Sunday, May 30, 2010

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

The annals of smart diplomacy - npt edition

Posted: 30 May 2010 11:43 AM PDT

President Obama has done much to distance himself and his administration from the Bush administration. However In some ways he has persisted. And when he has chosen a different path, it hasn't always been successful. President Obama summarizes his approach to international relations like this:

Obama acknowledged that the U.S. is "clear-eyed" about the shortcoming of the international system, but he said America had not ever been successful by "stepping out of the currents of cooperation."

"We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice, so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities and face the consequences when they don't," the president said.

Surely President Obama considers the recent conclusion of discussions of the NPT as an example of his approach. The New York Times reports:

While rejecting a deadline, for the first time the main five nuclear weapons states accepted vague language referring to a new, stronger international convention on eliminating nuclear weapons, and the idea of a "timeline" was introduced.

Despite differences over the pace of disarmament and proliferation concerns, the document breathes new life into a treaty seen as under threat, analysts said. "That is the positive, there is much more attention on future action and new benchmarks," said Prof. William C. Potter, the director of the center for nonproliferation at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

The Washington Post offers a few more details in its conclusion:

The U.S. delegation at the NPT review in New York had fought to excise all mentions of Israel in the final document. But on Thursday evening, as delegations prepared for a last round of talks, the conference president informed them that the latest draft of the text was a take-it-or-leave-it document, officials said. Final NPT documents require a consensus.

Many diplomats had expected U.S. officials to withhold approval of the final document because of the mention of Israel. But the U.S. government was apparently reluctant to be viewed as the spoiler at a conference that focused on one of Obama's priorities.

National security adviser James L. Jones said Friday that the U.S. government "deplores" the decision to single out Israel and would "not permit a conference or actions that could jeopardize Israel's national security."

And this mention of Israel, of course, is why the NPT was controversial.

A good merchant - unlike Gen. Jones - knows the value of what he's trying to sell and what he's trying to get in exchange. As the Post observes, a final version of the NPT document was the highest priority of the administration. It's ridiculous for Jones to "deplore" the singling out of Israel. That was the cost of getting what the administration wanted. If it had placed a greater value on protecting Israel, the administration wouldn't have minded seeing the conference end without an agreement. The merchants who offered the administration the "take it or leave it deal" correctly read the values both of what the administration wanted and what it was willing to agree to, to achieve its goal.

How did Iran, currently seeking to join the nuclear club, view this?

The final statement of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference has called for the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

The 28-page document, which was agreed upon on Friday by all 189 NPT signatories after a month-long round of talks at UN Headquarters in New York, called for a conference to be held in 2012 "to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishment" of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

Western diplomats said the United States finally agreed to a deal at the UN that would pressure Israel to join the NPT, Al reported.

In this case the administration didn't steer anything, it was steered. Here's how Meryl put it:

The Obama administration threw Israel under the bus again. The NPT conference ended with all 189 countries--the U.S. included--issuing a statement that names Israel, and only Israel, when calling for a nuclear-free Middle East. It does not name Iran or Syria, two nations that were on the nuclear weapons track. It calls on Israel, and only Israel, to join the NPT, which Israel has never signed. Iran is a signatory. The document does not call on Iran to stop pursuing nuclear weapons.

Meryl emphasizes that if the United States reallly opposed the language singling out Israel, it had an option: not to sign.

Henry Sokolski concludes:

Bottom line: With the possible exception of Iran, it is difficult to see how Obama or anyone got anything out of this exercise but regret.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Carnival of maryland begins again

Posted: 30 May 2010 04:59 AM PDT

Clark's brought back the Carnival of Maryland. I have two weeks now to come up with a Maryland related post.

The Carnival of Maryland was originally founded by my friend Pillage Idiot who is now retired.

If you want, check out another of Clark's sites, Clark's Picks. I found his post on Tom Dooley fascinating.

Why should I believe you when you say there's nothing there?

Posted: 30 May 2010 04:23 AM PDT

Andrew Alexander shows us what an ombudsman is supposed to do:

There was quite a noisy scene in a peaceful Chevy Chase neighborhood two Sundays ago. The midafternoon calm was shattered when 14 buses showed up without warning and about 700 protesters descended on the home of Gregory Baer, a deputy general counsel for Bank of America.

They chanted and jeered as speakers, using a bullhorn from Baer's front porch, railed against the bank's policies and its role in home foreclosures. Baer, away when the protests began, was booed when he returned and edged through the crowd before entering his home, where his teenage son was alone and frightened. Neighbors complained about the disturbance, organized by a grass-roots group called National People's Action and the huge Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Montgomery County police officers appeared as participants returned to their buses, which whisked them to another protest at the Chevy Chase home of a lobbyist for J.P. Morgan Chase.

There was no mention of the protests in the next day's Post, prompting calls from perplexed readers. Several had read a full account on and wondered why The Post had nothing. Journalists for The Nation and Mother Jones also reported from the scene.

Bank demonstrations continued downtown that Monday and The Post ran an online-only story. But it made only passing reference to Sunday's Chevy Chase protests and offered no details.

Though he isn't harsh, Alexander makes clear that his paper missed the story. The one sour note was this:

In fairness to The Post, all local media seemed unaware. George Goehl, executive director of the Chicago-based National People's Action that spearheaded the protests, said, "We didn't call any media in advance."

But HuffingtonPost reporter Arthur Delaney said he learned of the protests from SEIU sources, which raises the question of whether The Post is sufficiently plugged into the nation's most politically active labor organization.

A few months ago, the Post hired David Weigel to report on conservatives. In the past week this was one of the big political stories in the political blogosphere. Weigel, however, last week did what liberal critics of conservatives do: blasted Sarah Palin. He seems less like a serious reporter than an anthropologist.

It didn't require being plugged into a union to be aware of the story. It required being concious and watching Fox News. At the end of his column Alexander makes some good observations:

Beyond that, there were numerous ways The Post could have gotten back in the game on the story. For example, how did Chevy Chase neighbors react? Did protesters break trespass laws? When does First Amendment expression infringe on residential privacy? Does President Obama, who enjoyed SEIU electoral support, sanction these types of protests? And is a blitz on private residences a new protest tactic?

To survive, The Post needs to own its local audience. Readers lose faith when there's news in their backyard but not a word in their newspaper. And not writing about raucous liberal protests feeds the perception that The Post is overly eager to write about raucous Tea Party protests.

The Post's negligence here is important given its coverage of the Sestak scandal. Notably there's yesterday's editorial which opens:

OKAY, if all the facts are out, then we would agree: Nothing inappropriate happened. On the basis of the memorandum issued Friday by White House Counsel Robert F. Bauer, the Joe Sestak job-for-dropping-out-of-Senate-race scandal is a non-scandal -- except for the White House's bungling of the episode. The unnecessary coverup, it turns out, is always worse than the non-crime.

So when a protest by a union that supported the President is ignored, how can we accept your assurance that in the Sestak matter nothing untoward happened?

JoshuaPundit, for one, isn't convinced by the administration's account.

Ummm...I seem to remember that Sestak originslly said back in February that "somebody in the White House" contacted him about the post. And when asked about the job ( not a term customarily used to describe a post on an 'advisory council) in response reiterated that yes, it was a high position.

Bill Clinton is not "somebody in the White House" the last time I looked, and a place on an advidsory board is not a 'high position'. So was Sestak lying then...or is he lying now?

If Sestak was exaggerating all this time, why didn't the White House expose him months ago when it would have embarrassed him and perhaps helped drag Specter to a primary win?

And why get Clinton involved just to offer an advisory board position? And how is that still not a bribe, as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 211? What was Sestak going to be, a freaking intern?

And if this was all it was, why couldn't it have been detailed by Sestak weeks ago? Why wait? Why did the White House call Sestak's brother? Why time it all together? Why wouldn't Obama or Gibbs answer questions about this simply and directly?

The answer,of course, is that it took weeks to tie everybody's story together and figure out who was going to get what in exchange for engaging in this coverup.

Well, the lack of transparency makes it look exactly that way. And when the details don't add up, it makes things look a whole lot worse. The Post's incuriousness in this story is pretty amazing.

Don Surber points out that adding Bill Clinton to the story doesn't help the administration:

Guess what? This does not let the White House off the hook. In fact, it helps sink the hook deeper in the lip of the administration. Bill Clinton spoke for the White House oat the request of the White House. He is their agent. At some point, the White House asked Clinton how it went and he told them.

The Provocateur makes an excellent point too:

What is without question is that this looks awful. The best defense for this White House is the claim that this is done all the time. That may be true but in fact, Obama promised to rise above all of this. Even if no laws were violated, this goes against every bit of the soaring rhetoric that Obama made in the campaign. There's nothing inspiring or transparent about any of this. At best, there was no direct quid pro quo but just an implied one. That wouldn't be illegal, just scummy. That said, this first broke in February and now it's almost June and we still don't know much. No one will explain exactly what was said and why this isn't illegal. The reality is that this is politics as usual. Obama had no accomplishments coming into the presidency. He won largely on his soaring rhetoric, and this episode is another example that the soaring rhetoric is NOT backed up by action.

So even if there's no scandal as the Post concludes, doesn't it at least make the administration look overly cynical and political? That the Post won't even entertain this thought is even more damning.

The fact that a protest that could have been politically damaging to the President was ignored by the paper, makes me less willing to believe the Post when it tells me that there's nothing to the Sestak scandal.

Council speak 05/30/10

Posted: 30 May 2010 02:37 AM PDT

The council has spoken:

Council Submissions

Non Council Submissions

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