Thursday, December 08, 2011

For Arab Christians, a wintry 'spring'

IN THE FIRST ROUND of Egypt's parliamentary elections, the hardline Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won 36.6 percent of the vote -- a plurality -- and the even harder-line Salafist party, Al-Nour, won 24.4 percent. The Egyptian Bloc -- a coalition of liberal, social-democratic, and secular parties -- drew only 13.4 percent. So now we know what the "Spirit of Tahrir Square" looks like when it's put to a vote: In the world's largest Arab nation, the forces of sharia and jihad are winning in a landslide.

The credo of the Muslim Brotherhood is explicitly illiberal and theocratic: "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." Abdel Moneim el-Shahat, a Salafist sheik and Nour Party candidate, demands a society in which "sharia is obligatory" -- an Egypt, as he explained in a public debate, with "citizenship restricted by Islamic sharia, freedom restricted by Islamic sharia, equality restricted by Islamic sharia."

Sad to say, these are the fundamentalist blooms of the Arab Spring. The Islamist ascendancy – in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt this year, as in Gaza and (non-Arab) Turkey previously -- bodes ill for the region's moderate and tolerant Muslims. Whistling past the graveyard, the editor of The Daily Star in Beirut exhorts the world to "Celebrate the Democratic Arab Moment," and declares that the commitment of Arab societies to democratic openness and pluralism "now seems firmly affirmed." Indeed, he says, it "was never in doubt, except perhaps in the minds of lingering colonialists and racists." The anti-Islamist liberals getting wiped out in Egypt's elections might beg to differ.

Even more ominous are the prospects for the Arab world's Christians, who have been undergoing not a springtime of toleration but an increasingly frightful winter of suffering and persecution. Since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's Coptic minority has been repeatedly victimized – churches have been destroyed, homes have been vandalized, and jihadist mobs have rampaged through Christian neighborhoods. In October, Egyptian troops in Cairo's Maspero district slaughtered Christians as they protested the burning of churches in Upper Egypt. Even before the Maspero pogrom, Christians by the tens of thousands had been fleeing post-Mubarak Egypt. You don't have to be a "lingering colonialist and racist" to fear there may be even worse to come.

Egypt isn't the only Arab country whose Christian communities are being decimated by Islamist brutality.

Since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, The Wall Street Journal noted on Monday, "at least 54 Iraqi churches have been bombed and at least 905 Christians killed in various acts of violence. . . . Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled." The archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Kirkuk and Sulimaniya calls the emigration a "hemorrhage," warning that "Iraq could be emptied of Christians." In Syria, meanwhile, Catholic and Orthodox communities are terrified of what awaits them if the current regime is overthrown. According to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, the country's archbishops were summoned to the presidential palace soon after the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began, and bluntly warned: "Either support me, or your churches will burn."

John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidarity International, has issued a genocide warning for Christians in the Middle East.

The harrying of non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East is hardly a new phenomenon – nearly all of the Arab world's Jews were driven out long ago – but the rise of radical Islam has lethally intensified the problem. Last month, Christian Solidarity International, a respected human-rights organization with deep experience in the region, warned that Christians there may be facing genocide. "The crisis of survival for non-Muslim communities is especially acute in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Iran, and Pakistan," the group's CEO, John Eibner, wrote in a letter to President Obama, imploring him to act urgently to prevent the kind of "religious cleansing" that eradicated Turkey's "once-thriving Christian communities" a century ago.

It takes more than voting to sustain decent democratic values. Totalitarians from Hitler to Hamas, after all, have come to power via the ballot. Revolts and demonstrations may topple Arab dictators, and their replacements may be chosen in elections. But there will be no Arab Spring worthy of the name without pluralism, freedom, and tolerance.

"Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion," Obama declared last May – so important that America would defend it with "all of the diplomatic, economic, and strategic tools at our disposal." Fine words. But with Islamists sweeping to power around them and human-rights activists warning of genocide, the beleaguered Christians of the Middle East need more than words.



Behind Income Inequality

Walter E. Williams

Benefiting from a hint from an article titled "Is Harry Potter Making You Poorer?", written by my colleague Dr. John Goodman, president of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, I've come up with an explanation and a way to end income inequality in America, possibly around the world. Joanne Rowling was a welfare mother in Edinburgh, Scotland. All that has changed. As the writer of the "Harry Potter" novels, having a net worth of $1 billion, she is the world's wealthiest author. More importantly, she's one of those dastardly 1-percenters condemned by the Occupy Wall Streeters and other leftists.

How did Rowling become so wealthy and unequal to the rest of us? The entire blame for this social injustice lies at the feet of the world's children and their enabling parents. Rowling's wealth is a direct result of more than 500 million "Harry Potter" book sales and movie receipts grossing more than $5 billion. In other words, the millions of "99-percenters" who individually plunk down $8 or $9 to attend a "Harry Potter" movie, $15 to buy a "Harry Potter" novel or $30 to buy a "Harry Potter" Blu-ray Disc are directly responsible for contributing to income inequality and wealth concentration that economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman says "is incompatible with real democracy." In other words, Rowling is not responsible for income inequality; it's the people who purchase her works.

We just can't blame the children for the unfairness of income inequality. Look at how Wal-Mart Stores generated wealth for the Walton family of Christy ($25 billion), Jim ($21 billion), Alice ($21 billion) and Robson ($21 billion). The Walton family's wealth is not a result of ill-gotten gains, but the result of Wal-Mart's revenue, $422 billion in 2010. The blame for this unjust concentration of wealth rests with those hundreds of millions of shoppers worldwide who voluntarily enter Wal-Mart premises and leave dollars, pounds and pesos.

Basketball great LeBron James plays forward for the Miami Heat and earns $43 million for doing so. That puts him with those 1-percenters denounced by Wall Street occupiers. But who made LeBron a 1-percenter? It's those children again, enabled by their fathers or some other significant male. Instead of children doing their homework and their fathers helping their wives with housework, they get into their cars, drive to a downtown arena and voluntarily plunk down $100 for tickets. The millions of people who watch LeBron play are the direct cause of LeBron's earning $43 million and are thereby responsible for "undermining the foundations of our democracy."

Krugman laments in his Nov. 3 New York Times column "Oligarchy, American Style," "We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only." I'd ask Krugman this question: Who's putting all the money in the hands of the few, and what do you think ought to be done to stop millions, perhaps billions, of people from using their money in ways that lead to high income and wealth concentration? In other words, I'd like Krugman to tell us what should be done to stop the millions of children who make Joanne Rowling rich, the millions who fork over their money to the benefit of LeBron James, and the hundreds of millions of people who shop at Wal-Mart.



Sprung from prison, tort-bar king back raising money for Dems

See if you can guess which member of the infamous "1 percent" is the subject of this invitation to a holiday fundraiser: "For the second year in a row, the _________ will be hosting our holiday event at the stunning cliff-side estate of ____ and _____, longtime supporters of ________ candidates and causes. Guests last year were wowed by incredible architecture, panoramic views, food and drink, and tours of the ______ art collection. We are delighted to be working with them and the _______ club again. Ticket price included hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine, and non-alcoholic beverages. Proceeds will help _____ prepare for next year's elections."

Obviously, with a "stunning" estate offering "panoramic views," and a tour-worthy art collection, the couple hosting this high-dollar event are wealthy, have been politically active for a long time, and surely must command significant power and influence in one of the nation's two major political parties. And since the GOP is "the party of the rich," they must be Republicans, right? Well, guess again, because the power couple being described in the preceding paragraph, which comes from an invitation to Dec. 18 fund raiser are William and Michelle Lerach. The Lerachs are long-time Democratic contributors. Bill Lerach has been close to President Clinton, both when he was in the White House and in the years since. The Lerachs have given nearly $1.5 million to Democratic candidates, committees and causes since 1990. That total is half-a-million more than was given during the same period by George Soros.

There is another big difference between Bill Lerach and George Soros. Soros did not recently spend two years in a federal prison. It should not be forgotten that Lerach served time and repaid $7.5 million after being convicted in federal court of participating in a long-running fraud scheme hatched by him and three of his senior partners at the infamous Milberg Weiss class-action lawsuit factory in New York and California. The scheme involved bribing plaintiffs who bought stock in a corporation targeted by the law firm in return for making it lead counsel in federal court. Millions of dollars in such bribes helped produce an estimated $250 million in fees for the corrupt firm during a three-decade period that began in 1981, according to the Justice Department. The long-running bribery was so outrageous that Milberg Weiss was the first law firm ever sued by the government under the RICO organized crime statute.

When Lerach finished serving his brief time in the federal pen, he returned to his Cliffside estate in San Diego to enjoy a fortune estimated at $200 million. And as evidenced by the upcoming fundraiser there, he picked up right where he left off as a key cog in the Democratic money machine. But considering that much of Lerach's fortune was earned by breaking the law, why would any Democratic incumbent, candidate or committee accept his tainted money?



USPS' Cost-Cutting Plan Shows Need for Privatization

The Postal Service has announced how it plans to fight increased competition for First Class mail — by providing worse service. If the USPS doesn't want to deliver the mail, Congress should let others give it a try.

On Monday, the Postal Service said it will shut almost half its mail processing centers and largely eliminate next-day delivery for first-class mail. That's on top of a 1-cent postage stamp hike that goes into effect next month.

It's all part of an effort to cut $20 billion in annual costs, staunch the flood of red ink and avoid bankruptcy. Still, it's hard to see how charging more for worse service is a credible plan for success.

Even if it were, the postal service has been down this road many times in the past. In previous cost-cutting efforts, for example, it dramatically shrank the areas in which it would even strive for next-day delivery.

The result has been an ongoing deterioration of its business, a trend vastly accelerated by faxes, e-mail, online billing and new communication technologies.

But what choice does the USPS have?

On the one hand, it's weighed down by unions that control 85% of its workforce, impeding reasonable efficiency improvements. Example: In just the first six months of this year, the Postal Service spent $4.3 million paying postal workers to do literally nothing, thanks to labor agreements that require the service to keep workers on the payroll even when mail volume is low or machinery breaks down.

At the same time, lawmakers often scuttle cost-saving plans that might affect their districts. After congressmen screamed, for example, the USPS cut the list of post offices it planned to close from 3,200 to a mere 162.

The postmaster general had it right this week when he said that the USPS is in dire straits because "we are expected to operate like a business but don't have the flexibility to do so."

But the solution isn't to mindlessly cut costs or trot out more piecemeal reforms like the one working through the Senate, which will only prolong the agony. Instead, we should follow the lead of many other countries and privatize the Postal Service.

A Cato Institute report finds the consistent result abroad has been improved productivity and lower costs, without a decline in quality. Selling anything less than privatization as the solution to the Postal Service's problems would constitute mail fraud.




Blago finally nailed: "Ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to auction off President Barack Obama's vacated US Senate seat and a host of other corruption charges. The Democratic governor was arrested in the midst of what prosecutors called a "political corruption crime spree" just weeks after Obama's historic November 2008 election. He was convicted of 17 corruption counts in June after his first trial resulted in a hung jury on all but one of the charges. While Obama managed to emerge untainted, the scandal shone a spotlight on the state's corruption-filled political scene and cast a shadow on his early days in office. Five of the past nine Illinois governors have been indicted or arrested for fraud or bribery"

Pearl Harbor was FDR’s back door to war: "Given that today is the anniversary date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we’ll no doubt be treated to standard interventionist articles stating what a great thing World War II was. The American people were overwhelmingly opposed to entry into World War II. That’s not surprising given the consequences of World War I. There was absolutely no reason for the United States to intervene in that war."

Our broken medical system: "Dr. Donald Berwick is the guy who ran Medicare and Medicaid for the past 17 months, and he quit last week. In his parting remarks, he said that 20 to 30 percent of health care spending is waste, yielding no benefits to patients and further clogging up a system that is, by its very nature, sluggish and tortuous. He listed five reasons that accounted for the majority of the waste he had seen ..."

Eurocracy run amuck: "We must re-establish the primacy of politics over the market.' That sentence, spoken a little while ago by Germany’s Angela Merkel, sums up the startlingly unoriginal character of the approach adopted by most EU politicians as they seek to save the common currency from what even Paul Krugman seems to concede is its current trajectory towards immolation"

The greed fallacy: "We're never greedy. Only others are greedy. This unrecognized hypocrisy allows us to use the word greed in a greedy way, to manipulate others to get what we want. But most of what people call greed is simply other people trying to honor their responsibilities."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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