MUST READ: Robert Bernstein’s fantastic speech

November 18, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

UN Watch published the full version of a speech given by Robert Bernstein, founder of Human Rights Watch, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on November 10 on the subject of Human Rights in the Middle East.

It is long but it is a must-read.

Here are some parts:


You may wonder why a man just shy of his 88th birthday would get up at 5 in the morning to fly to Omaha to give a speech. Frankly, since accepting this kind offer, I’ve wondered myself. Here’s why. Having devoted much of my life to trying to make the Universal Declaration of Human Rights come alive in many places in the world, I have become alarmed at how some human rights organizations, including the one I founded, are reporting on human rights in the Middle East.

In reading about the discussions and actions of students on American campuses, I learned, of course, that the Israel-Palestine issues were very polarized, sometimes hostile, and that a lot of the hostility was by students angered over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the endless process of trying to establish a second state.

I know we all believe in free speech. We believe in equality for women. We believe in tolerance of each other’s religious beliefs and in an open campus. When I go back to New York, tomorrow night, I will be attending the 150th anniversary of Bard College, a college very involved in the Middle East, as it has a combined degree program with Al-Quds, the Palestinian university in Ramallah. Here is what Leon Botstein, Bard’s President, says about education: “Education is a safeguard against the disappearance of liberty, but only if it invites rigorous inquiry, scrutiny, and the open discussion of issues.”

Believing in all these values and the others of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, what is taking place on American campuses puzzles me. It seems to me that the State of Israel has all the values we just outlined. It is surrounded by 22 Arab states occupying 99-1/2% of the land in the Middle East and these states do not share these values. Israel, which occupies less than ½ of 1%, does share these values. There is a battle about two things: First, the size of the 23rd state, the new Palestinian state, which at present has many of the same values as the other 22 states. Secondly, the claims of many Arab states, Iran and its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, about the very legitimacy of the State of Israel. I don’t think human rights organizations alone can solve this mess but I do wonder about the discussions on many campuses, particularly about Israeli abuses, regardless of what you believe about them, and whether they are constructive. I don’t see how discussions of Israeli abuses can take such precedence over the kind of state that will be next to Israel. That is, not only internally, although human rights advocates should care about that more than they do, but in its foreign policy toward its neighbor Israel.

During my twenty years at Human Rights Watch, I had spent little time on Israel. It was an open society. It had 80 human rights organizations like B’Tselem, ACRI, Adalah, and Sikkuy. It had more newspaper reporters in Jerusalem than any city in the world except New York and London. Hence, I tried to get the organization to work on getting some of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly free speech, into closed societies – among them, the 22 Arab states surrounding Israel. The faults of democratic countries were much less of a priority not because there were no faults, obviously, but because they had so many indigenous human rights groups and other organizations openly criticizing them.

I continued to follow the work of Human Rights Watch and about six years ago became a member of the Middle East North Africa Advisory Committee because I had become concerned about what had appeared to me to be questionable attacks on the State of Israel. These were not violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but of the laws of war, Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. There has been an asymmetrical war – you might call it a war of attrition in different ways involving Israel – not only with Palestinians but sometimes involving other Arab states, but of course, involving Iran and its non-state proxies Hezbollah and Hamas. In reporting on this conflict, Human Rights Watch – frequently joined by the UN – faulted Israel as the principal offender.

It seemed to me that if you talked about freedom of speech, the rights of women, an open education and freedom of religion – that there was only one state in the Middle East that was concerned with those issues. In changing the public debate to issues of war, Human Rights Watch and others in what they described as being evenhanded, described Israel far from being an advocate of human rights, but instead as one of its principal offenders. Like many others, I knew little about the laws of war, Geneva Conventions and international law, and in my high regard for Human Rights Watch, I was certainly inclined to believe what Human Rights Watch was reporting. However, as I saw Human Rights Watch’s attacks on almost every issue become more and more hostile, I wondered if their new focus on war was accurate.

In one such small incident, the UN Human Rights Commission, so critical of Israel that any fair-minded person would disqualify them from participating in attempts to settle issues involving Israel, got the idea that they could get prominent Jews known for their anti-Israel views to head their investigations. Even before Richard Goldstone, they appointed Richard Falk, professor at Princeton, to be the UN rapporteur for the West Bank and Gaza. Richard Falk had written an article comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to Hitler’s treatment of the Jews in the Holocaust. Israel, believing this should have disqualified him for the job, would not allow him into the country. Human Rights Watch leapt to his defense, putting out a press release comparing Israel with North Korea and Burma in not cooperating with the UN. I think you might be surprised to learn the release was written by Joe Stork – Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch Middle East Division – whose previous job for many, many years, was as an editor of a pro-Palestinian newsletter.

Following this, Richard Goldstone resigned as a Board member of Human Rights Watch and Chair of its Policy Committee to head the UN Human Rights Council investigation of Gaza. Human Rights Watch has been, by far, the biggest supporter of the UN Council, urging them to bring war crimes allegations against Israel – based on this report. I don’t believe Human Rights Watch has responded to many responsible analyses challenging the war crimes accusations made by Goldstone and also challenging Human Rights Watch’s own reports – one on the use of phosphorous, one on the use of drones and one on shooting people almost in cold blood. A military expert working for Human Rights Watch, who seemed to wish to contest these reports, was dismissed and I believe is under a gag order. This is antithetical to the transparency that Human Rights Watch asks of others.

After five years of attending the Middle East Advisory Committee meetings, seeing the one board member who shared my views leave the organization, another supporter on the Middle East Advisory Committee who had joined at my request being summarily dismissed, and having great doubts about not only the shift in focus to war issues but also the way they were being reported, I wrote an op-ed in The New York Times questioning these policies. To me, the most important point in my op-ed was the following: “They (Human Rights Watch) know that more and better arms are flowing into Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet, Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.”

A Human Rights Watch Board member told The New Republic that they go after Israel because it is like “low-hanging fruit.” By that, I think he means that they have a lot of information fed to them by Israel’s own human rights organizations and the press, that they have easy access to Israel to hold their press conferences, and that the press is eager to accept their reports. The organization, most would agree, was founded to go after what I guess you would call “high-hanging fruit” – that is, closed societies, where it is hard to get in. Nations that will not allow you to hold press conferences in their country. Nations where there are no other human rights organizations to give you the information.

It has been over one year since the op-ed appeared. Little has changed. For example, within hours of the flotilla incident, Human Rights Watch was calling for an international investigation pointing out that any information coming from the Israeli Army was unreliable. That was before any of the facts were known. I spent the first week of October in Israel seeking out as many different views as I could. I was privileged to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I spent a day at Al-Quds, the Palestinian university in the West Bank, with the university’s President Sari Nusseibeh, his staff, and students. I also met with NGOs including Jessica Montell of B’Tselem, passed an evening with my dear friends Natan and Avital Sharansky, and spoke with many journalists and government officials. I visited S’derot, the town most shelled by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. I came back convinced more than ever that Human Rights Watch’s attacks on Israel as the country tried to defend itself were badly distorting the issues – because Human Rights Watch had little expertise about modern asymmetrical war. I was particularly concerned that the wars were stopped but not ended – so they became wars of attrition.

…When I was in Israel, I went to the Gaza border and I learned that since the beginning of 2010, more than 11,000 patients with their escorts exited the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israel. Surprisingly and sadly, this policy has risks. I was told the Israelis make the Palestinians change cars at the border because cars had been rigged to explode. A woman on crutches was changing cars. She fell down. Three Israeli soldiers ran to help her get up. She blew herself up, killing the four of them. The Hamas government is preaching genocide of Israel, yet Israel is treating Gaza’s sick. It struck me as bizarre that in an asymmetric war of attrition, which we’re still learning about how to fight, a nation cares for the sick of a neighbor that is preaching genocide to its people and the only human rights comment has been that they are not doing it well enough.


This is only a small sample. Read the whole thing, now.



Elder of Ziyon

The Lame Duck’s Seven Must Do Items

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
style=”float: right; margin-bottom: 1px; margin-left: 1px;”> href=”http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/Lame-Duck.jpg”> class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-43146″ title=”Lame Duck” src=”http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/Lame-Duck.jpg” alt=”” width=”354″ height=”240″ />

While they were busy wasting time on Obamacare, energy taxes, and amnesty, the 111th Congress let many of their primary obligations slide. That is why the next two months is about to witness the busiest lame duck session in the history of Congress. Here are seven most do items this lame duck must address before the 112th Congress is sworn in:

1. Appropriations – Congress has yet to complete work on one of the 12 appropriations bills necessary to keep the discretionary budget of the government funded into next year.  Congress is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) ( href=”http://www.cq.com/law/111/242″>PL 111-242)until December 3rd.  A Continuing Resolution is a bill that funds the federal government under last years levels until it expires.  Congress is going to have to decide between an Omnibus Spending bill, one that combines all of the 12 appropriations bills into one, or a Continuing Resolution that will fund the government into next year.  href=”http://www.cq.com/doc/news-3763166?wr=RDlYTlRja3lSajVTUUlBNGZVZTlQUQ”>Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) reports that it is unclear as to whether the Congress will try to pass an Omnibus or a CR. id=”more-46865″>

Minority Leader href=”http://www.cq.com/person/202″>Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that no decision had been reached on whether or how to proceed with an omnibus fiscal 2011 spending bill.  Lawmakers will either need to put another stopgap spending bill in place or clear an omnibus measure before then if they want to avoid a government shutdown.  Sen. McConnell said he had talked with Majority Leader href=”http://www.cq.com/person/337″>Harry Reid (D-NV) about how to proceed, but that no decision had been made. “Harry and I talked yesterday and we just haven’t reached any conclusions,” McConnell said.

One emerging problem with the Omnibus is that is has been crafted without public participation with a $ 1.108 trillion price tag, a level too high for many Republicans.  Also, the Omnibus is reported to include earmarks.  This may be a problem because of the recent resolutions adopted by the House and Senate Republican caucuses to support a two year earmark moratorium.

2. Obama Tax Hikes – The big question for taxpayers is what is Congress going to do about the massive tax hikes scheduled for January 1st.  href=”http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-16/senate-s-durbin-not-very-optimistic-bush-era-tax-cuts-will-be-extended.html”>Bloomberg reports that a summit between Republicans and Democrats scheduled for the White House today will not happen until November 30th.

A deal to extend soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts won’t be completed until December, and some Democrats in Congress said an accord may not be reached this year. Liberals are trying to “decouple” tax cuts for job creators, those making over $ 250,000/yr, the death tax, capital gains, and dividends from those with incomes of $ 250,000 or less.  href=”http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-16/senate-s-durbin-not-very-optimistic-bush-era-tax-cuts-will-be-extended.html”>Bloomberg cited Clint Stretch of Deloitte Tax LLP who argued that allowing tax cuts to expire would “would add $ 2,600 annually to the tax burden of a median-income family earning about $ 70,000 a year.”

Conservatives want tax cuts to remain in place for all Americans.  There are many proposals on the table right now.  Sen. McConnell has submitted legislation to continue all of the tax cuts, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has promoted the idea of sustaining all of the tax cuts for those making less than $ 1 million, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) favors the idea of steering tax cuts for job creators to business.  There is a high probability that none of these legislative ideas will make it to the President’s desk.  If so, expect taxes to increase for all Americans on January 1st 2011 and for the next Congress to have to deal with the issue.

3. Doc Fix – The rate that the federal government pays physicians who treat Medicare patients is scheduled to be cut 23% on December 1st.  This cut is commonly referred to as “Doc Fix.” The Doc Fix issue may become another controversial expiring provision of law, because Congress is going to have difficulty finding money to offset the higher spending. According to href=”http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/10/Obamacares-Medicaid-Policy-Putting-the-Doctors-in-Another-Fix”>Brian Blase of The Heritage Foundation a long term Doc Fix could prove very expensive using Congressional Budget Office and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid estimates:

Based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the 10-year cost of raising PCP rates to Medicare levels would be between $ 37 billion and $ 68 billion. The Heritage Foundation estimates that the 10-year cost could rise to $ 350 billion if state reimbursement rates were to rise proportionally for all physician and clinical services.

Republicans have been pushing for all new spending to be offset and a $ 20 billion offset for this program maybe impossible for big spending liberals to find.

4. Unemployment Insurance – Another expensive proposition for Congress is extending unemployment insurance that expires on December 1st.  The idea on the table is to extend unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks.  According to the href=”http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703670004575616863209401130.html?mod=googlenews_wsj”>Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

Congress is unlikely to agree to extend jobless benefits for two million unemployed workers by the time the program begins to lapse in two weeks, as lawmakers struggle with a packed lame-duck session and voter antipathy toward government spending.

href=”../2010/03/02/senator-jim-bunning-%E2%80%93-%E2%80%9Ci-object%E2%80%9D/”>Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) demanded earlier this year that a one month extension for unemployment benefits be offset with $ 10 billion in cuts to other programs.  Both an extension of Doc Fix and unemployment insurance extensions may be part of negotiations for an Omnibus or a CR.

5. President’s Debt Commission – The President’s Deficit Commission is expected to submit a report to Congress pursuant to an executive order on December 1st.  Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have promised a vote on the recommendations of the Commission in the lame duck.  Conservatives are pushing back on any idea that takes “ href=”../2010/11/16/how-would-you-reduce-the-deficit/”>a 50/50 approach to eliminating the deficits and lowering the projected trajectory of the debt through tax increases and spending cuts.”  It will be difficult to get this plan through Congress when many on the right and left are objecting to provisions in this bill that cut spending and increase taxes.

5. FAA – Other issues expiring are authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration that includes an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).

6. TANF – A Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency fund, a program funded through the stimulus plan, expired in September and many liberals in Congress want to keep the emergency fund authorized into 2011.

All of these issues will be front and center during the Lame Duck Congress and the American people will be sent a billion dollar bill if new programs are funded without cutting spending in other areas of government to pay for these Congressional priorities.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

The Lame Duck’s Seven Must Do Items

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
style=”float: right; margin-bottom: 1px; margin-left: 1px;”> href=”http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/Lame-Duck.jpg”> class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-43146″ title=”Lame Duck” src=”http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/Lame-Duck.jpg” alt=”” width=”354″ height=”240″ />

While they were busy wasting time on Obamacare, energy taxes, and amnesty, the 111th Congress let many of their primary obligations slide. That is why the next two months is about to witness the busiest lame duck session in the history of Congress. Here are seven most do items this lame duck must address before the 112th Congress is sworn in:

1. Appropriations – Congress has yet to complete work on one of the 12 appropriations bills necessary to keep the discretionary budget of the government funded into next year.  Congress is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) ( href=”http://www.cq.com/law/111/242″>PL 111-242)until December 3rd.  A Continuing Resolution is a bill that funds the federal government under last years levels until it expires.  Congress is going to have to decide between an Omnibus Spending bill, one that combines all of the 12 appropriations bills into one, or a Continuing Resolution that will fund the government into next year.  href=”http://www.cq.com/doc/news-3763166?wr=RDlYTlRja3lSajVTUUlBNGZVZTlQUQ”>Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) reports that it is unclear as to whether the Congress will try to pass an Omnibus or a CR. id=”more-46865″>

Minority Leader href=”http://www.cq.com/person/202″>Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that no decision had been reached on whether or how to proceed with an omnibus fiscal 2011 spending bill.  Lawmakers will either need to put another stopgap spending bill in place or clear an omnibus measure before then if they want to avoid a government shutdown.  Sen. McConnell said he had talked with Majority Leader href=”http://www.cq.com/person/337″>Harry Reid (D-NV) about how to proceed, but that no decision had been made. “Harry and I talked yesterday and we just haven’t reached any conclusions,” McConnell said.

One emerging problem with the Omnibus is that is has been crafted without public participation with a $ 1.108 trillion price tag, a level too high for many Republicans.  Also, the Omnibus is reported to include earmarks.  This may be a problem because of the recent resolutions adopted by the House and Senate Republican caucuses to support a two year earmark moratorium.

2. Obama Tax Hikes – The big question for taxpayers is what is Congress going to do about the massive tax hikes scheduled for January 1st.  href=”http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-16/senate-s-durbin-not-very-optimistic-bush-era-tax-cuts-will-be-extended.html”>Bloomberg reports that a summit between Republicans and Democrats scheduled for the White House today will not happen until November 30th.

A deal to extend soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts won’t be completed until December, and some Democrats in Congress said an accord may not be reached this year. Liberals are trying to “decouple” tax cuts for job creators, those making over $ 250,000/yr, the death tax, capital gains, and dividends from those with incomes of $ 250,000 or less.  href=”http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-16/senate-s-durbin-not-very-optimistic-bush-era-tax-cuts-will-be-extended.html”>Bloomberg cited Clint Stretch of Deloitte Tax LLP who argued that allowing tax cuts to expire would “would add $ 2,600 annually to the tax burden of a median-income family earning about $ 70,000 a year.”

Conservatives want tax cuts to remain in place for all Americans.  There are many proposals on the table right now.  Sen. McConnell has submitted legislation to continue all of the tax cuts, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has promoted the idea of sustaining all of the tax cuts for those making less than $ 1 million, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) favors the idea of steering tax cuts for job creators to business.  There is a high probability that none of these legislative ideas will make it to the President’s desk.  If so, expect taxes to increase for all Americans on January 1st 2011 and for the next Congress to have to deal with the issue.

3. Doc Fix – The rate that the federal government pays physicians who treat Medicare patients is scheduled to be cut 23% on December 1st.  This cut is commonly referred to as “Doc Fix.” The Doc Fix issue may become another controversial expiring provision of law, because Congress is going to have difficulty finding money to offset the higher spending. According to href=”http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/10/Obamacares-Medicaid-Policy-Putting-the-Doctors-in-Another-Fix”>Brian Blase of The Heritage Foundation a long term Doc Fix could prove very expensive using Congressional Budget Office and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid estimates:

Based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the 10-year cost of raising PCP rates to Medicare levels would be between $ 37 billion and $ 68 billion. The Heritage Foundation estimates that the 10-year cost could rise to $ 350 billion if state reimbursement rates were to rise proportionally for all physician and clinical services.

Republicans have been pushing for all new spending to be offset and a $ 20 billion offset for this program maybe impossible for big spending liberals to find.

4. Unemployment Insurance – Another expensive proposition for Congress is extending unemployment insurance that expires on December 1st.  The idea on the table is to extend unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks.  According to the href=”http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703670004575616863209401130.html?mod=googlenews_wsj”>Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

Congress is unlikely to agree to extend jobless benefits for two million unemployed workers by the time the program begins to lapse in two weeks, as lawmakers struggle with a packed lame-duck session and voter antipathy toward government spending.

href=”../2010/03/02/senator-jim-bunning-%E2%80%93-%E2%80%9Ci-object%E2%80%9D/”>Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) demanded earlier this year that a one month extension for unemployment benefits be offset with $ 10 billion in cuts to other programs.  Both an extension of Doc Fix and unemployment insurance extensions may be part of negotiations for an Omnibus or a CR.

5. President’s Debt Commission – The President’s Deficit Commission is expected to submit a report to Congress pursuant to an executive order on December 1st.  Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have promised a vote on the recommendations of the Commission in the lame duck.  Conservatives are pushing back on any idea that takes “ href=”../2010/11/16/how-would-you-reduce-the-deficit/”>a 50/50 approach to eliminating the deficits and lowering the projected trajectory of the debt through tax increases and spending cuts.”  It will be difficult to get this plan through Congress when many on the right and left are objecting to provisions in this bill that cut spending and increase taxes.

5. FAA – Other issues expiring are authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration that includes an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).

6. TANF – A Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency fund, a program funded through the stimulus plan, expired in September and many liberals in Congress want to keep the emergency fund authorized into 2011.

All of these issues will be front and center during the Lame Duck Congress and the American people will be sent a billion dollar bill if new programs are funded without cutting spending in other areas of government to pay for these Congressional priorities.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

Islamic hate site says Spencer is like a “cancer” that must be “cut out”

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

LikeAllCancers.jpg

A an Islamic hate site that offers excuses for jihad terror and windy pseudo-refutations, rife with errors of fact and logic, of my work has now crossed the line into open death threats:

Mosizzle says:
November 11, 2010 at 1:18 pm

“Robert Spencer…[a] canny operative who likely has the inside track on the State Department’s Middle East affairs desk should the tea party win the White House in 2012″-NY Mag.

Like all cancers, this one needs to be cut out before it spreads.

How ironic, but not at all surprising, that this would appear on a website designed to show that Islam is really a Religion of Peace and that anyone who believes otherwise does so because of me, not because of the violence committed in the name of Islam on a regular basis.

(Thanks to James for the heads-up.)

Jihad Watch

Essential Issues Must Be Addressed Before New START Is Taken Up in the Senate

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
style=”float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 10px;”> class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-16755″ src=”http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/capitol1.gif” alt=”” width=”370″ height=”240″ />

There are three essential things that the Administration must commit to before the strategic arms control agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation (known as New START) is approved in the Senate, href=”http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703514904575602992172574172.html”>writes James Woolsey in The Wall Street Journal.

Safeguarding the option to develop and deploy the href=”http://www.heritage.org/Multimedia/Video/2010/09/Heritage-START-Video”>most effective missile defenses possible is at the top of the list. Given the current multipolar nuclear landscape, the U.S. should be moving away from the Cold War retaliation-based deterrence policy and toward a more defensive strategic posture. Unfortunately, New START does href=”http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/11/New-START-Critical-Limits-on-US-Missile-Defense-Options-Persist”>nothing to facilitate this transition.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee adopted a resolution of ratification when it voted to report New START to the Senate. The resolution includes conditions, an understanding, and declarations that are designed to protect U.S. missile defense options against limitations that could be imposed by the treaty. While these provisions in the resolution are imperfect and may not be fully effective in protecting U.S. missile defense options, their inclusion serves as a testament to the fact that New START, either directly or indirectly, imposes restrictions on missile defense—something the Administration denied. id=”more-46772″>

Recent href=”http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_us_russia_nuclear_treaty;_ylt=ArV6voimO1vPmA7hyRugJN.s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNzczFnanBxBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAxMTEzL3VzX3VzX3J1c3NpYV9udWNsZWFyX3RyZWF0eQRjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzMEcG9zAzEwBHB0A2hvbWVfY29rZQRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3J5BH” target=”_blank”>news reports suggest that the White House is trying to secure votes for ratification of New START during the short “lame duck” session of Congress by href=”http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/77b9a9e6-ed01-11df-9912-00144feab49a.html#axzz15HpSQt7y” target=”_blank”>threatening to withhold vital funding for the aging nuclear program. This is reprehensible. Placing conditions on funding for the U.S. nuclear program is playing politics with our national security. The modernization of America’s nuclear weapons arsenal and infrastructure is more urgent than ever, as the href=”../2010/11/09/incident-underscores-need-to-modernize-u-s-nuclear-arsenal-and-rethink-new-start/”>incident at Warren Air Force Base on October 24 showed.

During the incident, the United States Air Force lost communication with a squadron of 50 nuclear-armed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. The broad scale of this disruption resulted in one of the most serious and sizable ruptures in nuclear command and control in history. If money is needed, it should be provided without conditions. Period. Furthermore, the White House cannot make iron-clad guarantees on funding nuclear programs because href=”../2010/11/16/morning-bell-national-security-shouldnt-be-for-sale/”>Congress passes annual budgets.

The Administration and proponents of the treaty are also arguing for a quick “lame duck” ratification by saying that the U.S. is in danger without New START, because without a verification regime it lacks insight into Russia’s nuclear forces. This is rather amazing, considering that Administration officials have insisted that Russia is not a threat.

Moreover, the lack of verification measures, supporters of the treaty argue, is increasing instability and uncertainty between the two major nuclear powers. Yet this is the result of the Administration’s own actions. The White House did not move to take advantage of a five-year extension clause under START I and instead href=”https://email.heritage.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/oct/19/president-obama-and-a-fellow-democrat-sen-john-ker/” target=”_blank”>insisted on negotiating a separate agreement. At the time, the Administration justified its approach by saying that it was more important to get the treaty right href=”https://email.heritage.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.heritage.org/Events/2010/11/New-START” target=”_blank”>rather than get the treaty soon.

The Senate considered the original START for nearly a year. The Moscow Treaty, which was far less complex than New START, was before the Senate for nearly nine months. The Obama Administration took more than 12 months to negotiate New START but has sought approval from the Senate in less than five. The rush to ratify a flawed treaty undermines the important role of “advice and consent” that the Senate must exercise on any treaty of this magnitude.

Co-authored by Michaela Bendikova.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

The Incoming Republican Congress Must Avoid The Ethics Boomerang

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Our guest blogger is Lisa Gilbert, Deputy Director of Congress Watch at Public Citizen.

This week, as both parties hold their leadership elections for the House of Representatives, is a good time to look forward towards what the House will look like under the leadership of incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). When it comes to ethics, we urge the incoming leadership to avoid following in the footsteps of the most recent Republican Congress.

In the Republican-controlled 109th Congress, there was an unprecedented level of corruption, with lobbyists exerting influence through wining and dining, travel junkets and fundraising; lawmakers engaged in a record amount of “earmark for campaign contribution” trade-offs. In addition, former Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R-TX) K-Street project made it clear to the public that lobbyists had a favored role in the halls of Congress.

Flipping back through the scrapbook of this period’s abuses, the snapshots invoke predictable disgust:

    In 2003, disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave away an estimated $ 180,000 in food and wine to members of Congress and staff. While at the nearby Capital Grille, it was standard to see congressional staffers giving their lunch checks to the nearest available lobbyist, who eagerly paid.

    In 2005, lawmakers took 1,340 trips at a cost of $ 3.6 million, usually billed to businesses and K Street firms with legislation pending before Congress and frequently aboard corporate jets carrying or filled with lobbyists.

    – Both the number and dollar amount of earmarks reached an all-time high in this era, with 13,997 earmarks worth $ 27.3 billion in 2005 and 9,963 earmarks worth $ 29 billion in 2006, according to the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.

    – With the “K Street Project” in full swing, lobbying firms were pressured by Republican leaders to hire prominent Republican Party operatives and staffers in return for special access.

Though the K Street Project came to an official end with passage of HOLGA, Boehner is again working very closely with K Street. He has put together a list of about 75 to 80 potential chiefs of staff for newly arriving Republican members of Congress, including current and former Capitol Hill staffers and lobbyists who have been recommended or have inquired about working for an incoming Republican member.

When citizens in the 2006 and 2008 elections cast their votes, exit polls demonstrated that the influence of lobbyists and the ethics scandals plaguing the Republican-controlled Congress were the single largest factor behind their choices. As a result, in 2007, one of the first things House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did was enact groundbreaking new ethics and lobbying rules for the House. The House also passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HOLGA) and created the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an outside entity designed to filter apparent ethical breaches and refer cases meriting further investigation and action to the ethics committee.

The passage of HOLGA and the creation of the OCE have been monumental steps forward—in particular, the OCE has helped to shine a light on the ethical lapses of members of the House. We must strive to continue to improve our ethics process rather than turn back the clock to the style of the prior Republican majority. At a time when American’s confidence in Congress is at an all-time low, (a recent Gallup poll clocked only 11 percent of voters with a great deal of confidence in Congress) it would be a slap in the face to a public low on trust to remove important ethics protections like the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Wonk Room

The Incoming Republican Congress Must Avoid The Ethics Boomerang

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Our guest blogger is Lisa Gilbert, Deputy Director of Congress Watch at Public Citizen.

This week, as both parties hold their leadership elections for the House of Representatives, is a good time to look forward towards what the House will look like under the leadership of incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). When it comes to ethics, we urge the incoming leadership to avoid following in the footsteps of the most recent Republican Congress.

In the Republican-controlled 109th Congress, there was an unprecedented level of corruption, with lobbyists exerting influence through wining and dining, travel junkets and fundraising; lawmakers engaged in a record amount of “earmark for campaign contribution” trade-offs. In addition, former Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R-TX) K-Street project made it clear to the public that lobbyists had a favored role in the halls of Congress.

Flipping back through the scrapbook of this period’s abuses, the snapshots invoke predictable disgust:

    In 2003, disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave away an estimated $ 180,000 in food and wine to members of Congress and staff. While at the nearby Capital Grille, it was standard to see congressional staffers giving their lunch checks to the nearest available lobbyist, who eagerly paid.

    In 2005, lawmakers took 1,340 trips at a cost of $ 3.6 million, usually billed to businesses and K Street firms with legislation pending before Congress and frequently aboard corporate jets carrying or filled with lobbyists.

    – Both the number and dollar amount of earmarks reached an all-time high in this era, with 13,997 earmarks worth $ 27.3 billion in 2005 and 9,963 earmarks worth $ 29 billion in 2006, according to the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.

    – With the “K Street Project” in full swing, lobbying firms were pressured by Republican leaders to hire prominent Republican Party operatives and staffers in return for special access.

Though the K Street Project came to an official end with passage of HOLGA, Boehner is again working very closely with K Street. He has put together a list of about 75 to 80 potential chiefs of staff for newly arriving Republican members of Congress, including current and former Capitol Hill staffers and lobbyists who have been recommended or have inquired about working for an incoming Republican member.

When citizens in the 2006 and 2008 elections cast their votes, exit polls demonstrated that the influence of lobbyists and the ethics scandals plaguing the Republican-controlled Congress were the single largest factor behind their choices. As a result, in 2007, one of the first things House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) did was enact groundbreaking new ethics and lobbying rules for the House. The House also passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HOLGA) and created the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an outside entity designed to filter apparent ethical breaches and refer cases meriting further investigation and action to the ethics committee.

The passage of HOLGA and the creation of the OCE have been monumental steps forward—in particular, the OCE has helped to shine a light on the ethical lapses of members of the House. We must strive to continue to improve our ethics process rather than turn back the clock to the style of the prior Republican majority. At a time when American’s confidence in Congress is at an all-time low, (a recent Gallup poll clocked only 11 percent of voters with a great deal of confidence in Congress) it would be a slap in the face to a public low on trust to remove important ethics protections like the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Wonk Room

Bachmann: Tax Cuts For Wealthy Must Be Extended, But Not If Tied To ‘Massive Spending’ On Unemployed

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

As Congress launches into the lame duck session, congressional Republicans are demanding an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, even for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, at an added cost to the deficit of $ 830 billion over the next ten years. Meanwhile, they have refused to support a continuation of unemployment benefits, which are set to expire next month, claiming that a continuation “will only add to the deficit.”

This morning, in an interview with Tea Party Caucus leader Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), ABC’s Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos picked up on the discrepancy between caring about the deficit when adding to it helps the poor, but not when it helps the rich. Asked if she would support a compromise which extended both the tax cuts and the unemployment benefits, Bachmann said no, characterizing letting the tax cuts expire as a “massive tax increase,” while dismissing extending unemployment benefits as “massive spending”:

BACHMANN: As far as a compromise goes, I want to get the current tax policy as far into the future as we can, if we can only get it extended for two years, that’s great. But I don’t think the American people should have to pay for that to have some new massive spending tied to it. If that’s the case, I don’t think you’re going to see the Republicans go along with it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But why is it OK for the wealthiest Americans earning over $ 250,000 a year — remember the President has called for extending all tax cuts for those under $ 250,000 — for them to get tax cuts extended but for people out of a job and needing unemployment benefits not to have their benefits extended?

BACHMANN: Well remember again what this is. It’s a massive tax increase and its on the people who are job creators. And people want to think that these are millionaires sitting in leather chairs lighting their cigars with $ 100 bills, that’s not what we’re talking about. These are people who are carpet layers who may be employed two or three other guys, or a plumber, maybe himself and his brother, and it’s $ 250,000 in gross sales for their business. Their the ones looking at massive tax increases. …That’s going to hurt more people than anything if we can’t have job creation. And this is a job killer if we raise taxes on the job creators.

Watch it:

Bachmann’s argument for tax extension is, in one word, “bogus.” As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo points out, conservatives’ claim that the tax increase will hurt small businesses is “only accurate if you take an incredibly expansive view of what constitutes a small business.” In reality, “exceedingly few small businesses” would actually be affected by letting the tax cuts expire. Meanwhile, the cuts represent “the least effective tax or spending step for job creation,” according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Every dollar spent extending the tax cuts results in just 10 cents to 40 cents of economic activity, the CBO found.

Unemployment extension for those seeking jobs, however, represents the biggest bang for the buck of any government stimulus policy. According to the CBO, “the economy would see output rise by between $ 0.70 to $ 1.90.” That is part of the reason why an overwhelming majority of Americans support extending unemployment benefits for more than 2 million Americans in need, regardless of its effect on the deficit.

ThinkProgress

Buried or Ignored by MSM: Calif. Supreme Ct. Says Illegal Immigrants Must Get In-State Tuition

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Yesterday the California Supreme Court ruled "that illegal immigrants are entitled to the same in-state tuition breaks that are offered to citizens who attend public colleges and universities."

The Associated Press reports that "[t]he high court unanimously upheld a state law that says any student, regardless of immigration status, who attended a California high school for at least three years can qualify for in-state tuition that's much less than what out-of-state students pay."

The losing party in the case plans an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, so this may not be the final word on the issue.

Given that the Golden State is flat broke and illegal immigration is a hot button issue nationally, this sounds like a story worthy of mainstream media attention.

Yet it appears the story has been largely ignored or buried by the MSM thus far.

read more

NewsBusters.org – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

DeMint Tells It Like It Is – Michael Steele Must Go

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:YMYhKrUmbfWYPM:http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j186/DonaldDouglas/st.jpg&t=1

Tell me – does the above resemble your own response to the RNC’s request for donations?

Jim DeMint ( R-SC) is the political figure along with Sarah Palin who is responsible for the GOP’s resurgence and the historic victory November 2nd.And he’s also a shrewd enough politician to see why the win wasn’t even bigger, and what needs to be done for 2012.

The lack of a well-organized voter mobilization effort by the Republican National Committee could have cost the GOP “a few Senate seats,” Sen. Jim DeMint suggested Sunday.

Partly as a result, the South Carolina Republican suggested he wouldn’t support a second term for controversial RNC Chairman Michael Steele, saying on “Fox News Sunday” “I’m looking for some alternatives right now.”

“I haven’t decided who would support,” DeMint said, “but we need a strong national Republican organization to help organize the energy of the tea parties and the other citizen activism that we are seeing out there right now. We need to make sure that we have a lot of boots on the ground.”

The senator said, “I appreciate Michael Steele’s service.” But he added the party’s get-out-the-vote effort lagged under Steele, asserting “where we lost a few Senate seats, our ground game was not as strong as it could have been. We were actually out manned on the ground.”

Yeah…like in Washington, Nevada and Colorado, where the $ 8 million and the footsoldiers Steele put into California for Carly Fiorina could have been used a lot more effectively.Nevada and Colorado especially should have been won. And not only the Senate seats. Any number of legislative seats in these key states were lost that didn’t have to be.

DeMint isn’t the only one that noticed.

I’ve had a lot to say about Michael Steele in the past. All of it was true. But at this point, I’m prepared to let bygones be bygones and let Steele go back to hustling someone else to preserve his expense account five-star lifestyle provided he departs gracefully and is nowhere near the GOP leadership or anywhere else where he has any responsibility.

Otherwise, I’m more than willing to reconsider my original idea concerning handcuffs, a floatie and the Humbolt current.


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