President Obama’s speech tonight on the debt ceiling debate was not an attempt to bridge the gap between his position and that of his congressional opponents. By repeating the rhetoric he has been using all through this debate by attempting to demonize Republicans, it was clear his goal was not to make a deal but to exacerbate a situation he has already described as a crisis.
Rather than continue to negotiate and accept–as Senate Democrats already have–that there will be no debt deal that includes higher taxes, Obama has doubled down on his position. That he has done so even though he is now the only one left in Washington who says a deal must include tax increases speaks volumes about his own intransigence. If he really wanted a solution, he wouldn’t have spent the weekend trying to torpedo talks between the two parties in Congress in order to assert his power. Nor would he have gone on TV tonight to play the class warfare card again in order to intimidate Republicans into giving in on their core issue.
In a decision that has shocked some Holocaust survivors and their descendants, the Israel Chamber Orchestra has announced it will play music by the anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner during an upcoming performance. The orchestra will play Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” at a concert at Bayreuth during the annual music festival devoted to his work in the theater that he designed.
Israeli orchestras have long eschewed the playing of any of Wagner’s work in deference to the sensibilities of survivors who associate his music with the crimes of his most famous fan–Adolf Hitler. But despite the fact Wagner was an undoubted Jew-hater, the decision to play his music in Bayreuth, of all places, is the right thing to do.
There’s plenty of evidence that President Obama’s effort to portray himself as serious about cutting federal spending is a transparent political game. The Wall Street Journal cites one data point in its fine editorial today:
The president insists his party is offering serious spending cuts and entitlement reform. He also likes to talk about “balance,” which to him means real tax increases immediately and speculative spending cuts some time in the distant future. Behind the scenes the White House has only ever agreed to token reform and cuts. Here’s a number for the debt history books: Mr. Obama’s final offer in the Biden talks was a $2 billion cut in 2012 nondefense discretionary spending. The federal government spends more than $10 billion a day.
According to a declassified 2005 report released last week, China had been testing the effects of an electromagnetic pulse attack–the detonation of a nuclear device at high altitude to maximize the area affected by the EMP–possibly meant for Taiwan. According to the report, China was actually testing two kinds of nuclear blasts and the effects the resulting radiation would have on humans. (China was testing them on animals, which experienced “high mortality rates.”)
The point of an EMP attack (all nuclear explosions result in an EMP), however, is to disrupt the electronics devices within range of the blast. The range of the electronics damage would depend on the altitude of the blast.
For far too long, Israeli diplomats have spent much of their time trying to avoid the basic arguments about the Middle East conflict. Rather than take every possible opportunity to hammer home the facts about why Israel is in the West Bank and the right of Jews to live there, the country’s foreign ministry has instead often concentrated its energies on smoothing over differences. It has also sought to avoid the arguments entirely with well-intentioned but largely pointless efforts to “brand” Israel in such a way as to make people think about pretty girls, beaches and scientific innovations.
But Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has ignored this convention and created a clever and informative six-minute YouTube video answering the question of “The Truth About the West Bank.” This is driving the Palestinian Authority up the wall.
According to the Pew Research Center, Republicans now have the advantage over Democrats across virtually all groups of white voters.
A two-point Republican edge among whites in 2008 (46 percent to 44 percent) has widened to a 13-point lead today (52 percent to 39 percent). Among whites 18-to-29 years old, a seven point lead for Democrats in 2008 (49 v. 42) has now turned to a nine point lead for Republicans (52 v. 41). And the drop in support for Democrats among working class whites (a 15-point Democratic advantage among whites earning less than $30,000 annually has swung to a four-point Republican edge today) has been startling as well. This is particularly crucial to the president’s re-election efforts, because working class white voters are extremely influential in the Midwest.
Forget the fact that President Obama hasn’t attempted to put forward any meaningful immigration reform plan, and barely pushed for the DREAM Act. At La Raza today, the president placed the blame for his lack of progress solely on Republicans in Congress:
President Obama on Monday lamented the bitterly partisan nature of contemporary Congress, stating that when it comes to working with Republicans on immigration issues, “I need a dance partner… and the floor is empty.” …
“Right now dealing with Congress… Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting – not just on immigration reform,” Mr. Obama said, laughing, as cries of “Yes you can!” came from the audience.
The Obama administration has invited a senior North Korean diplomat to New York this week for negotiations. But the meeting lacks a strong objective and rewards Pyongyang’s past aggression, leaving little for the U.S. to gain and much to lose. The diplomatic objectives are naïve at best. According to a State Department news release, this will be an “exploratory meeting” to see if North Korea is ready to abide by its previous commitments. The U.S. will also be checking in to see if North Korea is ready to take “concrete and irreversible steps” toward dismantling its nuclear program.
But the United States doesn’t need a meeting to explore Pyongyang’s attitude.
Alana Goodman pens an excellent post regarding how little jail time the confessed Norwegian terrorist and killer can expect for killing scores of civilians, both in his initial truck bomb blast and then in his shooting spree on Utoya island. According to some Norwegian analysts, he might expect a maximum of 21 years, or approximately 83 days per murder and, as Alana points out, will serve his time in relative luxury.
This certainly is outrageous, but unfortunately it’s the rule rather than the exception in many European states as postmodern theories of compassion and rehabilitation trump the importance of justice. Just take a look at that other mass murderer on the other side of the North Sea: On August 20, 2009, a Scottish court released Libyan agent and Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi after serving just 11.5 days per murder for downing Pan Am Flight 103 and killing 270 people. Scottish authorities defended Megrahi’s release on the grounds of compassion: He had, after all, only weeks to live. Never mind that today he appears to be doing quite fine in Tripoli.
It’s well past time for Europe to put justice first and reserve compassion for the victims of crime and terror, not the perpetrators.
The negotiations about raising the debt ceiling remain extremely fluid, and it’s still too early to draw any definitive conclusions at this stage. But just a week away from the August 2 deadline, a few things do seem clear.
The first is the president’s angry and narcissistic press conference on Friday badly damaged the president, even with those, like David Brooks, who have been sympathetic to Obama’s substantive position.
New Jersey legend Bruce Springsteen may have tied Governor Chris Christie in a hypothetical poll, but the Republican reformer achieved something that would make The Boss green with envy: his name is more closely associated with his beloved home state than Springsteen’s.
Fairleigh Dickinson periodically polls respondents on the question: “what comes to mind when you think about New Jersey?” This time around, the top answer was “New York” or “next to New York,” with “ocean,” “beach,” or the “shore” coming in at No. 2. But here’s the kicker:
I’ve long argued that wars in the Middle East are caused not by oil or water, but by overconfidence. In 1948, 1967, and 1973, Israel’s neighbors convinced themselves they were poised to strike a decisive blow to the Jewish state; the region is still picking up the pieces.
Likewise, after the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah commented that if he had known how Israel would have reacted when he sought to kidnap Israeli soldiers on the Israeli side of the border, he never would have given the go-ahead for the operation.
The Palestinian plan to go to the United Nations in September to ask it to recognize a Palestinian state inside the 1967 lines has been seen as a potential diplomatic catastrophe for Israel. However, the dim prospects for the success of this ploy due to a certain U.S. veto have resulted in signals from the Palestinians they would like to back out of the corner into which they have painted themselves. This has somewhat ratcheted down the alarm felt by Israelis about being further isolated in the aftermath of the collapse of the initiative.
But it is becoming increasingly apparent the real danger here isn’t a matter of what happens in the corridors of the UN but what may happen on the Palestinian street.
As I wrote last week, although the Iowa caucuses are not particularly accurate assessments of either party’s primary field, they can serve as a platform for the occasional insurgent-turned-serious candidate. It did so for Barack Obama in 2008, for example.
And Michele Bachmann, seeking an early win for the same reason, is hoping to win the caucuses this time around for the GOP. But there’s a bit of awkwardness there: Iowan officials are openly rooting against her. From Iowa’s Globe Gazette:
What worries Iowa politicos this time around is the emergence of shooting-star candidates like Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, whose stock has skyrocketed since announcing her candidacy in June. Depending on which poll you’re reading, Bachmann is either in a dead heat or leading early frontrunner Mitt Romney in Iowa.
If Bachmann wins the caucuses then falters down the stretch, like 2008 Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee, the concern is it will give caucus critics the ammunition they need to make the case for diminishing the Hawkeye State’s influence.
My vantage point on the terrible massacre in Norway comes from research I have been conducting on the history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.
Many guerrilla groups are essentially armies without the infrastructure of a state to support them but with a similar ethos and a similar type of recruit. Most of those who make up guerrilla organizations (ranging from the Spanish rebels who helped expel Napoleon from their country to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement which has just created the new state of South Sudan) are similar to the soldiers of conventional militaries: that is, they may commit atrocities sometimes, but most are not psychopaths. Nor are they intellectuals who have given much deep thought to their cause. They are simply men doing a job, fighting for a movement in which most people in their community believe.
There are abundant reasons to oppose MSNBC’s reported decision to hire Al Sharpton for its 6 p.m. slot. His vile anti-Semitism, well-documented race-baiting, and shady financial practices come to mind. But his new position as a news anchor is also being criticized because of his reputation as an advocate, and some see this as a snub against black journalists who have spent years working their way up the ladder:
When rumors surfaced this week that Sharpton was under consideration for the MSNBC job, one [National Association of Black Journalists] member told colleagues without challenge, “This would still be just another non-journalist media ‘celebrity’ receiving a TV show based upon their name recognition, not their years of experience, training, ability and talent.”
Those in the mood for some good primary season political theater over the weekend got what they were looking for. Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann spent most of Sunday trading verbal punches, in what was the first real skirmish between Republican candidates.
The conventional wisdom is that Pawlenty, trailing far behind Bachmann in the polls and in need of a good dustup to put some life back in his campaign, took a shot at the leader in order to send the subtle message to voters that he and Bachmann are on the same tier as candidates. Bachmann, in turn, sought to squash the underdog nipping at her heels. But this analysis is really cut-and-paste campaign reporting, suiting up the players in the media’s choice of costume. In truth, this is only the latest chapter in an ongoing saga in which the roles of Pawlenty and Bachmann are the reverse of what they seem to be.
At last count, the death toll from the Oslo terror attack was at 93. That number includes dozens of children shot indiscriminately at a summer camp. If there is justice, the terrorist responsible will spend the rest of his (hopefully numbered) days locked away from the rest of society, with nothing to distract him from the memory of his monstrous crimes.
But as the Oslo police chief told the San Francisco Chronicle, the maximum prison sentence suspect Anders Behring Breivik could face in Norway is just 21 years – and he could be released years earlier for “good behavior,” an Oslo University law professor told the Daily Caller.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is upping the ante in the spat he precipitated with Israel about the Mavi Marmara last year. On Saturday, Erdoğan issued an ultimatum that should the Israeli government not apologize by Wednesday for stopping the Turkish ship which had announced its intention to violate the blockade of Gaza, Turkey will implement its “Plan B” that might include an Erdoğan state visit to Hamas-controlled Gaza, and a further reduction of Turkey’s diplomatic representation in Israel to that of a second secretary.
Let’s hope Jerusalem does not buckle to Ankara’s threats. First, Erdoğan’s demand that Israel apologize to Turkey is analogous to a burglar demanding compensation for being cut by broken glass during a break-in. Second, Israel’s willingness to consider concessions simply encourages the State Department and the European Union to demand further concessions. After all, when it comes to Middle Eastern obstinacy, Israel is a weak third to Turkey and most Arab states. Diplomats seeking “progress” will always pursue the path of least resistance in order to show movement.
Those wondering whether Rudy Giuliani will run for president again may find the answer on television. But the puzzle won’t be solved on any of the cable news networks. Instead, it might be found on American Movie Classics. AMC is running a series of classic gangster flicks next week, and the former federal prosecutor and New York City mayor will introduce them on air.
While Giuliani would be right to dismiss any criticisms of his setting up a showing of The Godfather, Goodfellas or Donnie Brasco as silly, it is also not exactly what we expect from a presidential candidate.