Monday, March 30, 2015

Memo to Indiana: This is the religious freedom you don't have. And never did.

Here is a Constitutional news flash for governor Mike Pence, the Indiana state legislature about their new religious freedom law:

First amendment religious freedom gives someone the right to worship any way you wish.  And believe anything they wish. And express that belief any way you wish . In their personal lives. Not their public or business life .  That's the religious freedom everyone has. And that's all the religious freedom people have.  

Though no one is making a case that the Indiana religious freedom law violates the constitution , the first amendment states:" congress shall make no law with respect to the establishment of religion nor the free exercise thereof". 

Federal law always trumps state law so that any law passed by a state legislature that would establish religion it use religion  as a means to favor or discriminate against anyone is unconstitutional. 

Though the constitution guarantees that no law can be passed that prevents the free exercise of religion that isn't the case with the Indiana law. The first amendment still prohibits any law that allows the exercise  of a religious belief that interferes with the rights of anyone else.  What the Indiana law really says us that gays and lesbians have no rights . Which is why Indiana  is refusing to fix the law by guaranteeing equal rights protections to gays  and lesbians.  Which they already have but apparently not in Indiana. 

In medieval Europe the Christian church which was the most powerful,  and their religious beliefs and  dictums were the justifcation for burning people alive at the stake, most of them women. They also used the force of the power of religious law along with their influence over military power to commit what can only be called atrocities against anyone who rejected  those beliefs in favor of their own. 

Puritans in early America hanged women as witches based on religious beliefs . 

All that ended in America with the U.S. Constitution. 

The so called " religious freedom" law in Indiana justifying the right of any business to refuse to serve anyone who's lifestyle or beliefs offends them based on their own  religious beliefs is not just unconstitutional, though it's not being challenged on those grounds, it's a thinly veiled attempt to impose a statement of moral ideas  on those who don't share them, dont believe them, have no scientific basis, and want nothing to do with them. 

Which is how the KKK used  their religious beliefs against African Americans and anyone else who were outside their ideas of racial purity and claimed religion as their justification. 

And how the Catholic church created and fostered anti-semitism from the days of the emperor Constantine into the 20th century because of the refusal of Jews to accept the church and their teachings, many of which tried to impose tyrannical power over the individual as Thomas Jefferson pointed out in  many of his letters which led to his campaign for the  separation of church and state in America . 

Indiana's law states in part that no law can be passed or enforced that would place "an undue burden" on a person's religious beliefs and that any business owner has the right to refuse service to anyone if doing so offends those beliefs. 

 The U.S. constitution says the opposite -- that no law can be passed based on religion that can put any burden undue or otherwise,  on anyone else for any reason in the exercise of their rights. 

Aside from the fact that Indiana, it's legislature and governor are now being mocked  around the country for a clearly discriminatory law, from a strictly  business point of view its already been a disaster . And unless it's significantly changed, all that's going to be left of Indiana's law is the bad taste it leaves in everyone else's mouth about Indiana.  And it could carry that stigma for a long time to come.  Though they could always hire a gay PR agent to try and change it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Obama's empty threats to Israel.

Following Netanyahu's election, news outlets like CNN are "reporting" that in a conversation with Netanyahu Obama "warned" that in light of Netanyahu's pre-election statement disavowing a Palestinian state, that Obama would have to "reassess" the U.S. relationship with Israel.

This of course carries as much weight as anything else Obama has ever had to say on anything which as history has shown, is nothing.

The reason the word "reporting" is in quotes is that the content of a private conversation between world leaders only gets "reported" when the White House wants it to and uses the news media like a PR arm. Its for public consumption and is designed to make Obama look tough which as the world has seen in the past is the equivalent of Obama putting his face in the hole of a fun photo He-Man cut out at a mid west state fair. 

Obama in reality is reassessing nothing because there is nothing to reassess. Obama's statement is supposed to make Netanyahu nervous but it's as empty as anything else Obama has ever proclaimed and won't be taken seriously now. Netanyahu cares about one thing -- security and nothing is going to change that. And that includes dismissing another calculated "leak" to the press that Obama is "considering" supporting a UN resolution that supports a two state solution based on pre 1967 borders. Which puts Obama's face back into the photo op  cardboard cut out since, given what happened when the Israelis pulled out of Gaza in 2005, is not now going to be a consideration. 

What has to be remembered is that Obama has no credibility in the middle east and hasn't since before his first election. It was Obama himself who poisoned the well and destroyed his credibilty and  any possibility that he would be able to be perceived as an honest broker between the Israelis and Palestinians in any peace negotiations.   And he managed to do that before he was even elected. And he did it to try and get votes. 

It was in June 2008 when candidate Obama,  aware that Florida could be a swing state in the presidential election and mindful of Florida's substantial Jewish population, gave a speech to AIPAC designed to appeal to that vote that in the end destroyed his credibility forever in the mid east.

Following his usual pattern of saying whatever he thinks he needs to say at any time to anyone to  get what he wants he told the 7,000 Jews attending the conference that he supported a single unified undivided Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel.

This gave him what he was looking for -- a standing ovation from the 7,000 American Jews in attendance.

But it also showed that not only was Obama not qualifed to be president,  he was careless, reckless, shallow, and had no grasp of the seriousness of the job he was pursuing. Or what would be expected of him in peace negotiations  if he were elected president. None of that mattered at the time. Getting  votes did. 

For decades the final status of Jerusalem was to be the last issue considered in peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That's why it was called "final status". The reason was obvious. It was the single most contentious issue in the negotiations, more so  than the right of return which is still a non-starter for the Israelis. 

It was always believed by U.S. negotiators that if a deal could be reached on everything else, the sides would be more willing to find a compromise on Jerusalem rather than see everything else go down the drain over that one issue.

Obama's statement while embraced by Israel and American Jews, blew that idea and his own credibility out of the water for the Palestinians.  At the time it essentially yanked the rug out from under their feet before a single negotiation took place under the auspices of a soon to be elected president Obama. At one time, under the arm twisting of Bill Clinton,  Ehud Barak had offered Arafat half of East Jerusalem as the capitol of a Palestinain state in order to finalize a peace deal, something no Israeli prime minister had done before or since.  Arafat rejected it demanding all of East Jerusalem and launched the Infitada,a series of terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis. Which is why the Palestinians instead of having their own state have been in the state they're in.  It is not likely any Israeli prime minister will ever offer part of East Jerusalem again but that was still no reason for a presidential candidate to issue a public statement that put an end to Palestinian hopes on Jerusalem or took away a negotiating position.

Within 24 hours of candidate Obama's statement which was treated like the shot heard round the middle east, the Palestinians and other Arab leaders attacked  Obama angrily and relentlessly.

Which led to what has become most typical of Obama and the one thing people can always count on the most. He reneged. 

Within 24 hours of his being attacked by the Palestinians, he did an about face and claimed the world misunderstood him, that they didn't fully comprehend the meaning of his words, that he didn't really mean he supported  a single undivided Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel but that what he really meant  by undivided was that he supported a "Jerusalem with no barbed wire."

The fact that there had been no barbed wire in Jerusalem since 1967 when it was taken by the Israelis in the 1967 war ( whose intent, on behalf of the Palestinians, was to wipe out Israel) Obama's attemp at backtracking was so lame and dishonest, it made " my dog ate my homework" sound believable. There isn't a 3rd grade substitute teacher anywhere who would've taken that explanation seriously from an 8 year old.

The Israeli response to Obama's reneging and his immediate about face  under pressure was also predictable. From that moment on, before he was even elected, Netanyahu would not trust Obama as far as he could throw a nuclear reactor. And the Palestinians didn't trust him either. And with Obama's history of backtracking and concessions on everything from healthcare reform and other domestic policy to his foreign policy failures, from red lines over Assad's use of chemical weapons to the current collapse in Yemen, it  only  re-enforced Netanyahu having no faith in anything that Obama says not the least of which would be his ability to negotiate an effective nuclear deal with Iran.

 In short, as he has proved over and over again, Obama's word on anything is worthless. Whether it's "considering" sending arms to Ukraine, or "reassessing" U.S.-Israeli relations. 

But ironically it could be said that his June 2008 speech and subsequent about face did manage to unite the Israelis and Palestinians on one issue -- their mutual contempt and distrust of him. And its the single biggest reason why Obama has been the most ineffective of any U.S. president in dealing with the middle east peace process, why his relationship with Netanyahu is so strained and why Obama's current PR attempt with his threat to "reassess" the U.S. relationship with Israel  is taken as seriously as  Obama's other  statements (when Obama made his famous "red line" commitment to launch a missile strike against Assad if he used chemical weapons Obama added at the time, " and everyone knows I don't bluff").

According to a "report" in the New York Times, Obama has said he will not "waste his time" managing Israel-US relations and will leave that to Kerry. As if he ever managed them at all. Or had any influence on anyone.  Presumably that  also means Obama will instead continue to waste his and everyone else's time on everything else he has to deal with  whether it's more of his decisive and effective action in stopping  Putin in Ukraine, coming up with new words in dealing with Isis who he once called the "junior varsity", or currently overseeing the evacuation all U.S. personnel from Yemen, the country  he touted not long ago as one of his great anti-terrorism policy successes.

What does give a glimmer of hope is that Obama will no longer waste everyone's time dealing with U.S.- Israeli relations or the peace process as has been the case with everything else  for the previous six years and was the case during in his eleven years of elective office before running for president as a politician  who never had a single legislative accomplishment , even a minor one, in all those eleven years. And it continues to show.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Nancy Pelosi: an insult to everyone's intelligence.

Days before it was given some were calling Netanyahu's speech before congress on Iran and the nuclear talks, historical.  Five minutes after the speech Nancy Pelosi made comments that could accurately be called hysterical..

Pelosi called Netanyahu's speech on Iran which pointed out the obvious flaws in Obama's position and his lack of negotiating skills "an insult to the intelligence of the U.S." Which was itself insulting to the intelligence of everyone involved.

In attempting to act as a political flak  for Obama she ended up insulting the intelligence of everyone in the House chamber and everyone in the United States and around the world including the Saudis and Egyptians and anyone who had the temerity ( and good judgement) to disagree with her and agreed with Netanyahu or at the very least felt his position and concerns deserved to be heard. 

Pelosi  has embarrassed herself before on matters of policy but she embarrassed herself even more by thinking she had some gravitas or authority moral, political or intellectual,  to speak for the entire country and the congress.  What she did was display exactly the kind of partisan political knee jerk arrogance , intellectual dishonesty and stupidity that Netanyahu was there to warn against. 

Democrats and Democratic voters remember that  it was Pelosi who betrayed and sold out her own conscience, Democrats in the House and those who voted for Democrats in 2008 by supporting Obama's sell out and capitulation to the health insurance lobby on health care reform by agreeing to drop the public option which led the Democrats over a cliff in the 2010 elections because of the betrayal by both Obama and Pelosi on the promise of a public health care option, reneging on that promise even though Democrats had the votes to pass it.

Pelosi's embarrassing comments naturally ignored her own failures and Obama's well established lack of negotiating skills, his established lack of backbone and a history of selling out and caving in to an adversary whether it was the health insurance industry, Wall Street, Putin in Crimea and eastern Ukraine or backing down from his own red line with Assad over the use of chemical weapons. None of which has been lost on Netanyahu. 

Add Obama's horrendous judgement in refusing the advice of his former Secretary of State three years ago and 3 former Secretaries of Defense who all quit rather than carry out his policies of refusing to arm the moderate rebels in Syria to fight the fledgling Isis, instead writing them off as "the junior varsity" and you have one foreign policy disaster after another all of which could have been avoided with better and tougher and more principled decisions instead of Obama's bad judgement and decisions that made a bad problem a thousand times worse as both Isis , Syria and what Putin did in Crimea and eastern Ukraine proves. Again, none of which is lost on Netanyahu but which would have far more serious consequences with Iran having a nuclear weapon. In fact it could be reasonably said that after George W. Bush, Obama is the worst foreign policy and domestic policy president the country has had since Richard Nixon.

The White House also criticized Netanyahu's speech by saying Netanyahu didn't offer an alternative plan that in Obama's words, " I could see".   That Obama couldnt see it doesn't mean it wasn't there. If he could've seen it Netanyahu probably wouldn't have been there to make the speech in the first place.

Netanyahu actually did offer an alternative as he pointed out himself in response to Obama's remarks. In fact the "nothing new" comment from Obama and some anonymous White House flunky saying Netanyahu is all talk and no action ( this is what psychologists call projection)  sounded like something they had prepared before the speech was even given.

Netanyahu's alternative was increasing the sanctions on Iran not decreasing them,  until they were willing to give up any possibility of being able to make a nuclear bomb which meant,  in Netanyahu's  words, cutting off all paths to Iran being able to obtain a nuclear weapon. That included reducing their number of centrifuges,eliminating and dismantling their heavy water reactor which is only used to enrich uranium and plutonium to weapons grade  and to increase  the "break out" time for Iran to make a bomb if they decided to renege on the deal in the future. Netanyahu also wanted Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism to be part of the negotiation which it is not. All of that was new. Along with a mechanism to verify Iran's compliance with unfettered inspections to insure that a government who has been caught lying in the past , this time can't.

So it's no wonder Obama didn't see it as anything new. Because Netanyahu's alternative would actually mean getting tough with Iran and drawing a real red line that Iran cannot cross or suffer more and tougher sanctions. That was the alternative plan Netanyahu offered that Obama couldn't see, instead of the dog chasing its tail negotiations going on in Geneva where it's Obama and Kerry who are constantly afraid Iran will walk away if it gets its feathers ruffled when it should be exactly the opposite.

As for Pelosi she is the last person in the world who can criticize anyone about being "condescending". Right now the U.S. has 50 million people who cant afford healthcare coverage but who would have had it under the public option.  Which doesn't stop Pelosi from trying to tell them how affordable the health insurance they cant afford really is. Which  makes Pelosi the most condescending figure since Marie Antoinette. 

The Democratic party has been in a shambles because of the lack of leadership of both Pelosi and Obama, and with a March 24 deadline for the Iran talks approaching Netanyahu clearly wanted to shine a light and might help prevent Obama from selling a bad deal.

While Pelosi's comments were designed to politically protect Obama from criticism,  Netanyahu's speech was designed to protect Israel and the United States and the rest of the world from an Iranian nuclear bomb. That is the real insult by Pelosi to everyone who knows there is no alternative to preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

Pelosi's politically motivated attempts to defend Obama's track record of failures which have already cost tens of thousands of lives in Syria and thousands of lives in Ukraine, and insisting Obama should just be trusted and  given the benefit of the doubt is not just an  insult to everyone's intelligence, it's farcical. And if Democrats have any hopes of winning in the future they need to realize it before the 2016 elections.  For Netanyahu, he can't afford to wait that long.

ADDENDUM: To highlight the true absurdity and weakness of the U.S. position in the Iran negotiations, almost making Netanyahu's point in warning against a bad deal, nothing could be more telling than what John Kerry said about the negotiations on Saturday, March 7. In expressing a united front  with the UK in the negotiations Kerry said, " We know what we are chasing and we are chasing after the same thing."

If Obama or Kerry knew how to negotiate it would be Iran, who wants all the sanctions lifted, who would be doing the chasing. Not the U.S. Which is why the talks will either fail or will result in Obama and Kerry trying to sell a bad and dangerous deal.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Netanyahu's speech: trying to prevent nuclear Obamacare with Iran and a bomb.

A lot has been written about Netanyahu's speech to congress with the emphasis on the superficiality of things like breaches in protocol,  mostly by some Democrats who see the speech as an afront to Obama as opposed to what is really is and what it was intended to be -- an affront to Obama's policy. 

The comparison to Obamacare is not politics nor has it anything to do with Republican attempts to overturn it. First and foremost it was a betrayal of Democrats and their voters and in pulling what amounted to a bait and switch by dropping the public option in an unnecessary capitulation to health insurance companies,  Obamacare became the most egregious sell out of a government policy to a special interest group -- the health insurance lobby -- in American   history. Netanyahu is trying to prevent the same result with a bad deal with Iran. Which it seems some Democrats still don't understand. Instead a few Democrats, roused by the White House decided to make an issue out of which side of the plate the salad fork really belongs. 

 You would have thought after getting wiped out in two elections for the same reasons --supporting or defending Obama's failures and his betrayals  of Democratic ideals and his promises reneged on over critical policies like healthcare with Obama caving in to the health insurance industry, Democrats would have learned a valuable lesson in what happens when you support failure for partisan reasons. Obviously they haven't and seem intent on doing what they do best politically -- shoot themselves in the foot especially in compromising their own principles to support Obama.

The reason for Netanyahu's speech is simply about one thing: Obama from the very beginning has proved he can't be trusted on anything much less a deal with Iran to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.  And Netanyahu knows what too many Democrats still won't admit -- that if Obama couldn't stand up to the health insurance industry, if he couldn't stand up to Wall Street, if he couldn't stand up to the threat of Isis calling them " the junior varsity" after refusing the advice of his former Secretary of State and three Secretaries of Defense to arm the moderate Syrian rebels to stop the threat and spread of Isis, if he wouldn't stand up to Putin in Crimea and won't stand up to Putin now  in eastern Ukraine, if he backed off his threat against Assad over the use of chemical weapons, why would Netanyahu or anyone else trust him to stand up to the Iranians and come away with anything more than a tepid, cosmetic, ineffective deal in order to claim success just like the ineffective cosmetic cave in on healthcare reform known as Obamacare?

A nuclear Obamacare with the Iranians is not something Netanyahu, nor most in congress are going to buy even if they do at Tea Party Left places like Daily Kos and ThinkProgress.

Hasn't anyone noticed that it's always Obama and Kerry who are afraid Iran will walk away from negotiations if they get their feathers ruffled? What kind of negotiating from a position of strength is that? Why isn't it the Iranians who are afraid the U.S.  will walk away? They're the ones who want all the sanctions lifted that are strangling their economy. 

Some in the news media like CNN are trying to put the best White House  face on Netanyahu's speech on behalf of the White House by trying to peddle the nonsense that it could hurt U.S. Israeli relations  and that the speech could backfire, calling the 34 Democrats who won't attend the speech (out of 535 members of congress) a "major backlash against Netanyahu" . But no one that matters takes that seriously. Nor their contention that it is somehow hurting U.S. -Israeli relations. It isn't. It only magnifies the strained relations between Netanyahu and Obama which goes back to June 2008 and got subsequently worse which the news media either out of their usual incompetence or cowardice over reporting anything that could jeopardize their White House  "access",  ignores.

The distrust of Obama by Netanyahu began when Obama ruined any chance to broker a mid east peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians  after  a speech he made to AIPAC  in June 2008 when he proved he was not only no statesman or even cared about accomplishing anything other than getting elected, but that  he was willing to say anything to anyone at anytime to get what he wanted politically regardless of consequences. Consequences that have affected his entire presidency when it comes to the middle east. And Netanyahu knows that too. 

It was in June 2008 that Obama made a speech in front of AIPAC  whose clear and obvious purpose was to appeal to the Jewish vote anticipating the need for Florida's electoral votes in the upcoming 2008 presidential election and Florida's substantial Jewish population. In that speech Obama sent shockwaves through the middle east when he said that he "supported a unified single Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel". Obviously so does Netanyahu and most Jews and Israelis, except that for decades U.S. negotiators had gotten both sides to agree to put that most contentious issue, the final status of Jerusalem, the last issue on the agenda in the hopes that if agreements could be made on everything else the two sides would be more likely to try and find some compromise  rather than see everything go out the window over Jerusalem. 

Obama's  politically self serving statement calculated to get the hoped for Florida Jewish vote took Jerusalem off the negotiating table and yanked the rug out from under the Palestinians feet  and while he was rewarded  in the moment with a standing ovation by the 7000 Jews at the conference, the reaction of the Palestinians and most Arab countries around the world was predictable. They went berserk.  They called Obama's reckless and politically self serving public statement biased and that he could never be trusted by the Palestinians or the Arab world. 

Obama's response was to do what he has done his whole political career and throughout his entire presidency in the face of the slightest adversity -- he immediately reneged on his original statement of committment and reversed himself  trying to claim everyone misunderstood him (kind of like " I never campaigned for a public option") . Sounding more like the ingratiating Eddie Haskell from the old Leave it to Beaver series than a presidential candidate, he tried to claim that what he meant by supporting a single unified Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel was "a Jerusalem with no barbed wire". That's what he said. Even though everyone knew there hadn't been any barbed wire partitioning  Jerusalem since 1967.

Now it was the Israelis turn to be infuriated and they were. And it proved to both sides that Obama couldn't be trusted and that his word on anything was worthless. It's the single biggest reason why he has been the most ineffective president in history in dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues and why there has been nothing but deep distrust by Israel and the Palestinians, even more so by the Palestinians as bad as Obama's relationship with Netanyahu is. And it's that justified and fundamental distrust that gets carried over into any negotiating  Obama does with Iran. 

None of this gets pointed out by the mainstream news media either because of stupidity, fear of angering the White House and jeopardizing their "access"  or just  plain incompetence.  In an interview on CNN's State of the Union Dana Bash asked a former Israeli ambassador why the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama was so bad from the very beginning. It was like the speech Obama made in June 2008 and his reversals never took place.

Obama destroyed his crediblity with both the Israelis and Palestinians and not only was his original statement,even if he believed it (though there is no archeological record that Obama has ever actually ever believed in anything) reckless and irresponsible for someone who one day might have to be seen as an objective and honest broker,  it proved to both sides his word couldn't be trusted.  And it  not only  put the entire middle east peace process on hold for his entire presidency but the result is Netanyahu doesn't trust him as far as he can throw a nuclear reactor. 

All that  Obama accomplished with the Israelis and Palestinians  was to unite both sides in their mutual contempt for him. So it should come as no surprise that Netanyahu, on an issue as vital to Israel's security as a nuclear Iran, something vital to U.S. interests as well and the entire world given that Iran is the world's largest source of state sponsored terrorism,  isn't going to trust Obama to negotiate anything real given Obama's history and his track record of weakness and failure and making bad decisions and a bad   problem worse ( see Isis, Syria, Ukraine).

To underscore the disconnect by the White House , John Kerry actually said on Sunday that the Obama administration's diplomatic record "entitles it to the benefit of the doubt" in the negotiations with Iran. He actually said that. As if the previous six years of Obama's presidency and it's failures never happened. 

For those interested in reality, Obama is entitled to the benefit of the probability of failure and making a bad deal rather than no deal just to claim he accomplished something. Like the 32 million he said got health insurance under Obamacare who don't exist. Or the 10 million he claimed got health insurance who didn't have health insurance before . Who also don't exist. This isn't mixing metaphors . It's what Obama's track record shows he is. And what  he's willing to say or do and why he can't be trusted. 

Just as Obamacare concessions to the health insurance industry completely failed to fix the two main problems healthcare reform was supposed to fix -- getting healthcare coverage for the 50 million Americans who don't have it and lowering the obscenely high cost of healthcare for those who do -- there is concern that any deal negotiated by Obama won't solve the real problem -- to prevent Iran from enriching uranium or plutonium to the 20% needed to make a  nuclear weapon. It's not complicated. It's simple. 

Kerry's comments has to make Netanyahu more certain than ever that deciding to give the speech to congress was the right thing to do. Especially given Kerry's most recent comment that one of the major "sticking points" is the percentage  of Uranium that Iran will have the right to enrich. This isn't a "sticking point".  This is the whole point. 

Iran says they only want to enrich uranium for medical and energy purposes. Uranium only needs to be enriched 1.5% for medical isotopes and 5% for fuel. It needs to be enriched 20% to make a nuclear bomb. There should be no "sticking point " as to the percentages. And no need for a heavy water reactor which so far Iran refuses to give up but is only needed to enrich uranium to 20%. 

Pointing this out  is what Democrats boycotting the speech are protesting and instead seem to be supporting what Netanyahu and many in congress  in both parties are trying to prevent --  a bad deal that  Obama calls  a good one and that left to Obama's judgement alone could end up as a nuclear Obamacare. Which is to say hazardous to a lot of people's health.