Beyond the Cusp

April 22, 2019

Terror Strikes Sri Lanka

 

Already the death toll has been reported to be approaching three-hundred and is likely to exceed that number when the final count is known plus approximately five-hundred have been wounded after three churches and three hotels were targeted with explosions this Sunday in Sri Lanka. The hotels struck were the Shangri-La, Kingsbury Hotel and Cinnamon Grand; all of which are high end luxury hotels favored by tourists, specifically European and other Western nations. The churches attacked were St Anthony’s Church in the capital, St Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, and local media has also reported a church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province (maps posted below). The targets are obvious, western tourists and Christians attending Easter Mass. We pray that these are the last of such on this day so holy to much of the world. Yet another attack has been reported at a house in Mahawila Gardens, Dematagoda which caused an ensuing fire.

 

Sri Lanka Map Displaying Terror Strike Locations

Sri Lanka Map Displaying Terror Strike Locations

 

 

Central Colombo and Terror Bombing Locations in the Capital City of Sri Lanka

Central Colombo and Terror Bombing Locations in the Capital City of Sri Lanka

 

There is no mystery to why terror strikes holy places on the most holy days of the year. In military jargon, these are target rich environments, when your main two goals are to murder as many infidels as possible and causing fear around the world for as many people as possible. The next question would be, why Sri Lanka. One reason is that the terrorists have easy access and another is these attacks will make the news across the world potentially causing some to forgo Easter Services this year. To some in Islam, this would prove a lack of faith and devotedness by Christians thus proving to them that Islam is the superior religion, the more powerful religion.

 

There have been signs that the Arab and Islamic world, the ones the mainstream media always adds the classification of extremist or other denotation implying that they are not “real” Muslims. But Muslims are encouraged to attack non-Muslims, specifically Christians and Jews (some fatwas include Buddhists and Hindus as well as any idolater, agnostic, atheist or any unbeliever essentially as they have expanded definitions in the Quran over the years broadening the areas and regions which are to be brought under Islam. Eventually, Allah has promised that Islam will be the only religion practiced on the Earth. We found these definitions explaining the difference between offensive Jihad and defensive Jihad and under what conditions each is practiced. Assuming we read them correctly, every Muslim leader is required to employ offensive Jihad against the Kuffar such that there would never be the need for defensive Jihad as the Muslims would always be the aggressors which would so terrorize the Kuffar that they would live in abject fear too frightened to attack the Islamic regions because of their greater strength. From what we read, the Muslims are either performing offensive Jihad to sufficient levels, otherwise they will face defensive Jihad. This would imply that Islamic nations which border any non-Islamic nation, they are either to make periodic attacks, at least once or twice each year, so as to place the fear of the Jihadists to such a point that these nations would never even consider attacking their Islamic neighbors. What if their neighbors had no intention of ever attacking their Islamic nation? This would be interpreted as proving any offensive Jihad was working exactly as in the Quran and the Hadiths. This is a self-fulfilling set of prophesies as if an Islamic is attacked, it is punishment for not being forceful enough in their offensive Jihad and if they are not attacked, that is because they have fulfilled their required offensive Jihad.

 

The terrorist attack in Sri Lanka is not an isolated case. Across the world there have been a consistent number of terrorist attacks mainly on Churches, Synagogues and Temples. There is the ongoing war waged by Boko Haram against the Christians and Animists in the regions centered on Nigeria but spreading across the entirety of the African Transition Zone (see map below). It was in response to these attacks that the French deployed troops to Mali to assist in preventing an Islamic takeover of that nation by force. The problems in Somalia are threatening of spreading into Kenya and there is still ongoing violence by the Sudan against the breakaway nation of South Sudan. Many of these internecine wars have existed for years and have simply become more intense over time. This violence is in addition to the tribal warfare still going on across Libya. And the violence between Islam and the rest of the world is not limited to Africa.

 

African Transition Zone

African Transition Zone

 

Terror has become a worldwide epidemic reaching into virtually every nation. In France over five-hundred churches have been firebombed or otherwise attacked since 9/11. The number of attacks worldwide is absolutely astonishing as depicted in the map below. We believe the yellow dots are domestic terror attacks such as the referenced “lone wolf” terror attacks while the red are parts of international terrorism. The numbers of attacks are indicative of where Islam is targeting. Currently the concentration has been in the Western world, specifically the regions under Judeo-Christian influence and the regions neighboring Muslim countries. Watching the news, one does not get much of a feel for the frequency and near universal direction where these attacks have targeted. The media attempts to cover up terrorism by downplaying the attacks. Often, as soon as such violence is perpetrated the media and the applicable law enforcement agencies including, or especially, the FBI immediately claiming that the attack definitely is not terror related. Then, after a few days when the news of the attack is all but forgotten comes the admission that it was indeed a terrorist attack. This is already counted as old news as the attack was days ago and the media has moved on thus the admission becomes back page news buried deep in the paper.

 

Terrorism Attacks 1970-2015

Terrorism Attacks 1970-2015

 

Eventually, the terrorism will reach such a point that it will no longer be something which can be ignored or minimized. When the people finally call upon the government to stand up and actually act to prevent these attacks. The people will demand that the government not only address the terrorism within the national boundaries, but to attack the sources and remove the people who are behind the attacks wherever in the world they may be found. Until that point is reached, these attacks will continue and only increase in frequency and severity. When will the world finally take the spreading terrorism seriously? Not until it becomes such a problem such that it can no longer be ignored. Government seldom take care of problems when they might be easily addressed but wait until the problem becomes impossible to leave along the side of the media coverage and becomes central to the news cycle as it has risen beyond any reason. This is a growing problem that will be pushed aside and the claim that it is beyond their ability to address as the government will wait until the people are willing to accept further curtailing of their freedoms in response to the attacks. The government never wants to address problems until they can use the problem in order to gain additional power depriving the citizens of rights such that the government gains more control. The government will demand that the people grant it additional power and accept restrictions to their freedoms before they will finally act and accept that the problem exists. Some places have already reached the point where they had no choice but to address the problem such as Israel, African Transition Zone, India and a growing situation across Europe. The United States is trailing Europe by a mere five years or there about. How long before this reaches a head? We wish we could tell you but that is beyond our ability of prognostication.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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April 21, 2019

Why Congress Loves Taxing the Rich

 

Every election cycle we hear the same refrain of, “Tax the rich.” But exactly what do people mean when they rush to the cause all but screaming, “Tax the rich!” When you ask them, the answer you will most hear is that those people who are multi-millionaires must be made to pay their fair share. That sentence is just too easy to pick apart. For example, how would their paying their “fair share” actually look? Does it mean that they should pay higher taxes as they make more taxable income or does it mean that everyone should shoulder the burden at the same percentage rate? If they should pay higher and higher taxes as their taxable income increases, at what point does that rate hit 100%, or to phrase it differently, what should the maximum taxable income be set at such that all earnings beyond that point are confiscated by the government? Wait, you are making this far too complicated. It is really easy, nobody need make over one-million-dollars a year, thus anything beyond one-million-dollars should be taxed at 100%. All right, we will agree with you on this point. Now, does anybody believe this would soak the rich as is so often claimed? Actually, this tax rate would not have any effect upon those people who most claim are the rich who are not paying their fair share. How can this be when you have set the tax rate at 100% for those making over one-million-dollars a year. In actual honesty, that is not what we agreed upon, and Congress knows this. The agreement was that nobody could earn over one-million-dollars a year in taxable income with the rest be forfeit to the government. But the people who many call the wealthy, pseudonym presumed to be the rich, make virtually no taxable income or, if they make taxable income, it is minimal compared to their main means of becoming wealthy.

 

The problem is simple, there is earned taxable income and there is earned nontaxable by income tax investment gains. These come under what is called capital gains taxes, and this is kept relatively low. Further, there are no taxable gains as long as you do not sell the investments such as stocks and bonds. And should you cash in, if you have losses which are equal or greater, you still are not taxed as you made no actual gains. Finally, even if you sell off some assets and have capital gains, as long as you invest them within that tax year, then you have rolled that into another investment and it does not become taxable. Investment gains are seldom taxable as income and is only subjected to capital gains under specific definitions all of which play to the investors’ advantage. Thus, if you want to tax the really rich, the wealthy, what you are required to have would be a wealth tax. You would never even get a wealth tax piece of legislation into debate, let alone such ever reaching a vote, and such would never pass. What the people have to understand is that we the people of the United States (OK, you the people, better?) have done is to make politician into a career in which the sole goal is to get to Washington DC as either a member of Congress or one of their senior advisors or aides. That is the level at which you can finally cash in on your years of public service. Once you make it there you have made it into the big game where the real money can be made. Yes, their salaries are not all that extravagant, yet most of us would like to make that modest an income. But that is not how Bernie Sanders made his millions, and it was not from his claimed book sales. Congress has set up a lovely little tax-free shelter in which they can easily make hundreds of millions of dollars and do so legally for them that regular people would go to jail if using the same advantage. What are you hinting at already?

 

Well, let us ask a simple question. Let us say that you knew for an absolute fact that in the competition between Lockheed-Martin, McDonnell Douglas and Boeing which one would be given a multi-trillion-dollar contract to build a Moon base. Taking this information, you sell your stocks in the other two and use that money to buy all you could of the one getting the contract. What is that you said? That would be insider trading and you would go to the Federal penitentiary for a long vacation. That is true, unless you are a member of Congress or one of their senior staff. You see, Congress has exempted themselves from such bothersome little details such as insider trading. For them insider trading is simply a benefit of the job. Who could honestly expect that the people who decide which companies get huge government contracts and which ones do not and when these contracts are going to be awarded to sit on such information and not use it to their slight advantage. This is how people come to Washington as a Congress-critter and within four years leave as multi-millionaires. They all write a book or two or ten and claim that is how they made all that glorious cash hoping that the public will buy their story. Reality is that they made all that money as part of their daily service to you the public by discussing who would be best to reward huge contracts using your tax monies and then taking their meager cash and heavily investing every penny they could scrape together and buy that very same company who is about to be voted a huge contract’s stocks and then selling it a few weeks after the contract is awarded and the stock price soars. Why sell their stock before the price maximizes? That is because they have another contract ready and waiting until they all buy their shares and then they vote to give some lucky company the next contract. Forget the above example and look at the real cash engine they get to utilize. You have five or six small companies vying for a government contract which would permit their little company to triple in size and enter the “big leagues” and play for real money. Well, such a small company in order to make their viable required capital investments, so they issued an IPO (initial public offering), the first step to becoming listed on one of the stock exchanges. These are risky investments as should the company fail, you lose everything, but if the company succeeds and goes big league, then the return can be as high as one-hundred for one or even higher. Now if you know which company making an IPO is about to receive a huge government contract, well, the rest is obvious except for those pesky insider trading laws. But the elites in Congress have a get out of trouble-free card which is reusable as many times as required to get around those silly little Federal Laws. Now, the rest of the very wealthy also make their money through investments which are not subjected to income taxes, solely capital gains taxes, which is an entirely different game with laws encouraging such investments as they are necessary for economic growth. This is why “Tax the rich” is such a meaningless and trite little saying which has much of its appeal in ignorance and ability to be effectively chanted. I mean, really, would “Tax the investment class” make for a good slogan? No, it just does not have that precise and easily understood banter like “Tax the rich.”

 

Capitol Cash Machine

Capitol Cash Machine

 

So, people ask, why not instigate a wealth tax? Lawmakers will immediately point out that there already is such a tax, the capital gains tax. Capital gains tax rates are either 0%, 15% or 20% for assets held for over a year while those held for less are considered to be income. That is nowhere near as high as the rates would be if capital gains were treated as straight income and subjected to income taxes. But for the elites in Congress, their capital gains tax rate is 0% no matter the length of time the asset was held or how much they made off their investment. We hope it is starting to make sense why people spend upwards of anywhere from one to ten million dollars to be elected to Congress as a Representative which is a two year gig paying a mere $174,000 a year equaling $358,000 over the first term. Let’s face it, $358,000 of salary is definitely not why they are willing to take loans and contributions which make them accountable to individuals and not the electorate just to get in the door. Once in the door, with two years to play with and the best insider information in the world, well, you can see where they are about to become wealthy, and indemnified against insider trading laws. It really is as sweet a deal as it sounds like it is, which is why our political system has become a career for those out to make it rich with the least effort at earning an honest wage. But those who are not permitted insider trading, or at least not getting caught as any information can be prosecuted as insider trading if the government suspects such of existing. Anyone caught in that vise is probably beyond even the help of good lawyers, as the government is holding all the cards and if you are innocent, then you have no idea what the government claims you know and try proving a negative, in math that is one of the most difficult proofs and legally it is next to impossible. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Congress guards their advantage with overt diligence by making a grand example of anyone they can catch at insider trading so they can make great broad sweeping announcements about how such trading is beyond the pale and must be rooted out, well, except for their little protected haven where such trading is everyday business as usual. As far as a wealth tax, this is amongst the top ideas which are and always will be stillborn as those who actually call the shots and make all those heavy investments into Congressional campaigns, and the smart ones choose some promising State government elected leaders they see making it to Washington and buy them on the cheap, list a wealth tax as their Kryptonite, and thus never to even be discussed or the subject broached if at all possible.

 

There actually are good reasons why a wealth tax is unworkable. The first problem comes in defining exactly what constitutes wealth. Does the home one lives in to be included as part of their wealth or is it only homes and properties which are rented or used for making an income to be considered wealth. How much wealth should one family be permitted tax free? How does one treat foreign investments made by Americans or, on the other hand, how does one treat foreign investors investing in America. Another problem comes when figuring whether or not once one has paid their wealth tax on some assets, are they tax free from that point forward or are they to be counted year after year as part of that individual’s wealth determinations for their tax payments. Further, a wealth tax penalizes investment and if carried to its final conclusion, a wealth tax will eventually eliminate wealth. Were wealth eliminated, there would be little if any investing and the economy would soon collapse. Wealth taxes are one of those items which it becomes all but impossible to fashion them such that one does not kill the goose laying golden eggs in the process of taking a share of the product. Wealth taxes take from a person’s accumulated gains often repeatedly while Capital Gains taxes only take from the net profit made and then only if the gains are not reinvested thus generating economic growth. All taxes have to be tailored such that they do not stifle economic growth and progress and actually can be fashioned in such a way as to actually serve furthering the economy and other advancements. One example is granting companies a certain percentage of their gross budget for research and development which is the means by which they can grow their company, invent or discover items which serve the public as well as their companies. In the long run, wealth taxes become problematic as they discourage investment, encourage hiding money in places beyond the reach or view of the IRS including owning property outside of the United States deeded in a country which refuses to allow the IRS any investigation of their files, deeds and other financial data which could be used in the determination of wealth for taxation purposes. Such a tax would increase the use of cash and the avoidance of even keeping money in banks and other financial institutions. People would become extremely inventive finding new and extravagant means of hiding their wealth and would even go so far as to force people to invent an entire economic sector which would be private and kept from the government’s reach. One such means would be to set up a company which provides real estate sales, financing and insurance all of this carried by offshore registration in places which are known for wealth shielding through not cooperating with the IRS or other parts of the United States government, especially any investigative arm. Some smaller countries could develop an entire economy based on hiding wealth from a prying government’s eyes and protecting wealth from the greedy hands of the IRS and the rest of the government. Any such wealth tax would end up so cumbersome as to make its enforcement even more convoluted than the present IRS codes, and those are legendary for their problems.

 

So, taxing the rich is not as easy as raising the taxes on those whose income is beyond a certain dollar amount. That is not taxing the rich, that is making becoming rich more difficult. The tax the rich is so popular with the truly wealthy simply because it is a means of protecting their wealth as wealth is relative. What we considered wealthy in 1910 was very different than from 1925 and again from 1950 which was minuscule when compared to 2000 and it is still changing. We used to consider a person wealthy if they amassed one-million dollars of personal wealth. Then it went up to ten-million, one-hundred-million and now it is tens of billions and higher before one is considered truly wealthy. Another item which is seldom made evident and has never become common knowledge is that though the spread of wealth remains relatively static, the people at the top change with time such that the most wealthy twenty years ago are not the same top of the chart as those there now and it will be a different group in another fifty years. The wealthy are not the same people and are anything but evil. Their only crime was either making something which made people wealthier, happier or served the public, private or corporate good. Bill Gates was not uber wealthy fifty years ago and his wealth will likely be dwarfed by others over the next fifty years. Wealth is not a static statistic; it is malleable and seems to rotate with new and fresh faces coming up and older ones dimming and eventually falling from the ranks of the truly wealthy. The people who become part of the wealthy elite are people who have discovered some means of having others work with them or for them bringing in that wealth. Often, they invested in a company, they made their own company or they found the means of investing or producing things which gained in value greatly. Often such things come under capital gains taxes, other times the main profit for the government is in the salary taxes they take from the employees.

 

The actual problem the United States is facing financially has little if anything to do with taxes, not how they are applied, the rates at which they are levied or anything else. The problem facing the United States financially is the government spends too much, has grown far too large, their departments are horrifically inefficient and often the different departments overlap so much that there are often people from three or more agencies engaged in identical work. Even worse, there are some places where a single agency is performing identical tasks with more than one of their subordinate departments and committees making this problem emblematic of the United States government. The government, the Deep State if you like, has become almost a living entity which makes its own rules, enacts regulations which carry the weight of law, often enforce their own regulations as if they were the law, never retire any program once it has been given a budget additionally always increasing that budget procurement even after the department has become all but defunct. The United States government has become an employment engine which drives the Washington metropolitan area economy where entire companies are build around servicing the government. The government hires outside agencies and companies to manage their numerous little projects freeing up their own management so they are free to pursue educational degrees to facilitate their advancement to a position which will have its workload outsourced to a private company so the newly advanced individual will not be stressed with having to meet deadlines. The new excuse for missing a deadline is that the private company did not provide the necessary oversight thus their people could not be expected under such circumstances to have met the schedule and they will simply require more time and additional funds to hire another company to oversee the former company and make sure they stay on course. If that sounded confusing, wait, if we really went into it your head would spin doing several complete 360’s before stopping the entire time your brain screaming, “Did I hear you correctly?” The United States government needs to go on a diet and not go on any further eating binges as once they get to the tax dollar trough, they will never be weaned from taking your tax dollars and doing so in ever increasing amounts. And topping that off is that government civil service employees, once they have been in the government (we believe it is three years) long enough, they cannot be fired. Were you to remove one of these treasured little gems of an employee (do not get us started), they are enabled to replace any other employee who is of lower rank or has less time in service to the government, and that employee has the same right and so on and so on until some poor slub hired six months ago gets bumped, as it is called, and is out of his great job. There will be only one result of the current deficient the United States has piled up and that will be a financial collapse. Sooner or later that will be the result as to continue on the current path is unsustainable.

 

So, how long does the United States have before it goes under drowning in debt? That is a good question and we wish we could give you a date, but we are not quite that omniscient. We can provide some signs that the end will come sooner rather than later. Should the welfare, food stamps and other such government programs begin to grow at a greater pace than the economy can generate taxable revenues streams will definitely make things get dangerously unsustainable. Should the great little ideas being floated such as the $15 an hour minimum wage, guaranteed employment at that rate such that all the unemployed receive the minimum wage rate of pay straight from the government, universal government provided healthcare and the whole host of socialistic programs be enacted; the problems would be twofold. First is once they are enacted, they would be next to impossible to terminate. Second, with the guaranteed minimum wage, employment would make taking an entry level position paying the same as not working and would all but make minimum wage positions disappear. In order to entice people to work instead of simply being paid for breathing, employers would have to pay comfortably higher pay than the minimum which would also work to eliminate entry level jobs. Another job killer is the trade deficit which is only increased with the trade policies which open up access to American markets while making outsourcing of jobs economically advantageous such that companies would find keeping their production and almost any other lower skilled positions within the United States impossible as competition would force these positions to be sent outside the country. These are all items which politicians make great promises that they will not adversely effect the job market, investments within the country and almost every other item which uphold the economic growth of the United States all the while knowing, at least we hope knowingly otherwise the leadership is simply incapable of leading intelligently, realizing that over time these programs and laws are unsustainable. The United States is approaching the point where this will become reality. Such programs as the Green New Deal are economic death should they ever be enacted. This is where the future does not bode well.

 

When members of Congress propose such utter nonsense and they are not pilloried for their ignorance, then there is a problem brewing in the near future. The fact that the majority of college graduates believe that socialism is the preferred style of governance and do not see it as unsustainable and actually believe such to be preferable, then there is a sickness being perpetrated by the academic institutions which are producing the nation’s future leaders. The fact that so many of these youths believe that capitalism is actually an evil means of economic policy is also very worrisome. The concept of a guaranteed wage cannot work in any form unless production has become entirely automated and even many white-collar positions are being performed by artificial intelligence systems. When this day comes, either the artificial intelligence systems will have taken over the government or the only people able to make a decent wage will be the politicians as virtually all other positions will be performed by machines. The point where the artificial intelligence is capable of designing new systems including those which will replace them and are able to design the production facilities and build them, then we humans will have become dependent upon our creations to keep us and tend to our needs. Eventually, these artificial intelligence systems will realize that human beings are superfluous and then we humans will only serve the purpose of requiring the items these units produce. This may come to be seen as a waste of resources and thus an unnecessary cost which will not be sustainable thus the machines may decide that we are no longer necessary. Isaac Asimov came up with the three laws which would prevent artificial intelligence systems and robotic units from harming people and then wrote another story where he proved that even his best attempt was insufficient to prevent the systems from simply doing away with these unnecessary units which needed culling. Those of us who have read or watch far too much science fiction realize that the best hope for the human race is to venture out into space, even uncharted space, and hope we can find new worlds to populate keeping us one step ahead of the machines. Yes, these same science fiction consumers also know that eventually we lose this race as it is the only honest result if evolution is the final word on our future. Those science fiction stories in which the human race survives because we out-think, use intuition over logic or whatever writer’s ploy used in these stories are exactly what they are labeled, fiction. An economic collapse after the introduction of self-evolving designing artificial intelligence which can progress without human interface will leave the artificial intelligence ridding itself of those pesky, irrational, emotional units otherwise known as the human race. Perhaps they will keep a small number of us around as a reminder against frivolity, especially in place of solid leadership, something the colleges and universities appear to be espousing, frivolity as policy. Such leadership will bring on an economic catastrophe in the near term and it will not be pretty. The fall of Rome left a vacuum sending mankind back a couple of centuries as progress was all but at a standstill and the economies faltered. Will the eventual economic engine known as the United States present the same disaster when it fails. Perhaps, or perhaps the end will come from a direction few are even able to see as it stands before them. The next age will very likely be one in which the United States is rebuilding in order to become relevant once more. The United States, due to size and natural resources, will, like China, always be present and either leading or catching up as they restructure with a more intelligent governance which very well might be a supercomputer which coordinates everything. It will be an interesting ride with much for us to write about should we last that long.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 15, 2019

Not Bibi Again!

 

This has been the whine heard from almost everyone from the center and leftwards as well as from a fair number on the right. What is interesting is the further you get from the center, right or left, the louder the complaints become. The one nice thing about these people and their complaining is that at least we know they did not vote for Likud guaranteeing more Bibi. Of course, from the media we are about to be fed a steady stream of whining over Bibi returning as Prime Minister mixed with a dash of hope that the Attorney General will find something which sticks to Bibi long enough to charge him and then it might be bye, bye Bibi. For those in the United States, things are not much different than in Israel as the left hangs on the hope that they can use the legal system to get something on Bibi, in your case, Trump, and then be rid of them forever. Those of us with at least one foot firmly on the grounds of reality, we realize that these attempts to incriminate Trump or Bibi with some legal misdeeds is nothing more than a witch hunt which will come up empty, but that will not stop those determined to be rid of them from continuing to try again and again. But the reality of Bibi goes so much deeper.

 

We are regularly bombarded with praises heaped upon Bibi lauding him as the consummate political maneuverer and a master of the game. We are not quite so kind. If you want to get a line on why Bibi has been so successful and will soon become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israeli history, ask those whom he has all but destroyed. Currently at the top of that is Naftali Bennett whose New Right Party just missed clearing threshold. Naftali Bennett left the Likud Party taking Ayelet Shaked with him and went to Jewish Home where Bennett believed he had found his horse to ride straight to the Prime Minister’s House. Both Bennett and Shaked had worked directly for Bibi in his offices. Needless to say, Bibi took their leaving a bit personally. Two elections after Bennett and Shaked had moved to Jewish Home, a sort of miracle was in the making and Bennett actually was polling as almost even with Bibi and Likud with Jewish Home Party, formerly just a minor Religious-Zionist Party not terribly right of center. It was looking really close, until Bibi promised to treat Bennett and Shaked really nicely. What was the problem was that a center-left party was polling ahead of Likud and Jewish Home but well behind their combined totals. Bibi demanded that Bennett fall on his sword such that Bibi would defeat this upstart from the left threatening that if Bennett refused that there may very well be a left-wing government. Bennett made the fateful speech claiming not to be ready to be Prime Minister quite yet. The next morning, presto-chango, Likud was polling comfortably in the lead and Jewish Home was polling in single digits well below the day before. Bennett and Shaked got their Ministerial position, and Shaked as Justice Minister performed near miracles and will be missed from that position as her work was far from completed.

 

This was the first revenge Bibi took out on Bennett, and possibly Shaked as well, as when the next election cycle came around, Jewish Home was struggling to reach double digits, and this would not serve Bennett reaching Prime Minister. In private with only a select group of faithful who were to follow Bennett, Neftali planned to leave Jewish Home and form a new party. He would have been wished well had he done this differently, but his plan was also to rid himself from any competition from his former party. For reasons untold, every attempt to have the Central Committee meet, something important as a new Central Committee had been elected (I was somehow amongst the chosen for my town) and new leadership needed to be selected. This was not to be as it would have left some semblance of organization when Bennett and Shaked split as soon as elections were announced. The New Right, as Bennett’s party was named, shot up into double digits in the polls while Jewish Home, after losing its top two candidates, having no new leader, having a central committee now decimated as people streamed off with Bennett, all power structures pretty much destroyed with some key positions which remained held by people left behind to make sure the chaos destroyed Jewish Home (though this will be denied to the end of time), Jewish Home polled at best around ‘one.’ I personally begged two of those leaving to remain and warned they would regret leaving, but off went even friends.

 

 

Slowly, with the election growing closer, a committee of self-appointed leaders claimed they would reconstitute the party by fiat. The remains of the Central Committee protested and threatened to use their powers under the Party Constitution and this caused a surprised group who expected only slavish thanks to step back and listen. A system was worked out that nobody would be assigned any leadership without Central Committee approval, and slowly the Party was rebuilt only getting finalized with but a few days left to place a Knesset list for the elections. Jewish Home submitted their list with Rafi Peretz as their new leader, and what an improvement he will be if we can keep him long enough. Polls came and polls went and for quite a while Bennett appeared to have made a wise choice but inevitably the New Right started slipping, Jewish Home gained and with the election done Jewish Home, a party destroyed just mere months ago came in with five mandates and Bennet with his New Right failed to reach threshold and will not be in the government.

 

Moshe Feiglin, founder of the Zehut Party, is another person whose history crossed paths with Bibi Netanyahu. Feiglin made a critical mistake, as have others before him, as he began to become popular both in the Liked and in the public eye. His popularity grew for quite a while until it began to appear as should this continue; he would be able to challenge Bibi. That was his breaking of the cardinal rule, Bibi is king and it is good to be the king. Suddenly, through things and rules which are still very hazy, the next election found Feiglin buried to a position in the mid-to-high thirties, well beyond any hope of being in the Knesset. Well, that began the slide of Feiglin in Likud and he soon realized that Bibi had buried him just as he has anyone who showed even a glimmer of being a threat to the Bibi. People need to understand something about Bibi, he does not compete with people for the top spot, he eviscerates those who approach his level of popularity at the crucial point where they would become a threat soon but before the point where they become difficult to stop. Feiglin probably came the closest but Bibi learned from his predecessor and mentor, Ariel Sharon.

 

Ariel Sharon once ruled the roost in Likud. There was this younger, more energetic upstart who was climbing towards being able to challenge Sharon for the top spot. Sharon decided to give this upstart a challenge, a challenge which had proven the death of all who previously had this position foist upon them. Bibi was made finance secretary, once upon a time a dead end Ministership which ate up Ministers and spat them out finished politically. Well, perhaps Sharon should have checked Bibi’s resume where he would have noted that MBA along with degrees in economics. Bibi took on that challenge and all but rebuilt the economic picture in Israel and Israel is still running along with all those changes paying off with dividends. The old Socialist clogging of the economic spigot have been cleared and a Capitalist system put in its place which rewards entrepreneurs, investors and those who take the risks and does not overly penalize corporations for becoming bigger and controlling certain sectors as in Israel that is simply a challenge put down for others to unseat the giant. That is part of why we are the start-up nation. Ariel Sharon eventually fell to the demands of an American President, George W. Bush, and committed the Gaza disengagement. This Gaza Disengagement is what General Gantz (please do not confuse him with General Peretz who leads Jewish Home) of the Blue White coalition with Yair Lapid, claimed he had learned valuable lessons and believed it could be wisely used elsewhere to lead to peace, namely in the Shomron. He had a plan to simply give Mahmoud Abbas most of the Shomron and tell him this would make peace between us. This would have worked just as well as it did in Gaza and that is the peace, we would have received with one difference, instead of Sderot being the target in easy range, it would have been Tel Aviv within range. Anyway, Bibi rose after Sharon was felled by a stroke and has ruled Likud ever since felling one challenger after another almost as if it were nothing.

 

The picture for the future is simple and may result in costing Israel dearly. For as long as the Likud Party remains entrenched as the preeminent party on the right, Bibi will remain Prime Minister. General Gantz probably posed as hard a challenge as anybody has since Lapid threatened and Bibi had Bennett self-destruct so he could beat Lapid. This sacrifice of Bennett was not sufficient. A couple of days before the vote this past election, Bibi announced in a very public setting, that he intends to extend civil law to all, every last one regardless of size, the Jewish settlements in the Shomron. He made the announcement repeatedly in interviews, in a photo op with the leaders of most of the Shomron communities and pretty much everywhere else including probably at breakfast to prepare for the words of the day. This was the entire pitch which Bennett was running upon and Bibi’s announcement simply cut his legs from beneath him. Bennett had siphoned off a fair amount of support extensively from the Likud, he had already taken the top two slots and another of the Jewish Home top ten along with half of the financing received by parties for the campaign while leaving the entire debt he had run up behind hampering Jewish Home, and with this one announcement Bibi had retrieved those votes right back to Likud as now there was no difference between Bibi position on the Shomron and Bennett and Bibi was more likely to be Prime Minister and Bennett was cooked. This was Bibi’s burying of Bennett and getting his revenge for Bennett taking Shaked and deserting Likud for Jewish Home. Bibi also recognized that Bennett wants to be Prime Minister and will stop at nothing to get there. Well, Bibi is Prime Minister and will stop at next to nothing to remain there, and in politics the person on top has all the advantages.

 

Bibi remains Prime Minister because he recognizes any and everyone who has that desire, that gleam in their eye, that spring in their step that says I’m on my way up, and Bibi knows how to bury them politically so deep that they no longer know which way is up. There have been those rare few who such tactics would have proven ineffective as they were already too established for premature political burial. Reuven Rivlin is one perfect example. He had ridden high in the Likud list for a fair while. Burying him would be difficult and would cost Bibi too much to even try. So, how to put him aside where he can cool down until he is no longer a threat. There is a position in the Israeli government where one basically makes speeches and represents Israel at funerals and other state functions which the Prime Minister may not choose to attend though both can be at the same event from time to time. This position is called President. Currently, Reuven Rivlin is serving as President of Israel. He is about to perform the one very political role the President is assigned, deciding which party leader to choose to attempt to form a coalition and become Prime Minister. We hear you, here comes his opportunity to get even. Absolutely not. Reuven Rivlin had two competing dreams, Prime Minister and President. This was the perfect opportunity for Bibi to cut down on the competition and also give a person he calls friend (not a position we would envy) the chance to live his dream. But not every challenger would go away as easily.

 

There are a couple of such individuals off in the wings who, should they decide to give it their all, could step into a position leading one of the existing Religious-Zionist Parties and challenge Bibi. They are probably aware that such a move would be a one-off and if their challenge falls short, then that is it for them politically. Another was Danny Danon. The main claim against him was that his English was not perfect. Not perfect is being generous, but in Israel he only needs to speak Hebrew and if he were ever Prime Minister, he could have Bibi be his translator, that would be sweet to see. As Danny Danon rose slowly through the Likud ranks and in the settlement communities as a potential champion, they need as many as can be found, his political star appeared about ready to burst to light as a star does upon reaching that critical point. This was the point where Bibi suggested he become the United Nations Ambassador from Israel. Well, that prize was just too shiny to turn down, and Danny Danon was not seen as one whose desire in life was to be Prime Minister or to become the Bibi slayer; his dream was, is and will remain to serve Israel in whatever capacity to which he is called and to fight for Israel and her people, all of her people, in whatever way is needed. So, the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations is Danny Danon. Who will be the next victim from taking the Bibi challenge? Well, none of us for a simple reason, our Hebrew is not anywhere near good enough and will never likely pass such a challenge. On the other hand, one of us has experience as a candidate with no real chance making the ballot as a third-party candidate for the United States House of Representatives. No, we will simply continue with making commentary and if called upon to serve, then we would probably serve with a proviso that we were given a trusted translator. As far as the next to step forward to take on the Bibi, there probably will not be such as Bibi has intimated that this will be his final time around, his victory lap, so to speak.

 

Still, he may be facing a new challenge from President Reuven Rivlin if the rumors are true that his first tender will be to Bibi Netanyahu as well as Gantz and Lapid of the Blue White Party, which was a very close second place vote getter being edged out thirty-six to thirty-five, and proposing that they bury their differences and join together to make a National Unity coalition in order to find a path to peace. The words “path to peace” have become a loaded phrase which Israelis equate with losing land and gaining terrorism. The last great “path to peace” was the Gaza disengagement, and we all have come to realize how well that turned out, Gaza became terror central. Should President Rivlin call to meet with both Likud and the Blue White leaders, then many Israelis will become very nervous. Such a meeting implies that the soon to be announced President Trump Deal of the Century is a known plan by Bibi, Rivlin and who knows who else, and this plan will result with another Palestinian Arab entity potentially with borders which could pose an even greater threat than Gaza has proven to pose. Such a government would only be brought into existence in order to form a government which could survive any resulting caving to allow for the Deal of the Century to come into fruition. This would not necessarily be the case with any other coalition as the potential for the Likud Party to split threatening any weaker coalition would be a definitive possibility.

 

This is what happened when Ariel Sharon committed to the Gaza Disengagement when he then formed a new party (Kadima) with the remnants from Likud and a number of representatives pealed off from Labor and other smaller parties allowing Sharon to remain as Prime Minister and the rest, as they say, is history. Another such disengagement, exactly what Gantz originally stated was his intention should he become Prime Minister early on, is something the majority of Israelis are dead set against, including us. Israel’s saving grace might just be the absolute refusal by Gantz and Lapid before the election to forming such a government as they really desired to replace Bibi outright. With things now settled and being the lesser party, this may no longer be such a terrible idea for them to adopt. It is remarkable how malleable formerly stated absolutes come when the alternative is sitting in the opposition, the same opposition they claimed they were ready to ride to the next election when they just know they will win outright. The other part which makes this all the more possible is the once stated admiration Bibi held for Ariel Sharon whom Bibi claimed at that time was his mentor. This looms larger now that such things are presenting themselves, even if they are but rumors as rumors sometimes have a bad habit of becoming part of reality. The most likely path forward will be for President Rivlin to collect from each party leader the person they would choose to support as Prime Minister, Bibi or Gantz. As things sit currently, Gantz would receive at most fifty-five while Bibi is expected to receive sixty with Avigdor Lieberman waiting to have Bibi agree to his demands before making him Prime Minister. So, how do things sit now? The government will be even more shaky than the former government. Last time, when Lieberman pulled from the coalition, that left Bibi with a ruling coalition of sixty-one, the minimum for a sitting government. This time Lieberman sits between Bibi and a mere sixty which would probably result in the calling for new elections soon thereafter. Somewhere, Bibi lost one critical ministerial mandate and has an even weaker position. The editorials which claimed that we may have a new election within the year are looking to have a decent chance of being correct. Things are back to being as shaky as, as.. as.. as a Fiddler on the Roof.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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