Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Hamas in its Own Words

In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg says that it is not hard to understand what Hamas would do to Israel and the Jewish people if given the chance.  Its charter and its spokespersons have informed us clearly and unequivocally of Hamas' program--the murder of all Jews in the world. He demonstrates how important provisions of the Hamas covenant "could have been taken, almost word for word, from Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish propaganda texts and broadcasts."

Mr. Goldberg quotes a recent column on Hamas by Sam Harris:

What do we know of the Palestinians? What would the Palestinians do to the Jews in Israel if the power imbalance were reversed? Well, they have told us what they would do. For some reason, Israel’s critics just don’t want to believe the worst about a group like Hamas, even when it declares the worst of itself. We’ve already had a Holocaust and several other genocides in the 20th century. People are capable of committing genocide. When they tell us they intend to commit genocide, we should listen. There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could. Would every Palestinian support genocide? Of course not. But vast numbers of them—and of Muslims throughout the world—would. Needless to say, the Palestinians in general, not just Hamas, have a history of targeting innocent noncombatants in the most shocking ways possible. They’ve blown themselves up on buses and in restaurants. They’ve massacred teenagers. They’ve murdered Olympic athletes. They now shoot rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas.

[Emphasis added.]

So why do so many Americans, especially those on the "progressive" left, publicly express their support for an overtly fascistic and genocidal organizational. In many cases, Charles Krauthammer argues, it is rank ignorance. Into that category I would throw the recent tweets and statements of many celebrities, such as Selena Gomez and Spaniards Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. What we have on display is an abysmal ignorance of recent history, coupled with understandable repulsion in reaction to the horrors of war, any war, including just wars. The dead of Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Hamburg and Berlin were no easier to look at than those of Gaza, and included many more women, children, civilians and, yes, even opponents of the regimes that had led Japan and Germany into wars of aggression. Nearly absolute pacifism is the prevailing fashion among the stars of cinema, television, music and the performing arts. Superficial thinking understandably produces superficial opinions.

Mr. Krauthammer is much tougher on the Europeans who flock to anti-Israel demonstrations, now all too frequently turning into anti-Jewish riots. Mr. Krauthammer believes that the European demonstrators are motivated by deep-seated, 2000-year old Christian and Islamic Antisemitism. Certainly Roger Waters of Pink Floyd seems to exemplify traditional British Antisemitism, now placed in the service of Islamo-fascism.

What of the anti-Israel demonstrators of the American progressive left? Mr. Goldberg opines that it is "a dereliction of responsibility on the part of progressives not to try to understand the goals and beliefs of Islamist totalitarian movements."

But is he being too charitable? Are those demonstrators truly ignorant of Hamas' ideology? Do they truly not understand, in the words of the title of Mr. Goldberg's article, what Hamas would do if it could do whatever it wanted? Or does the prospect of a genocide against the Jews not really bother them very much?

The militias of the Islamic State, whose ideology is the twin of Hamas, are at this moment committing mass murder and oppression in Iraq, Syria and perhaps soon in Lebanon, against Christians and any other Muslims who do not meet their test of Sunni theological purity. Scarcely a word rises in protest, not from most of Christendom or the West, not from the White House, and certainly not from Hollywood, Broadway or the pop music industry that is so critical of Israel. Will the West wake in time to save itself?

Friday, August 01, 2014

Recent Gems from Dry Bones


Good news, readers of The Hedgehog Blog, if any are left.  I have recovered or maybe rediscovered the ability to post photos and images.  We celebrate by catching up with Yaakov Kirschen at The Dry Bones Blog, which everyone should visit frequently.  Here are three of his latest:


UN Says Israel's Refusal to Share Iron Dome with Hamas is Human Rights Violation

How fair a hearing is Israel likely to receive from the United Nations Human Rights Commission on charges of war crimes? Judge for yourself:  Israel National News reports that on Thursday, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay (photo right) cited as evidence of Israeli war crimes the fact that Israel has refused to share Iron Dome with the "governing authority of Gaza," which is Hamas. She also criticized the United States for helping develop Iron Dome, stating, "No such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.”

So it is not enough that for the first time in the history of warfare, a besieger has provided the besieged party with food, water, (free) electricity, natural gas, medicine, medical treatment in the besieger's hospitals, cement and rebar that the besieged party uses to build attack tunnels and advanced warnings of attacks. Now Israel is also expected to provide a defense system against its own attacks.

Would it be too much to also demand that Hamas stop the indiscriminate rocketing and shelling of Israel and attempts to kill and kidnap its citizens? Probably.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Murder of Three Israeli Teens by Hamas

May the Almighty comfort the families of Gilad Shaar (16), Naftali Frenkel (16)and Eyal Yifrach (19) among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. As Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the founder of the yeshiva where two of the martyrs studied, has said, they were murdered only because they were Jewish, and therefore died, as they lived, l'kiddush HaShem, for the holiness of God's name.

Unlike the so-called "martyrs" of the Islamist world, they did not commit suicide or die in the attempt to kill others.

I am grateful for the condemnation of their murders by the United States government and by President Obama. However, actions speak louder than words. With three boys murdered (including an American citizen) and rockets launched from Gaza raining down on Southern Israel, the U.S. is calling for "restraint." Since Hamas will not restrain itself, in effect, the U.S. is calling for Israel not to take steps to defend its citizens. Noah Pollak, in an article in the Weekly Standard, describes the situation better than I can.

The test for the Administration's sincerity will be whether it continues to deal with a Palestinian Authority that incluces Hamas, with the blood of a 16-year old American boy on its hands, in its coalition.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dry Bones: It's WWIII in Disguise

Yaakov Kirschen elaborates on a recurring message: The war against radical Islamism is a world conflict.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Obama's Peace In Our Time

Even for those who have consitently criticized the foreign policy of the Obama Administration, it is stunning how quickly the disasters have come upon us. Yes, they warned that power abhors a vacuum, and if the United States refuses to assert its power and influence, other forces will rush in to fill the international void. But did even the Administration's critics ever imagine that matters would go so terribly wrong so quickly?

During his 2012 re-election campaign, President Obama boasted that Osama Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda was on the run. On the run, indeed. Today, as I write this post, the troops of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al Qaeda spinoff, have overrun Mosul, Iraq's largest city, and are running with captured American weapons, including armor and artillery, toward Baghdad.

ISIS now controls a huge swath of territory that includes northwest and central Iraq and a generous strip of Syria along the Iraqi-Syrian border. With access to the oil fields and cash reserves they captured in Mosul, ISIS has been called the world's richest terrorist group. ISIS may be said to have established the first Al Qaeda proto-state.

Almost as horrific as what has already occurred are the prospects of a widening regional confrontation. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that two battalions of Iranian Quds Forces (Iran's Special Forces) have joined Iraqi Shi'ite troops and are battling ISIS in the streets of Tikrit.

Some analysts say that the Iraqi fighting is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, which is funding and supplying ISIS, and Iran. If so, the confrontation is increasingly becoming less proxy and more direct. The Saudis, frustrated by American fecklessness, are looking elsewhere for military resources. They recently displayed on parade Chinese missiles capable of reaching Tehran. Tehran certainly is reciprocating.

Incredibly, while all this goes down, the Obama Administration continues to promote its accomplishments in Iraq, and the achievements of its former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Even as the ISIS troops overran Mosul, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest, responding to a question regarding Secretary Clinton's accomplishments during her tenure, remarked, "Ending the war in Iraq and winding down in a responsible fashion the war in Afghanistan, and doing that after the success of our our efforts to dismantle and destroyed Al-Qaida core that had established a base of operations in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” As Mark Steyn observed, losing a war is one way of ending it.

Certainly the juxtaposition of Iraq and Afghanistan is apt. What we are seeing today in Iraq may be a foretaste of a Taliban and Al Qaeda resurgence in Afghanisan, once the United States completes its cut-and-run there.

And one should not think that the other challengers to the crumbling American empire will pause to watch what is going on in the Middle East. The Ukraine today charged that Russian tanks as well as other military vehicles crossed the border into the Ukraine, triggering a skirmish between Russian and Ukrainian troops.

In reviewing the foreign policy accomplishments of the Obama Administration, let us not ignore the efforts of the current Secretary of State, John Kerry. During the months when Libya disintegrated, Russia seized Crimea, the Taliban regrouped in Afghanistan, civil war destroyed Syria, and that conflict spilled over into Iraq in spectacular fashion, threatening a regional confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, what preoccupied Secretary Kerry? He, President Obama, and the sages of the European Union, as well, concluded that the greatest threat to world peace was Jews building apartments in Jerusalem, Judah and Shomron.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

BSD On-Campus Activities Reminiscent of Nazi Germany

Yes, comparisons to Nazi Germany in the 1930s can be overdone and overwrought, but in the case of the activities of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement on American, Canadian and European universities, the comparison is apt and needs to be urgently and stridently made. Not only Israel and Zionism, but academic freedom are at risk.

BDS and other on-campus pro-Palestinian activists are the Brown Shirts of our day. Not content to debate issues with their opponents in a dignified and respectful manner (probably because they know that their charges of "apartheid" would not survive the sunlight of free and open debate), they exercise the heckler's veto. They believe that the righteousness of their cause justifies disrupting speakers and classes, and generally try to intimidate and suppress any expression of opinions contrary to their own.

If you believe I exaggerate, please read this account by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East of recent incidents at Vassar College, involving protests and disruption by Students for Jusice in Palestine ("SJP") of Vassar's International Studies 110 ("IS"), because of a planned academic trip to Israel.

The IS trip was taught and led by Vassar professor of Earth Science and Geography, Jill Schneiderman, and associate professor of Greek and Roman Studies, Rachel Friedman. Its educational purpose was to look “at issues of water rights and access to the Jordan River, as well as disparities in water distribution in Palestine and Israel.” Locations visited by students in the class included sites throughout Israeli and Palestinian Authority controlled territories and a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Professor Schneiderman’s teaching objective was inclusive. “I was motivated to propose and teach such a course because from my perspective as an earth scientist,” she wrote in a blog, “I understand how daily and future access to clean water in ample supply is one of the key issues about which people in the region fight. It is also a problem on which Arabs, Jews, Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis have worked together with integrity and compassion.”


The response of SJP was not to peacefully protest against the trip. Rather they tried to disrupt the class and intimidate the students enrolled in the course. As Scholars for Peace in the Middle East notes:

On February 6th, nine members of SJP appeared at the classroom for the IS course and formed a human barricade to impede students from entering the classroom. An SJP leaflet distributed to students described Israel as sponsoring apartheid and asserted that “the indigenous people of Palestine” did not want students going on the trip.

Professors Friedman and Schneiderman have noted that the demonstration by SJP was inappropriate because it took place at the classroom itself, misguided because it misrepresented both the purpose and substance of the course, and threatening and intimidating to students enrolled in the class because of the physical presence of the demonstrators and the ululating and heckling that accompanied the protest. When the class did finally begin, protestors continued to shout and students inside the classroom told the professor that they “felt unsafe,” “bullied,” and “harassed.”

The linked account relates how SJP is continuing to use stormtrooper tactics at Vassar. Incredibly, they are aided and abetted by the "Vassar Jewish Union" and the head of the Vassar Jewish Studies department, who support BDS. The Vassar Jewish Union recently declared itself an "open Hillel." Hillel is a national college student organization that is pro-Zionist by policy. Wall Street Journal writer Lucette Lagnado, a Vassar alumna, notes that the Vassar Jewish Union declared its independence so that it would be "no longer obliged to heed Hillel's pesky rule of banning speakers who demonize Israel or believe the Jewish state shouldn't exist." The press release annoucing the change "was replete with more clichés about needing a 'diverse range of personal and political opinions' that it argued Hillel failed to provide." So the Vassar BDS'ers apparently feel that Hillel must be open to a diversity of views on Israel's existence, but not Vassar itself.

Those who would argue that the Vassar Jewish Union has made a stand for academic freedom need to ask themselves: Do pro-Palestinian and pro-BDS organizations invite and welcome Zionist and pro-Israel speakers? Probably not. In fact, I would venture a guess that pro-Israel speakers are not even welcome at the Vassar Jewish Union.

Ms. Lagnado, concludes, "I am still waiting for the day a student or faculty member stands up to these academic hooligans at the Vassar Quad. Now that would show some 'critical thinking.'"

Monday, March 03, 2014

As Russia Tightens its grip on Ukraine, President Obama Issues an Ultimatum--to Israel

The good news is that with the deteriorating situation in the Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin digests the Crimea and ponders whether to swallow up the rest of the eastern Ukraine as well, today President Obama finally found the backbone to issue an ultimatum. The bad news is that he issued it to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to this story in Reuters:
Obama assured Netanyahu of his "absolute commitment" to preventing Iran from developing atomic weapons, despite the Israeli leader's deep skepticism over U.S.-led efforts to reach a final international deal to curb Tehran's nuclear program.

But, warning that time was running out, Obama also urged Netanyahu to make "tough decisions" to help salvage a faltering U.S.-brokered peace process aimed at reaching a framework agreement with the Palestinians and extending talks beyond an April target date for an elusive final accord.

If his mind runs to plays on words, Bibby Netanyahu may have been thinking, "For me to trust the security of Israel to your hands would be a Crimea."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Syrian Opposition Vows to Conquer Israel and then the World

A recent news item that should be of interest to Secretary of State Kerry and his boss, but probably will be ignored by them:

In a video interview with Vice News Network, linked in this story posted at Jerusalem Online, a young Islamist militant fighting with Al Qaeda in Syria declares, "After liberating Syria, our next mission is to liberate Palestine and the Golan, and then continue our conquests." One may safely assume the young fighter was not limiting his target for conquest to Gaza, Yehuda and Shomron and the Golan Heights, but rather has all of Israel in mind. Al Qaeda's forces in Syria now number over 30,000 well-trained, well-armed and highly motivated fighters. Fortunately, Israel takes this threat very seriously.

Of course, the Baathist Syrian regime the Islamist radicals are fighting is murdering men, women and children, combatants and non-combatants, by any means necessasry other then chemical weapons, including starvation. However tempting it might be to blithely wish both sides in the conflict continuing success in killing one another, given the suffering of innocents among the Syrian people, one must not do so. Hopefully, the West will recognize and prepare to face the threat from Islamist militants allied with Al Qaeda that the fall of the Assad regime, or even its loss of territorial control over portions of Syria, will inevitably create.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Assad Bombs Kill 18 Children--Without Chemicals!

The Jerusalem Post reports that bombs dropped by Syrian Air Force helicopters over the past three days on an elementary school, town square and public market in Aleppo have killed 16 children, 2 of their teachers and over 100 civilians. The barrel bombs, which were dropped from the back doors of helicopters on the Tayba primary school and other civilian targets in Aleppo, almost certainly were intentional attacks, since the helicopters would have been flying low enough to clearly identify their targets.

However, the United States government and the other Western powers surely can take pride in the fact that none of these children, or the more than 100 other civilian victims of the bombings, were killed by chemical weapons.

At the same time, news outlets are reporting that the Western governments have informed the Syrian opposition forces that the ouster of Bassar Assad will not be on the table in the upcoming Geneva peace talks on Syria. Apparently the prospect of an Al Qaeda takeover in Syria has convinced the U.S. and its Western European allies that the Alawite-dominated Assad regime must stay in power.

A NATO declaration of a no-fly zone could stop this airborne butchery. Surely, also, there is an achievable middle gound between the current Assad regime and an Al Qaeda takeover.

What a colossal moral failure on the part of the West. This will and should haunt the Western and American conscience for decades. Someday, perhaps, a U.S. President will apologize for allowing this slaughter of innocent civilians to continue, as former President Clinton eventually apologized for the failure of the U.S. to stop the genocide in Rwanda.

Of course, that apology will mean about as much to the dead of Aleppo as the fact that they were killed by bombs rather than chemical weapons.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is the Choice with Iran between War and Peace, or between Conventional War now and Nuclear War later?

In today's Wall Street Journal, Norman Podhoretz critically assesses the diplomatic outreach to Iran by the Obama Administration. He suggests that the range of choices posed publicly by the Administration, between war and peace, is actually a choice between conventional war now and nuclear war later. I hope that he is wrong, but I fear that he is not.

Romanian "Christmas Carol" Celebrates Holocaust

Although I am an observant Jew, and therefore reject any belief in Jesus as Messiah or divine in nature, I nonetheless have always enjoyed Christmas carols. We learned them and sang them in music classes in the public schools of Phoenix. Had I requested to be excused from joining in singing the carols, I certainly would have been allowed to do so, but I never did. When I was in high school, I would even join my non-Jewish friends in caroling--indeed, often I knew the lyrics to the traditional carols better than they did. However, apparently, Christmas carols in Romania are a little different from what I am used to here. An international furor has erupted over a Romanian public television broadcast last week of a "Christmas carol" performed by the Dor Transilvan ensemble. Here is an excerpt of the lyrics:
“The kikes, damn kikes, Holy God would not leave the kike alive, neither in heaven nor on earth, only in the chimney as smoke, this is what the kike is good for, to make kike smoke through the chimney on the street.”
Peace on earth and goodwill to men, indeed. To the credit of the Romanian government, official condemnations came swiftly. JTA reports that Titus Corlatean, the Romanian Foreign Minister, has even called for the prosecution of the responsible parties. As a United States citizen who treasures our rights of free expression under the First Amendment, I feel that a criminal prosecution is too drastic a response. Nontheless, I am grateful that Romanian officials took the matter so seriously. What has always seemed utterly incomprehensible to me about Christian anti-Semites is their cognitive ability to hate the Jewish people so thoroughly while worshipping a Jewish savior whose earliest followers consisted entirely of Jews. The founders of the Christian religion, Peter and Paul, and probably three of the four gospel writers, were Jews. Apparently the Dor Transilvan would have celebrated with song the burning of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, James, Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, and John along with the other "kikes." If someone can provide a rational explanation reconciling such views with Christianity, I would be grateful. It seems to me to be more of a nearly inbred animosity, reflective of the maxm by our Jewish sages that "Esau hates Jacob" is a matter of natural law.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Caroline Glick: Pew Report Doesn't Show American Jews Abandoning Judaism--They Never Knew About It

The Jewish communal world is all atwitter regarding the results of the recent Pew Research Center report on the American Jewish community, which showed a 71% intermarriage rate and an increasing percentage of American Jews--32% of Jews born since 1980 and 19% overall--who do not describe themselves as Jewish by religion. They instead identity themselves as Jewish by ancestry, ethnicity or culture. Indeed, 42% of those surveyed said that having a good sense of humor is a critical part of being a Jew, as opposed to just 19% who cited observance of Jewish law as a critical factor. Truly, bearing out that last finding, the joke is on us. Caroline Glick makes sense out of all this. In a column published online at Jewish World News, she points out that in an American Jewish community most prominently characterized by Jewish illiteracy, this result is hardly shocking. By Jewish illiteracy, she cites the definition promoted by Yoram Harzony, author of The Philosophy of Jewish Scripture, namely, lack of familiarity with Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) and its rabbinic commentaries. This ignorance is tragic for humanity, not just Jews, because, as Harzony explains in his book:
The Jews were the people who brought the idea that an individual was responsible for discovering truth and right and for bringing it into the world. That is the idea that freed mankind. That is the biblical idea. The Bible is about the expectation that a human being is going to take responsibility for discovering the truth and what's right and devote his or her life to bringing what is right to the world.
Or, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote decades ago, modern Jews are a messenger who has forgotten the message. I would add that an essential aspect of the lost message is the sender. As we read in the current Torah portions, it was God who sent the message, choosing Abraham and his descendents to be the messenger. The command said by God to Abraham that set Jewish history in motion, the phrase, Lech l'cha m'artzecha, m'meladecha u'm'beit avicha," is often translated as "Go for yourself yourself from your land, your birthplace and your father's house," reflecting Rashi's comment that God was informing Abram (his name at the time) that his departure from Haran and travel to Canaan would be for his own benefit. However, one might also, still consistent with Rashi's explanation, translate "l'cha" as meaning "to yourself." In other words, Abram's journey was not merely travel to a new land that his descendents would someday possess, but also to his true identity. Forget the message, forget the messager, and one also has forgotten one's Jewish identity.

Friday, October 04, 2013

President Obama will only Negotitate with non-GOP Terrorists

Yesterday, Senior Whilte House adviser Dan Pfeiffer remarked to CNN's Jake Tapper:

“We are for cutting spending, we are for reforming our tax code, we are for reforming entitlements. But what we are not for is negotiating with people who have a bomb strapped to their chest.”

Actually, this Administration is all for negotiating with people who have a bomb strapped to their chest, or at least those who sponsor them.  The Administration will negotiate with Syria and Iran, both of which the U.S. Government officially designates as state sponsors of terrorism.  It pressures Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, which pays monthly stipends to the families of suicide bombers.  It is only Republican members of Congress with whom the White House refuses to talk. 

Ho-Hum: Professor Kmiec Found the 2012-2013 US Supreme Court Term to be Pleasantly Uneventful

Pepperdine Law Professor Douglas Kmiec ["Eyeballing Eqality," California Lawyer, Sept. 2013] views the recently concluded term of the Supreme Court to have been decidedly and delightfully uneventful.  His  imaginary interlocutor objects:

Wait a minute, you say. Didn't the Court endorse same-sex marriage (United States v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013))? Limit the use of race to achieve diversity in admissions (Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin, 133 S.Ct. 2411 (2013))? Overturn the preclearance portion of the Voting Rights Act, decimating its effectiveness (Shelby County v. Holder, 133 S.Ct. 2612 (2013))? Continue to favor corporations (Mutual Pharm. Co., Inc. v. Bartlett, 133 S.Ct. 2466 (2013) (holding that makers of generic drugs could not be sued for defects in product design))? And isn't the Court now so profoundly divided that civility has succumbed to the delivery of apocalyptic dissents and the eye-rolling of Justice Samuel Alito?

Professor Kmiec responds, "No, no, no; not really; and don't be silly."

He goes on to describe how the Court's holdings, even in the so-called headliner cases, carefully adhered to Supreme Court precedent and, more importantly, to the duty of the Court, as perceived by Chief Justice Roberts and Chief Justice Rehnquist before him, "to keep the Court from opining about difficult and controversial policy questions."  For the details of his analysis, please read the article.  But lawyers and non-lawyers would be well-served to mull over Professor Kmiec's conclusion:

A blockbuster term it was not, yet the fidelity of the Court to the rule of law was consistent and praiseworthy. The Roberts Court answered legal complaint by adhering closely to its judicial vocation. When other nations try to persuade an anxious world that the way to advance democracy is by military intervention, it is a notable and wise achievement for the high bench to reaffirm how law already decided invites "we, the people" to discern the full scope of human equality. 
It is up to us - and not the justices - to determine whether the command for equality enshrined in our Constitution actually adds up to a living reality.
Gee, I wish I had written that.

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Obama Administration Leads the U.S. from Behind into Syria

In the lead [and happily publicly accessible] editorial on today's Wall Street Journal opinion page, neoconservative elder Norman Podheretz argues that the seeming Hamlet-like indecisiveness and uncertainty and amateur fecklessness of the Obama Administration's approach to the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, and to foreign policy in general, is not the result of incompetence, but rather reflects the deliberate implementation by President Obama of a "fundamental transformation he wished to achieve here ... to reduce the country's power and influence."
Mr. Podheretz makes a compelling case, but I believe he is wrong. After shaving with Occam's Razor, I conclude that the simplest explanation is incompetence. As evidence, I offer Secretary of State Kerry's remark today, in an appearance with the British Foreign Secretary, that any U.S. military action against Syria would be an "unbelievably small, limited kind of effort." He as much as announced to Bashar Assad not to worry, this won't hurt very much or do your regime any real harm.
Contrast this with the approach to public statements taken by President George H.W. Bush in the weeks leading up to the first Gulf War. While building his international coalition agaisnt Saddam Hussein and for the liberation of Kuwait, President Bush senior refused to publicly speculate on, or limit in any way, the nature and scope of the military campaign. He let Saddam wonder, and then struck hard and effectively.
Already some two weeks before Secretary Kerry's statement, liberal and sometimes Obama supporter Leon Wieseltier wrote on August 27 in the New Republic:
The White House and its supporters are seeking intervention without interventionism. An operation must be designed that will be limited and fleeting, that will do the right thing as inconsequentially as possible: a cop-out in the shape of a cruise missile. Assad will be punished and left in place; which is to say, unpunished. If he chooses never again to use chemical weapons, then his slaughter may never again be disturbed. Above all, the memory of Iraq will not be defiled. If we must do something—there is that “red line,” after all—then we will do something; but once we do something, we can go back to doing nothing.

Secretary Kerry also today may have intentionally or inadvertently provided Syria and Russia with an escape hatch, through which the Obama Administation could escape as well. The choice between intention or inadvertence depends on whether one accepts the Podheretz theory or the alternative explanation of gross incompetence. In any event, Secretary Kerry, almost in a throwaway afterthought, said that Syria could avoid an attack by putting its chemical weapons under international control. Russian and Syrian diplomats leaped at the opportunity that Kerry perhaps accidentally opened, and suggested negotiations toward achieving that goal.
Yes, the Administration, while welcoming the overtures, expressed deep skepticism about their sincerity. Yes, one should always exhaust every reasonable diplomatic channel before resorting to war. However, one remains suspicious that this will devolve into another effort by the President to kick the Syrian can down the road. As one wag said in a call to the Hugh Hewitt radio show, maybe someday Mr. Kerry will say that he was for the Syrian attack before he was against it, or visa versa. Remember 2004?

Friday, August 02, 2013

Amar'e Stoudemire Seeks Israeli Citizenship

Readers may have noted my long absence from posting. I explained to one inquirer that the news bored me. But at last there is really something important to write about. Previously, back in July 2010, in a post entitled "Mover Over, Jordan Farmar. Amar'e Stoudemire is the NBA's Biggest Jewish Star," , the Kosher Hedgehog reported on New York Knicks star Amar'e Stoudemire's claim of maternal Jewish ancestry (which is what counts under Jewish law) and his enthusiasm about his first trip to Israel. Since then, Mr. Stoudemire has made several trips to the Holy Land, most recently to participatae in the Maccabiah Games as assistant coach of the Canandian basketball team. He has even purchased an ownership interest in the Israeli basketball club, HaPoel Jerusalem. He has told JTA that he is regularly studying Jewish holy texts with New York rabbis. Now comes the lastest news--my Jewish brother Amar'e is seeking Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Amar'e, my brother, may you be successful and move from stength to strength.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

U.S. SUPREME COURT GUTS CALIFORNIA INITIATIVE PROCESS

Today's U.S. Supreme Court decision on Proposition 8 will have far-reaching consequences that have nothing to do with same-sex marriage.  The people's right under the California State Constitution to pass laws and amend the State Constitution by initiative has been gutted.  It is a tremendous victory for the monied power elites that often control elected officials.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the initiative process is to allow the people to pass legislation when the California State Legislature or the Governor refuses to address an issue.  Therefore the Governor and the California Attorney General frequently oppose initiatives, especially where they share the same political party or ideological positions.

Now, under the precedent of Hollingsworth v. Perry, if the opponents of a successful proposition can find one U.S. District Court judge to invalidate it, and the Governer and Attorney General, as in the case of Proposition 8, choose not to appeal the federal trial court decision, the will of the people can be ignored, because no one else has standing to appeal the court decision.

This is not a problem that can be fixed by an amendment to the California State Constitution, giving proponents of an initiative standing to appeal.  Standing in the federal courts is a federal issue, wholly controlled by the judiciary. The State of California is powerless to confer standing on persons whom the U.S. Supreme Court declares have no standing.  Not even Congress can confer standing on parties whom the federal courts declare have none.

Only Justice Kennedy's dissenting opinion recognizes this risk.  As noted by Andrew Cohen in his piece on the decision in The Atlantic, Justice Kennedy rightly expressed the fear that "the Perry case could permit state officials who disagree with the results of ballot initiatives to routinely walk away from them in a way that thwarts the purpose of the initiative process."  Cohen then predicts, "I'm not much into guarantees, especially with this Court, but I guarantee you that the Perry case will be cited for this technical proposition far more quickly and more often than it will be cited as any sort of victory or defeat for same-sex marriage advocates."

I fear that Mr. Cohen and Justice Kennedy are correct.  Regardless of one's position on same-sex marriage, today's decision in Perry is a victory for the power elites who hold sway in Sacramento and a defeat for California populism.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Our Economic Wreck of a City, Los Angeles



Even if you, dear reader, do not live in Los Angeles County, California let this be a warning to you.

Does the reputation of our City and County of Los Angeles as hostile to business have any harmful effect?  Well, the Los Angeles Business Journal reports that Los Angeles County managed to shed 81,000 payroll jobs in January, with the unemployment rate rising to a France-like 10.4 percent!  81,000 payroll jobs gone in a single month!  While about a quarter of the job loss, some 20,000 jobs, represented the layoffs by the retail trade of its holiday hiring, that still leaves a 61,000 job loss in other sectors.

Although the rest of the State of California is by no means enjoying a business boom,  even with the drag of the Los Angeles County figures, the State as a whole posted a net gain in January of 1700 jobs.

If Los Angeles County leads the entire State downward, the City of Los Angeles leads the County.  The unemployment rate in the City of Los Angeles was above 12%.  That compares with 9.8% statewide and 7.9% nationally.

The only good news is that things were even worse a year ago, in January 2012.

Leading Los Angeles Mayoral Candidate Wendy Gruel announced this week that upon taking office she will erase one of the few accomplishments of current and outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa--she will reopen negotiations with the City's public employee unions on the pension plan reforms implemented by Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council.

With leadership like that, perhaps job loss and unemployment in January 2014 will match those January 2012 figures.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ben Shapiro: To Save Traditional Marriage, End State Involvement

I do not always agree with my neighbor and friend, Ben Shapiro, the Breitbart editor, AM 870 talk show host and conservative pundit, but I do with his column posted today at the AM 870 webside, entitled "To Save Traditional Marriage, End State Involvement in Marriage."  The political battle to preserve government benefits for traditional marriage, but not same-sex marriage, is lost.  I know that others whom I respect, such as Michael Medved, will disagree, but the time has come to divorce marriage from government.

Marriage in its essence is a religious covenant or sacrament, sanctioned by God, not by the state.  If the state is involved in marriage, and confers special benefits on married persons, including same-sex couples, then in our current culture and political climate, traditional Christians, Jews and Moslems will be compelled to in effect recognize same-sex marriage.  By removing marriage as a state-sanctioned institution, and leaving it as a purely private relationship, governed by contract and one's personal religious beliefs, that concern is removed.  Those liberal churches and synagogues that wish to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies will be able to do so, removing the argument that traditional marriage advocates are trying to impose our religious beliefs on them.  Those traditional religious institutions that will not recognize same-sex marriage will not be compelled to do so.

I do believe that there will ultimately will be a societal cost to pay for same-sex marriage, even as a purely private institution, although the adverse effects may be subtle and take many years to manifest themselves.  It is possible that the damage to society will be difficult to identify and measure even once it occurs.  Think about the effects that past "progressive victories" such as unrestricted abortion, easy availability of contraception and no-fault divorce laws, have had on our society in the last 50 years.  Although progressives will not acknowledge it, those consequences include a loss of respect for life, promiscuity, epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, and, ironically, an explosion in births out of wedlock and single-parent households.  So I am not unmindful of the potential damage from fully separating Church and State when it comes to marriage.

However, that risk seems preferable, to me at least, to having the State officially recognize same-sex unions as marriage.

If, contrary to what Ben would advocate, the public determines that there are sound policy considerations to conferring special benefits on certain types of unions, the appropriate way to confer those benefits is through recognition of civil unions, not through state involvement in a religious sacrament.