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The Way We Are

National Myths that Hide Our Patriotic Past

July 4th 2014

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The tenth anniversary revised edition of Ray Raphael’s influential book, "Founding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past," is being released by The New Press on July 4. This article was originally published by the Journal of the American Revolution.

1. On July 4, 1776, the United States declared itself an independent nation.

This is almost true, but the timing is a tad off. According to the historical record, we should be celebrating Independence Day on July 2, the day Congress finally approved the motion made by Richard Henry Lee on June 7: “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” Read more ..

Broken Government

Michigan Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Hollywood Movie Re-Makes

July 3rd 2014

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Detroit is bankrupt and required a $195 million bailout from state taxpayers, but it apparently is the perfect backdrop for the new Beverly Hills Cop movie, which will get $13.5 million in state dollars.

The sequel to the 1984 classic will feature Eddie Murphy and is being made by Paramount Pictures, which is owned by Viacom. Viacom reported a profit of $3.7 billion in 2013.

"Now that’s irony," said Eric Larson, president of the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance.

The movie production is estimated to spend $56.6 million in Michigan while filming.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman received $37.2 million in compensation in 2013, according to a USA Today report. Viacom had revenue of $14.9 billion in 2013, which is about $1 billion more than Michigan spends on K-12 public education in state dollars.

"It's bothersome that we are giving money to really rich people when we are raising taxes on people and crying poverty," Larson said. "We have a bankrupt city that we are bailing out and we are unable to fund our roads. You are basically giving money away to people who don't need it. We have no movie industry that is going to be here any longer than the tax credits are." Read more ..

Palestinians on Edge

Arab Sex and Arab Terror

July 3rd 2014

Islamic Hamas rocket

When an Arab bomber attacks Jews, there is often a SEXUAL motive.

Wafa Idris, the first Palestinian Arab woman suicide bomber, had been shamed and shunned by her husband and her own family after a miscarriage in pregnancy, and she was told she could regain “honor” for her family by carrying a bomb into a Jerusalem store on January 27, 2002. There are many such stories among Arab women bombers.

And when  Arabs accuse Israel of committing terror against Arabs—such as this week’s “settlers killed a 16-year-old boy for revenge”—there is often  a SEXUAL BACK-STORY which only emerges much later.

Indeed, several times in the past when Arabs have accused Israel or “settlers” of killing Arabs, it has turned out that Arabs themselves committed the deed, either for “family reasons” or “criminal reasons” such as a turf war between rival businesses or drug dealers. Read more ..

The Way We Are

A Few Things the Hobby Lobby Ruling Won't Do

July 1st 2014


Here's an easy way to cut through the arguments and counterarguments surrounding today's Hobby Lobby ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court: Think back to 2012.

Does the court's ruling -- in which a majority held that Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and other private employers can be exempted from a requirement in Obamacare to cover contraceptives in their health-care plans -- represent a terrible blow to women's rights? Not really: Women have the same rights they had all through President Barack Obama's first term. At that time, federal law did not require most employers to cover contraceptives.

Does the ruling mean that employees' use of contraception depends on the religious views of their bosses? Again, no more than it did in 2012.

Experience should also inform our evaluation of one of the main arguments against the ruling: that it will bring forth lawsuit after lawsuit as Scientologist employers make religious objections to covering antidepressants, Jehovah's Witnesses balk at covering blood transfusions and so on. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

The Islamist Plague

June 30th 2014

Islamist Protest PostMorsi

Many Western commentators have adopted the narrative that al Qaeda and its ilk are the exception to the "religion of peace" -- Islam. 

However, the rise of "political Islam," the brainchild of the Muslim Brotherhood, is more akin to a highly infectious disease. No vaccine is available; its spread can only be halted by identifying and eliminating the sources of infection. Yet, despite the mortal danger posed by the increasingly violent global jihadist movement, willful blindness persists in the United States and the West. 

Once the Soviet Union imploded and Islamist fundamentalism exploded, Muhammad replaced Marx and Lenin, and radical Islam replaced the socialist-nationalist doctrines of the Arab revolutionaries. The collapse of the Soviet Union served as the catalyst for an alliance between radical Sunni and Shiite movements that helped to revive Islamist fundamentalism. The spread of the Islamist ideology was paid for by the oil-rich Arab/Muslim states, which also used their money to buy Western "opinion makers," including businessmen, politicians, the media, and academics. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Will Obama Ever Close the Guantanamo Detention Facility?

June 29th 2014

President Obama vowed to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay on his second day in office, but it is increasingly unlikely he can deliver on that promise.

The president faces numerous obstacles from Congress, where lawmakers have repeatedly blocked efforts to move prisoners to U.S. soil or fund new facilities to hold them.

And the blowback from releasing five Taliban commanders in exchange for prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — without congressional approval — only intensified opposition to shuttering the prison.
Obama insists he is committed to closing Gitmo, but critics say he still has no clear plan.

Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who supports closing Guantanamo, says he has been waiting since 2009. Read more ..

Inside Politics

Rubio the Reformer

June 28th 2014

Sen Marco Rubio (R-FL)

In a hostile take on Bill Clinton's campaign during the 1992 presidential primaries, two left-wing journalists wrote that his supporters "fired off neoliberal proposals like a Salad Shooter spews lettuce shreds."

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, seems to have adopted a similar approach. In his case, however, it's conservative reforms that he is spitting out. Let's hope other Republicans are starting to listen.

In a speech today, Rubio explained how his conservative proposals would make a positive difference in Americans' lives -- something a lot of Republican politicians oddly haven't even tried to do in recent years. The theme was making it easier for people to achieve economic security in an insecure age by bringing down the cost of living.

In these respects, Rubio sounds very much like a group of people who have been called "reform conservatives." Like them, Rubio thinks that the country doesn't need to expand the federal government but does need to apply a series of conservative reforms to dysfunctional institutions like the health-care system and the tax code. And like the reform conservatives, Rubio thinks that Republicans need to apply "the principles of our founding to the challenges and opportunities facing Americans in their daily lives." Read more ..

America on Edge

Why the Voting Rights Act Still Matters: The Case of Jasper, Texas

June 27th 2014

Lyndon Johnson Greets Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy

Fifty years ago last weekend, civil-rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan, including a deputy sheriff, in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Next Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the monumental achievements of the 20th century. Three weeks ago, on June 7, we had the 16th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, after he was chained to a pickup truck by white supremacists and dragged three miles, mostly while conscious, with his headless body thrown in front of an African-American graveyard. And Wednesday marked the first anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder, the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling written by Chief Justice John Roberts that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Read more ..

Financing the Flames

US Funding Palestinian Terrorists

June 27th 2014

Financing the Flames

Obama administration officials have praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as someone with whom Israel can do business.

See the Video Report

Yet he recently chose to do business with those committed to Israel's destruction, Abbas struck a deal with Hamas making the U.S.-designated terror group part of a united Palestinian government.

Buy Financing the Flames
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Although that unity deal may soon be dead following Hamas's alleged kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, Abbas's initial embrace of the terror outfit raised serious questions about his commitment to peace.

Financing the Flames

"Peace doesn't have a chance because peace doesn't pay," said award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black. "Because anytime that they want some income, all they've got to do is commit an act of terrorism."

In his latest book, Financing the Flames, the New York Times bestselling author details how the Palestinian Authority rewards terrorists who have killed Israelis.

"As soon as a terrorist commits an act of terrorism against an innocent civilian in Israel -- whether that's cutting the throat of a child or stabbing a man standing at a bus or blowing up a building," Black said. "As soon as that man does that, he goes on a special salary from the Palestinian Authority, under Palestinian law -- a law known as the Law of the Prisoner."

The more Israelis killed, the bigger the financial reward.

"He gets a graduated salary depending on how heinous the crime is," Black continued. "If he kills five people and gets five years, he gets one salary. If he kills double that number and gets double the sentence, he gets double the salary. And so this actually incentivizes the misery, mayhem, and carnage that the terrorists commit." Read more ..

Campaign 2014

Republicans Confident of Taking Control of Senate

June 26th 2014

By Alexander Bolton and Justin Sink - 06/26/14 06:00 AM EDT
Republicans are in the strongest position to win back the Senate since losing it eight years ago.

Over several months, the party has expanded its range of targeted seats, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has helped defeat insurgents it didn’t want representing the GOP in the midterm elections.

This sober realization came to Democrats on Wednesday, as Tuesday night’s primary results showed they cannot count on Tea Party candidates upsetting more-electable incumbents.
And Democrats are increasingly realizing that President Obama’s approval rating will probably remain mired at 45 percent or lower until Election Day, giving Republicans ammo. Read more ..

The Way We Are

U.S. Militarization of Police Gains a World Stage

June 26th 2014

Largely downplayed in the national political discourse, police violence and militarization is nevertheless reemerging as a major issue of the day. And it is one that is drawing notice abroad.

Last week, it was the turn of the border city of El Paso, Texas, to be in the international spotlight when a jailhouse video was released that showed the March 2013 shooting of Daniel Saenz by El Paso police officer Jose Flores. Saenz, who was a powerful bodybuilder, was handcuffed on the ground and struggling with a pair of officers when a single bullet from Flores’ gun ended the prisoner’s life.

The video went “viral” on the Internet, registering hundreds of thousands of hits and getting an airing on the “Young Turks” show. Saenz had been transported from a local medical center, where he assaulted two people while he was hospitalized for high blood pressure, but reportedly was on his way back to the hospital after he head-butted a jail door. Read more ..

European Jewry on Edge

As Europe slides into a Dark Age, Jews Must Review their Future

June 25th 2014

Isi Leibler

Recent developments signal that the prospect of Europe sliding into a new Dark Age is now a horrifying reality. It is as though all the elements negating the open society have been blended into a witches’ brew to undermine Europe’s liberal cultural ethos.

First in line to suffer are the Jews, attacked from all sides, isolated, friendless and unable to adequately defend themselves. Their greatest threat is the rabidly anti-Semitic Muslims supported by anti-Semites from the far Left. This unholy alliance of religious and secular extremists employs radical anti-Israelism as a surrogate for traditional anti-Semitism and is now a fixture at Hezbollah and anti-Israeli demonstrations, where they wave placards and shamelessly accuse Israelis of emulating Nazis.

In contrast to the post-Vatican ll Catholics, most Protestant denominations (other than the evangelicals) have revived their vicious efforts to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. Spearheaded by the radical World Council of Churches, many are vigorously pressing charges of deicide against the Jewish people and resurrecting replacement theology asserting that by rejecting Christ, Jews are no longer the Chosen People. They also collaborate with the Palestinians in promoting Jesus as a Palestinian rather than a Jew. Some even deny the historical link of Jews with the land of Israel, claiming that Jews are descendants of the Eurasian Khazars who converted to Judaism in the eighth century C.E., and that Palestinians are the truly indigenous people of the region.

Even non-governmental organizations promoting human rights have been hijacked by the radicals to demonize and delegitimize Israel, focusing far more attention on the construction of homes in exclusively Jewish suburbs of east Jerusalem than on the carnage and murder of tens of thousands in Syria and other Muslim-ruled countries. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Young Obamacare Enrollees more Likely to Have Serious Health Problems

June 25th 2014


The success of Obamacare always rested on getting enough “young invincibles” to enroll on the exchanges. Since the scheme bars health plans from pricing their insurance policies to the actual risk, Washington needs a lopsided share of cheaper young people paying too much in order to subsidize older people who are paying too little.

As many people expected, not enough young folks are signing up to pay the high premiums. But the structural problem could run much deeper. The young people who are enrolling also tend to have more serious (and costly) medical problems. In short, Obamacare’s young enrollees aren’t invincible enough to underwrite the law’s delicate scheme.

The most compelling proof of this paradox comes from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, which recently gave the first significant snapshot of the health status of its new enrollees. The data show that the younger people ages 18-34 enrolling in its exchange plans have much higher prevalence of chronic health problems than the same cohort enrolled in its comparable commercial (non Obamacare) plans. The results were based on a self-assessment survey sent to its beneficiaries. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

The United States Has Unfinished Business in Ukraine and Iraq

June 24th 2014

Russian tourists in eastern Ukraine

In recent weeks, some of the international system's unfinished business has revealed itself. We have seen that Ukraine's fate is not yet settled, and with that, neither is Russia's relationship with the European Peninsula. In Iraq we learned that the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the creation of a new Iraqi political system did not answer the question of how the three parts of Iraq can live together. Geopolitical situations rarely resolve themselves neatly or permanently.

These events, in the end, pose a difficult question for the United States. For the past 13 years, the United States has been engaged in extensive, multidivisional warfare in two major theaters -- and several minor ones -- in the Islamic world. The United States is large and powerful enough to endure such extended conflicts, but given that neither conflict ended satisfactorily, the desire to raise the threshold for military involvement makes logical sense. Read more ..

The Way We Are

New Mexico Citizens Riled by Police Shootings

June 23rd 2014

New Mexico police shooting of James Boyd

Slightly more than three months after the police shooting of homeless camper James Boyd catapulted Albuquerque into the international spotlight, activists returned to the streets to advance their movement against police brutality.

On a blistering Summer Solstice Day, whose blazing mid-day sky was oddly crested by a half-moon , more than 200 people marched up Central Avenue near the University of New Mexico chanting “Justice Now” and “They say justified, we say homicide!” A big banner titled “Desert Sprits of New Mexico” bore the names of people shot to death by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), as well as the 11 women and girls found murdered on the city’s West Mesa in 2009 in the largest unsolved crime of New Mexico history. T-shirts and placards remembered the dead: “Justice for Jonathan (Mitchell)” and “In Honor of Alfred Redwine.” Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

Palestine Erupts into Anti-Abbas Intifada

June 23rd 2014

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There already is an intifada against Israel. The Palestinians are close to declaring another intifada, this time against their president, Mahmoud Abbas, thus paving the way for a further escalation of the anti-Israeli Intifada.

Abbas has been diverting Palestinian anger toward Israel. The rhetorical attacks on Israel embolden Hamas and Palestinian extremists and drive more Palestinians into their open arms.

What happened in the center of Ramallah on the morning of June 22 could signal the beginning of an uprising, or intifada, against the Palestinian Authority [PA]. Read more ..

Education on Edge

Fire the Worst Teachers

June 22nd 2014

Special Ed Teacher

California judge recently ruled that the state’s tenure, dismissal, and layoff rules for public-school teachers lead to “grossly ineffective teachers” being retained in the classroom, producing instruction so inadequate for poor and minority students as to be considered unconstitutional. Los Angeles County judge Rolf M. Treu’s ruling surely will be contested, and it is an open question how constitutional equal-protection clauses should be applied to school-personnel issues. But the ruling does raise important questions regarding the role that the firing of teachers should play in improving public education.

It’s been 30 years since the landmark report “A Nation at Risk” highlighted the dire state of America’s public schools. Since that time, education has undergone a series of supposed reforms, including massively increased spending, smaller classrooms, and higher pay for teachers with accreditation or master’s degrees. The number of students is barely greater today than it was in 1983, but there’s been a 57 percent increase in the number of school employees and a 40 percent rise in real per-employee compensation. The list of smaller-scale reforms would cover pages. Read more ..

The War on Terror

The Complicity of the United States and EU with Palestinian Terrorism

June 20th 2014

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Just the day before the three boys were kidnapped, the EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, welcomed Hamas into the Palestinian Authority government while lambasting Israel for detaining terrorists and taking action to prevent Hamas terrorist attacks from Gaza and the West Bank. Ashton, though never slow to condemn Israel, took five days to denounce this kidnapping. Both her words and her actions have legitimized and encouraged Hamas.

Both the U.S. and the EU have paid the salaries of Palestinian terrorists by means of grants to the PA; they also fund this propaganda and incitement.

Like every government, Israel has an absolute duty to protect its citizens, and undermining this terrorist threat is an essential part of that responsibility. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

Obama Health Officiial: The Obamacare 'Bailout' of Insurers Will Be Financed by a New Tax on Everyone's Health Plan

June 19th 2014


For months, there have been assertions that the mechanisms embedded in Obamacare, designed to offset losses that insurance companies will take this year on their exchange business, amount to a bailout of the insurance industry.

At the same time, it wasn’t clear where the money to pay for these “risk adjustments” would come from in the first place.

One scheme had the Obama Administration using money that it clawed away from profitable health plans to offset the losses incurred by the less fortunate insurers.

This, at least, was the way the so-called “risk corridors” were supposed to work, according to the original legislation. Problem is, it’s not clear that there will be enough health plans this year (or any at all) with excess profits that could be used to offset the losses incurred by insurers who were less fortunate. Read more ..

The Battle for Iraq

Deconstructing The Iraq And Syria Conflicts

June 18th 2014


The current escalating sectarian violence between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Iraqi forces and the unending civil war in Syria are now intertwined and neither can be resolved without the other, which requires a dramatic change in the political and military landscape in Syria and Iraq.

What is happening in Iraq today, and how the unfolding events may play out in the coming months or years, is directly related to three central developments:

First is President Bush’s misguided Iraq war, which has precipitated the violent conflict between the Shiites and the Sunnis in the region. Second is President Obama’s failure to reach a security arrangement with Iraq before the complete withdrawal of American forces and conditioning continued American support of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki on the establishment of an inclusive government of reconciliation. Finally is the unwillingness of the US to provide the rebels in Syria early on with the kind of military hardware needed to blunt Assad’s onslaught. All combined have brought about the convergence of Al-Qaeda and Islamic jihadist groups into Iraq and subsequently into Syria, causing the unfolding horror we are witnessing today.


The US on Edge

Why the DC Media Bubble Is So Dangerous to Democracy

June 17th 2014

Journalists at press conference

As Iraq implodes, as the White House looks to bury even deeper the scandals surrounding the VA and (still) Benghazi, and as the country begins to contemplate the presidency of someone (Hillary Clinton) who has been at the center of Washington since 1993, the gulf between the American public and the D.C. permanent ruling class grows dangerously deeper. The most recent Economist/YouGov poll has Congress's approval rating at just 10 percent (it's getting to be a stale joke to ask who in the world those 10 percent could be), while President Obama's hovers in the low 40s.

Yet Washington itself remains insouciantly, defiantly self-obsessed and self-satisfied. Yes, individual congressmen, like Eric Cantor, can get knocked off by their constituents, but as a corporate body, Washington is invulnerable and impermeable to change. It forestalls any threats to its real power (fiscal extraction) by continually expanding the scope of its powers, far beyond what the Founding Fathers intended. The form of American democracy may remain intact, but its functioning is increasingly disconnected from the will of the people. From Washington's perspective, business is great: Income is up, credit is limitless, and the customer base is growing. There can and will be no reform coming from inside Washington because that is manifestly not in Washington's interest or in the interest of those who benefit from its largesse. Read more ..

Broken Government

Next Move for Democrats on Student Loans

June 16th 2014

College expenses

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to offer borrowers lower interest rates on their existing student loans died in the Senate yesterday after it failed to pick up enough Republican support.  The bill includes a tax increase on high-income households, ensuring that the Republican-controlled House would have ignored it even if it had passed the Senate.

The bill was little more than a “glorified talking point” and a poorly designed policy to boot.  Reducing rates on existing federal loans carried an estimated price tag of $63 billion, which would likely have gone disproportionately to more affluent households.  And borrowers of federal loans are already protected from unaffordable monthly payments by various programs that allow them to make payments based on their incomes.  The bill, despite being titled the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act,” would have mostly covered non-emergencies.

Where do President Obama and Congressional Democrats go from here?  They could drop the legislative effort and make their case to voters, although it’s not clear that they would change the votes of enough borrowers to make a difference in the fall elections.  Alternatively, they could seize upon a piece of the Warren bill that actually might help struggling borrowers, and not require any tax increases to do so: allowing some borrowers to convert their private student loans into federal loans. Read more ..

The Battle for Iraq

Obama Seeks Answers for Iraq Imbroglio

June 14th 2014

Obama pensive with flag

There is no simple answer for the White House in dealing with the sweeping offensive by al Qaeda-affiliated militants in Iraq.

The domestic and international politics of the situation are both complicated, and even critics of the administration agree there are few good options.

Here are five problems that make this foreign policy crisis especially difficult for President Obama.


Iran is seen as a U.S. enemy, but it is aligned with Iraq’s embattled prime minister, a fellow Shiite Muslim under siege by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a Sunni Muslim group. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has sent hundreds of members of the Revolutionary Guard to Iraq to assist its government, and Iran has signaled that it would be willing to coordinate with the U.S. if Obama opts to tack military action. That will give Washington pause, says Steven Cook, a fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Da'wah for Dummies

June 14th 2014

Koran and prayer beads

     Part One: The Importance of Da'wah
From its very beginning, Islam was spread politically and occupied territories by two arms: Jihad, the violent arms of occupation, violence and war-mongering, and Da'wah, the diplomatic and propaganda arm with the aim of Islamization. We are all well acquainted with Jihad, with its varied manifestations of violence, how it originated from Qur'anic commandments, and we have put our most attention, energies and resources on preventing it. From Islamic perspective, it is critical to internalize that killing and being killed is the utmost of Islamic ideals. This is a win-win situation and it means even killing the Mujahid's parents, brothers and sisters if they are not Muslims. This is a win-win situation: if the Muslim is killed on the battleground, he becomes Shahid and enjoys all the glories of Paradise; and if he wins on the battleground, he becomes master of the infidels and gets booty.

However, though Jihad is the notorious instrument of all Muslim doctrines, Islam means first and foremost conquering the world by Da'wah, by propaganda, by proselytizing, by winning the hearts of all human beings to believe in Islam as the supreme religion. Da'wah is the important arm with the aim to submit and to capitulate. All through Islamic history it has served as the religious legitimization basis to invite all human beings to accept Islam as the only supreme religion. The operational order was always Da'wah first, and if it fails, than Jihad: Da'wah Qablal-Jihad. Read more ..

The Digital Edge

Stingray Evades Court Orders

June 13th 2014

ATF officers

Stingray.  That's the generic name of an electronic device that invades your privacy.  And collects data on you. I'm not talking about identity thieves.  This is much worse.
Stingray devices are being used with increasing frequency by law enforcement at federal, state and local levels. Generally, law enforcement would get a search warrant so that a phone company could be ordered to provide data on your cell phone, tablet device or cellular broadband card you plug into a laptop.  A judge would issue a search warrant when presented with probable cause that a crime has been committed.

But some law enforcement are skipping the search warrant.  And are using stingray devices.  These devices masquerade as a cell phone tower causing cell phones, tablets and laptops to ping the tower.  Giving away their locations. Then law enforcement proceed with collecting more data. Read more ..

The Race for Ethanol

The Figurative Wall is a Fictional Wall

June 13th 2014


My business partner just called my attention to a story that recently appeared on the online publication TheCuttingEdgeNews.com*, titled "Corn Based Ethanol Hits A Figurative Wall." The story was written by Steve Baragona, a science and health reporter for the Voice Of America. The story takes a swipe at the so-called ethanol "blend wall" and then touches on a couple of other negative myths about ethanol, which I can only presume were added in because there was no real information as to why or how corn based ethanol has hit this figurative wall. Rread the story here.
As an aside, I'm sort of puzzled as to why Mr. Baragona chose to bother writing this story, even though it's relatively short length must have taken no more than a few minutes to compose. If I wanted to be really suspicious I would say that he must have received a missive from someone in the oil lobby that said they were paying a few hundred dollars to anyone in the media who wanted to write something negative about ethanol. And with the advent of summer, he figured it would be nice to have some extra walking-around money. However, I hope he only tackled the topic because he or his editors felt it was news-worthy. In any event, whatever the reason for the story, the headline as well as the negative comments about ethanol are incorrect; that's why my headline states that the "figurative wall" is a fictional wall. 

The essence of the ethanol blend wall argument posed by Big Oil is that with the decline in gasoline usage in America (due to improved engine MPG and less driving) that government regulations calling for increased national ethanol usage can't be safely met. And the reason that the increased national ethanol usage can't be safely met - according to the oil lobby - is that the only way to comply with the Federal regulations is to increase the blend level of ethanol in every gallon of gasoline, which they claim can damage a vehicle's engine. Read more ..

Palestine on Edge

How Israel Should Respond to Palestinian 'Unity' Government

June 13th 2014

The essential point that Israel needs to grasp, and to make understood internationally at every opportunity, is this: President Abbas will not become responsible for rockets in Gaza only when they are fired; he has made himself responsible for those rockets – and for their elimination – now.

Let the US Congress, too, tell the new Palestinian government: "Since you now rule over Gaza, you will not get any more money from us until you agree to surrender all those rockets in Gaza to be destroyed under international control."

The formation of a Palestinian "unity" government, endorsed jointly by Fatah and Hamas, completely wrong-footed the government of Israel. This should not have happened. Unlike earlier schemes for Palestinian unity, it had been clear long enough that this one was going to bear fruit. There was ample time for Israel to have planned a response that went beyond an unqualified rejection. Read more ..

Hamas-PA Unity

Nita Lowey’s Leadership Moment on Israel and the Peace Process

June 12th 2014

Edwin Black

America grants the Palestinian Authority about $500 million annually. The fast-spinning money meter has already broken the $5 billion mark over the years. The annual financial infusion has been on autopilot as Israelis and Palestinians negotiated over the meters and metrics of a two-state solution. American money has been lavishly spent on Palestinians for one purpose: to encourage the peace process.

Recently something changed. The Palestinian Authority unified with Hamas, making it the largest, best organized, and best armed terrorist entity in the world. Hamas, long designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization, is well-known for showering Israeli civilians with rockets. Quickly dashing any hopes of change, Hamas did not disband its highly-armed and trained militias, vowed to never recognize Israel, and barred pursuing joint peace.

Newspapers have been filled with headlines recently about how Congress is preparing to defund the Palestinian Authority because various federal laws make continued cash infusions under present conditions illegal, and because further money would be antithetical to America’s pro-peace and anti-terrorism policy.

While many of the names of House and Senate leaders have been bandied about, most Congressional sources arguably agree that the most important lawmaker is Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat from Westchester County, NY. Lowey sits on both the full Appropriations Committee and the key subcommittee governing State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. Foreign assistance begins and dies in this subcommittee. The Republican side of the aisle has been lining up staunchly against continuing funding and invoking the mandatory legal brakes. This includes subcommittee chairwoman Kay Granger from Dallas, who has asserted that unification “puts in jeopardy future U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority.” Read more ..

Iran on Edge

In Islamic Iran All Innovation is Unbelief, Including Baha'i Faith

June 10th 2014

Mona Mahmudinezhad

Liberalization is a constant threat to today's Islamists.

Anyone who takes an interest in human rights issues in Iran -- and there are many who do -- probably knows about the Baha'is. They are a small religious minority (perhaps as many as 300,000), but nonetheless the largest in the country. The largest, yet painfully small and the most hated. If Jews and Christians have a rough time in Iran, the Baha'i experience has been worse.

Over 200 members of the religion, including many of its leaders (there are no priests) have been executed, and others have been and still are in prison. In 1983, a seventeen-year-old girl, Mona Mahmudinezhad, was hanged in Shiraz along with nine older women, mostly in their 20s. Their crime was, apparently, teaching "morality lessons" to Baha'i children who had been expelled from school.

All the Baha'i holy places in Iran have been reduced to rubble, including the beautiful House of the Bab, a small treasure of Iranian architecture which the author visited often with its custodian. All Baha'i cemeteries have been dug up and bodies exhumed. No young Baha'i is permitted to enter university. Older Baha'is have had their pensions removed. Jobs are hard to come by. Many linger in prison. There are serious plans to rid the country of the Baha'is altogether. Read more ..

America and Great Britain

The Not-So-Special Relationship--Seventy Years After D-Day

June 9th 2014

British army privates on parade

Seventy years after Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, D-Day remains etched in American minds. Even as the "Greatest Generation" passes away, the iconic images of Allied forces landing on the beaches to free Europe from the clutches of Nazi Germany live on in movies, history, and even politics. Only in 2006 did the British finish repaying Lend-Lease, the crucial American military aid that ensured Britain's survival during the war. The invasion of France and the subsequent liberation of Europe defined the Anglo-American bond—the Old and New Worlds uniting to defeat tyranny. Since then, however, a lot has changed, and the "special relationship" has lost some of its luster.

Superficially, at least, the state of the "special relationship" is strong. At the United Nations, only a handful of countries, like Canada and the Marshall Islands, vote more frequently with the United States than the United Kingdom. With trade topping $100 billion in 2013, the State Department considers the United Kingdom as "one of the largest markets for U.S. goods exports [sic] and one of the largest suppliers of U.S. imports." Read more ..

Palestinians on Edge

Jews and Palestinians: A little history remembered

June 9th 2014

Palestinian Rock Attackers

The failure of American-mediated peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the likely creation of a Hamas-Fatah government in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip have cast deep shadows over the Middle East.

Harry Truman once said that the only new history is the history that we have forgotten. This is especially true of the Palestinians, whose history has been forgotten by many.

When the 1948 war between Israelis and Arabs is bathed in the color of a Palestinian "nakba" (catastrophe), few remember that the United Nations in November 1947 by a 33-12 vote adopted Resolution 181 that called for the creation of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. The 650,000 Jews in British Palestine declared independence in May, 1948 and won their battle for statehood. Read more ..

Broken Government

Changing Leadership Will Not Cure the VA

June 7th 2014

Soldier Crying

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation will not solve the crisis in the VA health system. Veterans have had trouble accessing the healthcare they need for decades — and over many changes in agency leadership. We need to open the system to competition. Let veterans, not bureaucrats, decide how they get their healthcare.

The VA's inspector general reported last week that 1,700 veterans in the Phoenix area who were waiting for a primary care appointment were not even included on the electronic wait list. Veterans waited 115 days on average for their first primary care appointment.

Today's problems are not new. They go back at least as far as the early 1970s, when the VA was seeing an influx of Vietnam veterans with serious war-related injuries. Failure to recognize exposure to Agent Orange as a cause of serious health conditions stirred public protest over inadequate care. Then, as now, the VA head resigned, but the system did not change. Read more ..

Broken Government

Our Chicken Dinners At Stake

June 6th 2014

Chicken Flock

Most of the meat on our dinner plates comes from cows and chickens treated with a battery of drugs that helped them grow quickly in dismal, cramped conditions that would otherwise make them sick.  The drugs are blended into their food and water without any requirement for a veterinary prescription.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued long-awaited guidance, asking drug companies to voluntarily curb the use of drugs that are also essential for human health—such as tetracyclines, penicillins, and azithromycin. The guidance calls for pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily alter their drug labels to exclude growth promotion as a listed use, and that would make it illegal to use the drugs for such growth promotion uses in the future. Read more ..

Science and Environment

How to Tell When a Sewage Pipe Needs Repair -- Before it Bursts

June 5th 2014

Click to select Image

The nation's sewer system is a topic most people would prefer to avoid, but its aging infrastructure is wearing out, and broken pipes leaking raw sewage into streets and living rooms are forcing the issue. To better predict which pipes need to be fixed, scientists report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology that certain conditions in the pipes can clue utilities in to which ones need repair — before it's too late.

Mark T. Hernandez and colleagues note that the maintenance of U.S. wastewater collection systems costs an estimated $4.5 billion every year, much of which goes toward fixing or replacing 8,000 miles of sewers. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

The Battle Over Obama's Legacy and the Democrats' Political Future

June 4th 2014

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President Obama’s second-term focus on legacy building is coming into direct conflict with the Democratic Party’s pursuit of victory in the midterm elections.

While Obama has been fundraising for his party at a steady clip, some Democrats fear the president is more concerned about the history books than in helping his party in 2014.

“I think he’s always been concerned with his legacy,” said one Democratic strategist who has consulted with the White House. “One of the big misconceptions is that the president is concerned about short-term politics. I think he’s focused on what it will look like to the next Robert Caro,” the strategist said, referring to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s biographer.

Democrats point to Obama’s announcement last week about removing troops from Afghanistan by the end of his presidency as an example of the White House’s focus on Obama’s legacy. Others point to Monday’s announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency of sweeping new climate change rules aimed at cutting carbon emissions. Read more ..

The Way We Are

States' Rights, Slavery & Symbolism of Cliven Bundy

June 2nd 2014


        America is a land of stories.  We love to use stories about individuals to extract general principals about society as a whole.  The story of Cliven Bundy is no exception.  His story about an armed standoff versus the Federal Government this past April was illustrative to many of the principles that we are a government of the people, that individual rights are sacrosanct, and that states have the right to decide how to govern the lands and people within their territories.  But the story didn’t end there unfortunately.

Given the bully pulpit for the first time in his life, Mr. Bundy foolishly squandered his opportunity to have America hear his story.  Instead, he launched into a misguided and racist diatribe about African Americans, stating that he believed the fact that “they never learned to pick cotton,” accounted for the social ills of single motherhood and high black male incarceration rates.  He went on to speculate, “I’ve wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family…?” The entirety of his rant has been relentlessly reported, and the real principles undergirding his story have been lost in the ensuing media feeding frenzy.

But that does not mean there is not a story to be told here, and an important one.  In fact, Bundy meandered right into one of the essential fault lines of American society: the relationship between states’ rights and slavery, and more generally the relationship of majority rule to the protection of individual civil rights.  A cursory review of the history reveals inextricable links between early states’ rights advocates and proponents of slavery.  In fact, some would say that the Civil War, called by some the War between the States, was not over slavery per se, but whether States had the rights to enact laws governing slavery within their territory.  That might seem to be a minor distinction for some, but the issue continues to rear its’ head in American law and politics to this day, and not just when it comes to issues of race.  Read more ..

Broken Government

Pro-Israel Group’s Lawsuit Against IRS May be Tea Party Game Changer

June 1st 2014


If the IRS had behaved itself, Z Street would rarely have ever made the headlines outside of the small world in which anti-Israel and pro-Israel groups argue with each other. But then the IRS, following the lead of the New York Times, decided to be overt about Obama’s policy of political intimidation. And now a crack has opened.

On Tuesday, a federal judge refused to dismiss a suit brought by a pro-Israel group against the IRS. In her ruling, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson demanded that the agency stop “attempting to thwart this action’s advancement,” and ordered the IRS to respond to the complaint within thirty days. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

The Republican Strategy Regarding VA Secretary Shinseki

May 30th 2014

It’s not that House Republican leaders think Eric Shinseki is doing a good job as secretary of the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s that they think his ouster could give President Obama an easy way out of a widening crisis.

Over the last several days, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have resisted an increasingly bipartisan chorus of calls for Shinseki’s resignation following reports of concealed waiting lists and preventable patient deaths at VA healthcare facilities.

Their position has been noteworthy, particularly as Shinseki has lost support among even Democratic stalwarts like Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the party’s campaign chief and a confidante of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).
While Boehner said last week he is “getting closer” to calling for Shinseki to step down, he has argued that the secretary’s ouster would follow a predictable pattern of political scandals: anger grows, a top official gets the boot, the administration can say it took action, and public attention would quickly dissipate. Read more ..

Obama's Second Term

The End of the Line for VA Secretary Erick Shinseki

May 30th 2014

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is widely expected to lose his job as the White House seeks to quell a rising controversy over mismanagement at his agency.

White House press secretary Jay Carney offered little support for Shinseki’s position on Thursday, repeatedly brushing aside questions about whether President Obama had the four-star general’s back.

Instead, Carney reiterated the president's pledge to seek “accountability” for secret waiting lists at VA facilities that may have contributed to the deaths of veterans.
Carney said Obama expected a preliminary report from Shinseki “by the end of this week,” setting up Friday as a possible time for Shinseki’s dismissal. Read more ..

Broken Education

Anti-Jewish Books Still in Newton

May 29th 2014

Blackboard classroom

New information has surfaced regarding the Newton Public School controversy. Compelled to comply with state law, the school’s administrators recently were forced to release an initial batch of 9th- and 10th-grade history lesson plans used to teach about the Middle East. Most of the information, initially withheld from the public despite requests from parents, taxpayers and even a Newton alderman, was delivered to Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT’s) offices in response to a public records request. Once our request is completed, we will post the records on this website. Newton citizens, especially those who are Jewish, will not be pleased.

For two years, we have been told by Superintendent David Fleishman and others that the Arab World Studies Notebook (ASWN) was removed from all classrooms and has not been used to teach Newton students since 2011. But the official documents we received show that Newton South High School assigned readings from the AWSN to 9th-grade students in at least three separate classes in the last school year – months after claims that it was “eliminated.” Read more ..

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