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Turkey on Edge

Erdogan's Dream: The Sultan Rules

May 17th 2015

Erdogan

It is election time in Turkey. On June 7, the Turks will go to the ballot box to elect a government and a prime minister who will rule the country for four years.

In reality, they will go to the ballot box to decide whether they want an elected Sultan or not.

Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants more than just to win a parliamentary majority for his Justice and Development Party (AKP). He wants a two-thirds majority, so that the constitution can be amended to introduce an executive presidential system and the Sultan can once again officially rule.

In 2013, Burhan Kuzu, the AKP's chairman of the parliament's Constitution Commission, compared the U.S. presidency to the broad powers of Turkey's prime minister (who at the time was Erdogan), saying, "Obama is a poor man, the Prime Minister is powerful." Read more ..


The Iranian Threat

Why Shiite Expansion Will Be Short-Lived

May 14th 2015

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

The sectarian conflict in the Middle East can neatly be divided into two sides: Sunnis and Shiites. Or so it would seem. The reality, it turns out, is more complicated. Sunni unity is a myth – the countries that constitute the Sunni camp are divided over a variety of issues. And the Shiites, whose power has grown since the early 1990s, nonetheless suffer from the inescapable constraints of being a minority population. Indeed, the single most defining characteristic of the Shiite camp is that it comprises only a fraction of the Muslim population. More than three-fourths of all Muslims practice Sunni Islam.

According to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center, only four countries have a Shiite majority: Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq. But other countries have notable Shiite minority populations as well, including Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. Shiites also form the largest confessional group in Lebanon and account for as much as 20 percent of the 180 million or so Muslims in India. Read more ..


Election 2016

A No-Win Situation for Hillary Clinton on Trade Issues

May 9th 2015

Hillary Clinton clearly isn’t bothered by the exhortations of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), but President Obama is — and the longer Obama indulges Clinton’s silence on trade, the more the presumed Democratic nominee for 2016 exacerbates her party’s food fight over the issue and, in Boehner’s view, embarrasses the president she served.

Perhaps the apocalypse is imminent, because Obama is working with Republican leaders on a major legacy push: passage of trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

As crunch time nears, Boehner says the president “needs her [Clinton’s] help” to grow a weak Democratic vote, now estimated at fewer than 20 members. Obama has shown an uncharacteristic interest in trying to sway hesitant Democrats in Congress to vote in favor of the trade deal, with promises to protect them against any political backlash. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Mother's Day Comes Again, and We're Still at War

May 9th 2015

After the carnage of the Second World War the members of the now defunct Victory Chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers in St. Petersburg, Florida, knew better than most what it was to lose their sons, daughters, husbands and other near relatives in war. “We’d rather not talk about it,” one mother, whose son was killed in WWII, told the St. Petersburg Times fifteen years after the war ended. “It’s a terrible scar that never heals. We hope there will never be another war so no other mothers will have to go through this ordeal.” But thanks to our wars in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan –not to mention our proxy wars around the globe-- too many Moms (and Dads too) now have to mourn family members badly scarred or lost to wars dreamed up by the demagogic, ideological and myopic.

But every year brings our wonderful Mother’s Day. Few Americans know that Mother’s Day was initially suggested by two peace-minded mothers, Julia Ward Howe, a nineteenth century anti-slavery activist and suffragette who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and Anna Reeves Jarvis, mother of eleven, who influenced Howe and once asked her fellow Appalachian townspeople, badly polarized by the Civil War, to remain neutral and help nurse the wounded on both sides. Read more ..


Financing the Flames

Breaking the Silence - Questions the Media is not Asking

May 6th 2015

Israeli soldier emerges from Hamas tunnel

I’ve been asked a few times about the “Breaking the Silence” report that is currently being played up by the international press, as is any report that fits the narrative of Israelis as war criminals. (Contradictory reports, like the recent one I posted here from two US military experts, are not considered news.) I hope that most intelligent people have stopped taking international press coverage of Israel too seriously. But there are a few things that are important to understand.

1. War is awful and people come back feeling upset about things they’ve seen and done. Some observers are reliable, and others aren’t. Some of the things described in the report no doubt happened as they were described. Others didn’t. Infantrymen at the bottom of the hierarchy often don’t understand what they’re seeing, or the reasons for what they’re doing, and I’m speaking from experience.

Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Why Can't Muslims Laugh at Mohammed?

May 5th 2015

Jacob blesses Manasseh and Ephraim

In Mel Brooks' comedy History of the World Part I, Moses is shown descending from Mount Sinai with three stone tablets in hand. As he declares, "I give you the Fifteen Commandments," one falls and breaks, and Moses corrects himself, "er, Ten Commandments."

Jews, including the observant, find this funny rather than offensive. As we learned once again in Garland, Texas, Muslims do not laugh at jokes about Mohammed, the purported author of the Koran (as Moses is the author of the Torah). Two wannabe Jihadists with assault rifles and body armor were no match for an off-duty Texas traffic cop with a sidearm, but the incident might have turned into a massacre worse than the murder of the Charlie Hebdo staff in January.

Why do Jews as well as Christians–but not Muslims–laugh at jokes about the founders of their faiths? Read more ..


The Way We Are

Are Men the Weaker Sex?

May 3rd 2015

Baby Boomer

We can, thankfully, remove one threat to the future existence of the human male from our worry list: The male Y chromosome, after dwindling from its original robust size over millions of years, apparently has halted its disappearing act.

But don’t start cheering yet. Contrary to cultural assumptions that boys are stronger and sturdier, basic biological weaknesses are built into the male of our species. These frailties leave them more vulnerable than girls to life’s hazards, including environmental pollutants such as insecticides, lead and plasticizers that target their brains or hormones. Several studies suggest that boys are harmed in some ways by these chemical exposures that girls are not. It’s man’s fate, so to speak. Read more ..


Broken Government

Obamacare Subsidies Need some Sunshine

April 29th 2015

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has a simple question: How and why did Congress qualify as a "small business" eligible for special taxpayer subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? For anyone in a real small business — private employers who get no such subsidies — the very idea is absurd. But getting a straight answer is as difficult as getting Lois Lerner's IRS emails.

In search of answers, Vitter proposed subpoenaing documents from the District of Columbia Health Benefits Exchange Authority. But his colleagues on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee recently voted (14 to five) to block the effort. They've tried to justify their lack of curiosity by calling the proposed subpoena an unnecessary "distraction" or an invitation to a "protracted" legal fight. But these are rather obviously lame excuses. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

The Choices Ahead for Hillary Rodham Clinton

April 27th 2015

With Hillary Clinton’s formal declaration that she is running for president, there has been a great deal of chatter from within her party that she is not liberal enough.

She needs to move left, some Democratic voices say.

Clinton, of course, lost the nomination to then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in 2008 because he got to her left and dominated the caucus states, where the base of the party has disproportionate influence.
By the time Clinton’s team seemed to realize what was happening, Obama had an insurmountable lead.

Could this occur again?

It seems unlikely. But even that is not the real story.

The real story is just how far left the Democratic Party has moved. Does Hillary move with it?

Just consider these facts and positions.

The Obama presidency has been built on the theme of class warfare. Read more ..


Greece on Edge

The 'Grexit' Issue and the Problem of Free Trade

April 21st 2015

Greek and EU flags

The Greek crisis is moving toward a climax. The issue is actually quite simple. The Greek government owes a great deal of money to European institutions and the International Monetary Fund. It has accumulated this debt over time, but it has become increasingly difficult for Greece to meet its payments. If Greece doesn't meet these payments, the IMF and European institutions have said they will not extend any more loans to Greece. Greece must make a calculation. If it pays the loans on time and receives additional funding, will it be better off than not paying the loans and being cut off from more?

Obviously, the question is more complex. It is not clear that if the Greeks refuse to pay, they will be cut off from further loans. First, the other side might be bluffing, as it has in the past. Second, if they do pay the next round, and they do get the next tranche of funding, is this simply kicking the can down the road? Does it solve Greece's underlying problem, which is that its debt structure is unsustainable? In a world that contains Argentina and American Airlines, we have learned that bankruptcy and lack of access to credit markets do not necessarily go hand in hand. Read more ..


Turkey on Edge

Turkey's "Sun of the Age"

April 10th 2015

Turk flags

Turkey is probably one of the best social laboratories in the world to prove why Islamist ideology cannot be compatible with a culture of humor, dissent and protest. It also offers a unique experience that shows how Islamists can even violate one of their religion's most fundamental teachings for the sake of worshipping a leader's cult of personality.

At a parliamentary session in February, Turkish deputies gathered to debate a controversial security bill. Instead of debate, a brawl broke out. The session ended after five MPs were taken to the hospital.

That bill, sponsored by the government but fiercely rebuked by the opposition, has just taken effect, adding to fears that Turkey is fast becoming a police state. Read more ..


Vote 2016

Emails and Hillary: The Private Deceptions of a Public Servant

April 9th 2015

Hillary Clinton

It looks like the convenient device theory Hillary Clinton has used to deflect inquiries as to why she used her private email account almost exclusively to conduct official business while serving as Secretary of State is a bunch of pure hogwash. It has become evident that in addition to her personal phone, she also used an I-pad connected to her personal email account to send and receive information related to her official duties. The story emerging from this strange and unprecedented breach of protocol, if not law and regulation, is that Hilary’s email shenanigans appear to be part of a deliberate attempt to withhold her communications from public – and partisan – scrutiny.

While the Clinton machine is ever so skilled at deflecting the core issues and focusing the media discussion on the irrelevant matter of personal convenience, she may have just been caught in her own web of deception. Not only do recently disclosed email communications indicate that Clinton used multiple devices, but they also show that at least on one occasion she replied to an official email with personal information. The implication here couldn’t be clearer. What is the likelihood that she also replied to personal communications with ‘official’ and possibly classified and sensitive information? Read more ..


Iran's Nukes

Russia Nervously Eyes the U.S.-Iran Deal

April 7th 2015

Iran Missiles

When a group of weary diplomats announced a framework for an Iranian nuclear accord last week in Lausanne, there was one diplomat in the mix whose feigned enthusiasm was hard to miss. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov left the talks at their most critical point March 30, much to the annoyance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who apparently had to call him personally to persuade him to return. Even as Lavrov spoke positively to journalists about the negotiations throughout the week, he still seemed to have better things to do than pull all-nighters for a deal that effectively gives the United States one less problem to worry about in the Middle East and a greater capacity to focus on the Russian periphery. Read more ..


Vote 2016

The Poverty of Identity Politics

April 2nd 2015

Armstrong_Williams

Imagine if the current President were a Republican, and if during the second half of his second term, after having been elected both times with record turnout by blacks, the black unemployment rate remained stagnant at 11 percent while the black poverty rate hit a record high of 27 percent. What would black politicians be saying about that Republican President?

We don’t really need to answer that question, do we? But for arguments sake, let’s imagine that almost seven years after the great recession the country was basically back to work, with an official unemployment rate haven fallen from almost ten percent at its’ height to around 5.5 percent (let’s save the argument about the real rate for another debate), while again the black community, which had overwhelmingly supported the Republican President (again let’s suspend belief for a moment) was experiencing rising poverty rates.

Furthermore imagine if under a Republican President there was a virtual epidemic of incidents of police brutality in predominantly black neighborhoods.   Record civil settlements over police brutality claims were paid out by the City of New York. And yet not one police officer was ever brought to trial in any of the incidents. Furthermore, despite a bunch of official hoopla, the Federal Government did not see fit to step in and bring civil rights lawsuits. What do you think the reaction of so-called black leaders would be?

Let’s take this a bit further. Let’s say that black unemployment was in fact highest in the cities with the most conservative Republican Mayors, like Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland (stay with me here). What if in Chicago, the Presidents’ home town, his right hand man had carpet-bagged his way to a mayoral win mostly on the backs of the black supporters of the President? Let’s imagine for a moment that in that town, under the President’s hand-picked Mayor, the black murder rate were to spiral to almost genocidal proportions. How do you think the Black leadership would respond to such a situation. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

The U.N.’s War on Israel

April 1st 2015

UN HQ NYC

The United Nations is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. It was intended to be a temple of peace, but this once great global body has been overrun by the repressive regimes that violate human rights and undermine international security.

In 1949, when the United Nations admitted Israel as a member state, it had 58 member countries and about half had a democratic orientation. Today, the landscape of the organization has changed drastically. From 51 member states at its founding in 1945, the institution has grown to 193 members — fewer than half of which are democracies.

The very nations that deny democratic rights to their people abuse the United Nations’ democratic forums to advance their interests. The largest of these groups comprises members from the 120-member-strong bloc known as the Non-Aligned Movement. Since 2012, the bloc has been chaired by Iran, which has used its position to bolster its allies and marginalize Israel. Read more ..


China on Edge

Financial Chinoiserie

March 31st 2015

Chinese currency

A most peculiar crisis is developing for the Chinese economy - and, indeed, for the regime -- while the world's attention is riveted on the chaos and terror in the Mideast and Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Not the smallest element is the clever manipulation by Beijing's strategists of the world's hopes for continued remarkable Chinese growth as a last call instrument to bail out a dawdling world economy.

That misapprehension of China's economic capacities may well forestall, again, at least for a time, an inevitable coming to grips with basic problems of it vast society under the Communist Party monopoly. But there is growing evidence that China's financial problems have reached a crescendo that Beijing can no longer manage.

In that marvelous game of speculation on one of the world's oldest cultures, I have always joked that the Chinese have two "extra" genes to others' DNA: one is an inordinate capacity for hospitality, and the other for unlimited risk at gambling. Both are in full flower at the moment. Read more ..


The Edge of Justice

A Catholic's Case for Capital Punishment

March 21st 2015

Prison bars

A group of Catholic publishers recently issued a joint statement urging an end to capital punishment. I have great respect for all of them – I have written for all of them at one point or another. I disagree with them on this issue, however. And it may be good to give some background about why I and many others disagree.
 
Most importantly, the Catholic Church's Magisterium does not and never has advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. The U.S. bishops have conceded that Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime. Even the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin – hardly a conservative – never stated that every criminal has a right to continue living, nor did he deny that the state has the right in some cases to execute the guilty. St. John Paul II, although opposed to most applications of the death penalty, thought the same.
Read more ..

Media on Edge

Re-Inventing Journalism With New Government Regulation

March 11th 2015

Newspapers

The FCC proposal to regulate the Internet may be the latest attempt to control content. The agency's 2010 "Future of the Media" inquiry was outside what federal law said the agency may look at. Nor does the agency have the expertise to properly evaluate company business models, corporate debt levels, newsroom staffing policies, or print industry operations. The Federal Trade Commission's "Reinvention of Journalism" study was equally disturbing. The FTC suggested licensing news organizations.  Or the government financing certain press outlets.  This could end independent media holding government accountable.

The National Broadband Plan to move all news, information and entertainment to broadband platforms was crafty, indeed.  The other shoe has now dropped.  First, move all content to broadband.  Then, regulate broadband. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

After Federal Court Finds that PA and PLO are Terrorist Groups, Obama Must Follow Suit and Cut Aid

March 1st 2015

Hamas head

History was made in a federal courthouse in New York City on Monday. After a six-week trial the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) were found liable under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act for six terrorist attacks occurring from 2002 through 2004 against US citizens in Jerusalem.

The federal civil jury of 12 unanimously awarded the victims and members of their families a total of $218.5 million, which will automatically be tripled by the judge under the Act.

The road to justice was long and arduous for the victims and their family members. It has taken over 11 years for them to marshal their resources with the help of a non-profit legal rights organization called Shurat Hadin (Letter of the Law) located in Israel. Their efforts together with the trial expertise of lead counsel Kent Yalowitz of the law firm of Arnold & Porter helped show the jury that the PA/PLO not only created a culture of support for suicide bombers and terrorists but also used their own employees to organize and perpetrate many of the bombings. Read more ..


Broken Government

Bi-Partisan Concessions Needed to Resolve Governance Crisis

February 23rd 2015

There is a great deal of frustration with the ineffective and feckless leadership in Washington, D.C. Putting partisanship aside does not mean compromising values. It is about moving the ball. Both sides need to do what needs to be done for America.

What Republicans should concede, at this time

Republicans are going to have to accept some not-so-good deals. The more conservative base needs to think forward, not about instant gratification. Enough screaming about the establishment, about libertarians or about some other label. They and others are all part of the Republican Party. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Pope Francis to Offer Surprises for Speaker John Boehner

February 18th 2015

Speaker John Boehner finally got something right. He invited Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress, when he visits Washington on Sept. 24. And this time, unlike his disastrous faux pas with Bibi Netanyahu, Boehner actually consulted ahead of time with the White House — after all, Francis is also a head of state — and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

What surprised official Washington is, the pope promptly accepted.

For Boehner, that’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that he’ll get credit for arranging the first appearance by any pope before the U.S. Congress. The bad news is that, just like a State of the Union address, Boehner will have to sit up there right behind Francis — with his every grin, grimace, groan and gesture broadcast worldwide. Read more ..


Campus Jihad

Divestment Compromises Academic Integrity

February 17th 2015

Boycott Israel

I used to believe in divestment.

Like many students who are allured by the social justice narrative of divestment, I believed that San Diego State divesting from companies invested in Israel’s military defense technology would help bring justice to the Palestinians.

But I realized that divestment would not achieve this.

After extensively researching the complicated and complex nature of the conflict, and speaking to various Israelis and Palestinians in Israel this past winter break on a sponsored trip, I found that I believe that the divestment campaign provides a dishonest, disingenuous and duplicitous perspective on the complicated history that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It blatantly appropriates the Palestinian narrative to simplify a conflict that is unfathomably complicated. To fully understand it, as educated students, we need to take all perspectives into account. Read more ..


America and Israel

Obama's Appeasers and Appeasement Policy

February 16th 2015

Click to select Image

While US President Barack Obama determinedly pursues his policy of appeasement, which may enable the world’s most dangerous terrorist state to become a nuclear threshold power, there are Israelis and American Jews who have initiated a campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The campaign calling for the maintenance of bipartisanship toward Israel is in reality undermining the hitherto strong bipartisan congressional opposition to the catastrophic US policy toward Iran.

Israeli opposition groups and the anti-Netanyahu media are now concentrating their efforts on discrediting Netanyahu and calling on the prime minister to cancel his address to the joint session of Congress scheduled for March 3.

Disregarding the gravity of the negotiations with Iran – the underlying reason for the invitation – they accuse Netanyahu of destroying the US-Israeli relationship by failing to obtain Obama’s advance approval to address Congress (which would never have been forthcoming). The White House even falsely alleged that Netanyahu accepted the invitation before they were aware of it. Read more ..


The Caliphate

Obama Finally Understands the Grave Threat Posed by the Islamic State

February 15th 2015

It turns out President Obama gets it. That the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a grave threat, that his air campaign may not be working well, that changes may be required and that Congress must participate in waging war. Obama hasn’t said this out loud, but his request for a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) acknowledges the threat, provides the means to confront it, denies the enemy safe haven and rightfully requires a new president and Congress to reassess the operation when he leaves office.

The draft AUMF bans “enduring offensive combat operations” but includes no geographic boundaries. It repeals the authorization for military action in Iraq that passed the Congress in 2002 but retains the broad powers the executive branch has to combat terrorists that Congress passed in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Where are the Adults at the White House?

February 9th 2015

Click to select Image

There is a very entertaining scene in the cult movie “Animal House” where the school band that is marching in the final scene’s parade takes a wrong turn, marches down a blind alley, runs into a brick wall and keeps on playing.

The band members continue with trumpets blaring and tubas tooting while they bang up against the brick wall on a dead-end street. The sergeant major remains oblivious to their state of affairs and just keeps trying to march on…into the wall.

It reminds one of the way the Republicans in Congress have been approaching the immigration issue. They really are the band from "Animal House." Read more ..


Israelis and Palestinians

Sunni Political Islam: Engine of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

February 7th 2015

Palestinian Rock Attackers

An oft-repeated sentiment currently doing the rounds in discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that it is imperative that the conflict not become a "religious" one. This sentiment, guaranteed to set heads nodding in polite, liberal company, stands out even within the very crowded and competitive field of ridiculous expressions of historical ignorance found in discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

This sentiment is connected to the recent wave of terror attacks in Jerusalem, which are the result of Palestinian claims that Israel is seeking to alter the "status quo" at the Temple Mount. As this theory goes, up until now this conflict had mainly been about competing claims of land ownership and sovereignty, but it is now in danger of becoming about "religion," and hence turning even more intractable. So this must be prevented.

In objective reality, the conflict between Jews and Arab Muslims over the land area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has been, from its very outset, inseparable from "religion." Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

America Needs to Hear Netanyahu, Regardless of Israeli Elections

February 5th 2015

Click to select Image

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes before the U.S. Congress next month, it said that he will call on the United States to press Iran with more sanctions and not allow a deal that would see Iran achieve a nuclear weapon. The issue of Iran aside, and it is a huge issue to put aside, pundits have called the invitation of Netanyahu by House Speaker John Boehner a partisan mistake that can damage the solid support Israel has in the U.S. and especially among both parties in Congress.

The pundits who believe it is their duty to forcefully support President Obama have said that Boehner had extended an invitation without consulting the president or congressional Democrats. Even more, they say that Netanyahu accepting is a thumb in the eye of Obama and will backfire.

Yet, the truth is in the correction the New York Times placed in a January 29th story, which reads:

Correction: January 30, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accepted Speaker John A. Boehner’s invitation to address Congress. He accepted after the administration had been informed of the invitation, not before
. Read more ..


The Diplomatic Jihad

Shelve the Schabas Report

February 4th 2015

Iron Dome sunset

The resignation of William Schabas from the U.N. international commission of inquiry of Operation Protective Edge reveals one of the main flaws inherent in these U.N. bodies. It also goes to show that the Israeli government was absolutely right to stand firm in refusing to have anything to do with Schabas, given his deep anti-Israeli orientation and the fact that he was, for a time, on the PLO's payroll.

Given that the bulk of the U.N. report on Israel's conduct in Gaza has already been completed under Schabas' chairmanship, whatever version the commission publishes in the weeks ahead will be highly suspect, even after Schabas' departure. The whole report should be shelved under these circumstances and the commission of inquiry should be dissolved.

How could the U.N. have hired Schabas to begin with? Back in 2009, I was asked by Brandeis University to take part in a debate with Justice Richard Goldstone, who led a U.N. fact-finding commission on an earlier Gaza conflict -- Operation Cast Lead. During the debate, one of the students in the audience asked Goldstone about the validity of his report, considering that the members of his commission had condemned Israel even before they began collecting any facts.

Read more ..

Campus Jihad

Anti-Israel BDS Movement Is Fashionable In Academia, But Far From Invincible

January 29th 2015

UC Davis swastika graffiti

While the global anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has officially hit America’s scholarly associations over the last two years, even considering academic boycotts is a dramatic rupture with the past. 

In 2005, the prestigious American Association of University Professors (AAUP) wrote that it “condemned any such boycotts as prima facie violations of academic freedom.” This bedrock principle was so valued that the AAUP opposed academic boycotts of apartheid South Africa. Three-hundred university presidents signed a letter in 2007 declaring that academic boycotts are “utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment.”

That consensus, however, began to crack in 2013. Anti-Israel animus started becoming academically fashionable with the rise of post-colonial, critical studies theory, and Israel’s self-defense after the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) in 2000 stoked these views.

Read more ..

Iran's Nukes

The Case Act: A Lesson from History

January 20th 2015

A movement is afoot on Capitol Hill to force President Obama to submit any agreement between the United States and Iran to lawmakers, even if it isn’t a treaty requiring ratification. The administration, not surprisingly, says there is no reason to do so. It is not terribly surprising that the president is not conversant with the 1972 Case Act (1 U.S. Code § 112b – United States international agreements; transmission to Congress). It is more surprising that those who disagree with the president don’t appear to have looked it up.

In 1969 and 1970, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee learned that significant covert agreements had been arranged between the U.S. government and South Korea, Laos, Thailand, Ethiopia, Spain, and more.

The Democrats at the time controlled both Houses of Congress, but it was Republican Senator Clifford Case (NJ) who authored the legislation that bears his name. The language is simple; the implications vast:

a) The Secretary of State shall transmit to the Congress the text of any international agreement (including the text of any oral international agreement, which agreement shall be reduced to writing), other than a treaty, to which the United States is a party as soon as practicable after such agreement has entered into force with respect to the United States but in no event later than sixty days thereafter.

However, any such agreement the immediate public disclosure of which would, in the opinion of the President, be prejudicial to the national security of the United States shall not be so transmitted to the Congress but shall be transmitted to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives under an appropriate injunction of secrecy to be removed only upon due notice from the President. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

True Insensitivity is Making Excuses for Murderers

January 15th 2015

French antiterror police squad

Last week terrorist attacked the offices of French satire magazine and murdered 12 people. Most of the Western World showed solidarity with France and thousands of millions declared “Je Suis Charlie.”

And then the inevitable backlash came. Naïve elements of the left joined with conservative dinosaurs like Pat Buchanan to say Charlie Hebdo was a racist magazine that should never have existed. The implication was clear: Charlie Hebdo had it coming. In fact, an Al Jezeera reporter said, “I guess if you insult 1.5 billion people chances are one or two of them will kill you.”

Too many, the issue becomes one not of freedom of speech and press, but freedom from ever hearing an offensive world or utterance. Read more ..


Oil Addiction

The Keystone Pipeline Project is Long Overdue

January 6th 2015

Click to select Image

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would ferry crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to the Gulf Coast, conveniently point to current lower oil prices as justification for President Obama's continued rejection of the project's permits. While it's true that oil prices have tumbled in recent weeks, there is much more to this saga that goes well beyond the price of a barrel of oil. For starters, there's the global oil market to consider. As well, policymakers must be vigilant about the nation's energy security interests and the needs of American consumers.

Let's begin with the global oil market. Prices are dropping because the OPEC has decided to continue pumping crude out of the ground despite oversupply in the marketplace. One reason for the oversupply is U.S. oil shale production, which has added 3 million barrels of oil a day and reduced the need for OPEC imports to the U.S. Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia is not happy about this situation and is responding as it did in the 1980s when domestic production was on the rise: by blatantly trying to eliminate U.S. competition (see here).

Recently, The Wall Street Journal quoted the Saudi Arabian oil minister, who was asked whether OPEC would soon act to cut exports: "Why should we cut production?" In the meantime, U.S. producers are asking why the Obama administration is putting them at a competitive disadvantage by blocking pipeline infrastructure. To be clear, this is not an issue for export competitiveness; it also impacts U.S. producers' capacity to compete here at home.

Which moves us to the energy security issue. For 40 years, we have sought to limit our dependency on imported oil. Yet, every time we experience positive momentum at home, OPEC wages a price war and we see a collapse in our domestic production. In 1985, on the eve of the last induced price collapse, the U.S. was importing 300,000 barrels per day (bpd). A mere five years later, we were importing almost 2 million barrels daily. At the same time, domestic production dropped 20 percent and continued to fall for another decade. Read more ..


Palestinians on Edge

After U.N. Defeat, Palestinian Unilateralism 'Losing its Luster'

January 1st 2015

Abbas UN statehood vote

Several months of campaigning for unilateral Palestinian statehood recognition culminated in a diplomatic blitz by the Palestinian Authority during the last few days of 2014. But the campaign ground to a halt on Dec. 30, when the United Nations Security Council rejected a Palestinian resolution that called for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank by 2017 and the establishment of a Palestinian state with borders based on the pre-1967 lines. 

It was the second such defeat for the Palestinians at the Security Council, the first coming in 2011.

“[The resolution’s failure] is no great surprise, since the United States has a veto [at the Security Council],” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS.org. “However, it was somewhat surprising that the Palestinians failed to garner the nine ‘yes’ votes to force a U.S. veto. This seems to suggest that the Palestinians failed to do enough diplomatic legwork before pushing for a last-minute vote at the Security Council.” Read more ..


Israel and Palestine

Waiting for the Caliph in Jerusalem

December 29th 2014

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In Israel the preaching of many imams close to the Muslim movement spreads hatred towards the West and those who are associated with it, such as Christians and Jews. Whilst they appear to be condemning the violence of Isis, in fact they await the arrival of the Caliphate to their home as well.

The so-called ‘Palestinian question’ has always had a predominantly political nature rather than a religious one. It is a question of the unresolved tension between the two nations, if one can call them as such. However in Israel in 1971 a political and religious party called ‘Muslim movement’ was founded by Shaykh ‘Abd Allah Nimr Darwîsh. Since 1989 it has been able to have some representatives in some Arab villages and cities, and from 1996 to elect representatives to the Knesset of Israel. Although there are different streams within the same party, causing divisions (today there are three streams with three different leaders), this movement gives the Palestinian issue a religious character. Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Is it Time to Reconsider the Observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day?

December 27th 2014

Since some of you may be incredulous that I even asked that question, let me first explain why I am doing so.

Over the last week, a scandal has erupted in Ireland regarding whether or not Israel can be mentioned at the forthcoming official Holocaust commemoration on Sunday, Jan. 25. (The official international remembrance day follows two days later.)

It was Yanky Fachler, the avuncular Irish-Jewish broadcaster who has been master of ceremonies of the event for several years now, who alerted the outside world to this development when he released a letter from Peter Cassells, the chair of Holocaust Educational Trust Ireland (HETI), informing him that he could not say the words “Israel” or “Jewish state” in any of his remarks. Read more ..


The Catholic Edge

Make Ready for Pope Francis

December 24th 2014

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What better time than Christmas to turn our thoughts to Pope Francis, a voice for our generation and all generations who teaches, as all great faiths teach, that those who have the most should extend their hands to those who have the least and that those who have power should serve those who do not.

Francis is the people’s pope. He is most popular public figure in the world because the people know it! Citizens in America and across the globe are ready for the people’s pope who embodies modesty over arrogance, justice over inequity, kindness over selfishness, love over hatred and faith in the teaching of Jesus over the cruelty of communism and poverty created by the excesses of capitalism in an economy he has called a “dictatorship” grounded in a “cult of money.” Read more ..


The Race for Natural Gas

Israel's Gas Dream -- the End May Be Near

December 23rd 2014

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In the five years since the discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields off the coast of Israel, the Israeli energy discourse has focused on questions like what to do with the gas, how much of it to export and to whom, and what the fairest distribution of profits would be among the gas partners, headed by Noble Energy and Delek Energy, and the Israeli public.

But after years of delays and billions of dollars spent, a new and increasingly likely scenario should be considered – the premature – and tragic – death of the Israeli gas dream. I alluded to this option in an August 2013 article titled “Israel’s Zero Gas Game” in which I warned that Israel has become so busy dividing the pie that its leaders forgot it must first be baked and that due to the failure of the  government to present a clear vision for the country’s energy sector, articulate the rights and responsibilities of foreign investors and most importantly set rules and stick to them, “the gas will be left in the ground and the startup nation will be more worthy of the title ‘shutdown nation’.” Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama and Castro: Who Doesn't Want Cuban Cigars?

December 22nd 2014

When the president of the United States moved to normalize relations with the communist nation, many on the right cried foul. One critic charged that the president was a terrible negotiator who acted "as though [c]ommunist intransigence could be overcome through concessions." Another said that the president had "undermined our national security."

These criticisms refer not to President Obama's new Cuba policy, but to President Nixon's opening to China in 1971. Nixon's critics were on the wrong side of history then, just as Obama's critics are now.

Few if any Americans today think that Nixon made the wrong move on China in 1971. His opening up of China drove a wedge between China and the Soviet Union. It impelled the Soviets to pursue arms control agreements with the United States. It helped the U.S. deal with China on the world stage and it opened up trade and commercial relations. Read more ..


The 2016 Vote

Are You Ready for Elizabeth?

December 20th 2014

After listening to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on NPR refuse four times to directly say that she will not run for president in 2016, I now believe the odds are 40 percent that she ultimately throws her hat into the presidential ring, which I do not advocate here.

After learning that Hillary Clinton will apparently continue her paid speaking tour through March 2015, I now believe Clinton is more ambivalent about whether to run than most commentators suspect.

After watching the sad performance of President Obama and Democrats in Congress as they orchestrated a stunning retreat from the limited Dodd-Frank financial reforms, endorsed losses from highly speculative Wall Street trading as being eligible for future bailouts, and legalized far more lavish spending by wealthy donors seeking to buy influence with both political parties, it is clear there is now a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

If Warren were a tech company, she would be called a disruptor. She is like the iPad, which did not exist five years ago but has revolutionized personal computing. Last week, Warren, as a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, denounced what other Democratic leaders and the Democratic president were doing. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Democrats are Sick of Obamacare

December 14th 2014

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Watching Jonathan Gruber testify before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee on Tuesday was likely too much for most Democrats to take, as he characterized his remarks describing Congress as tricking Americans into approving a new tax as “thoughtless,” as well as “mean,” “glib,” “uncalled for” and “embarrassing.”

It’s the very definition of the door hitting them on the way out. Four years after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed by only Democrats, the law has contributed to giving Republicans their strongest hold on Congress in more than a century and a half.

What’s even more frightening than the law’s unpopularity is the prospect of ObamaCare being dismantled by a coming Supreme Court review. Read more ..



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