Friday, September 30, 2011

The Jobs Bill is Becoming Pure Comedy

The White House is now comically inept.  It's amazing how much of a disaster this "jobs bill" has been for Obama.  First, he demanded Congress "pass this bill" before his staff even submitted something.  Then, because nobody had submitted the bill, a Republican was able to snag the title "American Jobs Act" away from the Obama bill.  Even more embarrassing is the fact that currently neither the House nor Senate bill has a single co-sponsor and the Senate would rather go on vacation rather than pass it.  Now, Warren Buffett has backed off supporting his namesake "Buffett Rule" as he says he really didn't mean he wanted taxes raised on all millionaires.  Just the ultra-rich "who make money with money".  My guess is that his secretary, who is probably making north of $200k a year (you don't really think Buffett pays his treasured personal assistant pennies do you?) just realized Obama is looking to raise her taxes, despite the fact the point of the tax increases was to bring the tax rates closer together.  Seriously, though, did the Obama White House even clear the Buffett rule with Buffett?

Great David Stockman Interview

A great interview of Reagan's former head of the OMB.  It's long but read or listen to the whole thing.  Here is a key excerpt:

Chris Martenson:  You know, I think that this most recent Fed announcement, which just came out on September 22nd, I guess, or 21st, and it was around Operation Twist. That was a real disappointment to Wall Street. I think we're seeing that on some of our screens today and yesterday, obviously, and maybe across the world. So maybe they did get a little bit of the message that, you know, you talked about some of the political and social risks that exist in this. I'd like to talk a bit about the economic and financial or monetary risks that occur. And I don't really ascribe to any particular school of economics, but there is one quote from Ludwig Von Mises of the Austrian school that does stick with me because it rings true. And that quote is that, "There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved." I can't find a lot of fault in that. I've analyzed that statement a lot, and it feels like we're fully down that path at this point in time. What are the financial and -- particularly the ones I'm most concerned with here -- the monetary risks that you see in our current trajectory?

David Stockman:  Well, there are big risks. But I think that quote is spot on. It was never more applicable than to our recent past. And it's important to dwell on it, to focus on it, because the reason we have this crazy thrashing about by the Fed today, and by Washington with the front door stimulus, the back door stimulus, the absurdity of one-year tax holidays on payroll taxes that we desperately need, and so forth, is there is not a proper understanding of what caused the crisis in the fall of 2008, what caused the meltdown. And the answer is, it grew out of the preceding unsustainable reckless boom, exactly as Mises said. And as a result of failing to understand that, we have an implicit theory, which I think is remarkable in the mainstream of Keynesian policy makers or just politicians who would like to help, and that is that they don't know where this crisis came from.

It was like a one-in-a-hundred-year flood; maybe it was a contagion that came in on a comet from deep space. But they have no explanation for it; it was bad luck. It hurt us so now let's dig our way out and use the balance sheet of the Fed, the balance sheet of the federal government to compensate until we get back to normal. Well, that's absolutely wrong, that we're in a depressed economy right now because in 2003, -4, -5, and -6 and -7, we had an overheated bubble economy that wasn't real, wasn't sustainable, that created millions of jobs based on the margin credit extensions that couldn't be sustained. And all of that was taken back by Mr. Market in 2007 and 2008 when the first debt liquidation started. And therefore, we're totally on the wrong track, if we're trying to restore demand that was never honest demand, or legitimate demand based on earned income and production in the first place.

And that fundamental issue is why policy has gone off the deep end and become so dangerous. Because now, they're just pouring gasoline on the fire, as I think we all believe. Why would they think at the Fed that with the economy as sick as it is, the housing market as damaged as it is, that if you could get thirty basis points more on the long-term mortgage rate that somehow this is going to make everything better? And Operation Twist is, I would say, further evidence of ritual incantation. The Fed is so locked into this erroneous Keynesian world view that it's indulging in a ritual incantation just doing the same thing over and over and over, when almost anyone who thinks about it can see why twenty or thirty basis points -- if they can get that from Operation Twist -- [would] solve anything that the last four or five hundred basis points of interest rate reduction haven't solved, and what are the negative consequences of going in and manipulating and distorting the fundamental capital market of the world for thirty basis points? It's not even a close question. It's an evidence that they're locked into almost insane policy making.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

See Herman Cain Battle Bill Clinton in 1994

This video has been around for a while but since I am just seeing it now, I figured I'd post it.  It is a debate between Bill Clinton and Herman Cain over healthcare in 1994, when Cain was at Godfather's Pizza. In the video, Cain makes the point that he will have to layoff workers under the Clinton plan because it will cost him all of his profitability and then some (he has a net margin of 1.5%). Clinton then makes the quip "Why wouldn't you be able to raise the price of pizza 2%". Obviously, if increasing profits were that easy, Cain would have done it already. But it's not, not in a highly competitive low margin business. Anyway, watch the video and also read Cain's follow up response.

How to Compare the Record of a Perry to a Romney or a Christie

The last few debates have featured Rick Perry attacking Mitt Romney over of his record, especially Romneycare, with Romney trying to deflect/excuse it by saying he wasn't playing as strong a hand as Perry (who was in a very Red state with a conservative legislature).  If Chris Christie enters the race, he will most likely be assaulted for some of the decisions that he has made as Governor of New Jersey that most conservatives would cringe over.  He is also likely to attempt the same excuse as Romney, that he is governing in a blue state and has to make compromises.  So how much of his or any Governor's record should we excuse due to their location?  How are we to compare a Governor of Texas with a Governor from anywhere in the Northeast?

There are, of course, no easy answers but the way I have started thinking about it is like this:  Is the Governor's record as conservative as it could have been, given his circumstances?  I think that is what is important as when a Governor becomes President his environment will change and so may his policies.  Remember, W's record in Texas was relatively conservative but when he came into office, he became decidedly less conservative than you would have thought with his discretionary spending increases and the creation of the Medicare Part D entitlement.  Also, if you look at the record of Jon Huntsman in Utah, it was pretty stellar.  However, it is also clear that it was probably stellar just because of his environment and if he won the White House he would be decidedly more liberal (as his support for cap and trade attests).   To have a truly safe conservative choice, therefore, you would want someone with a conservative record, who was able to maintain that record despite constant opposition from legislators and voters.  Someone like Tim Pawlenty, who despite having a Democratic legislature and a relatively blue or at best purple electorate, was able to have one of the most conservative records for a Governor in the country.

So where do the current crop of candidates stand with regards to this way of thinking about their records?  Well, despite what Romney would have you think, he was still way more liberal than he needed to be.  I don't seem to remember William Weld trying to provide universal health care.  Heck, William Weld got one of the highest grades in the Cato Fiscal Policy Report Card, something Romney was unable to achieve.  Rick Perry clearly has a conservative record, but can you really argue he was as conservative as he possibly could have been in a state like Texas?  He gets a strong B in the Cato Institute's scoring system, but in a state like that, is there an excuse for not getting an A if you are a true conservative?

Now for Chris Christie.  I realize there are quite a few mixed signals on whether he will enter the race or not but I figure I'll discuss him now anyway.  Unfortunately, in many ways it is just too early to tell exactly how conservative he is.  He has only been Governor for less than 2 years, after all.  But so far, I would say he is definitely close to being as conservative as he could be in New Jersey.  Taking on the thugs in the unions is difficult in any state, but especially in a state where they are so much a part of the political machine as New Jersey.  His conservative credentials have pretty much survived a trial by fire (something you definitely cannot say about Perry or Romney or Huntsman) so in many ways I would be more comfortable with him as President than many of the other candidates.  Also, it will be extremely entertaining watching him debate President Teleprompter.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So Much for the Experts

Many people who believe that government can solve people's problems, especially "progressives", seem to believe that if only the experts were allowed to run things, everything would be better.  During political discussions, when I've criticized certain experts (e.g. Paul Krugman), I've had counter-arguments thrown my way that consisted of "well he won a Nobel prize and wrote textbooks so he knows what he is talking about."  Even if there weren't textbook Nobel prize winners who severely disagreed with an expert like Krugman, this argument is meaningless because often the experts have little clue about what is really going on.  Anyone who has read the classic The Experts Speak (chock full of mistakes by experts) knows this.  Yesterday, we got a nice reminder of this from Richard Fisher, President and CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank:

Jan Mayen is a desolate volcanic island located about 600 miles west of Norway's North Cape. It is the home of a meteorological and communications station manned in the harshest of winters by 17 hearty members of the Norwegian Armed Forces. If you read Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October, you would know it as "Loran-C," a NATO tracking and transmissions station. In the video game Tomb Raider: Underworld, Lara Croft visits Jan Mayen in search of Thor's Hammer, considered the most awesome of weapons in Norse mythology, capable of leveling mountains and performing the most heroic feats.

My brother Mike recently visited this station on Jan Mayen. This is the sign that greeted him.

In norsk, it reads as follows:

"Theory is when you understand everything, but nothing works."

"Practice is when everything works, but nobody understands why."

"At this station, theory and practice are united, so nothing works and nobody understands why."

My wry brother implied that this about summed it up for monetary policy. Drawing on theory and practice, the 17 members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) have been working in the harshest economic environment to harness monetary theory and lessons learned from practice to revive the economy and job creation without forsaking our commitment to maintaining price stability. But the committee's policy has yet to show evidence of working and nobody seems to quite understand why.

Yup, you got it the Federal Reserve essentially has no idea what is going on and why its policies aren't working.  Which is not very reassuring and a sign that when things do get bad when Greece defaults, there might not be much of a safety net that they can provide.  And yes, Greece is still going to default.  The market may have levitated higher on constant rumors coming out of Europe, but in the end, there is no way that so many countries will agree to bailout Greece, especially when it continues to miss it's revenue and deficit targets.  Eventually it will default and nobody knows what will happen then, and there is a possibility it could even be worse than the fall of 2008 as there are pretty much no fiscal or monetary tools left to help us out of a tailspin.  Stay nimble and stay liquid.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Nice Debunking of the Elizabeth Warren Rant

A lot of my authoritarian progressive friends love this Elizabeth Warren rant about how rich people owe a debt to society and I guess then must bend over whenever the government wants to buy stuff (or pay off their supporters with loan guarantees).  Reason has a nice debunking of these comments (she is essentially ranting against arguments that few if any are actually making in the GOP and definitely not her opponent Scott Brown), my favorites are below (though you should definitely ready the whole thing):

(6) Warren's remarks epitomize the caricature of a progressive as someone who loves jobs but hates employers. She implies the captain of industry is simply sponging off society and hoarding the proceeds. But hiring workers is a huge social good. So is providing a funding basis for pensions, which generally rely on stock returns. So is creating products people want. Five bucks says Warren has a smartphone and a DVR and a bunch of other modern conveniences, and that she didn't buy any of them with a gun to her head. So why is she so mad at the people who offered to sell them?

(7) Warren suggests the principle of fair play means the industrialist owes society a debt, to be repaid in steep taxes because his other contributions do not count. But this argument is one of the weakest of all the arguments for political obligation, for reasons most people can figure out after a few minutes' thought. (E.g., Suppose I mow your lawn without asking, then demand payment because it's "only fair.") Why hasn't she given them any?

(8) Perhaps, like film critic Pauline Kael, who famously didn't know anyone who had voted for Nixon, Warren doesn't know anyone who believes government and taxes should be small. And, therefore, perhaps she does not understand their reasoning. She certainly doesn't give any indication that she does.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Netanyahu is not a Hardliner, he is in the mainstream of Jewish opinion

Although many have tried to paint Netanyahu as some sort of extremist, who is outside of the mainstream, the Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion from the American Jewish Committee seems to show Netanyahu is anything but.  Now before you assume that this survey was skewed towards hard-liners, take a look at the background of the participants.  Only 16% consider themselves Republican and only 9% consider themselves to be Orthodox Jews.  The majority would also vote for Obama against all major GOP contenders.  Now for some of the key results:

9. In the current situation, do you favor or oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state?
Favor 38
Oppose 55
Not sure 8

Yup, you got it, 55% oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state and only 38% are in favor.  This puts Netanyahu squarely in the mainstream, as he has endorsed a two state solution, just not now and not without security guarantees. 

10. Do you approve or disapprove of Palestinian efforts to unilaterally seek recognition of statehood without reaching an agreement with Israel?
Approve 9
Disapprove 88
Not sure 3

In other words, 88% of American Jews are in agreement with Netanyahu on this one.

In the framework of a permanent peace with the Palestinians, should Israel be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction?
Yes 37
No 59
Not sure 4

Look at that, 59% of American Jews believe there should not be any compromise on dividing Jerusalem, as does Netanyahu.

12. As part of a permanent settlement with the Palestinians, should Israel be willing to dismantle all, some, or none of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank?
All 8
Some 51
None 39
Not sure 2

What this means is that only 8% of American Jews believe in going back to the pre-1967 borders, which is a Palestinian demand for the re-opening of talks and something essentially favored by Obama.  Note that 39% don't believe in dismantling any settlements at all.  Any if you look at a map of settlements in the West Bank, this means 39% believe Israel shouldn't give up much more land than they have already.  So 90% of American Jews are either in agreement or to the right of Netanyahu, who has agreed to the dismantling of some settlements.

13. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? "The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel."
Agree 76
Disagree 19
Not sure 5

So if 76% believe the ultimate goal is the ultimate destruction of Israel then any delays coming from the Israeli side is exactly what the American Jewish mainstream would want.

15. Should the Palestinians be required or not be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement?
Required 96
Not required 3
Not sure 1

As we know, Netanyahu has been hammering away at the Jewish state recognition issue and while some have tried to paint this demand as illegitimate, it is clearly viewed as necessary by an overwhelming percentage of Jews.  And I never thought you could get 96% of Jews to agree on anything!

While some will say that a poll of American Jews doesn't mean anything, I have this to say.  Left wing attempts to paint Netanyahu as an extremist may actually cost the Democrats votes as by vilifying some of Netantyahu's positions will, in effect, vilify mainstream Jewish positions, as this survey shows.  Also, while this is anecdotal, my Israeli dyed in the wool Labour-voting mother-in-law, loved Netanyahu's speech before the UN, calling it "wonderful".  Netanyahu really seems to represent the Jewish people as a whole and is doing a remarkable job in eloquently voicing our concerns on a world stage.  Whether anyone is going to listen is another matter, but it's never been easy being a Jew.

Does Obama Think Higher Taxes Create Jobs?

Here were some bizarre remarks from Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus dinner which really makes you think that he has zero understanding of economics:

We're not proposing anything other than returning to the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans that existed under Bill Clinton.  I played golf with Bill Clinton today.  I was asking him, how did that go?  (Laughter.)  Well, it turns out we had a lot of jobs.  The well-to-do, they did even better.  So did the middle class.  We lifted millions out of poverty.  And then we cut taxes for folks like me, and we went through a decade of zero job growth.

So government created jobs by taxing the rich?  And then by not taxing the rich we had zero job growth?  Really?  I'm sure something called the Internet which allowed for historic productivity gains (the highest in decades) as well as the PC revolution had something to do with it.  So I think companies like Cisco, Dell, Oracle and Microsoft had more to do with the jobs in the 1990's than Clinton's tax rates.  But I guess for Obama, private enterprise is only a problem to be solved, not a solution to problems in itself.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thoughts on the Fox/Google GOP Debate

I finally got a chance to watch the latest GOP debate.  I have to say I don't necessarily agree with everyone's belief that Perry was horrible.  Yeah, he lost his place near the end when he was trying to attack Romney for flip flopping, but that was after nearly two hours of debating.  I don't see how that was a big deal.  I also think he handled the immigration issue as well as he could have without going back on his record.  He did make the point that granting in-state tuition to illegals was overwhelmingly popular in Texas and doesn't the idea of states' rights mean that states get to try out things that the citizens of that state want?  Huntsman got a lot of applause for saying that healthcare policy should be solved by letting the 50 different states experiment with solutions, doesn't that apply to immigration as well?  Anyway, here are some more thoughts on the candidates:

Romney:  Like always, the Dorian Gray of the GOP won the debate as he was the one that seemed most Presidential and was the most polished.  However, it is so incredibly clear based on Romneycare, his answers on Social Security (that we have to fix the program not replace it with anything market based), and his comments on Race to the Top, that he is a big government Republican.  He doesn't believe in small government, he believes that he can make government work "efficiently", as if that is even possible.  Once in office, he won't look to scrap Obamacare, he will probably set up commissions to study ways to make it work better.  So if we elect him, we will probably be stuck with Obamacare until we are completely bankrupt as a nation.  Also, he gave a very weak pro-Israel answer to the question about Israel.  All he said was that he won't criticize them in public.  I'm sure the Obama people will be able to point to all the times Obama was supportive of Israel in public.  At one point, Obama even said he didn't think Jerusalem should be divided.  So I'm not as worried about what our President says in public as what he really says in private and what he threatens the Jewish state with if they don't make peace with terrorists.   I know a lot of people after the debate seemed to say "you know, Romney isn't so bad, I just want to beat Obama", even people who previously supported Bachmann.  Well, if we elect Romney, I don't think we will get the change that we need, the change that will help save this country, we will probably just get Obama-lite. Just remember, his father was a liberal Republican and a major rival of Reagan's back in the 1960's. I don't think the apple fell far from the tree.

Perry:  As I mentioned above, I don't think he did that poorly in the debate.  Also, his off-hand badminton comment about sparring with Romney made him seem relatively jovial and good-natured.  That said, he definitely didn't win the debate.  I'm also not sure how much spending he would actually cut, especially after the "have a heart" comment with regards to the DREAM act. He like W, seemed conservative because he was from Texas, but it's easy to do that in a very conservative state (I don't have the same reservations about someone like Santorum who was very conservative in a much more centrist state).  Just like W., there is a good chance he will disappoint us small government types when in office.

Santorum:  He really did quite well.  It was refreshing to hear someone talk about actually winning the war on terror.  It seems so many simply act like "well, we're in it and I guess I'll continue it".  Also, his question to Perry on how his Texas border protection plan was working was a good one.  Perry had no answer to that one.  If he can only surprise in Iowa, he could go far.

Bachmann:  Her red outfit didn't really keep her from fading into the background.  She has very clearly lost momentum and seems to be unsure of how to get it back.

Huntsman:  I really like a lot of his answers with regards to the economy.  Unfortunately, he has some major fatal flaws e.g. his support of cap and trade and his desire for us to turn tail and run out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gingrich:  Plays the elder statesman role in the debate awfully well.  He doesn't really seem to be trying to win, he just seems to like having people listen to what he says.  He also is getting people to forget all the batsh*t crazy things he said in the past.

Cain:  In earlier debates, I was often fast forwarding through his answers.  He was so clearly not ready for prime time, but he definitely got better with some practice.  His comment on how he would be dead under Obamacare really rang true.

Paul:  Same as he ever was.  Luckily he got to stay away from foreign policy in this debate and stick with his strengths which is anything else.  I also liked his criticism of the e-verify system.  Do we really want all our information stored in some government controlled system?  That seems awfully close to a national ID system which I remember many conservatives being against in the past.

Johnson:  Seemed awfully nervous in the debate but I did like his joke about how the dogs next door were more shovel ready than Obama's stimulus.  He was definitely a good Governor for New Mexico but that is probably all he will ever be.

In conclusion, this debate didn't really solve anything.  As usual, Romney was the best debater, Perry needed help and everyone else was a sideshow.  I just wish I felt I could trust Romney and then all could just be decided already.  Unfortunately, neither I nor anyone can do that.

Cain: Obamacare Would Have Killed Me

See Herman Cain, who survived Stage IV Colon and Liver Cancer, on how Obamacare would have killed him because he would have had to get treatment on a bureaucrats timetable instead of the timetable that would have been best to treat his disease. Though he doesn't mention that the death panels might have withheld treatment from him completely, if they decided it was best (which happens in the UK):

Why The Abbas Speech was a Dud

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Land-for-Peace Formula has become Land-for-Nothing

Today, Palestinian "President" Abbas gave his final answer to the idea of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state:  No.  Right before his UN speech, he told supporters, "they talk to us about the Jewish state, but I respond to them with a final answer: We shall not recognize a Jewish state." Netanyahu has been constantly vilified for not making "enough concessions for peace" but can anyone name any concessions that Palestinians have made towards peace?  Any at all?  They have turned down offers at least 3 times which would have given them virtually all of the West Bank and the last offer even gave them control of the Temple Mount, the holiest spot in Judaism.  And now Abbas is saying that he will never, ever recognize Israel as a Jewish state.  So what exactly is the point of Israel negotiating?  Can anyone tell me that?  What will they get out of this process other than enemy missiles with a clear view of downtown Tel Aviv?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Public Sector Collective Bargaining Agreements Embezzle Taxpayer Funds

In case you still thought collective bargaining agreements were just about increasing pay for public sector employees, and not about funneling taxpayer funds to unions, check out this bit of research from the Goldwater Institute.  It shows that Phoenix taxpayers pay $3.7 million a year to union officials in 7 unions to conduct strictly union business that has nothing to do with any service to the city.  How can you possibly justify that?  This is as bad as the Wisconsin collective bargaining agreement which forced health benefits for unionized school employees workers to be purchased from the union itself (and allowed the union to essentially bleed school districts dry with overpriced benefits).  Anyway, here are the details:

The most generous contract both in terms of money and time is between the city and the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA), which represents front-line police officers.

All six of the top officials at PLEA draw their full pay and benefits from the city, even though they are assigned full time to the union. Each is also entitled to 160 hours of overtime annually.

All of the other unions have the salaries and benefits of their top officials paid by the taxpayers.

Each of the unions also receive banks of additional release time ranging from a few hundred to 5,500 hours annually that members can use to conduct union business on city time.

One union leader says it was city officials who insisted on providing additional release hours, which had become a standard provision in contracts with other labor organizations.

PLEA and the Phoenix Fire Fighters Association Local 493 each get 500 hours of annual city-paid time for a lobbyist. The firefighters' union also gets a taxpayer-funded secretary.

Two other unions each receive payments of $14,000 from the city to pay for member training and conferences, and a third gets a $2,000 parking allowance.

It seems that getting rid of these collective bargaining agreements would be a great way to save taxpayer money without compromising any government services. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Does the Federal Reserve Even Understand What It's Doing Anymore?

After a much publicized two-day meeting, the Federal Reserve announced today that they would be selling $400 billion in short term debt and buying $400 billion in long term debt.  The idea being that this would put downward pressure on long term interest rates, supposedly boosting the economy (as many mortgages are priced off of the 10 year treasury) but without increasing the money supply any further.  I think that idea is completely wrong and this move will probably be a net detriment to the economy.  The reason is simple, banks borrowing costs are based on short term interest rates and their profit is based on long term rates (i.e. they borrow short and lend long). So this program will, if it does what the Fed says it wants to do, hurt the profitability of banks, making them less likely to lend. Usually, when you have a slowing economy, the Fed actually does the opposite of this move, they lower short term interest rates to help make the banks more profitable and more likely to lend.  It really seems like the Fed has no idea what it's doing.

Awesome Perry Ad

Rick Perry really has a wonderfully slick media team. This ad is outstanding:

The Palestinian Lie

(h/t Powerline)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rick Perry Would Be A Welcome Change on Israel

I know some Jewish voters might be worried about some of Rick Perry's views, especially on the theory of evolution and the global warming hypothesis, but you have to admit, he is vehemently pro-Israel as evidenced by his remarks today on the Palestinian UN gambit.  They are, without a doubt, some of the strongest language used by any candidate for the Presidency in support of the Jewish state.  I comment on select passages below:

There is no middle ground between our allies and those who seek their destruction. America should not be ambivalent between the terrorist tactics of Hamas and the security tactics of the legitimate and free state of Israel.

Obama came into office trying to put space between the Israeli and US positions, that has done nothing but make the terrorists stronger and the Israelis weaker.  The Palestinians specifically target civilians, men, women, small children through attacks on a plethora of targets, homes, school buses, kindergartens.  Israel, on the other hand, has shown an amazing amount of restraint, continuing to target armed fighters instead of innocent people as proven by the low civilian-combatant in Gaza.  In remarks in June, Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan said, "the UN estimate that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed.  That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.  In essence, the Israelis have done more than just about about any country in the world to minimize civilian deaths and have received almost no credit for this fact from the world and especially not from the Obama administration.

It was wrong for this Administration to suggest the 1967 borders should be the starting point for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  When you consider this suggestion was made on the eve of the Israeli Prime Minister's visit, we see in this American Administration a willingness to isolate a close ally and to do so in a manner that is insulting and naïve.

I never really understood the pre-1967 border demand for negotiations.  Essentially, that would make the basis of negotiations to be that one side gives the other side 100% of the disputed territories before even sitting down at the table (and the idea of land swaps doesn't change the fact that the Palestinians would be receiving land that equals 100% of the area of the current "occupied territories"). How does this make any sense in the world?  What incentives does it give for the Palestinians to give up anything?  Their record so far is to refuse to accept any offer given them knowing the international community will put pressure on Israel to give up even more.  In return, the Palestinians haven't given up anything.  They won't even accept Israel as a Jewish state!  Clearly, this doesn't work and this idea needs to be scrapped.

While the administration is right to finally agree to fight the Arab resolution at the U.N., it bears repeating that we wouldn't be here today if they had stuck to some basic principles concerning Palestinian statehood:
First, Palestinian leaders must publicly affirm Israel's right to exist, and to exist as a Jewish state

It's really sad that 17 years after the Oslo accords, the Palestinians still haven't given in on this issue.

Second, President Abbas must persuade all factions including Hamas to renounce acts of terrorism and release kidnapped Israeli Gilad Shalit

Everyone in the Western media seems to have forgotten about Shalit, a poor kid who was kidnapped by Hamas.  Also, everyone seems to have forgotten that negotiations with Arafat only really started after he officially renounced terrorism in 1988 (of course that was a lie).  But that was the whole basis of the negotiations in the first place and the Palestinians should be forced to honor that original promise.

To date, we have fumbled our greatest opportunity for regime change. As average Iranian citizens were marching on Tehran in the Green Revolution in 2009, America was wasting precious time on a naïve policy of outreach to both the Iranian and Syrian governments.

Remember how silent Obama was during the Green Revolution?  He seems to get much braver when criticizing our allies and forcing their ouster.  Obama was quickly able to dispose of Mubarak in Egypt but acted much slower in the cases of Libya, Syria and Iran.  My guess is Perry won't be that way.

Third, the Palestinians must know their gambit comes with consequences in particular that America will have to reconsider the $4 billion in assistance we have provided to the Palestinians over the last 17 years.

This is an important threat.  So far the Palestinians have been able to do whatever they have wanted with zero consequences.  And we all know that the members of the Palestinian government are skimming a lot of aid off the top.  Any cut in aid would have a direct impact on that corrupt "government" and might actually force them to talk seriously.  Remember, bombing Hanoi did wonders to get the Vietnamese serious about peace (though of course they reneged in the end).

And fifth, we must signal to the world, including nations like Turkey and Egypt whom we have considered allies in recent years, that we won't tolerate aggression against Israel.

Israel is our friend and ally. I have traveled there several times, and met with its leaders. It is not a perfect nation, but its existence is critical to America's security in the world.

It is time to change our policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians to strengthen our ties to the nation of Israel, and in the process establish a robust American position in the Middle East characterized by a new firmness and a new resolve.

If America does not head off the aggression of forces hostile to Israel we will only embolden them.

That would be a tragic mistake.

  I like how he refers to our alliance with Turkey and Egypt in the past tense.  Clearly neither country is acting like an ally anymore, it's time we realized this and acted accordingly. 

Rick Perry is clearly not perfect, but he would be so much better for Israel than the current administration has been.  I'm sure some would argue that he would be a death sentence for the peace process but that flies in the face of historical facts.  George W. Bush was very pro-Israel as well (though probably not as much as Perry) and at that point the Israelis and Palestinians were actively talking with each other.  There have been almost no direct talks since Obama came in and tried to create space between the US and Israeli positions.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Obama the First Jewish President? On What Planet?

The New Yorker has a quote from one of the articles in the current issue on its cover that refers to Obama as "the first Jewish President" (he actual title of the article is The Tsuris, which is Yiddish for trouble or aggravation).  I guess after the 9th NY District loss at the hands of the Jews, Obama's Jewish minions are really going over the top in saying that he is not only Pro-Israel but should be considered "the first Jewish President".  How a Jew could possibly sit in front of anti-semitic sermons for 20 years is beyond me.  Or visit just about every Arab country in the region during his Presidency but skip the only Jewish one?  Anyway, to the article itself.  Of course, it starts by attempting to vilify Netanyahu:

The last time Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu shared each other's company, you could say that the encounter did not go well—if by "not well" you mean abysmally. This was on May 20, the day after Obama gave his big speech on the Arab Spring, in which he unleashed a tsunami of tsuris by endorsing the use of Israel's 1967 borders "with mutually agreed [land] swaps" as the basis for a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Obama and Netanyahu were seated in the Oval Office for what was supposed to be one of those photo ops devoted to roasting rhetorical chestnuts about the solidity of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Instead, while Obama watched silently, looking poleaxed, Netanyahu lectured him—for seven and a half minutes, on live television—about the folly, the sheer absurdity, of suggesting Israel ever return to what he called the "indefensible" 1967 lines.
Obama was furious with Netanyahu, who in choosing to ignore the crucial qualifier about land swaps had twisted Obama's words beyond recognition—the kind of mendacious misinterpretation that makes the presidential mental. The seniormost members of Obama's team felt much the same. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Bob Gates, Bill Daley, the former Mideast-peace envoy George Mitchell: All were apoplectic with the prime minister, whose behavior over the past two years had already tried their patience. "The collective view here is that he is a small-minded, fairly craven politician," says an administration source deeply involved in its efforts to push the parties to the negotiating table. "And one who simply isn't serious about making peace."

What great spin.  Netanyahu is just an unreasonable brute who spit in the face of our very reasonable President.  But the facts paint a different picture.  Obama's infamous speech has by most observers been referred to as a surprise to the Israeli Government, done right before Bibi was supposed to visit Washington and give a speech before a Joint Session of Congress.  It seemed like Obama was trying to steal the Israeli Prime Minister's thunder purposely by making such an incendiary speech, which basically endorsed the 1949 armistice line as the basis for talks (the land swaps would have to be relatively equal and be around the 1949 lines) and even called for a "contiguous" state for the Palestinians (anyone looking at a map could see Palestine can't be contiguous without Israel no longer being contiguous).  And this was not the first time Obama humiliated Netanyahu.  After such treatment is it really surprising that Netanyahu would want to defend his position "on live television" (would the reaction have been better if it were taped?).  By the way, are any of the people listed above known for being particularly pro-Israel?  Nope not really.  Maybe Hillary, but only when she was Senator from New York (she also found Jewish relatives during that campaign, how convenient).

For both Israel and the U.S., the timing could hardly be more miserable. With the Middle East apparently hurtling headlong into crisis, Israel finds itself increasingly isolated, beleaguered, and besieged: its embassy in Cairo invaded by Egyptian protesters, its relations with Turkey in tatters, its continued occupation of (and expansion of settlements within) the Palestinian territories the subject of wide international scorn. How wide? Wide enough that Abbas could credibly claim that 126 of the 193 U.N. member states support his statehood initiative.

I really don't think any of this is Israel's fault.  Egypt would still probably be in the secure hands of Mubarak if Obama didn't betray him and we know that Mubarak wouldn't have let the Israeli embassy be attacked in that way.  And Turkey has been downgrading relations with Israel since the Islamists took control of the government and eventually the military.  And one question for the reporter, how many of those 126 UN member states are dictatorships?  My guess is the vast majority.

Again and again, when Israel has been embroiled in international dustups—over its attack last year on a flotilla filled with activists headed from Turkey to Gaza, to cite but one example—the White House has had Israel's back. The security relationship between the countries, on everything from intelligence sharing to missile-­defense development to access to top-shelf weapons, has never been more robust. And when the Cairo embassy was seized and Netanyahu called to ask for Obama's help with rescuing the last six Israelis trapped inside the building, the president not only picked up the phone but leaned hard on the Egyptians to free those within. "It was a decisive moment," Netanyahu recalled after the six had been freed. "Fateful, I would even say."

Really, that is the proof of Obama's support for Israel?  He defended the right of Israeli soldiers from being attacked by clubs when all they had were paint guns?  And he didn't want to see Israeli security guards murdered by a savage mob?  Given the mob wouldn't have been there had Obama not toppled Mubarak, he probably didn't want blood on his hands (he must've known he would be blamed by the Jewish press, at least partly).

And many Jewish voters, like those Wall Street financiers (and, to be sure, the overlap between those groups isn't trivial) who flocked to Obama and were then chagrined when he called them out as "fat cats," have all too often focused more on the president's words than his deeds—and come away with the impression that he doesn't seem to "feel Israel" in his bones.

Wait, is this the author's way of saying Jews are greedy and rich?  And what is wrong with focusing on a President's words?  His words are vetted so much that if they are in a speech it means that he and his administration really mean them.  Plus his actions are what are politically doable, and don't necessarily reflect on what he actually believes  He extended the Bush Tax Cuts last year for all Americans, including the wealthy, does anyone believe that this proves that he is a tax cutter who wants the wealthy to keep more of what they earn?

In attempting to apply tough love to Israel, Obama is trying to make a stalwart ally see that undertaking the painful and risky compromises necessary for peace with the Palestinians is the only way to preserve the Zionist dream—which is to say a future as a state both Jewish and democratic. His role here is not that of the callous assailant but of the caring and sober brother slapping his drunken sibling: The point is not to hurt the guy but to get him to sober up.

Israel is a drunken sibling? What exactly are they drunk on?  Not having their civilians blown to bits? The author sounds like he is more pro-Obama than he is pro-Israel.  Maybe he should change his first name to "Sieg". 

The suspicions regarding the bone-deepness of Obama's bond with Israel were present from the start, and always rooted in a reading of his background that was as superficial as it was misguided. Yes, he was black. Yes, his middle name was Hussein. And yes, in his time in Hyde Park, his friends included Palestinian scholars and activists, notably the historian Rashid Khalidi. But far more crucial to Obama's makeup and rise to prominence were his ties to Chicago's Jewish milieu, whose players, from real-estate powerhouse Penny Pritzker to billionaire investor Lester Crown, were among his chief supporters and financial patrons.

Some of Obama's best friends are Jews?  This proves what exactly?

Equally important, Obama's advisers argue, is that the idea that the administration demanded little of the Palestinians is simply false. "I called it synchronized swimming," recalls Prince. "The Israelis would do settlements, the Palestinians would do some stuff on incitement [of violence against Israel] and security, and other Arab states would undertake a variety of measures that would be steps to normalization. It could be reopening trade offices. It could be allowing overflights. It could be opening direct cell-phone connections. All stuff the Israelis said they really wanted. We spent many more hours in meetings with Arabs about Arab steps than we did with the Israelis. We had equally tough conversations with Arabs; the president had some hard meetings. But that didn't get reported."

Maybe it didn't get reported because nothing ever came from those meetings with Arab countries.  And have the Palestinians decreased incitement?  There doesn't seem to be any proof of that.  However, Israel did institute a temporary settlement freeze which gave Netanyahu a significant amount of grief internally and externally (even my own Rabbi denounced him).  For which he got nothing.

Another blunder, and not a minor one, made by the administration revolved around Obama's vaunted speech to the Muslim world in Cairo that June—which more than a few Jews perceived as coming at the expense of Israel, especially when Obama failed to visit Jerusalem on the same trip (or at any time thereafter). "We made a mistake," admits one senior administration foreign-policy adviser. "Nobody thought of it as a big deal at the time, but, I mean, you're in the neighborhood, you're right down the street, and you don't stop by for coffee?" 

That makes a jest of a serious issue, that he has not visited Israel.  And if they know it was a mistake, why has he still not visited?  Also, it is interesting the writer doesn't mention exactly why the Cairo speech was viewed negatively.  Part of the reason was because he linked the creation of Israel to the holocaust, rather than the fact that it the historic homeland of the Jews, which is the Arab argument against Israel (basically the Arabs were made to pay for Europe's sins and Jews have no right to the land).

And then there was Netanyahu's surpassingly volatile governing coalition, which was held together by far-right nationalist, fundamentalist, and even proto-fascistic elements (cf. Avigdor Lieberman).

So Avigdor Lieberman is a fascist and Obama is the first Jewish President? The writer just loves throwing words around with no basis in reality doesn't he?

The vice-president arrived in Israel that March to promote the "proximity" peace talks that the sides had just agreed to undertake. There he was ambushed with a surprise announcement by the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by the fundamentalist Shas Party, of the building of new settlement blocs in contested East Jerusalem. Netanyahu was apparently as blindsided as Biden was.

Again, this was just spin.  The building was already approved by the prior Kadima-led government prior to the freeze and from my understanding will require further approvals in a very bureaucratic process.  If you think getting a variance in your town is difficult, imagine how hard it is to get an approval for a new deck when it could cause an international incident.

The next day came his speech to Congress, in which he spelled out demands that were maximal by any measure: recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for negotiations, a refusal to talk if Hamas is part of the Palestinian side, an undivided Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and absolutely no right of return for Palestinian refugees. Taken as a whole, his whirlwind Washington visit provided a strong dose of clarity: With Barak having moved his newly formed Independence Party into Netanyahu's governing coalition, its new stability has reduced to near zero the incentives for him to take the risks required for peace.

Maximal?  For Israel to be recognized for what it is?  A Jewish state?  A refusal to talk to an internationally recognized terrorist organization?  An undivided Jerusalem?  Does he realize what would happen to Jewish access to Jewish religious shrines if the Palestinians take control of them?  It would be non-existent.  And he didn't say there would be no right of return, there would just be no right of return to Israel, they could always return to a Palestinian state.  Or does Israel need to have its immigration policy dictated to it as well?  And since when is Barak a hardliner?  He was a member of the Labor party and offered Arafat over 90% of the West Bank.

The irony is that Obama—along with countless Israelis, members of the Jewish diaspora, and friends of Israel around the world—seems to grasp these realities and this choice more readily than Netanyahu does. "The first Jewish president?" Maybe not. But certainly a president every bit as pro-Israel as the country's own prime minister—and, if you look from the proper angle, maybe even more so.

Let me try not to vomit here.  As pro-Israel as Netanyahu?  What dark room has the writer been keeping himself to believe that drivel.  Let's take a poll and see how many of you agree with that statement.  *crickets*.  Thought not. 

And one final thing on the First Jewish President moniker.   To be a First anything President, don't you have to first do something that benefits that group?  What has Obama done for the Jews?  There is nothing with regards to that in this article and if you look at the facts, Obama seems positively detrimental to Jews.  As the writer states, Jews have a tendency to be wealthier than others, and Obama wants to increase taxes on wealthier Americans.  Obamacare severely cuts payments to doctors and Jews make up 14.1% of doctors despite being less than 2% of the general population.  Obama helped kick out Mubarak who helped secure the southern front of Israel.  He isn't even close to being Jewish.  Or even a Jew for Jesus.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How Much Will It Cost Israel To Save Obama From Having to Veto the Palestinian Bid for Statehood?

The Palestinians have become pretty upfront in saying that if they are given enough concessions, they are willing to delay their UN statehood bid.  This makes me think this whole gambit was just another ruse by the Palestinians to get more pressure applied upon the Israelis to give up something for nothing.  And I am thinking that, once again, this strategy is working.  It's no secret that Obama doesn't want to veto a Palestinian statehood resolution as this will wreck all the "progress" he thinks he has made during his term with the Arab world, so he will probably be putting as much pressure as possible to have Israel cave to whatever concessions are in Tony Blair's panic-laced proposal (which is not public).  My guess is that the proposal will force Israel to accept the 1949 armistice line borders as the basis on negotiations and have some sort of new temporary freeze on settlement activity in exchange for a temporary halt to the UN bid.  Israel will very likely be giving up something for nothing as there is no chance for the negotiations to work and Israel will be in the same situation in 3 or 6 months as it is now, when it might be forced to give up even more (that is pretty much how the negotiations have been going so far after all).  I'm sure Bibi is currently tempted to accept the Blair proposal if the terms aren't overly onerous for Israel as Turkey and Egypt are currently causing a lot of problems already (and he needs US support to deal with them).  Plus, the more he delays, the closer he gets to a Republican President who will be much more Pro-Israel.  And perhaps that is the wise course.  But how long can Israel be taken advantage of by completely insincere parties?  When will it end? 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Resigns from American Physical Society over Global Warming

I guess Rick Perry isn't so crazy after all.  Nobel Prize winning physicist, Ivar Giaever, just resigned from the Americal Physical Society (APS) over their statement that evidence of global warming is "incontrovertible".  See his resignation letter below (h/t Powerline):

Dear Ms. Kirby

Thank you for your letter inquiring about my membership. I did not renew it because I can not live with the statement below:

Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth's climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.
The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.
If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible? The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this 'warming' period.

Best regards,

Ivar Giaever

And this from a very public Obama supporter in 2008.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Obama Doesn't Seem to Want His Jobs Bill Passed, So Why Should We Pass It?

I've come to the conclusion that Obama has no interest in actually passing his Jobs bill and that he is simply using it as a vehicle to campaign on, at the expense of taxpayers.  He actually seems to be doing everything in his power to make sure that it doesn't pass, as if he is afraid that if the GOP moves on it he won't be able to get crowds to chant "Pass This Bill" (after all, he was lambasting the GOP for not passing it before it was even written).

So what makes me say this?  A few things:

  1. We've been on the brink of a government shutdown twice in the last 10 months because of our deteriorating finances.  In such an environment, is a $450 billion monstrosity really likely to pass?  It only seems small now because the original stimulus package was $862 billion, but if we didn't have that one $450 billion would seem enormous.  It seems that he could have actually created more jobs just by repealing regulations on energy exploration (onshore and offshore), which would be free.  But that would have been too easy and would have passed with bipartisan support.
  2. When Obama initially presented his bill, he said it would be completely paid for, but then provided no details as to how, saying it would be up to the "super committee".  I'm sorry, how could he think this would fly?   "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" is no basis for running a government's finances and was particularly laughable.  He included methods to pay for Obamacare in that legislation so the concept of paying for a bill within the bill itself should not be foreign to him or his policy team.  Not paying for it was an obvious non-starter.
  3. After being thoroughly mocked for not paying for the jobs bill, the White House said they would be willing to pay for it through tax increases and only tax increases.  Again, how could this possibly fly?  The administration is making the claim that the taxes aren't going to increase immediately but January 1, 2013 isn't that far away and the economy will likely still be sluggish at that point.  All that adding the tax increases into the mix did was give the GOP an easy out from supporting this bill at all.  Does he really think the GOP will lose any votes by opposing a package that would increase taxes by $467 billion?  I know he will try to make this into a class warfare thing, middle class tax cuts versus upper class tax increases but there are two problems with this.  First, the tax increases are three times bigger than the tax cuts in the bill.  Second, some of the tax increases come from limiting charitable deductions, which is something that benefits the poor.  The charitable deduction is something that even Democrats like.  Sander Levin was recently quoted as saying "in the case of the charitable deduction, one has to keep in mind that the recipients of the contributions include universities, hospitals, churches and soup kitchens that provide critical services to working families."  No wonder Democratic Senator Jim Webb referred to these payment methods for the Jobs bill as "terrible".  It's almost as if they decided they had to offer some method to pay for it but they didn't want to offer any spending cuts (seriously would finding $45 billion in annual cuts in a budget approaching $4 trillion be that difficult?) and just threw something together without any forethought.
These are clearly not the actions of someone who wants a bill passed, just someone who wants to have a weapon to bash his enemies with while he campaigns.  I guess he thinks he is making some brilliant tactical move that will make the GOP oppose middle class tax cuts but there is an easy work around for the GOP.  Pass a bill with these same tax cuts, paid for with spending cuts.  It will definitely pass the House and has a chance to pass the Senate.  Will Obama then veto the same middle class tax cut he just proposed because it doesn't have handouts to special interests (unions)?  My guess is that before the end of the year this GOP bill will be signed into law as Obama gets worried that he will get blamed for the tax increases and the economy is looking even worse than it does now.    It's just amazing how this State Senator level politician was elevated to the Presidency because he sounded good reading from the teleprompter despite having zero history of actually accomplishing anything besides his own promotion.

What Happened in the 9th Congressional District of NY is Really Stunning

Any way you cut it, the victory of Republican Bob Turner in the 9th Congressional District of New York is stunning.  Democrats had a 3 to 1 registration advantage in the district, which has been in Republican hands for only 9 years out of the last 150 and hasn't had a Republican Congressional victory for 70.  Also, this is probably one of the most Jewish districts in the country with about 33% of voters being Jewish, making it even more amazing that a Catholic Republican was able to beat an Orthodox Jewish Democrat there, partly due to the subject of Israel.  If an Orthodox Jew can't convince other Orthodox Jews that a vote for him is good for Israel, there is a problem somewhere (most likely in the White House).  Hopefully this is a sign that Jews are finally waking up and realizing that voting for Democrats is not in their interest.  Jews are least likely to benefit and most likely to be hurt by Democratic economic policies and as we've seen from Obama, the Democratic leadership is pretty hostile towards Israel.

I know that Democrats and their minions are trying to minimize what happened in this district.  I guess all politics is local especially if there is a Republican victory.  But the arguments make no sense.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz said this is a "very difficult district for Democrats" and pointed out that Orthodox Jews, where Obama has very low approval, make up a disproportionately high percentage of the district.  The "tough district for Democrats" argument would make sense if this wasn't the district of Chuck Schumer and Geraldine Ferraro and didn't vote 67% for Al Gore in 2000 (or 61% for Anthony Weiner in the Republican landslide year of 2010 against the very same Bob Turner).  The Orthodox Jewish argument would only make sense if the Republican were an Orthodox Jew and the Democrat a Catholic, not the other way around!

Then you have partisan hacks pretending to be objective like Steve Kornacki at Salon arguing that this is election is meaningless because it didn't vote for Obama as much as it should in 2008(though he did carry it by a margin of 55-44).  It's funny that back in May, he viewed the Republican loss of the 26th district in NY in a special election as proof of "Republican overreach".  In that district, the Republican Congressman resigned due to a scandal very similar to Weiner's, involving pictures sent over the internet.  But this district was much less firmly Republican than the 9th, with a Democratic Congressman holding the seat from 1993-2003 and the election featured a fake "Tea Party" candidate who was able to get 9% of the vote, allowing the Democrat to win with only 47%.  There was no such third party in the 9th district, with the Republican winning 54-46, with a margin of 67-33 in Brooklyn!

Any way you cut it, this election is bad for Democrats and should have them worried about what is going to happen in 2012.

The Truth About the Peace Process

Another great video from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Further Proof Palestinians Are the New Nazis

It really is amazing how openly the Palestinians discuss their plans for making Judea and Samaria "Judenrein" (German for making an area "clean of Jews").  This morning, at a Christian Science Monitor sponsored breakfast, the Palestinian Ambassador to the United States endorsed the forcible transfer of Jews out of a future Palestinian State, something that he has mentioned previously.  Apparently the purpose of this is to allow the two peoples to develop "separate national identities" whatever that means.  Based on this logic, he believes Israel should evict the Palestinians who currently live within the 1949 armistice lines, which I'm pretty sure is something he doesn't support.  All he is really doing is using hand waving and diplomatic niceties to justify the ethnic cleansing of the Jews from Judea and Samaria.  Just take a look at the map of the West Bank, with Jewish areas marked in dark blue:

If the Palestinians get a state, especially based on the 1949 armistice line (something that Obama supports) all those Jews would either be forced to flee, be forcibly removed or be brutally and savagely murdered.  This would mean that places like Hebron, which had 3,500 years of Jewish settlement (starting when Abraham bought the burial plot where eventually he and his wife were buried), would be off limits to Jews, possibly forever (the Palestinian Arabs had actually tried to do this before, in 1929, killing 69 Jews and forcing the rest to flee for their lives).  Also, if Jerusalem is divided, as many anti-Israeli leftists, including Obama support, Jews might be banned from parts of the city that were first part of a Jewish state 3,000 years ago.  And imagine if they are given control of the Old City and the holiest shrine in Judaism, the Western Wall?

The dichotomy between acceptable discussion within Jewish/Israeli circles and Palestinian circles just couldn't be more stark.  Nobody even close to the mainstream of Jewish/Israeli political thought is suggesting the forcible removal of all Arabs from Israel, yet someone who is very much in the mainstream of Palestinian politics, and even  a diplomat, is talking about the forced ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people from their homes (through forcible eviction or murder, he never really specified what happens if Jewish residents say no).   How is this acceptable?  And why is Israel even thinking about negotiating with these people who clearly have no regard for human rights or Jewish life for that matter?

Monday, September 12, 2011

This is Going to be a Tough Month for Israel

You would think that a month in which the S&P upgrades Israel to A+, especially when the same agency just recently downgraded the US, would actually be a pretty good month for the small, feisty, innovative democracy.  You would also be very wrong.   Just to recap some of the recent developments.  First, Turkey, once a close ally has very quickly gone to the "enemy" column.  Last week, Prime Minister Erdogan said the Turkish Navy would assist any Gaza blockade runners in the future, opening the door for an armed conflict with Israel.  To prove his point he has decided to send 3 warships to the Eastern Mediterranean to protect Turkish shipping and to "confront" Israeli ships operating more than 12 nautical miles from the Israeli coast.  He also said he would be interfering with Israels development of offshore natural gas fields, fields that would make Israel far less dependent on foreign energy supplies, including supplies coming from an increasingly hostile Egypt.  Now, it is highly possible that this is all just saber rattling to get Israel to submit to Turkey's demand for an apology over the MV Mavi Marmara incident, as such an apology would instantly make Erdogan a hero in the Arab world and help take influence away from Iran.  But given the strength of Turkey's armed forces and their potential ability to beseige and defeat Israel, these threats cannot be cavalierly discounted.

By itself, the crisis with Turkey would be a serious yet manageable problem.  But on top of Turkey, Egypt, which had been a peaceful neighbor until Obama betrayed him and supported the opposition, is looking less and less like a friend, teetering very close to enemy status.  We already know that the vast majority of Egyptians do not like the treaty with Israel and are virulently anti-semitic.  Then this weekend you saw a savage, barbaric mob of Egyptians attack the Israeli embassy in Cairo, with the police doing nothing but watch.  It was only after pleas to the highest levels in the Egyptian ruling military junta, was something done to rescue the embassy personnel still there (mostly security guards).  Had they not been rescued, it's pretty clear these employees would have been mutilated and murdered.  It's very troubling that it took such cajoling for Egypt to stand by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a cornerstone of modern international relations.  What other treaties are the Egyptians willing to ignore?  And it's not just Cairo which is becoming unsafe for Israelis, but the areas in Israel that border Egypt as well.  It was just a few weeks ago that several terrorist teams infiltrated from Egypt in broad daylight and attacked tourists on the way to a vacation in Eilat.  And just this weekend, shots were fired at a jeep near the border with Egypt.  One of the reasons that Israel has been doing so well economically is because of the treaty with Egypt.  Knowing its southern border was safe has allowed Israel to lower its military expenditure as a % of GDP over the years, allowing greater investment in the civilian side of the economy which has promoted economic growth.  The fact that border now has to be more actively defended, is going to hurt.  The fact that the Egyptian army will likely give the IDF a run for its money in any conflict (it does have over a thousand M1 tanks after all), makes recent developments even more disconcerting.

And let's not let recent developments in Turkey and Egypt deflect from the ongoing threat from Iran, which continues to develop nuclear weapons.  Let's not forget that the leader of Iran is a batsh*t crazy believe in a messianic cult who might just want to start armageddon himself.  While Iran's program has definitely been delayed through Stuxnet and other clandestine attacks, it does continue to make progress.

And if those threats from external forces weren't enough, Israel is likely to be threatened by forces from within as well.  On September 20th, the Palestinians are expected to move forward with their attempt to gain recognition for a state at the UN.  As their desire for full statehood, with all the rights and privileges that goes with that, is not likely to happen, Palestinians may start a third, violent intifada.  This will not only hurt Israel economically but also attract attacks from the outside.  It wouldn't be too surprising for the Lebanese, Gazan and Egyptian borders to become even more active.  It would, after all, be in their interests to mount a co-ordinated offensive on the Jewish state.

The worst part about all of this is there is no obvious solution for Israel.  Giving in, either on Turkey's demands or the Palestinian demands will only make Israel's enemies stronger (it's hard to see how giving terrorists a view of downtown Tel Aviv from safe havens in the West Bank will be good for Israel).  At best, Israel will achieve only a temporary respite.  Conversely, it's unclear how much Israel can fight any of these enemies at the present time with the most anti-Israel President in history in the White House.  When Israel is in need of the help of the United States most, it can least depend upon it.  No wonder Netanyahu's responses so far have been so muted, he probably feels completely boxed in by events.  Probably the best hope for Israel is that internal sniping amongst its enemies makes them take their eyes off the prize. After all, there would have been no State of Israel at all without the disunity of their enemies.  Let's keep our fingers crossed on that one.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Obama's Laughable Address to Congress

Last night's campaign speech before Congress was really farcical.  It was like all of Congress were in a giant principal's office, held captive as they were lectured for breaking some rule nobody cared about.  In the end you got a plan that was supposed to be paid for but apparently by someone else as Obama wanted the "super committee" to deal with it, not him.  He's kind of like a "seagull boss", you know one of those bosses that flies in, takes a poop and then flies away.  Because you know he's going to be busy campaigning/golfing, not actually trying to get any sort of jobs bill passed.  If he really cared about jobs he would have come up with a jobs bill that might actually create some, not just a $450 billion monstrosity full of programs that have failed miserably earlier in his term.  Now on to specific comments about his speech:

For decades now, Americans have watched that compact erode.  They have seen the decks too often stacked against them.  And they know that Washington has not always put their interests first.

Decades?  Let me think, what major events might have eroded that compact?  The New Deal?  The Great Society?  Both those pushes took power away from individuals and gave them to bureaucrats in Washington that are pretty much answerable to nobody.  I wonder which party was behind that?

The question is -- the question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.   

My guess is that if we ever get to see his transcript he would have failed American History.  I just simply don't remember fairness and security being a part of American society (unless I missed the part of us being some socialist utopia) beyond fairness in the courts and security from marauders.  When Obama says fairness and security he is talking about the right to get your fair share whether or not you've achieved anything and the right to keep it, even if there is no reason you should.  This country was founded on the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit (not guaranteed achievement) of Happiness.  One of Ben Franklin's famous quotes is even "they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."  This country was founded on people having the opportunity to either succeed or fail miserably based on their own merits.  Sometimes life wasn't fair and something outside your control would make you fail, but it wasn't viewed as the job of the government to get you back anything that you lost.

I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away.

Does that mean he wants to go on vacation soon?  God forbid he and his wife don't squeeze every last dollar they can from the American taxpayer with their free vacations.  Also, is he sending a plan or a bill?  If it's a plan, it's just an outline and it has to be actually written in bill form.  My guess is he wouldn't want to actually send it in bill form because then he would have to defend every little detail in it.  If it's a plan he can just talk about the broad strokes and even make stuff up that isn't even in the bill (you see it's in HIS plan just not the bill before Congress).  Remember when he kept saying that with Obamacare you can keep your insurance if you like it?  Does anyone believe that?

There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation.  Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans -- including many who sit here tonight.  And everything in this bill will be paid for.  Everything.

Obviously it wouldn't be controversial for him because, well, he wrote it.  But yes, he is pretty much right.  No individual section is controversial, but taken as a whole, it will waste $450 billion that we don't have.  Also, everything will be paid for?  Everything?  If you are so intent on paying for everything, why wouldn't you put tax increases and spending cuts in the bill itself and not just kick the can down the road?  I guess providing actual details on the more negative aspects would have made the bill controversial and then this whole thing might actually hurt him at the polls.  And we can't have that, helping re-elect him is the whole point of this entire charade. For him.

The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple:  to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.  It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed. 

More jobs for construction workers and teachers?  Hmmm, what do those two groups have in common?  Oh yeah, they are unionized.  Now what are you going to do for the other 90% of the country Mr. "President"?  Also, have teachers been particularly negatively affected in this downturn?  Was that homeless guy I passed on the subway a social studies teacher at PS 341?  In 10 years, only 47 teachers out of 100,000 were fired from NJ schools.  It seems to me they have some of the most secure jobs in the country so why are we mortgaging our future to make their jobs even more secure?

It will provide -- it will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business.  (Applause.)  It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services.  You should pass this jobs plan right away.

Why exactly would a temporary cut in the payroll tax give the economy anything more than a temporary boost?  When payroll taxes were cut in January, did it do anything for the economy?  Growth is slower and unemployment is higher.  So why are we doing it again?  And anyway, what is sapping business confidence are all those idiotic regulations the Democrats keep shoving down their throats as well as health premiums skyrocketing due to Obamacare.

Pass this jobs bill, and all small business owners will also see their payroll taxes cut in half next year.  (Applause.)  If you have 50 employees -- if you have 50 employees making an average salary, that's an $80,000 tax cut.  And all businesses will be able to continue writing off the investments they make in 2012.

And if you provide family health insurance to your employees, that is costing you about $24,000 a year per employee, so  $1.2 MILLION dollars total.  If your premiums went up 28% like my company's (without any change in benefits) that's an additional $336,000 you're shelling out just to keep everything the same.  This payroll tax cut is kind of like peeing in the ocean in terms of employee costs especially with the cost of health benefits skyrocketing.

It's not just Democrats who have supported this kind of proposal.  Fifty House Republicans have proposed the same payroll tax cut that's in this plan.  You should pass it right away.

Then the Republicans should pass the payroll tax cut and pay for it immediately with spending cuts to the bloated bureaucracy.  Will that work for you?  Doesn't that count as a compromise?

Pass this jobs bill, and we can put people to work rebuilding America.  Everyone here knows we have badly decaying roads and bridges all over the country.  Our highways are clogged with traffic.  Our skies are the most congested in the world.  It's an outrage.  

Wasn't that the point of the original stimulus package which cost about $862 billion?  It seems that when Obama said "shovel ready" he meant unions were ready to shovel taxpayer money into their pockets without actually doing what they were supposed to do (the stimulus package seems like the ultimate "no-show job").

Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us a economic superpower.  And now we're going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? 

Isn't this racist?  Why is he singling out China?  Also, who exactly is clamoring for faster railroads other than left wing politicians?  Anyway, Amtrak can barely handle our slow speed rail, imagine what would happen if they had trains that could actually do some damage?

And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating.  How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart?  This is America.  Every child deserves a great school -- and we can give it to them, if we act now. 

We can also afford to renovate the schools without spending any additional money by ending collective bargaining for teachers.  Collective bargaining agreements don't only mean out-sized pay and benefits for teachers but also they include items like requiring health benefits be bought from the union, which of course overcharges.  Also, NY public schools are often a travesty (more than a third of Manhattan schools have hazardous code violations!), yet the city spends over $18,000 per pupil.  Where is all that money going?  That's enough money to fund a posh private school. There is clearly enough money to give our kids a good education in a nice school, too bad the unions are syphoning so much of it all. Anyway, even if the school construction part of the bill passed, the school year just started, so unless we want our kids covered in dirt or worse, wouldn't we have to wait until next June to renovate?  What is the point of acting now then?

Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work.

Summer's over, aren't they going back to work anyway?

But while they're adding teachers in places like South Korea, we're laying them off in droves.  It's unfair to our kids.

Again with the Asians, is he race-baiting or something?

Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get extra tax credits if they hire America's veterans.  We ask these men and women to leave their careers, leave their families, risk their lives to fight for our country.  The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they come home.

While I am certainly not against helping out veterans, but won't this not create any new jobs?  Aren't you just creating another preference for a certain subgroup at the expense of others?  If you have one spot to fill, you'll more likely fill it with a veteran now but this program doesn't make it so you have two spots to fill.

Pass this bill, and hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people will have the hope and the dignity of a summer job next year.  And their parents -- (applause) -- their parents, low-income Americans who desperately want to work, will have more ladders out of poverty.

Hundreds of thousands?  How?  Maybe he'll put them to work but just not pay them?

Pass this jobs bill, and companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire anyone who has spent more than six months looking for a job. 

Again, this is nonsensical.  This is like cash for clunkers for people.  An expensive program that will have zero benefit to the economy.  So if have unskilled labor in your employ, there seems to be no reason to fire most of them and just hire long term unemployed.  You'll rake in the dough, Obama gets to say the number of long term unemployed went down, but no net new jobs are created.  Brilliant!   If the government is giving out money, people will find a way to scam it. 

Democrats and Republicans in this chamber have supported unemployment insurance plenty of times in the past.  And in this time of prolonged hardship, you should pass it again -- right away.

So because they have historically supported 6 months worth of insurance, they now have to support paying for insurance for over 2 years?  That doesn't quite make sense.

The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years.  It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas.  Tonight, I am asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act.  And a week from Monday, I'll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan -- a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.

Again, if finding those cuts was so easy, why didn't he enumerate them in his plan?  Talk about passing the buck.  I also find it interesting that just a month ago he signed on to the debt ceiling deal to lower the deficit and he is already submitting a plan that will increase the deficit by $450 billion, with no offsets.  He is like a subprime borrower who kept taking out home equity loans on his property.  "You mean I can borrow $450 billion and take 10 years to pay it off?  Where do I sign?  How can this possibly go wrong???"  We know how it can go wrong.  We've seen this movie before.

This approach is basically the one I've been advocating for months.  In addition to the trillion dollars of spending cuts I've already signed into law, it's a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by making additional spending cuts, by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and by reforming our tax code in a way that asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.

Don't the wealthy in this country already pay a disproportionate share of the taxes? At what point do you say enough? When it's 100%?

Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary -- an outrage he has asked us to fix.

Warren Buffett is an isolated case.  On average, effective tax rates on the wealthy are much higher than on the non-wealthy according to the latest IRS data. Maybe we should just tax Warren Buffett more.

And to help responsible homeowners, we're going to work with federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4 percent.  That's a step -- (applause) -- I know you guys must be for this, because that's a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family's pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices.

How exactly?  Many of the people who could refinance at today's rates have.  The ones that haven't are either underwater on their mortgages or don't have the income to support a new loan (which a refinancing is).  It would be interesting to see what the plan for this actually is and if it doesn't put even more strain on the Federal Housing Authority (giving out loans to subprime borrowers for more than a property is worth hasn't historically worked out too well).

 Now it's time to clear the way for a series of trade agreements that would make it easier for American companies to sell their products in Panama and Colombia and South Korea -– while also helping the workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition.  (Applause.)  If Americans can buy Kias and Hyundais, I want to see folks in South Korea driving Fords and Chevys and Chryslers.  (Applause.)  I want to see more products sold around the world stamped with the three proud words:  "Made in America."  That's what we need to get done.  (Applause.)

Last I heard, it was Obama holding up the free trade agreements.  Congress can't pass the free trade agreements if they aren't first submitted by the White House for approval.  Minor issue.  And I don't think protectionism is the reason Asians don't drive American cars.  It's because our cars are pieces of crap generally made by expensive union labor which makes our cars noncompetitive.

We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people require.  Every rule should meet that common-sense test.  (Applause.)

We don't need Obamacare, can we get rid of that now?

I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury

Who WANTS to expose their kids to mercury?  Where the heck did that come from?  Enough with the false choices please.  Pass my bill or your kids will be mad as a hatter!

We shouldn't be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.

Well China, who he loves so dearly because they make fast trains (and are Communist), will always have cheaper (slave) labor and worse pollution standards.  Anyway, this is a false choice.  It is very clear that some of our labor is way too expensive for what they do (unionized car manufacturers, union construction jobs) and some of our regulations go overboard (like the drought in the San Joaqin Valley caused by EPA regulations to protect the Delta Smelt).

What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do?  (Applause.)

You mean the rigid idea that we need to be able to live within our means and not make promises we can't keep?

But know this:  The next election is 14 months away.  And the people who sent us here -- the people who hired us to work for them -- they don't have the luxury of waiting 14 months. 

That's rich coming from a guy who had filibuster proof majorities in Congress but instead did almost nothing to help the economy after his initial stimulus while he and his wife racked up vacation mileage on Air Force One.

And I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.

I guess that means he will campaign on the public dime in the name of "taking the message" of this dud of a jobs bill that will probably create almost no jobs and just leave us even more indebted than before.  Also, does he realize that if this thing passes that increases the chance that we will have another debt ceiling showdown BEFORE the next election?