Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Peru Gains a Victory in the War on Terrorism

     Peru has captured the leader of the Shining Path, the vicious Marxist narco-terrorists responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. He was wanted by both Peru and the United States.

     The Maoist Shining Path is infamous for its brutality. Its leader, who was wounded during his capture, led one of two small separate remaining bands of the once sizable force that had been dealt a heavy blow twenty years ago with the killing of its first leader. It has still been responsible nevetheless for the deaths of 20-30 people per year. It is hoped that this capture will end the cause of establishing a socialist state that its leader admitted is impossible. The Peruvian government has been making gains against the rebels, as has Colombia against its Marxist terrorists who, like the Shining Path, also derive their income from the illegal production and sale of narcotics. 

     I congratulate Peru for its successful contribution to the War on Terrorism and the fight against the scourge of drugs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

European Monetary Union Update: Greece Passes Another Austerity Plan

    The Greek Parliament approved another harsh austerity plan in order to receive the latest tranche of bailout money from the European Monetary Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to avoid default on its sovereign debt or having to leave the eurozone.

     Debt-ridden Greece's creditors had demanded it approve the plan in order to receive over $170 billion in bailout loans because the Greeks had failed to implement fully the necessary spending cuts after receiving the first tranche of $145 billion.  The latest Greek austerity package saves an additional $5 billion in spending by sharply cutting the minimum wage and pensions and eliminating tens of thousand of public sector jobs, among other cuts.  The austerity plan will also facilitate a separate deal with Greece's bondholders to write off a large percentage of Greece's tens of billions of dollars of sovereign debt.

     The austerity program had been approved by Greece's caretaker national unity government led by Lucas Papademos, meaning that it was approved by most of the main parties, including both the socialists and conservatives.  Only one smaller party in the coalition opposed the measure, although some members of the two major parties also did.  Cabinet members who opposed it were fired and members of parliament who voted against it were expelled.  Both major parties have agreed in writing to implement the program, regardless of which one wins snap elections in April, as demanded by the European creditors, who will only release the money once the plan is implemented. The measure still passed easily, despite violent popular opposition. 

     Papademos had identified overspending as the cause of the debt.  In opposition to further spending cuts, Greeks have been rioting and striking, which not only harms the economy that has been mired in a deep recession that is unlikely to end in the forseeable future and thereby adds to the public debt, but undermines investor confidence in Greece.  Although the riots have been particularly violent in Greece, the same phenomenon has hampered the efforts of other European governments to reduce debt.  Europeans, especially Greeks, had become so accustomed to government largess that they fail to recognize that the benefits to which they were encouraged to feel entitled were the cause of the debt, for which they rightfully must share the burden, as I have noted before.  I also understand, as previously noted, the Greek loss of sovereignty, as Greeks feel as though they are being dictated to by Europeans, especially Germans.  The Greek national unity government deserves praise for recognizing that it had to approve the harsh, unpopular measures, lest even greater ills befall the country.   

     I also note the uncertainty over the passage of the plan affected the markets adversely, as has the passage of every new plan by every government in the eurozone affected by the sovereign debt crisis, even though the governments have majorities to approve the plans in parliament.  Although the uncertainty is partly understandable because of popular opposition, I cannot help but suspect, as Italians did during Silvio Berlusconi's premiership, that speculators benefit from market fluctuations based upon exaggerated fear.  These uncertainties result in higher interest rates on sovereign debt, for example, which make it even more difficult for governments to afford to service their debt.  There ought to be some confidence that these governments will continue to act responsibility, despite the political challenge, which would be beneficial for all.  It would help if people refrain from violence and strikes.  If anyone takes to the streets to demonstrate peacefully, it should be the supporters of the governments to give them, their creditors and the markets the confidence they need during this crisis.

American Casualties of Jihad in the U.S. Homeland Should be Awarded Purple Hearts

     Some members of Congress have proposed that United States servicemen who were killed or wounded in jihadist attacks by militant Islamists in the American homeland should be awarded Purple Heart medals as casualties in the War on Terrorism. The medal is given to casualties of hostile action, including “terrorist attacks.” The Obama Administration opposes the proposal. 

     President Barak Obama has declined to award the soldiers Purple Hearts because, for political reasons, the Administration does not want to acknowledge the incidents as hostile action by the enemy, either as acts of terrorism or even as acts of jihad, as if the murders were workplace incidents. 

     Specifically, the incidents in question are the Ft. Hood, Texas massacre that killed twelve servicemen and one civilian and wounded 30 other American servicemen and civilians and the killing of a servicemen and wounding of another in Arkansas at a military recruiting station. Both attacks were in 2009 and were carried out by Islamists who admitted to have been motivated by jihad, Islamic holy war. 

     As I have posted several times, terrorism is the targeting of violence against innocent civilians in order to intimidate the populace into giving into the demands of the terrorists. Therefore, attacks against the military are not “terrorist attacks.” They are, however, hostile action in the War on Terrorism because they are militant acts of war by the same enemy as the terrorists and motivated by exactly the same ideology of Islamism, i.e. militant Islam that wages violent, aggressive jihad against “infidels” in order to make them submit. The War on Terrorism is a war not only on the tactic of terrorism employed by the Islamists, but on the Islamism that motivates it. It does not matter whether or not the perpetrators are American citizens or were working with foreign terrorist organizations. The perpetrator of the Ft. Hood massacre was motivated by the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen, but it does not matter where geographically the source of his Islamist beliefs came. Thus, the distinction about whether or not these acts were “terrorist” is irrelevant. A jihadist is an enemy in the War on Terrorism when he engages in hostile action against American soldiers, which meets the definition for the awarding of the Purple Hearts to the casualties of his attacks. These soldiers in Ft. Hood and Arkansas were killed or wounded in the War on Terrorism. Indeed, some of the Ft. Hood victims were targeted by the jihadist because they were about to deploy overseas in the War.

     The Obama Administration is unwilling to identify the enemy as militant Islamists because it is afraid of blaming a religious motivation for violent jihad. Because the Administration’s position is that Islam itself is not the ideological source of terrorism, it is unable or unwilling to ascribe Islamism as the source, despite militant Islam’s obvious religious origin. The Administration and its liberal supporters maintain that Islamism is an Islamic heresy, as if the Obama Administration is the human authority for what is the true interpretation of Islam, which ignores the self-described Islamic orthodoxy of Islamists. The Administration and its liberal supporters do not recognize that it does not matter whether or not Islamism represents true Islam, but only that Islamism comes from Islam. Therefore, the Administration is incapable of differentiating between Islam in general and Islamism in particular, and between Islamic jihad that is purely spiritual and peaceful and that which is violent. It has thus gone to such a degree as falsely to deny any religious motivation whatsoever for admitted acts of jihad and, as a result, to decline the proper awarding of Purple Hearts to its victims, as if the Obama Administration has the power to deny the truth and rewrite history.

     The Obama Administration’s failure to identify the enemy and his motivations makes victory in the War more difficult to achieve because it is impossible to defeat an enemy that cannot be distinguished, as I have noted repeatedly.

     Conservatives should continue to call upon Congress to pass a bill to award Purple hearts to the casualties of these attacks by the militant Islamist enemy in the War on Terrorism in the American homeland.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The U.S. Navy Should Name a Ship for Rep. Leo J. Ryan

     The United States Navy recently announced that it was naming a ship, a littoral combat ship, after former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. As I noted in my post in January Commentary on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Resignation,, she resigned from Congress last month in order to focus on her recovery from an attempted assassination attempt. An apparently insane gunman shot Giffords at a meeting with constituents, killing and wounding several others.  In that post, I expressed for the second time my hope that she recovers fully, noting that the shooting was an attack on representative government, even if by a madman.

     Individuals honored by having ships named for them usually have some connection to the Navy, either having served in it or in its civilian command, or having supported it significantly in Congress.  Giffords' husband is a Naval aviator who was also a Space Shuttle pilot.  The Navy customarily does not name ships after people who are still living.  The only exceptions in the last century and a half have been for individuals advanced in age.  Giffords, 41, expressed her hope to recover fully and return to Congress.  Because I hope that Giffords recovers fully and is able to return to public life, either in Congress or in some other capacity, I regard this high honor as premature and based upon an insufficient connection to the Navy.  In the meantime, I do believe that the federal government should honor her in some other significant way for her bravery for continuing to serve in Congress after her would-be assassination.

     Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-CA) was the only member of Congress killed in the line of duty. He had served in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War and afterward as a submariner.  Ryan was assassinated in 1978 in Guyana by members of the Peoples Temple, led by Rev. Jim Jones, formerly of Ryan’s district. Jones and over 900 of his expatriate American followers in Jonestown committed mass suicide or were murdered immediately thereafter. Ryan was personally investigating reports that members of the cult were not free to leave. He was successfully facilitating the release of some of the members at the time of his murder.

     Ryan has been honored by the federal government in a number of ways, but if a Congressman who were wounded in an assassination attempt is honored by having a ship named for her, then one who was killed ought to be honored similarly, at least, especially one who was a Navy veteran.  A U.S. Navy submarine should be named the U.S.S. Leo J. Ryan.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Foreign Digest: Cambodia, Haiti, Falkland Islands, Iran and Syria

     I commend Cambodia for convicting and sentencing to life imprisonment the chief jailer of the Khmer Rhouge for his atrocities when that regime held power in the 1970s. His crimes against humanity included the torture and murder of hundreds of thousands, including political dissidents and innocent people, who were among the many killed by the Cambodian Communist dictatorship.

     I commend Haiti’s decision to put former dictator Jean Claude Duvalier on trial. I had praised Haiti for arresting him upon his return in my post in last February, Foreign Digest: Haiti, Portugal, European Union

     I urge Argentina’s left-wing government to tone down its imperialist rhetoric in regard to the Falkland Islands. The rhetoric between Argentina and the United Kingdom has heated up as the thirtieth anniversary of the Falklands War approaches. The British colony, inhabited only by loyal Britons, was invaded by Argentina’s military dictatorship in 1982, but the British took back the islands and maintain a force there to defend it. The formidable British Royal Navy is sending its most lethal ship to the Falklands. 

     I am pleased that more international sanctions are being placed on Iran by the United States, Europe and others, but disappointed in Russia and China for vetoing a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for Bashar Assad, the dictator of Iran’s ally, Syria, to resign. Syria has been cracking down on dissent in the indiscriminately violent style of the late Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, who was killed last year by Libyan rebels backed by NATO. The U.S. is leading the just effort to put international pressure on Syria to relent on its crackdown and allow the self-determination of the Syrian people. Assad is following the policies of his father, the previous dictator, who killed tens of thousands of people in 1982 by shelling Homs with tank artillery when the citizens of that city, among others, rebelled against his tyranny.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Italian Fiscal and Economic Progress

     Italy’s fiscal and economic reforms are paying off in a number of areas, which is reflecting increased investor confidence. 

     The Italian stock market has risen, while the yield on Italian bonds has dropped significantly and the spread between the price of Italian and German bonds has decreased sharply. The yield has dropped below the critical 7% level to nearly 5.5%, while the spread dropped from the critical 500 basis points over the price of German bunds to well below 400. These decreases will ease the Italian debt service.  When sovereign debt of other states in the European Union reached those critical levels, they were forced to seek a bailout.  Italy has been the only one to escape such a fate after hitting those levels.

     Meanwhile it was reported by ANSA that millions of euros have been collected since last year, when the Berlusconi government introduced measures to crack down on tax cheating. According to the Italian news agency, efforts to match income to tax reports have borne fruit, while Italy is also cooperating better with Switzerland in reducing tax havens. The Monti government is increasing the efforts, ANSA reports. 

     The Italian Parliament has approved a measure to prevent a scheduled large increase in Members’ pay, according to ANSA. Italy’s large parliament is among the highest paid in Europe, ANSA reports. The measure follows the lead of Premier Mario Monti, who is giving up all of his pay, during this period of austerity. 

     ANSA also reported that Fiat turned a profit of more than a billion and a half dollars, thanks to Chrysler, which earned a its first full-year profit since 1997, despite repaying the American and Canadian governments several hundred millions of dollars in loans six years early. 

     Italy’s progress is continuing to win praise across Europe. It is refocusing attention on Greece, as people are gaining confidence that Italy, the European Monetary Union’s firewall against debt contagion, will hold, despite fears of a Greek default.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Obama Administration Plans to Violate Religious Liberty

     The Obama Administration, in implementing its plan to federalize health insurance, is requiring all health-care providers to include sterilization, contraception and abortion-inducing “contraception” in their health insurance coverage for their employees. In an unusual move, it has also decided not to allow conscientious objection for religious healthcare providers who morally oppose these practices and object to being made to pay for them. 

     Catholics, who invented hospitals in the Middle Ages, comprise over a quarter of the population of the United States. Catholic hospitals are the largest provider of healthcare in the U.S., as caring for the sick is part of Catholic belief. The only exemption to the regulation requiring insurance coverage for contraception the Administration is offering Catholic hospitals, under a narrow interpretation of religious liberty, would be if the hospitals provided care only for Catholics. The Catholic Bishops have made it clear, however, that even this exemption would violate Catholics’ religious beliefs which require them to care for all people, not only fellow Catholics. The American Catholic Bishops have objected vociferously to the Administration’s proposed regulation, citing religious liberty under the First Amendment to the Constitution, as the practices Catholic hospitals would be required to administer violate its moral and religious teaching. They cite the “unjust law” doctrine in declaring their refusal to comply with the regulation, unless it is repealed or amended to allow an exemption for religious liberty.

     I have noted that employers are not required to provide health insurance for their employees. The practice of providing this benefit was a circumvention of World War II-era wage controls. In response to the generosity of employers in providing this benefit – a form of non-cash compensation that employees receive tax-free – the liberal Democratic Congress and the Administration criticized employers who chose to pay their employees higher wages instead of providing the benefit and required all employers to provide health insurance, thereby overriding the right of employers and employees to bargain. Catholic hospitals are considering dropping health insurance coverage for their employees in response to the Administration’s regulation. However, they would then be liable for financial penalties. Thus, they are essentially being forced to provide the service. At the least, their economic freedom to offer a benefit to their employees would be violated because of the underlying violation of religious liberty.

     Although most of the media’s focus has understandably been on Catholics, the Becket Fund has taken up the civil cases of two colleges, including a non-Catholic Christian one, against the requirement to provide abortifacients in health insurance. The Eastern Orthodox and some Anglicans share Catholics’ opposition to contraception, but all Protestants had changed their minds on the matter by 1930. However, some contraceptives induce abortions by killing the embryo (i.e. after contraception) prior to implantation. This distinction is of critical importance to understand, as some in the anti-life side try to blur the line between contraception and abortion by redefining conception by some arbitrary later point (e.g implantation) in order to avoid acknowledging that many so-called “contraceptives” are not truly contraceptives, but abortifacients. As many Protestants oppose abortion, they also object to the Obama Administration’s proposed regulation, in addition to sympathizing with Catholics’ case for religious liberty. 

     Conservatives of all religious belief, including those with none, must stand in favor of religious liberty and against the Obama Administration’s proposal to violate the religious beliefs of Americans. We must continue to oppose the federalization of health insurance and resist all such attempts at imposing a government-run system of health insurance or health care, whether by direct control (socialism) or indirect control (fascism). We must stand for both civil liberty and the free market.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Designate Venezuela a State Sponsor of Terrorism

     In my post in August of 2010, 2,000 Visits to My Blog,, I mentioned a bill sponsored by United States Representative Connie Mack (R-FL) to require the State Department to designate Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism. Current congressional hearings have given new weight to his cause.

     In addition to Venezuela’s support for the Marxist narcoterrorists, FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the regime of dictator Hugo Chavez supports the leftist Basque separatists, the ETA, a recognized terrorist organization, and its banks provide financial safe harbor to Iranian-sponsored terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah, which has been expanding its influence in the Western Hemisphere. 

     Designation as a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department triggers a set of harsh sanctions and restrictions on the regime. Currently, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are the only states on the list. Chavez, who admires Cuba’s Fidel Castro, has become a central figure in the Axis of Rogues I mentioned previously. He has established particularly warm relations with Iran, among other rogue states, and has attempted to spread his Marxist revolution throughout Latin America. Designating his regime as a terrorist sponsor would call attention to the threat he poses to liberty in the Western Hemisphere and help keep him in check by denying him the oil revenue he earns from Americans to fund his sinister machinations. 

Another Reason Holder Must Resign or Be Removed from Office

     In my post last month, U.S. Attorney General Holder Must Resign or Be Removed from Office,, I listed several reasons why United States Attorney General Eric Holder must no longer hold his office. One of the reasons mentioned was his failure to prosecute the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation because the defendants were black and his office’s policy was only to prosecute whites for voter intimidation against certain protected minorities. An additional reason Holder must resign or be fired or impeached proves that the Black Panther case is part of a larger pattern of ignoring election improprieties that benefit Democrats. 

     Holder, in an effort to oppose state laws requiring voter identification, recently was reported to have described voter fraud as “uncommon.” His excuse is that such laws against fraud make it more difficult to exercise the privilege to vote, but what he really means is that such laws make it more difficult for Democrats to cheat.

     Voter fraud, as those of us involved in politics know, is more widespread than many people realize. Although there have only been a few prosecutions against public officials in several states (all against Democrats and their allies), these are sufficient to undermine voter confidence in the results of elections, let alone in the accurate enumeration of the vote totals. As many people have observed, a fraudulent vote negates a legitimate vote; voter fraud dilutes honest voting. Holder’s citation of the statistics of relatively few successful prosecutions ignores the facts that voter fraud is often not aggressively prosecuted, if the perpetrators even get caught in the first place.

     The key is to prevent voter fraud – in a manner that does not disenfranchise honest voters. With improvements in technology and the upholding of state laws requiring voter identification by the U.S. Supreme Court, the old Democratic excuse that laws against voter fraud are targeted against blacks, and thus Democrats, is loosing its effectiveness.

     The Attorney General is charged with the responsibility of enforcing laws, including federal election laws, which the integrity of which is essential for representative government. Eric Holder’s refusal to enforce these laws for partisan reasons disqualifies him from continuing to serve in office.