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The Way We Are

Prohibition on Pot

July 29th 2014

Teenager smoking marijuana

Someday, we’ll look back on two federal prohibitions — on same-sex marriage and marijuana — and ask ourselves: “How were we ever so dumb? What’s the big deal?”

Indeed, more and more people are asking that question every day. Even before the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, several states moved to recognize same-sex marriage. Massachusetts was the first, in May 2004. Today, either by legislation or court order, marriage equality is the law in 19 states, plus the District of Columbia. Courts in 14 other states, most recently Virginia, have ruled to strike down bans on same-sex marriage. While those decisions remain on appeal, it’s clearly only a matter of time before all 50 states accept the fact that every American, gay or straight, should be free to marry the one he or she loves.

Efforts to end the ban on marijuana have not advanced nearly as fast, but they’re moving inexorably in that direction. Only two states so far, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Oregon and Alaska will vote this year whether to join them. But 34 states and the District of Columbia have moved to reform their laws, including the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and 17 states and the District have decriminalized marijuana, treating possession of small amounts of pot like a traffic ticket. Again, it’s only a matter of time before smoking a joint is considered no differently than popping a beer. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Is the United Nations Fighting for Human Rights or Supporting Terrorism?

July 28th 2014

Click to select Image

Even with its historic links with terrorists, UNRWA continues to speak out on Israel 'violations'

Operation Protective Edge has put a significant spotlight on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) after munitions were found in one of the agency’s schools.

Following the discovery, UNRWA came out, “strongly condemn[ing] the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations. Such an infiltration is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law. The discovery, which is the first of its kind in Gaza, endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestinian refugees in Gaza.” Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Conference of Christians United for Israel Comes at a Critical Time

July 28th 2014

Edwin Black

Recent events have propelled Christians United for Israel (CUFI) to the front row of pro-Israel organizations.

The group advertised last week's Washington D.C. Summit, held July 21, as a more compact two-day program. Last year’s conclave offered a three-day affair. But if anyone thought the faith-based pro-Israel organization was becoming less relevant, they would think otherwise after attending the latest confab.

At the very moment when the Jewish State was under a crushing vise of global criticism for its involvement in Operation Protective Edge, CUFI (pronounced koo-PHI and not koo-FEE) roused its American heartland membership in loud, rollicking support of Israel. It did so in the pivotal capitol of Washington D.C. at a pivotal time.

Led by firebrand evangelist Pastor John Hagee, some 4,800 foot stomping, shofar-blowing Christian delegates traveled from across the nation and some from overseas to attend the non-stop cavalcade of podium grandiloquence, towering video effects, mesmerizing Israeli music, and special informational sessions. Part tent revival and part political salvo, CUFI's Washington Summit is patterned after the mega-gatherings staged by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the same hall. CUFI speakers brought clarity and context to its attendees in the midst of the latest fog of the latest Arab-Israeli war.

Indeed, at the very hour CUFI's convention gaveled open, the Jewish State was fiercely fighting moment-to-moment terrorist threats scampering over the Gaza border fence, paddling in from the sea, streaking in from the sky, and tunneling beneath the ground. Moreover, Jerusalem was contending with a well-financed highly-politicized adverse humanitarian political machinesupported by American tax-deductible 501(c)(3) donations. So every round of CUFI applause and utterance of support was considered a precious gesture to beleaguered Israelis who right now need a friend. Read more ..

Broken Government

Fighting Parasitic Bureaucracies and Crony Capitalism

July 28th 2014


“Pare down the parasitic fringe” of government. “Favor a gospel of work” instead of aristocratic entitlement. “Rationalize finance” and “reverse the Parkinson’s law of bureaucracy.”

All that sounds like rhetoric from the Tea Party or reform conservatives who assail what they call crony capitalism.

Reform conservatives and Tea Partiers are moving...on the path toward clearing away impediments to growth.

But it's not a contemporary criticism. Those are phrases from a long essay, written more than half a century ago, by the British historian H. R. Trevor-Roper, entitled “The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century.”

In his plummy prose, Trevor-Roper sought to explain why revolutions or revolts of varying sorts broke out in the British Isles, France, Spain, Italy and Germany in the years between 1640 and 1660. He was especially eager to refute Marxist historians’ claims that these were the necessary predicate to what their master proclaimed would be the inevitable and beneficent communist revolutions that unaccountably had not yet occurred. Read more ..

The UN Edge

A UN with Standards

July 27th 2014


As legend has it, Groucho Marx sent the Friars Club a telegram that read, “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” At least the Friars Club had standards. What to make of the United Nations? It has a single criterion for membership: existence.

Admittedly, this is an unattainable standard for such fictional realms as Westeros, Erewhon, Kreplakistan, and numerous locales from the TV series MacGyver (Gnubia, Kabulstan, et al.). But if you’re a nation-state that actually exists, you’re a shoo-in, like Kate Upton trying to get into a nightclub or a Kennedy applying to Harvard.

There are other, more exclusive organizations around the globe. Many are important, but most of them have fairly uninspiring membership requirements, too. The most common are regional outfits based on geography, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the African Union, or the European Union. And there are plenty of economic clubs, such as OPEC and the G-8. Although the G-8 is essentially back to being the G-7 these days because Russia was kicked out, at least temporarily, for general evilness. Read more ..

Kerry's Latest Cease-Fire Plan: What was He thinking?

July 27th 2014

John Kerry

The press conference U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry convened together with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry was one of Kerry's most embarrassing incidents since taking office. And there were quite a few in the last year and a half. A few hours before the press conference began, the Israeli security cabinet ministers unanimously rejected Kerry's cease-fire plan draft. Kerry, as is his wont, seemed and sounded as if he came from a parallel universe. He claimed to have never presented Israel with a formal offer for a cease-fire, slammed the Israeli media's "mischievous reports" and promised that Netanyahu's office will issue a clarification.

As if that wasn't enough, Kerry claimed he made significant progress in the cease-fire talks and said, deadpan, that the disagreements with Israel are purely on matters of terminology. Reality, of course, was completely different. If anything happened on Friday it was another deep crisis in trust between Israeli senior cabinet members and the American secretary of state. Read more ..

The Bear is Back

The Cool War Cometh

July 26th 2014

Russian soldiers Red Square

There is presently about as much confusion as when the U.S. entered The Cold War against the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. But there are fundamental defining differences to what is likely to be an equally long and complex new struggle between the U.S., its allies and Moscow.

The two engagements do share one commonality: American leadership now as then has been slow to face up to the task before it. It’s far too easy now to forget just how many times Josef Stalin signaled his forthcoming unrelenting war on The West before democratic statesmen understood what they faced and mobilized to meet it. [And here,
mea culpa. I admit shamefacedly as a young, idealistic, naïve student I wrote a U of Mo Jay School classroom harangue [alas! printed in the

Columbia Missourian] denouncing Winston Churchill’s March 1946 “Sinews of Peace” speech, at nearby Westminster College. Back from our victorious however bloody war in Europe and Asia, I was sure like most that a new era of relations among nations had begun, that the old balance of power collisions were now a thing of the past. It was then, of course, the British statesmen who whatever his numerous strategic mistakes this time with great clarity defined the issues and coined the term “iron curtain”.] Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

European Union Shows Lack of Will to Defend Israel at UNHRC

July 25th 2014

Yet again, the European Union has demonstrated a lack of will in defending a sister democracy under attack from an organization that it has included on its own terrorism list.

One day after the EU’s foreign ministers adopted a statement which called for both the disarming of Hamas and endorsed Israel’s “legitimate right to defend itself,” nine European countries abstained on a one-sided United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution harshly critical of Israel.

On July 22nd, the European Union foreign ministers, in a move uncharacteristic of their traditional voting patterns on issues relating to Israel and the Palestinians, adopted language that seemed to express a real understanding of the immense challenges Israel faces in fighting the terrorist organization in Gaza. It went so far as to call out Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields, a point Israel makes several times daily, to the mostly-closed ears of  international media and a large portion of the diplomatic world. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Media Should Report on Israeli Restraint in Fighting Hamas

July 25th 2014

I am writing this column on Monday night. I am sick to my stomach after seeing a network TV newscast of a young Palestinian girl lying paralyzed in a hospital in Gaza, the victim of Israeli bombs. I see other children in the hospital. My eyes are tearful. I feel pain in my chest. I finally have to turn away from watching.

I have long believed in the rights of Palestinians to have their own independent, sovereign state, ever since I was a young boy. My father and I stopped discussing the subject because he was so adamant in distrusting the Palestinians and could not imagine they would honor any peace agreement.

I mention this so that what I am about to write is not put through the prism of those who assume that all pro-Israel Jewish Americans are insensitive to the plight of the Palestinians and the suffering of the children during this terrible tragedy of the Gaza crisis. Read more ..

Jewry on Edge

Death Knell for J Street

July 24th 2014

J Street has whined about being excluded from the mainstream Jewish community, but it is J Street that has excluded itself from joining in community activities such as a solidarity rally for Israel.

Any pretense that J Street is a pro-Israel organization has been destroyed by that organization’s refusal to participate in a solidarity rally for Israel during the recent crisis in Gaza.

The Boston Jewish Federation worked hard to create a rally that included all elements of its diverse community. Its goal was to send a single and simple message: at a time when so many in the world are united against Israel’s efforts at defending itself from Hamas rockets and terrorist tunnels, the Boston Jewish community stands in solidarity with the nation state of the Jewish people. In order to assure that this message of unity was sent, no signs were permitted except for the unity message that was intended to be sent. That message was: Stand With Israel. Simple and straight forward. Read more ..

The Race for Alt Energy

Thoughts on Energy Harvesting for Wearable Equipment

July 23rd 2014

Young twenty-something people

Wearable applications including smart watches, sport watches, fitness bands and more are growing in popularity, and so, too, is the demand for intelligent sensors to use in them. If analyst predictions are correct, the market is going nowhere but up in the coming years.

So what are the keys to making wearables ubiquitous for daily life?

Significant features and functionality are a given, but equally critical is battery management. The more plentiful the features, the more power the wearable technology needs. Let's face it, nobody will be happy with wearables with short battery lives.

Wearables manufacturers have several options for increasing battery life. The first involves reducing the power consumption of each individual block to a minimum. Another is using higher capacitance batteries – although in most cases this will also lead to larger battery size. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

The Doctrine of Proportionality

July 22nd 2014

Israeli Tanks Gaza Strip

Proportionality in international law is not about equality of death or civilian suffering, or even about [equality of] firepower. Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against suffering that the action might cause to enemy civilians in the vicinity.

"Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable does not constitute a war crime.... even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur. A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality)." — Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court.

"The greater the military advantage anticipated, the larger the amount of collateral damage -- often civilian casualties -- which will be "justified" and "necessary." — Dr. Françoise Hampton, University of Essex, UK. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Arabs Also Deserve Protection from Hamas and its Deadly Missiles

July 21st 2014

Though a few years have passed since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, I still cannot forget the sight of Arab families and children in the various towns in the north of Israel, standing frightened and helpless as warning sirens wailed, not knowing where to go. After all, most villages do not have public bomb shelters and most homes do not have bomb-proof rooms, either.

I found myself going from a funeral to a condolence call to visiting the wounded, with one question echoing in my head, one which I hear from most of the Israeli Arab population, as well: why don’t we have shelters? Why don’t they care to protect us?

During that war, dozens of rockets were fired on the north of Israel, killing 44 civilians, 19 of them Arabs. Different reports by the State Comptroller’s Office that investigated the home front’s readiness after the war revealed that most of the northern towns were not sufficiently prepared for the rocket threat and that the situation in the Arabic towns was especially bad. The Comptroller found that more than 70% of Arabic residents in the north had no shelter and accused the government and local authorities of negligence. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Hamas Terrorists are the True Occupiers of Gaza

July 21st 2014

Toronto, Caracas, Paris, London, Norway, Peru, Turkey. Processions and demonstrations against Israel and the operation in Gaza, of varying degrees of violence, are currently held all over the world. At these demonstrations, they call upon us to "end the siege", "end the horrors", "end the operation", "end the occupation".

The protestors are a mixed bunch. Some of them are Arabs, some of them are radical leftists. The Arabs’ interest is obvious: they want to destroy us because we are not Muslims. The current operation in Gaza, which will postpone the current attempt to destroy the Zionist Entity, disrupts the master plan of a heretic-free zone. Any hit sustained by the terror organizations which are trying to murder us, kidnap us, and frighten us is a setback to their dream. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Yemen Model Won't Work in Iraq, Syria

July 19th 2014

UPS Yemeni soldiers

President Obama says the United States is looking to its Yemen policy as a model for what to do in Iraq and Syria. But what the president labels the "Yemen model" has not been as successful as the White House claims; indeed, it is in danger of collapse. Attempting to replicate it in much more challenging conditions in Iraq and Syria will almost certainly fail.

A little background: The United States partners with the government of Yemen against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, which remains the most imminent direct al-Qaeda threat to the U.S. homeland. AQAP's top leadership includes Osama bin Laden's former secretary, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, now reportedly al-Qaeda's general manager; former Guantanamo detainee Ibrahim al Rubaish; and its innovative bombmaker,Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, who continues to target the United States and U.S. airlines. Read more ..

Broken Government

Are U.S. Corporate Tax Inversions a Necessary Crisis?

July 18th 2014


Suddenly, the hottest tax arbitrage game is the “tax inversion,” where U.S. companies seek to lower its tax rate by buying a foreign rival. The latest deal came Friday when U.S. drug maker AbbieVie announced it would buy Dublin-based Shire. The $54 billion deal follows Mylan’s move to buy assets from Abbott Laboratories earlier this week in a deal that will create a new Netherlands-based holding company. In May, U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer tried to relocate in the U.K., but a deal to buy AstraZeneca fell through.

One of the best cries of outrage appeared in Allan Sloan’s piece in Fortune earlier this month. The patriotism angle I get, but then again, why blame corporate chiefs for taking advantage of tax games that are perfectly legal, especially in a rapidly globalizing economy The big mystery is why it took some companies so long to do this, and why many others have held back, at least so far? Read more ..

Broken Education

A Mantra for K-12 Philanthopy: First, Do No Harm

July 17th 2014

Science students

In May, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his new $120 million gift to San Francisco Bay Area public schools. The timing was ironic, coming on the heels of Dale Russakoff's devastating portrayal in The New Yorker of the aftermath of Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to Newark, N.J. In that earlier effort, Zuckerberg helped fuel a concerted effort by then-Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to transform embattled schools that had languished under state control for two decades.

It might have been wise for Zuckerberg to have first dwelled a bit more on the results of his 2010 gift before blasting another cash barrage. For one thing, his Newark gift has not delivered the hoped-for reforms and results, despite the $100 million in matching funds raised by Mr. Booker, the steadfast support of the governor, and the best efforts of hard-charging Superintendent Cami Anderson. In fact, it is a pretty good example of why money alone is not an answer, but can be part of the problem. Read more ..

Inside Politics

The Rise of Southern Dems

July 15th 2014

Voter Line

In the battle of Democrats to keep control of the Senate in 2014 and win a substantial victory in the presidential election 2016, the new rise of Southern Democrats is a very big deal.

Throughout the South, a new generation of highly talented Bill Clinton-style political leaders has brought the Democratic Party to a strongly competitive position. I call it the battle between Johnny Cash Democrats, who are big-tent believers in a widely shared dream, and Ted Nugent Republicans, who are small-tent believers waving lists of Americans they consider enemies.

Polling detailed by Real Clear Politics reveals a list of Southern contests in which Democratic candidates are running strong races that put them within striking range of victory in November. In the great battle for North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) is fighting back and gaining strength against an attempt by radical right forces to complete a hostile takeover of an enlightened state with a diverse electorate. Read more ..

Financing the Flames

Stop Sending US Taxpayer Funds to Palestinian Terrorists

July 14th 2014

Star Parker right crop

On June 2, the Palestinians announced a new unity government, which included Hamas, an organization designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist group.

American aid to the Palestinians since the mid-1990’s, according to a Congressional Research Service report, has exceeded $5 billion. In recent years it has averaged $500 million per year.

The report notes three major U.S. objectives of these funds: preventing terrorism against Israel from Hamas; fostering “stability, prosperity, and self-governance on the West Bank”; humanitarian aid.

When Hamas joined the Palestinian government on June 2, the United States recognized the new government and there was no indication that the substantial funding Palestinians get from American taxpayers would be impacted. Business as usual would continue. Read more ..

Obama and Israel

Obama's Ongoing Shameful Behavior Against Israel

July 14th 2014

Obama with baseball bat

We are now reconciled to the fact that in any conflict -- even when we are exercising our right of self-defense -- we will either be condemned or, at best, accused of acting disproportionately.

However, the latest round of hypocrisy by Western leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, beats all records.

Despite anger and condemnation from many of his constituents, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, until last week, effectively been acting as a supplicant by virtually pleading for a cease-fire, assuring Hamas that Israel would abide by a new truce. Responding to their missiles with “restraint” and reacting on a tit-for-tat basis, bombing empty sites, Israel dispensed with any pretense of implementing genuine deterrence.

As critics predicted, Hamas interpreted this as a signal of Israeli weakness, which emboldened the organization to intensify and extend missile attacks to all major cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, sending the majority of the population to the shelters. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

How Not To Indict a Terrorist

July 14th 2014

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #2

What happens when the president who has politicized law-enforcement to a degree unprecedented in American history meets a terrorist responsible for killing Americans he has recklessly failed to protect, decimating his pretensions about “decimating” al-Qaeda?

What happens is: You get the most politicized terrorism indictment ever produced by the Justice Department. Behold United States v. Khatallah, Case No. 14 Crim. 141, quietly unsealed in a Washington courtroom last Saturday while the country dozed off into summer-vacation mode.

Ahmed Abu Khatallah, of course, is the only suspect apprehended in connection with the Benghazi massacre, a terrorist attack on a still-mysterious U.S. diplomatic installation. J. Christopher Stevens, the United States ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans — State Department official Sean Smith and two former Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty — were killed. Until recently, such attacks have been known as acts of war carried out by the enemy. In the age of Obama, they are now known as “crimes” for which “defendants” like Khatallah are “brought to justice” — rather than brought to Gitmo. Meaning: They are whisked into our country when no one’s paying much attention. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

How Obama Will Deal with a Republican-Dominated Senate

July 14th 2014

Conventional wisdom is clear that the next Congress has a considerable likelihood of being a Republican Congress.

That same consensus also holds that if the GOP does indeed take control, the next two years will be marked by confrontation with the White House and even less actual legislative action than the present Congress has accomplished.

To be fair, there is some compelling logic behind these conclusions.

President Obama has clearly opted out of the role of governing through legislation. He has become the most defensive president since at least World War II, blaming the Congress not just for all the ills of the nation but even for some of his international failures. Read more ..

Broken Government

Mis-Guided US Trade Policies Led to Immigration Crisis

July 12th 2014

Click to select Image

The flood of Central American child refugees arriving on our southern border is not just a humanitarian crisis, it is a man-made disaster. These children are the “canary in the mine” pointing to a deeper, toxic problem confronting Washington. Republican congressional leaders argue that this flood of unaccompanied children arriving on our southern border is caused by U.S. government policy. They are right: our government created this refugee crisis. But they are dead wrong on which policy caused the influx.

While politicians from all levels of government claim to identify the root cause of this mass exodus, none of them have reflected on the fundamental role that U.S. foreign policy toward Central America has played in provoking this catastrophe. Read more ..

Israel and Palestine

Why the Palestinians Refuse to Recognize the Jewish State

July 11th 2014

The core of the problem is that Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish People would not only end the dream of the return to Palestine, but also of the destruction of Israel currently being implemented through the incitement and terrorist campaign waged by the Palestinian People in their institutions, mosques, schools, terrorist organizations and foreign propaganda centers. Their strategic intention is to perpetuate the conflict, not end it.

The real reason Mahmoud Abbas wants control of the bridges and crossings, and refuses to leave them in Israeli hands, is to duplicate the terrorism of the Gaza Strip -- to smuggle in arms and establish terrorist squads. Crossings left in Israel's hands would mean greater security for Jordan as well.

The world watches while the Palestinian Authority is actively promoting a campaign for an academic boycott and economic sanctions to be imposed on Israel, evidently backed by veiled threats from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

How Does Israel End Up the Bad Guy?

July 11th 2014

Hamas Terrorist with Rocket

It is a terrible irony that Israel, revolted first by the murder of three of its teenage citizens and then by the revenge attack on a Palestinian teen, is the object of riots, bombs, and demands.

Following the discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers, six Israelis were arrested for the heinous murder of a teenage Palestinian. That murder did nothing so much as unify the people and the government of Israel in their revulsion for six of their own. One prominent Religious Zionist rabbi called for the death penalty for the killers of Mohammed Abu Khder. (Israel has no death penalty, but Judaism does.) There was unanimity from the prime minister to the defense minister to the leader of the nationalist Bayit Hayehudi Party, to the mother of one of the murdered teens who denounced the revenge killing, to his uncle who paid a condolence call on Abu Khder's family. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama's Border Woes

July 10th 2014

Illegal migrant children sleeping in ICE facility

Just days ago, a defiant President Obama ended his attempts to work with Congress on immigration reform and declared he would go it alone, using all of the power of the executive office possible to change our broken immigration system. Even as a crisis on the border grew increasingly desperate by the day, Obama seemed confident the public would conclude the mess resulted from Republicans continuing to block reform efforts.

But Obama’s defiance is gone: He is suddenly back in bunker mode, taunted not only by Republicans but Democrats as well to visit the border, too afraid to be photographed amid the horror. Even worse, the president was shamed into meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to be educated on the matter in his travels to the Lone Star State for some inconveniently scheduled fundraisers. Read more ..

Nuclear Iran

How to Prevent a Bad Deal with Iran

July 9th 2014

Everything is coming up thorns for the Obama administration in the Middle East these days, and several of its policies seem to change daily. Take its stand on Syria's tyrant, Bashar Assad. One day Obama says "Assad must go," the next his aides whisper that it might be good for Assad to stay for a while longer. This is only one of many policies that have changed with equal speed, such as shifting from opposition to the Egyptian military government to support for, and cooperation with, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. And President Obama has crossed so many of his own red lines on Syria and Iraq that it's hard to keep track of his actual geopolitical position. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

The Palestinian Authority Doesn't Really Want Peace

July 8th 2014

Try as I might, there are some things I just don’t get.

For starters, I’m seeking to understand Israel’s options in today’s Middle East.

To listen to some observers in the media and in foreign ministries, it’s all quite simple and yet puzzling: simple because the answer is obvious, and puzzling because somehow Israel is the only country that doesn’t get it.

These observers insist that while the Palestinians want peace and the region supports it, Israel, for reasons best known only to itself, opposes a deal, preferring the status quo to the dawning of a new era. Read more ..

Broken Economy

Inequality Issue Can Boost Dems

July 7th 2014

Juan Williams 02

A year ago, top Democratic political strategists pointed to one big political stick their candidates could use to beat back a possible Republican landslide in the 2014 midterm elections.

The issue: Rising income inequality. Now the strategy is coming to life with help from Republicans in Congress.

With the GOP majority in the House blocking an extension of long-term unemployment insurance, a group of House Democrats, led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), circulated a letter last week asking for a meeting to discuss the topic – not with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) but with the incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Press reports described this as an “end-run” around Boehner who, along with the outgoing Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), had refused to take up the issue for a vote in the House. The Democrats, smelling a ripe campaign issue, are quick to point out that if Congress does not act before the end of the year, more than 5 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits and be left out in the cold. Democrats are also being handed ammunition on income inequality by the Republican refusal to renew the Highway Trust Fund. Read more ..

Obama' Second Term

Supreme Court Slaps Down the Obama Administration

July 6th 2014

Professor Obama at work

Seldom in American history has the Supreme Court unanimously rejected positions advocated by presidents' administrations. But in this respect at least, President Obama has produced the fundamental transformation he promised in his 2008 campaign. Over the last three years, the Court has rejected Obama administration positions repeatedly in unanimous 9-0 decisions.

A review of these cases reveals much about the governing philosophy of the Obama administration. One thing is abundantly clear, namely that this administration has a crabbed view of the First Amendment right of free exercise of religion. That is apparent not only in June's 5-4 decision ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the Obamacare contraception mandate is trumped by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

It's even clearer in the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC case, in which the Court unanimously said that churches have the right to select their own clergy. The administration's position, that government could decide who counts as clergy, was described as “amazing” by Justice (and former Obama solicitor general) Elena Kagan. Read more ..

America on Edge

The Twelve Worst American Presidents Ranked by Their Inhumanity

July 5th 2014

Click to select Image

For all the gravity with which the presidency is written about, assessments of presidents are often at least partly based on fluff more suitable for Hollywood than Washington. Among the criteria that presidential rankings use are leadership, accomplishments, political skill, and character. Every one of those criteria but accomplishments are extremely vague to the point where no two people could agree on a definition. All of these qualities except character are pointedly amoral. Technically, Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop of the Third Reich was quite adept at political skill. For such amoral use of skill, he was rightly hanged at Nuremberg.

Other criteria used over the years include handling of the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments, intelligence, imagination, family, education, and experience. For all except the economy and foreign policy, these are qualities more suited to middle management at a corporation than president. One looks in vain for heroic qualities, or even moral ones or basic decency. Read more ..

The Way We Are

America the Exceptional

July 5th 2014

Statue of Liberty

July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day—the day the 13 colonies formally declared their independence from Great Britain. In truth, that decision was made on July 2nd, 1776, in a vote by the Continental Congress. July 4th is the day the Congress issued the Declaration of Independence—a document justifying that break with an eye toward “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” In that respect, the Declaration was as much a foreign policy document as a simple statement of the governing principles by which both our break from London and our future government was to be judged. A government’s failure to take account of the fact that “all men are created equal” and a failure to secure men’s individual rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” means that a people, any people, has justifiable grounds for “abolishing” its ties, its allegiance, to that government. Read more ..

Middle East on Edge

The New Middle East War--One Conflict from Baghdad to Beirut

July 3rd 2014

ISIL militants and flags

With the June 10 capture of the city of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a debate promptly reopened in the American media over America’s role in the fate of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Typifying one side of the debate was former President Bill Clinton, who on network television laid the blame for today’s problems squarely on the shoulders of the Bush administration. “If they hadn’t gone to war in Iraq,” he said, “none of this would be happening.” On the other side, there are suggestions that President Obama’s neglect of Iraq has been at least as harmful as was the interventionism of his predecessor, if not more so.

But the Iraq war as we once knew it is no longer, and the debate over it leaves us mired unprofitably in the past. The rise of ISIS is a subset of a new conflict, one that stretches all the way from Baghdad to Beirut. That conflict has its own unique character. What is it about? Who are its primary participants? Where do America’s vital interests lie, and what should America’s strategy be? Read more ..

Inside Politics

The Trouble Isn't Liberals. It's Progressives.

July 1st 2014

Elizabeth Warren, native American

Social conservatives. Libertarians. Country-club conservatives. Tea party conservatives. Everybody in politics knows that those sets of people who usually vote Republican cannot be arrayed in a continuum from moderately conservative to extremely conservative. They are on different political planes. They usually have just enough in common to vote for the same candidate.

Why then do we still talk about the left in terms of a continuum from moderately liberal to extremely liberal? Divisions have been occurring on the left that mirror the divisions on the right. Different segments of the left are now on different planes.

A few weeks ago, I was thrown into a situation where I shared drinks and dinner with two men who have held high positions in Democratic administrations. Both men are lifelong liberals. There's nothing "moderate" about their liberalism. But as the pleasant evening wore on (we knew that there was no point in trying to change anyone's opinion on anything), I was struck by how little their politics have to do with other elements of the left. Read more ..

The 2014 Vote

Thad Cochran's Victory in Mississippi Should Worry Republicans

June 30th 2014

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Last Tuesday night, longstanding Republican Sen. Thad Cochran defied the polls and defeated Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi Senate primary runoff by a 51 to 49 percent margin. While the Republican establishment in D.C. rejoiced at their colleague’s victory, this election also could confirm their worst nightmare: field programs can effectively turn out voters in mass.

After losing the initial primary election on June 3rd, Cochran knew he had to shake things up. The traditional strategy of pummeling the airwaves with negative advertisement did not seem to be working, and his opponent was up in almost every single poll. Read more ..

The 2016 Campaign

Hillary Clinton's Potentially Costly Mis-Steps

June 29th 2014

I am a progressive populist who strongly supports Hillary Clinton for president. But I must admit, the most memorable aspect of Clinton’s carefully orchestrated book tour for Hard Choices could be the discussion about whether she is fully in tune with the temper of our times on matters of wealth and opportunity in America.

There is a growing concern in Democratic circles, which I share, about whether the Hillary Clinton who could run in 2016 is repeating the mistake she made in 2008, when she ran as the inevitable and invincible candidate of a political establishment held in widespread public disrepute. Read more ..

The Battle for Iraq

Iraq, Then and Now

June 28th 2014

Iraq ISIL double file of militants

Wanted: Republicans willing to step up and explain just how we are going to face down the threat of new terrorist groups and non-state actors trying to take over sovereign countries in the Middle East, now or when President Obama has left office.

In a wrenching debate over the deterioration in Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), not surprisingly, has called for airstrikes. But he isn’t running for president again. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) agreed with Obama’s decision not to send ground forces, only to be called “isolationist” by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Even amid some regret among conservatives, there isn’t much leadership to be found for a crisis we will be managing for years to come. After insurgents began to claim large swaths of territory in Iraq last week, conservative fire-breather and radio talk show host Glenn Beck declared that liberals had been right all along on our role in Iraq. They may or may not have been, but such a reversal was stunning. Read more ..

Inside Politics

Elizabeth Warren: The Obama of 2016

June 27th 2014

Elizabeth Warren

Paging Elizabeth Warren: This is your moment.

In 2007, Democrats were delirious with rage about the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton, the “inevitable” presidential front-runner, had voted for the war and refused to apologize for it. Other leading candidates, including Joe Biden, John Edwards, and Chris Dodd, voted for it too. This left a huge opening for a credible antiwar candidate. Barack Obama, inexperienced and underqualified, nonetheless jumped into the vacuum. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the issue that obsesses the base of the Democratic party is income inequality. I think that’s foolish. The underlying causes of inequality — miserable economic growth, stagnating wages, poverty, etc. — are vastly more worthy challenges. Though, in fairness, many people actually have those problems in mind when they talk about inequality.

There’s another component to the inequality obsession: populism. People increasingly feel that economic and political elites are enriching themselves, not by making great products or selling valuable services, but by cutting backroom deals and selling influence. This rage is remarkably bipartisan. It is the one theme that loosely unites tea partiers and Wall Street occupiers alike. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

The Path of U.S. Security May Run through Russia

June 27th 2014

In previous essays I have been critical of Russian and U.S. policies toward each other. The last of these essays, motivated by the current Ukrainian crisis, stated that our post-1991 policy toward Russia has been “stale, unimaginative, and wrong-headed.” Below are suggestions for a new U. S. approach—what Russia should do is another matter.

On this 100-year anniversary of the start of World War I, my approach aims at peace, seeking to avoid the horrors of war, which some U.S. citizens are too blasé about since we have not had a war on U.S. soil since the Civil War. It is also one of “ethical realism,” as Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman defined the term in their 2006 book on foreign policy. And it is heavily indebted to critics mentioned in previous essays (from the left and the right) of our post-communist Russia policy. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Obama's Dithering over Iraq Allowed Hezbollah and Shiites to Control Iraq

June 26th 2014

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Forty years ago Americans were stunned by images of North Vietnamese tanks rolling into the heart of Saigon. The Vietnam War had bitterly divided the nation and cost 58,220 American lives. Responding to American public opinion, then President Gerald R. Ford declined to intervene—a tacit admission of defeat.

Today, Americans are stunned by images of another anti-American force, this one on the move toward Baghdad, only recently vacated by American troops. The war in Iraq has bitterly divided the nation. At this writing, the American-trained Iraqi army has collapsed, and pleas for American help are falling on deaf ears.

Déjà vu all over again?

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