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July 2016

A New Way of War Review: Matti Friedman, ‘Pumpkin Flowers: A Soldier’s Story’ David Isaac

In Pumpkin Flowers, Matti Friedman provides a brief, finely written account of an army outpost in Israel’s security zone in southern Lebanon in the 1990s and the men who served there. ‘Pumpkin’ was the outpost’s name, while ‘flowers’ was the Israeli army’s code word for wounded soldiers. The term, writes Friedman, reflects “a floral preoccupation in our military intended to bestow beauty on ugliness and to allow soldiers distance from the things they might have to describe.” The Pumpkin itself was far from poetic, a “rectangle of earthen embankments the size of a basketball court” where there was “nothing unnecessary to the purposes of allowing you to kill, preventing you from being killed, and keeping you from losing your mind in the meantime.”

Born and raised in Toronto, Friedman had only been in Israel a year and a half when, at the age of 19, he was stationed on that hill. While he tells a personal story, the parts of the book where he describes the endless waiting, the bursts of combat, and the yearning for home contain a universal message that applies to every soldier in every war on every battlefield. Friedman himself only enters the book about halfway through. In order to give a fuller account of life on the Pumpkin, he starts with the story of Avi, one of the soldiers he would eventually replace. Although Friedman did not know Avi, he was given access to his letters and discovered that the soldier wrote almost as well as he did.

In February 1997, only a month away from discharge, Avi died in a mid-air collision between two IDF helicopters ferrying troops to their outposts on the security zone. All 73 aboard the two helicopters were killed. Although Hezbollah would take credit for Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, it was this accident, Friedman says, that shifted Israeli attitudes against the occupation. People began to believe the security zone was killing more people than it was saving—that instead of being a solution to a problem, it was itself the problem.

Friedman, who went up to the Pumpkin in 1998, offers not a hint of braggadocio about his own experiences, although it is clear he acquitted himself well under fire. He writes that a simple message hung from the wall of every outpost: “The Mission: Protecting the Northern Communities.” By the time Friedman left, he admits he no longer believed the message. “[B]y this time, like many Israelis I had replaced one simple idea —‘the Mission: Protecting the Northern Communities’—with another, that ceding the security zone to our enemies would placate them.” Israel pulled out of Lebanon only a few months after Matti completed his service on May 24, 2000.


Confronting antisemitism and Israel hatred http://edgar1981.blogspot.com/

Invisible Men: Black Victims of Black Killers Remain in the Shadows America was rocked by the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men killed by police in early July, but what of the other 21 black men killed on those two days? By Deroy Murdock

The whole world is watching videos of two men recently killed by cops. Meanwhile, nearly two dozen black men killed almost simultaneously — but not by police — remain virtually anonymous.

Police officers fatally shot Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in, respectively, Baton Rouge and near Minneapolis. While extenuating circumstances may exonerate officers Blaine Salamoni and Howie Lake of Louisiana and Jeronimo Yanez of Minnesota, the ubiquitous videos of their deaths make Sterling and Castile look like the victims of dreadful police training, trigger-happiness, toxic over-reaction, racism, or perhaps an amalgam of these elements. While facts ultimately may prove otherwise, for now, both incidents seemingly went very wrong. If so, justice should prevail, and these officers should be punished.

But on July 5 and 6 — as these tragedies unfolded — at least 21 other black men were murdered across America. Their killers were not cops. Several were fellow black men. One was a Hispanic teenager. The others could have been white, but that’s unlikely.

While news outlets from California to Calcutta have discussed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the names of these dead men barely have been whispered since their funerals:

From left: Taekwon Commodore with his two children; Domonic Norton; Gerard Foster

Jamal Brown, 20, allegedly shot and killed Taekwon “Tee Kay” Commodore, 28, on July 5 in Brownsville, Pa. Police say that these two black men and others argued about a robbery, and then Brown began shooting into the air. When the crowd scattered, Brown allegedly shot at those who ran and fatally hit Commodore.

“His personality, smile and happiness were infectious to us all,” Commodore’s loved ones wrote on a GoFundMe.com appeal to cover his funeral expenses. (So far, donors have met $340 of the $4,000 goal.) “And his laugh. . . . you can never forget his laugh,” it continues. “He leaves behind his amazing music and realistic lyrics, but more importantly, he leaves two beautiful baby boys behind. Two baby boys left without a father. That’s all his loved ones have left of him.”

Police are seeking a black man named Davon Burden, 27, in connection with the shooting death of Domonic J. Norton, 28, on July 5 in Fort Wayne, Ind. Burden was convicted in 2010 of possessing a gun with obliterated identification marks.

Hillary Clinton’s Greatest ‘Accomplishments,’ Annotated What do honest Abe or Ike amount to compared with our presumptive Democratic nominee? By David French

Surveying the entire history of the American presidency, from George Washington to Thomas Jefferson to James Madison to Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant to Dwight Eisenhower and beyond, President Obama recently declared that he doesn’t think “there’s ever been someone so qualified” to be president as . . . Hillary Clinton.

She didn’t lead American forces to victory in the Revolution. She didn’t write the Declaration of Independence. She didn’t write the Bill of Rights. She didn’t lead the Union to victory in the Civil War or the Allied forces to victory in the world’s worst war. Her accomplishments must be greater — her leadership even more magnificent.

Worried that I’d overlooked her greatness, I scurried over to Hillary’s website to feast my eyes on her “7 biggest accomplishments.” Valley Forge? The Starks have seen colder winters. The Declaration of Independence? White man’s words. Normandy? A beach vacation. Behold the greatness that is Hillary Clinton, in her campaign’s own words — with a few modest annotations following.

1. Fought for children and families for 40 years and counting.

After law school, Hillary could have gone to work for a prestigious law firm, but took a job at the Children’s Defense Fund. She worked with teenagers incarcerated in adult prisons in South Carolina and families with disabled children in Massachusetts. It sparked a lifelong passion for helping children live up to their potential.

Well, not all children:

Michael Warren Davis Far-From-Dead White Males

US politics has long been shaped by policies specifically crafted to win the fealty of recognised minorities — a logic that assumes the largest single electoral demographic can be ignored at best or, just as often, actively disparaged. Donald Trump has shot down this canard.
Much – probably too much – has been made of Donald Trump’s popularity with the Alternative Right (or Alt-Right), an internet-based network of white nationalist trolls. They serve has his praetorian guard on Twitter, dividing their time equally between harassing his opponents and composing propagandic memes. Indeed, the myth of the Angry White Man has been enlisted by Trump’s opponents more than all the cracks about bad hair and orange skin put together. But the role that race and gender has played (and continues to play) in Trump’s ascendency can’t be waved off so easily. A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows that Trump leads among college-educated white men, 49% to 42%. Compare this to an earlier Pew poll’s finding that whites overall prefer Trump 51% to 42%, and men overall prefer him 49% to 43%.

Before going on, let’s take a moment to reflect on one fact: Hillary Clinton leads among blacks (91% to 7%), Hispanics (66% to 24%), and women (59% to 35%) – statistics her political and media allies tout with orgiastic relish. That a candidate appeals to protected identity groups is meant to be inherently appealing. These groups are basically assumed to be an on the side of the angels, and politicians are expected to tailor their policies accordingly. Indeed, one of the great identity crises raging in the GOP is whether Republicans should make themselves more agreeable to Hispanics or blacks. That blacks and Hispanics are simply incorrect for voting overwhelmingly Democratic never occurs to the Republican establishment. If the conservative message doesn’t resonate with minorities, their thinking goes, then there must be something wrong with conservatism.

That vacuous, pliable attitude is dangerous in itself, and there’s no need to dwell on it at any great length. Everyone knows that pandering to race and gender is deplorable; it’s just a matter of whether or not you’re willing to commit deplorable acts in order to get elected.

Politicians and commentators are, however, loathe to discuss a candidate’s appeal to white men one way or the other. It’s impossible to say that appealing to whites – still by far the largest ethnic group in the United States – is intrinsically negative. Then again, appealing to them can’t be intrinsically positive either: political correctness won’t allow it. Ditto for gender: appealing to men isn’t usually considered a thing to be condemned, but the PC censors would never allow it to be regarded as a thing to be applauded either. To all intents and purposes, the white male vote is purely incidental.

Congressman: Visa Overstays Not Reported to Homeland Security By Nicholas Ballasy

WASHINGTON — Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) said the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. consulates do not communicate with each other about individuals who have overstayed their visas.

“A big problem in my district is visa overstays. I mean, it is rampant,” Marchant told PJM during an interview on Capitol Hill.

Marchant also told PJM people are staying in the U.S. on many different types of expired visas.

“They’re enrolling in college for one semester, paying the tuition and they’re gone,” he said. “So, we found out that there is actually no communication between Homeland Security and each of the consulates that issue the visas. We don’t know who is overstaying their visas.”

Marchant said the U.S. consulates that issue the visas to foreigners should be required to report visa data to DHS.

“Just a list. Here’s how many people we gave visas to, here’s how many came back, here’s the people that never came back,” he said, explaining the kind of information the consulates should provide.

“Now that presents a problem — now where are you going to go? Are you going to round them up? I don’t know but we should at least know who they are,” he added.

Marchant, a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said some people visit his district office with expired visas and ask his staff for help.

“They just boldly walk in the front door — demand and say, ‘my visa is expired, I need you to write a letter for hardship.’ Our staff is trying to say we are obligated by law to report you to the INS because you are here illegally and we are not going to help you. If you want to pursue this further and open a case we are going to have to report you to the INS,” Marchant said, referring to the Immigration and Naturalization Service that was split into three agencies under the Bush administration: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“I’m all for legal immigration – most of the immigrants in my district are legal, but visa overstays are a huge problem,” he added.

Industry Group: EPA Fuel Standard Could Lead to Higher Gas Prices, Damaged Engines By Nicholas Ballasy

WASHINGTON – The American Petroleum Institute is warning the public that the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2017 renewable fuel standard could lead to higher gas prices for consumers and cause engine damage to many cars on the road without action from Congress.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate continues to increase ethanol volumes in our fuel mix and could lead to higher gas prices and potentially cause engine damage to many cars on the road today,” Frank Macchiarola, group director of downstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute, said on a conference call Monday.

“Instead of providing relief to consumers, EPA’s biofuel proposal for 2017 moves us closer to breaching the blend wall,” he added.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the blend wall is “the maximum quantity of ethanol that can be sold each year given legal or practical constraints on how much can be blended into each gallon of motor fuel.”

The RFA has argued that oil companies failed to plan ahead for ethanol blend changes that were in the works years ago.

According to the RFA, “The intent of the RFS was always to push beyond the blend wall and increase the share of renewable fuels in our nation’s fuel supply.”

In May, the EPA released the 2017 renewable fuel standard proposal. The agency is accepting comments on the rules from stakeholders through July 11.

“The proposed standards are expected to continue driving the market to overcome constraints in renewable fuel distribution infrastructure, which in turn is expected to lead to substantial growth over time in the production and use of renewable fuels,” the EPA proposal read. CONTINUE AT SITE


The outcome of tonight’s apparent coup attempt in Turkey remains unclear, but the motivation for regime change in Turkey has been building under the surface for years. Turkey faces a perfect storm of economic, political and foreign policy problems.

First, Turkey’s much-heralded economic growth spurt of the 2000’s has come to a grinding stop. The Erdogan boom, which inspired predictions that Turkey might emerge as another China, resembled the Asian experience less than it did the Latin American credidt bubbles of the 1980s or the American subprime bubble of the 2000s. I wrote last April 25:

Turkey’s economy appears to defy gravity: with annualized GDP growth of 5.7%, it is the emerging market that has held up best under stressed global economic conditions. That is entirely due to the growth of domestic consumption; Turkish exports are flat despite the sharp devaluation of the country’s currency. And domestic consumption depends on a flood of high-interest consumer loans.

According to the Turkish central bank, consumer debt is now almost equal to total personal income in Turkey, vs. a bit over 20% in the United States. The average interest rate on consumer debt, the central bank reports, is just under 17%.

Gingrich is right: Sharia is incompatible with US values By Daniel John Sobieski

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a political bull often on the lookout for a politically correct china shop, has rattled the orthodoxy of political correctness once again, saying that those who follow Sharia law can’t also be loyal to the U.S., Constitution and the Western values it represents and either shouldn’t be allowed to enter the U.S. or should be deported from it. This didn’t sit well with President Barack Hussein Obama. As the Daily Caller reports:

On Friday, Barack Obama called Newt Gingrich’s plan to deport sharia-adhering Muslims in America “repugnant and an affront to everything that we stand for as Americans.”

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Nice, France, Gingrich said, “We should, frankly, test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.”

Gingrich is right. Everything we stand for as Americans, free speech, freedom of religion, equal rights for women, all are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Sharia law is incompatible with our values and our democracy. So says Syrian Islamic scholar Abd Al-Karim Bakkar who said in 2009 that democracy and Oslam are like matter and anti-matter in physics:

Democracy runs counter to Islam on several issues….

In democracy, legislation is the prerogative of the people. It is the people who draw up the constitution, and they have the authority to amend it as well. On this issue we differ.

Agreeing with Gingrich is former rival presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson. Speaking on NBC’s Meet The Press during the primary campaign, Dr. Ben Carson was asked if a President’s religious beliefs mattered. He said they did, and, when pressed on the issue, said no Muslim should be President of the United States (insert Obama joke here) and that in fact Islam is in conflict with the U.S. Constitution:

Turks Careening Backward under Erdogan’s Fist By Marion DS Dreyfus

Dictator of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s solitary fiefdom by unpopular and oppressive diktat is intolerable to the descendants of Kemal Ataturk, and is turning Turkey’s progress backwards by a century.

I hope the truth is stronger than the “Wag the Dog” Hollywood-style spin we are being shoveled, both sides being to some extent culpable, and both sides being enough misrepresented that we need to couch everything we have stated in the freshet of weasel words to modify any suggestion of a solid affirmative anywhere within the hype we have been fed for hours.

Not that it makes a huge difference what I deem Turkey’s ratchet backwards to pre-reformation Turkey; in fact, I disliked Turkey more than any other of the 100-plus countries I have been to, lived or spent time in.

Erdoğan’s thumbnail history includes: Born in 1954, this pol has been Turkey’s 12th President, since 2014. Before that, he was Prime Minister, from 2003 to his ascendancy to leader in 2014; and prior to that, was mayor of Istanbul from 1994 through 1998. Erdoğan, it has become clear over the recent past, merits ouster. He ought to have been replaced years ago, as his positions have concretized, his bellicosity has become more evident, and his insistence on outlandish privilege or accommodation were noticed as excessively parochial and leaning toward revanchist adherences to an untenable Islam that Ataturk had been contemptuous of enough to have massively reformulated.