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Financing the Flames

New Israel Fund Under Renewed Scrutiny Over Funding for Israeli NGO Led by Boycott Activist

October 30th 2014

Boycott Israel

The New Israel Fund, the New York-based non-profit which granted nearly $27 million to left-wing and progressive NGOs in Israel according to its latest financial report, is again under scrutiny following revelations of extreme anti-Israel rhetoric by the Executive Director of the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF,) a body supported financially by the NIF.

A just-released fact sheet from NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog that monitors foreign funding for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, discloses that the Executive Director of the HRDF, Alma Biblash, has described Israel in such inflammatory terms as “racist,” and “murderous.”

Biblash also described Israel as a “temporary Jewish apartheid state.” According to NGO Monitor, “Biblash also supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns and promotes the Palestinian ‘right of return,’ meaning the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.” Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Russians Commemorate the Millions Killed in Stalin's Purges

October 29th 2014

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Hundreds of Russians lined up outside Moscow's former KGB headquarters on October 29 for an annual ritual commemorating the tens of thousands of people executed during the Great Terror of Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Each victim is granted just a few words -- name, age, occupation, and the date when they were killed, usually by a shot to the head.

Sometimes, the speakers have no connection to the victims they name. Other times, it couldn't be more personal.

"Avramov, Roman Petrovich, 56 years old. My father," an elderly man says in a shaking voice. "Manager of the All-Soviet Bakery-Building Trust. Shot January 8, 1938. After several months they arrested my mother, Avramova, Faina Avramovna. She spent eight years in the Karaganda labor camps. I was 5 at the time."

The ritual is simple but staggering in its reflection of the sheer scope of the Stalin-era purges, when people of every ethnicity, profession, and political leaning were subject to summary arrest, sentence, and execution, often on flimsy political pretexts.

The daylong commemoration, organized by the Memorial human rights organization, comes as a new public survey shows many Russians expect to see a fresh wave of similar repressions in the future.

The poll, conducted by the pro-Kremlin Public Opinion Foundation (known by its Russian acronym, FOM), indicates that 48 percent of Russians surveyed said there was a chance they would live to see a repetition of Soviet-style repressions. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

Defensible Borders in the Age of IS

October 26th 2014

Western/Wailing Wall

How has the tumult in the Middle East affected the debate over Israel’s territorial requirements? For an answer, Mosaic approached Dore Gold, head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who has long promoted the concept of defensible borders primarily as a means of meeting Israel’s security needs in the West Bank. Our exchange was conducted by email. 

Q. Before we get to the idea of “defensible borders” itself, can you begin by telling us about your involvement in it?  

A: I became immersed in this issue when I was serving as foreign-policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term in the late 1990s. I was tasked with converting the IDF’s “Interests Map” for the West Bank into a form that could be presented to President Bill Clinton; I joined the prime minister for that presentation in the White House Map Room. Four years later, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked me to condense the work for his meeting in the Oval Office with President George W. Bush. Read more ..


The 2014 Vote

Good Reason for Mary Landrieu to be Concerned

October 25th 2014

Star Parker right crop

Prospects that three term Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu will return to the US Senate to represent Louisiana for a fourth term are looking increasingly bleak. Senator Landrieu has good reason to be concerned. One reason is disenchantment among Louisiana’s black population, which amounts to 32 percent of the population of the state – the nation’s second largest black population percentage-wise. Justification for black disillusionment is eloquently and explosively captured in the ad being run by Republican State Senator Elbert Guillory’s FreeAtLast PAC.

Guillory shook things up in 2013 when the then conservative black Democrat announced he was switching to the Republican Party.
In the ad, Guillory stands on Academy Street, in a poor black neighborhood in Opelouses, Louisiana, delivering his message, graphically powerful as the camera pans across the poverty of the neighborhood, that nothing has changed during the 18 years that Mary Landrieu has represented Louisiana in the US Senate. Read more ..

Venezuela on Edge

The Ramifications of Venezuela's Seat on the UN Security Council

October 22nd 2014

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With 181 out of 193 of the United Nations representatives voting yes on Thursday, October 16, the Venezuelan government has gained not only a seat on the U.N. Security Council, but an affirmation of a leadership role in the Americas. As a result, there are now two strong features of Venezuelan foreign policy that will likely have an intensified impact on the Council: Caracas’ ongoing commitment to construct a multi-polar world, and its anticipated presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement starting next year.

Although there have been some moments of dismay over the last fifteen years with Venezuela’s evolving foreign policy, overall the nation has advanced to a position where it draws considerable respect among other Latin American nations. Acclaim for Venezuela’s international position already has stemmed from its strong support for efforts aimed at regional integration and the establishment of the region as a “zone of peace,” as well as for its long-time championing of the inclusion of Cuba at the Summit of the Americas. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

The Dilemma of Obama's Mid-Term

October 19th 2014

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President Obama will make the first public campaign appearance of the 2014 cycle Sunday in Maryland — just 16 days before voters head to the polls.

But the event — like almost every rally on the president’s schedule over the next two weeks — will be for the state's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Anthony Brown.

In the biggest game in town - whether or not Democrats hold the Senate - the president is virtually absent from the campaign trail to help his party hold the upper chamber. He's fundraised to help Senate Democrats for months. But just over two weeks out the White House seems to have come to a sober reality - even though he has a ton to lose if Republicans take back the Senate, the president is more of a liability than an asset for Democrats locked in tough races. Read more ..


Syria on Edge

US Holocaust Museum Displays Evidence of Torture by Syria's Assad Regime

October 16th 2014

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. The museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.

The images are horrifying. The semi-naked, emaciated bodies show signs of torture: severe bruises, cuts and burn marks. Read more ..


The Edge of Petropolitics

American LNG to the Rescue! Not Exactly.

October 16th 2014

Oil Pipes2

When Secretary of State John Kerry tried to lead an LNG posse to rescue the Europeans, blackmailed in the Ukraine affair by their heavy dependence on Russian natural gas, his bluff was soon called.

True, the U.S. has a growing natural gas surplus. Converted, it can move over oceans as liquefied natural gas (LNG). But we are still years away from multi-billion-dollar facilities and a fleet of refrigerated tankers that would turn domestic supplies into a geopolitical weapon.

At the moment the U.S. has only one LNG export operation in Alaska dedicated to the Japan market. A Louisiana facility-- ironically revamped in mid-construction from importing to exporting-- will go on stream shortly. And while the Energy Department has approved seven applications for building new LNG exporting plants, only one has received the environmental go-ahead. Another two dozen haven't been vetted. Read more ..


Israel on Edge

BDS Activists Turn their Attention to 'Israel Lobby'

October 15th 2014

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A leading supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has conceded that the growth of western trade with Israel shows the “limits” of the strategy – and suggests, instead, that activists turn their ire upon the political influence of the “Israel Lobby.”

“BDS, in some ways, detracts from directly dealing with the real problem: the foreign policy of the West has been seriously corrupted by Israeli influence, almost wherever you look,” wrote Alastair Sloan, a left-wing British journalist, on the website of Middle East Monitor (MEMO,) a pro-Hamas outlet based in London. MEMO’s director is Dr. Daud Abdullah, a signatory of the so-called “Istanbul Declaration” of 2010, which lauded Hamas as the “Resistance against the Jewish Zionist occupation.” MEMO’s staff includes Ben White, a long-serving Hamas propagandist who has stated, “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are.” Read more ..


Campus Jihad

Why We Edited 'The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel'

October 12th 2014

Early this year my colleague Gabriel Brahm and I approached a series of academics with an usual request. Higher education was facing an increasing number of struggles over the pressure to boycott Israeli universities. Academic freedom had long supported the notion that dialogue with our peers throughout the world was a fundamental value to be promoted no matter what policies their governments adopted. Indeed faculty members have traditionally seen that as one of higher education’s founding principles. But this core belief was in the process of being eroded. The movement to Boycott, Sanction, and Divest from Israel (BDS) was waging campaigns on campuses and in professional associations to make Israeli faculty, students, and their universities the one exception to a principle that had been universally honored.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the BDS movement—from Omar Barghouti to Judith Butler—were issuing a number of books in support of their cause. Yet there was not a single book supporters of universal academic freedom could turn to for help in analyzing the boycott issue and defending their beliefs. There was no lack of resources online reflecting both sides of the debate, but there was no one convenient comprehensive package for boycott opponents to use and recommend. Read more ..


The 2016 Campaign

Clinton Library Releases Papers and Reveals Clinton-Era Handling of Monica Lewinsky

October 11th 2014

Former President Clinton’s library released thousands of previously undisclosed papers on Friday, the final in a series of document dumps that have shed new light on the 1990s battles characterizing the Clinton years.

The papers released Friday included memos from Clinton staff offering advice on how to handle the Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater scandals. They offer glimpses of how the Clinton team handled the press that could take on a new light with Hillary Clinton’s expected 2016 run for the White House.

Here are five initial takeaways from the documents.

Bill Clinton has always been Hillary Clinton's best defender

After Hillary Clinton emerged bruised and beaten from the 1990s healthcare fight, Clinton adviser Paul Begala recommended that President Clinton defend his wife during the State of the Union address. Read more ..


Islam's War Against Christians

Obama Administration Denies Visa to Christian Victim of Muslim Terror

October 8th 2014

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U.S. President Barack Obama did not "publicly broach the subject of religious freedom" during talks with Saudi King Abdullah, despite a letter from 70 members of Congress urging him to "address specific human rights reforms" both in public and in direct meetings with King Abdullah. It was "remarkable that the resident could stay completely silent about religious freedom.... as well as other human rights concerns, with King Abdullah." — International Christian Concern advocacy group.

Al-Shabaab Islamists publicly beheaded a mother of two girls and her cousin after discovering they were Christians. The two daughters of one of the women, ages 8 and 15, "were witnesses to the slaughter," sources said, with the younger girl screaming for someone to save her mother. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Why the Supreme Court Dodged the Gay Marriage Issue

October 7th 2014

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The Supreme Court’s inaction on same-sex marriage Monday stunned much of the legal world, but the justices had plenty of reason to duck the hot button issue for now.

A string of lower court rulings against state bans offers both the court’s liberal and conservative wings powerful incentives to steer clear of gay marriage, despite pleas for legal clarity from both sides of the issue.

“There’s been great reluctance on the part of the Supreme Court to take up gay marriage,” said UCLA law professor Adam Winker, who suggested the justices believe the issue could “be resolved satisfactorily without Supreme Court involvement," a principle known as judicial restraint.

With legal battles over gay marriage raging across many states, the court was widely expected to take up one of the more than seven cases that had been pending before it. Instead, the justices declined to hear any of them — and no explanation was offered. Read more ..


Islam in Europe

Dutch Military Retreats in the face of Islamist Tweets

October 6th 2014

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Islamist Muhajiri Shaam

The Dutch Ministry of Defense has advised its soldiers not wear their uniforms in public. Dutch vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher of the Labour Party emphasized that the proposal was merely advice. The Dutch military, however, clearly ordered -- instead of advised -- its personnel to hide their military professions in public. Dutch customs officials, whose uniforms could be mistaken as military, received the same advice.

The reason for this display of woefully misplaced 'conscientiousness' was a series of threats by the Dutch jihadist known as Muhajiri Shaam, a member of the al-Qaeda-affiliated group Jahbat-al Nusra.

Shaam tweeted: "So, now Dutch F-16's. Dutch people: your government just made you a target". Read more ..


Broken Government

The Truth About HUBZones

October 3rd 2014

Money Bands=Happiness

Back in the 90's, defense contractors hit on a stroke of genius. They'd select subcontractors located in nearly every single one of the 435 congressional districts. This helped them when lobbying for billion dollar weapons systems. The federal government has taken a page out of that book. Few Americans have heard of a HUBZone – a Historically Underutilized Business Zone. But they impact billions of dollars in federal spending.

Here’s the theory. Some regions of the country have been left-out when it comes to federal contracts. By designating regions as HUBZones, and companies as eligible to receive HUBZone contracts, government can divvy-out contracts and help local businesses. Now, maybe its reasonable for a federal agency – when faced with identical $100 million proposals – to award one to an underserved area. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Jihadist Imam Anjem Choudary Condemns Himself in his Own Words

September 30th 2014

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"In the Quran it is not allowed for you to feel sorry for non-Muslims. I don't feel sorry for him." — Anjem Choudary.

"Eventually the whole world will be governed by Shari'ah & Muslims will have authority over China Russia USA etc This is the promise of Allah." — Anjem Choudary.

"Under the Koran the sale of alcohol is prohibited and if one were to also drink alcohol, that would be 40 lashes." — Anjem Choudary.

"We [Muslims] take the Jizya, which is ours anyway. The normal situation is to take money from the kuffar [non-Muslim]. They give us the money. You work, give us the money, Allahu Akhbar. We take the money." — Anjem Choudary. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Is California Dreaming just for the Wealthy?

September 29th 2014

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All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey
I've been for a walk on a winter’s day
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreaming on such a winter’s day...

“California Dreaming”
The Mamas and the Papas (1965)

California is a land of dreams. From the star-struck Midwestern girl seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood to the Oaxacan farm laborer hoping to earn a few bucks for the folks back home, the Golden State lures the brave, the imaginative and the desperate. Almost another nation perched on the Pacific, California’s migrant histories span different eras, ranging from the Dust Bowl environmental exodus to the Indochinese apocalypse and the Central American cataclysm, among numerous others. Read more ..


Jewry on Edge

Reflecting on Rosh Hashanah and the Year 5775

September 28th 2014

As we mark the end of another year with the advent of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, we pause to take stock of the year that has passed, to learn from ourselves, our experiences and our mistakes as we move forward to build a better future.

This has been a most difficult year for the Jewish people and particularly for the state of Israel, which once again has fended off a threat on its southern border from an implacable foe: the terrorist group Hamas. As the year concludes there is little hope that the most recent war will lead to any meaningful change in the depressing state of affairs in the Palestinian territories and particularly in Gaza, where Hamas rules with an iron fist, an anti-Semitic charter and a deep ideological opposition to any rapprochement with Israel. Read more ..


Europistan

Germany's Sharia Police Enforce Muslim Law with Violence

September 23rd 2014

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Sven Lau chats with locals in Wuppertal, Westphalia, Germany

According to Burkhard Freier, the director of domestic intelligence for North Rhine-Westphalia, German Salafists are increasingly inclined to use violence to achieve their aims, and many have travelled to Iraq or Syria to obtain combat training.

"The intention of these people is to provoke and intimidate and force their ideology upon others. We will not permit this." — Wuppertal Mayor Peter Jung.

"In Germany, German law is determinative, not Sharia law." — Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician Volker Kauder.

Salafist ideology posits that Sharia law is superior to all secular laws because it emanates from Allah, the only legitimate lawgiver, and thus is legally binding for all of humanity. According to the Salafist worldview, democracy is an effort to elevate the will of human beings above the will of Allah. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

A Foreseeable Failure

September 17th 2014

Syrian Sunni jihadis

In testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that the most that could be done by way of creating an effective Free Syrian Army – that is, the forces of the moderate opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad – was to train a force of 5,000 over the next year.

That’s probably realistic, in the sense that the Free Syrian Army is starting from a very low point, but it’s also a tacit confession that the prospects for lasting success against the Islamic State enemy are slim and distant.

Just to review: the rise of the Islamic State has its origins in the Syrian civil war, and eastern Syria is where it has its greatest base of support and safest sanctuary.  The town of Raqqah is the “capital” of its would-be caliphate.  Intelligence estimates of IS troop strength are uncertain, but the numbers and capabilities have grown rapidly and continue to grow; total effectives are now some thing above 30,000. The Islamic State’s most vital lifeline extends through northern Syria into Turkey.  And, by training the Syrians in small increments, eight weeks at a time, the result will be small units with limited capabilities, dribbled into the fight in penny-packets.  Even with support from U.S. airpower, the Free Syrian Army isn’t going to be defeating the Islamic State any time soon. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

Obama Meets with Hezbollah Supporter Following Anti-Semitic Conference

September 15th 2014

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President Barack Obama and White House national security adviser Susan Rice met with a delegation of Christian Middle Eastern leaders in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that included at least one Hezbollah-supporting Lebanese cleric.

The meeting came one day after Sen. Ted Cruz was booed off the stage for defending Israel while giving a keynote address at a conference for the same delegation of Christian leaders.

The In Defense of Christians summit, which was aimed at raising awareness of persecution against Arab Christiansa, featured speeches by several Hezbollah supporters and some of Bashar al-Assad's most vocal Christian allies. One of the clerics who met with Obama was Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, the Daily Star reported on Thursday. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

Republican Cruz Says Anti-Semitic Conference Like Nothing 'I've Experienced Before'

September 15th 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon that the “hatred and bigotry” he encountered when he was booed off the stage at a Middle Eastern Christian conference for defending Israel on Wednesday night was like nothing he has previously seen in his political career.

“I’ve certainly encountered audiences that disagreed with a particular point of view. But this virulent display of hatred and bigotry was remarkable, and considerably different from anything I’ve previously encountered,” Cruz said, just a few hours after his pro-Israel speech to the In Defense of Christians conference was drowned out by shouts and jeers from the audience.

The senator was booed off stage at the conference, which is aimed at raising awareness for the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians, after saying that Christians “have no greater ally than Israel” and calling on the audience to support the Jewish state. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Wasting Time

September 15th 2014

Iraq ISIL double file of militants

The Obama administration is behaving like a prisoner under interrogation: eventually, if unintentionally, it ends up talking most about the subjects it least wishes to discuss.

Over the weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry reversed what he’d said a few days previously, acknowledging on CBS’s Face the Nation that “we are at war” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  But he hated to admit that obvious truth, telling the ever-avuncular Bob Schieffer that “it was a waste of time to focus on that.”

The president finds the question even more irritating.  As Walter Russell Mead notes, being criticized as a vacillating wartime leader is “getting under his skin.”  Giving a dinner for foreign policy big-wigs to preview his anti-ISIS strategy, Obama complained of the portrayal in the press of “a wan, professorial president” paralyzed when brought face to face with unvarnished evil and raging bloodlust. Read more ..


The Edge of Tolerance

Pro-Hezbollah Christian Leaders Headline Conference Funded by Clinton Donor

September 14th 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) is headlining a conference on Wednesday funded by a controversial Clinton donor that will feature pro-Hezbollah and pro-Assad speakers in Washington, D.C. The “In Defense of Christians” summit is a gathering of Middle Eastern Christian leaders that seeks to raise awareness about the threats to Arab minorities from ISIL.

However, critics fear several of the speakers will try to use the event to bolster Washington’s support for the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war and help Bashar al-Assad restore his legitimacy and power.

The roster of speakers includes some of the Assad regime’s most vocal Christian supporters, as well as religious leaders allied with the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah. Other Washington policymakers scheduled to attend include Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), and Rep. Brad Sherman (D., Calif.). Read more ..


The Way We Are

Thousands Have Died From Ebola. Why Is the World Doing So Little?

September 14th 2014

Ebola health workers and corpse

Although Syria and Iraq get most of the international headlines, the Ebola outbreak in west Africa is a biological crisis of historic proportions: Three states are at risk of collapse and tens of thousands could be infected. Medical personnel say the disease is spiraling out of control.

The international response must become more serious.

Unlike the crises in the Middle East or Ukraine, there is no human adversary plotting against us. The real challenges are complacency and indifference. That the United States should be so slow to respond even after last month’s Africa summit in Washington is especially regrettable.

Outbreaks of Ebola dating to the mid-1970s have typically killed a few hundred victims. Traditionally, the virus’s hemorrhagic fevers kill more than half of those infected in experiences akin to those in fictional thrillers. One of those outbreaks, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in 1991, affected a city where one of us served as a Peace Corps volunteer. Kikwit’s poor nutritional and public health conditions made the population vulnerable to contagious disease and complicated response efforts. Until this summer, however, even severely stressed developing countries have, with international assistance, mustered responses to outbreaks that contained the affected population to one small area. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Conservatives Against Fighting Terorists

September 12th 2014

Iraqi prisoners of ISIL

It is said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds; let’s then posit that inconsistency is the hobgoblin of the chattering classes. A propos of which, an important question: does the United States have to defeat ISIS or not? Here are some rules of the game:

     It’s cheating to suggest that we only have to defeat ISIS where our partners are pretty, a little like looking for your lost keys in the lamplight. Either they are dangerous or they are not.
     It’s wrong to suggest that our partners are more than we make of them: guess what, Iraqis are reliable because we made them so; insofar as they are weak, it is because we abandoned them.
     The Free Syrian Army may not be the next Constitutional Convention, but the reason it is less palatable than the Iraqis or Sunni tribes, or the Kurds, is because it has received close to no support from any party with any money, values, arms or goals. Read more ..


America and Israel

Pro-Israel Christians are a Light in the Darkness

September 11th 2014

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When I left Israel nearly six weeks ago for my annual trip to America the rockets had already begun to fall. Just two nights before my family boarded a plane for Chicago we were frantically running for shelter as the code red siren blared, signifying an incoming missile directed at my city. The experience was truly terrifying but it was eye-opening as well. Feeling targeted and preyed on by the terrorists in Gaza enabled me to truly understand what the resilient and heroic residents of southern Israel have been experiencing for years.

“You must be excited to go to America and get away from the war zone,” many friends and family members said to me as I packed my bags, surrounded by sirens and fear. But that was not why I looked forward to my trip.

Israel is my home and her people are my people. I was not abandoning my nation during her time of need, but rather leaving my beloved homeland in order to strengthen her. With the unfair demonization of Israel and her growing number of enemies, I felt a calling to travel to America in order to seek out friends, to strengthen the pro-Israel voice and to help show my Jewish nation that we are not alone. Read more ..


The Caliphate

This Is What Happened to the Last Person Who Claimed the Caliphate. It Didn't End Well for Him. There’s a Lesson in that.

September 9th 2014

Sharif Husayn

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s recent unilateral assumption of the role of caliph has provoked widespread debate in jihadist circles as to the legitimacy of the ISIS leader’s claim, in doing so sparking memories of the similar controversy surrounding the Hashimite Sharif Husayn of Mecca’s March 1924 bid to be recognized as the legitimate successor to the deposed Ottoman caliph. It was a controversy in which the officials charged with formulating Britain’s post-war Near Eastern policy were deeply implicated.

Husayn’s claim to the caliphate was at least a decade in the making. Since the late nineteenth century, anti-Ottoman sentiment among the Arab intellectuals of Syria and Egypt had often been expressed through a proclaimed desire to reform the empire through a top-down process of Arabisation, in which the Sharif of Mecca was regularly touted for the position of caliph. In the context of deteriorating Ottoman-British relations, such ideas were encouraged by orientalists such as Wilfrid Blunt, author of an anti-Ottoman tract titled The Future of Islam in which he argued that the revival of Islam through an Arab renaissance was a historical inevitability. Read more ..


The War on Terror

9/11 Commission Criticizes Congress for Not Taking Islamic State Seriously

September 9th 2014

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Members of the 9/11 Commission are criticizing Congress for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), arguing lawmakers have not taken the threat seriously enough.

In interviews with The Hill, veterans of the blue-ribbon panel rebuked lawmakers for a generally lax approach toward oversight and said Congress fell down on the job by not implementing the recommendations they made 10 years ago.

"Nobody can be very impressed by the congressional record here. You don’t go on a five-week vacation if you think the threat to the United States is imminent. Or, at least, I hope you don’t," said former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), the vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

Seize the Jacksonian Day

September 8th 2014

ISIL execution captive prayers

“They should know we will follow them to the gates of hell.”

“The long-term challenge is debilitating and ultimately eradicating a strong and growing ISIS.”

“The president should have weaponized the moderate Syrian rebels earlier.”

“Thousands of Russian troops are here [in Ukraine] with tanks, missiles, heavy artillery, and are directly engaged in what is clearly an invasion. We should be providing the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon Putin.”

These quotes come from, in order, Vice President Joe Biden, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez.  This isn’t the sort of talk one hears from people who are “weary of war.”  But neither are these politicians who are neocon war-hawks; these are centrist Democrats and Paul, of course, is a libertarian Republican who flirts with neo-isolationism. Read more ..


The Way We Are

5 Feminist MythsThat Will Not Die

September 7th 2014

Working Women

Much of what we hear about the plight of American women is false. Some faux facts have been repeated so often they are almost beyond the reach of critical analysis. Though they are baseless, these canards have become the foundation of Congressional debates, the inspiration for new legislation and the focus of college programs. Here are five of the most popular myths that should be rejected by all who are genuinely committed to improving the circumstances of women:

MYTH 1: Women are half the world's population, working two-thirds of the world's working hours, receiving 10% of the world’s income, owning less than 1% of the world's property.
FACTS: This injustice confection is routinely quoted by advocacy groups, the World Bank, Oxfam and the United Nations. It is sheer fabrication. More than 15 years ago, Sussex University experts on gender and development Sally Baden and Anne Marie Goetz, repudiated the claim: “The figure was made up by someone working at the UN because it seemed to her to represent the scale of gender-based inequality at the time.” But there is no evidence that it was ever accurate, and it certainly is not today. Precise figures do not exist, but no serious economist believes women earn only 10% of the world’s income or own only 1% of property. As one critic noted in an excellent debunking in The Atlantic, “U.S. women alone earn 5.4 percent of world income today.” Moreover, in African countries, where women have made far less progress than their Western and Asian counterparts, Yale economist Cheryl Doss found female land ownership ranged from 11% in Senegal to 54% in Rwanda and Burundi. Doss warns that “using unsubstantiated statistics for advocacy is counterproductive.” Bad data not only undermine credibility, they obstruct progress by making it impossible to measure change. Read more ..


Labor on Edge

Michigan Judge Rules Teachers May Voluntarily Leave Labor Union

September 6th 2014

Administrative Law Judge Julia C. Stern has ruled that under Michigan’s right-to-work law, public employees can resign from a union at any time of the year. On that basis, Judge Stern said that the state’s largest teacher union, the Michigan Education Association, has been violating the law by enforcing its so-called 'August window.'

“Freedom and the ability to exercise one’s rights do not come with a time limit,” said Patrick J. Wright, vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “As we have said all along, the bylaws of a membership organization do not trump state statute. The MEA, unfortunately, chose to treat its members not as professionals but as piggy banks.”

The Judge's "notice to union members." Read more ..


Isalm's War Against Christianity

Are Iran, Assad and Hezbollah are Using Christian Persecution by ISIS to Hijack the Minorities

September 5th 2014

ISIS Takes Homes in Mosul

On September 9, 2014, a conference organized by the newly formed group “In Defense of Christians” (IDC), will be addressing the issue of “persecution of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS.” The event is very well funded and a sophisticated outreach has been mobilizing Mideast Christian churches in the United States over the past few months to participate in great numbers. The board of IDC includes prominent citizens, former government officials, and experts in the field of international religious freedom.

The context of the conference, with one day in Congress and another day at a D.C. hotel is very appealing to the public. Christians in northern Iraq were ethnically cleansed from Mosul back in June and from the Nineveh plain—the last geographical enclave for Christian Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs in Iraq—in July. More than 400,000 Christians are refugees in Kurdistan with no immediate hope for a return home. Scores of Christians have been killed, raped, and kidnapped by the Jihadists of ISIS, as were Yazidis and other Iraqis. Christians of Iraq and Syria—and before there, in Egypt—have been under persecution and submitted to violence for the past few years. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Fatherlessness, Cause or Symptom of Societal Decline?

September 4th 2014

Armstrong_Williams

There has been a lot of focus on the decline of fatherhood in the black community, as the proportion of black children growing up in single parent (overwhelmingly female headed) households have exploded since the 1960s.  Fatherlessness is widely cited as a cause of social pathologies that plague black youth – teen pregnancy, academic failure, joblessness, and epidemic rates of crime and incarceration.  This decline has been attributed by politicians and pundits to a culture of poverty -- a poverty of culture really – within the black community.  However, what the argument overlooks is that declining fatherhood may itself be a symptom of broader societal and structural factors that have affected the family unit in America as a whole.  And because of this missing connection between structural and institutional causes of family decline, the victims of the decline in families may end up taking the blame for factors that are beyond their control.  And in that sense they may be victimized twice over.

In a seminal piece entitled “Of Elephants and Men”, psychologist Dr. Wade Horn tells the fascinating story of a game reserve in South Africa’s Krueger National Park, in which juvenile and female elephants were removed in order to thin a herd that had grown beyond the reserve’s capacity to support it. The park was left with mostly male bull elephants. However, a short time later the juvenile elephants who had been transported to another reserve began violently marauding the park, killing several rare white rhinos. This was definitely not elephant-like behavior, and it confounded the reserve’s managers.  Ultimately the park rangers decided to import several male bull elephants into the reserve where the errant juveniles were wreaking havoc.  Read more ..


Islam on Edge

The Religion of Peace -- or War?

September 3rd 2014

ISIL execution crucifixion Iraq

American and European leaders are "shocked" that the Islamic State (IS) barbarians beheaded two American reporters, Steven J. Sotloff and James Foley. Their "shock" is disingenuous and troubling. They react as though such barbarism is something new among Islamists. It is anything but. And if not earlier, then certainly in the aftermath of al Qaeda's attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, a spike in Muslim groups' and individuals' barbaric crimes has been reported worldwide. Islamist beheading is nothing new.  Open a Quran in any translation to find the instructions

of what the IS and other jihadists groups are following, in the name of the Beneficent, the Merciful, Allah.'

Here are a few examples: The Book of Muhammad, verse 4 (47:4) - "Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), strike off their heads; at length; then when you have made wide Slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives: thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: Until the war lays down its burdens." Read more ..


Vote 2016

Romney 2016? Nooooo!

September 2nd 2014

Mitt Romney expansive

In the 1991 movie “Naked Gun 2 ½,” Police Lt. Frank Drebin drinks away his sorrows in a blues bar while sad music plays and the camera pans across a wall with pictures depicting the worst disasters in history: the Chicago fire . . . the Hindenburg . . . the Titanic . . . and Michael Dukakis.

If they did a remake today, they would replace Dukakis’s picture on the wall with one of another Massachusetts governor: Mitt Romney. Talk of a Romney 2016 run is heating up. A USA Today poll shows Romney with a huge lead in Iowa, far ahead of 14 other potential GOP candidates. And after months of Shermanesque denials, Romney recently cracked the door open to another presidential bid, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt that “circumstances can change.”

     To which I say: Nooooo!
Don’t get me wrong, I wish Mitt Romney were president right now. And apparently so do a majority of Americans. A recent poll found that if the 2012 election were held today, Romney would beat Obama by 53 percent to 44 percent. But those numbers more likely reflect buyer’s remorse with Barack Obama than a sudden longing for a Romney administration. Indeed, the very same poll showed Romney losing to Hillary Clinton by 55 percent to 44 percent — not exactly the result Republicans are looking for in 2016. Read more ..


The Caliphate

The World's Enormous Silence about the Slaughter of Christians

September 1st 2014

Click to select Image

The Pope, patriarchs and prelates are crying out for intervention. Where are the presidents and prime ministers?

I've known Maronite leader Monsignor Sharbel Maroun for many years, talked with him on radio in 2006 after Telelumiere was nearly destroyed in the Lebanon War that summer, and many times before and after then about the ongoing work of unity and mutual respect of Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. He just returned from Lebanon recently, we talked again this week, and he is despondent. What he said is captured well here.

Catholics in the Middle East are being persecuted and slaughtered while the world watches and remains silent, said the leader of an Eastern rite Catholic community. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

How to Stop Putin’s War in Ukraine

August 31st 2014

Vladimir Putin cool sunglasses

The bloody crisis in Ukraine has entered a new phase, with regular Russian military forces now apparently fighting in the country’s rebel-held east. Although the elements of a possible political settlement are visible, so far, the Kremlin has shown little interest in de-escalating the conflict. Instead, at every turn, Russian President Vladimir Putin has met Western sanctions and opprobrium with fresh violence. Let’s admit it: The West’s current strategy isn’t working. It’s time for new steps designed to encourage Moscow to change course.

Putin met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Belarus on Aug. 26. Apparently the meeting did not go well. Ukrainian sources initially reported agreement on securing control of the Ukraine-Russia border and a prisoner release, but Russian sources gave a more downbeat assessment. For his part, Putin denied that Moscow had any role to play in achieving a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine—holding to the increasingly unsustainable fiction that Russia is not involved in the fighting. Read more ..


What is the Islamic State?

Five Myths about the Islamic State

August 30th 2014

Iraq ISIL double file of militants

As the United States widens its battle in Iraq against the Islamic State and contemplates strikes against it in Syria, the policy debate at home surrounding the intervention is heating up. Here are five myths circulating in the media that are clouding the discussion.

1. The Islamic State was never al Qaeda.
Recently, Andrew Sullivan has been flogging the idea that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or now just “The Islamic State”) was never subordinate to al Qaeda based on the short essay, “A Closer Look at ISIS in Iraq,” by Evan Perkoski and Alec Worsnop. The authors claim ISIS pledged its loyalty to al Qaeda but retained its autonomy “at all times.” It was never “directly a part of AQ” (al Qaeda). Aside from the obvious contradiction between pledging one’s loyalty and doing whatever one wants, there are two problems with the authors’ claim. First, ISIS itself asserts it never pledged loyalty to al Qaeda. Second, al Qaeda disputes ISIS’s claim, contending ISIS had privately pledged its allegiance. It is a complicated issue that will eventually be settled when captured al Qaeda documents or U.S. intelligence on the group come to light. In the meantime, Aaron Zelin, a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has compiled what we know about the issue from publicly-available sources. And chew on this: why would Zawahiri issue a direct order to the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Baghdadi so loudly refuse to follow it if there was never any organizational tie between the groups? Read more ..


Broken Government

Good Politics Trumps Good Governance, Again

August 29th 2014

Capitol Senate

The current so-called “do-nothing Congress” has an impressive resume of legislation left on the table: corporate tax reform, the budget, and the border crisis.  Yet it was able to pass a trillion dollar 2014 farm bill. Why did the farm bill pass when so many other pieces of legislation didn’t?

It would be nice if Congress’s passage of the 2014 farm bill—and its creation of two new subsidy programs—indicated the arrival at a cost-effective solution to a problem that required federal involvement.  Unfortunately, it seems that good politics trumped good governance—and there’s an explanation as to why.

About 30 years ago Nobel Prize recipient Gary Becker developed a theory explaining the two attributes political programs that gain enough political support to pass will have. First, they will do less damage to the economy than alternatives because economic damage gives political ammunition to opponents. Second, they can be disguised as good governance rather than good politics to deflect criticisms of their true purpose. Read more ..



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