Saturday, February 28, 2015
I've been pretty hard on Republicans this week, because it's difficult to watch a set of political principles that are both correct and supported by the American people become the basis for amateurish tactical choices in the name of those principles. ~~~~~ But, lest we forget, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama were repudiated just four months ago by the American people, who sent 54 Republicans to the Senate, ousting Reid from his Senate Majority Leader position. So, when Reid said yesterday that with the DHS budget mess, Republicans have proven they cannot govern - we have to laugh. Harry Reid is the Majority Leader who silenced the Senate GOP by changing Senate Rules. He was losing so he changed the rules at the equivalent of baseball's Seventh Inning Stretch. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have done the same thing this week -- change Senate Rules so that the Senate's GOP majority could bring to the floor the DHS budget bill as passed by the House, that is, with the riders eliminating Obama's illegal immigrant amnesty executive orders, thereby forcing Democrats representing American voters in districts not happy with the President's orders to put up or shut up. Was Mitch McConnell being wise and honorable -- or was he Don Quixote, playing by gentlemen's rules with a group of marauding cutthroats. The answer lies as much in the future as in the past of the Democratic Party's leaders. ~~~~~ ITEM 1. President Obama has since 11 September 2012 refused to permit CIA and State Deparrment personnel who were actually on the ground in Benghazi and know what happened to testify before Congress. Fear that potential Justice Department investigations will be compromised, or fear that the Brnghazi coverup will finally see daylight? ITEM 2. The IRS harassed conservative activist groups for more than a year before the 2012 presidential election. And even though Lois Lerner, the head of the guilty FBI unit was held in contempt of Congress more than a year ago for refusing to testify, Obama's Attorney General Holder has refused to proceed against Lerner, who recently received a retirement package including $125,000 pay for the period in which she has been in contempt of Congress. ITEM 3. For Hillary Clinton, the more money she garners, the more problems she has. Mrs. Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner, is undergoing a firestorm of criticism for her finances - including her six-figure speaking fees and her foundation's fundraising practices. Some experts, both Republican and Democrat, are convinced that Clinton's cash could be a major issue in her White House bid, if she finally chooses to run. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation broke an agreement it made with the White House by taking a $500,000 contribution from the Algerian government while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. The agreement was designed to prevent foreign governments from indirectly currying favor with the State Department through Clinton. A Democratic operative told Business Insider the story created "a line of attack that should keep Hillaryland up at night. Accepting foreign donations is a huge conflict of interests and the decision to reverse the ban is mind-boggling," the Democrat said. But, the Algerian donation is a tiny part the $2 billion reportedly raised by the Clinton foundation over the years. A significant amount of that money is from foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, which has widespread human-rights abuses, and Qatar, which has a history of supporting the Al Qaida affiliate, Hamas. And, Clinton foundation foreign donors aren't the only aspect of Hillary's finances creating negative headlines. Despite widespread criticism of her paid speeches - as much as $300,000 per event - Clinton has continued giving them. The organizations she speaks to have included esoteric groups like the New York regional chapter of the American Camp Association, as well as public universities like the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. UNLV students petitioned to try to make Hillary refund her speaking fee, but she refused. Another Democrat who spoke to Business Insider said Clinton's decision to keep taking lucrative speaking fees and foreign donations was "baffling" in light of the problems it could cause for her brand. He said : "You can kind of massage policy things, but these are just avoidable mistakes, and in many ways it's far more damaging than if she wasn't pure on trade, or healthcare, or some other issue - so, it's baffling," the operative said. Robert Gibbs, a former Obama spokesman, has also described the foreign donations as an obstacle for her presidential ambitions. Sunday on "Meet the Press," Gibbs said the foreign donations to Clinton's foundation had an appearance that was "awkward at best," and he alluded to the steady drumbeat of bad press relating to her finances. "I think they're going to have to do something in the very short term to deal with this in a way that puts it off the table," Gibbs added. "I think there are a lot of people that have watched the sort of slow roll of the Hillary Clinton campaign, really dating back to last year with a book tour that some wondered what she was doing....There has been a slow roll of concerning headlines for a long time." ~~~~~ Dear readers, these Hillary Clinton comments were all made by Drmocrats. But here is one from a Republican strategist : "It's a form of arrogance that they think that they can continue doing it and not be held accountable for it and not get called out for it. It's not like they didn't know that she was going to be running or that this was a possibility." So -- the question is rather simple. Does America prefer honorable political leaders who occasionally joust at windmills in their defense of Americans and the Constitution - or marauding cutthroats who value money and winning more than they value America. Answer that question and you have decided how you'll vote on 2016 -- Hillary and her geeedy quest for money that would make her a President indebted to the Saudis and Algeria and many other foreign powers, or a Republican who cares about and wants to serve America.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Sometimes a leader is the only solution.~~~~~ Today, the Senate passed a "clean" bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as both chambers of Congress scrambled to avoid a partial DHS shutdown at midnight tonight. The legislation passed by a 68 to 31 vote and would fund DHS through the end of the fiscal year. It doesn't include the immigration riders that have caused a congressional stalemate. But, the funding fight isn't over yet. The House is set to vote later today on a short-term funding measure to keep DHS open until March 19, in a bid to buy time for conference committee negotiations, called reconciliation, with the Senate on a final DHS budget bill. If the stopgap bill passes the House, the Senate will almost certainly quickly approve it to keep DHS agencies, such as the Secret Service and Border Patrol, funded. But Democrats have vowed to block the conference committee, saying it would create the potential for a new legislative impasse and again threaten a shutdown in March. "We will not go to conference on some jury-rigged situation they send back," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told the Senate. Other Democrats suggested senators couldn't afford to vote against the "clean" DHS bill in the wake of numerous terrorist attacks around the world. "Our enemies are watching, now it's time to defend America," New Hampshire Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen said. The deal to separate the spending bill from the immigration fight wasn't easy for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had to work hard for conservative Republican support. Before voting on the clean bill, GOP Senator Mike Lee tried to effectively kill the agreement between McConnell and Reid to separate the immigration and funding fights. Lee said that senators needed to undo Obama's 2014 immigration actions in order to protect the Constitution. Senator Lee gave a speech from the Senate floor, saying : "I implore all of my colleagues to remember themselves as operating within a constitutional framework, in which far more than your status as a Democrat or as a Republican, as a liberal or as a conservative is at stake, you're here to defend your own power, your own authority given by your own people." ~~~~~ But, less than 12 hours before DHS will shut down without new funding, Republicans are having trouble gaining support from their own members for the bill, because it would do nothing to attack what they consider to be President Obama's unconstitutional executive order actions on immigration. Just hours ago, Speaker Boehner recessed the House - indicating problems. Republican aides downplayed the delay and said the vote would take place today, but Democratic sources said the bill lacked the support to pass. A Democratic aid said : “Sounds like they’re having major problems, and part of it is tied up in what order to take the votes. Still unclear how (or if) they can resolve it. We could solve all their problems if they’d put the Senate bill on the Floor.” The office of Majority Whip Steve Scalise issued an updated floor schedule shortly after 1 p.m EST, outlining the GOP strategy “when the House reconvenes,” without saying when that would be. The House GOP wants to approve a measure funding DHS for three weeks, and approve another measure requesting a conference with the Senate to iron out differences between the proposals passed by each chamber. Setting up the conference is expected to be the easier of the two House votes. Without language overturning Obama's actions, it’s not clear the GOP has the 218 votes necessary to approve the three-week extension bill -- especially now that House Democratic leaders are urging their members to vote against it, forcing Speaker Boehner to find 218 votes among his Republican caucus members. The vote on setting up the conference will come first and will be followed by a debate over the three-week funding, thus giving more time for House GOP leaders to find the needed votes. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she thought the GOP would be able to pass the bill. ~~~~~ President Obama would sign a short-term funding bill for DHS if one is approved by Congress, the White House said today : “If the President is faced with a choice of having the Department of Homeland Security shut down or fund the Department for the short term, the President is not going to allow the agency to shut down,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, adding, “So the truth is, if the President is faced with a choice between the short term extension and shutting down the Department of Homeland Security, he will sign the short-term extension.” ~~~~~ While the Republican House and Senate leadership is desperately trying to avoid a DHS partial shutdown that Democrats will use to question the GOP's ability to lead, those Republicans most affected by a shutdown are speaking at the Conservative PAC conference (CPAC), each one explaining why (s)he would be the best Republican 2016 presidential candidate. There's a certain irony in that. The GOP hasn't had a leader since 2008, when outgoing President George W. Bush was driven out of public life by his own Republican Party - a pariah because of his aggressive Middle East policy and Iraq war. The ostracism was magnified by the Democrat Party and their candidate Barack Obama, who promised to get America out of Iraq and Afghanistan. America bought the fairytale. Obama has been blaming George W. Bush for everything for the last 6 years. And without President Bush, the GOP has been leaderless -- and even now, George W's own brother, Jeb, wants to legitimize his 2016 candidacy by separating himself from his brother's presidency. ~~~~~ Dear readers, while GOP wannabes are touting their presidential qualities to CPAC and Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell are trying to save the GOP from a new PR debacle -- there is no Republican leader. There are only equals, each one slightly distrusted by every other. A leader would enforce party discipline around a vision that makes every act part of a unifying whole. There is no vision, no whole, so there is no reason to sacrifice specific goals for a greater goal. Barack Obama has kept President Bush in a negative spotlight, helping to create a GOP that is a sort of orphan. But, Obama is not a leader for his Democratic Party either. The result? Immigration reform is in shreds - the President is trying to create "executive-made" law by defying the Constitution - Pelosi and Reid have enough votes to keep anything from happening if they personally decide it shouldn't. AND, Boehner and McConnell - under immensely negative media and Democratic commentary - are doing their best to save America and its Constitution from a President hell bent on becoming a real 'American Caesar.'
Thursday, February 26, 2015
If Obama Ignores the Federal Injunction Halting his Executive Immigration Amnesty Order, He Will Become a Renegade President
It is one thing for President Obama to prefer the company of Hawaii and Chicago friends, to head off to Hollywood or a golf course in his free time -- to avoid Congress and Washington powerbrokers. But, Barack Obama's dislike of Washington and its operating codes has become so profound that it is now clear that he not only dislikes Washington, he goes out of his way to antagonize the government of which he is the titular head, and in the process to trash the American rule of law under the Constitution. ~~~~~ We have had a frightening example of this in recent days as the question of Obama's illegal-immigrant executive orders moves to front and center. A senior House Democrat, Representative Luis Gutiérrez, who is from Illinois - one of the President's "home" states, said Wednesday that President Obama is considering a partial launch of his new deportation-relief programs, despite a federal court's recent decision to block them. Gutiérrez said the Obama administration is weighing whether it has the authority to initiate actions under the executive orders in the states not involved in the lawsuit against them. Texas and 25 other states have sued the President over the new programs, which would shield from deportation millions of immigrants living in the US llegally. The states are suing because they believe that Obama's executive orders are beyond a President's constitutional authority since they fundamentally amend laws already passed by Congress -- in practical terms, the President has become a "lawmaker," while the Constitution says that only the Congress can make laws. Obama has said that the administration will comply with the judge's ruling until an appeal decision is rendered. But, a dozen other states have filed court briefs in support of the executive programs, and immigration reform advocates are urging Obama to launch the initiatives in the 24 states not suing the White House. Gutiérrez took that argument a step further, suggesting the Texas ruling is limited only to Texas and that the programs could launch across the rest of the country. According to Gutiérrez, the administration is considering that option. “That's absolutely something the White House is looking at,” Gutiérrez said Wednesday during a press briefing in the Capitol : “I think it's a great idea to look at the lawsuit and to say, 'OK judge, since you think the harm is to Texas, why can't we proceed in the rest of the states of the union and set that one aside?’” The Illinois Democrat added : “I think that is a very worthy observation, and the White House - I know the advocates are on it - but I've got to tell you, President Barack Obama is on it, too. He's thinking about it, and the White House has been trying to figure out [if it's an option].” ~~~~~ Gutiérrez made his comments less than an hour after the President met at the White House with immigration reform advocates who are urging him to consider the partial implementation in the wake of the federal court ruling. That decision, handed down last week by US District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, put an immediate halt to a pair of executive programs Obama announced shortly after the midterm elections. The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, known as DAPA, would halt deportations and offer work permits to the parents of US citizens and permanent legal residents. The other would expand Obama's 2012 program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, to a greater number of immigrants brought to the country illegally as kids. Texas and the other plaintiffs contend they would suffer exorbitant new costs under the programs, which they deem a case of executive constitutional overreach. Judge Hanen agreed and issued the injunction now being appealed to the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. ~~~~~ Gutiérrez, the most vocal immigration reform advocate in Congress, who has often confronted Obama over the administration's deportation policies, was gushing with praise for the President yesterday concerning the White House's new approach to the Texas lawsuit. Gutiérrez said : “We have a lot of confidence in the President. He's moving forward.” Gutiérrez and other Democrats have been openly confident that Hanen’s ruling will ultimately be overturned and the executive programs will finally be adopted. “About the only thing that will change is the date of eligibility,” Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, said Wednesday. Gutiérrez noted that the decision to block the pair of programs has not affected Obama's policy currently in place that focuses on deportations of criminals and other high-priority cases : “He's going to follow the ruling of the judge. He's going to follow the law, but that doesn't mean they're picking up Dreamers; that doesn't mean they're picking up American citizen children's parents. That's just not happening anymore.” Gutiérrez' response to Judge Hanen's injunction was vitriolic : "You may think you won today, but your victory is going to be short-lived, and November 2016 is coming right around the corner–and this will come back to haunt you.” Gutierrez urged illegal immigrants to get amnesty to punish Americans against illegal immigration at the ballot box. ~~~~~ Dear readers, does it not occur to you that President Obama has no time to meet with Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu about Iran's nuclear capabilities or with Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader McConnell about the Department of Homeland Security budget impasse that Obama is orchestrating through Nancy Pelosi in the House and Harry Reid in the Senate -- but President Obama has plenty of time to invite immigration reform advocates to the White House to discuss the plan he is concocting to violate both the spirit and the letter of the law. That is what Obama is doing -- organizing immigration reform advocates and those in the Hispanic community who will follow to support him in his plan to violate the terms of a federal judge's order by ignoring it and pushing forward with his executive order amnesty plans. The penalty for violating a federal injunction is a fine or jail. But Obama seems unconcerned. Trash the federal court system. Trash the Constitution. What can possibly be next on this renegade President's agenda?
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
The American public is changing its opinion about the war against ISIS and the way President Obama is handling it. In the latest CBS poll, Americans showed their disapproval of President Obama's efforts to keep ground troops out of Iraq and Syria. The President's position is becoming increasingly unpopular with the American public. -- the CBS poll shows that most Americans see ISIS as a "major threat" -- 65% of Americans now view ISIS as a major threat - up from 57% in October, while another 18% view it as a minor threat. Majorities of Republicans (86%), Democrats (61%) and independents (57%) view ISIS as a major threat. CBS notes that support for ground troops has risen across the board, but "particularly among Democrats and independents" since October when 56% of Democrats and 49% of independents disapproved of sending ground troops to the region. Now, 50% of Democrats approve and 53% of independents approve of sending ground troops to fight ISIS. ~~~~~ Certainly, President Obama gives many negative signals to Americans. Here, for example, is one his spokesman gave after the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest could not bring himself to say that the Obama administration supported the Jordanian decision to execute two terrorists who had been condemned to death but had been on death row for many years. Instead, Earnest awkwardly dodged the question asked by Fox News’ Ed Henry. Earnest provided the administration’s standard non-response, saying that while the US generally stood in solidarity with Jordan : “I just don’t have the working knowledge of the Jordanian justice system to render an opinion on this.” Henry tried again : the President said, you know, “We’re here, we support Jordan, they are a key member of the coalition.” They make this decision overnight, and you can’t say whether or not you support the executions? Earnest stuck to his non-response : the people of Jordan at this very difficult time. Clearly, their nation - in the same way that we all are - is shocked and appalled at this terrible act of violence that was captured on video by ISIL and released to the world. And the United States stands with our friends in Jordan as they confront this awful, barbaric act. But as it relates to the decisions that are carried by the Jordanian justice system, I’d refer you to them. I just don’t have the working knowledge of the Jordanian justice system to render an opinion on this. All I know is that the individuals that we are discussing here were individuals who were convicted of terrorism-related crimes, they were individuals who had been sentenced to death and had been serving time on death row..." ~~~~~ Then there is the impolite treatment of Obama toward Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has accepted an invitation to address Congress to explain why the Iran nuclear negotiations are heading in a catastrophic direction. Netanyahu said today that the great powers have given up on trying to control Iran's nuclear capability and will allow Iran, over a period of years, to produce material for many nuclear weapons : "They might accept this but I am not willing to accept this." Netanyahu's invitation to address Congress about Iran in early March has angered the Obama administration because the President says it was arranged without consulting the White House and is therefore a breach of diplomatic protocol. In fact, Obama has been attacking Netanyahu and Israel from the beginning of his presidency, wrongly thinking that America would support him. He was wrong, but true to his stubborn character, Obama just keeps doubling down on his attacks on Netanyahu. Today, he sent his obedient pit bull, Susan Rice, to find a microphone and say that Netanyahu’s decision to travel to Washington to deliver the speech two weeks before the Israeli elections has “injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship." An Obama-ordered statement not likely to endear the President to Americans as they watch him trash the only real friend America has in the Middle East. ~~~~~ And, finally, the proof, if further proof were needed, that Obama's Middle East / ISIS strategy is in a shambles. In New York, the Justice Department announced that the FBI has arrested three men on charges of attempting to provide support to ISIS. The three men were arrested today on charges of plotting to travel to Syria to join ISIS and wage war, or attack President Obama or plant a bomb on Coney Island. Akhror Saidakhmetov was arrested at Kennedy Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul. Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev had a ticket to travel to Istanbul next month and was arrested in Brooklyn. Abror Habibov, accused of helping fund Saidakhmetov's efforts, was arrested in Florida. Habibov appeared in federal court in Jacksonville and was appointed a public defender. The other two men were in custody, and it was not clear if they had attorneys who could comment on the charges. They were scheduled to appear in federal court in Brooklyn later today. Federal prosecutors say Juraboev first came to the attention of law enforcement in August, when he posted on an Uzbek-language website that propagates ISIS ideology : "Greetings! We too want to pledge our allegiance and commit ourselves while not present there. Is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here?" Federal officials say Juraboev identified Saidakhmetov as a friend with a shared ideology. The two exchanged messages on how to get overseas, and Saidakhmetov and an informant watched videos of ISIS training camps in Syria, according to court papers. Juraboev and Habibov are Uzbek citizens, while Saidakhmetov is from Kazakhstan. Court documents allege that Saidakhmetov and Juraboev both arranged to fly to Istanbul and then later join ISIS out of fear that US authorities would track flights closer to ISIS-controlled areas. The documents add that Saidakhmetov’s mother took his passport out of fear that he wanted to travel to “wage jihad,” but he worked with a confidential informant to receive new travel documents. He also told the informant that, if he was unable to get new documents, he would attack the FBI headquarters and : “kill the FBI people. I will just go and buy a machine gun, AK-47, go out and shoot all police,” he said, according to court documents. Federal officials are alarmed at the idea that Americans could travel to Syria to fight with ISIS or train there and return to the United States to carry out attacks against America. The FBI has charged roughly 20 people with planning to travel to the Middle East to fight alongside militant groups like the Islamic State group. The three men arrested today face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Counter-terrorism officials have previously warned that thousands of foreign fighters are traveling to join ISIS. FBI Director Comey said today that the FBI is now following potential jihadists in every one of the 50 states. ~~~~~ Dear readers, is it any wonder a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with Obama's ISIS strategy and favor fighting the terrorists in the Middle East? FBI Director Comey said today that America is entering a period in which some places in the US will be outside the law. Comey was not invited by Obama to the recent Terrorism Conference - a bizarre decision until one realizes that Comey would not have toed the Obama mantra that says we are "winning." Not only the FBI Director but the majority of Americans have now decided that we are "losing" and things need to be put right. That means Congress and the military and Intell and the FBI must act -- and the Obama administration should back off and reconsider.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
A couple years ago, President Obama called them a "jay-vee" basketball team...definitely nothing to worry about. Today, ISIS-subjugated territories and footholds stretch from Afghanistan in the east to Algeria in western North Africa. They have killed an estimated 10,000 people and declared a caliphate based on the non-modernized brutal teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. They occupy one-third of Iraq and large parts of northern Syria. They behead and burn-alive captives. They kidnap journalists and aid workers and often ransom them for large sums -- estimated to be a total of more than $200 million so far. And they call on other jihadist terrorist groups to swear allegiance to ISIS leader al-Baghdadi, the caliph. Not bad for a junior varsity team. ~~~~~ The latest group considering pledging itself to ISIS is Boko Haram. The Nigerian terrorists became a focus of international news when they kidnapped 300 Nigerian schoolgirls last year and then said that the Christian girls had converted to Islam and were married off to jihadist "warriors." And now we learn that some more recently kidnapped schoolgirls may be being used by Boko Haram as suicide bombers - some saying that the explosive charges are probably remote-controlled and the girls, as young as 10, are sent into Nigerian markets and sacrificed. Already having forced the postponement of scheduled February Nigerian presidential elections, Boko Haram, which denounces democracy as a corrupt Western concept, has warned it will disrupt any future Nigerian elections by attacking polling stations. AND, Boko Haram has indicated it may soon join up with ISIS, according to a message reportedly posted Sunday on Twitter. Boko Haram began imitating ISIS last August, declaring it had established an Islamic caliphate in territory it controls in northeastern Nigeria. The Boko Haram Twitter message to ISIS said : "We give you glad tidings that the group's Shurah Council is at the stage of consulting and studying, and we will let you know soon the group's decision in respect to pledging allegiance to the caliph of the Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," referring to the ISIS leader. ~~~~~ Meanwhile, London police are investigating the disappearance of three British schoolgirls, whom they believe are no longer in Turkey and have crossed into Syria - likely joining dozens of other young women leaving Europe to join ISIS terrorists. Most of them have travelled to Syria to fight with the extremists, often via Turkey. The three British teenagers are among the 50 girls that British experts estimate have left the UK for Syria. Authorities say the three boarded a plane to Istanbul and have not been heard from since. The phenomenon of European and American young people, often teenagers, heading to Syria to join ISIS is not well-understood and attempts to halt the flow are mostly focused on stopping them at airports before they begin their journey. Analysts say that ISIS uses social media to recruit them, promising adventure and a "meaning" for their lives. ~~~~~ And today in northeastern Syria, ISIS abducted at least 70 Christians - many of them women and children - while thousands of others fled to safer areas. Relatives said mobile phone service was cut off and land lines were not working, raising fears for their loved ones. Heavy fighting was reported in the area where the kidnappings took place. Recently, videos released by ISIS militants in Libya showed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians -- Egyptian airstrikes responded to the killing of the Egyptian nationals, even though they were Christian. ISIS has terrorized religious minorities since it took control of northern Syria, where the minorities are predominately Assyrian Christians. Nuri Kino, the head of a group called A Demand For Action, said between 70 and 100 Assyrians were taken captive. About 3,000 people fled and have sought refuge in the cities of Hassakeh and Qamishli. He said his activist group based its information on conversations with villagers who fled the attack and their relatives. His group focuses on religious minorities in the Middle East. An Assyrian Christian woman who lives in Beirut told the media she has been trying to find out what has become of her parents, her brother and his wife and their children, but she couldn't reach anyone in the village. Last year, ISIS militants abducted more than 150 Kurdish boys and held them in a school in Aleppo province where they subjected them to daily instruction on militant ideology for five months before releasing them in batches. The group has also released Turkish truck drivers and diplomats after holding them for months. It is not known if there was a prisoner swap in these cases. Hassakeh province, the site of today's kidnappings, is strategically important because it borders Turkey and areas controlled by ISIS in Iraq. Kurdish militiamen from the People's Protection Units, or YPG, backed by US-led coalition airstrikes, have made advances in the province in a new offensive launched this week, and the Christian captives could have been taken as a bargaining chip by ISIS. Analysts say that the militants have moved the captives to the village of Umm al-Masamir on Mount Abdulaziz, some 25 kilometers south of Tal Shamiram. That raised fears, the network said, that ISIS could use them as human shields against Kurdish militiamen. ~~~~~ Dear readers, a recent UN report states that human rights violations by ISIS jihadists during their campaign in Iraq has led to over 24,000 Iraqi civilians being injured or killed by ISIS in the first eight months of 2014. ISIS extremists have also taken up the practices of recruiting 12- and 13-year-old soldiers and forcing women and girls into sex slavery. ISIS also forces Christian women to wear the Moslem burka and beats or kills them if they refuse. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in conjunction with the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq released the report last Thursday, summarizing its investigation of ISIS violations of human rights gathered by conducting interviews with over 500 internally displaced witnesses. The witnesses told the UN investigators of ISIS atrocities - killing, kidnapping and persecuting citizens of all religious beliefs including those holding ISIS' own faith of Sunni Islam. Boys as young as 12, wearing ISIS garb and carrying weapons, have been trained to patrol and arrest non-compliant villagers in controlled areas. And, ISIS has moved close to Europe -- one wonders how many refugees landing in boats in southern Italy are disguised ISIS terrorists -- one wonders how many Moslem university students in Europe are ISIS sympathizers -- one wonders if most European countries have any effective surveillance for returning jihadists. And, surely, one wonders how President Obama is dealing with the ISIS expansion and whether he is doing anything to protect America before ISIS operatives are inextricably imbedded in American cities and towns. If, for security reasons, he can't tell America what his administration personnel are doing, he can tell Congress intelligence and oversight committees. But, my guess is that if he were giving Congress good information, we would not hear the deepening criticism coming from both Republicans and Democrats about the need for the President to be more aggressive about ISIS. Clearly, his "jay-vee" description is now sadly outdated. And we have nothing new to replace it, except Obama's platitudes about not being at war with Islam.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Note to Obama and Johnson - Protecting America Is More Than Telling Them to be Careful in Shopping Malls
There is the possibility of a partial shutdown of non-essential Department of Homeland Security activities at the end of February because of a dispute over the President's illegal immigrant executive orders. Most of the department's 230,000 employees would be required to keep working after the February 27 deadline, but they would not receive pay until Congress passes the DHS budget. In raising this issue today, President Obama told the nation's governors : "They all work in your states. These are folks who, if they don't have a paycheck, they are not going to be able to spend that money in your states." As early as Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warned that the possible DHS shutdown threatens to interfere with the US response to terrorist threats and warnings, such as the one late Saturday in which Al-Shabaab told the West that major shopping malls in Canada, the UK and the Mall of America in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington could be attacked. ~~~~~ A disagreement is holding up the Senate approval of the DHS budget that has already been passed by the House and sent to the Senate. The House bill contains the $40 billion DHS budget, as well as clauses that cut out of the DHS budget money to implement President Obama's executive orders protecting 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation, as well as making work permits available to them. GOP congressional leaders argue that stopping what they see as Obama's unconstitutional 'executive order power grab' may be as important as resolving the funding dispute. ~~~~~ For this reason, some governors are urging the GOP-majority Senate leaders to be tough and refuse to cave in to Senate Democrats who refuse to permit the DHS budget bill to come to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. Sixty votes are required under Senate rules to take a bill out of committee onto the floor, and this requires that five Democrats vote with the GOP majority. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has thus far refused to change Senate rules that have been in effect for a hundred years to permit bills so that he can take bills to the floor with 51 'yes' votes. This rules change is in McConnell's power, but he was very angry when the Democrat Senate leader, Harry Reid, changed Senate rules in order to bring to the Senate floor for a vote the names of nominees for federal judgeships that the then-minority GOP believed so leftist as to damage federal court decisionmaking. ~~~~~ So, the congressional Republican majority is faced with an extremely difficult decision -- (1) change Senate rules to pass a DHS budget with illegal immigrant defunding that would then be vetoed by President Obama, or (2) strip the defunding clauses out of the DHS budget bill and damage GOP credibility with the American majority who do not want the Obama illegal immigrant executive orders to be implemented, or (3) allow the DHS budget bill to stay in committee, ensuring a partial DHS shutdown that recent polls show would result in 55% of Americans blaming the GOP for another unpopular shutdown. ~~~~~ Some GOP Senators are asking the House to send to the Senate a DHS budget bill without defunding provisions. On Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham said : "...our best bet is to challenge this in court...if we don't fund the Department of Homeland Security, we'll get blamed as a party." But House Republicans say they have no interest in revisiting the issue after passing a $39.7 billion bill last month that funds DHS through September 30, the end of the budget year, while also undoing Obama's actions on immigration. Instead, they insisted that the Senate must act because a federal judge's ruling shows that they are right. ~~~~~ Now, shutting down some DHS functions may seem excessive when what seems at stake is the continued presence in the US of illegal immigrants who have already been here for many years. But, the issue is one that far exceeds the question of these illegals. In fact, 26 states objected to the Obama executive orders on illegal immigrants because the orders are just the latest in President Obama's effort to make law himself, without Congress agreeing, whereas the Constitution puts law-making 100 percent in the hands of Congress. The states claim that Obama has over-reached his constitutional limits, abusing executive authority. US District Judge Andrew S. Hanen agreed, granting an injunction to prevent the President and DHS from implementing the illegal immigrant executive orders until the legal challenges are resolved, adding that without the injunction, the damage would be irreparable because illegals would receive their documentation. Obama has ordered the Department of Justice to file an appeal of Hanen's temporary injunction, and today tbe DOJ asked Judge Hanen to put his ruling on hold, and also filed a notice of appeal of his ruling to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. ~~~~~ Thus, we now have a situation in which the GOP majority in Congress is trying to protect its constitutional law-making power from being stolen by President Obama, and the 26 governors are helping Congress by filing their lawsuit. Judge Hanen wrote in his temporary restraining order that "the states have clearly proven a likelihood of success on the merits" of the case. He also wrote that it was "disingenuous" for the administration to maintain that Obama's action merely "supplements and amends" current policy, writing : "It represents a massive change in immigration practice, and will have a significant effect on, not only illegally present immigrants, but also the nation's entire immigration scheme and the states who must bear the lion's share of its consequences." Republicans argue that Obama often has overstepped his presidential authority in other areas, including US-Cuba policy and changes in his signature healthcare law. ~~~~~ So, dear readers, you may appreciate my disgust with President Obama today when he tried, in effect, to make this fundamentally critical constitutional question sound like it is merely a matter of how much money DHS employees spend in some states : "They all work in your states. These are folks who, if they don't have a paycheck, they are not going to be able to spend that money in your states." Equally disgusting was the comment Sunday and today of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, warning that the possible DHS shutdown threatens to interfere with the US response to terrorist threats of Al-Shabaab, who have warned that they might attack the Mall of America in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. Secretary Johnson's advice is that Americans should be "cautious" in shopping malls -- as if this were normal advice from the US government to its citizens. We have to wonder if President Obama and Secretary Johnson have any notion about what their proper functions are. Obama, as President, has sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, not ignore and circumvent it. And, together with his Secretary of Homeland Security, President Obama is responsible for the safety of all Americans. This responsibility is not fulfilled when his DHS Secretary tells Americans to be cautious in malls because terrorists might be lurking there, ready to maim or kill them. Obama's responsibility is to keep America free of terrorists. And, if that means sending troops to the Middle East and Africa to eliminate the terrorists, then so be it. If it requires facing down the Iranian nuclear threat, get on with it. And, if it requires telling five Democrat Senators to vote with the GOP, saying that there will be no veto, so that DHS gets its funding, then do it. But, in no case is it acceptable for a President and his DHS Secretary to discharge their duty to protect Americans by telling them to be cautious in shopping malls. Do your duty, President Obama. Or get out of the way and let someone who understands the concept of duty protect America.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
"In a room where everyone maintains a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot." ___Czesław Miłosz, Polish anti-stalinist patriot, writer and Nobel Literature Laureate. ~~~~~ Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani made some remarks at a New York fund-raising event for Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin on Wednesday night. His comments were first reported by Politico and set off an uproar. Giuliani said : “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the President loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up, the way you were brought up, and I was brought up, through love of this country.” Giuliani has since defended his assertion that President Obama did not love America, adding that his criticism of President Obama’s upbringing should not be considered racist : “Some people thought it was racist - I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.” Giuliani also challenged a reporter to find examples of President Obama expressing love for his country : “I’m happy for him to give a speech where he talks about what’s good about America and doesn’t include all the criticism,” Mr. Giuliani said. ~~~~~ Mayor Giuliani's comments have caused a firestorm of criticism -- from the White House feeling "sorry" for him but nonetheless creating a hashtag so that others can vent negatively, to CNN saying he is no longer "America's Mayor." Critics suggest that Giuliani’s description of Obama’s upbringing reflects a prejudiced view that Obama is different from other Americans. But, in an interview with the New York Times, Giuliani dismissed the criticism and said he was describing the worldview that informed President Obama’s upbringing. Giuliani said his remarks on Wednesday were in answer to a question about the kind of President he would like to see elected in 2016. He answered, he said, by telling the audience that he wants a President who was Obama’s opposite : “I want an American President to raise our spirits again, like a Ronald Reagan." Giuliani added that he also objected to the President’s comments about the Crusades at the National Prayer Breakfast, in which Obama said that during the Inquisition, people had “committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” Giuliani's reaction to that was pure New Yorkese : “Now we know there’s something wrong with the guy. I thought that one sort of went off the cliff.’’ He added: “What I don’t find with Obama - this will get me in more trouble again - is a really deep knowledge of history. I think it’s a dilettante’s knowledge of history.” ~~~~~ It isn't easy to match Obama's pro-America and anti-America comments. But, we can easily compare his Islam and Christianity comments because there are many of them. ~~~ Obama Quotes about Islam : **The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam. **We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world - including in my own country. **As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. **Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. **Islam has always been part of America. **Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace. **So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. **Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. **Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. **I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month. **We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe. **That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. **I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. ~~~ Obama Quotes about Christianity. **Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation. **We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation. **Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? **Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages - the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity - are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life. **This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell. **I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know...I do not believe she went to hell. **Those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God’s will–they have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths. **In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology. **On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine and ancient Hawaiian burial sites. ~~~~~ And then, dear readers, there is my own personal 'favorite' Obama quote -- one in which he belittles small town Christian America as bigoted. It summarizes Barack Obama's contempt for America and is, for me, the best example of Obama's lack of feeling, lack of love, for America. It shouts out support for Rudy Giuliani's position. Obama made the comment during his 2008 presidential campaign : "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” ~~~~~ Dear readers, I grew up in one of those small Pennsylvania towns. I went to school with the sons and daughters of factory workers -- children of the immigrant generation of patriotic, religious, Christian Americans who fought in WWII and Korea, who died of black-lung disease and exhaustion from working in steel mills to send their kids to college, who invited me to share their special holiday cuisine, and who were decimated when America's steel industry was killed by cheap Japanese imported steel. So, I know these honorable Americans - and I respect them immensely and yes, I love them - as Barack Obama might if he took the time to become a patriotic American who loves America himself. As Czeslaw Milosz said, truth hits like a bullet when everyone is conspiring to lie. Americans have been taught to lie about what they see and sense in President Obama because every even slightly negative remark is called "racist." Well, I have news for CNN and the White House. You may silence America for a few years -- but not forever. As Abraham Lincoln said : "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all the people all the time." The time for truth-telling is upon us. Thank you, Rudy Giuliani.
Friday, February 20, 2015
The Illegal Immigrant Case Will Take Obama's "Government by Executive Order" Constitutional Question to the Supreme Court
The battle over President Barack Obama's executive order granting up to 5 million illegal immigrants the right to stay in the US and to receive work permits is rapidly becoming a procedural and cobstitutional battle in federal courts. ~~~~~ The Obama administration has announced that it will seek an emergency court order to allow it to move ahead with President Obama’s executive action on immigration. Officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) plan to seek an emergency stay that would essentially undo a federal judge's injunction issued in Texas earlier this week. If the stay is granted, the government could restart two executive programs that will shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said DOJ will file its request for a stay by "Monday at the latest." Immigrant rights advocates who want to get the programs up and running as soon as possible while the appeals process plays out have urged the Obama administration to seek the emergency stay. "We - as immigrants and as Americans - have waited for nearly a quarter century for these much-needed improvements to our broken immigration system," Marielena Hincapié, head of the National Immigration Law Center, said Friday in a statement. "We should not allow a flawed legal decision to delay these changes any longer.” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said : ”Making good on earlier vows, DOJ will also file a separate appeal seeking to restart the executive programs. We will seek that appeal because we believe when you evaluate the legal merits of the arguments, that there is a solid legal foundation for the President to take the steps he announced last year to help reform our immigration system.” ~~~~~ At issue are two new initiatives launched unilaterally by Obama on November 20. The first expands eligibility for the President's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which halts deportations and allows work permits for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. The second, known as DAPA, would extend similar benefits to the parents of US citizens and permanent legal residents. Combined, the programs could affect as many as 5 million immigrants living in America illegally. Many states, however, objected and filed a lawsuit to halt Obama proceeding. Texas, joined by 25 other states, say in their lawsuit that the programs was an abuse of executive authority that would cripple their budgets with exorbitant new costs. In a decision announced on Monday, US District Judge Andrew S. Hanen agreed, arguing that the administration failed to comply with a federal law governing the adoption of new federal rules. Hanen has not yet ruled on the merits of the states' complaints, but said they have a significant enough case that both the DAPA and expanded DACA programs should be put on hold until the legal challenges are resolved, adding that if the injunction were not ordered, yhe damzge would be irreparable - illegals would receive their documentation. The effects of Judge Hanen's decision were immediate -- administration officials announced that they would not begin accepting applications for either program until the court decisions are final. Before the ruling, the Homeland Security Department was poised to begin accepting applications for the expanded DACA program this week, and for the DAPA program in May. Both have been suspended indefinitely, although some illegals had already filed and paid the required $565 fee. Hanen's injunction does not affect the original DACA program, which remains in effect. ~~~~~ But, President Barack Obama and his administration face a difficult and lengthy legal battle to overturn Judge Hanen's ruling that blocked Obama's massive immigration overhaul, since the judge based his decision on an unsettled area of administrative law, ruling that Obama did not give public notice of his plans. The failure to do so, Hanen wrote, was a violation of the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act, which requires notice in the Federal Register, where all federal rules and regulations must be published and time given for public comments to be submitted in writing. Comments are also then published in the Federal Register. The ruling was an initial victory for the 26 states that brought the case alleging Obama had exceeded his powers with executive orders that would let up to 5 million illegal immigrants remain in the US without threat of deportation. Hanen's ruling added to the disarray surroundng US policy toward the 11 million people in America illegally. Obama said on Tuesday he disagreed with the ruling and expected his administration to prevail in the courts when the DOJ files an appeal of Hanen's temporary injunction to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. ~~~~~ There is, however, the matter of other writings in Judge Hanen's opinion. Hanen wrote that "the states have clearly proven a likelihood of success on the merits" of the case. He also wrote that it was "disingenuous" for the administration to maintain that Obama's actions merely "supplements and amends" current policy, writing : "It represents a massive change in immigration practice, and will have a significant effect on, not only illegally present immigrants, but also the nation's entire immigration scheme and the states who must bear the lion's share of its consequences." Republicans argue that Obama often has overstepped his presidential authority in other areas, including US-Cuba policy and changes in his signature healthcare law. But, in working to halt Obama's moves on immigration, the GOP risks further alienating Hispanic voters. ~~~~~ However, the real problem for the GOP is in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to bring the budget bill for DHS to the floor for debate and a vote. It requires that five Democrats join the Senate Republicans to reach the 60 votes needed, but they prefer to let the DHS budget bill languish because it contains provisions that defund the Obama illegal immigrant initiative. Senate Democrats hope that the GOP wil be blamed for playing politics with US security, although in reality it is the Democrats who are doing so. Republicans say there will be no interruption in the homeland security agency's critical protective missions even if the budget bill is delayed. ~~~~~ Dear readers, whatever happens in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the losing side will certainly appeal to the US Supreme Court, probably asking for an expedited hearing. So, we could have a definitive result by mid-summer. And, since US District Judge Hanen avoided deciding the sweeping constitutional questions inherent in the Obama executive orders that amend federal law without congressional action, or directly deciding whether Obama overreached his presidential powers, the Supreme Court will surely be asked to decide these fundamental constitutional questions, too. Stay tuned because there is a complex process ahead of us.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
A sign held up by a protester outside the White House yesterday stated the problem starkly : "Just say it." The whole world understands. ~~~~~ Inside, President Obama was addressing representatives from 60 nations attending a three-day event he called on "violent extremism" - another Obama euphemism - following attacks in Denmark and France. Obama said the world has to confront the ideologies that radicalize people. He said those heading groups like ISIL and al-Qaeda were not religious leaders but terrorists. He said associating Islamic State or al-Qaeda with Islam would be buying into their propaganda. He challenged critics of his refusal to describe recent attacks as the work of "Islamic radicals." He added that there are Moslems around the world who do not "necessarily" subscribe to the violent tactics of IS, but who "buy into" the notion that Islam has been "polluted" by Western values. ~~~~~ The White House has avoided the question of whether deadly terror attacks in Paris and other Western cities amount to "Islamic extremism." Perhaps the White House is afraid of offending a major world religion or of validating the "war on terror" that Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, waged. Obama said "we should not grant them [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and al-Qaeda-linked groups] the religious legitimacy that they seek." He said that militants masquerade as religious leaders but are really terrorists -- and he appealed directly to prominent Moslems to do more to distance themselves from brutal ideologies. He said all have a duty to "speak up very clearly" in opposition to violence against innocent people. Concerning the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Obama said Moslem leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam." ~~~~~ And then President Obama gave his new version of his own state of self-denial, saying : "We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam." As Obama uttered those words, he added that "some in Moslem communities have bought into the notion that Islam is incompatible with tolerance and modern life." ~~~~~ President Obama is more and more isolated in his insistence that the world is not confronted with radical Islam. Today, a well-known news magazine cover shows Obama blindfolded, with the caption "I just don't see it." But the rest of the world, and America, does see it -- the cries of "Allah akbar," the forced conversions of Christian and other religious minorities to Islam, the destruction of "non-pure" statues and writings, the distribution of the Koran to hostages, the beheadings and burning alive of those hostages and others, the massacre of journalists practicing democratic freedom of speech because it offends ISIS' view of the Prophet, the targeting of Jews, the declaration of an Islamic caliphate. That is radical terrorist Islam. Common sense alone refuses to accept Obama's fairytale version of what is happening. ~~~~~ And one of the cornerstones of Obama's argument -- that "some in Moslem communities have bought into the notion that Islam is incompatible with tolerance and modern life" -- is also flawed. Beheading for some crimes, flogging for other crimes such as exercising free speech rights, suppressing women's human rights, refusing to let a Moslem leave Islam - calling it apostacy punishable by beheading, making all children of Moslem fathers Moslems themselves with no hope of leaving Islam on pain of being declared apostates subject to beheading. These are not "notions." They are practices current in Islam, especially in the Middle East, that are definitely intolerant and incompatible with modern life. They could easily be described as terror in themselves, and deserving of President Bush's "war on terror." ~~~~~ President Obama is just plain wrong. Why? We could make the argument that his position is political, a facet of his desire to fundamentally change America by taking it out of its world leadership position. This is certainly provable by an analysis of Obama's foreign policy moves, but I'm not sure this is the basis of his self-denial about the existence of radical Islam. ~~~~~ In a letter, which I cannot confirm as authentic, from Barack Obama to the Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc. on his Moslem heritage, Obama, while still a Senator seeking the presidency, wrote : "My father was a Moslem and although I did not know him well, the religion of my father and his family was always something I had an interest in. This interest became more intense when my mother married an Indonesian Moslem man and as a small child I lived in Indonesia and attended school alongside Moslem pupils. I saw their parents dutifully observing the daily prayers, the mothers covered in the Moslem hijab, the atmosphere of the school change during Ramadan, and the festiveness of the Eid celebrations. The man my mother was married to was not particularly religious; but he would attend the mosque on occasion, and had copies of the Quran in different languages in the home, and books of the sayings and life of the Prophet Muhammad. From time to time he would quote Islamic phrases....Growing up in Hawaii with my mother and her grandparents Islam largely escaped my mind. My mother installed in me the values of humanism and I did not grow-up in a home where religion was taught. It was later while I attended college at Columbia University and Harvard Law that I became reacquainted with Moslems as both schools had large Moslems student populations. Some of them were my friends....The background I had from my early childhood in Indonesia helped me get to know them and learn from them and to me Moslems are not to be looked upon as something strange. In my experiences up until college a Moslem was no less exotic to me than a Mormon, a Jew, or a Jehovah's Witness. After college I settled in my adopted hometown of Chicago and lived on the South Side and worked as a community organizer. Chicago has one of the largest Moslem populations in America (estimated to be around 300,000) and Moslems make-up some of the most productive citizens in the area. I met countless numbers of Moslems in my job as an organizer and later on in my early political career. I ate in their homes, played with their kids, and looked at them as friends and peers and sought their advice. Therefore, when the tragic terrorist attacks of 9-11 occurred I was deeply saddened with the rest of America, and I wanted justice for the victims of this horrific attack, but I did not blame all Moslems or the religion of Islam. From my experience I knew the good character of most Moslems and the value that they bring to America. Many, who did not personally know Moslems, indicted the entire religion for the bad actions of a few; my experience taught me that this was something foolish and unwise. Later I had the chance to visit the homeland of my father and meet Moslem relatives of my including my grandmother. I found that these were people who wanted the same things out of life as people right here in America and worked hard, strive to make a better way for their children, and prayed to God to grant them success. This is what I will bring to the office of the Presidency of the United States. I will deal with Moslems from a position of familiarity and respect and at this time in the history of our nation that is something sorely needed." ~~~~~ This may be as close as we can come to Barack Obama's internal conflict about Islam. We also know that he told New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof that the Moslem call to prayer is “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.” Perhaps he was just fondly recalling his childhood days in Jakarta. But maybe this is an indication of what is going on in his heart. I don't want to re-open the question of Obama's religion. It's too late. I accept that he is being truthful in saying he is a Christian. But as the son of a Moslem father, Barack Obama was born a Moslem under Moslem law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Moslem law his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant. Obama is regarded by Islam as Moslem. And so are his daughters. There is no way to change this. And it has to be a source of internal conflict that prevents President Obama from accusing Islam of having a radical terrorist element within it. If Barack Obama were a private person, we would leave him alone to sort out his beliefs. But he is not a private person. Barack Obama is President of the United States and the leader of the world. He tells us as Christians to be open toward Islam. We all try. And it is now time for President Obama to be open about Islam. Just say it, Mr. President. It will free you to be the leader you want to be. Radical Islam exists. To deny it is to be ridiculously and dangerously wrong.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gap and Embrun in the southeast of France - just north of Nice and the Côte d'Azur - has just made a bold decision. French dioceses receive no financial help from the Vatican or from the French government. They raise funds to cover priests' salaries and retirement, church maintenance and construction, as well as charitable work, through a system of donations called "Donner au Denier" - Give to Help." What did the bishop do? He asked famous French actors and entertainers, churchgoers or not, to let him use a photo of their choice with their handwritten note in his annual appeal for funds. The posters with celebrity photos and their handwritten messages are now on buses, in churches, and in other key places. ~~~~~ The French celebrities wrote such things as "To give is to enrich your heart" - "Giving is what saves us" - "Never did Jesus and His Mother have more need of you to save their House" - "Listen to your heart's whisper" - "The little bit you give to others represents a big part of yourself" - "To give is to receive much more in return" - "Give so that peace may descend over the world" - and "We need the Church and the Church needs us." ~~~~~ Bishop Jean-Michel di Falco Léandri wrote in his Donner au Denier appeal letter to all parishioners that everyone belongs to the great family of God and the doors of the Church are always open to all, as a witness of God's love for everybody. The bishop said : "Yes, we need all of you to help us to to carry out our mission." ~~~~~ Bishop di Falco Léandri has already had one big success. French media are telling his story and showing the posters. The idea has caught on. ~~~~~ Celebrities are often hesitant to speak about religion, probably so as not to alienate anyone. But, 76% of the French are Catholic. And all over Europe the percentage of Catholics is high -- 97% in Italy, 88% in Spain, 90% in Portugal, 94% in Poland, 72% in Austria, 75% in Belgium. Even in the countries that cradled the Protestant Reformation, there are many Catholics -- 32% in Germany, 31% in The Netherlands. I have often said that Europe is a Christian civilization, for even though many Europeans don't go to church regularly, they are baptised, married and buried in it. ~~~~~ But, what may surprise you is that while Catholics make up just 23% of the American population, that represents 65 million American Roman Catholics -- more than in any European country, indeed more than the total population of any European country except Germany, whose total population is 82 million. And 63% of people in the Americas are Catholic, compared to 3.5% in Asia. ~~~~~ How many Christians are there? About 2.3 billion, or 1/3 of the Earth's people. This compares to 1.5 to 2 billion Moslems, the next largest religion. But, Christians are also the most persecuted religion in the world. Many experts on religious persecution were in Washington this week to tell a House committee about their experiences. Boston Globe Associate Editor John Allen traveled widely to collect the horrific facts for his book, "The Global War on Christians" : "Two-thirds of Christians in the world today live outside the West. They ive in Africa, in Asia, in the Middle East and other places where they are targets of convenience for anybody who is mad at the West, mad at Europe, mad at the United States. It's tough to take that out on the American consulate. It's very easy to take it out on the Christian church down the street." Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Vatican's UN nuncio and a witness to Christian persecution in Iraq, told the committee about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region : "Arab Christians, a small but significant community, find themselves the target of constant harassment for no reason other than their religious faith," he told US congressional lawmakers. Representative Chris Smith pointed out that there used to be 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. But the harassment against them has been so intense, most have fled. There are only about 150,000 Christians there now. Elliott Abrams, chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, offered a bit of a rebuke for Congress : "Persecution of Christians is growing around the world and Congress needs to pay more attention to it. It needs to be a higher priority issue in our relations with all these countries where this persecution takes place." The impression many have is that radical Islam has perpetrated most of the persecution. But Allen pointed out that's not entirely the case since so many groups take their anger out on Christians : "It is a fact that radical Islam is the leading manufacturer of anti-Christian hatred. But it is equally a fact that radical Islam could fall off the planet tomorrow, and Christians would not be safe." Take, for instance, India. Tehmina Arora fights for the legal rights of Christians in India as an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom. She said the rise of a violent brand of radical Hinduism in the world's second most populous nation has meant trouble for the much smaller Christian minority. "We've seen increasing attacks against Christian workers, pastors, even sexual attacks against women," Arora said. "But concern also is over the impunity that is being enjoyed by the forces that are doing this." Allen agreed with Arora : "In India, they are victims of radical Hinduism. In Myanmar and Sri Lanka, they're targeted by radical Buddhism." In opening the congressional hearing, GOP Representative Smith pointed out Christians today face violence, displacement, or discrimination in 110 nations of the world. ~~~~~ Dear readers, why should we spend time thinking about what is happening in a corner of France? Because it is happening now. French dioceses, as well as most Catholic and Protestant churches everywhere, have needed money for the last century. It has been met with indifference in the Christian world. But, now, we might argue that, active or not, truly believing in every tenet or not, Christians are being challenged for their survival. That may be hard to understand with a Pope who draws millions when he travels, for a Roman Catholic Church that numbers 1.2 billion, for Christianity that is the largest religion in the world. Perhaps the indifference stems from two things -- the belief that the Christian Church and its civilization would always prevail, and the former relatively isolated pockets of radical anti-Christian sentiment. Today, that has all changed. Anti-West, anti-Christian attacks are being videoed and pushed in our faces. Radical Islam threatens to take Rome and New York and defeat us. Westerners and Christians everywhere feel the pressure and detest the unspeakable persecution and massacre. Yet, our fundamental Christian and Western democratic beliefs tell us that we must not respond in kind. And, Christian demographics are shifting and so are the persecution points. By 2050, only one-fifth of the world's Christians will be non-Hispanic whites. And these changes will be more than demographic. Studies show that Christians living in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia are far more conservative, theologically and morally, than Western Christians. As Christianity becomes more 'Southern,' it will become more biblically orthodox. While some theologians and church leaders insist that Christianity must abandon its historic beliefs to survive, it is precisely these historic beliefs that attract our new brothers and sisters. Christianity's explosive growth is one of the great untold stories of our time -- and it repudiates those who say that Christians must compromise their beliefs to remain relevant. The opposite is true. Biblical orthodoxy is winning converts, while churches that have abandoned fundamental Christian teachings fail. Note the increase of evangelical churches in South and North America and the pull of Pope John Paul and Pope Francis who preach conservative values. It is time to save ourselves so that we can be there for our new Christian brothers and sisters. So, the Bishop of Gap and some French celebrities are responding to support and re-inforce Christianity. Congress at least recognizes the problem. In our Christian need to protect the needy and minorities, have we Christians forgotten to prorect ourselves? We must defend ourselves in order to save Chtistianity, because without it, the world will fall back into generalized barbarity.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
When the finely honed balances of power and interests that hold international groups of allies together are strained beyond the breaking point, many, often unforeseen, consequences result. The best known example is the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand that called in the come-to-aid cards of various alliances all over Europe, resulting in World War I. Many historians argue that WWI was caused by a European arms race, elevated nationalism and territorial aggressiveness. In short, that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was just an excuse for already-brewing war plans. However we see it, World War I became inevitable when Franz Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo in June 1914. We may be watching the same phenomenon playing out today. We have not yet seen a trigger event, but there are multiple possible "shots" encircling us. ~~~~~ Let's put aside the Ukraine crisis because the players are easily identified and the result - war or peace - is almost entirely in the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin because the West has abandoned its cards in announcing that war is not a possibility. So, the world is dancing with the Bear. Will the Bear offer champagne or maul? We can only wait warily for an outcome over which we have little control. ~~~~~ That brings us to the Middle East, the world's most volatile and violent region. Again, many historians have long predicted that the next world war will be fought in the Middle East. All the major powers are present in the region -- Russia and China allied and separately; the US and its European allies, now being called a coalition by Obama; the various political and religious alliances among regional powers and the militias and terrorist organizations they support. What is thus far missing, mercifully, is the "shot" that turns sparring encounters into a conflagration. But, the hotspots are increasing in number and the nerves of all cardholders are frayed. Here are some of the circumstances that could snap into a general war. ~~~~~ The US and Iran are inching toward a nuclear deal that's not good for anyone but Iran. By stonewalling a weak set of P5+1 negotiators, Iran is at the brink of being able to complete the development of its nuclear bomb under the auspices of a US-led Western accord that no one has been willing to call a preventive to an Iranian bomb. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says any pact short of totally dismantling Iranian programs with weapons-making potential is wrong. His planned speech to the US Congress March 3 is his most high-profile opportunity to date to make his case. America's - read that Obama's - approach is to degrade Iran's program so as to extend the time Iran would need to make a nuclear weapon from the present several months to a year. Obama officials say this would be sufficient warning time for the international community to do what it takes to stop Teheran. The Obama plan relies on inspection, a questionable approach, considering the sad history of other inspection programs. And an Iranian nuclear weapon would further tilt the already unstable Middle Eastern strategic equation toward irreversible ends -- an out-of-balance relationship between Saudi Arabia-led sunnis and Iran-led shiites; a nuclear arms race in the Middle East between sunnis and shiites; and a future for Israel even more fraught with the danger of annihilation than it is now. ~~~~~ After the Friday killing of a prominent sunni tribal leader, Sheikh Qassem al-Janabi, and the kidnapping of a sunni member of parliament the night before, Iraq's two main parliamentary lists including sunni lawmakers suspended their activities in protest. Sheikh Qassem al-Janabi and his son were shot dead along with at least six guards after gunmen stopped their convoy in south Baghdad. The sheikh's nephew, parliamentarian Zayed al-Janabi, was detained by the malfactors but later released. "The Iraqiya Alliance and the National Coalition announce they are suspending their participation in sessions of the Council of Representatives as from today," lawmaker Ahmed al-Massari said in a statement broadcast on local TV. The boycott would include all the 75 lawmakers in the two lists, including some shiite members. The statement blamed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his ministers of defense and interior for "the breakdown of security and letting loose killers and outlaws to commit crimes of ethnic cleansing." Questions are being raised about the Iraqi government's ability to secure Baghdad, where safety measures were eased last week despite the increase in rival armed groups. The attack also threatens to worsen the sectarian tensions undermining Iraq's response to ISIS insurgents who seized about 1/3 of the country's north and west last year. Sunni politicians and tribal leaders have accused shiite militias organized under the government-run popular mobilization committee, Hashid Shabi, of killing civilians and destroying their homes in sunni districts recaptured from ISIS. Abadi, a moderate shiite islamist who seeks reconciliation between Iraq's shiite and sunni communities, and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's senior shiite cleric, have denounced such actions. No group has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack, but Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq called for the eradication of the shiite militias, which operate freely all over Iraq and have spearheaded the battle against ISIS insurgents since the army nearly collapsed last summer. "We must get rid of the militias, and weapons must be in the hands of the state," he said, calling the militias outlaws who want to bring down democracy in Iraq. This situation highlights the plight of the sunni tribes in Anbar province who want to drive ISIS out of their region but who need weapons not being provided by the Obama administration, which fears angering Iran as the nuclear negotiations reach a climax. Thus, not only is Iran a grave problem in its own right, it is also seriously destabilizing Iraq. ~~~~~ After Jordan launched a sustained aerial attack on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria because of the death of its captured pilot burned alive by them, Egypt has launched its own air attacks against ISIS targets in neighboring Libya after the terrorists posted a video of militants beheading a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians. This month, US forces killed a former Taliban leader in southern Afghanistan who had sworn allegiance to the ISIS weeks earlier. The Pentagon said the ISIS presence in Afghanistan was nascent but an indication of its global aspirations. Signs of ISIS have emerged throughout the Middle East -- in the Sinai, where militants swearing allegiance to ISIS battle the Egyptian government; in Tunisia and Algeria where groups affiliated with ISIS have surfaced; and in Mali where ISIS is being confronted by French forces. The beheadings and burnings that have shocked the West have finally angered some Middle East governments into opposing ISIS extremists who massacre their nationals. The territorial expansion of ISIS and its growing violence can have two consequences -- either shiite and sunni countries will unite to destroy ISIS; or because of the decentralized nature of the ISIS organization, Saudi-led sunnis and Iran-led shiites will pick and choose among local ISIS groups to serve as their proxies in the undeclared Saudi-Iran war. ~~~~~ Finally, there is another undeclared war in the Middle East - the animosity between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. A report Sunday by Israeli TV news indicated that the Obama administration had cut all communications with Israel about the Iran talks. The report was denied by White House spokesman Alistair Baskey. Sources said that Philip Gordon, the Middle East director for President Obama’s National Security Council, would see Israeli national security adviser Yossi Cohen and other senior officials on Monday. The discussion would include Iran policy, but US officials would probably not share the latest details of the Iran nuclear negotiations because the White House believes that Netanyahu's office leaked Obama negotiating positions to the media, something Netanyahu's office denies. While Israeli leaders and media decry the war between Obama and Netanyahu and warn against Netanyahu's speech before Congress, they are wrong to worry that either will destroy the US - Israel relationship. But what the bickering could do is lead Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas or ISIS to attack Israel, thinking it is vulnerable absent its American shield. That in itself could lead to disaster for the Middle East. ~~~~~ Dear readers, as we consider the Middle East, several things come into focus. A nuclear Iran is toxic for the region. ISIS has the capacity to either unite sunnis and shiites or drive them further into proxy wars. Israel and America must remain united. The US must be a strong unifying voice and force - does Barack Obama inderstand this, or care?
Monday, February 16, 2015
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that the nation’s homeless veterans are mostly male, with 8% being female. They are single, live in cities, and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. Homeless veterans represent 12% of the adult homeless population. Roughly 40% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite being only 10.4% and 3.4% of the US veteran population, respectively. Homeless veterans are younger than the total veteran population. Approximately 9% are aged 18 to 30, and 41% are aged 31 to 50 -- compare this to the total veteran population where only 5% are aged 18 to 30, and less than 23% are aged 31 to 50. America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served America for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone. About 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. How many homeless veterans are there? The US Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 49,933 veterans are homeless on any given night. Why are veterans homeless? In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness - extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care - a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Additionally, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment. A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol. Doesn’t VA take care of homeless veterans? Each year, VA’s specialized homelessness programs provide health care to almost 150,000 homeless veterans and other services to more than 112,000 veterans. Additionally, more than 40,000 homeless veterans receive compensation or pension benefits each month. Since 1987, VA’s programs for homeless veterans, using its own resources or in partnerships with others, has secured nearly 15,000 residential rehabilitative and transitional beds and more than 30,000 permanent beds for homeless veterans throughout the nation. These partnerships are credited with reducing the number of homeless veterans by 70% since 2005. That's what the VA says. ~~~~~ Tom Brokaw has done a TV special report on homeless veterans in Los Angeles, which has the largest community of them. It made me realize, after also watching the latest Director of the VA explain to Meet the Press today how hard the VA is working to help homeless veterans, that once more the government is the problem. The VA has an annual budget of $160 billion, yet it can't run its VA hospitals or solve the homeless veteran problem. It can investigate, analyze, eventuallly fire the incompetent, prepare budgets, talk to congressional committees -- but the VA is incompetent when it comes to solving the homeless veteran problem. ~~~~~ The questions are simple but wrenchingly disturbing. Why is there even one homeless American veteran? Why does the government care so little about the men and women whose health or psyche was broken in the service of our country? Who can help end this shame that should haunt every American day and night? ~~~~~ Who can help? -- I, and most Americans, know that giving money to the government is a waste of time. But there is one person who could lead the effort to end the homelessness of America's veterans. President George W. Bush. ~~~~~ Dear readers, would every American who has a living or dead veteran in their family, or who is a veteran, send $10 - or what they can afford - to President Bush? Would President Bush accept the money and set in motion the means to actually provide homes for these broken veterans? Would corporations and banks and wealthy Americans join in with contributions? I think we and they would. We know what needs to be done. We know that the government has failed to do it. Can America do it? Send this blog to President Bush (Office of George W. Bush, PO Box 259000, Dallas, Texas 75225 or Info@OGWB.org). Tell him you will contribute. Send the blog to your friends and ask them to contact President Bush. Post the blog on your Facebook page. Ask your pastor, priest or rabbi to print it in your weekly newsletter. Send it as a letter to the editor in your local paper. Do whatever you can to spread the word. Let us end this stain on America's soul.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
On January 22, President Obama said, “we have ended two wars in a responsible way." Karl Rove's answer? "This is delusional. Thanks to his inept handling of Iraq, the US left no residual forces there. As a result the stable situation Mr. Obama inherited has turned into a disaster. Islamic State, in addition to controlling large swaths of Syria, has gobbled up nearly a third of Iraq, including its second largest city, Mosul." ~~~~~ How big is the Iraq disaster created by Obama's catastrophic decision to withdraw all US troops? The full extent of the unfolding debacle is much, much bigger than the Obama White House reveals. CNN reports that an Iraqi tribal leader said today that ISIS militants are gaining even more ground in Anbar province, and he predicts a complete "collapse within hours" of Anbar's cities and towns if Iraqi forces withdraw. According to CNN, Sheikh Naim al-Gaoud, the sunni leader of the Albu Mimr tribe, which was a US ally in the mid-2000s, is calling for more US intervention, including ground troops, arming tribes directly and pressuring the Iraqi government to give the tribes more firepower. This cry for help is falling on deaf ears among Obama and friends, who continue to insist that ISIS is on the defensive in Iraq and Syria. Al-Gaoud says that's definitely not the case where he is : "In Anbar, we are losing ground, not gaining," The fact is that thousands of families had been under siege in the Anbar town of Jubbat al-Shamiya until getting help Friday from US-led coalition airstrikes and Iraqi forces, according to al-Gaoud. But he said that Iraqi troops then pulled out of Jubbat al-Shamiya today, while ISIS continued shelling the town. If the Islamist extremist group's fighters go in, al-Gaoud predicts a massacre. ~~~~~ This is critically important territory because Anbar province borders Syria on the east and Baghdad on the west. Thus, a decisive ISIS victory allowing it to control the sprawling Anbar province would put ISIS on the footsteps of the Iraqi capital. Anbar is also home to the strategic Ayn al-Assad Air Base, which came under attack Friday. Talking about that battle, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said 20 to 25 people - most, if not all, of whom were wearing Iraqi military uniforms and were led by suicide bombers - attacked the 25-sq. mile base. Kirby said : "It looks like (ISIS militants) at least got to the outer base limits" At least 13 Iraqi soldiers died in the assault, according to al-Gaoud, which ended with Iraqi ground forces killing all the attackers. Kirby said that US troops were on the base at the time, but "several kilometers" from where the fighting happened. The US military did deploy Apache attack helicopters in the ISIS assault, but the Apaches returning safely without firing a shot, military sources said. American helicopter gunships were also involved in a fight supporting Iraqi ground forces about 15 kilometers (9 miles) north in the Anbar town of al-Baghdadi, according to CNN sources. But, this did not stop ISIS, which took control of al-Baghdadi Friday. Al-Gaoud said militants killed at least 25 Iraqi police officers during their assault on Thursday and Friday. ~~~~~ On Thursday, Politico published a report by Mark Perry that brings the Anbar crisis into sharp focus. But first, a bit of Iraq history. The sunni tribes that live in Anbar were angered by the US Iraq war and US support for Iraqi shiites. So the tribes sided with al-Qaida and the precursor of ISIS. But when the strict form of sharia law was imposed on them, the tribes split with al-Qaida and formed the Anbar Awakening that defeated al-Qaida alongside the US troops in the Bush Surge. Since then, the Anbar sunni tribes have looked to the US as their natural ally. But, when Obama withdrew all US troops from Iraq in 2011, and supported the al-Maliki shiite government, the Anbar sunni tribes lost both their domestic role and their American ally. ~~~~~ Fast forward to the current ISIS terrorist war in Iraq. ISIS is supported by Moslem extreme right funding. But, Iran supports, arms and provides troops to the shiite government in Baghdad -- first, al-Maliki, and now al-Abadi. The Iraqi regular army, when it chooses to fight, is fighting for shiite control of Iraq, with the patronage of Iran, the leader of shiite Islam. The Anbar sunni tribes are at best ignored and at worst left to be massacred in ISIS onslaughts. The US sends its armament shipments to Baghdad. Some are earmarked for the Anbar sunni tribes, but they never seem to arrive. ~~~~~ That brings us to the very week in January when Obama was patting himself on the back for ending the Iraq war "responsibly." On January 18, an 11-member delegation of Anbar tribal leaders arrived in Washington. Just as their plane was touching down, ISIS units in Iraq attacked the Anbar compound of one of the delegation’s senior leaders, the very powerful Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, killing nine Iraqi police officers and wounding 28 of the sheikh’s guards. A nearby Iraqi regular army unit failed to respond to repeated calls for help. The brutal attack underscored the purpose of the Anbar delegation’s visit : they defeated al-Qaida and they know they can defeat ISIS - but only if the Obama administration agrees to ship them weapons directly, bypassing Iraq’s untrustworthy Ministry of Defense. Yet in Washington, the tribal leaders were passed around to lower level Obama staff at State, Defense and the White House. Obama refused to meet them but Biden dropped in on a meeting to glad hand. The message was clear, according to what the tribal delegation told Politico -- they were told to take up these matters with new Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi and would have to rely for weapons on those provided to them by Abadi’s ministry of defense -- which the US would try to expedite. ~~~~~ In despair, they all went home, except Sheikh Abu Risha, who got a phone call - from President Bush, who knows the Sheikh and visited him in Anbar in 2007. George Bush had learned from his sources what was happening, and called to listen and help. He arranged meetings with retired General Petraeus and Senators McCain and Graham. The hope is that military and political pressure will help get arms flowing to Anbar before it's too late. ~~~~~ Dear readers, one Anbar leader told Politico : “The truth is that our Ministry of Defense is owned lock, stock and barrel by Teheran.” To Abu Risha, the ISIS attack on his compound “symbolized what every Sunni in Anbar faces every day....We can’t depend on the Iraqi army for anything.” The sheikh had in his mobile phone a photo showing Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani hugging Iraqi Badr Organization leader Hadi al-Amiri. The US knows that Soleimani is the mastermind behind Iran’s control of Iraq’s shiite militias. He is designated a terrorist by the State Department, while Amiri’s Badr Organization controls one of Iraq’s most effective, shiite controlled, militias. The sunni tribal leaders suggest Prime Minister al-Abadi is too weak to stand up to Teheran. One of Abu Risha’s group feels that Iraq “is being turned over to the Iranians, and the Americans are looking the other way.” It seems to the tribes that Obama refuses to arm the tribes by bypassing the Abadi government because it's afraid that to do so would offend Teheran and endanger the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. A large number of former US commanders who worked with Anbar’s tribes during the Awakening agree. ~~~ Just as Obama has turned on America's real friend in the Middle East - Israel, he has now turned on America's real friend in Iraq - the sunni tribes. For what? To be buddies with Iran, the "Axis of Evil" that America had pretty much defeated before Obama came along.
Friday, February 13, 2015
President Obama is inching up the number of US ground troops - and Special Forces - in Iraq without ever explaining what his Middle East strategic plan is, or whether he even has one. ~~~~~ The US Congress is celebrating the passage of the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, even though the members know that Obama is going to veto it. ~~~~~ ISIS has taken control of the western Iraq town of Al-Baghdadi, which is near a US Air Force Base. ~~~~~ Congress has been in session for a month and not one bill or committee meeting concerning tax reform or budget balancing has appeared - if Paul Ryan didn't exist, no one would care about either the budget or tax reform. ~~~~~ Obama is using executive orders to drastically overhaul the Internet, the core communication medium in America, and no one in Congress has thus far expressed the slightest concern. ~~~~~ The Senate GOP majority members cannot agree among themselves on a strategy to overturn the hugely unpopular and dangerous Obama executive orders on protecting 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. ~~~~~ Obama wants to send strategic lethal defensive weapons to the Ukraine government, a step that will raise the level of the West's confrontation with Russia, although he insists the US will not become militarily involved in the country because he doesn't want to risk a war with Russia. ~~~~~ Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu while he is in Washington, but Obama is willing let his Secretary of State meet with Iran officials to ease the way for Iran to build nuclear weapons that would be aimed at Israel. ~~~~~ There is still no GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. ~~~~~ Obama has sent to Congress a request for authorization for military action in the Middle East that he and the entire Congress know cannot get enough votes to pass - is he trying to make the GOP re-draft the authorization giving the military and President greater powers than Obama has asked for so that he can later blame the GOP when, not if, Obama's undeclared war in Iraq escalates and the inevitable US troops on the ground must be sent in. ~~~~~ The only Republican who matches Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential polls - Mitt Romney - has been driven out of the race by his fellow GOPers and fund-raisers who think someone else ought to be given a chance -- a chance to what??? Lose??? Let's get real, GOP, or get out of the way and let a new party that actually wants to win have "a chance." ~~~~~ Dear readers, if these items aren't enough to frighten you on Friday the 13th, consider this -- we have 700 days of the dysfunctional, distrusted, dishonest Obama presidency left.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12,1809. He died, assassinated, on April 15,1865. Weeks earlier, in Washington, on March 4, 1865, Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address. It was emotionally intense and is widely acknowledged as one of the most remarkable documents in American history. The London Spectator wrote at the time : "We cannot read it without a renewed conviction that it is the noblest political document known to history, and should have for the nation and the statesmen that follow him something of a sacred and almost prophetic character." Journalist Noah Brooks, present at the speech, said that as Lincoln advanced from his seat, "a roar of applause shook the air, and, again and again repeated...the sun which had been obscured all day, burst forth in its unclouded meridian splendor, and flooded the spectacle with glory and with light." Brooks said Lincoln told him the next day, "Did you notice that sunburst? It made my heart jump." According to Brooks, the audience received the speech in "profound silence," although "looking down into the faces of the people, illuminated by the bright rays of the sun, one could see moist eyes and even tearful faces....But chiefly memorable in the mind of those who saw that second inauguration must still remain the tall, pathetic, melancholy figure of the man who, then inducted into office in the sunburst, was already standing in the shadow of death." He was referring, of course, to Lincoln's sudden death by assassination weeks later. ~~~~~ Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. ~~ "At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured. On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide its effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came. One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether." With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." ~~~~~ Three years earlier, on December 1,1862, after issuing his Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln sent Congress a request for compensated emancipation, so that slave states would better accept it. It was a bitterly divisive proposal. Emancipation came. Compensation, for the most part, did not. Lincoln explained its value, calling on Congress to rise to the historically important occasion : "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew....we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save it. We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth....The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just -- a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless." ~~~~~ As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party, Lincoln confronted everyone else -- Radical Republicans demanding harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats calling for more compromise, anti-war Democrats (called Copperheads), who despised Lincoln, and irreconcilable secessionists, who plotted his assassination. Politically, Lincoln so shrewd that he wove his way through all of them. Philosophically, he was sure of his position -- as President, he was required by the Constitution to save the Union; as a person, he believed in the right of every human being to be free. That, combined with the crisis of the Civil War, makes Abraham Lincoln the only person who can be called the savior of America. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the above two less-quoted writings of Lincoln could have been written today. We find America in a civil war - not with cannon and armed frontlines but with inflexible, opposed ideas about what America is and who Americans are. Many ask if we will survive, if the Constitution is wise enough to save us. If Lincoln is our model, it will take not only the Contitution but also a leader selfless and humble enough to take it at its word. The Constitution saved Civil War America because Lincoln believed it and worked until his death to turn its words into reality, for all. What would Lincoln do today? Maybe he would stand in front of the nation and tell us that three young Americans who were born Moslem had as much right to freedom of religion as we all have. He would say that religion underpins the Constitution, that the religion of the Constitution is white Christianity but that its words are universal. He would also say that taking away the right of Christians to display their faith inevitably takes away the same rights for everyone. The Chapel Hill murders are evidence of this. President Obama loves Lincoln. Does he have the courage to say that America's majority is Christian and to lead in restoring their religious rights? To ask them, then, to protect the religious rights of others. In doing this, Obama would honor Lincoln and the Constitution.