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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Congressmen Once Again Try to Force US Embassy Move to Jerusalem

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Pro-Israeli Congressmen have introduced another bill to force the government to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something that the government has no intention of doing it so long as the Palestinian Authority claims part of the capital.

The new Congressional bill has no chance of bearing fruit but is good political hay for the folks in the home districts of the sponsors, Republican Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and Doug Lamborn of Colorado, and Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman of California.

A Congressional law passed in 1995 requires the embassy to be located in Jerusalem but has a nifty six-month renewable waiver for the president to postpone the action for “national security” reason,” which is exactly what every president has done for more nearly two decades.

Obama’s Popularity Sinks to One Point above All-Time Low

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

President Barack Obama’s approval has sunk to only one percentage point above the all-time low in November 2011, according to a new poll released Wednesday by NBC and The Wall Street Journal.

Only 45 percent approve of his job as president, and 50 percent said they disapprove, mainly because of their view of his handling, or mishandling, the economy.

The most serious drop in his support was among African-Americans, whose support for President Obama now is 10 points less than it was in June and 15 points below the level in April.

The American public is even less happy with Congress. A grand total of 12 percent of the respondents gave the legislative body an approval rating, tying it to the previous all-time low.

Reminder: Mid-term elections are more than a year away.

House Panel Approves $2 million for US-Israel Energy Cooperation

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has allotted $2 million for U.S.-Israel energy cooperation in the fiscal year 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill.

The money in the bill is the latest such appropriation under the 2007 U.S.-Israel Cooperation Act, which created a grant program to support research and development of renewable energy sources.

“Our national security depends on the development of alternative energy,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a lead sponsor of the Act said in a statement. “Funding for the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Program has already advanced innovative new energy projects.”

Other lawmakers pushing for the allocation included Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).

Congressman Aims at Jew’s Crusade against Army Religious Coercion

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Mikey Weinstein couldn’t be happier to have an amendment in his honor approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, even if it is one aimed at keeping  his Military Religious Freedom Foundation as far away from the Pentagon as possible. He couldn’t be happier because Weinstein is the kind of guy who revels in the dislike of his adversaries.

“How terrified are these little pu***es in Congress that they have to pass an amendment about me?” he shouted in a phone interview from the foundation’s headquarters in Albuquerque, N.M.

Weinstein wants troops free from coercive evangelizing by their superiors, but a number of conservative lawmakers and activists see Weinstein as the threat to religious freedom.

Inspired by a report that Weinstein had met with Pentagon brass, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) introduced the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act in a statement that called Weinstein a “notorious anti-Christian zealot.”

In his House speech the same day, Huelskamp complained, “It seems that secretive meetings continue with individuals actually opposed to religious liberties.”

Weinstein welcomed the amendment, which requires the Pentagon to notify Congress of any meeting it holds with civilians to discuss military policy with respect to religious liberty. The language of the amendment, he notes, also would cover meetings between the Pentagon and Christian conservatives.

The amendment reflects growing concern in certain quarters that Weinstein is an anti-Christian crusader in disguise of a fighter for freedom from religion coercion in the military.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) in May asked the Pentagon for further information about a meeting between its officials and “anti-Christian extremist Mikey Weinstein,” and Rep. Michele Bachmann said the meeting was with “left-wing, anti-Christian activists.”

The core of Weinstein’s threat, as depicted by his conservative opponents, is that he is at the vanguard of a bid to squelch religious expression in the military but Weinstein does not target Christian expression as long as there is no evidence of coercion. His problem is with commanders who intimidate subordinates by permitting proselytizing — or engaging in it themselves.

“The military is indescribably tribal, adversarial, communal, ritualistic,” Weinstein said. “If you are being even gently evangelized by your military superior, ‘Get the f*** out of my face, sir’ is not an option.”

Weinstein has been lobbing bombs at the religious establishment since the mid-2000s, when two of his sons told him of coercive efforts by their superiors at his alma mater, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He established his foundation in late 2005.

His younger son Curtis ,said he was exposed to anti-Semitic language and was asked “how it felt to kill Jesus.” His older son Casey, a 2004 Academy graduate, alleged that “senior cadets would sit down and say, ‘How do you feel about the fact that your family is going to burn in hell?’”

“I’m under no illusions that what happened to my Jewish sons and my Christian daughter-in-law could not have happened to the son of a patriotic American Muslim or Buddhist or agnostic or atheist,” Weinstein has written.

 

Weinstein says he does not target any particular faith, to the point that one of his recent victories involved getting a commander to remove atheist bumper stickers from his car.

Weinstein has attacked what he calls “Dominionist” Christians seeking to advance the United States toward theocracy. And he has referred to fundamentalist Christians as “monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.”

The Anti-Defamation League, the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), all of whom publicly supported Weinstein in the past, will say little about him now.

The RAC and Israel both declined multiple requests for comment, while the ADL’s civil rights director, Deborah Lauter, would only say, “We don’t like the lack of civility on either side. ADL’s approach has always been if we see a problem, find a constructive way to fix it.”

Former Jewish community associates of Weinstein would not speak on the record but delivered tortured accounts of their relationships with him, which essentially boil down to this: Weinstein is wacky and impolitic — and right.

“It’s not that he’s not correct’ it’s that he’s not political” is how one put it.

US Immigration Bill May Hurt Jewish Summer Camps

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The proposed immigration bill now in the Senate has been altered to t remove requirements that would  affect Israeli and other foreigners wanting to work temporarily in Jewish summer camps, but the House may block its passage.

Provisions for the J-1 non-immigrant visa for exchange visitors  now “allow an important cultural exchange” between American youth and foreign staff members, Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center told the Jewish Forward.

The original version of the bill contained extra requirements that were changed after Jewish camp operators said it would hurt their programs, where 1,400 Israeli counselors and almost the name number work in summer camps.

The altered Senate version could come unraveled if House of Representatives  Speaker John Boehner goes through with his threat to block its passage if he thinks a majority of republicans will not vote for the measure.

Staunch Israel Supporter Rep. Bachmann Calls It Quits

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, a staunch supporter of Israel, announced Wednesday she will not for a fifth term in Congress next year.

Like Alaska’s former Gov, Sarah Palin in 2008, Bachmann was a darling of the Tea Party. After she launched a campaign for the GOP presidential nomination last year, she quickly became a frequent target for media mockery for several statements that were full of historical and factual errors.

Bachmann, who is not Jewish but volunteered on a kibbutz in 1974, delivered speeches as a fundamentalist Christian who has said she “grew up with a love for Israel.” She has asserted that Israel and the United States “share the same exceptional mission – to be a light unto the nations. I was raised in a home full of love for Israel. We learned that our Christian faith is rooted in Judaism.”

She was one of the founders of the Tea Party movement but believed the support from a vocal minority was broader based than it was. After she topped initial polls and then fell to the bottom of the pack in the crowded contest for the nomination, she dropped out of the running.

The campaign is history, but recent federal investigations have targeted her for misusing campaign funds.

She denies any wrongdoing and said the probe has nothing to do with her decision not to run again. In an eight-minute video explaining her decision. Bachmann tried to persuade supporters, if not herself, that she was sure she would win if she were to run again, although Jim Graves, who almost defeated her last year.

How to Use a Midterm Victory

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

There are good reasons to be hopeful about the 2014 midterm election.  The second presidential midterm election has historically been murder.  With the exceptions of Clinton in 1998 and Reagan in 1986, the president in his second midterm has lost massively in the House of Representative: FDR (-71 seats), Ike (-49 seats), Nixon (-49 seats), Bush II (-31 seats.)

Except for Clinton in 1998, each of those midterms produced losses for the president’s party in the Senate (Reagan, in fact, lost the Senate in 1986).  Senate elections are affected by the particular class of senators elected six years before as well as the sentiments of voters in the particular midterm at hand.  That is why Republican Senate losses in 1986 were so bad: Republicans defending their seats in 1986 had last faced voters in the 1980 Reagan landslide.

In 2014, the Senate class strongly favors Republicans both by the number of seats each is defending (21 Democrats to 14 Republicans) and the particular states involved, which are predominately conservative and Republican.  Sensing this, many Senate Democrats from conservative states are retiring.  The chances of Republicans taking the Senate are very good.

Winning in House races and state government elections will depend upon turnout.  Those eager airheads who have now turned out for Obama in two presidential elections will find few reasons to go to the polls in November 2014, when Obama is a lame duck and is not on the ballot.

Voter fatigue, more important than any notional polls of presidential approval or voter intentions, may well hand Republicans the sort of major victory that has been the norm in a president’s second midterm.  The growing sense of unease, even among the otherwise docile establishment media, may combine into a major Republican victory in 2014, giving perhaps fifty-five or more Senate seats and perhaps 260 seats in the House (a gain of 24 seats).  If this happens, what should Republicans do?

First, Senate Republicans should very directly state that only strict constructionist jurists will be confirmed onto the federal bench.  In fact, Senate Republicans should make it clear that no radical leftists will be confirmed for any appointed to federal courts or independent regulatory agencies.  Democrats have done this for decades — just ask Robert Bork — and Republicans must do it, too.

Second, Senate Republicans ought to do what Harry Reid threatened to do:  adopt a rule which ends filibusters and always moves for cloture with fifty-one senate votes.  This would allow Republicans in Congress to actually pass bills which would be placed on Obama’s desk to sign or to veto.  Ideally, these bills should have unanimous Republican support and, perhaps, that of a few conservative Democrats as well.

Obama will never sign ever moderate conservative reforms, so the nation would see the president vetoing one bill after another, accomplishing nothing but obstruction.  Republicans ought to research these bills as they did with the Contract With America:  find out what bills appeal to Americans, and then pass those out of Congress.

Third, Republicans must conduct aggressive investigations of the myriad abuses of power by Obama and his lackeys.  The best way to do this is would be to create a Joint Congressional Special Committee composed of members of both houses of Congress and, of course, both political parties.  Those called to testify before this committee would think twice before lying or acting flippantly.  In fact, if only a few Democrats on this Joint Committee called the Obama administration to the carpet, then the political stakes could rise dramatically for Obama almost overnight.

Unless the president and his flacks behaved much more respectfully and much more seriously than they have so far — and that, of course, would involved miles of backtracking — a Contempt of Congress citation adopted by both houses with some bipartisan support would be a real possibility.

The goal should be to deny Obama: to deny him any real power to influence the judiciary and regulatory agencies, to deny him any legislative victories by compelling Obama to veto reasonable legislation supported by the American people, and to deny Obama the unmerited support of many Americans by showing him before joint congressional committees to be a mendacious and venal politician.  There is no need to try to do too much, but doing these three things is critical to turning our nation around.

Benghazi’s Lesson

Monday, May 20th, 2013

I haven’t written about the Benghazi affair before. I’m not in a position to judge whether the State Department or military could have intervened in time to save Ambassador Stevens, or why the consulate wasn’t reinforced, etc.  I’m sure the disaster could have been prevented, and someone is responsible for it. But I’m not the one to explain how and who.

What I am competent to discuss is the politics of the decision to present the attack as something that it was not and that the relevant people knew at the time it was not.

Some of President Obama’s opponents have been saying that it was all about the election. Obama’s claim was that he had more or less ended the terrorist threat — after all, he killed bin Laden! So the truth that an American ambassador was murdered on the anniversary of 9/11 by al Qaeda linked terrorists would not be helpful. Therefore, the story that the attack grew out of a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Islam video was pushed instead.

This is true as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough. The fact is that the video story was part of a theme that has run through Obama’s presidency from the beginning. This is the idea that the policy of the United States toward the anti-Western jihad should have two dimensions: we will kill overt anti-American terrorists, while at the same time try to placate the Muslim world through diplomacy and propaganda.

Every effort is made to relate positively to Muslims here and abroad. Aid programs are established to Muslim countries. NASA administrators are asked to reach out to the Muslim world. Less benignly, ‘Islamophobia’ is presented as a more dangerous phenomenon than domestic jihad, the administration embraces the Palestinian cause, supports Islamists in Egypt, falls in love with the Islamist prime minister of Turkey, etc.

This policy, which started immediately before Obama’s inauguration when he pressured Israel to withdraw from Gaza, found full expression in his Cairo speech of June 4, 2009. Although I was initially shocked by his obscene equation of the Holocaust with the way the “Palestinian people … have suffered in pursuit of a homeland,” the most alarming thing about the speech taken as a whole is its obeisance to the Arab and Muslim historical narrative, the story that is told to justify aggression against the U.S. and the West (and Israel is only a small part of this).

For example, he said,

The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

In other words, it’s all our fault. Never mind the cultural and political backwardness that made Muslim nations hellholes for all but a tiny privileged minority, never mind the cynical behavior of kleptocratic Muslim leaders who sold themselves to whomever would supply the most weapons for them to use in their wars and intrigues against each other and Israel — their problems are all because of those Western colonialists!

Compare them to Israel, which freed itself from British domination to become the most successful nation in the Middle East, or Vietnam, or many other formerly colonized peoples. And keep in mind that many Arab countries, like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, went rapidly from Ottoman domination to independence, suffering little, if at all, from Western exploitation.

Obama’s approach extended to the way we respond to ideologically-motivated terrorism in the U.S. The administration seems to have taken the true statement “not all Muslims support terrorism” and quite invalidly inferred from it that “Islam can never be the motive for terrorism.” So Major Nidal Hassan’s mass murder at Ft. Hood is explained as workplace violence, other terrorists are defined as mentally disturbed, the Department of Homeland Security issues a directive that such words as “jihad” and “Muslim” cannot be used in connection with terrorism, and the NYPD is criticized for carrying out surveillance of mosques.

In the view of the Obama administration, the enemy is not an ideology. It is only specific organizations (whose motives are not discussed) that attack us.

Any disagreement with this position — anyone who suggests that there is a dangerous ideology of political Islam out there which often finds violent expression in terrorist acts — is stigmatized as an Islamophobe, a kind of racist, a designation which places the person so vilified outside the pale of discourse, and justifies denying him or her the right to speak publicly.

And so we come back to Benghazi. What better explanation could be given for the disaster than an Islamophobic video? Not only does the randomness of the outburst excuse everyone involved for the failure — who could have known this would happen? — and not only does it hide the fact that even the acknowledged war against al Qaeda hasn’t been going as well as they would like us to think, it casts blame precisely on those intolerant opponents of the administration’s policy of trying to placate the Muslim world!

Thus the schmuck who made the video is imprisoned for a year for a parole violation, after Hillary Clinton tells the parent of one of the U.S. personnel murdered in the attack that she would see to it that the filmmaker was arrested and prosecuted.

The dual policy — killing overt terrorists while expressing love and respect for Islam — is both unfortunate for our real allies, like Israel, which sees itself pressured into concessions to the PLO or Hamas as a way to show that Obama cares about Palestinian Muslims, as well as a failure.

The reason for the failure is a misunderstanding of the messages we send as they are received in Arab and Muslim cultures. The message of caring and respect that we are trying to send is perceived as weakness. Muslims understand that non-Muslims can either fight or submit to Islam — it’s not possible to admire Islam while at the same time refusing to submit. So Obama’s gestures are either ignored or indicate that he is not strong enough to fight.

At the same time, the drone strikes and the war in Afghanistan kill Muslims, and it is the duty of Muslims to avenge these killings. The fact that the perpetrators are non-Muslims makes them obscene in these cultures, the reversal of the natural order.

In the meantime, the morale of our police forces on the home front is weakened, the tools necessary to discover and prevent jihadist terrorism are taken out of their hands, and aggressive Islamic ideologues in our mosques and college campuses are encouraged.

A better policy would be to stop pretending to admire the people who hate us. We should say to the Muslim world, “look, we have a system that’s different from yours, we think it’s better, and we intend to defend it. Anyone who hurts us or our allies will get it back ten times over.” We don’t need to ‘declare war on Islam’ to do that, as apologists for the present policy claim.

Our leaders have become so used to lying, that they haven’t considered simply being honest and standing up for what we believe.

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