Netanyahu or Livni: Why you should care

Embed from Getty Images

Approximately three weeks ago the people of Israel went to the polls in order to attempt to elect new leadership to guide them as the troubled Jewish nation moves forward in particularly challenging times.

I am no expert on Israel or it’s political process, but I am going to try to explain the possible outcomes, as well as to explain why that outcome is important to you.

Americans have to begin by understanding that Israeli elections are not as clear-cut as those in the United States. For all of the faults of our own democratic system, all of the intense battles between Republicans and Democrats, Israel’s hodgepodge of parties on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum cause extreme confusion.

Not only that, but the plethora of parties with competing visions, goals, and ideologies makes it difficult to form a ruling governmental structure.

In America it is easy to simply add up the number of Dems and GOP members in the House and Senate to get a picture of who holds the power. When the party in power in Congress is the same as that of the elected President, that party holds most of the cards in getting it’s agenda passed.

If there is a Democratic Party president with a Democratic majority congress, as there is right now, then liberal ideologies, programs, and laws are going to be front and center. With a Republican president and congress, such as happened in the beginning of the most recent Bush administration for example, then conservative principles, laws, and policies are going to hold sway.

There are the same issues of government in Israel as there are in America regarding domestic problems. But in Israel there really is one issue which rises above all others: national security. Israel is surrounded on all sides by neighbors that want to see it wiped from the map, including a few that have actually tried to accomplish just that feat.

Against this backdrop was last month’s Knesset election which came down to a struggle between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured on left) and his Likud Party, and the Kadima Party of foreign minister Tzipi Livni (pictured on right.)

To understand the importance, think of the Knesset as the Israeli version of America’s congress.

The Likud Party is a conservative party, and has been either the ruling party in the Knesset or the leading opposition party for over three decades. It calls for a “peace for peace” initiative in regards to its Arab neighbors, meaning that Israel will agree to peace on the condition that her neighbors comply with the same in an overt and verifiable manner.

The Kadima Party was just formed in the past few years and is generally considered a more centrist political group. Kadima has been criticized by many because a feature of their Arab policy has been the surrendering of the territory in Judea and Samaria, key territory in properly defending Israel from the attacks of terror organizations such as Hamas.

Likud is also more of a free market, small government party, whereas Kadima’s economic platform seems to blow with the popular breeze.

Unlike here in America where ours is a vast majority two-party system, it is not just Likud and Kadima in Israel. The Labor Party also has strong influence, and there are other smaller parties that have little or no shot at ruling the government outright, but which can and do wield influence by siding with one or the other of the larger parties in helping them to form a ruling government.

The recent elections left no clear winner, but they did tilt towards the more conservative groups headed by Netanyahu. It is thus likely that he and Likud will ultimately come to power as the various groups negotiate their particular roles in the government.

The importance of Israel to Americans is many-fold, but there are three vital reasons that we need to support a strong, stable Israel.

First there is the issue of Israel’s vital presence and example as a democracy in the Middle East in the midst of the many dictatorships and theocracies in that unstable region.

Secondly is the issue of Israel’s political plight as a microcosm of our own. The same problems plague the Israeli population as plague traditional America, an assault on values and basic principles that is led by an overtly liberal press and media. For a conservative government to emerge in that atmosphere should be comforting and encouraging to American conservatives and traditionalists.

Finally, but most importantly, is the basic importance of Israel as the home of God’s chosen people. The Jews were given this land by God Himself as is told in the Bible in Exodus 23:20-33 in which He proclaims “I will set your boundaries from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines (the Mediterranean Sea), and from the desert to the River (the Euphrates.)”

While the new Israel that finally re-emerged into statehood during the 20th century does not stretch that far at this point, it should not be expected to give up any of its lands. God also said here that “I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes.” 

The vast majority of Americans have understood throughout our history that we have been a particularly blessed nation because of our Judeo-Christian foundation on and our continued belief in the one true God. We have risen to new levels of strength and power as a nation in large part thanks to this support of Israel, His chosen people.

If you are among the vast majority of Americans who still claim to believe in God, and the clear majority who hold the Bible as the inspired Word of God, then you need to take His proclamations seriously.

We need to always concern ourselves with the security of Israel and to ensure that we are prepared to help fight for its continued existence. For this very reason her political choices, which go to the very heart of that security, should be of vital interest to all Americans.

Repeat a Lie Often Enough, It Becomes the Truth

President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party cohorts have told the lie so many times in recent weeks that one has to wonder if they even believe it themselves.

The President said that his stimulus bill included tax cuts for “95 percent of working families” or what he calls the middle class.

That is great, isn’t it? We have a President who cares about you and me, the working people that keep America moving forward. The hard-working everyday folks. Thank God we finally have someone in the White House who cares about us, right?

Well, that only floats if you actually believe what Obama is telling you.

Do you, and if so, why do you? Because a network news anchor tells you to believe it? Because the head of your union tells you to believe it? Because your city newspaper tells you to believe it?

President Barack Obama and his administration are simply lying to us. They are lying boldly to our faces by using positive-sounding rhetoric because they simply don’t believe that we will care enough to look deeply into the details.

Let’s start with the people who he will be raising taxes on, those making $250,000 and more. Do you know who makes up the vast majority of individuals in that category? It’s not professional athletes, or motion picture stars, or recording artists, or business CEO’s.

The vast majority of those who make that $250,000 and even a little more than that are small business owners, that’s who they are. The enterpreneurs who run the businesses such as auto mechanic shops, barber shops, restaurants, bars, art galleries, boutiques, and many more.

These people have taken risk and started businesses. They have hired employees and helped to stabilize their neighborhoods and communities.

Are they wealthy? Hardly. Sure, they enjoy the fruits of their labor and the rewards that come with successfully overcoming the many risks involved in starting up a business in the first place.

But to call most of these people ‘wealthy’ or ‘rich’ would be a gross overstatement. But these middle class enterpreneurs are going to be hit hard by President Barack Obama’s tax increases.

And what do you think they are going to do when they get that bigger tax bill? Well, take less profit, that’s what, right? No. They are going to raise the cost of your haircut, your auto repair bill, your drinks, your clothing, and your food.

Then President Obama talks about how his team is going to save “$2 trillion dollars over the next decade.” Wow, that is exciting. That is just what we have been wanting from Washington, more responsibility. It is a very Republican Party concept actually. We Republicans should be ecstatic with this development.

The only problem is that it is an outright lie. Most of this ‘savings’ is coming from those very tax increases on the +$250,000 income crowd that we just discussed. The rest is supposed to come from anticipated savings in ending the Iraq War. But the President cannot guarantee that savings, because he already is hedging his previous pledge to get out of Iraq fully.

Today he announced that 100,000 troops will come home gradually over the next 18 months, but that some 35-50,000 US troops will remain in Iraq at least through 2011.

With unstable situations involving Iran, Israel, North Korea, and many other locations throughout the world, the President is planning on saving money that he cannot make plans with. Unless he is planning on America sticking our head in the sand in world matters and just allowing terrorism-sponsoring regimes to arm themselves with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

I get the feeling that he is willing to take just such a risk, and in so doing he is completely forgetting the lessons that we should have learned on September 11th, 2001. How big of a successful attack on America or one of our allies will it take to wake up Obama and his supporters to the need for a strong military presence in the Middle East?

But in any event, he is not actually saving money. His budget calls for increased spending of at least 12% next year, and has been filled with thousands of political pork earmarks thanks to Congressional lobbyists.

Don’t believe it? I don’t want you to. Just get a copy of the budget for yourself and actually read it. President Obama and his supporters are betting that you won’t do that, and they are probably correct in that judgement.

One part of the President’s misguided and misnamed ‘stimulus’ bill provided large monies to the states in order to increase unemployment payments. Basically ‘free money’ to the state treasuries from the Feds.

That is how it was being sold by Obama and his people. But the truth is that some of the governors began to reject the funding. Why? Well the reality is, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Didn’t we all learn that in something like 5th grade?

The truth is that the Federal funds were temporary, but came with requirements that the states receiving the funding change the laws regarding how they handle their unemployment insurance. These changes would require the states to continue the funding once the Federal money ran out. In other words, the states would have to raise payroll and business taxes to meet these new requirements.

It’s the classic Democratic Party shill. Here, take this money, it will make you feel better today. Damn tomorrow. Crow about all the improvements that you are making now, let the folks feel happy, and when the bill comes due later, so what? Smile, tell the lie, and as long as everybody feels good today, that is what is important.

Oh, and how about that little old ‘cap and trade’ procedure that is going to provide over $600 trillion dollars in revenue over the next decade. Where is that revenue going to come from?

Well, it’s going to come from your fuel bill, your electric bill. It is going to come from increased energy costs for both those small business owners who will already see a direct increase in their taxes, and the energy bills of all those middle class citizens who allegedly were receiving tax cuts.

You see, the Democrats in general and President Barack Obama in particular are lying to your face. They are telling you that your taxes will go down when in reality every move they make will increase costs to you in the long run.

They also are placing a burden on business that is going to force companies to raise prices and costs, or cut employee jobs, or both.

This helps the middle class how, Mr. President? Look at it in a simple way each and every day. Why do you think that the stock market drops every single day these days?

The educated investors that make up the majority of stock purchases in this countries leading businesses see where all this is going. Higher costs to everyone leading to higher unemployment, leading to businesses leaving the country, leading to fewer revenue streams, leading to further cost increases, leading to fewer purchases by consumers, leading to business collapses and fewer jobs, and on and on in a never ending Democratic Party-induced debacle.

President Obama has set the country on a tragic economic course. If something is not done to change things it will simply be a race to what gets us first: economic disaster of an unparalleled magnitude that we cannot even fathom at this point, or a major terrorist attack that cripples our country and kills Americans at a magnitude never before seen.

But hey, it is going to get better. Your taxes are going down. We are going to turn this around through our new Socialist policies and programs. Sure. Tell a lie often enough, have it perpetuated by vocal supporters, and it becomes the truth to many.

Our Lenten burden is light

Yesterday was ‘Ash Wednesday’ which marks the beginning of the 40-day period leading up to Easter marked by sacrifice and fasting known as Lent.

The origins of this pre-Easter fasting period have been disputed. Some feel that Lent traces back to the Apostolic era of Jesus’ followers themselves during the years immediately after his death. Others feel that it developed later, perhaps around the time of the Council of Nicea in the early fourth century.

Whatever the origins of the custom, it has become a period of forty days based on various Biblical examples provided for such a period by Moses, Elias, and Jesus Christ Himself, who was said to have laid in the tomb for forty hours.

In the early years the actual fasting periods and methods varied in many places, but of course it generally involved someone intentionally ‘giving something up’ from their regular daily lives as a sacrifice in remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ had made on the cross.

Socrates spoke of the practice in the fifth century when he described some who “abstain from every sort of creature that has life“, meaning that these people would eat only fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and things of this nature. Still others, he said, ate fish only, or ate only birds and fish, or abstained from eating eggs, or ate only dry bread.

There were still others in those times who were even more strict in their fasting, taking only a couple of meals each week. The early rules of the Church on fasting said that you could only take such meals in the evening, and that meat and wine were forbidden during fasting.

It was during the sixth century that Saint Gregory laid down what has become considered as common law within the Church. In a letter to Saint Augustine of England, Gregory stated “We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs.” 

Exceptions were made traditionally as ‘dispensations’ for special circumstances, as well as in exchange for gifts to the greater Church. There has still been a general prohibition on eggs and milk observed by many during the Lenten period. From this over the centuries evolved the practice of the ‘Easter egg’ as a return to eating produce on Easter Sunday.

Many different customs and rulings from the Church Fathers evolved over the centuries, and the Holy See, the central administration of the Church, has modern rulings in place for Americans.

In the United States today, the official Church position is that working men and women and their families may use flesh meat once a day throughout the year, except on Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, and the Christmas Vigil. During Lent we are not supposed to take both fish and flesh at the same meal.

Besides the traditions and customs of sacrifice and fasting, since Vatican II the Church has emphasized Lent as a preparation period for the Baptism of catechumens, those individuals who are first coming in to the Catholic Church voluntarily as adults or older children.

Lent is about conversion, the turning over of our lives more completely and fully to Christ. Nowhere is that process more full and complete than in the willing Baptism into the Church, which is itself the very body of Christ, of new believers.

But it is not just for these ‘newbies’ that the conversion aspect is important. All believers are urged during Lent to not just give something up, but also to recommit to Christ and to our faith.

We should all be encouraged to make a good, full Confession, do Penance, and thus receive forgiveness for our sins and make a new beginning. For many who have been away from the sacrament for a long time, that overcoming of your fear and your ego is a wonderful sacrifice in itself.

The Lenten sacrifice lasts for a period of forty days, but you will have many more opportunities during the period to recognize your need for conversion. Not just on Ash Wednesday, or on Fridays, or on Sundays. Not even in your daily lives when you give up that candy, or soda, or smoking, or some other habit or sin.

Every intentional act of drawing closer to Christ, be it increased prayer, the saying of the rosary, going to Confession, watching EWTN on television, being nicer to the people in your life. All of these things are acts of conversion, and all can be considered as a part of the Lenten sacrifice.

Remember that whatever you give up, or whatever new you take on, none of your sacrifices could ever compare with the sacrifice that God has made for you. He gave up His only begotten Son that you might live.

Jesus Christ suffered severe persecution and ultimately died on the cross so that your sins would be washed away. With this in mind we should all realize that our Lenten burden is indeed a light one.

No Monkeying Around With Obama

To say that the world has gone overboard with political correctness is an understatement, and this is nowhere more visible than in the world of editorial cartoons.

You learned in recent years that you can’t draw an editorial cartoon of the Islamic prophet Muhammed without risk of being shot dead, blown up or decapitated by some radical Islamic lunatic.

Having a sense of humor is an integral part of the human experience. And in democratic societies, freedom of speech including a free press is a vital piece of our civilization puzzle.

But it’s not just the radical Islamic world that has lost its collective sense of humor, or at the very least its willingness to allow sarcastic expression. The more radical members of the black community here in America are at it again as well. Write or draw something that those people don’t like, and they are all over you like white on rice.

Oops, did I call them ‘those people’? Better be careful, they might find something to take as a personal affront in a few typewritten words. I might get a letter from the NAACP and some choice comments from Al Sharpton.

Last week a woman in Connecticut was severely mauled when her friend’s pet chimpanzee got loose and attacked her. A frantic call went out to 9-1-1, and the responding police officers were faced with the chimpanzee attacking them. They had no choice but to shoot the animal dead. It was a major story all over the network news.

Another major story in the news recently has been the alleged ‘stimulus’ bill that the majority of Americans were against, but which President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party cohorts in Congress decided to ram down our throats anyway.

Into the fray stepped cartoonist Sean Delonis, a famed satirist who took the big monkey story and decided to merge it with the stimulus bill story.

Delonis drew an editorial cartoon which was published by the New York Post which depicted the police officer, gun still smoking, in the immediate aftermath with the dead chimp lying on the ground in front of him in a puddle of blood. In the caption the cop is saying: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Uh, oh, look out. The first black President in American history leads the effort to foist a ridiculous spending bill on the people, and automatically the monkey shot last week is a representation of him when drawn as a cartoon in a spoof by poor Sean Delonis.

The ‘Reverend Al’ led the charge of the race-baiters, as usual, with his statement that “..given the historic racist attacks on African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys…one has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this..” 

Really, Reverend Al? And why is that? Why does anyone have to ask that question at all?

The fact is that this was a brilliant incorporation of one big story into another by Delonis, who has solid credentials and whose work is widely respected in the industry.

The very same race-baiters who had no comment to make when Chris Brown punched out Rihanna, perpetuating yet another negative stereotype within the African-American community, look for a way to undermine any attack on ‘Saint Barack’ and his programs and policies.

They are so tied up in forcing his success that they cannot allow the small criticisms, and editorial cartoons are indeed small, that President Bush had to experience for the entirety of his eight years in office.

From his being from Texas in particular and the South in general, from his use of the word ‘nuceuler’ instead of ‘nuclear’, to a thousand other things, President Bush was skewered and pilloried for almost a decade, just as President Clinton was for almost a decade before that.

Here is the fact: Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America, and as such he is subject to editorial attacks in cartoons, on television programs, and every other media outlet. It comes with the job, which requires the thickest of skins, no matter that skin color.

Sometimes the commentary will be biting and difficult for he and his supporters to stomach, and sometimes it will be downright funny to even the most frequent ‘liberal Kool Aid’ drinkers.

The New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, the parent company of Fox News, a frequent basher of Obama and certainly the one major news outlet that has not been his cheerleader. Sharpton and the race-baiters hate Fox, and this may be part of the problem.

The fact is that Obama’s plans, policies, programs, and politics are as up for attack as any of Bush’s or Clinton’s were in the past.

Oh, and Reverend Al and friends, not every reference to the word ‘black’, not every banana peeled, not every watermelon eaten, not every child abandoned, not every woman beaten, not every monkey shot dead will be any kind of racial reference.

Toughen up, Obama supporters, or it’s gonna be a long, hard four years for you people.

Rabbit Ears Have Digital Life

The full digital television revolution officially began a week ago on Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 in places like Albuquerque, New Mexico and Biloxi, Mississippi and Charlotte, North Carolina and Eugene, Oregon and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

On that date in these and many other American cities, the transition began from analog to digital television. It begins a revolution that will have spread to every American household with TV reception by no later than June 12th, 2009.

Ever since television sets became commercially available in the late 1930’s the signals transmitted to our homes and businesses have come to us in ‘analog’ form.

Technicality aside, the idea is that a number of images are drawn across the screen of your monitor in rapid succession. You were basically receiving a high-speed version of a flip-picture book, where each page of the book contained a slightly different image from the one on the previous page.

Your TV monitor would flip through the images to create the illusion of movement. Because of this process there were occasional image ‘skips’ and other distortions.

Then digital television began to be developed, and in 1996 the U.S. Congress ordered all broadcast networks to begin preparations to switch their broadcasts over to digital.

The digital signal has a couple of major benefits. First from a consumer standpoint, the quality of the pictures and sound that we receive is greater with digital broadcasting. There will be none of the ‘ghosts’ and ‘snow’ that we now receive from time to time.

Secondly from an industry standpoint, the former analog air space will now be freed up to be used by emergency responders and by advanced wireless services such as broadband.

The bottom line for those of us watching news and entertainment at home and work is that our picture quality will be greater in resolution, clarity, and color and our sound will be better with features such as Dolby surround sound.

Digital will also allow for the added quality of services such as HDTV, multi-casting, wide screen formatting and data streaming, depending on our particular home setup.

At home, you will still be able to use your ‘rabbit ears’, and you do not have to switch to cable television.

As of March 1st, 2007, the government required all TV’s being manufactured from that point on to include digital tuners. Manufacturers were allowed to continue to sell analog-tuning TV’s from their inventory, but had to do so with a disclaimer that told customers of the upcoming switch to digital.

For those folks who own digital-ready television sets and receive their signal via cable television or other pay services, there should be no changes that you need to make.

If you have an analog television, whether using those rabbit ears or an outside roof antenna or some combination, you will have to purchase a digital converter box in order to receive programming once your locality makes the switch.

It has been estimated that approximately 14% of American households continue to receive their TV signals exclusively ‘over the air’ for free rather than through these pay services.

The government has provided that each household with analog televisions be allotted two $40 coupons towards the purchase of these converter boxes, which are estimated to cost between $40-70 dollars per box.

By the summer time every house in America with a television will be receiving better picture and sound, and air space will have been freed up for vital services and even more technological advancements.