July 28th, 2014
so.. war under false pretenses.. . seems familiar..
When the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, kidnapped in the West Bank, were found late last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not mince words. "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay," he said, initiating a campaign that eventually escalated into the present conflict in the region.
But now, Israeli officials admit the kidnappings were not Hamas's handiwork after all. (Update: The comments from the Israeli spokesperson in question indicate that the group thought to be responsible, a "lone cell," may not have been under direct orders from Hamas's leadership, but was loosely affiliated with the group.
By: Tom Servo
July 21st, 2014
Millennials' Political Views Don't Make Any Sense
That's not a harsh assessment. It's just a fair description.
Derek Thompson Jul 15 2014, 7:56 AM ET
Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They're for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they've heard of. They'd like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn't run anything.
That's all from a new Reason Foundation poll surveying 2,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Millennials' political views are, at best, in a stage of constant metamorphosis and, at worst, "totally incoherent," as Dylan Matthews puts it.
- Millennials hate the political parties more than everyone else, but they have the highest opinion of Congress.
- Young people are the most likely to be single parents and the least likely to approve of single parenthood.
- Young people voted overwhelmingly for Obama when he promised universal health care, but they oppose his universal health care law as much as the rest of the country ... even though they still pledge high support for universal health care. (Like other groups, but more so: They seem allergic to the term Obamacare.)
1. Millennials are more liberal than the rest of the country, particularly on social issues, but they get more economically conservative when they make more money.<snip>
2. Millennials don't know what they're talking about when it comes to economics.<snip>
3. Far less important, but entertaining nonetheless: Millennials don't know what socialism is, but they think it sounds nice.
July 19th, 2014
With the recent decisions in Hobby Lobby, FEC v. McCutcheon, and Citizen's United, overall public opinion of the Supreme Court has been very low. However, I would hazard a guess that the Supreme Court could give a rat's furry behind what the public opinion polling says.
Americans do not seem to understand the Supreme Court or the judiciary as a whole nearly as much as they think they do. Whether this is a result of the prevalence of shows like Law & Order or courtroom "reality" shows like Judge Judy, or simply due to a lack of ignorance on the part of the American public, I do not know.
What I do know, is the people doing the most criticizing have the least knowledge, and have not read the decisions they're criticizing.
Take, for example, the Hobby Lobby case. That case dealt with, at its core, a person's rights, albeit a juristic person, in conflict with federal law. Strictly speaking, there was not an issue of a human person being denied access to birth control by a company. Another case will undoubtedly wind its way to the Supreme Court that will settle that issue. I disagree with Hobby Lobby's decision, but for an entirely different reason than that which has been given the most attention. In deciding the case, the Supreme Court has affirmed that Congress can decide the outcome of a case by determining which level of scrutiny the Court must apply. Without the RFRA, the statute that caused the decision, the Supreme Court would have likely used rational basis review in deciding the case, which would have made the decision less likely to go for Hobby Lobby.
The only good thing that can come from the Hobby Lobby decision is that now the Supreme Court doesn't have much of a leg to stand on when using a separation-of-powers argument to prohibit Congress from requiring Supreme Court cases be televised. I think something like that would do nothing but good.
In dealing with McCutcheon and Citizens United, the Supreme Court had to deal with the fact that the Constitution was written for a time when political parties were not organized, and thus had to apply the vague language of the Constitution to modern controversies the Framers wouldn't have ever imagined.
Yesterday, when the Supreme Court announced that Utah's application for a stay in their same-sex marriage case was granted, many people on Facebook acted as if they had decided the entire case. When I tried to explain that it was just a procedural step in every case, that a judgement does not go into force until the appeals process is exhausted, I was largely ignored.
June 29th, 2014
Does this come from Obama disclaiming Americas exceptionalism over other countries? Or what would cause Americans not to be proud of being an American?
June 22nd, 2014
A trenchant critique offered by Elliott Abrams in Politico.
There’s always Tunisia. Amid the smoking ruins of the Middle East, there is that one encouraging success story. But unfortunately for the Obama narratives, the president had about as much as to do with Tunisia’s turn toward democracy as he did with the World Cup rankings. Where administration policy has had an impact, the story is one of failure and danger.
The Middle East that Obama inherited in 2009 was largely at peace, for the surge in Iraq had beaten down the al Qaeda-linked groups. U.S. relations with traditional allies in the Gulf, Jordan, Israel and Egypt were very good. Iran was contained, its Revolutionary Guard forces at home. Today, terrorism has metastasized in Syria and Iraq, Jordan is at risk, the humanitarian toll is staggering, terrorist groups are growing fast and relations with U.S. allies are strained.
How did it happen? Begin with hubris: The new president told the world, in his Cairo speech in June 2009, that he had special expertise in understanding the entire world of Islam—knowledge “rooted in my own experience” because “I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.” But President Obama wasn’t speaking that day in an imaginary location called “the world of Islam;” he was in Cairo, in the Arab Middle East, in a place where nothing counted more than power. “As a boy,” Obama told his listeners, “I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk.” Nice touch, but Arab rulers were more interested in knowing whether as a man he heard the approaching sound of gunfire, saw the growing threat of al Qaeda from the Maghreb to the Arabian Peninsula, and understood the ambitions of the ayatollahs as Iran moved closer and closer to a bomb....
But these errors are minor when compared to those in Iraq and Syria. When the peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad was brutally crushed, Obama said Assad must go; when Assad used sarin gas, Obama said this was intolerable and crossed a red line. But behind these words there was no American power, and speeches are cheap in the Middle East. Despite the urgings of all his top advisers (using the term loosely; he seems to ignore their advice)—Panetta at CIA and then Defense, Clinton at State, Petraeus at CIA, even Dempsey at the Pentagon—the president refused to give meaningful assistance to the Syrian nationalist rebels. Assistance was announced in June 2013 and then again in June 2014 (in the president’s West Point speech) but it is a minimal effort, far too small to match the presence of Hezbollah and Iranian Quds Force fighters in Syria. Arabs see this as a proxy war with Iran, but in the White House the key desire is to put all those nasty Middle Eastern wars behind us. So in the Middle East American power became a mirage, something no one could find—something enemies did not fear and allies could not count on.
The humanitarian result has been tragic: At least 160,000 killed in Syria, perhaps eight million displaced. More than a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon (a country of four million people, before Obama added those Syrians), about a million and a quarter Syrian refugees in Jordan (population six million before Obama). Poison gas back on the world scene as a tolerated weapon, with Assad using chlorine gas systematically in “barrel bombs” this year and paying no price whatsoever for this and for his repeated attacks on civilian targets. Both of the key officials handling Syria for Obama—State Department special envoy Fred Hof and Ambassador Robert Ford—resigned in disgust when they could no longer defend Obama’s hands-off policy. Can Samantha Power be far behind, watching the mass killings and seeing her president respond to them with rhetoric?
The result in security terms is even worse: the largest gathering of jihadis we have ever seen, 12,000 now and expanding.They come from all over the world, a jihadi Arab League, a jihadi EU, a jihadi U.N. Two or three thousand are from Europe, and an estimated 70 from the United States. When they go home, some no doubt disillusioned but many committed, experienced and well trained, “home” will be Milwaukee and Manchester and Marseille—and, as we see now on the front pages, to Mosul. When Obama took office there was no such phenomenon; it is his creation, the result of his passivity in Syria while Sunnis were being slaughtered by the Assad regime.
And now they have spread back into Iraq in sufficient numbers to threaten the survival of its government. Obama has reacted, sending 300 advisers, a number that may presage further expansion of American military efforts. Perhaps they will find good targets, and be the basis for American air strikes and additional diplomatic pressure. But we had won this game, at great expense, before Obama walked away. The fiery rage of Iraqi Sunnis at the government in Baghdad had been banked by 2009. American diplomatic efforts, whose power was based in the American military role, disappeared under Obama, who just wanted out. It was his main campaign pledge.
The wind-up and conclusion:
From World War II, or at least from the day the British left Aden, the United States has been the dominant power in the Middle East. Harry Truman backed the Zionists and Israel came into being; we opposed Suez so the British, French and Israelis backed off; we became the key arms supplier for all our friends and kept the Soviets out; we reversed Saddam’s grabbing of Kuwait; we drove him from power; we drew a red line against chemical warfare; we said an Iranian bomb was unacceptable.
But that red line then disappeared in a last-minute reversal by the president that to this day is mentioned in every conversation about security in the Middle East, and no Arab or Israeli leader now trusts that the United States will stop the Iranian bomb. After all, we have passively watched al Qaeda become a major force in the heart of the region, and watched Iran creep closer to a nuclear weapon, and watched Iran send expeditionary forces to Syria—unopposed by any serious American pushback. Today no one in the Middle East knows what the rulebook is and whether the Americans will enforce any rules at all. No one can safely tell you what the borders of Iraq or Syria will be a few years hence. No one can tell you whether American power is to be feared, or can safely be derided.
That’s the net effect of five and a half years of Obama policy. And, to repeat, it is Obama policy: not the collective wisdom of Kerry and Clinton and Panetta and Petraeus and other “advisers,” but the very personal set of decisions by the one true policymaker, the man who came to office thinking he had a special insight into the entire world of Islam. In the Middle East today, the “call of the azaan” is as widely heard as Obama remembered from Indonesia. But when leaders look around they see clever, well-resourced challenges from Shia and Sunni extremists armed to the teeth, with endless ambitions, willing to kill and kill to grasp power—and far more powerful today than the day this president came into office. They do not see an American leader who fully understands those challenges and who realizes that power, not speeches, must be used to defend our friends and allies and interests. So there’s one other thing a lot of Israeli and Arab leaders share, as they shake their heads and compare notes in those secret meetings: an urgent wish that Jan. 20, 2017, were a lot closer.
Report: Poland’s Foreign Minister Blasts ‘Worthless’ U.S. Relationship
Nolan Freeney, Time.
In tapes obtained by a Polish magazine, Radoslaw Sikorski used an expletive to describe his country's alliance with the U.S.
Polish magazine Wprost claims to have obtained recordings of a conversation in which Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski says “the Polish-American alliance is worthless, even harmful, as it gives Poland a false sense of security. It’s bulls—t.”
June 20th, 2014
The only "good" thing about Ebola is that is burns to hot.. kills before it spreads and a fast incubation period.
The Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa is "totally out of control," according to a senior official for Doctors Without Borders, who says the medical group is stretched to the limit in its capacity to respond.
The current outbreak has caused more deaths than any other on record, said another official with the medical charity. Ebola has been linked to more than 330 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization.
International organizations and the governments involved need to send in more health experts and increase public education messages about how to stop the spread of the disease, Bart Janssens, the director of operations for the group in Brussels, told The Associated Press on Friday.
"The reality is clear that the epidemic is now in a second wave," Janssens said. "And, for me, it is totally out of control."
The outbreak, which began in Guinea either late last year or early this year, had appeared to slow before picking up pace again in recent weeks, including spreading to the Liberian capital for the first time.
"This is the highest outbreak on record and has the highest number of deaths, so this is unprecedented so far," said Armand Sprecher, a public health specialist with Doctors Without Borders.
June 16th, 2014
Been pretty obvious for a long time...
The view from Kurdistan: Divide Iraq in order to save it
I am sitting with a group of friends at the outdoor restaurant of Chwar Chra Hotel in Erbil. Next to my table is an Arab family that has fled the recent violence. Their kids are happily running around while the grown-ups enjoy a barbecue and smoke hubbly-bubblies. At our table, the conversation is dominated by a conflict happening a half-hour drive from us: the takeover of Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, by an al-Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The question we are trying to answer is this: How could a few hundred fighters - in just a matter of hours - bring about such a humiliating defeat upon more than 20,000 well-armed Iraqi soldiers, who had been trained and equipped by Americans?
Here is my view: What happened in Mosul should not come as a shock at all. Iraqi Kurds have seen it before, many times. The Iraqi army has a humiliating history of defeat after defeat. In 1988, it lost an eight-year war to Iran. In 1991, it lost the first Gulf War and much of northern Iraq to Kurdish rebels - among them my father - who had driven out Saddam Hussein's forces from three of Iraq's predominately Kurdish provinces: Erbil, Duhok and Sulaimania.
In the following years, shielded by a Western no-fly zone, Iraqi Kurds established their first autonomous government and started building the apparatuses of a modern state.
The recent defeat of Iraq's armed forces in Mosul was not caused by the lack of enough training or equipment, as some analysts have suggested. It was rather caused by the lack of will. What happened in Mosul is not a conventional loss of a battle resulting from an imbalance in size or shortage of ammunition. It represents the failure of a narrow-minded, authoritarian worldview that, in different forms, has been pursued by the ruling elite since the country was founded nearly a century ago: an ideology that supports the use of whatever it takes to force three different ethnic and sectarian groups, with a history of bloody conflicts, together in one country and under one leader.
Saddam Hussein tried this. He killed 182,000 Kurds and tens of thousands of Shia. He used chemical gas against his own people. What did he achieve?
Over the past eight years, Maliki's main objective has been the same: trying to force everyone to live under his rule while refusing to trust others except for his Shia relatives. If he continues along this path, his fate will be no better than Saddam's.
Do not be deceived by the fact that the army's chief of staff is Kurdish or that there are some high-ranking Sunni officials, such as the deputy prime minister, in the Iraqi government. None of this makes the government any less sectarian. Almost all of the non-Shia Muslim officials have publicly spoken about their powerlessness, while Maliki has accumulated power and built all-Shia brigades to protect himself and his close associates. What, if not mistrust, has left Maliki holding the top three security positions over the past four years: minister of interior, minister of defence and minister of intelligence?
All of these have, of course, happened with the indifference, if not tacit approval, of the United States. Not unlike Maliki, the US has viewed Iraq's crisis largely as a "security problem" that can be solved with advanced weaponry such as an F-16 jet, dozens of hellfire missiles and rocket-firing helicopters and more training.
At this restaurant, all of us agree on the reason for the unparalleled security we enjoy. The Kurdistan Region is largely a homogenous nation, ruled by Kurds and protected by a loyal and determined Kurdish army known as Peshmerga - or, those who face death.
On the ground, Iraq has already ceased to exist as a unified entity. What keeps Iraq's bloodshed going is not the disunity of its people per se; it is rather the struggle to keep them united. Domestically and internationally, everybody promotes and fights for Iraq's unity. There is hardly a White House statement about Iraq that does not stress upon the importance of "Iraq's unity" or "territorial integrity". By promoting the notion of Iraqi unity, they may think they are trying to save Iraq. They may be doing so territorially, but they will not save Iraqis.
June 2nd, 2014
I seldom post here anymore but - what the heck. I wrote this vis a vis he upcoming holiday of Shavuous.
Enjoy. Or not as the case may be....
“How odd of G-d to choose the Jews.”
Shavuous isone of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals where all Jews were required to travel to Yerushalayim to bring Offerings to the Bais HaMikdosh, our Holy Temple.
And, Shavuous, where G-d Gave His Holy Torah to His Chosen people on Har Sinai.
Where the Jewish People said: “Na’aseh v’nish’mah,” We shall do and we shall hear!
This is the seminal moment of Jewish History when the Children of Israel Choose to become the Chosen People!
(For the rest of the non-Jewish world, the Christian holiday of Pentecost comes somewhere around this day, June 8th this year.
This year, Shavuous begins on Tuesday night, June 3rd, and it continues on June 4th and June 5th.
Pentecost, meaning the “50th day,” is the day associated with the apostles speaking in the different languages of all of the Jews that came from around the world to celebrate Shavuous in Jerusalem which is, according to the Torah, 50 days after Passover.)
I heard this story from a lawyer – I am not sure who.
He was a relatively successful lawyer and was trying a case where the next court date was supposed to be on Shavuous.
He explained to the Judge that he could not make that court date as it was a Jewish holy day and he was not allowed to work on that day.
The Judge told him: “Mr. Lawyer. I am Jewish. I celebrate the Jewish holidays of Passover and Chanukah. So don’t try and make up some story about some invented holiday that I have never heard of!”
The Judge did eventually come to find out that this was a real Jewish holiday but, that is an example of how little known is Shavuous, even to most non observant Jews.
Nonetheless, over 3,300 years ago, Am Yisroel; the Jewish people, received the Torah at Har Sinai and formally became G-d’s Chosen People.
Moshe Rabbeinu informs the Jewish people that G-d tells them:
“And now, if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.”
However, we are informed that it was not that G-d Chose us, rather that Israel Chose G-d.
The Midrash tells us that G-d not only revealed Himself to the Jewish People but – to all the Nations of the world.
We learn that G-d first went to the children of Esav and asked them: “Will you accept My Torah?”
The Children of Esav answered, “What’s in it?
Hashem said: “Thou shalt not commit murder.”
The Children of Esav said: “L-rd of the Universe, the very essence of our father Esav is that he is a murderer. As it says, (Bereishis: 27:22) ‘And the hands were the hands of Esav,’ and (Bereishis: 27:40) ‘By the sword you shall live.’
L-rd of the Universe, we cannot accept Your Torah.”
G-d then went to the children of Amon and Moav and He said to them: “Will you accept My Torah?”
The Chidren of Amon and Moav answered, “What’s in it?”
Hashem said: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
The Children of Amon and Moav said: “L-rd of the Universe, our very essence is that we come from adultery. As it says (Bereishis: 19:36), ‘And Lot's two daughters conceived from their father.’
L-rd of the Universe, we cannot accept Your Torah.”
G-d then went to the children of Yishmael and He said to them, “Will you accept My Torah?”
The Children of Yismael answered: “What’s in it?”
Hashem said: “Thou shalt not steal.”
The Children of Yishmael said: “L-rd of the Universe, our very essence is that we live from thievery and robbery. As it says (Bereishis: 16:12), ‘his hand will be upon all, and everyone's hand upon him…’
L-rd of the Universe, we cannot accept Your Torah.”
Hashem went among all the nations of the world. There was not a nation to whom G-d did not speak and on whose door G-d did not knock, asking them whether they wished to accept His Torah. And every nation refused after hearing what was in the Torah.
After G-d had spoken to all the nations of the world, G-d came to the Children of Yisroel and He said to them: “Will you accept My Torah?”
And the Childen of Yisroel said: “Na’aseh v’nish’mah; We shall do and we shall hear!”
We learn that Israel immediately pledged their loyalty to whatever Hashem wanted them to do even before they knew what was being asked of them.
This is the one seminal moment in Jewish history when the entire Jewish Nation spoke as One and proclaimed to G-d – Whatever you ask of us, we will do – even before we know what it is.
Israel Chose G-d and thereby became the Chosen People.
For most Torah observant Jews, the above is sort of “inside baseball,” a well known midrash.
However, I heard an additional understanding of “Na’aseh v’nish’mah” from one of our Kollel rabbis the other night –
Judaism is not a religion. It is a Relationship.
“Na’aseh v’nish’mah; We will do (whatever you want) and (then) we will hear (what you want us to do)” is the Relationship that the Jewish People pledged to Hashem in their Greatest Moment at Har Sinai.
In the Torah, this Moment is referred to as the "marriage day" between G-d and the Jewish People; between Heaven and Earth.
And, for over 3,300 years, we have been trying to remember to infuse this sacred Relationship which we Chose to have with G-d into every aspect of our lives - into our own marriages.
And, for men, there is no more important place to remember to instill this Relationship than in marriage.
“We will do and then we will hear” is, quite frankly, the opposite of my and, I suspect, many men’s responses to their wives’ requests.
G-d Chose the Jews because the Jews Chose to have this special Relationship with G-d.
There is not a married couple who, somewhere inside of them, does not want this special Relationship with their spouse.
The Torah was given to us to transform our lives by taking each mitzvah; each lesson that the Torah can teach us, and applying it to every facet of our life.
For men, imagine the Relationship you could have with your wife if every time she asked you anything, your immediate response was – I will do whatever you ask, even before you tell me what it is….
May we all be zocheh to such a Relationship with our spouse’s and to remember that we Chose this Relationship at Mt. Sinai by proclaiming to the world that we agree to do what is necessary before we even know what it is that is necessary to do.
May 27th, 2014
A report by Rebecca Kaplan at CBS Newsthat I find encouraging.
Friday's shooting rampage in California that left three people dead from gunfire and another three stabbed to death is again raising calls for Congress to revisit various shades of gun control legislation. But if other, more deadly recent high-profile shootings weren't enough of a catalyst to spur change, election-year politics is sure to stop short any serious renewed efforts in the near-term.
The Republican-led House has let the Democratic-led Senate wrestle over dealing with gun control since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The Senate did manage to bring up a bipartisan bill to expand background checks last year but it died in the Senate, unable to overcome a filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could bring up the bill again - and some lawmakers have already called for expanded background checks in the wake of Friday's shooting - but Reid said last month he still doesn't have the votes to get the measure passed.
|Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas; Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana; and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., are all facing tough re-election battles this fall and all represent states that voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. All would have to answer to their states' voters and to their Republican challengers if they went on the record voting for any pro-gun bill. [Sic: I think Ms Kaplan means to say if they vote for a gun control bill.]|
|Meanwhile, public opinion has not moved in such a way to make passage of a gun control measure any easier.|
An area that seems to have drawn bipartisan interest and could possibly result in some congressional movement is dealing with mental health, one seemingly common thread in all of the recent mass shootings.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., was actively involved in efforts to pass more gun control legislation in the wake of the Newtown massacre and Sunday, he said he's hoping Congress can focus on improving resources for mental health care.
"I really, sincerely hope that this tragedy, this unimaginable, unspeakable tragedy will provide an impetus to bring back measures that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who are severely troubled or deranged like this young man was, and provide resources," Blumenthal said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.
"We need mental health resources and that initiative, I hope, will provide a common ground, a point of consensus that will bring us together in the Congress and enable the majority."
But the focus has shifted. I'm disappointed in the close:
Asked about whether more legislation would have made a difference, Blumenthal noted that the bill that failed in Congress last year would have given more resources for police departments to diagnose and detect mental illness and intervene.
"Obviously, not every kind of gun violence is going to be prevented by law, it's out of Washington, but at least we can make a start," he said.