Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Biden Incident

Obama’s response to a gaffe during the VP’s visit has revealed how one-sided his Middle East policy is.

By Charles Krauthammer
March 18, 2010 5:00 P.M.

Why did Pres. Barack Obama choose to turn a gaffe into a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations?

And a gaffe it was: the announcement by a bureaucrat in the Interior Ministry of a housing expansion in a Jewish neighborhood in north Jerusalem. The timing could not have been worse: Vice President Joe Biden was visiting, Jerusalem is a touchy subject, and you don’t bring up touchy subjects that might embarrass an honored guest.

But it was no more than a gaffe. It was certainly not a policy change, let alone a betrayal. The neighborhood is in Jerusalem, and the 2009 Netanyahu-Obama agreement was for a ten-month freeze on West Bank settlements excluding Jerusalem.

Nor was the offense intentional. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not know about this move — step four in a seven-step approval process for construction that, at best, will not even start for another two to three years.

Nonetheless the prime minister is responsible. He apologized to Biden for the embarrassment. When Biden left Israel on March 11, the apology appeared accepted and the issue resolved.

The next day, however, the administration went nuclear. After discussing with the president specific language she would use, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu to deliver a hostile and highly aggressive 45-minute message that the Biden incident had created an unprecedented crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.

Clinton’s spokesman then publicly announced that Israel was now required to show in word and in deed its seriousness about peace.

Israel? Israelis have been looking for peace — literally dying for peace — since 1947, when they accepted the U.N. partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. (The Arabs refused and declared war. They lost.)

Israel made peace offers in 1967, in 1978, and in the 1993 Oslo peace accords that Yasser Arafat tore up seven years later to launch a terror war that killed a thousand Israelis. Why, Clinton’s own husband testifies to the remarkable courage and vision of the peace offer made in his presence by Ehud Barak (now Netanyahu’s defense minister) at the 2000 Camp David talks. Arafat rejected it. In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered equally generous terms to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Refused again.

In these long and bloody 63 years, the Palestinians have not once accepted an Israeli offer of permanent peace, or ever countered with anything short of terms that would destroy Israel. They insist instead on a “peace process” — now in its 17th post-Oslo year and still offering no credible Palestinian pledge of ultimate coexistence with a Jewish state — the point of which is to extract preemptive Israeli concessions — such as a ban on Jewish construction in parts of Jerusalem conquered by Jordan in 1948 — before negotiations for a real peace have even begun.

Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its GDP is growing at an astounding 7 percent a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called “unprecedented.”

What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.

Indeed, long before the Biden incident, Abbas refused even to resume direct negotiations with Israel. That’s why the Obama administration has to resort to “proximity talks” — a procedure that sets us back 35 years to before Anwar Sadat’s groundbreaking visit to Jerusalem.

And Clinton demands that Israel show its seriousness about peace?

Now that’s an insult.

So why this astonishing one-sidedness? Because Obama likes appeasing enemies while beating up on allies — therefore Israel shouldn’t take it personally (according to Robert Kagan)? Because Obama wants to bring down the current Israeli coalition government (according to Jeffrey Goldberg)?

Or is it because Obama fancies himself the historic redeemer whose irresistible charisma will heal the breach between Christianity and Islam or, if you will, between the post-imperial West and the Muslim world — and has little patience for this pesky Jewish state that insists brazenly on its right to exist, and even more brazenly on permitting Jews to live in its own ancient, historic, and now present capital?

Who knows? Perhaps we should ask those Obama acolytes who assured the 63 percent of Americans who support Israel — at least 97 percent of those supporters, mind you, are non-Jews — of candidate Obama’s abiding commitment to Israel.

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010, The Washington Post Writers Group.

Israel's New Enemy: America?

by Cal Thomas
March 18, 2010

"Enemy: "a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent." --

Despite Vice President Joe Biden's recent pledge of unswerving fidelity to Israel during his recent visit there, the rhetoric and pressure directed by the Obama administration against the only fully functioning democracy in the Middle East more accurately resembles the behavior of an enemy. Increasingly under this administration -- but also present in Republican administrations -- America's policy toward Israel is full of "harmful designs" and "antagonistic activities." The intentions may not be deliberate, but the outcome would lead to the same injurious end.

The latest pretext for putting more pressure on Israel to do more in the "pursuit of peace" comes from a decision by Israel's Interior Ministry to construct 1,600 new housing units in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, which is located in "disputed territory." To the Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim neighbors, most especially Iran and Syria, all of Israel is "disputed territory." It is difficult to understand why the U.S. State Department thinks not building a few houses is going to dissuade Israel's enemies from wanting less than they want now.

The failure of this formula has been evident for decades, but U.S. policy continues to employ it, always with the same results. Whether Israel's concessions have been unilateral -- most recently with its abandonment of the Gaza Strip, which predictably led to terrorist attacks from that territory -- or negotiated deals which the Palestinians have never lived up to, Israel always ends up getting its pocket picked. Then, the United States, the U.N., Europe and Russia demand that it put more valuables in its pocket so the thieves can continue their thievery.

A Washington Post headline illustrates the deteriorating relationship between the two nations, "U.S. Pushes Netanyahu to Accept 3 Demands." There is no similar demand that the Palestinians and especially Hamas, which has said it will agree to nothing less than the eradication of Israel, should accept anything, not even the minimal acceptance of Israel's right to exist. Meanwhile, Hamas has called on Palestinians to launch a third "intifada."

After apologizing to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the "offense" of the housing announcement during Biden's visit, Netanyahu reminded the Israeli parliament that Israel has been building in east Jerusalem for four decades. He said, "The building of those Jewish neighborhoods in no way hurt the Arabs of East Jerusalem and did not come at their expense."

That doesn't matter when the wrong formula is employed. In this twisted thinking, whatever Israel does is unjustified so long as the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim side is unhappy. What part of annihilation does the State Department not understand? What State is blind to is that the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict," as it is erroneously labeled, is part of a worldwide religious war against all things Jewish, Christian, secular, modern and Western.

Making demands of only one side before serious negotiations begin, especially on matters of Jerusalem, so-called "refugees" and borders, effectively pressures Israel into making concessions on all three, which would severely damage its prospects for continued existence.

How about first making these demands of the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim side: (1) A pledge of no more war with Israel, or terrorism; 2) a declaration by a powerful Islamic cleric that their God no longer requires them to kill people who don't believe as they do; and 3) no more teaching in Palestinian textbooks and in their media that Jews created AIDS and descend from monkeys and pigs?

After those three demands are met, the State Department can start making demands of Israel. Not before. Anything less puts America on the wrong side, along with Israel's (and America's) enemies. Or hasn't State noticed that we share the same enemies?

Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".


By Ann Coulter
March 17, 2010

Liberals keep complaining that Republicans don't have a plan for reforming health care in America. I have a plan!

It's a one-page bill creating a free market in health insurance. Let's all pause here for a moment so liberals can Google the term "free market."

Nearly every problem with health care in this country -- apart from trial lawyers and out-of-date magazines in doctors' waiting rooms -- would be solved by my plan.

In the first sentence, Congress will amend the McCarran-Ferguson Act to allow interstate competition in health insurance.

We can't have a free market in health insurance until Congress eliminates the antitrust exemption protecting health insurance companies from competition. If Democrats really wanted to punish insurance companies, which they manifestly do not, they'd make insurers compete.

The very next sentence of my bill provides that the exclusive regulator of insurance companies will be the state where the company's home office is. Every insurance company in the country would incorporate in the state with the fewest government mandates, just as most corporations are based in Delaware today.

That's the only way to bypass idiotic state mandates, requiring all insurance plans offered in the state to cover, for example, the Zone Diet, sex-change operations, and whatever it is that poor Heidi Montag has done to herself this week.

President Obama says we need national health care because Natoma Canfield of Ohio had to drop her insurance when she couldn't afford the $6,700 premiums, and now she's got cancer.

Much as I admire Obama's use of terminally ill human beings as political props, let me point out here that perhaps Natoma could have afforded insurance had she not been required by Ohio's state insurance mandates to purchase a plan that covers infertility treatments and unlimited ob/gyn visits, among other things.

It sounds like Natoma could have used a plan that covered only the basics -- you know, things like cancer.

The third sentence of my bill would prohibit the federal government from regulating insurance companies, except for normal laws and regulations that apply to all companies.

Freed from onerous state and federal mandates turning insurance companies into public utilities, insurers would be allowed to offer a whole smorgasbord of insurance plans, finally giving consumers a choice.

Instead of Harry Reid deciding whether your insurance plan covers Viagra, this decision would be made by you, the consumer. (I apologize for using the terms "Harry Reid" and "Viagra" in the same sentence. I promise that won't happen again.)

Instead of insurance companies jumping to the tune of politicians bought by health-care lobbyists, they would jump to the tune of hundreds of millions of Americans buying health insurance on the free market.

Hypochondriac liberals could still buy the aromatherapy plan and normal people would be able to buy plans that only cover things like major illness, accidents and disease. (Again -- things like Natoma Canfield's cancer.)

This would, in effect, transform medical insurance into ... a form of insurance!

My bill will solve nearly every problem allegedly addressed by ObamaCare -- and mine entails zero cost to the taxpayer. Indeed, a free market in health insurance would produce major tax savings as layers of government bureaucrats, unnecessary to medical service in America, get fired.

For example, in a free market, the government wouldn't need to prohibit insurance companies from excluding "pre-existing conditions."

Of course, an insurance company has to be able to refuse new customers with "pre-existing conditions." Otherwise, everyone would just wait to get sick to buy insurance. It's the same reason you can't buy fire insurance on a house that's already on fire.

That isn't an "insurance company"; it's what's known as a "Christian charity."

What Democrats are insinuating when they denounce exclusions of "pre-existing conditions" is an insurance company using the "pre-existing condition" ruse to deny coverage to a current policy holder -- someone who's been paying into the plan, year after year.

Any insurance company operating in the free market that pulled that trick wouldn't stay in business long.

If hotels were as heavily regulated as health insurance is, right now I'd be explaining to you why the government doesn't need to mandate that hotels offer rooms with beds. If they didn't, they'd go out of business.

I'm sure people who lived in the old Soviet Union thought it was crazy to leave groceries to the free market. ("But what if they don't stock the food we want?")

The market is a more powerful enforcement mechanism than indolent government bureaucrats. If you don't believe me, ask Toyota about six months from now.

Right now, insurance companies are protected by government regulations from having to honor their contracts. Violating contracts isn't so easy when competitors are lurking, ready to steal your customers.

In addition to saving taxpayer money and providing better health insurance, my plan also saves trees by being 2,199 pages shorter than the Democrats' plan.

Feel free to steal it, Republicans!


Book Review: "The Fourth Star"

The Generals

by David Forsmark on Mar 18th, 2010

The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army
By David Cloud and Greg Jaffe
Crown, $28, 330 pp.

It’s a dusty axiom that generals have the bad habit of fighting the last war, rather than the one they’re engaged in.

After Vietnam, the U.S. Army took the opposite approach. From the quagmire of ‘Nam, the Army took the “lesson” that it should never again engage in another counter-insurgency effort —or even study how to fight one. (This, despite the fact that the U.S. had won the fight against the Viet Cong guerrillas by 1972, and its Special Forces knew exactly how to conduct such a war.)

This combination of arrogance and head-in-the-sand flight from reality became embedded in the command bureaucracy, which refused to train troops for counter-insurgency or even to compose contingency plans on how to fight such a war.

In The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army, a superb new book by David Cloud and Greg Jaffe, the authors contend that such an approach nearly led to disaster in Iraq.

During the Cold War, the Army was very well prepared for the Big Invasion (think Grenada, Panama and the first Gulf War), but it had no doctrine for dealing with guerrilla fighting.

At the core of this ostrich-like approach was the Powell Doctrine — a comforting bit of pabulum that became conventional wisdom even outside the military. In short, the doctrine stated the U.S. should engage in a war only when vital (key word) national interests are threatened; that overwhelming force should be exercised in an all-out effort to win; and that a clear exit strategy should be drafted for when the pre-defined goal is met.

Conservatives liked the Powell Doctrine because it proposed engagement only when the U.S. used its massive military advantage, while liberals used it to argue every war was not a “vital” national security threat and no exit strategy ever was good enough to meet the standard. (The universal acceptance of this policy was probably part of the reason the Bush administration focused so heavily on the WMD argument for taking out Saddam Hussein.)

But Powell merely gave the Army intellectual cover to not prepare for anything as messy as the aftermath of the Iraq War; and many in the Pentagon and the White House held to it, or something like it, for far too long, especially with the doctrine’s author sitting as secretary of state. (In contrast but along the same pendulum-swing kind of thinking, it is starting to look like the Army has over-learned the lessons of counter-insurgency in Iraq in today’s Afghanistan, where the restrictive rules of engagement make the conflict far too problematic.)

Years into the occupation of Iraq, when General George Casey Jr. assumed command in Baghdad, he asked the sensible question: “Who is my counter-insurgency expert?” Stunningly, an Air Force officer whose hands-on experience came at 20,000 feet mumbled, “I guess that would be me.”

The Fourth Star ingeniously and engagingly tells the story of how the Army re-invented itself on the fly and under fire though the parallel biographies of four 4-star generals

■George Casey Jr.: a solid “muddy boots” commander who refused to challenge civilian authority and assumptions, was determined not to “repeat the mistakes of Vietnam” and tried to work within standard Army doctrine to accomplish a limited mission in Iraq – which he genuinely seemed to think he was accomplishing.

■John Abizaid: A brilliant academic, he made himself an expert in the Middle East. He knew enough to doubt the Pentagon’s strategy and assumptions about Iraq but not enough to devise a strategy for victory.

■Peter Chiarelli: The no-nonsense commander of Baghdad recognized that the key to victory was to make the population’s life better. Chiarelli implemented his own successful counter-insurgency tactics over the objections of civilian planners. He had epic battles with his own command but ultimately was unable to bring the Army to adopt his tactics.

■David Petraeus: The brilliant thinker initially was an awkward commander, but he eventually persuaded President Bush to his way of thinking. Petraeus transformed Big Army into a flexible, quick-reacting force capable of successful defeating the insurgency.

While Cloud and Jaffe are frank about each general’s shortcomings — particularly Casey’s —readers, in the end, will admire each of these men for their dedication and service.

It may surprise many to learn, for instance, that Casey — whose media statements the last few years have verged on the pusillanimous, such as when he said about the Ft. Hood massacre, “As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” – was a tough and skilled warrior who passed Delta Force training and was invited to join that elite commando unit. It’s also telling that he turned the billet down over family considerations, and followed a much safer and standard course for promotions.

Any reasonable book on the Iraq War must deal with the awful tenure of Ambassador Paul Bremer. The authors reveal Petraeus had a civil government and consensus administration set up in Mosul but had to fight Bremer — and even ignore some of his directives — to keep things from breaking down as they did in the rest of Iraq. (The situation eventually fell apart after Petraeus was rotated stateside.)

Bremer’s policy of absolute de-Baathification and the State Department’s electoral process by which Iraqis voted for ethnic leadership, rather than representatives by territory or district, certainly created chaos. However, Cloud and Jaffe show this was the policy of the Bush insiders as well, and Bremer was acting under Bush’s direction more than some books give credit (or blame) for.

In a teleconference related in the book, we see Abizaid raised doubts about the de-Baathification policy and was shot down cold by Douglas Feith, a prominent conservative at the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s reluctance to “nation build” — which sounded just like the kind of long-term slog he wanted to avoid — led to a vacuum of leadership on the counter-insurgency strategy. Despite his efforts to reform the military bureaucracy, Rumsfeld was influenced by the Powell Doctrine and Big Army reluctance to engage in what he might have called “the war we have.”

The book also touches on the importance of a little-known “tribe” in the Army — officers who attended or taught at the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, generally referred to as “Sosh.” At Sosh, the generals-in-waiting were taught economics and diplomacy as well as military strategy, and their big picture thinking was extended beyond just the battlefield.

Petraeus and Chiarelli, the generals most apt to recommend workable solutions in Iraq, were heavily influenced by their time at Sosh, while Casey took a combat/weapons systems-oriented route to his promotions.

Rumsfeld famously said, “You go to war with the Army you have.” The Fourth Star tells how we got from the Army we had then to the Army we have now.

By taking their unique biographical approach to their subject, Cloud and Jaffe keep The Fourth Star from being a dry tome about military strategy that only an attendee at the War College would read. Instead, this compelling and incredibly accessible book will fascinate even the lay person interested in military issues — or even anyone who enjoys well-told biographies.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Today's Tune: Luke Kelly - Whiskey in the Jar

(Click on title to play video)

As I was going over the far famed Kerry mountains,
I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was count'n.
I first produced me pistol, and then produced me rapier, Saying stand and deliver for you are the bold deceiver.

Musha rig um du rum da
Whack fol the daddy o
Whack fol the daddy o
There's whiskey in the jar

I counted out his money and it made a pretty penny,
I put it in me pocket and I took it home to Jenny.
She sighed and she swore that she never would deceave me,
But the devil take the women for they never can be easy.


I went up to me chamber all for to take a slumber
I dreamt of gold and jewels and sure it was no wonder,
But Jenny drew me charges and she filled them up with water,
And sent for Captain Farrel, to be ready for the slaughter.


'Twas early in the morning before I rose to travel,
Up comes a band of footmen and likewise Captain Farrell;
I first produce my pistol, for she stole away my rapier
But I couldn't shoot the water, so a prisoner I was taken.


And if anyone can aid me, 'tis my brother in the army,
If I could learn his station in Cork or in Killarney.
And if he'd come and join me we'd go roving through Kilkenny,
I'm sure he'd treat me fairer than my own sporting Jenny.


There's some takes delight in the carriages a rolling,
Some takes delight in the hurley or the bowlin'.
But I takes delight in the juice of the barley,
And courting pretty fair maids in the morning bright and early.


Health care reform in Washington meets the Chicago Way

Reform effort finds its fall guys in Congress

By John Kass
The Chicago Tribune
9:29 p.m. CDT, March 16, 2010

Not even three or four pipes full of Hopium could have convinced me that the Congress of the United States would ever start looking like the Chicago City Council.

But now, with the Chicago Way White House twisting arms for its federal health care legislation, Democrats in Congress and Chicago aldermen are beginning to share a remarkable resemblance.

They're starting to look like fall guys.

"The Congress? They're acting like aldermen. Like fall guys. And we know all about fall guys in the city of Chicago," said Jim Laski, a former Chicago alderman and former federal inmate who is now a WGN radio talk show host.

Laski was an alderman for years, representing the 23rd Ward on the Southwest Side. We met centuries ago, when he was a political aide and I was a new reporter.

I felt bad for his family when Laski, who'd climbed to the job of city clerk, was convicted on corruption charges. But he made the choice to take the money. He admitted taking $48,000 from a family friend.

He did his time without complaint. He apologized to his family and constituents. And he learned that in federal custody, one of the most valuable commodities is a pouch of tuna.

"It's the protein. The weightlifters like it," Laski said. "They call it a ‘can' of tuna. As in, ‘You want this, or that, it'll cost two cans.' But it's really a vacuum-packed pouch of tuna. Why do they call it a can? Don't ask me."

Unlike others who talk about politics, he's actually done it. And as we stood outside the Tribune Tower on Tuesday after he'd done a show, we didn't discuss the merits of the president's plan. We were talking about the tactics.

"These congressmen are starting to understand what it's like in Chicago, with the Chicago guys running the White House. They (the Democrats) have to know they're the fall guys," Laski said. "Otherwise, why would they so desperate to keep their fingerprints off the health care thing?"

Things are looking more Chicago in Washington all the time.

In Chicago, the mayor gets what he wants, and the mayor's friends get what they want. And the aldermen? They get the ridicule and the blame.

If the president gets what he desires — a health care victory — then Congress will pay for it in the midterm elections in November, and they know it.

The proof is in that latest congressional trick announced on Tuesday, a ploy so weaselly that it could have been hatched by Chicago politicians.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland is now talking about allowing his members to pass the president's health care package — whatever's in it exactly, no one really knows — without a direct up-or-down vote on the current bill.

"It's consistent with the rules," Hoyer was quoted as saying on Tuesday. "It's consistent with former practice."

Consistent with the rules? Perhaps, but it sure isn't what President Barack Obama promised when he was talking like a reformer.

Democrats in the Congress want to appease the president and his crew, but they don't want the federal health vote tied to their necks for the November midterm elections. Their constituents don't want it and they've said so, loudly.

So Democrats in Congress desire a rhetorical out. With the Hoyer plan, they can say they support the health care package and then tell their constituents they didn't vote for it, exactly.

Their only trouble is that now, the entire country is watching.

"They've got to do something," Laski said. "The president wants the vote now. He doesn't want the Congress going back home, talking to their constituents. Their knees are already wobbling. If you've been in a legislative body, you can see what's going on. They want to get it done."

But what is it exactly that they want to get done? No one seems to know exactly, except that it will cost a trillion dollars we don't have, and force an increase in taxes and fees in years to come. There's talk that Congress will fix the bill, but only after it becomes law. And if you believe they'll revisit it, then just fill yourself another pipe of Hopium.

"This whole health care thing is Chicago," Laski said.

Except, that in Chicago, the mayor's guy doesn't meet you naked in the shower to twist your arm. It's just not done.

"But in Chicago, you're an alderman and the mayor's guy comes in your office, drops a legislative package on your desk, and then says, ‘You vote ‘yes' on this tomorrow, OK?'

"You haven't read it, you really don't know who's going to make a score, there are no real details, but you're expected to vote for it.

"The same thing with health care in Washington. Who knows what's really in it? Nobody. But the president's guys tell the congressmen, ‘You vote on this or else.' It's called arm-twisting but it's really arm-breaking. That's the Chicago Way."

Obviously, this isn't exactly what the president promised while campaigning, promising to transcend the broken politics of the past.

This is the broken politics of the past.

So get those Hopium pipes ready. It might look like Washington. But after a few puffs, it'll start looking more Chicago every day.

The Slaughter on the Southern Border

How many more Americans will be targeted for execution before we stop rewarding Mexico’s behavior?

By Michelle Malkin
March 17, 2010 12:00 A.M.

At a joint press conference with Mexican president Felipe Calderón last year, President Obama vowed to make ending border violence a “top priority.” How’s that hope and change working out? Drug-related crime is out of control, the State Department is warning spring-break vacationers to avoid the Mexican states of Durango, Coahuila, and Chihuahua, and the bloodshed has now reached the U.S. consulate’s office.

A young American consulate worker and her unborn baby were slain this weekend in Mexico, along with her U.S. detention officer husband and the Mexican husband of another consulate worker. The wanton murders appear to have been a coordinated drug-cartel hit; the victims had all just left a children’s birthday party in Juarez and were headed across the border back into Texas. The pregnant American official, Lesley Enriquez, is reportedly the first consulate employee to die in drug-related violence since 1985. Her seven-month-old daughter, terrorized by the gunfire while strapped in her car seat, was the lone survivor of the attack.

A soldier takes pictures at a crime scene where an American couple were killed in a drive-by shooting in the border city of Ciudad Juarez March 13, 2010. Three people connected to the U.S. consulate in Mexico's most violent border city were murdered, police said on Sunday, prompting U.S. President Barack Obama to respond with outrage and sadness. Minutes after the American couple were shot, another man with ties to the consulate was murdered in a different area of the city at the center of a bloody turf war between drug cartels, according to a police source. Picture taken March 13, 2010. (Reuters)

The State Department has now authorized the evacuation of dependents of U.S. personnel in six Mexican cities along the northern border, and the resort town of Acapulco saw at least 13 murdered over the past week — including four beheadings. The total death toll over the past three years is nearing 20,000.

Mexican government officials have been quite content to blame their neighbors for the outbreaks; to play the race card; to demand blanket amnesty for illegal aliens from their country trying to flee the violence and misery; and to collect massive infusions of U.S. aid that have fallen into the wrong hands. The question for this White House is: How many more Americans will be targeted for execution before we stop rewarding such fatally arrogant behavior?

Reminder: With bipartisan support, the Bush administration handed over $1.6 billion to help Mexico control its border chaos in 2008. The crime-fighting package, known as the “Merida Initiative,” funded helicopters, surveillance equipment, computer infrastructure, the expansion of intelligence databases, anti-corruption initiatives, human-rights education and training, and an anti-money-laundering program for our southern neighbors. President Obama accelerated the release of Merida Initiative cash to Mexico and tossed even more taxpayer funding into the mix. All of this while our own measly border-enforcement initiatives have been shortchanged, demagogued, or completely abandoned.

Critics of the Merida Initiative (including yours truly) warned that lax oversight would inevitably lead to the plundering of the money by corrupt Mexican government officials and more unabated bloodshed. Calderón cried “Racist!” and demanded that the aid be forked over with no strings attached. “Give it to me. And give it to me without conditions,” he told Congress.

Well, who’s watching over the program now? Who’s measuring its success or failure? Judging from the endless pile of corpses and horrific headlines, the Merida Initiative has turned out to be a boon and a boondoggle for the Mexican thugocracy. The civilian police force is notoriously under the thumb of the drug networks across the country. Infiltrators have penetrated at all levels.

The Brookings Institution warned two years ago: “Multiple Federal agencies have earned a reputation for ineffectiveness and corruption; among them, the Attorney General’s Federal Investigative Agency, the Ministry of Public Security’s Federal Preventive Police Force, the Ministry of Government’s Center for Investigation and National Security and the Ministry of Finance’s Customs Administration. . . . State security agencies and the courts have not protected the citizenry effectively. According to surveys carried out by Transparencia Mexicana, the police and justice system are perceived as having worse problems of corruption and inefficiency than other public agencies.”

Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the lesson of this weekend’s killing spree is that the U.S. needs to work even closer with the Calderón administration — and at least one House Democrat in Texas, Henry Cuellar, is calling for a second Merida Initiative package. This is a recipe for an even bloodier Mexican Drug Cartel Stimulus Package.

If you subsidize it, you’ll get more of it. Loco.

— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies (Regnery, 2010). Her e-mail address is © 2010

Reading the Tea Party Leaves

The tea partiers aren’t radicals; they’re one side of an old debate that is far from over.

By Jonah Goldberg
March 17, 2010 12:00 A.M.

If you read the op-ed pages these days, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the GOP and the conservative movement have been taken over by know-nothing mobs, anti-intellectual demagogues, and pitchfork-wielding bigots. There’s no omnibus label for this argument, but it’s a giveaway that a person subscribes to it if he or she describes the tea-party movement as the “tea baggers,” an awfully telling bit of sophomoric condescension from the camp that affects a pose of being more high-minded.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 16: Several hundred demonstrators gather for a 'CODE RED' rally in opposition to the health care reform bill on Capitol Hill March 16, 2010 in Washington, DC. Sponsored by The American Grass Roots Coalition and the Tea Party Express, the rally focused attention and opposition to the congressional Democrats' efforts to push through a final vote on health care reform by the end of the week. (Getty Images)

The case against the tea-party movement is constantly evolving. Initially, they were written off as “astroturfers,” faux populists paid by K Street lobbyists to provide damaging footage for Fox News’s Obama coverage. Then they were deemed racists who couldn’t handle having a black president.

But now that the movement — or, more broadly, the Obama backlash — has become so widespread, it’s being chalked up to populist anti-elitism. New York Times columnist David Brooks and others argue that the tea-party movement is kith and kin of the 1960s New Left, because they share a “radically anti-conservative” hatred of “the system” and a desire to start over.

Brooks was seconding an article by Michael Lind in Salon in which Lind argues that the right has become a “counterculture [that] refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the rules of the game that it has lost” (respect for rules is an ironic benchmark given the lengths to which the Democrats are going to pass Obamacare in Congress). Whereas the Luddites and know-nothings once dropped out for the “Summer of Love,” today’s Luddites and know-nothings have signed up for the “Winter of Hate.”

It’s all just so much nonsense. The Boston Tea Party would make a strange lodestar for an anti-American movement. The tea partiers certainly aren’t “dropping out” of the system; if they were, we wouldn’t be talking about them. And they aren’t reading Marxist tracts in a desire to “tear down the system” either. They’re reading Thomas Paine, the founders, and Friedrich Hayek in the perhaps naïve hope that they’ll be able to restore the principles that are supposed to be guiding the system. (To the extent they’re reading radicals such as Saul Alinsky, it’s because they’ve been told that’s the best way to understand his disciple in the White House.)

Restoration and destruction are hardly synonymous terms or desires. And maybe that’s a better label for the tea parties: a political restoration movement, one that reflects our Constitution and the precepts of limited government.

The restorationists are neither anti-elitist nor anti-intellectual. William F. Buckley famously said that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phonebook than the Harvard faculty, but few would dispute that the Latin-speaking harpsichord player who used summer and winter as verbs was anything but an elitist. Similarly, the restorationists hold any number of intellectuals as heroes, from Buckley and Thomas Sowell to Hayek and Ayn Rand.

The “elite” the restorationists dislike is better understood as a “new class” (to borrow a phrase from the late Irving Kristol). The legendary economist Joseph Schumpeter predicted in 1942 that capitalism couldn’t survive because capitalist prosperity would feed a new intellectual caste that would declare war on the bourgeois values and institutions that generate prosperity in the first place. When you hear that conservatives are anti-elitist, you should think they’re really anti–new class. Conservatives see this new class of managers, meddlers, planners, and scolds as a kind of would-be secular aristocracy empowered to declare war on traditional arrangements and make other decisions “for your own good.”

And that’s why Obama backlash is part of the culture war. Defenders of Obamacare, cap-and-trade, and the rest of the Democratic agenda insist that they’re merely applying the principles of good governance and the lessons of sound, sober-minded policymaking. No doubt there’s some truth to that, at least in terms of their motives. But from a broader perspective, it is obvious that theirs is a cultural agenda as well.

The quest for single-payer health care is not primarily grounded in good economics or in good politics but in a heartfelt ideological desire for “social justice.” The constant debate over whether the “European model” is better than ours often sounds like an empirical debate, but at its core it’s a cultural and philosophical argument that stretches back more than a century.

The restorationists reside on one side of that debate, while the Obama administration and the bulk of the progressive establishment reside on the other. And that debate is far from over.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Is There a Moderate Islam?

Posted by Robert Spencer on Mar 17th, 2010

Visit Newsreal.

Over at the NewsReal blog they’ve been arguing for several days, while I was flying through the air in a tin can, giving a talk, flying elsewhere in another tin can, etc., over whether or not I am right about the non-existence of moderate Islam. And so now it is time for a Marshall McLuhan moment. If you don’t know what I mean by that, watch this clip.

Here’s the latest: “David Swindle’s Complaint is a Diversion,” by John R. Guardiano at NewsReal, March 15. In it, Guardiano takes issue with Swindle, a fellow NewsReal Blog writer, for saying that he “‘viciously’ and ‘harshly’ attacked Robert Spencer” by apparently calling me “ignorant,” “caricaturing,” and “right-wing.” And Guardiano says:

The bottom line is this: Robert Spencer is a big boy and an accomplished scholar. Surely, he can handle a little mild-mannered criticism. I certainly have nothing against him.

In fact, I respect Mr. Spencer and his work, even if I think (as I do) that he is ultimately and profoundly wrong or mistaken about Islam and the war against radical Islam.

And he adds: “My hope is that we can discuss substantive issues without all this Sturm und Drang over hurt and bruised feelings.”

Absolutely, Mr. Guardiano. My feelings are not now and never have been hurt. I appreciate David Swindle’s defense of my work, but I don’t care what anyone calls me, and I’ve been called far worse than anything John Guardiano has said here. If such things bothered me, I would never have lasted so long doing this work publicly, especially given the viciousness, dishonesty, and taste for ad hominems of the Leftist/jihadist attack machine.

Anyway, to the point: does a moderate Islam — by which I mean a version of Islam that does not teach that believers must make war against unbelievers and subjugate them under the rule of Islamic law — exist at all?

Perhaps Mr. Guardiano would take issue with that definition of moderate Islam. He says here:

But the idea that Islam is inherently threatening and irredeemable also isn’t true. This charge, in fact, is a dangerous and malicious lie. In reality, as Dinesh D’Souza observes in his excellent (albeit much misunderstood) book, The Enemy at Home: the Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11:

"The Koran, like the Old Testament, has a number of passages recommending peace and others celebrating the massacre of the enemies of God."

D’Souza doesn’t mention, of course, and probably doesn’t know, that the Qur’an’s violent passages are presented as open-ended commands for believers to wage war against unbelievers, while the Old Testament’s violent passages are specific to particular individuals and situations, and are never presented as open-ended commands to all believers.

Nor does D’Souza ever manifest any awareness of the fact that the Qur’an is not simply a book containing passages with different emphases that are more or less up for grabs as to how believers interpret them. In reality, in stark contrast to the Jewish and Christian traditions that have worked to spiritualize in various ways the violent passages of the Bible, the literal understanding of the violent Qur’anic passages has always held sway in Islamic theology — and they have been considered binding. They are also considered to take precedence over the Qur’an’s more tolerant passages.

Don’t take my word for it. Let’s see what Muslim authorities say:

1. Muhammad’s earliest biographer, a pious Muslim named Ibn Ishaq, explains the progression of Qur’anic revelation about warfare. First, he explains, Allah allowed Muslims to wage defensive warfare. But that was not Allah’s last word on the circumstances in which Muslims should fight. Ibn Ishaq explains offensive jihad by invoking a Qur’anic verse: “Then God sent down to him: ‘Fight them so that there be no more seduction,’ i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion. ‘And the religion is God’s’, i.e. Until God alone is worshipped.”

The Qur’an verse Ibn Ishaq quotes here (2:193) commands much more than defensive warfare: Muslims must fight until “the religion is God’s” – that is, until Allah alone is worshipped. Ibn Ishaq gives no hint that that command died with the seventh century.

Question for John Guardiano: I take it you believe that Ibn Ishaq was wrong, and misunderstood the true, peaceful teachings of the Qur’an and Muhammad?

2. According to a 20th century Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, “at first ‘the fighting’ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory.” He also distinguishes two groups Muslims must fight: “(1) against them who start ‘the fighting’ against you (Muslims) . . . (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah . . . as mentioned in Surat Al-Baqarah (II), Al-Imran (III) and At-Taubah (IX) . . . and other Surahs (Chapters of the Qur’an).”

Question for John Guardiano: I take it you believe that the Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia also was wrong in thinking that warfare against unbelievers was obligatory, and that he misunderstood the Qur’an?

3. The great medieval scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292-1350) outlines the stages of the Muhammad’s prophetic career: “For thirteen years after the beginning of his Messengership, he called people to God through preaching, without fighting or Jizyah, and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war with him. Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until God’s religion was fully established.”

The idea that one must fight the “polytheists” until “God’s religion was fully established” was understood throughout Islamic history as referring to a responsibility Muslims had as an umma to wage war against unbelievers until Sharia was established over them. This was the impetus for the jihadist incursions into North Africa, Europe, Persia, India and elsewhere. Question for John Guardiano: I take it you think that all that was wrong, and was based on a mistaken understanding of the Qur’an and Islam?

4. Al-Suyuti says that the Verse of the Sword (9:5) abrogates no less than 124 more peaceful and tolerant verses of the Qur’an. Tafsir al-Jalalayn asserts that the Qur’an’s ninth sura “was sent down when security was removed by the sword.” Ibn Kathir declares that Qur’an 9:5 “abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term….No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara’ah [the ninth sura] was revealed.” Ibn Juzayy agrees: the Verse of the Sword’s purpose is “abrogating every peace treaty in the Qur’an.”

None of them say that the Verse of the Sword applies only to the seventh century.

Question for John Guardiano: I take it that you believe that all these Islamic scholars misunderstood the Qur’an and formulated Islamic teaching incorrectly as a result?

5. A Shafi’i manual of Islamic law that in 1991 was certified by the highest authority in Sunni Islam, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, as conforming “to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community.” This manual, ‘Umdat al-Salik (available in English as Reliance of the Traveller), spends a considerable amount of time explaining jihad as “war against non-Muslims.” It spells out the nature of this warfare in quite specific terms: “the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians . . . until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax.” It adds a comment by a Jordanian jurist that corresponds to Muhammad’s instructions to call the unbelievers to Islam before fighting them: the caliph wages this war only “provided that he has first invited [Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians] to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya) . . . while remaining in their ancestral religions.” Also, it says if there is no caliph, Muslims must still wage jihad.

Question for John Guardiano: I take it you believe that the imams of Al-Azhar were wrong and misunderstood Islam when they certified this book as a reliable guide to the true teachings of Sunni Islam?

But perhaps Mr. Guardiano will dislike those questions, for he goes on to say this:

This is not to say that Islam is a religion of peace. Rather it is to say that Islam is far more rich and complicated than the simple caricature of Islam created by vehement right-wing critics like Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch, Andrew McCarthy at National Review Online, and yes, my colleague here at NewsReal Blog, John L. Work. [...]

A better approach would be to follow the counsel of Islamic scholar Daniel Pipes. Pipes urges Western leaders to encourage and promote moderate Islamic thinking and scholarship. This to help promote a moderate reformation of Islam.

But to follow this approach, you first have to believe that Islam has an inherent truth which is worth explicating and developing. I believe that it does; my right-wing critics believe otherwise; and therein lies the crux of our dispute.

Islam has an “inherent truth”? I can’t see anyone but a believer in Islam affirming that, so Mr. Guardiano and I do indeed part company on that one. But in any case, he seems to be saying that Islam is not a religion of peace, but that he thinks it can change, and that I think it cannot change. Actually, I have never said that it cannot change, but any realistic appraisal of the prospects for Islamic reform has to take into account such impediments to change as the content of the Qur’an and Sunnah, its traditional interpretation by the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, the death penalty for those who engage in heresy or innovation, and the closure of the gate of ijtihad.

For example, Guardiano quotes Daniel Pipes invoking the Sudanese reformer Mahmud Muhammad Taha, but fails to add that Taha was executed for heresy. In fact, all of the quotations he uses from Pipes show Pipes arguing that moderate Islam can exist, not that it exists now.
Guardiano also apparently doesn’t know that Pipes has said: “Robert Spencer and I have discussed the perceived differences in our view of Islam. He and I concluded that, although we have different emphases – he deals more with scriptures, I more with history – we have no disagreements.”

Anyway, I hope Mr. Guardiano can handle a little mild-mannered criticism, and look forward to his substantive response to these points.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

America’s Shiny New Palestinian Militia

By Daniel Pipes
March 16, 2010

No matter how events play out, this story ends with U.S.-trained soldiers pointing their guns at Israel.

‘The stupidest program the U.S. government has ever undertaken” — last year that’s what I called American efforts to improve the Palestinian Authority (PA) military force. Slightly hyperbolic, yes, but the description fits because those efforts enhance the fighting power of enemies of the United States and its Israeli ally.

First, a primer about the program, drawing on a recent Center for Near East Policy Research study by David Bedein and Arlene Kushner: Shortly after Yasir Arafat died in late 2004, the U.S. government established the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator to reform, recruit, train, and equip the PA militia (called the National Security Forces or Quwwat al-Amn al-Watani) and make them politically accountable. For nearly all of its existence, the office has been headed by Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton. Since 2007, American taxpayers have funded it to the tune of $100 million a year. Many agencies of the U.S. government have been involved in the program, including the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the Secret Service, and branches of the military.

The PA militia has in total about 30,000 troops, of which four battalions, totaling 2,100 troops, have passed scrutiny for lack of criminal or terrorist ties and undergone 1,400 hours of training at an American facility in Jordan. There they study subjects ranging from small-unit tactics and crime-scene investigations to first aid and human-rights law.

With Israeli permission, these troops have deployed in areas of Hebron, Jenin, and Nablus. So far, this experiment has gone well, prompting widespread praise. Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) calls the program “extremely encouraging.” and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times discerns in the U.S.-trained troops a possible “Palestinian peace partner for Israel” taking shape.

Looking ahead, however, I predict that those troops will more likely be a war partner than a peace partner for Israel. Consider the troops’ likely role in several scenarios.

No Palestinian state: Dayton proudly calls the U.S.-trained forces “founders of a Palestinian state,” a polity he expects to come into existence by 2011. What if — as has happened many times before — the Palestinian state does not emerge on schedule? Dayton himself warns of “big risks,” presumably meaning that his freshly minted troops would start directing their firepower against Israel.

Palestinian state: The PA has never wavered in its goal of eliminating Israel, as the briefest glance at documentation collected by Palestinian Media Watch makes evident. Should the PA achieve statehood, it will certainly pursue its historic goal — only now equipped with a shiny new American-trained soldiery and arsenal.

The PA defeats Hamas: For the same reason, in the unlikely event that the PA prevails over Hamas, its Gaza-based Islamist rival, it will probably incorporate Hamas troops into its own militia and then order the combined troops to attack Israel. The rival organizations may differ in outlook, methods, and personnel, but they share the overarching goal of eliminating Israel.

Hamas defeats the PA: Should the PA succumb to Hamas, it will absorb at least some of “Dayton’s men” into its own militia and deploy them in the effort to eliminate the Jewish state.

Hamas and PA cooperate: Even as Dayton imagines he is preparing a militia to fight Hamas, the PA leadership participates in Egyptian-sponsored talks with Hamas about power sharing — raising the specter that the U.S.-trained forces and Hamas will coordinate attacks on Israel.

The law of unintended consequences provides one temporary consolation: As Washington sponsors the PA forces and Tehran sponsors those of Hamas, Palestinian forces are more ideologically riven, perhaps weakening their overall ability to damage Israel.

Admittedly, Dayton’s men are behaving themselves at present. But whatever the future brings — state, no state, Hamas defeats the PA, the PA defeats Hamas, or the two cooperate — these militiamen will eventually turn their guns against Israel. When that happens, Dayton and the geniuses idealistically building the forces of Israel’s enemy will likely shrug and say, “No one could have foreseen this outcome.”

Not so: Some of us foresee it and are warning against it. More deeply, some of us understand that the 1993 Oslo process did not end the Palestinian leadership’s drive to eliminate Israel.

The Dayton mission needs to be stopped before it does more harm. Congress should immediately cut all funding for the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator.

— Daniel Pipes is Director of the Middle East Forum and Taube Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

© 2010 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Obama’s Israel Crisis

Posted by P. David Hornik on Mar 16th, 2010

Israel Apartheid Week hadn’t yet run its course when Israel came in for a barrage of hostile characterizations also from the Obama administration. In the same brief time span there was also Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—“The Zionist regime is the most hated regime in the world…. with Allah’s help, this regime will be annihilated.” All this came hard on the heels of a wave of international outrage, and violent attacks by Palestinians, over Israel adding shrines in Hebron and Bethlehem to a list of national heritage sites.

If it seems like a lot of negative attention for one small, constantly pressured country, it is. Reacting to an announcement by the Israeli Interior Ministry on plans to build 1600 housing units—for Jews (if they had been for Arabs, no one would have protested)—in Jerusalem, Vice-President Joe Biden, who was in Israel for a visit, reportedly told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, “This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

Netanyahu apologized and, by Thursday last week when Biden’s visit ended, apparently thought the matter had been handled. But on Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu and gave him a 45-minute harangue in which she told him, as State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley put it, that “the United States considered the announcement a deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship,” that “this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in America’s interests,” and that “she could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States’ strong commitment to Israel’s security.”

Further harsh remarks came from Obama adviser David Axelrod, who called the announcement about the residential units for Jews an “affront” and an “insult” and said it “seemed calculated to undermine” indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks—this after Biden had accepted Netanyahu’s explanation that the announcement was bureaucratic happenstance. And Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren received “the same message of American disapproval and outrage” from Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg—it being clear by now that the anger was being “managed” from the top, that is, by President Obama himself.

The totally unwarranted nature of this anger was well summarized in a Wall Street Journal editorial, which noted that “this particular housing project… falls within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and can only be described as a ‘settlement’ in the maximalist terms defined by the Palestinians.” Indeed, when in November Netanyahu announced a ten-month construction freeze in the West Bank that did not include any part of Jerusalem, Clinton praised the move as “unprecedented.” As the Journal concluded: “this episode does fit Mr. Obama’s foreign policy pattern to date: Our enemies get courted; our friends get the squeeze. It has happened to Poland, the Czech Republic, Honduras and Colombia. Now it’s Israel’s turn.”

Still, whatever slights and betrayals those countries have suffered, Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman was more on the mark when he stated, “We cannot remember an instance when such harsh language was directed at a friend and ally of the United States.” The United States could, for instance, well blame other NATO countries for sending only tiny, token forces to Afghanistan; or Germany for its ongoing thriving commerce with Iran. Yet such a public dressing-down of these allies as Israel gets for apartments in Jerusalem would be, of course, inconceivable.

What motivated the administration’s outburst? Speculations have focused on attempts to intimidate Israel out of attacking Iran; or to force Netanyahu to choose between his right-wing coalition partners and going along with the administration’s notion of a “peace process”—or even pressuring his government into a collapse. Neither aim would be logical: making Israel feel isolated and abandoned by the U.S. would increase the chances of a move against Iran; and the right to build in Jerusalem is not a “right-wing” but, rather, a consensus position in Israel that has a unifying rather than fragmenting effect.

Since the anti-Israeli rancor stems from Obama himself, speculation could also focus on his personal motives: an ongoing identification with Palestinian positions; poor personal chemistry with Netanyahu and an inclination to blame him; or, on a less personal basis, animosity toward Netanyahu as an Israeli leader who is perceived as “hard-line” and obstructing peace no matter how many concessions he makes; adherence to a mistaken belief that Middle East-wide instability stems from Israeli-Palestinian tensions; all or some of the above mixed with frustration at the difficulty of the “peace process” that Obama adopted so resolutely as a goal at the start of his term; or he could be motivated by whatever it is that makes the Jewish state the target of so much special malice and denigration.

Whatever stands behind this crisis, which Ambassador Oren has called “the worst with the U.S. in 35 years,” Netanyahu appears to be reacting at this point by holding his ground, having stated on Monday that “Construction in Jerusalem will continue in any part of the city as it has during the last 42 years…. In [that period], there was no [Israeli] government that limited construction in any Jerusalem area or neighborhood. Establishing Jewish neighborhoods did not hurt Jerusalem’s Arab residents and was not at their expense.”

Although Biden, in his speech in Tel Aviv on Thursday, spoke of “an ironclad commitment to Israel’s security,” for this administration that does not include refraining from further vilifying Israel at a time of obsessive worldwide opprobrium and existential danger. As Washington pushes Israel to the brink of losing its autonomy as a state, Netanyahu knows there is a limit, a point at which Israel will have to stand up for itself and look out for itself.

Book Review: 'Walking to Gatlinburg'

Teen takes an epic hero's journey through a country at war

BY BRUCE DESILVA - Associated Press
The Raleigh News & Observer
March 14, 2010

Morgan Kinneson, just 17, climbs Kingdom Mountain in the snow, bound for Canada with a runaway slave on the last leg of the Underground Railroad. And he is in a hurry.

When he completes his mission of mercy, he intends to turn south, toward Gettysburg, where his older brother, Pilgrim, a doctor, is missing in action. But things don't turn out as Morgan planned.

Almost within sight of freedom, the runaway is gunned down by a team of slave catchers, and Morgan barely escapes with his life. In his pocket, placed there by the runaway, is a smooth stone carved with mysterious runes. Morgan has no idea what they mean. But he does know the slave catchers want it, and they are hot on his trail as he travels south, mostly on foot, in search of his brother.

In a trek that will remind discerning readers of "The Iliad," Morgan crosses from his native Vermont to New York, treks across the Adirondacks, takes a boat on the Erie Canal, follows the Susquehanna River the length of Pennsylvania to Gettysburg, and finds that his brother, if he is still alive, has ventured further south.

So Morgan presses on, dodging and occasionally battling the slave catchers, through West Virginia to Richmond and across the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains to the little town of Gatlinburg.

This being a Howard Frank Mosher novel, Morgan inevitably encounters a host of irresistibly quirky characters along the way. There's a dying gypsy and his pet elephant, a crazy old man who re-enacts the battle of Charleston every day in memory of his dead soldier-son, a courtly Gen. Robert E. Lee, three colorful villains obsessed with murdering Underground Railroad stationmasters, a seductive slave girl, some feuding mountain folk and even a pair of ghosts.

"Walking to Gatlinburg" is the tenth novel by Mosher, a superb storyteller who is the closest thing we have to Mark Twain. It is an epic tale of heroism, a love letter to the country's lost wilderness, an exploration of violence in the American character, an examination of the limits of pacifism and a rumination on the conflict between religion and science.

Mr. Mosher will appear at Quailridge Books in Raleigh, NC on Friday, March 19, 2010 at 7:30pm.

The White House's phony case for its health plan

By Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner
March 16, 2010

The latest White House line is that polls showing the public opposed to Obamacare are wrong. In fact, administration officials argue, most Americans support the Democrats' national health care plan, a point proven by poll data showing people approve of several elements of the current health bill.

"The central components of the plan ... are all supported by solid majorities," writes Joel Benenson, the president's chief pollster, in a Washington Post op-ed attacking the "Republican myth" of opposition to health care reform. As proof, Benenson points to a Post poll, published in early February, that reveals support for some parts of the plan even as it shows a narrow overall opposition to the Democratic bill, 49 percent to 46 percent.

The Post poll cited by Benenson has become the message of the moment for health care proponents; not long before Benenson's article appeared, I received talking points from a Democratic strategist arguing that the Post poll "debunked the GOP myth that the American people are opposed to health reform."

Indeed, the idea that the public supports the major elements of Obamacare is the foundation of the White House's political pushback. But what is really going on?

The Post poll asked the following question: "Do you think the government should or should not a) require businesses to offer private health insurance for their full-time employees; b) require all Americans to have health insurance, either from their employer or from another source, with tax credits or other aid to help low-income people pay for it; and c) require insurance companies to sell coverage to people regardless of pre-existing conditions."

The paper's pollsters found that people liked them all. Seventy-two percent supported requiring businesses to provide insurance; 56 percent supported requiring Americans to have coverage, with subsidies; and 80 percent supported banning pre-existing conditions requirements.

But there are lots of other parts of the 2,000-plus page Democratic plan, and they are just as important to the overall scheme. What if media pollsters asked about them? For example, what if a poll asked this question: "Do you think the government should or should not a) require every American to purchase health insurance and impose penalties on those who do not comply; b) cut one-half trillion dollars in Medicare spending and use the savings to subsidize mandatory health insurance for lower- and middle-income Americans; and c) order the Internal Revenue Service to share your personal tax information with the Health Choices Administration to determine whether you are in compliance with health insurance requirements and qualify for coverage subsidies."

Those are elements of the bill, too. Do you think they would poll well?

As a matter of fact, they don't. While pollsters haven't asked those specific questions, they have asked similar ones, and the answers look terrible for the White House. For example, in January, the Kaiser Foundation asked whether respondents would support a bill that would "require nearly all Americans to have a minimum level of health insurance or else pay a fine." Sixty-two percent of those polled said such a requirement would make them less likely to support the bill.

In February, Newsweek asked a similar question and got a similar result. Newsweek also asked about the tax on so-called "Cadillac" health plans, and found 55 percent opposition.

Those elements -- mandate, penalties, tax -- are absolutely critical to the Democrats' health care scheme. Without them, supporters concede, it would not work. Yet if you conducted a poll focusing on those elements, the resulting story might begin, "A new survey finds that the president's health care proposal is not only unpopular overall, but that individual elements of the plan are even more disliked by a skeptical public."

But the Post poll didn't do that. "The way some of the polls have worked is that they cherry-pick the positive items and leave the negative items out, which creates what I would call a false positive," says David Winston a Republican pollster. "So while there may be many positive elements to a policy package, voters evaluate the entire package, and in this case there are elements in the overall package that cause voters to not support it, even though there are things in it they like."

And that is the bottom line. No matter what the White House says, the public has taken a look at the health care proposal as a whole. They don't like it. It's as simple as that.

Byron York, The Examiner's chief political correspondent, can be contacted at His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appears on

Monday, March 15, 2010

Biden and Art of Doublespeak

By Ken Blackwell on 3.15.10 @ 6:08AM
The American Spectator

Vice President Joe Biden says the Palestinians deserve a state. He has traveled to the Mideast to press the Israelis to surrender more territory more quickly to what has been termed the Palestinian Authority. The Obama administration is giving $900 million of our money to the Mahmoud Abbas regime on the West Bank of the Jordan River, supposedly for "humanitarian" causes. This administration went out of its way to avoid being seen as "meddling" with Iran, but it shows no such restraint with Israel. Meanwhile, the Palestinians go on naming schools for suicide bombers and coaching their children to emulate these bombers. But somehow they are viewed as "partners" in the mythical peace process.

The Obama administration's position is that Israelis should withdraw from the West Bank and leave the entire regions of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians -- all in the interest of a comprehensive Mideast peace settlement. What happened when Israel did evacuate from Gaza? Hamas promptly took over.

Yasser Arafat (l) and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas

Have President Obama, Vice President Biden or Secretary Clinton ever stopped to ask why is it in the interest of the U.S. to foster a Judenrein on the West Bank? That terrible word -- which comes to us from the time of the Holocaust -- means a region cleared of Jews. We need to understand that Jews have lived in this region since biblical times. If Jews have no right to live in Judea and Samaria, why do they have a right to live in Tel Aviv, which was founded only in the early 20th century?

Why indeed. Mahmoud Abbas is the head of a shaky government that has lost most of its appeal to its own people. That's because he is not considered radical enough or violent enough.

When an election was held in Gaza, the residents there voted against Abbas's Fatah crowd and for the openly terrorist Hamas. Hamas regularly sends missiles into Israel from their Gaza fortress. World media blasted the Israelis for alleged attacks on hospitals in Gaza during a recent incursion, but Hamas routinely stores missiles in hospitals and uses ambulances to transport them. So much for "humanitarian."

Mahmoud Abbas long served on the Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) executive council. The PLO is the predecessor to the so-called Palestinian Authority. Abbas was the loyal lieutenant of Yassir Arafat. Arafat founded the PLO. He invented airline hijacking for terror purposes. Many of us recall the headlines the PLO won for these terrorist attacks -- not just airlines but the 1972 Olympics, kindergartens in Israel, and peaceful cruise ships. Many of us have not forgotten it was Arafat who gave orders for the murder of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel in Sudan in 1972.

Leopards don't change their spots. Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party emblem proves it: All of Israel disappears in the map it shows of the Mideast -- not just the West Bank, not just Gaza. When Vice President Biden stumps for a "contiguous" Palestinian state, he plays right into Fatah's hands.

Today, Palestinian media continue uninterruptedly to spew the most hateful caricatures of Jews. And Palestinian children continue to be indoctrinated in all their schools with hatred of Israel and all Jews. Only now, Americans are footing the bill.

When Arafat died, Abbas stepped up to take his place. Here's what the U.S. Government had to say about the PLO in 1988, the year that we supposedly achieved a breakthrough for peace in the Mideast.

U.S. Government has convincing evidence that PLO elements have engaged in terrorism against Americans and others. This evidence includes a series of operations undertaken by the Force 17 and the Hawari organizations since the PLO claimed to foreswear the use of terrorism in the Cairo declaration of November 1985. As Chairman of the PLO, Mr. Arafat is responsible for actions of these organizations which are units of Fatah, an element of the PLO of which he also is chairman and which is under his control.

The most recent sign of Mr. Arafat's associations with terrorism was the presence at the Algiers session of the Palestine National Council this month of Abu Abbas, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO who has been convicted by the Italian judicial system of the murder of an American citizen, Mr. Leon Klinghoffer. In summary, we find that:

* The PLO, through certain of its elements, has employed terrorism against Americans;

* Mr. Arafat, as Chairman of the PLO, knows of condones, and lends support to such acts; he, therefore, is an accessory to such terrorism;

* Terrorism and those involved in it are a serious threat to our national security and to the lives of American citizens; and

* The headquarters agreement, contained in Public Law 80-357, reserves to us the right to bar the entry of those who represent a threat to our security.

In those days, we would not even allow Arafat to enter our country. We correctly branded him and his cohorts terrorists and mass murderers. Over time, we somehow have convinced ourselves that if we pay them enough and pet them enough, these leopards will purr like kittens. Why? Nothing we have seen in the two decades since then should convince us that the PLO has changed its spots, whatever it is calling itself these days.

Ken Blackwell is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The strength of a symbol

A pin on Coach K's lapel serves as a symbol of a strong bond, forged through tragedy

By Andy Katz
March 3, 2010

When Ross Deutsch read the advertisement, it seemed too good to be true.

For a fee, he could go to Las Vegas with some friends and attend Michael Jordan's Flight School, essentially a summer camp for basketball-crazed adults. It was a place to live out one's hardwood fantasies for a few days and receive instruction from NBA and college coaches, Hall of Famers among them.

It was 1997, and Deutsch was working in the financial world in Chicago. He was 36; he had the money and an interested friend; and his wife, Mindy, had no objection. He was certainly passionate about basketball and, as a Chicago native, had a love for all things Michael Jordan. He had three young sons -- Rory was the oldest at 6; Robbie and Rickey were younger -- but it was for only a few days, and besides, what kid wouldn't get a kick out of his dad playing hoops for a few days as though he were a star?

A few days later, Ross and his friend David Duckler found themselves in Las Vegas on a Bally's court. They had just finished a few drills and were attending a makeshift draft where they were to be divided into their teams, selected by the coaches in attendance. Across the court, Duke coach and fellow native Chicagoan Mike Krzyzewski, already a two-time national champion, evaluated Deutsch and Duckler and decided to go local, selecting the two friends for his team.

Courtesy of the Deutsch family

Mike Krzyzewski and Ross Deutsch first met in 1997 at a basketball camp in Las Vegas.

Neither Deutsch nor Krzyzewski knew at the time that those fortuitous circumstances would mark the beginning of a lifelong friendship, that the two would bond in a way that few men do in adulthood. They were new acquaintances then, player and coach for a few days, but Krzyzewski would soon be supporting Deutsch through something no parent can ever imagine after looking into the eyes of a healthy child at birth.

"There were talks that we would have that you don't have very much in your life, and for the two people involved, you become brothers," Krzyzewski said. "There's no way you don't have a bond for life."

The connection began during the first game at the camp. Their team was getting smoked, and when they gathered for a halftime talk, Coach K let them know what he really thought of their performance.

"He ripped us pretty good," Deutsch said.

"I blew them out like they were my own team," Krzyzewski said.

It worked. They came back and beat a team coached by Gene Keady and Eddie Sutton. But as soon as the game ended, Krzyzewski felt guilty. This wasn't really his Duke team. These 35-and-older men had paid thousands of dollars to play, not to get yelled at for 10 minutes. Or had they?

"He starts apologizing to us for getting on us, but we told him, 'No, that's what we wanted,'" Deutsch said. "We wanted to be treated like we were Duke players."

Not everyone at the camp felt the same. In one instance, Deutsch said, Larry Brown was railing at a player when the camper interrupted the Hall of Famer and said, "Coach, I'm just a dentist."

"We ended up winning the whole thing," Krzyzewski said. "Ross and I had one of those player-coach relationships."

"It was at that moment that I knew there was an instant connection of a friendship," Deutsch said.

Coach K remembers it fondly.

"I saw these guys, and they were like the Jewish Columbos of Highland Park and Skokie," Krzyzewski said. "We just hit it off. There was enough of an age difference that they could see me as their coach. They were genuine guys. And we won, too. We weren't supposed to win; [we] had an upset, and it ended up being a cool thing. We ate together and went out a little bit. We got to know each other as people. We found out we were very similar guys, with very similar family and friends, and once those family and friends met each other, it was easy."

When the camp ended, players and coaches went back to their normal lives and daily routines. Ross went back to Chicago and his family and returned to the financial world. Krzyzewski headed back to Durham, N.C., to coach Duke.

And then Ross and Mindy's world stopped.

It was February 1998, six months after the camp ended. Deutsch's 6-year-old son, Rory, had gone to a park district activity class on a Saturday, where he played tennis. On Sunday, he complained that his arm was hurting. Initially, Ross and Mindy weren't overly concerned. What parents haven't heard some complaining from their child after physical activity?

The Deutsch Family for

The Deutsch family established the Rory David Deutsch Foundation in honor of their son Rory, who died at the age of 7 from a brain tumor.

The following day, Deutsch came home from work, and as usual, Rory wanted to hang out with him, sit on his lap and work on his computer. He tried to lift his right hand to move the mouse. But it didn't work. His left wrist went limp, and he couldn't make a fist. He couldn't move his wrist without raising his arm.

Ross and Mindy immediately called a friend nearby who was a pediatrician. They were told to bring Rory to the doctor. Rory got a physical exam, and while testing his strength, doctors were concerned enough to call a neurologist. Next stop was Children's Memorial Hospital. Anxiety, fear and horror were all filling their heads. Various possibilities were being thrown around, from a tumor to a virus to a blockage to a stroke.

Then the brain scan came back.

"It was over these next 40 hours where his symptoms, before our very eyes, the difficulty swallowing or breathing and his right side was dragging," Ross said, his voice trailing a bit. "The tumor was in the area of the brain stem. It was in the area that controls life's necessary functions. They did the MRI and explained to us how aggressive a tumor it was."

The Deutsch family was told the tumor was inoperable. Like an hourglass filled with sand, Rory's life would begin to slip away, grain by grain.

Rory was diagnosed Feb. 13, 1998, Krzyzewski's birthday. The occasions aren't comparable, but the date is burned into Ross' memory nonetheless. He can't forget it.

"The problem with many of these illnesses is that they come back, and when they come back, they come back with a vengeance," Ross said. "You couldn't radiate at his age and in the location. So we were told to bring him home."

To this day, Deutsch isn't sure how Krzyzewski found out about Rory's illness. Krzyzewski said someone from the camp contacted him to let him know. He called to see what he could do, putting the Deutsches in contact with the Duke Medical Center and Dr. Henry Friedman, a brain tumor specialist, to see whether there was any other treatment. They were told the medical professionals were doing all they could.

Krzyzewski and Deutsch would talk a few times over the next couple of months before Deutsch went into a shell. Rory was in his bedroom, a hospice-like situation. He couldn't communicate. Mere months after the diagnosis, after Rory had turned 7 years old, he was going to die.

Deutsch sat at Rory's bedside in an almost catatonic state, watching his firstborn's life fade away. He wasn't answering the phone during this time. But one time it rang and, for some reason, he picked it up. It was Krzyzewski.

"He said: 'Ross, in basketball we define success by winning and losing, but with Rory, with this sickness, you don't define it with a cure or no cure. The definition will be how you handle it. You have handled the most horrific illness as winners.' It was a little thing. And it wasn't like I needed to hear this from Mike Krzyzewski. But it was the perfect thing to hear from him at the perfect time."

The next day, Ross and Mindy established the Rory David Deutsch Foundation for brain tumor research.

"I think when we started talking, he felt that I would tell him the truth," Krzyzewski said. "He knew he could be completely honest and forthright and straightforward about everything. It was very emotional stuff. We are really, really close friends."

Ross didn't hold back when he would talk to Krzyzewski. If he had to cry, he would let it all out.

"He could show weakness to me, emotion that he couldn't show as a man to his family because he had to be strong," Krzyzewski said. "I can remember telling him for us to be strong together. I told him to let it out. I said whatever you need to let it out, let's get through this together. …

"How do you recover from that? How do you make something positive from that, or does it ruin your life? Ross and Mindy, the way they've honored Rory's life and memory is to keep it alive and talk about it," Krzyzewski said. "To me it's beyond belief. I don't know if I could. I tell him he's a mensch. He's a mensch, no question about it."

"Mensch" means "person" in Yiddish, but the figurative meaning is much deeper. It's someone you would want to befriend and be with because you feel genuine when you're in their presence. A mensch is said to make others feel good.

Deutsch Family for

Rory Deutsch, left, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in February 1998. He died five months later

Being with Deutsch, talking to him, going through the hell he had to endure as a friend, and sharing an enriching relationship with him through the foundation has touched Krzyzewski beyond words.

Rory was born March 9, 1991. He died July 22, 1998, five months after his diagnosis.

"It's the worst thing that a parent can experience -- the loss of a child," Krzyzewski said. "The foundation has become a huge part of the healing process. There still is a healing process."

For Deutsch, the healing process began with a commitment and a hope to find a cure for brain cancer. Needing a symbol, something to carry with him and show the world who Rory was, he came up with the idea of a pin. Engraved with a picture of Rory with a baseball cap bearing his name, the pin is engraved with the words of the foundation he and Mindy started: "Rory Foundation For Brighter Tomorrows." They wear it every day.

A month after Rory died, Deutsch, encouraged by Mindy, returned to the Jordan camp in Las Vegas and reconnected with Krzyzewski. He would return every year until 2004, playing for Krzyzewski three times and actually serving as an assistant coach in '04 after a hamstring injury prevented him from playing.

In August 2001, Mindy and Ross were having dinner with Mike and Mickie Krzyzewski at a restaurant in Las Vegas when Coach K told Ross he wanted to do something to honor Rory's memory. With the help of the Krzyzewskis' daughter Debbie, they planned a fundraising event in Chicago at the Standard Club. On Oct. 4, 2002, 400 people attended the charity dinner to hear Krzyzewski speak.

At the conclusion of his speech, Coach K held up the pin that Deutsch had given him and talked about pride and what it meant to be a part of something bigger than you. To achieve that, he said, you need something symbolic.

"It needs a uniform, it needs a letter jacket, it needs something," Krzyzewski said during his speech. "What I'm going to do is something very symbolic and I'm not going to tell the press about it or anything else. What I would like to do and what I'm going to do, and we get on TV more often a lot or more than 'Friends,' or whatever. I'm not saying anything about it, except my team will know. If you turn the game on for even one minute -- and they show the sidelines for every game we play -- I'm going to have on my lapel Rory's pin."

For the first time since the fundraiser in Chicago, Krzyzewski and Deutsch agreed to talk about the pin. Since its inception in 1998, Rory's foundation has raised roughly $7 million, according to Deutsch, without any corporate sponsorship. It has no salaried employees and operates solely through the generosity of its volunteers. There is no plan to change that.

Ross and Mindy also serve on the advisory board of directors for the brain center at Duke Medical Center and are involved in causes close to the Krzyzewskis, such as the Emily Krzyzewski Center in Durham, an organization named after Coach K's mother that is dedicated to inspiring economically disadvantaged students in the area.

Courtesy Duke University

Coach K always has Rory's pin on his lapel while he coaches.

Rory would have been a freshman in college this year. Deutsch has become a coach himself, serving as an assistant for the past eight years at Highland Park, a high school in a North Chicago suburb. He recently took his two sons, Robbie, now 17, and Rickey, now 14, to Durham for the Virginia Tech game. Ross and Mindy also have two girls -- 10-year-old Reggi and 8-year-old Roxie Cameron, who is named after Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"I can't say enough about Mike and Mickie's friendship and love," Deutsch said. "I was 36, and he was 50. It was 13 years ago. You don't think that you're going to make new friends at a certain age. We all face our own adversity at some point, and to me what will define you is how you respond. From that moment, Mindy and I decided we were going to do whatever we could. No family should have to hear those words: 'Your son has a brain tumor and a very, very bad one.' As long as we're able, as long as we're able to dedicate support and research, we will. There are people now who know Rory, who never knew Rory."

Krzyzewski won another national title in 2001, his third. His team won Olympic gold in 2008 in Beijing. But he swears that he found better perspective in life after Rory's death and the experience with Deutsch.

"That's why I wear the pin on my jacket," Krzyzewski said. "I've worn it every game since because I'm proud of it. It puts the game in perspective. How can a game ever be that difficult? It can't ever be more difficult than what the Deutsch team went through. Wearing this pin is one of those things that makes you feel good about being a human being."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at The Rory David Deutsch Foundation can be visited here.