Sunday, March 1, 2015

Obama: Goal Is to 'Reduce the Possibility of Iran' Getting Nukes

    Amid reports that a nuclear deal with Iran may freeze that country's ability to produce nuclear fuel for only ten years in exchange for sanctions relief, President Obama appeared to soften his words if not his position. Following a meeting with the Amir of Qatar earlier this week, the president characterized the ongoing talks as trying "to reduce the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon," and "to verify that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon." These words ("reduce the possibility", and "does not have" as opposed to "will not acquire") stand in sharp contrast to the unambiguous statements President Obama had tended to make over the past several years:
"We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon." - Mar. 14, 2012 
"And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Sept. 25, 2012 
"Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Nov. 23, 2013 
"At the top of that list is our work to ensure that Iran does not ever acquire a nuclear weapon." - July 8, 2014 
"[W]e seek a comprehensive diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Jan. 16, 2015 
"[W]e also had a very useful discussion around Iran and the negotiations that are currently taking place to try to reduce the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Those negotiations are ongoing.  I gave the Amir an update and assured him that our goal here is to be able to verify that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon[.]" - Feb. 24, 2015
    Vice President Biden has made perhaps the most unequivocal statement of anyone in the Obama administration on the subject, telling the Saban Forum in December, "We will not let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon.  Period.  Period.  End of discussion.  It will not happen on our watch." But even if Biden himself won two terms in the White House, a ten-year freeze would sunset beyond both his and Barack Obama's "watch."
    John Kerry was pressed on the issue while testifying before Congress the same day the president made the softer statement, but Kerry insisted, "The president has made clear — I can't state this more firmly — the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon." However, any details of the deal, Kerry said, will have to wait. "And anybody running around right now, jumping in to say, 'Well, we don't like the deal,' or this or that, doesn't know what the deal is. There is no deal yet. And I caution people to wait and see what these negotiations produce."

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Monday Morning Quarterbacking Scott Walker's Answer

    As long as everyone on Twitter was armchair quarterbacking how Scott Walker should have responded to a question in a Washington Post interview about whether or not Barack Obama is a Christian, I weighed in with this observation:
    I also suggested this as a possible response:
     But after some reflection, perhaps Walker could have best used the question as an opportunity to share the gospel. I may not have answered any better (or worse) than Walker, but here's what I'd like to have answered:
    First, let me say this is not a political question. The Constitution makes clear than no religious test is appropriate for public office in the United States, so in the context of this interview, your question isn't appropriate. Second, the Bible teaches that a Christian is someone who has put his faith in the finished redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross, repented of his sin, is no longer under the wrath of God, and is now a follower of Christ. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," the Bible says, and Barack Obama is included in "whosoever". If the president has done this, he's a Christian.
    Far be it from me to cast a stone at Scott Walker, and I'm sure others can improve on my effort above. I Peter 3:15 says "be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you," and that goes for all Christians, not just politicians. We may not all get interviewed by the Washington Post, but we should all be ready with an answer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kerry: 'Lack of Integration' of Muslims in Europe Like U.S. Civil Rights Struggle in '60s

    Secretary of State John Kerry met with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini at the State Department Wednesday and afterwards addressed the press and took some questions. One question from a French reporter concerned problems with Muslim integration in Europe and the potential terrorism ramifications:
Question: [W]e heard recently from President Obama talking about the potential lack of integration of Muslim communities in Europe. He mentioned that as one of the greatest dangers that Europe faces in terms of terror threats that might come. Would you agree with those words from President Obama, and should he have used those? And Mr. Secretary [Kerry], I’d like to get your opinion on that as well if I can.
    Kerry responded by recalling his days as a college student in the 1960s during the civil rights era and the consequent sensitivity of his generation to "this question of minority and rights and integration and so forth." After explaining that although the US has made "unbelievable progress" on race-related matters, "we still have some distance to travel." Eventually, Kerry stressed that "this particular incident of violence [terror attack in Paris] wasn’t a specific targeting that grew out of that [lack of integration]"; however, he said, there is work to do where "one minority or another or another is not able to share fully in the full integration" in the country where they live.
   Here is Secretary Kerry's full response to the question:
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me just begin quickly on the integration issue. When I was – I entered college in 1962. And in 1963, ’4, ’5, we were deeply embroiled in this country, and we – college students in the Civil Rights Movement. And we were deeply impacted by that and have always been, I think, as a generation, much more sensitive to this question of minority and rights and integration and so forth. We’ve made unbelievable progress in our nation, unbelievable progress in the years since then. But it would be completely disingenuous not to say to you that we still have some distance to travel. We’re not finished. We’re still – you heard the President last night talk about voting rights. So what was won in 1965 still has to be fully embraced and implemented here, and other things that are linked to that. We’ve seen our own struggles in some communities and great debates about race in America in the last year. 
So it would be dishonest of me – and I’m not involved in domestic politics right now, so I’m not going to go into it in depth, except to say that therefore, I think I can say with honesty that there is a challenge in many other parts of the world. And Federica is absolutely correct; this particular incident of violence wasn’t a specific targeting that grew out of that, but we all can do work in many parts of the world that I have seen where one minority or another or another is not able to share fully in the full integration in whatever country they happen to be living. So the world has a road to travel on that, and that’s why we continue to put such a high premium here on the issue of human rights and democracy, and to continue to push, because I think we’ve learned through our own experience the difference that it can make to the strengthening of the quality of our democracy, to our society, and people benefit when we live by that high moral standard.
    High Representative Mogherini, whose response to the question came before Kerry's, said the following:
On the integration of minorities in Europe, this is a debate, I think, that within member states in Europe, in – I would say in the global community is – has been going on for decades and probably is going on for decades. I would say that there are different models, different histories, and different traditions. What we have to get right in this moment is the fact that we need to work together. You know that very well. Victims of the attack in Paris were not only called Louis or Charb or Anne; there was an Ahmed that was killed by other people that were having names of the same roots, which means that this is a common fight. I would not go on the line of saying that this is minorities against majorities, also because we have different minorities, in Europe as in the United States. We are living in complex societies, and this is our richness. Our strength is the fact that we are different, but we are united and we live together. 
And I think that this is the core point. We would be wrong if we were to look at that as an issue of minorities-majorities. This has nothing to do with that. These are violent acts that were targeting people, persons, regardless of their names, ethnic background, minorities, majorities, whatever. And there is no link, I would stress, between minorities, majorities, and violence. A terrorist act is a terrorist act, and we should not go into that kind of discussion about how we manage, or at least manage the majorities or minorities. There is no kind of roots in that.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

EPA Chief: In Year 2100, 'Aspen’s Climate Could Be a Lot Like That of Amarillo, TX'

    In a move that might have at least the northeast section of the country shaking its head this week, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy took to the EPA and White House blogs Wednesday to declare that "We Must Act Now to Protect Our Winters." McCarthy was in Aspen, CO, last week, famous ski destination and home to an X-Games venue, and she warned that without action on climate change, "Aspen’s climate could be a lot like that of Amarillo, TX, by 2100." Her post reads in part:
2014 was the hottest year on record, and each of the last three decades has been hotter than the last. 
In mountain towns that depend on winter tourism, the realities of climate change really hit home. Shorter, warmer winters mean a shorter season to enjoy the winter sports we love—and a financial hit for local economies that depend on winter sports. 
Even if you hate winter, climate change affects you – because climate risks are economic risks. Skiing, snowboarding and other types of winter recreation add $67 billion to the economy every year, and they support 900,000 jobs.... 
There are a lot of small businesses in Aspen that can’t survive without tourists coming into town, and I sat down for a chat with them in the afternoon. If we fail to act, Aspen’s climate could be a lot like that of Amarillo, TX, by 2100. Amarillo is a great town, but it’s a lousy place to ski.
    According to the website usclimatedata.com, temperatures and snowfall in Aspen and Amarillo compare as follows:
AspenAnnual high temperature: 55.8°F
Annual low temperature: 28.3°F
Average temperature: 42.05°F
Av. annual snowfall: 179 inch 
AmarilloAnnual high temperature: 70.9°F
Annual low temperature: 43.7°F
Average temperature: 57.3°F
Av. annual snowfall: 19 inch
    For the climate of Aspen to resemble that of Amarillo, a temperature swing of 15 degrees and a 13-foot drop in annual snowfall would need to take place over the next 85 years.  Even the most catastrophic models of global temperature change in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) do not predict a temperature increase of 15 degrees. An attempt to contact Administrator McCarthy was not returned.
    McCarthy's entire post can be read here or here.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

State Department: 'Russian Military Has a Significant Presence in Ukraine'

    Ever since March 2014 when President Obama referred to Russian aggression against Ukraine as an "invasion", administration officials have avoided that word in conjunction with the ongoing conflict. In fact, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt's declared on April 29, 2014, that "Russian troops crossing Ukraine's borders would be a major escalation, and would draw an inevitable, sharp reaction from the United States," implying that, President Obama's March remarks notwithstanding, no Russian troops had "invaded".
    Evan as recently as this week, Ambassador Samantha Power at the United Nations charged Russia with training, supplying, aiding, and arming separatists in Ukraine, but stopped short of saying that Russian troops were engaged across the border in Ukraine. And Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, in Kyiv for a meeting with Ukrainian Finance Minister Jaresko referred to the "ongoing military offensive... being carried out by Russia-backed separatists," but made no mention of Russian forces.
    Today, however, when asked to comment on remarks by a US army general that suggested Russian special operations forces are playing an active role in the conflict, a state department spokesperson replied:
We cannot confirm specific numbers, but the Russian military has a significant presence in Ukraine.  In late December, Russia transferred more than one hundred additional pieces of Russian military equipment and material to pro-Russia separatists.  The latest transfer complements the previous transfer of hundreds of pieces of Russian military equipment provided to pro-Russia separatists since the September 5 Minsk ceasefire agreement, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery pieces, and other military vehicles. 
There are several sites near the Ukraine border, which serve as staging points before transporting Russian military equipment to pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine. Russian combat forces remain deployed near the Ukraine border, and Russian military forces still operate in eastern Ukraine, where they play a coordinating role and provide ongoing tactical support to pro-Russia separatists.
    The US Department of Defense (DOD) has been more vocal about Russian military activity in eastern Ukraine beyond simply supplying and training separatists. In remarks Tuesday at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium, Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel suggested that Russian special operations forces are active in the conflict:
[A] resurgent Russia is now employing coercive techniques against its neighbor using [special operations] forces, other clandestine capabilities, information operations, other cyber operations and groupings of ethnic proxies and surrogates to drive wedges into our key allies in East Europe.
    General Votel seemed to distinguish between the activities of Russian forces and "groupings of ethnic proxies and surrogates," presumably the separatist forces in Ukraine that have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of that country since early 2014. When asked for comment, a DOD spokesperson said, "The general referred to the use of Special Operations Forces and Information Operations. In the US military, Special Operations Forces is an umbrella term for all special operations units to include units that conduct  Military Information Support Operations or MISO. MISO, also referred to as Psychological Operations, is a subset of Information Operations‎ and has nothing to do forces on the ground."
    A second DOD spokesperson's comments mirrored those of the state department, and also called on Russia to fulfill the Minsk agreement by "withdrawing all troops and weapons from eastern Ukraine":
[W]e've been saying out of the DoD for quite a while now [that] we cannot confirm specific numbers, but the Russian military has a significant presence in Ukraine.  We call on Russia to de-escalate this conflict by fulfilling the commitments they signed up to in Minsk, including by withdrawing all troops and weapons from eastern Ukraine, establishing effective international monitoring of the international border and returning control of Ukraine’s side of that border to the government in Kyiv, freeing all hostages, and working towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
    President Obama himself addressed the Ukrainian situation with Chancellor Merkel of Germany in a phone call on Tuesday, but the readout of the call made no mention of Russian forces in Ukraine. Rather, the president and Chancellor Merkel decried "Russia’s materiel support for the separatists and its failure to fulfill its commitment under the Minsk Agreement."

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Planned Parenthood Admits: Abortion Stops a Beating Heart

    "Abortion stops a beating heart" has long been a poignant rallying cry for the pro-life movement. Abortion rights advocates often characterize the unborn as an impersonal "clump of cells" that a woman may choose to do with whatever she wants. But even as the House of Representatives plans a January 20th (Roe v. Wade anniversary) vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, it turns out the leading abortion provider in the nation matter-of-factly acknowledges on its website that many abortions involve stopping a beating heart.
     According to Planned Parenthood's own description of fetal development, an unborn child's heartbeat begins around two to three weeks after egg fertilization, or weeks five and six of the pregnancy [highlight added]:

    Most abortions, which take place in the first trimester, do not involve taking active steps to stop the fetal heartbeat before the procedure is carried out, though obviously the procedure itself stops the heart in those abortions that take place after the five-to-six week threshold. However, as Planned Parenthood spells out under an explanation of a D&E (Dilation and Evacuation) abortion [emphasis added], "In later second-trimester procedures, you may also need a shot through your abdomen to make sure that the fetus's heart stops before the procedure begins." Here's how the section currently appears on the website [highlight added]:

    Although the Planned Parenthood site does not provide the reason for stopping the heart, an explanation can be found on the website of the Orlando Women's Center in Florida (not affiliated with Planned Parenthood), and the main reasons are not medical [emphasis added]:
Fetal Demise

This is initiated by injection of the combination of Digoxin and Potassium Chloride (most commonly) into the fetal heart to assure the following:

No additional pain or discomfort to the fetus
Generally assures no chance of a live birth
The fetal tissue becomes softer which makes it easier for the tissue to pass safely through the mother's cervix
Many studies show a fetus that succumbs in the uterus delivers faster
    The website latetermabortion.net is associated with the Orlando Women's Center, and there the primary reason is given in starker terms [emphasis added]:
Stopping the heart beat does two important things: 1) it assures nearly 100% that there will be no evidence of a live birth when the delivery takes place and 2) the softening of the fetal tissue allows for less complications should surgical removal become necessary. 
    Based on these descriptions, the proactive stopping of the heart beat via an injection primarily has to do with the viability and size of the unborn child. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 11 percent of abortions take place after the twelfth week of pregnancy, a figure which drops to 1.2 percent after 21 weeks. However, only one-third of abortions occur by 6 weeks, around the time the unborn child's heart has begun to beat. At the very least then, two-thirds of the one million plus abortions that take place in the United States each year indeed stop a beating heart. It's a fact that even Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion in this country, must own up to.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

Feds Buy 'Cossack' Armored Border Guard Truck … For Ukraine

    In April, the Obama administration announced plans for financial aid, advisers, and 'non-lethal' security assistance for Ukraine in its struggle against Russian encroachment on its territory. Eight months later, citing the "urgent and compelling need to establish security and stability," the White
House National Security Council staff approved the purchase of an armored “Cossack” truck, a rapid-reaction military vehicle, for use by the border guard service of Ukraine.

    The $189,000 vehicle was purchased from the Practika PJSC company, in Ukraine, and is being handled by the state department's procurement office in Germany.
    Despite the lapse of eight months since the assistance was announced by President Obama, the Justification and Approval document cited "unusual and compelling urgency" as the reason that full and open competition was precluded for the contract. When asked about the timing of the vehicle purchase, a state department official replied, "The United States has committed over $118 million to Ukrainian forces since the start of the crisis, including over $47 million in equipment to border guards.  The urgent and compelling requirements are derived from Ukraine’s ongoing operations to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity." The official also said that the vehicle is scheduled to be delivered to Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service on January 19th: "The “Cossack” armored truck, designed and manufactured by the Ukrainian company 'Practika,' is one of a variety of armored vehicles that we are providing to Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service to help it better monitor and secure its borders and operate more safely and effectively."
    A June 4, 2014, "fact sheet" issued by the White House said that as of that date, "President Obama has approved more than $23 million in additional defensive security assistance since early March," and went on to detail the assistance already provided to the Ukrainian border service:
Embassy Kyiv has purchased and delivered 20-person shelters, sleeping bags, fuel filter adapters, barbed wire, patrol flashlights, perimeter alarm systems, fuel pumps, concertina wire, vehicle batteries, spare tires, binoculars, excavators, trucks, generators, food storage freezers, field stoves, and communications gear to the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service, for use in monitoring and securing their borders.
    THE WEEKLY STANDARD reported in August that the state department spent $435,000 on security fencing for the Ukrainian border.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.