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Iran Deal

Hmmm:

World powers have reached a deal with Iran on limiting Iranian nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.

US President Barack Obama said that with the deal, “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off” for Iran.

And President Hassan Rouhani said the “historic” deal opened a “new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world.

Mr Obama, who is trying to persuade a sceptical US Congress of the benefits, said it would oblige Iran to:

remove two-thirds of installed centrifuges and store them under international supervision

get rid of 98% of its enriched uranium

accept that sanctions would be rapidly restored if the deal was violated

permanently give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access “where necessary when necessary”

Sanctions relief would be gradual, Mr Obama said, with an arms embargo remaining in place for five years and an embargo on missiles for eight years.

The major drawback is the end of the sanctions. Jonah Goldberg explains:

The lifting of crippling sanctions, which will come about as part of the nuclear deal struck in Vienna, means that at least $150 billion, a sum Barack Obama first invoked in May, will soon enough flow to Tehran. With this very large pot of money, the regime will be able to fund both domestic works and foreign adventures in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere.

It is hard to imagine a scenario—at least in the short term—in which Hezbollah and other terror organizations on the Iranian payroll don’t see a windfall from the agreement. This is a bad development in particular for the people of Syria. Iran, as the Assad regime’s funder, protector, and supplier of weapons, foot soldiers, and strategists, is playing a crucial role in the destruction of Syria. Now Syrians will see their oppressor become wealthier and gain international legitimacy (legitimacy not just for Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, which this deal will leave in place.)

Goldberg, however, points out that, despite these problems, the deal achieves our main objective of delaying Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon, possibly for decades. I would also add that it prevents us from not reaching a deal and seeing the sanctions regime collapse, particularly from the Russian side, where Moscow is trying to form a stronger alliance with Iran.

A key point for me is that the sanctions are set to snap back automatically if Iran is found to have violated the deal, which is a key point. It would take a new UN resolution to remove them again.

Liberals are praising the deal; conservatives are denouncing it. I expect to see Chamberlain cited about a million times in the next sixty days (it is, after all, the only history the neocons are familiar with). But I don’t see that there was much of a choice here. Bombing Iran sounds good, but it would spark a massive international crisis and might not even work. Maintaining the sanctions would be fine, but that coalition is already crumbling and would collapse completely if we walked away from a deal.

In short, I think this is probably the least bad option given the cards we have.

Greece Folds

Well, that didn’t take long.

It turns out that math is not subject to a referendum.

Greece and its European creditors announced an agreement here on Monday that aims to resolve the country’s debt crisis and keep it in the eurozone, but that will require further budgetary belt-tightening that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras could have trouble selling back in Athens.

The agreement does not guarantee that Greece will receive its third bailout in five years. But it does allow the start of detailed negotiations on a new assistance package for Greece.

The total commitment of money has not been disclosed. But a document by the eurozone leaders noted that experts had estimated that Greece might need from 82 billion to 86 billion euros more — $91 billion to $96 billion — to shore up its economy, rebuild its banks and meet its debt obligations over the next three years. The document said Greece and its creditors should seek to “reduce that financing envelope,” if possible.

As part of Greece’s commitments, Ms. Merkel said, a fund will be created to use the proceeds from selling off assets owned by the Greek government to help pay down the country’s debt. That fund would be “to the tune of” €50 billion, she said.

Greece will also be required to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund and to agree to let the organization continue to monitor the country’s adherence to its bailout commitments. The Greek government had resisted a continued role for the I.M.F., seeing the fund’s involvement as unwanted meddling.

The agreement will call for Greece to raise taxes in some cases, pare pension benefits and take various other measures meant to reduce what critics see as too much bureaucracy and too many market protections that keep the Greek economy from operating efficiently.

In other words, Greece has to do what they’ve always had to do: fix their broken tax system, fix their broken pension system, stop spending money they don’t have, sell off bloated Greek government assets and clean up the corruption.

It’s not clear that this will happen: the Greek parliament still needs to approve it. But it is clear that Greece’s left-wing government has accomplished very little other than making the pain worse for their citizens, all to the cheers and plaudits of comfy Western liberals who see this as some kind of experiment in economics and an opportunity to show those damned austerians what’s what.

The alternative for Greece in exiting the Euro. Virtually the entire American Left, who are apparently fine with the idea of a government weaseling out of its debt, thinks this is a better option. The BBC has a great summary of what a Grexit would mean:

The previous Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, warned that living standards could fall by 80% within a few weeks of exit.

Unable to borrow from anyone (not even other European governments), the Greek government would simply run out of euros.

It would have to pay social benefits and civil servants’ wages in IOUs (if it pays them at all) until a new non-euro currency can be introduced.

The government would not be able to repay its debts, which now amount to a total of about €320bn (£237bn), most of it owed to European governments and agencies and the International Monetary Fund.

The government would have to impose a freeze on withdrawals and on people taking money out of the country. This could lead to queues of ordinary Greeks trying to empty their bank accounts before they get converted into a new currency worth substantially less than the previous one.

In the longer run, Greece’s economy should benefit from having a much more competitive exchange rate.

But the devaluation would not solve underlying problems in the economy, including poor tax collection and a struggle to control government spending.

There is also a real possibility of a surge in inflation.
Tax receipts would probably fall as the economy contracted, so the government might finance spending by printing money.

The likely currency depreciation would also be inflationary. It would make imported goods – which in Greece includes a lot of its food and medicine – more expensive.

That’s just the effect on Greece. It might also encourage other countries like Spain to leave. And worldwide, the effects would be very unpredictable.

That’s what the people glibly talking about a Grexit are contemplating. Seems a steep price to pay so that you can side with the deadbeats against the Germans.

Janie Got A Gun

Matt Vespa, over at Hot Air, flags a recent and encouraging trend in gun ownership: women.

Women are the next frontier in the firearms industry. Over the past few years, women have become the fastest growing demographic of gun owners. They’re responsible for the surge in gun ownership in states like Colorado, and women are lining up across the country for their concealed carry permits. This isn’t a new phenomenon. While the liberal urban-based elite–and their allies in the media–view gun owners as a group comprised mostly of white, conservative men, Louisa Fitzgerald wrote on the feminist site Jezebel that women gun owners often “defy stereotypes.”

The article details several women who have decided to carry and quotes one woman saying she hopes she never has to pull it.

That’s the mindset of every law-abiding gun owner, concealed carry permit holder, and police officer; a firearm that remains holstered for an entire day is a very good one.

This is one of the things that “research” into the defensive use of weapons often misses: you don’t have to kill someone to defend yourself with a weapon. Hell, there’s some research showing that just knowing guns are out there intimidates criminals.

Matt details some of the shoddy research and laughable arguments used by hacks like Everytown. But there was something that was new information to me: the number of children who are accidentally killed by guns has been falling — down 58% over the last 20 years. Such deaths are rare to begin with (0.2 per 100,000 kids) but any such death is horrifying. But even as the number of weapons has grown, the number of kids being accidentally killed is falling. I don’t know why that is: we haven’t mandated trigger locks or done any of the other hundred things the gun grabbers have insisted on. The data is from the National Safety Council and it’s possible that there’s something methodological going on. But if there has been a huge drop in accidental firearms deaths, that’s a great thing. And hopefully a trend that can continue.

Greece Puts Up The Middle Finger

With the government restricting banking and capital, the Greek people voted yesterday against complying with their creditor’s demands. I’ve said this before and I have little to add: fuck Greece. If they want to leave the Euro, open the door for them. Call them a cab. Book them a flight. The only real concern is that they might drift into the Russian sphere of influence. But given that Russia’s economy is imploding, I don’t see that happening.

I was wondering if maybe the Greeks made the right decision but when I read that Krugman was in favor, I was reassured that it was a bad decision (among other things, Krugman describes the demands of Greece’s creditors as undemocratic. It’s apparently democratic for 2% of Europe’s population to demand free money from the other 98%). He doesn’t address Greece’s huge problems with tax compliance and massive pensions — the real causes of the current crisis. These problems will exist whether Greece is under the Euro, the Drachma, the Ruble or the Triganic Pu.

Science Sunday: New Horizons Back Online

Well, that was a bit nervous-making:

NASA’s New Horizons mission is returning to normal science operations after a July 4 anomaly and remains on track for its July 14 flyby of Pluto.

The investigation into the anomaly that caused New Horizons to enter “safe mode” on July 4 has concluded that no hardware or software fault occurred on the spacecraft. The underlying cause of the incident was a hard-to-detect timing flaw in the spacecraft command sequence that occurred during an operation to prepare for the close flyby. No similar operations are planned for the remainder of the Pluto encounter.

I was bit worried when I heard New Horizons had gone into safe mode, but not terribly. Spacecraft almost always have a “safe mode” they can go into in case of an unexpected error. It’s basically a standby that keeps all the instruments and hardware from potentially being damaged while the ground teams figure out what has happened. In this case, it seems like the software didn’t quite time right (which happens; spacecrafts is complicated). So we’re back in business.

Safe modes are a bit nerve-wracking. But they’re not as nerve-wracking as silence. Thankfully, we appear to be back on track for a great flyby.

The Culture War Rout Is On

So, this week George Takei called Clarence Thomas a “clown in black face” for this dissent in Obergefell. He has since apologized for the remark, claiming that he said it in a moment of anger.

As you know, I’m not one for the Outrage of the Day. What set Takei off was Thomas’ argument that government can not take away your dignity no matter what it does; dignity is intrinsic. Thomas used the internment camps as an example and Takei, who was interred, was angered by that comparison. That’s understandable.

However …

The reaction to Takei’s remarks has little to do with him. It has everything to do with a racial smear campaign that has pursued Clarence Thomas since the day he joined the Court. Just as Takei’s comments have their origin in his long experience with racial and anti-gay discrimination, the backlash to them has its origin in 24 years of liberals slagging Clarence Thomas, all too often in racist language. Thomas is a race traitor. Thomas is an Uncle Tom. Thomas doesn’t know his history. Thomas is an idiotic sock puppet of Scalia (actually, the Scalia-Thomas pairing isn’t even in the top ten for SCOTUS). Thomas never writes any significant opinions (I recently cited his wonderful dissent in Kelo; he’s written many many others).

We’re told that Thomas doesn’t understand or care about race relations. We’re told this of a man who was born in the segregationist South; who experienced vile racism in his early life; who was and is an admirer of Malcolm X; who is thoroughly versed in our country’s racial history; who can cite you chapter and verse about how our country has perverted the law and the Constitution to screw over black people. Thomas is well aware of his race, conscious of it and proud of it. But he the temerity to disagree with liberals about how the Constitution should be applied to the law. And so none of that matters.

But there’s something here even beyond the usual Clarence Thomas race-baiting. Let’s take a step back. For the last week, numerous Republicans have been responding angrily to the gay marriage and Obamacare decisions. Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, among others, have questioned the Court’s legitimacy. We’re told that this is a sign of how insane Republicans are. But … you’ll see equal amounts of rage from the Left when the Court doesn’t go there way. Hell, just last week, people were responding to Scalia’s dissent with angry tweets and articles about Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, decisions which liberals responded to by … gasp! … questioning the legitimacy of the Court.

Look, it’s understandable that people get mad at the Court when it makes decisions they don’t like. Hell, I’m still upset about Kelo. That’s fine. I really don’t see anything unusual or alarming about anti-gay-marriage politicians being angry about the recent decisions. We have to accept the Court’s decisions as a matter of law; but that does not mean we have to accept them into our hearts. Be angry when you think the Court has gotten it wrong.

What’s striking, however, is how angry the Left gets when they win. Granted, most of the Left is just plain happy about last week’s decisions. But there’s a not insignificant faction that’s just furious that the conservative bench had the nerve to dissent.

As Clark at Popehat recently noted, the Culture War in this country has had two distinguishing features: an incredible series of wins for the Left and an even more incredible series of whinges about it:

The problem I have is that the blue alliance has been on a winning streak, and with recent Blue success in gay marriage, immigration of client populations, university-and-media roll-up, etc. I feel like the culture war is over and the victors are going around (metaphorically) humiliating and shooting survivors of the losing side, and conducting mop-up operations. Witness team Blue forcing bakers to bake cakes and forcing photographers to shoot photos for partnerships that they consider immoral. Witness blue team arguing that innocent people should go to jail for rape, because – and I’m quoting Ezra Klein here – we “need to create a world where men are afraid.” Red team men, I take that to mean. Football players. Frat boys. Not nice guys like Ezra.

Look at how the reasonable Left, who would never question the legitimacy of the Court, responded to last year’s Hobby Lobby decision. Just to remind you: the Supreme Court decided that the government could force almost all employers to provide unrestricted contraception coverage to their employees. But because of the RFRA, they decided that a small subset of businesses — privately owned or closely held businesses — could refuse coverage for a small subset of birth control methods that they considered abortificients. It’s exactly the kind of compromise that the Left always claims to want; one that respects our diverse and pluralistic country. In fact, it’s better: they got about 99.5% of what they wanted, with a small bone thrown to religious conservatives. Even better, the Court’s decisions was grounded in a law that can be repealed, not in any supposed First Amendment rights of corporations. By any definition, it was a big win for them.

And yet .. the “reasonable left” who would never question the legitimacy of the Court, responded by proclaiming that we were in a corporate theocracy. They disparaged Catholics on the Court. We were told that it turned back the clock on women’s rights. You can see a bunch of “reasonable” tweets here, including a comparison to Plessy vs. Ferguson (remember when Republicans comparing SCOTUS decisions to Dred Scott was over the line? Good times.)

That’s when they “lose” by such a tiny amount it’s really a huge victory. But last week, the Left won outright. And granted, most liberals are responding with jubilation. My FB feed filled with happy posts about the victory of gay rights. But there is a noisy faction that have spent the last week poring through the dissenting opinions to find something, anything to get in a tizzy over. Jon Stewart has done multiple segments mocking the dissenting opinions and the politicians who didn’t like the rulings. And then, of course, you had Monday’s afterbirth when liberals screamed that the Court has “struck down” limits on mercury emissions (it did nothing of the kind).

So, on it’s own, Takei’s remarks are nothing — something dumb said out of anger. But in the larger context, it was the intersection of two ugly trends: racial animosity toward Clarence Thomas and incessant left-wing whinging about a political battle they have won.

So, yeah, Takei’s apology is fine (Thomas, I suspect, does not care either way). But it’s nothing compared to the long smear campaign against Clarence Thomas and the vitriol with which far too much of the Left has responded to a decision that went their way.

The Culture War is over, guys. You’ve won. Hell, I’m on your side for most of these social issues. We’ve won. Do you really have to ride down your defeated foe?

Declaration of Dependence

I hope you guys had a good Fourth yesterday. Knowing the readership of this blog, I’m sure you were well aware of the significance of the date and what it really means. What struck me last night, as I thought about it, is how little independence actually remains to us and how great an ongoing effort there is — cheered by various pundits — to squash what independence remains to us. In the world of the progressives (and some neocons) we would:

No longer have the independence to choose what we eat and drink. Our sugar and fat intake would be restricted or taxed heavily.

No longer have what little independence we have to choose our schools. Home schooling and private schools would be regulated like the public schools.

No longer have the independence to choose our healthcare or our retirement. Social Security would be expanded and single payer healthcare implemented, funded with taxes on wealth.

No longer have the independence to speak, thanks to speech codes and anti-hate-speech laws.

No longer have the independence of religion or conscience. For example, we could be fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding, even thought we are not a public accommodation.

No longer have the independence of free press. Campaigns would be publicly financed; films like “Hillary: the Movie” would be illegal to show before an election and laws like SOPA would tightly control what we put on the internet. Not to mention “the right to be forgotten” and a crackdown on anonymous posting and commenting (see the federal investigation into Reason’s commenters). Hell, you might even find reporters happily submitting to being roped off like sheep and asking only milquetoast questions of a major Presidential candidate.

No longer have freedom of association. For example, we would be forced to do “volunteer” work to finish publish schooling.

Trial by jury, innocent until proven guilty, right to council … these would be outdated concepts. Our college campuses would be but testbeds for the legal regime they would like to impose on us. And entire communities, including poor ones, would be turned upside down and vigorously shaken to pry revenue from them.

We would live in a police state where the government has unlimited authority to spy on us, arrest us, detain us and harass us.

And that’s just the beginning.

Robert Heinlein famously said: “Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.” We are overrun with the former. And the latter had better get their shit together.

May I Put My Head Up My Own Ass?

I’ve blogged twice before on the creeping criminalization of all things sexual. As I have noted many times, the goal here is not to prevent rape or sexual assault, per se. It is to enshrine radical feminist notions of consent into law so that women are considered victims, sex is considered non-consensual by default and any man can be guilty of sexual assault.

To wit:

PERHAPS the most consequential deliberations about affirmative consent are going on right now at the American Law Institute. The more than 4,000 law professors, judges and lawyers who belong to this prestigious legal association — membership is by invitation only — try to untangle the legal knots of our time. They do this in part by drafting and discussing model statutes. Once the group approves these exercises, they hold so much sway that Congress and states sometimes vote them into law, in whole or in part. For the past three years, the law institute has been thinking about how to update the penal code for sexual assault, which was last revised in 1962. When its suggestions circulated in the weeks before the institute’s annual meeting in May, some highly instructive hell broke loose.

In a memo that has now been signed by about 70 institute members and advisers, including Judge Gertner, readers have been asked to consider the following scenario: “Person A and Person B are on a date and walking down the street. Person A, feeling romantically and sexually attracted, timidly reaches out to hold B’s hand and feels a thrill as their hands touch. Person B does nothing, but six months later files a criminal complaint. Person A is guilty of ‘Criminal Sexual Contact’ under proposed Section 213.6(3)(a).”

Far-fetched? Not as the draft is written. The hypothetical crime cobbles together two of the draft’s key concepts. The first is affirmative consent. The second is an enlarged definition of criminal sexual contact that would include the touching of any body part, clothed or unclothed, with sexual gratification in mind. As the authors of the model law explain: “Any kind of contact may qualify. There are no limits on either the body part touched or the manner in which it is touched.” So if Person B neither invites nor rebukes a sexual advance, then anything that happens afterward is illegal. “With passivity expressly disallowed as consent,” the memo says, “the initiator quickly runs up a string of offenses with increasingly more severe penalties to be listed touch by touch and kiss by kiss in the criminal complaint.”

That last bit will sound ominous to those of you familiar with our legal system. In some cases, prosecutors will pile up dozens if not hundreds of charges in the hope of intimidating out a plea bargain. Do we really think someone should end up on a sex offender registry for a stolen kiss? A bunch of lawyers think so.

The example points to a trend evident both on campuses and in courts: the criminalization of what we think of as ordinary sex and of sex previously considered unsavory but not illegal. Some new crimes outlined in the proposed code, for example, assume consent to be meaningless under conditions of unequal power. Consensual sex between professionals (therapists, lawyers and the like) and their patients and clients, for instance, would be a fourth-degree felony, punishable by significant time in prison.

Having sex under those circumstances can already lose you a job, a professional license, a reputation and a career. Do we really need to add prison time and registration to an act of slimy but consensual sex? A bunch of lawyers think so.

You should read the whole thing because it gets worse and worse. Stephen Schulhofer, one of the authors of this code, defends the proposal, saying the law would take a “light touch” to policing sex. I wonder if he could identify any time when when the law has ever taken a light touch to anything.

Yes most people will ignore this nonsense. But it would create a powerful tool for law enforcement to punish people they don’t like. Can’t convict a man of rape even though you “know” he’s guilty? Well here’s fifty charges of holding her hand without consent. And suddenly that “light touch” adds up to a twenty-year punch in the mouth. And I’ll give you one guess as to the skin color of the men who would be most commonly victimized.

Schulhofer compares such a law to speed limits:

To critics who object that millions of people are having sex without getting unqualified assent and aren’t likely to change their ways, he’d reply that millions of people drive 65 miles per hour despite a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, but the law still saves lives. As long as “people know what the rules of the road are,” he says, “the overwhelming majority will comply with them.

First, the majority of people don’t obey the speed limit. Second, the claim that speeds limits save lives is dubious. Third, there have been many problems with people ending up in prison because fines and fees leave them thousands of dollars in debt from minor traffic violations. Fourth … for the love of … speeding is a fine, not a prison sentence. Speeders aren’t put on offender registries. Speeders don’t lose their jobs because they sped. Speeders aren’t barred from being near children. The comparison is totally ridiculous.

The fundamental problem here is that there is a gray area where sex is concerned. Everyone would agree that if a man forces a woman to have sex with him, that’s rape. Everyone would agree that if two people have sex with complete enthusiasm that’s not. But what if one of them drunk? How drunk? Is one party manipulative? Has pressure been brought? What kind of pressure? Does repeatedly asking your spouse or girlfriend for sex count as pressure? What if you tell your boyfriend you’re going to cheat on him if he doesn’t have sex with you?

Over time, we have moved the black area to cover more and more behavior. Having sex with someone who is passed out drunk is rape (unless he’s a man, in which case you’re the victim). That’s as it should be. Coercing or defrauding someone into sex can be rape. That’s as it should be.

But there is a growing part of our culture that wants no gray areas. Everything has to be either has to be enthusiastically consensual or it is assault.

But human beings don’t work that way. We need gray areas, including gray areas in sex. We have and should turn some of that gray into black — there was a long time where a rape victim was blamed if she was drunk. But the idea of turning all of the gray into black is the kind of absolutist idea that only lawheads and fanatics believe in.

This is often tied to reasonable-sounding questions: “Well, why should a woman have to endure a man kissing her if she doesn’t want to be kissed?” She doesn’t. But the law is a crude instrument with which to deal with these things. Any time we have tried — any time we have tried — to inject the law into complex human interactions, it has been a disaster. It has ended up destroying lives, throwing people in prison, and creating a climate of fear and distrust.

One of the NYT’s commenters:

This is a power play by people who know nothing about power other than their desire to have the power to force their vision of sexual exchanges on others through totalitarian state power, totalitarian because it superciliously uses the state to inject into ALL the most intimate adult relationships their own weird ideology, completely unrooted in biology, psychology, or sanity. The heart has its reasons reason does not know so.

Mind your own damn business. Take responsibility.

It is pathetic that this perverted nonsense is taken seriously in the name of rape. It is a perfect storm example of why american contempt for the academic and the intellectual and the professor is justified and the Emperor’s New Clothes remains relevant. The ALI isn’t what it was. It is like the founder’s grandson running the business into the ground.

We should have a debate over how we define rape and sexual assault. That conversation has resulted in enormous progress on the question. But we should not cede the floor to the absolutists and lawheads. That way lies disaster.

One final note: several commentators have joked — or said seriously — that young men should hire sex workers rather than deal with this nonsense. While I favor decriminalization of sex work, that joke isn’t funny. The same people who want to make holding hands into sexual assault want to make patronizing a prostitute into rape. They believe that all sex workers are victims and all johns are predators. And our laws — under the guise of fighting sex trafficking — are coming into line with what they want.

The people who want to keep sex work illegal are the same people who want to prosecute people for holding hands. There’s a lesson in that somewhere …

(H/T to the always awesome Lenore Skenazy and Amy Alkon.)