The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

2018 Starts with Protests in Iran

Welcome to 2018! As Jocko Willink would say, “GET AFTER IT!”

New Year’s Resolution or New Year’s Revolution?

Go, protesters, go!

The most significant protests in eight years are rocking Iran, with state media reporting Tuesday that the death toll from clashes between demonstrators and security forces had reached at least 20.

Offering his first comments during the six days of unrest, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday accused the “enemies of Iran” of meddling in the country’s affairs.

Hundreds of people have been arrested and activists are taking the rare step of publicly criticizing the country’s religious leaders. They are the largest protests since the country’s disputed 2009 presidential election – which triggered the so-called “Green Movement.”

State TV reported Tuesday that six people were killed during an attack on a police station in the town of Qahdarijan. It reported that clashes were sparked by rioters who tried to steal guns from the police station.

Of course, that’s state TV during a time of crisis, so take it with way more than just the ordinary grain of salt. Maybe something along the scale of the Great Salt Lake.

President Trump, this morning: “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”

Bret Stephens of the New York Times: “If Trump had failed to weigh in, he’d be slammed (rightly) for ignoring human rights. Instead, he’s attacked (wrongly) for ‘meddling.’ So far, he’s getting Iran right. Behooves his usual critics (like me) to say so.”

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake argues, “Time to end the expert class nonsense that there are hardliners and moderates in Iran. Javad Zarif and Ayatollah Khamenei are on the same side, the side of clerical tyranny.”

Every couple of years I enjoy dragging out Fareed Zakaria’s 2009 Newsweek cover piece, “Everything You Know About Iran Is Wrong.” Zakaria’s got the sterling resume — Yale, Harvard, managing editor of Foreign Affairs, adjunct professor at Columbia — and he wrote, in what must have been a heavily researched piece, that Iran’s regime might “be happy with a peaceful civilian [nuclear] program,” “Iranians aren’t suicidal.” “Iran isn’t a dictatorship,” and it has a culture of “considerable debate and dissent.” Newsweek readers no doubt concluded that hyperbolic media coverage had obscured the reality of Iran, which was a sophisticated, multifaceted, modern state that is not so scary or brutal after all.

A month after the Zakaria piece ran, the Iranian regime announced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won reelection with 60 percent of the vote, a result that many Iranians concluded had to be fraudulent. The regime crushed the Green Revolution with brutal force, shooting women like Neda Agha-Soltan in the street. Within a matter of months, President Obama announced “the United States, the United Kingdom, and France presented detailed evidence to the IAEA demonstrating that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years.”

If you had previously seen Iran as a country dominated by a brutal, dangerously aggressive, nuclear-ambitious regime that already demonstrated a willingness to use children to clear minefields and embraced a philosophy of risk and sacrifice unthinkable to Western values . . . it turns out everything you knew about Iran wasn’t wrong. Everything Fareed Zakaria knew was wrong.

The point of this is not that Zakaria is dumb. The point is that Zarakia saw what he wanted to see in Iran. The world would be a better, happier, nicer place if the Iran of 2009 or today lived up to the benign, reasonable portrait that Zarakia painted in his cover piece.

Speaking of influential voices who insisted upon seeing Iran as they wished to see it, instead of acknowledging counter-evidence, Lake envisions former president Barack Obama speaking out for the protesting Iranians.

There is currently a Change.org petition urging Obama to speak out in favor of the demonstrations. That is a good start. But the former president should do more. He should devote his good offices to publicizing the cause of Iranian freedom. No American can lead Iran’s opposition, but Obama’s unique understanding of grassroots activism puts him in an ideal position to lead the Western cause of solidarity. He could organize lawyers, newspaper editors, teachers, librarians and human rights groups to partner Iranians under siege, following the Jewish-American movement to allow Soviet refuseniks to emigrate.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen, Eli!

This morning, Matthew Dowd looks back at the Obama administration’s Iran deal and laments, “I am wondering how many folks are aware that the money the US sent Iran as part of nuclear deal was actually Iran’s assets to begin with. It was their own money we returned. It wasn’t taxpayer money.”

Yes, but we froze those assets after they raided our embassy, took American diplomatic staff hostage in violation of just about every international law and treaty, paraded them before the cameras, and beat them. Think of the seized assets as a criminal fine, one of the few ways we could punish the Iranians for their barbaric acts against our people.

‘A Wave of Optimism Has Swept over American Business Leaders’

When the New York Times offers good news for the Trump administration, it is no longer “lying,” “failing,” or “Sad!” Because the president is probably grinning wildly at this front-page story:

A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders, and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation — and may finally raise wages significantly.

While business leaders are eager for the tax cuts that take effect this year, the newfound confidence was initially inspired by the Trump administration’s regulatory pullback, not so much because deregulation is saving companies money but because the administration has instilled a faith in business executives that new regulations are not coming.

“It’s an overall sense that you’re not going to face any new regulatory fights,” said Granger MacDonald, a home builder in Kerrville, Tex. “We’re not spending more, which is the main thing. We’re not seeing any savings, but we’re not seeing any increases.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal finds more good news in the latest wage numbers:

In U.S. cities with the tightest labor markets, workers are finding something that’s long been missing from the broader economic expansion: faster-growing paychecks. Workers in metro areas with the lowest unemployment are experiencing among the strongest wage growth in the country. The labor market in places like Minneapolis, Denver and Fort Myers, Fla., where unemployment rates stand near or even below 3%, has now tightened to a point where businesses are raising pay to attract employees, often from competitors. It’s an outcome entirely expected in economic theory, but one that’s been largely absent until now in the upturn that began more than eight years ago.

If you missed how the tax bill was bringing about “Armageddon” just as Nancy Pelosi predicted, see the updates here, here, and here.

We Didn’t Need Stop-and-Frisk After All!

Our Kyle Smith, following the evidence where it leads, even if it wasn’t the outcome he expected or predicted:

Like many conservatives, I had grave concerns about curtailing the New York City police department’s controversial tactic of stopping and frisking potential suspects for weapons. I was inclined to defer to the police when they protested that they needed the option to stop, question, and frisk New Yorkers on a mere reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing instead of probable cause that the targeted person had committed a crime. Restricting the tactic, I thought, would cause an uptick, maybe even a spike, in crime rates. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made ending stop-and-frisk the centerpiece of his successful 2013 campaign for mayor, struck me as a man who was cynically willing to tolerate an increase in crime if he thought it to his political advantage to amplify leftist voters’ core belief that policing was out of control. Today in New York City, use of stop-and-frisk, which the department justified via the 1968 Terry v. Ohio Supreme Court ruling, has crashed. Yet the statistics are clear: Crime is lower than ever. It’s possible that crime would be even lower had stop-and-frisk been retained, but that’s moving the goalposts. I and others argued that crime would rise. Instead, it fell. We were wrong.

ADDENDA: The new year kicked off with another brilliant essay from my colleague Kevin Williamson, who skeptically examines corporate America’s embrace of the “mindfulness” philosophy, and offers a spectacular quote from professor Ronald Purser: “It’s the new capitalist, secular religion. But calling something ‘secular’ doesn’t make it secular.”

This age is full of fundamentalist fervor, but it’s rarely tied to an established religious doctrine.

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