Hats off to Kid Entrepreneurs

I recently spotted a boy selling a box of assorted candy bars to commuters on the Washington, D.C. Metro. It was a welcome sight compared with the constant begging to which D.C. commuters are subject to on a daily basis both in stations and as soon as they climb the broken escalators.

While it may seem insignificant, gaining a sense of entrepreneurialism at a young age is a skill that will last a lifetime, and could mean the difference in millions of dollars of earning potential.

While learning a sport instills good discipline and social skills, the majority of kids whose parents prepare them for professional sports careers never play at the Division I college level. Likewise, a basic understanding of soft skills and the arts is important, but entrepreneurs provide the economic prosperity that makes it possible for people to pursue those interests.

Bo Peabody, an early internet entrepreneur who became a multimillionaire before the age of 28, notes in his book Lucky or Smart? that he started mowing lawns at ten, upgraded to snowblowing at 13, and later sealcoated for neighbors. He discovered early on the value of gaining recurring customers, and that the more distasteful the work, the more those customers will pay. Parents, teachers, and mentors have a role to play in recognizing entrepreneurialism in youth and guiding them in that direction.

Many never earn a dime before they graduate high school, and spend their pre-graduation years without gaining any skill or instinct that will help them in the real world. Those that do work, often perform deadbeat jobs that they hate, which sets them up for lives with deadbeat careers.

The hard work and dedication that go along with making straight A’s or excelling in sports are important, but some of the poorest people in this country are some of the hardest-working. Instilling the value of sales and entrepreneurialism, however, helps kids learn to spend their time and energy in ways that maximize returns on both.

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this kid too earned his first million before hitting 28.

Emotion: The Deciding Factor in the Gun Debate

image via flickr.com

“Am I next?”

The sign taped to the front of a stroller in which a cute, innocent toddler sat, pushed by her activist father on 18th Street NW, in Washington, DC., relayed a sense of urgency. Is clinging to guns really worth having the blood of that sweet, little, blue-eyed girl on your hands? Guns kill. Supporting their availability makes you an accomplice to murder.

The anti-Second Amendment demonstrations across the country on Saturday presented another example of the Left’s acute awareness of the power of emotion in human action. From an intellectual standpoint, classical liberalism and the 20th-century conservatism that carried its mantle are far superior to Marxism, Progressivism, or any left-leaning ideology that seeks to improve the human condition through government. But people rarely make spiritual, amorous, or ideological decisions based on intellectualism. Intellectualism serves a long-term purpose, but in the realm of politics, it’s nearly useless. The Left gets this, and that’s why it wins politically far more often than the Right.

As great as it would be to focus on policy from a strictly philosophical perspective, maintaining that idealism against those who cast political victory in terms of light and darkness—good and evil—life and death—means perpetual drubbing at the polls, and, dare I appeal to emotionalism? the loss of constitutional rights.

The National Rifle Association understands these stakes and has adapted its strategy accordingly. Its propaganda campaign that it rolled out after President Donald Trump’s election with Dana Loesch casts the Second Amendment debate in exactly those terms. Are the stakes really that high at this point? Of course not! Is the NRA appealing to emotion over reason? You betcha! But failing to do so equals bringing a butter knife to a gunfight (no pun intended).

The Right has more cause to cast this debate in terms of life and death and the survival of American civilization than the Left. Think of all the underage girls that will be raped because authoritarians decided to deprive their families of the right to keep and bear arms. Think of the children that will die defenseless in classrooms because their teacher couldn’t legally acquire a gun. Think of the babies shot through the neck in their mothers’arms by psychopaths because the lady that would have saved their lives could not legally obtain a firearm; and therefore, could only watch helplessly while the killer completed his work.

Ridiculous analogies, many would say. Those who want common sense gun control don’t want to take people’s right to self-defense away from them. Handguns will still be legal!

But do those 16-year-olds, who will vote in 2020 and every election thereafter, who are demonstrating against guns in general, even know what laws are on the books already? Do they care? They’ve been brainwashed to be anti-gun, not anti-rifle. Besides, the gun-grabbers abroad have already shown that they won’t stop until it’s almost impossible to obtain any firearm.

We certainly need to revamp civics and history instruction in schools so that future voters will understand the value of a constitutional democracy and why an assault on the Second Amendment would imperil every freedom. But that’s a long-term project. In the short-term, gun-grabbers need a good beating at the polls; and the only way to do that is to emotionally convince voters that those kids and their plump, professional handlers marching in the streets threaten their children’s life and liberty.

George Soros’ Romanian Ghosts: Fighting Corruption With Corruption

Romania’s anti-corruption crusade meets Russian corporatism

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Image credit: Max Pixel. goo.gl/eEXJXfr a caption

Crossposted from Capital Research Center

In 2006, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller visited Romania, where he praised Minister of Justice Monica Macovei and her anti-corruption efforts. His comments marked a major public relations victory for Macovei because her tactics had recently fallen under intense parliamentary scrutiny. Mueller also advised 33-year-old Prosecutor General Laura Codruta Kovesi—recently appointed at Macovei’s behest—that “the capability to intercept phone calls and the legal ability to use them in court” represents “an essential tool” in fighting corruption.

The Bigger Picture

The financial support that the U.S. State Department accords to anti-corruption efforts in Romania and other Eastern European countries does not stem from philanthropic generosity. When the Christian Science Monitor dug under the story’s surface, it found that the policy fits tightly into the broader ongoing power struggle in the region between the U.S. and Russia. U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Andrew Schapiro emphasized the geopolitical aspect of the aid:

There is a greater recognition that these issues of good governance, transparency, and rule of law are not just issues about fairness. They are not just issues of economics. They are also issues of security.

The Christian Science Monitor told how Czech programmer Jiri Skuhrovec developed software to track public tenders for Reconstruction of the State—an NGO-led anti-corruption drive—which early on “received significant support from the U.S. Embassy in Prague and Open Society Fund Prague.”

Skuhrovec noted that by tracking party financing, he helps reveal Russian influence because when Russians buy foreign companies, those companies often contribute to political campaigns.

Keeping Russia Out of Romanian Business

American direct aid to Romania wound down when the country entered the EU. Concerned though that Russia would use Romanian oligarchs to gain a foothold in the economy and turn back the country’s anti-corruption fight, U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Taubman stressed the need for the U.S. government to continue to support anti-corruption efforts. He suggested it do so by placing “small grants with USG cost-sharing into the hands of grassroots civil society builders,”—in other words, NGOs.

Taubman’s concerns were not misplaced. In the mid-2000s, growing Russian power monopolies built on bribery and extortion presented a genuine concern for Romania and the rest of Eastern Europe. But any hope that Macovei’s crackdown on corruption (meant to placate the European Union) might curb Russian oligarchs’ forays into the country failed spectacularly.

Gas Dominance Through Aluminum

Romania’s intelligence service, the SRI, found that Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska planned to monopolize the country’s aluminum industry when three government-owned aluminum producers were set to privatize. Deripaska failed, but the suspicion led the SRI to wiretap Russian billionaire Vitaly Maschitskiy and his associate, Valery Krasner.

Krasner previously worked as a senior executive with Marc Rich Investment Ltd. In 1983, the U.S. had sentenced Rich on 65 criminal counts, which included buying oil from Iran while it held U.S. hostages. President Bill Clinton controversially pardoned Rich on his last day in office, sparing the billionaire a lifetime prison sentence. Krasner’s scruples, however, surpassed what Rich’s outfit would tolerate. After only working for the firm for two years, the Marc Rich Group sued Krasner for millions of dollars in damages for fraud.

Vitaly Maschitskiy had made his fortune largely in oil, gas, and timber, benefitting immensely from Russia’s post-communist privatization. Shortly after he and Krasner met, they set their sights on the Romanian aluminum industry. The Romanian government, anxious to qualify for World Bank funding under its Private Sector Adjustment Loan Agreement, was highly susceptible to underselling ALRO, the largest producer of aluminum primary products in Eastern Europe.

A London court case revealed that, in order to hide their Russian roots, the Russian businessmen allowed the U.S.-based Marco International Corp (MIC)—which Rich co-founded—to negotiate the deal with the Romanian government. They called it “Project Vostok,” or the “Eastern Project.” Through their network of consultants, they lobbied Romanian government officials, investment banks advising the Romanian government, and the World Bank, to both sweeten and speed up the deal. Their strategy paid handsome dividends.

MIC created a British shadow company, Marco Acquisitions Ltd., and acquired control of the energy supplier Conef, which already held part ownership of ALRO and Alprom SA, a producer of finished aluminum products. A short while later, Maschitskiy’s company acquired the majority of shares in both. ALRO then bought a majority stake in Alum Tulcea, Romania’s only aluminum refinery.

“So, I started investing there and gradually acquired control over Romania’s whole aluminum industry,” bragged Maschitskiy to Interfax in 2014.

Maschitskiy’s 99.97 percent ownership of Conef also provided the state-owned Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom prime access to Romania’s energy market.

The SRI suspected Maschitskiy of using ALRO as leverage to obtain long-term contracts at below-market energy prices to then sell the excess electricity on the open market.

Maschitskiy, Krasner, and Marian Năstase, president of Marco Group’s Romanian subsidiary, used code names to discuss their scheme. The SRI deciphered that “the Captain” referred to Romanian President Traian Băsescu, “Trump” referred to millionaire businessman Dorin Cocoş, “Little Trump” referred to Cocoş’s wife and Băsescu’s Chief of Staff Elena Udrea, and “the Pilot” referred to Minister of Economy and Commerce Codruţ Şereş.

Maschitskiy and Krasnov’s phone conversations suggested that they funneled a “bribe through “Trump” to convince “the Captain” to approve a cheap energy deal. Băsescu then sent an urgent message to “the Pilot,” or Şereş, to solve the problem, “not just in the interest of the Government, but in the interest of the people.” The deal allowed ALRO to purchase energy directly from Romania’s hydroelectric plant at half the normal price, providing it a major advantage over competitors.

In an interview in February 2007, Şereş wondered if anyone had informed the president of the €4 million ($5 million in 2005 dollars) given to one of the president’s advisers to secure the deal.

Băsescu, for his part, had no love for Gazprom. He once accused the Russian giant of “being more efficient than the Red Army in making Europe dependent on Russian resources.” But he defended his decision to instruct Şereş to approve ALRO’s request because ALRO officials told him that they only received around 75 percent of the energy needed for the year, and had to pay bribes to get the rest. By approving the request, he was simply acting in the nation’s interest—helping a large employer get its product to market.

Covering up Corruption With Anti-corruption

Based on the previous incriminating phone conversations, Ciprian Nastasiu—a prosecutor with Romania’s Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT)—opened a new case specific to ALRO. He received a one-month warrant on June 2, 2007, from Romania’s Supreme Court to intercept the Russians’ conversations and those of multiple actors close to Băsescu. When Nastasiu notified the SRI, the agency refused to carry out the order. When he informed the Supreme Court of the situation on July 2, the Justices promptly issued an extension. The following day, however, Nastasiu was informed that he had been taken off the case and demoted to a post on the other side of the country.

Angela Ciurea, the next prosecutor to take the case, also probed too close to the palace. After she placed top government officials under surveillance, General Prosecutor Kovesi called her into her office. Livid, she demanded to know why Ciurea hadn’t informed her before obtaining a warrant for those individuals, one of whom was a close friend of Kovesi’s.

Ciurea too soon found herself demoted, and bullied into resigning shortly thereafter. Three years later the Supreme Court granted her appeal and deemed her demotion without cause. She had already vowed, however, never again to work for the Romanian government

The DIICOT deputy director who took the case after Ciurea found the government slightly more cooperative. A few months later, however, he went into early retirement at age 56—an act that required the president’s signature.

Kovesi finally moved her personal assistant over to DIICOT to handle the matter. He closed the case in January 2010, less than two months after Băsescu narrowly won reelection.

In April 2007, Gazprom secured long-term access to Romanian gas shipping facilities by signing supply contracts with companies Romgaz, Transgaz, and Conef. The Conef contract alone provided for selling the country up to 42 billion cubic meters of gas through 2030 at a price classified as a “commercial secret.”

In 2011, the newspaper Cotidianul reported that ALRO had enjoyed a 230 percent profit increase over the previous year. It also paid over 200 percent less per megawatt-hour than the average citizen for electricity.

In 2014, after safely retiring, DIICOT prosecutor Eugen Iacobescu claimed the ALRO case contained a mistake. The Russian businessmen had paid those who lobbied the president €10 million in bribes, not €4 million.

In Part 10 of “George Soros’ Romanian Ghosts,” we investigate the “Balkan outpost” of the U.S. State Department in Romania.

 

Pro-Abortion Activists for Hire

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Yesterday I stumbled across this near the College Park Metro station. I must admit, that’s not a bad wage for someone interested in making the world a better place by helping women maintain their right to reproduce. The only problem, however, is that I don’t remember anyone in the United States ever advocating for taking that right away. Did Congress just pass a one-child policy in this country that bans women from reproducing more than once if they want to?

The Left does not hold a monopoly over hiring “grassroots” activists, but when was the last time you saw a flyer or a Craigslist ad advertising part-time, or full-time positions for pro-life activists? The group behind the flyer, Grassroots Campaigns Inc., is a for-profit consulting company that conducts on-the-ground campaigning for left-wing causes and organizations such as MoveOn.org, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Media Matters for America, and the Sierra Club.

I’m sure that not everyone who signs up to knock on doors, hold a sign, or chant until hoarse is doing so for the 200 Big Macs they’ll be able to afford after they finish their “work.” But this flyer provides a healthy reminder that many (if not most) of those hundreds of loud, obnoxious, seemingly-left-wing agitators you see every now and then aren’t exactly as “grassroots,” or dedicated to “the cause” as one might imagine.

George Soros’s Romanian Ghosts

How the Open Society Foundations’ NGO network tries to influence politics in Eastern Europe

Crossposted from Capital Research Center

Liberal billionaire George Soros has consistently funded left-wing movements and organizations in the United States, including Occupy Wall StreetBlack Lives Matter, and the communist-connected Color of Change. But the billionaire’s goals have always been bigger than one country. In fact, in 2017, the U.S. only received 15 percent of his Open Society Foundations’ (OSF) dedicated funding—the rest went to foreign countries and global projects.

Soros has given particular focus to exporting political unrest to the former communist countries of Eastern Europe, including his native Hungary. In fewer than 25 years, OSF has poured $1.6 billion into the region for “democratic development.”

But why would the organization spend such a sum on countries that are already democratic?

Soros’s motto, “If I spend enough, I will make it right,” provides an answer, as well as insight into his philanthropic activity, almost all of which entails political—not humanitarian—ends.

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Soros spent at least $25 million supporting Hilary Clinton and other Democratic candidates. But when all that spending didn’t “make it [the election] right,” Soros declared in an op-ed, “Democracy is now in crisis.”

Apparently, Soros’ definition of democracy means people electing only candidates of whom he approves.

In the op-ed, Soros lamented that the U.S. under President Donald Trump will become so embroiled in internal fighting and trying to protect its own minorities from violent attacks that “it will be unable to… promote democracy in the rest of the world.”

For Soros, however, democracy abroad—as in the U.S.—isn’t free if it doesn’t follow his ideology.

Uncle Sam joins Team Soros

The U.S. State Department often teamed up with Soros and OSF to “promote democracy” in Eastern European countries. This often consisted of targeting nationalist governments by infusing socially liberal propaganda through NGOs and Western-sponsored media—often going so far as to influence those countries’ elections.

One example is the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s reported meddling in Macedonia’s elections in 2016. According to USAID’s website, between February 27, 2012 and August 31, 2016, the agency gave $4,819,125 to Open Society Foundations – Macedonia. In April, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the State Department and USAID, for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records and communications dealing with the funding and political activities of OSF’s Macedonian arm. Judicial Watch reported that with the help of then-President Barack Obama’s U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess L. Baily, the U.S. government spent “millions of taxpayer dollars to destabilize the democratically elected, center-right government in Macedonia by colluding” with Soros.

One NGO funded by the USAID-Soros alliance paid for the translation into Macedonian of far-left activist Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, which CRC Vice President Matthew Vadum calls “the seminal book for community organizers.” A Macedonian government official even referred to the American-funded activists as the “Soros infantry.”

In a 2006 Organization Trends detailing leftist NGOs’ influence in Romania, Neil Maghami observed that “in a sense NGOs are filling a power vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union.” Many of these NGOs are funded by Western philanthropists like Soros, “whose dreams of leftist solidarity … die hard,” work to thwart investment from Western capitalists, while infusing their host countries with liberal social values.

The West has cause to celebrate the 28th anniversary of the end of communism in Eastern Europe. Western investors, business people, and consumers enjoy increased living standards in no small part because Eastern Europe embraced economic freedom. But while many Westerners took advantage of the economic opportunities that the economic opening brought, others, including Soros, saw an opportunity to wield enormous political influence in the region.

In Part II, we’ll look specifically at how Soros has infiltrated Romania since the fall of communism and how OSF’s progeny dominates much of the political discourse in that country.

The Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it beats war

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Originally written as “America Should Uphold the Nuclear Deal with Iran,” Parts I, II, and III in The Millennial Review

As the October 15 deadline approaches for President Donald Trump to inform Congress if he will recertify the nuclear deal with Iran, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), his final decision presents a great opportunity for him to chart his own course in Republican foreign policy—one that puts Americans’ interests above the interests of their Middle Eastern allies, who consider Iran their greatest geopolitical threat.

Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) right after the JCPOA, requiring the president to inform Congress every three months if Iran is complying with the nuclear deal. If the president finds that Iran is not complying, the United States doesn’t automatically exit the deal, rather, Congress then has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on the country.

During the presidential campaign, Trump often criticized the JCPOA as “an embarrassment to our country,” saying Obama should have treated the release of American prisoners in Iran as a prerequisite for any deal, and claiming Obama gave Iran the impression that it would not walk away from the negotiating table regardless of the outcome.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal in July, “If it was up to me, I would have had [the Iranians] noncompliant 180 days ago.” Then, in his speech before the United Nations on September 19, he blasted the Iranian government for masking its corrupt dictatorship, funding terrorists, “undermining peace throughout the Middle East,” and “building dangerous missiles.”

But Iran’s missile program can’t reach the U.S. Furthermore, even if it could, without nuclear warheads, it would be completely impotent against the superior conventional militaries of Israel and the U.S., not to mention the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In addition, Iran’s missiles don’t factor into the deal.

Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has also expressed outright hostility toward the deal and the nation of Iran itself. In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on September 5, she insisted that Iran has violated the deal. But the only two examples she could give were when Iran briefly exceeded its suggested limit of heavy water twice in 2016.

Under the agreement, Iran is only allowed enough heavy water as it needs, and the signatories estimated that 130 tones would be enough. The reason for this limit is that such water could be used as a moderator in nuclear power stations, which could then produce plutonium from the spent fuel of the reactors. Once Iran reaches that level, it’s supposed to sell its excess water.

Haley complained that when Iran surpassed its heavy water limit, former President Barack Obama, rather than declaring the country in violation of the deal, “helped Iran get back into compliance.”

But, Obama was not purposely looking for an excuse to rip the deal up like Trump and Haley. Furthermore, when the IAEA brought the issue up, Iran complied in a timely manner and shipped the excess water to the country of Oman.

Haley said the IAEA “does good work,” but pointed out that the agency is saying that “of the sites they’ve seen, the Iranians are in compliance.” She said that “no one is talking about the sites they haven’t seen.” She is convinced the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear weapon at military bases, and has been lobbying the IAEA hard to demand the Iranians allow the agency to conduct intrusive inspections of those bases. She offers no proof for her suspicions, and bases her reasoning on nothing more than Iran’s history of belligerence toward the U.S., most of which predates her graduation from high school.

But as Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, recently noted,

The IAEA to our knowledge has not requested access to any site and been denied. Furthermore, the agency cannot and should not seek access to a site simply to test the Iranians’ cooperation. They must have a legitimate reason.

Nevertheless, Haley and others in the foreign policy establishment, who are urging Trump to decertify the deal, would not be satisfied if Iran was found in compliance after opening all its military bases.

from flickr.com

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) said as recently as October 3 that Trump should decertify the deal, even if Iran is complying.

But how bad of a deal is the JCPOA really, for the U.S.?

The deal provides Iran with over $100 billion, but that money is not foreign aid—it’s Iran’s own money that the U.S. and other countries froze when they placed sanctions on the country.

What does the U.S. get in return?

Americans get peace of mind, if they want it, that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. It may be decades before Iran’s government moderates and modernizes; but in the meantime, it would be much easier for the U.S. if it could focus on its citizens and on countries that actually pose a geopolitical threat, while letting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which inspects Iran for compliance, keep an eye on Iran.

Trump has so far recertified the deal twice, and the IAEA has confirmed eight times that Iran is complying with the deal. Furthermore, most in Trump’s administration have concurred with the IAEA, and see no reason for the U.S. to withdraw.

The nuclear agreement with Iran is by no means a perfect deal for anyone involved, but it offers a better alternative than the option that Haley and other anti-Iranian hawks prefer. Unless Iran clearly violates the terms of the agreement, the U.S. has no reason to abandon the deal.

It’s really about regime change in Tehran.

For many “conservatives,” however, it’s not about compliance, or even the “terrible deal” itself—it’s about regime change in Tehran.

Cotton, in fact, explicitly stated in June, “The policy of the United States should be regime change in Iran.”

from cspan.org

In a speech at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2007, General Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the 1999 War on Yugoslavia, claimed that the U.S. experienced a foreign policy coup after the 9/11 attacks.

“Some hard-nosed people took over the direction of American policy, and they never bothered to inform the rest of us,” he said.

He went on to recall that a general in the Pentagon told him in 2001 of a policy memo, that laid out a plan to overthrow the governments of seven countries in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran), within five years.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a presidential debate in 2015 that the U.S. should topple the Iranian regime, claiming the country “has declared war on us.”

Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo, last year as a Congressman, publicly called for congressional action to “change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.”

As head of the CIA, Pompeo has approved new authorities for U.S. intelligence officers to begin placing funds in secret accounts belonging to Iranian officers to create the impression that those officers are working for foreign powers.

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Politico reported, that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a D.C.-based think tank, circulated a seven-page memo throughout the National Security Council and the White House, urging the new administration to enact regime change in Iran.

“Iran is susceptible to a strategy of coerced democratization because it lacks popular support and relies on fear to sustain its power,” the memo read. It reminded Trump that no one has greater power to foment dissent abroad than the American president, stating that the goal in Iran should be “a tolerant government that adheres to global norms.” It suggested Trump “use trade unions, student organizations and dissident clerics to highlight the economic, political [and] moral shortcomings of the Iranian regime.”

Trump officials were careful to tell Politico that the administration relies more on internal, rather than external proposals, and mentioned they had also consulted the Brookings Institution for foreign policy advice. But Brookings has also called for regime change in Iran. In 2009, it issued a report entitled, “Which Path to Persia,” which prescribed a deceitful war of aggression. It argued that the U.S. should create a situation to make Iran look as if it’s blowing a chance for a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue. This would then allow the U.S., or Israel, to attack the country, “in sorrow, not anger.” The tactic, the report stated, would convince at least some in the international community that “the Iranians brought it on themselves.”

Newsweek reported that Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under former President Richard Nixon, also visited the White House shortly after Trump’s inauguration to advise the president on the Islamic State (ISIS). Kissinger cautioned that defeating ISIS could lead to a “radical Iranian empire” across the Middle East.

Kissinger’s viewpoint mirrors that of an influential Israeli think tank, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), which the University of Pennsylvania has

ranked one of the three top think tanks in the Middle East and Africa. BESA released a paper on August 2, by Efraim Inbar, political science professor at Bar-Ilan University, entitled, “The Destruction of Islamic State is a Strategic Mistake.” In it, Inbar argues, “IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.” ISIS, he states, should be weakened but not defeated, adding,

The West yearns for stability, and holds out a naive hope that the military defeat of IS will be instrumental in reaching that goal. But stability is not a value in and of itself. It is desirable only if it serves our interests.

When Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon was the White House chief strategist, he asked former U.S. ambassador to the UN and senior fellow at AEI John Bolton to draw up a game plan for Trump to withdraw from the JCPOA. Bolton obliged, and in it, urges the president to “expedite delivery of bunker-buster bombs; announce U.S. support for Kurdish national aspirations, including Kurds in Iran, Iraq, and Syria; provide assistance to Balochis, Khuzestan Arabs, Kurds, and others—also to internal resistance among labor unions, students, and women’s groups.”

Cotton, proposing along the same lines as Bolton, has noted that Iran has numerous minority ethnic groups, including Arabs, Turkmen and Balochs who “aren’t enthusiastic about living in a Persian Shiite despotism.” He too advocates a combination of economic, diplomatic, and covert actions to pressure Tehran’s government, and “support internal domestic dissent.”

To wage war on the Iranian regime is to wage war on the Iranian people.

from Wikimedia Commons

But, what those on the warrior bandwagon fail to understand is that any attempt to wage war on the Iranian regime, regardless of how dissatisfied most Iranians are with their backward government, would necessarily wage war on the Iranian people.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani won all the major Sunni-populated provinces by overwhelming margins in this year’s election. This says something about Iranian religious minorities’ view of Rouhani, considering voter turnout in those provinces exceeded the national average. Furthermore, Iran is not an artificially created country, like Iraq and most African countries that were colonies of the West. Iranians of all religious affiliations and ethnicities can trace their history in Persia back three thousand years.

But a more pressing problem for the would-be saviors of the oppressed Iranian people is the fact that there is no serious opposition to empower.

Iran’s only operational dissident group is the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), with roughly 5,000 to 13,500 members. The fact that most of them are dispersed outside of Iran means that MEK could not possibly destabilize Iran’s government. Furthermore, the group sided with Saddam Hussein in the eight-year war between Iraq and Iran that cost hundreds of thousands of Iranian lives; meaning MEK is not even popular with the Iranian people. Some may argue the U.S. could heavily arm the group the way it has done with dozens of dissident groups throughout history. But the State Department has already designated MEK as a terrorist organization.

In addition, claims that the Iranian regime’s policies—particularly concerning its nuclear program and aid to fellow Shiites in the region—lack popular support is void of evidence. A recent poll shows that 81 percent of Iranians believe it is “very important for Iran to develop its nuclear program” and 68 percent thought that Iran should “seek to increase the role it plays in the region.”

Another argument for regime change is that all Iranian politicians must be hard-liners, because they have to support the revolutionary philosophy of the Islamic Republic to get elected.

But this kind of thinking automatically assumes all Iranian politicians take their constitution more seriously than American politicians take theirs.

But the U.S. has already been down this path before.

In 1953, the U.S. overthrew Mohhamad Mossadegh because he started drifting a little too far to the left for Cold War sensibilities. A quarter century later, in 1979, Iranian revolutionaries cited that grievance more than any other as the reason for their 444-day occupation of the U.S. embassy.

Regime change sounds like a noble goal to pursue when it is on paper and in theory, but it is because of regime change that a nuclear Iran is an issue in the first place.

Where does President Trump really stand on Iran?

from icij.org

Trump’s motives for his opposition to the JCPOA are a bit harder to pin down than most politicians. For starters, the president is no ideologue, and takes practical conservatism to a level unseen in recent American politics.

But while the virtues of homespun, practical conservatism are many, it can just as easily produce dangerous, homespun ignorance.

In a televised speech at the Rose Garden with the Lebanese prime minister, Trump praised Lebanon’s government for fighting Hezbollah—a militia with representation in the Lebanese parliament. A former U.S. official, in fact, has told Reuters that Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq have been “very helpful” in recapturing vast swaths of the caliphate that ISIS declared in 2014.

Then on Sept. 26, Trump tweeted,

Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!

The tweet was in response to a video of the test firing of a Khoramshahr missile that aired on Iranian state television. The only problem is that the video footage was from a failed Iranian missile test last year.

But bombastic gaffes and seeking out advice from militaristic ideologues doesn’t automatically make the president and his administration militaristic.

Unlike Ted Cruz, who promised to rip the deal to shreds “on the very first day in office,” candidate Trump promised to honor America’s word to its allies, who also signed the deal with Iran.

Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in 2015, “We have a horrible contract, but we do have a contract.” He added, “I would love to tell you…I’m going to be the toughest guy in the world, and I’m just rippin’ it up, but you know what? Life doesn’t work that way.” Instead, he promised to enforce the terms of the deal “like you’ve never seen a contract enforced before.”

In Bannon’s recent ‘60 Minutes’ interview, he said, “President Trump wants to get out of the deal and either go make a better deal or just view it from the outside.”

This doesn’t imply that Trump, or his economic nationalist support base are interested in pursuing a costly, covert, or overt crusade to topple the Iranian regime.

Trump views his image above all else. If he thinks it will help his image to remain in the deal, he will. If he feels it would make him look like a strong leader to tell the rest of the world to take a hike, like he did with the Paris Climate Accord, he will do that instead.

Government officials recently told the Associated Press that “the future of the Iran nuclear deal may hinge on a face-saving fix for President Donald Trump so he doesn’t have to recertify the Islamic republic’s compliance every 90 days.” Likewise, White House sources have confirmed that Trump feels the periodic reviews mandated by Congress are a “source of embarrassment.”

The fact that Trump hates being forced to recertify a law he railed against fits his broader persona. Trump dislikes the nuclear deal with Iran for much the same reason he dislikes the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)—they’re not his deals.

Trump’s tirades against the JCPOA could be his way of railing against the INARA, which requires his personal stamp of approval every three months on his predecessor’s legacy. 

If Trump decertifies the JCPOA, what then? 

If Trump decides to declare Iran in noncompliance on October 16, would Congress be willing to reimpose sanctions unilaterally without the support of America’s allies?

The objections of the deal’s critics don’t make sense without any grand vision of forced regime change in Iran. Although the IAEA inspections are not as intrusive as people like Haley would prefer, at least the West gets to monitor Iran’s nuclear program—a luxury we don’t have with North Korea.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said recently, “if the U.S. leaves the treaty and Europe follows, then this deal will certainly collapse and Iran will go back to what it was before and, technically speaking, to a much higher level.”

The U.S. will never force Iran to give up its nuclear program, a program more than 80 percent of the Iranian population supports, without declaring war on the country and launching a full-scale invasion. But if one believes General Wesley Clark, such a plan would not fall beneath many in the foreign policy establishment.

But even if Trump decertifies the deal and Congress reimposes sanctions, U.S. allies would likely not do the same.

After Trump’s remarks at the UN, 78 European officials signed a letter to his administration, expressing great concern over “reports that the U.S. Administration might unilaterally declare Tehran non-compliant with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.” The letter quotes the IAEA’s director general who declares Tehran in compliance and states, “Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.” In addition, more than fifty Asia Pacific political, diplomatic, military and civil society leadership figures also signed a joint statement urging the U.S. to uphold its end of the bargain.

This is a recipe for a trade war between the U.S. and the rest of the developed world if Washington tries to impose secondary sanctions on other countries’ financial institutions for not bending to its will.

American citizens do face existential threats. Among them: hurricanes, floods, a madman leading a brainwashed regime in North Korea, and rising insurance premiums because of the Affordable Care Act that prevent people from getting the healthcare they need. But a nuclear-gagged regime with a limping economy in the Middle East and a few hundred rockets, that can’t even reach Western Europe, is not one of them.

“This could be the calm before the storm,” said Trump at the White House on Friday.

“On Iran? On ISIS? On what?” asked a reporter.

“You’ll see,” came the subtle reply, with a wink, as the president and first lady posed with military leaders and their wives for a photo-op.

If Trump is as swayable on Iran as he was on

Afghanistan, then Americans have already seen.

They saw for eight long years as thousands of lives and millions of dollars sank in Iraq. They saw as the most left-wing administration in the nation’s history rose from the frustration Americans felt toward a senseless, so-called “conservative” foreign policy. Then, they saw as ISIS rose from the ashes they left behind, to become a greater menace than the original evil they sought to depose.

Obama nailed it in 2012.

“The 1980s called and they want their foreign policy back,” he said, mocking Mitt Romney’s boorish, Cold War-lite statements.

Apparently, they’re still on the phone.

Do Teachers’ Unions Weaken the Immune System?

A new study shows unionized teachers are more than twice as chronically absent as non-unionized teachers.

Crossposted from CapitalResearch.org

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from businessinsider.com

Teacher absenteeism in schools has turned into a chronic plague of hypocrisy: schools insist students be present, but can’t seem to get their faculty to do the same.

A recent report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s senior research and policy associate David Griffith shows that teachers have worse work attendance than their peers in other industries and teachers in other countries. The report, entitled, Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools, reveals that school teachers in the United States miss about eight school days a year because of sick and personal leave, while the average U.S. worker takes about three-and-a-half sick days a year. This is in addition to the days off that teachers receive for vacation, holidays, professional development days, and field trips.

Griffith defines “chronic absence” as when a teacher misses more than ten school days for “sick” or “personal” leave. When he compares public school teachers with charter school teachers in this area, the difference is quite glaring. Public school teachers are almost three times as likely to be chronically absent as charter school teachers, 28 percent to 10 percent. This is true in 34 of the 35 states that have a large percentage of charter schools. In eight states and the District of Columbia, public school teachers are at least four times as likely as charter school teachers to be absent.

So, is the air in public schools more contaminated than in charters schools, thus causing all these public school teachers to get sick at a much higher rate than their counterparts?

The study finds the gap is the widest in areas that require public school teachers, but not charter school teachers, to bargain collectively. It also shows that it is not an issue of public schools, but of unionization. Unionized charter school teachers are twice as likely to be chronically absent from work as non-unionized charter school teachers.

National Review’s Frederick Hess aptly remarks, “Anyone who’s spent any time in classrooms knows the sad truth that little gets done when substitute teachers are in the saddle,” and points out that Griffith’s statistics indicate that teacher absenteeism alone cost a fourth of the country’s schools last year to lose fully two weeks of learning.

The report’s results “suggest that the high chronic absenteeism rates we observe for teachers in traditional public schools are at least partly attributable to the generous leave policies enshrined in state laws and local collective bargaining agreements—and that the chronic absenteeism rate in many places could be reduced without exploiting teachers.” One proposal Griffith suggests is states consider teacher absenteeism as a “nonacademic indicator” of a school’s success in the same way that student absenteeism factors in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). He also suggests that schools could seriously cut down on absenteeism by eliminating the carrying over of sick days from one school year to the next while simultaneously adopting generous maternity leave policies.

In response, union leaders across the board discounted the study’s results.

Robert Walsh, executive director of National Education Association, Rhode Island dismissed Fordham as “a right-wing think tank that attacks unionized public schools.” National Education Association president Lilly Eskelsen-Garcia said, “Fordham is using corrupted assertions to draw misguided conclusions.” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers even argues that the results show charter schools need better leave policies—so their teachers can experience the same level of absenteeism as union teachers.

Doug Pratt of the Michigan Education Association discounted the study’s results, saying, When you walk into a building in the middle of winter, the flu bug that’s going around and sidelining students and staff can spread like wildfire.” But, Michigan ranks at the top in the number of charter schools; those teachers experience the same frigid climate as the state’s public schools without the corresponding absenteeism rates.

CRC’s Hayden Ludwig recently covered the way New York handles its slacking unionized teachers:

Teachers in limbo are left to finish out each six hour day by napping, reading newspapers, doing crossword puzzles, or conducting menial tasks – stuffing envelopes and making paper copies.

It’s a time-out the New York Department of Education has long denied even exists; yet it costs taxpayers $150 million each year in teachers’ salaries and benefits. …Unsurprisingly…many idlers are repeat offenders.

Public school teachers, like all other tax-payer funded employees should receive just compensation for the job they do. But, they can’t do that job if they don’t show up; Griffith’s study shows that 28 percent of them are playing hooky on a regular basis.