Subscribe to our Daily Briefing
AS ISRAEL FACES IRAN’S INDIA, GEORGIA, BANGKOK BLASTS, ON GOSPEL, DEFICIT, CANADIAN OIL, CARTER ALL OVER AGAIN
Volume XI, No. 2,761 • February 14, 2012
BARAK BLAMES IRAN FOR BOMB BLASTS IN BANGKOK
Herb Keinon, Jpost.Com Staff & Reuters
Jerusalem Post, February 14, 2012
[Israeli] Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that a series of bomb blasts that struck Thailand on Tuesday was part of an attempted terrorist attack perpetrated by Iran.
An Iranian man was seriously wounded in Bangkok on Tuesday when a bomb he was carrying exploded.… Shortly before, there had been an explosion in a house the man was renting in the Ekamai area of central Bangkok, and shortly afterward, another blast on a nearby road. Five people were injured in the explosions.
“The attempted terror attack in Thailand proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to operate in the ways of terror and the latest attacks are an example of that,” Barak said while on a state visit to Singapore. The incident came one day after near simultaneous attacks on Israeli embassies in India and Georgia.…
[Thai] Police General Bansiri Prapapat told Reuters…“We discovered the wounded man’s passport. It’s an Iranian passport and he entered the country through Phuket and arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport on the 8th of this month [press reports have since identified the man as Saeib Morabi—Ed.].”
Police declined to make any link between Tuesday’s incident and the arrest last month of a Lebanese man in Bangkok who, according to the Thai authorities, had links to Hezbollah.…
POISONED POLITICS OF KEYSTONE XL
NY Times, February 6, 2012
On Monday, Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, traveled to China for a week of high-level meetings. He brought with him a handful of his cabinet ministers, including Joe Oliver, his tough-talking minister of natural resources who, until recently, had been withering in his scorn for the opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which [US] President Obama rejected a few weeks ago. The pipeline, of course, was intended to transport vast oil reserves in Alberta to the American refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
Oliver no longer talks so freely about the environmental critics of the Keystone pipeline; all of Harper’s ministers have been instructed to stop making comments that might be construed as interfering in the American presidential election. But there are other, more diplomatic, ways to send messages. Like going to China with your cabinet members and cutting energy deals with a country that has, as The Globe and Mail in Toronto put it recently, a “thirst for Canadian oil.” Oil, I might add, that may be a little dirtier than the crude that pours forth from the Saudi Arabian desert—that is one of the main reasons environmentalists say they oppose Keystone—but is hardly the environmental disaster many suppose.…
What [Obama’s] Keystone decision…represents is the way our poisoned politics damages the country. Environmental concerns notwithstanding, America will be using oil—and lots of it—for the foreseeable future. It is the fundamental means by which we transport ourselves, whether by air, car or truck. Where do we get that oil? Mostly from countries that don’t like us, like Venezuela, which has the world’s second-largest oil reserves.
And here is Canada, a staunch American ally that has historically sold us virtually all of its crude exports. Over the past two decades, energy companies have invested tens of billions of dollars in the tar sands, so much so that Canada now ranks No. 3 in estimated oil reserves. Along with the natural gas that can now be extracted thanks to hydraulic fracturing…the oil from the Canadian tar sands ought to be viewed as a great gift that has been handed to North America. These two relatively new sources of fossil fuels offer America its first real chance in decades to become, if not energy self-sufficient, at least energy secure, no longer beholden to OPEC. Yet these gifts have been transformed, like everything else, into political footballs.
In Canada, the Keystone XL controversy has created a surprising new resolve.… Instead of blithely assuming the United States would purchase its oil, Canada is now determined to find diverse buyers so it won’t be held hostage by American politics. Hence, the newfound willingness to do business with China. Canada has concluded that it simply can’t expect much from the United States, even on an issue that would seem to be vital to our own interests.… At least one country in North America understands where its national interests lie. Too bad it’s not us.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO OBAMA
Washington Post, February 10, 2012
At the National Prayer Breakfast last week, seeking theological underpinning for his drive to raise taxes on the rich, President Obama invoked the highest possible authority. His policy, he testified “as a Christian,” “coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.’”
Now, I’m no theologian, but I’m fairly certain that neither Jesus nor his rabbinic forebears, when speaking of giving, meant some obligation to the state. You tithe the priest, not the tax man.
The Judeo-Christian tradition commands personal generosity as represented, for example, by the biblical injunction against retrieving any sheaf left behind while harvesting one’s own field. That is for the gleaners—“the poor and the alien” (Leviticus 19:10). Like Ruth in the field of Boaz. As far as I can tell, that charitable transaction involved no mediation by the IRS.
But no matter. Let’s assume that Obama has biblical authority for hiking the marginal tax rate exactly 4.6 points for couples making more than $250,000 (depending, of course, on the prevailing shekel-to-dollar exchange rate). Let’s stipulate that Obama’s prayer-breakfast invocation of religion as vindicating his politics was not, God forbid, crass, hypocritical, self-serving electioneering, but a sincere expression of a social-gospel Christianity that sees good works as central to the very concept of religiosity.
Fine. But this Gospel according to Obama has a rival—the newly revealed Gospel according to Sebelius, over which has erupted quite a contretemps. By some peculiar logic, it falls to the health and human services secretary to promulgate the definition of “religious”—for the purposes, for example, of exempting religious institutions from certain regulatory dictates.
Such exemptions are granted in grudging recognition that, whereas the rest of civil society may be broken to the will of the state’s regulators, our quaint Constitution grants special autonomy to religious institutions.
Accordingly, it would be a mockery of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment if, for example, the Catholic Church were required by law to freely provide such “health care services” (in secularist parlance) as contraception, sterilization and pharmacological abortion—to which Catholicism is doctrinally opposed as a grave contravention of its teachings about the sanctity of life.
Ah. But there would be no such Free Exercise violation if the institutions so mandated are deemed, by regulatory fiat, not religious.
And thus, the word came forth from Sebelius decreeing the exact criteria required (a) to meet her definition of “religious” and thus (b) to qualify for a modicum of independence from newly enacted state control of American health care, under which the aforementioned Sebelius and her phalanx of experts determine everything—from who is to be covered, to which treatments are to be guaranteed free of charge.
Criterion 1: A “religious institution” must have “the inculcation of religious values as its purpose.” But that’s not the purpose of Catholic charities; it’s to give succor to the poor. That’s not the purpose of Catholic hospitals; it’s to give succor to the sick. Therefore, they don’t qualify as “religious”—and therefore can be required, among other things, to provide free morning-after abortifacients.
Criterion 2: Any exempt institution must be one that “primarily employs” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.” Catholic soup kitchens do not demand religious IDs from either the hungry they feed or the custodians they employ. Catholic charities and hospitals—even Catholic schools—do not turn away Hindu or Jew.
Their vocation is universal, precisely the kind of universal love-thy-neighbor vocation that is the very definition of religiosity as celebrated by the Gospel of Obama. Yet according to the Gospel of Sebelius, these very same Catholic institutions are not religious at all—under the secularist assumption that religion is what happens on Sunday under some Gothic spire, while good works are “social services” properly rendered up unto Caesar.
This all would be merely the story of contradictory theologies, except for this: Sebelius is Obama’s appointee. She works for him. These regulations were his call. Obama authored both gospels.
Therefore: To flatter his faith-breakfast guests and justify his tax policies, Obama declares good works to be the essence of religiosity. Yet he turns around and, through Sebelius, tells the faithful who engage in good works that what they’re doing is not religion at all. You want to do religion? Get thee to a nunnery. You want shelter from the power of the state? Get out of your soup kitchen and back to your pews. Outside, Leviathan rules.
The contradiction is glaring, the hypocrisy breathtaking. But that’s not why Obama offered a hasty compromise on Friday. It’s because the firestorm of protest was becoming a threat to his reelection. Sure, health care, good works and religion are important. But reelection is divine.
THE COST OF OBAMA
Jeffrey H. Anderson
Weekly Standard, February 14, 2012
President Obama’s fourth budget has now been released, which allows for a relatively full accounting of deficit spending during his four years in office. The picture isn’t pretty, but it is revealing.
According to the White House’s own figures, the actual or projected deficit tallies for the four years in which Obama has submitted budgets are as follows: $1.293 trillion in 2010, $1.300 trillion in 2011, $1.327 trillion in 2012, and $901 billion in 2013.…
Adding all of this up, deficit spending during Obama’s four years in the White House (based on his own figures) will be an estimated $5.170 trillion—or $5,170,000,000,000.00. To help put that colossal sum of money into perspective, if you take our deficit spending under Obama and divide it evenly among the roughly 300 million American citizens, that works out to just over $17,000 per person—or about $70,000 for a family of four.
The previous record for most deficit spending during a presidency was set by President George W. Bush. During Bush’s 8-year administration, total deficit spending was $3.402 trillion. That’s a truly extraordinary and reckless sum. It’s also $1.768 trillion less than deficit spending in just four years under Obama.…
Prior to Obama, our annual deficit spending had only exceeded 6.0 percent of GDP during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Except during those huge conflicts, our deficits had never exceeded 6.0 percent of GDP in any year—not during the Great Depression, not at the height of the Cold War defense buildup, not ever.… During Obama’s four years in the White House, annual deficit spending will average 8.4 percent of GDP. That’s nearly double the average annual level of deficit spending under any other post-War president.… This has truly been a historic presidency—more profligate than any other by far.
JIMMY CARTER ALL OVER AGAIN
FrontPage, February 7, 2012
The Egyptian Government has released the names of nineteen American citizens that it intends to prosecute for their role in fomenting anti-government protests—a charge they deny. Protests from the American Government have so far been futile, met with sneers of contempt.
The echoes are unmistakable. On November 4, 1979, Iranian thugs stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. Jimmy Carter’s government wrung its hands in futility for the next fourteen months, until finally the Islamic Republic released the hostages on January 20, 1981, the day Ronald Reagan took office as President of the United States.
The bitter irony in all that was that Carter had betrayed the Shah of Iran, a longtime U.S. ally, and thereby paved the way for the ascent to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian mullahcracy that has ruled Iran ever since. Rather than feel gratitude toward Carter, however, Khomeini viewed his abandonment of the Shah as a sign of weakness, and pressed forward with his jihad against the Great Satan.…
As the Iranian regime inches ever closer toward constructing nuclear weapons…the U.S. and Israel have one man to thank for the advent of a genocide-minded regime that considers them both the most implacable of enemies.… That man, of course, is Jimmy Carter. And from the looks of recent events, he is back in the White House.
In June 2009, when Barack Obama made his notorious appeal to the Muslim world from Cairo, he specifically stipulated that leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood be allowed to attend—despite the fact that at that time the Brotherhood was still an outlawed group. Last March, as the “Arab Spring” uprisings toppled the sclerotic and brutal regime of Hosni Mubarak, Obama hailed “the peaceful transition to democracy in both Tunisia and in Egypt.” As the regime fell, Obama exulted: “We’ve borne witness to the beginning of new chapter in the history of a great country and a longtime partner of the United States.…”
The parallels are so close, they’re almost eerie. The Shah of Iran was no champion of human rights, and neither was Hosni Mubarak. That gave the opposition groups to both an opportunity to appeal to the world’s conscience as the great hope of their people to live at last in dignity—an opportunity that both exploited with great aplomb. Both the Shah and Mubarak were relatively secular rulers who for decades successfully held at bay the pro-Sharia Islamic supremacist forces that despised and longed to topple them. Both had mutually beneficial relationships with the United States—not perfect ones, by any means, but alliances of convenience that fostered stability in troubled regions.
Both the Shah and Mubarak then ran afoul of leftist Democrat presidents who positioned their betrayal of these undeniably less-than-perfect allies as a responsibility necessitated by their commitment to human rights.… Carter in Iran and Obama in Egypt got the regimes they wanted. They got the expression of “democracy” that they assured the American people would usher in a new era of peace and freedom. In both cases, they made their decisions based on politically correct falsehoods and fantasies rather than harsh realities. And in both cases, as is increasingly clear in Egypt, innocent Americans have had to pay for their myopia.
This is the Egypt, and this is the Middle East, that Barack Obama has given us. And in the coming weeks and months, he will find that the forces he has helped unleash will be impossible to contain.…
THE PERILS OF OBAMA’S FOREIGN POLICY
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review, January 25, 2012
The mystery remaining about the Obama administration’s foreign policy is not whether it has worked, but whether its failures will matter all that much. That is no rhetorical question, given that it is hard to permanently damage, in just three years, the position abroad of the United States, given its vast military power and enormous economy.
The Obama administration’s policy was predicated on three assumptions. First, world tensions and widespread dislike of the United States were due to George Bush’s wars and his cowboyish style. Therefore, outreach and reset would correct the Bush mistakes.… The unique personal narrative and heritage of Obama and his tripartite name, of course, would earn America fides in inverse proportion to Bush’s twang and evangelical way of speaking about God.
Yet most problems really did transcend Bush, and so reset accomplished little. Hugo Chávez is more hostile to America than ever, whether symbolically by accusing the Obama administration of spreading cancer among Latin American leaders or concretely by entertaining [Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There is no new warmth from Cuba or Nicaragua—as there never could have been from their Stalinist heads of state. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has as much contempt for Obama as he did for Bush.…
The decision to reach out to [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad with recognition and an embassy failed; Syria became more unhinged and violent, not less.… The Palestinians are now talking of a third intifada, and they hope that, when the shooting starts, their new friend the United States will hector Israel in a way it did not under Bush.
Outreach to Iran was a disaster; the serial face-to-face talks and the quiet neglect of the Iranian dissidents did not work. Now we are reduced to the sort of catch-up sanctions that would have earned Bush the charge of warmongering from the Left. Unofficial U.S policy seems to be a silent hope that tiny Israel does the unthinkable that a huge United States would not, while Saudi Arabia expands its pipelines to nullify the value of the Strait of Hormuz in a way [Obama is] refusing to do at home with Keystone.
Obama likes Prime Minister Erdogan even more than he hates Prime Minister Netanyahu. But what he thinks the Israelis have done to the Palestinians pales in comparison to what he must know the Turks have done to the Kurds, Greeks, and Armenians. It is open to question whether Erdogan will be calmed by such affability or will find it useful should he wish to settle old scores with the Kurds, on Cyprus, or in the Aegean.
Lecturing China while borrowing ever more money from it does not work. I don’t think Japan and South Korea feel any safer with Obama in office—despite claims of a new focus on Asia at the expense of old Europe. The more Obama talks of eliminating nuclear weapons, the more both these neighbors of North Korea will probably consider acquiring them.
There is no need to review the reset flip side of estrangement from the Czech Republic, Britain, Israel, and now Canada—allies who believe in staid things like democracy, human rights, and alliances in times of peril. It is hard to calibrate U.S. policy toward the EU, since the entire enterprise is unraveling, and the Europeans seem puzzled that we are emulating the very failure they are learning from. Mexico is more violent and unstable than ever before.… Fast and Furious promises not to deport any more illegal aliens, and the administration’s lawsuit against the state of Arizona, did not have a warming effect on our relationship.
The second Obama idea was the dream of reenergizing the United Nations and working to eliminate all nuclear weapons. But the likelihood is that the atomic club will be larger, not smaller, when Obama leaves office.… Obama claimed he was doing U.N. work in Libya; but in truth he exceeded a U.N. mandate for humanitarian help and no-fly zones by stealthily bombing “from behind.” How odd that by ignoring the U.S. Congress and the War Powers Act and instead championing but not obeying the United Nations, Obama snubbed both in a way his cowboyish predecessor never had.…
Did the Obama setbacks matter all that much? So far, in the very short term, perhaps not.
Few envisioned that the Arab world and the European Union in their own respective ways would implode, quite apart from anything the United States did.… The insolvency of Mediterranean Europe has taken attention from the near insolvency of the U.S. Treasury. The EU pact, and styles of governance in China, Russia, and the Arab world, remind us that the U.S. Constitution remains exceptional. And the stagnant American economy has muffled domestic objections to vast cutbacks in defense and our new follow-rather-than-lead foreign policy.
In other words, we are back to the deceptive quiet of a 1913, 1938, or 2000.…
Let us hope no one [would be so stupid as to start a stupid war]. But if someone should be so crazy, others might follow. Then we would learn that our old allies are now neutrals; our new friends are enemies; and the old deterrence will be as hard to regain as it was once to acquire.
(Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.)
Financial Post, January 25, 2012
Jack M. Mintz
Jack Mintz: Canada downgraded, relations with the U.S. at lowest point in 25 years | FP Comment | Financial Post
FrontPage, January 19, 2012
Killing Keystone | FrontPage Magazine
New Republic, February 1, 2012
Lawrence F. Kaplan
Lawrence Kaplan: Stop Saying Our Wars Are Over, Mr. President. Theyâre Not. | The New Republic
Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2012
Review & Outlook: The Amazing Obama Budget - WSJ.com
Washington Post, February 13, 2012
Obamaâs epic blunder on birth-control mandate - The Washington Post
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)
Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)
Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)