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The Iranian Threat

The Army, the Congress and the Mullahs

February 16th 2013

Strait of Homurz1

While Republican members of Congress arm-wrestle the White House, battling over sequestration and debt limits, the mother of all sea-battles is brewing in the Persian Gulf. Whoever wins the budget struggle, it is likely the U.S. Navy will lose the fight to keep the Strait of Hormuz open, should Iran decide to close it.

There are awesome American naval forces in the Gulf that include carrier strike groups, cruisers, destroyers, guided missile frigates, submarines and other warships. These large targets are crammed into a very busy, shallow body of water with one entrance: the Strait of Hormuz, which is 21 miles wide at its narrowest point. Iran promises that if it suffers intolerable sanctions or a direct attack on its nuclear weapons program, it will close Hormuz, choking off 35% of the world's oil traded by sea. The U.S. Navy vows to keep the vital waterway open. What, then, will happen if all of the mullahs' naval, land and air weaponry is thrown against our fleet in the Gulf? We've known the answer for 11 years. Read more ..

Broken Government

The Hagel Filibuster and its Political Implications

February 15th 2013

Chuck Hagel

I’m late to the conversation about whether or not Republican efforts to insist on sixty votes for cloture on Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense constitutes a filibuster. Bernstein’s earlier piece ("This is what a filibuster looks like") and Fallows’ recent contribution provide good, nuanced accounts of why Republican tactics amount to a filibuster, even if some GOP senators insist otherwise. In short, the duck test applies: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then …. it’s a filibuster!

Still, I think there’s more to be said about the politics and implications of the Hagel nomination. A few brief thoughts:

First, let’s put to rest the debate about whether insisting on sixty votes to cut off debate on a nomination is a filibuster or, at a minimum, a threatened filibuster. It is. Even if both parties have moved over the past decade(s) to more regularly insist on sixty votes to secure passage of major (and often minor) legislative measures and confirmation of Courts of Appeals nominees, we shouldn’t be fooled by the institutionalization—and the apparent normalization—of the 60-vote Senate. Refusing to consent to a majority’s effort to take a vote means (by definition) that a minority of the Senate has flexed its parliamentary muscles to block Senate action. I think it’s fair to characterize such behavior as evidence of at least a threatened filibuster—even if senators insist that they are holding up a nomination only until their informational demands are met. Read more ..

Broken Banking

Break up the Banks

February 15th 2013

I Bailed Out a Bank

I agree with George Will about as often as the Boston Red Sox agree with the New York Yankees, but as the law of broken clocks suggests, we must both be right at least twice a day. Will has recently suggested that conservatives should consider joining the effort to “break up the banks.” As a progressive and populist I agree, and today I offer two separate proposals in the spirit of two late and great men, named Lloyd Bentsen and Jack Kemp.

First, regarding the breaking up of banks, let’s enact a capital gains tax cut for long-term investors in “too big to fail” banks whose boards and shareholders voluntarily spin off component businesses to effectively restore the Glass-Steagall separation of financial businesses.

Second, regarding the repatriation of American multinational corporate finances that are currently sitting abroad, which could bring back to America up to $2 trillion, let’s enact a tax holiday contingent on participating companies increasing their net American employment by 5 to 10 percent. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Hezbollah & Iran vs. U.S. "Containment"

February 14th 2013

Bus bombing, Bulgaria, 18 Jul 2012 out

The Bulgarians have concluded their investigation of the July 18, 2012, Burgas' bus bombing that killed five Israelis and the Bulgarian driver. They have named the instigators and participants and found Hezbollah responsible. They have done this despite pressure from Western Europe (especially Brussels) not to raise the hackles of who was responsible: namely, Hezbollah.

Interior minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov not only announced that at least two members of the bombing team were Hezbollah, but also that they were part of Hezbollah's military wing. ("Military wing" is an expression Western Europeans have long ago adopted to maintain the fiction that there are "civil" and "military" wings of terrorist organizations, such as the IRA, PLO and HAMAS. This has justified their negotiations with the terrorists). Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Abstract on Middle East Admits Jihadi Expansion Ignores Taliban After 2014

February 13th 2013


In his State of the Union speech of 2013, President Barack Obama addressed several crises in the Middle East and on the front of fighting terror. On Afghanistan President Obama assessed the outcome of his policies as a weakening of the Taliban and committed to a sustained withdrawal from the country while helping the Afghan Government to take the lead in military missions. The role of the US after withdrawal in 2014, according to Obama will be to assist the fight against al Qaeda. There was no mention of a fight against the Taliban after 2014. Does that mean that there will be a political engagement or even a partnership with the Taliban while pursuing combat with al Qaeda? How will that be to short of having the Taliban and al Qaeda splitting off? The Taliban is a Jihadist organization which is projected to make advances inside Afghanistan upon US and NATO withdrawal. It is to al Qaeda what bone is to flesh, cemented by ideology. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

On a Military Wing and a Prayer

February 13th 2013


Bulgaria's interior minister announced on Feb. 5 the result of his country's investigation into the July 2012 bombing of a bus filled with Israeli tourists in the city of Burgas, which killed five Israelis and the vehicle's Bulgarian driver. Two of the individuals who carried out the terrorist attack, he said, "belonged to the military formation of Hezbollah."

It was not by chance that his statement fingered only the military wing of Hezbollah, not the group as a whole. Within the European Union, the findings of the Bulgarian investigation have kicked off a firestorm over whether to add the Lebanese militant organization -- in whole, or perhaps just its military or terrorist wings -- to the EU's list of banned terrorist groups. But are there in fact distinct wings within the self-styled "Party of God"?

Hezbollah is many things. It is one of the dominant political parties in Lebanon, as well as a social and religious movement catering first and foremost -- though not exclusively -- to Lebanon's Shiite community. Hezbollah is also Lebanon's largest militia, the only one to keep its weapons and rebrand its armed elements as an "Islamic resistance" in response to the terms of the 1989 Taif Accord, which ended the Lebanese Civil War. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Reveals the Man Behind the Curtain

February 12th 2013

Obama Bowed Head

Free from the burdens of a reelection campaign, presidents who win second terms reveal themselves when they come to Congress to give their fifth State of the Union address. They can’t say the same thing that they just said in their inaugural address, because that would be really boring (not that most States of the Union aren’t boring. They are.).

George W. Bush revealed himself to be a confident gambler who decided to bet all of his chips on Social Security reform. Bill Clinton revealed himself to be a careful centrist, looking to achieve a detailed checklist of things that polled well in focus groups. Ronald Reagan revealed himself to be a poetic philosopher. Dwight Eisenhower revealed himself to be technocratic moralist, worried about corporate profiteers who might unnecessarily push up inflation.

Barack Obama will reveal himself to be a poll-tested populist progressive. He is not a careful pragmatist. He is not trying to find the vital center. Nor is he is trying to bring the country together, to find common ground between red and blue states. It is said that Obama will turn his attention again to jobs and the economy. This is the sixth time he has pivoted to jobs and the economy in the five years he has been president. He will do this not long after he decided to terminate his Jobs Council, a group of business leaders with whom Obama rarely met over the life of its tenure. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Why Obama Should Postpone Giving Advanced Weapons to Egypt

February 12th 2013


They were celebrating in Cairo the arrival of four new U.S. F-16s and the likelihood that the United States would give $2 billion in aid to Egypt this year. Yet given the ongoing violence in Egypt and the Islamist regime’s declaration of a state of emergency in three governates—a policy it and other opposition groups always rejected under the previous government—it is reasonable for the United States to postpone military gifts of F16s, advanced tanks, and other weapons to Cairo.

Regarding the state of emergency—and the state of democracy in Egypt–Mohamed Al-Kholi, a member of the upper house of Egypt’s parliament that approved the proposal, tweeted, “It is clear the Islamist-dominated council rejects listening to any kind of opposition and that it is just interested in rubber-stamping Morsi’s authoritarian measures.” Emad Gad, a political analyst for the state-controlled al-Ahram newspaper, warned, “The mobilization of [the] Shura Council [upper house of parliament] to endorse Morsi’s authoritarian measures offers renewed proof that the council exists solely to rubber-stamp Morsi’s decrees and promote the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood.” That was especially brave, by the way, since Gad knows the Muslim Brotherhood will soon be choosing his new boss. Read more ..

Islam On Edge

Arab Moderation Murdered: The Meaning of an Assassination in Tunisia

February 11th 2013

Chokri Belaid

And if the good men are murdered by the forces of political evil than they certainly cannot do anything. Hence, the outcome is assured. Thus, the “Arab Spring” has just been murdered with bullets and hijacked amid bloodstains. Here is the list of countries in the Middle East area currently ruled by Islamists: Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey. Syria will probably join them soon. Qatar has a pro-Islamist policy. Morocco technically has an Islamist government though the king neutralizes it in practice. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a strict Islamic regime but opposes the revolutionary Islamists though its money often spreads their doctrines elsewhere. Everyone is being forced into Sunni or Shia Islamist camps, backing radical forces in other countries so that their religious allegiance can conquer.

In this situation, only in Tunisia could the non-Islamists win fairly conducted elections. But an election isn’t fair if one side uses violence to ensure its victory and its ability to transform the country into a social-political dictatorship afterward. I know that whenever I write an article on Tunisia it will have fewer readers than other topics. That’s understandable from the standpoint that Tunisia is a small country with little international impact and limited U.S. interests. Read more ..

Taxing America

The Affordable Care Act and its Tax Support that You Almost Forgot About

February 10th 2013

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has a lot to do with tax policy, and the new taxes it created are starting to add up. A 2.3 percent medical device excise tax will raise $1.7 billion in revenues this year, while the new unearned income Medicare contribution tax on high-income savers will raise $20.5 billion. A tax on pharmaceuticals that took effect in 2011 will also raise $2.9 billion this year.

One of the next ACA taxes scheduled to take effect is a health insurance tax that will hit small businesses and their employees particularly hard. The tax is officially imposed on health insurance companies, but the greatest effect will be felt by their customers because the insurance companies will pass most of the burden on through higher premiums. An analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation found that the tax will raise insurance premiums on average by $350–$400 per affected family in 2016. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Mideast War and Peace

February 9th 2013

Obama Bibi

As President Obama prepares to visit the Middle East and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposes an Israeli government of national unity, let me suggest the United States work with leading nations to create a three-year, $1 trillion mini-Marshall Plan of aid, trade, loans and credits to become available to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and potentially others upon ratification of peace agreements between Israel and her neighbors.

In June, America will reflect on the 50th anniversary of the iconic speech by President Kennedy at American University that outlined the deadly dangers of a world plagued by the threat of nuclear extermination and offered a path to a better and safer world. Kennedy understood that it is not the job of statesmen to see the world as it is and complain but to envision the world as it can be and act. Read more ..

Edge of Terrorism

Obama, Drones, and the Imaginary World of the “War Against al-Qaeda”

February 8th 2013

The on-again, off-again debate is on again: Does the executive branch of the United States government ever have the right to assassinate American citizens without due process of law? A brave soul, who hopefully will remain nameless, has leaked an internal Justice Department “White Paper” outlining the Obama administration's reasons for answering “Yes.” A chorus of critical voices answers, just as loudly, “No.”

But most of the critics agree with the administration and its supporters on one point: The question here is about the executive’s power in wartime.

If that is indeed the question -- a big “if” -- history offers a certain kind of answer. Lincoln, Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt all pushed their constitutional authority to the limit during war -- and beyond the limit, critics in their own day and ever since contended. Yet the overreach of these three presidents (if overreach it was) did little to tarnish their reputations. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Should President Obama’s SOTU Mirror His Second Inaugural?

February 8th 2013


Former New York governor Mario Cuomo famously remarked that “You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose.”  His aphorism offers a concise summary of the relation between inaugural addresses and the State of the Union addresses that follow them.  Compare, for example, JFK’s soaring inaugural (“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you . . .) with his 1961 State of the Union, delivered just ten days later.  A sample sentence offers the flavor of the latter: “The overall deficit in our balance of payments increased by nearly $11 billion in the 3 years [1958-1960]—and the holders of dollars abroad converted them to gold in such a quantity as to cause a total outflow of nearly $5 billion of gold from our reserve.”  It is reasonable to expect that President Obama will execute a similar, if perhaps less abrupt, shift from the elevated poetry of his second inaugural to the more prosaic task of laying out a governing agenda for his second term. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

State of The Union: Refocus Economic Policy and Full Employment

February 8th 2013


Much of Washington’s punditry class has already issued a collective yawn over the prospects of the State of the Union, arguing (probably correctly) that the President’s inaugural was far more inspiring and interesting than anything we are likely to hear on Tuesday night. Yet the upcoming speech provides an important and rare opportunity for the newly re-elected president. While the proximity to last month’s inaugural festivities will probably depress viewership, it is still reasonable to expect that more than 30 million Americans will tune in on February 12 to hear what their commander-in-chief has to say. The State of the Union represents one of few moments of collective popular engagement in American politics. It is all too easy for those in Washington who spend their days following the political debates to forget this critical fact.

With so many Americans tuning in to hear what he has to say, what should President Obama offer? A renewed focus on equitable economic growth and full employment as his top economic policy priority, above and beyond the deficit. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Just Calm Down About that DOJ White Paper

February 7th 2013

MQ-1 Predator Drone

Okay, everyone, take a deep breath. Chill out. The DOJ’s “White Paper” on targeted killing is no big deal. Really. You wouldn’t know this from reading the somewhat breathless press coverage of the document, much of which offers a reasonable reader some confusion as to what the White Paper actually is.

The more responsible reporters have been reasonably careful. Michael Isikoff’s original story for NBC News calls the document a “confidential Justice Department memo,” and a “confidential Justice Department ‘white paper.’” Isikoff goes one to say that, “Although not an official legal memo, the white paper was represented by administration officials as a policy document that closely mirrors the arguments of classified memos on targeted killings by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.” Isikoff then says, rather more tendentiously, that the document authorizes the killing of U.S. citizens who are top operational Al Qaeda figures “even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.” This latter point is, to put it mildly, a stretch. Read more ..

Broken Borders

How the Politics of Immigration Reform Have Changed

February 7th 2013

Border Patrol-Arizona

Last Fall, it would have been hard to imagine Republicans and Democrats working together to fix our broken immigration system. The country was locked in highly polarized discussions about a number of major issues and political dysfunction in Washington created little hope of action on this contentious subject.

But now we have leading Democrats and Republicans who have announced their support of a bipartisan reform package. With the Senate moving towards action, House Republicans indicating we should be open to immigrants, and President Barack Obama making immigration reform a top priority, the country appears close to taking meaningful action on this important issue. While there are many hurdles yet to overcome, it is important to note the dramatic changes in the politics of immigration reform that have unfolded in the past few months. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Dereliction of Duty

February 6th 2013

Syria fighting injured baby

One of the stories obscured by recent revelations about the breadth of devastation in the two-year-old Syrian civil war is that of the Palestinian refugees of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. Yarmouk, the largest of nine official Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, has been targeted by both the Assad regime and rebel forces - killing many and forcing the reported exodus of at least half of its 150,000 residents (according to UN estimates). As recently as January 8, fighting in and around the camp killed 5,000 of the over 60,000 people killed over the past few months.

Complicating events further, many Palestinians have allied themselves with either the Assad regime's supporters, or rebel supporters, intensifying the internecine violence within the camp itself. Divisions have tended to reflect religious and secular fault lines within the Palestinian ideological spectrum. Secular/socialist groups like the PFLP-GC align with the Assad regime (as longstanding supporters) while Ikhwan/Hamas supporters side with the rebel militias. Yet, in a telling warning, the Assad regime cautioned the Palestinians not to aid the insurgency in its fighting against the regime with the hope of maintaining their historical support. Read more ..

Broken Tax System

The Downside of States as Laboratories for Tax Reform

February 6th 2013

Tax Protest

With state finances gradually improving, some Republican governors are turning their attention to fundamental tax reform. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has proposed replacing his state’s personal and corporate income taxes with higher sales taxes. Nebraska’s Dave Heineman and North Carolina’s Pat McCrory would do the same, broadening the sales tax base and perhaps including some previously tax-exempt services.

With Washington apparently stuck in gear on taxes among other issues, it may be tempting to see the states as leading a way to reform. Unfortunately, some of the proposals currently circulating—and the idea of states as laboratories for a fundamental federal tax reform—are fundamentally flawed.

First, as my Tax Policy Center colleague Ben Harris has noted, income-sales tax swaps would be regressive—or hit low income household the hardest. This is because low income households must dedicate a greater share of their income to consumption to achieve a basic standard of living and more of their consumption tends to go toward goods (which are taxed) versus services (which are typically not). These households also often benefit from income tax rebates which presumably would be wiped out along with the tax. Read more ..

The United States and Cuba

Now is the Time to End the United States' Isolation of Cuba

February 5th 2013

Cuba and heavy Chevy

The Obama Administration should be prepared to take, in quick progression, three important initial steps to trigger a speedy rapprochement with Cuba: immediately phase out the embargo, free the Cuban five, and remove Havana from the spurious State Department roster of nations purportedly sponsoring terrorism. These measures should be seen as indispensable if Washington is to ever mount a credible regional policy of mutual respect among nations and adjust to the increased ideological diversity and independence of the Latin American and Caribbean regions.

Washington’s path towards an urgently needed rehabilitation of its hemispheric policy ought to also include consideration of Cuba’s own pressing national interests. A thaw in US—Cuba relations would enhance existing security cooperation between the countries, amplify trade and commercial ties, and guarantee new opportunities for citizens of both nations to build bridges of friendship and cooperation. Read more ..

Broken Government

The Empire Strikes Back on Groundhog Day

February 5th 2013

Star Wars Darth Vader

The Groundhog Day New York Times headline screamed, “Top Donors to Republicans Seek More Say in Senate Races.”

Now there’s a man bites dog. Big money wants more power. Who’da thunk it?

Steven J. Law, president of American Crossroads, the super-PAC creating the new project explained, “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.” American Crossroads, which spent nearly $400 million in the past election cycle without much effect, has given the group the Orwellian name of the Conservative Victory Project (CVP).

The purpose of the CVP is to ensure that Republicans nominate approved candidates like Denny Rehberg, Tommy Thompson and Rick Berg, rather than unapproved candidates like Christine O’Donnell, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

United Nations: Convergence of Hypocrisy, Deceit, and Evil

February 4th 2013

Isi Leibler headshot

Israel was the first country to boycott the annual human rights review presented at the bogus United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Despite being tacitly rebuked by the US, Israel was justified in doing so. For years, whilst ignoring the rampant denial of human rights and the butchering of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians throughout the world, the proceedings of this despicably biased body were concentrated on relentlessly condemning, demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state.

Recent examples include the defamatory 2009 Goldstone Report – subsequently recanted by Goldstone himself – accusing Israel of willfully engaging in war crimes, despite having a track record of minimizing civilian casualties in war unmatched by any other country. A year later it again condemned Israel for “attacking” Turkish terrorist “humanitarians” on board the Mavi Marmari of the Gaza ”peace” flotilla.

Israel’s decision to boycott the hearings was vindicated on January 31 when, based on largely fabricated Arab and hostile NGO sources, the UNHRC proclaimed that Israel’s settlements over the green line were in breach of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and accused it of indulging in gross “violations of human rights law”. The review made no reference to the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists.

It warned that if Israel failed – with no preconditions – to dismantle construction and withdraw from these areas, charges of war crimes at the International Criminal Court could ensue. This amounted to a UN body purporting to promote human rights, demanding the ethnic cleansing of disputed territories.

The Council also called on governments and multinational corporations to withdraw investments and sever all dealings with settlements – effectively providing notice of intent to impose sanctions. Had Israel submitted its case in advance to such a kangaroo court, it would merely have legitimized the procedure. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Managing State: Some Advice for John Kerry

February 3rd 2013

John Kerry

The back-to-back Senate testimonies of secretary of state nominee John Kerry and sitting Secretary Hillary Clinton served up quite a contrast: the former outlining the big policy ideas he intends to pursue; the latter delving into the details of bureaucratic information-dissemination and decision-making. There is an important lesson in this disparity: a secretary of state's legacy can depend just as much on management of the State Department as on foreign policy acumen.

America's foreign policy agenda has ballooned to encompass countless issues, many of which are little noticed domestically yet can consume enormous diplomatic effort for the U.S. government. The secretary of state is responsible for around 60,000 employees, hundreds of U.S. diplomatic missions, and a multi-billion dollar budget. It is inevitable that he will succeed or fail not merely on the strength of his personality or individual effort, but through the decisions and actions of those subordinate to him and often working at a vast distance from Washington. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Secretary of State Kerry Shows He Doesn’t Have a Clue About How Foreign Policy Works

February 3rd 2013


During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State-designate John Kerry was only given a tough time by one questioner, Senator Rand Paul. The exchange between them is interesting not just because of the specific topic, but also because of what it shows about basic foreign policy philosophy — and ignorance — on Kerry’s part.

It is a genuine problem. The leader of a “friendly” nation has been exposed for making anti-Semitic remarks. The United States wants to continue aid to avoid instability in that country that would contribute to even further radicalization, and to use U.S. leverage to produce the best possible outcome.

Unfortunately, Kerry subscribes — as is so fashionable today in the Obama administration and academia — to what I’ll call the “abusive relationship approach” to foreign policy.

If another country supports you and is good for your interests, you take that country’s good will for granted and mistreat it. If another regime — say, Turkey, Pakistan, Venezuela, Egypt, and, at times in the recent past, Syria and Iran — walks all over you, then you chase after it all the more passionately and shower it with presents. Read more ..

Israel's New Northern War

Does Iran Have Another War in Mind?

February 2nd 2013

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Iraeli jets struck something Tuesday night; Wednesday's guessing game was, "What was it?"

First reports from Western news services said the Israeli Air Force hit a convoy of weapons moving west from Syria toward, or even in Lebanon. A Lebanese army source said nothing was hit there and a sometimes-but-not-always-reliable source said it wasn't a convoy at all, but an arms depot near the Jamaraya institute, which some people think works on non-conventional weapons. A Syrian military statement said Israel had hit Jamaraya. U.S. officials said it was a convoy. At least one Western report said there was uranium involved.

In any event, Israel quickly dispatched high-level government and military officials to Russia and the United States to provide additional information and, perhaps, to alert those governments to additional threats. Read more ..

The New Egypt

Egypt: A Crisis of Confidence

February 2nd 2013


January 25 marked the two-year anniversary of the revolution that overthrew Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. This charged event alone would have been enough to cause tensions in the streets; the same-day release of court verdicts on the soccer clashes in Port Said Stadium last February made a flare-up inevitable. The chaos that has spread since that poorly-timed decision however is being driven by something more fundamental: a deep crisis of confidence.

Egypt’s citizens are taking to the streets again – for different reasons – with one message: We no longer have confidence in the Morsi government to steer us forward.

In Tahrir Square, the usual crowd of liberals and secularists has returned to familiar territory, replicating scenes from the now-infamous 18 days of riots that overthrew Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship, but there are two key differences: Chants of “down with the regime” are directed toward the elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and members of the underground movement of anarchists called the Black Bloc, dressed in black and wearing ominous balaclavas, have joined the protestors. Read more ..

America on Edge

Scalia’s Dead Constitution

February 1st 2013

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

In the latest example of how the distemper of the right infects the rule of law in America, and why President Obama would enhance his legacy by moving to fill ALL federal judicial vacancies within 60 days, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has reiterated his opinion that the Constitution is not a living document that should reflect the lessons of history but is, instead, a stale document that is (in his words) “dead, dead, dead.”

This radical notion of the law, which is held by many federal judges appointed by previous presidents, would turn back the clock against two hundred years of American experience and jurisprudence. 

If Scalia had served when John Marshall was as our nation’s chief justice, his “dead” Constitution theory would have presumably led to him rule that slavery was constitutionally sanctioned at that time. Scalia would have presumably ruled that the beating and whipping of slaves was constitutionally protected, because slaves were then regarded as the private property of slave owners, with no more rights than dogs or shoes, and not as American citizens guaranteed constitutional protection. Read more ..

The Hillary Edge

A Report Card for Hillary

January 31st 2013

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton has just concluded four tumultuous years as secretary of state, and already, as though in anticipation of a possible presidential run in 2016 (not announced but assumed by Washington pundits), she faces a groundswell of criticism about her time as the nation’s number-one diplomat.

The basic line is that she didn’t succeed at anything big. She accumulated enough mileage for first class air travel for the rest of her life—and Bill’s. But she didn’t win a ticket to the Foggy Botton Hall of Fame. Her record of accomplishment, it is asserted, is disappointing. No peace agreement in Afghanistan. Failure in Israeli-Palestinian negotiation. Reset with Russia: a big zero. Syria: a frightening disaster. Benghazi: her biggest embarrassment. And Iran? Further negotiations possible, but nothing on the near horizon to suggest a deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Yet, though this record may be bleak, I would still give her an A-, which, in graduate school, is not a bad grade. My reasoning follows: Read more ..

Inside America

Milestones in the Arc of History Towards Justice

January 31st 2013

Martin Luther King I have a Dream crowds photogs

Anniversaries are, strictly speaking, not necessary, but neither is art, friendship, or many other of the most important things in life. We observe them by taking time out of the present to remember the past. It is a way of “marking time,” of measuring ourselves against the great and the bad who have foregone us.

​Right now, the Library of Congress is exhibiting drafts of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in his own hand, in honor of its 150th anniversary. I recommend viewing these profound two pages of Lincoln’s cursive, which show us both the boldness and the vulnerability of the greatest of our leaders.

It is hard to believe how long ago it was: not very long at all. A century and a half is, from the perspective of history, or even a lifetime, not much. It is two lifetimes, back to back. In the course of human history, it is a dream of a shadow; from the perspective of universal history, it is nothing at all. Read more ..

Economic Jihad

Brooklyn College’s Anti-Israel Hatefest

January 30th 2013

Alan Dershowitz lecture

Why is Brooklyn College’s political science department officially sponsoring a one-sided event that calls for divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel?

On Feb. 7, the college will be hosting a “forum” at which speakers will call for Israel to be singled out among all the nations of the world for this form of delegitimation. There will be no one presenting any other position.

Among the sponsors of this propaganda hate orgy are the usual anti-Israel groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine. That is not surprising. What is shocking and wrong is that an academic department of a City University of New York senior college is also an official sponsor. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Senator Hagel and Nuclear Weapons

January 30th 2013

Chuck Hagel

Critics of Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense cite his views on nuclear arms reduction, including his endorsement of a proposal to cut U.S. nuclear weapons to 900 and his membership in Global Zero, as potentially dangerous to U.S. security. Are Hagel’s positions really over the top?

The senator endorsed a proposal to reduce to 900 total nuclear weapons in a 2012 Global Zero paper. That might be too low for the next step after the New START Treaty. In a recent book—The Opportunity: Next Steps in Reducing Nuclear Arms—Mike O’Hanlon and I proposed a new U.S.-Russia treaty to cut each side to 2000-2500 total nuclear weapons, in large part because we doubt Moscow would agree to go lower without bringing in third-country nuclear arsenals.

The Global Zero paper called for eliminating all intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and maintaining 450 nuclear weapons deployed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles and at bomber bases, with another 450 weapons held in reserve. I personally would prefer to keep some ICBMs in the force mix. That said, if our nearest peer competitor, Russia, also reduced to 900 total weapons, what would be wrong with the outcome? The United States could still maintain a secure, reliable, effective and powerful nuclear deterrent; each of the 900 weapons would be many times the explosive force of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Such an agreement, moreover, could offer significant defense budget savings, particularly as we face tough decisions on recapitalizing our strategic nuclear systems. Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Welcome to State of Palestine?

January 29th 2013

PLO Flags

Nationalism and peoplehood are just part of the ingredients of statehood, or rather state building. Pronouncing their existence does not actually connote that the work is actually being done. The best illustration of this imaginary state is the newly inaugurated Palestinian one, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas officially changed his government's name to "the State of Palestine" in an attempt to implement, albeit cosmetically, the recent UN vote granting it status of nonmember observer state.

Therefore, US United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice unequivocally stated that the US does not recognize the "State of Palestine" and that "the only way to establish a real Palestinian state is through the painstaking work of direct negotiations on final-status issues, without preconditions, between the Israelis and Palestinians." Yet, the question of what stands behind this declaration still remains. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Oil Industry Stages Another Sham Anti-Ethanol Press Conference

January 29th 2013

Oil Barrels

This morning, the American Petroleum Institute held their latest telephone press conference in their continuous attempt to undermine any alternative fuel solutions and keep us addicted to gasoline.

The information released by the API today during the press conference added nothing new or significant in their fallacious assault on ethanol…except one thing. The two presenters took on the surprisingly conciliatory pretense of “having nothing against ethanol.” They went so far as to say that there are fine “blending qualities” about ethanol.

They just don’t want it living in their neighborhood, so to speak.

API did what they have done for decades: they made up lies and insinuations, and they mischaracterized ethanol. To listen to them, anyone would think that vehicles that run on gasoline never experience any engine breakdowns or system failures, and that fuel pumps, fuel lines, pistons and cylinder walls only ever show signs of wear if alcohol somehow gets into the fuel system. They warned about consumers experiencing roadside breakdowns and costly repairs because of E15 use. What? Are they suggesting that the millions of vehicles that have broken down over the past 100-years only broke down because they used fuel other than gasoline? Read more ..

The Nuclear Edge

If Nuclear Weapons are Useless, Why are Iran, North Korea, China and Russia Building Them?

January 29th 2013

Russia May Day soldiers missile

Senator Chuck Hagel, while signing up to the timetable for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, also said in the 2009 Al Jazeera interview, that nuclear weapons can be abolished because they no longer need to play a traditional deterrent role. As part of this strategy, Hagel proposes to "de-alert" our weapons, making them unusable in a crisis. This raises the question of why any adversary would also volunteer to put its nuclear warheads in reserve and significantly delay its own ability to use such weapons, especially when doing so is largely unverifiable.

The "Global Zero" campaign to "zero out" all nuclear weapons is pressuring the US to set an example for the rest of the world to follow, by dramatically cutting its nuclear forces even further to a level not seen since the dawn of the nuclear age 60 years ago.

This cutback is on top of the already considerable 90% reduction -- since the height of the Cold War in 1981 -- in our deployed strategic nuclear forces, as well as a similarly significant reduction in our reserve stockpile and our tactical nuclear weapons. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Kerry's First Task is a Firm Stand on Venezuela

January 28th 2013

Hugo Chavez

“Depending on what happens in Venezuela, there may really be an opportunity for a transition there,” incoming U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate hearing Thursday, alluding to the expectation that Hugo Chavez may soon lose his bout with cancer. Unfortunately, at this very moment, Mr. Chavez’s cronies are doing whatever is necessary to hold on to power indefinitely. The most Mr. Kerry may be able to do is convince Mr. Chavez’s successors to end the dangerous alliances with drug traffickers, Iran and Hezbollah that pose a growing threat to U.S. security.

Until now, most of the U.S. foreign policy establishment has ignored the growing body of evidence that homegrown narco-traffickers in Colombia, Central America and Mexico have teamed up with Hezbollah to conduct criminal operations on our doorstep. What’s worse, this narco-terrorist alliance is aided and abetted by the governments of Venezuela and Iran. To put it bluntly, this is not mere criminal activity — it is asymmetrical warfare. Read more ..

The New Egypt

U.S. Gets It Wrong on Egypt Again

January 28th 2013


Protests planned around Egypt -- particularly in Cairo's Tahrir Square -- on the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution are expected to be an explosion of dissent, revealing the deep divisions in the country between President Mohamed Morsy and the Egyptian people.

Opposition to Morsy's authoritarianism is broader than the world recognizes. In making accommodations for Morsy's government, the United States is -- once again -- out of step with the Egyptian people.

Egyptians may not know exactly what they want, but they know what they don't want. Although an effective political opposition has yet to coalesce, Egyptians from all sectors of society are united in their refusal to accept another repressive regime.

Egypt is on a collision course. An ever growing, if periodically discouraged, portion of the population opposes the government and Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood, and supports the revolution's goals of social and economic justice, accountable government, and basic freedoms, including freedom of expression and protection of minorities. Yet the government is moving in exactly the opposite direction, with its authoritarian control over political, social, and religious life. Read more ..

Broken Immigration

Immigration: A Problem-Solving Approach

January 27th 2013

Stop the Raids immigration protest

In his second inaugural address, President Obama stated that America will not reach its potential without immigration reform.

Although his reference was grandly vague, the President is expected to soon begin blazing the trail toward legislation that comprehensively overhauls the American immigration system. Congress has tried this before—with little to show for it except more division and multiplying challenges.

The problems in our immigration policy cannot be effectively solved in a comprehensive piece of legislation, because comprehensive is really just a code word for what will be a confusing, complicated, convoluted, and contentious bill that will create as many problems as it purports to solve.

Heritage’s Matt Spalding, Jessica Zuckerman, and James Carafano explain that “just as the many aspects and elements of immigration are not all the same and immigrants in this country are not a monolithic block, there is not one comprehensive policy that will deal with all matters all at once.” Read more ..

The Hillary Edge

Hillary Turns Texas Blue

January 26th 2013

Hillary Clinton in blue

The Lone Star State is headed blue — the only question is WHEN Texas becomes a Democratic state. If Hillary Clinton runs for president, she will have a fighting chance of carrying Texas, which shares revolutionary demographic trends rewriting the rules of politics, and of creating opportunities for Democrats to regain control of the House and achieve a national realignment of Rooseveltian magnitude.

No less an authority than Karl Rove is known to have been worrying about the political future of Texas for years, with good reason. If Clinton were to run in 2016, she would attract a giant surge of the demographically powerful Hispanic vote, an equally giant surge of the equally powerful women’s vote, a strong surge of support from younger voters who are developing lifetime habits of voting Democratic, and strong support from seniors and boomers. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

GOP Ready for Round II

January 26th 2013

john Boehner

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) isn’t ready for the dustbin of history — whether it is President Obama or the conservative members of his own conference who want to “shove” him there. After the best week in, well, perhaps his entire Speakership, Boehner told a crowd at the Ripon Society Wednesday that he thinks Obama is trying to annihilate the GOP, but that he is “up for the fight.”

“Given what we heard yesterday about the president’s vision for his second term, it’s pretty clear to me that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans,” Boehner said, according to a transcript of the speech. “So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party. And let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal — to just shove us into the dustbin of history.” Read more ..

Israel Reality

Samaria as You've Not Seen it Before

January 25th 2013

Nablus from the Mountain
Nablus - Area near Joseph's Tomb

Unless one takes a personal, honest, up-close look at Samaria, it will remain an occupied territory; the haven of fringe settlers trying to displace Palestinians and stymie the peace process. That is unless you actually go there and see the region up close, talk to the people who live there and understand the size, demography and conditions the people live with. Is it a perfect situation? By no means; but is it the obstacle to peace and the bane of the Palestinian existence? Hardly!

Deciding that the issue was too important to leave to the narratives presented by Rachel Madow, Wolf Blitzer, J-street, Peace Now, or the myriad of people and advocacy groups that insist on presenting Israel as an oppressive regime, I planned a visit to the Shomron for me, my 14 year old son and my 15 year old nephew. With the help of a friend, Knesset Member Danny Danon, who arranged this for us during the week of Israel's elections, we took a trip that none of us will soon forget. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

It’s Called the Vietnam Syndrome, and It’s Back

January 25th 2013

John Kerry

It had never really left—what was widely referred to as the “Vietnam syndrome”--but it has now returned unmistakably, certain to exercise a major influence on American foreign policy during President Barack Obama’s second term in office. It is the belief, born of brutal experience during the Vietnam War, that never again will the United States gradually tiptoe into questionable wars without a clearcut objective, overwhelming military force, an endgame strategy and, most important, the support of Congress and the American people. In today’s world of terrorist threat and guerrilla war, the Vietnam syndrome means, if nothing else, a fundamental reluctance to commit American military power anywhere in the world, unless it is absolutely necessary to protect the national interests of the country. The Vietnam syndrome is a giant step away from hard-edged policies, such as President George W. Bush’s adventurous plunge into Iraq in 2003, and toward softer-edged policies, such as President Obama has pursued in his measured anti-Qaddafi approach to the Libyan revolution and his careful, arms-length-away attitude to the complicated mess in Syria. Read more ..

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