Goodnight Vienna (4)

Omri Ceren writes to take note of the report by Reuters UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau: US and Iran: The unbearable awkwardness of defending your enemy,” datelined Vienna. Even if Omri is unreasonably optimistic regarding the impact of reports such as Charbonneau’s and the others he notes below, Omri’s updates have helped us keep up with the mind-boggling surrender in process to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Omri writes:

In recent months the Iranians have violated the interim JPOA by busting through energy export caps, injecting uranium gas into advanced centrifuges, and falling short of the deal’s oxidation requirement. They’ve also violated United Nations Security Council resolutions by seeking to procure illicit nuclear infrastructure and refusing to cooperate with the IAEA.

In all of those cases the Obama administration played Iran’s lawyer, arguing either that the Iranians weren’t cheating or that the cheating didn’t matter. Reuters just published what basically amounts to a long-read on some of the examples:

[F]or a month now the U.S. State Department has been defending Iran from suggestions that it was on the verge of violating a requirement to reduce its low-enriched uranium stockpile under a 2013 interim nuclear with major powers… It was not the first time Washington has defended Iran. After the IAEA reported that Iran had begun feeding uranium into a single advanced centrifuge last year, which would be a violation of the 2013 deal, U.S. negotiators said it was apparently a mistake on Iran’s part… A U.N. panel of experts that monitors compliance with Security Council sanctions has repeatedly reported that Iran is suspected of buying equipment linked to the activities it is now negotiating to suspend. But in its annual report in April, the panel said it had received no formal notifications from U.N. member states of Iranian breaches of sanctions, and suggested this may be because countries were trying to avoid damaging nuclear talks.

The most recent cheating was the oxidation violation that was confirmed last week. The Iranians were obligated by the JPOA to turn all of their excess uranium gas (UF6) into dioxide powder (UO2). In the JPOA factsheet the requirement was broadly written as the Iranians having to create “oxide.” But there are different kinds of uranium oxide, and this is an area where you want precision, and so on an expert scientific level the requirement was defined more precisely as being about dioxide. Both of the annual Congressional Research Service reports about the JPOA – which were posted to state.gov – tersely noted that “Iran is also to, in effect, freeze its production of enriched uranium hexafluoride containing up to 5% uranium-235 by converting the material to uranium dioxide.”

But when the Iranians violated the requirement this past week, administration officials started telling reporters there’s a loophole because the JPOA factsheet only talks about “oxide.” There was a background briefing here in Vienna two days ago where a senior State Department official tried to convince reporters that the requirement was about just any form of oxide. A senior administration then jumped in and declared that the requirement was actually really clear. The irritating punchline is part of a broader rhetorical strategy they’ve been using for a couple of days, where the argument is that critics just haven’t read the JPOA or don’t understand it.

If you’re wondering why top journalists are publishing stories about the administration playing Iran’s lawyer, this is why.

Nobody serious pretends that the oxidation requirement was about any form of oxide. It was about converting UF6 to UO2. That’s how it was always understood and that’s what – until last week – the State Department promised the Iranians would do. But when the Iranians cheated the Obama administration went to work retroactively rewriting the deal on Iran’s behalf. Now the State Department is trying to convince reporters to forget about canonical CRS reports were posted here and here on the State Department’s own webpage.

In the last few days the AP published that the Obama administration’s coziness with Iran is the “new normal,” the WSJ revealed that the administration started secretly seeking reconciliation with Iran almost from day 1, and Reuters assessed that the Obama administration has become Iran’s lawyer. These aren’t neocon opinion pieces. They’re full-blown news articles from top diplomatic writers at some of the world’s leading outlets. The Obama administration will need to somehow overcome these suspicions if it’s going to convince Congress that the White House will enforce an Iran deal. Thus the record has been 100 percent the opposite.

It’s not easy going green

Our friend Katherine Kersten is a senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis. Kathy has a business degree from the Yale School of Management and a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School. She can be reached at [email protected]

This important column originally appeared in the Star Tribune and is now posted under the heading “Campus sustainability: Going green is just part of the plot” at the Center of the American Experiment site. It is reprinted here with Kathy’s permission:

Every decade or so, another academic “fashion du jour” sweeps America’s college campuses. In the 1990s, it was multiculturalism. That morphed into “diversity” — now such a mantra that students can spell it backward in their sleep. Today, excitement is surging for a new fad, “sustainability,” that’s taking higher education by storm.

Sustainability now permeates campuses from the classroom to the dorm, dining hall, faculty lounge, physical plant and alumni office. The word conjures up images of clean water, recycling, and DDT-free songbirds at the back-yard feeder. Responsible environmental stewardship — what’s not to like about that?

But wait. If you hang around campus for long, you learn that sustainability also often entails a curious grab bag of social issues. These include “gender-neutral” campus housing for transgender students; patronizing women-owned businesses, and denouncing “white privilege” and police brutality.

Sustainability, it turns out, is the new battle cry in an old war. It’s a wraparound concept that links the old, familiar liberal causes of environmental activism, animosity toward free markets, and a progressive take on “social justice.” But it repackages them and lends them urgency by maintaining that embrace of its ideological agenda is imperative to avoid a looming ecological and social catastrophe.

Second Nature, a national advocacy organization that has helped engineer sustainability’s rapid rise on campus, describes the movement’s transformative ambitions this way. America does “not have environmental problems per se,” the group maintains. “We have environmental consequences resulting from the way we have designed our business, social, economic and political systems.”

In other words, the campus sustainability movement’s mission is to transform our fundamental social, economic and political institutions, and to do so by manipulating, cajoling and browbeating a generation of college students into accepting the movement’s worldview and cultural norms.

A report titled “Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism” — recently released by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) in New York City — explores the history and implications of the movement’s meteoric rise on campus.

Sustainability is not an academic discipline but an ideological “lens” through which to view all of life, as the report makes clear. Today, 475 colleges in 65 states or Canadian provinces offer a total of 1,436 degree or certificate programs in sustainability, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. In addition, there are countless elective classes. Cornell University offers more than 400, ranging from “The Ethics of Eating” (“defend” or change your eating habits) to “Magnifying Small Spaces Studio,” where students learn to make do living in tiny spaces.

Beyond the classroom, students are pressured — often by paid student “eco-reps” — to conform the smallest details of their daily lives to the movement’s norms. This can mean tray-less cafeteria dining; shorter showers; “Meatless Mondays”; lectures on fossil fuel divestment; and films like “Food, Inc.” or “The Story of Bottled Water,” which depict the American economy as a tool of greedy, ruthless capitalists.

How is the sustainability movement playing out on Minnesota campuses? St. John’s University in Collegeville offers an example. SJU is committed to “incorporating the goals of sustainability into every aspect of life” and focusing students’ attention on the “triple bottom line: equity, economy and the environment.”

The university — which boasts of becoming “carbon-neutral” by 2035 by conserving, changing energy sources, and investing in alternative energy and carbon offsets — offers courses like “Food, Gender and Environment”; has two “eco-houses” for student living; distributes the “SJU Green Guide,” and employs 10 full-time equivalents for diversity and equity coordination.

SJU’s sustainability push begins at freshman orientation, where students use “corn utensils and recyclable plates” during meals. All freshmen and seniors take a Sustainability Literacy Assessment, so the school can measure how effectively its saturation campaign is changing students’ beliefs and attitudes.

In March 2014, SJU organized a Sustainability Week — “dedicated to educating our campus community and encouraging environmentally friendly behaviors.” The event concluded with “a celebratory ‘Sustainability Happy Hour’ ” that “featured trivia about SJU’s sustainability initiatives and other environmental topics.”

The University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus also bombards students with preachy exhortations on the gospel of sustainability. These include politically correct invocations about biking, transit, recycling and composting, and a “Welcome Week” during which every student has “the chance to engage with … hands-on learning activities and … to win prizes all while learning about sustainability.”

The U earns special “points” from a national sustainability rating organization because it provides “gender neutral housing” for “transgender and transitioning students” (those switching to another gender), as well as single-race housing for black men, Hmong students and other minorities.

The university’s Sustainability Studies office emphasizes the “heavy intersection” between “the issues of race relations and sustainability.” During last year’s riots in Ferguson, Mo., the office posted online resources demonstrating how “white folk can show support against police brutality,” and encouraged students to donate to “The Organization for Black Struggle” — fighting “the racist police state in Ferguson” — to help protesters with “basic needs, including food, water, gas masks and school supplies.”

Responsible environmental stewardship is commendable. So is the prudent use of energy and other natural resources. But in higher education today, sustainability is an ideology — not a proposition to be discussed, but a baseline assumption to be taken on authority. Dissent is harshly suppressed. Scientists who question climate change, for example, are branded 21st-century heretics.

In the classroom, this doctrinaire approach undermines open inquiry and rational debate — the heart of liberal education’s mission. In teaching and scientific research, it “shuts out certain questions and locks in certain answers,” as the NAS puts it. In decisionmaking about energy use and physical plant, it discourages honest analysis of costs and benefits.

The movement’s “salute-and-shut-up” mind-set is reflected in the sustainability oath that students and employees at the University of Virginia are asked to take on matriculation and at graduation: “I pledge to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of my habits and to explore ways to foster a sustainable environment during my time here at U.Va. and beyond.”

The authoritarian impulse is also evident in the movement’s public-policy agenda. Its leaders call for vastly increasing state control over people and resources, and conferring power on government planners to distribute wealth and opportunity on the basis of skin color and socioeconomic status. This sacrifice of individual economic, political and intellectual liberty is regarded as “the price that must be paid now to ensure the welfare of future generations,” as the NAS observes.

Why are students attracted to the sustainability movement?

Its appeal springs, in large measure, from its quasi-religious nature and message. In our increasingly secular age, a focus on transcendent meaning has largely vanished from campus. Sustainability can fill the resulting vacuum by offering young people a sense of purpose and meaning.

“Like its predecessor movements that excited student passions,” sustainability “invokes moralistic duties to repair and restructure the Earth,” explains the NAS. It “rewards its followers with a sense of belonging to a community of the enlightened few,” and “endows the smallest actions with meaning and significance.” Recycling a plastic cup, for example, becomes a “noble sacrifice rewarded with laurels” that “contributes inexorably” toward saving the planet.

The Church of Sustainability derives many of its major themes from Judeo-Christianity. It teaches that the Earth — once a pristine Eden — is now fallen and polluted because of human sinfulness, and that an apocalyptic Judgment Day looms unless mankind repents. Absolution and salvation are possible if humans heed the enlightened saints and prophets who warn us of impending doom.

As sustainability spreads beyond the campus, we increasingly see it touted in coffee shops, celebrated by major corporations and embraced by urban planners. For example, it’s the ideology driving “Thrive MSP 2040,” the Metropolitan Council’s new 30-year plan for development in the Twin Cities region, with its pervasive themes of top-down planning and rule by “experts.”

It’s ironic that college campuses are home base for the sustainability movement. For higher education is among the least sustainable of our contemporary institutions. Colleges and universities are caught in a death spiral of rising costs and declining benefits. Nevertheless, they obsess about recyclable napkins, solar panels and fossil-fuel divestment, and pour $3.2 billion annually — frequently without assessing effectiveness — into achieving their dreams of sustainability, according to the NAS.

Today, colleges and universities are charging students huge, unsustainable sums — often upward of $50,000 a year — for the privilege of (among other things) living out an elite, politically correct fad. Many emerge with a crushing load of debt, at a time when, as the NAS points out, more than 50 percent of recent graduates are either unemployed or underemployed.

For these young people, there’s no better guarantee of an unsustainable future.

Don’t Look Now But . . . China?

While everyone was getting on his Great American Barbecue yesterday for the July 4th holiday and awaiting the Greek referendum today, the Chinese stock market was crashing again. It’s down 12 percent over the last week, almost 30 percent in the last month.

Tyler Cowen is on it, with a simple message: Greece is small; China is large. Uh oh.

From behind the FT’s paywall:

The Shanghai index is firmly in bear market territory, down 28.6 per cent since the June peak, while the tech-heavy Shenzhen Composite has fallen 33.2 per cent.

There were also signs on Friday that the stock market turmoil is beginning to reverberate beyond China. The Australian dollar, often traded as a proxy for China growth, is down 1.2 per cent to a six-year low of US$0.7539.

The 21st Century Business Herald, a Chinese daily newspaper, on Friday quoted multiple futures traders as saying they had received phone calls from the China Financial Futures Exchange instructing them not to short the market.

China’s financial titans are attempting to set up a “market stabilization fund.” This doesn’t sound good.

Meanwhile, Tyler Cowen won the Internet yesterday with this line about Greece: “Look at this way: if you lost a public relations battle to Germany, you are probably doing something very badly wrong.”

UPDATE: More from The Atlantic.

Anne Bayefsky explains

The United Nations Human Rights Council is a body whose essential purpose is to stigmatize the Jewish state for imaginary crimes. The Obama administration therefore deems it important for the United States to fund and participate in the work of the body, such as the farcical investigation of alleged war crimes conducted by its Gaza Conflict Commission of Inquiry. Having concluded its investigation and issued its report, the commission concluded that both Israel and Hamas may have committed war crime in the course of Operation Protective Edge last year, but the commission unloads on Israel.

The commission has posted its report and other materials online here and here. In relevant part, it is unadulterated rubbish with a generous admixture of anti-Semitism.

On Friday the UNHRC voted in favor of a resolution backing the commission report. Forty-one of the 47 UNHRC council members voted in favor of the resolution, including the eight sitting European Union members: France, Germany, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Latvia and Estonia. Only the United States voted against.

Why, oh, why are we funding and participating in this charade? Because President Obama thinks it useful and for him, of course, it is.

The Times of Israel reports on the proceedings here. The ToI report offers this summary:

The Gaza commission report, headed by Mary McGowan Davis, placed blame on Israel and Hamas for their actions during the war but focused more on Israel’s role. It also accepted the Palestinian death count, which has Israel killing 1,462 civilians out of a total of 2,251 Palestinians who died — a 65 percent ratio. Israel has said that up to half of those killed on the Palestinian side were combatants and lay the blame for the civilian death toll on Hamas for placing its military infrastructure among civilians.

Anne Bayefsky took a rather more combative approach to telling the truth about the report (video below). In her remarks she penetrates the mystery of the intentions explaining Hamas’s actions in the course of the war, something the committee professed itself unable to do. You won’t want to miss this instructive video.

“Green” Taxes Out of Control in Great Britain

At breakfast this morning, I did something I hadn’t done in years–I read a physical newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph. The headline on the front page reads, “U-turn on ‘excessive’ green taxes.” The story documents one more step in the inevitable unraveling of “green” energy policies. Britain’s new Conservative government has something to do with it, too:

The cost of subsidizing new wind farms is spiraling out of control, government sources have privately warned.

Officials admitted that so-called “green” energy schemes will require a staggering £9 billion a year in subsidies–paid for by customers–by 2020. This is £1.5 billion more than the maximum limit ministers had originally planned.

Of course it is. The numbers inevitably will get worse, too.

The mounting costs will mean every household in the country is forced to pay an estimated £170 a year by the end of the decade to support the renewable electricity schemes that were promoted by the coalition.
***
George Osborn, the Chancellor, believes the figures demonstrate the need to rein in the cost of policies to tackle climate change.

As a first step, he will use this week’s summer Budget to announce that he is abandoning targets set under the coalition to increase the level of environmental taxes in a move he hopes will save customers and businesses billions of pounds.

Green energy isn’t dead yet–not while billions can still be made through cronyism–but the handwriting is on the wall.

Congratulations, Joe!

I have been in London for the last five or six days, hence not writing about the news. The occasion is Joe Malchow’s wedding, which was yesterday. Joe has done the technical work on this site since he was a freshman at Dartmouth, which must be at least ten years ago. He has overseen the evolution of the site and is responsible for the design and software we are now using. In addition, Joe and a partner are in the internet advertising business and have developed techniques to maximize ad revenue for sites like ours. So we owe Joe a lot. Along the way, he has become a good friend.

Joe met his lovely wife Olivia at Stanford Law School. She is British, and the wedding festivities took place in her home town, Blackheath, which is near London. The wedding was in Olivia’s family’s Catholic church, where she was baptized. It is a beautiful place:

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The reception was at Eltham Palace, where, among other things, Henry VIII lived as a boy:

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Paul came up from Paris for the day, and we had a mini-meeting of the Power Line editorial board. As usual, no decisions were made, but champagne and other adult beverages were consumed:

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One of the families involved–not Olivia’s, presumably–has a tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence aloud each 4th of July. So we did that. It is easy to forget how much good stuff is in the Declaration. Unlike most people, I especially enjoy the recitation of grievances against King George. Some of them still resonate today, unfortunately.

It was a wonderful occasion, and we wish Joe and Olivia all the best.

For the rest, London seems very much itself, happily:

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I may get off a post or two, but it will be another four or five days before I am back in the U.S. and paying regular attention to the news.

For the 4th: Old-Fashioned American Story Telling from . . . LA?

People knock LA for not having a real literary culture. “What happens to civilization when it hangs its hat in LA?”, asks longtime Power Line friend Christopher Flannery today on the debut of the new site Even in LA.  The site offers old fashioned—that is, patriotic—short story telling.

Beauty in a man or a country is the outward glow of inward goodness. It is the goodness that is most worthy of love, but beauty calls attention to the loveworthy thing. Beauty awakens love, and since no man or country can live without love, and since I live in this country, I was thinking about what it is that makes America beautiful, what it is that makes America good. I was doing this in the freedom that seems at home in America and even in my native city of Los Angeles—even in L.A.—when these stories started to come.

It is our hope that these stories may in some small way move the better angels of our nature to touch the mystic chords of memory that strengthen our bonds of affection and make us friends. In our case, these mystic chords stretch not only from battlefields and patriot graves, but from back roads, school yards, and bar stools, city halls, summer afternoons, and old neighborhoods—from everywhere you find Americans being and becoming Americans.

You can buy an album of these short stories Chris has scored and recorded with David Tucker from the site, or listen to them online. In just world, there’d be a public radio show by these guys: the Coastal Frontier Companion, or something. Maybe that will come next.