Friday, July 25, 2014

Smart Diplomacy: Regarding the BNP affair, "there is a perception that France was targeted"

As the American authorities announced a record penalty on Monday against BNP Paribas for violating United States rules on trading with blacklisted countries, the French political establishment had an unusual reaction: silence.
Thus writes Liz Alderman in a New York Times story to which one is tempted to react to with biting irony: "So, Messieurs les Français, you finally got him, the U.S. president you dreamed of — the one who like the visionary Europeans is against bankers and other dirty capitalist pigs. Ain'tcha happy?!" Having said that, we must remember that Obama's outstanding, second-to-none smart diplomacy is nothing to laugh at.
American prosecutors obtained most of what they fought for, but financial authorities here are warning of a potential negative consequence for the United States.

The dollar clearing at issue in the BNP Paribas case was conducted in the United States. But, said a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations, there is concern that using dollars in international trade could ‘‘trigger risks even if you do things outside the United States, because one day the dollar you used may be seen as an opening for an extraterritorial application of U.S. legislation.’’ 

‘‘That means that using the dollar is now perceived as less safe than before the episode, and it will probably reinforce the willingness of many countries to trade as much as possible in other currencies,’’ the person added.

Nor will the French government easily forget the episode. French officials are still upset that American prosecutors appeared to be imposing a standard of justice on foreign banks that has not been applied to American financial institutions.

 … ‘‘There is a perception that France was targeted,’’ the French official said.

  … France could turn up the heat on the United States on other fronts, especially in negotiations underway on an American-European trade deal. ‘‘It will probably mean that the French attitude will be even tougher,’’ said the French official close to the discussions. 

Intensifying French resistance to the deal could undermine the European Commission’s ability to champion trans-Atlantic trade, Famke Krumbmuller, a London-based analyst for the Eurasia Group, wrote in a recent note to clients. But those talks are only limping along as it is, and increasingly look doubtful to advance significantly during the Obama presidency.

Also unclear is how the American action will ricochet at a European level. The European Commission has already imposed hefty fines on Microsoft and other large American technology companies for violating anti-trust behavior in Europe’s backyard.

Given that the financial penalties by the American authorities against not only BNP, but other European banks, have been eye-popping, ‘‘the temptation may be there to also raise the level of the fines in Europe,’’ Mr. Godement said, ‘‘and we could get into a kind of tit-for-tat war, which has the added advantage of replenishing public coffers.’’ 

Whatever the softening of the penalties, the BNP affair will sting in France. ‘‘This amounts to targeting probably the closest ally that the U.S. has had in Europe over the past four to five years,’’ Mr. Godement said. ‘‘It is very disquieting.’’

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If you want to know what US Government-run healthcare looks like, the VA is a pretty good case study

The Veterans Administration scandal is worse than you think
dissects Benny Huang.
A report out this week from retiring Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) found that approximately one thousand veterans have died in the last ten years while languishing on wait lists. Doctors, nurses, and administrators within the system say that they faced retaliation when they spoke out about unethical practices. One VA employee in Phoenix says that deceased veterans’ medical records were altered post mortem so that it would appear that they did not die on the VA’s watch.
The VA’s biggest problem, besides dishonesty of course, is timeliness. Delayed healthcare can mean the difference between life and death, as this scandal illustrates in vivid color.

If you want to know what US Government-run healthcare looks like, the VA is a pretty good case study. I understand that some of those vets probably wouldn’t have any healthcare at all if it weren’t for this system but is that really a testament to their quality? What healthcare system would adopt as its motto, “Hey, it’s better than nothin’!”

There is an alternative to the wholly government-run model that is the VA. Vets could be given vouchers redeemable with private physicians. It might work better; it could hardly work worse.

Strangely, 31% of Americans polled this month said that they expected Obamacare to function better than the VA system. In other news, 31% of Americans are too stupid to vote.

 … Of course, Obamacare differs from the VA in that it is not a self-contained system wholly operated by the US government, or what we might call the single payer policy that liberals really wanted and may still get. They will therefore shrug off Obamacare’s faults by saying that it doesn’t go far enough. If only we allowed the government to take over healthcare completely we’d have a great system, like they do in Canada and France!
Well, no. What we’d have is a VA-style system for everybody.
While the VA scandal may be a tragedy, it is also a teachable moment. Now is a good time for conservatives to explain to the American people that we are not against universal healthcare. We are opposed to more government meddling in our medical system because our health is too important to entrust to a bunch of incompetent buffoons who destroy everything they touch.

 … Conservatives aren’t against people seeing the doctor, we just think that the government sucks at almost everything, from education to mortgage-lending to energy production. Nothing in the last decade has persuaded me that our government is anything but incompetent and corrupt.

 … We all want healthcare for everyone. The question is how to best provide it. Should we provide for our own medical care, just as we buy our own groceries? Or should we look for the generous hand of government to give it to us for “free”, no matter how crappy it is? Conservatives don’t want to prevent poor people from receiving life-saving medications or getting a yearly checkup, we simply don’t want to be trapped in the shameful system that has already killed a thousand veterans.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reminder to the NYT: Saddam Hussein had slaughtered several thousand Kurds with sarin and other poison gases

Margaret McGirr speaks up at the liberal partisanship of the New York Times and at that of one of its star columnists. (At least, the newspaper has the decency to publish the letter — although, to be fair, the letter to the editor is but a token one.)
Re Nicholas Kristof’s column “Obama’s weakness, or ours?” (June 27): Terrorists killed nearly 3,000 Americans and people of several other nationalities on Sept. 11, 2001. There were real concerns at the time about follow-up attacks, a threat that many of us seem to have forgotten. 

Saddam Hussein had slaughtered several thousand Kurds with sarin and other poison gases. Many Western governments, including the Clinton administration, believed that he had chemical weapons. President George W. Bush was repeatedly rebuffed in his efforts through the United Nations to get the Iraqi dictator to allow a complete inspection of his country by international weapons inspectors. 

Finally, with the responsibility for the safety of millions of Americans resting on his shoulders, President Bush made the decision, supported by Congress, to invade Iraq.

This painstaking, deliberative process Mr. Kristof describes as “swagger.” He is irritated by what he sees as over-harsh treatment of our current president but is happy to dish it out to our previous one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5 Things To Remember Before You Quit And Say, ‘I’m Done With America’

Have you ever looked at all the schlock we’re currently mired in thanks to BHO’s “fundamental transformation” of America and thought, or actually said, “Screw it. I’m done. I officially don’t give a crap anymore”?
asks Doug Giles.
I have. And I prize myself as being somewhat of a scrappy-faith-filled dude. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I get sick and tired of being sick and tired.
 … After I have these little pouting sessions of pathetic wussiness, I realize two things: 1). I’m being a hamster; and 2). Historically, that’s pretty much the crumble of the cookie, in that things usually turned repugnant before they turned around. Indeed, in the very formation of our blessed union we tend to forget King George’s oppressive hell spawned a defiant and free rebel nation; and that didn’t happen with ease or overnight.
 … So, little kiddies … we need to cheer up. You and I can’t curl up in the fetal position and wet our big diaper since things seem bad right now, because that’s exactly what the enemies of our nation would like us to do, namely … check out. Give up. Lose heart. Instead, we must realize the historical pattern of things usually gets real frickin’ bad before it gets better.
Read the whole thing

Monday, July 21, 2014

Putin's Dreamin' of a Greater Russia

(A Serguei cartoon that was published in Le Monde before the Malaysian airliner was shot down)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Good-Bye, Friend — James Garner

James Garner

Eastern Europe Leaders Protest Paris's Sale of High-Tech Mistral Warships to Russia

One East European leader on an official Paris visit after another voices his apprehension about France's decision to sell high-tech Mistral warships to the Kremlin.

Estonia's prime minister, Taavi Roivas:
I am not convinced that it would be opportune to deliver sophisticated and high-tech weaponry to Russia at this moment. 
Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski:
When countries forcefully seize a part of their neighbors' territory, it's not the best moment to furnish them with sophisticated armaments.

There are two online petitions protesting the Mistral sale to Moscow:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Remnants of Saddam’s Toxic Arsenal: What the MSM Has Been Keeping Secret for Years

By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
admits Wired's Noah Shachtman (shookhran to Instapundit).
But WikiLeaks’ newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction.

An initial glance at the WikiLeaks war logs doesn’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime — the Bush administration’s most (in)famous rationale for invading Iraq. But chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.

 … even late in the war, WMDs were still being unearthed. In the summer of 2008, according to one WikiLeaked report, American troops found at least 10 rounds that tested positive for chemical agents. “These rounds were most likely left over from the [Saddam]-era regime. Based on location, these rounds may be an AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] cache. However, the rounds were all total disrepair and did not appear to have been moved for a long time.”

A small group — mostly of the political right — has long maintained that there was more evidence of a major and modern WMD program than the American people were led to believe. A few Congressmen and Senators gravitated to the idea, but it was largely dismissed as conspiratorial hooey.
The WMD diehards will likely find some comfort in these newly-WikiLeaked documents. Skeptics will note that these relatively small WMD stockpiles were hardly the kind of grave danger that the Bush administration presented in the run-up to the war. …
The main conclusion to be taken from this, however, is neither the first note nor the second one. It is that the Mainstream media deliberately ignored any discussion or even the slightest consideration of the findings to hammer home their (self-serving) obstruction to the White House when it was the home of a Republican of George W Bush's bent…

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Left is throwing a tantrum over the Hobby Lobby case precisely because they intend to further curtail religious liberty; Religious liberty is a huge problem for people who recognize no higher power than the state

[The] narrow victory for religious freedom is still causing heads to explode on the political Left
writes Benny Huang.
The wailing and gnashing of teeth from the likes of NARAL, NOW, and the Daily Kos is more of the same hysterical overreaction they have to everything. They seem worried that if we allow any religious exemption to any law, no matter how small, then everyone will cite “sincerely held religious belief” whenever the law inconveniences them. Anarchy will then ensue and the whole world will end.

Of course, Hobby Lobby did not ask for the law to be waived for them. The court sided with them because the law—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA—is on their side. I would argue that the First Amendment is too, though the court didn’t speak to that.

Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post penned a piece in which he expressed the slippery slope argument fairly well. “8 Other Laws That Could be Ignored Now That Christians Get to Pick and Choose” is a hyperbolic harangue riddled with errors but the basic gist is that everything is now in jeopardy because Christians, and only Christians, can do whatever they want.

Among Grim’s list of laws that could be ignored are bans on hemp and LSD because some people use them religiously. “While we’re at it, all drug laws rub up against religious practice,” Grim argues. “Sorry officer, this is our church.”
 … That’s where liberals stand on the religious freedom issue. Before they can get behind it, they apply a two-prong test. First—do they like you? If the answer is no, then you’re a bigot. Sorry, but bigots have no rights. Second—is their agenda in any way impeded? If the answer is yes, then freedom of religion does not apply.

I don’t remember any liberals howling that religious exemptions would lead to privileged groups picking and choosing which laws they would follow back when a Democrat-controlled Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the RFRA. They should have argued that everyone must follow all laws, no exceptions. If we allow a religious exemption for American Indians and their holy stash, next thing you know Christians might think that they have rights too! Then we won’t be able to force them to pay for someone else’s abortifacients. It’s a slippery slope. Let’s not go there.
 …The Left is throwing a tantrum over the Hobby Lobby case precisely because they intend to further curtail religious liberty. All this free exercise stuff terrifies them. If people can simply say “It’s my religion” then liberals won’t be able to force military chaplains to perform same-sex marriages and people will be free to teach their children what they want. Religious liberty is a huge problem for people who recognize no higher power than the state.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Legacies of World War I and World War II

The Wall Street Journal has selected 100 legacies from World War I that continue to shape our lives today (thanks to Damian Bennett and Duncan Hill), while The Atlantic presents a photo essay on the aftermath of World War II (one in a series of WWII-era retrospective entries, among which is one from D-Day).

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Liberals will bring in a slew of (mostly illegal) immigrants, transform them into wards of the state, and register them to vote, thus diluting the power of the Cable Guy voting bloc

A Pew Research Center poll last week found that among those who described themselves as solid liberals only forty percent reported often feeling “proud to be an American”
writes Benny Huang. in an article echoing Jonah Goldberg's Resenting the Republic (Liberals take exception to exceptionalism).
The Washington Post greeted the survey with the headline: “Proud to be an American? You’re probably not a true liberal.”
What is it about this country that brings liberals so much shame? It’s the people—our values, our habits, our traditions. We’re an incorrigible lot. Too many Americans look, act, and talk like Larry the Cable Guy. We’re obese and we only speak English, perhaps not that well. I say, so what? While I can’t deny that plenty of Americans fit that stereotype, those are both overlookable faults. America is full of Cable Guys and that’s okay.

What Americans need, liberals argue, is to change; and if we can’t or won’t, we need to be changed. We can start by embracing hate speech laws, then outlawing guns, and finally getting excited about soccer. Except we musn’t call it soccer, we must call it football, as the rest of the world does. Above all, we must change our values and the way we vote so that they always win.

If that doesn’t work, liberals will just bring in a slew of (mostly illegal) immigrants, transform them into wards of the state and register them to vote, thus diluting the power of the Cable Guy voting bloc.

Behold the tsunami of children at our southern border and the giddy liberal politicians salivating at the prospect of all those undocumented Democrats. Texas will be blue in a generation if they have their way. By bringing in enough ringers to vote for them, liberals hope to “fundamentally transform” this country. America needs a transformation because it sucks, that’s why.

What do they want to transform it to? Based on their immigration policy it appears that Mexico is their model, but I don’t think so. Their true vision of what America should be is something like the Netherlands, complete with sidewalk cafes, baby euthanasia, and lots of dope. How we’re going to get there by importing primarily impoverished Latin Americans is anyone’s guess. In any case, it’s pretty clear that they don’t like America the way it is now.

People of the Left generally struggle with love of country and not just in the United States either. Most places I’ve traveled I’ve found that people on the Right identify freely with their nations, while people on the Left tend to squirm at the mention of patriotism and then become very defensive. I’ve seen it in Japan, Great Britain and elsewhere, but never as pronounced as here in the United States.