Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova Sign Trade Deals with the European Union

Ukraine has signed a major trade deal with the European Union, the rejection of which by the prior authoritarian pro-Russian government, led to its overthrow.  The E.U. also signed deals with Georgia and Moldova, which, like Ukraine, have been menaced by Russian imperialism.  With this deal, these three former Soviet Republics demonstrate their interest in integration with Europe and the West, instead of Russia.  The economic benefits to Ukraine in particular will help its economy and, in turn, its government’s fiscal problems, which will help it to emerge more fully from dependence on Russia.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett Is Cleared of the Child Abuse Conspiracy Theory

           Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, has issued a report clearing her predecessor, current Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, of absurd accusations he delayed his investigation as Attorney General of child abuse by former Pennsylvania State University Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky for political reasons.

            The Commonwealth’s first elected Democratic chief prosecutor promised during her campaign for Attorney General in 2012 to investigate the investigation by her predecessor and his subordinate prosecutors.  The long-awaited report into possible delays by Corbett and its subordinates itself took almost a year and a half.  It found no evidence that anyone had willfully delayed the investigation.

            The conspiracy theory was that the investigation was delayed for political reasons, specifically that the prosecution of the case was delayed to avoid negative political reactions, either from Penn State football fans or donors to the alleged perpetrator’s charity.  As far as conspiracy theories go, this one was even more cynical, devoid of evidence and reliant on a series of assumptions than usual.

            As a prosecutor, Corbett was scrupulously non-partisan.  He had investigated, prosecuted and won convictions of both Democratic and Republican state legislators, including former Speakers of the House from each party.  Even as Governor, Corbett is not political, as his style of governance and public relations reflect his career as a prosecutor.  Indeed, his current low showing in public opinion polls demonstrate how apolitical he is.  Furthermore, the prosecutors working under him in the Attorney General’s office were career prosecutors, not political appointees.

            As a political candidate in 2010, Corbett might just as much have had a political motivation to prosecute a celebrity like Sandusky to draw more attention to his campaign, as prosecutors are often accused in such cases, as not to prosecute.  Furthermore, it is well known that cover-ups do not work and would have exposed Corbett and his subordinates to serious consequences.  Also, there is apparently more benefit in terms of public opinion to go overboard in the opposite direction in order to appear to be extremely concerned with the alleged victims, such as by assuming the credibility of every accusation of child abuse, treating the accused as necessarily guilty, convicting everyone around the alleged perpetrator through guilt by association and sympathizing unquestionably with the alleged victims, such as the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees apparently have done, like others when faced with such a public relations crisis, as no one wants to appear in the slightest not to be against child abuse, regardless of the veracity of all of the allegations and no matter how unfair it is to the accused or anyone associated with him.  The concern for erring to the safe side in regard to serious accusation is understandable, but the double standard is that it is not a concern for public opinion that leads to wrongs to which these critics object, only certain actions or omissions based upon such a concern. 
            The conspiracy theorists assume the apolitical Corbett would have been micromanaging his statewide gubernatorial campaign, while continuing his full-time job as Attorney General, to such a degree to know who was donating what and would also have had to have known that the donors were also members of the suspect’s charitable organization, something which would have required access to the charity’s membership list in order to cross-check it with a donor list, as donors are not required to provide a list of organizations to which they belong.  The conspiracy theorists also cynically assume that these philanthropists who were donating to help children would necessarily have been upset with the prosecutors instead of with the alleged perpetrator of the child abuse, if they believed the charges were credible. 

            This last element of the theory is a tacit acknowledgement on the part of the conspiracy theorists that one witness would not have been credible, which is why a stronger case was built with more credible witnesses, which was successful in winning convictions on the overwhelming majority of the more than 40 charges. Corbett and his subordinate prosecutors judged their case would have been weak with only one witness, in whom they did not have sufficient confidence, especially against a celebrity.  In my experience of having worked with victims and witnesses, victims of various kinds of abuse usually change their minds and opt not to testify.  Prosecutors try only to bring cases to prosecution that they believe have a reasonable chance of success.  No one today defends the perpetrator because of the strength of the prosecution. 

            Regardless of why the case took as long as it did to investigate, it is important to note no one was allegedly abused by the perpetrator during the investigation, meaning that the long time the investigation took to achieve a successful prosecution did not result in any further child abuse.  

           The report demonstrates how cynical, partisan and foolish the conspiracy theorists are and how partisan and ideologically biased many of Governor Tom Corbett’s critics are.

The American Military Mission to the Philippines Ends Successfully

           The United States military mission to the Philippines began shortly after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks to fight an al-Qaeda affiliate that had kidnapped several Americans, beheading one of them, in addition to numerous kidnappings and terrorist attacks committed against Filipinos. 

The soldiers trained and advised the Filipino military, only engaging in combat one time in self-defense, although one American soldier was murdered in a bomb blast by the Islamist rebels and others perished in an accident.  The American mission to the Philippines was a major success in the U.S-led War on Terrorism, as the Filipino military has gained ground against the jihadists, who have seen their numbers diminish dramatically. 

Most American soldiers will soon depart the combat zone, but a large percentage will be based indefinitely outside the zone elsewhere in the Philippines, where they will be on standby.  The U.S. and the Philippines also recently concluded a separate agreement allowing American soldiers to be based in the Philippines to defend it against Chinese aggression in the disputed Spratly Islands, the first time U.S. troops will be on Filipino soil in decades since they departed from the former American colony after the Cold War.  As I posted previously, the Filipino government had negotiated a peace deal with the main group of non-Islamist Muslim rebels who had fought a long guerilla campaign for independence, while Filipino troops have been routing Communist rebels.

The withdrawal of U.S. military forces from the Philippines is in sharp contrast to the Obama Administration’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, where no American troops remained afterward, and the announced plan to withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of this year, where a residual force will remain only temporarily – before either state was fully ready to defeat Islamist rebels without significant American help.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another Reason to Oppose Common Core: Liberal Curriculum on the Constitution

           A classroom resource written by several of Common Core’s lead writers contains lessons on the United States Constitution that claim the Framers only regarded white males with property as persons, according to CNS.

            The liberal belief that the Founding Fathers did not extend the guarantees of liberty to blacks and women is based upon ignorance and bias.  Free blacks and women were both persons and citizens under the Constitution.  Liberty is the birthright of all persons, while certain privileges are conveyed by citizenship. 

            Slaves could be of any race, as could slave-owners.  Regardless, even slaves were referred to as “Persons,” such as in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, which phased out the slave trade.  Three Fifths Rule of Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, which also refers to slaves simply as “Persons,” was another anti-slavery provision.  As I have posted previously, it reduced the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives, which is based upon population, to States where slavery was legal because the slaves could not be counted fully toward the total population.  Otherwise, the slave-owning states would have had a larger share of seats in the House and been able to protect and expand slavery beyond the possibility of abolition.  In no way did the Three Fifths Rule necessarily make slaves less than full persons under the federal Constitution.  

            States, not the Constitution or the federal government it created, determined the qualifications for the franchise.  It is important to note, however, that voting is a privilege, not a right.  Non-citizens are persons, but may not vote and even some citizens, such as minors, convicted felons and the mentally incapacitated may not exercise the franchise.  The privilege to vote, as well as other privileges permitted by the States, was guaranteed by the Privileges and Immunities Clause, Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution.   

           I have posted about the numerous dangers of Common Core in my post from September of 2013, Stop Common Core Now!,, but the liberal bias of the curriculum based upon it is yet another reason to oppose it.  It has been encouraging that several more States have opted out of Common Core.  Let us keep up the pressure to stop this dangerous scheme from the damage it would cause to education and to civil society and replace it with truly rigorous educational standards that teach students not only the basics of a good education, but how to think critically and prepare them for good citizenship.   

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fouad Ajami, In Memoriam

           Arab Muslim scholar, opponent of Islamism and promoter of liberty Fouad Ajami died Sunday at the age of 68. 
            Born in Lebanon in 1945, Ajami was a Shi’ite Muslim.  He emigrated to the United States in 1963, where he studied, becoming a recognized expert on the Middle East

            Ajami made the cogent case for the world to uphold the principal of sovereignty by opposing Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.  He supported the War on Terrorism against Islamists like al-Qaeda and other global terrorist networks.  Ajami supported removing the terrorist-sponsoring Baathist regime of Iraq from power and liberating the Iraqi people from oppression and did not waiver from his position.  Although liberal critics dismiss his prediction that Iraqis would greet the American and allied soldiers with jubilation, it was nonetheless true that some Iraqis were able to summon the courage after having lived in the Republic of Fear to greet their liberators warmly.  He supported President George W. Bush’s goal of spreading freedom, which he was manifest in the Arab Spring and was a critic of President Barak Obama’s weak foreign policy, up to his Administration’s current failures in Syria and Iraq.

            Ajami, who was a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, was the author of several books about the Middle East and hundreds of essays and was a frequent guest on television news programs.  He won several prestigious awards for public service, journalism and the humanities.

           Ajami was a strong ally in the cause of liberty.  His writings and broadcast statements will long be a fount of insight about the Arab and Islamic World and the global threat of violent Jihad and will continue to offer sound advice on how to defeat Islamism by promoting freedom as an alternative.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Current Baathist-Islamist Alliance Refutes the Anti-War Theory that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq Would Never Have Allied with Al-Qaeda

           One of the many arguments used by opponents of the Liberation of Iraq was to minimize or dismiss the terrorist threat to Americans from Iraq’s Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein was that the Baathists, whom the war opponents refer to as “secular,” were unlikely to cooperate with al-Qaeda or other Sunni Islamists because of political or religious ideological differences.  However, the recent reports of cooperation between Sunni jihadists, who had been affiliated with al-Qaeda, and former Baathist regime members disprove this anti-war argument. 

            Before the Liberation of Iraq in 2003 by the United States and its allies, some of the opponents of the war had raised the possibility of terrorist strikes against Americans or its interests in retaliation for attacking Hussein’s Baathist regime, which openly sponsored terrorism, as a reason not to go to war.  During the war, after no such attacks occurred, these anti-war critics reversed their argument and minimized or dismissed Iraq as a terrorist threat.  Some of these critics of the War on Terrorism or other American policies of self-defense justify terrorism, which is the targeting of violence toward innocent civilians, as an emotional or rational response to those foreign policies they, like the terrorists, oppose.  However, terrorism is neither emotional, nor rational and is never justifiable.  It is evil.  Apparently, the opponents of liberating Iraq did not explain why terrorists would oppose the overthrow of Hussein’s regime by the Americans and its allies if they thought it did not matter to their Islamist objectives.  The fact that many militant jihadists, including a significant number affiliated with al-Qaeda, entered Iraq to fight the Americans, their allies and the new Iraqi regime, only proved the Islamists’ strategic interest in preventing Iraq from enjoying representative government that respects the liberty of its people and is an ally of the U.S. in the War on Terrorism. 

Although the opponents of the war had linked Iraq with terrorism and then later minimized or denied any link, the overall relevance of Iraq to al-Qaeda was undeniable.  In fact, al-Qaeda’s largest gripe against the U.S. had been the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia.  Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden’s hatred of Americans was such that he regarded their presence in that kingdom to be a desecration of Islamic holy sites, even though the U.S. troops were not anywhere near the holy region.  The American troops were present in Saudi Arabia to protect it from an invasion by Iraq and to enforce no-fly zones over Iraq to protect Arab Shi’ites from Hussein’s oppression.  One of bin Laden’s other chief complaints against the U.S. was the trade embargo against Iraq

Furthermore, there were al-Qaeda affiliates present in Iraq before the overthrow of Hussein’s Baathist regime, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had been responsible for the murder of an American diplomat in Jordan.  Regardless of whether his presence was known or tolerated by the totalitarian Baathist regime, his presence alone refutes the anti-war argument that al-Qaeda was not present in Iraq before its liberation in 2003. 

The anti-war argument rests upon the theory that because Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Iraqi regime was  “secular,” their religious and political differences with al-Qaeda were too great for the two ever to cooperate against American interests.  The theory is based upon a misunderstanding of the word secular within the context of the Islamic world.  There, secular means “non-theocratic,” (not ruled by clerics), not “non-religious.”  In fact, the Baathist regime was coated with an Islamic veneer, despite being non-clerical.  Its language and symbols were Muslim.  For example, Saddam Hussein was officially portrayed in art as dressed in traditional religious garb; he made sure to be seen praying five times daily, and even spoke about his dream in which Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, appeared to him.  Hussein even saw himself as a modern Saladin, the Muslim leader who fought the Christian Crusaders.  Both were from Tikrit, Iraq.  Hussein and al-Qaeda were both anti-American Sunni Islamic militants and terrorists, despite their differences.  Although the record is not certain as to the exact relationship between Hussein’s regime and al-Qaeda, it does suggest there was at least a non-aggression pact between them.  I have noted in other posts the tendency of various rogues to cooperate.  If even atheist North Korea and theocratic Muslim Iran cooperate, it would not have been far-fetched that Hussein and al-Qaeda would have cooperated.  It would have been irresponsible for the U.S. to base its security on the hope that these two enemies would never have made an alliance, especially if their survival was in jeopardy.  The current cooperation between Baathists and Islamists proves the Liberation of Iraq was justified.

            Moreover, the sponsorship of terrorism by Iraq’s Baathist regime under Saddam Hussein should not be dismissed or minimized.  Iraq both harbored and financed terrorists and other militant Muslim suicide bombers who targeted and killed Americans.  Among others, Hussein’s regime had harbored for many years Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas, who had led the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in 1985, during which his terrorists murdered a disabled elderly American by dumping him overboard.  Abbas was also the conduit for Iraqi funds to subsidize Palestinian suicide bombers, including the ones who successfully targeted an American-owned restaurant frequented by Americans in Jerusalem, among a number of other attacks on Israelis that also resulted in American casualties. 

           Whether or not there were links between the Baathist regime of Iraq to al-Qaeda is irrelevant as to whether or not Iraq was a terrorist threat to Americans, as links to al-Qaeda are not the sole standard by which to judge whether or not a terrorist was a threat to Americans.  All terrorism is unacceptable, but that which targets Americans or its interests or allies is of particular concern.  The War on Terrorism is not only the “War on al-Qaeda,” but a campaign against all terrorists who threaten Americans, which included the Baathist regime of Iraq.  In fact, state sponsors of terrorism, whether the states themselves carried out acts of terrorism or not, were of particular concern because of the safe harbor they often provided terrorists, in addition to providing them resources.  Hussein’s regime was a sufficient terrorist threat, apart from al-Qaeda, for its overthrow to be justified, among other reasons.  The recent events in Iraq only remind us of the greater strategic threat posed by that regime in the War on Terrorism.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Foreign Digest: Egypt, Syria, Palestinian Authority, China, European Union/Spain

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a retired general that had serving in Egypt’s interim government that had taken power last year through a military coup against the elected Islamist government that had become authoritarian, won the presidential elections last weekend in a landslide, although with a voter turnout of less than half the electorate.  He has been sworn into office.  It is hoped Sisi can keep Egypt peaceful, stable and free without being subject to Islamist rule. The interim Egyptian government’s faithfulness to its treaty with Israel in obtaining the Jewish State’s consent to the placement of Egyptian troops in the Sinai Peninsula to defeat Islamist rebels there, as well as an Egyptian crackdown of smuggling to the terrorist Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are encouraging developments.

Palestinian Authority
            A unity Palestinian Authority government between Fattah, which had controlled the West Bank and Hamas, which had controlled the Gaza Strip, has been formed.  Hamas is an Iranian and Syrian-sponsored terrorist organization.  The United States of America under the Administration of President George W. Bush had cut off aid because of Hamas, but now the Obama Administration has announced that it will fund the Palestinian Authority, despite its significant inclusion of a terrorist organization. 

            The recent presidential elections during the civil war were a farce, despite the first appearance in decades of more than one candidate on the ballot, as even these candidates supported the incumbent who was seeking re-election, dictator Bashar Assad.  

Meanwhile, Syria has still not surrendered all of its chemical weapons, as it had agreed to do in order to military punishment from the United States and its Western allies for using such weapons of mass destructive against civilians.

            After twenty five years of a Chinese Communist government crackdown on dissent since the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, the Chinese people remain as un-free as ever, despite the predictions of some at the time that the remaining Communist dictatorships in China, Cuba, North Korea and elsewhere would fall, despite their brutal repression, and repeated assurances that trade with such states would lead to political, in addition to economic, freedom.   

           Meanwhile, China has become even more aggressive in pushing its territorial claims, versus the Philippines over the Spratly Islands and Vietnam over the Paracel Islands, as it continues to assert its claim over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands

European Union/Spain 
           There has been significant progress in GreecePortugal and Spain in lowering their level of debt, but challenges remain as these states, as well as much of the rest of Europe, struggle with a severe recession that reduces government tax revenue.

           King Juan Carlos of the House of Bourbon has announced his intention to abdicate the Crown of the Kingdom of Spain soon in favor of his son, Prince Felipe, who would rule as King Felipe VI.  Juan Carlos deserves praise for his key role in Spain’s transition to representative democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and subsequent threats to liberty and unity.  Felipe will ascend to the throne at a difficult time in recent Spanish history.  In addition to its economic and fiscal troubles, Spain faces a significant movement for independence for Catalonia.  May he reign well and long.

Conservative Thoughts on the Veterans Administration Scandal

           There have been numerous reports recently across the Union of veterans being denied needed health care at Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals.  The backlog of veterans on waiting lists for care was reduced by fraudulent means by VA bureaucrats, including by the delay or even denial of health care, in some cases until veterans died.

            Those veterans who are fully disabled currently may receive care from private health care facilities of their choice and be reimbursed, but other veterans may only receive free care outside of the VA’s system of hospitals and clinics from military facilities or contracted hospitals, only if the needed care is not available at a VA facility.  The VA has long been excessively bureaucratic, especially since at least the 1970s, and its quality of care was not necessarily as good as civilian care, despite the good effort of some of the health care providers and bureaucrats in its employ.  Both the quality of care and the efficiency of the VA had improved over the years.  Nevertheless, the VA has proved why government-run health care – or government-run any other kind of industry – is a bad model, particularly when government has a monopoly, as in the case of health care for most veterans.  Indeed, a government monopoly is worse than a private sector one, as it stifles competition, whereas a private monopoly is at least potentially subject to competition. 

           The left portrays government as better than the private sector, because public servants are motivated by public good versus the private sector’s motivation of profit, which the liberals regard evil because it is based upon self-interest.  However, the VA scandal demonstrates that even individual public employees can be self-interested, even to the point of criminality.  It should have been obvious especially to the liberals in the Obama Administration who disdain the profit motive that the financial incentives it offered VA employees to clear up the backlog of veterans waiting for health care would encourage cheating, even by public servants , as these bureaucrats would thereby profit from their deception.  Indeed, because of human nature, there will always be at least some incompetence and scandal in government.  The private sector, even if only motivated by self-interest, has more incentive to do public good than a government monopoly and its staff.  

            Reimbursement for the use of the services of any private health care facility should be an option for all veterans.  Eliminating this government monopoly would improve health care for veterans by reducing their wait times.  The competition from the private sector, which is often of superior quality, would also improve the care rendered by the VA and make it more efficient in delivering that care.  

           As for the political aspect of this scandal, unlike some of the other scandals of the Obama Administration, the President and even his Cabinet Secretary for Veterans Affairs were likely not aware of what lower-level federal bureaucrats were doing, although better supervision might have discovered it sooner.  However, the Administration is nonetheless responsible, as the misdeeds were done under its management, which included offering the financial incentives.  Regardless of what administration is in power, the Democratic Party is responsible for scandals committed by federal bureaucrats that harm people, as it is the party of government that boasts of having created all these big-government federal programs to make people dependent on the federal government and grateful to the Democrats.  If it had not conceived of a government-run monopoly health care system in the first place, instead of reimbursing veterans for their health care, there would be no scandal and veterans would have likely received their needed health care in a much timelier manner, instead of suffering and dying because self-interested employees failed their duty to serve.  

           It is worth remembering that veterans, unlike other recipients of federal largess, have earned their health care benefits through their usually self-less service to the United States of America, often at great risk.  The health care of the veterans should be the priority, not preserving a government monopoly for political reasons or the interest of a protected class of bureaucrats.