Civics lessons from MSNBC

If gross hypocrisy were a crime, MNSBC anchors would be doing time. National Review’s Jilian Kay Melchior has led the way exposing how MSNBC luminaries including Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris-Perry, Touré Neblett and Joy-Ann Reid have had plenty to say about taxes and “how we’re all in it together,” in spite of their own histories of owing the IRS thousands of dollars. The Free Beacon’s David Rutz explains:

MSNBC, the liberal network that advocates at every turn for a progressive revenue system, is home to four tax delinquents who have all lectured their audience about tax fairness over the years.

Rev. Al Sharpton, PoliticsNation host and civil rights activist, has more than $4.5 million in state and federal tax liens against him and his for-profit businesses, according to the New York Times. The IRS filed a $70,000 tax lien against MSNBC weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry and her husband earlier this month.

The Cycle co-host Touré and former The Reid Report host Joy Reid, still a contributor, are also in debt to the government. National Review reviewed public records and reported Touré owes more than $59,000, while Reid owes nearly $5,000. Representatives said their debts are in the process of being resolved.

Rutz has much more, with relevant links, here.

Making a lemonade out of these lemons, the Free Beacon’s David Rutz has been compiled the inspirational video below.

Via Glenn Reynolds/InstaPundit.

Another Establishment Voice Slams Obama

Michael Mandelbaum of Johns Hopkins University is a certified member of the foreign policy establishment, and therefore no partisan conservative. He writes lucidly in the latest issue of The American Interest about the fundamental differences between arms control with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and with Iran today. Today’s arms talks with Iran are more significant than our talks with the Soviets, which is why Mandelbaum is dismayed with the weakness of Obama’s arms diplomacy:

For all the contemporaneous attention they commanded, the arms control talks and agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union had less significance than do the current negotiations with Iran. . . If the Islamic Republic becomes a nuclear weapons state, other Middle Eastern countries will likely get nuclear weapons of their own. If that occurs, the conditions that forestalled nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union will be absent. . .

During the Cold War American arms control policy was linked to Soviet foreign policy. When that policy waxed aggressive, it became politically impossible to gain the necessary political support in the United States for an arms control accord. . . The Obama approach to the Iranian nuclear program has had, if anything, the opposite effect. As the negotiations have proceeded the Iranian regime has expanded rather than pulled back from the initiatives that threaten the security of countries aligned with the United States.

The article cannot conceal that Mandelbaum thinks Obama is naïve in his Iran strategy. He not only thinks we shouldn’t take military options off the table, but that an effective campaign against Iran could be done at relatively low risk to ourselves.

In the current negotiations, by contrast, the United States is far stronger than Iran, yet it is the United States that has made major concessions. After beginning the negotiations by insisting that the Tehran regime relinquish all its nuclear facilities and cease all its nuclear activities relevant to making a bomb, the Obama administration has ended by permitting Iran to keep virtually all of those facilities and continue some of those activities. How did this happen?

Part of the explanation may lie in Barack Obama’s personal faith in the transformative power of exposure to the global economy and his fervent desire for an agreement to serve as a capstone to his presidency. Surely the main reason, however, is that, while there is a vast disparity in power between the two parties, the United States is not willing to use the ultimate form of power and the Iranian leaders know this.

The only certain way to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons is to destroy its facilities for doing so. President Obama has occasionally hinted that he is prepared to do this—“all options are on the table,” he has said—but over time this threat, such as it is, has lost credibility.

But most significant is his concluding paragraph:

[F]inally, if the Obama administration is in fact resolutely opposed to the use of force to keep Iran from making nuclear weapons, then American foreign policy has changed in a fundamental way. For more than seven decades, since its entry into World War II, the United States has carried out a foreign policy of global scope that has included the willingness to go to war on behalf of vital American interests. There is no higher or more urgent current American interest beyond the country’s borders than keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of an aggressive, theocratic, anti-American regime located in a region that harbors much of the oil on which the global economy depends. If fighting to vindicate that interest has become unthinkable, then American foreign policy has entered a new era. Whatever else may be said about this new era and the kind of world to which it will give rise, one thing is certain. By promulgating this new foreign policy (if that is what he is doing), Barack Obama will have achieved one of the goals he set out for himself when he came to the White House: he will be a transformational President.

That’s not an endorsement.  Read the whole thing, as a they say.

The Klobuchar kludge

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar specializes in avoiding outspoken stands on important issues. She looks for opportunities to lead the way on trivialities calculated to garner broad public support, such as her crusade against the threat to life and limb posed by “The crisis of the detergent pod.”

Senator Klobuchar is a reliable vote for the Democratic Party line, but she is quiet about it. She doesn’t want to upset anybody. She wants to preside over an era of good feelings — of good feelings about Amy Klobuchar.

It’s a form of inanity that has won Klobuchar followers among the mainstream media. She has even turned it into a forthcoming book, The Senator Next Door: A Memoir From the Heartland. The book promises to reveal “her own political philosophy grounded in her belief that partisan flame-throwing takes no courage at all; what really matters is forging alliances with unlikely partners to solve the nation’s problems.”

Klobuchar’s form of inanity is geared to the reportorial pussycats at the Star Tribune, newspaper of Twin Cities Democrats. The Star Tribune touts Klobuchar’s trivial legislative ventures and pratfalls as though she were the second coming of Hubert Humphrey.

A funny thing happened on the way to Klobuchar’s latest legislative accomplishment. She triggered a controversy over the universally supported human trafficking bill for which she had responsibility in committee. After voting for the bill, she says she failed to note the traditional prohibition for federal funding of abortion that was included in the bill’s language. When the Democrats’ paymasters called for resistance, Klobuchar dutifully followed. We wrote about the incident in “Dems traffick in cynicism.”

The Dems’ subsequent maneuvers provoked Majority Leader McConnell to exercise a prerogative of leadership, slowing the confirmation of the execrable Loretta Lynch as the new Eric Holder. How would Senator Klobuchar extricate herself from this traffick jam?

According to her faithful followers at the Star Tribune, Senator Klobuchar had an epiphany in a cornfield outside Moorhead, Minnesota. It’s quite a moving story. If there is an entrepreneur in sight, it may inspire a shrine to the perpetually gullible.

Unto Senator Klobuchar was vouchsafed the vision of a meaningless but face-saving “compromise” allowing the trafficking bill (and therewith the Lynch nomination) to proceed. The ant-trafficking bill was adopted by the full Senate on Wednesday in a 99-0 vote.

Klobuchar’s epiphany probably arrived too late for the hardcover edition of her forthcoming book, but Klobuchar’s comment will serve handily in the new afterword for the paperback edition next year: “It was helpful that everyone got away because people were fighting, cats and dogs, and so I think it gave people some time to think about it. Literally, when I got away from here, I thought, wait a minute, why can’t we just do it like this? … Maybe it’s because you’re out there in these cafes and you start thinking common sense, like how can we take care of this?”

For Senator Klobuchar and her friends at the Star Tribune, there is nothing like home cooking.

The Nork nuke angle

Omri Ceren promises a report on House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Iran yesterday, with attention to the $50 billion signing bonus President Obama has in store for acquiring the signature of the Supreme Leader’s representatives on the arrangement in process with Iran. The $50 billion will come in handy as the Iranians finance their nuclear program and support their good works in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world. In a side deal, if necessary, we’ll agree to throw in a couple of nuclear devices of the Supreme Leader’s choice to be named later. From a the reigning perspective inside the Obama administration, it’s all in a good cause.

Last night Omri took a break to draw attention to the page-one Wall Street Journal story by Jeremy Page and Jay Solomon reporting “China warns North Korean nuclear threat is rising” (accessible here via Google). In an email message on the story Omri comments:

This has to count as a monster scoop from the WSJ’s Jeremy Page and Jay Solomon. The Chinese – who have notoriously downplayed North Korean nuclear capabilities – are telling U.S. nuclear specialists that the DPRK will have 40 nuclear warheads by the end of 2016 and potentially over 75 by the end of the decade. And DPRK engineers have apparently miniaturized them and can mount them on their KN-08s, which can reach California.

The WSJ write-up is blunt about how the story is likely to affect the Iran debate: “In Washington, some Republican lawmakers said the pending White House deal with Iran could mirror the 1994 nuclear agreement the Clinton administration made with North Korea. The deal was intended to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons capabilities, but instead, they allege, provided diplomatic cover to expand them… “We saw how North Korea was able to game this whole process,” U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Iran had its hands on the same playbook.”

Politics — why it will matter: The parallels write themselves. The Agreed Framework was negotiated by Wendy Sherman and the Iran deal is being negotiated by Wendy Sherman. The Agreed framework lasted a decade and the Iran deal is slated to last a decade. The Agreed Framework relied on IAEA verification and the Iran deal relies on IAEA verification. And now the North Koreans have a full-blown nuclear arsenal, which the Americans don’t even know about (“U.S. officials didn’t attend the meeting but some expressed surprise when they were later briefed on the details”). It’s a disaster on any number of levels.

Policy — why it should matter even more: the Iran deal will flood the Islamic Republic with hundreds of billions of dollars, potentially including the $50 billion signing bonus. But in every meaningful sense, the North Korean nuclear program is an Iranian nuclear program, albeit beyond Iran’s territorial borders. The Iranians pay for the program. The Iranians receive knowledge and technology from the program. The Iranians are on hand to observe every major nuclear and missile test. Etc. Seen in this light, the nuclear deal with Iran will become a multi-billion dollar jobs program for North Korean nuclear engineers, who will use the money to create and miniaturize more nuclear warheads, which they will then give back to Tehran. The deal doesn’t stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It finances the program.

The WSJ also flagged a broader U.S. hegemony angle – “the Chinese estimates reflect growing concern in Beijing over North Korea’s weapons program and what they see as U.S. inaction while President Barack Obama focuses on a nuclear deal with Iran” – which is certainly worth reporting out. But the next few weeks on the Hill are going to be about Iran and Corker-Menendez, so that’s where the policy conversation is probably going to go.

I thought that readers who have been following Omri’s email commentary on the arrangement in process with Iran would find this of interest as well.

Clinton Cash—The Russia Connection

The New York Times reports tomorrow on multi-million dollar donations from a Canadian company anxious to sell American uranium mines to the Russians, which required State Department approval while Hillary was secretary of state:

[T]he sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation.  Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well. . .

Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.

The complete story is long, and very detailed. Democratic Party insiders have to be in a state of quiet panic that there aren’t any other serious and prepared candidates on the bench.

Clinton cash — the GE-Algeria connection

Most of the stories alleging that donations to the Clinton Foundation resulted in, or at least coincided with, favors from Hillary Clinton’s State Department have involved foreign donors. The two most notable examples are Canadian businessman Frank Giustra and Ukrainian tycoon Victor Pinchuk.

Now, however, questions have been raised as to whether contributions to the Clinton Foundation by General Electric had anything to do with action taken by the State Department on GE’s behalf.

There appears to be no dispute that in 2012, the State Department lobbied the Algerian government in a successful effort to help GE obtain contracts to sell power plants to Algeria. Indeed, GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt, seems to admit as much, calling it standard practice for the U.S. government to provide help to U.S. companies trying to sell products abroad.

To my knowledge, there is also no dispute that GE contributed to the Clinton Foundation around this time. The National Center for Public Policy Research, citing the Wall Street Journal, says that “GE donated between $500,000 and $1 million to a health partnership with the Clinton Foundation,” and that “Clinton’s subsequent actions helped GE obtain a contract with the Algerian government to supply turbines for six power plants to the tune of $1.9 billion.”

Immelt is correct that the U.S. government often helps U.S. companies sell products abroad. By contrast, it isn’t standard practice to ignore violations of sanctions designed to prevent nuclear proliferation. Thus, GE’s case is distinguishable from Pinchuk’s.

But if it’s part of the government’s job to help companies like GE sell goods and services abroad, then such companies should not have to “contribute” $500,000 to $1 million in exchange for that service.

To be fair, there does not seem to be any hard evidence of a quid pro quo relationship between GE’s contribution to the Clinton Foundation and the State Department’s help with Algeria. Nor is smoking gun evidence, if it ever existed, likely to appear now. As we know, Hillary has destroyed tens of thousands of emails as well as her server. And Immelt said today that GE will not release the emails GE exchanged with Hillary Clinton’s State Department during the period in which it was donating to the Clinton Foundation.

Nonetheless, several lines of inquiry remain open. One is whether Clinton’s State Department pressed hard for foreign business on behalf of major companies (if any) that sought assistance but did not make or promise large cash contributions to the Clinton Foundation. If the State Department didn’t, it would be easy to infer that the efforts on GE’s behalf were another instance of “pay to play.”

A second line of inquiry pertains to Algeria. What, if anything, did the Clinton Foundation receive from Algeria and what, if anything, did the Algerian government receive in exchange for awarding power plants to GE or for any cash contributions it made to the Clinton Foundation?

As to the first question, we know that in 2010, the Clinton Foundation accepted a $500,000 donation from Algeria. The money was used to assist with earthquake relief in Haiti, according to the Foundation. But, of course, Algeria could have contributed directly to Haitian relief without going through the Clinton Foundation.

This brings us to the second question — what did Algeria, having gone through the Clinton Foundation, receive from Hillary Clinton? According to the Washington Post, Algeria wanted better relations with the U.S. and relief from the State Department on human rights issues.

The Post adds:

[Algeria's] contribution [to the Clinton Foundation] coincided with a spike in the North African country’s lobbying visits to the State Department.

That year [2010], Algeria spent $422,097 lobbying U.S. government officials on human rights issues and U.S.-Algerian relations, according to filings made under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Data tracked by the Sunlight Foundation shows that while the Algerian government’s overall spending on lobbying in the United States remained steady, there was an increase in 2010 in State Department meetings held with lobbyists representing the country — with 12 visits to department officials that year, including some visits with top political appointees. In the years before and after, only a handful of State Department visits were recorded by Algeria lobbyists.

Thus, it looks like Algeria’s contribution bought it access to the State Department in 2010. Whether actual U.S. policy towards Algeria changed at that point, or later on when Algeria did business with GE at the State Department’s urging, is a matter worth exploring.

What we do know is that the Clintons received money from both GE and Algeria; GE received lucrative contracts from Algeria; and Algeria got, at a minimum, increased access to the State Department, at least in 2010.

Even without emails, this story has real possibilities.

Democrats Raise Money By Lying About the Climate

I suppose it was Earth Day that prompted a mass email on climate from the Democratic Party. What is striking about the Democrats’ fundraising pitch is its mendacity. Here it is, in pieces:

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I wrote a long post on the falsity of this claim here: “Was 2014 Really the Warmest Year Ever?” The key point is that “on record” means since 1880, i.e., roughly the end of the Little Ice Age. Satellite data, the only transparent and uncorrupted temperature record, indicates that 2014 was either the third or sixth warmest year since 1979 (when satellite data begin), but the differences are negligible.

More importantly, we are living in a relatively cool era. Ice core data indicate that it is cooler now than it has been around 90% of the time since the end of the last Ice Age:

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So 2014 was anything but the warmest year on record. The Democrats continue:

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This nonsense has been rebutted so many times that it has gotten tiresome. NO ONE “pretends that climate change isn’t real.” On the contrary, climate realists have pointed out, over and over, that the climate has always changed, and will always change, as long as the Earth exists. The place where I am now typing was buried, very recently in geologic terms, under ice approximately a mile deep. The climate most certainly has changed, and similarly dramatic changes are destined to occur in the future. There is no such thing as “climate change denial.”

The 97% claim is pathetic. It is based on a childishly incompetent paper, as Steve described here. The real question, of course, is what proposition 97% of climate scientists supposedly agree on. If the proposition is that “climate change is real,” as the Democrats put it, the number should be 100%. If the proposition is that human activity is responsible for a catastrophic increase in temperature, it is subscribed to by only a minority of scientists in the relevant fields.

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Here the Democrats may have a point. It isn’t enough for Republican politicians to keep saying “I am not a scientist.” They should be prepared to debate the climate issue intelligently, with a reasonable knowledge of the science. The science is all on the realists’ side, so they have a winning argument. Moreover, most Americans have figured out that global warming hysteria, like the global cooling hysteria that more plausibly preceded it, is mostly a scam. Climate change generally ranks dead last among voters’ concerns. So Republicans shouldn’t hunker down on the issue, they should counter-attack. Through their hostility to fossil fuels, the Democrats have terribly damaged our economy for no reason.

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Well, no, actually, it isn’t. One of the many problems the Left has with the global warming debate is that if you assume the alarmists’ models are accurate–which they are not, as the experience of the last 20 years has shown–then nothing the U.S. can plausibly do will make any perceptible difference to the Earth’s climate. Dr. Judith Curry testified before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology earlier this month that even if the models are right, and if the United States were to reduce its CO2 emissions by 28%, as proposed by President Obama, the effect would be to “prevent three hundredths of a degree centigrade in warming by 2100.” Three hundredths of a degree. If the alarmists are right. Think about that.

Now we get to the punch line:

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I suppose the Democrats will succeed in raising a few million dollars with this misguided appeal. But the extent to which they are willing to lie to raise money from the ignorant is shameful.