Hamas projected to win Israel elections

In this morning’s Washington Post, Daoud Kuttab describes how the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza have succeeded in rescuing Hamas from the political wilderness:

The lack of international support since the 2006 elections, followed by this rebuff to Gaza’s only Arab neighbor, Egypt, compounded the deterioration of Hamas’s internal support. By November, the survey showed, only 16.6 percent of Palestinians supported Hamas, compared with nearly 40 percent favoring Fatah. The decline in support for Hamas has been steady: A year earlier, the same pollster showed that Hamas’s support was at 19.7 percent; in August 2007, it was at 21.6 percent; in March 2007, it was at 25.2 percent; and in September 2006, backing for the Islamists stood at 29.7 percent.

While it is not apparent how this violent confrontation will end, it is abundantly clear that the Islamic Hamas movement has been brought back from near political defeat while moderate Arab leaders have been forced to back away from their support for any reconciliation with Israel.

That’s why, as the six-month cease-fire with Israel came to an end, Hamas calculated — it seems correctly — that it had nothing to gain by continuing the truce; if it had, its credentials as a resistance movement would have been no different from those of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah. Unable to secure an open border and an end to the Israeli siege, while refusing to share or give up power to Abbas, Hamas could have had no route to renewed public favor.

For different reasons, Hamas and Israel both gave up on the cease-fire, preferring instead to climb over corpses to reach their political goals. One side wants to resuscitate its public support by appearing to be a heroic resister, while the other, on the eve of elections, wants to show toughness to a public unhappy with the nuisance of the Qassam rockets.

The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel’s strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.

As cynical political calculations go, all of this is almost disappointingly obvious.  The formerly ascendant parties, Hamas and Kadima, lose ground to their legacy rivals (Fatah and Likud, respectively).  The cease-fire’s end and the approaching elections coincide, providing a campaign opportunity for both sides.  Hamas offers a casus belli with rockets.  Israel’s governing coalition returns the favor with a massive aerial bombardment, hoping to prove that Kadima’s Livni and Labor’s Barak can be just as mindlessly barbaric as Likud’s Netanyahu.  Meanwhile, the collectively punished residents of Gaza rally around Hamas.

Hamas seems clearly the winner here, with things looking not so good for Kadima.  I’m predicting a stalemate on the ground in Gaza followed by a narrow victory at the polls  for Likud.

Obamalypse now

“Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America” (abridged version), published October 22 by Focus on the Family Action, a Christianist lobbying group affiliated with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family organization.  Happy birthday, Jesus.

October 22, 2012

Dear friends,

The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far-Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong.

On January 20, 2009, President Obama’s inauguration went smoothly, and he spoke eloquently of reaching out to Republicans who would work with him. Even in the next month, when Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens announced they would step down from the Supreme Court, nobody was very surprised – Ginsburg was already 75 years-old and in ill health, and Stevens was 88. President Obama nominated two far-Left, American Civil Liberties Union-oriented judges, and the Democratic Senate confirmed them quickly. They are brilliant, articulate and in their early 40s, so they can expect to stay on the court for 30 or 40 years. But things seemed the same because the court retained its 4-4 split between liberals and conservatives, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote.

The decisive changes on the Supreme Court started in June, when Justice Kennedy resigned – he was 72 and had grown weary of the unrelenting responsibility. His replacement – another young liberal Obama appointment – gave a 5-4 majority to justices who were eager to create laws from the bench. The four conservative justices who remained – John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – were suddenly in the minority.

Then in August 2009, two months after Kennedy resigned, Justice Scalia unexpectedly announced his resignation due to health reasons and by October 2009 another Obama appointment took his oath and joined the court. Finally the far-Left had the highest prize: complete control of the Supreme Court. And they set about quickly to expedite cases by which they would enact the entire agenda of the far Left in American politics – everything they had hoped for and more took just a few key decisions.

The most far-reaching transformation of American society came from the Supreme Court’s stunning affirmation, in early 2010, that homosexual “marriage” was a “constitutional” right that had to be respected by all 50 states because laws barring same-sex “marriage” violated the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Suddenly, homosexual “marriage” was the law of the land in all 50 states, and no state legislature, no state Supreme Court, no state Constitutional amendment, not even Congress, had any power to change it. The Supreme Court had ruled, and the discussion was over. President Obama repeated his declaration that he personally was against same-sex “marriage”, but he told the nation there was nothing he could do.

After the jump:  men & boys, TV porn, inner-city crime, Muslim terror, Russian empire, the Fairness Doctrine, euthanasia and more.

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Emergency Financial Assistance for Law Firms

Proposed Program

A portion of the $700 billion authorized under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the “Act”) will be used to fund the Client Receivables Acquisition Program (“CRAP”).

Law firms eligible to participate in CRAP may sell client receivables to the U.S. government, thereby receiving payment for fees billed to clients who are unable, unwilling or unaware of their obligation to pay for legal advice.

Law Firm Eligibility

To be eligible to participate in CRAP, a law firm must have —

  • its head office in the U.S.,
  • “significant operations” in the U.S., or
  • “substantial ambitions” in the U.S.

An eligible law firm must also belong to one of the following categories:

Law firms that are deemed to be “financial institutions” within the meaning of the Act.  A law firm may be treated as a financial institution if the average age of its inventory and client receivables is equivalent to 12 or more working capital weeks or if Treasury determines that the firm has otherwise become, in effect, a provider of long‑term financing to its clients.

Law firms whose participation in CRAP is “necessary to promote financial market stability” for purposes of the Act.  If more than 50% of a law firm’s annual revenues (on an accrual basis) are from clients who are “financial institutions” within the meaning of the Act, then Treasury may determine that purchases of the firm’s client receivables are necessary to promote financial market stability.

Law firms whose impact on local economic conditions is deemed to be unusually significant.  Under program guidelines to be issued by Treasury, eligibility for participation in CRAP may be extended to a law firm whose overhead expenses on a per-lawyer basis exceed 120% of the average for its peer group, or if the firm is otherwise determined to have an unusually significant impact on the local labor, real estate or catering markets.

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At the pump: $1.66 a gallon

From a July high of $4.11, today the average price of regular gasoline at U.S. filling stations is $1.66 a gallon.  Goodbye, energy conservation.  Adios, alternatives and hybrids.  See you after the recession.

The chart shows nominal (i.e., unadjusted for inflation) weekly average U.S. retail gasoline prices since 1993 — now at their lowest level since February 2004.

Weekly U.S. Retail Gasoline PricesSource:  Energy Information Administration

Oh no you don’t

This morning’s Financial Times reports that Bank of America cancelled a planned $3 billion sale of a portion of its shareholding in China Construction Bank after high-level objections from Beijing.  BofA bought a pre-IPO stake in CCB in June 2005, acquiring more shares in June of this year, and by the end of September BofA’s $4.9 billion investment in CCB was worth $14.5 billion.  BofA exercised a call option in November, paying about $7 billion to increase its CCB shareholding from 10.75% to 19.13%.  The lock-up on BofA’s pre-IPO position expired in October, and the plan apparently was for BofA to sell enough CCB shares to bring its total stake below 17%.

The FT article — on the front page of the print edition, above the fold — is full of ominous (and anonymous) talk about authoritarian Chinese disregard for the sanctity of contract:

The precise reason for the 11th-hour abandonment remains unclear, but dealmakers in the region believe that the Chinese government was unhappy about the timing of the share sale, the first such attempted divestment by a foreign investor following the expiry of a lock-in period.

The share sale could have triggered a fall in CCB’s share price just as Beijing is trying to garner support for its largest banks and arrest a stock market slide.

Foreign financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, Dresdner Bank, Temasek and Royal Bank of Scotland, hold shares in China’s leading banks worth billions of dollars and analysts say they could be tempted to sell down stakes to raise capital when their three-year lock-in periods start to expire from next month.

“Bank of America cancelling those trades has made the other foreigners realise they don’t exit at their discretion; they exit at the discretion of the Chinese government,” said one Asian dealmaker who asked not to be identified.

Very chilling, indeed.  Problem is, the FT’s reporting is crap.

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Lawyers, war criminals and the Federalist Society

From the declassified summary of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s “Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody” —

The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.  Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.

Someone remind me again why war crimes trials are a non-starter.  And if so, why the Bush-Cheney gang can’t just be prosecuted for fraud, or for treason.  Can’t we just sue John Yoo and Jay Bybee for malpractice and have them disbarred?  Is that too much to ask?