Friday, March 8, 2013

Palestinians Must Decide Who Speaks For Them

What is holding up progress for a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians? Is it Jewish members of the Knesset? Could it be the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu or more hard-lined members of his coalition government? The answer is a qualified NO. Neither, nor any of these entities are the main stumbling block to a much sought after peace between those in Israel and those in lands under Palestinian control. It is the inability of the Palestinian Arabs themselves to speak with one voice who are the responsible party for a lack of peace in the area.

Nearly everyone involved with this peace making process recognizes that the first thing necessary is the agreement on a two-State system within “The Holy Land.” I personally am not one of those proponents, but then again I am not involved in the process. For those who are central to the process this two-State idea is a given. Netanyahu and his government see this as the only viable solution as has every Prime Minister and coalition since the beginning of such undertakings after 1973. Most Israeli citizens want to give it a try. Those outside of Israel involved with trying to vie for peace also have accepted this two-State option including, the United States, Russia, the E.U., as well as, many Arab States like Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Even China is onboard with this two-State solution.

So one must ask - What is the problem? Why can’t this two-State remedy get a solid footing in the region? Who or what is standing in the way? The answer is actually a pretty simple one. Palestinians are not speaking with one voice. There is no unity from within those areas under their control. The people and their region are being ripped apart from within by conflicting voices. For the future of a “Palestine” to become a reality one voice must come forth from the region, a voice accepted by the vast majority of Palestinians as that person or group speaking on their behalf. There cannot be one voice coming from Ramallah in the West Bank and another coming out of Gaza City in the Strip, especially when even these two cannot come to an agreement on the best course for the Arabs living in Palestinian controlled segments of the country.

Before any peace can be achieved with Israel the Palestinian Arab peoples need to decide once and for all who speaks for them. Is it the elected government of the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza or the more moderate wing of Arabs in the West Bank led by the duly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas? Until this problem has been addressed and fully dealt with then no solution can or will ever be found for the region regardless of who leads such an effort. President Obama can’t do it nor can the Israelis no matter who or which party is leading the Jewish State.

Israel cannot and should not make any deals or concessions, particularly those that have to do with land concessions or building stoppages until Palestinians are willing to come to the table with a unified voice. Once that is completed and whoever is leading the Palestinian cause is willing to completely recognize the existence of the State of Israel then progress for any type of peace treaty can begin to take shape. If President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry wish to relay any kind of message to the Palestinian Arab people during their upcoming visit to the region then this is the one they need to hear most.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Is Sequestration Going To Kill Fido?

Would the messiah Obama ever do anything to deliberately hurt the American people? Could a man so dedicated to the welfare and wellbeing of every living citizen within the boundaries of the United States of America purposefully lie or mislead those who have put so much of their hopes and dreams for a better life through his press-lauded plan of trickle-down government handouts? Ah, yeah. I do believe he would and has!

If a recently leaked email from one of the Agriculture Department’s officers out in the field is to be believed then our benevolent “I am not a dictator, I am the president,” is a liar, a schemer and is leading an economic agenda that should frighten even the likes of Chris Matthews over at MSNBC (aka, The Obama Network).

Charles Brown is the director of the federal government’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service located in Raleigh, North Carolina. He sent an email inquiry to his bosses in Washington D.C. requesting just how much latitude his field inspectors would have concerning the sequestration cuts. His request seems harmless enough considering the president had publicly stated the $85 billion in required cuts would hurt all Americans. Mr. Brown simply wanted to know how much wiggle room his department had as it related to the jobs being done by his inspection agents. It’s not his request that has created this big question mark concerning the true intentions of the White House about sequestration and its motivation but the response Brown got back from his Agriculture Department’s budget office. They returned his email with “However you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

The republicans have latched onto that response from the budget office as an indicator that Mr. Obama and his administration are once again secretly playing games with the economy by portraying these sequestration cuts to be a lot more painful to the American public than they actually are and laying the burden of that pain squarely on the shoulders of his republican opponents in the House of Representatives and Senate. A statement released by republican Representative Tim Griffin mirrors that sentiment. “This email confirms what many Americans have suspected,” stated Griffin. “The Obama administration is doing everything they can to make sure their worst predictions come true and to maximize the pain of the sequester cuts for political gain.”

Do the feelings of Griffin and many others have any traction? If one was to keep this idea in context then something recently said by one of the White House’s own economic advisors would seem to suggest that this is exactly what Mr. Obama is doing. On rounds to the Sunday talk shows White House advisor Gene Sperling remarked openly, “Our hope is, as more republicans start to see this pain in their own districts, they will choose bipartisan compromise over this absolutist position.” It would seem that Mr. Sperling has inadvertently confirmed those suspicions of Mr. Obama’s low dealing.

Just how serious is this whole sequestration thing any way? Should the average American taxpayer be concerned over their economic future because of these budget cuts, cuts that are only a reality because this president requested them of the Congress to try and corner his opponents into accepting his economic agenda that was abhorrent to them in the first place?

Now that he has gotten what he wanted Mr. Obama is trying to lay all the blame for them at the feet of his opponents, putting pressure on their constituency to return that pressure on their elected official by misrepresenting the truth of the impact these cuts will have on the individual lives of each voter. I’ve heard and seen some pretty lowdown and dirty politicking over the last six decades but this president and his administration have proven themselves to be the most heinous of the lot. They are willing to vehemently lie and fabricate a false-truth by instilling the worst kind of fear in the American public. They are laying at the feet of the republicans who oppose him the idea that babies and the elderly will suffer because of these cuts. Adults and children will become ill or even die because the government will be unable to properly inspect the meat and other foodstuffs produced in and shipped into this nation. What’s next - frighten the children by telling them their puppies and kitties will suffer and die because their kibble isn’t kosher? And all this because Mr. Obama wants to hurt those politically who don’t agree with him. Can you get any lower with Chicago-style politics? Evidently this president can.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Dow Sets New High - What Does It Really Mean For the Economy?

Today the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) topped its previous record of four years ago. As of this writing the DJIA stands at 14,268 with little sign of retreating before the closing bell. While it may seem to be a time for those invested in the markets to rejoice it might also be prudent to take a look back at the whole economy for a bell weather instead of becoming myopic.

Financial indicators would suggest that even though the Dow is showing improvement over the last several months the actual benchmarks for guidelines that reveal a strong robust and recovering U.S. economy are giving us a different picture. If we take a look at where these benchmarks were the last time the Dow was lingering at this 14,000-plus mark the true state of the American economy becomes more than apparent.

The last time the Dow was hovering near today’s range the national average price for a gallon of regular gas was around $2.75. Today it is closer to $3.75. The unemployment rate was nearly 6.7 million, a figure that Obama opponents thought devastating. Today that number is closer to 13 million unemployed. It has basically doubled. The hot topic during this past election was the number of people now reliant on the food stamp program to sustain their families. The last time the Dow was over 14,000 those on food stamps numbered about 27 million. Today, it is closer to 48 million. A real tell for the state of the economy is the U.S. debt as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Then it was about 38%, not great but acceptable. Today it lingers at around 74%, no government or country can continue to sustain that kind of number for long and expect to stay solvent. Also the GDP’s overall growth during the two periods were 2.5% and close to 2% respectfully. Speaking of debt. The nation’s deficit the first time around for this Dow number was $9 trillion. Obama and his administration promised to get that under control. Sadly, it has controlled them. Today the national deficit stands at over $16 trillion and is growing daily by the billions of dollars. These numbers seem useless to the common American striving to make a living so let me break it down to a number that hits the wallet of every American. The average American household debt the last time the Dow surged passed 14,000 was a ridiculous $13.5 trillion. Today it stands at a little under $13 trillion. It would seem to some that this is a step in the right direction and the Obama economic plan of spend and spend is finally working. What must be taken into consideration is that these numbers are not reflecting that they are affected by the fact that more families are out of work and no longer looking for jobs and subsisting on food stamps and other government programs to survive and are no longer counted in this particular statistic. If they were then it is likely that number would be closer to $15 trillion.

The rise of the Dow today, and hopefully tomorrow is a good sign, especially for those who invest in the market, big, small and mom and pop investors are going to benefit from this rise. However, in the face of this is the hard truth that consumer confidence is at its lowest point since President Obama took office over four years ago. It now stands at a declining 69.6%. Just four years ago it was an astronomical 99.5%. Ok, I agree that number was probably based on unrealistic hopes from voters, but a drop of 33% in just four years is a figure that must be understood and reckoned with by this current administration during its second term. It would appear that the American people are no longer confident in this President or this Congress’ ability to both come to terms with the reality of our economic situation or the brain power to fix it.

I want to close with two final statistics from the last time the Dow reached the heights of today’s reading. One is very telling and it is the S&P Rating of the United States. The last time the Dow was here this nation’s rating was AAA. Today that rating is AA+ and could be set for another lowered evaluation. The final number is for me the most telling because even though the number on the Dow is a record these following numbers tell us the real situation on Wall Street. The New York Stock Exchange LTM Daily Volume of sales during the first time the Dow surged over 14,000 was over 1 billion shares. Today that number is half at 545 million shares. The LTM, or Last Twelve Months (aka TTM-trailing twelve months) is a measurement used by investors to evaluate a company or stock’s financial health. Investors use the LTM to determine future spending in order to ensure some kind of beneficial financial gain. The higher the number of shares bought and sold during an LTM the bigger the supposed profitability for the investor. What the numbers show is that although the Dow has reached a new record setting benchmark real investors are still not that confident in the sustainability of the current economy.

We can celebrate this moment in financial history has a landmark, but be wise and use investing insight because as good as this one DJIA number looks today it isn’t supported by the overall economic picture. My personal credo is based on the long view - diversify, diversify, diversify, buy and hold, buy and hold, buy low and sell high.

Is It Time To Take Ezekiel Serious?

In the midst of a so-called Arab spring in which Western leaders and diplomats would have us believe that a new wave of democratic enlightenment is on the cusp of emerging brilliantly across the Middle East and throughout the Islamic and Arab world lies the truth of the matter -- the Middle East and the Arab Islamic world is on the verge of bringing about a level of chaos the likes the world hasn’t seen since the first great Islamic Jihad began over 1300 years ago.

Leading this new Islamic revolution isn’t Syria, Libya or even Egypt or Iraq. Taking the lead is an all-too familiar player on the world scene, a non-Arab nation by the name of Iran, which until the year 1935 CE was known as the Persian Empire. This great and antiquated power of days gone by has been slowly gaining its strength, resources and influence throughout the Islamic world since the Ayatollah Khomeini launched his revolution against the infamous and Western-backed Shah of Iran nearly 40 years ago.

Khomeini has been dead since 1989 but the Islamic Revolution he spearheaded and fomented those many years ago has rippled throughout the world bringing a corrupted view of the Quran and giving full expression to the violent undercurrent of Islam to those most willing to take their faith in Allah and their hatred for Jews and the West, as well as anything less than Sharia Law, to the boiling point of pure outward and aggressive destructiveness.

Behind the scene like mad men hidden just out of sight from full view is the political antagonists plotting, scheming, poking at Iran’s soft spots with the stick of funds, technology, training and support for its militaristic and insatiable desire for a nuclear weapon to be used against Israel with the eventual goal of nuclear terrorism within the very borders of the United States. Those mad men just off camera are a shaky but necessary alliance between Russia and China, hoping to accomplish through Islamic Jihad and terrorism what each of those two great super powers has failed to do for decades via propaganda, military intrigue, spy-craft and economics i.e., destroy the United States, the European Union, NATO and the worldwide financial machine called capitalism.

For many years, going back to the Soviet Union era the allied help given to a Shah-less Iran by that former Soviet regime was no great secret. It was open and often flaunted into the face of both NATO and the United States. The buffer zone that prevented a full scale use of that massive Soviet involvement in the region was the pro-Western country of Turkey. In these early days of the 21st Century the world has seen the Turkish support of its Western allies begin to erode to the point where now diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel are all but gone, which has led to a real cooling off of public diplomatic favor between the U.S. and Turkey. Now with the emergence of China into Iran and a reinvigorated Russia under the strong-armed tactics of Putin and the introduction of the nuclear threat from Iran a whole new picture is coming into view for the already extremely volatile region that could send the entire world spiraling into worldwide conflagration at the drop of a hat. I have spent a great deal of my 64 years on this planet watching the unfolding story in the Middle East. Partly because of a desire to understand the depth of feelings coursing through the hearts and minds of the people who live there, partly because of my own Middle Eastern heritage and partly because of the time I was able to live in some of the regions now familiar to so many who watch the nightly news. I have spent nights under the skies in the lands of the Middle East staring up at the heavens, listening to the chirping of locusts out in some far off desert settlement, hearing the occasional bleating of a sheep or grunt of a camel and I often caught myself wondering why, with all this beauty, why those with the greatest amount of intelligence and heart couldn’t find a way to share in its beauty together. Especially since those fighting over it are all blood related going back millennia. These aren’t the Hatfields and McCoys, they are the Ishmaelites and the Yitzakites, blood brothers, kin. In fact, the only element spearheading this age-old feud is somebody not even part of the family but has inched their way into the mix, stirring up trouble by confusing the issue with religion instead of blood-ties, that somebody is the non-Arab nation of Iran.

Persia (Iran) has been a thorn in the side of both Israel and most Arab speaking nations for centuries. In our time the only commonality between Iran and Arab nations is their common religion of Islam and the Islam preached by Iran wasn’t the most acceptable form of belief of the religion until most recently under the control of the Iranian cleric's direction. Islam has had it moments of great intolerance, but for centuries, particularly during what has been called the Golden Age it led the world in science, medicine, literature, opulence and especially tolerance. In an age when Europe was under the darkened period of Papal abuses and monarchial treachery, the conquest of Islam into Spain and Western Europe actually brought in a period of intellectual enlightenment where both Jew and Gentile were able to thrive without fear of inquisition. Sadly, that more enlightened form of Islam died out when the Arabs were driven back out of Europe. What we have today is not that Islam but a perverted Islam led by minds driven by hatred and darkness as dark and barren as those of Dark Ages Catholicism. Minds driven by madness, men like Osama Bin Laden, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, aka “Little Hitler.”

The world now stands at a precipice. Decisions are being made by world political, economic and religious leaders that will affect everyone and those making these decisions are not accountable to anyone but themselves and their agenda. Once again, I have starred into the crystal ball of human events and what I see is no longer murky or obscured from plain view. I am a spiritual man, I am a Jew but I am not a religious man. And though I’ve spent many years as a rabbi studying what the ancients had to say, what I see in that crystal ball of my own mind is not necessarily the reflected view of my fellows within today’s Judaism, but it is what appears the most likely given all that has occurred on the world’s circuit since May 1948 and it all centers on the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and all those Arab blood brothers, as well as all those intent on doing Israel harm.

In the future, the very near future, what I see is Russia no longer hiding behind the facade but coming to the fore as the main aggressor against Israel trailing behind on its coat-tails will be Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon and Libya. China will take advantage of the chaos and amass a huge army. They will take the opportunity to gain a foothold in the oil rich region as the Chinese need and hunger for much needed energy resources finally surpasses their reluctance to enrage the West. Joining forces with Russia will be many remnants of the old Soviet Union that comprised mostly muslim countries in the regions of the Caucasus, countries like Uzbekistan (formally part of the old Persian Empire), Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kuyrgystan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and others caught between Russia and the Middle East. Turkey will no longer sit idly by as an ally of the West but will join forces with Russia, either with actual troops or by allowing passage through its country of Russian and former Soviet country troops and munitions, something it would not allow America to do when it sought permission during the Iraq War against Saddam Hussain’s regime by President George W. Bush.

I can easily visualize this massive alignment of troops, tanks, aircraft and other battlements converging onto the foothills of Jerusalem. The bigger question is - why? Why would such a massive undertaking be needed to invade a country that in its narrowest part is only 11 miles wide. What is so strategic about Israel in this modern age of computers, advanced technology, aerospace and supersonic transportation? What is the draw? Then it dawned on me. This cannot happen now. There is far too much antagonism in the region. Everyone is expecting something like this could happen so Israel, the United States, NATO and all those who are tied by treaty to the protection of Israel are armed to the teeth, standing watch and ready for immediate and total retaliation should some kind of real threat of imminent destruction happen. That is one reason why the threats of a maniac like Ahmadinejad, while taken seriously, can be somewhat taken for what they currently are, the ravings of a bonafide lunatic. This ultimate and realistic threat against Israel and the West cannot happen in today’s current political environment. So, what would it take for my mental crystal ball scenario to become a reality?

There is an old Jewish prophecy that is not talked about much by most of my fellow rabbis, either because they don’t get it, have never read it, or view it as a metaphor for something else completely. I have chosen to take it literally because it is the the only thing that makes absolute sense if what I have said above is even vaguely accurate. The portion I am speaking of is found in the Jewish writings of the Tanakh known as the prophetic writings of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was an old Jewish prophet who lived over 2500 years ago during a time of great Jewish persecution by the Babylonians. HaShem (one of our names for G-d) gave the prophet a vision of what would occur at some much later time in Israel’s future. The prophet was told that there would come a time when all the towns in Israel would be “open towns,” with gates “lacking bars” in which the Jewish people would finally be living during a real period of peace, tranquility in “unwalled villages” “living secure.” It got me to thinking that if this were a true statement then it would have to refer to a time period that has yet to happen because in the entire history of the Jewish people, going all the way back to Abraham himself, the Jew has never lived securely in the Land of Israel. It has always been completely surrounded by enemies which required constant vigilance on the part of its citizens with barred gates, walled towns, check points with armed soldiers, etc. But here, according to this old 2500 year old prophet is spoken of a time when Israel will be at peace, for the first time ever, with all those who were formally its enemies. And, according to this same prophecy, it is at this very time that Russia and all its Arab and Islamic allies will take to marching up against Israel and its “unwalled towns” and “unbarred gates.” Something magnificent and unheard of must occur before my invasion scenario can occur - Israel will get a peace treaty with its neighbors, including Iran, that it believes is truly binding, so much so that the citizens of this tiny Jewish State will, for the first time in its 4000 year history feel secure enough in the region to let down its guard and feel secure.

We have been witness to the re-birth of the Jewish State, the renewed rise of Islamic Jihad, the Arab spring and the slow decline of Western influence over the region. Therefore, if the scenario pictured above is true then the next thing on the agenda to keep our eyes wide open for is some kind of peace treaty set down that will be so binding and so thorough that Israel, its leadership, its people and the world at large both Gentile, Jewish and peace loving Arabs will have unlimited confidence in its ability to provide a real and lasting peace to a region troubled by war and death for over 10,000 years. When that treaty is signed, and you will know when it is the one I am referring to because the world will rejoice like it never has, then know that “when they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction will be upon them.”

But, what did the old prophet Ezekiel predict would be the final outcome of Russia, China and their allies as they presume such an adventure? I’ll let him say it in his own words first heard 2500 years ago on the banks of a river in old Babylon (Iraq):

“I will then summon the sword against him throughout My mountains and every man’s sword will be turned against his brother.”

It won’t be a pretty sight. But, in the end, Israel will still be standing and all those who presumed to come against the Land will be laid desolate. It’s a damn shame they couldn’t just heed the words of Mr. Rodney King - “Can’t we all just get along?”

Monday, March 4, 2013

Can Egypt's Democracy Be Paid For With U.S. Sequestration Dollars?

How serious does President Obama and the United States Congress expect the American people to accept this whole notion of austerity and “sequestration” when they are so willing to give U.S. dollars away so frivolously?

The Associate Press announced on Sunday that the newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has just awarded Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi with a nice and tidy sum of $250 million in aid for Egypt’s “future as a democracy,” something Senator Obama and the Democratic leadership were onetime opponents of such measures when done by President George W.Bush.

President Obama and the cronies in Congress that support his amateurish Middle Eastern foreign policy programs are more than willing to threaten the American people with a slow down in Social Security and Medicare benefit payments, benefits already bought and paid for by those Americans now depending on those checks and coverage, but is more than willing to squander millions of dollars to a country and leader whom common sense and past experiences will prove one day to turn into an enemy. And, anyone who really believes that Egypt, under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohammed Morsi will ever be a democracy is simply living in an unrealistic dream world.

Like Libya and nearby Syria, Egypt is still on the brink of another revolution and the U.S. sending even one dollar, much less $250 million in any kind of so-called aid shows just how ridiculously naive and out of touch this current administration is with the reality of that region of the world; not that past administrations have been much more enlightened.

This first $250 million is just a down payment to Morsi. If Egyptians meets certain unity benchmarks among its factions, a show of broad support for reform in Egyptian politics, a fair-minded attitude for justice and a show of continued support for the existing Camp David Accord between Egypt and Israel then an additional $1 billion of U.S. funds is guaranteed along with a hefty boast from the International Monetary Fund of $450 million. Hell, anybody can play the good boy role for a certain allotted amount of time for that kind of bread. But it will just be play acting. That isn’t all. President Obama has also promised Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood leadership $300 million in additional monetary support from U.S. taxpayers to spur on “direct support of key engines of democratic change.” I have one thing to say about our government and its elected officials, they do love throwing good money after bad, which is easy to do when it’s not your money but the taxpayers who keep reelecting you to office despite the reem-job politicians give those voters on a daily basis.

American politicians will allow their own citizens to suffer while handing millions and billions to governments like that in Egypt with the “hope” that democracy will ensue. I simply cannot find in any circumstance of the past where a nation’s democracy could be ensured by purchasing it with the price of currency. Democracy, for it to be real and sustainable, must be the greatest desire of the heart of the citizens of any country and those citizens with that desire for liberty and freedom must be willing to sacrifice and pay any price; not dollars, but with blood, sweat and tears to make it happen. Then once attained that democracy must be maintained in vigilance with the same level of veracity by which it was achieved. Real freedom, like genuine love, cannot be bought at any price.

[AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin]