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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 ..

Operation Protective Edge

An Unsettling Truce Settles Upon Israel and Gaza

August 28th 2014

As an open-ended cease-fire took effect beginning on the night of August 26, ending seven weeks of hostilities, Palestinians celebrated in the streets of Gaza while Israelis showed more reserve. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri hailed the truce, negotiated by Egypt, as a victory for the Palestinian cause. "We are here today to declare that we have won over this destructive Israeli power," Abu Zuhri said. "We won, first and foremost thanks to God almighty, and, second, thanks to the resilience of our people."

The 50-day conflict was the longest ever between Israel and Hamas. The Gaza fighting killed at least 2,137 Palestinians, many of them civilians, as well as 69 Israelis. All but five of them were soldiers. Read more ..

Broken Healthcare

Obamacare Costs Soar Says Philly Fed

August 27th 2014

No Obamacare

Every month since 1968, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has conducted a survey of manufacturers. Participants provide measures of activity at their plants such as employment, working hours, customer orders, costs, sales, and so on. The just-released August survey included a group of special questions.  The answers provided by manufacturers are deeply troubling. The special questions focused on the costs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare.

There was no good news.

ObamaCare has caused manufacturers to cut employment by 15.2%.  The amount of work outsourced to other companies increased nearly 11%.  And prices charged to customers skyrocketed by almost 29%. Remember, these answers were in response to how ObamaCare has affected the manufacturing industry. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

GOP Keeps Quiet about Obama's Changes to Birth Control Mandate

August 27th 2014

Republican Senate candidates are staying silent on President Obama's latest changes to the birth control coverage mandate even as the policy catches flak from the religious right.

Top GOP hopefuls haven’t weighed in on the issue since Friday, when the administration announced new measures meant to accommodate religious groups and businesses that object to their insurance covering birth control.

Republican Senate candidates failed to jump on the announcement that day, and a dozen campaigns reached individually this week all declined to comment. The lack of response reveals would-be GOP senators' extreme caution as they approach the birth control debate at this point in the election cycle. Read more ..

Broken Government

Making Ryan'a Tax Plan Smarter

August 26th 2014

Paul Ryan

A few days ago, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin waded into a debate among his fellow Republicans about how they should think about tax policy. His words carry weight among Republicans: They almost universally respect his judgment on economic policy, and partly as a result have decided to make him chairman of the tax-writing committee of the House should they keep control of it in November's elections.

Some Republicans, notably Senator Mike Lee of Utah, have argued that the party's perennial focus on cutting marginal tax rates should be complemented by a revival of its occasional interest in tax relief for parents. Lee has proposed a plan that reduces the top tax rate to 35 percent and also expands the tax credit for children.

Ryan has repeatedly said that the goal should be a top rate of 25 percent. And last week, he told the Weekly Standard that he still thinks getting tax rates down should be the priority for tax reformers. Lower rates would improve incentives to work, save and invest, he argued, and thus increase economic growth. Higher growth would benefit households with and without children. This is a friendly disagreement among Republicans about what to emphasize. And Ryan's remarks point to a way it can be overcome. Read more ..

The Battle for Baghdad

Iraqi Government is Stingy with Aid to Persecuted Yazidi and Christian Refugees

August 26th 2014

Iraqi Christian home marked for dispossession by Islamic State

The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, a non-governmental human rights advocacy agency endorsed by the U.S., has issued a report on the status of refugees in Iraq, especially on the situation in the northern tier of the embattled country.

According to Hammurabi, in the refugee center at Arbel there are now 5 refugee deaths per day, going back to August 7, according to the August 21 report. The number of refugees has overwhelmed the relief agencies. There is scarcity of food and shelter. Distribution channels are slow and ineffective.

Refugees are anxious about the military operations against the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) in their towns and villages, and they fear for their property, especially in light of the fact that many of their former Muslim neighbors have participated in looting and plundering. The number of Assyrian Christian families seeking asylum has risen as hundreds of families in Turkey are at the United Nations offices in Ankara to apply for emigration. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Reporters Have Finally Found Hamas. What Took So Long?

August 23rd 2014

Gaza Militants

The Western media have found Hamas. A month into the group’s mini-war with Israel, journalists have begun publishing images of Hamas fighters and reports on its human-shield tactics and intimidation of journalists. Whatever the reason—Hamas PR savvy, media incompetence, or the fear of retribution—it is astounding that the discovery has taken this long.

The Gaza Strip, after all, is just 25 miles tip-to-toe and seven miles at its widest. More than 700 journalists went there to cover Israel's ground offensive, during which Hamas fired more than 3,500 rockets into Israel—an average of more than 100 a day.

Still, since Israel launched its operation on July 8, the media focus has barely shifted from the loss of life in the Strip. That emphasis is understandable: Images of dead and wounded civilians are heartbreaking. Forty-three percent of Gaza’s population is under 14 (and half under 18), meaning the brunt of force is borne primarily by the young.


The 2016 Vote

AFL-CIO is Not So Keen on Hillary

August 22nd 2014

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A top AFL-CIO official said Wednesday that organized labor is witholding judgment on Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate.

AFL-CIO Political Director Mike Podhorzer said unions want to be more unified behind a candidate than they were in 2008, when Clinton and then Sen. Barack Obama battled for the nomination, splitting labor. He also pushed back against the suggestion that workers have “concerns” with Clinton.
But Podhorzer acknowledged labor has questions about what Clinton will emphasize in an expected run for the White House.

“I don’t know that there are concerns,” he told reporters during a briefing at the union’s headquarters in Washington. “People want to see where she’ll be on working family issues, if she decides to run. I think that she has, over the last six years, been really focused on foreign policy, and it remains to be seen how she’s going to campaign [on our issues] if she runs,” he said. Read more ..

The Battle for Baghdad

UN Responds to Islamic State with Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years

August 22nd 2014

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The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni rebel group Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

Sunburned and dehydrated from their trek across the desert, thousands of refugees continue to arrive at camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. Alongside ethnic minorities like Yazidis and Christians fleeing the Islamic State militants, there are Sunni and Shia Muslims escaping the violence. In the space of just a few weeks, an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes. The United Nations began an operation Wednesday to supply basic needs to about half a million of the refugees. Read more ..

Healthy Edge

Not Giving in to Ebola Scare-Mongering

August 20th 2014

With all of the attention devoted to the current international Ebola outbreak, it is no surprise to see public concern that the disease might spread to the United States. It is even less surprising that some are arguing that forestalling the possible spread of this horrific disease to the United States necessitates keeping out those who are infected.

The most vocal proponent of this viewpoint, Donald Trump, posted to Twitter his opinion that “People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences,” and that “The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back,” in apparent reference to the evacuation of two Ebola-infected medical missionaries from Liberia to the United States for treatment. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

President Obama Takes Racism Personally

August 19th 2014

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding.

The time for healing for which President Barack Obama hopes has yet to arrive in Ferguson. Read more ..

America on Edge

A Nation of Victims?

August 18th 2014

Paramilitary police Ferguson Missouri

In a strange world of blatant hypocrisy and distorted equivalences, the United States--with the help of an all too cooperative media--is turning to victimization as the definition and explanation of most human relationships.

The tragedy of the death of an 18-year-old during an altercation with the police is not to be vouchsafed. Nor can the long and brutal history of U.S, race relations--particularly with African-Americans as victims--be denied or forgotten. 

But the instantaneous assumption that the police were at fault (still to be attenuated) and in the innocence of the victim (tarnished by surveillance video of a strong-arm robber) is symptomatic of a larger social evil. It is the instantaneous and unsubtle attribution of victimhood to individuals caught up in life dramas whatever their real character. Read more ..

The Caliphate

PA Accuses the US of Establishing ISIS

August 17th 2014


The Palestinian Authority official daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, has published five articles in the last six weeks accusing the United States of establishing the radical Islamic movement Islamic State (ISIS or IS) that has conquered vast territory in Syria and Iraq in recent months, this according to a report compiled by the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).  

The articles claim that the US has a long term goal of controlling the Arab-Muslim states by dividing them through conflict and wars. ISIS's war and other conflicts are all said to be the work of the US.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida wrote on July 16th: "The wars in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Palestine were planned by the US in order to protect its interests... The ISIS, Islamic Front, and Al-Nusra Front (i.e., all radical Islamists) are Muslims from various countries the US is using to fight in Iraq and Syria, in order to fragment the unity of these two Arab countries... We are now more aware that the Americans, who want to fight for their own interests using Islamic, Jewish and Christian believers, are truly the head of the snake." Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Arming Rebels Wasn't the Only Option

August 16th 2014

Syrian Rebel w/SAW

Syrian President Bashar Assad winning the Syrian civil war is akin to dying of a heart attack, but a Syrian opposition victory is the equivalent of dying from cancer. Unfortunately, the time for preventive medicine was more than three years ago.

There’s a conceit in Washington that holds that debates can continue endlessly and that the rest of the world will remain frozen in time until a decision is made. The reality, of course, is that the world revolves neither around the White House nor Congress. While intervention in Syria might have tipped the balance against Assad in the first weeks of conflict, it was not long before both Assad’s foreign allies came to his rescue and the opposition radicalized. Politicians and partisan, meanwhile, cling stubbornly to positions hashed out when the Syrian civil war was in its infancy. Read more ..

Broken Policing

Gruesome Police Cavity Searches

August 15th 2014

Emergency Medical

In 2012, Hidalgo County, New Mexico sheriff's deputy Javier Peru questioned Tim Young at a convenience store.  Young, a married father of three, consented to a search of his truck. After two hours, nothing was found.  So Peru called in Leo, the department's canine.  Another search.  Nothing.  But the dog handler claimed Leo hit on the driver's seat. Young was then accused of hiding drugs his anal cavity.

This begs the question: why would anyone who's not crossing a border hide drugs in his rectum? Young was handcuffed and driven an hour away to a hospital in another jurisdiction where the deputies had no authority and their search warrant wasn't valid.  And subjected Young to involuntary medical x-rays.  Finding nothing, they directed medical staff to conduct an anal probe.  Still nothing.  So they released him. Days later he was billed over $600 for hospital services. Read more ..

The US and the Islamic State

US Has a Chance to Stop the Islamic State

August 13th 2014

Iraqi prisoners of ISIL

It would be wrong to view President Obama’s decision to order airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and to give weapons to Kurdish fighters as a continuation of the war in Iraq. It is more accurate to see it as a mission to prevent a repetition of the war in Afghanistan. We have a chance to stop the Islamic State before it creates a sanctuary in Iraq and Syria that it could use to strike the United States, just as al Qaeda used its sanctuary in Afghanistan to kill thousands of Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. That, to his credit, is what the president has begun to do.

Obama gave two very good, moral, short-term reasons when he authorized the airstrikes on Thursday: to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe for Yazidis and Christians and to protect Americans in Kurdistan and elsewhere in Iraq. Then, on Saturday, the president clarified the larger, longer-term goals of this action. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Truth Is First Casualty When Hamas Intimidates Media

August 11th 2014

Masked Hamas terrorist close-up

In the ongoing Israeli/Hamas hostilities, a dark and unsavory feature of reportage has clearly emerged -- journalists reporting the war from Gaza have often been in no position to tell the true or full story. The evidence that truth has been thus the first casualty is already abundant. For example, Hamas maintains a major military headquarters in a basement beneath the Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Yet, during this conflict, we saw no footage of Hamas occupying the hospital.

We also saw hardly any footage of Hamas terrorists firing rockets or operating in residential areas of Gaza, though this is occurring literally every day. Not one of 37 images from three slideshows published by the New York Times during July showed even a single Hamas gunman. 

Why? Intimidation of journalists.

The Edge of Terrorism

Time to Stop Islamic Terrorism

August 11th 2014

ISIL execution crucifixion Iraq

The lightning successes of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, have given rise to two mysteries difficult to explain:

First, given the fact that IS is militantly anti-Shi'a and has made no secret of its hatred for the Shiites and its intention to wipe them out wherever it rules, it is strange that the reaction of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been so lackadaisical. The commander of the Quds Force, international wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the famous (or infamous) General Suleimani, went to Baghdad immediately after IS swept across northern and western Iraq in June, giving rise to the expectation that the Revolutionary Guard would intervene in massive fashion to break the IS momentum and drive it back. But nothing much has happened since, except for the dispatch of some military advisors. This is particularly curious because having IS sprawled across a vast territory in Iraq and Syria destroys the Iranian grand strategy of a Shi'a arc across the Middle and Near East from Iran to Lebanon, incorporating Iraq and Syria. Read more ..

The Edge of Hate

Protesters Descend on 'Judenrein' English Town

August 11th 2014

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George Galloway

A small delegation of British Jews bravely made their way to Bradford, UK on Sunday, after notoriously anti-Israel MP George Galloway proudly declared the area Judenrein ("Jew-free"; German).

The delegation, bearing Israeli flags and passports, marched to the Bradford Town Hall.

The move was organized by UKIP candidate Rabbi Shneur Odze, who took to Facebook to thank participants Sunday.

"Well guys - we made it," Odze wrote. "Some Israelis from London, Mandy Blumenthal, I and others, went to Bradford Town Hall with flags, Israeli passports et al."

"I must confess to being rather anxious as to what kind of reaction we’d get," he continued. "However, I’m pleased to say, a few shouts from across the road aside, the reception was almost exclusively positive, with many coming over to wish us well, welcome us and almost everyone, unprompted seemed to know why we were there." Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Barbarism and Obama

August 11th 2014

Obama speechifying

It is not the first time leaders of the civilized world have had to cope with a slide into barbarism which not only threatens international peace and stability but the very foundations of modern morality. Nor is it the first time that American leadership has been reluctant to take on the task of halting the destructive force.

The horrendous beliefs and actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now styling itself as a Caliphate or the Islamic State, is almost nihilistic as they persecute and kill Muslims — whom they regard as renegade — as well as Christians and Yadizi.

At the same time, we are witnessing another failure of American leadership to seize the issue and pursue it with maximum force. As part of the reluctance of the current American administration to recognize the continuing threat of Islamic extremism, it has historical analogies. It recalls the 1930s-40s’ determined obliviousness to the rise of Hitler and his destruction of European Jewry and the death of millions of Polish and Russian civilians, as well as more recent failures to cope with Kosovo or Rwanda massacres until they reached their zenith. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Hamas Terrorists Execute Terror Tunnel Diggers

August 11th 2014

In an attempt to protect their secrets from being revealed to the Israeli security forces, Hamas has executed tens of Gazan tunnel diggers in the last few weeks. The mass execution is said to have taken place after attempts from Hamas to make sure that the excavators knew nothing of the locations in which they were digging.

According to the Israeli website Mako, extreme precautions were used by Hamas.

“They would take the diggers, about a hundred men, in vans with blindfolds so that they wouldn’t know the location of the tunnels and at the end of the day would blindfold them again and return them to their homes,” claims a source in Gaza familiar with the tunnel industry. “They feared that maybe one of them was collaborating with Israel.” Read more ..

The Battle for Afghanistan

No Justice for Afghani Civilian Victims

August 11th 2014

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Amnesty International has released a report documenting the inability of the families of Afghan civilians killed in attacks by U.S. and other foreign forces to obtain justice.

The report, titled "Left In The Dark," calls on the Afghan government to ensure that accountability for unlawful civilian killings is guaranteed in any future bilateral security agreements signed with NATO and the United States.

David Griffiths, Amnesty's deputy director for the Asia-Pacific region, told RFE/RL that the report contains three key conclusions -- that Afghan civilians have nowhere to turn for justice; that the military justice system of foreign forces does not ensure accountability for these cases; and that the failure to properly address the grievances of Afghan civilians leaves behind "a dangerous legacy of resentment." Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Response to Those Claiming Hamas and Iron Dome Have Moral Equivalency

August 10th 2014

Hamas head

Right on cue, former President Jimmy Carter and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson chime in to demand that Israel treat Hamas as a “legitimate political actor” in the ongoing search for peace. Other pundits like Ramish Ponnuro urge Israel to recognize that Palestinian civilians are not “bad guys.” All this as the UN Human Rights Council prepares its next kangaroo court against the Jewish state for alleged war crimes against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Here we go again.

It is quite remarkable that Jimmy Carter, the man whose presidential foreign policy decisions as president effectively sentenced the Iranian people to a generation of repression and suffering under the yoke of the ayatollahs’ mullahocracy, would now serve as a cheerleader for mainstreaming a political actor whose script is all about genociding those blood-loving Jews. And we haven’t forgotten that Mary Robinson was the UN’s senior human rights official under whose watch the UN’s 2001 Durban World Conference Against Racism degenerated into an anti-Semitic hatefest. Read more ..

The Battle for Ukraine

When Arrested by Russians, It is Better to Die

August 9th 2014

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"I would ask my captors if they were going to rape me. 'No.' Were they going to kill me? 'No.' Then a man told me in a very serious tone, 'We will bury you alive.' And for three months I thought they would indeed bury me alive."

Ukrainian journalist and Maidan activist Irma Krat still finds it difficult to talk about the 77 days she spent in captivity after being captured on April 20 by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The 29-year-old was detained in the city of Slovyansk -- then a bastion of separatist militants -- during a reporting trip. Krat, a member of the Women's 100 organization, which guarded pro-European protests camps in the Maidan -- was recognized by the rebels and swiftly sent to their regional security services headquarters. Read more ..

The Battle for Baghdad

The Reasoning Behind Obama's Strike Against Islamic State Targets

August 9th 2014

F15 in Afghanistan

White House officials said reports of the dire and deteriorating situation of Iraqi Christians and Kurds, along with the gains made by militants in the past week, triggered President Barack Obama's decision to authorize airstrikes and other military action in Iraq.

It was a combination of factors that finally brought President Obama to authorize U.S. warplanes to strike Islamic State militants and cargo planes to drop food and water to help thousands of desperate refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the urgent reports the president saw this week about the dire and deteriorating situation were the No. 1 reason.

"Those reports were deeply disturbing and certainly influenced the president's decision to take military action in support of the humanitarian mission there." Militants with the Islamic State have been sweeping across northern Iraq, terrorizing Christians and Kurdish members of the ancient Yazidi sect, thousands of whom are taking refuge on the mountain where they have been without food or water for days. Read more ..

Defense on Edge

Restore Military Readiness

August 8th 2014


The National Defense Panel (NDP) issued its report last week, and from the muted response the report has received, you’d think it was another irrelevant Washington blue-ribbon commission. Think again.

The composition of the panel is enough to spark intrigue: What happens when you combine President Clinton’s defense secretary and a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, often referred to as Obama’s general, with former vice president Dick Cheney’s national-security adviser and Mitt Romney’s senior adviser for defense issues? One might have expected acrimony. The result was the exact opposite: a consensus report that highlights the crisis facing our military and national security. One shouldn’t conclude that the consensus suggests that the panelists abandoned their political scruples. (Any of a number of them could be the secretary of defense or the national-security adviser in a future Republican or Democratic administration.) Rather, it reveals that the precarious state of the military and our national security is of such a magnitude that it transcends political differences and makes partisan affiliation irrelevant. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Hamas Murders One of its Own and Then Blames Israel

August 8th 2014

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Militiamen on Thursday dumped the bullet-riddled body of Ayman Taha, a former prominent Hamas figure, outside Gaza City's Shifa Hospital. The body remained on the ground for nearly an hour before other militiamen came back and took it to an unknown destination.

Palestinians who were at the hospital were too afraid to remove the body. A few hours later, Taha's body was handed over to Shifa Hospital by a number of Hamas militiamen. Palestinian journalists said that Taha had been executed for spying on behalf of an Arab intelligence service and involvement in financial corruption. According to the journalists, Taha was executed by a firing squad three days ago. They said that he died instantly of gunshots to the head and chest. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Fiddles While the World Burns

August 7th 2014

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I have long believed that the true sins we are guilty of in life are not the sins of commission, the mistakes we make, but rather the sins of omission, the good things we fail to do.

Under President Barack Obama the world’s becoming unstuck. Iraq is being overrun by Islamist terrorists and the United States is now evacuating its Baghdad embassy. The Arab Spring has led to either civil war and mass slaughter, like in Syria, or new Arab dictators, as in Egypt. Libya is degenerating into a den of terrorists, who have already murdered the American ambassador. Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending tanks into Ukraine and the thuggish strongman bestrides the world like a colossus, unchecked by American will.

These facts are undeniable.

The only question is whether President Obama is responsible. Obama’s argument, as laid out in his 2014 West Point commencement speech, is that his first rule of foreign policy is “don’t do anything stupid.” Military action should be reserved only for the most extreme circumstances. Americans are war-weary after Iraq and Afghanistan. Our president believes in a minimalist approach. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Congressional Democrats More Likely to Mention Impeachment than Republicans

August 7th 2014

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Congressional Democrats have talked about the impeachment of President Obama 20 times more than Republicans have on the House and Senate floors.

Since the start of the 113th Congress last year, Democrats have used the word “impeach” or “impeachment” regarding Obama 86 times, according to a review of the Congressional Record by The Hill.

Utterances on the floor from Republicans about impeaching Obama, in contrast, have been relatively rare. Only three Republicans in this Congress have raised the subject on the House floor, and the words have been used a total of four times by GOP members. Most of the talk has come from House Democrats, with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) alone using the words 18 times in two separate speeches late last month.

In the Senate, where the GOP hopes to retake a majority this fall, not a single Republican has mentioned impeachment on the floor over the last couple of years. The figures highlight how impeachment has been a hot topic for Democrats, and one most Republicans want to avoid. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

From Welfare to Warfare

August 6th 2014

Hamas Terrorists

As Operation Protective Edge enters its truce period, we can look back. We have now seen at least four incidents in the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas that have focused attention on UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), the internationally funded welfare organization for Palestinian "refugees."

The most recent saw three IDF soldiers killed in an explosion at a booby-trapped UNRWA clinic that was located at the opening of a terror tunnel.

Earlier in the week, UNRWA discovered rockets hidden in three of its schools in Gaza. Hamas or some other faction had been using the schools while they were closed for the summer; the one available photo shows rockets piled in the back of a classroom, covered with a blanket. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

China Hacking Iron Dome, Arrow Missile Defense Systems

August 5th 2014

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According to security expert Brian Krebs, writing in Krebs on Security, Chinese hackers have gained access to crucial information related to Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. Iron Dome has been successfully intercepting rockets fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip into Israel, protecting the Israeli population from harm.

Krebs writes that according to Cyber Engineering Services [CyberESI], these latest cyber attacks, to steal crucial information regarding the missile defense system, were made by using "sophisticated tools" which resemble those used by Chinese hackers to steal information from U.S. defense firms.

According to CyberESI, more than 700 documents were stolen from three leading Israeli defense contractors: Israel Aerospace Industries [IAI], Elisra Group, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The stolen data were "in the form of Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, spread sheets, email messages, files in portable document format (PDF), scripts, and binary executable files." CyberESI also reported that the data included information on other systems such as the Arrow missile defense system and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Hamas, Not Israel, Playing Fast & Loose With Lives in Gaza

August 4th 2014

Hamas Suicide Bombers on Parade

For three weeks, we've read about and seen the Gaza fighting. Innumerable reports describe particular cases of death and injury as arising from Israeli action and encompassing large numbers or proportions of civilian casualties. Much of this reportage carries the not-so-subtle implication that Israel is on the rampage. Don't believe it.

It is by no means the case that the casualties we see on our screens stem from Israeli action, nor is it always clear whether casualties are those of armed Hamas terrorists, voluntary human shields, or of genuinely innocent civilians. 

As Bret Stephens put it this week in the Wall Street Journal, "When minutely exact statistics are provided in chaotic circumstances, it suggests the statistics are garbage. When a news organization relies-without clarification-on data provided by a bureaucratic organ of a terrorist organization, there's something wrong there, too." Read more ..

Broken Government

Five Things to Know as Congress Takes a Five-Week Summer Recess

August 3rd 2014


Congress started a five-week recess on Friday night after the House approved an immigration package that was largely in line with what conservatives in the GOP conference wanted.

Most senators had left a day earlier after completing work on a highway funding bill and a Veterans Department overhaul

Lawmakers have been focused all year on November, and the drive for control of the Senate will tick up a notch over August.

Here are five things to know about the recess.

Boehner has shelved outreach to Latinos
House GOP leaders made clear Friday that their efforts to reach out to Latino voters will be postponed until 2015 if not later.

By passing legislation to crack down on unaccompanied minors crossing the border from Central America and defunding President Obama’s 2012 order to defer deportations of Dream Act-eligible immigrants, House GOP leader picked their conservative base over Latinos, who will have a small impact on the midterm elections.  Read more ..

Education on Edge

Union Freakouts Are Hurting the Hunt for Good teachers

August 2nd 2014

Special Ed Teacher

One of the foremost tasks of education reform, most people seem to agree, is getting good teachers. The trouble is knowing how, exactly, to determine who is a “good” teacher. Student test scores are at the crux of the debate, stirring anxiety in educators who have taken to the streets in outrage at the suggestion of tying students’ results to their job evaluations. In Chicago, teachers went on an eight-day strike in 2012 over a reform plan that linked evaluations and student performance. And when then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels made evaluations central to his education policy that year, thousands of teachers flocked to the state capital in protest.

The truth is that teachers hardly live or die on the strength of their students’ test scores. They are measured on far more. Yet, the effort to reform teacher evaluations is so shrouded in myth that progress has largely ground to a halt. Still, it’s clear that some change is needed. In California, for example, where the percentage of students reaching proficiency on national assessments is significantly below the national norm, just 2.2 of the state’s more 250,000 teachers are fired each year, on average.  But as long as the reform effort remains snared in the vice of hyperbole, sub-par learning will remain the story of our nation’s schools. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Who is Really Behind the Mass Execution in Gaza?

August 2nd 2014

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In a small bathroom on the edge of the Gaza town of Khuzaa there are the haunting signs of what looks like the summary execution of several Palestinians. This once vibrant village near the border with Israel sits on the edge of the city of Khan Younis, but it is well within the 1.8-mile “buffer zone” that Israel has turned into a no-man’s land. It has been inaccessible for weeks as Israeli bombardment and troops try to take out heavy guerrilla resistance. Now all that’s left is rubble, bombed-out buildings and the all-encompassing, sickening smell of death.

The temporary ceasefire announced Thursday night was supposed to give the residents of places like this time to return home, take stock of the damage and collect belongings. But the "72-hour" ceasefire broke down after 90 minutes, and as I walked through the main street, where pieces of humans were visible beneath homes and stores, the constant thud of exploding Israeli shells grew closer and closer. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Obama Demands Release of Captive Israeli Soldier and Condemns 'Indefensible' Shelling of UN Facility in Gaza

August 1st 2014

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President Barack Obama held a press conference at the White House Friday to discuss the latest defunct ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Obama said that "I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and Palestinian factions for killing two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping a third minutes after the ceasefire was announced."

Addressing Hamas, he states that "If you are serious about resolving this situation, that soldier needs to be released as soon as possible."

When asked about the issue of civilian deaths inside the Gaza Strip, Obama replied that "We have been clear that innocent civilians in Gaza caught in the crossfire have to weigh on our conscience and we must do more to protect them."

Obama ended by saying that it would be difficult to put another ceasefire deal together when Israel and the international community are not confident that Hamas cannot follow through on an agreement. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Slams Biased Media Coverage of Conflict with Hamas

August 1st 2014

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Speaking in an interview with Erin Burnett on CNN's OutFront news program, Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer denounced CNN coverage of the current conflict between Israel and the Hamas terror organization. The diplomat slammed CNN for its alleged bias for omitting key information in a report on Palestinian casualties suffered at a United Nations hospital in the Gaza Strip.

"I think it would be a disservice to your viewers for a [CNN] reporter from Gaza not to mention that in the last week we had two different UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration] schools where we had actually rockets found in the schools and handed over to Hamas," Dermer told Burnett on the evening of July 24. Host Burnett interrupted the ambassador to say, "These are two different UN schools, you're saying." "That's correct," the ambassador replied as he addressed the CNN network's perceived bias by suggesting that its reporters should do further background research on the conflict. Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

U.S. Foreign Policy Fails Again

July 30th 2014

Kerry and

Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama's latest foreign policy initiatives have just crashed and burned, in the most easily predictable fashion. 

After direct talks between Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Zarif, and without consulting with the other five negotiating powers, the US agreed to a four-month extension of the talks deadline set last November. This gives Iran four more months to continue to work on achieving the ability to produce nuclear weapons and for the sanctions regime to deteriorate further. Of course, it also puts off the deadline until after the November Congressional elections so that the Administration won't have to admit failure before the voters go to the polls. 

Now Secretary Kerry, after failure in Cairo and Jerusalem, met in Paris with the foreign ministers of Turkey and Qatar, Hamas's strongest supporters, and "negotiated" a cease-fire proposal that incorporated all of Hamas's demands and none of Israel or Egypt's, following which Obama called Netanyahu and "demanded" that Israel agree to a cease-fire "without conditions". Read more ..

Operation Protective Edge

Winning a Lose-Lose War -- How to Lose Battles and Gain Sympathizers.

July 29th 2014

Rocket Damage

Once again neighboring enemies are warring in diametrically opposite ways.

Hamas sees the death of its civilians as an advantage; Israel sees the death of its civilians as a disaster. Defensive missiles explode to save civilians in Israel; in Gaza, civilians are placed at risk of death to protect offensive missiles.

Hamas wins by losing lots of its people; Israel loses by losing a few of its own. Hamas digs tunnels in premodern fashion; Israel uses postmodern high technology to detect them. Hamas’s missiles usually prove ineffective; Israel’s bombs and missiles almost always hit their targets. Quiet Israeli officers lead from the front; loud Hamas leaders flee to the rear. Incompetency wins sympathy; expertise, disdain.

Westerners romanticize the Hamas cause; fellow Arabs of the Gulf do not. Westerners critical of Israel are still willing to visit Israel; sympathizers of Hamas do not wish to visit Gaza.

Democracy and free markets bring Westerners liberty, human rights, and prosperity — but many Westerners scorn these things in Israel, siding with those who deny human rights, ruin their economy, and practice a brutal prejudice against women, gays, and non-Muslims. In Gaza, a gay reporter, a female reporter with bare arms, a reporter with a small crucifix around his neck, the rare journalist who, surrounded by screaming Hamas supporters, dares to broadcast the truth from Gaza — all these in private would admit to being in fear while they are in Gaza in a way they are not when in Israel. Read more ..

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