Cronkite is at it again

Walter Cronkite, whose 1968 statement on the air that the Viet Nam War was unwinnable, convinced President Lyndon Johnson to withdraw U.S. troops and abandon the South Vietnamese people. As a result, the U.S. left Viet Nam which allowed the North Vietnamese butchers to kill hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese. In fact, the war was winnable, the U.S. did not have the will to win it.

Cronkite is at it again.

Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, whose 1968 conclusion that the Vietnam War was unwinnable keenly influenced public opinion then, said Sunday he’d say the same thing today about Iraq.

“It’s my belief that we should get out now,” Cronkite said in a meeting with reporters.

Now 89, the television journalist once known as “the most trusted man in America” has been off the “CBS Evening News” for nearly a quarter- century. He’s still a CBS News employee, although he does little for them.

Cronkite said one of his proudest moments came at the end of a 1968 documentary he made following a visit to Vietnam during the Tet offensive. Urged by his boss to briefly set aside his objectivity to give his view of the situation, Cronkite said the war was unwinnable and that the U.S. should exit.

Then-President Lyndon Johnson reportedly told a White House aide after that, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

The best time to have made a similar statement about Iraq came after Hurricane Katrina, he said.

“We had an opportunity to say to the world and Iraqis after the hurricane disaster that Mother Nature has not treated us well and we find ourselves missing the amount of money it takes to help these poor people out of their homeless situation and rebuild some of our most important cities in the United States,” he said. “Therefore, we are going to have to bring our troops home.”

This time I believe the U.S. understands the importance of our mission in Iraq and we will not abandon the Iraqi people, despite the Walter Cronkites, Barbara Boxers and John Murthas of our country.


Shadegg for Majority Leader

Center-Right Bloggers are appealing to the Republican community to support John Shadegg for Majority Leader of the House of Representatives:

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.

Signed,

N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang!
La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber’s Corner
Lorie Byrd / DJ Drummond , Polipundit
Beth Cleaver, MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Jeff Goldstein, Protein Wisdom
Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
John Hawkins, Right Wing News
John Hinderaker, Power Line
Jon Henke / McQ / Dale Franks, QandO
James Joyner, Outside The Beltway
Mike Krempasky, Redstate.org
Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com
Ed Morrissey, Captain’s Quarters
Scott Ott, Scrappleface
The Anchoress, The Anchoress
John Donovan / Bill Tuttle, Castle Argghhh!!!

The Club for Growth has also endorsed Rep. Shadegg. Here is the statement of The Club for Growth:

Washington, D.C. – Club for Growth, the nation’s leading free-market advocacy organization with over 34,000 members, announced today that it is endorsing Rep. John Shadegg’s candidacy for U.S. House Majority Leader.

“There is no member of the House of Representatives more committed to the idea of limited government and economic freedom than John Shadegg,” said Club for Growth president Pat Toomey. “To be an effective governing party, Republicans must focus once again on these core issues and John Shadegg has the unique qualifications to lead the way.”

Rep. Shadegg is one of only four Members of the House of Representatives to vote the pro-growth position on every key vote identified last year by the Club for Growth. To view the scorecard, click here.

“The House Republican Conference has been ideologically adrift,” continued Toomey. “This nominally conservative party is responsible for a huge expansion of government and letting spending get out of control.”

“John Shadegg is a principled, effective leader who can build consensus across the full range of the Conference to return to the core issues of limited government and economic freedom that produced a Republican majority in the first place,” Toomey concluded.

The Republican Party needs to remove from its leadership any taint from the Abramoff scandals and anyone who has even a hint of corruption. The new Party leadership needs to be squeaky-clean and an exemplar of integrity and ethics.

John Shadegg is such a man.



Fatwa issued against nudity for married couples

Well, if nothing else, these Islamist clerics certainly keep us entertained. The latest silliness from the Religion of Peace is the fact that an Egyptian cleric has declared that nudity during sex annuls marriage for Muslims.

According to the religious edict issued by Rashad Hassan Khalil, a former dean of Al-Azhar University’s faculty of Sharia (or Islamic law), “being completely naked during the act of coitus annuls the marriage”.

What else can I say?

Hat tip: Tel-Chai Nation


Why God chose the Jews

By Andrew Klavan

THERE IS ONE good thing about anti-Semitism: It lets you know who the bad guys are. Right, left, black, white, freak or straight, the minute someone starts rattling on about the evil Jews, you know your train just pulled into Slimeball Station.

All bigotry is wrong, of course, but there’s something about this particular form of prejudice that is weirdly reliable as a sign of deeper wickedness. Perhaps it’s because the Jews contributed so much to humanity’s moral code that to hate them as a race is to despise the restraints of morality itself

Whatever the reason, true, virulent anti-Semitism is such a good indicator of the presence of evil that I’m tempted to believe that when God made the Jews his chosen people, this is what he chose them for: to be a sort of Villainy Early Detection System for everyone else.

Unfortunately, in his infinite love for his creation, I suspect the Big Guy may have overestimated our intelligence. Maybe he thought that after Hitler we’d just, you know, like, get it. Instead, we still see apparently intelligent people appeasing, making excuses for and even embracing the sorts of stinkers who ought to set off the Big Alarm.

That’s why I think the system could use more bells and whistles — a loud honking noise perhaps, or even closed captioning for the morally impaired. Thus, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the Holocaust is a “myth” or that Israel “must be wiped off the map,” you would hear a loud honk and words would appear in the air below his face: “Hello. I am an evil madman. Please stop negotiating with me now and proceed to cripple my nuclear capability by any means necessary.”

Or how about when Venezuelan leader — and anti-American Iran ally — Hugo Chavez warns that “descendants of those who crucified Christ … have grabbed all the world’s riches for themselves”? Honk. His subtitle: “Hi. I know you lefties are still enamored of the idea of socialism — fine. But personally, I’m a jerk and a friend of tyranny. Oh, and Mr. Belafonte? Go home before you make an ass of yourself.”

Now, I understand the situation in the Middle East is morally and politically complex, as is the situation in South America. I know that honorable people can hold conflicting opinions about the issues in these places. But when the entrenched misery of an area nearly as large as the United States is consistently blamed on 5 million people in a country the size of a shoebox, or when the ills of the world are loaded onto less than 1% of its population, I begin to become suspicious.

If it were only a matter of hating Jews, we could say: “Feel free, hate everyone, knock yourself out.” The trouble is the suffering, the slaughter of innocents and indeed the destruction of entire nations that seems inevitably to follow when anti-Semitism is allowed to spread beyond the cesspool of the mind that contains it. History is too full of lowlifes who thought all their problems would be solved if they could just kill enough Jews — or thugs like Pontius Pilate who thought it was a matter of killing the right Jew — for us not to realize that their Final Solutions aren’t final and are no solution. They are often the first, and sometimes the last, road sign pointing the way to an earthly hell.

So here’s a plan. The next time you express an opinion on what’s wrong with the world, take a look around to see who’s nodding in agreement. If it’s some clown who thinks the Jewish state should be pushed into the sea, or that the Jews killed Christ or are conspiring to subvert the world economy or the government or the media, I beg you to consider that you might be wrong. There is no shame in changing your opinion. Falling into step with wicked fools — that’s shameful, and it’s dangerous too. God gave you an early detection system. Use it.

Crime novelist ANDREW KLAVAN can be reached at AndrewKlavan.com

[Reprinted with permission of the Author]




Jack Abramoff and Toward Tradition


Jack Abramoff and Toward Tradition

by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

In recent news reports Toward Tradition has been drawn into the whirlpool of the Abramoff lobbying scandal. Because news media are notoriously inaccurate I would like our friends and supporters to hear directly all the facts about the relationship between Jack Abramoff and the organization I have the privilege of serving.

Initially my name began appearing in connection with one of the stories circulating about how Jack Abramoff met Tom DeLay. Some articles claimed that I introduced them while others, including one in the Washington Post, have the two meeting at a DeLay fundraiser, introduced by Edwin A. Buckham, then DeLay’s chief of staff. Although I have no clear recollection of having formally introduced them, it is certainly possible. I was at several Republican Party events at which both Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff were present, including one at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego at which I spoke.

Abramoff was not among the group of twenty two Jews and Christians who originally conceived of and founded Toward Tradition in 1991. However, he became a supporter and joined the board of directors a little later and eventually served a few terms as chairman of the board. He resigned his chairmanship at the end of 2000 and from the board in 2004. In total, on account of his time pressures, Jack Abramoff attended only five board meetings of Toward Tradition. He contributed to the organization at a level typical of the level of other board members. His giving to Toward Tradition was slightly lower than some board members and slightly higher than others. We now know that on one occasion, a contribution came in the form of a check from his Capital Athletic Foundation. It is not unusual for donors to submit contributions from foundations or organizations they are involved with. At no time have I personally ever received funds from Jack directly or from his various organizations.

During that period, Jack’s access to the White House was being eagerly courted by many organizations both Christian and Jewish, usually in the hope of obtaining the President as a speaker for an upcoming event. I heard one of the leaders of a prominent pro-Israel lobbying organization boast that Jack Abramoff took his phone calls.

In June 2003 I wrote to a number of Toward Tradition supporters saying that if they intended contributing substantially to the Bush Cheney ’04 campaign they may wish to direct their support via Jack Abramoff.

Then came his fall which has almost Shakespearean overtones. Sometimes the most poignant tragedies are those in which the victim is complicit in his own destruction. But of course, that is true for most of us—we are often our own worst enemies.

On June 25, 2005, The Washington Post ran a profile of me with the heading “The Republicans’ Rabbi-in-Arms.” Alluding to Abramoff, the piece referred to me as “the Man Who Stands by His Scandal-Ridden Friends.” Later the writer claimed about my frequent visits to Washington DC, “Usually on these trips Lapin stays with Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who is an old friend of the Lapin family.” The travel information is not true. Anyone familiar with my travel habits knows that I never impose on households and always much prefer to stay at hotels. However Jack was a long time friend of the Lapin family. He first met my brother, David, while he was shooting Red Scorpion in South Africa during the late 80s. In the early 90s, Jack Abramoff arrived in California with an introduction from David and became friendly with my father and me.

I did not serve as Jack’s rabbi or mentor and our friendship revolved around our families, children’s educational challenges and the difficulties of being a political conservative in the larger Jewish community. We shared occasional social and family events. I can recall no discussions about Jack’s business and never heard anything from him that caused me to think he was doing anything unscrupulous. I never met or heard mention of names like Scanlon, Kidan, and others involved in Abramoff’s business dealings. We did share an enthusiasm for Jewish Christian cooperation, for ancient Hebrew texts, and for the role of religion in politics.

The press located an email from Abramoff asking me to supply him with an award that he said he needed to gain admittance to an elite Washington DC club. Anyone familiar with Abramoff’s jocular and often fatally irreverent email style won’t be surprised that I assumed the question to be a joke. The very notion that an exclusive social club would regard a meaningless award from Toward Tradition to be adequate credentials for admittance was ludicrous. I responded in similar style offering to “wallpaper his office with awards.” I regret the exchange. I should have candidly explained that Toward Tradition is not an academic institution and does not issue the kind of awards he described. Like most organizations, our awards only acknowledge the support provided the organization by the recipient. Whenever Toward Tradition has issued an award it has always taken place at a public event after considerable board discussion and a resolution. As a board member, Abramoff would have known this which is what assured me that he was joking.

Let me be clear. On no occasion did I, Toward Tradition, or any organization with which I was affiliated ever create an award for, or present one to Jack Abramoff. The affairs of a non-profit are documented by minutes and at no point did Abramoff’s award request ever get treated in a serious manner by being brought before the board.

The scandal swirling around Jack deepened and then came the plea agreement on January 3rd. That was what was responsible for the current spate of negative publicity. Headlines such as “Abramoff Used Foundation as Conduit for Money” began to appear.

The Plea Agreement is 14 pages long, with another 15 pages of attachments, for a total of 29 pages. On page 13 of the attachments in item 35 out of a total of 41, appears a reference to “a non profit entity”. Although it doesn’t mention any name, the non profit entity alluded to is in fact Toward Tradition.

Toward Tradition staff members were extensively interviewed last August by the Justice Department about the events. Here is what happened.

Toward Tradition ran large conferences in Washington DC in the fall of 1994, 1997, and 2000. For a Seattle-based organization to hold a large national event across the country in Washington DC requires considerable work and someone on the ground in DC to act as a local representative and organizer. This person negotiates with hotels and caterers, stays in touch with the aides and schedulers for Capitol Hill speakers, arranges logistics such as transport and recording, and sees to the post conference wrap up, public relations, etc. A DC conference succeeds or fails upon the caliber of its roster of prominent speakers from Capitol Hill. A conference needs to confirm the speaker list as early as possible while legislators prefer to confirm as late as possible. Having a local organizer who knows the lay of the land and who can obtain confirmations from the schedulers of congressmen and senators is vital.

In both 1994 and 1997 Toward Tradition had succeeded in securing the services of such organizers. For the 1994 conference, Toward Tradition hired a politically experienced DC-based organizer to help put the conference together. In 1997, our conference coordinating was done by a DC-based organizer we hired who had previously worked in a congressman’s office. In addition, two of our staff members flew out to DC to base themselves there in the period leading up to the 1997 conference. The point is that there is an incredibly long list of to-dos in arranging a multi-day conference in the nation’s capital.

Sometime before the summer of 2000 Jack Abramoff asked Toward Tradition whether we had already hired the DC-based organizer for that fall’s conference. Upon hearing that we had nobody appointed yet, he offered to provide someone. He mentioned that he knew an individual who had the experience and connections that we were seeking and that she was currently looking for work. This was Lisa Rudy. He added that he might know a donor willing to donate a gift to Toward Tradition to be used to hire a DC based coordinator who would help us with our forthcoming conference.

It is not uncommon for donors to make specific gifts for specific purposes so we suspected nothing amiss and our board approved hiring Lisa Rudy especially since her salary was to be covered by a donor. It is also not uncommon for donors to enlist the support of their friends and business contacts for their cause. Thus we were not surprised when a check arrived from Jack Abramoff for $25,000 made out by a firm called ELottery, with directions to pay Lisa Rudy $5,000/month for her services as our local conference coordinator. We received a couple more checks from other Abramoff clients allowing us to continue paying Lisa Rudy until the post-conference work was complete which was January of 2001. Toward Tradition paid her the total of what we received from Jack Abramoff for that purpose. Nothing of those gifts was retained for Toward Tradition’s general use; they were only used to hire a professional organizer in what we thought was a completely legitimate arrangement.

As I understand it, Abramoff pled guilty to intending to influence Lisa Rudy’s husband who worked for Tom DeLay by “providing ten equal monthly payments totaling $50,000 through a non-profit entity to the wife of Staffer A.” The Justice Department questioned whether Lisa Rudy had actually done work for Toward Tradition. Toward Tradition documentation clearly demonstrated that, in all innocence, we had thoroughly employed her services and that she had in fact done for us all that the local coordinator was supposed to do at a fee within the range of what we expected to pay for the services provided.

To clarify, the $25,000 check to Toward Tradition was NOT for lobbying purposes in favor of gambling. Not only has Toward Tradition or myself never engaged in lobbying but I have never written or spoken in favor of gambling. In fact we have radio shows and articles, as well as excerpts from my books in which my negative views of gambling, especially government sanctioned gambling are no secret. At the time, back in 2000, Toward Tradition assumed that Jack, still a member of the board, was doing what many non-profit board members do for the non-profit organization they serve, which was solicit a gift from a business associate for our benefit.

That supporters and friends of Toward Tradition have been embarrassed by the press linking us to Jack Abramoff disappoints me terribly. However, Toward Tradition and I interact with thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations every year. It is just unrealistic to suppose that none of these relationships are ever going to become problematic. There was no reason for Toward Tradition to spurn Jack Abramoff’s support.

For many years Toward Tradition was admired and envied for having someone like Jack Abramoff on our board of directors. In any typical week I would field several calls from prominent business or political leaders, even from a sprinkling of celebrities, all seeking my help in gaining access to Jack Abramoff. As recently as April 3rd, 2002, The New York Times published a flattering front page profile of Jack Abramoff with nary a word of criticism. He was widely viewed in glowing terms both socially and politically.

The insinuations of wrongdoing on the part of Toward Tradition are untrue and unfair. This is to be expected. As a prominent conservative spokesman heading a conservative organization, we present a juicy target for a left-leaning press. But very few people get a fair shake in the press. The news media are not in the business of “being fair.” They are in the business of selling. They sell subscriptions, advertising, and publicity. That is how they get paid. Obviously, the first rule of selling is—get the prospect’s attention. This is what is happening when a used car salesman strolls up and asks you if you like the vehicle you’re gazing at. It is also exactly what a journalist does when he attracts your attention with a sensationalistic headline. Despite high-minded and self-serving rhetoric about journalistic responsibility, the media is in business like just about everyone else and being in business means selling. But selling means attracting attention and good news simply doesn’t attract attention. Sensational stories do attract attention. Wild accusations do attract attention. And when these wild accusations tar someone, it is notoriously difficult for a public person to obtain redress for libelous statements in the press. Years back, Ray Donovan, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Labor who was acquitted of corruption charges in a court of law after being tried and condemned by media, plaintively asked “Where do I go to get my reputation back?” No, the press doesn’t care about fairness. It is the nature of the beast.

On a personal level, this affair reminds me that human beings are far too complex creations to be evaluated with a simple balance sheet. Imagine a man who saved someone’s life, raised money for the homeless and hungry, and did seven other wonderful deeds. However, during the same time period he also was cruel to a cat, had an affair and divorced his wife, and did eleven other horrible things.

We are tempted to do some simple arithmetic on this human being. A total of nine good deeds versus thirteen bad deeds results in a minus four rating. We then conclude that he is a moderately terrible human being. He is much worse than someone with a plus seven rating and not quite as bad as someone with a negative nine rating.

The truth is that this doesn’t work. God created us as infinitely complex creatures. We are capable of both evil actions and good ones—very often on the same day. Even a moral reprobate like Schindler made a list that saved many innocent lives. Someone who does some terrible things but also does some good things is better for the world than someone who only does terrible things. Someone who atones for his evil is better than someone who feels no remorse. It is a mistake to label a person as ‘evil’ because of his evil actions. We are better off evaluating only people’s many varied actions, leaving God to evaluate people in their totality.

Jack Abramoff is a practicing Jew who has admitted doing things that his faith despises. This embarrasses other observant Jews as well it should. Heaven knows, religious people are just as imperfect as secular people. Being religious doesn’t mean one is perfect and never sins. It does mean that when a religious person sins, he is tormented by pangs of remorse. He agonizes in knowing every day that he has let down, not only himself, his family and his friends, but also his God. Many of us are lured into the trap of sounding self-righteous and sanctimonious when we condemn the behavior of religious wrongdoers. While it is true that we are entitled to expect a higher standard of conduct from those who fear God, it is not true that God-fearing people who sin are irredeemable hypocrites. They are religious people who are not perfect. They are not proof of the general hypocrisy of faith neither are they a vindication of secularism. It would be admirably consistent were the press to identify most of the murderers, muggers, robbers, and rapists of society as miscreants who never had any exposure to religion.

I am terribly saddened by the tragic turn of events in Jack Abramoff’s life and by the impact his actions have had and will have on the lives of many people including his own wife and children. Could I have foreseen the calamity and its peripheral but distracting impact on Toward Tradition? I don’t really think so. Many shrewd lawyers and business professionals as well as experienced politicians in Jack Abramoff’s orbit failed to sense any peril.

Had Abramoff’s lifestyle been dissolute; replete with women, drugs, yachts, and fast cars, I along with many others would certainly have recognized the unwholesome warning signs and been uncomfortable. However, from what I observed, Jack’s life revolved around his work, his family, and his faith. He spent money on subsidizing a kosher restaurant, a religious high school, Israeli causes, and helping poor relatives. These don’t excuse illegal acts but neither were they warning signs to his friends and associates.

There are many who hate what Toward Tradition stands for and who will exploit this unpleasant association by hurling mud. They never had any interest in the truth and the truth won’t change their actions.

Abraham Lincoln was reputed to have said, “If I were to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, then angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

To those of you who always assumed that Toward Tradition conducted itself with integrity and propriety, I appreciate you giving us the benefit of the doubt and I hope this account of a tragic episode confirms your assessment.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin.
Toward Tradition
Mercer Island, Washington.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox Rabbi in Seattle, Washington, is author of Thou Shall Prosper, America’s Real War and Buried Treasure ,is President of Toward Tradition and hosts his own television and radio shows.


Abramoff – A show of bad faith

The Jack Abramoff situation, aside from being sleazy, is sad. Jack was an idealistic youth when he headed the College Young Republicans, and it is sad to see that youthful idealism give way to the lust for money and power. What is additionally sad is that Jack is an orthodox Jew. One who is supposed to live by the moral teachings of the Torah.

Jeff Jacoby, another orthodox Jew, has written an article titled, “Bringing faith into contempt.” Some excerpts:

By his own admission, Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is a crook. But that isn’t the worst that can be said about him.

He defrauded his clients of millions of dollars, bribed public officials, cheated on his tax returns, and deceived lenders to qualify for a loan. But that isn’t the worst that can be said about him, either.

He made himself at home in and contributed to the swamp of corruption that fills Washington with its stench. His e-mails to cronies, with messages like “Can you smell money?!?!?!” and “I’d love us to get our mitts on that moolah!!”, oozed greed and boorishness. Behind their backs, he crudely mocked those who hired him, calling them “morons,” “monkeys,” “troglodytes,” and “the stupidest idiots in the land.” He played fast and loose with what were supposed to be charitable funds. But not even that is the worst that can be said about him.

The worst is that Abramoff is a Jew. Not only a Jew, but an Orthodox Jew — someone who claims to be committed to strictly observing Jewish law and faithfully adhering to the Torah’s ethical standards. But instead of upholding those ethical standards Abramoff trampled on them, and a “religious” Jew who behaves so corruptly disgraces not only himself but all religious Jews. He brings his faith into contempt. He is guilty of what Jewish tradition calls, with disgust, *chillul ha-Shem* — a desecration of God’s name.

For me — also an observant Jew — that is the worst thing of all.

Honesty in financial dealings is not optional in Judaism; it is mandatory. The Talmud teaches that when a person is brought to judgment in the world-to-come, the first question the heavenly tribunal puts to him is: “Did you conduct your business affairs in good faith?” A Jew who takes the values of his religion seriously must be scrupulous in his transactions with others. To be sure, even the saintliest people — not to mention the rest of us — sometimes fall short of the values they profess. But Abramoff’s criminal deeds and sleazy manner are a lot worse than mere lapses in judgment. One who behaves so unethically and illegally drags more than his own reputation through the mud. He is an embarrassment to his religion and his community, and that comes close to being unforgivable.

Read more.

Osama bin Laden dead?

Michael Ledeen says his sources have told him that Osama bin Laden died last month in Iran of kidney failure.

And, according to Iranians I trust, Osama bin Laden finally departed this world in mid-December. The al Qaeda leader died of kidney failure and was buried in Iran, where he had spent most of his time since the destruction of al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Iranians who reported this note that this year’s message in conjunction with the Muslim Haj came from his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for the first time.



Union for Reform Judaism hijacked?

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has a press release on their web site opposing the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. The Union claims to be the representative of 1.5 Million Reform Jews in the U.S. They may well be, but I wonder if they polled their membership on this issue?

Yesterday Senator Diane Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated it would be improper to make judgment on Judge Alito before the hearings begin. Yet, that is exactly what the URJ has done.

You might ask why would this organization be taking such a stand? That is a good question. Nowhere in their bylaws or mission statement does it mention political activities. In fact, since the group is a non-profit organization, their involvement in political issues might be against their charter, and might cause problems with their tax-exempt status.

It is not uncommon for an organization that has other purposes when it is formed to be hijacked by activists to use it as a base for their own ideals. The statement against Alito says “Representatives of the 1.5 million [Reform] Jews in North America.” That sure is a lot of people and thus should wield large influence among the unknowing. The unknowing, being those who are unaware that the organization has no basis to make these statements in the first place and that the decision was not made on a democratic basis.

So what are Alito’s crimes that would cause him to be slapped down by the URJ days before his hearings? The URJ says he “Would threaten the protection of the most fundamental rights.” “On choice, women’s rights, civil rights and the scope of federal power, Alito (read Bush) would shift the ideological balance of the Supreme Court.”

Making the arguments against Alito was the Vice-President for the People for the American Way. So whose meeting was this – the URJ or activist left-wing political groups?

On top of this, the voting was done by a voice vote despite many non-delegates being in the room. One might question what affiliation those guests had who were there for this political hijacking.

The URJ should focus on its mission as defined by its by-laws and tell its activists to leave their political opinions at home or join an organization formed for that purpose.

As I said in this previous post, the Union for Reform Judaism has lost its way. The URJ, which represents the largest branch of organized Judaism in the United States, constitutes the extreme left of American political thought and of American Jews. The concern of the Union is no longer “what is best for the Jews,” but what is best for the cause of American political liberalism.

Where are the reform Jews who will challenge the position of the URJ?


Galles: Fix the problem, not just the corruption

Fix the problem, not just the corruption

Gary M. Galles, Guest Columnist
LA Daily News

The widening circle of federal “public servants” being connected to the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal has others looking for ways to inoculate themselves from the fallout this November. Republicans are readying ethics-reform legislation to that end. Others are calling for new campaign-finance restrictions. But while such responses reflect public outrage at the latest evidence of corruption in the system, it is not clear that they will lead to a more responsible government.
New ethics rules, corruption laws or campaign finance restrictions are unlikely to contribute much to fixing our nation’s governance problems because these failings are primarily rooted in what the government is allowed to do, not in how people manage to get the ear of those who control its levers of power.

The central problem is that long-standing constitutional constraints limiting government power have been progressively eroded, so that government has increasingly turned from being the protector of the rights of its citizens against the violations of others to being itself a pervasive violator of those rights. The resulting ability to help political friends at others’ expense leads to the abuse of government power, regardless of how access to elected officials is obtained.

Consider Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, granting Congress the power to levy “uniform taxes” to provide for the “general welfare.” In contrast, today’s tax code is filled with discriminatory taxes designed to burden particular subgroups of the population. Further, a large proportion of federal spending is designed to benefit certain groups at taxpayers’ expense, as illustrated by the massive amounts of pork in recent legislation.

There is nothing in the Constitution that even hints that such taxes for the provision of benefits to special interests is a legitimate federal function. But the fact that such policies are now considered acceptable – even commendable – leads to abusive government.

Consider also the Fifth Amendment’s statement, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” While this prevents the government from physically taking your property without payment, current court interpretations allow governments to force the sale of almost any property, whenever they choose, and to take large parts of its value to benefit particular special interests through regulations and restrictions.

For example, rent-control laws do not physically take apartments from their owners, but transfer much of their value to current tenants. This ability to push costs onto others in order to help supporters is another source of abusive government.

Similar reinterpretations have befallen other parts of the Constitution, such as the contracts and commerce clauses, which essentially have been transformed from barriers against government intrusion into open invitations under even the flimsiest of pretexts. Again, the effect has been to expand the power of legislators and bureaucrats into areas our Founding Fathers tried to put beyond their reach.

The result of such changes has been an increase in the power of government officials to do what our Constitution formerly ruled out, and this has led to governance that is a far cry from one primarily concerned with the general welfare. Once these powers have been seized by government, access to government officials in ways considered corrupt – as with the Abramoff scandal – can worsen the results for others who will be forced to bear the burdens of every special favor.

But reforms in how access to the powerful can legally be acquired would not solve the underlying problem: government with few constraints on its ability to do favors to friends, which necessarily harms others.

Reforms pushed in response to the latest government corruption scandal address aspects of irresponsible government that are too far from its core. Unless the Constitution’s restrictions on government powers are taken more seriously, they will do little to produce a more responsible government.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. Write to him in care of Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA 90263.


David Letterman – Discourteous and ignorant

In an article in the American Thinker, Bob Weir points out the level of discourse that prevails now in American television.

“Sixty percent of what you say is crap,” said David Letterman to his guest, Bill O’Reilly. Sadly, this is the level to which dialogue in America has fallen. Here we have a man who is the host of a major late-night show on national television, and he is rude to someone he invited as a guest. From the moment O’Reilly sat down opposite the CBS clown, he was peppered with insults and accusations about how he orchestrates his top-rated cable news program, The O’Reilly Factor.

In the first exchange, Letterman criticized O’Reilly’s support of the tradition that makes Christmas the reason for the season. When the Factor host provided evidence of the systematic attempt by some schools and large retail stores to remove Christ from the landscape, the suddenly acerbic comic began his attack. “I just think that people like you are trying to make us think it’s a threat,” he said. When his guest gave more examples of the erosion of the values upon which this country is founded, he was practically called a liar. “I don’t believe you, I think you‘re making it up,” responded Letterman. The New York audience, made up mostly of liberal fans of the show, responded like trained seals, applauding vigorously at every critical comment made by the host.

Letterman is typical of those on the left who can’t provide rational arguments for their anti-war, anti-Bush political position, and who live in a liberal bubble thinking the whole country thinks like them.

Weir concludes with:

Yes, it must be tough to stay in the good graces of powerful celebrities, but one sure way to be invited to all the right Beverly Hills soirees or New York ACLU cocktail parties is to attack anyone who supports the virtues of religion or love of country. Surely, O’Reilly knew he was going to be a Christian thrown to the lions when he walked out on that stage, but he had the guts to do it. Letterman wouldn’t understand that, but he turned out to be right about one thing; he’s not smart enough to debate O’Reilly.