Friday, November 30, 2012
Today is Winston Churchill's birthday. For me, dear readers, Churchill was the single most important statesman of the 20th century. He understood long before the rest of the political leadership in Britain or America the full menace that Hitler presented to the entire world. Without Churchill in the late 1930s, Britain would not have been prepared and would have lost the Battle of Britain to Germany. Without Churchill, de Gaulle would have had no place to go to form his opposition-in-exile government or train his resistance movement and army, and no one to protect him against Roosevelt's dislike and preference to try to accommodate the pro-German Vichy regime of Petain in France...hence...no French resistance on the ground to sabotage the German occupiers and aid in the D-Day landing success. And no French leader influential enough to put the violently recriminating French countryside in order after the Germans were driven out in1944. And above all, there would have been no guiding giant to hold out hope to a Europe beaten into submission and terrorized by German troops and the SS. So, we remember Winston Churchill today. His seminal place in the 20th century can only grow as historians digest and summarize the century of totalitarian conquerors and their humanist-democratic opponents. Here are several of my favorite Churchill quotes - they could all be applied to today without changing a word. I think of the brave American Republicans holding out against the socialist tax-and-spend machine of President Obama that would destroy the United States but for the few who stand on the front line, led by John Boehner. I think of the Egyptians once again inTahrir Square to defend their liberty. I think of the Syrian freedom fighters and their army pushing on without help from an America under the shameful control of an ambiguous Obama. I think of the millions in Russia and China who are determined to be free despite the repressive political machines poised against them. They are all the children of Winston Churchill, as is every human being who raises a hand or voice for liberty and freedom. Happy Birthday, Winston Churchill ! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves." "This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." "There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty." "The destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits--not animals."
Thursday, November 29, 2012
BREAKING NEWS: Palestine has just been awarded non-member observer status by the UN General Assembly...138-yes, 9-no, 41-abstentions. ~~~~~~~~~~ Israel says giving Palestine UN status will crush the peace process. Palestine says it is the only thing that can save the peace process. What we know is that the United States and Israel voted against the measure...Germany and Britain abstained...France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy voted in favor of it. Britain's abstention would have been a 'yes' if Palestine had given it written assurances that it will not pursue war crimes charges against Israel...this did not happen. We do not "know" but can guess that Palestine Authority president Abbas, whose government is in the West Bank, is locked in a power struggle with Hamas, seated in Gaza. The past two weeks have given the edge to Hamas. But it is Abbas who, in presenting Palestine's successful UN bid, has won the latest round. We also know that Abbas, unlike Hamas leadership, does not wear a mask or carry machine guns or attack Israel with rockets. He has offered to accept a two-state solution and perhaps eventually to recognize Israel's right to exist...unlike Hamas which calls for the extermination of Israel. POLITICS IS THE ART OF COMPROMISE. While I do not accept Palestine's refusal to recognize Israel or its continuing refusal to negotiate until Israel accepts the pre-1967 borders (this could cede the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem to Palestine immediately). But there comes a time to face and deal with reality. The reality today is that Palestine's position is supported by almost the entire world outside America's umbrella. Palestine deserves some sort of official world presence, if only because it has existed since the First World War in one form or another. And Israel and the United States have now ceded the high ground to Palestine, as well as many of its allies whose goal is to bring down both Israel and America. Now is the time to deal rationally with Abbas, the more rational of the Palestinian leaders. Denying reality will only lead to eventual defeat for Israel.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
The question of UN recognition of Palestine as a non-member state is becoming a centerpiece of the broader issue of Israel-Palestine negotiations over borders, recognition of Israel and Palestine as states by each other, and the Rubics Cube question of the status and integrity of Jerusalem. Palestine says its bid for UN recognition of a state of Palestine is a last-ditch attempt to rescue peace efforts based on a two-state premise that is being severely undercut by Israel's settlement construction, rejecting Israel's charge that Palestine is trying to bypass negotiations. Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, urged the US to drop its opposition to the bid, dismissing Washington's stance as "pathetic" and harmful to American interests in the region. While the Palestinians have come under intense pressure from the US, Britain and others to modify their UN bid, this week's announcement by the French government that it will vote for Palestine recognition, followed by rumors in Europe that Britain may follow, has left America more isolated in its stance against recognition, although Switzerland, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia may vote with the US. Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas plans to ask the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem - areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but still controls access points. Palestine insists that its UN bid is only meant to improve Palestinian leverage and secure the pre-1967 war frontiers as the baseline for future border talks - an idea Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects. Some former Israeli prime ministers accepted the 1967 lines as a basis for talks, with modifications to be negotiated, including land swaps that would enable Israel to annex some of the largest settlements. But a deal was never sealed. Half a million Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Deputy US Secretary of State William Burns met with Abbas Wednesday to attempt to halt the UN bid, according to Abbas aide Saeb Erekat. Burns told Abbas that the UN vote goes against US interests and that President Obama would push in 2013 to see a Palestinian state formed through negotiations. But, Obama has told the world that he agrees with the use of the pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations and Netanyahu is on record as rejecting the American President's position. The Israeli governing coalition's right wing says that by going to the UN, the Palestinians violate "both the spirit and the word of signed agreements to solve issues through negotiations." Palestinian officials counter that their historic UN bid is meant to salvage a peace deal. But Palestine stands to gain other benefits from UN recognition. -- membership in UN agencies and international bodies, for example making them eligible for loans from the International Monetary Fund. Most significantly, it could open the door to a new attempt to join the International Criminal Court and seek an investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel in the occupied territories. The Palestine Authority unilaterally recognized ICC jurisdiction in 2009 and pressed prosecutors to open an investigation into Israel's previous Gaza offensive. Prosecutors noted at the time that the court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, is only open to states. Israel has not signed the statute and does not recognize the court's jurisdiction. Israel counters that Palestinians are trying to pursue war crimes charges against Israel at the ICC. If the Palestinians use their upgraded international status "as a tool to confront Israel in the international arena, there will be a response," according to unnamed Israeli officials. Until then, Israel will be bound by its obligations to the Palestinians under existing peace agreements, but won't necessarily go beyond them. ~~~~~~~ Dear readers, it would be folly to suggest that I have the answer to the Israel-Palestine problem. But forcing UN recognition down the throat of Israel seems to be counter-productive. Recognizing the right of Israel to exist might produce more positive results. And, President Obama's public support for the pre-1967 borders as the starting point for talks was equally ineffective. But Prime Minister Netanyahu must bring something to the pre-table -- perhaps a firm commitment to stop settlement construction during talks, combined with a willingness to simultaneously recognize Palestine as a state IF Palestine simultaneously recognizes Israel. These compromises, along with the full Palestine Authority acceptance of the points already agreed to between Israel and Gaza, might be enough to get the parties back to the negotiating table. The world is watching and praying that a solution will be found before an unintended event sets fire to the Middle East powderkeg.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The French Right...the political heirs of General de Gaulle...is in a terrible internal fight for the control of the latest incarnation of the French conservative movement, which is normally the majority party in French politics. The Gaullists, as French conservatives are called generically, often change the name of their party to accommodate the desires of their leader. When Francois Sarkozy became party head and presidential candidate, he named the party the UMP...Union for a Presidential Majority. Sarkozy lost his bid for re-election last April and withdrew from party leadership. This left Sarkozy's prime minister, Francois Fillon, and the administrative head of the UMP, Jean-Francois Cope, fighting each other for party leadership. The vote of UMP members ten day ago resulted in a virtual tie...about 100 votes separated Fillon and Cope. Cope declared himself the victor. Fillon refused to concede, saying he had won. After days of public name-calling and extreme bitterness between the two men and their followers, several things emerged. First, Fillon threatened to sue Cope. Then, the "Fillonistes" said they would form a new caucus in the French National Assembly - but would vote as one UMP block with Cope's group on Assembly matters. Many UMP politicians called this suicidaire. Cope predictably agreed. UMP old pols called for the return of Francois Sarkozy to put the UMP house in order. Then...Voila! Sarkozy apparently called each man to his office for talks. And today Cope and Fillon met privately while Sarkozy was declaring that he would not let his UMP party collapse. Tonight we learn that the two men have apparently agreed to hold a party member referendum to decide if a re-vote should be held on party leadership. In effect, a vote to decide if there will be a vote. Only in France, one might be tempted to say. But, there are lessons to be learned...especially for the American conservative GOP party. After a devastating presidential loss against Barak Obama, the GOP is engaged in serious soul-searching...literally. Republicans are trying to find and define their "soul"...and this process has become very devisive, as the moderate wing of the party (those who favor abortion, gay rights, and integrating minorities into the GOP, including most illegal immigrants) and the social right of the GOP (those who oppose abortion and gay rights, who favor traditional family values, and who call for the deportation of illegal immigrants) are in a public arm wrestling match for control of the GOP's future. The French UMP have the advantage here because they are only arguing about leadership and the probable next UMP presidential candidate...there is no dispute about party ideology. But in the US, the GOP argument is almost entirely ideological, and if history teaches us anything, it is that heartfelt differences in ideology among 'brothers' have produced some of history's most vicious wars and most wrenching redefinitions of society. American conservatives would do well to remember this as they pick up the ruins of the 2012 presidential loss and prepare to move toward 2016. The Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln deserves better than to be consigned to the American political garbage heap.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Two seemingly unrelated events today may, in fact, have significant and related influence in the mid-term future of the Middle East. (1). Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi continues to refuse to back down concerning his controversial move late last week that gives him unchecked authority as the nation's sole source of legislation when he issues decrees that he are above judicial review. It has been reported that Morsi has assured the judges that the decrees do not in any way "infringe" on the judiciary, but he also told them he would not to back down or compromise on the constitutional amendments. Morsi's decrees led to massive opposition protests over the weekend and more than 250 people have been arrested. Both sides had planned competing rallies in Cairo on Tuesday, but the Muslim Brotherhood says it has cancelled a planned mass rally in support of President Morsi, who comes from the Brotherhood, which said it called off Tuesday's street demonstration to "lessen congestion" and avoid "public tension." The opposition has not yet announced its march plans for Tuesday, but they continue to label Morsi's decrees as a blatant power grab, and have refused to enter a dialogue with him before the edicts are rescinded. The president has vigorously defended the new powers, saying they are a necessary temporary measure to implement badly needed reforms and protect Egypt's transition to democracy. While Morsi's acts are widely seen as a raw power grab, perhaps one should ask if he is acting in coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood or in a petsonal attempt to coalesce Islamist forces in the region around his leadership. If this is the case, then the Egyptian battle over its political future would become a tri-partite battle, with the Brotherhood's younger generation perhaps forging a middle ground position between the western-style democratic protest movement and the radically conservative Islamists. Such an alignment would lead to more regional instability because the Brotherhood outside Egypt could demand to be treated as moderates, something neither Israel nor many western governments would find acceptable. Ultimately, world media - always ready to stake out a position left of center - might force world leaders into an appeasement position, once more leaving Israel alone to fight off Middle East radical Islam. (2). Against this worrisome backdrop, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak abruptly quit politics Monday, potentially robbing Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu of a key ally who enabled his hardline government to present a moderate face to the world. While another comeback by the mercurial former general cannot be discounted, Barak's departure marks an end to a distinguished and tumultuous 50-year career. It began on a communal farm, led to military greatness and business success and a mixed record in politics that was highlighted by failed peacemaking efforts during a brief term as prime minister. Despite polls showing his small centrist Independence Party gaining momentum following the eight-day Israeli offensive in Gaza that he directed, Barak said he would not run again for office in the January 22 elections. Barak will remain as defense minister until a new government is sworn in after the elections. As the most prominent warrior-statesman of his generation, Barak is considered by many to be angling to keep his job after the election as a special appointment of Netanyahu, who is expected to be re-elected. Barak has given Netanyahu's governing coalition a well-known moderate face for the world to engage, as well as being a solid partner for Netanyahu. The two men have been close since the 1970s when Netanyahu served under him when Barak was head of Israel's elite commando force. Renowned as a brilliant military strategist, he shot through the ranks to become military chief of staff, following in the footsteps of his mentor, Yitzak Rabin. In 1995, after 36 years in uniform, he made the quick transition to politics, became head of the iconic Labor Party and was elected prime minister - beating Netanyahu in 1999 - on a pledge to reach a long-awaited peace with Israel's enemies. But his difficult term in office lasted less than two years, the shortest of any elected Israeli premier, and he left under a cloud because of his unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, his failed negotiations with the Palestinians and Syria, and a violent Palestinian uprising that erupted under his watch. Barak withdrew from politics until 2007 when he formed the Independence Party and won a few seats on the Knesset. He took his party into coalition with the conservatives and Netanyahu awarded Barak great influence in decision-making and made him his informal point man to the United States. His departure comes at a time when Israel faces Islamist political parties rising around Israel and a decision looming on whether to strike Iran's nuclear program. And, Netanyahu may face increasing pressure from President Barack Obama in his second term if he lacks the moderating effect of Barak. Netanyahu's hawkish vice premier, Moshe Yaalon, is expected to become defense minister if Barak remains on the sidelines. ~~~~~~~ So, dear readers, we have a military problem in Israel, made more important because of the personal and political relationships involved. While Israel will not be destabilized either by Ehud Barak staying on or leaving the defense ministry, his moderate voice, serving as a cover for Netanyahu's more hardline decisions about Palestine and, especially, Iran, could give Israel more strength with both its allies and its enemies. Of course, his military leadership would be a huge plus for Israel.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Larry Hagman died yesterday. He was 81...it had been 32 years since he exited Dallas, presumably killed by his sister-in-law mistress. But JR was not dead, and every Dallas fan knew that in their adoring guts...JR Ewing, for that was Hagman's persona in real life as on Dallas, the most beloved "hated" TV character ever created, could not die. Yesterday, the statistics of cancer survival overtook showbiz. And, truth to tell, Larry Hagman did JR proud. His portrayal of the mean-hearted but magnetic hyper-bad-guy will probably never be repeated. And, dear readers, since it is Saturday, and we have had a bone-crushing week of heavy weight politics and brinksmanship in the Middle East, let's explore a lighter topic -- children of highly successful and famous parents. Larry Hagman was the son of Mary Martin, one of the true stars of 20th century Broadway and Hollywood. Had he come from modest parentage, one can ask if JR ever would have existed...but, to give Hagman his due, he seemed to have a real talent for television portrayals...he was, after all, before JR, the airline pilot who took Jeannie out of her bottle every week for five years. But some of the children of "stars" have not fared so well. Americans are today witnessing the collapse of the political career of Jesse Jackson Jr, son of the man who spun a worldwide presence out of his friendship with Martin Luther King. JJJ, as Americans call Jesse Jackson's son, has not matched his father's success, plagued by mental health problems and a political bribery case forcing him out of his congressional seat. And, we can only cringe at the political pretentions of Ronald Reagan's son, Michael. One could easily shred Michael Reagan's lack of political experience or insight if it were not for his famous name. There are also the young Sarkozy's in France and the Gandhi family in India following on with little success from Nehru and Indira Gandhi. The world has also watched two generations of young Kennedys try without any success to follow in Jack's and Bobby's footsteps, proving that political genius is not a genetic factor...it is earned by years of in-place training and survival based on intelligence and street smarts. And Europeans are witnessing the thus far unsuccessful effort of Prince Albert of Monaco to approach the worldwide adulation lavished on his mother, Princess Grace. But...there is one star who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with not his parent but his aunt. George Clooney. The nephew of Rosemary Clooney, a famous singer and actress in the 1950s and 1960s. George has proved himself to be the exception that proves the rule. But, not content to remain an icon of modern manly allure, George has shown signs of having been bitten by the political bug. Good luck, George...but, personally, I prefer you in The American or Oceans 12.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Friday, tens of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters took to the streets all over Egypt, hurling rocks at Muslim Brotherhood members as they left mosques after Friday prayers and burning Brotherhood offices. Fearing that Morsi is making himself a dictator, protesters also rallied in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the iconic focal point for the demonstrations that brought down Hosni Mubarak. These are the most violent and widespread protests since Morsi was elected president, and they reflect the increasing polarization in Egypt over what political course it should take. Morsi told supporters in a Cairo speech that the decrees were meant to stop "weevils" from the former regime from stopping progress. Morsi spoke against a backdrop of widespread street clashes between thousands of opponents and supporters. Morsi's supporters say the decrees are temporary measures to get through the transitional period and prevent Mubarak supporters, including judicial officials, from blocking reform. "There are 'weevils' eating away at Egypt's nation," Morsi said. The controversial decrees were issued Thursday, just one day after Morsi brokered the Gaza- Israel ceasefire, garnering worldwide accolades for his leadership skills. The decrees cover several areas : (1) All laws and decisions by the president frm his election are final, cannot be appealed, overturned or halted by the courts or other entities until a new constitution is approved and a new parliament is elected in the spring. (2) No judicial body can dissolve the upper house of parliament or the assembly writing the new constitution, both dominated by the Brotherhood and other Islamists. Several cases demanding their disbanding were before the courts, which previously dissolved the lower house of parliament. (3) The president can take whatever measures necessary to prevent threats to "the revolution, the life of the nation or national unity and security" or to the functioning of state institutions. (4) A new judiciary body "for the protection of the revolution" is created to handle all investigations, prosecutions and trials of former regime officials, including Mubarak, for the killing of protesters during last year's uprising. Other police officers accused of killings, however, will not be retried. (5) The prosecutor general, a controversial Mubarak appointee seen by many as lax in pursuing former regime figures, was removed from his post. These decrees virtually remove any possibility of opposition through legal or free speech mechanisms and make street protests inevitable. Amnesty International said the new powers "trample the rule of law and herald a new era of repression" and could provide for detaining people for up to six months without charge. Prominent Egyptian democracy activist Mohamed ElBaradei called Morsi a "new pharaoh." The president's one-time ally warned that the polarization could bring a "civil war." Ibrahim Eissa, chief editor of daily Al-Tahrir, wrote, "The revolution is over and the new dictator has killed her." While Morsi was consolidating his power, the top Cleric of the Muslin Brotherhood in Egypt called for a Jihad war against Israel and the reclaiming of the Gaza for Islam. And, Israeli troops fired Friday to push back Gaza crowds surging toward Israel's border fence with the Hamas-ruled territory, killing one Palestinian and wounding 19 in the first violence since the Morsi-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas took effect a day earlier. Hamas security tried to defuse the situation and keep the crowds away from the border, signaling the incident is unlikely to jeopardize the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire. Dear readers, we are witnessing the unravelling of the world's view of Morsi as a moderate statesman and peacemaker. It took just one day for him to revert to his Brotherhood roots. The prrotests will go on and regional analysts are even suggesting that they could bring down Morsi as they did Mubarak. Whatever small gooswill Israel may have been willing to give Morsi has been reduced to zero. And the betting in Europe is that America, ie, President Obama, will not intervene to stop Morsi in his march to an Islamist dictatorship because all Obama wants is someone who will support the US position vis-a-vis Israel. But Obama is doomed to learn the hard way that the Brotherhood and Morsi do not support Israel. They are determined to eliminate her. The Middle East is in the process of forming around this goal. Israel know this. Only Obama seems to be being duped.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
On this Thanksgiving Day in America, many people around the world join me in giving thanks that the Gaza - Israel crisis is over, at least for the present. But 'over' for the long term is far from clear. Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu pushed back Thursday against those asking that a decisive blow be struck against Hamas, saying he was not willing to embark on a military adventure and risk antagonizing the international community. Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak said Israel could retake Gaza, "but I'm not sure that would be wise," Barak, one of Israel's most experienced military strategists, said on Israel Army Radio. Netanyahu reiterated that Israel would consider invasion "if Hamas breaks the cease-fire," but that seemed unlikely considering warnings from the US and the West of the high cost of sending in ground troops. Meanwhile, Hamas hardliner Mahmoud Zahar said that Israel had underestimated the position of Hamas in the post-Arab Spring Middle East and fell into a trap." Zahar added that the improved Hamas arsenal, including longer-range rockets and anti-tank missiles smuggled from Iran via tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, helped deter Israel's military. But, the more important change in the post-Arab Spring Middle East involves Egypt, which has changed pro-Western Hosni Mubarak, who helped keep Hamas isolated, for Mohammed Morsi, like the Gaza Islamists a member of the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi has suddenly emerged as an 'effective' mediator, since he already had the trust of Hamas, and Israel did not want to damage its ties with the Arab world's largest nation. Egypt's sway over Hamas meant that they scaled back their demand to negotiate a detailed border deal with Israel before halting fire. In the end, Hamas agreed that a 24-hour period of calm would lead to negotiations on the new arrangements. Earlier in the day, the Egyptian intelligence chief had met with the top Hamas leader in exile, Khaled Mashaal, and the head of the smaller sister group Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shalah, according to AP Newswire. Morsi has eased restrictions on the main Egyptian crossing but not completely thrown it open as Hamas would like, and now Hamas is demanding complete freedom of movement in and out of Gaza, while resisting the idea of demilitarizing the territory. However, an Israeli security official told AP that Israel would link the two. The week-long crisis has given Hamas some gains in the political arena. Foreign ministers from the region rushed to Gaza over the past week to show support for Hamas, while the U.S. and Israel finally acknowledged Hamas' central role by conducting indirect talks. Hamas also managed to embarrass the Palestinian West Bank leader Abbas, its western-backed political rival who was rendered largely irrelevant during negotiations. Netanyahu's willingness to negotiate a truce deal with Hamas, while refusing to engage Abbas on the same terms as previous Israeli prime ministers, reinforced many Palestinians' belief that Israel only responds to force. If Hamas extracts border concessions from Israel, this would further discredit Abbas and his approach of non-violence and negotiating the terms of a Palestinian state with Israel. Faced with Hamas' rising popularity, Abbas' security forces were forced to watch this week when West Bank demonstrators raised green Hamas banners for the first time in years. Both Abbas and prospects for a two-state solution to the Mideast conflict "are on the losing end," said International Crisis Group think tank analyst Jonathan Alterman, who said Israel could have "provoked one of the more profound shifts in Palestinian politics." Dear readers, I've been watching today's events and commentary in the aftermath of the Gaza crisis and I have to ask myself why it ever occurred. Hamas may have won some noteriety short term, but it seems unlikely that Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood will yield to a gang of masked anonymous terrorists dependant of Iran and Egypt itself for survival and supplies. As for Israel, it has been through similar crises during its entire existence and 2012 is different from 1947 only because Israel is stronger economically and militarily. It must realize that the Obama administration is helping now because it would be a major blow to Obama to lose face in the Arab world by standing by while Israel is dismantled by the Brotherhood and Hamas. But Obama will be gone in 4 years, a short time in Israel and Jewish history. And if Morsi wants to be THE leader in rhe Middle East, he must start somewhere. He wants to put himself and his Brothethood at the helm in the region and bringing Hamas to heel is a good first step. And so I would like to suggest a more cynical exolanation. Morsi was consolidating Brotherhood-Hamas power while masquerading as a friend of the US and Israel to gain control of Palestine and sandwich Israel prior to exterminating her with Iranian help. Israel realizes this and used the trumped-up crisis to test its iron dome missile defense system, get more funding support for it from Obama, and make the American president declare publicly his support for Israel. All this would put Israel in a stronger position if it finally had to invade Iran to prevent being held hostage to an Iranian nuclear bomb. Today's little reported events may support this view. Morsi has just called for the Parliament and Committee of 100 to draft the new and long-awaited Egyptian constitution because "no entity not even the judiciary" can dissolve Parliament, as the Egyptian supreme court did in nullifying its role in drafting the constitution. He also has asked for the prosecution of "anyone" who harmed Egyptians or the country during the Arab. Spring revolt. Finally, Morsi has decreed that no individual and no entity can challenge any of his decrees or laws. Not exactly the actions of a peacemaker.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Two separate but closely related events have been reported in the Middle East today. Hamas and Israel have agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza and nearby Israeli border towns. And the Syrian rebel coalition has overtaken and sacked a major al-Assad military base near Aleppo. After a nearly two-month siege, Syrian rebels overwhelmed the base of the 46th regiment in the north of the country and made off with tanks, armored vehicles and truckloads of munitions that rebel leaders say will give them a boost in the fight against President al-Assad's army. This is a serious blow to the regime's efforts to roll back rebel gains and shows a rising level of organization among opposition forces. Syria's rebels have gradually been destroying regime checkpoints and taking over towns in the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo along the Turkish border. Rebel fighters say that weapons seized in such battles have been essential to their transformation from ragtag gangs into forces capable of challenging Assad's professional army. Cross-border arms smuggling from Turkey and Iraq has played a role, although the most common complaint among rebel fighters is that they lack ammunition and heavy weapons, munitions and anti-aircraft weapons to fight Assad's air force. They have repeatedly asked for supplies from the west but few countries have stepped forward. Meanwhile, an Israel - Hamas ceasefire has ended eight days of fierce fighting in Gaza. It includes a halt to air strikes and rocket attacks that have killed more than a hundred people mostly in Gaza, and a promise to discuss easing the Israeli blockade that constricts the Gaza Strip. However, rocket fire continued to hit southern Israel long after the cease-fire deadline had passed, authorities said, and schools in the region planned to stay shut Thursday as a precaution in case rockets continue to be launched. The ceasefire was brokered by Egyptian president Morsi, thus cementing his and Egypt's role as a leader in a Middle East that has dramatically changed following the popular uprisings known as the Arab Spring. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raced to the region on Tuesday but it was Morsi, on the ground and active all week long, who can take the bows as the negotiator. Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role in maintaining the peace. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said the deal included an agreement to open all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, including the important Rafah crossing with Egypt. Secretary Clinton stood beside Egyptian foreign minister, Mohammed Kamel Amr, as he, not Clinton, announced the truce that came after days of intense efforts that drew the world's top diplomats to the region. Netanyahu said he agreed to the cease-fire after consulting with President Obama to allow Israeli civilians to get back to their lives. He said the two leaders also agreed to work together against weapon smuggling into Gaza, a statement confirmed by the White House. Netanyahu said that there are some Israelis who would have preferred a greater incursion into Gaza, adding that it may be needed later. "But at this time, the right thing for the state of Israel is to take this opportunity to reach a lasting ceasefire," he said. Hamas officials said details on the new border arrangements would have to be negotiated. Among the current restrictions: a near-complete ban on exports, limited movement of people leaving the territory, and limits on construction materials that Israel says could be used for military use. These types of materials are now smuggled into Gaza in tunnels underneath the border with Egypt. Egypt's new Islamist government is caught in a balancing act between its allegiance to Hamas and its need to maintain good relations with Israel and the U.S. Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood. Dear readers, the link between these two events is the absence of a meaningful American presence. We are witnessing the first practical results of the Arab Spring shift in the Middle East balance of power. The conservative, American-backed leaders are gone or going, replaced by Islamists or very uneven coalitions unwilling to take sides overtly in the struggle beyween America and Iran for dominance. The Unites States should be more active in the Middle East, making friends where it can and mending fences with groups such as the Syria coalition that feel abandoned by the west in their struggle for freedom.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
United States foreign policy under President Obama has been a disappointing series of sound bites spoken to TV cameras while the rest of the world wrestles with grave problems for which America should be providing leadership - Iran, Libya and the rest of the Arab Spring aftermath, Egypt's new Islamist government, Greece, Chinese information technology piracy - and in the past week the Hamas - Israel confrontation in Gaza. Obama has offered no leadership for any of these crises, preferring to fall back on the killing of Osama bin Laden as his only requirement in foreign affairs, without acknowledging that it was largely the plan put in place by President Bush and carried out by the US military that led to OBL's death. But, this week Obama has given a new meaning to leading from behind. He chose to visit Mayanmar-Burma and Cambodia while Israel was being bombarded by Hamas rockets fired from civilian enclaves. His only public comment has been to say it is "preferrable" that things don't escalate, leaving the UN Secretary General and Egyptian president Morsi to try to broker a ceasefire. His phone calls could in no way make up for the complete absence of American diplomacy on the ground. Obama's silence in effect opened the way - rapidly taken - for Hamas partisans to lead the negotiations and for regional Arab leaders to beat a path to Gaza in support of the terrorist Hamas regime. Do not, dear readers, think that this was anything but a fact-based example of Obama's guiding principle - sideline the United States and abandon her leadership role to others. His gambit in East Asia over, he is on his way back to Washington. Before boarding Air Force One he decided to send US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had been with him in Asia, to Tel-Aviv and, presumably, Egypt and the West Bank to talk with the key players...SEVEN days after the crisis began. In Israel today, Secretary Clinton said the United States is pushing for a "durable outcome" promoting stability following Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip, with little mention of Hamas'continuing rocket barrage on Israel civilian areas. She said she "RUSHED" to the region, sent by President Obama to help forge a cease-fire, after a week of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants, one that would "recognize the legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike." Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu stood beside her while she read her statement. Netanyahu must have been wondering why his only friend in the conflict had taken so long, rather like a western film where the Cavalry arrives just in time, except that today the Cavalry was only one person who was a week late and a Dollar short, as Americans say of failed efforts. Netanyahu said Israel would welcome a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but threatened further military activity, saying he is ready to take "whatever action" is necessary. Not only has Obama abandoned the Muslim and Arab Middle East to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, he is close to alienating Israel, the only friend America has left in the region. If this is what American foreign policy is meant to be, if this is how America treats her closest friends, then I am lost.
Monday, November 19, 2012
The trading of rockets and drone hits continues between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Israeli border towns. Egypt is trying to broker a halt to the attacks to allow time for talks. UN Secretary General Ban-ki-moon uttered an eternal phrase today while visiting the region : "This must stop." These immortal words were almost equalled by US President Obama's observation yesterday that it would be "preferrable" to resolve the crisis without an escalation. Dear readers, I can only ask on what planet these two men - touted by all as the only possible peace brokers - have been living the past 50 years. What can a reasonable person suggest? (1) Egypt...and Iran if it is really serious about being a member of a peaceful Middle East and world...can enforce a no-rocket supply or shooting policy for Hamas, to include closing all Egypt tunnels into Gaza. (2). The US can enforce a simultaneous Israeli no-attack policy for Israel. (3). The US and Egypt can then convene the parties for serious...do not leave the room until agreement is reached...negotiations for a ceasefire. (4) Gaza-Hamas will recognize Israel. (5). Israel will open Gaza with appropriate but not draconian border controls. (6). Israel and the regional Muslim states will create and support an economic development program for Gaza. (7). The UN will supervise free elections in Gaza...because it just may be possible that after 7 years of Hamas, the people of the Gaza Strip, who elected them, may want to try other leaders who come without terrorist intentions toward Israel that cause their families to be bombed as unintentional collateral damage in the unannounced war Hamas and Iran are now waging against Israel.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
The rest of the world usually sees France as a country obsessed with fine wines and excellent food...and Parisian haute couture...but France is founded on something much more profoundly human. Liberty. Equality. Fraternity. The French soul resonates with these principles that define her culture and her passion for human rights. This week a Socialist French President has again proved just how important these qualities are for France. In a bold move to confer legitimacy on the week-old Syrian opposition coalition and encourage other Western nations to follow suit, France recognized the Coalition as the legitimate Syrian government. Today the new Syrian ambassador was welcomed at the Champs Elysee presidential palace in Paris, where he met with France's President, Francois Hollande, and the head of the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition. France has been well out ahead of western allies nearly since the start of the Syrian uprising 20 months ago. Saturday's surprise announcement came even before the brand new coalition has named its provisional government and before a place in Paris to house the envoy has been found. "There will be a Syrian ambassador in France," Hollande announced. France expelled its al-Assad regime Syrian ambassador in May, at the same time that other countries were doing the same. Mouaz Al-Khatib, the opposition leader, described the new Syrian ambassador to France, Mounzir Makhous, as "one of the first to speak of liberty" in Syria. He holds four doctorate degrees and belongs to the Muslim Alawite sect of President Bashar Assad, demonstrating an effort to reach out to all of Syria's people, al-Khatib said. France recognized the coalition days after it was formed last Sunday - and so far is the only western country to do so. France, under Gaullist President Nicolas Sarkozy, also took the lead in backing the Libyan opposition that ultimately ousted leader Moammar Qadhafi, and flew the first mission of the international coalition providing air support to Libyan rebels. But, the United States and other EU nations have said they prefer to wait and see whether the coalition truly represents the variety of people that make up Syria before they recognize it. Syrian opposition coalition leader al-Khatib said in today's Paris news conference that military and administrative organizations are being formed and a coordination center devoted to humanitarian aid will be set up in Cairo. In a bid to reassure other nations, the coalition president said thay as soon as the fighting ends,the coalition will arrange for fully democratic elections to be held "in all freedom" so that the Syrian people can select the democratic institutions and the form of constitutional regime that they want." The al-Assad regime's comment concerning France's action was typical : "If France has appointed him, then he is a French ambassador, not a Syrian one.". For the rest of us, Vive la France. The world has need of her in these difficult times. -- to remind us what our human principles are and how they should be demonstrated.
Friday, November 16, 2012
Testifying behind closed doors on Friday, General David Petraeus, former CIA Director, told Congress that classified intelligence showed the deadly raid on the US Consulate in Libya was a terrorist attack but the administration withheld the suspected role of al-Qaida affiliates to avoid tipping them off. He also said it initially was unclear whether the militants had infiltrated a demonstration to cover their attack. Petraeus also said that the draft CIA response to the assault on the diplomatic post in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, referred to it as a terrorist attack. Petraeus said that reference was removed from the final version, although he wasn't sure which federal agency deleted it. Democrats said Petraeus made it clear the change was not done for political reasons during President Barack Obama's re-election campaign. "There was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. "He completely debunked that idea." But Republicans remain critical of the administration's handling of the case. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Petraeus' testimony showed that "clearly the security measures were inadequate despite an overwhelming and growing amount of information that showed the area in Benghazi was dangerous, particularly on the night of Sept. 11.". General Petraeus, accordng to lawmakers present at the hearing, testified that protesters literally walked in and set fire to the facility, according to a congressional official who attended the briefing. US Ambassador Chris Stevens died from smoke inhalation. Petraeus said security at the CIA annex was much better, but the attackers used armaments to get in. The key to Petraeus' testimony is that he testified that the CIA draft written in response to the raid referred to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb but that those names were replaced with the word "extremist" in the final draft, the Associated Press has reported as being divulged by a congressional staff member. The staffer said Petraeus testified that he allowed other agencies to alter the talking points as they saw fit without asking for final review, to get them out quickly. Dear readers, the Benghazi battle lines are in process of being drawn and they are political. Democrats, including Senator Diane Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are forming a circle around the idea that early reports by the President and his administration, especially UB Ambassador Susan Rice, did not mention al-Qaida because they did not want to tip their hand about how they knew about its involvement. They also say that it was not clear when or how terrorists became involved in an anti-American demonstration. The Republicans are forming around the position that the demonstration theory is false...that there was no demonstration but a planned assault on the American consulate and annex with mortar and rocket fire support, which are signs of an attack. They also point out that local Libyan and governmental sources were on TV within hours of the attact to blame it on al-Qaida. The GOP position is, in any event, that the President knew immediately that al-Qaida was involved, that the American compound had for sone months not been provided sufficient security and that during the hours-long attack, no US military intervention was ordered...or permitted, according to the source. I had hoped that, freed of his administration position, General Petraeus would finally clarify the details of the Benghazi attack. But this did not happen today. He has now provided several versions of what happened...under oath...and one must ask if Petraeus is still trying to protect the President...or save what is left of his reputation by blurring what he knew but did not say immediately when the Benghazi attack occurred. Benghazi will not fade away. An American Ambassador has been assassinated and an American embassy ransacked. The truth and the blame must be pursued. And that grand old curmudgeon of a war hero and Senator, John McCain, seems prepared to make it his final charge. Americans should rally behind him. He is fighting for America's honor and the safety of her diplomats.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
US Representative, and GOP presidential candidate, Ron Paul, the iconic libertarian congressman from Texas, has delivered what will most likely be his final address to Congress. In a 52-minute speech to the House chamber, Paul chastised. the US government, politicians and special interests, declaring that the American people must return to virtue before the government allows them to be free, and that the Constitution has failed to limit the scope of an authoritarian bureaucracy. Here, dear readers, are some excerpts from his speech, one that speaks to the heart of every freedom-loving human being...and that is every one of us.~~~~~~~"Our Constitution, which was intended to limit government power and abuse, has failed. The Founders warned that a free society depends on a virtuous and moral people. The current crisis reflects that their concerns were justified." ~~~~~~~"If it's not accepted that big government, fiat money, ignoring liberty, central economic planning, welfarism, and warfarism caused our crisis, we can expect a continuous and dangerous march toward corporatism and even fascism with even more loss of our liberties."~~~~~~~"Restraining aggressive behavior is one thing, but legalizing a government monopoly for initiating aggression can only lead to exhausting liberty associated with chaos, anger and the breakdown of civil society. We now have a standing army of armed bureaucrats in the TSA, CIA, FBI, Fish and Wildlife, FEMA, IRS, Corp of Engineers, etc., numbering over 100,000." ~~~~~~~"In many ways, according to conventional wisdom, my off-and-on career in Congress, from 1976 to 2012, accomplished very little. No named legislation, no named federal buildings or highways, thank goodness. In spite of my efforts, the government has grown exponentially, taxes remain excessive, and the prolific increase of incomprehensible regulations continues. Wars are constant and pursued without congressional declaration." ~~~~~~~"History has shown that the masses have been quite receptive to the promises of authoritarians which are rarely if ever fulfilled."~~~~~~~"The number one responsibility for each of us is to change ourselves with hope that others will follow." ~~~~~~~"I have come to one firm conviction after these many years of trying to figure out the plain truth of things. The best chance for achieving peace and prosperity, for the maximum number of people worldwide, is to pursue the cause of liberty. If you find this to be a worthwhile message, spread it throughout the land." There you have it, a man who never took anything from government service but gave, against all odds, a guide into the future whose light came from his unwavering love of the US Constitution, the single most important document of governance ever written. Ron Paul felt deeply that government, even the US government, is destined to take liberty away from those who give it power. This is not an easy lesson to learn but it is essential. Beware of government - all governments, even the most benign and open, even the most democratic. They will eventually become tyrants, if not constantly challenged and constrained. That is why Thomas Jefferson admonished Americans to be ever watchful...."The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Israel made a pinpiint targeted attack inside Gaza today, killing Ahmed Jabari, the military leader of Hamas, the Palestinian governing body in the Gaza Strip. Both Israeli and Hamas officials have now confirmed that Jabari is dead. Israel said that the strike marked the "beginning" of an operation that comes in retaliation for a recent wave of heavy rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Jabari, one of Israel's "most wanted" Hamas leaders, is the most senior Hamas official to be killed since Israeli forces invaded Gaza four years ago. Hamas has said that the death of Jabari will be avenged. This has caused an outpouring of world commentary this afternoon, calling for Israel to be more responsible and not to allow the situation to escalate. Israel has explained that it cannot continue to ignore the daily bombings coming into Israel from Gaza, which kill and injure Israelis regularly. The Palestinian Authority has asked for the hostilities to end, saying, "...what we need is peace." But the sad truth is twofold. First, Hamas has no intention of living in a friendly relationship with Israel and will continue its bombings as long as bombs are supplied to them...by whom? Iran? Russia? Second, the Palestinian Authority, in demanding that Israel recognize the pre-1967 Israel-Palestine borders before peace talks can begin, makes any meaningful movement toward peace impossible. Yet, dear readers, we may expect the same old anti-Israeli world rhetoric in the wake of Israel's retaliatory attack. The rhetoric will demand absolute tolerance from Israel. Tolerance of daily bombings. Of Iran fomenting aggression by Hamas against the Israeli people. Of a Palestinian Authority which prefers to petition the UN for observer status rather than talk to Israel, the one party that can give Palestine what she needs - peace, economic development, world recognition, territory for her refugee population. Why is the world so determined to make Israel the bad guy? How can the world think that Israel is the problem? The UN and the western powers are ever ready to stop racism and genocide almost everywhere in the world. Why are Israel and the Middle East the exception?
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
There is a lot going on in the United States right now, dear readers...and most of it isn't reassuring for the future of America. (1) The world is watching with embarrassment as General David Petraeus, the most respected General of post- 9/11 America, is dragged through the mud of an extra-marital affair with the woman who wrote his official biography. She seems to have had misgivings about Petraeus' commitment to her because she threatened another friend of the General, who seems to have been just that, a friend. But in the course of investigating the security ramifications of Petraeus' behavior, the friend was found to be in an email relationship, as yet not defined, with General Allen, who was Petraeus' replacement in Afghanistan. Allen had been set to become the NATO Supreme Commander in 2013, but this now is on hold. Woven through this tale of generals and spies is the Benghazi assassination of US Ambassador Chris Stevens, in which General Petraeus played an important part, along with the White House. Dear readers, this is reminiscent of JR and Dallas...but that it is unfolding at the very highest echelons of US military leadership is simply astounding. (2) And, while the world at large is watching the Petraeus saga unfold, the world financial community is watching America face a fiscal cliff that could leave the US in serious financial trouble. This will occur on 1 January unless President Obama and the US Congress find a compromise to settle the fiscal cliff tax rate issue for high income taxpayers and a decision about extending tax cuts for most American workers. While this sounds like child's play on paper, the issues on the table have been framed against a skyrocketing annual budget deficit and national debt caused by President Obama's fiscal and social spending policies (the national debt has gone from $11 to $16 Trillion and is estimated to go to $20 Trillion in his second term). The President and his Democrat Party ran on a goal of taxing the rich to pay for their increasing flow of social entitlements. The Republican Party that controls the House of Representatives, where tax and budget matters must begin under the US Constitution, is vehemently opposed to raising taxes or increasing social programs. The fiscal cliff will probably be avoided, but not completely or in the statesmanlike way of generations past. So, dear readers, my guess is that America will find herself saved from one cliff but standing close to another one. But, more important, what these two situations reflect is an America that cannot seem to live in peace with itself. Partisan party politics override common sense in Washington. Stalemate and petty argument have replaced the real political process. But, until last Friday, Americans held their military in great esteem. The generals and soldiers who wore the flag on their sleeves were the emblem of the rock that is, for them, America. Congress is angry and shocked by the Petraeus affair, vowing to get to the bottom of it. So we can conclude that Congress is probably the objective party in this situation. But Congress is also angry at the President and his White House about security in general and Benghazi and the assassination of the US Libyan ambassador on particulat. Were the generals 'set up' by White House politicians to take the heat away from their own inadequacies in fiscal responsibility, in their inability to manage the Afghan war or Syria or Iran's nuclear program, and above all...Benghazi. Given the 'coming apart at the seams' we are witnessing in Washington, nothing should be considered impossible. It is certain that we are at the beginning of the first act of what will most likely become an American tragedy.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Address of the International Working Men's Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America... Presented to U.S. Ambassador Charles Francis Adams~~~~~~~~Written: by Marx between November 22 & 29, 1864 First Published: The Bee-Hive Newspaper, No. 169, November 7, 1865. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~We congratulate the American eople upon your re-election by a arge majority. If resistance to the lave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the riumphant war cry of your re-election s Death to Slavery. From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver? immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver? When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world,"slavery" on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding "the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution", and maintained slavery to be "a beneficent institution", indeed, the old solution of the great problem of "the relation of capital to labor", and cynically proclaimed property in man "the cornerstone of the new edifice" — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause. Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause. Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause. blood to the good cause. While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war. The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.
Ambassador Adams Replies ~~~~~~~~Legation of the United States London, 28th January, 1865~~~~~~~~Sir I am directed to inform you that the address of the Central Council of your Association, which was duly transmitted through this Legation to the President of the United [States], has been received by him. So far as the sentiments expressed by it are personal, they are accepted by him with a sincere and anxious desire that he may be able to prove himself not unworthy of the confidence which has been recently extended to him by his fellow citizens and by so many of the friends of humanity and progress throughout the world. The Government of the United States has a clear consciousness that its policy neither is nor could be reactionary, but at the same time it adheres to the course which it adopted at the beginning, of abstaining everywhere from propagandism and unlawful intervention. It strives to do equal and exact justice to all states and to all men and it relies upon the beneficial results of that effort for support at home and for respect and good will throughout the world. Nations do not exist for themselves alone, but to promote the welfare and happiness of mankind by benevolent intercourse and example. It is in this relation that the United States regard their cause in the present conflict with slavery, maintaining insurgence as the cause of human nature, and they derive new encouragements to persevere from the testimony of the workingmen of Europe that the national attitude is favored with their enlightened approval and earnest sympathies. I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant, Charles Francis Adams
My sister sent me today a letter to the editor of her local newspaper. The writer voices the opinion that President Abraham Lincoln has been made into a "...practically deified savior of the Union and emancipator of the slaves." He cites the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln’s first inaugural address as proof. He adds : "Few know of his correspondence with Karl Marx, father of communism, nor that many leaders in his cabinet and military were avowed Marxists." The truth is that Karl Marx wrote to congratulate President Lincoln on his re-election in 1864. A full copy of Marx' letter to Lincoln, without any editing, follows in the next blog. Also there you will find the answer sent to Marx...not by President Lincoln but by Charles Adams, his secretary. There is no other correspondence betweeen Marx and Lincoln. So, in a sense, the letter to the editor writer is comparing the Marx-Lincoln exchange to, say, a letter from the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party to President Obama congratulating him on his re-election and an answer from Obama's secretary. Does that make President Obama Chinese Communist? I think not. Just to remind ourselves, dear readers, of Lincoln's views on slavery and American democracy, here is an excerpt of one of his 1863 writings : "Our republican robe is soiled, and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. Let us turn and wash it white, in the spirit, if not the blood, of the Revolution. Let us turn slavery from its claims of “moral right,” back upon its existing legal rights, and its arguments of “necessity.” Let us return it to the position our fathers gave it; and there let it rest in peace. Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. Let north and south—let all Americans—let all lovers of liberty everywhere—join in the great and good work. If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union; but we shall have so saved it, as to make, and to keep it, forever worthy of the saving. We shall have so saved it, that the succeeding millions of free happy people, the world over, shall rise up, and call us blessed, to the latest generations."
Saturday, November 10, 2012
The US Supreme Court agreed on Friday to again consider the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a federal law that requires certain states and areas within other states to pre-clear with the US Justice Department any change in its voting laws before implementing them. The last time the Court considered this law was in 2009, when it upheld it in a challenge brought against a Texas redistricting plan that discriminated against Hispanic voters by attemting to draw voting district lines that would have greatly reduced the number of Hispanics remaining in the new voting district, making it unlikely that they could re-elect their Hispanic representative. At that time, Chief Justice Roberts expressed concern about continuing to enforce a 40-year-old law merely because it had succeeded. "Past success alone, however, is not adequate justification to retain the preclearance requirements," he said. You should understand, dear readers, that States and areas were chosen originally for preclearance based on whether they had a test restricting the opportunity to register or vote and whether they had a voter registration or turnout rate below 50 percent. The much greater percentage of registration and voting by minorities today raises the question whether the original factual and statistical support for the law gathered in the 1960s and early 1980s can continue to be used to justify it. The 2013 Court hearing will consider an appeal of Shelby County, near Birmingham, Alabama, which is trying to have the Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional. Nearly 12,000 people in Shelby County defied the law and prompted the intervention of the Bush Justice Department. The facts are clear : Ernest Montgomery won election as the only black member of the five-person Calera City Council in 2004 in a district that was almost 71 percent black. The city redrew its district lines in 2006 after new subdivisions and retail developments sprang up in the area Montgomery represented, and the change left his district with a population that was only 23 percent black. Running against a white opponent in the now mostly white district, Montgomery narrowly lost a re-election bid in 2008. The Justice Department invalidated the election result because the city had failed to obtain advance approval of the new districts. The Court will consider the Shelby Coynty case against a background of the re-election of a US President who is a member of a protected minority and where facts show that minority voters were substantially active in voting for and electing him. The over-riding question facing the Court is whether it is time to declare that the American effort to bring minorities into society's mainstream by giving them preferential treatment in areas of voting and education has succeeded so that today these minorities can and should be made to succeed on their own without the help of federal and state law preferential treatment. It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court has also agreed to reconsider affirmative action laws favoring minority students in higher education. Thus, 2013 will be a watershed of one sort or another in the area of minority rights. The battle lines are already being drawn. Edward Blum, director of the not-for-profit Project on Fair Representation, which is funding the challenges to the voting rights law and affirmative action, said : "The America that elected and re-elected Barack Obama as its first African-American president is far different than when the Voting Rights Act was first enacted in 1965. Congress unwisely reauthorized a bill that is stuck in a Jim Crow-era time warp. It is unconstitutional." White Americans in some voting districts could argue that it is they who are being discriminated against because the federally approved redistricting plans make it virtually impossible for white voters to be represented by white elected officials. And in at least one voting district in South Philadelphia, white voters have in recent elections been harrassed and menaced by Black Panther groups when attempting to vote. But defenders of the law say there is a continuing need for it and pointed to the voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas, as well as the redistricting plan in Texas. The irony is that the Voting Rights Act has worked and because of that, it is now seen as a right by minorities instead of being seen as the temporary necessity that has brought them into the mainstream. This is not to say that discrimination has ceased. There are issues relating primarily to re- districting that need to be addressed. But now is the time for the Supreme Court to step up to the challenge and direct the Congress to enact new legislation to provide for a uniform and fair system of voting district creation and adjustment that will put all Americans on an equal footing.
Friday, November 9, 2012
This evening's breaking news from Associated Press and CNN is that David Petraeus, the retired four-star general who led the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, has abruptly resigned as director of the CIA after admitting he had an extramarital affair, thus abruptly ending a public career of the best-known general of the post 9/11 wars. Petraeus, 60, said in a statement to CIA employees that he had asked President Barack Obama on Thursday to allow him to resign and that the President accepted today. Petraeus said he had shown "extremely poor judgnent....Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours", the retired general said. He has been married for 38 years to Holly Petraeus, whom he met as a cadet at the US Military Academy. She was the daughter of the West Point superintendent. It has been announced that Michael Morell will serve as acting director. "I am completely confident that the CIA will continue to thrive and carry out its essential mission," President Obama stated. Engaging in an extramarital affair is considered a serious breach of security and a counter-intelligence threat for a CIA Director. If a foreign government had learned of the affair, it is possible that Petraeus or the person with whom he was involved could have been blackmailed. Petraeus said in his statement to CIA employees, "Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life's greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing. I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you, and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end." Petraeus'resignation represents the loss of one of America's most respected public servants. Before Obama brought Petraeus to the CIA, the General was credited with salvaging the US war in Iraq. President George W. Bush sent Petraeus to Iraq in February 2007, at the peak of sectarian violence, to turn things around as head of US forces. He oversaw the "surge" of 30,000 U.S. troops and moved troops out of big bases so they could work more closely with Iraqi forces. Petraeus' success was credited with paving the way for the eventual US Iraq withdrawal. General Petraeus then turned to Afghanistan, doing the same job of leading the push to add more US troops to that war and dramatically boost the effort to train Afghan soldiers and police. House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., said he regretted Petraeus' resignation, calling him "one of America's most outstanding and distinguished military leaders and a true American patriot." Senator Diane Feinstein regretted the resignation, calling him "one of America's most outstanding and distinguished military leaders. She gave Morell high marks, too. Senator Feinstein said she wished the President had not accepted the resignation but said she understood and respected the decision. .........Dear readers, I thank AP and CNN for this breaking news, and I can only add that today America has lost a major strategic thinker and practical doer in the areas of military and intelligence operations. General Petraeus will be missed and we hope that, when he has resolved his personal issues, he will find a way to serve once more the country he loves and that loves and greatly respects him.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Each of the four Evangilists tells of an encounter between Jesus and a group of Pharisees who were trying to trap Him. His rejoinder has become a favorite of politicians : "a kingdom divided against itself will be destroyed." For Americans, this will instantly bring to mind one of Abraham Lincoln's most famous speeches. It was when he was running for the Senate and "popular sovereignty" was the proposed solution to the slavery question. Stephen Douglas supported it - that is, he was willing to let each new territory vote on allowing slavery within its borders. Lincoln refused this abdication of duty, delivering the lines that have become the name of the speech itself : "A nation divided against itself cannot stand." Lincoln said that inexorably, the nation would agree together to outlaw slavery (his position) or the nation would permit slavery everwhere in the United States. He could not fathom a country part slave and part free because the tension would destroy the Union. Why write about this in 2012, fully 150 years after Lincoln abolished slavery? Because America is facing a similar division today. The issue is not slavery but the Constitution - the foundation of the Republic. The two questions that are at the heart of the division are tightly bound together : (1) are there limits on the power of the federal government to engage the "full faith and credit" of the United States' borrowing capacity beyond the reasonable means of its citizens to repay, thus threatening the value of their Dollar and the future of their country; and (2) what is the extent to which the federal government can "disenfranchise" half its citizens by enacting social programs and enforcing social morals that the disenfranchised half oppose fundamentally. These two issues represent the 2012 version of the 1858 "house divided against itself" argument. America faces a fiscal crisis that must be resolved. The crisis pits a Republican House of Representatives, constitutionally charged to control budgetary matters, which wants to resolve the crisis by cutting back social program spending against a Democrat President and Senate which desire to resolve the crisis without cutting social programs. This may seem on the surface to be easily resolved through compromise. But the reality is that the crisis goes to the heart of America's Constitution and the two above questions. And if there is no compromise possible, one of two things will happen - either America will lose much of its ability to borrow the funds it needs to operate or, to prevent this, the President will try to decree a solution by executive order. Either will provoke a constitutional crisis unlike any America has ever faced. Dear readers, this is the true result of rge November 6 election. The United States is split down the middle -- and the possibility of compromise is as far away as it was before the election. Perhaps farther away because the two halfs have spent the last three months hurling insults at each other in the name of politics. Something must give if America is to survive as we know her.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
The results are in and President Obama has been re-elected. We cannot be sure what his agenda will be because he never articulated one. But we can be fairly certain that it will include a smaller military, less presence in the Middle East, higher taxes for upper end taxpayers, and the finishing touches to be put on Obamacare. The only wall against any of this is the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Speaker John Boehner. They will be badly treated by the President, the Democratic Senate leadership and the media. It behooves all thoughtful Americans to support Speaker Boehner and his House. We will also have Senator John McCain to keep us informed about all things military. And there are the Benghazi investigation and Attorney General Holder's impeachment procedures to finish. Through it all, we should remember that we are Americans...that we have a job to do for the United States so that it recovers from the fiscal and economic messes it is in...and that we have a job to do in leading the world, like it or not. Finally, a thank-you is in order to Mr. Romney. He did the Republican Party proud. He was honest, polite, serious and held up to America her problems. We cannot now say that we were not warned. Let us also remember that America got through the JFK Bay of Pigs and the LBJ Great Society and the hounding out of office of Nixon and Clinton's Lewinsky. So we will undoubtedly survive 4 more years. But the GOP must come to terms with demographics if it wants to continue to be relevant. Rubio...Rubio...Rubio. And Jindal and Jeb Bush, who may now assume the leadership position in the GOP that is waiting for him. ~~~~ Why did Romney lose in practical political terms : 1. Picked the wrong VP. 2. Had too many strikes against him because of too many GOP debates. 3. Was too moderate for the hardcore conservatives and too conservative for the liberals. 4. Had the demographics stacked against him and they were organized by Obama. 5. Maybe too practicality-oriented and not philosophical enough in the sense of rallying people around his flag. Finally, maybe Mitt Romney is just too nice for politics...it takes a hard skin with few qualms about attacking personally or telling a few lies along the way....Too bad because there are few who would have been a better president, and goodness knows we need one. I don't think Obama has a clue about what he needs to or should or can do.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Tonight at midnight the noise and hyperbole and lies, yes even the lies, will be over and the time will have come for the American people to make their choice. Who will be elected President of the United States in 2012? Most experts say President Obama has the inside track and will win in a squeaker. A few polling groups - including Gallup - don't agree, giving Romney the edge. Some conservative analysts are even predicting that Romney will garner 300 or more electoral college votes. There you have it, the puzzling campaign of 2012. No clear pre-vote winner and professional opinions all over the map. This time, the reason has less to do with the candidates themselves and more to do with their fundamentally different visions of the American Republic created by the Founders and cast in the Constitution. There has not been as important an election in the United States since Franklin Roosevelt's victory. FDR understood that federal largess could be powerful and he put in place the social welfare programs and special interest perks that tied a large block of voters to him personally and to his Democratic Party from 1932 until today. Only one President seriously tried to turn the nanny welfare state ship around - Ronald Reagan. He won landslide victories but times were not bad enough for him to be able to do the job he wanted to do, put America back on a constititional footing of individial responsibility with a safety net only for the truly needy, whether the need be short or long term. What is different today is that times are BAD. Everyone knows it and, while not everyone is willing to acknowledge the consequences of 80 years of welfare spending above the national capacity to pay for it, everyone is more or less frightened about continuing down the path of spending far in excess of the national means to pay -- which is the path FDR put America on. That is what makes this presidential election so enormously important. President Obama represents a continuation of FDR's spend and tax vision of America (add to that today's need to borrow 40% of America'expenditures because even enormously high taxes could not pay for the 2012 version of the American nanny welfare state). Mr. Obama does not say where the money will come from to pay for his huge social welfare programs, because if he told American voters the truth, he would have to say, 'China and other foreign lenders' and by deeply cutting the military budget. Mitt Romney represents the constitutional view of spending within the nation's means. This is the only way to preserve America's position in the world and it is the only hope for keeping America's standard of living even at its already lowered current level. Romney understands the problem and the solution. Obama does not. It is not easy to say 'no' to federal handouts - and all Americans receive them in one form or another. But, individually we have all said 'no' to immediate spending -- to save for college, to get married, to buy a house. The time has come to do this on a national level. Mitt Romney will lead the way. He will make it as painless as possible, but he knows, as do all Americans deep down inside, that the time is now. Tomorrow...2016...will be too late. Vote Romney. Not because you are a Republican or because you are a conservative or because you are a libertarian or because you are disappointed in Obama. Vote for Mitt Romney because you are an American and you love your country and you do not want it to be destroyed.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
There's a line in the recent George Clooney film, Corridors of Power, that hits home. A staff counsel for a Democrat candidate in the primary season tells a joke: "Hi. My name is Chamberlain and I'd like to be your Commander-in-Chief." His candidate is busy explaining on TV why military action is not the right answer to terrorist threats. Now advance the tape to the American presidential campaign. Make a list: (1) Barak Obama tells an Arab audience in Cairo that America should be more accommodating in its approach to the Arab world; (2) Barak Obama continues on his Middle East tour without visiting Israel; (3) Barak Obama is so far behind the curve in Syria, refusing to arm the rebels, that the rebel army seeks allies in al-Qaida affiliates who will supply men and arms; (4) Barak Obama tells Israel that now is not the time to draw the red line to tell Iran that America will take military action to stop its development of a nuclear capability; (5) Barak Obama cannot or will not secure the Benghazi Consulate sufficiently to prevent the assassination of the US Ambassador by jihadists, and then lies to the American people about what he knew and when he knew it; (6) Barak Obama refuses to meet with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu during his visit to America; (7) Barak Obama continues to support his proposed 1Trillion Dollar military 10-year budget cut. HI -- I'm Barak Obama Chamberlain and I would like to be re-elected your Commander-in-Chief....vote Romney on Tuesday, America. We do not want or need another Munich.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Dear readers...it will be short and not so sweet today...and just a note to say that I'll be here tomorrow, Sunday, with a special US election blog. But today, let's talk turkey...as Americans say. It is no secret that the Republican Party spans a wide spectrum of political opinion and philosophy. The old moderate-liberal wing of the GOP (think Taft, Scranton, Rockefeller) often disagrees with the newer conservative wing (think Goldwater, Reagan, Bush son) about social issues and even about the size of government. But, the truth must be, as Reagan liked to say - the 11th Commandment is to speak no evil of other Republicans - and this week that commandment was shredded. By Michael Bloomberg and, shockingly, by Chris Christie. It is not that the GOP wants to muzzle its members. But there are rules of play...and Bloomberg and Christie broke them. The conservative wing of the GOP supported Bloomberg's candidacy for Mayor of NYC. It also supported Christie's run for the governorship of New Jersey. Both won. They won because conservative Republicans swallowed hard about issues such as abortion, size of government and family values, and worked hard for their election. Neither Bloomberg nor Christie would have won without conservative GOP support. And what was the thank-you from the two moderate-liberal winners? They spit in the face of the conservative core of the GOP. They turned on their benefactors to heap praise and an endorsement on the most radically leftist President America has ever had. This amounts to political treason. I hope no Republican ever again supports or votes for either Bloomberg or Christie. They have proved that loyalty to ideals and adherence to core values is for them of utterly no importance. And tbe best answer to their treason is to vote for Mitt Romney - a man of principle and honor. The GOP has room and welcome for a great range of ideas and philosophies. But there is NO room in the GOP for traitors.
Friday, November 2, 2012
A very loyal reader emailed me a question this week that has set me thinking how to answer. The question : "Has a country ever just "FAILED", ceased to exist? Today we have a Greece and tomorrow it's gone. It would be like NYC being wiped out by a Superstorm Sandy that was 5 times stronger. Can you fathom waking up tomorrow and No Greece, or Spain, or Portugal, or Ireland. And the instant impact on the so-called stable economies of the US, China, Germany, England, France, etc.?" That, dear readers, is a whopper of a question that perhaps we all should have been asking for some months or even years now. And, the question applies to any Eurozone country that should never have asked to be a member of the Eurozone club - that should never have been accepted, in any case, because of questionable accounting practices used to meet Eurozone entry standards. A failure of Greece would very likely trigger their failure, too. As a conservative, I hate to suggest this, but is it time to take drastic public-entity led action to prevent even more drastic consequences of inaction. And it was my reader who offered the solution - a court controlled bankruptcy, with international support and oversight to prevent a creditor stampede for available assets or a currency collapse that could engulf the Euro as well. All with an absolute deadline of 5 years. An interim currency could be issued for all Greek uses - perhaps a "Script" type of money that would be honored by all and guaranteed by the US, World Bank, etc. This would be a lot like the Script guaranteed and used in Germany during post-WWII reconstruction. Greece is past the edge of the cliff, and Eurozone efforts to prop up the dead Greek economy and government are only temporarily pulling them back from absolute disaster. So it may be that the world's opportunity must be seized quickly, before Greece literally implodes. If we do nothing at all and if Greece ceases to exist, we could have a worldwide chain of events never faced before. Then, the question would have to be answered in chaotic circumstances. What do we do as a group of democratic nations if Greece fails - really fails - with no prior help, no internal solutions, no nothing. The Greek people would rebel internally, against themselves, in utter frustration at the plight forced upon them by Eurozone austerity demands. And would there be a "Domino Effect" in other countries that are on the edge of economic collapse but not as far along the curve as Greece. And what would the radical Muslim jihadists do in such a situation? And if we should happen to still have a President Obama, what would his response be? Not easy questions, dear readers, but they need to be asked and answered- for the world's sake, as well as Greece's.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Today in Toulouse, French President Francois Hollande stood side-by-side with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to honor the three Jewish school children and their teacher murdered by a French jihadist earlier this year. Hollande spoke at the ceremony, vowing to protect all French Jews - calling it a responsibility of the French Republic. He embraced Netanyahu and the school director, who also gave an address. Security was high as the two leaders joined to remind France, and surely the rest of Europe, that jihadists are determined to attack Jews as part of their mindless terrorist agenda. That the attacker in the Toulouse case was French and had travelled to Middle East terrorist camps for training drives home yet again that Europe faces a jihadist threat homegrown...and growing. Americans must ask -- Where is their President? Why did President Obama refuse to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu when he was in America? Why did Obama not answer Mitt Romney's debate charge that he is endangering Israel, the only unconditional friend of America in the Middle East. Why would any US President turn his back on Israel by being weakly ambivalent about the threat posed to Israel, the region and the world by Iran's nuclear and military hardware development programs? The world does not have four more years to waste with Obama's dithering ineffectiveness and incapability to state clearly whose side he is on. It is time for Americans to take a page from France - stand by Israel, support her leaders and make crystal clear to the jihadists and their hangers-on that the red line is now, that the future does not belong to the jihadists, that America has tossed off its internal hesitation - by electing Mr. Romney on November 6th.