1. The Early Pilgrims and Founding Fathers of the USA were inspired by Passover’s message of optimism while facing severe challenges and threats. Moses and the US leaders catapulted their peoples from the lowest ebb of spiritual and physical servitude (to the Egyptian King Pharaoh and the British King George III) to the highest level of liberty/freedom (in the Land of Israel and the United States of America).
Glancing out the back window where my water saturated mud filled garden had once flourished, I remembered how the past decades of gardening began. Like today it was early spring and my neighbor and I decided to cordon off a 400 square foot area between our properties. It was not a pretty site. The ground was brown and slightly frozen because the mid-April sun did not have the strength to completely thaw out the soil. We didn’t care. We were going to produce a garden that would become the envy of the neighborhood. I am proud to report this is true today.
environment to their own Western state-of-mind and well-intentioned wishful-thinking.
Middle East reality – as demonstrated, systematically, by the Arab walk – has frustrated Western misperceptions of the “Middle East conflict,” which has never been the Arab-Israeli conflict. Furthermore, and contrary to Western conventional wisdom, Middle East reality has underlined the Palestinian issue as a non-core-cause of Middle East turbulence, not a crown jewel of Arab policy making, nor the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Moreover, Western peace initiatives tend to downplay the fact that Middle East reality has yet to experience long-term intra-Arab or intra-Muslim domestic and regional peaceful coexistence.
While Western observers tend to refer to the Arab-Israeli conflict as “the Middle East conflict,” in reality, the Middle East has been dominated by a multitude of intra-Arab and intra-Muslim conflicts, totally unrelated to Israel, neither directly nor indirectly.
Thus, the April 4, 2019 France 24, reports that the Khalifa Haftar militia – one of dozens of militias afflicting Libya since the 2011 toppling of Qaddafi – is advancing on Tripoli. In fact, civil wars have traumatized Libya since the toppling of Qaddafi, which was led by the US/NATO, despite the fact that the Libyan dictator transferred his nuclear infrastructure to the US and fought Islamic terror organizations in North Africa. The Libyan revolution – which produced some 30,000 fatalities – transformed that strategically located country into a major platform of Islamic terrorism, threatening every country in Northern Africa, Sub Sahara Africa, Europe and beyond.
A multitude of inter-Arab, inter-Muslim wars have afflicted the Middle East since the appearance of Islam in the seventh century. More recently the regional reality has featured conflicts – unrelated to Israel – such as the Syrian civil war, which erupted in 2011 (with over half a million killed and about 10 million displaced and/or refugees); the Iraq civil war since 2003 (around 500,000 casualties and 3 million refugees and displaced persons); the most recent civil war in Yemen, which has also been a Saudi-Iran war-by-proxy (some 100,000 dead and 3 million refugees), that succeeded the civil war of the 1960s, with Egyptian involvement (with some 200,000 killed); the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war (800,000 killed) was a follow up to their 1936-1974 wars and the 1975 peace agreement; the South Yemen-Oman war of 1968-1970 (with some 100,000 killed and half a million refugees; etc.
While the Middle East volcano emits lava (including terrorism), which threatens to sweep every Arab/Islamic regime, further destabilizing the region, increasingly afflicting and threatening the homeland security of Western Europe and the US, many Western policy makers and observers are still preoccupied with the Palestinian issue, which is relatively-minor in the Middle East Arab/Muslim context.
At a time, when the US contemplates a new Israel-Palestinian peace initiative, one may benefit from an essay by Amir Taheri, an Iran-born veteran author and analyst of Middle East affairs, whose analyses have been vindicated by reality.
Taheri poses the following rhetorical question: “Is Israel the problem? With the Middle East in crisis from end to end, analysts focus on one rather peripheral dispute.”
This experienced analyst sheds light on the critical flaws of Western movers and shakers, such as the late President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker. Thus, rather than leverage the 1991 liberation of Kuwait and the devastation of Saddam Hussein’s military – by enhancing the US posture of deterrence, clipping the wings of Iran’s Ayatollahs and advancing a durable pact of security cooperation between Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and additional Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula – the US focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict and convened the 1991 Madrid Conference. Taheri defined it as “an impressive show of heads of states, but as proven by subsequent events, a wholly counterproductive exercise in peacemaking….
“The two key assumptions that led to Madrid were that the Arab-Israeli conflict was the issue… and that all other issues in the region were inextricably linked to it…. For a group of American ‘wise men’ to embrace such retrograde and easily refuted notions, bespeaks a truly dangerous ignorance of reality….
“In fact, far from being the root cause of instability and war in the wider Middle East, one could argue that the Arab-Israeli conflict is rather peripheral…. That the Arabs have long regarded Iran as an alien power is true enough. But, their preoccupation with Teheran has hardly deterred them from fighting bitterly among themselves as well…. The only neighbor with whom Egypt enjoys demarcated and internationally recognized borders is Israel….
“The notion that all of the [intra-Arab, intra-Muslim] problems can be waved away by ‘solving’ the Arab-Israeli conflict is, at best, a delusion…. With the exception of Israel, and the partial exception of Turkey, the entire Middle East lacks a culture of conflict resolution…. Such a culture can only be shaped through a process of democratization….”
Have Western policy makers learned from their predecessors by avoiding – or repeating – systematic errors, while addressing Middle East challenges and threats?
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
The Ettinger Report
I did not complain about his decrepit craft or his profane insults or his tattered life ring or his lousy aim. It was all I could do to hug his legs and kiss his ankle. The memory is still vivid and real, even though I now know I was dreaming.
My country was founded on a unique and exceptional principle. Its government is guaranteed to be subordinate to its citizens by its constitution and its separation of powers. It is obligated above all other things to guarantee freedom to its citizens. Freedom to own property, to choose what they think and believe and to speak freely about it, freedom to move about both geographically and up and down the economic ladder, freedom to trade their property, their skills and services and to spend their profits, all according to their own values and ambitions. My country’s government is obligated to consider these freedoms as granted by a higher authority and to protect them from external threats and from degradation from within.
When I began first grade in 1945 I did not understand any of this. I did not understand the value of this gift, or the one hundred sixty nine years of wars, booms and depressions that had led to that magic moment. Freedom had begot innovation and charity. Innovation had begot prosperity. Charity had begot the will to perfect our union, to strive continuously for the vision that all Men are created equal, to be a generous society and to save much of the world from tyranny, twice. The guiding principal that my government is subordinate to its people had made my country the master of the universe and enabled its people to be the most powerful and prosperous in the world. I did not understand how good it was or how much better it was about to become.
I searched my memory for the first time we broke our stride. When was the first step we took toward the abyss? Perhaps it was August 13, 1961. That day construction began on the Berlin Wall, condemning nearly four million people, the second largest city in Europe, to slavery for three decades. Our young president said little and did nothing. Could anyone imagine Truman or Eisenhower standing for this breach of Pottsdam where they had struggled to restructure the Western World to avoid World War III? Just twelve years earlier and less than four years after Pottsdam the Soviets had blockaded Berlin. Truman’s response, executed by Eisenhower’s former comrades in arms was a massive airlift of supplies to that beleaguered city. For nearly a full year as many as 1500 flights daily each carrying three tons of cargo challenged the Soviets to shoot them down. The soviets blinked and the blockade fell. In a single day our President abandoned our defense of Pottsdam, all of the effort and risk and cost of the airlift and our best defense against ever fighting World War III. It took only fourteen months after the wall, until in October 1962 the Soviets moved missiles into Cuba and further threatened our people and our way of life. By then, our President had learned the lesson of power and is rightly applauded for his steely response, but the crisis was born of our weakness and the message of our vulnerability was etched in the Berlin Wall and received by evil forces around the world.
It took less than three years from the construction of the wall until Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on August 7, 1964. On that day we condemned all Americans to eleven more years of wasted blood, spirit and wealth in Vietnam. The tragedy of Vietnam is not that bad tactical judgments were made, or stronger enemies met, or the domino theory flawed. The tragedy is that the domino had already fallen. Many in government knew at the time the duplicity of the lies underpinning the resolution and learned shortly the futility of the endeavor. How could there be a more eloquent display of contempt and disregard for the electorate, than subordination of the citizenry to a feckless government overreaching to save face? How great a testimony to the power our government will use to deceive us is the fifty-three years it took for Ken Burns and PBS to get the whole story out to the American people?
By 1974, the Baby Boomers were all in school and our birth rate was approaching its nadir. It was clear that pension reserves for many citizens were not being adequately funded. Life spans were increasing. There was a call for government action. The response was The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, (ERISA), signed into law on Labor Day, September 2, 1974. This law requires companies, associations and unions with stewardship over pensions to fund their reserves to standards that will assure promises made to our citizens will be promises kept. This was a powerful law and caused many needed reforms.
One reform was conveniently forgotten. In 1973, Social Security paid $51 billion to thirty million beneficiaries. All of the same demographic and life extending issues were clear and applicable to all pension funds, including Social Security. The same remedies required of corporations, unions and insurers could and should have been required for future Social Security beneficiaries. The resulting deficits of today and tomorrow were clear at the time. Our government chose for itself a path that it declared immoral and made illegal for all others. It chose to subordinate its citizen’s retirement income security to its own convenience and political gain. According to the Annual Report of the Social Security Trust Funds, the actuarial deficit for the next 75 years is approaching three percent of taxable payrolls. Along with Social Security, ERISA neglected most state and federal employee pensions and the future taxpayers who would fund them. Our tradition now is to continue to defer these debts, hopefully to be paid by the yet unborn. There will, however, come a day when we reach our credit limit and the accounts will be reconciled. This is taxation without representation on steroids and we are all complicit.
These were perhaps the three most consequential of many foundational leaps toward the abyss. The ground is now shifting under our foundation, bringing on an accelerating tsunami that we seem to accept without noticing. Lets look at the recent record and seriously ask if we are not on a collision course with doom.
In 1990 auditors reconciled tribal accounts owned by individual Native Americans. The auditors found $2.4 billion in shortages in two thousand accounts and were unable to reconcile seventeen thousand others. A class action suit based on audit reports was filed in 1996 and finally settled in 2009, but only after two cabinet officers were held in contempt for, “Flagrant disregard for the orders of the court and … lack of candor in concealing their wrongdoing!” Damages to the 300,000 Native Americans in the class action suit were estimated at $10 billion to $40 billion. The settlement included $1.4 billion, pennies on the dollar, for these damages with no penalties, no interest, no acknowledgement of malfeasance by the government and no commitment to manage or account for the trusts differently in the future. The President proclaimed in consummate newspeak, “This is an important step towards reconciliation.”
On March 23, 2010 the Affordable Health Act was signed into Law. It was sold to the people with with cost estimates known to be fraudulent and the hollow promise that, ”If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.” and “If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance.” We were told that even Congress could not read the over 20,000 pages in the law and, “We will have to pass it to see what is in it.” Organizations that behave this way toward their customers do not survive.
On June 8, 2010 Uranium-One signed an agreement that would transfer not less than 51% of the company to Rosatom, the Russian Nuclear Agency. The agreement was reviewed and not objected to by all nine members of the Committee on Foreign Investments and the President. The Nuclear Regularity Commission then approved it on November 24, 2010. The result of this transaction was to transfer control 20% of domestic uranium production to the Russian Government while we still need to import over 80% of our requirements. During the approval period, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, a Canadian charity connected to Uranium-One made multiple seven-figure, initially unreported donations to the Clinton Foundation and an investment firm related to Rosatom paid a $500,000 speaking fee to Bill Clinton. These are the uncontested facts. It is a marvel that so many people of high rank could see this transaction as a benefit to the citizens of a nation obsessed with fear of Russian interference in our domestic affairs and international security.
On September 11, 2012 an organized attack was made on an American Embassy compound in Bengazzi, Lybia with no military response by the United States. We were told it was spontaneous. It was not. We were told that there was no time to deploy a response. That too was a lie. We were never told why our Ambassador was in such an obviously vulnerable and threatened location. Congressional investigations were stonewalled. No analysis of the attack or our failure to defend was ever published by the State Department or the Military.
In 2013 the IRS revealed that it been selective in approving applications for tax-exempt status based on keywords associated with political convictions. No one was disciplined or fired.
In 2014 veterans died while waiting for medical care from the Veterans Health Administration. Managers there falsified reports to hide the problems and protect their bonuses. The senior executive at the VA was replaced but it is not clear that the guilty were punished or that the system has been improved.
On June 14, 2018 Bill Clinton met with Loretta Lynch in an airplane on the tarmac in Phoenix. Soon thereafter Lynch watered down the language in a report of investigations of Bill’s wife Hillary Clinton. In any such situation involving a private sector plaintiff or defendant, any prosecutor would automatically recuse herself from any decisions regarding the case, if only to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Apparently in this case, the people were assumed to be too dumb or too irrelevant to question impropriety.
We could go on, but it is not necessary. It was not long ago we ended a presidency for participation in a cover-up of overactive gumshoes for a petty off the clock burglary of an opposition political party office. That offense pales in the shadow of an active campaign of eavesdropping and unmasking members of an opposition campaign by a national security team acting on the clock, under orders and without customary constitutional process. Every one of the above scandals illustrates abdication of power to unaccountable administrators un-checked by Congress and in many cases unchecked by courts or the President. Each replaces rule of Law by rule of Men, unelected men. Each was an opportunity missed for investigative reporters coveting a Pulitzer. Each demonstrates subordination of our citizens to our government. Taken together do they not threaten our existence?
The “administrative state” makes countless regulations and decisions about every aspect of our lives: Where we live, what we teach our children and what bathrooms they use, what foods we eat, what medicines we take, what cars we buy, what businesses we can operate, who gets and does not get what tax benefits, research grants or subsidies, what priorities local governments must set to receive federal grants. It is not relevant whether the people in the “Administrative State” are good or bad, wise or foolish. The fact is that these are human beings, flawed just like the rest of us, they spend twenty two percent of all that we all produce and make many important decisions with our money and about our lives from a great distance without any accountability.
Many people say, “The world is so complex today, we need more rules!” These are perhaps the same people who say we need the same minimum wage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, Mississippi or who think the VA should be protected from loosing customers to others who serve them better or that all immigrants should be equally welcome.
Many people say, “We have always had scandals.” Yet who can argue that we are not witnessing a tsunami of disregard for the individual citizen? Who cannot see this as a reversal of the responsibility to our founding principle that government is by the people and for the people and its responsibility is to defend the rights of its citizens from external and internal threats, and especially from the government itself?
How can we be rescued from this tsunami? Can we find a leader who will reduce tax payments by at least 20% for every family with income under $75,000 who previously did not itemize deductions? Can we find a leader who will recognize and begin to act upon the dangers presented to and too often financed by us from actors like, China, North Korea, Iran, Russia and Venezuela? Can we find a leader who will carve down the Federal Register by 36,000 pages of new regulations and administrative decrees, or decrease the number of “Economically significant” (as defined by the OMB) new administrative rules from 72 to 19 in his first year? Can we find a leader who could survive two years of intensive investigation and relentless attack by those fully committed to his destruction, without any evidence yet presented worthy of prosecution?
If we could find such a leader, should we care if he were a deplorable and profane old man who we would not invite to dinner or introduce to our children? Should we scorn if he is imperfect in many ways we see ourselves superior, at times profane and inarticulate and off target? If we could find such a leader would we not dream that somehow he was saving us? At the end of our dream, might we not hug his legs and kiss his ankles, our only emotion being relief from the cold abyss and the sharks within it who he just deprived of our flesh for dinner? Would it be a surprise if the sharks in our dream were not happy?
Michael Moffitt Column
Granddad’s Dictionary: Reflections on Life in America
by Michael Moffitt
ISBN: 978-1-4908-2916-6 (sc)
Published April 7, 2014
I guess now is the time for all to accuse me of being a leftist snowflake fool who hates Donald Trump. I write to many far right organizations that totally support our President. Many have asked me why I do this and I answer by stating why would anyone waste his or her time writing to people who agree with everything you say. The problem is I believe in Constitutional Law and fiscal responsibility. In other words, I agree with Republican views and Conservative issues. It is obvious to me that Republicanism no longer exists. The Trump Party does and as soon as everyone clearly understands this reality the better.
What does all this have to do with all of our futures? Actually, I am more concerned with the future of my daughter and grandchildren. I had a good life full of opportunities and success. Of course, I had a few failures and mistakes mixed in. I am concerned with their education. They are interested and interesting. Their enthusiasm makes me feel as though I had a few extra years left in my life. Understanding that the Trump people want to cut as much as possible from public education and hand it over to private profiteers concerns me. When I listened to Betsy DeVos again want to cut most education policies including ‘Special Olympics’ my heart grows very heavy. I am a retired teacher whose life observed all levels of my students try. Some need a bit of extra help and anyone or any power that wants to eliminate this help makes me a bit ill. Hell, it makes me very ill. I guess this defines the categorization of being a snowflake.
I clearly understand there is an immigration policy in our nation. I also clearly understand who immigrants are. They are not murderers and drug dealers. They are people who want a better life for themselves and their family. It wasn’t so different a hundred years ago. The Irish and the Italians came to our country for the same reasons. The people who were already here also did not like these people attacking our nation. The Irish drank too much and the Italians were called ‘WOPS’ because they were without papers. I have to admit seeing children in fenced cages also make me very ill.
Trump’s foreign policy confuses me. The nations that were considered our allies have become our burdens. The nations that were considered our enemies are now our friends. Dictators have become what we strive to become while democracy is something that should be put in the graves of our future. Please remember NATO has kept our world at peace for 74 years. The time between World War One and World War Two was only 28 years.
Our fiscal policy is frightening. We are now in more debt then we have ever been before. This includes times of war and peace. It seems logical the only way we can attempt to balance a budget would be to eliminate all social programs like ‘The Affordable Health Care Act’, ‘Medicare’, ‘Medicaid’, ‘Social Security’, and all programs established to help the poor survive. Remember this massive deficit was amplified by giving tax breaks to the richest people on our planet. Personally this terrifies me because I’ve been paying into these programs for well over 55 years. I never asked for help in my life and paid in every week with every paycheck I earned with the knowledge of a promise I would be taken care of when I was no longer able to work. Am I defined as a snowflake because I can’t understand why this promise is being taken away?
Social Issues are now being discussed to not strengthen what they represent but to attempt to eliminate them so we can go back into a history we are trying to forget. Religion scares me the most. I believe in a good God whose grace is based on life and forgiveness. I have to clearly admit I have no idea what this new form of religious power is. Christ had no use for power. In fact, he fought against it. Why does our nation now strive for it?
As a retired chemistry teacher I believe in science. I believe in data and reality that is based on fact. We have a problem with our environment. I live on the Southern Coast of Maine. For years, my family and I have enjoyed the soft sands of beaches that led to the ocean. For the past few years this soft sand area has diminished. Last year it disappeared. The water is rising not only in text books or as part of a science fiction movie but in reality. All one has to do is open their eyes and look out their windows.
Ethics and morality seem to be memories of our past. The concept of lying and deceiving was something we were taught was wrong. Today in our present reality it has become the rule of how to retain power. I wonder how we can teach our children to respect each other and have disdain for bullying when the leader of our nation defines who he is by his art of the bully.
I have to admit I was shocked. As I watched the news on TV I viewed a woman clearly state that she never thought she would say this but if we have to have a dictator let it be Donald Trump. As an accused snowflake I vote for never having any dictator.
Not because it was bad news. Far from it. When two interceptors were fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California against an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-class target launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, they scored a direct hit — exactly as they were designed to do.
It’s another vindication of the philosophy behind the Strategic Defense Initiative. In fact, the March 25 test came just two days after the 36th anniversary of when President Reagan gave his famous SDI address from the Oval Office.
He took a lot of heat for proposing what was then derided as “Star Wars.” Critics insisted you couldn’t hit “a bullet with a bullet.” But as usual, betting against American willpower and technology proved to be a losing position.
You’d think they would have learned after the moon landing, but no. For some people, it’s too important to score political points than to dream big.
That’s exactly what Reagan did. In his address to the nation on March 23, 1983, he said:
“What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?”
The Shamrak Report is an independent weekly editorial letter published since 2001. The aim is to promote the Jewish point of view on the Arab-Israel conflict; motivate Jewish people and our true friends to uphold the ideals and aspirations of traditional Zionism. The editorial is not sponsored by or affiliated with any government, political party or organization. You may use articles and letters on your website, FaceBook etc.