Monday, July 28, 2014

Our Dangerous World . . .

Just a few stories this week from a world grown increasingly terrifying . . .

Liberia has closed its border, quarantined many communities, and has seen even top experts stricken with the dreaded Ebola virus.  Sick officials made it onto international flights despite stringent precautions by the Liberian government.  West Africa has seen the most serious outbreak of the extremely contagious disease yet.  No end in sight.

Libya faces its worst violence since 2011, causing several nations to shut down their embassies there. The country's "fragile government and fledgling army" currently struggle to keep control of the capital's international airport.

War continues in Gaza.  Secretary of State John Kerry continues to undermine the cease fire agreement supported by Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority in an effort to kowtow to Hamas extremists.

Boko Haram crossed the Nigerian border, raiding Cameroon.  The terror group best known for kidnapping hundreds of young girls seized the wife of Cameroon's vice prime minister.  Cameroon has suffered three attacks from the terrorist group.

European Jews, particularly in France, are fearful of a continent wide spike in active anti-Semitism.  Could this produce an exodus from Europe to Israel and the United States?  An ambassador appointed by Hungary to represent that nation in Italy resigned after criticism of his "raging" anti-Semitism.

US intelligence officials released images that seem to show Russian artillery firing into Ukraine in support of separatists there.  This threatens to escalate the conflict into a full scale war between two of the European continent's largest nations. With Ukraine the home of some of Europe's most productive farmland, a full scale war could disrupt food supplies for millions.

While the female mutilation edict attributed to ISIS may be fake, Christians have fled areas under its control by the thousands. Islamicist officials have imposed prejudicial sanctions on Christians which have not existed in Iraq in generations.  Islamic State officials also ordered the destruction of the tombs of Jonah and Daniel, figures holy to the Jewish, Christian, and other faiths.

Meanwhile China, which has threatened the neighboring countries of Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines in recent years, has accelerated its naval program. Iran also continues its quest for more effective weapons capable of hitting Europe and North America.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Speaking Of . . .

The issue of money keeps dogging Hillary Clinton and she seems unwilling to do much to escape the increased scrutiny from all sides.

This week, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Clinton received $275,000 for a one hour speech and very limited photo session at the University of Buffalo.

Although the media focuses on the money paid out, the real story may be tax law problems for non profit educational institutions.  Most colleges and universities fall under the 501 (c) 3 category protecting them from paying taxes.  That status can be jeopardized by overt support of a political party or a political candidate.  Under Obama, the Internal Revenue Service has imposed significant burdens on conservative institutions applying for this coveted status.  Political activity is often cited as a reason.

By not officially announcing herself as a candidate (although she has made frequent and coy allusions to it), Clinton has given cover to colleges and universities willing to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars to be graced with her presence.  Some would say purchase influence.

The Free Beacon report contained criticism from MSNBC's Chuck Todd that Clinton earned "presidential" level payments.  In 2011, however, the Daily Beast covered criticism of former President George W. Bush's speaking fees, which typically run between $100,000 and $150,000.

Almost every time, Bush collected six figure payments from private sector institutions.  The University of Buffalo is a public school.

Others who achieved Clinton's highest office, secretary of state, do not make as much for appearances.  Condoleeza Rice was set to collect $35,000 from Rutgers before bowing out in the face of protests.  This only outpaced reality star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi by $3,000.

Clinton's pay days seem to have backfired.  The MSNBC panel discussed how quickly Clinton's approval ratings fell after the sustained drip of money stories commenced.  Most Americans do not begrudge money honestly made, but few want to hear about rich people crying poverty.  Nor does it look good when public universities, in a time of outrageous tuition, pay out $275,000 for anyone to show up for an hour.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What to Make of France's Violent Anti-Semitism: Should Jews Abandon France?

Ten years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told France's Jewish community that it should leave its home country.  A series of shocking anti-Semitic crimes had shown an ugly turn among some Frenchmen against Jews.  France's foreign ministry replied with indignation, surely the world knows France's reputation for tolerance.

This week, Sharon's words proved prophetic.  A pro-Hamas demonstration spawned a rush by fanatics towards a synagogue; the malefactors had "murder on their minds."  They rushed toward a synagogue full of worshiping Jews, brushing aside "inadequate" police protection.  Only security posted by the synagogue itself blunted the attack.

Haaretz details the strident opposition of the French government to Israel since the leadership of Charles de Gaulle.  Part of this could be explained by France's search of a foreign policy to separate itself from American interests during the Cold War.  That country's government, however, has demonstrated institutional anti-Semitism dating back before the First World War.

The 1890s "Dreyfuss Affair" scandalized the French Army for decades afterward.  A Jewish and French officer, Alfred Dreyfuss, was accused of espionage.  While a number of individuals could have been accused with the same evidence, investigators focused on Dreyfuss's religion.  A secret tribunal sentenced Dreyfuss to Devil's Island.  Meanwhile, another investigator turned up more evidence that pointed conclusively to another officer.  Rampant institutional anti-Semitism pervaded the army; even the investigator who exonerated Dreyfuss was known to intensely dislike Jewish people.

While occasional German anti-Semitism still gets the most attention, France's looks most dangerous.  The government has taken consistent stands against Israel and the Jewish people, including an honor guard for the corpse of Yasser Arafat.  The vandalism and destruction of ten years ago has escalated into a riotous attack reminiscent of Kristallnacht and such comparisons should never be made lightly.  To what degree is the very long standing institutional anti-Semitism of the French government responsible? Difficult to say.

Unfortunately, the lesson that Jewish people have learned from history is that the best course may be to abandon a nation irretrievably gripped by hatred for their people.  France currently has the third largest Jewish community in the world.  The question for them is, at what point do they decide to go to Israel or the United States (the two nations in the world safest for Jews) or has that point already passed?