The John Batchelor Show

Thursday 22 August 2013

Air Date: 
August 22, 2013

Photo, above: Kurds in Western Kurdistan (Syria) – photo by David Meseguer. See Hour 3, Block B, Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.


Co-hosts:  Mary Kissel, Wall Street Journal editorial board, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents.

Hour One

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Sam Tadros, Hudson Institute, in re: A Coptic Monument to Survival, Destroyed. No one knows exactly when the Virgin Mary Church was built, but the fourth and fifth centuries are both possible options. In both cases, it was the time of the Byzantines. Egypt's Coptic Church—to which this church in modern-day Delga belonged—had refused to bow to imperial power and Rome's leadership over the nature of Christ. Constantinople was adamant it would force its will on the Copts. Two lines of popes claimed the Seat of Alexandria. One with imperial blessing sat in the open; the other, with his people's support, often hid, moving from one church to the other. Virgin Mary Church's altar outlasted the Byzantines. Arabs soon invaded in A.D. 641. Dynasties rose and fell, but the ancient building remained strong, a monument to its people's survival.  Virgin Mary Church was built underground, a shelter from the prying eye. At its entrance were two ancient Roman columns and an iron door. Inside were three sanctuaries with four altars. Roman columns were engraved in the walls. As in many Coptic churches, historical artifacts overlapped earlier ones. The most ancient drawing to survive into the 21st century: a depiction, on a stone near the entrance, of two deer and holy bread. Layers and layers of history, a testament not only to the place's ancient roots but also to its persistence. Like other Coptic churches, the ancient baptistery was on the western side, facing the altar in the east. Infants were symbolically transferred through baptism from the left to the right. The old icons were . . .  [more]

            There are currently 202 Coptic churches in the US; our Fairfax community has 4,000-plus members, a 50% increase in a few years.  Copts are emigrating to new places, such as Georgia in the Caucasus since there's an Orthodox culture there.  Bethlehem is now almost bereft of Christians.  Bernard Lewis wrote of regional demographics: in 1900, the wider Middle East was 25% non-Moslem; Jews, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, all around. Today, more than 50% of the remaining Christians in the Middle East are in Egypt, but they're being eradicated there. The US provides no leadership – we call it "detachment" on WSJ – so others step in, notably Saudi Arabia, Russia, Qatar, et al.

A foreign events section of the New York Times from September 1879, detailing a Kurdish insurrection that the Ottoman Empire falsely reported as taken care of.                  

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block B: Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg, in re: HEALTHCARE. UPS Ending Health Coverage for Spouses Signals Cost Cuts  United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS)’s decision to drop health benefits for 15,000 of its workers’ spouses may be a sign of the future, as U.S. businesses grapple with rising medical bills and the added burdens of Obamacare. The nation’s fourth-largest employer said yesterday that it will no longer offer health coverage beginning Jan. 1 to spouses who can get it though another company. UPS cited the 2010 health-care law as part of its thinking, saying it would increase costs and provide other insurance options for spouses. The shift is a sign of corporate America’s increasing willingness to make deep changes to benefits once taken as a given by workers. The health-care overhaul, estimated to boost business expenses by 2 percent to 4 percent next year, is adding to the momentum that has already spurred higher deductibles and surcharges for covering dependents. “The feeling is drastic times call for drastic measures,” said . . . [more]   

UPS is the fourth-largest company in America.  Today: removing benefits for spouse; next: removing benefits entirely.  Under ACA, company would have to pay a penalty, but it'd probably be  cheaper. This is not all ObamaCare-related; it’s that health care costs are going up rapidly – 4% a year or more.  Note that UVA no longer will offer health insurance to spouse of employee if s/he can get it though his/her employer.

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block C: Tim Wilson, Director of Climate Change Policy & the IP and Free Trade Unit, Institute of Public Affairs, Melbourne; in re: Sept 7 elections in Australia: individual elections add up to a majority to name the PM. The Liberals (conservatives) now 54%; Labor down to 46%. If trajectory continues, change of govt; but  it’s eat by seat – not much movement in most district, only in marginal districts, which are:  central coast of NSW, eastern Sidney, western Melbourne, south of ____. Mostly suburban peoples changing sentiment: "the battlers" who work every day and just hang on economically.  Mr Rudd, soi-disant Everyman, was called Mr Rude, when make-up specialist for the previous night's debate wrote that one of the two fellows was extremely polite and genteel; the other was rude, vulgar, dismissive.  Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, both using almost entirely negative advertising. Compulsory voting means you have to scare people – cutbacks to healthcare, or how bad he economy is. Also: a young Australian< Chris Lane, was murdered – gunned down - in Oklahoma City by two local teenagers who said simply that they were "bored."  Horrifying all around. 

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block D: Mary Kissel, Wall Street Journal editorial board, in re: Yahoo Tops Google in U.S. for Web Traffic in July – Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) attracted more U.S. visitors than Google Inc. (GOOG) during July for the first time since May 2011, indicating that turnaround efforts by Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer are gaining traction.  [more]

Hour Two

Photo: Jaf Kurd bag face, 19th Century

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block A: Michael J Totten, World Affairs, in re: Egypt, Hezbollah.  Democracy can’t be "restored" to Egypt because it ever existed. Free and fair elections are the last step in building a democracy.  We all object to what the military is doing, and in principle have no problem with the NMB getting squeezed – they're crazy – but hundreds have been killed and that's not OK. Mosques' calling on the faithful to kill Copts: we can’t stop that, but if we speak up loudly, the MB knows we're watching They kill because they can. They're being beaten by the army so they lash out at whom they can.  As for guarding the Copts, the army doesn’t care.  The army killed huge numbers of people last year just for protesting against church desecration.  The best model might be what Turkey used to have: free elections while ht army had a hand in maintaining a functioning system.  Sort of a hybrid system.  Sinai: lynching of Egyptian policemen.  Could this cancer spread, and southern Egypt see the same Salafi movements now in Sinai? Worst terrorist attack in modern history was in Luxor, in the south.  Fifteen Salafi groups in Sinai. MB lack of fight right now is probably a pause between clashes. When things get tense, Egyptians say: there's never been a real civil war in Egyptian history. It’s not in our political culture.

Walter Russell Mead’s latest essay in The American Interest, Bambi Meets Godzilla in the Middle East, is a must-read. I wish he was wrong, but alas he is not. Bambi, in his formulation, is President Barack Obama, of course. Godzilla describes both radical Islamists and the Egyptian military regime.

      I believe that democratic capitalism works better than the alternatives (though it does not work perfectly) and that other things being equal over time the societies who embrace these ideas will outperform those who do not. But this does not mean that I believe that the world will become liberal and democratic tomorrow or that the path to this future will be a smooth and steady ascent. As a Christian, I believe in the Second Coming and the Last Judgment; that does not mean I have maxed out my credit cards in the belief that Jesus is returning tomorrow. Unfortunately, much of our political and policy class, both on the left and the right, shares an unfounded confidence that liberal capitalism is going to triumph tomorrow. They are the secular, liberal counterparts of Christian fundamentalists waiting for the Rapture, a near-magical translation to a better world. This is what most American policy makers believed about Russia in the heady years after the Soviet collapse. President George W. Bush bet the ranch on the imminent democratization of the Middle East. So did President Obama. This is not a new mistake. Thomas Jefferson was sure that . . .   [more]

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  Michael Rubin, ex-Pentagon; author: Dancing with the Devil, Encounter Books (a history of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups), early 2014; also writing for the New York Daily News; in re: Syria, Turkey. Chemical attack to the east of Damascus? Pres Obama said one year ago: "A red line for us would be evidence of a chemical attack." When regimes acquire this capability, it’s likely they'll use it -  not only chem, but nuclear.  Erdogan is blaming Jews for Egypt, and for using telekinesis for [some other problem].  Recall when Erdogan was in hte Rose Garden, it began to rain, the press stood and got wet while two Marines arrived to cover Erdogan and Pres Obama with huge umbrellas.  At that moment, Turkish police were raiding a Turkish newspaper [for intellectual insubordination].  Recip Erdogan, PM; Abdullah Gul, president; and Fatoullah Gulin, controls security forces – all three jockeying most unpleasantly for power.

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block C: Ali Alfoneh, FDD, in re: Iran, Rouhani, Khamenei. At least seven in the Cabinet are "imposed" by the Supreme Leader.  Rouhani looks more sophisticated  than the humiliating Ahmadinejad; but he's no moderate, at all. Defense Minister is a cofounder of Hezbollah; spent the formative yrs (1982-84) in Lebanon, while Hezbollah agents engaged in terrorist vs US (Beirut) and France.   The Minister of Justice is the former chief of foreign espionage/intell ministry; in 1980s massacred political prisoners, killing Iranian dissidents abroad.  Biggest change in Cabinet composition is that the IRGC has gone down to three key ministries, since ht top leadership thinks IRGC is a Frankenstein monster; turning ministries over to the Intelligence Ministry.  Dunno how the IRGC will react. Velayati: "We'll never cease our nuclear program." Two different messages: one to domestic, one to intl audience. Domestic: "We'll stand strong."   To intl community: "Help – we need relief from the sanctions."  Primary role of intell ministry is to plant fear into the hearts of the population, as an instrument of control and power. Mr Khamenei also terrorizes his domestic opponents.  The oil ministry and interior ministry are no longer under control of IRGC.  The "moderate" secret police.

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Malcolm Hoenlein, in re: breaking news - the IAF strikes targets in southern Lebanon, south Beirut, responding to rocket attacks form Hezbollah-controlled Beka'a. Israel absorbed a lot of punches from the Syrian war, have taken hundreds of Syrians into Israeli hospitals. But this is different: rockets landed next to an old-age home housing Holocaust survivors.  Acre: on the coast, came under fire. Israel has consistently told the UN of Hezb activity, and is again housing rockets in people's homes – gave the Secy-Genl a map of where the homes are. No reaction.  Original Hezb mission to liberate the Middle East from Jews has morphed into Arabs' cutting Arabs' throats.  Rockets may have been fired by a rogue group not much under Hezb control.  Turkey: Erdogan speaks of telekinesis used by Jews. Generally bizarre behavior by this odd prime minister, who blames Israel for what's going on in Egypt: Erdogan waved a video of a June 2011 Israeli TV program where a guest said that Israel would eventually have to take some action in relation to Egypt; Erdogan seems to have confused "televised" with "telekinesis."

Hour Three

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block A:  Malcolm Hoenlein, in re:  rocket hit near Acre, almost hitting an old-age home with Holocaust survivors. Israel cannot let that deed goo unanswered.   Reports of chem. weapon attack east of Damascus.  Sarin gas – can cook in a lab; associated with al Q mfr recently – not much use on a battlefield, need to have a population that can’t move.  US does itself damage by calling a red line and then failing to act. Chairman of Joint Chefs of Staff Dempsey. Note: 30,000 Kurds have left Syria to Iraq; could be a long-term destabilizer as they move toward independence. "Kurds are a state without a state."  Are very tough fighters.  We see pix of Pres Obama being burned in Cairo; burning of churches, killing of Coptic men, women, children. Intolerable.  Military and police stand back immobile as 1,500-year-old churches are torched.  The silence of the West is deafening.


Photo below: The historical ruins of Kommagene in Kurdistan, the thrones of the Gods and Goddesses, in the Kurdish city Samsat (Adiyaman). 

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block B:. Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to PM Rabin and in Israeli military intelligence; in re: Huge influx of Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan, being attacked by al Nusrah/al Qaeda organizations. Iraqi Kurds now threatening to intervene; about to become a local flashpoint .  Also Iranian Kurds, the Free Party, is about to move to protect Kurds.  PM Erdogan of Turkey, and adamant chauvinist for Turkey vs Kurds, has called he head of the Kurdish Democratic Party and told him not to create a new govt in exile. "Went to sleep with 400 km of Kurds and woke up with 1200 km of Kurds."  Kurds are not radicalized; have been forgotten for almost 100 years even though in 1920 they were promised a homeland - 35 million people deserve it. The Mahabarat Republic, an autonomous Kurdish area, was invaded by Iran.  If Syrian and Iraqi Kurds unite, will be a large area; Iraqi s can’t do much right now being otherwise occupied with plenty of troubles.  In face of the danger of al Qaeda may cause them to unite, possibly under Barzani.  There are Israeli firms in Erbil.  Kurds are Muslims but not Arabs; in the redrawing of the Middle East, as states blow up, there is now a place for Kurdistan. 

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block C:  Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Wall Street Journal  THE AMERICAS, in re: Behind Mexico's Promising Oil Reform.    . . . Miscalculated expectations might explain why some observers are pooh-poohing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's proposal last week to reform his country's energy sector.  He did not offer the full-blown privatization of the state-owned oil monopoly, Pemex. Nor did he propose removing the constitution's prohibition against granting concessions for exploration and exploitation by international oil companies. Yet neither shortfall is fatal (more on that below).  Those who were naive enough to expect that Mr. Peña Nieto would try to heave overboard what is practically a religious icon for his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) deserve their dashed hopes. Ever since the center-right National Action Party (PAN) won the presidency in 2000, upending the PRI's 70-year rule, the executive no longer rules like a dictator in Mexico. Mr. Peña Nieto had PAN support for a more market-minded energy reform, but with five years left in his six-year term he cannot afford to alienate his left flank.  [see map]

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block D:   Daniel Henninger, WSJ WONDER LAND, in re: Mr. Obama's Middle Class. The noblesse-oblige Left invades the lives of the American masses.

Lately Mr. Obama has been proposing a "grand bargain for the middle class." He did so earlier this month in his Saturday radio chat. "This week," he said, "I put forward common-sense proposals for how we can create more jobs in manufacturing; in wind, solar and natural gas, and by rebuilding America's infrastructure." What are any of the 275 million or so middle-class Americans—young couples starting out, parents in places like Galesburg—supposed to make of this list? Where's the bargain? What has always intrigued me is how these middle-class jobs speeches always include a prominent reference to . . . the wind. Windmills, unless one is invested in them, will remain a speck in the future lot of the U.S. middle class. In a presidency whose unemployment rate has been stuck between 7% and 9%, with millions of middle-class people no longer trying to find work, why does Mr. Obama keep pushing the pie in the sky of windmills and solar panels?

Hour Four

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  John Tamny, RealClearMarkets, in re: John Tamny, RealClearMarkets, in re: It's popular to say that the symbol that is 'Wall Street' enjoys a privileged perch of private profits, and socialized losses. This doesn't stand up to the most basic of scrutiny.  Bailouts are economically horrid, and as history shows for their alleged beneficiaries, employees of bailed out institutions suffer the erasure of their net worth alongside political intervention that suffocates their future ability to generate profits. 'Wall Street' Loves Many Things, but It Loathes Bailouts

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block B: Carol Hymowitz, Bloomberg, in re: Best-Paid Women in S&P 500 Earning 18% Less Than MenEven the few women who’ve managed to advance to the C-suite don’t get equal pay. Last year, of the five best-paid executives at each of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies, 198 were women, or 8 percent of the total. Those high-achievers on average earned $5.3 million, 18 percent less than men. 

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  Jeff Shepard, The Atlantic, in re: Watergate (1 of 2) Watergate remains the greatest political scandal in modern American history. It culminated not only in President Nixon’s announcement of his resignation, 39 years ago Thursday, but in the conviction and imprisonment of his three most senior aides. Attorney General John Mitchell, White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman were found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury in the three-month Watergate cover-up trial, which ended on January 1, 1975. I saw it all unfold. I was a young lawyer working on the White House staff and assisting in Nixon’s defense efforts. It is true that we failed spectacularly. Of course, I’m disappointed we weren’t more successful. But whether the defendants were innocent or guilty, I’ve always worried on a more basic level that the heightened emotions of the times denied them the due process of law envisioned by our Constitution.  As a result of some recent discoveries I made while researching a book on the Watergate trials, my concern has been vindicated. It turns out that the notion that “no man is above the law” somehow didn’t apply to judges or prosecutors involved in the cover-up trial. Documents I have uncovered indicate that the efforts to punish the wrongdoings of Watergate led to further wrongdoing by the very officials given the task of bringing the Watergate defendants to justice.

Thursday 22 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block D: Jeff Shepard, The Atlantic, in re: Watergate (2 of 2)

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