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Inside America

Liberal Intolerance Chills Health Care Discourse

August 31st 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Free speech is such a fundamental principal in the United States that it was codified by the First Amendment to the U.S Constitution.

The First Amendment protects all speech, especially political speech which criticizes the government or proposes unpopular or obnoxious ideas. The founding fathers recognized that unfettered political discourse is the sine qua non of a successful democracy. It is necessary to publicly discuss all sides of issues that may result in laws that affect all Americans.

While the First Amendment protects speech, it does not protect the speaker from the consequences of his speech. Thus, the proponent of unpopular ideas sometimes subjects himself to economic and social sanctions from political opponents who choose not to engage him in challenging responsive discourse. When this happens, it tends to chill discussion and inhibit new ideas.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, found this out the hard way. Mr. Mackey wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal in mid August suggesting a number of health care reforms that do not entail a single payer public option.

He opened the article with a provocative quote from Margaret Thatcher that was bound to offend the far left: "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money."


The Obama Edge

Obama Should Encourage Democracy in Africa to Counter the Wahabis

August 24th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Obama in Ghana

Many are still talking about the issues raised by President Barack Obama during his July 11 speech at Accra in Ghana. In particular, not a few critics are struck by his “relative” notion of democracy. In contrast with the previous administration’s call for a U.S.-backing for the “spread of democracy,” Obama underlined that “America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation. The essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny.”

In fact, the difference between the previous and the current U.S. approach is not about the “role,” as no one in Washington’s government has had any project to “impose” democracy, or specific institutions. The George W. Bush approach tried to say that all nations yearn for democracy and freedom with the same intensity, if given the opportunity. Read more ..

Inside Africa

Kenyans Struggle to Find the Reforms Hillary Clinton Called For

August 17th 2009

Africa Topics - Kenya Poverty

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's whirlwind safari of sub-Saharan Africa, to deliver messages from President Barack Obama, has fallen on deaf ears.

The population here is helpless to improve its condition in the face of widespread corruption and elitism. Water rationing in is the norm. Water sources have been drying up, and huge forested areas given out for settlement, for political reasons. Ten million people are at risk of starvation, one third of the population.

As all know, Obama traces his roots to this nation, but he deliberately by-passed it on his lightning trip to the continent, choosing Ghana instead.

So he sent his Secretary of State to give the Kenyan authorities a piece of his mind. Namely that in the wake of the post-election violence last year, reforms are dragging on too long, and the culture of corruption and impunity is not being tackled with anywhere near enough determination.

In more developed democracies like the United States it is unthinkable that anyone should consider himself above the law; in democracies that are still finding their way around, such as those of most of sub-Saharan Africa, it is almost taken for granted that the kind of justice you receive is in proportion to your wealth and power. For example, a couple of days before Mrs. Clinton arrived two youths were sentenced to death in the coastal town of Malindi for stealing forty shillings (half a dollar) from a fisherman. The magistrate issuing the sentence said she was convinced that the robbery had been carried out by violent means. Robbery with violence is a capital offence in Kenya. Read more ..

Obama Edge

A Reversal of Fortune: Mary Robinson, Anti-Semitism, and Israel Policy

August 10th 2009

UN Topics - Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson

President Obama’s recent suggestion that America’s closeness with Israel for the past eight years produced very little and that his policies would produce more credibility with the Arab world, is either shocking naiveté or purposeful diversion. Add to this, his misguided honor of the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the person who sat at Durban ignoring the anti-Semitism around her and later castigated Israel at every turn at the UN, and we are brought full circle to a perilous policy towards our only democratic ally in the Middle East, Jews in general and the United States itself.  

At the infamous Durban Conference in 2001, Israel was isolated and called a racist state. Israel was treated as the worst kind of pariah. From there on, it only got worse. Synagogues were burned, Jews were beaten and even murdered and Jews around the world were threatened. It was from this point in history that we can arguably trace the reemergence of virulent anti-Semitism at the start of the 21st century. Durban is where it began. In September 2001 when Durban became too much for the United States, President George W. Bush withdrew our delegation from this mockery of a conference. That withdrawal occurred on September 9, 2001. We all know what happened two days later. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

In Search of a Tattoo Archive for Holocaust Documentation

August 3rd 2009

Jewish Topics - Concentration Camp Survivor

My father, George Howard was a member of “The Greatest Generation.” On May 2nd, 1945 as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, he took part in the liberation of a small, but infamous concentration camp in northern Germany. The camp was Wobbelin, which on the outskirts of the town of Ludwigslust.

Before he died in 1968 he told my brother and I of the horrors of the Holocaust. His division ordered the townspeople of the town, at gun point, to bury the dead. I have seen the photographs. That scene was immortalized in the HBO movie “Band of Brothers”. The town has built a beautiful memorial to his division. The people of the town know the truth because they see it every day.

He told us that the Jewish prisoners' dead bodies were assembled like cordwood “five by five by five.” Dozens of these nightmarish piles were stacked throughout the entire assembly area of the camp. He vowed to never let us forget what he saw because; it was the truth.

As the years become decades memories fade and people die. We are one generation from losing the precious resource of the human reminders of the darkest period in human history. Read more ..

Honduras on the Edge

Honduran Crisis Could Lead To Latin America’s "Yalta"

July 27th 2009

Latin American Topics - Chavez and Latin American Presidents
Hugo Chavez and allied Latin American presidents

As the Honduran crisis is still unresolved and attempts at mediation continue, the case has presented an interesting challenge whose outcome could be crucial for the future of the region and the United States.

For the time being Costa Rican President, Oscar Arias, is trying (so far unsuccessfully) to mediate between the current President of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, and ousted Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya. The Obama Administration did the right thing by encouraging President Arias’s intervention as well as opposing Zelaya’s demand that a deadline be set for his return to power.

Yet, the Obama Administration, in principle, has supported the return of Zelaya to power as part of any settlement. This point requires further analysis because we are not merely dealing with an internal Honduran problem but also with a problem that has far reaching regional and international implications. Read more ..

US-Israel Relations

What's Next After Jewish Leadership Meeting with Obama?

July 20th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham Foxman

I had the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on July 13, along with fifteen other representatives of Jewish organizations. Afterwards, everyone wanted to know whether I now felt reassured about the state of US-Israel relations.

I start off with the premise that pro-Israeli attitudes in this country are so deeply embedded and multi-layered that no particular policy approach can easily change that. On top of that, the President said a number of things that reminded me of the bi-partisan character of support for Israel which has been the hallmark of the relationship.

He said, as he did in Cairo, that the bonds between the countries are unbreakable; that America would never allow Israel's security to be in jeopardy. He talked about the need for the Arab world to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel and indicated, though the media had not focused on it, the many steps the administration has taken to move the Arab world in that direction. He acknowledged the need to deal with public perceptions that he was focusing only on what Israel had to do by speaking more often about the Arab and Palestinian requirements.

In sum, grounds for reassurance.

Where I and others felt less comfortable was in the assumptions that seem to underlie the President's approach. First, is his outreach to the Muslim world. I understand the need to do this as a vital factor in protecting American interests, as long as it is not at Israel's expense. However, I left the meeting with the sense that the Obama administration believes that after the Bush administration, there is a need for the US to demonstrate that it can be tough with Israel to win back credibility with Muslims. We are seeing it already on the settlement issue and once established as a mode of operation, it can emerge again and again.  Read more ..

Russia's Nukes

Next Steps in Nuclear Arms Talks with Russia Invoke Multiple Treaties

July 13th 2009

Russian Topics - Putin
Vladimir Putin

In the aftermath of the Moscow Summit between President Barack Obama and his Russian counterparts, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, a new nuclear arms treaty is in the offing. Moscow and Washington are eying the end of 2009 for completion of negotiations, both because of Obama's usual desire for speed, but also because the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty treaty expires in December unless renewed. But the desire for speed and the pressures of the clock should not infringe the duty to observe the basics of nuclear negotiations going forward. Five rules should govern the next steps.

Step #1: The Administration should not be afraid to let START expire.
START will expire in December unless both sides agree to extend it for five more years, pursuant to the terms of the treaty. This circumstance presents three practical options for the Obama Administration and Russia: allowing the treaty to expire, extending the treaty for five years, or negotiating a new comprehensive treaty to replace both START and the Moscow Treaty. While the April 1 joint statement on arms control implies that the U.S. and Russia have decided to negotiate a new comprehensive treaty, allowing START to expire is the best option.

Letting START expire would remove an unrealistic deadline for negotiations with Russia on strategic nuclear arms limitations. Negotiating a new treaty under such a deadline would prohibit a careful review of the U.S. strategic force posture, which cannot be concluded until the Nuclear Posture Review is completed at the end of this year or early next year. Furthermore, hasty negotiations are much more likely to produce a deeply flawed treaty that is inconsistent with U.S. security requirements. The Senate would be wise to reject such a treaty. Finally, there is no compelling reason to keep START in place. Its expiration will not end numerical limitations on U.S. and Russian operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads because the Moscow Treaty will remain in force through the end of 2012.

However, it should be noted that one school of thought in the Russian policymaking elite argues that Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) may simply cease to exist on its own terms if START expires: Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Time to Reject All Dictatorship in Latin America

July 6th 2009

Latin American Topics - Honduras coup d'etat
Honduran Special Forces on Patrol After Coup

The June 28, 2009 coup d’état in Honduras that deposed President Manuel Zelaya was the result of a decision by Honduras president Manuel Zelaya to hold a referendum aimed at seeking re-election. The move was considered a violation of the Honduras 1982 constitution that forbids an extension of the presidential four-year term limit. The electoral court, the Supreme Court, the attorney general, and Congress declared Zelaya's initiative illegal. Despite this, Mr. Zelaya decided to go ahead with the referendum. This is when the military stepped in. However, this was no classical coup or power grab. This coup transferred power to the President of the Honduras Congress, a member of the liberal party, the party of Zelaya himself.

Yet this coup has raised international concern. Brazilian President Lula Da Silva stated that he will not recognize any other president except Zelaya. Most countries in Latin America echoed Lula’s sentiment. President Obama also indicated the inadmissibility of deposing an elected president.  Read more ..

Surge Against Hamas

Raising Funds for Gaza in the US: Crossing a Line?

June 29th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Abraham Foxman Color cropped
Abraham H. Foxman

A British Member of Parliament, George Galloway, has been actively courting support in the United States for a “humanitarian” convoy to provide cash and vehicles to representatives of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization that controls Gaza.

The Viva Palestina convoy, led by Galloway, a member of the anti-Zionist “Respect Party” in the British Parliament, donated approximately $1.5 million and more than 100 vehicles to Hamas in March 2009. At a press conference in Gaza announcing the donations, Galloway said: “We are giving you now 100 vehicles and all of their contents, and we make no apology for what I am about to say. We are giving them to the elected government of Palestine.”

Although the European Viva Palestina convoy was promoted as an effort to show solidarity with the Gazan people and to deliver humanitarian aid, the donation of cash and supplies directly to Hamas, a group that engages in terror operations against Israeli civilians and is committed to the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel, defined the exercise as a show of solidarity with Palestinian terrorism.

Since the convoy returned from Gaza, Galloway has gone on two speaking tours around the U.S. in April and May to promote Viva Palestina. During his speeches, which attracted hundreds of attendees, Galloway regularly defended Hamas, describing it as a liberation movement that “just wants to liberate its tiny piece of land from illegal and violent military occupation.” He called Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and imprisoned Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti “the greatest Arab leaders,” while referring to Israel’s newly elected government as “killers” and “fascists.” He claimed that “Zionism has poisoned the well” and has “distorted the face of Jewish people.” Read more ..

Iran's Voter Revolt

Dark Plans Emerge from Mullah War Room to Suppress Iranian Voter Revolt

June 22nd 2009

Iran - Iran Election

Why did the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei decide to suppress demonstrations and not order a reorganization of new elections to solve the crisis? What is the analysis inside the Khamanei/Ahmadinijad “war room?” Based on several assessments, it appears that the regime feels the protest movement is too wide and the regime is too determined not to allow it to expand further.

The ayatollahs in charge of the “revolution” and the top commanders of the Revolutionary Guards as well as their financial operatives fear a popular shift inside Iran’s population along the magnitude of East Europe’s revolution against Soviet rule. The most cataclysmic parallel would be with the fall of Romanian communist dictatorship under Ceausescu.

Even a change a la Gorbachev is too dangerous for the elite that ruled Iran with an iron fist for three decades. Hence, after a minute calculus, the top mullahs and their militia barons have decided not to open Pandora’s Box to bring reform or democracy to their own world.  And, the world should expect them to use all the power at their disposal to do away with the demonstrations and its leaders.

But how will the Khomeinist “war room” break up the uprising? What is their plan? Read more ..

Russia's Nukes

Eight Rules Obama Must Observe in Confronting a Nuclear Russia

June 15th 2009

Russian Topics - Putin

As nuclear crisis worsen all over the globe, from Iran to Korea to Pakistan and India--the Obama Administration myst not forgot the oldest nucleat stand-off: the one with Russia. New rules of engagement ands a new nuclear attitude is developing in Russia with the proverbial MAD concept of "mutually assured destruction" itself being challenged. New treaty negotiations with Moscow are now proceeding.

The Obama Administration should observe the following eight rules in pursuing any new strategic nuclear arms limitation treaty with Russia:

Rule #1: The U.S. should not enter into a negotiation from which it is not willing to walk away.

In arms control, the cost of avoiding failure can exceed the cost of failing. There are numerous examples of U.S. negotiating partners making unacceptable demands. A prominent example that illustrates the importance of following this rule is the exchange between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev at the Reykjavik Summit in 1986. Secretary Gorbachev made the unacceptable demand that the U.S. abandon its Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) missile defense program in exchange for eliminating strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. President Reagan quite properly refused to buckle to this demand, and as a result they failed to reach an agreement. However, this initial "failure" established the circumstances in which the U.S. and the Soviet Union negotiated the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which entirely eliminated intermediate-range nuclear missiles, and START, which signifi¬cantly reduced strategic nuclear forces while preserving the SDI program. Read more ..

America and Israel

Hilary Clinton's Other Face

June 8th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Hilary Clinton

When Hillary Clinton was New York’s junior senator from 2001 to 2009, she was a vocal supporter of Israel. She was especially strong on Jerusalem, stating in a September 2007 position paper that she believed “Israel’s right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, must never be questioned.” Her spokesman even said “this paper is a reflection of her consistent policy... that hasn’t changed.”

Sen. Clinton also repeatedly warned of the monumental dangers of Palestinian incitement to hatred and murder of Israeli Jews in their schools, media and mosques as having “dire consequences for peace for generations to come.” 

Sen. Clinton even said, “It is clear that the Palestinian Authority (PA), as we see on PA TV, is complicit” in terrorist attacks and that we should condition U.S. aid to the PA on a “cessation of Palestinian propaganda and hateful rhetoric.”

It has taken only a few months to confirm that Secretary of State Clinton bears little resemblance to Sen. Clinton on Israel issues.

Now, she enthusiastically supports an unconditional increase in U.S. aid to the PA and Gaza, of $900 million annually, a significant increase. She also demands a total freeze on all Jewish building in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Interviewed on Al-Jazeera TV on May 19, Secretary Clinton said, “We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth — any kind of settlement activity. We made that very clear. I reinforced that last night at a dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

She reiterated this even more strongly in Egypt: “not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions ... And we intend to press that point.” She also demanded an end to legal building of Israeli/Jewish homes in eastern Jerusalem, which she called “unhelpful.” Yet Secretary Clinton insisted that Israel allow illegal building of Arab homes in eastern Jerusalem to continue. Read more ..

North Korea’s Nukes

North Korea--The Evil of the Axis

June 1st 2009

Asia Topics - Kim Kung II
Kim Jong II

North Korea’s underground nuclear test offers the Obama administration an opportunity to remake American policy on a crucial issue. The Bush administration used the Six Party Talks and the UN Security Council as its chief instruments and pursued policies of varying carrots and sticks to change Kim Jong Il’s calculus about the benefits of nuclear capability. But the Six Party format mortgages any possible progress to the lowest common denominator, generally China, and China’s veto does the same with the Security Council. The Bush administration, often charged with reckless unilateralism, was in this case an instrument of reckless multilateralism.

President Obama can take leadership of the issue by determining what American policies would a) best protect the United States and our allies, and b) reduce the likelihood of future North Korean nuclear successes.

Several potential policies spring to mind – an enhanced Proliferation Security Initiative, enhanced missile defenses, returning North Korea to the US list of terrorism-sponsoring countries and a return to the financial sanctions the Bush administration dropped for no fathomable reason. 

None require Chinese participation – although that would be welcome – and all permit like-minded countries to participate as well as they can. Read more ..

Edge on Palestine

Challenges Lie Ahead for Salam Fayad as New Palestinian Prime Minister

May 25th 2009

Palestine Topics - Salam Fayyad
Salam Fayad

Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas has just reappointed Dr. Salam Fayad as PA prime minister. Although Fayad headed an interim government since his resignation on March 7, his formal reappointment carries with it important changes to the composition of the government.

Signaling the failure of Fatah and Hamas reconciliation efforts, the reshuffled cabinet also reflects Abbas and Fayad's desire to expand the government's base to include more Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions and independents. The success of the new government will depend to a large extent on how the Abbas-Fayad coalition addresses the challenges ahead -- especially within Fatah itself.

Expanding the Abbas-Fayad Base

Fayad's previous government was criticized for drawing ministers from a narrow political spectrum that included Fayad's Third Way faction, Fatah groups that fled Gaza following Hamas' June 2007 coup, and largely unknown independents. Hastily formed after the Hamas seizure of Gaza, the former government included only fourteen ministers, many of whom directed two ministries simultaneously. The cabinet's composition and makeshift/ nature limited its support among Fatah, independents, and other PLO factions, and led to increasing calls, especially within Fatah, to expand its scope.

The new government seems to have overcome these problems. Comprising twenty-two ministers, the new government includes ten Fatah ministers; one new minister each from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Fida, and the Popular Struggle Front; and three new independents well known at the national level. The most prominent of these independents, Dr. Ali Jarbawi, a professor of political science at Birzeit University and the president of the Palestinian Central Election Committee, is the new minister of planning. Read more ..

Crime in America

COPS Improvements Act of 2009 Only Exacerbates Flawed Federal Policies

May 18th 2009

Crime Topics - NY Cops

Created in the middle of President Bill Clinton's first term, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program promised to put 100,000 new state and local law enforcement officers on the street by 2000. Critics said that COPS would fail to meet this goal and that state and local governments would do what they always do when the federal government subsidizes any core responsibility of state or local governments: stop paying for it themselves and become dependent on funding from Washington.

The critics were right on both counts.

As a crime-reduction policy, the COPS program failed to live up to its sponsors' rhetoric and promises, never putting 100,000 additional police officers on America's streets. Undaunted by the program's failure to meet its most important public goals and in response to considerable lobbying by state and local law-enforcement officials, the House of Representatives recently passed the "COPS Improvements Act of 2009" (H.R. 1139), which is estimated to cost $5.4 billion from 2010 through 2014 plus an additional $3.6 billion thereafter. Read more ..

The Bear is Back

Obama Must Not Concede One Inch to Russian Demands over NATO

May 11th 2009

Russian Topics - Putin
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with President Obama at the White House in recent days, a privilege normally reserved for fellow heads-of-state. Moscow has reciprocated this extraordinary display of friendship by pulling out of the NATO-Russia Council meeting set for May 19, and expelling two NATO officials from their Moscow offices after NATO expelled two Russian diplomats suspected of spying.

After meeting President Obama, Minister Lavrov delivered a public speech outlining multiple Russian concerns, including deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Europe and NATO's eastern expansion. Lavrov also stated that Moscow is open for cooperation with NATO allies and regional powers on Afghanistan.

Timed to coincide with Minister Lavrov's visit, Russia's permanent representative to NATO and notorious ultra-nationalist, Dmitry Rogozin, published an op-ed in The New York Times lambasting U.S. policy on key issues, specifically NATO expansion.

Although President Obama has pledged to push the reset button to renew relations with Russia, U.S. policy towards Moscow must be based on a realistic--not rhetorical--agenda which prioritizes the NATO alliance and emphasizes the indivisibility of the transatlantic security alliance. President Obama must also make clear that the United States will not bargain away U.S. support for NATO enlargement to include Georgia and Ukraine, or missile defenses in Europe in exchange for Russian cooperation on other issues, such as its negotiations to stop Iran's nuclear program. Read more ..

Obama Edge

Obama Breaks a Campaign Promise by Rescinding Labor Union Accountability Reforms

May 5th 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Barack Obama with Flag

Contrary to campaign promises to increase transparency and accountability, the Obama Administration has announced plans to rescind union accountability and financial transparency regulations implemented by the Department of Labor (DOL) during the Administration of George W. Bush.

These regulations make union officials more accountable to union members and deter fraud and embezzlement. The DOL has convicted hundreds of union officials over the past eight years. Rescinding these forms will facilitate fraud and harm union members.

On January 21, the DOL published regulations updating the Form LM-2, the annual financial disclosure report unions file with the DOL. Unions collect between 1 and 2 percent of their members' earnings as dues, and union officers are required to spend that money on the workers' behalf--they may not use union funds for their personal interest. The LM-2 revisions required unions to: 1) Disclose the total value of all benefits received by union officers and employees; 2) Disclose the names of parties buying and selling union assets; and 3) Itemize union receipts (currently unions must itemize only expenditures).

The DOL also updated the LM-30 conflict of interest reporting form that union officers and employees must file. These forms bring to light situations where union officers receive gifts or otherwise benefit from companies that their union does business with. They deter sweetheart deals where companies that give "gifts" to union officers get union business on favorable terms. The revisions required more union officials (such as shop stewards) to report potential conflicts of interest. Read more ..

Inside America

The Age of the American Lust Child

April 27th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

Recently that the Centers for Disease Control has estimated that nearly forty percent of U.S. births in 2007 occurred outside of wedlock. That number is overall for the nation. It is one thing when teenagers and members of lower socioeconomic classes fall prey to this phenomenon. But the reality of out-of-wedlock births at such a high rate across the social gamut suggests that the problem has spread much wider than ever could have been imagined. This alarming number of out-of-wedlock births across age and socioeconomic sectors signals nothing less than the wholesale disintegration of our American family. Welcome to the dawn of the age of the American Lust Child.

Some would question why it matters. What does society care whether or not children are born to wedded mothers at all? After all if the parents are together but not married, or single but wealthy enough to support the child, then no big deal right? 

Wrong. There is more to raising children than just food, clothing and shelter. There is the quintessential non-material connection that two parents provide that cannot be quantified in dollars and cents, but are just as essential for that child to grow up and become a productive member of society. They include, providing a strong moral foundation, teaching faith, perseverance, and discipline. It’s not that one parent is incapable of doing this alone. It has been done in countless shining examples. But in most U.S. households, where someone has to work to bring in an income, the moral education of children generally requires teamwork if it is to be done correctly. That too has been shown in countless shining examples. Read more ..

The Race for Biofuels

New CARB Rules Could Fuel Oil Dependence and Cripple Energy Freedom

April 20th 2009

Energy Topics - Arab Oil Derick

In the coming days, the California Air Resources Board, or CARB -- the same agency that only five years ago gained notoriety for its role in "killing" the electric car -- could be in a position to deliver another crippling blow to the United States' effort to achieve energy independence.

As part of California's strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, CARB is pushing for the enactment of a low-carbon fuel standard, or LCFS, that aims to regulate the emissions level of petroleum refiners, biofuels producers and others that produce or import the transportation fuels used in California.

The credit or penalty would be assessed according to both the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with each of the steps in the fuel's life cycle, including production, transport and tailpipe emissions. Such "cradle to grave" accounting sounds logical only if it allows all fuels to compete on an equal footing. But this is what the fuel standard in its current version fails to do. Read more ..

After the Holocaust

Holocaust Restitution—Prague Conference in June Seen as Last Effort

April 13th 2009

Jewish Topics - Concentration Camp Survivor

The Holocaust Era Assets Conference to be held in Prague in late June 2009 provides the last major opportunity to deal with the assets stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators that remain unpaid. Conservatively, that amounts to at least $125 billion in 2007 prices. Most remaining survivors are in the eighties and there will be few left in ten years.

Several previous conferences—London in 1997 and Washington in 1998—attempted to deal with this unpaid obligation but little was accomplished. The representatives of many countries made heart-wrenching speeches, provided useful research and made calls for restitution. But there was no effort to get beyond the rhetoric and establish an effective means to return or compensate for the stolen assets. The result was that during the next ten years only about 3 percent of the unpaid Holocaust era assets were repaid. It was realized that after more than 60 years any outcome would be "Imperfect Justice." The results, however, did not even come close to meeting that notion.

The Prague Conference thus needs to establish a clear and detailed mechanism to address this issue if it is going to have any meaning beyond diplomatic niceties. So far, however, all the indications are that the Conference will focus on trying to put the best light on the flimsy results of the past.


Edge of the Drug Wars

It is Time to Debate a Change in Washington's Failed Latin American Drug Policies

April 6th 2009

Social Topics - Narcotics

It is time for policymakers to acknowledge that drug prohibition is inadequate and requires immediate attention, discussion and qualification. Despite 37 years of universal cooperation pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 39/141, which is the basis of the U.S. anti-drug policy; it is a statute which regularly has proven to be ineffective. It also has adversely contributed to fanning grave civil disorder and broken societies in nations across the globe.

Although there have been some governmental successes, notably in Colombia, drug cartels have proven adaptive and relentless in the pursuit of their interests. These cartels are essentially businesses, and as such, they are determined to meet the enormous and growing demand for their products in order to guarantee the continuation of their immense profits.   Read more ..

Edge of Campus Hate

Confronting Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

March 30th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Judea Pearl
Judea Pearl

In January, at a symposium at UCLA (choreographed by the Center for Near East Studies), four longtime Israel bashers were invited to analyze the human rights conditions in Gaza, and used the stage to attack the legitimacy of Zionism and its vision of a two-state solution for Israel
and the Palestinians.

They criminalized Israel's existence, distorted its motives, and maligned its character, its birth, even its conception. At one point, the excited audience reportedly chanted "Zionism is Nazism" and worse.

Jewish leaders condemned this hate-fest as a dangerous invitation to anti-Semitic hysteria, and pointed to the chilling effect it had on UCLA students and faculty on a campus known for its open and civil atmosphere. The organizers, some of them Jewish, took refuge in "academic freedom" and the argument that "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism."

I fully support this mantra, not because it exonerates anti-Zionists from charges of anti-Semitism but because the distinction helps us focus attention on the discriminatory, immoral and more dangerous character of anti-Zionism.

Anti-Zionism rejects the very notion that Jews are a nation – a collective bonded by a common history - and, accordingly, denies Jews the right to self-determination in their historical birthplace. It seeks the dismantling of the Jewish nation state: Israel.

Anti-Zionism earns its discriminatory character from denying the Jewish people what it grants to other historically bonded collectives (e.g. French, Spanish, Palestinians), namely, the right to nationhood, self-determination and legitimate coexistence with other indigenous claimants.

Anti-Semitism rejects Jews as equal members of the human race; anti-Zionism rejects Israel as an equal member in the family of nations. Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Freeman as Wrong on Israel as He was on China

March 23rd 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Charles Freeman
Charles Freeman

Imagine if a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan served for years on the board of a Pakistani funded think tank, sang the praises of the dictatorial junta in Islamabad, served as a consultant for a company doing business in China and defended that country's human rights abuses while also routinely making disparaging remarks about India. Would it be a surprise if opposition arose to that person's appointment to a sensitive U.S. government intelligence post?

A similar situation arose when a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman, was appointed chair of the National Intelligence Council and, not surprisingly, provoked opposition from a wide range of people including several members of Congress who called for a review of Freeman's ties to foreign governments.

Since retiring from the Foreign Service, Freeman has been an outspoken defender of the apartheid regime in Saudi Arabia, extolling the virtues of "Abdullah the Great," the Saudi autocrat, while running the Saudi supported Middle East Policy Council in Washington, D.C. Freeman has also been well-known for his strident criticism of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship.

While many of his defenders argued that he was being targeted because Freeman had the courage to speak out against Israel, many of his harshest critics were far more concerned with his statements and activities related to China. Freeman served on the advisory board of the Chinese-government-owned entity Chinese National Offshore Oil Co. This affiliation and his comments regarding the Tiananmen Square massacre are what elicited serious objections to his appointment by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In a 2005 public e-mail, Freeman wrote about the massacre, "[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud.. In this optic, the Politburo's response to the mob scene at 'Tian'anmen' stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action." Read more ..

What if the Oil Stops?

Obama's Energy Plan Not Ready for an Iran-Israel clash

March 16th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

President Obama has talked the talk on our nation's energy independence, identifying it as at the top of his big-three immediate fixes.

But in recent days, a series of pivotal developments in the Middle East show that Mr. Obama is painfully ignorant of what this country needs and what we need now. I refer to an oil interruption that could be triggered by a pre-emptive move by either Tehran or Jerusalem over Iran's fast-paced nuclear program.

Edwin Black, author of the recent book The Plan: How to Rescue Society the Day the Oil Stops - or the Day Before, sat down with me recently. He outlined the looming crisis and a plan to save the country, which can be immobilized within weeks by an oil interruption. But no one in government has paid attention, other than nail-biting oil-crisis monitors at the Department of Energy.

Here's what happened in recent days to change the game and make us closer to a cataclysmic confrontation, with dire consequences for American oil, that the Obama administration is completely unprepared for.

First, on Feb. 2, Iran successfully launched a satellite into space. Tehran plans more satellites this year, creating a space presence, easily weaponized, that worries American military planners. Read more ..

America's Economic Crisis

President Obama's Real Agenda is Not Just Reviving the Economy

March 9th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

President Obama has a large number of programs on his domestic agenda.  These programs include the economic recovery (formerly known as a stimulus), restructuring the financial and banking system, health care reform, distressed home owners, green environmental programs, redistribution of income from the wealthy to the middle class, education funding, infrastructure investment in highways and public transportation, promoting stem cell research, energy independence, unwinding abortion protections for medical personnel choosing not to participate in abortions, and the employees free choice act to furthering unionization through a card check. 

Given the state of the economy, the President’s principle objective should be to revive our sick economy. Make a distinction between "reviving the economy" and investing in capital programs and infrastructure for the future. Investing in the future is important; but reviving the economy is more important at this juncture.  Unemployment is already approaching 8 percent. Do we want to see unemployment increase to double digits? The president should focus his agenda on those programs that stimulate the economy. If the President’s objective is to revive the economy, many of the president’s proposed programs are a diversion and do not efficiently achieve that objective.  Let us analyze several of these programs.

The economic recovery act includes a tax provision which reduces the deduction on charitable donations from 35 percent to 28 percent on wealthy tax payers. This will result in lower donations to private charitable organizations. Not only will this measure cripple the charitable mission of many organizations, it also reduces employment in the charitable sector of the economy. OMB Director Peter Orszag says the government will make up for the reduction in charitable donations by giving money directly to charitable organizations.  Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Envoy Appointment Key Tool in Outreach to Muslim World

March 3rd 2009

Obama Admin Topics - Hillary Clinton in Indonesia
Secretary of State Clinton in Indonesia

During her first foreign visit as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton reinforced a major priority for the Obama Administration: improved relations with the Islamic world. After an hour-long meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, Clinton praised Indonesia as a model of how “Islam, democracy and modernity not only can coexist, but thrive together.”

Within minutes of his becoming President, Barack Obama began his official outreach to the Islamic world. In his inaugural address, President Obama stated, “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect … we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

In his first interview after becoming president, Obama stated to Al-Arabiya Arab TV Network:  “My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect… My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy. We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect …” Read more ..

America's Economic Crisis

Senseless Stimulation Won't Help the Economy

February 23rd 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot
Armstrong Williams

In the rush to get a new spending bill out of the congress as soon as possible, proponents of the massive bailout seem to have overlooked a fundamental point: the government cannot possibly cure what ails the American people by pouring more money on the problem. 

Speaking before a cheering crowd in Florida recently, one would have thought the President was announcing a new victory in the War on Terror, or a new milestone in economic growth. The fact that the President had come to deliver some sobering news about the state of the economy seemed to have been lost on the crowd, who roared with glee even before the President had a chance to lay out his analysis of the Economy’s woes (which he did with remarkable candor), and seemed to ignore the fact that the proposed stimulus was being funded almost purely out of massive government borrowing. It may be remiss of me to point out the obvious but isn’t spending money we don’t have what got us into this financial debacle in the first place? 

The very notion that we can borrow our way out of the recession seems to be the latest diversion these days, but it is bound to have unintended consequences. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Palestine Refugees: Rhetoric versus Reality in Dollars and Sense

February 16th 2009

Israel Topics - Arab Child in Jerusalem

An op-ed article in the January 14, 2009 Washington Post indicates that settling the Palestinian refugee issue is the prime means of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The author, Yousef Munayyer of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, says “The key to real progress in resolving the conflict is, and has always been, providing a just resolution of the refugee (Palestinian) issue.” This is the opposite of both history and the current situation.

The Palestinian refugee issue has festered for 60 years mainly because Palestinians and Arabs have used the issue as a political tool. In the years after the 1948 war, the refugee issue was kept alive partly because the Arab countries felt disgraced and dishonored as a result of losing the war they initiated. Until the 1967 war, Jordan and Egypt could have absorbed into their own countries the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza they controlled. Meanwhile, both Arab governments and the Arab League were against granting citizenship to Palestinian refugees in their countries because it would undermine their objective of using the right of return to eliminate the Jewish state. The end result was that the Palestinian refugees became political pawns.

This fact was stated succinctly by the former head of UNRWA, Ralph Galloway, when he said:  “The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the UN, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die.” Read more ..

The Obama Edge

Racial Politics No Longer an Excuse in Post-Racial America

February 9th 2009

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot

In case you didn't get the memo, this former slave-holding nation has just sworn in a guy with the name Obama as its 44th President. With this momentous occasion, all the –isms that were born from racism, reparations, and White guilt are now dead and buried.

No longer can liberal, race-based organizations and the race hustlers blame White men and a racist government going forward for their plight and lack of economic opportunities in America.  The so-called label "I'm an African-American" is obsolete and you have officially become a full-blooded, card-carrying American.  The attitude that "I don't belong to America," or "I'm not proud to be an American," is now laughable. 

That old tired mantra, "The White man has his foot on my neck, I'm still overburdened from the effects of slavery" has finally been laid to rest.  Well, the boogeyman exists no longer, and you must now rise and fall on your own merit, choices made, work ethics, discipline, sacrifices and thrift in this land of opportunity.

President Obama's historical election has caused a massive cry of promise and true opportunity not only from Americans but from the world.  World leaders are watching as Obama pledges to "remake America."   He stated, "The world has changed, and we must change with it" and expressed that more also is needed to be done in the Third World.  After the inauguration, many children were interviewed and had such high expectations and now believe they can fulfill their dreams including becoming President of the United States of America.  Read more ..

Israel and Hamas

Two-State Illusion--The View from Sderot's Bunkers

February 2nd 2009

Israel Topics - Sderot bunker children
Israeli children in a Sderot bomb-proof bunker

In early September 2008, I was invited to take part in a press conference in Oslo, along with the Israeli ambassador to Norway, members of the Norwegian media and members of the Norwegian parliament. The title of the press conference was "Iran: At Sderot's Back Door."

It was at that press conference that "rocket reality" was presented before Norwegians for the first time, showing the Western Negev as the only place in the Western world where rockets and missiles are fired at citizens on almost a daily basis. Of these attacks, 97 percent are launched by Palestinian militias from the convenient cover of civilian homes in Gaza. Their weapons come directly from Iran, with their delivery to Gaza facilitated by Syria and Egypt. This is how Hamas became Teheran's "third arm," after Hezbollah in Lebanon. Read more ..

Israel and Hamas

Dead Babies are a War Strategy for Hamas

January 26th 2009

Islamic Topics - Gaza baby death

The Hamas "dead baby" strategy - to cause as many civilian casualties as possible by firing its deadly rockets from schools and densely populated areas - is producing understandable outrage around the world. What is not understandable is why the outrage is directed against Israel, which is a victim of this strategy, rather than against Hamas, which is its perpetrator.

Hamas knew exactly what it was doing when it fired more than 6,000 rockets at Israeli kindergartens, elementary schools and playgrounds from behind its own children. It was playing Russian roulette with the lives of Israeli children in order to provoke a defensive response from Israel.

Hamas knew that Israel, like any democracy, would have to take whatever military action was necessary to stop the rockets. As Barack Obama put it when he visited Sderot, a town that had been victimized by more than 1,000 rockets and several deaths: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing." Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

Unintended Consequences in Action

January 5th 2009

Economy - Bernanke headache
Ben Bernanke

Columbia University statistician Andrew Gelman has said, “The law of unintended consequences is what happens when a simple system tries to regulate a complex system. The political system is simple. It operates with limited information (rational ignorance), short time horizons, low feedback, and poor, misaligned incentives.  Society in contrast is a complex, evolving, high-feedback, incentive-driven system.  When a simple system tries to regulate a complex system you often get unintended consequences.”

Gelman is dead on, if not understated. He states that the political system is simple. I’d go a step further and say that lifetime politicians and entrenched government bureaucrats are “simple.” They show no indication of knowledge or expertise in American history or rational financial theory. The President, Congress, Federal Reserve, and Treasury try mightily to direct our economy. It is an impossible task. With a GDP of $14 trillion, there are thousands of inputs and outputs that feed the system. Their hubris leads them to believe that they are in control and can manipulate the gears of capitalism in a way that will produce their desired outcomes. If a desired outcome occurs, it is simply due to dumb luck. The more likely result of their manipulations of our complex system is a set of bigger problems that never occurred to them. Read more ..

America’s Economic Crisis

A New Paradigm For Those At The Top

December 29th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Armstrong Williams Headshot

The persistence and magnitude of the ongoing financial crisis has spared no one. It has wreaked havoc on our nation and sent ripple effects throughout the global economy. This has been a particularly unkind crisis—one that has not discriminated among the individual consumer, international corporations, and venerable firms on Wall Street. Most recently, the eye of the storm has circled around the Big Three automakers and they now absorb the ire focused on banks and other financial institutions just a short time ago. Without question this is a fast moving storm which does not leave much time for reflection on the days’ or weeks’ events. But it is time to give pause, for history has shown our memories are short and we are often doomed to repeat our past. This is not a past we can afford to relive.

In many ways, the actions and antics of Wall Street through the years have precipitated the unraveling of our economy and the financial well-being of millions of Americans. "Deliberating," they call it. Nice name, but it doesn’t soften the blow. Wall Street has always been at the heart of the financial or asset bubbles that inevitably pop. Wall Street has served as an enabler that pushes toxic financial instruments into the hands of the unknowing: those in awe of the Wall Street institution. This phenomenon is like drug lords who bring illegal substances to market but don’t use the drugs themselves. The motivation is always the same—money. Read more ..

The Madoff Massacre

An American Tragedy

December 22nd 2008

Crime Topics - Madoff4
Bernard L. Madoff

The greatest financial fraud in the history of our country was uncovered in the second week of December 2008. Charities were wiped out, the life savings of entire families were lost, and innocent lives were ruined in a tragedy that is a failure of morality, a failure of regulation, a failure of unbridled capitalism, and a failure of common sense.

Bernard Madoff, prominent Wall Street trader and former head of NASDAQ, perpetuated a $50 billion Ponzi scheme on his formerly wealthy investors.

The size of the loss is mind boggling—three times the size of the proposed bailout of the U.S. automakers. Madoff’s entire investment fund has been a lie for decades, and the immorality of his actions is incomprehensible. Madoff was well respected by the Wall Street investment community, a prominent philanthropist, and part of the wealthy high society crowd located in West Palm Beach. This begs the question, if this man has been running a scam for decades, how many others are out there doing the same? Read more ..

America's Economic Collapse

Is America In Decline?

December 15th 2008

Economy - Home Foreclosure

Indications are that the United States has reached its peak and is on a downward slope. The U.S. government has taken measures in the last 11 months that appear as desperate attempts to keep propped up what many see as a dysfunctional, corrupt financial system. Have the alleged extreme socialist schemes implemented by President Bush, the Treasury, Federal Reserve, and Congress marked the climax of our great capitalist experiment?

There is still time to get our Republic back on its original capitalist path, but time is running short. It will take straight talk from our leaders, as well as intense political pressure from common citizens, politicians scared of losing their jobs, and Americans willing to change their ways and sacrifice for the good of the country.  Read more ..

Big Three Bailout

What Detroit Must Do For Our Money

December 8th 2008

Economy - Big Three CEOs
Wagoner, Nardelli, and Mulally

The CEOs of the Big Three returned to Washington to present their emergency plan in the hope that this time around Congress would replace the batteries on Detroit's life support system. What is far from clear is whether the patient is going to make it, and what, if anything, Americans will get in return for their tax dollars.

Pumping billions into the ailing industry would be a bad idea unless such a bailout provides not only a reasonable chance of recovery but also some assurance that automakers use the money to usher us into an era of global transportation that is no longer exclusively dependent on oil.

While oil prices are currently low in comparison to last summer's peak, a glimpse into the International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook published this month confirms that this is merely a respite, and that sooner or later oil prices will rise to much higher levels. The IEA report examined the world's 800 top oilfields and reported an average annual depletion rate of 5.1 percent increasing to 8.6 percent in 2030. It stated that in order to meet future demand for oil, six new producerseach equal to Saudi Arabiawill have to be added to the global oil market between now and 2030. If such a gigantic amount of oil can be produced it would only be due to trillions of dollars of investment in new exploration and recovery, as well as the development of non-conventional sources of oil such as tar sands and oil shale. Read more ..

Inside Terror

Are We In A Real War Against Terrorism—Or Just Prosecuting Criminals?

December 1st 2008

Military - Guatanamo detainees
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay

The recent order by a federal judge to release five Algerian detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison reopens the complex debate about the principle of holding prisoners of war during wartime. But, and this may be even more important, it also reopens the debate inside the three branches of government in the United States over whether or not our nation is actually at war. 

The case at hand will certainly be discussed by legal specialists on both sides of the debate. Here is the chain of legal events that will be scrutinized: The first "civilian court" ruling-–for terrorism suspects who have challenged their detention–-found that the five men "could not be held indefinitely as enemy combatants." Thus, in this instance, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon has essentially informed the government that failing an official and legally declared war, one cannot detain individuals who have not been proven guilty of crimes or of material participation in terrorism.

Last summer, the Supreme Court granted the Guantanamo detainees (see the Boumediene case) "the right to challenge their imprisonment." The real statement was that since there is no legal basis for the War on Terror, the so-called "prisoners of war" are in fact detained under the principles of criminal law not the international law of war.


The Detroit Bailout

Denying Big Three a Bailout Can Be a Historic Opportunity to Get America off Oil and Save Detroit

November 24th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Edwin Black

The impulse to accede to political pressure and jobs blackmail from the Big Three for a $25 billion bailout offers America a historic turning-point opportunity. This is the country’s chance to both reform the auto industry and ignite a massive shift off of oil in one master stroke. How?

The $25 billion in lending should not go to the Big Three as a reward for consciously addicting this country to oil and subverting the alternatives.  A better idea is to allocate the same $25 billion in lending—but not to the Big Three. Instead, offer loans at rates as low as student loans to any American citizen or fleet manager willing to buy an alternative fuel, flex-fuel, open fuel standard, or alternative propulsion vehicle--new or retrofitted. This would provide an immediate incentive for Detroit and Torrance, California to spend the approximate $100 per vehicle necessary to make every car and truck a multi-fuel or open-fuel vehicle.

When we say open-fuel or multi-fuel, we are not talking about the governmental cash cow currently going to the corn ethanol-big oil combine. We are talking about fuel systems that can function on all forms of combustibles from methanol (the Chinese use 50 million gallons a year while we use none) to second generation biofuel such as cellulosic ethanol. There is already pending legislation advocating the open-fuel standard and the multi-fuel approach. Why wait?

At the same time, legislation should immediately eliminate the $.54 per gallon penalty tax assessed to every gallon of sugar cane ethanol that Brazil struggles to export to America’s Southeast. In the process, we should cut the $8 billion in government subsidies annually handed to the corn ethanol-big oil combine and use that money to both fund 25 percent of the bailout money and open a string of multi-fuel service stations throughout the country offering everything from compressed natural gas (CNG) to methanol to hydrogen to electric charging. Read more ..

The Detroit Bailout

OPEC and the Gasoline Companies Should Fund the Auto Bailout

November 17th 2008

Contributors / Staff - Marc
Marc J. Rauch

A few weeks ago, Congress approved a $25 billion aid package to the American car companies to help them design and build the vehicles of the future; cars and trucks that would utilize alternative fuel propulsion systems.
You’ll recall that around the same time that they agreed to provide this aid package to the carmakers, Congress debated and approved two other aid packages (one to insurance company AIG, the other to the banking and Wall Street firms that made such a mess of the financial and housing markets). These two bailout packages amount to about $800 billion.
Now, there is a movement afoot to allow the carmakers to shift the focus of the $25 billion alt-fuel vehicle aid package (from helping them create the next generation of alt-fuel vehicles to using the funds to shore up their poor general financial condition), and to provide at least an additional $25 billion in aid for the same cause.   
As I was leaving Detroit on Friday evening, after spending two days at the Propane Engine Fuel Summit, I listened to a local radio talk show host harangue his audience about those (in and out of Congress) who are against allowing the car companies to get off the hook (again) to develop cars and trucks that don’t rely on gasoline, and to award them the additional $25 billion for their financial debacle. “Is America going to just let the Big Three fail?” he screamed. “Don’t you stupid people realize what will happen to this country?”  Read more ..

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