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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.

Media on Edge

Re-Inventing Journalism With New Government Regulation

March 11th 2015


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

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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

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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

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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
.

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.


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.


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

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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


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 ..

Oman on Edge

Will Even Oman Now Face Turmoil?

December 11th 2014

Arab Oil Derick

Will Oman survive the end of Sultan Qaboos? The 74-year-old ruler, who modernized the country and kept it safe from most Middle East turmoil for almost half a century, is said to be terminally ill. His birthday — the sultanate's national holiday — was not celebrated last month. And Qaboos is childless.

He has selected three of his closest relatives as potential heirs. The final choice will be made by the Royal Family Council. Should any problem arise, the matter will be settled by the National Defense Council.

Upon landing in Muscat, the capital city, visitors immediately realize that Oman is very different from other Gulf countries. Forget the skyscraper extravaganzas of Kuwait City, Manama, Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. By law, buildings in Muscat must be built in stone or similar traditional materials, and must follow a low-rise, castle-like architectural pattern. Forget also the other states' apartheid-style system of Bedouin minorities lording over majorities of immigrant workers: in Oman, 70% of the 3.2 million inhabitants are native citizens. Read more ..

America Doesn't Have a Race Problem: America is the Problem

December 8th 2014

One week after a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson came word Wednesday that a grand jury in New York would not be indicting NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner; that’s despite the fact that Garner’s death was: 1. Ruled a homicide; 2. Due to a chokehold maneuver that has been banned by the NYPD; 3. Captured on video.

Garner’s haunting last words, “I can’t breathe,” have become a rallying cry for the many demonstrating in New York and elsewhere—just as “Hands Up” did in the wake of Michael Brown’s death.

I can feel that same discomfort in my throat that I know he must have felt.

But since last week’s decision in St. Louis County, another set of words have stayed planted in my mind. Four of them, to be exact. They were uttered by Michael Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, shortly after last week’s grand jury decision. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Even When Necessary, Violence Defiles Us All

December 7th 2014

From beginning to end, Genesis 34 tells a terrifying story. Dina, Jacob’s daughter – the only Jewish daughter mentioned in the entire patriarchal narratives – leaves the safety of home to go out to “look at the daughters of the land.” She is raped and abducted by a local prince, Shechem, son of the king of the town known as Shechem.

Jacob learns of this fact but does nothing until his sons return. Shimon and Levi, Dina’s brothers, immediately realize that they must act to rescue her. It is an almost impossible assignment. The hostage-taker is no ordinary individual. As the son of the king, he cannot be confronted directly. The king is unlikely to order his son to release her. The other townspeople, if challenged, will come to the prince’s defense. It is Shimon and Levi against the town: two against many. Even were all of Jacob’s sons to be enlisted, they would still be outnumbered. Read more ..

The 2016 Vote

Jeb Bush is Stuck in Neutral

December 7th 2014

Guess who isn’t running for president? Jeb Bush. Just listen to him.

The GOP presidential race is frozen until the former Florida governor makes his decision, and he sounds like a man ready to run for the hills. Asked about his thinking this week, Bush was blunt: “It’s a big sacrifice because it’s a pretty ugly business right now,” he said.

In addition, Bush has not abandoned or amended his support for immigration reform and Common Core education standards, and both are deal-breakers with the far right. Though he said he knows how a Republican can win — a candidate must be more “uplifting” and “positive,” and willing to “lose the primary to win the general” without violating your principles” — Bush conceded, “It’s not an easy task, to be honest with you.” He wondered aloud if he could “lift people’s spirits and not get sucked into the vortex.”

Israel on Edge

A New "Goldstone" Report Fueled by Groups Within Israel Itself

December 1st 2014

Richard Goldstone

After Operation Cast Lead in 2008, the United Nations issued what is now known as the "Goldstone Report". An investigative committee led by Judge Richard Goldstone produced a report alleging that Israeli soldiers had not only intentionally targeted civilians, but that it was official Israeli policy to do so.

Israel strenuously objected to this biased report, and in 2011, Judge Goldstone repudiated the report, writing that "... had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document" and "I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have ... evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.”

Judge Goldstone bemoaned the fact that the government of Israel chose not to participate in the investigation initiated by some of the most heinous human rights violators on the planet.  

However, the Goldstone report was full of information provided directly from sources within Israel. More than 90% of the information accusing Israel of war crimes was provided by Israel based NGO's, such as B'Tselem and Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence). Both of these organizations receive a significant portion of their funding from the New Israel Foundation. Read more ..

Oil Addiction

Oil Prices Plunging--OPEC and Russia On Their Knees

November 29th 2014

Arab Oil Derick

In a way, the message of OPEC’s inaction today—deciding not to cut supply—is analogous to the challenge that confronted GM and Microsoft in recent years: if it wants to remain relevant in a world it once dominated, and at times made tremble, it needs to change its game.

For much of the rest of the world, including great power-consuming nations like the US and China, the message is very different—that of an ill-defined but temporary window in which to solve big strategic problems until very recently thought to be intractable.

The trigger for this new state of affairs is dual—the US shale-oil boom, which has wholly muffled the geopolitical disruptions behind previously skyrocketing oil prices, and soft demand from a transforming Chinese economy. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Challenge Presented to America by the Ferguson Tragedy

November 27th 2014

With federal investigations into the killing of black American teenager Michael Brown in train, it may be some time before the rage over police officer Darren Wilson’s actions and his exoneration by a grand jury dies down. But when it does, the soul-searching over root causes of this and similar fatalities will need to continue.

Looking beyond the burning issue of whether the United States justice system is inherently racist, many commentaries have already pointed to persistent and growing disparities between blacks and whites (and Hispanics and Asians…) in health, education and employment as one of the deeper causes of friction between the law and black communities. The increasing segregation of black and white America thanks to white flight, and the latter’s consequent lack of understanding of black problems is another. Read more ..

The Way We Are

An Odd Reason to Advocate Same-Sex Marriage

November 26th 2014

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A Mississippi woman wants the state Supreme Court to recognise gay marriage – so that she can divorce a partner she married in San Francisco.

Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, a 52-year-old credit analyst, who already had two children from a failed heterosexual marriage, moved to California in 2008 so that she could marry Dana Ann Melancon. But the relationship soured and they separated in 2010.

When Ms Czekala-Chatham, who now has a new girlfriend, applied for a divorce, citing adultery and habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, she failed. The state predictably argued that Mississippi could not grant a divorce for a marriage which it did not recognise. It was a result that she found devastating. In her eyes, divorce was an important dimension of the social recognition of marriage. Read more ..

America and Israel

American Jews Fund Anti-Israel Activities

November 24th 2014

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On the Israeli political spectrum, there are positions that are out of the realm of acceptable values on both the extreme right and the extreme left.

As Israel has seen a new string of violent and deadly terror attacks, a Knesset Member from the extreme left-wing Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg, went to Kafr Kanna to show her solidarity with the terrorist who was killed while trying to stab Israeli police officers – Khair al-Din Hamdan. She proclaimed that the officers who defended themselves were “part of the policy of racist discrimination directed against the Arab minority in Israel, a policy directed and implemented from on high by the Prime Minister and his cabinet.” Read more ..

The Way We Are

Who Will Stop Wal-Mart's 'Wreaking Havoc' on the American Dream?

November 24th 2014

For the third consecutive year, Wal-Mart workers and thousands of their community allies will participate in strikes and protests nationwide on Black Friday to demand higher wages, better working conditions, consistent scheduling and full-time work. In recent weeks, labor actions at the world's largest retailer have escalated. Wal-Mart workers at more than 2,100 stores nationwide signed a petition requesting that the company commit to paying its workers $15 an hour and provide them with "consistent, full-time hours." Wal-Mart workers in the Los Angeles area participated in the company's first-ever sit-down strikes. Outside the stores, their actions attracted the support of many community organizations, including teachers, environmental groups, clergy members and civil rights leaders. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

The Iguala Dissappearances: A Historical Watershed for Mexico and a Vital American Issue

November 21st 2014

Mexico memorial

The disappearance and presumed death of 43 students from Iguala, Mexico is symptomatic of a much more serious problem.
According to the government, the students, who have been missing since late September in the State of Guerrero, were killed and burned by members of the gang, Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors). It was the police, themselves, in the town of Iguala who handed over the students to the gang. The Guerreros Unidos are among the major traffickers of poppy and marihuana in Mexico.
The young students aspired to become teachers in rural areas in the State of Guerrero. They traveled to Iguala in order to raise funds for their schools. According to Mexican Attorney General, Jesus Murillo Karam, the Mayor of Iguala and his wife instructed the local police to attack the students to prevent disruption of an event organized by the wife. These same students had come to Iguala before to protest   the assassination of the leader of the Farmers’ Union, presumably at the hands of the Mayor, himself. Read more ..

The Human Family

Redeeming the Darkness in the World through Love

November 20th 2014

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I want this morning to begin our conversation by one way of telling the story of the most beautiful idea in the history of civilization: the idea of the love that brings new life into the world. There are of course many ways of telling the story, and this is just one. But to me it is a story of seven key moments, each of them surprising and unexpected. The first, according to a report in the press on 20th October of this year, took place in a lake in Scotland 385 million years ago.

It was then, according to this new discovery, that two fish came together to perform the first instance of sexual reproduction known to science. Until then all life had propagated itself asexually, by cell division, budding, fragmentation or parthenogenesis, all of which are far simpler and more economical than the division of life into male and female, each with a different role in creating and sustaining life. Read more ..

Turkey on Edge

The Fall Of The Would-Be Emperor

November 19th 2014

Turkey students

President Erdogan has recently come under intense criticism for his unwillingness to come to the aid of the beleaguered Syrian Kurds in the city of Kobani just across the Turkish border. Sadly, Erdogan’s behavior is not surprising as he has always pursued policies consistent with the image of himself as a great leader and his country as a regional hegemon and a global power.

To his credit, Erdogan served his country with distinction, especially during much of his first and second term as Prime Minister. He put Turkey on the map as a progressive and prosperous nation, one that struck a healthy balance between religion and democracy, admired by friends, envied by foes, and recognized as a major regional power.

Since coming to power in 2002, however, his achievements have been eclipsed by three themes which have dominated his political career: a) his distorted account of the Ottoman Empire and his vision of Turkey’s future “greatness’, b) his religious fervor and support of Islamists, and c) his insatiable hunger for power domestically, regionally, and globally. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

New Israel Fund Supports Groups that Hurt the Jewish State

November 18th 2014

Boycott Israel
BDS is Supported by New Israel Fund Grantees

This summer saw a war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that has had a ripple effect beyond the Jewish state. Since then, anti-Semitism has risen worldwide and incitement against Jews throughout Europe has grown considerably. People who were looking for a reason to be hateful toward Jews, found public cover in Israel’s struggle to defend itself from terrorist neighbors. That struggle has brought forth a danger to Jews and Israel that has always been latent but is now becoming more brazenly public and seems well on its way toward a third intifada with today’s meat cleaver attack on a synagogue that killed four Jews.

Along with the anti-Semites come self-hating Jews who work alongside Israel’s enemies to harm Israel. Vladimir Lenin called those who work against their own people’s best interests in support of their enemies “helpful idiots” and throughout history there has never been a shortage of people or groups from within the Jewish community who harm Jews. The most effective stick for beating Israel over the head is often a Jewish stick. Read more ..

The Edge of Tolerance

The Palestinian Rampage in Israel

November 18th 2014

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The scene of the synagogue attack in Jerusalem where four rabbis were killed on Nov. 18. Photo: Twitter.

Anyone who has lived in Israel during the last forty years is likely to have witnessed the horrific consequences of a Palestinian terrorist attack on innocent civilians. July 4th 1976 was the final day of my year-long sabbatical in Jerusalem. On a normal Friday I walked downtown to Zion Square to buy challah and flowers for Shabbat. That morning I went instead to the Western Wall to leave a brief farewell note wedged between my favorite stones.

Exiting the Old City through Jaffa Gate I witnessed a stream of police cars, ambulances and military jeeps – with sirens screaming – racing toward downtown Jerusalem. Minutes earlier the thunderous explosion of a bomb concealed in a refrigerator had devastated Zion Square, killing 14 Israelis and wounding more than 60. Fatah, founded by Yasser Arafat, proudly claimed responsibility. Read more ..

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