Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ford has a better idea

Stories like this make me wonder why GM is in such trouble, while Ford
comes up with good products and does not need to be bailed out by

Somewhere Henry Ford is smiling.

Sent from my mobile device

Lowell Brown

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tears, Then Joy: Israel Remembers Her Fallen Soldiers; Then Celebrates Her 61st Birthday

Every year, in a moving but emotionally difficult transition, Israel first remembers its fallen soldiers and victims of terror, then celebrates its independence. Monday evening, Israeli President Shimon Peres initiated Remembrance Day by lighting a memorial torch at the Western Wall. He was joined by war widow Tziona Netanel, whose husband, Capt. Yonatan Netanel, 26, was killed by ‘friendly fire’ in the Gaza Strip in January. (Photo above)

A second annual torch lighting occurred Tuesday night, at Mount Herzl National Cemetery; this ceremony traditionally concludes Remembrance Day and signals the onset of the Independence Day celebration. Yom Atzmaut Sameach, Happy 61st Birthday, Israel! Also, happy 100th birthday to Tel Aviv!


Monday, April 27, 2009

PA President Abbas Won't Recognize the Jewish State, But Wants Palestine to be an Islamic State

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, said today in Ramallah that he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish State. He remarked, "A Jewish state, what is that supposed to mean? You can call yourselves as you like, but I don't accept it and I say so publicly."

Article 4, Section 1 of the Palestinian Authority's Basic Law states, "Islam is the official religion in Palestine."

Once again, Islam seeks for itself what it would deny to others.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ghost War Sees to Interdict Iranian Arms Shipments to Hamas in Gaza

Israel, and perhaps the U.S., are conducting a secret military campaign to intercept and destroy Iraninan arms shipments to Hamas in Gaza. Today, the Jerusalem Post carries a report from Egyptian and other Arab media that an unidentified missile ship, believed to be either Israeli or American, destroyed an Iranian vessel loaded with arms bound for Hamas in Gaza. The ship, destroyed in the Red Sea, was bound for a landing on the Sudanese coast, with the intention of smuggling the arms across the Sudanese and Sinai deserts, into Gaza. The ship sunk with all hands lost.

Just last month the Sudanese government claimed that Israeli warplanes had bombed a Gaza-bound arms convoy on Sudanese soil. The weapons were alleged to be of Iranian origin and bound for Hamas in Gaza. While not outrightly admitting the attack, the Israeli government hinted broadly at its responsibility. The distance of the airstrike from Israeli air bases was no doubt intended as a message to Iran as much as to Hamas and Sudan.

Taliban Aggression in Pakistan Demonstrates How Islamists Treat Agreements

Let's expand on Lowell's previous post, for those readers who may not have been following the news from Pakistan.

On April 13, Pakistan's feckless President, Asif Ali Zardari, signed a law allowing the Taliban to impose its own brand of sharia--Islamic law--within the Swat Valley in Northwest Pakistan, an area controlled by Taliban militias. Pakistan entered into this agreement, basically ceding away part of its territory, because Pakistani Taliban militants and their Al Qaeda allies, who had conducted a brutal two-year insurgency, torching, bombing and forcing the closure of hundreds of girls’ schools while carrying out violent attacks against civilian opponents and police, promised that they would observe a ceasefire if they could enforce shari’a in the NWFP district that encompasses Swat. Following the treaty, the Taliban quickly asserted complete control over the area, driving out Pakistani government officials, and forbidding appeals from the decisions of its courts to the Pakistani state courts.

Before the ink was even dry, however, Taliban militias expanded their operations, taking control of the neighboring district of Buner, only 60 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamibad. In recent days, pro-Taliban clerics in recent days have staged rallies in Swat and Islamibad, calling for the imposition of sharia across all of Pakistan.

Keep in mind that the Constitution of Pakistan already declares that the official name of the nation is "the Islamic Republic of Pakistan," that Islam is the state religion, that the President and Prime Minister must be Moslems, and that "[a]ll existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Qur'an and Sunnah and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such injunctions." Therefore, what the Taliban is seeking to impose, not only in the Swat Valley but across Pakistan, is its own Islamist vision of sharia, which sanctions the total suppression of women in the manner displayed during the Taliban's rule over Afghanistan.

It may seem strange that the government in command the world's sixth-largest army, staffed and equipped to face off against the powerful armed forces of India, can be helpless against perhaps a few hundred militia armed with automatic rifles. The sad truth of the matter is that until now the government of Pakistan has been afraid to suppress the Taliban insurrection, for fear that much of his citizenry and its armed forces sympathize with the Islamists. Indeed, the Taliban in Pakistan is a Frankenstein monster--created by the Pakistani army and intelligence services in order to install a friendly regime in Afghanistan, it has now turned on its creator.

[Contrary to the careless and ignorant allegations of the American Left, the Taliban was neither created, nor fostered by the U.S. to oppose the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The Taliban came into existence under the midwifery of the Pakistani army and intelligence agencies, during the chaotic period that followed the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Afghanistan.]

However, this time the Taliban may have overreached. The blatant violation of the ceasefire and its takeover of Buner seem to have unified the fractious Pakistani citizenry against them. Today, there are reports of a Pakistani military offensive against the Taliban militia. The press already is reporting significant victories by the Pakistani forces against the Taliban militias.

The United States appears to have played a positive role in implanting some backbone in the Pakistani government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated that the United States viewed the Taliban's activities to be a strategic threat not only to Pakistan, but to world peace, because it placed Pakistan's nuclear arsenal at risk of falling into Taliban control.

Indeed, one Pakistani English-language newspaper reports that the U.S. made clear that if Pakistan failed to act against the Taliban, the U.S. would launch attacks against the Taliban in the Swat Valley.

I would love to believe the latter report. It would greatly increase my confidence in the Obama Administration's foreign and defense policy. Can this report of a "get tough" warning to Pakistan be reconciled with the expressed desire of the Obama Administration to open talks with "moderate" members of the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Perhaps. It is well known that Afghanistan is less a nation state than a collection of tribes and clans, led by various war lords. The U.S. experience during the invasion of Afghanistan from March through May of 2003, which overthrew the Afghani Taliban regime, proved that tribal and clan leaders could be peeled away from their loyalties to the Taliban regime through bribes and inducements--in short, they could be bought. Some of the most significant "conquests" by the Northern Alliance during the overthrow of the Taliban came without the firing of a shot, when supposed Taliban loyalists switched sides overnight and simply turned their towns and their troops over to the Northern Alliance.

Of course, loyalty that is bought may always be bought back--but that' s just politics in Afghanistan, which probably have not changed a great deal since the time of Kim and the British Raj. If that sort of initiative is what the Obama Administration has in mind, then the charge of appeasement is misplaced.

What would be appeasement, and what the U.S. must avoid, is the sort of ceasefire agreement that the Pakistani government entered into, which compromised Pakistani sovereignty and security in return for an empty promise. As is being demonstrated as I write, the Pakistani government and its armed forces are overwhelmingly more powerful than the Taliban, if they are willing to use their strength, but for that very reason the willingness of Pakistan to make concessions in return for a ceasefire was read by the Taliban as a sign of weakness, and the signal to push further ahead in its campaign to take over the entire nation.

And what is true in Pakistan is equally true for the U.S. in dealing with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. That is of course why Israel must, and will, resist pressure from the Obama Administration and the E.U. to take security risks in order to achieve some intangible momentum in the so-called peace process. Every Israeli has family members and friends who have been victims of Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorism. They know that appeasement carries a real price.
[Photo credit and link: AP]

Talking things over with the Taliban

President Obama has suggested that it may be productive to negotiate
with "moderate" elements within the Taliban. Here's some information from Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club about how well negotiating with the Taliban has worked for Pakistan.

His concluding 'graph:
From handshakes to worries about nukes. From "peace in our time" to the Battle of Britain. Once the overall design margin of a system has been eroded, failure when it comes manifests itself in a rapid cascade of events. The hidden stresses suddenly pile on each other and the structure, raddled with hundreds of weaknesses each minor in itself, collapses under their simultaneous impact. Today the United States is under threat on a number of fronts, from the Black Sea to cyberspace and South Asia. Since November 2008 America’s response to those challenges has been informed by a new set of assumptions about the nature of the world and the appropriate response to them. Now those assumptions will be put to the test. More than ever the United States needs good intelligence: about Pakistani intentions, the security of that country’s nukes, Taliban capability and foreign support against US troops. More than ever the public needs to know whether the world view of the new administration is part of the solution or part of the problem. Like the Islamabad, Washington will eventually find out.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Susan Boyle: Why Do We Care So much?

Michael Paulson, the Boston Globe's religion writer, asks, "Why does video of Susan Boyle move us?" I've been wondering the same thing - he says "Google reports that "Susan Boyle" is . . . the second fastest-rising search term in the world." In answer, Paulson points us to what James Martin, S.J., a Jesuit priest who is the associate editor of America magazine, says about that:

The way we see Susan Boyle is very nearly the way God sees us: worthwhile, special, talented, unique, beautiful. The world generally looks askance at people like Susan Boyle, if it sees them at all. Without classic good looks, without work, without a spouse, living in a small town, people like Susan Boyle may not seem particularly "important." But God sees the real person, and understands the value of each individual's gifts: rich or poor, young or old, single or married, matron or movie star, lucky or unlucky in life. God knows us. And loves us.

"Everybody is somebody" said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan at his installation Mass in New York City yesterday. That's another reason why the judges smile and the audience explodes in applause.

Because they recognized a basic truth planted deep within them by God: Susan Boyle is somebody.

Everybody is somebody.

Makes sense to me.

(If you have been hibernating in a cave somewhere and have not seen the video clip the Rev. Martin is writing about, it is here, at the bottom of the page.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

State Department Says Palestinian Recognition of Israel as Jewish State is not Precondition to Renewed Peace Talks

Ha'Aretz reports that the the U.S. State Department has rejected the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Palestinian Arabs recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people as a condition for renewing peace talks. The question therefore arises: Is the U.S. position merely that recognition of Israel as the Jewish State is not a precondition of renewal of peace talks, or does the United States consider the Jewish identity of Israel to be an issue subject to negotiation? According the Ha'Aretz article, when then foreign minister Tzipi Livni first raised the issue of recognition of Israel as a Jewish State come 18 months ago, the Bush Administration accepted the Palestinian objection that the issue should be subject to negotiation.

This would be less troubling if it were not for the fact that the United States and the Palestinians seem to be ignoring the United Nations Resolution that brought Israel into existence. U.N. General Resolution 181, passed on November 29, 1947, called for the termination of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and the division of the territory covered by the Mandate into "Arab and Jewish States." The Jewish Agency for Palestine, which was the governing authority for the Jews of Palestine during the Mandate, accepted the partition of Palestine under Resolution 181.

The Palestinian Arabs and the Arab nations of the world rejected it. Sixty-two years later, it appears that they still reject it. More troubling still, it seems that the United States--which voted for Resolution 181, and recognized the State of Israel upon its Declaration of Independence in May 1948, a declaration that proclaimed "the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL"--now considers the Jewish character of the State of Israel to be an issue subject to negotiation.

The Government of Israel should demand that the U.S. State Department clarify its position regarding U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 and American recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Israel may not like the response, but it would at least clarify where the United States stands regarding the recognition of Israel as the only nation state of the Jewish people.

[For those readers who question whether the concept of a Jewish state is appropriate in the modern world, please take note of the following facts:

1. Some 13 nation states recognize Roman Catholicism as their official religion;
2. Four more nations recognize one of the Eastern Orthodox Churches as their official religion.
3. Three nations, including the progressive states of Norway, Denmark and Iceland, recognize the Lutheran Church as their official religion.
4. Armenia recognizes the Armenian Apostolic Church as its national religion.
5. England not only recognizes the Church of England as its state religion; the English monarch is the head of the Church.
6. Scotland's official religion is the Reformed Church.
7. Some 24 nations recognize Islam as their official religion, including nearly every Arab opponent of the recognition of Israel as the only Jewish state.
8. Five nations recognize Buddhism as their official religion.

One must therefore ask why Israel is being singled out?

Moreover, unlike nearly every one of the above countries, Israel, while considering itself to be a Jewish State, in fact has no offiicial state religion or single established religion. This reflects the fact that Judaism has always been a national identity as well as a religious identity. Indeed, most persons who consider themselves Jewish, including the majority of Israelis, do not actively practice the Jewish religion and consider their Jewishness to be a matter of peoplehood, not religious belief or practice. One can (and many do) proclaim oneself to be a Jewish atheist or agnostic, without any recognized logical inconsistency.

Therefore, even if all of the above-listed countries disestablished their official religions, and declared themselves to be secular states, that would not call into question the legitimacy of Israel as the Jewish national state, any more than it would call into question the national identities of France, England or Germany.]

Iran Responds to Obama Overtures By Imprisoning Iranian American Journalist

The Obama Administration has been making overtures to the Iran regime in an effort to diplomatically engage the Islamic radical regime. On March 21, President Obama issued greetings to Iran on the occasion of the Nowruz, the Persian New Year. On April 8, Vice President Joe Biden, in an interview broadcast on CNN, stated that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be "ill advised" to launch a military strike against Iran's developing nuclear facilities. Biden's statement was clearly aimed as much toward Tehran as to Tel Aviv--it was another attempt to convince the Mullahs that the Obama Administration has only peaceful attentions and wants to negotiated a diplomatic solution the crisis posed by Iran's nuclear program.

The Iranian regime responded to those overtures this week by symbolically slapping away the hand of friendship extended by the Obama Administration. This past Saturday an Iranian court, following a secret trial for alleged espionage, sentenced Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi (photo above left) to eight years in prison. Saberi, who grew up in North Dakota and holds dual American and Iranian citizenship, has reported from Iran on behalf of the BBC and National Public Radio. She was arrested in January and has been held since then in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. She was accused of spying on Iran, in the guise of a journalist, and passing information and documents to U.S. intelligence services. She could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison, or even with the death penalty, so no doubt some apologist for the Iranian regime will argue that the Mullahs viewed Ms. Saberi's 8-year sentence as a gesture of friendship toward the United States.

That was not, however, the reaction of the White House. The U.S. had condemned the accusations against Saberi as "baseless and without foundation." On Saturday, President Obama said he was "deeply disappointed" by the conviction, a White House spokesman said.

It remains to be seen whether the President's disappointment will influence the Iranian Islamist regime or help Ms. Sabari regain her freedom.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

CNN: The Most Trusted Name in News?

I have not followed the tea party phenomenon closely, but you've got to love this, from the network that my friends on the left actually believe is the place to go to get the straight scoop:

The man she's interviewing is passionate but respectful and makes a coherent point, whether you agree with it or not. Her response to him makes me embarrassed for her.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Obama Deficit and The Bush Deficit Compared

The Heritage Foundation offers this analysis on the compelling graphic at right, which also appears in the post just below and originally appeared in the Washington Post. As Heritage dryly notes:
President Barack Obama has repeatedly claimed that his budget would cut the
deficit by half by the end of his term. But as Heritage analyst Brian Riedl has
pointed out, given that Obama has already helped quadruple the deficit with his
stimulus package, pledging to halve it by 2013 is hardly ambitious.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Obama, Bush and Deficits

I would like to see some of this spending targeted to fixing the economy. Instead, there is money flying around everywhere in sort of a shotgun attempt to flood the nation with cash. Maybe it will work, but I doubt it. It is very scary.

This is not meant as a defense of the last 8 years. It's just an expression of worry that many millions of American share. That Pres. Obama is actually making GWB look good, in terms of deficit spending, is just amazing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reason TV: Tax Facts to Make Your Head Explode

Worth watching, if only to have a little more education about the subject:

Ask your friends who voted for President Obama if they feel it's "patriotic" to pay more taxes.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The George W. Bush--Barack Obama Iraq Policy.

President Barack Obama based his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency on his credentials as the strongest opponent of the war in Iraq among the Democratic rivals for the nomination. He called for an early withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country, regardless of conditions on the ground. Having won the Democratic nomination, during the general election campaign, he somewhat modulated this extreme position, describing a staged withdrawal over 16 months. Ironically, it was the success of the "surge" and the anti-insurgency campaign planned and implemented by General David Petraeus, which Senator John McCain favored and Senator Barack strongly opposed, that gave President Obama the ability to act in a manner that superficially resembles his campaign position.

The current timetable for withdrawal calls for an end to the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by August 31, 2010, with a troop reduction by that time from the current level of 142,000 troops to between 35,000 and 50,000 troops.

The differences between the policy of the George W. Bush Administration policy on U.S. military involvement in Iraq and the current policy of the Obama Administration are insubstantial. The Bush Administration always stated that troop levels in Iraq would respond to conditions on the ground. The sooner that U.S.-trained Iraqi troops could take over combat, policing and support missions, the more quickly U.S. troops could be drawn down. President Obama's current plan foresees keeping troop levels at their current high through Iraqi elections in 2011 and as many as 50,000 troops through 2011. At least some U.S. troops will in all likelihood remain in support and training missions even after 2011. Thus the Obama plan begins to look very much like the McCain forecast so ridiculed by the Democratic campaign machinery during the Presidential election.

Moreover, President Obama has begun to see real U.S. accomplishments in Iraq, where Candidate Obama saw none. In Iraq yesterday, President Obama praised his audience of U.S. soldiers, saying, "From getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections -- you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement." Gee, one tries to recall, how did it happen U.S. troops were in Irag to accomplish that extraordinary achievement? Oh, yes, they were ordered there by their then Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush, despite the strident opposition of, among others, Barack Obama.

As recounted on the Wall Street Journal online opinion page:
Prior to his Iraq visit, the President was asked by a Turkish student whether his Iraq policies were fairly close in substance to George W. Bush's. "Well, just because I was opposed at the outset, it doesn't mean that I don't have now responsibilities to make sure we do things in a responsible fashion," Mr. Obama replied. We'll mark that down as a "yes."

So will we. Like the editorialist in the Wall Street Journal, we are pleased that President Obama has taken a more responsible line on the U.S. involvement in Iraq than did Candidate Obama. We just wish he would acknowledge the accomplishments of his predecessor in office, President George W. Bush, and the correctness on this issue of the views of his GOP Presidential election opponent, Senator John McCain.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

To the L.A. Times, the Debate is Whether Israel Should Exist

For some time now, after reading pointedly anti-Israel news coverage and opinion pieces in the Los Angeles Times, I have wondered to myself how long it would be before the Times actually editorializes in favor of the elimination of the world's only Jewish state. Almost immediately, I would chide myself for irrational paranoia. Now, well, it appears that I was neither irrational, nor paranoid.

In this week's Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, in a column entitled "That's Where the Debate is Going," David Peyman and Sam Yebri recount a meeting that they and three senior officials of the Jewish Federation had with an unnamed "senior editor of the Los Angeles Times editorial page." The purpose of the meeting had been to protest the publication in the Times opinion section of a an opinion piece by Hamas political deputy Mousa Abu Marzook on Jan. 6, during the peak of the Gaza conflict. No context was given to the Times reader, who might be unaware that the Hamas Charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic state, but describes Jews as the enemies of Islam and calls for their murder.

Not terribly impressed, the editor responded, according to Peyman and Yebri, with this chilling rejoinder: "He then made a startling observation — that whether Israel should continue to exist as a Jewish state or whether Hamas’ grievances are valid and justified ... 'that’s where the debate is going.'”

This conversation might just as easily occurred with the editorial staff of the New York Times, but the Los Angeles Times is my hometown newspaper. The point is that nearly 61 years after Israel's birth, pursuant to a United Nations resolution, the debate is still over its right to exist. That is today, as it always has been, the essence of the Arab-Israeli conflict. What has changed is that American and Western European liberal elites are now prepared to think the unthinkable: If the Arab world is unwilling to tolerate the existence of Israel, then the "final solution" (and I use those words both deliberately and approriately) is the elimination of Israel.

If these pundits were capable of any honest, objective analysis, they would be compelled to admit that the choice is not between Israel and a secular, democratic, bi-national state, but rather between Israel and another despotic "Judenrein" (cleansed of Jews) Islamist state, and most likely a failed state at that. They would supplant a democracy that, whatever its shortcomings in obtaining full equality of Jew and Arab, nonetheless offers its Arab citizens more civil liberties, more freedom and more educational and economic opportunity than are enjoyed by the citizens of any Arab nation. They ignore that Israel is one of the few success stories of all the nations that came into existence after the Second World War. They also ignore the likely fate of Israel's five million plus Jews if left to the not so tender mercies of Hamas.

Fortunately, the fate of Israel is not in the hands of the editorial staff of the Los Angeles Times or the New York Times. It is much more in the hands of the Israeli people and ultimately in the hands of God, who really is the all Merciful and all Compassionate, as our Islamic brothers describe him, and surely will protect his people from the hands of their enemies.

To all our readers, Chag Pesach Sameach--Happy Passover.

Thursday, April 02, 2009 takes one on the chin: "Child's Pay" Revisited

In 2004, put out a video called "Child's Pay," attacking George W. Bush for saddling future generations with debt. (Yes, you read that right.) Here's an updated version.

"Mr. Jefferson" -- A YouTube Video Worth Watching

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Congratulations, Binyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

It was a long time coming, but just before midnight on Tuesday, March 31, 2009, Binyamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister of Israel for the second time. Mr. Prime Minister, please prove to Israel, the Jewish people and the world that the wait was worthwhile.

You started off well, in your addresss to the Knesset Tuesday night, when you concluded your remarks with these words:

"From this podium in Jerusalem, which is our eternal capital, I am uttering a prayer to God, to bless that the work of our hands will be blessed, and that the unity with which we started on our way will be a good sign... that will ensure our future."

It is a siman tov, a good sign, when any leader of Israel or the Jewish people recognizes that the success of his efforts relies on the blessing of God. Recognition of the importance of achdut, unity of the Jewish people, also is important.

Mazal tov and yasher ko-ach, Mr. Prime Minister, congratulations and well done. In your leadership of Israel, may you go m'chial l'chial, from strength to strength.

In closing, I note that for the 32nd consecutive time since its declaration of independence in May 1948, Israel has undergone a peaceful transition into power of an democratically elected government. In addition to stable democratic government, Israel boasts a vibrant economy (althouh it endures the current recession with the rest of the world)and has achieved a Western-European level standard of living for its citizens. Its Arab minority enjoys more civil liberties, better educational opportunities and a higher standard of living than the citizens of any Arab nation. What other nation created after the Second World War can point to such a record? Shame on those who would somehow suggest it is a failed state.

Coming Soon to You: DMV-Style Auto Repairs

This video may resonate just a bit more with California residents:

Yankee Ingenuity Lives

I love seeing things like this:

A company in Washington State claims that by using automotive industry suppliers to mass produce parts a solar concentrator and Stirling engine can achieve high efficiency and low cost electric power generation.
"The difference between our economy and a green economy is not as substantial as people think."

I hope he's right. Our great-grandparents could not have envisioned personal computers or the Internet, and we probably can't envision the innovations smart people will come up with even in the next decade.

(HT: Future Pundit.)