Friday, September 27, 2013

Foreign Digest: Mali, Cambodia, Liberia

            The newly-elected president was inaugurated in Mali, marking the representative republic’s official return to democratic, civilian rule after a military coup in 2012.  The coup had occurred because of frustration with the previous elected government’s inability to put down both a Tuareg rebellion and an Islamist insurgency in the north, which, as I have posted, were thwarted by a French-led international coalition in the former French colony, which represented a significant victory in the War on Terrorism.

            Longtime Communist strongman Hun Sen was recently reelected for another term as Prime Minister of Cambodia in an election marred by allegations of widespread election fraud.  The opposition, joined by one of the Cambodian Princes, has protested the results.  The international community ought to pressure the Cambodian regime to respect the expressed will of the people, as it is having some incremental success in doing in Burma, but is not doing adequately in regard to a situation similar to Cambodia’s in Zimbabwe.

           The International Criminal Court has rejected the appeal of Charles Taylor’s sentence for crimes against humanity.  Taylor was the dictator of Liberia in the 2000s during the Liberian Civil War and was responsible for human rights abuses, including mass murder.  An international coalition backed by the United States under President George W. Bush had helped remove the Liberian dictator from power, end the bloodshed and allow Liberia to restore itself to representative government and liberty.  These sentences against dictators for crimes against humanity are essential for deterring such behavior.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Conservatives Win a Majority in the German Parliamentary Elections

          The conservative Christian Democrats have not only won the German parliamentary elections, but have become the first German party to gain a majority in 60 years.  Chancellor Angela Merkel will serve for a third term.

            The results were better than expected for the center-right Christian Democrats, despite the failure of their coalition partners, the Free Democrats, to meet the 5% threshold necessary to remain in Parliament.  The conservatives won nearly 43% of the vote.

            Merkel was rewarded for her government’s frugality amidst the European economic crisis, which is particularly acute among the States belonging to the European Monetary Union that have adopted the euro as a common currency.  The German economy has remained relatively strong.  The German Government has insisted that weaker members of the union adopt austerity programs to reduce debt in exchange for loans.  Germany has remained a loyal ally of the United States under the Christian Democrats.

           Conservative parties have won parliamentary victories this month in Australia, Norway and Germany.   

Friday, September 20, 2013

The 12th Anniversary of September 11; Terrorism Is Not a Motive, but Is Illegitimate Warfare

           This year was the first that I did not post on the anniversary of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks.  I am sorry, my dear readers, for not posting at the time.  School board business and political campaign matters have been taking up much of my time lately, but I do wish to offer a few thoughts, nevertheless. 

I also wanted to wait until the next day before posting that there were no attacks this year, unlike last year, when Americans learned the next morning that the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya had been attacked and the Ambassador murdered and three other Americans killed.  This year, there was only an attack a few days after the anniversary on the American Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan by the Taliban that resulted in no American casualties.

            The twelfth anniversary of the attacks means, of course, that Americans have survived another year mostly free of terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland, except for the Boston Marathon bombings, although there was nothing on the scale of September 11.  There were relatively few terrorist attacks on Americans abroad, although jihadist attacks on U.S. military and other government targets continued.  In addition to the American people themselves, the Executive and Legislative Branches of the Federal Government deserve the most credit for preventing another September 11.  Additional credit belongs to the Judicial Branch and to the States.  Included within the Executive Branch are the military and other federal officials charged with terrorism prevention, investigation and prosecution. 

However, the Obama Administration still has failed to conduct trials for the September 11 conspirators, which it had halted not long after taking office in 2009.  Also, as I had posted earlier this month, although the 2009 deadly attacks on the Arkansas recruiting station and on Ft. Hood were not terrorism because they did not target innocent civilians, they were examples of militant Islam and therefore should be declared acts of war by the Obama Administration and treated accordingly.  The Administration has declined to declare the shootings acts of war for political reasons that preclude it from identifying the Islamist enemy and its motive, which compromises its ability to win the War on Terrorism.

            There were media speculations about the motivations for the recent shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., which apparently was committed by a mentally ill individual.  “Terrorism” was considered as a possible motive, even though the target was a military command center, not innocent civilians.  Terrorism is not a motive, but a strategy.  In fact, terrorism is the waging a particular type of illegitimate warfare, specifically one that targets innocent civilians to create mass terror to intimidate the populace into accepting the demands of the terrorists.  The motives for terrorism would be the ideological goal for the strategy, such as promoting Palestinian statehood or waging Islamic jihad.  The better that Americans and others around the world understand the particular evil of terrorism, the better it can be identified as distinct from other acts, opposed and prevented. 

           The continued efforts of federal and state officials and the cooperation and vigilance of the American people are succeeding in helping to save lives and to maintain freedom from terror.  These efforts must be maintained and not diminished.  Most of all, Americans and other liberty-loving people around the world must continue to resist the demands of terrorists to guarantee that terrorism would never be a successful strategy. 

Conservative Commentary on the Colorado Recall Elections

           In an extraordinary move earlier this month, voters in two Colorado senatorial districts recalled their State Senators, including the President of the State Senate. 

The two incumbent Democratic Senators were replaced with Republicans.  The Senators were recalled because of a law they promoted that was recently enacted which unreasonably restricted the citizens of Colorado’s right to keep and bear arms.   

            In a representative republic, recall elections should not be used for political reasons, i.e. because of the unpopularity of a particular policy, because the elected officials are elected to exercise their judgment during the course of throughout their term of office.  Recalls should be reserved for instances of corruption or when the officeholder has violated the rights of the people. 

           The Colorado Democratic State Senators violated the rights of the people and, therefore, deserved to be recalled.  The Colorado recalls give hope to those who support the cause of liberty that the people will not tolerate further violations of their rights by elected representatives who are supposed to protect their rights.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Conservatives Win the Parliamentary Elections in Norway

The Conservative Party won the Norwegian parliamentary elections.  Conservative Erna Solberg will be the next Prime Minister of Norway.  Together with three center-right parties with which they are allied, the Conservative-led coalition gained a majority of seats in the Norwegian Parliament, despite the fact that the party came in second place to the center-left Labour Party in the popular vote with less than 27%, according to the Financial Times

The victory by the center-right ends 8 years of rule by the center-left.  It is the first Conservative win in 24 years.  The party may form a coalition with a populist right-wing government and two centrist allies or possibly form a minority government.

The Conservative platform was to sell off state assets and use some of its considerable oil funds to upgrade infrastructure and to cut taxes, while boosting spending for health care and education, the Financial Times reports.

Norway has been a staunch ally of the United States in the War on Terrorism.  

Together with the results from the Australian parliamentary elections, these results suggest that the global rightward shift that I have posted about continues.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Now Is the Time for Congress to Declare the Ft. Hood Shooting an Act of War

Now that the Ft. Hood shooter has been convicted by a court-martial of the 2009 shooting spree that killed 13 and wounded dozens more and has been sentenced to death, it is time for Congress to declare the massacre an act of war.  The killer, who made clear before, during and after his acts, that his motive was jihad (Islamic holy war), had been inspired by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  The Ft. Hood attacker had corresponded with the terrorist organization’s American-born leader.

With a federal declaration of the shooting at Ft. Hood as an act of war, the victims of this act of jihad would thereby be eligible for the purple hearts and certain combat-related benefits, like those killed or wounded abroad in the War on Terrorism.  More importantly, it would recognize that the Islamist enemy has continued to make the whole world its battlefield, including the American homeland, just as it did on September 11.  The September 11 Terrorist Attacks were treated by the Administration of President George W. Bush as an act of war and the military victims were treated accordingly.

Shortly after the Ft. Hood massacre, I already identified the nature of the attack in my post, Jihad at Ft. Hood, in November of 2009,  In February of 2012, in my post, American Casualties of Jihad in the U.S. Homeland Should be Awarded Purple Hearts,,  I expressed support for proposals in Congress to declare the Ft. Hood massacre and the shooting at a military recruitment center in Arkansas as acts of war because of the refusal of the Obama Administration to link them to the War on Terrorism, despite the Islamist motivations of the attackers.  I identified this pattern of the Obama Administration in my post Arkansas, Ft. Hood and Benghazi: The Obama Administration’s Pattern of Failure in Identifying the Enemy, in October of that year,

Apparently, the Obama Administration refuses to acknowledge the obvious religious motivations of these jihadists out of concern for being misunderstood to be blaming Islam or because of a political motivation not to admit the attacks were related to the War on Terrorism.  As I have noted repeatedly, this failure to identify the enemy and its motivations makes victory in the war impossible.  It is imperative that Congress defend the truth by setting the record straight and declaring these attacks acts of war.  The victims of jihad deserve such justice.

Conservatives Win the Parliamentary Elections in Australia

           A conservative coalition of candidates won the parliamentary elections in Australia yesterday.  Tony Abbott will become the next Australian prime minister.  The conservatives won a large majority in the lower house, but results in the upper house were uncertain. 

The conservative victory ends six years of rule of Australia by the liberal Labor Party, which had led Australia’s first post-war minority government.  Ending the political instability in which Labor had to accede to the demands of the leftist Greens and other fringe partners in its coalition in order to maintain power, during which Labor was plagued by internal infighting, was one of the appeals of the conservatives to the voters.  In fact, Labor had changed leadership twice during its rule, as recently as three months ago, at which point the former Prime Minister returned to power. 

            Lower taxes, a crackdown on asylum-seekers, reducing foreign aid and increasing defense spending were the main planks of the conservative platform.  Specifically, abolishing the carbon tax, which was born by the public, and the mining tax were the most significant and popular conservative proposals.  The latter had exacerbated the decline of the mining boom that had kept Australia prosperous, despite the global recession.  The result of the tax was far less revenue than projected, which has prevented Australia from balancing its budget.  The fiscal lesson from Down Under is clear: raising taxes reduces revenue because it reduces economic growth.

          Reducing taxes are likely to stimulate the Australian economy and keep it from falling into recession and, together with the proposed spending cuts, help it to balance its budget while allowing it to boost its defense, which could be helpful to the United States and its other allies.  Under conservative Prime Minister John Howard from 1996-2007, Australia was a staunch ally of the U.S. in the War on Terrorism.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

American Interests at Stake in Syria

           The civil war in Syria is in the interest of the United States for several reasons.  Although the concerns that any action taken against the regime would be of advantage to the al-Qaeda and other Islamist rebels are legitimate, it is abundantly in American interests to overthrow Bashar Assad’s regime, either by direct action or by supporting more rigorously the non-Islamist rebels, and to replace it with one that, unlike the current regime, respects the liberty of its people, is not allied with Iran and does not support terrorism.  At the least, it is in American interest to punish the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons and to deter their further use. 

            As is typical in any civil war, there are international concerns in regard to Syria that cannot be ignored.  There has been spillover of fighting into Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Israel, some of which are unstable states.  The spillover could possibly trigger a wider conflagration.  Also, the problem of Syrian refugees is particularly acute.  The millions of Syrian refugees in Jordan, for example, risk destabilizing that U.S. ally.  

The argument being advanced by opponents of intervention in Syria is that the Americans and their allies have no interest in Syria because they should not want the Islamist rebels to win.  This argument is contradictory, as it is not an expression of a lack of U.S. interest in Syria, but the acknowledgement of a U.S. interest in Syria: that the rebels should not win, or in other words, that there are competing American interests in Syria.  It is certainly in the interest of the U.S. that the jihadists lose, or at least not win.  It is reasonable for Americans to want their two enemies to fight each other, but a policy based upon such a desire would leave the outcome of the war to chance, let alone fail to enforce chemical weapons agreements or to protect civilians and resolve the refugee crisis.  The U.S. should continue to identify the non-Islamist Syria rebels and support them more rigorously, which would be the only alternative option to direct military intervention that would achieve all U.S. policy goals.  A related international concern is the possibility of Syria’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of these forces, if it has not already happened.

The U.S. is a party to international agreements that prohibit the possession or use of chemical weapons.  It gave up its chemical weapons in reliance of their enforcement.  It is in American interests to enforce these prohibitions.  Otherwise, the message that would be sent to Syria by inaction is that the Assad regime could continue to use chemical weapons with impunity, which would encourage others to seek possession of and even use weapons of mass destruction.  It would especially send a signal to Syria’s main regional ally, Iran, that the Islamic Republic could continue its nuclear weapons program without fear of any significant consequences.  Furthermore, the Assad regime’s indiscriminate mass killing of civilians by both chemical and conventional means is unacceptable and morally obligates the U.S. and its allies to stop it.  Stopping mass killings of civilians by conventional arms was the justification alone for the intervention by the Americans and its allies in Libya, which posed less of an immediate strategic threat to American interests than Syria

Syria is the main ally of Iran, the mortal enemy of the U.S.  Depriving Iran of its ally would be a strategic loss for Iran and reduce the Iranian menace to the region and world.

Both on its own and as a conduit for Iran, Syria is one of the worst state sponsors of terrorism in the world.  Syria both harbors and finances terrorists and other jihadists who have targeted and killed Americans.  The 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization, killed 241 Americans, for example.  Through Hezbollah, among other means, Syria interferes heavily with Lebanese politics.  Hezbollah also threatens or attacks Israelis and Jews around the world, even as far as in Argentina, where it has killed scores of Jews in terrorist attacks.  There have been concerns about infiltrations of the U.S.-Mexican border by the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization, which is allowed to bank in Venezuela, which supports Iran and Syria.  Hezbollah is thus a global terrorist organization, one that had the most American blood on its hands before September 11.  In addition, Syria openly harbors Palestinian terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are also backed by Iran

Lack of confidence in the Commander in Chief is a valid concern in regard to military intervention.  President Barack Obama’s strategy is uncertain and might possibly not be as effective as intended, but lack of confidence is not sufficient justification to oppose any action.  Instead, it is a reason to support an effective strategy.  The credibility of the President and of the United States are at stake, but this concern is only significant because of the overall strategic interests at stake in the Syrian situation.  The concern about casualties in an intervention is exaggerated.  Several weeks each of bombardment of neither Kosovo nor Libya resulted in any American casualties.  The concern about the cost is valid, bust must be weighed against the economic price of inaction because of the continuation of economic sanctions, the cost of meeting the humanitarian needs of the refugees and the spike in the price of oil.

Syria’s sponsorship of terrorism alone is sufficient justification for war, or at least to overthrow the Assad regime by helping the non-Islamist rebels.  The need to punish Syrian use of weapons of mass destruction only adds to the urgency to confront this despotic regime.  American interests would be greatly advanced by a peaceful non-Islamist representative government in Damascus that would be an ally instead of an enemy in the War on Terrorism.

A Compilation of Relevant Posts on Syria

I had posted last month about the Syrian civil war in The Obama Administration Has Waited Too Long to Act Against the Syrian Regime,  The purpose of this post is to provide a compilation of the most significant posts in which I have commented either on the Syrian civil war or explained the strategic threat to the United States and its allies posed by Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria.

I had posted about the Syrian civil war in Foreign Digest: Cambodia, Haiti, Falkland Islands, Iran and Syria, in February of 2012 about the brutality of Syria’s Assad regime toward its citizenry and the lack of United Nations action against it.  I complained in Foreign Digest: Liberia, Iran, The European Monetary Union, in May of that year about the dithering of the world in regard to Syria.  In Romney Correctly Identifies Obama’s Weakness in Foreign Affairs, in October of 2012,, I criticized United States President Barack Obama’s failure to lead adequately against Syria.  Obama has imposed some economic sanctions and trained some of the rebels and provided them some materiel, but these actions have been ineffective in deterring Syria from indiscriminately killing its civilians with conventional or even chemical weapons, let alone in overthrowing the regime and replacing it with one that is neither a sponsor of international terrorism nor an ally of Iran.

I have posted repeatedly about I call the “Axis of Rogues.”  I first specifically identified Syria as part of the “Axis of Rogues” in Terrorism-Sponsoring Dictator Hugo Chavez Dies, in March of 2013,, in which I observed Venezuela’s alliance with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.  As I noted in my last post on this subject, Syria would even have qualified as an original member of the Axis of Evil.

More generally, I have posted numerous times about the threat faced to the West from militant Islam in all its forms. 

In my next post, I shall explain the numerous significant American interests currently at stake in Syria.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Keep up the Resistance to Common Core in Pennsylvania

In my last post, I explained the origin of the Common Core educational standards that are being imposed on all American students and I enumerated the problems with the standards.

As a school director, I already have seen firsthand the push for school districts to comply with the imposition of Common Core standards here in Pennsylvania.  I am resisting the pressure in my district, but need other districts to ask the Pennsylvania Legislature to stop Common Core.

The Commonwealth approved the adoption of a modified version of Common Core in 2010 that included some of the more rigorous curriculum Pennsylvania already had, but Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, recently delayed the implementation of Common Core because of the controversy around them. Last week, the Corbett Administration announced some limitations on Common Core.  Among the changes made that were based upon concerns in the Legislature are bans on a statewide curriculum or reading list, restrictions on imposing “national” assessments, and protections for student privacy. 

The resistance to Common Core in Pennsylvania is thus having some success.  The changes made by the Corbett Administration are welcome, insofar as they represent the exercise of state sovereignty and limit some of the substantive harm from Common Core, but do not stop the imposition of the standards and their overall weakening of education in Pennsylvania.  School districts are continuing to prepare to implement the standards, which are expected to withstand the current opposition in the Legislature. 

We conservatives in the Keystone State need to keep the pressure on state legislators to stop Common Core before it is too late.  I call upon the General Assembly to approve the bills that would fully stop Common Core in Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania can and must do better than Common Core.

Stop Common Core Now!

The Common Core educational standards are promoted by its proponents as state-led standards that are rigorous, like those of foreign industrialized States, and that prepare students for college and the workplace.  Nearly everything about these claims is false or misleading. 

Critics on both the left and the right are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of Common Core to the education of every American student and are working against them before it is too late.  Although there is some particular opposition to Common Core from the left because of its big business origin and its emphasis on standardized high-stakes testing, conservatives have also been alarmed by the spread of Common Core for both different and overlapping reasons.  Most of the conservative objections I enumerate in this post are shared by some liberals, although there is more emphasis from the right on the violations of federalism.  

Common Core is promoted by its proponents as having been promoted by the National Governors Association (NGA), but it was first started by big business interests, specifically the liberal Gates Foundation, then adopted by the NGA.  It thus represents “national” standards in all but name, as the name “Common Core” implies.  However, it reflects only the consensus of the States, and not necessarily the will of every State that is being forced into it.  Furthermore, by “State,” it is meant the “Governor,” not the legislatures that have never considered, let alone voted for Common Core.  Moreover, with support from the Obama Administration, the standards have shifted from being “national” to federal.  Either way, Common Core is being imposed in a top-down manner. 

The Obama Administration promoted Common Core by tying economic stimulus money to state acceptance of the standards through its Race to the Top competition for States to receive shares back of the money the federal government confiscated from their citizens.  In other words, Common Core is a federal mandate that violates the principle of federalism.  Not only does it violate States’ rights, but it eliminates local control.  Centralization makes improvement of the standards difficult, if not impossible.  The lack of state or federal debate and legislative action makes the imposition of Common Core undemocratic.  Textbooks are being written according to Common Core standards, meaning that all States will be forced to accept them, at least to some degree, even the handful of States that have opted out of them.  Furthermore, college-entrance tests and even the General Education Diploma tests are being re-written according to Common Core, meaning that all private or parochial schools and even all home-schooled students will be required to comply with them!  As some analysts have observed, there will be no escape from Common Core.

The substantive problems with Common Core are manifold.  Two main areas of concern are the inadequacy of the standards themselves and violations of student privacy.  First, it is necessary to explain the relationship of standards to curriculum.  Standards are the items students are expected to learn and levels of proficiency they are expected to reach, not the curriculum (the methods of teaching them).  However, given the comprehensive nature of Common Core and the materials associated with it and its specificity of particular methods, this particular set of standards essentially does amount to a curriculum, despite the claims to the contrary of its proponents, notwithstanding the fact that, as even with any written curriculum, teachers are left to determine the precise manner for carrying out instruction. 

Common Core is not as rigorous as its proponents imply, or as it should be.  It is not comparable with the standards in foreign industrialized States, as its proponents claim, nor is it even more rigorous than the standards in several American States and is even less rigorous than some.  In the subject of English, the emphasis in the curriculum based on Common Core is on non-fiction versus great literature, which discourages imagination, critical thinking and exposure to other ideas, periods or cultures.  In mathematics, the curriculum uses methods that have either never been used before or that have been unsuccessful, and it prepares students only for lower levels of algebra and discourages students from taking calculus.

Common Core weakens student privacy protections.  It makes students vulnerable to data-tracking, which reflects its origin in big business, as employers can track prospective employees.

Indeed, Common Core was created on behalf of big business interests by individuals that are neither qualified in curriculum-writing nor in their content areas, who are unelected and unaccountable, and who are intent on creating standards that serve the interests of big business.  The curriculum may be suitable for employment, but not necessarily for good citizenship, which is the purpose of education.  For example, Common Core prepares students for community college instead of competitive four-year colleges, as the promoters of Common Core imply, as well as tracks students individually for potential employment.

Naturally, there is also concern among conservatives about the enormous cost of adopting Common Core, which is estimated at billions of dollars across the Union.  

We conservatives should become educated about the standards and the curriculum that is based upon them.  Five States have opted out of Common Core and the legislatures of several others are also considering opting out or modifying the standards.  In my next post, I shall discuss the particular situation in Pennsylvania.   We conservatives must unite to oppose Common Core in every State of the Union and stop their implementation before it is imposed irreversibly, and if necessary, even partner with liberals who share our concerns to protect American students from the harm Common Core would cause.  

Italy Eliminates Its Real Estate Tax

The center-left-right coalition government of the Italian Republic has agreed to eliminate the hated real estate tax, according to ANSA, the Italian news agency.  ANSA reports that the $4 billion in revenue will be made up with taxes on services. 

The onerous tax had been imposed by the technocratic government of former Prime Minister Mario Monti as part of its efforts to eliminate Italy’s budget deficit and reduce its high debt burden.  Monti had cut spending, but his tax increases, especially of the real estate tax, worsened the severity of Italy’s recession and prolonged it.  The lack of economic growth means decreases tax revenue, which makes it even more difficult to reduce debt.

The Parliament will have to approve the tax deal, which is certain to pass.  The elimination of the tax was a requirement for participation in the government by the center-right.  The failure to reach the agreement threatened the unstable executive.  Governments in Italy are notorious for not lasting long, although often the same party has remained in power by simply re-shuffling the Cabinet.  The current grand coalition of the center-left and center-right, however, is unprecedented and most analysts do not expect the executive to endure more than a few months.  Its stability has been further strained by the conviction of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on fraud charges and his ban on holding public office.  He leads the center-right bloc of parties.  ANSA reports that action is pending in the Senate to remove him from his seat.  Although the center-right is protesting his treatment by the courts, they are unlikely to abandon the government and trigger another parliamentary election, according to ANSA, as they are not likely to win.  The resolution of the real estate tax controversy will stave off the Government’s collapse, for now.  

The Government of Italy is also working to continue Monti’s work of avoiding an increase in the value added tax, the onerous European sales tax, reports ANSA.  Thankfully, the Italian Republic continues to pay a lower premium on interest rates on bonds – around 250 basis points higher than benchmark German bonds, according to ANSA – than it had.  The Government has managed to initiate only a few reforms so far.  A bigger test will come when it addresses constitutional reforms.