.”
Well, Holder's "exit interview" with Politico certainly confirms Ogletree's theory of Holder's worldview:
[W]hen he was asked what book he would recommend to a young person coming to Washington, like his 32-year-old aide Kevin Lewis, who started at the White House at age 26, Holder made a revealing choice: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
“I say this not to every African-American of his age, but for every American, that you read ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ to see the transition that that man went through, from petty criminal to a person who was severely and negatively afflicted by race, to somebody who ultimately saw the humanity in all of us,” Holder said. “And that would be a book I would recommend to everybody.”
My own #1 book recommendation for young folks coming to Washington probably would have been The Federalist, which would seem slightly more relevant to the work of Washington in general and the Justice Department specifically, but I'm not the attorney general of the United States so what do I know?
Holder goes on to say in this new interview that the most important priority for the Justice Department needs to be to lower the burden of proof necessary for the federal government to prosecute state and local government officials on accusations of civil rights violations.
9:44 AM, Feb 27, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The economy did not grow as robustly in the 4th quarter as had been thought. Bloomberg reports that:
Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 2.2 percent annualized rate, down from an initial estimate of 2.6 percent, Commerce Department figures showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of 83 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 2 percent pace.
Consumer spending last quarter climbed by the most in four years, underscoring the underlying strength of the expansion. An improving job market and cheaper fuel costs will probably keep underpinning households this year, which will help the U.S. overcome a slowdown in exports as the dollar climbs and foreign economies struggle.
If the recovery were an NFL team, it would be in a rebuilding year. 9-7, maybe. Or 8-8. And looking to make the playoffs next season.
8:09 AM, Feb 27, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Barack Obama will not be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week when the Israeli leader comes to Washington. Neither will Secretary of State John Kerry. And though Netanyahu will deliver an address to a joint session of Congress (thanks to an invitation from Republican John Boehner), he will not be getting a photo op from the Democratic administration at either the White House or State Department.
Unlike a Cuban diplomat, who will be getting a State Department photo-op later this morning.
"U.S.-Cuba Talks - Camera Spray with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson and Cuban Foreign Ministry’s Director General for U.S. Affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, at the Department of State," the State Department announced in an email.
Vidal Ferreiro has taken public shots at President Obama, as the Miami Herald recently reported:
Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, who will head the Cuban delegation in this week's talks to begin normalization of diplomatic ties with the United States, is described as well prepared, intelligent and a keen observer of U.S. policy — and she is a woman who doesn't mince words.
In February 2013 after President Barack Obama said in an interview with Telemundo that it was time for Cuba to “join the 21st century,” the senior Cuban official shot back: “It's unfortunate that President Obama continues to be poorly advised and ill-informed about the Cuban reality, as well as the sentiments of his own people who desire normalization of our relationship.”
7:52 AM, Feb 27, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Al Sharpton met with the president of the United States yesterday. "President Obama met with African American civil rights and faith leaders to provide an update on the Administration’s priorities as described in the State of the Union. The meeting was also an opportunity to have a dialogue with the leaders about the issues facing their communities, including criminal justice, education, health care and economic development," the White House announced in a read-out of the meeting.
"The President highlighted the upcoming release of the report by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and emphasized the work of the Task Force leading to the report’s creation. The President also spoke about his efforts to work with a broad bipartisan coalition to continue to reform the criminal justice system and the significance of doing so for the country. The President noted the upcoming anniversary of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative tomorrow and the progress made by the initiative with over 150 elected officials, cities and tribes having accepted the community challenge. The President and leaders also agreed to work together to find ways to strengthen our nation’s voting laws and reduce any barriers that prevent Americans from voting. The leaders in attendance agreed to continue their outreach to their communities and to work with the Administration on its efforts to implement its initiatives."
The full list of participants include:
· Cornell Brooks, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
· Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP LDF)
· Marc Morial, National Urban League (NUL)
· Spencer Overton, Interim President and CEO, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
· Catherine Pugh, National Black State Legislators
· Al Sharpton, National Action Network (NAN)
· John Boyd, President, National Black Farmers Association
· Ron Busby, President, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.
· Edwin Bass, COGIC Urban Initiatives, Inc.
· Bishop George Battle, Jr., African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
· Reverend Traci Blackmon, Christ The King United Church of Christ
· Reverend Kip Banks, Sr., Interim General Secretary, Progressive National Baptist Church
· Reverend Jesse Bottoms, Jr., National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. of the Northeast Region
· Bishop Charles Ellis, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
· Michael McBride, PICO’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign
7:11 AM, Feb 27, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Usually when the Obama administration is discussing doctors and health issues, Obamacare is on the table. Thursday, however, the White House threw a curve by linking health to climate change. In a new blog post, the White House declares that "7 out of 10 Doctors [say] Climate Change Is Already Harming Patients’ Health." While often the White House has been a source of upbeat reports on recent health improvements attributed in part to the Affordable Care Act, the language of this post stands in sharp contrast. For example:
"Already, 1 in 10 children in the U.S. suffers from asthma. Heat-related health problems are growing. Pollen concentrations are up. Rising temperatures are only going to bring more smog, more asthma, and longer allergy seasons that put more Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital."
"...increases in air pollution due to climate change are worsening the severity of illnesses in their patients, and they expect these health impacts will further increase in the future."
"...their patients are experiencing other climate-related health problems — including injuries due to severe weather, allergic reactions, and heat-related impacts."
The survey cited by the White House was conducted by the American Thoracic Society, a group of over 15,000 doctors, researchers, nurses, and other health professionals with a focus on "research, clinical care, and public health in respiratory disease, critical illness, and sleep disorders." Although 5,500 members were randomly selected for invitations to participate in the survey, only 17 percent responded. Of the 915 respondents, 65 percent (rounded to 7 in 10 by the White House) agreed that climate change is 'relevant to patient care" either "a great deal" or "a moderate amount."
The White House also cites, but does not link to, a survey of the National Medical Association's membership whose results are said to be in line with the American Thoracic Society survey. (The National Medical Association, according to its website, "promotes the collective interests of physicians and patients of African descent", and is distinct from the more well known American Medical Association.) The survey to which the White House apparently refers can be found at climatechangecommunication.org and indeed reports that respondents felt that "climate change is affecting the health of their own patients a great deal or a moderate amount (61 percent)." This survey had a response rate of 30 percent, or 284 respondents.
3:44 PM, Feb 26, 2015 • By JACKSON RICHMAN
On January 6, less than a week after Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas signed the treaty to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon announced the PA will become a member of the international tribunal on April 1. As a member, the PA would be able to prosecute Israel for allegedly committing “war crimes”, such as Israel’s actions in Gaza this past summer.
Ban’s announcement drew heat from Congress. Kentucky senator Rand Paul introduced the “Defend Israel by Defunding Palestinian Foreign Aid Act of 2015,” which would halt aid to the Palestinian Authority until it withdraws its attempt at becoming a member of the court.
South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, during a visit to Israel last month as part of a seven-member delegation of senators, called the PA maneuver “incredibly offensive,” adding that United States law demands an end to funding if the PA brings a case against Israel. The Appropriations Act of 2015, after all, states that funding the PA must be suspended if “the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”
Though the aid must be suspended in that circumstance, Secretary of State John Kerry may waive that restriction if he attests to the Committee on Appropriations that he is doing so “in the national security interest of the United States.” Whether or not Kerry will exercise that course of action is unknown. “As we have said, we continually evaluate our assistance to ensure that it supports our policy, and will make adjustments as necessary. We will also of course continue to comply with U.S. legislation on assistance, and remain in close touch with Congress on this,” says a State Department official.
If the restriction is waived, it would not be the first time the Obama administration has taken such action. In 2012, President Obama bypassed a Congressional prohibition on aid and signed a waiver declaring that aid to the PA is “important to the security interests of the United States.” This move was supported by the State Department, which expressed concerns that not enough aid was provided to address the dire economic and humanitarian hardship facing the Palestinians.
A letter to Kerry composed by Florida senator Marco Rubio and New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, dated January 29, calls for a suspension of aid to the PA. The letter refers to the prohibition of aid to the PA if it initiates an ICC investigation and states, “Although we believe it is in the interest of the United States for urgent humanitarian assistance to continue to be provided to the Palestinian people, we will not support assistance to the Palestinian Authority while you undertake a review of this matter.” The letter was signed by 51 Republican and 24 Democratic senators, representing 94 percent and 52 percent of each caucus, respectively.
2:46 PM, Feb 26, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The Washington Post is up with a doozy of a story showing some serious and troubling financial conflicts of interest during Hillary Clinton's time as Secretary of State. Read the whole thing, but here are some key paragraphs:
The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday. ...
In one instance, foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government. ...
The contribution coincided with a spike in the North African country’s lobbying visits to the State Department.
That year, Algeria spent $422,097 lobbying U.S. government officials on human rights and U.S.-Algerian relations, according to filings made under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Data tracked by the Sunlight Foundation shows that while the Algerian government’s overall spending on lobbying in the United States remained steady, there was an increase in 2010 in State Department meetings held with lobbyists representing the country — with 12 visits to department officials that year, including some visits with top political appointees. In the years before and after, only a handful of State Department visits were recorded by Algeria lobbyists.
The country was a concern for Clinton and her agency.
This is great work by the Washington Post, but it's something of a rarity. After weeks of the media blasting GOP figures for their opinions (or lack thereof) on the origin of life as we know it or demanding to know whether every Republican candidate agrees with the private and largely inconsequential remarks of the former mayor of New York -- it would be nice if a real story with serious repercussions for a prominent Democrat were actually covered thoroughly by the media before any attempts to dismiss or downplay it. Hopefully this Washington Post piece is the start of a trend.
1:18 PM, Feb 26, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
ISIS continues its war on civilization by burning:
Thousands of ancient and irreplaceable manuscripts [from] the Mosul library in Iraq. One Mosul library official believes that up to 112,000 books were destroyed – spanning centuries of learning, and including books registered on a UNESCO rarities list.
Meanwhile, we learn the identity of the man – known colloquially as "Jihad John” – who beheads the helpless captives of ISIS. He is reportedly:
… Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming. He is believed to have traveled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined the Islamic State, the group whose barbarity he has come to symbolize.
Rich and well-educated, Emwazi certainly should have been able to find a job and a life. But he took another path and one awaits Marie Harf’s explanation for why. One also wonders just what the Brits will do with him, should they take him alive. Lord Haw-Haw was hanged and he merely made propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis. But the Brits don’t do that any longer. And, anyway ... hanging would be too good for Emwazi.
12:09 PM, Feb 26, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Next Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether the Obama administration has been illegally providing taxpayer-funded subsidies in 36 states under the guise of implementing Obamacare, and there’s been much debate about what Congress should do if the Court rules that the administration’s actions have been lawless. A new McLaughlin & Associates poll, commissioned by the 2017 Project, finds that a majority of likely voters — 51 percent — wants Congress to propose a conservative alternative in response to such a ruling, while only 20 percent want Congress to negotiate fixes to Obamacare. Moreover, the clear majority of those who favor the fix-it approach are Democrats.
The poll, which included 38 percent Democrats and 32 percent Republicans, asked, “If the Supreme Court rules that the Obama administration has been illegally paying out Obamacare subsidies in 36 states, what do you think Congress should do in response?” The most popular response — picked by 26 percent of likely voters — was, “Propose to effectively repeal and replace Obamacare in those 36 states with a conservative alternative that aims to help people get coverage and reduce costs.”
The runner-up response — picked by 25 percent of voters — was, “Give the states a choice between Obamacare and switching to a conservative alternative that aims to help people get coverage and reduce costs.”
In other words, 51 percent of respondents favored having Congress propose a conservative alternative that deals with both costs and coverage — whether in the 36 states in question, or in every state that chooses the conservative alternative.
Meanwhile, only 20 percent of voters’ response was, “Negotiate fixes to Obamacare with the Obama White House in exchange for turning the subsidies back on.”
Among independents and Republicans, support for a conservative alternative, and opposition to fixes, was even stronger. In all, 55 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans said Congress should propose a conservative alternative, while only 12 percent of independents and 10 percent of Republicans said Congress should negotiate fixes in exchange for turning the subsidies back on.
Across the political spectrum, however, voters were united on one thing. When asked to name “the worst thing that Congress could do in response to such a ruling by the Supreme Court,” by far the most popular answer among Republicans (46 percent), Democrats (34 percent), and independents (38 percent) alike was, “Do nothing.”
11:36 AM, Feb 26, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The recovery may be slowing and the end of the Fed’s QE efforts receding further into the future.
As Bloomberg reports:
Jobless claims increased by 31,000 to 313,000 in the week ended Feb. 21 from a revised 282,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg saw claims little changed at 290,000.
Meanwhile, as Business Insider reports:
Consumer prices fell 0.7% in January, a bit more than expected, while "core" inflation rose slightly more than forecast at 0.2%.
10:21 AM, Feb 26, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Amid reports that a nuclear deal with Iran may freeze that country's ability to produce nuclear fuel for only ten years in exchange for sanctions relief, President Obama appeared to soften his words on the Iran negotiations if not his position. Following a meeting with the Amir of Qatar earlier this week, the president characterized the ongoing talks as trying "to reduce the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon," and "to verify that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon." These words ("reduce the possibility" and "does not have", as opposed to "will not acquire") stand in sharp contrast to the unambiguous statements President Obama had tended to make over the past several years:
"We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon." - Mar. 14, 2012
"And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Sept. 25, 2012
"Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Nov. 23, 2013
"At the top of that list is our work to ensure that Iran does not ever acquire a nuclear weapon." - July 8, 2014
"[W]e seek a comprehensive diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Jan. 16, 2015
9:10 AM, Feb 26, 2015 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
The crisis between the United States and Israel has been manufactured by the Obama administration. Building a crisis up or down is well within the administration’s power, and it has chosen to build it up. Why? Three reasons: to damage and defeat Netanyahu (whom Obama has always disliked simply because he is on the right while Obama is on the left) in his election campaign, to prevent Israel from affecting the Iran policy debate in the United States, and worst of all to diminish Israel’s popularity in the United States and especially among Democrats.
Suppose for a moment that the Netanyahu speech before Congress is a mistake, a breach of protocol, a campaign maneuver, indeed all the bad things the White House is calling it. Grant all of that for a moment for the sake of argument and the behavior of the Obama administration is still inexplicable. Clearly more is behind its conduct than mere pique over the speech.
First comes the personal relationship and the desire to see Netanyahu lose the election. Recall that Obama became president before Netanyahu became prime minister, and it is obvious that the dislike was both personal and political before Netanyahu had done anything. Obama does not like people on the right, period—Americans, Israelis, Australians, you name it. Obama also decided immediately on taking office to pick a fight with Israel and make construction in settlements and in Jerusalem the central issue in U.S.-Israeli relations. Remember that he appointed George Mitchell as his special negotiator one day after assuming the presidency, and Mitchell was the father of the demand that construction—including even construction to accommodate what Mitchell called “natural growth” of families in settlement populations—be stopped dead. A confrontation was inevitable, and was desired by the White House.
Obama has overplayed his hand, in the sense that in poll after poll Israelis say that they do not support his Middle East policies. Historically, an Israeli prime minister loses domestic support when he cannot manage relations with Washington. This year may be the exception, the time when Israelis want a prime minister to oppose U.S. policies they view as dangerous. They may also believe that the Obama administration is simply so hostile that no prime minister could avoid confrontations.
8:39 AM, Feb 26, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
... “getting worse every day” and Western efforts to deter Russian intervention are having little effect …
That was the testimony of NATO’s top military commander, Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, on Wednesday. As the Washington Post reports, General Breedlove told the House Armed Services Committee:
“I can’t tell you what is going on inside Mr. Putin’s head.”
“We have to be cognizant that if we arm the Ukrainians, it could cause positive results. It could cause negative results. But what we’re doing right now is not changing the results on the ground."
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