Why Would We Want the Headaches of a Clinton Presidency?

Oh, look; an ethical lapse associated with the Clintons. And it’s a doozy.

The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday.

Most of the contributions were possible because of exceptions written into the foundation’s 2008 agreement, which included limits on foreign-government donations.

The agreement, reached before Clinton’s nomination amid concerns that countries could use foundation donations to gain favor with a Clinton-led State Department, allowed governments that had previously donated money to continue making contributions at similar levels.

The new disclosures, provided in response to questions from The Washington Post, make clear that the 2008 agreement did not prohibit foreign countries with interests before the U.S. government from giving money to the charity closely linked to the secretary of state.

In one instance, foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government.

Anyone really surprised by any of this? Of course, even in instances when foreign government donations did not violate the ethics agreement, money was very likely being given in order to ensure that the foreign government in question would be able to get access to the State Department. Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state created any number of conflicts of interest, and those conflicts of interest would only magnify if she becomes president; the Clinton Foundation will continue to accept donations, after all. Are we really comfortable with having a president whose relationship with foreign governments was–and could be–so ethically complicated?

And of course, no story about the Clintons would be complete without a reminder of Clintonian hypocrisy:

Hillary Clinton emerged from her undisclosed location Tuesday to reportedly earn $300,000 speaking to a group in Silicon Valley, where she couldn’t resist praising actress Patricia Arquette’s Oscar night exhortation for equal pay. It’s especially staggering in light of reporting out the day before showing that Clinton paid women less than men while serving in the U.S. Senate.

It’s one thing when Hollywood stars dripping in couture get up on their soap boxes and make political statements at awards ceremonies, but quite another when an all but announced presidential candidate earning more for a speech than most Americans will in several years trumpets wage equality, when it already exists and she knows it.

Did she pay men more for the same work in her Senate office? Probably not, but she’s not answering the hypocrisy raised by the report published by the Free Beacon on Monday. The article reveals Clinton’s own U.S. Senate staff had a wage gap on average of $15,708.33 between male and female staffers. Clinton, according to the analysis of Senate expenditure filings, paid women 72 cents to every dollar that men on her staff were paid. That doesn’t seem to bother her — she just needs a campaign message and the gender wage gap seems real convenient. It’s not the no-brainer Democrats make it out to be, but that won’t stop Clinton from using it.

You know, we can do better than Hillary Clinton when it comes to choosing our next president. The question is whether we as a nation will decide to do better.

Quote of the Day

A journalist decided to test how safe the streets of Paris are for Jews – by wearing a religious skullcap and filming the public’s reaction using a hidden camera.

Zvika Klein, a reporter for Jewish news outlet NRG, silently walked in the city for ten hours wearing a kippah – also known as a yarmulke – on his head and a tzitzit (knotted ritual tassels).

And the shocking hidden camera footage shows antisemitism is rife in the French capital as he is seen harassed and intimidated.

As he wanders around neighbourhoods wearing the garments associated with the Jewish faith, he is spat at, threatened and even called a ‘dog’.  

[. . .]

In an article accompanying the video, he said tourist attractions were ‘relatively calm’ – ‘but the further from them we walked, the more anxious I became over the hateful stares, the belligerent remarks, and the hostile body language,’ he wrote.

Boys shouted ‘Viva Palestine’ and as he passes a group of youths, one remarks: ‘I’m joking, the dog will not eat you’.

Fingers were pointed at him in a cafe – and moments later, thugs awaited him on a street corner, he adds.

A little boy was shocked at his appearance in his neighbourhood, he reports. ‘What is he doing here Mommy?’ he asked. ‘Doesn’t he know he will be killed?’

Khaleda Rahman. But I am confused; I could have sworn that people have said that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.”

Jeb Bush’s Foreign Policy Fluency

Edward Luce finds much to like in Jeb Bush’s recent speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs:

Jeb Bush knows George W Bush, he was raised with George W Bush and can safely declare that he is no George W Bush. That — in a manner of speaking — was the message the former governor of Florida wanted to convey in Chicago. Billed as his first foreign policy speech since he chose “to actively explore” a presidential bid, Mr Bush has doubtless garnered the “I am my own man” headlines he sought. Yet people listening to the detail of his address had already drawn that conclusion for themselves. The older brother was all hat and no cattle, as one saying had it. On the evidence from Chicago, the younger Bush has plenty of cattle — but is not so big on the hat.

Their personalities could hardly be more different. In his first campaign in 2000, George W famously was unable to name the leaders of several foreign governments — Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf among them. George W happily wore his ignorance on his sleeve. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, is a fluent wonk. Mr Bush corrected one questioner about the general failure of the Arab Spring — “not Tunisia,” he said, “Tunisia is doing OK.” When asked about the decline of the nation state in today’s Middle East, Mr Bush skipped back to 1915 as the birth of the modern Arab nation state (when the Ottoman Empire began to collapse). Asked about the risks of Iran acquiring a ready-made nuclear weapon, Mr Bush gave a brief summary of A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani freelance nuclear salesman, who was arrested in 2002. Asked about how to tackle poverty on Chicago’s south side, phrases such as “stickiness at the top end and the bottom end” of the income scale tripped off Mr Bush’s tongue.

I’d be delighted to have a president who actually knows what he is talking about when it comes to foreign affairs and national security policy. Luce does critique Jeb Bush for not having the retail campaigning skills of his brother. To be sure, in order to win an election, one has to actually be a good campaigner, and to the extent that Jeb Bush is not a good campaigner, he needs to do something really quick in order to augment his campaigning skills. There is no getting around that.

But it would be kind of nice if the voters tried to meet him halfway on this issue. We currently have a president who is a very good campaigner, and whose foreign and national security policies have been quite disappointing; we are, after all, talking about sending troops back into Iraq in order to combat the ISIL threat because Barack Obama hastily promised to remove all troops from Iraq and hastily delivered on that hastily considered promise. Jeb Bush many need to be a better campaigner, but more importantly, America needs a better president and this American, for one, is willing to have a president who can actually do the job and who shows familiarity and fluency with the issues, even if the president in question may not be the world’s greatest glad-hander.

Speaking of Curbs on Freedom . . .

The onetime fans of the Hugo Chávez regime in Venezuela–the ones who thought that the regime was filled with wonderful people and ideas and who thought it was just marvelous that Chávez went to the United Nations to call George W. Bush “the devil”–have been rather quiet (as noted many times on this blog), now that it is clear that the regime is responsible for an economic catastrophe and the decline of political freedoms. One would think that they might say something about how they now regret having supported Chávez and his gang, but thus far, most of the past supporters of the Chávez regime haven’t had the integrity to own up to their bad judgment and to apologize for it.

I suppose these folks get more and more uncomfortable with each and every new story that comes out of Venezuela and shows the current chavista regime to be intellectually and morally bankrupt. If so, this story ought to make current chavistas–and former ones who never expressed regret for the error of their ways–very uncomfortable indeed:

Police in camouflaged uniforms smashed into the office of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma on Thursday and carried the opposition leader away in a move heightening political tensions in the socialist-run South American country.

President Nicolas Maduro announced that Ledezma, one of his most vocal critics, would be punished for his efforts to sow unrest.

[. . .]

“He’ll be held accountable for all his crimes,” Maduro said in comments that TV and radio stations across the country were required to carry.

Last week, Maduro named Ledezma among government critics and Western powers he accused of plotting a coup to bring down his socialist government, one of more than a dozen such denunciations Maduro has made since taking power in 2013. Ledezma mocked the accusation in multiple interviews, saying the real destabilizing force in Venezuela was the government’s corruption.

Tensions have been running high in Venezuela this week, with the one-year anniversary of the start of weeks of anti-government street protests that choked the country with tear gas and smoke from flaming barricades and resulted in more than 40 deaths. National police arrested several other mayors and former mayors during last year’s unrest, including Leopoldo Lopez, who is considered by human rights groups as Latin America’s most high-profile political prisoner.

Allies of the 59-year-old mayor called for more protests Friday to demand his immediate release, a call echoed by Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. State Department called Venezuela’s accusations of coup-plotting “baseless and false” and intended to direct attention away from mounting economic problems such as widespread shortages and galloping inflation that reached 68 percent last year.

“The Venezuelan government needs to deal with the grave situation it faces,” the State Department said in a statement.

But of course, the Venezuelan government is not interested in “deal[ing] with the grave situation that it faces.” Rather, it is interested in finding and persecuting scapegoats in order to distract from the incompetence of the government and the monstrousness of its actions. And it will likely continue to be aided and abetted by the silence of those who once lauded the chavista regime, and who now remain silent instead of speaking out against the regime, and expressing some semblance of remorse for their past awful judgments.

The Worst Analysis Regarding ISIL that You Have Ever Seen

Courtesy of Marie Harf, who actually has a job in our State Department, and who said the following regarding the war with ISIL:

. . . We can not win this war by killing them. We can not kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium and longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs–

Harf has now taken to Twitter to claim that her critics are too dumb to have properly understood her comments. Or something.

To be sure, there is much more that has to be done–in addition to military campaigns–in order to defeat terrorism. But a “lack of opportunity for jobs” is not driving the creation of ISIL, and a jobs program won’t stop the beheadings. To claim otherwise is to live in a fantasy world; something this administration and its foreign policy/national security team seem to make a habit of doing.

Marxist Economist Begins to Realize that Marxist Economics Does Not Work

You’d think that the lesson would have taken earlier:

Venezuela’s economic failings are turning it into the “laughing-stock” of Latin America, according to late president Hugo Chavez’s top economic planner.

Former Finance and Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, who was sacked in mid-2014 by Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, said in an interview this week that reforms in the South American OPEC nation are years overdue.

“We should have taken measures from Oct. 7, 2012,” Giordani told local website notitimes.com, referring to the date of Chavez’s last presidential election victory. Chavez, who was president for 14 years, died of cancer in 2013.

“In truth, we are almost the laughing stock of Latin America,” Giordani, 75, said. “If the situation is bad, if the thermometer is at 40 degrees, there are those who blame the thermometer … We need to acknowledge the crisis, comrades.”

It’s nice to see the beginnings of wisdom, but of course, it ought to be noted–as it is at the end of the story–that Giordani still hasn’t fully grasped that he is part of an utterly unworkable system:

However, “of course we must defend the revolutionary government … and the construction of socialism,” he added, in the face of “fascist” threats from Venezuela’s domestic opponents and the United States.

How much more does the situation have to deteriorate before Giordani finally understands that Venezuela’s most dangerous opponent is its own government?

As always, it is worth remembering that all of the bloggers who once had really nice things to say about chavista Venezuela–in part because they liked the fact that Hug Chávez went to the United Nations and called George W. Bush “the devil”–are really quiet now that it is clear that Chavismo is a failed ideology.

How Easy Will It Be for Ashton Carter to Work with Barack Obama?

I have written before that I am glad that Ashton Carter has been nominated to be secretary of defense. I am still glad. I think that he can be very good at his soon-to-be new job. But like Jennifer Rubin, I wonder whether the Obama administration will let Carter be good at his job. Carter has repeatedly said during his confirmation hearings that he will not shy away from giving the president his best advice, and it is entirely possible that Carter will succeed in getting the president to follow that advice. But I do wish that some senator would ask Carter whether he will resign if there remain the policy gulfs between him and the president that Rubin discussed. The answer might actually be somewhat revealing.

A Long Overdue Goodbye to Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan was one of two big-time bloggers–the other being, of course, Glenn Reynolds–to have helped put me on the blogospheric map. For that, I shall always be grateful.

He was also–as Ross Douthat pointed out–extraordinarily influential in advancing the cause of same-sex marriage. Anyone who is the least bit concerned with fundamental human rights should be grateful to Sullivan for all that he has done on this issue.

At the outset, when I first started blogging, Sullivan’s political views and mine coincided quite neatly. After a while, they began to diverge. I certainly changed some of my political views as the years went on, and I don’t quite see how anyone could go an appreciable period of time without reappraising at least some political views. Sullivan’s views, of course, changed drastically. He went from being a supporter of George W. Bush to a fervent opponent. The shift began when Bush signed on to the Federal Marriage Amendment issue, and Sullivan reacted with outrage. I always got the sense that this issue became the jumping-off point for other Sullivanesque disagreements with the Bush administration; over Iraq, over interrogation and detention policy, and over foreign policy in general. Of course, it ought to go without saying that Sullivan was and is entitled to change whatever political views he wanted and wants to change.

So while Sullivan and I had our differences, some of those differences were reasonable in nature. Others . . . not so much.

In 2008, Sullivan decided that he really liked Barack Obama a lot. But he didn’t want to be identified as a contemporary American liberal, so he started concocting all sorts of ridiculous claims that the onetime senator and future president was and is a conservative. Hayek was cited, as was Locke, as was Oakeshott. Oakeshott was cited a lot. The claims, of course, made no sense whatsoever, but that didn’t stop Sullivan from making them, even as the rhetoric and policies from the White House became more and more port-sided. Of course, Sullivan could have taken the honorable road and simply announced a fundamental shift in his political philosophy. But instead, Sullivan, like Shakespeare’s Caesar, claimed and claims to be as constant as the North Star when it comes to his ideology, and his approach instead has been to desperately try to shoehorn Barack Obama into that ideology. It never worked before, it doesn’t work now, and it won’t work in the future, but Sullivan, not recognizing defeat when it stares him in the face, keeps on trying to make it work. The whole thing is rather pathetic, really.

There have been other Sullivanian obsessions as well. As anyone and everyone remotely familiar with Sullivan’s work are aware, he has engaged in an on-again-off-again seven-year obsessive quest to prove that Trig Palin is not actually Sarah Palin’s son. Oh, Sullivan denies over and over (and over) again that he actually doubts Trig’s matrilineal line. He just felt and feels that he needs to ask questions, and if only Palin would answer those questions by releasing a medical history that proves that she had the baby she claims to have had, Sullivan will give up his Ahabesque project to show that Trig is someone else’s son. To be clear: Sullivan’s theories and mutterings have been proven insane by science, but Sullivan refuses to admit defeat, and still periodically questions Trig Palin’s matrilineal line–against any and all medical and scientific evidence showing that Sullivan is making a fool of himself by continuing to doubt and deny the bloody obvious.

The obsession with Trig Palin’s parentage alone should have made Andrew Sullivan the laughingstock of the Blogosphere, but Sullivan, always willing and eager to double down on lunacy, decided that for his next trick, he would hate on Israel so much, that he would and could reasonably be accused of anti-Semitism. “Something Much Darker”, indeed. It is, to be sure, possible to criticize Israeli foreign policies without sounding and acting like an anti-Semitic loon, but the evidence shows quite plainly that Sullivan failed spectacularly to do so.

I guess I should mention as well the perpetually ridiculous periodic “meep, meep” blog posts, in which Sullivan wrote smugly about how, if one ingested enough LSD to kill a herd of elephants, an Obama political defeat could actually be viewed as a political victory–mostly over Republicans. This blog post had it right; during the Obama era, Sullivan has indeed blogged “like a hack in a one-party state.” At times, Sullivan’s blogging project seemed like a giant audition aimed at getting Sullivan named chief propagandist of the Obama administration. Sullivan may have failed to achieve this particular station in life, but his failure wasn’t for lack of trying.

I write all of this, of course, because Andrew Sullivan claims that he has decided to quit blogging. Now, Andrew Sullivan has claimed that he decided to quit blogging before, and he has come back, so I’m keeping the champagne on ice for the moment. But I’d like to think that at long last, Sullivan has realized that his fatuous, overwrought, emotionally unstable, intellect-insulting writing has finally reached China Syndrome proportions of insufferability. I would like to think that Sullivan took a good long look at his writing, his thought process (if one can be so generous as to claim that Sullivan’s writing is backed up by any thought whatsoever), and himself, and didn’t like what he saw. I would like to think that at long last, Andrew Sullivan decided that a belated embrace of discretion and silence was the best–the only–way to salvage whatever dignity he once had, before he decided to squander the vast majority of that dignity via anti-Semitic trolling, logic-defying apologetics on behalf of the Obama administration, and the spelunking of Sarah Palin’s womb.1

I would like to think all of this. So, I will do what Andrew Sullivan has frequently asked his readers to do.

I will know hope.

Andrew, if you read this, remember: We can’t truly miss you, if you won’t stay away.

UPDATE: Cross-posted.

1. I thought that I had come up with the “spelunking Sarah Palin’s womb” image. Alas, I did not.

Let’s Put Matters Bluntly

The Charlie Hebdo murders were caused by Islamist terrorists.

They were not a false flag operation.

Anyone who says otherwise is a lunatic.

Any group of people who publish that particular anyone’s claims that the Charlie Hebdo murders were a false flag operation may be considered a group of lunatics.

Any former politician whose name is used by that particular group of lunatics to also name the institute of the lunatics in question may have some ‘splainin’ to do.

And finally, any son of the former politician in question who doesn’t say something along the lines of “the lunatics who appropriated my father’s name in order to promote silly conspiratorial ideas do not speak and never have spoken for me,” has no business even being considered for the position of president of the United States.

Pope Francis Blunders

I actually like the pope. But this is just awful commentary:

Pope Francis said there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith, in comments that the Vatican later said Friday did not mean justifying the attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines on Thursday, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.

But he said there were limits.

By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasbarri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.

“If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

Er . . . yes you can. That is what free speech is all about. Sometimes, it is highly offensive, but thus far, no one has come up with a way to restrict highly offensive speech that does not somehow lead to the restriction of other kinds of speech. The price we pay for living in a free society is that sometimes, we are offended by the speech of others. But we are willing to pay that price in order to be able to freely express our own speech.

It is remarkable that this basic point has to be made in 2015.

Oh, and if someone says a curse word against your mother, and you punch that someone in response, you are risking indictment for assault and battery. You may even get sued in civil court. Someone inform the pope of this, before he gets into a bar fight and lands in the slammer as a consequence.

More on the Charlie Hebdo Murders

Let’s run through a list of news updates . . .

1. Al Jazeera is not a real news organization:

As journalists worldwide reacted with universal revulsion at the massacre of some of their own by Islamic jihadists in Paris, Al Jazeera English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr sent out a staff-wide e-mail.

“Please accept this note in the spirit it is intended — to make our coverage the best it can be,” the London-based Khadr wrote Thursday, in the first of a series of internal e-mails leaked to National Review Online. “We are Al Jazeera!”

Below was a list of “suggestions” for how anchors and correspondents at the Qatar-based news outlet should cover Wednesday’s slaughter at the Charlie Hebdo office (the full e-mails can be found below).

Khadr urged his employees to ask if this was “really an attack on ‘free speech,’” discuss whether “I Am Charlie” is an “alienating slogan,” caution viewers against “making this a free speech aka ‘European Values’ under attack binary [sic],” and portray the attack as “a clash of extremist fringes.”

“Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile,” Khadr wrote. “Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response — however illegitimate — is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.”

So much for covering the news fairly. Clearly, at al Jazeera, there is an editorial line, it must be respected, and woe to anyone who dares to think for him or herself and offer the facts to the viewing and listening audience, instead of offering up a cooked-up editorial spin on the news.

2. There was a march against extremism in Paris attended by a host of world leaders. The United States decided to only send its ambassador. No Barack Obama. No John Kerry. Eric Holder was in the area, but even he failed to show up. Appalling, really:

Don’t look for the president or vice president among the photos of 44 heads of state who locked arms and marched down Boulevard Voltaire in Paris. Nor did they join a companion march the French Embassy organized in Washington on Sunday afternoon.

Indeed, Obama’s public reactions to the attacks in Paris last week have been muted. His initial response Wednesday to the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices was delivered as he sat calmly in an armchair in the Oval Office speaking about the “cowardly” acts and defending freedom of the press. Two days later, as a gunman took hostages and went on to kill four people in a kosher grocery, Obama took a few seconds away from a community college proposal rollout in Tennessee because he said with events unfolding, “I wanted to make sure to comment on them” — but neither then nor afterward specifically condemned that attack.

Obama wasn’t far from the march in D.C. on Sunday that wended silently along six blocks from the Newseum to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Instead, he spent the chilly afternoon a few blocks away at the White House, with no public schedule, no outings.

Joe Biden was back home in Wilmington, Delaware. Neither they nor any high-level administration official attended either event.

The White House has admitted that it made a mistake in not having a high-profile figure attend any of the marches. That’s how bad this blunder was; usually, this White House never admits it made a mistake of any kind, and tries to blame George W. Bush for anything that might go wrong.

3. Finally, it is worth noting that living in France has become a nightmare for Jewish people. Remember how some silly people liked to pretend that anti-Semitism “scarcely exists in the West”? The claim would be utterly comical if the issue were not so serious.

The Charlie Hebdo Murders

George Packer’s response is precisely right:

The murders today in Paris are not a result of France’s failure to assimilate two generations of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies. They’re not about French military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, or the American invasion of Iraq before that. They’re not part of some general wave of nihilistic violence in the economically depressed, socially atomized, morally hollow West—the Paris version of Newtown or Oslo. Least of all should they be “understood” as reactions to disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists.

They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The one that butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, in 2004, for making a film. The one that has brought mass rape and slaughter to the cities and deserts of Syria and Iraq. That massacred a hundred and thirty-two children and thirteen adults in a school in Peshawar last month. That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention.

[. . .]

A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.

And of course, what follows from this is the observation that if one fails to speak out against the murders, one is, quite frankly, part of the problem.

What Abba Eban Said of the Palestinians Could Also Be Said of the Cuban Regime

They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity:

The Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who splits her time between the United States and Havana, traveled to Cuba in recent days seeking to pull off a bold experiment. She called on Cubans from all walks of life to meet at Havana’s iconic Revolution Square on Tuesday at 3 p.m., where they would take turns at a microphone to outline their vision for the new era in the country. Word of the event, which was billed as both a performance and a street protest, was shared on social media using the hashtag #YoTambiénExijo, which means “I also demand.”

Ms. Bruguera’s plan was the first test of whether the Obama administration’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba earlier this month would prod the Castro regime to be more tolerant of critical voices. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, the government barred prominent critics, including Ms. Bruguera, from reaching the square. Some were detained and others were reportedly prevented from leaving their homes. In the end, the performance wasn’t held.

Authorities in Cuba appear to have wrestled with how to prevent Ms. Bruguera’s project from turning into a mass gathering of critics. They allowed her to travel to the island, though she had publicized her project well in advance. In recent days, officials from the state-run arts council summoned her for a meeting. In a statement, the council said it had made clear to her that her plan was “unacceptable,” because of the location and the “ample media coverage” in outlets that are critical of the government. Officials proposed that the event be held instead at a cultural site, according to the statement, and said that the government would “reserve the right” to bar people whose “sole interest is to be provocative.”

Obviously, this is appalling, and it shows that the Cuban regime is as vile as it ever was. It also shows that the regime is completely incapable of reciprocating the goodwill shown to it by the Obama administration in the administration’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba.

I imagine that there are readers who wonder whether I am rethinking my decision to endorse the administration’s move to change the nature of Cuban-American relations. Not in the least. I never expected that the decision to normalize relations would bring about an overnight change in the regime’s behavior, and my favorable link to Dan Drezner’s piece on the normalization of relations–which warned us that change would not occur overnight in Cuba–indicates as much. At best, normalization–and the lifting of the embargo against Cuba–will help Cuba move in fits and starts towards a more liberalized political environment. But again, we have tried diplomatic isolation and the embargo for over fifty years, and that strategy has failed to bring about any results. It is time for a new approach, and as Drezner notes, the Obama administration’s new approach can ultimately bring about a very good outcome:

First, the odds of orderly liberalization and democratization in Cuba have increased. Not by a lot — maybe from 2 percent to 10 percent. But that’s still an improvement. Even if full-blown regime transition doesn’t happen, economic liberalization does make a society somewhat more free. Today’s Post editorial points to Vietnam as the worst-case outcome for the Cuba policy. But Vietnam now has a considerably more liberal climate than before the US opening, so I don’t think that’s the best example.

Second, as my Washington Post colleagues Erik Voeten and Ishaan Tharoor have already observed, U.S. policy on Cuba has been, literally, isolationist — as in, it isolates the United States. Unlike other cases (see below), there is zero multilateral support for sanctioning Cuba — quite the opposite, in fact. Improving ties with Havana ameliorates a long-standing source of friction between the United States and Latin America. That’s called “good diplomacy.”

Third, when you consider the mammoth size of the United States and Cuba’s proximity, the only parallel economic relationship that comes to mind is China-Taiwan — if Taiwan were a lot poorer. If trade, tourism and investment takes off between the two countries, Cuba will quickly become the more asymmetrically dependent actor, no matter how hard the Cuban government tries to resist. This won’t make it much easier for the United States to affect regime change — but it will nudge Cuba towards a less confrontational foreign policy.

We gave the old policy half a century to work, and it didn’t. We should give the new one some time. And of course, it is worth noting that in the past, the Cuban regime tried to claim that American efforts to diplomatically and economically isolate Cuba were the catalyst for any repressive measures undertaken by the regime. They can’t do that anymore. And the world knows it.

Quote of the Day

All of us in the world should recognize that we have the same inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that we recognize in our own society. We should promote those ideals. And that means a big change in thinking about how development happens. Greater political freedom in Asia – in Taiwan and South Korea – has been associated with rapid economic growth. The level of freedom determines the level of prosperity. There’s a lot of misunderstanding on both the left and the right about markets. The right has the conception that markets just mean firms can do unlimited things, often with support from the government in power. The left fears that result as a bad thing. I’m talking about the creative destruction that allows new firms to emerge. What markets do is penalize firms that don’t satisfy consumers. In the long run, for most societies, the evidence shows that democracy and prosperity go together.

William Easterly.

A Modest Improvement in Internet Freedom in Iran

Instead of banning websites completely, the Iranian regime is now just censoring their content. Sure, Iranians will only see redacted versions of websites, but at least they’ll see them. I guess this is supposed to mean that everything is both hunky and dory in Iran now.

How very wonderful all of this is. Utopia has finally been achieved in Iran. Must be the effects of all of that political liberalization.

Nota bene: Some people might think that this blog post is featuring sarcasm rather heavily. I can’t possibly imagine where they would get such an idea.

More on the Return of Anti-Semitism

Its return is quite noticeable in Britain:

In Britain, prominent Jewish figures are expressing concern about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in that country. Most recently the director of the BBC Danny Cohen has stated that he has never felt so uncomfortable being Jewish in Britain. He even went so far as to cast doubt on the long-term future of Anglo-Jewry. Similarly, Labor Party leader Ed Miliband—also Jewish—has called for a “zero tolerance” approach to anti-Semitism. The great irony here, however, is that both men are Jews heading organizations which, through their portrayal and policy on Israel, are laying the groundwork for yet more Jew-hatred.

The correlation between the demonization of Israel and attacks on Jews worldwide is hardly in doubt. The dramatic spike in anti-Semitic attacks throughout the diaspora that coincided with this summer’s Gaza war speaks for itself. That is not to suggest that Israeli policy is the underlying cause of anti-Semitism, but rather just as Church doctrine or Social Darwinism were ideologies used as a conduit for anti-Semitism, today anti-Zionism, with its depiction of events in Israel, takes the position as the primary outlet for anti-Semitism. And while both Danny Cohen and Ed Miliband are quite right to be concerned by the rising tide of Jew-hatred in Britain today, there is no escaping the fact that both the BBC and the Labor Party have played a role in stoking the kind of contempt for the Jewish state that leads directly to the increasingly common verbal and physical attacks on British Jews.

As Tom Wilson argues, if one doesn’t like the return of anti-Semitism, then one shouldn’t be part of groups and entities that help facilitate the return of anti-Semitism. Organizations like . . . say . . . the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement and the various naïve and malevolent people who associate themselves with it:

Professors should be judged by their research and their teaching. University librarians should be held to another standard entirely. A university librarian’s purpose is to accumulate books, journals, and archival materials ranging the gambit of the field irrespective of their own personal politics, or the popular political directives of the day. Once they acquire those resources, a librarian should organize and ease access to it.

And yet, with this statement released by Middle Eastern Studies scholars and librarians endorsing the BDS call and seeking the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, librarians at some major universities are effectively embracing the notion that they will filter acquisitions according to their own political predilections. What librarians such as Mastan Ebtehaj at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University; Blair Kuntz at the University of Toronto; Mahmoud Omidsalar at California State University, Los Angeles; and Anais Salamon at McGill University are effectively saying is that they will not consider acquiring, cataloguing, or making available titles published by such Israeli scholarly presses such as Tel Aviv University Press, or the Truman Institute’s press. That may not literally be burning books, but how shameful it is for university librarians to do the figurative equivalent, filtering knowledge by whether or not they agree with the author or, as BDS demands, whether or not they like his or her nationality or that of the scholar’s publishing company. How ironic it is that librarians—those who should dedicate their professional life to protecting access to knowledge—have read so few of the history books they supposedly guard, for if they did, they might not be comfortable with past parallels to their present actions.

Incidentally, this serves as yet more proof that a certain person–whose intellectual abilities have never been anything worth writing him about in the first place–was especially stupid to endorse the Ch0mskyan observation that “anti-Semitism scarcely exists in the West.”


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