Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 11, 2012

Persona Non Grass

German writer Gunter Grass is making the most of his recent disgraceful poem in which he sought to demonize Israel while portraying Iran as an innocent victim of aggression. In response to Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s declaration that the author of The Tin Drum was now persona non grata, Grass made a gratuitous comparison of the Jewish state to the former Soviet satellite state in East Germany and the current regime in Myanmar.

This exchange illustrates that paying too much attention to someone like Grass can be a big mistake. While the writer’s poem was worthy of condemnation, raising him to the status of a special case for exclusion as Yishai did merely allowed him to drag out the controversy and play the martyr. However, it bears mentioning that Israel actually has a valid reason to consider Grass ineligible for entry that has nothing to do with his views about the Iranian or Israeli nuclear programs because he is a veteran of the Waffen SS.

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German writer Gunter Grass is making the most of his recent disgraceful poem in which he sought to demonize Israel while portraying Iran as an innocent victim of aggression. In response to Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s declaration that the author of The Tin Drum was now persona non grata, Grass made a gratuitous comparison of the Jewish state to the former Soviet satellite state in East Germany and the current regime in Myanmar.

This exchange illustrates that paying too much attention to someone like Grass can be a big mistake. While the writer’s poem was worthy of condemnation, raising him to the status of a special case for exclusion as Yishai did merely allowed him to drag out the controversy and play the martyr. However, it bears mentioning that Israel actually has a valid reason to consider Grass ineligible for entry that has nothing to do with his views about the Iranian or Israeli nuclear programs because he is a veteran of the Waffen SS.

Indeed, were Grass merely an ordinary person rather than a Novel Laureate for Literature — a bauble he received for his work critical of Nazi Germany before the world discovered that he was in fact a member of one of the organizations responsible for carrying out the Holocaust — such an entry in his biography might put him on a watch list that would prevent his entry into the United States and some other Western countries.

Grass’ attempt to compare Israel to East Germany and Myanmar may make sense to European anti-Semites who are convinced that the Jewish state is the font of all the evil in the world. But has it escaped even the octogenarian writer that while all three may have wanted to exclude him, the other two are police states that terrorized their own people while Israel is the only real democracy in the Middle East?

Though Grass has sought to clarify his poem and said that he should have merely aimed his criticism at Israel’s current government, his attempt to demonize the country while ignoring the vile anti-Semitism and threats against the Jewish state from Iran are not merely wrongheaded. They are an expression of a new anti-Semitism that seeks to delegitimize Israel and to deny it the right of self-defense against a regime that seeks the mantle of Hitler. The boundary between what Grass has said and written and Jew-hatred is a distinction without a difference.

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Large Wage Discrepancy in the White House

Talk about a perfect follow-up to the story about women losing seven times as many jobs as men since President Obama’s taken office. The Washington Free Beacon’s Andrew Stiles reports on the gender pay gap in the White House:

Female employees in the Obama White House make considerably less than their male colleagues, records show.

According to the 2011 annual report on White House staff, female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000).

The Obama campaign on Wednesday lashed out at presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney for his failure to  immediately endorse the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, a controversial law enacted in 2009 that made it easier to file discrimination lawsuits.

President Obama has frequently criticized the gender pay gap, such as the one that exists in White House.

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Talk about a perfect follow-up to the story about women losing seven times as many jobs as men since President Obama’s taken office. The Washington Free Beacon’s Andrew Stiles reports on the gender pay gap in the White House:

Female employees in the Obama White House make considerably less than their male colleagues, records show.

According to the 2011 annual report on White House staff, female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000).

The Obama campaign on Wednesday lashed out at presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney for his failure to  immediately endorse the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, a controversial law enacted in 2009 that made it easier to file discrimination lawsuits.

President Obama has frequently criticized the gender pay gap, such as the one that exists in White House.

Why the large wage discrepancy in a White House that has regularly railed against the gender pay gap in the workforce? HotAir’s Allahpundit raises a few theories:

In some industries there may be a nondiscriminatory reason for a gender gap in pay, e.g., men may be overrepresented in jobs that require lots of strength or dangerous duties, which in turn may pay better because of the risk. But that’s surely not the case in the cubicle utopia of the West Wing. The most obvious explanation in an office setting is that men tend to earn more because there are more of them in senior positions. Is that true, champ? If so, how come?

If the White House’s defense is that women aren’t equally represented in senior positions, let’s see David Axelrod take that case to the public.

It really is baffling that President Obama would make the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into a campaign issue when his own house is literally not living up to the standards he’s demanding from others. Perhaps the Democratic Party thought the issue would instantly push the GOP into defense mode and the White House’s own failings would never become an issue. Clearly, they miscalculated. While Democrats are trying to win over women voters by claiming Republicans are waging a war on female reproductive rights, the women’s vote tends to be influenced far more by economic issues. Judging from that, the stories today about how women workers are faring under Obama will be very effective messaging points for Republicans.

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Rep. West’s Incendiary Comments

There has been a lot of chatter about Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) as a potential vice presidential nominee. These comments he made at a town hall meeting yesterday are a good example of why that’s unlikely to happen:

Moderator: What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists?

West: It’s a good question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

To be fair, it’s hard to tell whether or not West is joking. His last sentence seems like it could be some sort of punch line, i.e. “Sure, there are Communists in Congress” [beat] “they’re called progressives.” Unfortunately, in all the videos I’ve seen, West’s last sentence is cut out, and it’s impossible to determine without actually hearing it.

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There has been a lot of chatter about Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) as a potential vice presidential nominee. These comments he made at a town hall meeting yesterday are a good example of why that’s unlikely to happen:

Moderator: What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists?

West: It’s a good question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

To be fair, it’s hard to tell whether or not West is joking. His last sentence seems like it could be some sort of punch line, i.e. “Sure, there are Communists in Congress” [beat] “they’re called progressives.” Unfortunately, in all the videos I’ve seen, West’s last sentence is cut out, and it’s impossible to determine without actually hearing it.

Joke or not, West’s spokesperson offered a clarification today:

“The congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies. The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself. These individuals certainly aren’t proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom,” Angela Melvin said in a statement to The Huffington Post.

Okay, but West said these were members of the Communist Party. If that was just colorful language for effect, West should say so, but he needs a bit more evidence if he’s trying to stand by his claims.

West may have actually been referring to a document that listed 70-or-so members of Congress as official members of the Democratic Socialists of America, which made its way around conservative blogs a couple of years ago. According to the DSA, the list is fraudulent, and there hasn’t been an official card-carrying member of the DSA in Congress since 1998.

Whatever the reason for West’s comments – joke, bad information, or his honest opinion – this latest flap brings back memories of similar firestorms he’s been involved in. The fact that he speaks his mind even when it’s not politically correct is why conservatives love him, but it’s hard to imagine a politician as cautious as Mitt Romney choosing a running mate with such a penchant for incendiary comments.

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The Bipolar Obama Presidency

Yesterday, President Obama informed us that that he was not prepared to question the patriotism or love of country of any of his political rivals. “I’m a firm believer that whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, that you’re a patriot, you care about this country, you love this country,” Obama said at a fundraiser in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “And so I’m not somebody who, when we’re in a political contest, suggests somehow that one side or the other has a monopoly on love of country.”

Except that he is.

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Yesterday, President Obama informed us that that he was not prepared to question the patriotism or love of country of any of his political rivals. “I’m a firm believer that whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, that you’re a patriot, you care about this country, you love this country,” Obama said at a fundraiser in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “And so I’m not somebody who, when we’re in a political contest, suggests somehow that one side or the other has a monopoly on love of country.”

Except that he is.

For example, in this speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, President Obama repeated a line he’s often used. “But if we’re being honest, we know the real problem isn’t the Members of Congress in this room. It’s the Members of Congress [Republicans] who put party before country because they believe the only way to resolve our differences is to wait … till the next election.”

Insisting time and time again that Members of Congress are putting party above country for political expediency is a pretty good definition of being unpatriotic. The president, then, is doing the very thing that he said he never does.

Such is the bipolar nature of the Obama presidency. He not only does one thing while claiming to do another; Obama, ever true to himself, presents himself as high-minded even as he routinely takes the low road. His hypocrisy is combined with an unmatched sense of moral superiority. If this effort isn’t premeditated, then the condition is clinical. Neither option reflects particularly well on the president.

 

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Brotherhood May Get Unlimited Power

The latest news out of Egypt constitutes, at least on the surface, a setback for the Muslim Brotherhood’s drive to obtain a monopoly on power in the world’s most populous Arab country. An Egyptian court suspended the proceedings of a committee that was drafting a new constitution. Considering that the Muslim Brotherhood dominated the body working on the constitution, this represents a victory for the embattled secularists and religious minorities that view the group’s rise with alarm. But in doing so, the court flipped the timetable under which Egypt was supposed to move toward a new government. The president Egyptians elect next month will now come to office prior to the adoption of a new constitution.

That means that person will be vested with the same powers held by authoritarian dictator Hosni Mubarak, whose fall last year during the Arab Spring protests set in motion these events. Should the new president be the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat el-Shater or that of one of the other Islamist parties, he won’t need to write a constitution to fit his whims, the new leader will be able to transform the country via executive fiat. In which case the Obama administration’s faltering attempts to portray the Brotherhood as moderates or to work with a military that is rapidly losing control of the situation will all have been in vain.

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The latest news out of Egypt constitutes, at least on the surface, a setback for the Muslim Brotherhood’s drive to obtain a monopoly on power in the world’s most populous Arab country. An Egyptian court suspended the proceedings of a committee that was drafting a new constitution. Considering that the Muslim Brotherhood dominated the body working on the constitution, this represents a victory for the embattled secularists and religious minorities that view the group’s rise with alarm. But in doing so, the court flipped the timetable under which Egypt was supposed to move toward a new government. The president Egyptians elect next month will now come to office prior to the adoption of a new constitution.

That means that person will be vested with the same powers held by authoritarian dictator Hosni Mubarak, whose fall last year during the Arab Spring protests set in motion these events. Should the new president be the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat el-Shater or that of one of the other Islamist parties, he won’t need to write a constitution to fit his whims, the new leader will be able to transform the country via executive fiat. In which case the Obama administration’s faltering attempts to portray the Brotherhood as moderates or to work with a military that is rapidly losing control of the situation will all have been in vain.

The absence of a new constitution will make the battle for the Egyptian presidency even more crucial for the future of the Middle East. But right now, it looks as if the Brotherhood is holding most of the cards. The popular candidate of its main Islamist rival may be disqualified. Former general Omar Suleiman, the army’s choice, may not get on the ballot. But even if he does, he will have little chance as he is associated with the brutality of the former regime as well as with its close ties with the United States.

The secular alternative, Amr Moussa, the favorite of many foreign observers, is finding himself boxed out by the rise of the Islamist parties. He’s also fending off the worst possible slur that can be suffered by an Egyptian politician: the charge that he has a Jewish relative. Moussa has fervently denied the accusation that he has a Jewish half-brother with Israeli citizenship as a scurrilous lie. Whether true or not, and it’s difficult to have sympathy for either side in that argument, the fact that this is the sort of thing Egyptians care about speaks volumes about a political environment in which extremist Islamists can be viewed by the Obama administration as “moderates.”

As previously reported, the administration recently entertained a Brotherhood delegation in the White House. As troubling as that development was, as Steve Emerson noted in his Investigative Project on Terrorism Website, it turns out that the welcome mat rolled out for the Brotherhood involved giving the members of the visiting group a pass on vetting for ties to terrorism or other crimes. As Emerson points out, the head of the Brotherhood delegation, Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, has been implicated in a U.S. investigation of a child pornography ring that relates to activities during a period when he lived in this country. But the State Department ensured Dardery was treated as a diplomat with blanket immunity from questioning or even inspection of his baggage or computers that is standard since 9/11 for visitors from Egypt.

The administration may think it can work with the Brotherhood, but if its presidential candidate obtains Mubarak-style powers, President Obama may find that a country that was once a key to stability in the Middle East will go completely off the tracks and take with it any vestige of American influence.

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Why Do Americans Favor Lower Taxes for Lotto Winners?

Americans may favor raising taxes on the rich (at least according to some polls), but apparently that stance doesn’t cross over to lottery winners. Brian J. Gaines and Douglas Rivers explain the odd discrepancy in the Wall Street Journal today:

Polls often show that the public favors raising taxes on “the rich,” “millionaires” or “families earning over $250,000.” Last year, billionaire Warren Buffett demanded that we “stop coddling the super rich” and impose higher tax rates on incomes over $1 million per year (and higher rates still on incomes over $10 million). President Obama and most Democrats have endorsed raising taxes on high earners. …

In February, the online pollster YouGov asked a representative sample of 3,500 American adults what they thought would be a “fair amount of tax” to pay on lottery winnings. The survey specified different amounts of winnings, ranging from $1 million to $100 million. …

Less than a quarter of respondents chose a tax rate of 30 percent or higher on any level of lottery winnings. The vast majority thought that a reasonable amount to pay was much lower, with the average being only 15 percent. Democrats and Republicans differed only a little: The average rate preferred by Republicans was 14 percent, compared with 17 percent for Democrats.

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Americans may favor raising taxes on the rich (at least according to some polls), but apparently that stance doesn’t cross over to lottery winners. Brian J. Gaines and Douglas Rivers explain the odd discrepancy in the Wall Street Journal today:

Polls often show that the public favors raising taxes on “the rich,” “millionaires” or “families earning over $250,000.” Last year, billionaire Warren Buffett demanded that we “stop coddling the super rich” and impose higher tax rates on incomes over $1 million per year (and higher rates still on incomes over $10 million). President Obama and most Democrats have endorsed raising taxes on high earners. …

In February, the online pollster YouGov asked a representative sample of 3,500 American adults what they thought would be a “fair amount of tax” to pay on lottery winnings. The survey specified different amounts of winnings, ranging from $1 million to $100 million. …

Less than a quarter of respondents chose a tax rate of 30 percent or higher on any level of lottery winnings. The vast majority thought that a reasonable amount to pay was much lower, with the average being only 15 percent. Democrats and Republicans differed only a little: The average rate preferred by Republicans was 14 percent, compared with 17 percent for Democrats.

If anyone should be paying exorbitantly high taxes, shouldn’t it be a lottery winner, at least according to Elizabeth Warren’s “pay it back” theory? Their financial windfalls are completely comprised of other people’s money for which they personally provided no goods, services, or societal benefit in exchange. Lottery winners didn’t work 80 hours a week for years to accrue that money. They didn’t employ hundreds of workers, and provide health care and livelihoods for their workers’ families. They didn’t risk their personal assets, reputation or self-worth.

So why do Americans seem less eager to tax lottery winners than traditional millionaires? Gaines and Rivers provide a good theory:

How do we reconcile these findings? Is it because lottery jackpots are the stuff of dreams? Critics scoff that lotteries are a (voluntary) tax on innumeracy, and probably many ticket buyers do fail to understand just how minuscule are the odds of winning the eye-popping prizes. Yet people who don’t expect ever to become rich by hard work or careful investment might still daydream about being showered with cash by a megafluke. The wild improbability of lottery wealth might even be why our respondents like such low tax rates.

It’s a fact of life – and an understandable one – that a mailman or a public school teacher who plays the lotto every day thinks he has a better chance of becoming fabulously wealthy by scratching a ticket than through earned income, investment or inheritance. So these people are more likely to identify with the small group of lottery winners than with the much larger portion of Americans who became rich through traditional means.

In other words, people are susceptible to class warfare. This isn’t anything new, and it doesn’t mean the Democratic class warfare strategy is suddenly “working.” Instead, it shows why politicians use these attacks in the first place.

But “not identifying” with a group isn’t the same as resenting the group. Just because many Americans believe they have a better chance of becoming rich through the lottery doesn’t mean they begrudge those who earned their wealth. There is, however, a tinge of resentment in many of the liberal attacks on the rich – a suggestion that those who have earned their money have somehow done it dishonorably. You can see this in Democratic policies that tighten regulations and pile taxes on businesses, while siding with unions even when the leadership is corrupt.

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Approval of Mob Rule on Speech Depends on Which Mob is to Rule

It was perhaps predictable that the New York Times editorial page would leap to the defense of embattled Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. The Times takes a dim view of the Marlins’ decision to suspend their now contrite field boss for telling Time Magazine how much he loved Fidel Castro. Guillen, they believe, is being penalized for exercising his constitutional right to engage in political speech. The paper thinks the team is bowing to the dictates of a “mob,” and rightly note this wouldn’t have happened anywhere else but in South Florida where Cuban-Americans–who have good reason to view any love given Castro as deeply offensive–predominate.

But the question here is neither one of law (the Times concedes the team is within its right to discipline any employee for statements that embarrass the franchise) nor of double standards (because other sports figures have been punished, sometimes far more harshly for saying things that others believe to be offensive). Rather, it is one of which mob is crying for Guillen’s blood. Because the Times and the rest of the liberal media establishment has nothing but contempt for the desire of Cuban-Americans to overthrow the Castro-led Communist dictatorship of their homeland, they are quick to characterize those calling for Guillen’s head as censors. But though the newspaper attempts to draw a distinction between Guillen and others who have been punished for expressing other hateful sentiments, the only thing different here is whose feathers have been ruffled.

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It was perhaps predictable that the New York Times editorial page would leap to the defense of embattled Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. The Times takes a dim view of the Marlins’ decision to suspend their now contrite field boss for telling Time Magazine how much he loved Fidel Castro. Guillen, they believe, is being penalized for exercising his constitutional right to engage in political speech. The paper thinks the team is bowing to the dictates of a “mob,” and rightly note this wouldn’t have happened anywhere else but in South Florida where Cuban-Americans–who have good reason to view any love given Castro as deeply offensive–predominate.

But the question here is neither one of law (the Times concedes the team is within its right to discipline any employee for statements that embarrass the franchise) nor of double standards (because other sports figures have been punished, sometimes far more harshly for saying things that others believe to be offensive). Rather, it is one of which mob is crying for Guillen’s blood. Because the Times and the rest of the liberal media establishment has nothing but contempt for the desire of Cuban-Americans to overthrow the Castro-led Communist dictatorship of their homeland, they are quick to characterize those calling for Guillen’s head as censors. But though the newspaper attempts to draw a distinction between Guillen and others who have been punished for expressing other hateful sentiments, the only thing different here is whose feathers have been ruffled.

There is, in fact, little difference between Guillen and the case (cited by the Times) of Marge Schott, the equally outrageous former owner of the Cincinnati Reds who was suspended by baseball for expressing praise of Hitler after a long career of uttering slurs against various groups. Like Guillen’s disavowal of any endorsement of Castro’s enormities, Schott claimed her statement, “Hitler was good in the beginning” shouldn’t have been considered signifying her approval of the Holocaust. When baseball suspended Schott they weren’t violating her right of free speech anymore than the Marlins violated Guillen’s rights. They were free to say what they liked, but the terms of their employment were such that their employers were under no obligation to countenance associating baseball with hateful sentiments.

As I noted earlier this week, I think ending Guillen’s career for his comments, much as baseball terminated the life’s work of Dodgers executive Al Campanis for a maladroit answer about African-Americans in 1982, would be unfair. The Times’ disapproval of the Marlins’ somewhat lenient punishment of their manager has nothing to do with principle or the free exercise of political speech. It has everything to do with the politics of what he said. The Times has no problem condemning comments about race or gender, and it is an advocate of severe restrictions on political speech in the form of campaign contributions. What it has no patience for is intolerance of those, like Guillen, who regard Communist murderers with affection. It is that lamentable but all too prevalent point of view these days that is truly regrettable.

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Are Women Hurt the Most in Job Market?

Mitt Romney said yesterday that women lost 92.3 percent of all jobs lost under the Obama administration, a claim that earned the suspicious distinction of “true but false” from the Washington Post fact-check team. The reason for this contradictory finding? While WaPo conceded the statistic was mathematically accurate, they added the odd, squishy disclaimer that it “may simply [be] a function of a coincidence of timing — a brief blip that could have little to do with ‘Obama’s job market.’”

But while it might be unfair to say Obama’s policies are fully responsible for the disproportionate impact the recession has had on women, there’s no denying that fact that women have been hit hardest. Even WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes this in his analysis:

In other words, men did lose more jobs in the recession. Now that the economy is growing again, men are recovering jobs at a faster pace than women.  In fact, the latest employment report shows that male participation in the work force was up 14,000 while female participation fell 177,000, in part because women tend to work in retail or government jobs (such as teaching), which have been cut in recent months.

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Mitt Romney said yesterday that women lost 92.3 percent of all jobs lost under the Obama administration, a claim that earned the suspicious distinction of “true but false” from the Washington Post fact-check team. The reason for this contradictory finding? While WaPo conceded the statistic was mathematically accurate, they added the odd, squishy disclaimer that it “may simply [be] a function of a coincidence of timing — a brief blip that could have little to do with ‘Obama’s job market.’”

But while it might be unfair to say Obama’s policies are fully responsible for the disproportionate impact the recession has had on women, there’s no denying that fact that women have been hit hardest. Even WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes this in his analysis:

In other words, men did lose more jobs in the recession. Now that the economy is growing again, men are recovering jobs at a faster pace than women.  In fact, the latest employment report shows that male participation in the work force was up 14,000 while female participation fell 177,000, in part because women tend to work in retail or government jobs (such as teaching), which have been cut in recent months.

They’ve been cut in recent months because they were either temporary jobs (retail) or because stimulus money that once shielded certain jobs is now running out (education). This was an outcome many warned about and will likely continue as the year goes on. While the recent drop in unemployment has been encouraging, most of the job growth has been in low-wage sectors and temporary positions.

Romney is right to criticize Obama for the job-loss gender gap, particularly because Democrats have been falsely claiming that the GOP has been waging a war on women. But Romney also needs to explain why his policies would address the high job loss among women, and why Obama’s have so far failed to do so.

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Return Abbas Letter to Sender

Asked about the Palestinian letter reportedly coming next week, in which Mahmoud Abbas — currently in the 88th month of his 48-month term as Palestinian president, having failed to hold the elections he promised a year ago (when he entered into still another reconciliation agreement with the terrorist group he previously promised to dismantle) — will demand that Israel stop construction in the disputed territories, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted that “Not a single new settlement has been built in the last three years since this [Netanyahu] government is in power.”

The only authorized Israeli construction is in existing settlements that will be part of Israel in any conceivable peace agreement, pursuant to the understanding reached a decade ago with the U.S. that a “settlement freeze” meant no new settlements and no expansion of the boundaries of existing ones – what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the “Google Earth Test” – not construction within established settlements. In her recent memoir, Rice confirmed both the informal understanding and Israeli compliance with it throughout the Bush administration.

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Asked about the Palestinian letter reportedly coming next week, in which Mahmoud Abbas — currently in the 88th month of his 48-month term as Palestinian president, having failed to hold the elections he promised a year ago (when he entered into still another reconciliation agreement with the terrorist group he previously promised to dismantle) — will demand that Israel stop construction in the disputed territories, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted that “Not a single new settlement has been built in the last three years since this [Netanyahu] government is in power.”

The only authorized Israeli construction is in existing settlements that will be part of Israel in any conceivable peace agreement, pursuant to the understanding reached a decade ago with the U.S. that a “settlement freeze” meant no new settlements and no expansion of the boundaries of existing ones – what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the “Google Earth Test” – not construction within established settlements. In her recent memoir, Rice confirmed both the informal understanding and Israeli compliance with it throughout the Bush administration.

Not only has the Netanyahu government adhered to that understanding; it implemented an unprecedented ten-month construction freeze, which predictably produced no Palestinian response other than a demand in the tenth month that it be continued.

Back when he was he was actually in office, Abbas rejected the offer by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert of a Palestinian state on land equivalent to 100 percent of the West Bank with a capital in Jerusalem. He is a Potemkin president, making “demands” for Israeli steps he knows are neither required nor realistic, still refusing to recognize a Jewish state, or defensible borders, or an end-of-claims agreement, still unwilling to tell his people, in Arabic, what is required for a Palestinian state.

Instead of delivering a letter, he should make his Bir Zeit speech.

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Texas Public Policy Is Case Study

Labor-related immigration to the United States has always been driven by basic economics. Border security is certainly essential to any country’s obligation to safeguard its homeland, but the volume of immigration from Mexico was a blaring message from the labor market that even (sometimes especially) self-described free marketers chose to ignore.

Hopefully those politicians will heed the lessons in a new report, mentioned approvingly here by Michael Barone at the Washington Examiner, that net illegal immigration from Mexico is now zero–that is, immigration has tapered off and is now below replacement levels. Barone says he cannot vouch for the exact numbers in the report, but he thinks “they’re very much in the ballpark.” Falling birthrates in Mexico and an American recession have contributed to the change, but they do not seem to be the main drivers. Here’s Barone:

For some years I feared that Mexico could not achieve higher economic growth than the United States since our economies have been tied so tightly together by NAFTA since 1993. But in the past two years, Mexico’s growth rate has been on the order of 5 percent to 7 percent. It’s looking like Mexico’s growth rate is tied not to that of the United States but to that of Texas, which has been a growth leader because of its intelligent public policies which have prevented public employee unions from plundering the private sector economy.

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Labor-related immigration to the United States has always been driven by basic economics. Border security is certainly essential to any country’s obligation to safeguard its homeland, but the volume of immigration from Mexico was a blaring message from the labor market that even (sometimes especially) self-described free marketers chose to ignore.

Hopefully those politicians will heed the lessons in a new report, mentioned approvingly here by Michael Barone at the Washington Examiner, that net illegal immigration from Mexico is now zero–that is, immigration has tapered off and is now below replacement levels. Barone says he cannot vouch for the exact numbers in the report, but he thinks “they’re very much in the ballpark.” Falling birthrates in Mexico and an American recession have contributed to the change, but they do not seem to be the main drivers. Here’s Barone:

For some years I feared that Mexico could not achieve higher economic growth than the United States since our economies have been tied so tightly together by NAFTA since 1993. But in the past two years, Mexico’s growth rate has been on the order of 5 percent to 7 percent. It’s looking like Mexico’s growth rate is tied not to that of the United States but to that of Texas, which has been a growth leader because of its intelligent public policies which have prevented public employee unions from plundering the private sector economy.

Remember when a certain Texas governor was warning fellow Republicans that education and a strong economy were better solutions than a fence? Though the symbiotic economic relationship between Texas and Mexico is long established, and Mexican reforms in the mid-1990s have helped keep the peso stable, recent trade between the two has increased and been a boon to both countries:

Three Texas customs districts, Laredo, El Paso and Houston, rank among Mexico’s top four trading partners. Collectively, they accounted for roughly $235 billion in trade between Texas and Mexico from January to September 2011, according to United States Census data analyzed by WorldCity, which tracks global trade patterns. The figures show an increase over 2010 despite the American recession and unprecedented violence in Mexico because of warring drug cartels.

One more time: an increase over 2010 despite the American recession and unprecedented violence in Mexico. Texas has been a job creator and engine of growth during a recession and global economic downturn in two countries, stabilizing immigration levels along the way and buttressing the argument for free trade. Of course, it’s worth noting that to produce this economic success story, Texan public policy is just about the polar opposite of that of the Obama administration. If nothing else, the first Obama term has at least given us a tidy case study.

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The Gingrich Sideshow Needs to Exit the Carnival

Anyone who thought Rick Santorum’s dramatic suspension of his presidential campaign would cause Newt Gingrich to fall into line and give up his own quixotic quest for the Republican nomination doesn’t understand the former Speaker of the House. Gingrich may have acknowledged that Mitt Romney was the likely GOP nominee in an interview just this past Sunday on Fox News, but he reacted to the Santorum announcement as if it was an opportunity by asking the senator’s supporters to jump over to his camp. Though it is unlikely that not many will join a cause that was lost months ago, this was all the excuse Gingrich needed to resume his pointless candidacy.

While there was a moment back during the winter when the withdrawal of either Gingrich or Santorum would have had an impact on the GOP race, that boat sailed sometime in February. Gingrich lost the contest for the title of the leading conservative “not Romney” to Santorum but has been hanging around giving the impression he has nothing better to do with his life than attempt to masquerade as a credible candidate. While most Republicans understand that for all intents and purposes this is the first day of the general election campaign, for Gingrich it represents the hope that he can squeeze a little more attention out of an American public that has already demonstrated it is sick and tired of him.

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Anyone who thought Rick Santorum’s dramatic suspension of his presidential campaign would cause Newt Gingrich to fall into line and give up his own quixotic quest for the Republican nomination doesn’t understand the former Speaker of the House. Gingrich may have acknowledged that Mitt Romney was the likely GOP nominee in an interview just this past Sunday on Fox News, but he reacted to the Santorum announcement as if it was an opportunity by asking the senator’s supporters to jump over to his camp. Though it is unlikely that not many will join a cause that was lost months ago, this was all the excuse Gingrich needed to resume his pointless candidacy.

While there was a moment back during the winter when the withdrawal of either Gingrich or Santorum would have had an impact on the GOP race, that boat sailed sometime in February. Gingrich lost the contest for the title of the leading conservative “not Romney” to Santorum but has been hanging around giving the impression he has nothing better to do with his life than attempt to masquerade as a credible candidate. While most Republicans understand that for all intents and purposes this is the first day of the general election campaign, for Gingrich it represents the hope that he can squeeze a little more attention out of an American public that has already demonstrated it is sick and tired of him.

That any continuation of the Gingrich sideshow makes no sense has been apparent for months. His campaign has amassed $4.5 million in debt, according to reports. The situation is so bad that, as ABC News reported, a check written on March 27 by the campaign to secure his place on the ballot in Utah bounced when it was deposited by the state. This story, which comes after the news last week that the health care think tank started by Gingrich had filed for bankruptcy shows just how dire the former speaker’s finances are right now. Though he had divested himself of control of The Gingrich Group last year when he began his presidential run, the lion’s share of his net worth derives from a promissory note from the think tank that has gone bust.

Republicans need to spend the upcoming months preparing for the fall election and shoring up the unity of a party that Gingrich has done much to divide with attacks on Romney from both the right and the left. Any time spent in the next few months on a futile campaign or an effort to have an impact on the Republican convention or platform (Gingrich may be the last person on the planet who thinks those documents have any value or are worth fighting about) will distract Gingrich from his main task of the moment: paying off his campaign debt. While Republicans may wish him good luck in that task, it’s time for the reconstituted Gingrich sideshow to exit the carnival.

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