Wednesday, April 30, 2014
The attacks on the US consular compound in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, including two former Navy SEALS. Five days later, Susan Rice, then the US Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on five Sunday morning talk shows and said that the incident began as a "peaceful protest" against an anti-Moslem film and was later “hijacked” by militants. Rice, who now is Obama's national security adviser, has since called Benghazi "a false controversy." The Obama administration has always insisted that the Benghazi attacks that killed the four Americans erupted from a protest over an anti-Moslem video. But many Republicans, as well as intelligence and political analysts, have staked out the position that there was no "peaceful protest" in Benghazi, and that the attack was a well-planned terrorist operation carried out by al-Qaida groups. The Republicans, intelligence professionals and analysts have insisted the "hijacked peaceful protest" story was created by the White House to help insure President Obama's re-election because any hint of organized terrorism would have revealed that Obama's assertions that his Mideast policy was working were false. The White House, the President, the Attorney General and the Democrat Party leadership have all accused the GOP of "playing partisan politics," exaggerating the White House role in the Benghazi affair and demanding that the GOP "witchhunt" should end because there is no evidence to support their position. ~~~~~ But now, an email, dated September 14, 2012, has been found among documents released by Judicial Watch on Tuesday. Judicial Watch obtained the documents on April 18 under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit it filed against the State Department last June, said President Tom Fitton. The group obtained 41 emails, many of which had portions blacked out. The September 14, 2012, email is being called "the smoking gun" that the congressional investigators have been looking for. It shows White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes advising Susan Rice to focus on the YouTube video as the cause of a spontaneous protest that led to the attack. But, this White House fabrication of the Benghazi facts is contradicted by previously released emails showing that senior defense officials told the administration on the night of the attack that it was a terrorist action linked to al-Qaida and that no protest had occurred. Rather than follow the defense department's and the CIA Libya station chief's facts, Rhodes outlined talking points for Rice that were invented to help the President be re-elected. Rhodes gave Rice the advice "to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy" and to "reinforce the President and Administration's strength." The email also contained a note for Rice to make sure to mention that al-Qaida had been destroyed. The email was prepared for a September 15 "prep call" with Rice that was to occur at 4 p.m., according to the email. The day after the prep call - five days after the attack - Rice appeared on five Sunday talk shows, each time linking the Libyan attacks to the anti-Moslem video. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cited the same reason for the attacks, while Obama would not say whether it was terrorism until several days afterward. Former CIA deputy director Mike Morell testified several weeks ago that he had no idea where the story about a video protest came from when he saw Rice make the claim on television. Judicial Watch's Fitton says : "Now we know where the video protest story came from. The Obama White House's chief concern about the Benghazi attack was making sure that President Obama looked good...These documents undermine the Obama administration's narrative that it thought the Benghazi attack had something to do with protests or an Internet video." Fitton added : "Given the explosive material in these documents, it is no surprise that we had to go to federal court to pry them loose from the Obama State Department." Many top White House officials received the Rhodes memo -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney; Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest; then-White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer; then-White House Deputy Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri; then-National Security Council Director of Communications Erin Pelton; Special Assistant to the Press Secretary Howli Ledbetter; and then-White House Senior Adviser and political strategist David Plouffe. ~~~~~ The political response to the White House email has been swift. Senator Lindsay Graham told Newsmax : "It shows political operatives in the White House working to create a political narrative at odds with the facts. Their goal was not to tell the truth about what actually happened. They did not want to provide the best information available. Instead, we were provided the most beneficial political story for President Obama." New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte told Fox News Channel : "We always said, 'Where did the video reference come from?' Now we know it came from the White House" and not the intelligence community. Both Graham and Ayotte are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They have been among the many Republicans who have called for an independent investigation of the Benghazi attacks. Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, the committee's ranking GOP member, told Newsmax : "This was a cover-up, and these emails only continue to confirm my belief. The emails show that in the days after the attack in Benghazi, the White House was more focused on protecting President Obama than informing Americans about the terrorist attack that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. They were pushing the video thing because it was just a matter of days before that he had made the American people think that his Middle East policy had stopped all terrorist activity. This was a couple of months before the election. Obviously, with an organized terrorist attack, it just defused the message that he was trying to send. That was their motivation. It couldn't be anything else. I don't think anyone now doubts that they knew it was an organized terrorist attack. It's the motive. The motive was fairly political." Referring to such famous political scandals as Watergate, Iran-contra and the Pentagon Papers, Inhofe added : "We all know that it's not the act, it's the cover-up that people find so offensive. This is far worse, because there's absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind that they were lying, they were not telling the truth to the American people. This happens to be the worst of all the cover-ups." ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is now clear that it was the White House communications group - those in highly political positions - which fabricated and disseminated a fictional story intended to lie to the American public and Congress about what really happened in Benghazi. The lies were intended to save President Obama's faltering election campaign against Mitt Romney by creating the illusion that Obama had defeated al-Qaida -- the truth is that al-Qaida had just come through a rebuilding process and was preparing to strike in a wider area than before, partly from new bases in Africa involved in the Benghazi attack. We can now also conclude that the Benghazi lies and cover-up were one part of a plan to hold onto the White House despite Obama's poor first-term performance. The other part had started in 2010 when the IRS began illegally harassing conservative tea party political groups. It is very difficult to believe that the Obama White House that lied about Benghazi is not also lying about its role in the IRS scandal. It is time for Congress to act.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Secretary of State John Kerry is once again at the center of the world stage for all the wrong reasons. Kerry says he chose the wrong word in describing Israel's potential future, but only after he came under withering criticism for saying the Jewish state could become an "apartheid state" if it doesn't reach a peace deal with the Palestinians. Monday, Kerry lashed out at "partisan political" attacks against him, but acknowledged his comments last week to a closed international Trilateral Commission forum in Washington could have been misinterpreted. Here is his comment, as reported by The Daily Beast : “A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens - or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state,” Kerry said. Now, Kerry says he may have chosen the wrong word, but he pointedly did not apologize, stressing that he was, and is, a strong supporter of Israel, which he called a "vibrant democracy." He said he does not believe Israel is, or is definitely on track to become, an "apartheid state." Kerry's prepared statement, was issued by the State Department and defended by Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, who sought to put Kerry’s comments in context Monday, noting that he remains committed to a two-state solution and was not accusing Israel of having a current policy of apartheid : “The secretary does not believe and did not state publicly or privately that Israel is an apartheid state, and there’s an important difference there. Israel is obviously a vibrant democracy with equal rights for all of its citizens,” she said. But Kerry's statement was very defensive, insisting that he would not allow his commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, "particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don't believe," Kerry wrote after US lawmakers and pro-Israel groups criticized him, with some demanding his resignation or at least an apology. Kerry admitted the force of words, writing : if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution." In his backpeddling statement, Kerry defended his general point, noting that numerous Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and predecessors Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, have offered similar assessments in the past, but conceded that 'apartheid' is a word best left out of the debate here at home." Netanyahu's office declined comment. But Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, wrote a scathing criticism of Kerry on his Facebook page. Kerry's "apartheid" comment was also condemned by the pro-Israel community in America and from the entire political spectrum in Congress. House GOP majority leader Eric Cantor released a statement urging Kerry to apologize to the Israeli government and people : “The use of the word apartheid has routinely been dismissed as both offensive and inaccurate, and Secretary Kerry’s use of it makes peace even harder to achieve.” Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz called for Kerry's resignation. Cruz declared on the Senate floor : “The fact that Secretary Kerry sees nothing wrong with making such a statement on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day demonstrates a shocking lack of sensitivity to the incendiary and damaging nature of his rhetoric. It is my belief that Secretary Kerry has thus proven himself unsuitable for his position and that before any further harm is done to our alliance with Israel, he should offer President Obama his resignation and the President should accept it.” Florida Senator Marco Rubio described the comments as "outrageous and disappointing." At the opposite end of the congressional spectrum, liberal Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California also criticized Kerry's comment, saying on Twitter : "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous." The influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee described Kerry's use of the term as "offensive." AIPAC’s statement read in part : “Israel is the lone stable democracy in the Middle East, and protects the rights of minorities regardless of ethnicity or religion.” Abe Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, said he found it : "startling and deeply disappointing that a diplomat so knowledgeable and experienced about democratic Israel chose to use such an inaccurate and incendiary term." ~~~~~ Kerry has invested significant time and effort to bringing Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, with the goal of reaching a deal in nine months. But, on today's Kerry-chosen peace accord deadline, he has achieved nothing positive, often sowing discord between Israel and America instead. Here are some of the most controversial things Secretary of State John Kerry has said about Israel since he rose to the post of America’s top diplomat last year. The list was prepared by the New Algemeiner, an American Jewish eNewspaper : 1. Israel could become an “apartheid state” if a two- state solution doesn’t pan out. 2. Israel announced 700 new settlement units and “poof, that was sort of the moment” the peace talks were imperiled. 3. It’s a “mistake” to keep demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. 4. The Jewish state will face more boycotts and international isolation if peace talks fail. 5. “Not one Israeli was killed by a Palestinian from the West Bank” in 2013. (A Shin Bet report said there were five such deaths). 6. Ignore Israeli thinking when it comes to Iran sanctions. 7. Israel could face a third violent Palestinian intifada if peace talks fail. 8. The US views all Israeli settlements are “illegitimate.” 9. Amid the fall of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and a bloody civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the “core issue” of Middle East instability. 10. Comparing as equal the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and the Turkish jihadist militants killed aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla after they attacked Israeli soldiers. ~~~~~ Dear readers, even Kerry's hometown paper, the Boston Globe, called his 'apartheid' comment "the mother of all gaffes." And, Mark Whittington on Yahoo Voices made the perfect overall criticism of John Kerry : "The flap is somewhat telling of the dolorous state of Obama foreign policy. The current administration has managed to make America's enemies despise her, her friends afraid of her, and the American people outraged. It is quite a hat trick for the man who was elected to fix what he thought was George W. Bush's foreign policy mistakes. But next to him, the younger Bush is increasingly being seen as a Prince Talleyrand in comparison. With Bush, one knew where one stood. He was not in the habit of insulting allies and appeasing enemies. Sadly the current president is in the habit of doing both, much to the detriment of America's standing in the world." ~~~~~ But, if you prefer fewer words in describing Kerry, how about John Paul II's more general comment -- "Stupidity is also a gift from God, but one mustn't misuse it."
Monday, April 28, 2014
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Sunday through the Palestinian news agency WAFA that the Holocaust was "the most heinous crime" of modern history, a rare acknowledgment of the Jewish suffering. The recognition came as Israel began its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah, its memorial for victims of the Nazi genocide. President Abbas' statement may have been an effort to reach out to Israeli public opinion during this deep crisis in the US-backed Israel-Palestine peace talks. Some Israelis noted that Abbas' comments may be a step in the right direction, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not among them. He said the renewed attempts by Abbas to reconcile with the Islamic militant movement Hamas raised doubts about the Palestinian leader's intentions. Hamas, refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist and sworn to Israel's destruction, has questioned the Holocaust and blocked the subject from being taught in schools in the Gaza Strip. Denials and attempts to minimize the Holocaust, which saw the systematic killing of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany in World War II, are widespread in the Arab world. Many Palestinians have the erroneous notion that recognizing the Holocaust will diminish their own claims for legitimacy based based on years of suffering, including their uprooting when Israel was created in 1948. It seems that Abbas discussed the Holocaust in a meeting in Ramallah with an American rabbi, Marc Schneier, last week. WAFA reported that he called what happened to the Jews in the Holocaust "the most heinous crime to have occurred against humanity in the modern era." Abbas expressed his "sympathy with the families of the victims and many other innocent people who were killed....Those who suffer injustice, oppression and (are) denied freedom and peace, are the first to demand to lift the injustice and racism that befell other peoples subjected to such crimes," according to WAFA's report. ~~~~~ Along with the Abbas Holocaust statement, another chapter in the Israel-Palestine history may have opened Sunday when Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett, a powerful coalition partner who heads the nationalist Jewish Home party, told foreign journalists : "An era has ended and a new era has begun....We are not going to reach a peace agreement in the foreseeable future. I think we need to be realistic about what we can achieve." Bennett advocates giving the Palestinians "autonomy on steroids" in areas of the West Bank they already control, while annexing the remaining 60% of the West Bank that Israel rules. He said the goal now should be to make conditions as livable as possible, by giving Palestinians freedom of movement and supporting their economy, and allowing them to hold elections and run their day- to-day affairs. Full independence, however, would be impossible, he said. "I know it is not as sexy as the perfect two-state solution but this is realistic." Abbas said Saturday that any interim unity government with Hamas would be based on his political platform of seeking peace with Israel, and not that of Hamas. But Tony Blinken, the White House deputy national security advisor, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday, seemed to side with Israel's stance that it would not continue peace talks with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, saying : "Any Palestinian government has to recognize Israel, it has to renounce violence, it has to accept past agreements." Blinken was not asked about the Abbas statement on the Holocaust. But, in the charged political atmosphere surrounding Israel's announcement that it would suspend further peace talks, Abbas' statement coincided with the latest US attempts trying to hold together the collapsing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Abbas urged Israel not to walk away : "On the incredibly sad commemoration of Holocaust Day, we call on the Israel government to seize the current opportunity to conclude a just and comprehensive peace in the region based on the two states' vision, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security," Abbas said. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is extremely difficult to take anything said by the Palestinian leadership at face value. So it is with this latest turn of events in which President Abbas has finally recognized the Holocaust. We might think of Sun Tzu, a Chinese emperor who lived in the 6th century B.C. He was a masterful military leader and wrote one of history's great books on war, The Art of War. In his book he wrote : "When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce." Could it be true? Have the West Bank Palestinians finally run out of delaying tactics? Or are we looking at yet another Trojan Horse at the gates of Jerusalem.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
"Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence." ___Pope John Paul II. ~~~~~ Tomorrow, 27 April 2014, John Paul II will be recognized as a saint at a canonization mass led by Pope Francis at St.Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. He will become Saint John Paul II. ~~~~~ John Paul was one of the most important leaders of the 20th century. He is recognised as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and in all of Europe, as part of the Reagan-Thatcher John Paul triumverate. From the moment of his nine-day trip to Poland soon after his election as Pope, there was the sense that his presence and determination would make Solidarity victorious. John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. He upheld the Church's teachings against artificial contraception, capital punishment and euthanasia, calling them part of the "culture of death." He supported the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform, and, as Pope, was reponsible for the implementation of the "modernizing" agenda of Vatican II, while maintaining conservative Catholic stances against the ordination of women, the marriage of priests and Liberation Theology. John Paul II was the first Pope to : visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, travel to Greek Catholic and Russian Orthodox countries, visit England and begin rapprochement with the Anglican Communion, call Ruanda a genocide, and much more. ~~~~~ But, it was not for any of these reasons that at his death, after years of physical suffering, he was mourned in St. Peter's Square, filled with people waving banners and calling out "Santo subito" - "Make him a saint now." For the world had long since realized that the Polish Pope was a saint. Feel those words -- "Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you..." We knew John Paul was always there beside us, bearing our weaknesses, praying for our success, bringing our children back to faith, helping eliminate the political terrors that had invaded large parts of our world, reminding us of the sacred quality of life. In short, telling us not to be afraid, but to do our best - because he was there to protect us. Thus, at his death, many of us, myself included, instantly began a dialogue with his soul, asking him to stay with us and help us and our world, which was his world, too. And so tomorrow, we children of this dangerous, viciously divided, inhumane and leaderless world will have our Pope back as a Saint. There he will remain, for us and our children and their children forever. The world just became a little more human, a little less frightening.
Friday, April 25, 2014
The "Obama diplomacy" of US Secretary of State John Kerry has had, shall we say, "unintended consequences." Or should we call it "collateral damage"? Whatever we call it, the truth is that the only visible result of the Obama-Kerry diplomatic effort to achieve an Israel-Palestine peace accord is to drive Fatah and Hamas into each others' arms. On Wednesday, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas announced the joint Fatah-Hamas decision to form a unity government, bringing the Islamic militant Hamas movement, which Israel and the West consider a terrorist group, into the less extremist Fatah movement that supports Abbas and the PA. Kerry phoned Abbas to express US "disappointment" in the Hamas alliance. ~~~~~ Responding quickly on Thursday, Israel halted the peace talks in response to the Hamas-Fatah deal, saying that it could not negotiate with any group that includes Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and has stated its express goal of destroying Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused western-backed PA President Abbas of forming an alliance with "a terrorist organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel" and hinted at further retaliatory measures. While it was Netanyahu who announced the break in the peace negotiations, after a long ministerial meeting, some ministers were surprised by the announcement, leading analysts to ask if it was the Israeli security cabinet that called for the break. ~~~~~ The Fatah-Hamas unity agreement brings together Abbas' Fatah movement - the dominant group in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that governs the PA parts of the West Bank - and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, whose residents voted Hamas into power in 2007 and have since felt the negative effects of being controlled by the terrorist group that has not held a second free election. The US and European Union, which classify Hamas as a terrorist group, may, according to The Guardian, review their policies in light of the unity deal. Key differences separate Fatah and Hamas -- Fatah/PA recognises Israel, accepts a two-state solution to the conflict, and co-operates on security with Israel by arresting Hamas activists. Hamas, for its part, refuses to recognise Israel, although it is prepared for a long-term truce and has observed a ceasefire in Gaza. Even though it is hostile to the idea of a two- state solution, Hamas is sometimes ambiguous about whether it would accept it. ~~~~~ The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation has grown out of the failure of the peace talks. It may help Abbas, who faces challenges to his authority by those who reject his moderate approach - his enemies call it "collaboration" - which has got the Palestinians nothing except more Israeli settlements. The move toward unity and the promise of elections within six months will be popular. Hamas, the weaker party, has suffered from its policies that led to economic deterioration in Gaza and the loss of Egypt's support after the overthrow of the Moslem Brotherhood, although it ostensibly still has connections to Hezbollah and Iran. "Hamas," according to a veteran Palestine observer, "has got nowhere else to go, nothing better to do." Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat as PLO leader, has insisted that any reconciliation with Hamas will be on his terms and that he will continue to lead any peace negotiations. Western diplomats insist that this is how it will have to be if the US and EU, which bankroll the PA and fear the consequences of its collapse, are to continue paying. The EU said it welcomed the Palestinian unity agreement but said its priority is still the negotiations with Israel. The US State Department said : "Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties. If a new Palestinian government is formed, we will assess it based on its adherence to the stipulations above, its policies and actions, and will determine any implications for our assistance based on US law." ~~~~~ Dear readers, John Kerry has spent nine months trying to cajole the Israelis and Palestinians into an agreement about their conflict's most difficult issues. But, recently, the two sides have moved even further apart over Israel prisoner releases, PA moves to join UN bodies and Israeli settlement expansions. The US insists there is still some chance of bringing the two sides back to the talks. The peace negotiations had been scheduled to expire next Tuesday on April 29, and even before the unity agreement, there was little hope of their being extended. Now, while a formula may yet be found to save the talks, they are on the brink of total collapse and the search is on for new ideas. John Kerry's efforts have exposed fundamental differences between Israel and Palestine : sharing Jerusalem / resolving the situation of millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees / agreeing on how to negotiate borders. The sides were nowhere close to agreement, and Abbas has now warned that if the talks fail, Israel may have to take over the management of the West Bank because he is threatening to dissolve the PA, suggesting that if Israel is serious, it should agree on borders first - knowing full well that this could never be accepted by Israel. It seems clear that the push made by Kerry and Obama to get Israel to agree to anything and everything just to keep Abbas and the Palestinians in the talks has doubly backfired. It gave Abbas the false hope that he could ask for, or do, anything and the US would agree and push Israel into acceptance. But on the settlements question and the prisoners release issue, Israel finally reached its choke point. So, in a further effort to corner Israel, Fatah and Hamas joined forces, hoping this would be welcomed on the world stage and isolate Israel. But, Netanyahu and his government acted quickly to stop the game - keep in mind that three prior Palestinian unity efforts have failed - and Obama and Kerry are actually supportong Israel, although the EU is more ambivalent. Can this latest Abbas move and the decisive Israeli response lead to a more realistic future in the Israel-Palestine peace talks? It depends entirely on whether Barack Obama has learned his lesson and John Kerry can negotiate his way through the always murky PLO waters with a reasonable agenda that has Israel's prior agreement.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Almost every American state west of the Mississippi River has "public land." In some states, there's more land in the public domain - federally owned - than there is in private hands. In Arizona, for example, only about 10% of the state is privately owned and therefore taxable by the state. All the rest is owned by various American Indian tribes, as their reservations, or federally owned. In Texas, there is practically no "public land" outside state and national parks. Why? The answer is found in how Texas became a state. When the Republic of Texas joined the Union in 1845 as a sovereign nation, it kept title to all its unowned land. The federal government received nothing. This was very important to Texans. Because of the prior rule of Texas by Mexico, Texans had a fundamental mistrust of distant political powers. Out of the carnage of the Alamo, Texans forged a simple rule : Texas should always be in the hands of Texans. And it has remained so to this day - the only large tracts of federal land in Texas have either been bought (military bases) or donated (Big Bend National Park). The rest is in private hands. Unlike all other states west of the Mississippi, Texas owns all but 1.1 million acres of the 171 million acres within its borders. So, the federal government owns just 2% of the land in Texas, compared to the 86% of Nevada and the 64% of Utah federally owned, for example. ~~~~~ So, when Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sends a clear message to the federal Bureau of Land Management, which is in a dispute about land along the Oklahoma-Texas border, he can back it up with historical facts. Abbott has just issued this challenge to the BLM : "Come and take it." Abbott is referring to a potential land grab of 90,000 acres that belong to Texas landowners. The federal government is considering taking the land, which stretches 116 miles along the Red River. "I am about ready to go to the Red River and raise a 'Come and Take It' flag to tell the feds to stay out of Texas," says Abbott, who wrote a letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze about the matter, expressing his concerns about the government's interest in taking the land from Texans, who have owned it for decades, some for generations. "I am deeply concerned about the notion that the Bureau of Land Management believes the federal government has the authority to swoop in and take land that has been owned and cultivated by Texas landowners for generations. The BLM's newly asserted claims to land along the Red River threaten to upset long-settled private property rights and undermine fundamental principles - including the rule of law - that form the foundation of our democracy. Yet, the BLM has failed to disclose either its full intentions or the legal justification for its proposed actions. Decisions of this magnitude must not be made inside a bureaucratic black box." Abbott expanded on the subject in an interview with Breitbart : "What Barack Obama's BLM is doing is so out of bounds and so offensive that we should have quick and successful legal action if they dare attempt to tread on Texas land and take it from private property owners in this state," Abbott said. ~~~~~ What is the issue underlying the Texas-BLM dispute? It dates back to the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The physical boundary between Texas and Oklahoma along the Red River can fluctuate, depending on the fluctuation of the riverbed itself. This has led to countless legal battles over the years between Oklahoma and Texas - so the federal government has now decided to settle the long-term dispute by seizing the land and "federalizing" it. According to Breitbart, the Texas Farm Bureau thinks the border moves south when the river shifts in that direction. But when the flow of water shifts to the north, the Texas Farm Bureau maintains that the border stays where it is supposed to be. The BLM has stepped in and wants to take over the land to settle the matter once and for all. "This is the latest line of attack by the Obama administration, where it seems like they have a complete disregard for the rule of law in this country," Abbott told Breitbart. "And now they've crossed the line quite literally by coming into the state of Texas and trying to claim Texas land as federal land. And, as the attorney general of Texas, I am not going to allow this." The Texas situation comes on the heels of the case between the BLM and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. The BLM says Bundy had been illegally grazing his cattle on 600,000 acres of federal land for 20 years. Bundy disagreed, saying the land belongs to the state. The BLM had started to seize Bundy's cattle, but ranchers and cowboys massed on the grazing land in support of Bundy's grazing rights and the BLM returned the cattle to Bundy ten days ago. ~~~~~ Texas Governor Rick Perry joined his attorney general on Wednesday in blasting the federal Bureau of Land Management over concerns that it may be looking at laying claim to thousands of acres of property in northern Texas. “The federal government already owns too much land,” Perry told Fox News. “It’s not a dare, it’s a promise that we’re going to stand up for private property rights in the state of Texas,” Perry said, calling the federal government “out of control.” The federal government is currently in a preliminary review phase, and any action on the land would be years away. The BLM argues that any land in question was long ago determined to be public property anyway. “The BLM is categorically not expanding Federal holdings along the Red River,” a BLM spokeswoman said in a written statement earlier this week. The spokeswoman referred to a 140-acre plot “determined to be public land in 1986” – an apparent reference to a 1986 federal court case. Texas landowner Tommy Henderson lost 140 acres to BLM in that case, and he claims the agency is now using that decision as precedent to pursue more property. Perry claimed private property would be affected here, and questioned the BLM’s position : “Is the federal government going to come back in and say, ‘you know what, Mexico used to own the state of Texas so let’s have a conversation of where the rightful ownership of this is’?” ~~~~~ Dear readers, never under-estimate the constitutional battle between American states and the federal government. US states are ever mindful that they hold all the constitutional powers not expressly delegated to the federal government. Often, those powers are traded in a shortsighted exchange for federal money. But, in Texas, states rights lives every day. And so, don't presume that the federal BLM will win in its Texas land grab. As every American youngster knows, "the Texas Rangers always get their man." In this case, Texas will undoubtedly keep its land. And, the Lone Star State will once again prove that it is America's best and most vigilant defense against the unwanted tentacles of Washington.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
George Soros, from his American-gained wealth, finances anti-American, anti-West forces which harm America and the West - to the tune of $900 Million dollars in 2012, according to media reports. Why? ~~~~~ ANTI-SEMITISM & ABANDONMENT OF ISRAEL. Soros characterizes himself as an atheist, which may be very convenient for his 'conscience' since, as a WWII Jewish Hungarian child, he was given to a non-Jewish family for protection and helped them to steal Jewish assets from deported and murdered Jews. Soros told the story to 60 Minutes on December 20, 1998 : "Mr. SOROS: Well, of course I c–I could be on the other side or I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn’t be there, because that was–well, actually, in a funny way, it’s just like in markets–that if I weren’t there–of course, I wasn’t doing it, but somebody else would–would–would be taking it away anyhow.” Soros later went to America, earned billions as a currency trader and became an American citizen. But, true to form, Soros has said that America and Israel are to blame for what's wrong with the world. In fact, Soros even blames European anti-Semitism on Israel and the United States. THINK ABOUT IT. What George Soros has said sounds a lot like the Obama position on Israel, which has been held at arm's length by Obama's lectures on how Israel should be more open to doing whatever the Palestinians want in order to secure peace - withdraw from the settlements, recognize the Palestinian state before negotiations begin, and consider giving up East Jerusalem - in other words, abandon America's best friend in the Middle East to support Palestine and its Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian keepers. As long as Soros funds Leftist Democrat politicians like Obama and Hillary Clinton, America will continue to separate itself from Israel and move closer to its real Middle East enemies. ~~~~~ AGENDA TO WEAKEN & DESTROY AMERICA. Soros has said that “America is the gravest threat to world freedom.” Essentially, it seems everything American and capitalist for this billionaire is bad - except for the fact that he made his money while living in the US and using the American capitalist model. For example, Soros was a major financial supporter of New York City mayor candidate Bill de Blasio and endorsed de Blasio as the most Left of all candidates. Imagine that Soros used this approach to endorsing and funding candidates at the local, state and national levels all over America -- THINK ABOUT IT. The most Leftist, Progressive, Socialist politician in your area winning because of Soros financial support. Do you see what America would soon become? And to hasten the day when American politics at all levels are controlled by the extreme Left, Soros is financing many tax-exempt organizations which cannot be tied to him by their names or regulatory requirements but that want to abandon the Constitution by making end-runs around it. The latest Soros project is to eliminate the Electoral College in presidential elections. The Electoral College was put in the Constitution to keep demagogues and foreign powers from stealing the presidency by lying about their goals. To eliminate the Electoral College without following the amendment process, which guarantees that the majority of Americans would desire the change, is unconstitutional on its face - and to do it quietly without even trying to engage a national debate reveals its corrupt goal, which is to pack the popular vote for Leftist presidential candidates by using rigging tactics easily available in large cities. ~~~~~ DEFEAT AMERICAN ENERGY INDEPENDENCE. Although accounts of this Soros attack are hard to find in the US media, Russia is reporting that Soros proposes using the US strategic oil reserves to cause a Russian economic crash. The idea is that dumping the US oil reserves on the markets will drop oil and gas prices, which would affect Russia. But, since Russia exports only 1% of its total exports to the US, it's difficult to see how this move will substantially affect Russia. It's easy to understand what Soros is doing as a market manipulator and arbitrager and it might make sense for Soros' bank account. But US national oil reserves are there for an emergency. What happens if America dumps its reserves and Putin does not flinch, but some terrorist state acts. THINK ABOUT IT. Imagine a 9/11 type attack, panic and no national oil reserves. We’ve seen the environmentalist campaign to stop US oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico under false environmental assumptions - with the leadership of Soros organizations feeding public opinion and controlling Obama policymakers. Meanwhile, Obama traveled to Brazil, where Soros is heavily invested, and congratulated Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff for the Brazilian offshore drilling program, stating that the US will be their biggest customer. Why does Obama praise Brazil for offshore drilling while hampering it in the US and preventing both the Keystone Pipeline and the construction of CNG offshore facilities? For the same reason Soros wants to empty America's national strategic petroleum reserves -- to keep America dependent on foreign petroleum, thereby wasting national budget dollars overseas and keeping US foreign policy hands semi-tied to petroleum suppliers. ~~~~~ Dear readers, these are simply a few of the many reasons to fear George Soros - to be alert to political organizations that talk about "democratizing" American politics with universal voter registration and "instant runoff voting," and that would give the Left-Progressive-Socialists a bigger voice by installing proportional voting (allocating the very minor candidate votes proportionally to Democrats and Republicans at the top). The 80-year-old George Soros won't live forever -- but his ideas are the extreme examples of all who want to bring down the constitutional protection of human liberty that America champions. It is for every American and every supporter of human liberty and dignity to be ever vigilant. It is truly the price of freedom.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Human Events, a leading voice of American conservatism for 70 years, did a reader online poll recently. The result? Readers svoted billionaire financier George Soros “the single most destructive leftist demagogue in the country.” Human Events has made a list of the 10 key reasons George Soros is dangerous: 1. Gives billions to left-wing causes : Soros started the Open Society Institute in 1993 to channel his wealth to leftist-socialist causes. Using Open Society as a conduit, Soros has given more than $7 billion to leftist groups, including ACORN, Apollo Alliance, National Council of La Raza, Tides Foundation, Huffington Post, Southern Poverty Law Center, Soujourners, People for the American Way, and Planned Parenthood. 2. Influence on US elections : Soros once said that removing President George W. Bush from office in 2004 was the “central focus of my life.” He gave $23.58 million to IRS Code §527 tax-exempt political groups bent on defeating Bush. After failing, Soros began a search for a "chosen one," which led him to become an early financial supporter jump-starting Barack Obama’s political career. Soros hosted a 2004 Obama fund-raiser when he was running for the Illinois Senate, and he gave the maximum-allowed contribution hours after Obama announced that he was running for President, turning his back on the Clintons in the process. 3. Wants to curtail American sovereignty : Soros wants America to become subservient to international bodies. He wants more power for groups such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and a downsizing of the US role in the IMF to reduce US influence on the world stage. In 1998, he wrote : “Insofar as there are collective interests that transcend state boundaries, the sovereignty of states must be subordinated to international law and international institutions.” 4. Media Matters : Soros is a financial backer of Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media watchdog group that blows up out of proportion any conservative view that makes it into the mainstream media. Its founder, David Brock, has declared war on Fox News, telling Politico that the group was mounting “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” against Fox and would try to disrupt the commercial interests of owner Rupert Murdoch. Human Events points out that this is a questionable agenda for a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational foundation that is barred from partisan political activity. 5. MoveOn.org : Soros has been a major funder of MoveOn.org, a leftist advocacy group and political action committee that raises millions for liberal candidates. This is the group that put on its website an ad comparing President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler. 6. Center for American Progress : Headed by John Podesta, White House chief of staff under President Clinton, the Center for American Progress has been instrumental in providing liberal talking points and policy positions for the Obama administration. According to Human Events, there has also been a revolving door between the White House and the Soros-funded CAP think tank, with Obama staffing his administration with many CAP officials. 7. Environmental extremism : Former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones and his far-left environmental agenda have been funded by Soros’ money at the Ella Baker Center, Green For All, CAP, and the Apollo Alliance, which was instrumental in getting $110 billion in green initiatives included in Obama’s stimulus package. Soros also funds the Climate Policy Initiative to address global warming and gave Friends of the Earth money to “integrate a climate equity perspective in the presidential transition.” 8. America Coming Together : Soros gave nearly $20 million to this §527 group with the express purpose of defeating President Bush. Human Events says that in its massive get-out-the-vote effort, ACT’s door-to-door canvassing teams included numerous felons, its voter registration drives were riddled with fraud, and it made misleading taped phone calls to voters. ACT was fined $775,000 by the Federal Election Commission for violations of various federal campaign finance laws. 9. Currency manipulation : A large part of Soros’ multibillion-dollar fortune has come from manipulating currencies - using the 1997 Asian financial crisis to attack Malaysia’s and Thailand's currencies through his trading activities. Long known as “The Man who Broke the Bank of England,” it was Soros who initiated a British financial crisis by dumping 10 billion Pounds Sterling, forcing the devaluation of the Pound and making a billion-dollar profit. 10. Delusions : Soros has repeatedly said that he sees himself as a messianic figure : “I admit that I have always harbored an exaggerated view of my self-importance - to put it bluntly, I fancied myself as some kind of god” -- “I carried some rather potent messianic fantasies with me from childhood, which I felt I had to control, otherwise I might end up in the loony bin.” ~~~~~ George Soros is one of the world's wealthiest men, with a personal fortune of $7 billion and additional investments of another $11 billion or so. And George Soros, who many see as the bankroller of the Barack Obama political program, is using his billions to impose a radical agenda on America. His stable of pro-Left foundations distributes more than $400 million a year to causes ranging from underwriting left-leaning Democrat Party candidates to legalizing marijuana to advocating for euthanasia to imposing proportional voting under the guise of instant runoff voting to destroying the Constitution's presidential election process by illegally sidelining the Electoral College. ~~~~~ How did this happen? At a secret meeting in the summer of 2002, Soros, Morton Halperin, (director of Soros’ Open Society Institute), John Podesta (former Clinton White House chief of staff), Jeremy Rosner (former speech writer for Bill Clinton), Robert Boorstin (Democrat strategist and also former speech writer for Clinton) and Carl Pope (Democrat strategist and environmentalist) met to draft a plan to defeat President George W. Bush in the presidential election of 2004. Soros would spend $26 million of his own money in his failed mission to rid America of President Bush. It was through this effort however, that Soros created the “Shadow Party,” which would eventually become the Obama administration. And George Soros would become the master who seems to be calling the shots for Obama, President of the United States and leader of the free world. Without Soros and the Shadow Party, Barack Obama probably still be a Senator from Illinois, a friend of Chicago domestic terrorist Bill Ayers and black liberation theologist the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, or at worst, an unheard of Illinois state senator from Chicago. Instead, Barack Obama is President. On July 7, 2003, Soros, Halperin, Podesta and Harold Ickes, (deputy chief of staff for the Clinton White House and money man) founded the American Majority Institute to be the cornerstone organization of the Shadow Party. A few months later, they changed the name to the Center for American Progress (CAP), under which it is still known. CAP describes itself as “a nonpartisan research and educational institute” aimed at “developing a long-term vision of a progressive America” and “providing a forum to generate new progressive ideas and policy proposals.” The truth is more like this : CAP is a leftist “think/action tank,” the nerve center of the Left’s attack on American values and on conservatives, and the primary source of Barack Obama’s positions. From 2003 to 2007, CAP received over $15 million in grants from more than 60 foundations, with the biggest contributor being George Soros, who gave the first $3 million. Today, they have over 180 staff members and an annual budget of $27 million. It is most interesting that one of the attendees at the meeting in 2002 is now CAP president - John Podesta, former Clinton White House chief of staff and one of the three architects of the Obama transition team. During Clinton’s first term in office, Podesta was White House staff secretary and assistant to President Clinton. Clinton brought Podesta back to the White House when the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky affairs exploded, leading to Clinton's impending impeachment and threatening his presidency. Podesta undoubtedly saved Clinton. Now, Podesta, Soros' CAP chief, is heading Obama's NSA data inquiry and environment initiatives, as well as leading Obama's aggressive strategy of government-by-regulation. Podesta is also helping UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with plans to bind all 193 UN members to new "transformational" worldwide economic-social-environmental systems. ~~~~~ Tomorrow, dear readers, we'll discuss why George Soros'attack on America would completely destroy it.
Monday, April 21, 2014
A plan, now speedily sneaking through state legislatures would eliminate the Electoral College and award the presidency to the winner of the national popular vote. The plan involves an National Popular Vote Interstate Compact under which states would commit to select electors pledged to vote for the national popular vote winner regardless of how their own state voted. When sufficient states cast votes in the Electoral College to meet the required majority 270 votes, it will take effect. The Electoral College will be cast aside. So far, nine states and the District of Columbia - that together cast 136 Electoral College votes - have joined. That's half the 270 votes needed to put the Compact into effect. The ratifying states are Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts, DC, Vermont, California, and Rhode Island. Both houses in New York have passed the Compact and it is on Governor Cuomo’s desk. In addition, the Compact has already passed one house in the following states : Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon. These states, plus New York, represent 107 votes. Combined with the others, they represent 242 votes of the needed 270. Who is behind this? All the state legislatures ratifying the Compact voted for Obama, as did 8 of the 10 one-house states. The movement is funded, in part, by the Center for Voting and Democracy, a George Soros-funded election group. Essentially, the idea of an Interstate Compact is an end run around the regular constitutional amendment process. Rather than get a two-thirds majority of each house of Congress and three-quarters of the states, this proposal would take effect when a simple majority of states approves it, without any congressional action. Why are Democrats pushing this plan? Political analyst Dick Morris says Democrats usually see a smaller percentage of their people go to the polls than Republicans. For example, under the Electoral College system for President, they have little incentive to work for a high turnout in New York City, knowing that the state will go Democrat anyway. But, if it were the popular vote that decided, the big city machines would work hard with devastating impact, including double voting, fraudulent voting, and all the other tricks of the trade at which Democrats are past masters in the biggest cities most firmly in Democratic control (Washington DC, New York, Detroit, Chicago San Francisco). And these cities are all in solidly Democrat states. But, according to Morris, if the popular vote were to determine the next President, the Democrat city machines would be out in force lining up voters, real and fake, to pad their vote position. ~~~~~ Morris says some Republicans in non-swing states are inclined to back the proposal simply so that they get their fair share of attention, because they are tired of delegating to Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Virginia, et al, the power to choose the President. But, Morris says Republicans need to kill this proposal and they better get busy doing it. Republicans must stand firm and not yield to the temptation to back the Compact. How can the GOP stop the Democrats from ravaging our political system? Key battles are coming up in Arkansas and North Carolina. In both states, one house has passed the Compact. Republicans need to block the Compact from taking effect. And Republicans in Minnesota and Wisconsin, both Democrat states, need to stop ratification in their states. Republicans should focus on stopping the second house from ratification in those states where only one house has acted. Our democracy depends on it, says Dick Morris. ~~~~~ And in a rare sign of unanimity, conservatives and leading liberals slammed the campaign to effectively end the Electoral College's role in presidential elections, saying that the National Popular Vote Compact Law circumvents the Constitution, comparing it to President Barack Obama's abuse of the law through his extensive use of executive orders. "It is pretty startling," Bill Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard, told Newsmax TV this week : "If they want to make the case for the popular election of President and a constitutional amendment, they should make the case. But the Left these days doesn't make the case, and they don't go the normal route of changing the law if they don't like the law....They think of gimmicks and evasions and ways to get around the normal popular debate. This is all happening kind of quietly. I'm really struck by the way they’re doing it." Dick Morris told Newsmax that the effort is ripe for voter fraud and would guarantee that from now on, Democrats will win the White House every four years. Other conservatives agreed with Morris, saying that "the stealth way - going through the states - was doing an end-run around the Constitution. "It's a serious discussion. It's a debate worth having," former Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax : "If we're going to change it [the Constitution], let's do it the appropriate way: get the super-majority votes in Congress, have the states ratify it, have a national debate. This is again, by the Left, an effort to circumvent the current electoral process, and through a stealth campaign, ensure their electoral dominance moving into the future." Kevin Jackson, a radio talk-show host and author who was a panelist with Hoekstra, said the Electoral College effort comes as "we're dangerously close to the Left having control of the Supreme Court" with the possible retirement of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 81, and three others in their 70s. They are Antonin Scalia, 78, and Anthony Kennedy, 77, who were appointed by President Ronald Reagan; and Stephen Breyer, 75, who - along with Ginsberg - were appointed by President Clinton. "It's definitely trying to get around the system," Jackson said of the Compact. Even such liberals as Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz and Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf blasted the campaign. "It's nuts," Sheinkopf told Newsmax : "Here's a case of where they're trying to go around the Constitution, around the law, to do something that's patently illegal and wrong. It's the same way the Obama administration issues executive orders. Our Constitution, that's worked very well for 200 years, is now being tampered with. A bad move. This system was put in place to ensure that crazy people couldn't get control of the government. And that's why it works. Don’t change something that shouldn’t be changed, for the purpose of making some people happy." Dershowitz said the Compact "certainly violates the spirit of the Constitution. Plainly, the founders of the Constitution did not intend for there to be a conspiracy among certain states to essentially abolish the Electoral College." Dershowitz, too, called for a constitutional amendment. The Electoral College was established by the Founding Fathers during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The amendment probably would not succeed today, but to use this method of circumvention, it seems to me would encourage other states to use other methods of circumventing the Constitution when it came to racial equality or other things," Dershowitz told Newsmax. "I think it is quite short-sighted," he added. "I do not support it." ~~~~~ Dear readers, the most disturbing aspect of this Compact is that it is being carried out in silence by Democrat states with Democrat-controlled legislatures. No one has had the courage to tell America what is happening. No one has explained to Americans that their constitutional process for electing their President is being destroyed without their knowledge. And, that George Soros is behind this theft of the Constitution means that the White House and President Obama are insiders. Imagine -- what if, by stealing votes and overriding the Constitution by means of the Compact, Obama were somehow re-elected to an unconstitutional third term in 2016. America would be lost forever to the fanatical goal of George Soros to destroy America as the protector of human liberty. As John LeCarre wrote : "And that's how I know he can be beaten. Because he's a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt." But, this is no time for complacency. If you are American...if you want to save the America you love from the Leftist agenda of George Soros and his public face, Barack Obama, email your state governor and your state legislator - do not be polite - tell them bluntly that their political future depends on their not agreeing to this Devil's Compact. ~~~~~ Tomorrow, we'll discuss Soros and Obama and their plans for America.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
The world has been tightly focused on the Ukraine crisis and the missing Malaysian Flight MH370, but the carnage in Syria goes on and on. Here's the latest news. ~~~~~ The French are celebrating the release of four of their journalists held 10 months in Syrian captivity. In 2013, Syria was the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The conflict claimed the lives of at least 29 journalists in 2013, its annual report stated, taking the total number killed covering the war to at least 63, including some who died over the border in Lebanon or Turkey. CPJ research says : "The huge number of deaths in Syria does not tell the complete story of the danger there, given an unprecedented number of kidnappings....About 60 journalists were abducted at least briefly during the year and about 30 are currently missing." Jihad groups, particularly an al-Qaida-breakaway group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, are believed responsible for most kidnappings that have taken place since 2013. Government-backed militias, criminal gangs and more moderate rebel factions also have been involved, seeking everything from ransom to prisoner exchanges. The release of the four French men comes after three Spanish reporters held by the group were freed in March. ~~~~~ Meanwhile, violence continued Saturday in Syria, as rebel car bombings killed at least 10 people, officials and activists said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one car bomb killed at least four people in the city of Homs, in an area dominated by Alawites - the same sect as President Bashar al-Assad. State-run television also reported the bombing but did not immediately have a death toll. Earlier in the day, another car bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint near the government-controlled town of Salamiya killing at least six soldiers, activists said. And on Friday, a car bomb exploded outside a mosque in a pro-government district of Homs, killing 14 people in the latest violence in the war-torn city, state Syrian television reported. The bombing occurred as worshippers left the Bilal al-Habshi mosque on the edge of Akrama after attending Friday prayers and also wounded at least 50 people. The area, populated mainly by Alawites, members of al-Assad's minority sect, repeatedly has been targeted by car bombs. Opposition activists also reported the blast. The Syrian Observatory for Human rights said the explosion killed at least nine people, adding that the number likely would rise. The attack coincides with a crushing offensive by al-Assad forces in central Syria, leaving Homs as the last rebel stronghold in the central region not to have been retaken by al-Assad troops aided by Lebanese Hezbollah forces. ~~~~~ Earlier this week, the UN Envoy to Syria pleaded for both the rebel and al-Assad sides in Homs to re-enter negotiations, which were broken off in February. The UN envoy called the center of Homs "a theatre" of war and death. ~~~~~ And as reported here earlier in detail in the April 3rd blog, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has passed the 1 million mark, rising from 18,000 just two years ago, making Lebanon the country with the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The total number of registered Syrian refugees in all countries is 2.58 million. Other nations with large populations of Syrian refugees include Jordan and Turkey. The United Nations has said that more than 100,000 people, many of them civilians, have been killed in Syria since the popular uprising spiraled into a civil war in 2011. UN staff in Lebanon register 2,500 new Syrian refugees every day, the UNHCR said. ~~~~~ Whether the world watches or has its attention focused elsewhere, the horrific civil war in Syria rolls on. There are no indications that Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, or Iran and Hezbollah, are willing to let the Syrian people make their own decision about their future. And President Obama's abandonment of Middle East leadership in general, and Syrian leadership in particular, has made it impossible for local countries and leaders to make a decisive difference. This can clearly be seen as the frustration of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the leading Middle East sunni power lined up against al-Assad's shiites and their Russian, al-Qaida and Iranian keepers, recently surfaced when Saudi Arabia replaced its intelligence chief, who is widely seen as the architect of the Kingdom’s interventionist policy in the Syrian civil war. The government-owned Saudi Press Agency announced on Tuesday that prince Bandar bin Sultan had been “relieved of his post at his own request.” Here is how the Saudi Press Agency described the situation : " Bandar was born in 1946 to a concubine of crown prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, 12th son of Saudi monarch King Abdulaziz. In 1983, Bandar was appointed ambassador to the United States, a post he held until 2005. He developed numerous connections in Washington and rose to become a leading operator in Middle East affairs. In 2012, he was appointed director of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, the country’s primary intelligence organization. Since that time, he has been the primary planner of the Saudi hawkish policy on the Syrian civil war, which has been to openly support the rebel groups fighting to oust the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Saudi Arabia has supplied weapons, cash and intelligence to the Syrian rebels with Bandar as the country’s intelligence chief. But his once close relations with Washington went sour last year, when he described US President Obama’s refusal to launch military strikes on Syria as a 'major shift' in American Middle East policy. He also angered the US by criticizing its rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is Riyadh’s major regional adversary. Perhaps more important, Bandar probably underestimated the strength of the al-Assad administration and advised King Abdullah in 2012 that the Syrian government’s days were numbered. The stalemate in the Syrian civil war seems to have frustrated the Saudi government, which began gradually distancing itself from Bandar since January. The prince has spent most of 2014 in the United States and Morocco, ostensibly for 'medical treatment.'" According to Saudi government media, Bandar has been replaced "on an interim basis" by his deputy, Yousef al-Idrissi. Meanwhile, insiders say that the Syria file has been transferred to prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the kingdom’s minister of interior. But, Bandar remains secretary general of the National Security Council, an influential advisory board that directs Saudi Arabia’s national security and intelligence. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it remains to be seen whether the Saudi action can save a rapidly failing Syria rebel cause, which was probably doomed when it was infiltrated in late 2012 by al-Qaida islamic jihadists, making it almost impossible for the West to support the rebels militarily. It remains, also, to be answered whether Putin's Russia and Iran deliberately planted al-Qaida terrorists in the rebel ranks for just that reason. And it also remains for history to judge the Obama decisions that have left innocent Syrian blood on his administration's hands -- for if Obama had acted quickly, the Syrian civil war would never have escalated to its present viciously murderous level.
Friday, April 18, 2014
It is Good Friday, the darkest and yet the most hopeful day in the Christian calendar. On this day when Christ was sacrificed to reconcile God and his creatures, I pray that all of us, of all faiths and without faith, will soon realize that while we are not all alike, we are brothers and sisters under God, however we understand the Being who creates and sustains life. We have been given a beautiful and bounteous world. Let us try to take better care of it and learn to respect and love all who live in it. ~~~~~ Here is the most often quoted Old Testament prophecy of the events of Good Friday. ~~~~~ Isaiah 53:7-12. "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living. For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge, My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many And made intercession for the transgressors."
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Chris Wallace should have waited a few days before raving on TV that the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee has spent a year and found nothing to indicate that senior Obama administration officials were involved in the illegal IRS targeting of conservative groups. Because newly uncovered emails show that Lois Lerner, the key figure in the IRS scandal, was talking with the Justice Department about going after groups seeking tax-exempt status days before she publicly acknowledged the IRS was targeting Tea Party and other groups. The emails are a major breakthrough in the Committee investigation, suggesting that the targeting stretched deep into the Obama administration. Lerner, the director of the agency’s Exempt Organizations division before retiring last year, initially said the targeting was limited to agents working in the IRS’ Cincinnati field office. But, a series of inspector general and congressional probes since the scandal broke last year indicate that the targeting of mostly conservative-leaning groups seeking tax-exempt status was orchestrated in Washington. In a just-released May 2013 email, Lerner responded to a Justice Department inquiry about whether tax-exempt groups could be criminally prosecuted for lying about political activity. "I got a call today from Richard Pilger, Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ,” Lerner reportedly wrote to the office of Steven Miller, the agency’s acting director at the time. “He wanted to know who at IRS the DO folk s [sic] could talk to about Democrat Senator Whitehouse's idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who lied on their submissions -- saying they weren't planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs. I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS." Nikole Flax, Miller’s chief of staff, answered Lerner : "I think we should do it -- also need to include CI [Criminal Investigation Division], which we can help coordinate. Also, we need to reach out to FEC. Does it make sense to consider including them in this or keep it separate?" In another email, Lerner discussed with agency staffers the purpose of an upcoming 9 April 2013 hearing that also suggests the targeting went beyond the IRS. “There are several groups of folks from the [Federal Election Commission] world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report they are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are)," she wrote. “One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former General Counsel at the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform. This is their latest push to shut these down. One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn't feel so comfortable doing the stuff. So, don't be fooled about how this is being articulated -- it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity." ~~~~~ House Republicans said after the emails were published that they are further proof of coordination among various agencies to target conservatives. "The release of new documents underscores the political nature of IRS Tea Party targeting and the extent to which supposed apolitical officials took direction from elected Democrats," House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said in a statement. "These e-mails are part of an overwhelming body of evidence that political pressure from prominent Democrats led to the targeting of Americans for their political beliefs." Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, said that if the targeting hadn't been stopped, "Eric Holder's politicized Justice Department would likely have been leveling trumped up criminal charges against Tea Party groups to intimidate them from exercising their Constitutional rights." The administration at the highest level denied that the targeting - from 2010 through the 2012 presidential election cycle - was illegal or politically motivated. President Obama told Fox News in February there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” in connection with the targeting. ~~~~~ And in a major revelation,other emails obtained by the House Committee show that the office of the committee's top-ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, contacted the IRS in January 2013 about True the Vote, one of the conservative groups that was targeted. A Lerner staffer responded to Cummings by sending the group’s related 990 IRS forms to Cummings and his staff. So, the released emails show that Cummings and his staff communicated with Lerner while the IRS allegedly targeted True the Vote for abuse, indicating that two branches of government were colluding to target and silence private citizens. "America has come to a tipping point,” according to Catherine Engelbrecht, the conservative activist who heads True the Vote. Engelbrecht was interviewed by the House Committee and said the questions Cummings asked her during the February hearing sounded "eerily similar" to what the IRS asked her after her organization applied for nonprofit status. "It was just a little too close for comfort," Engelbrecht told "Fox & Friends" Wednesday. Committee Chairman Issa said that the released emails suggest that Cummings contacted the IRS urging it to investigate Engelbrecht's organization after it applied for nonprofit status. Cummings has said the House was wasting its time with the investigation and told CNN last year "the case is solved," according to an editorial in Investor's Business Daily. The editorial said Cummings "had been working hand in glove with the IRS to target conservative groups and wanted the fact to remain a secret." Media reports say that Engelbrecht first applied for nonprofit status for her group True the Vote in 2010. She said five agencies subsequently contacted her "in very rapid succession over a three-year period. Once I filed my nonprofit application with the IRS back in July of 2010, it seems as though that set into motion a series of events that ultimately would bring five government agencies to my door," adding there was "no doubt" the agencies were working in a "collaborative effort to target and silence me." She said her story was "just beginning to be told," and said the targeting likely happened to other groups. Engelbrecht’s attorney, Cleta Mitchell, told WND/Radio America in an interview that President Obama clearly inspired the mistreatment of conservative groups with his public comments : “Let’s not forget where this IRS scandal began. People say, ‘Oh, you’re looking for a smoking gun and there’s no smoking gun.’ Yeah, there’s a smoking gun. There are about a dozen smoking guns. They’re just lying all over the streets of Washington, D.C. You had the President of the United States going around the country giving speeches, attacking private citizens groups and demanding that something be done about them. Why should something be done about them? Because he disagrees with them." Mitchell went on : "Then you had 31 House members and nine senators, all Democrats writing to the IRS and demanding the IRS 'do something’ to crack down on these conservative groups.” Another House Committee - Ways and Means - recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder prosecute Lerner on three charges, one for violation of privacy for allegedly using government property to release confidential private taxpayer information and a second for allegedly using her influencial position to improperly influence IRS action against tea party groups, possibly for political purposes. Issa's Oversight Committee is considering a motion to refer charges against Lerner to Holder, asking for a grand jury probe. ~~~~~ Dear readers, that the IRS probe is being attacked by Democrats is to be expected. Every congressional probe is made by the party that stands to gain from it. The Democrats have conducted probes against the GOP often enough to know whereof they speak. And you can be sure that their attitude would change instantly if the groups being harassed by the IRS had been left-wing organizations that usually support Democrats. But this particular congressional investigation is not about party politics. It is about constitutional limits on government. The political use of a government agency to silence or harass political opponents is gravely serious - it cuts to the heart of the abuse of presidential power - in this case on Barack Obama's watch as President. Americans might not be surprised to learn about such political evils in Russia or China - but not in the United States. The Justice Department must find out what Lerner is hiding, with or without the cooperation of Attorney General Holder. Neither the Justice Department nor the IRS may take the unconstitutional step of becoming the political operative for any party.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of South Korea and to the families of the 280 high school students still missing after the ferry they were on listed and capsized in frigid waters off the South Korean coast near Seoul. ~~~~~ The students were on an overnight trip to a tourist island when their ship sank on Wednesday, leaving more than 280 people missing despite a frantic, night-long rescue effort by dozens of ships and helicopters. The high number of passengers unaccounted for - either trapped in the capsized ship or floating in the ocean - raised fears that the death toll could rise drastically. One student told broadcaster YTN after being rescued that once he jumped, the ocean "was so cold. ... I was hurrying, thinking that I wanted to live." Local television stations broadcast live pictures of the ship, Sewol, listing to its side and slowly sinking as passengers jumped out or were winched up by helicopters. At least 87 vessels and 18 aircraft swarmed in the waters around the stricken ship as rescuers climbed over its sides, pulling out passengers wearing orange life jackets. But the ship overturned completely and continued to sink slowly. Within little more than two hours, only its blue-and-white bow was above water. South Korean President Park Geun-hye, after a briefing in Seoul with officials, said : "We have to do our best to rescue even one passenger." The ship set off from South Korea's northwest on Tuesday night for an overnight, 14-hour journey to the tourist island of Jeju, with 30 crew members, 325 high school students, 15 school teachers and 89 non-student passengers onboard. The students on the ferry were in their second year, aged 16 or 17. ~~~~~ "Journey's End" by J. R. R. Tolkien. In western lands beneath the Sun / The flowers may rise in Spring / The trees may bud, the waters run / The merry finches sing. / Or there maybe 'tis cloudless night / And swaying branches bear / The Elven-stars as jewels white / Amid their branching hair / Though here at journey's end I lie / In darkness buried deep / Beyond all towers strong and high / Beyond all mountains steep / Above all shadows rides the Sun / And Stars for ever dwell / I will not say the Day is done / Nor bid the Stars farewell.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Today, as it had warned, Ukraine launched its military operation against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern region close to the Russia border, despite warnings from Moscow not to interfere with the insurgents. "It will be conducted step by step, responsibly, cautiously," Ukraine President Oleksandr Turchynov told the country's parliament shortly before the operation began. "The aim of these actions is to protect the citizens of Ukraine, to stop terror, to stop criminality, to stop attempts to tear Ukraine to pieces." The first action was the retaking by Ukraine troops of a small airfield near the town Kramatorsk, in the East Ukraine region of Donetsk, where the separatists began their occupation of Ukraine public buildings a week ago. Russian state television reported that as many as 11 people had been killed, but there has been no confirmation of any casualties. The shooting appear to have been warning shots into the air, according to media reports. The mayor of Kramatorsk said Ukrainian troops had taken control of the airfield. Kramatorsk 100 miles from the Russian border, where Russian military troops, tank columns and fighter jets are based. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine that he has the approval of the Russian parliament to intervene in Ukraine to protect pro-Russian Ukrainians, and that he may intercede in the unrest to protect "ethnic Russians," although it is unclear who needs protection, since it is ethnic Russians who have been the ones forcing their way into government buildings in 10 cities. The dissidents occupying the buildings demand that a referendum be held to vote on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia, and they are urging Russian forces to invade as they did in Crimea. The Russian province of Crimea was overtaken militarily by Putin, who annexed it into Russia despite phone calls with President Obama who warned him of repercussions should he do so. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met today in Luxembourg with European Union defense ministers and told reporters he was "deeply concerned" by the developments in Ukraine. President Obama again spoke by phone with Putin on Monday, asking him to pull back troops from Ukraine's border and to persuade armed pro-Russian groups to leave the buildings they have seized. Putin's office said he told Obama that the protests "are the result of the Kiev authorities' unwillingness and inability to take into account the interests of the Russian and Russian-speaking population." President Turchynov accused Russia of fueling the unrest in East Ukraine by infiltrating the country with Russian special forces who are aiding separatists. Russian speaking masked men, well-armed and in matching uniforms bearing no insignias, have been seen helping the occupiers build barricades to prevent Ukraine troops from forcing them out. "Russia wants the whole south and east of Ukraine to be engulfed by fire," Turchynov said. Ukraine's government has said that it is willing to consider granting more autonomy to regions in the east but not independence. Half the people in the east are ethnic Russians. But in polls, a majority of people in the east and south say they do not want to become part of Russia. A majority of Crimeans responded the same way. "I'm not happy because of these events," Vladimir Ivaschenko, who lives in Donetsk, told USA Today. "I'd like to live in a normal Ukraine and without any influence from Russia or from west side. It seems like Russian tanks are going to enter Ukraine. Separatists already called for Russian help," he said. Others feel the central government in Kiev has not handled the ethnic question properly and is to blame for the unrest. An AP journalist reported seeing at least 14 armored personnel carriers with Ukrainian flags, one helicopter and military trucks parked 24 miles north of Slovyansk, which is also 100 miles from the Russian border. There was other heavy military equipment nearby, along with at least seven busloads of government troops in black military fatigues. "We are awaiting the order to move on Slovyansk," said one Ukrainian soldier. Two of the helicopters loaded with troops later took off and headed for Slovyansk. A CNN journalist reported that he encountered a large Ukrainian military column traveling on roads leading from the city of Donetsk toward other towns in the region on Tuesday. The column included more than 20 armored personnel carriers, along with support vehicles and a helicopter circling overhead. Roads into Slovyansk, an East Ukraine city that has come under more secure control of the occupying gunmen since Saturday, were dotted with checkpoints. One gunman at the entrance into town was waving a Russian flag. Another bore a sign reading "If we don't do it, nobody will." ~~~~~ But holding to the Putin story line, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov criticized Kiev for using force against the pro-Russian protesters, saying Moscow could walk out of an international conference on the Ukrainian crisis scheduled for Thursday in Geneva. "You can't send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva," Lavrov said at a press conference Tuesday held after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Julia Timoshenko's evaluation that Putin is pushing hard for talks because his actions in Ukraine, answered with Western sanctions, are hurting the Russian econony was partially supported today as the Russian benchmark Micex Index of equities declined 2.5% to 1,311.01 -- the latest fall in a 9.3% retreat since the takeover of Crimea started on March 1. The ruble weakened 0.5% to 36.1500 against the US Dollar, extending its drop since March 1 to 0.7%. But, Ukraine is also facing economic stress. Ukraine's central bank increased its benchmark interest rate from 7% to 14.5% to prevent massive inflation due to the record lows of its currency. And Germany is coming to the aid of Ukraine as it tries to deal with the threat of Russia's state-owned gas industry to cut off supplies to Ukraine - German utility company RWE AG on Tuesday started supplying gas to Ukraine via Poland. Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Facebook that “blood was spilled once again in Ukraine. There’s a sense in the country that a civil war could break out.” And in Washington, when pressed on whether the US is considering sending equipment such as armored vests or night-vision goggles to Ukraine, White House press secretary Jay Carney said only that lethal equipment, which would include weapons, is “not something we’re currently considering.” Economic aid for Ukraine is the main focus for the US, he said. And Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said today in an interview with Polish TVN24 that Putin has “a credibility problem” in denying Russian troops are in Ukraine after similar denials in Crimea proved to be false. Sikorski said that the US is “seriously considering” stationing ground forces in Poland as part of an effort to bolster North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in eastern Europe. ~~~~~ Dear readers, as the situation in Ukraine continues to escalate toward an armed confrontation between pro-West and pro-Russian Ukrainians, it is becoming clear that Vladimir Putin is playing with the nerves of the Kiev government, hoping the interim leaders will crack and attack in East Ukraine before the May 25 presidential election. This would serve Putin well -- giving him reason to install Russian troops on Ukraine territory and throwing the democratic future of Ukraine into disarray. So far, Kiev's leaders have been circumspect in the face of Putin's Russian Bear agression, taking back their public buildings but avoiding confrontation with the dissidents or their Russian plainclothes keepers. It would be helpful if the presence of NATO forces along the Polish and Baltic eastern borders were more evident. It would also help if Presin thedent Obama's position about military aid to Ukraine did not sound so much like his position when the Syrian conflict began. We know where that led, but eastern Europe cannot be abandoned as Syria was so shamefully cast aside by Mr. Obama.
Monday, April 14, 2014
The United States continues to warn Russia to retreat from Ukraine or suffer another round of financial sanctions. This may seem inevitable, since military force has long since been ruled out, bizarre as that may be. But, the US has another problem - trying to get an agreement for stronger sanctions from a reluctant Europe, which is trying to balance its desire to punish Moscow against its fear of its own economic hit from the effects of a new, harsher round of Western trade sanctions. Economists say the US will appear to be weak without EU support, because Europe is Russia's largest trading partner and therefore has huge sway over Russia's already shaky economy. But Europe is thus far hesitant to issue sanctions against Russia that would weaken its own financial stability and risk its largest source of energy. President Barack Obama already has signed orders that would allow the US to sanction key Russian industries, and European Union foreign ministers will meet again this week to try to decide what new penalties should be put in place if Moscow continues to ignore the West's warnings. ~~~~~ And as if that hurdle were not enough for an already self-weakened American President, fighting intensified in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, claiming lives on both sides in confrontations between heavily armed pro-Russian paramilitaries and Ukrainian forces. Ukraine launched an operation on Sunday to clear pro-Russian separatists from state buildings in the east, with deaths reported on both sides as Kiev fights back what it calls an act of aggression by Moscow. Ukraine interior minister Arsen Avakov called Sunday's government actions an "anti- terrorist" operation. "There were dead and wounded on both sides," he said. The Russian news agency RIA reported that one pro-Moscow activist was killed. NATO described the appearance in eastern Ukraine of men with specialized Russian weapons and identical uniforms, but without insignia, similar to what was previously worn by Moscow's troops when they seized Crimea, as a "grave development." NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed concern about similarities in some of the separatists' appearance to that of the Russian troops who seized control in Crimea and called on Russia to pull back its large number of troops, including special forces, from the area around Ukraine's border. Rasmussen said : "Any further Russian military interference, under any pretext, will only deepen Russia's international isolation." Moscow says the troops are on normal manoeuvres. Ukraine faces multiple rebellions in the east that it says are inspired and directed by the Kremlin. But action to dislodge the armed militants risks tipping the stand-off into a new, highly dangerous phase since Moscow has warned it will protect the region's Russian-speakers if they come under attack. ~~~~~ Kiev accuses Moscow of trying to increase the violence and chaos in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic it once ruled, in order to undermine the legitimacy of presidential elections on May 25, which aim to stabilize the country after months of turmoil. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Kiev was "demonstrating its inability to take responsibility for the fate of the country" and warned that any use of force against Russian speakers "would undermine the potential for cooperation," including talks due to be held on Thursday between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union. Lavrov said it was Ukraine's Western-leaning government, viewed by the Kremlin as illegitimate, that was feeding tensions. Former Ukraine prime minister Julia Timoshenko said the unrest in eastern Ukraine was the work of Russian state security agents, designed to wrongfoot the EU and United States, which have imposed sanctions over the Crimean annexation : "There is an ulterior motive for this aggression, because in a few days there will be big negotiations in Geneva which Russia, out of weakness because of financial sanctions, asked for," she was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency. Russia’s foreign ministry called the planned Ukraine military operation a “criminal order” and said the West should bring its allies in Ukraine’s government under control, suggesting that it is up to the West to prevent violence in Ukraine. ~~~~~ Senator John McCain said on a US Sunday TV news program that President Obama is abandoning the Ukrainian people's fate to the Russian troops amassing on Russia's border with Ukraine. McCain described the tactic as "shameful," blamng the clashes in eastern Ukraine on Obama's inaction when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to the Crimean peninsula, before annexing it. McCain said there is no doubt Putin is behind the current action : "The question is now, what do we do, and what does he do?" McCain said. Nothing "meaningful or important" was done by the United States during the Crimean action, according to McCain, who said Putin was encouraged that the United States placed sanctions only on a few Russian leaders and businessmen. But, now, McCain said, the United States must supply weapons to Ukraine so that they can defend themselves. Although they did not fight in Crimea, McCain believes Ukrainians will defend themselves if given firepower now that Russia appears to be behind moves to sweep up eastern Ukraine and make it a Russian ally. McCain is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has traveled to Ukraine recently and plans to return. The Senator said Russia has been described as a country with a first-world military and a third-world economy. But McCain called Russia "a gas station masquerading as a country." ~~~~~ Dear readers, no one will benefit from a war in Ukraine, with its potential to spill over into eastern Europe, including EU countries that are also members of NATO. Such an enlargement of hostilities would necessarily activate NATO military action and that would force President Obama to decide whether the United States under his presidency will honor its North Atlantic Treaty obligations. Europe is not Syria or Afghanistan. Europe and NATO are the lynchpins in the post-World War II Western alliance. The creation of the NATO military presence was meant to protect Europe and America from rogue state aggression. At that time, the rogue was the Soviet Union. Today, the rogue is Russia under Vladimir Putin. Not much difference, one might add. President Obama may choose not to act in Ukraine, but he must realize that in so doing he risks even greater US military involvement in eastern Europe if he continues to believe that economic sanctions will stop Putin's push through Ukraine and into eastern Europe. Surely not even Barack Obama would effectively withdraw America from NATO and sit back watching as world order collapses. I sincerely hope that I am not whistling in the dark.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Senator Ted Cruz recently spoke with Sean Hannity on his radio show. The message Cruz delivered was very clear and to the point. He said Congress should impeach Attorney General Eric Holder if he does not seek indictments for people, such as former senior IRS official Lois Lerner, for their roles in the agency's negative targeting scandal that disadvantaged conservative groups seeking tax exempt status, beginning in 2010 and giving President Obama an unfair advantage in the 2012 presidential election. Some critics have said the IRS targeting may have cost Mitt Romney the election. In his appearance Thursday, the Texas Republican and possible 2016 presidential contender, said Holder should be impeached for "defying Congress and the rule of law." Cruz said Holder's actions were not in keeping with the policies of the Justice Department, which has "a bipartisan tradition of resisting partisan pressure and upholding the rule of law." He cited examples of previous attorneys general, such as Janet Reno and Elliot Richardson, as models for how the department should be run. Cruz described Holder as "the most partisan attorney general the country has ever had." Cruz also said he was "very pleased" that Lerner was held in contempt by the House Oversight Committee, but criticized the Obama administration for not moving to indict even one person eight months after the inspector general concluded that the IRS had wrongfully targeted conservative groups for heightened scrutiny. Cruz also took aim at President Barack Obama for appointing a Democrat, who was a fundraiser for his presidential campaign, to lead the IRS investigation, saying it would be akin to Richard Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell investigating Richard Nixon. Cruz added that Obama had a "pattern of lawlessness" that "is breathtaking" and "dangerous" for liberty. "We have never seen a president who consistently ignores the law and brazenly defies the law," Cruz said, mentioning immigration, marriage, drug, and welfare laws. The president's unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act also defy his authority in the Constitution, Cruz said. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Ted Cruz is right. But he should have added President Obama to the list of administration officials who deserve to be impeached over the IRS scandal. After all, as Harry Truman said, "The buck stops here." ~~~~~ Some things are so simple.
Friday, April 11, 2014
Diplomacy is generally regarded as a skillful cat-and-mouse game in which directness is seldom used. However, President Vladimir Putin has put aside the niceties of diplomacy in his battle over the future of Ukraine. Putin's meat-axe approach to the diplomatic arts was front and center this week as he threatened to undertake what he called the "extreme measure" of cutting off Russian gas for Ukraine unless the country pays in advance for all its supplies. In a forceful letter to 18 world leaders, Putin acknowledged that, in such a "critical situation," gas deliveries to the European Union would also be jeopardized. The EU buys a third of its gas from Russia, half of which is delivered by pipelines running through Ukraine. But, in addition, Putin accused the EU of causing the current crisis, leaving Russia with "no alternative" but to be tough. Putin's threat means that Russia is using its gas supplies to pressure Ukraine and its European allies to agree with his progeam for Ukraine -- making it a neutral federation with no ties to NATO. Ukraine is particularly exposed because it depends on Russia for almost all of its gas. The EU is less vulnerable. The range of EU dependence on Russian gas supplied through Ukraine varies from 80% for Hungary to zero for Britain. The time of year also affects Mr Putin's leverage : in summer, the EU buys very little gas from Russia. In his letter, Putin claims that Russia has always tried to help the "stability of the Ukrainian economy by supplying it with natural gas at cut-rate prices." These "unprecedented privileges and discounts," according to Putin, have saved Ukraine $17 billion since 2009. In addition, the country has failed to pay various fines totalling $18.4 billion. All together, Russia has provided a subsidy of $35.4 billion to the Ukraine economy. Russia's only thanks for this generosity, Putin added, was that Ukraine had stopped paying for its gas last August, but the Russian president wrote that Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant, would respond by demanding "advance payment. In the event of further violation of the conditions of payment," he added, Gazprom would "completely or partially cease gas deliveries." From now on, Russia would supply "only" the volume of gas that Ukraine had paid for "one month" in advance." Undoubtedly, this is an extreme measure," wrote Putin. "We fully realize that this increases the risk of siphoning off natural gas passing through Ukraine's territory for delivery to European consumers. We also realize that this may make it difficult for Ukraine to accumulate sufficient gas reserves for use in the autumn and winter." But, Mr Putin wrote : "The fact that our European partners have unilaterally withdrawn from the concerted efforts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, and even from holding consultations with the Russian side, leaves Russia no alternative." However, analysts say that the EU is the biggest single buyer of Russia's oil and gas, and thus Putin's government would lose billions of dollars from any disruption of supplies. Russia would be the biggest loser, according to analysts at Commerzbank : "A voluntary suspension of Russia's deliveries or EU sanctions in the form of commodity export imitations would be disastrous for the Russian economy, above all, and would far exceed the potential damage for the Western world." The impact on Europe would also be reduced by the fact that large quantities of gas remain in storage after the mild winter. At the end of March, Britain's biggest storage facility was more than 40% full, compared with 1% at the same time last year. ~~~~~ Putin's letter also suggests that Russia is opening a new front against Ukraine. President Putin has already deployed between 35,000 and 40,000 troops on Ukraine's eastern frontier, raising the possibility of a full scale invasion. While Russia downplays its position on the Ukraine border, saying it can keep troops anywhere it chooses in its own territory, yesterday NATO released 20 satellite pictures of the military build-up, showing a concentration of tanks, helicopters and MiG-31 jet fighters close to the border. Brigadier Gary Deakin, of NATO's military headquarters, said this "very capable" force could go into action within 12 hours of receiving the order, adding that the strike aircraft were only a "few minutes" flying time from Ukraine. Meanwhile, Britain, Sweden and Poland are circulating a paper in the EU proposing the creation of an advisory "police force" to be sent to Ukraine to help train and add strategic weight to its military. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Vladimir Putin's latest actions are open to several interpretations. Is he simply using the biggest stick in his bag to slam home the truth that Europe may posture all it wants, but at the end of the day, it will be Russia's death grip on Europe's natural gas supply that will decide the fate of Ukraine. Or, is Putin challenging US President Obama to do something he normally does not do - act. Is Putin trying to show Europe that depending on Obama to supply either gas or additional on-the-ground military support is a dead end because Obama will not act to help Europe in any measurable way - the corollary being that Russia and Europe, especially Germany and eastern Europe, are more clearly natural allies. Or, has Putin merely decided to fill his coffers with the West's money - getting repayment for Russia's years of financial support for Ukraine. It is probably a little of all these, but the clear conclusion is that the EU and America have not yet found the key to successfully dealing with Vladimir Putin's brusque diplomacy.