Deal? What Deal?

Amid debates over whether the Obama administration’s “framework” agreement with Iran is a good deal or a bad deal, an even more basic question keeps arising: is there any deal at all?

The agreement as announced by America’s State Department included a robust program of inspections. The New York Times, which greeted the framework enthusiastically as “a surprisingly specific and comprehensive understanding,” emphasized the importance of the inspections regime as described by John Kerry:

[President Obama] insisted that the deal “cuts off every pathway” for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and establishes the most intrusive inspection system in history. “If Iran cheats,” he said, “the world will know it.”

… An American description of the deal also referred to inspections “anywhere in the country” that could “investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility.”

But it now appears clear that Iran has agreed to no such thing. Earlier today, a senior Iranian military commander insisted, in colorful language, that there will be no inspections of Iran’s military sites:

The prospects of [a final agreement] being met seemed to weaken further on Sunday after a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) ruled out allowing intrusive inspections of the country’s military sites – one of the putative deal’s main pillars.

“We will respond with hot lead to those who speak of it,” General Hossein Salami, the IRGC’s deputy leader, told state television. “It means humiliating a nation. They will not even be permitted to inspect the most normal military site in their dreams.”

A fact sheet issued by the US state department following the framework accord said Iran would be required to grant International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to “suspicious sites” – an assertion Tehran has disputed.

Without inspections of Iran’s military sites, any agreement, whatever else it might contain, would be meaningless.

Kristol asks, Krauthammer answers

Charles Krauthammer’s collection of columns (mostly) — Things That Matter — has sold well over a million copies. It is a remarkable achievement for a book of previously published pieces by an author who is a pundit and not a political player in his own right. Aside from the merit of the pieces compiled in the book — a big consideration, to be sure, but the pieces were almost all previously published — what can account for the book’s huge success?

We saw Krauthammer speak in November 2013 at the Pacific Research Institute’s Gala Annual Dinner for which Steve Hayward served as the master of ceremonies. The year before we saw Krauthammer speak in Minneapolis at the Center of the American Experiment’s annual dinner for which John Hinderaker served as the master of ceremonies. The PRI event sold out in part on the strength of Charles’s rock star status among the resistance to Obama. Charles was brilliant, of course: acerbic, dry, funny and penetrating.

Following Krauthammer’s speech, Steve proved the perfect straight man for Krauthammer. He picked through written questions submitted by the audience and summarized them for Krauthammer’s response. The two of them just about brought the house down. I would add only that Krauthammer wowed my mostly apolitical twenty-something daughter and her boyfriend. I don’t think he makes many campus appearances, but he should. He can persuade those whose minds are open to persuasion.

02-national-review-2009.w245.h368.2x In his November 23, 2009 National Review cover story, Jay Nordlinger named Krauthammer the leader of the opposition in the Age of Obama. It was an honorific he had earned for his analysis both in his weekly Washington Post column and in his nightly appearances on the Special Report panel. His nightly appearances on FOX News have obviously served him well because he is so good at condensing sharp analysis into a minute or two of well-organized comments.

New conservative leaders have taken their place on the national stage. Krauthammer isn’t necessarily still the leader of the opposition in the Age of Obama, but his opinion matters. He is the man from whom I want to hear first on the issues of the day. If I disagree with him, I will check my premises against the facts of the case. The book’s almost shocking success certainly reflects the admiration and respect of readers like me.

Conversations with Bill Kristol has now released Bill’s long interview of Krauthammer (video below). It is posted in its entirety and also broken into chapters here; the transcript is posted here. I found it of interest throughout and thought some readers might want to check it out as well.

At the opening of the interview Charles and Bill discuss Charles’s denomination of “the Reagan doctrine” in the pages of Time in 1985. Charles reflects on the power of naming and harks back to his psychiatric training, in the course of which he identified and named the syndrome of mania manifesting without depression., i.e., “Secondary Mania.” After “Secondary Mania” and the “Reagan Doctrine” came Charles’s 2003 identification and naming of “”Bush Derangement Syndrome.” I think the interview might well have been extended to cover “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” That is to say, this long interview left me wanting more.

In the concluding segment of the interview, Charles discusses Judaism and Israel. Charles’s love of, and respect for, his father shines through. It adds a moving element to this intellectually formidable discussion.

The Latest from the Religion of Peace®

In Uganda, five Muslims gang-raped the daughter of a Christian minister who refused their demands that he close his church:

“One of the short messages in my phone read, ‘Be you informed that we do not want your church in this area. If you continue worship here, then you will live to regret it,’” the pastor told Morning Star News.

The daughter, who also remains nameless, was walking to the church at around 7:30 p.m. on March 28 when she was approached by five men, who forced her into the bushes and sexually abused her, an official from the church explained to the news agency.

“The five Muslims took hold of me, and they raped me there,” the church source quoted the daughter as saying. “I tried to scream, but they threatened to kill me. One of them said, ‘Your father should stop this prayer meeting of trying to change Muslims to become Christians and close the church building — we have warned him several times.’”

In Libya, ISIS has released a video of Ethiopian Christians being beheaded next to the ocean:

The video starts with what it called a history of Christian-Muslim relations, followed by scenes of militants destroying churches, graves and icons. A masked fighter brandishing a pistol delivers a long statement, saying Christians must convert to Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Quran.

It shows one group of captives, identified as Ethiopian Christians, purportedly held by an Islamic State affiliate in eastern Libya known as Barqa Province. It also shows another purportedly held by an affiliate in the southern Libyan calling itself the Fazzan Province. The video then switches between footage of the captives in the south being shot dead and the captives in the east being beheaded on a beach.

Then there is this:

The release of the 29-minute video comes a day after Afghanistan’s president blamed the extremists for a suicide attack in his country that killed at least 35 people — and underscores the chaos gripping Libya after its 2011 civil war and the killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Yes, the U.S. and other Western nations overthrew Gaddafi without having a plan for what would come afterward. Great idea!

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In Australia, five Muslim teenagers have been arrested for plotting a terrorist attack to take place on ANZAC Day.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned that the terrorism threat in Australia has escalated, with one-third of all terrorism-related arrests since 2001 occurring in the last six months.

At least 110 Australians have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside extremists, and the nation’s security agency is juggling more than 400 high-priority counterterrorism investigations — more than double the number a year ago.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had about all the peace I can stand.

Jeff Sessions Responds to New York Times

I wrote here about an ignorant New York Times editorial that attacked Senator Jeff Sessions on immigration, and denied that the laws of supply and demand apply to labor. Yesterday the Times published Sessions’ response, in the form of a letter to the editor. Among other things, Sessions points out that just a few years ago, the Times editorial board understood that mass low-skill immigration would inevitably depress the wages of American workers:

In 1970, fewer than 1 in 21 United States residents were born abroad. Five years from today, the Census Bureau estimates that more than one in seven United States residents will have been born abroad. Eight years from today, the share of the population that is foreign-born will rise above any level ever before recorded and keep surging.

It defies reason to argue that the record admission of new foreign workers has no negative effect on the wages of American workers, including the wages of past immigrants hoping to climb into the middle class. Why would many of the largest business groups in the United States spend millions lobbying for the admission of more foreign workers if such policies did not cut labor costs?

Good question!

The New York Times once plainly acknowledged as much, writing in a 2000 editorial: “Between about 1980 and 1995, the gap between the wages of high school dropouts and all other workers widened substantially. Prof. George Borjas of Harvard estimates that almost half of this trend can be traced to immigration of unskilled workers.”

Since that sentence was published, another 18 million immigrants have arrived in the United States, while the share of Americans in the work force has declined almost five percentage points.

Reuters says Americans, by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, wish to see immigration reduced, not increased.

When it comes to immigration, the Times prefers bullying to honest debate. Come to think of it, that is true of pretty much every other issue, too.

Climate Science: Only True Believers Need Apply?

Almost 10 years ago one of the major figures in the “mainstream” climate science world confided off the record to me that the biggest problem at his prestige graduate department of physics was convincing first-rate students to take up climate science as their specialty field.  The best students were avoiding the subject precisely because it had become too politicized and too conformist—a career dead end.  And so the field is left to a lot of second-raters, and people from tangential scientific disciplines. An entirely typical example is the recently resigned head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, typically described in the media as the UN’s “top climate scientist.” He is a railroad engineer.  If you look at a lot of the technical literature about climate change, it becomes apparent that it is dominated by second-raters, or first-rate ranters like Michael Mann.

This came back to mind this week with this story from the Economic Times of India lamenting the shortage of good climate scientists:

The facts should speak for themselves. The Divecha Centre for Climate Change, at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, is organising a national conference on climate change in July. The deadline for submitting abstracts is just two weeks away, and the organisers have received too few quality abstracts of papers for the conference.  The message is quite clear: not enough people work on climate change in India.

Till recently, Govindasamy Bala, a professor at the centre involved in organising the conference, thought this was uniquely an Indian problem. But a news story in the journal Nature early this month told him that it was not the case. The story talked about the shortage of good climate scientists in the world, and the efforts of some climatologists to attract more physicists and mathematicians to their field.  “I was surprised to learn that shortage of good climate scientists is a global problem,” says Bala.

Most talented physicists generally get attracted to particle physics or cosmology or condensed matter physics, high profile areas that generate Nobel Prizes with regularity.

Eric Worrall comments over at WattsUpWthThat:

The issue, in my opinion, makes perfect sense if you think about it. If you are a talented graduate, bursting with intellectual potential, would you like to work in an intolerant field of research, where new ideas are punished by name calling, ostracism and financial hardship, or would you prefer to apply your talents to a field where new ideas are welcome, and innovation is rewarded?

And so the field of climate science has become a ghetto that is the scientific equivalent of gender studies: the sensible questions that deserve independent and open-minded inquiry are drowned out in a stifling orthodoxy.

Give Obama the Hook

I made the horrid mistake of channel-surfing to C-SPAN Senate coverage a couple days ago just in time to catch Sen. Babs “Don’t-Call-Me-Ma’am” Boxer bloviating about some public letter by “very smart people” backing up Obama’s Iran negotiations. Just then the batteries on my remote conked out, and I had to get up and walk over to the TV to change the channel, just like our great grandparents had to do before they trudged off five miles through the snow to school. It was that traumatic.

By coincidence, I just happened to be re-reading an old essay by Sidney Hook, who had this to say about the “very smart people” in his mid-century world of philosophers:

The plain truth of the matter is that philosophers who have concerned themselves with public affairs in the past have not distinguished themselves by the cogency of their analysis or the accuracy of their predictions. For example, every one of the philosophers who ventured a judgment on the Munich settlement of 1938—Whitehead, Russell, Dewey, Santayana according to report—hailed it and urged its approval as the best insurance of peace. It turned out to be the worst.

I’m still not totally sold on some aspect of Sidney Hook, but he was right on the central questions of the Cold War, and we could certainly use him around today.

A signing bonus for Iran?

One gets the impression that President Obama would be open to throwing in a couple of nuclear devices of the Supreme Leader’s choice to be named later if only Iran will sign a nuclear agreement with him on the dotted line. Consider Omri Ceren’s latest email update:

This Wall Street Journal article by Carol Lee and Jay Solomon went live yesterday [evening] just as everyone was going home, but it’s everywhere this morning so I wanted to pass it along. It reports out the President’s comments from yesterday [discussed here], in which he moved to placate Khamenei’s new demand for immediate sanctions relief upon signing a deal.

The White House is trying to spin the new concession, which contradicts the factsheet they distributed the evening of the Lausanne announcement, in two ways.

1st — they’re telling journalists that the new concession doesn’t matter because the snapback mechanism is more important than the sequencing of sanctions relief. That’s a difficult position to defend politically, because it’s obvious the White House caved again, and even more difficult to defend substantively, because snapback only works in theory if the Iranian economy is sufficiently fragile for pressure to matter – and immediate relief would stabilize that economy. Beyond the optics and the theory, very few people believe the administration’s Rube Goldberg mechanism for restoring sanctions would even work (FDD’s Mark Dubowitz has been saying so for months – http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/hill-briefing-wrap-iran-p51-and-congress – and David Rothkopf was brutal on the question last week – https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/09/hillary-clinton-is-the-real-iran-snap-back-obama-china-russia-sanctions/). It’s just not a great position to defend.

But this is what the administration has left, so this is what they’re going with. You’ll see more of it – ‘snapback more important than sanctions’ – over the weekend and into Monday as White House officials do damage control.

2nd — they’re trying to borderline-gaslight journalists by insisting that there was no new concession, that the President didn’t signal any new flexibility, and that sanctions relief will still be phased out. That line is falling a bit flat – Obama said what he said – but now the question is how they intend to square the circle. How do they make sanctions relief phased in principle, so they can keep saying they didn’t cave, but instantaneous in practice, so that the Iranians will take the concession? On that point there’s a suggestive little scooplet buried in the WSJ article:

“The Obama administration estimates Iran has between $100 billion and $140 billion of its oil revenue frozen in offshore accounts as a result of sanctions. U.S. officials said they expect Tehran to gain access to these funds in phases as part of a final deal. Iran could receive somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion upon signing the agreement, said congressional officials briefed by the administration. Complicating negotiations, U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia has repeatedly charged in recent weeks that Iran has provided significant funding, arms and training to Shiite insurgents in Yemen who gained control of the country’s capital, San’a, and forced the country’s president to flee. Iran has denied these allegations. Iran also is a major supporter of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, the Assad regime in Syria and a group of Shiite militias fighting in Iraq.”

An immediate and irreversible infusion of $50 billion would boost Iran’s GDP by more than 10% overnight and signal the end of meaningful financial pressure. But it would also allow the White House to continue insisting that sanctions relief was being phased out in principle: all the sanctions that matter would get removed immediately, but there would still be a few sanctions left as a legal matter.

The trick could still prove politically toxic on the Hill. It would provide the Iranians with an infusion of $50 billion for their terror infrastructure and their march across the Middle East, which would panic our Arab allies. who are at war with Iran because of those campaigns. It’s also $50 billion to a regime that is dedicated to America’s destruction and that killed over a thousand American soldiers. That spins itself.

Omri seeks to maintain our fighting spirit and keep hope alive as Obama seeks to sell us out, but the Democrats will fall into line with Obama as necessary to support the consummation he devoutly wishes with the Supreme Leader. Otherwise, you know, war. War is coming too, but it will arrive down the road, under circumstances less advantageous to us than those that prevail now.