Tomorrow night begins Pesach. (tonight)
A quintessential moment in the Jewish year, providing a powerful perspective: The Almighty heard the cry of the Children of Israel, who were suffering bitter slavery in Egypt. And He brought us out. Not an agent, but the Almighty. “Us” because we are commanded to consider ourselves as having been rescued then.
In that rescue, that Exodus from Egypt, we became a nation – ultimately brought to Mt. Sinai to receive the law, which instructs us to this day. And then brought to the land. It is of one piece.
Let us not forget the lessons of seder night. And may those lessons transcend what is going on in the world today.
To all who celebrate, Chag Pesach Kasher V’Sameach.
After days of tortuous dragging out of negotiations with Iran, a “sort-of” conclusion has been announced. The advent of the holiday makes it impossible for me to comment at length on what is currently going on. Details will be forthcoming in my postings next week, after time spent with family and when I have returned to a “normal” writing schedule. Here I wish to simply review fairly quickly.
There is no signed agreement. There is only a “framework” – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – that will require much working out of specifics by the end of June.
Obama tonight called the agreement “historic” – if finalized it “would cut off every path” to Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, and would include the toughest inspections “ever negotiated…If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.”
Give us a break! Only those eager to be taken in, only those who are so hungry for this issue to be put to rest, would believe this. Unfortunately, this describes a good number of people. Remember that Iran has a history of cheating, of moving ahead in secrecy on nuclear development.
The US speaks about re-imposing sanctions immediately if Iran were found cheating. But this is a dubious proposition, as Russia and China are likely to balk, so that Iran would be able to cheat AND have sanctions relief.
According to Jeffry Lewis, nuclear proliferation expert, “These treaties never really have an enforcement mechanism, which is, from a legal perspective, kind of weird and kind of a bummer, but totally understandable in a world of states that jealously guard their sovereignty.” (Emphasis added)
No enforcement mechanism? This means Iran must be trusted to keep the deal?
Obama has the unmitigated gall to say there is no daylight between Israel and the US with regard to the security of Israel. This deal, he claims, is the best way to protect Israel. He’s slick – attempting to sideline Netanyahu as an aggressive individual who prefers tough sanctions or even a military attack to this splendid deal that solves everything.
Israeli officials say they will continue to fight this agreement until its date for being finalized in June.
They referred to the framework as “a capitulation to Iranian dictates.” Speaking on condition of anonymity, they called it “a bad framework that will lead to a bad and dangerous agreement.” If finalized, it would make the world “far more dangerous.”
The agreement, they maintained, constitutes “international legitimization of Iran’s nuclear program” whose “only purpose is to build nuclear weapons.” (Emphasis added)
We have yet to hear from members of Congress – but we will.
I note, as well, that all Western negotiating partners are not on board with the same enthusiasm that Obama exudes.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President Francois Hollande welcomed the “framework” but expressed the opinion that there was much work to do to before there could be an acceptable deal.
I share this, from Omri Ceren of The Israel Project (emphasis added):
“[Iranian Foreign Minister] Zarif just finished his speech…some of what Zarif revealed has already generated controversy. There was a lot of braggadocio in the speech: no closing of facilities, R&D will continue on Iran’s scientific schedule, enrichment will continue, the heavy water at Arak will be modernized, etc.
“Perhaps most relevant to people who have been following the day-to-day in Lausanne, is that Zarif confirmed the U.S. has completely caved on the Fordow concession that the AP blew open on Thursday. Recall that Fordow is the underground bunker, built into the side of a mountain, which the Iranians emptied and made into an illicit enrichment facility. The assumption had always been that the Iranians would have to close it under any reasonable deal.
“President Obama was saying as late as 2012: ‘We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program’…
“The Iranians simply said no…So the Americans caved and said that they could keep it open as a research facility, but they had to remove all the centrifuges for storage…there was a lot of talk of Iranian flexibility when they accepted it…Then this week, it emerged that in fact the Iranians would be allowed to keep centrifuges spinning inside the mountain.
“But instead of spinning uranium, the centrifuges would be spinning germanium or similar non-nuclear elements. Centrifuges spin isotopes into lighter and heavier elements, thereby enriching’ the material. That’s what they do. In fact that’s all they do. The administration has gone all-in on a talking point can be defeated by a Google search for ‘centrifuges enrich germanium’…
“This isn’t a minor point. The concession has the potential to gut the whole deal.”
“[It] allows…centrifuge R&D beyond the reach of the West- since the process is the exact same process, Iran will have a hardened facility where it will be able to research and develop N-generation centrifuges. Zarif bragged from the stage in Lausanne that Iranian R&D on centrifuges will continue…the development of advanced centrifuges would give the Iranians a leg up if they decide to break out, and will put them instantly within a screw’s turn of a nuke when the deal expires.
“[It] leaves Iranian nuclear infrastructure running beyond the reach of the West – if the Iranians kick out inspectors and dare the world to respond, the West will have zero way to intervene…”
A bit of clarification here, regarding the Fordow site and the enrichment of germanium:
“…the centrifuges could only be used to enrich germanium, zinc, and other non-fissile materials. But the centrifuges are identical in design to those used for uranium enrichment, and can quickly be retooled for uranium enrichment.
“Critics are concerned that Fordow could be used to perfect advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges using uranium stand-ins and in a location secure from outside attack.”
And in closing, this additional information just in from Omri Ceren:
“The issue of sequencing sanctions relief – how, when, and to what extent sanctions will be lifted in exchange for Iranian compliance – was one of the key sticking points over the last week…
“Achieving an understanding on sanctions would have to be counted as a major achievement, and it’s already being claimed as such. But there’s something wrong here. I haven’t figured out what it is yet, but I’m pretty sure I don’t like it…
“The EU/Iran joint statement says sanctions will be terminated ‘simultaneously’ with Iran implementing its obligations…
“The White House factsheet says sanctions will be suspended ‘after’ Iran has taken ‘all’ of its nuclear-related steps…
“Zarif is already saying the White House is lying about how sanctions will be lifted… (emphasis added)
“The last time Zarif accused the Obama administration of lying on a factsheet was after the JPOA was announced, in the context of granting a ‘right to enrich.’ He was 100% right and the Americans were 100% wrong.
“It’s not clear what the actual sanctions deal is, but it’s worrying that there are already differences…If the Iranians are right, then the White House is again misleading journalists and lawmakers about the actual scope of their concessions.”
Matthew Bracken – Enemies Foreign and Domestic
The Council has spoken, the votes have been cast and we have our winners for this week’s Watcher’s Council match-up.
In justice, too, to our excellent Constitution, it ought to be observed, that it has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. – Thomas Jefferson
The life of West, Nietzsche said, is based on Christianity. The values of the West are based on Christianity. Some of these values seem to have taken a life of their own, and this gives us the illusion that we can get rid of Christianity and keep the values. This, Nietzsche says, is an illusion…Remove the Christian foundation, and the values must go too. – Dinesh D’Souza
Those who want the government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide. – Harry S. Truman
There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire. If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage. – James Witherspoon, 1775
This week’s winning essay, Bookworm Room’s Jesus would have supported RFRA is a superb look at the current assault on religious freedom in America by government diktat. Here’s a slice:
The useful thing about the Left’s willingness to expose its ignorance is that analyzing its errors often leads one to greater truths. For me, the greater truth flowing from a poster highlighting Leftist stupidity is that Jesus almost certainly would have approved of Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as similar acts in other states and under federal law.
Being Jewish, I have to admit that I don’t usually run things through a “What Would Jesus Do” filter. However, I started thinking along those lines when a large number of my Leftist Facebook friends got very excited about this Easter poster:
My first thought was that, in general principle, the man who preached the Sermon on the Mount would not have approved of that poster. Jesus was not generally a fan of flogging:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
Still, there’s a grain of truth in that anti-Christian poster. Upon his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus did yell at the money changers and tip over their tables. What enraged him, though, wasn’t their profession, even though he did castigate their enclave as a “den of thieves.” Instead, he was upset because they were profaning the holy area of the Temple. Matthew describes an angry man:
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
John describes a man willing to use the lash to clean God’s house:
And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
What Lefties, who are “instruction” learners, rather than “principle” learners, take away from John is very specific: Flog people who handle money. In fact, that’s completely wrong. I’ve already noted that, as a general. matter, Jesus did not believe in using violence against his fellow man, even if said fellow man was doing something mean or sinful. There was a bigger principle at stake here. What drove Jesus to a violent frenzy was the desecration of the Temple. Jesus had a clear hierarchy: Treat your fellow man with love and kindness; but treat God, his house, and his words, with absolute reverence, untainted by government or commerce.
Jesus’s clear delineation between religious and secular matters appears again when he was called upon to talk about taxes. When hostile questioners tried to get Jesus to reject as a matter of faith the taxes that Rome imposed on Jews, he instead drew a bright line in the sand: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
The Founders, all of whom were steeped in the Bible even if they were not practicing Christians, knew about Jesus’s efforts to keep commerce and government away from the purity of faith. They were also aware of their own history: For more than 100 years, Christians and Jews had come to America to escape the stifling, and often deadly, restrictions imposed upon them by European governments because of their faith. It was in this context that the First Amendment came into being:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
More at the link.
In our non-Council category, the winner was Ace of Spades HQ with The New Intolerance: We Are Now Required To Embrace Just About Everything, Except the Gutter Religion Christianity submitted by Rhymes with Right. A must read.
Here are this week’s full results. Only Ask Marion was unable to vote this week, but was not subject to the usual 2/3 vote penalty for not voting:
- *First place with 2 2/3 votes! – Bookworm Room – Jesus would have supported RFRA
- Second place *t* with 1 2/3 votes – The Noisy Room – Grover Norquist – The Enemy From Within On The Right
- Second place *t* with 1 2/3 votes – The Right Planet – Post-Mortem: Glenn Beck vs. Grover Norquist
- Third place *t* with 1 1/3 votes – Nice Deb – Pushing Back Against The Left’s Attack on Religious Freedom
- Third place *t* with 1 1/3 votes – The Independent Sentinel – Lt Gen Flynn-‘Incredible Policy Confusion’ While There Is a ‘Complete Breakdown of Order in the Middle East’
- Fourth place *t* with 1 vote – Don Surber – Norman Borlaug. He saved a billion lives
- Fourth place *t* with 1 vote – Joshuapundit – Cornell Dean: ‘Why Yes, ISIS Is Welcome To Train Jihadis On Campus!’
- Fifth place with 2/3 vote – Rhymes With Right – Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District Dies Not With A Bang, But A Whimper
- Sixth place *t* with 1/3 vote – VA Right! – Is Hanover School Superintendent Wilson Allowing Porn in School Libraries? You be the Judge!
- Sixth place *t* with 1/3 vote – GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD – Forget The Nukes – Kill The Regime
- *First place with 3 1/3 votes! – Ace of Spades HQ – The New Intolerance: We Are Now Required To Embrace Just About Everything, Except the Gutter Religion Christianity submitted by Rhymes with Right
- Second place *t* with 1 2/3 votes – The Diplomad 2.0 – Let’s Hear a Big “Yemen!” for Obama’s Foreign Policy! submitted by The Glittering Eye
- Second place *t* with 1 2/3 votes – Ross Douthat/NY Times – Questions For Indiana’s Critics submitted by Nice Deb
- Second place *t* with 1 2/3 votes – Victor Davis Hanson – The Putin Way submitted by The Watcher
- Third place with 1 1/3 vote – Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion – Exclusive: Virginia State Bar case against Israel trip falling apart submitted by Don Surber
- Fourth place *t* with 2/3 votes – Alan Johnson/World Affairs Journal – Iran’s Latest Bait and Switch submitted by GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD
- Fourth place *t* with 2/3 votes – Sultan Knish – Obama’s Two State Tantrum submitted by The Noisy Room
- Fifth place *t* with 1/3 vote – Frank Gaffney, Jr./Center for Security Policy – Grover Norquist is No ‘Useful Idiot’ submitted by The Right Planet
- Fifth place *t* with 1/3 vote – Stately McDaniel Manor – Rape Investigation: Reality v. Narrative submitted by Bookworm Room
- Fifth place *t* with 1/3 vote – Timothy P. Carney/Washington Examiner – The Left wages total war; and then plays victim submitted by The Watcher
See you next week!
Make sure to tune in every Monday for the Watcher’s Forum and every Tuesday morning, when we reveal the week’s nominees for Weasel of the Week!
And remember, every Wednesday, the Council has its weekly contest with the members nominating two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. The votes are cast by the Council and the results are posted on Friday morning.
It’s a weekly magazine of some of the best stuff written in the blogosphere and you won’t want to miss it… or any of the other fantabulous Watcher’s Council content.
By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
Chris Matthews can nearly always be counted on to come to the defense of President Barack Obama. On Wednesday night’s “Hardball” show on MSNBC, they cut to Senator Robert Menendez’s (D-NJ) first public comments following his indictment earlier in the day for corruption charges. He stepped down from his ranking position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and defiantly announced that he was innocent, that he plans to fight the charges, and fully expects vindication.
Then, Matthews brought on correspondent Steve Kornacki, who said “his people” say that Menendez is stepping down because “he didn’t want to put anyone in the Democratic caucus in an uncomfortable position. But beyond that, I have to tell you, talking to the Menendez camp tonight, I would say they feel very confident that this is something they can beat in a court of law.” He said the Menendez camp is accusing the Justice Department of “misconduct,” and having “bungled” the case.
Kornacki then added, “They’re going to allow the suggestion, they’re certainly going to encourage it. I don’t think they’ll say it themselves, but they want the suggestion out there very much that Menendez is being targeted by the DOJ [Department of Justice], right now, the Obama administration’s DOJ because of his opposition to the administration on Iran. And you certainly have a number of Republicans out there like Mark Kirk (IL), Lindsey Graham (SC), who are suggesting that the Menendez people want that out there.”
Hearing that, Matthews pushed back, suggesting that the timeline for that interpretation didn’t make sense. He said that Menendez had been under investigation for a long time. Matthews was trying to dismiss the idea that this was yet another example of Obama’s vindictiveness. Matthews then added, as he was going to a break, “With the indictment late today of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez on federal corruption charges, wait till you hear the latest right-wing conspiracy theory. It’s that the charges were brought as payback for bucking the White House on Iran.”
Matthews then devoted a panel discussion to piling on Menendez, and virtually finding him guilty. No question, the charges are very serious, and the investigation has been going on for years. But Menendez is innocent until proven guilty of a crime. It’s the timing of the indictment that arouses such suspicion.
Matthews showed a montage of conservative talk-show hosts and politicians who suggested, as did Menendez, that this was political payback. One of the panelists on the “Hardball” segment, April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Network, was confident that President Obama would never have been involved with something like that. She said the timing was “coincidental.” However, “One thing we know for sure,” she said, “the White House is not in collusion with this, because the President is not supposed to know anything about any investigation. So this investigation is independent of anything to do with the White House.”
If that doesn’t assure you, nothing will. I guess Obama found out about the Menendez indictment along with everyone else when it was reported in the media. Just like he did with the IRS scandal, Operation Fast & Furious, the Veterans Affairs scandal, and the fact that Hillary Clinton did all of her State Department email business on a private server.
Again, as Kornacki pointed out, it was Menendez, a liberal Democrat, who is also saying this about the Obama Justice Department. Actually, Menendez has crossed the President on more than just Iran. There are also his criticisms of Obama’s policies toward Cuba, North Korea and Menendez’s strong support for Israel that may have been the final straws for Obama’s Justice Department to decide to indict the senator at this time.
Coincidence? Well, Menendez is a primary sponsor of two bills this year that are waiting in the wings to see how the negotiations in Switzerland work out that would supposedly halt Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. The bills, if they became law, would increase sanctions on Iran if a deal isn’t reached, and demand that Congress approve any deal reached by the parties to the negotiations. One bill is the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, with Senator Kirk as the other lead sponsor.
And the other one is with Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). It would, as described by Politico, “allow Congress to approve or reject any nuclear agreement that President Barack Obama reaches with Iran.” Politico added that it “would be a stern rebuke to the president,” and cited a letter released last month in which Obama’s “Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told Corker that moving on his Iran legislation would ‘potentially prevent any deal from succeeding.’”
While apparently the parties to the negotiations have agreed today on a “framework” to keep negotiating to try to work out an actual agreement by the end of June, the timing of this sidelining of the leading Democratic Senate voice skeptical of the President’s apparent pursuit of a deal at any price appears more than coincidental. It appears very purposeful. But don’t tell that to Chris Matthews. Remember, this is the President who urged Latino voters to “punish our enemies and reward our friends.” Maybe that explains Sen. Menendez’s indictment, as well as the decision this week to not prosecute former IRS executive Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress.