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Obama's Second Term

No One is at the Helm as America Enters Dangerous Ebola Waters

October 22nd 2014

The spread of Ebola in America, once described in repeated reassurances as only a remote possibility, has caught our health system flat-footed. Sadly, that doesn’t come as a big surprise.

But now, weeks after the disease was first diagnosed in our country and began spreading thanks to simple mistakes, it is staggering that there is still no one in charge. Citizens and lawmakers alike are asking if there is a czar or a national doctor, someone who could truthfully articulate the threat and the extent of the errors made so far as well as be held responsible for stopping the outbreak in its tracks. Nope.

Pressed several times about who is in charge Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest conceded that though Lisa Monaco, homeland security adviser, has been tasked with “coordinating” the response to the outbreak, she is not in charge. This means no one is accountable for solving this problem; not being in charge makes Monaco free of potential blame should things go fatally wrong. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Can Obama Pull Off in Iraq What Nixon and Ford Could'nt in Vietnam?

October 22nd 2014

Practically every American intervention abroad since the 1960s has prompted comparisons to Vietnam. So it was hardly surprising when on October 8, in response to President Obama’s decision to expand the campaign against ISIS into Syria, Frederik Logevall and Gordon M. Goldstein authored an op-ed in the New York Times that asked “Will Syria Be Obama’s Vietnam?”

I’m not sure that’s the right question. The American concern over ISIS originated in Iraq, after all—an intervention that is now eleven years old. America’s air campaign against ISIS today reminds me less of the intervention that happened in Vietnam than the one that didn’t happen—in the spring of 1975.

This past June, when ISIS suddenly broke through America’s collective effort to forget about Iraq and seemed poised to take Baghdad, it was easy to wonder if we were about to witness a repeat of the fall of Saigon.

More than two years after the peace agreement that led to the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, a North Vietnamese offensive against South Vietnam met with little effective resistance, much like last June’s stories of Iraqi armed forces dropping their arms and failing to fight ISIS. Compare these passages from the New York Times coverage of the fall of Hue in March 1975 and Mosul in June 2014: Read more ..


The Way We Are

America is Still Number 1 - But How?

October 19th 2014

American politicians are fond of telling their audiences that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Is there any evidence for this claim?

Well, yes. When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1. In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations. (The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.)

From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world. Moreover, given the U.S. government’s almost continuous series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence. Read more ..


The Edge of Intolerance

Hatred and Hypocrisy Masquerade as Free Speech on Campus

October 19th 2014

Freedom of speech is part of the cornerstone of our democracy – one of our country’s most precious values. And while “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it,” Voltaire’s principle does not shield speech against challenges and consequences, especially if the language is laced with hate, blatant falsehoods and a call for murder.

Last week self-proclaimed intellectuals, progressive organizations and anti-Israel (dare I say anti-Semitic) groups welcomed to numerous Chicago college campuses Steven Salaita, the infamous professor whose job offer from the University of Illinois was rescinded after tweeting hate-filled rhetoric against the Jewish State and of course “Zionists.”

Salaita, a former tenured professor at Virginia Tech, has become the darling of progressive academia and the anti-Israel movement, portrayed as a victim of Jewish influence and power whose First Amendment rights have been trampled. Read more ..


The Bear is Back

Czechoslovakia or Finland

October 16th 2014

Convoy of Russia trucks with alleged aid

All historical analogies are odious, some dead white man - probably a Frenchman - has said. Obviously, he meant that times change, the cast changes, the nuances change, the world moves on, and no geopolitical situation really replicates an earlier one. Some historiographers go even further; they say that for all these reasons there are not, indeed, any "lessons" from history,

George Santayana notwithstanding. Still ...

It's good intellectual fun to make comparisons and sometimes we learn a little by playing a game in which we compare those former events with the contemporary happening. Of course, one problem is that our reconstruction of earlier events is often skewed if not downright wrong. For, obviously, if for no other reason, we view them in the context of the present. Again, still... Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Is The Status Quo Relating To The Disputed Territories Sustainable?

October 15th 2014

Western/Wailing Wall

Israelis from all sides of the political spectrum desperately yearn that their dream of peace and a secure and stable relationship with their neighbors could be realized now. But alas, no quick fix is currently achievable.

Both left- and right-wing radicals continue to vigorously agitate for drastic action and predict disaster if the status quo is maintained. The delusional Left calls for further unilateral withdrawals and the radical Right demands instant annexationist policies.

Since the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, the Left has succeeded in convincing many rank-and-file Israelis to believe that the status quo is unsustainable and would lead to our destruction. Like the sound of a siren, their call for quick fixes and solutions has deeply penetrated the psyche of a nation that, understandably, desperately yearns for peace. Read more ..


Broken Government

Government Credit Card Abuse

October 10th 2014

The U.S. Transportation Department issues credit cards to employees for official travel expenses. This could include cash advances, when warranted. DOT’s IG conducted a random audit of 2012.  It examined 400 cash advances [out of 48,554] and 400 purchases [out of 890,132]. The results showed a program ripe for fraud, waste and abuse.

The IG found 24 cash advances were excessive. And not a single one was detected by DOT’s internal controls.  Another 83 cash advances weren’t travel-related.  The IG estimated more than $180,000 in cash advances were not travel-related for 2012. As an aside, the IG also looked at all 218 cash advances taken at gambling casinos. Yes, gambling casinos. 27 were taken while not on government travel.  One cash advance of nearly $500 was taken by someone who hadn’t been an employee for more than two years. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

Obama Administration’s Unprecedented Outburst against Israel

October 8th 2014

Obama

The exceptionally vicious U.S. condemnation of Israel with regard to housing construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem is not merely misguided, but also reflects irrational bias. Incidentally, this behavior also has many ominous parallels to the inhumane incarceration of Jonathan Pollard, despite pleas for his commutation from all sectors of American society.

The harsh outburst relates to a 2,600-unit housing project planned as an extension of an exclusively Jewish neighborhood adjacent to the suburb of Talpiot and Kibbutz Ramat Rahel both within the Green Line. It incorporates primarily barren land on which Ethiopian and Russian immigrants had been housed temporarily in mobile homes. Highly significant – but a fact that is ignored – is that nearly half of the construction was designated to provide housing for Arabs. Construction permits were approved two years ago but it was the far left-wing group, Peace Now that saw fit to highlight the issue in a press release on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in a calculated effort to embarrass the prime minister and provoke tensions. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama Learns IS Offensive Means Civilian Casualties

October 6th 2014

Downcast Obama

Last year the Obama administration issued, with considerable fanfare, a new military policy designed to reduce civilian casualties when U.S. forces are attacking enemy targets. This policy required “near certainty” that there will be no civilian casualties before an air attack is permitted.

When Israel acted in self-defense this summer against Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, the Obama administration criticized the Israeli army for “not doing enough” to reduce civilian casualties. When pressed about what more Israel could do—especially when Hamas fired its rockets and dug its terror tunnels in densely populated areas, deliberately using humans as shields—the Obama administration declined to provide specifics. Read more ..


The Ebola Pandemic

The Ebola Crisis: A Test Case for Enlightened Self-Interest

October 3rd 2014

Ebola health workers and corpse

There is always a lesson in a crisis if you’re humble enough to look for it. As the Ebola crisis spreads throughout West Africa, both the on-the-ground struggles and the international response have been enlightening to say the least.

First, the U.S. military is the best in the world at leading and mobilizing resources in response to a humanitarian crisis. The President’s plan to send 3,000 American troops to Liberia and Sierra Leone in order to build hospitals and provide logistics and supplies for on the ground relief workers demonstrates a capability of U.S. international power that has rarely been displayed in recent years.  Our adventures in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan on the other hand were seen by many citizens in those nations as primarily self-serving.  The justification for the Iraq war, initially billed as a just war against the tyranny of a brutal dictator, eventually broke down under allegations that the U.S. used torture and techniques against the Iraqi people. The seeming justification also stood in stark contrast to the fact that over a million non-combatant Iraqis died in the dirty war that stretched for over a decade.  And then there is the geopolitics of oil, which sits in the middle of the room like the eight hundred pound gorilla everyone is pretending to ignore. Read more ..


The Oil Addiction

Energy Alone Cannot Improve Security in the Eastern Mediterranean

October 2nd 2014

Israeli oil drilling platform

It has become clear over the past few years that Israel’s relations with Cyprus and Greece have improved, and that trilateral cooperation has created an Eastern Mediterranean framework that is in part based on shared energy interests. The Levant Basin natural gas discoveries in 2009, 2010 and 2011, combined with the rupture in Israel-Turkey relations, paved the way for enhanced political, economic and military cooperation.

Recent developments, however, indicate that a new Eastern Mediterranean framework including Cyprus, Israel, Jordan and Egypt is forming, and while there is certainly a concrete basis for this new arena in Eastern Mediterranean energy politics, it is unlikely that it will produce a dynamic similar to that between Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Blame 'the Big Lie': Without truth, Mideast Peace is not Possible

October 1st 2014

A map

This past summer was not a good one for the Jewish people or the Jewish State.

Operation Protective Edge reportedly embarrassed too many Jews in this country, none of whom should have been embarrassed. It also put Israel in a bad light, with accusations of war crimes, immorality, a genocidal agenda - accusations heard day after day over the airwaves, or read in newspapers, none of which bore relationship to the truth.

Protective Edge was not an "operation" as much as it was a full-scale war, fought against an intractable enemy with a very real genocidal agenda.

Make no mistake - Hamas wants all Jews dead, not just Israeli Jews. It says as much, without any sense of shame. It is part of Hamas' charter. According to that charter, Muslims are obligated - obligated - to "fight Jews and kill them." There is nothing ambiguous about that.

According to the Hamas charter, we Jews are a "warmongering" people who have been plotting for centuries to take over the world. For proof, the charter says, just read "the Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Stop Ignoring the Obvious: Islam is the Problem

September 30th 2014

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To defeat IS we should do more than just bomb its strongholds in the Middle East; we should no longer turn a blind eye to the violent nature of Islam. We should demand that those who settle in our countries cast aside values incompatible with ours. There is a huge problem -- also in our countries - cause by the violent exhortations of Islam. Only when we face this truth will we be able to win this war we are in.

Although the majority of Muslims are moderate, thousands of innocent civilians all over the West have fallen victim to terrorists inspired by Islam. IS has announced that every citizen of the West is a target.

70% of Dutch Muslims consider the religious rules of Islam more important than the secular laws of the country where they are living. Survey, December 2013, by Prof. Ruud Koopmans, Humbolt University, Berlin Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Jihad Slavery Returns – The West Eager to Avert its Eyes

September 29th 2014

ISIS

“Narin” was abducted and enslaved in Iraq by ISIS jihadis and then escaped. She used a pseudonym with the reporter because: many of her relatives, practitioners of an ancient Zoroastrian faith, are held captives by the Islamic State. Her community in Eastern Iraq suffered a jihadi blitzkrieg: villages were surrounded, men, including her brother, were murdered and the women and children were carted off as slaves to be converted to Islam and given as “wives” to the jihadists. “Narin” escaped when her captors were at prayer.

Reports of  the Yazidis’ enslavement shocks Westerners, but they it closely mirror reporting on Sudan, where African Christians were, in the 1990’s and for over two decades, target of an Islamic “holy war” which prominently featured jihad slavery as a terror weapon of choice. Just like ISIS raiders, Muslim militias stormed African Christian villages, shot the men and took women and children as slaves. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

The Economy May Tip Mid-Term Elections to Democrats

September 29th 2014

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One of the biggest surprises on the midterm campaign trail is hearing President Obama echo President Reagan’s famous question by asking voters whether “you are better off than you were four years ago.”

The question is the hammer in Obama’s toolbox for nailing down his Democratic majority in the Senate in this year’s midterm election.

“By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than we were when I took office,” the president said in a Sept. 19 speech to the Women’s Leadership Forum, sponsored by the Democratic National Committee.

Speaking to a Labor Day rally of union workers in Milwaukee, he also pointed to America’s improved economic performance over the last five years. “You wouldn’t know it from watching the news,” he lamented.

In fact, Reuters recently confirmed the president’s upbeat claims. Read more ..


September 29th 2014

The American Jewish Committee called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's address to the UN General Assembly a rhetorical cocktail of hatred, deceit and distortion. Once again, as in his previous UN speeches, Abbas undermined prospects for advancing peace. "President Abbas today offered no fresh ideas, indeed no hope for peace," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

"Recycling well-worn and false accusations against Israel, ignoring the damage caused by his terrorist partner Hamas, playing to the rejectionist crowd, and pressing for UN intervention are not exactly the road to a two-state settlement and coexistence. Indeed, today Abbas took himself and the Palestinian people another step down into the abyss of failed peacemaking." Read more ..


Global Peace

Nuclear Terrorism is the Most Immediate Threat to Global Security

September 28th 2014

As discussions of terrorism and foreign fighters come to a close this week at the United Nations, President Obama can be sure of one thing: his opportunity to add the single greatest safeguard to global security is slipping away. If he wants to cement his legacy as the president who faced what he himself identified as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security,” he needs to double down on his vision for a world without nuclear weapons in order to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on them.

Today – the first-ever International Day for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons – is as good a day as any to get rolling. Achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons is one of the U.N.’s longstanding objectives, one it has failed to prioritize. It’s no surprise that the security discussions this year were overshadowed by the plans of 10 member states to dismantle and defeat the Islamic State group, especially as their assault on radical Sunni resistance and aggression toward U.S. and British journalists continues to grow. Read more ..


The Climate Debate

Don't Blame the Climate Change Deniers

September 26th 2014

MythicAmerica is on a forced hiatus while I deal with health problems. But over 300,000 people in New York City the other day reminded us all that no one's health will matter much unless we take care of the planet's health. So I felt moved to polish up a previously unpublished column and share these thoughts with you:

The old joke, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it," is no laughing matter any more. It's dead serious. Yet the United States seems politically paralyzed on this most vital issue.

It's easy to blame the climate change deniers. But it's wrong. In Gallup's most recent poll only 18% of us denied climate change. In a CBS poll, only 11% were outright deniers.


The vast majority of Americans are well aware that there's a real problem. More than four out of five agree with the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening now or surely will happen soon. Read more ..


The Water's Edge

The EPA is Drowning Americans' Property Rights

September 25th 2014

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Mine runoff in Ohio River

In several different ways, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using and abusing the Clean Water Act to improperly block economic development projects and take away Americans' property rights.

In one recent example, the EPA made plans to block a permit for a mining project before the project had even applied for one.

After intense pressure from and collusion with Washington D.C. and New York-based environmental lobbyists, the agency proposed to block an Alaska mining company from receiving a federal Clean Water Act permit for a project known as Pebble Mine. But the company had never even applied for a permit. In fact, EPA’s proposed Clean Water Act veto was based only on speculation of what mining on private land might look like, not on an actual mining plan. In other words, EPA manipulated its own bureaucracy in order to control potential and future projects of American businesses on private property. It did so to proactively discourage investment in the venture, so it could never begin to get off the ground. Read more ..


Venezuela on Edge

Why Venezuela Should Be Denied A Temporary Seat On The United Nations Security Council

September 23rd 2014

Venezuela protests

On September 18th, the United States announced that it will not oppose Venezuela’s bid to seek a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council for a two year term that would commence in 2015. The U.S. decision came after countries in the region unanimously endorsed Venezuela’s bid.
For those who have monitored the assault on human rights in Venezuela as well as the country’s nefarious connections to the FARC, Hezbollah, ETA, and Iran, Venezuela’s appearance as a voting member of the Security Council would make a mockery of the UN Human Rights Charter.
 
Unfortunately, most of Latin America is now dominated by a left –wing cadre of countries that have warmly greeted the Bolivarian regime as well as the fifty year plus Cuban dictatorship and the ALBA countries. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Waiting for Hillary

September 23rd 2014

So we know how Hillary Clinton feels about steak, retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), equal pay, a minimum wage increase and how hard Democrats should campaign for the midterm elections in November. But we don’t know what the former secretary of State — who wants to be president — thinks about a brand-new war launched by the United States in the Middle East. What’s staggering is that it comes as no surprise.

Last week, Clinton called on the United Nations to more effectively combat the abduction of women and girls by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups but was not moved to comment on the president’s strategy, outlined in an address to the nation two nights prior, to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Fighting Anti-Semitism is the Duty of Every German

September 17th 2014

The following is a translation of the text of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's speech on September 14 at Berlin's historic Brandenburg Gate. She delivered the address under a banner that read: 'Stand up. Jew hatred - Never again, coinciding with a conference of the World Jewish Congress in the capital city.

Federal President,
Mr Graumann,
Mr Lauder,
Cardinal Marx,
Mr Schneider,
Governing Mayor Wowereit,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The fact that today there are again more than 100,000 Jews living in Germany is nothing short of a miracle. It’s a precious gift which fills me with profound gratitude.

That people in Germany today are being verbally abused, threatened and attacked when it somehow becomes apparent that they are Jewish or when they express their support for the State of Israel, is outrageous. Read more ..


Broken Economy

The Return of the Currency Wars

September 17th 2014

International Currency 3

When a country’s economy grows too slowly, the standard short-term remedies are to increase government spending, cut taxes or reduce interest rates. When none of those options is available, governments often resort to pushing down their currencies to make their exports more attractive to foreigners (and, these days, to push up import prices and thus bring inflation back up to desired levels).

When the world economy is sputtering, and every big country increases spending, cuts taxes and reduces interest rates, the global economy  benefits from the increase in demand.   That’s the story of 2009. But when individual countries lean heavily on pushing their currencies down, that tends to shift demand from one place to another rather than increasing the total.  That is a “currency war.”  And we may be on the verge of one. Last time, the emerging markets were doing the complaining; this time, it may be the U.S.  (OK, I’m oversimplifying, but only a bit.)

Japan has already managed to depreciate its currency. The yen is at a six-year low against the dollar.  There is a fine line between pursuing expansionary monetary policy which works (in part) by reducing a country’s currency, and making currency depreciation a primary goal. The U.S. and Europe have tolerated the sinking yen largely because they saw it as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s broader effort to resuscitate the Japanese economy. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

If Not Us, Who Will Come to the Aid of Russia's Jewish Community?

September 16th 2014

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Forty years ago this month, my life took a new path. Forty years later, I’m still on that path.

The year was 1974. U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet Chairman Leonid Brezhnev had introduced the word “détente” into the Cold War vocabulary. One of the outcomes was a series of annual Soviet-American exchange programs designed, at least in theory, to widen contacts between the two countries. One such initiative brought six teachers from the USSR to the U.S. for several months to teach Russian language and culture in American schools, and vice versa. Read more ..


The War on Terror

Republican Ted Cruz Speaks Truth to Anti-Semitic Christian Bigots

September 15th 2014

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The persecution of Christians in the Middle East is one of the great human rights emergencies of our time. The world’s silence in the face of this crisis is one of the great moral failures of our day.

Last week, Senator Ted Cruz tried to help shatter this silence. In a speech to a new organization called In Defense of Christians, Cruz highlighted a fundamental truth underlying this tragedy:

Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations. ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and their state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East. Sometimes we are told not to loop these groups together…. But we shouldn’t try to parse different manifestations of evil…. Hate is hate. And murder is murder.

Cruz spoke these words with the full knowledge that some in his audience had aligned themselves with Hezbollah’s terrorists and Assad’s death squads in their desperate struggle to survive. But these cynical deals notwithstanding, the crowd respectfully listened to their keynote speaker.

But then Cruz went too far. He stated, “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.” Doubling down on the truth, he further noted, “Those who hate Israel hate America. And those who hate Jews hate Christians.” The honesty was apparently too much. A vocal minority booed Cruz off the stage. Read more ..


Broken Healthcare

Are Patients the Best Judge of Physician Quality?

September 15th 2014

Child with leukemia

In Friday's Wall Street Journal, private practice endocrinologist Mark Sklar offers a concise summary of how many doctors feel about the changes impacting their profession.  I've actually encouraged Vinod Khosla to consider offering a redline response, as Sklar captures so crisply what might be called the view of establishment medicine.

Sklar's arguments distill to this: efforts to improve medicine have generally only made it worse, introducing a range of largely irrelevant metrics, pointless tasks, gratuitous electronic documentation, and layers of bureaucracy and supervision.  These intrusions reflect clumsy and destructive efforts by outsiders to mechanize and micromanage a deeply personal profession.   Ultimately, argues Sklar, "The patient should be the arbiter of the physician's quality of care."

Essentially, Sklar is saying: a doctor should be able to make decisions without administrators looking over her shoulders, and patients should evaluate whether the doctor is doing a good job. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Why Islamists Behead Us

September 14th 2014

Daniel Pearl. Nicholas Berg. James Foley. Steven Sotloff.

Four American noncombatants have been beheaded by Islamic fanatics, and the videos of their murders brazenly circulated over the internet for the world to witness. Another Westerner – David Cawthorne Haines, a security expert hired by international aid organizations – faces the same gruesome fate.

Why do they behead us?

The question goes to the method, not the motive, of the madness. Murderers’ motives don’t matter much in the Middle East. In local eyes, there are so many causes to kill for, and so many victims deserving death. But assuming one is inclined to butcher, why do so by the particularly peculiar method of beheading? Why not butcher by shooting, or by hanging, or by detonation?

This is, to put it mildly, a grim inquiry. But it is worth the trouble to explore. For the answer may tell us something about the nature of the evil we face.

Others have asked the same question and come up with their own theories. David Brooks of the New York Times believes Islamic fanatics choose beheading because the act represents a defilement of something sacred: the human body. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Beyond Air Strikes in Iraq

September 14th 2014

Nouri al-Maliki

The most important part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent speech about Iraq and Syria wasn’t how many air strikes the United States will conduct and when -- the elements that have dominated much of the analysis of the event. Rather, it was his call to form, from scratch, an Iraqi National Guard.

That plan is a bold one, and it follows on what has been a good summer for Obama when it comes to Iraq policy. He has gotten two crucial things right. First, by working with local allies such as the Kurdish peshmerga forces, Obama was able to use limited U.S. airpower to prevent further conquests by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, also known as the Islamic State). Second, by holding off from providing any more extensive help, he was able to push Iraqis to replace Nouri al-Maliki, the divisive incumbent prime minister, with a new one, Haider al-Abadi, and create a national unity government.

Obama didn’t make the latter decision simply because Americans like inclusive, democratic governance. It was because Maliki’s sectarian rule had so divided the country that the Iraqi army nearly dissolved when ISIS forces emerged on the battlefield this past spring. If the army was to be reconstituted so that it could reclaim the Sunni Arab heartland, including cities from Ramadi and Fallujah to Tikrit and Mosul, it needed a leader and a government it could believe in, obey, and die for. Read more ..


Election 2014

Dems Face Dim Future

September 12th 2014

Congress-senate

It’s gloom time for Democrats.

As most Americans worry about a new, unprecedented terror threat from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), national Democrats are facing their fears about losing control of the Senate on Nov. 4. The writing on the wall is dark but increasingly clear, as the GOP holds a steady and growing advantage that could cost Democrats six to 10 seats. With just eight weeks left until Election Day, Democrats are scrambling to target resources most effectively to contain their losses while their unpopular president launches a new war in the Middle East.

The upcoming election will be different from recent midterm cycles, in that there is no one galvanizing issue, like the Iraq War in 2006 or ObamaCare in 2010, that will influence the outcome. While most observers bet a year ago that the Affordable Care Act would surely dominate the debate as it had in 2010 and 2012, it doesn’t appear to be singlehandedly driving voter discontent. There is nothing the electorate is voting for or against this cycle and, according to polls, few believe the election will change the status quo of polarized gridlock that is now the norm in Congress. But voters are upset over everything, so the party of a president in his sixth year in office will likely pay dearly. Read more ..


Broken Government

Large Government Out of Place in a Society Based on Small Technology

September 11th 2014

Tablet Use

“Twentieth-century technology,” writes economic historian Joel Mokyr in the Manhattan Institute’s excellent City Journal, “was primarily about ‘large’ things.”

Large in physical size, that is. Mokyr’s examples include the diesel engine and the gas turbine, shipping containers, communications satellites launched by giant rockets, oil-drilling platforms, massive power stations, giant steel mills and huge airplanes.

Most are familiar sights today, but if we try to see them with the eyes of someone in 1914, they are awe-inspiring. This summer, I drove past the ruins of Henry Ford’s Highland Park plant, the largest manufacturing plant in the world when it opened in 1910. There, Ford set up the first auto assembly line and in 1914, the same year Europe went to war, started paying his workers $5 a day. Read more ..


Vote 2014

Democrats are Gloomy about Their Dim Prospects

September 11th 2014

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It’s gloom time for Democrats.

As most Americans worry about a new, unprecedented terror threat from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), national Democrats are facing their fears about losing control of the Senate on Nov. 4. The writing on the wall is dark but increasingly clear, as the GOP holds a steady and growing advantage that could cost Democrats six to 10 seats.

With just eight weeks left until Election Day, Democrats are scrambling to target resources most effectively to contain their losses while their unpopular president launches a new war in the Middle East. The upcoming election will be different from recent midterm cycles, in that there is no one galvanizing issue, like the Iraq War in 2006 or ObamaCare in 2010, that will influence the outcome. While most observers bet a year ago that the Affordable Care Act would surely dominate the debate as it had in 2010 and 2012, it doesn’t appear to be singlehandedly driving voter discontent. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

The Dilemma for Jewish Leftists

September 8th 2014

During his yearlong captivity at the hands of the barbarians from Islamic State, Steven Sotloff’s colleagues in Israeli media organs purged all of his articles from their websites to erase his connections to Israel and hide the fact that he was an Israeli citizen.

So, too, every effort was made to hide the fact that he was Jewish.

The reason was clear. Given the genocidal Jew-hatred endemic in jihadist doctrine, it was obvious that if Sotloff’s Judaism was exposed, he would have been singled out for torture and execution.

Much has been written since Islamic State released the video of its British executioner chopping off James Foley’s head last month. We have been told by leaders and commentators alike that with this singular crime, Islamic State awakened the sleeping lion of the West. That act of barbarism, we have been assured, will now force the US to lead a global coalition against this Islamic army of butchers. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Homeland Secretary Johnson Ready for Political Fight

September 8th 2014

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The big news of the moment is President Obama’s decision, revealed Saturday, to delay executive action on immigration reform until after November’s midterm elections. But, make no mistake, such action is coming sooner or later. And, when it does, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will be the administration’s point man. Johnson insists the Obama administration has already made the borders more secure.

That puts him at odds with House Republicans who cite lax border security as their number one reason for refusing to pass the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. House Republicans have pointed to concern over border security before. The most notable recent example came when they refused to go along with the administration’s request for funds to handle a surge of young people from Central America seeking refugee status. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Don't Abandon our Dogs of War

September 7th 2014

The Dogs of War

We’ve all heard the expression: “A man’s best friend is his equipment.”

You haven’t? Well you must not work for the Pentagon. There, military dogs are considered mere “equipment” and as such can be left behind when the troops come home.

It’s a bit more complicated than that. Military dogs are enlisted (drafted actually) to identify enemy locations, to seek out bombs, and protect bases. It is dangerous, often traumatic work. The dogs are credited with saving countless U.S. and allied lives, which is why the Taliban actively targets our dogs of war. While on active service, each dog is given a higher rank than its handler.

That is, right up until the moment these dogs are “retired.” Once they are too old, too shell-shocked or simply not needed, the dogs are automatically declared equipment that can be left behind like a latrine tent. The military sometimes says they are “retired” and become “civilians,” but the result is the same because these civilians don’t have a right to military transport home. Need convincing?

“While there is a proper, legal classification for a working dog, we know they are living things, and we have great respect and admiration for them,” Gerry Proctor, a spokesman for Lackland Air Force Base (which trains military dogs), told CNN. “A handler would never speak of their dog as a piece of equipment. The dog is their partner. You can walk away from a damaged tank, but not your dog. Never.”

If you ever talked to a military dog handler, or even if you simply had a dog, odds are you know the obvious truth of this. If you still need convincing, watch the 2013 Animal Planet documentary about U.S. war dogs in Afghanistan, Glory Hounds, to see not merely how vital these animals are, but also how powerful the bond between the handler and his canine comrades is. “The relationship between you and your dog is the most important part of your partnership,” Lance Corporal. Kent Ferrell, whose German shepherd, Zora, is trained to both attack the enemy and find explosives, explains in the film. “Your dog has to be able to trust you.” But that trust often goes unrewarded. Read more ..


The Way We Were

While Germans Remember Eugenic Euthanasia, America Tends to Forget

September 6th 2014

A memorial to the 300,000 victims of Nazi euthanasia programs was opened in Berlin this week. It is striking piece of modern architecture: a 30-metre-long wall of blue glass in the open air.

“The Nazi murders of disabled people are among the most inhumane acts of history,” says Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit. “It is high time that these victims of Nazi inhumanity finally receive their own memorial.”

The regime had several methods of killing the mentally and physically disabled: starvation, lethal injections or chambers filled with carbon monoxide gas. The so-called T4 program became a trial run for the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other death camps. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Is Marriage Merely a Form of Prostitution?

September 6th 2014

When I heard that an Australian social commentator called Jane Caro had compared “traditional” marriage to prostitution on the popular TV program Q&A, I thought, “Oh, here we go again!” That trope of feminist literature is almost as raddled as the raddled old feminists themselves. After pushing the marriage-as-slavery ideology for the last 40 years, can’t people like Caro come up with something more original?

Instead, when asked about prostitution, Caro gave us her weird dissertation on marriage as a form of prostitution, in which “room and board” are bartered for “sexual and reproductive services”. Jane, darling! Whether it was 500 years ago, 50 years ago or now, it’s called having a family.

But “children” was the one word Caro didn’t mention. Read more ..


Broken Government

Rick Perry’s Indictment Should Scare All Americans

September 5th 2014

Supreme Court Lady Justice

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
— Humpty Dumpty in Alice through the Looking Glass

The indictment of Governor Rick Perry should send a shudder down the spine of every American. The vindictive special prosecutor used Humpty Dumpty’s logic to say statutes say the opposite of their plain meaning in order to charge the governor with a crime for exercising his lawful veto. If a popular sitting governor can be indicted on such a flimsy basis, then every one of us is vulnerable.

The facts are straightforward: the police arrested Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County DA, after finding her in her car with a drained bottle of vodka. Her blood alcohol content was almost three times the legal limit. During her arrest and booking, she screamed, beat on the jail cell door, and had to be forcibly strapped into a restraint chair with a spit guard placed over her mouth to protect the deputies. She pleaded guilty.

Read more ..

The Battle for Ukraine

How to Make Putin Back Down

September 2nd 2014

Putin

Unable either to win the war in Ukraine by proxy or to retreat from the conflict because of the enormous blow a defeat would deliver to his regime's legitimacy, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be sending in regular troops to attack Ukraine. The action is south of rebel-held Donetsk, which, until Russia's heightened involvement this week, was on the verge of being retaken by the Ukrainian army.

It is likely that in response to Russia's escalation, the United States and European Union will contemplate more sanctions. The problem is that all the relatively "painless" economic measures have already been taken. So both the U.S. and Europe are now left looking at actions that will hurt their own industries and financial institutions.

Take the previous round of sanctions, which targeted only select Russian banks. This time, it may well have to be the entire Russian financial system: That is, U.S. and EU banks will have to sever relations with any bank that does business with their Russian counterparts. Another example: Previously, only future investments in technology and transfers to the Russian energy sector were banned. Now, the West may have to block the hundreds of billions of dollars in investment and equipment already in the "pipeline" to Russia as a result of the pre-existing contracts between the Russian oil giant Rosneft and its Western counterparts. Read more ..


The Caliphate

The World's Enormous Silence about the Slaughter of Christians

September 1st 2014

Click to select Image

The Pope, patriarchs and prelates are crying out for intervention. Where are the presidents and prime ministers?

I've known Maronite leader Monsignor Sharbel Maroun for many years, talked with him on radio in 2006 after Telelumiere was nearly destroyed in the Lebanon War that summer, and many times before and after then about the ongoing work of unity and mutual respect of Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. He just returned from Lebanon recently, we talked again this week, and he is despondent. What he said is captured well here.

Catholics in the Middle East are being persecuted and slaughtered while the world watches and remains silent, said the leader of an Eastern rite Catholic community. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

Saving NATO

September 1st 2014

NATO meeting

It was one great historical irony that when NATO's famous Article 5 - an attack on any member is an attack on all and demands their assistance - was invoked, it would be not in the aid of the European states for which the Treaty was designed but for the U.S. Nor did the 9/11 attack come from NATO's anticipated enemy, the Soviet Union, but the new international jihadist terror network.

Thus history's most successful alliance - it protected Western Europe at the highwater mark of Communism both without and within for a half-century until the Soviet Union imploded --- met a new challenge in far-off Afghanistan. Yes, the German contingent spent too much time drinking beer and refusing night warfare, most of the Europeans sent token forces, and "the Anglo-Saxons" [certainly not excluding the Australians!] as usual carried the weight to a quick military victory despite outrageous rules of engagement. And, with the current kind of political impasse in "nation building" in Kabul, the longest war in U.S. history might still come to less. But the Treaty obligations worked. Read more ..



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