Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Israeli Lobby Shows its Power in Defeating an Obama Nominee

Rarely is there any debate on the power of the Israeli lobby in Washington. So when there is a news story that exposes their influence it's news. This story illustrates how powerful and sinister they really are. The whole machinery of government (including Barack Obama) is subservient to the pro-Israel lobby. It's why we are in Iraq. And maybe why 9-11 happened. There must be debate of the role of any lobby in Washington, especially the unpatriotic pro-Israel lobby. This was in the Washington Post:

The withdrawal of a senior intelligence adviser after an online campaign to prevent him from taking office has ignited a debate over whether powerful pro-Israel lobbying interests are exercising outsize influence over who serves in the Obama administration.

When Charles W. Freeman Jr. stepped away Tuesday from an appointment to chair the National Intelligence Council -- which oversees the production of reports that represent the view of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies -- he decried in an e-mail "the barrage of libelous distortions of my record [that] would not cease upon my entry into office," and he was blunt about whom he considers responsible.

"The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East," Freeman wrote.

Referring to what he called "the Israel Lobby," he added: "The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views." One result of this, he said, is "the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics."

Freeman's angry rhetoric notwithstanding, the controversy surrounding the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia was broader than just Middle East politics. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair's choice of Freeman prompted a storm of complaints about his recent commercial connections to China and questions about whether he was too forgiving of that nation's leaders.

But most of the online attention focused on Freeman's work for the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that is funded in part by Saudi money, and his past critical statements about Israel. The latter included a 2005 speech he gave to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, where he referred to Israel's "high-handed and self-defeating policies" stemming from the "occupation and settlement of Arab lands," which he called "inherently violent."

Only a few Jewish organizations came out publicly against Freeman's appointment, but a handful of pro-Israeli bloggers and employees of other organizations worked behind the scenes to raise concerns with members of Congress, their staffs and the media.

For example, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, often described as the most influential pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, "took no position on this matter and did not lobby the Hill on it," spokesman Josh Block said.

But Block responded to reporters' questions and provided critical material about Freeman, albeit always on background, meaning his comments could not be attributed to him, according to three journalists who spoke to him. Asked about this yesterday, Block replied: "As is the case with many, many issues every day, when there is general media interest in a subject, I often provide publicly available information to journalists on background."

The Post also cites this article:
Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s infamous witch hunt against alleged communists in the U.S. government relied primarily on lies, innuendo, and intimidation. Then, at a particularly odious hearing, after McCarthy had falsely accused a young Army officer of being a communist agent, Army counsel Joseph Welch turned on the senator and shot back: "At long last, Senator McCarthy, have you not a shred of decency?"

I am reminded of that moment as I watch the all-too-predictable smear campaign against Charles Freeman’s appointment as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. As soon as the appointment was announced, a bevy of allegedly “pro-Israel” pundits leapt to attack it, in what The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss called a “thunderous, coordinated assault.” Freeman’s critics were the usual suspects: Jonathan Chait of the New Republic, Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Gabriel Schoenfeld (writing on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal), Jonah Goldberg of National Review, Marty Peretz on his New Republic blog, and former AIPAC official Steve Rosen (yes, the same guy who is now on trial for passing classified U.S. government information to Israel).

What was their objection to Freeman? Did they think he’s unpatriotic, not smart enough, or that he lacks sufficient experience? Of course not. Just look at his resume:
Freeman has worked with more than 100 foreign governments in East and South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and both Western and Eastern Europe. He has served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d'Affaires in Bangkok and Beijing, Director of Chinese Affairs at U.S. State Department, and Distinguished Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and the Institute of National Security Studies."
What unites this narrow band of critics is only one thing: Freeman has dared to utter some rather mild public criticisms of Israeli policy. That's the litmus test that Chait, Goldberg, Goldfarb, Peretz, Schoenfeld et al want to apply to all public servants: thou shalt not criticize Israeli policy nor question America's "special relationship" with Israel. Never mind that this policy of unconditional support has been bad for the United States and unintentionally harmful to Israel as well. If these pundits and lobbyists had their way, anyone who pointed that fact out would be automatically disqualified from public service.

Obama Speech on Education: 3-10-09

Read the full transcript:

Fact Sheet: Expanding the Promise of Education in America

"In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a pre-requisite. That is why it will be the goal of this Administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education - from the day they are born to the day they begin a career."
- President Barack Obama
Address to Joint Session of Congress, February 24, 2009

Providing a high-quality education for all children is critical to America's economic future. Education has always been the foundation for achieving the American dream, providing opportunity to millions of American families, newcomers, and immigrants. Our nation's economic competitiveness depends on providing every child with an education that will enable them to compete in a global economy that is predicated on knowledge and innovation.

Progress toward this goal requires a race to the top to reform our nation's schools. It requires holding schools accountable for helping all students meet world-class standards aligned to the demands of the 21st century workforce. It requires solutions for schools to close the achievement gap, and strategies to accelerate the learning of those that are the furthest behind. It requires new reforms to promote effective teaching and attract the best and brightest into the profession. It requires a national strategy to confront America's persistent dropout crisis, and strengthen transitions to college and career.

President Obama's agenda will improve outcomes for students at every point along the educational pipeline.

Early Education: A Strong Foundation for Success

Research demonstrates that the years before kindergarten comprise the most critical time in a child's life to influence educational outcomes. It's time that our nation make the early investments that will transform lives, create opportunity and save money in the long term

· President Obama is committed to helping states develop seamless, comprehensive, and coordinated "Zero to Five" systems to improve developmental outcomes and early learning for all children.
· In the 2010 budget, Early Learning Challenge Grants will encourage states to raise the bar on the quality of early education, upgrade workforce quality, and drive improvements across multiple federal, state, and local funding streams.
· Incentive grants to states will support data collection across programs (Head Start, child care, Pre-kindergarten, and other early learning settings), push for uniform quality standards, and step-up efforts for the most disadvantaged children.

K-12: Fostering a Race to the Top

To excel in the global economy, we must adopt world-class standards, assessments, and accountability systems to upgrade the quality of teaching and learning in America's classrooms.

· The President encourages an end to the practice of low-balling state reading and math standards, and will promote efforts to enhance the rigor of state-level curriculum to better foster critical thinking, problem solving, and the innovative use of knowledge needed to meet 21st century demands.
· He will push to end the use of ineffective "off-the-shelf" tests, and promote the development of new, state-of-the-art data and assessment systems that provide timely and useful information about the learning and progress of individual students.
· With funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the U.S. Department of Education will work with states to upgrade data systems to track students progress and measure the effectiveness of teachers.

Teachers are the single most important resource to a child's learning. America must re-invest in the teaching profession by recruiting mid-career professional and ensuring that teachers have the world's best training and preparation. We must take action to improve teaching in classrooms that need it most, while demanding accountability and performance.

· The President will teacher quality by dramatically expanding successful performance pay models and rewards for effective teachers, scaling up federal support for such programs in up to an additional 150 school districts nationwide.
· He supports improved professional development and mentoring for new and less effective teachers, and will insist on shaping new processes to remove ineffective teachers.
· The President supports a new, national investment in recruiting the best and brightest to the field of teaching, and will invest in scaling-up innovative teacher preparation and induction models.

Driving Innovation and Expecting Excellence

America's schools must be incubators of innovation and success. Where charter schools are successful, states should be challenged to lift arbitrary caps and make use of successful lessons to drive reform throughout other schools.

· President Obama will encourage the growth of successful, high-quality charter schools, and challenge states to reform their charter rules and lift limits that stifle growth and success among excellent schools.
· The President supports rigorous accountability for all charter schools, and will encourage higher-quality processes for the approval and review of charter schools, as well as plans to shut-down charters if schools are failing to serve students well.

America's competitiveness demands a focus on the needs of our lowest-performing students and schools. Our middle- and high- schools must identify students at-risk of dropping out, and we must scale-up models that keep students on a path toward graduation. Reform in America's lowest-performing schools must be systemic and transformational. For some, partnerships and additional support can bring about change and drive improvement. Others may need to move beyond the late 19th century and expand the school day.

· The President supports a national strategy to address the dropout crisis in America's communities, and efforts to transform the nation's lowest-performing schools. 2,000 of the nation's struggling high schools produce over half of America's dropouts. The President will invest in re-engaging and recovering at-risk students, including those enrolled in the middle school grades.
· The FY 2010 budget will support the development and scaling of effective dropout prevention and recovery models - such as transfer schools that combine education and job training for high school students that are far behind.
· President Obama supports the acceleration of America's lowest-performing schools, and will make a robust investment toward recovery for schools failing standards under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Restoring America's Leadership in Higher Education

Our competitiveness abroad depends on opening the doors of higher education for more of America's students. The U.S. ranks seventh in terms of the percentage of 18-24 year olds enrolled in college, but only 15th in terms of the number of certificates and degrees awarded. A lack of financial resources should never obstruct the promise of college opportunity. And it's America's shared responsibility to ensure that more of our students not only reach the doors of college, but also persist, succeed, and obtain their degree.

· President Obama's FY 2010 budget makes a historic commitment to increasing college access and success by restructuring and dramatically expanding financial aid, while making federal programs simpler, more reliable, and more efficient.
· The President will restore the buying power of the Pell Grant for America's neediest students and guarantee an annual increase tied to inflation. His plan will end wasteful subsidies to banks under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, and re-direct billions in savings toward student aid.
· And it will dramatically simplify the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), making it easier to complete and more effective for students.
· The President supports strengthening the higher education pipeline to ensure that more students succeed and complete their college education. His plan will invest in community colleges to conduct an analysis of high-demand skills and technical education, and shape new degree programs for emerging industries.

Another Mass Shooter: Alabama Gunman Kills 9 Then Himself

Mass shootings have become so commonplace that it raises serious questions. Are these people doing it for the fame? The media after each of these shootings immediately starts to speculate on the motive almost given it a legitimacy. Their faces are splattered on everyone's TV. It's like being the star of a reality show. The media has stop romanticizing these people. And show for what cowards they are. Focus on the victims, not the perpetrators. There is also the question of easy availability of guns. Something the politicians have no courage in addressing. Why do these people have guns:

A coroner says the suspect in a shooting rampage that killed at least 10 people in south Alabama began his day of bloodshed by burning down his mother's house where officials found her body.

Coffee County Coroner Robert Preachers says officials have not been able to enter the house outside of Kinston to determine if she was shot. Preachers says the suspect then went to nearby Samson and killed his grandparents, aunt and uncle.

Preachers said the grandfather, Alfred White, had raised the suspect and that officials did not have a motive.

The Alabama Department of Safety says the gunman killed nine people before fatally shooting himself at a metal products plant in neighboring Geneva.

Police are investigating at least four separate shootings, all believed to be done by one gunman. His name was not released.

You can bet the shooter saw the stories about that church killer recently:
The suspect accused of killing a minister at an Illinois church had marked the day of the attack as a "day of death" or "death day" in a planning book, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

There were "words to those effect," written in a day planner belonging to Terry J. Sedlacek, the man accused in Sunday's attack at the First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois, said William Mudge, the Madison County state's attorney.

Mudge said he hadn't seen the planner and could not recall the exact wording that police described to him. He said police found the book in Sedlacek's home.

Lt. Scott Compton of the Illinois State Police said he hadn't seen the planner and could not confirm Mudge's account.

Authorities have charged Sedlacek, 27, with first-degree murder in the killing of the Rev. Fred Winters. He also was charged with two counts of aggravated battery related to the stabbing of church members Terry Bullard and Keith Melton.

Sedlacek was seriously wounded in the melee, authorities said.

Time to debate the role of guns and violence in our society:
A gunman's rampage that took at least 32 lives yesterday at Virginia Tech University was not an aberration. Mass shootings at schools in the United States have become frighteningly common. The U.S. Secret Service even collaborated on a detailed study with the federal Department of Education on how to prevent them. Too bad that changing lax gun laws was beyond the study's purview.

How common are school-based shootings in the United States? Between 1994 and 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta documented 220 separate incidents, accounting for 253 deaths. Leaving aside summer and holidays, that's nearly one homicidal incident a week over six years at schools. Yet the CDC called the incidents rare -- perhaps because 15 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 are killed each day, on average, in the United States. The mass school shootings are but a small percentage of this frightening total.

If the frequency of the mass shootings is uniquely American, it is also uniquely American to have a respected public-health authority label 220 school shootings in six years as rare. That lack of perspective goes some distance toward explaining why so deadly a massacre as the one at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999 did not bring about a nationwide crackdown on guns. (Twelve students, one teacher and two teenage gunmen died at Columbine.) "What have we done as a nation in the eight years since Columbine about this problem?" Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, asked yesterday. Guns are still proliferating. No new gun controls have been legislated. A federal ban on assault weapons was left to expire in September, 2004.

Canada has had school shootings, but they have been much less common, and the outpouring of rage and disbelief has prompted the country's legislators to react. After Marc Lépine killed 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989, the federal government passed gun-control legislation that may have helped limit the carnage last September when Kimveer Gill took semi-automatic weapons into Dawson College, also in Montreal, and killed one student. Mr. Lépine used a gun that could fire 30 bullets, but the 1991 law that followed his attack limited most rifles to five rounds of ammunition, and handguns to 10 rounds.
- Update:
Incredibly I wake up to another mass murder. This time in Germany. Is there any doubt this was a copycat shooting? This demonstrates that the glorification of murderers is also impacting Europeans:
A 17-year-old gunman dressed in black opened fire at his former high school in southwestern Germany on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people before police shot him to death, state officials said.

Nine students and three teachers were among the dead, State Interior Minister Heribert Rech said.

It was Germany's worst shooting since another teenage gunman killed 16 people and himself in another high school in 2002.

Police said the former student at the school in Winnenden, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) northeast of Stuttgart, entered it at 9:30 a.m. and opened fire, shooting at random.

Witnesses said students jumped from the windows of the building after the gunman opened fire.

"He went into the school with a weapon and carried out a bloodbath," regional police chief Erwin Hetger said earlier. "I've never seen anything like this in my life."

Concerned parents quickly swarmed around the school, which was evacuated during the incident. About 1,000 children attend the school

After the attack, the suspect fled the Albertville high school toward the center of the town of 28,000, police said.

In 2002, 19-year-old Robert Steinhaeuser shot and killed 12 teachers, a secretary, two students and a police officer before turning his gun on himself in the Gutenberg high school in Erfurt.