Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 1, 2009

Re: Re: An Important Milestone

Charles Krauthammer notes that besides its aversion to the word “victory,” the Obama team doesn’t allow “democracy” to pass its lips when it comes to Iraq:

He referred to what we have achieved as a “sovereign, stable, self-reliant” Iraq. He left out one word, and he left it out because it was a George Bush word—democracy. That was a Bush idea—to implant a democracy in Iraq.

[. . .]

So it’s a remarkable achievement, and we ought to emphasize what we have achieved in terms of democracy. And it’s a pity that the president ignores that because the democratic nature of Iraq will establish the basis for a strategic alliance between America and Iraq in the future.

After all, we are in favor of democracy, aren’t we? Isn’t that what Iran is all about? Now, one might suppose that Iranians, seeing their Iraqi neighbors enjoy the fruits of a robust and rather functional democratic system, would want the same for themselves. We do want to encourage democratic institutions to take root and theocracies to perish, right?

Well, it can be hard to tell at times. Obama shows no concern in Cuba or Venezuela for democratic activists. He’s taken the minimalist route in Iran. One needn’t think he’s actually rooting for the “bad guys” to see how little concern he has for hope and change, for human rights, and for democracy abroad. Perhaps he’s caught in the “Not George Bush” web or perhaps he’s been captured by the State Department’s mindset that places infinite value in chasing after deals with existing regimes.

Democracy is so messy and disruptive. So much easier to deal with strong men and ignore the plight of those seeking to disrupt, challenge, and ultimately overthrow despots. I wonder how “Not So Much Hope but Status Quo!” would have looked on all those campaign bumper stickers.

Charles Krauthammer notes that besides its aversion to the word “victory,” the Obama team doesn’t allow “democracy” to pass its lips when it comes to Iraq:

He referred to what we have achieved as a “sovereign, stable, self-reliant” Iraq. He left out one word, and he left it out because it was a George Bush word—democracy. That was a Bush idea—to implant a democracy in Iraq.

[. . .]

So it’s a remarkable achievement, and we ought to emphasize what we have achieved in terms of democracy. And it’s a pity that the president ignores that because the democratic nature of Iraq will establish the basis for a strategic alliance between America and Iraq in the future.

After all, we are in favor of democracy, aren’t we? Isn’t that what Iran is all about? Now, one might suppose that Iranians, seeing their Iraqi neighbors enjoy the fruits of a robust and rather functional democratic system, would want the same for themselves. We do want to encourage democratic institutions to take root and theocracies to perish, right?

Well, it can be hard to tell at times. Obama shows no concern in Cuba or Venezuela for democratic activists. He’s taken the minimalist route in Iran. One needn’t think he’s actually rooting for the “bad guys” to see how little concern he has for hope and change, for human rights, and for democracy abroad. Perhaps he’s caught in the “Not George Bush” web or perhaps he’s been captured by the State Department’s mindset that places infinite value in chasing after deals with existing regimes.

Democracy is so messy and disruptive. So much easier to deal with strong men and ignore the plight of those seeking to disrupt, challenge, and ultimately overthrow despots. I wonder how “Not So Much Hope but Status Quo!” would have looked on all those campaign bumper stickers.

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Transatlantic Travel Stupidities

There’s something about travel that seems to bring out the worst in both the American and British governments. Exhibit A is American: the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. Introduced by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and John Ensign (R-NV), the Act would impose a $10 fee on visitors coming from visa waiver countries. The money raised would be matched by a $100 million levy on “United States members of the international travel and tourism industry,” and would be spent by an independent, non-profit travel promotion corporation governed by an eleven-member board of directors appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. The purpose of all of this is to “establish a non-profit corporation to communicate United States entry policies and otherwise promote leisure, business, and scholarly travel to the United States.”

The Act is currently hung up in the Senate. That is just as well, because, as my colleague Jena Baker McNeill points out, it contains remarkable number of bad ideas. It reminds me of the old Monty Python sketch in which a “man on the street” suggested that Britain raise money by taxing foreigners who lived abroad. The idea that imposing additional fees will encourage “scholarly travel” — or any other kind of travel, for that matter — is bizarre. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) — used to automatically determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under the visa Waiver Program — was supposed to be free: imposing fees, as outraged letters from European ambassadors made it clear, could have negative implications for reciprocal visa-free travel between the E.U. and the US.

By definition, ESTA users already want to visit the U.S. The Act would tax them in order to subsidize campaigns aimed at boosting interest in tourism among uninterested foreigners, and promote parts of the U.S. they do not want to visit at the expense of those that are popular. Anyone who catches a whiff of tourist promotion-flavored pork in the requirement that the Corporation identify opportunities and strategies to promote tourism to rural and urban areas equally, including areas not traditionally visited by international travelers, is right on target. And then there is the curious belief that the travel industry can be defined clearly enough to pay a levy, or that particular industries should be levied to fund policies that will supposedly benefit everyone. Yes, levies may work for the National Peanut Board, but is that really what the travel industry wants to compare itself to?

But compared to Exhibit B, from Britain, the American Act almost looks sensible. The UK has a new points-based visa system. In theory, this is the right approach. But in practice, it’s going to have a disastrous effect on U.S. interest in the UK. That’s partly because the visa application fee ranges from 145 pounds for a student up to an eye-watering 1,020 pounds for an unsponsored applicant. More fundamentally, though, it’s because the government wants to curtail the number and type of non-EU passport holders working in the UK, apparently on the economically illiterate theory than there are only so many jobs to go round. As a result, it now bars non-EU passport holders (with a few exceptions) from taking even unpaid internships.

As Scott Paul at the Adam Smith Institute points out, the argument that this will force employers to hire and pay Britons is nonsensical: what the requirement will really do is “[pronounce] a death sentence on thousands of UK internship programmes at universities around the world,” including in the U.S. He’s right: Yale, for example, canceled its “British Bulldogs” program this summer for exactly that reason. And over the long run, that’s going to be bad for Anglo-American relations, and for the British economy.

Nations have the right to control their own borders. But wouldn’t it be great if governments on both sides of the Atlantic would stop taxing, deterring, and rejecting potential visitors who cost nothing, freely spend their own money abroad, and do a great deal to promote friendly relations between the U.S. and Britain?

There’s something about travel that seems to bring out the worst in both the American and British governments. Exhibit A is American: the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. Introduced by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and John Ensign (R-NV), the Act would impose a $10 fee on visitors coming from visa waiver countries. The money raised would be matched by a $100 million levy on “United States members of the international travel and tourism industry,” and would be spent by an independent, non-profit travel promotion corporation governed by an eleven-member board of directors appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. The purpose of all of this is to “establish a non-profit corporation to communicate United States entry policies and otherwise promote leisure, business, and scholarly travel to the United States.”

The Act is currently hung up in the Senate. That is just as well, because, as my colleague Jena Baker McNeill points out, it contains remarkable number of bad ideas. It reminds me of the old Monty Python sketch in which a “man on the street” suggested that Britain raise money by taxing foreigners who lived abroad. The idea that imposing additional fees will encourage “scholarly travel” — or any other kind of travel, for that matter — is bizarre. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) — used to automatically determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under the visa Waiver Program — was supposed to be free: imposing fees, as outraged letters from European ambassadors made it clear, could have negative implications for reciprocal visa-free travel between the E.U. and the US.

By definition, ESTA users already want to visit the U.S. The Act would tax them in order to subsidize campaigns aimed at boosting interest in tourism among uninterested foreigners, and promote parts of the U.S. they do not want to visit at the expense of those that are popular. Anyone who catches a whiff of tourist promotion-flavored pork in the requirement that the Corporation identify opportunities and strategies to promote tourism to rural and urban areas equally, including areas not traditionally visited by international travelers, is right on target. And then there is the curious belief that the travel industry can be defined clearly enough to pay a levy, or that particular industries should be levied to fund policies that will supposedly benefit everyone. Yes, levies may work for the National Peanut Board, but is that really what the travel industry wants to compare itself to?

But compared to Exhibit B, from Britain, the American Act almost looks sensible. The UK has a new points-based visa system. In theory, this is the right approach. But in practice, it’s going to have a disastrous effect on U.S. interest in the UK. That’s partly because the visa application fee ranges from 145 pounds for a student up to an eye-watering 1,020 pounds for an unsponsored applicant. More fundamentally, though, it’s because the government wants to curtail the number and type of non-EU passport holders working in the UK, apparently on the economically illiterate theory than there are only so many jobs to go round. As a result, it now bars non-EU passport holders (with a few exceptions) from taking even unpaid internships.

As Scott Paul at the Adam Smith Institute points out, the argument that this will force employers to hire and pay Britons is nonsensical: what the requirement will really do is “[pronounce] a death sentence on thousands of UK internship programmes at universities around the world,” including in the U.S. He’s right: Yale, for example, canceled its “British Bulldogs” program this summer for exactly that reason. And over the long run, that’s going to be bad for Anglo-American relations, and for the British economy.

Nations have the right to control their own borders. But wouldn’t it be great if governments on both sides of the Atlantic would stop taxing, deterring, and rejecting potential visitors who cost nothing, freely spend their own money abroad, and do a great deal to promote friendly relations between the U.S. and Britain?

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A Word to Obama

The Foreign Policy Initiative, headed by my former Bush Administration colleague Jamie Fly — a rising figure in the foreign policy world — released a letter earlier today. Written to President Obama on the eve of his summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the letter expresses the belief that a positive relationship between the U.S. and Russia

requires a commitment by both countries to democracy and human rights and to urge you to reiterate that these values, which you have called universal, are inextricably linked to humane behavior at home and responsible behavior abroad. Furthermore, we ask you to meet with human rights, civil society, labor and opposition political party leaders while you are in Moscow …. We urge you to challenge Russian leaders about the lack of political and economic freedom in Russia.

The letter is signed by foreign policy experts and human rights advocates spanning a fairly wide spectrum, including people who have served in both Republican and Democratic Administrations. (Full disclosure: I am a signatory also.) It reiterates some of the arguments Obama made in his Cairo and Prague speeches about democracy and human rights and America’s commitment to both.

The hope of those who signed the letter is that Obama, having given eloquent voice to American principles, will now act on them. If he does so, the President will stand in the foreign policy tradition of the greatest leaders of his party, from Franklin Roosevelt to Harry Truman to John Kennedy.

The Foreign Policy Initiative, headed by my former Bush Administration colleague Jamie Fly — a rising figure in the foreign policy world — released a letter earlier today. Written to President Obama on the eve of his summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the letter expresses the belief that a positive relationship between the U.S. and Russia

requires a commitment by both countries to democracy and human rights and to urge you to reiterate that these values, which you have called universal, are inextricably linked to humane behavior at home and responsible behavior abroad. Furthermore, we ask you to meet with human rights, civil society, labor and opposition political party leaders while you are in Moscow …. We urge you to challenge Russian leaders about the lack of political and economic freedom in Russia.

The letter is signed by foreign policy experts and human rights advocates spanning a fairly wide spectrum, including people who have served in both Republican and Democratic Administrations. (Full disclosure: I am a signatory also.) It reiterates some of the arguments Obama made in his Cairo and Prague speeches about democracy and human rights and America’s commitment to both.

The hope of those who signed the letter is that Obama, having given eloquent voice to American principles, will now act on them. If he does so, the President will stand in the foreign policy tradition of the greatest leaders of his party, from Franklin Roosevelt to Harry Truman to John Kennedy.

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Iraq’s Future Challenges

Amid the hullabaloo regarding the handover of Iraqi cities to Iraqi security forces yesterday, it is easy to lose sight of the war still going on. Despite dramatic drops in violence in Iraq since 2006-2007 — and a corresponding increase in violence in Afghanistan — Iraq remains by several statistical measures the more violent of the two.

So far this year 101 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq versus 86 in Afghanistan. Figures for civilian casualties are less exact but they also indicate more deaths in Iraq — 893 in Iraq compared to 680 in Afghanistan.

It is hard to get too worked up over statistics so it helps to put a human face on them — a face like Tim Karcher’s. A lieutenant colonel and battalion commander, Karcher had only recently handed over control of his Area of Operations in Sadr City to the Iraqis. On Sunday he was riding through Baghdad in his heavily-armored MRAP vehicle when he was hit by a devastating EFP (explosively formed penetrator). MRAP’s are some of the best armored vehicles that we have, but EFP’s can punch through anything. As ABC’s Martha Raddatz relates in this moving dispatch, Karcher wound up losing both his legs. Sandstorms made it impossible to medivac him by air, so his command sergeant major, Richard Franklin, drove him to the hospital where doctors managed to save his life. On the way back from the hospital, the sergeant-major’s convoy was hit by another EFP, this one killing a sergeant.

Those EFP’s could have come from only one place — Iran. These tragic and maddening incidents are further confirmation, if any were needed, that Iran has not given up destabilizing Iraq and fighting our troops (and those of Iraq by proxy). The remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq also continue to fight. Their capabilities are thankfully much reduced from what they were several years ago, but they remain a formidable threat.

As long as we have 130,000 troops in Iraq, there is little doubt that we can help the Iraqis maintain the progress that has been made in recent years — although that task becomes a bit harder now that most of our troops have left urban centers. The real test will come in a 18 months’ time when under the terms of the Status of Forces agreement, U.S. troops are due to leave Iraq altogether.

Until recently I had expected that this deadline would not be binding, and there is still a chance that it won’t be, but the zeal with which the Maliki government has insisted on a real (if far from complete) pullout of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities suggests that there will not be many U.S. troops left in Iraq after 2010. That is a worrisome prospect because, for all the gains made by Iraqi security forces, they still have a long way to go before they can police their country entirely by themselves — especially when they face such a potent threat emanating from across the border with Iran.

Amid the hullabaloo regarding the handover of Iraqi cities to Iraqi security forces yesterday, it is easy to lose sight of the war still going on. Despite dramatic drops in violence in Iraq since 2006-2007 — and a corresponding increase in violence in Afghanistan — Iraq remains by several statistical measures the more violent of the two.

So far this year 101 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq versus 86 in Afghanistan. Figures for civilian casualties are less exact but they also indicate more deaths in Iraq — 893 in Iraq compared to 680 in Afghanistan.

It is hard to get too worked up over statistics so it helps to put a human face on them — a face like Tim Karcher’s. A lieutenant colonel and battalion commander, Karcher had only recently handed over control of his Area of Operations in Sadr City to the Iraqis. On Sunday he was riding through Baghdad in his heavily-armored MRAP vehicle when he was hit by a devastating EFP (explosively formed penetrator). MRAP’s are some of the best armored vehicles that we have, but EFP’s can punch through anything. As ABC’s Martha Raddatz relates in this moving dispatch, Karcher wound up losing both his legs. Sandstorms made it impossible to medivac him by air, so his command sergeant major, Richard Franklin, drove him to the hospital where doctors managed to save his life. On the way back from the hospital, the sergeant-major’s convoy was hit by another EFP, this one killing a sergeant.

Those EFP’s could have come from only one place — Iran. These tragic and maddening incidents are further confirmation, if any were needed, that Iran has not given up destabilizing Iraq and fighting our troops (and those of Iraq by proxy). The remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq also continue to fight. Their capabilities are thankfully much reduced from what they were several years ago, but they remain a formidable threat.

As long as we have 130,000 troops in Iraq, there is little doubt that we can help the Iraqis maintain the progress that has been made in recent years — although that task becomes a bit harder now that most of our troops have left urban centers. The real test will come in a 18 months’ time when under the terms of the Status of Forces agreement, U.S. troops are due to leave Iraq altogether.

Until recently I had expected that this deadline would not be binding, and there is still a chance that it won’t be, but the zeal with which the Maliki government has insisted on a real (if far from complete) pullout of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities suggests that there will not be many U.S. troops left in Iraq after 2010. That is a worrisome prospect because, for all the gains made by Iraqi security forces, they still have a long way to go before they can police their country entirely by themselves — especially when they face such a potent threat emanating from across the border with Iran.

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Re: The Senate Should Do Its Job

Michael Barone also has been perusing Justice Alito’s concurring opinion in Ricci. He observes:

Ricci is also something else: a riveting lesson in political sociology, thanks to the concurring opinion by Justice Samuel Alito. It shows how a combination of vote-hungry politicians and local political agitators — you might call them community organizers — worked with the approval of elite legal professionals like Judge Sotomayor to employ racial quotas and preferences in defiance of the words of the Civil Rights Act.

The facts are not pretty, nor are they difficult to discern, as Barone summarizes:

One of the chief actors was the Rev. Boise Kimber, a supporter of Mayor John DeStefano; the mayor testified for him as a character witness in a 1996 trial in which he was convicted of stealing prepaid funeral expenses from an elderly woman. DeStefano later appointed Kimber the head of the board of fire commissioners, but Kimber resigned after saying he wouldn’t hire certain recruits because “they just have too many vowels in their name.” After the results of the promotion test were announced, showing that 19 white and one Hispanic firefighter qualified for promotion, Kimber called the mayor’s chief administrative officer opposing certification of the test results.

The record shows that DeStefano and his appointees went to work, holding secret meetings and concealing their motives, to get the Civil Service Board to decertify the test results. Kimber appeared at a board meeting and made “a loud, minutes-long outburst” and had to be ruled out of order three times.

City officials ignored the inconvenient fact that they had hired an independent and experienced firm — this is a thriving business — to draw up a bias-free test and paid a competing firm to draw up another test. Its head testified that the first firm’s test was biased without seeing it. The board capitulated and decertified the test. DeStefano was prepared to overrule it if it had gone the other way.

Barone is right to make the connection between what Sotomayor did — sweep the whole nasty business under the rug — and what Kimber did. The two work hand-in-hand. Kimber is the street muscle, Sotomayor the legal fixer. They work together to assure the “numbers come out right.” And of course, sometimes Sotomayor has played the Kimber role more directly.

What do we think she did in her twelve years in leading PRLDEF and six years with La Raza? These groups are the professional Kimbers, lobbying and suing to get their way and to influence employers who dread being tagged as “racists.” In those 300 boxes from PRLDEF, how many threatening letters, emails to employers, drafts of legal complaints, and other documents will we find with the singular goal of hiring more of “our” people? No matter what.

It is little wonder that Sotomayor “missed” what was going on in Ricci. Why would someone who has devoted a career to haranguing elite schools, the bar, and public employers to improve “the numbers” find anything amiss with Kimber’s gambit or with the New Haven officials who readily caved to his pressure? This, in her mind, is how the system is supposed to work.

And this is what the Senate needs to explore. Any senator who votes to confirm her will be endorsing the legal machinations that the Kimbers and Sotomayors have perfected. The senators  — and the public — should think long and hard about whether this is how we, as a country, want to operate.

Michael Barone also has been perusing Justice Alito’s concurring opinion in Ricci. He observes:

Ricci is also something else: a riveting lesson in political sociology, thanks to the concurring opinion by Justice Samuel Alito. It shows how a combination of vote-hungry politicians and local political agitators — you might call them community organizers — worked with the approval of elite legal professionals like Judge Sotomayor to employ racial quotas and preferences in defiance of the words of the Civil Rights Act.

The facts are not pretty, nor are they difficult to discern, as Barone summarizes:

One of the chief actors was the Rev. Boise Kimber, a supporter of Mayor John DeStefano; the mayor testified for him as a character witness in a 1996 trial in which he was convicted of stealing prepaid funeral expenses from an elderly woman. DeStefano later appointed Kimber the head of the board of fire commissioners, but Kimber resigned after saying he wouldn’t hire certain recruits because “they just have too many vowels in their name.” After the results of the promotion test were announced, showing that 19 white and one Hispanic firefighter qualified for promotion, Kimber called the mayor’s chief administrative officer opposing certification of the test results.

The record shows that DeStefano and his appointees went to work, holding secret meetings and concealing their motives, to get the Civil Service Board to decertify the test results. Kimber appeared at a board meeting and made “a loud, minutes-long outburst” and had to be ruled out of order three times.

City officials ignored the inconvenient fact that they had hired an independent and experienced firm — this is a thriving business — to draw up a bias-free test and paid a competing firm to draw up another test. Its head testified that the first firm’s test was biased without seeing it. The board capitulated and decertified the test. DeStefano was prepared to overrule it if it had gone the other way.

Barone is right to make the connection between what Sotomayor did — sweep the whole nasty business under the rug — and what Kimber did. The two work hand-in-hand. Kimber is the street muscle, Sotomayor the legal fixer. They work together to assure the “numbers come out right.” And of course, sometimes Sotomayor has played the Kimber role more directly.

What do we think she did in her twelve years in leading PRLDEF and six years with La Raza? These groups are the professional Kimbers, lobbying and suing to get their way and to influence employers who dread being tagged as “racists.” In those 300 boxes from PRLDEF, how many threatening letters, emails to employers, drafts of legal complaints, and other documents will we find with the singular goal of hiring more of “our” people? No matter what.

It is little wonder that Sotomayor “missed” what was going on in Ricci. Why would someone who has devoted a career to haranguing elite schools, the bar, and public employers to improve “the numbers” find anything amiss with Kimber’s gambit or with the New Haven officials who readily caved to his pressure? This, in her mind, is how the system is supposed to work.

And this is what the Senate needs to explore. Any senator who votes to confirm her will be endorsing the legal machinations that the Kimbers and Sotomayors have perfected. The senators  — and the public — should think long and hard about whether this is how we, as a country, want to operate.

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Has the Iranian Regime Been Strengthened?

The bankruptcy of the Obama administration’s stillborn attempt at “engagement” with Tehran is no longer in doubt. The question is whether Washington will draw the proper conclusions and adjust its policy.

An interesting interpretation of the situation comes from M. K. Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat writing for the Asia Times. He points out that Iran has received strong support from China throughout the tumult over the stolen presidential election and that Syria has remained a steadfast ally to Iran also, despite a flirtation with Obama.

More to the point, Bhadrakumar’s piece directly contradicts much of what has been written about the Iranian regime in recent weeks. Rather than being weakened by the election fiasco and the subsequent protests, he sees the regime — Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in particular — as strengthened by recent events. His thesis holds that the regime is more united than ever in its resolve to hold onto power and that Ahmadinejad’s challenger Moussavi is completely isolated. Bhadrakumar believes Iran can retaliate against efforts to isolate it by complicating American efforts in Afghanistan.

Bhadrakumar is clearly sympathetic to the Islamic regime since he thinks that Ahmadinejad’s victory is legitimate. More absurdly, he seems to give some credence to the Islamist claim that the massive demonstrations against Ahmadinejad were ginned up by Western intelligence services. He laments Obama’s hardening stance against Iran — presumably as a result of pressure by U.S. public opinion — and advocates further appeasement of the regime after a “decent interval,” the same phrase employed by the Times’ Roger Cohen.

What can we make of this? First, I think Bhadrakumar’s point about the regime’s consolidated unity is well taken. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have demonstrated that they are in full control of the armed forces and can employ them without encountering dissent among their ranks. But his idea that Khamenei is now in a stronger position than before is nonsense. What the elections showed is that the Iranian version of democracy was always a sham. The Islamist clerics ruling that country with an iron fist can no longer pretend they do so with the consent of their people. This would give tremendous leverage to President Obama, should he decide to lead the West toward new stringent sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Once the regime has shown a willingness to kill its own people with impunity, sympathy abroad has been diminished.

By now, President Obama must realize it is no longer possible to pretend that a policy of making nice with Islamist tyrants will achieve any of America’s objectives. But Obama’s popularity abroad gives him a unique chance to rally the world in isolating Iran. Obama may have entered office thinking he could sweet talk the Iranian nuclear threat away. But his gift of oratory can still be put to good use in the cause of both regional peace and Iranian freedom. Rather than worrying about whether Khamenei thinks he’s “meddling” or what the regime’s apologists say about him, Obama has an opportunity to lead on an issue of vital importance that will, due to Iran’s steady progress on the nuclear front, sooner or later be brought back to the top of his agenda. The question now is whether he has the wisdom and the courage to act.

The bankruptcy of the Obama administration’s stillborn attempt at “engagement” with Tehran is no longer in doubt. The question is whether Washington will draw the proper conclusions and adjust its policy.

An interesting interpretation of the situation comes from M. K. Bhadrakumar, a former Indian diplomat writing for the Asia Times. He points out that Iran has received strong support from China throughout the tumult over the stolen presidential election and that Syria has remained a steadfast ally to Iran also, despite a flirtation with Obama.

More to the point, Bhadrakumar’s piece directly contradicts much of what has been written about the Iranian regime in recent weeks. Rather than being weakened by the election fiasco and the subsequent protests, he sees the regime — Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in particular — as strengthened by recent events. His thesis holds that the regime is more united than ever in its resolve to hold onto power and that Ahmadinejad’s challenger Moussavi is completely isolated. Bhadrakumar believes Iran can retaliate against efforts to isolate it by complicating American efforts in Afghanistan.

Bhadrakumar is clearly sympathetic to the Islamic regime since he thinks that Ahmadinejad’s victory is legitimate. More absurdly, he seems to give some credence to the Islamist claim that the massive demonstrations against Ahmadinejad were ginned up by Western intelligence services. He laments Obama’s hardening stance against Iran — presumably as a result of pressure by U.S. public opinion — and advocates further appeasement of the regime after a “decent interval,” the same phrase employed by the Times’ Roger Cohen.

What can we make of this? First, I think Bhadrakumar’s point about the regime’s consolidated unity is well taken. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have demonstrated that they are in full control of the armed forces and can employ them without encountering dissent among their ranks. But his idea that Khamenei is now in a stronger position than before is nonsense. What the elections showed is that the Iranian version of democracy was always a sham. The Islamist clerics ruling that country with an iron fist can no longer pretend they do so with the consent of their people. This would give tremendous leverage to President Obama, should he decide to lead the West toward new stringent sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Once the regime has shown a willingness to kill its own people with impunity, sympathy abroad has been diminished.

By now, President Obama must realize it is no longer possible to pretend that a policy of making nice with Islamist tyrants will achieve any of America’s objectives. But Obama’s popularity abroad gives him a unique chance to rally the world in isolating Iran. Obama may have entered office thinking he could sweet talk the Iranian nuclear threat away. But his gift of oratory can still be put to good use in the cause of both regional peace and Iranian freedom. Rather than worrying about whether Khamenei thinks he’s “meddling” or what the regime’s apologists say about him, Obama has an opportunity to lead on an issue of vital importance that will, due to Iran’s steady progress on the nuclear front, sooner or later be brought back to the top of his agenda. The question now is whether he has the wisdom and the courage to act.

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What Do They Want?

CNN reports:

A new national poll suggests that a bare majority of Americans support President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday morning indicates that most people are worried that their health care costs would go up if the administration’s proposals are passed and only one in five think that their families would be better off under the Obama plan.

Fifty-one percent of people questioned in the poll say they favor the president’s health care plan, with 45 percent opposed. . . . Fifty-four percent say their medical insurance costs will increase if the Obama plan becomes law, with 17 percent feeling their costs will decrease. Around one in four say their costs will remain the same. And only one in five say their family will be better off if the president’s plan becomes law, with 35 percent feeling they would be worse off, and 44 percent saying they would be about the same.

It isn’t clear why people support a plan (what plan is that by the way?) which will be more expensive and leave them “worse off,” but no one ever accused people of being entirely rational in their political beliefs. Perhaps if people were asked “are you in favor of spending more than a trillion dollars on a public option plan?” that 51% figure would come down. That is what the president is pushing, right? So far the public has not picked up on the president’s shift — from “guaranteeing” they will keep their existing insurance plan, to declaring he really can’t be responsible if private insurers are driven out of the market. Two-thirds of the public still believe they will be able to keep their existing plan.

What does all this mean? Opponents of the president’s plan might want to reinforce how expensive it is and how likely it is they won’t get to keep their plans. If the public is still listening, that might impact the debate and the outcome.

CNN reports:

A new national poll suggests that a bare majority of Americans support President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday morning indicates that most people are worried that their health care costs would go up if the administration’s proposals are passed and only one in five think that their families would be better off under the Obama plan.

Fifty-one percent of people questioned in the poll say they favor the president’s health care plan, with 45 percent opposed. . . . Fifty-four percent say their medical insurance costs will increase if the Obama plan becomes law, with 17 percent feeling their costs will decrease. Around one in four say their costs will remain the same. And only one in five say their family will be better off if the president’s plan becomes law, with 35 percent feeling they would be worse off, and 44 percent saying they would be about the same.

It isn’t clear why people support a plan (what plan is that by the way?) which will be more expensive and leave them “worse off,” but no one ever accused people of being entirely rational in their political beliefs. Perhaps if people were asked “are you in favor of spending more than a trillion dollars on a public option plan?” that 51% figure would come down. That is what the president is pushing, right? So far the public has not picked up on the president’s shift — from “guaranteeing” they will keep their existing insurance plan, to declaring he really can’t be responsible if private insurers are driven out of the market. Two-thirds of the public still believe they will be able to keep their existing plan.

What does all this mean? Opponents of the president’s plan might want to reinforce how expensive it is and how likely it is they won’t get to keep their plans. If the public is still listening, that might impact the debate and the outcome.

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Re: An Important Milestone in the Iraq War

Pete, your thoughtful recap of the errors of conventional wisdom and the remarkable achievement attained in Iran stands in stark contrast to the view put forth by the White House. It’s always midnight in America there — or at least for American interests that might offend leftists here or the anti-American opinion abroad. On this significant day when American troops proudly pass the security baton to their Iraqi counterparts, we got this:

“I will keep the banner printers from doing anything crazy,” said spokesman Robert Gibbs, in reference to the infamous “Mission Accomplished” sign that adorned the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln during George W. Bush’s 2003 combat flight stunt. “The way we look at this is, there is progress that is being made. Obviously the security situation has improved. I think President Obama talked about that throughout last year. And again, I think we are taking important steps on two fronts: our ability to get our own combat troops home, but also our ability to give the sovereign nation of Iraq more control and responsibility.”

Does he give credit to President Bush for the foresight and determination to see the surge through and deliver the results we saw this week? No:

Asked if President Bush’s surge policy was to credit for facilitating Tuesday’s accomplishment, Gibbs drew a distinction between security improvements on the ground and political progress among Iraq’s governing factions.

“The president would say, obviously increasing the number of troops in that country improved the security situation,” he said. “But the surge was to improve the security situation so that the political reconciliation could take place. So while the security situation has improved, we still have a lot of work to do on the political side of this equation.”

It is hard to imagine anything less gracious or less historically accurate. How does he think this political and military progress has been achieved — by magic or by a successfully implemented counterinsurgency strategy?

Perhaps the White House is so beholden to the Left it cannot credit its predecessor or celebrate America’s accomplishments. Perhaps Obama simply wants to ingratiate himself with the anti-American crowd and doesn’t want to ruffle their feathers. But it is hard to imagine a less encouraging approach for our troops and our allies. The president seems frankly embarrassed by our accomplishments. Maybe one of the reporters not involved in a pre-set bit of play acting with the president can ask him at the next press conference why that is.

Pete, your thoughtful recap of the errors of conventional wisdom and the remarkable achievement attained in Iran stands in stark contrast to the view put forth by the White House. It’s always midnight in America there — or at least for American interests that might offend leftists here or the anti-American opinion abroad. On this significant day when American troops proudly pass the security baton to their Iraqi counterparts, we got this:

“I will keep the banner printers from doing anything crazy,” said spokesman Robert Gibbs, in reference to the infamous “Mission Accomplished” sign that adorned the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln during George W. Bush’s 2003 combat flight stunt. “The way we look at this is, there is progress that is being made. Obviously the security situation has improved. I think President Obama talked about that throughout last year. And again, I think we are taking important steps on two fronts: our ability to get our own combat troops home, but also our ability to give the sovereign nation of Iraq more control and responsibility.”

Does he give credit to President Bush for the foresight and determination to see the surge through and deliver the results we saw this week? No:

Asked if President Bush’s surge policy was to credit for facilitating Tuesday’s accomplishment, Gibbs drew a distinction between security improvements on the ground and political progress among Iraq’s governing factions.

“The president would say, obviously increasing the number of troops in that country improved the security situation,” he said. “But the surge was to improve the security situation so that the political reconciliation could take place. So while the security situation has improved, we still have a lot of work to do on the political side of this equation.”

It is hard to imagine anything less gracious or less historically accurate. How does he think this political and military progress has been achieved — by magic or by a successfully implemented counterinsurgency strategy?

Perhaps the White House is so beholden to the Left it cannot credit its predecessor or celebrate America’s accomplishments. Perhaps Obama simply wants to ingratiate himself with the anti-American crowd and doesn’t want to ruffle their feathers. But it is hard to imagine a less encouraging approach for our troops and our allies. The president seems frankly embarrassed by our accomplishments. Maybe one of the reporters not involved in a pre-set bit of play acting with the president can ask him at the next press conference why that is.

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Faith-Based Science, Indeed

My colleague at Heritage, Mike Gonzalez, points out a fascinating report available through the Competitive Enterprise Institute. It consists of the leaked work of EPA veteran Dr. Alan Carlin, and makes a serious argument that

We have become increasingly concerned that EPA and many other agencies and countries have paid too little attention to the science of global warming…. the EPA is largely relying on scientific findings that are, by early 2009, largely 3 years or more out of date.

Dr. Carlin’s paper is substantial and deserves to be read in its entirety. But his takeaway is clear: the best explanations for global temperature fluctuations are changes in the amount of energy emitted by the sun, and, especially, oscillations in the temperatures of the oceans. The explanatory power of CO2 levels is much weaker, and, over the past decade, almost non-existent.

So why, when the House has just passed a “global warming” bill, is this report only available via a leak from CEI? Because, as Dr. Carlin puts it, “I’ve been involved in public policy since 1966 or 1967…. There’s never been anything exactly like this. I am now under a gag order.” The internal EPA e-mails between Dr. Carlin and his superiors that were leaked along with the report back up this claim.

The left has been very free over the past few years — actually, the last several decades — with claims of being pro-science, as opposed to those knuckle-dragging obscurantists on the right. But it’s the left that badly wants global warming to be real, so as to justify pet policies — such as a bigger, more intrusive state apparatus — that it champions for unrelated and, frankly, ideological reasons. If upholding such policies entails ignoring scientific opposition, the left’s quite willing to stick its fingers in its ears and start whistling.

As a newspaper veteran, my colleague regrets that “the media has happily gone along with this suppression.” For my part, it reminds me of a paper I once graded at Yale. The student author was absolutely persuaded that carbon monoxide caused global warming.

When I pointed out that CO was indeed toxic, but that no one called it a greenhouse gas, and that it was not the same as CO2, the student had no idea what I was talking about (and refused to revise the draft). All evidence had become irrelevant: what mattered was asserting his ill-informed belief, and refusing to reconsider on the grounds that doing so would be akin to apostasy. In a student, that is sad; in the making of policy, it’s both expensive and foolish.

My colleague at Heritage, Mike Gonzalez, points out a fascinating report available through the Competitive Enterprise Institute. It consists of the leaked work of EPA veteran Dr. Alan Carlin, and makes a serious argument that

We have become increasingly concerned that EPA and many other agencies and countries have paid too little attention to the science of global warming…. the EPA is largely relying on scientific findings that are, by early 2009, largely 3 years or more out of date.

Dr. Carlin’s paper is substantial and deserves to be read in its entirety. But his takeaway is clear: the best explanations for global temperature fluctuations are changes in the amount of energy emitted by the sun, and, especially, oscillations in the temperatures of the oceans. The explanatory power of CO2 levels is much weaker, and, over the past decade, almost non-existent.

So why, when the House has just passed a “global warming” bill, is this report only available via a leak from CEI? Because, as Dr. Carlin puts it, “I’ve been involved in public policy since 1966 or 1967…. There’s never been anything exactly like this. I am now under a gag order.” The internal EPA e-mails between Dr. Carlin and his superiors that were leaked along with the report back up this claim.

The left has been very free over the past few years — actually, the last several decades — with claims of being pro-science, as opposed to those knuckle-dragging obscurantists on the right. But it’s the left that badly wants global warming to be real, so as to justify pet policies — such as a bigger, more intrusive state apparatus — that it champions for unrelated and, frankly, ideological reasons. If upholding such policies entails ignoring scientific opposition, the left’s quite willing to stick its fingers in its ears and start whistling.

As a newspaper veteran, my colleague regrets that “the media has happily gone along with this suppression.” For my part, it reminds me of a paper I once graded at Yale. The student author was absolutely persuaded that carbon monoxide caused global warming.

When I pointed out that CO was indeed toxic, but that no one called it a greenhouse gas, and that it was not the same as CO2, the student had no idea what I was talking about (and refused to revise the draft). All evidence had become irrelevant: what mattered was asserting his ill-informed belief, and refusing to reconsider on the grounds that doing so would be akin to apostasy. In a student, that is sad; in the making of policy, it’s both expensive and foolish.

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Re: Obama Is Bringing People Together in Israel

From Moshe Arens in Ha’aretz:

It has been a long time since America last had a president as powerful as Obama, who controls both houses of Congress and is wildly popular among the American public. It is from this advantageous position that Obama has decided to confront Israel, and now the Israeli prime minister has to decide how to respond.

Meanwhile, the world’s troublemakers in Tehran, Damascus, and Pyongyang are getting away with murder. As for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad, Obama has decided to sweet-talk them. Meanwhile Kim Jong-il is still waiting to see how the U.S. president will deal with him, as North Korea continues to threaten the world with its nuclear-tipped missiles. The exception to it all is Israel — Obama is telling Jerusalem in no uncertain terms what he expects from it. No doubt about it, the American leader has decided to use strong-arm tactics on America’s long-time ally.

[. . .]

Obama is playing hardball. While efforts to assuage the concerns of the Israeli public regarding relations with the U.S. — by saying that the settlement issue is negotiable — may leave an impression in Israel, they are falling on deaf ears in Washington…. Succumbing to the pressure that is being applied on the settlement issue will only result in additional pressure on other issues, and before long Israel’s position on matters of principle and substance will begin to crumble. This is not going to be easy, but Israel’s staunch supporters in the U.S. will stand by it. It will be a test for the American Jewish leadership — and for the people of Israel.

He is right; this is a test. But as far as the organized Jewish community in America is concerned, those “staunch supporters in the U.S.” are failing it. We have a growing existential threat to Israel paired with a U.S. president openly antagonistic to Israel. He denies or ignores the Iranian nuclear threat, and tries to warn Israel not to do much about it. We are told “No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.” Hmm. Who might he have in mind?

Instead of addressing the greatest threat to Israel in a generation (or more), Obama engages in a public-pressure campaign against Israel, going as far as to deny past U.S. commitments and creating an exception to his “no dictates, no meddling” rule, solely applicable to the Jewish state.

Where is the outrage in the U.S. — especially among the 78% of Jews who voted for Obama? Where are the major Jewish institutions that in the past offered rhetorical and political support for a vibrant pro-Israel policy? Yes, Marty Peretz is pretty peeved these days, but an irate column or two from a previously enthusiastic Obama defender are less than what one would expect when Washington decides to launch this sort of policy. One wonders what those offering themselves as official representatives of the American Jewish community and friends of Israel think they are accomplishing by their relative silence.

The sliver of American Jewry originally wary of Obama who had warned of just this result is outraged, but not surprised. They however remain perplexed that their fellow Jews, who swore up and down that Obama would be “fine” on Israel, remain in denial about the person they helped put in the White House. Now is not a time for meekness. We are, as Arens says, being tested.

From Moshe Arens in Ha’aretz:

It has been a long time since America last had a president as powerful as Obama, who controls both houses of Congress and is wildly popular among the American public. It is from this advantageous position that Obama has decided to confront Israel, and now the Israeli prime minister has to decide how to respond.

Meanwhile, the world’s troublemakers in Tehran, Damascus, and Pyongyang are getting away with murder. As for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad, Obama has decided to sweet-talk them. Meanwhile Kim Jong-il is still waiting to see how the U.S. president will deal with him, as North Korea continues to threaten the world with its nuclear-tipped missiles. The exception to it all is Israel — Obama is telling Jerusalem in no uncertain terms what he expects from it. No doubt about it, the American leader has decided to use strong-arm tactics on America’s long-time ally.

[. . .]

Obama is playing hardball. While efforts to assuage the concerns of the Israeli public regarding relations with the U.S. — by saying that the settlement issue is negotiable — may leave an impression in Israel, they are falling on deaf ears in Washington…. Succumbing to the pressure that is being applied on the settlement issue will only result in additional pressure on other issues, and before long Israel’s position on matters of principle and substance will begin to crumble. This is not going to be easy, but Israel’s staunch supporters in the U.S. will stand by it. It will be a test for the American Jewish leadership — and for the people of Israel.

He is right; this is a test. But as far as the organized Jewish community in America is concerned, those “staunch supporters in the U.S.” are failing it. We have a growing existential threat to Israel paired with a U.S. president openly antagonistic to Israel. He denies or ignores the Iranian nuclear threat, and tries to warn Israel not to do much about it. We are told “No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.” Hmm. Who might he have in mind?

Instead of addressing the greatest threat to Israel in a generation (or more), Obama engages in a public-pressure campaign against Israel, going as far as to deny past U.S. commitments and creating an exception to his “no dictates, no meddling” rule, solely applicable to the Jewish state.

Where is the outrage in the U.S. — especially among the 78% of Jews who voted for Obama? Where are the major Jewish institutions that in the past offered rhetorical and political support for a vibrant pro-Israel policy? Yes, Marty Peretz is pretty peeved these days, but an irate column or two from a previously enthusiastic Obama defender are less than what one would expect when Washington decides to launch this sort of policy. One wonders what those offering themselves as official representatives of the American Jewish community and friends of Israel think they are accomplishing by their relative silence.

The sliver of American Jewry originally wary of Obama who had warned of just this result is outraged, but not surprised. They however remain perplexed that their fellow Jews, who swore up and down that Obama would be “fine” on Israel, remain in denial about the person they helped put in the White House. Now is not a time for meekness. We are, as Arens says, being tested.

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Jewish Schools in Britain at Risk

Last week, three British judges ruled that JFS, formerly the Jews’ Free School, in north-west London, racially discriminated against an applicant. The school is state-funded. As the Telegraph reports:

The boy’s father is Jewish by birth, but his mother is Jewish by conversion conducted at a Progressive rather than an Orthodox synagogue and therefore not recognised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

The school sought to discriminate in favor of Jewish applicants certified by the Chief Rabbi — a procedure formerly thought to be legal, as long as the school was oversubscribed and the discrimination was not based on ethnicity. The judges found that, contrary to a decision by a lower court, what had been “characterised as religious grounds were in fact racial grounds, despite their theological motivation.” In short, the judges held, Jews are an ethnicity, and therefore are not eligible to maintain state supported schools that discriminate in favor of Jewish students, no matter if they are oversubscribed or not,
because that discrimination is racist.

I will leave it to the readers of this forum to debate the matter of the Chief Rabbi’s decision, as I suspect they possess expertise on this subject that I lack. But personally, I think the decision is appalling. Its tacit logic is that only religions based on proselytizing and conversion are real religions: those one is born into are ethnicities in disguise. This is a curious and indeed baseless truncation of religion, but if that is indeed is the reasoning, Britain’s Hindus and Sikhs will be as badly affected, in theory, by this decision, as are Britain’s Jewish citizens.

In practice, though, the weight of the decision will fall almost entirely on Jewish schools. In 2007, there were two state-funded Sikh schools in Britain, no Hindu schools — and 37 Jewish schools, educating almost half the Jewish children between the ages of four and fifteen. If the decision stands, these schools will either have to choose between going private or abandoning their identity.

There may be a case to be made that the state should not be supporting faith-based schools at all, and that their operations — like much else in Britain — should be left to local government organs. But that is not, as David Conway of Civitas points out, the existing system in place, as evidenced by 6,802 Christian state-maintained schools and seven Muslim ones operating in Britain. Indeed, all state-maintained schools have a legal obligation — often admittedly evaded — to provide religious instruction. The faith-based schools do not, therefore, stand as far apart from secular schools as one might think.

Nor does the faddish belief in “community cohesion” offer any justification for this decision, because no one with a fair mind maintains that Jewish schools are indoctrinating their students into social isolation or hostility. If that charge could be pressed against any schools in Britain, it would be against a section of the Muslim schools, which will be entirely unaffected by this decision.

And that, sadly, says a lot about Britain today, where judges perversely find that it’s the Jewish schools that are the nasty, racist, discriminatory ones. A better example of condemning the victim and using anti-discrimination law to do it would be hard to find.

Last week, three British judges ruled that JFS, formerly the Jews’ Free School, in north-west London, racially discriminated against an applicant. The school is state-funded. As the Telegraph reports:

The boy’s father is Jewish by birth, but his mother is Jewish by conversion conducted at a Progressive rather than an Orthodox synagogue and therefore not recognised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

The school sought to discriminate in favor of Jewish applicants certified by the Chief Rabbi — a procedure formerly thought to be legal, as long as the school was oversubscribed and the discrimination was not based on ethnicity. The judges found that, contrary to a decision by a lower court, what had been “characterised as religious grounds were in fact racial grounds, despite their theological motivation.” In short, the judges held, Jews are an ethnicity, and therefore are not eligible to maintain state supported schools that discriminate in favor of Jewish students, no matter if they are oversubscribed or not,
because that discrimination is racist.

I will leave it to the readers of this forum to debate the matter of the Chief Rabbi’s decision, as I suspect they possess expertise on this subject that I lack. But personally, I think the decision is appalling. Its tacit logic is that only religions based on proselytizing and conversion are real religions: those one is born into are ethnicities in disguise. This is a curious and indeed baseless truncation of religion, but if that is indeed is the reasoning, Britain’s Hindus and Sikhs will be as badly affected, in theory, by this decision, as are Britain’s Jewish citizens.

In practice, though, the weight of the decision will fall almost entirely on Jewish schools. In 2007, there were two state-funded Sikh schools in Britain, no Hindu schools — and 37 Jewish schools, educating almost half the Jewish children between the ages of four and fifteen. If the decision stands, these schools will either have to choose between going private or abandoning their identity.

There may be a case to be made that the state should not be supporting faith-based schools at all, and that their operations — like much else in Britain — should be left to local government organs. But that is not, as David Conway of Civitas points out, the existing system in place, as evidenced by 6,802 Christian state-maintained schools and seven Muslim ones operating in Britain. Indeed, all state-maintained schools have a legal obligation — often admittedly evaded — to provide religious instruction. The faith-based schools do not, therefore, stand as far apart from secular schools as one might think.

Nor does the faddish belief in “community cohesion” offer any justification for this decision, because no one with a fair mind maintains that Jewish schools are indoctrinating their students into social isolation or hostility. If that charge could be pressed against any schools in Britain, it would be against a section of the Muslim schools, which will be entirely unaffected by this decision.

And that, sadly, says a lot about Britain today, where judges perversely find that it’s the Jewish schools that are the nasty, racist, discriminatory ones. A better example of condemning the victim and using anti-discrimination law to do it would be hard to find.

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The Senate Should Do Its Job

Scholar and Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Abigail Thernstrom, recaps Ricci and reminds us of the important concurring and dissenting opinions:

The Supreme Court has made an elegant start at cleaning up the mess of employment discrimination law, in part by insisting on a critical point. “The purpose of Title VII is to promote hiring on the basis of job qualifications, rather than on the basis of race or color,” Justice Kennedy said. The goal was to create a workplace environment free of discrimination, “where race is not a barrier to opportunity.” And yet “the City made its employment decision because of race. The city rejected the test results solely because the higher scoring candidates were white.”

Justice Samuel Alito’s concurring opinion noted that New Haven never made any credible effort to determine whether the firefighters’ promotional exam was a legitimate test of job-related skills; the decision to discard the test results was nakedly political. The tests, in fact, had been scrupulously designed and scrubbed of all possible racial bias.

Incredibly, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing in dissent, agreed with the willfully blind conclusion of the district court — which had reasoned that New Haven’s assessment “was race-neutral” on the grounds that “all the test results were discarded, no one was promoted.” The panel on the Second Circuit effectively agreed with this nonsense.

She and others who have taken the time to read the justices’ multiple opinions have concluded that it was hard to miss — except willfully — what was a stake here. As Alito detailed, there is a veritable industry devoted to hounding private and public employers to impose quotas and preferences. They cajole and threaten, bluster and sue. PRFDEF, the NAACP, MALDEF and others like them spend thousands of attorney hours and millions of dollars doing this, year after year. The goal is to intimidate, bully, and render employers — both public and private — wary of letting the chips fall where they may. Their goal is to shape employers’ actions so that merit no longer determines the outcome in thousands of hiring decisions. The pressure to succumb to their threats is great.

Sometimes, as Thernstrom points out, the stakes are very high:

Here we should listen to Frank Ricci, the lead plaintiff. He appeared at a hearing held by the Civil Service Board before the test results were released. “The people who passed should be promoted,” he said. “When your life’s on the line, second best may not be good enough.” Residents in a burning building want competent firefighters. They don’t care about the race of those whose job it is to save them.

It is tempting for the Senate not to dwell on Ricci or on the upcoming Sotomayor confirmation hearing. After all, there is the economy, healthcare reform, and many less controversial topics. But nothing can be more important.

We forget how critical these nominations and confirmation hearings can be. After all, without the nomination and confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, Frank Ricci could well have been stuck with his terse dismissal from the Second Circuit. The very fiber of our society may be altered by one or more of the appointments Obama is likely to make to the Court during his presidency. Are we to look the other way when the victimization mongers raise a fuss? Or do we as a society tell employers to stand up to intimidation and resist the urge to discriminate against those without a civil rights lobby behind them?

It behooves the Senate to take seriously its responsibilities, to question Sotomayor and to consider why it is that she could not discern the issues, articulate her reasoning, and reach a defensible result in Ricci. Future Frank Riccis who may come before the Court in the years to follow deserve nothing less.

Scholar and Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Abigail Thernstrom, recaps Ricci and reminds us of the important concurring and dissenting opinions:

The Supreme Court has made an elegant start at cleaning up the mess of employment discrimination law, in part by insisting on a critical point. “The purpose of Title VII is to promote hiring on the basis of job qualifications, rather than on the basis of race or color,” Justice Kennedy said. The goal was to create a workplace environment free of discrimination, “where race is not a barrier to opportunity.” And yet “the City made its employment decision because of race. The city rejected the test results solely because the higher scoring candidates were white.”

Justice Samuel Alito’s concurring opinion noted that New Haven never made any credible effort to determine whether the firefighters’ promotional exam was a legitimate test of job-related skills; the decision to discard the test results was nakedly political. The tests, in fact, had been scrupulously designed and scrubbed of all possible racial bias.

Incredibly, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing in dissent, agreed with the willfully blind conclusion of the district court — which had reasoned that New Haven’s assessment “was race-neutral” on the grounds that “all the test results were discarded, no one was promoted.” The panel on the Second Circuit effectively agreed with this nonsense.

She and others who have taken the time to read the justices’ multiple opinions have concluded that it was hard to miss — except willfully — what was a stake here. As Alito detailed, there is a veritable industry devoted to hounding private and public employers to impose quotas and preferences. They cajole and threaten, bluster and sue. PRFDEF, the NAACP, MALDEF and others like them spend thousands of attorney hours and millions of dollars doing this, year after year. The goal is to intimidate, bully, and render employers — both public and private — wary of letting the chips fall where they may. Their goal is to shape employers’ actions so that merit no longer determines the outcome in thousands of hiring decisions. The pressure to succumb to their threats is great.

Sometimes, as Thernstrom points out, the stakes are very high:

Here we should listen to Frank Ricci, the lead plaintiff. He appeared at a hearing held by the Civil Service Board before the test results were released. “The people who passed should be promoted,” he said. “When your life’s on the line, second best may not be good enough.” Residents in a burning building want competent firefighters. They don’t care about the race of those whose job it is to save them.

It is tempting for the Senate not to dwell on Ricci or on the upcoming Sotomayor confirmation hearing. After all, there is the economy, healthcare reform, and many less controversial topics. But nothing can be more important.

We forget how critical these nominations and confirmation hearings can be. After all, without the nomination and confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, Frank Ricci could well have been stuck with his terse dismissal from the Second Circuit. The very fiber of our society may be altered by one or more of the appointments Obama is likely to make to the Court during his presidency. Are we to look the other way when the victimization mongers raise a fuss? Or do we as a society tell employers to stand up to intimidation and resist the urge to discriminate against those without a civil rights lobby behind them?

It behooves the Senate to take seriously its responsibilities, to question Sotomayor and to consider why it is that she could not discern the issues, articulate her reasoning, and reach a defensible result in Ricci. Future Frank Riccis who may come before the Court in the years to follow deserve nothing less.

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Does It Make a Difference?

With Al Franken added to the mix, Big Labor has one more vote for card check. But it isn’t clear whether it matters. The Hill reports:

Even with Franken, Democrats may not have the votes to push through because of concerns in their own conference.

“While Al Franken is a well-known supporter of the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act and Sen. Norm Coleman is opposed to the legislation, we do not expect the seating of either in the U.S. Senate to significantly alter the dynamics of the vote count in the upper chamber,” says a June 15 memo from the Workforce Fairness Institute, which is opposed to EFCA. “The reality is that union bosses simply do not have the votes…and the impediment lies with Democrats, who would have a filibuster-proof majority, if Franken emerges as the victor.

All eyes now turn to the many Senate Democrats who have been skittish in supporting EFCA or have outright opposed it. Both Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) have come out against the bill, although Specter, alongside Harkin, has been working on a compromise. Specter voted for cloture on the bill in 2007.

The real question — as it is on cap-and-trade, health care, the Supreme Court confirmation, and a host of other votes between now and 2010 — is just how vulnerable Red state Democrats, whose votes are needed to enact the far Left agenda, are. It isn’t Franken’s vote that is up for grabs but those of Dorgan, Bayh, Pryor, Webb, Warner, Lincoln, Conrad, and others. Do they think Obama’s current popularity will insulate them from their more conservative constituents’ wrath? Perhaps they will get nervous, read the polls, and try to slow down the liberal train before it derails their own electoral prospects.

In part, the answer depends on how the public perceives Obama and the Democratic Congress. If one takes stock in polls, a recent Gallup survey suggests the public already thinks they are veering too far to the Left. We learn:

A Gallup Poll finds a statistically significant increase since last year in the percentage of Americans who describe the Democratic Party’s views as being ‘too liberal,’ from 39% to 46%. This is the largest percentage saying so since November 1994, after the party’s losses in that year’s midterm elections.

But beyond Right and Left perceptions, there remain basic economic facts — the deficit, GDP, and unemployment. If those continue their current trajectory, those critical moderate and conservative Democrats will be looking for cover — and for ways to put some distance between themselves and their more liberal colleagues.

With Al Franken added to the mix, Big Labor has one more vote for card check. But it isn’t clear whether it matters. The Hill reports:

Even with Franken, Democrats may not have the votes to push through because of concerns in their own conference.

“While Al Franken is a well-known supporter of the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act and Sen. Norm Coleman is opposed to the legislation, we do not expect the seating of either in the U.S. Senate to significantly alter the dynamics of the vote count in the upper chamber,” says a June 15 memo from the Workforce Fairness Institute, which is opposed to EFCA. “The reality is that union bosses simply do not have the votes…and the impediment lies with Democrats, who would have a filibuster-proof majority, if Franken emerges as the victor.

All eyes now turn to the many Senate Democrats who have been skittish in supporting EFCA or have outright opposed it. Both Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) have come out against the bill, although Specter, alongside Harkin, has been working on a compromise. Specter voted for cloture on the bill in 2007.

The real question — as it is on cap-and-trade, health care, the Supreme Court confirmation, and a host of other votes between now and 2010 — is just how vulnerable Red state Democrats, whose votes are needed to enact the far Left agenda, are. It isn’t Franken’s vote that is up for grabs but those of Dorgan, Bayh, Pryor, Webb, Warner, Lincoln, Conrad, and others. Do they think Obama’s current popularity will insulate them from their more conservative constituents’ wrath? Perhaps they will get nervous, read the polls, and try to slow down the liberal train before it derails their own electoral prospects.

In part, the answer depends on how the public perceives Obama and the Democratic Congress. If one takes stock in polls, a recent Gallup survey suggests the public already thinks they are veering too far to the Left. We learn:

A Gallup Poll finds a statistically significant increase since last year in the percentage of Americans who describe the Democratic Party’s views as being ‘too liberal,’ from 39% to 46%. This is the largest percentage saying so since November 1994, after the party’s losses in that year’s midterm elections.

But beyond Right and Left perceptions, there remain basic economic facts — the deficit, GDP, and unemployment. If those continue their current trajectory, those critical moderate and conservative Democrats will be looking for cover — and for ways to put some distance between themselves and their more liberal colleagues.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Fear-mongering” is everywhere: “Americans have mixed feelings about the historic climate change bill that passed the House on Friday, but 42% say it will hurt the U.S. economy. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 19% believe the climate change bill passed by the House on Friday will help the economy. Fifteen percent (15%) say it will have no impact, and 24% are not sure.”

It might not have made a difference, but this is one more reminder of just how poorly John McCain was served by his “team,” which sought fit to trash its own candidate’s VP choice. Whatever you think of Sarah Palin, her shortcomings as a candidate pale in comparison to those of  political advisers who were supposed to lead the effort to elect the ticket.

On a related note, Mark Steyn asks,”Is politics some kind of affirmative action program for sociopaths?”

“Franco is still dead,” goes the joke. And Jon Corzine is still very unpopular.

Another bit of data suggesting the public is wary of the liberal legislative frenzy: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 41% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 39% would choose the Democratic candidate.”

There is apparently a business model for an adversary news organization not devoted to Obama PR: “Since Obama came into office, Fox has continued not only winning, but doing so at unprecedented levels. As the Hollywood Reporter noted last week, the network is having its ‘best year yet,’ with the competition in the ratings shifting from not only the news networks but all of basic cable. Indeed, Fox came in 3rd this quarter, behind only USA and TNT.”

Canadians discover private healthcare is the way to go.

I wouldn’t get your hopes up: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak emerged from a four-hour meeting with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell in New York on Tuesday without any agreement on settlement construction, but optimistic the two sides could “zoom out” of the settlement issue and focus on the wider regional diplomatic initiative.”

Joe Biden, who wanted to divide Iraq in three parts, now has a united and democratic Iraq as part of his portfolio. Biden, who was never right on any aspect of Iraq policy, can now work with Christopher Hill, who has no Iraq experience and whose claim to fame was the ludicrously counter-productive Six Party talks. What, you expected competence?

The Washington Post editors don’t like Obama’s priorities: “The Obama administration is lavishing diplomatic attention and resources on the Israeli-Arab peace process, where there is scant chance of an early breakthrough, while leaving Iraq to a new ambassador with no Middle East experience. If there are to be more days to celebrate in Iraq, this policy of quiet neglect must end.”

The ADL applauds Ricci.

Creigh Deeds gets the SEIU endorsement in the Virginia gubernatorial race; his opponent makes hay out of Deeds’ indebtedness to the union that wants to change Virginia’s right-to-work rules.

Fear-mongering” is everywhere: “Americans have mixed feelings about the historic climate change bill that passed the House on Friday, but 42% say it will hurt the U.S. economy. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 19% believe the climate change bill passed by the House on Friday will help the economy. Fifteen percent (15%) say it will have no impact, and 24% are not sure.”

It might not have made a difference, but this is one more reminder of just how poorly John McCain was served by his “team,” which sought fit to trash its own candidate’s VP choice. Whatever you think of Sarah Palin, her shortcomings as a candidate pale in comparison to those of  political advisers who were supposed to lead the effort to elect the ticket.

On a related note, Mark Steyn asks,”Is politics some kind of affirmative action program for sociopaths?”

“Franco is still dead,” goes the joke. And Jon Corzine is still very unpopular.

Another bit of data suggesting the public is wary of the liberal legislative frenzy: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 41% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 39% would choose the Democratic candidate.”

There is apparently a business model for an adversary news organization not devoted to Obama PR: “Since Obama came into office, Fox has continued not only winning, but doing so at unprecedented levels. As the Hollywood Reporter noted last week, the network is having its ‘best year yet,’ with the competition in the ratings shifting from not only the news networks but all of basic cable. Indeed, Fox came in 3rd this quarter, behind only USA and TNT.”

Canadians discover private healthcare is the way to go.

I wouldn’t get your hopes up: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak emerged from a four-hour meeting with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell in New York on Tuesday without any agreement on settlement construction, but optimistic the two sides could “zoom out” of the settlement issue and focus on the wider regional diplomatic initiative.”

Joe Biden, who wanted to divide Iraq in three parts, now has a united and democratic Iraq as part of his portfolio. Biden, who was never right on any aspect of Iraq policy, can now work with Christopher Hill, who has no Iraq experience and whose claim to fame was the ludicrously counter-productive Six Party talks. What, you expected competence?

The Washington Post editors don’t like Obama’s priorities: “The Obama administration is lavishing diplomatic attention and resources on the Israeli-Arab peace process, where there is scant chance of an early breakthrough, while leaving Iraq to a new ambassador with no Middle East experience. If there are to be more days to celebrate in Iraq, this policy of quiet neglect must end.”

The ADL applauds Ricci.

Creigh Deeds gets the SEIU endorsement in the Virginia gubernatorial race; his opponent makes hay out of Deeds’ indebtedness to the union that wants to change Virginia’s right-to-work rules.

Read Less




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