Friday, September 30, 2016

Israel and the World Honor Shimon Peres as He Is Laid to Rest

Saturday Politics is about the most profound of political issues today -- humankind. ~~~~~~ Shimon Peres was laid to rest Friday. The funeral was attended by the world and its leaders to pay last respects to a man who had tried his best to change the world while protecting Israel and the Jewish people. Israel's President Reuven Rivlin gave a eulogy that was both fitting and poignant. Here it is in full : " 'Laugh and play with my dreams, I am the dreamer who wanders. Play because in man I will believe, and I still believe in you.' So wrote the poet Shaul Tchernichovsky, and so you played, our dear President, during the uplifting moments of elation, in times of difficulty and crisis, and with the small joys of day-to-day life, “because in man I will believe, and I still believe in you.” I am speaking to you today for the final time Shimon, “as one President to another”, as you would say each time you called to offer strength and good advice. As I speak, my eyes search for you, our dear brother, our older brother, and you are not there. Today you are gathered to your forefathers in the land which you loved so, but your dreams remain, and your beliefs uninterred. As one man you carried an entire nation on the wings of imagination, on the wings of vision. The “Brave son”, was the pseudonym you chose as a youth, as the name of Isaiah the Prophet, a visionary. Yet, you were not only a man of vision, you were a man of deeds. Like you, I was also born into the Zionist Movement in those decisive years between vision and fulfillment. I was fortunate to look up to you as a partner in the building of the State of Israel from its very foundations. For both of us, the State of Israel could never be taken for granted. However, with much thanks to you Shimon, for our sons and daughters, for our friends -- and yes for our opponents -- the State of Israel is an indisputable fact. You had the rare ability, Shimon, to conceive what seemed to be the inconceivable, and see it to fruition. Your eyes saw far ahead, while your feet covered great distances on the landscape of Jewish and Zionist history. You always walked onward and upward, as a skilled mountaineer who secures his hook before ascending ever higher to the peak. This is how you lived your life. At first you would dream, and only when in your mind’s eye could you truly see the State of Israel reaching new heights, would you then begin to climb, and take us all with you towards the new goal. You succeeded in moving even the most stubborn of politicians, and to melt away even the hardest of hearts of our opponents. You strived until your final breaths to reach the pinnacle of the Zionist dream : an independent, sovereign state, existing in peace with our neighbors. Yet you also knew that true peace could only be achieved from a position of strength, and you were sure to secure the path to this goal. Few among us understand, and much more will be written about how many mountains you moved, from the days of the State’s establishment and till today in order to ensure our security and our military qualitative edge. How deep was your belief in the sacred combination of ethical leadership and military prowess, that Israel must act not just with wisdom, but with justice, faithful at every moment to its values as a Jewish and democratic state, democratic and Jewish. My dear Shimon, you were the only one in the history of the State of Israel to serve in the three most senior positions in government: Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, and Finance Minister. You are the only one to have served as Prime Minister and as President. It is no exaggeration to say that : more than you were blessed to be President of this great nation, this nation was blessed to have you as its President. In all these roles you were our head, but even more so, my dear friend, you were our heart; a heart that loved the people, the land, and the State. A heart which loved each and every person, a heart which cared for them. Your stubborn faith in mankind and the goodness of people -- in the victory of progress over ignorance, in the victory of hope over fear -- was your eternal fountain of youth, thanks to which you were the eternal fountain of youth for all of us. The man of whom we thought time could never stop. With all your love for history and tremendous knowledge of history, you despised wallowing in the past, or being entrenched in a sense of self justice at the cost of the possibilities and opportunities that tomorrow brings. “The future is more important than the past” you said. “What happened yesterday does not interest me, only tomorrow does,” you would say. The love you received, which transcended political divides in the later years of your life -- from your supporters and opponents -- was an expression of the yearning of all of us to be infected by your unequivocal optimism. Even when we did not agree with you we wanted to believe that perhaps you were right. Believe me, it was not easy to refuse your optimism, and at times your innocence. Who more than you knew the heavy price of innocence, and yet, who more than you believed that heavier still was the price of mediocrity and being of little faith? Shimon, I unashamedly confess, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, at your graveside among the graves of the leaders of our nation, also your forgiveness must be asked. We will ask your forgiveness. It was permitted to disagree with you. Your opponents had a duty to express their opinion. However, there were years in which red lines were crossed between ideological disputes and words and deeds which had no place. You always acted according to what you believed with all your heart was best for the people, whom you served. As President, you were for us an honest advocate. You taught many around the world to love the State of Israel, and you taught us to love ourselves, not to speak ill, and see the good and the beautiful in everything. This is a sad day, Shimon, this is a sad day. The journey of your dreams which began in Vishnyeva, comes to its end in Jerusalem our capital, which is also a dream which became a reality. Your death is a great personal and national loss, as it is also the end on an era, the end of the era of giants whose lives’ stories are the stories of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel. This is our profound feeling today. A feeling of the end of an era in the nation’s life, the end of a chapter in our lives. Our farewell to you is also a farewell to us from ourselves. When we see world leaders -- our friends from near and far -- who have come here to bid you their final respects, we understand that not only here but across the world you will be missed. And all of us already miss you. Farewell Shimon. The man whose ‘ways are pleasant, and all of his paths peaceful’. Rest in peace, and act (in Heaven) as an honest advocate for the people of Israel whom you loved so. “Because my soul aspires for freedom, I did not sell her for a golden calf. Because I will also believe in man, in his spirit, his spirit of strength.” Farewell Mr. President." ~~~~~~ Alon Pinkas, who was Shimon Peres’ foreign policy advisor and consul general in New York from 2000-2004, tells this story : "At 10:45 a.m. on 9/11 -- minutes after the North Tower of the World Trade Center had collapsed -- New York’s cellphone service was almost nonexistent. Yet, as I walked up Third Avenue, my phone rang. Peres was on the line. 'You OK?' he asked. 'You know where Don Rumsfeld is? Talk to me.' I answered, 'Shimon, I’m the consul general in New York. Rumsfeld runs the Pentagon. How the hell do I know where he is?' Peres said, 'Fine These **** hit New York! New York! Do you get that? I’m coming over.' A week later, he did. 'Would you have gone to any other country that underwent something like this,' I asked. 'No,' he said." ~~~~~~ The New York Post Editorial Board this week said of Peres : "He was once one of Israel’s leading hawks. More than anyone else, he molded the new nation’s defense industry, built its air force, acquired its first sophisticated weapons and enabled Israel to develop nuclear weapons.That capability, he once said, was acquired “not in order to have a Hiroshima but an Oslo.” ~~~~~~ Jay Nordingler wrote in the National Review, that bastion of American conservatism, that Peres gave an address of really arresting beauty when he received the Nobel Prize for the Oslo Accords. Nordlinger quotes some of it : "I was born in a small Jewish town in White Russia. Nothing Jewish now remains of it. From my youngest childhood, I related to my place of birth as a mere way-station. My family’s dream, and my own, was to live in Israel, and our eventual voyage to the port of Jaffa was like making a dream come true. Had it not been for this dream and this voyage, I would probably have perished in the flames, as did so many of my people, among them most of my own family....For two decades, at the Ministry of Defense, I was privileged to work closely with a man who was and remains, to my mind, the greatest Jew of our time. From him I learned that the vision of the future should shape the agenda for the present; that one can overcome obstacles by dint of faith; that one may feel disappointment -- but never despair. And above all, I learned that the wisest consideration is the moral one. David Ben-Gurion has passed away, yet his vision continues to flourish : to be a singular people, to live at peace with our neighbors....The wars we fought were forced upon us. Thanks to the Israel Defense Forces, we won them all, but we did not win the greatest victory that we aspired to : release from the need to win victories." ~~~~~~ Dear readers, the death of Shimon Peres has put a hole in my spirit that will not be filled. The loss feels like the loss of every parent and every friend. My eyes fill with tears when I think of him gone. Yet, when I see his familiar face in a journal or on television, I cannot help but smile at that image of the world's grandfather. And a tough and firm, but loving, grandfather he was. Shimon Peres was more than a major figure. His early work was seminal in creating a strong Israel. But he wanted peace and felt it required major accommodation. He was and will be proven right about that, but it will take time to find a Palestine that wants an accommodation and peace. And so he began to dream of peace out loud, to coax the world and Israel's enemies to follow him, so that everyone could understand what Israel really desires. For all the disagreements the world's conservatives like to find in Shimon Peres, there is one strength that they cannot fault : he remained faithful to Ben-Gurion and Ariel Sharon always, and that is not to be lightly dismissed. They all knew that Israel must find a way to deal with the Palestinians and their terrorist leaders. A blitzkreig to eliminate Hamas would only widen the conflict and put the UN, and for now the US, clearly at odds with Israel. Sharon's disengagement could have worked with just a little bit of Palestinian good faith cooperation, but now that Saudi Arabia is making very subtle overtures to Israel, disengagement might have a chance to receive the Arab support it would absolutely need to succeed. There has to be a solution. Shimon Peres was right about that, and it gives force to Alon Pinkas' favorite Shimon Peres statement : "In the end, you are as big as the fight you pick, so pick one that really matters, one that is worth living for." As Shakespeare put into Hamlet's eulogy for his father's death : “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.” That phrase has been used so often for so many people that it risks being trite. But, in the case of Shimon Peres it tells a fundamental truth. We shall not see his like again. So, let us follow his advice and pick a fight worth living for. ~~ "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved : he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper : the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil : he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore." (Psalm 121, King James Version). Requiescat in Pace.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A News Summary : Another Stopgap under Obama; Iraq; Syria; Comey and Congress on Hillary's Emails; Trump Takes on Yellen

There's a lot going on this week. ~~~~~~ The US Defense Department and other federal agencies can breathe easier because Congress has passed a stopgap spending bill that President Obama has agreed to sign, averting government shutdown. A shutdown in an election year was never likely, but funding for the government would have run out this weekend without the stopgap measure. The key issue holding up passage was funding for the Flint, Michigan, drinking water crisis, which was settled after Democrat Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid agreed to the proposal offered in the bill. Congress has been consistently blamed by the White House and media for the budget crises that have become annual affairs under President Obama, especially after the GOP took control of both the House and Senate, and Harry Reid became Obama's blocking card to get as much bad publicity for Republicans as possible before forcing stopgaps that often do not reflect the desires of the GOP majority and their constituents. When voters go to the polls on November 8, they should remember that a 60-seat GOP Senate majority would stop these destabilizing stopgap measures that contain unpopular funding for such things as Planned Parenthood. ~~~~~~ In a first under President Obama, Congress overrode the President's 9/11 bill. The first Obama veto override means that 9/11 victims' families will be able to sue Saudi Arabia. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA director on Wednesday joined the President, the leaders of the House Armed Services Committee and the Defense Secretary to warn about the bill's potential consequences for US troops, diplomats, intelligence officers and others abroad. But lawmakers were unpersuaded. The Senate voted 97-1 in favor of the override, with only Minority Leader Harry Reid voting to sustain the President's veto. Later, the House also easily cleared the two-thirds hurdle, voting 348-77 to override. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said of the override : "We can no longer allow those who injure and kill Americans to hide behind legal loopholes denying justice to the victims of terror." The White House immediately attacked Congress. After the vote, Senators quickly began talking about changes to the legislation. A bipartisan group of Senators indicated Wednesday that they remain concerned about potential retaliation against Americans. Senator Lindsey Graham said lawmakers need to make sure they didn't open "Pandora's box" and reassure Saudi Arabia that Congress isn't "finding them guilty of 9/11." Graham, who supported the veto override, estimates that 20 Senators now support modifying the bill, something he thinks could happen as soon as the end-of-year lame-duck session. The goal of an amendment would be to more carefully define the circumstances in which legal actions would be permitted against foreign governments, which are generally immune from legal actions in US courts under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. But, even with amendments coming, Saudi Arabia and other countries have been put on notice that aiding, condoning or looking the other way as terrorists in their territory plan and carry out attacks on US citizens will have consequences. ~~~~~~ In the non-war that President Obama is waging in Iraq, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday that it is deploying 615 additional US troops to help retake Mosul from ISIS qnd to assist in Syria. This brings the official number authorized to over 5,000. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said : "In anticipation of the Mosul fight...President Obama has authorized approximately 600 additional US troops to further enable Iraqi forces." The current number of US troops officially authorized for Iraq is 4,647. The new addition would bring that number to 5,262. There are at least hundreds more deployed temporarily that aren't part of that official count. President Obama must wonder why he didn't just leave 10,000 US troops in Iraq in 2011, instead of pulling them all out simply to satisfy his naive political goal of ending US involvement in Iraq. That would have greatly reduced the ability of ISIS to grow and expand into 30 countries. It would also have supported Iraq political stability and avoided the sunni tribes' withdrawal from the governing coalition that opened the door to Iran's ascendancy in Iraq, facilitating its destructive role in Syria. ~~~~~~ The spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria, Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, has announced that the shell fired at an Iraqi air base last week where US troops were operating did not contain mustard agent. Last week, Pentagon officials said ISIS fired a rocket approximately one foot long at Qayyarah air base in northern Iraq. After it landed within the base, US troops tested it and received a positive initial reading for mustard agent. A second reading was negative, but the Pentagon indicated last week that mustard agent evidence could have deteriorated because of sun exposure or the passage of time. Fragments of the rocket were then sent to a lab for further testing, while last Thursday, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee the military assessed a tar-like substance on the rocket to be a sulfur mustard blister agent, but according to Dunford : “It wasn't particularly effective, but it was a concerning development." But on Friday, Dorrian told reporters that the first test done at the lab was inconclusive and that another, more advanced test needed to be done. It was the final testing that determined there was no mustard agent. Nevertheless, the Pentagon has expressed concern about ISIS’ desire to develop chemical weapons. At the Senate hearing last week, Dunford said US forces have carried out about 30 strikes against “emerging chemical capability,” citing a recent coalition destruction of a pharmaceutical plant ISIS was using. Dunford added : “We also are tracking a number of targets...” It is too bad that the Obama administration had lied so often about its actions that even the Joint Chiefs come under suspicion when they make what should be rather routine announcements. Was there a mustard gas agent on the rocket? Who knows. ~~~~~~ The United States has treatened to cut off talks with Russia over Syria if bombing in Aleppo does not stop and access to humanitarian aid is not made available, the State Department said Wednesday. Secretary of State John Kerry issued the ultimatum in a phone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, department spokesman John Kirby said : "He [Kerry] informed the foreign minister that the United States is making preparations to suspend US-Russia bilateral engagement on Syria -- including on the establishment of the Joint Implementation Center -- unless Russia takes immediate steps to end the assault on Aleppo and restore the cessation of hostilities." Aleppo has been pounded by bombing missions after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with Russia's backing, ended the latest ceasefire and launched a new offensive last week against rebel-held parts of Aleppo, reportedly carrying out the worst bombing of the civil war. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, longtime critics of the administration's foreign policy who have been particularly critical of Kerry's latest efforts, mocked Kerry's threat, saying : "We can only imagine that having heard the news, Vladimir Putin has called off his bear hunt and is rushing back to the Kremlin to call off Russian airstrikes on hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid convoys around Aleppo." The tragedy that is Syria can only be blamed on President Obama's refusal to engage in any meaningful way to end the civil war that has so far killed more than 300,000 civilians and made refugees of at least 10 million Syrians. Obama can also be charged with creating the refugee flow that has destabilized Europe and threatens to bring down the European Union. General Petraeus told Charlie Rose earlier this week that it is still not too late to create a refugee safe zone, setup a no-fly zone and ground al-Assad's air force. But, it is stunning to consider what a difference enforcing one redline would have made. ~~~~~~ And, speaking of possible lying -- FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday refused to tell the House Judiciary Committee whether the FBI will comply with a congressional request to investigate Hillary Clinton for perjury. Chairman Bob Goodlatte asked during a hearing on FBI oversight : “You cannot tell us whether you are indeed investigating?” Comey said he would not comment on a pending referral. So, Goodlatte asked : "When do you expect you will be able to tell us?” Comey's answer? “I don’t know." In July, Goodlatte and Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz issued a criminal referral to US District Attorney Channing Phillips, asking him to investigate whether Clinton lied to Congress during her 11-hour testimony before the Select Committee on Benghazi. Shortly before, the FBI had released an unprecedented amount of information that it had collected during the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server while Secretary of State. Critics said was the information contained evidence that she should have been prosecuted. Asked during the course of a July Oversight hearing whether the FBI had investigated “her statements under oath on this topic,” Comey said no, saying that he would need a referral from Congress to conduct such an investigation. Godlatte and Chaffetz then wrote a formal request, noting : “The evidence collected by the FBI during its investigation of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email system appears to directly contradict several aspects of her sworn testimony." While the FBI is not required to open an investigation because of a referral from Congress, the issue here is whether Clinton’s under-oath testimony that “there was nothing marked classified on my emails, either sent or received” was a deliberate lie because of Comey's July testimony that Clinton did, in fact, exchange emails through her private server that included information marked classified. In order to commit perjury, which is a felony, a person must be proved to have lied willfully. Officials have characterized those markings -- a small “C” at the top of classified paragraphs -- as atypical. Clinton told investigators that she did not know what a small C in that context meant, an explanation Comey has backed up in subsequent testimonies. Comey said in July : “I think it’s possible -- possible -- that she didn’t understand what a 'C' meant when she saw it in the body of an email like that.” Standard government practice is to mark emails containing sensitive information at the top of the message or in the subject line. It must be noted that statutes require those receiving or sending classified information to protect it whether it is marked or not. The perjury investigation would only attempt to decide if Clinton lied to Congress about not having in her possession documents actually marked classified when FBI Director Comey said it had found classified documents in her possession. And the beat goes on -- with the FBI, the Department of Justice and the White House protecting Hillary Clinton from every effort by Congress to get to the truth about her emails -- and the bottom-line truth of determining if the FBI and DOJ have been corrupted by the Obama administration. ~~~~~~ At the same Wednesday hearing, FBI Director Comey also testified that former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills and another top aide had "some" classified material on laptops they turned over to the FBI in its probe of Clinton’s private server use as Secretary of State, and desipte this, the aides received immunity. Comey revealed this while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, where Republicans had many questions about a newly revealed set of immunity deals in the Clinton case. Comey claimed the findings did not constitute a crime but declined to directly answer the question whether having classified material on a laptop or other private electronic device was against federal regulations. "You’d have to know the circumstances,” Comey told committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. Newt Gingrich told the Mike Gallagher Show on Wednesday : "You're seeing the first clear, visible corruption at the FBI. And Comey is the agent, and it's sad. It's going to destroy his career." Gingrich was referring to Comey's Wednesday testimony before Congress that his agency found no evidence an IT technician was ordered by Clinton or any of her aides to delete emails from her private server. Comey has previously said the FBI found no evidence to support an indictment of Hillary Clinton. Gingrich said Comey's stance shows what a Clinton presidency would look like : "It will be the most corrupt administration in American history, which I find frightening," he said. "Having a commander-in-chief that's that corrupt could dramatically weaken the fabric of American society." So, there we have it. If Obama is not adept at controlling what happens to people in Iraq and Syria, he is a past master at controlling what happens to people who do work for him in Washington. Benghazi coverup? Harassment of conservatives? Gun sales to Mexican drug cartels? Deliberate breaches of US security through personal servers and emails? No problem. Just call the IRS, DOJ and FBI. ~~~~~~ And, there is one indication that Donald Trump got under the skin of President Obama and Janet Yellen, the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve during Monday night's debate. Trump charged that the Federal Reserve is a political tool of the Obama administration and the charge is gaining support in Congress. Janet Yellen had to directly deny Trump’s accusations on Wednesday when she testified to the House Financial Services Committee. Republicans have long criticized the Fed’s policies following the 2008 financial crisis, with some calling for congressional oversight authority and others wanting to abolish the Federal Reserve altogether. This week, Representative Scott Garrett, a House Financial Services Committee subcommittee chairman, directly charged that Yellen’s Fed has a “cozy relationship” with the Obama administration and Democrats. He echoed Trump’s claims that the Fed is deliberately keeping rates low to benefit Obama in his final months in office, saying : “Whether you like it or not, the public increasingly believes that the Fed’s independence is nothing more than a myth.” Garrett argued that Yellen gave a speech on income inequality in 2014 because it was a major campaign theme for Democrats, and he blasted Fed Governor Lael Brainard for contributing to Hillary Clinton’s campaign while at the Fed. Garrett added that Brainard’s name has been mentioned as a possible Treasury Secretary under Clinton and asked if any of it posed a conflict of interest for the Federal Reserve. Yellen said Brainard’s actions were within the Fed’s conflict of interest rules but that she'd need to consult with lawyers about the rules for an official potentially taking a job in a future administration. The heated exchange came two days after Trump told 80 million Americans that he believed the Federal Reserve was effectively hurting the economy to boost Obama’s popularity. Trump charged : “We are in a big, fat, ugly bubble....The day Obama goes off, and he leaves, and goes out to the golf course...when they raise interest rates, you're going to see some very bad things happen, because the Fed is not doing their job. The Fed is being more political than Secretary Clinton.” The uncontrolled Federal Reserve, which has no congressional or other oversight, has added about $5 trillion to the US national debt during Obama's presidency. It is time that some control mechanism be provided to rein in the Federal Reserve's unfettered power over the US monetary system and economy. ~~~~~~ Finally, there is a question related ot Hillary and Bill's tax returns. Documents released on Thursday show that the Clintons' tax deductions seem to match up with payments they made to IT aide Bryan Pagliano for work he performed on Hillary Clinton's private email server. According to The Daily Caller, the deductions the Clintons made on their tax returns in 2009-2013 -- the years Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State -- are slightly higher than what Pagliano was paid, indicating that the deductions could have been taken to offset the expenses. The problem, reports The Daily Caller, is that Hillary Clinton kept the email server -- which was located in the basement of the family's home in Chappaqua, N.Y. -- a secret and treated it as a personal device. The IRS does not allow citizens to deduct personal expenses on their tax returns. The home-based server was used for three email domains --,, and Hillary used the latter when she was Secretary of State after refusing to use government email. So, who should be explaining their tax returns -- Donald or Hillary??? ~~~~~~ Dear readers, what is most noticeable this week is the renewed energy on the GOP side of the aisle. When Trump became the winner of the Party's nomination, many Republicans were worried that the GOP was going down in flames with him. It is now clear, even to the most NeverTrump elites, that Trump has a serious chance of being elected. This good news -- in polls and continued crowds rallying around Trump's every word -- has heartened the Washington GOP crowd, who now see their re-election chances as much brighter, with prospects for a Republican White House and Congress looking achievable. The GOP enthusiasm remains to be harnessed by Trump for the work desperately needed to back and fill and restabilize America after the disastrous eight years of Barack Obama.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Entire Life of Shimon Peres Was a Message for Israel

Shimon Peres has died at the age of 93. He was one of Israel’s defining political figures and a Nobel peace prize laureate. Peres twice served as prime minister of Israel and later as its ninth president. He had been seriously ill on a respirator in an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv and died after his condition deteriorated sharply. Peres’ death was formally confirmed on Wednesday morning by his son Chemi in a news conference at the hospital where his father had been treated : "Today with deep sorrow we bid farewell to our beloved father, the ninth president of Israel. Our father’s legacy has always been to look to tomorrow. We were privileged to be part of his private family, but today we sense that the entire nation of Israel and the global community share this great loss. We share this pain together." Within hours of his death, tributes to Peres began from world leaders. Among those who have said they will attend his funeral and burial on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl on Friday are Barack Obama and Hillary and Bill Clinton, as well as Prince Charles and French President François Hollande. In more than six decades of political life, the defining achievement of Shimon Peres was as one of the key architects of the Oslo peace accords, for which he was jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1994 with the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Those peace agreements -- signed in Washington in 1993 and Taba, Egypt in 1995 -- foresaw the creation of a Palestinian state, and were named after the Norwegian capital where the two sides launched eight months of secret negotiations in which Peres played a key role. With Peres’s death, the last of the Oslo trio has now gone. Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist in 1995. Arafat died nine years later. Today, prospects for the peace and two-state solution offered by Oslo seem remote, after the collapse of the peace process in 2014. ~~~~~~ It is impossible to capture Shimon Peres in a few words, or even by reciting the extraordinary list of his achievements -- among the many were : 1994 Nobel Peace Prize together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat; 2008 Honorary doctorate of Law from King's College London; 2008 Honorarily appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George; 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Barack Obama; 2014 United States House of Representatives H.R. 2939 that awarded Peres the Congressional Gold Medal. The bill said that "Congress proclaims its unbreakable bond with Israel." The phenomenon that was Shimon Peres caused the Jerusalem Report news magazine to call him “Israel’s only world-class statesman, perhaps Zionism’s last pragmatic visionary." Peres wrote 11 books, read and wrote poetry voraciously, and could quote from Old Testament prophets, French literature -- he also received the French Legion of Honor medal -- and Chinese philosophy with equal ease. After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, he bound together a shattered nation. ~~~~~~ The last surviving figure in the Founders of modern Israel, Peres moved from being a hawk to a peacemaker. But, Peres was also disliked and mistrusted by some in Israel who saw him as divisive and "naive." His neighbor and biographer Michael Bar Zohar suggested that despite being one of its strongest proponents, Peres also recognized the failure of Oslo : “The Oslo agreement was not a very big success, not its conception, not its writing, not its partner. It was one of the things he regretted most, but he still stuck to the conviction that Oslo was a great thing and that the ‘new Middle East’ was a new reality despite what was happening around us. He still felt the two-state solution could be implemented although he was critical of the Israeli government about the stalemate in those negotiations and partly the Palestinians as well.” The leader of Israel’s opposition, Knesset member Isaac Herzog, who knew Peres from childhood, first through his father, Chaim Herzog, himself a president of Israel, described Peres as a man who lived his life largely in public : “I was a close confidante of Shimon Peres. My father was a colleague of his and I was also an advisor and an assistant to him as well as a member of government with him. For me he was a teacher and mentor. I think Peres' vision of a two-state solution is alive and kicking. It has problems. Stumbling blocks. But it is still possible...I think the tragedy is both people [Palestinians and Israelis] in majorities want to move to a two-state solution. It is not moving because of politics. But his dream will be implemented.” And, despite his role in the Oslo accords, Palestinians and the wider Arab world saw the legacy of Peres differently. Many have portrayed him as a key figure in early settlement construction and pointed to his role in the 1996 Israeli assault on Lebanon, which saw the deaths of 106 civilians when a UN base where they were sheltering was shelled. But, for most Israelis, Peres will be remembered for a career that intimately tracked the country’s short history. Later in his life, he became one of the country’s most popular public figures, serving a seven-year term as president from 2007-14. As recently as 2015, Peres strongly criticized the direction of the government of Israel’s conservative prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, although not naming Netanyahu. Peres said he believed the values he and Rabin had inherited from Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, were in jeopardy as he defended a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict : “Israel should implement the two-state solution for her own sake, because if we should lose our majority, and today we are almost equal, we cannot remain a Jewish state or a democratic state. That’s the main issue, and to my regret they [the government] do the opposite." ~~~~~~ Born in a largely Jewish town in Poland to relatively wealthy parents, Peres, at the age of 11, and his family followed his father to the British Mandate Palestine in 1934. A protégé of Ben-Gurion, Peres was a founder of the Labor-Zionist Youth Movement and a member of the Hagana Jewish military forces (that later became the Israeli Defense Forces - IDF) before Israel declared independence. As a defense official in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Peres was involved in the establishment in Dimona of Israel’s nuclear reactor. He worked closely with France to provide weapons and French Mirage military aircraft for Israel and to form the Suez offensive with Britain and France against Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, which was stopped by US President Eisenhower. During his long career, Perez occupied almost every significant position in Israeli political life, after becoming director general of Israel’s ministry of defense in his 20s, under Ben-Gurion. First elected to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in 1959 (he served for 48 consecutive years, the longest-serving Knesset member), his cabinet roles included defense, finance and foreign affairs before he served two brief periods as prime minister. Although he ran for prime minister five times between 1977 and 1996, he never won a national election outright. A noted hawk in the 1970s who had deep reservations about territorial compromise with the Palestinians, Peres supported settlement building and the building up of Israel’s military strength. But, in the 1980s he began to move from the centrist political position he occupied towards the peace camp. In his later years, Shimon Peres was seen as a dove, and a strong supporter of peace through economic cooperation. While still opposed, like all mainstream Israeli leaders in the 1970s and early 1980s, to talks with the PLO, he distanced himself from settlers and spoke of the need for "territorial compromise" over the West Bank and Gaza. For a time he hoped that King Hussein of Jordan could be Israel's Arab negotiating partner rather than Yasser Arafat. Peres met secretly with Hussein in London in 1987 and reached a framework agreement with him, but this was rejected by Israel's then prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir. Shortly afterward the First Intifada erupted, ending the plausibility of King Hussein as a potential Israeli partner in resolving the question of the West Bank. Subsequently, Peres gradually moved closer to support for talks with the PLO, although he avoided making an outright commitment to this policy until 1993, with the Oslo Accords. At the White House lawn signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993, Peres nudged a reluctant Rabin to shake hands with Arafat -- an image that was flashed around the world. For two years, Peres worked furiously to keep the imperfect peace on track. Given the problem of settlements, it was, he said, an attempt “to turn an omelette back into eggs.” He negotiated directly with Arafat, turned the “Gaza and Jericho First” proposals agreed at the White House into reality, drafted the 1994 Paris Protocol of Israeli-Palestinian economic relations, promoted regional summits and in 1995 sealed Oslo II (an agreement to restore Palestinian rule to six major West Bank towns). Rabin, meanwhile, concentrated on Syrian talks via his military chief of staff, Ehud Barak. But Israeli fury at persistent terrorism prompted demonstrations against the Rabin-Peres administration. In 1995, Yigal Amir assassinated Rabin at a peace rally. Peres, Amir’s other intended target, was just feet away. He took over as prime minister on a wave of sympathy. With hindsight, Peres’ decision not to call immediate elections was undoubtedly an error. But, he achieved much in his six months in charge : he implemented Oslo II ahead of schedule, assuaged the religious right, bolstered the economy and co-operated with Arafat over the first-ever Palestinian elections. ~~~~~~ Support for Peres evaporated when a round of bomb attacks killed dozens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and talks with Syria came to nothing. The conservative Likud party warned : “Peres will divide Jerusalem,” while Arab states feared that his dream of a borderless Middle East spelled Israeli economic colonialism by indirect means. Peres’s retaliatory invasion of Lebanon in April 1996 also failed when more than 100 refugees died in one Israeli bombing. For all Peres’ visions of a “new Middle East,” the electorate narrowly yet decisively favored Netanyahu in May 1996. After he lost, Peres devoted himself to the center for peace he had founded, with headquarters in Ajami, a largely Arab neighborhood of Jaffa. It is dedicated to dialogue, cultural, economic and youth initiatives, and healthcare assistance to Palestinians. In 1998 he wrote forewords to four books on the 50th anniversary of Israel’s independence. He also released For the Future of Israel, a series of philosophical conversations with the author Robert Littell. Where other Israeli politicians grudgingly accepted a Palestinian state as inevitable, only Peres argued in Le Monde that it was necessary for Israel’s future. When the new intifada broke out in 2000, polls backed Peres to restore the peace process. in the election, Peres emerged as foreign minister under Ariel Sharon in a Likud-Labor coalition government. This time Peres was the liberal brake to Sharon’s determinedly rightwing engine. Although many Israeli leftists felt outraged at his "betrayal," those who knew Peres realized that his personal friendship with Sharon counted for more than ideological agreement. Others felt that his overvaulting ambition had once again cost him his principles. Similar charges resurfaced in 2005, when he left Labor to co-found Kadima with Sharon, barely a month after losing the Labor leadership. Peres served as deputy premier after Kadima convincingly won elections in 2006. The following year, Peres left the Knesset to present himself for the presidency. As Israel’s ninth president, he helped restore his nation’s battered reputation. He became the first Israeli head of state to address a Moslem state legislature when he spoke to Turkey’s national assembly in November 2007. Turkey and Japan supported his “valley of peace initiative” for economic revival and joint industrial projects in the West Bank. In 2008 he launched the Israeli Presidential Conference, an annual brainstorming forum that attracted guests including George W Bush, Elie Wiesel, Robert De Niro, Rupert Murdoch and Bernard-Henri Lévy. In 2009, Peres served as the national host for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel. Most unusually for an Israeli president, Peres became his nation’s top diplomat. He asked Palestinians and Arab nations to join in “a great journey towards a world built on logic and intellect, not land." He negotiated directly with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, on behalf of a largely silent Netanyahu. He placated President Barack Obama when Israeli actions offended the Oval Office. And in 2013, he delivered a video interview beamed from Jerusalem to a security summit in Abu Dhabi for 29 foreign ministers of Arab and Moslem countries. But, Peres always created controversy. In his inaugural presidential speech, he bluntly stated that Israel had to “get rid of the territories." He said that he had changed his position, not his beliefs. ~~~~~~ Although many hailed Peres as a man of vision and peace, the Israeli right berated him for playing into the hands of the PLO. Many Likud supporters resented the way he pushed his peace agenda, especially since his stance seemed to contradict Netanyahu’s policies. For its part, the Israeli left accused Peres of acting as the 'cover' for a determined conservative Likud administration, especially in 2009 when he defended Israel’s continuing attack on Gaza and rejected the critical UN report into the Gaza war. Former liberal allies were confounded when, in May 2009, he proclaimed newly elected Likud prime minister Netanyahu a peace pioneer -- an opinion he reversed in 2015 when he blamed Netanyahu (re-elected that year) for talking peace but doing nothing to implement it. Israeli historian Ze’ev Sternhell wrote : “Over the years, Shimon Peres...destroyed everything of value [in Labor].” Other leftists blamed him for initiating with Oslo II the settlement bypass roads that seemed to make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible. Peres repeatedly called Abbas a serious and true partner for peace, even admiring the courage, if not agreeing with the timing, of Abbas’s 2012 UN bid for Palestinian statehood. Yet many Palestinians blamed Peres for saddling them with inferior terms in the Paris economic deal of 1994, and Israeli critics charged him with abusing the non-political nature of the presidency. ~~~~~~ Dear readers, as late as November 2015, his health failing, Shimon Peres insisted that Israel faced “eternal war” if there was no Palestinian state. Peres was an intriguingly contradictory figure. Unlike holiness, he told David Frost, politics is built on compromise. Peres was not above taking bold decisions, as in supporting Ariel Sharon's military policy of operating the IDF to thwart suicide bombings. On the issue of the nuclear program of Iran and the supposed existential threat this poses for Israel, Peres stated, "I am not in favor of a military attack on Iran, but we must quickly and decisively establish a strong, aggressive coalition of nations that will impose painful economic sanctions on Iran," adding "Iran's efforts to achieve nuclear weapons should keep the entire world from sleeping soundly." In the same speech, Peres compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his call to "wipe Israel off the map" to the genocidal threats to European Jewry made by Adolf Hitler in the years prior to the Holocaust. In an interview with Army Radio on 8 May 2006 he remarked that "the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map." That comment echoes the Peres who was Ariel Sharon's friend, military associate and political supporter. Both Peres and Sharon represented the Israeli generation that had to fight and scrap to cobble together an Israel in the first place. They were realists who did what had to be done, with whoever was willing to help them, to build a democracy safe for post-World War II Jews. They were tireless, dedicated visionaries driven by that one goal, a goal often belittled or refused by the larger world. But, they succeeded against all odds. And, if Peres, like Sharon, changed policies as their world morphed into a faceless, potentially nuclear, terrorist threat to Israel's very existence -- something David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, and even Menachem Begin never had to fully face -- their tactics adapted to meet the day's challenges to the survival of Israel. Today, the reality Israel faces is that the Palestinians and their terrorist leaders are there across the almost-seamless borders. Whether the Palestinians deserve a homeland is no longer the issue. Whether they have territorial rights or no territorial rights is no longer the issue. They are there. And Israel must find a way deal with them. If Sharon's "disengagement" policy of cutting the Palestinians loose to swim on their own with economic help from Israel did not work, if Peres' two-state solution did not work -- then Israel must find another way forward that does work. The world that Israel and its leaders now face is hostile to it for deep-seated cultural reasons that no rational human being can support. Peres and Sharon faced similar hostilities. So, to pick up the mantle of the Founders, to drive forward in a way that ensures Israel's future, those who would replace Sharon, the military genius, and Peres, the charismatic diplomat par excellence, must find both the courage and the underpinnings of reality that enlightened the Founders. Shimon Peres said it himself : "If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact - not to be solved, but to be coped with over time." Cope. In the name of Israel. In the name of world peace. In the name of humanity. Millions of us stand firmly with Israel. The monumental error would be to let the heritage of Shimon Peres and the other Founders be wasted, fade and die. Rest in Peace, Shimon Peres.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

First Debate : a Draw or Win for Trump - "Hillary has experience, but it's bad experience."

The first presidential debate of 2016 is history. Who won or lost will be long argued, but several things are clear. Trump summed up his argument early in the debate when he said : "It's time that we have someone running this country who has an idea about money." That comment came during the first half hour, when he shredded Hillary Clinton on her leftist tax-and-spend ideas for the economy and jobs. Trump is the master of these topics and since the economy was the most googled phrase during the debate, we can guess that Trump's concise summaries about how to fix the economy and create jobs resonated with the TV audience. He made the point that Democrat economic policies have harmed all Americans, but black and hispanic Americans most. Then in the closing moments of the debate, Trump again hit a home run : “Hillary has experience, but it’s bad experience.” These two comments sum up the debate. ~~~~~ Debate moderator Lester Holt didn't manage his role very well. Holt arrived Monday night as a news anchor with a reputation for being a non-partisan newsman. But, as The-Day-After rolls on, 40% of the country are questioning that description. Before the debate, Holt said he wanted to be largely invisible and let Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton talk. He followed that plan, allowing the exchanges to simply unfold. This led to some of the more heated moments of the debate, with Clinton and, more often, Trump interrupting the other's comments. The problems came when Holt stopped being invisible -- he targeted Trump's weaknesses (releasing his taxes, the birther issue) while avoiding Clinton's weaknesses (those 33,000 emails and her illegal server, the Clinton Foundation pay-for-play scam while she was Secretary of State). As we have witnessed during this entire general election campaign, only Trump gets fact-checked while Hillary largely gets a pass. Lester Holt continued down that biased journalistic path Monday evening. Here are two examples of the bias cited by Fox News : (1). "Fact check #1 : TRUMP: You called it the gold standard of trade deals. You said it’s the finest deal you’ve ever seen. CLINTON : No. TRUMP: And then you heard what I said about it, and all of a sudden you were against it. CLINTON: Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts. The facts are -- I did say I hoped it would be a good deal, but when it was negotiated." THE FACTS : Clinton never used the word “hoped.” She said “gold standard” during her tenure as Secretary of State. It had been raised multiple times by Bernie Sanders during the primaries and Holt should have been ready. Fox News asked : "Does Holt correct or fact-check here? No. But was decidedly aggressive when challenging Trump's claim on always being against the Iraq War, and that's fine. But if the decision was made by Holt beforehand to fact-check in real time, he needed to do so to both sides in obvious situations. This was one of them." (2). "Fact check #2: Clinton says the murder rate is down in New York City under Bill DeBlasio without Stop & Frisk. Stop & Frisk's last year of existence was 2014. In 2015, the only full year of records without it in New York City, murders went up, rising to 352 from 333 the year before. Trump kept insisting on this number, Clinton insisted he was wrong. Holt let it go." ~~~~~~ We can only hope that the next two debates will be unbiased enough to address key topics that favor Trump : (1) the Clinton Foundation that has been in the news for all the wrong reasons; and (2) direct questions about destroying evidence and deleting tens of thousands of emails and then lying about it. Trump got in several barbs on this issue, but had to fit them into answers about other issues. That Holt left these white hot topics on the cutting room floor begs the question, "What was his aim as debate moderator?" These are critically important issues, going to the heart of Clinton's qualification to be President. No objective moderator would leave them untouched while hitting Trump about minor items. Holt didn't merely 'forget' to mention them. Ignoring them had to be planned. Trump should have brought up those topics himself, as Fox says : "particularly when one broad subject was cyber security, which couldn't have teed up Clinton's extreme carelessness around handling classified information any better. He didn't." Two other topics begged to be raised. How could Holt completely ignore immigration -- one of the cornerstones of Trump's campaign?? And equally mindboggling is Holt's avoidance of the topic of Clinton's health. Given her collapse into a van after leaving a 9/11 event early, and her 2102 blood clot and hospitalization, the very least Holt should have done was to ask Clinton why she will not release her full medical records as John McCain did to the tune of 1,173 pages in 2008. But, as Americans have sadly learned during the 2106 presidential campaign, media fact-checking is a one way street. The fact-checking has only one goal -- to throw Donald Trump under the bus. Sorry, Lester -- you are now vying to be the Candy Crowley of the 2016 debates. ~~~~~~ Rudy Giuliani said it loud and clear. He believes there was inappropriate meddling on Monday by Lester Holt : "If I were Donald Trump, I wouldn't participate in another debate unless I was promised the journalist would act like a journalist, and not an ignorant fact check. My advice would be the moderator would have to promise they'd be a moderator." [Where Giuliani would find such a journalist-moderator is far from clear -- maybe Mars.] While Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said after Monday night's debate that Trump would participate in the final two debates, it was Giuliani who put the media on high alert, giving a scathing review of Holt as moderator, charging that his "interference" in a discussion about policing in New York was "outrageous." Here, Giuliani is the 'Living Fact Check.' He was the mayor of NYC who put Stop & Frisk in place. It was continued under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It was halted by Democrat Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Giuliani said : "If journalism has ethics, Lester Holt unethically interferred in the area of law he knows nothing about. It [Stop & Frisk] is not unconstitutional and Trump's description of that case was correct." THE FACTS: Holt corrected Trump's explanation of Stop & Frisk, a program Giuliani approved as NYC mayor, in which police search people they stop for questioning, saying it "was ruled unconstitutional in New York" as disproportionately targeting minorities. A New York circuit court judge ruled the practice unconstitutional, but a higher court never settled the question because current NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio stopped the program. Giuliani said that Holt's interruption of Trump reminded him of 2012 moderator Candy Crowley's decision to step in to correct Mitt Romney : "He's five times Candy Crowley." ~~~~~~ Donald Trump is his own best critic. Trump said he feels he did "really well" in Monday night's debate : "I thought it went really well. I had some hostile questions. That was okay. It was the debate of debates." Trump said he would give NBC News' moderator Lester Holt "about a C or C-plus" rating, and he thinks the anchorman did a good job overall, but said Holt did not ask Clinton many questions that he thought should have been asked : "Well, he didn't ask her about the emails at all. He didn't ask her about her scandals. He didn't ask her about the Benghazi deal that she destroyed. He didn't ask her about a lot of things she should have been asked about. There's no question about it. He didn't ask about her Foundation." But, Trump refused to say that Holt did a bad job, even though he hit him hard on the last four questions of the debate : "They were leaving all her little goodies out. I was asked about my tax returns, which I've told about 500 times. But I think I really did well, when we were asked normal questions. I think I did really well in answering those questions, but those [other] questions are not answerable in a positive light." Trump also said he could have hit Clinton with the scandals concerning her husband's infidelities, after her attacks on him about his statements about women but he didn't do so because daughter Chelsea was in the room : "I think I did the right thing. It's not worth a point. I didn't feel comfortable doing it with Chelsea in the room. I think Chelsea is a fine young lady. I didn't like doing it with Chelsea in the room." [Is there any politician in the world who puts an opponent's child above winning a point?] Trump said he wishes he'd brought up Benghazi : "Don't forget, you are asked a question as to progress or something, and it's hard to get off to Benghazi sometimes the way the questions were framed. You start off in a totally -- the opposite of Benghazi, and so Benghazi can't get brought up, but it was a very interesting evening." In addition, Trump said he thought the first half of the evening went well, but "in the end, they start bringing up 45-year-old lawsuits," and Holt : "leaned over to that [left] lane, but I don't know, every poll -- I won Slate. I won Drudge [Report], I got almost 90% of the vote in the poll. I won Time magazine. I won CBS. I won every single poll other than CNN and not many people are watching CNN. I tell you what, that place is a disaster. The people they have on those shows, they are third rate talent as announcers on that show. The moderators. They are terrible." When asked about the tax return issue, Trump repeated his offer to release his tax returns when Clinton releases her 33,000 deleted emails. After the debate, Clinton Director of Communications Jennifer Palmieri commented that he wouldn't release the tax returns because "he didn't pay any....He's not given the American people the most basic information that we expect." Trump called that "spin," and told Fox News Tuesday his decision had nothing to do with that : "I just said, 'Hey, I will go against my lawyer's orders if you release your 33,000 deleted emails,' which I'm sure she could get. But you know, they would be very dangerous for her to get...unless Julian Assange releases them for her. He's supposedly out there. He is saying he's releasing something which will be interesting. Let's find out what he will release." ~~~~~ Trump said he may hit Clinton harder in the next debate. He told Fox News : "I really eased up because I didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings. I had a problem with a microphone that didn't work. My microphone was terrible. I wonder if it was it set up that way on purpose. My microphone in the room, they couldn't hear me. It was going on and off. Which isn't exactly great. When I tested, it was beautiful, like an hour before." Rejecting conspiracy theories, Trump added : "but it was much lower than hers and it was crackling and she didn't have that problem. That to me was a bad problem, you have a bum mike, that's not exactly good." He also blamed the microphone on reports that he'd sniffled throughout the debate : "The mike was very bad, but maybe it was good enough to hear breathing, but there was no sniffles." In what may be a surprise for many, Trump said he doesn't think Clinton was one of his toughest debate opponents. According to Trump : "I think Ted Cruz was tough. I think that Marco [Rubio] was actually very tough. He had a breakdown, a little breakdown once. But he was a good debater." ~~~~~~ Dear readers, the CNN/ORC instant poll immediately after the debate suggested that 62% of viewers believed Clinton won the debate against 27% for Trump. The equivalent poll four years before had given Republican Mitt Romney a near-identical margin of victory over President Obama (67%-25%). BUT, 41% of respondents in the CNN poll on Monday were Democrats, compared to 26% who were Republican. So, as CNN pointed out when it released the results, the poll result is slanted toward Clinton. But TheHill's online poll, that is still taking votes, shows that Trump won the debate, with Trump at 58% and Clinton at 36%. As of Monday noon, 127,076 people had voted. I find one fact interesting : is seems that more Democrats than Republicans watched the debate. Did some Trump voters just tune out, anticipating that the debate would be biased toward Hillary? Or were they simply unable to support the prospect of watching Hillary Clinton for 90 minutes? It was hard to watch her lie so smoothly while she smugly looked down her nose at Donald Trump -- and I wonder if that gaze with her head tilted back and her eyes almost closed is a way of protecting her eyes from TV lights that could trigger a 'spell.' If you watch some of her You Tube videos, that 'down-her-nose' look is often in evidence. But, in his own way and style, Trump held his ground and delivered his message : jobs, debt, law and order, the failure of government to do anything for Americans, especially black and hispanic Americans. My advice to the Trump team is not to rehearse him too much. He has a command of the facts -- that was clear last night. He is the outsider-citizen countering the insider-elite Hillary Clinton, with her memorized, boring, and heartless, answers to any question. Trump described her attitude as "holier than thou." Thank goodness, Donald Trump brings heart and passion, as well as facts, to his mission to make America Great Again. That is why he connects with Americans. That is why he is taking over as the poll leader. That is why hundreds of thousands of Americans have flocked to rallies to hear him speak. And, that is why millions of Americans are going to vote for him. The last thing America needs is a carbon copy of Hillary Clinton. Turn Trump loose. Let him be Trump.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Legend that Was Arnold Palmer Will Never Die

A 'Legend' is created by that rare level of excellence -- intellectual, physical, artistic, political or sportive -- combined with the qualities of human grace and goodness that speak to every human being. A Legend is both born and made. Talent is grafted onto a depth of character and personality that sets a Legend apart from the rest of us, yet endears him or her to us in a bond that exceeds skills or interests. And when the impassable door of death closes, taking our Legend from us, we feel the loss physically, as well as emotionally, because a chunk of our finest values has been ripped from our common humanity and we are left to wonder if another Legend will ever appear among us. Arnold Palmer was and is a Legend. There were better golfers -- but not many. There were better businessmen -- but not many. But, there will never be a better King of Golf. Arnie, as he was known from the moment he stepped into the golf spotlight, was beloved as a golfer who 'connected' with tens of millions of people who never played the game or set foot on a golf course. His natural skill was magnified by his easy charm and warmth, which created Arnie's Army and set him apart wherever he went. When historians write the history of 20th century golf, it will not be about great individual golf shots or the astronomical prize money made possible by Arnie. It will be about his creation of the modern game of golf and his devotion to the fans who followed the game, hoping without hope for his equal to suddenly appear some Sunday afternoon. It didn't happen and it never will. We always knew that, deep inside. Arnold Palmer stands astride the game of golf as a colossus. We who met him and received that warm wink and smile, or who looked into his eyes, even filtered by a TV camera, and saw his love of people tied to his love of golf, know that on Sunday, September 25, 2016, we lost a Legend. And, as golf struggles to find some sense of sporting excitement or human warmth, as it searches for any golfer with sufficient talent and personality to carry the game forward into the 21st century, raising up first one and then another into the world spotlight that quickly wilts them, Arnie will be there, reminding young golfers to relax, take chances, believe in themselves, stop worrying about money or FedEx points, and above all, enjoy the game. The Legend that is Arnold Palmer was made of all that, and so much more. "The King is dead; long live the King." In the case of golf, it is one and the same person, and he didn't like to be called the King -- just call him Arnie.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Debate Day Message for Hillary : "The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings"

Presidential Debate Day is here and while the NBC/WSJ poll has Hillary Clinton 6% ahead and the Rasmussen poll has Donald Trump 6% ahead -- the Washington Post/ABC News poll released Sunday shows the race too close to call. It also shows that 80% of voters say they plan to watch Monday’s debate, and 44% expect Clinton to win vs. 34% who expect Trump to win. ~~~~~~ Likely voters split 46% for Clinton and 44 % for Trump to be elected, with a 4.5% margin of error that makes it a dead heat. This result is when the two are put together with Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson at 5% and Green Party nominee Jill Stein at 1%. Among registered voters, Clinton and Trump are tied at 41%, with Johnson at 7% and Stein at 2%. In a two-way matchup, Clinton tops Trump by 49% to 47% among likely voters, and the two are tied at 46% among all registered voters, again inside the 4.5% margin of error. The poll was taken before Senator Ted Cruz announced his support for Trump, which may be reflected in the next round of polling. The truth is that the WP/ABC findings drive home just how much the presidential race has tightened in recent weeks, after Clinton emerged from the two national conventions with a clear lead and with Trump on the defensive. In early September, Clinton led Trump by 5% among likely voters. In early August, she led by 8%. But, as Clinton ran into trouble with continuing email releases and her health issues highlighted by her collapse at the New York City 9/11 ceremony, followed by her effort to hide her illness -- and the generalized speculation that she has health problems that extend beyond pneumonia -- Trump took advantage of everything to show himself as a more disciplined candidate in an effort to attract more support from voters who traditionally have supported Republican nominees. It appears to have been at least partly responsible for Ted Cruz's endorsement. ~~~~~~ There are indications that Trump is at last bringing home disaffected Republicans, which will inevitably tighten the race. The WP says its latest poll is : "a reminder of how much will be at stake Monday night at Hofstra University when the two meet at 9 pm before what could be one of the largest television audiences ever for a presidential debate." Although 17% of registered voters now say the debate could change their minds, only 6% say there is a good chance of that happening. Most Americans say they are following the campaign closely, but a higher percentage of Trump supporters appear to be paying close attention than Clinton backers. Also, more Clinton backers say they are not registered to vote, which adds to pressure on her team to get them registered and to the polls. The WP says it is 'worrying' for Hillary that she is getting a smaller share of voters who supported Obama in 2012 than Trump is getting among those who backed Romney. Obama’s approval rating continues to be a potential boost for Clinton, however. His current approval among all adults is 55%, dipping from a high of 58% two weeks ago. But, says the WP : "Clinton is facing a greater challenge reuniting Obama’s winning coalition. Roughly 8 in 10 likely voters who supported him in 2012 currently back Clinton, while Trump wins 9 in 10 of those who supported Mitt Romney. ~~~~~~ The race between Clinton and Trump, as in every presidential race, continues to be defined along lines of gender, race and education. Men and women are mirror opposites in their preferences -- 54% of men back Trump and 55% of women support Clinton. The racial gap is much wider -- white voters back Trump by 53% to 37%; nonwhite voters back Clinton by 69% to 19%. But, even among nonwhite voters, including Hispanics and Latinos, Trump is very close to matching Romney's 2102 performance. However, educational attainment among white voters continues to be a critical indicator -- Trump’s support among white men has increased and Trump leads Clinton by more than 4 to 1 among white men without college degrees, and by a smaller ratio among white women without college degrees and among college-educated white men. Clinton leads Trump by 57% to 32% among college-educated white women. Both candidates continue to be viewed negatively by the voters. The WP/ABC poll shows that 39% of registered voters have a favorable impression of Clinton, while 57% have an unfavorable impression. For Trump, the results are similar -- 38% see him positively, 57% negatively. Trump's unfavorability number, however, is 5% lower than it was just before the national conventions in July. Both candidates are seen as lacking in honesty, although Clinton is in worse shape on this measure. Currently, 33% of voters say she is honest and trustworthy, compared to Trump, where 42% say he is honest and trustworhty. This is a major positive movement for Trump. ~~~~~~ The Washington Post says Trump’s major obstacle still appears to be the fact that majorities do not see him as qualified to be President or possessing presidential temperament -- 53% of registered voters say he is not qualified, 58% say he lacks the temperament to serve effectively, and 55% say he does not know enough about the world to serve effectively. Again, Trump is improving in this respect -- in July, 60% of registered voters said he was not qualified. White men are far more likely to say that Trump is qualified (63% of white men vs. 43% overall); that Trump has the personality and temperament to serve effectively (54% vs. 38%); and that Trump has sufficient knowledge of world affairs (57% vs. 41%). Majorities of registered voters judge both candidates to be in good enough health to serve as President, but Trump is far ahead of Clinton -- 73% for Trump and 52% for Clinton. ~~~~~~ Clinton was criticized recently when she said that half of Trump’s supporters could be put into a “basket of deplorables,” by which she said she meant people who were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and Islamophobic.” She later said she regretted saying “half” but stood her ground that Trump’s candidacy has appealed to many people with those prejudices. Clinton’s opinion is not shared by most Americans, with more than 60% saying it is unfair to describe a large portion of Trump supporters as prejudiced against women and minorities. Interestingly, this criticism cuts both ways -- 60% say Trump is trying to win support by “appealing to people’s prejudices against groups that are different from their own,” and 45% saying she, too, is appealing to people’s prejudices. Jobs and the economy continue to top the list of issues influencing people’s vote, labelled as most important by 32% of registered voters. But, 25% say terrorism is the most important issue in their vote, up from 19% last month. Terrorism-focused voters now support Trump by a 20-point margin over Clinton, up from a 13% margin earlier in September. ~~~~~~ We have not heard many reports in the media lately about how the GOP has adandoned Trump, and the support of Senator Ted Cruz will lessen even further that line of attack on Trump's legitimacy. But, what we are hearing are reports about how the Democrat establishment is 'worried' about Hillary's truthfulness, lack of transparency and health. The apex of this 'worry' was expressed by President Obama when he told the Black Caucus on September 19 that it would be an ‘insult’ to his legacy if African Americans don’t vote for Hillary. Whether Obama was more 'worried' about electing Clinton or protecting his own inflated view of his accomplishments is not clear -- but what he said is unique in the history of US politics : “So if I hear anybody saying their vote does not matter, that it doesn’t matter who we elect -- read up on your history. It matters. (Applause) We’ve got to get people to vote. (Applause) In fact, if you want to give Michelle and me a good sendoff -- and that was a beautiful video -- but don’t just watch us walk off into the sunset, now. Get people registered to vote. (Applause.) If you care about our legacy, realize everything we stand for is at stake. All the progress we’ve made is at stake in this election. (Applause) My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. (Applause) Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. (Applause) Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. (Applause) Ending mass incarceration -- that’s on the ballot right now! (Applause) And there is one candidate who will advance those things. And there’s another candidate whose defining principle, the central theme of his candidacy is opposition to all that we’ve done. There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter. It all matters. And after we have achieved historic turnout in 2008 and 2012, especially in the African-American community, I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. (Applause.) You want to give me a good sendoff? Go vote. (Applause) And I’m going to be working as hard as I can these next seven weeks to make sure folks do.” As we discussed earlier this week, that includes quickly making new citizens of immigrants with little regard to proper vetting -- so they can vote for Hillary. Without intending it, Barack Obama pointed toward his “legacy” -- saying, much like Turkey's Erdogan, it must be protected from “insult” -- by calling to mind all the means by which he has "insulted" America -- illegal immigrant protection, sanctuary cities, choosing the death-to-cops rants of Black Lives Matter, presidential governance by unconstitutional executive order, lies about his goal of a nationalized healthcare system -- all without doing one thing about jobs or education or housing or curbing neighborhood violence that would have improved the lives of black Americans or, for that matter, Hispanics and Latinos. We will not even address the degradation and belittling of the no-longer-silent Silent Majority who have found a voice in Donald Trump. It is President Obama should be apologizing for his "insults" to America and her citizens. ~~~~~~ And the disasters of the Obama presidency is showing up in the polls. The USC Dornsife/LA Times tracking poll that tracks 3000 eligible voters and weights averages over a week, and consequently has a lag time in reflecting trends, has uncovered a collapse in minority support for Hillary. The question the pollsters asked was "What is the chance you will vote for Trump or Clinton, or someone else?" Considering all voters, a substantial advantage has moved to Trump over the last week -- Trump 47.8% and Clinton 41.1%. Breaking the responses down -- whites choose Trump at 56.0% and Clinton at 32.8%; blacks choose Trump at 18.9% and Clinton at 72.6%; Latinos choose Trump at 53.8% and Clinton at 33.4%. Trump's margin among males dwarfs Hillary’s margin among females -- women choose Trump at 41.0% and Clinton at 47.0%; men choose Trump at 54.6% and Clinton at 35.1%. ~~~~~~ Dear readers, no wonder Democrat insiders are 'worried." They ought to be pushing the panic button. With an estimated 100 million American voters planning to watch Monday evening's debate -- forget Monday Night Football, this is a Super Bowl viewer figure -- there is going to be pressure like neither candidate has yet felt in this election cycle. Donald Trump is used to TV and the pressure of being "on" for his audience. Clinton is not and it will not be her policy wonkiness or smug sense of superiority that will save the day for her when she has to hold up against the master for 90 minutes without insulting average Americans or belittling police or having a seizure. So, get your popcorn, Cokes and Buds ready. This will be the biggest primetime spectacle ever. And, Donald Trump will be standing when the evening is over -- smiling, while Hillary again asks herself, "Why am I not 50 points ahead?" To answer that question, Mrs. Clinton, I quote Shakespeare : "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Saturday Politics : Tightening Polls, Corrupt Government, Smug Hillary Progressives, and Donald Trump's America

Saturday Politics is always about politics, right? ~~~~~~ Hillary Clinton held a video conference on Tuesday to address a Las Vegas convention of the Laborers International Union of North America. She duly noted her pro-union stances, saying : "I will fight back against so-called 'right to work.' Right to work is wrong for workers and wrong for America. Now having said all this, why aren't I 50 points ahead, you might ask." Donald Trump answered Hillary's question on Thursday morning during a phone interview with Fox and Friends : “Because she’s terrible. I mean, she’s had a terrible record. Everything she touches is’s just a mess. And she’s spending a lot of money and so far it’s not had much of an impact because I guess I’m winning in most of these states and we’ll see what happens in the end, but she is [terrible]." ~~~~~~ But, an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll conducted this week and released on Friday found Clinton leading Trump by six points nationally. While the two are running neck and neck in the RealClearPolitics national average and Trump is up by 6 in the latest national Rasmussen poll, the NBC News-WSJ survey found that : "Trump has failed to meaningfully cut into Clinton’s significant advantages with Hispanics, African-Americans, young voters, women or those with a college education. Instead, Trump’s recent polling strength appears to have energized Clinton’s supporters, who now match Trump’s supporters in enthusiasm. And Clinton’s ace-in-the-hole is a battleground map that will require Trump to draw a near-perfect hand. The GOP nominee will have to run the table on states where the race is currently a toss-up -- Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Nevada among them -- and then pull out victory in a traditionally blue state." New surveys out of New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia and Colorado show that Clinton is the favorite and will win the White House if that blue wall holds. ~~~~~~ Wait a minute -- to report the poll facts, in Wisconsin, Hillary is losing ground, continuing to hold a shrinking lead over Trump in the crucial state. The Marquette Law School survey released Wednesday shows Clinton at 44% and Trump at 42% among likely voters, with 12% showing no preference. Clinton has lost one percent of her support since the last Marquette survey, when Clinton had a 45%-42% edge among likely voters. The Marquette poll has a 4.8% margin of error for likely voters, so the race is really a toss-up in Wisconsin. [Beware of mainstream media reports that routinely give Hillary the edge in polls that are actually statistical ties because of margins of error.] Clinton is also falling in data guru Nate Silver’s 538 model, which now gives Clinton a 59% chance of winning, up from 56% earlier this week, but way off of her highs in August of nearly 90%. Silver still awardss 286 electoral votes to Clinton, compared to 251 for Trump. In the Silver model, Trump makes things interesting by hanging on in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina. But Clinton’s blue wall holds and she achieves victory by winning in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan New Hampshire, Virginia and Colorado. ~~~~~~ Trump has a path to winning. A victory in Pennsylvania, where the RCP average shows he trails by 5, would completely reshape the map. He campaigned there Thursday, in Democratic stronghold Pittsburgh, because he needs to expand his appeal beyond the rural areas if he’s going to take Pennsylvania. And pollsters are confounded by Colorado, where surveys have been all over the map. Most still believe it will go blue in 2016, but Libertarian Gary Johnson is routinely drawing double-digit support there and keeping Trump in the race. Much of the lead Clinton built up after the Democrat convention in July has vanished. The polling trend lines moved aggressively against her as she dealt with questions about her health, never-ending controversies over the Clinton Foundation and her use of a private email server as Secretary of State. And then Hillary attacked Trump’s supporters as “deplorables." Election experts say they are noticing a trend between the two historically unpopular candidates. GOP pollster David Winston says : “Whichever candidate is in the news is the one that is falling. Neither has been able to make a positive case for why they should be President. Maybe that will change at the debate.” ~~~~~~~ While Hillary is dogged by her email scandal and the pay-for-play relationship the State Department had with the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Secretary of State, it is her health problems -- and those cobalt blue 'sunglasses' said by experts to be used to prevent seizures in Parkinson patients -- that are more immediately weighing down her campaign. TheHill reported on Friday that a Tampa, Florida, ABC News reporter asked Hillary Clinton whether she would be willing to take neurological exams in the wake of recent health concerns. The Hill says Clinton laughed off the question by ABC Action News reporter Sarina Fazan, who said some doctors had called on her to take "neuro-cognitive" tests. Clinton's answer was evasive in the extreme : “I am very sorry I got pneumonia. I am very glad that antibiotics took care of it and that’s behind us now. I have met the standard that everybody running for President has met in terms of releasing information about my health.” Hillary then said she sees no need for such tests : "The information is very clear, and the information, as I said, meets the standards that every other person running for president has ever had to meet." ~~~~~~ Not so clear as Hillary would have us believe. Last month, Dr. David Scheiner, a former physician to President Obama, told CNN he saw a number of questions about Clinton's health : "For example, she's on Coumadin, a medication to prevent blood clots. You have to monitor that and it says she's being monitored regularly, I'd like to know how well she's being controlled. That's a difficult drug to use. Also, I think she should have had a neurological examination, a thorough neurological examination in 2016. We know what happens to football players who have had concussions, how they begin to lose some of their cognitive ability." Transparency about Hillary's health came to the front of the campaign when she suffered what an amateur video showed to be a serious medical episode as she left a 9/11 memorial service. After video of the incident surfaced, Clinton’s campaign disclosed she had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier. Dr. Bob Lehita, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, raised questions in Fox News in August about Clinton’s past diagnoses of two blood clots : "This is a very unusual story with Hillary. The very fact that she’s having these clots and she’s had two bouts of thrombosis is disconcerting, to say the least." A recent Morning Consult poll showed that 79% of those surveyed said they have heard "a lot or some about Clinton’s health concerns." And only 29% of those polled believe Clinton has given accurate information about her health. ~~~~~~ In an effort to alleviate Hillary's worries about why she isn't "50 points ahead," the Obama administration may be hemping. An email released by Fox News shows that immigration officials may be literally working overtime to swear in as many new “citizen voters” as possible before the November 8 presidential election. The email, from a US Citizenship and Immigration Services field office chief and part of a chain of correspondence within the agency, urges the unnamed recipient to swear in as many citizens as possible "due to the election year" : "The Field Office due to the election year needs to process as many of their N-400 cases as possible between now and FY 2016." The email, which was disclosed to by Senator Ron Johnson, who chairs the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs went on to instruct DHS : “If you have cases in this category or other pending, you are encouraged to take advantage of the OT if you can. This will be an opportunity to move your pending naturalization cases. If you have not volunteered for OT, please consider and let me know if you are interested.” The email was sent by the branch chief of the Houston Field Office District 17. It was not clear to whom it was addressed, but the Houston chief forwarded it to someone in his group, saying : “I couldn’t have said it better! It’s the end of the year crunch time, so let’s get crunchy! Go Team Houston! Thanks for all your hard work!” Senator Johnson and Senator Charles Grassley, in a Wednesday letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, said it appears the agency is trying to swear in new citizens as the election between Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP choice Donald Trump approaches : “Your department seems intent on approving as many naturalization cases as quickly as possible at a time when it should instead be putting on the brakes and reviewing past adjudications." Johnson was referring to a report this week from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General that found at least 858 people from terror hotspots and other countries of concern had been mistakenly granted citizenship despite facing orders of deportation under other identities. Jessica Vaughan, director of Policy Studies for the Center for Immigration Studies says : "Considering that USCIS already has a troubling record of inadequate review of naturalization applications, and mistakenly giving away citizenship to terrorists, criminals and other fraudsters, it is disturbing that they are now in full and blind rubber stamp mode to crank out new citizens." In a USCIS planning document submitted to Congress earlier this year, USCIS reported it expected to receive 828,000 total applications this year, up from a planned 815,000 last year, an increase of 13,000, Vaughan said. Claude Arnold, a retired US Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, says the effort is reminiscent of a similar bid to bring in new voters when Bill Clinton ran for re-election in 1996. Arnold said : "I am not at all surprised by this revelation. This is a repeat of the Clinton election playbook. Then, it was to help re-elect Bill Clinton; this time, it is to help elect Hillary Clinton." And Dan Stein, president of Federation for American Immigration Reform, says the all-out push shows the Obama administration is using levers to help Clinton win : "In the pursuit of a partisan advantage, one party has decided integrity in the system is irrelevant. They don’t really care about checking backgrounds or verifying status and eligibility – it is more about increasing the number of eligible voters in the upcoming election." ~~~~~~ While the Obama administration is busy trying to manufacture votes for Hillary by creating new US citizens, Hillary dug a big hole for herself when she referred to Donald Trump supporters as "deplorables." Her remark was not only 'deplorable' in itself -- it contradicted her promise to bring Americans of all political persuasions together. Hillary revealed to a select guest list of Progressive high-donation supporters how she really feels about a quarter of Americans. And were her Progressive big-dollar contributors shocked by her remark? No. A video shows them laughing and applauding. They agreed with her. Trump's response was that at first he didn't think it was within the "realm of possible" that Clinton called half his followers a "basket of deplorables," but now he says : "When I saw this in its full form, and I saw the anger with which she said it, the way she spoke, I think it's the single biggest mistake of the political season," Trump told Fox News. Clinton has said she regrets making the generalization about Trump's supporters, but Trump said when someone is President, "you have to be President of everybody. You are President of all the people. You are not President of 50% or 75%. You are President of all the people. You are President of everybody and somehow it has to get out there that it's not a certain group of people that's going to be left behind. They have already been left behind with jobs and lots of other things." ~~~~~~ American Thinker published an article by Bob Weir titled "Pulling the Plug on America." Weir wrote : "Once upon a time, if politicians were caught in a corruption probe, they would quickly resign their offices and attempt to hide from the embarrassing publicity, while praying that they would not go to jail. In addition, when public officials were exposed as incompetent, reckless, or negligent in the performance of duty, they’d step down amid a swirling tide of public outrage. Not anymore! These days, it takes a lot more than bribery, mismanagement, or mendacity during congressional hearings to remove these reprobates from office. It seems as though we’ve arrived at a time in which those in power have rigged the system to keep from being penalized for their reckless disregard for the law." Weir was writing about the FBI debacle of an investigation into Hillary Clinton's email scandal, but his points reach far beyond that. Weir said : "If The Donald becomes the next President and fulfills his campaign pledges, one of the first items on his agenda will be the systematic dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Secondly, he could begin overturning, or making ineffective, many of Obama’s executive orders. In addition, he might hire an A.G. to investigate the Clinton Foundation and the “pay to play” bribe-taking by Ms. Clinton during her suspicious wealth-gathering career as Secretary of State. Moreover, the newly elected commander in chief could initiate a probe of the money-laundering scheme involving $400 million to Iran that Obama denied was a ransom payment for release of US prisoners, in violation of the law. And the foregoing could be just the beginning of a massive exposé of the systemic corruption in the political establishment that runs this country like an organized crime empire." The key conclusion reached by Weir is frighteningly correct : "The attempt by highly placed people in the government on both sides of the aisle to scuttle Trump’s ambition is unprecedented in the history of politics in our country. Why are so many insiders conspiring to keep an outsider from pushing the curtain aside and looking in the tent? Is it possible that the level of corruption is so immense that if uncovered, elected officials from coast to coast could end up wearing orange jumpsuits? Is it unfathomable that top officials in our government have created an alliance with corporate giants and underworld figures to make exposure impossible? When I see an IRS director taking the Fifth during a congressional probe, I’m reminded of Mafia goons smirking at the law." ~~~~~~ Dear readers, in the speech President Kennedy never gave -- because he was assassinated just hours before -- he had written : "We, in this country, in this generation, are - by destiny rather than by choice - the watchmen on the walls of world freedom." The corrupt gang mentality of some GOP leaders who have been bludgeoning their own nominee and thereby helping Hillary Clinton is an anomaly in that "watchman" perspective that Americans have struggled to understand. If Weir's analysis is right -- I think it is -- perhaps it is as simple as the GOP insider elite wanting to keep the lid on their questionable rise to power and wealth. But, despite their disgusting efforts, Trump’s popularity with a large portion of the electorate continues, despite the knife in his back from those he beat in the primaries. Former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld explained President GHW Bush's apparent statement that he will vote for Hillary as an indication that "he is getting up in years." I find it as spiteful and mean as anything any Republican leader has ever said. It mirrors the libel coming from the dishonest, biased media that distorts every syllable Trump utters. What the Founding Fathers put together is now in jeopardy, and criminal collusion and left-wing dogma are ready to bring down America. The late, great British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge famously observed : "Other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over -- a weary, battered old brontosaurus -- and became extinct." In today's world where the uncivilized killer instincts of real people outstrip the films and computer games that struggle to match reality's viciousness, we would do better to rely on Charlton Heston’s famous words at the 2000 NRA convention. Speaking beyond the audience to Al Gore, then the Democratic nominee for President, Heston cried: “From my cold, dead hands,” as he hoisted a musket into the air. Heston's prophetic words can now be directed at Hillary Clinton, perhaps the most flawed and foul-smelling presidential nominee in the Republic’s history, whose adult existence -- along with her partner in crime, Bill -- has been one, big self-serving spree. But, Donald Trump and his supporters have a message for Hillary and Bill Clinton and all the Progressives who feed at their trough -- "you will have to 'snatch' America and its immortal ideals from our 'cold, dead hands.' We will not go quietly."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Police Shootings, Protests Turned into Riots, Terrorists, Chemical Weapons Used against US Troops -- Does President Obama Have Anything to Say about Any of This?

On Wednesdqy night, America and the watching world saw what can happen when the US President is out-to-lunch during what Newt Gingrich called an "American Tragedy" in Charlotte. Reporters commented as their video cameras showed state troopers in tactical gear, centered around the EpiCentre, the entertainment complex at College and Trade streets as they faced hooligans looting and smashing store fronts and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The looters caused significant damage and on Thursday morning, a street sign hung from the front window of the EpiCentre news center, after vandals tried prying out the front window. Adjacent restaurants and hotels were also damaged, with doors and windows broken out. An official with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority said they were working to assess damage to the NASCAR Hall of Fame building, and the adjacent convention center, and would release a statement soon. The vandals also hit the headquarters of the region’s United Way, across from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The United Way building had its lobby windows smashed out. It was unclear early Thursday if looters entered the building. Given the “ongoing civil unrest,” Bank of America told its employees not to report to their uptown offices on Thursday. The bank’s headquarters is in the heart of the city and two blocks from the site of most of the riot damage. Wells Fargo also told all non-essential employees to work from home. A Duke Energy spokesman told the local Observer newspaper on Thursday morning that all non-essential personnel who work in uptown are being told to stay home for the day. Protesters are convinced the police shot an unarmed protester in the head, but the police say they didn’t fire the shot. ~~~~~~ The ongoing violence stems from police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott -- police said he was armed, but protesters claim he had a book. Police said they had been searching for someone who had an outstanding warrant at The Village at College Downs complex on Old Concord Road when they saw Keith Lamont Scott leave his car holding a gun. CMPD said Scott got out, had a gun on him, and put the officers in imminent danger. Officer Brentley Vinson shot Scott. Both men were African-American, a police official said. A man at the scene said : “Man was in his truck, reading a book waiting for his kid to come home. Cops shot him, for nothing.” Charlotte’s NBC affiliate is now showing a photo allegedly coming from a witness, showing a gun at the scene. ~~~~~~ Asked earlier on Wednesday during a Fox News town hall, set to air Wednesday night, how he would stem “violence in the black community,” Donald Trump offered the Stop-and-frisk procedure used in New York City during Michael Bloomberg's mayoralty. Trump said : "We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically?" Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg candidly talking crime and gun control at the Aspen Institute in February, said that the “only way to get guns out of kids hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them. It’s controversial, but...95% of your murders, and murderers, and murder victims fit one M.O. They are male, minorities, 15 to 25. That’s true in New York, it’s true in virtually every city in America....You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed. First thing you can do to help that group is to keep them alive.” Thursday morning on Fox and Friends, Trump explicitly said the police should be able to stop people, frisk them, and take their guns away if they think that person shouldn’t have them. “They know who has a gun, who shouldn’t be having a gun.” Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's campaign says she is developing "national standards" for police to prevent situations "like these." ~~~~~~ The NAACP leader in Charlotte has a different opinion. Corine Mack told CNN on Thursday that it's irrelevant whether Keith Scott, who was shot by police, was carrying a gun : "I think the most important part is the contrast of him having a book versus a gun. But in my mind and in most of the community's mind, it really doesn't matter if he had a gun." Scott was seen entering a vehicle with a handgun. He was surrounded by police, then killed after he exited the car and refused orders to drop his weapon, according to police chief Kerr Putney. Street protests and violence erupted afterward. Videos apparently showed that Scott was not carrying a weapon, and his family said he was carrying a book, not a gun. Putney said there was "no doubt" that Scott had a gun. Mack added it was the responsibility of the police to manage the situation better : "At the end of the day, we have the right under the Second Amendment to carry here in North Carolina. And [the police's] responsibility was to engage him in a more deescalated way, to find out if he had a permit for his gun and allow him to go on his merry way and he would still be living today. That's not what happened." The video does not automatically mean Scott was guilty of a crime, said Mack and "I don't want anyone to walk away from this conversation today thinking that a video showing he had a gun in any way says that he was guilty of anything.... the police department rushes to judgment, and I think that, many times, African Americans are demonized, when, in fact, they are the victims. And I think we all need to step back and wait for a complete investigation." As to whether the NAACP leader believes the police when they say he had a gun, not a book — Mack said, "I can't, at this point." ~~~~~~ Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Megyn Kelly on Fox : "I think this is an American tragedy. Fifty-three years after Martin Luther King's speech I have a dream...two consecutive African-American attorney generals. Race relations are decaying in this country. I don't know what will happen in the next 50 or so days. One is the country at large will not tolerate this kind of random violence. People will not tolerate looting. They won't tolerate closing I-85. They won't tolerate burning things. On the other hand, most Americans, I think, desperately would love to fix the challenge of the inner city and they know it's not working." When Kelly asked Gingrich a politically themed question related to the protests, he pointed to Clinton's history of anti-police statements and stances : "When she was at Yale as a law student she was a coeditor of an anti-police, left-wing alternative newspaper that described police as pigs. "Her natural instincts is to take the side of the people who are against the police. Her first comments about this were anti-police." Gingrich said he believes Republican Donald Trump might fare well in the inner cities of America come November : "That's why Donald Trump, I think, may do surprisingly well in the inner city because he is at least offering a chance to dramatically change things." ~~~~~~ And, on Wednesday, th Wasington Post quoted Trump as saying he was "very troubled" by the police-involved shooting in Tulsa, saying the man who was killed "looked like he did everything you’re supposed to do. I watched the shooting in particular in Tulsa. And that man was hands up. That man went to the car, hands up. Put his hand on the car -- to me it looked like he did everything you’re supposed to do....This young officer, I don’t know what she was thinking....These things are terrible. In my opinion that was a terrible situation....Did she get scared, was she choking? People that do that can’t be doing what they’re doing." Trump made the comments in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where he was addressing the Pastors Leadership Conference at the New Spirit Revival Center. Cleveland Heights is nearly 43% black. During the question-and-answer session at the church, Trump said he is a "tremendous believer in the police and law enforcement, because we need that for our society." But he said law enforcement was also troubled by the police-involved shootings, adding : "People that choke, people that do that, maybe they can't be doing what they're doing." Earlier this week, Tulsa officer Betty Shelby, 42, shot and killed Terrence Crutcher, who was unarmed. Last week Trump got the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest police union. Trump, joined by running mate Mike Pence at the Cleveland event, has routinely praised police officers in his speeches to supporters. But after reading from notes about the role of the black church in the civil rights movement and vowing to help struggling black Americans, Trump questioned the Tulsa officer's reaction in shooting Crutcher, who was unarmed. Hillary Clinton has made stopping gun violence and police brutality a central part of her candidacy. She campaigns alongside a group of black women called the "Mothers of the Movement," who advocated for more accountability and transparency by law enforcement. The group includes the mothers of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, black victims of high-profile killings. Addressing the North Carolina and Oklahoma shootings on Twitter on Wednesday, Clinton wrote, "Keith Lamont Scott. Terence Crutcher. Too many others. This has got to end. - H" ~~~~~~ But, while Attorney General Loretta Lynch has called for calm moving frozard, we have yet to hear anything from President Obama about the rioting in Charlotte. In the same vein, we have also heard nothing from Obama about the suspected use of chemical weapons by ISIS in an attack against US troops near Mosul in Iraq. ISIS fighters are believed to have attacked US and Iraqi forces with a "crude" chemical weapon, which some have labeled mustard gas, on Tuesday evening, a US official told Fox News. The U.S base outside Qayyarah, 25 miles south of Mosul, was struck by a rocket and traces of a "mustard agent" were believed to be present, the official said. The attack, first reported by CNN, was described by a Pentagon official, who told reporters that a “tar-like black oily substance” was found on the shell that landed within the base hundreds of yards from US forces. An initial test for the agent was positive, but “could be false," the official said. The second test was negative, possibly because the shell had been exposed to the elements. The shell and its residue are being sent to Ft. Detrick, Maryland, for processing to confirm the presence of a chemical agent. Unlike mustard gas, which can spread, mustard agent leaves an oily residue behind. The official said the security posture at the base had not changed. No one was injured in the attack and there were “no signs of exposure” shown by any US troops, including the two soldiers who inspected the shell. Two to four soldiers who were near the shell received full decontamination treatment. The official said : “Unless you are right next to [the shell], exposure is unlikely." US troops at the base are equipped with chemical weapons exposure suits. Tuesday's assault is thought to be the first chemical attack on US forces in Iraq since they returned in 2014. Nearly 5,000 US troops are currently on the ground in Iraq and "hundreds" of them are located at the Qayyarah base, the official said. National Review noted that none of the network evening news broadcasts mentioned the mustard-gas attack : "You have to go over to the U.K. Daily Telegraph to get a sense of ISIS’s chemical-weapons capabilities and the worst-case scenario. While it is the first chemical attack against US troops, there have been 20 documented cases of chemical weapons being used against the Kurdish Peshmerga army, which has been moving in on the city from the east for the last few months." Hamish de Bretton Gordon, former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment (CBRN), who has been advising and training the Peshmerga in Kurdistan, said troops should be prepared for bigger and more lethal chemical attacks. He told the Telegraph that Peshmerga commanders have intelligence that ISIS has rigged with explosives a chemical plant 25 miles south of Mosul and six miles north of Qayyarah. An explosion at Misraq, which holds thousands of tons sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide, could be catastrophic. De Bretton Gordon’s downwind predictions of 6-10 miles would mean Iraqi and any supporting US forces would be at risk. It should be major news that ISIS controls a chemical plant that produces sulfur, but apparently the mainstream media in the US is not alarmed. ~~~~~~ And, dear readers, London's newly elected Moslem mayor doesn't seem to be alarmed either. London Mayor Sadiq Khan dismissed the bomb blasts in New York and New Jersey as part of living in the world today. He told the UK Evening Standard in New York City on Sunday : "It's part and parcel of living in a great global city. You've gotta be prepared for these things. You've gotta be vigilant. You've gotta support the police, doing an incredibly hard job. You've gotta support the security services. It is a reality I'm afraid that London, New York, other major cities around the world have got to be prepared for these sorts of things." Perhaps President Obama is working on a version of Mayor Khan's statement that will include not only terror attacks in large cities but also lawless rioting and the use of chemical weapons on any side of the non-existent red line drawn by Obama when Syria used, and reportedly continues to use, chlorine gas against its civilians. But, I suspect Mayor Khan will change his tune if George Soros sends Black Lives Matter hooligans into London to trash and pillage shops and hotels there after a minority neighborhood-police dispute erupts into protests. These BLM hoodlums have hijacked the efforts of reasonable US protesters who want to stop police shootings of black men. Thursday, the largest French radio network reported that 186 people have been killed by US police so far in 2016 and that 25% of them were black, twice the ratio of the 12% of Americans who are black. There is much to be said for Michael Bloomberg's position that "95% of your murders, and murderers, and murder victims fit one M.O. They are male, minorities, 15 to 25. That’s true in New York, it’s true in virtually every city in America..." But, there is also something to be said for lowering the tone, finding leaders who want to make it easier for black communities and their police live together peacefully, and reducing police shooting deaths overall. Stop-and-frisk helped. So do neighborhood walking police patrols. And, perhaps we ought to be looking at the backgrounds of younger American police officers. Are they often veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan deployments? Have they been trained to view people on the street as likely terrorists or, at the least, enemies? Has any effort been made to study this aspect of policing in America today? Instead of immediately attacking police as the problem, is anyone trying to understand whereAmerica's police come from, and what life experience baggage they bring with them. AND does anyone consider what being on the street in hostile neighborhoods where some people are shouting "The only good cop is a dead cop" does to their nerves and resolve? We should consider the police in the current crisis -- all of us -- starting at the top with President Obama, who likes to blame the police for every bad thing that happens when police and hostile citizens interact in inflammatory situations. Every problem has a solution if leaders and citizens have the courage to talk through it.