Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Barack Obama Statement Supporting Syrian Overthrow Of Assad

Time for Assad to Go
Barack Obama

The United States has been inspired by the Syrian peoples' pursuit of a peaceful transition to democracy. They have braved ferocious brutality at the hands of their government. They have spoken with their peaceful marches, their silent shaming of the Syrian regime, and their courageous persistence in the face of brutality - day after day, week after week. The Syrian government has responded with a sustained onslaught. I strongly condemn this brutality, including the disgraceful attacks on Syrian civilians in cities like Hama and Deir al Zour, and the arrests of opposition figures who have been denied justice and subjected to torture at the hands of the regime. These violations of the universal rights of the Syrian people have revealed to Syria, the region, and the world the Assad government's flagrant disrespect for the dignity of the Syrian people.

The United States opposes the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Syria, and we support the universal rights of the Syrian people. We have imposed sanctions on President Assad and his government. The European Union has imposed sanctions as well. We helped lead an effort at the UN Security Council to condemn Syria's actions. We have coordinated closely with allies and partners from the region and around the world. The Assad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the globe, and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.

The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.

The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition, and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others in the international community.

As a part of that effort, my Administration is announcing unprecedented sanctions to deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime and further disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people. I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria. This E.O. also bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products; prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria's petroleum or petroleum products; and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria. We expect today's actions to be amplified by others.

We recognize that it will take time for the Syrian people to achieve the justice they deserve. There will be more struggle and sacrifice. It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past. But he is wrong. As we have learned these last several months, sometimes the way things have been is not the way that they will be. It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.

Barack Obama is President of the United States.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - Speech to National Security College (Official English Translation)

Address by PM Netanyahu at the Graduation Ceremony of Course 38 of the National Security College

- Translation  -

Honorable Minister of Defense,
IDF Chief of Staff,
Police Commissioner,
Head of the General Security Service,
Prison Service Commissioner,
IDF Generals in regular service and reserves,
And of course, College Staff, Commander Gershon Hacohen and Prof. Ben-Ze'ev,
Above all – National Security College graduates and dear families,

This is a moment of great pride for you and for us – for you, graduates, for all of us, the entire nation, and I believe particularly for your families.

You have made a long journey to come here.  First of all, to get to this course. It means you were selected. You are a selected elite.  You have also undergone a comprehensive, in-depth process of understanding the fundamentals of our national security which you are now required to defend.  Our national security is a triple-headed triangle: security, economy and society.  The upper head is security, and the most decisive component in each one of the heads is the human component – the excellence, the ability to produce excellence, to let it rise, flourish and create new things.  That is why you are at the top of the triangle, the edge of the peak, and you are worthy of every praise, but also every challenge.


The formula of this triangle – security, economy and society – is the source of our national strength, our national confidence to successfully withstand new challenges, primarily the challenge of living in peace with our neighbors, while our entire surroundings are undergoing fundamental, historic changes.  I hope that these changes will ultimately produce freer societies, more responsive to their peoples' needs.  It is not a simple process. It is a lengthy one, but a real development of real democracies around us will undoubtedly serve to strengthen the prospects of peace.

Meanwhile, we are facing major challenges and major opportunities in each of the three components I described.

In security – we are a small country, one of the smallest in the world, and we are facing unparalleled threats.  In addition to the threat of conventional war and the war of terrorism in between wars, we face three new challenges that have been developing over the past few years: the nuclear threat, the threat of missiles and the cyber threat.  These threats gradually intertwine.  And I believe in our ability to meet these threats.  Over the past year, since the previous course, Israel has developed – under your leadership, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and also at the initiative of former Defense Minister Amir Peretz – a multi-layered defense system that was successfully tried in the "Iron Dome" experiment.  This is a major, ground-breaking change in the world.

With regard to cyber, I have established a national cyber headquarters, which is designed to bring together the defense, academia and private sector agencies to transform Israel into a global cyber superpower.  It is possible, it is certainly necessary, but I believe that we are no longer merely at the top of the list, we are at the top of the top, and we must remain there.  It is a constant race. We cannot rest on our laurels. There is no such thing.  It is a constant battle to be at the forefront.

This is true also with regard to the economy.  There are plenty of reasons why we would like to see a developed and dynamic economy, but the most simple, prosaic reason is that we have no other way of financing our defense – and defense costs a lot of money.  Weapons cost a lot of money, forces cost a lot of money and development costs a lot of money, and it keeps going up and up.

I recently read a wonderful book by a remarkable historian, Will Durant, a 20th century American historian who, after writing, over a period of fifty years, eleven volumes on the history of mankind, concluded his findings in a small book, a thin 100-page book entitled "the Lessons of History".  And I share with you both the bad news and the good news. The bad news is that Durant's conclusion was that the Law of Numbers works.  It works because large nations – he wrote this in the 60's – have enormous economic power because of their numbers, and ultimately economic power translates itself into political power and military power.  Now for the good news.  He lists one exception to the Large Numbers Rule – the young State of Israel.

We have tackled the economic problem by doubling our GNP per capita in comparison with our neighbors.  We were more or less equal, but now we are 10 or 15 times larger than our neighbors.   It is as if our population was 10 or 15 times greater, although we have a lot of neighbors.  We have tackled it also through our economy of knowledge and our technological economy.  I am a great believer in this, on condition that there is freedom of entrepreneurship.  Free economy is a necessary pre-requisite for a growing economy – a growing economy that now surpasses European countries in its GNP per capita – something that did not exist a decade ago.

Israel's powerful economy is the second fundamental pillar of our national security, for which you are now responsible.  The third condition is society, our social cohesion.  Prof. Ben-Ze'ev said that it depends on education, higher education.  It is true, but higher education depends on the education that preceded it. In other words, our elementary schools and high schools, and we are in a process of a shifting trend.  A shift in trend is coming, you can see it in the various science, math and physics Olympics.  Israel has taken a sudden leap forward, in dozens of places.  How can you generate this change? How do you change education? When you look at the world's successful countries, countries that have succeeded in transforming education, the main factor is not merely resources.  We have put in the resources.

Our national strength is our democracy.  The Knesset takes priority over the National Security College.  When I was in the Knesset opposition I had time and I met with teachers' organizations. They knew that I liked clear ideas and they also showed me a presentation that explains it all in education.  One particular transparency featured: "inputs" – a large arrow – "outputs", and what I said was that my entire experience, without exception, has taught me that the arrow works the other way around.  When you are in the public service, in security, economy, education, anywhere, if you know what you want to achieve and you put in the resources, you will achieve it.  If you are investing in a bottomless pit, with no direction, you will fail to achieve it.

And you know it – each one of you in your own way – otherwise you would not be here.  You know that setting goals is the key to attaining them.  What we are currently doing in education is setting goals.  And by setting the goals, by expecting each and every child in Israel to excel or at least to maximize their potential – we produce results.  And we have seen this in many countries. We have seen it in the world's five leading countries in education. This is what unites them.  Both students and teachers are expected to show results, and the principals are rewarded for producing these results.  It is not an easy change, but it is a necessary one if we are to have social cohesion and the confidence that each and every child in Israel can compete in the world of the 21st century.

Education is the key to cohesion, but it is insufficient because people make a good living, better than more and more European countries, but ultimately they are not left with much.  Why? The main reason is that many things cost more in Israel. Why do they cost more? Why does yogurt cost more here than in Europe? Why do many products cost more? Because where there is no competition, prices go up and then less is left in our pockets, and one of our goals now is not only to boost our economy, but also to achieve a reduction in prices, and the highest prices are not for yogurt nor for cheese – although they are important – they are the prices of housing, and this is where we have to break the government cartel.

I said we have a very small country, but we have turned into an even smaller one by a long-standing government monopoly in the Israel Lands Administration and the planning mechanism that is responsible for the fact that construction and planning procedures in Israel are the slowest in the world.  Well, not the slowest.  We are ranked 140 or 120.  Although we top the list on other things.  This is about to change.  I will not present it today. You are welcome to hear it tomorrow, but these are steps that are important for us to produce the social cohesion I have described, so that people will know that they can make a living and they can have something to aspire to, that their children will receive the best education, both in universities and before that, in our schools, so that they can keep leading Israel up the global ladder.

Ultimately, the most important thing is the unity of ideas.  We all know that this is the only country the Jewish people have.  We know what became of us when we had no such country, when we had no government, no army, no security services, no intelligence services, and this major transformation in the history of our people is only a few dozen years old.  But Israel moved up and up, and historian Will Durant was largely correct when he said that we violate the iron rules of history.

Those rules were set in the 16th or 17th century by an Italian historian named Vico. He said that all peoples and all cultures, without exception, exhibited the same patterns as a "field tree".  They sprout, they bloom, they wither and then they die.  He said: if you wait long enough, you'll see there are no exceptions.  But there was a problem.  There was one clear exception – the Jewish people.  One of Vico's disciples, a Jew, Rabbi Nachman Krochmal, said: every time the Jews are on the brink of death, they reinvent themselves.  The Jews have power, the Jewish people has an enormous living power, which reveals itself in different times, when they revive themselves remarkably.  I believe each and every one of you has this sense of mission.  And at this time, we expect each of you, in turn, to meet this challenge.

This is not your graduation.  This is your beginning.  You are about to shoulder an enormous responsibility, as enormous as our expectations of you.  At this time, I want to tell you that I believe in you and I salute you.

May you be successful for the benefit of the people of Israel and the State of Israel.

Prime Mnister's Office :

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stop Coddling the Super Rich - Warren Buffet Opt-Ed New York Times

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.
While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.
These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.
To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.
I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.
Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.
The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)
I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.
Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.
Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.
But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.
My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.
Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.