Sunday, July 31, 2011

'Dealer Folds At 17!' - The Tentative Debt Deal Explained

A tentative deal on the debt ceiling and the deficit appears to be in the making as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell bypassed Majority Leader Harry Reid and went directly to the White House late yesterday.

McConnell shrewdly realized that the president's main priority right now is his re-election and that everything else is negotiable. So the new, tentative plan extends the debt ceiling beyond the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

The president gave up the notion of those huge tax increases - pardon me, 'new revenues'- that he was so in love with before, undoubtedly figuring that he can slap the electorate with them after he safely slithers back into the White House.He's already admitted as much openly.

It also includes a vote on a balanced budget amendment, which was meaningless concession for the president since he knows most of the Democrats in the Senate won't vote for it.

The deal, negotiated late Saturday night, raises the nation's debt limit would rise in two steps by about $2.4 trillion and spending would be cut by a slightly larger amount. The first stage — about $1 trillion — would take place immediately and the second later in the year.

Ah, but the devil's in the details. Automatic triggers for that second tranche is a large part of what's at issue. So far, that's all to be decided later this year by a joint congressional committee, 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats. And since they probably won't agree, the second set of cuts is likely to be held up indefinitely, since President Obama and the Democrats just got a new, higher limit on their credit card.There are, after all, the people who sat there for two years with clear majorities in both Houses of Congress and didn't bother to pass a budget,something unique in the history of our republic.And the president didn't bother them in the least about it.

Right now, here's what at issue on the triggers, according to Jennifer Rubin at the WAPO.

If a new congressional commission introduces a plan totaling at least $1.5 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving and it’s passed by Christmas there are no across-the-board cuts. Or, if a balanced budget amendment is passed and sent to the states, then across-the-board cuts are avoided. However, if there is no commission package passed AND the balanced budget amendment is not passed and sent to the states, then across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion including Medicare and defense (the details of which aren’t final) go into effect. If the across-the board-cuts go into effect, the debt ceiling is only raised $1.2 trillion (likely insufficient to keep the government operating for long), meaning “we could do this all over again, depending on economic growth.” In other words, if we went to sequestration the total debt-ceiling increase would be $2.1 trillion in two doses.

Let's translate some of this. The new congressional committee isn't likely to come up with much of a plan as I mentioned and the Balanced Budget Amendment is dead in the water because of the Senate Democrats, so across the board cuts are almost a certainty. The Democrats will want the cuts to come from defense and from things like restructuring the tax code to generate those 'new revenues' and to hit the oil companies and other businesses harder that actually generate revenue and create jobs. The Republicans are going to want to cut government spending,things like ObamaCare, the salaries and departmental budgets for the president's czars, tax breaks that favor the president's union allies and certain elements of foreign aid.

There's also what I'll call the Obama factor, the president operating in bad faith and simply ignoring any part of the deal he doesn't feel like going along with by using a signing statement. That's happened before.

Without iron clad triggers and agreements beforehand on where the cuts will be this is all a temporary fix, and as Moody's said, it doesn't necessarily protect America's AAA credit rating anyway.

It remains be seen whether these pesky details are going to be worked out or if they're simply going to be glossed over in the frenzy to cut a deal.

The bottom line is this - the Republicans have demonstrated that they will do almost anything to avoid shutting down the government. The Democrats have no such scruples, and they have the advantage because they're willing to do something which the Republicans won't.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Marco Rubio In Action

Pointing out some simple truths about the debt ceiling debate and the situation we now find ourselves in, and putting a certain senator from Massachusetts in his place.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Reid Tables Boehner Bill In Senate, Refuses To Allow Vote On His Bill

Well, that didn't take long.

By a 59-41 vote, Democrat Senate Majority leader Harry Reid tabled the Boehner bill without allowing it an up or down vote and without any debate, At the same time, he filed cloture (which requires a 2 day waiting period before a vote) on his bill. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell then offered to waive the waiting period but Reid refused. I guess as far as Reid is concerned, we're really not in such an emergency situation, where every minute counts. At least when it suits him.

McConnell showed a bit of spine by saying that he was not going to huddle with Harry Reid and negotiate a new bill. The House is going to introduce and hold a vote on the Reid bill tomorrow. It hasn't been voted on in the Senate but they have the text so the GOP is just going to introduce it themselves and kill it.

Needless to say, Harry Reid Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer are holding a press conference and whining about how the GOP filibustered their bill and how McConnell won't negotiate with them, and are blaming the Republicans for 'ruining the economy'.

Reid said of his own plan,“right now this is the only compromise there is. Obviously — obviously — what’s being done in the House is not a compromise.” He assailed Boehner’s new plan as the result of “non-transparent dealings” behind closed doors involving only Republicans. Funny, Senator Reid liked that sort of thing just fine when it came to the 'Stimulus' and ObamaCare and the Republicans were literally locked out of the room. Harry Reid has no shame whatsoever.
Reid said the Democrats are "drawing a line in the sand" and that there will be no trigger (i.e. 2nd vote) for more cuts without more taxes.

Reid just said Republicans should "move toward them" or vote for his bill. As far as Reid and the Democrats are concerned, it's their way or nothing.

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Boehner Bill Passes, 218-188

Speaker John Boehner's budget bill passed the House by a 218-188 vote. There were 22 Republicans who voted against it.Not a single Democrat voted for the measure.

It's fairly watered down, calling for the cutting og $917 billion in government spending over ten years and would require the passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before raising the debt ceiling for a second time in February, 2012. The Boehner Bill is dead on arrival in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to kill it.

Reid will likely advance his own bill now in the Senate, which is frankly ridiculous. The two sides are only $8 billion apart once you ignore Reid’s phony war “savings.”

And that's not the worst of it. According to the House version, HR 2693, it raises the debt ceiling to from $14.3 trillion $16.99 Trillion, has a slew of new taxes in it - oh, pardon me, 'revenue increases' - and defers almost everything to another debt committee further on down the road. In other words, just a sham raise taxes and kick the can down the road to get Obama and the Democrats through the 2012 elections.

Amazingly, there may be some Republicans thinking about voting for it:

Right now, Democrats are looking to about 11 gettable GOP votes: Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Corker (R-TN), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Scott Brown (R-MA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Tom Coburn (R-OK). The last three were the Republican members of the Gang of Six deficit reduction group.

Remember this is George Soros' bought and paid for shills at Talking Points Memo, so some of these senators may not be 'gettable'. But there's no doubt some of them are.

The sad thing here is that Boehner's plan is fairly watered down and even that might be too strong for the Democrat/cooperative Republican Senators from the Northeast. If they vote with Reid, it's a major diss to Speaker Boehner after the hoops he jumped through to get even this weak measure passed.

My sources tell me that the Senate will likely kill Boehner's bill out of hand first and then Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will huddle together for a 'compromise bill' to be voted on over the weekend. Shudder.

Rep. Jeff Flake, by the way, has an interesting idea to get the Balanced Budget Amendment on the agenda even if Reid blocks it

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Libya Gets More Complicated As Rebels Begin Fighting Among Themselves

Libyan rebel leader Abdel Fattah Younes, a defector from Khaddaffi's inner circle was assassinated by members of an allied militia today. Younes was Khaddaffi's former Interior Minister but defected to become the military chief in the rebel Transitional National Council.

Rebel minister Ali Tarhouni told reporters in Benghazi that a militia leader who had gone to fetch Younes from the front line had been arrested and had confessed that his men had carried out the killing, while another unnamed rebel commander said Islamists may have been to blame.

The war itself is pretty much stalemated, and not likely to end anytime soon, especially with the rebels fighting among themselves.

The United States, which has formally recognized the Transitional National Council, said Younes's death was a blow but called for solidarity among the rebels.

"What's important is that they work both diligently and transparently to ensure the unity of the Libyan opposition," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington.

Yes, that's the sort of messy,ongoing situation we're involved with.At a cost of millions per day.

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The Latest Latma! SOTA Israeli Satire

The wacky crew at LATMA and their newest effort...I especially like the joke about the $2 million that fell into the hands of the Taliban, the meme about Israel apologizing to the world for existing and the deeply ironic comment about how the Left 'really cares about people.'

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David Gerstman's Mideast Media Sampler 07/29/11‏

My old former blogging pal David Gerstman gives us a daily sampler of noteworthy pieces and worthy reads on the Middle East out today:

1) Pariah

Elder of Ziyon writes about his Twitter exchange with Jeffrey Goldberg. He concludes:

That thread is continuing as I write this, but it is not an avenue that I think is too fruitful. The fear of Israel becoming a pariah state is an important topic, though, and one that I would like to treat fairly - which means, not on Twitter.

As soon as I find the time.

When I read the exchange - and before I reached Elder's conclusion - I was bothered by Goldberg's use of the term "pariah."

It seems to be a self-fulfilling judgment. Israel is doing something I disagree with therefore it will become a pariah.

What's going on?

Normally if we were asked what we thought of throwing a bomb into a crowd or building a house we would choose the latter as being something productive if not admirable.

But if you change the terms and say the house is being built in Shiloh then some people empathize with or rationalize the bomb attack and condemn the house building.

Worse, many of those who condemn the house building in Shiloh not only condemn in on its own terms but say that it threatens Israel's legitimacy. On the other side the terrorism is treated as a reaction to injustice.

But consider the recently revealed fact that the Palestinian Authority - run by the "moderate" Fatah - still pays salaries to imprisoned terrorists. Here's the rationale:

"Anyone imprisoned in the occupation's [Israel's] prisons as a result of his participation in the struggle against the occupation."

It reminded me of the statement made by Ahlam Tamimi, as quoted by Arnold and Frimet Roth. Tamimi is serving a 16 life sentences for her role in bringing about the Sbarro's terror attack ten years ago - killing the Roth's daughter Mali and 14 others.

"I'm not sorry for what I did. We'll become free from the occupation and then I will be free from prison."

Tamimi's response is eerily similar to the law, which rewards her act and makes it acceptable if not praiseworthy. And yet the society that rewards terror, for some reason, few suggest that the pervasive attitude of the Palestinian Authority makes it a pariah. But building the house, a morally neutral act, is the focus of Goldberg and people who think like him.This is one aspect of how the fear of Israel becoming a pariah warps a moral argument.

2) Protests continue in Jordan

Babylon and Beyond has a report on the democracy movement in Jordan, Pro-democracy demonstrators show little sign of letup:

After six months of Egypt- and Tunisia-inspired protests, Jordanian pro-democracy demonstrators calling for reforms and a wider public say in politics remain persistent and show little sign of ceding their demands. Though demonstrations in Jordan have failed to generate the large numbers seen in other Arab countries such as Egypt and Yemen, hundreds and perhaps thousands continue to take to the streets of the Jordanian capital, Amman, in weekly anti-government rallies after Friday prayers to demand reforms.
"It is a consistent peaceful protest that is very stubborn," 29-year old Khaled Kamhawi, a member of the activist group March 24 Youth Movement, told Babylon and Beyond. "There is no compromise. Jordan is a small country suffering from big problems -- all due to political, administrative and financial fraud. The status quo is unsustainable."

Perhaps because rights are not curtailed in Jordan to the degree they are curtailed in other Arab countries, these protests don't get much attention.

Still even if there are those who are pushing for greater democracy there's still an area where Jordan hasn't shown much progress.

Elder of Ziyon notes that the Jordan's Journalist Union objects to normalization with Israel.

I'll know that there's a real Arab spring, when the pervasive hatred of Israel is absent from political discourse in the Arab world.

3) I'm waiting for Ban Ki Moon's condemnation

Earlier this week six french UNIFIL soldiers were injured by a roadside bomb.

Israeli sources speculated.

The bombing of a UNIFIL convoy in southern Lebanon on Tuesday night was likely aimed at sending a message to the peacekeeping force to scale back its operations against Hezbollah, Israeli defense officials said on Wednesday.
UNIFIL’s mandate is up for renewal in mid-August and the attack is understood in Israel as a sign of Hezbollah concern that the force is looking to bolster its rules of engagement.
Israel has been lobbying diplomats from countries which contribute to UNIFIL – particularly Spain, Italy and France – to get the UN to issue new rules of engagement for the peacekeeping force that will enable it to search Lebanese villages without prior coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

I guess you could say that Hezbollah has chosen to emulate OJ Simpson:

Hezbollah and Amal Movement condemned Thursday the bomb attack that left six French U.N. peacekeepers wounded and urged the government to find and punish the perpetrators. “Hezbollah and Amal condemn this criminal act … and call for an urgent investigation into the incident and efforts to find the perpetrators and punish them," said a joint statement issued by Hezbollah and Amal at the end of a coordination meeting in the southern port city of Tyre.

Will the UN condemn Hezbollah for violating UN Resolution 425? or 1701?

I won't hold my breath.

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The New Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Dominates New Protests In Tahrir Square

It's Friday, the traditional Day of Rage in the Muslim world, after the imams finish ginning up the crowd with their sermons. In Egypt, it's particularly intense as the military junta hasn't been able to fix Egypt's essential problem, which is how to deal with a population of 80 million that it's unable to feed or find jobs for.

Tensions between sections of the Egyptian populace and the junta have been rising for awhile now,but what's different about today's protest is that they've been largely taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Reuters article at the link is ridiculously politically correct ( 'the Brotherhood, which takes a conservative but not strict Salafi approach to Islam' - as if the Brotherhood is not the primary Salafist organization!) but if you read between the lines, you can see that the Muslim Brotherhood is finally beginning to make its move.

The banner above is an Islamist version of the Egytain flag and has the shehada, the Islamic profession of faith: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet" written on it.

As Mideast expert Martin Kramer reports, via Marc Lynch: "Most popular chants at Tahrir: demanding sharia, free Omar Abd al Rahman [first WTC bombing plotter], hang Mubarak, Muslim-Christian unity, reject US aid, anti-Israel," and "Huge chant goes up. The people want to implement sharia." Other news sources (and a friend on the ground) also heard: "Ya Obama ya Obama, we're all Osama."

I predicted this a long time ago. Thanks in part to President Obama's active role in the promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood and the fall of the Mubarak regime, Egypt will very likely be the next Iran. That means the ending of the Camp David Accords with Israel, the remilitarization of the Sinai and a decent chance of another war between the two countries.

And yet, believe it or not, the president still wants to sell Egypt millions of dollars worth of advanced US weaponry, and help them build facilities to build it in Egypt. On the other hand, given the president's hostility towards Israel, it's not so surprising at all.

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Obama's Latest Gallup - 40%!

Yes, I do believe the fiction is starting to crack.

47% for a generic GOP candidate versus 39% for President Obama.

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Turkey's Military Leaders Resign En Masse In Disagreement With Erdogan Government

Turkey's army chief-of-staff and the entire military command have resigned in a major disagreement with the Erdogan government.

General Isik Kosaner stepped down after several meetings in recent days with Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along the commanders of the army, air force and navy. This is unprecedented in Turkey.

Officially, the disagreement was over the promotion of 42 high ranking active duty officers the AKP is holding on trumped up charges of trying to overthrow Erdogan's AKP government.

Back in February of this year, Erdogan's government held what amounted to show trials of high ranking military officers and political opponents on charges that they attempted to overthrow Erdogan's Islamist government in 2003. In what amounted to a purge of the largely secular military, 133 current and former Turkish military officers were arrested and jailed without bail, and the government issued warrants for the immediate arrests of 29 other officers.

More than 400 people - including academics, journalists, politicians and soldiers - are on trial on separate charges of plotting to bring down the government. That case is based on a conspiracy by an alleged gang of secular nationalists called "Ergenekon."

General Kosaner and the other military leaders insisted that the jailed officers receive their normal promotions, since they haven't been tried or convicted of anything yet. The Erdogan government insisted that they be forced to retire.

Another point of conflict had to do with military officers to Erdogan government wanted promoted to higher rank during next week's military council meeting. As you canimagine, the officers in question were politically connected and hand picked by the AKP.

This is a much bigger deal than it appears. Turkey's entire military leadership resigning en masse is a direct challenge to Erdogan, and it will end one of two ways. Either the military will become much more Islamist and compliant or the military is getting ready to assume it's constitutional role of safeguarding Turkey's secular democracy...which means a coup could be in the making.

(more discussion by the always knowledgeable Commander Dyer at the Optimistic Conservative here.)

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The Council Has Spoken!! This Week's Watcher's Council Results

The Council has spoken, the votes have been cast, and the results are in for this week, carved eternally in the hewn stone halls of our hidden fortress.

This week we ended up with tie between Joshuapundit's piece, Norwegian Ambassador : The Oslo Attacks And Palestinian Terrorism Are 'Different' , an examination of a particularly ugly and inhumane bit of Leftist hypocrisy and a few facts about the Oslo attacks that you might not know about and Syria Soft! , by GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD, an excellent examination of the situation there in her own sparkling one-of-a-kind style.

In accordance with our bylaws any ties between my fellow Council members and I are always resolved in favor of the former, and especially given that it's this good I'm more than happy in this case to put on my Watcher's hat and name GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD as this week's winner for Syria Soft! Here's a slice:

Swinging faster from the chandeliers than bi polar BFF's with drama, metric tonnes of issues, probs (many of their own design) complete with a posse of puppy like consorts in hot pursuit at ladies night at the club (oh snap!) - the crazy looking Syrian Policy could be best described as discombobulated.

"...Courtney, American policy toward Syria is increasingly inconsistent and unintelligible. It's a terrible indictment of 44's FoPo team that it cannot get its act together after 30 months in power. This Administration’s Syria policy has now moved from “improvisation” to incoherence."

Consider - Great Satan's official rep to the illegit murderous regime in Basharopolis. Amb Ford recently dissed the highest Allawicious levels of Syria's facebook fearing 'gov' by treking to Hama to visit rowdy unarmed protestors in the same rowdy burg Poppa al Assad blitzed unto nigh oblivion way back in the last millennium.

Magically considered defensively despotic provocative proof positive that foreign peace mongers were attempting to trash the civie killing gankstas - thus changing the nature of the regime by changing the regime itself (the old tricks are the best tricks, eh)!

Madame Sec HRC responds to the nearly 2 metre tall (Wookie sized) Dr General President For Life and his fashionista high maintanance 1st Lady - not by getting mean and scary or doubling down on the legitimate use of the "L" word - but by getting all suddenly Syria Soft.

Our non-Council category ended up in a tie as well between ZenPundit's Guest Post: John R Hall: “Norway’s cultural Christian apocalyptic crusader?”, a sort of psychograph of Anders Breivik, the Oslo killer and Victor Davis Hanson's The Great Madness of 2004-10 a masterful examination of how the American electorate or at least a significant portion of it went nuts and made choices that were ill advised, to say the least.

Both posts were very well written, but I ultimately opted for the strong ideas expressed in VDH's The Great Madness of 2004-10.

Here are this week’s full results. Snapped Shut and The Colossus of Rhodey were unable to vote this week, but neither was affected by the mandatory 2/3 vote penalty:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

See you next week! Le Bon Weekend.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sarah Palin Weighs In, With A Message to The Republicans In Congress

I'm simply going to reprint this, just as she wrote it on her Facebook page. I forwarded this to my Congressman and I recommend you do the same:

Congressional Freshmen – For Such A Time As This

by Sarah Palin on Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 1:03pm

Out here in proverbial politico flyover country, we little folk are watching the debt ceiling debate with great interest and concern. Today I re-read the open letter I wrote to Republican Freshman Members of Congress in November 2010, just days after they were ushered into office in an historic landslide victory due in large part to the activism of commonsense patriots who are considered part of the Tea Party movement. I respectfully ask these GOP Freshman to re-read this letter and remember us “little people” who believed in them, donated to their campaigns, spent hours tirelessly volunteering for them, and trusted them with our votes. This new wave of public servants may recall that they were sent to D.C. for such a time as this.

The original letter is pasted below, with added emphasis to certain passages that I feel are especially relevant to the current discussion.

All my best to you, GOP Freshmen, from up here in the Last Frontier.


Sarah Palin

P.S. Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries.


November 13, 2010

Welcome to all Republican Freshmen and congratulations!

Congratulations to all of you for your contribution to this historic election, and for the contributions I am certain you will make to our country in the next two years. Your victory was hard fought, and the success belongs entirely to you and the staff and volunteers who spent countless hours working for this chance to put government back on the side of the people. Now you will come to Washington to serve your nation and leave your mark on history by reining in government spending, preserving our freedoms at home, and restoring America’s leadership abroad. Some of you have asked for my thoughts on how best to proceed in the weeks and months ahead and how best to advance an agenda that can move our country forward. I have a simple answer: stick to the principles that propelled your campaigns. When you take your oath to support and defend our Constitution and to faithfully discharge the duties of your office, remember that present and future generations of “We the People” are counting on you to stand by that oath. Never forget the people who sent you to Washington. Never forget the trust they placed in you to do the right thing.

The task before you is daunting because so much damage has been done in the last two years, but I believe you have the chance to achieve great things.

Republicans campaigned on a promise to rein in out-of-control government spending and to repeal and replace the massive, burdensome, and unwanted health care law President Obama and the Democrat Congress passed earlier this year in defiance of the will of the majority of the American people. These are promises that you must keep. Obamacare is a job-killer, a regulatory nightmare, and an enormous unfunded mandate. The American people don’t want it and we can’t afford it. We ask, with all due respect, that you remember your job will be to work to replace this legislation with real reform that relies on free market principles and patient-centered policies. The first step is, of course, to defund Obamacare.

You’ve also got to be deadly serious about cutting the deficit. Despite what some would like us to believe, tax cuts didn’t get us into the mess we’re in. Government spending did. Tough decisions need to be made about reducing government spending. The longer we put them off, the worse it will get. We need to start by cutting non-essential spending. That includes stopping earmarks (because abuse of the earmark process created the “gateway-drug” that allowed backroom deals and bloated budgets), canceling all further spending on the failed Stimulus program, and rolling back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels. You can do more, but this would be a good start.

In order to avert a fiscal disaster, we will also need to check the growth of spending on our entitlement programs. That will be a huge challenge, but it must be confronted head on. We must do it in a humane way that honors the government’s current commitments to our fellow Americans while also keeping faith with future generations. We cannot rob from our children and grandchildren’s tomorrow to pay for our unchecked spending today. Beyond that, we need to reform the way Congress conducts business in order to make it procedurally easier to cut spending than to increase it. We need to encourage zero-based budgeting practices in D.C. like the kind fiscally conservative mayors and governors utilize to balance their budgets and reduce unnecessary spending.

There in the insulated and isolated Beltway you will be far removed from the economic pain felt by so many Americans who are out of work. Please remember that if we want real job growth, we must create a stable investment climate by ending the tidal wave of overly burdensome regulations coming out of Washington. Businesses need certainty – and freedom that incentivizes competition – to grow and expand our workforce.

The last thing our small businesses need is tax hikes. It falls to the current Democrat-controlled Congress to decide on the future of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. If it does not permanently renew all of them, you should move quickly to do so in the new Congress. It would remove from households and businesses the threat of a possible $3.8 trillion tax hike hitting all Americans at the worst possible moment, with our economy struggling to recover from a deep recession! You must continue to remind Democrats that the people they are dismissing as “rich” are the small business owners who create up to 70% of all jobs in this country!

Another issue of vital importance is border security. Americans expect our leadership in Washington to act now to secure our borders. Don’t fall for the claims of those who suggest that we can’t secure our borders until we simultaneously deal with the illegal immigrants already here. Let’s deal with securing the border first. That alone is a huge challenge that has been ignored for far too long.

On foreign policy and national security, I urge you to stick to our principles: strong defense, free trade, nurturing allies, and steadfast opposition to America’s enemies. We are the most powerful country on earth and the world is better off because of it. Our president does not seem to understand this. If we withdraw from the world, the world will become a much more dangerous place. You must push President Obama to finish the job right in Iraq and get the job done in Afghanistan, otherwise we who are war-weary will forever question why America’s finest are sent overseas to make the ultimate sacrifice with no clear commitment to victory from those who send them. You should be prepared to stand with the President against Iran’s nuclear aspirations using whatever means necessary to ensure the mullahs in Tehran do not get their hands on nuclear weapons. And you can stand with the Iranian people who oppose the tyrannical rule of the clerics and concretely support their efforts to win their freedom – even if the President does not.

You need to say no to cutting the necessities in our defense budget when we are engaged in two wars and face so many threats – from Islamic extremists to a nuclear Iran to a rising China. As Ronald Reagan said, “We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.” You will also have the opportunity to push job-creating free trade agreements with allies like Colombia and South Korea. You can stand with allies like Israel, not criticize them. You can let the President know what you believe – Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, not a settlement. And for those of you joining the United States Senate, don’t listen to desperate politically-motivated arguments about the need for hasty consideration of the “New START” treaty. Insist on your right to patient and careful deliberation of New START to address very real concerns about verification, missile defense, and modernization of our nuclear infrastructure. No New START in the lame duck!

You can stand against misguided proposals to try dangerous, evil terrorists in the US; precipitously close the Guantanamo prison; and a return to the failed policies of the past in treating the war on terror as a law enforcement problem. Finally, you have a platform to express the support of the American people for all those around the world seeking their freedom that God has bestowed within all mankind’s being – from Burma and Egypt to Russia and Venezuela – because the spread of liberty increases our own security. You, freshmen lawmakers, can and will be powerful voices in support of foreign policies that protect our interests and promote our values! Thank you for being willing to fight for our values and our freedom!

In all this, you should extend a hand to President Obama and Democrats in Congress. After this election, they may finally be prepared to work with Republicans on some of these issues for the good of the country. And if not, we will all be looking forward to 2012.

Remember that some in the media will love you when you stray from the time-tested truths that built America into the most exceptional nation on earth. When the Left in the media pat you on the back, quickly reassess where you are and readjust, for the liberals’ praise is a warning bell you must heed. Trust me on that.

I and most Americans are so excited for you. Working together, we have every right to be optimistic about our future. We can be hopeful because real hope lies in the ingenuity, generosity, and boundless courage of the everyday Americans who make our country exceptional. These are the men and women who sent you to Washington. May your work and leadership honor their faith in you.

With sincere congratulations and a big Alaskan heart,

Sarah Palin

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Why The Boehner Bill Should Die - And Quickly

I had a piece I've been toying with about why the Boehner bill ought to deep sixed, and I get about half way done with it when I found out that Rush beat me to it, and quite eloquently.

To summarize, (a) it's obvious that Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid has no plan, as I pointed out yesterday. (b) The president is absolutely clueless and disengaged and (c) the Democrats want a default for political reasons and will use it to avoid paying our military or issuing social security checks to bash the Republicans unless they get the massive tax increases they want.

What El Rushbo did was to take it a step further, as he often does. Since the Democrats have no plan, what Reid will do is take Boehner's plan once the House votes on it, gut it and tweak it get what they want, pass it in the Democrat majority Senate and then claim the GOP are 'obstructionist' if they fail to go along. The Boehner Bill, highly edited and warped, will become the Reid bill!

Simply brilliant, in all it's perfidy.

Rush Limbaugh has a long transcript up on this, which is a must-read. On th eplus side, I know Boehner checks in with Limbaugh and so do some other members of the GOP, so hopefully they'll just let the Boehner bill die. Voting has already been postponed again on it.

Boehner should simply declare Cut, Cap and Balance was best House offer, and that it's now up to President Obama to submit HIS plan for a vote. Call their bluff.

It would be nice if we were dealing with people who would put the country's welfare ahead of their political agenda and lust for power. We're not.

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New Attack On Ft. Hood Thwarted - And Yes, It's Radicalized Muslim Soldiers Again

Another jihadi attack on our troops at Ft. Hood, Texas was averted as authorities arrested three soldiers in connection with a plot to attack the same military facility where 14 Americans were murdered by Major Nidal Hasan.

An AWOL serviceman, identified by the FBI as a Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo, was arrested Wednesday after making a purchase at Guns Galore in Killeen, Texas, the same ammunition store Major Hasan used. Like Hasan, Abdo is a Muslim who identifies himself as a 'Palestinian.'

Abdo was found with weapons, explosives and jihadi materials when he was arrested after a gun store employee called authorities to report a suspicious individual. Abdo had enough materials to make two bombs, including 18 pounds of sugar and six pounds of smokeless gunpowder which can be used as a trigger for explosives.

Abdo has already confessed that he wanted to "get even" and was targeting Ft. Hood because of the previous attack there allegedly carried out by Hasan. His target wasn't the base itself, but planned to detonate two bombs at a nearby restaurant popular with Ft. Hood troops and then use a pistol to murder survivors.

Two other soldiers were arrested in connection with the plot and at least one of them was Muslim too, Zachary Kalawaan. From Abdo's Facebook page:

The other unnamed soldier is likely the second Muslim soldier mentioned in the Facebook entry as 'claiming discrimination.'

Abdo made headlines originally by claiming conscientious objector status because of his Muslim faith.

In 2010 he told ABC News he was Muslim and should not have to participate in what he called an "unjust war" in the Middle East. "Any Muslim who knows his religion or maybe takes into account what his religion says can find out very clearly why he should not participate in the U.S. military," Abdo said.

Abdo's application for CO status came only after he was notified he would be deployed to Afghanistan,but it was approved by the Secretary of the Army.

Abdo's discharge was put on hold after he was charged with having child pornography on his computer, something that came up after investigators began looking at Abdo's computer files due to "radical statements" he made after filing for discharge, which is when the child porn was discovered. Apparently his Muslim beliefs, whatever they were, didn't preclude him flogging his lizard to images of children being victimized.

Abdo then went AWOL during the July 4th weekend,but apparently stayed in contact with some of his fellow soldiers with similar beliefs.

This plot was very close to being executed, and it's only thanks to the alert behavior of a gun store employee that we're not going to be reading about another tragic Ft. Hood attack in a few days' time.

I should make something clear here. In spite of the violent attacks perpetrated by some Muslims in the military, there are Muslims who have served and continue to serve with honor and distinction. However, because of creatures like Abdo and Hasan, the military needs to subject recruits who profess Islam to much closer scrutiny, including a background check on where they get their religious and spiritual mentoring. As I've pointed out before, there's always a radical, Muslim Brotherhood oriented imam in a Saudi-funded mosque somewhere in the mix.

I'd also say that in my opinion, anyone who self-identifies as 'Palestinian' ought to be a major red flag when it comes to military training. The reasons are so obvious I won't even go into them.

More on this as it comes in.

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Obama's Chances For Re-Election Looking Dimmer Every Day - The Numbers

I'm not exactly breaking out the Veuve Cliquot yet, but there are a number of indications that President Obama may go back to playing golf full time and sniping at his country as an ex-president sooner than he expects.

First, as Josh Kraushaar at the National Journal points out, the president's poll numbers in the key battleground states aren't just bad, they're abysmal:

The race for president isn’t a national contest. It’s a state-by-state battle to cobble an electoral vote majority. So while the national polls are useful in gauging the president’s popularity, the more instructive numbers are those from the battlegrounds.

Take Ohio, a perennial battleground in which Obama has campaigned more than in any other state (outside of the D.C. metropolitan region). Fifty percent of Ohio voters now disapprove of his job performance, compared with 46 percent who approve, according to a Quinnipiac poll conducted from July 12-18.

Among Buckeye State independents, only 40 percent believe that Obama should be reelected, and 42 percent approve of his job performance. Against Romney, Obama leads 45 percent to 41 percent—well below the 50 percent comfort zone for an incumbent.

The news gets worse from there. In Michigan, a reliably Democratic state that Obama carried with 57 percent of the vote, an EPIC-MRA poll conducted July 9-11 finds him trailing Romney, 46 percent to 42 percent. Only 39 percent of respondents grade his job performance as “excellent” or good,” with 60 percent saying it is “fair” or “poor.” The state has an unemployment rate well above the national average, and the president’s approval has suffered as a result.

In Iowa, where Republican presidential contenders are getting in their early licks against the president, his approval has taken a hit. In a Mason-Dixon poll conducted for a liberal-leaning group, Romney held a lead of 42 percent to 39 percent over the president, with 19 percent undecided. Even hyper-conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann ran competitively against Obama in the Hawkeye State, trailing 47 percent to 42 percent.

The July Granite State Poll pegs the president’s approval at 46 percent among New Hampshire voters, with 49 percent disapproving. A separate robo-poll conducted this month by Democratic-aligned Public Policy Polling shows him trailing Romney in the state, 46 percent to 44 percent.

Nor is Kraushaar the only one. As the Pew Trust polls point out, President Obama's approval has cratered among people who identify themselves as independents, where elections are won or lost:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted July 20-24 among 1,501 adults and 1,205 registered voters finds that just 31% of independent voters want to see Obama reelected, down from 42% in May and 40% in March. Where Obama held a slim 7-point edge among independent registered voters two months ago, a generic Republican holds an 8-point edge today.

This is consistent with a drop in Obama’s approval among all independents. Currently, a majority (54%) disapprove of Obama’s performance for the first time in his presidency. His approval among independents has slipped to 36% from 42% last month and 49% in late May.

Finally, one of the perennially smartest-guys-in-the-room when it comes to these matters, Jay Cost, weighs the fundamentals and crunches the numbers. And they don't look good for the president:

First, a little historical background. From 1936 until about 1984, Democratic partisans vastly outnumbered Republicans in the broader electorate. This meant that GOP nominees not only had to win their base, they also had to do extremely well among independents and carry a good number of Democrats. However, with the success of the Reagan administration, the percentage of Democrats in the electorate began to decline. Today, it is only marginally higher (if at all) than GOP voters.

Thus, both parties have roughly the same two goals in a presidential election: turn out as many partisans as possible and win the independent vote.

Cost goes on to provide charts showing how President Obama's approval among independent voters has collapsed, and goes on to say:

It is worth pointing out that, in the last forty years, no president has ever been elected in a predominantly two-way race with less than 48 percent of the independent vote. (That was George W. Bush in 2004.)

Next, Cost examines the numbers on turning out Democrat partisans and provides a chart showing that in 2010 the percentage of adults calling themselves Democrats was at its lowest point in fifty years:

We can take all of the data we have reviewed so far and merge it into a very rough estimate of the president’s electoral standing. Over the last decade, Democrats have won about 90.5 percent of the Democratic vote and 7 percent of the Republican vote. Let’s assume that Obama wins the same amount. Let’s also assume that he wins a share of the independent vote equal to his approval in the Gallup poll.

That leaves one variable to account for: the percentage of Republicans, Democrats, and independents in the electorate. Let’s use three models. First, a “Very Democratic Electorate,” where partisan identification breaks down similar to 2008 (39 percent Democratic, 29 percent independent, and 32 percent GOP). Next, a “Slightly Democratic Electorate,” where partisan identification breaks down similar to 2006 and 2000 (38.5 percent Democratic, 26 percent independent, and 35.5 percent GOP). Finally, an “Even Electorate,” where partisan identification breaks down similar to 2004 and 2010 (36 percent Democratic, 28 percent independent, and 36 percent GOP).

As you can see, under anything less than a very Democratic electorate, Obama’s support among independents has been too soft to secure reelection for nearly two years. As for the more optimistic scenario for the president, even here the race has essentially been a toss-up for the last year or so. And, without a noticeable change in the trends on partisan identification, it is hard to envision such a pro-Democratic electorate emerging next year.

At this point, Obama is a prisoner to events. He needs a substantial, noticeable improvement in the economy, specifically as independent voters experience it, to have a decent shot at reelection. And beyond that, his health care bill remains extremely unpopular, and the deficit is bound to remain an issue next year. So, he has a lot of fundamental challenges. Assuming that his macro-position does not improve (and the Republicans nominate a reasonably acceptable candidate), the data at this point indicate that he would have a very difficult time winning reelection next year.

Anything can happen between now and next November. But I'm feeling cautiously optimistic that our long national nightmare might just be on the way to being over.

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Soccer Dad's Mideast Media Sampler 07/28/11‏

My old pal DG, formerly of the unfortunately deceased blog Soccer Dad gives us a daily sampler of noteworthy pieces and worthy reads on the Middle East out today:

1) About that compassionate release

I could find no editorial in the New York Times from the time that Megrahi was released, however it ran two op-eds, both favoring his release, one by Garrison Keillor:

Standing in stark contrast was the simple humane decision of the Scottish government to release the Libyan Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi from prison on compassionate grounds, a man near death from prostate cancer, who was convicted in 2001 on the basis of thin circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a paid witness for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. A shaky conviction of a man for a crime that had to have involved many others who, it would seem, Britain and the U.S. have little interest in finding, what with Libyan oil in the balance. Mr. al-Megrahi had “patsy” written all over him. The Scots did the right thing. And caused a public uproar, and so what? Right is right.

and one by that part scholar, part monk, part model, part policy wonk, Saif Al-Islam El-Qaddafi
So, from the Libyan point of view, the reception given to Mr. Megrahi was low-key. Had it been an official welcome, there would have been tens if not hundreds of thousands of people at the airport. And the event would have been carried live on state television.
At the same time, I was extremely happy for Mr. Megrahi’s return. Convinced of his innocence, I have worked for years on his behalf, raising the issue at every meeting with British officials.

Of course the reason for releasing was that Megrahi was imminently dying. Clearly he was not.

And he's recently shown his appreciation for his release, to his boss.

Video broadcast on Libyan state television on Tuesday of a rally in support of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government appeared to show Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.
The public appearance in Libya comes nearly two years after Mr. Megrahi, who has prostate cancer, was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds and said to have just three months to live.

I especially liked the reaction of Pesach Benson.

I could say this is an example of:

There is a broader issue: A disturbing, and growing, tolerance across the West for extremists especially if they are Muslim or Arab. Inflammatory political rhetoric is increasingly tolerated. And anti-Western parties and governments are getting stronger across the Middle East.

But I wouldn't generalize like that.

2) Al Qaeda for freedom?

Ayman Al Zawahri has come down on the side of the protesters in Syria.

The Egyptian-born al-Zawahri, who long served as bin Laden’s top deputy, directly addressed the Syrian protesters who have risen up against Assad’s rule despite a bloody government crackdown. The message appeared to be an attempt to place al-Qaida firmly on the side of the anti-government demonstrators.
“You are an example, explaining lessons to your Arab and Muslim nation in sacrifice, steadfastness and the struggle against oppression,” al-Zawahri said of the protesters. “How could you not? You are the sons of the Levant, the front for jihad and martyrdom.”

Bizarrely Al Zawahri claims that Assad is on the side of the United State and Israel.

3) Look up in the sky. It's a bird. It's a plane. No it's ...

The New York Times features an article Comic-Book Heroes Help Change Image of Islam, which begins:

As provocative as Wonder Woman, but in an entirely different way, Batina the Hidden is a character in the hit comic book series “The 99” who is not only a Muslim girl from Yemen, but one whose outfit of choice when fighting evil is a burqa.

I have no idea what "provocative ... in an entirely different way" means.

There's some more background here:

The idea of cultural crossover is one that Dr. Al-Mutawa has grown up with; as a child, his Arab Muslim conservative parents sent him to a culturally Jewish summer camp in New Hampshire by mistake in 1975. He did not realize this until later, yet continued to attend for a decade. His five boys currently spend their summers there.
Eventually, he returned to Kuwait and flirted with a few business ventures before coming up with the idea to start a comic book with Islam-inspired superheroes. Within a few months, he raised $7 million from 54 investors in eight countries. Today, the project has secured more than $40 million in financing and is expanding into an animated series.
“His concept is potentially world changing,” said Elliot Polak, founder and creator of Textappeal, a British firm that provides cross-cultural marketing and advertising expertise for global companies. “Dr. Al-Mutawa is working on rebranding, not of a product or service, but the rebranding of Islam.”

Additionally, the article reports that this effort has come to an agreement with DC, which will include a crossover featuring a fully clothed Wonder Woman, among others.

The Times had previously reported on this effort in 2006.

The Washington Post reported a year earlier on a similar effort, which concludes with:

One thing distinctly missing from the AK Comics series is any direct reference to the religion of the heroes. A note in one issue explains why: "The religious backgrounds of the heroes remain undisclosed so that no religion or faith can be perceived as better than another." Yet another first in the region.

This is kind of fascinating as earlier we read:

Jalila survived an explosion at the Dimodona nuclear plant -- a barely disguised reference to Israel's Dimona nuclear research reactor, which was instrumental in developing the country's nuclear weapons. She was protected from radiation by a lead suit tailored by her father, a scientist. Nonetheless, rays penetrated and gave her elephantine strength, the speed of a gazelle and the ability to send out vibes that melt metal. She stays busy protecting the City of All Faiths (read: Jerusalem) from the warring Zios Army (the Zionists) and the United Liberation Force (the Palestine Liberation Organization). Both forces, according to a description of Jalila's activities, cling "to their extreme views, both wanting to solely control the City of All Faiths."

Well maybe no religion is perceived as better than another, but this suggests the belief that one religion is worse than others.

4) What's Bibi got to do with it?

Back in May, The Lede reported:

On Friday morning, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that is Mr. Netanyahu “is prepared for a confrontation with President Obama,” because, in the words of one of Mr. Netanyahu’s aides, “Obama apparently does not understand the reality in the Mideast.”

This being the Lede, Netanyahu's rebuke was treated to a healthy dose of (misinformed) skepticism.

As The Lede explained on Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu has for decades resisted American pressure to start negotiations based on Israel’s frontiers in 1967. In 1992, as an aide to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Mr. Netanyahu said that an Israeli state without the territory it seized in 1967 would be in such peril that it would have, “the borders of Auschwitz.”

Of course the "Auschwitz borders" commented should be attributed to Abba Eban.

But what's the reality of the Middle East?

Today the New York Times reports that the Palestinians cannot pay salaries.

More than 150,000 state employees, whose salaries support a million people, had their wages cut in half this month. Palestinian banks have lent the government more than $1 billion and do not want to lend more. Some ministries have temporarily lost electricity because they have not paid their bills. Last week, the government ordered a reduction in the price of bread, leading to bakery strikes. Garbage is piling up.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts next week; nightly family gatherings and a three-day holiday mean that spending will double. Many people already have large bank loans. September will bring bills for educational fees and school supplies; the olive harvest, when Israeli settler violence is expected to increase; and a likely diplomatic showdown at the United Nations.
“This is, without doubt, the worst financial crisis the Palestinian Authority has ever faced,” said Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, generally known for a can-do, upbeat attitude. “This could not have come at a worse time. I don’t know how this ends. I don’t have an answer.”

Remarkably the PA does have the money to pay some people: jailed terrorists. As Palestinian Media Watch documents:

"The PA's Ministry for Prisoner Affairs said that its policy had always been to pay salaries to prisoners and their families 'regardless of their political affiliations.'"

Furthermore, Palestinian moderates aren't moderates by objective standards as Barry Rubin shows (his words are regular type, Shaath's from a MEMRI interview are italicized):

Nevertheless, it is reasonable to call Shaath as moderate as anyone in the PA’s leadership, more moderate than the Fatah leadership. And what does Shaath say in an interview on July 13, 2011:
Nabil Shaath: The recognition of a [Palestinian] state…will make many things possible in the future. Eventually, we will be able to sign bilateral agreements with states, and this will enable us to exert pressure on Israel. At the end of the day, we want to exert pressure on Israel, in order to force it to recognize us and to leave our country. This is our long-term goal.”
In other words, the goal is not to come to a deal with Israel but to gain recognition from other countries which will pressure Israel and force it to give the PA what it wants. (Incidentally, this is pretty much Yasir Arafat’s strategy from 30 years ago, though he was using a higher level of violence in that process.)
But what does the phrase “leave our country” mean as a “long-term goal?” Does “leave our country” mean just the West Bank and east Jerusalem (pre-1967 borders without mutually agreed swaps) or wiping Israel off the map and replacing it with an Arab Muslim state? It’s ambiguous, isn’t it? So perhaps Shaath is a moderate (as advertised in the Western media? In this case, though, Shaath gives us an answer.
“[The recent French proposal, quite frienly to the Palestinians generally] reshaped the issue of the “Jewish state” into a formula that is also unacceptable to us-–two states for two peoples. They can describe Israel itself as a state for two peoples, but we will be a state for one people. The story of `two states for two peoples’ means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people
here. We will never accept this….We will not sacrifice the 1.5 million Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who live within the 1948 borders, and we will never agree to a clause preventing the Palestinian refugees from returning to their country.”
In other words, Shaath, one of the most important and relatively moderate Palestinian Authority leaders, is against a two-state solution. First, there will be a Palestinian state “for one people,” that is an Arab, Muslim state. But there can be no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state because that implies a permanent peace. Shaath and the Palestinian leadership almost unanimously seek a second stage in which
the “Palestinians with Israeli citizenship” plus the “returning…to their country” of Palestinian refugees will turn Israel into an Arab Muslim Palestinian part of Palestine.
This is merely a restatement of the “two-stage” solution of the PLO adopted forty years ago. No real progress in 40 years, despite all the disasters and potential lessons seen by the Palestinians! I have been very skeptical about the peace process, especially for the last 15 years, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that has so brought home to me why this is such a mirage because Shaath is so open about it and if anyone could be expected to support a real two-state solution it would be him.

The diplomatic initiative being pursued by the Palestinians is described by Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander Joffe as:

The implications of this long-forgotten editorial, and all the other statements, are in the first instance that Israel does not bear full and exclusive responsibility for the Palestinian refugee situation – the Arab states and the Palestinians themselves do too. This also puts their upcoming “Unilateral Declaration of Independence” into a wholly different light.
In effect, Palestinian leaders have asked the United Nations for yet another opportunity to turn the clock back to give them another chance at achieving statehood that could have been theirs in 1948 or even in 1938. Meanwhile, some Palestinian officials have begun floating the idea of returning to the 1947 partition plan, the same plan that their predecessors rejected summarily in 1947. When do these chances run out? In the process, as their predecessors did in 1949, they blame everyone but themselves for not having achieved their goals to date.
A culture without a sense of responsibility for its own decisions, that blames others for its own decisions and at the same time perpetually demands that its maintenance is someone else’s responsibility, is not likely to create a stable, functioning nation-state. Any new Palestinian state would be an instant pauper, utterly dependent on aid, primarily from the American taxpayer.

In effect, then, the Palestinians are demanding neither statehood nor peace, but a redo. And as shown above they take actions and make arguments that belie their professed desires for statehood or peace.

That is the reality that too many politician, diplomats, academics, journalists and assorted peace processors refuse to acknowledge. Israel cannot make peace right now and it has nothingn to do with who is Prime Minister.

5) Followup

Yesterday I criticized the New York Times for mentioning that Anthony Weiner supported the Zivotofsky family. I assumed that there were other Congressional supporters of the case. Weiner filed the sole supporting brief for the case being heard by the Supreme Cournt and was the original sponsor of the Israeli Capital Recognition Act. It was proper for the Times to credit Weiner. Thanks to reader Lynn for pointing this out.

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