Netanyahu’s Excellent Response.

Wasn’t that a good response by Prime Minister Netanyahu when he said: yes, Mr. Abbas , you expressed remorse in front of President Trump about the children killed in Manchester in the terrorist attack there, but if that was a Palestinian killing Jewish children the attacker would have been celebrated and under law received a stipend from Abbas’s Government for the atrocity.

When will the West stop supporting such a double standard ? When will they stop such blatant anti Semitic behavior. When will then stop the false equivalency between a civil , democratic Israeli state and a undemocratic terriorist state?

Trump will never do any better for Middle East peace than previous Presidents as long as such a charade is allowed to be acceptable.

The Blind American ( and the West’s) PLO Obsession—-Oh? It Doesn’t Work !

Written by Caroline Glick of the Jereuslem Post

Eight years from now, China will outstrip the US as the world’s largest economy. In three years, Israeli GDP per capita will outstrip Japan’s. These two data points are useful to bear in mind as we consider the Trump administration’s sudden decision to go retro and embrace the Clinton administration’s foreign policy on Israel from the early 1990s.

When then US president Bill Clinton decided to embrace Yasser Arafat, the architect of modern terrorism, it seemed like a safe bet.

The US had just won the Cold War. With the demise of the Soviet Union, US dominance in the Middle East was unquestioned. Even then Syrian president Hafez Assad provided symbolic support for the US-led war against his Baathist counterpart Saddam Hussein.

Assad had no choice. His Soviet protector had just disappeared.

The PLO, for its part, had never been weaker. The Gulf states reacted to Arafat’s support for Saddam in the 1991 war by cutting the PLO off financially. The Palestinian uprising against Israel, which broke out in 1988, sputtered into oblivion in late 1990 because without Arab money, Arafat and his cronies couldn’t pay anyone to attack Israelis.

As for the Arabs, operating under the US’s protective shield, in 1993 the Arab world appeared impermeable to internal pressure. No one imagined that Arab nationalism or the reign of presidents for life, kings and emirs would ever be questioned.

As for Israel, its decision to bow to the US’s demand during the Gulf War to stand down and do nothing in response to Iraq’s unprovoked Scud missile attacks was informed by a sense that Israel could not afford to stand up to America. While many debated the wisdom of this conclusion, the fact was that Israel in 1991 was economically weak. Its per capita income stood at around $15,000. Its economy was entirely dependent on the US and Europe.

With America’s power at an all-time high, Clinton and his people had every reason to believe that with minimal effort, they would be able to reach a peace deal between the Israelis and the PLO.

In the event, the assessment that peace would be an easy effort turned out to be entirely wrong. Arafat and his deputy Mahmoud Abbas played the Americans for fools. Worse, they humiliated Clinton.

In July 2000, when Arafat rejected Israel’s US-supported offer of peace at Camp David, it wasn’t just the notion of peaceful coexistence with Israel that he rejected. He rejected the notion that you cannot stand up to America.

Clinton aggravated the deleterious effect of Arafat’s action when rather than either retaliate against the PLO chieftain or at a minimum cutting his losses and walking away, Clinton spent the last months and weeks of his presidency pursuing Arafat and begging him to agree to a deal. Clinton went so far as to present his own peace offer to the PLO chief with less than a month left in office. And Arafat stomped away.

A lot of people were watching what happened. And a lot of people drew the logical conclusion: the US is a paper tiger. You can humiliate it. You can attack it. And the Americans, secure in their belief that unlike every other world power in history their primacy was permanent, would do nothing to you.

When Clinton left office, it wasn’t just the peace process that lay in shambles. America’s reputation was also massively weakened. In contempt of Washington, North Korea was racing toward the nuclear finish line.

Iran was taking over south Lebanon through Hezbollah and murdering Americans in Saudi Arabia.

India and Pakistan went nuclear.

And al-Qaida bombed two US embassies and one US naval destroyer.

How could Clinton pay attention to these things when he was captivated by the notion that once a peace deal was signed with the PLO, all the problems of the region would disappear?

He couldn’t.

And in time, neither could his successors. George W. Bush and Barack Obama each in time adopted Clinton’s near religious faith in the curative powers of embracing the PLO at Israel’s expense. Why should the world’s sole superpower deal with the difficult and bloody pathologies of the Islamic world? Why should it consider modernizing its alliances with its Asian partners as China rose seemingly inexorably? Why should it consider its inability to expand the US economy by 4% a year as a national security threat when all would be well the minute that the PLO agreed to a deal with a diminished and enfeebled Jewish state?

And so three American presidents have wasted 24 years ignoring serious and growing threats and changing global conditions while embracing the fantasy that the PLO holds the keys to global peace, or the ultimate deal or American exculpation of the sins of its past.

Israel for its part has followed its American friends down the garden path, even as the rationale for doing so has vastly diminished.

While the Americans surrendered their universities to the fantasies of anti-American multiculturalists and grievance mongers, Israel has modernized its markets, strengthened its society and revolutionized its economy.

One of the reasons Israel didn’t dare to question the Americans in the early 1990s was its terrible credit rating. In 1988 Israel’s credit rating was – BBB. And it needed to borrow billions of dollars to pay for the absorption needs of a million Jews from the former Soviet Union who moved to Israel from 1989 through 2006. US loan guarantees were the only way Israel could borrow money at affordable rates.

Over the intervening quarter century, those million Jews were the major driver in developing Israel’s information economy.

The main reason that Israel has maintained its slavish devotion to America’s PLO fetish is that our leftist elites, that dominate the media, share it. Like the American foreign policy discourse, Israel’s elites’ assessment of Israel’s priorities has remained frozen in time for the past 24 years.

The same cannot be said of the public.

The vast majority of Israelis have greeted President Donald Trump’s sudden embrace of his predecessor’s obsession with the PLO with surprise and at best bemusement.

“Well, good luck with that,” is the most polite response.

It isn’t simply that unlike the American foreign policy establishment, the vast majority of Israelis are convinced there is no deal to be had with the PLO. Most Israelis simply don’t care anymore. They view the PLO and the Palestinians as largely irrelevant.

When Israeli leaders outside the leftist elite’s echo chambers prefer to speak with foreign audiences about anything beside the Palestinians, it isn’t because they are trying to avoid an unpleasant conversation. It is because they don’t see the point anymore.

The notion that a PLO state will make the region more stable as far more coherent Arab states collapse is absurd.

The notion that it is necessary to empower the PLO to win Arab allies when the Arabs are beating a path to Israel’s door begging for help in defeating Sunni jihadists and Iran is ridiculous.

The notion that Israel’s ability to expand its markets is contingent on peace with the PLO when every week more world leaders descend on Jerusalem to sign trade deals with Israel is not even worthy of a giggle.

As for demography, the American hysteria is bizarre.

The Palestinians already have passports and vote – when they are allowed to – in their own elections. Why would Israel be expected to let them vote for the Knesset?

Beyond that, Jewish immigration to Israel remains high. Israel’s Jewish birthrates have surpassed its Muslim birthrates both within sovereign Israel and in Judea and Samaria.

So why would Israel give up Jerusalem for demography?

As for Israel’s Arab citizens, the truth it that but for the meddling of foreign governments, Israel’s Arab population would have integrated fully into Israeli society a decade ago.

Next week, President Trump will arrive here. His meeting last week with PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas and statements by administration officials since make clear that Trump intends to be the fourth US president to get sucked into the PLO vortex.

Trump will arrive in Israel believing that his campaign pledge to “Make America Great Again,” and his goal of reaching the “ultimate deal” with the PLO are complementary aims.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explains nothing else to Trump when they meet next week, he should explain to him that the two goals are mutually exclusive. And if he has any extra time, Netanyahu should give Trump the details of the massive price America has paid, since 1993, for its three past presidents’ obsession with the PLO.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

Now , Here’s Some Facts From a Real American Small Businessman

Here is a letter by a small businessman that was sent to the Wall Street Journal and published today. I suspect a lot of this holds true for many small bussiness people in the western industrialized world.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

How friendly is the United States to small business? Here is a summary of just some of the issues facing small businesses like mine.

An open letter to all politicians about small business in this country

You all love to talk about how much you support small business; the reality is the opposite. The economy is changing rapidly and is vastly different than just a few years ago. Many of the factory jobs in this country have gone and will not return. Computer technology and automation will soon eliminate thousands more jobs (think truck drivers, taxi drivers, office workers, etc…). Because there will be fewer middle-class jobs, many people who never considered working for themselves will be forced to become sole proprietors or open a small business. It is therefore critically important that you make it easier for these people to do so. A rare few of them may grow into big companies, but if they aren’t given help to even get off the ground, then the odds of two guys in a garage starting the next Apple will be zero. Right now instead of creating incentives for people to start their own small business, you create nothing but hurdles, allow me to give some examples.

Excessive Social Security burden

Many years ago when I quit a perfectly good job to start my own small business, I was shocked to learn that I had to pay both my share and what had been my employer’s share of Social Security. If you wanted to create the perfect disincentive to discourage people from taking the leap to start a small business or become self-employed, it would have been difficult to invent a better one. If you really want to help people start their own business, he would eliminate this double-taxation burden.

High tax rates

There is finally talk (but it’s still just talk) about lowering corporate tax rates and letting small “pass-through” businesses get this break, that’s a great step in the right direction but it’s not enough. We’ve had progressive tax rates on personal income for a long time, but why not for businesses? Why does it make sense to tax low-income people less but not apply the same logic to small business? I suggest the same 3 tier system that is being suggested for income tax be applied to business income. Most sole proprietors will be fortunate to make $100K a year, so set the lowest rate for these folks. Most small businesses will have an annual income of under $5 or $10 million, so have a middle rate for them. Save the highest tax rate for bigger companies. And put an end to the shenanigans of large companies like Apple, GE, Google that avoid and evade taxes by employing tricks like “double Irish with a Dutch sandwich” because they can afford tax lawyers who know how to rig the game. Better yet, eliminate business tax altogether and replace it with a VAT (the same goes for income tax, you should incentivize people to make money, not punish them for it).

Capital Gains taxes

So you’ve busted your butt for 20 or 30 years running a small business or sole proprietorship, now you’d like to retire and enjoy life. Between state, federal and local taxes you’ve probably paid 50% or more of your income in taxes, but that’s not enough for politicians. If you’ve been lucky enough to have created a business you can sell, now you’ll get to enjoy paying another tax on the capital gain from the sale. Is this fair? Of course it’s not. It’s just another penalty imposed on hard-working folks by politicians who don’t think we are paying “our fair share.” If you can’t eliminate capital gains taxes on the sale of a business, at least make them progressive, with similar tiers to those mentioned above. There should be zero capital gains tax on any small business that’s sold for under $5 million dollars or so.

Excessive health care costs

I work for myself and have to pay my own medical expenses. Before the “affordable care act” I was paying about $200 per month for a high deductible policy. It was far from perfect but it got so much worse under the “Affordable” care act. I now pay over $400 a month, my deductible went from $5,000 to over $6,000 and my out of pocket costs for care have skyrocketed. At this rate, I will go broke soon, and I am healthier than average. I don’t know how any normal working family or small businessman can possibly afford these rates without going bankrupt. You need to scrap the ACA and implement a rational single-payer plan that puts more of the cost burden onto smokers, heavy drinkers, and the obese who add the most cost to the system at the expense of those of us who eat right and exercise. As the president pointed out, Australia has a better health care system than we do, and it’s single payer. We have the most inefficient, opaque, bloated, overpriced health care/insurance system in the world, and the ACA only made it worse. The Republicans have rightly complained about this for the past six years and have had six years to create a solution yet they have nothing better to offer. They are nothing but hypocrites, liars, and frauds.

Income Tax Filing

I have to spend dozens of hours and thousands of dollars for a tax accountant each spring to prepare my taxes because I cannot possibly understand how to do it myself, and I have a master’s degree in engineering. I also have to remember to pay quarterly estimates, even if my income in not predictable or fluctuates (which it does for most small businesses) or else I get dinged with penalties. This is a time and cost burden that makes it very hard to run a small business. If you really want to support small business, reform the tax code, eliminate ALL deductions, and make it simple to file and pay once per year instead of quarterly. The current tax code is an abomination and should be scrapped.

Excessive import duties

There is a lot of talk lately about a “border adjustment tax” (BAT), a fancy name for an import duty on imported products. I design luggage and I need to contract out the manufacturing to companies that specialize in making luggage. All of these factories just happen to be in Asian countries. Because of this I am charged almost 18% on my cost of goods for all my imported luggage. Last year these fees came to over $100,000. The only reason I can see for these fees is government greed. There is no luggage manufacturing industry in the USA that is being protected. This is another huge burden that makes it difficult to survive in the ultra-competitive luggage business. Congress and President Obama had a chance remove this burden last summer, and they did what they do best: nothing. If you do impose a border adjustment tax, will it be on top of the 18% I’m already paying? If so you will put me out of business. If you really want to support small business, you would eliminate all tariffs (or BAT, or whatever you choose to call the tax) for companies below a certain size. For example, eliminate all tariffs on companies for their first $10 million dollars of imports annually. This would provide actual help and give small companies a chance to survive and grow into bigger companies.

Excessive customs inspection fees for imported products

My company, SkyRoll, designs luggage that is made in Asia and imported by ship to the USA. It is sold at all Men’s Wearhouse stores and Jos. A Bank stores. A recent shipment was delayed for almost 2 weeks at the port of Los Angeles for extra customs inspections. The container was first x-rayed, and since that apparently wasn’t good enough, it was then opened and inspected by hand. There was nothing in the container but the same luggage I’ve been importing for 15 years. I was then charged over $2,000 for this “privilege,” in addition to the 18% import duty I already pay. This is not the first time I’ve had to pay for extra inspections that were unnecessary. I understand the need for security but I’m a known importer of the same products for almost 15 years, and this is a terrible cost burden for my small company. These inspections are not necessary, and I should not have to pay for them when I’m already paying excessive and unwarranted import duty on every shipment.

The word “entrepreneur” is endlessly tossed around by politicians who know nothing of how hard it is to be an entrepreneur. You all love to say you encourage entrepreneurship, but the reality is you stand in the way. Most small businesses either fail or stay small because it is really hard to grow a business, and because of all the burdens you put on us. Quit your job and try it yourself if you don’t believe me.

Don Chernoff
President & Founder
SkyRoll Luggage

Quants —-Looks Like The Sign of The Times

Wall Street Journal Reports

Up and down Wall Street, algorithmic-driven trading and the quants who use sophisticated statistical models to find attractive trades are taking over the investment world.

On many trading floors, quants are gaining respect, clout and money as investment firms scramble to hire mathematicians and scientists. Traditional trading strategies, such as sifting through balance sheets and talking to companies’ customers, are falling down the pecking order.

In just one sign of power, quantitative hedge funds are now responsible for 27% of all U.S. stock trades by investors, up from 14% in 2013, according to the Tabb Group, a research and consulting firm in New York.

In Case You Missed It –Billions in New US , Saudi Deals

Donald Trump, the President of the US, is in the Middle East .

And at least $43 billion of new deals have been signed by American Companies with Saudi Arabian Authorities.

GE has signed billion dollar deals in power generation, aviation, digitizations technologies, mining, oil and gas and healthcare.

Lockheed Martin is building and providing to the Saudis 150 new Black hawk helicopters.

Honeywell and McDermott are involved in other billion dollar deals .

And then there are arms deals worth $109 billion now and a commitment for another $350 billion over 10 years.

And the Saudis who own a refinery in Texas will spend $18 billion in upgrading and expanding the facility.

So while controversy swirls in the Beltway, there is actually some economic deals being executed.

Loose With The Facts , Our PM; Our Own Trump !

Here is what our dear Princeling said in the House of Commons concerning our vaunted infrastructure program :

‘We’re going to continue to invest historic amounts in infrastructure that are going to help families get to and from work in a reasonable amount of time; back in time for their kids’ soccer games. We’re going to make the kind of investments that make a difference for small businesses being able to get their goods to market.”

Good stuff, right?

Wrong!

It so happens that only 10.6% of the $100 Billion of new infrastructure spending will go to trade and transportation . The rest of the money goes to all manner of stuff , a lot of green and things ( culture, parks, recreation,etc) , good in its own right, but hardly getting people to and from work as the PM so proudly proclaimed in the Parliament .

They talk of the syntactically challenged President to our south , and he is that and much more, but right here in our own land north of 49 we have the twisting and turnings of a leader who plays with the facts , too.

Thanks to Charles Lammaam and Hugh MacIntyre of the Fraser Institute for pointing this out . It won’t make the press here the way Trump’s indiscretions do to our south and are carried here but it is nice to know that we do have a few people who don’t mind exposing our PM to the norms of some semblance of truth.

Of course, this is not an isolated incident in the ethics of our Princeling —from false promises of balanced budgets to lauding the Chinese system , there is in this a uniquely Canadian version of playing with the truth.

You can read Lammam and MacIntyre’s full article at Fraser Institute website, all for free.

No, Not Impeachable or Criminal !

With the scandal du jour of the Comey memo, President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia looks less like a diplomatic flight as fleeing the jurisdiction. For the first time, the Comey memo pushes the litany of controversies surrounding Trump into the scope of the United States criminal code.

However, if this is food for obstruction of justice, it is still an awfully thin soup. Some commentators seemed to be alleging criminal conduct in office or calling for impeachment before Trump completed the words of his inaugural oath of office. Not surprising, within minutes of the New York Times report, the response was a chorus of breathless “gotcha” announcements. But this memo is neither the Pentagon Papers nor the Watergate tapes. Indeed, it raises as many questions for Comey as it does Trump in terms of the alleged underlying conduct.

A good place to start would be with the federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 1503. The criminal code demands more than what Comey reportedly describes in his memo. There are dozens of different variations of obstruction charges ranging from threatening witnesses to influencing jurors. None would fit this case. That leaves the omnibus provision on attempts to interfere with the “due administration of justice.”

However, that still leaves the need to show that the effort was to influence “corruptly” when Trump could say that he did little but express concern for a longtime associate. The term “corruptly” is actually defined differently under the various obstruction provisions, but it often involves a showing that someone acted “with the intent to secure an unlawful benefit for oneself or another.” Encouraging leniency or advocating for an associate is improper but not necessarily seeking an unlawful benefit for him.

440px-Oval_Office_1981Then there is the question of corruptly influencing what? There is no indication of a grand jury proceeding at the time of the Valentine’s Day meeting between Trump and Comey. Obstruction cases generally are built around judicial proceedings — not Oval Office meetings.

Of course, that does not change the fact that the question by Trump was wildly inappropriate. Yet, it also raises questions of Comey’s judgment. The account suggests that Comey was so concerned about the conversation that he wrote a memorandum for record. But that would suggest that Comey thought the president was trying to influence the investigation but then said nothing to the Justice Department or to his investigation team. The report says that, while Comey may have told a couple of colleagues at the FBI, he did not tell the investigation team “so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.”

Why? If he thought the president was trying to derail the investigation, that would seem relevant to the scope of the investigation. It is like a bank president seeking to close a fraud investigation, but the contact in the FBI decided not to tell bank investigators. One explanation would be that Comey did not view Trump as a potential target of the Flynn investigation, and thus did not view the uncomfortable meeting as relevant to the investigation team (and Trump has maintained that Comey told him three times that he was not a target). However, that would make the case even weaker for allegations that Trump was trying to protect himself or his inner circle by seeking closure for Flynn.

It is highly concerning that Trump has described how Comey actively campaigned to keep his job during this period. As usual, Trump has created the most problematic record for judging his own actions. If Comey was pleading for his job as suggested by Trump, the impropriety of the alleged statement in the Oval Office would be exponentially increased. Trump categorically denies that the statement was ever made. That alone could support an immediate demand for any and all tapes in the possession of Trump and he would be required to turn them over.

There is a separate question of whether this type of alleged obstruction could be the basis for impeachment. As someone who has been down that long impeachment road before, I would again advocate caution. Last night, respected former presidential advisor David Gergen said that, with the Comey memo, we are now “in impeachable territory.” If so, we have one foot on the shore and one in a raging surf. Before we start an impeachment proceeding, we need to be on terra firma. It requires more than uncomfortable meetings or ill-considered disclosures.

225px-richard_nixonIt is certainly true that an impeachable offense does not have to be a prosecutable crime despite the standard of “treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors.” Professors like Laurence Tribe and others have called for impeachment, even before this latest allegation. It is also true that Richard Nixon was facing impeachment allegations that included efforts to influence or obstruct the investigation of his campaign.

However, Nixon’s impeachment involved a host of clear criminal acts from slush funds to burglaries. There is still no compelling evidence of an actual crime at the heart of the Russian investigation. Flynn is facing allegations of basic reporting or disclosure violations under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) which is rarely actually prosecuted. Indeed, there have been only seven prosecutions under FARA since 1966, when the law was revised.

The investigation of Flynn has not produced any reported evidence implicating Trump. A FARA violation is a relatively minor federal violation for a president if that is the scope of the FBI investigation. Obviously, if there is some undisclosed major crime implicating the president, the seriousness of the alleged statement would grow in the same proportion. However, Trump has insisted that he was told repeatedly by Comey that he was not under investigation.

Impeachment is not meant to be an alternative for criminal cases that cannot be submitted to a grand jury. It is also not meant to be politics by other means. Finally, it is not a vehicle to redo an election for those with morning-after regrets. Ironically, for those who charge that Trump has compromised the legal system, the same objection can be made over demands for criminal charges or impeachment based on his still undisclosed memo.

Fortunately, there is ample reason to expect answers to these questions. There is a paper trial and witnesses. Moreover, by discussing aspects of these conversations with Comey, Trump has undermined claims of privilege and has made it easier for Comey to speak to Congress. However, absent tapes, this could well end up as a “he said, he said” dispute.

These men were obviously not fond of each other. Comey reportedly said that Trump was “outside the realm of normal” and possibly “crazy.” Trump has called Comey a “showboat” and equally disdainful remarks. Whether it is a memorandum for record or a diary entry, one-sided accounts of conversations generally fall short of compelling evidence with this type of history of tension.

For all of these reasons, we need to move beyond the hyperventilated pronouncements of criminal conduct or impeachable offenses based on this memo. This conversation in the Oval Office is a valid matter of concern and worthy of further investigation. It is not proof of an impeachable offense any more than it is proof of a crime.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. He testified during the Clinton impeachment and serves as the lead defense counsel in the last impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate for Judge Thomas Porteous.