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July 28, 2014 / 1 Av, 5774
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Obama Wants Congress to Delay Action on Syria

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

President Obama asked Congress to delay a vote on whether to strike Syria while he consults with Russia over a deal that would end Syria’s chemical weapons program.

“I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path,” Obama said in a national address Wednesday night.

The Russian option, which emerged over the last two days, would transfer Syrian chemical weapons to international control for destruction. Syrian officials have said they will consider it.

A number of pro-Israel groups have in recent days heeded the White House call to urge Congress to endorse a strike, although it seemed an uphill battle, considering the lack of popular support for such a strike and resistance among a majority of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives.

These groups and the White House have emphasized the Israel is not the preeminent factor in considering such a strike, and although Obama cited in his speech a threat to U.S. allies, including Israel, should Syrian’s Assad regime become more promiscuous in the use of chemical weapons, he also said that Israel should not fear retaliation in case of a U.S. strike.

“Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise, and our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakable support of the United States of America,” he said.

In making the moral case for a strike should such a deal fall through, Obama cited the horrors of the 20th century, including the Holocaust, noting that these were premises for international bans on the use of chemical weapons.

“In World War I, American GIs were among the many thousands killed by deadly gas in the trenches of Europe,” he said. “In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a foreign policy leader among Republicans, criticized Obama’s plan to entertain the Russian offer for lacking particulars, but did not dismiss it out of hand.

“Such a plan would require the United States, together with our friends and allies, to immediately introduce a tough U.N. Security Council Resolution that lays out what steps Syria would have to take to give up its chemical weapons, including making a full and accurate declaration of all of its chemical weapons and granting international monitors unfettered access to all sites in Syria that possess these weapons,” McCain said.

A Coup by Any Other Name Allows US Aid to Continue

Monday, July 8th, 2013

The fact that the White House has decided to continue providing aid to Egypt, despite what has taken place in that country over the past week, is big, big news.

The White House Spokesperson, Jay Carney, with his frequent invocation of the delay weapon known as calling a sticky situation “complicated,” made clear to reporters that the administration will take its time reviewing the matter before making any  final decision on U.S. aid to post-Morsi Egypt.

“I think it would not be in the best interest of the United States to immediately change our assistance programs,” Carney said.

Why is this big news?

Because the overthrow of the Egyptian regime headed by former President Mohamed Morsi is, technically speaking, a coup.  What happened was a coup backed and initiated by mass support for Morsi’s overthrow – technically called a “democratic coup,” but a coup is the correct term, nonetheless.

That matters, because the United States is forbidden, by law, to provide aid to governments which assume power through a coup.

And there are those who immediately pointed out the dangers of supporting any government which takes power as the result of a coup.  Most famously, perhaps, was Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

“Reluctantly, I believe that we have to suspend aid until such time as there is a new constitution and a free and fair election,” McCain said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

Other U.S. politicians in leadership positions refused to join McCain in his call to suspend aid, some by refusing to call the ouster of Morsi a “coup,” while others simply refused to address the pertinent legal issue and instead preferred to focus – understandably, if not responsibly – on what would most promote U.S. interests in Egypt: stability.

Egypt’s Ambassador to the U.S., Mohamed Tawfik, consistently insists that the ouster of Morsi – his own boss until just days ago – does not amount to a coup.

In a National Public Radio interview with Tawfik from July 5, the interviewer attempts to corner the ambassador, forcing him to admit that Morsi’s overthrow was a military coup that renders whatever comes next as illegitimate, Tawfik is resolute.  The interviewer paints the Muslim Brotherhood as if it were a benign political organization which has now been thwarted after dutifully following all the rules.

SIEGEL: Ambassador Tawfik, your country, Egypt, has this problem, which is how to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, a very old and powerful institution in Egyptian life. And one reading of what’s happened this week is, if you’re an active member of the brotherhood, is, well, so much for electoral politics. You can win the presidency. You can win the parliament. You can win a referendum on the constitution that your guys drafted, and it’ll all be negated. Take other means of trying to advance your cause, not elections. Try to subvert the state instead, the way perhaps you used to do.

TAWFIK: That would be a completely wrong way to proceed. What we want to do now is we want to correct the mistakes made by President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. We want an inclusive process. We want everybody to be included. We want every single Egyptian, including Muslim Brotherhood members, to feel that they own the country. Everybody should enjoy their rights.

We cannot accept to have a situation in which the whole country is run for the interests of a particular group. This was the case with Mubarak, and this – again, unfortunately, Morsi repeated the same mistake. We have to stop making that mistake. This is the time for true democracy. The people of Egypt will accept nothing less.

So the US government is in a bit of a pickle.  Does it withhold support from a leadership backed by the masses of the Egyptian people? And does it do so despite pledging enormous support to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government as it giddily dispensed with freedoms and commitments of fairness and diversity so fast that millions took to the streets to boot them out?

Another significant factor the U.S. has to consider, is that the Egyptian economy is so far past being called a train wreck, there are no longer even any railroad ties with which people can make fires to warm themselves.  The only powerhouse industry in Egypt used to be tourism, and the past few years of relentless violence has crippled that industry.  Unless the US provides essential aid, what had been the most stable Arab country, the anchor of the Arab world, may disintegrate into, well, what so much of the rest of the non-oil-rich Arab world looks like.

IRS Chief Under the Congressional Spotlight on Friday

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

A concerted effort by a mid-level Internal Revenue Service official last Friday, May 10, to confess to some minor irregularities in how the IRS has dealt with conservative organizations seeking tax exempt status has unraveled.  Lois Lerner, who oversees tax exempt organizations for the IRS, attempted to get out the word under the radar.  She failed miserably.

Lerner attempted to present the issue as having affected a small number of organizations, targeted by using a few key words, and acted out by only a few low level IRS employees in a remote office, for a limited period of time, which took place without the consent or even knowledge of higher level IRS officials.  By Monday morning that cover had been entirely blown.

In the center of a scandal that continues to grow wider, deeper and longer by the day, the Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner will be sitting in the hot seat before the House Ways and Means Committee this Friday morning, May 17, starting at 9:00 a.m.

The hearing is to discuss the practice of targeting applicants for tax-exempt status based on political leanings.  There will only be two people called to testify at this hearing: Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Steve Miller, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, J. Russell George.  Miller was the assistant to the former IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman, under whose watch many of the complaining organizations experienced allegedly excessive and inappropriate probing by the IRS.

The first admission, last Friday afternoon, was that the IRS had been subjecting certain conservative groups to increased scrutiny but insisting that only “low level IRS employees” in a remote Ohio office were using inappropriate ways in which to flag certain groups, and that the practice was short-lived.  The excuse was that in 2012 there were so many new groups seeking tax exempt status that the Agency had to figure out ways in which to more quickly help determine which groups were legitimate and which weren’t.

But as revelations continue to leak out of Washington, D.C., it appears the practice was much broader, it took place in multiple IRS offices in cities across the country, it went on for a much longer period of time than was originally admitted, and high level IRS officials were aware of some aspects of the progress for far longer than had earlier been admitted.

In addition to inappropriate questioning by IRS agents in Cincinnati, Ohio, the original site mentioned by Lerner, documents have revealed that agents in Washington, D.C. and at least one other IRS office were involved in providing increased levels of scrutiny to certain conservative organizations.

And it wasn’t only groups with the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their organization’s names that were pulled out of line for additional scrutiny.  The IRS net included groups that opposed Obamacare, those that focused on vote fraud, ones that sought to educate about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and ones that sought to limit the role of government.

Although Lerner claimed only low-level agents in the Cincinnati office engaged in and knew about the practice, it is now known that IRS employees in Washington were aware of the practice. The Inspector General’s report states that officials at the Internal Revenue Service knew in June 2011 that their agents were targeting conservative groups for additional scrutiny on tax documents, CNN reported Monday.

The original revelation of IRS inappropriate activity suggested that the practice only began in 2012, but the Inspector General’s report revealed that the practice began as far back as 2010.

IRC 501(c)(3) versus 501 (c)(4)

Thus far it appears that almost all of the groups complaining about the inappropriate, politically-oriented targeting are organizations seeking tax exempt status as “social welfare” organizations, which come under the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4).  These groups, as distinct from 501(c)(3) organizations, are given more leeway in terms of engaging in political activity. There was a huge increase in the number of such organizations following a 2010 Supreme Court decision which gave a hecksher to political campaign spending by corporations, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Both (c)(3) organizations and (c)(4) organizations are exempt from paying taxes, but only donations made to (c)(3) organizations are tax deductible.  Organizations that are (c)(3)s can engage in only very limited lobbying activity and cannot engage in political activity at all, whereas (c)(4)s can engage in unlimited lobbying and can engage in political activity to the extent it is consistent with the organization’s mission and so long as it is not the organization’s primary activity.

The pro-Israel and Jewish organizations that have complained about inappropriate IRS activity by the IRS are 501(c)(3)s.

It may be that the next wave of congressional inquiry will focus on what other kinds of organizations have been targeted for special scrutiny by the IRS.

In addition to Friday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing, the IRS can look forward to hearings before at least one more, if not two more, congressional committees.

On Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MONTANA) called for a full investigation into the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) also announced on Monday that the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations plans to investigate the new IRS revelations.

President Barack Obama issued a statement on Monday calling the alleged misdoing by the IRS “outrageous, if true.”  White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that Obama only found out about the matter last Friday.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/irs-chief-under-the-congressional-spotlight-on-friday/2013/05/14/

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