American Elephants

Syrian Prime Minister Defects. Assad Regime Weakens? by The Elephant's Child

Syria’s highest-ranking Sunni member, Prime Minister Riad Hijab”s spokesman said he had defected to the opposition as the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad continues to inflame emotions in the Middle East. Does this mean that Assad’s regime is falling apart? Who knows.

Syrian state television calmly reported that Mr. Assad had fired the prime minister and replaced him with another veteran government member. Mr. Hijab’s whereabouts are unknown. An official from Jordan said the he hadn’t entered Jordan, despite claims that he had fled there. No other Arab nation commented officially.

Syrian rebels were enthusiastic, but they have sustained heavy losses. Mr. Hijab had only been in office since June. Only three weeks ago, a bomb attack killed four of Mr. Assad’s top security officials.

There have been quite a few high-profile defections. • Syrian ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares resigned on July 11 .• Manaf Tlass, a commander in the Republican Guard and a longtime friend of Assad’s left to join family in France.  •A Syrian fighter pilot was granted asylum in Jordan in June. • In March, Abdo Hussameldin, a deputy in Syria’s oil ministry joined the opposition.  • Also in March, two Syrian generals, a colonel and two sergeants defected from the army and crossed into Turkey. • Brig. Gen. Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheik fled to Turkey in January. The highest ranking officer to bolt. •Imad Ghalloun, a member of parliament left the country to join the opposition. • Adnan Bakkour the attorney general of Hama announced he had defected.

So far, the death toll is up to 19,000. The Middle East is certainly in flames. Our government seems remarkably uninterested, but surely somebody must think it’s important. Syria supposedly has Saddam’s WMD, which we don’t want to fall into the wrong hands. Mr. Assad’s closest ally is Shite dominated Iran. Haven’t heard much about “Arab Spring” lately.

Democrats Are Back Trying to Invalidate Military Votes. by The Elephant's Child

Fifteen Ohio military groups have gone to court to oppose an “offensive” lawsuit which was filed by the Obama campaign that challenges a law allowing military members to vote on days when the remainder of the state cannot.

“The Obama campaign’s and the Democratic National Committee’s argument that it is arbitrary and unconstitutional to give special consideration, flexibility or accommodations to military voters to make it easier for them to vote in person is not only offensive but flatly wrong as a matter of law.” The military groups — the Marine Corp League, The Association of the U.S.Army and the Association of the U.S. Navy and 9 other military organizations  argued in their filing that the court should deny the request.

The “decision to extend special consideration, accommodations and flexibility to military voters was not only eminently reasonable, but  positively commendable.” They say as well that efforts to maximize military voting “should be welcomed, not viewed with constitutional suspicion.”

Here we go with the Democrat’s regular effort to keep military votes from counting. Comes up every election, and somehow they manage to disqualify ballots from the battlefield for improper APO stamp, or spelling something wrong. They are terribly anxious to prevent any polling place across the country from asking for picture ID (“racist”) to make sure the voter is who they claim, but anything that can be found to disqualify a member of the military from voting will be rigidly applied.

Democrats had their “Secretary of State Project” last time that sank all sorts of money into Secretary of State offices, particularly in the battleground states. The Secretary of State is usually in charge of elections, and they wanted (surely for innocent reasons) most Secretaries of State to be Democrats.

Caught in the act, the awful David Axlerod tried to blame the controversy on Mitt, claim that of course they wanted members of the military to get special consideration, they just wanted all the rest of citizens of Ohio to get extra days to vote too. He didn’t mention that when Congress refused to pass the Dream Act, giving extra consideration to illegal immigrant children, the president issued an executive order giving them all a couple of extra years to vote and go to school. Expect abundant voter fraud.

The State of Israel and Mitt Romney’s “Gaffes” by The Elephant's Child

The marvelous Michael Ramirez tells the story better in one perfect cartoon than I do in a whole column.  See all his work at   (Click to enlarge)

Mitt Romney, according to the liberal media, committed a horrible gaffe last week in Jerusalem by commenting on the relation of culture to Israeli economic growth. Saeb Erekat, correctly understanding an implied criticism of Palestinian culture, called Mr. Romney a “racist” and complained that Palestinian economic problems were due to the Israeli occupation. Liberal analysts were quick to jump in to explain that Mr. Erekat’s words meant that Mr. Romney.  has disqualified himself as a broker for peace.

There’s perennial argument buried in there, economists argue about whether development is caused by cultural advantages or by natural advantages like access to primary resources and resistance to disease. If economists has a sure recipe for economic advancement, we’d all be more advanced than we are, and economists wouldn’t have as much to argue about.

Israel is an interesting case. A tiny country with no natural resources was an economic backwater even in the says of the Ottoman Empire. It became a highly developed nation on culture alone.  As Todd G. Bucholtz wrote once in the Wall Street Journal:

And then there is Israel today. It may be settled by God’s chosen people, but He chose not to give them a drop of oil while gushers sprout across Arabia. And its terrain doesn’t naturally grow enough green for a sprig of parsley on your dinner plate.  Yet the land blooms. In the race for development would you rather bet on a country with tons of zinc or one with a couple of extra IQ points and a free flow of ideas?

The influence of plentiful oil did not change the nature of Arab economies. It did not fuel economic development that benefited all, but led to crowded cities. The oil rich economies of Libya and Iraq have social structures much like oil-lacking Egypt and Syria. Change is feared, and the culture is authoritative. But Arab populations have grown and prospered where Jews settled — in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Hebron, and remained stagnant  where they didn’t. The Palestinian population is among the best-educated and most competent in the Arab world, and under Israeli rule (the hated occupation) the West Bank was one of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world in the 1980s.

Many Palestinians regard Jewish economic leadership as an attack on their pride. Their situation might be far different if they quit firing missiles into Israel, and concentrated on their own development. When liberal reporters and analysts denounce Mr. Romney for his “gaffe, they should recognize there are Palestinian entrepreneurs who wept when Yasser Arafat rejected Israel’s peace offer at Camp David in 2000, and who know the costs to their peoples of politicians intransigence.

They would do far better to recognize the dishonest response of Mr. Erekat, and stand up for their own country instead of trying to create controversy.

The culture in Israel, that free flow of ideas and entrepreneurial spirit, has discovered vast new deposits of natural gas off their coast, developed a thriving high-tech industry, and has much to offer their neighbors.

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