Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Two Big Losers in the Crimea Crisis Are Merkel and Obama, Writes Le Monde Columnist

Putin 1, Merkel and Obama 0
is Alain Frachon's verdict in Le Monde.
The West checkmated. SuperPutin triumphs.

… There are two big losers: Barack Obama and Angela Merkel … The two most important leaders in the Western family failed miserably. They did everything to "appease" a Russia said to be "humiliated" by the disappearance of its empire. They went along with numerous requests. They petted the bear. WIthout obtaining a single thing in return.
En Français :
Echec et mat à l’Occident. Super Poutine triomphe.

  … Il y a deux grands perdants : Barack Obama et Angela Merkel. … les deux dirigeants les plus importants de la famille occidentale se sont lourdement trompés. Ils ont tout fait pour « apaiser » une Russie que l’on disait « humiliée » par la disparition de son empire. Ils ont accédé à nombre de ses demandes. Ils ont caressé l’ours dans le sens du poil. Sans rien obtenir en retour.

A peine arrivé à la Maison Blanche, en janvier 2009, Obama annonce un « nouveau départ » dans la politique russe des Etats-Unis. Moscou voit alors d’un mauvais œil le projet américain d’installer un bouclier antimissile en Pologne et en République tchèque. Obama l’abandonne aussitôt et le remplace par une version plus réduite, en Roumanie. A aucun moment, le président américain n’a cherché à revenir sur la décision prise par l’OTAN, en 2008, de rejeter les candidatures de l’Ukraine et de la Géorgie.

Dans sa rhétorique comme dans ses actes, Obama a gommé l’empreinte néoconservatrice qui marquait l’administration de George W. Bush : plus question d’exporter les valeurs de la démocratie jeffersonienne où que ce soit. Concentré sur le retrait des forces américaines d’Irak et d’Afghanistan, il sait l’immense perte de crédibilité morale subie par les Etats-Unis du fait de ces interventions répétées à l’extérieur. Il a mesuré les limites de ce que peut accomplir la machine militaire américaine ; il a mesuré aussi ce que ces guerres ont coûté au statut de l’Amérique. Il est le président d’un certain désengagement américain en Europe – objectif traditionnel de Moscou. Il s’est gardé d’intervenir militairement dans la guerre syro-syrienne, et s’est rangé à l’initiative du Kremlin sur le démantèlement des armes chimiques de Damas.
Meanwhile, Sylvie Kauffmann takes on an optimistic viewpoint, opining that this crisis will see the United States return to Europe. But isn't it too late, Sylvie?
Selon les propos rapportés par M. Djemilev aux médias ukrainiens, le président russe a fait valoir que la déclaration d'indépendance de l'Ukraine en 1991, par un vote du Parlement suivi d'un référendum, n'était « pas conforme à la procédure soviétique prévue pour quitter les structures de l'URSS » … l'idée qui s'est répandue aussitôt est qu'à ses yeux, le démantèlement de l'URSS était illégal. Cela impliquerait que Vladimir Poutine veut rétablir l'Union soviétique.

L'annexion de la Crimée bouleverse l'ordre international de l'après-guerre froide. De fait, elle a déjà provoqué plusieurs renversements de tendances et fait deviner des réalignements.
Le plus visible est le retour des Etats-Unis en Europe. Soucieux de « pivoter » vers l'Asie, découragés par les échecs de l'ère Bush au Moyen-Orient, les Américains avaient laissé les Européens gérer la sécurité de leur continent et même au-delà, de l'autre côté de la Méditerranée, en « menant depuis l'arrière ». La crise ukrainienne les voit revenir en première ligne.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Exactly who or what will take over the DNS from the US government? And will it make the Internet better or worse?

On March 14, 2014, the United States announced its intention to turn over control of the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) to someone else
writes Bob Rankin.
But exactly who or what will take over? And will it make the Internet better or worse? Here is my analysis of what’s really happening…

Is the U.N. Taking Over the Internet?

Despite what you may have heard about the recently announced changes in Internet governance, it's not exactly "new news," it's not going to happen any time soon, but it could affect how people in some countries access the Internet (or not). Here's what you need to know.

Some Concerns About Human RIghts

What unsettles some is that Russia, China and other countries with less-than-stellar human rights policies are making the most noise about moving Internet governance out of the USA. They would like the U.N. to be in charge, giving them more power to censor online political speech and dissent. And given the U.N.'s track record of putting dictators in charge of things, one can understand these concerns. Last November, Russia, China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia were chosen by secret ballot to serve on the UN's laughable Human Rights Council.

Typically, whoever controls the purse strings controls everything. If the new Internet governance body is funded by member contributions, then power will concentrate in the factions that contribute the most money. ICANN will have to come up with a different, politically neutral funding mechanism. Selling IP addresses and domain names may be a workable option, but provisions will be needed to prevent any entity or faction from cornering the market.

The news that the U.S. is giving up control of the Internet is being painted as a reaction to current events, including the NSA’s spying activities. In reality, it’s a long-anticipated step in what has been planned for the Internet since 1998. Before NTIA and ICANN, control of the Internet was held by DARPA. In fact, at one time a single person held the power to decide who got a domain name and who didn’t. His name was Jon Postel and his power was so awesome that his nickname within the geek community was simply, “God.”

The transfer of power from a military agency to the Commerce Department, which serves broad commercial interests, was a step towards openness and inclusion of more stakeholders. Delegating power to the non-governmental ICANN was a further step. Taking the U. S. government entirely out of the picture is the final step, and it won’t be taken until another suitable custodian of the Internet is available.

Bottom line, the Internet isn't likely to fundamentally change (at least in the USA) once this transition is complete. You'll still be able to find cat videos on Youtube, and spew the most private details of your life on Facebook, if you choose to do so. Users in China, Russia, and other totalitarian regimes may not be as lucky.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Here’s the unfortunate truth: There are a number of problems with Rand Paul’s formula for a GOP victory

Senator Rand Paul thinks he has a recipe for a GOP comeback
writes Benny Huang
Republicans should agree to disagree on social issues.

… According to this argument, after a mutual agreed-upon truce on social issues, a slew of disaffected voters will flock to the GOP and the party will be able to tackle the debt crisis that plagues us.

There are a number of problems with Paul’s formula for victory. Let’s start with the fact that Republicans have already agreed to disagree on these issues. Come to Massachusetts and you’ll find nary a trace of social conservatism in the state GOP. Even outside of New England there are pro-abortion Republicans like Chris Christie and and pro-same sex marriage Republicans like Rob Portman. The party even has turncoats who think that religious business owners should be forced by law to take part in same-sex weddings—John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Jan Brewer, to name a few. So there’s plenty of room in the Republicans’ “big tent” for people who hate religious liberty and love violence against the unborn.

“Agreeing to disagree” can’t be what Paul really means. I think what he’s saying is that all-around conservatives should let the fiscal-policy-only conservatives do all the talking so the party will stop looking so mean and exclusive. This will be accomplished by punting all social issues to the Democrats, who have most certainly not agreed to disagree.

And they will win. Every time.

The only way this could possibly grow the party is if the ostracized social conservatives continued to faithfully cast their ballots for Republicans; just for old time’s sake or something. I guess it never occurred to Senator Paul that those conservatives who don’t like the new GOP might just stay home, thus shrinking the party.

But there’s another problem with the Paulian plan for a rejuvenated Republican Party: the demographic groups the senator is hoping to reach by focusing on budget issues are probably the least receptive to the message.

Try preaching fiscal conservatism in an inner-city neighborhood where the population is disproportionately young, non-white, and Democratic. Here’s a message that will get you nowhere with them: “Hi, I’m running for office on a platform of lower taxes and less government.”

 … Less government terrifies them because they understand the term to mean fewer social programs. And they’re right. They might even ask what parts of the budget Republicans plan on cutting, which is a fair question. What will Republicans say?

Consider for a moment Generation Y and its priorities. A 2012 Pew poll found that among eighteen- to twenty-nine year olds socialism had a nice ring to it. Forty-nine percent of this age group reported a positive reaction to the word, while 47% had a negative view of capitalism.

Among blacks of all ages, 55% had a positive reaction to the word socialism, and among Hispanics of all ages it was 44%. If Rand Paul thinks he can win these people over by kicking Phyllis Schlafly to the curb he’s wrong.

The reason the cost of government is perpetually growing is because our elected officials don’t know how to say no to any constituent group or “good cause.” Every program is someone’s lifeblood, whether it’s HUD or farm subsidies, and every agency is someone’s employer, whether it’s the turnpike authority or TSA. Making a cut anywhere will generate pushback, often from exactly the people Rand Paul thinks he can attract.

If the pivot from social policy to fiscal policy is compelled by a burning desire to be liked, the effort can only fail. Congressman Paul Ryan experienced this last week when he recommended a change in work ethic as an antidote to welfare dependency in inner city communities. In short order, Congresswoman Barbara Lee played the race card. “My colleague Congressman Ryan’s comments about ‘inner city’ poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated,” Lee said. “Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says ‘inner city,’ …what he really means [is]: ‘black.’”

Don’t think you can get off with just being called racist either. Welfare benefits are paid out primarily to women, which means the Left can also call accuse fiscal conservatives of opening a new front in the War on Women™. And since the Left does everything “for the children,” fiscal conservatives will be accused of stealing food from the mouth of babes too.

If Republicans are going to be throwing principles overboard for the sake of giving their party a facelift, they needn’t stop, or even start, with the social issues. The MSNBC lineup will be delighted for a short time to learn that the Republicans have agreed to shut up on certain issues, but they will never stop calling Republicans bigots. Ever.

Which isn’t a reason to abandon fiscal conservatism. I’m a fiscal and social conservative, or what used to be called, um…conservative. Here’s the unfortunate truth: leftists are never going to stop calling us bigots, and certain segments of the population are never going to stop believing them. So if you believe in something, be prepared to suffer a few slings and arrows. If opinion polls are trending the wrong way then work to change those polls. Fight the battle of ideas.

Does Rand Paul understand that? I don’t think so. If he did, he would understand that sacrificing conservatism for the sake of growing the Republican Party is a good deal for the Republican Party but a rotten deal for conservatism. My party loyalty at this point is at about zero, so I don’t see the advancement of the GOP as a goal worth pursuing.
More from Josh Richman (thanks to Instapundit); meanwhile, the Huffington Post's intro to a Sabrina Siddiqui column suggests that Rand Paul is… a racist — because, you know, the only people who are ever allowed to broach the subject of race are Democrats and progressives…
Meanwhile, Ann Coulter chimes in, saying that she has
been reading that same column in The New York Times every few months for the last 20 years. Whether it’s abortion, gays, God or drugs, Times reporters are like bloodhounds in sniffing out Republicans — often kids — who are “pro-free market on fiscal issues and libertarian on social ones.” If something has been trending for decades without ever really catching on, it’s probably not about to sweep the nation.
Ann points out that
young people are idiots. I love them, I was one once myself -– but they’re idiots. We’ll be interested in their opinions on the basic rules of civilization as soon as they have one of three things: a household to run, a mortgage or school-aged children. Being in college is like living in Disneyland.
  … In 2012, the Times produced this gripping headline: “Young in GOP Erase the Lines on Social Issues.” Yes, apparently, people with no responsibilities, no families to provide for, no children to worry about, and who had recently experienced their first hangovers, didn’t care about the social issues.
As with every generation, the kids always think they’re saying something fresh and new. “Social issues are far down the priorities list,” Matt Hoagland told the Times, “and I think that’s the trend.” (How far down the list compared to “global warming”?)
So I guess, in addition to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, we can add to the list of “Things Young People Didn’t Invent” the bright new idea of being “pro-free market on fiscal issues and libertarian on social ones.”
Interestingly, when the Times reports on actual election results, rather than the opinions of 20-year-olds, the paper admits that the social issues are a huge boon to Republicans.
In 2004, for example, when traditional marriage initiatives were on ballots in dozens of states, the Times admitted that the measures “acted like magnets for thousands of socially conservative voters in rural and suburban communities who might not otherwise have voted” and even “tipped the balance” in close races. (“Same-Sex Marriage Issue Key to Some GOP Races,” Nov. 4, 2004.)
Luckily, like every generation before them, someday, young people will eventually grow up and discover that you can’t have conservative economic policies without also having conservative social policies. Imagine their embarrassment when they realize that a free society is impossible without lots of stable, married, two-parent families raising their children in safe, drug-free neighborhoods.
How about not letting them vote until they’re at least old enough not to be on their parents’ health insurance?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Russia — a producer of almost nothing except for hydrocarbon, weapons, and vodka

Putin has every reason to be satisfied
writes a Le Monde editorial, which calls Russia a producer of almost nothing except for hydrocarbon, weapons, and vodka.
The Europeans' reaction to the deed committed by the Russian president in Crimea was one of minimalism.

 … The result? For the second time, following Georgia's in 2008, Russie has modified the continent's borders by force without having to pay a price.
Plantu's cartoon, meanwhile, brings Vladimir's arch-enemy, the semi-nude Femen protesters, into the equation.

En français :
Poutine a tout lieu d'être satisfait. Les Européens ont réagi a minima au forfait que le président russe vient de commettre en Crimée. … La Russie, qui, hormis des hydrocarbures, des armes et de la vodka, ne produit presque rien, est aussi un formidable débouché pour les exportateurs européens.

Résultat : pour la deuxième fois après la Géorgie en 2008, la Russie a modifié les frontières du continent par la force sans en payer grand prix. Cela impose aux Européens, au minimum, de se tenir aujourd'hui fermement aux côtés de Kiev.

 … l'affaire a été menée dans une ambiance de surenchère ultranationaliste entretenue à Moscou par les médias russes au service du pouvoir. Comme s'il fallait préparer l'opinion à d'autres aventures militaires – en Ukraine, dans les régions russophones de l'est du pays, par exemple.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The U.S. and the Venezuelan administrations couldn’t be more similar: Chávez was the Obama of South America, and Maduro was his Biden

Joe Biden almost sounded like he meant it when he rebuked Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro over his government’s repressive reaction to the recent protests that have beset the South American nation
writes Benny Huang.
“The situation in Venezuela is alarming,” [the Vice President] wrote. “Confronting peaceful protesters with force and in some cases with armed vigilantes; limiting the freedoms of press and assembly necessary for legitimate political debate; demonizing and arresting political opponents; and dramatically tightening restrictions on the media.”
The Latin American quasi-dictator could be heard snickering all the way from Caracas. While the description certainly fits Venezuela in the Chavez/Maduro era, it isn’t a half bad description of the US in the Obama/Biden era either.

Okay, so armed vigilantes aren’t literally clubbing the Tea Party in the streets. Here in America we have a more gentle touch. Weaponizing the IRS to bludgeon opponents works far better without providing the news media with a gory scene to show on the evening news.

Not that they would show it anyway. With the possible exception of the Kennedy White House, no administration in the history of this country has gotten such fawning coverage from the media as has Team Obama, and none has been less grateful. This White House is paranoid in its secrecy and lashes out at the few honest reporters who still think it’s their job to report the news without fear or favor.

 … In Venezuela, CNN was stripped of its press credentials because it didn’t cover the Caracas protests in a light favorable to the government. (The government later relented.) The Obama Administration merely tries to isolate its bête noire, FOX News, refusing it access, excluding reporters from media events, and attempting to turn other news agencies against it. The White House’s excuse for excluding the news outfit most likely to ask a tough question is that FOX is “not really news,” as David Axelrod, former Senior Advisor to the President once said. Interestingly, Maduro said the same about CNN. In fact, every despot who ever tried to restrict press freedoms has used the same justification.

 … The Obama Administration also likes to arrest its opponents, including Dinesh D’Souza, producer of “2016: Obama’s America,” the second highest grossing political documentary of all time. I think the left might have found it a tad suspicious if Michael Moore had been arrested during Bush’s second term. D’Souza stands accused of violating campaign finance laws and has pled not guilty. The charges wreak to high heaven of being trumped up by an administration furious over D’Souza’s movie.

 … These two administrations couldn’t be more similar. Chavez was the Obama of South America, and Maduro was his Biden. They’re like two pairs of twins separated at birth. Welcome to the banana republic.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tourists like to complain that Parisians are rude and unfriendly, but, of course, this is nonsense

Tourists like to complain that Parisians are rude and unfriendly, but, of course, this is nonsense
writes the International Herald Tribune, tongue-in-cheek.
Paris boasts an annual courtesy crusade during which people are urged to be polite to each other for an entire week, and only last November [1963]  a club for the promotion of niceness, Le Club de la Gentillesse, was founded. The group’s aim is ‘‘to gather those who appreciate the need of teaching the benefits of niceness, which is the key to a balanced life and world harmony.’’ Membership is already up to nearly 100, and one man recently offered to go to Madagascar as France’s Ambassador of Niceness.
50 Years Ago: 1964: Paris Club Promotes Niceness