In a statement today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
"Yesterday an Iranian general brazenly declared and I quote: 'Israel's destruction is non-negotiable', but evidently giving Iran's murderous regime a clear path to the bomb is negotiable. This is unconscionable. I agree with those who have said that Iran's claim that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes doesn't square with Iran's insistence on keeping underground nuclear facilities, advanced centrifuges and a heavy water reactor. Nor does it square with Iran's insistence on developing ICBMs and its refusal to come clean with the IAEA on its past weaponization efforts. At the same time, Iran is accelerating its campaign of terror, subjugation and conquest throughout the region, most recently in Yemen," Netanyahu's statement reads.
"The concessions offered to Iran in Lausanne would ensure a bad deal that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and the peace of the world. Now is the time for the international community to insist on a better deal. A better deal would significantly roll back Iran's nuclear infrastructure. A better deal would link the eventual lifting of the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to a change in Iran's behavior. Iran must stop its aggression in the region, stop its terrorism throughout the world and stop its threats to annihilate Israel. That should be non-negotiable and that's the deal that the world powers must insist upon."
On Tuesday I spent some time with the reelected prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. I think he was happy to take a short break from his Herculean labors of putting together a government and dealing with controversies galore. So we engaged in some small talk and exchanged compliments and stories about our parents. I particularly enjoyed his fascinating account of his father’s work with the great Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the last year of Jabotinsky’s life, and his father’s subsequent efforts to rally support in the United States during World War II for European Jewry and for the creation of the state of Israel. His failure on the first front and his success in the second is a useful reminder of the extent to which, in politics, tragedy and triumph are not alternatives but cousins.
Speaking of triumphs, I did of course congratulate the prime minister on his reelection victory. But he had no interest in dwelling on that, and, indeed, his manner was in no way triumphalist or even exuberant. The prime minister was sober, and he was alarmed.
The main cause of his alarm wasn’t the host of attacks that have recently been launched against Israel by the administration in Washington. He simply expressed confidence in the underlying strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship and refused to engage, even in this private setting, in any reciprocal attacks on his American counterparts.
James Carville, a longtime political aide to Bill Clinton, admitted this morning on MNSBC's Morning Joe that questions about Hillary Clinton's private email server are "fair."
MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski asked, "If it was Dick Cheney and his server, would you think it was diddly squat?"
"If I was Dick Cheney, I'd say, well, in addition to starting a war that he shouldn't have started, you ought to answer the question about your server," Carville said. "Yeah, it's a fair question to ask about a server."
Citing a lack of cooperation from the Secret Service, Chairman Jason Chaffetz of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued subpoenas for two Secret Service agents to testify to the committee about recent security breaches and other disfunction at the agency. Chaffetz said that Secret Service director Clancy has gone back on a promise to make the two unnamed agents available to be interviewed by his committee, prompting the subpoenas. Within hours, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson fired back a sharply worded statement denying the charges of uncooperativeness along with a veiled threat to defy the subpoenas.
The immediate concern of Chaffetz's committee is the Secret Service's apparent mishandling of a March 4 bomb threat outside the White House, but Chaffetz's statement also said, "Secret Service appears to be systemically broken and in desperate need of both leadership and reform." Secretary Johnson contends that the Secret Service and his entire department have been fully cooperative, directly contradicted some of Chaffetz's assertions, and also pointing out that his department's inspector general is currently investigating the March 4 incident.
The most contentious part of Johnson's statement, however, addresses the subpoenaing of the two agents in question. Johnson wrote [emphasis added]:
Those of us who are senior leaders in the Executive Branch understand the obligation to appear before Congress and give public testimony. In 2014, I testified before Congress 12 times, in addition to my numerous other duties. However, our subordinates, in particular the men and women of the U.S. Secret Service with the responsibility to protect the President and his family, are a different story. Director Clancy and I must fight to protect them against the visibility, public glare, and inevitable second-guessing, of a congressional hearing. I hope Chairman Chaffetz appreciates this...
I will continue to work with Chairman Chaffetz and his committee to reach a reasonable accommodation that serves the Committee’s need to conduct responsible oversight without compromising the U.S. Secret Service’s extraordinarily protection mission.
Chairman Jason Chaffetz did not indicate how long the committee would give the agents to respond to the subpoenas.
Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley told Fox News that, if she isn't hiding anything, it should be easy for Hillary Clinton to answer questions about her email usage.
"The e-mail saga has cast a billowing political cloud over Clinton, who is widely expected to announce her candidacy for president next month," Fox News reported tonight.
"Likely Democratic challenger, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, told Fox News if Clinton has nothing to hide, answering questions about the e-mails should be easy."
O'Malley says on camera, "In my 15 years of executive service, I mean, we took openness and transparency in the operations of our government to a very high level. And I think she is capable of answering those questions."
The U.S. economy may have stalled in the first quarter [as] CNBC Rapid Update, which averages tracking forecasts from economists, fell 0.4 percent to 1.4 percent after the government reported weaker-than-expected consumer spending in February.
But, as Bloomberg reports, this morning’s consumer confidence numbers:
… increased in March to the second-highest level since August 2007…
Several of the likely Republican candidates for president have spoken out in defense of Indiana governor Mike Pence and his decision to sign the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. CNN reports that several White House hopefuls, including Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum have voiced support for the law, which provides a test for courts on cases where individual religious expression is at odds with state or local laws and ordinances.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry, who is also considering a bid for president, weighed in on Twitter:
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, through a spokesperson, defended the principle of "religious liberty and real tolerance."
In a press conference Tuesday, Pence defended the law but encouraged the Indiana legislature to bring up a bill to clarify that the law does not give businesses in the state a "license to discriminate."
Here's more on the GOP field's reactions, from CNN:
"Gov. Pence has done the right thing," Bush, the former Florida governor, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday evening.
"This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs -- to be able to be people of conscience," Bush said. "I think once the facts are established, people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all."
Rubio, meanwhile, backed Indiana's law during an appearance on Fox News.
"Nobody is saying that it should be legal to deny someone service at a restaurant or at a hotel because of their sexual orientation. I think that's a consensus view in America," Rubio said on Fox News Monday. "The flip side is, should a photographer be punished for refusing to do a wedding that their faith teaches them is not one that is valid in the eyes of God?"
Garrett Epps writes at The Atlantic that I am wrong to say there aren't "significant" differences between the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and Indiana's RFRA.
According to Epps, who teaches creative writing and constitutional law at the University of Baltimore, there are two major differences between the Indiana law and the federal law. "First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to 'the free exercise of religion.' The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language," writes Epps. "Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s 'free exercise' right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government."
"I am not sure what McCormack was thinking," writes Epps, referring to my claim that there aren't any "significant" differences between Indiana's RFRA and the federal RFRA.
If Epps could have continued reading just a bit longer, he would have discovered that I back up this claim by directing readers to the writings of University of Virgina law professor Douglas Laycock, Stanford University law professor Michael McConnell (a former federal judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals), and South Texas law professor Josh Blackman: "Indiana's RFRA makes it explicit that the law applies to persons engaged in business as well as citizens in private lawsuits, but until quite recently it had always been understood that federal RFRA covered businesses and private lawsuits. (See this post by law professor Josh Blackman for more on these matters.)"
In an email to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Douglas Laycock explains why the Indiana RFRA's inclusion of corporations isn't really different from federal RFRA:
On corporations: The United States has what is commonly known as “The Dictionary Act.” At the very beginning of the United States Code (Title 1, section 1) is a series of definitions. As used in this Code, unless the context otherwise requires, these words have the following meaning. The federal RFRA protects every “person,” and the Dictionary Act defines “person” to include corporations. Most states have the same sort of Dictionary Act, and the same definition. In Indiana, they put it directly into the RFRA, presumably because of the litigation culminating in Hobby Lobby. That’s not really a difference.
It was a story perfectly designed for the new journalism model of “outrage clicks.”
“Cornell Assistant Dean: Why Yes ISIS Is Welcome on Campus,” blaredTownhall. "Cornell Dean Says ISIS welcome on campus in undercover video,” screamed the New York Post – with an uncharacteristic lack of wit or brio.
The subject of the articles was a new video put out by professional provocateur James O’Keefe. In it, an activist posing as a prospective student queries Cornell Assistant Dean Joseph Scaffido about a club he would like to start should he end up attending the school.
A few days later, O'Keefe struck again. On Monday, his organization released a new video, this one filmed at Barry University in Miami. Again, this video was billed as revealing college administrators to be A-OK with ISIS. "Barry University officials approve club raising money for ISIS in video," read one representative headline.
Except, there are several problems with the videos. For one, in the Cornell video, the supposed prospective student never even uses the term “ISIS.” He says instead that he is interested in “starting a humanitarian group that supports distressed communities in . . .northern Iraq and Syria.” This is, frankly, a laudable mission.
“I think it would be important for especially those people in the Islamic State [of] Iraq and Syria,” he continues, “the families, and the freedom fighters in particular . . . I think it would be important to send them care packages whether it be food, water, electronics.” It takes a tortured reading here to see this as a pro-ISIS sentiment. To any right-thinking person, the “freedom fighters” would be those fighting against ISIS. O’Keefe’s actor never suggests otherwise. Later, the provocateur suggests bringing a “freedom fighter” to campus, and Dean Scaffido appears open to the idea. Again, though, because it’s never made clear that the “freedom fighter” is supposed to be an ISIS terrorist, the Dean hasn’t done much wrong. Would O’Keefe object to a campus hosting a member of the Peshmerga?
The Barry University video is similarly flawed. The undercover operative -- in this case, an actual Barry University student -- is very vague about her aims. She says she wants to start a "humanitarian" club. "I want to start fundraising efforts on campus, and what I want to do is raise funds overseas," she continues. Employing the (yes, flawed) logic of State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, she states she wants to send money to Iraq and Syria in order to "create jobs" and therefore "reduce terrorism." Let that sink in: She explicitly says she hopes to reduce terrorism.
The question as to why Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 would intentionally bring about the crash of the plane is at the source of much of the perplexity surrounding the Germanwings tragedy. Even if we suppose that Lubitz was suicidal, it is obviously one thing to commit suicide and another to do so in such a way as to cause the death of 149 other people as well. This perplexity undoubtedly fueled the unfounded rumors that Lubitz was Muslim, since if the co-pilot was an Islamic radical conducting a suicide operation, then the mystery would be resolved.
But there is also another way of resolving the mystery: maybe Lubitz did not intentionally crash the plane. When, barely 48 hours after the crash, French prosecutor Brice Robin first floated the scenario of an intentional act, he took pains to emphasize that this was only an “interpretation” of the then known facts.
Far from heeding the prosecutor’s warning, the international media has quickly transformed that interpretation into itself established fact. But French investigators themselves clearly do not regard it as such.
Thus, on Saturday, investigator Jean-Pierre Michel told France’s BFM news television that, while the theory that Lubitz crashed the plane for personal reasons represented a “serious lead,” “other hypotheses” could not be excluded, “including that of a mechanical failure.” Elaborating on the current state of the investigation to the French news agency AFP, Michel said that he had yet to be presented with any particular element that could explain Lubitz’s action, if he was indeed responsible for the crash. He emphasized, furthermore, the importance of the plane’s second “black box” to elucidating the final minutes of the flight from a technical point of view. The now famous cockpit recording, which demonstrates Lubitz’s unresponsiveness to appeals from the pilot and air traffic control, was contained in the first “black box.” The second “black box,” however, has yet to be recovered.
Another hypothesis that investigators will presumably have to pursue is the possibility that Lubitz was unconscious or catatonic. At his March 26 press conference, French prosecutor Robin said that the only sound that one hears from within the cockpit during the final minutes of the flight is the sound of Lubitz “breathing normally” and that one hears his breathing right up until the moment of impact. Robin cited this normal breathing as evidence that Lubitz (a) was alive and (b) had not suffered a heart attack. But it is obviously not per se evidence that he was conscious. It should be noted that at the time Robin knew nothing about Lubitz’s medical history or his use of anti-depressants or other drugs.
Less than four months ago, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice had concluded that the transgendered are among the classes of persons protected, unbeknownst to the framers of the legislation at the time, by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Tuesday's press release announcing the filing of a lawsuit against Southeastern Oklahoma State University reiterated the new discovery, noting that Justice "takes the position that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination is best read to extend the statute’s protection to claims based on an individual’s gender identity, including transgender status." But as the press release also makes clear, the fact that this novel interpretation has only existed for four months will not stop Justice from suing institutions that were operating under a different set of rules for the intervening half century.
The press releases lays out the facts of the case as follows:
Rachel Tudor began working for Southeastern as an Assistant Professor in 2004. At the time of her hire, Tudor presented as a man. In 2007, Tudor, consistent with her gender identity, began to present as a woman at work. Throughout her employment, Tudor performed her job well, and in 2009, she applied for a promotion to the tenured position of Associate Professor. Southeastern’s administration denied her application, overruling the recommendations of her department chair and other tenured faculty from her department. The United States’ complaint alleges that Southeastern discriminated against Tudor when it denied her application because of her gender identity, gender transition and non-conformance with gender stereotypes.
Tudor, backed by Justice, further accuses the university of wrongful termination of employment in retaliation for Tudor's filing of a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
In 2010, Tudor filed complaints regarding the denial of her application for promotion and tenure. Shortly after it learned of her complaints, Southeastern refused to let Tudor re-apply for promotion and tenure despite Southeastern’s own policies permitting re-application. At the end of the 2010-11 academic year, Southeastern and RUSO terminated Tudor’s employment because she had not obtained tenure.
The EEOC, which has partnered with Justice in bringing this lawsuit, already made history in September of last year by filing two lawsuits in federal court alleging discrimination against transgendered employees.
For its part, via a statement as reported by the Washington Post, the university is "confident in its legal position and its adherence to all applicable employment laws," but would not discuss the case due to the pending litigation.
David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon at the New York Times report that:
With a negotiating deadline just two days away, Iranian officials on Sunday backed away from a critical element of a proposed nuclear agreement, saying they are no longer willing to ship their atomic fuel out of the country.
This is a sudden and, presumably, unexpected development since:
For months, Iran tentatively agreed that it would send a large portion of its stockpile of uranium to Russia, where it would not be accessible for use in any future weapons program. But on Sunday Iran’s deputy foreign minister made a surprise comment to Iranian reporters, ruling out an agreement that involved giving up a stockpile that Iran has spent years and billions of dollars to amass.
This could, or could not, be a major setback. But if the Iranians get their way on this, then it surely will not make the deal any more palatable to its critics to include the 71% of Americans who, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll:
... said the negotiations between Tehran and the Obama administration and other world powers will not make a real difference in preventing Iran from producing nuclear weapons ...
Also expected to attend are Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez, conservative minister Harry Jackson, and televangelist James Robison. Here's a flyer for the event:
Bush is a fluent Spanish speaker and has suggested he would work hard to campaign for Hispanic votes if he wins the Republican nomination. Data on Hispanic voter preferences suggest the evangelical cohort may be as good a place as any for the GOP to start:
Two 2011 studies showed a particularly stark gulf between Hispanic evangelicals and white evangelicals on the issue of the size of government. While a majority of white evangelicals (71 percent to 20 percent) say they prefer a “smaller government providing fewer services” to a “bigger government providing more services,” Hispanic evangelicals flip those numbers: Seventy-six percent prefer a bigger government, with only 20 percent preferring a smaller government. On that question, Hispanic evangelicals are more in line with Hispanics in general, who overwhelmingly prefer bigger government.
As for party preference, the 2007 Pew poll found 37 percent of evangelical Hispanics identify themselves as Republicans and 32 percent as Democrats. This was the only faith group among Hispanics that preferred the GOP. Going beneath the topline numbers, country of origin also plays a large role in party identification among evangelicals. Fifty-two percent of Puerto Rican evangelicals identify as Democrats and only 18 percent as Republicans, while 19 percent are independents. Among all Hispanics, Puerto Ricans are one of the most Democratic groups (48 percent), trailing only Dominicans (50 percent) in their preference for the Democratic party. Puerto Ricans are also concentrated in the liberal northeastern states of New York and New Jersey, which suggests Puerto Rican affinity for the Democrats may have a regional ingredient. Puerto Ricans are also concentrated in South Florida, where the prominence of the heavily Republican Cuban-American establishment may influence their political affiliation, regardless of religious tradition.
On the other hand, 47 percent of Mexican evangelicals are Republicans, and only 24 percent are Democrats, with 19 percent identifying as independents, even though only 14 percent of Mexican Catholics and 19 percent of Mexicans in general are Republicans. South American evangelicals, taken as a whole, are split, with 38 percent supporting the GOP, 33 percent supporting the Democrats, and 24 percent identifying as independents.